It was Again ‘On to Richmond’ – The Armies Move South

May 22, 1864 (Sunday)

“We marched all night, the weather being pleasant, and the roads good. I recall being impressed with the unusual silence of the ranks as they marched. There was none of the usual joking and chaffing among the men though all were in good humor. But they were serious and created the impression of being on serious business.” – E. Porter Alexander, Chief of Artillery, Army of Northern Virginia, Fighting for the Confederacy.

Jericho Mill
Jericho Mill

“It appeared, however, that he was endeavoring to place the Matapony river between him and our army, which secured his flank, and by rapid movements to join his cavalry under Sheridan to attack Richmond – I therefore thought it safest to move to the Annas to intercept his march, and to be within easy reach of Richmond.” – Robert E. Lee, Letter to Jefferson Davis, May 22, 1864

“The next morning, May 22, headquarters moved south, following the line which had been taken by Hancock’s troops, which ran parallel with the Fredericksburg Railroad. The officers and men had never experienced a more sudden change of feelings and prospects. The weather was pleasant, the air was invigorating, the sun was shining brightly, and the roads were rapidly drying up. The men had been withdrawn from the scenes of their terrific struggles at Spottsylvania, and were no longer confronting formidable earthworks. The features of the country had also entirely changed. Though there were many swamps, thickets, and streams with difficult approaches, the deep gloom of the Wilderness had been left behind.

“The country was now more open, and presented many clearings, and the range of vision was largely increased. The roads were broad, the land was well cultivated, and the crops were abundant. The men seemed to breathe a new atmosphere, and were inspired with new hope. It was again “on to Richmond,” and the many miles they were now gaining toward the enemy’s capital, and out of reach of fire, made them experience that buoyancy of feeling which always accompanies the prestige of success.” – Horace Porter, Campaigning with Grant.

“By the morning of the 22d Burnside and Wright were at Guiney’s Station. Hancock’s corps had now been marching and fighting continuously for several days, not having had rest even at night much of the time. They were, therefore, permitted to rest during the 22d. But Warren was pushed to Harris’s Store, directly west of Milford, and connected with it by a good road, and Burnside was sent to New Bethel Church. Wright’s corps was still back at Guiney’s Station.” – Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs

“I have arrived at this place [Hanover Junction] with the head of Ewell’s Corps. Longstreet is close up. Hill I expect to come in on my right but have not heard from him since I left him last night. I have learned as yet nothing of the movements of the enemy East of the Mattaponi.” – Robert E. Lee, Message to Richmond, 9:30am.


“The First and Third Divisions were halted near general headquarters at Guiney’s Station soon after sunrise on the 22nd. After a rest of some two hours the corps was moved to the neighborhood of Bethel Church, and held in readiness to support the movements of the Fifth and Second Corps, as occasion required, but were not called upon.” – Ambrose Burnside, Ninth Corps, Official Report.

“We march all night, halting on the Telegraph road at 3 a.m. on the 22d. After two hours’ rest the march is resumed. The head of our column reaches the North Anna at 12.15p.m. May22. Corse’s and Kempter’s brigades, Pickett’s division, join us. Troops are put in bivouac on the south side of the North Anna.” – Richard Anderson, commanding Longstreet’s Corps, Official Report.

“Sent a brigade early out to the westward, which reached Telegraph road at 8 a.m. Mr. Pound said Ewell’s and Longstreet’s corps had marched south along Telegraph road all night. Received this information at 8.20 a.m.; at the same time orders came for us to move to Harris’ Store, indicating that news of the enemy’s retreat had already reached headquarters. Began to march at 10 a.m. Struck enemy’s cavalry at Littleton Flippo’s. Ran them off toward Chilesburg. Cutler reached Harris’ Store at 5 p.m.” – Gouverneur K. Warren, Fifth Corps, Official Report.

Chesterfield Bridge - crossed by Lee
Chesterfield Bridge – crossed by Lee

“All of [the different corps] have either reached their destination or are sure to so do within an hour. Warren came upon the rear guard of Ewell’s corps, about half-way between Madison’s Ordinary and the crossing of the Mat, and some artillery was fired, but there was no fighting. Warren made prisoners of some 50 stragglers. Burnside holds the crossing of the Mat in his line of march, and as Hancock’s whole force is already on the other side of that river, no resistance is likely to be made to the advance of either Warren or Wright. The first contact with the enemy will probably be on the North Anna, one day’s march from here over.” – Charles Dana, Assistant Secretary of War, letter to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, 6:30pm.

“Mr. Dana is back – some regard him as a sort of spy on Grant. He is a good natured man, but vain, bigoted and injudicious.” – Theodore Lyman, officer on General Meade’s staff, from private notebooks, as printed in Meade’s Army.

“We expected [this day] to have another battle, but the enemy refuses to fight unless attacked in strong entrenchments; hence, when we moved on his flank, instead of coming out of his works and attacking us, he has fallen back from Spottsylvania Court House, and taken up a new position behind the North Anna River; in other words, performed the same operation which I did last fall, when I fell back from Culpeper, and for which I was ridiculed; that is to say, refusing to fight on my adversary’s terms. I suppose now we will have to repeat this turning operation, and continue to do so, till Lee gets into Richmond.” – George Gordon Meade, letter to wife, May 23, 1864.

Railroad bridge across the North Anna - crossed by Rebels obviously prior to its pictured state.
Railroad bridge across the North Anna – crossed by Rebels obviously prior to its pictured state.

“General Grant will have time to recruit and reorganize his army, which as far as I am able to judge, has been very much shaken. I think it is on that account that he interposed the Mattapony between us. Whatever route he pursues I am in a position to move against him, and shall endeavor to engage him while in motion. I shall also be near enough to Richmond I think, to combine the operations of this army with that under General Beauregard and shall be as ready to reinforce him if occasion requires, as to receive his assistance.

“As far as I can understand, General Butler is in a position from which he can only be driven by assault, and which I have no doubt, has been made as strong as possible. Whether it would be proper or advantageous to attack it, General Beauregard can determine, but if not, no more troops are necessary there than to retain the enemy in his entrenchments.

“On the contrary General Grant’s army will be in the field, strengthened by all available troops from the north, and it seems to me our best policy to unite upon it and endeavor to crush it. I should be very glad to have the aide of General Beauregard in such a blow, and if it is possible to combine, I think it will succeed. The courage of this army was never better, and I fear no injury to it from any retrograde movement that may be dictated by sound military policy.” – Robert E. Lee to Jefferson Davis, morning of May 23, 1864.

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