Following its repulse at Cold Harbor on June 3, the Army of the Potomac entrenched opposite its opponent. While both Grant and Lee pondered their options, the men in the ranks endured the heat and dust of a Virginia summer as well as the daily wastage of life at the hands of merciless sharpshooters. Meanwhile, in the Shenandoah Valley, a small Federal army under Brigadier General David Hunter advanced to Staunton. Believing it imperative to protect the Valley and its resources from Federal depredations, Lee detached Jubal Early's II Corps and sent it to the Valley on June 12.
Early's departure was not immediately apparent to Grant, who was simultaneously considering a change in the line of operations of the Army of the Potomac. Finding no opening on his immediate front, Grant eventually determined to move his army across the James River and seize Petersburg, a critical railroad hub connecting Richmond with the lower South. Such a movement required the Army of the Potomac to break contact with the Confederates, march around Lee's flank, cross the Chickahominy and James rivers, and assault Petersburg before the Army of Northern Virginia could react in strength.
Commencing on the evening of June 12, II and VI Corps occupied a shortened trench line while V Corps established a new position covering the Federal routes to the James. At the same time, XVIII Corps marched east to White House, and embarked on ships for transfer to Bermuda Hundred, a peninsula formed by the James and Appomattox rivers less than 20 miles from Richmond. As soon as V Corps was in
A pontoon bridg ^BWgivfc ^movement of tbi ~ ^-:-fnules per boat,, 'soldiers-when pr_ into a morass of
The Courthouse in Petersburg (left), photographed before the Union advance upon the city. At the time the James was crossed, Petersburg was practically defenseless and open to a Union assault.
/O) June 12: Grant pr ^ the Potomac-101 Petersburg. II and revised siege line >
Was this article helpful?