Battle History

                                     NORTH ANNA RIVER, VA.
                                     MAY 23RD - 27TH, 1864

                   North Anna River, Va., May 23-27, 1864 Army of the
                Potomac.  The operations along the North Anna River on these
                dates constituted what is known as the Third epoch of the
                campaign from the Rapidan to the James.  (For the organization
                of the Army of the Potomac at the beginning of that campaign
                see Wilderness.)  On May 24, the 9th corps, commanded by Maj.-
                Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside and composed of the divisions of
                Stevenson, Potter, Willcox and Ferrero, joined the Army of the
                Potomac, which was under command of Maj.-Gen. George G. Meade,
                who was accompanied on the campaign by Lieut.-Gen. U. S.
                Grant.  The 6th corps, which had been commanded by Maj.-Gen.
                John Sedgwick until he was killed at the battle of
                Spottsylvania Court House, was now under command of Maj.-Gen.
                Horatio G. Wright.

On the night of May 22, Grant directed Meade to move his army south from Mount Carmel Church at 5 o,clock the next morning, and to follow across the North Anna river should it be found that the Confederates had crossed. The 2nd corps was to move on the Telegraph road to the Chesterfield ford, near where the Fredericksburg & Richmond railroad crossed the river; the 9th corps to Jericho bridge, or mills, and the 5th corps, with the 6th in reserve to a point west of Jericho mills. The distance between Jericho mills and the Chesterfield ford is about 4 miles. Before the orders were executed they were changed, making the destination of the 9th corps the Ox ford, about a mile above the Telegraph road bridge at Chesterfield ford, while the 5th and 6th corps, the former in advance, moved toward Jericho mills. At 1 p.m. Warren had reached the mills. No enemy was to be seen on the opposite bank and Bartlett's brigade of Griffin's division was pushed over to secure the crossing. By the time the entire division had waded across at the ford the bridge train came up and the remainder of the corps crossed on the pontoon bridge. Line of battle was formed half a mile beyond the river in a strip of timber. At 6 p.m. the Confederates assaulted Cutler, who had succeeded to the command of Wadsworth's division after the latter's death in the Wilderness. He was the last of the division commanders to cross the river and had not wholly formed his line when the enemy attacked. The division fell back in some confusion, the Confederates following until they were checked by Griffin's artillery and compelled to withdraw to the Virginia Central railroad, about a mile and a half south, when Warren intrenched his position. The 6th corps was hastened from. Mount Carmel church at the beginning of the action, but the fighting had about ended when it arrived on the north bank of the river at Jericho mills and it was not crossed until the next morning. In the meantime Hancock formed his corps along the heights a mile north of the river, his left (Gibbon) resting on the Fredericksburg & Richmond railroad and his right (Birney) on the Telegraph road, Barlow occupying the center. The Confederates were intrenched on a hill on the north bank of the river to guard the approach to the Telegraph road bridge. Birney was of the opinion that he could capture the position and was ordered to attempt it. Egan's and Pierce's brigades, in a brilliant charge up the slope under cover of the 2nd corps artillery fire, successfully accomplished the movement, driving the enemy across the river, though the two brigades lost some 15O men. The Confederates still held the south end of the bridge and during the night made several attempts to burn it, but each time were driven back. Burnside proceeded to Ox ford, but found the enemy so strongly intrenched on the south bank he deemed it unwise to attempt a crossing. On the morning of the 24th it was found that the enemy in Hancock's front had abandoned his advanced works on the south side of the river, when the 2nd corps was at once crossed and took possession of them. Some reconnoitering was done during the day and it was discovered that the Confederate position was strongly intrenched in the shape of a V, the vertex resting on the river near Ox ford one side opposite Hancock's corps, while the other faced the 5th and 6th corps to the west. About 6 p.m. Gibbon's division, occupying Hancock's extreme left, became briskly engaged and though its outposts were hard pressed no material advantage was gained by the enemy. The same day Burnside was ordered to seize Ox ford, but finding that it was impossible to make a direct attack as the salient of the V was directly opposite, he sent Crittenden's division (formerly Stevenson's) a mile and a half up the river, where it crossed at Quarles' mill. On the south side of the stream Crittenden formed a junction with Crawford's division of Warren's corps and advanced toward the Confederate position at Ox ford with a view of driving the enemy out so that Willcox's division could cross, but the enemy was too strongly intrenched. On the 25th the 5th and 6th corps with Crittenden's division of the 9th were thrown forward to within 600 or 800 yards of the Confederate line which was found to be well intrenched and traversed to protect it from the enfilading fire of the 9th corps artillery on the north bank of the river. The line extended from Ox ford on the North Anna to Anderson's mill on the Little river, a distance of a mile and a half. The rest of the 25th and 26th were spent by the Federals in tearing up portions of the Fredericksburg & Richmond and Virginia Central railroads and on the 26th Wilson's cavalry division was sent from the Federal right to demonstrate on the enemy's position. This led Lee to think that the Army of the Potomac was to be moved by the right flank. At nightfall of the 26th that part of the Federal army on the south side of the North Anna was started on a northward movement across that stream and by noon of the 27th the whole of the Army of the Potomac was north of the river. The Federal losses during the 4 days were 223 killed, 1,460 wounded and 290 missing, though the report of Medical Director McParlin of the Army of the Potomac places the wounded at 2,100. The Confederate losses were not reported, but it is probable that they were somewhat lighter.

Source: The Union Army, vol. 6 -----------------------------------------------------------------

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