May 24, 1864
Battle of the North Anna River
May 23-26, 1864
Day 2: After working feverishly overnight, Gen. Lee’s engineers have fortified his inverted V-shape line (called a “hog’s snout” line), in order to necessarily cause the Federal forces to split itself to one side of the apex and the other. This morning, Gen . Grant orders more troops to cross the river and deploy. Hancock’s II Corps crosses to the east, at Chesterfield Bridge, in large numbers, not realizing that he faces two of the Confederate corps (Ewell and Anderson). On the west leg, Warren and Wright cross their two corps over the river. Grant, not yet understanding what Lee is doing, finds the ease of crossing the North Anna to be a sign that Lee is retreating. He order Burnside down to cross the river at Ox Ford, and the Yankees encounter opposition there, which the Federals assume to be a rear guard. Burnside sends Crittenden’s division to cross at Ox Ford, and sends Samuel Crawford’s division upstream to cross at Quarles Mills. As soon as Crittenden crosses, he sends his lead brigade of new Massachusetts regiments, under Brig. Gen. James Ledlie, to attack the Rebel lines. Ledlie is drunk, and in spite of the fortifications and the Rebel artillery, orders an attack anyway. His men are mowed down in large numbers, two of his regimental commanders (Weld and Chandler) are wounded, and Ledlie finally withdraws. (Despite the botched attack, Ledlie is cited for bravery and given division command later.)
Hancock’s troops go forward, and strike the right flank of the Confederate line. Gibbon’s division strikes the Southern earthworks, and a hot firefight engulfs and engages his entire division. About this time, a torrential thunderstorm breaks, and both armies slack off their rate of fire. A bit later, Gen. Birney’s Federal division moves in alongside Gibbon, and both divisions push, but are unable to make any headway. Gen. Lee had planned to make a push that would trap Hancock against the river and destroy his corps piecemeal, but Lee is debilitated by intestinal illness, and cannot stir from his cot. He has no other commanders that he can rely on (Anderson being new, Hill also being ill, and Ewell still shaken from the Spotsylvania disaster), and so nothing happens. Lee’s intended counter-blow at Hancock never materializes. When Grant hears about the disposition of Lee’s lines, he realizes Hancock’s peril, and orders more pontoon bridges built, in order to better reinforce either wing of his divided army. Gen. Hancock advises that the Rebel lines are as strong or stronger than at Spotsylvania.
---Atlanta Campaign: Gen. Joseph Johnston realizes that Sherman is attempting to flank him again, and so he abandons Allatoona and speeds south to Dallas in order to keep in front of Sherman. Northern and Southern cavalry skirmish all along the way.