Cold Harbor caused a change of plan. Reporting two days later Grant said: "I now find, after thirty days of trial, the enemy deems it of the first importance to run no risks with the armies they now have. Without a greater sacrifice of human life than I am willing to make all cannot be accomplished that I had designed outside of the city [of Richmond]. I have therefore resolved upon the following plan," which, in one word, involved a complete change from a series of pitched battles to a long-drawn open siege.
The battles lasted thirty days, the siege three hundred. Therefore, from this time on for the next ten months, Lee had to keep his living shield between Grant's main body and the last great stronghold of the fighting South, while the rising tide of Northern force, commanding all the sea and an ever-increasing portion of the land, beat ceaselessly against his front and flanks, threw out destroying arms against his ever-diminishing sources of supply, and wore the starving shield itself down to the very bone.
Grant's losses--forty thousand killed and wounded--were all made good by immediate reinforcement; as was his other human wastage from sickness, straggling, and desertion: made good, that is, in the quantities required to wear out Lee, whose thinning ranks could never be renewed; but not made good in quality; for many of the best were dead. The wastage of material is hardly worth considering on the Northern side; for it could always be made good, superabundantly good. But the corresponding wastage on the Southern side was unrenewed and unrenewable. Food, clothing, munitions, medical stores--it was all the same for all the Southern armies: desperate expedients, slow starvation, death.
Consternation reigned at Richmond on the twelfth of June, the day the fitful firing ceased around Cold Harbor. There was danger in the Valley, where Hunter had won success at Staunton, and where Crook's and Averell's Union troops were expected to arrive from West Virginia. Sheridan, too, was off on a twenty-day raid. He cut the Virginia Central rails at Trevilian, did much other damage between Richmond and the Valley, and, toward the end of June, rejoined Grant, who had reached the James nearly a fortnight before. Always trying to overlap Lee's extending right, Grant closed in on Petersburg with the Army of the Potomac while the Army of the James held fast against Richmond. This part of the front then remained comparatively quiet till the end of July.
But the beleaguered Confederates made one last sortie out of the Valley and straight against Washington. At the beginning of July the Valley was uncovered owing to the roundabout flank march that Hunter was forced to make back to his base for ammunition. The enterprising Jubal Early took advantage of this with some veteran troops and made straight for Washington. On the ninth Lew Wallace succeeded in delaying him for one day at the Monocacy by an admirably planned defense most gallantly carried out with greatly inferior numbers and far less veteran men. This gave time for reinforcements to pour into Washington; so that on the twelfth, Early, finding the works alive with men, had to retreat even faster than he came.
In the meantime Grant's extreme right wing was steadily pressing the invasion of Georgia, where we left Sherman and Johnston face to face at Kenesaw in June. Here again the beleaguered Confederates had been making desperate raids or sorties, trying to cut Sherman off from his base in Tennessee and keep back the Federal forces in other parts of the river area. "Our Jack Morgan," whom we left as a prisoner of war after his Ohio raid of '63, had escaped in November, fought Crook and Averell for Saltville and Wytheville in May, and then, leaving southwest Virginia, had raided Kentucky and taken Lexington, but been defeated at Cynthiana and driven back by overwhelming numbers till he again entered southwest Virginia on the twentieth of June. Forrest raided northeastern Mississippi, badly defeated Sturgis at Brice's Cross Roads in June, but was himself defeated by A.J. Smith at Tupelo in July.
Meanwhile Sherman had been tapping Johnston's fifty miles of entrenchments for three weeks of rainy June weather, hoping to find a suitable place into which he could drive a wedge of attack. On the twenty-seventh he tried to carry the Kene saw lines by assault, but failed at every point, with a loss of twenty-five hundred--three times what Johnston lost.
By a well-combined series of maneuvers Sherman then forced Johnston to fall back or be hopelessly outflanked. Johnston, with equal skill, crossed the Chattahoochee under cover of the strongly fortified bridgehead which he had built unknown to Sherman. But Sherman, with his double numbers, could always hold Johnston with one-half in front while turning his flank with the other. So even the Chattahoochee was safely crossed on the seventeenth of July and the final move against Atlanta was begun. That same night Johnston's magnificent skill was thrown to the winds by Davis, who had ordered the bold and skillful but far too headlong John B. Hood to take command and "fight."