Today in History:

17 Series I Volume XXIX-I Serial 48 - Bristoe, Mine Run Part I


The batteries of the center and right were to open at 8 o'clock, at which time Warren was to make the main attack, and at 9 o'clock Sedgwick was to assault with his column, and when these attacks proved successful, the three divisions of the Third and First Corps left to hold the center would assault, in conjunction with the others, after making demonstrations in their fronts at 8 o'clock.

The division of cavalry commanded by Brigadier-General Gregg held the plank road in rear of the infantry, and repulsed several attempts of the enemy's cavalry to break through his lines for the purpose of reaching our communications. The division of cavalry commanded by Brigadier-General Custer, charged with the duty of holding the upper fords of the Rapidan, was very active, and crossed the river and followed up the enemy wherever he'd fell back from his works.

On the 30th, the batteries opened at 8 a. m. The skirmishers of the First and Third Corps advanced across Mine Run and drove in the enemy's skirmishers, and every preparation was made by Sedgwick for his attack (he having moved his columns during the night and massed them our of view of the enemy), when, about ten minutes of 9, I received a dispatch from General Warren to the effect that "the position and strength of the enemy seem so formidable in my present front that I advise against making the attack here-the full light of the sun shows me that I cannot succeed." The staff officer who brought this dispatch further reported that General Warren had suspended his attack, and would not make it without further orders. As Sedgwick's attack was subsidiary to Warren's, and as, owing to Warren's confidence of the night before, I had given him so large a part of the army that I had not the means of supporting Sedgwick in case of a repulse, or re-enforcing him in the event of success, I was obliged to suspend the attack of Sedgwick on the enemy's left, which I did just in time; and immediately proceeded to General Warren's column, some 4 miles distant, in the hope of arranging some plan by which the two attacks might yet take place in the afternoon. I reached General Warren between 10 and 11 a. m., and found his views were unchangeable, and that it was his decided opinion it was hopeless to make any attack.

It was too late to move the troops back and make an attack on the center that day, and General Warren was already so far separated from the right that his movement to turn the enemy's right cold not be continued without moving up the rest of the army in support, and abandoning the turnpike road, our main line of communications. Nothing further could be done this day, and at night the two divisions of the Third Corps returned to the center, and the Fifth and Sixth Corps returned to their former positions.

It was then reported to me that the opening of our batteries in the morning had exposed to the enemy our threatened attack on his left, and that he could be seen strengthening the position, by earthworks, abatis, putting guns in position, &c., so that by nightfall the chances of success had been materially diminished, and, knowing he would work all night, I felt satisfied that by morning the proposed point of attack, which had been weak, would be as strong as any other part of his line.

Under these circumstances I could see no other course to pursue than either to hazard an assault, which I knew to be hopeless, and acknowledging the whole movement a failure, withdraw the army to the south bank of the Rapidan.