Today in History:

49 Series I Volume XL-I Serial 80 - Richmond, Petersburg Part I


Receiving information from some person, I don't know who it was, that there was some difficulty about withdrawing at that time, that the safety of the column might be jeopardized by undertaking to withdraw it, the following dispatch was sent to General Burnside, and also to General Ord, who had troops there at that time-none of my dispatches to General Ord have been presented yet, because it would have confused matters. I will read them hereafter-(document 16).

About that time both Major-General Burnside and Major-General Ord came to the headquarters where General Grant and myself were temporarily located. General Burnside seemed to be very much displeased at the order of withdrawal, and expressed the opinion that if allowed to remain there by night-fall he could carry that crest. As, however, he did not give any reason to show how he could take it, and as he had been from 5.30 in the morning till nearly 10, and not only had not taken it, but had his men driven out of the works he had been occupying, and as Major-General Ord, whose troops were also there, upon being asked if the crest could be carried, answered very positively that it was entirely out of the question, it was determined by the lieutenant-general commanding and myself-or rather, as I referred the matter to him and he desired the orders changed-it was determined that no further attempt should be made to take the crest, but that the men should be made to take the crest, but that the men should be withdrawn whenever that could be done with security.

There is now a very important point to which I will call the attention of the Court, and which I want investigated very thoroughly, and that is the withdrawal from the crater. At the time the order was given to withdraw the troops, the report of Major-General Ord was that the crater of the mine was son overcrowded with men that it would be nothing but murder to send any more men forward there. I do not recollect as to whether the report of Major-General Burnside was so definite, but I believe the report of Colonel Loring was that there was at least one division of the troops in there. The impression left upon my mind was that at that time there were as many men in the crater as would enable them to defend themselves if attacked, and in case no defense was necessary, and there was no occasion on my part to order troops to be sent there, I presumed that Major-General Ord and Major-General Burnside, who was having charge of that operation, would see that the men would be properly withdrawn. This conclusion having been arrived at by the lieutenant-general and myself, and it not appearing necessary that we should remain any longer at Major-General Burnside's headquarters, the lieutenant-general commanding withdrew to City Point, and I withdrew to my former headquarters where i was in telegraphic communication with Major-General Burnside, and where, under the common correspondence between a general officer commanding the army and his subordinates, not to say under a peculiar exigency, I expected to be informed of anything that should occur. I remained in total ignorance of any further of any further transactions until about 6 or 7 o'clock in the evening. About that hour a report or a rumor reached me that there were a number of our wounded men lying between the crater and our line, and I think an appeal was made to me by General Ord if something could not be done to remove those men. I was not aware that there was any difficulty in the way of removing them, and wondered why they had not been removed; presuming that our men were in the crater, and as no report had been made to me that they had been withdrawn, I directed a dispatch to be sent to Major-General Burnside, calling upon him for information. That dispatch read as follows (document 17).

You will remember that I left General Burnside's headquarters about 10 o'clock, with the understanding that the troops were to be withdrawn when they could be withdrawn with security.

The following dispatches were subsequently read by the witness (documents 18, 18 1/4, 18 1/2, 18 3/4, 19, 19 1/4, 20.)

So far as any information from General Burnside is concerned, I had to go to bed that night without knowing whether his troops were in the crater or whether they were not. During the night dispatches were received referring to the relief of General Ord's troops. Next morning, July 31, at 8.40 and 9 a.m., the dispatches 18 1/4 and 18 1/2 were sent and received by General Humphreys. No dispatch was received from General Burnside with reference to the withdrawal of these troops till 6.40 p.m. July 31 (marked 18 3/4), to which was sent the one marked 19. At 9 10 p.m. July 31 the dispatch was received from General Burnside (marked 19 1/4), and the reply (marked 20), was sent.

Now I beg leave to call the attention of the Court to the fact that this dispatch is dated 9.10 p.m. July 31, and although it does not give an official statement of the time of the withdrawal of the troops, I know, but only from other information, that the withdrawal was at about 2 p.m. July 30, and as I consider that my conduct is here the subject of investigation as much as that of any other officer or man engaged in this enterprise, I wish to repudiate distinctly any responsibility