Today in History:

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

Page 60 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. Chapter LII.

powder should be put in instead of 12,000 and the mine was accordingly exploded with that charge. The decision in reference to the charge to be placed in the mine was given in ample time to let me make arrangements for the amount of powder.

The general facts and movements connected with this army for the first three or four days previous to the fight are so well known to the Court that I will not delay them by any statement as to my correspondence and personal intercourse or anything of that nature up to Thursday before the fight.

On that day (Thursday, two days before the fight) I went to General Meade's headquarters. He spoke to me in this way:

"I have received information that it is impossible for General Hancock to advance beyond his present position; he has succeeded in inflicting upon the enemy a severe punishment and captured some four pieces of cannon, but is not able to advance beyond that point (or, at any rate, it was decided that he should not advance beyond that point). A large force of the enemy from this position has been attracted to that side of the river by this movement of General Hancock, and General Grant desires that an attack should be made here."

(I think he made that last remark, but I will not be positive; he either said that General Grant desired, or he himself desired, that an attack should be made.) He asked how long it would take the mine. There was some correspondence before and after that time (I do not know if it is in your proceedings or not) in reference to the time necessary to charge the mine); I think it very likely that General Meade has placed all the documents before you. Previous to this he had written to me to present my project for this movement, which is now before you.

During this conversation on Thursday he said to me, "I cannot approve of your placing the negro troops in the advance, as proposed in your project." I asked him why. He said, "Because I do not think they should be called upon to do as important a work as that which you propose to do, certainly not called upon to lead," or words to that effect. I, in a considerable conversation, urged upon General Meade the necessity for placing General Ferrero's division in the advance. I stated to him that the three white divisions had been on the advance line, and under fire from the moment of the establishment of the line, on the 18th or 19th of June, until that time; that they were very much wearied, had contracted a habit of covering themselves by every method within their reach, and that I was satisfied they were not in condition to make anything like as much of a dash upon the enemy's line as General Ferrero's division, which had not been under any considerable fire from the time of its arrival at this place to that moment. I told him I considered my troops to be as good as they ever were, with the exception of this weariness and the habit, which had almost become a second nature, of protecting themselves from the fire of the enemy. In fact, upon this subject, I was very, very urgent.

I will here present to the Court some of the reasons for forming this opinion, which reasons were presented to General Meade. Take an intermediate date, say the 20th of July, and there were for duty 9.023 muskets in the three old divisions of the Ninth Corps, which occupied the line. From the 20th of June, which was after the fight at this place, to the day before the fight on the 30th day of July, these divisions lost as follows: Killed, 12 officers, 231 men; wounded, 44 officers, 851 men; missing, 12 men; making a total of 1,150, which is over 12 per cent, of the command, without a single assault on the part of the enemy or of our own troops. These casualties were caused from picket-firing and shell firing, and extended pretty evenly over the whole time. I think that the whole of General Willcox's division was on the line for thirty days or more without relief. General Potter's and General Ledlie's divisions had some small reliefs, enabling those gentlemen to draw some of their men off at intervals, for two or three days at a time, at certain intervals during this period. A considerable portion of our line was so situated as to render it impossible to keep pickets to the front of them. It was, in fact, situated very much as a portion of the line occupied by the Second Corps at Cold Harbor. As I stated before, I stated these facts to General Meade, except that I will not say that I gave him these exact figures; but the full substance of what I have stated here was given to him, together with the statement of the loss of officers and men, and the way in which the losses occurred. And, in fact, statements were made regularly to General Meade, so that these facts were in his possession, but were not made with the same particularly to him as I have made them here.

The Ninth Corps also lost in the fight of the 17th and 18th of June 2,903 men, and in the action of the 30th of July 3,828. The following are the figures more in detail: June 17 and 18-Killed, 29 officers, 348 men; wounded, 106 officers, 1,851 men; missing, 15 officers, 554 men; 2,903. July 30-Killed, 52 officers, 376 men; wounded, 105 officers, 1,556 men; missing, 87 officers, 1,652 men; 3,828.

General Meade said to me that he was going to see General Grant, and would submit the question to him as to whether the colored troops would be allowed to take the advance or not. This, as I said, was on a Thursday-I think in the forenoon. He said to me that he would start at 1 o'clock, and would return that evening. I parted

Page 60 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. Chapter LII.