Today in History:

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

Page 64 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. Chapter LII.

A dispatch which was intended for me, from Colonel Loring, went to my old headquarters and was read by General Meade. I was cognizant of that fact, and I knew that General Meade was aware of the circumstances which surrounded the troops at that place, because General Meade sent an orderly with a message stating that he had read the dispatch himself. It was, therefore, not necessary from me to recommunicate the information I had received from Colonel Loring. After my three divisions had been put into the position they occupied in the works I hesitated to put in this colored division. I remembered having told General Meade that in case the colored division should falter in the advance I did not think it would affect our old white divisions, certainly as to holding their position; that if the white divisions were to falter in the advance it would be impossible to get the black division to pass them. I am not sure but I told him this the very day before the battle, in my sent. I received from General Meade an order to put in my whole force, which I did. I sent an order to General Ferrero to go to the top of the crest with his division. One of my aides was there at the time (Colonel Loring), and took the responsibility of saying that that should be stopped, because he was satisfied that I had not received his dispatch. He came to me and I said my orders were peremptory, to put in my whole command; and he himself told General Ferrero to put in his division at once and go to the top of the crest, if possible. The colored division was put in, and from what I can learn no officers or men behaved with greater gallantry than they did. After passing the while troops and attempting something like a formation they were driven back by the enemy and driven through the white troops, the white troops, or the principal portion of them, still maintaining their position fighting as gallantly as three divisions ever fought. I witnessed this repulse myself, and at the same time saw that the enemy had been repulsed by our own white troops, the black troops coming to the rear to a very considerable extent.

There is one point to which I wish to call the attention of the Court. I sent to General Meade a dispatch at 6.20, stating that if General Warren's reserve force could be concentrated at that time I thought it would be well, or something to that effect, and I would designate to him when that force should be put in. To that dispatch you have the answer. Not far from that time General Warren came himself to my headquarters, if not exactly at that time. I then said to him, "General, let us look at this position," having in view answering the question which General Meade desired me to answer. General Warren and I went down to the front, leaving my headquarters and going down a covered way until we got to a position on the left-hand side of General Potter's covered way beyond. We got on a mound of earth and reconnoitered the enemy's position until we were satisfied. I said to General Warren," I think your plan would plan would be to strike across by the fort which enfiladed our lines," or something to that effect. At any rate, whatever opinion I expressed to General Warren it is sufficient to say that he told me that he should go back and explain to General Meade the circumstances, and if possible to get him to come to the front and look for himself. That, of course, satisfied me with reference to that point of General Meade's inquiry.

Although this narrative is very disconnected, I believe I have stated in it all the material points. I do not know of a single order of mine that was not carried out by my division commanders. I do not know of any lack of energy on their part in carrying out my views and the views of the commanding general, except, possibly, in the case of General Ledlie, who was quite sick on that day, and who I thought afterward ought to have gone to the crater the moment his men were in, but I understood that he was very sick and could hardly have walked that far under the oppressive heat. He was within 120 yards of his brigades, I should say.

Between 9.30 and 10 o'clock I received two dispatches from General Meade with reference to withdrawal. They are marked Nos. 12 and 15 in the record before you. I was very much concerned in reference to the matter, because although we had met with some reserves, I could not help feeling myself that we could hold the position which we occupied, if we could not gain more ground. In fact I was under the impression at the time that we were gaining ground in the direction of the enemy's rifle-pits, to the right and left, I felt that if troops were put in on our left flank that then we would have been enabled to establish ourselves on the enemy's line, which, of course, would have made our position secure. However that is simply a matter of opinion, upon which the commanding general had to decide. I also felt that if we could gain no more ground we could run out lines at an angle to the crater and establish a salient upon the enemy's lines, which would be of material advantage to us in future operations, particularly in making him vacate that part of the line which is now opposite my front, and, in fact, as I had not given up all hopes of carrying the crest even, if a positive and decided effort were made by all the troops. But feeling disinclined to withdraw the troops, I got on my horse and rode over to General Meade's headquarters, which were at any permanent headquarters. He and general Grant were there together. General Ord and I entered the tent, and General Meade questioned General Ord as to the practicability of his troops being withdrawn

Page 64 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. Chapter LII.