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HEADQUARTERSPARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES,

City Point, Va., July 24, 1864. Maj. Gen. G. G. MEADE,

Commanding Army of the Potomac: GENERAL: The engineer officers who made a survey of the front from Bermuda Hundred report against the probability of success from an attack there. The chances, they think, will be better on Burnside's front. If this is attempted it will be necessary to concentrate all the force possible at the point in the enemy's line we expect to penetrate. All officers should be fully impressed with the absolute necessity of pushing entirely beyond the enemy's present line if they should succeed in penetrating it, and of getting back to their present liné promptly if they should not succeed in breaking through. To the right and left of the point of assault all the artillery possible should be brought to play upon the enemy in front during the assault. Thin lines would be sufficient for the support of the artillery, and all the reserves could be br ght on the flanks of their commands nearest to the point of assault, ready to follow in if successful. The field artillery and infantry held in the lines during the first assault should be in readiness to move at a moment's notice, either to their front or to follow the main assault, as they should receive orders. One thing, however, should be impressed on corps commanders: If they see the enemy giving away on their front or moving from it to re-enforce a heavily assailed portion of their line they should take advantage of such knowledge and act promptly without waiting for orders from army commanders. General Ord can co-operate with his corps in this movement, and about 5,000 troops from Bermuda Hundred can be sent to re-enforce you, or can be used to threaten an assault between the Appomattox and James Rivers, as may be deemed best. This should be done by Tuesday morning, if done at all. If not attempted, we will then start at the date indicated to destroy the railroad as far as Hicksford, at least, and to Weldon, if possible. Please give me your views on this matter and I will order at once. In this I have said nothing of the part to be taken by the cavalry in case the enemy's lines are assaulted. The best disposition to make of them probably would be to place them on the extreme left, with instructions to skirmish with the enemy and drive him back, if possible, following up any success gained in that way according to the judgment of the commander or orders he may receive. Whether we send an expedition on the road or assault at Petersburg Burnside's mine will be blown up. As it is impossible to hide preparations from our own officers and men, and consequently from the enemy, it will be well to have it understood as far as possible that just the reverse of what we intend is in contemplation.* I am, general, very respectfully, &c.,

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant General.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,

July 24, 1864. Lieut. Gen. U. S. GRANT:

GENERAL: I have received your letter, per Lieutenant-Colonel Comstock. In reply thereto I have to state 1, yesterday, made a close and

* For version of this letter, as submitted with the report of the Court of Inquiry on the Mine Explosion, see Part I, p. 129.

careful reconnaissance of the enemy's position, and although I could not detect any positive indications of a second line, yet, from certain appearances at different points, I became satisfied a second line does exist on the crest of the ridge just in rear of the position of Burnside's mine. I have no doubt of the successful explosion of the mine and of our ability to effect a lodgment and compel the evacuation of the line at present held by the enemy, but from their redoubt on the Jerusalem plank road and from their position in front of the Hare house their artillery fire would compel either a withdrawal or an advance. The advance, of course, should be made, but its success is dependent on the question whether the enemy have or have not a second line on the crest of the ridge. If they have, with the artillery fire already referred to, which sweeps the whole slope of the ridge, I do not deem it practicable to carry the second line by assault. Now, from my examination as previously stated, together with the evident necessity for their having such a line, I am forced to believe one will be found, and I do not, therefore, deem the assault expedient. Should it be deemed necessary to take all the risks involved, and there is undoubtedly room for doubt, I would like a little more time than is given in your note to place in position the maximum amount of artillery to bear upon the lines not assaulted. In regard to the assaulting force it would be composed, so far as this army is concerned, of the Ninth and Second Corps. The Fifth Corps has no reserves of any consequence and would be required to hold their line and be prepared to resist any attempt to turn our left flank, which in case of an unsuccessful assault I should deem quite probable. Fully impressed as I am with the necessity of immediate action, and also satisfied that excepting regular approaches the assault on Burnside's front is the most practicable, I am compelled as a matter of judgment to state that the chances of success are not such as to make the attempt advisable. At the same time, I do not consider it hopeless and am prepared to make the attempt, if it is deemed of importance to do so. I inclose you a report* of Major Duane, which confirms my views. If Wright is soon to return and we can extend our lines to the Weldon road we could then advance against the salient on the Jerusalem plank road and make an attempt to carry these at the same time we exploded Burnside's mine. This was my idea some time ago and we have been preparing the necessary siege-works for this purpose: Under your instructions, however, none of the heavy guns or material have been brought to the front; it would take perhaps two days to get them up.t Respectfully, yours,

GEO. G. MEADE,

Major-General.

HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES,

City Point, July 21, 1864. Major-General MEADE,

Commanding Army of the Potomac: GENERAL: Your note brought by Colonel Comstock is received. It will be necessary to act without expecting Wright. He is now in

See p. 428.

+ For version of this letter, as submitted with the report of the Court of Inquiry on the Mine Explosion, see Part I, p. 130.

Washington, but it is not fully assured yet that Early has left the Valley, and if Wright was to start back no doubt the Maryland raid would be repeated. I am not willing to attempt a movement so hazardous as the one against intrenched lines against the judgment of yourself and your engineer officers, and arrived at after a more careful survey of the ground than I have given it. I will let you know, however, in the morning what determination I come to. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Ú. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

CITY POINT, VA., July 24, 1864. Major-General MEADE:

Is there any word from deserters from Lon reet's corps within the last day or two?

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
OFFICE OF PROVOST-MARSHAL-GENERAL,

July 24, 1864—7.20 p. m. Major-General MEADE:

GENERAL: We have no deserters or prisoners from the enemy to. day. Yesterday a deserter from Mahone's division, Hill's corps, came into our lines at 10.30 a. m. and stated the enemy's position to be unchanged; prior to that Mahone had been on the right of Field's divis. ion, of Longstreet's corps, and McLaws was next on the left. Longstreet's other division (Pickett's) is beyond the Appomattox, in front of General Butler. We do not see prisoners or deserters from it. Field's and McLaws' hold the enemy's line from the Norfolk railroad to the Jerusalem plank road, and although we believe that each of the enemy's divisions hold a brigade in reserve, we know of no troops that could occupy the lines if any considerable portion of Longstreet's were withdrawn, as A. P. Hill was accounted for by the deserter of yesterday as holding his old place from the Jerusalem plank road to the Weldon railroad. Very respectfully,

GEORGE H. SHARPE,

Colonel, &c.

IIEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,

July 24, 1864–8 p. m. Lieutenant-General GRANT:

The foregoing is sent as all the information we have of Longstreetos corps. As we have been on the qui vive to find out any movement of Lee's army, and question all deserters and others on this point, I feel quite sure the corps has not moved.

GEO. G. MEADE,

Major-General.

FLAG-SHIP MALVERN,

Hampton Roads, Va., July 24, 1861. Lieut. Gen. U. S. GRANT,

Commanding U. 8. Forces in the Field : GENERAL: I inclose a copy of a communication received to-day from the Navy Department, relative to the expediency of withdrawing the iron-clads from James River. I request the favor of an early reply, giving your views on the subject. I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, yours,

S. P. LEE,
Actg. Rear-Admiral, Comdg. M. Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

Please address your reply to me at Beaufort, N. C.

[Inclosure.)

NAVY DEPARTMENT,

Washington, July 22, 1864. Acting Rear-Admiral S. P. LEE,

Comdg. N. Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Hampton Roads : SIR: You will inform this Department whether any of the iron-clads attached to your command can be withdrawn, having due regard to the exigencies of the public service within the limits of your command; whether they are absolutely essential to the holding possession of James River, or other waters of Virginia; and whether the military forces can maintaiu their positions in Virginia, assisted and protected by wooden vessels only, in case the iron-clads should be withdrawn, or with the assistance and protection of wooden vessels and a portion of the ironclads.

Answers to these questions, and such other information bearing upon the subjects of inquiry, as your judgment may dictate, can be furnished at your leisure. The opinion of Lieutenant-General Grant upon the points indicated would be valuable, and the Department would be gratified if you should obtain it. Very respectfully, &c.,

GIDEON WELLES,

Secretary of the Navy.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,

July 21, 1864. Maj. J. C. DUANE,

Acting Chief Engineer, Army of the Potomac. MAJOR: Please give me, with as little delay as practicable, your views on the expediency of an assault on the enemy's works after a successful springing of General Burnside's mine, and particularly your views as to the subsequent operations after carrying the enemy's first line and following up a lodgment on the crater of the mine. Respectfully, yours,

GEO. G. MEADE, Major General, Commanding.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
OFFICE OF CHIEF ENGINEER,

July 24, 1864. Major-General MEADE,

Commanding Army of the Potomac : GENERAL: In reply to your communication of this date, I have the honor to state that the line of the enemy's works in front of General Burnside is not situated on the crest of the ridge separating us from Petersburg; that the enemy have undoubtedly occupied this ridge as a second line. Should General Burnside succeed in exploding his mine he would probably be able to take the enemy's first line, which is about 100 yards in advance of his approach. Beyond this I do not think he could advance until the works in front of the Fifth Corps are carried, as the Ninth Corps columns would be taken in flank by a heavy artillery fire from works in front of the center of the Fifth Corps, and in front by fire from the works on the crest near the Cemetery Hill. I do not believe that the works in front of the Fifth Corps can be carried until our lines can be extended to the left, so as to envelop the enemy's line. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. C. DUANE,

Major of Engineers.

PLANK ROAD SIGNAL STATION,

July 24, 1861–4 p. m. Capt. B. F. FISHER:

All quiet. No movement to-day. Could see large numbers of the enemy this a. m. policing their camps in the rear of their line west of plank road. Nothing visible in direction of Weldon railroad.

J. B. DUFF, Lieutenant and Signal Officer.

HEADQUARTERS SECOND ARMY CORPS,

July 24, 1864. General S. WILLIAMS,

Assistant Adjutant-General: There has been no change in the disposition of my command since last report. The work on the left is still being prosecuted, as described in last night's report.

WINF'D S. HANCOCK,

Major-General

HEADQUARTERS SECOND ARMY CORPS,

July 21, 1864–9 p. m. General S. WILLIAMS,

Assistant Adjutant-General: There has been no change in disposition of my command since last report. The Third Division has returned from fatigue; the First detailed for to-morrow.

WINF'D) S. HANCOCK,

Major-General.

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