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concurred with General Meade, having had no opportunity of hearing the other side of the case presented by General Burnside in person.*
The colored troops were ruled out-very much to the disappointment of themselves, their own commander, and General Burnside. The decision was made known to General Burnside not far from noon on the 29th. General Meade at the same time called at General Burnside's headquarters, where he met the three commanders of the white divisions of the Ninth Corps. On the day previous, he had told General Burnside at an interview which the two officers had at General Meade's headquarters, that he did not approve the order of the formation of the attacking column, "because," as General Burnside testifies, "he was satisfied that we would not be able, in the face of the enemy, to make the movements which were contemplated, to the right and left; and that he was of the opinion that the troops should move directly to the crest without attempting these side movements." On the occasion of the interview with the division commanders on the 29th, General Meade declared, that "there were two things to be done, namely, that we should go up promptly and take the crest." General Meade seemed to have but one plan of action. That was to "rush for the crest." These words he repeated in more than one order on the day of battle. "Don't lose time in making formations," he said, "but rush for the crest."
There seems to have been a little discrepancy in General Meade's recollection of the discussion which took place respecting General Burnside's formation of the assaulting column. As
*General Grant in his testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War had the frankness to say, that "General Burnside wanted to put his colored division in front, and I believe if he had done so it would have been a success. Still, I agreed with General Meade in his objection to that plan. General Meade said, that if we put the colored troops in front, and it should prove a failure, it would then be said, and very properly, that we were shoving those people ahead to get killed because we did not care anything about them. But that could not be said, if we put white troops in front." It is to be observed, however, that General Meade gave a different reason from that to the Committee, when he was stating why he disapproved General Burnside's plan of attack.
to General Burnside's "tactical formation," he testified before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, "and what he was to do with his troops, I made no objection." "The only objection I intended to make to "his "plan was to the use of the colored troops in advance.”* But before the Court of inquiry which, after the battle investigated the whole affair, General Meade testified as follows: "I saw Potter, Ledlie and Willcox and I referred in the presence of those gentlemen to the tactical manœuvres to be made between that crater and the crest that the only thing to be done was to rush for the crest, and take it immediately after the explosion had taken place; and that they might rest assured that any attempt to take time to form their troops would result in a repulse." No other conclusion can be reached than that General Meade did object to General Burnside's "tactical formation," and that the entire plan of attack, which had been carefully prepared, was disapproved in all its details. In this situation General Burnside and his division commanders found themselves on the afternoon of the 29th of July.
The decision of General Meade, unexpected as it was, caused no little embarrassment to the officers of the Ninth Corps. The mine was to be exploded at an early hour on the following morning. The colored troops were not to be used in the advance. What division should be selected to take their place? So far as the men were concerned there was little choice between them. There were no special reasons for selecting one in preference to another. Each was as brave as the other. All had been about equally engaged in the very arduous service of the campaign and the siege. General Burnside said to his division commanders: "Gentlemen, there are certain reasons. why either one of you should lead the attack. Your division, General Willcox, and yours, General Potter, are both near the point of assault, and it will require less time to put either of them into position, than to bring up General Ledlie's division.
*Attack on Petersburg, p. 44. Attack on Petersburg, pp. 57, 143.
But, General Ledlie, the men of your division have not been in such close proximity to the enemy as those of the other two, and have not had quite so hard work as they. There is really no overpowering reason why either of you should be selected or excluded. Why not draw lots for the position and thus determine who shall make the assault?" No objection was made, lots were drawn, and the choice fell upon General Ledliemost unfortunately, as was afterwards thought by General Grant, who considered him an "inefficient" officer. General Ledlie was immediately directed by General Burnside to reconnoitre the ground and prepare for the attack. He afterwards reported, that he had attended to that duty, and only waited for darkness and the relieving troops, to take position for the duties of the coming day.
General Meade issued his battle order: "1. As soon as it is dark, Major General Burnside, commanding Ninth Corps, will withdraw his two brigades under General White,* оссируing the intrenchments between the plank and Norfolk roads, and bring them to his front. Care will be taken not to interfere with the troops of the eighteenth corps moving into their position in rear of the Ninth Corps. General Burnside will form his troops for assaulting the enemy's works at daylight of the 30th, prepare his parapets and abatis for the passage of the columns, and have the pioneers equipped for work in opening passages for artillery, destroying enemy's abatis, &c., and the intrenching tools distributed for effecting lodgements, &c.
8. At half-past three in the morning of the 30th, Major General Burnside will spring his mine, and his assaulting columns will immediately move rapidly upon the breach, seize the crest in the rear, and effect a lodgement there. He will be
*General Julius White-favorably known as the commander of a division in the twenty-third corps East Tennessee-came to General Burnside in July and was assigned to duty in the Ninth Corps. At this time he was in command of the fourth division in the temporary absence of General Ferrero, who was away for a few days on leave General Ferrero returned to camp on the 29th, and General White was appointed Chief of Staff during the day of battle. General Parke was at the time disabled from service by sickness.