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not augur well for the issue of the attack. At twenty minutes past seven o'clock General Burnside sent the following telegram to General Meade: "I am doing all in my power to push the troops forward and if possible we will carry the crest. It is hard work, but we hope to accomplish it. I am fully alive to the importance of it." General Meade at half past seven replied with the following ill-tempered effusion: "What do you mean by hard work to take the crest? I understand not a man has advanced beyond the enemy's line which you occupied immediately after exploding the mine. Do you mean to say your officers and men will not obey your orders to advance? If not, what is the obstacle? I wish to know the truth and desire an immediate answer."
This despatch was carried to General Burnside by Captain Jay, General Meade's aide de camp. Immediately upon its receipt, General Burnside replied: "Your despatch by Captain Jay received. The main body of General Potter's division is beyond the crater. I do not mean to say that my officers and men will not obey my orders to advance. I mean to say that it is very hard to advance to the crest. I have never in any report said anything different from what I conceived to be the truth. Were it not insubordinate, I would say that the latter remark of your note was unofficer-like and ungentlemanly." General Burnside was frank to confess, when examined before the Committee of Congress, that his language was unfortunate. But he felt at the time that General Meade was impugning his veracity, and replied, as a high spirited and truthloving man would be most likely to do under such aggravating circumstances. General Meade, impatient and petulant before, did not improve in temper on the receipt of this message. His orders became more positive, if possible, than before.
At the extreme front, the condition of affairs did not appear favorable. The colored troops had gone in to the fight manfully. They had lost severely, and their organization was much broken. Colonel Sigfried's brigade had suffered very badly in its loss of officers. Colonel Delavan Bates of the 30th regiment
fell shot in the face. Major James C. Lake of the same regiment was severely wounded in the breast. Lieutenant Colonel H. Seymour Hall of the 43d lost his right arm. Lieutenant Colonel Charles J. Wright of the 27th was shot twice and badly wounded. There were no wounds in the back among these brave officers. But all their endeavors and sacrifices did not avail. The work upon which they had been sent could not be accomplished. Colonel Sigfried, in bearing witness to the bravery of his command, believed that "had it not been for the almost impassable crowd of troops in the crater and intrenchments, Cemetery Hill would have been ours without a falter upon the part of my brigade." The attack failed. “A white color bearer with his colors crossed the works in retreat. The troops gave way and sought shelter in the crater where was concentrated a terrific fire."* A panic took place. Many of the men white and black ran to the rear. The enemy gathered about the edge of the crater and along the line of the commanding works, and, with his men in good range and good position, made havoc among our devoted troops. His artillery swept the intervening space between the crater and our line of works, and to retreat was as hazardous as to remain.
Time passes rapidly amid such exciting scenes. At nine o'clock, General Burnside sought an order from General Meade directing General Warren to make an attack upon the enemy in his front. The hostile lines were almost bare of defenders on either flank of the point immediately assailed, and the supporting corps, if they were now to attack, would not only relieve the Ninth Corps, but would also gain a decisive advantage. General Warren commanding the fifth telegraphed to General Meade and suggested that he should come to the front and see for himself the state of the battle. General Meade declined doing so. But at the same time he was unwilling to allow General Burnside any opportunity to exercise command over the corps in his immediate neighborhood. By General Meade's
*Colonel Sigfried's Report.
peremptory order, all the troops belonging to the Ninth Corps had been sent into the battle. General Meade now declined to relieve them by ordering an attack to be made by the corps on either side of the position of the Ninth. A marked difference is to be observed, between the character of the orders given to General Burnside and that of those to the other corps commanders. General Burnside was permitted no discretion. Not an order through the entire action was conditional. To Generals Warren, Hancock and Ord obedience to the orders given was to be determined by circumstances. If there was apparently an opportunity to carry the enemy's works," General Warren was to "take advantage of it and push forward" his troops. When General Warren found the opportunity and was disposed to improve it, he was informed by General Meade that the attack was "suspended." General Hancock was to have his "troops well up to the front prepared to move" as he might be called upon at any moment. "If the enemy are in force and prepared," says General Meade, "you will have to await developments; but if you have reason to believe their condition is such that an effort to dislodge them would be successful, I would like to have it made." General Ord was directed at six o'clock to move forward "independently of General Burnside's troops and make a lodgement" on the crest.* But at eight o'clock, General Ord reported that the topography of the ground was such as to prevent such an attack as General Meade had ordered. Yet notwithstanding this long delay, the commanding general had no word of censure and no reiteration of command. The difference in the orders is so striking as at once to arrest attention.
The men in the crater began to feel that no support was to be given them. Instead of attempting to relieve them by occupying the enemy upon the flank of the crater, General Meade was ordering more men into the confused masses of troops already in the over-crowded position. He had put in the entire
*General Meade's orders in Attack on Petersburg, p. 58 and following.
Ninth Corps and one division of the eighteenth. They had all gone into the crater or into positions in its immediate vicinity, since they could go nowhere else. Discouraged by the condition of things, our men felt as though they were sacrificed without sufficient cause and without any good result. The enemy was emboldened to make an attack. But he was effectually repulsed, suffering considerable loss in killed and wounded and even in prisoners. The morning was hot, the men were suffering severely, and many of them in passing to the rear gave the impression that our entire force was on the point of retiring. At nine o'clock, General Burnside telegraphed to General Meade that "many of the Ninth and eighteenth corps were "retiring before the enemy." He desired that the fifth corps should be then put in promptly. General Meade declares that that was the "first information' " that he had received "that there was any collision with the enemy or that there was any enemy present." He was within a mile of the scene of action. He had heard the roar of the battle. One of his aides from the beginning, and two during a greater part of the time had been upon the ground. General Warren and General Hancock had spoken of the enemy's presence in their despatches. Captain Sanders of General Meade's own staff had informed him as early as eight o'clock, that General Griffin had made an attack and had been repulsed. General Grant at six o'clock had gone to the front, had seen that the opportunity of success had passed and then returned to General Meade in the rear. General Burnside's despatches reasonably interpreted would certainly give the impression that the enemy was somewhere present in his front. In the blissful ignorance which prevailed at the headquarters in the shady grove, General Meade knew nothing of any battle or any enemy!
As soon as General Meade had ascertained the fact that any portion of his army was in collision with the enemy, he ordered a withdrawal. General Burnside received the order at half past nine o'clock. General Hancock was informed, at twenty-five minutes past nine, that "offensive operations had
been suspended," and that he would hold for the present the line of the eighteenth corps. General Warren, at forty-five minutes past nine, was ordered to resume his original position with his command. General Ord, at the same time, was directed to withdraw his "corps to the rear of the Ninth in some secured place."
General Burnside, immediately upon the reception of the order to retire, visited General Meade at his headquarters and requested that it might be rescinded, as he thought that the crest might still be carried if the supporting corps would relieve the Ninth from the pressure of the enemy. Indeed, while the enemy's troops upon the right and left were allowed to attack the troops in the crater without hindrance, a retreat from the point assailed would be accompanied with great loss, if indeed it could be made at all. General Ferrero had been instructed to dig a covered way from the crater to our lines, in order that the troops, when compelled to withdraw, might retire in comparative security. Could not the order be.suspended until this covered way was completed? General Meade thought not. The order was final. The troops must come back. It was repeated in the most peremptory manner. major general commanding," writes the chief of staff, "directs that you withdraw to your own intrenchments."
General Burnside, finding that General Meade could not be moved from his purpose, and would not afford any aid, collected his division commanders at his headquarters in the front and communicated to them the orders of the commanding general. While the deliberation was in progress, other orders came from General Meade to the effect that the troops were to be withdrawn according to the discretion of their commanding officer. This was at ten o'clock. But before this, the order had been sent into the crater. It was returned with the endorsement that it was impossible to retire, "on account of the enfilading fire over the ground between our rifle pits and the crater," and with the request "that our lines should open with artillery and infantry bearing on the right and left of the