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crater, under which fire," it was thought "every one could get
But there was no fire to open. General Meade's order had suspended all offensive operations and removed the troops on the lines to their former positions. The men in the crater saw that they were not to be aided in any way. The enemy saw it also, and was not slow to take advantage of the opportunity. Still, discouraged as they were, the troops showed a bold front during the entire forenoon. But while waiting for the approval of the endorsement which General Hartranft made, in conjunction with General Griffin, the enemy appeared in greater force for another attack. Our men, worn out by the morning's work and in despair of assistance, could not stand against it. Generals Hartranft and Griffin attempted to draw them off in order, but they were hotly pressed, and those who could made their way in some confusion to their own lines. A considerable number still remained, among whom were General Bartlett, Colonel Marshall, Colonel S. M. Weld, Jr., of the 56th Massachusetts, Lieutenant Colonel Buffum, of the 4th Rhode Island and some officers of the colored division. These officers, unwilling to yield, rallied their men about them and, with great bravery, maintained for a time the unequal contest. They fought with the utmost spirit, but could not withstand the overpowering force of the enemy. A number were killed and wounded, but most of those who thus remained in the crater fell as prisoners into the enemy's hands. The men who retired suffered severely in withdrawing. The entire loss in the Ninth Corps was fifty-two officers and three hundred and seventy-six men killed, one hundred and five officers and one thousand five hundred and fifty-six men wounded, and eighty-seven officers and one thousand six hundred and fifty-two men missing, most of the last being captured at the time of the retreat. The entire loss was three thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight. The eighteenth corps lost about five hundred, and the second
* General Hartranft, in Attack on Petersburg, p. 205,
and fifth corps scarcely fifty. General Gregg, with the cavalry, had a smart engagement with the enemy upon our extreme left, but without any decisive result. At eleven o'clock, General Meade returned to the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac. General Burnside, at a later hour, retired to his own headquarters in the rear, sorrow-stricken by the contemplation of the deplorable result. At two o'clock all was over, and such of our men as could withdraw from the crater had returned to the lines. It was especially mortifying to feel that his own plan of action, which had promised a magnificent victory, should have been set aside at the last moment, and another substituted which eventuated in signal disaster and defeat.
General Meade performed an act of justice to Lieutenant Colonel Pleasants by issuing, on the 5th of August, the following general order:
"The commanding general takes great pleasure in acknowledging the valuable services rendered by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pleasants, 48th regiment Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, and the officers and men of his command, in the excavation of the mine which was successfully exploded on the morning of the 30th ult., under one of the enemy's batteries in front of the second division of the Ninth Army Corps. The skill displayed in the laying out and construction of the mine reflects great credit upon Lieutenant Colonel Pleasants, the officer in charge, and the willing endurance by the officers and men of the regiment of the extraordinary labor and fatigue involved in the prosecution of the work to completion are worthy of the highest praise."
How great an encouragement would have been such a recognition while the mine was in progress! But instead of recognition, Lieutenant Colonel Pleasants had nothing but ridicule at the headquarters of the army.
INQUIRY AND INVESTIGATION.
HE battle of July 30th naturally caused considerable discussion in and out of the army, and the circumstances of the case demanded a complete investigation of the causes of the disaster. General Meade was highly incensed by the language of General Burnside, in reply to the imperative demand for information respecting the obstacles in the way of gaining the crest. He was also displeased with his silence in regard to the events which took place subsequently to the suspension of hostilities. Accordingly, on the 3d of August, he preferred charges against General Burnside, intending to try him by court martial. He also requested General Grant to relieve the offending officer from duty with the Army of the Potomac. These charges were for "disobedience of orders" and "conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline." The specifications of the first charge were, for failure in communicating information and neglect in relieving the eighteenth corps. That of the second was, for addressing to General Meade the despatch to which allusion has already been made. General Grant considered these charges so frivolous that he refused to order the court, and thus that matter dropped.
General Meade, however, was not disposed to allow the case to subside. He therefore immediately ordered a court of inquiry to examine the whole subject. The court met and decided that it could not proceed without the authority of the President. The matter was then referred to Washington, and the court was legalized by the authorities there. It was composed of General Hancock, commander of the second corps,
General Ayres, who commanded a division in the fifth corps, and General Miles, who commanded a brigade in the second corps. These gentlemen were officers in the supporting corps on the day of battle. Colonel Schriver, inspector general at General Meade's headquarters, was the judge advocate of the court. This body convened on the 6th of August, and continued in session, at different times, until the 9th of September. General Hancock presided at its deliberations, and is understood to have objected to the character of its composition. General Burnside made a formal protest to the Secretary of War against the constitution of the court, on the ground that the officers composing it held commands in the supporting columns, which were not brought into action on the 30th of July, and that the judge advocate was a member of General Meade's staff. He felt that he had a right to ask that, if an investigation were made, it should be by officers who did not belong to the Army of the Potomac, and were not selected by General Meade. He did not shrink from investigation, but desired that it should be removed from even a suspicion of partiality. Mr. Stanton did not perceive the force of the objection, and assured General Burnside that he might feel entire confidence in the fairness and justice of the President in reviewing the case. "The action of the board of inquiry," said Mr. Stanton, "will be merely to collect facts for the President's information." The court, in accordance with the order, proceeded to investigate the matter, and on the seventeenth day of its session, delivered its decision. It becomes necessary to examine the "finding and "opinion" which were expressed, and the testimony upon which they were based.
The court declared the causes of failure to be "the injudicious formation of the troops in going forward, the movement being mainly by flank instead of extended front;" "the halting of the troops in the crater instead of going forward to the crest;""no proper employment of engineer officers and working parties and of materials for their use ;" an improper direction of some parts of the assaulting columns, and "the want
of a competent common head at the scene of the assault, to direct affairs as occurrences should demand." The opinion of the court was, that the " following named officers were answerable for the want of success: Major General A. E. Burnside, Brigadier General J. H. Ledlie, Brigadier General Edward Ferrero, Colonel Z. R. Bliss, and Brigadier General O. B. Willcox." General Burnside was answerable because he failed to obey the orders of the commanding general. "1. In not giving such formation to his assaulting columns as to insure a reasonable prospect of success; 2. In not preparing his parapets and abatis for the passage of the columns of assault; 3. In not employing engineer officers, who reported to him, to lead the assaulting columns with working parties, and not causing to be provided proper materials necessary for crowning the crest; 4. In neglecting to execute Major General Meade's orders, respecting the prompt advance of General Ledlie's troops from the crater to the crest; or, in default of accomplishing that, not causing those troops to fall back and give place to others, instead of delaying until the opportunity passed away." General Ledlie was answerable because he "failed to push forward his division promptly, according to orders, thereby blocking up the avenue which was designed for the passage of" the supporting troops; and also because, instead of being with his division in the crater, "he was most of the time in a bomb proof ten rods in the rear of the main line of the Ninth Corps." General Ferrero was answerable because his troops were not ready for the attack at the prescribed time, because he did not go with them to the attack, and because he was “habitually in a bomb proof." Colonel Bliss was answerable because he remained behind with the only regiment of his brigade which did not go forward according to the orders and occupied a position where he could not see what was going on." General Willcox was answerable because he did not exercise sufficient energy in causing his troops to go forward to Cemetery Hill. The court also expressed the opinion in language, the severity of which is but partially disguised in its softness,