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Captain Pell, who was sent by General Burnside to General Ferrero, did not upon any occasion find him in a bomb-proof, and Lieutenant Colonel Ross of the 31st colored troops spoke to General Ferrero on the field and saw him cheering on his men. Surgeon Prince of the 36th Massachusetts and Captain Dimock deposed to the same effect. Whether these affidavits are to be believed, in contradiction to the opinion of the court, must be left to the judgment of the reader. There was but one witness in regard to the conduct of Colonel Bliss, and his testimony was, as expressed in his own words, that "Colonel Bliss remained with the last regiment of his brigade and did not go forward at all to" his "knowledge." The testimony in regard to General Willcox's want of promptness was of the most general character and related to the crowded condition of all the troops in and about the crater-no mention being made of any neglect on the part of General Willcox himself.
From a careful examination of the testimony and a consideration of its ex parte character, from the partial constitution of the court, and the circumstances connected with the subject of its inquiry, the fairest conclusion to be reached is, that its "opinion" is of little authority. On one point, indeed, the court may be considered to have formed an equitable judgment. That is its intimation of the want of a competent head upon the immediate scene of action. General Burnside was not permitted to exercise the "prerogative" of the commanding general of the army-had even been rebuked upon the mere suspicion that he had any design to do so-and General Meade fought the battle by telegraph, all the while, to use his own words, "groping in the dark from the commencement of the attack." He might as well have been twenty miles away. When it was suggested by General Warren, he refused to go forward where he could see and know what was doing in the front. His reason for declining was, that his position had been taken and was within telegraphic communication of all the corps, and therefore, there was ho necessity for going to the front. Why not then have remained at his own headquarters instead of visiting
those of the Ninth Corps? Such a reason could avail in no way to excuse his fighting a battle, without seeing a single soldier who was engaged. Did ever a great captain direct an action so?
The Committee on the Conduct of the War also made an investigation and report concerning this unfortunate transaction. The committee met, at different times, from December 17th, 1864, to January 16th, 1865. The principal witnesses who had been before the court of inquiry were also examined by the committee. Besides these, Lieutenant Colonels Loring and Van Buren, of General Burnside's staff, and Lieutenant Colonel Pleasants added their testimony. The evidence was more complete and clear than that offered before the court. The officers expressed their opinions with greater freedom, and the questions which were put by the committee were more thorough and searching in their character. General Meade's testimony, which has already been commented upon, was somewhat contradictory to itself in different parts. General Grant's evidence contained a very remarkable admission. He said, "I came to the south side of the river before the explosion took place, and remained with General Meade until probably a half or three-quarters of an hour after the springing of the mine. I then rode down to front; that is, I rode down as far as I could on horseback, and went through to the front on foot. I there found that we had lost the opportunity which had been given us." This statement deserves something more than a passing consideration. General Grant, by his own showing, must have been at the front as early as six o'clock. At that time, he considered that the opportunity had passed. He had the supreme control. The query now arises, Why did he not order the troops to be withdrawn? That would seem to have been his imperative duty. Yet the fact remains that the troops were permitted to go forward under General Meade's orders, to crowd into the crater, and to remain there at least three hours subsequent to the time when, in General Grant's judgment, the opportunity of victory was lost. General Grant was
especially severe upon General Ledlie, whom he was disposed to consider mostly answerable for the failure. He blamed himself for allowing General Burnside to put General Ledlie in charge of the assaulting column. It is evident from his testimony and from that of General Meade, that the subject of employing the colored troops to lead the attack was not properly presented to his mind. In one breath he approves General Meade's order, and in another he declares that the attack would probably have succeeded, if made by the colored division.
General Warren gave it as his opinion that "there should have been two independent columns, to have rushed in immediately after the explosion of the mine, and to have swept down the enemy's lines right and left, clearing away all his artillery and infantry by attacking in the flank and rear. This would have allowed the main column to have followed on to the main crest rapidly and without molestation." The failure was caused by the delay of the attacking column to advance to the Cemetery hill. The testimony before the committee, as well as that before the court, was positive and clear in regard to General Burnside's repeated directions to his division commanders to send their troops forward to the crest. He evidently did all that could be done, except leading them in person beyond the crater. That was a task which he could hardly have been expected by any one to perform.
The committee, after a review of the testimony, and a careful recital of the facts, express their opinion in decisive terms. "In conclusion," they say, "the cause of the disastrous result of the assault of the 30th of July last is mainly attributable to the fact, that the plans and suggestions of the general who had devoted his attention for so long a time to the subject, who had carried out to so successful completion the project of mining the enemy's works, and who had carefully selected and drilled his troops, for the purpose of securing whatever advantages might be attainable from the explosion of the mine, should have been so entirely disregarded by a general who had evinced no faith in the successful prosecution of that work, had aided
it by no countenance or open approval, and had assumed the entire direction and control only when it was completed, and the time had come for reaping any advantage that might be derived from it." This report was submitted to the Senate on the 6th of February, 1865, and was ordered to be printed. With its conclusions, rather than with the opinion of the court, of inquiry, a fair and impartial mind will be likely to agree.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END.
OR the next few weeks after the explosion of the mine the two opposing armies in front of Petersburg lay in comparative quiet. General Lee had detached a force in the early part of July to make a diversion by way of the Shenandoah valley upon Maryland. To meet and counteract this movement General Grant despatched the sixth corps from the Army of the Potomac to Washington and its neighborhood. The ninteenth corps, opportunely arriving from the South, was also sent in that direction. On the 7th of August, General Sheridan was appointed to the command of the forces in that quarter and soon afterwards inaugurated a very brilliant campaign in the Shenandoah valley, the details of which do not properly come within the province of this narrative.
On the 13th of August General Burnside was granted leave of absence from the Ninth Corps, and immediately left the army for his home in Providence. He was not again called into active service during the continuance of the war. Mr. Lincoln refused to accept his resignation, awaiting some opportunity for sending him again into the field. Immediately before the accession of Mr. Johnson to the presidential chair the resignation was once more tendered and was accepted by the new President on the 15th of April. After the close of the war, General Burnside engaged in business in New York and at the West. In the spring of 1866, the people of Rhode Island demanded an opportunity of expressing their approval of the