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never before been under fire in a pitched battle, but nothing could exceed the fearless bearing with which they made the assault. At fifteen minutes before eight, the attack was made in the finest style. The enemy's resistance was broken, the troops charged over the works, and, in a moment, Fort Stedman and the battery were recaptured and the enemy compelled to ask for quarter. The cross fire from our batteries prevented retreat, except with great difficulty. A large portion of the entire storming column, which had come out from the opposing lines eager and hopeful of triumph, was now obliged to surrender. One thousand nine hundred and forty-nine prisoners, seventy-one of whom were officers, nine stands of colors, and a large number of small arms were the fruits of this brilliant exploit. Our lines were at once reöccupied, and all damages repaired. Our losses were about one thousand killed, wounded and missing.
General Hartranft, who was in immediate command of the troops engaged, managed the affair with great skill, and won additional renown. "Too much credit," said General Parke, cannot be given him." By his promptitude and ability in rallying his troops, in making his dispositions, and in conducting the final assault, he changed what threatened to be a great disaster into a glorious success. It was as decisive in its way as General Sheridan's splendid achievement at Cedar Creek. Whatever plan General Lee may have devised for a subsequent movement was completely thwarted. The Army of the Potomac was saved from the danger of entire defeat and ruin. The presence of mind and the rapidity of execution which distinguished General Hartranft in these trying circumstances, won for him the brevet of Major General. Generals Parke, Meade, and Grant, the Secretary of War and the President were equally hearty in the expression of their commendation, and the promotion was immediately made. No honor during the war was more worthily bestowed or more bravely won.
It happened curiously enough, that General Parke was in command of the entire Army of the Potomac at the time of the
attack on Fort Stedman, although he was not at first aware of the fact. At half past five o'clock, he reported the intelligence of the enemy's appearance and action to head-quarters. He received no reply to his despatch. Four successive times did he send the communication without a response, until ten minutes past six, when an answer came from the telegraph operator: "General Meade is not here and the command devolves on you." The commanding general had yielded his "prerogative" without intimating to his second in command, that the mantle of authority had fallen from his shoulders. General Meade had given no notice of his absence, and General Parke found himself bearing an unexpected burden of duty. He immediately despatched couriers to City Point and, meanwhile, ordered Generals Wright and Warren to move troops towards the position which the enemy had assailed. He had already received cordial tenders of assistance from his brother officers. The corps commanders were even anxious and eager to attack the enemy, in turn, along the whole line. They would have been glad to have fought a battle under the direction of General Parke, without any intervention of General Meade. There was every prospect of winning a great victory, so far as the judgment of these officers could determine. But General Parké was not willing to take the responsibility of ordering an attack while he was accidentally in command. He had too much selfcontrol to allow himself to be governed by the suggestions of personal ambition, and rejected the opportunity of securing a mere personal glory, through the negligence of his chief. It was an instance of self-command which was very honorable to General Parke. General Wheaton's division of the sixth corps came down to the neighborhood of the points attacked, and stood in readiness to afford any required aid, but General Hartranft was fully competent to do the needed work alone. Immediately after the line was reoccupied, telegraphic communication with head-quarters was renewed. General Meade had now returned to the army and at once sent up orders, that no attack enemy was to be made. The remainder of
the day passed in quiet in front of the Ninth Corps. On the left of our line there was some severe fighting, resulting in a loss to the enemy of nearly a thousand prisoners and an equal number of killed and wounded, for which he had previously gained no compensative advantage.
General Meade, on the 27th, issued a congratulatory order, in which he spoke in complimentary terms of the promptness of General Parke, "the firm bearing of the troops of the Ninth Corps in the adjacent positions of the line held by the enemy, and the conspicuous gallantry of the third division, together with the energy and skill displayed by General Hartranft." He had at first reflected severely upon "the want of vigilance of the third brigade of the first division." But on subsequent information, he was convinced that he had spoken wrongly and hastily, and therefore cancelled the order. It was said by some that the enemy contemplated making an attack upon Fort Sedgwick, but our line there was too strongly guarded. .He therefore tried the experiment further down towards the river. Whether this was so or not, the movement was skilfully made and nearly proved a success. Under the orders that were given from headquarters, respecting the reception of deserters, it was possible at almost any point, and the wonder is that it was not tried before.
No further opportunity for such a surprise occurred. The enemy had not won the victory which he had hoped. Our troops were put more vigilantly on their guard, and prepared with greater eagerness for the decisive movement which every one felt to be momentarily approaching. Every indication now pointed to General Lee's speedy retreat from Petersburg and, Richmond. General Grant prepared his army to strike the final blow before his enemy could escape. General Sheridan, with his cavalry, was hurried to the extreme left, and the entire Army of the Potomac, on the 27th of March, was ordered to be ready to move at a moment's notice. On the 29th, the march commenced. General Sheridan had the advance. General Warren's corps followed, with General