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followed by Major General Ord, who will support him on the right, directing his movement to the crest indicated, and by Major General Warren, who will support him on the left."
The other corps commanders were directed to move their troops in accordance with the above order. General Warren, of the fifth corps, was to "concentrate all his available forces on his right and hold them prepared to support the attack of the Ninth Corps." General Ord, of the eighteenth corps, was to form his command in the rear of the Ninth Corps and be prepared to support General Burnside. General Hancock, of the second corps, was to move from Deep Bottom, where he had been making a feigned attack" to the rear of the intrenchments held by the eighteenth corps, and be prepared to follow up the assaulting and supporting columns." General Sheridan, with the entire cavalry of the army, was to move against the enemy's right below Petersburg. Engineer officers were to be detailed for each corps, ponton trains were to be prepared, supplies of intrenching materials provided, field artillery to be got in readiness, and all the guns along the line were to open upon those points in the enemy's line that commanded the ground over which our troops were to move. Promptitude, rapidity of execution, and cordial coöperation were commended to the officers and men. Headquarters of the Army of the Potomac for the day were to be established at the headquarters of the Ninth Corps in the rear.
General Burnside issued his battle order:
"1. The mine will be exploded to-morrow morning, at halfpast three, by Colonel Pleasants.
"2. General Ledlie will, immediately upon the explosion of the mine, move his division forward as directed by verbal orders, and if possible crown the crest at the point known as Cemetery Hill, occupying, if possible, the cemetery.
"3. General Willcox will move his division forward as soon as possible after General Ledlie has passed through the first line of the enemy's works, bearing off to the left so as to effectually protect the left flank of General Ledlie's column,
and make a lodgement, if possible, on the Jerusalem plank road to the left of General Ledlie's division.
General Potter will move his division forward to the right of General Ledlie's division as soon as it is apparent that he will not interfere with the movements of General Willcox's division, and will, as near as possible, protect the right flank of General Ledlie from any attack on that quarter, and establish a line on the crest of a ravine, which seems to run from the Cemetery Hill nearly at right angles to the enemy's main line directly in our front.
5. General Ferrero will move his division immediately after General Willcox's until he reaches our present advanced line, where he will remain until the ground in his front is entirely cleared by the other three divisions, when he will move forward over the same ground that General Ledlie moved over, will pass through our line, and, if possible, move down and occupy the village to the right."
The formations and movements of the troops had already been explained in personal interviews of General Burnside and his officers. Headquarters of the Ninth Corps for the day were to be at the fourteen gun battery in the centre of our position in front. Such was the state of affairs as the 29th of July closed upon the intrenched camps.
The hours had fled apace. The day was now spent, and but little time remained. General Ord was so slow in coming up to relieve the troops of the Ninth Corps in the trenches, that at nine and three-quarters o'clock in the evening, General Meade ordered the assaulting column to be formed without reference to General Ord's movements, thus leaving the trenches vacant. At half past two o'clock on the morning of the 30th, General Ledlie's division began its formation, and passed on to the designated place of its débouché for the attack. It was but an hour and a half to daylight. It was but an hour to the time of action. Certainly it was an anxious night to the commander of the Ninth Corps. All his plans had been frustrated by the superior authority of his commanding general. The
mine, which had been constructed under such discouraging circumstances, had finally been regarded, though with evident. reluctance, as promising a success. Its explosion would result in a magnificent triumph or a miserable disaster. The one would be for the glory of General Meade. The other would be visited upon the head of the unfortunate corps commander who had taken the enterprise in hand. General Burnside left his headquarters in the rear, repaired to the front of the line and watched for the morning.
At quarter past three o'clock, the fuses were fired. All eyes were turned to the rebel fort opposite, beneath which eight thousand pounds of powder were suddenly to be ignited. In the gray of the morning it was discernible but three hundred feet distant. The garrison was sleeping in fancied security. The sentinels slowly paced their rounds, without a suspicion of the thinness of the crust which lay between them and the awful chasm below. Our own troops, lying upon their arms in unbroken silence, or with an occasional murmur, stilled at once by the whispered word of command, looked for the eventful moment of attack to arrive. A quarter of an hour passed-a half hour, and there was no report. Four o'clock came, and the sky began to brighten in the east. The rebel garrison was bestirring itself. The rebel lines gradually assumed once more the appearance of life. The sharpshooters, prepared for new victims, began to pick off those of our men who came within the range of their deadly aim. Another day of siege was dawning. Still there was no explosion. What could it mean?
The fuses had failed. The dampness had penetrated to the place where the parts had been spliced together, and the powder would not burn. Two men, Lieutenant Jacob Douty and Sergeant, afterwards promoted to Lieutenant, Henry Rees of the 48th Pennsylvania, volunteered to go into the mine to ascertain where the fuses had failed, to put them once again in order, and to relight them. At quarter past four o'clock, they bravely entered the mine, rearranged the fuses and again lighted them. In the meantime, General Meade had arrived
at the permanent headquarters of the Ninth Corps, in the grove about a mile in the rear of our main line, had comfortably bestowed himself with General Grant in company, and sent two aides de camp to General Burnside to transmit all necessary information. Not being able to see anything that was going forward, and not hearing any report, General Meade became somewhat impatient. He was not in an amiable mood, and at fifteen minutes past four o'clock, he telegraphed to General Burnside to know what was the cause of the delay. General Burnside was too busy in remedying the failure already incurred to reply immediately-expected, indeed, that before the despatch could be sent the explosion would take place. General Meade ill-naturedly telegraphed the operator to know where General Burnside was. At half past four, the commanding general became still more impatient, and was on the point of ordering an immediate assault upon the enemy's works, without reference to the mine. Five minutes later, he did order the assault.
At precisely sixteen minutes before five o'clock, the mine exploded. Then ensued a scene which beggars description. The ground heaved and trembled. A terrific sound, like the noise of great thunders, burst forth upon the morning air. Huge masses of earth, mingled with cannon, caissons, camp equipage, and human bodies, were thrown up. It seemed like a mountain reversed, enveloped in clouds of smoke, sand and dust, upheaved by the explosion of four tons of powder. A moment more, and all that was left of a six gun battery and its garrison of two hundred men and more, was a great crater, two hundred feet long, fifty wide, and twenty-five deep, with the debris of the material of what had been one of the strongest of. the enemy's works. The effect upon the rebel forces in the immediate vicinity was wonderful. Some seemed paralyzed with astonishment and fear. Others fled from their works as though they thought that the entire line was mined, and that all would be involved in a common destruction.
Now was the time for action.
Forward went General Led
lic's column, with Colonel Marshall's brigade in advance. The parapets were surmounted, the abatis was quickly removed, and the division prepared to pass over the intervening ground and charge through the still smoking ruins to gain the crest beyond. But here the leading brigade made a temporary halt. It was said at the time, that our men suspected a counter mine, and were themselves shocked by the terrible scene which they had witnessed. It was, however, but momentary. The men at once recovered, pushed forward, and in less than a quarter of an hour the entire division was out of its entrenchments, and was advancing gallantly towards the enemy's line. The ground was somewhat difficult to cross over, but the troops pushed steadily on with soldierly bearing, overcoming all the obstacles before them. They reached the edge of the crater, passed down into the chasm, and attempted to make their way through the yielding sand, the broken clay and the masses of rubbish that were scattered everywhere about. The enemy's lines on either side and beyond were found to be very complex, intricate and involved. Many of the enemy's men were lying among the ruins, half buried, and vainly trying to free themselves. They called for mercy and for help. The soldiers stopped to take prisoners, to dig out guns and other materiel. Their division commander was not with them. Of the brigade commanders, General Bartlett, disabled by the loss of a leg in a previous battle in the peninsular campaign, but otherwise a most efficient, brave and meritorious officer, could not move with great facility, and Colonel Marshall was hardly equal to the management of a large command. There was no responsible head. The ranks were broken, the regimental organizations could not be preserved, the troops were becoming confused, the officers stopped to form anew the disordered lines. The 2d Pennsylvania heavy artillery endeavored to extricate itself, and did eventually succeed in advancing a hundred yards beyond the crater, but, finding itself without support, withdrew.
Precious time was passing. The enemy was recovering from his surprise. Our artillery, which had opened along our entire