War of the Rebellion: Serial 068 Page 0276 Chapter XLVIII. OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C.

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Weitzel that you very much desired to take command of the expedition, alleging as a reason the great importance of the expedition to the Union cause, the necessity of having tried troops to cover the retreat in case of disaster, or who would be more to be depended upon in making an assault upon the enemy's lines, and you offered to take one of the while brigades from your line instead of Duncan's colored brigade, which was to be left on the line in its place, and with it to make the real infantry attack.

Against my better judgment, feeling unwilling to decline an offer to have the expedition led by an officer of your rank and presumed experience, and feeling still more unwilling to trust so important an enterprise to untried troops, as yet very little under fie, and colored troops whom you seemed to think were not to be so much depende upon as your own, I accepted the offer, and placed the whole detail of preparing the expedition, so far as your part was concerned, in your hands. This was about 12 m. on the 8th. I took upon myself to see to it that General Hinks should have his brigade of colored troops ready at the time appointed, and this was promptly done by him. You were directed to march the brigade from your lines at 12 o'clock at night across the pontoon bridge, which has been laid now three weeks on the left of the line of entrenchments, of which you have been many days in command, and which forms a part of the defensive works of that line, because it is the means of marching troops to re-enforce the extreme left work on the southern side of the Appomattox, if attacked, or to withdraw troops from that work on to your line, if there attacked. After crossing that pontoon bridge you were to put your brigade in some convenient spot until near daylight, and then, in conjunction with General Hinks, you were to march 3 miles, which would bring you upon the enemy's pickets by a good, tried, and high road, which had been many times reconnoitered by General Hinks' cavalry, and which could not be mistaken. You were then to march rapidly at daybreak, drive in the enemy's pickets, follow them closely, and pursue them into their works. As soon as your column of infantry uncovered a road which led to the left in the direction of the Jerusalem plank road, General Kautz, whose column was to be in the rear of yours, was to go to the left, make the detour of the defenses of the town at such distance from them as to be unobserved, if possible, and make his attack on the left at the Jerusalem plank road. All these positions and roads were explained to you by the aid of the very correct map copied from the one found on the person of the rebel General Walker, who was for a time in command of the defenses of Petersburg.

It was understood between General Kautz and yourself and myself, that the distance he would have to travel would be between 15 and 20 miles. Further, there was explained to you the great benefits which would result from the expedition, in the entire shutting off of supplies for an indefinite time from Lee's army, by the cutting of the bridges across the Appomattox, especially the one known as the Government bridge, which has been built by the rebel authorities, and solely used for their own purposes since the war; and as that railroad bridge formed the only link of railroad of the proper gauge on which the transportation of Lee's army could be sent south, and as immediately upon an attack upon Petersburg from the south side, all the rolling-stock at Petersburg would be sent to Richmond, and there be effectually cut off, it seemed to me that to obtain the object would justify the risk of a pretty large expenditure of life, if