Question. What was the nature of the enemy's fire concentrated on the crater immediately after the explosion of the mine; how much artillery fire? Please explain that, if you know.
Answer. The artillery fire was very light indeed, and had the advance troops been in condition to assault and made the kind of an assault that they could have made, or that they had made in the beginning of the campaign, there is no doubt in my mind but they could have gained the crest. For a long time, comparatively speaking, the fire both of musketry and artillery was very light. What I mean by a long time is fifteen minutes say.
Question. Why did not your troops remain, as you wished, to hold the crater, and for what purpose did you propose to hold it?
Answer. I received a positive order to withdraw to our intrenchments. I left my chief of staff with a view to getting that order rescinded; finding that it was final, I telegraphed to him to that effect, and he communicated to the general officers in the crater that the order was final. In fact, he sent a copy of my telegram to them. My reason for desiring to hold the crater was that it we could have connected it with diagonal lines reaching from a point, say 150 yards, to the right to General Potter's extreme left, and another line extending to it from our old line 150 yards from General Willcox's extreme right, we would have a salient which would have been quite as easy to hold, if not more easy than the one we now hold, and would have given us, I think, command of a considerable portion of the enemy's line both on our right and left, forcing him, I think, even if we had made no further attempt to carry the crest, to move his whole line back to that position.
Question. You have said somewhere in the testimony that 3,828 was the Ninth Corps' loss. At what phase of the action did the loss chiefly occur?
Answer. I have already given a detailed account of the killed, wounded, and prisoners. A large proportion of the prisoners were lost after the order to withdraw had been received, and, I think, a considerable portion of the killed and wounded. I will not venture to say now that so great a proportion occurred after that time as was indicated in the dispatch sent by me to General Meade, and which is now before the Court, but that was not far wrong, in my opinion.
Question. Why were the men withdrawn at the time they were?
Answer. The dispatch stating that there was a final order to withdraw had reached the crater, and it was known to both officers and men that such a dispatch was in existence. At the last assault of the enemy General Hartranft gave the order to his command to withdraw, and sent word down the line that he had given this order; and such portion of the command as could get out of the crater and the enemy's lines returned to our own lines. General Hartranft was not, in fact, authorized to make such a movement, but I have not the lightest doubt in my own mind but he thought he was carrying out the spirit of the order. It was one of those misunderstanding which are so likely to happen at so critical a time. He had before reported that they would be able to hold their position, which report was made previous to any knowledge on his part of the fact that we were ordered peremptorily to withdraw.
Question. Did any troops, to your knowledge, misbehave, fail to go forward when ordered, or disobey orders in any way or at any time during the action? If so, name them.
Answer. A considerable portion of the troops failed to go forward after repeated orders from their officers, and extreme efforts to cause them to advance; but I do not believe that, under the circumstances, any of the troops can be counted guilty of misbehavior. It is a fact that the black troops broke and ran to the rear in considerable of a panic, which indicates misbehavior; but they went in late, found in the enemy's works quite a mass of our own troops unable to advance, and during their formation, and in fact during their advance between the two lines, they were subjected to probably the hottest fire that any troops had been subjected to during the day; and I do not know that it is reasonable to suppose that after the loss of so great a portion if their officers they could have been expected to maintain their position. They certainly moved forward as gallantly under the first fire and until their ranks were broken as any troops I ever saw in action.
Question. Who conducted the retirement of the troops from the crater?