War of the Rebellion: Serial 080 Page 0088 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. Chapter LII.

Search Civil War Official Records


Brigadier General R. B. POTTER, U. S. Volunteers, being sworn and examined by the JUDGE-ADVOCATE, says:

Question. Were you in a position to see the operations of the assault before Petersburg on the 30th of July, and in what capacity?

Answer. I was; commanding the Second Division, Ninth Army Corps.

Question. Do you regard it as a failure of otherwise?

Answer. I regard it as a failure.

Question. To what cause or causes do you attribute this?

Answer. Firstly, to the failure of the troops who had the advance on that day to carry out the orders to advance through the enemy's line and seize the hill. Secondly, that when it was evident that this part of the plan had failed no attempt was made at a diversion at any other part of the line to enable the troops which were thrown into confusion at this point to be reformed. I would further state that I do not think the preliminary arrangements were very perfect.

Question. What preparations were made, or what orders were given for the same, to pass troops through the abatis and over the parapet in front of the Ninth Corps? Did you receive any orders yourself?

Answer. I received no orders whatever in relation to that matter except what are contained in the general order from the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac. I was furnished a copy of that order, but no other order.

Question. But what preparations were made, or what orders were given for the same, to pass troops through the abatis and over the parapet in front of the Ninth Corps?

Answer. The general order of General Burnside - I suppose it might be called the order of attack - was the only order given in writing. Verbal instructions were given to gave the pioneers of the different regiments, and a sort of pioneer regiment that we call the Engineer Regiment, in each division, prepared with their tools, and so forth, to prepare the breast-works for the passage of field batteries in case we were successful in moving forward. My regiment was immediately in the neighborhood of the breast-work ready to carry out these instructions, and my pioneers were also prepared. I had orders not to disturb anything immediately in the vicinity of the mine so as not to attack the attention of the enemy to that point. I was told to withdraw everything from that part of the line for a space of 200 or 300 yards, except a thin line of skirmishers, and not to attract the enemy's attention there if I could help it.

Question. How were the Ninth Corps troops formed for the assault - your own division, for instance?

Answer. My own division was to have been formed left in front to move forward by the flank, so that when my troops had passed the line of the enemy's intended to cover the right of the advance. One brigade of my division was massed between the railroad and the advance line of works on the right-hand side of mu covered way and south of the mine. I had orders not to allow any troops on the left of the covered way. The other brigade was partially in the trenches and about to be relieved by some of the troops of the Eighteenth Corps. Two or three regiments which I was ordered not to put in the assault were not in the trenches.

Question. What time elapsed from the springing of the mine till the forward movement of the assaulting columns?

Answer. I do not know, sir. I did not see the movement of the First Division. The first of my regiments commenced to move, I should think, about eight or ten minutes after the mine exploded. My division was to move third in order, but I took the liberty of altering the programme a little. After I received the order of Major-General Burnside - I received the order about 9 o'clock at night - after thinking the matter over it occurred to me that it would be a long time before my division would