heavily assaulted position of their line, they should take advantage of such knowledge and act promptly without waiting for orders from their army commander. General Ord can co-operate with his corps in this movement, and about 5,000 troops from Bermuda Hundred can be sent to re-enforce you, or can be used to threaten an assault between the Appomattox and James Rivers, as may be deemed best. This should be done by Tuesday morning if done at all. If not attempted we will then start at the date indicated to destroy the railroad as far as Hicksford, at least, and to Weldon, if possible. Please give me your views on this matter, and I will order at once.
In this I have said nothing of the part to be taken by the cavalry in case the enemy's lines are assaulted. The best disposition to be made of them, probably, would be to place them on the extreme left, with instructions to skirmish with the enemy and drive him back, if possible, following up any success gained in that way according to the judgment of the commander or orders he may receive. Whether we send an expedition on this railroad or assault at Petersburg, Burnside's mine will be blown up. As it is impossible to hide preparations from our own officers and men, and consequently from the enemy, it will be well to have it understood, as far as possible, that just the reverse of what we intend is in contemplation.*
I am, general, very respectfully,
U. S. GRANT,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
July 24, 1864.
Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT:
GENERAL: I have received your letter per Lieutenant-Colonel Comstock. In reply thereto, I have to state that I yesterday made in person a close and careful reconnaissance of the enemy's position in my front. Although I could not detect any positive indications of a second line, yet from certain appearances at various points, I became satisfied that a second line does exist on the crest of the ridge just in rear of the position of Burnside's mine. I have no doubt of the successful explosion of the mine, and of our ability to crown the crater, effect a lodgment and compel the evacuation of the enemy's present occupied line; but, from their redoubt on the Jerusalem plan road, and from their position in front of the Hare house, their artillery fire would render our lodgment untenable and compel our advance or withdrawal. The advance, of course, should be made, but its success would depend on the question whether the enemy have a line on the crest of the ridge. If they have, with the artillery fire they can bring to bear on the approaches to this second hill, I do not deem it practicable to carry the line by assault, and, from my examination, together with the evident necessity of their having such a line, I am forced to believe we shall find one there. I can not therefore advise the attempt being made, but should it be deemed expedient to take the risks, and there is undoubtedly room for doubt, I would like a little more time than is given in your note, in order to place in position the maximum amount of artillery to bear upon the lines not assaulted.
In reference to the assaulting force, it will be composed of the Ninth and Second Corps. The fifth Corps will have to remain in their present position and be prepared to meet any attempt of the enemy to turn
*For version of this letter, as recorded in Grant's letter-book, see Part III.