War of the Rebellion: Serial 080 Page 0166 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N.C. Chapter LII.

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Again, Major-General Burnside says:

Peremptory orders from the commanding general directed me to throw in all my troops, and direct them against the crest. Under these orders I directed the Fourth Division (colored) to advance, which division I had hitherto held back, under the belief that these new troops could not be used to advantage in the crowded condition of the portion of the enemy's line held by us.

I presume Major-General Burnside here refers to the dispatch addressed to him at 6 a.m., as follows:


July 30, 1864-6 a.m.

Major-General BURNSIDE:

Prisoners taken says there is no line in their rear, and that their men were falling back when ours advanced; that none of their troops have returned from the James. Our chance is now; push your men forward at all hazards (white and black) and don't lose time in making formations, but rush for the crest.



It was not intended by that order, nor is there any such construction justified by its terms, to push forward the colored division into the overcrowded crater, there to add to the disorganization and confusion already existing, and the existence of which I was utterly ignorant, but of which it is to be presumed from the extract from his report General Burnside was aware. The order required that the men in the crater should be pushed forward at all hazards to the crest beyond and when they moved the colored division advanced after them. It will be seen to be the concurrent testimony of all parties that the failure of success was in a great measure due to the injudicious advance of the colored division into the overcrowded crater and adjacent parts of the enemy's line, and to the confusion produced by their retiring a disordered and disorganized mass, after attempting an assault. From the reports transmitted I cannot perceive that the colored troops are open to any more censure for their conduct than the other troops engaged.

In inclose herewith a list of casualties amounting in all, in the Army of the Potomac and Eighteenth Corps, to, 4,400 killed, wounded, and missing. Two hundred and forty-six prisoners, 2 colors and 2 guns were captured, but the latter were abandoned in retiring from the crater.

In closing this report I cannot forbear from expressing the poignant regret I experienced at the failure of an operation promising such brilliant results had it been successful. Had the mine been sprung at 3.30 and the crest promptly seized, as it is believed it could have been done in thirty minutes after the explosion, such a force could have been poured onto the crest as to have rendered its repossession by the enemy impossible and thus have rendered untenable all his lines around Petersburg. But the operation was essentially a coup de main, depending for success upon the utmost promptitude of movement and the taking advantage of the shock produced on the enemy by the explosion of the mine. The causes of the failure justice to all parties requires I should leave to the Court of Inquiry to ascertain.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Major-General, Commanding.

Lieutenant Colonel T. S. BOWERS,

Asst. Adjt. General, Headquarters Armies in the Field.