Major-General Hancock, were crossed to the north side of the James at Deep Bottom. The enemy's works at this point were carried, capturing four guns and a number of prisoners, and a line occupied extending from the James to the Long Bridge and New Market roads. This demonstration drew to the north side of the James the greater portion of Lee's army, only three divisions being left to hold the lines in front of Petersburg. This was considered a suitable time to explode a mine which Major-General Burnside had excavated under one of the enemy's batteries in his front. Accordingly Hancock was withdrawn on the night of the 29th, relieving Ord, commanding Eighteenth Corps, who was moved in rear and on the right of Burnside. Warren was directed to mass his available force on the left of the Ninth Corps. Burnside was ordered to mass his corps on the night of the 29th, organize his assaulting columns, take down his parapet and clear away the abatis and other obstructions, and make every preparation for an immediate assault as soon as the mine should be sprung, and he was particularly cautioned not to permit his columns to halt in the crater but to press on and crown the crest of Cemetery Hill, which was the important point to seize, for, this being once gained, the mass of men ready to follow would render resistance by the enemy with their diminished force out of the question, and this crest in our possession Petersburg would certainly fall. Every preliminary order was given and 3.30 a.m. of July 30 designated as the hour for springing the mine. Some delay occurred from an imperfect fuse, but the mine was sprung at 4.45. Soon after Ledlie's division moved out and without opposition crowned the crater. The division,however, did not move beyond, but other troops were sent who crowded into the crater and the adjacent parts of the enemy's line found vacated. Finding delay in the movement of Burnside's column Ord was ordered to push forward his corps, but reported it impracticable from there being no debouche from our lines but the one in front of the Ninth Corps, still crowded with troops. The delay in pushing forward to Cemetery Hill enabled the enemy to rally and concentrate his forces, and soon he brought his batteries to bear from several points and opened on the crater. The operation being essentially a coup de main and dependent entirely on the prompt movement at the beginning, when 9 o'clock arrived and no advance of any consequence having been effected, I was satisfied a longer continuance of the attack would only result in a useless slaughter of the troops, and they were therefore recalled. Authority was given to Major-General Burnside to exercise his judgment as to the precise time of withdrawal. The troops were withdrawn about 2 p.m., after repulsing several attacks of the enemy, but losing many prisoners in the withdrawal.
I forbear to comment on the failure of an attack that seemed at first to promise the most complete success, because the whole subject, at my request, has been investigated by a court of inquiry, the proceedings of which are now and have been for some time in the hands of the President of the United States.*
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. G. MEADE.
Lieutenant Colonel T. S. BOWERS.
*For continuation of report, see Vol. XLII, Part I. [For statements of casualties, captures of guns, colors, and prisoners from May 5 to November 1, 1864, see Vol. XXXVI, Part I, pp. 195, 196.]