On the morning of the 16th the general staff of the commanding general (the latter with one or two of his personal staff having taken a steamer to City Point) crossed the pontoon bridge and followed the road to the front of Petersburg by way of Cocke's Mill, Merchants-Hope Chapel, and Old Court-House. Camp was established in the course of the day at Baylor's. A few moments before dark a general assault was made along the whole line of troops then in position against the enemy's second intrenched position, and to the looker-on proved a most brilliant sight.
Both on the 17th and 18th the attacking column of the Eighteenth, Second, and Ninth Corps renewed their desperate efforts against the enemy's front, at times reaching and mounting his very parapets, and would then be compelled to retire after most desperate fighting and heavy loss. On the right flank the Eighteenth gained possession of the ground at Page's, near the Appomattox, and to this day that locality is one of the advanced positions occupied by our troops. The line is there within a few hundred yards of Petersburg. At this time the reconnaissance and surveys of our lines in front of that city and of its environs commenced under my direction. Major Weyss, of the Engineer Department, had immediate charge of the principal field party.
The Engineer Corps was called upon, on the 17th, to mourn the loss of one of its most accomplished officers. While reconnoitering the position in front of the Ninth Corps for the purpose of selecting the ground upon which a division [sic] in line of battle preparatory to the assault on that day, Major Morton exposed himself to the unerring shot of one of the enemy's sharpshooters. He was killed instantly, the ball penetrating his left breast. Major Morton had served with the Army of the Potomac but a short time, having joined on the banks of the North Anna. He was immediately on his arrival assigned to the Ninth Corps and remained with it until his death, performing excellent service. His great desire to excel in his profession, added to an energetic and impulsive nature, had led him on several previous occasions to greatly expose himself. He laid down on the battle-field a useful, active, and brave life in the cause of his country, and deeply has the army (especially the corps to which he had been so long and ably attached) been called to grieve his sudden death. Captain Harwood, U. S. Engineers, having reported for duty on the 27th, was a day or two after temporarily assigned to the Ninth Corps.
On the 19th and 20th the two opposing armies remained comparatively quiet, each willing to rest after their late exhausting labors.
During these four days Lieutenants Howell and Benyaurd were engaged on the right of the line, and Captain Gillespie on the left.
During the three following ones (the 21st, 22d, and 23d) the army resumed, after the brief suspension referred to, active operations tending toward outflanking the enemy on his right and of severing his lines of communication toward the south. The Second and Sixth Corps were the active participants in the several severe fights which took place in the endeavors to reach the Weldon railroad. The several officers of engineers accompanied these movements. An intrenched line was finally taken up and held, running nearly south from the Appomattox along the front of Petersburg to the Jerusalem plank road, and then almost parallel to that road, with the left refused and again crossing it near the Williams house. The headquarters of the major-general commanding were moved on the 23rd to the neighborhood of the Jones' house, and remained encamped there for nearly three weeks.