I had a dispatch from General Grant directing me to move up to Smith's division, stating that General Butler understood that I had halted at Bailey's Creek instead of at Harrison's Creek, where I had been directed to go. It is proper to say here that my troops had only halted at Bailey's Creek long enough for me to see General Smith and to inform myself as to the point on the battle-field at which they would be most serviceable; when I had obtained such information the troops were immediately marched to the front. The same dispatch from Lieutenant-General Grant stated that the enemy were then throwing re-enforcements into Petersburg, and instructed me that should Petersburg not fall on the night of the 15th it would be advisable for General Smith and myself to take up a defensive position and maintain it until all of our forces came up. These directions of the lieutenant-general were carried out; the earth-works captured by General Smith were turned against the enemy, artillery was brought up and placed in them, and all preparations were made to prevent their recapture.
During the forenoon of the 16th I was instructed by Lieutenant-General Grant, in the absence of General Meade and himself, to take command of all the troops in front of Petersburg, and to push forward a reconnoitering force in my front for the purpose of discovering the most favorable point at which to make an attack. I was ordered to be prepared to commence the attack at 6 p. m. In the mean time General Burnside had been directed to mass his corps upon my left, in readiness to assist in an assault upon the enemy when it should be determined, or to aid me in the event of my being assailed. The reconnaissance ordered by General Grant was made by General Birney on the left of the Prince George road, and in front of the hill on which the Hare house stood, which was then held by the enemy. It was decided by Major-general Meade, who had now arrived upon the field, that the attack should be made at that point. Very sharp skirmishing, accompanied by artillery fire, continued along my front until 6 p. m., when, in accordance with instructions from the major-general commanding, I directed Generals Birney, barlow, and Gibbon to advance and assault the enemy in front and to the left of the Hare house. My troops were supported by two brigades of the ninth Corps and by two of the Eighteenth Corps. The advance was spirited and forcible, and resulted, after a fierce conflict, in which our troops suffered heavily, in driving the enemy back some distance along our whole line. The severe fighting ceased at dark, although the enemy made several vigorous attempts during the night to retake the ground which he had lost; in this, however was foiled, as our troops had entrenched themselves at dark and repelled all efforts to dislodge them. Among the many casualties during this engagement was the gallant commander of the Irish Brigade, Colonel Patrick Kelly, Eighty-eighth New York Volunteers, who was killed at the head of his command while intrepidly leading it to the charge. Colonel James A. Beaver, One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, was severely wounded while performing his duty with his accustomed conspicuous bravery.
On the morning of the 17th General Barlow advanced against the enemy in conjunction with General Burnside, and succeeded in pushing forward his line considerably after some sharp fighting. Birney and Gibbon on the right also moved forward, driving the enemy from the hill on which the Hare house stood and occupied it. (Fort Stedman was afterward erected on that hill.) The enemy made frequent