by a heavy pall of black smoke, which lay suspended but a short distance above the earth, which with the thunderous roar of the artillery, made one of the most magnificent war pictures I have ever beheld. General Burnside's (Ninth) corps held that portion of our line on which the mine was run, and was to make the assault upon the enemy's line as soon as it was sprung, the Eighteenth Corps in support and two division of our corps in reserve, for which purpose we had marched all of last night. We occupied the high ground immediately in rear of the mine, and therefore had an excellent view of the fight. Mott's division is in the entrenchments, having relieved the Eighteenth Corps there to enable it to form part of the assaulting force after the mine was exploded. General Burnside had a division of colored troops in his corps which had been but little, if any, under musketry fire, and determined to make the assault with that division. As soon as the explosion took place an advance was made, but it is said in very bad order, the troops being poorly formed and worse led by some of the higher officers. They rushed in as far as the crater of the mine and there huddled up in great confusion. the enemy's old troops soon recovered from the scare and disorder of the explosion and rushed upon the negroes in the crater, killing hundreds of them. No regular line or column was or could be advanced; in short, great stupidity of all kinds is said to have prevailed in the whole matter, and the day is one of the most disgraceful failures of the war. Of course some gallant spirits did their duty, as is always the case, and many lost their lives in trying for a great victory, but those whose duty it was to have done a great deal seem to have failed miserably. It was certainly an inexcusable blunder to make he assault with the green troops of the colored division, and yet, from all accounts, they would have done well had they been properly put in and led; as it is they were simply butchered; Fredericksburg over again from the same inefficient head. Eight hundred of the enemy are stated to have been killed by the explosion alone. The heavy fighting ceased by 10 a. m., our troops having extricated themselves from the enemy's lines by that hour.
At dark the Second Corps moved to same position held by it before we marched to Deep Bottom on the 26th of July. Headquarters again established at Deserted House.
July 31, 1864. - Quiet this day, save the artillery and musketry in the trenches. Exceedingly hot and dusty.*
GENERAL ORDERS, HEADQUARTERS SECOND ARMY CORPS,
Numbers 25. July 31, 1864.
The major-general commanding desires to express to the troops his gratification with their conduct during the late movement across the James River. While all the troops who kept their ranks (he regrets to say there were many who did not) and sustained the arduous marches are deserving of praise, the following organizations seem to merit particular mention: The Fifth New Hampshire, Twenty-eighth Massachusetts, One hundred and eighty-third Pennsylvania, and Twenty-sixth Michigan Volunteers, under Colonel Lynch, One hundred and eighty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, all from General Miles' brigade, constituting part of the skirmish line of General Barlow's division, for their gallantry in the capture of the enemy's battery on the morning of the
* For continuation of memoranda, see Vol. XLII, Part I.