War of the Rebellion: Serial 081 Page 0501 Chapter LII. CORRESPONDENCE,ETC.-UNION.

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southward on Halifax road. Rebels, is small parties, are passing up and down constantly. Ambulances just went up toward Petersburg. Wilson is fighting now.



6.45 P. M.

[General MEADE:]

This dispatch, I judge, is about one hour from its real date. It has just come in.

Respectfully forwarded.




Major-General HANCOCK,

Commanding Second Corps:

GENERAL: I understood in conversation with you yesterday that Major-General Birney had conveyed to you the impression that when his division arrived at the "middle road" on the 15th instant, on the march from the James River, he was anxious to march toward Petersburg on account of the firing in that direction, and would have done so except for my peremptory statement that your ordered was for his division to march to Old Court-House, or words to this effect, the substance being that he was deterred from taking the middle road by the fact that I interposed, directly or indirectly, with orders from you. As this is not a fair statement of what occurred, I am of the opinion that General Birney was misunderstood, as will appear from the following facts: The head of General Birney's column halted at the cross-roads referred to for a few minutes while staff officers (Major Angel and Captain Willson) were making inquiries as to the road. The conversation turned upon the cause of the firing, and General Birney suggested that it might be well for the corps to move by the "middle road" toward Petersburg. Just then, or before it was ascertained from a neighboring house that a large force of our cavalry had passed down the road during the day toward Petersburg, and the firing was attributed to them, no information having yet been received that Smith was attacking, I pointed out to General Birney on the map the position we were ordered to occupy behind Harrison's Creek, and either exhibited to him the order or stated its contents. General Birney agreed with me entirely when I said I thought the order forced us to go by Old Church and that we could not turn aside for what was the supposed to be a cavalry affair. He used the words, as near as I can remember, "The order is peremptory." On the 27th instant, I think, I had a full conversation with General Birney on this very point, and our recollections accorded entirely, and then made use of the language: "You will remember that I suggested to you the property of our marching down the middle road, but, on referring to the order, agreed with you that it was peremptory that we should go to Harrison's Creek," or words to this effect. I, therefore, am of the opinion that Major-General Birney did not intend to convey to you the impression that I, in my official capacity, conducting the march of the column under your direction, had deterred him from following his own judgment, or that, had