careful reconnaissance of the enemy's position, and although I could not detect any positive indications of a second line, yet, from certain appearances at different points, I became satisfied a second line does exist on the crest of the ridge just in rear of the position of Burnside's mine. I have no doubt of the successful explosion of the mine and of our ability to effect a lodgment and compel the evacuation of the line at present held by the enemy, but from their redoubt on the Jerusalem plank road and from their position in front of the Hare house their artillery fire would compel either a withdrawal or an advance. The advance, of course, should be made, but its success is dependent on the question whether the enemy have or have not a second line on the crest of the ridge. If they have, with the artillery fire already referred to, which sweeps the whole slope of the ridge, I do not deem it practicable to carry the second line by assault. Now, from my examination as previously stated, together with the evident necessity for their having such a line, I am forced to believe one will be found, and I do not, therefore, deem the assault expedient. Should it be deemed necessary to take all the risks involved, and there is undoubtedly room for doubt, I would like a little more time than is given in your note to place in position the maximum amount of artillery to bear upon the lines not assaulted. In regard to the assaulting force it would be composed, so far as this army is concerned, of the Ninth and Second Corps. The Fifth Corps has no reserves of any consequence and would be required to hold their line and be prepared to resist any attempt to turn our left flank, which in case of an unsuccessful assault I should deem quite probable. Fully impressed as I am with the necessity of immediate action, and also satisfied that excepting regular approaches the assault on Burnside's front is the most practicable, I am compelled as a matter of judgment to state that the chances of success are not such as to make the attempt advisable. At the same time, I do not consider it hopeless and am prepared to make the attempt, if it is deemed of importance to do so. I inclose you a report* of Major Duane, which confirms my views. If Wright is soon to return and we can extend our lines to the Weldon road we could then advance against the salient on the Jerusalem plank road and make an attempt to carry these at the same time we exploded Burnside's mine. This was my idea some time ago and we have been preparing the necessary siege-works for this purpose. Under your instructions, however, none of the heavy guns or material have been brought to the front; it would take perhaps two days to get them up.#
GEO. G. MEADE,
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES,
City Point, July 24, 1864.
Commanding Army of the Potomac:
GENERAL: Your note brought by Colonel Comstock is received. It will be necessary to act without expecting Wright. He is now in
*See p. 428.
#For version of this letter, as submitted with the report of the Court of Inquiry on the Mine Explosion, see Part I, p. 130.