About 4.30 o'clock on the morning of March 25 last, the enemy assaulted this front with Gordon's corps, re-enforced by Bushrod Johnson's division. At 4 a.m. the picket-line had been visited by the captain of the picket, who found the men on the alert and discovered no signs of movement by the enemy. Taking advantage of the order allowing deserters to bring their arms with them, the enemy sent forward squads of pretended deserters, who, by this ruse, gained possession of several of the picket-posts. They were closely followed by a strong storming party of picked men; this, by three heavy columns. The picket-line was overpowered after one discharge of their pieces. The trench guard, though stoutly resisting, was unable to withstand the rush of numbers, and the main line was broken between Batteries 9 and 10, near Numbers 10. The enemy turned to the right and left hand, the right column soon gaining Battery 10, which is open in the rear, thus acquiring great advantage for an assault on Fort Stedman.
The garrison of Stedman, consisting of a battalion of the Fourteenth New York Heavy Artillery, under Major Randall, made a spirited resistance, but being attacked in front, flank, and rear, was overpowered and most of it captured. The artillery in the fort, consisting of four light 12's, discharged a dozen rounds of canister before being taken. These guns, as well as those in Battery 10, were at once turned upon us. The enemy then pushed gradually along the lines toward Fort Huskell, driving out the troops holding Batteries 11 and 12, neither of which are inclosed works. It was still quite dark, which circumstances greatly augmented the difficulty of formation to check the progress of the enemy, it being almost impossible to distiguish between friend and foe, and made the use of artillery upon them impracticable at any distance. At the first alarm General McLaughlen sent members of his staff to the various positions on his front, and himself proceeded to Fort Haskell, thence along the line to Stedman. He found that our troops had been driven from Battery 11. He directed Mortar Battery 12 to open on it, and sent for the Fifty-ninth Massachusetts, and on its arrival recaptured Battery 11 by a bayonet charge. He then proceeded to Fort Stedman and was there takne prisoner.
As soon as it became evident at my headquarters that the enemy were attacking, I dispatched aides-de-camp to communicate with General Willcox and McLaughlen, ordered General Hartranft to concentrate his right brigade and re-enforce General Willcox, and ordered General Tidball, chief of artillery, to place his reserve batteries in position on the hills in rear of the point attacked. On receiving a report from General Willcox and from members of my own staff of the state of affairs, I ordered up General Hartranft's other brigade, informed General Willcox that he would be re-enforced by the Third Division, and directed him to at once reoccupy the works taken. General Hartranft concentrated his division with commendable promptitude, his left regiment having to move a distance of five miles, he in the meantime promptly and gallantly attacking with a regiment of his right brigade, the Two hundredth Pennsylvania, assisted by detachments from McLaughlen's and Ely's brigades, of Willcox's division, checking the enemy's skirmishers, who were advancing toward Meade's Station, and driving them back to the line of works.
The column of the enemy which turned to the left hand after entering our line, proceeded along the trenches in the direction of Battery Numbers 9, taking the Fifty-seventh Massachusetts in flank and rear, and driving them from the trenches. The left of the Second Michigan, the