picket-pits were captured near the old Crater by Colonel Bolton. The pickets of the Third and Second Brigades, strongly re-enforced, advanced handsomely, the artillery opened vigorously, and large portions were drawn down to oppose what they considered a real attack in force.
On the extreme right, near the Appomattox, a portion of Ely's brigade actually carried some 200 yards of the enemy's works, but our lines, two miles in length, were too much attenuated to hold the ground. Some seventy-five prisoners were secured and brought in. Three regiments were withdrawn from other points and double-quacked to the point but before it could be re-enforced the enemy recovered it.
The effect of this movement, however, on the general result was most happy, inasmuch as it contributed to weaken the enemy's line in front of Fort Sedgwick, where the real attack was completely successful. For this handsome part performed by Harriman's brigade of this division at the latter point I respectfully refer you to his own report and that of Brevet Major-General Hartranft, commanding at that part of the line.
Through the day offensive demonstrations were kept up and the batteries playing in aid of the more serious work of the day going on farther to our left. In the afternoon and evening the enemy strengthened their line opposite me, but about midnight of the 2nd reports came up from Colonel Ely, commanding Second Brigade, and Colonel James Bintliff, now commanding Third Brigade, by virtue of his rank, that there were signs of the enemy withdrawing from our front, leaving only their picket-line. I gave orders to the two brigade commanders to press through as soon as possible.
At about 2 o'clock on the morning of the 3rd some of our parties broke through Bintliff's brigade, advanced upon Cemetery Hill, and Ely more directly into the town with a section of Stone's battery. I gave Colonel Ely orders to take measures at once to secure order in the city. At 4.28 a.m. one of his flags, that of the First Michigan Sharpshooters, was raised on the court-house, and that of the Second Michigan on the custom-house. A few minutes later and guards were posted about the town. The enemy had fired the bridges, but with the aid of the negroes, who manned the fire-engines, our troops extinguished the flames in time to save the main structures, and skirmishers were at once pushed across the river, picking up stragglers and other prisoners.
General Benham, commanding a brigade from City Point, who had taken post the night before in rear of my lines, entered the city with me and allowed me the use of a detachment of 200 cavalry, part of which patrolled the town and part were sent across the river, on a reconnaissance, to learn the direction of the enemy's main route of retreat, which duty was performed correctly, and reported to the lieutenant-general commanding the armies, who early advanced into the town in person. In two hours, notwithstanding the presence of troops from every corps, including colored troops, Petersburg, which had been besieged by our army nearly ten months, was as quiet, and property and persons as safe as in Washington, an instance of discipline and good conduct on the part of troops unsurpassed in military history.
The number of prisoners captured on this and the following day, by scouring the country with scouting parties, was 1,045; number of muskets, 830; number of flags, 7 (forwarded to City Point, to headquarters Armies of the United States); value of quartermaster's and subsistence stores, $20,000.