Our army being now disposed for a determined attack, it was found that the enemy had retreated; whereupon the 2d corps moved out two miles farther, and found the enemy in position along the west bank of Mine Run
, facing eastward; where the 2d, 6th, 1st, and part of the 3d corps, under a pelting November rain, were brought into line confronting them a little after dark.
The enemy's deliberately chosen position was of course a good one.
The “run” was of little consequence, so far as water was concerned, being rarely over two feet deep; but its immediate banks were in places swampy and scarcely passable; while a bare, smooth slope ascended gently for half a mile or so to a crest or ridge, perhaps a hundred feet above the surface of the stream, already bristling with abatis, infantry parapets, and epaulements for batteries.
After careful reconnoissance, an attack directly in front was negatived: so Warren
, with the 2d and a division of the 6th corps, was impelled farther to our left (south), with instructions to feel for the enemy's flank and turn it if possible, while each corps commander should more closely examine the ground in his front, and report on the practicability of an assault.
The next day1
was spent in this reconnoissance — the Rebel
defenses being of course strengthened every hour--Gen. Wright
, commanding a division of the 6th corps, reporting, at 6 P. M., that he had discovered a point on our extreme right where an assault might be made with a good prospect of cheap and decisive success.
soon reported from our left that he had outflanked the enemy's line of defenses, and could easily assault and turn them.
thereupon decided to attack at all points next morning.
At 8 P. M., Warren
reported to Meade
in person, expressing such confidence in his ability to carry every thing before him, while French had reported against the assault just ordered on the enemy's center, that Meade
decided to forego, or at least to postpone, that assault, and send two divisions of the 3d corps to reenforce Warren
, so as to give him six divisions (nearly half the army), and thus render the success of his contemplated attack a moral certainty.
So our men lay down once more on their arms, with orders to the corps commanders that the batteries of the right and center should open at 8 A. M.;2
at which hour, Warren
was to make the grand assault: Sedgwick
striking in on our right an hour later; while the three divisions of the 1st and 3d corps, left to hold our center, which were only to demonstrate and menace in the morning, were to advance and assault whenever the flank attacks should have proved successful.
Meantime, our cavalry skirmished at various points with the enemy's, who attempted to molest our communications at the fords and elsewhere; but who were repulsed and driven off.
Our batteries opened at the designated hour; our skirmishers in the center dashed across Mine Run
, pushing back those of the enemy; while Sedgwick
, who had massed his column during the night, as near the enemy's lines as possible, awaited the moment for attack.