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“Groping in the dark,”

to use his own phrase,1 sent telegram upon telegram to Burnside to know how fared the day, but received answer to none. At fifteen minutes to six, however, one hour after Ledlie's men had occupied the breach, an orderly delivered to him a note in pencil, written from the Crater by Colonel Loring, Inspector-General of the Ninth corps, and addressed to General Burnside. This was Meade's first information from the front and was little cheering, for Loring stated briefly that Ledlie's men were in confusion and would not go forward.2

Ord was now directed to push forward the Eighteenth corps, and the following dispatch was sent to Burnside:

headquarters Army of the Potomac, July 30th, 1864, 6 A. M.
Major-General Burnside:
Prisoners taken say that there is no line in their rear, and that their men were falling back when ours advanced; that none of their troops have returned from the James. Our chance is now. Push your men forward at all hazards, white and black, and don't lose time in making formations, but rush for the crest.

George G. Meade, Major-General Commanding.

But Ord could not advance, for the narrow debouches were still choked up by the men of the Ninth corps and by the wounded borne from the front, and although Burnside promptly transmitted the order to his subordinates, the troops in rear moved with reluctant step, while no general of division was present with those in front to urge them forward.3

Again did Meade telegraph to Burnside: “Every moment is most precious; the enemy are undoubtedly concentrating to meet you on the crest.” But not until twenty minutes past seven, did he receive a reply, and then briefly to the effect that Burnside “hoped to carry the crest, but that it was hard work.” [288]

Then Meade's patience seems fairly to have broken down. “What do you mean by hard work to take the crest?” he asks,

I understand not a man has advanced beyond the enemy's line which you occupied immediately after exploding the mine. Do you mean to say your officers and men will not obey your orders to advance? If not, what is the obstacle? I wish to know the truth, and desire an immediate answer.

George G. Meade, Major-General.

To which Burnside, in hot wrath, straight-way replied:

headquarters Ninth corps, 7.35 A. M.
General Meade:
Your dispatch by Captain Jay received. The main body of General Potter's division is beyond the Crater.

I do not mean to say that my officers and men will not obey my orders to advance. I mean to say that it is very hard to advance to the crest. I have never in any report said anything different from what I conceived to be the truth. Were it not insubordinate, I would say that the latter remark of your note was unofficerlike and ungentlemanly.

A. E. Burnside, Major-General.

Griffin, it is true, in obedience to orders to advance straight for Cemetery Hill, had during this time attempted several charges from his position north of the Crater, but his men displayed little spirit, and, breaking speedily under the fire of the artillery, sought their old shelter behind the traverses and covered ways.4 The rest of Potter's division moved out but slowly, and it was fully 8 o'clock--5more than three hours after the explosion — when Ferrero's Negro Division, the men beyond question inflamed with drink,6 burst from the advanced lines, cheering vehemently, passed at a double-quick over the crest under a heavy fire, and rushing with scarce a check over the heads of the white troops in the Crater, spread to their right, capturing more than two hundred prisoners and one stand of colors.7 At the same moment, Turner of the Tenth corps pushed forward a brigade over the Ninth corps parapets, seized the Confederate line still further to the north, and quickly disposed the remaining brigades of his division to confirm his success.8


1 “I have been groping in the dark since the commencement of the attack” --Meade.--Ib., p. 71.

2 Ib., p. 58.

3 See testimony of General Ord--Ib., pp. 172, 173; General Grant, p. 110; cf. also, Ib., pp. 197, 210. For state of debouches, see Ord's official report, August 3, 1864--Ib., p. 101.

4 Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. i, pp. 96, 228 (Meade's dispatch, 8 A, M. July 30th).

5 Ib., pp. 103, 195, 196.

6 There are many living officers and men, myself among the number, who will testify to this.

7 Ib., pp. 96, 109.

8 General Turner's statement.--Ib., p. 121.

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