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 Hancock's corps was on the south side of the James River before the attack on Petersburg commenced, and was ordered to move forward, but not informed that an attack was to be made, nor directed to march to Petersburg until late in the afternoon, when he received orders to move to the aid of General Smith. It being night when the junction was made, it was deemed prudent to wait until morning. Had they known how feeble was the garrison, it is probable that Petersburg would have been captured that night; with the morning, however, came another change, as marked as that from darkness to light. Lee crossed the James River on the 15th, and by a night march his advance was in the entrenchments of Petersburg before the morning for which the enemy was waiting. The artillery now had other support than the old men and boys of the town. The Confederates promptly seized the commanding points and rapidly strengthened their lines, so that the morning's reconnaissance indicated to the enemy the propriety of postponing an attack until all his force should arrive. On the 17th an assault was made with such spirit and force as to gain a part of our line, in which, however, the assailants suffered severely. Lee had now constructed a line in rear of the one first occupied, having such advantages as gave to our army much greater power to resist. On the morning of the 18th Grant ordered a general assault, but finding that the former line had been evacuated, and a new one on more commanding ground had been constructed, the assault was postponed until the afternoon; attacks were then made by heavy columns on various parts of our line, with some partial success, but the final result was failure everywhere, and with extraordinary sacrifice of life. With his usual persistence, he had made attack after attack, and for the resulting carnage had no gain to compensate. The eagerness manifested leads to the supposition that it was expected to capture the place while Lee with part of his force was guarding against an advance on Richmond by the river road. The four day's experience seems to have convinced Grant of the impolicy of assault, for thereafter he commenced to lay siege to the place. On the 21st a heavy force of the enemy was advanced more to our right, in the vicinity of the Weldon Railroad, which runs southward from Petersburg. But General Lee, observing an interval between the left of the Second and right of the Sixth of the enemy's corps, sent forward a column under General A. P. Hill which, entering the interval, poured a fire into the bank of one corps on the right and the other on the left, doubling their bank
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