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[552] right, and delay the impending disaster for the more convenient season for retreat.

Fort Steadman was the point against which the sortie was directed; its distance from our lines was less than two hundred yards, but an abatis covered its front. For this service, requiring equal daring and steadiness, General John B. Gordon, well proved on many battlefields, was selected. His command was the remnant of Ewell's corps, troops often tried in the fiery ordeal of battle, and always found true as tempered steel. Before daylight, on the morning of March 25th, Gordon moved his command silently forward. His pioneers were sent in advance to make openings through the obstructions, and the troops rushed forward, surprised and captured the garrison, then turned the guns upon the adjacent works and soon drove the enemy from them. A detachment was now sent to seize the commanding ground and works in the rear, the batteries of which, firing into the gorges of the forts on the right and left, would soon make a wide opening in Grant's line. The guides to this detachment misled it in the darkness of a foggy dawn far from the point to which it was directed. In the meantime the enemy, recovering from his surprise and the confusion into which he had been extensively thrown, rallied and with overwhelming power concentrated both artillery and infantry upon Gordon's command. The supporting force which was to have followed him, notwithstanding the notice which was given by the victorious cheer of his men when they took Fort Steadman, failed to come forward, and Gordon's brilliant success, like the Dead Sea fruit, was turned to ashes at the moment of possession. It was hopeless, with his small force unsupported, to retain the position he had gained. It remained only to withdraw, as far as practicable, his command to our line, and this the valiant soldier promptly proceeded to do; some of his men were killed on the retreat, many became prisoners-I believe all, or nearly all, of those who had been detached to seize other works, and had not rejoined the main body.

The following letter from General Gordon furnishes some important details of the attack:

Atlanta, Georgia, October 16, 1880.
my Dear Mr. President: The attack upon Fort Steadman was made on the night of the 25th March, or rather before light on the morning of the 26th March, 1865. A conference had been held between General Lee and myself at his headquarters the 10th of March, which resulted in General Lee's decision to transfer my corps from the extreme right of our army to the trenches in and around Petersburg, with the purpose of enabling me to carefully examine the enemy's lines, and report to him my belief as to the practicability of breaking them at any point. Within a week after being transferred to this new position, I

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