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[554] which he was to surprise. A body of the most stalwart of my men was organized to move in advance of all the troops, armed with axes, with which they were to cut down the obstruction of sharpened and wire-fastened rails in front of the enemy's lines.

Next to these were to come three hundred men, armed with bayonets fixed and empty muskets, who were to mount and enter the fort as the axemen cut away the obstruction of sharpened rails, bayoneting the pickets in front and gunners in the fort if they resisted, or sending them to our rear if they surrendered. Next were to cross the three officers and their detachments, who were to capture the three rear forts. Next, a division of infantry was to cross, moving by the left flank, so as to be in position when halted, and fronted to move without any confusion or delay immediately down General Grant's lines, toward his left, capturing his troops, or forcing them to abandon their works and form under our advancing fire at right angles to his line of works.

Next was to cross the cavalry, who were to ride to the rear, cut the enemy's telegraph-lines, capture his pontoons, and prevent or delay the crossing of reenforcements from beyond the Appomattox. Next, my whole force was to swell the column of attack. Then, as the front of our lines were cleared of the enemy's troops, our divisions were to change front and join in pressing upon the enemy and driving him farther from the other wing of General Grant's army, and widening the breach. Strips of white cloth were tied around the shoulders of our men, so as to designate them in the darkness.

Just before daylight, when all was ready, I gave the signal, and the axemen rushed across, followed by the bodies armed with bayonets and empty muskets, who captured and sent to the rear the enemy's pickets. The axemen cut away the sharpened rails so rapidly as scarcely to cause a halt of the troops following, who mounted the enemy's works and seized his guns and gunners in the fort, clearing the way and giving safe passage to detachments and larger bodies which were to follow and which did follow. The fort and most of the lines between the fort and the river were captured with the loss of but one man, so far as I could learn. We captured eleven heavy guns, nine mortars, about seven hundred prisoners, as I now recollect, among whom was the brigadier commanding that portion of the line, General McLaughlin.

Everything was moving as well as I could have desired, when, one after another, all three of the officers, sent to the rear to capture by strategem the rear forts, sent messengers to inform me that they had passed successfully through the lines of the enemy's reserves in rear of Fort Steadman, and were certainly beyond the rear forts, but that their guides had been lost or had deserted, and that they could not find the forts.

Although I heard nothing afterward of these guides, yet I did learn of the fate of the three officers and their commands. Some were shot down after daylight, some were captured, and a few, very few, made their way back to our lines. The failure of that portion of the programme left, of course, these three forts manned by the enemy, and his heavy guns made it impossible to carry out literally the details of the plan. Then a large body of the troops sent by General Lee from General Longstreet's corps were delayed by the breaking down of trains, or by some other cause, and did not arrive at the appointed hour, which caused so great a delay that we did not get in the fort and upon the enemy's flank at as early an


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U. S. Grant (2)
McLaughlin (1)
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W. H. F. Lee (1)
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