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[253]

The regular siege of Petersburg had now begun; and the Confederate forces, including General Lee's army, occupied the new defensive lines to which General Beauregard had withdrawn his troops, during the night of the 17th, unobserved by his vigilant adversary. These lines were necessarily taken under the pressure of circumstances, as most lines are on the field of battle, but had, nevertheless, been selected after due reflection and with great care. General Beauregard's object—and he accomplished it—was to hold the overpowering forces of the enemy at bay until the arrival of the long-delayed reinforcements of General Lee.

The location and retention of these lines have met with more than passing criticism. It has even been asserted that—

General Lee's first expression on his arrival at the front was that of dissatisfaction touching the general features of the new line; and, with the view of rectifying this important element of his defence, he called to his assistance Major-General William Mahone, an officer in whom he reposed great confidence, and who, besides being an engineer by profession, was familiar with the topography of the country around Petersburg.’1

General Beauregard is clear and positive on this point. He says:

General Lee was too good a soldier and engineer, and had recently had too much practice in hastily selecting new positions to hold his enemy in check, to “express dissatisfaction” with the lines in rear of Taylor's Creek, which were just begun, when he first visited them, after his arrival at Petersburg. He was, on the contrary, thankful, and well might he be, for the shelter they then offered, and only feared that the remainder of his troops would not get up in time to save the town.’

General Lee did not at any time consult General Mahone with reference to the Taylor's Creek and Jerusalem plank road lines. He knew that he himself, and General Beauregard, and their two able Engineers, Colonels Harris and Stevens, were fully competent to select between those two defensive lines, when their sites were so plainly visible. General Mahone may have been a good and experienced civil engineer, but no one then knew that he laid claim to skill as a military engineer. Civil and

1 See criticism by Captain John D. Young, late a commander of sharpshooters, 3d Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, as published, June 22d, 1878, in the Philadelphia Weekly Times.

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