military engineering are as distinct from each other as geometry and algebra.
Both require special studies; but efficiency as a military engineer demands above all things great practice in the field under trying circumstances.
Where had General Mahone
acquired skill by such practice
consulted him concerning the topographical features of the country outside of the Dimmock lines
but for another purpose, and not with reference to the location of our defensive works, as will now be explained.
, on the day of General Lee
's arrival—the 18th of June—at about 1 P. M., urged upon him, as has been stated, the advantage of taking the offensive before the enemy could have time to know the country and protect himself by abatis, rifle-pits, or trenches.
He proposed an attack upon General Grant
's left flank, so as to double him up on his right and centre, while his rear should be assailed by all the cavalry that could be massed against it. General Lee
at first appeared to favor the idea, but expressed some fear that the Norfolk Railroad cuts and the ‘Second Swamp’ would prove too great obstacles in our way for the offensive.
It was upon this point that he consulted General Mahone
, who had been the civil engineer
and builder of the Norfolk
road, and was necessarily familiar with the country over which our forces would have to operate.
was of General Lee
's opinion, and the suggested plan was not carried out. Meanwhile, and after a thorough examination of the new lines—of the Jerusalem plank road and of the Blandford ridge
expressed the opinion that we had better hold on, for the time being, to the line we then occupied, for the following reasons:
That it kept the enemy's batteries at a greater distance from the besieged town.
That it would act as a covered way (as the phrase is, in regular fortification), should we deem it advisable to construct better works on the higher ground in the rear.
In the mean time we could construct a series of batteries to protect our front line by flanking and over-shooting fires; and we could throw up infantry parapets for our reserves, whenever we should have additional troops.