But General Lee
determined to make one more desperate effort to break the vice-like grip that the Union
army had on Petersburg
; and so directed General Gordon
with a chosen force to attack, and if possible break through the besieging forces at Fort Steadman.
This attempt was made on the morning of the 25th of March. Fort Steadman was taken, but immediately was retaken by the Union
forces in the vicinity.
Upon the breaking out of the tumult of the attack on Fort Steadman, the 6th Corps, or the 1st Division of it, was ordered out and advanced rapidly towards the point of attack.
But before it reached there, the affair was over, and the division returned to the rest of the corps.
We had become familiar with one feature of General Grant
's strategy, the relieving of an attack on one portion of his line, by an attack on some distant portion of the enemy's line, and were not surprised therefore when orders came to form line of battle and advance on the works of the enemy.
Let Colonel Beckwith
tell what was done.
“About noon we marched back to camp, and then moved to the left and formed line of battle and charged the skirmishers in front.
We ran over their skirmish line for some distance, taking some prisoners.
We then advanced on their main works, getting up to the house near them, under a heavy fire of artillery and musketry.
We occupied this position until ordered back to the enemy's former skirmish line, but after a short time went forward to the top of the knoll and threw up breastworks.
At midnight we returned to camp, leaving some of the regiment on picket in the new line we had built.”
then in command of the regiment gives a fuller account of this affair.
The 2d Brigade was on the right of the corps, and the 121st on the right of the brigade.
The advance carried