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 A brigade of cavalry was held in readiness to cut through the gap at Steadman, destroy the telegraph lines and the pontoon bridges over the Appomattox and spread demoralization in the rear of the lines. General Gordon was selected to command the attack, and there were put under his orders, in addition to his own corps, a portion of Hill's, and a small brigade, or detachment of cavalry; a division from Longstreet was also to report to him. From the best information now available, the troops put under Gordon's orders amounted to about 14,000 men. About 5 o'clock on the morning of the 25th of March, the picketguard and picket line in our front were quietly seized almost without the firing of a gun, and the storming columns broke the main line between batteries nine and ten, and turning to the right and the left gained battery ten, overpowered the garrison at Fort Steadman, capturing the greater part of it, and turned its artillery and that in battery ten against the enemy. Batteries eleven and twelve were also captured. Some of our troops reached the military railroad and telegraph about a mile and a half in rear of Fort Steadman, but the commander of one of the storming columns was wounded, and the guide of another column lost his way. The forts to be attacked were found to be of different character than at first supposed, and required a change of disposition for proper attack. The result was that the attacks upon the three forts were disjointed, and although gallantly made were repulsed with loss. Owing to the breaking down of the railroad, or other cause, the troops from Longstreet did not arrive on the field in time. Waiting for them delayed the attack nearly an hour, so that when made the plan of operation against these forts could not be executed before daylight, as had been intended. The enemy after the first alarm and surprise quickly concentrated, and in an hour or so our troops were driven into Fort Steadman— Hare's Hill as it is called in the Confederate accounts—and the space immediately around it, although they had handsomely repulsed several of the first attempts to drive them from the captured works.1 In this last position they were subjected to a pittiless
1 In a short time, probably less than an hour after the first alarm was given General Tidball, commanding the artillery of the Ninth corps, concentrated a number of field pieces on the hills in rear of Fort Steadman, about midway between it and Meade's Station, and opened a very savage fire. Hartranft's division which lay in reserve, the greater portion not being more than a mile and a half in rear of Steadman, was promptly marched to the rescue, and General Hartranft, using the first troops which came up, made at great sacrifice two attacks on our troops outside the fort, to delay their deployment He was repulsed in these with heavy loss, but the effort was worth all it cost. It was Tidball's fire, Hartranft's attacks and the cross-fire of Haskell and McGilery, which prevented the timely deployment of the Confederate troops, after Fort Steadman fell, and not any lack of spirit of our men.
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