Petersburg to be crushed.Thus, with a combined force of about six thousand men arrayed against a few hundred men, mostly raw militia, defending the long line of works encircling the city, operating as stated at two separate points, Petersburg was to be crushed like an egg-shell between the prongs of this military forceps, and the city swept with the besom of destruction. That the very safety of the homes of the people of Petersburg was imperiled, if not their lives, the following extract from orders given to the Federal General Hicks by General Gilmore will abundantly prove: ‘Should you penetrate the town before General Kautz, who is to attack on the Jerusalem Road, the public buildings, public stores, bridges across the Appomattox, depots and cars are all to be destroyed.’ Whether the destruction was to be accomplished by the torch or by explosives, it is evident that a universal conflagration might have ensued during the general distress and confusion. This movement was originally devised by the Federal general to take place on the 29th of May, but was postponed on account of other movements. It was doubtless intended to be the forerunner of Grant's subsequent move upon Petersburg. The inspiration evidently came from General Grant, for in a bitter letter written by General Butler to General Gilmore after the operations of the day, censuring him in unmeasured terms for his failure, he mentions the fact of an officer of General Grant's staff being present when instructions were given to him. General  Gilmore failed to carry out his instructions, and wrote the following letter to General Butler:
If he had executed his commission with sufficient energy and penetrated within the confines of the city, and bearing in mind that his object was not only to capture, but practically destroy, the town, it is easy to conjecture what an important bearing it might have had on the fortunes of the war. It is not my purpose, however, to dwell upon that feature of the day's events, and I hasten on with the narrative of events connected with the conflict on the Jerusalem Road.