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[242] from our main force. General Caldwell held the railroad to the plank road, and was obliged to call upon General Webb for assistance, the rebels having pushed their line of skirmishes between him and General Prince. General Webb's division had previously supplied one brigade to General Caldwell, which took position on the right of the corps in front.

General Warren, in order to take his position in rear of Colonel Miles, was obliged to use troops from the rear of the column to support him. The constant changes of the enemy on our front, who were making desperate attempts to get in our rear, used up the last hour of daylight, and entirely thwarted General Warren's well-laid plan to assault the right or advance his left.

Another serious drawback to our progress was the ignorance of the surrounding country, which had to be thoroughly explored before any kind of a movement could be made. Roads had to be made for the safe passage of our artillery between the Catharpin and plank roads, which was no easy task, when we consider that miry streams, dense woods, and the unfinished railroad were the obstacles that impeded our advance. While this undertaking was in progress, the rebel commander, having discovered our intentions, opened upon our lines with artillery, at the same time changing his troops from the left of his line to protect and strengthen his right, which General Warren threatened. During this movement, General Warren lost fifty men, killed and wounded. It was now dark, and General Warren at once reported to army headquarters in person. Upon arriving there, he learned that it was determined to make a general assault at daylight next day, November thirtieth.

General French, commanding Third corps, had regarded an assault in his front not practicable. General Wright thought he could force the rebel line and hold a position on our right, and he soon reported his force in line of battle, ready for the aggressive movement. The weakness of the enemy on our left was fully admitted by General Warren, and in his official report of the late campaign, to the War Department, he states this fact in the plainest terms.

General Meade, after holding a consultation with General Warren's senior officers, concluded to increase his (General Warren's) command by the addition of two divisions of the Third corps, and it was decided that he should attack the enemy at eight o'clock the next morning, on the left, while our right was to participate an hour later. General Warren spent the night, which was a bitter cold one, in his saddle, arranging his troops for the grand assault on the morrow, and as the first rays of morning appeared in the east, he had finished his arduous task.

The following was the exact disposition of General Warren's entire force. The front line extended a mile in length, and the troops were formed in two and three lines, while great care had been taken to post strong supports at the proper points, to guard against the disastrous results that would ensue from an attack of superior numbers. General H. D. Terry, commanding Third division, Sixth corps, was stationed along the Catharpin road, to hold the left flank and act as reserve. General Hayes, commanding Third division, Second corps, extended his troops in two lines to the right, reaching the railroad. General Webb, commanding Second division, Second corps, joined General Hayes's forces, uniting with General Prince, commanding Seccond division, Third corps, which was also formed in two lines. General Carr, Third division, Third corps, next followed, in two parallel lines, with a strong reserve reaching to the plank road. Then came General Caldwell's troops, First division, Second corps, acting as a reserve and support to General Warren's right flank.

At daybreak every thing was in readiness for the struggle, but a careful examination by General Warren revealed the important fact that the enemy's lines had changed entirely during the night. Large accessions had been made to their ranks, and every available position that could be used with advantage by our foe bristled with artillery and infantry. The formidable breast-works, epaulements, and abattis were finished and strengthened.

A run of eight minutes would be required for our lines to close up the distance between them and those of the enemy, during which our entire advancing lines would be subject to every description of fire. With the number of troops at his disposal, the tremendous odds pitted against him, and the imminent peril in which the entire army would be placed in case of a defeat at that point, after mature and most careful deliberation, General Warren deemed it imprudent to attack the rebels' immediate front, and he so reported to General Meade. Any movement on the part of General Warren to outflank the enemy with the limited force under his command, separated as he was four miles from the right wing, risked his troops to the chances of a sudden attack by the rebels, which, with their choice position and overwhelmingly strong numbers, would no doubt have resulted in a disastrous defeat, and appearances indicated such a design on their part. Such an exposure and infeasible undertaking was not warranted, and no military principle would justify him in attempting so rash a movement.

The above is the opinion of veteran military tacticians, regular and volunteer, and claims the consideration of those at home in civil pursuits who “condemn what they do not comprehend.” Three things only could be done that day, namely, expose his command to this attack from over-whelming numbers in their selected and fortified strongholds, assault where he then was, or rejoin the right wing.

There was a plan under consideration to bring the entire army to the position occupied by General Warren's forces, and march the body toward the left — the enemy's right; but to carry this out would necessitate a complete abandonment of our base. It was the opinion of General Warren that this plan was more feasible and much less hazardous than an attack in front.

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