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1863. seemed scarcely defended on the evening of the preceding day are
covered with artillery. His first examination had perhaps been too superficial. He ought to have foreseen that by parading his forces on the evening of the 29th, and leaving to his adversaries fourteen hours' respite, he was inviting them to put themselves on their defence. But Warren will not lose time in useless regrets; he has made a rapid coup d'ail and a correct judgment, and does not shrink from responsibility. His decision is quickly made; the attack trusted to his care cannot succeed, and he does not hesitate to postpone it. He must have great moral courage to take this step, for he will be pardoned more easily, he knows, an unfortunate act of daring than the most justifiable prudence. The fatal hour has come; the regiments under arms receive no orders, - - a painful waiting to those who are ready to march to death, and which at first arouses in them a feverish impatience. But they soon divine the wise hesitation of Warren; they whisper to each other that the attack is abandoned, and every one immediately forgets the future conflicts and the present sufferings to think only of the absent family, and of home, sweet home.
At 4 A.M. we were turned out, and shortly after a Monday, movement was made, but not as anticipated all night
long. A line of battle was formed in the woods, and
an advance begun. After proceeding a short distance an order was received to “ Right flank, march !" and the regiment soon emerged into an open field and massed with the Fifth Corps for an attack. It was now daylight. The rebel batteries began firing, the shot flying over our heads and making havoc with the trees to our right, the Union batteries replying. A halt was made behind a hill, where we were protected from artillery fire. Hope began to gain upon us that the foolhardy attempt of charging the enemy was to be abandoned, which was indeed the fact. We subsequently learned that in the hollow to the north of the Orange pike were massed twenty thousand men about daylight for some purpose, as if anticipating a movement such as we were expecting to make. Time dragged along, and no movement was made. We were all tired of the inaction and the heavy strain on the mind from hours of expectation, and so we had a game of ball to pass away the time. Occasionally the ball would be batted over the crest of the hill in front, in range of the rebel skirmishers, necessitating some one going after it. It was a risky piece of business and required quick work, but it was got every time.
During the day a sheep was seen running along out
side of the skirmish line, when it was fired upon and wounded. An adventurous member of Company E ran out for it, but a Johnnie on the rebel skirmish line covered him with his gun, shouting, “ Divide, Yank!" which was agreed to. The sheep was then split in halves, each taking his portion, returning to their places amid shouts of laughter from both lines.
When night came we built large fires to ward off the bitter cold, and slept.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
November 30, 1863, 8.40 P.M. GENERAL: The major-general commanding desires to have your opinion upon the practicability of carrying the enemy's intrenchments, so far as they are known to you within the limits of the front of your command. Please reply immediately. I am, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Assistant Adjutant. General. (To commanders of First, Third, Fifth, and Sixth Army Corps.)
HEADQUARTERS First ARMY CORPS,
November 30, 1863, 9.05 P.M. BRIG.-Gen. S. WILLIAMS, Assistant Adjutant-General:
In reply to your 8.45 this P.M. I have the honor to report that since dark I have not been able to obtain the information that I desire concerning the topog. raphy of the other side of the stream. I will be enabled to answer your note more satisfactorily on receiving from division commanders the information already sent for. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major-General. HEADQUARTERS FIRST ARMY Corps,
November 30, 1863, 11 P.M. BRIG.-Gen. S. WILLIAMS, Assistant Adjutant-General:
GENERAL: The papers enclosed are the answers of my division commanders [only Cutler's can be found) to an inquiry as to the nature of the ground in their respective fronts. I regard any attempt to storm as hopeless, unless the troops can be massed near the point of attack without the knowledge of the enemy, and unless strongly supported on both right and left. The works of the enemy in my immediate front appear to be heavy, and their attention seems to have been drawn to the possibility of an attack here.
Very respectfully, etc.,
[Enclosure.] LIEUT.-Col. C. KINGSBURY, JR., Assistant Adjutant-General, First Army Corps:
COLONEL: I think the works can be carried at or near the first angle of the pike to the left, provided that the enemy is first dislodged from the pines in front of the works by an attack from the left. This is the only practicable way I see, and that at a great sacrifice. If I were to make the assault, I would like to see the officer that is to lead on my left, and have daylight to execute it in.
L. CUTLER, Brigadier-General Commanding Division. HEADQUARTERS THIRD ARMY CORPS,
November 30, 1863, 10.11 P.M. MAJOR-GENERAL HUMPHREYS, Chief of Staff:
As to carrying the line in my front, the two divisions being now at my disposal, I say there is no obstacle to success except those incidental to military enterprises.
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
November 30, 1863, 9 P.M. BRIG.-GEN. S. WILLIAMS:
GENERAL: In answer to your question of this evening, I do not think it practicable to successfully carry the intrenchments of the enemy within the front of my command. I mean the front on either side of the old turnpike road of which I spoke to you yesterday.
This was followed by a second despatch at 11 P.M. :
GENERAL: In answer to your question, I desire to say, that, so far as could be seen, I do not consider it impracticable to carry the front threatened by us, to-day, although I regard the chances of success as very much lessened, both because the enemy has prepared to-day to meet the threat there offered, and because I am almost assured that he knows the nature of the attack it was our design to offer, and has prepared to resist it.
The following paragraphs are taken from General Meade's report of the Mine Run campaign:
On the 30th the batteries opened at 8 A.M. The skirmishers of the First and Third Corps advanced across Mine Run and drove the enemy's skirmishers, and
1863. every preparation was made by Sedgwick for his attack (he having
moved his columns during the night and massed them out of view of the enemy), when about ten minutes of 9 I received a despatch from General Warren to the effect that “the position and strength of the enemy seem so formidable in my present front that I advise against making the attack here the full light of the sun shows me that I cannot succeed.” The staff-officer who brought this despatch further reported that General Warren had suspended his attack, and would not make it without further orders.
As Sedgwick's attack was subsidiary to Warren's, and as, owing to Warren's confidence of the night before, I had given him so large a part of the army
that I had not the means of supporting Sedgwick in case of repulse, or reënforcing him in the event of success, I was obliged to suspend the attack of Sedgwick on the enemy's left, which I did just in time; and immmediately proceeded to General Warren's column, some four miles distant, in the hope of arranging some plan by which the two attacks might yet take place in the afternoon. I reached General Warren between 10 and 11 A.M. and found his views were unchangeable, and that it was his decided opinion it was hopeless to make any attack.
I am free to admit that the movement across the Rapidan was a failure, but I respectfully submit that the causes of this failure, a careful perusal of the foregoing report will show, were beyond my control. I maintain my plan was a feasible one. Had the columns made the progress I anticipated and effected a junction on the night of the 26th, at or near Robertson's Tavern, the advance the next day would either have passed the formidable position of Mine Run without opposition; or, had Ewell attempted to check the movement, he would have been overwhelmed before reënforced by Hill.
Prisoners reported that Hill did not come up till the afternoon of the 27th, so that if the movements of the Third Corps had been prompt and vigorous on the 27th, assisted by the Sixth and Second, there was every reason to believe Ewell could have been overcome before the arrival of Hill. And after the enemy, through these culpable delays, had been permitted to concentrate on Mine Run, I have reason to believe but for the unfortunate error of judgment of Major-General Warren, my original plan of attack on these columns would have been successful, or at least, under the view I took of it, would certainly have been tried.
It may be said I should not depend on the judgment of others, but it is impossible a commanding general can reconnoitre in person a line of over seven miles in extent, and act on his own judgment as to the expediency of attacking or not. Again, it may be said that the effort should have been made to test the value of my judgment, or in other words, that I should encounter what I believed to be certain defeat, so as to prove conclusively that victory was impossible.
Considering how sacred is the trust of the lives of the brave men under my command, but willing as I am to shed their blood and my own when duty requires, and my judgment dictates that the sacrifice will not be in vain, I cannot be a party to a wanton slaughter of my troops for any mere personal end.
The following is the report of our division commander, Brig.-Gen. John C. Robinson :
HEADQUARTERS SECOND Division FIRST ARMY CORPS,
December 3, 1863. COLONEL: On the 22d of November this division was posted at Bealeton, Liberty, and Licking Run, and on the 23d it was concentrated near Rappahannock Station. At daylight on the 26th it started on the march, crossed the Rapidan at Culpeper Ford after darli, and biouvacked until 3 o'clock next morning, when the march was resumed. About midnight I took up a position about a mile and a half to the left of Robertson's Tavern, and picketed one of the roads leading to the front.
At daylight I moved the division about one mile to the right, and formed on the left of the First Division in two lines with a reserve of four regiments and a double line of skirmishers. In this order the division advanced to the line aster. ward occupied by the army in front of the enemy's works on Mine Run. At this time there were no troops on my left, but the Third Corps, coming into position toward night, relieved my pickets on that flank. The enemy's works in my
front appeared to be strong, and between us was a mile open space with ravines, through which ran two streams - Mine Run and one of its branches. On the zoth I was directed by the major-general commanding the First Corps to advance my pickets across the stream in front, and build two bridges suitable for the passage of artillery and troops in column. The enemy's pickets occupied the crest of the hill immediately in front, and it became necessary to dislodge them. This was handsomely done by the Ninety-fourth Regiment of New York Volunteers, under Major Moffett, which advanced to the stream, exposed to severe musketry fire, crossed it, and charging up the hill, drove away the rebel pickets, and took possession of the crest. Working parties were immediately set at work, who by night had completed two bridges, and were proceeding to build others, when I received orders to suspend the work, and, during the night, to withdraw my pickets to the position they occupied in the morning. The only casualties in the division are a few men wounded.
At 4 o'clock on the afternoon of the first of December, the division was relieved by a brigade of the Third Division, Fisth Corps, and marcheil to Germanna Ford, when I took position and covered the crossing of the Fifth and Sixth Corps, and the picket details of the Third, Fifth, and Sixth Corps. The division was then withdrawn, with the exception of one hundred men, who remained until the bridges were taken up, and then came over in boats. About noon on the 2d of December I left the river, and bivouacked near Stevensburg. The division left Stevensburg this morning, and is now encamped, one brigade at Paoli Mills and one at Kelly's Ford.
JNO. C. ROBINSON,