Despite the failure of the move against Richmond, we may still be able to take advantage of the diversion. I wrote Gen. Butler,
CITY POINT, VA., July 29, 1864.
The main object of the expedition north of the James River having failed, by reason of the very large force thrown there by the enemy, I have determined to try and take advantage of the diversion made by assaulting at Petersburg before the enemy can get much of his force back there. As the assault must be made promptly on the return of our troops, and a night march being necessary to deceive the enemy, which will necessarily fatigue the troops to such an extent as to made their attack weak, I determined to withdraw one division of the Second Corps during last night, and with, and with it relieve the Eighteenth Corps, so as to have all fresh troops for the first assault.
The division which withdrew last night marched to the neighborhood of Petersburg. They will rest to-day and under cover of night take the place of the Eighteenth Corps. General Meade having studied all the ground over which the assault is to be made, and the Ninth Corps as part of his command having the advance in the assault, General Ord will report to General Meade for instructions from me, and is now industriously engaged preparing the details.
As soon as it is dark General Hancock will commence the withdrawal of the balance of his corps. The cavalry will follow the infantry. The former will reach Petersburg with all dispatch, and follow the assaulting column or place now occupied by the Eighteenth Corps as may be found advisable. The cavalry will make a forced march to the left of our present line, and be in readiness to move round the enemy’s right.
This movement will leave the garrison at Deep Bottom in presence of a vastly superior force. The navy will want to dispose of their vessel in such a manner as to sweep all the ground in front of our troops. I wish you would communicate with Captain Smith through a staff officer on this subject. Please caution him to make no changes through the day calculated to attract special interest on the part of the enemy.
General Foster, I think, had better level the line of rifle-pits we captured from the enemy, and move his whole force to the side of the creek first occupied by him. The lower pontoon bridge should also be swung round to the west bank of the river. It may be advisable for General Foster to move his trains and surplus property to the west bank; but these details I leave to you.
If possible I want to have our withdrawal from the north bank of the river concealed from the enemy until the attack commences at Petersburg.
I have had General Ord informed verbally of the fact that he is to be relieved by the Second Corps, and is to form a part of the assaulting column. It only remains to notify him that during the assault he will receive orders from General Meade.
U. S. GRANT,
The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 11, p 338-9
O.R., I, xl, part 3, p 619-20