“My order was to General Meade, and then General Meade made his order from what I directed him to do”

A court of inquiry was convened to investigate the unsuccessful assault on the enemy’s lines on July 30.  I was ordered to appear before the court and was asked several questions.

TESTIMONY OF Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT.

Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT, U. S. Army, being sworn and examined by the JUDGE-ADVOCATE, says:

Question. Will you please to state what in your judgment caused the failure of the attack on the enemy’s lines on the 30th of July?

Answer. It seemed to me that it was perfectly practicable for the men, if they had been properly led, to have gone straight through the breach which was caused by the explosion on the mine, and to have gone to the top of Cemetery Hill. It looked to me, from what I would see and hear, that it was perfectly practicable to have taken the men through; but whether it was because the men themselves would not go, or whether it was because they were not led, I was not far enough to the front to be qualified to say.

Question. What orders which you issued were not executed, if any?

Answer. I could send you copies of all the dispatches that I wrote. The orders for the assault were issued by General Meade in obedience to general instructions from me. I saw the detailed order of General Meade before the mine was exploded, and I thought that the execution of that order was practicable. That order I presume you have before you. My order was to General Meade, and then General Meade made his order from what I directed him to do, and sent me a copy of it, and I thought it was all that could be required. I recollect that, failing on the north bank of the river to surprise the enemy as we expected or hoped to do, but instead of that drew a large part of his force to the north side, I telegraphed to General Meade that we would now take advantage of the absence of that force of the enemy to explode the mine and make an assault on Petersburg.

By the COURT:

Question. From your information how many of the enemy were in Petersburg at the time of this assault?

Answer. My information was that three divisions were left in Petersburg, with one brigade absent from those division – Johnston’s. From the best evidence none of the enemy’s troops crossed the James River until 2 o’clock of the 30th of July, on their way back. Then they had fully sixteen miles to travel to get back, with, however, the advantage of a railroad near them to carry many of the men. The distance I guess at when I say sixteen miles.


The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 12, p 111-2

O.R., I, xl, part 1, p 82

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