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forced during the afternoon, contented himself with asking Hancock to relieve his troops in the front line of the captured works. This relief was effected by eleven o'clock at night.
Such is the story of June 15th. To Hancock it always remained a very gloomy day. He bitterly felt the imputations which ignorance or malice led certain persons in high places, as well as some irresponsible critics, to cast upon him. Stung by reflections on his conduct, he wrote a letter reciting the occurrences and requesting an investigation. This letter Meade forwarded to Grant, with an indorsement which closes as follows: "I do not see that any censure can be attached to General Hancock and his corps." The subject can not be better concluded than in the words of the lieutenant general: "The reputation of the Second Corps and its commander is so high, both with the public and in the army, that an investigation could not add to it. It can not be tarnished by newspaper articles or scribblers. No official dispatch has ever been sent from these headquarters which by any construction could cast blame on the Second Corps or its commander for the part they have played in this campaign."
Unfortunately, the misunderstandings and mistakes of the 15th were carried into the 16th, permitting the Confederates to strengthen and finally to confirm their hold upon Petersburg, which the excellent strategy of Grant had for twenty-four hours placed fairly at the mercy of the Potomac Army. It is difficult to say how much of the failure to seize the opportunity offered was due to the fact that the fatigues and excitements of the past forty days had brought about a partial disability from Hancock's Gettysburg wound in the thigh. That devoted officer, who never spared himself, whether in camp, on the march, or in battle, was now suffering intense pain, due to six weeks of almost continuous labor in the saddle, compelling him frequently to seek rest in an ambulance or on the ground when otherwise he would have been galloping over the field or leading the march of his foremost division. Another fact that seriously interfered with the operations of the Second Corps on the morning of June 16th was Hancock's complete ignorance of the position at Petersburg. Until late in the afternoon of the 15th he had not had an intimation that any responsibility respecting the capture of the place was to devolve upon him; he had never served in the region in which Petersburg is situated; the only map furnished him had proved grossly wrong. Finally, it must in fairness be confessed that topographical insight was not one of Hancock's strong points. On a field over which he could cast his rapid and searching glance no man' surpassed—few soldiers, living or dead, ever equaled —the commander of the Second Corps in the
promptitude and directness with which he made appropriate dispositions, whether for attack or defense, however sharp and sudden the emergency. But of that peculiar form of genius which enables some men, even in a strange country, to know intuitively the direction of roads, " the lay of the land," the course of streams, the trend of ranges, Hancock possessed little.
For one or another reason it came about that Hancock's orders to his division commanders, about midnight, to govern their actions in the early morning of June 16th, threw upon them much responsibility—not more responsibility than is appropriate to the leader of five or seven thousand men, but rather more than Hancock's habits as a corps commander had usually assigned them. These orders were addressed in the following terms to Generals Gibbon and Birney, Barlow's division not yet having got into place after its misdirection of the preceding afternoon: "If there are any points on your front commanding your position now occupied by the enemy, the commanding general directs that they may be taken at or before daylight, preferably before, as it is desirable to prevent the enemy from holding any points between us and the Appomattox. It is thought there are one or two such points." These orders were delivered to the division commanders between one and two o'clock. In his narrative, Morgan severely criticises Birney for his failure to seize the high ground about the Avery House on his front. Morgan states that he rode out after daylight from Birney's division toward the Avery House without finding any pickets from that division, until he came close to the enemy who were hurrying down from Petersburg to throw themselves into certain redoubts opposite our left, which had been abandoned in consequence of Smith's capture of other portions of the line the night before. No vigorous effort appears to have been made at daylight to carry out Hancock's instructions to seize all commanding points in front. It was between seven and eight o'clock before Birney's troops fairly got to work. By this time much ground, particularly that around the Hare and Avery Houses, which should have been within our picket line, and could have been had for nothing at daybreak, was occupied by the enemy who proceeded to man the abandoned works and to connect and strengthen them. At eight o'clock Egan led his brigade in a brilliant assault upon one of the Confederate redoubts, capturing it in the very style displayed on the North Anna. Birney was unable to carry his success far, and was obliged to leave the enemy in possession of ground which was to be taken later at great cost of life.
Barlow's division was now up on our extreme left, and the Ninth Corps was reported close behind upon the road. General Hancock received orders to assume command of all the troops at Petersburg and to make a reconnoissance to develop the enemy's line, in order to ascertain the most suitable place for a general assault to be delivered at six o'clock in the afternoon. The reconnoissance was made by Birney's division on the left of the Prince George Court House road, bringing on a very animated skirmish, with heavy fire of artillery. General Meade himself arrived while it was in progress, and decided that the assault should be directed against the Hare House on Birney's front. The artillery fire and the skirmishing continued until the appointed hour arrived. The burden of the attack fell upon Barlow's and Birney's divisions; Gibbon's troops were, however, engaged, and four brigades from the Ninth and Eighteenth Corps were used as supports. Barlow and Birney were unable to break the enemy's main line, although three redoubts were captured with their connecting works. Here was killed the gallant Patrick Kelly, colonel of the Eighty-eighth New York, commanding the Irish brigade. Here, too, fell, severely wounded, Colonel James A. Beaver, commanding Barlow's Fourth Brigade, the third officer who had fallen at its head within two weeks. It is not possible to state definitely the losses of the 16th of June. Among the killed, besides Colonel Kelly, were Colonel John A. Savage, Thirty-sixth Wisconsin, and Lieutenant-Colonel Baird, One Hundred