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ably by the Sixth Corps. They were for the purposes of the approaching contest singularly illarranged. Their face, north and south along the railroad, was so short—only seven hundred yards— and the "returns" were so sharp, that every part of them was subject to enfilade by any enemy that should be able to occupy a mile of ground; and, indeed, in the action that followed, the spectacle was exhibited of a brigade climbing over to the outside of the intrenchments, to escape the artillery fire which was being poured into them from the rear across the inclosed space. Through the position at Reams's, from north to south, ran the Weldon Railroad, parallel to the face of the intrenchments and but a short distance from it, constituting, whether by its embankment or by its cuts, a serious obstacle to the withdrawal of batteries placed along the face of the intrenchments. The Halifax road, also, ran into the position from the north, parallel and close to the railroad.
Such being the disadvantages of the position, it is not improbable that, even against the superior force which was approaching him, Hancock would have done better to take to the open and fight it out there. Yet it was a moral impossibility to do so. No commander but must have occupied the works thus standing there awaiting him, against an enemy of unknown force unexpectedly coming
up. Moreover, Hancock felt that after his dispatches of the morning he had a right to anticipate that the troops massed on Warren's left, only four miles away by the Halifax road, would promptly be sent down to re-enforce him. The advance of such a force would have covered his right and prevented the enemy from working around upon that flank, which, as it proved, was the vulnerable point. The disposition of the troops in the intrenchments was as follows: Miles, with the First Division and a brigade of cavalry, occupied the front and right; Gibbon, the left; Gregg, with the bulk of the cavalry, prolonged the left against any attempt of the enemy to reach around and get upon the road leading to the Jerusalem plank road.
Meanwhile, what was being done at headquarters, either to provide for the safety of the small force at Reams's or to seize the opportunity to get a fight out of the Confederates under circumstances so favorable? It is in trying to answer this question that we encounter two singular features of the 25th of August. The first is that, although the field telegraph had before noon been open from the Station to Warren's headquarters, where Meade passed the day, and although Hancock, on his part, used the telegraph, sending a dispatch as early as n.45 A- M-> Meade, throughout the whole afternoon and until 7.30 in the evening, continued to send his messages by staff officers, involving in each case not only a delay which might be serious in its conse A quences, but also a liability to misunderstanding, due to messages crossing each other. The other remarkable feature of the day was that the troops dispatched to Hancock's relief were sent down the Jerusalem plank road to its junction with the Reams's Station road, instead of directly down the Halifax road. This direction more than doubled the distance the re-enforcements had to march. At one o'clock Meade sent the following message in reply to Hancock's of n.45:
"Headquarters, Fifth Corps, I P. M., August 33, 1864.
"Major-general Hancock: Warren has informed me of your dispatch announcing the breaking through your left of the enemy's cavalry. I have directed Mott to send all his available force down the plank road to the Reams's Station road, and to take one of Parke's (Ninth Corps) batteries, now at the Williams House, with him. The officer in charge of this command is directed to report to you his arrival. I think, from all the information I can obtain, that the enemy is about assuming the offensive, and will either attack you or interpose between you and Warren. Under these circumstances, I fear we can not do much more damage to the railroad. That being the case, you can exercise your judgment about withdrawing your command and resuming your position on the left and rear of Warren, either where you were before, or in