Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 02.djvu/283
Defense of Petersburg.
sisting of his own and Kautz's divisions, was dispatched to destroy the Weldon road farther to the south, and thence, by a wide sweep to the west, to cut the Southside and Danville roads. The Second corps, now commanded by Birney for Hancock's wound, received at Gettysburg, had broken out afresh succeeded, after some sharp skirmishing with the Confederate cavalry, in taking position to the left of Warren, and the Sixth corps, moving up the same evening, established itself on a line in rear and parallel to the Second, its left slightly overlapping that corps. But the next morning, the Confederate horse showed such a bold front, though 'twas but a scratch force with cattle like "walking trestles," that General Grant determined to suspend the movements to the railroad, and Birney was ordered "to swing forward the left of the Second corps so as to envelop the right flank of the Confederates."
ACTION OF TWENTY-SECOND OF JUNE.
This change of orders led to delay, which Lee, consummate master of that art which teaches that "offensive movements are the foundation of a good defence," was swift to improve. Riding to his right, he sent for Mahone, who, as civil engineer, had surveyed the country and knew every inch of the ground hidden by the tangled chaparral. Few words were wasted. Mahone proposed that he be allowed to take three brigades of Anderson's old division and strike the enemy in flank. Lee assented. Passing his men quickly along a ravine, which screened them from the enemy's pickets, Mahone gained a point which he rightly conjectured to be beyond the hostile flank. Here, in an open field fronting the "Johnson House," he formed line of battle—the brigades of Saunders and Wright in front, his own brigade, commanded by Colonel Weisiger, supporting the right, while McIntosh of the artillery was directed to move with two guns in the open on the left. Birney,meanwhile, had nearly completed his movement, which was executed without reference to the Sixth corps, and left an ever-widening gap between the two lines, as, "pivoting on his right division, under Gibbon, he swung forward his left." Yet Mott's division had come into position on Gibbon's left, and had commenced entrenching, and Barlow was moving up to the left of Mott, when suddenly and swiftly, with a wild yell which rang out shrill and fierce through the gloomy pines, Mahone's men burst
- Swinton, A. P., p. 512.