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CENTURY V35 N03: Gen. Robert B. Potter and the Assault at the Petersburg Crater by Henry C. Potter

General Robert B. Potter and the Assault at the Petersburg Crater.1

IN THE CENTURY magazine for September (page 764), in an account of the Explosion of the Mine at Petersburg [SOPO Editor’s Note: I’ve linked to the Battles and Leaders version which is already published here rather than the Century magazine version, which will not be published because it duplicates the B&L version.], it is stated that

“each of the three commanders of the white divisions presented reasons why his division should not lead the assault. General Burnside determined that they should ‘pull straws,’ and Ledlie was the (to him) unlucky victim. He, however, took it good-naturedly.”

There are the best reasons for saying that this statement is incorrect, and among them is a letter written by General Robert B. Potter to one who especially enjoyed his confidence, in which he says:

“My division expected and was anxious to have the advance, because they knew the ground, had an interest in the work, were in the best condition, and known to be the best division in the corps.”

That he did not have this task committed to him was well known by his friends to have been the one great disappointment of General Potter’s army life, and there are those who have often heard him say that, so far from there having been reluctance on the part of any of the division commanders of the Ninth Corps to take the leading place in the charge, they were all desirous of that honor. The question was decided by General Burnside in order that in the choice there should not seem to be any favoritism, and, especially, to avoid that appearance of partiality for a very dear personal friend which would not improbably have been said to have influenced him had he chosen General Potter.

Henry C. Potter.

NEW YORK, Nov. 5th, 1887.

The Century Magazine, Volume 35, Number 3, p. 481:



  1. Potter, Henry C. “Gen. Robert B. Potter and the Assault at the Petersburg Crater” The Century Magazine, Volume 35, Number 3, p. 481
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