We yesterday had word that our forces had mined and blown up a fortification in front of Petersburg. All sorts of stories were current, some of them absurdly wild and ridiculous. Petersburg was said to be in flames. Our army were reported to have undermined & large portion of the city. Men of sense gave credit to the absurdity. I went over to the War Department, and Stanton showed me a telegram from Grant, stating the mine had been sprung, but the result is inconclusive, and evidently, I think, a disappointment. Stanton seemed uncertain and confused.
Exciting and silly stories prevailed about the raid into Pennsylvania. Street rumors put the Rebels at 40,000, and the press states that number, but reports are contradictory. Am still of the opinion that the force is small and the scare great. Governor Curtin and all Harrisburg are doubtless in a ferment. Was told the bells in Harrisburg were all ringing an alarm. I asked if it included the dinnerbell of Governor Curtin, for he would be frantic to stir up the people, and never disbelieved the largest fib that was sent abroad.
Had a letter from Tom this A.M., dated at Headquarters of the 18th Army Corps, at midnight of the 29th, stating an assault was to be made in the morning. Could not give details. There would be a sharp conflict, and he would do his duty. Bidding good-bye and sending love to all. This evening we hear from him after the fight, that he was well but tired and exhausted.
The President went yesterday to Fortress Monroe to meet General Grant, by prior arrangement, which made me distrust final operations at Petersburg, for if such were the fact, he could not well be absent. The President tells me the movement was well planned and well executed up to the closing struggle, when our men failed to do their duty. There must, I apprehend, have been fault in the officers also, not Grant, who originates nothing, is dull and heavy, but persistent.
SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 2: April 1, 1864 — December 31, 1866, p. 89-90