OR XL P1 #17: Reports of Major General Winfield S. Hancock, commanding Second Army Corps June 13-July 31, 1864

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 80)

Numbers 17. Reports of Major General Winfield S. Hancock, U. S. Army, commanding second Army Corps.1
HEADQUARTERS MIDDLE MILITARY DEPARTMENT,
Baltimore, Md., September 21, 1865.

GENERAL: I have the honor to forward my report of the operations of the Second Army Corps from June 13 until July 26, 1864, which is the time designated by Major-General Meade as the fifth epoch of the campaign.

The troops reached Wilcox’s Landing, on the James River, at 5.30 p. m. on the 13th. Myself and the officers of my staff were busily engaged during that night and the following day and night in conducting the embarkation of the troops and material of my corps, which were all safely landed on the south bank of the James, at Wind-Mill Point, near upper landing, at an early hour on the morning of the 15th. My headquarters remained on the north bank of the river until the troops had crossed, communication being kept up by the signal telegraph.

I had been directed by General meade on the evening of the 14th to hold my troops in readiness to move, and informed that it was probable I would be instructed to march toward Petersburg, and that rations for my command would be sent me from City Point. Later in the evening the following instructions reached me from General Meade:

General Butler has been ordered to send to you at Wind-Mill Point 60,000 rations; so soon as they are received and issued you will move your command by the most direct route to Petersburg, taking up a position where the City Point railroad crosses Harrison’s Creek, where we now have a work.

On receipt of the above instructions I at once sent my chief commissary to the James to receive and issue the expected rations.

About 4 a. m. on the 15th I wrote General Williams, assistant adjutant-general of the Army of the Potomac, that all of my troops, save one regiment of Infantry and four batteries, were disembarked on the south side of the James, but that the rations which I had been informed I would receive from City Point had no arrived, and that I feared that a good deal of time would be required to issue them when they came. About 6.30 a. m. I again reported to General Williams that no rations had arrived.

I delayed the order for my troops to march until 9 a. m., waiting to receive the rations from City Point, but as they did not arrive I gave the order by signal telegraph for the head of the column to move. I also sent Lieutenant-Colonel Morgan, my chief of staff, to General Birney (who was to take the advance) with the same order, but the boat in which he crossed to the south bank grounded and he was delayed half an hour, to find on landing that the order which I had sent by signal telegraph had miscarried. In consequence the column did not get in motion until 10.30 a. m. I notified the commanding general that the expected rations had not arrived, and that I had given orders for my troops to move at once; this order was approved, and I was instructed to push forward to the position designated for my command behind Harrison’s Creek. Lieutenant-Colonel Morgan, my chief of staff, was directed to remain with general Birney to conduct the march of the column. He was furnished with a map from headquarters of the army, on which our position behind Harrison’s Creek was marked – by the map about four miles from Petersburg, and between that place and City

Point. It is proper to say in this connection that it afterward appeared my orders were based on incorrect information, and the position I was ordered to take did not exist as it was described on my instructions; Harrison’s Creek proved to be inside the enemy’s lines and not within miles of where it was laid down on the map with which I was furnished to guide me. The map was found to be utterly worthless, the only roads laid down on it being widely out of the way. Colonel morgan succeeded in obtaining some negro fides, and on his communicating to me the information he had obtained from them. I decided that the speediest way to get to the position I was directed to occupy would by to turn the head of the column from the Prince George court-House road toward old Court-House, and then by a cross-road get behind Harrison’s Creek as laid down on the map. None of the inhabitants could or would give any information concerning the location of this creek. Accordingly Birney’s and Gibbon’s divisions were turned to the right, leaving the Prince George Court-House road, within six miles of Petersburg, before 3 p. m. Barlow’s division with the train marched by the Old Court-House on a shorter road, which the head of his column had barely passed. At 5.30 p. m., as the column neared Old Court-House, Birney being about one mile distant, a dispatch from General Grant, addressed to General Gibbon or any division commander of the Second Corps, reached me. This dispatch directed all haste to be made in getting up to the assistance of General Smith, who it stated had attacked Petersburg and carried the outer works in front of that city. A few moments later a note from General Smith was delivered to me by one of his staff, which informed me that he (General Smith) was authorized by Lieutenant General Grant to call upon me for assistance and requesting me to come up as rapidly as passible. Fortunately these dispatches were received just when the head of Birney’s division was passing a country road leading directly toward Petersburg, and the column (Birney’s and Gibbon’s troops) was turned in that direction. No time had been lost on the march during the day although it was excessively hot. The road was covered with clouds of dust, and but little water was found on the route, causing severe suffering among the men.

I desire to say here that the messages from Lieutenant-General Grant and from General Smith, which I received between 5 and 6 p. m. on the 15th, were the first and only intimations I had that Petersburg was to be attacked that day. Up to that hour I had not been notified from any source that I was expected to assist General Smith in assaulting that city. Some artillery firing had been heard for many hours in the direction of Petersburg, and careful inquiry was made during they day of the inhabitants as to its cause, but the only information I could get on the subject was that General Kautz’s cavalry, with some artillery, had passed toward Petersburg; I attributed the firing to some reconnaissance or raid by that officer.

I have been particular in describing the incidents of the march of my command on the 15th, because I conceive that undue importance has been attached to the fact that my troops did not arrive in front of Petersburg at an earlier hour on that evening, which has been given as a reason that the city was not taken that evening, and because I believe that the circumstances attending the movements of my troops on that day have never yet been fully explained. I informed the major-general commanding the Army of the Potomac on the 15th that I was supplied with rations for one day, and had I then been notified that Petersburg was to be assaulted on the 15th the delay occasioned

by waiting for rations at Wind-Mill Point would have been immaterial; but notwithstanding that delay I could have joined General Smith by marching directly toward him at Petersburg by 4 p. m. I was even, as I have before mentioned, at a point six miles from that city on the Prince George Court-House road at 3 p. m.

My troops received no rations until the 16th, when they occupied the works in front of Petersburg, the rations having been sent to City Point. I spent the best hours of the day on the 15th in marching by an incorrect map in search of a designated position, which, as described, was not in existence or could not be found.

When Birney and Gibbon turned off toward Petersburg, orders were sent to General Barlow to march toward the same point by the nearest route from Old Court-House, but by some misapprehension his division took the City Point road and was not brought up to Petersburg until daylight the next morning. As soon as Lieutenant-General Grant’s note, directing me to hasten to the assistance of General Smith, reached me, I sent my chief of staff to inform General Smith of the whereabouts of my column, and to assure him that I was marching to his support with all dispatch. At 6.30 p. m. the head of Birney’s division had arrived at the Bryant house, on Bailey’s Creek, about one mile in rear of the position of Hinks’ division, of the Eighteenth Corps. Leaving Birney and Gibbon instructions to move forward as soon as they could ascertain at what point their assistance was required, I rode forward to the field, where I met General Smith, who described to me the operations of the day, and pointed out as well as he could in the dusk of the evening the position of the enemy’s lines he had carried. I now informed him that two divisions of my troops were close at hand and ready for any further movements which in his judgment and knowledge of the field should be made. General Smith requested me to relieve his troops in the front line of works which he had carried, so that the enemy should encounter fresh should they attempt their recapture. He was then of the opinion that the enemy had been reenforced during the evening. In accordance with this request, I at once directed Birney and Gibbon to move up and occupy the captured earth-works from the Friend house, on the right, to the Dunn house, on the left of the Prince George road. By the time this movement was completed it was 11 p. m., too late and dark for any immediate advance. At midnight I instructed Generals Birney and Gibbon that if any commanding points were held by the enemy between their positions and the Appomattox they should be attacked and taken at or before daylight. I was extremely anxious that all the ground between my line and the river should be in our possession before the enemy could get his heavy re-enforcements up. These instructions were not promptly complied with, and it was not until about 6 a. m. on the 16th that Generals Birney and Gibbon advanced to reconnoiter the ground in their front, by which time the enemy had moved a considerable body of fresh troops on the field, had occupied the large redoubt and rifle-pits in front of the Avery house, and had greatly strengthened their positions at all important points. During this first advance on the morning of the 16th, Egan’s brigade, of Birney’s division, made a spirited attack upon the enemy, who held a small redoubt on Birney’s which was carried by Egan in his usual intrepid manner. Barlow’s division arrived on the field about daylight, and took position on Birney’s left, extending toward the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad.

Between the hours of 11 and 12 on the night of the 15th, after Birney and Gibbon had relieved the troops of General Smith on his front line,

I had a dispatch from General Grant directing me to move up to Smith’s division, stating that General Butler understood that I had halted at Bailey’s Creek instead of at Harrison’s Creek, where I had been directed to go. It is proper to say here that my troops had only halted at Bailey’s Creek long enough for me to see General Smith and to inform myself as to the point on the battle-field at which they would be most serviceable; when I had obtained such information the troops were immediately marched to the front. The same dispatch from Lieutenant-General Grant stated that the enemy were then throwing re-enforcements into Petersburg, and instructed me that should Petersburg not fall on the night of the 15th it would be advisable for General Smith and myself to take up a defensive position and maintain it until all of our forces came up. These directions of the lieutenant-general were carried out; the earth-works captured by General Smith were turned against the enemy, artillery was brought up and placed in them, and all preparations were made to prevent their recapture.

During the forenoon of the 16th I was instructed by Lieutenant-General Grant, in the absence of General Meade and himself, to take command of all the troops in front of Petersburg, and to push forward a reconnoitering force in my front for the purpose of discovering the most favorable point at which to make an attack. I was ordered to be prepared to commence the attack at 6 p. m. In the mean time General Burnside had been directed to mass his corps upon my left, in readiness to assist in an assault upon the enemy when it should be determined, or to aid me in the event of my being assailed. The reconnaissance ordered by General Grant was made by General Birney on the left of the Prince George road, and in front of the hill on which the Hare house stood, which was then held by the enemy. It was decided by Major-general Meade, who had now arrived upon the field, that the attack should be made at that point. Very sharp skirmishing, accompanied by artillery fire, continued along my front until 6 p. m., when, in accordance with instructions from the major-general commanding, I directed Generals Birney, barlow, and Gibbon to advance and assault the enemy in front and to the left of the Hare house. My troops were supported by two brigades of the ninth Corps and by two of the Eighteenth Corps. The advance was spirited and forcible, and resulted, after a fierce conflict, in which our troops suffered heavily, in driving the enemy back some distance along our whole line. The severe fighting ceased at dark, although the enemy made several vigorous attempts during the night to retake the ground which he had lost; in this, however was foiled, as our troops had entrenched themselves at dark and repelled all efforts to dislodge them. Among the many casualties during this engagement was the gallant commander of the Irish Brigade, Colonel Patrick Kelly, Eighty-eighth New York Volunteers, who was killed at the head of his command while intrepidly leading it to the charge. Colonel James A. Beaver, One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, was severely wounded while performing his duty with his accustomed conspicuous bravery.

On the morning of the 17th General Barlow advanced against the enemy in conjunction with General Burnside, and succeeded in pushing forward his line considerably after some sharp fighting. Birney and Gibbon on the right also moved forward, driving the enemy from the hill on which the Hare house stood and occupied it. (Fort Stedman was afterward erected on that hill.) The enemy made frequent

efforts to retake the Hare house the day, but were handsomely repelled on each occasion. in the evening, about 6 p. m., General Barlow again participated in an attack with General Burnside’s corps, in which Barlow’s division lost heavily in killed, wounded, and prisoners.

The night of the 17th of June I was compelled to turn over my command of disability from my wound, which during the entire campaign had given me great annoyance, and at times had prevented me from taking that active part in the movement of my troops which I desired to do. I relinquished the command to Major-General Birney, the next senior general officer present in my corps, who conducted its operations until the 27th of June, when, having partially recovered, I again assumed the command. From that date until the 26th of July my troops were engaged in the arduous and dangerous duties incident to the siege operations in front of Petersburg; severe and almost constant labor (much of it during the night) was required from the men in erecting the formidable earth-works which were thrown up in front of that town. While performing these exhausting labors, the troops were at al times to a heavy artillery fire and to the enemy’s sharpshooters, from which a long list of casualties resulted daily.

The losses in action in the Second Corps during the period included in this report were over 6,000 men killed, wounded, and missing, as will be shown by the following tabular statement:

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The casualties of the Eighth Ohio and First Delaware Volunteers are not included in the above table, as no reports of their losses have been furnished corps headquarters.

The conspicuous valor and good conduct of the officers and men under my command during the marches, battles, and siege operations embraced in this epoch of the campaign, gave me complete satisfaction and merit the highest commendation. As I have already stated in my reports of this campaign, it is impossible, owing to the fact that I have received so few reports from my subordinate commanders, for me to mention in detail the names of all the officers and men of my command who were specially distinguished for marked bravery and meritorious conduct.

The following general officers, commanders of brigades and divisions, are entitled to my thanks for their distinguished and valuable services: The late Major General D. B. Birney, then commanding Third Division, Second Corps; Brigadier-General (now Brevet Major-General) barlow, commanding First Division; Major-General Gibbon, commanding Second Division; Brigadier-General Mott, commanding Third Brigade, Third Division; Brigadier-General (now Major-General) Miles, commanding First Brigade, First Division; Colonel (now brevet Major-

General) Egan, commanding [First] Brigade, Third Division; Colonel (now General)Pierce, commanding Third [First] Brigade, Second Division. Colonel J. C. Tidball, Fourth New York Heavy Artillery, chief of artillery, conducted himself with marked intrepidity; the artillery under his command performed most effective service throughout the campaign. The batteries attached to the Second Corps were ably and gallantly commanded.

The following officers of my staff deserve special mention for bravery and faithful performance of duties: Lieutenant Colonel (now brig. General) C. H. Morgan, chief of staff; Major (now Bvt. Brigadier General) W. G. Mitchell, aide-de-camp; Surt. (now Bvt. Lieutenant Colonel) N. A. Dougherty, medical director, Second Corps; Lieutenant Colonel (now Bvt. Colonel) F. A. Walker, assistant adjutant-general, Second Corps; Lieutenant Colonel (now Colonel) R. N. Batchelder, chief quartermaster, Second Corps; Lieutenant Colonel (now Bvt. Brigadier General) J. S. Smith, chief commissary of subsistence, Second Corps; Major S. O. Bull, provost-marshal, Second Corps; Major A. W. Angel, acting topographical engineer, second Corps; Captain (now Bvt. Lieutenant Colonel) I. B. Parker, aide-de-camp; Captain (now Bvt. Major) W. De W. Miller, aide-de-camp; Captain (now Bvt. Lieutenant Colonel) W. P. Wilson, acting assistant adjutant-general; the late Captain E. P. Brownson, commissary of musters, second Corps; Captain (now Bvt. Major) C. S. McEntee, assistant quartermaster, and Captain Taylor, chief signal officer, Second Corps.

I have the honor to transmit herewith all of the reports received by me from subordinates who served under my command from May 3 until July 26, 1864.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

WINF’D S. HANCOCK,

Major-General of Volunteers.

ASSISTANT ADJUTANT-GENERAL, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.

P. S. -On the 18th of June General Birney, commanding Second Corps, made a heavy assault upon the enemy’s position on the right and left of the Prince George road, during which barlow’s Gibbon’s and Mott’s divisions lost heavily. I can give no details of this day’s action, and only mention it for the reason that in consideration of the death of General Birney no reports of the operations of the second Corps on the 18th of June were ever written, I believe.
HEADQUARTERS SECOND ARMY CORPS,
Near Petersburg, Va., November 11, 1864.

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the troops under my command on the north side of the James River from the 26th until the 29th of July, 1864:

On the afternoon of the 26th of July, about 4 o’clock, the head of my command, consisting of Gibbon’s, barlow’s, and Mott’s division, left its camp near the Deserted House for Point of rocks, the column moving well to the rear to avoid being seen by the enemy. Just after dark we crossed the appomattox by the pontoon bridge at Point of Rocks and proceeded to Deep Bottom, taking a rather difficult road to the left in order that the cavalry, which was crossing at Broadway Landing, might have an unobstructed road to Deep Bottom. Through the kindness of General Butler the road had been picketed, and small fires built

to facilitate our march. I arrived at deep Bottom a short time in advance of my command and met General Sheridan, commanding the cavalry, at the headquarters of Brigadier-General Foster, tenth Corps, whose command held the bridge-heads on the north side of the James. My instructions were to move rapidly from Deep Bottom toward Chaffin’s Bluff, and take up a position to prevent the enemy from crossing troops to the north side, and to hold the position while General Sheridan moved to the Virginia Central Railroad with two divisions of cavalry. Further than this my movements were to be contingent upon General Sheridan’s success in operating toward Richmond. The success of this movement depended upon the contingency that the enemy’s works would be thinly occupied, and the movement a surprise.

The information I derived from conversation with General Foster was briefly as follows: The upper and lower pontoon bridges were above and below Four-Mile Run, impassable near its mouth. The enemy held, apparently in considerable force, a strong position near the upper bridge, while their line appeared to terminate nearly opposite the lower bridge. The original plan was that the Second corps should cross the upper bridge while the cavalry was crossing the lower. After consulting with General Sheridan, however, and referring the matter to the major-general commanding for his approval, I determined to cross the infantry at the lower bridge and turn the enemy’s position, while General Foster with his force threatened the enemy in his front. The cavalry was directed to cross the river immediately after the Second Corps; the infantry commenced crossing about 2 a. m. on the 27th, and was massed behind a belt of oak timber near the bridge. As soon as possible after daylight an advance was ordered, the First Division, Brigadier-General Barlow commanding, leading. At the same time a strong skirmish line from the Third Division was thrown out to our right to feel the woods bordering the New Market and Malvern Hill road, and one from general Gibbon’s division in the timber along the bank of Four-Mile Run. The skirmish line of the Third Division from De Trobriand’s brigade, consisting of the Ninety-ninth and One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, became sharply engaged and was re-enforced by the Seventy-third New York Volunteers. Meanwhile the skirmish line of Miles’ brigade, of Barlow’s division (composed of the One hundred and eighty-third Pennsylvania, Twenty-eighth Massachusetts, and Twenty-sixth Michigan Volunteers), under command of Colonel J. C. Lynch, One hundred and eighty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, engaged the enemy farther to the left, driving him into the rifle-pits along the New Market and Malvern Hill road, and by a well executed movement captured four 20-pounder Parrot guns, with their caissons, and drove the enemy from their works. The skirmishers of General Foster’s force at the bridge had joined in this advance. The enemy held this line weakly, and when broken retreated in such haste that few prisoners were taken. As rapidly as the troops could be brought forward in the country, about which we then knew nothing, they were pushed up the New Market and Malvern Hill road in pursuit of the enemy, the Second Division in advance. The enemy brought a battery out opposite General Mott on our extreme right, but it was soon driven off by the fire of our artillery and General Mott’s skirmish line, and retreated by a cross-road to the New Market and Long Bridge road. When we arrived at Bailey’s Creek the enemy were found posted on the opposite bank in well-constructed works, in a position offering great advantages for defense. Bailey’s Creek is so much of an obstacle

that a line of battle could not well cross in under fire, and the distance from the creek to the works was about 1,000 yards, the intervening ground being perfectly open. The works appeared to be filled with men, and a number of pieces of artillery were in position. After a careful examination of the position it was decided that the chances of successful assault were unfavorable, and it was determined to maneuver to the right, with the view of turning the position. Meanwhile the cavalry had moved to the right toward Malvern Hill and to the front on the New Market and Long Bridge road. Gibbon’s division held the advance position on the New Market and Malvern Hill road while Barlow’s and Mott’s divisions were pushed forward to the New Market and Long Bridge, connecting with the cavalry near the fork of the Central road. General Barlow, commanding First Division, made a close reconnaissance of the enemy’s line, but was unable to find the flank. The cavalry, by one or two spirited charges on my right, gained possession of some high open ground, which it was hoped might enable them to get in rear of the enemy’s line, but, as subsequently ascertained, the enemy’s line was refused on this flank, turning sharply to their left near Fussell’s Mill. About 3. 30 p. m. Lieutenant-General Grant visited the line, but I did not see him. Having examined the position, he left me a note stating that he did not see that much could be done, but that if it was possible for me to roll up the enemy’s left toward Chaffin’s Bluff, and thus release our cavalry, he desired it done. He stated that according to his information the enemy had in my front seven brigades of infantry and a small force of cavalry. Night coming on put a stop to further operations.

During the night of the 27th I received intelligence that the enemy were re-enforcing from the south side of the James. Birge’s brigade, of the Tenth [Nineteenth] Corps (a little over 2,500 strong), reported to me early on the morning of the 28th and relieved Gibbon’s division from its advanced position on the New Market and Malvern Hill road. General Sheridan was also placed under my orders and it was decided that he should advance up the Central or Charles City road, if either could be opened. Brigadier-General Foster was directed by General Butler to make a vigorous demonstration in his immediate front to attack as many of the enemy as possible to that point. By a telegram from General grant to General Meade (a copy of which reached me at 10 o’clock on the morning of the 27th), I was informed that General Grant did not desire me to attack the enemy’s works, but to turn their position. The dispatch expressed the opinion of General Grant that the cavalry by going well out might turn the enemy’s flank. Preparations were made to carry out the views of General Grant, but it become evident at an early hour that the enemy having been largely re-enforce would assume the offensive, and they were discovered moving to my right in strong force about 8 a. m. The fire of the gun-boats in the river was directed on the enemy by means of signals, and was effective in changing the direction of their march. About 10 a. m. the cavalry skirmish line was driven in on the New Market and Long Bridge road and on the crossroad leading over the Charles City road by Ruffin’s house, and a vigorous attack was made by the enemy upon our cavalry at both points, which compelled it to retire some distance. Gibbon’s division was hurried up to the support of the cavalry, but before it arrived the attacking force of the enemy had been disposed of by a gallant advance of our cavalry (dismounted), driving the enemy over a mile, capturing nearly 200 prisoners and several colors. The prisoners belonged

to Kershaw’s division of infantry. Gregg’s division of cavalry effected its withdrawal from the Charles City road after a sharp fight with the enemy’s infantry, losing one gun. anticipating a more determined attack, I changed the disposition of my lines. Gibbon’s division held the approaches to the New Market and Long Bridge road, while the cavalry was withdrawn to cover the New Market and Malvern Hill road. The enemy having been reported as passing toward Malvern Hill, a garrison was placed in the bridge-head at the lower bridge by General Foster, and artillery placed in position under my direction to prevent the enemy from cutting me off from the river. As soon as this was accomplished the infantry was withdrawn to a line following the general direction of the New Market and Malvern Hill road. Repeated dispatches showing that the enemy were concentrating against me were furnished me, and I made every preparation to receive them. They made no further demonstration during the day, however, other than to crowd the cavalry skirmishers a little. On the afternoon of the 28th Generals Grant and Meade visited my line, and I was instructed to send General Mott’s division that night to Petersburg to report to Major-General Ord, for the purpose of relieving the Eighteenth Corps from the line of entrenchments. I continued holding the line during the 29th with the remaining divisions of my corps, Birge’s brigade, of the Tenth [Nineteenth] Corps, and Sheridan’s cavalry. Having attracted to my front so large a portion of Lee’s army, Lieutenant-General Grant thought it a favorable time to assault of Petersburg, and I was therefore instructed to proceed to that place with remainder of my command.

Soon after dark on the 29th, in accordance with instructions, I with drew the entire command from Deep Bottom and reported with the two division of my corps at Petersburg on the morning of the 30th in time to witness the explosion of the mine. General Birge was directed to report to his proper command, and General Sheridan crossed the appomattox at Broadway Landing and proceeded to carry out the special instructions given him by the major-general commanding.

Having received no reports from Generals Sheridan and Birge I am not able to give more than a general statement of their operations.

General Sheridan’s command deserves particular commendation for its successful affair the enemy’s infantry on the 28th.

In my own command special mention is made subordinate commanders of the Ninety-ninth and One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, under Colonel Biles, for good conduct in the skirmish on the 27th, in which they suffered severely. Also of the Twenty-eight Massachusetts, Twenty-sixth Michigan, and One hundred and eighty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, under command of Colonel Lynch, of the One hundred and eighty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers. The lastnamed regiments captured the enemy’s battery of four 20-pounder Parrotts as heretofore mentioned.

I append herewith a statement of casualties in my own corps during the foregoing operations. I regret that the absence of reports from Generals Sheridan and Birge makes it impossible for me to include a statement of the casualties in their respective commands.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

WINF’D S. HANCOCK,

Major-General of Volunteers.

Brigadier General S. WILLIAMS,

Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.

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HEADQUARTERS SECOND ARMY CORPS,
August 3, 1864.

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the operations of this corps on the 30th ultimo:

On the evening of the 29th an order was received directing the corps to recross the James and take up a position in rear of the entrenched line of the Eighteenth Corps in readiness to move as might be directed. General Mott’s division had moved the night before to the vicinity of Petersburg, for the purpose of relieving the Eighteenth Corps. This corps was then in line of battle on the north side of the James, along the New Market and Malvern Hill road, its left near Bailey’s Creek, connecting on the right with the cavalry under General Sheridan, which extended to Malvern Hill. The necessary orders were given for the withdrawal of both commands. It was hoped that two bridges might be available for the command, but this not being the case the command crossed on one bridge, the infantry commencing at 8.30 p. m. and occupying the bridge till nearly 11, two brigades of cavalry crossing meanwhile. The head of column reached the Appomattox a few minutes before 1 on the morning of the 30th, and by daylight the rear of column had passed Spring Hill. The leading division (General Gibbon’s) commenced moving in rear of the Eighteenth Corps line, then held by General Mott’s division of this corps, about 3.45 a. m. On arriving at General Mott’s headquarters I was informed by General Mott that General Ord had desired him to report to me in his name that himself and division commanders had concluded that it was not practicable to attack in front of the Eighteenth Corps, owing to the nature of the obstructions the enemy had placed in front of their works, and that he had so reported to the major-general commanding the Army of the Potomac. About 6 a. m. I received the following dispatch by telegraph from Burnside’s:

JULY 30, 1864-6 a. m.

Major-General HANCOCK,

Commanding Second Army Corps:

The major-general commanding directs me to say that General Burnside reports the enemy’s line in his front a abandoned, and the prisoners taken say that there is no second line. The commanding general may call on you to move forward any moment, and wishes you to have your troops well up to the front, prepared to move. Do the enemy’s lines in front of Mott’s division appear to be thinly occupied, and is there any chance to push forward there?

A. A. HUMPHREYS,

Major-General and Chief of Staff.

A demonstration was made along the whole line occupied by General Mott and it was found the enemy had not apparently weakened this

line. Colonel Madill, commanding the center brigade, reported that not a man had moved to our left since daylight. The picket-firing was at all times very sharp at this point, and it was doubtless to examine the enemy’s line closely. At 7 a. m. I received the following dispatch by telegraph from Burnside’s headquarters:

JULY 30, 1864-7 a. m.

Major-General HANCOCK:

The reports from prisoners would indicate a weakness in the enemy’s line, and that a considerable portion of it has been vacated. If Burnside and Ord gain the crest the enemy cannot hold in your front, for they will be open to attack from front and rear. It was to take advantage of this contingency that I wanted to have your troops in hand. The orders to Mott all right. If the enemy are in force and prepared you will have to wait developments, but if you have reason to believe their condition is such that an effort to dislodge them would be successful I would like to have it made. Burnside now occupies their line, but has not pushed up to crest, though he reports he is about doing so.

GEO. G. MEADE,

Major-General, Commanding.

I had a careful watch on the whole line that I might take advantage of any attempt of the enemy to re-enforce from my part, but no change was apparent and every demonstration from my line was met with such vigor and show of strength that I saw no opportunity of an advance promising success. At 9.40 a. m. I received a dispatch stating that offensive operations were suspended and requiring me to hold the line of the Eighteenth Corps in force. Preparations were made for placing the whole corps in the line at dusk, but the above order being changed, the corps resumed during the night its position in the vicinity of the Deserted House, General Mott being relieved by the Eighteenth Corps.

The casualties on the 30th were:

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I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

WINF’D S. HANCOCK,

Major-General, Commanding.

Brigadier General S. WILLIAMS,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

ADDENDA.

NEAR PETERSBURG, VA., June 26, 1864.

Brigadier General S. WILLIAMS,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac:

GENERAL: Having seen one of the late published telegrams of the Secretary of War in reference to the advance of the army on Petersburg, which stated that the Second Corps arrived in front of that town at 3 a. m. on the 16th, I felt aggrieved from its official nature, because such statement did not agree with facts in the case, and I knew that it must have been derived from official sources of information. The inference was, that the reason why Petersburg was not taken on

the 15th was that the Second Corps did not arrive upon the field at the proper time. I concluded, however, to let the matter rest, hoping that Petersburg would be taken subsequently by the vehement efforts of the Second and other corps, and not desiring to agitate the question as to whether it should have been carried on the 15th or not. To-day I have seen an article taken from the New York Times, dated June 21, 1864, in reference to the same subject, in which it would appear that the operation was to have been a joined effort between the Second and Eighteenth Corps, and that the reason that the town was not carried was that the Second Corps did not arrive in time. There are erroneous statements in this article prejudicial to my command and to myself, and although were faults committed that day which would fall upon my subordinates, I claim that, if Petersburg was garrisoned at that time only as is now believed, that it should have been captured by the Eighteenth Corps, which was directed to assault the town, with, I believe, 15,000 men, and certainly with the assistance of the two divisions of the Second Corps which I offered to General Smith just after dark on the 15th, these two divisions being then massed at Bryant’s house on the left and rear of General Hinks’ division, about one mile from General Smith’s front line. Had I arrived before dark, and been able to have seen the ground myself, I should have taken decisive action; but not knowing anything of the locality, nor what portion of the works General Smith had carried (for at the time of my arrival he did not know precisely himself what portion of the enemy’s works were occupied by his troops), and relying upon his judgment, and desiring not to interfere with his honors, as he was directed to take the place, I offered my advance troops to him, to use according to his knowledge and discretion, he having seen the position in daylight. General Smith requested me to relieve the greater portion of his line in order to prevent an attempt to retake the works the enemy. He stated to me at the time of my interview him that he believed the enemy to have been re-enforced during the evening. My troops completely established themselves in position on the front line, relieving General Smith’s troops, before midnight.

At 12.25 a. m. on the 16th, understanding the necessity of driving the enemy across the Appomattox before morning, I issued an order with that intent. This order was not executed for reasons which may be explained by an investigation. Had I been in perfect health, and able to endure all the fatigues incident to the march, I might have corrected many errors that were committed; but as I know that every effort was made to carry out the views of the commanding general of the Army of the Potomac, and of the lieutenant-general commanding the Armies of the United States, by the Second Corps, so far as I was concerned, and as there appears to be an improper attempt to place the failure to capture Petersburg on the 15th on my command, I respectfully ask for an investigation on this subject.

I received more than one communication from Lieutenant-General Grant on that which were erroneously based, but I did not reply to them, as I was directing all my efforts to get my command to the desired point. These facts can be shown at any moment by orders and telegrams in my possession, but after the occurrences had passed I did not think it necessary to reply to them in detail.

I am preparing copies of the orders and instructions received by me on the 15th, with a statement of the action taken, which I will forward.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

WINF’D S. HANCOCK,

Major-General, U. S. Volunteers.

[Indorsement.]
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
June 27, 1864.

Respectfully forwarded for the action of the lieutenant-general commanding, inasmuch as the occurrences to which Major-General Hancock refers took place on the evening of the 15th and morning of the 16th before my arrival on the field and assumption of the command of the Eighteenth Corps agreeably to the instructions of the lieutenant-general commanding.

Had Major-General Hancock and myself been apprised in time of the contemplated movement against Petersburg, and the necessity of his co-operation, I am of the opinion he could have been pushed much earlier to the scene of operations, but as matters occurred and with our knowledge of them I do not see how any censure can be attached to General Hancock and his corps.

GEO. G. MEADE,

Major-General, Commanding.
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES,
City Point, Va., June 28, 1864.

Major-General Meade:

GENERAL: The communication of General Hancock [June 26], inclosing a newspaper article and asking for an investigation of the conduct of the Second Corps and its commander, in the affair of the 15th instant, with your indorsement, is received. No investigation can now be had without great prejudice to the service, nor do I think an investigation necessary at any time. The reputation of the Second Corps and its commander is so high, both with the public and in the army in the army, that an investigation could not add to it. It cannot 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. I am very much mistaken if you were not informed of the contemplated movement against Petersburg as soon as I returned to Wilcox’s Landing from bermuda Hundred, and that the object of getting the Second Corps up without waiting for the supply train to come up to issue rations to them, was that they might be on hand if required. I arranged to have rations sent down from Bermuda Hundred to issue as the troops crossed. Finding they did not arrive I then directed that the corps should march without them, and arranged that the rations should be sent in wagons from Bermuda Hundred to meet them on the road. This is not said in any spirit of fault-finding for any delay, for there was no fault to be found in what was done either by the Second Corps, its commander, or the commander of the Army of the Potomac.

The only delay that I know of was an hour or two arising from the report that the provisions which had been ordered down by water had arrived, and details from the different divisions that had already crossed had come to the river to draw them. This was after the order had been given to march without them, but I believe before the troops had received the order.*

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*Original is in General Grant’s handwriting unsigned, and filed with General Hacock’s letter of June 26, 1864. It does not appear in Letters Sent Books, headquarters Armies of the United States, or in the Letters Received Books, headquarters Army of the Potomac.

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Copy of daily memoranda* taken at headquarters of the Second Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, during the campaign commencing May 3, 1864, with copies of messages, dispatches, &c. The Army of the Potomac commanded by Lieutenant General U. S. grant in person, Major-General Meade second in command.

W. G. MITCHELL,

Major and Aide-de-Camp to Major-General Hancock.

FIFTH EPOCH.

June 12, 1864. -Orders received this p. m. to be ready to march tonight, which is very agreeable to all of us, as there seems to be no hope of breaking the enemy’s lines here, they are so strong and powerfully garrisoned. 11 p. m., the movement of Second Corps commenced, First Division taking the lead, moving in direction of Long Bridge, over the Chickahominy. Withdrawal from our lines effected very quietly and promptly. The pickets to remain on our lines, under command of Colonel Hammell, Sixty-sixth New York Volunteers, officer of the day, until the line of battle is completely withdrawn, then to follow the corps. Major Nelson, aide -de-camp, directed by the general to remain with Colonel Hammell. Marched all night-men officers very weary.

June 13, 1864. – Head of column reached pontoon bridge over Chickahominy at Long Bridge at 9.30 a. m., and immediately commenced crossing, General Birney in advance, having been directed to pass First and Second Divisions to permit then to cook breakfast. 11 a. m., wrote note, by direction of General Hancock, to General Gibbon to protect pontoon bridge over Chickahominy until it was taken up. Marched rapidly all day. Head of column reached James River, near Wilcox’s Landing, at 5.30 p. m. Corps formed line of battle for the night. Preparations making for transporting the troops over the James to-morrow.

June 14, 1864. -11.10 a. m., Birney’s troops commenced moving on board the transports and crossing James River, disembarking at Wind-Mill Point and at upper landing. Crossing of troops (infantry and artillery) continued all day and night, Gibon’s division following, Birney’s and Barlow’s following Gibbon’s. considering the facilities at hand the troops have been transported across the stream with remark able promptitude and success.

June 15, 1864. -5 a. m., the last regiment of the corps has just been landed on the south side of the James. The whole corps now ready to move when ordered. We remained from 5 a. m. until 10.30 a. m. waiting for the arrival of 60,000 rations of the corps which General Butler was to send from City Point. Orders received in the mean time to march toward Petersburg after we had received rations. As no rations arrived the head of the column (General Birney’s division) moved out in direction of Petersburg at 10.30 a. m. or rather in the direction of Harrison’s Creek, near Petersburg. A map which was furnished General Hancock to march by found to be exceedingly defective. Day intensely hot and roads dusty; the men suffering terribly for water during the march, many of them giving out along the road. Had a row with a straggler from one of the heavy artillery regiments, whom I found in a deserted house deliberately engaged in a library (upstairs) tearing up the books and throwing them on the floor. I struck him with my saber and ordered him to his regiment, when he seized his musket from a corner of the room, bayonet fixed, and plunged right at me. I knocked his

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*For portion of memoranda (here omitted) covering operations from May 3 to June 11, 1864, see Vol. XXXVI, Part I, p. 350.

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musket to one side and gave him a slash over the head with my saber, opening his head and knocking him clear down a flight of stairs, musket and all, and before I could get down to him he scrambled up and made off toward the column, and i could not overtake him. These straggling scoundrels, murderers, and pillagers should all be shot or hung by the provost-marshal. 5.25 p. m., General Hancock received dispatch from General Grant addressed to him (General Hancock) or to General Gibbon, commanding Second Division, stating that General Smith had carried the outer works of the enemy in front of Petersburg, and directed general Hancock to proceed to assistance of General Smith as rapidly as possible. 5.50 p. m., General Hancock received dispatch from General Smith (William F.), by the hands of Captain Livermore, saying that he (General Smith) was authorized by General Grant to call upon the Second Corps for assistance, and requesting General Hancock to move up as rapidly as possible. We were already marching with the utmost expedition. We could now hear the artillery at Petersburg and the men stepped out briskly. 6.30 p. m., General Birney’s division arrived at Bryant’s house, on Bailey’s Creek, in front of Petersburg, near Hink’s division, eighteenth Corps, Gibbon’s division immediately in rear of Birney’s. Rode forward with General Hancock to where Generals Smith and Brooks were; found they had captured a portion of the enemy’s line of works with 17 pieces of artillery. None of Lee’s army in the works yet (so its said); they were defended by citizens and local troops around Petersburg. As soon as General Hancock met General Smith he told him that Birney ‘s and Gibbon’s divisions, of the Second Corps, were at his service for any place he wished them; stating at the same time that he made the offer of the troops in question for the reason that it was now getting dark and be could not well see the position of the lines, and that General Smith having been on the ground all day knew just what was required to be done. General Smith replied that all he wished general Hancock to do was to relieve his troops of the Eighteenth Corps from their position in the captured works. General Hancock, General Smith, and General Brooks then rode out to the captured works with their staff officers. On the way General Hancock directed me to return to Bryant’s house and bring up Gibbon’s division to the works; a staff officer also sent to General Birney with same instructions. returned immediately to General Gibbon with General Gibbon with General Hancock’s orders, who at once put his troops in motion and moved up to the designated point, occupying the works, his right resting in the captured redoubt on the crest, on left of the Fiend house; his left connecting with General Birney’s division, which also came up at the Dunn house. Both division in position in works at 11. 30 p. m. 12 midnight, Barlow’s divisions not yet up. Evidently has taken the wrong road and got lost.

June 16, 1864.- 12.25 a. m., by direction of General Hancock I wrote the following instructions to Generals Birney and Gibbon:
HEADQUARTERS SECOND CORPS,
June 16, 1864-12.25 a. m.

General GIBBON and

General BIRNEY:

GENERAL: If there are any points in your front commanding your position now occupied by the enemy the major-general commanding directs that they be taken at or before daylight, preferably before, as it is desirable to prevent the enemy from holing any points between us and the Appomattox. It is thought there are one or two such points. General Barlow will soon be up, and will mass in rear of General Gibbon’s left.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. G. MITCHELL,

Major and Aide-de-Camp.

Delivered the above to General Gibbon about 1 a. m. General Birney also received a copy by the hands of a staff officer. Night

cold. At daybreak rode around the lines with the general. Met Captain Marlin, of General Barlow’s staff, who reported that General Barlow’s division had arrived on the field. General Barlow took the wrong road yesterday, and marched nearly to City Point before the mistake was discovered. Barlow’s division placed on left of Birney, extending out in direction of norfolk road. About 8 a. m. Birney advanced a brigade and drove the enemy back some distance in front and to left of Dunn’s house. Lee’s army coming up rapidly and occupying the works in our front. Sharp skirmishing all day. 6 p.m., Generals barlow and Birney assaulted enemy’s lines, but did not succeed in breaking through. Barlow and Birney, supported by portions of ninth and Eighteenth Corps, two brigades of each. Two brigades of Eighteenth Corps and one brigade of Ninth Corps sent to General Birney; one brigade of Ninth Corps sent to General Barlow. Fighting continued at intervals all night. Our loss heavy in killed and wounded. General Burnside’s corps (Ninth), fighting on our left. Enemy threw an immense number of shot and shell during the night.

June 17, 1864. – General Burnside attacked at daybreak on General Barlow’s left, capturing some artillery and prisoners. No assaults made by Second Corps to-day. enemy made several attacks on General Birney’s line, not in great force, however, and were always repulsed. About 3 p. m. General Burnside again attacked on our left, but was compelled to retire. barlow also engaged in this attack.

June 18, 1864. – General Birney m command of Second Corps, General Hancock being compelled to relinquish command on account of his wound which he received at Gettysburg. His wound has been suppurating all summer, and giving him great pain, and now compels him to remain in his tent. 4 a. m., an attack ordered by Second, Ninth, and Fifth Corps. Shortly after 4 a. m. General Birney advanced, and at 5 a. m. sent word to General Hancock that he had entered the enemy’s first line of works and found it evacuated. 12.15, General Gibbon assaulted in two lines, but did not succeed in carrying the works. 4 p. m., another assault by nine brigades, which did not succeed. Our loss very heavy in killed and wounded to day.

June 19, 1864. – General Birney in command of the corps. No operations of importance on the line of Second Corps to-day. Both armies busily engaged entrenching. The enemy already have very powerful redoubts, and rifle-pits (curtains) encircling Petersburg on this side of the river, either flank of those resting on the Appomattox, which appear to have been constructed some time since, in anticipation of an advance of our army in that direction.

June 20, 1864. – The musketry and artillery quite brisk in the trenches, but no assaults on the Second Corps line. Orders received for corps to move in direction of Norfolk and Petersburg road. Relieved in the trenches by other troops, and then moved to rear of Ninth Corps, where the corps was massed. General Hancock still unable to resume command.

June 21, 1864. – Corps moved to-day toward Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad, crossing that railroad near Deserted House, and striking Jerusalem plank road near Williams’ house, then took position on left of Fifth corps, about two miles from Weldon railroad. Corps headquarters established just in front of Jones’ house, near Jerusalem plank road. General Birney in command of corps.

June 22, 1864. – General Birney commanding corps. Major-General Meade, commanding Army of the Potomac, at corps headquarters in forenoon. Comparatively little firing until about 3 o’clock this p. m., when left of Second Corps was thrown forward, intending to connect with right of Sixth Corps, but such connection was not made; after having advanced some distance toward Weldon railroad, Barlow’s division (left of corps) was attacked on its left flank by the enemy, who had pushed in between it and Sixth Corps, the country being densely wooded, and thrown into great confusion, losing considerable in prisoners captured by the enemy. Barlow’s troops retired to the line held by them before advancing. The enemy then came forward on Gibbon’s and Mott’s fronts (Second and Third Divisions), and captured 4 guns, McKnight’s battery. Enemy finally and line re-established; skirmishing continued until dark. During the attack the enemy was at one time very close to corps headquarters, and their bullets struck among our tents. They also sent a great many round shot through our camp, one of them cutting a canteen from the side of a mounted orderly of doctor Dougherty, medical director of the corps. General Meade present during the attack. Skirmishing continued until dark.

June 23, 1864. – General Birney still in command on account of General Hancock’s wounds unfitting him for duty. Second Corps’ line connected with Sixth Corps’ line on our left. Headquarters established at Jones’ house near Jerusalem plank road; some skirmishing and artillery. Troops engaged in throwing up rifle-pits.

June 24, 1864. -No movement of importance by Second Corps. Some skirmishing on our front and enemy threw a number of shot in our direction, but did no damage. General Birney still in command.

June 25, 1864. – Same as yesterday; no movements.

June 26, 1864. – Same as yesterday.

June 27, 1864. – No movements of moment on Second Corps line to-day. General Hancock sufficiently recovered to resume command of the corps at 7 p. m.

June 28, 1864. – No movement by the corps to-day. Our line now connects with left of Crawford’s division, Fifth corps. General Meade visited corps’ headquarters to-day.

June 29, 1864. – Sixth Corps moved from left of Second toward Reams’ Station, on Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad.* General Gibbon occupied entrenchments vacated by Sixth Corps toward the Williams house. Lieutenant-Colonel Jones reported to General Hancock from army headquarters with detachment of cavalry 1,000 strong; took position in entrenchments between Williams’ house and Jerusalem plank road.

June 30, 1864. – Sixth Corps at Reams’ Station; General Ferrero reported to General Hancock with division of colored troops (Ninth Corps), and took position in entrenchments from General Gibbon’s left, near Williams’ house, to Jerusalem plank road. General Gibbon

moved to-night and increased the strength of his line.

July 1, 1864. – Nothing of importance. The usual picket and artillery firing making some casualties.

July 2, 1864. -Sixth Corps returned from Reams’ Station and took post again on left of Gibbon’s division in front of Williams’ house, covering Jerusalem plank road.

July 3, 1864. – No movements of any importance. All at work in the trenches.

July 4, 1864. – This is our National anniversary and we are having a more deadly struggle to-day for our national existence than our fore

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*Reams’ Station is on the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad.

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fathers had during the Revolution. Alas, that our present enemies should be our brothers, descendants of the men who resisted nobly the tyranny of England.

July 5, 6, 7, and 8, 1864. – Comparatively quiet, and very hot and dusty. The customary picket and artillery firing still goes on, with mortar shelling as an accompaniment. The shells from the mortars look very beautiful at night as they describe long arcs with burning fuses, passing from our lines to the enemy’s and from their position into our works, each one leaving a streaming tail of fire behind it. Sometimes we count as many as thirty of them in the air at the same time. Our men are protected from them and from other heavy missiles by strong bomb-proofs, so that we do not lose many killed or wounded by them. We have now immense earth-works with bomb-proofs, covered ways, &c., extending for many miles, crossing the Appomattox and James Rivers on our right and stretching away toward the South Side Railroad on our left. The enemy’s works are equally extended and formidable, and we now appear to have settled down to a siege of each other’s positions. The redoubts are immense on our line and all connected by curtains for infantry. There is a vast armament of artillery on both sides, which thunders away with noise enough to frighten the world, but does very little execution among the men. The fatigue is terrible to the men who are digging in the works, making new redoubts, curtains, covered ways, &c. Whole divisions of 10,000 men are detailed for fatigue duty at the same time. The works will soon form such a labyrinth that none but those who are in them daily will be able to find the way to front or when there to get out again.

July 9, 1864. – First and Second Divisions, Sixth Corps, moved from our left toward City Point. Second Corps occupied the line vacated by them, our line extending on the left nearly to Williams’ house. Mott’s brigade, Third Division, on left of General Gibbon, Second Division. General Ferrero’s division (colored troops) taking position on left of Mott’s brigade, extending over Jerusalem plank road.

July 11, 1864. – Orders received to move out of our rifle-pits to-night, to destroy the works in vicinity of Williams’ house, and to mass corps in vicinity of said house.

July 12, 1864. – Corps moved out at 3 o’clock this a. m. and massed in neighborhood of Williams’ house. Destroyed works in compliance with orders. 5.15 a. m., General Barlow ordered to move his division to cross-roads, four miles down Jerusalem plank road, in support of Gregg’s cavalry, which is farther out. General Gregg (D. McM.) placed under General Hancock’s orders temporarily. General Barlow afterward withdrawn to same position he held in the morning. 9.45 p. m., General Hancock received telegram from army headquarters directing him to move into position in rear of Fifth corps, which is in front line of entrenchments; Second Corps took up position accordingly on right and left of Norfolk road, near Deserted House, and also near Southall house.

July 13, 1864. – Corps in reserve, having taken position in rear of Fifth Corps; headquarters established at Deserted House, which is literally riddled with shot and shell from the enemy’s lines.

July 14, 1864. – About the usual firing in front to-day. Two division of the corps detailed for fatigue duty on the of the Fifth Corps making covered ways.

July 15, 1864. – Quiet save the customary artillery and musketry in the trenches. First and Second Divisions, Second Corps, on fatigue duty destroying old works of the rebels near the Avery house.

July 16, 1864. – Quiet as usual this day. No movements. Hot and dusty.

July 17, 1864. – No movements by Second Corps this day. Deserters from the enemy report that the enemy intend attacking us to-morrow morning. Corps consequently ordered under arms, to be ready at 3 a. m. to-morrow. Headquarters to be packed at same hour.

July 18, 1864. – Movements this day. No attack from enemy as deserters reported there would be.

July 19, 1864. – Quiet on our line save customary artillery and musketry in the trenches.

July 20, 1864. – Same as yesterday; no movements.

July 21, 1864. – Accompanied General Hancock, with other members of his staff, to headquarter of General Grant, at City Point; also to General Butler’s headquarters, at Bermuda Hundred. Back same evening to our own headquarters; a long ride; hot and dusty.

July 22, 1864. – Gibbon’s division relieved Ferrero’s division of colored troops in front line of works, Gibbon’s left resting on Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad. General Birney relinquished command of the Third Division, Second Corps, to-day and took command of the Tenth Army Corps.

July 23, 1864. – Pierce’s brigade, Third Division, Second Corps, took post on left of Gibbon’s division in front line of works. General Birney gave up Third Division to-day to take command of Tenth Corps.

July 24, 1864. – No movement by Second corps to-day. Usual firing in entrenchments. Hot.

July 25, 1864. – Same as yesterday. Hot.

July 26, 1864. – Early this a. m. I was directed by general Hancock to proceed across the appomattox at bermuda Hundred, visit General Butler’s headquarters, and thence go on to pontoon bridge across James River at Jones’ Neck, so as to be familiar with the road from headquarters Second Corps to that point, then to return in the evening and guide the column on its march to-night to the bridge across the James at Jones’ Neck. Returned to corps headquarters early in the afternoon, and at 4 p. m. corps marched in direction of bridge across appomattox at Point of rocks, keeping well back of our lines, so as to prevent the column being observed by the enemy from their position. 9.30 p. m., head of column arrived at pontoon bridge over appomattox; crossed immediately and continued the march on Bermuda hundred in direction of pontoon bridge on the James River at Jones’ Neck; Barlow’s division in advance. Midnight, the troops on the march between General Butler’s headquarters and Jones’ Neck.

July 27, 1864. – 2.45 a. m., head of column, Barlow’s division, reached lower pontoon bridge at jones’ Neck. The whole corps immediately crossed, the last regiment getting over at 6.30, General Sheridan’s cavalry following close in rear of Second Corps. Strewed the bridge thickly with hay to prevent the enemy from hearing the tramp of the horses’ feet. Infantry at once took position, and throwing skirmishers in direction of Bailey’s creek, advanced upon the enemy’s first line of works over an open field. the works ran along the edge a wooded crest covering New and malvern Hill road. Mott had the right of our line, barlow the center, Gibbon the left. 6.15 a. m., skirmishers dashing up the slope sharply engaged with the enemy; line of battle following them closely. 6.30 a. m. our whole line dashed into the works

and scattered the enemy in all directions, Miles’ brigade, Barlow’s division, capturing four 20-pounder Parrott guns; but few killed or wounded on either side. 6.35 a. m., General Hancock wrote to General Humphreys, chief of staff, Army of the Potomac, that we had captured four guns and that he was pressing forward after the enemy. 7.20 a. m., enemy opened battery on our extreme right, which our guns at once silenced. One brigade of Mott’s division advanced to attempt capture of that battery and had a sharp fight, but enemy succeeded in getting their guns off. 7.25 a. m., dispatch sent by General Hancock to General Humphreys, chief of staff, Army of the Potomac, stating that enemy had opened battery on our extreme right, and that a brigade of [Mott’s] division was advancing to assail it. Also stating that as all chances for surprising the enemy had passed it was a question whether General Sheridan’s cavalry should attempt to break through the enemy’s lines for the purpose of making a raid as had been contemplated, or whether the cavalry should wait until the infantry advanced farther. 7.30 a. m., enemy gone at all points from their first line of works, and our troops occupying them. All firing ceased. Our whole line now advanced to Potteries, near Bailey’s Creek, on New Market and Malvern Hill road, on the left, and to New Market and Long Bridge road on the right. From this position we discovered the enemy in a second line of heavy entrenchments along the crest of Spring Hill, apparently extending for a great distance to our right and left. Bailey’s Creek and its valley lying between our lines, some firing in the valley between our skirmishers and the enemy’s; the cavalry holding the right of our line, under General Sheridan. Enemy ‘s works in our front covering New Market and Darby or Central roads. Our gun-boats lying in James River shelled enemy’s works, throwing their immense shot and shell over our heads. We could see them plow up the ground in their works and could also see the “rebs” flying from them in all directions for shelter. Sharp skirmishing all day. The general, Miller, and myself came near getting hit to-day by enemy’s skirmishers, who were concealed in a wood near which we rode to enable the general to see more closely the enemy’s line. We rode into a thicket after they had several deliberate shots at us without hitting any of us or either of our horses. 5 p. m., general Barlow advanced one regiment, Twenty-sixth Michigan, across New Market and Long Bridge road where Central road leaves it and pushed up toward Jenning’s house on Spring Hill. The regiment became sharply engaged, and having developed the enemy’s position was withdrawn by General Barlow in person. At night-fall the corps held the following position: First Division on right following direction of New Market road; Mott’s division in center facing Bailey’s Creek; General Gibbon holding Potteries, on our left, to a point where Bailey’s Creek becomes an impassable swamp. The prisoners captured to-day tell us that they belong to Kershaw’s division.

July 28, 1864. – 5 a. m., troops in same position as last night. At this hour Captain Sweet, of general Birney’s staff, reported to General Hancock with Birge’s brigade, Tenth [Nineteenth] Corps, said to have 2,600 men in it. General H. ordered this brigade to relieve General Gibbon on our front lines at the Potteries, which was accomplished at 6.30 a. m. Gibbon’s division then massed in rear of our line in reserve. 10.35 a. m., a staff officer from General Sheridan reported to General Hancock that the enemy were moving on his (Sheridan’s) command near Ruffin’s house. General Gibbon immediately ordered to the support of General Sheridan. Before General Gibbon could get up, however, General Sheridan had defeated the enemy, driven him off the field, captured 3 colors and

several hundred prisoners, killing and wounding a large number. 11 a. m., wrote a note, by direction of General Hancock, to Brigade-General Foster (Army of the James), whose command was on our left next the river, that the enemy was attacking general Sheridan and advising General Forester to make a demonstration on his front. Mott’s division ordered to leave its present line and form in captured entrenchments on right of brigade, Tenth [Nineteenth] Corps, along New Market and Malvern Hill road. General Gibbon also withdrawn from New Market and Long Bridge road and formed on Mott’s right, extending his line across open plain in rear and throwing up entrenchments. Barlow with drawn to same line about dusk. 5 p. m., Generals Grant and Meade visited General Hancock. Fire of gun-boat Mendota, Commander Nichols, very effective to-day, nearly every shell alighting in the enemy’s works,and as they are 18-inch shell make the “Johnnies” skip around amazingly. 8 p. m., General Mott’s division commenced recrossing the James at pontoon at Jones’ Neck, having been ordered to march across the Appomattox and report to General Ord (Eighteenth Corps) in front of Petersburg. Quiet on our line at dark.

July 29, 1864. – Position of troops as follows this morning: General Gibbon on the right of infantry from New Market and Malvern Hill road across plain; cavalry on Gibbon’s right to James River. First Division, General Miles in command, from “gate posts” on New Market road (Malvern Hill), connecting with Gibbon’s left, to edge of wood near the Potteries, holding the rifle-pits. Brigadier-General Birge’s command (Tenth [Nineteenth] Corps) on left of First Division, extending to Bailey’s Creek, extreme left resting at a point where that creek becomes an impassable swamp. General Gibbon’s troops throwing up rifle-pits, artillery in position on plain in front of the bridge-head and along our line of battle. our picket-line extends from left of Birge’s brigade across fields in front of Potteries to New Market and Long Bridge road, thence to junction of New Market and Central roads, thence refused to the right and connecting with cavalry pickets. 5.30 p. m., a staff officer reported to General Hancock that enemy was advancing with dismounted cavalry in front of our pickets on New Market road near Ruffin’s house. Generals Miles and Gibbon ordered to look after this matter. The advance of the enemy was weak and easily repulsed. Orders received to recross James River to-night and march to position in rear of Eighteenth Corps, which is in entrenchments in front of Petersburg. Accordingly, when it grew dark, the troops commenced recrossing the James at Jones’ Neck. 11.15 p. m., both divisions, First and Second, are across the James. Mott’s division crossed yesterday. Troops marched all night to assume position supporting Eighteenth Corps in front of Petersburg.

July 30, 1864. – 4.45 a. m., at this hour the head of our column had arrived nearly in rear of the Eighteenth Corps, and we witnessed the explosion of an immense mine under one of the enemy’s redoubts. This mine has been under way for a long time and was most successfully run, notwithstanding the fact that the enemy was aware from deserters and other sources that we were mining their lines at some point. A very large quantity of powder, 10,000 pounds, I believe, was placed in the chambers of the mine, which were directly under a redoubt heavily garrisoned with troops and artillery. The earth was thrown to a great height, and seemed, from where we stood, to rise in the air like an enormous whirlwind. the whole redoubt must have been torn to pieces and many men killed. Immediately all of our artillery opened, and I have scarcely ever heard a more crashing roar of big guns; very soon the little valley along which the entrenchments ran was covered

by a heavy pall of black smoke, which lay suspended but a short distance above the earth, which with the thunderous roar of the artillery, made one of the most magnificent war pictures I have ever beheld. General Burnside’s (Ninth) corps held that portion of our line on which the mine was run, and was to make the assault upon the enemy’s line as soon as it was sprung, the Eighteenth Corps in support and two division of our corps in reserve, for which purpose we had marched all of last night. We occupied the high ground immediately in rear of the mine, and therefore had an excellent view of the fight. Mott’s division is in the entrenchments, having relieved the Eighteenth Corps there to enable it to form part of the assaulting force after the mine was exploded. General Burnside had a division of colored troops in his corps which had been but little, if any, under musketry fire, and determined to make the assault with that division. As soon as the explosion took place an advance was made, but it is said in very bad order, the troops being poorly formed and worse led by some of the higher officers. They rushed in as far as the crater of the mine and there huddled up in great confusion. the enemy’s old troops soon recovered from the scare and disorder of the explosion and rushed upon the negroes in the crater, killing hundreds of them. No regular line or column was or could be advanced; in short, great stupidity of all kinds is said to have prevailed in the whole matter, and the day is one of the most disgraceful failures of the war. Of course some gallant spirits did their duty, as is always the case, and many lost their lives in trying for a great victory, but those whose duty it was to have done a great deal seem to have failed miserably. It was certainly an inexcusable blunder to make he assault with the green troops of the colored division, and yet, from all accounts, they would have done well had they been properly put in and led; as it is they were simply butchered; Fredericksburg over again from the same inefficient head. Eight hundred of the enemy are stated to have been killed by the explosion alone. The heavy fighting ceased by 10 a. m., our troops having extricated themselves from the enemy’s lines by that hour.

At dark the Second Corps moved to same position held by it before we marched to Deep Bottom on the 26th of July. Headquarters again established at Deserted House.

July 31, 1864. – Quiet this day, save the artillery and musketry in the trenches. Exceedingly hot and dusty.*

GENERAL ORDERS, HEADQUARTERS SECOND ARMY CORPS,
Numbers 25. July 31, 1864.

The major-general commanding desires to express to the troops his gratification with their conduct during the late movement across the James River. While all the troops who kept their ranks (he regrets to say there were many who did not) and sustained the arduous marches are deserving of praise, the following organizations seem to merit particular mention: The Fifth New Hampshire, Twenty-eighth Massachusetts, One hundred and eighty-third Pennsylvania, and Twenty-sixth Michigan Volunteers, under Colonel Lynch, One hundred and eighty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, all from General Miles’ brigade, constituting part of the skirmish line of General Barlow’s division, for their gallantry in the capture of the enemy’s battery on the morning of the

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* For continuation of memoranda, see Vol. XLII, Part I.

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27th; and the skirmish line of General De Trobriand’s brigade, General Mott’s division, particularly the Ninety-ninth and One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, for good conduct and bravery in their severe action on the right of the battery; and the Twenty-sixth Michigan Volunteers, for gallantry in the reconnaissance of the 28th. The spirit exhibited by the command shows that they are determined to maintain the high reputation they have heretofore acquired. The major-general commanding will not be unmindful of the services of individual officers or soldiers or organizations, and will reward them to the extent of his power.

By order of Major-General Hancock:

F. A. WALKER,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

Source:

  1. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XL, Part 1 (Serial Number 80), pages 303-325

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