Number 92. Petersburg Campaign of Colonel Robert McAllister, Eleventh New Jersey Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations July 26-29

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 80)

Numbers 92. Report of Colonel Robert McAllister, Eleventh New Jersey Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations July 26-29.1

HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, THIRD DIV., SECOND ARMY CORPS, October 7, 1864.

CAPTAIN: In compliance with orders relative to the movements and operations of this brigade in our advance across the James River on the 27th of July, 1864, I have the honor to report as follows:

July 26, broke camp at 4 p. m. At 10.30 p. m. arrived at and crossed the Appomattox River. Reached the James River at dawn of day July 27, crossed on the lower pontoon bridge, and went into position in a piece of woods in front of General Foster’s command. Remained under a shell fire for a short time, when I was ordered to deploy my brigade and advance through the corn-field in front. On reaching the road leading to the Malvern Hill halted; ordered to mass my brigade and wait further orders. Late in the evening ordered to move in front of the enemy’s work on Strawberry Plains. Threw out the pickets and remained all night. July 28, remained in this position until late in the afternoon; ordered back along the old rebel works captured the day before, and commenced turning these works for defense. 8 p. m., orders to suspend operations and be ready to move; 8.30 p. m. moved out, recrossed the river, and by a rapid and hard march we arrived before daylight in rear of the Eighteenth Corps and bivouacked.

The only casualty that occurred in the movement was 1 enlisted man killed, in the One hundred and twentieth New York Volunteers.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
ROBERT McALLISTER,

Colonel Eleventh New Jersey Volunteers, Commanding Brigade.

Captain J. P. FINKELMEIER,

Asst. Adjt. General, Third Division, Second Army Corps.

ADDENDA.

HDQRS. SECOND Brigadier, THIRD DIV., 2nd ARMY CORPS, June 25, 1864.

Lieutenant WILLIAM P. SHREVE,

Asst. Com. of Mus. and Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, Third Div.:

LIEUTENANT: In accordance with your order asking an explanation of the cause of our falling back, and also of heavy losses on the 22nd when the enemy turned our left flank, permit me to make the following statement: That morning, after having finished the first line of breast-works, I was ordered to move forward and form my line on the left of General Gibbon, connected on him, or rather took up the position pointed out to me the evening previous. This order I obeyed promptly, and on arriving on the ground pushed forward the First Massachusetts Regiment to connect with General Gibbon’s left, throwing our left considerably forward on a knoll. But the enemy’s sharpshooters picket off our men so rapidly that it was necessary to throw our left back for the present and to defer the knoll line until night. This I did; at the same time I was ordered by General Mott to keep the balance of my brigade under cover until further orders. This I did, when I was ordered to form my lines as far to the front as I could without exposing my men

too much. Major Willian, of General Mott’s staff, pointed out the line. I was formed in two angles, the continuation of General Gibbon’s line north and south. On this angle I had a large portion or nearly all the First Massachusetts; the balance of the brigade was on the east and west lines. In building these works we suffered much from the enemy’s fire, both artillery and musketry. Near the knoll we had to dig rifle-pits in the ground with pick and spade; we could not chop or drive a stake. My headquarters were close up to the east and west angle. We heard heavy firing on our left; supposed it to be General Barlow advancing his line; very soon it came nearer to us. I called my men to attention. Very soon a retreating mass of the First Division came running along in my rear, with the rebels on their flank and rear. I could not fire on account of our men. The rebels poured in on my flank after the Third Brigade had left, as well as my front. I could do nothing but fall back to a continuance of the north and south line. Here I made a stand and formed, rallying all men I could get. I wished to protect the First Massachusetts. The retreating masses came on and would not stop. Here I remained until I found the Massachusetts regiment of my own brigade had given way, and from them had learned that General Gibbon’s left had given way before they did, and that the enemy had possession of our pits. I have nothing left but to fall back to the first line, which I did. The officer commanding First Massachusetts substantiates the above facts in his regiment. Had I have held my brigade any longer the result would have been a large capture on the part of the enemy. They advanced not only in our rear and flank but also in our front.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. McALLISTER,

Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, THIRD DIV., SECOND CORPS, June 26, 1864.

Lieutenant W. P. SHREVE,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, Third Division, Second Corps:

LIEUTENANT: In compliance with communication from headquarters Third Division, Second Corps, of this date, I have the honor to transmit herewith regimental reports of the Seventh New Jersey Volunteers and First Maine Heavy Artillery.

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

R. McALLISTER,

Colonel Eleventh New Jersey Volunteers, Commanding Brigade.

[Inclosure Numbers 1.]
HEADQUARTERS FIRST MAINE HEAVY ARTILLERY, In Front of Petersburg, Va., June 26, 1864.

Lieutenant W. J. RUSLING,

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General:

SIR: In compliance with orders from division headquarters I have the honor to report that two of the colors of this regiment were lost on Wednesday, 22nd instant, in the falling back from the attempt to establish a line of works in advance of that before and now held. As near as I can ascertain all of our colors reached the works held by Gibbon’s divis

ion in their retreat. Thence one was brought in by the bearer to our own line. Another bearer was killed by the enemy in their attack upon these works. The third color bearer returned to his regiment without his colors and with the following account of his conduct: He says that on first reaching the breast-works he planted his colors by the side of the Sixty-ninth New York. On suggestion from the Sixty-ninth color bearer he left to find his own regiment. Went a few feet rearward and lay down behind a pile of wood. The enemy attacking, he rose to retreat and seized his colors to bring with him, but the staff being entangled he could not free it and came off without it. Later he was told that our forces held those works and he went back to find his colors, but found the rebels in the works and had to escape. That he was quite demoralized will appear from his remarks to his commanding officer when examined in relation to his conduct, to this effect: that he thought it best even to the loss of the colors to save himself for some future service.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

THOMAS H. TALBOT,

Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding First Maine Artillery, June 22.

[Inclosure Numbers 2.]
HDQRS. SEVENTH REGIMENT NEW JERSEY VOLUNTEERS, In the Field, June 26, 1864.

[Lieutenant W. J. RUSLING,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General:]

SIR: I respectfully beg leave to submit the following statement in reference to the loss of the national colors belonging to this regiment on the afternoon of June 22, 1864:

Learning that the troops upon the right and left of my command had fallen back I faced my command to the right and attempted to retreat in order, but the enemy suddenly appearing and pouring a volley into my ranks caused considerable confusion, in the midst of which the colors were borne off toward our first line of breast-works, since which time nothing has been heard of them. The color bearer and guard, likewise a part of my command, accompanied the colors and are still missing.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

THOMAS C. THOMPSON,

Captain, Commanding Seventh New Jersey Volunteers.
HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, SECOND CORPS, June 26, 1864.

Captain THOMAS C. THOMPSON,
Commanding Seventh New Jersey Volunteers, Third Brigade:

CAPTAIN: You will immediately place the color bearer of your national colors (the missing one) under arrest, and prefer charges against him for misbehavior before the enemy.

By command of Brigadier-General Mott:

WM. P. SHREVE,

Lieutenant, Asst. Commissary of Musters, and Actg. Asst. Adjt. General

[First indorsement.]
HDQRS. SEVENTH REGIMENT NEW JERSEY VOLUNTEERS, In the Field, June 27, 1864.

Respectfully returned.

I would state that the color bearer as well as forty-four other men were taken prisoners with the colors.

Very respectfully, &c.,
T. C. THOMPSON,

Captain, Commanding Regiment.

[Second indorsement.]
HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, THIRD DIV., SECOND CORPS, June 27, 1864.

Respectfully forwarded.

R. McALLISTER,
Colonel Eleventh New Jersey Volunteers, Commanding Brigade.

HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, THIRD DIV., SECOND ARMY CORPS, June 25, 1864.

ASST. ADJT. General, THIRD DIV., SECOND ARMY CORPS:

LIEUTENANT: In obedience to instructions from headquarters Third Division, Second Army Corps, of this date, I have the honor to forward the following report of the part taken by my command in the affair of the 22nd instant:

On the morning of that day my command was ordered to advance to the woods in my front and form connection with the Second Brigade of this division on their left. As soon as Colonel McAllister, commanding Second Brigade of this division formed his line, I made the connection at a point marked A on the diagram* inclosed, my left resting at a point marked B. As soon as the brigade was in position it commenced to intrench, but had made but little progress when a heavy fire was opened upon my left on the position occupied by the First Division of this corps, occasionally a few shots coming from the rear. In a few minutes the troops of the First Division came en masse, crowding by the rear of my line saying that the enemy were in their rear. My command was immediately formed and prepared for an attack, when the enemy poured a volley of musketry directly in rear of my line. The command was immediately faced about, but the troops coming from our left in great disorder carried my command with them. They moved to the right and rallied behind the breast-works at a point marked C. They remained here for a short time, when the enemy came upon them from the left and opened fire on the works from the left and rear. Here is where the most of the prisoners taken from my command were captured, they remaining in the entrenchments until the enemy were upon them and escape was impossible.

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

DANIEL CHAPLIN,

Colonel First Maine Artillery, Commanding Brigade.

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*Not found.

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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 411-414

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