Number 115. Petersburg Campaign Reports of Colonel Wiliam S. Tilton, Twenty-Second Massachusetts Infantry, commanding First Brigade, First Division

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 80)

No. 115. Reports of Colonel Wiliam S. Tilton, Twenty-second Massachusetts Infantry, commanding First Brigade, First Division.1

HDQRS. FIRST BRIGADE, FIRST DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS,
August 8, 1864.

CAPTAIN: *

FIFTH EPOCH.

June 12, at 8 p.m. we marched from Sumner’s (lower) Bridge to near Long Bridge, seven miles; bivouacked at 1 a.m.

June 13, at 4 a.m. turned out and marched across the Chickahominy on pontoons; at 6.30 a.m. halted; at 9 p.m. started out toward Charles City Cross-Roads. Halted after a fatiguing march of seven miles at 3.30 a.m. of 14th. My regiment and Fourth Michigan formed the rear guard.

June 14, took up the line of march at 5.30 a.m., after two hours’ rest; at 10.30 a.m. came to Charles City Court-House and rested. At 2 p.m. marched toward James River, on the bank of which we bivouacked.

June 15, remained in camp.

June 16, crossed the James on transport at 8 a.m., landing near Wind-Mill Point. 3 p.m., marched to Saint [Prince] George Court-House and halted for an hour at 9 p.m. for coffee; then marched to our lines in front Petersburg, where we arrived at 12 midnight.

June 17, lay in camp.

June 18, at 5 a.m. broke camp and marched to the front, stacking arms in rear of Second Corps, when we made coffee. At 8 a.m. the brigade advanced to the front and left to take up a line before the enemy’s works on new ground. My regiment was detailed to skirmish to the front and drive in the rebel pickets. I deployed in an open field near Colonel Avery’s house, with my right resting on the Norfolk turnpike road. We pushed forward to the Norfolk railroad, which crossed the pike and to a ravine beyond, where the right of my line, being more exposed than the left, was driven back. The left, however, under Major Burt, held its own, having shelter in rear of a crest. I thereupon strengthened my right with 100 men from the Sixty-second Pennsylvania; went in again, when I succeeded in driving the rebel skirmishers out of the ravine into one beyond. About 12 m. Sweitzer’s brigade moved toward and took position in this last ravine, all the regiments but one being on the right of the road. The First Brigade, Colonel Chamberlain, then advanced to the ravine and took position on the left of Colonel Sweitzer’s brigade. This was done under a very heavy fire, and the brigade lost more than 200 men, including Colonel

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* For portion of report (here omitted) covering operations from May 4 to June 12, 1864, see XXXVI, Part I, p.559.

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Chamberlain, who was wounded. Thus we remained right under the enemy’s works until just before dark, when I was ordered to take command of First Brigade.

I cannot close this report without mentioning some of my officers who distinguished themselves, besides those alluded to. Lieutenant-Colonel Sherwin had been in command of the regiment for ten months before the opening of this campaign, while I commanded Barnes’ old brigade, and I attribute much of its success to him on account of the excellent state of discipline to which he had brought it. After the first day there was not an officer or man who would not go, and go cheerfully, wherever he was ordered. Captain Field, the senior captain, was always ready for duty, and always selected for duty which required the display of judgment and bravery. Captain John Rock cannot be excelled for dash on the battle-field. Captain Baxter, who was killed at Bethesda Church, was an honest man and a faithful soldier. Lieutenants Steele and Fleming were wounded while gallantly discharging their duty. To Captain E. C. Bennett the service and the country are indebted, also to Captain Meands, to Lieutenants Bourne, Ackerman, Clapp, Roby, Kinsley, and Captain Smith, of the Second Company Sharpshooters, for entering patience and fidelity in the performance of their duty, as well as bravery on the field of battle.

During the campaign I lost two-thirds of my men in action. Lists of casualties have been already forwarded.

Respectfully submitted.

WM. S. TILTON,

Colonel Twenty-second Massachusetts Volunteers.

ASST. ADJT. General, 2nd Brigadier, 1ST DIV., 5TH ARMY CORPS.
HDQRS. FIRST BRIGADE, FIRST DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS,
August 13, 1864.

Captain W. S. DAVIS,

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, First Division:

CAPTAIN: The report of Twenty-second Massachusetts is sent directly to the general commanding division, because Colonel Sweitzer is out of the service, and it is doubtful if he intends making a brigade report. Had Colonel Sweitzer been here I should not, it is likely, have said so much about the movements of other regiments, but left the history of their achievements for him to indite. Trusting that if the report is not exactly in order in some respects, yet, as it contains nothing but truth, it will prove acceptable to the general,*

I am, yours, &c.,

WM. S. TILTON,

Colonel Twenty-second Massachusetts Volunteers.
HDQRS. FIRST BRIGADE, FIRST DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS,
Camp before Petersburg, Va., August-, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the part taken by this brigade from the day I took command, June 18, 1864, until the end of the fifth epoch, July 30, 1864:

At about 12 m. on the 18th of June the Second Brigade had advanced down the Norfolk turnpike road and crossed the railroad to a ravine,

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* Reference is to the regimental report, preceding. The Twenty-second Massachusetts belonged to the Second Brigade. Colonel Tilton commanded the regiment up to June 18, when he was assigned to the command of the First Brigade.

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which was immediately under the enemy’s works, and the First Brigade, then under command of Colonel Chamberlain, went forward soon after and formed upon the left of Sweitzer’s brigade. There it was, just before dark, that I was placed in command with orders to charge when troops on my right and left did. In making the movement, which was done under a heavy fire, the loss had been severe. Colonel Chamberlain was wounded. I immediately proceeded to reconnoiter the ground, and communicate with the brigade commanders upon my right and left. Colonel Hofmann on the left, commanding a brigade in Cutler’s division, assured me of his co-operation at the right moment. The Eighty-third Pennsylvania, Forty-fourth New York, and Sixteenth Michigan Regiments, of Barlett’s brigade, were now sent me as a support. I removed the One hundred and eighty-seventh Pennsylvania, which had formed my second line, to the left of my front line, and placed Barlett’s three regiments in my second line, with orders to intrench and clear up the bushes in their front. After waiting anxiously the movement of the brigade on my right, I finally received notice that it had been suspended.

June 19, at 4 a.m. I withdrew my troops and took up a new line in rear of Barlett’s brigade. This day quiet, excepting the loss several men by sharpshooters’ fire.

June 20, at dark went to the rear and bivouacked near corps headquarters.

June 21, at 4.30 p.m. received orders to take up a position on left of General Ayres at dark and intrench. On reaching General Ayres’ left I found General Barlett there, when I was ordered by General Griffin to take up one line, with my left resting on the plank road and my right running toward Barlett’s left. After the skirmish line became established, which was after 9 p.m., I moved in my brigade upon that line and entrenched before morning.

June 22, the Second Corps, on my left, was attacked to-day. Took precautionary measures to prevent the enemy getting upon our left flank across the Jerusalem road.

July 4, at night broke ground for a redan in front of my line, the left face near to and parallel with the Jerusalem road. Major Roebling laid out the work. The work was continued during the night time (it having been impracticable to work by daylight on account of the enemy’s fire) until July 16, when it was ready for the engineers. They cut the embrasures, erected traverses, and excavated magazines. There were embrasures for eighteen guns. My brigade furnished 5,500 days’ and nights’ labor upon it. During all this time the men were in the trenches, expecting one regiment, and exposed to shell fire, but they bore their hardships with fortitude, not a murmur being heard.

July 30, at 2.30 a.m. the men were called to arms to take part in the assault upon the enemy’s works, which was to follow the springing of a mine in front of General Burnside’s line. During the precending night the redan in our front had been armed with six siege guns, served by the Fourth New York Artillery, and two batteries of field pieces. At 4.30 a.m. all these guns opened upon the enemy’s works, and continued firing more or less until noon. I also opened with musketry fire by order. By this means the enemy’s pickets were kept in their rifle-pits. The rebels made no response to our fire, but directed their’s chiefly upon troops at my right. Very little was to be seen of them in

our front all day. At one time, however, in the morning (after the explosion), I observed a movement of their infantry from their right to their left.

During all these operations mentioned herein I was greatly assisted by Lieutenant Davenport, chief of pioneers, and Lieutenant Funk, aide-de-camp.

I wish to bear testimony, also, to the cheerful co-operation in all my plans of Captain Osborne, inspector-general, and Lieutenant Harder, aide-de-camp. Lieutenant Walters, aide-de-camp, ought also to be mentioned.

Respectfully submitted.

WM. S. TILTON,

Colonel Twenty-second Massachusetts Cols., Commanding Brigade.

ASST. ADJT. General, FIRST DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS.

The casualties during this period number 10 men killed, 53 wounded, 1 officer wounded. A nominal list* of the same is appended.

WM. S. TILTON,

Colonel, &c.

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* Omitted.

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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 455-458

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