Number 135. Petersburg Campaign Report of Colonel J. William Hofmann, Fifty-Sixth Pennsylvania Infantry, commanding Second Brigade

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 80)

No. 135. Report of Colonel J. William Hofmann, Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania Infantry, commanding Second Brigade.1

HDQRS. SECOND Brigadier, FOURTH DIV., 5TH ARMY CORPS,
In Front of Petersburg, August 10, 1864.

CAPTAIN: ++

FIFTH EPOCH.

Moved on Petersburg at 2 p.m. 16th [June]; bivouacked two miles beyond Prince George Court-House, on the plantation of Mr. Burchett.

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++ For portion of report (here omitted) covering operations from May 4 to June 16, 1864, see Vol. XXXVI, Part I, p.622.

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At 7 p.m. on the 17th moved about two miles to the front; found the enemy posted in rear of a strong line of works on the west side of the Blackwater road, our left joining the right of the First Brigade, whose left rested near the Petersburg and Norfolk Railroad; remained in this position all day. Loss, 10 men wounded. At 4 a.m. on the morning of the 18th the brigade moved forward to attack the works of the enemy. It was soon ascertained that the enemy had withdrawn during the night, and that he had also abandoned his second line of works about a quarter of a mile in rear of the first line. Upon moving forward the skirmish line the enemy was found posted in rear of a third line of works, his skirmishers thrown forward to near the railroad. The brigade was moved to the west side of the railroad, and formed in line of battle in a wood, the right of the brigade resting on the railroad, and subsequently moved to the front of the woods and in rear of a hill. At 3 p.m. the brigade was formed in line of battle on the crest of a hill, and moved forward to charge the works of the enemy, then about 700 yards in our front. In order to each the enemy’s works it was necessary to cross a ravine about 200 yards in front of the works. The line moved forward with spirit. The enemy immediately opened with musketry and spherical case, and, as we approached nearer, with canister. When the line had arrived near the ravine the loss had already been very great, for the troops were exposed to a fire not only in front but upon both flanks. As the line was descending the near slope of the ravine it broke; many returned. About 200 reached the opposite slope of the ravine, where they found shelter by lying close to the ground. Lieutenant-Colonel Harney was the only regimental commander that reached this point. My horse was killed a moment before the line broke, and I did not reach the opposite side of the ravine. The officers now rallied the men in rear of the crest, from which the line had moved when the charge commenced. About 450 men were formed in line. An order was received at 4 p.m. to prepare for a second charge at 5.30 p.m. It was subsequently suspended. The troops in the ravine remained until dark, when they were withdrawn. Pickets were now thrown out to the foot of the ravine, a new line of battle formed and advanced to the crest of the hill, and breast-works were thrown up. The wounded were brought in and the dead buried.

The brigade had suffered a very heavy loss in killed and wounded. Of the seven regimental commanders, Lieutenant-Colonel Dorrell, commanding Third Delaware Volunteers, was killed. The command then devolved upon Captain McKaig. Captain O. Mumford, commanding Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, was killed, and the command devolved upon Lieutenant Baker; Colonel Grimshaw, commanding Fourth Delaware Volunteers, was severely wounded, and the command devolved upon Lieutenant-Colonel La Motte, who was also slightly wounded, but remained on the field; Lieutenant-Colonel Creney, commanding Ninety-fifth New York, was severely wounded, and the command devolved upon Major Bard; Captain Byram, commanding Seventy-sixth New York, was very seriously wounded, and the command devolved upon Captain J. C. Hatch; Lieutenant-Colonel Harney was slightly wounded, but remained in command of his regiment. The One hundred and fifty-seventh [Pennsylvania] was commanded by Captain Hawthorn. Captain Lambdin, acting aide-de-camp, was seriously wounded.

The brigade occupied the works up to July 31, being relieved by and relieving in turn every three days the First Brigade of this division.

During the campaign the officers and men of the brigade have evinced great bravery, patriotism, and fortitude. From May 3 to July 31, a period of nearly ninety days, not more than five days passed that they were not under the fire of the enemy.

I desire to mention my staff-Captain Cowdrey, assistant adjutant-general; Captain Watkins, acting assistant inspector-general; Captain Lambdin, Lieutenant Healy and Lieutenant Bush, acting aides-de-camp-for their efficiency in promulgating and attending to the execution of my orders.

I herewith transmit a tabular recapitulation of casualties in the brigade during the campaign: Killed, 14 officers, 197 men; seriously wounded, 26 officers, 424 men; wounded slightly, 15 officers, 389 men; wounded (description unknown), 6 officers, 128 men; missing, 23 officers, 376 men; total, 84 officers, 1,514 men; aggregate, 1,598.

I have the honor to be, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. W. HOFMANN,

Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Captain C. McCLELLAN,

Asst. Adjt. General, Fourth Division, Fifth Army Corps.

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 475-477

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