Number 142. Petersburg Campaign Reports of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, First New York Light Artillery, commanding Artillery Brigade

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 80)

No. 142. Reports of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, First New York Light Artillery, commanding Artillery Brigade.1

HEADQUARTERS ARTILLERY BRIGADE, FIFTH CORPS,
September 1, 1864.

COLONEL: *

FIFTH EPOCH.

June 12, marched by cross-roads to Long Bridge; crossed the Chickahominy about midnight. June 13, remained near the crossing all day. Barnes’ and Hart’s batteries accompanied Third Division on reconnaissance to near White Oak Swamp; Barnes only slightly engaged. During the night marched by Saint Mary’s Church to near Charles City Court-House, arriving on the morning of June 14, and 15th remained in camp. June 16, crossed the James by pontoon bridge and marched all day and night, arriving at break of day. June 17, in the afternoon, when the Fourth Division formed on the left of the Ninth Corps, Major Fitzhugh accompanied it with Mink’s and Breck’s batteries, placing them in position to the left of the Norfolk road and in front of the Deserted House, between this road and the Norfolk railroad, where they engaged the guns on the enemy’s right. About dusk Cooper’s battery (Captain resumed command this day) was also brought up and posted south of the Avery house, opening on the enemy’s work around that house at 500 yards. The other batteries not engaged. June 18, at sunrise Cutler’s division advanced to the Avery house and the edge of the woods beyond. Breck’s, Mink’s, and Cooper’s batteries were pushed forward with them and took position to the right of the woods along a ridge opening on the enemy’s batteries and troops beyond the railroad. Soon after, Barnes’, Bigelow’s, and Hart’s batteries were brought up on the right of these and also opened. Meanwhile Ayres’ division, with Rittenhouse’s, Rogers’, and Walcott’s batteries, had passed around to the left of Cutler and crossed the rail-road. The three batteries went into position 900 yards in front of the

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* For portions of report (here omitted) covering operations from May 4 to June 12, 1864, see Vol. XXXVI, Part I, p.639.

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great salient of the enemy’s works and opened fire. Phillips’, Stewart’s, and Richardson’s, were engaged in line with the First Division on the right of the road which crosses the railroad near the Taylor house, advancing as the infantry did until about 10 o’clock, when they had reached within 200 yards of the railroad and took a good position parallel to it, the right close to the above-mentioned dirt road, where they remained the remainder of the day, warmly engaged most of the time and doing good service. So soon as the enemy’s skirmishers were driven out of the woods on the far side of the railroad Mink’s battery was thrown forward and formed at right angles to and about 500 yards from the railroad, firing up the track and driving the enemy out of the clump of woods at the ice-house. Barnes was removed to within 100 yards of Mink’s right, and Cooper was also brought forward. Having gained the railroad along the whole front of this corps, about noon the Second and Fourth Divisions, with a portion of the First, being established beyond it, Mink’s battery was moved to the edge of this cut, to the right of the Taylor house; engaged two of the enemy’s guns immediately in his front at 500 yards, and kept them silent nearly all the time. Bigelow’s and Hart’s batteries were taken across the railroad and halted behind the crest with Chamberlain’s brigade, First Division, while slight lunettes were being thrown up on the crest held by our skirmish line. At 3 p.m., when the general attack was made, these batteries were shoved up on the crest and opened on the enemy’s works as our troops passed down into the intervening ravine. Barnes’ battery was soon after brought over and posted about seventy-five yards to the left of the others. The attack failing, the batteries covered the withdrawal of our troops. The position held by Mink’s, Bigelow’s, and Hart’s batteries was within easy canister and musketry range of the enemy’s works, and all suffered severely. Their practice, nevertheless, was excellent and reflected great credit on officers and men. After dark Barnes, Bigelow, and Hart were withdrawn.

June 19 to July 30. Captain Mink’s battery remained in position near the Taylor house until the morning of June 24, firing occasional shots during the time, when it was relieved by a battery of the Ninth Corps, and camped in reserve. Bigelow’s battery returned to its position beyond the railroad on the 19th and 20th. On the 21st this battery was assigned to Crawford’s (Third) division and took position on the 24th to the left of the Jerusalem plank road in front of the Gregory house, where it remained until July 12, when it was removed into the large redoubt. Hart’s battery relieved Bigelow’s in its position of the 18th beyond the railroad on the morning of the 21st, where it remained until the 28th, on which day it went into reserve until July 13, when it occupied the smaller redoubt back of the Chieves house. Cooper’s and Breck’s batteries held their positions near the front of the woods, in front of the Avery house, until the 20th, when they were assigned to Crawford’s division, and on the 26th relieved two batteries of the Second Corps in the small works west of the plank road. Cooper remained here until the end of the period covered by this report. Breck was moved into the large redoubt on the 12th of July. Rittenhouse, Rogers, and Walcott remained in their positions of the 18th until our line was advanced on the 13th of July, when these batteries also moved forward into works constructed for them at a distance of 600 yards from the great salient of the enemy’s works. They fired at times during the whole of this time, doing neither good nor harm. Barnes, Stewart, Phillips, and Richardson remained in reserve until the morning of the 19th.

Excepting in the engagements on the North Anna, May 23, and in front of Petersburg, June 18, the campaign covered by this report afforded but little opportunity for the legitimate and successful use of artillery. There were but few days, to be sure, in which some of the batteries were not engaged with the enemy’s artillery, but as they were always well protected the most accomplished was a temporary quieting of their fire. Hardly a charge was made, either by or upon our lines, which was not made through the woods, where artillery could do almost nothing. In the few opportunities that there were of bringing a single section or battery into play (as near Bethesda Church on the 30th of May by Lieutenant Richardson, and again on the 2nd of June by Lieutenant Stewart) it was quickly and well done. At the North Anna the prompt movement of Mink’s Walcott’s, and Matthewson’s batteries of light 12-pounder undoubtedly relieved the corps from great danger, if they did not save it from defeat.

The ground moved over by the corps in its advance on the 18th of June was mostly open and intersected by gentle slopes, affording the very best chance for the maneuvering of light batteries, which I believe I say was taken full advantage of.

The losses of the brigade in material have not been heavy, but in officers and men it has suffered materially, especially in the former.

Captain H. W. Davis and Second Lieutenant De Mott, First New York Artillery, First Lieutenant Peleg W. Blake, of the Fifth Massachusetts Battery, and First Lieutenant Thomas Goodman, serving with B, Fourth U. S. Artillery, were either killed in action or died of wounds received shortly after. All of them were officers of great promise, and who stood high in the estimation of those who knew them.

To Major R. H. Fitzhugh, First New York Artillery, Captain J. H. Cooper, First Pennsylvania Artillery, and Captain A. P. Martin, Massachusetts Artillery, the senior officers of the brigade, and who frequently held detached commands of two or more batteries, I have been indebted for most valuable services. I regret to say that both the last-named officers since left the service after having for three years held the position of captains of artillery and participated in all the actions of this army. The false organization of the artillery arm in our service provides no way of rewarding such officers by deserved promotion.

In every case during the campaign I have found all the battery commanders prompt to perform the duties required of them, and fully seconded by their subordinates and men.

Where all have done so well I can have no particular individual to bring to the notice of the commanding general.

I remain, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

C. S. WAINWRIGHT,

Colonel First New York Artillery, Commanding Brigade.

Lieutenant Colonel FRED. T. LOCKE,

Assistant Adjutant-General.
HDQRS. ARTILLERY BRIGADE, FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
August 3, 1864.

COLONEL: I have the honor to submit, for the information of the major-general commanding the corps, the following statement of the part taken by my command in the affair of the 30th ultimo:

The following disposition of batteries was made on the night of the 29th: Mink’s (H, First New York, four light 12-pounder) was posted

in the first battery on the right of the line occupied by this corps, his guns covering the enemy’s battery next the one over the mine. In Batteries 2 and 3, immediately on the left of Mink’s, two batteries of the Sixth Corps, Harn’s (Third New York, light 12-pounders) and White’s (Fourth Maine, 3-inch) were posted, bearing on the enemy’s guns directly in front and on those to the north of the small brown house. Immediately in the rear of these batteries were eleven Coehorn mortars, under Lieutenants Hazelton and McPherson, the whole of the above-named guns being under the immediate command of Major R. H. Fitzhugh until he was wounded, and then under Captain C. E. Mink, as ranking officer. Near the center of our line, and immediately opposite the great salient, were four batteries, under the command of Lieutenant G. W. Dresser, Fourth Artillery, and brigade inspector. Of these Van Reed’s (D, Fifth United States) and a section of Roger’s (B, First New York), both 3-inch Parrotts, bore upon all the enemy’s batteries to our right of the salient, and together with Major Fitzhugh’s batteries swept all the hill that rises in rear of the enemy’s works, while the remaining section of Rogers’ battery and the light 12-pounder of Walcott’s (C, Massachusetts) and Stewart’s (B, Fourth United States) bore upon the salient itself. Immediately in rear of these batteries Colonel Abbot had established his large battery of ten 10-inch mortars and another of six 8-inch mortars about 300 yards to the right of this. These mortar batteries were not under my control. Some 300 yards to the left of Lieutenant Dresser’s position Phillips’ (E, Massachusetts) battery, four 3-inch guns, also bore upon the great salient, and about 200 yards from there Winslow’s battery (D, First New York, light 12-pounders) occupied the little redan, with one section bearing on the enemy’s salient and the other on his batteries beyond the Burnt Chimneys. In the work on the right od the plank road Captain Hexamer, of the First New Jersey Artillery, had two batteries of his brigade (Sixth Corps), H, First Ohio, 3-inch, and E, Fifth United States, light 12-pounders, and six 4 1/2-inch siege guns, under charge of Captain Brown, of the Fourth New York Artillery. The ten rifled guns bore upon the great salient and the redoubt behind it, while the 12-pounder battery was directed upon the enemy’s batteries beyond our left. Cooper’s (B, First Pennsylvania Artillery) and Barnes’ (C, First New York), both 3-inch batteries, also bore upon these extreme batteries of the enemy from the works outside the large redoubt. There were, therefore, twenty-eight rifled and twenty-four 12-pounder field pieces, six 4 1/2-inch siege guns, and eleven Coehorn mortars in position along the line and in rear of this corps, besides the sixteen mortars and six siege guns, under Colonel Abbot, making a total of ninety-one pieces of ordnance which took part in the bombardment.

It was very near sunrise when the mine was exploded; and this being the signal ordered for the opening of the artillery, not more than one minute had elapsed before all the batteries were in active operation. The most stringent orders and directions had been given to avoid firing into the advancing columns of our own troops, and I have not been able to learn of a single case of any of them being injured by shot or shell from the batteries of the command. The range was short; the fire of our guns exact and crushing; so that the enemy were unable to reply, to any extent, from their guns on their front line, of which, however, I believe they had very few in position. Not a shot was fired by them from any of their batteries to the right of their great salient; consequently our guns bearing in that direction soon slackened their fire, and only renewed it when there appeared to be any movement of

their troops at those points. To our batteries the affair was one almost of target practice. Not more than thirty or forty shell were fired at them by the enemy during the whole day, and their musketry was confided to a few very weak spurts. Their artillery fire was almost exclusively from the large redoubt back of the salient, the battery near the Clark house, and one gun in the ravine leading to General Burnside’s salient. These batteries were all more or less hid from us, and the last mentioned was completely covered in a re-entering angle of their line. Every gun, however, which could be brought to bear upon these batteries was turned upon them, and they were kept comparatively quiet. With regard to the damage inflicted by our artillery practice, I can only state that the face of their works was much injured, several of the embrasures destroyed, and at least three chests of ammunition exploded in the great salient. We were also able to prevent their advancing any troops whatever over the open ground below the Clark house. So long as General Burnside’s troops held their most advanced position our batteries were unable to reach the attacking columns of the enemy, as their advance was made from the opposite side. When, however, they had fallen back to the work destroyed by the explosion, and an attack was made upon that point between 1 and 2 o’clock, some twenty guns were able to open on them with shrapnel, and did their part toward the repulse of the enemy. The casualties in the command were confined to 1 officer (Major R. H. Fitzhugh) slightly wounded and 1 man in Battery E, Massachusetts Artillery; 2 men were killed and 1 wounded by a premature explosion of a gun in Battery D, Fifth U. S. Artillery. As a display of accurate firing, the affair reflected great credit on all the batteries engaged.

I remain, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

C. S. WAINWRIGHT,

Colonel First New York Artillery, Commanding Brigade.

Lieutenant Colonel F. T. LOCKE,

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 481-485

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