Number 176. Petersburg Campaign Reports of Brigadier General James H. Ledlie, U. S. Army, commanding First Division, of operations June 17 and July 30

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 80)

No. 176. Reports of Brigadier General James H. Ledlie, U. S. Army, commanding First Division, of operations June 17 and July 30.1

HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION, NINTH ARMY CORPS, Near Petersburg, Va., July 1, 1864.

SIR: I have the honor, very respectfully, to transmit a report of the operations of the First Division of the Ninth Army Corps on the 17th of June, 1864:

About 5 p.m. on the 16th of June my division arrived, after a long and tedious march from the James River, and was placed in position at right angles to the Petersburg and Suffolk State road, covering a wood road running through a piece of timber in front of the main line of the enemy’s works. During the night I constructed breast-works in front of my lines, and at daylight on the morning of the 17th I was ordered to move forward in support of General Potter, who was then advancing on the enemy’s works, comprising Battery 14, with its connecting lines of defense. I immediately ordered forward my division, and occupied Battery 15 and Battery 16, with the earth-works connecting. With the exception of several slight changes, my division remained in the last named position until about 4 p.m., when I was ordered to support an attack to be made by the Third Division, under General Willcox, and accordingly moved my command to the ravine in front, and to the right of the Shands house. The Third Division not having succeeded in its attack, I was ordered about 5.30 p.m. to form my division for a charge upon the enemy’s works, which were from 300 to 500 yards west of the ravine. I ordered the First Brigade, under Colonel J. P. Gould, and the Second Brigade, under Lieutenant Colonel Joseph H. Barnes, to form in line of battle below the crest of the hill west of the ravine, and placed the Twenty-first Massachusetts Volunteers on the right of the line, the left

connecting with the main line of battle, but forming a line at an angle of about 45 degrees to the main line, to cover any flank movement that might be made by the enemy on my right, and the left of the Second Brigade was ordered to be thrown back at about the same angle for the accomplishment of the same object on my left. The Third Brigade, under Lieutenant Colonel B. G. Barney, was formed in two lines about 100 paces in rear of the First and Second Brigades. The One hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteers, under Lieutenant-Colonel Dawson, were thrown out as skirmishers and covered the front of nearly the whole line. At this juncture the enemy’s batteries-one in front of the extreme left of my line, one still farther to the left, and one some distance on the right [all of which swept the position we were about to storm]-opened with shell and canister upon my lines, killing and wounding 32 men before I advanced. The skirmishers were then temporarily withdrawn; but in a short time afterward they were thrown forward, and I gave the order for the charge, with directions to my command not to fire a shot until reaching the enemy’s lines. The line was then moved forward with bayonets fixed, charging at a run over the entire distance with steadiness and bravery. The Third Brigade followed enthusiastically, gaining distance at some points on the first line. The men charged the works fiercely and bravely, mounting the parapet and leaping quite over the ditch into the enemy’s lines, where the fight became a hand-to-hand conflict, my men using the bayonet and breech, and succeeded in carrying the works in handsome style. The troops pressed forward and also succeeded in taking another line of the enemy’s works, running at a slight angle to the main line, and refusing at a point about midway between that and the woods in rear. The enemy then kept up a desultory fire for several hours from the woods, which was steadily returned by my command. Too much praise cannot be accorded the men making this charge, subject as they were not only to a terrible fire of shell and canister from the batteries previously referred to [which raked the whole of the field from the ravine to the enemy’s works], but to heavy and continuous volleys of musketry, without discharging a single piece in defense until the object of the charge was accomplished.

About 9 p.m. the following regiments of the Third Division reported to me for duty: First Michigan Sharpshooters, Captain L. C. Rhines; Second Michigan Volunteers, Colonel William Humphrey; Thirty-eighth Wisconsin Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel C. K. Pier, and the Sixtieth Ohio Volunteers, under Major M. P. Avery. All these regiments, except the First Michigan Sharpshooters, were placed upon the right of my line, and the last-named regiment was placed on the extreme left, and in these positions they all rendered important service. About 10 p.m. the enemy made a charge upon my lines, which was repulsed, my command capturing 5 officers and 71 enlisted men, together with a stand of colors belonging to the Thirty-fifth North Carolina Infantry. I then called upon the corps commander for support and was informed by him that General Crawford had been ordered forward with his division to support me, and was also informed that General Barlow would move forward and connect with my right, but these movements were not made at 12 midnight. About this time the enemy concentrated in front of my lines and charged fiercely, at the same time massing on my left, which was entirely unprotected, compelling my men to fall back to their advanced line of rifle-pits, which they held until morning, when it was found that the enemy had retreated from our front.

My brigade commanders deserve especial praise for the gallant manner in which they led their troops, and the valuable assistance rendered me in carrying out the orders received from the corps commander. The First Brigade [comprising the Fifty-sixth, Fifty-seventh, and Fifty-ninth Massachusetts Volunteers] was commanded by Colonel J. P. Gould; the Second Brigade [composed of the Twenty-first and Twenty-ninth Massachusetts Volunteers, the One hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and the One hundred and seventy-ninth New York Volunteers] was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph H. Barnes; the Third Brigade [composed of the Fourteenth New York Volunteer Artillery, and the Second Provisional Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery] was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel B. G. Barney.

The batteries attached to my division, under my chief of artillery, Captain John B. Eaton, Twenty-seventh New York Battery, were brought up and placed in different positions during the day. The Second Maine Battery, Captain A. F. Thomas [four 3-inch rifled], and Fourteenth Massachusetts Battery, Captain J. W. B. Wright [four 10-pounder Parrotts], were ordered to the front from their park, about 9 o’clock on the morning of the 17th, and that of Captain Thomas placed in position at the point of woods near Battery 14 of the rebel line of works, and that of Captain Wright behind the works a few rods to the left of Captain Thomas. Fire was at once opened on a half sunken battery of rifled pieces in the enemy’s lines which had been very annoying during the morning, from the accuracy of its fire. The excellent practice of both Captains Thomas and Wright soon drove the enemy from his guns, which they abandoned entirely after making several ineffectual attempts to withdraw them. About 11 a.m. Captain Wright’s and Captain Thomas’ batteries were moved, by orders from the corps commander, farther to the left, on the same line of works, where Captain Wright was placed in position behind Battery 15, and did good execution during the charge made by my division in the afternoon. The battery of Captain Thomas was ordered into position behind Battery 16, but all the approaches thereto being covered by the enemy’s musketry fire it was unable to take position until the attack was made by the First Division, when it opened fire and maintained it with good effect. About 4 p.m. I ordered the Twenty-seventh New York Battery, Captain John B. Eaton [six light 12-pounder guns], to take position at the Shands house within 1,000 yards of the enemy’s lines, and during the charge of my division on the works in front this battery poured a most destructive fire into the enemy, destroying two caissons and killing a number of the horses of the battery in front of the left of my lines.

My thanks are due to Captain Eaton, chief of artillery, for his valuable services on this occasion. I respectfully recommend to the favorable consideration of the War Department for brevets First Lieutenant Robert P. McKibbin, Fourth U. S. Infantry, commissary of musters, and First Lieuts. George M. Randall and William H. Powell, Fourth U. S. Infantry, aides-de-camp. These officers behaved with marked gallantry, and distinguished themselves throughout the engagement by their courage and valor. Lieutenant McKibbin was quite seriously wounded in the neck near the close of the engagement, and was compelled to leave the field.

My thanks are due to the remaining officers of my staff, as follows: First Lieutenant C. J. Mills, Fifty-sixth Massachusetts Volunteers, acting assistant adjutant-general; First Lieutenant Lewis, Twenty-first Massachusetts Volunteers, provost-marshal; and Captain D. R. Roice, Third New Jersey Cavalry, acting aide-de-camp, for the cheerfulness and

alacrity with which they carried all my orders and for the valuable assistance rendered me during the entire day. Their courage and zeal is worthy of special commendation.

I would respectfully call attention to Corpl. Benjamin F. Young, Company I, First Michigan Sharpshooters. His gallantry in capturing a rebel flag of the Thirty-fifth North Carolina Infantry on the night of the 17th of June is worthy of special mention.*

Accompanying this report please find a list of casualties of my division on the 17th of June, 1864.

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

JAMES H. LEDLIE,

Brigadier-General, Commanding First Division, Ninth Army Corps.

Lieutenant Colonel LEWIS RICHMOND,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Ninth Army Corps.

HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION, NINTH ARMY CORPS, Near Petersburg, Va., August 4, 1864.

SIR: I have the honor, very respectfully, to transmit the following report of the operations of my division on the 30th ultimo:

About 1 a.m. on the 30th of July I moved my division from its position on the left of the Tenth Corps to the front occupied by the Second Division of the Ninth Corps. The Second Brigade [composed of the Second Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery, Fourteenth New York Heavy Artillery, Third Maryland Infantry, and the One hundred and seventy-ninth New York Infantry], commanded by Colonel E. G. Marshall, was formed in three lines of battle behind the breast-works of our front line; while the First Brigade [composed of the Twenty-first, Twenty-ninth, Thirty-fifth, Fifty-sixth, Fifty-seventh, and Fifty-ninth Massachusetts Infantry, and One hundredth Pennsylvania], under the command of Brigadier General W. F. Bartlett, was placed in rear, in column formed of three lines of battle, the Thirty-fifth in rear acting as engineer regiment. I then gave instructions to my brigade commanders to the effect that when the order for the charge was given, the column should move through the breach to be made by the mine and then to press forward and occupy the hill beyond, when the Thirty-fifth were to be set at work throwing up intrenchments. At daylight everything was ready, the mine was sprung at 4,45 a.m., and the fortification

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*Corporal Young was awarded a Medal of Honor.

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in my front was utterly demolished. As soon as the debris consequent upon the explosion had fallen to the ground I gave the order for the charge, and my brigades mounted our breast-works and pushed forward gallantly over the slope leading to the enemy’s lines, taking possession of the demolished fort and occupying about 100 yards of the enemy’s rifle-pits to the left [our right of it], capturing 1 stand of colors and about 50 prisoners. The division was here halted to reform, and hastily constructed traverses to shield the men from a terrible and incessant flank fire, which at the same time afforded our sharpshooters an excellent opportunity for picking off the cannoneers from a battery that enfiladed the position and poured a destructive fire of canister and shrapnel into my line.

At this time the enemy was holding the same line of intrenchments with my own troops, starting from the point where the right of my division rested and extending thence to the left [our right]. It was impossible for my line to advance from this position, as no troops had come up on my right to dislodge the enemy, and had I moved my line forward the enemy would merely by filing to the right in the same trench have occupied my position and poured a deadly fire into my rear. I reported this fact to one of the corps staff officers and soon after received peremptory orders to move my troops forward. I immediately gave the necessary orders, and the brigade commanders had barely got their men into proper position for a charge when the colored troops came running into the crater, and filing through passed into the rifle-pits to the left [our right] of the fort, where my troops now formed for the charge. The colored troops then made a feeble attempt at a charge, but before they accomplished anything the enemy made a fierce attack, and they retreated precipitately into the rifle-pits, breaking my line and crowding the pits to such an extent that it was impossible to reform my line. The enemy seeing the advantage gained by this attack, shortly afterward made another attack, fiercer and more determined than the first and owing to the crowded condition of the troops a panic was created among the colored regiments and they broke and fled in disorder to the rear, pressing back with them a large portion of my line. Those remaining in the pits were than captured, among whom was Colonel S. M. Weld, Fifty-sixth Massachusetts Volunteers, who behaved with great gallantry. This state of affairs left the crater occupied by General Bartlett and Colonel Marshall, with a small portion of their commands, with the position to the right and left of them held by the enemy. About one hour after this occurrence I received orders to withdraw the portions of my command from the crater to the main line as soon as practicable, and sent Lieutenant Randall, Fourth U. S. Infantry, aide-de-camp, to give the necessary order, but it was impossible for him to reach the command. About 2 o’clock the enemy made an attack upon the troops in the crater and captured them. Among the number captured was Brigadier General W. F. Bartlett, commanding First Brigade, and Colonel E. G. Marshall, commanding Second Brigade. I was then ordered to withdraw the remaining portion of my division to the rear, where they were encamped near their former position. When the Second Brigade occupied the works the Fourteenth New York Artillery found two of the guns of the fort buried in the sand. They got them out and worked them by a squad of men under Sergt. Wesley Stanley, of Company D, Fourteenth New York Artillery. The sergeant behaved handsomely but lost his life in the conflict. The flag captured from the rebels was taken by Sergeant Hill, Fourteenth New

York Artillery.* Accompanying this report please find the reports of my brigade commanders; also list of casualties of my division for 30th of July, 1864.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JAMES H. LEDLIE,

Brigadier-General, Commanding First Division, Ninth Army Corps.

Lieutenant Colonel LEWIS RICHMOND,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Ninth Army Corps.

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*Sergt. James Hill was awarded a Medal of Honor.

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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 532-537

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