Number 203. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Byron M. Cutcheon, Twentieth Michigan Infantry, commanding Second Brigade, of operations June 16-July 27

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 80)

No. 203. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Byron M. Cutcheon, Twentieth Michigan Infantry, commanding Second Brigade, of operations June 16-July 27.1

HDQRS. SECOND Brigadier, FIRST DIV., NINTH ARMY CORPS,
Near Poplar Spring Church, Va., October 23, 1864.

CAPTAIN: +

On the evening of the 15th of June the brigade appeared in front of Petersburg and moved into position.

BATTLES OF PETERSBURG.

On the 17th of June the brigade took position in a ravine in front of the enemy’s second line, which they had hastily constructed during the night of the 16th. When the charge was ordered the First Brigade, which was upon the left of this brigade, by some means took the wrong point of direction, and instead of moving against the enemy’s works they swept past in front of them, receiving their full fire. Perceiving this miscarriage, Colonel Christ, commanding this brigade, ordered it to halt at the crest of the hill and throw up a slight breast-work, which they did. Later in the day the First Division charged and carried the works. The Sixtieth Ohio was then ordered forward to fill the space between the First Division and the Second Corps, which it did, but the space was so great and the regiment so small that it formed a very weak line. Still later the First Division was dislodged from the position they had gained and the Sixtieth Ohio was obliged to fall back with them. After dark the First Michigan Sharpshooters, Captain Levant C. Rhines commanding, was ordered to charge upon the angle of the enemy’s works, which they did in most gallant style, capturing the works, with 3 officers, 86 enlisted men, and a stand of colors, which were sent to the rear. The enemy, however, were not disposed to yield the point and soon returned to the fight, which now became a fierce hand-to-hand conflict, in which Captain Rhines, who had displayed the

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+For portion of report (here omitted) covering operations from May 4 to June 15, 1864, see Vol. XXXVI, Part I, p.965.

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greatest gallantry, lost his life. The remnant of the regiment soon found itself surrounded by superior numbers, and the adjutant with 77 men surrendered, prisoners of war. The national colors of the regiment were destroyed by the men, and the pieces divided among them, rather than surrender them to the enemy. As a brigade the command was not actively engaged on this day.

June 18, at daylight, it was found that the enemy had retired during the night and taken up a new line on Cemetery Hill, beyond the Suffolk railroad. The brigade advanced in line of battle through a thick belt of pine timber and emerged into an open field of grain, sloping gradually toward the Suffolk railroad and the enemy’s works. The Sixtieth Ohio was deployed as skirmishers, facing to the right to protect that flank. The remnant of the First Michigan Sharpshooters was engaged in throwing up works for Roemer’s battery near the edge of the above-mentioned belt of timber. About half of the Fiftieth Pennsylvania was also employed as flankers on the right. The remainder of the brigade charged in line for a quarter of a mile across the open field, suffering severely from a galling fire from a very long line of the enemy’s rifle-pits. The railroad cut was reached, but it afforded no shelter, for it was enfiladed by a storm of bullets. The men attempted to climb out of this cut, but only to be mercilessly shot down and to fall back among their comrades. The loss at this point was severe. Toward evening another advance was made, which was pushed to within 150 yards of the enemy’s line. Here the men constructed slight works for their protection, and before morning the brigade was relieved and moved to the rear.

In the charge of the 18th on the Suffolk railroad Major George C. Barnes, commanding Twentieth Michigan, fell mortally wounded. He was an officer of chivalrous bravery, and I have had occasion to mention his valuable services more than once. He was a born soldier, and he died like a true soldier, leading his command. During this action Colonel Christ, commanding the brigade, was severely wounded, when the command devolved upon Colonel Raulston, Twenty-fourth New York Cavalry, who was also wounded soon after. Lieutenant-colonel Travers, Forty-sixth New York, then took command, but he, too, was soon wounded, when Lieutenant-Colonel Newberry, Twenty-fourth New York Cavalry, became the senior officers present. He remained in command until the morning of the 19th, when Colonel William Humphrey, Second Michigan, was assigned to the command, and his regiment was attached to the brigade, of which it still constitutes a valuable part.

On the 20th of June the brigade moved to the right and relieved some part of the Second Corps, in which position it remained until the 25th of June, when it moved back to the left and took position, with its right resting on the Suffolk road, which place it continued to occupy until the 27th of July, when it was withdrawn and placed in reserve.

The great losses which the brigade suffered during this period will sufficiently attest its great services without any praise from me. If it has not been the good fortune of the command to accomplish any remarkable or brilliant feat of arms, it has not been because the men have not been true and reliable or the officers brave and efficient.

Such, captain, is the best report I have been able to compile from the materials at hand. I have prepared it in the midst of a multitude of duties and under great embarrassments from the fact that during the greater part of the operations I was myself absent, wounded. It has also been prepared from secondary reports made by officers not at the time in actual command of the several regiments, the original reports

having been taken away by Colonel Humphrey when he was mustered out. A more full and perfect report may be expected from him at some future day. Accompanying this is a list of casualties for the period covered.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

BYRON M. CUTCHEON,

Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Captain JOHN D. BERTOLETTE,

Asst. Adjt. General, First Division, Ninth 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 584-586

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