Number 226. Report of Brigadier General David McM. Gregg, U. S. Army, commanding Second Division, Cavalry Corps, of operations July 7 – 30

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 80)

No. 226. Report of Brigadier General David McM. Gregg, U. S. Army, commanding Second Division, Cavalry Corps, of operations July 7 – 30.1

HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, CAVALRY CORPS, November 23, 1864.

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the Second Cavalry Division from the 7th until the 30th day of July, 1864:

After crossing the James River the division was encamped near Light-House Point, picketing in rear and on left of the army until the 26th of July, on the evening of which day it marched with the First Division of the Cavalry Corps, the two divisions under command of Major-General Sheridan, from its camp across the Appomattox at Point of Rocks, and thence north of the James River, crossing at Deep Bottom. On the 27th the division occupied a position on Strawberry Plains. On the morning of the 28th an order from Major-General Sheridan directed me to move the division to Ridley’s [Riddell’s] Shop, near the intersection of the New Market and Charles City roads. The division moved from Strawberry Plains in the following order: The First Brigade, Brigadier General H. E. Davies commanding, in advance, the Second Brigade, Colonel J. I. Gregg commanding, following. Following a wood road leading from the Plains, the division struck the New Market road at the position occupied by the First Division, on the right of the Second Army Corps. Having moved one mile and a half down the

New Market road, and being within the picket-line of the First Division, the pickets on the left of the advance of my column were observed skirmishing with an enemy, and falling back slowly toward the road. The Second Division was at this time marching in a column of fours, and the country on either side of the road was densely wooded, save one small opening, from the farther side of the enemy were advancing. I at once ordered a regiment of the First Brigade to turn out of the column and move to the support of the pickets of the First Division. I na very few minutes a line of battle of the enemy’s infantry (Kershaw’s division) emerged from the woods and advanced toward the road occupied by my command. Without opportunity to form the command regiments were dismounted at once to oppose the enemy. Two guns of Light Battery A, Second U. S. Artillery, commanded by First Lieutenant W. N. Dennison, were turned upon the enemy’s line, and their fire, together with that of the carbines of the dismounted regiments, checked temporarily the advance of the enemy; the suddenness of the attack, and the impracticability of forming my Second Brigade so as to bring it into action at once, gave the enemy an advantage, which he used in forcing back the First Brigade to the road. At this time the Second Brigade, having formed in rear of the road, was brought forward, but the enemy had made a precipitate retreat across the field and through the woods. Mounted regiments were pushed forward rapidly in pursuit, but the enemy, under cover of the dense pines which mounted troops could not penetrate, effected their escape, leaving about 30 of their dead and a number of wounded on the field. In resisting the advance of the enemy the guns of Dennison’s battery did most excellent service. Some of the horses attached to a rifled gun were killed and its support driven off by an overpowering force of the enemy, and the guns thus fell into the hands of the enemy. As soon as the narrow wood road upon which the gun was carried off by the enemy was discovered, a mounted regiment was sent to effect its recapture, but this was not accomplished. On the evening of the 28th the division returned to Strawberry Plains, two of its regiments occupying Malvern Hill and picketing the New Market and Quaker roads. On the 29th the division was in position the entire day on Strawberry Plains, the horses of one brigade having been sent during the preceding night to the south side of the James River. On the night of the 29th the division recrossed the James river and on the 30th crossed the Appomattox and marched to Lee’s Mill, near the Jerusalem plank road. In the affair of the 28th the troops engaged behaved well.

The loss in the division on the 28th was 20 commissioned officers and enlisted men killed, 118 wounded, and 28 missing. Numerical and nominal lists have heretofore been forwarded.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

D. McM. GREGG,

Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding Division.

Brigadier General S. WILLIAMS,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.

ADDENDA.

JULY 15, 1864.

Brigadier-General GREGG:

GENERAL: In the Richmond Whig of the 14th instant it is stated that a portion of Fitz. Lee’s command, in a skirmish near Lee’s Mill with a part of Gregg’s cavalry, drove them back and captured 93 prisoners,

including 2 commissioned officers. This paragraph must refer to the 12th instant. The commanding general desires to know what truth there is in this statement.

A. A. HUMPHREYS,

Major-General and Chief of Staff.
HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, CAVALRY CORPS, July 15, 1864.

Major General A. A. HUMPHREYS, Chief of Staff, Army of the Potomac:

GENERAL: In reply to your communication of this date I have the honor to submit the following:

On the 12th instant, in obedience to the orders of the major-general commanding the Army of the Potomac, I moved my division down the Jerusalem plank road to ascertain the numbers of the enemy at Reams’ Station and Proctor’s Tavern. Arrived at the point on the plank road at which the road to Reams’ Station leaves it: I there halted and sent General Davies’ brigade, with one regiment of Colonel Gregg’s brigade, on the road to Reams’ Station. General Davies met the enemy’s cavalry (Wickham’s brigade) and drove it back to within one mile of the station and within the line of intrenchments. General Davies did not withdraw until late in the afternoon, and then by my order. Holding the intersection of the roads with Colonel Gregg’s brigade, which in that position would be ready to support Davies if required, I sent two regiments of this brigade forward to make a reconnaissance toward Proctor’s, on the plank road. These regiments, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Brinton, crossed Warwick Swamp at the bridge. A short distance beyond found a barricade, which they removed. About 200 yards beyond this barricade the advance of Colonel Brinton was charged by a large column of cavalry, moving up the plank road, this column having on either flank a line of dismounted men in the woods. Colonel Brinton, skirmishing with the enemy, fell back to the line of Warwick Swamp, a distance perhaps of 700 yards, and there remained, reporting the enemy in front of him as being fully four regiments. In this skirmish Colonel Brinton lost 3 officers missing, 12 men wounded, and 28 men missing. In the evening, just before dark, General Davies having returned from Reams’ Station, I again advanced toward Proctor’s, driving the enemy, who were dismounted, back, and compelled them to retire to Reams’ Station, leaving open the plank road to Proctor’s. Prisoners taken reported the advance of Fitz. Lee’s division, with Lomax’s brigade leading and Rosser’s in rear. This was the force met by Colonel Brinton.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. McM. GREGG,

Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding Second Division.

P. S.-General Davies lost no men or officers missing. When I advanced in the evening I was at liberty to use my whole force, as General Hancock had sent infantry to hold the intersection of the roads.

HEADQUARTERS CAVALRY CORPS, August 3, 1864.

Major General A. A. HUMPHREYS, Chief of Staff, Army of the Potomac:

GENERAL: In reply to your communication of the 2nd concerning the reported capture of a gun by the enemy in the engagement of the cavalry

with the enemy on the north side of James River [July 28], I have to reply that the report is correct. The gun captured by the enemy, belonged to Lieutenant Dennison’s battery, serving with the First Brigade of the Second Division. Lieutenant Dennison’s battery was ordered in position by myself to resist an advance of Kershaw’s division of rebel infantry on the flank of the Second Division moving in column on the New Market road, within the pickets of the First Division. The attack was made by the enemy in line of battle, without skirmishers, and across the only open field in the vicinity. The regiments of the leading brigade of the Second Division, Cavalry Corps, were dismounted as rapidly as possible and deployed against the enemy. The dense woods surrounding prevented any formation of mounted men. The dismounted cavalry and Dennison’s guns, while they could not prevent the advance of the enemy’s lines, still they compelled considerable delay. The attack of the enemy upon the First Cavalry Division on my left, and a strong through the woods between the positions of the two divisions, compelled me to order the retirement of Dennison’s battery. This order was delivered, but as the battery, or a portion of it, continued firing I again sent an order for all the guns to be retired at once. This order was promptly obeyed and all of the guns were retired under cover of the gun which was captured. This gun was limbered up and was moving after the others when the wheel horses were shot, and the enemy passing through the woods on either side captured it. The gun was defended by the cannoneers and a portion of the Tenth New York Cavalry, but could not be rescued. Having checked the enemy on the New Market road, a regiment was sent in pursuit to retake the gun. It was followed some two miles, but could not be overtaken.

Brigadier General H. E. Davies, commanding the First Brigade, Second Divisions, in the engagement, and Lieutenant Dennison, were both sent to the hospital on the following morning, and are now absent on sick leaves, so that more particular reports cannot be given at this time. Lieutenant Dennison was personally in charge of the gun captured. Lieutenant Dennison’s battery did most excellent service, and was most skillfully handled. The large number of rebel dead left in the field, as well as the failure of the enemy to advance beyond the New Market road, and his hasty retreat, leaving a number of wounded on the field, attest the severity of the resistance made by Dennison’s battery and the dismounted cavalry.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

D. McM. GREGG,

Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding Cavalry Corps.
HEADQUARTERS SECOND CAVALRY DIVISION, August 3, 1864.

Captain H. C. WEIR,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Cavalry Division:

CAPTAIN: In compliance with instructions, I have the honor to reports the following circumstances attending the loss of the gun of Lieutenant Dennison’s battery (A, Second U. S. Artillery) during the late engagement on the north side of the James River:

In compliance with orders received from General Gregg, through two of his staff officers, Major Taylor and Lieutenant Gregg, I directed Lieutenant Dennison to withdraw his battery and retire down the road. The enemy were steadily and rapidly advancing,

and it was impossible to withdraw more than one gun at a time. As the last gun was leaving the field the two wheel horses were killed. Lieutenant Dennison at once unlimbered and endeavored to drag off the piece by hand. Having no particularly designated supports, he called for assistance from the regiment nearest him (the Tenth New York Cavalry), which was promptly given, but it was too late. The enemy were within a few yards of the gun, and it was impossible to approach it. Lieutenant Dennison did everything in his power to save his gun, and gallantly stood by it to the last, having one horse killed under him and another wounded. I attribute the loss of the gun to the fact that the enemy could advance under excellent cover to within short rifle range of the position we occupied, to the killing of the two wheel horses, and to the want of a regularly designated support.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. M. RANDOL,

Captain, First U. S. Artillery.

[Indorsement.]
HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION CAVALRY, August 3, 1864.

Respectfully forwarded.

J. IRVIN GREGG,
Colonel, Commanding Second Division Cavalry.

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 612-616

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