Number 235. Report of Lieutenant Colonel George A. Purington, Second Ohio Cavalry, of operations June 13 – July 24

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 80)

No. 235. Report of Lieutenant Colonel George A. Purington, Second Ohio Cavalry, of operations June 13 – July 24.1

HDQRS. SECOND OHIO VETERAN VOLUNTEER CAVALRY, Light-House Point, Va., July 24, 1864.

SIR: *

June 13, while halting near Cold Harbor, we captured a few prisoners who had advanced to ascertain our position. Crossed the Chickahominy at Long Bridge June 14, and marched to Charles City Court-House; countermarched in eve to Saint Mary’s Church.

June 15, marched at daybreak and met the enemy at Nancy’s Mill, drove them some distance to the forks of the road near [Smith’s] Store, where we formed line on the left-hand road with a chain of vedettes extending to the Fifth New York Cavalry on our right. About 1 a.m. heavy firing commenced on our right, and I was ordered up to support the Eighteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, who were hotly engaged. Arrived there just in time, as they were already being driven back. Dismounted two battalions and took position on right of road, with two companies to left of same. This position we maintained for some time, when I received orders to fall back. Major Nettleton’s battalion (mounted) held them in check till we got to our horses. Fell back about two miles, leaving Squadron M, under command of Captain Ulrey, at the cross-roads as picket. He had hardly established himself before he was attacked by an overwhelming force in front and rear. He fell back through the woods on left of road, and pursuing a circuitous route rejoined the command at Saint Mary’s Church about dark, after having been given up as lost. Our loss, 2 killed and 27 wounded. The brigade took position at Saint Mary’s Church and commenced throwing up

breast-works of rails, which we held during the night. Here we remained June 16 until dark, the enemy’s pickets in sight, when we withdrew, and after marching all night arrived at pontoon bridge on James River at 3 a.m. June 17. At 8 a.m. crossed to south side of James River and marched to Prince George Court-House, where we arrived June 18 and camped till June 22, when we left camp and marched to Reams’ Station, on Petersburg and Weldon Railroad. At 2.30 p.m. passed Dinwiddie Court-House, and camped two miles and a half beyond there between Sutherland’s and Ford’s, on the South Side Railroad.

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*For portion of report (here omitted) covering operations from May 3 to June 12, 1864, see Vol. XXXVI, Part I, p.892.

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June 23, resumed march along South Side Railroad in westerly direction, destroying the track as we went. About 3 p.m. the Second Brigade, Third Division,under Colonel Chapman, met the enemy in force near Nottoway Court-House. We were held in reserve, supporting the artillery of the First Brigade all that night, and next morning, June 24, at 8 a.m.,marched as rear guard for Meherrin Station, on the Richmond and Danville Railroad. Proceeded down the railroad, assisting in tearing up the track and destroying the road generally to Roanoke bridge, on Staunton River, arriving there June 25. The work of these two last days, performed under a burning sun and over hot fire, was extremely exhausting and many of the men have not and never will recover from its effects. Not succeeding in burning the bridge the command commenced its return about 11 p.m. Sunday, June 26, striking to the eastward in the direction of Christianville, camping between Christiansville and Lewisburg. This was the hottest day of the raid, the thermometer standing at 105 Fahrenheit in the shade at 2.30 p.m.

June 27, marched about twenty miles in an easterly direction and camped.

June 28, left camp about 5 a.m., having advance of brigade and division. Met the enemy’s pickets at cross-roads, six miles from Stony Creek; skirmished with them to the Double Bridges, across the Nottoway River. Here we charged and drove them across the bridges giving them no time to destroy them. At this point the Third Indiana took the advance, drove them across Stony Creek upon the main body, who in turn advanced upon the Third Indiana Cavalry and drove them back. Applying for assistance the Third Battalion of my regiment, under command of Captain Easton, was ordered up at a gallop to their aid, dismounted and held the enemy in check until Major Seward with the First Battalion could dismount and form a line in the timber. This they held until the rest of the brigade arrived, when a line was formed and the enemy were driven back into their breast-works. Our lines were advanced to within fifty yards of their position and we succeeded in throwing up temporary

breast-works, which we held against repeated assaults till we were relieved by the Second Brigade at about 2 a.m. June 29. Lost this day 31 killed or wounded. When we were relieved we marched to a point near Reams’ Station. Here the enemy were met in strong force behind earth-works, and all attempts to dislodge him proved useless. I was then ordered on the left of the road in front of the station to support the Fifth New York Cavalry, deployed as skirmishers. This position I held until 2 p.m., when the enemy, having advanced on our left and rear to within fifty yards of my command, opened a most tremendous fire on our backs and, with a yell, charged us. They also had got in between us and the main body, leaving my right in front open only. We turned upon them, however, and not heeding their cries to surrender gave them a few well-directed volleys, and assisted by a few rounds of grape and canister from Fitzhugh’s battery (C, Fourth U. S. Artillery), at very short range, succeeded in temporarily stopping their advance. But finding all retreat cut off and no way of rejoining the main body left open, we moved forward and with a part of the Fifth New York Cavalry, under Captain Cary, reported to General Kautz, finding him and him and his command under a terrible fire of shot and shell and falling back in disorder. He advised me to reply upon my own judgment and get out the best was I could. Collecting what men I could of my own command, the Fifth New York Cavalry, and in fact of all regiments engaged, amounting in all to about 400 men, I struck out in a southerly direction, passing within a few

hundred yards of the enemy’s line and receiving their fire. After marching about a mile we turned about southeast, and passing round another body of rebel infantry continued the direction till I crossed the Weldon railroad, three miles north from Stony Creek Station. Soon after crossing the railroad the enemy attacked my rear and followed me until I joined General Kautz and his command at our Petersburg picket-lines. It is my opinion that had we remained fifteen minutes longer in line the enemy would so far have carried out their plans for our capture that few, if any, of us would have succeeded in escaping. Our loss in this engagement was 73 killed, wounded, and missing.

June 30, we arrived within our lines and reported to Colonel Bryan.

July 2, marched to City Point and received orders to report to General Wilson near Light-House Point, since which date we have remained in this camp recruiting men and horses, with the exception of July 18, 19, and 20, when we stood picket at Cocke’s Mill.

Before closing this report I desire to call your attention to the conduct of the officers and men of my command and by this means to acknowledge my high appreciation of their undaunted courage, uncomplaining endurance of fatigue, and cheerful alacrity with which they obeyed every order during a campaign unparalleled in the annals of warfare for its length and severity of its battles. Especial praise is due Major Nettleton, commanding Second Battalion, and Lieutenants Buell, Houghton, Eggleston, and Drake for the manner in which they led their men during the engagement at Hanover Court-House, actually stoning and clubbing the enemy from their breast-works. It was here that Lieutenants Buell, Drake, and Eggleston were wounded, and I regret to say that of Lieutenant Buell has since proved fatal. And particular credit is due during the last raid to Major Seward, Captains Ulrey, Easton, Case, and Watrous, and Lieutenants Newton, Mason, and Tenney for the gallant manner in which they handled their men and maintained their position when death or capture seemed certain. The loss of Captain Ulrey, who was mortally wounded by the premature explosion of a shell, is deeply to be regretted. The country can ill afford the loss of one whose consummate skill and gallantry has been conspicuous upon sixty battle-fields. I also regret that Captain Case, while obeying an order of his brigade commander, should have been captured. Surg. J. T. Smith was also unremitting in his care for the wounded and remained with them until the enemy had advanced to within a few feet of the ambulances. Our aggregate loss in two months less five days has been 190 killed, wounded, or captured.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

GEO. A. PURINGTON,

Lieutenant-Colonel Second Ohio Vet. Vol. Cavalry, Commanding Regiment

Captain CHARLES H. MILLER, 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 641-643

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