Number 236. Report of Colonel George H. Chapman, Third Indiana Cavalry, commanding Second Brigade, of operations June 13 – July 12

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 80)

No. 236. Report of Colonel George H. Chapman, Third Indiana Cavalry, commanding Second Brigade, of operations June 13 – July 12.1

HDQRS. SECOND Brigadier, THIRD DIV., CAVALRY CORPS, July 12, 1864.

CAPTAIN: *

Holding this position on White Oak Swamp until the arrival of a part of General Crawford’s division, of the Fifth Corps, by which I was

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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.896.

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relieved, I was directed to move my command out on the main road to Richmond. As near as I can now recollect this was about noon of the 13th [June]. Proceeding about a mile my advance came upon the enemy strongly posted in a belt of timber in front of Riddell’s Shop. After some skirmishing, finding the enemy disposed to contest the position with obstinacy, I directed the Third Indiana and Eighth New York to prepare to fight on foot, and forming them in line of battle advanced into the woods at a double-quick. A brigade of rebel cavalry, dismounted and armed mainly with rifled muskets, held the position, but they soon gave way before the impetuosity of my men, leaving many of their dead and wounded on the field. By this advance I was enabled to cover the road to Malvern Hill (Quaker road), and was directed by the general commanding division not to advance farther. Patrols sent out on the roads to my front developed that the enemy had fallen back from my front to some distance. Being ordered to hold this position until otherwise directed, I formed line of battle with the First Vermont, Third India, and Eighth New York, the left of the line resting on the Quaker road, the right extending well across the road from Bottom’s Bridge. The First New Hampshire and Twenty-second New York and Fitzhugh’s battery were formed as a supporting line in the field in rear. Three hours passed without any appearance of the enemy, and during this time a slight breast-works was throw up on some parts of the line. At about 6 p.m. the enemy were discovered advancing in strong line of battle and heavy column down the entire, so far as it was developed being infantry. Soon the entire line became heavily engaged. My ammunition being nearly exhausted, and the enemy showing vastly superior numbers, I deemed it prudent to retire to the position held by my second line, which was done in good order. Having reported that I needed re-enforcements in order to hold the enemy in check, two or three regiments of infantry up and were disposed without any direction from me. Until near dark nothing transpired save a good deal of desultory skirmishing along the lines. At near dark the enemy advanced from the cover of the timber in strong line of infantry, and a regiment of our infantry, which had been posted on the right of my line, gave way rapidly and with scarcely a show of resistance, throwing the right of my line into considerable confusion. The left, however, retired in good order, and Fitzhugh’s battery was moved off at a walk. Some difficulty, occasioned by getting the horses through a line of battle formed in our rear by General Crawford’s division, created a show of confusion and scare upon the part of the cavalry which did not in reality prevail. The command passed to the rear of the infantry and was massed in a field near by until about 10 p.m., when the brigade moved in rear of infantry in direction of Charles City Court-House. At 2 a.m. bivouacked near Nancy’s Shop.

The brigade moved soon after daylight on the morning of the 14th, and proceeded to near Harrison’s Landing, where supplies were received and issued to the command. While here the enemy attacked the pickets on the road to Saint Mary’s Church, but were driven off by the Eighth New York. Moved command to Phillips’ and held the approaches. A reconnoitering party sent out three miles toward Malvern Hill returned without meeting the enemy.

On the 15th, with the First Vermont and Eight and Twenty-second New York and a section of Fitzhugh’s battery, I made a reconnaissance to Malvern Hill, where we had a sharp skirmish and developed

the enemy near that position in very considerable force. In the vicinity of Phillip’s there was no manifestation of the presence of the enemy during the day.

At dark on the 16th, in compliance with instructions, moved my command, via Charles City Court-House, to James River, near pontoon bridge, and encamped until the morning of the following day, when we crossed over the James River on the pontoon bridge, and proceeding to a mile beyond Prince George Court-House on the road to Petersburg encamped for the night.

On the 18th moved to near Mount Zion Church, on the Blackwater, where the brigade remained in camp until the morning of the 22nd without incident of importance.

On the morning of the 22nd of June, at early dawn, the brigade left camp upon the Blackwater, bringing up the rear of the column, and marching across the Suffolk railroad and Jerusalem plank road reached the Weldon railroad at Ream’s Station. At this point I detached a squadron of the Eighth New York Cavalry to effect such damage to the road as would be possible during the passage of my brigade, and about the same time the enemy to manifest his presence upon my right flank, and opened with artillery upon the column, but without effect. From this point the enemy (W. H. F. Lee’s division of cavalry) followed the rear of the column closely, keeping up a continual skirmish until a couple of hours after night-fall. Until near sundown the rear of my column was covered by the First Vermont Cavalry, Major Wells commanding, when, being exhausted with the work, I relieved them with the Twenty-second New York Cavalry. About 11 a.m. I bivouacked my command near Ford’s Station, on the South Side Railroad.

On the morning of the 23rd I moved my command from bivouac about an hour before daylight, and proceeding by the Cox road, moved along the railroad, detaching regiments at different points to destroy the track until we reached Blacks and Whites, where we made an hours’ halt. At this point a considerable quantity of cotton was destroyed. Again resuming the march, proceeded toward Nottoway Court-House. By following the road taken by General Kautz’s division we were carried several miles out of the more direct route, and upon reaching a point near Nottoway Court-House where the road crosses the railroad the head of column came upon the enemy. Soon ascertaining that it was the same that had followed the rear the day previous I made dispositions to meet the enemy, who advanced to the attack, checked his advance, and subsequently drove him back a considerable distance. The enemy bringing up strong

re-enforcements my line again retired to its original position along the railroad, from which repeated attempts of the enemy failed to dislodge them. In answer to my request for re-enforcements the Fifth New York Cavalry was sent sot me at a late hour in the afternoon but another advance of the line not being determined upon only a small fraction of that command became engaged, and toward morning I relieved them from the line. This engagements lasted from 1 p.m. until dark and at time was quite severe. My loss in killed, wounded, and missing was —, white that of the enemy was fully equal, and I am inclined to think exceeded my own. Here fell Captain McNair, of the Eighth New York Cavalry, a noble officer, whose cool intrepidity and noble daring had endeared him to all who knew him. Among the missing is Captain Sayles, of the same regiment, distinguished alike for his gallantry and dash. My command remained in line of battle until near daylight, when, in accordance with

instructions, I quietly withdrew, and taking the Hungarytown road proceeded to the Danville railroad, near Meherrin Station, and thence to Keysville, where I bivouacked for the night.

Early on the morning of the 25th instant again took up line of march, my brigade bringing up rear of column and proceeding slowly up the Danville road, making several details for the work of destruction of the railroad, until near sundown; when near the crossing of the Little Roanoke River the enemy again came up with my rear and some light skirmishing ensued. I made dispositions to meet an attack, but the enemy showed little disposition for fight and contented himself with opening fire at long range from a section of rifled pieces, by which one piece of Maynadier’s battery, serving with my brigade, was disabled but brought off.

My forces remained in position until 2 a.m. on the morning of the 26th, when, in compliance with orders, I withdrew and proceeded up the railroad to Roanoke Station, where the direction of march was changed, and following the First Brigade we passed through Christianville and encamped at Buckhorn Creek. On the 27th crossed the Meherrin River at Saffold’s Bridge, my brigade leading the advance of the column, and after several hours’ halt on the north bank of the stream we turned from the main road at Columbian Grove, and securing guides along the way proceeded by cross-roads across the country through a well-settled district to the Boydton plank road and bivouacked for the night on Great Creek. Marching early the next morning, following the First Brigade, proceeded, via Smoky Ordinary, to Poplar Mountain or the Double Bridges, over the Nottoway River, which we reached about noon. Here the command halted to water, and one of the regiments of my brigade (the Third Indiana Cavalry) was ordered to proceed out the road leading to Stony Creek Depot as far as Sappony Cross-Roads near the station, at which point the enemy was met, and the column following shortly after I was ordered to send another regiment to assist the First Brigade in an attack upon the enemy’s position, it being, it being then after dark. Subsequently I placed the Eighth New York and Twenty-second New York Cavalry in reserve line of battle.

Just previous to daylight on the morning of the 29th I was ordered by Colonel McIntosh, commanding division, to place my command in position along the face of a piece of timber in rear of the first position held by our forces, and to hold the position as long as possible, or until I received word the road was clear, so that I could retire with my command. I formed line of battle dismounted, with the First Vermont on the left Eighth New York, Third Indiana, and Twenty-second New York on the right and hastily threw up a small work of rails. At full daylight the enemy advanced upon my front in strong line of battle, dismounted, and simultaneously made a strong attack upon the left flank and upon my led horses with mounted and dismounted men. My line gave back hurriedly, and many of the men were unable to reach their horses on the road upon which the column had moved off. Being myself dismounted and cut off from the road, I gathered together some 300 of my command, and proceeding by a circuitous route I succeeded in reaching the main body about noon near Reams’ Station. In the retrograde movement from this last point my command was assigned the advance, and moving back across the Double Bridges over the Nottoway took the road to Jarratt’s Station. About two miles from the last-named point the command halted a couple of hours in the road, and soon after daylight on the morning of the 30th crossed the railroad at

Jarratt’s without any opposition of consequence. Proceeded by plantation roads to Peters’ Bridge, on the Nottoway, and fording the river (the bridge being destroyed) about noon halted the command until 6 p.m. Again resuming the march at the hour last named, my brigade in advance, proceeded through Waverly to Blunt’s Bridge, on the Blackwater, arriving there about midnight. Found the bridge destroyed and the stream not fordable; constructed a bridge and commenced crossing my command, but before quite a squadron had passed over the bridge gave way precipitating several horse and men into the commenced crossing the command. At daylight my brigade was all over. Moved to near Cabin Point and encamped for the night. On the 2nd instant moved to present camp on James River, near Light-House Point.

During the campaign the entire loss in commissioned officers has been 6 killed, 13 wounded, and 17 missing, and in enlisted men 24 killed, 217 wounded, and 428 missing.

I have constantly received from the officers and men of the command most cordial co-operation, and at all times they have discharged the arduous duties required of them cheerfully and with vigor. When all have done so well it may not be exactly just to discriminate, but I cannot close my report without making mention of Lieutenant-Colonel Benjamin, Major Pope and Major Moore, of the Eighth New York; Major Wells and Major Bennett, of the First Vermont, and Major Patton, of the Third Indiana, and Lieutenant-Colonel Hutchins, of the First New Hampshire, who have at all times been active and efficient in the discharge of their duties.

The members of my staff – Captain J. J. McVean, acting assistant inspector-general; Lieutenant G. S. Taylor, acting assistant adjutant-general; Lieutenant G. M. Gilchrist, acting aide-de-camp, and Lieutenant T. S. Farr, provost-marshal – have performed constant and active duties night and day, rendering me most efficient service, and are entitled to special mention.

Officers and men have borne the hardships and fatigues of the march with patience and willingness. In battle they have been brave and gallant, never faltering or giving way, except before greatly superior numbers.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GEO. H. CHAPMAN,

Colonel Third Indiana Cavalry, Commanding Brigade.

Captain LOUIS SIEBERT,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Cavalry Division.

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 643-647

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