Number 270. Reports of Colonel Guy V. Henry, Fortieth Massachusetts Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations June 15-July 30

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 80)

Numbers 270. Reports of Colonel Guy V. Henry, Fortieth Massachusetts Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations June 15-July 30.1

HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier ., FIRST DIV., EIGHTEENTH CORPS,
June 26, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my brigade before Petersburg:

At 3 o’clock on the morning of Wednesday, June 15, 1864, my brigade took up its line of march, following the brigade of General Marston. We reached a point within sight of Petersburg at about noon of the same day. Up to this time the troops under my command had had no collision with the enemy. I formed my brigade in line of battle by regiments, each regiment in column by division, in the rear of General Marston. Some time was occupied by the general commanding in reconnoitering the enemy’s works, and during this interval my brigade lay in position as above described. An assault having been determined upon, I sent from my brigade, by direction of General Brooks, the Ninety-second New York Volunteers, Major T. A. Merriman commanding to re-enforce the first line of attack. My remaining four regiments were ordered to support the assaulting party and meet any counter-charge of the enemy in the event of a repulse. These dispositions having been made the advance was commenced and the work in front carried in gallant style. The Ninety-second New York, of my brigade, was among the first to scale the parapet and effect a lodgment in the fort. By order of General Brooks, the remainder of my brigade was at once hurried up and formed a new line of battle about seventy-five yards in front of the captured fort. This position was slightly intrenched and darkness having now shutin, in further operations ceased for the night. At 6 o’clock on the morning of the 16th I received orders from General Brooks to extend my line some 200 yards to the right, along a road leading across the valley toward the river. I accordingly moved by the right flank

the distance prescribed, and found myself facing a line of rebel rifle-pits with two redoubts about 100 yards to the right of my brigade. The line of pits was unoccupied by the enemy, being enfiladed by our own batteries on the hill to the left; the redoubts, however, were still held by the enemy though in what force was unknown. I therefore sent forward the Twenty-first Connecticut by companies, deployed as skirmishers, to ascertain if the fort could be cheaply taken. The enemy was found in too strong a force to render an attack advisable, and half the skirmishers were withdrawn, the others remaining to give notice of any hostile movement. The remaining portion of my brigade was, in obedience to orders received, marched to a position near that occupied by it on the previous day before the charge. At 6 p.m. I was ordered to advance my brigade again to the front and join in the action them just commencing. Soon afterward I received instructions to report to General Birney, commanding division of the Second Corps. I was by him placed in reserve on his left, and remained there until daylight, when I was sent to the front and ordered to form a line of battle on the right of General Birney’s division. His position having been taken during the night was securely intrenched along the edge of pine woods. On his right was an open field without any protection and swept by the enemy’s fire. I had commenced to dig a covered way leading to General Birney’s right, with the intention to extend his line of rifle-pits and thus introduce my men, when I was relieved by a brigade of General Birney’s own command and resumed my position of the early morning. At 5 p.m. I was ordered by General Hancock to rejoin the Eighteenth Corps and marched with it to Appomattox Landing.

My losses during the two days were 1 enlisted man killed and 17 enlisted men wounded.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GUY V. HENRY,

Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Captain THEODORE READ.

Assistant Adjutant-General, First Div., Eighteenth Corps.
HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, FIRST DIV., 18TH ARMY CORPS,
July 1, 1864.

CAPTAIN: In accordance with orders from division headquarters, I have the honor to report the following as the operations of this brigade since June 21, 1864:

By 4 o’clock on the morning of that day my brigade was on the march from the Appomattox Landing toward Petersburg. We reached the Army of the Potomac about noon, and halting my brigade in the rear of that of General Burnham, I reported in person to General Stannard at the immediate front. In accordance with orders then received, my brigade was at dusk placed on the left of the division in the front line, relieving therefrom a portion of the Sixth Corps. On examining my position I was much dissatisfied with the character and location of the earth-works already constructed. During the following night I, therefore, with the approbation of the general commanding division, changed and remodeled my lines throughout. Two covered ways were also commenced, connecting the front and rear of my brigade. This work of intrenching for my own troops and for several batteries located within the limits of my command has been constantly followed up from

that time to the present date. Although the working parties have been much exposed to the enemy’s fire, yet such precautions have been taken that hardly a man has been hurt while using the shovel or pick. At daylight on the 24th the batteries of the enemy opened fire with unusual severity. After a furious cannonade of nearly an hour a portion of the rebel General Hoke’s command attempted to charge my front. My pickets, obeying orders received, allowed the enemy’s skirmishers to occupy my advanced pits. As soon as my pickets were withdrawn my front line, which up to this time had been silent, commenced a rapid and telling fire upon the enemy. The latter found themselves entrapped in my skirmish line, not being able to hold it, neither finding it possible to advance or retreat. Those who attempted to fall back were shot down, those who came forward first threw away their arms in token of surrender. Those who remained were sent for and brought in, either as wounded or prisoners. Hardly a man escaped. One captain and 60 enlisted men were brought to the rear by members of any own brigade, while more than 100 others, who after surrendering passed around to my right seeking an entrance, were taken by the next brigade.

That night more than 20 rebel dead were buried by my men in front of my lines. My own loss in the whole affair was trifling. The same evening I commenced the placing of an abatis before my front lines and continued this work on successive evenings till finished. The only delay in this labor was caused by the slowness with which the necessary materials arrived and the occasional fire of the enemy on my working parties. I afterward caused a ditch to be dug between the pit and abatis, the earth being thrown upon the butts of the latter. While this work was in progress I also projected and commenced a mine leading from my left up the turnpike to a rebel fort. The work upon this has been suspended, owing to the nature of the soil, which requires engineering materials not within my reach. My brigade has, from its first arrival up to the present date, been constantly represented at the front, not more than half of my men having ever been withdrawn at once.

The losses in my brigade during this period have been as follows: 7 enlisted men killed, and 2 officers and 27 enlisted men wounded.

Both the officers and men of my command have exhibited a promptness and alacrity in the performance of duty which has been very gratifying to me, and which I deem worthy of mention. This is especially true of that portion of my brigade which has been daily expecting to go home as veteran volunteers, and which might have been excused in being somewhat impatient of delay.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GUY V. HENRY,

Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Captain WILLIAM L. KENT,

Actg., Asst. Adjt. General, First Div., Eighteenth Army Corps.

HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, FIRST DIV., 18TH ARMY CORPS.

July 31, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part sustained by my brigade in the operations of July 29 and 30:

At 10.30 p.m. of the 29th my brigade was relieved from the front on the right of the line before Petersburg, and, under the direction of General Burnham, commanding division, was marched to the rear of the Ninth Corps,where, after some delay, it was distributed in the rifle-

pits directly opposite the rebel fort where the mine was laid and the charge to take place. As soon as these dispositions were made the mine was exploded and the attack commenced. During its progress my brigade rendered important service in keeping down the fire from the enemy’s flanking pits. A number of my brigade also volunteered to bring in the wounded of the Ninth Corps, who were lying in an open field exposed to a heavy cannonade and musketry fire. Two men from the Fortieth Massachusetts were themselves wounded while thus engaged. When the negro troops retread in confusion,arising from their being crowded in under a heavy fire, with no definite object in view, they were rallied behind my brigade, and in some instances by my officers. My men behaved with great steadiness and bravery under a heavy enfilading fire, and performed promptly whatever was asked of them to do. A nominal report of my casualties has already been sent in to division headquarters. My brigade was relieved by regiments from the Ninth Corps at 10 p.m. on the 30th, and marched a short distance to the rear, where it was joined by the rest of the division. The next morning it went into camp with the Eighteenth Corps.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GUY. V. HENRY.

Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Captain THEODORE READ,

Asst. Adjt. General, First Div., Eighteenth 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 714-717

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