Number 275. Report of Brigadier General Edward W. Hinks, U. S. Army, commanding Third Division, of operations June 15-19

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 80)

Numbers 275. Report of Brigadier General Edward W. Hinks, U. S. Army, commanding Third Division, of operations June 15-19.1

HDQRS. THIRD DIVISION, EIGHTEENTH ARMY CORPS.

Near Point of Rocks, Va., June 20, 1864.

MAJOR: I have the honor to submit my report of operations under the provisions of the following order of the major-general commanding Department of Virginia and North Carolina, to wit:

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA AND NORTH CAROLINA,
In the Field, Va., June 14., 1864.

General HINKS:

You will report with your force in such position that you will be ready to move with General Smith just before daybreak. You will report personally to him at Broadway at 2 a.m. precisely. I think he will not keep you waiting. General Smith will march on the City Point road.

BENJ. F. BUTLER.

Major-General, Commanding.

At about 1 a.m. of the 15th instant I had moved Duncan’s brigade, consisting of the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth and Twenty-second Regiments U. S. Colored Infantry; Holman’s (Provisional) brigade, consisting of the First U. S. Colored Infantry and one wing of the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry (dismounted); Angel’s battery and Choate’s (colored) battery, from the several positions which they previously occupied to the immediate vicinity of Broadway, and at 2 a.m. reported in person to Major General W. F. Smith at Brodway. In accordance with his orders I concentrated my command in the immediate vicinity of Cope’s house, below Broadway, on the road from City Point to Petersburg, at about daylight, with directions to take my place in column immediately following Kautz’s cavalry.

The field return of the day exhibits the following effective force of the division present for duty: Duncan’s brigade, officers and men, 2,200; Holman’s brigade, officers and men, 1,300; Angel’s battery, officers and men, 136; Choate’s (colored) battery, officers and men, 111; aggregate, 3,747.

About 5 o’clock, General Kautz’s cavalry column having passed, my division was ordered into column and proceeded as far as the railroad, when its march was obstructed by a halt of the cavalry, and sharp firing of musketry and artillery was heard toward the front. I immediately made a personal reconnaissance and found that the enemy had opened fire from a position in Baylor’s field, which commanded the road, as it debouched from the wood and swamp, near Perkinson’s Saw Mill, and that the head of the cavalry column had been driven in. Having reported the state of affairs to General Smith, I was ordered to deploy in two lines of battle, with skirmishers in front, and force a passage of the swamp. Duncan’s brigade was formed on the first line, Holman’s in the second. Considerable delay was occasioned by the difficulty in getting the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry into line by reason of its awkwardness in maneuver, it being composed of new recruits, and drilled only in Cooke’s single rank cavalry formation, which entirely unfitted it to act as infantry in line. The lines, however, being formed, I ordered an advance, having directed Angel’s battery into a position from which its guns were brought to bear upon the enemy over our advancing lines. The wood and swamp, through which ran a creek, was extremely difficult of passage, but the advance was finally made by most of the regiment, though furiously assailed with spherical case, canister, and musketry along the whole line. Some confusion, however, arose among the regiments upon the left of the road, and a few of the men fell back to the open space of ground. The enemy was found to be in a hastily constructed work, occupying a very strong position in Baylor’s field, with four pieces of artillery and some force of infantry in the field-works, and two pieces of artillery, with supports, upon the crest of the hill on the right. The distance from the edge of the woods to the works was about 400 yards over open, rising ground, which was speedily overcome, when the enemy fled toward Petersburg, leaving in our hands one 12-pounder gun. This line was carried at a little later than 8 a.m. About 9 a.m. I renewed my march (Colonel Holman’s command in advance) by the road from the City Point road to the Jordan Point road. Having reached the Jordan Point road, I turned to the right and again met the enemy’s pickets on Bailey’s Creek, near Bryant’s house, and, deploying Holman’s command, drove them in beyond the woods surrounding Ruffin’s house. I immediately advanced my command into position in front of the enemy’s works, covering my troops with a line of skirmishers from across the junction of the Jordan Point road and

Suffolk stage road on the left, and extending to the right beyond Peebles’ house, and directed the skirmishing line to keep up a constant fire upon the gunners in the enemy’s works. This position was gained at about 11 a.m. I now directed Colonel Duncan, with Captain Angel, to bring a portion of our guns into position to bear upon the enemy’s works, if possible. This was found to be impracticable, on account of the complete sweeping cross-fire maintained by the enemy’s batteries upon every portion of the crest, until later in the day, when a section was pushed into position to the right of Peebles’ house and another section to the left of the house. At about 2 p.m. by direction of General Smith, the line was extended to the right to connect with General Brook’s line near the point of woods, after which no material change was made in the disposition of troops until preparations were made for the final charge. The enemy kept up an unremitting and very accurate and severe fire of artillery upon my position from the batteries now known as Batteries Nos. 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. At about 5 o’clock I was informed by General Smith that he intended to charge the works with the skirmish line, and directed me to cause the proper disposition to be made to advance as soon as General Brook’s line commenced to advance. I immediately directed the skirmish line to be strengthened and sufficiently advanced to gain the most favorable position for the purpose, and to drive in all of the enemy’s sharpshooters. At about 7 o’clock an aide from General Smith informed me that the general had directed him to say that General Brooks would be in motion by the time that he (the aide) could reach me, and I, therefore, immediately ordered Colonels Duncan and Holman to commence the assault, which was executed with great gallantry and promptness, resulting in the carrying of all the works from Numbers 7 to Numbers 11 (five in number), and the capture of six guns, with caissons, prisoners, &c. Shortly after the final assault the division was joined on the left by General Birney’s division, of the Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac, with whom it occupied the works during the night. During the forenoon of the 16th instant my command was withdrawn to near the junction of the Spring Hill and City Point roads on the right, when I directed Colonel Holman, with his command, to picket the river from the right of General Martindale to the gun-boats, and held Duncan’s brigade in reserve near the junction of the roads above referred to, employing heavy details to construct the batteries along the crest of the bluff near Walthall’s, from which my guns were subsequently enabled to effectually silence the enemy’s batteries across the river near Archer’s.

On the 17th instant the Fifth and Sixth Regiments, of Duncan’s brigade, were directed to report to General Martindalel-the former for picket duty, the latter for a reconnaissance. On the 18th I directed Duncan’s brigade to report to General Martindale for temporary duty. On the 19th the division was relieved by General Russell’s division was relieved by General Russell’s division, of the Sixth Corps, and, marching over the pontoon, bridge near Spring Hill, went into camp during the afternoon near Point of Rocks.

By reason of severe indisposition, under which I was suffering when the movement commenced, and of injuries received by and accident during the fight on the morning of the 15th, aggravating disabilities arising from old wounds, I was physically unable to take so active a part in the operations before Petersburg as I desired to, and am under great obligations to the brigade commanders and the members of my staff for their individual efforts to sustain me, and especially are my aides-de-camp, Captain Thomas L. Livermore, Captain James H. Wickes, and Lieutenant R. N. Verplanck, deserving of the highest credit for the zeal,

gallantry, and intelligence with which they discharged the duties devolving upon them. Colonel J. H. Holman and Colonel S. A. Duncan, commanding brigades, acquitted themselves with great gallantry and credit during the operations of the 15th, and I heartily approve their commendations of the gallant and soldierly behavior of the officers serving under them, who are mentioned in their several reports, and the reports of regimental commanders, and especially refer to the gallant bearing and soldierly behavior of Colonel J. B. Kiddoo, Twenty-second U. S. Colored Troops.

In the gallant and soldierly deportment of the troops engaged on the 15th instant under varying circumstances, the celerity with which they moved to the charge; the steadiness and coolness exhibited by them under heavy and long-continued fire; the impetuosity with which they sprang to the assault; the patient endurance of wounds, we have a sufficient proof that colored men, when properly officered, instructed, and drilled, will make most excellent infantry of the line, and may be used as such soldiers to great advantage.

Our losses were quite heavy of officers and men, as shown in the inclosed summary of casualties,marked A.* Among the wounded were Colonel H. S. Russell and Major Z. B. Adams, of the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry, who fell while gallantly leading their regiment in the charge at Baylor’s farm, and Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Goff, jr., of the Twenty-second U. S. Colored Troops, who fell in the movement upon the enemy’s works. Inclosed are copies of the reports of brigade and regimental commanders, and of my staff officers.

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

EDW. W. HINKS.

Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding Division.

Major WILLIAM RUSSELL, Jr.,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Eighteenth Army Corps.

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*Not found, but see table compiled from nominal lists from June 15 to 30, 1864, pp. 236, 237.

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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 720-723

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