Number 284. Reports of Colonel Samuel P. Spear, Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, commanding Second Brigade, of operations June 15-30

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 80)

Numbers 284. Reports of Colonel Samuel P. Spear, Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, commanding Second Brigade, of operations June 15-30.1

HEADQUARTERS SECOND CAVALRY BRIGADE.

In the Field, June 17, 1864

CAPTAIN: In pursuance of your instructions of this date, I have the honor to inform you that the following is a correct report of the operations of my brigade on the 15th and 16th instant:

My brigade crossed the Appomattox River on the pontoon bridge between 1 and 2 o’clock on the morning of the 15th instant, marched out about three miles, then halted until 5 o’clock, then marched in the direction of Petersburg, met the enemy’s pickets at 6 o’clock and the advance was ordered to charge them, which they did, driving them into their works. I immediately deployed the First District of Columbia Cavalry as skirmishers on right and left of the road and advanced with them to within about 800 yards of the enemy’s works, when they opened upon us with two pieces of artillery and a heavy musketry fire. I held my position until ordered to fall back by the brigadier-general commanding division, then joined the main column, marching in the direction of the Prince George road, marched to the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad, took, the road leading to the right, there met about fifty rebel cavalry, which the advance squadron of the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry charged, driving them back until our men came within range of the enemy’s guns from their earth-works, when I halted them and awaited orders from the brigadier-general commanding. When the orders were received they were to advance my brigade on the left of the road as skirmishers, which I did, keeping on a line as near as possible with the First Brigade on the right. I advanced to within about 1,500 yards of the enemy’s works, the enemy opening upon my line with artillery. I held my position until about 4 o’clock, when I fell back to my horses, by order of the general commanding, then marched back to near General

W. F. Smith’s corps; there bivouacked all night. At 5.30 o’clock on the morning of the 16th marched out in the direction of Petersburg, arriving near Major-General Smith’s headquarters at 9 o’clock, halted until 11 o’clock, when I received orders to move; did so, marching out to the Prince George road and down the Prince George road to Birchett’s house, where I bivouacked, according to orders from the brigadier-general commanding, until 11 o’clock at night, when we again marched in the direction of camp, crossing the pontoon bridge on the Appomattox River about 2.30 and reached camp about 3.15 o’clock on the morning of the 17th.

Inclosed are lists of casualties* and the reports of my regimental commanders.

I am, with high respect, your obedient servant,

S. P. SPEAR,

Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Captain M. J. ASCH.

Actg. Asst. Adjt. General Kautz’s cavalry Division.

HEADQUARTERS SECOND CAVALRY BRIGADE.

In the Field, near Jones’ Landing, Va., July 1, 1864.

Pursuant to orders from the general commanding division, my brigade left camp on the morning of the 21st of June, crossed the pontoon bridge at 4.30, marched out to Mount Sinai Church, reaching there at 10.30, bivouacked until 2 a.m. 22d, took line of march (my brigade in advance) toward Petersburg and Weldon Railroad, reaching Reams’ Station at 7.30 a.m. driving in enemy’s pickets. At the station we destroyed railroad buildings, a portion of the track, and thirteen dirt cars; marched on to Dinwiddie Court-House, halted near one hour, and marched toward Ford’s Depot, on the South Side Railroad, reaching there about 5.30 p.m.; founds two locomotives and eighteen platform and other cars, all of which were destroyed, with a great quantity of track. The men were kept at work destroying the railroad until near 12 o’clock at night, then bivouacked until morning of the 23d. At 1.30 line of march was again taken up, my brigade in the advance; marched along the South Side Railroad, passing Wilson’s at 4 a.m., Blacksand Whites at 6.30 (there destroyed one car and water-tank); reached Nottoway Court-House at 10.30; halted a short time, and then marched on to junction of South Side, Lynchburg and Richmond and Danville Railroads, reaching there at 3 p.m. Immediately put my brigade (pursuant to instructions from the general commanding division) to work destroying the Lynchburg railroad above the Junction, which was done effectually for nearly five miles, men working until midnight, then bivouacked until 4 a.m. morning of the 24th, when the general commanding division ordered my brigade to remain and destroy the Junction, which was done effectually, taking me over an hour to do it. I then marched in rear of First Brigade along the Danville railroad, reaching Price’s Station at 7.30,where the First Brigade was halted and at work destroying the road above the station. I destroyed it below the station for two miles, marched on up the road, reaching Meherrin Station at 9 a.m. destroying the road effectually along the route nearly all the way and at the station. Marched to Keysville Station, reaching there at 1.30, destroying the track between the two stations on our way. At Keysville bivouacked for the night. Men were at work on the road until near midnight.

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*Not found, but see table embodied in Kautz’s report, p. 730.

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Saturday, 25th, marched on up the railroad, reaching Drake’s Branch Station at 9 a.m. destroying the road as on previous days; halted for two hours, then marched on toward Roanoke Station, on the Staunton River, reaching it at 5 p.m., when the enemy immediately opened upon us with artillery from an earth-work on the opposite side of the river-bank, also from the bridge with heavy musketry. I immediately dismounted Nos. 1,2, and 3 of my command deployed them as skirmishers to the left of the railroad, and advanced under heavy fire of musketry and artillery to within good rifle-range, when I halted and opened upon the enemy. I held my position until compelled to fall back by the superior force of enemy and their being protected by earth-works, while my men were exposed to all their fire. I fell back about 200 yards and then held my position until the men were nearly out of ammunition, when I fell back to the depot. After getting ammunition and resting the men, I was again sent out to the same position, to hold it during the night, which I did until all of General Wilson’s division and the First Brigade of General Kautz’s division had been withdrawn, when I withdrew to the depot, destroying the same and railroad, and marched away in good order at 5 a.m., June 26; passed Christianville at 7.30 p.m. The rear of my brigade (First District of Columbia Cavalry) were attacked by small parties of rebels about 5 p.m., but were successfully repulsed. Halted at 2 o’clock morning of 27th, and bivouacked until 6.30, when we again marched, making several halts during the day. Crossed Meherrin River at 8.45 and reached Price’s farm at 10.30 p.m.where we bivouacked all night. Smoky Ordinary at 10 reaching and crossing the Nottoway bridge at 4 p.m.; halted for a short time, moved on toward Stony Creek Station; General Wilson’s division attacked by enemy at the last-named station. My brigade (Kautz’s division) sent in advance toward Reams’ Station; marched all night, reaching a position within half a mile of Reams’ on the morning of the 29th about 6 o’clock. Enemy immediately opened upon the advance with artillery, driving them back to the main column. I at once ordered the advance the advance regiment (Eleventh Pennsylvania) to form in a field a little to the rear and left of the main road, and the carbineers, about twenty to a company, to dismount and advance as skirmishers, while the mounted portion of the regiment was kept in position ready for a charge upon the enemy should they advance. The First District of Columbia Cavalry, being all armed with rifles, were all dismounted, with the exception of Numbers 4, to hold the horses, and advanced as skirmishers. Just as the First District of Columbia got into position the Alabama Brigade (rebel), Colonel Sanders commanding, charged upon my skirmish line, when the mounted portion of Eleventh [Pennsylvania] and First District of Columbia,dismounted charged them, driving them back under cover of the woods. In the charge the Eleventh captured a large number of prisoners belonging to several different Alabama regiments. I held my first position for about two hours and until forced back to a new line by the enemy trying to turn the left flank. The command was so much exhausted that it was almost an impossibility to keep them from falling asleep while on the skirmish line. They were compelled to fall back until near the artillery, but still nobly fought the foe. By this time the order had been given by General Wilson to cut loose from everything and save, if possible, the men and horses. The general commanding division held his position until a large portion of General Wilson’s division, who were in our rear, were driven in upon us by

General Hampton’s Cavalry Legion; we then being surrounded on our front, rear, and left by overwhelming forces of rebel infantry, cavalry, and artillery. I then received the order to take the advance and cut my way through to the plank road, which was accomplished by taking a southeasterly course through an almost impenetrable woods and swamp, passing the enemy on either flank, enforcing a passage. I reached the plank [road] at Proctor’s Tavern about 5.30 p.m. I then marched toward our lines, passing our pickets, and reaching the headquarters of Captain Crowninshield at 11.30 p.m. where we bivouacked until 5.30 June 30. then marched to our old camp on the James River.

Inclosed please find a list of casualties* of my command which is very heavy. Up to this hour, 6 p.m. men supposed to have been killed or captured are constantly coming in.

In closing my report it gives me great pleasure to state that my acting assistant adjutant-general, Lieutenant J. Frank Cummings, of the Fifth Pennsylvania Cavalry, performed his duty nobly, gallantly; and ever ready at all times and with but six hours’ sleep in severely-two consecutive hours, he never faltered. My orders were conveyed with promptness and dispatch, which all proves that this young and faithful officer is fully worthy and fully competent for a better and higher position than he now occupies.

I deeply deplore the loss of the brave and gallant officers and men who fell in the struggle on the 29th, and whilst I feel their loss is irreparable, it is a consolation to know that they died at their post firmly, willingly, and unflinchingly, carrying out each and every order received by them. Their many virtues will be regarded in another field brighter and fairer than their last on earth. Requiescat in pace.

I am, sir, with high respect, your obedient servant,

SAMUEL P. SPEAR.

Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Captain M. J. ASCH.

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

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*Not found, but see table embodied in Kautz’s report, p. 733.

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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 738-741

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