Number 294. Report of Brigadier General William N. Pendleton, C. S. Army, Chief of Artillery, Army of Northern Virginia

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 80)

Numbers 294. Report of Brigadier General William N. Pendleton, C. S. Army, Chief of Artillery, Army of Northern Virginia.1

HDQRS. ARTY. CORPS, ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, February 28, 1865.

COLONEL: *

On the 17th [June] Kershaw’s division, First Corps, with Cabell’s battalion, and the Third Corps, with its artillery, which had encamped the previous day near Chaffin’s Bluff, crossed James River on the pontoon bridge near Drewry’s, and proceeded toward Petersburg.

On June 18, while Pickett’s division, with Huger’s battalion, was left to hold the line fronting Bermuda Hundred from Howlett’s, on James River, to the confluence of Swift Creek with the Appomattox-a line which, with Cabell’s battalion, assigned there a day or two later, they have since held in almost unbroken quiet, notwithstanding the close proximity of the enemy in large force-the other troops were placed on the lines for the defense of Petersburg on the east and south of that city, where the enemy was pressing heavily.

General Beauregard having with his limited force on the 17th engaged the enemy in very large numbers on the east of Petersburg, and maintained the same contest, unequal as it was, so successfully as to preserve the city, found himself, however, unable to hold the extended outer line of works on that side, and therefore during the night fell

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*For portion of report (here omitted) covering operations from May 4 to June 17, 1864, see Vol. XXXVI, Part I, p. 1036.

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back to an interior line extending from the Appomattox in a direction between the Hare house and Blandford Cemetery to the Rives house. This new line, selected mainly by the lamented Colonel D. B. Harris, of the Engineers, amid all the difficulties attendant upon the conflict of the day, and afterward fortified under his skillful direction, was seized and held against the enemy’s most vigorous pressure by the divisions of Generals Bushrod Johnson and Hoke, aided by the artillery under Colonel Jones, consisting of Read’s, Moseley’s, Coit’s, and Boggs’ battalions. This artillery force, now merged in this army, is exhibited in the following table:

a This battalion (formerly Dearing’s, of Army of Northern Virginia) served in North Carolina on Plymouth expedition; acted under General Beauregard in repelling Butler on Bermuda Hundred line between May 15 and 21, and accompanied Hoke’s division to Cold Harbor and engaged there June 1, 2, and 3; fought at Petersburg on June 17, and thereafter engaged almost daily.

b This battalion, organized about the time of Butler’s advance, also helped in repelling him at Drewry’s Bluff and on the Bermuda Hundred line, and shared the fights at Petersburg on June 16, 17, and 18. It has been more or less engaged on this line ever since.

c This battalion served in North Carolina in the early spring; acted with the others in repelling Butler on Swift Creek and at Drewry’s Bluff, and participated in the defense of Petersburg June 16 and 17. It has also since been engaged constantly.

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Of this artillery a portion of Coit’s battalion, Bradford’s three guns (20-pounder Parrotts), and Wright’s battery were on the morning of June 18 placed in position on the north side of the Appomattox to sweep with an enfilade fire the left of General Beauregard’s new line on the south of and resting on the river. The other guns were posted on that line and at commanding points in its rear to aid in the defense. They were nearly all effectively engaged on that day (18th) in repelling the attempts of the enemy on their front, reaching from the river to near the Baxter road.

On the right of General Beauregard’s forces those of the First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, took position as they arrived, and on the night of 18th Gibbes’ battalion and a portion of Haskell’s were placed on the line from near the Baxter road to the Rives house under a severe fire of sharpshooters, Haskell’s other guns being adjusted at commanding points on a second line in rear. The guns of the Third Corps were assigned position on the line to the right of those of the First Corps, Richardson’s battalion occupying the salient at the junction of the new line with the old works, known as the Rives Salient, and the others, including the Louisiana Washington Artillery Battalion, were ordered to co-operate with Third Corps, being arranged farther round to the south and west, extending to and covering the Weldon railroad.

The following day (June 19) the general chief of artillery having, under instructions from the commanding general, after special reconnaissances with General Beauregard, selected positions on the north side of the Appomattox affording an enfilade fire upon the lines of the enemy, a number of guns, principally rifles, were assigned to that service. They consisted of the rifles of Lane’s battalion, with Penick’s battery, of Richardson’s battalion, fortified on a commanding eminence at the Archer house; Chew’s and Clutter’s rifles, of McIntosh’s battalion, under Major Johnson, on a lower point, half a mile higher up the river, and Poague’s battalion, under Captain Utterback, on the line still higher up, already held by Bradford’s and Wright’s guns.

On the morning of the 20th these guns opened upon the enemy with such power-from their number and from the direction in which they struck flank and reverse-as to produce much confusion in his ranks and compel him to effect a sudden change of position. Additional guns, among them several 30-pounder Parrotts and 12-pounder Whitworths, were subsequently posted near the Archer house to enable the armament there to hold its ground against the tremendous efforts of the enemy to silence it. These guns were opened upon the enemy whenever his infantry appeared and when his shells were thrown into the city. Batteries erected in every available position on the opposite side and armed with their most formidable guns and mortars were plied with fierceness and constancy against this armament-a sufficient proof of the efficiency with which it disturbed the enemy’s operations and frustrated his plans.

a This battalion formed only June 17. Its batteries separately engaged in operating near Petersburg from Butler’s advance May 5. Captain Sturdivant captured in works carried by the enemy June 15, with two pieces.

Colonel Cutts, who were commanded; subordinate commanders who co-operated with him, and the men who toiled at the substantial works rendered necessary by the extraordinary force of artillery hurled against them, and worked their guns notwithstanding to such good purpose, deserve honorable mention for their services at this point. Lieutenant L. G. Rees, of Ross’ battery, a gallant and meritorious officer, fell here. Lieutenant James, of the same battery, was severely wounded. Some men were also killed or disabled. The guns to the right of these and on the same side of the river co-operated with them to excellent effect in annoying the enemy and protecting our main line. Along that line, on General Beauregard’s entire front and on most of that held by the First Corps, sharpshooting and cannonading were ceaseless and severe, and on several salient points the enemy, who had pressed up his skirmish line very near our breast-works, brought to bear an annoying mortar practice. To counteract this and otherwise damage our assailants recourse was also had to mortars on our side. Of these, consisting chiefly of 24-pounder Coehorns, the supervision was, with characteristic zeal, undertaken by General Alexander. They were so placed as most effectually to protect the exposed points of our line and at the same time annoy that of the enemy. Their number and weight were gradually increased until the defense of this part of our works included twenty-seven mortars (12-pounder and 24-pounder and 8-inch) on General Beauregard’s front, and thirteen of like caliber on that beyond the Rives Salient. A few heavier guns were also added to the armament on these fronts and an interior line arranged to cover exposed points. The Horse Artillery had during this interval continued active with the cavalry.

On the 20th Thomson’s, Hart’s, Shoemaker’s, and Johnston’s batteries were engaged the entire day at the White House, although the enemy brought to bear both gun-boats and field batteries. McGregor’s battery participated in General W. H. F. Lee’s engagement with Wilson at the Davis house, on the Weldon railroad, on the 21st [22d], and in his subsequent pursuit of that raider.

On June 22 Mahone’s division, Third Corps, having moved out of the works to attack the enemy’s left, Lieutenant-Colonel McIntosh accompanied him with Dement’s battery, under Lieutenant Gale. The batteries on the line were directed to co-operate by a combined fire upon the enemy’s batteries and on his troops in the woods. At the proper time Dement’s battery moved rapidly forward, took position near the enemy’s works, and opened, when the infantry, under cover of this fire and of that from the batteries on our line, rushed forward and carried the enemy’s intrenchments, capturing a number of prisoners and four pieces of artillery, which were brought off. A section of Clutter’s battery, under Lieutenant Wilkes, was subsequently brought up and participated with distinguished spirit in the continuance of this successful affair.

On the 24th our guns opened by order along the entire line, those on the north of the Appomattox especially exerting their whole power with a view to a vigorous attack on the enemy’s right. Circumstances prevented the full execution of the design, but the development of our artillery strength apparently exerted a wholesome influence upon the enemy.

On the 28th Lieutenant-Colonel Pegram accompanied Mahone’s division to Reams’ Station, on the Weldon railroad, with Brander’s and Cayce’s batteries, and during the day following used them effectively against Wilson’s cavalry.

On June 30 General Alexander was interrupted in his valuable services by a wound from a minie-ball, received under the sharp and continuous skirmishing on his line. Happily, though disabling, it was not dangerous. During his absence, which continued until August 18, Lieutenant-Colonel Huger was assigned to the command of the guns and mortars on that part of the line.

Throughout the month of July sharp skirmishing day and night and desultory cannonading were continued, but nothing material was developed till near the close of the month.

During the night of the 26th the enemy crossed to the north side of James River near Deep Bottom a large force of infantry and artillery, making in that direction a formidable demonstration. Colonel Carter commanded on that side of James River Hardaway’s and Cutshaw’s battalions of artillery, belonging to the Second Corps, which had remained behind when the rest of their corps moved westward. With this artillery Colonel Carter had efficiently patrolled that bank of the river against the enemy’s gun-boats since the transfer of the army to Petersburg. He now met the enemy’s advance, supported by Kershaw’s division. A portion of the latter giving way too easily left the four 20-pounder Parrotts, of Graham’s (Rockbridge) battery, to be captured, although they were served with admirable steadiness for a considerable times after the infantry had retired. The enemy, however, did not venture far. No considerable conflict there appeared to be his intention. The event proved his movement to be a feint to draw out troops from Petersburg. In this, however, he succeeded only very partially. Lieutenant-Colonel Poague’s battalion, with Penick’s battery in addition, was on the night of the 28th detached from position north of the Appomattox and sent to Colonel Carter. The withdrawal did not materially weaken our lines, and when on the night of the 29th the enemy recrossed from the north the south side of James River, Colonel Poague was directed instead of returning to his former location to take position on the left of General Pickett’s line and guard that flank against approach from Dutch Gap. There he has remained ever since doing admirable service with guns and mortars, annoying working parties on Butler’s canal, and otherwise frustrating the enemy’s plans.

July 30, the significance of the enemy’s movements for the day or two previous was revealed.

About dawn of July 30 a mine was sprung by the enemy under the salient occupied by Pegram’s battery, Coit’s battalion, near the right of General Beauregard’s line. Two of the guns were thrown to a great distance outside the works and a considerable breach effected. The enemy, profiting by our surprise and his own elaborate preparations, pressed forward his assaulting column, and entering the chasm seized a portion of our lines on its right and left. At the same time he opened a furious cannonade from perhaps over 100 guns on the adjacent parts of our lines and the approaches to them; but his advance was speedily arrested and his achievement rendered in the end eminently disastrous to himself by the vigor with which his troops were met, and the deadly fire poured into his ranks by Wright’s battery, on the left, and by Haskell’s guns and mortars, previously arranged to bear directly upon this salient. The enemy, unable either to advance or retreat, and by the co-operating fire of all our artillery on this front, crouching into the crater to escape this deadly fire, were literally crushed and torn asunder by mortar shells.

Major Haskell, with conspicuous gallantry, taking personal charge of two 12-pounder mortars, moved them forward to the trenches within

fifty yards of the crater, so as to render their five peculiarly accurate and destructive. Such of the enemy as survived this treatment, hopeless of support from their friends under the fire directed against the latter by all our guns, gladly surrendered on the last charge of our infantry. The enemy had gained nothing save a wholesome lesson, and that he had purchased at immense cost of life and labor. Major Gibbes, commanding the guns on the right of the crater, as soon as possible caused all of them that bore on the enemy’s approaches to be opened. His left gun alone had effective command, and it was culpably left for a time unserved, through the misbehavior of Lieutenant James C. Otey, who, owing to a combination of circumstances, was the only officer at the time present with the company. This was remedied by Major Gibbes himself repairing to that gun and having it worked with excellent effect until he received a severe and dangerous wound and was borne from the field. The guns thus again silent for a season were re-opened by the timely arrival of Lieutenant-Colonel Huger, who, with the assistance of Captains Winthrop and Haskell, of General Alexander’s staff, and of Private L. T. Covington, of Pegram’s blown up battery, worked the guns again under a concentrated fire until another officer of the battery arrived from the rear and continued its service with cannoneers obtained from other guns. Our guns on the north of the Appomattox meanwhile put forth their strength, as did those all along General Beauregard’s line and those farther off to the right, to occupy the enemy elsewhere and prevent his too great concentration at his point of attack. The result was signally satisfactory. A subsequent attempt of the enemy to reach Gracie’s salient, farther to the left, by a sap, was with comparative ease frustrated by the fire of our mortars.*

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. N. PENDLETON,

Brigadier General and Chief of Artillery, Army of Northern Virginia.

Lieutenant Colonel W. H. TAYLOR,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of Northern Virginia.

[For report of casualties in artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia, from May 4 to December 1, 1864, see Vol. XXXVI, Part I, p. 1052.]

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*For continuation of report, see Vol. XLII, Part I.

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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 755-760

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