OR XLII P1 #83: Reports of Brigadier General Byron R. Pierce, commanding 2/3/II/AotP, Oct 1-5 and 27, and Dec 7-12, 1864

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

Numbers 83. Reports of Brigadier General Byron R. Pierce, U. S. Army, commanding Second Brigade, of operations October 1-5 and 27, and December 7-12.1

HDQRS. SECOND Brigadier, THIRD DIV., SECOND ARMY CORPS, October 7, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report, for the information of the general commanding, the part taken by this brigade in the recent operations on the left of the army.

At 12.30 p. m. of October 1 I received orders to move my brigade to Hancock’s Station at once, where cars were in waiting to transport them to the Yellow Tavern, and then march to the left of the line and report to General Parke, commanding Ninth Corps, at the Peebles house, near Poplar Spring Church. I at once complied with the order, and arrived at the Peebles house, about two miles and a half beyond the Weldon railroad, at 2.40 p. m. Reported to General Parke and received orders to mass my command and await the arrival of the division. Subsequently received orders from the general commanding division to bivouac for the night. At 5 o’clock on the morning of the 2nd received orders to be ready to move at 6.30 a. m. against the enemy’s works. Moved at the time and formed line of battle on the left of the Ninth Corps, by orders from the general commanding division, with instructions to keep the connection with said corps.

My line of battle was formed in the following order from right to left: The First U. S. Sharpshooters, Eighty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and One hundred and forty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers deployed as skirmishers, supported by the First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, Fifty-seventh Pennsylvania, Ninety-third New York, and One hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Advancing about three-fourths of a mile we came upon the enemy’s first line of works, which we carried at once, the enemy making but little opposition. As soon as the movement was commenced Colonel McAllister formed his brigade upon my left, as most of the firing was upon my left flank. After taking the first line of works, advanced about one mile, driving the enemy’s skirmishers before us, when we came upon the second line, and stronger than the first. These works were well manned with infantry and artillery. After skirmishing with the enemy for some little time, I received orders to make a demonstration against the works in order to ascertain the strength of the enemy, using, if necessary, a portion of Colonel McAllister’s brigade. I at once formed a storming party of the First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, One hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, One hundred and forty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, and the Eighty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers, with the First U. S. Sharpshooters on the right flank, all under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Zinn, Eighty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers, with instructions to charge the enemy’s works. This line was formed in a ravine about 200 yards from the enemy’s works, and to the right of the battery. I also instructed Colonel McAllister to move one regiment of his brigade to the left and opposite the battery, and when the portion of my brigade charged to open a severe fire upon the battery, in order to draw a part of the fire, and relieve the charging column as much as possible. At 3 p. m. I ordered the line forward, when it charged most gallantly to within a few rods of the works, under a severe concentrated fire from musketry and artillery. Colonel Zinn, seeing it was impossible to take the works without great loss of life,

ordered the men to retire, which was done in good order. The regiment which Colonel McAllister ordered to the left is entitled to credit for the promptness in which it moved to the point designated, and opened fire upon the battery. The casualties in this charge were 5 killed, 49 wounded, and 14 missing (supposed to be wounded and left upon the field), including Lieutenant Colonel George Zinn, Eighty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers, wounded, and Captain J. J. Wirsing,* Eighty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers, killed within a few yards of the works while gallantry leading on his men.

About 4.30 p. m. I received orders to withdraw my command and march it back to the position occupied in the morning, leaving the Ninety-third New York as skirmishers to be withdrawn by the division officer of the day. I marched my command back, arriving there soon after dark, and bivouacked for the night. Remained at this point until the evening of the 5th, furnishing large details for fatigue duty upon the fortifications then being built.

On the eve of the 5th marched with the division back to the Jones house, relieved the garrison in Fort Alexander Hays, and massed the balance of my brigade in rear of it, in compliance with orders from the general commanding division.

The conduct of both officers and men during these five days’ operations was eminently satisfactory. It would be invidious to particularize where all behaved with such marked gallantry.

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

B. R. PIERCE,

Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

Captain J. P. FINKELMEIER,

Asst. Adjt. General, Third Division, Second Army Corps.

HDQRS. SECOND Brigadier, THIRD DIV., SECOND ARMY CORPS, October 30, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this brigade in the operations of the 27th instant:

At 2 a. m. of the 27th instant my brigade moved from its position on the Halifax road, where it bivouacked the night previous. Following the First Brigade, we moved with flankers well out on the Halifax, Church, and Vaughan roads, via the Dabney Mill, to the Boydton plank road, where we arrived at about 12 o’clock. After remaining here about one hour, I received orders to send two regiments to the front to support a section of Battery C, Fifth U. S. Artillery. I at once sent the Fifth Michigan (Colonel Pulford) and the Ninety-third New York State Volunteers (Lieutenant-Colonel Butler), both under command of Colonel Pulford. They went into position in the woods and on the right of the battery, where a line was formed facing nearly at right angles with the battery, and with skirmishers well out. It was in this position that I found them when I advanced with the balance of my brigade with orders to form in line of battle on the left of the battery, where they remained about one hour under a sever artillery fire from the enemy. Hearing slight skirmishing in front of the Fifth Michigan and Ninety-third New York State Volunteers, and finding the skirmishing increasing, I ordered the First U. s. Sharpshooters to report to Colonel

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*Captain Wirsing was taken prisoner and finally mustered out of service January 3, 1865.

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Pulford, with instructions to him to place them on the right of the skirmish line, to prolong it well to the right, in order to apprise him of any movement of the enemy on that flank. They had scarcely got into position when skirmishing opening quite briskly, I placed the One hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers in line on the right of the Fifth Michigan, and ordered a change of front of the balance of the regiments, which were lying in line in the corn-field, but before this could be executed the enemy had charged with vigor the line in the skirt of the woods with a superior force. At the first volley from the three regiments I had in line, the enemy was handsomely repulsed, and was held in check in their front, but their line being much longer than mine, they came around each flank and completely enveloped them, so much so that three regiments (Fifth Michigan, Ninety-third New York, and One hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers) had to cut their way out. On seeing the enemy break through on my right I used every exertion to hurry forward a regiment (the One hundred and forty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Tyler), then marching up from near the plank road, to charge the left of the enemy’s line, but before I could get them there the enemy had broken through and cut this regiment off from the brigade. This regiment, however, opened a heavy fire upon the enemy’s left, checking them at this point, which I think proved of valuable aid to the regiments on my left. The enemy, however, did not receive that check on my left, and succeeded in driving back the line in some confusion to the plank road, leaving on the field the section of battery. Colonel Pulford (Fifth Michigan) and Major Shatswell (First Massachusetts) rallied the men at the plank road, charged the enemy, drove them across the field to the woods, recaptured the artillery, and brought it off the field; after which they swung around to the left and charged simultaneously with a portion of General Egan’s command, coming from the opposite direction, to the old barn in the ravine, where some 200 prisoners were captured, with 1 stand of colors. The prisoners and colors were sent to corps headquarters. At this time I received orders from General Mott (commanding division) to form my brigade on the right of the First Brigade, which had formed at right angles with the plank road. This I did, and placed two regiments on picket in the woods in my front. I remained in this position until about 11 p. m., when I received orders to withdraw my command and march it back by the road we came up. I marched the balance of the night and bivouacked about daylight near Wyatt’s house. Colonel Pulford (Fifth Michigan) says in his report in relation to the recapture of artillery:

I reformed my men near the plank road, stopped the enemy, and drove the enemy back into the woods, recaptured the two pieces of artillery and brought them off the field. Here Captain Converse, of Company A, Fifth Michigan Volunteers, deserves to be specially mentioned for his gallant conduct in taking one piece of this artillery out of the hands of the enemy. My adjutant fell mortally wounded in assisting to get off the artillery.

Major N. Shatswell (First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery) says in his report:

I immediately collected together what men of my command I could find and assisted Colonel Pulford and Lieutenant-Colonel Butler (Ninety-third New York Voolunteers) to form a line on the plank road. Afterward the men of my command present, assisted by volunteers from different commands, drew off the section of artillery left on the field, which the enemy had been unable to remove. Captain Converse, of the Fifth Michigan, and Second Lieutenant R. S. Littlefield, of the First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, deserve special mention for their assistance rendered me in saving this artillery.

Captain Peck, commanding First U. S. Sharpshooters, mentions a case of personal bravery which I consider worthy of mentioning and should be honorably rewarded. He says:

I wish to call your attention to the braver displayed by Sergt. Alonzo Woodruff and Corpl. John M. Howard. They were posted on the extreme left of the line as the enemy passed our left flank. After discharging their rifles and being unable to reload Corporal Howard ran and caught one of the enemy who seemed to be leading that part of the line. He being overpowered and receiving a severe wound through both legs, Sergeant Woodruff went to his assistance. Clubbing his rifle, had a desperate hand-to-hand encounter, but succeeded in getting Corporal Howard away, and both succeeded in making their escape.

I saw the above encounter, being but a few rods from it.

I have to regret the loss of Capts. J. C. Conser and C. E. Patton, acting field officers of the One hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, who were killed in the fore part of the engagement. They were both brave and efficient officers. A commission of major has since arrived for Captain Conser. The One hundred and fifth lost three stand of colors with the color bearers and color guards taken prisoners. Had the commanding officer lived the result might have been different.

I would specially mention Colonel John Pulford, Fifth Michigan Volunteers, for the gallant manner in which he held his regiment to its position until it was nearly surrounded. The evidence of the good behavior of this regiment is shown in its casualties.

The conduct of my staff was satisfactory. They rendered me great assistance on the field by their exertions in rallying the troops. Captain Loyd, assistant inspector-general, was severely wounded in the fore part of the engagement.

The loss in my brigade during this engagement was 22 killed, 117 wounded, and 126 missing.* I would also state that a large number of men not the list of casualties were captured by the enemy, disarmed, and subsequently made their escape. I also submit a nominal list of casualties.

Respectfully submitted.

B. R. PIERCE,

Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

Captain J. P. FINKELMEIER,

Asst. Adjt. General, Third Division, Second Army Corps.

HDQRS. SECOND Brigadier, THIRD DIV., SECOND ARMY CORPS, December 14, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this brigade in the recent movements on the Weldon railroad:

I compliance with orders broke camp, which was situated about 1,200 yards in front of Fort Siebert, at daylight on the morning of the 7th instant, and took up the line of march, following the First Brigade. Marched via the Globe Tavern and Gurley house to the Jerusalem plank road; following this road, arrived at the Nottoway River about dark. Crossed the river the same evening and bivouacked for the night. The distance marched this day was about twenty miles. On the morning of the 8th resumed the march at daylight, passing through Sussex Court-House and Coman’s Well, and bivouacked for the night about three miles from Jarratt’s Station, on the Weldon railroad. At

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*But see revised statement, p. 154.

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daylight on the morning of the 9th resumed the march down the railroad to a short distance below Jarratt’s Station, where we commenced destroying the railroad. Continued marching and destroying the road until 4 p. m., when I received orders to bivouac for the night. At 6 p. m. received orders to proceed within my brigade in light marching orders to within one mile of Belfield for the purpose of destroying more of the railroad. Moved at once, accomplished the work, and returned to bivouac about 10 p. m. This march of about five miles was made in a severe storm of rain and sleet. About 8 o’clock on the morning of the 10th, having received orders that the object of the expedition had been accomplished, the return march was commenced, and we bivouacked for the night about four miles south of Sussex Court-House. Resumed the march at daylight on the morning of the 11th and arrived at the Nottoway River about 1 p. m. Remained here until about sunset, when we recrossed the river and continued the march about four miles, where we bivouacked for the night. At 7 o’clock on the morning of the 12th resumed the march and arrived at Fort Dushane, about 2 p. m., and bivouacked, in compliance with orders, about 1,500 yards in advance of the fort.

The loss from straggling, a nominal list of which is herewith attached, was as follows: 1 from the Fifty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, 11 from the One hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, 4 from the First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, 4 from the Ninety-third New York Volunteers; total 20. Most of them were recruits and straggled on the first day’s march. They were undoubtedly picked up by the enemy, as they have not as yet reported to their regiments.

Officers and men suffered severely on account of the inclement weather and the distance traveled, which was nearly 100 miles. A large number became foot-sore. I saw several marching over the frozen ground in their stocking feet, their shoes having entirely given out.

I would especially mention the officers and men of the One hundred and forty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, Bvt. Brigadier General H. J. Madill commanding, and the Fifth Michigan, Lieutenant Colonel S. S. Mathews commanding, for the admirable manner in which they performed the march. On no occasion could I find a straggler from their ranks.

Respectfully submitted.

B. R. PIERCE,

Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

Captain J. P. FINKELMEIER,

Asst. Adjt. General, Third Division, Second Corps.

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*Nominal list omitted.

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Source:

  1. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XLII, Part 1 (Serial Number 87), pages 366-370

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