Number 120. Petersburg Campaign Report of Lieutenant W. Butler Beck, Fifth U. S. Artillery, commanding Batteries C and I, of operations August 12-27 and October 25-27

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

No. 120. Report of Lieutenant W. Butler Beck, Fifth U. S. Artillery, commanding Batteries C and I, of operations August 12-27 and October 25-27.1

BATTERIES C AND I, FIFTH U. S. ARTILLERY,

In the Field, near Petersburg, Va., August 28, 1864.

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the participation of Batteries C and I, Fifth U. S. Artillery, during the recent movements of the Second Army Corps:

In accordance with orders from the headquarters Artillery Brigade, Second Corps, Army of the Potomac, the battery left camp in front of Petersburg and moved at 6 p. m. of the 12th instant with the rest of the batteries to within about a mile of the James River, where it arrived about 12.30 a. m. of the 13th. The battery remained here in reserve until the afternoon of the 16th, when it moved with the rest of the reserve batteries to Jones’ Neck and went into camp on the bank of the James River, where it remained until the evening of the 20th, when I received orders to move with the rest of the batteries back to in front of Petersburg, where I arrived and went into my for men camp about 1.30 a. m. of the 21st. About 9 a. m. of this day, pursuant to orders, I moved with the rest of the batteries about three miles to the left and went into camp near the Jones house, where I remained until the evening of the 25th, when I moved, according to orders, and went into position here until the evening of the 27th, when, in pursuance of orders from headquarters of the Artillery Brigade, I returned to my former camp in front of Petersburg near the Southall house.

I would here state that Lieutenant Gilliss was in command of the battery until the 17 instant, when I relieved him of the command, he having received the appointment of captain, assistant quartermasters, U. S. Army.

In concluding this report, i cannot speak too highly of the officers and men of this battery for their efficiency and good behavior during these movements.

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

W. BUTLER BECK,

Second Lieutenant, Fifth U. S. Artillery, Commanding Batteries C and I.

Lieutenant U. D. EDDY,

Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, Artillery Brigade, Second Corps.

BATTERIES C AND I, FIFTH U. S. ARTILLERY,

October 31, 1864.

SIR: I have the honor to make the following report of the participation of my battery in the recent movements of the Second Corps, Army of the Potomac, and the battle on the 27th instant:

On the night of the 25th instant I moved my battery, according to instructions from, headquarters Artillery Brigade, Second Corps, to the neighborhood of the Southall house and went into camp near the Third to the neighborhood of Fort Bross, on the Norfolk railroad, and report to Brigadier-General Egan, commanding Second Division, for duty. At 2 p. m. i moved with the Second Division and marched to the neighborhood of Ford Dushane and went into camp about 8 p. m. At

3 a. m. of the 27th instant I moved with the Second Division; marched about—miles and went into position on the right of the—road. Soon afterward I mowed I moved forward with the Second Division and marched to the Boydton road, a distance of—miles. At this point the batteries into a trot and hurried forward. i soon got into position, and opened fire upon this battery with such good effect it was al most instantly silenced and withdrawn. I regret to say that during this time I lost a most valuable officer in the person of Second Lieutenant Thomas Burnes, Second U. S. Artillery; he was struck in the abdomen by a minie-ball, from the effects of which he died about 1 a. m. of the 28 instant. General-Egan having advanced his line, I was ordered by him to place a section in position upon the ridge he just captured about 600 yards to the front and right of my first position. At this point I placed my right section under command of Lieutenant Metcalf and opened fire upon a column of rebel infantry who were deploying in the neighborhood of the Burgess house, on the Boydton from General Egan to place a section in position near the above house. I very soon got my left section in position here, although under a very heavy fire from a rifle battery on the road. Soon after I had opened fire on this battery, the enemy opened another rifled battery on me from the right, enfilading the section. However, I still kept up a vigorous fire to the left, and then went back and brought up my center section at a gallop, and put it in position at right the meantime the enemy opened two more guns upon me from another point to the right of the Boydton road. Lieutenant Metcalf, with his section, replied to them most vigorously, he being to my right and rear.

The enemy did their to drive me from this position with their artillery, and but for the bad practice of their gunners I fear there would have been but little left of my battery. As it was, most of their shots went over me, or their shell burst short. This was from the effect of the vigorous fire I kept up all the time, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that the enemy ceased firing first. About 3 p. m. the enemy’s infantry in front of my center section made an attack and charged up to the brow of the hill, driving in our skirmishers. They came up to within 150 or 200 yards of this section, when I opened on them with canister, and with such good effect that they halted, and my support charged and drove them back. For fear that they might try it again. I changed front of my left section and placed it upon line with my center section. I then opened with the four guns upon the retreating enemy. Shortly after this the Tenth Massachusetts Battery came up and I returned with my two section to the position I first Occupied in the morning. My loss at this time was 3 men killed and 7 wounded; also 6 horses killed. Very soon after I returned the enemy broke through the line in rear of Lieutenant Metcalf’s section. This was so sudden that he had hardly time to reverse his pieces before the enemy had them.

I regret to report that Lieutenant Metcalf was wounded here and taken prisoner. One man was killed and 2 wounded at this point. All the rest of the men, with one limbers, escaped, and the guns were soon after recaptured and delivered to me by the First Maine Volunteers.

During this attack I placed my four guns in position on the left of the Boydton road, and opened fire upon the point of woods, where the enemy broke though and captured my guns. After the enemy had been repulsed at this point I moved my guns forward to my first position, and, by directions of the major commanding, placed one section on the right and one on the left of the road, and opened fire upon the point of woods to the right and front, about 800 yards, with shell and case-shot. I kept position until about 8 p. m., when, by direction of the major commanding, I marched my battery back to the Yellow Tavern and went into camp. On account of my loss in horses, I had to abandon one caisson, which I had cut to pieces, so as to be of no service to the enemy.

My loss throughout the day was 1 officer and 4 men killed, 10 wounded, and 7 missing. Three of the latter were report to me as being wounded, but they have since rejoined the battery, as also have the missing. During this action I fired 237 rounds of solid shot, 147 rounds of shell. During this action I fired 237 rounds of solid shot, 147 rounds of shell, 248 rounds of spherical case, and 34 rounds of canister.

In conclusion, permit me to say that in the death of Lieutenant Burnes the service has lost one of its best and most gallant officers. He was ever brave, noble, and generous. I have also to regret the wounding and capture of Lieutenant Metcalf, who has ever show himself to be a brave and gallant officers on the field of battle. My thanks are also due to First Sergt. John Murphy, of Battery I, and First Sergt. Paul Romer, of Battery C, for the gallantry and efficiency they displayed as acting chiefs of the center and left section throughout the engagement. I can also assure you that the non-commissioned officers and privates of my battery can ever be relied upon wherever they may be placed; their bravery and gallantry in serving their guns without flinching under that galling fire during the above action bears testimony of this, and I can but fell proud to be in command of such men.

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

W. BUTLER BECK,

Lieutenant, Comd. Batteries C and I, Fifth U. S. Artillery.

Lieutenant U. D. EDDY

Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, Artillery Brigade, Second Army Corps.

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 426-428

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