Number 144. Petersburg Campaign Report of Bvt. Major General Romeyn B. Ayres, U. S. Army, commanding Second Division, of operations August 18-21 and December 7-12

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

Numbers 144. Report of Bvt. Major General Romeyn B. Ayres, U. S. Army, commanding Second Division, of operations August 18-21 and December 7-12.1

HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
Camp on Weldon Railroad, Va., September 3, 1864.

COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following statement of the operations of this division on the 18th, 19th, and 21st of August, 1864, along the Weldon railroad:

The division took the advance along the road after reaching it, the First and Second Brigades forming the line of battle near the Black house, the Fifteenth New York Heavy artillery in support. It was then advanced about 1,100 yards, when the skirmishers began to engage those of the enemy. The enemy also opened with artillery. The division advanced about 100 yards into a dense woods. Soon after reaching the front edge of the woods the enemy’s line of battle struck mine, outflanking it. I have been informed that the brigade commanders (one has since been killed and the other captured) at this time gave the order to fall back. This was done for about 100 yards. I threw forward the Fifteenth New York into line and the two brigades were formed on it. The second was in some confusion on arriving upon this new line, but were rallied and soon engaged the enemy. The enemy after persistent efforts was repulsed, leaving his dead in our had. During the engagement I deemed it advisable to re-enforce my left. This was furnished promptly, Colonel Hofmann’s brigade, of General Cutler’s division, being sent to me for that purpose. A short time after this the engagement was over. After the first flush the division behaved handsomely. The Fifteenth New York Heavy Artillery was steady and cool. Colonel Hofmann’s brigade moved as on drill. During the night rifle-pits were constructed along my front, which was disposed as follows, viz: The First Brigade on the right of the railroad; on the left the Fifteenth New York Artillery; then Hofmann’s brigade; the Maryland Brigade being on the left, curving to the rear.

In the afternoon of the 19th the enemy attacked in two divisions-one on my front, one to my right. The division which attacked my front was repulsed and a color captured. The enemy broke through several hundred yards to the right of my division and immediately

wheeled to the right and swept down our rifle-pits; as they swung around they struck the right of my first line, carrying away General Hayes, his assistant adjutant-general, and about 250 of his men. To prevent a continuance of this I drew back a portion of my command, forming in line on the rising ground to the rear with the batteries. As soon as circumstances rendered it proper I ordered my troops forward, reoccupying my line, taking some rebel wounded, and releasing some of my men. About ten minutes after the enemy attacked my front again and was repulsed; he shortly after the enemy attacked my front again and was repulsed. After the first of these two attacks had progressed a time, I asked for 500 men to re-enforce the right of my front. The One hundred and eighty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, of Tilton’s brigade, Griffin’s division, was given, and moved rapidly up in line of battle. This regiment performed its duty handsomely. In the last attack I considered it judicious to again re-enforce the right of my front; the remainder of Tilton’s brigade was immediately furnished and moved forward in food time to assist in repulsing the last attack. It performed its duty well. During the night and next day the division occupied this line.

During the night of the 20th the division was occupied in throwing down the works, slashing in front, and building a new line on the crest of the rising ground in the rear. At 2 a. m. of the 21st the division was drawn back to this new line. Early in the morning the enemy commenced pushing the pickets, and at about 8.30 a. m. opened with a heavy artillery fire (say forty pieces) on the front along the railroad and also from a position on the Vaughan road, crossing the fire at right angles over our position. Shortly after a heavy force of infantry attacked from the Vaughan road at right angles to the railroad. This attack, well to my left, was easily and splendidly repulsed, several hundred prisoners and a number of colors captured.

My brigade commanders performed their duties with zeal and ability during all these operations. Brigadier-General Hayes, First Brigade, was captured as described above, whilst in the faithful and vigilant discharge of his duties. Colonel Dushane has ever been gallant and zealous, and hi is a serious loss to the service. Colonel Hofmann, since serving in my command, has shown himself an able soldier. Colonel Fred. Winthrop, Fifth New York Veteran Volunteers, succeeded General Hayes in the battle of the 19th, and, as is always the case with him, acquitted himself in the most gallant manner. Colonel Graham, Purnell Legion, Maryland Volunteers, shows that the Second Brigade has fallen into competent had. Captain A. P. Martin, Third Massachusetts Battery, chief of artillery of the division, performed the functions of his office with his accustomed ability. Captain Hart, Fifteenth New York Independent Battery, and Lieutenant Van Reed, Battery D, Fifth U. S. Artillery, served their batteries with distinction on the 21st, the principal service being on that day. Lieutenant Walcott, Third Massachusetts Battery, and Lieutenant Rogers, Battery B, First New York Artillery, on the 18th and 21sth served their batteries gallantly.

My thanks are cordially given to the officers serving on my staff during these engagements. I name them in the order of their rank. Captain R. F. O’Beirne, Fourteenth Infantry, assistant provost-marshal, wounded on the 19th instant. Captain Carswell McClellan, General Culter’s staff, offered me his assistance on the 19th instant, which was gladly accepted, and was very efficient. He was, unfortunately, captured after dark while visiting the pickets on the Vaughan road. Lieutenant George L. Choisy, Fourteenth Infantry, aide-de-camp, acting assistant

adjutant-general, displayed his usual gallantry. Lieutenant C. McKibbin, Fourteenth Infantry, temporarily serving on my staff, was severely wounded. Lieutenant M. H. Stacey, battalion quartermaster, Twelfth Infantry, were diligent and prompt in conveying orders and information.

I respectfully refer to the report of brigade and regimental commanders for greater details of the conduct of their commands. Those reports with the nominal of casualties will be forwarded as soon as completed.

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

R. B. AYRES,

Brigadier-General, Commanding Second Division, Fifth Army Corps.

Lieutenant Colonel FRED. T.. LOCKE,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters Fifth Army Corps.
HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
January 28, 1865.

COLONEL: I have the honor to report that my command broke camp early on the morning of the 7th ultimo, the Second Brigade being detached to escort the corps trains, and the other two brigades immediately moving down the Jerusalem plank road toward Sussex Court-House, reaching the Nottoway River in the evening, and bivouacking until 3 a. m. of the 8th near its bank. At this time the Second Brigade reported to me, and my whole command crossed the river and pushed rapidly on, via Sussex Court-House, to within a mile of the Weldon railroad. Halted for several hours. Advanced at 6 p. m. to the railroad, striking it near a bridge over the Nottoway (at this time in ruins by the operations of the cavalry), and, finding no enemy upon the opposite bank, immediately began to destroy the railroad, working until midnight. On the 9th resumed work, continuing until evening, crossing Three-Mile Creek, destroying about 1,000 yards beyond. In all, the division destroyed about seven miles and a half of track. The 10th, 11th, and 12th were spent in a trying march home, arriving in camp about 3 p. m. I have already forwarded a list of casualties.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. B. AYRES,

Brevet Major-General, Commanding Division.

Byt. Colonel FRED. T. LOCKE,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Fifth 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 471-473

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