Number 146. Petersburg Campaign Reports of Bvt. Brigadier General Frederick Winthrop, Fifth New York Veteran Infantry, commanding First Brigade, of operations August 18-21, October 8, and December 7-12

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

Numbers 146. Reports of Bvt. Brigadier General Frederick Winthrop, Fifth New York Veteran Infantry, commanding First Brigade, of operations August 18-21, October 8, and December 7-12.1

HDQRS. FIRST BRIGADE, SECOND DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS,
August 22, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to furnish the following report of the part taken by this brigade in the operations on the Weldon railroad, commencing on the 18th of august and ending on the 21st:

At daylight on the morning of the 18th of August the brigade-composed of the Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Fourteenth, and Seventeenth Regiments U. S. Infantry and the Fifth, One hundred and fortieth, and One hundred and fort-sixth Regiments New York State Volunteers, under the command of Brigadier-General Hayes-broke camp and moved off in a southwesterly direction toward the Weldon railroad, and moved off in a southwesterly direction toward the Weldon railroad, striking that road at the Yellow House, six miles from Petersburg, striking that road at the Yellow House, six miles from Petersburg, about 10 a. m. Up to this time the troops had met with very little opposition, excepting from a small force of the enemy’s cavalry, which had been readily dispersed and driven back. On arriving opposite to the Black house the brigade deployed in two lines of battle across the railroad, with the Twelfth Infantry and portion of the One hundred and fortieth New York Volunteers thrown out as skirmishers. In this disposition we advanced slowly and steadily up the railroad for about three-fourths of a mile, under a heavy artillery fire, and most of the way through a dense undergrowth of pine and oaks, until the front line arrived within about thirty yards of the farther edge of the front line arrived within about thirty yards of the farther edge of the woods, beyond which, in Davis’ corn-field, our skirmishers were actively engaged with those of the enemy. They had already driven the enemy’s skirmishers beyond the Davis house, and had compelled one of their batteries to retire front, and presently advanced out of the woods in front of the Davis house in two strong lines of battle, sweeping our skirmishers before them and striking our line in front and flank with such violence that, after considerable resistance, they were forced to retire to the rear edge of the woods, carrying with them the greater portion of their wounded. Here a new line was established and breast-works thrown up. In this position the command remained during the afternoon and night of the 18th.

On the morning of the 19th our dead and wounded were recovered. On the afternoon of the 19th the enemy attacked our lines in force, breaking through the troops of the division on our right, and rapidly enveloping the Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Fourteenth, and Seventeenth Infantry, which were posted in the front line of works on the right of the railroad. The enemy striking our rear so suddenly, many of the regiments, and especially the Twelfth and Fourteenth Infantry, were regiments, and especially the Twelfth and Fourteenth Infantry, were forced to fight their way through, losing by this means heavily in prisoners. I regret to say that Brigadier-General Hayes, U. S. Volunteers, and Lieutenant Brady, Fourteenth Infantry, his acting assistant adjutant-general, were captured at this time, while endeavoring to reach the position held by the Twelfth and Fourteenth Infantry. The remainder of the brigade, having received orders, fell back and formed, about 700 yards to the rear, under shelter of the artillery. The command of the brigade now devolved upon me. So soon as the troops were reformed, I received orders from Brigadier-General Ayres, commanding

division, to move forward rapidly and endeavor to retake our old line of works. This was promptly and successfully accomplished, the command acting with great spirit. About 7.30 p. m. the enemy attacked my line on the right of the railroad, but were handsomely repulsed. Again they attempted to force my position, but with no better success. Finding that my troops were becoming very much exhausted, I sent for re-enforcements to make sure of my position. I had scarcely sent my message when General ayres sent me the One hundred and eighty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, commanded by Captain J. A. Ege, and belonging to the First Brigade, First Division. I at once ordered them to move up to the front line of works occupied by my command, and to form on the right of the Fifth New York Veteran Volunteer Infantry, which they did in magnificent style, and soon became actively engaged. At 8.30 p. m. the enemy withdraw and quiet reigned along my lines. At 10 p. m. the Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Fourteenth, and Seventeenth Regiments U. S. Infantry and the Fifth new York Veteran Volunteer Infantry were relieved by the first Brigade, First Division, of this corps, commanded by Colonel Tilton,and took up position for the night in the second line of works. the One hundred and fortieth and One hundred and forty-sixth were formed on the left of the railroad, a little to the rear of the front line on the right of the railroad, where they remained during the night.

On the morning of the 20th the Fifteenth New York Heavy Artillery, major Eiche commanding, was temporarily assigned to my command. Nothing of many moment occurred during the day of the 20th. On the evening of the 20th the brigade was busily engaged in tearing down their breast-works and slashing timber in their front, preparatory to falling back to a new position selected for the command about 700 yards to the rear, on the crest of a gentle slope in the large open field north of the Yellow House. At 2.30 of the 21st the brigade retired to this new position, where it at present remains. At 7.30 a. m. on the opening briskly at the same time with artillery in my front. The brigade was here subjected to a most deadly cross-fire of artillery, but, as usual, fully sustained its old reputation for calmness and steadiness. The enemy’s skirmishers and sharpshooters, located in the edge of the woods to my immediate front, and who were annoying our artillery by their fire.

I inclose herewith the reports of my regimental commanders, to which I beg the attention of the brigadier-general commanding.

In summing up this report, while awarding great praise to all and every one of my regimental commanders, I cannot but mention the name of Captain J. S. Fletcher, jr., commanding the Eleventh Infantry, for the skill and calmness with which he maneuvered his regiment, although for a long time the only officer remaining with which he maneuvered his regiment, although for a log time the only officer remaining with it. I beg also to call the attention of the brigadier-general commanding to the gallant conduct of Lieutenant Thieman, of the Twelfth Infantry, in the engagements of the 28th and 19th, more especially that of the 19th. Surrounded on all sides by the enemy, Lieutenant Theiman succeed in cutting his way through, bearing away with him the colors of his regiment, and eliciting by his heroic conduct the admiration and praise of every member of the command. I earnestly beg that his distinguished services on that day may be rewarded by the brevet rank of captain in the U. S. Army, to which I consider he is so justly entitled.

The staff of Brigadier-General Hayes were conspicuous for their gallantry, and deserve great credit for their exertion on the field. Lieutenant Brady, Fourteenth Infantry, acting assistant adjutant-general, as I before mentioned, was captured on the 19th. Lieutenant Perry, Fourteenth Infantry, acting aide-de-camp, was wounded in two places while delivering an order on the 18th to the commanding officer and an ornament to his profession. Lieutenant Broatch, Tenth Infantry, I retained with me when I assumed command of the brigade, appointing him my assistant adjutant-general. Lieutenant Theiman, Twelfth Infantry, and Lieutenant Diehl, Fifteenth new York Heavy Artillery, acted as my aides on the 20th and 21st, and rendered me most able assistance.

On the afternoon of the 21st of August Colonel Charles P. Stone, Fourteenth U. S. Infantry, reported for duty and assumed command of the brigade.

I have the honor to remain, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

FRED. WINTHROP,

Colonel Fifth New York Vet. Vol. Infantry, Commanding Brigade.

Captain W. W. SWAN,

Seventeenth U. S. Infantry, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
HDQRS FIRST BRIGADE, SECOND DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS,
October 10, 1864.

COLONEL: I have the honor to report that on the morning of the 8th instant, agreeably to instructions from division headquarters, I moved out the Twelfth Infantry, and Fifth, One hundred and fortieth, and One hundred and forty-sixth New York Volunteers, numbering in all about 800 men, to support the picket-line of the division in its advance upon the enemy. I advanced with these four regiments along the vaughan road until I reached the position originally occupied by my pickets, located at the edge of the woods overlooking the W. W. Davis house, my pickets having in the meantime advanced. Here I deployed the Twelfth Infantry and One hundred and fortieth new York Volunteers on the left of the road and Fifth New York Veteran volunteers on the right, leaving the One hundred and forty-sixth New York Volunteers a short distance to the rear, to be put in where circumstances might call it. My own pickets in the advance drove those of the enemy without much difficulty and gained the enemy’s rifle-pits, about sixty yards beyond the W. W. Davis house, where they remained until evening, when they were withdrawn to their former position. At 5 o’clock in the afternoon, having received the order, I returned to camp with my command.

During this advance I had 1 private of the Twelfth U. S. Infantry and 1 private of the Fifteenth new York heavy Artillery wounded.

I have the honor to be, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

FRED. WINTHROP,

Colonel Fifth New York Veteran Vols., Commanding Brigade.

Lieutenant Colonel C. E. LA MOTTE,

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

HDQRS. FIRST Brigadier, SECOND DIV., FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
December 16, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that this command, consisting of the Fifth, One hundred and fortieth, and One hundred and forty-sixth New York State Volunteers and the Fifteenth New York Heavy Artillery, broke camp early on the morning of the 7th of December and moved down the jerusalem plank road in the direction of Sussex Court-House. On the evening of the 7th arrived at the nottoway River, bivouacked near its banks until 3 a. m., and then crossed the river on pontoons, making rapidly for the Court-House, which we reached about-a. m. The command then pushed on toward the Weldon railroad so as to strike it near the bridge over the Nottoway. At about 6 p. m., after resting for two or three hours, we arrived near that point. Gregg’s cavalry had in the meantime, after considerable skirmishing were to destroy the railroad from the bridge, and my instructions were to destroy the railroad from the bridge southward to a point about half a mile from it. Supposing that the enemy might still occupy the opposite bank of the river and molest us in our work, I deployed the Once hundred and fortieth New York Volunteers across the railroad and advanced them rapidly up to the bridge, without, however, meeting with any resistance. The command at once set to work destroying the road and continued at their occupation until a little after midnight, when it bivouacked until the following morning. During the 9th the command was busily engaged in destroying the road, and at 7 p. m. crossed Three Creek and destroyed about three-eighths of a mile in the direction of Belfield. Early on the morning of the 10th we commenced our homeward trip, and after most severe and trying marches, over miserable roads and through mud and rain, the brigade reached their present camp about sundown of the 12th of December, 1864.

I inclose list of casualties; most of these men I am led to believe will eventually rejoin their commands.

Very respectfully, you obedient servant,

FRED. WINTHROP,

Brevet Brigadier-General, Commanding Brigade.

Byt. Captain E. T. YARDLEY,

Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, Second Division, Fifth 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 474-477

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