Number 185. Petersburg Campaign Reports of Brigadier General Edward S. Bragg, U. S. Army, commanding First Brigade, of operations August 18-21

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

No. 185. Reports of Brigadier General Edward S. Bragg, U. S. Army, commanding First Brigade, of operations August 18-21.1

HDQRS. FIRST BRIGADE, FOURTH DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS,
Near Weldon Railroad, September 5, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the part taken by my command in the operations on the Weldon railroad form 18th to 21st August, inclusive, as follows:

In the afternoon of the 18th, after the repulse of General Hayes’ brigade, Second Division, on the railroad, I was directed to move my command – consisting of the Sixth and Seventh Regiments Wisconsin

Volunteers, Seventh and Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers, Twenty-fourth Michigan Volunteers, and Battalion of First New York Sharpshooters – to edge of the wood north of the Yellow Tavern and right of the railroad, to supply vacancy in the line occasioned by transfer of Hofmann’s brigade, Fourth Division, to the support of the Second Division, on the left of the railroad. Having reached the position I advanced the Sixth Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers (Captain Hyatt, of my staff, commanding) as skirmishers int the woods and proceeded swept him pu the wood until he reached his intrenched line, which was too strong to be carried by a skirmish line. Captain Hyatt held the ground gained until relieved by Lyle’s brigade, Third Division, when he withdrew to the main line. At 2 o’clock on the morning of the 19th, by direction of the major-general commanding, I reported my command to the brigadier-general commanding Third Division, and was assigned position on the extreme right slightly refused, without connection. In relieving the Eighty-eighth Pennsylvanian Volunteers at the front, I deployed First Battalion New York Sharpshooters, Captain Perry commanding, and a portion of the Seventh Indiana Volunteers, Captain Armstrong commanding. The remainder of my command I intrenched at a cross-road about 100 yards in rear of the line. At 7 a. m. I was directed to deploy the remainder of my men as skirmishers, find the picket of the Ninth Corps, and advance the line, making connection with the Ninth Corps as far forward as possible. The pickets of the Ninth Corps were designated as being on the road passing the Aiken house, on mile and a half in rear of my refused flank. The country between us was a dense tangled thicket. I deployed my line on the open road, covering a large ambulance train, until I established communication with the Ninth corps pickets. I then examined personally the old line of the second corps to ascertain at what point I could make the shortest and most feasible line if I was not checked by the enemy. Having ascertained this, I advanced my whole line, the right maintaining its connection with the Ninth Corps pickets and scouring the woods as it advanced, and the left maintaining its connection with my original line, covering the whole space between the two corps, and before unoccupied. This movement was attended with great difficulty. The nature of the wood, the pelting storm, and the extended line encumbered and seriously embarrassed the whole operation; but notwithstanding it was successfully completed at 2.30 p. m., and a direct connection made with the salient of the day previous. At about 4 p. m., whole engaged in a personal reconnaissance (accompanied by Lieutenant Mead, of Third Division staff) of a more advanced position of my line the enemy in force struck my thin skirmish line near its left center, and swooped down it, purposing its capture. I hastened to the point of attack with all the reserve which I had under my command – the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers, numbering seventy-four muskets. The enemy had reached the open field near the old mill before my reserve could gain it, and thus out off the battalion New York Sharpshooters and the detachment of the Seventh Indiana Volunteers, who had relieved the Eighty-eighth Pennsylvanian Volunteers and held the extreme point of advance. These were captured entire, and I have no report from them. The Seventh Wisconsin

and a part of the Nineteenth Indiana, at the right of the point of attack, fell beck to the troops of Mott’s division and there reformed their line, capturing 45 prisoners, without the loss of a man. The Twenty-fourth Michigan fell steadily back toward the Aiden house, capturing 12 prisoners en route, and suffering slightly in wounded and prisoners. The Sixth Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers fought the enemy steadily, checking his advance four several times as that handful of men ran the gauntlet of half a mile, with the enemy in front and on both flanks, losing in killed 3 officers of 8 present, and killed and wounded, 20 enlisted men of 74. On the afternoon of the 20th my command went into position on the left of the railroad and fronting Vaughan road, near — house, and threw up entrenchments, Hofmann’s brigade, Fourth Division, on the left, and Second Division on the right. At 9 a. m. 21st the enemy made an assault on the line and were handsomely repulsed, losing heavily in killed, wounded, and prisoners. In this affair my brigade captured 6 field officers, 15 line officers and 101 enlisted men, 2 stand of colors, a number of wounded, and a quantity of small-arms. My own loss was but nominal, except the loss of Captain Charles P. Hyantt, brigade inspector, and temporarily in command of the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers, who lost his left leg from a fragment of shell a moment after the colonel of the Sixteenth Mississippi Regiment had surrendered to him. He was a splendid soldier; cool, daring, and fearless, and could communicate his own spirit to his command. His loss to the regiment and service is greatly to be deplored.

The loss of my command in the several operations is as follows: Officers – killed, 3; wounded, 2; missing, 7. Enlisted men – killed, 6; wounded, 36; missing, 137.*

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

EDWD. S. BRAGG,

Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

Captain GEORGE MONTEITH,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Division, Fifth Army Corps.

ADDENDA.
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
August 24, 1864.

Major General G. K. WARREN:

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that on the morning of August 19, 1864, between 3 and 4 a. m., by your direction, I proceeded to the extreme right of General Crawford’s division to establish a picket-line form that point through the woods, in a northeast direction, to connect with the picket-line of the Ninth Corps. Finding Brigadier-General Bragg On the ground, who had been ordered to make the connection, I proceeded to assist him in it, giving him such directions as were indicated to me you, and were as follows: To commence at the right of General Crawford’s line and push out a line of skirmishers by the flank in a direction a few degrees north of east, until they met the enemy; then to fall to the rear a short distance and push on by the flank as close the enemy as could be and join the pickets of the Ninth Corps. I also explained to him by the map that the distance was between one-half and three-quarters of a mile, and that the direction was the proper one. His reply was to this effect, that he considered it a hazardous undertaking to push out a line in that way, not knowing where they were going and what was in their front, and then commenced establishing

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* But see revised statement, p.125.

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his line on the road to the Williams house; thence across to the vicinity of the Strong house, the right resting three-quarters of a mile in rear of the point it should have been. This line was established about 8 o’clock

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

E. B. COPE,

Captain and Aide-de-Camp.
HDQRS. FIRST Brigadier, FOURTH DIV., FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
August 28, 19864.

Lieutenant Colonel FRED. T. LOCKE,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Fifth Army Corps:

COLONEL: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of a communication form the major-general commanding desiring an explanation relative to the establishment of the picket-line on the 19th instant. In reply I have the honor to inform the major-general commanding that in the formation of that line I was assisted by the Staff officers of the brigadier-general commanding Third Division, to whose command I then belonged, and that I obeyed all the instruction given me in reference thereto and posted the line as near as possible in conformity with such instructions. The entire command labored faithfully to perform what was supposed to be the wishes of the major-general commanding, and it is extremely mortifying to learn they succeed so poorly.

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

EDWD. S. BRAGG,

Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

[First indorsement.]
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
August 29, 1864.

Respectfully referred to Brigadier-General Crawford, commanding Third Division.

By command of Major-General Warren:

FRED. T. LOCKE,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

[Second indorsement.]
HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS,
September 2, 1864.

Respectfully returned with report of Captain Chester, acting aide-de-camp of my staff.* No orders were given to Brigadier-General Bragg to take any position except as a support to my right flank on the morning of the 19th until the arrival of Captain cope, aide-de-camp to the general commanding the corps, who came charged with orders from the commanding general, and who left my headquarters about 5 a. m., with the staff officer who had previously conducted General Bragg to his position. I visited my lines during the forenoon, and was along them until 4 o’clock. About noon Major Roebling, aide-de-camp to the general commanding, arrived on the left of the line, and indicated a modification of the line as there established. While this was being carried out the enemy made his attack.

S. W. CRAWFORD,

Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.

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* See next, post.

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HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS,
August 30, 1864.

Captain GEORGE NOTEITH,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Division, Fifth Corps:

CAPTAIN: In compliance with orders from the general commanding this division, I have the honor to report that about 2.30 a. m. of the 19th instant, by order of Brigadier-General Crawford, I conducted Brigadier-General Bragg to the right of the picket-line then held by this division, the flank being without support, in order that flank; that between 4 and 5 a. m. of the same day I went out again, accompanied by Lieutenant Mead, of this staff, with orders from General Crawford to conduct Captain Cope, of Major-General Warren’s staff, to General Bragg’s position and assist him in prolonging General Bragg’s line until it should strike the line held by the Ninth Corps; that General Bragg deployed his command down a road upon which his left rested and struck the Ninth Corps line at a point about eighty rods distant and with a bearing 10 degrees north of east form the Aiken house; that to then accompanied General Bragg along the line of the Ninth Corps as far as the Strong house, and he decided to swine his right around to a point nearly opposite there; that we then returned to the right of General Bragg’ line, and he gave the order for the line to execute a left half-sheel, guiding his right by the frond of the Ninth Corps, but then held by a portion of the Second Corps, in order to find at what point General Bragg had made the junction, and left me with orders to look it up; that I found the right of General Bragg’s line in the woods opposite the Strong house about 2 p. m., and the commanding officer of the regiment which was on the right (the Seventh Wisconsin) told me that the line had been broken to the left of him, and that he expected an attack at any moment; that I informed him of the position of the breast-works occupied by the Second Corps in his rear, and suggested that if pressed too hard or flanked he had better withdraw his men behind them; that hearing about that time heavy firing on the left, I hastened to rejoin General Crawford.

I am, captain, with great respect, your obedient servant,

WALTER T. CHESTER,

Captain and Engineer Officer.
HEADQUARTERS FIRST BRIGADE, FOUGHT DIVISION,
September 6, 1864.

Captain GEORGE MONTEITH,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Division:

CAPTAIN: In reply to your note, I would say that I was not assisted in the establishment of that line by Captain Cope. I met Captain Cope upon the road leading, as U supposed, to the Gurley house, captain Chester with him. Captain Cope inquired which was that road led. I said I though from the general direction it would lead to the Gurley house road. Captain Chester said to me then, “I think form the orders we have, General Warren desires that we shall make our picket-line across to the shortest line to connect with the Ninth Corps pickets.” Captain Cope took out a map and said he thought the

direction ought to be so and so, but was not sure. Captain Chester took out another map and said he thought it ought to connect so and so, which would be nearer the Jones house. I said, “Well, we will do it.” I went to my troops and ordered them into line to move; sent a staff officer of my own to find the end of the line of the Ninth Corps as it then stood. While eating breakfast Captain Cope, I think, reported to Lieutenant Mead that the line was on the road in my rear about a mile or a mile and a half. I directed at once that my line connect with it, and used my whole brigade to be deployed to do it. I deployed them along the road to cover a long train of ambulances and made the connection. My movement subsequent to that time was to conform to the line when complete, as I understood it from the conversation between Captain Cope and Captain Chester. After my return to camp I met Major Roebling, who said he desired to have the line advanced upon its left across a corn-field to two trees, which he designated. My opinion was that it would be impossible to from it there without engaging the enemy from his works in the rear of Petersburg. Lieutenant Mead, of the Third Division staff, accompanied me to make a reconnaissance of the ground. While doing that the enemy until that time were lying en perdu in the wood and struck our line while we were on the front near its left center. The operations after that have been already furnished.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

EDWD. S. BRAGG,

Brigadier-General.
HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS,
September 4, 1864.

Captain GEORGE MONTEITH,

Assistant Adjutant-General:

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that on the morning of the 19th of August I was directed to assist General Bragg in forming a connection with the picket-line of the Ninth Army Corps. Verbal orders for the general direction of the line were communicated to Captain Chester of General Crawford’s staff, and myself, and by Captain Chester communicated to General Bragg, who immediately proceeded to execute them. General Bragg’s brigade, consisting of the Sixth and Seventh Wisconsin Volunteers, the Seventh and Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers, and the First and Twenty-fourth Michigan Volunteers, were deployed along a road running in the rear of and in a southeast direction from the picket-line of the Ninth Army Corps was found and a connection made about one-quarter of a mile northwest from the Aiden house. General Bragg immediately advanced his line through the thick underbrush and dense timber to shorten his line. The advance was made with great difficulty, and was effected only with great labor by the officers of General Bragg’s brigade, aided by Major Roebling, of the staff of Major General Warren. The line having been thus established, Captain Chester remained at the right, and Lieutenant Clarke, Lieutenant Herr, and myself, of General Crawford’s staff, went with General Bragg to the extreme left of the picket-line to see if any change in the pint of connection with the line of Colonel Hartshorn was desirable. While there heavy firing was heard on the left center of General Bragg’s line. He immediately

gave orders for the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers, who were on reserve, and numbering seventy-four men, to be thrown to the point, and the regiment at once got in motion. On arriving at the point of attack we found a line of battle of the enemy had broken through the skirmish line of the Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers. The officers of the staff of General Crawford assisted General Bragg in rallying the skirmish line, which was at that point badly broken, and in disputing the advance of the enemy with the Sixth Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers. This regiment bravely endeavored to check the enemy, and although at all times overpowered, by its rapid firing and steady front, twice forced the enemy to halt and reform his lines. The coolness and bravely of General bragg and of Lieutenant Clarke was wounded while bravely rallying the men. The advance of the enemy was checked by the opportune arrival of a brigade of the Ninth Corps. I would also state that the brigade of General Bragg consisted of about 800 men, and deployed at great intervals. I am unable to give a detailed account of their loss.

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

JAS. P. MEAD,

First Lieutenant and Assistant Commissary of Musters.

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 534-540

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