Number 187. Petersburg Campaign Reports of Major General John G. Parke, U. S. Army, commanding Ninth Army Corps, of operations August 15-October 28

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

No. 187. Reports of Major General John G. Parke, U. S. Army, commanding Ninth Army Corps, of operations August 15-October 28.1

HEADQUARTERS NINTH ARMY CORPS,
November 5, 1864.

GENERAL: I have the honor respectfully to submit the following report of the movements and operations of this corps since the date of my assuming the command, August 15, 1864. At that time we occupied the trenches before Petersburg, connecting with the Eighteenth Corps on our right and the Fifth Corps on our left:

On the 18th the right two divisions were relieved by troops of the Eighteenth Corps, and at the same time we relieved and occupied the

ground held by the Fifth Corps, extending across the Jerusalem plank road, and refusing on the left as far as the Williams house. After the movement of the Fifth Corps to the Weldon railroad, I sent, by direction of the major-general commanding, on the 19th day of August, three divisions to re-enforce the Fifth Corps, and at the same time held the line of entrenchments with the Fourth Division of this corps and one division of the Second Corps, which was assigned to my command temporarily. The division sent to re-enforce the Fifth Corps arriver most opportunely and rendered great assistance in holding the position. The reports of the division commanders have been forwarded to Major-General Warren, commanding Fifth Corps. The position on the Weldon railroad being secured, by direction of the commanding general I took up the line extending from the Fifth Corps, on the Weldon railroad, to the left of the Second Corps, at the Strong house, near the Jerusalem plank road.

On the 25th day of August, by direction of the commanding general, one division was sent down the plank road to report to Major-General Hancock, then at Reams’ Station engaged with the enemy. This division returned on the following morning. The Fourth Division, being relieved from the trenches before Petersburg, joined the corps on the 27th day of August and took up position on the rear line through the Gurley house, extending from the left of the Fifth Corps to the plank road. Heavy details were employed on the entrenchments on both the front and rear lines constructing redoubts, with rifle-pit connections and slashing timber.

On the 1st day of September the First Division, having become much reduced during the campaign, was merged into the Second and Third divisions, giving the corps three instead of four divisions, which were commanded as follows: First (formerly Third), Brigadier General O. B. Willcox; Second, Brigadier General R. B. Potter; Third (colored), Brigadier General E. Ferrero. The corps remained in this position until the 25th day of September, when the First and Second Divisions were withdrawn form the front line, being relieved by a portion of the Fifth Corps on the left and the Third Division on the right. This division was extended along the Second Corps, the First Division held in reserve for this line, while the Second Division was moved to the east of the plank road as a reserve for that portion of the line. On the 28th day of September the Second Division was returned to near its old position and massed preparatory to a movement. On the morning of 30th of September I moved with the First and Second Divisions, following the Fifth Corps out from the Weldon railroad, on the road leading by the Poplar Spring Meeting-House, in pursuance of the following instructions from the major-general commanding:

General Warren is ordered to move out the Poplar Spring Church road and endeavor to secure the intersection of the Squirrel Level road. The commanding general directs that you move out after and co-operate with him in endeavoring to secure a position on the right of the enemy’s position. try to open a route across the swamp to vicinity of Miss Pegram’s, below Poplar Spring Church, and take post on Warren’s left. Gregg will be directed to move out to Wilkinson’s.

A. A. HUMPHREYS,

Major-General and Chief of Staff.

Closing up on the rear of Griffin’s division, of the Fifth Corps, at the meeting-house, he being at that time engaged skirmishing with the enemy, I made an examination and started a force to open a road to the left of our present road, in order that I might pass Warren and

take up a position on his left. Before this was completed General Griggin succeed in driving the enemy from his intrenched position at the Pebbles house. I then moved rapidly my advance division to his support, and as soon as the other division came up preparations were at once made to follow up the enemy and reach the Boydton plank road if possible. Leaving the enemy’s works on the Pebbles farm, we moved northwest through a narrow belt of timber and came to a large opening in which stood the Pegram house, near the eastern edge. The Second Division advanced beyond the Pegram house, facing to the north and entered the timber. The First Division was deployed in support of the Second, having one brigade in support to move to the left, that being, in my opinion, the most exposed and vulnerable part of our line. Orders were then sent to General Potter, commanding the Second Division, to advance and attack, which was promptly done, but the movement was met by an advance of the enemy. The enemy attacked vigorously, and having been re-enforced he overlapped Potter’s division and forced it to retire, Griffin’s division not having effected the connection with Potter’s right. Some considerable confusion ensued, but a new line was at once established, facing north and forming directly in front of the Pegram house. Here the First Division was posted and the Second Division rallied. The enemy’s advance was checked by this line, aided by Griffin’s division, which had taken position on the right. Night closing in all firing ceased. Orders were received to take up a position along the line of works captured from the enemy, connecting with the Fifth Corps on the right and the left refused, covering the Squirrel Level road at the Clements house. This line was taken up during the night and intrenched.

During the 1st of October no further advance was made. A heavy rain continued throughout the day. The Third Division, Second Corps, Brevet Major-General Mott commanding, arrived in the afternoon, and was massed in the rear of our main line. On the morning of the 2nd an advance was made for the purpose of developing the force fo the enemy and position of his works. The Second Division was directed to take a position on Pegram house line, the First Division to connect with the left of the Second Division and advance the left of the division, pivoting on the Second Division so as to form a line facing northward, and the Third Division, Second Corps, was instructed to move out on

the Squirrel Level road, and after taking position on the left of the First Division to advance in connection with it. The movement was made in a satisfactory manner, and the enemy was found in force occupying a line extending northeast and southwest, covering the Boydton plank road, with artillery in position and infantry behind entrenchments. The losses fell mainly upon the Third Division, Second Corps.

The report of Brevet Major-General Mott is appended. Having developed this force of the enemy, by direction of the major-general commanding, General Mott’s and Willcox’s divisions were retired, and the line was retained through the Pegram house, connecting with the Fifth Corps on the right, and the left covering the Squirrel Level road at the Clements house. October 3, work was at once commenced on redoubts, rifle-pits, and slashing, nd continued daily.

October 5, General Mott’s division was relieved by the Third Division (General Ferrero), and General Mott was instructed to report to his own corps commander. The work on the entrenchments was pushed vigorously. Heavy details were finished by the three divisions. Two redoubts were constructed on the front line, three on the flank, and two on the rear line, with strong infantry parapet connections and heavy slashing in front. October 8, a demonstration was made out the Squirrel Level road to the Hawks house by two brigades of General Willcox’s division, and the picket-line along our front was advanced. The enemy was found occupying all the roads coming into the Hawks house position, excepting that on which the troops marched out. General Willcox returned in the evening, having established a new and advanced picket-line.

Casualties in First Division – staff and infantry: 3 enlisted men killed, 13 wounded, 1 missing; total, 17.

I append herewith the reports of division and brigade commanders.

The conduct of the officers and men, with a few rare exceptions, is deserving of high commendation; but it is proper to remark that the great proportion of the new material in the ranks has had a great effect upon the efficiency of the corps as a unit. This new material requires time for drilling and disciplining. In the conscript and substitute we do not find the same elan that displayed itself so gloriously in the

patriotic volunteer; and, beside, we have to contend against the demoralizing influence of the bounty jumper, whose sole ambition is to shirk and desert.

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

JNO. G. PARKE,

Major-General, Commanding.

Brigadier General S. WILLIAMS,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.

HEADQUARTERS NINTH ARMY CORPS,
November 6, 1864.

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my command in the recent operations of the 27th and 28th ultimo:

Returning from the reconnaissance of the 8th of October, mentioned in my last report (November 5), the corps took up its former position on the extreme left of the whole army, holding the line of entrenchments through the Pegram house on the front line, refuging to the Clements house on the flank, and then returning on the rear line across the Vaughan road, connecting with the pickets from the garrison of Fort Dushane, on the Weldon railroad. In obedience to orders by command in the following order: The First Division, commanded by Brigadier-General Wilcox, received orders to move at 3.30 a. m. and take the road to the right of Fort Cummings, and advance quickly along the road leading westward to Hatcher’s Run, to surprise the enemy’s vedettes and to make a sudden and unexpected attack upon the works of the enemy, covering the Boydton plank road, believed to be unfinished, my orders being to attack in such case. This division advanced at the appointed time, but failed to effect the capture of the rebel vedette post, owing to the premature discharge of a piece. The skirmish line of the enemy was encountered this side of the Watkins house, and was rapidly driven into their works, which were found covering our road. I then proceeded to make good my connection with the right of the Fifth Corps, and when this had been established I ordered a careful reconnaissance to be made of the line of the enemy’s works, with a view of finding some weak point where I could attack with reasonable prospect of success. The reports of the officers directed to perform this duty represented that the approach to the works was protected by abatis of rails and slashed timber. I then ordered the

Third Division, commanded by General Ferrero, to connect on the right of the First Division, and to push forward and see what was in their front. This division advanced through a heavy growth of timber and underbrush to within 100 yards of the enemy’s line of works, when their progress was arrested by slashed timber and abatis. I next took measures to form a connected line from our old works to our advanced position, and ordered the Second Division, under General Potter, to connect with the Third Division, and to prolong its line until its right should touch our old intrenched position and cover the ground between sand our old camp. My whole line being thus established, I gave orders that it should be intrenched, which was thoroughly done by the morning of the 28th. About 7 a. m. of the 28th. About 7 a. m. of the 28th I received orders to prepare to withdraw, in conjunction with the Fifth movement was commenced about 1 p. m. and was conducted with but slight interference form the enemy. General Willcox’ division I ordered to bring up the rear, and this fell back in line of battle, gradually relieving the Third Division as it came in its rear. About one mile from our old works I ordered General Potter, commanding Second Division, to form in line of battle and to allow the First and Third Division to pass through. Our movement was successfully accomplished, and by 6 a. [p.] m. of the 28th I had all my command in its old position and my picket-line re-established.

I inclose copies of the reports of my division commanders, to which I refer you for further particulars.

A tabular report of casualties I have already sent in.

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

JNO. G. PARKE,

Major-General, Commanding.

Brigadier General S. WILLIAMS,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.

Report of casualties in the Ninth Army Corps on the 27th and 28th of October, 1864.

JNO. G. PARKE,

Major-General, Commanding.

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 544-549

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