Number 191. Petersburg Campaign Report of Colonel Samuel Harriman, Thirty-seventh Wisconsin Infantry, commanding First Brigade, of operations September 30 – October 9

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

No. 191. Report of Colonel Samuel Harriman, Thirty-seventh Wisconsin Infantry, commanding First Brigade, of operations September 30 – October 9.1

HDQRS. FIRST Brigadier, FIRST DIV., NINTH ARMY CORPS,
Near Peebles’ House, Va., October 16, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of my command from September 30 to October 9, 1864:

I assumed command of the brigade on the morning of the 30th of September, as it lay near the Gurley house, relieving Colonel B. C. Christ, mustered out of service by reason of expiration of term. My command consisted of six regiments, the Fifty-first Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers and Seventy-ninth New York Volunteers having been left as a garrison to Fort Hays. We moved from camp at 11 o’clock, following the Third Brigade; passed by Poplar Grove Church and formed line of battle in the woods near the road to the left of the Peebles house, to protect the left flank of the army, at the same time throwing out pickets. I advanced a scouting party to beyond the forks of the road, which reported nothing not before discovered. Subsequently I moved my command across the little ravine near by and formed it in line of battle across the road at right angles, leaving two regiments in reserve. I sent out twenty additional men with a lieutenant, conducted by a staff officer, who returned late in the afternoon and reported they had advanced a distance of one mile and a half; found one line of works vacated by the enemy, which were taken possession of. The cavalry pickets were discovered, and through information given a force of cavalry was sent out and occupied the ground. At near 3 o’clock my command was moved to the right and formed in line of battle to the left of the Pegram house. Thus far we had scarcely received a shot from the enemy. The One hundred and ninth New York was posted on picket on a road running west of south. The troops to our left, about 4.30 o’clock, were attacked and compelled to fall back. This emboldened the enemy and they rushed into the field and poured a deadly fire into our ranks. The men held their position for a while, but were finally compelled to fall back. This the right regiments – Thirty-seventh Wisconsin, Eighth Michigan, and Twenty-seventh Michigan Volunteers – did in good order, and sought what shelter they could behind a rail fence from which they hastily constructed rude breast-works. These regiments did good service in keeping the enemy at bay and held the ground till relieved. The Thirteenth Ohio were thrown into a panic by a few shots and fled, the greater part of them, from the field. A part of them, under Captains wheeler and Gore, were afterward collected and placed on the line. The Thirty-eighth Wisconsin were thrown into confusion by the Thirteenth Ohio, but were formed and placed in line in General Hartranft’s brigade. At 11 o’clock my command was relieved and marched farther up the road, where it had lain in the early part of the afternoon, on the hill where a line of works were constructed during the night. The works were perfected on Saturday as much as we could in the drenching rain, and our picket-line in front and along the road well established.

Orders were received to be in readiness to advance at 7 o’clock Sunday morning, 2nd instant. Just 500 men from the Thirty-eighth Wisconsin, who had joined the brigade the day before, were left in command of Colonel Bintliff to hold the works. We commenced advancing after 8

o’clock, my skirmish line connecting with Colonel McLaughlen on the right and the Second Corps on the left. In passing through the woods no enemy was discovered. In advancing I endeavored to keep my troops near Colonel McLaughlen. The Twenty-seventh Michigan were detailed as skirmishers and the Eighth Michigan as support. I advanced my connections perfect to the cleared field, near where my command lay on the 30th ultimo. The skirmishers were sent forward with support, and soon exchanged shots with the enemy. The brigade was moved forward into the open field, connecting on the right and left; afterward were posted in echelon fifty paces to the rear of Colonel McLaughlen’s brigade. At 1 o’clock moved upon a line with him. The brigade was formed into two lines, One hundred and ninth New York and Thirty-seventh Wisconsin Volunteers in front line, Thirty-eighth Wisconsin and Thirteenth Ohio Volunteer Cavalry in support. Orders were received to keep a sharp lookout on the left, and in case the brigade on the left moved to keep connected with them. Staff officers made frequent visits and an orderly was sent over to report any movements on the left. It was reported that three regiments of General Pierce’s brigade had moved to the front a short distance, which fact having been reported to General Willcox, moved my command to the left in his lines and filled up the space vacated. It is understood that the failure to carry the works of the enemy, and which resulted in the repulse of the three regiments making the assault, is attributed in part to the failure of my brigade to properly support the advancing column. I acted in strict obedience to orders, having at no time received instructions to do more than hold the line I then occupied, unless called upon by General Pierce for support. Near sunset I was ordered to withdraw my command, which I did, and moved to the right, where my troops were placed on line, connecting with the line of works captured by the Fifth Corps. Breast-works were constructed and occupied by all my command present, except the Eighth and Twenty-seventh Michigan. Subsequently a new line was laid out and built, which the Eighth Michigan, Thirteenth Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, Twenty-seventy Michigan, One hundred and ninth New York, and Thirty-seventh Wisconsin occupied.

On the 8th instant my command picketed in front of the First and Third Divisions. Orders having been received the night previous that the First Division should make a reconnaissance, the picket-line advanced as a line of skirmishers, connecting with General Potter on the right and Colonel McLaughlen on the left. The skirmish line was strengthened from time to time, as gaps were occasioned on my left, until the One hundred and ninth New York, 140 strong, were all placed on the line. The Eighth Michigan, Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Ely commanding, were in reserve as support. My skirmish line advanced through the woods, beyond the forks of the road, and held a position till night in the edge of the field and in the woods to the left of the field. The remainder of my brigade held the line of works to the rear. I received positive orders at one time from a staff officer on General Willcox’s staff to move out my whole command and form it in line of battle 300 or 400 paces to the rear of the skirmish line and connect with Colonel McLaughlen’s line, reserve on the left, by scouts. This I did, but afterward received instructions only to keep a sufficient force to support my picket-line. I then withdrew these troops to the line of works; subsequently moved out the Twenty-seventy Michigan, Captain Waite commanding, to strengthen the reserve. The enemy was not found in any force. The cavalry outposts of the enemy were driven in, a few shots exchanged,

and several of their horsemen unhorsed. A new picket-line was established, and after dark the skirmish line and supports were withdrawn to the new line.

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

SAM. HARRIMAN,

Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Captain JOHN D. BERTOLETTE,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

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 558-560

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