Number 198. Petersburg Campaign Report of Brigadier General John F. Hartranft, U. S. Army, commanding Second Brigade, of operations September 30 – October 8

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

No. 198. Report of Brigadier General John F. Hartranft, U. S. Army, commanding Second Brigade, of operations September 30 – October 8.1

HDQRS. SECOND Brigadier, FIRST DIV., NINTH ARMY CORPS,
October 17, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that in obedience to orders from the general commanding the division, my command moved from the Gurley house about 10 a. m. on the 30th of September, following the Second Division. We took the road passing Poplar Grove Church. Soon after passing the Peebles house, formed in line of battle, facing to the left and westward, in the following order from the right: First Michigan Sharpshooters, Colonel C. V. DeLand; Second Michigan, Lieutenant Colonel E. J. March; Fiftieth Pennsylvania, Captain G. W. Brumm; Twenty-fourth New York Cavalry, Colonel W. C. Raulston; Forty-sixth New York, Captain Adolph Becker; Sixtieth Ohio, Lieutenant Colonel M. P. Avery, and Twentieth Michigan, Lieutenant Colonel B. M. Cutcheon. The brigade was moved forward, in accordance with orders, for the purpose of establishing a line from the left of the Second Division to the Clements house. After passing the low ground and reaching the woods I sent Lieutenant-Colonel Cutcheon with the Twentieth and Second Michigan Regiments to the Clements house to guard the road, and feel by scouts for the left of the Second Division. After he had reached the house and had sent out his scouts, but before they had found the left of the Second Division, orders were received to withdraw the command and move to the right. Moved up beyond the Pegram house and formed in line, facing westward and at right angles to that of the Second Division, with my right just east of and close to Doctor Boisseau’s house, with orders to protect the left of General Potter’s division. Immediately in front of the left of my line I found a swamp almost impassable. The course of the stream running through it was about southeast. From the right of my line to this swamp was a space of about 200 yards. About 1,000 yards to the front and westward of my line were works of the enemy, occupied by some cavalry, but no artillery or infantry were shown. I established a skirmish line on a little crest beyond the swamp referred to. When the Second Division moved forward I moved the brigade by the right flank, preserving the formation. After the left of Potter’s division had passed into the woods they commenced extending their left, throwing it into the open field beyond the Boisseau house and about 300 yards in advance. I then changed front, forming line of battle parallel to the Second Division line, my right being immediately in advance of the Boisseau house, and about 150 yards distant, the left resting on the swamp. This line in respect to the Second Division was in echelon, and a portion of the right was covered by the Second Division. On our right the firing became very heavy. The Thirty-sixth and Thirty-fifth Massachusetts regiments came to the rear in confusion. I attempted to rally and put them in position on the right of my line. We succeeded in halting these regiments. A staff officer came to me about this time from Major-General Humphreys with an order to withdraw the troops. I obeyed this order very slowly. I was unable on account of a dense growth of sorghum on the right of the brigade to see the condition of the troops on my right, and consequently did not see the necessity of retiring, but I retired and formed another line on a road about 100 yards in the rear, still in advance of the Boisseau house. I discovered here from the direction of the enemy’s fire that our right

had been well driven back, and also noticed that the skirmish line which I had established across the swamp to the westward, now on my left flank, had been driven in, and their position occupied by the enemy. In view of the position of the enemy on my right and left, and the order from General Humphreys, I at once ordered the two left regiments, the Second and Twentieth Michigan, to withdraw. The other regiments were ordered to follow. I fell back, and by order of the general commanding the division reformed my line, the right resting on the left of the Pegram house, and the line extending to the left, which was very much refused. It is now dusk. Skirmishers were advanced about 100 yards. The brigade remained in this position until about 12 o’clock midnight, when the skirmishers were relieved by the Twenty-fourth New York Cavalry, and the rest of the brigade was withdrawn and put into position on the right of the First Brigade, which was stretched across the road at the Clements house, facing about northwest. Went into position about 2 a. m. Breast-works were thrown up between that time and daylight.

About 8 a. m. October 1 the brigade was moved to the right, the right resting near the Peebles house, the left extending toward the Clements house. We were ordered to throw up breast-works, which was done at once, under a heavy rain. Very soon after the work was commenced the Twenty-fourth New York (now under command of Lieutenant Colonel W. C. Newberry, Colonel Raulston having been captured near the Boisseau house the day before), which was on picket near the Pegram house, and the pickets of the Second Division and of the Fifth Corps were attacked by infantry and artillery. They retired and the Twenty-fourth was put on picket on our own front. During this attack the erection of breast-works progressed very rapidly. Skirmishing occurred on the Second Division front during the day, but nothing worthy of note transpired so far as this brigade was concerned. On the morning of the 2nd, about 8 o’clock, in obedience to orders, the brigade moved forward in two lines, with skirmishers in front. The skirmish line was composed of the Sixtieth Ohio, part deployed and the rest in reserve, under Major Stearns. The first line consisted of the Twentieth Michigan and the Forty-sixth New York, under Lieutenant-Colonel Cutcheon; and the second, of the Twenty-fourth New York Cavalry, the First Michigan sharpshooters (under command of Captain G. H. Murdock, Colonel De Land having been captured on the 30th), the Second Michigan, and the Fiftieth Pennsylvania, under Lieutenant Colonel W. C. Newberry, of the Twenty-fourth. The brigade was ordered to move forward in such a direction that its right should rest on the Pegram house. At 11 o’clock my skirmishers occupied the Boisseau house. They were the first to occupy it. About 1 p. m. the first line, under Lieutenant-Colonel Cutcheon, was put in position on the left of Potter’s division, with orders to throw up breast-works, which was at once done. Just before dark the brigade was ordered to form in line, the left resting on the works occupied by the Second Division in the morning and the right extending in the general direction of the Pegram house. Works were thrown up during the night and a picket-line established. Next day the works were strengthened, timber slashed, and the picket-line advanced and re-established.

October 8, at 6.30 a. m., in obedience to orders from Brigadier-General Willcox, the brigade moved in light marching order and without breaking camp to the Clements house. Here the brigade was formed on the south side of the road leading from the Clements to the Hawks house in the following order: The Second Michigan, under Lieutenant

Colonel March, deployed as skirmishers, supported by the Twenty-fourth New York, the whole under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Newberry; the first line composed of the Fiftieth Pennsylvania, the Twentieth and First Michigan, under Lieutenant-Colonel Cutcheon, and the second composed of the Forty-sixth New York and Sixtieth Ohio, under Major Stearns. The Third Brigade formed on the right of the road, and when they were ready we advanced. On reaching the plain in front of the Smith house and the enemy’s redoubts on this road slight skirmishing occurred with the enemy, who retired without any resistance. They were at this time leveling their abandoned works. My skirmishers moved up and occupied first the Smith house, the redoubts, without any loss. I then stationed the First Michigan Sharpshooters on a road leading to the left from the edge of the open field, and about seventy-five men from the Twenty-fourth New York at the Smith house, part of whom were deployed as skirmishers to the south and west, then advanced the skirmishers and the rest of the Twenty-fourth as support on the road leading west; moved up that road about half a mile until I came to a cross-road, still in the woods. I now brought up the balance of the troops, stationing the Fiftieth Pennsylvania near the Hawks house, which was on the right of this road; the Twentieth Michigan and Forty-sixth New York on the crest of the hill running from the redoubts to the Smith house, where they threw up a temporary breast-work, while the Sixtieth Ohio established skirmishers south and west from the Smith house, this house being their headquarters. About 100 yards in advance of the cross-roads referred to was a clearing, in which was the enemy’s cavalry in some force. Although I could not see them, yet my scouts reported hearing commands given by them, which satisfied me they were there in some force. They were slashing timber and blockading roads south and west of this position. I established a picket of the Twenty-fourth New York on the road, and ordered the skirmishers to change direction to the right. The enemy then attacked my picket at the cross-roads, but were repulsed. I immediately halted my skirmishers and re-established my connection with my pickets, and rested here for orders. The Third Brigade picket-line, which was on my right, was attacked and driven in. My right temporarily gave way, but was immediately halted by Lieutenant-Colonel March, and remained in their position. No effort being made to re-establish the Third Brigade line, and fearing the enemy might follow up their little success and permanently occupy a position which commanded the road over which I had to withdraw, I ordered my skirmishers and pickets to fall back and form on the same line as those of the Third Brigade. After receiving notice to retire I ordered back all the regiments to the edge of the woods, and in support of two guns still in position, except the Twentieth, which occupied the rebel redoubt, and the Sixtieth Ohio, at the Smith house. As soon as the guns were withdrawn I ordered back to camp the regiments then with them. It was now dark nearly. An order was then sent to Lieutenant-Colonel Cutcheon to withdraw his regiment and the Sixtieth Ohio and return to camp.

I desire to express my entire satisfaction with the conduct of the regiments in the command and their commanding officers. They behaved nobly on the afternoon of the 30th especially, when the brigade was almost surrounded by the enemy, retiring a short distance and forming a new line, where they stood firm until ordered to retire. All the regiments displayed a steadiness under trying circumstances, which speaks well of their discipline. The same qualities were displayed dur-

ing the reconnaissance on the 8th of October. To the members of my staff, Captains Mathews and Van Buskirk and Lieutenants Watts and Todd, I am under obligations for the promptness and ability with which they aided me.

I have the honor, captain, to be your most obedient servant,

J. F. HARTRANFT,

Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

Captain JOHN D. BERTOLETTE,

Assistant Adjutant-General, First Division, Ninth 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 565-568

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