Number 199. Petersburg Campaign Report of Lieutenant Colonel Byron M. Cutcheon, Twentieth Michigan Infantry, commanding Second Brigade, of operations October 27 – 28

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

Numbers 199. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Byron M. Cutcheon, Twentieth Michigan Infantry, commanding Second Brigade, of operations October 27 – 28.1

HDQRS. SECOND Brigadier, FIRST DIV., NINTH ARMY CORPS,
October 29, 1864.

CAPTAIN: In accordance with orders from headquarters First Division, Ninth Army Corps, October 28, 1864, I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of this brigade on the 27th and 28th instant:

At 2 a.. m. of the 27th camp was broken, and at 3 a. m. the brigade was in column ready to move. At 3.30 the column passed corps headquarters en route, and at 4 a. m. halted at our outer vedettes. Waited until Colonel McLaughlen’s brigade had passed to my right and filed along the old rebel breast-works. Meanwhile I deployed the Second Michigan as skirmishers along the edge of the woods east of the Smith house, the Twentieth Michigan supporting them in line, and the remainder of the brigade moving by the left flank in the following order: Sixtieth Ohio, Fiftieth Pennsylvania, First Michigan Sharpshooters (the Forty-sixth New York had been left in garrison at Fort Cummings). My order was to advance as soon as I heard from Colonel McLaughlen, which I did, keeping my right in the direction of the Smith house. On reaching that house the left swung forward and we advanced, rapidly in a direction nearly westward. McLaughlen’s skirmishers being withdrawn on my right, I ordered my skirmishers to gain ground in that direction as they advanced, until they should cover the road running westward from the Hawks house. The right of the skirmish line being delayed in passing the swamp in front of the Hawks house, and some misconception of orders occurring at the same time, the left of Colonel March’s line swung forward until it was formed nearly perpendicular with the Duncan road instead of the one intended. As soon as I discovered this I corrected the error as quickly as possible, but a delay of nearly half an hour was caused by this mistake. As soon as the line was again established on the proper front I directed Colonel March to push forward vigorously and attack promptly any force of the enemy he might encounter. He did so, driving the enemy’s skirmishers rapidly before him, closely supported by the balance of the brigade, until, on emerging from the woods in front of the Clements house, at about 9 a. m., he found himself confronted by a line of works well filled with men and protected by an almost impervious slashing. Colonel March advanced his line close up to the slashing, the left of his line entering it, but finding

the position too strong to attack, he halted and reported the situation. The supporting regiments (Twentieth Michigan and Fifty-first Pennsylvania) now moved up close to the slashing and began throwing up slight pits for their protection.

Meanwhile the brigade was put in line, supported by General Hartranft’s brigade, and the skirmishers engaged the enemy vigorously. By 10 a. m. I had established my connections with Ferrero on my right and with the Fifth Corps on my left, and General Hartranft had moved into a position on my left. At about 10 a. m. we were ordered to be ready to charge the enemy’s works at the same time that the Fifth Corps attacked. I made dispositions accordingly, but Colonel March sent back word that there was a slashing of heavy timber in his front, from ten to thirty rods in width, and that it would be impossible to charge through it with any hope of success, but that he thought an attack was practicable upon the left, where there was no slashing. I held the brigade in readiness to attack until about noon, when we were ordered to throw up rifle-pits, which was very quickly done, a good substantial line being constructed. At 4 p. m. we commenced slashing in our front and continued it till dark, by which time we had a strong line. Meanwhile, at about 2 p . m., the Second Michigan, Colonel March commanding, being nearly out of ammunition, was relieved by the Sixtieth Ohio, Major Stearns commanding, but the left of the Second Michigan had advanced so far into the slashing that it was impossible for them to retire by daylight, and near night the enemy made a dash from their works and captured them. There were of them 1 officer (Adjutant Schneider) and 4 men. Until near dark the skirmish line of this brigade had covered the front of Hartranft’s brigade also, but at night this part of the line was relieved by skirmishers from the First Brigade, and the Fifty-first Pennsylvania, which had heretofore been in support of the right of my brigade skirmish line, was shifted to the left and put in support of the skirmishers of the First Brigade. In this order we rested upon our arms for the night. As soon as it was dark the enemy advanced a strong picket-line into the slashing, which was withdrawn before daylight.

On the morning of the 28th we continued the slashing until we received orders to be ready to move, when we sent all the tools to the wagons and put all things in readiness. I withdrew the Twentieth Michigan from the skirmish line and put them in reserve in rear of the brigade. At 11.30 a. m. we received orders to move to the right and relieve the left brigade of Ferrero’s division. Before commencing the movement I withdrew the reserve of the Sixtieth Ohio from the skirmish line, and deployed it in rear of the main breast-works. We then moved to the right, keeping closed up on the colored troops. Major Stearns now withdrew his reserve and deployed it, by order of the division officer of the day, in front of McLaughlen’s brigade (which now occupied the second line of works) with its right resting on the breast-works. I now moved in rear of Russell’s brigade (colored) until my right rested on General Potter’s left, when I reformed my line with my left refused, and as the skirmishers of the Third Division withdrew from my right, I replaced them with a detail from the First Michigan Sharpshooters. As soon as McLaughlen had retired and I was notified that General Hartranft was retiring by the left I received an order from the general commanding to withdraw by the left flank and take position with my right resting on the dismantled fort near the Hawks house, which I did, keeping my front still covered with a por-

tion of the Sixtieth Ohio, while the remainder covered the flank. When everything had withdrawn beyond the swamp in front of the Hawks house I withdrew, following McLaughlen, and coming within the works, occupied our old position at 3.30 p. m., having suffered a loss of only 30, of whom 5 are missing from the Second Michigan.

A list of the casualties has been already forwarded, to which I respectfully refer you.*

I am, very respectfully,

BYRON M. CUTCHEON,

Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Captain J. D. BERTOLETTE,

Assistant Adjutant-General, First Division, Ninth Army Corps.

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* See p. 158.

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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 568-570

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