Number 209. Petersburg Campaign Report of Major John W. Hudson, Thirty-fifth Massachusetts Infantry, of operations September 30

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

Numbers 209. Report of Major John W. Hudson, Thirty-fifth Massachusetts Infantry, of operations September 30.1

HDQRS. THIRTY-FIFTH MASSACHUSETTS VOL. INFANTRY,
October 11, 1864.

CAPTAIN: For the good name of this regiment, and of the brigade to which it belongs, and in consideration of the false statements which are circulating to our discredit, I beg leave to offer the following report of the part which the Thirty-fifth Massachusetts bore in the recent repulse September 30 in front of the works we at present occupy:

You are already conversant with the march of the regiment to the woods which it last entered. We marched by the left flank, halted and faced to the front, and presently moved forward in line of battle well into the woods to the place where the colonel commanding last saw us. At his order we rose from the ground, moved farther into the woods, and changed direction considerably to the left, so as to be in line in rear of General Griffin’s brigade, and on or in front of the road designated to us. A small regiment, a part of the line which faced our right flank while we lay in the first position, rose and moved parallel to and about fifty yards in rear of us and lay down again. General Griffin’s brigade in our front gradually advanced. The general himself was visible a few yards from our right and on a line with us. Presently a staff officer, then unknown to me, came from that quarter and ordered my regiment forward. My attention being then directed elsewhere, I did not see this in season to prevent the two right companies (Lieutenants Nason and Patch) from obeying the order, which they did with such alacrity as to leave no fragment of themselves at the right of the regiment. General Griffin himself next urged the regiment on. Believing that he mistook us for a part of his brigade, I stopped the movement and told the general why. He had indeed supposed that his left was there instead of being in front of us. The staff officer a few moments after apologized for the mistake. About this time I noticed two or three scattering shots, apparently far off on our right or a little in rear of it. Believing that it was only what naturally would happen between our skirmishers and the enemy’s, I thought nothing of it; besides, General Griffin’s brigade reached farther to the right than we, and had, I thought, provided for the flank; and, again, my regiment cannot skirmish as now constituted (I should not have felt justified in drilling in skirmish tactics when battalion drills were needed, as they were in our case). I therefore let the regiment lie in line, placing the usual trust in the skill which had put the division into this place. Presently, as I stood behind a pine tree near our line, I saw the small regiment in our rear rise up and stand in line a moment, then look to

their right uneasily and waver, and then break by individuals from the right to the rear with considerable animation at the reception of a shot or two upon its flank. It might have appeared then as if this regiment were in undue haste to retire, for no effort whatever was made to change front or direction. It would appear now that, standing on ground lower than that which I stood on, it was able to see beneath the branches the array that was coming upon its flank so unexpectedly, though I could not see it, and so, wisely, made no attempt at resistance. Without the opposition of a single skirmisher, so far as I could discover, the enemy was evidently near enough to fire with effect upon the flank of these neighbors in our rear. The Thirty-fifth saw them leaving and began to rise. I bade them be steady, and they lay quietly down again. Then from the front and the flank, together, there arose a yell that explained our position. The troops in front were just then repulsed, and from both front and flank came shot in quick succession that indicated an unexpected number of foes advancing from unsuspected points. We were flanked, and evidently by a very heavy line. I ordered the regiment to “rise up,” “about face,” and “forward.” It moved at my command, and of course retreated in some disorder. The regiment kept pretty well together over the fence and through the sorghum field north of the house (since burned), till it reached the hollow, there resembling an amphitheater. Here we succeeded in halting most of it with the other regiments. Great exertions were made by my subordinate officers to rally the men and form them on the verge of this amphitheater, a place which every experienced eye at once marked as a good position from which to check the enemy. Many of my men readily took an advanced position here, and only left when regularly ordered back by me as I saw the lines receding on both sides, but I do not claim that the regiment was of any service whatever here on the whole. The rather dense formation and the want of experience in drill which we labored under were so unfavorable to our usefulness that but for example’s sake and the evident propriety of generously suffering with the rest, I could conscientiously have withdrawn all my men without any attempt at forming them to resist the enemy. At this place two valuable officers were severely wounded. Having passed the hollow and arrived at the house, we became more conscious of the movement upon our most advanced flank and descended the slope from that point to the woods, in front of the present position of our works. The woods and briers were so thick as to scatter us completely, and at the same time to prevent any organized pursuit, and I presume every man then looked out for himself. Such men as I saw upon getting into more open wood went on with me quite around our present position to the main road and thence to the church for the night. Others, with more sagacity, turned to the left sooner, and were upon our present line that night. The rest, very few, so far as I know or believe, purposely fell into hostile hands and became prisoners of war.

Captain Pope acted as field officer. Lieutenant McKenzie, awaiting muster from citizen life, passed through it all with us very coolly and satisfactorily. All the officers did their whole duty, so far as I know, and no men staid or fell behind when we went to our most advanced position. First Lieutenants Farrington and Morse are dangerously wounded and in hospital at City Point. I do not think the morale of the regiment is much impaired except as so much of the superior material is gone.

First Sergts. Alfred Blanchard, jr., Company C, James B. Calder, Company I, Edgar M. Riggs, Company F, and Sergts. William

White, Company H, and Alfred Ireland, Company F, had received appointments as second lieutenants that morning. They conducted themselves with their usual coolness. Blanchard and Ireland are now missing.

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

JOHN W. HUDSON,

Major Thirty-fifth Massachusetts Infantry, Commanding Regiment.

ACTG. ASST. ADJT. General, 1ST Brigadier, 2nd DIV., 9TH 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 583-585

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