Number 216. Petersburg Campaign Report of Brigadier General John F. Hartranft, U. S. Army, commanding First Brigade, of operations August 19 – 21

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

Numbers 216. Report of Brigadier General John F. Hartranft, U. S. Army, commanding First Brigade, of operations August 19 – 21.1

HDQRS. FIRST Brigadier, THIRD DIV., NINTH ARMY CORPS,
August 30, 1864.

CAPTAIN: In obedience to orders from division headquarters my brigade left camp before Petersburg, Va., at 3.30 a. m. on the 19 instant and marched to Blick’s house, on the Weldon railroad, arriving there at 8 a. m. I formed line in front of the Blick house, my left resting about 400 yards from the railroad, where I remained in support until 4 p. m., when an attack was made upon the line of the Fifth Army Corps, penetrating the right of General Crawford’s division and some 700 or 800 yards to the front and right. My brigade was immediately formed, and advanced in the direction of this attack, until I met the enemy in line 150 yards distant in the corn-field at the edge of the woods, from which position the enemy had full view of the open space in front of and around the Blick house. My brigade was formed from right to left in the following order: Thirty-seventh Wisconsin, Colonel Harriman commanding; Thirty-eighth Wisconsin, Lieutenant-Colonel Pier commanding; Thirteenth Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, Captain Clark commanding; Twenty-seventh Michigan, Captain Cash commanding; One hundred and ninth New York Volunteers, Captain Evans commanding, Fifty-first Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, Major Hart commanding, and the Eighth Michigan Veteran Volunteers, Major Belcher commanding. The four left regiments were in the open field, and the three right regiments were under cover of the woods on the right of the corn-field. After the four regiments on the left were engaged, the right of the brigade kept advancing through the woods and soon met the enemy also advancing, and captured from them between 50 and 60 prisoners. The enemy in the open space were soon repulsed and fell back under a terrific musketry fire to the cover of the woods. The left of my brigade immediately advanced from 75 to 100 yards, and while they were still advancing the enemy rallied in the woods and made a second attack upon my line, coming within about seventy-five yards, but he was again successfully repulsed and retired to the cover of the woods. After the second repulse of the enemy the Second Brigade of this division came up in support, but was immediately ordered to the left. The troops of the First Division also came up about the same time from right and rear, and one brigade moved to my left. I now received orders to move to the left, along the edge of the woods, and connect with the right of the Second Brigade, which I did, the brigade of the First Division on my left moving to the right. Colonel Humphrey had advanced his brigade, and I was about to advance into the woods on his right, when the First Division was attacked by the enemy upon the same ground upon which he had been twice repulsed by my brigade, and I was ordered to the right in support. I moved along the edge of the woods until my right was within seventy-five yards of the left of the First Division, with my left resting about 100 yards from Crawford’s right. I saw that the First Division was not heavily pressed, and soon afterward the firing from First Division ceased. When General Crawford advanced I advanced skirmishers and connected with him. It was

now getting dark, and I received orders to advance my brigade into the woods and occupy the rifle-pits, which were about 200 yards from edge of the woods, and which had been occupied by General Crawford’s division during the day. I immediately advanced, occupied the line designated, connecting with Crawford’s division on the left. The First Division did not advance at this time, and a gap was left between the right of my line and left of First Division, which was closed up, however, during the night. During the night the pits were strengthened and the troops supplied with ammunition.

On the morning of the 20th I advanced a thin line of skirmishers, supported by a strong line, about 200 yards in the front of the main line, until the enemy’s line of skirmishers was discovered. No shots were exchanged. During the day five regiments of the brigade were withdrawn to the original position occupied on the afternoon of the 19th, where we bivouacked for the night, leaving the Fifty-first Pennsylvania on the skirmish line, supported by the Twenty-seventh Michigan Volunteers.

At 5 o’clock on the morning of the 21st I moved my brigade, with exception of the Fifty-first and Twenty-seventh Michigan, which remained on the skirmish line, to a position on the left and in front of the Blick house, my right resting on the Ninth Massachusetts Battery and my left extending across railroad (two regiments being on left of the railroad) and resting on —— Battery. Here I threw up a line of intrenchments, which was almost completed at 9.15 a. m., when the enemy attacked on the left of the Fifth Corps. When this attack was made one of General Ayres’ brigades, of the Fifth Corps, moved up to my line of works. At 10.30 the enemy attacked on my immediate front; the artillery opened upon him with full force. There was no infantry fire from my line except by a few sharpshooters on the right. The enemy was soon compelled to retire, owing to the murderous fire of our artillery, and about 25 or 30 prisoners came in on my front. The regiments on the line of skirmishers were obliged to retire with some loss.

I am pained to mention the loss of Major Horatio Belcher, commanding Eighth Michigan Volunteers, who was killed on the 19th. He was at the time suffering from a wound in right arm, received at Bethesda Church, June 3, and would not leave the field until after he received a third bullet wound, which caused his death. A braver, truer, and nobler soldier never lived.

Major Hart, commanding Fifty-first Pennsylvania, received three severe wounds while gallantly leading his regiment.

I am much indebted to Colonel Harriman, Thirty-seventh Wisconsin, for the valuable service rendered by him on the 19th.

The members of my staff – Captain J. D. Bertolette, assistant adjutant-general; Captain R. N. Doyle, provost-marshal; Captain C. H. McCreery, acting assistant inspector-general; Lieutenants Watts and Bean, acting aides-de-camp, and Lieutenant Campbell, acting engineer officer – deserve particular mention for their coolness, bravery, and gallantry in the field, and I am much indebted to them for the valuable and efficient services they rendered me. Lieutenant Bean had his horse killed under him, and was himself severely wounded.

Report of casualties in First Brigade, Third Division, Ninth Army Corps, for the 19th and 21st of August, 1864.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

J. F. HARTRANFT,

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Captain W. V. RICHARDS,

Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, Third Division, Ninth Army Corps.

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* But see revised statement, p. 127.

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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 593-595

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