Number 229. Petersburg Campaign Reports of Bvt. Major General David McM. Gregg, U. S. Army, commanding Second Cavalry Division, of operations August 22-26, October 26-28, November 7, and December 1, 4, and 7-12

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

Numbers 229. Reports of Bvt. Major General David McM. Gregg, U. S. Army, commanding Second Cavalry Division, of operations August 22-26, October 26-28, November 7, and December 1, 4, and 7-12.1

HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, CAVALRY CORPS, August 28, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations o this division from the time General Barlow began destroying the railroad up to the morning of the 26th instant:

The Second Division was concentrated on the left of the Fifth Army Corps on the Weldon railroad on the morning of the 22nd instant, and during that day was employed picketing from the Jerusalem plank road across the Weldon railroad and to the left of the Fifth Corps. Just before dark a reconnaissance was made to Reams’ Station and no enemy found. On the 23rd the division was concentrated at the Perkins house on the railroad,l picketing as before. In the afternoon of this day, in compliance with instructions from headquarters Army of the Potomac, I moved the division to Reams’ Station, there to establish a line of pickets with the left of the of the Fifth Corps and to connect with General Barlow’s command after it should have moved south of the station. Soon after my arrival at Reams’ Station I was informed that Colonel Spear, commanding a brigade of General Kautz’s cavalry division (this brigade acting under the orders of General Barlow, commanding division, Second Army Corps, engaged in destroying Weldon railroad), had been engaged with the enemy about a mile and a half out on the Dinwiddie stage road. To ascertain what force of the enemy was on the road leading directly from Reams’ Station to the Brigade Dinwiddie stage road, I directed two regiments of the Second Brigade of this division to make a reconnaissance on this road. If the enemy was found in any reasonable distance that those regiments should engage him, and that the remainder of the division would be move up to the point where the enemy was found.

When about a mile and a half from the station, being with these advanced regiments. I saw in the open fields in front a dismounted force of the enemy, which I estimated at one division of cavalry. This force having been deployed under cover of woods was advanced toward my position.

As rapidly as my regiments could be dismounted they were brought to the front, and at 5 p. m. the action had fairly begun. The enemy

concentrating his forces successively at different points vainly essayed to break my line. At 7 p. m., of the nine regiments present, eight were dismounted and engaged with the enemy, the remaining mounted regiment protecting my flanks and held in readiness should the enemy charge (mounted) any portion of my line. The action thus continued without abatement until about 8.30, when the enemy withdrew, having failed to reach Reams’ Station, his evident purpose.

On the 24th the First Brigade of this division, Colonel William Stedman commanding, relieved Colonel Spear’s brigade and took position on the Dinwiddie stage road. The regiments of the Second Brigade were employed picketing to the front of Reams’ Station toward Dinwiddie stage road, and to the left of this road, and the two roads beading from Reams’ Station to the Jerusalem plank road.

On the morning of the 25th, having reported to Major-General Hancock, commanding all the forces operating on the Weldon railroad, the dispositions of my brigades and regiments made on the preceding day being approved, were continued. At about 11 a. m. a force of the enemy’s cavalry, supposed to have been Baker’s brigade, charged the pickets of the Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, reached the swamp west of Reams’ Station, but were there met by the Fourth Pennsylvania Cavalry and aa small force of General Miles’ infantry, and compelled to retire. Scarcely had the enemy retired from this point until firing was heard in the opposite direction of the Dinwiddie road, in front of Reams’ Station. This was an attack of the enemy upon the Sixteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, picketing in front of the infantry picket-line. This attack of the enemy’s (mounted) cavalry was repulsed, and the pickets of the Sixteenth Pennsylvania re-established. To prevent the enemy getting possession of the roads leading from Reams’ Station to the Jerusalem plank road, I posted there two additional regiments, Eighth and Fourth Pennsylvania. Upon the advance of the enemy’s infantry in front of Reams’ Station, the Sixteenth Pennsylvania was withdrawn and formed on the left of our line in rear of Reams’ Station. When the action at Reams’ Station became general I had the First Maine Cavalry (dismounted) posted in the swamp on the left of our line and in rear of Reams’ Station; the Sixteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry (mounted) posted on the right of the First Maine Cavalry; the District of Columbia regiment cavalry (dismounted) behind a hastily constructed work on a height, somewhat advanced and to the left of the main line of works; one squadron of the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry on the left of this work, posted vedettes to its front to notify me when the enemy should debouch from the woods in my front. The enemy made a feeble demonstration on my front, but passing farther to their left assaulted the main line. Whilst making this assault the masses of the enemy were exposed to a galling fire on their flank from the work occupied by my dismounted men.

During the main assault of the enemy on General Miles’ front a section of artillery sent to me by General Gibbon and commanded by Captain Woerner did most effective service upon the enemy. The dismounted cavalry, together with about 100 infantry of different regiments collected in my vicinity, maintained a telling fire upon the enemy until after they had possession of the works on my right, and until exposed to a fire from the right and rear. This command was then withdrawn to the north side of the swamp, and formed on the left of General Gibbon’s division. The First Maine Cavalry (dismounted) and Sixteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry were not withdrawn from the left of the field until about 12 p. m. During the action of this day the First

Brigade menaced the enemy’s left flank, but and impassable swamp prevented any active operations. The brigade maintained its position on the Dinwiddie stage road until about 10 a. m. of the following day, and was under the fire of a four-gun battery of the enemy. The Second Brigade covered the withdrawal of the troops, and on the following morning took position at Temple’s on the plank road, picketing that road and the roads leading to Reams’ Station.

In all these operations the regiments of my division acquitted themselves handsomely. The duties assigned them were faithfully performed.

The aggregate loss of the division was 5 commissioned officers wounded, 61 enlisted men killed and wounded, and 6 enlisted men missing.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

D. McM. GREGG,

Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding.

Captain W. P. WILSON,

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Army Corps.

HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, CAVALRY CORPS, November 4, 1864.

COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the Second Division, Cavalry Corps, on the 27th instant [ultimo]:

In compliance with orders headquarters Army of the Potomac, October 25, 1864, this division was concentrated in the vicinity of the Perkins house, on the Weldon railroad, on the afternoon of the 26th, and was then reported by me to Major-General Hancock, under whose orders my command was placed for the ensuing operations. At

3.30 a. m. on the 27th the division marched from its place of bivouac in the following order, viz: Third Brigade, Colonel C. H. Smith commanding, in advance, the Second Brigade, Colonel M. Kerwin, Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, commanding, following, and the First Brigade, Brigadier General H. E. Davies, in rear. The route taken by the division to reach the Boydton plank road was the road leading from the Weldon railroad by Rowanty Post-Office to the crossing of the Rowanty below Arthur’s Swamp, thence across to the Quaker road, and following this to the plank road. The enemy’s pickets (cavalry) were first encountered at Hargrave’s, east of the Rowanty. These were driven to the creek, the crossing of which was held by the enemy posted behind a line of breast-works about 200 yards distant. Portions of the First Maine and Sixth Ohio were dismounted, and, as skirmishers, waded the creek, attacked and drove the enemy from their works. After this no considerable force of the enemy was encountered until reaching the Quaker road. From couriers of the enemy captured before reaching the Quaker road, I learned that General W. H. F. Lee’s division of cavalry was in camp on Stony Creek, on my left and about three miles distant, and that General Butler’s division was on the Quaker road and in my front.

The leading brigade on arriving at Gravelly Run found the enemy posted on the west side in force. The enemy’s position was one of great natural strength. Upon a commanding eminence was a section of artillery, which, upon the appearance of the head of my column, opened fire. A strong line of skirmishers was displayed. The Sixth Ohio

and First Maine were dismounted, and, as skirmishers, waded the creek, and, assisted by the Twenty-first Pennsylvania (mounted), attacked the enemy’s line. This line, resisting strongly, was forced back beyond the heights, and then discovering the advance of the Second Army Corps on the right, fled in great haste in a southerly direction. Whilst the Third Brigade was thus engaged forcing the crossing of the run, the Second and First Brigades were skirmishing with the enemy, attacking the rear and flanks of the column. On the Boydton plank road the division was formed on the left of the Second Army Corps- the Second Brigade close upon the infantry and west of the plank road, the Third Brigade on the plank road, and the First on the Quaker road.

The attack of the enemy on the right of the Second Corps at a time when the mass of the corps was thrown forward toward Hatcher’s Run, caused me to dismount all the available regiments of the Second and Third Brigades, and to push them rapidly to the point of attack. Two regiments were moved forward on the east side by Colonel Smith, commanding Third Brigade, leaving but one regiment (Twenty-first Pennsylvania) on the plank road in rear; three regiments of the Second Brigade, one (Sixteenth Pennsylvania) already having been dismounted and formed on the left, were moved forward on the west side, to strike the enemy’s line in front. The regiments on the left had just about struck the enemy’s skirmishers when heavy firing was heard in rear on the plank road. Repairing to this point, I found the enemy’s cavalry dismounted, attacking strongly, aided by the fire of four rifled guns. The Twenty-first Pennsylvania Cavalry, Major Knowles commanding, was stoutly resisting this attack. The Sixth Ohio had just joined the Twenty-first. I sent for all my available regiments. The First Maine came at a run, and at once became heavily engaged. The attack of the enemy was very determined and made in large force, but the troops engaged in resisting it, although much inferior in numbers, could not be beaten, save inch by inch. In responses to my request for such other of my regiments as could be spared, Major-General Hancock, commanding, sent me rapidly the Second, Fourth, and Thirteenth Pennsylvania. These regiments, coming up successively as fast as their legs could carry them, entered the fight, and at dark the enemy retired repulsed without having accomplished other than his own punishment, which was severe, much of which was inflicted by a section of Battery I, First U. S. Artillery, under command of Lieutenant Reynolds. At 10.30 p. m. the division began moving by the road upon which it had advanced in the morning, and in the following order: Second Brigade in advance, the Third Brigade following, and the First Brigade in rear.

Owing to the destruction of the bridge over Gravelly Run, by my order, after the command had crossed in the morning, considerable delay was experienced on the return march, and at daylight but one brigade had recrossed the Rowanty. The entire command reached the Perkins house between 7 and 8 a. m. on the 28th, without having seen anything of the enemy on the return march.

In these operations my entire command behaved with great gallantry. Colonel C. H. Smith, commanding Third Brigade, and Major S. W. Thaxter, First Maine Cavalry, were conspicuous for gallantry. This latter officer, although embraced in orders to proceed with a portion of his regiment to Maine to be mustered out, volunteered to remain, and took command of the skirmish line of his brigade during the day.

The division captured from the enemy 31 prisoners of war, 7 Government wagons, and 24 mules and – horses. My loss during the day was 244 officers and enlisted men killed, wounded, and missing.* One of the captured wagons, which broke down at Gravelly Run, was abandoned, as also one caisson, which was disabled by having its stock broken by a shot, and several of its horses killed and wounded.

In closing this report, I would mention the efficient services on the field of my own staff. A numerical list of casualties for October 27 has been forwarded.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

D. McM. GREGG,

Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding Second Division.

Colonel S. CARNCROSS,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Army Corps.
HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, CAVALRY CORPS, November 7, 1864-7.30 p. m.

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that I have just returned with my command. I moved this morning with about 2,400 men and one battery. The Third Brigade (800 men) moved directly from Gary’s Church to Reams’ Station, thence down the Weldon railroad, with instructions to examine all roads leading to the Rowanty. I moved with the Second Brigade (800 men) from a point below to Gary’s Church, and by a road east of Reams’ Station, and struck the Weldon railroad, four miles below the station. The Third Brigade having joined me at this point, I moved with both brigades to a point on the Weldon railroad six miles below Reams’ Station, and sent scouting paries two miles farther down. I crossed the brigades from the railroad to Proctor’s on the Jerusalem plank road, where I found the First Brigade (800 men), which I had sent to that point to make a reconnaissance to Freeman’s Bridge, on the Nottoway. From Proctor’s I brought my entire command to camp. No movement of the enemy was discovered in any direction. The enemy’s cavalry is south of the Rowanty and in its former position. Of the enemy we killed 1 and captured 9; these were generally scouts. No casualties in my command. The regiment sent from Proctor’s to Freeman’s Bridge has not yet reported, being in rear of my entire command. I will forward report of its operations.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. McM. GREGG,

Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding Second Division.

Major General A. A. HUMPHREYS,

Chief of Staff, Army of the Potomac.

HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, CAVALRY CORPS, Jerusalem Plank Road, December 1, 1864-3.45 p. m.

GENERAL: I have captured Stony Creek Station. The place was defended by infantry and cavalry, with artillery in strong works. I have 190 prisoners, 8 wagons, and 30 mules; burnt the depot, about 3,000

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*But see revised statement, p.160.

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sacks corn, 500 bales hay, a train of cars, large quantity of bacon, Government clothing, ammunition an other stores. Captured 2 pieces of artillery; burnt all the shops and public buildings. Colonel Gregg’s (Second) brigade was in advance and took the station, which was most gallantly accomplished. I am now returning to my camps; my loss is very small.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

D. McM. GREGG,

Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

Brigadier General S. WILLIAMS,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.
HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, CAVALRY CORPS, December 4, 1864-9 a. m.

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that this morning at 2 o’clock a picket reserve near Davenport Church, consisting of one commissioned officer and twenty-five men, was attacked by a force of thirty of the enemy dismounted. This force passed through the swamps between the pickets and made a sudden attack. We had 1 man killed, 9 wounded, and 5 missing, and 12 horses captured. It is almost impracticable to guard against these attacks of dismounted men in the darkness of night on that portion of the line which runs through swamps. Since the return of the division increased attention had been given to make the line secure against expected attacks of the enemy. A rigid investigation is being made to discover if any blame attaches to the officer in command.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. McM. GREGG,

Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding Second Division.

Brigadier General S. WILLIAMS,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.

HEADQUARTERS SECOND CAVALRY DIVISION, December 18, 1864.

COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this division whilst constituting a portion of the command under Major-General Warren, engaged in destroying the Weldon railroad:

This division (excepting two regiments, Thirteenth Pennsylvania and Sixth Ohio Cavalry, and one battery), numbering about 4,200 effective men, left its camps near Petersburg at 4 o’clock on the morning of the 7th instant, and marched that day in advance of the infantry to the Nottoway, at Freeman’s Bridge. Forded the river at that point and continued the march to Sussex Court-House and there bivouacked. During this day the Second New York Mounted Rifles, of the Third Brigade of this s division, was detached, and during the entire trip was on special service with the infantry column. On the morning of the 8th, at 4 o’clock, the march was renewed in the direction of the Weldon railroad. The First Brigade, Brigadier-General Davies commanding, in advance, struck the Halifax road, near Nottoway bridge, at 9 a. m.

At this point the Third Brigade, Bvt. Brigadier General C. H. Smith commanding, was sent to destroy the Nottoway railroad bridge. This was speedily accomplished, the enemy having fled upon our approach. The march was continued toward Jarratt’s Station. As the rear brigade (Second), Bvt. Brigadier General J. Irvin Gregg commanding, was about turning upon the Halifax road an attack was made by the enemy’s cavalry from the direction of Bolling’s Bridge. The attacking force was the Ninth Virginia Cavalry, which regiment was driven back to the Nottoway by the Fourth Pennsylvania Cavalry, Major A. P. Duncan commanding. At about the same time a small body of cavalry moved down a road which my command had passed and picketed. The pickets were driven in and for a short time the road between the rear of my command and the head of the infantry column was interrupted by the presence of a small party of the enemy and re-established the connection. After this my command moved down the Halifax road two miles and began destroying the railroad, which was accomplished for a distance of about one mile. When the advance of the infantry, now fairly employed in the complete destruction of the railroad [sic]. My command continued to march along the Halifax road, making occasional halts, so as not to be too far in advance of the working parties of infantry.

At Three Creeks the enemy had posted upon the south bank two small field guns and about 200 cavalry. To prevent our advance the road bridge had been chopped down, the railroad bridge set on fire: all the ford had been obstructed by felling timber across them. After a short delay the Tenth New York Cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel Avery commanding, was crossed, dismounted, and the enemy driven away. A ford was soon cleared, the First and Third Brigades crossed, and the march continued to Hicksford. The Second Brigade, having effected a crossing some two miles above at Jones’ Mill, advanced from that point upon Hicksford. The First New Jersey Cavalry, in advance of the First Brigade, drove a considerable force of the enemy’s cavalry into the first line of works on the north bank of the Meherrin, and then, having been dismounted, continued to advance until in possession of the enemy’s rifle-pits. A gallant charge was made by the First Massachusetts Cavalry, mounted. The regiments of the First Brigade speedily compelled the retirement of the enemy to the south side of the river. From three redoubts on the bank of the river the enemy opened a fire from nine pieces of artillery. Major-General Warren, commanding, having joined me at this time, it was directed by him that no farther advance should be made, but such of my command as could be spared should be employed in destroying the railroad.

At daylight on the following morning my command recrossed the Three Creeks. The Second Brigade was sent in advance of the infantry on the return march. On leaving Three Creeks, General Smith’s (Third) brigade was attacked in rear by the enemy. A strong force, mounted and dismounted, with two pieces of artillery, pressed the rear guard for three or for miles, but a well organized rear, consisting of the Twenty-first Pennsylvania, First Maine, and a section of Dennison’s Horse Battery (A, Second U. S. Artillery), was more than enough to prevent any advantage to the enemy. Five miles below Jarratt’s Station, with the First and Third Brigades, I separated from the infantry column, continuing on the Halifax road, the infantry having taken a direct road to the right leading to Sussex. At Jarratt’s Station

a force of the enemy’s cavalry, with two pieces of artillery, opposed my advance. The detention was of very short duration, the enemy having been driven toward the Nottoway. At dark my command was halted at Coman’s Well to feed the horses. Late in the evening I camped near the infantry, and about three miles from Sussex Court-House. On the 11th my command passed the infantry, on the south side of the Nottoway, crossed the pontoon bridge, and, marching in rear of Potter’s division, of the Ninth Army Corps, arrived in camp at 1 a. m. on the 12th.

In these operation all my orders were executed by my command with great cheerfulness and promptness. Wherever our enemy was met he was driven away. During the very severe snow-storm on the night of the 9th my men and horses suffered considerably.

My brigade commanders are deserving of particular commendation for their energy and activity in discharge of their duties. The officers of my staff performed the arduous duties required of them with promptness and zeal.

The loss in this division was 2 officers killed, 4 wounded, 3 missing; 15 enlisted men killed, 61 wounded, and 53 missing (of these, 33 men of the Second New York Mounted Rifles, a newly mounted regiment, before mentioned as having been detached).

In mentioning the loss of Major Sergeant, commanding First Massachusetts Cavalry, killed at the head of his regiment, I would

attest his great excellence as an officer, and his recognized virtue as a gentleman. After three years’ faithful service he died in the cause to which he was so particularly devoted.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

D. McM. GREGG,

Bvt. Major General, U. S. Vols., Commanding Second Cavalry Division.

Lieutenant Colonel F. T. LOCKE,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Fifth Army Corps.

Statement of casualties from 7th to 12th of December, 1864.

Respectfully submitted.

D. McM. GREGG,

Bvt. Major-General of Volunteers, Commanding Division.

HDQRS. SECOND DIVISION, CAVALRY CORPS, December 19, 1864.

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 606-613

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