Number 231. Petersburg Campaign Report of Asst. Surg. Elias J. Marsh, U. S. Army, Surgeon-in-Chief, of operations July 30-December 12

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

Numbers 231. Report of Asst. Surg. Elias J. Marsh, U. S. Army, Surgeon-in-Chief, of operations July 30-December 12.*1

During the night [July 30] the whole division moved back toward Prince George Court-House, at which place the Second Brigade went into camp, while the First Brigade encamped between this place and Lee’s Mill. The wounded were sent to City Point. We remained here until August 5, when we moved back to our old camp near Light-House Point. At Prince George I established a temporary hospital, under Surgeon Weidman, using the tent-flies which I had in the ambulances, and having others as well as more hospital stores brought up from the train. On August 5, when we moved, I had all the patients, forty-five in number, sent to City Point. At this time the First and Third Divisions of the Cavalry Corps were sent to the Shenandoah Valley, leaving this the only cavalry division in the Army of the Potomac. After going into camp near Light-House Point I undertook to organize a permanent division hospital, as during the previous part of the campaign merely temporary ones had been established after every battle. On cavalry marches and expeditions, medical supply wagons are rarely taken along, and we are obliged to rely on such shelter and supplies as can be extemporized or carried in ambulances. It had been customary to have a hospital at the most convenient base for the entire corps, and organized as the Cavalry Corps hospital. This had hitherto been under the charge of Surg. S. B. W. Mitchell, Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry, and during the present season had been converted into aa depot hospital at City Point. I determined, therefore, to organize a division hospital for service in the field. I found on hand eleven hospital tents, and the usual supplies for two brigades, but none especially appropriate for a hospital. By direction of the general commanding the division, I located the hospital near cavalry depot, as this would be a comparatively permanent camp and not subject to the frequent movements of the rest of the division. I selected a large open plain about half a mile back from the river. The ground was sodded, flat, though admitting of drainage, and surrounded by woods, but sufficiently open to allow fresh breezes. Cavalry depot was on James River at the mouth of Bailey’s Creek and about two miles below City Point; the depot was organized to receive all the dismounted men of

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*For potion of report here omitted, see Vol. XL, Part I, p. 616.

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the division, and also all recruits and convalescents from general hospitals in order to supply them with horses and arms before joining their regiments. I had all the hospital tents pitched and bed sacks taken from the ambulances and supply wagons for beds. I placed Asst. Surg. R. H. Tuft, First Pennsylvania Cavalry, in charge, with a suitable number of attendants derailed from regiments.

On August 9 we again moved to Prince George Court-House, where we remained until August 13, on the afternoon of which day we broke camp to take part in the movement with the Second and Tenth Corps north of the James River. I had all the sick unable to travel sent to the division hospital. I took with the division, according to order, ten ambulances and a medicine wagon, placing some hospital tent-flies in the ambulances. I organized a temporary field hospital for the expedition, placing Surgeon Weidman, Second Pennsylvania Cavalry, in charge, and detailing an operating staff, assistants, and attendants. We marched all night and reached Allen’s farm, on Strawberry Plains, shortly before daybreak. Here we rested some hours and then (August 14) proceeded down the New Market road; met the enemy at Gravel Hill and had a skirmish. We drove the enemy before us, with the loss of 13 wounded and a few killed. I established a hospital in a grove on Strawberry Plains near the river.

On August 15 we proceeded up to the Charles City road and had a skirmish with the enemy, who drove in our pickets, but were soon repulsed. We had 9 men wounded, who were taken to the hospital and dressed, one amputation being performed.

On the morning of August 16, as the division was to move on a reconnaissance, I transferred our wounded to the Second Corps hospital, which was situated on the river-bank, by permission of Surg. A. N. Dougherty, U. S. Volunteers, medical director Second Corps, who was hourly expecting a transport to arrive to convey their patients to the depot hospital at City Point. The Second Brigade, with one section of artillery, moved out to the Charles City road, and at Deep Run (a small stream running into White Oak Swamp) was joined by General Miles’ brigade, of the Second Corps. The enemy were posted on the other side of the run behind breast-works, but were soon driven out. We followed them rapidly, and although they made several stands, were driven nearly to White’s Tavern. During this skirmishing we had several men wounded, and among them Colonel J. I. Gregg, commanding Second Brigade. The rebel Brigadier-General Chambliss was killed during this advance. I had been ordered to take only five ambulances on this reconnaissance, but during the morning was obliged to send for the remainder. At first I selected a house in a convenient locality, near the Charles City road, for a hospital, but the surgeon in charge, subsequently finding the locality unsafe, moved it back to a dry pine wood on the new Market road. To this place the wounded were sent in ambulances, which again returned to the front. We moved also several of the Second Corps wounded, as they had only a few ambulances with them. As we approached White’s Tavern we found the number of the enemy increasing, and some regiments of General Miles’ brigade advancing found them in such force that it was deemed inexpedient to attempt to push farther. We therefore commenced to withdraw, and although the enemy followed us, we held them in check, without much loss, and brought off all our wounded. When we arrived at Deep Run, but before crossing it, the brigade was massed in an open field, waiting until the infantry had retired. The enemy followed us to the edge of the woods, under cover of which their infantry formed in line, and,

charging, drove us across the stream and swamp in some confusion. As the command was mounted, however, all or nearly all the wounded were brought off the field. At this point, however, we checked them and prevented their crossing the stream. The wounded were then all taken back to the hospital, either in ambulances or, those able to do so, riding on their horses. From the day’s fighting we had 100 wounded, who were all operated on, wounds dressed, fed and sheltered, as far as possible. Several amputations and resections were performed. In the evening I received instructions from the medical director of the Second corps that a transport would be at the wharf on the next morning, on which I could ship all my wounded to City Point. As we had but ten ambulances he kindly sent me a train, by means of which all our patients were sent off without difficulty and at the appointed hour.

During August 17 we held the same lines and had no fighting. On August 18, in the afternoon, our pickets at Riddell’s Shop were attacked and also the regiment at Deep Run. As a result of this, we had 9 men wounded. The hospital had been moved back to the grove near the river, and the wounded were carried here and dressed, one amputation being performed. On August 19 the First Brigade was ordered to the left of the army, which had just seized the Weldon railroad. I sent some ambulances and s medical stores with it. During August 19 and 20 we remained in same position. At this time I relieved Assistant Surgeon Tuft from the charge of the division hospital, as I was dissatisfied with his management, and assigned Asst. Surg. L. E. Atkinson, First Pennsylvania Cavalry, in his place. In the night of August 20 we recrossed the James and Appomattox Rivers, and marched to Prince George Court-House, which we reached at an early hour of the morning. This expedition north of the James River had been very fatiguing. During many of the nights the men were without sleep, and during the whole of the time they were on picket duty, with the horses rarely unsaddled. Skirmishing had been very frequent, and the labors of the medical officers were onerous, but they were all industrious and untiring in their work. The total number of casualties during the expedition, according to the regimental reports, was: Killed, 30; wounded, 165; missing, 36; total, 231. One hundred and twenty-seven wounded were admitted into the field hospital. The total number of medical officers present for duty was 11.

On August 21, after a few hours’ rest, we proceeded by way of Sturdivant’s Mill to the Jerusalem plank road, and during the night continued our march to within a short distance of the Weldon railroad. The condition of the roads was so very bad, owing to the late rains, that it was almost impossible to bring any wheeled vehicles along. We were obliged to leave our artillery behind, and it was with great difficulty that we succeeded in bringing ambulances. At the Weldon railroad the First Brigade joined us. On the previous day it had a skirmish, in which 6 men were wounded. These had been put into a house and dressed, and on the next day, 22nd, were sent to the hospital at City Point.

On August 23 we proceeded down the railroad to Reams’ Station, guarding the flank of the Second Corps, which was engaged in tearing up and destroying the railroad track. In the afternoon the enemy appeared in force on the road leading from Reams’ to Dinwiddie Court-House. They attacked and endeavored to drive us from our position, but were repulsed. They continued the attack, however, until dark, but without any success, and were then obliged to retire. Our men being partially protected, we had but comparatively few casualties,

in all about 40 wounded. I established a hospital at Reams’ Station (nearly a mile from the field of battle) in a church. Many of the cases were severe and required operations, and all were dressed and made comfortable for the night. The next morning a few more operations were performed, including a ligature of the axillary artery for wound of that vessel. The artery was ligated at point of wound by Surgeon Rezner. The day previous to this fight I had sent back for the entire remainder of the ambulance train, and, this having arrived, the wounded were all sent to City Point. On the 24th we had no fighting, the Second Corps meanwhile continuing the destruction of the railroad.

On the morning of the 25th, as the Second Corps were continuing their work, the enemy attacked our cavalry in the advance and flanks, and soon appeared in strong force. General Hancock accordingly drew in his working parties and prepared to resent and attack, availing himself of a strong line of breast-works, erected some weeks previously by the Sixth Corps. The First Brigade of our division was on the right, keeping up the communication with General Warren, and the Second Brigade on the left. In this skirmishing in the morning we had a few men wounded, and I selected for the hospital the Emmons house, a short distance from Reams’ Station, on the road leading to the Jerusalem plank road. Here there were some shade trees, sodded ground, an ice-house, and good well, and being retired, it was an excellent situation for the hospital. We conveyed our wounded to this house and organized the hospital. Some wounded of General Kautz’s cavalry were also brought to this hospital, as this brigade had no hospital organization of its own. Surgeon Dougherty, medical director Second Corps, selected the same place, but before he had established the hospital was instructed by General Hancock that it was unsafe. Some operations had been performed, but we were obliged to return back to Reams’, where we occupied the church which we had uses a few days before. This, too in a few hours became unsafe, and we were obliged to move farther back, and before evening withdrew to the plank road. The enemy attacked the Second Corps behind their works, but were repulsed two or three times, until about 4.30 o’clock they opened furiously with artillery, and then charging the Second Corps drove them from their works, capturing some guns and many prisoners. Our cavalry line on the left remained in position until dark. The whole force was then withdrawn, the Second Brigade bringing up the rear. It is believed that none of our wounded were left on the field. The First Brigade made a diversion on the right, but was not seriously engaged. Owing to the nature of the country, and the uncertainty as to where the enemy would attack, the hospital had to be removed frequently during the day, and operations were performed in at least three different places, the surgeons availing themselves of every opportunity of a few hours’ quiet. During the day we received into hospital about 40 wounded of our own and also of General Kautz and Second Corps. They were all dressed, operated on, fed and sheltered, and the next day (26th) were sent to the hospital at City Point.

During this series of fights sand skirmishes on the Weldon railroad

our loss was as follows: Killed, 10; wounded, 59; missing, 5. Total, 74.

On August 26 the whole division went into camp on the Jerusalem plank road, north o the Blackwater. They established a picket-line and then remained quiet some time. The First Brigade was encamped in pine woods on small hillocks, and sandy, easily drained. In some of the regiments wells were dug to supply drinking

water. The Second Brigade was encamped on the plank road on dry, sandy hillocks. The water was good, taken generally from springs. The men had the usual shelter-tents, which, in almost all cases, were raised from the ground, and raised bunks also were made. In a very few cases did the men sleep on the ground. The division remained in this camp until the end of September. During this month there was a good deal of sickness, the average sick report being about 8 per cent., and the proportion in both brigades being about the same. The diseases were mostly diarrheas, dysenteries, and malarial fevers, many of the latter being of a remittent type. Only the lighter cases were treated in camp, the more severe being sent to division hospital, and as soon as this became filled, transferred to City Point. During the month the number of men sent to City Point hospital was 248. The division hospital remained in the same situation near dismounted camp, and was kept in good order and condition.

On September 1 Surg. G. W. Colby, First Maine Cavalry, surgeon-in-chief of Second Brigade, was relieved from his brigade and placed in charge of the hospital, the organization of which he competed and afterward managed in a very efficient manner. Surg. W. M. Weidman, Second Pennsylvania Cavalry, was made surgeon-in-chief Second Brigade. On the night of September 15 the rebel cavalry made a raid to the rear of our army, and drove off a very large herd of cattle which were grazing at Coggins’ Point, on the James River. A squadron of the Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry was guarding them, and lost a number of men captured, among them Assistant Surgeon Stanton, of that regiment. Early in the morning of September 16 this division was sent in pursuit. It moved down the plank road and found the rebels posted on the opposite side of Jones’ Hole Swamp. They had a very strong position, from which it was found impossible to dislodge them; in the attempt 15 men were wounded. On the 17th the division returned to camp and the more severe cases of the wounded were sent to the hospital at City Point. During this expedition I was on sick report and unable to accompany the division. Brigadier-General Davies was in command.

On September 28 we received orders to break camp and move early the next morning. I was directed to take one medicine wagon and then ambulances. I assigned Surgeon Junkin, Fourth Pennsylvania Cavalry, to the charge of the field hospital, and made the usual details of surgeons and attendants. Early in the morning of September 29 the division (except the Sixteenth Pennsylvania, which remained on picket on plank road) broke camp and marched to the Yellow Tavern, on Weldon railroad, and from here proceed down the Halifax to the Wyatt road. At the same time the Fifth Corps moved out beyond Poplar Grove Church. We proceeded up the Wyatt road and across Arthur’s Swamp to the Davis house, on the Vaughan road. The First Brigade, however, halted at the junction of Halifax and Wyatt roads. At Arthur’s Swamp we met the enemy’s pickets and captured several of them. A strong reconnaissance was sent out toward Armstrong’s Mill, on Hatcher’s Run. It drove the enemy’s pickets, but as their force increased our men slowly withdrew. As we made but slight resistance the rebels followed us up in the afternoon as far as Arthur’s Swamp. They brought artillery and blew up a limber chest of one of our guns, killing 1 and seriously wounding 2 men. At Arthur’s Swamp we held our position, and here skirmishing continued until dark. At the commencement of this engagement I directed a field hospital to be established at the site of the old Perkins

house, on the Halifax road. The tent-flies were put up and the wounded were received and fed, wounds examined, and the necessary cases operated on. Three serious operations were performed. The men were made comfortable for the night, and on the morning of the 30th were taken to Warren’s Station and sent by cars to City Point. During this day the division again advanced beyond the Vaughan road, but the enemy, having fallen back, did not molest us. We had no wounded during the day.

On October 1 it was expected that the division would move to the left of the infantry line, and I was therefore directed to move the hospital within the works at Warren’s Station. It rained during all the day, but the flies were put up, and, by means of boards, taken from and old camp, and hay procured from the quartermaster at the station, a comfortable hospital was established. The division, after moving to Poplar Grove Church, returned to its former position at the Davis house, covering the Vaughan road, where on the day previous they had erected a short line of breast-works. The First Brigade occupied this position, and the Second was on its left, extending back to the Halifax road. The enemy attacked us with cavalry and artillery in the morning, but were soon repulsed, and they then remained quiet until afternoon, by which time the rain had almost ceased. Between 3 and 4 o’clock they attacked us in force directly in front, and also attempted to turn the left flank. They repeatedly charged the works, but were every time repulsed. The fighting continued till dark, when the enemy withdrew. We took only a few wounded prisoners, but lost several of the Sixth Ohio Regiment. After this the rebels gave us no more trouble. During the day we had about 30 wounded, who were temporarily dressed on the field, and then taken back to the hospital at Warren’s Station. Captain Weir, assistant adjutant-general of division, was severely wounded in the thigh, the ball passing in front of and graying the femur. The wounded were all fed, sheltered, operated on, &c., and the next day were sent by rail to City Point.

On October 2 the division went into camp on the Vaughan road, and remained there until October 3, when we returned to our old camp on the Jerusalem plank road. During this expedition our entire loss was, 18 killed, 73 wounded, 83 missing; total, 174. The number of wounded received into the hospital was 57.

Immediately on our arrival in camp, I ordered the division hospital to be moved from the river up to the neighborhood of the command. I selected a small retired field, a short distance from the different regiments. The soil was dry and sandy on the surface and the tents, being on the brow of a hill, could easily be drained in wet weather. Surgeon Colby, with great industry and energy, took steps to perfect the hospital, digging a well, building an oven and range, and making every provision for the comfort of the patients. The division remained in camp during the greater part of the month. The camps were generally in good condition, some excellent, others inferior. The sickness diminished from what it had been in September. Diarrheas and dysenteries still prevailed and there were a few cases of scurvy. About the middle of the month a new brigade was formed. It consisted of First Maine, from Second Brigade, Sixth Ohio, from First Brigade, and the Twenty-first Pennsylvania, a regiment just attached to the division, and which during the summer had been dismounted and used as infantry in the Fifth Corps. The Twenty-fourth New York, a regiment under similar circumstances to the last, and from the Ninth Corps, was

placed in the First Brigade. The Third Brigade was commanded by Colonel C. H. Smith, First Maine, and Surg. W. H. King, Twenty-first Pennsylvania Cavalry, was appointed surgeon-in-chief. On October 25 I received orders to send the sick to City Point, and break up the hospital preparatory to a general move. This was done on the 26th. I sent 181 men to hospital. The tents, &c., were loaded in wagons and ordered with the general train to City Point. I was directed to take with the command one army wagon, one medicine wagon, and half the ambulances. In the former I loaded a tent, all the tent-flies, blankets, clothing, and rations. Surgeon Le Moyne, Sixteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, was placed in charge of the field hospital, and medical officers and attendants were detailed as usual. Previous to leaving I had Surgeon Colby relieved from hospital, as he was ordered to Maine to be mustered out on expiration of term of service, and Acting Staff Surg. G. W. Lovejoy was ordered to succeed him.

On October 28 [26], at 3 p. m., we broke camp and marched to the Perkins house, on the Weldon railroad, where we bivouacked for the night. At 3.30 a. m. of October 27 we were again on the move, and marched to the Boydton plank road. The Second Corps went by the Wyatt road and Armstrong’s Mill, while we kept farther to the left, by the Halifax, Dinwiddie Court-House, and Quaker roads. We first met the enemy about daybreak, and had skirmishing all the morning. The Third Brigade had the advance and drove the enemy steadily before them from some strong positions, especially at Rowanty Creek and Gravelly Run. At the latter place they had artillery and occupied a high hill, and we lost several men in killed and wounded before we succeeded in carrying the position. At the same time a potion of the enemy’s cavalry, which had been cut off, attacked us in flank and rear, but were held in check by General Davies’ brigade, without much loss. The wounded were dressed temporarily, placed in ambulances, and moved on with the command. During this advance we captured several wagons and some prisoners. About noon we struck the Boydton plank road, and here met the Second Corps, which had come by a shorter road. They were then massing in an open field, and one of their batteries was in position and firing slowly upon the enemy in front. A halt was made here for some hours, but as we were expecting momentarily to move on we were unable to establish a hospital. Directly in front of us was Hatcher’s Run, and the enemy were in force upon the other side. About 4 o’clock I gave directions to establish a hospital, as we were then expecting to remain all night, when very suddenly the rebels made a vigorous attack on General Hancock’s right flank. At first there was some confusions, but the Second Corps soon recovered themselves and drove back the enemy, capturing many prisoners. The enemy also threatened an attack on our front and left. At the same time their cavalry, which during the morning had been cut off from their main army, came up the plank road and attacked the Third Brigade vigorously, so that, the ammunition giving out, the latter were obliged to fall back a short distance until re-enforced by some regiments of the Second Brigade, when they held the enemy in check until dark. The ambulances had been parked in the open field, but the enemy’s artillery having opened from front and rear it became unsafe, and after they attacked us on the plank road I was directed to have them moved back about a mile on the road by which we came where General Davies was then stationed with his brigade. After the fighting had ceased the ambulances were again brought up to prepare a hospital for the night. During the afternoon it began to rain, and continued steadily until late

at night. The ambulance corps were set at work to bring in all the wounded from this last fight, a number of whom had collected around a house which had been occupied by the Second Corps as a hospital. The wounded were fed and we were ordered to be ready to move at 11 o’clock. As all the wounded could not be put in ambulances, I took the wagons which had been captured in the morning, and having also two empty ammunition wagons, by this means succeeded in taking off all our wounded, although it is possible that a few may have fallen into the enemy’s hands when we fell back on the plank road. We carried off the field about 100 wounded. At 11 o’clock we moved back on the same road by which we had advanced, but having considerable difficulty in crossing the wagons over the bridge at Gravelly Run it was daylight before we reached the Halifax road. We went into camp at the Perkins house, and Surgeon Le Moyne at once made preparations for feeding the men and establishing a hospital. The tent and tent-flies were soon put up and the wounded removed from the ambulances. The wounds were all dressed and all necessary operations performed, and by dark they were all placed on cars at Warren’s Station and sent to City Point. The hospital was then broken up and the division went back to its old camp.

The total number of casualties on the 27th was 27 killed, 147 wounded, and 65 missing; total, 239. The number of wounded admitted into hospital was 99.

On October 29 the First Brigade moved and encamped at McCann’s Station, on the Norfolk railroad. On October 31 Surgeon Weidman was relieved from duty as surgeon-in-chief Second Brigade, his term of service having expired, and Surg. F. Le Moyne, Sixteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, assigned to succeed him.

On November 7 the division made a reconnaissance below Reams’ Station, on the railroad, and returned by Proctor’ house. They found only a few cavalry pickets, captured some prisoners, killed 1 man, and lost none.

When the division went into camp on October 28 I sent and order to Surgeon Lovejoy to establish the hospital in the same place where it had been before the move. This was done on the 29th and 30th, and be then began to make preparations for winter-chimneys were built, a dining house of logs erected, a look house, &c. On November 9 Surgeon Rezner, Sixth Ohio Cavalry, surgeon-in-chief First Brigade, was mustered out on expiration of term of service, and Surg. C. L. George, Twenty-fourth New York, assigned as surgeon-in-chief First Brigade.

During the month of November the division remained in camp. As the weather became cold the men began to prepare quarters, but as there was no assurance of remaining long in camp they were often put up without much regularity or uniformity.

On November 17 the First Brigade moved to the open field about the Westbrook house, and as it was supposed probable that they might remain there during the winter, a circular was issued from brigade headquarters directing the plan of huts and ordering all to be erected according to the same mode. The plan was a good one, except that it put too many men in one house, and in practice it was found that they were almost never occupied by the entire number. Each hut was to accommodate six men, and built according to the following:

Dimensions: Length twelve feet, width seven feet, and from five to six feet from the ground to the eaves. Digging down into the ground is strictly prohibited, and the foundation for the houses will be laid on the surface of the ground. Fire-places can be made, and no stoves will be allowed.

About the middle of December, when there was every prospect

of remaining in our present quarters for the winter, several of the regiments of the Second Brigade were moved to new and better ground, and an order published regulating the formation of camps and the size of huts, &c.:

The houses for the men will be built of logs or poles six feet long, set upon end, or if sunk in the ground, seven feet long; gable ends facing the picket-line; chimneys on left side or facing the front of the camp; houses to be covered with sheltertents, and four men will occupy one house.

In the Third Brigade no general orders were given respecting the size of huts, but in each case left to the regimental commander. The medical and line officers were generally attentive to the hygienic condition of the camps. None of the regiments were camped in woods, but all in open ground, which in my opinion is by far the most preferable for winter camps.

On November 19 I issued a circular directing that in each brigade the surgeon-in-chief should detail by rester, weekly, a medical officer to inspect the brigade and send to him a written report of the condition of the regiments, which report was to be forwarded to the surgeon-in-chief of division. By this means I hoped to create a spirit of emulation among the officers of the different regiments, and also to keep myself informed of the condition of the division weekly, both of all improvements in hygiene, &c., and inattention on the part of medical officers. These were, of course, in addition to my own inspections, which were made at least monthly. I also gave special directions about the keeping of records, which had to a considerable extent been neglected during the summer, and in the manner of keeping which there was no uniformity through the division. During the month we had number of men killed and wounded while on picket and scout. Many of these cases were wounds from buckshot, some musket and pistol balls. Twenty wounded were received in hospital during the month. In November the division hospital constantly improved in conveniences, comforts, and neatness. A new ward was established, chimneys completed, wards partially floored, and drainage provided for. During the month 203 cases were admitted and ninety cases sent to Cavalry Corps hospital at City Point. Many of the cases were of severe type, fevers, chronic diarrhea, and a few cases of pneumonia. The monthly reports for November exhibit a very marked diminution of cases of acute diarrhea, dysentery, and malarial fevers, and an increase in chronic diarrheas, bronchitis, catarrh, pneumonia, and tonsillitis.

On December 1, at an early hour of the morning, the whole division, except a few detachments left on picket, moved out on an expedition to Stony Creek Station. Fifteen ambulances accompanied the command, but no supply wagons, as we expected to return the same evening. We started from camp at 4 a. m. and proceeded by Lee’s Mill to the plank road. At the mill we found the bridge burned and were delayed some time, building a new one. We moved down the plank road about three miles, then turned to the right crossed Jones’ Hole Swamp and came to the Rowanty, where we found the enemy in some force, but they were driven across before they had time to destroy the bridge. The Third Brigade was left here to hold the brigade while the other two pushed on to the railroad at Duval’ Station. The First Brigade remained here to hold the Halifax road, while the Second Brigade pushed on and soon came in view of Stony Creek Station. They found on the opposite side of the creek a strong earth-work,

with two pieces of artillery, with which the enemy opened as soon as we came in sight. The Fourth Pennsylvania crossed the stream, mounted, a few hundred yards below, and the Sixteenth Pennsylvania advanced directly in front, and, dismounting, charged across the railroad bridge. At the same time the Fourth Pennsylvania charging on their rear, the rebels surrendered. We captured 170 prisoners, 2 guns, which we spiked, and destroyed their carriages; set fire to the depot and storehouses, containing a large amount of goods; burning also a quantity of hay and corn. In this charge we had as few men killed and several wounded. These were taken off in ambulances, with temporary dressings merely, as we at once started to return when we had accomplished this work of destruction. Just as the Second Brigade had reached Duval’s Station the rebel cavalry came down the Halifax road and attacked the Tenth New York Cavalry, which was stationed there. We then set fire to the machine shop and railroad cross-ties, which latter had been collected in some quantify. We withdrew, holding the enemy in check, and in the skirmishing several men were wounded. After crossing the Rowanty we tore up the bridge, and the Third Brigade, bringing up the rear, proceeded back by the road by which we had come. The enemy followed a short distance only. We reached camp about 9 o’clock, being completely tired out. The wounded were taken to division hospital, and were found to base 34 in number. The total number of casualties was: killed, 4; wounded, 38; missing 16; total, 58. The next morning the wounded were all carefully examined and operated on.

After this we remained quietly in camp until December 6, when we received orders to be ready to march at 5 a. m. the next morning. Rations and forage for six day were issued. I was directed to take twenty ambulances and one medicine wagon. I made the usual details of surgeons sand attendants for a field hospital, placing Surgeon Donnelly, Second Pennsylvania Cavalry, in charge. We took in the ambulances 250 rations of coffee, sugar, and hard bread, and some blankets and tent-flies. The camps so the regiments were to remain uninjured, as we expected to return, and the hospital also was to remain unchanged, except that on the next day a large number of patients were to be sent to City point. The Thirteenth Pennsylvania, Sixth Ohio, and Battery I, First U. S. Artillery, were to remain in camp, under command of Colonel Kerwin. A few days previously the Fifth Corps had broken camp and moved to the Jerusalem plank road, and it was understood that they were to move with us. On December 7 we broke camp at 5 a. m. and marched by Lee’s Mill and Jerusalem plank road to Freeman’s Bridge, across the Nottoway River. We found the bridge destroyed, and forded the stream a short distance above. The troops forded, but the ambulances and wagons crossed on a pontoon bridge, which was laid down as soon as the infantry came up. We then proceeded to Sussex Court-House, where we camped for the night. Crawford’s division camped at the same place. December 8, we marched at a. m. through Coman’s Well to the Halifax road, where we came in sight of the railroad bridge over the Nottoway River. A field-work and some huts were visible on the north side of the river, but they were not occupied. The bridge and huts were burned by the Third Brigade. While this was being accomplished a squadron of the Twenty-first Pennsylvania was sent up (north) the Halifax road and found the enemy’s cavalry. The Fourth Pennsylvania was sent to support them, but found the enemy strongly posted, so that it was some time and after considerable skirmishing that they

succeeded in driving them across the river. At the same time some of the rebel cavalry got between our rear and General Crawford’s advance. The Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry, forming our rear guard, had a few men wounded, but soon re-established the communication. As a number of men had been wounded, I established a temporary hospital at the Chambliss house. The wounded were conveyed here in ambulances and dressed and operated on. The number of wounded was 15, but a large proportion of these were of a serious nature, as there were two wounds of abdomen, two fractures of arms, and one of vertebrae. On striking the railroad the infantry were put to work to destroy it, which they did in an effectual manner as far as Jarratt’s Station, where we encamped for the night. As we were to march at an early hour the next morning, the wounded were not taken out of the ambulances, but fed and covered up warmly with blankets. During these two days the weather had been warm and pleasant, but about midnight a wind sprang up and before morning it became very cold.

December 9, we marched at 5 a. m. and proceeded along the railroad, picketing and guarding the roads while the infantry were tearing up the track. At Three Creeks we found a small force of the enemy, with one or two very small pieces of artillery, but as they had torn down the main bridge and set fire to the railroad bridge it was sometime before we could cross. The Tenth New York Cavalry crossed on foot on some of the planks of the old bridge, and after some delay, a ford having been found, the First and Third Brigades and battery and five ambulances crossed. The Second Brigade crossed at a mill-dam two miles below. The First Brigade, in advance, drove the enemy before them until they came to an open plain in full view of Belfield. The First New Jersey advanced dismounted for some distance, and the First Massachusetts mounted. Here the enemy had three strong works, with ten or twelve guns in position. These they used with good effect, as they had excellent range and cross-fire on the road. Major Sargent, commanding First Massachusetts Cavalry, was mortally wounded in the chest by a piece of shell, and several others killed and wounded. When General Warren arrived he determined that it was not advisable to attack but merely to hold our line and destroy the railroad up to this point. This was accomplished during the evening and we went into camp near Three Creeks. We had had about 10 wounded who had been sent back to the ambulance train, and I gave orders to the surgeon-in-charge to establish a hospital in a neighboring house. On visiting them in the evening I found all the wounded taken out of ambulances, placed in a house, fed, and their wounds being dressed; no case required operation. During the afternoon it began to rain and after dark turned to sleet, the weather becoming very cold.

December 10, we were up before daylight to get everything across the river at an early hour, as General Warren, having announced that the objects of the expedition were accomplished, ordered a withdrawal of the army. The rain had now ceased, but it was still cold and cloudy. The Second Brigade was to move in advance of the infantry and the other two brigades to bring up the rear. The ambulance train moved between the two last brigades. After everything was withdrawn across the creek the enemy began to follow and press us somewhat, especially on the left. The First Maine formed the rear guard, with one gun of Dennison’s battery. The infantry took a road leading off to the right, and going direct to Sussex Court-House, while we marched by the same road by which we had advanced. The Second New York Mounted Rifles brought up the rear of the infantry

column, and being charged during the day lost a number of prisoners. The enemy followed us in rear and on left with cavalry and artillery as far Jarratt’s Station, and during this fighting we had about 15 men wounded. We marched to Coman’s Well, which we reached about dark, halted there a couple of hours to feed horses and men, and then continued a few miles farther until we came up to the infantry, when we went into camp. The Second Brigade in advance of the infantry had gone into camp at Sussex Court-House and I therefore ordered the ambulance train to this place, directing the surgeon-in-charge to take the court-house or an empty dwelling house for and hospital. He selected the most convenient house, had all the wounded taken out, fires built, supper cooked, and wounds dressed. One case required amputation of arm, which was performed by Surgeon Le Moyne. The wounded were all made comfortable.

December 11, we left Sussex Court-House at 10 a. m., the infantry having gone in advance to lay the pontoon bridge over the Nottoway. At his place we found a division of the Ninth Corps, which had been sent to meet us. We crossed the river and then continued our march homeward. The Ninth Corps preceded us. As they were somewhat tired with their march already they moved very slowly. Toward evening the wind blew up very cold, and after dark became extremely severe. Near Proctor’s house we halted for two hours, and then proceeded to camp. The Second Brigade, however, camped at Proctor’s until the next day. Our marching was slow, owing to the infantry column in advance of us, and we suffered greatly from the intense cold. We had sufficient blankets to keep the wounded warm, although they suffered considerably from the roughness of the road. We reached camp about 10 p. m. The wounded were taken to division hospital at once and there provided for. On the next morning I found them all doing remarkably well, and on December 13 they were sent to City Point.

This expedition had been extremely severe, especially on the medical officers. The weather at times had been very wet and we seldom went into camp until after dark, sometimes not till very late, and the wounded then had to be dressed, and we generally marched before daylight in the morning. Surgeon Donnelly and Assistant Surgeons Everhart, Eighth Pennsylvania, and Jones, First New Jersey, were energetic and untiring in their attentions to the wounded. Although the fatigue was great and the weather severe, there were few cases of sickness during the expedition, and on its return only 10 men were carried in ambulances on this account. During this last night’s march several men had their feet frozen.

The total number of casualties during the expedition was: killed, 12; wounded, 51; missing, 51. Total, 114. The number of wounded received into ambulances, 37.

The Thirteenth Pennsylvania and Sixth Ohio were engaged on a reconnaissance during our absence, the following of which has been furnished me by Assistant Surgeon Rockwell, Sixth Ohio: On December 8 these two regiments, with the Third Pennsylvania, all under command of Colonel Kerwin, Thirteenth Pennsylvania, left camp

at 3 p. m. and at 6 p. m. arrived at Hatcher’s Run, on the opposite side of which they found the enemy entrenched. The Thirteenth Pennsylvania unsuccessfully charged (dismounted), with the loss of a few wounded, who were placed in ambulances, and the whole command immediately returned to camp. On the following morning the same force of cavalry, with a company of Second New York Mounted Rifles.

with six days’ rations, again left camp, accompanied by a division of infantry, the whole under General Miles, and proceeded to Hatcher’s Run. The enemy’s works were again charged by the Sixth Ohio and Second New York, but with the same result as on the day previous, with the loss of 2 killed and several wounded. The artillery was now placed in position and by the use of a few well-directed shots compelled the rebels to retreat. Immediately the cavalry crossed and reconnoitered three or four miles of the Vaughan road. The Sixth Ohio remained picketing on the farther side of the stream till the afternoon of the following day, December 10, when they were driven in by a large force of the enemy and recrossed the stream, and then were ordered back to camp. On December 11 the cavalry command was ordered to the bridge on the Nottoway, where they joined the division and returned to camp with it. The loss on the reconnaissance was: killed, 2; wounded, 18; missing 1; total, 21. The number of wounded admitted into hospital, 12. The Third Pennsylvania also lost some men, but of

these I have no report.

On our return to camp a new picket-line was established and the Fifth Corps, camping in rear of the army, relieved us from a long portion of our former line, so that the duty was far less severe than it had been for some months past.

During the rest of the month the division remained in camp and the winter quarters were now improved and perfected, so that by December 31, with very few exceptions, every regiment had an excellent camp.

The only losses of property in the medical and ambulance departments during the campaign were as follows: 1 hospital tent and 1 wall tent, accidentally destroyed by fire; 1 field case and 1 pocket case of instruments, lost during the expedition and battle on Boydton plank road, October 27, 1864.

There were no casualties in the ambulance corps. Those in the medical department were as follows: Asst. Surg. S. Powell, First New Jersey Cavalry, died August 8, 1864, at Macon, Ga., while a prisoner of war; Asst. Surg. Z. A. Northway, Sixth Ohio Cavalry, died September 27, 1864; Asst. Surg. S. M. Murphy, Twenty-first Pennsylvania Cavalry, died November 16, 1864; Hospital Steward S. M. Potter, Sixteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, died September 6, 1864; Asst. Surg. J. C. Stanton, Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, taken prisoner September 16, 1864; Surg. A. Wood, First Massachusetts Cavalry, discharged from service for physical disability on November 2, 1864; Asst. Surg. P. E. Sickler, Tenth New York Cavalry, discharged from service for physical disability on November 30, 1864.

As probably there will be no report of this division prior to the date at which I took charge, I desire to record the names of the following officers who were ordered to remain with the wounded at Trevilian Station on June 13, 1864, and were thus left in the lines of the enemy. After attending to the wounded under their charge for a few days only they were sent to the military prison. The names

of these officers were: Asst. Surg. S. Powell, First New Jersey Cavalry; Asst. Surg. P. E. Sickler, Tenth New York Cavalry, and Hospital Steward Bates, First Massachusetts Cavalry. Assistant Surgeon Powell died at Macon, Ga., August 8, of chronic diarrhea. Assistant Surgeon Sickler was released about September 10, and on November 30 was discharged from service on account of chronic diarrhea contracted while a prisoner.

In this report the account of some proceedings may appear un satis-factory and incomplete, but the many differences between the cavalry

and infantry branches of the service must be borne in mind. Cavalry operations are always quickly done, and their movements rapid, having generally the character of reconnaissances. When before the enemy we seldom remain one day in the same locality, and many of our battles are running fights. Moreover, we are always limited as to transportation, and during my connection with the division in not a single instance has an army wagon been allowed to accompany the troops. Hence, our supplies are extremely limited, and we are obliged to restrict them to tent-flies, food, blankets, and dressings, that may be carried in the Autenreith wagon or ambulances. Also a small number of ambulances only is allowed. In one case it was limited to five for the division. Under these circumstances the proper care of the wounded becomes extremely difficult, and our field hospitals are necessary of the most temporary nature. The wounded are often placed in ambulances with temporary dressings and carried along for miles, perhaps till evening, before they can be properly examined and operated on. We are unable to establish hospitals in the rear, because the column would soon pass on and leave them unprotected. Notwithstanding these difficulties we succeeded in all cases in removing our wounded from the field of battle, and in having them fed, sheltered, and the necessary operations performed before sending them to the depot hospital.

The medical officers of the division performed their duties with fidelity, and I desire especially to record my appreciation for the services of Surgeon Colby, for his zeal and energy in organizing the division hospital; to Surgeons Rezner and Wood, whose labor at the operating tablet was untiring, and in whose professional judgment and skill I could place the utmost confidence; to Surgeons Weidman, Le Moyne, and Donnelly, for services and devotion to the care of the wounded while in charge of temporary field hospitals.

E. J. MARSH,

Assistant Surgeon, U. S. Army, Surgeon-in-Chief of Division.

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 615-628

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