Number 266. Petersburg Campaign Reports of Col. Joseph C. Abbott, Seventh New Hampshire Infantry, commanding Second Brigade, of operations September 28-October 7 and October 27-28

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

No. 266. Reports of Col. Joseph C. Abbott, Seventh New Hampshire Infantry, commanding Second Brigade, of operations September 28-October 7 and October 27-28.1

Hdqrs. Second Brig., First Div., Tenth Army Corps,
Laurel Hill, Va., October 10, 1861.

Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Second Brigade in the late movements north of the James:

At about 3 p. m. of September 28 I marched from near Petersburg, crossing the pontoon bridge on the Appomattox a little after dark, thence to Deep Bottom, where, crossing the pontoon over the James, I bivouacked at about 2 a. m. I was in line at 4 a. m. pursuant to orders from Brevet Major-General Terry, commanding the division, and marched out from Deep Bottom toward the Kingsland road, and came into line of battle on that road, fronting the New Market road and heights. Having thrown out the Seventh Connecticut, Capt. S. S. Atwell commanding, as skirmishers I advanced, following the skirmishers at about 250 yards toward the enemy’s works on the New Market road. Between my first position and those works there was a difficult ravine and swamp, and my line was enfiladed by a sharp artillery fire from the enemy’s battery on my right. Captain Atwell having reported that the enemy’s works were well manned, and the skirmishing being sharp, I strengthened the skirmish line by sending forward the Third New Hampshire, Maj. J. F. Randlett commanding, with orders to press forward strongly, while I followed with the main line as before. Major Randlett having reported that the enemy were advancing on my left and massing in front, I went forward to the skirmish line to make an examination. I ordered him again to press forward and at once advanced the main line. Just at that time Paine’s division commenced a vigorous attack upon the enemy upon my left, which was successful, and as my line advanced into the open ground, the enemy evacuated their works in my front, having a few minutes previous taken off their artillery from the height on my extreme right. I advanced into the works, the Third New Hampshire occupying the deserted battery on the right. The loss here was 1 officer mortally wounded and 10 men wounded, nearly all on the skirmish line. I commend highly Captain Atwell, who first advanced the skirmish line, and Major Randlett, who went to its support, for coolness, courage, and judgment. I then, pursuant to orders from General Terry, advanced along the New Mar

ket road to Laurel Hill, where I rested until about 3 p. m., when I moved with the rest of the division to the Darbytown road, and thence about three miles toward Richmond, where I halted for about an hour, when the division returned to Laurel Hill and I took position on the extreme right.

From the 29th of September to October 1 I occupied different parts of the intrenchments, and was employed on fatigue and picket duty. On the latter date, about 2 p. m., I again marched toward Richmond by the same road as before, arriving within about one mile and a half of the enemy’s works. By order of General Terry I deployed my brigade as skirmishers, the Sixteenth New York Heavy Artillery being the reserve, and advanced. The regiments in the skirmish line were as follows, commencing on the right: Sixth Connecticut, Col. Alfred P. Rockwell; Seventh Connecticut, Capt. S. S. Atwell; Third New Hampshire, Lieut. J. Homer Edgerly, and the Seventh New Hampshire, Lieut. Col. A. W. Rollins. The line advanced with alacrity under a raking fire of artillery, on its left at first but gradually extending toward its right until it bore upon either flank. The progress of the line was not however arrested until within 600 or 800 yards of the enemy’s works, when I received an order from General Terry to halt, and very soon an order to retire. When halted the brigade was probably within less than two miles of the city. I cannot speak too highly of the faithfulness and zeal of officers and men in this difficult and audacious reconnaissance, nor have I ever known a line to advance in so good order under a fire so severe, over so long a space of difficult ground, to works of such known strength. During the whole of this afternoon a heavy rain was falling. My command returned to Laurel Hill that night, arriving about 9 p. m. My loss in this reconnaissance was 1 man killed, 16 wounded, and 18 missing.

From the 1st to the 7th of October I remained within the intrenchments at Laurel Hill doing fatigue and picket duty. On the morning of the 7th, the enemy having fallen upon our advanced cavalry post on the right, I received orders from Brevet Major-General Terry, commanding division, to take position in the woods beyond what was then the right of the intrenchments. Subsequently, pursuant to an order from Major-General Birney, I moved back to the New Market road, then down the road until my left rested in the edge of the woods. I then advanced in line of battle through the woods until my line was a prolongation of that in the intrenchments, with the right somewhat refused. I threw out skirmishers from the Third New Hampshire and Seventh Connecticut, under command of Major Randlett, who succeeded in detaining the enemy’s line for about an hour, but at about 9.30 a. m. the skirmish line was compelled to retire, and immediately my whole line became engaged. The attack fell most heavily near my center, occupied by the Sixteenth New York Heavy Artillery (Major Prince commanding), as is attested by their heavy loss, but it was withstood with the utmost steadiness by them. It is as gratifying as it is noteworthy, that although the enemy’s line approached within fifty yards of mine, and the attack was most determined, there was not the slightest wavering, so that at the close of the fight the men stood almost in the very tracks where their feet were planted at its commencement. The evident purpose of the enemy was to break the line at the center by the momentum of the first onset, as they advanced at double-quick and with a yell, but they staggered under the first extremely rapid and deadly fire of the carbines (which being on the right and left of the brigade, easily held their position while they aided the center by an oblique tire),

and after persisting vainly for half an hour, retreated in the utmost confusion, and with heavy loss. In this engagement, as in others, the conduct of the officers and men of this brigade was most commendable. Colonel Rockwell, commanding the Sixth Connecticut, with a military pride not often surpassed, maintained his line most perfectly during the attack, his men literally standing shoulder to shoulder, while his own bearing was most admirable. Lieutenant-Colonel Rollins, of the Seventh New Hampshire, near the commencement of the fight, was injured by his horse, which was shot, falling upon his foot, and was obliged reluctantly to leave the field. The name of Private Philip Francis, Company C, Third New Hampshire Volunteers, ought not to be omitted in this report. He was on the skirmish line and was wounded. Concealing himself under a log, the enemy’s line swept over him. On their retreat he drew his carbine on three men of the enemy, who were lagging behind, commanded them to halt, captured and brought them into our lines. My loss in this engagement was 14 killed, 46 wounded, and 20 missing. At about 3 p. m., by order of General Terry, I advanced in line of battle toward the Darbytown road, supporting Colonel Curtis’ brigade, Second Division. Having been halted near the point where the enemy had during the day posted their batteries, two of my regiments, the Sixth and Seventh Connecticut, were detached, under Colonel Rockwell, who still continued the advance toward the Darbytown road. Having found no enemy they returned, and at about 9 p. m., pursuant to orders, I withdrew the brigade and bivouacked on the line which I occupied during the fight of the morning.

I inclose herewith official reports from the commanding officers of the several regiments.

I am, captain, very respectfully,

JOSEPH C. ABBOTT,
Colonel Seventh New Hampshire Volunteers, Comdg. Brigade.

Capt. Adrian Terry,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

Hdqrs. Second Brig., First Div., Tenth Army Corps,

Laurel Hill, Va., October 28, 1864.

Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Second Brigade in the movements of yesterday and to-day:

By order of Brigadier-General Ames, commanding the First Division, Tenth Army Corps, I was in line at 4 a. m. of the 27th, and moved at 4.30 until I closed upon the left of the Third Brigade. Following that brigade, I marched to the Darbytown road, striking it at the Johnson house; crossed it and halted under cover of the woods. By order of General Ames, delivered by an aide-de-camp, I formed in two lines, with my left resting near the Darbytown road as follows, viz: First line, Sixth Connecticut Volunteers and Sixteenth New York Heavy Artillery; second line, Seventh Connecticut Volunteers and Seventh New Hampshire Volunteers, with the Third New Hampshire Volunteers as skirmishers. Just as I was completing my line I received orders to follow the Third Brigade, which was moving out on a line nearly perpendicular to the Darbytown road. I accordingly moved about 500 yards, when, by verbal order of General Ames, I returned to

the position where I had first formed my line and reformed in the same order. By order of General Ames I then advanced, my left keeping near the Darbytown road, and my line nearly perpendicular to it. I passed a swamp and narrow belt of woods, and then, moving 300 yards to the right, came into line in an open field, while my skirmishers advanced to the old works of the enemy. At this time my position was on the left of the division. After resting here about an hour, I was ordered by General Ames to move to the right of the division, leaving the Third New Hampshire in its present line until relieved; to throw out another regiment as skirmishers well up to my right, the remaining regiments (the Sixth Connecticut Volunteers, the Sixteenth New York Heavy Artillery, and the Seventh New Hampshire Volunteers) in the same relative position as before, and placing the Eleventh Maine Volunteers, which was ordered to report to me, in column, by company, at full distance, left in front, and in rear of my extreme right; also to move the Third New Hampshire by the right flank to my front as skirmishers whenever they were relieved.

Throwing out the Seventh Connecticut Volunteers as skirmishers, this order was executed with the exception that Lieutenant-Colonel Rollins, the commanding officer of the Seventh New Hampshire Volunteers, lost his connection with the brigade; passed beyond the point where it halted, and the regiment could not be found for more than an hour. When found, by verbal order of General Ames, it was placed in line on the right of the brigade, while the Eleventh Maine Volunteers was moved to its right. I was also ordered by General Ames to advance my skirmishers and feel the enemy vigorously. It was only alter repeated efforts and a good deal of delay that this was accomplished, owing in part to the distance and the difficulty of getting into position and partly to the fact that the right of the skirmishers of the First Brigade did not keep connection with my left, thus leaving it unsupported. Having been ordered by General Ames to throw my skirmishers if possible upon the Charles City road, when the Third New Hampshire was relieved, it was moved to the right of the Seventh Connecticut, so that its right rested along that road. Thus at about 2.30 p. m. my main line stood in the rear of the skirmishers of the First Brigade, while, my skirmishers were thrown far beyond my right and rested on the Charles City road. At about this time, by order of General Ames, I advanced to the edge of the woods; then also by his order moved by the right flank about 300 yards, placing my brigade in the following order: In the first line, the Seventh New Hampshire Volunteers, with the Sixth Connecticut on the left in echelon; in the second line, the Sixteenth New York Heavy Artillery and the Eleventh Maine Volunteers in its former relative position. At about 4 p. m. I received an order from General Ames to press the enemy’s lines vigorously, which order I at once transmitted to Major Randlett, commanding the skirmish line, by an aide-de-camp, with directions to remain in the line until the order was complied with, which he did and reported less infantry fire from the enemy than in the earlier part of the day, but heavy artillery lire from their redoubts. This report I at once, transmitted by the same aide-de-camp to General Ames. At about dusk I was informed by General Ames that the line occupied by my brigade was to be relieved by a division of the Eighteenth Corps, and was ordered to communicate with some officer of General Weitzel’s staff or some other officer who had charge of the movement on the part of that corps. I accordingly sent one of my staff to the Charles City road, who remained there until daylight, and then reported to me that he had not seen the force which

was to relieve me, but understood that it was at midnight about five miles distant. I accordingly remained in my position during the night, and until about 2 p. m. of the next day, when I received information that the Eighteenth Corps would cross the Charles City [road] toward the Darbytown road, and orders to draw in my skirmish line and move my main line by the left flank to the south side of the Darbytown road, the movement to commence when I knew that the rear of the Eighteenth Corps had passed the Charles City road. Reforming the brigade on the south side of the Darbytown road, by order of General Ames, I marched to camp.

My whole loss in this movement, in officers and men, was 28, almost entirely on the skirmish line.

I have to regret the loss of First Lieut. Heber J. Davis, one of my aides-de camp, who fell severely wounded near the skirmish line, to which place I had sent him with orders, the third wound which he has received within six months, during which he has displayed unusual gallantry.

I am, captain, very respectfully,

JOSEPH C. ABBOTT,
Colonel Seventh New Hampshire Volunteers, Comdg. Brigade.

Capt. Charles A. Carleton,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

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 702-706

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