Number 272. Petersburg Campaign Reports of Lieutenant Colonel James F. Randlett, Third New Hampshire Infantry, of operations August 14-17, September 29, and October 1, 7, 13, and 27-28

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

No. 272. Reports of Lieutenant Colonel James F. Randlett, Third New Hampshire Infantry, of operations August 14-17, September 29, and October 1, 7, 13, and 27-28.1

HEADQUARTERS THIRD NEW HAMPSHIRE VOLUNTEERS,
September 27, 1864.

CAPTAIN: In accordance with instructions received this date from the brevet major-general commanding the division, I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this command in operations north of James River, from August 14 to 17, 1864:

The regiment moved with column Second Brigade, First Division, Tenth Army Corps, at midnight August 13; crossed the James about daylight 14th; participated in reconnaissance of that date. On morning of 15th recrossed the river to Jones’ Landing in column, which again crossed below Deep Bottom. Marched to Deep Run on 16th; about m. charged with Second Brigade, First Division, the enemy’s works at Fussell’s Mill, carrying his line, capturing a large number of prisoners. Advanced by order of Colonel J. R. Hawley, commanding brigade, about 300 yards beyond the captured line. There met the enemy in force; made another desperate charge through open field under galling fire from the enemy toward another angle of same line as mentioned as taken. At this moment it was discovered as impracticable to advance on account of the force of the enemy and his secure position. As retreat was ordered the command fell back to that portion of the line first taken. The enemy pursued and made three successive attempts to dislodge it, but were handsomely repulsed. After holding this position for more than an hour, orders were received to move to the rear. This ended the engagement.

Our loss in killed, wounded, and missing, including 1 officer killed and 9 wounded, was 93.

Lieutenant Colonel Josiah I. Plimpton, commanding regiment, fell in the open field in the advanced position at the moment orders were received to fall back. He was shot through the heart, and expired instantly while actively engaged in moving his command in order.

Of the conduct of the officers and men of this command during the above named engagement I need not comment, as the general commanding the division was present and did not fail to notice the gallantry of all.

I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JAMES F. RANDLETT,
Major Third New Hampshire Volunteers, Commanding Regiment.

Captain ADRIAN TERRY,
Asst. Adjt. General, First Division, Tenth Army Corps.

HEADQUARTERS THIRD NEW HAMPSHIRE VOLUNTEERS,
Laurel Hill, before Richmond, Va., October 13, 1864.

LIEUTENANT: In accordance with instructions received from brigade headquarters, I have the honor to make the following report of part taken by my command in recent operations north of the James:

On September 29 moved at 4 a. m. with Second Brigade, in First Division column, from Deep Bottom toward New Market road. Before the heights, was ordered by Colonel J. C. Abbott, commanding brigade, to throw my regiment forward to join the Seventh Connecticut Volunteers, skirmishing, and command the skirmish line. Advanced about 200 yards across ravine and light woods, came to opening, from which I discovered the enemy’s position to be in continual line of breast-works and rifle-pits at foot of the hills, and running with New Market road. Colonel Abbott instructed me to advance my line as rapidly as possible, reporting success to him, exercising my own discretion. When in full view of enemy and his works, 500 yards across the opening, I advanced a light line and drew from the enemy the disposition of his forces. Finding my line flanked on the left by works similar to those in my front, and discovering that he was re-enforcing the flank, I ordered my men to lie down, the advantage of the rolling ground being such as to entirely protect them from his infantry while his artillery played over us into the ravine. I then dispatched a messenger to Colonel Abbott, informing him of disposition of my command, respectfully suggesting that a force be sent to relieve my left flank. Was informed that General Terry had sent a detachment of colored troops to that duty. As soon as those troops advanced, I pushed forward my first line of skirmishers, and finding but small force in my front, ordered my whole command to charge. The enemy, discovering the success of the colored troops on my left, gave us their works without much struggle. Finding my way clear I determined to gain the position on my heights before the enemy should discover the actual strength of my force. He had already started with his guns. Leaving the Seventh Connecticut Volunteers, commanded by Captain Atwell, in charge of the work on the road, I advanced with Third New Hampshire, and took position on the heights, immediately pushing out a few skirmishers. They captured a Mr. Libby, owner of the farm we occupied, said to be of Libby Prison notoriety. This gentleman was in his loaded wagon started for Richmond. From him an the negroes of the place captured I learned that the enemy’s battery consisted of eight guns. I judge from my own observations of the enemy that his force was about 600 infantry, 200 cavalry, and the battery. The cavalry at one time advanced as if to charge, but seeing the remainder of Colonel Abbott’s command advancing, retired. My own force was less than 300. In this operation, so remarkably successful, I am much indebted to

Captain Atwell and his command (Seventh Connecticut Volunteers) for the cheerful and gallant manner in which they obeyed my orders as I am positive that had the enemy discovered my real force, or seen the least spirit other than determined bravery, they would not have given us the position. Occupying this position half an hour I received orders to rejoin the brigade.

Afternoon of same day marched with First Division on reconnaissance to within two miles of city of Richmond. Returned to our intrenched lines same evening.

During the day the officers and men of my command behaved in a manner creditable to themselves and to my perfect gratification.

I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JAMES F. RANDLETT,
Major Third New Hampshire Volunteers, Commanding Regiment.

Lieutenant E. LEWIS MOORE,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, 2nd Brigadier, 1st Div., 10th Army Corps.

HEADQUARTERS THIRD NEW HAMPSHIRE VOLUNTEERS,
Laurel Hill, before Richmond, Va., October 15, 1864.

LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to make the following report of part taken by my command in reconnaissance of First Division, Tenth Army Corps, before Richmond, on the 1st day of October, 1864:

Left intrenched position at 9.30 a. m., marched up Darbytown road to junction of Richmond Central road; after proceeding about one mile and three-quarters on this road, where my regiment was deployed as skirmishers, with Sixth and Seventh Connecticut and Seventh New Hampshire Volunteers, under Colonel Rockwell, of Sixth Connecticut Volunteers; advanced to within sight of rebel capital; met no infantry opposition to within 700 yards of its fortifications. The artillery fire was very heavy from every point of enemy’s front. Losses of command: Wounded, 1; missing, 1; total, 2. In this day’s duty the regiment was under command of Lieutenant J. Homer Edgerly, whose conduct was reported by all to have been extremely praiseworthy. The command returned to our intrenchments at about 10 p. m.

I was absent from my command as division officer of day, and by order of Major General D. B. Birney, corps commander, accompanied Tenth Connecticut Volunteers in a movement to left of division column to diver enemy’s attention, which was very successful.

I am, lieutenant, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JAMES F. RANDLETT,
Major Third New Hampshire Volunteers, Commanding Regiment.

Lieutenant E. LEWIS MOORE,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, 2nd Brigadier, 1st Div., Tenth Army Corps.

HEADQUARTERS THIRD NEW HAMPSHIRE VOLUNTEERS,
Laurel Hill, before Richmond, Va., October 16, 1864.

LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by my command in the action of October 7, 1864:

Broke camp within intrenched line, Laurel Hill, about 8.30 a. m.; moved toward right of our line in column of Second Brigade, First Division, Tenth Army Corps; formed part of line of battle with that brigade on New Market road. Here learned the enemy were advancing, driving

our cavalry force. Colonel J. C. Abbott, commanding brigade, ordered me to advance the right wing of my regiment as skirmishers to meet the enemy. Advanced as directed; met the enemy in force about 700 yards from New Market road in line of battle running parallel with the same. The right of my line was soon after connected with skirmishers from Third Brigade, my left connected with a detachment of General Kautz’s cavalry. These cavalry skirmishers had been driven by the enemy and claimed position in the opening. I did not deem it prudent to advance farther, as the enemy’s line of battle was within 100 yards, his skirmishers being driven handsomely by my men a few moments after gaining this position, and I discovered from the bristling bayonets of the enemy and his quiet yet exposed deportment that he was determined to advance. At this critical moment my orderly reported to me that the cavalry had fallen back, leaving me no word, and my left flank entirely exposed. I immediately faced my command by left flank and covered the ground so unceremoniously left by the cavalry.

The enemy advanced steadily at this point to within eighty yards of my line, and were handsomely repulsed by my skirmishers. At this time my men began to complain their ammunition was getting short, which I reported to Colonel Abbott, who informed me he could not replenish it, but gave me seventy-five men from the Seventh Connecticut Volunteers, armed the same as my own men-Spencer repeating carbines. With these few men (not over 150 in all) I succeeded in keeping the enemy back for more than half an hour, when he advanced in bayonet charge in two lines of battle. My men were confident they could repulse them, and as my orders had been “to hold them as long as possible,” there was no chance for those on the left of the line to escape, and nobly they contested the ground with the formidable force within fifteen yards of my line, some of them destroying their arms before surrendering. Thirteen of these brave fellows fell into the enemy’s hands-I trust unharmed prisoners. There was no possible chance for escape, for our main line opened fire on the enemy before the left of my line began to give way. I attach no blame to any one for this, for had my men returned to the line it must have been with the enemy. I immediately joined my left wing, which was in the main line of battle, second battalion from the left of the brigade line. The enemy must have been punished severely, as on my left the distance was less than 100 yards, and the enemy stood a long time in full view in line of battle, and received a terrific fire from the seven-shooters. Those of my men who were secreted beneath logs when the enemy charged over them captured 31 of the enemy as they fell back, one man capturing 6 prisoners. Afternoon of the same day advanced with division column in pursuit of enemy, but he would not receive battle. Returned and took position on ground contested with the enemy.

Of the conduct of the men and officers of this skirmish line I make no comment, but I trust the importance of the repeating rifle or carbine for skirmishing will be fully appreciated,as I do not believe the same number of men armed with any other piece would have held the enemy in check for a moment.

My loss was, in Third New Hampshire Volunteers, 1 man killed, 11 wounded, and 13 taken prisoners; total 25.

JAMES F. RANDLETT,
Major, Commanding Third Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers.

Lieutenant E. LEWIS MOORE,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, 2nd Brigadier, 1st Div., 10th Army Corps.

HEADQUARTERS THIRD NEW HAMPSHIRE VOLUNTEERS,
Laurel Hill, before Richmond, Va., October 21, 1864.

LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to report the following as the part taken by my command in reconnaissance of October 13, 1864.

Left camp at 4 a. m.; marched in column Second Brigade, First Division, Tenth Army Corps. On meeting enemy was ordered to deploy my command in rear right wing brigade line, as reserve. Soon after was ordered to right of division line, in rear of First Brigade, to communicate with Colonel Pond, commanding that brigade. Colonel Pond ordered me to form column in rear of his command, which I did by deploying in column by wing, right in front. After lying in this position for more than an hour, orders were received to charge the enemy’s works in our front. Colonel Pond’s brigade, re-enforce by the Tenth Connecticut Volunteers, formed in battalion line, in double column, closed in mass. My command formed thirty yards in rear of battalion of direction. The line advanced steadily, at command forward, for about 200 yards, when the command “to charge” was given. We dashed forward about 200 yards farther. A yell given by the charging column seemed to inspire hope of success, but proved to give the concealed enemy the position of our forces and drew a terrific fire, under which Colonel Pond’s brigade retired in confusion. My command retained their position, not a man leaving the ranks. Colonel Pond soon rallied a portion of his brigade. Orders were received to retire, and I covered the retreating column.

I cannot refrain from comment on this charge after stating so much relating to the conduct of this brigade. It appears to me that our advance was made too far to the right, as nearly all the fire from the enemy came across from enemy to left of our flank. I do not think the position could have been carried with the force of our command; but I cannot refrain from stating that it is my belief that the ground was not thoroughly skirmished before the charge was made. On retiring I was ordered to join the Second Brigade, and with them returned to camp.

Of the conduct of the officers and men in this unhappy affair I am truly proud, as none but true soldiers would have stood with the demoralizing shock of the retiring force.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JAMES F. RANDLETT,
Major Third New Hampshire Volunteers, Commanding Regiment.

Lieutenant E. LEWIS MOORE,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, 2nd Brigadier, 1st Div., Army Corps.

HEADQUARTERS THIRD NEW HAMPSHIRE VOLUNTEERS,
Laurel Hill, before Richmond, Va., October 30, 1864.

LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to forward the following report of the part taken by my command October 27 and 28 in skirmish on Darbytown and Charles City roads:

Marched from camp at Laurel Hill at 3.45 o’clock on morning of the 27th,in column Second Brigade, under command of Colonel Abbott.

Reached Darbytown road 5.30 o’clock. Received orders to deploy my command in advance of Second Brigade and move forward as skirmishers toward enemy’s works, my left resting on Darbytown road, my

right connecting with skirmishers of Third (Colonel Plaisted’s) Brigade. Met the enemy’s skirmishers in rifle-pits before his works. Succeeded in driving them from their position to behind their main line of water defenses of Richmond. My loss in this operation was 3 killed and 3 severely wounded. At 10 o’clock received orders to move to the right of division line, the division being right of Tenth Corps. Moved to this position by facing my line by right flank and passing in rear of skirmishers of First and Third Brigades. There I was re-enforced by Seventh Connecticut Volunteers, Captain Atwell commanding. In my new line the left of Seventh Connecticut Volunteers connected with right of Sixty-seventh Ohio Volunteers from First Brigade, the right of the Third New Hampshire resting on Charles City road. Received orders to advance toward enemy’s works and ascertain his force and position. Assured that the line in advance of First Brigade would moved forward at same time, I advanced through woods about 100 yards; came to an opening. In attempting to cross the corn-field I found the enemy posted the same as I had encountered him on the left-in pits. The skirmishers of First Brigade failed to advance, and consequently a terrific fire from the enemy in our front and on the left flank made it impossible for us to advance more than 100 yards into the field without great sacrifice of men. My command laid down, holding every pace of ground over which we had advanced. I then attempted to have the First Brigade line advanced, but to no purpose. Finding it impracticable to advance the left of our line for the reason that there were none to engage the enemy who gave us such heavy flank fire, I extended, with my reserve, my lines farther to the right of Charles City road, drove the enemy’s skirmishers in the woods from my front, and succeeded in gaining a position where my fire flanked his pits and drove all before my regiment to behind his works, thus gaining a fine view of the Charles City road and the line of works generally. During this advance a continual artillery and infantry fire played upon us, whose effect ceased as soon as his skirmishers were driven in. The distance was so short from the pits that their aim was almost certain, and although but 8 men were hit by the enemy’s fire, 4 were killed instantly.

I have to regret the loss of one valuable solider on the morning of the 28th, shot by our cavalry who fell back the evening previous, and in their advance in the morning new men did not know our position. My total loss, 7 killed, 8 severely wounded.

At 2 p. m. 28th I received orders to assemble my command and join brigade on Darbytown road, having been on skirmish line thirty-two hours.

Of the conduct of the officers and men of my command I feel I am justly proud. Each officer did his whole duty, each enlisted man stood nobly by his comrade, and although the night was cold and rainy, not a grumble nor complaint at hardship or suffering was heard. My wounded were safely brought in, my dead carefully buried.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JAMES F. RANDLETT,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Third New Hampshire Volunteers.

Lieutenant FERDINAND DAVIS,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, 2nd Brigadier, 1st Div., 10th Army Corps.

Source:

  1. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XLII, Part 1 (Serial Number 87), pages 718-723

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