Number 276. Petersburg Campaign Reports of Colonel Harris M. Plaisted, Eleventh Maine Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations August 27-September 25 and October 1, 7, 13, and 27-29

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

No. 276. Reports of Colonel Harris M. Plaisted, Eleventh Maine Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations August 27-September 25 and October 1, 7, 13, and 27-29.1

HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, FIRST DIV., TENTH ARMY CORPS,
Before Petersburg, Va., September 25, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that since my last report nothing of importance connected with the Third Brigade has transpired, excepting its movement from the trenches last night. Having been relieved by the Second Corps about 12 o’clock midnight, I moved the brigade by the orders of the general to this position, in rear of Tenth Corps headquarters, bivouacking at 3 a. m. This brigade was in the trenches before Petersburg thirty days, having entered them at daylight on the morning of 27th of August, and left on the morning of the 25th instant. In these thirty days the brigade has done 9,300 days’ fatigue duty, not counting any details of less than 100 men. Across two-thirds of its front of 600 yards it constructed an infantry parapet, revetted and ditched, seven feet thick, with a relief of ten feet, and in a style creditable to the corps of the bastioned badge. Three days in every five each regiment has had its equipments on. Every day in the week the entire brigade has been “at the front,” and every hour of the day and night under fire. Forty-one men have been killed or wounded; 12 of these were killed or died of wounds.

The losses in the different regiments are shown by the following table:

I have the honor to be, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. M. PLAISTED,
Colonel Eleventh Maine Volunteers, Commanding Brigade.

Captain A. TERRY,
Assistant Adjutant-General, First Div., Tenth Army Corps.

HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, FIRST DIV., TENTH ARMY CORPS,
In the Field, Va., October 1, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that in obedience to the orders of the major-general commanding corps, I moved the Tenth Connecticut, of my command, up the New Market road 3 p. m. to make a demonstration in favor of General Terry’s move on the Central road. Colonel Otis, commanding the Tenth, was directed to drive the enemy’s pickets through the woods if practicable, but not advanced into the open field beyond. The rebel skirmishers were soon driven from the woods into the open field, where they were strengthened by another regiment. A sharp skirmish fire was kept up until after dark, when the regiment returned as ordered.

The casualties in the Tenth were 2 wounded severely and 1 taken prisoner. The loss of the enemy must have been quite severe, as the rebel regiment received the full benefit of our fire while in the act of deploying. Two prisoners were captured and sent into corps headquarters; one of them was wounded.

I am pleased to say that Colonel Otis, with his gallant Tenth, performed the part assigned them in their usual good style. Report of Colonel Otis of the affair will accompany this.

I have the honor to be, captain, your most obedient servant,

H. M. PLAISTED,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Captain A. TERRY,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, FIRST DIV., TENTH ARMY CORPS,
Before Richmond, Va., October 8, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the part taken by the Third Brigade, First Division, in the operations of the 7th instant near Four-Mile Run Church:

At 7.30 a. m. I received orders from brevet major-general commanding to move my brigade down the New Market road and take position

on the right of the Second Brigade, with my right well refused, to meet an attempt of the enemy to turn our right flank. The brigade was on the left of the division behind the breast-works, its right resting on the New Market road. The regiments were moved and posted as directed and in the following order from left to right: Eleventh Maine, Captain Merrill; Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, Colonel Osborn; Tenth Connecticut, Colonel Otis, and One hundredth New York Volunteers Captain Brunck, covered by a strong line of skirmishers. The right of the Twenty-fourth was well refused. The Tenth Connecticut and One hundredth New York were retired in echelon some seventy-five yards, occupying a commanding ridge of ground, with open pine wood in front for about 100 yards. In front of the Eleventh it was open pines, but a thicket of little pines in front of Twenty-fourth Massachusetts. While these dispositions were being made, the Second Brigade on my immediate left was hotly engaged, as was also the skirmish line in front of the Eleventh Maine and Twenty-fourth Massachusetts. The rebel line advanced to the attack of my left without skirmishers, and was allowed to come within close range. It did not long stand the fire of the Eleventh and Twenty-fourth; the repulse was complete and severe. The second line maintained its position and fire for some time, but the attack on my left was over. My scouts soon after reported to me that the enemy was forming in the field (Cox’s plantation), 500 yards in front, in two lines of battle, opposite my extreme right. To prevent being outflanked I placed forty men of the Eleventh Maine, Lieutenant Small, on the right of the One hundredth New York, across the road leading from the church on the New Market road into the field where the enemy was forming. It was thick wood here and the men were extended in one rank.

The enemy was not long in making his appearance. As before, his line advanced without skirmishers, and with evident determination. Emerging into the more open pines, the rebels received the close fire of the Tenth Connecticut and One hundredth New York, but pressing down the road and opening a smart fire, the One hundredth New York gave way. I was almost immediately rallied and brought back to their colors. Adjutant Peck, of this regiment, was mortally wounded while gallantly endeavoring to rally the men. He fell, standing by his colors when they were almost deserted.* The regiment, after resuming its place, behaved well; helped to repulse the enemy. The Tenth stood like a wall of granite. The enemy was handsomely repulsed, leaving his dead within a few yards of my line. My skirmish line was immediately advanced, but met a stiff line of the enemy at a short distance. Fearing a renewal of the attack on my right, I asked the general for a regiment. He sent me two (the One hundred and twelfth and One hundred and forty-second New York), which were disposed in echelon to protect the right flank; but the enemy made no further demonstration against our lines. About 2 p. m. the brigade was formed in two lines for an attack, but when the advance took place the enemy was found retiring rapidly from the field beyond the wood. About 20 prisoners were captured.

The rebel dead were found scattered along the whole front of the brigade. Two rebel captains (one, Captain John D. Adrian, commanding a regiment, Forty-fourth Alabama) were killed on my front.

The list of casualties occurring in the brigade has been already forwarded, amounting to 5 killed and 35 wounded; light, indeed, compared with the loss which must have been inflicted on the enemy.

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*Lieutenant Peck survived his wound, and was honorably discharge March 9, 1865.

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The conduct of regiments of this brigade through the affair, with the single exception referred to, was satisfactory; nor could it have been more so. The brigade was on the right flank of our line, which the enemy was seeking to turn. All seemed to fell the responsibility of their position, and no troops in the world could have behaved better. The Tenth Connecticut, Colonel Otis commanding, occupied the decisive point of my line, and its splendid behavior when the regiment on its right gave way saved us from disaster. One company, Eleventh Maine, eighteen men, Lieutenant Dunbar, and two companies of the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, fifty men, Lieutenant Hayward, when driven in as skirmishers, were formed on the extreme right, and in conjunction with Lieutenant Small’s detachment of Eleventh Maine, held the road and the space beyond to the open field where the church is, and prevented the right from being turned. Lieutenant Dunbar lost 2 men killed and 4 wounded, and Lieutenant Hayward lost 10 men killed and wounded. The latter reports a rebel captain and several of his men (5) killed within a few yards of his line.

Captain Merrill, commanding Eleventh Maine, reports his regiment as follows:

The conduct of the officers and men was the same as has been shown on every field where they have engaged the enemy, and well known to the brigade commander. Too much credit cannot be given to the men whose term of service had expired, they being the first to volunteer as scouts and to perform the most dangerous duties.

Captain Sellmer, Lieutenants Wright, Norris, and Savage, of my staff, rendered good service; were especially efficient in rallying the One hundredth. In this connection I cannot fail to mention Chaplain Trumbull, Tenth Connecticut, who was constantly at the front with his regiment, as is his wont at all times. He was conspicuous on this occasion, with revolver in had, in his effort to stay the crumbling regiment. An hour later he officiated at the burial of our dead, while the skirmish line was still engaged and every moment a renewal of the attack was expected. The sound of prayer mingled with the echoes of artillery and musketry and the crash of falling pines for hastily constructed breast-works. His services to the brigade, not only on this but on so many other like occasions, are gratefully acknowledged. Colonels Osborn and Otis always deserve special mention. Skillful and imperturbable, they are towers of strength to their commands.

I have the honor to be, captain, your most obedient servant,

H. M. PLAISTED,
Colonel Eleventh Maine Volunteers, Commanding Brigade.

Captain A. TERRY,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, FIRST DIV., TENTH ARMY CORPS,
In the Field, before Richmond, Va., October 13, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the part taken by my command in the reconnaissance of to-day on the Darbytown road:

In obedience to orders from General Ames, three regiments of the brigade-Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, Colonel Osborn; Tenth Connecticut, Colonel Otis, and Eleventh Maine, Captain Merrill-moved from camp at 4.20 a. m., following the First Brigade, Colonel Pond.

The Second Brigade, General Hawley, followed in the rear of the Third. The division reached the Darbytown road at daybreak and formed line of battle faced to the left with its left resting on the road. My brigade was formed, Twenty-fourth and Eleventh in line, the Tenth Connecticut, four companies as skirmishers, covering the front of the brigade, and the balance of the regiment in reserve in rear of the center of the brigade. In this order the division advanced across an open field at Gerhardt’s house and entered a thick growth of scrub oaks. Advancing several hundred yards, the enemy’s pickets were met quite strongly posted in aline of detached rifle-pits. I increased the pickets, and by order of the general drove our the rebel skirmishers. My skirmish line was now advanced within a hundred yards of the enemy’s main line to the edge of the slashing in front of his works. On my right the undergrowth of scrub oaks was very thick; in the center and left more open, and the rebel line of rifle-pits, continuous line, could be seen though somewhat masked by bushes. The slashing was an old one, partly, and had been burnt over; along the immediate front of the rebel rifle-pits there was a border of green slashings. The works were strongly manned by the enemy; a portion of the time at least, in two ranks. It was altogether an ugly looking chance for charge. The position could not have been carried without great sacrifice of life. From three points the enemy played upon us with artillery, from both flanks an enfilading fire and a direct fire from the front, case-shot, principally. My line of battle was within 200 yards of the line of skirmishers and the men were much exposed by the falling tree tops and limbs, as well as by the enemy’s missiles.

During the afternoon the enemy made three attacks upon my line, but was severely repulsed. I have seldom witnessed worse musketry fire than brigadier-general commanding to withdraw my line of battle from the woods and form in the open field south of the Darbytown road, withdrawing my skirmishers when those upon my left were withdrawn. The troops on my left had already retired. The line was withdrawn and the skirmish line also, with the loss of one man killed in the movement. About the middle of the day the Tenth Connecticut (that portion of it not on the skirmish line) was ordered to report to Colonel Pond, commanding First Brigade. It participated in the charge by that brigade and behaved with its habitual gallantry. It lost more than one-third of the number engaged. Major Camp was killed; he fell among the foremost of his comrades and within a few yards of the enemy’s line. Our cause cannot boast of a nobler martyr than Henry W. Camp. His name will be recorded with those of Ellsworth and Winthrop, youthful heroes who have given their lives to their country. For a more particular report of this regiment I would refer the general commanding to report of Colonel Otis, which with those of the other regimental commanders are herewith transmitted.

As to the conduct of the brigade throughout the affair I am proud to say it was worthy of the best of troops.

Besides the regimental commanders I would specially mention for good conduct Lieutenant Wilson, Twenty-fourth Massachusetts; Foster, Eleventh Maine, and Linsley, Tenth Connecticut, who commanded the detachments of skirmishers from their respective regiments. Also Captain Sellmer, of my staff, who had command of all the skirmishers from the brigade. These officers did nobly and are deserving of high praise. The skirmishers were withdrawn fighting, retiring in perfect

order and with a loss of but one man killed. They repulsed the enemy’s every onset, even taking the offensive and capturing one prisoner, whom they brought in. I would refer to reports of regimental commanders for the names of those who have most distinguished themselves in their respective regiments.

I have to lament a quite heavy loss in the brigade considering the number of men engaged, amounting in the aggregate to 84, viz: 12 killed, 64 wounded, and 8 missing. A list of their names accompanies this report.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, captain,

H. M. PLAISTED,
Colonel Eleventh Maine Volunteers, Commanding Brigade.

Captain CHARLES A. CARLETON,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, FIRST DIV., TENTH ARMY CORPS,
Before Richmond, Va., October 28, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the part taken by my command in the operations of yesterday and to-day between the Darbytown and Charles City roads:

The brigade moved from camp with the division at 4.30 a. m. yesterday, striking out for the Darbytown road, which it reached at daybreak. After crossing the road a short halt was made and rolls called. Twenty-five men had straggled-from One hundredth New York, nineteen; Tenth Connecticut, four; Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, two; Eleventh Maine, none. The division (the Third Brigade in the center) advanced until its right reached the Charles City road, but immediately moved back till its left rested on the Darbytown road. It then advanced in line perpendicularly to the road across an almost impassable run into open ground. The Second Brigade was now transferred to the right of the division. My skirmish line-the Tenth Connecticut-was advanced across the field and into a growth of small pines in which was the line of rebel rifle-pits, about 200 yards from their main line. My line charged them out, capturing five prisoners. The line of battle was then advanced with colors displayed, attracting the attention and shells of the enemy. The line was soon after retired under cover of the woods. At 12.20 p. m. a decided demonstration was made. My skirmish line pressed closely; went into the slashing in front of the enemy’s works and engaged his line. The line of battle was at the same time advanced 200 yards into the open ground, again receiving the fire of the enemy’s artillery and suffering some loss. The range was too good. The colors of the One hundredth New York was knocked down, one man killed and several wounded. I ordered the line to advance about 100 yards, with cheers, which was handsomely done. At 4 p. m. a bold push was made with the skirmish line to ascertain whether troops had been moved from our front to the enemy’s left, to meet Weitzel. My skirmishers were re-enforced by three companies from the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts and One hundredth New York and ordered to attack. The attack was made with vigor, but no advance could be made through the enemy’s slashing, which was the best I ever saw. But eleven battle flags were counted in the works and the enemy’s fire was about equal

to that of my line, which was a line of battle in one rank. After dusk I received orders to establish a picket-line and retire the line of battle into the woods in its rear. One hundred men were placed on picket connecting with the pickets of the Second Division on the left, and with skirmish line of First Brigade on my right. The brigade was bivouacked as directed by the general, and had a comfortable time of it in the rain before bright fires .

The casualties in the brigade were 25 killed and wounded and 3 missing; a nominal list is inclosed. Lieutenant Stowits, my acting assistant adjutant-general, was the only commissioned officer wounded. He was shot through the arm early in the day. An efficient and brave officer whose loss I regret.

This morning I relieved 100 men of the pickets of the First Brigade on my right from the One hundredth New York, thus having 200 on the picket-line. Smart skirmish fire was kept up with the enemy in his main line during the forenoon with slight loss to out side. Soon afternoon, the First and Second Brigades having retired, the Third was withdrawn and proceeded to camp.

After crossing the Darbytown road the regiments were halted and rolls called. There were twenty-eight stragglers of those who marched out on the morning of the 27th, viz, twenty-two from the One hundredth, four from the Tenth, two from the Twenty-fourth. Fifty men of the One hundredth, armed and for duty, remained in camp, though ordered to march on the morning of the 27th. I have ordered all these men arrested and turned over to the provost guard, with charges, for trial by general court-martial.

The conduct of the brigade aside from straggling was unexceptionable. Captain Hawkins, Tenth Connecticut, of my staff, is deserving of special mention for his zeal and efficiency. He was almost constantly on the skirmish line, rendering valuable service.

After dark of the 27th he and Lieutenant Norris, Eleventh Maine, carefully examined the slashing on the enemy’s front, finding it to be of the very best sort-the trees being felled in one direction from the works, and the limbs all laid low. He reported it impassable if but indifferently defended. My pickets were brought off by him at the proper time in perfect order and with no loss. I am much indebted to him. Lieutenant Foster, commanding detachment of Twenty-fourth, on skirmish line, has on this as on many occasions shown himself a brave and capable officer. Sergeant Wiley, of the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, is deserving of honorable mention for his efficiency in command of a company of a company of skirmishers. Sergeant Gordinier, One hundredth New York, is also particularly mentioned for good conduct on the picket-line.

I am not satisfied with the One hundredth New York; it cannot be depended on. There is no discipline, pride, or soldierly spirit in it. The brigade is considered stronger without it. The term of service of many of its men and officers they consider has expired. This is proffered by them as an excuse for the bad state of discipline in it.

I have the honor to be, captain, your obedient servant,

H. M. PLAISTED,
Colonel Eleventh Maine Volunteers, Commanding Brigade.

Captain CHARLES A. CARLETON,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, FIRST DIV., TENTH ARMY CORPS,
October 30, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to forward the following statement in relation to my command on the 27th and 28th of October, 1864:

These figures include the picket details of 211 men as verified by Captain Hawkins, of my staff, when relieved by him, and conducted to the Johnson plantation, where the brigade was halted; also my provost guard and the stretcher-bearers, who marched out with the command and were actually present when the count was taken.

I have the honor to be, captain, respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. M. PLAISTED,
Colonel Eleventh Maine Volunteers, Commanding Brigade.

Captain CHARLES A. CARLETON,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, FIRST DIV., TENTH ARMY CORPS,
Before Richmond, Va., October 29, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the part taken by my command in the affair of this afternoon at the Doctor Johnson plantation, on Darbytown road:

At 2.30 p. m., by orders from General Ames, commanding First Division, I moved three regiments of the brigade out of the intrenchments in direction of the Darbytown road. Before reaching the plantation, having passed the cavalry vedettes, skirmishers were thrown forward from first regiment (Eleventh Maine) and advanced to the plantation within about 500 yards of the enemy’s old line of works. The cavalry had been driven from this line across the plantation and Darbytown road, and the enemy was now occupying it. I was ordered by General Ames to take the works. My line of battle was formed-Tenth Connecticut on the right, One hundredth New York in the center, and Eleventh Maine on the left. One company of the Tenth and nine of the Eleventh were thrown forward as skirmishers along the edge of the woods. The skirmish line was diagonal to the line of works. The left, under cover of sharpshooters, was extended to within 100 yards of the enemy’s line, while the right was some 500 yards distant from the redoubt on the hill against which it was directed. When the advance was made the left of the skirmish line, which was very strong, seized the work at its

nearest point opposite, and the whole line then swung in on the double-quick in gallant style. The rebels were flanked out of their work by the oblique line of attack, making but slight resistance. After the skirmish line was well across the field the cavalry (Colonel West) dashed across the plantation on my right, reaching the fortifications the same time with the right of the infantry. The rebels turned their backs and fled, giving the boys an opportunity of firing into them, which they improved with evident satisfaction. Skirmishing was kept up along the line of works and to the right along the Darbytown road, the cavalry taking the right until dark. The cavalry pickets having been re-established in their old position, the infantry was withdrawn after dark and returned to camp.

I need not speak generally of the conduct of the brigade, as the whole affair took place under the immediate direction and observation of both the division and corps commanders.

Sergts. Henry H. Davis and Robert Brady, Eleventh Maine, deserve to be particularly mentioned. The former, though on the sick list, and his term of service having expired, went out with the regiment and volunteered for the skirmish line. He was wounded in the leg. Brady has been conspicuous for good conduct on every occasion calling for coolness and dash. Three times wounded in the campaign, he was to-day shot in the arm severely after reaching the enemy’s works. He has been recommended for a first lieutenancy.

A list of casualties is inclosed.*

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

H. M. PLAISTED,
Colonel Eleventh Maine Volunteers, Commanding Brigade.

Captain CHARLES A. CARLETON,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

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*Shows 3 men wounded.

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Source:

  1. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XLII, Part 1 (Serial Number 87), pages 729-737

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