Number 277. Petersburg Campaign Reports of Colonel John L. Otis, Tenth Connecticut Infantry, of operations August 1, 14-20, and October 13

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

No. 277. Reports of Colonel John L. Otis, Tenth Connecticut Infantry, of operations August 1, 14-20, and October 13.1

HDQRS. TENTH REGIMENT CONNECTICUT VOLUNTEERS,
Deep Bottom, Va., August 2, 1864.

GENERAL: I have the honor to forward report of a severe picket skirmish between a portion of my command and a considerable force of the enemy yesterday.

About 5 p. m. the enemy advanced a well supported line of skirmishers against that part of our line occupied by Companies G, K, and A, commanded by Captain Greaves and Lieutenants Marshall and Sharp. The attack was very sudden and severe, but only resulted in forcing our vedettes back on the picket-line. The pickets were immediately deployed as skirmishers and their stubborn resistance checked the enemy’s advance. He immediately brought up his reserves and made a desperate charge on our line, evidently with the expectation of being able to break through and get in the rear of our pickets before the reserves could come up. But the line had already been strengthened by the arrival of the main reserve under Captain Goodyear, and the charge was repulsed with severe loss. The enemy rallied again and

made a second attempt to force our line, but with no better success, being again driven back in confusion with severe punishment. Our own loss was slight, owing to the men being well covered and having the advantage of acting on the defensive.

The conduct of the officers and men in this affair was such as to elicit the commendation of the commanding general.

Herewith I inclose a dispatch from General Foster, received last evening; also an official list of casualties.*

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. L. OTIS,
Colonel, Commanding Regiment.

Brigadier General E. D. TOWNSEND,
Assistant Adjutant-General, U. S. Army.

HDQRS, TENTH REGIMENT CONNECTICUT VOLUNTEERS,
Deep Bottom, Va., August 21, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the service performed by the Tenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers in the active operations of the 14th and 20th instant, inclusive:

The regiment left camp a few minutes past 4 o’clock on the morning of the 14th, under orders to move up to the picket-line on the Deep bottom road at double-quick and attack the enemy’s pickets on the left of the road. We reached the position at 4.30, and I immediately deployed Company A, Captain Webb, on the right of the road, supported by Company C, Captain Goodyear, to connect with the skirmishers of the Eleventh Maine Volunteers, with Companies A, D, and F, commanded by Captain Quinn, on the left of the road, supported by the balance of the regiment, and connecting with the First Maryland (dismounted) Cavalry. We pushed forward as soon as the connections were properly made, keeping the supports well up with the skirmishers. The line soon became warmly engaged with the enemy’s pickets, which were very strong in numbers and well protected by rifle-pits. The enemy proving too strong for our skirmishers, the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts was sent to our assistance, with orders to form in double column and charge the enemy’s position, my own regiment charging in line of battle on its left. The charge was perfectly successful; the enemy was driven from two lines of very strong rifle-pits, with considerable loss. In this affair my regiment captured about 20 prisoners and suffered a loss of 1 captain (Quinn) killed, 1 lieutenant (Sharp) mortally, Lieutenants Peck and Brown severely, and Captain Webb slightly wounded, 4 enlisted men killed and 22 wounded. We now occupied the enemy’s last line of rifle-pits, and pushed our skirmishers forward until they were fired on from the enemy’s principal work on Spring Hill. We remained in this position until 3 p. m., when I received orders to move my command off by the right, with flankers out toward the enemy’s position. We moved slowly in this manner until nearly dark, halting often, until across Four-Mile Creek, when the flankers were withdrawn and we marched rapidly to Strawberry Plains, arriving there at midnight. 15th, nothing of importance occurred. We left the bivouac at 9 a. m., and marched out about three miles on the New Market road and again bivouacked. 16th, fell in under arms at 3.30 a. m. and marched at daylight. After marching about a mile I received orders to form the regiment in line of battle

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*Nominal list (here omitted) shows 1 killed and 2 wounded.

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and throw forward skirmishers to connect with those of the Second Brigade on the left and the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, of our brigade, on the right. We were ordered forward as soon as the formation was completed, and, pushing through a dense growth of small pines, entered a deep ravine. As our line was formed nearly at right angles to the line of the Second Brigade, we soon lost all connection on the left. Captain Campbell, commanding the skirmishers on that flank drove the enemy from his first rifle-pits, capturing several prisoners; at the same time reporting that he formed no connection on his left and could advanced no farther without being flanked by the enemy. I immediately sent Company I, Captain White, to deploy on his left and try to make a connection with the Second Brigade; at the same time sending word to General Foster that we had lost all connection on our left. Soon after Colonel Dandy reported to me that his regiment was formed in echelon on my left, and prepared to protect my flank; and that General Foster desired me to push the enemy from his next line of pit. I immediately ordered a charge and the whole command moved forward at a run, driving the enemy from a second line of pits, with considerable loss, taking about 40 prisoners, the Twenty-fourth again charging with us. Our rapid movement forward separated us so far from Colonel Dandy’s regiment that the enemy got in the rear of our skirmishers on the left and took three of them prisoners. This compelled me to swing back the company of skirmishers on the extreme left of the line until the arrival of Colonel Dandy, when they again advanced. Colonel Dandy taking position on our left, we again pushed forward until we reached another deep ravine, the sides of which were so steep as to be almost impassable; the enemy being strongly intrenched on the opposite crest. Our lines had now become so weak, by constantly extending to the left to prevent being flanked, that for several hundred yards we had only a weak line of skirmishers with very little support, but in spite of all this the enemy outflanked us, and still held a strong position near the mill-pond, from which they opened a severe fire as often as we attempted to carry the opposite crest of the ravine, their shots crossing our line diagonally from our left and rear. At the same time we were subjected to a sharp fire in front. I sent back several messengers, asking that a force might be sent in there to carry the position while we attempted to carry the opposite crest of the ravine, their shots crossing our line diagonally from our left and rear. At the same time we were subjected to a sharp fire in front. I sent back several messengers, asking that a force might be sent in there to carry the position while we attempted to carry the one in front, but for some reason none was sent. The skirmishers of my regiment (six companies) had now been along time engaged, and being entirely out of ammunition I was compelled to relieve them with the four remaining companies relieved to fix bayonets and lie down in rear of the skirmishers. Soon after my skirmishers were all relieved by the First Maryland Cavalry, and the four companies which had not expended their ammunition were sent to the support of Captain Gardner, commanding Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, who has also very much weakened his own line by extending it to the left to keep up his connection with us, as we extended our line in that direction. I had now procured ammunition and was again advancing to the ravine, when the Maryland cavalry broke to the rear at a run. by order of General Foster, I placed Captain Engles with one company deployed as skirmishers on the edge of the ravine to keep the enemy in check, and formed the other five companies in line to allow the Maryland regiment to rally in our rear. This was soon accomplished and we were again advancing when General Foster received information that our forces were falling back from the captured works on our right. We therefore remained in position, sub-

jected to a sharp skirmishing fire from the enemy until dark, when we withdrew to the second line of rifle pits we had captured from the enemy in the morning, and spent the night in intrenching our position. The casualties of the regiment during the day were, 1 officer dangerously and 1 slightly wounded, 42 enlisted men killed and wounded and 8 missing. We remained in this position until the evening of the 18th, when preparations were made to withdraw. I received orders to send two companies of my regiment to the rear for fatigue duty and deploy the remainder in rear of the brigade so as to occupy the defenses and protect the withdrawal of the other regiments of the command. Before the brigade could be withdrawn, however, the enemy attacked us in considerable force but was easily repulsed. Three men of my regiment were wounded in the affair, one quite seriously, probably by a shot from our own artillery. About 9 p. m. we withdrew to the opposite side of the ravine, where, according to previous orders, I reported to the corps officers of the day. My entire command was placed on picket duty and remained there until 11 p. m. of the 19th and were then relieved, when I rejoined the brigade on the Long Brigade road. We remained in that position until 9 p. m. of the 20th, and were then withdrawn with the balance of the brigade and arrived at Strawberry Plains about 11 p. m. The regiment was again placed on picket. Remaining through the night, it was withdrawn at daylight in the morning, forming the rear guard of the brigade thence to the bridge. We arrived in camp at Deep Bottom at 6 a. m.

During the entire movement the conduct of both officers and men of my command was all I could desire. I never saw men behave with more steadiness or officers with greater courage.

In the death of Captain Quinn and Lieutenant Sharp, and the probably permanent injury of Captain White, we lose the service of three most brave and valued officers, whom the regiment can ill space.

Trusting that the conduct of my command has been such as to earn the commendation of the brigadier-general commanding, I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. L. OTIS,
Colonel, Commanding Regiment.

Captain P. A. DAVIS,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

APPENDIX.-The force asked for by Colonel Otis I was unable to get. All my troops were in line and hotly engaged, and re-enforcements did not arrive until we were driven back.

R. S. FOSTER,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

HDQRS. TENTH REGIMENT CONNECTICUT VOLUNTEERS,
Near Richmond, Va., October 13, 1864.

LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this regiment in the affair of to-day:

My regiment moved out from the intrenchments at 4 a. m. Soon after crossing the Central road I received orders from Colonel Plaisted to deploy a line of skirmishers in front of the brigade, and also to send one company to drive the enemy’s vedettes from the edge of the woods in our front to prevent the movement of our forces being observed. Seventy men were at once deployed as skirmishers, under command of Lieutenant Linsley, and a company of twenty, commanded by Orderly

Sergeant Burt, of Company G, drove in the enemy’s vedettes so promptly that two of them left their guns and knapsacks on their post. Sergeant Burt then rejoined the regiment, which remained in reserve until noon, when I received orders from General Ames to report with my command, except the skirmishers under Lieutenant Linsley, to Colonel Pond, commanding First Brigade. I reported accordingly, and being the senior regimental commander present, was ordered to form my regiment in double in column for an assault. About 2.30 p. m. the order was given to charge the enemy’s works, and the entire command moved forward with great promptness. My regiment behaved splendidly, as did all others in the assaulting column, but the charge being through a thicket of scrub oaks so dense that men could hardly push their way the force of the charge was entirely broken before reaching the enemy’s works. Most of the way the column was subjected to a terribly severe enfilading fire from which men were falling at every step. On coming within ten paces of the enemy’s works the severity of the fire and impenetrable nature of a narrow slashing in front of the ditch compelled the column to fall back. The men retired quite deliberately many of the m returning the enemy’s fire as they did so. The enemy was well intrenched and the works strongly manned.

My loss was 1 field officer (Major Camp) killed, 4 enlisted men killed, 37 wounded, and 3 missing. Among the wounded are 6 orderly sergeants who were in command of companies, 3 of whom are mortally and 1 severely wounded.

The only commissioned officers with the regiment besides myself were Lieutenant-Colonel Greeley, Major Camp, and First Lieutenant James H. Linsley. I know no higher praise to bestow on these officers than to say that they all behaved with their usual courage and coolness, Major Camp losing his life within a few steps of the enemy’s works. Chaplain Trumbull was also present and very efficient in attending to the removal of the wounded from the field. Assistant Surgeon Hart was, as usual, constantly near the regiment rendering prompt and efficient aid to our wounded.

My regiment has taken part in more than forty battles and skirmishes, never before fell back under fire, and never behaved better than on this occasion. But I have no apologies to make for it. I have not seen a more hopeless task undertaken since I entered the [service] than that attempted by the assaulting column to-day.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. L. OTIS,
Colonel, Commanding Tenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers.

Lieutenant BENJAMIN WRIGHT,
Acting 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 737-741

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