Number 280. Petersburg Campaign Reports of Colonel Harris M. Plaisted, Eleventh Maine Infantry, of operations August 3-14, 14-16, and 18-19

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

No. 280. Reports of Colonel Harris M. Plaisted, Eleventh Maine Infantry, of operations August 3-14, 14-16, and 18-19.1

HEADQUARTERS ELEVENTH MAINE VOLUNTEERS,
Deep Bottom, Va., August 5, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that in obedience to Special Orders, Numbers 89, from your headquarters, August 3, to detail 100 men to report to Captain Sanderson, Captain Nickels, of my regiment, with Companies F, I and K, reported to Captain S. for the special duty assigned them. He embarked on board Navy tug-boat at 8 p. m. and returned to camp at daylight August 4, with the loss of one man, an excellent soldier (Corporal Gould, of Company K), who it is hoped will yet come in. Captain Nickels’ report* of the affair is inclosed as part of this report.

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

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

Captain DAVIS,
Asst. Adjt. General, Third Brigadier, First Div., Tenth Army Corps.

HEADQUARTERS ELEVENTH MAINE VOLUNTEERS,
Deep Bottom, Va., August 21, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the part performed by my regiment in the engagements at Deep Bottom and Deep Run, Va., on the 14th and 16th of August.

At 4.15 a. m. August 14 I received orders from General Foster to be in readiness with my regiment to attack the enemy at daylight. Three

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*See next, ante.

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hundred and twenty-five of the Eleventh were on picket, extending from the Grover house to the Four-Mile Creek, a distance of more than one mile. The Deep Bottom road divided this front in about two equal parts-the Eleventh was to attack on the right between Deep Bottom road and Four-Mile Creek; the Tenth Connecticut on the left of the road. The few officers and men in camp for duty were ordered to join their respective companies on the picket-line immediately. That portion of the regiment on the left of the Deep Bottom road, all but one company and the vedettes, was thrown to the right of the road, and the regiment hastily formed in line, a thin skirmish line without reserves. Ordered to attack, the Eleventh was soon hotly engaged. At 5.15, among others, Major Baldwin and Captain Sabine were carried to the rear severely wounded. For more than two hours the Eleventh was hotly engaged along its whole front with a superior force of the enemy strongly posted, pressing him closely, all the time suffering and all the time steadily advancing. At 7.30 a. m. the One hundredth New York was sent to take a portion of my front and the Sixth Connecticut as a support to both regiments. At the same time I received the following order from headquarters brigade:

There is a general advance ordered all along the line. You will therefore press steadily forward, with as much rapidity as possible, and drive the enemy into his intrenchments. Let there be no more delay in the advance than is absolutely necessary. Let it be done immediately. The Sixth Connecticut and Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, in reserve, will advance with the main line, keeping within supporting distance.

(To the commanding officers Eleventh Maine, One hundredth New York, Sixth Connecticut, Tenth Connecticut, First Maryland Cavalry, and Twenty-fourth Massachusetts.)

Before the One hundredth New York had reached its position the general advance commenced. Requesting Colonel Rockwell to support me closely with the Sixth Connecticut, and not waiting for the One hundredth to take any part of my line, I ordered the Eleventh to charge. In an instant the line sprang forward and, regardless of numbers, over the enemy’s intrenchments, and without halting event to gather up the prisoners, throwing down their arms and announcing their surrender, followed the fleeing rebels, with hurrahs, so closely they had not time to form behind their rear defenses, over two strong lines of which they were driven in succession. Through the woods some 400 yards the pursuit was continued to the open field at the foot of Spring Hill. Here, along the edge of the woods in a last line of rebel rifle-pits, the Eleventh was halted and the skirmish line reformed. The prisoners captured and sent in by the Eleventh were 26-a small proportion of the number captured by the regiment. Many were passed over by the regiment and left to be gathered up by the One hundredth New York, and other regiments as they came up, the Eleventh dashing on to capture the reserves, who leaving their arms in their stacks, took to flight with the greatest precipitation.

The loss of the regiment in this engagement, all of which occurred previous to the charge, was 9 killed and 40 wounded, including 2 commissioned officers. The conduct of the men and officers in this fight was beyond praise. Two companies (C and D) lost 11 and 12, respectively, killed and wounded; nearly half of their muskets. Company G losing heavily, had its commanding officer disabled, when the orderly sergeant took command. In a few minutes he was disabled and the next sergeant took charge, but never a man took one step backward. After the line had reached the edge of the woods the roll was called and 290 muskets were in line. The whole number of muskets engaged

in the affair was 339; 47 had been killed and wounded, leaving but 2 men to be accounted for, and these were doubtless assisting the drum corps to carry off some of the wounded. The rebels had been drive into their main works around Spring Hill, which were now within easy range of our rifles. A constant fire upon them was kept up whenever and wherever they showed their heads. Some rebels, more bold, attempted to walk the parapets at first, but almost invariably were picked off by the sharpshooters of the Eleventh. Some were shot and fell dead upon the parapets; others attempting to take them off met the same fate, and several of their dead remained upon the parapets till after the regiment left its position in the middle of the afternoon. About 4 p. m. a flank movement of the brigade to the right took place, which brought the Eleventh across the Kingsland road into the field near the Four-Mile Creek, the One hundredth New York holding the rebel battery of four guns which that regiment had captured, thus opening communication with the Second Corps below the creek. At dark the Eleventh was place on picket across the open field to the Four-Mile Creek. At 10 p. m. the regiment was withdrawn, excepting the picket-line, and led the advance of the corps across the creek to Strawberry Plains, where it arrived at midnight and bivouacked in the open field.

Before daylight on the morning of the 15th the men left on picket and fifty men detailed at dark to construct a bridge came up, and the regiment was together again. At 7 a. m. Monday, the 15th, the brigade was ready to move and soon after moved in a northerly direction (the Eleventh in the advance) some four miles to a point near Fussell’s Mill-Pond, so called. The Eleventh bivouacked in the edge of the woods until next morning with three companies thrown out as pickets during the day.

At 3 a. m. the 16th the regiment was ready to march. Soon after daylight it moved about a mile to the front and formed in line of battle on the right of the brigade and supporting the right of Hawley’s brigade, then in advance. Soon after the line of battle was changed and the brigade formed in the woods, the Eleventh on the right, the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts and Tenth Connecticut to my left. Three companies were thrown our as skirmishers, under Captain Merrill. My orders were to look out for the right flank, keeping connection with the pickets of the Second Corps. Two companies were left in reserve on the right of the skirmish line to be put on the skirmish line, if the direction of the march necessitated it. The line of battle was then advanced in the direction designated by the general, but proved to be too far to the right. Direction was again taken to the left upon a line designated by Captain Davis, assistant adjutant-general, which direction proved to be still too far to the right. I then received orders from the general to advance without regard to my right flank (he would protect it with the Maryland cavalry) and to change the guide to left, pivoting on the Tenth Connecticut. The farther advance was made without difficulty. The enemy’s pickets, of rather vedettes, were soon after met in a line of rifle-pits and driven in by the skirmish line. A few prisoners were captured by the Eleventh, but advancing across a second ravine, the enemy was soon met in strong force behind a line of breast-works of logs and earth, and the engagement with the skirmishers soon became hot.

While endeavoring to develop the enemy’s position on my front I received an order from the general to “drive the enemy into his main works and ascertain whether the same could be carried by assault.” The skirmish line was accordingly pressed forward very close, the

bushes being thick, when a charge was made and the enemy’s works, which proved to be his real picket-line, carried with rousing cheers and with little loss. Not stopping for a moment, even to secure the affrighted prisoners, the line rushed on, followed by the reserves. The Eleventh was now all on the skirmish line; the Maryland cavalry and a battalion of the Second Corps followed as reserves. When the enemy’s main line was reached by the Eleventh the first volley from the enemy ont only checked the reserves, but turned them back. Every possible effort was made to bring them forward, especially by the officers of the Maryland cavalry. The officer commanding the battalion from the Second Corps insisted upon halting his men, retiring a few paces, and reforming. This delay and hesitation caused the failure of the charge at this time. The works possibly might have been carried by the skirmish line, as the rebel colors were seen to leave the works, and many rebels threw up their caps and arms in token of surrender. But the loud commands of the Second Corps officer, “halt,” “fall back here,” in reforming his battalion, caused my line to halt, and time was given the enemy to recover from his panic. The opportune moment was lost. The Eleventh was withdrawn a few yards, where it lay until the First Brigade came up and formed a line in my rear. I then withdrew the Eleventh and formed my line on the right of the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, a little to the left of the First Brigade. When the First Brigade soon after charged, the Third Brigade charged with it. The Eleventh dashed across Deep Run and into the enemy’s main works on its front. On the left of the Eleventh the enemy’s works were not taken, which subjected my regiment to a heavy flank fire. The right of the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts joined the left of the Eleventh in the enemy’s works; thence its line ran back nearly at right angles to my line over the slope into Deep Run. Near the left of the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts a small ravine entered Deep Run almost at right angles to it. Beyond this ravine the enemy retired and held on to the angle of land formed by it and Deep Run with the greatest tenacity. The position thus held formed a bastion which enfiladed my whole line and defied all attempts that were made to take it. Two brigades in succession charged across my front into this ravine, but did not advance beyond it. They were Bell’s brigade, I think, and two regiments of Hawley’s brigade. These regiments did not long hold the ravine. They were forced to retire, and must have suffered severely.

The enemy now crossed the ravine and charged down in front of the Eleventh, but was severely repulsed. One time his colors were shot down within 200 feet of my front, but were taken off. The enemy now entered the ravine in great numbers, their battle-flags appearing above it, and there was great danger of his turning the left of the Eleventh and the Twenty-fourth by moving down the ravine into Deep Run. The fire of musketry had been incessant. My men had expended all their cartridges, and as many more of the rebel cartridges, which were found along the works in abundance, and their guns were so foul, it was only by using the pieces of the dead and wounded the fire would be kept up. Lieutenant-Colonel Hill, Captain Lawrence, and Lieutenant Holt had, in the early part of the engagement, left the field wounded. It was now near 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and the position must be lost if not supported immediately. Barton’s old brigade lay upon my right, commanded by a lieutenant-colonel. I applied to him to send regiment to support my left. He sent a Pennsylvania regiment, the Seventy-sixth, I believe, but before it got into position it was evident it

would not stand. I then requested the lieutenant-colonel to move the balance of his brigade, and see if the bastion could not be carried. There was no firing on his front and many troops on his right not at all engaged. After a little hesitation and delay he consented to do so. The brigade was ordered up and began to move, by the left flank, in rear of my regiment, but scarcely had the movement commenced when the regiment he had already sent dissolved and disappeared across the run. The Twenty-fourth then gave way and the Eleventh was rolled up. The rebel flag was planted on the parapet, where the left of my regiment rested, before the colors of the Eleventh retired. It was not possible for the Eleventh and Twenty-fourth to hold their position unless the enemy was driven from the ravine and bastion. In this fight my regiment lost 93 enlisted men and 3 commissioned officers killed and wounded, most of whom fell from the flank while taking and holding the enemy’s works. The Eleventh fell back across the run a short distance and rallied 191 muskets; it entered the fight with 315; 31 muskets only were missing, nearly every one of whom were helping of the wounded. All joined their regiment that night or early the next morning.

The total losses in the engagements at Deep Bottom and Deep Run were 146, including 5 commissioned officers, being 40 per cent, of the enlisted men, and 35 per cent. of the commissioned officers.

About sunset of the 16th the Eleventh was placed on the left of our line, connecting with the Second Corps at the mill-pond, where it lay until the night of the 18th, engaged most of its time in fortifying its front.

In the afternoon of the 18th the enemy made a demonstration along the front of the whole corps. The pickets were drawn in and the main line attacked. When the regiment on my right gave way, the front of the Eleventh was immediately extended to cover the portion of the parapet vacated. The Eleventh followed the movements of the brigade to the New Market road, near Malvern Hill, and thence to Deep Bottom, where it arrived at sunrise the morning of the 20th and went immediately on picket.

Of the conduct of the Eleventh in this seven days’ compaign I am proud to say that every man and every officer did his duty so far as it was made known to him, and to the extent of his ability. On the march throughout the seven days not a man straggled from the regiment or “fell out;” not even on the 15th, when so many of the Tenth Corps lined the road. Among the 3,000 stragglers from the corps picked up by the provost-marshal that day not a man of the Eleventh was found.

Where all were equally exposed and all did their duty equally well, it is impossible and it would be unjust to particularize. A tribute of praise is due to Lieutenant-Colonel Hill, to Major Baldwin, to Captain Lawrence (mortally wounded), for their gallant conduct but none the less to the 140 brave men, many of whom gave their lives, many their limbs, and all severe wounds.

I have the honor to be, captain, very respectfully,

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

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

HEADQUARTERS ELEVENTH MAINE VOLUNTEERS,
Deep Bottom, Va., August 20, 1864.

I have the honor, as corps officer of the day, my tour of duty ending at 9 p. m. the 19th, to make the following report:

I reported at corps headquarters for instructions soon after dark the 18th,and immediately thereupon proceeded to visit the picket-line, beginning on the right of the corps held by colored troops, Colonel Shaw’s brigade. While passing the front to these troops some firing took place at their left, on the front of the One hundred and fifteenth New York. Hastening to the point, I found several of the regiment had been wounded, and others reported captured. Its pickets had been driven in by the attack in the afternoon. An attempt to advance them brought on the firing. Failing to advance the picket a strong line of vedettes was pushed out as far as possible, connecting on the right and left. The pickets of Terry’s division were strong, well advanced, and well connected. Between 9 and 10 p. m. I received orders to withdraw the pickets after the corps had retired, and to establish a new line. The Tenth Connecticut, Colonel Otis, Third Brigade, First Division, reported to me, and was established on the new line connecting with the Second Corps at the millpond on the left, and with the cavalry on our right. The pickets were then withdrawn and placed in reserve behind the Tenth Connecticut. Not a man was left behind nor a shot fired. At 5 a. m. the enemy advanced and fell off the picket-line. More or less firing was kept up during the day. A few union soldiers from regiments, apparently, who had been lying in the woods during the night. A number of intrenching tools left by our troops was picked up and sent to First Division headquarters, viz, 46 axes, 28 shovels, and a few picks; 23 rifles also were picked up and sent to same place. I was relieved by Colonel Haskell, Seventh U. S. Colored Troops.

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

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

Colonel EDWARD W. SMITH,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Tenth 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 744-749

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