Number 303. Petersburg Campaign Reports of Major George E. Wagner, Eighth U. S. Colored Troops, of operations August 14-21, September 28-30, and October 13

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

No. 303. Reports of Major George E. Wagner, Eighth U. S. Colored Troops, of operations August 14-21, September 28-30, and October 13.1

HDQRS. EIGHTH REGIMENT U. S. COLORED TROOPS,
Near Point of Rocks, Va., August 22, 1864.

MAJOR:I have the honor to submit the following of the part taken by the regiment under my command during the recent movement on the north side of the James River:

On the morning of the 14th instant, pursuant to orders from the general commanding, I reported to Colonel Wooster, Twenty-ninth Connecticut, commanding defenses at Deep Bottom, and was ordered to remain within the entrenchments. About 4 p.m. received an order from General Birney to rejoin our brigade. Did so immediately, and was directed by Lieutenant-Colonel Haskell, commanding, to form my regiment on the extreme left of the brigade. A little before sundown the right of the brigade changed, and moved my regiment by the left flank in support of them, having a company deployed as skirmishers. The position I was directed to occupy I held until 11 p.m., when I withdrew,

leaving two companies as pickets, who were to return to the entrenchments. On the 16th instant, in accordance with orders from Colonel Wooster, I moved my regiment at 4 p.m. to near the picket-line, and deployed them as skirmishers, just in rear of the pickets. About 6 p.m. the order was given to move forward and take possession of the Kingsland road, which I did, though not without meeting with some opposition in the woods on the right. At 8 p.m. received orders to withdraw, which I did without molestation from the enemy, and returned to my camp. On the afternoon of the 17th moved with the Twenty-ninth Connecticut, Colonel Wooster commanding, and recrossed the river, crossing it at the Tenth Army Corps. Early on the morning of the 18th, in compliance with orders from the general commanding division, I moved my regiment to the extreme front, and was ordered by Colonel Shaw, commanding brigade, to take position on the left of the brigade behind the breast-works. There was some picket-firing in my front during the fore part of the day, which settled into an attack upon the pickets by the enemy about 5 p.m. At this time our pickets were pressed back by the enemy’s skirmish line and came running within the entrenchments. On going to the right of my line, where the firing at this time was heaviest, I discovered that the regiment that had been supporting me on that flank had been withdrawn, leaving my right wing entirely unprotected. I immediately deployed a company to cover me in that direction as far as possible. The enemy pressed forward to the works on my right and to the edge of the woods in my front, but were soon compelled by the severity of my fire to retire. They kept up continual skirmishing until late at night, but did not again press back the pickets. During the remainder of the time my regiment was on the north side of the river they were not engaged with the enemy.

The conduct of my officers and men was all I could wish.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GEO. E. WAGNER,
Major, Commanding.

Major R. S. DAVIS,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

HDQRS. EIGHTH REGIMENT U. S. COLORED TROOPS,
Chaffin’s Farm, Va., October 6, 1864.

SIR: I have the honor to make the following report to the commanding general of the part taken by my regiment in the late movements against Richmond:

I received orders on the 28th of September to hold my command in readiness to move at 3 p.m. About 5 o’clock it, with the balance of the brigade, started, crossing the James River at Aiken’s Landing, and halted at 3.30 a.m. on the 29th at Deep Bottom. At daybreak we were again on the move, and, with the remainder of the brigade, formed in the woods to the right, experiencing a slight shelling. Shortly after we again started and moved along the New Market road to its junction with the Mill road. Here we were formed in line of battle in front of the enemy’s strong position at Laurel Hill. I was ordered to advance four companies, under Captain Cooper, to charge in a deployed line on the fort in my immediate front. They advanced to within less than 200 yards on the works under a terrific fire of grape and canister.

Captain Cooper seeing it would be useless to attempt a charge with his small force halted and opened on the enemy’s gunners. I was then directed to take four more companies and charge the fort. On arriving on the line of the first four companies I halted to reconnoiter the position of the enemy and the probable success of an attack. I soon became convinced that I could arrive at no other result with my eight small companies (in all not numbering 250 men) than to have them slaughtered and still make no impression general, but told him I would go ahead if he ordered it. He sent me word to remain where I was and hold the line. I kept up a skirmish all the afternoon with the enemy, when at sundown he moved with a heavy force against my left flank, turning it and getting to my left and rear. I immediately ordered a company from the right of my line and double-quicked them to the left, driving the enemy back to their forts. Soon after I was relieved by the Seventh U. S. Colored Troops and my regiment returned to the during this day’s fighting were 4 officers wounded, 7 enlisted men killed, and 42 enlisted men wounded.

On the morning of the 30th my regiment, with the balance of the brigade, moved to the left, and I was ordered to throw up a line of entrenchments in front of it. While busily engaged at this orders came to be ready to move, and I was soon afterward ordered to move into the trenches on the right of the Forty-fifth U. S. Colored Troops. It was at this time the enemy charged on General Paine’s command. My regiment moved into on the double-quick, but took no active part in the engagement. During this movement I lost 14 enlisted men wounded. Since then my regiment has been doing duty in the trenches.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GEO. E. WAGNER,
Major, Commanding Regiment.

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

HEADQUARTERS EIGHTH U. S. COLORED TROOPS,
In the Field, October 14, 1864.

SIR: I have the honor to report the following as the part taken by my regiment in the movement of yesterday:

When the division formed for an advance on the enemy’s position i was ordered by Brigadier-General Birney to deploy my command as skirmishers so as to cover the front of the division and extend 200 paces beyond its left flank, to connect with and conform to the movements of the skirmish line of General Ames’ division on my right. An advance being ordered we moved forward through a wood with a dense undergrowth, encountering the enemy’s skirmishers and driving them from one line of rail breast-works and two lines of pits till my center came in contact with a line of battle. This stopped an advance there. I continued swinging forward my right till I was close to the enemy’s works. An examination proved a strong line of entrenchments in my front, a battery to my left, and one immediately in front of my right, all strongly manned. I reported these facts to General Birney, and

was by him ordered to find out as much as possible of the enemy’s position and strength, and in case of the line of General Ames’ division advanced to form in echelon to the left of it. I could obtain no further information of the enemy’s position, but engaged his skirmish line with varied success till 2 p.m., when I was relieved by the Seventh U. S. Colored Troops.

During the engagement I lost 4 officers wounded, 4 enlisted men killed, 27 wounded, and 5 missing.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GEO. E. WAGNER,
Major, Commanding.

Lieutenant IRA H. EVANS,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, 2nd Brigadier, 3rd 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 779-782

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