Number 340. Petersburg Campaign Reports of Colonel Samuel P. Spear, Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, commanding Second Brigade, of operations August 21-26

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

No. 340. Reports of Colonel Samuel P. Spear, Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, commanding Second Brigade, of operations August 21-26.1

HDQRS. SECOND CAVALRY BRIGADE, KAUTZ’S DIVISION,
Petersburg and Weldon Railroad, August 22, 1864.

SIR: I this morning received instructions from Major-General Humphreys, and subsequently from Major-General Warren, to be relieved on the arrival of General Gregg, and to report with my command to General Kautz. At this hour, 9 a.m., General Gregg has not arrived. I have just seen one of his staff officers and hear that he is encamped on the plank road, and will be here before noon. I shall then draw in my picket, which will occupy two hours, and start; will try to get in to-night; if not, early to-morrow. Will you please notify my brigade quartermaster and commissary to send no more forage or rations. Yesterday afternoon I attacked another force at Reams’ Station, drove him two miles, burned store-house, two large water-tanks, destroyed telegraph wires, pumps, &c. Lieutenant Ring also, being detached by me, surprised a party on the Brent road and completely routed them, making some prisoners. The enemy withdrew from General Warren’s front and flank about 9 o’clock last night, and the ground occupied by them is now vacant. Where they have gone to is a mystery; perhaps only a ruse.

With my best respects to the general, I remain, very respectfully,

S. O. SPEAR,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Captain M. J. ASCH,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

HDQRS. SECOND CAVALRY BRIGADE, KAUTZ’S DIVISION,
Petersburg and Weldon Railroad, August 23, 1864.

SIR: I had the honor on yesterday to state that I was about being relieved by General Gregg’s cavalry, and that I would report to General Kautz last evening or this morning. This was my expectation, but on being relieved I at once proceeded to get my orders (at headquarters were Major-Generals Warren, Humphreys, Meade, Parke, and several brigadiers), but instead of getting orders to return I received an order to “report to General Gregg for duty.” I was ordered with my brigade to “proceed and attack Lee’s cavalry” on Warren’s left. I did so; found him about three miles west of Warren’s headquarters, attacked him, and fought for three-quarters of an hour, with the following result: I had 1 man killed, 6 wounded, and 4 horses killed; captured some prisoners and completely routed his cavalry. (Private Christian Dritt, of Company I, killed.) I am kept going all the time; am ordered this morning on a reconnaissance to Stony Creek. I request that you will do all you can to keep me supplied with forage, as I wish to keep my horses in the best possible condition. I do not know anything of the Third New York Cavalry; have only seen one squadron; I have no idea of their whereabouts. I shall inform you daily of my doings. I wish to be informed where I shall send my reports-to General Warren, to General Gregg, or to General Kautz. Please be definite on this point, as shortly the monthly, tri-monthly, &c., will be due. Please answer by return of mail.

S. P. SPEAR,
Colonel, Commanding Second Brigade, Kautz’s Division.

Captain M. J. ASCH, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
PLANK ROAD, August 26, 1864.

SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of yours relative to the paymaster, but have not seen him. Yesterday was a sad day. I was, as usual, in command of the outpost, with orders to “hold it at all hazards.” I was stationed on the railroad, five miles below Reams’. The enemy attacked me at 8 a.m. I held my position till the last moment, losing many men. I was isolated from any other command for two miles. I fought them, falling back slowly, till I lost 5 officers and 60 men. No assistance came to me till I reached the (General Gregg’s) column. By this time a general engagement on front and flanks with a greatly superior force ensued. General Gregg fell back slowly, fighting all the time. Here the Second Corps was brought into requisition; subsequently the Ninth Corps. General Hancock’s horse shot; General Gibbon’s division did heavy execution. I had every man on duty. Lieutenant Neilson, Eleventh, killed; Lieutenant Wonderly, Lieutenant Clark, badly wounded; four lieutenants missing. The men fought nobly. The First District of Columbia Cavalry, under Major Baker, did admirably. Our horses are completely broken down. I have no relief; been on duty constantly night and day since I left; my men and horses cannot stand it much longer. Cannot the men be paid off or cannot we come in for one day for me. I am again ordered on picket on the outpost. I can stand anything myself, but my officers and men think it very hard. Don’t let that paymaster go. The enemy attacked Warren at 7 this morning.

S. P. SPEAR,
Colonel, &c.

Captain M. J. ASCH, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

HDQRS. SECOND CAVALRY BRIGADE, KAUTZ’S DIVISION,
In the Field, Va., August 30, 1864.

SIR: In accordance to your communication of this date I have the honor to forward a report (together with a list of casualties) of my operations from the 23rd [22nd] to the 26th of August, 1864:

On the morning of the 23rd [22nd] I was on picket at the outpost; some little firing and skirmishing took place, but nothing of importance occurred. On the 24th [23rd] I was ordered to make a reconnaissance with all my available force down to Petersburg and Weldon Railroad, in the direction of Stony Creek and westward, crossing the Vaughan road, to ascertain the strength and location of the enemy’s picket-line, their reserves, &c. This I did, and reported on my return to General Gregg. In this reconnaissance I had several skirmishes, always driving in the enemy’s pickets and routing their reserves, having 2 men killed and 4 wounded. On the 25th [24th] I was ordered on the extreme left, and the day was spent in closely watching the enemy’s movements and reporting the same when anything worthy of note occurred; some skirmishing during the day. On the 26th [25th], being still on the extreme left and at a point four miles below Reams’ Station, some little skirmishing with the enemy took place about 8 a.m. I immediately mounted my horse, and on visiting the line found the enemy advancing in force from three directions. I immediately sent my aide, Lieutenant Ford, to report the same to headquarters. Re-enforcements were promptly furnished me, and I received orders to hold my position as long as possible, and if I was forced back, to retreat fighting every inch. At this hour, 9.40 a.m., the enemy advanced in superior numbers. My orders to fall back slowly were obeyed and every foot of ground strongly contested. On reaching the main body I reported to General Gregg. He ordered my horses to the rear, and my dismounted men placed in position to prepare to fight on foot. Here I remained, acting under orders of General Hancock and Gregg, till night, remaining in position and doing good execution till the close of the engagement, when I was ordered to fall back and bivouac on the plank road for the night. Next morning, the 27th [26th], I received orders from General Gregg to report with my brigade to General Kautz, which order was at once obeyed.

It becomes my painful duty to report that at the engagement on the 26th [25th] First Lieutenant Henry B. Neilson was killed. He was an energetic and exemplary officer and a high-toned gentleman. His loss is deeply deplored by all. My report of casualties will show the heavy loss to my brigade. All my officers and men behaved most excellently, and their actions have met my warmest commendations.

I cannot close my report without recommending to the commanding general my acting assistant adjutant-general, First Lieutenant A. H. D. Williams, Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry. Throughout the day on the 26th [25th] he was exposed at all times to the heavy fire of the enemy, carrying orders, placing men in position, &c. All his acts clearly prove this gallant young officer competent and worthy of a higher position.

I am, sir, with high respect, your obedient servant,

S. P. SPEAR,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Captain W. P. WILSON,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Second 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 833-835

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