Number 341. Petersburg Campaign Report of Major Samuel Wetherill, Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, commanding Second Brigade, of operations September 16-17

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 87)

No. 341. Report of Major Samuel Wetherill, Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, commanding Second Brigade, of operations September 16-17.1

HDQRS. SECOND CAVALRY BRIGADE, KAUTZ’S DIVISION,
Green’s House, September 18, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit report of the transactions of this brigade on the 16th and 17th instant:

A large force of the enemy, said to be Lee’s, Rosser’s, and Butler’s divisions, commanded by General Wade Hampton, and six pieces of artillery, attacked the left of the line picketed by this brigade at 5 o’clock on the morning of the 16th instant. The detachment of the First District of Columbia Cavalry, stationed at Cocke’s Mill, the regiment at Sycamore Church, under command of Major J. S. Baker, as well as squadron of the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, at Hite’s house, under Captain McFarlan, were attacked at the same time. The First District of Columbia Cavalry fought until most of the officers and men were surrounded and captured, inflicting, it is said, much damage to the enemy, as their advance was repulsed three times, and were finally overpowered by numbers. I regret that the field officers and nearly all the company officers were captured, so that I am unable to give a detailed report of Major Baker’s defense of his exposed post, and can only say that it was stubborn, as the rebel dead and wounded were reported to have filled their ambulances. The squadron of the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, Captain McFarlan, stationed at Hite’s House, were alarmed by the vigorous attack on the First District Cavalry, but instantly discovered that the enemy presented in their own front an extended line, which they advanced at a charge on both the Lawyer and stage roads which unite at the reserve. The mounted men on the stage road and the dismounted men in the woods were driven in, the line of vedettes outflanked, and threatening to envelop the reserve. Captain McFarlan, after some resistance, fell back in good order, losing a few men and horses of the advanced posts, captured on the stage road toward Sycamore Church. He continued to skirmish, falling back as slowly as possible, but their advance pressed with vigor until they had driven him in sight of the Prince George Court-House. Here they met the Third New York Cavalry, before whom the enemy fell back to Rollins’ house, developing artillery. On hearing the charge upon Sycamore and Hite’s, I immediately notified division headquarters and proceeded to Mount Sinai Church. On my way I heard the enemy charging in my rear along the stage road. On reaching Mount Sinai Church Major F. A. Stratton, commanding Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, dispatched a detachment under Captain Titus, Company M, Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, to re-enforce the left; but hearing the cheering, Major Stratton directed him to hold the left center, near Cahoon’s house, which he did, until I was ordered to concentrate my force at the cross-roads. In the meantime I endeavored to get an orderly through to Major Baker, but the enemy held the stage road at Rollins’ house in force, and my orderly was driven back a distance through the neighborhood road.

The firing along several miles of the line and the appearance of pickets on the Powhatan road in front of Mount Sinai Church, indicated a serious attack. The pickets on the neighborhood road were called in to the City Point, and ordered to report to Captain Titus. About this time I received a message from Lieutenant-Colonel Jacobs, Third

New York Cavalry, asking if I needed assistance, and I requested him to send a squadron to hold the cross-roads, which he did. I continued to hold the position at Mount Sinai Church, able seconded by Major F. A. Stratton, commanding Eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry, until I received orders to concentrate the command and connect with the Third New York Cavalry at the cross-roads. Upon my arrival I found the Third New York had advanced, under direction of the commanding general, and followed in rear of the section of artillery to Sycamore Church. At this point Captain Speers was found with a detachment of the First District of Columbia Cavalry, who had escaped from the enemy, and had re-established their pickets on the line as much and as far as they could. The dead were found to have been stripped, and lay nearly naked where they fell. From the Sycamore Church I marched in rear of the Third New York Cavalry and section of artillery to near the Jerusalem plank road, where we arrived some time after dark. I was not called upon directly to participate in the engagement had by the Third New York Cavalry. In obedience to your orders I fell back about a mile and bivouacked.

At daylight on the morning of the 17th instant I was directed to send one company by a wood road to the right to reconnoiter to the plank road, a distance of two miles. Major Stratton detailed Captain Titus, who accomplished the reconnaissance, returning by the plank road to where he met Lieutenant-Colonel Jacobs’ command occupying the ground of the engagement of the night before. Ordered on the advance on the return march, taking the neighborhood road from Gee’s house to Baxter’s Mills. At Gee’s house a rebel scout was captured, where we arrived about 1 p.m. Captain McFarlan, Company B, Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, brought in fifteen head of cattle collected by him, by order, which were turned over to Lieutenant Wilson, acting division and brigade commissary. Captain Ringland, Company A, Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, with seventy-five me of Companies A, C, and G, Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, were detailed, by order, at Gee’s house to return by the original route for the purpose of driving in several head of cattle by the enemy in their retreat, but none were found. They had probably picked up and secreted by rebel scouts, several of whom were seen by Captain Ringland’s party. One rebel officer and four men, with one citizen, charged the extreme advance of two men, accompanied by Lieutenant Nimmon, acting regimental quartermaster, Eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry. They were met by Lieutenant Nimmon, aided by some men who came up from the main column, and in the skirmish the rebel officer was shot. The others escaped, leaving in our hands a private of the Third New York Cavalry, who had been taken by them. Captain Ringland charged another party of rebels at the Blackwater, but they escaped in the woods. Captain Ringland rejoined the command at Mount Sinai Church at 2 p.m. In the afternoon, after feeding, I was ordered to picket from the left of the Third New York Cavalry. I moved the headquarters Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry to Rollins’ house, the detachment of the First District of Columbia Cavalry, under Captain Speers, 196 men, on their left, and I moved my headquarters to Green’s house.

The report of casualties is herewith respectfully submitted.*

The loss of arms and horses cannot be directly ascertained in the First District of Columbia, as many of the company officers are captured, with the field and staff. Captain Speers will be obliged to take an account and be responsible for whatever is on hand at this date.

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*Same as reported by Kautz, p. 823.

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The officers and men of my command are entitled to credit for the vigilance and promptness with which every order was executed during the excitement of the attack, and for their endurance without murmuring during the subsequent march. It would be difficult to select those most anxious to do their whole duty.

Respectfully submitted.

Your obedient servant,

SAM. WETHERILL,
Major Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, Commanding Brigade.

Captain M. J. ASCH,
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 836-838

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