Number 115. Appomattox Reports of Captain Archibald Hopkins, Thirty-seventh Massachusetts Infantry

   

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in Appomattox Campaign Reports (95)

No. 115. Reports of Captain Archibald Hopkins, Thirty-seventh Massachusetts Infantry.1

HDQRS. THIRTY-SEVENTH MASSACHUSETTS VOLUNTEERS,
In the Field, April 15, 1865.

SIR: In compliance with circular from headquarters Third Brigade, of April 14, 1865, I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my command in the operations of the late campaign:

In the assault on the enemy’s works at Petersburg on the morning of April 2 this regiment was in the front line of the brigade, on the right of the Fifth Wisconsin. In advance of the line of battle were deployed as skirmishers seventy-five picked men and volunteers from this regiment, who covered the entire brigade front and were commanded by Captain J. C. Robinson, assisted by Second Lieutenant H. A. Cushman. At the word of command the regiment advanced rapidly, with a cheer, forced their way through two lines of abatis, over the ditch into the enemy’s fort, where (after a brief but sharp conflict, the enemy’s gunners standing to their pieces and firing them tow or three times after some of us were in the fort) we captured 3 guns, about 40 prisoners, and a battle-flag.

Captain Robinson, in command of the skirmish line, was one of the first to reach the abatis, and was wounded there. Adjt. J. S. Bradley and First Lieutenant W. C. Morrill particularly distinguished themselves by gallantry and efficiency. Corpl. Richard Welch, Company E, knocked down the rebel color-bearer, took his flag, and shot one of the gunners while in the act of discharging his pieces. Corporal Kelly, of the same company, bayoneted the man who shot his commanding officer while ascending the parapet.

Our loss in the assault was 3 men killed and 3 officers and 29 men wounded.

The regiment was the first in the enemy’s works.

After reforming the line, leaving Lieutenant Cushman and his company temporarily in charge of the captured guns, I joined the brigade, from which we had become separated, and moved with it toward the left. During this movement the regiment destroyed several wagons and a number of tents filled with clothing, officers’ baggage, and quartermaster’s property. We then moved with the rest of the command toward the right,and when near General Lee’s headquarters were opened upon on the flank by a rebel battery. I moved the regiment into a sheltered position, and sent out two companies with orders to silence the guns. This they succeeded in doing and in killing so many of the horses that the entire battery-Carpenter’s-was soon after taken by the Second Division, whose line in advancing covered that part of the field. That night Companies E and I were on the skirmish line and were among the first troops to enter the city of Petersburg in the morning. Soon after the regiment was allowed to march in and see the city, after which it rejoined the brigade and moved with it in pursuit of the enemy.

At the battle of Sailor’s Creek the regiment, after severe double-quicking, which greatly exhausted the men, was put in position in column of wings, right in front, in rear of the Second Rhode Island. When the order to advance was given I deployed the regiment into line of battle and moved to left, so that my right joined the left of the Second Rhode Island. Just before reaching the swamp which protected the enemy’s position I ordered the right company (C) to deploy so as to cover our precision considering the nature of the ground, crossed the warp, moved up the hill,and were soon exchanging shots with the enemy. The line was halted and reformed after crossing the swamp under cover of the hill, and were soon exchanging shots with the enemy. The line was halted and reformed after crossing the swamp under cover of the hill, the crest of which was held by the enemy. Were then moved a short distance by the right flank, when the order “forward” was given. The men reserved their fire with noteworthy coolness until we were within a few rods of the enemy, who were formed in two lines of battle on the crest of the hill. They then opened with rapid volleys, advancing all the while with a yell. The enemy, unable to withstand our fire, gave back slowly at first, and soon disappeared from our front, leaving several prisoners and a caisson in our hands. I now found that we were entirely unsupported on either flank, and was about to take measures to connect with the Second Brigade, which had been on our left, when I noticed what seemed to be a heavy column of the enemy moving by the flank around our left. I hastened to that part of the line and caused it to be thrown back, after which a few well directed volleys drove them out of sight again. At this juncture of affairs it was discovered that the enemy had moved a column through a ravine, which served to partly conceal the movement, around our right and about half the length of the regiment in our rear. We had barely time to face about when they charged us, and a desperate

hand-to-hand fight with swords, pistols, and bayonets ensued. Several men were wounded with the bayonet. We did not give them an inch of ground and they were finally forced back into the ravine, where we swept the whole length of their line with such a terrible raking fire that they were unable to reply, and soon gave token of surrender. We accordingly ceased firing, when they, opened fire on us, wounding Adjutant Bradley and some others. We immediately opened again with redoubled energy, and in a few moments they surrendered in earnest. More than 390 were taken and sent to the rear.

General Custis Lee, who commanded their line, surrendered and gave up his sword to Private David D. White, of Company E; and Private Charles A. Taggart, of Company B, captured their battle-flag. Corpl. Richard Welch, of Company E, was overpowered by numbers and taken prisoner in a desperate attempt to capture to capture a battle-flag in advance of our line. He was afterward retaken.

Instances of personal gallantry were too numerous to mention. Captain George H. Hyde and Captain George B. Chandley were particularly conspicuous in repelling the enemy’s assault, and Adjutant Bradley and Lieutenant Morrill again distinguished themselves by their determined bravery and coolness. First Sergt. E. P. Cowles, Company D, cheered on the men while lying under a tree with a severe wound through the body.

Over eighty rebel dead were afterward counted in the ravine I have mentioned.

After the severest fighting was over the One hundred and twenty-first New York formed with their colors and a few men on our right.

In conclusion allow me to say that it is a settled conviction of all engaged that had we not been armed with the Spencer rifled we should not have been able to maintain our position, but, on the other hand, all would have bene destroyed or captured. There were a few exceptions to the general good behavior of the regiment, all of which were among the enlisted men, and it is intention that they be brought to trial.

Our casualties in this engagement were 8 killed and 3 officers and 28 wounded.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. HOPKINS,
Captain, Commanding Thirty-seventh Massachusetts Volunteers.

Captain T. G. COLT,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Brigade.

HDQRS. THIRTY-SEVENTH MASSACHUSETTS VOLUNTEERS,
April 16, 1865.

SIR: I respectfully request that the following may be appended to my report of the part taken by this regiment in the late campaign, which in the haste of preparation I unintentionally omitted:

Captain C. L. Edwards, who had the special supervision of the right wing during both battles, showed himself cool, capable, and brave. Throughout both engagements Chaplain F. C. Morse, by his continual and immediate presence with the regiment, even when under the hottest fire, rendered the most important services to our wounded. After Adjutant Bradley was wounded I directed Second Lieutenant Nichols to act in his place, and the performed the duties of the position during the remainder of the fight most gallantly and acceptably. I also

desire to mention particularly First Lieutenant Vincent, who, always cool, brave, and prompt, has rendered most valuable services from the commencement of the campaign in whatever position placed. I also desire to recommend Color-Sergt. E. D. Hooker for a medal and promotion at the first opportunity for his invariable gallantry and unflinching courage. Sergeant (now first sergeant) Shaw, of Company D, also merits particular mention for good conduct throughout, and particularly at the battle of Sailor’s Creek.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. HOPKINS,
Captain, Commanding Thirty-seventh Massachusetts Volunteers.

Captain T. G. COLT,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Brigade.

HDQRS. THIRTY-SEVENTH MASSACHUSETTS VOLUNTEERS,
March [April] 7, 1865.

SIR: I have the honor to state that there were 3 officers and 28 men wounded and 8 men killed in the engagement of yesterday. The officers were Captain Walter B. Smith, First Lieutenant and Adjt. John S. Bradley, and Second Lieutenant Harrie A. Cushman. There were 360 officers and men, and General C. Lee, captured by my command. General Lee was captured by Private D. D. White, Company E, of this regiment, and he formally surrendered his sword to Lieutenant W. C. Morrill, of this regiment, who now wears it. At least one battle-flag was captured by the Thirty-seventh Regiment, and one other is claimed, although the capture of it is claimed by another command.

Very respectfully,

A. HOPKINS,
Captain, Commanding Regiment.

Captain T. G. COLT,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Brigade.

Source:

  1. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XLVI, Part 1 (Serial Number 95), pp. 945-948

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