No. 168. Report of Bvt. Brigadier General John I. Curtin, Forty-fifth Pennsylvania Infantry, commanding First Brigade.1
HDQRS. FIRST BRIG., SECOND DIV., NINTH ARMY CORPS,
Farmville, Va., April 13, 1865.
MAJOR: In compliance with orders from Bvt. Major General Potter, commanding Second Division, Ninth army Corps, four regiment of my brigade were massed in column of regiments in the following order to the left of Fort Sedgwick at 3 o’clock Sunday morning, 2nd instant: Thirty-ninth New Jersey Volunteers, Forty-eighth Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, Forty-fifth Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, and Fifty-eight Massachusetts Volunteers with orders to support the Second Brigade (General Griffin) in the assault on the enemy’s works, which was made at 4.30 a. m. The column moved up in the rear of the advance the right resting on the [Jerusalem] plank road, until reaching the picket-line, when, finding the Second Brigade had gained possession of the enemy’s works in their immediate front, I changed direction to the left charging Fort Mahone (enemy’s fort) to the left of the position now held by General Griffin. The advance regiment (Thirty-ninth Jersey Volunteers), breaking and tearing away the strong abatis and wading through mud and the deep ditch which surrounded the fort under very heavy fire if grape and musketry, gained possession of that very formidable work, taking a few prisoners and three guns.
The fort being isolated from the main works, open in the rear, and completely commanded from front and flanks, the advance was compelled to retire in some little confusion to the outer part, yet at the same time half the fort. The Forty-eighth Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, Forty-fifth Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, and Fifty- eighth Massachusetts Volunteers were then ordered forward, charging over and through the fort, attempting to gain possession of the enemy’s second line of the works, which charge was successful only so far as getting possession of the traverse and covered way leading to their main works. Holding all ground gained until finding any further attempts to to gain the second line, with the disorganized and confused state in which the regiment at the time unavoidably were, would only be attended with great loss and disaster, all that could not be sheltered inside the fort were ordered to retire to the outer side. The ground gained up to this time was held until about 10 a. m., when all inside the work were ordered to retire, as they were subject to be captured. The regiments now began reorganizing on the outer part of the fort, and all possible preparation being made to hold the fort, and did hold it, inflicting a severe fire, silencing the enemy’s guns, and preventing them from planting new batteries, which they repeatedly attempted until late in the day, when all but about fifty men were compelled to retire to the rear lines, in consequence of the troops in the works on my right being obliged to relinquish part of their advanced position, thereby giving the enemy a greater advantage of a flank and rear fire; a sufficient number, however, were so sheltered, and remained and held the fort for the time; they, too were finally overpowered, and had to retire or be taken, which fate a few (about ten in number) received. Another attempt was made to hold the fort, but failed owing to the fact that sufficient numbers could not exist in the work to resist the enemy’s repeated charges.
The four regiments comprising the charging column, from the time their advance commenced and until they reached the fort, were exposed to a very galling fire of artillery and musketry, particularly at the time that they were obliged to change direction, keeping well the line and regimental organizations.
In expressing my entire satisfaction of the gallant conduct of officers and men of the regiment engaged, I refrain from mentioning any one specially. I have to mention, and deeply, regret, the loss of two valuable officers, Colonel Goerge W. Gowan, Forty-eighth Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, and Bvt. Major P. E. Peckham, acting assistant adjutant general.
The Seventh Rhode Island Volunteers, Thirty-sixth Massachusetts Volunteers, Thirty-fifth Massachusetts Volunteers, and Fifty-first New York Veteran Volunteers although not in the charge, rendered good service in supplying ammunition to the troops in the fort.
The command was afterward reformed on the picket-line and remained through the night of the 2nd instant in support, and moved early in the morning of the 3rd instant after the retreating army of the enemy.
I have the honor to report the following number of casualties occurring in this command during the engagement of April 2, 1865, before Petersburg, Va.:
I have the honor to be, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JNO. I. CURTIN,
Bvt. Brigadier General U. S. Vols., Commanding 1st Brig., 2nd Div., 9th Army Corps.
Bvt. Major SAMUEL WRIGHT,
Asst. Adjt. General, Second Division, Ninth Army Corps.
*But see revised table, p. 589.
- 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. 1057-1058 ↩
Check out TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog for more great Civil War content!
What are your Top 10 Gettysburg Books? See what a panel of bloggers said recently.
Want to read some interesting Civil War content from amateurs and pros alike? Check out the Top 10 Civil War Blogs and Top 10 Civil War Blogs: 11-20.