Number 19. Appomattox Reports of Bvt. Brigadier General Henry L. Abbot, First Connecticut Heavy Artillery, commanding Siege Train, of operations April 1-May 31

   

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No. 19. Reports of Bvt. Brigadier General Henry L. Abbot, First Connecticut Heavy Artillery, commanding Siege Train, of operations April 1-May 31.1

RICHMOND, VA.,
June 3, 1865.

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following personal report and report of operations for the month of April, 1865:

The following changes occurred in my command: On April 3 the Ninth Corps moved forward, leaving my command entirely under General Hartsuff for the time. On April 23 Companies A and H, Thirteenth New York Artillery, were relieved from duty with me and ordered to rejoin their regiment. Otherwise everything remained as heretofore reported.

My artillery was hotly engaged in the battles resulting in the capture of Petersburg, and in the demonstration made to prevent General Mahone from leaving the Bermuda Hundred line, firing 5,560 rounds during April 1 and 2. One hundred wagons were constantly employed in hauling ammunition. In addition to these usual duties of artillery, a detachment of 100 men and 3 officers, commanded by First Lieutenant-Rogers, all of First Connecticut Artillery, accompanied the assaulting column, entered the rebel works near Fort Mahone with the very advance, and served six pieces of captured artillery, with the greatest gallantry, for twenty-four hours, when the rebels evacuated the city. This party was armed with their muskets, and carried lanyards, friction primers, fuses, and other small articles, the want of which always delays the opening of fire with captured guns for a few invaluable moments. This clothing battle of the campaign for us was thus marked by a new and brilliant service.

Immediately after the evacuation prompt steps were taken to remove my own and the captured artillery. By the night of April 8 all guns, removed. The guns were the following: 49 of my own train in front of Petersburg, 30 belonging to the rebel land batteries there, and 22 from their Appomattox water batteries; also 4 from their line in front of Bermuda Hundred. By the end of the month 11 more from near Bermuda Hundred front and 34 from the land batteries near Fort Harrison had also been removed, together with about 50 of my own train form this part of the line. Everything was afloat and much ordnance had been sent to Old Point and Washington. Thus the total number of guns, &c., shipped during the month was about 200 by my command alone.

I have been much interested to see the devices used in different parts of the rebel line to escape the effect of the artillery fire. Thus, near Hare’s Hill, on the Petersburg front, where I had concentrated a very heavy mortar fire, their line was a mere labyrinth of trench, with bomb-proof cove in every available spot. This was often made of railroad iron, covered by about three feet or dirt, the rails being taken from the iron, covered by about three feet of dirt, the rails usual taken form the Suffolk road in the vicinity. They had also made splinter-proofs, at about fifty yards intervals, by laying the rails form the cost line tot he rear traverses, and putting dirt on top, the cover being about six feet wide at the crest line. This was evidently used by the men on duty to avoid fragments. This part of their line was not well defended by obstructions, a fault which could not be found with that in front of

Bermuda Hundred, where I counted the following, going outward from the parapet; First fraise; second, ditch; third, abatis; fourth, palisading; fifth, chevaux-de-firse; sixth, after interval of 150 yards, abatis; seventh, after interval of 400 yards, an entrenched picket line, with abatis in front. In this vicinity they had been exposed to much shelling form guns, and had resorted to the following devise: A continuous spinter-proof wa made in the breast-height revetment-top two feet above banquette tread, bottom one foot below, width four feet. This was to every two yards of crest. Here, too, I noticed a strange kind of mantles, of wood, swung by an arrangement like the usual well-curb. It was evidently aa very poor device. They often used logs, looped at three feet intervals, on top of the parapet to cover the heads of the infantry. But as these and many other odd arrangements will doubt-less be fully reported by the officers engaged in surveying the lines, I will not cumber this paper with them.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

HENRY L. ABBOT,
Captain of Engineers, Brevet Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

Brigadier General RICHARD DELAFIELD,
Chief Engineer U. S. Army.

RICHMOND,
June 4, 1865.

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following as my personal report and report of operations for the month of May, 1865:

The following changes have occurred in my command: On May 1 Companies E and M, Third Pennsylvania Artillery, were relieved from my command, and about May 15 the Seventh New York Independent Battery, thus leaving me my regiment and the Third Connecticut Battery. On May 4, by Special Orders, Numbers 3, headquarters Military Division of the James, my regiment was transferred from Army of the Potomac to Army of the James. On May 6, by General Orders, Numbers 54, headquarters Department of Virginia, I was appointed chief of artillery of the department, and my siege artillery brigade ordered to report directs to headquarters, and not to General Hartsuff as heretofore. (Copy of this order inclosed.) On May 20 I was detailed by of an examining board for colonels and staff officers. (Copy of this order inclosed.*)

I have retained command of my regiment and brigade during the month. The latter has been engaged in removing the heavy water bearing guns from the rebel James River batteries. I have prevailed series of views of these batteries, with a view of preserving an invaluable record of their wonderful completeness. General Michie may take a few sets, but I think the Department should order several more. I will vouch for their excellence and importance.

The only matter of professional interest brought to my notice has been the wreck of one of the rebel iron-clad rams; this vessel was blown up near Fort Drewry. The force of the explosion was terrific;

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* See Part III.

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it threw a mass of timber and iron belonging to the caseate and weithting, according to as close a calculation as I cared to make, about 50,000 pounds, from the river over a bluff about twenty feet high to a distance of about 100 yards; it threw bars of iron, eight inches by two inches by ten feet, over half a mile. The caseate was plated with four plates, each two inches thick by eight inches broad, of rolled iron, and backed by a solid mass of timber. These sides sloped at angles of 45 degrees, and yet the rebels admit that a single 15-inch shot did them great damage.

My address continues, “First Connecticut Artillery, City Point, Va.:” and I would earnestly request that the name of the regiment may be always added; it has been dropped of late, and my letters are delayed, in consequence.

I am, general, respectfully, your obedient servant,

HENRY L. ABBOT,
Bvt. Brigadier General of Vols., Captain of Engineers, U. S. Army.

Brigadier General RICHARD DELAFIELD,
Chief Engineer U. S. Army.

[Inclosure.]

GENERAL ORDERS, No. 54.
HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA, ARMY OF THE JAMES,
Richmond, Va., May 6, 1865.

I. Bvt. Brigadier General H. L. Abbot is hereby announced as chief artillery of the Department of Virginia, and will report in person to the commanding general for instruction.

II. General Abbot will continue in command of his brigade and of the siege artillery train, with headquarters at Richmond, and will make all reports and returns direct to these headquarters.

III. General Abbot’s brigade will be assigned to the occupation of such heavy gun batteries around Richmond as may require garrisons.

By command of Major-General Ord:

ED. W. SMITH,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

HEADQUARTERS SIEGE ARTILLERY,
Broadway Landing, Va., April 14, 1865.

GENERAL: I inclose a list of my siege batteries on the front of the Ninth Corps during the battle of April 2. They were commanded by Major George Ager, First Connecticut Artillery, and were served entirely by companies of that regiment. A detachment of 4 commissioned officers and 100 men, under command of First Lieutenant William H. Rogers, First Connecticut Artillery, accompanied the assaulting column and served captured guns during the engagement.

The following is a list of ammunition expended:

The following is a complete list of captured guns and mortars, excepting the field removed under your orders. All siege and sea-coast guns have been removed under mine, and to my deport, as arranged between us; also all siege ammunition, &c., and all the ordnance from the Appomattoz batteries, including Clifton:

I will see General Barnard to-day about having the lines surveyed; he is making arrangements for so doing, I understand.

I am, general, your obedient servant,

HENRY L. ABBOT,
Brevet Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding.

Bvt. Brigadier General J. C. TIDBALL,
Chief of Artillery, Ninth Corps.

HEADQUARTERS SIEGE TRAINS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Broadway, Va., April 21, 1865.

GENERAL: In accordance with Special Orders, Numbers 94, headquarters Army of the Potomac, just received, I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my command from 29th ultimo to 9th instant:

On 29th ultimo I received an order from yourself directing me during your absence to report to Major-General Parke, commanding Ninth Corps and our lines near Petersburg. Agreeably to my request he directed me to report to Bvt. Brigadier J. C. Tidball, his chief of artillery, and the operations of my command, or rather that portion of it on the Petersburg front, were, up to the evacuation, conducted under his orders.

At about 10 p. m. of that date the enemy threw up a rocket and fired a signal gun, and opened along his entire line on our Petersburg front. We replied, and a furious cannonade, with musketry fire in addition, continued for about two hours. The following is a list of my expenditures:

On 30th ultimo all was quiet. On 31st ultimo I placed two 4 1\2-inch ordnance guns in Fort Dais, and substituted four 30-pounder Parrots for the four 4 1\2-inch ordnance gun in Fort Avery. This change was made because the poor ammunition (Schenkl) now issued for the 4 1\2-inch guns is dangerous to fire at long ranges over out troops.

On April 1 I was ordered by Major-General Hartsuff to open fire on the Bermuda front, with a view by Major-General Hartsuff to open fire on the Bermuda front, with a view to develop nay movements of the enemy. None had occurred. This firing was continued at intervals, with the same object, up to the evacuation on the night of the 3rd [2nd] instant.

The following is the record of firing:

On April 2 the assault by the Ninth Corps was made upon the enemy’s line at Petersburg. The following is a list of my guns and mortars in position, all of which were actively engaged in supporting our columns or in annoying the enemy in his offensive returns. During the night the bridges across the Appomattox River were shelled:

The following is a list of ammunition expended during the day and night. At noon I applied for and obtained form the depot quartermaster at City Point an extra train of fifty wagons, in addition to my usual train of the same number, to supply these unusual demands. They were busy all night:

In accordance with instructions from General Tidbal, the following detail was made from the First Connecticut Artillery for special service with the assaulting column: First Lieutenant W. H. rogers, Second Lieuts. C. W. Smith, G. H. Couch, and G. Reynolds, with 25 enlisted men from Company E, 25 from Company I, 10 from Company K, 20 from

Company L, and 29 from Company M, making a total of 4 officers and 100 enlisted men, all under command of Lieutenant Rogers. they were divided into three platoons, each commanded by a second lieutenant. Each platoon was divided into three gun detachments were armed with their muskets and provided with lanyards, primers, fuzes, priming wires, &c., necessary to the proper serving of captured artillery. This command joined the assaulting command near Battery Numbers 20, and entered, among the first, the enemy’s works in front. They immediately began to serve four captured light 12-pounder guns upon the retreating masses of the enemy. Two more light 12-pounders were moved by them across the work, under a heavy fire, and within half an hour were opened also upon the enemy. These six guns were served most gallantly all day and during the night. About 400 rounds, captured with the pieces, were expended, and a like amount, in addition, which was carried by hand from our lines. The men not required to serve the pieces used their muskets effectively, expending all their own ammunition and much more taken from the prisoners and the dead and wounded. They captured about fifteen prisoners in the different assaults, and turned them over to be sent to the rear. Too much commendation cannot be given to Lieutenant Rogers and to his officers and men for their noble conduct, which contributed greatly to the repulse of the many gallant assaults made by the enemy to retake the captured works. Among the enlisted men Lieutenant Rogers especially names Corpl. W. D. Hogan, of Company K, as highly meritorious.

All the operations on the Petersburg front were conducted under the immediate command of Major George Ager, First Connecticut Artillery, and he well maintained his high reputation for intelligence, gallantry, and professional skill. The fire of Captain Faxon from Fort Avery, of Lieutenant Patterson from Fort Morton, and of Lieutenant Malony from Fort Davis, I noticed as being especially effective and well directed. To Captain S. P. Hatfield, First Connecticut Artillery, my ordnance officer, great credit is due for good judgment and energy in directing his department, which the large and sudden demands form all parts of the line, and the unexpected removal of the telegraph office from the depot, rendered a matter of serious difficultly. Indeed, the conduct of the entire command was all that could be desired.

Before daylight on April 3 the enemy evacuated Petersburg. Between that date and April 9 my command was busily engaged in removing the ordnance form our own batteries, and from the enemy’s lines, to my depot at Broadway Landing for shipment. The following exhibits what was accomplished:

All my guns and mortars on the Petersburg front, heretofore named, were removed, with all their ammunition and implements; also the following captured ordnance,e with ammunition complete. Except the light guns removed by General Tidball, this list includes all that was left on the Ninth Corps front and in the various batteries on the Appomattox River; also along the line of water batteries on the west bank of Fort Drewry. There are still in position between Howlett Battery and Fort Drewry forty-two sea-coast guns and mortars of very heavy caliber, which I shall remove as soon as possible. On April 8 I established a branch depot near Chaffin’s Bluff, on James River, placing Major Brooker, First Connecticut Artillery, in command, with three companies of that regiment. He will collect the large supplies of ordnance

and ordnance stores in the water batteries on the east side of James River, which are not included in the number above named:

My command has lost 3 enlisted men killed and 11 wounded during the period in question. It has taken 17 prisoners of war and 44 rebel deserters. Private G. E. McDonald,* Company L, First Connecticut Artillery, took a rebel battle-flag during the recapture of Battery Numbers 12, on March 25, but did not report it to my headquarters until the 31st; I then reported it by telegram to Major-General Parke. It was, however, captured when my command was under your personal orders, and, I think, should be borne on your return.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

HENRY L. ABBOT,
Brevet Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding.

Bvt. Major General HENRY J. HUNT,
Chief of Artillery, Army of the Potomac.

HEADQUARTERS SIEGE ARTILLERY,
Broadway, Va., April 26, 1865.

GENERAL: The following is a statement of what my command has been (and now is) doing since the capture of the enemy’s position:

My guns have all been removed and shipped, except fourteen field guns which it is designed to leave for the present in the Bermuda Hundred lines and the armament of Fort Brady, on James River, viz, four 100-pounder guns and three 30-pounder guns, which we are now at work upon placing on shipboard. I have sent, or am sending as fast as possible, all my train to Washington Arsenal, except the follow-

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*Awarded a Medal of Honor.

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ing, which, as directed by you, I propose to keep afloat, viz: thirty 30-pounder Parrots, twenty 8-inch mortars, and thirty-seven Coehorn mortars, with 500 rounds complete; also the necessary gins, mortar wagons, &c. This will require about eight barges or schooners, if all kept afloat.

As reported in my letter of the 21 st instant I have removed sixty-seven rebel guns, carriages, ammunition, &c., complete from the lines south of James River, and have sent or am sending them to the Washington Arsenal as fast as possible.

The following is the disposition and present force of my command, which is all temporarily command of Major-General Hartsuff, commanding Petersburg, City Point, Bermuda hundred lines, &c., while the Siege Train is temporarily detached from the Army of Potomac, or, rather, is temporarily absent form it, for no order detaching it has been issued, nor do I suppose any such is intended: It consists of the thirteen companies constituting the Siege Train and of three additional companies belonging to the Army of the James. Its duties are the holding of the Bermuda Hundred lines, the removal of the heavy water batteries of the rebels on James River, and the patrolling of the country near the Richmond nd Petersburg Railroad. It is stationed a follows, or will be in a day or two, as soon as I can break up the depot at Broadway:One battalion on north side of James River, at Chaffin’s Bluff, removing rebel guns, four companies; one battalion near Howlett Battery, removing rebel guns, three companies; one battalion near Drewry’s Bluff, removing ruble guns, three companies; also two companies patrolling and picketing the railroad. My headquarters will be removed to Fort Drewry, on James River, on next Friday or Saturday. It is designed to keep the guns in this work (fifteen guns, chiefly columbiads) for the present. There are about forty very heavy guns, ammunition, &c., to be removed, which will certainly take six weeks.

If you think best, I can park my train near Fort Drewry, which you can easily reach by tug from City Point, as I am very desirous that you should inspect the rebel water batteries and ordnance before it is removed or disturbed; if not, I should like an order to proceed to your headquarters in person, as there are several points upon which I would like instructions. After this week my address will be, “Fort Drewry, through General Hartsuff, Petersburg,” at least until I can get my mail established through Richmond, where I shall have to draw supplies, I suppose.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

HENRY L. ABBOT,
Brevet Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding.

Bvt. Major General HENRY J. HUNT,
Chief of Artillery, Army of the Potomac.

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. 663-671

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