Number 219. Appomattox Report of Major General John Gibbon, U. S. Army, commanding Twenty-fourth Army Corps

   

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in Appomattox Campaign Reports (95)

No. 219. Report of Major General John Gibbon, U. S. Army, commanding Twenty-fourth Army Corps.1

HEADQUARTERS TWENTY-FOURTH CORPS,
Richmond, Va., April 24, 1865.

COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this corps, commencing on the 27th of March and ending to-day:

On the night of 27th of March Foster’s and Turner’s divisions were withdrawn from the north side of the James River. The movement commenced at dark, Devens’ division being left in charge of the line of works. The troops marched all night and all the next day, getting into camp near Fort Siebert about sundown on the 28th, performing one of the most remarkable marches on record, with very few stragglers. On the 29th my troops up the position vacated by the Second Corps, the left resting on Hatcher’s Run near the Armstrong house. On the 30th Turner’s division was moved across Hatcher’s Run to take position on the right of the Second Corps, and the next day crossed to the north side of Hatcher’s Run, driving the enemy’s pickets into his works, capturing many of them and connecting with Foster, who also moved forward, capturing several hundred prisoners.

On the 1st of April a battery was put on Turner’s line, taking in reverse a portion of the enemy’s line on the south side of Hatcher’s Run and in front of the Second Corps. Every arrangement was made for an assault in the morning to co-operate with the Sixth and Ninth Corps on our right. Birney’s division, of the Twenty-fifth Corps, was placed under my orders on the 30th, and occupied a portion of our line.

At daylight on the 2nd all our preparations were made for assault, two brigades each of Turner’s Foster’s divisions being massed in rear of our line. At 6.50 a.m. an order was received from Major-General Ord directing me to send all my available force to the support of the Sixth Corps, which had broken through the enemy’s line near Fort Welch. I at once ordered the whole of Foster’s division and two of Turner’s brigades to move to the right, and almost immediately afterward Harris’ brigade, of Turner’s division, carried the enemy’s line in front of them, and, pushing forward Birney’s division, we occupied the enemy’s line and met the Sixth Corps coming down from the right, sweeping everything before them. Harris’ brigade was now pushed up toward Petersburg, followed by that portion of the Sixth Corps which had come down the line and by Birney’s division. On reaching the vicinity of Fort Welch, where the Sixth Corps had broken through, I found Foster already in line of battle perpendicular to the enemy’s old line and confronting two strong works. Forts Gregg and Baldwin, which the enemy had erected to protect his right of the town. Harris’ brigade was formed on Foster’s left, and as soon as they arrived Turner’s two other brigades were formed in rear of Foster. As the Sixth Corps came up it went into position, two divisions on my left and one on my right, and as soon as they reached within supporting distance Foster’s line was ordered to charge the works in its front. The troops moved steadily and rapidly forward, under a very heavy fire of both artillery and musketry, and gained Fort Gregg, to find it surrounded by a deep, wide ditch partially filled with water and flanked by a fire from both right and left. Turner’s two brigades were pushed rapidly up in support from the second line, whilst Harris at the same time rushed against Fort Baldwin. The enemy made a most desperate resistance, and it was not until Fort Gregg was almost entirely surrounded and our brave men had succeeded in climbing upon the parapet under a most murderous fire, that the place was finally taken by the last of several determined dashes with the bayonet, Harris and a portion of the First Division at the same time carrying Fort Baldwin. This assault, certainly one of the most desperate of the war, succeeded by the obstinate courage of our troops, but at a fearful cost. Fifty-five of the enemy’s dead were found inside Fort Gregg, whilst my own loss during the operations of the day, most of which occurred around these two forts, was 10 officers and 112 men killed and 27 officers and 565 men wounded. We captured 2 pieces of artillery, several colors, and about 300 prisoners.

On the 3rd the corps marched toward Burke’s Station, reaching that point, distance fifty-two miles, late on the night of the 5th, and at 11 a.m. the next day resumed the march toward Farmville to head off Lee’s forces, which were trying to get round left flank toward Danville. After marching eight or ten miles we came upon the enemy entrenched at Rice’s Station, and at once made preparations to attack him, but, before our troops could get into position and drive in the enemy’s picket night put an end to the operations, and when we moved forward at daylight the next morning the enemy had gone. We had, however, the satisfaction of knowing that our threatening position

in the vicinity of the Danville road prevented his making use of it, and being pursued toward Farmville he retreated across the Appomattox at that point, burning the bridges behind him.

At 5 a.m. on the 8th the corps started up the Lynchburg road after Sheridan’s cavalry and followed by the Fifth Corps. The troops, learning of the presence of the enemy before them and that the cavalry needed assistance, pushed forward with a will, marched until nearly 12 o’clock, dropped down alongside the road for a three hours’ sleep, and were again under way at 3, cheering at the sound of the locomotives captured by Sheridan. By General Ord’s direction I was to throw my force across the road leading from Appomattox Court-House to Lynchburg. As we approached the designated point the firing, which at first appeared to be merely that of a skirmish line, rapidly increased and neared the road upon which my troops were moving. Foster was moved up at a double-quick, formed across the road, and his line pushed forward at once with as much rapidity as was permissible by the retreating bodies of cavalry. In the meantime the firing seemed to gain so rapidly toward our right that I deemed it best to face Turner to the right and push him forward on Foster’s right, instead of throwing him on his left, as originally intended, to check the advance of the enemy. These maneuvers were rapidly performed, and as soon as our infantry opened fire the enemy fell back, and on our reaching the cleared ground in sight of the Court-House information was received that negotiations were going on for the surrender of Lee’s army and that hostilities had ceased.

From this time till the 17th I was engaged in receiving the surrender of Lee’s army and removing the public property to Farmville. On the 12th Mackenzie’s cavalry and Turner’s division were sent to take possession of Lynchburg, where a large quantity of public property was taken possession of and either used, removed, or destroyed. On the 17th the command started to return. It reached Burkeville on the 19th, left there on the 21st, and reached here to-day.

In all these operations it is a matter of pride and pleasure to refer to the conduct of my troops. Their behavior under fire was admirable, and their marching, both by night and day, drew forth praises from the highest sources. By their rapid marching they twice succeeded in throwing themselves across the path of Lee’s retreating forces, and by their firm stand there aided materially in the grand final result of the campaign.

I desire to call especial attention to the energy and zeal displayed by my division commanders, Bvt. Major General J. W. Turner, and Brigadier General R. S. Foster, who were untiring in their efforts and gallant in their conduct on the field. Their reports, together with that of Brigadier General Charles Devens, whose division remained on the north side of the James and was the first to enter the city of Richmond, are inclosed, and their recommendation for promotion cordially indorsed. The reports of the three battery commanders who accompanied my command are also inclosed. Captain Elder fired the last at the retreating cavalry near Appomattox Court-House.

I have the honor to be, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JOHN GIBBON,
Major-General of Volunteers, Commanding.

Bvt. Colonel ED. W. SMITH,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the James.

RECAPITULATION.

JOHN GIBBON,
Major-General of Volunteers, Commanding Corps.

ADDENDA.

GENERAL ORDERS, No. 41.,
HDQRS. TWENTY-FOURTH ARMY CORPS,
In the Field, Va., April 4, 1865.

With great satisfaction the major-general commanding congratulates his gallant command upon the successful operations of the past few days. The Twenty-fourth Army Corps has demonstrated that with a well organized, disciplined force, no military achievement is impossible. The marching has been superior to anything of the kind heretofore witnessed, and the desperate assault upon Fort Gregg, the last of the enemy’s strongholds around Petersburg, entitles the command to a place alongside their late gallant comrades of Fort Fisher. Your commander is proud of your.

By command of Major General John Gibbon:

EDWARD MOALE,
Lieutenant-Colonel and Assistant Adjutant-General.

HEADQUARTERS TWENTY-FOURTH CORPS,
Richmond, Va., June 2, 1865.

Brigadier General L. THOMAS,
Adjutant-General, U. S. Army, Washington:

GENERAL: I have the honor to recommend the following-named officers of my staff for brevet commissions:

Lieutenant Colonel A. B. Lawrence, chief quartermaster, to be brevet colonel for faithful services during the late campaign.

Major C. C. Abell, Tenth New York Heavy Artillery, chief of artillery, to be brevet lieutenant-colonel for gallant and distinguished services during the late campaign.

Bvt. Major T. E. Lord, Third New York Volunteers, to be brevet lieutenant-colonel for gallant and distinguished services during the late campaign .

Captain H. F. Gerrish, assistant quartermaster, to be brevet major for faithful services during the late campaign.

Captain D. P. Barnard, One hundred and thirty-ninth New York Volunteers, to be brevet major for gallant and distinguished services during the late campaign.

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* But see revised table, pp.594, 595.

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Captain C. W. Wells, One hundred and eighteenth New York Volunteers, to be brevet major for gallant and distinguished services during the late campaign.

First Lieutenant J. F. Streeter, Fortieth Massachusetts Volunteers, to be brevet captain for faithful services during the late campaign.

Captain H. A. Vezin, Fifth Pennsylvania Cavalry, to be brevet major for gallant and distinguished services during the late campaign.

Captain Charles E. Thomas, Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry, to be brevet major for gallant and distinguished services during the late campaign.

First Lieutenant Sheldon Leavitt, jr., Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry, to be brevet captain for gallant and distinguished services during the late campaign.

All to date from the 9th of April, 1865, the day of the surrender of Lee’s army .

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

JOHN GIBBON,
Major-General of Volunteers, Commanding Corps.

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. 1173-1177

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