Number 25. Appomattox Reports of Bvt. Major General Nelson A. Miles, U. S. Army, commanding First Division

   

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in Appomattox Campaign Reports (95)

No. 25. Reports of Bvt. Maj. Gen. Nelson A. Miles, U. S. Army, commanding First Division.1

HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION, SECOND ARMY CORPS,
April 20, 1865.

COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this division during the late campaign:

March 29, at 6 a. m. left camp in breast-works near the Squirrel Level road, crossed Hatcher’s run at 8.30, marched toward Gravelly Run on

the Vaughan road, and formed line on the left of the Third Division, the left flank resting on the run. Scouting parties ere sent out at different points, who ascertained the position of the enemy’s skirmish line to be about three-quarters of a mile distant in my front. At 3.10 p. m. my division advanced in line of battle, through swamps and dense woods, about two miles, when, communication having been established with the Fifth Corps on my left, I halted at dark and bivouacked.

March 30, advanced at 6 a. m. in line of battle, as on the previous day, through an almost impassable country, and halted at 9 a. m. to reform my line along the Dabney’s Mill road. At 3 a. m. advanced to the road leading from the Crow house to the Boydton plank road, with my left resting at the latter and connecting with the Fifth Corps. The Second Brigade was sent to corduroy the Dabney’s Mill road, which, owing to the heavy rain, was in a very bad condition. Temporary works were thrown up and the command bivouacked for the night.

March 31, at 2.30 a. m. I received orders to relieve the line occupied by the Fifth Corps on my left as soon as I should be relieved by troops of the Third Division from the line I then held. At 5 a. m., therefore, I moved my command to the left, across the Boydton road, and occupied the breast-works of the Fifth Corps, the Third and Fourth Brigades being in the return line along the Boydton road. At 10.30 a. m. the troops of the Fifth Corps, thus relieved be me, passed through my line to my front and left, entered the woods, and soon became engaged with the enemy. The enemy apparently assumed the offensive and attacked the Fifth Corps, the flanks of both the contending parties being presented to me. They were covered, however, by Licking Run, upon which the enemy evidently relied for protection. The Fifth corps was being rapidly pressed back toward the Gravelly run bridge on the Boydton road. Large numbers of men of the Fifth Corps straggled back in disorder through the lines of the fourth brigade, and a guard from that brigade was deployed in rear of my position to stop them and turn them back. At about 12.30 p. m. I received orders from Major-General Humphreys to go to the relief of the Fifth Corps troops, then engaged. The Third and Fourth Brigades were immediately advanced in line of battle across the creek above mentioned, the Second Brigade in reserve, and attacked the enemy directly in flank and rear. His force was found to consist of three lines of battle. This attack, striking the enemy so suddenly and unexpectedly, completely routed them. They gave way in perfect confusion. The two brigades advanced steadily, sweeping down the entire front of the Fifth Corps, driving the enemy before them until 3.30 p. m., at which time the White Oak road was crossed by the left of the Fourth Brigade, and the enemy having taken to his entrenchments the pursuit was discontinued. In the beginning of the action, when the Third and Fourth Brigades attacked, I directed the Fifth New Hampshire Volunteers, of the first Brigade, to charge upon the enemy’s line of works, as I was convinced from observation, corroborated by reports of prisoners, that it was entirely unoccupied. Instead of carrying out the order the regiment oblique so far to the left that it struck the right of the Third Brigade, then engaged, and the opportunity was lost. The remainder of the First Brigade advanced immediately afterward and continued the line to the right and rear. At this time the Third Brigade was yet advancing, driving the enemy rapidly, capturing numerous prisoners, and in the One hundredth and eleventh New York Volunteers, a battle-flag. Their advance created a gap between their right and the left of the First Brigade, and the Second Brigade was therefore brought from its position

in reserve and placed in line to fail the vacancy. It was now found that the enemy, being driven by the Third and fourth Brigades, had retreated to their works and had reformed in them. The works were protected in front by an almost impassable slashing, and it was found impossible to take them with the force available. We were now in possession of the White Oak road, but in order to secure it had been obliged to move so far to the left that our right flank was entirely unprotected, and a movement to the right became necessary in order to connect the lines. I therefore moved the entire division by the right flank until a connection was made with General De Trobriands’ brigade, of the Third Division. The Fifth Corps then moved up, connected upon my left, and took possession of the White Oak road. Breast-works were thrown up and the command bivouacked.

April 1, at 3.30 a. m. the command moved back to the position on the Boydton road occupied the previous day by the Third and Fourth Brigades, the left extending toward Gravelly Run bridge. Remained in this position until about 5.30 p. m., when I received orders to advance again and occupy the White Oak road, which was done. Remained in this position until 11 p. m., frequent demonstrations being made upon the enemy’s line. At 11 o’clock the division marched, via White Oak road, to the vicinity of Five Forks, and reported for duty to Major-General Sheridan; bivouacked.

April 2, at 7.30 a. m. moved upon the White Oak road to the point left the previous night. The picket-line left here by me the night previous had in the meantime, by orders, fallen back. At 9 a. m. the enemy abandoned his works, and they were immediately occupied by my men. The pursuit of the enemy was at once commenced, and he was followed closely to a point near Sutherland’s Station, where he was found in position behind breast-works with artillery. The Second and Third Brigades were immediately ordered to charge the position, and they advanced promptly to the attack, by owing to the natural strength of the position and the difficult nature of the ground intervening the assault was unsuccessful. It was in this attack that Brevet Brigadier-General Madill, commanding Third Brigade, was wounded severely, while gallantly urging his men forward to the enemy’s works. At 12.30 p. m. a second assault was made by the Third Brigade, Brevet Brigadier-General MacDougall having been placed in command. The artillery of the division had at this time come up, and being placed in position assisted in the attack by a vigorous shelling of the enemy’s line. This attack was also repulsed, the enemy being able to concentrate his force opposite any threatened point. The brigade was withdrawn to its former position-a crest about 800 yards from that occupied by the enemy. I now determined to carry the position by an attack on the enemy’s flank. A strong skirmish line was pushed forward upon the extreme right flank of the enemy, overlapping it and threatening the railroad. Indeed, a portion of this skirmish line was on the railroad at 1.10 o’clock. The attention of the enemy being thus diverted from his left flank, the Fourth Brigade (Brevet Brigadier-General Ramsey) was moved rapidly around it through a ravine and wood, and massed in the woods without being discovered by the enemy. At 2.45 p. m. the brigade advanced at double quick, with a hearty cheer and in magnificent order, striking the enemy in flank, and sweeping rapidly down inside the breast-works, capturing a large number of prisoners and putting to precipitous flight the remainder. That portion of the enemy who escaped were driven to the woods near

the river, where they were picked up the next morning. Captain Clark’s battery (B), First New Jersey Artillery, rendered great assistance in this attack by keeping up a vigorous and well-directed fire upon the enemy. The division captured 600 prisoners, 1 battle-flag, and 2 pieces of artillery. As I was directed by General Sheridan to drive the enemy toward Petersburg, I advanced in that direction by the River and the South Side roads about two miles, when I was met by the Second Division, who were moving on the latter road in the opposite direction. I therefore returned to the vicinity of Sutherland’s Station toward evening, disposed my troops so as to hold the railroad, and bivouacked for the night.

April 3, marched from Sutherland’s Station, on the River and Namozine roads, to near Winticomack Creek, and bivouacked.

April 4, marched on Namozine road to Deep Creek, and bivouacked at 7 p. m. During the march of this day the Third Brigade was ordered back to assist in bringing up the trains, the roads being in very bad condition.

April 5, at 1 a. m. resumed the march, crossing Deep Creek at 6 a. m., and arrived at Jetersville about 3 p. m. Took up position west of the railroad and on the left of the corps, facing northward, and bivouacked.

April 6, marched northward toward Amelia Court-House at 5.30 a. m., preceded by a skirmish line connecting with the Second Division. When passing to the east of Amelia Springs some scouts discovered the enemy’s wagon train, accompanied by a column of infantry, moving rapidly to our left toward Deatonsville. This was at once reported and the direction of the column changed, the artillery at the same time keeping up a hot fire upon the enemy’s column and train. Their rear had passed before the division could be got across Flat Creek to attack them, although the Twenty-sixth Michigan Volunteers skirmishers effected a crossing at Amelia Springs in time to become engaged in a spirited skirmish. The pursuit of the enemy was continued all that day,t he troops moving in line of battle, over all kinds of ground, preceded by a long and heavy skirmish line, the line being always to on the right of the road. The skirmishers were almost constantly engaged with the rear guard of the enemy, but the great length of the line enabled us to expel them from all their positions by overlapping their flank. At one position taken up they were successfully charged by the Twenty-sixth Michigan and One hundred and fortieth Pennsylvania Volunteers, who captured 100 prisoners. Whenever it appeared probable that the enemy might check us, the skirmish line was re-enforced by a regiment habitually on the right. Proceeding in this manner we advanced rapidly in line about sixteen miles, being often in sight of the wagon train of the enemy, and capturing a great many prisoners. Upon arriving in the vicinity of Sailor’s Creek, at about sunset, the enemy were found strongly posted, on a commanding ridge of ground, covering the crossing of the creek, evidently determined to make a fight in order to gain time for the crossing of his train. I gave orders for the First Brigade (Colonel Scott) to take the position. The brigade advanced splendidly, charged with a cheer, and drove the enemy in perfect splendidly, charge with a cheer, and drove the enemy in perfect confusion into and across the creek, capturing 2 guns, 4 colors, his entire train of about 250 wagons, ambulances, &c., together with mules, horses, and all appurtenances, and a large number of prisoners. The Third Brigade (General MacDougall) followed closely on the right of the First, crossed the stream at once, drove the enemy from the other side, and possessed themselves of the crest. The First Brigade then

crossed and went into position on the other side also. The Fourth and Second Brigades were moved down to the bank of the creek without crossing, and at 8 p. m. the command bivouacked. The captures by the division on this day were 5 flags, 3 guns, the enemy’s train, and several hundred prisoners.

April 7, at 6 a. m. marched from Sailor’s Creek to the Appomattox River, at High Bridge. On our arrival at that point the skirmishers of the Second Division had crossed the river, but were being driven rapidly back outward the crossing by a heavy skirmish line of the enemy, which was advancing toward the river. I immediately deployed a strong skirmish line along the bank of the river to keep back that of the enemy and as soon as my artillery could get up directed it to open upon the enemy at once. the order was promptly obeyed, both the batteries (captain Clark’s and Captain Dakin’s) going quickly into position, and delivering a well-directed fire; the effect was visible immediately int he rapid falling back of the enemy. My division followed the Second across the river at about 9 a. m., and marched to a point near the intersection of the Farmville planed and the old stage roads, where the enemy was found in position behind breast-works. My division was placed in position under a severe fire of artillery from the enemy’s works, the skirmish lien being actively engaged. Careful observation induced the belief that we were opposite the extreme left flank of the enemy, and an extended skirmish line was therefore swung forward and to the left with a view to enveloping it. At the same time my division was moved to the right by the flank as far as the main road referred o, and preparations made for an attack. The Third Division kept up the connection by following the movement. the skirmish line swung forward until its truck that of the enemy, when three regiments of the First Brigade (the Eighty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, Fifth New Hampshire, and Second New York Heavy Artillery) were ordered to charge the left of the enemy’s line. The charge was gallantly made, but was unsuccessful owing to the difficult nature of the ground, which was broken by numerous small and sharp ravines, over which the men were unable to move in order. While the regiments were falling back the enemy advanced over their works in pursuit, but were quickly driven back. A picket-line was established, the Second Division moved up and extended my line to the right, and the command bivouacked.

April 8, marched at 6 a. m. through the enemy’s works (he having abandoned them during the night) to a point near Holliday Creek on the stage road, halting at 4 p. m. At 9 p. m. moved forward again about five miles and bivouacked. The negotiations of this day, by flag of truce, looking to the surrender of the rebel army, were carried on through the skirmish line of this division.

April 9, at 6 a. m. marched as on the day previous, preceded by a skirmish line. After advancing about six miles a flag of truce from the enemy was observed, and the command halted. A suspension of hostilities until 2 p. m. was ordered. At 2 p. m. the order had been given to advance, when I was directed to halt until further orders. Soon afterward the surrender of the rebel army announced.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

NELSON A. MILES,
Brevet Major-General, Commanding.

Lieutenant Colonel C. A. WHITTIER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Army Corps.

HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION, SECOND ARMY CORPS,
April 10, 1865.

COLONEL: I have the honor to report to capture by this division of 6 colors and 10 guns, viz: March 31, near White Oak road, 1 color; April 1, near Sutherland’s Station, 1 color and 2 guns; April 6, at captured train, 4 colors and 3 guns; April 7, on the march, 1 gun; April 9, near Appomattox Court-House, 3 guns.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

NELSON A. MILES,
Brevet Major-General, Commanding.

Lieutenant Colonel C. A. WHITTIER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Army 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. 709-714

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