Number 55. Appomattox Reports of Colonel William A. Olmsted, Fifty-ninth New York Infantry, commanding First Brigade

   

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in Appomattox Campaign Reports (95)

No. 55. Reports of Colonel William A. Olmsted, Fifty-ninth New York Infantry, commanding First Brigade.1

HEADQUARTERS FIRST BRIGADE,
April 10, 1865.

SIR: In compliance with orders received from headquarters Second Division, Second Army Corps, General Hays commanding, I moved the brigade, following the Second Brigade, and moved from camp by the left flank, down the Vaughan road, through the picket-line, over Hatcher’s Run. A line of battle was formed by the Third and Second Brigades, leaving this brigade in reserve. The Seventh Michigan was temporarily detached to the Third Brigade. At 2 p. m. I was ordered to make a reconnaissance toward Dabney’s Mill and capture a fort supposed to be there – the Nineteenth Maine, commanded by Colonel Starbird, supported by the Fifty-ninth New York Veteran Volunteers, commanded by Captain Ludgate, and the One hundred and fifty-second New York Volunteers, commanded by Major Curtiss. We advanced and took Dabney’s Mill. The brigade was then advance to the old line of the enemy’s breast-works and bivouacked for the night. March 30, at 7 a. m. the command, with the rest of the division, advanced and carried the enemy’s works at Hatcher’s Run and at the Crow house; took up our position on the left of the Second Brigade and relieved Pierce’s brigade, Third Division; threw out the Nineteenth Maine as skirmishers, supported by the One hundred and eighty and eighty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers and Thirty-sixth Wisconsin Volunteers, to find out the position of the enemy’s works in our front. The One hundred and fifty-second New York was sent to support the Third Brigade on their left. The brigade advanced for about three quarters of a mile through heavy slashing of woods; found the enemy in position, with a fort in supporting range; this was mounted with one gun with works forming the angle over the extreme right of the main line of works of the enemy running from Petersburg. March 31, remained in same position, and at 4 p. m. we marched to the left and reported to Third Division, General Mott commanding; deployed the brigade in a thin line to occupy the works of Pierce’s brigade.

April 1, at 6 a. m. reported back to General Hays and occupied the old line of works we left when we marched to report to General Mott. At 2 p. m. advanced the brigade and threw up strong line of works, so as to connect with Second Brigade and it with Twenty-fourth Corps. Received orders at 11 p. m. to advance a strong skirmish line, with supports, and attack the enemy’s works in our front. April 2, at 6 a. m. advanced the Seventh Michigan (without knapsacks, by order of Captain Doten, division staff) and about twenty men of Firsty Minnesota, with telescopic rifles, to attack the fort. The Nineteenth Massachusetts Volunteers was sent out as reserve. At 8 a. m. Lieutenant-Colonel La Point reported that he captured the fort, also the one in the rear, and kept advancing by the left Seventh Michigan and Nineteenth Massachusetts as they were moving to the left, and were not aware that my brigade had captured them until Brevet Brigadier-General McAllister came out and found them in our hands. We captured 400 prisoners and turned them over to the division provost guard. At 8 a. m. the brigade marched by the left flank, in connection with Second Brigade, down the Vaughan road to Burgess’ Mill; then marched up the Boydton plank road to within one mile and a half of Petersburg; crossed over and marched west from Petersburg on Cox’s road to the house of Widow Kidd. Bivouacked for the night. April 3, moved back over the Cox road, and struck the Namozine road; moved in a southwestern direction. Bivouacked at 9 p. m. on the farm of a Mrs. Burke.

April 4 and 5, we marched to Amelia Station, on Danville road. April 6, General Hays ordered the Seventh Michigan to advance as skirmishers; the brigade followed the division column. General Hays was relieved from command and General Smyth assumed command. Shortly afterward Major-General Barlow, having been assigned to the command, ordered the brigade to move; marched in column by ranks of fours in support of Third Brigade, advancing in battalion columns of fours. At Amelia Springs, by order of General Barlow, detailed the One hundred and eighty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers to relieve a brigade of First Division, and remain until further orders. The Fifty-ninth New York Veteran Volunteers, commanded by Captain Ludgate, was thrown out as skirmishers to Third Brigade, at Perkinson’s Saw mill, and captured a rebel wagon train.

April 7, advanced with the brigade, my brigade marching in column on the right flank of the road; arrived near High Bridge, all on Danville road; deployed the Nineteenth Maine; they advanced, and afterward moved to the right and saved the High Bridge, also a smaller bridge for crossing below the bridge; formed line of battle on left of railroad and advanced the Seventh Michigan and Fifty-ninth New York Veteran Volunteers as skirmishers and flankers. Just as the brigade moved I was ordered to move by the right flank, cross the railroad, and march in column in rear of Second Brigade to support Smyth. Advanced about two miles when we met the enemy’s the skirmish line moved promptly in advance to within rifle range of Farmville, when part of the skirmish line was captured. After the position was carried was ordered to advance down the railroad to Farmville; after the men had realed for dinner took the advance and moved to the right, and

formed line of battle on the right of First Division; at sundown changed front and formed line facing the enemy. April 8, moved in column by fours, marching them through heavy woods on right of road. April 9, marched in column of fours down Lynchburg road, and participated in the grand and glorious surrender of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to the Army of the Potomac; went into camp, where we now remain.

The following is a correct list of casualties, on the days they occurred.*

April 9, all the prisoners captured on the 7th were recaptured and reported to their regiments, and are now doing duty.

The brigade captured 3 guns (12-pounders, light) at Crow’s house, and 18 of all calibers at High Bridge, and about 1,000 prisoners in all.

Respectfully submitted.

WILLIAM A. OLMSTED,
Colonel Fifty-ninth New York Veteran Vols., Commanding Brigade.

In concluding my report I wish to call the attention of the major-general commanding the division to the promptness of the commanding officers of regiments in this brigade in promptly obeying each and every order given, and to all officers and men for their steadiness on the march and earnestness to do their every duty under all circumstances.

The following are the officer who commanded their regiments during the whole campaign from March 29, 1865, to April 9, 1865, inclusive: Colonel I. W. Starbird, commanding Nineteenth Maine Volunteers; Colonel Stover, commanding One hundred and eighty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers; Lieutenant-Colonel Warner, commanding Thirty-sixth Wisconsin Volunteers; Lieutenant-Colonel Curtis, commanding Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteers; Lieutenant-Colonel La Point, commanding Seventh Michigan Veteran Volunteers; Major Curtiss, commanding One hundred and eighty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteer; Lieutenant-Colonel Warner, commanding Thirty-sixth Wisconsin Volunteers; Lieutenant-Colonel Curtis, commanding Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteers; Lieutenant-Colonel La Point, commanding Seventh Michigan Veteran Volunteers; Major Curtiss, commanding One hundred and fifty-second New York Volunteers; Captain William Ludgate, commanding Fifty-ninth New York Veteran Volunteers; Captain Palmer, commanding Nineteenth Massachusetts Volunteers; Captain F. Houston, commanding First Minnesota Volunteers.

To my staff I am indebted for their usefulness in doing and exposing themselves under all circumstances, and, if brevet rank is to be given, would recommend Captain O. R. Small, Nineteenth Maine, acting assistant adjutant-general, to be major by brevet; Captain A. B. Holmes, Twentieth Massachusetts, acting assistant inspector-general, to be major by brevet; First Lieutenant and Adjt. George Matthews, Fifty-ninth New York Veteran Volunteers, aide-de-camp, to be captain by brevet; First Lieutenant Aldrich Tennant, Seventh Michigan Volunteers, to be captain by brevet; Second Lieutenant William H. Tripp, aide-de-camp, to be captain by brevet.

I would also call the attention of the general commanding the division that Captain Augustus Hubbell, acting commissary of subsistence, was up to the front each day, and attended to his duties promptly and well; also Surg. S. H. Plumb, Fifty-ninth New York Veteran Volunteers, surgeon in charge of the brigade, was with the head of the column and with the brigade in each position it occupied.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

WILLIAM A. OLMSTED,
Colonel Fifty-ninth New York Veteran Vols., Commanding Brigade.

Major JOHN M. NORVELL,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Div., Second Army Corps.

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*Embodied in table, p. 583.

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HDQRS. FIRST BRIG., SECOND DIV., SECOND ARMY CORPS,
April 26, 1865.

MAJOR: In compliance with circular, Second Division, Second Army Corps, to forward a report of the operations of this brigade from March 29, 1865, to April 6, 1865, inclusive, I do respectfully report:

By a preparatory order to be in readiness to move had the command under arms and in order for the orders of the commanding officer of the division, Brigadier-General Hays, at 6.30 a. m. March 29, 1865. By an order from General Hays detailed the Seventh Michigan Veteran Volunteers to report to General Smyth, commanding the Third Brigade. We were ordered to move by the left flank and follow the Second Brigade (at 7 a. m.), Second Division, Second Army Corps. We crossed over Hatcher’s Run, following down the Vaughan road; we were halted and formed in reserve to the Second and Third Brigades, forming the first line. On moving to position I was ordered to support my rear and right; did so by having the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteers deployed for that purpose. I (by order of General Hays) advanced the Fifty-ninth New York Veteran Volunteers to skirmish the front of our line. Shortly afterward I was ordered to remove them; shortly thereafter I was ordered to make a reconnaissance toward Dabney’s Mill and capture a supposed work there held by the enemy. I ordered the Nineteenth Maine, supported by the Fifty-ninth New York Veteran Volunteers (Captain Ludgate) and One hundred and fifty-second New York Volunteers, to make the reconnaissance. Shortly after, in riding down, found that we has occupied Dabney;s Mill, and so reported to Major Norvell, assistant adjutant-general, Second Division, Second Army Corps. The brigade advanced to Dabney’s Mill about 5 p. m. and bivouacked.

March 30, 1865, with the balance of the division advanced to Crow house, on Hatcher’s Run; took up our position on crest of hill on left of Second Brigade, Second Division, Second Army Corps. Made a reconnaissance to the front to ascertain strength of position and number of guns in a fort on extreme right of enemy’s line of works running from Petersburg. Advanced the Nineteenth maine, supported by Thirty-sixth Wisconsin and One hundred and eighty-fourth Pennsylvania, with the First Minnesota on the right of slashing in front of crow house, found the fort of contain two brass pieces, with a fort in rear mounting one gun, and so reported. March 31, reported to Third Division, they having moved to the left.

April 1, reported back to Second Division at 6 a. m.; resumed old line formerly occupied; advanced the brigade about 300 yards and threw up breast-works, connecting with the Second Brigade, and it with the Twenty-fourth Corps. April 2, I advanced the Seventh Michigan, with twenty or twenty-five sharpshooters, supported by the Nineteenth Massachusetts, to assault the work and capture it. The assault commenced about 6 a. m., and at about 7.30 or 8 a. m. Lieutenant-Colonel La Point, Seventh Michigan, reported to me that he had captured the fort, and I reported to General Hays at Crow’s house. The brigade was advanced to the line of enemy’s works at 9 a. m.; moved by left flank and moved to Boydton plank road to Burgess’ Mill; then up Boydton plank road to and near Mr. Cogswell’s house, on Cox’s road; moved down Cox’s road, crossing railroad at Sutherland’s Station; threw out skirmishers, and proceeded until we menthe First Division skirmishers, and proceeded until we met the First Division skirmishers, where we halted over near a Mrs. Kidd’s house, and bivouacked. April 3, marched back to Cogswell’s house; after resting

for about two hours resumed march again down Cox’s road; advanced down Namozine road, and bivouacked on a farm of a Mrs. Burke. April 4 and 5, on march; arrived on the afternoon of the 5th at Amelia Station. April 6, was ordered to prepare to attack the enemy. Soon afterward Brigadier-General Hays was relieved and Brigadier-General Smyth assumed command; shortly afterward Brevet Major-General Barlow took command.

The regiments which took a prominent part in the capture of the fort mounting two brass pieces, with one in rear mounting one gun, on April 2, 1865, was the Seventh Michigan, Colonel La Point, Nineteenth Massachusetts, commanded by Captain Palmer,and Fist Minnesota, all sharpshooters. Sergeant Warren, of the Seventh Michigan, was amongst the fist to enter the fort, and shot a rebel sharpshooter dead for not surrendering. Lieutenant-Colonel [La Point?] on entering the second fort (he was the first one to enter it) changed the gun so as to fire at the rebels as they were retreating.

Respectfully submitted.

WILLIAM A. OLMSTED,

Colonel Fifty-ninth New York Vet. Vols., Commanding Brigade.

Major J. M. NORVELL,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Division.

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. 759-763

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