Number 91. Appomattox Reports of Bvt. Major General Romeyn B. Ayres, U. S. Army, commanding Second Division

   

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in Appomattox Campaign Reports (95)

No. 91. Reports of Bvt. Major General Romeyn B. Ayres, U. S. Army, commanding Second Division.1

HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
Camp near Appomattox Court-House, Va., April 13, 1865.

COLONEL: I have the honor to report that I was ordered to make a reconnaissance on the 30th ultimo of the country lying between the Boydton plank road on the east, the White Oak road on the north, and a road running from Dinwiddie northward to the White Oak on the west. In doing this I established a chain of pickets connecting with the main line on the right and extending westward to the vicinity of S. Dabney’s house. The morning of the 31st I was ordered to move my division in that direction. I took up a position in a field lying east of Dabney’s and extending to the White Oak road, posting the Second Brigade on the left and facing the Dabney place. Soon after I received from the corps commander an order, through Major E. B. Cope, aide-de-camp, to take the White Oak road and intrench a brigade upon it. I was furnished one brigade of the Third Division as support, which I posted across the field in the position occupied by the First Brigade before it moved forward. I ordered forward the First Brigade, supported on the right by the Third. As the troops arrived within about fifty yards of the White Oak road the enemy’s lines of battle rose up in the woods and moved forward across the road into the open. I saw at once that they had four or five to my one. The First Brigade was at once faced about (I presume by General Winthrop’s order) and marched back across the field in good order. I expected to form my lines along the southern line of the field and fight it out, but the supports could not be held.

This was partly due to the fact that the enemy sent a division past Dabney’s and attacked my left at the same time that the front attack was made. I then endeavored to form the troops along a ravine which ran north and south along the eastern edge of the field, but in this I also failed. The result was that the troops fell back to the position occupied the day before, behind the swamp, and where the First Division, with artillery, was in line of battle. My three brigade commanders deserve credit for extricating their little brigades from their difficult positions, threatened by overwhelming numbers. Bvt. Brigadier General A. W. Denison, commanding the Second Brigade, was wounded, but did not leave the field till he had formed his brigade on the left of the First Division, where it engaged the enemy. The Third Brigade was formed on the right and left and joined in the engagement. Later in the day the entire corps moved forward over the field on the White Oak road finding no obstacle but some of the enemy’s skirmishers, his main body having moved off.

For additional details I refer to the accompanying reports of brigade commanders. List of casualties accompany this.

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

R. B. AYRES,
Brevet Major-General, Commanding Division.

Colonel FRED. T. LOCKE,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters Fifth Army Corps.

HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS,
April 12, 1865.

COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this division on April 1, 1865:

The division was ordered to move down the Boydton pike during the night of March 31, and report to General Sheridan at Dinwiddie Court-House. Before arriving there it was met by a staff officer of General Sheridan with instructions to turn off on a road leading west into a road leading from Dinwiddie Court-House to the White Oak road, and thus come upon the left and rear of the enemy, who was facing General Sheridan’s command, near Dinwiddie. As we approached, just after daylight, the enemy hastily decamped. The cavalry pursued, and this corps, having united, followed northward about 2 p. m. Arriving near the White Oak road the enemy were found in line of battle, with breast-works along that road facing south. Our troops were formed in line of battle for the attack – two cavalry divisions on the left, my division on the left of the corps line, the Second and Third Brigades in two lines (the Second on the left), the First Brigade in support. Advancing through the woods into an open the skirmishers engaged those of the enemy, pushing them back. Soon after crossing the White Oak road, finding the enemy’s fire to come from the left, I changed front to the left by facing the Second Brigade to the left and filing it to the left. Not to lose time, I also threw the First Brigade into the front line, on the left of the Second. The Third Brigade, soon after engaging the enemy, finding its right flank in the air (I must confess that I experienced anxiety also on this account), portions of it were very unsteady, but subsequently moved up and bore their part in the action in a handsome manner. After this change of front the troops were pushed forward, and soon came upon the left flank of the enemy, which was thrown back at right angles with his main line and covered by a

strong breast-work, screened behind a dense undergrowth of pines and about 100 yards in length. This breast-works my troops charged and carried at the bayonet’s point, capturing in carrying it over 1,000 prisoners and several battle-flags. Halting there a short time by General Sheridan’s order, till it was apparent the enemy were giving way generally, I pushed forward rapidly, holding my men in hand and marching steadily in line of battle, the First Brigade leading. The pursuit was continued till dark, over some three miles, and till orders were received to halt. The division was then retired to camp near the Five Forks. It took in this battle some 2,000 prisoners and 8 battle-flags.

That distinguished soldier, Bvt. Brigadier General Fred. Winthrop, U. S. Volunteers, fell mortally wounded just as his brigade was gallantly charging the enemy’s breast-works, and in the moment of triumph freely laid down his life for his country. His dying thoughts were for his comrades, and his last anxious inquiries were concerning the fate of the day. Colonel R. N. Bowerman, Fourth Maryland Volunteers, was wounded while gallantly commanding the Second Brigade.

For further details, flags and prisoners captured, & c., I respectfully refer to the accompanying reports of brigade commanders.

At some opportune moment I will take pleasure in forwarding the names of those officers who, by their gallantry and soldierly conduct, have merited reward. I must again express my thanks to my staff for their gallantry and zeal on this as on all other occasions. Those with me were: Bvt. Colonel C. E. La Motte, Fourth Delaware Volunteers, division inspector; Bvt. Major W. W. Swan, U. S. Army, acting assistant adjutant-general; Captain W. I. Purnell, Eighth Maryland Volunteers, assistant commissary of musters; Captain Jesse D. Childs, First Maryland Volunteers, assistant provost-marshal; Bvt. Captain Robert P. Warren, One hundred and forty-sixth New York Volunteers, aide-de-camp; Bvt. Captain John J. Diehl, Fifteenth New York Heavy Volunteers, aide-de-camp.

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

R. B. AYRES,
Brevet Major-General, Commanding Division.

Colonel FRED. T. LOCKE,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters Fifth 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. 868-870

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