Number 108. Siege of Petersburg Report of Bvt. Brigadier General James Gwyn, One hundred and eighteenth Pennsylvania Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations February 5-7

   

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in Siege of Petersburg Reports (95)

No. 108. Report of Bvt. Brigadier General James Gwyn, One hundred and eighteenth Pennsylvania Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations February 5-7.1

HDQRS. THIRD BRIGADE, SECOND DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS,
February 14, 1865.

MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of operations during the 5th, 6th, and 7th instant:

At 6.30 o’clock on the morning of the 5th of February my command moved, in accordance with circular from corps headquarters, of the 4th instant, left in front, in the following order: First, Two hundred and

tenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel William Sergeant commanding; second, Third Delaware Volunteers, Major James E. Baily commanding; third, One hundred and ninety-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, Captain P. L. Norton, commanding; fourth, ONe hundred and ninetieth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Captain R. M. Birkman commanding; fifth, One hundred and fifty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, Bvt. Major D. H. Kent commanding. The route was along the Halifax road, my brigade being in the advance. The cavalry being unable to overcome the opposition made by the enemy at Rowanty Creek, the One hundred and ninetieth and One hundred and ninety-first Pennsylvania Volunteers were advanced as skirmishers, supported by Fourth Delaware Volunteers, and ordered to take the works beyond the creek. The other regiments of brigade were also brought up. But few men could get across, as the bridge was destroyed. These few, however, succeeded in dislodging the enemy and capturing a few prisoners. After a short delay, to cover the crossing of remainder of division, the brigade again advanced some three or four miles and took up position before dark on the left of Second Brigade. The march was again resumed at 11 o’clock, and continued until reaching the crossing of Vaughan road at Harcher’s Run, when the brigade was massed in reserve. During morning of the 6th instant relieved General Winthrop’s brigade in the works. In the afternoon moved right in front, following the Second Brigade to the right and in front of the works occupied by the First Division. Then, forming in two lines, moved by the right flank through the woods till the Second Brigade had gained position.* While waiting the order to advance the left of brigade was broken by the stampede of a portion of General Gregg’s cavalry, but was afterward rallied and placed in position on left of Second Brigade. I advanced the brigade and engaged the enemy for about two hours; not being supported on either my right or left flank I returned to crest of hill in front of breast-work.

Tuesday, 7th instant, reoccupied the line of works on left of Second Division.

I herewith transmit nominal and tabular list of casualties during the engagement.+

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JAMES GWYN,
Brevet Brigadier-General, Commanding Brigade.

Bvt. Major W. W. SWAN,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

[Indorsement.]
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
February 18, 1865.

Respectfully returned.

The major-general commanding desires to know whether this brigade retired (when, as is stated within, it was not supported on either its right of left flank) by orders from its division commander, and whether any of our troops were on its right or left flank, and further, whether, the enemy assailed on either of its flanks, rendering its position untenable. The major-general commanding the corps wishes to secure his troops from charges thus made in official reports by one part of his

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*The following portion of this report was subsequently amended. See p.285.

+Embodied in table, p.66.

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command against another, and therefore makes these inquiries so that the report may be made more specific in its allegations against those who left this brigade unsupported. It is his present opinion the brigade left the front without orders and without encountering a sufficient force of the enemy to justify it. This report to be returned.

By command of Major-General Warren:

FRED. T. LOCKE,
Brevet Colonel and Assistant Adjutant-General.

HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, SECOND DIV., FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
March 15, 1865.

Bvt. Colonel FRED. T. LOCKE,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Fifth Corps:

COLONEL: I have the honor to transmit herewith my report of transactions, dated the 14th of February, together with an amended report, which I request to substitute for it. In explanation of this request I desire to say that when I made the first report I did not intend to charge dereliction of duty upon any troops when I said that I was “not supported on either my right or left flank,” but deemed my position in that respect then, as I do now, as the direct result of the confusion caused by the cavalry breaking through a portion of my brigade. I was not conscious of using language which would bear such construction, but see now, the report having been returned to me, that such construction can be placed upon it. In the report which I desire now to send, I have avoided language which makes any charge by implication upon other troops than my own, and have endeavored to be more explicit throughout. In case my request may be granted, I have the honor further to request that the first report may be returned to me. I trust that the amended report will be deemed a satisfactory reply to the inquiries in the indorsement of the commanding general, dated the 18th of February.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JAMES GWYN,
Brevet Brigadier-General, Commanding Brigade.

[Inclosure.*]

The order was then given to move by the left flank to the front, and the movement had commenced, when the brigade was broken by the stampede of a portion of our cavalry, which came back directly through it and caused it to divide, and threw it into such confusion for a few minutes that the brigade never again, through the day, became thoroughly united. A large portion of the brigade was rallied, and I advanced with it a considerable distance to the front engaging the enemy for about two hours. At the expiration of this time, finding that my course had been different from that of the troops on my right, and that consequently I was without support upon either flank, and that the enemy’s fire had ceased in my front and was becoming quite brisk upon both flanks, I considered the position untenable by the troops of my command and retired to the crest of the hill in front of the breast-works.

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*So much of this report as corresponds with that on p.284 is here omitted.

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ADDENDA.

HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, SECOND DIV., FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
February 17, 1865.

Bvt. Major W. W. SWAN,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General:

MAJOR: I have the honor to forward the following names of officers of my command who, under my personal observation, especially distinguished themselves in the engagements of Rowanty Creek and Hatcher’s Run on the 5th and 6th instant:

Colonel William Sergeant, commanding Two hundred and tenth Pennsylvania Volunteers; Adjt. Morris Shlesinger, Two hundred and tenth Pennsylvania Volunteers; Bvt. Major D. H. Kenty, commanding Fourth Delaware Volunteers; Adjt. William H. Cloward, Fourth Delaware Volunteers; Captain R. M. Birkman, commanding One hundred and ninetieth Pennsylvania Volunteers; Captain P. L. Norton, commanding One hundred and ninety-first Pennsylvania Volunteers; Captain J. W. Scott, commanding One hundred and fifty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers; Captain D. D. Joseph, Third Delaware Volunteers. I have also the honor to refer to the gallant behavior of the following members of my staff: Bvt. Captain H. Gawthrop, Fourth Delaware Volunteers, acting assistant adjutant-general; Bvt. Captain Charles H. Hand, One hundred and eighteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, aide-de-camp; Bvt. Captain John L. Benzon, One hundred and ninety-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, aide-de-camp; First Lieutenant Pierce Neals, Fourth Delaware Volunteers, pioneer officer; Bvt. Major Thomas E. Carter, One hundred and fifty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, brigade inspector.

These officers I cannot too highly praise for their coolness, courage, and gallantry.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JAMES GWYN,
Brevet Brigadier-General, Commanding Brigade.

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), pages 283-286

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