Number 110. Siege of Petersburg Report of Colonel Thomas F. McCoy, One hundred and seventh Pennsylvania Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations February 6-9

   

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in Siege of Petersburg Reports (95)

No. 110. Report of Colonel Thomas F. McCoy, One hundred and seventh Pennsylvania Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations February 6-9.1

HDQRS. 107TH PENNSYLVANIA VETERAN VOLUNTEERS,
February 12, 1865.

MAJOR: I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of the Third Brigade in the late engagement, while temporarily under my command:

I was in command of my regiment in the battle of the 6th instant up to the time of the second advance of the brigade across the orchard near Dabney’s Mill. This was at the period of the hottest part of the engagement, and when Brevet Brigadier-General Morrow, commanding the brigade, was wounded. Fortunately, being near where the general partially fell from his horse from the stunning effect of his wound, he immediately addressed me, stating that he was wounded, turned over the command to me as the next ranking officer, and placed in my hands the brigade flag, which he had been carrying through the most dangerous part of the engagement. At this time the enemy was making a most vigorous onset upon our lines. Their advancing columns were approaching and putting into our lines a most destructive fire. A great many brave officers and men had been killed and wounded. The battle swayed to and for again and again, and had been contested with the greatest tenacity. Ammunition that was expected did not arrive to replenish our cartridge-boxes. No supporting column came as was expected and longer for. The enemy had artillery and were using it effectively. We had no artillery in the engagement. It was now nearly night. The line on our left had already fallen back. Our forces that were still on the advance line were battling with great courage, but were rapidly dwindling before a more vigorous and increasing volume of fire. The enemy had, as their fire indicated and as has since been clearly authenticated, large re-enforcements, and were before us in overwhelming numbers. It was time to retire if we would save our brave men now contending without any fair prospects of success. The movement was therefore made as quickly and rapidly as possible to obtain the cover of our works, where the brigade was reformed in the early part of the night and rested on its arms, ready for the arduous duties of the coming day.

During the night a fresh supply of ammunition was received. On the morning of the 7th instant I found myself in command of the following

regiments: Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Jack; One hundred and seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, Major H. J. Sheafer; One hundred and twenty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieutenant R. S. Shute; One hundred and forty-second Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel H. N. Warren; Ninety-fourth New York Volunteers, Captain George French; Ninety-fifth New York Volunteers, Captain A. McC. Bush, One hundred and forty-seventh New York Volunteers, Captain John McKinlock. The largest of these regiments did not exceed 260 muskets, and several of them had less than 100. The troops passed a very uncomfortable night, and this morning it began to hail and rain and continued throughout the day, making it a day of extreme hardships upon the soldiers. Early in the day the movement against the enemy commenced. The movement was against the same position of the enemy as yesterday, at Dabney’s Mill, but the approach was made from the direction of Hatcher’s Run from near the point of Armstrong’s Mill. The Second Brigade (Baxter’s) led the column, the Third Brigade in support of the First Brigade on the left flank and in reserve. The Second Brigade soon drove the enemy from their first line of rifle-pits. The Third Brigade occupied the position at once, and under the instructions of Brevet Major-General Crawford breast-works were thrown up in this line. While engaged in this we were exposed to the enemy’s artillery, and to an attack on the right of the brigade near the run, indicating a design to turn our flank at that point. In order to guard that flank until other troops could be obtained Captain Lambdin, assistant adjutant-general, very opportunely had a force of skirmishers deployed. They were soon attacked, and partly driven back. I then reported the condition of affairs to the general commanding division, and requested that additional troops should be ordered there, which was promptly done, a part of General Bragg’s (First) brigade, in command of the general himself, was soon in position, which afforded perfect security to that flank. At this time it was ordered by the general commanding the division to send a regiment of my command to the support of the Second Brigade on the skirmish front. I immediately ordered the Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers to report to Brigadier-General Baxter, under whose command they did good service the balance of the day.

The battle continued, Baxter again advancing and the enemy retiring to their works and artillery, which were but a few hundred yards in our front. Later in the day, about 4.30 o’clock, the remaining part of the First Brigade (Bragg’s), on the left of my command, was transferred to the right, and in order to afford sufficient space for them in the works the Third Brigade was marched by the left flank several hundred yards, the left thrown back, forming almost a semi-circle, and resting on a swamp, beyond which there was a constant firing from the enemy’s skirmishers. As soon as this movement was accomplished I was directed to form a line of battle, with the First Brigade on my right, in front of the works, with a view of making another advance, and if possible carrying the enemy’s works, a part of the Sixth Corps coming up to occupy the works we were about to evacuate. It was now late in the evening. My command was formed in line on the left of the First Brigade, the left wing, however, being retired, and under instructions from the general commanding division this part of my command was to be brought around upon the line as the movement progressed. This was accomplished at a run, and just before the enemy opened with canister upon the advancing column. Part of the line under this artillery fire gave way and retired to the works in their rear before they could be rallied. That part of the line under Major H. J.

Sheafer, and several other officers whose names I have not been able to obtain, held nearly all the ground gained, and the line being reformed at this advanced point, another line of breast works were thrown up, by direction of the division commander. It was now 10 p.m. The enemy’s line and our own were now quite close, but only occasional firing occurred when the pickets were in close proximity. All these operations took place in a pine wood, and during a heavy sleet and rain, the ground being covered with ice and water. Officers and men were greatly exhausted. The lines had been thinned to some extent by straggling to the rear. At 11.30 o’clock I received orders to have my command in readiness to move within an hour. At about 1 o’clock my command, with other troops of the division, were relieved and withdrawn to near the bridge on the east side of Hatcher’s Run, where we remained until the afternoon of the 8th, when the brigade was ordered to form a picket-line from the run eastward to connect with the cavalry at the Halifax road, at the junction near Reams’ Station. This was accomplished before dark of the same evening.

On the morning of the 9th, Brevet Brigadier-General Hofmann having returned from his leave of absence, I was relieved from the command of the brigade and again assumed the command of my regiment.

I cannot close this report without expressing my high appreciation of the services and gallant conduct of Captain Harrison Lambdin, assistant adjutant-general, and Lieutenant Richard Esmond, acting aide-de-camp. Their courage, activity, and efficiency excited my admiration. I would also in this connection add the names of Captain D. J. Dickson, the brigade inspector, and Lieutenant George W. Chilson, acting aide-de-camp, as worthy of commendation for their courage and intelligent discharge of duty. I feel pleasure in acknowledging my indebtedness to these very worthy officers for the important aid rendered me during the brief but important period I had the honor of commanding the Third Brigade.

Not having received the reports of the regimental commanders, I cannot speak of the many officers and non-commissioned officers whose gallantry entitle them to honorable mention. Officers and men fought bravely and well, and certainly merited greater success than it was their fortune to obtain. For particulars I would refer the general commanding the division to the reports of regimental commanders, which will be, if not already, forwarded by Brevet Brigadier-General Morrow, whose duty it is to not all individual acts of gallantry.

The list of casualties will also accompany these reports.

T. F. McCOY,
Colonel 107th Pennsylvania Vet. Vols., Commanding Third Brigade.

Major E. C. BAIRD,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

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 289-291

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