Number 135. Siege of Petersburg Report of Asst. Surg. Samuel Adams, U. S. Army, Medical Inspector, of operations March 1-31

   

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in Siege of Petersburg Reports (95)

No. 135. Report of Asst. Surg. Samuel Adams, U. S. Army, Medical Inspector, of operations March 1-31.1

HEADQUARTERS NINTH ARMY CORPS,
Before Petersburg, Va., March 31, 1865.

COLONEL: The following medical inspector’s report for March is respectfully submitted:

The only thing of importance which has transpired since my last report has been the piercing of our lines at Fort Stedman and Batteries Nos. 10 and 11 on the morning of the 25th instant.

At 4.30 o’clock on the morning of the 25th instant the enemy made an assault on the lines at Fort Stedman in three columns; one column swept down to the left toward Battery Numbers 9, one to the right toward Fort Haskell, while a third moved forward directly toward Fort Stedman. The enemy had been coming in for several nights, bringing their guns and equipments with them; on this occasion they came in squads, as deserters to our pickets, and by this ruse the picket-line at this point was enveloped and captured before the alarm could be given to the main line. The pickets were active and on the alert, and had been visited by the officer of the picket, Captain Burch, Third Maryland Veteran Volunteers, at 4 a.m. There was no neglect or want of vigilance on the part of the pickets of this division. The attack was made on the Second and Third Brigades of the First Division, Major-General Willcox commanding. The alarm was soon conveyed to the main line, and the troops were ready and in line to meet the assault promptly. The enemy swept over the parapet and overpowered the garrison of Battery 10, killing and capturing the cannoneers at their guns; they then pushed forward to Fort Stedman, capturing its guns and the garrison, composed of one battalion of the Fourteenth New York Heavy Artillery. After breaking through the lines they came into the camps of the Fifty-seventh and Twenty-ninth Massachusetts and the One hundredth Pennsylvania Regiments, driving them from their quarters, and pushed forward their line of skirmishers to the road and hills in rear of Fort Stedman and nearly to Meade’s Station. The Fifty-seventh Massachusetts fell back and reformed, acting as skirmishers. General Willcox ordered out the Seventeenth Michigan and the Two hundredth and Two hundred and ninth Pennsylvania to oppose the advance of the enemy toward Meade’s Station, and the First Brigade of the Third Division (General Hartranft’s) was ordered down from the left of the line at a double-quick.

General Hartranft, with three regiments, now made an attack to check the farther advance of the enemy, but was obliged to fall back and act on the defensive, the enemy being in too great numbers. The Two hundredth Pennsylvania in this attack lost 100 men.

The enemy now moved up along the works and captured Battery Numbers 11, and turned the guns of this, as of the other forts, upon our troops. The attention of our artillery was mainly directed to Fort Stedman, the guns from Forts Haskell and McGilvery pouring in a very destructive fire. Batteries were now posted on the hills near Meade’s Station, and Fort Friend and the Dunn House Battery opened upon the advancing rebels and the captured forts; about thirty guns were now playing on the captured works. The First Brigade, Third Division, now came up, and General Parke sent a dispatch to General Hartranft to “retake the forts.” The division formed in line of battle with the Seventeenth Michigan and Fifty-seventh Massachusetts, and the order to assault was given, the assault to be made in fifteen minutes, the moving forward of the Two hundred and eleventh Pennsylvania to be the signal for the advance. The Two hundred and eleventh was pushed forward to attract the attention of the enemy, while the rest of the line advanced under cover. The enemy showed signs of wavering on the advance of this line, and by the vigor of the attack they were driven from the forts with heavy loss, many battle-flags, small-arms, and prisoners falling into our hands.

The force of the enemy consisted of three divisions of infantry, under command of Major-General Gordon. Of this force 1,949 were captured, and about 200 killed; 9 battle-flags were taken, and great numbers of small-arms. In the two brigades, First Division, of this corps, 36 men were killed and 648 wounded or captured; in the Third Division 258 were killed, wounded, and missing. The wounded were promptly brought in, the stretched-bearers and ambulances being constantly with the advancing troops. The great majority of the rebel wounded fell into our hands, and the wounds were all very severe in character. An unusually large number of shell wounds of the thigh and legs, demanding amputation, were seen.

As the Second Division of the corps was not engaged the rebel wounded were all sent to the field hospital of this division, and were as promptly and as kindly cared for as our men. Unusual facilities were offered for caring for the wounded, as the scene of action was so near the corps field hospital, and the hospitals themselves in most efficient and through working order. All of the severe cases and the capital operations, about eighty-three in number, were retained at the hospital, and when the corps moved on the 3rd of April they were transferred to the First Divisions, as this division remained behind to garrison the city and the field hospital remained in its old location. In this way I am satisfied many lives were saved. Many of the cases of penetrating and perforating wounds of the chest and abdomen and compound fractures of the thigh and amputation, which would have died under transportation, were progressing most favorably.

During the month the health of the corps has been most excellent and the supply of fresh vegetables entirely sufficient.

SAMUEL ADAMS,
Asst. Surgeon, U. S. Army, Medical Inspector, Ninth Army Corps.

Colonel T. A. McPARLIN,
Surgeon and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel U. S. Army,
Colonel and Medical Director, Army of the Potomac.

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 320-321

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