Number 145. Siege of Petersburg Report of Bvt. Colonel Gilbert P. Robinson, Third Maryland Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations March 25

   

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in Siege of Petersburg Reports (95)

No. 145. Report of Bvt. Colonel Gilbert P. Robinson, Third Maryland Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations March 25.1

HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, FIRST DIV., NINTH ARMY CORPS,
March 28, 1865.

SIR: About 3.30 a.m. March 25, the enemy advanced in several columns upon the cluster of artillery positions known as Fort Stedman, Batteries 10,11, and 12. The garrisons of these portions of the line were alarmed by the officers and men of the picket and trench guard, and were immediately in line prepared for attack. The enemy’s skirmishers, advancing with clubbed muskets and with their bayonets, broke the picket-line in front of Fort Stedman and advanced to the abatis. The Fourteenth New York Artillery and the Twenty-ninth Massachusetts Volunteers, the garrisons of Stedman, 10 and 11, were under arms and made a stout resistance. At about 4 a.m. General McLaughlen proceeded to the lines, sending one aide to the Fifty-seventh Massachusetts to order them into line, another to the left of the brigade to see that they were on the alert and prepared for action, and taking another with him.

Shortly after the general left a messenger from Battery 11, closely followed by one from Fort Stedman, communicated the facts of the case to brigade headquarters, and the Fifty-ninth Massachusetts were directed to attack at Battery 11 with vigor and carry it at the point of the bayonet if captured, and re-enforce the works if not. The Fifty-seventh directed to advance similarly on Fort Stedman. After about an hour’s desperate fighting, in which the works were carried back and forth several times, the troops were compelled to retire, part in the direction of Fort Haskell, and part toward the railroad. The One hundredth Pennsylvania had meantime been deployed at right angle with their line of works, covered a line of skirmishers, but being unable to stem the torrent, divided, three companies going to the old line of works in the rear of their camp and the remainder to Fort Haskell. A skirmish line of the Third Maryland Battalion had meantime been thrown out well supported, and upon this portions of the brigade were rallied, and this line prevented the result the enemy evidently had in view, of taking Fort Haskell in reverse. The Fifty-seventh Massachusetts had meantime been forced back to the ridge near Battery Dunn, but there made head against the enemy. Before 6 o’clock the Two hundred and eighth Pennsylvania, which had been sent to our assistance from the Third Division, was put in near brigade headquarters and advanced to the old line of works in rear of the camp of the One hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and shortly after other re-enforcements came from the direction of Meade’s Station. The Fifty-seventh Massachusetts, deployed as skirmishers, advanced, covering this line, and by a succession of brilliant skirmish charges recovered the slope on which their camp had stood and the crest above it overlooking Fort Stedman. At this time (about 8.30 a.m.) it was noticed that the frequent slight advantages we had been gaining since the artillery positions were carried had discouraged the enemy, and that even a dash of a skirmish line would break a partially formed line of battle, and it was resolved to make a determined effort to recover the works. At this time I received notice from General Hartranft that he was advancing and would carry the works in fifteen minutes, but catching sight of the approaching line, seeing the demoralized condition of the enemy, and fearful that a large amount of prisoners might be lost by longer delay, it was determined to dash on the enemy at once, and the troops collected at the left, consisting of the largest part of the Third Maryland Battalion, the One hundredth Pennsylvania, fragments of the Twenty-ninth and Fifty-ninth Massachusetts, the Fort Haskell battalion of the Fourteenth New York Artillery, and what was left of the Fort Stedman battalion, charged up the line and along the works, carrying the trenches and batteries as far as Fort Stedmaan, into which almost immediately, from a direction about perpendicular to the line of our charge, came a portion of the Third Division. By 9 a.m. the line of works was in our possession again, with all its artillery.

From the time of the first assault until the close, the artillery at Fort Haskell was plied with vigor, and was very effective, and the well-directed infantry fire and the noble courage of the men, in and around the fort, baffled every attempt to assault it. Battery 12 (First Connecticut Heavy Artillery) kept up an effective fire during the early part of the engagement, and the gun detachments kept well at the front after being driven out, and went up in the charge which gave us the line anew, at once reoccupying the battery and serving the mortars.

Major George M. Randall, commanding at Fort Stedman, mentions with praise the conduct of the artillery officers and men at the fort (Nineteenth New York Battery and First Connecticut Heavy Artillery), and a section of the Fourteenth Massachusetts Battery, for their bravery and coolness, and universal praise is given to the artillerists at Fort Haskell (Third New Jersey Battery).

The service will mourn the loss of Lieutenant Colonel J. H. Pentecost, One hundredth Pennsylvania, whose cool, good conduct first checked the current of overwhelming disaster, and of Captain James Doherty, Fifty-seventh Massachusetts, commissioned and acting as major of that regiment, whose determined courage and excellent disposition greatly delayed the advance of the enemy toward the railroad. Both of these officers (since dead) should be brevetted for their gallantry this day.

I have the honor to mention the following officers and enlisted men for praise for deeds set against their names, and to reiterate the eulogiums of their regimental commanders:

Third Maryland Battalion Veteran Volunteers.-Captain Joseph F. Carter, capturing colors of the Fifty-first Virginia Infantry and gallantry on the skirmish line and in the first assault.

Second Lieutenant John Nape, for gallantry in forming the skirmish line when he was severely wounded.

Corpls. Edward Mitchell and John H. Locker,, of Company D, capturing and carrying off eighty rebels, including nine officers.

Sergt. Michael Denahey, Company C; Corpl. William H. Erdman, Private William Brooks, Company D, and Private Andrew J. Smith, Company B, for capture of numerous prisoners and being the foremost in entering Fort Stedman. The last-mentioned (Smith) deserves special praise for attempting to wrest a rebel color from a rebel, but, being a mere boy, was unable.

Private Patrick McCran, Company C, for capturing the colors of the reported Twelfth Georgia Battalion.

Fourteenth New York Heavy Artillery.-Major George M. Randall, for great gallantry at all times in the engagement; escaping when taken prisoner.

Capts. Charles H. Houhgton, Joseph P. Cleary, George Brennan, and Homer Foote, and Lieutenant Charles A. O’Brien, for constant and unwearied exertion throughout the action.

Private James K. Brady, Company H, for capturing colors.

Twenty-ninth Massachusetts Veteran Volunteers.-Captain john M. Deane, commanding the regiment after the capture of Major Richardson, and Lieutenant H. C. Joslyn, captured (Lieutenant Joslyn while on picket) and escaped through the ranks of the enemy in an audacious dash, exposed to every danger; worked a gun in Fort Haskell during the latter part of the engagement, only leaving it to charge back to Battery 11.

First Lieutenant Nathaniel Burgess, mortally wounded in a hand-to-hand conflict in the battery.

First Lieutenant D. P. Sculley, acting adjutant, captured and escaped; acting as aide in the last part of the engagement and exercising cool and bold judgment.

Color-Sergt. Conrad Homan (already recommended for a medal of honor), for saving the colors when surrounded and ordered to surrender.

Color-Corpl. Nelson Cook (already recommended for medal of honor), killed in defense of colors.

Private T. M. O’Brien, Company B, who, by his skill as wrestler, overset into a rifle-pit the rebel guard who was conducting him to the rear, and secured thereby the escape of Captain Pizer and five men.

Private Edward Carney, Company G, who, with a gunshot wound in his head, and beaten severely with butts of muskets, still “didn’t see” surrender and fought his way out.

Sergt. William H. Howe, Company K, and Private Levi B. Gaylord, Company A (the latter previously recommended for medal of honor), for working barbette guns in Fort Haskell, side by side with Captain Deane and Lieutenant Joslyn, after all but two of the artillery detachment had been killed or wounded.

Private Charles L. Nightingale, Company H (sentinel), alarmed the camp and killed a man who invaded his beat.

The following men, killed in the defense of the battery, deserve notice: First Sergt. C. F. Harlow, Company C, fought three of the enemy at once; Privates William Klinkler, Company E, and George E. Snow, Company G; Private Preserved Westgate, Company F, who fought the enemy with a club till mortally wounded.

Fifty-seventh Massachusetts Volunteers.-Sergt. Major C. H. Pinkham, captured battle-flag of Fifty-seventh North Carolina and saved his own colors by seizing them from the staff while the enemy were in the camp.

First Sergt. George Adams, Company G, wounded for fifteenth time.

First Sergt. Charles S. Chase, Company H, general good conduct, and Sergt. John O’Donnell, Company A.

Sergt. William F. Oakes, Company K (acting officer), for saving Captain Doherty when wounded, and First Sergt. William Magner, Company B.

Sergt. R. Wesley Williams, Company I (wounded), general bravery, and Corpl. F. S. Cheney, Company C, killed.

Fifty-ninth Massachusetts Volunteers.-First Sergts. Coburn S. Smith and John H. Kelley, Company D, for general gallantry, and the latter for assisting in working a piece of artillery in Fort Haskell.

Private Joshua W. Carr, Company H, was steadily brave, and won the admiration of his officers.

One hundredth Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers.-Major N. J. Maxwell, commanding after the fall of Lieutenant-Colonel Pentecost, displayed distinguished gallantry.

Captain John L. Johnson captured the colors of the Fifth Virginia Infantry.

Color-Sergt. Charles Oliver, Company M, captured the colors of the Thirty-first Georgia Infantry and planted the regimental colors on Fort Stedman while still occupied by the enemy.

Private Joseph B. Chambers, Company F, captured colors of the First Virginia Infantry.

Corpl. M. D. Dewire, Company A, captured rebel staff and part of flag and recaptured national camp color staff.

In addition to these Privates John Brown and Joseph Becket, Company C, Fourteenth New York Heavy Artillery, detailed men in the subsistence department, deserve praise for the gallant manner in which they resisted the advance of the enemy, using the guns of the captured rebels, and fighting on the skirmish line, Brown being painfully wounded, and Becket capturing six prisoners.

General McLaughlen was captured about 4.30 a.m., but I was not notified of the fact till about 6 a.m., when I assumed command of the brigade.

Nominal lists of casualties have already been forwarded.* The staff-Major F. B. Mirick, brigade inspector; Captain T. W. Clarke, acting

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*Embodied in table, p. 70.

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assistant adjutant-general; Lieutenant John D. Anderson, pioneer officer, and Lieutenant Matthew Stewart, acting aide-de-camp-behaved creditably; Lieutenant Thomas Sturgis, aide-de-camp, was captured with the general.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GILBERT P. ROBINSON,
Brevet Colonel, U. S. Volunteers.

Major WILLIAM V. RICHARDS,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, First 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), pages 332-336

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