Number 160. Siege of Petersburg Report of Bvt. Brigadier General John C. Tidball, Fourth New York Heavy Artillery, commanding Artillery Brigade, of operations March 25

   

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in Siege of Petersburg Reports (95)

No. 160. Report of Bvt. Brigadier General John C. Tidball, Fourth New York Heavy Artillery, commanding Artillery Brigade, of operations March 25.1

HDQRS. ARTILLERY BRIGADE, NINTH ARMY CORPS,
March 27, 1865.

COLONEL: I have the honor of making the following report of the part taken by the artillery in the operations of the 25th instant:

About 4 a.m. of that day the enemy in large force rushed upon Fort Stedman and Battery No. 10 immediately adjoining it, from their line, which at this point is but about 150 yards from the fort. The artillery of Fort Stedman consisted of four 12-pounder guns of the Nineteenth New York Battery; that in Battery No. 10, of two 30-inch rifles

of the Fourteenth Massachusetts Battery, and four 8-inch and three Coehorn, manned by Company K of the First Connecticut Artillery. Owing to the darkness and the extremely short distance over which the enemy had to pass after overcoming our picket-line, but one discharge from each of the rifle guns in Battery No. 10 could be fired before the enemy, forcing their way over the breast-work, surrounded and killed, captured, and drove off the cannoneers. The mortars were not fired, but fell in like manner into the hands of the enemy. Captain Twiss, commanding these mortars, immediately collected the remainder of his men, and with their muskets, fighting from bomb-proof to bomb-proof, assisted in retarding the enemy’s progress. In the meantime each of the four pieces in Fort Stedman were fired, discharging the canister with which they were kept loaded at night, and it is reported were afterward fired about a dozen times. An attempts was made to wheel one of the guns around to the flank overlooking Battery No. 10, but before this could be done the enemy had entered the fort and overpowered the cannoneers at their guns. Soon after gaining possession of Fort Stedman and Battery No. 10 the enemy advanced in strong force along the inside of our works toward Battery No. 12, in which were two 8-inch and four Coehorn mortars, in charge of Company L, of the First Connecticut Artillery, commanded by Lieutenant Lewis. Immediately upon the first alarm in the direction of Fort Stedman, these mortars were fired and continued firing upon the advancing enemy until the fire of the latter from the rear became so hot as to make it impossible to retain possession of the place, whereupon Lieutenant Lewis led his men to Fort Haskell, where, with their muskets, they did good service in assisting to repel assaults of the enemy upon that work.

In Fort Haskell were four light 12-pounders, under Brevet Major Woerner, of the Third New Jersey Battery, and four Coehorns, belonging to Company L, First Connecticut Artillery. The artillerymen in this fort could not distinguish the character of the advancing body, who in the darkness appeared to them as a body of our own men retiring from Fort Stedman, until they were within about 100 yards, where, taking cover behind huts and bomb-proofs, they opened a sharp fire, which was immediately replied to by all the pieces that could be brought to bear in this direction. A line of our troops, advancing at the same time, partly cut off this body of the enemy’s, when a large number of them surrendered, the remainder of them escaping. Shortly afterward a line of the enemy was formed near Fort Stedman, which advanced but a short distance toward Fort Haskell, when it was broken and forced to retire. Brevet Major Woerner directing three of his guns along our breast-work, kept the enemy from again advancing in that direction, and also poured a most injurious fire into the enemy, who were in and around Fort Stedman. While these things were transpiring upon the left of Fort Stedman a large body of the enemy swept in like manner down along our works upon the right toward Battery No. 9. The artillery in this battery consisted of two light 12-pounders, belonging to Batteries C and I, Fifth U. S. Artillery, under Brevet Captain Stone, and three Coehorn mortars, served by Company K, First Connecticut Artillery. The garrisons of Battery No. 9 being aroused by the firing at Fort Stedman were at once at their posts, and when the advancing enemy were distinguishable, which was at the distance of about 500 yards, fire was opened upon them so hotly as to check and cause them to seek shelter in a depression of the ground, where they were held under fire of canister until almost 7 o’clock, when an officer,

escaping from this position to Battery No. 9, informed Captain Stone that if he would not fire upon them there were between 200 and 300 of the enemy who could come in. This arrangement was promptly effected. No other advance appears to have been made upon this battery.

Captain Jones, of the Eleventh Massachusetts Battery, occupying Fort Friend, with six 3-inch rifle pieces, promptly manned his guns upon the first alarm, and about half an hour afterward was enabled, by the dawning of day, to distinguish the before-mentioned body of the enemy moving from Fort Stedman toward Fort Haskell. He immediately opened fire upon them; at the same time he discovered a line of skirmishers advancing toward the hill upon which his fort is situated, and as the line of skirmishers arrived at the ravine in front of the fort, discharged canister into them, which had the effect of checking their advance until the regiment of Pennsylvania troops, encamped near the fort, formed, advanced, and drove back the line. From this commanding position Captain Jones continued to direct a most destructive fire into and around Fort Stedman upon any body of the enemy which made its appearance. Upon the first alarm two sections of light 12-pounders, one of Battery G, First New York Artillery, under Captain McClellan, and the other of the Nineteenth New York Battery, under Lieutenant Losee, being in park near Meade’s Station, were at once hitched up, and taking position on the crest of the hill in front of the station opened fire upon the enemy’s skirmish line, which by this time had advanced, to the ravine between this hill and Fort Stedman. Soon this line of skirmishers fell back to a line nearer to Fort Stedman. The two sections above mentioned were, by my directions, placed farther to the front for the advantage of shorter range. While taking up this position the enemy opened upon them from two of the pieces of Fort Stedman, which by this time they had run out to the rear. Their fire, however, inaccurate and straggling and did no injury, and was soon silenced by the fire of artillery concentrated upon that point.

As soon as the haze of the morning cleared away sufficiently to enable the artillery to direct their fire with accuracy, all the pieces (in addition to those before mentioned), from Battery No. 4 around to Fort Morton, that could be brought to bear upon Fort Stedman, opened, and concentrating a fire of about thirty pieces upon and around the fort, soon made the place untenable. The cross-fire from Fort Haskell and Battery No. 9 upon the open ground between Fort Stedman and the enemy’s line of works tore through the masses of the enemy as they retired and made the passage so hazardous as to deter many from attempting it, and several hundred of the enemy were thus cut off and with but little resistance fell into the hands of the infantry, which at this time (about 7.30 a.m.) advanced in line and reoccupied the fort and line. Upon the first information of the capture of Fort Stedman, I dispatched a request to Brevet Brigadier-General Wainwright, commanding artillery, Fifth Corps, to send me such batteries as he had available, which he did with great promptness, four batteries arriving just at the moment of the reoccupation of our works, and therefore unable to participate in the repulse of the enemy.

During the whole occurrence the enemy kept a most vigorous fire of artillery along his whole line, which was replied to by all our batteries from the Appomattox to the Jerusalem plank road. The enemy temporarily disabled two of the guns in Fort Stedman by pounding the vents; otherwise no damage was sustained by the pieces while in their possession; they did not succeed in carrying any of them off. As far as I could

see and have learned, the artillery upon the whole line was most skillfully and judiciously managed by the respective officers in charge of it. This was particularly so in regard to Captain Jones, Eleventh Massachusetts, from Fort Friend; Captain and Brevet Major Woerner, Third New Jersey Battery, from fort Haskell; and First Lieutenant and Brevet Captain Stone, Fifth U. S. Artillery, from Battery No. 9. Captain and Brevet Major Roemer, Thirty-fourth New York Battery, in Fort McGilvery and Lieutenant Bangs, First Connecticut Artillery, in Battery No. 5, disregarding a concentrated fire from other parts of the enemy’s lines, turned their guns upon the enemy in and about Fort Stedman.

Appended is a report from Major Miller, First Pennsylvania Artillery, of what he saw and heard while a prisoner in Fort Stedman. His zeal and energy led to his capture. The tact which he displayed in preventing himself from being sent within the enemy’s lines, and the influence and management which he gained and exercised over his captors, resulting in his leading into our lines several hundred of them, gives him just claims for admiration and praise.

All of the battery commanders speak in the highest praise of the bravery and willingness of their officers and men.

Accompanying this is a list of the killed, wounded, and missing of this brigade.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JNO. C. TIDBALL,
Brevet Brigadier-General.

Bvt. Lieutenant Colonel P. M. LYDIG,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

[Inclosure.]

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. 355-358

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