Number 29. Siege of Petersburg Report of Maj. Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys, U. S. Army, commanding Second Army Corps, of operations February 5-11

   

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in Siege of Petersburg Reports (95)

No. 29. Report of Major General Andrew A. Humphreys, U. S. Army, commanding Second Army Corps, of operations February 5-11.1

HEADQUARTERS SECOND ARMY CORPS,
February 13, 1865.

GENERAL: I have to submit the following report of the part taken by the Second Corps in the recent operation, for the information of the major-general commanding the army:

I was instructed on the 4th instant to move at 7 a. m. of the 5th, with the two divisions of my corps not in the entrenchments and two batteries of artillery, to the crossing of Hatcher’s Run at the Vaughan road and at Armstrong’s Mill, to hold those crossing, keep open the communication with the Fifth Corps, under General Warren, when it reached the intersection of the Vaughan and stage roads, some three or four miles distant, and support him, if required. In accordance with those instructions, I moved at 7 a. m. of the 5th, with General Mott’s (Third) division, 5,961 officers and enlisted men, and General Smyth’s (Second) division, 4,607 officers and enlisted men, and Battery K, Fourth U. S. Artillery, Brevet Captain Roder, and the Tenth Massachusetts Battery, Lieutenant J. W. Adams, with the rations, ammunition, &c., ordered.

Major Hess, Third Pennsylvania Cavalry, with 220 officers and men, joined me at 6 a. m. He was placed in advance, to drive in the enemy’s cavalry pickets, and secure the crossing of Hatcher’s Run, so as to conceal temporarily the fact from the enemy that the movement was made by an infantry force.

Major Hess found the enemy’s infantry in small force holding the Vaughan road crossing, the run being dammed and obstructed by fallen

trees. Being unable to use his cavalry with any effect, General De Trobriand’s skirmishers, under his personal supervision, quickly drove the enemy from their rifle-pits, and secured the position at 9.30 a. m. This brigade was then rapidly crossed on the dam and put in position, covering the road, and his pickets extended to meet those of General Smyth, ordered to the crossing at Armstrong’s Mill. With considerable difficulty a bridge about 100 feet in length was thrown across the stream. West’s brigade, of Mott’s division, followed De Trobriand’s, and was subsequently crossed to the south side of Hatcher’s Run, completing the security of the position. Caption Rider’s battery of 12-pounders was put in position here.

Smyth’s division had been directed by me to diverge to the right from the Vaughan road near the Cummings house, secure the crossing at Armstrong’s Mill, cover it and extend to the right past the R Armstrong house, and rest his right upon the small swamp in that vicinity. Lieutenant Adams’ battery of rifled guns was sent with him. These instructions General Smyth executed at once, finding directly in front of his right, about 1,000 yards distant, the enemy’s entrenchments, a redoubt, with the connecting curtains, being in full view. These works had been erected since the last movement in December. General Mott, by my direction, sent his rear brigade, McAllister’s, to the vicinity of the Tucker house, with instructions to take position covering the Vaughan road a small parallel road connecting the Squirrel Level road with Armstrong’s Mill, the right to rest near the swamp.west of and rear to the Squirrel Level road, and the left to extend toward the swamp, on which Smyth’s right was to rest. Smyth’s division was relied upon to fill up the interval, should there be one. These orders were promptly executed. All the troops were directed to intrench immediately upon taking up position. Major Hess, Third Pennsylvania Cavalry, was ordered to open communication,m on the south side of Hatcher’s Run, between Mott’s right and Smyth’s left, and to move out to Dabney’s Mill, and establish a post of observation there, and upon effecting this to move out the Vaughan road and communicate with Major-General Warren. While he was endeavoring to carry out the first part of this direction, I proceeded to examine Smyth’s and McAllister’s positions. It was here that I expected the attack of the enemy. Finding that McAllister was unable to cover the ground assigned to him, with the concurrence of the commanding general of the army, I telegraphed to Major-General, whose division had remained in the entrenchments, to send out a strong brigade quickly to the Tucker house, to relieve McAllister’s right and enable that officer to extend to his left and connect with Smyth. Major Hess was unable to carry out the first part of his instructions, but the pickets of the two division connected along the south branch of Hatcher’s Run. The enemy’s infantry pickets were driven from the Vaughan road, and communication established with Major-general Warren.

At about 4 p. m. the enemy opened with artillery from one of his redoubts that enfiladed the road leading to Armstrong’s Mill from the Vaughan road, but doing no damage, and receiving no reply, the fire ceased. At 4.30 p. m. Ramsey’s brigade (Fourth Brigade, First Division) 1,100 strong, reached the Tucker house, and enabled McAllister to extend toward Smyth’s right. He had not yet quite completed this change of position when, at 5.15 p. m., the enemy, having concentrated a strong force in the vicinity of the Thompson house (since ascertained to be the chief parts of Hill’s and Gordon’s corps), made a sudden attack upon the right of Smyth and the left of McAllister. This attack was

promptly and skillful met by General Smyth and General McAllister, and the enemy’s leading troops quickly repulsed, but the action was continued by those more distant until after 7 o’clock. the enemy’s artillery opened from the redoubt already mentioned and from a battery near the Thompson house, both of which were effectually replied to. Early in the action I ordered up West’s brigade, of Mott’s division, to strengthen McAllister’s left, which it did before the termination of the engagement; I also used two of Smyth’s regiments as supports. The enemy withdrew to his entrenchments shortly after the engagement ceased.

Our loss (125 killed and wounded) was small, while that of the enemy was comparatively severe and must have been six or seven times greater than ours. I append a tabular statement of the casualties.

Among the wounded is Colonel M. Murphy, Sixty-ninth New York national Guard, commanding Second Brigade, Second Division, severely.

During the evening Hartranft’s division, of the Ninth Corps, 3,200 strong, and Wheaton’s division of the Sixth Corps, 4,500 strong, reported to me and were posted along the Squirrel Level road, connecting with the entrenchments of the army.

It having been decided by the major-general commanding to concentrate at once Major-General Warren’s (Fifth) corps and Gregg’s cavalry at the Vaughan road crossing of Hatcher’s Run, as soon as a sufficient number of these troops arrived, Major-General Mott’s troops there – De Trobriand’s brigade – were moved, at about 2 a. m. of the 6th, to near the Tucker house, and General Mott resumed the command of all his brigades as well as of Ramsey’s.

Early next morning, in pursuance of instructions I had received from the commanding general of the army, General Mott and General Hartranft sent out reconnaissance that advanced to within sight of the enemy’s works near the Watkins house without finding any force but the pickets, which were driven inside the main works. At the same time all my command, including Miles’ division, were held ready to attack the enemy should he be found outside his works. At 2 p. m. General Wheaton’s division was ordered to move to the Cummings house and report to Major-General Warren, and General Mott was ordered to hold General De Trobriand’s and General West’s brigades ready to support General Warren. They were subsequently moved to the Vaughan road crossing of Hatcher’s Run with that object, but returned to their positions at night. General Smyth, on that and the following day (the 7th), supported General Warren’s movements with his artillery.

On the morning of the 9th, in pursuance of instructions from the headquarters of the army, the First and Third Divisions of the Second Corps took up the position assigned them of the new line from Fort Gregg to the Vaughan road crossing of Hatcher’s Run, and commenced the constructions of entrenchments.

On the morning of the 11th General Smyth’s division was withdrawn from its position, covering the crossing at Armstrong’s Mill, and posted on the new line. The casualties subsequent to the 5th were 13 killed and wounded.

In conclusion, I desire to express the very great satisfaction I have felt at the prompt, skillful, and spirited manner in which the duties were performed by both officers and men during the operation. It was the good fortune of Brigadier-General Smyth, commanding Second Division, Brevet Brigadier-General McAllister, commanding Third Brigade,

Third Division, and M. Murphy, commanding Second Brigade, Second Division, to be placed in positions where they evinced both skill and gallantry. I am under obligations to Lieutenant-Colonel Hazard, commanding Artillery Brigade, Lieutenant-Colonel William, acting inspector-general, and to the other officers of my staff, for the zealous assistance they rendered me.

I transmit herewith the reports of the division and other commanders, and am,

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. A. HUMPHREYS,
Major-General, Commanding.

Brevet Major-General WEBB,
Chief of Staff, Army of the Potomac.

Tabular statement of casualties in the Second and Third Divisions, Second Army Corps, during the operations of the 5th instant.

A. A. HUMPHREYS,
Major-General, Commanding.

ADDENDA.

GENERAL ORDERS,
HEADQUARTERS SECOND ARMY CORPS, Numbers 3.
February 12, 1865.

The major-general commanding desires to express to the officers and men engaged in the recent operation the satisfaction he has felt at the prompt, skillful, and spirited manner in which every duty imposed upon them was performed. While all did their duty, some were favored by fortune in being placed at the points against which the enemy’s efforts were concentrated, and were thus afforded the opportunity of displaying conspicuously their soldierly qualities.

Among those favored were, Brigadier-General Smyth, commanding Second Division, Brevet Brigadier-General McAllister, commanding Third Brigade, Third Division, and Colonel Mathew Murphy, commanding Second Brigadier, Second Division.

The enemy concentrated a powerful force, composed of parts of two corps, Hill’s and Gordon’s, on the right of Smyth (Murphy’s brigade and the artillery), and in front of McAllister, and made a determined effort to break our line. They were skillfully and gallantly met, and repulsed with severe loss to them and slight to us.

The commanding general accepts this first operation of the Second Corps under his orders as an earnest of what is to follow.

By order of Major-General Humphreys:

SEPTIMUS CARNCROSS,
Major and 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 191-195

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