Number 5. Siege of Petersburg Reports of Major General George G. Meade, U. S. Army, commanding Army of the Potomac, of operations February 5-7 and March 25

   

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No 5. Reports of Major General George G. Meade, U. S. Army, commanding Army of the Potomac, of operations February 5-7 and March 25.1

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Crossing of Hatcher’s Run by Vaughan Road,
February 5, 1865-2.30 p. m. (Sent 3 p. m.)

Humphreys was in position at this point and Armstrong’s Mille by 10 a. m., crossing at both places with but little opposition, taking nine prisoners, all of Pegram’s division. He is now getting in position and pushing out the Vaughan road to communicate with Warren. Warren reports at 1 p. m. that he has crossed of his infantry, but he has to build a bridge of sixty feet in length to cross artillery and trains; will be over by 3 p. m. Nothing has been heard from Gregg. From the reports of prisoners, I am led to believe the enemy may attempt to interpose between Warren and Humphreys. To keep open this communication of four miles, I have ordered up Parke’s reserve division, and have directed the available troops in the City Point lines to replace them with Parke. Warren reports taking thirty prisoners when crossing the run. I can hear nothing of the enemy’s cavalry, and the prisoners here know nothing of any troops, cavalry or infantry, going south.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Vaughan Road an Hatcher’s Run, [February 5, 1865] – 6.45 p. m.
(Sent 7.10 p. m.)

The enemy at 5.15 attacked General Humphreys’ right, and have been engaging him till this moment. General Humphreys has repulsed all their attacks. I have ordered up to his support not only a division from the Ninth Corps, but one from the Sixth Corps. General Warren is in position at Hargrave’s, about three miles and a half from here; has met no enemy. General Gregg reports that having occupied Dinwiddie Court-House, and hearing nothing of any trains or the enemy, had returned to the crossing of Hatcher’s Run by the Malone road. I have sent orders to General Gregg to return to General Warren and report to that officer, uncles you send other orders for him. I think the enemy are trying to turn Humphreys’ right and cut our communications with our line of works. Besides Pegram’s and Gordon’s divisions, deserters report the movement to their right of Heft and Mahone. I shall leave Humphreys and Warren in their present position, with directions to support each other. I do not thing the cavalry will do anything in the way of destroying trains. I shall await your instructions. It is estimated Humphreys’s losses in wounded may amount to 300. Please acknowledge at once.

GEO G. MEADE,
Major-General.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Crossing of Hatcher’s Run by Vaughan Road,
February 5, 1865-8 p. m.
(Sent 8.22 p. m.)

I have withdrawn Warren and the cavalry to this point directing two divisions to remain on the other side of the run, one to cross to this side as a reserve for contingencies. Humphreys’ is instructed to await developments, and to attack, if advantageous, and drive the enemy into their works. The enemy have a strong line of works passing through the Clements house; this house is the place where the shot fell near us no last movement-that is to say; since then the enemy have advanced their line. Unless we can carry this line, we can hardly reach the Boydton plank road or South Side Railroad without this they attacked Humphreys’ right.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General,

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
February 5, 1865-9. 30 p.m. (Sent 10 p. m.)

Orders have been sent to Gregg to proceed to Belfield, provided he finds on reaching Dinwiddie Court-House andy confirmation of the contraband’s report, or obtains any reliable intelligence leading him to believe he can effect anything there. The depot is, however, undoubtedly at Hickford, across the Meherrin, and is guarded by artillery, as it was when Warren was there. We also believe that W. H. Lee’s division of cavalry is in that vicinity. Gregg goes without artillery.

GEO G. MEADE,
Major-General.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
February 5, 1865-10 p. m.

I send a dispatch from General Gregg, received on my arrival just now. A staff officer who carried my last dispatch to General Warren reports that, on leaving, three squadrons of Greff’s cavalry came in to Warren, saying the enemy’s cavalry had attacked Gregg’s rear guard and cut them off. I am a little apprehensive of the enemy’s cavalry interposing between Gregg and Warren, and preventing the latter using the road he advanced on to withdraw his artillery and trains. I have however, sent orders to Gregg to open this road, if possible, and escort back Warren’s trains.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
February 5, 1865-10.30 p.m. (Sent 11. 15 p. m.)

GENERAL: I moved our this morning on the Vaughan road the Second Corps to the crossing of Hather’s Run; on the road from Reams’ Station to Dinwiddie Court-House, the Fifth Corps; and on a

road crossing Hatcher’s Run still lower down, the cavalry division under General Gregg. General Gregg was ordered to move to Dinwiddie Court-House, and to move up and down the Boydton road to intercept and capture the enemy’s trains, and was further ordered to determine whether or met he could in any way inflict damage upon the enemy. General Warren to support General Gregg; General Humphreys, to support General Warren. All other available troops of this army were to be held ready to move at short notice. The different commands reached their post in due season, but it was found difficult to open communication between Generals Humphreys and Warren along the Vaughan road. General Gregg proceeded to Dinwiddie Court-House, and moved up and down the Vaughan road and captured some 18 wagons and 50 prisoners, including 1 colonel. Finding that the Boydton road was but little used since the destruction of the bridges on that road and on the Weldon railroad, he returned to Malone’s Bridge, on Hatcher’s Run. At 4.15 p. m. the enemy, with what was reported to be Hill’s corps and Gordon’s and Pegram’s divisions, attacked Humphreys. They were handsomely repulsed, with a loss to Humphreys of 300. Since this force had attacked Humphreys’ right, consisting of but one division entire and one brigade, it became necessary to send for men enough to hold our communications with our rear line. One division of the Ninth and one division of the Sixth Corps were therefore ordered to re-enforce Humphreys. Warren, with the cavalry, has been ordered to connect with his left and to report to him. In the morning, I find that this force of the enemy is outside of his works, I shall attack and drive him into them, taking advantage of anything disclosed by the operation. During the day it is estimated that we have taken 100 prisoners.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General.

Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT,
City Point.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
February 6, 1865 – 1 a.m. (Sent 1.15 a.m.)

I have just received intelligence that my aide, Captain Jay, taking orders to General Gregg, met the enemy in force where the malone road leaves the Halifax road. Jay was fired on, and is missing, but his escort escaped. This is undoubtedly the enemy’s cavalry come up from Stony Creek. They are now in Gregg’s rear, on the road he took, and only one mile and a half from him if he is at Malone’s Bridge. I have sent this information to Warren, with directions to make every effort to communicate it to Gregg, and have instructed Warren to send a division to cover our rear on the Weldon railroad, as the cavalry may advance that may to-morrow morning. If Gregg gets my orders to rejoin Warren through that officer, he can be withdraw of the Vaughan road; but if Warren’s staff officer meets the safe of Captain Jay, Gregg’s position will be precarious, as the enemy’s cavalry will be in his rear, and their infantry, on Warren’s withdrawal, now taking place, will interpose between him and the Vaughan road. I am in hopes Warren’s artillery and trains, ordered back on the road he took, will get in safely.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
February 6, 1865 – 7.15 a.m.

Major-Generals Warren and Humphreys have both telegraphed me this morning, and inform me of their being in position, their right, well supported, near Fort Cummings, and two divisions of the Fifth Corps over Hatcher’s Run forming their left. Gregg’s cavalry is now with Warren. Trains all came up the Vaughan road. I have telegraphed to them to move out at once to determine whether or not Hill’s or any portion of the enemy’s force is now outside of their line of works. In case any should be found they are to be driven in. Heath charged in two lines, and was badly repulsed. Subsequently the whole of Hill’s corps participated in the attack. The above is the report of deserters.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
February 6, 1865.

Major Jay has returned, and it is now certain that he was captured by our own men. None of the enemy’s cavalry in vicinity of Malone’s Crossing.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Hatcher’s Run, February 6, 1865 – 7.30 p.m.
(Via Aiken’s House, 8.40 p. m.)

Major-General Warren advanced about 2 p. m. on the Dabney’s Mill and Vaughan roads. Both columns had a spirited contest with the enemy, and steadily drove him before them till about 6 p. m., when the column on the mill road, having forced the enemy beyond Badney’s Mill and until he opened on them with artillery, indicating he was in his line of works, when, being re-enforced, Warren’s troops were, in turn, compelled to retire in considerable confucian. The enemy was, however, checked before reaching the position occupied this morning, and Warren’s troops rallied in this position. The column on the Vaughan road was recalled when the others were forced back. The troops are now formed in the lines occupied this morning. The fighting has been determined, principally in dense woods, and the losses considerable, particularly in the column compelled to retire. I am not able at present to give an estimate of them.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
February 7, 1865 – 10.15 a.m. (Sent 10.50 a.m.)

Warren reports at 7.30 a. m. everything quiet in his front. The character of the weather to-day, and the ignorance I am under of the exact moral condition of Warren’s corps, and his losses from stragglers,

has restrained me from giving him positive orders to attack; but I have directed him to push out strong reconnaissances, and left to his judgment, based on the result of these reconnaissance and his knowledge of the state of his command, whether to attack or not. From all I can learn, unofficially, the disaster yesterday arose from the enemy suddenly, toward the close of the day, withdrawing from the column on the Vaughan road and concentrating on the column at Dabney’s Mill, which when one part of the line was broken, the whole retired in disorder. Warren had one whole division (Wheaton’s, Sixth Corps) not engaged. One brigade reached the mill just as the line had given way, but were unable, owing to the confusion and the dense woods, to do anything toward remedying the evil. In reference to holding to hatcher’s Run, my idea was to hold it permanently by a strong line, which a small force could hold, if we moved farther to the left. If it is designed only to hold it temporarily and to abandon it, the object I had in view would not be attained. We have now a line of breast-works all the way, but my suggestion was to a permanent line, with redoubts.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
February 7, 1865 – 2.45 p.m. (Sent 4 p.m.)

Cipher dispatch received.* I will notify you as soon as the troops are in position, but I hardly think it will be by to-morrow, as I have some works to erect before I can unmans the forces on the left. As soon as your dispatch of 11.30 was received* I forwarded it to Warren, directing him to cease offensive operations unless some very important advantage was to be gained. At 12.20, before my dispatch had reached him, he reported Crawford having carried the enemy’s line of skirmish rifle-pits, and that a prisoner reported them in line of battle near Dabney’s Mill, where they were yesterday. I expect soon to hear my dispatch has reached him. I was desirous, for the morale of the command, that the offensive should be taken. Warren has sent in the return of one division, and I hope from it that the losses yesterday will be much less than was at first supposed. Large numbers of stragglers have come in during the night and this morning. A deserter reports Rodes’ old division as having been moved from the north of the Appomattox to enemy’s right, Has Ord heard anything of this?

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
February 7, 1865 – 5.16 p.m. (Sent 5.22 p.m.)

I have just received a dispatch from Major-General Warren, announcing he had recovered most of the ground he occupied yesterday, and had again drawn the fire of the artillery in the enemy’s works. As this accomplishes all I expected him to do, I have directed him to withdraw to Hatcher’s Run, and shall hold the line from Fort Sampson to Armstrong’s

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* See part II, pp. 448, 447, respectively.

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Mill with the Second Corps, and post the Fifth Corps from the Vaughan road crossing back forward the Halifax road, prepared to meet a flank movement of the enemy or to support any point threatened in front.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
February 8, 1865 – 12.30 p.m. (Sent 1.25 p.m.)

Yesterday Major-General Warren again advanced from his position on the right bank of hatcher’s Run, and, encountering the enemy, carried the line of rifle-pits occupied by the enemy’s skirmish line, and continued the advance till the fire of the artillery in the enemy’s works near Dabney’s Mill was drawn, and till he (Warren) jaw passed over most of the ground he had occupied the day before. This operation was performed during the prevalence of a violent hail-storm. The resistance offered by the enemy outside his works was not, however, so great as the day before. Having accomplished all that was practicable, and the enemy declining battle outside his works, I directed the withdrawal of the troops to Hatcher’s Run, which was effected soon after night-fall. I forward Major-General Warren’s report, just received.* The casualties of the three days’ operations will not now, as far as I can judge in the absence of official returns, exceed 1,500, which is about double the number of wounded brought to the rear. The prisoners will exceed 200. The cavalry on the 5th captured twenty-five wagons, instead of eighteen, as previously reported. I am now preparating an entrenched line from Fort Cummings, our old left, to Armstrong’s Mill. This line will be held by the Second Corps, and the Fifth will be massed to defend our left and rear. The cavalry and the reserves of the Sixth Corps have been returned to their former positions. The reserves of the Ninth will be returned so soon as the condition of the new line justifies.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
February 8, 1865 – 4 p.m. (Sent 4.20 p.m.)

Official returns of casualties received show: Fifth Corps, 1,400; Second Corps, 140; cavalry, 150; in all 1,690, which includes over 600 missing, of whom the greater portion will turn up, being stragglers. I send a notice found by Gregg posted up in Dinwiddie Court-House. If the enemy does no attack us to-day I think you can leave with security to-morrow.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

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* See Part II, P. 487.

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HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
March 25, 1865 – 8.30 p.m. (Sent 9.05 p.m.)

Since my report of 12 m. no further operations have taken place on the Ninth Corps front. Major-General Parke reports his casualties as 64 killed, 323 wounded, and 481 missing; his captures amount to 8 battle-flags and 1,800 prisoners. The enemy were permitted, under flag of truce, to carry away from our lines 120 dead and 15 very severely wounded. Under the orders sent Major-General Wright to feel the enemy, the skirmishers of the Sixth Corps were advanced, but found the enemy’s pickets strongly entrenched. Major-General Wright supported his skirmishers by his Second Division, one brigade of the Third Division, and two brigades of the First Division, and after a spirited contest, under a sharp fire of artillery and musketry, the enemy’s entrenched picket-line was carried, capturing 416 prisoners. This line is now held. Major-General Humphreys, commanding Second Corps, likewise advanced his skirmishers, well supported by his First and Third Division, and carried the enemy’s entrenched skirmish line, taking over 200 prisoners; subsequently the enemy was re-enforced and made several vigorous and determined attacks, all of which were repulsed, Humphreys capturing in these last affairs 2 battle-flags and over 400 prisoners. The fighting on this part of the line continued till near 8 o’clock. Numerous deserters have been reported since dark. Total captures reported to-day, 10 battle-flags and 2,800 prisoners. Griffin’s division, Fifth Corps, was sent to support Humphreys, and was engaged with the Second Corps. Crawford’s and Ayres’ divisions, of the Fifth Corps, and the cavalry division were held in reserve, and promptly moved to different part s of the line.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General, Commanding.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
March 25, 1865. (Sent 12.50 a.m. [26th].)

Wright holds his captured line; Humphreys had all of his at 8 p. m., but I authorized his retaining only such portions as, in his judgment, it would be advantageous to hold. Parke sends in the return of casualties in his artillery brigade, to be added to his previous return 4 killed, 14 wounded, and 25 missing; total, 43. Humphreys estimates his killed and wounded at about 450; very few missing; things enemy’s losses in killed and wounded more than double his. Wright reported his losses small.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
March 26, 1865 – 10.45 a.m. (Sent 11.30 a.m.)

All has been quiet since 8 p. m. last evening. Wright and Humphreys hold and have entrenched all the advanced line captured yesterday

as far as the Armstrong house, which includes all but a small portion on the extreme left near Hatcher’s Run, which there was no military advantage in retaining. Humphreys now estimates his casualties at 700, Wright at 400, which will make our total casualties from all parts of the line about 2,000. Deserters report the fighting very severe, and the result as having a depressing and demoralizing effect on their army.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
March 26, 1865 – 10 p.m.

Official returns from the several corps show the casualties of yesterday as follows: Second Corps – killed, 51; wounded, 462; missing, 177. Sixth Corps – killed, 47; wounded, 402; missing, 30. Ninth Corps – killed, 68; wounded, 337; missing, 506. Total – killed, 166; wounded, 1,201; missing, 713; or a grand total of 2,080, which is 80 larger than my approximate estimate of this morning. Of prisoners, the account now stands: Second Corps, 365; Sixth Corps, 365; Sixth Corps, 469; Ninth Corps, 1,949; total, 2,783, or 13 less than reported last night; of this number some 200 are wounded in our hospitals. It has been quiet along the lines to-day. Permission was granted the enemy, on application, to remove their dead and wounded, under flag of truce, both on the Second and Sixth Corps fronts.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General, Commanding.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
March 26, 1865 – 11.30 p.m.

General Humphreys estimates the enemy’s losses in killed and wounded in his front as fully three times his, and I have no doubt from the character of the fighting, the heaviest being repulsing their attacks, that their losses wee very much greater. Wright also thinks they lost much heavier than we did. On Parke’s front their losses were quite severe from the artillery fire of adjacent batteries, not only when their supports were moving up but when they were withdrawing. On the whole, I think it would be reasonable to estimate the enemy’s losses in killed and wounded as 50 per cent. greater than ours this would make them about 2,000, which added to the prisoners would give 4,800. Taking in stragglers and deserters, I think if safe to estimate Lee’s loss for the day not less than 5,000 men.

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General.

Lieutenant-General GRANT.

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 149-156

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