Number 6. Siege of Petersburg Reports of Bvt. Col. James C. Duane, Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army, of operations January 14-February 25

   

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No. 6. Reports of Bvt. James c. Duane, Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army, of operations January 14-February 25.1

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, ENGINEER DEPARTMENT,
January 23, 1865.

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the engineering operations in this army fir the week ending January 21, 1865:

Brevet Major Harwood was in command of the battalion of U. S. Engineers, and, assisted by Lieutenant Phillips, inspected the line from Fort Davidson to Fort McMaHonorable The former officer also superintended the repairs of the line from Fort Bross to Fort Dushane. Brevet Captain Benyaurd had charge of the repairs from Fort McGilvery to Fort Howard. Brevet Captain Howell made an inspection of the line from Fort Welch to Battery 24, and superintended the reconstruction of Fort Fisher and repairs from Fort Howard to Fort Dushane. Lieutenant Heap, assisted by Lieutenant Phillips, inspected the line from Fort Alex, Hays to Fort Meikel.

The following extracts from the weekly report of Brevet Colonel Spaulding, commanding detachment of Fiftieth New York Volunteer Engineers, will show the extent and nature of the duties upon which the officers and men of his command have been engaged:

The work upon the battery at the left of Fort Keene has been continued during the past week, under the general direction of Brevet Major McDonald, with daily details of about 200 men from this command. This work in a small lunette containing two barbettes and there embrasures, originally thrown up and very roughly reverted by infantry. The stockade for clothing the gorge of this work is 185 feet in length, with flanking arrangements. Brevet Captain Van Rensselaer (who relieved Major McDonald) reports that this stockade was completed last evening. To-day he has been at work with one company of this regiment in putting in new revetment and raising the parapet, and this part of the work is about one-sixth done. The cold weather of the part week has caused the work upon the signal tower to progress but slowly, it being very difficulty and hazardous for men to work at such an elevation, upon insecure footing, when the weather is cold and stormy. Brevet Major Hine reports all the material on the ground, 130 feet framed, sixty-eight feet raised, and sixty-four feet completed.

On Tuesday, the 17th, I sent Lieutenant Paine with one company of this command to make some repairs and renewals of the works on a part of the Ninth Corps front. The work required was as follows: A new magazine to be constructed in Battery 10; in Fort Morton, two magazines to be followed and sheathed; in Fort Sedgwick, one magazine to be sheathed and another to be sheathed and drained; in Fort Davis, the magazines in the salient to be strengthened and three drains under the parapets to be framed and lined. Lieutenant Paine reports all the above-mentioned work completed, except rivetting one of the drains in Fort Davis; this will be completed to-morrow, if the weather permits.

On Thursday, the 19th, I sent Captain Dolan with his company to repair Forts Stevenson, Blaisdell, Partick Kelly, and Bross. In the construction of these forts too little berm, in most cases, had been left for works that were to be maintained for any considerable length of time. The consequence was that the scarp in many placed had caved into the length, and in some instances the parapet had followed the scarp. Seven hundred men from the Fifth Army Corps reported to Captain Dolan, and for the past two days these men, together with the one company of engineer troops, have been at work upon Forts Stevenson, Blaisdell, and Bross. Nothing has as yet been done on Fort Patrick Kelly. The amount and character of the repairs upon these forts will be best described when the are completed.

On Saturday, the 14th, I placed the following officers of this command in charge of corduroy roads: Lieutenant Warfield, all roads within the lines of the army from the Jerusalem plank road to the defenses of City Point: Lieutenant Bacon, all roads between the Jerusalem plank road and the Weldon railway; Lieutenant La Gande, all roads from the Weldon railway to the southern limit of the lines occupied by the Second Corps. During the past week these officers, with details from this command

and details of men and teams from the Sixth and Ninth Corps, have built several additional bridges and out the corduroy roads upon their respective sections in good repair.

During the week 456 gabions have been by my men and brought into camp; also, twenty sections of chevaux-frise. Six sections of the latter and a coil of wire were sent to Fort Sedgwick this morning, in charge of Lieutenant Taylor, with directions to instruct the officers commanding the garrison as to the manner of fastening these sections together with wire. Considerable progress has been made with the drawings of the wooden an canvas pontoon wagons, showing the modifications and improvements it has been found advisable to introduce in actual practice in the field. I have also sent for a French pontoon truck, and will have it arranged and rebuilt or the canvas train.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. C. DUANE,
Major of Engineers, Brevet Colonel, U. S. Army.

Major General J. G. BARNARD,
Chief Engineer, Armies in the Field.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, OFFICE OF THE CHIEF ENGINEER,
January 30, 1865.

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the engineering operations in this army for the week ending January 28, 1865:

Brevet Major Harwood was in command of the battalion of U. S. Engineers, and had charge of repairs from Fort Bross to Fort Dushane. Brevet Captain Benyaud assisted Colonel Duane, chief engineer, in the construction of batteries on the James River. Brevet Captain Howell had charge of the construction of Fort Fisher and of the battery to the right of Fort Welch; he also had charge of the repairs of the line from Battery 24 to Fort Dushane. Lieutenant Heap inspected the line from Fort McGilvery to Fort Alex. Hays.

The following extracts from the weekly report of Bvt. Colonel I. Spaulding, commanding detachment Fiftieth New York Volunteer Engineers, will show the nature and extent of the duties upon which his command has been engaged:

The severity of the weather during the past week, and the depth to which the ground was frozen, has prevented any considerable progress being made where the digging and dressing of the banks have been principally near the surface. the old revetment has been removed from the battery near Fort Keene, most of the new revetment put in and the parapet raised, the three embrasures reverted with gabions and fagots; three platforms laid the barbettes partially built, and the gate at the entrance completed. Upon the signal tower the balance of the framing has been completed, and a mast placed in position for raising the next section. Brevet Major Hine reports that it only requires a few days of mild weather now to push the work rapidly toward completion. During the week but little progress has been made with the repairs of the forts on the rear line. Captain Dolan reports that as soon as the ground is thawed he can complete the work on Forts Stevenson and Blaisdell in one day, and that on Fort Bross in three days. Nothing has yet been done on Fort Patrick Kelly. The unfinished work on Fort Davis has been completed. During the week Lieutenant La Grange, with small details from this regiment and from the Second Corps, has repaired the corduroy roads near the Yellow House and near the Poplar Grove Church; also built a corduroy bridge across the creek between Forts Cummings and Emery. For the past two days Captain Dexter has been engaged with his company in hewing and preparing gun platforms for Fort Fisher. These platforms are fourteen by eighteen feet. Up to this time materials for about seven platforms have been delivered. Eight sections of chevaux-de-frise have been made during the week.

On the morning of the 23rd I received an order from Lieutenant-General Grant, through Brevet Lieutenant-General Michler, to have 500 feet of wooden pontoon bridging ready to move at short notice. It was not stated whether pontoniers would

be required or not, but I deemed it advisable to send three companies (Captain McGrath commanding) to the train near City Point, with directions to have the trains ready to move at once when ordered. During the afternoon Lieutenant-General Michler sent me another message from Lieutenant-General Grant, directing that 600 feet of pontoon bridge should be immediately prepared for shipment at City Point. By the advice of Lieutenant-General Michler I proceeded in person to City Point to ascertain definitely what was required and to superintended operations in person. There I was informed the animals were to be shipped with the trains and pontoniers sent with them. The next morning you informed me that, after consultation with Lieutenant-General Grant, it had been decided to send a company of the Fifteenth New York Volunteer Engineers as pontoniers. I accordingly invoiced the train to Captain Lewis, commanding the company designated by Colonel Brainerd, commanding the regiment. This train consisted of thirty boats (equal to 620 feet of bridging), including all the necessary material and appliances for constructing the bridge or brigades and for moving them by land or water, also army wagons for the use of the pontoniers and quartermaster, and a little more than half the usual number of forage wagons. The animals and quartermaster’s stores were turned over to Captain Lewis’ lieutenant, acting quartermaster of the train. I left captain McGrath, with one company, at Colonel Brainerd’s request, to assist in loading the train, and two companies were returned to this camp. Up to this time the steamer designated for the transportation of this train has not arrived at City Point.

On the 24th I left a memorandum with quartermaster of the Engineer Brigade for boats, wagons, and material to be ordered from Washington to supply the place of the trains turned over for shipment, with directions to have them ordered immediately. During my absence at City Point an order was received directing that a company of pontoniers be sent to the Valley of the Shenandoah to report Major-General Sheridan, and stating that the latter would be pleased to have the same company and officer that were with him on the expedition last June. Company I, commanded in June last by W. W. Folwell, as captain (now major), was designated. This company is now commanded by Captain M. B. Folwell, formerly a first lieutenant in the same company. I met the officers of the company at City Point, and also Major Folwell. There I arranged with Major Folwell that he should proceed to the Valley of the Shenandoah and remain there with Captain Flowell until the pontoon train (understood to be in course of preparation there) was ready for the field, when he should return to these headquarters. Directions to this effect were sent by Major Folwell from Lieutenant-General Grant to Major-General Sheridan.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. C. DUANE,
Major of Engineer and Brevet Colonel, U. S. Army.

Major General J. G. BARNARD,
Chief Engineer, Armies in the Field.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, ENGINEER DEPARTMENT,
February 13, 1865.

SIR: The following extract from the report of Bvt. Major Harwood, commanding battalion of U. S. Engineers, and from that of Brevet Colonel Spauling, commanding detachment Fiftieth New York Volunteer Engineers, will show the nature and extend t of the engineering operations for the week ending February 11, 1865:

Brevet Major Hardwoods was in command of the battalion of engineers, and was attached to the Fifth Corps headquarters during the active operations of the 5th, 6th, and 7th instant, and established and constructed a line near Hatcher’s Run, at crossing of the Vaughan road. Brevet Captain Benyaurd was attached to cavalry division during the active operations of the 5th, 6th, and 7th, and assisted major Harwood to establish the line from Fort Sampson to hatcher’s Run; also was a reconnaissance near Fort Sedgwick. Brevet Captain Howell was attached to Second Corps headquarters during the active operations of the 5th, 6th, and 7th, and assisted Major Harwood to establish the line from Fort Sampson to Hatcher’s Run, and was in charge of the construction of the line from Fort Sampson to Hatcher’s Run. Lieutenant Heap was in command of the battalion when in the rifle-pits on the 5th, 6th, and 7th, and had charge of the construction of the battery at Hatcher’s Run near crossing of Vaughan road.

From Colonel Spaulding’s report:

The weather has been so clod and windy during the past week that but little could be done on the signal tower. The posts have all been raised and secured in their positions and twenty-six additional feet of the tower completed at this date. Brevet Major Hine reports that three or four days of mild weather will enable him to complete the work.

On the 4th Instant Captain Dexter, with a detail of two companies from this command, commenced delivering material for and constructing a strong line of abatis around Fort Fisher. On the 5th this abatis was completed on the front and flanks, and sufficient material delivered for extending it along the rear face, but this could not be placed in positions until the camps in that vicinity were removed. This abatis was further strengthened by two lines of wire interlaced with the branches and a wire entanglement placed in front of the abatis.

On the 6th Captain Dexter commenced opening a road from Fort Cummings to Armstrong’s Mill, on Hatcher’s Run. The details for this work were, two companies from this command from the 6th to the 9th, inclusive, 14 teams from the Second Corps on the 8th instant, and 400 men and 40 teams from the Ninth Corps on the 9th. The work was finished on the evening of the 9th, having constructed double corduroy bridges over all the ravines and low grounds and cut a double track through the timber.

On the evening of the 5th I sent Brevet Major Van Brocklin, with four companies of this command, to report to you on the crossing of Hatcher’s Run. On the 6th this detachment was engaged in repairing the Vaughan road, building corduroy bridges over small streams, &c. At 9 p. m. of the 6th Major Van Brocklin received orders from you to construct an additional bridge over Hatcher’s Run. This bridge was about 250 feet in length; the material was carried from the woods by Major Van Brocklin’s detachment, and the bridge completed about 1.30 a. m. of the 7th instant.

On the morning of the 7th I sent an additional company from this regiment to report to Major Van Brocklin, and he commenced the construction of a permanent corduroy road from Hatcher’s Run to Fort Siebert. The following details have been engaged on this work: February 7, five companies Fiftieth Engineers and 20 men and 100 teams from Second Corps; February 9, five companies Fiftieth Engineers and 2,000 men and 100 teams from Fifth Corps; February 10, five companies Fiftieth Engineers and 2,000 men and 100 teams from the Fifth Corps. This corduroy road is now completed for about three miles, with the exception of covering a portion of it with earth.

On the 8th Major Van Brocklin, leaving Captain Van Rensselaer in temporary charge of the work on the corduroy road, made a reconnaissance for an extension of the U. S. military railroad to hatcher’s Run, and reported the result to Colonel Batchelder, chief quartermaster, Army of the Potomac.

On the 9th Captain Van Rensselaer took charge of the unfinished work on Fort Fisher, this work having been turned over to him by Captain Howell.

The repairs of the several forts on the rear line, which were commenced on the 19th of January by Captain Dolan, were as follows: At Fort Stevenson, the ramps, banquettes, and gun platforms required repairs, about fifty feet of the scarp on each face to be rivetted, gratings to be placed over the drains, the entrances of three magazines to be reverted, and the exterior to be removed from the bern and dressed off; at Fort Blaisdell, the whole revetment and parapet to be moved in four feet, gun platforms, banquettes, ramps and embrasures to be rebuilt. The above works in these two forts are completed. The work on Fort Patrick Kelly was about the same as tat on Fort Blaisdell. The revetment on this forts has been moved in and the barbettes nearly completed, but owing to troops being taken away for the late movement on Hatcher’s Run, the work on this fort was suspended. The work on Fort Bross required the revetment and parapet to be moved in four feet, the ditch to be drained, embrasures cit in the parapet and reverted, and a magazine to be built. This work is completed except the art work in moving the parapet; it was left unfinished at the time of the late move of the army. To complete these works would probably require a detail of about 400 men for three days. Four hundred and ninety-six gabions have been made during the week and brought into camp, and 480 issued at Fort Fisher, the battery on the left of this fort, and for repairs of the works on the Ninth Corps line.

Very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,

J. C. DUANE,
Major of Engineer and Brevet Colonel, U. S. Army.

Bvt. Major General J. G. BARNARD,
Chief Engineer, Armies in the Field, City Point, Va.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, OFFICE OF THE CHIEF ENGINEER,
February 20, 1865.

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the engineering operations in this army for the week ending February 18, 1865:

Bvt. Major F. Harwood was in command of the Engineer Battalion, and had charge of the construction of the line at Hatcher’s Run, near crossing of Vaughan road. Brevet Captain Benyaurd inspected the line on Sixth Corps front with a view to making entanglements, and also inspected the line from Fort McGilvery to Fort Howard. Brevet Captain Howell had charge of the construction of the line from Fort Sampson to near Hatcher’s Run. Lieutenant Heap had charge of the constructions of a battery at hatcher’s Run near crossing of Vaughan road, and of a two-gun battery on Vaughan road near crossing of hatcher’s Run. This officer also inspected the line on Second and Fifth Corps front with a view to verify the position of pickets. The following extracts are made from the report of Brevet Colonel Spaulding, commanding Fiftieth New York Volunteer Engineers:

The signal tower is so nearly completed that it will be probably finished to-morrow. In the next weekly report drawings of the tower will be furnished, with a detailed description of the work. The work upon Fort Fisher has progressed as rapidly as the state of the weather would permit. Brevet Captain Van Rensselaer reports three-fourths of the parapets completed, and the remainder one-half complete. Platforms are laid for three barbette and three embrasures guns, and two additional embrasure guns will be added to-morrow. This fort can be finished, except the inner works, in four or five days. No bomb-proofs, magazines, or traverses have yet been commenced in this fort. The battery on the left of Fort Fisher (also in charge of Brevet Captain Van Rensselaer) has had during the week seven platforms and two magazines added, the parapets and traverses finished, and the work is now complete, mounting eleven guns. Brevet Major Van Brocklin reports that on the 11th and 13th instant the work was continued on the corduroy road from Fort Siebert to Hatcher’s Run, the details for the work consisting of five companies of this regiment and twenty-five teams from the Fifth Corps. The road was completed on the evening of the 13th instant. With very few intervals, there is now a continuous corduroy road from the first stream south of Fort Siebert to Hatcher’s Run, and a double track over all the streams and low grounds. Captain Dexter has been engaged with his company in getting our platform timber. During the week he has hewn and delivered at Fort Fisher and the battery on its left 3,523 superficial feet of timber, equal to fourteen platforms.

During the week 204 fascines have been made and delivered at Fort Fisher and the eleven-gun battery; 639 gabions have also been made and brought into camp; of these, 417 have been issued for Fort Fisher and for repairing the works on the Ninth Corps front.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. C. DUANE,
Major of Engineers and Brevet Colonel, U. S. Army.

Major General J. G. BARNARD,
Chief Engineer, Armies in the Field.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, OFFICE OF THE CHIEF ENGINEER,
February 27, 1865.

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the engineering operations in this army for the week ending February 25, 1865:

Brevet Major Harwood was in command of the Battalion of Engineers, and inspected the line from Hatcher’s Run to Fort Fisher; also inspected rifle-pits on Hatcher’s Run. Lieutenants Heap and Phillips

were in charge of laying abatis around the tete-de-pont at crossing of Vaughan road near Hatcher’s Run. The latter officer also inspected the line from Fort Cummings to Fort McMahon, and assisted Major Harwood in the inspection of rifle-pits on Hatcher’s Run. The following extracts from the weekly report of Brevet Colonel Spauling, commanding Fiftieth New York Engineers, will show the nature and extent of the engineering duties upon which the officers and men of his command have been engaged:

Lieutenant Van Rensselaer reports the parapets of Fort Fisher nearly finished. The work ins ready for fifteen guns and is inclosed with abatis. The whole fort will probably be completed to-morrow, except the interior works, and these have not yet been commenced. On the 21st Brevet Major Van Brocklin commenced the work of corduroying the Squirrel Level road, and has been working an evreage detail of 300 men and 50 teams from the Second Army Corps. This work is about one-half done, and will require about three days of good weather to finish it.

On the 20th, 21st, and 22nd Lieutenant Bacn was engaged in covering the corduroy on the Vaughan road and building additional bridges and sluices over streams and swamps. The average detail for this work was 200 men from the Fifth Corps and 100 men and 10 teams from the Second Corps.

During the week Lieutenant La Grange, with a part of one company of this regiment, has hewn out and delivered at Fort Fisher 2,315 superficial feet of timber for gun platforms and 115 lineal feet of sleepers.

For the past three days Lieutenant De Groot has been engaged with nine company of this command, and for two days a detail of 400 men from the Ninth Corps, in completing the repairs of Fort Patrick Kelly. But little progress has been made to-day on account of infantry detail not reporting. The gun platforms are completed, and the parapets and drains nearly finished.

Sixty-four fascines and 300 gabions have been made during the week, and 64 fascines and 273 gabions have been issued for use at Fort Fisher.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. C. DUANE,
Major of Engineer and Brevet Colonel, U. S. Army.

Major General J. G. Barnard,
Chief Engineer, Armies in the Field.

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 157-162

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