Number 68. Siege of Petersburg Report of Brigadier General Regis de Trobriand, U. S. Army, commanding First Brigade of operations February 5-9

   

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in Siege of Petersburg Reports (95)

No. 68. Report of Brigadier General Regis de Trobriand, U. S. Army, commanding First Brigade of operations February 5-9.1

HDQRS. FIRST BRIGADE, THIRD DIVISION, SECOND CORPS,
February 12, 1865.

MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my brigade in the active operations of February 5, 6 and 7, on the Hatcher’s Run:

According to orders, we broke camp, and moved forward on the Vaughan road Sunday, the 5th instant, at 7 a.m., and, passing the Second Division, massed in McDowell’s field. I took the lead of the column, with three companies of cavalry in advance. This cavalry force was instructed to force the passage of the run, but found it so obstructed by felled trees, and made so impassable by deep holes dug everywhere here in the bed of the stream, that the major in command reported to me as useless any attempt for his mounted men to cross the run. I therefore proceeded at once to force the passage with part of my command. I deployed the Second U. S. Sharpshooters, Major Doughty commanding, as skirmishers, in front and right of the enemy’s

works, so as to keep his attention engaged by a threatening advance; while I ordered the Ninety-ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers (Colonel Biles), supported by the One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania Volunteers (Major Hamilton), to make the real assault some 200 yards below, near a broken dam, and to carry the position. After waiting about a quarter of an hour without hearing any report from Colonel Biles, I went myself to ascertain the cause of the delay; when, to my astonishment, I found the two regiments lying down in the woods and completely inactive. When asked why he did not even attempt to execute my orders, Colonel Biles answered that the run was reported to him as impassable for the men, and that he supposed that he had to regulate his movements on the Second U. S. Sharpshooters. Without losing any more time in explanation I ordered the two regiments forward, and charged with them across a small open field to the run, whereupon the enemy abandoned his position, and we crossed the stream without further resistance, but not without material difficulty, as the men had to jump, one after the other from log to log, and I myself had to leave my horse on the bank and to pass the stream on foot among my men, in order to put them at once in proper position to secure the possession of the ground just carried. My first object was to cover the two roads by which an attack would likely be made-that is the Vaughan road and the Armstrong Mill road. I disposed my regiments in line immediately as they arrived, in the shape of an are of a circle, crossing the two roads, my right resting on the run and my left on a small swamp, while a strong picket-line covering my front was connection the left with the captured works, were I had left two full companies. The First Maine Heavy Artillery (the strongest of my regiments) I kept in reserve, so as to re-enforce any part of my line in case of an offensive return of the enemy, who had kept his skirmishers at a short distance in front of my center and right. The position was very soon strengthened by a parapet extending from the run on the right to the swamp on my left, across the two roads already mentioned. In the meantime two bridges had been thrown across the run by the pioneers and had enabled the cavalry to pass, while easy communication was established between the two banks. Major-General Humphreys, commanding the corps, and Brevet Major-General Mott, commanding the division, having then come over to inspect my position, I was instructed to push forward on the Vaughan road, so as to take possession of the Dabney’s Mill road at F. B. Keys’ house. The Fortieth New York Volunteers and the One hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers (which had reported to me from the Second Brigade) were sent forward, supported by the One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania Volunteers. The enemy’s skirmishers were driven back and the position secured, when the Second Brigade was brought to take position on my left and rear; and soon after, the connection was established with the Fifth Corps by the cavalry and the One hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers. I remained in that position during the afternoon of the 5th and most of the night.

Between 3 and 4 o’clock on the following morning I was relieved by General Griffin, commanding First Division, Fifth Corps, and ordered to move in reserve near Tucker’s house, behind the line, where Brevet Brigadier-General McAllister had repulsed the enemy the day before and where his command was still in position.

At 9 a.m. (Monday, 6th instant) the enemy having disappeared during the night from in front of the Third Brigade, I was ordered to make a

reconnaissance in order to ascertain his whereabouts if he had retired behind his works, and what was his position. I therefore took with me four regiments-Second U. S. Sharpshooters, Twentieth Indiana Volunteers, Seventeenth Maine Volunteers, and First Maine Heavy Artillery. I deployed the Second U. S. Sharpshooters right and left of the road running north, with an advance guard on the road and a reserve. On the left of Thompson’s house I found a side road through the woods, where I left two companies of the Twentieth Indiana to secure my rear, and proceeded on without meeting the enemy, who had withdrawn his advance picket-line, until I reached an opening where a light work had been built across the road. Some rebels were occupying them, but were dislodged after a few shots and ran toward the left, where we could see the Watkins house, and 200 or 300 yards farther a continuous line of works occupied by the enemy. Moving therefore my skirmishers in that direction, I advanced toward the Watkins house, where the rebel outposts were again dislodged without resistance after an exchange of a few shots. It became the more and more apparent that we were in front of the enemy’s works, and in order to more fully develop their strength I pushed nearer my skirmishers, when the enemy was seen moving rapidly in some force toward the side road where I had left two companies of the Twentieth Indiana. Supposing that an attempt would be made there in my rear to cut me off, I sent back the balance of the be made there in my rear to cut me off, I sent back the balance of the Twentieth Indiana, following soon after with the two other regiments, while my skirmishers were marched by the left flank in a direction parallel to the one of the enemy. The reconnaissance was then transferred from the road running north to the road running west of Thompson’s house, and the enemy showing no disposition to attack us I sent forward two companies deployed as skirmishers through the woods. These two companies, under the able command of Lieutenant Colonel A. S. Andrews, Twentieth Indiana Volunteers, advanced across a swamp, and soon found themselves in front of the enemy’s intrenchments, with a fortified battery, or redoubt, armed wight two guns commanding the road. My men opened on the rebels visible above the parapet, when their fire was briskly returned, many of the enemy jumping above the parapet to occupy small pits in front of their intrenchments. The progress of the movements were reported successively to division and corps commanders, and the object of the reconnaissance being now fully accomplished, I received the order to return to my position inside of our lines.

In the evening of the same day, part of the Fifth Corps having met with a repulse on the other side of Hatcher’s Run, I was ordered to take my command over as rapidly as possible, which was promptly obeyed, but, when near the bridge, I was informed by Major-General Meade, commanding the army, that my services were not needed any more, and that I could take my brigade back. I remained two days (7th and 8th instant) in the same position, and on the 9th I was ordered to the new position in line which my brigade now occupies.

During these operations the Second U. S. Sharpshooters under command of Major J. Ed. Doughty, has done good service. This regiment being about to be broken up, and this being probably its last engagement as a distinct organization, I take this opportunity of acknowledging its good and efficient services on this as on many other occasions during the campaigns of 1863 and 1864 when it was under my command.

All my regiments have done their duty well, as usual.

Outside of my command, I am indebted to Captain George W. Perkins, of division staff, for his valuable and spirited assistance during the reconnaissance of Monday, the 7th [6th] instant.

Respectfully submitted.

R. DE TROBRIAND,
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding.

Major WILLIAM R. DRIVER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Div., Second Army Corps.

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 226-229

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