Number 97. Siege of Petersburg Report of Bvt. Brigadier General Alfred L. Pearson, One hundred and fifty-fifth Pennsylvania Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations February 5-7

   

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No. 97. Report of Bvt. Brigadier General Alfred L. Pearson, One hundred and fifty-fifth Pennsylvania Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations February 5-7.1

HDQRS. THIRD BRIGADE, FIRST DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS,
February 13, 1865.

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the movements and operations of this command during the 5th, 6th, and 7th days of February, 1865:

In obedience to orders I moved from camp near Petersburg, Va., on Sunday, February 5, at 6.30 a.m., passing along the line of the Weldon Railroad in the direction of Reams’ Station. Left the railroad before reaching that point and moved in the direction of Dinwiddie Court-House, crossing Rowanty Creek at 2 p.m., and halted about three miles from the Court-House. Placed the command in line and bivouacked. Threw out a strong picket force connecting with the Second Brigade, First Division, on my right and Third Division on the left. At 11.30 p.m. received orders to withdraw the picket-line and to move back, covering the First and Second Brigades of First Division.

Marched until daylight, when we halted near Hatcher’s Run and rested until 10 a.m. (6th), when, by orders received from Brevet Major-

General Griffin, commanding First Division, moved to a line of partially constructed works (thrown up by the enemy) occupied by a brigade of the Second Corps. Relieved said brigade and placed my command in line of battle, right resting at Armstrong’s Mill on Hatcher’s Run and extending along the line of works to within fifty yards of the Vaughan road. Threw out a strong picket-line in my front and built a good line of works. Remained in that position until 4.15 p.m., when I received the following order:

FEBRUARY 5 [6], 1865-4 p.m.

Brevet Major-General GRIFFIN:

I want to take your right brigade from the line further to the right. I wish you would have the commanding officer of that brigade place himself there on the right to receive a call from me.

G. K. WARREN,
Major-General, Commanding.

In pursuance of said order and by direction of a staff officer from Major-General Warren, I moved my brigade (through the line of works) by the flank through a strip of woods. The enemy at this time opened on us with a battery of 3-inch guns on my right, killing and wounding a few of my men. Was met by Major-General Warren who ordered me to place my command in line of battle, which I immediately did, my right resting in rear of center of one of the brigades of Third Division and extending along to rear of a brigade of Second Division and in following order: Thirty-second Massachusetts (Colonel Edmands); One hundred and fifty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers (Captain J. T. Bell); Sixteenth Michigan (Brevet Colonel Partridge); One hundred and eighteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers (Brevet Colonel Herring); Twentieth Maine (Lieutenant-Colonel Gilmore); Eighty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers (Lieutenant-Colonel Rogers); Ninety-first Pennsylvania Volunteers (Captain Donnell), and First Michigan (Lieutenant-Colonel Lockley). Had no sooner formed than I received orders from Major-General Warren (in person) to double-quick a portion of brigade to the front and report to Brevet Major-General Ayres, whose troops were then hotly engaged with the enemy. Took the One hundred and fifty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers and Thirty-second Massachusetts Volunteers, and double-quacked them by the left flank to the front and quickly placed them on the left of brigade of Second Division near Dabney’s Mill, where they immediately became fiercely engaged with the enemy.

By order of General Ayres I brought up another regiment (Sixteenth Michigan) and placed it on the right of the brigade of the Second Division spoken of above, with orders to the commanding officer (Colonel Partridge) to hold the position as long as possible. The brigade on my right having broken, I proceeded to bring up the rest of the brigade, but was met by a flank fire, which caused the troops to falter and finally to fall back. At the same time the Thirty-second Massachusetts and One hundred and fifty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers were forced to fall back in consequence of a body of the enemy’s troops attacking them on their left and also from a severe fire from their rear, which, in my opinion, came from troops of the Third Division of Fifth Corps and a mass of troops (seemingly without officers) of the Sixth Corps, who had become partially demoralized. After much hard labor and exertion the brigade was again nearly reformed, when a volley from our rear (killing and wounding many, among whom was Captain Smith of the Eighty-third Pennsylvania, killed) caused my command to break. Fell back a short distance, and again reformed and advanced in good

order to the edge of the woods and again became engaged. The enemy having retired I placed the brigade in a new and more favorable position, forming on the right of a brigade of Sixth Corps which was being reorganized, and threw out the First Michigan Volunteers and One hundred and eighteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers as skirmishers. Remained in that position until relieved by Brevet Brigadier-General Winthrop’s brigade of Second Division, when (by order received from General Warren) I moved back to and occupied my old position near Hatcher’s Run. Remained there all night and during the day of the 7th.

I cannot speak too highly of the conduct and gallant bearing of the following-named officers, who did all officers could to insure success, viz, Colonel J. Cushing Edmands, Lieutenant Colonel J. A. Cunningham, Major E. O. Shepard (wounded and taken prisoner), Thirty-second Massachusetts Volunteers; Bvt. Colonel Charles P. Herring, One hundred and eighteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers (wounded); Bvt. Colonel B. F. Partridge, Sixteenth Michigan Veteran Volunteers; Adjutant Laird, Sixteenth Michigan Veteran Volunteers; Captain John T. Bell, commanding One hundred and fifty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers; Captain George P. McClelland, One hundred and fifty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers; and also the following-named officers acting on my staff: Captain E. S. Farnsworth, Thirty-second Massachusetts Volunteers, acting assistant adjutant-general; Captain George F. Morgan, One hundred and fifty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, acting brigade inspector; Lieutenant George W. Williams, One hundred and eighteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, acting aide-de-camp; Lieutenant William Griffin, Twentieth Maine Volunteers, acting aide-de-camp. I would also make especial mention of Private John Gottlieb Heydlauff, Company B, Sixteenth Michigan Volunteers, who acted as color-bearer and bugler of my brigade, and who placed himself on the front line, and by constantly sounding the brigade call did much to help reorganize the troops of the brigade. I would earnestly recommend that a gold medal be granted him for meritorious conduct.

Following is a numerical list of casualties during engagements: Officers-killed, 3; wounded, 7; missing, 1; total, 11. Enlisted men-killed, 15; wounded, 122; missing, 30; total, 167. Aggregate, 178.

Respectfully submitted.

A. L. PEARSON,
Brevet Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding.

Captain GEORGE M. LAUGHLIN,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

[First indorsement.]

HEADQUARTERS FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
February 18, 1865.

Respectfully returned.

The major-general commanding witnessed the action of this brigade until the brigade of the Sixth Corps came up, and the latter did not fire into Pearson’s brigade. The fire complained of came from Colonel Burr’s brigade, but did not amount to much in effect. This part of the within report ought to be corrected. The firing from the rear is mainly attributable to the mass of fugitives rushing from the front upon the lines formed to stop them. Their fire did not occasion their lines to break in the first instance.

By command of Major-General Warren:

FRED. T. LOCKE,
Brevet Colonel and Assistant Adjutant-General.

[Second indorsement.]

HDQRS. THIRD BRIGADE, FIRST DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS,
February 22, 1865.

Respectfully reforwarded.

I am compelled, after mature consideration, to return my report unaltered. I did not see Colonel Burr’s brigade until after I had fallen back to the open field. The first shots that were fired from the rear into my troops came from the Third Division and when my men were engaged and in good order at the old mill. Colonel Burr’s brigade then could not have been within 800 yards of me. After I had fallen back and was trying to reform, I rode up to a person, whom I supposed to be an officer, wearing a Sixth Corps badge, and asked him to stop his men and make them cease firing, as my own men were in front. He replied: “By God, you do not command this regiment. Colonel — (I have forgotten the name) commands here.” I am willing to withdraw my entire report.

A. L. PEARSON,
Brevet Brigadier-General, Commanding.

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 270-273

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