Report of Major Thomas Wright, 31st USCT, of operations June 4-November 6, 18641
New York, Dec. 20, 1865.
Col. Henry C. Ward,
In compliance with your request, I have the honor to submit the following report of operations of the 31st U. S. C. T., from the 4th day of June, 1864, (date of consolidation of 30th Conn. Vols, and 31st U. S. C. T.) to the 6th day of November, the date of your joining the regiment.
On the 4th day of June, 1864, the consolidation of the two battalions was effected near Coal Harbor, and the regiment was assigned to the 3d Brigade, 4th Division, 9th Army Corps.
The Division was then in position in rear to prevent the enemy’s cavalry from attacking our rear. We remained in this position until the 14th of the same month, when we began our march for the James river, passing by way of Gunstall Station, New Kent Court House, crossing the Chickahominy at Jones’ Bridge, and finally reached Charles City Court House, on the James river, on the evening of the 16th, where we remained until next morning, then crossed the river and marched to front of Petersburg.
From that date until the 29th of July, we were continually moving to different positions on the line, without any close engagement.
On the 29th of July we were holding the reserved line on the left, when we received orders to march at once to the front of Petersburg and join our Corps, where we arrived at 10 P. M., and received definite orders that we were to storm the enemy’s works at daylight next morning, after the explosion of the mine.
At the proper hour we were in line, fully prepared for the explosion of the mine, which was sprung at 5:30 A. M., and followed by a slight musketry fire, but not sufficient to indicate a general engagement.
We waited anxiously, expecting every moment to be ordered in, until 8 A. M., then our orders arrived to move forward, which was promptly obeyed, but owing to the difficult ground to pass, we did not reach our front line until 8:30. On reaching the front line, we at once pushed forward under a galling cross fire, thinning our ranks terribly, before reaching the crater.
We lost our brave and gallant Lieut. Col., W. E. W. Ross, who fell seriously wounded while gallantly leading his regiment. His brave and manly conduct had won for him the love and respect of all, and his loss was deeply regretted at this time.
On reaching the crater we at once pushed through as well as the tangled mass of human beings and uprooted earth would permit. It caused considerable confusion, and before I could rectify it, I was wounded and left the field. The command then devolved on Capt. Robinson, who made one more attempt to charge, but was repulsed by the confusion and a counter charge by the enemy. By 2 P. M., all that we had gained in the morning, was lost.
I cannot speak too highly of both officers and men in this engagement. More bravery and enthusiasm I never witnessed; besides their patriotic ardor, they went into that action with a determination to command the respect of white troops; which we knew could only be obtained by hard fighting.
I am entirely without regimental records, therefore cannot give the number nor list of killed among the enlisted men. Yet I can say, with a certainty, that our loss was at least fifty per cent. The following is a list of officers killed and wounded:
2d Lieut., William H. Ayres, killed.
Lt. Col., W. E. W. Ross, wounded in leg, amputated.
Captain, Woodruff, [wounded in] arm, died.
[Captain] T. Wright, [wounded in] side.
1st Lieut., J. B. Mason, [wounded in] arm, amputated.
Captain, Chas. Robinson, missing, prisoner.
1st Lieut., H. A. Downing, wounded, prisoner.
Subsequently we followed the movements of the army to South Side railroad, and in October participated in a severe skirmish near Fort Sedgwick, in which we lost some twenty or more men and one officer (Captain Shoop).
During the latter part of October we again moved to the South Side railroad, but without success, therefore returned and went into camp at Poplar Grove Church, where we remained until you assumed command.
I am, Colonel,
Your obedient servant,
Late Major 31st U. S. C. T.
- Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of Connecticut, for the Year Ending March 31, 1866 (Hartford, CT: A. N. Clark & Co., State Printers, 1866), pp. 224-225 ↩