Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Brett Schulte.
Defending Fort Gregg
A Johnny Reb’s Story of the Surrender on April 2, 1865.
EDITOR NATIONAL TRIBUNE: I notice in the issue of THE NATIONAL TRIBUNE of March 27, 1902, two accounts of the fight and surrender of Fort Gregg, near Petersburg, Va., April 2, 1865, one by James Ray, 12th W. Va., Park Miles, Ohio, and the other by H.T. Lucas, Co. H, 39th Ill., Le Roy, Ill. I know nothing as to the merits of either’s claim, but I was one of the “Johnny rebs.” that was captured at the surrender of the fort, and I think perhaps it would be of interest to some of your many readers to learn something about the surrender of the fort from one who was on the opposite side.
The fort was situated on the Boydton Plank Road, about one and a half miles south of Petersburg, and was impregnable against capture, so far as infantry was concerned, except with the consent only of the troops within the fort. It was constructed of earthwork, forming a half circle, with inside breastworks of logs, one parapet sufficiently high for infantry to fire from, and one for cannon. It had a well-fitted stockade of logs, with portholes 12 feet high for muskets, extending from wing to wing, with a stationary gate in the center, thus forming, as stated above, an impregnable defense against infantry. This fort was captured only after the ammunition for muskets was exhausted, when it would have been folly to continue fighting, as more or less lives would have been lost without accomplishing any results. At the same time no relief was forthcoming or in sight, consequently we considered the best thing to do was to surrender, and we did surrender, although several of our men were shot after the surrender. One of my own company fell at my side after getting out and from the fort some 15 or 20 feet; two others were shot before getting out of the fort. Altogether during the siege of the fort we lost 30 killed and wounded, mostly killed. The loss to the Union troops must have been terrible, as they were exposed to a galling fire for two and a half or three hours at very close range, so close were the closest that when each went to fire over the top of the fort they could hit each other’s bayonets and force their guns to one side or the other.
We held, before agreeing to surrender, what might be termed a council of war. In this council we concluded to open boxes of cannon ammunition and use the shells as hand-grenades by cutting the fuse four or five seconds and throw them over the fort, thinking this might cause the Union troops to fall back and thus effect our escape, but to our sorrow all the shells had been used as the Union forces advanced.
In conclusion of my narrative I must say that the Union forces are to be commended for their endurance under the circumstances, and it was their endurance only that accomplished the surrender.
After the surrender we were marched back until we came to the observatory, where we were halted and counted. We numbered 170 men. From there we were taken to City Point, put upon a boat and sent to Point Lookout, Md. The writer returned home just three months from the day of capture, July 2, 1865. I will also add that we were treated kindly while in prison.–GEO. W. KENNEDY. Rice’s Battery, McIntosh’s Battalion, Third Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, New Market, Va.1
- Kennedy, George W. “Defending Fort Gregg.” National Tribune 15 May 1902. 3:6. ↩