Report of Colonel John H. Holman, First U. S. Colored Troops, of operations June 15.1
HEADQUARTERS FIRST U. S. COLORED TROOPS,
Camp in the Field, June 20, 1864.
SIR: I have the honor to report the movement of the troops under my command in the engagement with the enemy and the assault upon his works before Petersburg on the 15th instant:
Pursuant to orders from division headquarters, I moved from City Point at 2 a. m. on the 15th instant with the following command: First
U. S. Colored Troops, Lieutenant-Colonel Wright; Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry, Colonel Russell; two companies Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel Washburn, and Captain Choate’s battery. My troops composed the second line in the charge upon the enemy’s works, encountered about five miles from City Point. Colonel Russell was wounded in the charge, and was obliged soon after in consequence to retire. The command of that regiment then devolved upon Major Weld. After the rout of the enemy at this point the First United States was ordered in the advance, with directions to clear the way for the advance of the column, and upon arriving at the bridge, about one mile, where the enemy had been previously intrenched, and deploy to the right of the road. From this point the enemy’s pickets were engaged and quickly driven in, and the high ground, which was desired for the position of our batteries, secured. This was about 9 a. m. Seven companies of the First United States were subsequently deployed upon this line. About this time Colonel Washburn was relieved from my command, as was also Captain Choate’s battery. The Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry were partially held in reserve and partially deployed upon the left flank to protect that part of the line and give notice of any movement of the enemy in that direction. The enemy opened and kept up a destructive fire from his artillery and sharpshooters upon my skirmish line, which could not be returned with much effect, as he was well protected by his intrenchments. About 5 p. m. I was informed that the assault would soon be ordered by the skirmish line only. I made such dispositions of my command as seemed to me best suited to insure success. At 6 p. m. I received the order from General Hinks to make the assault with the skirmish line. I immediately ordered Colonel Wright, First U. S. Colored Troops, to advance upon the enemy’s works; at the same time I ordered the captain commanding two companies of the Fifth U. S. Colored Troops, whose men were deployed as skirmishers on the left, to make a determined assault upon the enemy’s works in his front in connection with the First United States. Those two t advance, for what reason I am not aware. At the same time I dismounted and took immediate command of two companies of the First United States on the left near the Jordan Point road. The ground upon the left covering the approach to the works in my front was found to be covered with timber and brush, and exceedingly difficult to cross. The right of the line under Colonel Wright, having smooth ground to advance over, reached and carried the enemy’s works known as Battery Numbers 6 before I had very much advanced through the brush and timber on the left. I moved forward the two companies on the left as fast as possible, and received the fire from the gun known as Battery Numbers 9 when within fifty yards, and carried the battery from the front, the enemy running to Battery Numbers 10, which was still stubbornly held, when opportunately the Fourth United States, who had entered the enemy’s works farther to the right, came down upon their flank and carried the position.
Great credit is due Lieutenant-Colonel Wright, commanding First U. S. Colored Troops, and all the line officers and men under his command; also to the commanding officer of the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry for the prompt obedience to the orders communicated to him.
For further details the report of Lieutenant-Colonel Wright, together with a diagram of the enemy’s position, is herewith forwarded. Particular
attention is called to that part of Lieutenant-Colonel Wright’s report relative to the inefficiency of the stretcher corps.
Much to my surprise I received notice about 9 o’clock the next day that some of the wounded had not been removed from near Battery No. 8, which fact I immediately communicated to the adjutant-general.
I am, captain, with much respect, your obedient servant,
JOHN H. HOLMAN,
Captain SOLON A. CARTER,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.