Report of Lieutenant Colonel Charles H. Morgan, Assistant Inspector-General, U. S. Army, chief of staff, Second Army Corps, of operations June 15-16.1
HEADQUARTERS SECOND ARMY CORPS,
June 25, 1864.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following statement of occurrences preceding and attending the march of this corps to Petersburg, June 14 and 15:
About 11 o’clock on the night of the 14th a telegraphic message was received from Major-General Meade, stating that 60,000 rations had been ordered from City Point; that as soon as they were issued the corps would take the nearest and most direct route to Petersburg, taking position with its left on the City Point Railroad, where the road from Windmill Point crosses, and extending along Harrison’s Creek toward its mouth. On the receipt of this order I sent the chief commissary, Colonel Smith, to the south bank of the river to make all
necessary arrangements for the receipt and delivery of the rations, and directed the quartermaster, Captain McEntee, to send the transport to the upper wharf, then in process of repair, as soon as it arrived. At 2 o’clock I went down to the wharf to expedite the crossing. About 8 a. m. Major Brainerd, engineer detachment, who had been repairing the wharf where the rations were to be received, returned to the north bank and reported to me that Colonel Smith was at the wharf with his details, and that the transprt containing the rations had just arrived. I saw a transport then lying at the wharf, and after watching it for a length of time sufficient to allow of its being unloaded it disappeared. I reported, therefore, to Major-General Hancock that the rations had come and were being issued. (It is proper to state that Major Brainerd now says he stated only to me his impression that the rations had arrived. It was conveyed to me in so positive a manner, indeed as a message from the commissary, that I had no doubt of the fact.) At —– a. m., when the order came for the corps to march without its rations, an answer was returned that they had arrived. The mistake was discovered at —–, and the order was at once given for the corps to move. I understood that General Hancock had sent it by signal telegraph, but my recollection is that when I arrived at General Birney’s headquarters he had not received it. The column was put in motion about 11.30, as I learn from a memorandum I made at the time. I was at the head of column conducting the march in the absence of General Hancock. I had as guide an intelligent negro, familiar with the country, on whom I depended almost entirely, as the map furnished was very much in error. We pursued the nearest and most direct route to Petersburg, to a point on the Prince George Court-House road within two miles of the court-house. I made diligent inquiry as to the location of Harrison’s Creek, but at no time during the day could I find any one who knew where it was. On arriving at the point above mentioned, the column was turned to the right toward Old Court-House, as the only way of getting behind Harrison’s Creek. The rear division (General Barlow), followed by the train, was turned off near Powell’s Creek, and it was proposed that the three divisions should meet near Old Church. The cross-road on which we moved struck what is known in the neighborhood as the Middle road, about two miles and a half from the Prince George Court-House road. Just at the point of leaving, an aide of General Barlow appeared with a dispatch from General Grant, saying that General Smith had attacked Petersburg, and desiring the corps to hasten to his support. I took the responsibility there-upon of abandoning the route to Harrison’s Creek and turned the head of column down the Middle road, and rode rapidly ahead to find General Smith. I reported to him on the field, I think, as early as 6.30, informing him of the exact position of the corps, and asking him where, under the circumstances, the troops ought to go. He said, “On my left,” but neither indicated to me where his left was nor sent his staff officer. Finally he referred me to General Hinks for the information. Captain Wilson and myself started back to find General Hinks, and met a staff officer of General Birney’s, sent forward to report to General Smith. On my advice he returned at once with Captain Wilson to conduct the head of column to such point as General Hinks might advise. I did this, knowing that General Hancock would have great difficulty in getting to the front to give the necessary orders in time. General Barlow’s division, meanwhile, was supposed to be marching from Old Church toward the railroad. Being informed by General Smith that there were cross-roads leading from the road on which
General Barlow was marching to his (General Smith’s) left, I rode in that direction, hoping to get General Barlow’s division up about the same time as General Gibbon’s division, and so have the corps massed in time for any offensive operation General Hancock might determine upon. I found that General Barlow had lost his road, marching toward City Point instead of Petersburg, though he had read General Grant’s dispatch previously referred to. It was nearly midnight before I found General Hancock’s headquarters, and I knew nothing of what had transpired meanwhile. Shortly after daylight on the 16th I was directed by the major-general commanding to go to the left to make an examination of the ground and to report the result on my return. I proceeded to the left of General Birney’s division, arriving there, say, one hour after daylight. The enemy were then placing a battery in the cultivated field near the Shands house, where General Burnside’s corps and the part of the Second Corps afterward operated. They were going into position in great haste and had not yet thrown out skirmishers, for I was within 200 or 300 yards of their position. I immediately notified General Birney, whose own skirmishers did not cover the ground as I thought they should have done. The enemy rapidly seized the ground in General Birney’s front, and I am very much of the opinion that the attack made by General Birney, in which Colonel Eagan was wounded, was made to retake ground occupied by the enemy some time after daylight one the 16th.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. H. MORGAN,
Lieutenant-Colonel and Chief of Staff.
Commanding Second Corps.