No. 76. Report of Captain John R. Breitenbach, One hundred and sixth Pennsylvania Infantry, of operations June 22.*1
HDQRS. 106TH REGIMENT PENNSYLVANIA VOLUNTEERS,
Near Petersburg, Va., June 28, 1864.
SIR: In compliance with General Orders, Numbers -, of this date, I have the honor to make the following statement in relation to the disaster that befell this regiment on the 22nd instant:
On the evening of the 21st instant the regiment, with the entire brigade, was drawn road running at an angle of about 25 degrees in a southwesterly direction from the plank or Jerusalem road. During that night a detail from the regiment was sent out with the brigade pioneers to throw up breast-works. At early dawn next morning the regiment, with the brigade, were moved into the breast-works facing northwardly, changing the front at about a right angle. These breast-works were very defectively constructed and entirely too limited in extent. The result was that my three left companies had to double upon the others in the left and rear, which exposed them all day to the fire of the enemy’s sharpshooters. I requested that the One hundred and eighty-fourth Regiment, which was on my left, should give way, but this was not allowed or done. Two companies of the One hundred eighty-fourth were directed to go into the works. This now filled them to the utmost limit on this portion of the line. I now observed that the remainder of this regiment (One hundred and eighty-fourth) was engaged in digging works across the wheat-field in our front and in divergent line of an angle of about 45 degrees. Into this trench the other companies of the One hundred and eighty-fourth were put, and kept until driven out in the
* This regiment was transferred from the Second to the Third Brigade June 26.
afternoon. Their left flank and indeed their whole line was exposed while there to a flank fire. The next regiment on the left in a straight with the main line, I believe, was the One hundred and fifty-second New York, with their right resting at a point about fifty yards distant from the angle in the line of the One hundred and eighty-fourth, and about the same distance in the rear of the left flank of that regiment, thus leaving two intervals or gaps of about fifty yards each entirely unprotected. My regiment kept up a desultory yet brisk fire from the time we entered the works in the morning upon the enemy’s sharpshooters and skirmishers. In the course of the afternoon the enemy massed a heavy force in a piece of woods opposite the left flank of the One hundred and eighty-fourth. The clouds of dust in that quarter indicated that he was in motion, and a report came to me that a heavy column was moving to our left. About 5 p. m. I noticed a column moving toward our right and front. I now ordered a heavy fire to open upon him. My fire was mainly to a left oblique. We drove back this column three distinct times. Being now short of ammunition, I sent for a supply. Looking to the farther left, I saw amidst a dense dust and smoke troops running out from our line and toward the enemy firing. Supposing these troops to be our left regiments driving the enemy, I gave the order to cease firing, fearing that by continuing we would fire upon our own men. Before this order could be fully obeyed or heard on account of the noise of the fire, and the excitement and enthusiasm of the men, Captain Whitaker, commanding Seventy-second Regiment, being division officer of the day, quickly came from the left, and throwing up his sword in hand called out that the whole left had given away; that we were flanked, and that the enemy was in my rear, and that instead of our left driving the enemy, he was driving our men into his lines. The fire of the enemy in our rear now became heavy, and I had 5 men killed and 1 officer and 3 men wounded. Seeing that my small regiment could effect nothing under such circumstances, and no support at hand, I ordered the men to fall back. It was too late. Before this order could be obeyed nearly the whole regiment, still in the trenched and firing, were captured with the colors in the hands of the color-sergeant. I brought out but about forty muskets. Two captains and my acting adjutant were also captured. Two of my men retreated along the breast-works to the right, still firing in their retreat. When they reached the battery on the right of the Seventy-second Regiment they found one sergeant and some six men then spiked two guns with the reamers of their muskets. If a supporting force had been near the guns might have been saved. The horses were far in the rear, and there were not present a sufficient number of men to move them. I would here beg permission to state that during the whole course of the day I saw no general or field officer at or near my portion of the line. The Second Brigade had no field officer present. Major Davis, of the Sixty-ninth, was in the rear sick. Major Kleckner, of the One hundred and eighty-fourth, was also in the rear. These were the only field officers in the brigade, except Major O’Brien, of the One hundred and fifty-second New York, who was then in command of the brigade, but whom I did not see at all. After falling back and finding no supporting line,
I formed the remnant of the regiment, and with the fragment of the brigade hastily collected together we again advanced and formed line about 250 yards in rear of the breast-works, where we remained until relieved next morning.
The annexed diagram* will exhibit the course of the line of works as explained in this statement.
With the request that this be forwarded to the proper headquarters, I subscribe myself,
Your most obedient servant,
JNumbers R. BREITENBACH,
Captain, Commanding Regiment.
Lieutenant T. E. PARSONS,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
* Not found.
- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XL, Part 1 (Serial Number 80), pages 386-388 ↩