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OR XL P1 #231: Reports of Brigadier General John B. McIntosh, commanding 1/3/Cav, June 22-July 2, 1864

No. 231. Reports of Brigadier General John B. McIntosh, U. S. Army, commanding First Brigade, of operations June 22 – July 2.1

HDQRS. FIRST Brigadier, THIRD DIV., CAVALRY CORPS, In Camp, near City Point, July 3, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the part taken by my brigade in the late movement of the cavalry expedition under Brigadier-General Wilson for the purpose of destroying the South Side and Danville railroads.

We marched from Mount Sinai Church, situated southeast from Prince George Court-House, at 2 a.m. on the morning of the 22nd of June, my brigade in the center and behind General Kautz’s division. Passing through Reams’ Station, on the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad, we reached Dinwiddie Court-House about 2 p.m. About six miles beyond formed, Colonel Chapman’s brigade being at that time in the rear and somewhat engaged with the enemy. Finding Colonel Chapman was not much retarded, I pushed on and arrived at a point on the South Side Railroad about four miles northeast from Ford’s Station. At this point I detailed the Second New York Cavalry to destroy the railroad, which was most effectually done for the space of half a mile, the rails and ties being taken up. The ties were then piled on top of each other and set on fire. The rails were also laid on top of the burning ties, and were so bent that they were useless until rerolled. At every available place where we could strike the railroad, we destroyed it, until we reached Ford’s Station. The command was busy destroying the railroad that night until 1 a.m. At 3 a.m. June 23 my brigade moved out, bringing up the rear. I was not molested by the enemy. Keeping up a strong rear guard, I continued the destruction of the railroad until we arrived at Blacks and Whites. The First Connecticut and Second Ohio Cavalry Regiment were particularly busy in destroying the railroad this day. Chapman’s brigade, in advance, having met the enemy near Nottoway Creek, and just as he was about to cross the railroad, soon became warmly engaged. My brigade was then placed in position on the hills in the rear of Nottoway Creek, guarding the right flank and rear.

At daylight on the morning of the 24th ultimo my brigade was withdrawn after Chapman’s had passed through and beyond it, Chapman marching by way of Hungarytown toward Meherrin Station for the purpose of effecting a junction with General Kautz’s division, which had been separated from us the day before; my brigade followed. I was not molested that day. I did not strike the Danville railroad that day until we crossed it at Meherrin Station about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I then detailed one regiment and directed Lieutenant-Colonel Brinton, of the Eighteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, who was acting on my staff, to take charge of the Second New York Cavalry and thoroughly destroy the railroad from Meherrin Station to Keysville, distant eight miles. The work was most effectually done, the Second Ohio Cavalry covering the working parties. The brigade went into camp near Keysville at 11 p.m. I then received an order to turn out the command to work all night and to completely destroy the railroad up to Keysville Depot. I detailed the First Connecticut Cavalry, although the men were completely worn out and exhausted by their continued marching and labors. Late in the evening of the 24th of June I received an order to assume

command of the Third Division, Cavalry Corps, on the morning of the 25th until further orders, without, however, relinquishing supervising command of the First Brigade. Third Division moved from Keysville at 4.30 a.m. 25th, behind General Kautz’s division, Colonel Chapman’s brigade in rear. I ordered two regiments of the First and two regiments of the Second Brigade to be constantly engaged in tearing up and burning the railroad as far down as Drake’s Branch, requiring Chapman to cover the movement with two regiments. The day was excessively hot, and the men were completely exhausted by their continued hard work on the railroad. I was obliged to halt the division at Drake’s Branch for the three or four hours in order in order to let the working parties come in and rejoin us. Fortunately, during all this time, we were not molested by the enemy. Gathering the command together we pushed forward for Roanoke Station and when opposite Mossing Ford Branch I detailed the Fifth New York and one regiment from Chapman’s brigade (the First Vermont) to complete the destruction of the railroad down the Roanoke Station, where we arrived about 6 p.m. In the mean time I received from Chapman that the enemy appeared in his rear. I immediately sent word to Chapman to have the wagon train parked on the north side of what I supposed was Horsepen Creek, and to form his command on the heights above and hold the enemy in check, should he make an attack. Subsequently, I ordered the train to be crossed to the south side, and to be parked near the First Brigade, then lying about three-quarters of a mile from Roanoke Station. Chapman was but feebly attacked, and held his position. A chance shot from one of the enemy’s guns struck one of Maynadier’s brass pieces, under command of Lieutenant Egan, and disabled it. It was brought along with the command. At 11 a.m. I received orders to have the Third Division prepared to move at once. I immediately gave orders to the effect, and sent Chapman word to withdraw his command at once, leaving one regiment on the skirmish line, which should be withdrawn at 3 o’clock on the morning of the 26th instant. The division commenced moving about 12 midnight, taking the advance and passing by a flank march close under the enemy’s guns in a redoubt on the north side of the Roanoke River, thence bearing east reached Williesburg about 4 a.m. on the 26th of June. Here the command halted about two hours, when we resumed the march, the Third Division in the advance, and reached Christiansville about 3 p.m. of the same day. The command continued its march that afternoon and bivouacked that night on Buckhorn Creek. In obedience to orders I sent the First Connecticut Cavalry to the Meherrin River to hold and occupy Saffold’s Brigade during the night.

At 5 a.m. of the 27th of June the Third Division moved out, Chapman’s brigade in advance, crossing Crooked Creek and traveling due east; bivouacked that night on the Boydton plank road about north of Lawrenceville. At 3.30 a.m. of the 28th of June I moved with my command, the First Brigade in advance; passed through Smoky Ordinary, and crossed the Nottoway River at Double Bridges, and moved toward Stony Creek. At the junction of the roads near Stony Creek the Third Indiana Cavalry, which I had sent ahead, struck the enemy’s pickets and drove them in rapidly, but the enemy being

re-enforced, in turn drove back the Third Indiana. I then immediately brought up the First Brigade, drove the enemy back, and as soon as we reached the open field deployed a strong line, supporting it with the First Vermont Cavalry, of the Second Brigade. I immediately ordered an advance and

drove the enemy back into a wood upon their main supports. Here they constructed breast-works, and under cover of the wood made a determined stand. In order to get at them it became necessary for me to advance over an open field and although I had advanced half way across the field I soon became convinced that it would be impossible for me to carry their position, which I at once reported to Brigadier-General Wilson. In the mean time my artillery was most efficiently served by Lieutenant Fitzhugh. One light 12-pounder was brought up under cover of some houses and the darkness and opened upon the enemy’s position at a distance of about 350 yards. This gun was most efficiently served by Lieutenant Fuger, and must have done immense execution, as the enemy’s fire at that point was almost silenced. The fight continued to rage until about 10 p.m. when it subsided into petty skirmishing. At 12 o’clock at night the enemy made a determined assault upon my lines, but was handsomely repulsed. The attack was very severe. After it was over I withdrew my line about 200 yards and made breast-works behind a fence, and distant about 400 yards from their position. This position I held until I received orders to withdraw, about 2.30 o’clock on morning of the 29th of June. Chapman’s brigade was formed behind

breast-works made of rails, about 600 yards in rear of the First Brigade, and the First Brigade was then retired behind Chapman’s. As soon as the enemy discovered our retiring the followed up sharply,making a severe attack. The First Brigade was then mounted and retired down the road to the left, making for Reams’ Station. I ordered Chapman as soon as the First Brigade was retired his line to the edge of the woods, and hold that position until I sent him word to retire. As soon as I found the road was clear for Chapman to retire upon I sent Captain Mitchell to communicate with him and order him to retire his line. Captain Mitchell soon came back and reported that he was unable to communicate with Colonel Chapman on account of the enemy having gotten between the First and Second Brigades. I immediately sent him back to communicate with Colonel Chapman and see him, if it was a possible thing. Captain Mitchell having met Major Wells, of the First Vermont Cavalry, who had succeeded in getting through with a part of his command, informed his that it was impossible for him to get through, and although he made every exertion possible, he was unable to communicate with Colonel Chapman. Chapman, finding that the enemy had turned his left flank and was on the road in his rear, pushed to the right with that part of his brigade which he could collect together and by a circuitous route rejoined the command with a large part of his brigade near Reams’ Station. In order to get through it was necessary for Chapman to pass through dense woods. Fortunately, his artillery had all been retired in advance of the First Brigade. When we arrived in front of Reams’ Station we found ourselves confronted by a heavy infantry force, which turned out to be Mahone’s division, with artillery in position; the force at Stony Creek hill being on our right and rear; a portion of the enemy’s cavalry was also in our front. I was ordered to take the First Brigade and force the enemy’s lines, but, after surveying them, came to the conclusion that it could not be done with the least safety to the command, and so reported it. That plan was then abandoned, and the only resource which was left open to us was to retire upon the road we had advanced upon and recross the Nottoway at the Two Bridges and go around by Jarratt’s Station, which was finally done, after destroying

our train and parking the ambulances near a stream, where they were left under charge of surgeons to fall into the hands of the enemy. In the mean time I heard the enemy were moving around upon my left, and I deployed two regiments (the First Connecticut and Second New York Cavalry) to protect that flank. The Fifth New York and Second Ohio Cavalry were deployed in front, with Fitzhugh’s battery on a knoll covering their position. The enemy succeeded in passing their infantry through a wood around the left of the Second Ohio Cavalry and attacked them in their rear, causing them to face about and retire by the right. At the same time they pushed forward their lines and drove back the Fifth New York Cavalry. Fitzhugh then placed his battery in echelon and opened a destructive fire with canister upon the enemy, who were temporarily forced back. It then became necessary for him to retire his battery by the right and rear, which he did, falling back on General Kautz’s division. I immediately sent Lieutenant-Colonel Brinton, of the Eighteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, to communicate with Lieutenant Fitzhugh and bring his battery on the road in advance of the First Connecticut and Second New York Cavalry. As soon as the battery was withdrawn the enemy pressed in upon my rear. A detachment of the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, which had been separated from General Kautz’s division, was then in the rear of my two regiments. At the first onset of the enemy that portion of the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry broke and ran in wild disorder upon the First Connecticut and Second New York Cavalry, throwing them into confusion. The enemy pressing very closely, I was unable to form my line in time to let the battery get ahead of me. Lieutenant Fitzhugh, seeing that his battery must be lost, spiked his guns and came off with fifty or sixty of his cannoneers and drivers; some twenty-five of them joined my command. After great exertion I managed to get a line formed and came off in good order, the enemy pressing my rear continually and opening upon me with artillery. The march was continued all that night until were crossed the Two Bridges over the Nottoway, and pushing past Jarratt’s Station at daylight on the 30th of June, crossed the Nottoway River again at Peters’ Bridge by fording the stream. The command was then rested for two hours, and pushed on toward Waverly, and crossed the Blackwater at Blunt’s Bridge on the morning of the 1st of July. The command pushed on to a stream a mile beyond Cabin Point, and halted till 3 a.m. of the 2nd instant, and so came to our present encampment. My list of casualties will be rendered hereafter.

I cannot close this report without bearing witness to the noble heroism of both men and officers of my command. They marched by day and night with but little rest and little to eat, worked under a broiling hot sun in destroying railroads, and yet not murmuring were heard. They certainly deserve the thanks of their country, and it is any pleasing duty to bear witness to the devotion manifested for their country’s cause. In their noble bearing Hammond, Purington, Harhaus, and Marcy, with all their officers, did nobly. The Second New York lost the services of their two majors, McIrvin and Grinton, wounded at Stony Creek. It is useless, however, for me to mention names where every officers and man did their so nobly. I must tender my warmest thanks to my staff officers, who were at all times ready for any duty, and who so signally assisted me in my labors.

Lieutenant-Colonel Brinton, of the Eighteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, whose regiment was left behind, volunteered and desired to come with

me on the expedition. He was most invaluable to me, and I desire here to acknowledge my thanks to him for his readiness to do any and every duty, and for the great assistance he rendered me.

I remain, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,


Colonel, Commanding First Brigade, Third Division, Cavalry Corps.

Captain L. SIEBERT,

Assistant Adjutant-General.


  1. 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 634-638
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