HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION, TENTH ARMY CORPS,
In the Field, Va., June 17, 1864.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following brief report of the operations of portions of the First Division, Tenth Army Corps, under my command, on the 16th instant:
At about 4 a.m., learning from the report of Colonel A. C. Voris, Sixty-seventh Ohio Volunteers, division officer of the day, that the enemy were abandoning their works, I ordered the pickets pushed forward to occupy their line, and the balance of the command to be held in readiness to move forward at a moment’s notice. Soon after I was ordered by Brigadier-General Terry to take as large a portion as could be spared from each brigade and push forward in pursuit of the enemy, and, if possible, ascertain his position and intentions. I accordingly
ordered two regiments each from Colonel Howell’s brigade, Colonel Hawley’s brigade, and Colonel Plaisted’s brigade. In the meantime the pickets had advanced beyond Ware Bottom Church to Doctor Howlett’s house and occupied a line extending from that point toward the Appomattox, which line had just been abandoned by the enemy. In obedience to your instructions, I moved through this line of works to the front onto the old turnpike, my left passing near the Widow Clay’s house. On the old turnpike I found a third line of works, abandoned by the enemy, they evidently falling back toward the new turnpike. The troops under my command were pushed forward as rapidly as possible toward the new turnpike, the Thirty-ninth Illinois, of Colonel Howell’s brigade, being in the advance as skirmishers. At this juncture General Ames’ command came up and took a road leading to the turnpike, bearing to the left from the enemy’s line of works, while, I with the Seventh and Third New Hampshire, of Colonel Hawley’s brigade, preceded by the Thirty-ninth Illinois, advanced on the direct road through the swamp, intending to strike the turnpike at a point near Winfree’s, this side of and a little southwest of Chester Station. I understood that part of General Ames’ command had reached the turnpike, half or three-quarters of a mile south of this point, whereupon I ordered the Thirty-ninth Illinois to push forward as rapidly as possible and occupy the turnpike. The left of my line succeeded in reaching the turnpike and was gradually gaining it toward the right. When my right had reached it, within about a quarter of a mile, I found myself sharply engaged with the enemy, whose strength at that moment I was unable to ascertain. I immediately ordered the Third and Seventh New Hamsphire Regiments forward in line of battle to occupy the line of the skirmishers and support them. The Seventh New Hampshire, Lieutenant-Colonel Henderson, occupied the left of the road toward General Ames, the Third New Hampshire on the right of the road toward Doctor Howlett’s house, the Thirty-ninth Illinois being deployed in front of this line of skirmishers.
The enemy continued to advance and develop, a force approaching on my right, evidently intending to get between my right and the intrenchments. This force advanced in three distinct lines of battle, one in rear of the other, in view of which I ordered my whole line to pass toward the right. During this time the enemy kept up a shrap firing, and moved a force toward my left and General Ames’ right, which was reported to be in two lines of battle, preceded by skirmishers. I immediately sent word to General Terry requesting him to move up the Sixty-seventh Ohio, of Colonel Howell’s brigade, to check the enemy advancing on my right, which was done. Upon his coming into possession of the facts, I received his order to retire toward the right, and subsequently to retire in rear of the swamp, which order I obeyed, and remained in this position something over an hour. The enemy failed to make any successful advance on this position. During this time that portion of my line occupied by Colonel Howell, commanding First Brigade, and Lieutenant-Colonel Plimpton, of the Third Hampshire, and part of the Seventh New Hampshire, was closely engaged with the enemy. Meantime the enemy was reported moving troops toward my left. After taking measures against any possibility of the enemy’s turning my left flank I received an order from Brigadier-General Terry to retire to the line of works erected by the enemy between the old and new turnpikes, my left resting at Mrs. Clay’s house, which position I occupied until ordered to return to the intrenchments.
During the withdrawal of my line I was closely followed by the enemy, who seemed to be in considerable force, they following my command to the intrenchments running form Doctor Howlett’s house to that of Widow Howlett’s, which they occupied as soon as I had passed them. I retired to a position at Ware Bottom Church, extending to the left along the edge of the woods in front of these works, about 400 yards distant. As soon as the enemy obtained possession of these works they attacked my line, apparently in larger force and with greater vigor than in any previous attack. Having received orders from the brigadier-general commanding to hold this position and retire no farther, after a severe and sharp fight we maintained the line and compelled the enemy to give up the pursuit, and now hold this line with a strong picket force.
The brigade, regimental, and detachment commanders all displayed great zeal and energy in carrying out the instructions of Brigadier-General Terry, commanding, as communicated to them through me. All the troops, with few exceptions, behaved with admirable coolness and confidence, retiring only when ordered, halting and confronting the enemy whenever he pushed his pursuit. The One hundred and thirty-third Ohio Regiment of 100-days’ troops fell back in confusion during the last attack on our lines in the woods to the front and right of Mrs. Clay’s house, but through the exertions of Colonel Howell, myself, and staff, and some of the field officers of other regiments, they were rallied, and afterward behaved very well. The colonel of the regiment, Colonel G. S. Innis, could not be found, although repeated inquiries were made for him.
Between 80 and 90 prisoners were taken during the operations of the day and sent to department headquarters.
In the last attack, near Ware Bottom Church, Colonel J. B. Howell, commanding First Brigade, displayed great gallantry, having his horse killed under him, and being himself slightly wounded in two places. During the operations of the day Colonel Plaisted’s brigade was on the right, his line running from Howlett’s house toward the left beyond Ware Bottom Church, and was more or less engaged during the day, holding his part of the line and carrying out all directions successfully, the particularly of which are more fully given in his report accompanying.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. S. FOSTER,
Brigadier General A. H. TERRY,
Commanding Line of Defenses.
- 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 683-685 ↩