Numbers 254. Report of Colonel Harris M. Plaisted, Eleventh Maine Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations June 16.1
HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, FIRST DIV., 10TH ARMY CORPS,
South side James River, twelve miles from Richmond, Va.,
June 17, 1864.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the part taken my brigade in the affair of yesterday, June 16:
Three regiments of my command participated in the movement, viz, Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, Colonel Osborn, Tenth Connecticut, Colonel Otis, and Eleventh Maine, Major Hill. My orders were to advance to the line of works abandoned by the enemy and there await further orders. The Tenth Connecticut advanced rapidly as skirmishers under the command of Major Greeley, and at 7.15 a.m. were in possession of the main line of rebel intrenchments in front of Ware Bottom Church, and thence to the James River. Skirmishers were advanced to the second rebel line, about 700 yards in rear of the main line, driving the enemy’s skirmishers therefrom. This a regiment had more or less skirmishing from the start. It captured 36 prisoners, including 3 com-
missioned officers. I was directed by General Terry to hold the left of the enemy’s fortifications, from Ware Bottom Church to the river, about three quarters of a mile with my brigade while Howell’s and Hawley’s brigades and Ames’ division, on our left, advanced to destroy the railroad. Intrenching tools were sent for and the pioneers of the brigade ordered up. A banquette was constructed on the front of the enemy’s works, thus shifting their front and turning them on the enemy. The abatis and fraise constructed by the enemy were removed and numerous rifle-pits and some regular approaches in rear of the line-now our front-leveled off. These approaches extended to the enemy’s rear, to the road running parallel with the enemy’s fortifications and had the appearance of having been made the night before.
The Eleventh Maine was strongly entrenched at the church and free communication opened for artillery from the church to and through the enemy’s fortifications. The Twenty-fourth Massachusetts occupied the works in front of the church. The Tenth Connecticut on the right of the Twenty-fourth, to the James River, strongly occupying three inclosed works, two near the Howlett house and one on the road leading past the church. During the afternoon, while the brigades at the front were warmly engaged with the enemy, three companies of the Twenty-fourth and three companies of the Tenth were thrown forward to protect Howell’s right. Two companies of the Tenth were posted on the parallel road a mile beyond his flank in the direction of Drewry’s Bluff, with scouts still farther advanced. A portion of the Eleventh Maine was brought up to the main works to supply the place of these detachments. The two advanced brigades, after having been engaged with the enemy most of the day and in tearing up the railroad, were retired about 5 p.m. through my line to the rear, closely followed by the enemy’s skirmishers. After skirmishers with the enemy for half an hour, I retired my regiment by order of General Foster, forming them in two lines in the rear of the Eleventh Maine at the church. The enemy’s line of skirmishers, following closely, advanced boldly with yells upon the new line-the old picket-line of May 20, held by the Eleventh and a portion of Howell’s brigade. The enemy were met by heavy volleys and driven back to their fortifications. There they were rallied and pressed forward again more cautiously. Lively skirmishing was kept up by the opposing lines until after sunset.
About sunset I was ordered by General Foster, commanding division, to retake with my brigade the enemy’s fortifications at the Howlett house, if practicable by deserters to have been buried there by the enemy. I reported to General Foster that I did not deem the enterprise practicable for the following reasons: The only practicable approach to the left of the enemy’s fortifications was by the road past the Ware Bottom Church, by reason of the ravine extending from the river to the church. This point at the head of the ravine, some 250 yards only from the enemy’s fortifications in front of the church, was more than 800 yards from the enemy’s left near the Howlett house, to attack which directly would expose the attacking force to a flank fire at short range the whole distance. Hence, to carry the batteries at the Howlett house, I would be compelled, first, to carry the enemy’s fortifications opposite the church, and then his whole left to the river. In front of the church was a heavy inclosed work, capable of holding several companies; near the Howlett house were two similar inclosed works, all of which were connected together by a strong line of rifle-pits. That these fortification were well manned I saw with my own eyes. Besides the strong
line of skirmishers a force of not less than four rebel regiments was seen to move into the intrenchments which I would be compelled to carry. The order to make the attack was countermanded by General Foster, and the brigade returned to camp.
The casualties during the day in my command were few. A list of them has been sent in to your headquarters.
More than satisfied with the conduct of every officer and soldier of my command, without exception or distinction, still I am pleased to mention specially Sergeant Sayers, Company K, Tenth Connecticut, who, with eight men, captured 26 prisoners, including 2 commissioned officers, in a body, and with three men 5 prisoners, with 1 commissioned officer. Having conducted his prisoners to the rear and delivered them to the provost-marshal, he returned to the front and asked permission with his three comrades again “to go in and see if he could not get a few more of ’em before night.” He was sent in on Howell’s front as scout, and performed such valuable services in discovering and reporting a flank movement of the enemy that Colonel H. tenders a formal expression of his satisfaction with many thanks to the “brave and intelligent sergeant.”
I have the honor to be, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. M. PLAISTED,
Colonel Eleventh Maine Volunteers, Commanding Brigade.
Captain P. A. DAVIS,
- 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 689-691 ↩