Numbers 259. Reports of Colonel N. Martin Curtis, One hundred and forty-second New York Infantry, commanding First Brigade, of operations June 15-18 and July 30.1
HDQRS. FIRST Brigadier, SECOND DIV., TENTH ARMY CORPS,
Near Petersburg, Va., July 3, 1864.
SIR: In obedience to orders, I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of the Second Brigade, Third Division, Eighteenth Army Corps, in the late advance on Petersburg:
In compliance with orders received from Major-General Smith, I moved my command, the Second Brigade, Third Division, Eighteenth Army Corps, from camp near Point of Rocks, at 2 a.m. on the morning of the 15th of June, and followed Bell’s brigade to the woods in front of the main line of rebel works near Petersburg, where I arrived about 11 a.m., and took up position in rear of Bell’s brigade, about twenty paces on the left of the road. In this position I remained until about 6 p.m., when I moved my brigade forward in support of Bell’s brigade, and formed to the right and rear of Battery Numbers 5. At about 9 p.m. I was ordered forward and formed on the left of Bell’s brigade, my right resting about sixty paces from Battery Numbers 7, in the advanced line. From this position I was relieved about 2 a.m. on the 16th instant by a portion of the Second Corps, and retired to the open field in rear of that position.
At about 5 p.m. on the 16th I was ordered forward to make a demonstration on the enemy’s left, and formed my command on the left bank of the creek, near Friend’s house, and in this position I remained until ordered to return to camp near Point of Rocks, where I arrived on the 18th instant [ultimo] about 3 a.m.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
N. MARTIN CURTIS,
Colonel 142nd New York Volunteers, Commanding Brigade.
Lieutenant Colonel ED. W. SMITH,
HDQRS. FIRST Brigadier SECOND DIV., TENTH ARMY CORPS,
Near Bermuda Hundred, Va., August 3, 1864.
SIR: In compliance with your orders, I have the honor to report the action of my brigade in the battle before Petersburg, Va. July 30, 1864.
I left my position in the trenches near the Hare house at 10 p.m. July 29, and marched in rear of the division to a point in front of General Burnside’s headquarters where the brigade halted and rested until ordered forward, at 3 a.m. July 30, to the high cleared ground in rear of the artillery of the Ninth Corps. At 7 a.m. I was ordered forward through the covered way leading to the right and the line in rear of the enemy’s fort, which had been blown up. In reaching this position I was obliged to march a greater part of the way in single file and found the road continually obstructed with stragglers and parties of men returning with the wounded, carried in blankets, and by from four to ten men to each wounded man. Having worked my way to the head of this passage, was ordered to form my brigade in column, by battalion, in rear of our advanced earth-work, and there await further orders. While executing this movement, and before the right battalion was in position, the charge then being made by our troops from the crater in our front was checked and the troops came rushing back to their late position, thence to the rear and over the works behind which I was forming. A greater part of the line I had formed at the breast-works, as well as those occupying the line in advance, unaccountably gave way and broke through my troops to the rear. The retreating force became so great that I placed at this time but two regiments, the One hundred and forty-second and One hundred and twelfth New York Volunteers, in the position first ordered. The remaining two regiments, the Third and One hundred and seventeenth New York Volunteers, were halted in the covered way, with direction to stop the stragglers. The conduct of the officers and men of my command in attempting to stop the retreating mass and check the advancing enemy was most satisfactory. With fixed bayonets they forced officers and men into the works and held them there until they were enabled to contribute to the defense. Having checked the force coming through our lines, I ordered up the Third New York Volunteers, and extended my line to the right, the ground which I had before held being occupied by the Second and part of the Third Brigades of this division. At about 1 p.m. I was relieved and marched from the field and and at night-fall to my old position in the trenches to the left of the Eighteenth Corps. A list of casualties is herewith forwarded. *
The greatest loss to my brigade and the service is that of Captain William P. Johnson, jr., of the One hundred and forty-second New York Volunteers, killed by a fragment of shell in the early part of the action-an officer whose bravery and efficiency were unsurpassed by any in the service. I forbear to particularize respecting conduct of any of my command where every officer and man discharged his duties to my entire satisfaction.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,.
N. MARTIN CURTIS.
Colonel 142d, New York Volunteers, Commanding Brigade.
Captain ISRAEL R. SEALY.
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
*Embodied in table, p. 248.
- 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 700-701 ↩