Numbers 279. Report of Lieutenant Michael Leahy, Battery B, First U. S. Artillery of operations June 20-26.1
CAMP OF HORSE BATTERY B, FIRST U. S. ARTILLERY,
July 1, 1864.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by Horse Battery B, First U. S. Artillery, attached to Cavalry Division, during raid through part of this State under you command:
The battery left camp at 1.30 a.m. on the 20th of June and halted on Spring Hill until the cavalry came up a short time after daybreak. All then advanced until about 11 a.m. when the command was halted for the day. The battery was not engaged in any way until the afternoon of the 25th, when an attempt was made to burn the railroad bridge over the Staunton River, on the Petersburg and Danville Railroad. The battery shelled the bridge and the enemy’s works for several hours. The attempt failed and the command commenced falling back to our line before Petersburg. Our progress was uninterrupted until reaching the vicinity of Stony Creek, when our advance became engaged with the enemy. We succeeded in passing to the left while the enemy were occupied by General Wilson’s command and marched all night. We met the enemy about 9 a.m. near Reams’ Station, on the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad. My right section was placed in
position in a large field at a distance of about 700 yards from the enemy, who was in the act of charging our line at the time; we opened on him with canister and he was driven back. The left section had in the mean time been placed in position about 800 yards to the right and rear of the right section. These positions were held for about two hours, when the right section joined the left. At this time Battery K, First U. S. Artillery, was in position on our left, both batteries being formed in echelon, forming nearly a half circle, enabling the fire to be changed to any direction with but little maneuvering. The batteries opened on a bend of woods at about 1,100 yards’ distance, bursting the shells on the margin of the woods. This position remained unchanged for about three hours, when heavy firing was heard on the left and at the same time in the rear. It was quite apparent that we were completely surrounded. At this time orders arrived to limber up and get the battery out on a road somewhere. Acting under these orders, I limbered up and followed the column, which, to my surprise, was retreating, with the cavalry in front, the artillery bringing up the rear without any support. We finally got a support, who remained with us until we came to a creek, which could not be easily passed with artillery. Every exertion was made to get our pieces over in quick time, but our support, without firing a shot, or in the least attempting to check the enemy’s advance (so as to give us a chance), broke and ran, crushing in before the pieces and choking up the only way to get the battery out. Seeing that every chance was gone I reluctantly ordered the pieces to be spiked and the horses unhitched. My orders were most effectually carried out; the guns were rendered useless to the enemy, solid shot being rammed into the bore by handspikes; also spiked in the usual manner.
My men behaved with great coolness, remaining with the pieces until the enemy were within fifty or seventy-five yards of them.
My loss in material consists of 4 3-inch rifled guns, 4 caissons for same implements and equipments, about 150 rounds of ammunition, 71 horses, 16 sets lead harness for two horses, 8 sets wheel harness for two horses, 2 sets ambulance harness, 14 sets wheel ambulance. Most of my horses were lost through being completely worn out by the severe work they had during the raid. Thirty-two of my men are missing. I have present for duty enlisted men, 39; commissioned officers, 1.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Second Lieutenant, First U. S. Artillery, Commanding Battery.,
Commanding Cavalry Division, in the Field.
- 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 727-728 ↩