HEADQUARTERS CAVALRY DIVISION.
Near Point of Rocks, Va., June 20, 1864.
MAJOR: I herewith submit my report of the operations of the Cavalry Division in the advance upon Petersburg on the 15th and 16th instant, together with the sub-reports of regimental and brigade commanders:
The command, consisting of portions of the Eleventh and Fifth Pennsylvania, Third New York, First District of Columbia, First New York
Mounted Rifles, and a section of the Fourth Wisconsin Battery, Captain Easterly, in all about 2,500 men, crossed the pontoon bridge across the Appomattox between 12 o’clock and daylight on the morning of the 15th. We came upon the enemy’s pickets on reaching the City Point Railroad. We drove them in capturing one line of obstructions, an abatis across the road at the saw-mill; a second line, consisting of a long rifle-pit, manned with three pieces of artillery and an infantry support, commanding the road which debouched from a dense wood. Leaving some carbineers to hold the road until the infantry should come up, I crossed the cavalry over to the Jordan Point road, by a farm road. Here we carried another line of obstructions made by the cavalry picket in the woods, where the enemy fled, leaving the body of a lieutenant in the road. A battalion of rebel cavalry fled upon our approach and we passed on across the Prince George road to the Norfolk road without difficulty. Here we drove in the pickets to the main intrenchments, which we came in sight of about 12 o’clock. Several hours were occupied in reconnoitering the enemy’s works and bringing up the column. Several miles of intrenchments were in view, the ground in front was comparatively level and afforded little for or no cover from the enemy’s artillery to approach the works. The enemy opened with artillery from five redoubts as soon as we appeared in view, and subsequently two more redoubts were developed on our extreme right. The works were not strongly [manned] with infantry,and I decided to make a demonstration, and, if possible, to get through the line. About 3 o’clock all the carbineers were brought forward, except the First New York Mounted Rifles, which were held in reserve, the First Brigade on the right and the Second on the left. A general advance was ordered and the skirmishers pushed forward to within 500 yards of the intrenchments. As only a portion of the men are armed with carbines, and so many men are required to take care of the horses, our line was really weaker than the enemy’s in men, and the skirmishers could not be advanced any farther. We held on until about 5.30 p.m., hoping to see some indications that General Smith had carried the enemy’s line on our right, but for several hours no firing had been heard in that direction, the skirmishers were getting short of ammunition,and on the right they were already falling back. I, therefore, ordered the left to retire also, as I had observed indications that the enemy were re-enforcing in that direction. My impression proved correct, as Colonel Spear reported that he could not have held his position any longer. I withdrew my entire command to the Jordan Point road and bivouacked. It was a fatiguing day’s work, and the men having had no rest the night before, preparing for the march and fighting and skirmishing all morning, they were in no condition to assault intrenchments, even had they been the proper arm for such service. I had but two pieces of artillery, which were served to the extent of their capacity in drawing the enemy’s artillery fire, but were entirely inadequate to the artillery of the enemy, which at one time amounted to twelve pieces.
Our loss was small, as the enemy’s artillery was very badly served. Had it been well served we never could have made the advance we did. I regret to announce the loss of Colonel Mix. The conflicting reports concerning him agree only in one particular-that he was left mortally wounded in front of the enemy’s works on our right.
The command was occupied on the 16th guarding the left flank of the Army of the Potomac until relieved after dark by the Fifth Corps, when, in obedience to orders, the division, returned to their camps
within the intrenchments, except the First New York Mounted Rifles,
which was directed to report to General Smith, from which no report has been received.
The following is a summary of our losses on the expedition:
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
AUGUST V. KAUTZ.
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Chief of Cavalry.
Major R. S DAVIS.
Asst. Adjt. General Dept. of Virginia and North Carolina.
JUNE 29, 1864-9.30 p.m.
GENERAL; I have to report that my division, and a portion of General Wilson’s division, has just arrived here. Our expedition was very successful until this afternoon, when we were surrounded and overpowered and had to abandon our transportation, wounded, and prisoners. I escaped with my division by taking it through the woods and charging across the railroad. General Wilson has probably gone back to go around by way of Jarratt’s Station. The fight occurred near Reams’ Station, on the Halifax road.
Very respectfully,your obedient servant,
AUGUST V. KAUTZ.
Commanding Army of the Potomac.
HEADQUARTERS CAVALRY DIVISION.
Camp near Jones’ Neck, Va., July 4, 1864.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor herewith to submit my report of the operations of the division under my command in the expedition to destroy the Richmond and Danville Railroad.
I reported to General Wilson, in obedience to orders of the lieutenant-general, on the 21st ultimo, with my command, composed of the First and Second Brigades, under Colonels West and Spear, composed of the Fifth Pennsylvania and Third New York Cavalry and the Eleventh Pennsylvania and First District of Columbia Cavalry, respectively,in all 2,414 officer and men. Lieutenant Leahy, commanding Elder’s battery, First U. S. Artillery,was also attached to my command.
At 2 a.m. on the morning of the 22nd my command took the advance and marched to Reams’ Station, on the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad, having driven the enemy’s pickets from near the Jerusalem plank road, a distance of five miles. I learned from captured pickets that
two brigades of cavalry, under W. H. F. Lee, were stationed at the Six-Mile House guarding the railroad. In order to place this force in our rear, I directed the head of the column south, crossing the railroad to the Boydton pike, along which we marched for four or five miles, and then turning westward reached Dinwiddie Court-House about noon. At Reams’ Station we burned the depot and a train of platform cars. From the court-house we marched north, striking the Petersburg and Lynchburg Railroad, about half way between Sutherland’s and Ford’s Depots. We marched along the railroad, the advance reaching Ford’s Depot about 6 p.m. Here we captured and destroyed two trains and engines. The command was engaged until late in the night burning the railroad track.
Between 1 and 2 a.m. on the 23rd the command marched and continued steadily on the road, reaching the junction near Burkeville at 3 p.m. without opposition. Here we proceeded at once to the destruction of the roads leading toward Richmond and toward Lynchburg. The brigade commanders charged with the duty report several miles thoroughly destroyed in every direction. During the night Captain Whitaker of General Wilson’s staff, reached me and reported the enemy in between our commands, opposing his advance. At 3 a.m. I marched for Meherrin Station, on the Danville road, detaching parties at intervals to destroy the railroad, which was readily done by piling fence rails on the track lengthwise with the rail, which burned the string pieces and cross-ties so as to require the road to be newly relaid wherever it was destroyed. The advance halted early in the afternoon at Keysville, and continued the destruction of the road until late at night. The command was here joined by the Third Division.
Soon after daylight on the morning of the 25th the march was continued and the road destroyed to Roanoke Station. The depots at Drake’s Station and Mossing Ford, and the large steam saw-mill at the latter place, as well as two other small saw-mills, were burned. A number of culverts and small bridges, the largest across the Little Roanoke River, were destroyed. At the Staunton River we found the enemy holding the large bridge on the opposite bank, strongly fortified with artillery. General Wilson directed me to make the attempt to burn the bridge. About 6 p.m. the First Brigade advanced on the right of the embankment leading toward the bridge, and the Second Brigade on the left. The attack was maintained for two or three hours, but failed with a loss of about 60 killed and wounded, among them a large proportion of officers. The bridge was strongly defended by a force quite as large as the assaulting party, with a river between them, a line of rifle-pits on the river-bank at the base of the bluff, another line below the crest of the bluff, and a line of redoubts on the summit of the bluff. Our forces had to advance on a double bottom land, commanded at every point by the enemy, and no shelter for our men. The heat was intense; a number of officers and men fell from sunstroke; the burning of the bridge was, therefore, reluctantly abandoned. My division held the position during the night, whilst the Third Division took the advance, moving eastward through Wylliesburg and Christianville. Roanoke Depot was destroyed by the rear guard. The enemy shelled the column after daylight without effect.
During the 26th, 27th and 28th the division was in rear, and was not molested seriously by the enemy, although small parties appeared and fired upon the rear of the column. About 1 o’clock on the morning of the 29th the division again took the advance, marching direct for
Reams’ Station, and when within a short distance of the station the advance was confronted by infantry and artillery, and farther progress stopped. Disposition was immediately made to resist the enemy until communication could be had with the Army of the Potomac. Captain Whitaker, of General Wilson’s staff, volunteered to go through the enemy’s lines with a company of cavalry, and other scouts were started to go into our lines. Whilst making disposition of the different regiments of my command, the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, which was in the advance, was thrown into momentary confusion by an attack in flank by a regiment of Alabama troops, but several companies rallied immediately and charged the enemy, routing them, and capturing about 50 prisoners. Considering the enemy too strong to assault, there seemed no other course left except to intrench and hold on to our position until relieved by the Army of the Potomac. I accordingly ordered such defenses to be made as our means afforded. Two small breast-works were hastily thrown up, rails were piled up and trees felled to protect sharpshooters, which had the effect of keeping the enemy at bay in my front, and my command was not again molested. General Wilson having come up with his division, and finding the enemy advancing from the direction of Petersburg, on the stage road, in strong force, it was decided to destroy the trains, abandon the wounded, and try and save the men and horses by retreating. I was directed to bring up the rear, but before the retreat could be effected the enemy forced our lines between my command and the Third Division, several regiments of the latter falling back into my lines, creating some confusion. Finding that I could not get to the stage road, I immediately determined to turn the enemy’s left flank and thus seek to reach our lines. This was done without opposition. We crossed the railroad between Reams’ Station and Rowanty bridge and reached our lines soon after dark, and bivouacked. As we pursued no road, but marched by compass, passing most of the way through timber and heavy undergrowth, the artillery could not be brought through. It was hauled off the field and finally abandoned in a swamp, where the carriages mired, and could not be extricated. The officers in command of the batteries report that they spiked the pieces before leaving them. Nearly all the efficient men of my division came through in this way, also portions of the Second Ohio, Fifth New York, and fragments of other regiments of the Third Division-perhaps 1,000 men in all. The provost guard, stragglers, men sent to the rear with wounded, for ammunition and other purposes (perhaps 500 in all of my division) were separated with the Third Division, the greater portion of which followed the route taken by that division and came in with it. The loss in the division will not be ascertained correctly for some time yet, as the men continue to come, in most of them dismounted, and many are reported still behind, although within our lines.
The condition of the command was such that it was impossible to assault or oppose, with any hope of success, the great superiority of the command was such that it was impossible to assault or oppose, with any hope of success, the great superiority of fresh troops marched out of Petersburg to oppose us. For nine days the men had been constantly in the saddle, or engaged at night in destroying railroads. Our provisions were exhausted and no adequate supply could be obtained from the country through which we marched. The men were so much fatigued that every exertion of the officers was necessary to keep the men awake, even under the fire of the enemy. Many men were captured in consequence of falling asleep by the road-side. The unusual proportion of officers killed and wounded in my command attest their gallantry.
The various members of the staff of the division performed their duties with the greatest zeal and credit to themselves. Copies of reports of brigade and regimental commanders are herewith submitted, with full lists of casualties,and a summary of the losses in the division:
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
AUGUST V. KAUTZ,
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Chief of Cavalry
Captain L. SIEBERT,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Division, Cavalry Corps.
- 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 728-733 ↩