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OR XLII P1 #3: Report of Captain John H. Woodward, Commissary of Subsistence, September 16, 1864

No. 3. Report of Captain John H. Woodward, Commissary of Subsistence, U. S. Army, of operations September 16.1

Near City Point, Va., September 16, 1864.

COLONEL: I have to report that at about 5 a. m. this day an attack was made upon the camp of the cattle herd at Coggins’ Point, Va. The attack was made by the enemy seemingly all along the picket-line simultaneously. The herd was being held about two miles to the rear of the picket-line, Captain N. A. Richardson, commissary of subsistence of volunteers, in charge, with a cavalry guard from the Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry (150 men), under command of Captain Henry H. Gregg. What resistance was made to the advance of the enemy by the First District of Columbia Volunteers came back in disorder through their command, the enemy following closely in large force. Upon approaching Captain Gregg’s picket-line the enemy sent out from their main column two men with flag of truce, demanding their surrender, which was refused by Sergeant Kenyon, in command of the picket line, upon which the flag of truce was dropped and the enemy sounded bugles to the charge, a column coming in on the front and on both flanks, completely surrounding the herd, and so closed in, precluding all possibility of egress for the herd. Captain Gregg held

the enemy in check in his immediate front till he was nearly surrounded, when he ordered a retreat, and in the effort to rally his men again was taken prisoner, the command then devolving upon Captain James M. Bell, Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, who had been wounded in the shoulder early in the engagement, but remained on the field. The enemy closing in again in large force, he order a retreat, which, being closely followed, became a partial rout, but he succeeded in rallying his men again at a distance from camp-perhaps a mile or two-but was unable, with his small force, to give any protection to the herd as against the large force of the enemy, estimated by the officers on the ground at three brigades of cavalry and two four-gun batteries of artillery, say between 3,000 and 4,000 men. Lieutenant McDonald was injured early in the engagement by his horse falling on him, and rendered incapable of moving for some time. Captain Richardson made his escape through the lines of the enemy in the woods after the herd was surrounded and no possible chance of getting them away. Assistant Surgeon Stanton, Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, was made prisoner by the enemy. Men who lay concealed near the scene of action report that the enemy stayed but a short time after the attack, moving the herd in the direction of the Blackwater. The whole number of beef cattle captured was 2,486 head; three wagons and teams captured. The number of horses captured not yet precisely known. The number of horses captured not yet precisely known.

The following casualties occurred in the cavalry guarding the cattle (the Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry detachment), viz:*

These last two [William Cassidy and John Dugan, hearses,] were killed after having surrendered and begging for quarter. So stated by men who lay concealed near by where they were shot. I have every reason to know that the enemy came purposely for the herd, from the fact that they brought a great number of dogs to assist in driving a herd.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Captain and Commissary of Subsistence, in Charge.

Lieutenant Colonel M. R. MORGAN,

Chief C. S., Armies Operating Against Richmond.


* Nominal list (omitted) shows 2 men killed, 2 officers and 6 men wounded, and 2 officers and 27 men captured or missing of the Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry; also 2 men killed, 1 man wounded, and 13 men captured or missing of the citizen herders.



  1. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XLII, Part 1 (Serial Number 87), pages 26-27
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