Numbers 28. Report of Captain John B. Vande Wiele, Fourth New York Heavy Artillery, of operations August 22-26.1
HEADQUARTERS FOURTH NEW YORK ARTILLERY,
August 28, 1864.
CAPTAIN: In compliance with your request of the 27th instant I transmit the following report of operations from the 22nd to the morning of the 26th instant:
On the morning of the 22nd the First Battalion of the regiment, Companies C, I, F and M, left camp to build a corduroy road to the headquarters of the Fifth Corps at the Yellow House, from which duty they were relieved at 12 m. and proceeded with the balance of the regiment to the Weldon railroad to tear up and destroy it. On the morning of the 23rd we marched down the railroad to a point within three miles of Reams’ Station and again went to work on the road during the morning. Companies A and H, under command of Captain McKeel, were ordered to report to Colonel Spear, commanding a cavalry brigade, for duty. They charged with the cavalry a mile through a cleared space and piece of woods and held their ground, but were afterward ordered to retire by Colonel Spear. Their loss was 3 enlisted men killed, 4 wounded, 2 missing, 3 by sunstroke. In the afternoon they were relieved by Companies G and M, under command of Captain Morrison. These companies were held in reserve to the cavalry picket. Captain Morrison with forty men was ordered to march by a flank up a road leading into the enemy’s line, and, when fired into, to deploy and charge their position. He proceeded as ordered, but as the enemy showed a disposition to allow him to march into their line without firing,he halted and was afterward ordered to retire by Colonel Spear, and deploy as skirmishers and charge their position. This charge was to be supported by the cavalry dismounted. He did as ordered, but after arriving within fifty yards of the enemy’s line, finding them strongly posted in a corn-field, and that the cavalry that were ordered to support him had halted at least 500 yards in his rear, he halted behind a
rail fence and held his position until ordered to fall back by Colonel Spear. His loss was 1 commissioned officer (Second Lieutenant Samuel Cox), wounded in the foot; 1 enlisted man killed, 1 wounded. At 9 a.m. of the 24th he was relieved and ordered to report to his regiment at Reams’ Station. During the 23rd the balance of the regiment tore up the track as far as Reams’ Station and on the 24th rested until noon. In the afternoon the regiment again went on the road and destroyed it to a point two miles below the station. At 9 p.m. we were marched into the breast-works at Reams’ Station. At daylight on the 25th we marched to a point a short distance above the station, but were afterward returned to our former position in the breast-work on the right of the Second Division. Companies I and K, commanded by Captain Church,were sent out to picket the right of the division and Company F, commanded by Lieutenant Watts, on the left. Early in the afternoon the enemy broke the picket-line to the right of Company F and captured all in it, except one officer and fifteen men who had just been relieved by Colonel Smith in charge of the picket-line. Their loss was 2 officers (First Lieutenant Watts and Second Lieutenant Corliss) and 36 enlisted men missing. After the line of battle had been broken by a charge from the enemy the regiment was ordered to fall back in rear of the railroad, but on account of the noise from musketry and cannonading it was not heard by the First Battalion, who held the extreme left. One of the guns of Brown’s battery, from which the cannoneers had been driven, was manned by Company C of his this battalion and turned upon the enemy, who was at that time advancing inside the breast-work. When they could hold out no longer they attempted to spike the piece, but could find nothing to do it with. They then retired to the crest of the hill in the rear where they met the balance of the regiment. The enemy soon after came up in our rear, so that we were obliged to get on the other side of the breast-works. We fired a volley into them until we could retire to the edge of the wood, where we threw up a slight work and held it until ordered to retire about 9 p.m. We then proceeded to a point on the Jerusalem road, where we encamped for the night. During the action the bearer of the regimental colors was killed, when the regiment retired. Lieutenant W. B. Knower attempted to disengage them from the work, but found it impossible to do so. He then tore the colors from the staff and brought safely to the rear. Afterward the colors belonging to the First Battalion was struck by a shell while in the hands of the sergeant, breaking the staff into pieces and tearing the colors badly. They were,however, saved. Companies I and K, which were doing picket duty on the right, retired during the night from their line to the rear of the railroad, and next morning were escorted by the cavalry within our lines. Their loss is 1 enlisted man killed, 1 wounded, and 7 missing.
The loss of the regiment in this fight, exclusive of Companies F, I, and K, is as follows: Commissioned officers-killed, 3 (Captain James M. McKeel, Second Lieutenant O. L. Dearborn, Second Lieutenant Flannagan); wounded, 4 (Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Allcock, Major W. Arthur, Adjt. H. I. Kopper, Second Lieutenant Burdick); wounded and missing, 1 (Major Frank Williams); missing, 6 (First Lieutenant George Chichester, First Lieutenant W. B. Barnes Lieutenant W. B. Knower, Second Lieutenant Benjamin W. Vanderpool, Second Lieutenant William A. Flint, Second Lieutenant J. A. Peloubet); total, 14. Enlisted men-killed, 5; wounded, 13; wounded and missing, 6; missing, 277. Total, 301.
The total loss of the regiment from the 22nd to the 26th is as follows: Commissioned officers-killed, 3; wounded, 6; wounded and missing, 1; missing, 8; total, 18. Enlisted men-killed, 10; wounded, 19; wounded and missing, 6; missing, 322; sunstroke, 3; total, 360. Total officers and men, 378.
Lieutenant Oscar L. Dearborn, * who has for some time been in arrest, went into the fight with his company, doing duty as a private, and was killed.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN B. VANDE WIELE,
Captain, Commanding Fourth New York Artillery.
Captain W. R. DRIVER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, First Division, Second Corps.
*Lieutenant Dearborn was wounded and taken prisoner, and finally mustered out of service June 3, 1865.
- 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 269-271 ↩