HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, SECOND ARMY CORPS,
August 21, 1864.
I have the honor to submit the following report of the action taken by the Second Division during the operations north of the James River from the dates of August 12 to August 20, inclusive, during which time I had the honor to command the division:
At noon August 12 I received an order from Major-General Hancock, commanding corps, to have my command in readiness to march at short notice, and about 2 p.m. another order was received to move
out on the road to City Point. The command encamped near City Point a little after dark. Early on the morning of the 13th preparations were made to embark the troops and at 12.15 p.m. the embarkation commenced. This division was taken on the following steam-boats: Daniel Webster, Columbia, Prometheus, City of Albany, and ocean steamer Varuna by 8 p.m. At 10 p.m. the fleet moved up the James River and disembark the troops near Deep Bottom. The division was all landed by 7 a.m. on the 14th instant and massed near the landing. I was then directed by General Hancock to move the command to the old entrenchments near the Pottery road, and subsequently to move on to New Market road. Here the division was halted about 11 a.m. Captain Dow, commanding Sixth Maine Battery, and Captain Burton, commanding [Eleventh New York] battery reported to me, and I was directed by General Hancock to report to Brigadier-General Barlow for orders, who directed me to leave one brigade and the artillery where they were and move the rest of the division, the First and Second Brigades, out to a road opening into the New Market road. Here the Second Brigade was placed in line of battle on the road where its direction was nearly parallel with the New Market road and the First Brigade I massed in a corn-field in advance of this road. At 5.30 p.m. I directed Colonel Macy, commanding First Brigade, to make an assault on the enemy’s line. His brigade moved forward in good order, but meeting with a ditch very difficult to cross and one portion of the column coming upon a mill-pond, the attack did not succeed. At dark the First Brigade was withdrawn and massed in the edge of the woods in rear of the Second Brigade.
On the morning of the 15th instant the Third Brigade was moved to the right of the First Brigade and there massed. My command relieved the First Division skirmish line. At about 3 p.m. on the afternoon of the 16th I was directed by General Hancock to send a brigade to Major-General Birney, commanding the Tenth Army Corps. I ordered the Third Brigade to report to General Birney. As Major-General Birney was about making an attack on the enemy on my right, in order to withdraw the attention of the enemy from his front and prevent the enemy from moving troops from my front, I directed an advance of my whole skirmish line. I ordered the Seventh Michigan Regiment to make an attack on my left and the Sixty-ninth [Fifty-ninth] New York Volunteers to make a demonstration on my right. I also directed Captain E. B. Dow to bring a section of his battery, which I posted in front of the Second Brigade. These guns did good service during the afternoon. During the 17th I strengthened my front. At 7 p.m. on the 18th instant I received an order from Major-General Hancock to move the division to the left and occupy the former position of the Third Division. I placed the First Brigade on the main Potter road near the Pottery in line of battle. Captain Burton’s battery was posted near the Pottery; the Second Brigade was placed in line of battle stretching from the main Potter road on their left toward the New Market road, with Captain Dow’s (Sixth Maine) battery on its left. A portion of the First Brigade, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Curtis. Twentieth Massachusetts, was posted at a house on the right of the line on the New Market road. The Third Brigade was on picket. During the night a line of breast-works was thrown up. At 9 p.m. on the 19th I received an order to be ready to move my command at 3 a.m.next day and mass it on the other side of the New Market road, with a view of attacking the enemy at dawn. This order, however, was countermanded. At 6 p.m. on the 20th instant I was directed by
Major-General Hancock to move the division out toward the pontoon bridge after dark, following the First Division. Having moved the division out and massed near the road to the bridge, I was ordered by General Hancock to take the road and recross the river. The division marched all night and arrived at the Southall house at 7 a.m. on the 21st. Here the command of the division was resumed by Major-General Gibbon.
I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
THOS. A. SMYTH,
Colonel First Delaware Veteran Volunteers, Commanding Division.
Lieutenant Colonel FRANCIS A. WALKER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Corps.
- 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 291-293 ↩