HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION,
Near Petersburg, Va., August 30, 1864.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the part taken by my division in the action at Reams’ Station on the 25th instant.
The division reached the station early on the morning of the 24th and took its position in the entrenchments. About 9 a.m. on the 25th I was ordered to move down the railroad and continue its destruction, but had scarcely got in motion when skirmishing at the outposts commenced. The regiments of Smyth’s brigade were at once deployed as skirmishers on the right of the railroad with orders to press in the enemy’s. It soon became apparent that we had an infantry force in front of us, and two of my brigades were ordered back to the entrenchments and as soon as the enemy commenced to drive in our skirmishers, the Third was ordered to fall back and take up its position in a corn-field to our left and rear, where out entrenchments were being extended to protect that flank. Rugg’s brigade (the First) had been sent to support the First Division on the right, where the enemy made several ineffectual attempts to break our line. About 5 p.m. the enemy, having placed his batteries opened a heavy fire, most of which took my part of the line in reverse. Soon afterward he made his assault on General Miles’ line, from which a portion of my First Brigade had been withdrawn to strengthen mine, under the impression that an attack was to be made there. The enemy broke through General Miles’ line and pushing forward his troops appeared to be for a time carrying everything before him. His fire taking my line in reverse, I shifted my men to the opposite side of the parapet, prepared to resist his farther advance, but this was checked by the steadiness of a portion of Miles’ division, and my division was then ordered forward by General Hancock to attack the enemy and retake the breast-works. In the attempt to obey this order, that portion of the division with me did not sustain its previous reputation, and, demoralized, partly by the shelling and musketry firing in its rear, partly by the refugees from other parts of the line, retired after a very feeble effort and under a very slight fire in great confusion, every effort of myself and staff failing to arrest the rout until the breast-work was reached. Soon after this the enemy
attacked my line, the men again shifting to the inside of the parapet. Besides the fire from the front, which, however, was very feeble, they were subjected to a heavy artillery and musketry fire from the right flank, where the enemy turned our own guns upon us. The men soon gave way in great confusion and gave up the breast-works almost without resistance, and were partially rallied in the woods behind the right wing. The result of this action was a source of great mortification to me, as I am confident but for the bad conduct of my division the battle would have terminated in our favor, even after the enemy had broken through General Miles’ line. I can only account for the unsteadiness shown by my men by the fact that so many of my very best officers and men have been lost on this campaign, that the command is in a great measure disorganized. The members of my staff were with me on the field and aided me much in restoring order.
I am, captain, respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major-General of Volunteers, Commanding Division.
Captain W. P. WILSON,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Corps.
HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, SECOND CORPS,
November 6, 1864.
SIR: I have the honor to report that last night about 11.30 o’clock my picket-line in front of Fort Haskell was attacked. That part of it on the other side of the pond was evidently surprised and 32 men captured. The water in the pond is found this morning to be above the foot bridge on which our men were in the habit of crossing. Our line is now established on this edge of the pond in old rifle-pits about twenty-yards this side the old line, will be further strengthened to-night. The line could only be re-established at night, but I do not consider it advisable to do this, because the line was originally defective, and to put it in the same place would only subject us to a similar attack hereafter.
I am sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major-General of Volunteers, Commanding Division.
Major S. CARNCROSS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Corps.
HEADQUARTERS SECOND CORPS,
November 8, 1864.
It was intended long since to withdraw that part of the picket in front of the pond, as it was found that the enemy were damming up the water. It was not done, as I was reluctant to give up the ground, and I ordered before the late move that bridges should be built across this pond. But there have been so many changes on the line and so much inattention on the part of officers that it was neglected. I do not now think it advisable to re-occupy the old line as it is of no particular advantage and is much exposed. Its loss was not known till daylight by me, and it would have been a very difficult matter to re-establish that part of the line.
WINF’D S. HANCOCK,
- 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 293-294 ↩