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OR XLII P1 #79: Report of Captain Edwin B. Houghton, 17th ME, Actg Div Insp, 3/II/AotP, December 7-12, 1864

Numbers 79. Report of Captain Edwin B. Houghton, Seventeenth Maine Infantry, Acting Division Inspector, of operations December 7-12.1


CAPTAIN: In obedience to instructions from the brevet major-general commanding, I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this division in the recent expedition to the Weldon railroad:

On the morning of Wednesday, the 7th instant, the division broke camp at daylight, pursuant to orders from headquarters Fifth Army Corps, and marched in the following order: First Brigade, Brigadier General R. de Trobriand commanding; Second Brigade, Brigadier General B. R. Pierce commanding; Third Brigade, Bvt. Brigadier General R. McAllister commanding. During the morning Battery B, Fourth U. S. Artillery (temporarily assigned to the division), joined the column and was assigned a position between the Second and Third Brigades. The troops were provided with four days’ rations on the person, two days’ in the wagons, and beeves on foot, with sixty rounds of ammunition per man on the person. Following the Fifth Corps, the division marched down the Jerusalem plank road a distance of about fifteen miles to Hawkinsville, or Freeman’s Tavern, where a halt was made at 4.30 p. m. The column was delayed a short time by an accident to the pontoon bridge which had been laid across the Nottoway River near Freeman’s Ford. At 7.30 p. m. crossed the river and bivouacked for the night in a field about three-quarters of a mile from the river. On the morning of Thursday, December 8, the division marched at daylight, and to the brevet major-general commanding was assigned the duty of protecting

the trains of the expedition. The Second Brigade was in the advance, followed by the Third, and the First Brigade was deployed on the flanks of the train, with two regiments in the rear and a squadron of cavalry as rear guard. Marched via Sussex Court-House and Coman’s Well to the Chambliss farm, where a halt was made, the division being massed near the Chambliss house. At 4 o’clock again resumed the line of march, and at 5 bivouacked for the night near Jarratt’s Station, the Fifth Corps passing us meanwhile and moving on to the railroad. On Friday, December 9, the division moved promptly at daylight, and reached the Weldon railroad a short distance south of Jarratt’s Station at about 8 a. m., and immediately set to work destroying the road, burning the duties and sleepers, and heating and bending the rails so as to render them unserviceable. After tearing up and destroying twice the length of the division front, the troops bivouacked for the night on the Bailey farm. During the evening, pursuant to orders from the major-general commanding the expedition, the division moved south, leaving camps standing, and tore up and destroyed more than the length of the division front, connecting, with the cavalry near Hicksford. Returned to camp about 11 p. m. On Saturday, December 10, marched at 8 a. m., moving north on a road parallel to the one by which we came. The roads were very muddy owing to the late storms; bivouacked at about 6 p. m. At daylight on Sunday, the 11th, resumed the line of march. After marching some two miles, the division was massed until General Ayres’ division, of the Fifth Corps, had moved out, there being some misunderstanding by General Ayres as to the time at which he was to march. About 8 a. m. we were again en route and marched via Sussex Court-House to near the river, where the division halted to allow the trains and General Crawford’s division to pass. To the brevet major-general commanding was assigned the duty of covering the crossing. Dispositions were accordingly made in the Third Brigade (Brevet Brigadier-General McAllister) for this purpose, and after the Fifth Corps and all the trains had crossed the river, the division crossed in good order without loss. Small squads of the enemy’s cavalry were seen on the flanks, evidently looking for opportunities to pick up stragglers rather than with any intent to attack. A few shots were fired by a section of Battery B, Fourth U. S. Artillery, as a parting salute, and by dark the last man was across and the pontoon bridges taken up without any hostile demonstrations from the insignificant cavalry force that had followed our column. Bivouacked at about 8.30 p. m. three miles north of the Nottoway River on the Jerusalem plank road. On the following morning (Monday, December 12) marched at 7 o’clock and about 3 p. m. arrived near the Yellow Tavern, when orders were received from the major-general commanding the Second Army Corps to go into camp on the right of Halifax road at least 1,000 yards outside of the works with a view to comfort and defense. The division camped at about 5 p. m. on grounds designated by Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Willian, assistant inspector-general Second Corps.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Captain, Seventeenth Maine Infantry, Actg. Div. Inspector.


Assistant Adjutant-General.]


  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 353-354
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