Numbers 107. Report of Captain A. Judson Clark, Battery B, First New Jersey Light Artillery, commanding Artillery Brigade, of operations August 12-26.1
HDQRS. ARTILLERY BRIGADE, SECOND ARMY CORPS,
Before Petersburg, Va., October 18, 1864.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the artillery of the Second Corps in the late movement across the James River, and the action at Reams’ Station, on the Weldon railroad, being from the 12th to the 26th day of August, 1864, inclusive:
In obedience to instructions received through Lieutenant-Colonel Morgan, chief of staff to Major-General Hancock, the batteries of the corps were moved from their camps near the Deserted House at dusk on the evening of August 12, and marching by the way of Point of Rocks crossed the Appomattox and bivouacked about two miles and a half from Major-General Bulter’s headquarters, on the road Jones’ Neck, where they remained until the night of the 13th of August, when, in obedience to orders received through Lieutenant-Colonel Morgan, chief of staff, I directed the following named batteries to report to the divisions named at Jones’ neck at daylight on the morning of August 14: K, Fourth united States, Lieutenant Roder, and Eleventh New York, Captain Burton, to the First Division; Sixth Maine, Captain Dow, and G, First New York, Captain Ames, to the Second Division; F, First Pennsylvania, Captain Ricketts, and B, First New Jersey, Lieutenant Sims, to the Third Division. These batteries accordingly crossed the James River before daylight at Jones’ Neck and reported as directed, although
at that time the troops had but just commanded to disembark. The Third Division was advanced during the day and occupied the line of works thrown up by our troops when the corps made the demonstration at this point in July, near the Pottery. Battery F, First Pennsylvania placed in position near the old Pottery, and were engaged several times by the enemy’s artillery, but had no difficulty in silencing it at any time. Meantime the First and Second Divisions had swung around on the right and occupied the New Market road, and the Eleventh New York. Captain Burton, and a section of the Sixth Maine, under Lieutenant Rogers, were brought up and placed in position on the left of the First Division, where they did excellent service in silencing one of the enemy’s batteries, which was seriously annoying our troops. At dark these guns were withdrawn.
On the following day (15th) the Tenth were thrown to our right and front, and on the 16th attacked the enemy’s position near Fussell’s Mill. By direction of Major-General Hancock, I sent Batteries K, Fourth United States, Lieutenant Roder, and G, First New York, Captain Ames, to report to Major-General Birney, commanding Tenth Corps McGilvery, chief of artillery, Tenth Corps, on an elevated piece of ground near the mill, about 550 or 600 yards from the enemy’s position and commenced firing at once with good effect, rendering excellent service to the assaulting columns. Their losses in this engagement were slight, K, Fourth United States, losing 2 men wounded and 3 horses. At dusk they were ordered to rejoin their corps. In the afternoon of the same day a section of the Sixth Maine, under the command of Lieutenant Rogers, was placed in position on the right of the Second Corps line to silence the fire of a section of a rebel battery, which enfiladed the attacking party of the Tenth Corps, and accomplished the object satisfactorily. The batteries of the corps near the pontoon bridge meantime were placed in position to repel any flank attack by the enemy’s cavalry either by the Malvern Hill of river road. On the 18th the Third Division, with Batteries F, First Pennsylvania, and B, First New Jersey, marched back to Petersburg and took position in the line of works previously occupied by the Fifth Corps. The Eleventh New York, Captain Burton, and Sixth Maine, Captain Dow,
took the position left by the above batteries. One the 19th Battery K, Fourth United States, was placed in position on the New Market road, on the right of General Miles’ line of battle, but was not engaged, No change of any moment occurred until the night of the 20th, when the remaining division and batteries of the corps recrossed the James River and marched back to their old camps in front of Petersburg. On the morning of the 21st marched about one mile and a half to the left and took position near the Jones house, on the west side of and nearly parallel to the Jerusalem plank road. On the 22nd the division marched to the left and massed near the Gurley house. The batteries which had been with the First and Second Divisions were now relieved and ordered into camp near the Southall house, and the Tenth Massachusetts, Captain Sleeper, and A and B, First Rhode Island, Captain Brown, reported to the First Division; C, First New Jersey, Captain Woerner, and Twelfth New York, Lieutenant Dauchy, reporting to the Second Division.
On the morning of the 23rd these divisions with the batteries marched back to and there miles down the plank road and bivouacked until 4
a. m. on the 24th, when they marched to Reams’ Station, on the Weldon railroad. The infantry immediately commanded destroying the railroad by tearing up the track and burning the ties. The batteries were placed in position in a line of rifle-pits near the station. The Tenth Massachusetts and Batteries A and B, First Rhode Island, Lieutenant parring commanding (captain Brown being absent since the 23 d on special service), were placed on the west side of the railroad and on the left of the station, and the Twelfth New York and C, First New Jersey, on the right of the station on the east side of and nearly perpendicular with the railroad. Everything remained quiet on this day and until about 8 o’clock on the morning of the 25th. At this time the Second Division was moving down the railroad with the intention of destroying the road still farther, and had already proceeded about a mile from the station when the cavalry pickets in their front were attacked by the enemy’s skirmishers, consisting of dismounted cavalry, and were being slowly driven back. The troops were immediately formed and advanced to the support of the cavalry. While this was being done the enemy brought a section of rifled guns into position near the railroad, about one and three-quarters mile from the station, and opened fire on our line of troops. Immediately sent a section of the Tenth Massachusetts Battery (rifled guns), under Lieutenant Granger, about one mile down the railroad, where it was placed in position by Captain Sleeper, about severely yards to the left of the road. They immediately opened fire on the enemy’s guns, compelling them to withdraw at once to a position farther to the rear, and finally drove them entirely from the field. The section returned to its original position about noon. The enemy meantime and up to noon continued to make demonstrations on different parts of the line and nearly around us, at one time almost entirely in our rear. Battery C, First New Jersey, Captain Woerner, was withdrawn from the line of rifle-pits about noon and placed in the corn-field in rear of the station in order to repel any attack from the rear and left; one section placed on the knoll near the rear line and section near the grove and immediately in the rear of the church.
In the early part of the afternoon our line in front of the station was attacked by the enemy’s infantry and dismounted cavalry, but they were early and quickly repulsed. From then until about 3 o’clock the enemy continued to feel the line, but made no other attack until the hour named, when they assaulted tho line again and in nearly the same place. This attack was stronger and more persistent, but was repulsed handsomely. During this attack, Captain J. Henry Sleeper, commanding the Tenth Massachusetts Battery, was wounded, but though a painful wound he remained with the battery nearly a halt hour until the firing had ceased. He then turned the command of the battery over to Lieutenant Granger and left the field. About 4.30 o’clock the enemy were reported advancing in column on our right and near the edge of a swamp about 600 yards distant. The Twelfth New York Battery, Lieutenant Dauchy, immediately opened fire in the direction in which they were reported advancing, and although he could not see the enemy on account of the woods which intervened, he aided materially in checking and breaking the column. One piece of his battery, under the command of Lieutenant Henry D. Brower, was, at the same time, by ordered of Brigadier-General Miles, placed in position near the railroad in front of a couple of small buildings, and where the line on the right crossed the road. About 5.30 p. m. the enemy opened suddenly a furious artillery fire from a large number of guns which he had massed in our front under of
a piece of second growth pine wood. This fire was concentrated almost entirely on our immediate front. The batteries which could be brought to bear upon the enemy’s guns immediately replied to their fire. A short time after the enemy’s artillery commanded firing their infantry and dismounted cavalry attacked with great fury that part of the line which the artillery had attempted to shake. Against these troops the batteries which could bear upon them gave their whole attention, using shell and shrapnel until within short range, when they fired rapidly with canister. Almost at the commencement of the assault Lieutenant Brower was killed while bravely fighting his gun in the most gallant manner.
The command of the gun devolved upon Corporal Liddle, who, after firing canister as the enemy came over the works until they had nearly surrounded his, limbered the gun and attempted to bring if off, but part of the horses being instantly killed, he cut the others loose and escaped with them. The other guns of the battery, under the command of Lieutenant Dauchy, were firing canister at the advancing live (the most of the drivers carrying ammunition) until the enemy had broken through the work and were endeavoring to from on the road near the church, when he drew his left gun out of the work and throwing it to the left fired double-shorted canister, and, as soon as our infantry had left the work immediately on his left, threw canister from his other guns down the outside face of the work where the enemy were endeavoring to come. This he did until the enemy had advanced nearly to his guns under cover of the wood to his rear, when he endeavored to limber his guns. With two of them the horses were shot before it could be done. The remaining one succeeded in limbering, and went a short distance down the road, when these horses fell and he was obliged to leave them all.
One the left of the line Batteries A and B, First Rhode Island, and the Tenth Massachusetts were hotly engaged and both were firing rapidly with double-shorted canister, fighting gallantly. Even after the enemy had swept the line back and were completely in their rear they continued to fire, ceasing only when the cannoneers were driven or taken away from the guns.
Lieutenant Perrin commanding A and B, First Rhode Island, a brave and gallant officer, lost his leg by cannon shot, and, with the other officers of the battery, Lieutenants Chase and Spencer, were captured by the enemy at their guns. The officers of the Tenth Massachusetts fortunately succeeded in escaping. When the enemy first broke through the lines I caused the section of Battery C,
First New Jersey, which was near the grove section, and as soon as it could safely be done they opened fire on the enemy’s line.
The section on the right near the grove was charged several times, but by a rapid fire of canister repulsed then each time and aided very materially in checking the enemy. Soon after the line had broken the First Division (General Miles) was reformed and gallantly charged the enemy, retaking and holding the greater part of their original line of works and also three of the guns of the buildings, and it was impossible to get it.
Darkness now put an end to the fight. Battery C, First New Jersey, being out of ammunition, was then taken to the rear about one-third of a mile, halted, and its horses brought back to bring off the recap-
tured guns of the Twelfth New York and such limbers and caissons as could be brought away. After considerable time was lost in trying to get men three of the guns were dragged off the line down into
the ravine at the rear of the battle-field, where the horses were hitched to them and the guns taken to the rear. The other gun could not be reached. Three of the limbers and two caissons were afterward saved by the assistance of Lieutenant Sweeney, with the provost guard of the first Division, and a few men of the Sixty-first New York Volunteers, they having volunteered for that purpose. All the pickets with the exception of a cavalry vedette had been withdrawn ere the last caisson was drawn away.
Horses from one of the batteries near the Southall house were sent down as soon as possible where these limbers and caissons were brought and drew them away, taking also the caissons of Captain Woerner’s battery which had been left by taking the horses to draw off the guns of the Twelfth New York.
By 8 o’clock on the morning of the 26th the guns and caissons were all in camp near the Jones house.
Our losses in this movement were severe. They are as follows, viz: Officers-killed, 1; wounded, 1; wounded, missing, 1, missing, 2; total, 5 Enlisted men-killed, 10; wounded, 24; missing, 65; total,99. Many of the wounded are among the missing.
The total number of guns lost was 9,5 light 12-pounders and 43-inch ordnance guns, also 8 caissons. The total number of horses lost was .
In closing this report I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of the officers of the different batteries and the men under their charge during this movement, and especially during the last engagement. Under a terrible fire of artillery and musketry combined they stood bravely to their guns, fighting with the greatest gallantry to the end. For coolness and courage they could not be surpassed, and the record of their gallant deeds will be cherished with pride and will ever hold a bright and honorable place in the history of the corps. And I would not forget the cool courage and gallantry on the field of Lieutenants Eddy, Bull, and Fairchild, of the brigade staff, or their unwearied exertions at the close of the engagement in getting off the shattered remnants of the artillery engaged.
Individual acts of gallantry were numerous, but when all were brave it were almost an injustice to speak of individual cases. I will only mention one, Private Ginley, G, First New York Artillery, who was acting as mounded orderly on the field. When the line was giving way he drew his saber and riding gallantry among the men succeeded way he drew his saber and riding gallantry among the men succeeded in rallying a large numbers and taking them back into the fight. But while we remember with pride the glorious deeds of those who fought so gallantly, we do not forget the heroes who have fallen at the post of duty. We deeply mourn their loss and will ever cherish and keep green their memory.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. JUDSON CLARK,
Captain, First New York Jersey Artillery, Commanding Brigade.
Major SEPTIMUS CARNCROSS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Corps.
Field return of Artillery Brigade, Second Army, showing the loss of men, horses, and material during the action of August 25, 1864.*
* Furnished August 27, 1864, by Major John G. Hazard.
- 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 405-410 ↩