No. 121. Reports of Major General Governor K. Warren, U. S. Army, commanding Fifth Army Corps, of operations August 18-21 and 31, October 27-28, and December 7-12.1
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
Weldon Railroad, August 25, 1864.
GENERAL: I have the honor to make the following report of our operations near the Globe Tavern, on the Weldon railroad:
Pursuant to orders, we set out at 4 a. m. on the 18th instant. We reached the enemy’s cavalry pickets, at Doctor Gurley’s house, one mile from here, at 7 a. m. General Griffin’s division, in advance, was immediately formed in line of battle by brigade, with skirmishers deployed. We then, at 8 a. m., advanced rapidly. By the aid of the support of the cavalry picket belonging to the Third New York
Cavalry we captured several of Dearing’s brigade of the enemy’s cavalry, and reached the railroad without opposition. Griffin’s division was immediately disposed to cover the position toward the south and west, and General Ayres advanced to the north along the railroad. In about one mile this division found the enemy in line of battle, with artillery, which showed a firm disposition to contest our farther advance. General Crawford’s division was then ordered up on the rights of General Ayres to outflank the enemy. Before, however, this was accomplished the enemy, at 2 p. m., advanced against General Ayres and forced his line to fall back to prevent being flanked. General Ayres contested the ground firmly, and finally drove the enemy back. Colonel Hofmann’s brigade, Fourth Division, was sent to support General Ayres. Colonel Lyle’s brigade, of General Crawford’s division, also received a part of this attack. General Crawford continued to move forward his right until dark, but his advance was all the way through dense woods.
Our loss this day was as follows:
The enemy’s loss must have exceeded our own, as he left his dead and some wounded on the ground. General Ayres showed great bravery in fighting his troops under difficult circumstances. The Eighteenth New York Heavy Artillery acted very handsomely, and Lieutenant-Colonel Wiedrich, commanding, was wounded. General Hayes and Colonel Winthrop also acted with gallantry.
August 19, at 4 a. m. i sent General Bragg’s brigade to the right to support General Crawford and establish a connection on the shortest line, with skirmishers, between my right and the pickets near the Jerusalem plank road. The order General Bragg did not execute as directed, but took up another line a mile or more to the rear. I at once directed General Bragg to correct his line and sent the best officers of my staff to assist. At 4.15, before this was accomplished and reported to me, the enemy broke through this picket-line with heavy force in column of fours, left in front, and facing to the right swept rapidly down to our left in rear of General Crawford’s line. At the same time General Ayres and signal officers report a heavy force on my front, along the railroad. My line was so extended that two regiments of the Pennsylvania Reserve Veterans of General Crawford’s division were all on as a skirmish line, and the enemy passed quite in their rear. Colonel Wheelock’s brigade fought well and lost comparatively little. So much confusion, however, was producer by the men falling back, and masking the fire of those in line, that all General Crawford’s line was compelled to fall back, and also the right of General Ayres’ division. Colonel Lyle’s brigade lost very heavily in prisoners, and General Hayes, commanding First Brigade of General Ayres’
division, was captured. General Crawford was at one time quite surrounded by the enemy. General Willcox’s division, of the Ninth Corps, about 1,200 strong, was immediately ordered up to attack the enemy, and the lines of Generals Ayres and Crawford, being reformed, moved forward at the same time, driving back the enemy, regaining the ground lost, and capturing prisoners. General Crawford’s division captured a battle-flag, taken by G. W. Reed.* Eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, and in Colonel Hofmann’s brigade J. T. Jennings,* Fifty sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers, also took one. About the same time the troops under General White, of the Ninth Corps, about 1,000 strong, on our right, were formed facing to the right to oppose any further flaking, and engaged Colquitt’s brigade of the enemy, and drove it back, capturing about 40 prisoners. The enemy in great confusion rapidly fell back to his intrenchments, carrying with them the disorganized parts of the command, which had become so by the attack from the rear in the woods, and also a large portion of those on picket. An instance of brutality occurred on the part of a rebel officer which deserves execration. Finding he was took closely pressed to carry off Captain Newbury, Twelfth U. S. infantry, a prisoner, he deliberately put a pistol to his breast and shot him. This is the testimony of the dying man himself. Before this flank attack began, signal officers reported troops moving against my front on the railroad, and General Ayres reported their arrival in his front, These made repeated attempts to force him back after he regained his line but failed.
Our losses were as follows:
The enemy’s loss must have been heavy in killed and wounded. Colonel Hofmann, commanding brigade in Fourth Division, and Colonel Wheelock, commanding brigade in Third Division, are particularly deserving for their conduct this day. The troops of the Ninth Corps fought excellently and the enemy made no stand against them. August 20, having become satisfied that our position here was one the enemy was determined to force us from, I posted my lines in position favorable for artillery defense, which gave me a considerable infantry reserve, and then awaited an attack. The day passed off without any. August 21, the enemy at 9 a. m. drove in my pickets on the north and west and opened with about thirty pieces of artillery, crossing his fire at right angels over my position. The timber, however, prevented his artillerymen from having any good view of our lines. At 10 a. m. he made position an assault all along the north and west of my position, but was everywhere repulsed. His intention to outflank us on the left was completely frustrated. Our artillery did excellent execution and broke the
*Awarded a Medal of Honor
enemy’s line in place before coming in good musketry range. Our skirmish line was immediately advanced, and 339 men and 39 officers taken on prisoners, besides 139 jrebel wounded were brought in, along whom were Colonel E. C. Coulcill, Sisteenth Mississipi, and Lieutenant Colonel S. B. Thomaas, Twelft Mississipi. General Hagood’s brigade struck a part of our linbe where the trops were in echelon and they found them-selves almost surrounded, and every one thinking they had surrendeered, ceased firing. Troops immediately advanced to bring them in when their officers commanced firing, and Captain Dailey, provoist-marshal of the Fourth Division, was shot by General Hagood. In the mixed condition of our men and the enemy, our line could not fire, and many of the enemy escaped. On General Griffin’s advance F. C. Anderson, * of the Eightenth Massachusetts, captured the battle-flag of the Twenty-seventh South Carolina. In General Cutler’s advance from Hofmann’s brigade, Captain J. C. Hatch, of the Seventy-sixth New York, took a battle-flag; Lfirut. M. Eyre, adjutant of the Third Delawere, tool one from a Shouth Carolina regiment; Corpl. H. A. Ellis, * Seventh Wisconsin, the flawg of the Sixteenth Mississipi, and Private Norton, of the Seventh Indiana, took one. Others reported, but have not been handed in. We buried 211 of the enemy’s dead. The rebel Generals Lamar and Sanders were said by the prisoners to be killed.
Our losses were:
GeneraL Cutler received a wound on the face from a shell.
Colonel Dushane, commanding the Maryland Brigade, a gallant fighter, was among the killed.
During these four days’ operations men and officers performed their duties as well as any ever did under the circumstances. The heat of the first day was excessive, and on the march many fell out that are here refported among the missing, but who will soon rejoin us; about fifty were completely prostrated by sunstroke. The men were kept working night and day, and were every day and night throught with the rains. The side roads and fields were almost impassable for artillery.
Colonel Wainwright, chief of Artillery, performed his important, fatiguing, and dangerous duties with success, and the servise of all our batteries was most efficient.
My staff performed their fatiguing and exposed duties most commendably.
* Awarded a Medal of Honor.
General Griffin, with his division, beside holding our extreme our extreme left and repulsing the enemy there on the 21st, also sent re-enforcements on the different days to different points prepared to sustain them.
Colonel Spear, commanding brigade of cavalry from General Kautz’s division, served me most capitally in watching my left and rear from August 22, scouting as far south as Reams’ Station and west to the Vaughan road. Colonel Stedman’s brigade, Gregg’s division, also participated in the repulse of the enemy on the 21st, under Colonel Spear.
The position we have gained, besides fighting for three days and maintaining, we have our work rendered unassailable, and a portion of the corps is available for other service.
G. K. WARREN,
General S. WILLIAMS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.
Report of casualties of Fifth Army Corps, and in First and Third Division, Ninth Corps, for the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st of August, 1864.
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
September 1, 1864.
I have the honor to report that about 10 a. m. yesterday the enemy advanced a party about 150 strong to the vicinity of the Davis house, drove in the outlying picket near the signal station, capturing 8 men wounding 3, and killing 1, and causing the pickets to fall back a short distance. The enemy then retired. We hold the Davis house, but our signal station is much annoyed by the enemy’s sharpshooters. There are 2,400 men at work daily on the deferens at this point, and 1,200 daily on picket, together with the details for camp guards and other necessary duties, makes the entire command on duty every other day.
G. K. WARREN,
Brigadier General S. WILLIAMS,
* But see recapitulation of revised statement, p. 128.
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
November 2, 1864.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report the operations of the Fifth Army Corps in the movement on the 27th ultimo. I accompany it by a map* on a scale of four inches a mile, made from our reconnaissances. I have put on it, in red, the supposed position of roads and rivers, as indicated on the map with which we set out. If the operations should ever become a matter of criticism, the study of this map would be of importance in comprehending the difficulties of executing any design, or meeting, expectations previously formed.
I introduce my report with some quotations from the general order of instructions, which will save time:
4. Major-General Parke, commanding Ninth Corps, will move at such hour of the morning of the 27th as will enable him to attack the right of the enemy’s infantry, between Hatcher’s Run and their new works at Hawks’ and Dabney’s at the dawn of day. It is probable that the enemy’s line of intrenchments is incomplete at that point, and the commanding general expects, by a secret and sudden movement, to surprise them and carry their half-formed works. General Parke will therefore move and attack vigorously at the time named, tot later that 5.30, and, if successful, will follow up the enemy closely, turning toward the right; should he not break the enemy’s line, General Parke will remain confronting them until the operations on the left draw off the enemy.
5. Major-General Warren, commanding Fifth Corps, will, if practicable, move simultaneously with the Ninth Corps, and proceed to the crossing of Hatcher’s Run, below the plank-road bridge, from which point he will support the Ninth Corps, and if the attack is successful, follow up the enemy, moving on the Ninth Corps. Should General Parke fail to break the enemy’s line General Warren will cross Hatcher’s Run endeavor to turn the enemy’s right by recrossing at the first practicable point above the Boydton plank road, keeping on the right of Hancock. He will them turn toward the plank road and open the plank-road bridge.
The being no road known over the country I was expected to operate in between the Ninth and Second Corps, I sent out Major Roebling, who reconnoitered everywhere in that direction, as far as our cavalry picket-line, which, however, was but a short distance out.
Under these circumstances, I issued my instructions to march at 5.30 a. m. on the 27th. The commanding general, however, did not think the hour early enough, and fixed it at 4 a. m. My route was to be to the left of Fort Cummings, through an open field; thence by a wood road, which was to lead to the Duncan road; thence I was to hunt up a road to Hatcher’s Run. The command started as directed, about 4 a . m., on the 27th. In consisted, first of the First Division, commanded by Brigadier-General Griffin, 4,707 strong, of which 1,247 were ignorant of the manual, and 2,803 had never fired off a musket. Second, of the Second Division, commanded by Brigadier-General Ayres 4,704 strong, of which 104 were ignorant of the manual, and 812 had never fired off a musket. Third, of two brigades of the Third Division, commanded by Brigade Crawford, of which 298 were ignorant of the manual, and 298 had never fired off a musket. The Artillery Brigade was composed of there batteries of light 12-pounders (14 guns) and two batteries of 3-inch rifles (10 guns). The men carried sixty rounds of ammunition and four days’ rations. Half our ambulances and our intrenching tools accompanied us. The ammunition wagons, with our reserve supplies, remained in camp, which was defended in my front by General Baxter’s brigade, about 2, 500 strong, and eight batteries, comprising 34 guns. All our transportation and baggage were sent to City Point.
* See p. 435
In commenced to rain lightly about 4.45 a. m., and it was very dark from the clouded state of the sky. Parts of the command soon got mixed up, and connections between parts of brigades were lost every-where in the command, on account of the darkness, soon after starting. I think quite impracticable, from this and previous experience, to move troops in the dark over any but the broadest and plainest roads, unless they are previously familiar with the route. It was light enough to see at 5.30 a. m., and we began to move the head of the column about this time into woods beyond our intrenchments. Clearing away the obstructions that had been placed in the road, we moved on slowly, keeping to the left of the Ninth Corps flankers, and this took us in a southwesterly direction to R. Thompson’s house (see map). Finding we were getting too far south, and that all the roads ran in a north and south direction, I cut a road due west through the woods for half a mile, which brought me on the so-called Duncan road, just south of the Clements house. Here I struck a wood road leading west, and along which I advanced, striking the enemy’s skirmishers at 9 a. m. General Griffin immediately formed General Gregory’s brigade and advanced through the woods, driving the enemy into a line of breastworks with abatis and slashing, which was strongly held. He lost about 100 killed and wounded in doing this.
It was 9.30 a. m. and I received word from the general commanding that General Parke would probably not be able to force the enemy’s line, and that it was important that a portion of my command should cross Hatcher’s Run and communicate with Hancock as possible, informing me at the same time that General Hancock had crossed the run. I informed the commanding general and General Hancock that I should probably be compelled to cross at Armstrong’s Mill. My original instructions contemplated y crossing about one mile below where the Boydton pike crosses. Ordering General Ayres and General Crawford to mass their divisions near to the front, I immediately sent Captain Gentry to communicate with General Hancock and Major Roebling with my escort to reconnoiter to my left for the end of the enemy’s line, while I personally made a reconnaissance of our front to ascertain the practicability of forcing the enemy back. On my return about 10.30 a. m. I found General Grant and General Meade at my headquarters, to whom I explained what had been done, and the condition of the enemy’s line in front. Major Roebling, who returned about the same time, report General Griffin’s line as reaching down to Hatcher’s Run. Captain Gentry report the rear of General Hancock’s corps having marched up toward the plank road, past Armstrong’s Mill. I then was directed to send a division across Hatcher’s Run, place its right flank on the run, and them move up, supporting General Hancock, and upon arriving at the enemy’s right of the line in front of General Griffin to attack it in flank, and endeavor to cause him to abandon the line, and thus open the way for the rest of my rest of my corps and the Ninth Corps. Ordering the division most convenient at the moment of receiving this ordered (which was General Crawford’s), I sent him across the run at Armstrong’s Mill and detached a brigade from General Ayres to strengthen him. I sent also a 12-pounder battery, but on account of the timber not permitting it to accompany the division farther that the run, it was left there and no opportunity occurred afterward to use it. leaving General Griffin in command, with his division and two brigades of General Ayres’, I started with General Crawford to aid and direct operations in accordance with his movements. The head of General Crawford’s division crossed Hatcher’s Run at 11.45 a. m. His line was
formed with General Bragg’s brigade in line of battle, right resting on the creek, Colonel Hofmann’s brigade covering his the Maryland Brigade in reserve. In this way he began to advance about 12.30 with the right of companies to the front. The denseness of the woods and the crookedness of the run caused great delays in the movement, causing breaks in the line and changes of direction and requiring care to prevent confusion.
Finding there could be no guide to Crawford’s movements other than sound, I directed General Griffin at 1 p. m. to open on the enemy with his skirmish line, to show us where to was, and to be ready to take advantage of any effect Crawford’s operations might have. General Crawford continued his movement, losing a little time by mistaking the branch (witch comes in rear the Crow house) for the main run, and afterward having much difficulty in crossing it, on account of the fallen timber cut there by the enemy. After crossing this branch General Crawford began skirmish with the enemy, driving them to the north and west, and capturing a man of Cooke’s brigade. About 4 a. [p.] m., I think, I visited him and found his just them on the right flank of the enemy’s position fronting Griffin, and firing was quite livery. The crossing of the run was here very difficult naturally, and made more so by the trees cut into it, and the opposition of the enemy. As Crawford’s line of march had now led him to quite a different position from what had been expected, and as he was in a dense forest of great extent, where it was difficult to find him, and as his men were getting lost in great numbers, in fact, whole regiments losing all idea of where to find the rest of the division, I ordered him to halt his line and get it in good order and press the enemy with his skirmishers, while I went to consult with General Meade, who I supposed was with General Hancock. When nearing the place of the latter, I was told by Major Riddle that General Meade had returned to the mill, and I proceeded to that point as rapidly as possible. Soon after reaching him we learned that the enemy had come in between General Hancock and General Crawford and attacked the former with great violence. The commanding, but he assenting to my suggestion that General Ayres could more readily be god there, I directed General Ayres to move at once. Darkness was so near at hand that General Ayres was halted at Armstrong’s Mill. The attack on General Hancock must have occurred while I was near General Crawford and yet in the woods-the sound of the musketry did not reach us. There was beside no road known to us leading directly to General Hancock, and that woods for two or three miles was certain to prevent him arriving for any contemplated emergency. What would have added still greater delay to communicating with General Crawford supervened by the rebels getting in on the road by which we communicated between him and myself. The enemy became so bewildered in these woods that upward of 200 of them strayed into General Crawford’s line and were captured. These men before being taken captured three of our ambulances a mile in rear of General Crawford. Sis of them captured Captain Cope, of my staff, but finding themselves in our lines gave up to him and brought them in. Major Bingham, of General Hancock’s staff, on his way to General Crawford, was captured by them, but made his escape, and three officers of my staff, in attempting to avoid the road thus infested by the enemy, became lost in coming from General Crawford to me and had to stay out all night in the woods
In order to illustrate further, if it is necessary, the character of the country I append a report of Lieutenant Dresser, assistant inspector artillery, attached to Artillery Brigade. *
General Hancock communicated with General Crawford two or three times, but did, as I am aware, at any time indicate to him that he was in need of his closer support. The position and operations of General Crawford must have had much influence on the operations of the enemy and were conducted him with all the energy and skill I believe it was possible to exhibit under the circumstances. Less perhaps appears in view of what was accomplished that upon consideration of the obstacles met and overcome. My command remained in position all night the heavy rain. General Hancock having deceived to fall back, I ordered General Crawford to withdraw at daybreak to the north side of Hatcher’s Run, which he did, by building a bridge just behind his line of battle. At daybreak I sent out Major Roebling of my staff to inform General Egan (then at Dabney’s Mill) that General Crawford had withdrawn, and General Egan then withdrew to the north side of Hatcher’s Run and halted. Major Roebling them went out to General Crawford’s picket-line and brought in all that had god lost. He them went on to the battle-ground of General Hancock of the night before, without meeting any enemy, but seeing their cavalry pickets on the plank road. This was about 8 a. m. At 7. 30 a. m., by order, General Ayres with two brigades of his division were sent to report to General Parke. Stragglers from the Second Corps continuing to come in I sent out ten men of my escort to hold on to Dabney’s Mill until they should all come that made their appearance, while at the same time Major Walsh picketed the road down to where the Vaughan road crosses Hatcher’s Run, for the same purpose. At 10 a. m. all the wagons, wounded, and prisoners were gone, and the road clad. I then gave orders to Generals Egan Crawford to withdraw, and Major Walsh to cover the latter. At 10.30 a m. these division were out sight, and I then notified General Parke that I was ready to withdraw General Griffin’s division simultaneously with General Willcox, and at 11 a. m. they began. About 11.30 the enemy’s cavalry drove in our small mounted force, across Hatcher’s Run, but all the tired and straggling had already gotten in. General Bartlett’s brigade formed to check this advanced, but the enemy did not do more that fire a few shots with cavalry skirmishers at very long range. We waited in this position about an hour and then withdrew without any molestation from either the enemy’s cavalry or infantry. Every man of my command was brought off, and all the arms of the wounded. Major Walsh moved back up the Duncan road, covering General Parke’s left, after General Griffin’s rear guard entered the road cut through the woods.
Beside the map and report of Lieutenant Dresser, Fourth U. S. Artillery, accompanying this report, as before stated, there will be found the report of General Griffin, commanding First Division; of General Crawford, commanding Third Division; of Colonel Wainright, chief of artillery (the wooded nature of the country prevented any use our artillery during the movement), and a list
G. K. WARREN,
Major-General of Volunteers.
General S. WILLIAMS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.
* See p. 456
+ Embodied in return of casualties, pp. 155–157.
Statement of major Roebling, aide-de-camp, of what he saw take place on the south side of Hatcher’s Run, October 27 and 28.
October 27, about 9 a. m., General Griffin was in line of battle and skirmishing on the north bank; 9.30, started with the escort to reconnoiter the north bank of Hatcher’s Run from Armstrong’s Mill up. Found a regiment of the Second Corps just leaving the rifle-pits opposite that mill. These rifle-pits had been vacated by the enemy in the morning. I supposed at that time that they were continuous on the south side of the creek, and crossed it somewhere opposition Griffin’s left, connecting with the breast-works opposite Griffin’s front. Coming up the creek found one rebel vedette in the woods, who fired on us and ran; stuck a field a while; found the left of Griffin’s picket-line in the western edge of the field resting on the run. The south bank of the run appeared thickly wooded all the way. Returned at 10.15. About 10.30 Generals and Meade arrived. I explained my reconnaissance to the generals. General Grant them ordered General Meade to have one of the division of the Fifth Corps sent across the run at the mill, and march up behind the breast-work, so as to uncover General Griffin’s front and enable him to advance. About 11.30 General-Bragg on the right, Hofman on the left, Maryland Brigade in reserve. The line marched by right of companies to the front; a strong skirmish line ahead. At this time Generals Grant and Meade passed the saw-mill on their way to Hancock; they stopped five minutes to talk. At 12.30 rode with Colonel Wainwright out the road toward the steam saw-mill; turned [to] the right at the first clearing, where there was an abandoned house. Went down a small patch leading from the northwest corner of the field toward the creek; found Crawford’s line had got that far, and had halted for a few minutes to gain more ground to the left. Returned along the creek to our headquarters at the saw-mill, woods very thick, and found that the rifle-pits ended 200 yards above the mill. As soon as I came back I thought I would have time to go to the Second Corps, and see what they were doing, and be back in time before Crawford would strike anything.
Started at 1 for the Second Corps; road leads through dense woods for nearly three miles. One brigade of General Mott’s division was lying in the road just before you came to the open field. As I came out into the field I saw Generals Grant, Meade, and Hancock at a house on the left. This was very large, three-fourths mile wide by two and a half long, running north and south. I was told the plank road ran along the western edge of the field. General Egan’s division was formed in line of battle, facing north, and posted about 300 yards north of the road I was on, his right rested on the wood, and left on the plank road or somewhere near it; he was just completing the formation of the line. At this time I heard firing and cannonading southeast of Mrs. Rainey’s, which I supposed to be cavalry. There was also infantry skirmishing to the northwest across the plank road. As I passed General Egan, who was standing in front of his line, a battery of ours in his front, say yards, opened. I went up to see what they were firing at; found it was a section of a brass battery firing at long range toward the west across the plank road at a rifle battery of the enemy. One-quarter a mile to the north of this section [in] a ravine, near a house which I understand in Burgess’ Tavern, was the other
section of our brass battery firing at the rebel battery. The enemy fired all his shots at this section, and was knocking it pretty badly. The right flank of this section was protected by about 100 cavalry drawn up in line beyond, through farther north; I could see troops of ours. While I was standing there another rebel battery opened from some point on the north side of Hatcher’s Run, taking this advanced section of ours somewhat on the right and rear. The first shot fortunately burst about 100 yards from me, else it would have knocked me over. I left then. Saw a little road going northeast by east toward the run; went 200 yards down the road, saw nothing came to the point where I had first entered the lange field. Saw another road here leading southeast by east.
I thought I might strike Crawford by here leading southeast by east. I thought I might strike Crawford by following that road. I went down the road nearly half a mile, when I saw two rebels standing across the road; turned around and came back. On the way back I met Bingham with General Hancock’s escort. He was sent down this road to see whether he could find General Crawford. He said General Meade had told General Hancock to send some one down for that purpose. I told Bingham that he might find Crawford if he kept on long enough, but to keep a good lookout, as there might be rebels on the road. It seems he went through without seeing any rebels, and found Crawford near the Crow house. He returned safely by the same route. Later in the afternoon, when Hancock’s right was driven in, Bingham was sent down this same road to get Crawford’s assistance, but he was captured before he god to the field around the Crow house.
About 2, or a little later, I left the Second Crops and returned to the saw-mill on the creek. When I left, General Meade was still at General Hancock’s. Ricketts returned at that movement and said he knew where General Crawford was. General Warren and staff started to find General Crawford via steam saw-mill and Crow’s house. I went to the farther end of that field and find Crawford where Ricketts had left him. All of us went into the woods to hunt him; came upon his line of battle very unexpectedly; he was moving about, 15 degrees west. He said his right rested on the creek; said he lost time by mistaking a branch for the main creek. Was separated from the rest of our staff, and followed the line of battle with General Bragg. It was now, say, 2.45. Presently skirmishers to fire, and then the main line commenced to fire. The troops were a little scared, and many stragglers began running to the rear; but few bullets seemed to come from the enemy. Our line them commenced to cheer, and advanced rapidly, firing all the while. The firing from the enemy was very feeble. At about 3.30 the line stopped advancing and most of the firing ceased. I rode up to Bragg’s skirmish line, found the right of it on the creek, and directly in front of it the end of the rebel breast-work on the other side; the lower end of it was vacated. At this moment a squad of, say twenty, rebels appeared on top the hill opposite and fired down on us. My orderly was killed, and I returned lower down the creek. Found Griffin’s skirmish line connecting with Bragg’s line of battle. About a dozen of Griffin’s men were on Crawford’s side of the creek, having crossed on a tree. They had no officer with them.
I told the men to hunt their officer and tell him the rebels had left their breast-works, and to go up and occupy it. I then went to General Crawford and asked him why he had halted at the very movement when he had victory in his grasp. He rapidly he had positive orders from General Warren not to advance another step. At this moment Captain
Dailey came up and begged hard to be allowed to cross the creek with fifty men and clear out the line of breast-works. Permission was refused. The creek was waist-deep here, backwater from some dam. I then left find General Warren and explain to him the situation.
Some one told me he had gone to General Hancock’s right just before Crawford’s attack commenced. I started out the road from the western end of the Crow field; got a little way into the woods when I head some suspicious noises, and through it best not to try it. Found General Warren about 4 o’clock near the saw-mill. Captain Bache had just come with a massage from General Meade. Explained the state of affairs; went back to General Crawford with an order to take possession of the breast-works if he could cross the creek. Rejoined General Crawford about 4.45; little firing going on; was astonished to see rebel stragglers coming in on our left and rear. They report Willcox’s division in the woods a short distance behind us. General Crawford had just changed the front of one brigade (Hofmann’s) to look out for this contingency. I delivered my order to him, but we both concluded it would not be advisable to make the attack under the circumstances. 5.15, growing dark rapidly; started back. Some on these rebel prisoners had some of the Second Corps prisoners. They reported that Hancock’s division had been flanked by them and had broken and run. This was the first intimation that General Crawford had that matters had been going wrong with the Second Corps. When I got back near the Crow house voices shouted out of the pines, “Stop that man on horseback.” They turned out to be eight rebels under charge of two of our men who had lost their way. I brought them in. These men of ours had been taken prisoners by the rebels in the first place, but not on e of the whole party knew where they were, so they had made up their minds to follow the first man who knew where anywhere was. At 5.45 reached our headquarters; pitch dark and raining. Captain Cope came in shortly afterward with eight rebels. Moved headquarters to the Armstrong house about 6.30. Orders were sent to General Crawford to withdraw at 3 o’clock by Lieutenant-Colonel Osborn. He had already built a bridge over the creek. The withdrawal was effected by daylight without any pursuit. During the night the Second Corps withdrew from the south side of the run.
October 28, 5.30 a. m., day just dawning, started with the escort via steam saw-mill to pick up any of Crawfords stragglers that might be left. Found General Egan and Major Mitchell near the steam saw-mill. They had just returned from the field of battle. Told them that General Crawford had withdrawn. Went over to Crow’s field; saw three of our ambulances standing half-way between the two house. Met an officers and two men going to hunt the Seventh Wisconsin. He went further to the ;left than I did. Going through the woods we picked up perhaps twenty of our stragglers,and suddenly came upon the Seventh Wisconsin, heaving some sixty prisoners in charge. The regiment seemed to be lost and did not know what to do. Their commanding officers, Major Richardson, had gone off to find out something. I got them to start over, and at that time the major, with Captain Dailey, came up and said the brigade had been fixed again, so crossed that way. There were no signs of any enemy. I understand from Colonel Osborn that a small part of Colonel Hofmann’s picket-line was out at this time about half a, mile in advance of this point. They did not come in until about 9 o’clock and brought and brought about thirdly or forty prisoners
along. Returned to the steam saw-mill at 7.30 o’clock; found everything but stragglers gone. Went up the road to Hancock’s field; road filled with stragglers; met some of Gregg’s cavalry coming back. They all reported that the enemy was pursuing yet. Many of the men said there was a picket-line still out. Farther on, met some men who had been relieved from the picket-line at 12 o’clock. Over at Mrs. Rainey’s house there were some of our men, stragglers from the field, said the rebel vedettes be seen in the edge on the woods beyond the plank road. When I turned to come back, say 8.30, there were still some wounded men limping along. There was plenty of time to have taken then safely that morning.
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
December 14, 1864-12.30 p. m.
The command consisted of General Gregg’s division of cavalry, the three division of the Fifth Corps, Mott’s division, of the Second Corps, four batteries of artillery, and a canvas pontoon bridge 250 feet long, with three companies of engineers under Captain Van Brocklin. The whole command was on the move at 6 a. m. on the 7th, having been located beforehand so as to make a simultaneous start. General Gregg took the road east of the Jerusalem p[lank road, turning out of it at Temple’s and joining it again about one mile and a half below Warwick Swamp. The infantry took the plank road; the division in the order of Crawford’s, Griffin’s, Ayres, Mott’s, each division heaving a battery and half its ambulances; last was the wagon train, with one brigade guarding it. The men had four days’ ration and sixty rounds of ammunition on their persons and two days’ rations and forty rounds of ammunition in the wagons. The bridge was found to be destroyed on the plank road at the crossing of the Warwick Swamp, and caused considerable delay. Fifteen minutes sufficed to make a passage alongside for infantry, but a brigade with a crib-work pier about forty feet long had to be made before the train could cross. It commenced raining about 8.30 a. m. and continued through most of the day, clearing after dark but clouding up again at midnight. General Greggs cavalry forded the Nottoway deep ford nearly impassable for wagons, and then proceeded to Sussex Court-House and bivouacked for the night, according to my direction. The pontoon bridge, 140 feet long, was completed at 4.50 p. n., and Crawford’s division went on and bivouacked at Sussex Court-House. Generals Griffin and Ayres the Nottoway between 2 and 4 p. m. and bivouacked there till 2 next morning. General Mott and the trains all crossed General Crawford and bivouacked on the right bank of the Nottoway.
On the morning of the 8th the line of march was taken up for Jarratt’s Station. General Gregg led off at 4 a. m., followed by General Crawford. General Griffin began to cross the Nottoway at 2.30 a. m. (it raining heavily at the time), and was followed by Ayres. They were both over by 4.30 a. m., and the bridge was up and soon after daylight. General Mott took charge of the trains and followed immediately after General Ayres. The rain ceased about daylight, having so far caused no injury to the roads. I detailed three companies of cavalry to return from the Nottoway and carry back all the stragglers from the command. These were already numerous on account of
the night movement, and the sending them back was necessary as they could not follow the column. It appeared afterward that the number of them was upward of 800. As General Gregg neaded the railroad he sent off a force to the trestle brigade across the Nottoway, which is about 160 feet long, and destroyed, it driving away a few of the enemy’s cavalry. About 10 a. m. a regiment of the enemy’s Generals Gregg and Crawford, but was speedily driven across again by General Gregg. They cavalry continued to work on the rawilroad, partially destroying it diwn to Jarratt’s Station. Thinking the enemy might mett us near the railroad, I delayed destroying it with the infantry until sunset, by which time the whole command was up and the trains parked. The three leading division of infantry had now had a chance to cook their dinner, rest, and sleep, which was much needed, and which the wafrm sun favored. At 6. p. m. Generals Crawford, Ayres, and Griffin went on the railroad with their division and completed its destruction by moonglight, from the Nottoway down to below Jarratt’s Station, working till midnight, and then bivouacking till daybreak. The work of destruction was renewed early on the morning of the 9th by forming a line of battle on the railroad, each division destroying all on its front, and then moving to the left alternately. General Gregg cleared the enemy out of the way southward and picketed the country north and east, while General Griffin took charge of the train with his division. General Gregg met with a force of the enemy at Three Creeks, with artillery, and found the wagon-road bridge destroyed and that on the railroad on fire. He deove this enemy away and put out the fire on the railroad bridge so as to cross sume of his men over is dismounted. The stream is about fifty feet wide, and had been made unfordable by raising the gates of the mill-dam above. This was shul down oin being discovered, and his command then formed. A pontoon bridge was also laid by Captain Van Brocklin. General Gregg followed the enemy up, and by 4 p. m. had possession of Belfield, and driven the enemy all across the Meherrin River.
At Hicksford, on the south side, the enemy had three forts of batteries, armed with artillery, and connected by rifle-pitts, and manned with a considerable force, so that it was impracticable to force a crossing at that poiunt. This was my own conclusion from a personal examination of the locality. As the attempot to turn the position wound occasion at least two days’ longer time that for which I was originally provisioned, and the men, already quite tired, had, in many cases, eaten up the four days’ rations on their persons, and as the weather again threatened a storm, I determined to return, and orders were issued accordingly for the next morning. Half a day’s ration of bread and a full one of beef was issued this evening, the first beef we had a chance to issue. The command worked till about 8 p. m. General Ayres and General Mott crossing Three Creeks, and the cavalry assisting, completed the destruction of the track down to Belfield, burning a brigade about sixty feet long over one branch of the Three Creeks, and the one of about 100 feet over the main stream. These brigades were old truss frames, and had to be shored up from below. We could not destroy the across the Meherrin without gaining possession of the opposite bank, which was helf as berfore described. The railroad destruction was carried over a distance of about seventeen or eighteen miles, and was so complete that I think the enemy will not deem its use of sufficient importance to rebuild it, especially as
we have demonstrated easily it can be again destroyed if they do. All the ties were burned, the rails heated, and in most cases much bent and twisted. They were of the U pattern, and from the manner of their connection, by means of a coupling iron and bolts, gave labor in breaking them apart. The rails were much worn, and in many places they had been replaced by those brought from some other railroad that had been destroyed by burning and bending and the rails afterward straightened out. These generally cracked off on this last bending of ours.
The strong of sleet began about 8 p. m., and lasted the night, causing men and animals much suffering. The storm still continued at daybreak, and the drippings from the icicles on the trees continually added their moisture to the roads. This determined me to send the main column direct to Sussex Court-House, and a brigade of cavalry under General Irvin Gregg was sent ahead to clear the way and watch the side roads. It was followed by General Griffin, guarding the train, then by General Mott’s division, them by General Ayres, General Crawford bringing the near.
The enemy’s cavalry, with artillery, followed General Greg’s cavalry up to the point where the main column left the Halifax road, and then followed up the main column, being held in check by General Crawford. Their artillery, however, did not cross the branch of Three Creeks, where we had destroyed the bridge. General Gregg, with his division, passed on up the Halifax road (the road we come down), thus protecting the left flank on the infantry column. He was unmolested by any force in his rear, but was harassed by cavalry, with artillery, on his left flank, near Jarratt’s Station. This he forced back and came on without loss. The head of the column reached Sussex Court-House at dark, and the command bivouacked along the route. The roads, through sandy and ordinarily good, were now in a very bad state, almost impassable in many places after our train. The mist continued to fall and keep the men cold and wet all night, so that they got little sleep or rest.
The command moved on in the morning toward Freeman’s Ford, on the Nottoway, on reaching which a junction was formed with General Potter’s command. Two bridges were soon laid, and all the command crossed over before dark and camped near Belches’ Mill. The enemy’s cavalry in small force followed us down to the Nottoway. The weather clear during the night and was very cold. The mud in the morning was frozen stiff, so the trains passed easily along, but the men suffered very much from their feet, that now quite sore and blistered, insomuch that numbers walked barefoot over the frozen ground.
The entire distance traveled, besides the labor performed, was about 100 miles in the six days. The men marched and behaved most praiseworthily during this tiring expedition in most disagreeable weather-weather which almost precluded rest and sleep. It is not believed the enemy picked up any prisoners from straggling, except a few who became drunk to complete prostration on apple jack found on the way, which, to our surprise, was in almost every house appreciable quantities.
The country enabled us to forage our animals to some extent. Scarcely a man was to be found. Many house were deserted or contained only helpless women and children, We had evidences, however, of the men lurking about in the woods, from on our return it is reported some of our men were found dead along the route, in one instance, with
throat cut. Whether this was true or not, it soon became the belief of all the men in the command, and in retaliation almost every house was set on fire. Every effort was made by the officers to stop this incendiarism (which most likely punished only the innocent), and with partial success. No infantry force of the enemy was anywhere encountered, except that defending Hicksford. General Hill’s corps, the people thought would attack us, but we saw nothing of it.
It was impossible to destroy the railroad between the Nottoway and Stony Creak in the time for which we were rationed, as we should in that section be greatly delayed by the additional streams we should have to cross-namely, the Sappony Creek, the Stony Creek, and the Rowanty Creek-all of which would require pontoon bridges. This section is now, however, utterly useless to the enemy, nor can any considerable force remain there to protest it, for want of supplies. The iron accumulated at Stony Creak is only a small amount drawn down from north of that point by taking up the track-not over two miles. All the ties accumulated there were burned by General Gregg and these rails thrown on them.
Moreover, it is an easy task to go now and destroy it as soon as the frost will permit the ties to come out of the ground, to which they are now frozen fast. The later occurrence would have prevented my destroying but a portion of it, even up to this time, for if I had gone direct without interruption, from Hicksford back to the Nottoway, I could not have destroyed more than the part between in and the Sappony before this heavy frost came. I would respectfully request that if the destruction of this portion is desirable that I be allowed to complete it by starting down the Halifax road with my corps a brigade of cavalry, and a sufficiency of pontoon to bridge all the streams at once-about 500 feet. This can be done in there or four days’ time, and communication can be kept up all the while, so that an offer of battle there by the enemy can be accepted without any uncertainty as to its progress, in the knowledge of the general commanding the Army of the Potomac.
I have made my acknowledgments to my command in a general order, a copy of which is furnished herewith. Division reports, with list of casualties, will be sent in as soon as received. Our loss was inconsiderable. We captured a few prisoners.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
G, K, WARREN,
P. S.- The note I dispatched from Sussex Court House seemed to me to contain the principal facts and results of the expedition. I have been delayed in making a full report by the absence of any reports from division commanders, by the requirements of the ordered to get ready my supplies on my return for an immediate movements, and by changing my headquarters in a very cold day, which, beside disarranging all my office arrangements, made it almost impossible to write at any length in the cold. I am very tired, too, from previous exertion.
G. K. WARREN,
Brigadier General S. WILLIAMS,
HDQRS. FIFTH ARMY CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
No. 65. December 13, 1864.
The command having return from its late expedition after accomplishing successfully its mission-the destruction of the Weldon railroad as far as Hicksford, making forced marches during six days and right in the most inclement weather-the major-general commanding considersit his duty to express to his division commanders-Brevet Major-General Gregg, commanding Second Cavalry Division; Brevet Major-Generals Griffin, Ayres, and Crawford, of the Fifth Corps, and Brevet Major-General Mott, commanding Third Division, Second Corps-his height appreciation and commendation of their performance of the instructions issued to their commands, with such especial praise as they may deem due to individuals in their divisions. The major-general commanding expresses his thanks to Brevet Brigadier-General Wainwright, chief of artillery, for his efficient management o f the artillery of the command; to Lieutenant Colonel A. L. Thomas, chief quartermasters, for the through manner in which he conducted the trains, and to Brevet Major Van Brocklin, Fiftieth New York Engineers, for his efficiency and promptness in the management of the pontoon train.
By command of Major-General Warren:
FRED. T. LOCKE,
Brevet Colonel and Assistant Adjutant-General.
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
January 28, 1865.
Colonel S. F. BARSTOW,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac:
SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith, to accompany my report dated December 14, 1864, of the expedition to Hicksford, a map* showing the route taken, prepared with great care on a scale of five miles to an inch; also the following reports, the last one received, the of General Ayres, not being received till to-day, viz: That of Bvt. Brigadier General C. S. Wainwright, chief of artillery; that of Bvt. Major General S. W. Crawford, commanding Third Division, Fifth Army Corps; that of Bvt. Major General R. B. Ayres commanding Second Division, Fifth Army Corps; that of Bvt. Major General G. Mott, commanding Third Division, Second Army Corps; that of Bvt. Major General D. McM. Gregg, commanding cavalry division.+
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. K. WARREN,
Major-General of Volunteers.
* See p. 449.
+ These reports appear in their proper order.
- 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 428-449 ↩