Numbers 124. Report of Asst. Surg. Charles K. Winne, U. S. Army, Medical Inspector, of operations December 7-12.1
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
December 16, 1864.
SIR: An expedition composed of Fifth Army Corps, four batteries, Third Division, Second Army Corps, General Gregg’s cavalry, one battery, and a bridge equipage of canvas boats, having been ordered to move at daylight on December 7, the flying hospital of one medicine wagon complete and one hospital wagon for each brigade, with one-half the number of ambulances, accompanied the command. All the field companions and hospital knapsacks were directed to be filled, one hospital tent-fly to be carried in each ambulance, and the boxes to be supplied with hard bread, sugar, and coffee; while the hospital wagons carried stimulants, anodynes, dressings, blankets, hospital clothing, rations, and a certain number of hospital tents. All men unable to march were sent to the field hospitals, which remained intact, in charge of an assistant surgeon. December 7, the troops moved, the ambulances following their respective divisions, the flying hospital with train in rear, south of Yellow Tavern, Gurley and Temple houses, to Jerusalem plank road, then down the plank road to Hawkinsville, nineteen miles from Petersburg, where the troops were massed until the pontoon bridge was thrown across the Nottoway River at Freeman’s Ford. A wagon having been overturned on the bridge, the crossing was so much retarded that it was dark before all had crossed, and the troops bivouacked on the south side of the river. A battalion of cavalry was detailed to collect all stragglers on the road north of the river, and take them to army headquarters; 850 were found, 450 belonging to Third Division, Second Corps, 400 belonging to Fifth Corps. It rained steadily the whole morning, commencing shortly after march commenced, but the soil being sandy, the march was but little retarded. Total march made, eighteen miles. December 8, broke camp at 3 a. m., marched through Sussex Court-House and Coman’s Well to Northcross’ house, on Halifax road, thirty miles from Petersburg, where the pontoon and other trains were parked. During the day the cavalry had
had a skirmish with the enemy, and one brigade (Hofmann’s) of Third Division, Fifth Corps, had been formed in line for a short time.
No casualties in infantry. The weather, clear at starting, changed and became colder, with high wind at night and heavy frost. The ambulances had been comparatively free during the day, many men requiring only short rest to refit them for the march, and those in the train were returned to their respective regiments on going into camp. During the night the troops were engaged in tearing up the railroad, and destroying the road as far as practicable from north of Jarratt’s Station. Total march, twelve miles.
December 9, troops engaged all day in destroying the railroad, the cavalry going as far Belle Plain [Belfield], opposite Hicksford, on Meherrin River. Found the bridge at that point protected by seven or eight guns supported by infantry in field-works, and it was not deemed advisable to force a passage. Here a short engagement occurred, with some loss in cavalry. Very cold all day; rain and sleet at night. Many of the men became intoxicated on apple whisky found in nearly all the houses of the road, and several were admitted to the hospital for this cause. Total march, eight miles. December 10, commenced returning; wagon train in advance, guarded by First Division, and ambulances in advance of respective divisions, two following in rear; cavalry, with exception of one brigade, retiring to Sussex Court-House by same road we marched out; infantry marching by another road. Thawing, and roads very heavy during the day; mist at night. Bivouacked one mile south of Sussex Court-House; Third Division bringing up the rear, and was attacked twice by rebel cavalry and formed in line. Two men received flesh wounds. Total march, eighteen miles. December 11, visited cavalry hospital at Sussex-Court House, and learned forty had been wounded from time expedition started to this time. Reached Nottoway River about noon; troops all crossed at same place before dark, and camped along the Jerusalem plank road, from Hawkinsville to Belches’ house. Very cold at night. Total march, seven miles. December 12, march resumed and troops all in camp between Halifax and Jerusalem plank road by 5 p. m. Freezing all day. During the whole time the troops were absent, exposed to great vicissitudes of weather and enduring great fatigue and hardship, I have rarely seen men work with better spirits or march better closed up. Two fractures entered the flying hospital, received in tearing up roads or in felling timber.
As before stated, the great majority of the men received only needed a few hours’ rest to enable them to rejoin their commands, and the great majority were so incapacitated by the reprehensible practice of wearing boots, which prevails to too great an extent in the infantry, and which, in my opinion, should be strictly prohibited at once, and, also that previous to all marches the knapsacks should be inspected by the company officer, and everything not indispensable at once thrown out, as such heavy packs of useless articles are carried by the men that they become exhausted, and unfitted for their proper duties.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
CHARLES K. WINNE,
Asst. Surg., U. S. Army, Med. Insp., Fifth Army Corps.
THOMAS A. McPARLIN,
Surgeon and Bvt. Lieutenant Colonel, U. S. Army,
Medical Director, Army of the Potomac.
- 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 453-454 ↩