Numbers 153. Report of Colonel J. William Hofmann, Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations August 18-21.1
HEADQUARTERS THIRD BRIGADE, SECOND DIVISION (LATE SECOND BRIG., FOURTH DIV.) FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
In the Field, near Yellow House, Va., August 27, 1864.
LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this brigade since the 17th instant:
At 5 a. m. on the morning of the 18th instant the brigade left camp near the Jones house and moved south over the Jerusalem plank road. The brigade consisted of the Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, commanded by Major Jack; One hundred and fifty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, Captain Carter; Third Delaware Veteran Volunteers, Captain Baily; Fourth Delaware Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel La Motte; Seventy-sixth New York Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Cook; Ninety-fifth New York Volunteers, Major Bard, and One hundred and forty-seventh New York Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Harney, having a total of 1,187 muskets, and an aggregate of 1,571. This brigade formed the rear of the corps column. It arrived at the Yellow House, on the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad at 12 m. The march was a very fatiguing one on account of the heat of the day. Only one-half of the men arrived with the brigade. By 3 p. m. most of the men reported. At 3.30 p. m. the brigade was moved to the front of a wood about half a mile north of the Yellow House. Deployed in line of battle, the left resting on the railroad and facing north. The One hundred and forty-seventh Regiment New York Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Harney, was sent forward as skirmishers. At 4 p. m. the brigade was detached from the Fourth Division and ordered to report to General Ayres, commanding the Second Division. In compliance with directions from General Ayres, the brigade was moved to the left of the railroad and relieved the brigade of Colonel Dushane, whose right connected with the brigade of General Hayes, and who
had been engaged with the enemy for some time. The brigade relieved Colonel Dushane’s brigade and opened fire on the enemy, and in fifteen or twenty minutes drove them back. A line of pickets was then thrown forward and breast-works erected. Our loss in this action was not very heavy. At 4.30 p. m. on the 19th the enemy broke through our lines about half a mile to the right of this brigade, and also attacked our front. The Ninety-fifth New York and Third Delaware were withdrawn from the left of the brigade line, but subsequently resumed their place in the works. The Fifty-sixth and One hundred and fifty-seventh New York Volunteers, and Fourth Delaware Volunteers remainder in the works and repulsed the enemy in handsome style. In this assault the Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers captured the colors of the Fifty-fifth North Carolina (rebel) Regiment. Our loss was light, excepting on the skirmish line, where it had been considerable. At 8 p. m. on the 20th the brigade was moved half a mile to the rear to a crest extending south from the Brick [Blick?] house, and running parallel with and about one-fourth of a mile west of the railroad. Breast-works were erected during the night. At 9 a. m. one the 21st the enemy advanced to attack our works. Their line of battle emerged from the wood, about 400 yards in our front, and moved steadily forward through a field of corn to within fifty feet of the works, when it broke. The men fled for the woods. They had suffered very severely in killed and wounded from our fire. One stand of colors was captured by the Seventy-sixth New York and one by the Third Delaware Volunteers, a few yards in front of the works. General Hagood’s brigade of the enemy passed over the field to the left of our works. They were fired upon until they arrived at a point a little in our rear, when I observed that a number of them had thrown away their arms, and as they still moved forward, I concluded that they intended to surrender, and ordered the firing to cease. They halted for a moment in the ravine to the left of and about 150 yards in rear of our works. Then about one-half of them attempted to retreat. Fire was again opened on them and many were killed and wounded. I think that of the number that came forward not more than one-fourth regained the woods from whence they had emerged. The Third Delaware Volunteers captured another stand of colors. This brigade captured 2 lieutenant-colonels, a number of line officers, and nearly 300 prisoners. On the following day 300 stand of arms were collected and 50 of the enemy’s dead buried in front of this brigade. Our loss was considerable, principally in the Ninety-fifth New York, which regiment, under command of Major Bard, was on picket duty. Major Bard was severely wounded whilst engaged in bringing in the pickets.
The regimental commanders speak in terms of praise of their officers and men during the operations of the past week. The following-named have received special notice: In Fifty-sixth Regiment Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, Private J. T. Jennings captured the colors of the Fifty-fifth North Carolina (rebel) Regiment on the 19th instant; One hundred and fifty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, Sergeant Eckendorf, for gallantry while in command of his company on the skirmish line on the 18th instant (since missing); Private Mark Lewis, for gallantry in springing over the breast-works and capturing 1 captain, 1 lieutenant, and 3 privates on the 21st instant. Third Delaware: Adjutant Eyre, capturing a stand of color on the 21st. Fourth Delaware Volunteers: Sergt. A. Wilson, Company F, for brave conduct
in endeavoring to capture a stand of colors, which he would have obtained had he not yielded to his superior officer, Adjutant Eyre, Third Delaware (so the commission appointed to inquire into the matter reported). Seventy-sixth New York: Captain Hatch, for gallantry in crossing the works and capturing a stand of colors; Lieutenant Weldon, killed on the picked-line on the night of the 21st, is spoken of as having been ever faithful in the discharge of his duties, courteous and kind in his intercourse with his brother officers and men. Ninety-fifth New York: Private R. Smith,* a mounted orderly at brigade headquarters, succeeded in capturing 2 officers and 20 men of Hagoods’ brigade while they were endeavoring to make their way back through the woods.
I desire to express my thanks to the officers of my staff, Captain Cowdrey, assistant adjutant-general; Captain Burritt, brigade inspector, and Lieutenant Healy, acting aide-de-camp, for their efficient services in promulgating and attending to the execution of my orders during the operations of the past week. On the 19th Captain Burritt was obliged to leave the field of battle for the third time on account of wounds received, being seriously wounded in the leg. Captain Watkins has since discharged the duties of the office and rendered very efficient services on the 21st as an acting aide-de-camp.
I forward herewith a tabular and nominal list of casualties, showing a loss of 2 officers and 23 men killed, 8 officers and 96 men wounded, 68 men missing; total, 10 officers, 187 men; aggregate, 197.
I am, lieutenant, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. W. HOFMANN,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Division.
* Awarded a Medal of Honor.
- 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 483-485 ↩