HEADQUARTERS FIRST NEW JERSEY CAVALRY, October 9, 1864.
GOVERNOR: I have the honor to forward the following report of the movements of this regiment during the late advance:
On the evening of September 29 we broke camp at Prince George Court-House and marched to the Jerusalem plank road, where we bivouacked for a couple of hours, moving on at daylight to the extreme left of the Army of the Potomac, Warren’s corps, hating inside the picket-line. General Gregg ordered me to advance with my regiment to the junction of the Realms’ Station and Dinwiddie Court-House roads, and to hold this junction, while I sent a battalion, under reliable officers, at a charge, into Reams’ Station to drive in the enemy’s pickets and to capture as many as possible. After doing this I was to hold these two roads, General Gregg saying he would like to have me bring on a fight if possible, as he would rather fight there than anywhere else. I accordingly advanced to the junction of the roads mentioned and sent Captain J. H. Hart, with two squadrons, to charge through Reams’ Station. With a shout, such as has become characteristic of this First New Jersey Cavalry, away they went, driving the enemy, almost twice their), from the works about the station and three miles beyond, capturing some dozen prisoners and several horses. Captain J. H. Hart, upon receiving an order from me to that effect, retired, and Captain Hobensack established a picket-line on Reams’ Station road with the Second Battalion. While this was being done I had thrown a picket-line across the junction and sent Captain W. H. Hick, with two squadrons, up the road to Dinwiddie Court-House. He found the enemy in about equal force, and charging them vigorously drove them from their position, capturing a few prisoners. Returning he established a strong picket-line on this road. Several distinct attacks were made on our pickets now on these roads, but the enemy were boldly met, and gallantly repulsed by Captains Hobensack and Hick. The enemy did not bring any strong force to drive us from Our position, and we lay on picket there until the following morning, Sep-
tember 30, when we were relieved and rejoined the brigade. As we joined the brigade they were just going into action, and though we were under fire a part of the time, we did not become engaged.
At dark Brigadier-General Davies, jr., commanding the brigade,
ordered me to advance with my regiment along the left of the Fifth Corps to the Armstrong house, and thence a mile to the right, and communicate with General Parke’s (Ninth) corps at the Pegram house. As we filed out into the woods the general concluded to accompany us. The night was intensely dark and the road a strange one, the enemy known to be on our left flank and in or front. We advanced cautiously, occasionally stopping to light a candle and get back into the road until we reached the Armstrong house. As we slowly rode up a little hill in front of the house in utter silence, those in advance distinguished talking and then clattering of sabers. “Who goes there?” rang out sharply on the air. “Butler’s South Carolina brigade,” was the startling reply. “Who are your?” “First New Jersey Cavalry,” “charge,” was the reply we gave, as with a Jersey yell, we dashed through the thick darkness upon an invisible foe. A sharp volley was given, and the rapid and continued rattle of hoofs on the gravel road in front gave notice that we had driven them from the field. We captured Captain Butler, brother of General Butler, of the rebel army. After the regiment had been collected again a line was formed, and as the enemy was found to be on each flank, as well as in front, the general concluded to return as far as the Davis house, on the Vaughan road to Petersburg, where General Gregg’s headquarters were. Here we remained in bivouac the remainder of the night.
At daylight on the 1st of October, in a drizzling rain, our brigade started for the Hawks house, just in front of the Ninth Corps. After leaving the Davis house, it was occupied by Hampton’s cavalry, and we had not proceeded far on the road before we were ordered back. At noon we reached a point near the Davis house, and about 1 o’clock we occupied the farm about the house from which the rebels had retired. Disposition was immediately made by General Davies to meet any emergency. The Sixth Ohio Cavalry was thrown out (dismounted), with the First Massachusetts Cavalry on the right, also dismounted. The First New Jersey Cavalry was held in reserve in compliance probably with the Army Regulations, which enjoins upon all commands to hold their best troops in reserve. The wisdom o this soon became apparent. The Sixth Ohio and First Massachusetts Cavalry were vigorously attacked by Donovant’s and Mahone’s brigades of rebel cavalry (dismounted), and rapidly driven in, notwithstanding a stubborn resistance on the part of the Massachusetts calvary. The line broke and ran, rallying in the rear of the First New Jersey Cavalry. An ominous silence ensued for a moment, when suddenly the dense woods in our front became alive with rebels, who came on at a double-quick, shouting and yelling like so many fiends, firing as they advanced. The Jersey boys stood cool and calm though exposed to fire from the whole rebel line, as well as six guns, which had been run up to within 300 yards of our lines. The spiteful buzz of bullets, the shriek of solid shot and shell, and the fierce tearing whir of canister, were enough to terrify brave hearts and older heads, but with our colors planted in the ground in the center of the line my gallant men stood without firing a shot until, with the enemy twenty-four paces in front, I gave the order to commence firing. Old soldiers and veterans o the bloodiest fights of the war join in saying that our rapidity of firing was wonderful and
unsurpassed. Three separate assaults were made, and each one bloodily repulsed by the First New Jersey, assisted by the First Massachusetts Cavalry, which had rallied on our right during the fight. The enemy ceased firing and left our front apparently whipper. A charge was ordered, and to Sergeant Johnson, Company G, belongs the honor of being first over the works. The color guard followed, and the regiment, with a wild shout, dashed into the woods and charged a distance of perhaps 200 yards from our first line. We were then recalled to repel an attack on our left flank by Young’s brigade of Georgia cavalry. While these events were transpiring in front Lieutenant Hughes, whom I had detached with Company C, was picketing our left flank mounted.
At the time of the last repulse of the enemy in front, his pickets were driven in and Company C became hotly engaged. Lieutenant Hughes finding himself surrounded, ordered a charge and succeeded in cutting his own way out and rejoined the regiment in time to give us notice of the flank attack. Sergt. Charles Watts, of Company C, seeing a group of men dressed apparently like our men, rode up to one who proved to be General Young and asked him, “How in thunder are we going to get out of this?” The general seemed to be as much puzzled as Watts, as he had taken the charge of Lieutenant Hughes for the advance of a mounted force, and had delayed his own attack upon our flank long enough for us to regain our works and be in readiness to repulse him. Private Miles Downey, seeing that they were the enemy, seized upon Captain Jones assistant adjutant-general to General Young, and brought him in a prisoner. Great credit is due to Lieutenant Hughes and Company C, as their gallant onslaught upon General Young’s rear doubtless saved us the day. We ascertained after the fight, from the enemy’s pickets, that General Young, when Company C charged, sent word to General Hampton that he had been surrounded and would probably be captured. To Captains Hart, Hobensack, and Hick, commanding battalions, I cannot give too much praise. I owe the coolness and firmness of my men in a great measure to their gallant example. Sergt. James T. Clancy*, Company C, killed General Dunovant within ten yards of our line, as he led his brigade in the first assault, and no doubt his death assisted in a great measure to demoralize the enemy. I cannot refrain from mentioning Captain W. R. Robbins and Lieutenant Bowne. Though they were detached from the regiment at the time upon General Davies’ staff they cheered our men by their presence in the thickest of the fight, and Lieutenant Bowne at a critical moments seized the colors and himself bore them through a storm of bullets. In our repulse of the attack of General Young, Lieutenant Shaw and Sergeant-Major Dalzied rendered me efficient service in transmitting my orders and seeing them carried out. In this fight the regiment fully sustained their previous reputation for gallantry, and added new luster to the reputation of New Jersey troops.
We remained in the field during the 24 instant, and returned to this camp on the Jerusalem plank road on the 3rd, where we now lie.
I have the honor, Governor, to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
M. H. BEAUMONT,
Major, Commanding Regiment.
His Excellency JOEL PARKER,
Governor of New Jersey.
*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 634-636 ↩