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OR XLII P1 #290: Report of Lieutenant Colonel William B. Coan, 48th NY, commanding 2/2/X/AotJ, August 16, 1864

No. 290. Report of Lieutenant Colonel William B. Coan, Forty-eighth New York Infantry, commanding Second Brigade, of operations August 16.1

In the Field, Va., August 24, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report for the information of Brigadier-General Birney:

On the morning of the 16th instant, in obedience to orders, I massed my brigade in rear of the Third (Colonel Osborn’s) on the hill near Brigadier-General Birney’s headquarters. Soon after moved by the

flank down a narrow road through the woods toward the enemy’s works; when within about 1,000 yards took the double-quick step through the woods and across a space of about fifty yards of felled timber, and took position in front of the rebel entrenchments. I was informed that a skirmish line had been sent forward after the enemy; consequently, I gave orders against firing. Some thirty of forty minutes after I arrived the troops on my left moved to the left, leaving a large space unoccupied. I commenced to move my troops by the left flank to fill up the space. While the movement was taking place the enemy came down in large force and occupied the space beyond where my left had then reached (I saw four regimental flags planted on the parapet) and opened an enfilading fire on my flank. I immediately opened an oblique fire on the enemy, when another column suddenly appeared in front of my right center. The column on the left pressed on, and was about getting in my rear, when, finding that it was impossible for me to hold the position against such odds, I gave the command to retire. While falling back I met Lieutenant I. E. Smith, my aide, who informed me that General Birney directed me to fall back. My staff and myself went to the rear about 400 yards and rallied the troops and immediately formed a heavy skirmish line and moved it forward to within about 200 yards of the works now occupied by the enemy. Soon after re-enforcements arrived.

Lieuts. John M. Tantum and Henry H. Sears, Forty-eight New York Volunteers, both killed during the engagement, deserve special mention for their brave and gallant conduct. It is also proper to state that Lieutenant-Colonel Pennypacker, commanding Ninety-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers; Major Diller, commanding Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers; Captain Moore, commanding Forty=seventh New York State Volunteers, and Captain James M. Nichols, commanding Forty-eighth New York State Volunteers, as well as the other officers and men generally, behaved with great gallantry.

Too much praise cannot be awarded Lieutenant F. D. Barnum, acting assistant adjutant-general, and Lieutenant Smith, aide-de-camp, for gallantry displayed during the engagement.

I have already forwarded a list of casualties, amounting to 178.

I have the honor to be, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Lieutenant Colonel Forty-eighth New York State Vols., Commanding Brigade.

Captain M. BAILEY,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Birney’s Division.


  1. 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 765-766
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