No. 330. Report of Colonel Alonzo G. Draper, Thirty-sixth U. S. Colored Troops, commanding Third Division, of operations October 27.1
HDQRS. THIRD DIVISION, EIGHTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
In the Field, Va., October 30, 1864.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by the First and Second Brigades of this division in the action of the 27th instant:
The First Brigade marched in the rear of the column as a reserve, under the command of Colonel John H. Holman, First U. S. Colored Troops. The Second Brigade had been temporarily detached from the Third Division and assigned to the Second Division, under command of Brigadier-General Heckman. When the First Brigade arrived on the Williamsburg road the head of the column was already engaged. The brigade was here formed into column by division, and the company of division sharpshooters, under command of Major Phillip Weinmann, Thirty-seventh U. S. Colored Troops, were deployed as skirmishers on the right. Colonel Holman then received a written order from Major-General Weitzel to advance up the York River Railroad until he should arrive
within sight of the enemy’s line, and then to halt and report to corps headquarters. The report of the movements of this brigade is furnished by Lieutenant Colonel A. G. Chamberlain, now commanding, Colonel Holman having been wounded and sent to the hospital at Fort Monroe. The brigade moved to the right and across the York River Railroad, then advanced to the front up the New Bridge road. Moving up this road about a mile they came in sight of the enemy’s cavalry and immediately formed line, the First and Twenty-second Regiments on the left of the road, and the Thirty-seventh on the right of the road in reserve. The brigade advanced a little farther, when a column of rebel cavalry was discovered, estimated by Lieutenant-Colonel Chamberlain to be about 1,500 or 2,000 strong. Colonel Holman then ordered the Thirty-seventh to form square, as he apprehended that the cavalry were about to charge. Shortly after he gave Lieutenant-Colonel Chamberlain to understand that he intended to charge with the First and Twenty-second.
The enemy failing to attack, the regiments of the brigade were disposed as follows: The Thirty-seventh in a hollow on the right of the road, in reserve; the First U. S. with its right resting on the road, and the Twenty-second on the left of the First. By this time the enemy had brought two guns into position in our front and opened on our line. Colonel Holman then ordered the charge. The First U. S. Colored Troops had open ground for their charge; the Twenty-second U. S. Colored Troops had to charge through the woods. The First was exposed to a severe fire of musketry, grape, and canister, but advanced gallantly across the open field and carried a part of the enemy’s line, getting possession of the two guns (iron 12-pounders). The Twenty-second charging through a wood at double-quick in great confusion, arrived within about 100 yards of the enemy’s works, when Colonel Kiddoo, of the Twenty-second, fell dangerously wounded, whereupon the regiment immediately broke and commenced fleeing to the rear. Lieutenant Colonel I. C. Terry, of the Twenty-second, assisted by Major Weinmann, of the sharpshooters, made every effort to rally them, but without success. The commanding officer of the First U. S. had commenced making dispositions to charge down the enemy’s line to the left, which was still held, but finding himself unsupported and exposed to a fire on his flank from the woods, and learning that a strong force of rebel cavalry was forming in the open field to the left and front of the enemy’s lines in such a position as to cut off his retreat, he was forced to relinquish the advantage which he had gained and to retire from the enemy’s works, abandoning the captured guns.
Notwithstanding the general confusion in the Twenty-second it appears that the right company, under command of capt. Albert Janes, advanced in the charge in good order, arriving within five yards of the enemy’s line and retired in good order, covering the retreat, and adding materially to the safety of the regiment. It also appears from the statement of Captain Janes, fully confirmed by Lieutenant Colonel Terry, that the confusion in the Twenty-second was caused, at the beginning of the charge, in the following manner: The First and Twenty-second, before the charge, were marching by the right flank at double-quick through the woods, when the order was given by Colonel Holman to march by the left flank, which movement was promptly executed by the First, but at this time the Twenty-second was thrown into disorder, either because the command of Colonel Holman was not properly repeated, or because it was not understood by the regiment.
Captain Janes states that Colonel Kiddoo rode around the right flank and said to him: “Captain, turn to the left and go on,”whereupon he immediately marched his company by the left flank and advanced in good order, and that Lieutenant Ferdinand Holzer, commanding Company B, did the same with the first platoon of his company and dressed upon him; but that the rest of the regiment was immediately thrown into confusion, many of the companies marching by the right of companies to the front, instead of marching by the flank. Lieutenant-Colonel Terry states that he heard no order to change direction by the left flank, but that, seeing the change of direction to the left, he endeavored to get the men into line. Instead of being halted for the formation of the line, the regiment was allowed to charge as it was, and therefore accomplished nothing. The First U. S. Colored Troops remained in the enemy’s works from ten to fifteen minutes before retiring, and succeeded in spiking the two captured guns. After the order to retire had been given, Captain Henry Ward, of the First U. S. Colored Troops, resolutely remained behind with a few of his men, and endeavored to bring off the captured guns, but was himself taken by the enemy. The losses in the First Brigade were 1 officer and 15 men killed, 6 officers and 136 men wounded, 1 officer captured by the enemy, and 16 men missing.*
As the regiments were falling back Lieutenant-Colonel Chamberlain received notice that both Colonels Holman and Kiddoo were wounded, whereupon he assumed command as senior officer. At about the same moment he received an order from Major-General Weitzel to fall back, which he immediately did, bringing off such wounded as could be found, and covering his retreat with a strong line of skirmishers.
The following officers and men of the First Brigade are deemed worthy of mention for gallant conduction the action: Colonel John H. Holman, First U. S. Colored Troops, the division commander by seniority, but this day in command of the First Brigade, fell seriously wounded within 200 yards of the enemy’s works while charging with his line. Whatever may be said of the disorder in the ranks of the Twenty-second, it is but just to say that Colonel J. B. Kiddoo, of the Twenty-second, charged with his right company upon the enemy’s works with an utter disregard for his own personal safety until he fell dangerously wounded within fifty yards of the rebel line. Lieutenant Colonel Giles H. Rich, commanding First U. S. Colored Troops, displayed both courage and good judgment in his successful assault upon the enemy’s intrenched lines, and in his equally successful retreat when the lack of support and the concentration of the enemy rendered his further stay imprudent. Dr. J. W. Mitchell charged with the commanding officer, Colonel Holman, until he fell. All the officers of the division staff who accompanied Colonel Holman performed their duties gallantly and faithfully. Captain Henry Ward, First U. S. Colored Troops, displayed the greatest gallantry in remaining with a handful of men in the enemy’s works, endeavoring to extricate the captured guns from the killed and wounded horses, in which endeavor he was captured. Captain Albert Janes, Twenty-second U. S. Colored Troops, displayed great coolness, intrepidity, and skill in carrying his company at double-quick within five yards of the enemy’s lines, while the rest of his regiment was in disorder, and in covering the rear of his regiment in its retreat. First Sergt. John Loveday, Company A, Twenty-second U. S. Colored
*But see revised statement, p. 151.
Troops, though severely wounded, urged on the men and drove away those who offered to assist him. Corpl. Nathan Stanton, Twenty-second U. S. Colored Troops, who carried the colors, was also wounded, but would not give up the colors until the regiment retired. Sergt. William F. Robinson and Private Henry Bootman, Company E, Twenty-second, are also mentioned as especially distinguished for gallant conduct. About a dozen men of the First U. S. Colored Troops, who were captured with Captain Ward, are considered worthy of special mention, but their names cannot at present be ascertained.
In the action of the 27th the Second Brigade of this division performed a subordinate of the 27th the Second Brigade of this division performed a subordinate part, lying in line of battle in a dense thicket on the extreme left of our second line. This brigade, at that time under my command, at the same time escaped the dangers and lost the honors of the assault. The losses in the Second Brigade were 1 officer and 6 men wounded and 7 men missing. The missing men are expected to return, as they were probably passed to the rear on the march by the brigade surgeon.
I remain, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
ALONZO G. DRAPER,
Colonel, Commanding Division.
Captain D. D. WHEELER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Eighteenth Army Corps.
- 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 814-817 ↩