No. 12. Report of Brigadier General Henry W. Benham, U. S. Army, commanding Engineer Brigade.1
HEADQUARTERS ENGINEER BRIGADE,
Burkeville, Va., April 22, 1865.
SIR: In compliance with the requirements of Special Orders, Numbers 94, current series, to report the operations of the troops under my command from the 29th of March to the 9th instant, I have the honor to state that on the 29th, 30th, and 31st of March my especial command was, as for some time previous, in the defense of City Point.
Upon the 2nd of April, by the direction of General Grant, I early in the morning placed all the troops available on the outer lines of defense there, and, at a little after 10 a.m., I there received a telegram from General Parke asking the number of troops I could send him, and at the same time an order from General Meade to move my whole command to his support. This I did at once, ordering the troops of General Collis’ command, under Colonel Tippin, Sixty-eighth Pennsylvania [as I had not been able to find the general that morning], to move up by regiments as rapidly as possible to Meade’s Station, while I directed Colonel Brainerd [commanding a provisional brigade of the Fifteenth Engineers and the dismounted cavalry] to collect these men from their stations and at the forts along the lines and follow the infantry up as rapidly as possible to Meade’s Station, while i preceded the whole to that point to receive the orders of General Parke.
The infantry command-the Twentieth* New York, One hundred and fourteenth and Sixty-eighth Pennsylvania Regiments, and the Sixty-first Massachusetts-reported to me by Colonel Tippin as comprising in all about 900 men, reached the front in excellent trim, when they were met by General Collis, and at soon after 1 p.m. I left the leading regiment, the One hundred and fourteenth, to report the command to General Parke at his station at Fort Sedgwick; but I found him a few minutes after at Fort Rice, on reaching which the infantry brigade was ordered at once to the advanced critical moment to save these works from recapture, these regiments running up, as I saw, to them, while our men by hundreds were retiring from them after having so bravely held them for many hours previously. As this command was placed at once under the directions of Brigadier-General Griffin it is presumed these services will be specially reported by him also. The provisional brigade, under Colonel Brainerd, consisting of about 950 men of the Fifteenth New York Engineers, and about 750 cavalry, one-third unmounted, I was ordered to hold in readiness to support General Willcox on the right, and during the ensuing night, upon his call for assistance,f they were so ordered to his support.
Upon entering Petersburg early in the morning with General Willcox I found the three or four principal bridges destroyed or in flames, and sent at once for the Fifteenth Engineer Regiment to reconstruct them, and during the day, before 4 p.m., Colonel Brainerd, with most praiseworthy activity, had almost entirely rebuilt the principal bridge, ready for the passage of artillery, and repaired the railroad bridge, for the passage of infantry, and by early the next morning, as General Grant had directed, a third temporary bridge as the upper
*Militia, or Eightieth Volunteers.
part of the city had been thrown across the river at a most difficult point. These duties completed, the regiment returned to City Point the next day, remaining there until I received your order to move to this place upon the 9th instant.
Upon the 3rd instant, however, being present when General Grant read the dispatch announcing the capture of Richmond, I suggested that as there was the probability that the bridges would be burnt there also, I should be authorized to send or take pontoon bridges at once up to that place from City Point, which being approved by General Grant, I sent in by courier to my staff officer at City Point to have pontoon rafts and a steamer ready, and to the officer in command of the pickets at Bailey’s Creek to take off 100 of the men from the picket to man those rafts, and the bridges were started under Captain O’Keefe that evening, arriving the next afternoon as early as it was considered safe from the torpedoes to pass up the river. This bridge was laid the next day and proved, as I was informed, of great importance to the troops, as well as to the suffering inhabitants of Manchester.
Upon the 9th instant the order was received to move forward my command to join the headquarters Army of the Potomac, except a guard to be left in charge of the trains, bridges, &c., at City Point, in compliance with which order the command started the next morning, as previously reported upon the 13th instant.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. BENHAM,
Colonel G. D. RUGGLES,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.
P. S.-The reports of Brevet Colonel Spaulding and Brevet Major Harwood were called for by me, in compliance with your order, and as I do not know of their having been called for or sent otherwise, they are herewith inclosed.
H. W. B.
- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XLVI, Part 1 (Serial Number 95), pp. 641-642 ↩