No. 45. Report of Bvt. Brigadier General John Ramsey, Eighth New Jersey Infantry, commanding Fourth Brigade.1
HDQRS. FOURTH BRIG., FIRST DIV., SECOND ARMY CORPS,
Near Burkeville, Va., April 14, 1865.
SIR: In compliance with orders from headquarters Second Army Corps, I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this command during the recent campaign:
We broke camp near Petersburg on the 29th ultimo, marched to and formed line of battle at Gravelly Creek, my left resting on the creek, my command being on the extreme left of the corps, and connected with the Fifth Corps by picket-line, and subsequently by line of battle. Shortly after leaving camp the Fourth New York Heavy Artillery was detached from my command and assigned to the Second Brigade, and the One hundred and eighty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers (Colonel Egbert) relieved from duty with the First Brigade and assigned to mine. During the night the line of battle had become disconnected by the Fifth Corps advancing through a dense wood and swamp. It was absolutely impossible to preserve a line of battle, or rather a connection, in consequence of the impassability of woods, swamps, and the impenetrable darkness overhanging all.
30th, moved forward at daylight and connected with the Fifth Corps, with left of my line resting at the Boydton plank road and the right crossing the Dabney Mill road. During the day the whole line was advanced about 1,000 yards. At this point the skirmishers were briskly engaged during the day, the enemy using their artillery on both of our lines, skirmish and line of battle, with but little effect. I had two companies of the Fity-third Pennsylvania Volunteers at this point, under the command of Major G. D. Pifer, of that regiment. The conduct of the major and his men was worthy of emulation. The enemy made several efforts to capture the line, but was unsuccessful; but was successful in driving in a portion of the line on my immediate left, composed of troops of the Fifth Corps, with whom I connected. Pending the relaxation of artillery fire the men were constantly engaged in strengthening the temporary works which they occupied.
31st, relieved from the position held yesterday by Brevet Brigadier-General McAllister, commanding Third Brigade, Third Division,
Second Corps, and occupied a line of works to be left made vacant by an advance of a portion of the Fifth Corps, and here connected with the left of the Third Brigade, First Division. While in this position an attack was made by a portion of the Fifth Corps. A large number of the attacking party came back in a decidedly disorganized condition. At this juncture I deployed two regiments-Sixty-sixth New York volunteers and One hundred and sixteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers-as a guard in rear of the line of works, to stop and force the fugitives into the line of temporary works. Shortly afterward I was ordered forward to attack the advancing and exultant fore with the force then at my command, which consisted of the following regiments: Fifty-third, One hundred and sixteenth, One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Sixty-sixth New York Volunteers, the Sixty-fourth New York Volunteers, One hundred and forty-fifth and One hundred and eighty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers being elsewhere and performing other duties, the former on picket, the other two corduroying the Dabney Mill road. I moved forward as directed and attacked the enemy, but shortly afterward the whole line gave way and retired about 200 yards and was reformed. The conduct of a majority of the troops of this command was admirable, while one regiment, the One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, gave way unceremoniously and in confusion. This regiment giving way, and the failure of the Third Brigade to advance simultaneously, was the primary cause of the troops of this command retiring. It was not caused by by an absence of determination on the part of the troops or the superior fighting of the enemy; a force of circumstances alone obliged them to retire. Had the Third Brigade advanced with me, after crossing the run, instead of remaining idle spectators, the result of the assault would have been different and my brigade spared the mortification of a repulse. After the line had been reformed, which occupied by a short time, and which was accomplished under considerable of a musketry fire, the troops were again moved forward and again occupied the position from which they had previously retired, and still without the co-operation of the Third Brigade. At this time Captain Peterson, of the Sixty-fourth New York Volunteers, came to my assistance with about fifty men of that regiment,t hey having been relieved from picket duty. The conduct of these men was admirable. These men remained with me until their regiment joined the brigade and rendered good service. We kept gaining ground slowly until the Third Brigade moved forward and connected with us, when we pushed forward more rapidly, pushing the enemy back into his works. His opposition was determined and obstinate, aided by his temporary success in repulsing a portion of the Fifth Corps in the earlier part of the day. The attack on our part was eminently successful, but with considerable loss. We built a line of temporary works a few hundred yards distant from the enemy’s main line and rested for the night.
1st, shortly before daylight we moved back to the position occupied in the morning previous and occupied the works from which we advanced. Here the men were supplied with rations and ammunition, and arms and ammunition inspected, in order to be ready for a renewal of the conflict should an emergency at this or a distant point render our services necessary. About dusk we moved forward and occupied the position which we had vacated in the morning, rested here for a short time, and them marched, via the White Oak road, to join the forces under Major-General Sheridan.
2nd, joined, General Sheridan about daylight, rested about two hours, resumed the march, retracing our steps, and entered the enemy’s works at the point where the White Oak road runs through them, the works being occupied without any loss. The march was continued through the enemy’s late camp, without any incident of note, until we reached a point near the South Side Railroad, excepting the detachment of the One hundred and forty-fifth Pennsylvania volunteers to capture a wagon train, in which it was unsuccessful; they came in sight of but could not capture the train, or any part of it, the road being in a very fair condition and the train moving rapidly. Arriving near the railroad the head of the column came up with the rear guard of the enemy crossing the River road, and in a manner to protect the railroad, with several pieces of artillery in position. The Third and Second Brigades preceded me; I came up and formed line in rear of the letter; remained inactive for a short time, except looking out for our right flank. The Sixty-fourth New York volunteers was detached at this time for the purpose of finding the enemy’s right. For the particulars of its operations I invite your attention to the report of its commander, Lieutenant Colonel William Glenny. The One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers was also detached to extend the line to the right. I was now ordered to move to the right and assault the enemy’s position; a position which he several combined assaults of two brigades could not take. I was conducted to a position in rear of the skirmish line of the One hundred and forty-eighth pennsylvania Volunteers by Brevet Major Marlin, of Brevet Major-General Miles’ staff. Formed line of battle under the crest of a hill, which screened the men from the view of the enemy, the One hundred and forty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers deployed as skirmishers. The whole preparations were made in a most incredible short time, the officers working energetically and the men obeying orders with alacrity. The whole line now pushed forward with resistless fury, determined for victory. While advancing the enemy used his artillery, giving us grape and canister, but its use was of short duration. The fire did not intimidate or retard our advance, but did considerable execution. Among the wounded, while we were advancing, was Lieutenant C. H. Burghardt, Fourth New York Heavy Artillery, acting aide-de-camp, who fell from his horse seriously wounded in the leg with a grape-shot while gallantly performing his duty. While advancing the Fifty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers was taken from the extreme left and placed on the right of the line for the purpose of striking the railroad sooner, which done would necessitate an abandonment of the position held by the enemy. subsequent events proved the correctness of this view. The men continued the advance cheering lustily, and when the right of the line struck the railroad the enemy commenced his retreat, my command pressing as rapidly as circumstances would permit. the fruits of victory were the capture of 2 guns, 1 color, and a number of prisoners, sent to the rear, of whom no number was taken. this success was eminently a happy, a glorious one. I did not have then, nor have had since, any information that our forces had possession of the road at an earlier period, and from the importance attached to the possession of this place, am led to the belief that they had not. After crossing the road we struck the River road and marched to the right about two miles in the direction of Petersburg, and then countermarched and rested near Sutherland’s Station for the night.
3rd, 4th, and 5th, marching to overtake the retreating enemy, without anything of particular note occurring.
6th, resumed the march from Jetersville, and at an early hour came in sight of the enemy; a line of battle was formed and advanced to attack the enemy. I was ordered to connect with the First Brigade and march in line of battle with it, which was done as long as it was practicable to do so, and then I marched the command out in the road in supporting distance of the leading brigade should assistance be required. Was not actively engaged during the day; rested for the night near the Appomattox River.
7th, the pursuit continued, my brigade leading the column, but by subsequent countermarching was brought third in column. Came up with the enemy a short distance from Farmville, formed line of battle, with right resting on the road and connecting with the left of the Third Brigade. The Sixty-fourth New York Volunteers was deployed as skirmishers, the commander of which reports the capture of 1 gun and 1 color, but were subsequently retaken from him. Attention invited to his report. While the brigade was making connection with the Third Brigade we lost several men, including by bugler. The brigade was not called upon to make any further demonstration; changed our position once and remained for the night.
8th, march resumed, no incident of note worth recording. 9th, march resumed. Came up with the enemy in the morning, and rested pending the result of the correspondence in relation to the capitulation of the Army of Northern Virginia. Its consummation was hailed with undisguised feelings of joy, the prospect of peace, through victory, being desirable by all. It was a proud satisfaction to those who have been in this Army of the Potomac for four years, and shared with it the vicissitudes and the varying fortunes of its several campaigns, to be present on this occasion, and to have a share in the honor of the campaign which ended so auspiciously to our cause.
The conduct of the officers and men of this command, with the exception above noted, was eminently satisfactory, and creditable to the several organizations, commanded as follows: Fifty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers by Colonel William M. Mintzer, One hundred and sixteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers by Major David W. Megraw, One hundred and forty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers by Captain James H. Hamlin, One hundred and eighty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers by Colonel George T. Egbert, Sixty-fourth New York Volunteers by Lieutenant Colonel William Glenny, Sixty-sixth New York Volunteers by Captain Nathaniel P. Lane. The One hundred and forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, whose conduct has been censured for the part taken by them in the action of the 31st, did very well on the 2nd in the operations against the railroad.
In conclusion, I beg to name the following officers, whose conduct was such as calls for a recognition of their distinguished services: Colonel W. M. Mintzer, commanding Fifty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers; Major D. W. Megraw, who received a painful wound and still retained command of his regiment, One hundred and sixteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, until ordered to the rear; Major Theodore Tyrer, Sixty-fourth New York Volunteers, for valuable aid and assistance; and also to Captain J. H. Hamlin, commanding One hundred and forty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers; Captain A. F. Peterson, Sixty-fourth New York Volunteers; Lieutenant S. P. Corliss, Fourth New York Heavy Artillery, acting assistant adjutant-general; and Lieutenant C. H. Burghardt, Fourth New York Artillery, acting aide-de-camp.
The following is a statement of casualties during the campaign:
I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brevet Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding Brigade.
Lieutenant Colonel R. A. BROWN,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, First Division, Second Army Corps.
*But see revised table, p. 582.
- 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. 744-748 ↩