No. 67. Report of Brigadier General Regis de Trobriand, U. S. Army, commanding Third Division.1
HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, SECOND ARMY CORPS,
April 17, 1865.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this division in the active operations from March 29 to April 10, the first part being simply a resume of the reports of the brigade commanders (herein inclosed) from the 29th of March to the morning of the 6th of April, as Bvt. Major General G. Mott was in command of the division during that period:
March 29, in compliance with orders the division broke camp early in the morning, and after crossing Hatcher’s Run formed in line of battle on the north side of the Vaughan road and on the left of the Second Division – the Second Brigade (General Pierce) having the right, the Third Brigade (General McAllister) the left, and the First Brigade (General De Trobriand) being held in reserve behind the two others. Three regiments were soon sent forward to reconnoiter. The Twentieth Indiana (Captain Shafer), on the left, did not find the enemy. The Ninety-third New York (Colonel Gifford) and Seventeenth Maine (Lieutenant-Colonel Hobson), advancing to the front, found a small force of the enemy’s pickets, protected by a line of breast-works. They were promptly dislodged, and the line of battle was advanced so as to occupy the entrenchments with the addition of two regiments of the First Brigade.
March 30, early in the morning the line of battle was advanced across the Dabney’s Mill road and a branch of Hatcher’s Run, throwing up a line of breast-works from J. Crow’s house toward the Boydton road. The weather was very unfavorable, and the First Brigade furnished strong details during the day to repair the Dabney’s Mill road and lay corduroy roads and bridges for the passage of the artillery to the front.
March 31, before daybreak the division moved by the left to the Boydton road, relieving the First Division, the Second and Third Brigades occupying the breast-works, and the First being massed to support General Miles near Rainey’s house. About 12 m., General Miles having attacked the enemy and driven it, the First Brigade followed the movement, and soon afterward took position in line to fill a gap opened by the advance, between General Miles’ right and General McAllister’s left. In the meantime it was deemed expedient to make a diversion in favor of the First Division, and the Second and Third Brigades were ordered to assault the enemy’s works on their respective fronts. The attacking force of the third Brigade was composed of the Eleventh Massachusetts Volunteers (Lieutenant Colonel C. C. Rivers), the One hundred and twentieth New York (Lieutenant Colonel A. L. Lockwood), and the left wing of the Eighth New Jersey (Major Hartford), supported by the Eleventh New Jersey (Lieutenant-Colonel Schoonover). The enemy’s rifle-pits, although protected by a heavy slashing, were carried, with the capture of some fifteen rebels, but our men were unable to proceed any farther under a cross-fire of artillery sweeping their entire front, besides a brisk firing of musketry, and when ordered to fall back the retreat was found as perilous as the
advance had been. The assault by the Second Brigade me with the same obstacles – heavy slashing, sweeping cross-fire of artillery, and brisk firing of musketry. The attack was made by the Fifth Michigan (Colonel Pulford) and the First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, the men being unable to reach the works of the enemy. The whole division bivouacked in line of battle, protected by breast-works, and forming a complete connection with the Second Division on the right and the First Division on the left.
April 1, about 4 a. m., the division was ordered to resume its position of the previous morning – the Second and Third Brigades along the breast-works on the right of the Boydton road, the Fist Brigade in reserve about sixty yards to the rear. After sunset, however, the First Brigade took again position in line on the left of the Boydton road, the division spreading in single file to the left until it connected with General Madill’s brigade, of the First Division. At 10.30 p. m., the line being well established and the pickets thrown forward, an attack was ordered in front of the First Brigade, to find if the enemy was there in force, and should its line be weakened to pierce it. The point of attack being selected three regiments were designated to carry it – the Seventy-third New York (Lieutenant-Colonel Burns), the One hundred and twenty-fourth New York (Lieutenant-Colonel Weygant), and the One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania (Captain F. B. Stewart), the whole under the orders of Lieutenant-Colonel Burns, the ranking officer. The pickets of the enemy were carried successfully, but the moon going down left our men in a complete darkness, under woods obstructed by slashing and unable to find their way any farther. The fire of the enemy having already sufficiently demonstrated that they were there in force the party was withdrawn and returned to the breast-works. The brigade reports speaks in high terms of the credit due to Lieutenant-Colonel Burns, Lieutenant-Colonel Weygant, and Captain Steward for the handsome manner in which the whole operation was conducted. Skirmishing went on, at times fiercely, on different points of the line during the rest of the night.
April 2, at 3 a.m., in compliance with orders from corps headquarters, the Second and Third Brigades resumed their positions on the right and left of the Boydton road, the Fist Brigade extending farther to the left, from the swamp in front of Rainey’s house to the Butler house, with from the swamp in front of Rainey’s house to the Butler house, with a re-enforcement of 450 men from the First Division, and the support of Third Brigade, Second Division (General Smyth). The movement was completed not without some difficulty, arising from a lively attack of the enemy while the troops were in motion, but before 5 o’clock the three brigades were in position. Between 8 and 9 a. m, some suspicious movement being perceptible in front of the Third Brigade, General McAllister was ordered to feel the enemy’s line with one regiment. The Eighth New Jersey Volunteers (Major Hartford) advanced accordingly, and charging under a heavy fire of artillery and musketry, carried the whole line of pits, with 165 prisoners and about 200 muskets. Soon after the guns disappeared from the embrasure the enemy was seen running toward their right, and the Eighth New Jersey Volunteers, advancing on the main works, planted their flag on the redoubts before 10 o’clock, capturing another lot of prisoners. A general advance followed, the division marching along the Boydton road until, having reached the immediate vicinity of Petersburg, the First and Second Brigades were formed in line of battle with the Sixth and the Twenty-fourth Corps, the Third Brigade being kept in reserve, in which disposition the troops bivouacked for the night.
April 3, the enemy having evacuated Petersburg during the night, the division crossed the South Side Railroad, and marched along the River road, the First Brigade leading, and our skirmishers and flankers capturing a great number of rebels scattered through the woods. Bivouacked beyond Mannborough.
April 4, the march of that day was short one, the men being mostly employed in repairing the road for the passage of the artillery and the supply trains.
April 5, the march was resumed in earnest, and the roads being in a better condition the division reached Jetersville about sunset, where it was massed on the extreme left of the position occupied and entrenched by the Fifth Corps.
April 6, the division moved at 7 a. m., in the direction of Amelia Court-House, and about 9 o’clock we had reached Salt Sulphur Springs. There Brevet Major-General Mott communicated tome his instructions. I crossed the run accordingly, deployed the Twentieth Indiana (Captain Shafer) as skirmishers, with the One hundred and twenty-fourth New York held as reserve; and bringing up the balance of the brigade I now engaged the enemy’s rear force. General Mott wishing to judge by himself of my dispositions, joined me soon after behind the skirmisher;s line, where he was shot through the leg, and having turned over to me the command of the division was carried away from the field. At the time when I assumed command of the division the First Brigade (now under command of Colonel R. B. Shepherd) was forming incline of battle, its right on the road, with two regiments from the Second Brigade on the left extending to the creek, so as to be secured on that side against any possible flanking movement of the enemy. It was intended that we should connect on the right with General Miles; but the First Division, coming by another road, was still far behind, although its advanced skirmishers connected with my line of battle. Knowing that part of the enemy’s trains was within our reach if we advanced promptly, I did not deem it necessary to wait for the First Division. I formed a strong regiment, the Fortieth New York (Lieutenant-Colonel Cannon), on the right of the road, and the enemy falling back before our advance I pushed forward my line of battle close behind my skirmishers. The elan of the men was remarkable from the start and augured well for the success of the day. It hardly left time to the enemy to attempt a stand behind hasty breast-works erected around a farm-house before the whole was carried. Major-General Humphreys, commanding the corps, sent me then full confirmation of the instructions already transmitted to me by General Mott, urging the importance of pressing the enemy without loss of time, and on we went. The first stand that the enemy made with some result was by putting in position some pieces of artillery, supported by a cavalry force, which checked on the right the skirmishers of the First Division in open fields, while a very accurate shelling threatened to disturb our advance in the woods. But having found a favorable position for our artillery I directed a section of the Eleventh [Battery] New York Artillery to open from there on the enemy’s cavalry, and a few shots well directed soon put an end to the resistance at that point. In the meantime Major-General Humphreys had come to our front and recommended especially the capture of the enemy’s guns whenever an opportunity would present itself. This
was accomplished afterward, but not before we had left again the accuracy of their fire. Emerging from the woods the skirmishers carried a line of light works, weakly defended, the enemy retreating rapidly to another line much stronger, on the crest of a hill, offering every advantage for defense. It required more than a line of skirmishers to dislodge them, and the line of battle having at all points reached the breast-works just captured I ordered it to charge. At the command forward the whole line sprang over the works and rushed through the open ground, under a heavy fire of musketry and artillery, each regiment anxious to be the first to reach the enemy’s entrenchments and to plant there it s flying colors. The One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania, the Seventy-third and Eighty-sixth New York, the Fist Maine Heavy Artillery (from the First Brigade), the Seventeenth Maine and One hundred and fifth Pennsylvania (from the Second Brigade), emulated each other in the ardor of this attack. The position was carried, with the capture of about 400 prisoners and several battle-flags, and without halting we occupied Deatonsville. By that time, the First Division having come up, I had withdrawn the Fortieth New York from the right to the left of the road. The other regiments of the First Brigade, with the support of the Third Brigade on the left, which had been but slightly engaged. The presence of the Sixth Corps on our left precluded any danger on that side, but the advance was somewhat interfered with at that point by some force of cavalry and a brigade of the Sixth Corps being in our way. The fourth line of breast-works was encountered on a hill beyond, and carried without hesitation, the Fortieth New York capturing there the first piece of artillery from the enemy, soon followed by four others. The First Brigade, which had fought in advance since the morning, was then reformed in the rear, having during the campaign, and according to the report of its commander, captured 1,390 enlisted men, 17 commissioned officers, and during the day 5 pieces of artillery, 28 wagons, 1 limber, 1 artillery guidon, and 3 battle-flags, Enough for the brigade, but not enough, still, for the division. The Second Brigade, having now the lead, charged and carried the fifth line of breast-works encountered during the day, with more prisoner and more wagons captured. About sunset, having advanced through a dense wood, General Pierce found the enemy entrenched on a hill, and was met with a determined resistance. The cause of it soon became evident. The road turned abruptly to the left and ran there parallel to the breast-works which covered it and close in their rear. The rear part of the enemy’s train was close by, and their only chance of escape was in the holding of the breast-works. But this last effort was of no avail against the elan of our men, who would not be checked. The works were carried, driving a battery from its position, when General Pierce, seeing his left uncovered, refused it, so as to facilitate his connection with the Third Brigade, advancing at the same time his right, so as to change front facing toward the wagons then in sight. By this time the One hundred and twentieth New York Volunteers (Lieutenant-Colonel Lockwood) had connected with the left of the Second Brigade, which charged at once on the wagons huddled in the ravine on the bank of the creek and captured them, the Seventeenth Maine and Fifty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers passing
through, crossing the stream, and taking position on the hill beyond. This ended the operations of the day, during which the Second Brigade, according to the report of its commander, had captured 963 prisoners, 5 battle-flags, 1 signal flag, 1 piece of artillery, and about 200 wagons and ambulances.
I would mention here that during the attack of the enemy on the Sixth Corps, the rapidity of our advance having opened a wide gap between my left and that corps, I ordered General McAllister to extend as far as possible his line in that direction. But having gone myself to see the condition of things, and being satisfied that the repulse of the enemy had made it impossible for him to endanger my flank, I had subsequently directed the action of the Third Brigade principally to the support of the Second, and before dark my command was all brought well together.
April 7, followed the pursuit and overtook the enemy in the afternoon. The Second and third Brigades were formed in line on the left of the First Division, the First being kept in reserve and protecting the artillery with three regiments. After skirmishing for some hours with the enemy the division covered its front with breast-works and bivouacked for the night.
April 8, followed the enemy on the road to Lynchburg, the division moving in column through the fields about 1,000 yards on the left of the road until ordered to follow the First Division. Issued rations to the command in the evening, and joined during the night the two other divisions, four miles farther.
April 10 , short march. Surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia by General Lee.
During that short but brilliant, decisive campaign, the Third Division, Second Army Corps, has captured over 3,000 prisoners, 9 battle-flags, 1 artillery guidon, 6 pieces of artillery, over 200 wagons and ambulances, carried several portions of the enemy’s picket-line in the vicinity of Boydton road, and on the 6th instant stormed six entrenched positions. Such results speak for themselves, and are the best evidence of the excellent behavior and admirable gallantry of the officers and men of this command. I would also claim for them the credit due to the remarkably good spirit with which they endured the fatigue of hard marching and occasionally the privation of food. It seemed like if swallowing the army of General Lee could satisfy their appetites without regard to the regularity of the issue of rations. The list of recommendations for promotion designates officially the officers who particularly distinguished themselves. But I could not conclude without especial thanks to my brigade commanders – Brigadier General B. R. Pierce, Bvt. Brigadier General R. McAllister, and Colonel R. B. Shepherd – for the gallantry and efficiency with which they cooperated to the common work and contributed to the common success. All the officers of my staff have been so uniformly active, intelligent, and brave in the performance of their respective duties, that I could not mention any of them without some injustice to the others. As to the recommendations for promotion among them, having been but a short time in command of the division, I consider it more proper to take no action until I have consulted Brevet Major-General Mott on the subject.
R. DE TROBRIAND,
Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding.
Lieutenant Colonel CHARLES A. WHITTIER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Army Corps.
- 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. 776-780 ↩