No. 68. Report of Brigadier General Regis de Trobriand, U. S. Army, commanding First Brigade.1
HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, SECOND ARMY CORPS,
April 14, 1865.
MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the First Brigade, under my command, in the active operations from March 28 last to the evening of the 6th instant, when I assumed command of the division, this report being completed by the report of Colonel Shepherd, who succeeded me in the command of the brigade:
March 29, started at 7 a. m. by the Vaughan road, crossed the Hatcher’s Run, and, by order of General Mott, taking a position in reserve along the road near the field where Major-General Meade had his headquarters, sent the Twentieth Indiana on reconnaissance on the left. The regiment did not find the enemy, and the line of battle being moved forward I followed the movement and bivouacked near a line of works abandoned by the enemy, after having filled with two of my regiments, the First Maine Heavy Artillery and the One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania, a gap open in the line of battle between the Second and Third Brigades.
March 30, furnished strong details for repairing the Dabney’s Mill road, and laying corduroy work for the passage of the artillery to the front line at J. Crow’s house, my position being on the run, with the road in my rear.
March 31, moved before daybreak to the Boydton road, where I was ordered to mass my brigade in support of the First Division. During the morning I was ordered with my command to the support of the Second Division, near J. Crow’s house, but soon after was recalled to the Boydton road, where General Miles was engaging the enemy. I followed his advance, occupying first the line of entrenchments vacated by two of his brigades and extending from the swamp in front of the corps headquarters on the left to the Boydton road on the right, where I connected with the Third Brigade. Soon, however, the advance of the First Division having opened a gap between its right and the left of the Third Brigade, Third Division, I moved my command forward to fill it, leaving two regiments to cover the artillery in the breast-works. Our connecting in line of battle with General Miles’ right and General McAllister’s left was completed under a brisk shelling of the enemy and a light skirmishing with its sharpshooters, losing a dozen men in the movement. At sunset we covered our position with breast-works and bivouacked on the spot.
April 1, before daybreak I was ordered to withdraw my command, our pickets falling back to occupy the works, while the brigade was again massed in the woods behind the line occupied by the Second and Third Brigades, on the right of the Boydton road. After sunset, however, in compliance with orders, I took back my command to the position of the previous evening, extending the line in single file to the left, so as to connect with General Madill, of the First Division. I had completed my connection when, about 10.30 p. m., I received orders from corps and division headquarters to attack the enemy’s line and try if I could pierce at some point. Having, therefore, selected the most favorable ground for the attack, I sent forward three regiments – 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 command of Lieutenant-Colonel Burns, the ranking officer. These three regiments were formed in line of battle, and advanced across and open field steadily and in good order, without and swearing at first the fire of the rebel pickets (which were in the edge of the woods in front), until at very short distance, when all the line charged and carried the pits, capturing some prisoners. While the line of battle was reforming under and oblique fire of the enemy, briskly answered by a flanking company, the moon went down nd the men found themselves in a dense wood obstructed by slashing and unable to see their way in the complete darkness of the night. At that time I received instructions from General Mott to limit my attack to a reconnaissance and to withdraw when it would be accomplished. The firing directed on my men, and which had been going on all this time, having satisfied me that the enemy was in force, I sent an order to Lieutenant-colonel Burns to fall back to the entrenchments. This was accomplished in excellent order, the line of battle emerging from the woods and retreating slowly across the field, never breaking in any part until it resumed its position behind the breast-works. Great credit is due to Lieutenant-Colonel Burns. Lieutenant-Colonel Weygant, and Captain F. B. Stewart, for the handsome manner in which all the operation was conducted. This was the first of a series of similar attacks which succeeded each other during the night, keeping the enemy on the alert and in force on our front. Our loss in that attack was eighteen men; Captain Cormick, One hundred and twenty-fourth New York, was unfortunately killed while gallantly leading his men forward.
April 2, at 2 a. m. I received orders to withdraw my command and to occupy a new position on the Boydton road, in the breast-works, extending from the swamp in front of Rainey’s house to Butler’s house, across the road, supporting four batteries of artillery. While the brigade was moving the enemy made a brisk attack in front of our left. Three of my regiments which were still in the woods formed in line of battle in front of our left. Three of my regiments which were still in the woods formed in line of battle, and three others which were crossing the filed in the rear of the entrenchments, seeing them unoccupied and the artillery without immediate protection, formed themselves behind the breast-works until the attack has subsisted. This occasioned some delay in movement ordered, but by daybreak all the brigade had assumed its new position. Still my left did not extend as far as Butler’s house, and I had to send two full companies of the First Maine Heavy Artillery to support the battery stationed there, until a detachment of 450 men from the First Division, returning from fatigue detail, were ordered to report to me, soon followed by the third Brigade, Second Division (General Smyth), which was massed in my rear, and made our left perfectly safe. About 11 a. m. the attack of the Ninth and Sixth Corps having been successful in front of Petersburg, and the enemy having left in haste the works in front of us, we marched forward, penetrating his line at Burgess’ Mills and following the Boydton road until in the immediate vicinity of Petersburg, when I was directed to form in line of battle, connecting on my left with the Sixth Corps at — house, and with the Twenty-fourth Corps on my right. Some shelling and light skirmishing took place there, wounding some few men, and we bivouacked in that position.
April 3, followed the enemy by the River road, my brigade leading, with the Seventy-third New York Volunteers as advanced guard. Our skirmishers and flankers captured during the day over 300 prisoners scattered in the woods. Bivouacked beyond Mannborough.
April 4, short march, the men being mostly employed in repairing the road for the passage of the artillery and trains. April 5, resumed the march in earnest and reached Jetersville toward the evening, where the brigade was massed for the night on the extreme left of the position occupied and entrenched by the Fifth Corps. April 6, we moved forward at 7 a. m., and my brigade having the advance, I was just engaging the rear of the enemy’s forces, near Salt Sulphur Springs, when Brevet Major-General Mott, having come to the front to give me some verbal instructions, was struck by a bullet in the leg, and carried away from the field, turning over to me the command of the division.
R. DE TROBRIAND,
Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers.
Major WILLIAM R. DRIVER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Div., 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. 781-783 ↩