No. 75. Reports of Bvt. Major General Charles Griffin, U. S. Army, commanding Fifth Army Corps.1
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
Nottoway Court-House, Va., April 29, 1865.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my command while serving under Major-General Sheridan:
On the morning of April 1 the First Division, Fifth Army Corps, which was then holding a position on the White Oak road near the Dabney house, was ordered by Major-General Warren to move at 5 a. m. in the direction of Dinwiddie Court-House, and report to General Sheridan. After moving something over three miles the cavalry division under General Devin was met, when the First Division was halted and its presence soon after reported to the major-general commanding. Major-General Warren arrived between 9 and 10 a. m., and the troops remained massed at this point until about 2 p. m., when they were moved to within a mile of Five Forks, when the corps were placed in line of battle-the First Division being on the right flank, formed in three lines, with one brigade on its right in echelon; the Third Division, Brevet Major-General Crawford, in the center; and the Second Division, Brevet Major-General Ayres, on the left. Immediately after the order to advance against the enemy was given (who was supposed to be entrenched at the Five Forks), with instructions to the division that after it had crossed the road it was to change direction to the left, so as to strike the enemy in flank or rear. After advancing about a mile and finding nothing in front save a few cavalry vedettes, and there being heavy volleys of infantry to the left and rear, the division was halted, and upon a personal examination it was found that the enemy was moving up the White Oak road. Immediately the division was faced by the left flank, and marched some 400 or 500 yards, when its direction as to the line of battle was changed perpendicularly to the left and moved down on a double-quick upon the
enemy, who was visible some three-quarters of a mile distant moving up the White Oak road. The enemy’s rifle-pits were taken, together with about 1,500 prisoners and several battle-flags. Here a little confusion resulted from the troops exchanging shots with the cavalry who were coming up in front of the enemy’s works. After a few moments’ delay the line of battle was again changed perpendicularly to the White Oak road and the enemy’s works. This change brought the First Division on the left of the Third. The command was then pushed forward along the rifle-pits, capturing prisoners and driving the enemy before it, until it advanced to the Five Forks, where the cavalry and the infantry met, capturing five guns, several caissons, and the Third Brigade, First Division, taking on the Ford road a train of wagons and ambulance belonging to Picket’s division. About this point Major-General Sheridan in person directed me to take command of the Fifth Corps and push the enemy down the White Oak road. I immediately directed General Ayres and the other commanders to push forward with all possible dispatch, and the pursuit was kept up until after dark, when the command was halted, the cavalry having pushed to the front out of sight and hearing of the infantry. Soon after this an order was received from the major-general commanding to withdraw the corps some three miles and camp near Gravelly Run Church. The corps went into bivouac about 11 p. m.
On the morning of April 2 the command moved down the White Oak road some two miles and massed near the Dabney house, where it remained until about 11 a. m., when it returned to the Five Forks, and moved across Hatcher’s Run on the Ford road, and across the South Side Railroad to the Cox road, driving the enemy’s cavalry vedettes before it and campaign at night at the Williamson house at the intersection of Namozine road with the River road. The Third Division, under General Crawford, was detached at this point and directed to co-operate with General Merritt, who was confronting the enemy near the crossing of the Namozine River.
April 3, the command moved along the River road to the Namozine Creek, thence across to the ford taken by the cavalry, bivouacked for the night in the vicinity of Deep Creek. April 4, the command moved at 5 a. m., via Dennisville, and before dark was found in line of battle below Jetersville, with its left extending across the Danville railroad. During the night a line of rifle-pits was constructed in front of the corps. The command remained in this position during the whole of the 5th instant. At 7.40 p. m. April 5 an order was received from the major-general commanding directing me to report for orders to Major-General Meade, commanding the Army of the Potomac.
On the morning of the 2nd, at the Five Forks, between 3,000 and 4,000 stand of arms and several caissons and wagons were destroyed, there being no transportation for them.
I desire to call to the especial attention of the major-general commanding Brevet Major-Generals Ayres and Bartlett, Brigadier-General Chamberlain, and Brevet Brigadier-General Gregory, for their efficiency and promptness in executing my orders and in the management of their commands in the battle of the 1st instant; also Lieutenant-Colonel Richardson, commanding Seventh Wisconsin Veteran Volunteers, who came under my personal observation; he handled his regiment with great ability, and displayed great energy in pushing his command after the enemy.
The number of prisoners captured from the enemy and received by the provost-marshal of the corps on the 1st instant was 3,244, including
132 officers. The number picket up on the subsequent days was 944, including 42 officers. A report of flags captured and the names of the captors has already been forwarded with the flags to the headquarters of the Cavalry Corps.
I submit herewith a list, nominal and tabular, of the casualties in my command in the battle of the 1st instant.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Lieutenant Colonel F. C. NEWHALL,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters Cavalry Corps.
NOTE.-The official report from the commanding officer First Division states the number of prisoners taken by the division on the 1st instant to be as follows: First Brigade, 1,050 men, 2 colonels, 6 captains, 11 lieutenants; Second Brigade, 475 men; Third Brigade, 849 men, 3 captains, 5 lieutenants; total, 27 officers and 2,374 men.
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
Nottoway Court-House, April 29, 1865.
COLONEL: In compliance with orders from Major-General Sheridan, received April 5, at 7.40 p. m., I reported to Major-General Meade with the Fifth Corps, at Jetersville, for orders. At 6 a. m. on the 6th instant, in compliance with orders from headquarters Army of the Potomac, the Fifth Corps marched from Jetersville along the Danville railroad in the direction of Amelia Court-House to attack the enemy, the second Division, under General Ayres, taking the advance, the Sixth Corps connecting on the right, and the Second Corps on the left. After moving about three miles to a place called Smith’s Shop, undoubted evidence was received that the enemy had left our front and had gone westward. The command was halted and this information sent to the major-general commanding, when orders were received for the Fifth Corps to move to the north on the Pridesville road, thence to move on the right of the army. The advance was continued, via Paineville, to
the vicinity of Ligontown Ferry, meeting with no opposing force, save small detachments of cavalry, and capturing about 300 prisoners and many wagons. The distance marched this day was thirty-two miles.
April 7, moved at 5 a. m., in obedience to instructions, for Farmville, via Rice’s Store. The head of the column arriving near High Bridge, orders were received, at 9.30 a. m., to pass in rear of the Sixth and Second Corps and move with all possible dispatch to Prince Edward Court-House which point was reached about 7.30 p. m., marching about twenty miles.
April 8, the corps marched toward the Lynchburg railroad, in obedience to the following order–
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES,
Farmville, April 7, 1865. (Received headquarters Fifth Army Corps 11 p. m.)
Order the Fifth Corps to follow the Twenty-fourth, at 6 a. m., up the Lynchburg road, the Second and Sixth to follow the enemy north of the river.
U. S. GRANT,
Striking it at Prospect Station about 12 m., thence following the Twenty-fourth Corps toward Appomattox Court-House, bivouacking the next morning about 2 a. m. within about two miles of the above place, having marched a distance of twenty-nine miles. The march from Prospect Station was very slow and tedious, the road being obstructed by the repeated and long halts of the Twenty-fourth Corps.
April 9, the corps moved at 4 a. m., reaching General Sheridan’s headquarters, near Appomattox Court-House, about 6 a. m. Very soon after it was reported that the cavalry were heavily engaged and hard pressed. The Twenty-fourth Corps was moving out when the Second Division, under General Ayres, moved on parallel line rapidly toward the firing. A message was received from General Sheridan, through his aide, Captain Martin, that the enemy was pressing back the cavalry. General Ayres immediately pushed forward his division at a double-quick, and deployed the One hundred and ninetieth and One hundred and ninety-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, under Colonel Pattee, as skirmishers, they being armed with the Spencer rifle, and the rest of the division in two lines of battle. The First Division, under General Bartlett, came up on the right, and formed two lines of battle, with the One hundred and fifty-fifth Pennsylvania, a portion of the One hundred and ninety-eighth Pennsylvania, and the One hundred and eighty-fifth New York Volunteers as a skirmish line. All immediately moved forward and attacked the enemy, pushing him back, and driving both his infantry and artillery from the hills westward through the town, taking a number of prisoners, several wagons, caissons, and limbers. A portion of the skirmish line had entered the town, being strongly supported by our lines of battle, when a message was received from General Sheridan that hostilities would be suspended, as General Lee was about to surrender.
Although a battle was expected at this point, and orders had been carefully given by staff officers for the divisions to keep well closed up, through some unaccountable mistake or neglect on the part of the commander of the Third Division it failed to follow the column, and did not move until an officer had been specially dispatched for it to move up, and did not reach its proper position until after hostilities for the day had ceased.
In conclusion, to show more precisely the part taken in the short campaign by the corps, I would state that our killed and wounded amount to-officers, 18 killed, 103 wounded; enlisted men, 245 killed, 1,553 wounded; missing, 546; total, 2,465.*
The number of prisoners captured were, 187 officers, 4,287 enlisted men; total, 4,474.
Too much praise cannot be given both officers and men for the cheerfulness exhibited through the long marches and the many privations and hardships that had to be endured.
I beg to call the especial attention of the major-general commanding to Brevet Major-Generals Ayres and Bartlett and Brigadier-General Chamberlain for their promptness, efficiency, and zealousness in the execution of all orders.
To my staff, both personal and corps, my thanks are due for their patience, alacrity, and cheerfulness in the discharge of all their duties.
A list of casualties, nominal and tabular, has already been forwarded.
I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brevet Major-General, Commanding.
Colonel GEORGE D. RUGGLES,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.
Report of casualties in Fifth Army Corps from March 29 to April 9, 1865, both inclusive.
Brevet Major-General, Commanding.
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
April 27, 1865.
*But see revised table, p. 586.
- 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. 838-842 ↩