No. 83. Report of Bvt. Major General Joseph J. Bartlett, U. S. Army, commanding Third Brigade.1
HDQRS. THIRD BRIGADE, FIRST DIVISION, FIFTH CORPS,
April 10, 1865.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this brigade in the battle of Five Forks, April 1, 1865:
At daybreak the command was marched from the extreme left of the Army of the Potomac through by-roads to a point near Dinwiddie Court-House, coming upon the skirmish line of the Second Division, Fifth Corps, between 8 and 9 a. m. The troops were permitted to rest in this position until nearly 2 p. m., while the cavalry were developing the enemy’s line of battle. At this hour I was moved to a position on the right of the Third Division, Fifth Corps, and connecting with it. The formation of the brigade was in three lines of two battalions each, with one small regiment deployed as skirmishers in front, and one regiment held in reserve. The plan of the battle, as given to me by my commanding officer, was that the whole infantry line, after marching a prescribed distance which it was thought would bring us in rear of the enemy’s works, were to wheel to the left and fall upon
and rout him. Between 2 and 3 p. m. the advance was made through thick woods in our front; the left of the corps soon became engaged with the enemy’s skirmish line, and very soon after with his line of battle, while we were borne off to the right so far that it became apparent to all that if the direction was continued the greater portion of the corps would not become engaged. The firing becoming more severe on my left and there being none at all on my front I rode to the left and struck an open field, across which could be distinctly seen the left flank of the enemy. Brevet Major-General Griffin, commanding at that time the division, made the discovery almost at the same instant; and our united efforts recovered three regiments, First Michigan, Twentieth Maine, One hundred and fifty-fifth Pennsylvania, from the rear lines of the columns of attack, which were still crowding to the right, and wheeled them sharp to the left, and charged the exposed flank. The charge routed the enemy and gave us thousands of prisoners, many battle-flags, and six pieces of cannon. As rapidly as my other regiments could be rescued from their bloodless march to the right they were thrown into the hottest of the fight and continued the pursuit until long after dark. The entire command was drawn to the rear and left of the Third Division of the corps, contrary to the order of attack, or no one of my regiments would have been engaged in the battle.
I cannot speak in too high terms of the conduct of the officers and men of my brigade; they were all that could be asked of old and true soldiers, and the crushing defeat of the enemy in this battle was in a great measure owing to the personal efforts of officers, both staff, field, and line. My thanks are especially due to Brevet Colonel Cunningham, Thirty-second Massachusetts Volunteers, for the skill and judgment he brought to my assistance during the battle while acting on my staff. Great credit is also due the other members of my staff, Brevet Major Belcher, Major Spear, Captain Farnsworth, and Captain Morgan, for their efficiency and bravery in directing my lines when direction was necessary, and in urging others to greater efforts when they had become fainthearted or timid.
I shall avail myself at an early day of my right to mention for promotion those of my command who, on this occasion as upon many others, have distinguished themselves, and deserve that promotion which is the dearest reward in the gift of the Government to a true soldier who wins it under the eyes of his superiors in battle.
[JOS. J. BARTLETT,
Brevet Major-General, Commanding.]
Captain WILLIAM FOWLER,
- 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. 860-861 ↩