No. 99. Report of Colonel Jonathan Tarbell, Ninety-first New York Infantry.1
HDQRS. NINETY-FIRST NEW YORK VETERAN VOLS.,
In the Field, near Appomattox Court-House, Va., April 12, 1865.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit my report of the movements of the Ninty-first New York Veteran Volunteers from the 29th ultimo to the present time, premising that the regiment has not at any time been detached, so that its movements are embraced in the history of the First Brigade, Third [Division], Fifth Army Corps, to which it belongs.
Being in camp about two miles from Humphreys’ Station, on the U. S. Military Railroad from City Point, early in the day of the 29th ultimo the regiment, with its brigade and division, entered upon the grand campaign which has just closed so gloriously. Marching in a southwesterly direction, the advance met and drove the enemy near the Boydton plank road late in the afternoon of that day, the Ninety-first, with its brigade, being formed in line of battle, but the retreat of the rebels rendered its engagement unnecessary. The 30th was a very rainy day, and was spent in camp, at night throwing up entrenchments at the crossing of the Boydton plank road over — creek to intercept a probable movement of the rebels in that direction.
On the 31st the march was again taken up, leaving the earth-works in our rear. About 9 o’clock in the morning the advance met and engaged the enemy near the Quaker road, the Ninety-first being in column by battalions, with its brigade, in a dense wood a short distance in rear of the troops engaged in action. In the temporary absence of the brigade commander giving the Sixth and Seventh Wisconsin Regiments new positions, a brigade from the front, denoting a rapid retreat, broke through my battalions to the rear. The movement being imminent I took the responsibility of deploying my regiment into line of battle, which I did to the right of the third battalion, advancing my line about ten yards to the brow of a small declivity having a little ravine at its base, when
I at once opened fire briskly, checking the enemy on this part of the line and turning him off to our left, remaining in this position until all other troops had left the field and the enemy in large numbers had passed my left considerably to our rear, when I directed my regiment to retire. I have since learned that orders had been sent to me to retire some twenty or thirty minutes before I moved to the rear, but the gallant acting assistant adjutant-general who started with the message for me fell wounded before reaching me, observed by some of my officers, but at the time unknown to me. At a log house in a clearing in the line of retreat an attempt to check the enemy was made, in which a portion of my regiment participated, my colors, myself, my lieutenant-colonel, Captain Felthousen, and others among the number, in vain. On the brow of a high declivity farther in the rear a successful stand was made, and here a large portion of my regiment took an active part. Lieutenant-Colonel Denslow with a number of men and officers assisted in supporting a battery on its right, while others, under my own direction, officers and men, were in the line on the left of the battery. The enemy was here checked, the troops reformed, and another forward movement at once entered upon, passing over the battle-ground beyond the Quaker road and encamping for the night without further engagement on our part.
April 1, at daylight, the march was resumed, resulting in turning the rebel right, compelling the enemy to evacuate strong and extensive earth-works, and to a hasty and evidently unexpected retreat. On this morning the regiment broke camp at an early hour in obedience to the orders of the proper commander, marching with the brigade and division by a circuitous route several miles to the rebel right and rear, halting near what was said to be called the Gravelly Run Church, where the troops were formed in line of battle about 2 p. m., the Ninety-first New York forming the second line of this brigade, in rear of the Sixth and Seventh Wisconsin Regiments, connecting on the right with General Baxter’s (Second) brigade, Third Division, advancing thence directly on the enemy about 3 p. m. After marching thus in line of battle a short distance, the enemy’s fire was drawn, and soon after the left wing of the Ninety-first was moved up to the first line of battle, on the left of the front of the brigade to which it belongs; shortly after the right wing was also moved up to the first line, both in obedience to orders of brigade commanders. The firing of the enemy was sharp, close, and continued, but the Ninety-first, with the other troops, advanced steadily, sometimes on the run, driving the enemy, who was not allowed to make a stand. Arriving at right of the enemy’s entrenchments, a portion of the Ninety-first took an active part in the capture of four pieces of the enemy’s artillery. Under the lead of its officers, headed by its colors, the regiment promptly charged thence across a large, open field, where the fire of the enemy was particularly severe and where the most of the casualties of the day occurred. Following in this charge, over the rebel works and across the field, Major-General Warren close to, and next to him, over the rebel works and across the field. On the further side of the field the rebels disappeared from sight by a hasty flight into the woods, and so far as the Ninety-first was concerned, nothing further was seen of the enemy that day. The advance was continued till within tow or three miles of the South Side Railroad, when a halt was ordered, and where the Ninety-first was the first regiment reformed. It was not long after dark, and the troops were halted to be reformed. This done, the Ninety-first went into camp for the night, with its brigade and division, marching back some four or five miles for that purpose.
During the advance and though fighting all the way, the entire line of battle successfully made a left wheel, by refusing the left and advancing the right, the Ninety-first performing its appropriate part in this splendid movement.
I respectfully submit that my officers, without exception, behaved throughout in the most gallant and resolute manner, while the men rushed on with loud cheers at almost every step. My color-bearer, Sergt. Patrick W. Mullen, Company I, is entitled to especial notice for his coolness and steadiness; he went at my side over the enemy’s breast-works into the open field spoken of; but, as far as I can ascertain, Corpl. Egbert H. Caswell, Company I, was the first man of the regiment to spring over, calling on his comrades to follow. Sergt. Henry S. Lodewick, Company K, and others took part in the capture of the enemy’s artillery beyond the right of the regiment.
April 2, our men marched with the other troops to the east two or three miles, where we halted, receiving the news of the evacuation of Petersburg. During the forenoon we were putt on a rapid march to the west, reaching the South Side Railroad only to find it evacuated by the enemy. The troops without halting were started on the track of that road, the mile-boards marking thirteen miles from Petersburg, following this track on a swift walk three or four miles, when information was received of a column of the enemy to the west, after which the already tired, foot-sore, and hungry troops were hastened without a moment’s delay and at a pace which even flying fugitives could not outdo, overtaking the rebels late in the evening of that day. The Ninety-first went into camp with the other troops in line of battle, its right on a wood and swamp, and forming the second line of its brigade. Late in the evening the Ninety-first with other regiments of the brigade became engaged with a party of the enemy in the woods on our right, in which my regiment lost 1 killed and 15 wounded. The engagement lasted only a few moments, when the rebels retired.
April 3, we started with the other troops in pursuit of the enemy, who had retreated during the night, following by forced marches, and though the way was strewn with the evidence of a hasty flight, we failed to overtake the enemy that day, and at a late hour after dark bivouacked for the night.
April 4, again pursued the enemy, reaching the Danville railroad at Jetersville, Station, finding it in possession of the Union troops, and the enemy in strong force just beyond. Here the First Brigade, including the Ninety-first, threw up strong breast-works, awaiting and wishing an attack.
April 6, at 6 a. m. marched out to attack the enemy, who was found to have made another hasty retreat, but we followed on his track, making a long and forced march of about thirty-two miles.
April 7, still pressing the enemy, following the west side of the Appomattox, approaching the High Bridge, so called, over that stream soon after the passage of the enemy.
April 8, farther pursuit of the enemy and guarding the trains.
April 9, started with the train, but were detached at an early hour and sent to the assistance of our troops engaged with the enemy on the Lynchburg road, but success crowning the efforts of our brothers before we reached the scene of action, we were not engaged. On the afternoon of the 9th the enemy surrendered near Appomattox Court-House, where the Ninety-first is in camp with its brigade and division.
From the best calculation that I am able to make, the distance actually traveled since the 29th ultimo exceeds 150 miles.
My officers and men have generally manifested the most determined perseverance and courage. Captain Hobbs and Lieutenant Danforth were seriously wounded on the 1st instant while gallantly leading their men on the final brilliant charge over the open fields alluded to above. Lieutenant Chapman was dangerously wounded in the neck on the 31st ultimo while cheering his men and using the musket of a fallen soldier. Lieutenant Reese walked the last half of the march in bare feet. The shoes of Sergt. Major E. R. Cone gave out early in the march, yet he has not only kept up with the regiment, but has performed all his duties in bare feet. Private James Richardson, Company F, wounded on the 1st instant, without shoes, his feet dressed in cloths, has kept up with the regiment, and is now present for duty. Private Daniel D. Tompkins, Company B, seriously wounded in the thigh, had the ball extracted, refused to stay in hospital, and is with the regiment for duty. Private Dennis Fitzpatrick, Company A, wounded twice, has kept up with the regiment. Private John Grafton, Company G, captured a rebel captain and turned him over to the proper authority. Private Henry Phelps, Company B, captured the adjutant of the Thirty-fourth Alabama, turned him over to the provost-marshal, Fifth Army Corps, and holds receipt. Sergt. Warren C. Fadden has been conspicuous for keeping the men in line and column, while two or threee of my officers are to the rear on account of sickness; most of them have persevered against hunger, sore feet, exhaustion, and actual sickness, cheered on step by step to renewed exertion by the unequaled generalship that was moving us to such grand results. The same may be said of my entire regiment; though a few fell out, the great body has moved compactly, orderly, and soldierly, entitling it to my thanks and my pride.
The following are the casualties Ninety-first New York Veteran Volunteers March 31 and April 1 and 2: March 31, killed, 25 men; wounded, 106 men, 3 officers; missing, 16 men. April 1, killed, 6 men; wounded, 38 men, 2 officers; missing, 6 men. April 2, killed, 1 man; wounded, 15 men. Total, killed, 32 men; wounded, 159 men, 5 officers; missing, 22 men.
Captain HENRY NAEGLY,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
- 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. 886-889 ↩