No. 107. Report of Bvt. Brigadier General William H. Penrose, Fifteenth New Jersey Infantry, commanding First Brigade.1
HDQRS. FIRST BRIGADE, FIRST DIVISION, SIXTH CORPS,
April 5, 1865.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following partial report of the part taken by my command-First Brigade, First Division, Sixth Corps-in the assault on the enemy’s lines, and subsequent engagements of the same day:
On the morning of the 2nd instant the brigade was formed in four lines, its left in rear and right of the Third Brigade, First Division, Sixth Corps. Just before daylight the signal was given to advance, when the lines moved forward. They had gone but a short distance before the first and second lines became one, owing to the fact that the pickets which were to have advanced simultaneously with us did not, and the first line received the fire of the enemy’s pickets, which was very severe. The entire command pushed on, and in a few moments parts of each regiment had possession of the enemy’s lines. From some cause the entire lines took direction 200 yards to the left of the points designated, and I found my men had entered the works on the front intended to have been taken by the Third Brigade. At this point two pieces of artillery (Rodman’s or ordnance rifled) were captured by Brevet Major Paul, acting assistant adjutant-general, and Captain James W. Penrose, acting aide-de-camp, of my staff, with a few men. A guard was placed upon the guns. Some time after two companies of the Thirty-seventh Massachusetts Volunteers came up to the guns and wished to remove them, which Captain Penrose refused to allow them to do. They then formed around the platforms. Before those two companies came up Captain Penrose had loaded the guns, but could not find primers with which to fire them. In the meantime his attention was directed elsewhere, when the men of the Thirty-seventh Massachusetts drove my guard from the guns, claiming them as their capture. As this has occurred once before I am not disposed to allow it to pass this time without notice, as the command is entitled to the credit of the capture.
One battle-flag was taken by a private of the Fortieth New Jersey Volunteers, whose name has been forwarded. It is impossible to state the actual number of prisoners taken, as they were sent to the rear without guards, but I think at least 200.
But a short time elapsed before the lines were reformed, and the brigade was ordered to the support of the Second Division of this corps. They were marched in line of battle for tow or three miles, when it was ordered to the right. On arriving near the point of assault I was ordered to form on the left of the Third Brigade, with the right refused. In this position we moved forward, gradually closing in around Petersburg. About 3.30 p. m. I swung my left forward, resting it on the Appomattox. During the afternoon’s advance were constantly under a severe fire of artillery, but losing but few men. Moderate skirmishing. After reaching a point one mile from the city a slight change of position to the right was made, and an order to intrench received. Through the command was in some confusion in the assault, yet in the afternoon’s advance the men and officers behaved to my entire satisfaction, especially as two-thirds of them were new men, and had not been in the army three months.
To the following-named officers I am greatly indebted for their gallantry, courage, and efficiency, and respectfully recommend them for the brevet set opposite their names: Bvt. Major Charles R. Paul, acing assistant adjutant-general, as brevet lieutenant-colonel; Captain James W. Penrose, acting aide-de-camp, as brevet lieutenant-colonel (both of these officers, side by side, entered the enemy’s works, capturing a section of battery, and by their dashing gallantry carried the men with them); Lieutenant William H. Bird, First Delaware Cavalry, personal aide, brevet major; Lieutenant John r. McCauley, Fifteenth New Jersey Volunteers, slightly wounded, personal aide, brevet major; Bvt. Major William McElhaney, assistant inspector-general, brevet lieutenant-colonel; Lieutenant J. Maguire, aide-de-amp, brevet captain (these officers, with the other two above-mentioned, led the charge on the enemy’s works, and by their magnificent, led the charge on the enemy’s works, and by their magnificent conduct insured the final success). The conduct of all these officers during the entire day gave me the greatest satisfaction. Lieutenant-Colonel Hufty, commanding the Fourth New Jersey Volunteers, Major Fay, of the Fortieth New Jersey Volunteers, Major Davis, commanding Fifteenth New Jersey Volunteers, and Major McNeely, commanding Tenth New Jersey Volunteers, are all entitled to a brevet in a grade above their present commissions. They entered the works in the assault with their men, and pushing on drove the enemy, clearing the ground for the organization of troops. Their conduct during the entire day met with my special approbation.
I have the honor to submit the reports of regimental commanders, which contain account of the conduct of the officers and enlisted men of their respective commands.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. H. PENROSE,
Brevet Brigadier-General Volunteers.
Lieutenant Colonel GEORGE CLENDENIN, Jr.,
- 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. 927-928 ↩