No. 127. Report of Bvt. Major General Lewis A. Grant, U. S. Army, commanding Second Brigade.1
HDQRS. SECOND BRIGADE, SECOND DIVISION, SIXTH CORPS,
Camp near Burkeville, Va., April 16, 1865.
SIR: I have the honor herewith to respectfully transmit the report of Bvt. Major Merritt Barber, assistant adjutant-general, of the operations and conduct of the brigade in the engagement of the 2nd instant, and respectfully request the privilege of adopting it as my own. Wounded early in the morning, I was an eye-witness to only a small portion of the operations of the day, but I have implicit confidence in the correctness of the report, and I improve this occasion to speak in high terms of commendation of the gallant and meritorious conduct of Brevet Major Barber.
The casualties of the day were 2 commissioned officers and 24 enlisted men killed; 10 officers and 151 men wounded, and 7 enlisted men missing; in all, 196. Four of the missing men were subsequently recaptured, and one is supposed killed. A nominal list of the casualties has already been forwarded.
I also herewith transmit the names of officers recommended for promotion, and of the enlisted men recommended for medals and rewards.
The brigade joined in the pursuit of Lee’s retreating army early on the morning of the 3rd instant, and formed in line of battle, near Jetersville, on the evening of the 5th instant.
On the morning of the 6th instant the brigade advanced toward Amelia Court-House to attack the enemy if found in position, and subsequently returned to the camp of the previous night, and then marched in pursuit of the retreating enemy. Making a forced march of several miles, the brigade, with the brigades of the division, came up in season to support the First and Third Divisions of the corps, in the engagement of Sailor’s Creek. Passing rapidly over the battle-field the brigade formed in line, and soon after dark advanced about two miles and encamped for the night. The Second Vermont Regiment, being thrown forward as skirmishers, came upon the enemy’s cavalry, when a slight skirmish ensued. The next day we marched to Farmville and crossed the Appomattox.
When the corps left the vicinity of Farmville on the morning of the 8th instant I was ordered to return with the brigade to Farmville and remain until relieved by General Parke. In compliance, with said order I remained at Farmville and garrisoned the town until about 10 a.m. of the 10th instant, when I was relieved by General Curtin’s brigade, of General Parke’s command, and immediately started to join the corps. After marching several miles, I received unofficial intelligence from which I was satisfied of General Lee’s surrender, whereupon I dispatched a staff officer to the brevet major-general commanding division for orders, and halted the command within one or two miles of New Store. The command subsequently returned to this place with the division.
The casualties of the brigade since leaving Petersburg, as reported, are three men wounded. One of those was wounded by the accidental discharge of one of the rebel muskets with which the road was strewn in large numbers.
I am happy to be able to add that notwithstanding the activeness of the campaign and the forced marches performed, the command is in efficient condition, and ready for any service it may be called upon to perform.
I remain, colonel, respectfully, your obedient servant,
L. A. GRANT,
Brevet Major-General, Commanding.
Bvt. Colonel CHARLES MUNDER,
[Inclosure Numbers 1.] HEADQUARTERS VERMONT BRIGADE,
April 15, 1865.
SIR: At your request I have the honor to report the part taken by this command in the engagement of the 2nd instant, which resulted in the capture of Petersburg.
The brigade moved out from camp at 11 p.m., passed through the line of works near Fort Welch, and was silently placed in position in column of regiments close up to the entrenched skirmish, line captured from the enemy on the 25th of March. The order of the regiments in column from front to rear was as follows: The Fifth Vermont, Lieutenant Colonel R. A. Kennedy commanding; Second Vermont Lieutenant Colonel A. S. Tracy commanding; Sixth Vermont, Major William J. Sperry commanding; Fourth Vermont, Captain George H. Amidon commanding; Third Vermont, Bvt. Colonel H. W. Floyd commanding; Eleventh Vermont in two battalions, under command of Major George D. Sowles and Captain D. J. Safford, respectively, the two being under command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hundson. By 1 a.m. the whole command had taken position and laid down to await the disposition of the troops upon the right and left. About 2 o’clock a heavy fire was opened along the entire skirmish line, which was vigorously replied to by the skirmishers of the enemy. During this fire we were sadly grieved to learn that you had been severely wounded in the head by a minie-bullet and would require immediate treatment. The troops being in position and everything in readiness, at 4 a.m. precisely the signal gun for the assault was fired from Fort Fisher, but owing to the heavy cannonading, which had been kept up at intervals had been, kept up at intervals during the night, it was not understood. Soon, however, it was learned that the signal had been given, and ours being the guiding brigade, that the troops on our right and left were waiting for us to advance. The command immediately moved forward over the works of the skirmish line and pressed on steadily and silently until they had very nearly reached the first line of the enemy’s entrenchments, when they were discovered by their skirmishers, who delivered a weak and scattering volley and then fled. The alarm having been given and silence no longer necessary, a cheer, that has been heard on nearly every battle-field in Virginia. went up from 10,000 brave hearts, and told the story to friend and foe that the Sixth Corps was on a charge and pushing for the main works of the enemy, about 500 yards in front. After passing over about half the distance the enemy began to pour in a well-directed musketry fire from the front and artillery, fire from forts on either hand, which completely enfiladed the line, and caused it to waver. This was the most critical moment throughout the entire engagement. Day was just beginning to dawn and very soon the enemy would be able to discover our precise
position and movements. They had also become apprised of the point of attack and were apparently beginning to appreciate its importance, and were hastening to meet it with all the strength at their disposal.
But, to the credit of the command, the hesitation was but momentary, and the troops again pushed forward with a determination that knew no such word as fail. The remaining portion of the ground was passed over under a most withering fire of musketry, but with a gallantry that was never surpassed, and which betokened the victory subsequently won. Officers and men vied with each other in the race for the works, and all organization, was lost in the eagerness and enthusiasm of the troops. The line of abatis was brushed away like cobwebs and the men swarmed over the works with yells and cheers that struck terror to the rebels flying in all directions.
In crossing the ground in front of the abatis the casualties were very numerous; Lieutenant George O. French, Eleventh Vermont, was instantly killed while gallantly cheering on his men, and Lieutenant G. C. Hawkins, Third Vermont, acting adjutant Fourth Vermont, very dangerously wounded while leading the men forward with an enthusiasm deserving of all praise.
Bvt. Major E. G. Ballou, ever conspicuous in engagements, was also wounded by a piece of shell and obliged to retire from the field, but returned during the afternoon. It is confidently believed that Captain Charles G. Gould of the Fifth Vermont, was the first man of the Sixth Corps who mounted the enemy’s works. His regiment was in the first line of the brigade and in the charge he was far in advance of his command. Upon mounting the works he received a severe bayonet wound in the face and was struck several times with clubbed muskets, but bravely stood his ground, killing with his saber the man who bayoneted him, and retiring from the works only after his comrades came to his assistance and routed the enemy from their lines.
Two earth-works, one to the right of the ravine, containing four guns, and the other to the left, containing two guns, were here captured.
After crossing the works the brigade pushed forward to the crest of the hill in the rear, where a short halt was ordered for the purpose of reforming. The organization obtained here was very incomplete, owing to the eagerness of the troops to pursue the enemy, who were making for the woods in the rear, but with such organization as it has the brigade turning to the left, moved forward about half a mile and halted at the edge of a dense wood to reform. The brigade was here formed in single line, in numerical order from right to left, the Eleventh connecting with the Third Division, and about half a mile distance from and inside of the enemy’s of the enemy’s works. The lines being formed the whole command pushed forward vigorously through thickets, swamps, and pine woods, soon losing all organization again in the eagerness of the men to surpass each other in the pursuit of the enemy, who were being pressed so closely that they could scarcely fire a shot, and appeared to have given up all idea of resistance, and were only desirous to be taken prisoners. In this manner the pursuit was continued for about four miles in a direction nearly parallel with the works until Bailey’s house, near Hatcher’s Run, was reached where the brigade was halted for a few minutes and then moved to the left and formed in column of regiments just inside the works.
Words are inadequate to express the conduct of the troops in this second charge. Every man appeared to consider himself a host, and singly or in squads of three or four they charged upon whatever obstructions came in their paths. Bvt. Major E. Wales, of the Second Vermont,
with two men, captured a piece of artillery, turned it upon the enemy, and the shell with which the piece was charged went howling through the woods after the very men who had prepared the compliment for us. Major Sperry, of the Sixth, and Lieutenant Bailey, of the Eleventh Vermont, assisted by a few men, captured two pieces and turned them upon the flying rebels. Being unable to procure primers the pieces were discharged by firing a musket into the vent of the piece. In this manner twelve rounds were fired, when a section of artillery coming up the guns were turned over to its commander.
Captain Tilden of the Eleventh Vermont with about a dozen men, captured 2 pieces of artillery, 11 commissioned officers and 62 enlisted men of the Forty-second Mississippi Regiment. Sergt. Lester G. Hack, Company F, Fifth Vermont, dashed into a squad of rebels who had gathered round a beautiful stand of colors, and with a humanity as praiseworthy as his daring, knocked down the color bearer, seized the colors as they fell, and rushed on to another portion of the field. Corpl. Charles W. Dolloff, Company K, Eleventh Vermont Volunteers, also captured a battle-flag, supposed to be that of the Forty-second Mississippi Regiment.
About 9 a.m. the brigade was again put in motion and moved back along the line of works, passed the point at which the lines were penetrated in the morning, and formed about three miles south of Petersburg on the left of a road leading to the city, the spires of which were plainly visible in the distance. The ground between this formation and the city consisted of a service of hills and marshy ravines, and the enemy were distinctly seen making every disposition of their troops and artillery to contest our advance.
The brigade formed in single line from right to left as follows; Eleventh, Second, Third, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourth; a skirmish line was advanced, under Captain Safford, of the Eleventh Vermont, and the command then moved forward its right resting on the road. The enemy poured in a very heavy fire of shot and shell from a battery on our right, which completely enfiladed our lines, and a perfect hail storm of canister from a battery of four guns planted in the garden of the Turnbull house, where General Lee had his headquarters, directly in front. Brevet Colonel Floyd, commanding Third Vermont, threw forward a few men as skirmishers, with orders to advance on the double-quick and shoot the horses of the battery to prevent its being removed. This daring feat was accomplished with perfect success, the brigade in the meantime wheeling to the left and rapidly closing in upon the guns. The commander of the battery, finding it impossible to escape with his guns, raised a white flag, when Colonel Floyd ordered the firing to cease, and pressed forward to receive his surrender. At the same time Captain R. Templeton, of the Eleventh Vermont, with a small squad of men, came gallantly up from the right flank on the double-quick to contest with Colonel Floyd the capture of the guns. Just at this moment the skirmish line of the First Brigade of this division coming up on the left and not observing the white flag, opened fire on the battery, when the men turned and fled. The guns were immediately taken possession of and a guard from the brigade established over them.
Daring this charge Captain Morey, of the Second Vermont, was instantly killed by a canister-shot from this battery, and Lieutenants Humphrey and Tilson, of the Fourth Vermont, were severely wounded. They were brave officers, and were doing their duty nobly when they fell.
This was the last stand made by the enemy outside of the line of defenses immediately surrounding Petersburg.
The command moved forward to the bank of Rohoick Creek (about a mile outside of the suburbs of the city),under an enfilading fire from batteries on either hand, and a desultory fire of sharpshooters posted in the inner defenses. A few of the sharpshooters of the Fourth Vermont, who were on the extreme left of the brigade, crossed the creek on a fallen tree, crept up the precipitous bank on the opposite side, and soon silenced the battery on the left.
The men being now worn out by want of sleep, having eaten nothing since the night previous, and completely exhausted by the labors of this long day, were withdrawn to a ravine to the right of the road, and the brigade reformed and moved again to the left of the Nottingham house, where it threw up entrenchments and went into camp for the night.
I then, sir, reported to you for orders at the Turnbull house, occupied during the past winter by General Robert E. Lee as his headquarters, where were established for the night the headquarters of the Vermont brigade.
After you were wounded the command of the brigade, was turned over to Lieutenant-Colonel Tracy, of the Second Vermont, who led the assault on the enemy’s works with a gallantry that was worthy of the troops under his command. Too much praise cannot be awarded to this gallant officer for the manner in which he handled the command in that most trying of all moments-the first shock of as desperado battle. Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hunsdon of the Eleventh Vermont, is also deserving of great credit no only for gallantry in the assault but for marked energy in assisting to reform the brigade after it had passed the enemy’s works.
When it was reformed here the command was turned over to Bvt.
Colonel Charles Mundee, assistant adjutant-general of the division, who led it in person with most conspicuous gallantry throughout all the subsequent movements. With perfect confidence that the troops under his command would follow wherever he would lead the way, he pressed forward in front of the line of battle with a perfect disregard of all danger, and by his example, as well as by the skill with which he handled the command, contributed in a very great degree to the glorious achievements that day performed by the Vermont brigade.
When the troops were moved into position for the night the command was again turned over to Lieutenant-Colonel Tracy.
Captains Bonett, Sessions, and Baxter, and Lieutenant Lewis of your staff are entitled to the highest consideration at your hangs for the manner in which they performed the arduous duties of staff officers during the day. The horses not coming up, they were obliged to be on foot, but notwithstanding all difficulties they were everywhere present throughout the entire day, cheering on the men, reforming the lines, preserving the connections of the regiments, and helping on by perfect and example the operations of the day.
Sergt. Thomas I. McColley deserves particular mention for the gallantry with which the colors of the Vermont brigade were sustained in front of the foremost line throughout the entire engagement. I trust that his services will meet with suitable recognition
The honor of being the first to break the enemy’s line is confidently claimed by this brigade. Being the guiding brigade of the charging column, its position was nearest the enemy’s line and most advantageous to reach the works before the troops on the right or left. The
commanders of the Fifth, Sixth, and Eleventh Vermont,each claims that the colors of his command were the first planted on the works, but owing to the darkness prevailing at the time the lines were reached, and the distance between the points at which these colors were placed on the works it is impossible to decide the delicate question. There is no question, however, that the honor belongs to the Vermont brigade.
The captures of the command during the day consist of 2 battle-flags, 19 pieces of artillery, several caissons, a large number of artillery horses, mules, harnesses, and equipments, great quantities of quartermaster’s and medical stores, and several hundred prisoners. Owing to the enthusiasm of the troops and the rapidity with which the brigade was maneuvered, but little attention was given to procuring credit for the captures to which the command is entitled.
It is impossible for any one individual to do credit to all the operations of the command, on account of the extended field over which they were carried on. The troops could not be restrained from pushing out in all directions from the lines in pursuit of adventures, and in this they contributed very materially to the success of the day, not only in capturing prisoners and preventing organization of the enemy at any point, but also in destroying and capturing large quantities of means of transportation, and of stores which were of great value to the enemy.
Such as are here narrated are but the general features of the part taken by the command in the engagement for the possession of Petersburg, and it is by no means claimed that it comprises all the achievements performed on that day by the Vermont brigade.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brevet Major and Assistant Adjutant-General.
Bvt. Major General L. A. GRANT,
[Inclosure Numbers 2.]
HDQRS. SECOND BRIGADE, SECOND DIVISION, SIXTH CORPS,
Camp near Burkeville, Va., April 16, 1865
Bvt. Colonel CHARLES MUNDER,
SIR: I have the honor to respectfully recommend the following-named officers of this command for promotion for gallant and meritorious conduct in the battles near Petersburg, Va., April 2, 1865: Captain and Bvt. Major Merrittt Barber, assistant adjutant-general, to be brevet lieutenant-colonel; Captain George W. Bonett, Third Vermont Volunteers, brigade inspector, to be brevet major; Captain George H. Sessions, Fifth Vermont Volunteers, aide-de-camp, to be brevet major; First Lieutenant and Bvt. Captain Henry C. Baxter, Eleventh Vermont Volunteers, aide-de-camp to be brevet major; First Lieutenant Judson A. Lewis, Eleventh Vermont Volunteers, acting aide-de-camp, to be brevet captain; Lieutenant Colonel A. S. Tracy, Second Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet colonel; Captain and Bvt. Major E. G. Ballou, Second Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet lieutenant-colonel; Captain and Bvt. Major Elijah Wales, Second Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet lieutenant-colonel; Lieutenant Colonel and Bvt. Colonel H. W. Floyd, Third Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet brigadier-general; Captain Alonzo H. Newt, Third Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet major; Captain W. H. Hubbard, Third Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet major; Lieutenant and Adjt. A. H. Hall, Third Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet
captain; Captain George H. Amidon, Fourth Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet major; Captain Charles G. Fisher, Fourth Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet major; Major Eugene O. Cole, Fifth Vermont Veteran Volunteers, to be brevet lieutenant-colonel; Captain Charles G. Gould, Fifth Vermont Veteran Volunteers, to be brevet major; Major William J. Sperry, Sixth Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet lieutenant-colonel: Captain Henry N. Bushnell, Sixth Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet major; Captain Lyman S. Williams, Sixth Vermont Volunteers to be brevet major; Lieutenant and Adjt. Hiram S. English, Sixth Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet captain; Lieutenant Captain Charles Hunsdon, Eleventh Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet colonel; Captain R. Templeton, Eleventh Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet major; Captain George G. Tilden, Eleventh Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet major; First Lieutenant C. H. Anson, Eleventh Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet captain; First Lieutenant George A. Bailey, Eleventh Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet captain; First Lieutenant John H. Macomber, Eleventh Vermont Volunteers, to be brevet captain.
I have the honor to recommend that a medal be awarded to each of the following-named enlisted men: Thomas I. McColley, mounted orderly at brigade headquarters, for general good conduct and for gallantry in carrying the brigade flag at the head of the brigade during the entire engagement of April 2; Sergt. George B. Ordway Second Vermont Volunteers, for being the first to place his colors on a battery in the enemy’s works on the morning of April 2; First Sergt. Orlando S. Turner, Company D, Second Vermont Volunteers, for being one of the first to mount the enemy’s works and place his hands on the battery captured near the headquarters of General Lee; Sergt. Hoxxey C. Rogers, Company I, and Private Ira Pierce, Company F, Second Vermont Volunteers for being among the first to enter the enemy’s works on the morning of the 2nd of April; Corpl. J. E. Johnson, Company E, Third Vermont Volunteers, who seized the colors of the regiment after the color bearer had been shot down and though wounded himself, bore them at the head of the regiment the entire day; Corpl. Henry H. Recor, Company A, Fifth Vermont Veteran Volunteers, for conspicuous gallantry in being one of the first to enter the enemy’s works and in rescuing Captain Gould, who had been bayoneted, and who was being beaten with the muskets of the enemy; Color-Sergts. Peter Begor, and Orris Pier, Sixth Vermont Volunteers, for planting the colors of the Sixth Vermont on the enemy’s works the moment a foot-hold was gained there, and for carrying the colors to the extreme front the entire day; Private William S. Jenne, Company H, Sixth Vermont Volunteers, for being the first man to reach one of the guns of the battery captured near the headquarters of General Lee; Color-Sergts. Samuel L. Daggett and Patrick Byrne, Eleventh Vermont Volunteers, for gallant and conspicuous conduct in planting the colors upon the enemy’s works and bearing them to the front the entire day. Sergeant Byrne was seriously wounded. I also respectfully recommend a medal and a furlough of thirty days to each of the following: Sergt. Lester G. Hack, Company F, Fifth Vermont Volunteers, for knocking down the color bearer of the Twenty-third Tennessee (rebel) Regiment and capturing the colors of the same; Corpl. Charles W. Dolloff, Company K, Eleventh Vermont Volunteers, for capturing the colors of the Forty-second Mississippi (rebel) Regiment.
I remain, colonel, respectfully, your obedient servant,
L. A. GRANT,
Brevet Major-General, Commanding.
- 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. 967-973 ↩