No. 132. Reports of Colonel William S. Truex, Fourteenth New Jersey Infantry, commanding First Brigade.1
HDQRS. FIRST BRIG., THIRD DIV., SIXTH ARMY CORPS,
April 14, 1865.
MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this brigade at the assault on the works in front of Petersburg, April 2, 1865, which resulted in the capture of the entire line and the evacuation of the above-mentioned city:
In accordance with instructions received from Brigadier-General Seymour commanding the division, I moved the brigade at 12 p.m. April 1, 1865, to the position which had previously been designated for it to occupy, viz, in the rear of our picket-line, in front of Fort Welch, and on the extreme left of this corps. At about 12.30 a.m. I reached the ground and formed my brigade in three lines of battle, as follows: First line, composed of the Tenth Vermont Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel George B. Damon commanding, on the right, and the One hundred and sixth New York Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel Alvah W. Briggs commanding on the left; third line, the Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, Captain James Tearney commanding. This latter regiment was composed almost entirely of raw troops, five companies having joined it within two weeks of this movement, and most of whom had never before been under fire.
The troops were placed in position without attracting the attention of the enemy, although within 150 yards of its picket-line. About half an hour after the enemy on their extreme left opened suddenly a very severe and galling picket-fire which ran down the line to my front and which continued for nearly an hour. Under this fire my brigade remained quiet, not answering with a single shot or otherwise betraying our presence to the enemy, although a number were killed and wounded. Too much praise cannot be give to my officers for the splendid manner in which they moved their men into position and afterward controlling their commands under this severe picket-fire. At about 4.30 a.m. the signal gun to advance was fired from Fort Fisher, when I ordered the brigade to advance. Instantly a terrible fire of musketry and artillery was opened upon us by the enemy, but my men gallantly and bravely advanced at a double-quick and in a few moments scaled the breast-works, which at this place were from twelve to fifteen feet high, driving the enemy before them and holding the position. I must here state that when the order to advance was given, and the enemy opened upon us, the Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers broke to the front, passing through the second and first lines, and became temporarily the first line. The first colors inside the works were those of the Tenth Vermont Volunteers, followed immediately by those of the One hundred and sixth New York Volunteers and Fourteenth New Jersey Volunteers.
We here captured 300 prisoners and either 5 or 6 guns. The first line, composed of the Tenth Vermont Volunteers and One hundred and sixth New York Volunteers, were instantly reformed inside the works, wheeled to the left, and charged down the line at a double-quick, the balance of the command following as they entered the works, driving and doubling up the enemy as they advanced. The next fort was seized with but little opposition, my troops capturing about 150 prisoners and 2 guns. Again advancing I ordered the brigade to charge on the next fort. The enemy here endeavored to make a stand, but my command pushed forward and compelled the enemy to evacuate it, when the fort was instantly occupied by my brigade the first colors to enter being those of the Fourteenth New Jersey Volunteers. Here my command was joined by a small portion of the Second Brigade, which remained with me until I fell back temporarily to the second fort, when they were ordered to the right and joined their proper command. We here captured about 100 prisoners and seized 2 guns. This fort we held about twenty-five minutes, when the enemy advanced in two lines of battle, one in front of the fort and the other from the woods on the right, compelling us to fall back temporarily to the second fort above mentioned. In this charge of the enemy we lost heavily in killed and wounded, besides many prisoners my men falling back reluctantly and contesting the ground inch by inch, but were overpowered by superior numbers. The enemy were enabled to hold this fort for some length of time, and it was not until after the arrival of a battery to our aid that we were successful in dislodging him, capturing 40 prisoners and 2 pieces cannon.
In the capture of this front the sharpshooters of the brigade deserve especial mention in silencing the rebel guns by picking off the gunners whenever they made their appearance. A number were deployed on the left of the works in the direction of a house for this purpose. The brigade was formed in columns of regiments, and advancing on the left flank of the fort compelled its surrender. Without halting we advanced on the next fort, which was evacuated almost without a struggle, leaving in our possession four guns, caissons, and horses. Still press-
ing on about half a mile, we met the Twenty-fourth Corps, when a halt was ordered. At this point I was directed the countermarch my brigade and proceed in the direction of Petersburg, at the Brick Chimneys in front of Petersburg, and on the extreme left of the Ninth Corps. We remained until 4 p.m., when I was ordered to move my brigade and occupy a line which in the morning had been occupied by the enemy’s pickets. Earth-works were thrown up, a picket-line established, and the troops bivouacked for the night.
The results of the day’s operations may be summed up as follows:— prisoners, 14 cannon.
A list of casualties has been forwarded.
I have every reason to be proud of the regiments composing my brigade-the Tenth Vermont Volunteers, One hundred and sixth New York Volunteers, Fourteenth New Jersey Volunteers, One hundred and fifty-first New York Volunteers, and Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers-and the coolness, judgment, and gallantry of their commanding officers, Lieutenant Colonel George B. Damon, Lieutenant Colonel A. W. Briggs, Lieutenant Colonel J. J. Janeway, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Bogardus, and Captain James Tearney.
My thanks are also due to the field and line officers for the efficient manner in which they discharged their duties during the eventful day.
I also mention with pleasure the members of my staff, who were throughout the whole day conspicuous for prompt action, courage, and personal exposure: Captain and Bvt. Major Charles H. Leonard, assistant adjutant-general; Captain and Bvt. Major H. W. Day, brigade inspector; Captain and Bvt. Major Charles M. Bartruff, acting aide-de-camp; Captain Benjamin F. Miller, acting aide-de-camp.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. S. TRUEX,
Bvt. Major O. V. TRACY,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
HDQRS. FIRST Brigadier, THIRD DIV., SIXTH ARMY CORPS,
April 15, 1865.
MAJOR: I have the honor to forward the following report of the operations of my brigade from the 3rd of April to the 14th of April inclusive:
At daylight April 3 I was informed by an officer from division headquarters that Petersburg was evacuated by the enemy and that the pickets of the Twenty-fourth Corps (colored troops) had advanced into the city. My brigade was ordered to hold itself in readiness to move at a moment’s notice. At 8 a.m. we broke camp, returned to our former camp for the knapsacks of the men, and then followed the road known as the River road to the south of Petersburg, and at about 6 p.m. bivouacked for the night near Sutherland’s Station, on the South Side Railroad. April 4, marched out at 5 a.m. following the River road. The roads were in a terrible condition; about 9 p.m. we went into camp near—-, the men very much exhausted. April 5, moved out of camp at 4.30 a.m. and proceeded in the direction of Jetersville. At 12 m. moved in the direction of Amelia Court-House, and at 7 p.m. went into camp for the night in two lines on the right of the Second Brigade, and entrenched our position. April 6, moved out at 6 a.m. by the right of regiments to the front, guiding our movements by Gen-
eral Keifer’s brigade on our left. After marching for about three hours and finding no enemy, we took up the line of march toward Sailor’s Creek, where General Sheridan held the enemy in check, and was waiting for the infantry to give him battle. After a very fatiguing march we reached the vicinity of Sailor’s Creek.
By direction of General Seymour I formed my brigade in column of regiments in rear of General Keifer’s brigade, with orders to conform to his movements. My brigade moved in support and in rear of Second Brigade until it reached the road which had heretofore been used by the enemy in moving trains and troops. The Second Brigade having charged across this road and pursuing the enemy still farther on, by direction of Major-General Wright I halted my brigade and wheeled it to the left its left resting on the road. I then moved down upon the enemy’s left flank, doubling them up and driving them upward of one mile, when, reaching the hill immediately in front of Sailor’s Creek, I found the enemy strongly posted in rear of some works which were carried by the heavy skirmish line in my immediate front.
My brigade was here ordered to be halted by Bvt. Major A. J. Smith, acting assistant adjutant-general, and to await the arrival of the First Division of this corps, which was formed on my left. After the First Division had got into position my brigade was formed in two lines of battle, my left connecting with the First Division of this corps. The enemy were confronting us apparently in strong force on the opposite side of the creek or slough, on the side and crest of the next range of hills. At about 4.30, the First Division advancing, I directed my brigade to forward the stream in my front was about seventy-five yards in width. My command moved forward bravely across the creek and morass, through mud and water to their hips, and under a severe fire from the enemy, by which many lives were lost. The line was reformed immediately after crossing the creek, and advanced to the crest of the hill, driving the enemy before them.
I then received orders from Brigadier-General Seymour to have the brigade wheeled to the left, with orders to move upon the enemy’s left and flank, then exposed to us. The lines were advanced about 100 yards, when we delivered a rapid and concentrated fire upon the enemy, when a flag of truce was presented on our right near a house, distant about 300 yards. The command was immediately ordered to cease firing, but on moving forward to gain information fire from the enemy at some distance to our right was again opened upon me. I again directed the brigade to advance. At this moment Major Leonard, assistant adjutant-general, rode up to me with Major Pegram, inspector-general on the staff of General Ewell. Major Pegram was the bearer of the flag of truce, and said to me in person, “I surrender, Lieutenant-General Ewell and staff and his command.”
Up to this moment the firing on our left was kept up by our troops, but on word being passed down the line it ceased immediately. With Major Pegram were about thirty officers and enlisted men. I directed that they should be forwarded instantly to division headquarters. I then moved my brigade into the open field about half a mile, making a right half wheel, to oppose the enemy, who were moving to my right and rear. Here I was joined by Brigadier-General Seymour commanding the division. My command was halted and the men allowed to cook supper. By direction of Brigadier-General Seymour I moved my brigade and occupied a position on the right and in rear of the Second Division of this corps and on the left of the Second Brigade of this division, and bivouacked for the night.
With the efficient aid of the officers, of my staff-Bvt. Major Charles H. Leonard, assistant adjutant-general; Bvt. Major Hiram W. Day, brigade inspector; Bvt. Major Charles M. Batruff, and Captain Benjamin F. Miller, acting aides-de-camp-together with the untiring co-operation of the regimental officers my brigade was never kept better in hand than on this occasion, and I am decidedly of the opinion that the heavy fire we were consequently enabled to deliver into their flanks was the means of bringing the enemy to speedy surrender.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. S. TRUEX,
Bvt. Major O. V. TRACY,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
Editor’s Note: Gary Kinnaman, the owner of the original report, contacted The Siege of Petersburg Online and made available images of all ten pages of the document2.
- 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. 981-985 ↩
- These images of Truex’s original report were scanned by Gary Kinnaman, who owns the original. None of these images may be used without the owner’s express written consent. All rights reserved. ↩