No. 155. Report of Colonel Samuel Harriman, Thirty-seventh Wisconsin Infantry, commanding First Brigade.1
HDQRS. FIRST BRIG., FIRST DIV., NINTH ARMY CORPS,
April 10, 1865.
SIR: In obedience to instructions received from headquarters First Division, Ninth Army Corps, I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by my command in the assault upon the enemy’s works on the morning of April 2, 1865:
Between 11 and 12 o’clock on the night of the 1st instant Bvt. Major General O. B. Willcox ordered a demonstration to be made upon that portion of the enemy’s line in the front of this command. Accordingly the troops were put under arms and Lieutenant-Colonel Waite, commanding Twenty-seventh Michigan Volunteers, was ordered to take 200 of his men and assume control of the operation on the picket-line. The Thirty-seventh Wisconsin Volunteers was moved down to the picket-line as a support; the One hundred and ninth New York Volunteers was moved to the rear of Battery Willcox and near the covered way leading to the picket-line to be used in case of an emergency. The picket-line being thus strengthened commenced firing in volleys, accompanied by cheers. Afterward, more fully to develop the strength of
the enemy, two companies of the Twenty-seventh Michigan Volunteers were moved to the left of the Crater, the remaining five companies left near the Baxter road; several volleys were fired, accompanied by hearty cheers; the enemy’s fire was such as to strengthen the belief that they had not removed any great part of their force from our front. The result of this demonstration being reported to me I ordered Colonel Waite to withdraw his troops, two companies being left to strengthen the line. During this time a heavy shelling had been kept up by both sides, resulting in no serious damage to us. About 2 a.m. orders were received from General Willcox to move the whole command, with the exception of the Fifty-first Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, to the left as far as Fort Sedgwick and to report to General Hartranft for orders. This was at once done, the Fifty-first Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers being left to occupy the whole front of the brigade. Upon arriving at Fort Sedgwick, by directions of Brigadier-General Hartranft, three regiments of this command were put into position to advance. The Thirty-eighth Wisconsin Volunteers took position twenty paces on the right of the Third Division of this corps, the One hundred and ninth New York Volunteers about ten paces in rear of the Thirty-eighth Wisconsin Volunteers, and the Eighth Michigan Volunteers about ten paces in rear of the One hundred and ninth New York Volunteers. The pioneer corps of this brigade was formed on the right of the Thirty-eighth Wisconsin Volunteers, and advanced with that regiment to cut away the abatis and chevaux-de-frise in front of the enemy’s works; the Thirty-seventh Wisconsin Volunteers and the Twenty-seventh Michigan were held in reserve near Fort Sedgwick. Just at daylight the order was given to advance. The troops moved forward to the enemy’s picket-line, capturing the pickets, and then with a cheer rushed forward to the assault of the main work, capturing Fort Mahone and five pieces of artillery and the entire garrison. The artillery was at once turned upon the enemy and was effectively served by the infantry until he arrival of a volunteer detachment of the First Connecticut Heavy Artillery. A detachment of the Seventh Maine Battery, commanded by Lieutenant Staples, also volunteered to work the captured guns in fort. Lieutenant Staples and his men rendered valuable assistance during the entire day. As soon as the assaulting party had carried the enemy’s works the Twenty-seventh Michigan and Thirty-seventh Wisconsin Volunteers were ordered to their support, moving to the right of the position gained by the regiments that had already advanced.
I cannot speak in too high terms of the admirable conduct of the officers and enlisted men of my command, of the admirable disposition of the troops in the fort, and of the gallant manner in which they all performed the work assigned them.
Fearing the enemy might mass their troops on the right the Eighth Michigan was moved into a detached work a little to the rear and right of the fort, where they remained until the advance of the troops the following morning. During the daytime and night this detached work was connected by a continuous line with our old picket-line; the line was built and occupied by the Eighth and Twenty-seventh Michigan Volunteers. Colonel Carruth, commanding Seventh Rhode Island [Thirty-fifth Massachusetts] Volunteers, and Captain Twitchell, commanding Seventh Maine Battery, rendered valuable assistance during the day by supplying the infantry troops and artillery with ammunition. While holding the position gained during the day the enemy withdrew under cover of the night, and at daylight the entire brigade
The following extract is taken from the report of Colonel William J. Bolton, commanding Fifty-first Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, left to occupy the brigade line:
Having extended my regiment the whole length of the brigade line I instructed them in case of attack to be prepared at any moment to move to any point on the line. Our casualties were during the day 1 man killed and 1 mortally wounded; this being done by our own shells. On the morning of the 3rd instant, suspecting the evacuation of the enemy, I sent a scout to ascertain the truth of falsity of my suspicion. He soon returned and reported that he had penetrated to the enemy’s rear line, finding one man to every forty yards of the line. I ordered the officer of the picket to advance in front of the Crater; they met with no opposition and soon gained Cemetery Hill. At this point the picket officer sent to me for the colors, which I refused to send; however, they advanced and claimed to have been in the city twenty minutes before the national colors had been placed upon any building. They also claim to have captured some fifty prisoners.
Where officers and soldiers do their duty so nobly it is a difficult matter to particularize individuals or individual actions, but I cannot pass over the name of Colonel Bintliff, who led the assault and by his gallantry inspiring his troops to heroic deeds, as also Major R. M. Doyle, Eighth Michigan, Lieutenant-Colonel Waite, Twenty-seventh Michigan Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Green, Thirty-seventh Wisconsin Volunteers. I was also ably supported in the operations of the day by Captain Brackett, aide-de-camp, First Division, whose coolness and practical views I cannot too highly commend. To Brevet Major-General Hartranft I am greatly indebted, and the success of the movement is mainly due to him for his superior knowledge and coolness in directing the operations of the day and his constant presence on the field. Major John D. Bertolette, assistant adjutant-general to General Hartranft, and Captain Watts, aide-de-camp, also aided me greatly in furnishing the necessary entrenching tools and aiding me in many ways by their advice and experience. To Captain Norton, acting assistant adjutant-general, Captain McCreery, inspector-general, Captain Burnett, aide-de-camp, and Lieutenant Maxon, pioneer officer of my staff, I am under deep obligations for the prompt and efficient manner in which every order was executed and the zeal with which they labored to make the movement an entire success.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
Bvt. Major WILLIAM V. RICHARDS,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, First Division, Ninth Army Corps.
- 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. 1042-1044 ↩