No. 167. Report of Brigadier General Simon G. Griffin, U. S. Army, commanding Second Division.1
HDQRS. SECOND DIVISION, NINTH ARMY CORPS,
May 15, 1865.
COLONEL: In compliance with orders received from army and corps headquarters I have the honor to submit the following report:
In the action of the 26th [25th] ultimo, when the enemy assaulted and captured Fort Stedman and were repulsed by our forces, this division
was not engaged. Nothing of importance occurred until the evening of the 1st of April, when orders were received from Major-General Parke, commanding Ninth Army Corps, to assault the enemy’s lines the next morning at 4 o’clock, in connection with other divisions and corps who were also to attack the same time on our right and left. It was designated that Potter’s division should attack on the Jerusalem plank road, to the left of Fort Sedgwick, and that General Hartranft should move with his division to the right of that fort and connect with the right of this division. Orders were immediate transmitted to brigade commanders and every preparation made for the assault. At 10 p. m. a dispatch was received directing that an attack be made at once by driving in the enemy’s pickets and opening artillery fire. The Second Brigade, General Griffin commanding, was immediately advanced from the right of its position which was about half a mile to the left of Fort Sedgwick, attacked the enemy’s entrenched picket-line, and carried it for half a mile in extent, capturing eight officers and 241 men. During the execution of this movement dispatches were received directing that the original plan of assaulting the enemy’s works at 4 a. m. should still be carried out. Griffin’s brigade was hastily withdrawn and placed column of attack on the Jerusalem plank road to the left of Fort Sedgwick, between our own main and picket lines, supported by Curtin’s brigade. The column was formed by regiments with a storming party of three companies from the Thirty-first Maine Volunteers in advance, flanked on either side by a corps of pioneers from each brigade to clear away the enemy’s abatis to the right and left to allow the column to advance. The Seventh Rhode Island, Thirty-fifth and Thirty-sixth Massachusetts, and the Fifty-first New York, of the First Brigade, and the Ninth and Eleventh New Hampshire, of the Second Brigade, were left to garrison Forts Meikel, Rice, Sedgwick, Davis, and Alexander Hays, and Batteries Nos. 24 and 25.
At 4. 30 a. m., having communicated with General Hartranft and learning that all was ready, the order given to advance. The Column moved forward steadily in good order, receiving the enemy’s fire and capturing his picket-line without the slightest check. The storming party dashed forward at a run, seizing and passing through an opening in the enemy’s abatis, which had previously been observed and fixed upon as our point of attack, closely followed by the One hundred and seventy-ninth New York, Thirty-first Maine, Sixth New Hampshire, Second Maryland, and the whole column, which passed forward under a deadly fire of grape, canister, and musketry in the most gallant and determined, carrying all before them, capturing guns and turning them upon, the enemy, and sending hundreds of prisoners to the rear. The head of the column, after passing the enemy’s main line of works, turned to the left and swept-it for about one-fourth of a mile. The First Brigade, General Curtin, also attacked in that direction, and captured and held an isolated work called Fort Mahone, one-fourth mile to the left of the plank road; but the enemy being well posted and bringing a heavy fire of both artillery and musketry to bear upon our troops, who had unavoidably become somewhat broken and disorganized, our farther advance to the left was checked. Up to the time the charge was made the division had been under the command of Brevet Major-General Potter. Soon after the breaking of the enemy’s lines that distinguished officer fell severely wounded, and I Major General John G. Parke.
In connection with General Hartranft’s division we now held possession of the captured line of works in front of Fort Sedgwick, but the enemy was fast bringing up re-enforcements, and kept up a constant and murderous fire our troops. Many of our commanding officers were killed or wounded, and it was with the greatest difficulty anything could be done forward reorganizing our broken regiments. The Fifty-sixth Massachusetts, which had been held in reserve, was sent forward to assist in holding the works already gained, and our troops, bravely resisted the fierce and repeated attacks upon our lines without yielding an inch of ground. Re-enforcements were asked for, and about 2 p. m. brevet Brigadier-General Collis reported to me with four regiments from City Point. General Collis was immediately ordered forward to strengthen the. line. In moving his brigade into position, from some unexplained cause, a slight delay occurred, during which the enemy made a furious attack, recapturing a few traverses, but the Fifty-sixth Massachusetts, Second Maryland, and parts of other regiments held firm and no material part of the works was given up. General Collis charged the enemy in turn and reoccupied the disputed portion of the line. A sharp fire of musketry was kept up between the opposing parties during the evening, but no serious attack was made on either side. During the night large fires were seen and heavy explosions heard in the direction of Petersburg, and by 3 a. m. it became evident the enemy were evacuating.
Disposed us were immediately made to advance, and at daylight skirmishers were thrown out, and the whole line moved forward and entered the city without opposition. Detached parties were sent to secure the bridges across the Appomattox. They were found to be on fire, but the flames were soon extinguished and two of the bridges saved.
Too much praise cannot be bestowed upon the officers and men of this command for the gallantry displayed in this army daring and successful assault. Nowhere throughout the entire line were the works more formidable than in front of Fort Sedgwick, and every foot of approach was covered by the enemy’s artillery. the previous attack had served to put the enemy on the alert and we were received with a most destructive fire.
The division suffered a loss of 6 officers and 109 men killed 44 officers and 517 men wounded, and 3 officers and 96 men missing.*
Among the killed were Colonel George W. Gowan, Forty-eighth Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, and Bvt. Major P. R. Peckham, acting assistant adjutant-general First Brigade, both accomplished and gallant officers.
Soon after entering the city orders were received from Major-General Parke to be prepared to move at once in pursuit of the enemy, and Brevet Brigadier-General Collis was relieved and orders with his command to City Point. Preparations were immediately made and early in the afternoon the division passed through the city, taking the River and Namozine roads on the right bank of the Appomattox and bivouacked that night April 3, some ten miles from the city. The next morning the march was resumed, passing from the Namozine to the Cox road, and halting that night, one brigade at Pickett’s and the other at Ford’s Station on the South Side Railroad. On the 5th First Brigade advanced to Morgansville, the Second to Wellville. on the 6th the First Brigade moved to Burkeville, the Second to Nottoway Court
*But see revised table, p. 589.
House. On the 8th Second Brigade marched to Burkeville, and on the 9th the First was sent to Farmville, remaining at those points until ordered with the corps to Washington D. C.
In addition to the lists of officers recommended for promotion already forwarded, I would especially mention for brave and gallant conduct on this occasion, Colonel W. M. Gregg (wounded). Lieutenant Colonel F. B. Doty (since died of wounds) both of the One hundred and seventy-ninth New York Volunteers; Colonel Bradley Winslow (wounded), and Captain W. R. Wallace, One hundred and eighty-sixth New York Volunteers; Adjt. Abraham Cohn, Sixth New Hampshire Veteran Volunteers; Captain Henry J. Griffin, Sixth New Hampshire Veteran Volunteers, and Captain W. Clark, Forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, both of the brigade pioneer corps; Captain T. P. Beals (wounded), Captain A. D. Brock, and Lieutenant W. H. H. Ware, Thirty-first Maine Volunteers, of the storming party. Of this gallant party of 108 men, composed of Companies C, H, and L, Thirty-first Volunteers, 5 were killed and 32 wounded.
I inclose herewith copies of the reports of brigade commanders.
The following is the statement of the casualties in the division on the 2nd of April:
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. G. GRIFFIN,
Lieu. Colonel JOHN D. BERTOLETTE,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Ninth Army Corps.
*But see revised table, p. 589.
- 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. 1053-1056 ↩