No. 169. Report of Brigadier General Simon G. Griffin, U. S. Army, commanding Second Brigade.1
HDQRS. SECOND BRIG., SECOND DIV., NINTH ARMY CORPS,
April 2, 1865.
MAJOR: On the evening of the 1st of April I received orders from Brevet Major-General Potter, commanding Second Division, Ninth Army Corps, to be prepared to unite in a general attack on the enemy’s
lines the next morning at 4 o’clock. The order stated that General Hartranft would attack at the right of Fort Sedgwick, while I was to lead the assault on the part of the Second Division, with my brigade on the Jerusalem plank road, to the left of that fort, to be supported by the First Brigade, under Bvt. Brigadier General John I. Curtin. At 10 p. m. the same evening General Potter sent for me in haste and informed me verbally that “the programne had been changed”; that General Grant hand sent orders to “attack at once,” and gave me directions to attack the enemy’s picket line at the right of my brigade. The point designated was about half a mile to the left of Fort sedqwick. I immediately advanced with six regiments to the point indicated, formed them in two lines, with one regiment in reserve, and sent forward the first line, composed of the Second Maryland, One hundred and seventy-ninth New York Volunteers, and Seventeenth Vermont Volunteers, to carry the enemy’s entrenched picket-line, which was done in a very handsome manner; 8 officer and 241 men were made prisoners, and the line was carried and held for more than half a mile in extent. Scarcely had this success been accomplished when information was received from General Potter that the original plan of a general attack on the enemy’s main line at 4 a. m., had not been abandoned, but was still to be carried out, as directed in orders previously received. I immediately withdrew my troops and hastily transferred them to the Jerusalem plank road, to the left of Fort Sedqwick and about 100 yards in rear of our picket-line. The column of attack was at once formed, in the following manner: Three companies of the Thirty-first Maine Volunteers, under Captains Beals and Brack and Lieutenant Ware, were selected as a storming party, with orders to push forward at a run on the plank road, pass through an opening that had been observed in the enemy’s abatis, and seize the works and the guns that commanded the road. On either side of this party was a corps of pioneers from each brigade of our division, with orders to advance with the storming party and clear away the abatis to the right and left to allow the advancing column to pass through. The brigade was formed in column by battalion-that is to say, with a single regimental front, each regiment, to follow its predecessor in line of battle in the following order: One hundred and seventy-ninth New York Volunteers, Thirty-first Maine, Sixth New Hampshire, Second Maryland, Seventeenth Vermont, and One hundred and eighty-sixth New York Volunteers.
The Fifty-sixth New Hampshire were left, in compliance with orders to garrison Fort Alexander Hays and Batteries 24 and 25.
Just at daybreak, at a preconcerted signal, the column moved forward in connection with General Hartranft’s division, which joined us on our right. Nothing could exceed the coolness and intrepidity with which both officers and men, under a terrific fire, advanced to the attack. Passing our own picket-line steadily, they rushed upon the enemy’s picket and main line upon the run, carrying all before them, capturing their complete line of works, with many pieces of artillery, and sending hundreds of prisoners to the rear. After seizing the line our immediate front the head of the column turned to the left and swept the enemy’s line for about one-quarter of a mile, while General Curtin’s brigade, in support of mine, also attacked in that direction; the enemy, however, were well posted, and checked our farther advanced to the left; and, having collected a force at that point attacked us furiously, but our troops held the ground with the utmost determination. The Fifty-sixth Massachusetts Volunteers was ordered up to hold the works at
the intersection of the Jerusalem plank road which they did with tenacity and success. At this time information reached me that General Potter was dangerously wounded, and I was ordered by General Parke to assume command of the division. Great praise is due to both officers and men for the gallantry displayed, on this occasion. Nowhere on the line were works to be stormed formidable than at this point, but they proved no impediment ot our brave troops.
I would particularly mention Lieutenant Colonel B. F. Taylor, Second Maryland Veteran Volunteers, for the splendid manner in which he handled sorely pressed; also Colonel William M. Gregg, wounded, and Lieutenant Colonel F. B. Doty, One hundred and seventy-ninth New York Volunteers, since died from wounds; Colonel Bradley Winslow, wounded and Captain William R. Wallace, wounded, One hundred and eighty-sixth New York Volunteers; Lieutenant Colonel E. L. Getchell and Major G. A. Bolton, Thirty-first Maine Volunteers, both severely wounded; Lieutenant Colonel P. P. Bixby, Major S. D. Quarles, and Adjt. Abraham Cohn, Sixth New Hampshire Veteran Volunteers, Major L. E. Knapp, commanding Seventeenth Vermont Volunteers, Captain Henry J. Griffin, Sixth New Hampshire Veteran Volunteers, and Captain William Clark, Forty-eighth Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, of the pioneer corps; also Captain T. P. Beals, wounded, Captain A. D. Brock, and First 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 Maine Volunteers, 5 were killed and 32 wounded.
I would also specially mention the following officers of the brigade staff for gallant conduct in the field: Captain L. N. Sawyer, Eleventh New Hampshire Volunteers, brigade inspector; Lieutenant Ira G. Wilkins, Eleventh New Hampshire Volunteers, acting assistant adjutant-general, wounded; and Captain S. G. Goodwin, Sixth New Hampshire Veteran Volunteers, and Lieutenant Thomas Child, Thirty-first Maine Volunteers, aides-de-camp.
The following statement exhibits the losses of the brigade:
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. G. GRIFFIN,
Bvt. Major SAMUEL WRIGHT,
Asst. Adjt. General, Second Division, 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. 1058-1060 ↩