No. 170. Report of Bvt. Major General John F. Hartranft, U. S. Army, commanding Third Division.1
U. S. ARSENAL, WASHINGTON, D. C., July 3, 1865.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Third Division, Ninth Army Corps, in the operations in front of Petersburg, Va., from March 30 to April 9:
On the night of March 30, in compliance with orders from corps headquarters, the First Brigade of my command, consisting of the Two hundredth, Two hundred and eighth, and Two hundred and ninth Regiments Pennsylvania Volunteers, under command of Lieutenant Colonel W. H. McCall, Two hundredth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, was massed near the Avery house, and the Second Brigade, consisting of the Two hundred and fifth, Two hundred and seventh, and Two hundred and eleventh Regiments Pennsylvania Volunteers, under command of Colonel J. A. Mathews, Two hundred and fifth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, near Fort Prescott, with a view of forming an assaulting column in front of Fort Sedgwick at daylight on the following morning, but at 2,45 a. m. March 31 orders were received countermanding the movement, and the troops were accordingly sent back to their respective camps. The division was held in readiness in camp during March 31 and April 1 ready to meet any emergency.
At 11 p. m. on the night of April 1 my troops were massed in the manner heretofore mentioned, and at 3 o’clock on the morning of April 2 an assaulting column was formed in front of Fort Sedgwick, to the right of the Jerusalem plank road and between our main line of works and the picket-line. The First Brigade, First Division, Ninth Army Corps, Colonel Samuel Harriman, Thirty-eighth Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers, commanding, consisting of the Thirty-seventh and Thirty-eighth Regiments Wisconsin Volunteers, Eighth and Twenty-seventh Regiments Michigan Volunteers, and One hundred and ninth Regiment New York Volunteers, reported to me for orders at Fort Sedgwick at 2 o’clock on the morning of April 2, in compliance with orders from Major-General Parke, commanding corps, and was put into position on the right of the Third Division.
The assaulting column was formed in column of regiments, with the left resting on the Jerusalem plank road, in the following order: Two hundred and seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Cox commanding; Two hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Major Morrow commanding; Two hundred and eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Dodd commanding; Two hundred and eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Heintzelman commanding. The Two hundred and ninth and Two hundredth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, of the Third Division, were held in reserve behind the works. Three regiments of Harriman’s brigade, of the First Division, also formed in column of regiments on the right of the Third Division in the following order: Thirty-eighth Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers, Colonel Bintliff commanding; One hundred and ninth Regiment New York Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel C. K. Pier [Thirty-eighth Wisconsin, commanding]; Eighth Regiment Michigan Volunteers, Major R. N. Doyle commanding. The Twenty-seventh Michigan and Thirty-seventh Volunteers were held in reserve in rear of the line of entrenchments. Strong engineer parties were formed in front of the assaulting columns. These
parties were divided into squads and one squad placed on the right of each division of the leading regiments to cut away the abatis and chevaux-de-frise in front of the enemy’s works.
Potter’s division was formed on the left of the Jerusalem plank road and facing Fort Mahone. General Griffin, commanding Second Brigade Second Division, was to make the advance, and my movement was to conform with his advance, and to this end one of my staff officers remained on the left of the first regiment of my assaulting column and communicated with an officer of General Griffin’s command.
At 4.30 a. m., just at dawn of day, the assault was made. My command moved forward in the most handsome and gallant manner, capturing the enemy’s picket-line, and advanced to his main line, carrying all his works from a point a little to the left of the Jerusalem plank road, and for a distance of 400 yards to the right of the Jerusalem plank road (the line carried by my troops was known, by the enemy as Miller’s Salient), capturing-pieces of artillery, 3 battle-flags, and a considerable number of prisoners. As soon as the line was carried the four reserve regiments were pushed forward to support the assaulting columns, which were much broken under the heavy fire of the enemy, and in passing through the enemy’s abatis, &c. These regiments also suffered greatly from the fire of the enemy’s artillery on the left of the works captured by the Second Division and from a two-gun battery of 8-inch howitzers in the rear of the lines captured.
The pioneer parties did their work most nobly and effectually; the wires connecting and binding together the section of chevaux-de-frise were cut and the sections pulled back in the manner of opening a gate . This was very difficult to accomplish, and my men, suffering very much from the enemy’s fire, grew impatient, and with a will large numbers of them seized the sections, and by main force opened passages as above indicated.
The guns captured were immediately turned upon the enemy, using their ammunition, and worked with effect by my men until artillerists, which were promptly forwarded, were sent to man them.
Seeing that farther advance was impracticable, the troops being much exhausted in advancing, and the enemy still holding a strong position in the covered ways and traverses and having possession of a two-gun 8-inch mortar battery, and one 8-inch columbiad battery, I placed my troops in the most advantageous position along the line of captured works and put them to work to make them tenable. Works were also thrown up in rear of the enemy’s field-works to protect the artillerists who worked the guns. The ammunition left by the enemy was soon exhausted, but the demand was promptly supplied from time to time during the day by Brevet Brigadier-General Tidball, chief of artillery, and carried to the front under severe fire by troops of colonel Carruth, commanding Thirty-fifth Massachusetts Volunteers, and by detachments of my men.
Three determined charges to retake the works were made by the enemy during the day, one at 11.15 a. m., the second at 1.05 p. m., and the last at 3 p. m. In the latter charge the left of the line held by my command was forced to retire for a short time, owing to the fact that part of the works held by the Second Division were retaken by the enemy, giving him a sweeping flank fire on my left, but upon the advance of new troops on the left my men regained confidence, and the line was re-established. At 4. 45 p. m. the Second Brigade, First Division, Sixth Corps, Bvt. Brigadier General J. e. Hamblin commanding, reported to
me at Fort Sedgwick and was immediately ordered to the front to support the left of my line, and, of possible, occupy part of the line farther to the left; the latter was impossible, owing to the enfilading fire of the enemy from the covered way leading from Fort Mahone, and this brigade was then held as a support to the left of my line.
Immediately after dark a skirmish line was pushed forward, and the chevaux-de-frise taken from the rear and put our in front, of the line of my division. A line of works which had been commenced during the day connecting Miller’s Salient with our picket-line on the right was completed and occupied, and much work was done during the night along the entire line held to put it in the most defensible position. The Two hundred and fifth, Two hundred and seventh, and Two hundred and eleventh Regiments Pennsylvania Volunteers were withdrawn to our old picket-line as a reserve, and General Hamblin’s troops placed in the position occupied by these regiments.
At 3 a. m. of the 3rd of April I ordered the officer of the day to advance his skirmishers and feel for the enemy, and at the same time all the troops of my command were half in readiness for movement. The enemy having retired from my immediate front at 3.30 a. m., I moved my division forward in column of regiments, and at the same time ordered Colonel Harriman to move forward in the same manner on the right and General Hamblin on the left, and advanced to the suburbs of Petersburg without opposition, reaching it at a few minutes before 5 a. m. My line of skirmishers reached the city at about 3.15 a. m.
Immediately upon arriving in the city the Two hundred and eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Dodd commanding was sent to the river to secure the bridges and prevent them from being destroyed, and picket the river, and the Two hundred and ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers was sent to the left to communicate with troops of the Sixth Corps, and Colonel McCalmont, with the Two hundredth and Two hundred and eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, was ordered to take possession of the city, but upon arriving at the court-house he was met by Colonel Ely, commanding a brigade in First Division, who claimed that the surrender of the city had been formally made to him, whereupon Colonel McCalmont withdrew his command to the outskirts of the city, where the balance of the division was stationed. I am satisfied that my skirmishers were the first Union troops in the city, and that Colonel McCalmont’s brigade was the first which entered the limits of the city in a body.
I ordered Colonel Dodd as soon as relieved by troops which were to occupy the city, also Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick, commanding Two hundred and ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers after receiving his report that he had communicated with troops of the Sixth Corps, to return to their original camps. Harriman’s Hamblin’s brigades were ordered to rejoin their divisions. I then marched my division to the vicinity of the Avery house and got it in readiness for immediate movement.
I cannot refrain from speaking in the highest terms of the conduct of the officers and men of my command for their brave, gallant, and heroic conduct in this engagement and for the tenacity with which they held every inch of the captured works, and met and repulsed the stout and determined charges of the enemy during the entire day. They are deserving of the greatest praise. I would call particular attention to the conduct of Colonel J. A. Mathews, Two hundred and fifth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, commanding Second Brigade; Lieutenant Colonel W. H. H. McCall, Two hundredth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers,
commanding First Brigade, and Colonel Samuel Harriman, commanding First Brigade First Division, for their promptness and energy in disposing of and advancing the columns. To Colonel T. C. Cox, two hundred and seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Colonel James Bintliff, Thirty-eighth Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers, who commanded the leading regiments of the charging column, and who by their bravery skill, and determination pushed their commands through the enemy’s abatis, and captured the works, I am much indebted for the brilliant success which attended this movement. Great credit is due to Colonel L. A. Dodd, Two hundred and eleventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Colonel R. C. Cox, Two hundred and seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, for their energy and skill in disposing of their commands and for the determination with which they met every advance of the enemy. These regiment were on the most exposed portion of the line and were put to the severest test. To Bvt. Brigadier General J. E. Hamblin, brigade, for the gallantry with which he led his brigade into position and for his promptness and the efficiency of his command while it under my orders.
The following-named officers are mentioned as having performed valuable and distinguished services: Two hundredth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Major Jacob Rehrer, First Lieutenant John McWilliams, first Lieutenant James McComas, First Lieutenant, B. F. Eberly; Two hundred and eighth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel M. T. Heintzelman, Major Alexander Bobb, Second Lieutenant David F. Keagy; Two hundred and ninth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel George W. Frederick, Major J. L. Ritchey; Two hundred and fifth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Major B. M. Morrow, Lieut and Adjt. E. L. Reber, Captain J. A. McCahan, Captain Richard Boone, Captain F. B. McClenahen, and Lieutenant Morris Davis; Two hundred and seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, First Lieutenant and Adjt. G. M. Bastian, Captain J. A. Rogers, First Lieutenant R. C. Ivory, Captain J. W. Rutt, Captain R. T. Wood, and Captain J. J. Rees. These officers have been recommended for brevets.
The following named enlisted men are mentioned as having preeminently distinguished themselves: Private John Lilley, * Company F, Two hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers; Private John C. Ewing,* Company E, and Private A. D. Harman,* Company K, Two hundred and eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers; Sergt. John H. Stephens, Company C; Sergeant Shontz, Company D, and Sergt. Henry Namber Company C, Two hundred and fifth Pennsylvania volunteers; Sergt. Daniel A. Seward, Company C; Sergt. Charles H Ilgenfritz, Company E, and Private Wilbur Brown, Company H, Two hundred and seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers; Sergt. Major J. S. McQuaid, First Sergt. James F. Johnston, Company D, and Sergt. W. R. Moore, Company D, Two hundred and eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers. These men have been recommended for medals of honor The first three of these men captured colors from the enemy.
To the officers of my staff-Bvt. Major John D. Bertolette, assistant adjutant-general; Captain E. P. Brown, Seventh Rhode Island Volunteers, acting division inspector; Captain R. a. Watts, Seventeenth Michigan Volunteers, aide-de-camp; Captain T. W. Hoffman, Two hundred and eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, acting engineer officer-I am much indebted for the valuable and efficient services rendered in placing the troops in position for the assault, in carrying dispatches, in giving
*Awarded a Medal of Honor.
orders and arranging the troops to meet the repeated attacks of the enemy, and for their coolness and bravery during the entire movement.
At 3 p. m. April 3 I marched with my division, supplied with rations, ammunition, &c., through Petersburg toward Burkeville along the line of the South side Railroad, as guard to the wagon train of the army. This division moved as far as Nottoway Court-House, which point it reached April 8, and guarded different points along the line of the railroad. No active part was taken with the enemy after April 3. I respectfully invite attention to the accompanying reports of brigade commanders.
A tabular list of casualties is appended to this report.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
JOHN F. HARTRANFT,
Brevet Major-General, Commanding.
Bvt. Lieutenant Colonel JOHN D. BERTOLETTE,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Ninth Army Corps.
HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, NINTH ARMY CORPS,
April 3, 1865.
COLONEL: I have the honor to transmit herewith two battle-flags captured by the Two hundred and eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, of this command in the assault of yesterday. The white flag belonged to the Forty-fifth North Carolina, the other to Sixty-first Alabama. Captured, respectively, by A. D. Harman, Company K, and John C. Ewing, Company E, two hundred and eleventh Pennsylvania.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JNO. D. BERTOLETTE,
- 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. 1061-1065 ↩