No. 204. Report of Colonel Alexander C. M. Pennington, Third New Jersey Cavalry, commanding First Brigade.1
HDQRS. FIRST BRIGADE, THIRD CAVALRY DIVISION,
Nottoway Court-House, Va., April 15, 1865.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of March 29, in company with the division, and camped that night, or rather bivouacked, west of Rowanty Creek. Moved forward the next day about noon with my brigade, by order of General Custer, and halted and camped about four from Dinwiddie Court-House. Being some distance in advance of the camps of the other portions of the division, I threw out pickets for my own protection, and sent back details to corduroy the road for the passage of the wagon train, which was causing considerable delay to the column. Took my place in the column the following day, marching in rear of Colonel Capehart’s brigade, which had the advance. On reaching Dinwiddie Court-House I received instructions from General Custer to move up rapidly to the front at a trot and to support General Smith’s brigade, which was falling back on the left of the road. When about forming my command on the left of the road, I received an order from General Sheridan, through a staff officer, to put my men in on the right of the road; this I did, advancing the Second Ohio and Third New Jersey Cavalry. The First Connecticut had not yet reached the ground, and the Second New York, which had been sent forward with dispatches the night before, was guarding the Boydton plank road at its crossing with Stony Creek. The Second Ohio Cavalry and Third New Jersey advanced at a charge, dismounted, across the field, but the enemy developed a
vastly superior force of infantry, and after a sharp skirmish, in which they lost 3 officers and 18 men wounded, these regiments were obliged to fall back. I reformed the line upon a crest on the right of the main road, connecting on my left with the Third Brigade, Colonel Capehart commanding, threw up breast-works, and remained till follow morning, when it was ascertained that the enemy had left our immediate front.
About 9 a.m. April 1 I formed my brigade in line of battle, holding the Second Ohio in reserve and connecting on my left with the Third Brigade; moved toward Five Forks, following the course of Chamberlain’s Bed. Very few of the enemy were met until we reached the vicinity of Five Forks, when the enemy were discovered in force with infantry, cavalry, and artillery. I had formed near this point a connection on my right with First Michigan Cavalry, of First Brigade, First Division, Lieutenant-Colonel Maxwell commanding, but it was not until I had engaged the enemy that I found, on consulting with Lieutenant-Colonel Maxwell, the First Michigan did not connect with any regiment on its right, and that he, Lieutenant-colonel Maxwell, intended to draw off his regiment and endeavor to form connection with First Division. He withdrew his regiment and I withdrew my line from the view of the enemy, not deeming it prudent to advance with my right flank so much exposed. Moving my brigade by the right flank, I succeeded in connecting with the left of Colonel Fitzhugh’s brigade, of First Division, which brigade was also dismounted. I omitted to state that my own as well as Colonel Capehart’s brigade were dismounted from the time the advance was ordered. On making connection my right rested on a wood road leading to Five Forks, and the left of Colonel Fitzhugh’s brigade rested on the same road. Both commands were formed in a very thick piece of woods, almost impenetrable for horsemen, and which extended to the enemy’s line of works at Five Forks. My line was about 600 yards from that of the enemy. I ordered the command to throw up log breast-works and awaited orders. I had previously been informed that the Fifth Army Corps was to make an attack at Five Forks by the way of White oak road, and while awaiting this attack one of General Custer’s staff officers rode up and told me the general desired to see me. I found him on a road which made an acute angle with that upon which my right rested, the angle being at Five Forks; the left of my line rested on or near this road. The general directed me to send for my led horses, which were some distance in our rear, and upon their arrival to mount my brigade and follow the other the other two brigades of the division, with which he was about moving to attack the enemy’s right. I had already sent two staff officers for my led horses, and I now sent another. While still conversing with the general, a heavy fire of musketry indicated that the infantry attack had commenced. I expressed my opinion to the general that there appeared to be heavy firing on the front of my line; he assured me that the firing was not on my line, and a moment after rode away. He had scarcely gone when one of my staff officers, who had been left on the other road, rode up at a gallop and informed me that General Merritt had ordered the line forward and that the brigade was engaged. I mounted my horse and with all haste repaired to the spot and arrived just as my line had fallen back, the causes assigned being that the First Division had failed to keep up proper connection; that every connection and that the men were nearly out of ammunition. I again advanced the line, and through the kindness of Major Dana, assistant adjutant-
general, First Cavalry Division, who furnished me with a mounted detail, I succeeded in procuring a supply of ammunition, which was delivered and distributed to the men on the line of battle, while heavily engaged, by Captain A. C. Houhgton, Second Ohio Cavalry, and acting aide-de-camp, and Lieutenant James Moffitt, Eighteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, both of my staff. They both deserve credit for the zeal and energy displayed by them in the performance of this duty. I desire in this connection to mention Private Alexander Gibbs, of Company H, Second Ohio Cavalry, and orderly for Captain A. C. Houghton, who was untiring in his efforts to supply the men with ammunition, and displayed considerable gallantry in riding along the line of battle distributing it. After repeated charges the brigade carried the breast-works in its front, the First Connecticut Cavalry taking two pieces of field artillery (3-inch rifles); one of the pieces was captured by Major Goodwin, and the other by Lieutenant Lanfare.*
The following are the casualties in the brigade in this engagement viz: 2 officers killed, 9 officer wounded; 47 enlisted men wounded, 7 enlisted men killed.
Marched with the division across the South Side Railroad next day and camped near Namozine Creek. The following day, April 3, marched in rear of the division, the Second and Third Brigades being engaged all day in a running fight with the enemy. From Namozine Church I sent forward to the support of the Third Brigade the Third New Jersey and the Second New York Cavalry, by order of General Custer. These regiments were engaged near Sweat House Creek at the last stand made by them during the day, and sustained the following casualties, viz: 4 enlisted men killed, 3 officers and 21 enlisted men wounded. I reached the point where the command was engaged with the remaining regiments of the brigade just as the enemy were pressing one regiment, already engaged, back with considerable vigor. I formed line to cover their falling back, but did not become engaged, the enemy not seeming inclined to advance any farther. Made a reconnaissance toward Deep Creek bridge to ascertain the whereabouts of the enemy after dark, but received orders to return to camp after having advanced about three miles. Marched with the division to Jetersville on the night of 4th of April, reaching it about 7 a.m. on the 5th, crossed Danville railroad and formed line with the division on left of infantry, and about 3 p.m. moved to the right and encamped.
Broke camp at 6 a.m. on April 6, and marching in advance of the division to Harper’s farm, on Sailor’s Creek, charged the enemy’s wagon train with the entire brigade, encountering only a line of skirmishers, all of which was captured, together with about 300 wagons, about 800 mules and horses, and 10 pieces of artillery. The wagons were destroyed or rendered unserviceable subsequently, when the enemy in strong force under General Ewell advanced to relieve their train, my command participating in the affair which resulted in the capture of General Ewell and his command. The following are the captures made by my brigade during the day, viz: 190 commissioned officers (including Generals Kershaw, Du Bose, and Hunter [Hunton], 1,834 enlisted men, 11 battle-flags, 10 pieces of artillery, 2 caissons, 1 limber, and 800 mules and horses; about 300 wagons were captured and destroyed or rendered unserviceable.
The brigade marched with the division on the 7th and 8th, and on evening of 8th, being in advance, captured three trains of cars, with locomotives attached, loaded with supplies, at Appomattox Station, and
*Awarded a Medal of Honor.
participated in the engagement which took place subsequently, capturing 6 pieces of artillery, 100 prisoners, and 50 mules. Formed my brigade on road leading from Appomattox Court-House to Appomattox Station, and remained until all the captured wagons and artillery had been removed, and then moved to near the railroad and encamped.
On the morning of April 9 moved with the division and remained all day formed on the right of the army, while the flag of truce was pending, which resulted in the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. Marched on the 10th to Prospect, and thence to Nottoway Court-House, via Burkeville, reaching it April 13.
During the time embraced in the is report my brigade has captured 18 pieces of artillery, 11 battle-flags, about 2,500 prisoners, including 3 generals and 190 commissioned officers, 2 caissons, 1 limber, about 300 wagons, with their teams, 3 trains of cars, with their locomotives, loaded with supplies. The Second Ohio Cavalry destroyed about 2,000 stand of arms. The casualties since leaving Petersburg are as follows, viz: 2 officers killed, 23 officers wounded; 21 enlisted men killed, 97 enlisted men wounded.*
Both men and officers have behaved with great gallantry throughout the campaign. The regimental commanders-Colonel A. M. Randol, commanding Second New York; Colonel Brayton Ives, commanding First Connecticut Cavalry; Lieutenant Colonel William P. Robeson, commanding Third New Jersey Cavalry; and Albert Barnitz, commanding Second Ohio Cavalry-deserve especial commendation for marked gallantry in action and for the energy, and skill with which they handled their regiments.
My thanks are due to my staff officers for the promptness and zeal displayed by them in delivering orders. Those who were under fire acted uniformly with marked bravery.
The following are the names of those composing my staff; Captain Charles H. Miller, assistant adjutant-general; Captain R. E. Lawder, Second Ohio Cavalry, acting assistant inspector-general; Captain A. C. Houghton, Second Ohio Cavalry, acting aide-de-camp; Lieutenant Ray T. Gordon, Second New York Cavalry, acting aide-de-camp; Lieutenant C. E. B. Voege, Third New Jersey Cavalry, acting aide-de-camp; Lieutenant S. N. Hinman, First Connecticut Cavalry, acting aide-de-camp; Surg. G. A. Hurlbut, First Connecticut Cavalry, surgeon-in-chief.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. C. M. PENNINGTON,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Division.]
*But see reversed table, p. 591.
- 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. 1134-1137 ↩