No. 208. Report of Major General George Crook, U. S. Army, commanding Second Division, Army of the Potomac.1
HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, CAVALRY CORPS,
ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
April 18, 1865.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report the operations of the Second Cavalry Division, Army of the Potomac, during the campaign which ended with the capitulation of the rebel Army of Northern Virginia on the 9th instant.
On the 29th ultimo the Second Cavalry Division-composed of three brigades, commanded, respectively, by Brigadier General H. E. Davies, Bvt. Brigadier General J. I. Gregg, and Bvt. Brigadier General Charles H. Smith-left its old encampment in front of Petersburg and marched to Dinwiddie Court-House. Gregg’s brigade being in the advance skirmished with small bands of the enemy’s cavalry after he crossed the Rowanty Creek until he reached the Court-House. The next day he lay in camp, Davies’ brigade going to support General Merritt in the vicinity of Five Forks. The next morning the enemy made a demonstration in Merritt’s front, when Smith’s brigade was posted at Chamberlain’s crossing of Stony Creek, and Davies’ brigade at another crossing of the same creek, about one mile above, while Gregg’s brigade was held in reserve. At 11 a.m. the enemy made quite a fierce attack on Smith, who repulsed them very handsomely with severe loss. I might here state that the country in the vicinity of the creek was covered with a dense pine thicket, so that cavalry could only fight to advantage on foot. At about 1 p.m. the enemy anticipated our attack on them by their infantry forcing a passage both above and below Davies, cutting him off from Smith. Gregg was now ordered to attack the enemy, which he did very gallantly, causing his temporary falling back up the creek. Davies being compelled to fall back by overwhelming numbers fought his way back stubbornly, eventually working his way around to our right, and joining the division just after night-fall on the Vaughan road. Shortly after the attack on Davies’ brigade the enemy made
another furious attack on Smith with artillery and cavalry. He very gallantly repelled all their attacks until evening, when his ammunition was exhausted; he was compelled to fall back. Gregg’s ammunition being about exhausted was also compelled to fall back in front of their infantry, who were now advancing down the road toward the Court-House. The enemy not advancing farther than the junction of the two roads, the division went into camp for the night on the Vaughan road, some three miles from Dinwiddie. Nothing but occasional skirmishing occurred on the march from Dinwiddie Court-House to Jetersville. We arrived at the latter place on the 4th instant.
The next morning Davies was ordered to make a reconnaissance to the left. He made a handsome capture of guns, prisoners, &c. (for particulars see his report). I went with the other two brigades to assist in reaching camp with his captives. The enemy attacked his rear guard just beyond Amelia Springs, but was repulsed. Gregg’s brigade coming up at this juncture both brigades fell back as soon as the road became clear, Davies’ brigade in the advance. Soon it was reported the enemy had attacked the advance guard guarding the captures, when Smith’s and Davies’ were sent at once to repel this attack, which was done very handsomely, allowing the captures to reach camp safely. The fighting continued all along my front until near night fall, when the enemy desisted. The division then went into camp for the night at Jetersville, picketing the country in our front.
On the morning of the 6th the division moved on the Pride’s Church road for Deatonsville. Ascertained that the enemy were moving through the latter place on the Jamestown road. Attempted to cut their train from the road crossing the Genito road at Atkinson’s, but found this road strongly guarded by both infantry and cavalry. Moved across the country and struck the road on which the enemy were moving still farther to the left, and to the left of General Merritt’s command. Found the enemy strongly posted on a high eminence, behind temporary breastworks. I sent Gregg’s brigade to the left dismounted, who took possession of and held the road. Smith’s brigade was also dismounted and on Gregg’s right, while Davies’ brigade, mounted, was on the field in front of their works. After these arrangements were completed a general assault was made, the dismounted men on the left turning and going over their works, while Davies made one of the finest charges of the war, riding over and capturing their works and its defenders. The enemy on the right, who were thus cut off from retreat, surrendered and were taken by different parties.
On the 7th moved on the Farmville road; skirmished with enemy’s cavalry at different points [on] the road; came in sight of the enemy’s rear guard just across the river at Farmville. I crossed the river at this point. General Gregg’s brigade, being in the advance, made an attack on the enemy, was repulsed, and General Gregg taken prisoner; the command of this brigade devolved upon Colonel S. B. M. Young, Fourth Pennsylvania Cavalry. By instructions we recrossed the river and marched to Prospect Station, where we encamped for the night.
On the 8th marched to Appomattox Station. General Mackenzie’s division was assigned to my command to-day. After dark I was ordered to send a brigade to hold the road leading from Appomattox Court-House to Lynchburg. Smith’s brigade was sent; he selected a good position near the Court-House. The enemy made no demonstration during the night, but the next morning, at a very early hour, he moved a very heavy line against him, which he held in check until General Mackenzie got up and went in on Smith’s left Davies was
sent on a reconnaissance to the left, while Colonel Young’s brigade was held in reserve. (See accompanying reports of operations during the day.) At about 9 a.m. the enemy made a strong attack on my front and flanks with a large force of infantry, while their cavalry attacked my rear. Mackenzie and Smith were forced to retire by overwhelming numbers, until relieved by the infantry. When we reorganized and were getting ready to go to the front an order for cessation of hostilities reached me. For particulars of the operations of my brigades when acting separately from the division I respectfully refer you to accompanying brigade reports.
I regret to report the loss of many gallant officers and men. Included in this number, and who came under my personal observation, were Colonel H. H. Janeway, First New Jersey Cavalry, who lost his life while heroically rallying his men; also Major H. S. Thomas, First Pennsylvania Cavalry, who lost his leg while gallantly leading his regiment in a charge at the battle of Jetersville, on the 5th instant. In them the service lost two of its brightest ornaments. For the many acts of gallantry performed that did not come under my personal observation, I would cheerfully indorse the special notices and recommendations of my subordinate commanders.
I cannot close this report without mentioning the marked good conduct of the command during the whole campaign, and my special indebtedness to my brigade commanders-Brigadier General H. E. Davies, Mackenzie, Gregg, and Smith-and to my battery commanders-Lieuts. J. H. Lord and S. H. Kinney-for their gallantry, cordial support, and the skillful manner in which they handled their commands. Also to the members of my staff for their gallantry and valuable assistant commissary of musters, H. E. Tremain, aide-de-camp, C. Taylor, acting assistant inspector-general; Captains Moore, aide-de-camp, William Harper, provost-marshal, A. H. Bibber, acting aide-de-camp; Lieutenant C. S. Roberts; and Dr. E. J. Marsh, surgeon-in-chief.
Accompanying please find numerical list of casualties of the division.*
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major-General Volunteers, Commanding Second Division.
Bvt. Brigadier General J. W. FORSYTH,
Chief of Staff, Cavalry.
*Embodied in table, p. 592.
- 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. 1141-1143 ↩