No. 209. Report of Brigadier General Henry E. Davies, Jr., U. S. Army, commanding First Brigade.1
HDQRS. FIRST BRIG., SECOND DIV., CAVALRY CORPS,
Nottoway Court-House, April 14, 1865.
MAJOR: I have the honor to forward the following report of the operations of my command from the 28th of March to date:
On the morning of the 29th of March the brigade broke camp near Petersburg and marched, via Malone’s Bridge, to Dinwiddie Court-House, and there camped for the night on the Boydton plank road.
On the following day, in the morning, a reconnaissance went out under Major Snyder, Tenth New York Cavalry; communicated with the left of the infantry force. In the afternoon of the 30th the brigade moved out on the road leading to Five Forks, and reported to Brevet Major-General Merritt, whose forces were engaged at that point. The brigade did not go into action, but stood until dark ready to act, though not called on. That night I encamped near the house of J. Boisseau, on the left of the road, picketing out on my left flank.
On the morning of the 31st of March a reconnaissance, sent out under Captain Craig, First New Jersey, discerned the presence of Johnson’s division of the enemy’s infantry and W. H. F. Lee’s division of cavalry on my left and front. Later in the day I was ordered to move my brigade to the rear and left flank support General Smith’s brigade heavily engaged with the enemy on the road crossing Chamberlain’s Creek. I at once moved in that direction, and the road being impassable for mounted troops, took my men down, dismounted. I rode on in advance, and on reaching General Smith’s learned that he had succeeded in repulsing the enemy and was not at that time in need of assistance. I immediately returned toward my former position, countermarching my command as I met it in the road, and hearing the sounds of heavy firing on my own picket-line directed them to return to their former position at the double-quick. I found that my pickets at a bridge over Chamberlain’s Creek were attacked by an overwhelming force of the enemy and driven back, and that the enemy had succeeded in crossing a large body of troops, consisting of nearly the whole of Pickett’s division of infantry. My brigade coming up at once engaged the enemy, but after a severe struggle were driven back, having, however, saved their led horses, which at one time were almost within the enemy’s grasp. I fell back to the road leading from Dinwiddie Court-House to Five Forks, where I reformed my line, connecting my right with the First Division, and endeavoring to open communication on my left with rest of Second Division. My men fought bravely, but the overwhelming superiority in numbers of the enemy enabled him to turn my left flank and cut me off entirely from our cavalry on that flank. I then fell back across the country to the Boydton plank road, skirmishing as we retired, followed for some distance by the infantry and subsequently by the cavalry. On reaching the Boydton plank road I found there one mounted regiment of the First Division (Sixth Michigan), the commanding officer of which made a vigorous demonstration and checked farther pursuit. On the plank road I reformed my brigade, and night coming on, and the road being securely picketed by the First Division Court-House, where my led horses had been sent when the engagement became heavy, and went into camp for the night near that point.
In this action I met with a severe loss in killed and wounded and lost a few prisoners. In view of the large force the enemy brought into the field I fully believe all that was practicable was done, and that my brigade accomplished all that could have been expected from it.
On the 1st and 2nd of April the brigade remained in camp near Dinwiddie Court-House, guarding the trains of the corps. On the night of the 2nd I moved from Dinwiddie Court-House, in rear of the train, to the point where the Claiborne road crosses Hatcher’s Run, and there went into camp. On the 3rd of April the brigade moved, via Sutherland’s Station, across Namozine Creek, to Wilson’s plantation; here the
On the morning of the 5th I moved out from camp under instructions to make a reconnaissance on the enemy’s rear and ascertain the position of his trains. Passing through Amelia Springs I moved to Paineville and there learned that General Lee’s wagon train was passing a point about four miles from that town. I immediately moved down at the trot, sending the First Pennsylvania Cavalry, my advance, ahead at the gallop, and they succeeded in striking the train just as a piece of artillery had been placed in position to repel my advance. Before the piece could be loaded my men, charging through a deep swamp, were upon them and at once captured the artillery and men belonging to the battery and scattered the train guard at that point, of about 400 men, in all directions. I sent two regiments (First Pennsylvania and Twenty-fourth New York) at once to the right, along the length of the train, directing them to capture all animals and prisoners and destroy all wagons, as owing to the condition of the road and the exhausted state of the teams I did not deem it practicable to bring off the wagons. The First New Jersey I kept near the point where the train was first attacked, to act as a reserve and support and to reconnoiter to the left, and to the Tenth New York I gave the charge of the prisoners, guns, &c., captured, with directions to return with them to Jetersville as soon as were collected. The commanding officers of these regiments each executed the orders given them with fidelity and zeal, and in a short time I was on my return to Jetersville with 5 guns, 11 flags, 320 white prisoners, and equal number of colored teamsters, and over 400 animals, captured from the enemy, leaving behind me 200 blazing ammunition had headquarters wagons, caissons, and ambulances. Shortly after leaving Paineville, on my return, Gary’s brigade of rebel cavalry, acting as escort to the train, attacked my rear guard and kept up a running fight with my command as far as Amelia Springs, where I formed my brigade and held the enemy in check until relieved by the Second Brigade of the division. I then rode to the head of my column and found that halted, and that the enemy had obtained possession of the cross-roads in my front, where the road from Amelia Springs to Jetersville intersects that from Amelia Court-House. A regiment of the Third Brigade at that point, with the First Pennsylvania and a portion of the Tenth New York, handsomely repulsed the enemy and drove him from the cross of the captured property, not losing one prisoner, animal, or gun, in spite of the desperate efforts made by the enemy to retake them. In the afternoon my brigade again went into action to repel an attempt made by the enemy to reach Jetersville from Amelia Springs, and though much reduced in strength by the large number of men required to guard prisoners and take charge of the captured property successfully resisted every attack made by the enemy, and made several mounted charges with great gallantry.
On the 6th of April the brigade moved out with the division and took part in the attack made on the enemy’s infantry and train at Sailor’s Creek. A very spirited and dashing reconnaissance of the position was made by the First New Jersey, which was of great assistance in the attack. When the order to attack was given the Twenty-fourth New York, Tenth New York, and First New Jersey charged in line, mounted, and with great gallantry, under a heavy fire, followed by the
First Pennsylvania as support. The charging regiments behaved admirably, keeping their line perfectly, and, leaping the breast-works, drove the enemy in confusion, capturing many prisoners; then charging right on up the hill they came upon the enemy’s wagon train, which they followed up for some distance, destroying many wagons and capturing many prisoners. In this engagement 750 prisoners, 2 guns, and 2 flags were captured and turned over to Captain Harper, division provost-marshal. Some 300 prisoners were inadvertently turned over to another command by the officer in charge, and two guns captured by the Twenty-fourth New York, which they were unable to bring off at the time, were taken by some other command.
On the morning of the 7th the brigade moved through Farmville, and crossing the Appomattox in rear of the Second Brigade formed and checked the enemy advancing, after having driven in that command. Night coming on the brigade was withdrawn and marched to Prospect Station on the Lynchburg railroad.
On the 8th the brigade moved to the vicinity of Appomattox Court-House and there camped for the night.
On the 9th the brigade moved out on a reconnaissance around the enemy’s right; but while on the road, hearing that the remainder of the division had been attacked in heavy force, I made a demonstration in that direction and repulsed a cavalry force moving toward the left and rear of our army. Afterward, having been joined by the Second Brigade, I attacked the enemy’s cavalry in my front, and was driving them rapidly when orders directing a suspension of hostilities was received. From that time there is nothing of interest to report, the command having moved from Appomattox Court-House to the present camp by easy marches and unopposed.
I have to regret the loss of many brave and gallant officers of rank in the brigade. Colonel Janeway, of the First New Jersey Cavalry, fell while gallantly charging at the head of his regiment in the action of April 5, near Jetersville. No better or braver officer has ever fallen on the field of battle. Colonel Newberry, Twenty-fourth New York, fell severely wounded in the thickest of the fight near Dinwiddie Court-House, March 31, while leading his regiment in action, displaying signal courage. Lieutenant-Colonel Richards, Twenty-fourth New York, was mortally wounded while in command near Amelia Springs. April 5. Lieutenant-Colonel Sceva, Tenth New York, was severely wounded in the action at Dinwiddie Court-House, March 31, and fully deserves honorable mention for good conduct. Major Hart, First New Jersey, and Major Doran, Twenty-fourth New York, both fell in the same action-the former killed, the latter mortally wounded. Brave and true soldiers, they did their duty to the last, and fell as they lived, honorably and with distinction. Major Thomas, commanding First Pennsylvania, was severely wounded while leading his command in a charge at Jetersville, April 5, and has lost a leg from the injury he received. Of this officer I cannot speak too highly. Foremost in every fight, brave and daring, yet possessed of most excellent judgment, his loss is irreparable; in every action he was distinguished. The success of the attack on the train at Paineville is greatly due to him, and in the subsequent movements of that day his services were most valuable. I respectfully ask that the brevets of lieutenant-colonel and colonel may be granted to him dating from April 5, as a slight recognition of his merit and deserving.
Of all the officers and men serving with the command I am able to speak in the highest terms. Among so many who have done well it is
difficult to discriminate. The enlisted men distinguished by capturing flags have already received the reward of their valor, and a list has been forwarded of those otherwise particularly remarkable for good conduct.
I desire to mention Colonel Avery, Tenth New York, who has ably commanded his regiment in every action, and rendered most important service in guarding and bringing into camp the prisoners and property captured on the 5th of April; Major Snyder, Tenth New York, temporarily in command of the Twenty-fourth New York, for leading his regiment not only gallantly but in good order in the charge on the enemy’s works at Sailor’s Creek, April 6; and Captain Craig, First New Jersey, for good conduct in all the actions of the campaign and for valuable service rendered in several reconnaissance he has commanded.
The officers of my staff have rendered most valuable service, and are all deserving of high praise for their courage, zeal, and efficiency.
The reports of casualties have been already rendered.* I annex copy of receipt from Captain Harper, division provost-marshal, of prisoners and property turned over to him from this command:
HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, CAVALRY CORPS,
OFFICE OF PROVOST-MARSHAL,
April 14, 1865.
Received from the provost-marshal First Brigade, Second Division, Cavalry Corps, during the campaign from March 29, 1865, to April 14, 1865:
H. E. DAVIES, JR.,
Brigadier-General Volunteers, Commanding.
Major H. C. WEIR,
*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. 1143-1147 ↩