No. 212. Report of Bvt. Brigadier General Charles H. Smith, First Maine Cavalry, commanding Third Brigade.1
HDQRS. THIRD BRIGADE, SECOND CAVALRY DIVISION,
April 15, 1865.
MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part performed by the Third Brigade since the 29th ultimo:
At that date the brigade broke camp in the morning and moved with the division to Dinwiddie Court-House, where it remained until the morning of the 31st, one regiment being kept on picket. At 10.30 a.m. the 31st, the Second New York Mounted Rifles, on picket, were attacked and the brigade was moved out for support. The Second New York Mounted Rifles and Sixth Ohio Cavalry were ordered to dismount and take position on the left bank of Little Stony Creek at which the enemy seemed to retire. One battalion of the First Maine was ordered to cross the creek and reconnoiter for the enemy. It effected a crossing without opposition, but as soon as it deployed and began to advance it was met by strong lines of the enemy, both mounted and dismounted, and driven back in confusion, the men seeking refuge among the led horses and fording the stream up to their necks. The enemy pursued in hot haste, plunged into the stream in heavy force, both mounted and
dismounted, with such recklessness that some were drowned, drove back the two regiments posted on the bank and effected a lodgment on our side. At this juncture the two remaining battalions of the First Maine and the Thirteenth Ohio were ordered to dismount and deploy, the First Maine on the left of the road in the open field, the Thirteenth Ohio on the right of the road in the woods. As the line advanced the two regiments that had been driven back rallied, and the whole brigade charged, broke the enemy and drove him in confusion and with considerable loss across the stream. In this charge my leg was struck with a bullet, passing through my horse, proving death to the horse but safety to me. The gallant conduct of the First Maine Cavalry in this charge is deserving especial mention.
The entire brigade was then put in position along the bank of the creek dismounted, where it constructed a slight breast work with rails and such other material as was at its command. At 5.30 p.m. the enemy opened briskly with four pieces of artillery, and the brigade suddenly discovered that it was confronted by Pickett’s division of infantry. The brigade maintained its ground under the hottest fire of which the enemy was capable, losing heavily all the while, till nearly dark, when it ran entirely out of ammunition, in consequence of the train being delayed by the bad roads, and was forced to fall back to the main road leading from Dinwiddie Court-House to Five Forks, where it reformed and intimidated the advance of the enemy by presenting a good front, without a cartridge. Had a less determined resistance been made on the bank of the creek, and the strong force of the enemy been allowed to gain possession of the main road above referred to, the result must have proved quite disastrous to our cause that day.
The following is a list of the casualties for the day: Captain Benjamin F. Metcalf, Thirteenth Ohio; Captain Eli Morse, Second New York Mounted Rifles; and Lieutenant James E. Stayner, First Maine Cavalry, killed. Major Paul Chadbourne, Captain H. C. Hall, Lieutenant L. M. Comins, and Lieutenant H. D. Fuller, First Maine Cavalry; Lieutenant C. W. Flagler and Lieutenant W. A. Crapser, Second New York Mounted Rifles; Captain B. F. Kling, Adjt. H. G. Brown, and Lieutenant J. W. Emmick, Thirteenth Ohio Cavalry; and Captain Shattuck, Sixth Ohio Cavalry, wounded; 18 enlisted men killed, 123 wounded. The First Maine alone lost in this engagement 88 killed and wounded.
The enemy was severely punished during the engagement. Colonel McNeil, Fifth North Carolina, was killed; Colonel Cheek,* First North Carolina, and Colonel Savage, of the Fifteenth Virginia, were wounded, besides many commissioned officers of lower grades. Many prisoners were captured, including 1 major and 2 captains.
In the evening the brigade was remounted and moved back to Cat-Tail Creek and bivouacked.
April 1, it relieved the Reserve Brigade in guarding the train and picketing the rear of the army. April 2, conducted train to Dinwiddie Court-House and marched to Hatcher’s Run in the direction of Sutherland’s Station. April 3, moved at daylight, crossed the South Side Railroad at Sutherland’s Station, and later in the day resumed the march westward toward the Danville railroad till 1 a.m. the 4th instant. Bivouacked a few hours, and started at 4 a.m. the morning of the 4th instant. Marched rapidly via Dennisville to a point on the Danville railroad a few miles east of Burkeville Junction. By order of the major-general commanding the division a detachment of the First Maine was sent to cap the railroad. Toward evening marched to Jeter’s Station, dismounted, threw up a breast-work of rails and
* Reference is probably to Lieutenant Colonel W. H. H. Cowles, who was wounded and captured.
awaited till dark to resist an expected attack. Bivouacked for the night. April 5, moved out at the gallop on the Paineville road to the support of the First and Second Brigades. The enemy was maneuvering to recapture some prisoners and artillery from the First Brigade. At one point a strong force was timely repulsed by a gallant charge of the Second New York Mounted Rifles. At another point the Thirteenth Ohio charged and captured a battle-flag. The whole brigade became considerably engaged till dark, when a strong detail was made for picket and the rest withdrawn.
April 6, marched with the division till about 11.30 a.m., parallel to and in sight of Lee’s train most of the time. The Second Brigade, having the advance, charged the train guard and were repulsed, amidst considerable confusion. I deployed the First Maine and Sixth Ohio Cavalry on the right of the road, the Thirteenth Ohio on the left of the road, and kept the Second New York Mounted Rifles in the road in column. The First Maine and Sixth Ohio advanced to the support of the Second Brigade, and charging through a thicket, almost impassable to mounted men, two companies of the First Maine succeeded in breaking through the guard and reaching the train, but only to be driven back, with severe loss. The Second Brigade was then withdrawn from the right of the cross-road by which we approached the train, and I caused the Thirteenth Ohio to be removed from the left of the right of the road and the line to be extended by the formation of the First Maine and Sixth Ohio in succession. The line thus formed was about to advance, when I was ordered by the major-general commanding division to fall back. In this affair, Captain John A. Heald, First Maine Cavalry, was killed, and Captain J. W. Freese, slightly, and Adjt. T. Little, First Maine Cavalry, severely wounded.
Later in the day the division attacked the enemy at another point. The Second New York Mounted Rifles was detained to guard the rear. The Thirteenth Ohio was sent to destroy a portion of the enemy’s train of fifty or seventy-five wagons, which was accomplished effectually. The First Maine and Sixth Ohio were kept dismounted, and charged with the line when it was ordered to advance, thus doing their part in breaking up and thoroughly routing the enemy. The Thirteenth Ohio being mounted, charged on the left, making many captures, among which was Brigadier-General Corse and staff. In this engagement Lieutenant J. W. Poor, First Maine Cavalry, was severely wounded.
April 7, the pursuit was remained in the morning, the Third Brigade in advance. Marching rapidly we soon overtook the rear of the retreating column, and skirmishing commenced. At Briery Creek considerable resistance was offered, but a crossing was soon effected by means of the repeating rifles of the First Maine, when the whole brigade charged across and drove the enemy back, pressing him very closely till we reached Farmville. At this time Lieutenant-Colonel Clark, Thirteenth Ohio Cavalry, conducted the advance very gallantly. An orderly sent to halt the advance, and seeing an organized body of the enemy just in front of the Thirteenth Ohio mistook it for our advance, and riding up to it presented the compliments of the general commanding, with orders to halt. He was taken prisoner, and did not report the execution of this order till the evening of the 9th instant, after the surrender of General Lee with his army.
When we approached the town of Farmville the enemy were making all haste to get his rear guard across the river. The brigade was ordered to charge, and did so in the most fearless manner. In this charge the First Maine bore the brunt, and dashing through the town
In the evening of the same day the command marched to Prospect Station.
April 8, marched, via Pamplin’s, to Appomattox Station. At 9 p.m. I received orders from the major-general commanding division to move with my brigade onto the main road leading from Appomattox Court-House to Lynchburg, and hold it against the approach of the enemy. I reached the road by a march of about two miles, and at a point two miles and a half from the Court-House. Feeling the importance of gaining as much ground as possible to enable me, in case of an attack, to make a fight till notice could be given and re-enforcement got up, I advanced down the road cautiously, feeling my way, at midnight, till I encountered and drove in the enemy’s pickets within half a mile of the Court-House. There I ordered a section of 3-inch guns-Lieutenant Lord, Battery A, Second U. S. Artillery-into position, dismounted three regiments-the First Maine, Sixth Ohio, and Second New York Mounted Rifles-threw up breast-works of rails, and waited till daylight, without blankets or fires.
At daylight the enemy advanced to attack, and then the advantage of the position that I had obtained by pushing forward during the night became apparent. My command was posted on a ridge or kind of plateau higher than any point the enemy’s command. Consequently, when his first attack was met by a rapid and vigorous firing from the section of artillery and a brisk fire from the skirmish line, being unable to ascertain the strength of our position, except by direct assault, he desisted at the time and delayed about two hours in maneuvering, driving in my mounted men from the flanks, &c., before he attempted to advance in force. I am of opinion that had the position I held been left for the occupation of the enemy he would have discovered my strength and continued his march at daylight, gained full possession of the road and extended his left beyond our right, thus, perhaps, producing a material difference in the results of the day. By the delay of these two hours our forces were got into position, so that when my command retired before the enemy, advancing, in force, he was received at “Ready, aim, fire,” and the career of the Army of Northern Virginia was brought to an end.
In this last engagement Lieutenant Cooper, Thirteenth Ohio, was killed, and Lieutenant Arnold, Second New York Mounted Rifles, wounded.
I have submitted a special report of prominent meritorious cases. I here append a numerical list of casualties, and express my satisfaction at the patience, endurance, bravery, and good will of the entire command.
Total casualties: 21 officers and 284 men, being 25 per cent. of the command.
I desire to make favorable mention of Captain J. H. Harmony, Captain Levi H. Dagget, Lieutenant George T. Jewett, and Lieutenant Orlando N. Ferry, members of my staff, for their strict attention to their duties and efficient service throughout the campaign.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. H. SMITH,
Brevet Brigadier-General Volunteers, Commanding.
Major H. C. WEIR,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Cavalry Division.
- 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. 1156-1160 ↩