No. 213. Report of Major General Edward O. C. Ord, U. S. Army, commanding Army of the James.1
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE JAMES,
Richmond, Va., April 26, 1865.
SIR: In obedience to orders from the lieutenant-general commanding, I took Turner’s and Foster’s divisions, of Gibbon’s corps, Birney’s division, Twenty-fifth Corps, and Mackenzie’s cavalry division, and placed them on the left front of the Petersburg defenses, by a march of thirty-six miles. This was done secretly, and although my lines were within rifle shot of the rebels and I had to cross two bridges overlooked by them, the movement was not, as I afterward learned from rebel officers, even suspected. As the success of our movement depended in a great measure upon its secrecy I will detail the measures I took to attain that end. Some days before the intended movement I withdrew quietly most of the forces required for it, and after a demonstration on the right with them, placed them in camps where they could not be seen or heard; the remainder of my command I kept in motion, changing camps frequently. Pickets for several nights previous to the move were detailed only from the regiments to remain behind. On the night of the movement, and for some time afterward, the camps of the troops taken were kept lighted and tents standing, bands playing calls as usual. The bridges across which my troops had to pass were the day before covered with moist straw and compost, and no changes were shown in any part of my lines visible to the enemy. Before leaving the lines near Richmond, anticipating that General Grant would turn the enemy out of Petersburg and that Lee would evacuate Richmond, I gave General Weitzel written instructions how he had best march his men into Richmond so as to avoid the rebel torpedoes, a line of which covered their entrenchments. On reaching the left part of the enemy’s works to the west of Petersburg my command was placed on the ground between the Sixth and Second Corps, and by direction of the lieutenant-general we pushed forward, drove in the enemy’s outposts and pickets, capturing several hundred men, and established our line within 400 yards of the rebel works; this cost me several hundred men and officers, and took till the night of the 1st of April. Much patience, endurance, and pluck were displayed by the men.
Mackenzie’s cavalry was sent on 31st of March to cover the Fifth Corps trains, afterward to report to General Sheridan. On the night of the 1st April having received orders to break through the enemy’s line if an opportunity occurred and I could get my batteries under
cover, or to co-operate with the Sixth Corps if they could carry out their orders and get in I did both. On my left we carried the enemy’s line with Harris’ brigade, and I sent two divisions to General Wright’s assistance, who had called on me for aid. My commanders had direction, after the enemy’s line near Hatcher’s Run and on my front was carried, to form line of battle on their right, facing Petersburg, and to move rapidly up to such other entrenchments as they might find, and take them. This order did not reach all the commanders. Generals Gibbon, Foster, Turner, and Birney, however, all moved toward the enemy, driving them from successive positions toward Petersburg. General Wright’s forces were met coming toward Hatcher’s; the latter forces were faced about, connected with mine, and moved up to the enemy’s second double line, being covered with heavily detached and isolated forts, made it necessary, that they should be stormed. Forts Gregg and Baldwin in my front were attacked-the former by part of Foster’s division, aided by part of Turner’s division, and the latter by Harris’ brigade, Turner’s division. Fort Gregg was defended with desperate courage worthy a better cause, and for nearly half an hour after our troops had gained the parapet the rebels fought hand to hand. The place was not taken until a large part of its garrison were killed or wounded. For the details of gallant deeds here and elsewhere I must refer to Generals Foster’s and Turner’s reports and those of brigade commanders.
I afterward learned that on this day the enemy moved a portion of their forces from the north side of the James, which forces they had held there until now in the belief that I still remained there with the whole of the Army of the James, and after Petersburg was taken they expressed great surprise at finding my troops in their front. So much for secrecy.
That night the enemy evacuated Petersburg and Richmond and began their retreat toward Danville, and the lieutenant-general put my column in pursuit as the left wing and along the line of the South Side Railroad, and the men marched well. At Blacks and Whites I left Birney’s division to guard the railroad. The evening before reaching Burkeville Junction-which we did on the morning of the 6th about 10 o’clock-I learned from General Sheridan that Lee’s army had halted near Amelia Court-House; that our cavalry and a corps of infantry were in its front, and if all pushed up it would probably be captured. As Lee appeared to be aiming for either Danville or Lynchburg, Lieutenant-General Grant directed me to cut the bridges in his front, and wait orders at Burkeville, which it was important to hold. To cut the high bridge near Farmington [Farmville] I dispatched two small regiments of infantry and all my headquarters escort, the only cavalry I had, under Colonel Washburn, Fifth [Fourth] Massachusetts Cavalry, before daylight in the morning, with orders to push as rapidly as the exhausted condition of men and horses would permit, for the bridge, make a reconnaissance when near there, and, if not too well guarded, to burn, it returning at once with great caution.
After they had left, on the morning of the 5th [6th], about 9 or 10 a.m., I received a dispatch by courier from General Sheridan that Lee’s army had broken away from him and were making, apparently, direct for me, at Burke’s Junction. My command was immediately put in position to meet them, but it seems they turned off and took the road toward Farmville. Apprehending that my bridge-burning party might meet a force of Lee’s cavalry sent southward to hold this bridge I had, before receiving Sheridan’s dispatch, sent General Theodore Read, my chief of
staff, and the most gallant and reliable officer I had at hand, to conduct the party, cautioning him to reconnoiter the country well before he moved up to the Farmville bridge; and after I received General Sheridan’s dispatch I sent the next best staff officer I had to caution Read that Lee’s army was in his rear, and he must return by pressing on, crossing the Appomattox and going around by Prince Edward Court-House. The last officer was driven back by Lee’s cavalry. Read overtook Washburn’s small party, took the cavalry into Farmville and examined the country, returned to the infantry, and was pushing for the bridge when the advance cavalry of Lee’s whole army overtook them within two miles of the bridge. Here, about noon, the gallant Read drew up his little band of 80 cavalry and 500 infantry, rode along the front of his ranks, inspired them with all his own daring, and began the battle with an army in his front. Charge after charge was made by the handful of cavalry, led by the chivalrous Washburn, who captured more rebels than he had men; but Read fell mortally wounded, then Washburn, and at last not an officer of that cavalry party remained alive or unwounded to lead the men, and not until then did they surrender. But, as I learned afterward, this stubborn fight in his front led General Lee to believe that a heavy force had struck the head of his column; he halted his whole army, began entrenching, issued what was called a stampeding order, so that not long afterward Sheridan’s cavalry and the Sixth Corps did overtake and strike him, and swept his lines for some two miles.
I left Burkeville for Farmville with my forces as soon as I found the direction which the rebels were taking, orders to that effect having been sent me, but I had done it when they reached me, with the intention of intercepting them in front or striking them on their flank. Found them heavily entrenched near Rice’s Station. My column was developed, skirmishers moving up when night came on. That night they again broke for Lynchburg. Here the colored division overtook the main column, and we pushed after in three columns-Birney’s, Foster’s, and Turner’s-to strike them at Farmville, my command still being the left wing and held ready to cut off all retreat toward Danville. At Farmville the rebels had some seven trains of supplies which had come down from Lynchburg to meet them, but we were upon their flank and rear as they marched into Farmville. The railroad here passed to the south of the Appomattox, the main road to Lynchburg to the north of it, the two roads coming nearly together again at Appomattox Court-House, so that General Lee, not being able to hold Farmville long enough to get the food and clothing off the trains, sent them up to Appomattox by rail, while he took the Lynchburg road around to the north, so as to strike the supplies at Appomattox; but General Grant was too quick for him, dispatching Sheridan with his cavalry to go around and head them at Appomattox at once (the trains of provisions were all captured or driven back), and dispatch my command on the rebels of Sheridan, with directions to me to pick up Griffin’s corps, then pushing from Prince Edward toward Appomattox, and with both corps to attack Lee on the head and front.
I marched my men from daylight on the 8th until 10 a.m. on the 9th of April, except three hours, and deployed my two corps across the head of the valley just as Lee’s advance was pushing out of it, for, in spite of Sheridan’s attempts to hold him, our cavalry were falling back in confusion before Lee’s infantry. We were barely in time. General Lee would not believe General Gordon when the latter told him Ord’s army was in his front, so General Gordon told me after the surrender; but we
soon deployed and went in-Gibbon on the left, at double-quick, with Foster’s and Turner’s divisions, in beautiful style, and the colored troops also at the double-quick, under those commanders, with the Fifth Corps, under Griffin; thus covering all the valley that led toward Lynchburg and adjacent hill-sides, and our skirmishers were driving in the enemy’s, so that, seeing no escape, General Lee sent the white flag forward, which met me at the Fifth Corps front, with a request for cessation of arms until he could meet General Grant and confer on the terms. As I knew that a surrender had been called for, and terms asked for and made known, I knew this second request meant acceptance, and the bugles were sounded to halt. The cheer of final success and of an end to our hardships went up with a will from hill-side to hill-side, and the rebels laid down our arms that night-it is to be hoped never to take them up again except in defense of our common country.
I do not think the troops could have behaved better; their had night marching and their cheerfulness under hard work all the time, their stubborn fighting at Petersburg and every time we struck the retreating rebels, proved that the whole army was inspired with but one determination-to hunt the rebels down and whip them into surrender, and they did.
E. O. C. ORD,
Bvt. Major General JOHN A. RAWLINS,
Chief of Staff.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA, AND ARMY OF THE JAMES,
June 1, 1865.
Brigadier General L. THOMAS,
Adjutant-General U. S. Army, Washington D. C.:
SIR: I respectfully recommend the following promotions for gallant conduct in the field:
Brigadier General R. S. Foster, U. S. Volunteers, to be major-general by brevet, from 31st March, 1865.
Brigadier General R. S. Mackenzie, U. S. Volunteers, to be major-general by brevet, from 31st March, 1865.
Colonel Albert M. Barney, One hundred and forty-second New York Infantry Volunteers, to be brigadier-general by brevet, from January 15, 1865; Fort Fisher.
Bvt. Brigadier General Peter S. Michie, U. S. Volunteers, to be brigadier-general U. S. Volunteers and brevet major U. S. Army, from March 30, 1865.
Bvt. Major General John W. Turner, U. S. Volunteers, to be major-general, from 31st March, 1865.
Major H. B. Scott, Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry, to be brevet lieutenant-colonel, U. S. Volunteers, from 31st March 1865.
Lieutenant Colonel F. L. Manning, [One hundred and forty-eighth New York] Infantry Volunteers, to be colonel by brevet, from April 9, 1865.
Major H. G. Brown, aide-de-camp, to be lieutenant-colonel by brevet, from March 31, 1865.
Major J. C. Paine, Signal Corps, to be lieutenant-colonel by brevet, from April 9, 1865.
Asst. Surg. Morris J. Asch, U. S. Army, to be major by brevet, from April 9, 1865.
Asst. Surg. A. A. Woodhull, U. S. Army, to be major by brevet, from April 9, 1865.
Asst. Surg. J. W. Hayward, U. S. Volunteers, to be major by brevet, from April 9, 1865.
Captain Charles B. Atchison, Third U. S. Infantry, —— and aide-de-camp, to be major by brevet, U. S. Army, from 31st March, 1865.
Bvt. Lieutenant Colonel Placidus Ord, assistant adjutant-general, U. S. Volunteers, to be colonel by brevet, from 29th October, 1864.
Captain T. G. Welles, aide-de-camp, to be major by brevet, from April 9, 1865.
Lieutenant Hamberg, Twenty-third Regiment U. S. Colored Infantry, to be captain by brevet, from April 9, 1865.
Captain W. R. King, U. S. Engineers, to be brevet major, from April 9, 1865.
Captain W. H. Male, to be major by brevet, from April 9, 1865.
Captain Fred. Martin, to be major by brevet, from April 9, 1865.
Captain William H. Walling, One hundred and forty-second Regiment New York Volunteers, to be brevet major, from January 15, 1865; gallant conduct at Fort Fisher.
Colonel Donohoe, Tenth New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, to be brevet brigadier-general, from September 27, 1864.
Lieutenant Colonel John Coughlin, Tenth New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, to be brevet colonel, from April 9, 1865.
For meritorious and distinguished services:
Brigadier General George H. Gordon, U. S. Volunteers, to be major-general by brevet, from April 9, 1865.
Colonel Joseph Roberts, Third Regiment Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery Volunteers, to be brigadier-general by brevet, from April 9, 1865.
Asst. Surg. Ely McClellan, U. S. Army, to be major by brevet, from April 9, 1865.
Bvt. Lieutenant Colonel S. S. Seward, aide-de-camp, U. S. Volunteers, to be colonel by brevet, from April 9, 1865.
Lieutenant Colonel E. W. Smith, assistant adjutant-general, U. S. Volunteers, to be colonel by brevet, from April 9, 1865.
Lieutenant Colonel John B. Howard, assistant quartermaster, U. S. Volunteers, to be colonel by brevet, from April 9, 1865.
Very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
E. O. C. ORD,
Major-General, U. S. Volunteers.
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES,
Washington, D. C., June 5, 1865.
Approved and respectfully forwarded to the Secretary of War.
U. S. GRANT,
JUNE 5, 1865.
EDWIN M STANTON,
Secretary of War.
- 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. 1160-1164 ↩