No. 214. Report of Bvt. Brigadier General Peter S. Michie, U. S. Army, Chief Engineer.1
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA,
Richmond, Va., May 12, 1865.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the engineering operations of the Army of the James during the campaign commencing March 27 and ending April 9, 1865:
My engineer force consisted of two battalions: First New York Volunteers Engineers, each of four companies, commanded by Bvt. Brigadier General James F. Hall, colonel First New York Volunteers Engineers; two companies heavy artillery, acting pontoniers; one company infantry, acting pontoniers, commanded by Captain James W. Lyon, Fourth Rhode Island Volunteers, chief pontonier Army of the James. Two companies of engineers and about one-half of the pontoniers were ordered to report to Bvt. Captain W. R. King, U. S. Engineers, assistant engineer, for duty with General Weitzel’s command. Captain King was placed in charge of engineer operations north of the James, who reports operations briefly as follows, viz:
Marched into Richmond with engineer troops on 3rd April and aided in stopping progress of the fire. Began to build a defensive line, until the news of Lee’s surrender stopped its progress. Built pontoon bridge across the James River, connecting Richmond and Manchester. The engineer force with the moving column of the army marched generally thus: Two companies, commanded by a field officer, to repair roads in advance, and the remainder following the leading division of infantry. There was a tool train of ten wagons, which followed the reserve engineer force. During the entire march General Hall reports having repaired and built twelve bridges and over twenty miles of road.
Pontoons.-The pontoon trains moved generally with the headquarters trains, and kept well up, causing no delay. The train consisted of fifteen canvas boats and four trestles, or 380 feet of bridge material, comprising in all a train of thirty-two wagons, including eight wagons for forage, one for spare chess, and one forge.
Topography.-My force consisted of Lieutenants Buckland and Brown, First New York Volunteer Engineers, and Lieutenant Hamberg, Twenty-third U. S. Colored Troops, who proceeded the column, and obtained information respecting roads and other matters useful to the army.
On the 29th of March we occupied the left of old entrenched line of the Army of the Potomac in front of Hatcher’s Run. On the 30th of March a new line was established by the advance of the Twenty-fourth Army Corps, the rebel pickets being driven back into their entrenchments. During the night an advance of 400 yards was made, and a strong position secured-Turner’s division connected with the Second Corps by a bridge built across Hatcher’s Run by my pontoniers; Foster was on his right; and Birney’s division, of the Twenty-fifth Army Corps, connected Foster with the left of the Sixth Army Corps, still in their entrenched line. The ground here was difficult to move over, being covered with brush and scrub timber, and so spongy from recent rains that it would not bear a horse. A line of entrenchments was constructed and a position secured for a battery of artillery, which commanded the rebel batteries in front, and which afterward ended in the advance of our troops on the morning of the 2nd of April.
On the 2nd I went, by your direction, to establish a line of defense, if it became necessary, and reported to General Gibbon. Finding that the success gained by our forces was complete I ordered the engineer troops to move at once, following the infantry. By direction of General
Gibbon I assumed command of two batteries of artillery belonging to the Sixth Corps and left in the old entrenched line, and used them against the enemy, who had thrown strong garrison into Forts Gregg and Baldwin behind their line of continuous works. This prevented their retreat or re-enforcement, and as occasion offered I pushed them nearer and nearer, using them until the capture of the works by our forces. Captain Henry A. Vezin, Fifth Pennsylvania Cavalry, assistant engineer, was with me and did excellent service during this part of the engagement. During the afternoon, by order of General Gibbon, I posted the troops of General Birney’s division so as to make a connection from General Seymour’s (Sixth Army Corps) division, on the right, to Turner’s (Twenty-fourth Army Corps), on the left. During the night detachments of engineers were put to work building batteries along the line, according to your order. Nothing of importance occurred as regards this branch of the service during the rapid march which was made after the rebel army. At Farmville we had the honor of having our pontoon trains first up, so that we were enabled to pass over the trains and artillery of the Second and Sixth Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, although the pontoon trains of that army were better equipped, lighter loaded, possession other advantages over the pontoon trains of our army. The whole engineer command behaved with great credit, and though they were small in numbers they have never been called on in vain. Their duties have been performed quietly, yet effectively and promptly.
I beg leave to mention favorably Brevet Brigadier-General Hall, colonel First New York Volunteers Engineers, who has been untiring in his efforts to carry out my orders and wishes; Lieutenant Franks, Company K, First New York Volunteers Engineers, for zeal and faithful performance of duties; and Lieutenant Buckland, for valuable assistance in the topographical department.
I beg leave to submit to your favorable consideration the following recommendation for promotion, viz: Bvt. Captain William R. King, U. S. Engineers, to be brevet major, U. S. Army, to date from April 9, 1865, for eminent services as engineers officer during this campaign. To his ability we owe many improvements in our works, which have reflected credit upon the profession. Captain Henry A. Vezin, Fifth Pennsylvania Cavalry, U. S. Volunteers, acting assistant engineer, to be brevet major, U. S. Volunteers, to date from January 1, 1865, and brevet lieutenant-colonel, U. S. Volunteers, to date from April 9, 1865, for gallant and meritorious services as my assistant during this campaign, and for gallant conduct on the 2nd of April, 1865. Captain James W. Lyon, Fourth Rhode Island Volunteers, chief pontonier Army of the James, to be brevet major, U. S. Volunteers, to date from February 1, 1865, for excessive energy in the organization of his trains for the campaign, and for excellent service with his bridges during the recent freshest of the James River; to be brevet lieutenant-colonel, U. S. Volunteers, to date from April 3, 1865, for meritorious services in forwarding his trains under difficulties greater than that of all others, so that our army was enabled to aid two corps of the Army of the Potomac to cross the river at Farmville to follow in close pursuit of the enemy. Captain Charles B. Parsons, First New York Volunteer Engineers, to be brevet major, U. S. Volunteers, to date from April 9, 1865, for meritorious services during the campaign. Second Lieutenant Joseph Morris, One hundred and twenty-seventh U. S. Colored Troops, to be brevet first lieutenant, U. S. Volunteers, to date from April 1, 1865, for meritorious
services and energy displayed as acting assistant quartermaster, engineer department, in the equipment of trains, which enabled us to move so readily.
I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
PETER S. MICHIE,
Brevet Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers,
Chief Engineer Department Virginia and Army of the James.
Commanding Department of Virginia and Army of the James.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA,
June 2, 1865.
The recommendations for promotion to brevet major and first lieutenant of Captain William R. King, U. S. Engineers; Captain H. A. Vezin, Fifth Pennsylvania Cavalry, U. S. Volunteers; Captain J. W. Lyon, Fourth Rhode Island Infantry Volunteers; Captain Parsons, First New York Volunteer Engineers; Second Lieutenant Joseph Morris, One hundred and twenty-seventh U. S. Colored Troops, are approved and cordially recommended.
E. O. C. ORD,
- 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. 1165-1167 ↩