No. 225. Report of Colonel James C. Briscoe, One hundred and ninety-ninth Pennsylvania Infantry.1
HEADQUARTERS 199TH PENNSYLVANIA VOLUNTEERS,
Appomattox Court-House, Va., April 14, 1865.
LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this regiment during the operations of the army since the 27th ultimo:
At 7 o’clock on the evening of that date the regiment marched with the rest of the command from camp on the New Market road, crossing the James and Appomattox Rivers at Deep Bottom and Broadway Landing, respectively. Halted soon after daylight on the 28th ultimo about two hours, then marched the whole day forward Hatcher’s Run, and bivouacked for the night near Humphreys’ Station, in rear of the Second
Army Corps. Moved out next morning at 4 o’clock and occupied a portion of the line previously held by the First Division, Second Corps. The command remained in this position until the evening of the 1st instant, the men being constantly under arms, one-third of the effective strength on picket, skirmishing continually with the enemy.
At 7 p.m. April 1 the regiment moved to the left, near Hatcher’s Run, and lay during the night under arms, expecting to assault the enemy’s strong works at daylight. About 5 o’clock on the morning of the 2nd instant marched back with great rapidity toward the right, and passing through a portion of the enemy’s line that had been carried by the Sixth Corps, found ourselves about two miles to the south and rear of Petersburg, the enemy still holding possession of a chain of inclosed works, well defended by infantry and artillery, the latter keeping up a brisk shell fire without doing us any damage. It was now about 9 a.m., and, under directions from Colonel T. O. Osborn, I formed line of battle facing north, my right resting on the line of works carried by the Sixth Corps, the Sixty-seventh Ohio Volunteers on my left and the Sixty-second Ohio deployed as skirmishers in front. The line advanced rapidly, the enemy retiring to the shelter of his strong works, and leaving behind in their haste two 12-pounder Napoleon guns and about twenty-five prisoners. Having advanced about a half a mile the command halted, by order of Colonel Osborn, until the rest of the division could get in position. About this time Lieutenant-Colonel West, Sixty-second Ohio, sent back word he was getting out of ammunition, and requested me to strengthen his right. I sent forward Company F, under Captain I. E. Myers, for that purpose, and shortly afterward, by Colonel Osborn’s direction, sent Captain W. C. Craven’s company (E) to the same point to dislodge some of the enemy’s sharpshooters, who were becoming very troublesome. Our line now rested at a point about 800 yards distant from Fort Gregg, a very difficult swamp between us and the fort, and the whole intervening space swept by the enemy’s musketry and artillery fire. About noon we received orders to attack and carry the fort, and the whole line advanced, in good style. The ground in front of the southeast salient of the work forms a perfect natural glaces for about 300 yards; passing over this space my regiment suffered its severest loss-canister, shot, and minie bullets tore through the ranks, yet not a man faltered. I was struck down by a flanking ball about seventy-five yards from the work, and although I lost but a moment in recovering myself, the men were already in the moat and chambering up the exterior slope; were fighting hand to hand across the parapet, the enemy refusing to surrender, though surrounded on all sides. This sort of thing lasted nearly twenty minutes, when we finally burst over the parapet and the fort was ours.
In this affair Captain Patrick O’ Murphy and First Lieutenant Robert McMillan were killed; Captains Gregory and Bippers and Lieutenants Williams, Patton, and Ellision were wounded; 14 enlisted men killed and 60 wounded, several of whom have since died.
Having carried their principal work by assault, the enemy immediately evacuated the redoubt on the left, and during the night abandoned their entire line, leaving Petersburg in our possession.
At 8 o’clock on the morning of the 3rd the command marched toward Lynchburg and bivouacked for the night, north of the road, about eighteen miles from Petersburg. Marched next day, the 4th instant, to Wilson’s Station, halting at Ford’s Station for dinner. On the 5th marched, via Nottoway Court-House, to Burke’s Station, arriving after a long and tedious march of twenty-five miles at 11 p.m. The following
morning formed line of battle west of the station, and about 1 p.m. marched toward Rice’s Station, where we found Gordon’s corps in line and throwing up entrenchments to oppose us at the station. I formed line of battle on the left of the Sixty-second Ohio Volunteers and advanced, a short distance, driving in the enemy’s sharpshooters, under a severe musketry and shell fire; halted at the Phillips house, about one mile southeast of the station, and remained under arms during the night. In this skirmish Captain Oliver C. Gregory and three enlisted men were wounded.
During night the enemy retired, and we followed after daylight, our skirmishers, under Lieutenant Colonel R. P. Hughes, being constantly engaged and taking several prisoners. At Sandy River General Crook’s cavalry division came up on our right, and advancing to Bush River we found the enemy inclined to dispute the passage. Under Colonel Osborn’s directions I formed my regiment in line on the left if the road and advanced to the river, with the Sixty-second Ohio Volunteers, on my left and the Thirty-ninth Illinois supporting. Having received permission from Colonel Osborn I crossed the river and formed line on the left of the cavalry. I then deployed Companies E and I, under Captains Craven and Blanchard, to cover my left and front, and receiving an order from Major-General Crook to charge I advanced in line to the edge of the woods on top of the hill in my front, the enemy falling back before my skirmishers. At this point I received an order from General Foster to remain where I was. In about half an hour the rest of the brigade moved up, and the column marched without further opposition to Farmville, arriving about 5 p.m., and camped for the night west of the town. At the crossing of Bush River I lost 1 enlisted man killed and 4 wounded.
Next morning, the 8th instant, marched at 6 a.m., and at midnight halted a short distance from Appomattox Station until 4 a.m. of the 9th instant. The men were very much fatigued, weary, and foot-sore, yet not a murmur was uttered as they fell in again for the march, none of them having had breakfast and but a few had had anything to east since noon of the previous days, as they were too tired after their thirty miles march to do anything save sink down beside their gun stacks and take the short sleep allowed them. Pushing on for a couple of miles, the command halted for breakfast, and again moved forward rapidly, passing at double-quick through Sheridan’s cavalry camps. We arrived on the extreme left in time to check what seemed very like a rout of a brigade of cavalry; coming into line very quickly, though much encumbered by demoralized cavalrymen breaking through my ranks, I charged, under Colonel Osborn’s orders, with the Thirty-ninth Illinois Volunteers, on my right, the Sixty-second Ohio on the left, and the Sixty-seventh Ohio in reserve. The men advanced with great ardor through the woods for about one-third of a mile, until we reached the open ground. Here I endeavored to check the regiment until the enemy’s line could be developed by our skirmishers, but the excitement was so great that my regiment and the Thirty-ninth Illinois could not be halted, until a discharge of canister from a battery 300 yards in front brought them to their senses. I gave the order to lie down, and at that moment another battery, about 400 yards on my right, poured in an enfilade fire with spherical case. In a minute or two I lost 5 enlisted men killed and 20 wounded. The enemy fired a few rounds, and were beginning to get a most accurate range, which would have had a murderous effect on my men, when Colonel Osborn directed me to withdraw behind a crest in the edge of the woods. The enemy, perceiving this
movement, redoubled his efforts, and the bursting of case-shot from his guns, together with musketry fire from the left, for a time rendered it impossible to reform the whole regiment. Two companies, E and K, under Captains Craven and Eckels, did not hear the order to fall back and advancing as skirmishers compelled the enemy to withdraw his artillery, these companies actually capturing one 2-pounder gun, while the rest of the command was retiring. Having reformed the balance of the regiment, under orders from General Foster I again advanced and found no enemy. Changing direction to the left the command moved about 600 yards in that direction, when intelligence was received that General Lee had surrendered. Since the regiment has laid in its present camp, and is now in, if possible, better fighting condition than when it left the front of Richmond.
I have the honor to submit herewith a list of casualties.*
Of the heroism and endurance of the officers and men of this regiment I cannot speak too highly; a noble spirit of emulation seemed to actuate the entire command. I desire particularly to mention Lieutenant Colonel R. P. Hughes; his gallantry in action and unwearied services on the march entitle him to the highest praise. First Lieutenant Oliver Sproul distinguished himself at Fort Gregg by seizing the colors of the Thirty-ninth Illinois Regiment, when the color-bearer was shot down, and was the first, in my opinion, to plant the stars and stripes on the parapet.
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
J. C. BRISCOE,
Colonel, Commanding 199th Pennsylvania Volunteers.
Lieutenant LE ROY DOWD, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
* Embodied in table, p. 594.
- 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. 1189-1192 ↩