No. 244. Reports of Brigadier General Thomas M. Harris, U. S. Army, commanding Third Brigade.1
HDQRS. 3rd BRIG., INDEPENDENT DIV., 24TH ARMY CORPS,
In the Field, April 10, 1865.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my command, consisting of the Tenth, Eleventh, and Fifteenth West Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiments, in the operations of the 2nd instant on Hatcher’s Run and in front of Petersburg:
Under order of the general commanding the Independent Division, I assaulted the works of the enemy, at about 7 o’clock in the morning, at the point where his lines begin to refuse on the north bank of Hatcher’s Run, striking them at the fort which defends the angle and from that to the run, a distance of about 300 yards, and carried them successfully without loss on my part, capturing 2 guns, 3 battle-flags, 1 captain, 1 lieutenant, and 28 men, the greater portion of the defending force making good their retreat whilst my men were struggling through a very dense difficult slashing in front of these works, and those who remained surrendering as soon as my men entered the works.
The One hundred and twenty-third Ohio Volunteer Infantry, under Lieutenant-Colonel Kellogg, serving temporarily under my command, having the shortest line in the advance upon the fort, succeeded in securing two of the flags, and is entitled to a large share of the honors of the occasion. We were here met by a staff officer belonging to the Sixth Corps, who came galloping up about the time my men had obtained full possession of the fort. That corps, having broken through the enemy’s works some three miles on our right, and taking him on the flank, had put him to confusion, meeting my command at that point. My command was reformed within twenty minutes, the One hundred and twenty-third Ohio Volunteer Infantry remaining behind in the captured works. I advanced at once within the enemy’s works toward their left, preceded by the First Division, Twenty-fourth Corps, General Foster, a portion of the Sixth Corps also forming as we advanced and marching in a parallel column on our left, meeting with no opposition until within about a mile of the outer chain of forts on the south side of the town of Petersburg, where the enemy had disposed his forces to resist our farther progress. At this point I received an order from Major-General Gibbon direct to support General Foster, who had formed in line of battle a little in advance of me, nd at once formed my command into a supporting line a short distance in his rear. I my I then joined General Foster is reconnoitering the enemy’s position in order to be informed as to my surroundings and to receive his suggestions as to the manner in which I could most effectually carry General Gibbon’s orders into effect.
At General Foster’s suggestion I moved my command by the flank to his left, and here encountering a sharp fire from the enemy’s skirmishers and sharpshooters, as well as experiencing a good deal of annoyance from his shells from a battery that almost enfiladed my column from the left, I changed direction by the right flank and advanced in line a short distance, where I gained cover in a shallow ravine, and here halted and rested my command, now considerably fatigued by a long and rapid march. Shortly after gaining this cover General Foster moved his division first by the left and by the
right flank, and took a position immediately in rear of my line for the purpose of cover and rest. Immediately after gaining this position I threw forward my skirmishers and sharpshooters, the latter armed with the Spencer rifle, and drove the enemy’s advance line some distance, and as soon as my men were rested a little I started on a charge for Fort Whitworth, situated obliquely to my right at a distance of about 600 yards. My command advanced in gallant style, the men cheering and shouting as they ran, and notwithstanding they encountered a perfect storm of rifle-balls from the garrison of the fort (the enemy’s guns having been removed) as also from skirmishers and sharpshooters on my left, succeeded in making a lodgment behind a cluster of small buildings, in which a regiment of the enemy had been lately quartered, at a distance of from 150 to 100 yards of the fort, with a comparatively small loss.
Finding myself now quite in advance of any portion of our lines, I here waited for them to advance, as I could not go farther without receiving an enfilading fire from Fort Gregg, situated about 600 yards to the right of Fort Whitworth, and being also at the same time under the necessity of respecting somewhat the movements of a line of the enemy with a section of artillery that had commenced to form in a position that menaced my left, and apparently for the purpose of taking advantage of my position. During my stay here my command was engaged in pouring a perfect storm of balls into the fort, and succeeded in completely silencing the garrison. I now had the satisfaction of seeing General Foster moving by a right oblique upon Fort Gregg, and the First and Second Brigades, of the Independent Division, under General Turner, coming up against it on his right, and at the same time also to see a division of the Sixth Corps and a battery advancing against the force on my left. I now only waited for this force to advance sufficiently to protect me in an advance, and during this time a most desperate conflict was going on for the possession of Fort Gregg, which finally ended on my left, as the garrison of Fort Whitworth had commenced to leave. Our final charge was now made, my command making an entrance only in time to secure a portion of the garrison. I captured, however, 1 colonel, 1 captain, 2 lieutenants, and 65 men. In addition to these, we found 2 dead and 2 wounded men in the fort. A portion of my command pursued the retreating force, secured a few more prisoners, and a few were picked up by my skirmishers, raising the number to about eighty-five in all. That portion of my command which advanced beyond Fort Whitworth Captured a small redoubt about 200 yards in advance, thus completing the possession of the outer defenses of Petersburg. After resting my command an hour in the fort I proceeded to join the division, by the direction of the general, commanding, on the right of Fort Gregg, thus closing the day’s operations.
The officers and men of my command, almost without exception, displayed great gallantry, endurance, and determination, whilst many rendered themselves conspicuous by their courage and intelligence. Without being invidious I may mention particularly Major Ayers, commanding the Eleventh West Virginia Volunteers, who though a young man, and having risen from the ranks within the lat eight months, has shown himself on all occasions on which he has been tried worthy of especial notice as a most promising young officer, and I beg leave to recommend him for promotion to colonel by brevet, in order that he may continue to command the regiment. Lieutenant-Colonel King having
been absent on leave during all the operations in which his regiment has been engaged since his promotion, he, consequently, not having enjoyed an opportunity to prove his ability to command as has Major Ayers. Lieutenant-Colonel Holliday, commanding the Fifteenth, and Captain Coburn, commanding the Tenth West Virginia, are also worthy of especial mention, he former for bravery bordering on recklessness, the latter for coolness, good judgment, and alacrity in obeying orders. Captain Kirkpatrick and Lieutenant Minter, each commanding a company of sharpshooters, are deserving of especial commendation, and lastly my thanks are due to Captain Gandy and Lieutenant Lazear and Rollyson for their prompt, cheeful, and intelligent performance of their duties as staff officers. Accompanying please find list of casualties.*
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
T. H. HARRIS,
Captain C. H. HURD,
HDQRS. THIRD BRIG., INDEPENDENT DIV., 24TH ARMY CORPS,
April 25, 1865.
CAPTAIN: In compliance with your circular of the 24th instant I have the honor to state that the operations of my command, consisting of the Tenth, Eleventh, and Fifteenth West Virginia Infantry Regiments, since my report of the 2nd instant, have consisted principally in marches, it having marched from Petersburg, via Burkeville Junction, Farmville, and Appomattox Court-House, to Lynchburg, and thence, via Appomattox Court-House, Burkeville, and Amelia Court-House, to Richmond, a distance of over 200 miles.
My command was engaged in a skirmish with a force thrown out by General Lee for the protection of the flank of his retreating army on the evening of the 6th instant, in the vicinity of High Bridge, on the South Side Railroad, and again on the morning of the 9th instant, about a mile west of Appomattox Court-House.
My casualties in these skirmishes were one wounded, viz, Private John Smith, Company F, Eleventh West Virginia, in shoulder.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
T. M. HARRIS,
Captain C. H. HURD,
*Shows 10 men killed and 6 officers and 109 men wounded.
- 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. 1221-1223 ↩