No. 253. Report of Colonel James Shaw, jr., Seventh U. S. Colored Troops, commanding First Brigade.1
HDQRS. FIRST BRIG., SECOND DIV., 25TH ARMY CORPS,
Near Petersburg, Va., April 26, 1865.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to make the following report of the movements of this brigade during the last campaign:
On the 27th of March the Seventh, One hundred and ninth, and One hundred and sixteenth Regiments U. S. Colored Troops (One hundred and fifteenth U. S. Colored Troops remaining in camp, having a few days before been removed from Fort Burnham and lines in its vicinity that we had occupied during the winter to a position a mile in the rear), broke camp at dark, crossed the James and Appomattox Rivers, and marched to the extreme left of the lines of the Army of the Potomac, near Hatcher’s
Run, where we arrived at noon on the 29th instant. On the 30th we changed our position, but still remained in the works. On the 31st our lines were advanced to within a few hundred yards of the rebel works and I was ordered to form for an attack. These orders (given by General Birney) were countermanded, and during that day and the following one (April 1) we remained in the same position, being shelled occasionally by the enemy, but without result.
Early in the morning of April 2 heavy firing was hear don our right and we again formed for attack, but the lines of the enemy had been broken by the Sixth Army Corps, their right had been turned by the Second and Fifth Corps and the cavalry, and they were deserting the works in our front. We advanced, crossed the lines in our front, and, moving to the right, joined the Sixth Army Corps, who had swept the works from their own front to this point. Halting here for a few moments, we then marched toward the city, which was being closely invested by our troops; took up a position on the right of the division, connecting with the Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, under command of General Seymour.
In this position we rested for the night. Early next morning (April 3) I received information the city was being evacuated and order to advance. Deploying a portion of the Seventh U. S. Colored Troops, I advanced on their works, found them entirely deserted, and continued the march toward the city, which I entered with the skirmish line at 5.30 a. m. An hour or two later we were again on the road in pursuit of Lee, marched on the Cox road, and halted for the night near Sutherland’s, ten miles from the city.
April 4, marched at 4 a. m., but by some mistake the division had taken the Namozine instead of the Cox road, and being delayed we marched but seven miles during the a. m. Here I was detached from the division and ordered to return to Sutherland’s with the Seventh and One hundred and ninth U. S. Colored (the One hundred and sixteenth being ordered to report to Colonel Woodward, commanding Third Brigade), and hold that point until the arrival of the First Division, Ninth Army Corps, under General Willcox.
Returning as ordered, I remained until the evening of April 5, when General Willcox arrived and I started to rejoin my division, then two days’ march ahead. At Burkeville I halted for rations and orders and was detained several hours; yet on the 9th I reported to General Turner (General Birney having been relieved) at Appomattox Court-House, having made ninety-six miles in four days, and that without a straggler. We were an hour or two too late to witness the surrender of General Lee and his army, but had done our best to be in time.
On the 10th I received orders to report to Brevet Brigadier-General Jackson, and on the 11th started on our return to Petersburg, which we reached on the evening of Monday, April 17.
The brigade was not at any time actively engaged, though always ready and often expecting it.
The officers and men of my command have during this short campaign, by their endurance of hardships, hard marches, and short rations, shown the true spirit and fortitude of the soldier; they have each and all my hearty thanks.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAMES SHAW, JR.,
Colonel Seventh U. S. Colored Troops, Commanding Brigade.
Captain IRA H. EVANS,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
- 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. 1234-1235 ↩