No. 256. Report of Colonel Llewellyn F. Haskell, Forty-first U. S. Colored Troops.1
HEADQUARTERS FORTY-FIRST U. S. COLORED TROOPS,
April 20, 1865.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Forty-first U. S. Colored Troops in the operations resulting in the capture of the rebel Army of Northern Virginia and the return of the regiment to Petersburg:
At dusk on the 27th of March the regiment took its place in the brigade column, and, marching all night, halted at 7.30 a. m. near Birney’s Station for several hours on the morning of the 28th, and bivouacked near Hancock’s Station at 8 p. m. On the 29th the regiment marched to Humphreys’ Station, where it bivouacked at 2 p. m. On the 30th the regiment moved out the rifle-pits at 7 a. m., and back in a heavy rain. At 3.30 p. m. passed through the rifle-pits and formed line at 4 p. m. at the edge of the woods in our front. At dark moved to the rear of Colonel Woodward’s brigade, where 500 men were detailed from the regiment to thrown up rifle-points in our front, from which duty they returned at 1.30 a. m. on the 31st. At daybreak moved back to the first position of yesterday afternoon. It rained hard this morning. From 9.30 a. m. till 12 m. there was brisk skirmishing in our front. The regiment was relieved by the Eighth U. S. Colored Troops at 11 a. m., and moved to the rear, remaining in reserve until 1 p. m., when I moved to the right and commenced a line of rifle-pits at the point wee Colonel Fairchild’s brigade lay. At 6 p. m. the regiment was relieved by the One hundred and sixteenth U. S. Colored Troops. The regiment was paid during the night, and returned to the line at 5 a. m. April 1. At 9 a. m. moved to the right near the place I left last night, and cut a road through the slashing to division headquarters, and continued work on the rifle-pits, remaining here all night. On the 2nd instant, at 8 a. m., moved to the left, and at 8.30 a. m. entered the enemy’s works in our front, which they had just abandoned, then moved to the right inside their works toward Petersburg. At 12.45 p. m. formed in line on the right of the Cox road. At 1.15 p. m. moved to the right, passing the forty captured by the Twenty-fourth Corps, and at 2 p. m. formed line, unsung knapsacks, and prepared to charge Battery Numbers 45, in our front, and lay here under a shell fire for two hours, when we moved back a little and bivouacked for the night.
On the 3rd the men were awakened at 3 a. m., ant at 4.30 a. m. followed the Eighth U. S. Colored Troops (which advanced as skirmishers)
toward the fort in our front, and finding their works abandoned by the enemy I entered them, and turning to the right marched into Petersburg, leaving guards to protect all inhabited houses, by order of General Birney. At 6.15 a. m., having passed through the city, halted close to the river. Started again at 7.30 a. m., and, moving out by the Cox road, bivouacked at 7 p. m. eleven miles from Petersburg. On the 4th the regiment started at 4 a. m., marched all day, and just after dark bivouacked near Spain’s house. On the 5th the regiment was detailed as train guard, and started just after daylight, reaching Blacks and Whites Station at 2.30 p. m., where we bivouacked for the night. On the 6th, starting at 4.45 a. m., at 8.30 a. m. passed through Nottoway Court-House; at 3 p. m. halted at Burkeville one hour for dinner, then marched toward the front till 8.30 a. m., when we bivouacked not far from the High Bridge. On the 7th the regiment was up at 3.30 a. m.; started for the front at daylight; at 6 a. m. halted on General Turner’s left; at 8 a. m. moved forward, and at 8.30 a. m. forded Sandy River; at 10 a. m. crossed another considerable stream, moved to the left in the rain, and stood in it three hours while the other troops were crossing a little stream on logs, and at 5 p. m., after a hard march without dinner, reached Farmville, where we bivouacked for the night. My men were very much fatigued by this day’s march.
On the 8th the regiment was up at .230 a. m.; at 6.30 a. m. passed through Farmville and joined General Foster’s division, Twenty-fourth Army Corps; halted two hours for dinner near Prospect Depot. At 5.30 p. m. passed through Walker’s Church, and leaving here marched till 1.30 a. m. on the 9th instant, when we halted for supper till 3 a. m. near Appomattox Court-House, when we moved to the front, halting at General Sheridan’s headquarters at 5 a. m. for two hours, then moving to the front. We had not marched far before the cavalry, on our right flank (as we marched), were driven in, and the regiment, facing by the rear rank, advanced in line through the strip of wood the cavalry had left, then lay down, and sent A and one platoon of F Company to the front as skirmishers. They advanced, driving the enemy from the fields in our front, and crossing them, they held the edge of the woods on the farther side for an hour, until order to rejoin the regiment, when relieved by General Turner’s skirmishers. They behaved very handsomely. At 9.30 a. m. moved to the left and formed part of the second line of General Foster’s division, and followed the movements of his first line until 11 a. m., when we heard that General Lee had surrendered, and moving a little to the right remained here all night. April 10, remained in camp all this rainy day. On the 11th, starting at 5 a. m., passed through Appomattox Court-House at 6 a. m.; at 6 p. m. bivouacked at Prospect Depot. On the 12th, starting at 7 a. m., at 3 p. m. passed through Farmville in the cadenced step, and bivouacked near the High Brigade at dark. On the 12th, starting at 7 a. m about nine miles from Burkeville. On the 14th, starting at 7. 30 a. m., at 11 a. m. passed thorough Burkeville, and at 6 p. m. bivouacked two miles and a half from the junction. On the 15th, starting at 7 a. m., in a heavy rainstorm, at 1.45 [p. m] we passed through Nottoway Court-House, and at 4 p. m. bivouacked five miles from this little town. On the 16th, starting at 7.45 a. m., we bivouacked at 6.30 p. m. at Ford’s Station. On the 17th Major Cheney and six companies of the regiment were detailed as train guard. Starting with the other four companies at 7.45 a. m., I bivouacked near the signal tower, just inside our old lines, three miles from Petersburg, at 7.30 p. m.
Both officers and men deserve my hearty commendation for their excellent soldierly behavior upon these long and often very fatiguing force marches, notwithstanding the loss of much sleep and frequently being on short rations, as well as upon the several occasions when the regiment was under fire.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
LEWELLYN F. HASKELL,
Colonel Forty-fifth U. S. Colored Troops.
Lieutenant JAMES M. LYON,
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. 1238-1240 ↩