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OR XLVI P1 #270: Report of Brigadier General William N. Pendleton, Chief of Artillery, ANV, April 1-9, 1865

No. 270. Report of Brigadier General William N. Pendleton, C. S. Army, Chief of Artillery.1

April 10, 1865-Day after surrender.

COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the artillery under my command from the 1st day of April to the present time. Much to my regret it has to be made without possible access, as it will be seen from the circumstances of the case, to special reports from those superior officers of this important arm- General A. L. Long, chief of artillery, Second Corps; General E. P. Alexander, chief of artillery, First Corps: and General R. L. Walker, chief of artillery, Third Corps:

Owing to demonstrations of the enemy on the right of our lines near Petersburg on the morning of the 1st April, I ordered seven guns of Poague’s battalion, which had been held in reserve near Howlett’s, to march to Petersburg, and on the night of the 1st, by direction of the commanding general, I ordered the remainder of the battalion down; at the same time ordered the guns which had arrived during the day to proceed on the road toward the right, so as to be out of sight of the tower by dawn. Those guns were used with good effect near Mr. Turnbull’s house [General Lee’s headquarters] on the morning of the 2nd, where the enemy had unexpectedly massed a heavy force against the opposite portion of our line and succeeded in breaking it, and then sweeping down toward the city, captured a number of men and guns along the line. While these guns were well contesting the ground and holding the enemy in check, Lieutenant-Colonel Poague arrived with the remainder of his guns, and rendered admirable service in retarding the heavy advance of the enemy until such troops as remained could be withdrawn into the interior line. Three pieces with Major Brander were placed on the north side of the Appomattox, so as to annoy the left flank of the enemy and prevent him from crossing. On the line and to the right of the Cox road were placed four pieces of the horse artillery under Lieutenant-Colonel Chew and Major Breathed. The enemy had by this time, 12 o’clock, fully established his line from Fort Gregg to the Appomattox River.

In the fighting attendant upon these operations various batteries of the Third Corps were captured. The conduct of officers and men was worthy of all praise, and that of the drivers and supernumeraries of the artillery, who had been by General Walker armed with muskets, deserves special mention. Those in Fort Gregg fought until literally crushed by numbers, and scarcely a man survived.

In the meantime the firing on Colonel Jones’ front, east of the city, had been severe. During the night of the 1st the fire from mortars and guns was incessant, and the men were very much exposed throughout the 2nd. I saw Colonel Jones on the line about 3 o’clock, and found his pieces so disposed as effectually to prevent any attempt of the enemy to improve the advantage already gained at the Rives’ Salient.

I was at Battery 45 during the day, and directed its guns against columns of the enemy moving down the valley toward the Weldon railroad. The officers in charge of this part of the line deeming an attack imminent, I ordered two pieces of artillery to strengthen the position.

In obedience to orders from the commanding general, I ordered the withdrawal of all the guns at 8 p.m. This was accomplished with

great success, and although the difficulties on Colonel Jones’ line were very great, he succeeded in withdrawing all but about ten, which for the most part were not provided with horses, and not intended to be removed. Several mortars were also brought off. Every piece that was abandoned was first disabled. After making all necessary arrangement with regard to this movement, and seeing all the guns safely across the river, about 2 a.m. on the 3rd I moved on by the Hickory road, marching all night.

The march on the 3rd was fatiguing, and very slow, on account of the immense number of carriages with the army. At night I bivouacked on the roadside about nine miles from Goode’s Bridge.

I reached Amelia Court-House on the morning of the 4th, and immediately proceeded to make arrangements for reducing the artillery with the troops to a proportionate quantity, and properly to dispose of the surplus. These arrangements were at last effected; and on the 5th General Walker moved to the right and west of the line of march of the army, having in charge all the artillery not needed with the troops. Ninety-five caissons, mostly loaded, which had early in the winter been sent to the rear from Petersburg, were here destroyed.

Moving on past Amelia Springs, by 10 o’clock the next morning [6th] we reached Rice’s Station, on the South Side Railroad. Our troops here went into line, and I chose positions for guns commanding the Burkeville road and sweeping the ground to its left. On this line there was heavy skirmishing during the evening, but no attack by the enemy. The enemy’s cavalry meanwhile having attacked our wagon train about two miles back on the road, I [happening to be with the commanding general when he received information of this] was requested by him to see what could be done to prevent any further loss in that quarter. On the way I met a few wearied men of Harris’ brigade, and taking from them some twenty volunteers proceed with them to the road where the train had been attacked. While attempting to rescue some of the property most valuable, I discovered a line of the enemy in a thick pine wood, and supposing it to be but a small body I arranged for an attack upon them [with] one of General Cooke’s regiments, which had just reported to me in consequence of a message previously sent to the commanding general. This regiment was unable to hold its ground, and fell back some half a mile on the same road, until re-enforced by two regiments of cavalry. They then again moved forward, but after regaining the original advanced position the infantry was recalled by General Cooke, and the cavalry, by my direction, fell back with some few prisoners they had secured. The enemy meantime had fired our train to prevent us from saving anything. The enemy now seemed disposed to quiet, and nothing apparently remaining to be accomplished by the small force with me, I directed it slowly to withdraw toward our main body near the station, and returned myself in that direction. Not long after the enemy made a sudden rush, and succeeded for a time in running over our small cavalry force, and threatening the unprotected rear of our line; our cavalry regiment, however, speedily rallied and charged in turn, and inflicted merited punishment upon their greatly outnumbering assailants. Shortly after night closed our guns were withdrawn, and we moved on the Farmville road, reaching Farmville early on the morning of the 7th.

As we were leaving Farmville by the bridge there crossing the Appomattox, the enemy pressed up close after our rear guard, and guns were placed in position and used to good purpose on the heights north of the river. Guns were again used with effect a mile or two farther

on, when General Gordon [then commanding Second Corps, with the justly honored General A. L. Long, his chief of artillery] pressed back the enemy’s line near the road along which all our wagons were passing, so as to allow these to get well on their way. This position was held all day, and it was not until midnight that the column moved on the road toward Buckingham Court-House. In spite of the terrible roads quite a long march was effected, and the evening of the 8th saw the head of our column near Appomattox Court-House. I pushed on in person to communicate with General Walker, and found him with his command parked about two miles beyond the Court-House on the road to Appomattox Station, South Side Railroad. While I was with him an attack wholly unexpected was made by the enemy on his defenseless camp. To avert immediate disaster from this attack demanded the exercise of all our energies. It was, however, at once effectually repelled by the aid especially of the two gallant artillery companies of Captains Walker and Dickenson, under command of the former, which, being at the time unequipped as artillerists, were armed with muskets as a guard. They met the enemy’s sharpshooters in a brush-wood near, and enabled a number of General Walker’s pieces to play with effect while the remainder of his train was withdrawn. After a sharp skirmish this attack seemed remedied, and I started back, having received by courier a note requesting my present with the commanding general. When I had reached a point a few hundred yards from the court-house, the enemy’s cavalry, which had under cover of dusk gained the road, came rushing along, firing upon all in the road, and I only escaped being shot or captured by leaping my horse over the fence and skirting for some distance along the left of that road toward our column then advancing, and until I reached operations were in progress there was much noise of engines upon the South Side Railroad. From this circumstance, and from the enemy’s using artillery in the attack above described, I became satisfied that the attacking body, which had at first seemed to me small, was a large and accumulating force, and the inference became inevitable that General Walker and his guns must be, if they had not already been, captured. These facts and inferences were reported to the commanding general on my reaching his headquarters about 1 a.m. of the 9th.

Movements at daylight confirmed all that had been thus inferred. The enemy was found in heavy force on our front, and dispositions were promptly made for a fierce encounter. The artillery participated with alacrity, with cavalry and infantry, in a spirited attack upon the enemy’s advancing columns, and promptly succeeded in arresting their advance. Two guns were captured from thee enemy and a number of prisoners taken; but in spite of this the conviction had become established in the minds of a large majority of our best officers and men that the army, in its extremely reduced state, could not be extricated from its perilous condition, surrounded by the immense force of the enemy, and without subsistence for men or animals, unless with frightful bloodshed, and to scarcely any possible purpose, as its remnant, if thus rescued, must be too much enfeebled for efficient service. In view of these convictions, known of in part by him, and of all the facts before his own mind, the commanding general, before the battle had raged extensively, made arrangements for arresting hostilities. By the respective commanders-in-chief main principles of our surrender were then agreed upon, and as soon thereafter as practicable articles in detail were adjusted by a commission of officers on both sides. Those serving under General Lee’s

appointment were General Longstreet, chief of First Corps, General Gordon, chief of Second Corps, and the general chief of artillery. In accordance with stipulations thus adjusted, the artillery was withdrawn, as were the other troops, and it was, as soon as practicable, in due form turned over to the enemy. Of 250 field pieces belonging to the army on the lines near Richmond and Petersburg, only sixty-one remained, and thirteen caissons.

I have the honor to be, respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General and Chief of Artillery.

Lieutenant Colonel W. H. TAYLOR,
Assistant Adjutant-General.


  1. 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. 1280-1283
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