No. 144. Report of Bvt. Brigadier General Napoleon B. McLaughlen, Fifty-seventh Massachusetts Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations March 25.1
Annapolis, Md., April 4, 1865.
MAJOR: I have the honor to report the part taken by me in the fight at Fort Stedman March 25, until captured, which occurred just before daylight.
On hearing the noise of the attack that morning, I awoke my staff and dispatched them to various parts of the line to get the troops under arms, and proceeded myself to to Fort Haskell, garrisoned by a battalion of the Fourteenth New York Heavy Artillery, whom I found on the alert and ready to resist an attack. I then turned down the line to the right, passing the One hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteers, who were already in their works, and Battery 12, finding everything right, and reached the mortar battery Numbers 11, in which were no guns, and which was occupied by the Twenty-ninth Massachusetts Veteran Volunteers. Here I found Major Richardson, of that regiment, who told me that the battery was in the enemy’s hands, and that his command had just been driven from it. I at once sent orders to the Fifty-ninth Massachusetts Veteran Volunteers, the only regiment of my brigade not in the line of works, to report to me at double-quick, and to Battery 12 to turn their mortars on Battery 11, which was done, three shots being fired. On the arrival of the Fifty-ninth I put them into the work with fixed bayonets and recaptured it at once. Supposing that I had restored the only break in the line, I crossed the parapet into Fort Stedman on the right, and meeting some men coming over the curtains, whom in the darkness I supposed to be a part of the picket, I established them inside the work, giving directions with regard to position and firing, all of which were instantly obeyed. In a few minutes I saw a man crossing the parapet, whose uniform in the dawning light I recognized to be the enemy’s, and
I halted him, asking his regiment. This called attention to myself, and the next moment, I was surrounded by the rebels, whom I had supposed to be my men, and sent to the rear, where I found General Gordon, to whom I delivered my sword, and was sent by him to Petersburg. While standing by General Gordon four brigades moved forward toward our works, their commanders reporting to him. While there Captain Swords, of the First Division staff, was brought up, having been captured in Fort Stedman, where he had been directed in search of me, and also Lieutenant Sturgis, of my staff, whom I h ad sent to the left and ordered to report to me at Fort Stedman.
From Petersburg I was sent by rail the same day to the Libby Prison at Richmond, Va., and remained there until the afternoon of April 2, when I, with the other officers confined there, was paroled and sent to this place via Fortress Monroe, where we arrived this morning. There were 16 officers of my brigade captured besides myself, and about 480 enlisted men, all of whom are paroled. I have not the slightest fault to find with any of the troops of my command. All were vigilant and on the alert, both officers and men, and all was done that lay within the bounds of possibility. The enemy, aware of the recent order allowing deserters to bring in their arms, approached my picket-line under that disguise, in small squads, and thus surprised the pickets, capturing them without any alarm being given. I would say, further, that I have personal knowledge that there were three divisions massed to break my brigade line, those of Johnson and Gordon making the attack, and the third being held in reserve, with cavalry and batteries in support.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
N. B. McLAUGHLEN,
Bvt. Brigadier General U. S. V., Commanding 3rd Brigadier, 1st Div., 9th Army Corps.
Bvt. Major WILLIAM V. RICHARDS,
A. A. A. G., First Div., 9th Army Corps, before Petersburg, Va.
- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XLVI, Part 1 (Serial Number 95), pages 331-332 ↩