No. 154. Reports of Bvt. Major General John F. Hartranft, U. S. Army, commanding Third Division, of operations February 5-10 and March 25.1
HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, NINTH ARMY CORPS,
February 13, 1865.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my command in the late movement on the left, in the vicinity of Hatcher’s Run:
In obedience to orders received near 3 p.m., 5th instant, I moved my command as soon as possible, the whole division being on the march in light order by 4 p.m. At 8 p.m. I reported to Major-General Humphreys, commanding Second Army Corps, some two miles down the Vaughan Road from Fort Siebert, with my command in good order, having made the march very rapidly, and, as I believe, without a straggler. General Humphreys placed me in position on his immediate right, with orders to entrench myself during the night; my right rested a few rods in front of the Claypole house, the left on a wide, impenetrable swamp which covered the right of the Second Corps, the general direction of my line being nearly north and south. At daylight on the 6th instant the command had a good line of works 1,000 yards in length, joined on the right by a line constructed by the First Division, Sixth Army Corps. Near 10 a.m. I received orders from General Humphreys to send out a regiment on a reconnaissance, with instructions to move by way of the Smith and Hawks houses, and ascertain, if possible, the position and force of the enemy outside of their main works with the view of attacking him in force if found. I ordered out the Two hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel McCall, commanding, under charge of Captain Watts, one of my staff officers, who was well acquainted with the various roads in the vicinity as well as the position of the enemy’s main line. This officer soon reported that there was no enemy in my front outside of their works, except the usual pickets, who occupied their customary pits, when, in obedience to orders from General Humphreys, the party were ordered to return to the division. At 2 p.m. I received orders to at once relieve General Wheaton’s division of the Sixth Corps from the line on my right, and hold the extended works from my present left to the vicinity of Fort Cummings. By placing my reserve regiments on the line, I still had a reasonably strong one. Large details were immediately sent out to slash the timber in front.
February 7, the slashing was continued with all the available axes. At 1 p.m. I received orders to hold 1,500 men in readiness to move promptly to the support of Major-General Warren, Fifth Corps, in the event of its being absolutely necessary. I ordered Colonel Diven, commanding a First Brigade, to call in all details and hold his brigade ready to move promptly in answer to such a call, the axes in his possession being transferred to the Second Brigade, which sent out an additional detail to keep them occupied.
February 8,9 and 10 were occupied in opening and building roads. At 7 p.m., 10th instant, I received orders from General Humphreys, relieving my command from duty with the Second Army Corps. The command moved at 8 o’clock, reaching camp between 11 and 12 o’clock the same night.
Although the command did not become engaged with the enemy, yet they performed all labors and marches with the utmost promptness, each and all seeming willing and anxious to do what was required of them.
I have the honor to be, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. F. HARTRANFT,
Lieutenant Colonel P. M. LYDIG,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Ninth Army Corps.
HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, NINTH ARMY CORPS,
April 14, 1865.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my command in the repulse of the enemy at Fort Stedman on the morning of the 25th of March ultimo:
Immediately upon hearing the alarm on the right of the line, which was about 4.30 a.m., Captain Dalien, of my staff, who was on duty as staff officer of the day, was sent from my headquarters, which were at the Avery house, to Colonel Harriman and Brigadier-General McLaughlen, commanding brigades in the First Division, and ascertain the cause of the alarm; at the same time orders were sent to my brigade commanders, and their commands were under arms ready for any emergency. The position of my division, which consists of two brigades, was as follows: One regiment, the Two hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteers, near the Dunn House Battery; the Two hundred and ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers, at Meade’s Station; the Two hundred and eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, on the right of the Avery house; the Two hundred and fifth and Two hundred and seventh Regiments Pennsylvania Volunteers, on the army line railroad, near Fort Prescott, and the Two hundred and eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, near the railroad, about half way between Forts Alex. Hays and Howard. At 5.10 a.m. Captain Daline returned to headquarters with a dispatch from General McLaughlen’s headquarters, and of which the following is a copy:
HEADQUARTERS THIRD BRIGADE, FIRST DIVISION, NINTH ARMY CORPS,
March 25, 1865.
GENERAL: The enemy have attacked our lines and carried a portion of its works (from Battery 11 and Stedman to the right). They are now moving towards the Appomattox. General on the lines.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
A few moments afterward I received dispatch from Major-General Parke, of which the following is a copy:
HEADQUARTERS NINTH ARMY CORPS,
March 25, 1865-5.15 a.m.
GENERAL: The general commanding directs that you move the brigade at Meade’s Station to re-enforce General Willcox, in order to recapture a battery reported to be taken by the enemy on his front and near Fort Stedman.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. L. VAN BUREN,
Brevet Colonel and Aide-de-Camp.
I immediately started in person to the right, and at the same time ordered the Two hundred and eighth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers to report to General McLaughlen. I then went to communicate with Major-General Willcox, commanding First Division, whose headquarters were at the Friend house. I found the Two hundred and ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers moving toward General Willcox’s headquarters and the Two hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteers had already moved out of camp and had halted with the right resting near the Dunn House Battery. This was done by the order of Major-General Willcox, the regiment having had directions to obey the orders of General Willcox in case of an attack, to avoid delay, the distance to my headquarters being so great owing to the length of the line covered by my command. I asked General Willcox to send one of his staff to direct the Two hundred and ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and he designated Captain Brackett, aide-de-camp, to perform this duty, who led the regiment by the flank down the road to the left of the Friend house. It was now sufficiently light to see the enemy’s skirmishers advancing from the rear and our right of Fort Stedman toward the ravine and covering the main road leading from Stedman to the Ninth Corps hospitals. Seeing this movement of the enemy’s skirmishers, and finding a small party of men from the Fifty-seventh Massachusetts Volunteers in front of the Two hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteers, under command of a captain, engaging them, and from whom I ascertained that this detachment had been driven its camp and that all that was left of the regiment had been rallied at that point, I ordered his detachment to move forward to its old camp, and I immediately his detachment to move forward to its old camp, and I immediately advanced the Two hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteers to the camp of the Fifty-seventh Massachusetts, in rear of Stedman, without sustaining any very serious damage. The enemy’s line of skirmishers was broken, but he was in force in the left end of of the Fifty-seventh Massachusetts camp, on the road running in rear of Stedman and in a line of works running about parallel with our line. I sent Major Shorkley, of my staff, to bring up the Two hundred and ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers to form a connection on the right of the Two hundred Pennsylvania Volunteers, and I immediately attacked with the Two hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteers, but finding the enemy too strong and my right suffering very much from a heavy fire from Stedman and the troops in the road, the regiment was forced to retire to an old line of works about forty yards in rear of and to the right of the Fifty-seventh Massachusetts camp. The enemy seeing this regiment retire, I feared that he would take advantage of it and attack me, and I therefore attacked a second time and gained quite a good position. I held this position for about twenty minutes, losing very heavily (the loss in this regiment being about 100 at this point), when the line wavered and fell back to and was rallied on the old line of works from which it had advanced the second time. Here the Two hundred and ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers formed a connection on the right of the Two hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and with the aid of the fire from Battery 9, which had opened, and the Twentieth Michigan, which garrisoned this battery, and the Second and Seventeenth Michigan, of the First Division, which covered the ground between the right of the Two hundred and ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers and Battery 9, I had a strong line, which I determined could be held and check any farther advance in this direction, and I therefore ordered the troops to act on the defensive.
I saw that I could accomplish nothing more with the force I had engaged, and having fully satisfied myself that this advance was not a
feint on the part of the enemy, but a serious and determined attack, I dispatched an orderly to bring up my Second Brigade, and I went to confer with General Willcox in regard to the situation. On my way to General Willcox’s headquarters I saw Colonel Loring, of General Parke’s staff, through whom I received an order to place my Second Brigade in position on the hill rear of Stedman, and covering Meade’s Station. I requested him to communicate with General Willcox, and I proceeded to join my Second Brigade. Two regiments of the Second Brigade, the Two hundred and fifth and Two hundred and seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, had already been moved to the right as far as the Avery house, on the double-quick, by Major Bertolette, assistant adjutant-general (who received the order to do so through Colonel Van Buren, aide-de-camp on General Parke’s staff), and were by him conducted through the ravine on the right of the Avery house to a point on the right of General McLaughlen’s headquarters and in the rear of Fort Stedman under cover. I then went to General McLaughlen’s headquarters and found the Two hundred and eight Pennsylvania Volunteers in a good position on the right of his headquarters, left resting near Fort Haskell and facing northward. Several small detachments of the Third Brigade, First Division, mostly from the One hundredth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, numbering, perhaps, 200 men, were formed on the left of the Two hundred and eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers and between it and Fort Haskell. I also found that the reserves of the First Brigade, First Division, had formed a line on the right of and at right angles with the main line held by that brigade. The Two hundred and fifth and Two hundred and seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers were a short distance to the right of the Two hundred and eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and the distance from the left of the Two hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteers to the right of the Second Brigade was probably about 300 yards, which distance was not covered by any troops.
I saw that any further advance on the part of the enemy was impossible under the concentrated infantry fire from the Two hundredth and Two hundred and ninth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers and Batteries 9 and McGilvery on the right, and the Two hundred and fifth, Two hundred and seventh, and Two hundred and eighth Regiments Pennsylvania Volunteers and Fort Haskell on the left, and from the field artillery in position on the hills in rear of Stedman, the fire of which was concentrated on the fort, and covering the open space in rear. This position being so favorable, I did not move the Two hundred and fifth and Two hundred and seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, of the Second Brigade, in position on the hills covering Meade’s Station, as ordered through Colonel Loring, but ordered the Two hundred and eleventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers (which hand ot yet arrived on the ground on account of the great distance from its camp on the left to this point) to take this position. It was now about 7.30 a.m., when I received an order from General Parke, through one of his staff, to retake the line. My plan of attack was as follows: Orders were sent out that an assault would be made by my whole division in fifteen minutes, and that the signal for the assault would be the advance of the Two hundred and eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers from the hill in the rear toward Stedman. Captain Hodgkins was directed to advance with the Second Brigade under Colonel Mathews, Major Bertolette with the Two hundredth and Two hundred and ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers on the right, and as soon as the Two hundred and eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers could be put into position it was advanced toward
Stedman, under the direction of Captain Watts, aide-de-camp, in full view of the enemy. This was done for the purpose of attracting the attention and fire of the enemy, and cover the movement of the balance of the division which was to carry the works. This ruse was a complete success. The enemy, seeing the advance of this regiment, numbering about 600 muskets, in such handsome manner, commenced to waver, when the balance of the division charged with a will, in the most gallant style, and in a moment Stedman, Batteries 11 and 12, and the entire line which had been lost, was recaptured with a large number of prisoners, battle-flags, and small-arms. After the troops had commenced moving to make this assault, I received orders not to make it until a division of the Sixth Army Corps, which was on its way to support me, had arrived, but I saw that the enemy had already commenced to waver, and that success was certain. I, therefore, allowed the lines to charged; besides this, it was doubtful whether I could have communicated with the regiments on the flanks in time to countermand the movement.
From the reports of my subordinate commanders as well as from my own observation, at least 1,500 of the prisoners, and all the battle-flags captured, were taken by and passed to the rear through the lines of my division, but were afterward collected by other troops, while but about 770 prisoners and one battle-flag were credited to my command. The officers and men were so eager to regain the lost ground, and regimental commanders so desirous to maintain their several organizations, which had been somewhat broken after charging through the bomb-proofs and old works around the forts, that little or no attention was paid to the trophies of this brilliant victory.
The officers and men of my division, composed entirely of new troops, deserve great credit for their promptness in moving forward to the point of attack, to which in a great measure is owing the success of the day,, and for their gallant conduct throughout the action.
The Two hundredth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel McCall commanding, deserves particular mention. This regiment was put to the severest test, and behaved with the greatest firmness and steadiness. The regiment made two stubborn attacks on the enemy, and when compelled to retire it fell back in good order.
Among the many officers of this command who did their duty I cannot refrain from noticing especially the conduct of Colonel J. A. Mathews, Two hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, commanding Second Brigade, for the promptness in which he moved his command to the scene of action, and for his gallantry in the final assault.
Colonel C. W. Diven, Two hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteers, commanding First Brigade, who went early to General McLaughlen’s headquarters, for the disposition made by him of the Two hundred and eighth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, and other troops near Haskell, which checked the farther advance of the enemy toward the left.
Lieutenant Colonel W. H. H. McCall, commanding Two hundredth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers for his coolness and bravery, and for the skill displayed by him in handling his regiment.
Lieutenant Colonel George W. Frederick and Major John L. Richery, Two hundred and ninth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, who behaved with great gallantry in advancing their regiment and in the final assault.
Lieutenant Colonel M. T. Heintzelman and Captain T. W. Hoffman, Two hundred and eighth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, for their prompt-
Colonel R. C. Cox, commanding Two hundred and seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Major B. M. Morrow, commanding Two hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Captain W. A. Coulter, commanding Two hundredth and eleventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, for promptness and gallantry in the final assault.
Captain F. A. Hoffman, Two hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteers, for his gallantry in attempting to capture a rebel flag, in the act of which he was shot through the hand and knocked down with a musket by the enemy.
Among the enlisted men who distinguished themselves and deserve particular mention are: Private Levi A. Smith, Company E, Two hundredth Pennsylvania Volunteers; Private John J. Levi, Company H, Two hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers; Sergeants Elbridge Stiles and Edward J. Humphreys, Company C, color bearers, Two hundred and ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Private George Dull, Company F, Two hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers.
The following-named enlisted men are reported as having captured colors: Private James Decker, Company D, Two hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers; Corpl. John Fulton, Company B, Two hundred and seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers; Private Charles H. Keinert, Company F, Two hundred and ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Recommendations will be made for medals for these men.
Brevet Brigadier-General Tidball, commanding Artillery Brigade, Ninth Army Corps, was on the ground directing the movements and fire of the artillery.
Colonel Charles G. Loring, Bvt. Colonel J. L. Van Buren, Captain Goddard, and Captain John C. Youngman, of General Parke’s staff, and Captain L. C. Brackett, aide-de-camp to Major-General Willcox, were with me on the field during the action and rendered me valuable services in carrying dispatches.
I cannot speak too highly of the members of my staff-Bvt. Major John D. Bertolette, assistant adjutant-general; Bvt. Major George Shorkley (captain Fifty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers), division inspector (who was wounded in the thigh); Captain William H. Hodgkins, Thirty-sixth Massachusetts Volunteers, assistant commissary of musters; Captain Richard A. Watts, Seventeenth Michigan Volunteers, aide-de-camp; Captain Prosper Dalien, Two hundred and eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers (who was wounded in the breast); Lieutenant Reuben R. Webbert, acting ordnance officer, and Captain Martin G. Hale, provost-marshal-for the prompt, efficient, and most valuable services rendered during the action.
A tabular statement of casualties is hereto appended, together with copies of the reports of brigade commanders and regimental commanders of the First Brigade, to which attention is respectfully invited.
A nominal list of casualties has already been furnished.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
J. F. HARTRANFT,
Lieutenant Colonel P. M. LYDIG,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Ninth Army Corps.
- 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 344-350 ↩