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Petersburg Medals of Honor: A Profitable Reconnoissance



Captain Augustus Merrill, of Company B, First Maine Veteran Infantry, relates in the following interesting manner how sixty-four rebels were captured by a small body of skirmishers:

“After entering the enemy’s works on the morning of April 2, 1865, Lieutenant-Colonel S[tephen]. C. Fletcher, commanding the First Maine Veteran Infantry, ordered me to advance with a few volunteers to ascertain the enemy’s position and strength in our front.

“I took twenty men, deployed them as skirmishers, and advanced through the woods, coming upon an old camp. Here I captured a lieutenant and three men belonging to Hill’s Corps, who informed me that slight resistance would be made ‘this side of Hatcher’s Run.’

“When our line advanced I pressed on, meeting no opposition, picking up the rebel stragglers and sending them to the rear, until I reached Hatcher’s Run and found that the enemy were in position on the opposite side. Supposing that the corps was following in that direction, and not having very definite instructions, I determined to dislodge the Confederates from their position if possible. To my left was the bridge over which the telegraph road runs, defended by strong works on the other side. Near the bridge was an old wooden mill. With a small party of men who volunteered for the occasion, and who belonged to five or six different regiments of this corps, I moved along the run to the right through the woods, my left flank on the run. The eagerness of the men induced me to keep on some distance. We came to an old dam, where we discovered indications that a crossing had been made that morning, and immediately moved over by the left flank, the enemy firing a few shots as we crossed. It was a dangerous place; one man fell into the run, but came out safely, however, minus his musket, leaving me fifteen armed men. With these I advanced and captured the skirmish line, firing but a few shots. Guarding the prisoners closely, I moved on and soon came upon a rebel guard surrounding Captain John Tifft, Ninth New York [Heavy] Artillery. We captured the guard and released the captain, making the number of prisoners we had thus far taken sixty-four, mostly Virginia sharpshooters, who told of their various raids on our picket line during the winter, and acted as though they would like to overpower our small squad and march us off. I told them it would be useless to resist, as we had a large force in the rear, and their whole line would be taken. Two of my men then reconnoitered the woods and came to the open field, where they found a line of battle behind the enemy’s works facing the Second Corps. Their left then rested on Hatcher’s Run, we being directly behind them. I took the prisoners across the run and marched them to the rear without being molested by the enemy. The reconnoissance was a complete success in that the information gained proved of much value to our commander.



“Three of the men, who upon my request had volunteered to remain and watch the movements of the enemy, captured five more prisoners, making our total sixty-nine. A receipt for sixty-four was given me by the sergeant of the provost-guard, Second Division, and the three other men got credit for the capture of five.”


Read about even more Medal of Honor winners at the Siege of Petersburg:


  1. Beyer, Walter F. and Keydel, Oscar F. Deeds of Valor: How America’s Heroes Won the Medal of Honor…, Volume 1 (The Perrien – Keydel  Company: 1901), pp. 519-520
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