5 - The "Overland" Campaign (Series I, Volume 36 and Series I, Volume 40)



No 165: Report of Brig. Gen. Daniel D. Bidwell, U.S. Army, commanding Third Brigade. August 20, 1864


Sir: In compliance with orders, I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of the brigade since May 4, 1864:

I.

On the morning of the 5th May General Sedgwick, finding the enemy were in force on a road leading from Robertson's Tavern into the Germanna plank road, ordered this brigade deployed and advanced on that road. We drove the enemy for about 2 miles, when we came on an intrenched line supported by artillery. Shortly after we had arrived at this point the enemy advanced a brigade, charging our extreme right regiment, but they were repulsed by the Forty-ninth New York Volunteers and Seventh Maine, we taking a number of prisoners and cutting off one of their regiments, which was captured by the Fifth Wisconsin Volunteers. Later in the day we made a vigorous attempt to advance our lines, but owing to the strength of the enemy's position failed to accomplish the object.

At 4:30 a.m. on the morning of the 6th we were again ordered to advance and dislodge them, if possible. During the night our line had been strengthened by a portion of the Jersey brigade, and at the appointed hour, we made a vigorous assault, but the enemy having during the night strengthened their position, combined with the natural obstacles in our front of a marsh covered with a heavy growth of thorn bushes, caused us to retire with a heavy loss to the line occupied during the night. About two hours later we were again ordered to advance with the whole line, but could not gain any ground, when an order came to intrench where we were. About half an hour before dark the enemy made a desperate attack on the right of the general line held by a brigade of each of the First and Third Divisions. The Third Division breaking caused the brigade of the First Division also to break, and all fell back on our line. This, with a heavy attack by the enemy in our front, came near sweeping away the brigade, and but for the unflinching bravery of the officers and men would have done so. Our second line changing front to rear protected our flank, and the front line repulsed several attacks of the enemy. This position we held until 12 midnight, when we were ordered to retire by the left flank to a position on the Germanna plank road. In this struggle we lost very heavily in officers and men. On the plank road we took up a new position, and remained until dark of the evening of the 8th, when we took up our march for Spotsylvania Court-House.

II.

We arrived in front of Spotsylvania Court-House about 5 p.m. on the 9th instant. This brigade was deployed on the extreme right of the general line, and ordered to advance with it at a given signal. This we did, breaking the enemy's line, but the brigade on our right failing to advance with us caused us to be isolated. With the enemy on both flanks, and it growing dark, we were ordered to retire to the position we held before charging and intrench. On the morning of the 10th the Forty-ninth New York Volunteers was sent forward, and charged the outer line of the enemy and captured it with a number of prisoners. On the evening of the 10th the brigade joined in the assault on the enemy's line under General Upton and assisted in capturing a large number of prisoners, the Forty-third New York capturing one stand of colors.

On the morning of the 12th we were moved to the rear of the position just captured by General Hancock, and ordered to support a brigade of this division, commanded by Colonel Edwards, at the Angle. The brigade was deployed in line and moved to this point, and two of the regiments, the Forty-ninth and Seventy-seventh New York, charged the Angle and took possession of the crest commanding it, which they held until relieved. The Forty-third New York, Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Seventh Maine were deployed on the right of this position, supporting General Upton's brigade. The first line losing heavily and closing to the left, caused a vacancy, which these three regiments moved into, and where they remained two hours, delivering a musketry fire, and were relieved and removed to the left to the support of a brigade of the Second Corps. The troops which relieved the Forty-ninth and Seventy-seventh New York were driven back, and those two regiments, with a portion of the Vermont brigade, formed and retook the crest. About dark the whole line was withdrawn about 300 yards and went into bivouac for the night. Our loss in officers and men was very heavy in this engagement. On the 13th we remained in this position until dark, when we moved to the Anderson house, and the next day crossed the Ny river. On the evening of the 17th we moved to the position in front of the Angle, where, on the evening of the 18th, the division was formed in four lines of a brigade each. We were in the third line, and it getting light the advance was made without the Third Division to complete their formation. Upon advancing, the Second Corps gave way on our left, and the two front lines obliquing to the left, brought us in the front line, and the Third Division failing to advance exposed to an artillery fire, which took us in reverse, on the flank [and] in front. The line on our left halting, our line was halted, where we remained until withdrawn by orders. In this engagement our loss was heavy and mostly from artillery.

III.

During the epoch designated as the North Anna, this brigade was not engaged, and from that time until we were at Cold Harbor we were not engaged, except slight skirmishing. Upon arriving at Cold Harbor, on the 1st June, this brigade changed front to the left and protected the flank from this attack. On the morning of the 2nd we were moved to the right of the - Corps. joining the Eighteenth Corps and formed in four lines and advanced in an assault on the enemy's lines, which proved so strong that we failed to accomplish anything but advance our lines. Later in the day another assault was tried, with no better success, when we intrenched and advanced our lines by regular approaches.

We remained in these intrenchments until the night of the 12th of June, when we moved across the Chickahominy, via Forge Bridge, to the James River, which we crossed on the night of the 16th, and arrived in front of Petersburg the next day and relieved a portion of the Eighteenth Corps (Maj. Gen. W. F. Smith's) line.

On the 18th, we advanced our lines about one mile, dislodging and driving the enemy, and then intrenched.

On the 19th [20th] we were moved to the left, and, in connection with the Vermont Brigade, relieved a division of the Second Corps, where we remained till the night of the 20th [21st], when we moved to the extreme left of the general line near the Williams house. In the afternoon [of the 22nd] we went into position on the left of the Third Division with our line refused toward the Jerusalem plank road, and afterward was moved to the support of the Third Division, which had advanced toward the Weldon railroad. The next day [23rd] we moved about one mile to the front, which position we held during an attack on our skirmish line near the railroad, and at dark we withdrew to our former position, in which position we remained until the 30th [29th], when we advanced to Reams' Station, took position, and assisted to destroy the railroad track.

On the 1st of July we returned to the Jerusalem plank road, and on the 2nd of July returned to our former position near the Williams house.

It would be useless to attempt to cite individual cases of bravery and fortitude during all these severe and bloody engagements. Every officer and man did his whole duty, and the stubbornness with which every battle-field was contested is attested by the accompanying list of casualties. But I desire to call the attention of the general commanding the division to the bravery and gallant conduct of Capt. and Asst. Adjt. Gen. W. H. Long, who by his efficiency and zeal rendered me much service and added greatly to the success of the brigade; also to the gallant conduct of Capts. George H. Selkirk, George S. Orr, and Lieut. L. C. Small, who rendered valuable service during the campaign.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant.


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