9 - The Final Campaign (Series I, Volume 46)

No 121: Report of Bvt. Maj. Gen. George W. Getty, U.S. Army, commanding Second Division. April 17, 1865

Major: I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by the Second Division in the assault on the enemy's works on the morning of the 2nd instant and in the subsequent operations which resulted in the surrender of the rebel Army of Northern Virginia:

Leaving the pickets re-enforced by the division of sharpshooters under Bvt. Maj. William H. Terrell, and the garrison of the forts, consisting of a detachment from the Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, in Fort Urmston, and the Sixty-second New York in Forts Tracy and Keane, the command moved from camp without knapsacks, shortly after midnight preceding the 2nd, filed through the breast-works and abatis by openings made for the purpose on the right and left of Fort Welch, and were massed in columns of regiments, each brigade forming a column immediately in rear of the intrenched picket-line captured from the enemy on the 25th of March, and since held by our pickets. From this point, directly in front of Fort Welch, a ravine led straight up to the enemy's works, a distance of 600 yards. The ground, gently ascending, was partly open and partly obstructed by stumps and branches of trees. Grant's (Vermont) brigade (Second) rested its left on this ravine, and was made the directing column; Hyde's brigade (third) was placed in the center; and Warner's (First) on the right. The First Division was in echelon in support on the right of the division, and the Third, in similar order, on the left. Axmen to cut away the abattis were placed in the front lines. It was strongly impressed upon commanders to force their way through all opposition and obstructions into the enemy's works, and the works once carried, the troops were to be halted and reformed in readiness for any emergency. About 2 a.m., while the troops were moving into position, the pickets commenced firing to cover, it is said, the movement. The enemy's pickets replied vigorously, and a number of brave officers and men were killed or wounded. The loss was heaviest in Hyde's brigade (Third), in which two regimental commanders-Lieut. Col. E.D. Holt, Forty-ninth New York, and Lieut Col. J.W. Crosby, Sixty-first Pennsylvania-were mortally wounded. Bvt. Maj. Gen. L.A. Grant, commanding Second Brigade, was slightly wounded in the head, but although compelled to retire for a time, resumed command at night-fall.

At 4 a.m. the gun, the signal to advance, was fired from Fort Fisher. Owing, however to the heavy cannonading on the Ninth Corps line, the signal was imperfectly understood, but at the command the men rose to their feet, leaped over the rifle-pits, and moved forward. The lines, being massed close together, advanced successively, each moving forward as the preceding gained a distance of 100 yards. For several moments nothing was heard but the tramp and rustle of the advancing columns; but just as the enemy's picket line was gained the silence was broken by a scattering volley. The troops instantly responded with a ringing cheer and pushed on in the face of the enemy's fire, which was now spitting along the whole line. The artillery on our left also opened, throwing case-shot, grape, and canister, most of which fell in rear of our troops. Although considerable confusion was caused by the character of the ground and the darkness of the night, resolute men from every regiment in the division rushed gallantly forward, forced aside the abatis and swarmed over the works, capturing nearly all the enemy behind them. It is impossible to determine to whom is due the honor of first entering the works, or what regiment first planted its flag upon them, but that this honor is due to the troops and colors of the Second Division there can be no doubt. The position of the division in front of the corps, having the shortest line to the enemy's works, and carrying those works in the first charge without repulse, renders it physically impossible that it should be otherwise.

Simultaneously with the assault just described, Lieut. Col. Charles A. Milliken, division officer of the day, in compliance with instructions previously given him, advanced the picket-line, which was on the right of the main attack, seized the enemy's line of picket pits, and captured therein between 400 and 500 prisoners. From this pint a farther advance was made, and two forts, with three guns each, taken, one of which, known as Fort McGraw, was soon after relinquished to a strong column of the enemy, the pickets and sharpshooters having expended their ammunition. The enemy being afterward forced back by the main advance on Petersburg, the pickets and sharpshooters were withdrawn and rejoined the command about 9 p.m.

The troops, after breaking through the enemy's works, pressed forward with the greatest dash and enthusiasm, and without order or formation, until at length they were halted with great difficulty and lines reformed at a point on the Boydton plank road over a mile from the rebel lines. The division was then moved by the left flank, and put in position in one line-Warner on the right, Hyde in the center, and Grant's (Vermont) brigade, now commanded by Bvt. Col. Charles Mundee, assistant adjutant-general, on the left, with the left near the captured works, and the line extending therefrom at right angles and facing westward, or toward Hatcher's Run. A few skirmishers of the Third Division joined the left with the breast-works, and two brigades of the First Division were moving up in support of the right flank, when, the formation being completed, the line was advanced. The enemy resisted stoutly from a fort a few hundred yards in front of our left and fired several rounds of canister, but being soon outflanked and enveloped, the work was taken, with several guns and a number of prisoners, and no further resistance was made. For over two miles the line moved forward over a wooded and difficult country, capturing flags, guns, and prisoners at every step. In the eagerness of the advance many prisoners and captures were sent to the rear and turned over without proper receipts or credits being obtained for them.

Having advanced nearly to Hatcher's Run, opposite the front of the Army of the James, and the enemy having disappeared, the line was halted, reformed, and closed in to the left. The two brigades of the First Division and the Third Division soon after came up and the troops rested. About 9 a.m., it having been decided to advance on Petersburg, the troops were put in motion for that point, retracing their steps and marching in parallel columns. After passing the scene of the morning assault, the division was formed in two lines, on the left of the Twenty-fourth Corps, with the right of the division on the Boydton plank road, Mundee's (Vermont) brigade on the right, Warner's in the center, and Hyde's on the left, with his left refused-and advanced under shell fire about half a mile, when a temporary halt was made. This point is about two miles from the inner lines about Petersburg. Much annoyance was experienced from the fire of a battery on the Cox road, on our left, which, frequently changing its position, completely enfiladed our lines. The shelling from front and right was also severe. Allen's (Rhode Island) battery and Harn's battery, which were attached to the division, were brought up and replied to the enemy's fire. At my suggestion General Wheaton, commanding First Division, moved his division up to extend and support the left; but observing the enemy moving guns and troops on the Cox road and endeavoring to form, I advanced the command at once, without waiting for the First Division, in order to attack before he was ready. This advance was made about noon.

The troops moved forward with great spirit, although under a very heavy fire of shell and a desultory musketry. The batteries, Harn's and Allen's, advanced in fine style with the infantry, and kept up a hot fire, and the enemy was forced rapidly back. The force maneuvering on the Cox road retired before our advance, to avoid being cut off from Petersburg, until a last stand was made at Edge Hill, Lee's headquarters, where the battery, being deserted by its support and the horses killed, was captured after a brave resistance. The enemy now took refuge behind the inner works about Petersburg. The division, much fatigued and scattered by the rapid advances and hard work of the day, was in no shape to assault the works. Accordingly the troops were collected and reformed, and posted in two lines, with the left on the Appomattox; intrenchments were erected and pickets thrown out. A desultory artillery firing closed the day's work.

The enemy having evacuated Petersburg and retreated during the night of the 2nd, the following day the troops advanced westward in pursuit by the Namozine (or River) road, the Second Division in advance, and bivouacked on Wipponock Creek, after a march of fourteen miles. On the 4th advanced across Winticomack Creek, twelve miles; on the 5th, to near Jetersville Station, sixteen miles, and camped in two lines on the right of the Third Division, with the First Division massed in support on our right, the lines extending nearly east and west, and facing north toward Amelia Court House, where the enemy was reported in force.

At 6 a.m. on the 6th the line was advanced by the right of regiments to the front nearly three miles toward Amelia Court House, when the enemy being found to have retreated the troops retraced their steps, and, marching by the camp of the night preceding, crossed the Danville railroad at Jetersville Station and followed a road leading to Rices' Station on the South Side Railroad.

The division being in rear did not participate in the struggle at Sailor's Creek, although brought up and formed in line on the double-quick. After crossing the creek the division was placed in the advance, and soon after night-fall moved forward about two miles, when the troops were encamped for the night. The Second Vermont Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Tracy, deployed as skirmishers, pushed forward nearly two miles farther, until the enemy's rear guard was encountered, when a slight skirmish ensued without result.

On the 7th the command moved to Farmville, via Rice's Station, crossed the Appomattox, and bivouacked on the north side, making a march of fourteen miles.

On the 8th moved to New Store on the Appomattox Court House plank road, fifteen miles; and on the 9th moved ten miles to the scene of the surrender of the rebel Army of Northern Virginia. Having rested during the 10th, on the 11th the command retraced their steps, marching through Farmville and Rice's Station to the present camp near Burkeville Junction, which was reached on the afternoon of the 13th.

In these operations the officers and men of the division displayed their usual gallantry, so conspicuous during the campaigns of the last year. Recommendations of those who particularly distinguished themselves will be forwarded at the earliest practicable moment.

Accompanying are reports of brigade commanders, lists of casualties, etc.

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

No 129: Report of Col. Thomas W. Hyde, First Maine Veteran Volunteers, commanding Third Brigade. April 15, 1865

Sir: I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of my brigade upon the 2nd of April and during the subsequent movements of the division:

At midnight preceding the 2nd instant my command moved from camp; filed out to the right of Fort Welch, where had been piled the knapsacks and canteens, and took position just in rear of the picket-line of the Third Division, on the right of the Second Brigade. My column of attack was formed in four lines, each line nearly equal in numbers. The first line was composed of the Forty-ninth and Seventy-seventh New York Battalions; the second of the First Maine Veteran Volunteers; the third of the Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, and the fourth of the Forty-third New York Battalion and the One hundred and twenty-second New York Volunteers. Axmen were stationed in the first line to cut away the abatis of the enemy. Regimental commanders had been carefully instructed as to the direction to be taken, and as to the location in their front of the passageway through the enemy's works and obstructions by which their pickets passed out and in. While the brigade was being put into position the pickets of the Third Division opened fire, which was replied to with vigor by the enemy, occasioning the loss of several brave officers and men. About 4 a.m. the signal gun was fired and the first line ordered forward. After they had advanced 100 yards the second advanced, the third in like manner, and the fourth after the third had got 250 yards in advance. The first line got nearly to the picket-pits of the enemy before their movement was discovered; swept over them easily, followed by the second and the third. At the edge of the swamp, just in front of the enemy's abatis, they halted a moment to form again, and again swept on through the openings in the abatis and over the works. Some confusion occurred on account of the intense darkness, but the colors of the different regiments and those directly about them, guided by the fire of the enemy, went straight on to their destination. Several regiments of the brigade claim their colors as first on the works, but the darkness must leave that honor forever undecided.

After crossing the works the men pushed rapidly to the front, the colors ahead, and I succeeded in getting some 200 of the brigade in line at a point near the South Side Railroad and a mile from the works. By this time a line had been formed on a small road parallel to the works and the brigade was got together in the center of the division, having the Second Brigade upon the left and the First Brigade upon the right. An advance was ordered by Major General Getty and the command swung to the left and front toward Hatcher's Run, capturing many prisoners and driving all of the enemy in that vicinity not taken into the hands of other troops of ours advancing from that direction. The brigade, with the rest of the division, was then moved back to attack the inner lines of Petersburg and formed upon the left of the division. I formed the three left regiments in echelon, as orders had been given me to protect the left against a line of battle and a battery upon the Cox road, and sent out a company of the First Maine Veteran Volunteers to dislodge the battery that was already enfilading the line. This was quickly done, and the advance was hastened under a heavy artillery and scattering musketry fire. The enemy's batteries and force were driven from crest to crest till they finally halted with some determination upon a commanding position where were located General Lee's headquarters. Orders were given to move to the left and front and take the battery. At this time my three left regiments were wholly extended as skirmishers to the left and rear to protect that flank, and were along the South Side Railroad and the bank of the Appomattox. The rest of the command moved through a difficult swamp, under a heavy fire of canister, and those first over, without much regard to formation, were rushed upon the batter, which was taken by detachments from nearly every regiment in the division. The command was then moved forward till its left rested upon the Appomattox, and the enemy's artillery across the river was driven away by my skirmishers. The command from these exhaustions did not advance beyond this point. They had now been in motion some eighteen hours, and had taken guns, colors, and a great many prisoners; it would be impossible to estimate them.

The brigade marched with the division in the subsequent pursuit of Lee's army till his surrender at Clover Hill and till the return of the Army of the Potomac to this place (Burke's Station). Three times they were maneuvered to fight, but did not have opportunity. They were double-quicked for over a mile to get in at Sailor's Creek and were put in position as the last shots were firing.

For names of those killed and wounded and those recommended for promotion for special service, see subjoined reports.

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

Return to index