HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, TENTH ARMY CORPS,
LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the Second Division, Tenth Army Corps, from the 28th of September to the 1st of October, 1864, inclusive:
On the 28th of September, pursuant to orders from the major-general commanding the corps, broke camp near Petersburg at promptly 3 p.m. and took up the line of march, following in rear of First Division, Tenth Army Corps. Owing to delays in the wagon train of that division my progress was slow, and the head of my column only reached the pontoon bridge across the Appomattox at 8.35 p.m. and Deep Bottom at 1:30 a.m. on the 29th. On reaching Deep Bottom the Two hundred and third Pennsylvania Volunteers was detached from the Second Brigade and ordered to garrison the roads at that place. The balance of my command bivouacked outside the works until 5.50 a.m., when it was moved forward and formed in column of battalion in mass, the head of column resting on the Kingsland road about 300 yards on the right of the Grover house, in support of General William Birney's division, of the Tenth Army Corps. At 8.30 a.m. the division moved forward to Signal Hill and took the advance up the New Market and Richmond road, the First Brigade leading the column. At 9.25 the head of column met the enemy's picket along the line of works at the junction of the Mill and New Market and Richmond roads. A portion of the One hundred and forty-second New York Volunteers, Lieut. Col. A.M. Barney, were deployed as skirmishers, and followed by the whole brigade charged the works at a run, the enemy falling back rapidly, leaving their works in our possession. After a short rest the column again moved forward through the woods, with but a few shots from the enemy's vedettes, to the open ground, when the head of the column was opened on with very severe artillery fire from the fort to the front and left and by their light 12-pounders in position at Laurel Hill Church. I attempted to form under cover of the wood in three lines of battle, but the formation of the ground threw them in echelon--the First Brigade in advance, the Second Brigade extending to the right, and Third to the right. This was done under a heavy fire of artillery, which did considerable execution. As soon as formed, I ordered an advance to dislodge the battery at Laurel Hill Church, which was promptly executed, the enemy retiring in such haste as to leave their killed on the field and the road strewn with artillery ammunition and implements. I formed my command along the New Market road, the right resting at Laurel Hill Church. At this place I found upon examination that my command had been reduced, by straggling and shirking, to about 1,400 men, although strong rear guards were detailed in front of each brigade. Many of these men fell out in the darkness between Petersburg and Deep Bottom and others fell out at the time of the formation to charge the battery, the thick undergrowth favoring their retiring. A large number of these men were sent forward with their commands in this charge by myself and staff, but I regret to say many escaped the duty they should have performed. At 1.25 p.m. I received orders from Lieutenant-Colonel Jackson, assistant inspector-general Tenth Army Corps, to charge and attempt the capture of the enemy's works, supposed to be Fort Gilmer, and was informed that Brigadier-General Birney was to advance simultaneously on my left, and that I was to be supported by troops of Brigadier-General Paine's command. I was to commence the movement in ten minutes from the receipt of order. I at once formed my line, the Second Brigade, Col. G. Pennypacker, Ninety-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, on the right; the First, Col. R. Daggert, One hundred and seventeenth New York Volunteers, on the center, and the Third, Col. Louis Bell, Fourth New Hampshire Volunteers, on the left, and at 1.35 p.m. moved forward, the distance from the road to the fort being three-quarters of a mile. As we advanced I found four ravines intervening and also that old trees and undergrowth had been slashed, rendering our advance very slow, and requiring a halt at the second ravine, and again just after the crossing of the Fourth to reform. During this time the command was subject to a very severe enfilading fire of artillery from two forts on the right and one gun from a fort on the left, and a front fire from Fort Gilmer, which disabled many of my men. After reforming the last time the line moved forward to the assault and advanced rapidly under a heavy fire from infantry, an artillery fire of grape and canister from Fort Gilmer, and shell and case from the two forts to the right, but was obliged to fall back. With the assistance of the officers of my command the line was rallied and reformed, and one brigade of Brigadier-General Paine's command coming to my support another assault was made, which was again unsuccessful and the forces obliged to retire, which they did slowly and stubbornly to the New Market and Richmond road, when the line was again reformed. As my line advanced to the assault a body of troops of the enemy, apparently 500 or 600, moved from the fort on the right, and reached Fort Gilmer in season to assist the garrison in our repulse. In this assault the colors of the Third New York Volunteers were lost. I had the circumstances investigated and have the honor to forward here with the report of the commanding officer of the regiment, which with the indorsement of the brigade commander, would seem to show that it was not through any unworthy act on the part of the regiment. At dusk on the 29th, pursuant to orders, I withdrew my command to the line of works taken in the morning, taking position, my left at the New Market and Richmond road, where crossed by the line, my right refused, and resting at the Lines house. The Second Brigade was taken from my command at this time and ordered to report to the commanding officer Eighteenth Army Corps.
On the morning of the 30th I moved my command by the left flank along the lines of captured works about one mile, connecting on my right with the First Division, Tenth Army Corps, and on my left with those of the Third Brigade, Tenth Army Corps. Immediately on gaining this position I commenced turning the face of the enemy's works and raising and strengthening the parapet, putting in abatis and otherwise rendering them defensible. At 10 p.m. the Second Brigade, having been returned, reported and went into camp near the Widow Aiken's house. On the morning of the 1st of October the Second Brigade moved to the right, taking a portion of the line occupied by the First Division. This formation has since been retained, the troops being busily engaged improving the works. On the 3d of October the Two hundred and third Pennsylvania Volunteers were relieved from duty at Deep Bottom by the Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers.
In conclusion, I would state that the troops of the division behaved well, with the exception of those officers and inch who were guilty of the disgraceful and cowardly conduct of straggling. Orders of the most stringent character were issued and every precaution was taken to prevent this most disgraceful and pernicious evil. The commandants of brigades were well to the front at all times, urging forward their men and executing all orders promptly. Col. Rufus Daggett, One hundred and seventeenth New York Volunteers, commanding the First Brigade, was slightly wounded in the assault on the fort, and also suffering from disease which compelled him to relinquish the command of the brigade on the night of the 29th to Lieut. Col. A.M. Barney, One hundred and forty-second New York Volunteers, who held the command until the return of Colonel Curtis on the 4th instant.
My entire staff was present with me at all times and performed their duty faithfully and intelligently, rendering invaluable assistance to me in rallying and urging forward the command at all times and under all circumstances. To their valuable assistance I am much indebted for the management of my command during the advance.
R. S. FOSTER,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
Lieut. WILLIAM P. SHREVE,
Com. of Musters and Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., Tenth Army Corps.
Last updated: February 26, 2015