150 YEARS AGO TODAY Lt. Col. Samuel A. Moore sent the following report to Gen. Hancock's headquarters. The general had directed the commanding officers of all units under his command to submit similar reports so that he could assess the actual fighting strength of the Second Corps. Headquarters Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteers, September 26th, 1864. Lieutenant Theron E. Parsons, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, 3d Brigade. Lieutenant: I have the honor to submit the following report in compliance with circular of September 25th, from Headquarters 2d A. C. I. Date of Organization of the Regiment, (muster into service) August 23d, 1862. Original strength, (aggregate) - - - - - - 1,015 Recruits received since organization - - - 1,000 II. Present strength. For duty - - - - - - - - 236 Borne upon rolls, (aggregate) - - - - - - 663 III. Names of Battles in which engaged. Antietam, Sept. 17, 1862. Wilderness, May 6, 1864. Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862. Laurel Hill, May 10, 1864. Chancellorsville, May 3, 1863. Spottsylvania, May 12, 1864. Gettysburg, July 3, 1863. Cold Harbor, June 3, 1864. Bristoe Station, Oct. 14, 1863. Cold Harbor, June 6, 1864. Morton's Ford, Feb. 6, 1864. Petersburg, June 17, 1864. Wilderness, May 5, 1864. Ream's Station, August 25, 1864. Names of Skirmishes in which engaged. Falling Waters, July 14, 1863. North Anna River, May 24, 1864. Auburn, October 14, 1863. North Anna River, May 26, 1864. Blackburn's Ford, Oct. 17, 1863. Petersburg, June 16, 1864. Mine Run, Nov. 29, 1863. Deep Bottom, August 15, 1864. IV. Loss in action. 9 officers killed, 71 men killed; 41 officers wounded, 505 men wounded; 5 officers missing, 138 men missing, (aggregate) 769. V. Colors captured from the enemy. Five, captured at battle of Gettysburg, viz. 1st and 14th Tennessee, 16th and 52d North Carolina, and 4th Virginia. Guns captured from the enemy. Two 3-in. rifled pieces captured May 12, 1864. VI. Colors lost. None. Note. At the battle of Ream’s Station, upon the 25th ult. (of last month), this regiment drew off from the field, thereby saving them from capture by the enemy, one brass cannon and one limber belonging to McKnight’s Battery, and one limber belonging to the 3d New Jersey Battery, also one caisson belonging to same Battery. Very respectfully, Your obedient servant S. A. Moore, Lieutenant-Colonel commanding regiment
As we have seen in posts to this blog throughout the summer months, the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry always seemed to on the move during the three months since the start of the siege of Petersburg in June 1864. We tend to think of the Petersburg campaign as limited to The Crater and the other sites we can visit just outside of the city, but the siege lines stretched across about thirty-five miles of southeastern Virginia and it’s to lose track of our little regiment. The following series of maps are portions of one large map of the siege lines from the Library of Congress Digital Map Collection, upon which I have drawn the movements of the regiment from June to September 1864. Union lines are shown in red and the Confederate lines in blue. Here’s the link if you wish to open the original map in a separate window http://www.loc.gov/resource/glva01.lva00182/.
Compare the 1865 map to a modern day map or Google Earth and you will see just how far the siege lines stretched. The northeastern end of the Confederate lines was close to Richmond International Airport while the southwestern end was south of the Petersburg airport.
During the middle and latter weeks of September 1864, the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry was not engaged in any fighting. Their duties included the usual manning of the picket line every four or five days and working at building and improving the fortifications at several points along the Union siege line.
One of the places the Fourteenth spent a couple of days was Fort Davis. John Hirst of Company D and younger brother of Sgt. Benjamin Hirst (wounded at Gettysburg), described the regiment’s short stay at Fort Davis: “As soon as we got nicely settled, we were ordered to leave and take a position near Fort Morton (on the Taylor farm near the site of the Crater explosion). The boys are on duty all the time, one day on the skirmish line (picket line) and the next on the reserve.”
Some of the fortifications the soldiers built during the siege can still be seen today. Fort Davis was built on the western side of the Jerusalem Plank Road and you can see what remains today on Google Earth. The Jerusalem Plank Road is now called Crater Road and the remains of Fort Davis can be found at the intersection of South Crater Road and Flank Road, right across the street from Fort Davis Shopping Center.
Fort Davis was originally named Fort Warren after the commander of the Fifth Corps, Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K Warren. However, it was renamed in honor of Col. P. Stearns Davis of the 39th Massachusetts Infantry, who was mortally wounded there by an artillery shell fragment on July 11.
From the Historical Marker Database website (www.HMdb.org) we have this description of the fort. “One of the Union soldiers assigned to this task recalled: ‘Covering about three acres of ground, it is capable of holding a brigade…. In building our fort, we dug a trench twenty feet wide and ten feet deep, and threw up the rampart on the inside. The fort was made square with a diagonal through it. We had a magazine in it, and two wells were dug for a water supply…it took eight men to get one shovelful of dirt from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the work, the men standing in little nitches cut in the side of the bank and passing the earth from one to another.’ The completed fort held a garrison of 550 men with eight field guns.” To watch a short YouTube video of the Fort Davis site, please click here.
Next week: A digital tour of the siege lines.
In the aftermath of the defeat at Reams Station of the Second Corps, which was widely regarded as the Union Army of the Potomac’s finest corps, Gen. Winfield S. Hancock was humiliated. “Hancock the Superb,” so dubbed by Gen. George B. McClellan, was proved mortal after all. Gen. John Gibbon, commander of the Second Division of the Second Corps, to which the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry was attached, was so upset with Hancock for not sending for reinforcements sooner, that he almost resigned his commission.
The Confederate infantry and cavalry units that had gone into battle that 25th of August returned to the Petersburg defenses elated. They had tasted sweet victory once again. They believed even more fervently in the rightness of his cause and in final victory, and they were confident that they could assault and take any position from the Yankees, fortified or not.
Within the ranks of the Fourteenth Connecticut, fewer men answered the call of the roll. The death of Captain William Hawley (Company K) grieved every member of the once again small regiment. Since the previous October, when there had been about 660 men present for duty, their numbers had been reduced through combat and disease, so that there were but 167 men in the fight at Reams Station. Fifty-one of these men were lost as casualties (killed-5, wounded-18, missing-28). This loss was comparable to Gettysburg the year before. The Fourteenth went into that battle with about 160 men, 66 of whom were listed as casualties (killed-10, wounded-52, missing-4).
Curiously, the men were not despondent. In fact, there was a growing understanding within the ranks that they were now engaged in the final stages of the war, the beginning of the end, we might say. The Union perimeter around Petersburg had been extended westward and encompassed the Weldon Railroad. Confederate supply trains could come only as far north as Stony Creek. Wagon trains had to carry the supplies the remainder of the way to Petersburg, a distance of thirty miles, much of it along the Boydton Plank Road.
A few days later the men would learn that Atlanta had fallen to Union forces. The same slow, encircling, strangling strategy Sherman had used was being employed at Petersburg. Over the coming weeks Federal fortifications would be extended even farther to the west and the Boydton Plank Road would become the next target for the Army of the Potomac, and for the men of the Fourteenth Connecticut.