Adjutant and Inspector General Reports
XXIV. REPORT OF COL. WILLIAM WELLS, FIRST VERMONT REGIMENT CAVALRY
Head Quarters First Vermont Cavalry,
Camp Russell, Va., December 7, 1864.
Peter T. Washburn,
Adjutant and Inspector General.
General:--I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this regiment, since assuming command, June 3d, 1864.
While under command of Colonel A. W. Preston the regiment took part in the following engagements: Craig's Meeting House, May 5th; Spotsylvania Court House, May 8th; Yellow Tavern, May 11th; Meadow Bridge, May 12th; Hanover Court House, May 31st; Ashland, June 1st; Hawe's Shop, June 3d.
It was at the last named place, that the lamented Col. Addison W. Preston, and Captain Oliver T. Cushman, Co. E, fell mortally wounded. During this engagement the regiment took an active part, being dismounted and in position on the extreme left of the Division for several hours under a heavy fire; the command, however, succeeded in driving the enemy from their works (those previously erected by our infantry.) LAte in the evening we moved to the rear about three miles, and bivouacked. Here we remained until the 6th, at which time we marched to Bottom's Bridge on the Chickahominy River, where we encamped--doing picket duty on the above named river, until the 12th inst. Late in the evening of the 12th, we broke camp, took up the line of march, crossed the Chickahominy during the night, and at daylight on the 13th we pushed on to White Oak Swamp. Here the regiment was dismounted, and on the skirmish line most of the time from 11 a. m. to 8 p. m., a good portion of the time under severe fire, from the enemy's infantry. The casualties in the regiment are as follows: killed, one, (1), wounded, twelve, (12), missing, three, (3). About 11 p. m. the brigade withdrew (1st Vermont Cavalry formed portion of the rear guard,) and marched until 4 a. m. on the 14th. AFter halting for three hours, we again resumed the march for Harrison's Landing, where we arrived at 10 a. m., halting again for two hours, then moved two miles in the direction of Malvern HIll, and bivouacked for the night. At 8 a. m., on the 15th, we marched to within a short distance of Malvern Hill, where me met the enemy; the regiment was under fire over two hours. It was here that the lamented Lieutenant John Williamson, Co. K, was mortally wounded.
The command returned the same day to near HArrison's Landing, where we remained until the morning of the 17th, at which time we crossed the James River, near fort Powhattan, in rear of the army. After halting several hours, proceeded to Prince George Court House, reaching there late in the evening. About 1 a. m. on the 18th, I received an order to "proceed with my regiment to Fort Powhattan;" marching most of the night, we reached the river about daybreak, remaining here for four hours, after which time we rejoined the brigade, having marched sixty (60) miles in twenty-four hours. From the 18th to the 22d we remained in camp, and picketed the Blackwater River.
On the morning of the 22d, at early dawn, this Division (3d), together with that of Gen'l Kantz, started on what is known as the "Wilson Raid." This regiment being in the rear of the entire command, crossed the Weldon Rail Road at Ream's Station; soon after crossing the enemy attacked the rear of our column, with his cavalry, under command of General W. F. H. Lee; a brisk skirmish was kept up with the rear guard, until we reached Dinwiddie Court House, where we were relieved by the 22nd N. Y. Cavalry. The enemy charged our rear several times, but was repulsed each time. About 11 p. m. we bivouacked near Ford's Station. On the morning of the 23d, before daylight, we moved along the South Side Railroad, destroying it in several places, until we reached Black's and White's, where we halted for one hour; we then moved to within two miles of Nottaway Court House, where we met the enemy's cavalry, (same force we fought on the 22nd.) This regiment was dismounted, and on the skirmish line from 2 p. m. to 3 a. m., on the 24th. The enemy contested the ground with great stubbornness, but were driven back by our men; the crack of the carbine could be heard until quite late at night. It was during this engagement that the lamented Captain Hiram H. Hall, Company E, was instantly killed. Lieutenant J. H. Moore, Co. D, and William L. Greenleaf, Co. L, were severely wounded, and fell into the hands of the enemy, on the 29th. THe casualties were as follows: killed 3, wounded, 19, missing, 3.
At daylight the command moved through Hungarytown to the Danville Rail Road, near Meherrin's Station, thence to Keesville, where we bivouacked for the night. Early on the morning of the 25th, we took up the line of march along the Danville Rail Road, which we continued to destroy during the day. About sunset, near the Roanoke River, the rear of this brigade was attacked; the command "stood to hors" during the night. On the morning of the 26th we moved through Christianville, and bivouacked at Buck Horn Creek, on the 27th crossed the Meherrin River at Safford's Bridge, moved on the Boynton Plank Road to Great Creek and bivouacked; marching early next morning passed through Smoky Ordinary to the double bridge on the Nottaway River, which we reached about noon. After halting for one hour, marched to near Stony Creek Station on the Weldon Rail Road, where about sunset the regiment was dismounted,--and fought the enemy during the entire night; at times we were subject to very severe fire from the enemy's infantry. In the early part of this engagement Capt. William G. Cummings was severely wounded i the face, and the lamented Lieutenant Gilbert Steward, Co. G, fell mortally wounded.
At early daylight, on the 29th, we were ordered to the rear, about one mile; here the entire brigade was dismounted. We fought the enemy in our front until we were attacked in our left flank and rear; being separated from our horses, we moved to the right and rear. Capt. Eben Grant, Co. I, Lieutenant E. H. Higly, Co. K, together with a number of men, were captured. The loss in that engagement was, killed, wounded and missing, seventy-two (72). That portion of the regiment that reached their horses, followed the command and joined it at Ream's Station; part of the regiment made their way through the enemy's lines, dismounted, and came into our lines several days after the fight.
Soon after 12 m., on the 29th, we countermarched, and recrossed the Nottaway at the Double Bridge, sometime during the night, and took the road to Jarrett's Station, on the Weldon Rail Road. About two miles from the last named place, the command halted until daybreak,when we crossed the railroad at Jarrett's Station, proceeded by the Peters Bridge, on the Nottaway River, and fording the same, (the bridge having been destroyed,) we halted from 12 m. until 6 p. m.--again resuming the march through Waverly to Blackwater River; reaching the latter place about daylight, July 1st, we found the bridge destroyed, and the stream unfordable. The Division soon constructed a bridge, and the command passed over. We moved to near Cabin Point, where the regiment went on picket during the night; on the morning of July 2d, moved to near Light House Point, and encamped; both men and horses were nearly worn out, for want of rest. During out stay in this camp, from the 2d to the 29th, several details were made for picket duty.
On the morning of the 29th we moved to the extreme left of the infantry, to the same position previously held by the Vermont Brigade, where we remained until August 5th, at which time the command marched to City Point, here to remain until the afternoon of the 8th, when we embarked for a "new field of operations."
We arrived at Geisboro' Point on the 10th. On the evening of the 12th moved through Washington, crossed the Potomac on Chain Bridge, and bivouacked near Fort Ethan Allen, Va. From the 13th to the 16th we marched through Drainsville, Purcellville, Snickersville, through Snicker's Gap, to near White Post in the Shenandoah Valley. On the morning of the 17th, moved to near Newtown, from thence to Winchester; here we remained for several hours in line of battle.
The 3d Cavalry Division had orders to cover the rear of the infantry, Lieutenant Mitchell in command of Co. I, was ordered to remain, after the regiment had been withdrawn, until he was ordered to the rear; he received no orders at all, but remained until almost surrounded, before leaving his post.
The command marched most of the night, halting at Summit Point, at about 8 a. m., 18th; the regiment remained on picket during the day. The command remained at this point until the 21st, when the enemy's cavalry and infantry attacked us; after skirmishing for several hours, the command fell back to charlestown; this regiment forming the rear guard.
From the 19th to the 21st,. Lieut. Col. John W. Bennett was on command of the regiment. I was excused from duty by the Surgeon.
On the morning of the 22nd, after a short skirmish, the command fell back to Bolivar Heights. A portion of the regiment was on picket until the 24th. On the 25th moved with the Division to near Kearnsville, where we had a brisk skirmish for several hours; returned the same evening to Bolivar Heights. This regiment covered the rear. While returning to camp, several attempts were made to drive our men, but their advance was each time promptly repulsed.
At 2 a. m., on the 26th, we moved through Harper's Ferry to Boonsboro, Md. On the 27th we marched to Sheppardstown, the 28th we recrossed the Potomac near the last named place, and marched to Charles Town, Va. On the afternoon of the 29th, two battalions of the regiment made a reconnoisance to near Berryville; the command advanced to berryville on the 30th.
On the 31st this regiment made a reconnoisance to near Newtown, moving through Millwood and White POst, returning the same evening to camp, where we remained until the second (2d) day of September, when the command fall back to Charlestown. The regiment remained on picket at Cable Town until the morning of the 3d, when we joined the brigade, which made a reconnoisance to near Newtown, returned the same evening to MIllwood and bivouacked. On the 4th re returned to Berryville, where the command had a skirmish with the enemy's cavalry; this regiment supported a battery.
On the 5th, the regiment was ordered to Harper's Ferry, to escort an army train to Berryville, arriving there on the 6th. On the 7th the Division made a reconnoisance to near Winchester, returned to camp the same evening; here we remained, (a portion of the regiment doing picket duty) until the 16th, when part of the brigade made a reconnoisance to Paris, returning to camp in the evening of the 17th.
Early in the morning of the 19th, we formed a portion of the advance, moved to the Opequan river, where, meeting the enemy, we advanced from the river about one mile, and remained in position until relieved by the infantry, when we moved to our extreme left. This regiment was dismounted, and moved on the extreme right flank of the enemy, where it rendered good service,--followed on the flank, and in rear of the enemy, as far as Kearnstown, and bivouacked.
On the20th we advanced to the Shenandoah River, on the Front Royal Pike. This regiment had the advance, skirmishing slightly with the enemy's cavalry, until we reached the river, where we found them in force. At daylight on the 21st, I was ordered, with the First New Hampshire, and the First Vermont Cavalry, to cross the river to the right of the Pike, while the remainder of the Division crossed on the Pike; here we found the enemy in quite heavy force.
The first New Hampshire was dismounted, attempted to drive them from the south side bank of the river, but did not succeed in doing it. A charge was ordered by the First Vermont; they succeeded in driving the enemy from their position. We soon joined the Division, moved through Front Royal, when this regiment was again detached, and ordered to advance four miles on the river road to "Mooney's Grade," at which place we met a very heavy force of cavalry and artillery. We were relieved by the 1st Brigade, about 10 p. m., when we joined our brigade, (2d).
On the 22d moved up the Luray Valley to Millford, where the regiment had a short skirmish with the enemy. DUring the next day the regiment remained on picket on the Shenandoah River, (brigade moved to Bucktown.) At 1 a. m., the 24th, we advanced through Luray, and bivouacked near Massanutten Gap. On the 25th Sept. moved through the Gap to Newmarket, in the Shenandoah Valley; on the afternoon of this day I turned the command over to Lieut. col. John W. Bennett, and assumed temporary command of the 2d Brigade.
The field and staff and line officers of the regiment have rendered me most valuable service. Being a tall times ready to do their duty, the have won for themselves and regiment, a name for which they might well feel proud.
The regiment, since the commencement of the campaign, while in the "Army of the Potomac," and after being transferred to the " "Army of the Shenandoah," has been almost constantly on the move. No regiment in the Division has marched more miles, fought more battles, than the First Vermont Cavalry.
The loss in killed and wounded has been quite severe. The lamented Preston, cushman, Hall, Williamson and Steward were true gentlemen and officers of high reputation. Their loss, through the Division, as well as in the regiment, was severely felt.
I have the honor to be, General, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
Colonel Commanding Regt.
GEN. P. T. WASHBURN,
A. and I. G. State of Vermont.