Adjutant and Inspector General Reports
XXVII. REPORT OF COLONEL JOSIAH HALL,
FIRST VERMONT REGIMENT CAVALRY
Burlington, Vt., July 1, 1865.
Peter T. Washburn,
Adjutant and Inspector General.
Sir:--I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of the regiment under my command, commencing Feb. 1, 1865.
The regiment was in winter quarters, at Camp Russell, va., near Winchester, and remained there until Feb. 27th, with no other duty to do than ordinary picketing. Feb. 27th we broke camp and started out on the spring campaign, forming a part of General Custer's Division of General Sheridan's command, that moved up the Shenandoah Valley, though Staunton to Charlottesville. On March 2d we met the enemy in force, at Waynesboro, for the first time since we started out. The regiment formed in line of battle, just in rear of the skirmish line, and in full view and easy range of the enemy's guns, partly to draw their fire and partly to cover the maneuvering of other portions of the Division; and although standing under a most galling fire, and in a very exposed situation, yet the lines were kept as complete and steady as on a review. Finally, when all the details were fully arranged for a general attack, my regiment was ordered around on the enemy's right flank, to draw their fire and attention, while the main attack was on the enemy's left. This move was very successfully made, and the regiment joined i the grand charge, capturing one piece of artillery complete, a good number of prisoners, besides a quantity of small arms. The losses for the day were, one man killed and one severely wounded. The regiment behaved splendidly, and as this was the first time I had seen the regiment under fire for nearly fifteen months, (having served a full term as a prisoner of war,) their coolness and steadiness surprised me. The next day the command moved on to Charlottesville. Here the regiment was employed in destroying the railroad from that place to Lynchburg, and also the telegraph lines. The regiment was principally occupied wit this kind of duty during the rest of the march to White House Landing, which place was reached March 18th. Here we remained in camp until the 24th inst., when we broke camp again, and started for the other side of James River, which we crossed on the 26th inst., and at once moved up on the the lines in front of Petersburg, and went into camp. We remained here in camp, until the 29th inst., when we again took up the line of march towards Dinwiddie C. H. On the 31st we were engaged in corduroying the roads, to enable our trains to come up, which had been delayed by the mud.
On the morning of April 1st, the Division moved up to the front, and in the afternoon engaged the enemy at Five Forks. In this engagement the regiment took an active part, capturing a number of prisoners, and winning the approbation of the commanding General. In this day's work there were quite a number of men slightly wounded, but none seriously. On the 2d inst. the Division was not engaged, except my regiment, which had a little skirmishing with a small detachment of the enemy's cavalry,--no casualties.
On the 3d inst. my regiment started on the advance, but had not proceeded far, before we met the enemy behind breastworks, with a deep muddy creek between us. By dismounting a part of my regiment, and crossing them at a distance from the road, they came down on the flank and rear of the works, and carried them at once. We then crossed the stream, and commenced the pursuit; we soon came up with them, and just after passing through a dense wood, found them in force, and well posted on the top of a hill. We at once formed by battalion, and charged them, driving them from their position back on to their reserves, when with the 8th N. Y. Cavalry, we charged them again, driving them in every direction, and capturing many prisoners, and the only piece of artillery they had. AFter following them about eight miles, a halt was ordered, to enable our forces to close up, as they had become very much scattered in the chase, and also to gather up the captures. The casualties for to-day's work were two killed and nine wounded, some of them dangerously.
On the 4th inst. we crossed Deep Creek, and followed down its banks to near the Appomattox, when we halted for a few hours, and then took up our line of march for Jeter's Station, on the Richmond and Danville Rail Road, which we reached on the morning of the 5th, after a most tedious night's march. HEre we took up a position to the left and front of the 5th Corps, and remained in line of battle all day. Just at night we were relieved, and moved to the rear in order to rest and feed our horses. Early on the 6th inst. commenced the fight of Sailor's Creek. The brigade to which we belonged was sent to the extreme right on a reconnoisance. We moved around through Amelia C. H., which the enemy had evacuated that morning, leaving upwards of one hundred limbers, caissons, and gun carriages on the ground, besides a very large amount of ammunition. From this place we took up the line of march in the direction the enemy had moved, but did not come up with the main army until after the day's fighting was over and the battle of Sailor's Creek had been found and won. On the 7th inst. we passed through Prince Edwards C. H., on our way to Appomattox Station, which we reached on the evening of the 8th. Here we met the enemy again, and after a most stubborn and hotly contested fight, he was driven from the field, leaving trains of cars, wagons, ambulances and artillery in our possession. The casualties of this day's work were one killed, and five wounded, among whom were Lieut. Woodbury, Acting Adjt., and Lieut. Farrington, both severely. The regiment captured eight pieces of artillery, besides large numbers of wagons, ambulances, &c. We went into camp just in rear of the battle field, and remained until morning, being relieved from picket duty by other divisions, which came up after we had become masters of the field.
On the ninth the fighting commenced by sunrise, and, as the infantry had arrived during the night, we were soon in motion. Our brigade was in advance, and my regiment in front, the Eighth New York regiment having been placed on the skirmish line. We moved out on the trot, forcing the enemy's skirmish line back rapidly, leaving the ground to be taken up by the Fifth Corps, which came up at the double quick. After passing the enemy's entire front, and running the gauntlet from the united fire of two batteries, we came around on their flank and rear, and in full sight of their supply trains. At this point Gen. Custer ordered me to charge the train with my regiment. I immediately made the proper disposition of the command. The front battalion had already broken into the gallop, and the others were following at a fast trot, when a staff officer of Gen. Custer came charging down and called to me to halt the regiment, saying that Gen. Lee had sent in a flag of truce, offering to surrender his army. The two rear battalions were immediately halted, but the front one had got so far that they captured the last post between us and the train before they could be halted. The regiment was at once formed and brought up into line of battle, while the preliminaries of the surrender were being gone through with. At about 5 p. m., Gen. Custer rode along the lines and announced that the terms of the surrender had been agreed upon, and signed, and directed us to go into camp where we were. This was the last time the regiment was called upon to face the enemy; and it was the source of much gratification to the regiment, as well as myself, to know that we were present to see the grand rebel army of Northern Virginia find the "last ditch." This morning we had two men wounded, one of them severely. The morning of the 10th, we started on our way back to Burkesville Junction, feeling that our work in the field was nearly completed. After stopping over night in the vicinity of the Junction, we then moved on towards Petersburg, which we made by easy marches on the 19th inst. We remained here until the 24th inst., when we broke camp and started for Danville, with the rest of Sheridan's command, whose object was to get in the rear of Johnson and oblige him to surrender; but before we reached Danville, news of Johnson's surrender reached us, and we at once countermarched and returned to petersburg, where we arrived May 3d, after a long and tedious march of ten days.
We remained here until the 10th inst., when the command broke camp and started for Washington. We arrived in the vicinity of Washington on the 16th inst., and went into camp, where we remained until June 9th, participating in the grand review of the army at Washington on the 23d of May, and also the review of the Vermont troops by Gov. Smith, June 7th. On the morning of June 9th, (having turned over our horses and equipments on the 8th inst.) we broke camp for the last time on the "sacred soil" of Virginia, rendered truly so, by being the least resting place of many a true and noble heart that had given its last drop of blood in defense of our common country, and the glorious old starts and stripes, and started for Burlington, Vt., the original place of rendezvous of the regiment, before leaving the State. We arrived in Burlington Juen 13th, after an absence from the State of three years and six months. Here the command was immediately furloughed for a few days, in order that the men might visit their homes. On the 21st inst., a portion of the command was mustered out, and the remaining portion consolidated in accordance with General Order, No. 83, A.G.O. May 8, 1865. As this left but a Lieutenant Colonel's command, I was mustered out of the service of the United States from this date, with the satisfaction of seeing the regiment once more in its native State. And permit me, here, to express my high esteem and regard for the officers and men of the regiment, for their willing and prompt execution of every duty assigned them, and with gratification and pride to testify to the indomitable courage and bravery and heroic daring displayed by them in every engagement, which will ever be an honor to them and the State.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Late Colonel First Vermont Cavalry.