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Adjutant and Inspector General Reports

1865 Report
Appendix C

Official Reports

XXVIII. REPORT OF CAPTAIN ROMEO H. START, THIRD VERMONT BATTERY LIGHT ARTILLERY

Headquarters 3rd Battery Light Artillery Vt. Vols.
Near City Point, Va., December 31, 1864.

Peter T. Washburn,
Adjutant and Inspector General.

General.--I would most respectfully submit the following report of the operations of this command, from the 10th day of August, 1864, the date of my last report, to the 31st of December, 1864. At the close of my last report, my command occupied the eighteen gun battery on the right of the Norfolk road, since called Fort Morton. From the time of the assault on the enemy's works, in front of this work, they subjected it to a severe fire from mortars and artillery, night and day. The excitement and danger to which my command was constantly exposed, and the almost suffocating hot weather, was very severe upon both men and officers; but they all endured it with that patience and fortitude which has ever characterized the soldiers of Vermont. At times it seemed astonishing that men could live for weeks under such trying circumstances.

I will mention but one of the numerous artillery conflicts which occurred at this point; this took place on the night of August 18th. It seemed that the enemy had calculated their range and turned their guns during the day for a furious night assault. The night of the 18th was almost as light as day. Up to nine o'clock everything seemed to indicate a quiet night. At about half past nine o'clock in the evening a single gun was fired from the left of the enemy's lines on the Appomattox. Almost instantly the whole of his lines bearing upon Fort Morton opened a furious and well directed fire upon this work. The accuracy of this fire was most remarkable; it never had been so well directed by day. The men at once sprang to their guns and returned the first with great coolness and spirit. This combat lasted until nearly dawn of the 19th inst. The air seemed thick with shot and bursting shell; several men of the First Connecticut Heavy Artillery, and Battery D First Pennsylvania, were killed; but what seemed most miraculous, none of my command were fatally injured. Sergeant John W. Marsh, Corporal George H. Kelley, Corporal Wesley P. Carroll and private William Kirkland were slightly bruised by fragments of shell.

On the morning of the 19th inst., I was relieved and moved out of fort Morton, and went into camp near Gen. Burnside's Headquarters, a mile in rear of fort Morton, but moved again during the day and encamped in rear of the Avery House. The command remained at this point until the 21st inst., when by order of Gen. Ferrero, commanding Fourth Division, Ninth Army Corps, to which this battery was then attached, I moved down the "Jerusalem Plank Road" three miles to the "Williams' House," and relieved the Twenty-Seventh New York Light Battery, on the line established by the Sixth Corps, it being the extreme left of the army towards Ream's Station. On the 23d inst., I was ordered to move forward by Gen. Ferrero, toward the Yellow Tavern, on the Weldon railroad, and take up a position near the "Aiken's House, " to assist in sustaining the lines, which had been advanced across the "Weldon Railroad." At this point I had scarcely got into position, when I was directed by Col. Munson, Chief of Artillery of the Ninth Corps, to report immediately to Gen. O. B. Wilcox, commanding First Division, Ninth Corps, then moving up the "Jerusalem Plank Road" to the assistance of Gen. Hancock at "Ream's Station." I immediately put my command in motion, and reported as directed, and after moving up the road above indicated, some six miles, I was directed by Gen. Wilcox to return to the "Williams' House" and await orders, the battery of Ream's Station have been concluded before the arrival of Gen. Wilcox's command. On the 27th inst., I was ordered by Gen. Wilcox to report to Gen. Ferrero at the Aiken's House, where I went into camp, and remained until the 30th inst., when I was directed by Col. Monroe, Chief of Artillery, Ninth Corps, to relieve the Twenty-Seventh New York Light Battery in "Fort Hell," near the "Avery House," and on the left of fort Morton. Of all places on the lines enveloping Petersburg, this point was considered the most dangerous, and the hardships an exposures the greatest. The work was so named on account of the constant heavy firing kept up upon it by the enemy, and the extreme heat always experienced at this point. While the command occupied this work, the fire of the enemy was very severe,--the most harassing being the mortar shells, from which no protection could be relied upon. Day and night they hurled their ponderous mortar shells at the frowning parapets of "Fort Hell." The command occupied fort Hell until Sept. 6, 1864. During this time the men suffered severely from constant mental excitement and from loss of sleep; but all performed their duties in a manner most admirable.

On the 31st of August, 1864, in consequence of the consolidation of the Ninth Corps, a large portion of the artillery was formed into a reserve corps for the Army of the Potomac. This battery was one of the number. After being relieved on the 6th inst., I withdrew from fort Hell, and went into camp near the Avery House, and reported to Major Hazard, Chief of Artillery, Second Corps, my position being on that corps line. On the 19th of September, 1864, being ordered by Major Hazard, this command moved in and occupied fort Michael, in front of the Avery House, and between forts Morton and Hell, where it remained until October 3, 1864, when it was withdrawn by order of Maj. Hazard, and moved down the line to the left, near the Aiken's House, and occupied Battery No. 27. During the occupancy of fort Michael, we were but little exposed to the enemy's artillery fire, although several sharp artillery duels took place; none of my command were wounded here or at fort Hell.

On the 5th of October, 1864, I was directed to withdraw, by command of Major Hazard, from Battery No. 27 and report to Brig. Gen. Ferrero, commanding Fourth Division, Ninth Corps, which was done on the morning of that day. Battery No. 27, was not within range of the enemy's batteries, so the command was in a situation to get some rest. I found General Ferrero near Poplar Grove Church, some two miles west of Yellow Tavern, and participated with him in the movement intended to cut the South Side railroad, but which failed of success; but the lines were advanced some two miles and intrenched. On this occasion batteries were obliged to construct their own field works. This command, on the left of the Pebles or Pebee House, constructed a work for the guns, which was called fort Phillips. This work we occupied until October 12, 1864, when I was directed to move down the line to the right,in the vicinity of fort Morton, and occupy Battery No. 16, on its immediate left. This was reached on the evening of the 13th inst., and I again reported to Major Hazard, Chief of Artillery, Second Corps. While at the left with Gen. Ferrero, the men performed a great amount of fatigue duty in constructing field works, which is unusual for light artillery. But everything was done with an efficiency and energy highly commendable, under the supervision of Lieut. W. A. Phillips. During the time we occupied fort Philips, we were not engaged with the enemy, as a truce as to picket firing prevailed on this part of the line. On returning to the right of the line, Battery No. 16, we were again obliged to undergo the usual artillery and mortar shelling. The latter at this point was most terrific; day and night the enemy kept up a most annoying fire, which allowed the men scarcely any rest or sleep.

On the 25th of October, 1864, I was directed by Brig. Gen. H. J. Hunt, Chief of Artillery,A. P., to withdraw from battery No. 16, and move my command to City Point, Va., and report to Brig. Gen. H. W. Benham, commanding defences of City Point. I withdrew on the night of the 26th inst., and moved to the place above designated, where the command arrived on the morning of the 26th. On the 29th of October, 1864, by direction of Gen. Benham, I moved out and occupied fort McKeen, one of the principal works defending the depot at that place. On the same day I exchanged my guns for light 12 pounders. This command occupied fort McKeen during the remainder of the year 1864, affording my men an excellent opportunity to recruit, which they very much needed, after the exhausting campaign from the Rapidan to Petersburg, and which virtually ended with the attempt to cut the South Side Rail Road, in October.

Since my last report, the following casualties have occurred from disease and accident: Private John Downie, August 11th, Aura Lyford, August 9th, Henry E. Capron, August 19th, Nathaniel F. Capron, date unknown, Francis Emerson, accidentally shot at Convalescent Camp, Alexandria, Va., date of death has never been furnished; Samuel Horton, October 14th, William L. Dean, October 15th, Oliver e. Adams, October 18th, 1864.

In reviewing the great campaign of the closing year, I must, on this occasion, express my admiration for the manner in which the men of this command have borne themselves under all circumstances. We feel and honest and proud conviction, that we have done our duty faithfully, wherever the orders of superiors have directed us, whether in the loathsome trenches, or on the wearying march.

A king Providence seems to have shielded us from the bullets of the enemy, as none have fallen in battle.

I am, General, most respectfully,

Your ob't serv't.,
ROMEO H. START,
Captain Commanding Battery.