Adjutant and Inspector General Reports
XXIX. REPORT OF CAPTAIN ROMEO H. START, THIRD VERMONT BATTERY LIGHT ARTILLERY
Headquarters 3d Battery Light Artillery Vt. Vols.
Camp at Burlington, Vt., June 16th, 1865.
Peter T. Washburn,
Adjutant and Inspector General.
General:--I would most respectfully submit the following report of the operations of this command, from Jan. 1st, 1865, to June 15th, 1865, when the battery was mustered out of the United States service.
On the 1st day of January, 1865, this battery lay in the defences of City Point, Va., occupying fort McKeen, one of the principal works of the line of defences of that place. The command occupied this work until the morning of the 15th instant, when I was ordered by Gen. Mead, commanding army of Potomac, to move my command immediately to Warren's Station, on the Weldon Rail Road, south of Petersburg, Va., a distance of twenty miles, and report for duty to Major General Wright, commanding Sixth Army Corps, whose head quarters were at that place. I reached Warren's Station on the evening of the 15th instant, and reported as directed, when I was ordered to go into camp near corps head quarters, and construct winter quarters for the men, as the battery would be held in reserve, and not placed on the lines for the present. The weather was very severe, and my men suffered much from the constant storms of snow and rain; but in a week's time winter quarters were constructed, and we were once more comfortably situated.
On the 6th of February, the advance toward Hatcher's Run was made, and although this command took no active part i the engagement, it was still engaged in the movement. On the 9th of February I was directed by the chief of Artillery, 6th Corps, to occupy fort Fisher, some two miles from Hatcher's Run towards Petersburg, and near Patrick Station. At this time this movement was made, the weather was very severe, but we had the good fortune to find winter quarters which had been occupied by the 2d Corps artillery, and the men, with little trouble, made themselves very comfortable. From this time up to the 28th of March following, but little occurred to disturb the quietude of troops in winter quarters. This position gave me an opportunity to drill, which was much needed, as I had received quite a number of recruits.
On the 25th of March it was decided to advance the picket line in front of fort Fisher. THe movement commenced near mid-day, and, contrary to the general opinion, the enemy contested the advance very stubbornly. The advance of our infantry was so much annoyed and retarded by a battery nearly in front of Fisher, and beyond the effective range of its guns, that it was decided to move out a section of artillery to silence this troublesome battery; so a section of this battery from Fisher, under the command of Lieut. Wm. R. Rowell, was ordered to move forward upon the skirmish line and report to Brevet Brigadier General James M. Warner, commanding the troops of the 6th Corps, operating in our front. The order was obeyed by Lieutenant Rowell with commendable promptness and energy, under a severe artillery fire from the enfilading batteries of the enemy on the left of Fisher. In obedience to orders from General Warner, Lieutenant Rowell took up a position within seven hundred yards, (and in advance of the skirmish line,) from the enemy's battery in question, and at once opened fire,--to which the enemy vigorously replied. This artillery duel lasted some twenty minutes, when the enemy's guns were silenced, by the well directed fire of Rowell's guns, and the troops moved forward and occupied the desired position. The object of the movement having been attained, Lieutenant Rowell was directed by General Warner to return to fort Fisher with his section. During this skirmish the section suffered no lost in men or material. The conduct of Lieutenant Rowell and the men of his section, on this occasion, was such as to elicit from General Warner a very complimentary notice, for gallantry. On this occasion a section of the battery occupied battery Lee, some distance to the left of fort Fisher. This section was under the command of Lieutenant Eben Taplin. This section was frequently engaged during the day, and under the cool and efficient management of Lieutenant Taplin, did good execution. Lieutenant Taplin's command suffered no loss. From the 28th of March to the night of April 1st, comparative quiet prevailed on the lines in front of fort Fisher, although great caution prevailed, and the cannoniers were at their guns every morning from 3 o'clock until after daylight. On the 30th of March an order was issued by General Hunt, chief of Artillery, Army of the Potomac, reducing all light batteries to four guns. I at once complied with this order.
On the night of April 1st, 1865, it was determined to carry the enemy's lines in front of fort FIsher by assault, and the infantry was posted accordingly. I was ordered by General Wright, commanding 6th Corps, to fire a single gun from fort Fisher, at 4 o'clock a. m., on the morning of the 2d, as a signal for the charge of the 6th Corps. At the time indicated the gun was fired, but owing to a misunderstanding on the part of division commanders, the troops did not advance. I was then directed to repeat the signal at 4.15 a.m., which was complied with, and the corps advanced, carrying the enemy's first line of works. My command did not move out with the assaulting column, but was ordered to hold my battery in readiness to follow the movement of the troops, at a moment's notice. At 8 o'clock a. m., I was ordered by Major General Gibbon, commanding 24th Army Corps, Army of the James, whose troops were then occupying a position directly in front of Fort Fisher, to move my battery to the front, on the line occupied by his troops, to assist in the attack on the enemy's first line or works, defending the approaches to Petersburg on the west. In accordance with General Gibbon's order, I moved out and took a position some three hundred yards in front of battery Owen--a newly constructed rebel earthwork, and unoccupied except by the enemy's sharp shooters--and opened fire on the large earthwork of the enemy on his right of battery Owen, which was defended by artillery and infantry, and on which a portion of the 24th Corps was moving. The enemy returned the fire, with much spirit. After nearly an hour's severe fire I succeeded in effectually silencing the guns of the enemy, and the work was carried by assault.
I was then directed to move forward, and take up a new position, some two hundred yards in front of and on the right of my first position, in order to attack the enemy's second line of works, commanding the first, and from which he opened a severe fire on our infantry in the captured works. After half an hour's heavy fire from this position, I was directed by the Chief of Artillery, Army of the James, to move forward and occupy a position immediately in front of battery Owen--which work protected my command partially from an enfilading fire from the enemy's works on our left--and again attack the enemy's works commanding the heights--their second and last line of works. This was 11.30 a. m.. I occupied this position during the remainder of the day, and kept up a vigorous fire, in reply to the enemy's guns, with brief intervals of cessation, until night-point. After night-fall I was directed by the Chief of Artillery, Army of the James, to construct temporary earthworks for the protection of my guns, in anticipation of a renewal of the battle in the morning. But the dawn of the 3d of April found no enemy in the formidable works on our front, they having evacuated during the night, and we immediately pushed forward and entered the town without further opposition.
I sustained no loss in men or horses, which I regard as most wonderful, as we were under fire of artillery and infantry during the whole time. One of my pieces was partially disabled by a solid shot striking the stock and carrying away more than one half of it. The behavior of officers and men, during the entire day, was splendid. Lieutenants Rowell and Perrin deserve special mention for the conspicuous gallantry and coolness exhibited throughout the entire engagement. Among the enlisted men, Sergeants William H. Parker, Parker C. Thomas, Benj. M. Clay, Corporals George H. Kelly, Lewis E. Gilman, Frank F. Sibley, and private William Washburn deserve special mention for coolness and gallant conduct during the entire day. On the morning of the 3d instant, I was directed by General Wright to take command of the reserve Artillery Brigade of the 6th Corps, consisting of the 4th Maine, E, 1st Rhode Island, H, 1st Ohio and 3d Vermont, and also to take charge of twenty pieces of captured artillery, and moved the brigade and captured guns to City Point, as it had been decided not to take the reserve brigade in pursuit of the enemy. As directed, I moved the brigade to City Point, where I arrived at 3.30 p. m. the same day, and went into camp. I remained at City Point, until May 3d, when the artillery of the army of the Potomac took up the line of march for Alexandria, Va., where we arrived on the 18th instant, passing through Richmond and Fredericksburg. The march was accomplished with much ease, as the ammunition chests had been sent to Alexandria by water, in charge of Lieutenant W. B. Perrin. Soon after our arrival at Alexandria, I was directed to prepare muster-out rolls of all enlisted men whose term of service expired on or before October 1st, 1865, but before these men could be mustered out, an order was received to muster out all of the Light Artillery of the army of the Potomac.
On the receipt of the order, I at once proceeded to take the necessary steps to carry the order into effect, and on the 3d of June the battery was turned over to the Ordnance Department at the Washington Arsenal, Washington, D. C., and on the 5th instant, everything being in readiness, I started with my command by rail, for Burlington, Vt., where we arrived on the morning of the 9th instant, without accident, and encamped on the same ground occupied by the batter in the winter of 1863-4. On the 13th instant, the battery was mustered out of the United States service, and on the 16th, the men received their pay and quietly separated for their homes.
I cannot close this report without specially mentioning Lieutenant Eben Taplin, who so efficiently performed the duties of Assistant Adjutant General of the brigade, while I was in command, from April 3d, 1865, to June 5th, 1865.
I am, General, most respectfully,
Your ob't serv't,
ROMEO H. START
Captain Commanding Battery.