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Adjutant and Inspector General Reports

1864 Report

Appendix F

HEADQUARTERS SMITH'S DIVISION, April 18, 1862.

Brig. Gen. R. B. MARCY. Chief of Staff.

GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of this date, and in reply have to state that in pursuance of instructions conveyed by yourself I proceeded on the morning of the 16th inst., to reconnoiter and interrupt the progress of the enemy's works in front of their battery known as the "one-gun battery" and its vicinity. With that view I advanced at 6 a.m. with the Second Brigades under Brig. Gen. Brooks, and one battery (Capt. Mott's, Third New York Artillery), having the First Brigade, under Brig. Gen. Hancock, in support, guarding the road from Four Corners to Lee's Mill, with two batteries (Capt. Ayres', Fifth Artillery, and Capt. Wheeler's, First New York Artillery), and the Third Brigade, under Brig. Gen. Davidson, at the Four Corners, with one battery (Capt. Kennedy's) in reserve.

On arrival at the opening of the woods on the road leading to the fort in question I directed Brig. Gen. Brooks to send one regiment into some pines to the right and another to the left of the dam, with instructions to open fire if they found the enemy engaged on their works, and brought Capt. Mott's battery into position in the woods on the right of the road, retaining the other three regiments in support.. On the infantry opening fire the enemy replied with shrapnel and shell, upon which I directed Capt. Mort to open fire, which he did with great effect, getting the range with wonderful accuracy. The enemy shelled the battery, one shell killing 3 men and wounding others. After about an hour the enemy were silenced, and I ordered the firing to cease. I then proceeded, having done all that my instructions directed, to reconnoiter, and I ascertained from personal observation that the gun in the angle of the upper work had been replaced by a wooden gun, and that scarcely anybody showed above the parapet, the skirmishers from the 4th Vermont doing good execution.

About noon the general commanding in chief arrived on the field, and he, deeming the position an important one to hold, ordered me to make preparations to put the whole division into position; whereupon I directed Brig. Gen. Hancock to bring his brigade up in support, replacing his vacated position by Brig. Gen. Davidson, throwing the Second Brigade into the woods on the flanks.

A staff officer of Brig. Gen. Brooks having in my presence reported to General McClellan that he had forded the brook below the dam and proceeded within 25 yards of the work, I asked and obtained permission to place as many guns as I could on the crest of the opening, about 500 paces from their advanced works, and under the cover of their fire to throw some skirmishers across the creek below the dam at the point forded, while two companies of the 4th Vermont were to attempt a crossing at the dam, with a view of pushing a reconnaissance to ascertain if the works had been sufficiently denuded to enable a column to effect a lodgment. On carrying this into execution it was found that the enemy had been largely re-enforced subsequent to the time they had been driven out of their batteries and rifle pits, at this time reoccupying their tiers of rifle pits and works, and pouring from behind them the most destructive and sustained fire. Means had been taken by the rebels to increase the depth of the water below the dam, so that the ammunition of the skirmishers of the 3d Vermont was mostly destroyed. They passed through the first rifle pits and gained the crest of the second, holding themselves there against great odds, when from want of ammunition they were forced to retire, which they did in a steady and gallant manner.

Brig. Gen. Brooks' report, which I inclose, details so minutely the further operations of his brigade that I will only add that on seeing the three companies of the 4th Vermont, which were ordered to attempt the passage of the dam, subjected to such a heavy fire of musketry, I immediately sent an officer down, under the fire of our artillery and the enemy's musketry, with orders direct to Col. Stoughton to return to his former position in the woods.

Brig. Gen. Hancock's inclosed report will detail the orders given to him and the movements of his brigade during this day.

It will be apparent from this report that no attempt to mass the troops of the division was made for an assault upon the works, but only such troops as were absolutely necessary to cover the movements of the companies of the Third and 4th Vermont, and to be at hand to secure to us the enemy's works if we found them abandoned. The moment I found resistance serious and the numbers opposed great I acted in obedience to the warning instructions of the general-in-chief, and withdrew the small number of troops exposed from under fire. The night was spent in the construction of works for the protection of the batteries still nearer the enemy's works than the artillery had been during the day. The positions strengthened we now hold, holding also with strong pickets the two points of woods on this side the creek near the dam. Soon I hope to have the honor of inclosing a report from Capt. Ayres, commanding the artillery, and will then be able to enter still further into particulars.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
WM. F. SMITH,
Brig. Gen., Commanding.

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