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Adjutant and Inspector General Reports

1865 Report
Appendix C

Official Reports

XXI. REPORT OF LIEUT.-COL. GEORGE B. DAMON, TENTH REGIMENT VERMONT VOLUNTEERS.

Headquarters 10th Vermont Vols.,
April 20th, 1865.

General:--I have the honor to submit the following as a report of the operations of this Regiment, in the attack upon the main line of works of the enemy, on the left of Petersburg, on the 2d of this month.

In compliance with orders from the Headquarters of the Brigade, the Regiment, in light marching order, leaving all knapsacks and camp equipage behind, in order to facilitate its movements, moved at 12 o'clock, midnight, on the 1st of April, and went into position some four hundred yards in front of Fort Welch, and twenty paces in rear of our entrenched picket line. The Brigade, which was the extreme left of the Corps, was formed in three lines of battle, the 10th Vt. occupying the right of the front line. The picket line of the enemy was also behind strong earthworks, about one hundred and fifty (150) yards from us, their main works being some two hundred (200) yards further to their rear.

Soon after we were in position, at half past twelve o'clock, and again at three o'clock in the morning, a very sever picket fire was opened on both sides, commencing at a considerable distance to our right, and extending to our front and left, and continuing each time for about one half hour.

The regiment is entitled to great credit for the silence which was maintained during this terrible musketry, both officers and men keeping a perfect line and displaying great coolness and courage. The darkness prevented a large list of casualties, some five or six men only being wounded.

At about four o'clock in the morning, at the firing of a signal gun from Fort Fisher, the regiment advanced at a double quick under a terrific fire of musketry and artillery, passing our own picket line and that of the enemy, pressing through such openings as we could find in the double line of abattis, and did not halt until the colors of the regiment were planted inside the fortified line of the enemy.

We first struck their works immediately to the left of a fort mounting six guns, which was evacuated on our approach. These defenses consisted of heavy field works, at least six feet high, with a ditch in front eight feed wide, and six or seven feet deep,--and forts and redoubts at intervals of from three hundred to four hundred yards, all mounted with field artillery. A portion of the men passed through narrow openings in the works, and many jumped into the ditch and scaled the entrenchments. Many prisoners delivered themselves up here, and were immediately sent to the rear, but without guard, as our own safety required the presence of every man. As my regiment was in advance of the other regiments of the division, and had become somewhat broken by the obstructions through which we had passed, I caused the line to be reformed, which occupied some five minutes, during which time we were joined by portions of the other regiments of the Brigade.

As soon as my command was reorganized, we moved rapidly to the left, in line of battle, within and parallel to the captured works, in the direction of a second fort, some three hundred yards distant, doubling up the enemy as we advanced, and capturing many prisoners. This fort, mounting two guns, was taken without serious opposition. Here we halted for a moment to reorganize the line, and again advanced, over swampy, uneven ground, upon a third fort, distant some four hundred yards, from which we received a severe artillery fire. We were also subjected to quite a severe musketry fire from this position, which was obstinately contested by a large force of the enemy assembled there. The position was, however, carried, and the fort fell into our hands, the enemy retiring a few hundred yards to the left into the edge of a piece of woods, from which they kept up so severe a musketry fire as to check our advance. Adjutant James M. Read was here wounded, while nobly performing his duty, the ball entering the heel and coming out at the instep, necessitating an amputation of the foot, from which he died on the 6th instant. So rapid had been our advance from the time of first reaching the enemy's lines, that the regiment was considerably broken up, while the other regiments of the brigade were without organization, though many of the men were with us. We were able, however, to hold our advanced position, for about twenty minutes, when the enemy advanced upon us in strong force, moving parallel with their entrenchments and upon both sides. We were compelled reluctantly to fall back to the 2d fort, heretofore mentioned. Some of the captured guns of the enemy, and one of our own batteries, were now put into position and opened upon the enemy.

The different regiments of the Brigade were, in the meantime, reorganized, as were some of the regiments of the 2d Brigade, of the Division, which now came up, and in a short time we again advanced recapturing the fort and carrying everything before us. The enemy made no further resistance, but great numbers delivered themselves up as prisoners, and many escaped to the rear. Still moving on about a half mile, we met the 24th Corps, which had just entered the works without opposition, further to the left. After halting here for about half an hour, the regiment countermarched and moved in the direction of Petersburg, together with the rest of the Division. Passing outside the rebel fortifications a little to the north of the point where we entered in the morning, the Division was formed in line of battle at right angles to their works, forming a part of a line which extended far to the left, and moved forward slowly, towards Petersburg, and until within about two miles of that city where we halted until about sundown. We were then moved a short distance and went into position on the ground previously occupied as a picket line of the enemy, my command being the extreme right of the Division and resting on the Vaughn Road. Here we entrenched and bivouacked for the night.

It is impossible in reporting the operations of the regiment to separate it entirely from the other regiments of the Brigade, as portions of all were engaged in most of the work which was performed; and from the nature of the fighting, the obstructions passed over, and the rapidity of our advance, the regiments were somewhat mingled together.

But I am happy to be able to state, that the 10th Vermont was the first regiment in the Division to plant a stand of colors within the enemy's works,--that it bravely performed ins entire duty throughout the day, and kept up so perfect an organization as to elicit the highest commendation of the Brigade and Division commanders.

While I cannot speak too high praises of the conduct of both officers and men, I desire to mention as deserving of especial consideration, Major Wyllys Lyman, who was among the first to enter the rebel works with the color bearer, and performed the most efficient service during the day, using every exertion to keep the regiment together, and leading the men forward to their duty; Adjutant James M. Read, who not only performed his own special duties wit the utmost skill, but contributed materially to the success of the day, by fighting with great gallantry and courage, until he fell, wounded, at the extreme front; Corporal Ira F. Varney, Co. K, color bearer, who was first to plant his colors within the enemy's works, on our front, and throughout the day combined dash with coolness and steadiness, to a remarkable degree.

I have heretofore sent you a nominal list of the casualties which occurred in the regiment.

I am, general, very respectfully, your ob't serv't,

GEORGE B. DAMON,
Lieut. Colonel Commanding.

Brig. Gen. P. T. WASHBURN,
Adjt. and Inspector General.