After Action Reports The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies And Other Sources (OR Vol. 27, Part I, p. 776-779) Report of Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Carr, U. S. Army, commanding Third Division.
NEAR BRANDY STATION, VA.,
December 4, 1863.
SIR: I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by my division during the recent operations of the Third Corps, from November 23 to this date:
On November 23, orders were received from headquarters Third Army Corps, directing the command to move next morning, November 24, at daylight, the Second Division to be in advance, Third Division in the center, and First Division in rear, the column to march left in front. At 6.30 a. m., November 24, a copy of a telegram from headquarters Army of the Potomac was received, through headquarters Third Corps, directing that, owing to the unfavorable state of the weather, the troops should not leave their camps until further orders. At 6 a.m., November 26, orders were received from headquarters Third Corps directing the command to move as directed in circular from the same headquarters dated November 23.
The command moved shortly after 7 a. m. Just before starting a detail of 200 men was made from the division, to serve as a guard for the corps train. The division crossed Mountain Run at Ross Mills at 9.45 a. m., and reached the Rapidan, near Jacobs' Mills, at 2 p. m. Crossed the river at 4 p. m., and was directed by Major-General French to follow the Second Division, and bivouac for the night between it and the First Division, and to picket the front strongly. The march was continued after crossing the river for about 3 miles, when it was discovered that the Second Division had taken the wrong road. The command was countermarched, returning to within a mile of the river, and bivouacking for the night.
At 7 a. m., November 27, the march was resumed on the road to Robertson's Tavern, the orders from corps headquarters - being to follow the Second Division closely and to throw out strong flanking parties on the right flank. The column moved slowly forward, making frequent halts. At 9.10 a. m. a few musket shots were heard in front. At 11.25 halted on the edge of a field on the left of the road, and about 3 miles from Jacobs' Mills. At 12.30 the firing in front became quite brisk. About 2.30 p. m. the division was ordered up to take position on the left of the Second Division, and to connect, if possible, with the right of the Second Corps. The division, marching left in front, filed into the woods on the left of the road. I directed General Morris, commanding First Brigade, to connect with the left of the Second Division; Colonel Keifer, with the Second Brigade, to form on the left of the First, and Colonel Smith, with the Third Brigade, to continue the line on the left of the Second.
General Morris, on moving up to connect with the Second Division, found the enemy posted behind a fence on the crest of a hill in his front. I ordered him to charge and drive them from it, which he did, driving the enemy through the fields beyond. This position was held by our troops until the close of the engagement. The troops had barely time to take the positions assigned them when the engagement became general along the entire line. The enemy made repeated attempts to advance in front of the brigades of General Morris and Colonel Keifer, but were repulsed each time with heavy loss.
Colonel Smith, commanding Third Brigade, failed to retain his position on the left of the Second Brigade, assigning as a reason the difficult nature of the ground on which he had to move his troops and the severity of the enemy's fire, though his report of casualties shows his loss to be trifling. Shortly before sundown, the ammunition of the men being nearly exhausted, I requested General Birney, commanding First Division, who had moved up to my support, to relieve my line to enable my men to refill their cartridge boxes. The brigades of General Morris and Colonel Keifer were then withdrawn, the First Division taking their place. I massed the two brigades above named about 200 yards in rear of the line of battle; they were supplied with ammunition and held in readiness for another advance. Darkness coming on, however, the firing entirely ceased. The enemy withdrew from our front, leaving their dead on the field.
At 3.15 a. m., November 28. I received orders from headquarters Third Corps to withdraw my command to the position they occupied before the advance was made on the afternoon of the 27th; also to report, on my way back, to the major-general commanding the corps. On reporting as directed, General French ordered me to follow with my command in rear of the Sixth Corps. I found the narrow road on which they were moving filled with their artillery, and ammunition and ambulance trains, and was delayed over an hour waiting for them to pass. I moved on, in rear of the trains of the Sixth Corps, at 6.30 a. m., halting at 8 a. m. on the edge of a large field in which part of the Sixth Corps was massed. Moved on again at 1 p. m., following the Second Division, the First Division being in advance. Halted again about a mile southwest of Robertson's Tavern. Moved again at 4.10 p. m., taking position at sundown on the left of the First Division on the east side of Mine Run, threw out pickets, and bivouacked for the night. My command remained in the above position all next day, November 29. In the early part of the day, I was ordered by General French to hold my command in readiness to make an assault on the enemy's works in my front. I made the necessary disposition of the troops, but the day passed without the assault being made.
At 12.30 a. m., November 30, I received orders from headquarters of the corps to move with my division at 2 a. m. and report to Major-General Warren on the plank road. I reported as directed, and was conducted by a staff officer to the position assigned me, on the right of the Second Division, Third Corps, on the west side of Mine Run, my right resting on the plank road. I was told by General Warren that in the attack about to be made I should begin the movement by pushing through the thick wood in my front, my arrival on the other side of it to be the signal for the advance of the rest of the line over the comparatively clear ground on my left. I deployed a sufficient number of skirmishers and made every preparation for the intended attack. About this time the pickets of the Second Corps were withdrawn from my front, no notice having been given me of the fact.
In advancing the skirmishers to take the line just vacated by them a sharp skirmish ensued, resulting in a loss to us of 3 men killed and 4 wounded. My division remained in position until 12.30 p. m., when I was ordered by General Warren to report back to General French. I returned, and took my former position at 3 p. m.
At 10.45 a. m., December 1, received orders to hold my command in readiness to move at a moment's notice. The division marched at 6 p. m., but was delayed nearly three hours waiting for the passage of the trains and artillery. I crossed the Rapidan with my command at Culpeper Ford at 3.30 a. m., December 2, and halted about 1 mile from the river.
At noon on the 1st, I was ordered to send a strong brigade to report to General Gregg at the old Wilderness Tavern, at the intersection of the turnpike and Germanna plank road. The Third Brigade, Colonel Smith commanding, was detailed for that purpose. Colonel Smith reported as directed, and rejoined the division on the afternoon of the 2d.
My command moved from its bivouac near Culpeper Ford at 2 p. m., December 2, halted again at 4.30 p.m., resumed the march at 1 a. m., December 3, and reached its present position near Brandy Station at 6 a. m.
In conclusion, I would say that it affords me great pleasure to make honorable mention of the following officers who came under my immediate notice for their cool, intrepid, and gallant conduct on the field during the engagement on the 27th of November, namely: Brigadier-General Morris, commanding First Brigade; Colonel Keifer, commanding Second Brigade; Colonel Horn, Sixth Maryland Volunteers; Colonel Truex, Fourteenth New Jersey Volunteers, and Col. M. R. McClennan, commanding One hundred and thirty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, the latter of whom was wounded. I was much gratified with the conduct of my division; both officers and men performed their duty manfully, and the States they represent may justly feel proud of their bearing on the occasion. I am under many obligations to the members of my staff for their assistance both in the field and on the march, and would particularly mention Lieut. James Johnson, acting assistant adjutant-general; Maj. P. Vredenburgh, jr., acting assistant inspector-general, and Lieut. C. C. Jones, aide-de-camp.
I inclose herewith the reports of brigade commanders and list of casualties.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOS. B. CARR, Brigadier-General
Lieut. Col. 0. H. HART. Assistant Adjutant-General.
Report of Casualties in the Third Division, Third Army Corps, during the recent movement, November 26-December 3.
Killed Killed Wounded Wounded Missing Missing Brigade Officers Men Officers Men Officers Men Aggregate First 1 31 1 151 1 1 186 Second 1 32 7 137 0 0 177 Third 0 6 1 30 2 5 44 Total 2 69 9 318 3 6 407
(OR Vol. 27, Part I, p. 780-783)
Report of Cot. J. Warren Keifer, One hundred and tenth Ohio Infantry, commanding Second Brigade.
CAMP AT BRANDY STATION,
December 3, 1863.
LIEUTENANT: I have the honor to report the movements and operations of my command from November 26, 1863, to this date, as required by circular orders of this date from division headquarters. The command marched from Brandy Station at 8 a. m., November 26, and arrived at Jacobs' Ford, on the Rapidan River, at 2 p. m. Before starting from Brandy Station, 200 men were detailed.from the One hundred and tenth Ohio Infantry, under command of Maj. 0. H. Binkley, as corps train guard. About 4 p. m. the troops crossed the ford and marched about 3 miles on a road leading to the turnpike road from Orange Court-House to Fredericksburg. The troops were then countermarched to within 1½ miles of the ford, where they bivouacked for the night. My brigade marched in the rear of the Third Brigade, which was the advance of the division on that day.
The march was resumed at 7 a. m., November 27, and toward the turnpike road above named. On this day the First Brigade was in advance of the division and the Second Brigade marched in its rear. Brisk firing commenced in the advance about 12 m., between the enemy and the Second Division of the Third Corps. After some delay my brigade was ordered by Brigadier-General Carr into the woods, with directions to form upon the left of the First Brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General Morris. On account of the density of the undergrowth in the woods and the absence of roads, it was with some difficulty that I succeeded in reaching the position designated.
Upon arriving in the vicinity of the enemy's fire, I discovered they occupied a hill to my front upon the slope of which were posted the troops of General Morris' brigade. I determined at once to carry the hill and occupy it, deeming it the only defensible position that could then be taken. As I was marching my troops by the left flank, and along the hollow behind the hill, I ordered the two advance regiments (One hundred and tenth and One hundred and twenty-second Ohio), as soon as they had become unmasked, upon General Morris' left, to move by the right flank, in line of battle, carry the crest of the hill, and take post behind a fence upon its summit. The Sixth Maryland and One hundred and thirty-eighth Pennsylvania Infantry Regiments were ordered to file in rear of the two Ohio regiments, and take position upon their left, from right to left in the order named. The hill was carried and the fence gained with but slight loss. On account of misunderstanding an order, the One hundred and twenty-second and One hundred and tenth Ohio Regiments momentarily fell back a short distance, but, upon being ordered back, retook their position and became immediately engaged with a heavy force of the enemy.
The right of the brigade was found to be in advance of the First Brigade, leaving it in great danger of being turned by the enemy. I promptly reported this fact to General Morris, and urged him to advance his line, and also occupy the crest of the hill, which he did after a slight delay. The Ohio regiments maintained their position until near dark, when, their ammunition becoming exhausted, they were relieved. The Sixth Maryland was under a heavy fire from the commencement of the action until near its close, and maintained its ground gallantly.
Two assaults were made upon my line, the first in front of the Sixth Maryland and the second in front of the One hundred and thirty-eighth Pennsylvania. The enemy was formed in columns of attack not less than three regiments deep. He was both times repulsed, with very heavy loss. During these assaults Cols. John W. Horn, of the Sixth Maryland, and M. R. McClennan, of the One hundred and thirty-eighth Pennsylvania Infantry Regiments distinguished themselves by their superior courage and gallantry. The Sixth Maryland remained in its position until the battle was about ended. It was relieved about 6 p. m. Its supply of ammunition was also exhausted. The One hundred and thirty-eighth Pennsylvania was withdrawn at night, and after the close of the engagement. The brigade bivouacked for the night a short distance to the rear of the battle-ground. The men were supplied with ammunition immediately upon their withdrawal. The enemy's loss in my front was very heavy. His killed and wounded were left upon the field.
During the engagement, with rare exceptions, the officers and men behaved gallantly and deserve high commendation. I take pleasure in mentioning the uniform good conduct of Col. W. H. Ball, One hundred and twenty-second Ohio; Lieut. Col. W.N. Foster, One hundred and tenth Ohio; Col. J. W. Horn, Sixth Maryland, and Col. M.R. McClennan, One hundred and thirty-eighth Pennsylvania Infantry, regimental commanders. They remained at their posts, and with skill and bravery urged on their men. Lieut. Col. M.M. Granger, Maj. J.C. Hill, Captains Sells, Ross, Cornyn, Guss, Walter, Stewart, Prentiss, Bradshaw, Martin, Beaver, Rouzer, Spangler, Moore, McElwain, and many others deserve high commendation.
Colonel McClennan was severely wounded in the foot late in the action, and was obliged to leave the field. Lieut. James A. Fox, One hundred and tenth Ohio Infantry, was killed. He commanded a company, and, as upon former occasions, distinguished himself. He rose from the ranks to his position in the army. He was not only brave, but an accomplished gentleman and soldier. He commanded the esteem of all who knew him. His loss will be deeply deplored by his many friends.
The total killed in my brigade was 1 officer and 32 enlisted men; wounded, 7 officers and 137 enlisted men. A list of the casualties by regiments is hereto appended.
On the morning of the 28th, the enemy having retreated, the brigade was marched to a point between the plank and turnpike roads leading from Fredericksburg to Orange Court-House. A short halt was made near Robertson's Tavern. The troops were put in position facing the enemy, where he was strongly posted behind Mine Run, between us and Orange Court-House and covering the two roads named. The troops bivouacked in their position until 2 p. m., November 29, when my brigade, under the direction of Brigadier-General Carr, was formed for an attack in line of battle, and in the rear of the Third Brigade, Third Division, Third Army Corps (Colonel Smith). The attack was not made.
At 4 a. m., November 30, was marched to the left upon the plank road and again formed as before, for an attack, which was again abandoned. About 2 p. m. the brigade, with the other troops of the division, was marched to its late position near the center of the whole line. The troops bivouacked in this position until 7 p. m., December 1, 1863, when orders were received from Brigadier-General Carr to march in advance of the division. The troops marched to the Rapidan River, and crossed at Culpeper Ford about 4 a. m. December 2. The march was resumed about 12 m. toward Brandy Station. The troops bivouacked about sundown near Richardsville. At 12 o'clock midnight the march was resumed for Brandy Station, at which place the brigade arrived about 6 a. m., December 3, and went into camp, where it still remains.
During the march temporary delays were occasioned by getting upon the wrong road, and also by artillery and teams stalling on bad roads. This latter was particularly the case upon the march to Culpeper Ford, on the night of the 1st instant.
On the entire campaign my orders were received from Brigadier-General Carr, commanding division.
I beg further to report that many sick were conveyed from Brandy Station in ambulances, to their great injury and the inconvenience of the troops. The ambulances being required for the conveyance of the wounded, many of these men, although unable to perform the day and night marches, had to be sent to their regiments.
The wounded received all possible care and attention at the hands of the medical officers. Surg. C.P. Harrington, chief surgeon of the brigade, Assistant Surgeons Richards, Bryant, Owen, Cady, Thornton, and Foreman, were actively engaged in the care of the wounded. The last named remained upon the field during the engagement of the 27th of November, and amid the danger rendered important service to the severely wounded.
In conclusion, I beg to acknowledge the important service rendered by Lieut. William A. Hathaway, acting assistant adjutant-general, Lieut. Samuel J. Yarger, acting assistant inspector-general, and Lieuts. Thomas S. Black and E.S. Norvell, acting aides-de-camp on my staff. During the engagement they each displayed cool courage and excellent skill. For their prompt action in conveying orders upon the field, and skill exhibited in posting troops, I cannot too highly commend them. They also deserve commendation for their efficiency in the movement of troops, upon the march, during the entire campaign.
I am, lieutenant, with high esteem, your obedient and humble servant,
J. WARREN KEIFER,
Lieut. J. JOHNSON,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
The Cecil Whig listed on December 12, 1863, the casualties of Companies B, E, and G of the 6th Maryland Volunteers in the Mine Run Campaign of the previous month.
Company B - Killed: John B. Pratt - Wounded: Sergeant Mansel B. Moore, hand, severely; Color Corporal John D. Hall, arm, severely; Corporal Wm. Biggs, leg, severely: Private Francis Moore, arm and side, severely; Alexander Burley, face, slight; Wm. Davis, arm severely, and Wm. Alexander, hand, slight.
Company E - Killed: Sergeant Ebenezer N. Watts and Private Alexander McCrey; Wounded - Corporal Thos. Murray, slightly wounded in the head.
Company G - Wounded: Privates John Cantwell, George Spence, Albert Gregg, Moses Temple, John Himberly.
A letter dated December 11, 1863 was written to the Cecil Whig from the Methodist Church Hospital in Alexandria Virginia. Note: Ewing was the editor of the Whig.
"FRIEND EWING: - Presuming you would like to hear of the trials and tribulations of the Boys of My Maryland, who are trying to find the road to Richmond with the army of the Potomac, I drop you a few lines. There are a number of the 6th Md. at present in the hospital, suffering from their wounds received in that skirmish, as the press called it, on the 27th ult. Now if that was a skirmish, I hope never to see a battle, by-the-by I believe a fight which does not last for four or five days is not termed anything but a skirmish; but such as it was, it has caused many a happy fireside a mournful Christmas, and left many a gallant youth a cripple for life.
But I am digressing. On Thanksgiving Day, while our friends were enjoying the dainties of life, we were nibbling hard tack, and marching to pay our respects to the Johneys. At night we crossed at what is called Jacob's Mills, five miles above Germania Ford. On Friday, the second division of our corps took the advance; we did not expect we would meet much opposition, but soon skirmishing commenced, and we knew that some of our misguided brothers were in the vicinity. The firing grew faster, and we took up our line of march to take a hand at the game in which death was the dealer; we did not have long to wait, for a few minutes walk soon brought us to within 300 yards of the Butternuts.
Nothing but a small clearing intervened between the enemy and ourselves. The woods were so thick that artillery could not be brought in to advantage, but a section of the 6th R.I. battery soon began to talk and the Johneys not to be outdone in exchanging iron compliments, brought on a section also, and the way the canister flew among the trees was a caution to the gray squirrels; here and there a comrade would drop, some would crawl to the rear, while others had fought their last fight, and their proud spirits took their upward flight to appear before the Great Chieftain of us all.- Peace to their remains; memory will drop a tear on their rude graves in the wilderness.
Night soon drew her sable robe over the scene, and friend and foe rested. Now came strategy, which as a writer says, is a fine thing when one does not understand it. The Johneys tried to flank us, but not succeeding in that, they fell back; when morning broke, the bird had flown, and we left the field to join the main body of our army. The rebel dead and wounded were left, as we had not enough transportation for our own. At 4 P.M., on Saturday, the army came up to Lee, who had fell back to Mine Run, a small stream some five miles from Orange Court House, there they worked like beavers, throwing up intrenchments. A flank movement was in contemplation, when an order came to fall back; and on Tuesday, after having escaped nearly freezing to death, we recrossed the Rapidan at Culpepper, mine-Ford, reaching Brandy Station on Thursday; and then after escaping starvation and being jolted to death in the ambulances, we took the cars for Alexandria, and here our trouble for a time ended. - The deed was done. Lee was scared; and the army has gone into Winter quarters; and now the old telegram will be: "all quiet along the line."
But, I fear, I am trespassing on your valuable columns, and as the Surgeon is coming, I will, for the present, close.
All honors to old Cecil; her sturdy sons have been tested, and their wounds show it today. The 6th Regt. Md. Vols. has won its place in the pages of history; long may it stand an emblem of its country's rights. The noble Flag, the presentation of the loyal ladies of Elkton, floated over us while we met the traitors and put them to flight.
CRIPPLE FROM CECIL COUNTY"
This letter from the Rev. Joseph T. Brown, Chaplain of the 6th Maryland Volunteers, was published on December 19, 1863 in the Cecil Whig.
"Camp of the 6th Reg, Md. Volunteers
Near Brandy station, Va.
December 10, 1863
MR. EDITOR - Our facilities for writing are anything else but favorable, nevertheless they are more to be desired than the facilities of Libby Prison.
On the 26th ult., it being our national fast day, the Army of the Potomac moved in grand array; the 3d and 6th Corps crossed the Rapidan on Pontoon bridges at Jacob's Mill, between sunset and dark; the 1st, 2nd, and 3d Corps crossing at other points. We encamped for the night half a mile on the South side of the Rapidan. Early on the morning of the 27th we were called into line, and with a spirit characteristic of our noble men, we moved off, expecting to have work to do before night. With slow and quiet steps, feeling our way through a dense forest, seeking the whereabouts of the enemy we were pursing, when about 11 o'clock the booming of cannon on our right gave the evidence that we were already engaging the enemy's skirmishers. About 8 o'clock the fighting began to assume the character of a real fight. Soon the 2nd Brigade, commanded by Col. Keifer to which the 6th Md. attached, moved into line in double quick.
Feeling a deep interest in the fate of our boys, I rode into the line, and only left my position when ordered back by the Major - Suiting the action to the command I came out at double quick. Scarcely had I reached the rear when the wounded were being carried back. The work of death had already commenced. For 2 ½ hours it was one continual roar of musketry; surely, thought I, no man can come out of that fight without being killed or wounded. But the God of battles was with us. He who holds the whirlwind in the hollow of his hand, and for his own glory defends the right, was gracious unto us; though we lost in killed or wounded, perhaps a 1,000 men, - our enemies lost two for our one. Heaps upon heaps they were piled on the battlefield, and left by their merciless leaders without a burial and without care. The 6th Md. lost in battle 10 killed and forty-one wounded, making in all fifty-one men. They were in the hottest of the fight, led on by Col. Horn, the bravest of the brave, and the calm, deliberate Major Hill - they entered into the awful conflict with a will to do their duty if death should be the result. Gen. French, who commanded the 3d Corps, could be seen mounted on his sorrel horse, as calm to all human appearance, as a Summer eve; while his aids were busy riding to and fro, amongst them Capt. Frank Torbert, formerly of your town. I shook hands with the captain while the fight was raging. I never saw him looking better. Our Colonel's horse received a shot, and a ball passed through the Major's coat, hitting his saddle, but doing him no harm.
I spent the night at the hospital, doing what I could for the wounded. The 28th unpleasant and raining - moved our wounded to the front - arrived at Rolison's Farm about 1 o'clock, where there had been some skirmishing in the morning - encamped about 8 o'clock at night, three miles from Rolison's Farm - woke up on Sabbath morning in full view of the Rebel army and their fortifications. This was to have been the grand battle ground, but in this we were disappointed, as there was no fighting on the Sabbath, save some little skirmishing. This night was extremely cold. We made ourselves as comfortable as we could by building a brush arbour and making a log fire. At 2 o'clock Monday morning we were aroused from sleep with the order: "get ready to march." A cup of coffee was soon made, and again we were on the march; striking for the plank road from Fredericksburg to Gordonsville. By day-light we were in the line of battle on the South side of Mine Run. The Rebels and their fortifications still in our front. At 8 o'clock heavy cannonading on our right and left, and some skirmishing in our front. Everything indicated a general fight all along the line.
The Surgeons and Chaplains, assisted by the Pioneer Corps, set to work falling trees and clearing the ground for a hospital. Already the wounded are being brought in and cared for.
At 1 o'clock our brigade received orders to return to the place we left in the morning; the 2d Del. coming in as we were moving out. Tuesday morning our Reg. was ordered to the support of a Maine battery. At 7 o'clock in the evening the whole army was on a retrograde movement-, 5 o'clock on Wednesday morning found us on the north side of the Rapidan, having marched all night-we encamped and threw ourselves upon the ground, if possible to snatch an hour or two of sleep. In this we were successful. Soon after sunrise we received orders to prepare for a march; and after having drank some coffee, we moved off, the Rebels pursuing and throwing their shells in our rear, but without effect. At 5 o'clock in the evening we encamped, expecting to get a good night's rest and sleep, but in this we were disappointed. At 2 o'clock on Thursday morning, without getting our coffee, we moved off, arriving at Brandy Station a little after sunrise.
Thus Mr. Editor, I have given your readers a running sketch of our seven days' and nights' marching and fighting. I look upon our falling back to the North side of the Rapidan as a wise and prudent move.
Artillery, wagon trains and ambulances stuck fast in the mud, so that it would sometimes require two teams to draw one -, such was the condition of the roads. Our officers - noble men - offered the Rebels every inducement to come out and fight; but all to no purpose. To have attempted to storm his works and drive him from his stronghold would have resulted in the loss of many a brave and good man; but our men were ready even for that. Bold as would have been the experiment, they were ready with bayonet in hand, to charge upon, and, if possible, drive him from his works; but wisdom, dictated another, and, we think, a better course, namely, failing back to the North side of the Rapidan.
I believe that Lee is afraid of Gen. Meade, and his army, otherwise he would have tried, at least, to have driven us from the Wilderness. Let Lee cross the Potomac, and how soon is our army on his trail, and gives not up the chase until he is whipped or driven back. If he wants to drive us, as invaders of his soil I, why does he not do it? The reason is plain, - he is afraid to attack Gen. Meade and his army in an open fight.
JOSEPH T. BROWN
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