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“The record of modern warfare rarely shows a more desperate encounter than upon the parapet of Fort Gregg…”
Exciting manuscript battle report from the decisive campaign ending combat operations in Virginia. Brevet Brigadier General Edwin S. Greeley, regimental colonel of the 10th Connecticut, dispatched this “…to the adjutant general of Connecticut detailing the regiment’s involvement in the fall of Petersburg and subsequent surrender of Lee’s army at Appomattox.” Included are detailed accounts of the Battle of Hatcher’s Run (April 1) and the final assault on Fort Gregg on April 2, 1865, which caused the collapse of the Confederate lines at Petersburg and the evacuation of Richmond the following day. EDWIN S. GREELEY.
Manuscript Document Signed, to Brigadier General Horace J. Morse. “Head Quarters 10th Infantry Conn. Vols. / Near Richmond Va.,” May 10, 1865. 13 pp. folio, in ink.
“…Starting about dusk on the 27th of March, the regiment under the command of Lt. Col. Goodyear crossed the James River during the night … A few miles beyond this point … a halt for the night was ordered about four miles from Hatcher’s Run. The next morning we occupied a deserted encampment of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 2nd Army Corps. … on the morning of the 31st the regiment advanced with the brigade, and, after a severe skirmish, drove the enemy within his works. The regiment being advanced to within a distance of 400 yards of the enemy’s works and constantly engaged until dark. … The position was such as to render any future advance impracticable without a severe engagement the Tenth was ordered to the left of the brigade and to follow the 11th Maine Vols. during some delay of that regiment, the Rebels charged our outpost and the Tenth was advanced to the works where it arrived just as the enemy came to the opposite side of the parapet. A short but sharp fight took place on the parapet of the works, which resulted in the complete repulse of the enemy, who were compelled to fall back in confusion. The picket line was promptly re-established and the enemy was forced back to the old position with severe losses. The casualties of the 10th were: one enlisted man killed and five wounded. The enemy lost severely in killed and wounded and more than fifty prisoners were left in our hands. During the day an attempt was made to strengthen the line of works but as the working parties suffered severely from the enemy’s sharpshooters on the morning of April 2nd, Lt. Col. Goodyear, commanding the regiment, was directed to strengthen his skirmish line and make a demonstration in connection with the skirmishers of the 11th Maine and 100th New York volunteers upon the enemy’s works in front for the purpose of ascertaining the strength of the enemy. The advance was immediately made but met by so destructive a fire from the enemy line of battle that future advance of the skirmish line was impossible. At about nine o’clock the brigade was moved by direction of General Foster towards the right a march of less than two hours brought the command in sight of a formidable line of earthworks beyond and in sight of those fortifications the interior on the right of Petersburg were visible. The tall spires of the city loomed up in the background … from these works the enemy commenced shelling our men as they advanced the Tenth was deployed in line of battle on the right of the Brigade. A portion of the 11th Me. Vols. were deployed as skirmishers and the order to advance was given and the enemy was driven within his works Gen. Foster ordered the works in front to be carried by assault. The 10th Conn., supported by the 100th New York advanced in quick time to the assault of the works in its front, Fort Grey. It was a complete enclosed work stockade in the rear with loopholes for musketry through the stockade, and manned by a full garrison with two pieces of artillery. The regiment arrived at a distance of four hundred yards from the works, the troops pushed on without a halt under one of the most terrific fires of musketry and artillery ever witnessed. Many of our brave men went down, but the fort was reached without faltering. Lt. Col. Goodyear fell severely wounded in the face and shoulder … although wounded early in the engagement, he would not allow himself to be carried to the rear, but remained where he fell until the fort was surrendered. The blue flag of Connecticut was the first on the parapet, and a hand to hand fight, upon the parapet, for the possession of the fort, lasting from twenty-five to thirty minutes … our line entirely enclosed the fort. But the garrison, although surrounded, refused to surrender and continued to defend the work, while from Fort Baldwin a destructive fire was poured in upon the backs of such of our menthe fort was at last surrendered. The record of modern warfare rarely shows a more desperate encounter than upon the parapet of Fort Gregg. Union and Rebel soldiers were found dead in each other’s grasp, thirteen Rebels were found inside the Fort killed by bayonet thrusts, and scores were wounded by the same weapon. The new state colors were pierced by 23 bullets, while the staff was struck three times. The 10th Conn. maintained its former good name in the assault, and hand-to-hand fight, and the state flag, the first raised upon the parapet of the Fort, was not lowered until the Rebels surrendered … I joined and assumed command of the regiment at Farmville, on its return from Appomattox Court House both men and officers [are] in most excellent spirits the regiment left Farmville en route for Richmond via Burksville, at twelve on April 17th, 1865 on the morning of April 22nd, we took up our line of march for Richmond, arriving there on the 25th, where the command was received by the third division Gen. Devens command, which had been the first troops to occupy the city of Richmond upon its evacuation by the Rebels. The Tenth being frequently cheered by the troops as they passed them the regiment has marched a distance of nearly 300 miles, and engaged the enemy in action six days. The conduct of the Tenth in this campaign won from its divisional and corps commanders the strongest expression of approbation and delight …”
General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant engineered the final triumph over Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. He continued to extend his lines at Petersburg, tightening the vise on Lee, and then recalled Philip Sheridan’s cavalry from the Shenandoah Valley in mid-March. By the final week of March, Grant was prepared to open the campaign. Lee, realizing the predicament, tried one final frontal assault on the northeastern section of the Union line. John Gordon’s Corps temporarily seized Fort Stedman in bloody fighting on March 25, but a valiant counterattack by John Parke’s IX Corps saved the day. Grant, realizing that Lee had weakened other parts of his line to attack Fort Stedman, began to plan operations south and west of Petersburg.
On March 30, as described here, Sheridan’s cavalry and units from several federal infantry corps began to skirmish with Confederates under George Pickett at Hatcher’s Run near the crossroads of Five Forks, which controlled the Southside Railroad and the Confederate supply line. On April 1, Sheridan broke through, mauling Pickett’s division at Five Forks. Lee rushed reinforcements to his west, and on April 2, General George Meade, commanding the Army of the Potomac, ordered full-scale frontal assaults on the weakened Confederate works at Petersburg. Lee decided to fall out of Petersburg that night, in hopes that a speedy move to the southwest might bring him into a junction with Joseph Johnston’s army in North Carolina. He sent word to President Davis that he should prepare to evacuate the Confederate government from Richmond. On April 3, the Union Army entered the smoldering Confederate capital. The combination of the empty stomachs and depressed spirits of Lee’s proud soldiers, and the determined pursuit of Sheridan’s cavalrymen, brought the encirclement and surrender of Lee to Grant on April 9.
The 10th Connecticut participated in all of these actions, but the report contains a gap, from April 2 until after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, ninety miles west of Appomattox. Colonel Greeley, it is stated, took temporary leave, returning to his unit on April 15.
Following a brief sojourn to New York City during the presidential election, the 10th Connecticut returned to Virginia in December 1864. The regiment marched to the left of the Union line at Petersburg on March 28, 1865. It engaged the enemy at Hatcher’s Run on April 1. The following day six companies of the 10th contributed to the climactic assault on Fort Gregg, a key to the inner defenses of Petersburg. The 10th Connecticut charged and carried the southern angle of the works. The State flag, with 23 bullet holes through it and three through the staff, was the first banner planted on the parapet. Out of 13 officers and 180 men engaged, the 10th suffered 79 casualties. With the rest of the Army of the James, the 10th moved quickly to block the Confederate escape near Appomattox Court House. The Confederates were shortly surrounded and flags of truce ended the fighting.
On April 15, 1865, six days after Lee’s surrender, the 10th Connecticut was reassigned to Richmond, remaining there until August 25, when they returned home to be mustered out.
Edwin Seneca Greeley (1832-1920), from New Haven, was a machinist in locomotive works before the war. He was the colonel of the 10th Connecticut, and was brevetted brigadier general on March 13, 1865.