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Chapter 41: reorganization. The engagement at deep Bottom and Ream's Station.

From the 23rd of June until July 26th, the regiment, composed of those who had escaped capture, returned convalescents and recruits from depot were reorganized by First. Lieut. Wm. F. Rice, of Brighton, the senior officer left for duty, under whose command it performed much arduous and important work, and was exposed many days. Advantage was taken of the little time not consumed in the above fatigue duties, in drilling the recruits, who were brought up to a good degree of efficiency under the above-named officer's supervision. Here 62 more recruits were received from the depot.

At 4 P. M. on the 26th of July, the regiment under orders with the brigade, took up the line of march to the Appomattox, which was crossed on pontoons at 11 P. M. of that night, and continued on until 9 A. M. of the following morning (July 27), crossing the James at Deep Bottom at the above hour, and halted in the breastworks on the north bank after a forced march of 20 miles.

In front was an open field for half a mile, with a slight rise on the opposite side to which the woods extended. Skirmishers advanced and engaged those of the enemy with vigor. The enemy had a battery of four pieces on his right, and one on the left, which for some minutes, shelled the breastworks, in which the First Brigade lay, when they were silenced by a battery on the right and the shells of the gunboats in the rear. The regiment lay in support during the afternoon and, during the night, threw up breastworks on the crest of a hill overlooking an open field of a mile in width and which terminated in other hills and woods, in the edge of which the morning showed [344] the enemy entrenched—the intermediate space being occupied by both skirmishers, who fired continuously.

In the morning the command was relieved from these works, and in the afternoon (28th) marched rapidly down to the right of the line and speedily threw up some works and rested for a couple of hours, anticipating a flank movement of the enemy, and at the same time being in supporting distance of the cavalry who were engaging the enemy. The skirmishers who had been out all the afternoon were then called in, and the regiment retraced its steps to the scene of the fight of the 27th.

Occupied that night and the next day in strengthening its position. At dusk fell back under orders, and commenced the return march toward Petersburg, which was reached on the 30th of July, and were immediately placed in reserve of the Fifth Corps, who occupied the front line of works, and who had been heavily engaged all day. Remained there until 7 P. M. exposed to the enemy's shells, some of which exploded in the brigade, and at that hour proceeded to the camp vacated on the 26th, being on the move during that time, and the men were thoroughly tired out by their four days operations, during which they marched by day and worked by night.

Col. Wass had been mustered out on the 28th, his term of service having expired, and Lieut. Col. Rice was commissioned Colonel but the depleted numbers of the regiment did not allow of promotions to fill the other vacancies, Captains Merritt and Hale and Lieut. Driver having been discharged to receive other appointments.

Lieut. Col. Rice who had escaped from prison, returned to the regiment with a new set of colors early in the month of August and at once assumed command, but only one flag, the National, was ever carried afterward. He found the command in very bad shape, numerically, as an official report dated August 16th, 1864, shows. The enlisted men then borne upon the rolls numbered 486, with 17 commissioned officers,—a total of 503. The report says: ‘Amon the officers are included the following Field and Staff; one Lieutenant Colonel, one Major, two Surgeons, one Quartermaster and [345] one Adjutant, which leaves but 11 officers (of whom only two are present) for duty. The command in the field numbers 100. Prisoners of war and absent, sick and wounded which latter are daily returning, convalescent amount now to 317, the balance being upon detached service in the field. Only two First Lieutenants are present, one of them acting as Adjutant, and most of the men are recruits.’

On the 12th of August another movement to the north of the James was begun. The little command broke camp and took up its line of march in brigade toward City Point which was reached at 9.30 P. M. There the men embarked on a transport, which moved out and anchored with the rest of the fleet. At 10 P. M. the boats moved down the river but, under cover of the night, returned and ascended the James, arriving at Deep Bottom at midnight, and at 7 A. M. of the 14th, the men debarked. After a short rest the regiment moved off in brigade and occupied the ground of the fight of the 26th ult., but were almost immediately sent forward to the support of the First Division which were engaging the enemy. The Nineteenth received its share of the shells from the enemy, which were in force at Strawberry Plains, or Deep Bottom Run. The men remained in support of the skirmishers until 4 P. M., when the regiment, in its place in the brigade, charged the enemy's works, which, beside being of a formidable nature, were upon the opposite side of a deep ravine. The regiment became much exposed here before descending, losing Privates John Ingalls, of Co. D, and Benjamin Nichols, of Co. G, killed, and six wounded. They succeeded in occupying the enemy's advanced rifle pits until night, the enemy's main position being of unusual strength and situated on the summit of a bluff. Then the regiment fell back under orders, and having reformed in brigade, took up a position in the rear of the works which had been thrown up. They occupied these works (luring the following day, supporting a section of the Sixth Maine Battery, which opened fire at 1.45 P. M. and continued until dusk. Much praise was given the Nineteenth as most of its men were recruits recently received. [346]

The night of the 16th was spent in quietness. On the 17th there was very heavy firing in front all day. Flags of truce were sent out twice. The night passed as did the previous one. At 4 P. M. of the 18th, the right being heavily engaged, the enemy opened fire with artillery and the men were placed in readiness to repel any advance which might be made. At 9 P. M. the command took ground to the left, which brought it in proximity to the river, when the regiment, together with the Twentieth Massachusetts, were detailed to throw up works, which occupied the night.

During the day and night of the 19th it rained incessantly and nothing of importance transpired in the immediate vicinity, beyond that the enemy was observed to have strengthened his position.

At dusk of the 20th they received orders to retrace steps toward Petersburg. The night being very dark and a heavy rain falling, contributed to make the march of 20 miles in the highest degree laborious. At midnight of the 20th the regiment crossed the Appomattox on pontoons and arrived in camp at 9 A. M. on the 21st. Notwithstanding the small strength of the regiment, it performed a considerable share of the picket and fatigue duties incidental to the expedition and in the charge of the 14th, the majority of the recruits, who had never been under fire before, behaved in a manner which exceeded expectation.

On arriving in front of Petersburg, again the little brigade immediately moved up to the support of the Fifth Corps, which had again been engaged with the enemy and had lost heavily. The regiment lay in support until the evening of the 23rd, when it started for Ream's Station on the Welden Railroad, and upon arrival at the depot, the regiment occupied for a short time the works upon the north side, when it was ordered out as skirmishers to protect the front of the remainder of the brigade (four regiments) which, under the command of Colonel Rice, was engaged in destroying, in a more complete manner, railroad property, etc., which had been but partially damaged by the cavalry. Toward evening the [347] regiment was called in, and, with the brigade, occupied the works on the south side of the railroad.

On the evening of the 25th the command, in the brigade, lay for some time in a cornfield near the road, where it had moved down to support skirmishers who had become engaged with those of the enemy and who also were in support of a battery which lay upon the left front, and which was engaged with some of the enemy's artillery. Early in the afternoon the regiment was withdrawn from here and made a detour through the field before alluded to, arriving in the rear of the First Division, Gen. Miles, which occupied the works first mentioned, and lay in close support. The enemy charged at this time and were handsomely repulsed. About 3 P. M. the regiment was detached from the brigade and occupied some very slight works on the rise of the hill in rear of the cornfield, and in the rear of the first line of its own, Gibbon's, division. It was in easy range of the enemy's musketry and in full view of his artillery.

The latter was not slow to take advantage of this and opened on them with his guns, and for some time the regiment was under a terrific fire of solid shot and shell. At this time the right of the troops occupying the front line of works were flanked and driven in with great confusion, and the Nineteenth, under the impression that the brigade was about to charge and endeavor to change the fortunes of the day, advanced toward the enemy on the ‘double-quick’ under a galling cross fire, but, observing that the regiment alone had charged, it was halted and re-formed behind a couple of houses, and returned and took its place in the brigade.

The enemy had by this time turned the left of the lines and came pouring in, the fire at this moment coming from three points—front, rear and left flank and the enemy's shelling being kept up with much effect, this command was withdrawn at dusk, being the last to leave the field. Re-forming in the woods, the men marched to the rear under orders, having lost 21 men missing, 9 wounded and 2 killed. Only three of the original regiment was in service at this time. [348]

Casualties at Reams Station, Aug. 25, 1864.

Co. F.Capt. Isaac N. Mudgett, captured by the enemy.
Co. H.Private John Lee, wounded.
Co. D.Private George Soper, wounded.

missing in action:

Co. A.Private Benjamin Adams,
James E. Beatty
William Robinson
B.Wm. P. Edwards
Richard Doherty
Stephen J. Younger
C.Wm. Farnham
Job Foster
Wm. Richardson
Eben D. Poole
D.John Hagan
Edward Joy
E.Peter Johnson
F.John Lee
James Smith
Thomas Meagher
H.Edward McKenna
Sydney Smith
Earnest Krantz
Charles Dean
Joseph Hill

These casualties occurred during the last charge of the enemy which took place at dark and they were all marked ‘Missing in Action.’ They were captured, confined in Libby Prison anti paroled on Sept. 24th, 1864.

On the 30th of August the command went into camp in the vicinity of the ‘Williams House,’ and while there the discharge of 90 men, whose terms of service had expired, was effected.

The Monthly Report, dated August 31, shows the following: [349]

Present:Commissioned officers, for duty,5
Acting Adjutant,16
Enlisted men, for duty,72
Absent:Commissioned Officers,
On detached service,4
With leave,1
Enlisted men, on detached service,30
In arrest,2297
Loss: Commissioned officers, Mustered out,5
Enlisted men, discharged, exp. of service,90
Killed in action,2
Missing in action,3
Prisoners of war,20
Wounded in action,17

While the regiment had been so busily engaged, the following self-explanatory orders were issued, which reflected much credit upon this command:

Headquarters 2ND Army Corps, Sept. 19th, 1864.

Division commanders will send in as early as practicable requisitions for Spencer rifles to arm one or two good regiments in each division.

By command of Major General Hancock,

Signed, William Wilson, A. A. A. G.

Headquarters 2ND Div. 2ND Army Corps. Sept. 20th, 1864.

The First Delaware Volunteers and the 19th Massachusetts Volunteers are hereby designated as the regiments [350] to bear the above arm. The commanders of the above named regiments will at once send in requisitions for the same.

By order of Col. Thos. A. Smythe, Commanding Division, Signed, A. Henry Embler, Capt. &. A. A. A. G.

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