1865, 1st U.S. Cavalry, 5th U.S. Cavalry, 6th PA Cavalry, Alfred Gibbs, Appomattox campaign, battle of Five Forks, cavalry, Civil War, Reserve Brigade
Among the batch of late posts was this final one by the Reserve Brigade’s commander, Brigadier General Alfred Gibbs, on the final days of the Appomattox campaign. I haven’t broken out the regimental numbers yet, but four regiments consisting of only 437 men is a telling statistic of the effects of the long ride from the Shenandoah and subsequent campaigning.
Report of Brig. Gen. Alfred Gibbs, U.S. Army, commanding Reserve Brigade.
Headquarters Cavalry Reserve Brigade,
Camp near Nottoway Station, April 15, 1865.
Major: In compliance with instructions from headquarters First cavalry division, Cavalry Corps, I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of this brigade from the time of leaving Petersburg, March 29, to the 9th of April, inclusive:
The brigade – consisting of the First, Fifth, and Sixth United States and Second Massachusetts Cavalry, in all 437 enlisted men, with 20 officers – left camp in front of Petersburg March 29 at 8 a.m. Marched via Reams’ Station, and camped near Dinwiddie Court-House. On the 30th moved early, brigade being in advance, skirmishing all day with enemy in vicinity Dinwiddie Court-House. The Fifth and Sixth U.S. Cavalry, under Maj. R. Murray Morris, Sixth U.S. Cavalry, commanding, were sent up the road toward the Five Corners to feel and find the enemy. The Second Massachusetts, Col. C. Crowninshield, were sent up plank road to the right, while Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, Colonel Leiper, were sent up toward White Oak road and midway between the two before mentioned, with orders to communicate with columns on their respective flanks. All the columns soon felt the enemy, driving their vedettes in upon their supports, and these, in turn, upon their reserves. Major Morris gallantly drove in the large force opposed to him and held his position within a short distance of Five Forks until overpowered by numbers he fell back, losing three officers and 20 men. The Second Massachusetts and Sixth Pennsylvania also met the enemy whom they were unable to drive, but firmly held their position. They were relieved by First Brigade and First U.S. Cavalry and two regiments of the Second Brigade, under Colonel Fitzhugh, and again occupied position near Five Forks. At sunset the whole force was withdrawn and camped near the junction of roads before mentioned.
On the morning of the 31st moved toward Dinwiddie Court-House, and about 1 p.m. took position in the woods at another fork of plank road, the let connecting with brigadier-General Gregg, and right being directed to connect with the other brigades of the division; this, however, was never effected. Dense masses of the enemy’s infantry pressed down the road and entirely cut off these two brigades from us; although few in numbers the brigade desperately held its ground for over two hours, disputing every inch of ground until finally doggedly yielding, when the whole line was driven back by Pickett’s division of infantry, losing 5 officers killed and captured and 15 men. Captain Miller’s battery, Fourth Artillery, did good service on hill in front of the town. Lieutenant Thompson, aide-de-camp on my staff, was severely wounded, and Major Morris, Sixth U.S. Cavalry, also with me, had his horse killed by my side. Brigade camped that night near Crump’s house.
April 1, moved forward through Dinwiddie Court-House and participated in attack on enemy’s works near Five Forks. About 2 p.m. the whole line moved gallantly forward upon the enemy’s breast-works, the whole brigade being on foot except First U.S. Cavalry, which, under Capt. R.S.C. Lord, gallantly charged the flying masses of the enemy with reckless fury far beyond the advance of the rest of the brigade. At 5 p.m. the whole line was ours, with large numbers of prisoners, arms, and other material. In this most desperate conflict I have again to record the loss of 2 officers killed and wounded and 14 men. On the 2d of April the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, detailed for temporary duty at the headquarters cavalry brigade, moved toward South Side Railroad, of which it destroyed half a mile of track, and moved west, overtaking enemy’s infantry near Exeter Mills. Skirmished with enemy until dark; bivouacked on the skirmish line. On the 3d moved in rear of Third Division to near Deep Creek, but did not meet enemy that day. April 4, overtook enemy’s infantry and relieved the other brigades on picket; moved out again at 10 p.m. and marched all night, via Dennisville, and reached Jeffersonville [Jetersville?], on the Danville railroad, at 2 p.m.; formed on left of division and remained in line of battle until dark, when brigade was moved over to right and camped in rear of infantry.
On the 6th moved out and attacked enemy’s train at Sailor’s Creek; after a stubborn fight, slowly advancing, the brigade was withdrawn and moved to left, and about 10 p.m. drove in the pickets of rear of mahone’s division of infantry. While watching enemy were attacked and sharply shelled, losing four men, and bivouacked in the woods half a mile in rear. On 7th moved through Prince Edward Court-House, the advance being at Prospect Station and Walker’s Church to near Appomattox Station; met Third Cavalry Division engaged with enemy, and went on its right; skirmished till 10 p.m., and picketed with whole brigade on the right front and across Appomattox Court-House road.
On the memorable 9th of April attacked enemy dismounted, on the Appomattox Court-House road. The Fifth U.S. Cavalry were sent in mounted and down a road (on the left) in their front, but were met by a brigade of enemy’s infantry, and retired with a loss of four men. The brigade was then mounted and ordered to charge on the right of General Custer’s command, which was done in rapid style; but on arriving on the extreme right I was informed that a flag of truce of surrender had passed within our lines, and hostilities were ordered to be suspended. The brigade camped for the night at a wood near martin’s house, one mile in rear of Appomattox Court-House.
I have the honor herewith to inclose a nominal list of the officers killed, wounded, and captured, and a numerical list of enlisted men killed, wounded, and missing.
To the officers of my staff, the commanders of battery and regiments, and to the officers and men of the command generally, my most hearty thanks are due for the unwavering gallantry, fortitude, courage, and pertinacity with which they sustained the fatigues and hardships of this memorable campaign, the exercise of which only could have enabled them to take the distinguished part that they have done. It will always be a source of pride to them to feel that they, too, were in Sheridan’s army in the campaign of 1865.
I am, major, your obedient servant,
Source: OR, Volume 46, part 1, pgs 1127-1129