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The organization of eight companies of this regiment (Third Veteran) was completed on the 25th of April, 1864.
ROSTER OF OFFICERS.
Silas P. Richmond.
These eight companies left Readville April 28, and reached Alexandria, Va., on the 30th, and Bristow Station May 2. Here the regiment was assigned to the first brigade, second division, Ninth Army Corps, with which it crossed the Rapidan, and participated in the fatigues, perils, and victories of Gen. Grant's advance to Richmond.
Within eight days of the arrival of the Fifty-eighth in Virginia, it was engaged in a severe battle ; and, from that time until August, few days of rest from marching or fighting intervened. In the advance from the Rapidan to the James, the history of the Fiftyeighth is so similar to that of the Fifty-seventh as not to demand a recital here.
The day following the arrival of the regiment before Petersburg is a memorable one. It was the 17th of June. Orders were given to assault the enemy's works. The men, though jaded and wearied by long marches, obeyed with alacrity.
The object was accomplished with much less difficulty and much less loss than was expected. The result of this morning's work was the capture of two forts or redoubts, three guns, one stand of colors, and a hundred and ninety prisoners. The casualties were two commissioned officers and fourteen enlisted men wounded. On the following day (Saturday, 18th), the regiment took part in the expedition to the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad. The capture of the railroad was a complete success; but the enemy were not dislodged from their works.
From this time until the 30th of July, the regiment remained
in front of Petersburg, but was engaged in no battle. It had been announced that a rebel fort directly in front of the brigade to which the Fifty-eighth belonged had been mined, and was to be blown up at four o'clock, A.M.
We quote the graphic report of an officer:
That part which had been assigned to us was to pass down the covered way as soon as the movement commenced, cross the railroad, go through the ravine to the left, ascend the hill, cross the corn-field, and enter the fort through the gap which was expected to be made by the explosion of the mine.
As the hour drew near, the interest thickened, and every eye was directed towards the fort. Finally, a slight trembling of the ground, a deep, heavy, prolonged noise, accompanied by dirt, and fragments of timber, spades, shovels, and parts of wheels flying high in air, announced the fact that the explosion had taken place. At the same instant, artillery from the whole length of the line opened a furious and terrible fire upon the enemy's works. The interest and excitement were intense.
The infantry moved forward immediately upon the opening of the artillery. At the onset, each regiment took, and kept for a time, the position assigned it; but, in passing through the covered way to the railroad, we met and became interinised with the troops of another corps that were returning.
Still our brigade kept on its way, crossed the railroad and ravine, ascended the bill, crossed our outer line of works, crossed the corn-field, and passed into the chasm of the fort. This was accomplished under a most galling fire from the enemy, both of musketry and artillery.
In reaching the fort, we were obliged to pass other troops who were lying in thick confusion behind débris and the vacated works recently occupied by the enemy; and thus the right and left wings of the regiment became
sepa rated. Before we had quite succeeded in bringing the two wings together, wo were ordered to charge upon a battery which was situated a quarter of a milu in rear of the one we bad mined. The ground between us and the battery was an open field, exposed on both sides and in front to the enemy's fire of musketry and artillery.
It was easy to see that the task assigned us was difficult and dangerous, if not impossible to perform ; yet the order was promptly obeyed.
Advancing with the rest of our brigade a short distance into the open field, it was discovered that some of the regiments were bearing to the right, in the direction of a battery situated near the woods. It appeared there was a misunderstanding as to which battery it was intended to capture. This caused a slight confusion. The firing from the enemy was incessant: the line wavered, and finally broke; the men filing off into the fort, and into the saps and trenches which led from it. Again the order was given to charge upon the battery across the field ; again the attempt was made and failed, the men retiring to the fort, filling the chasm and the trenches to overflowing.
The enemy, probably discovering our confusion, made preparations for recapturing the fort we now occupied. Behind the works where we lay was a brigade of negro troops which had not yet been engaged. Receiving orders to make a counter charge upon the enemy, they fixed bayonets, leaped over the parapet and down the embankment, pell-mell into the trenches, which were already filled with white troops.
A scene of confusion now followed which it is impossible to describe. Colors which had been planted were thrown down, and trampled in the mud; and there in the trenches lay white men and negroes, piled up three or four deep in inextricable confusion. Not one man in fifty could use his musket; and in this situation the enemy found us when they made their charge. Coming up on all sides in overwhelming numbers, escape seemed impossible. The fort was surrendered at two, P.M. The loss of the regiment was five killed, thirty wounded, and eighty-four prisoners.
From this time up to the 30th of September, the troops were comparatively inactive. They now marched out, and crossed the Weldon Railroad near Yellow House.
We formed line of battle, with skirmishers in advance, and found the enemy in force near Poplar-spring Church. We drove them from their works. Arriving at or near the Pegram House, it was discovered that the Fifth and Ninth Corps did not connect. The enemy, taking advantage of this failure to connect, came down upon us in overpowering numbers, turned the tide of success in their favor, and succeeded in capturing many prisoners. Our losses were two killed, ninety-nine wounded, and ten taken prisoners.
It now seemed as if the Fifty-eighth, as a regiment, had become extinct. So few were we in numbers, compared with the other regiments, that we were sent to a camp in the rear. This camp was in the vicinity of Hancock Station, two miles from Petersburg. Here the regiment remained until April 2. Meanwhile it had been joined by Company K, materially increasing its number of effective men.
Early on the morning of April 2, the regiment, with a portion of the brigade, and in connection with other troops, made an attack upon the enemy's works. The place attacked was a little to our left of Fort Sedgewick, sometimes known as “ Fort Hell,” and to the enemy's right of Fort Mahone. The attack was a complete success, the enemy being driven from the portion of the lines attacked ; and, although several attempts to retake them were made, they were held, under severe fire from the enemy's batteries, until four, P.M.; when, our loss having been heavy, the enemy succeeded in gaining the ground from which this portion of the brigade bad driven them in the morning. The loss during the day was five killed, seventeen wounded, and fourteen missing. All the missing subsequently reported to the regiment, upon their release, at the surrender of Lee's
army The enemy baving evacuated during the night, on the morning of April 3 the regiment left the uncomfortable camp it had so long occupied, and marchiug over the enemy's works, and through Petersburg, joined in the pursuit of the retreating army.
The duty assigned the brigade was that of guarding wagon-trains. While thus engaged, and during the rest of the regiment's term of service, nothing specially worthy of note transpired.
July 15, the Fifty-eighth broke camp at Alexandria, Va.; reached Readville, Mass., on the 18th ; and received final payment and discharge on the 26th.
The Fifty-ninth Regiment (Fourth Veteran) was raised by Col. Gould, formerly major of the Thirteenth, a brave and meritorious officer; and left Readville for Washington, D.C., April 26, 1864.
Its roster of officers was,
Jacob P. Gould.
The regiment marched from Washington on the 29th, and went into camp near Alexandria, Va. It left for the front May 2, and reported to Gen. Stevenson at Germania Ford on the 5th ; and, on the 6th (the tenth day after leaving home), the Fifty-ninth was engaged in the battle of the Wilderness. The history of this is substantially the same as that of the other regiments of this brigade during this remarkable campaign, and has been given elsewhere in this work. It was actively engaged in the actions of the 6th, as above, - at Spottsylvania, North Anna, and Cold Harbor. Crossing the James, it reached Petersburg on the 17th of June; was held in reserve until five, P.M., when the division to which it belonged successfully charged the enemy's works after another division had twice been repulsed. The Fifty-ninth took part in the unsuccessful assault on the enemy's works, July 30. In this action, Lieut.-Col. Hodges, who had, with honor to himself and service to his country, commanded the regiment during nearly the whole campaign, was killed. Col. Gould being in command of a brigade, the charge of the regiment devolved on Major Colburn. Aug. 14, a part of the regiment was in the action at the Weldon Railroad. On the 2d of October, it was partially engaged at Prebles House, and, on the 26th, took part in the reconnoissance near the South-side Railroad ; which proving unsuccessful, the regiment returned to camp on Pegram's Farm, where it remained until ordered to a position to the right of Fort Stedman, and held the right of the line of the third brigade, first division, Ninth Army Corps, commanded by Brig.-Gen. N. B. M‘Laughlin. We quote from the official records :
Though the position was an important one, as was afterwards shown by the rebel attack on Fort Stedman when the line had been weakened by the withdrawal of the troops at this point to an interior position, and the establishment of a mere picket-line in the trenches, yet the regiment, which was at that time reduced to scarcely a hundred effective men, was obliged to guard a length of line of at least two hundred yards, –a work which required the utmost vigilance day and night, and, with the other necessary duties, left the men but little time for rest. The position combined several additional disadvantages. It was in a deep hollow, which the constant rains rendered very muddy; and the underground bomb-proofs, which the exposure to the enemy's fire at this point rendered necessary, were, from the same reason, more or less full of water continually. It was, too, very near the enemy's picket-line, and, from the lowness of the ground, was commanded and completely swept by the enemy, who seemed to take advantage of this circumstance to keep upon it a constant picket-fire, almost unknown in contiguous parts of the line, which rendered it very unsafe to traverse the regimental line, and especially to keep up communication with headquarters. The works, too, were in a very incomplete state when first occupied by the regiment; and the unfavorable character of the ground caused portions of them to be from time to time swept away. The regiment, therefore, had constant work in repairing, and finally in entirely reconstructing, the line of works, in corduroying the trenches, and in building and making tenable and comfortable their quarters. But all praise is due to the noble spirit of the men, among whom there was very little discontent, a constant endeavor to make the best of their position, and especially a scrupulous attention to the neatness of their persons, accoutrements, and quarters, remarkable in such circumstances.
About the middle of February, Lieut.-Col. Colburn obtained leave of absence; and the command devolved on Major Gould. On the 15th of March, the regiment was relieved from the trenches, and occupied a camp to the rear and left of Fort Haskell.
On the morning of the 25th of March, what seemed at first an unusually sharp picket-fire was heard. The regiment was immediately out, and under arms; and in a few moments an aide brought the orders from brigade headquarters for Major Gould to take his regiment with all possible speed to Battery No. 11, a small lunette work to the left of Fort Stedman, occupied before the attack by the Twenty-ninth Massachusetts, which had been captured almost en masse by the overwhelming numbers of the rebels. Arriving