Report of Col. Hiram Scofield, Forty-seventh U. S. Colored Infantry, commanding Second Brigade, of Operations April 2-9
HDQRS. SECOND BRIG., FIRST DIV., U. S. COLORED TROOPS
Blakely, Ala., April 11, 1865
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the part taken by my command in the siege and capture of Blakely, Ala.:
During the first two days of the siege, commencing upon the 2d instant, the brigade which I have the honor to command was, by the order of the general commanding the division, retained in reserve, and though subjected to a heavy artillery fire without the privilege of in any manner returning it, calmly and coolly labored in the construction of gabions and fascines to be used by our more fortunate comrades who were in the front. Upon the second day of the siege, April 3, 1865, officers and men received with pleasure the order to move to the front, taking the center of the division, relieving a regiment from each of the other two brigades. The Fiftieth and Fifty-first Regiments were placed in the trenches, the former on the right, the latter on the left, the Forty-seventh Regiment being held in reserve. The ground over which the advances were made was flat and wet and very unfavorable for the health and comfort of the men, confined as they were to the trenches; but stimulated by the love of country and pride of soldiers, neither labor, hunger, nor danger caused any murmurs. Heavy skirmish lines were pushed out and supported under a heavy fire of artillery and musketry. The men were compelled to fight with the musket at the same time that they labored with the spade, and in this manner the lines were advanced about 400 yards. Upon the seventh day of the siege the Fifty-first Regiment was placed in reserve and reluctantly yielded its place to the Forty-seventh Regiment. Not until the eighth and last day of the siege did the command receive the support of artillery, and then of only two light pieces, which, owing to what would seem a mistake of the engineer in the plan of the work to cover them, could not be used upon the enemy's guns in our front. Upon this last day of the siege our hearts were made glad by the report of the capture of the Spanish Fort, and each one seemed animated by a desire to emulate the example of our comrades in arms. The enemy's skirmish line yielded less stubbornly to-day and the artillery fire was not so heavy as formerly. This caused a general belief that the place was being evacuated, and fears were entertained and expressed that the prize was slipping through our fingers. About 4 p.m. the skirmish lines were almost simultaneously advanced around the whole line, and without, so far as I can learn, any orders; and as the enemy rallied, offering a more stubborn resistance, our skirmishers were strengthened, and such was the enthusiasm of the troops that had there been concert of action it is believed the place might then have been captured. As it was the rebels were driven within their works, from which they opened a withering fire of musketry and of grape and canister, temporarily checking the advance. The order was then given to intrench and hold the ground gained. The reserve regiment was then brought up to the advance line of intrenchments. about this time the order came to advance the skirmish line and feel of the enemy's force and position, stating that it was believed the place was being evacuated. This order had been already obeyed, disclosing the fact that the artillery, though before silent, had not been removed, and that there was at least a strong force of the enemy remaining. Just at this time other portions of the line advancing , permission was obtained to move forward and assault the enemy's works. The order was at once given to the Forty-seventh and Fiftieth Regiments to advance, supported by five companies of the Fifty-first Regiment, the balance of that regiment, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Buck, being retained in the advanced line of rifle-pits as a reserve. The command moved with a yell through the abatis and over torpedoes, several of which exploded, driving the rebels from their works and guns, and in conjunction with the regiments of the other brigades which entered the works almost simultaneously, captured a large number of prisoners. The day was won, and Blakely, with all its garrison and munitions of war, was ours. I cannot mention with more praise than they merit Col. Charles A. Gilchrist, commanding Fiftieth U. S. Colored Infantry; Col. A. Watson Webber, commanding Fifty-first U. S. Colored Infantry, and Lieut. Col. Fred. E. Peebles, commanding Forty-seventh U. S. Colored Infantry, who led their regiments in the thickest of the fight, vieing with each other, though in the most friendly manner, in deeds of noble daring. Instances must be very rare in which better officers than those named were supported by better officers and men. The spirit and enthusiasm of the troops could not be excelled. Men actually wept that they were placed in reserve and could not go with their comrades into the thickest of the fight. To the impetuosity and bravery of the charge may, I think, be attributed the comparatively small number of killed and wounded. The ground covered by the fire of the enemy's guns was soon passed over, and the enemy, intimidated by the determined bravery of the men, sought safety in flight. Quite a number of men were killed or wounded by the explosion of torpedoes, which were exploded by stepping upon them. One man, Private Josias Lewis, Company K, Forty-seventh U. S. Colored Infantry, was, while under my own observation, severely wounded, losing a leg by the explosion of one of these infernal machines while guarding prisoners to the rear after they had surrendered, claiming the rights of prisoners to the rear after they had surrendered, claiming the rights of prisoners of war. To the members of my staff -- First Lieut. T. Sumner Greene, Forty-seventh U. S. Colored Infantry, acting assistant adjutant-general; First Lieut. Silas L. Baltzell, Forty-seventh U. S. Colored Infantry, aide-de-camp; First Lieut. George W. Weeks, Fifty-first U. S. Colored Infantry, aide-de-camp; Second Lieut. Ebenezer Denney, Fiftieth U. S. Colored Infantry, picket officer -- great praise is due for the prompt and fearless manner in which they discharged their duties. Inclosed I send you the report of regimental commanders, together with a full list of casualties.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Col. Forty-seventh U. S. Colored Infantry, Comdg. Second Brigade.
Capt. SAMUEL B. FERGUSON,
SOURCE: United States War Department. THE WAR OF THE REBELLION: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.