HDQ. 1ST BRIG., 1ST DIV., USCT, APRIL 13, 1865
Report of Brig. Gen. William A. Pile, U. S. Army, commanding First Brigade, of operations April 1-9.
Headquaters First Brigade, First Division, United States Colored Troops,
Blakely, Ala., April 13, 1865.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by my command in the investment and capture of Blakely, Ala. :
The command arrived in the vicinity of Blakely on the evening of April 1. During the succeeding night, in obedience to orders from Major-General Steele, one of my regiments was sent to guard the bridge on the Holyoke road. On the morning of April 2 I was ordered to form my command in line of battle and advance, connecting my right with the left of the Third Brigade and conforming my movements to the movement of that brigade. This was immediately done, and we soon met the enemy's skirmish line in front of their works, steadily driving them and advancing until within 900 yards of the works around Blakely. I then, in obedience to orders from the division commander, halted, put my men under the best available cover, and lay down to await the shield of darkness to intrench. During the night of the 2d and the morning of the 3d my first parallel line of intrenchments was made. The regiment sent to the bridge returned during the night and took position in the front line. The groun d in my front and rear was a perfect plain, with a strip of low marsh running obliquely across my line of works, affording no opportunity to get my men sent out of the trenches to rest during the day, and greatly increasing the labor necessary to construct approaches and parallel lines. From April 3 to the morning of April 9 I was constantly engaged in working my way up to the enemy's works. April 4 the regiment on my right was relieved by the Second Brigade, shortening my front line and enabling me to keep one regiment in reserve. Two additional parallel lines, with approaches, were constructed under an unceasing fire from the enemy's sharpshooters and occasional fire from their gun-boats and batteries, which annoyed me very much, killing and wounding more or less of the command each day. During the night of the 8th and the morning of the 9th I had pushed skirmish line forward and constructed a new line of rifle-pits 140 yards in advance of the command on my right and about 100 yards in advance of General Andrews' line, on my left. The fire of the enemy's sharpshooters and skirmish line occupying rifle-pits inside their first line of abatis was very sharp and spiteful during the morning of April 9, until about noon, when they suddenly became quiet. Word of this change reached me by Lieutenant-Colonel Merriam, commanding Seventy-third U. S. Colored Infantry, and the lamented Major Mudgett, Eighty-sixth U. S. Colored Infantry (killed later in the day), sending to me a statement of the fact and a sking permission to feel the enemy. I immediately ordered one officer and thirty select men from each of my regiments in readiness to advance on the enemy's skirmish line. I also ordered the section of the Fourth Massachusetts Battery stationed on my line to fire a few shots with a view to ascertain if the enemy's guns were still in position in my front. No reply was elicited from the enemy. I was starting to the front intending to advance my skirmish line supported by the selected men above referred to, when Major-General Osterhaus, chief of staff to Major-General Canby, came on to my lines and went forward with me. After examining the ground he directed that half of the men already selected get into a ravine immediately in front of my right regiment, deploy, and advance to a crest held by my skirmish line, and at a given signal they with the remainder of this select party ( who were to spring out of their rifle-pits on the left of my line) were to charge, and, if possible, capture the enemy's skirmish line. This was done in the most gallant manner by Captain Jenkins, Eighty-sixth U. S. Colored Infantry, and Captain Brown, Seventy-third U. S. Colored Infantry (who was mortally wounded), assisted by the skirmish line commanded by Captain Greenwood, Eighty-sixth U. S. Colored Infantry. The enemy immediately opening a heavy artillery and musketry fire on me, I ordered five companies forward to support this advance and hold the ground gained, with instructions to intrench immediately in rear of the enemy's abatis. This movement on my part was followed up by the Second Brigade on my right, and the work of intrenching had been progressing under heavy fire forty minutes, when cheering on my left notified me that General Andrews' division was moving forward. Still ignorant of whether this was an assault on the enemy's main works or merely a following up of the movement made by me, I sent a staff officer to my left to report if their advance continued beyond the first line of abatis and parallel with my advance, who immediately signaled that General Andrews' division was advancing to assault the main works. I immediately ordered the entire brigade to charge. About the same time the Second Brigade on my right advanced their entire line, and the general assault commenced, resulting in the capture of the enemy's entire line of works in my front, containing seven pieces of artillery, many small-arms, and prisoners. To the Seventy-third U. S. Colored Infantry belongs the honor of first planting their colors on the enemy's parapet. Many of the enemy garrisoning these works threw down their arms and ran toward their right to the white troops to avoid capture by the colored soldiers, fearing violence after surrender. All my officers and men behaved splendidly. My staff officers discharged their respective duties faithfully, promptly, and fearlessly. Sergt. Edward Simon, Company I, Seventy-third U. S. Colored Infantry, has been recommended by his regimental commander to be mentioned in ord ers for his bravery. The Eighty-second Regiment U. S. Colored Infantry, although in reserve and consequently late in starting on the charge, preserved their regimental organization throughout, the officers exhibiting both skill and bravery. A list of the casualties has already been furnished by you.*
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. A. PILE, Brigadier-General, Commanding. Capt. SAMUEL B. FERGUSON,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., First Division, U. S. Colored Troops.
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.
Posted by: Bennie J. McRae, Jr.