HDQRS. 25TH ARMY CORPS, ARMY OF THE JAMES,
In the Field, Va., April 17, 1865.
COLONEL: I have the honor to report as follows the operations of the detachment of the Army of the James, while under my command, from the 28th ultimo to the 13th instant:
Nothing unusual occurred until Saturday night, the 1st of April, when it was believed that some of the enemy's forces were leaving in front of Bermuda Hundred. I therefore directed an attack, which was made by Maj. Gen. G. L. Hartsuff early on Sunday morning, April 2. He succeeded in carrying the enemy's picket-line and developing the full force of the enemy, which was found not to have been diminished. During that day, however, about 1,400 rebel infantry, 300 cavalry, and a light battery had been seen passing down the turnpike and railroad toward Petersburg. From this and other sources of information I felt the enemy were weakening in my front north of the James, and believing that they would continue to do this during the night (to some extent at least) I ordered preparations for attack in the morning. I subsequently received orders from Lieutenant-General Grant not to attack in the morning unless l felt perfectly certain of success, as he would be able in a day or two to send me more troops, and thus make it certain. I, however, kept wary, in preparation and on strict alert, and at about 3 o'clock it was evident that the enemy was abandoning my immediate front. I ordered the troops to be awakened to get their breakfast, and gave orders for movement at daylight, and at the same time ordered the picket-line to move forward at once, to feel the enemy's position. General Devens, commanding the Third Division of the Twenty-fourth Corps, was the first to report to me (at about 5 o'clock) that his picket-line had full possession of the enemy's works in his front. Before daybreak I felt pretty well convinced that the enemy were evacuating Richmond, and therefore as soon as day dawned I sent Maj. A. H. Stevens, Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry, and Maj. E. E. Graves, aide-de-camp, both of my staff, with forty of my headquarters cavalry,
belonging to Companies E and H, Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry, to receive the surrender of the city, and to direct the authorities and citizens to cause all liquor to be destroyed and to preserve order until my troops arrived. At daybreak I started General Kautz's (First) division, Twenty-fifth Corps, up the Osborne pike, General Devens' (Third) division, Twenty-fourth Corps, up the New Market road, and the cavalry under Col. C. F. Adams, jr., Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry, up the Darbytown and Charles City roads, and directed them all to halt at the outskirts of the city until further orders. I then rode ahead of the troops along the Osborne pike and entered the city hall, where I received the surrender at 8.15 a.m. Majors Stevens and Graves had entered a little after 7 a.m. I found the greatest confusion, pillaging and disorder reigning, and the city on fire in several places. I immediately set every one to work to restore order and to assist in subduing the fires. I succeeded in doing this at about 2 p.m., by which time a large and valuable portion of the city had been consumed. I ordered in, immediately after my arrival, a brigade of Devens' division, under Brevet Brigadier-General Ripley, as provost guard, and ordered all the rest of the troops into position along the inner line of redoubts around the city. Ripley's brigade were, of course, of vital importance in restoring quiet and subduing the fire. From that time until relieved by the major-general commanding I was mainly engaged in restoring the wheels of government, and in taking care of the destitute in the manner directed by him. The first troops to reach the city were the two companies (E and H) of the Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry who were the escort to Majors Stevens and Graves, and their guidons were the first national colors displayed over the city. Next came the pickets of the Twenty-fourth Corps. After that, as I was in the city and not on the outskirts, I do not know what came, and is a matter of dispute, both divisions claiming the credit.
During all these operations I had the hearty and zealous co-operation of every officer under me. I desire particularly to mention Brig. Gen. Charles Devens and Brig. Gen. George F. Shepley. They both by most untiring vigilance, labor, and alertness, assisted me in the highest degree, and both particularly distinguished themselves in the above respects, and I earnestly recommend both for the brevet of major-general. Both have good claim to it, from length of faithful service in their present rank.
My casualties during these operations were about 90, of which 10 were killed, 40 wounded, and 40 captured by the enemy.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Lieut. Col. E. W. SMITH,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Department of Virginia.
Researched and Compiled