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et firing took place for several days, but on the 8th, a demonstration was made upon the Squirrel Level road by two brigades of the first division, under the personal direction of General Willcox. The enemy was found at all points in front and on the alert. The advanced picket line was established and General Willcox returned. The affair cost the Corps a loss of three killed and thirteen wounded. In these operations, General Parke ascertained that the morale of the command was suffering, and its efficiency was reduced by the presence of conscripts, substitutes and "bounty jumpers." The veterans in every engagement added to their former fame, but many of the new recruits were found sadly deficient in the qualities of the soldier. Notwithstanding this unfavorable circumstance, the Corps performed a very creditable work in the engagements upon the extreme left of the army.
The month of October was occupied in strengthening the position which we had gained upon the left. The gain was permanent. Our forces could not indeed dislodge the enemy from his strong position along the Boydton plank road, but they established their lines within a mile and a half of it, and within three miles of the South side railroad. The brilliant operations of General Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley gave fresh encouragement to the army in front of Petersburg. General Grant determined to make another effort against the enemy's works upon our left. It was known that the line of Hatcher's run was fortified, but General Grant hoped that the defences might be turned. The movement by the flank was entrusted to General Hancock. Meanwhile, the Ninth and the fifth corps were to make demonstrations in front. The Ninth Corps was in position on the extreme left of the army, holding the line through the Pegram farm, refusing on the left flank and then returning on the rear. On the 27th, General Willcox moved out his division at three and a half o'clock in the morning. General Ferrero's division followed immediately, and General Potter's brought up the rear. By daylight, the entire corps was marching quickly down the Squirrel Level road.
Colonel Cutcheon's brigade was sent forward in advance, with the design of capturing the enemy's videttes, and, if possible, of surprising the forces covering the Boydton road. Both designs failed; the first by a premature discharge of a musket, which alarmed the enemy's outposts, and the second by the vigilance of the rebel troops.
The works in front of Hatcher's run were found to be strongly constructed, and protected with abatis and slashed timber. The Ninth Corps was deployed, with General Willcox's division on the left, General Ferrero's in the centre, and General Potter on the right and in support. General Willcox formed his division with Colonel Cutcheon's brigade in the centre, and the brigades of Generals Hartranft and McLaughlin on the flank. General Ferrero formed his division with Colonel Bates's brigade on the left and Colonel Russell's on the right. In front, were thick woods, with a heavy undergrowth. Through these General Ferrero advanced, driving in the enemy's skirmishers, until within one hundred yards of the rebel works. There the fallen timber and the abatis were impediments too difficult to overcome. General Ferrero intrenched and held his ground. General Willcox found no opportunity of piercing the enemy's line. Nothing was to be done except to intrench in turn. The object to be accomplished was to occupy the attention of the foe while General Hancock was to make a serious attack; but the enemy made a counter attack, and for a time there was some hard fighting with doubtful results. Both parties finally gave up the contest, with but little advantage to either. A few flags and prisoners were taken on both sides. Our troops held the position through the night of the 27th, but on the morning of the 28th, they received orders from headquarters to withdraw to the former lines. They retired, closely followed by the enemy, without material loss. When within a mile of its encampment, the Ninth Corps formed in line of battle, and the divisions retired in that order, one through the other. The first division formed in line while the second and third passed through. The Corps was all in by
six o'clock in the evening, having suffered a loss of eight killed, one hundred and twenty-seven wounded, and fourteen missing.
This movement closed the operations on the left, so far as the Ninth Corps was concerned. Early in December, the troops returned to the front of Petersburg. The Ninth Corps held the right of the line of the army, reaching from the Appomattox to battery twenty-four. General Willcox's division occupied the right, General Griffin's brigade the left of the line, including Fort Sedgwick-called by the soldiers Fort Hell-Forts Davis and Hayes and the battery. Through the winter, the Corps remained in this position, occasionally detaching a brigade or division in support of movements made by other corps. Some changes also took place in the organization. Early in December, it was decided by the military authorities to detach the colored troops from the different corps in which they had previously served, and organize a new corps, the twenty-fifth. The colored division of the Ninth was accordingly separated from the command. It was moved down to Bermuda Hundred, and General Ferrero was placed in charge of the defences of that point. The colored troops had done a faithful service, and would doubtless have accomplished more had they been permitted. But the old army officers did. not in all cases take kindly to them. General Burnside had been very favorably disposed to them from the start, and General Parke agreed with his friend and chief. But it has already been seen how chary General Meade had been in giving them any more conspicuous service than the guarding of the trains, the digging of intrenchments, and the hewing down of the forests. But the negroes wrought well, drew commendation even from reluctant lips, and won promotion for their officers. General Ferrero, no less from his own merit than from the good conduct of his command, received the brevet of Major General, to date from the 2d of December, 1864.
A considerable number of Pennsylvania troops, enlisted for one year's service, arrived in camp about the 1st of December, and took the place of the colored soldiers. Six regiments of
infantry were organized as the third division, and General Hartranft was assigned to the command. They had the opportunity, before their term of enlistment expired, of seeing some hard and honorable service, and of bearing a distinguished part in the closing scenes of the strife. General Hartranft was too active a soldier to allow his command to remain idle when any work was to be done.
On the 6th of December, General Warren started on a reconnaissance to the Weldon railroad beyond Nottoway Court House, which was effectual in destroying a large portion of the track as far as Hicksford. On the 10th, General Potter's division was sent down to Nottoway Court House to reënforce General Warren and assist his return. The weather was extremely cold, the snow and sleet filled the air and covered the ground, and the troops endured much hardship in marching and bivouacking beneath the inclement skies. General Warren achieved considerable success in his movement, but his command was subjected to great and painful exposure. The appearance of General Potter's division was a welcome sight to the weary men. On the hither side of the Nottoway river the junction was made during the afternoon of the 11th, and on the 12th, the entire force returned to camp.
The routine of the siege was broken by a singular occurrence. During the early part of the winter, several attempts were made to bring the two contending parties together for purposes of negotiation. In these transactions, Mr. F. P. Blair, senior, was prominent, and so successful was he in his representations to the insurgent government, as to induce Mr. Davis to send commissioners from Richmond, to treat with our authorities upon the subject of a cessation of hostilities. On Sunday morning, January 29th, 1865, the pickets in front of the Ninth Corps reported that a flag of truce was flying on the enemy's works. The fact was communicated to Colonel Samuel Harriman, commanding the first brigade of the first division, and by him to General Willcox who was then in command of the Corps. Request was made through the flag for permission to
Messrs. A. H. Stephens, R. M. T. Hunter, and J. A. Campbell to pass through the lines. General Grant at once granted the favor, and sent up an aide to accompany the commissioners to City Point. Colonel Harriman, Major Lydig of General Parke's staff, and Captain Brackett of General Willcox's staff, courteously received the visitors from Richmond, and attended them to General Grant's headquarters. They remained as guests of General Grant until the 30th, when they had a long conference with Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward on board a steamboat in Hampton Roads. The interview, however, had but one result, namely:-to assure the rebel authorities that no peace was possible except upon the condition of submission. The commissioners returned as quietly as they came, and made their report. Their visit had, the effect upon the soldiers of causing the belief, that the enemy was becoming less sanguine of success, and more disposed to perceive that the defeat of his cause was drawing nigh.
On the 5th of February, 1865, General Hartranft, with the third division, supported a movement made by General Humphreys, with the fifth and sixth corps, towards Hatcher's run. The command left camp at four o'clock in the afternoon, and reached General Humphreys's position on the Vaughan road at eight o'clock, without a straggler. General Hartranft was posted on the right of the second corps, and intrenched in the night, throwing up one thousand yards of rifle pits. On the next day, the 200th Pennsylvania, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel McCall, made a reconnaissance and found the enemy strongly posted. Considerable fighting took place in front of the fifth and sixth corps, but General Hartranft's command was not brought into the action. The operation was designed to dispossess the enemy of his position near the Boydton plank road, and nearly the entire army was engaged in the attempt. General Meade was at one time upon the ground. But the movement failed, and on the 10th, the troops returned to their former positions.
For gallant and meritorious conduct during the stirring scenes