Official Records, Ser. I, Vol. 46:1, pp. 1212-1213

No. 238.

Report of Capt. George A. Bruce, Thirteenth New Hampshire Infantry, Officer of the Pickets.

April 4, 1865.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of my tour of duty as officer of the night for the pickets for April 2 and 3, 1865: I was out several times during the middle of the night, but could discover nothing unusual, excepting a bright fire which appeared to be a long distance south of Richmond, and in the course of an hour died out. At 3:30, morning of April 3, as I was preparing to go to the picket- line, two deserters from the Tenth Virginia Battalion came in and reported that the enemy had evacuated the line on our front. By direction of the general commanding I went to the commanding officers of the First and Second Brigades, with instructions to have their commands in readiness to move at once, and then to the picket-line with instructions to advance that as soon as we could see. By this time large fires were visible in the direction of Richmond and south of it. There were no lights on the rebel picket-line. In a few moments there was a terrific explosion, probably the blowing up of a gun-boat on the James, followed by others, heard more or less distinctly, in quick succession. While it was yet dark I sent out a corporal and three men to go as far as the vedette line of the enemy, who reported that the line was vacated. Lieutenant-Colonel Bamberger, general officer of the day, rode to the right of our hues, and I to the left, with orders for the whole line to advance, commencing the movement from the center. It was just the gray of dawn as our skirmishers advanced, and when arrived at the picket-line of the enemy, where we halted, and word was sent to the general commanding, I was first able to distinguish with tolerable clearness the enemy’s fortifications, and noticed that their tents were still standing. As soon as the order could be communicated the skirmish line was in motion, and advanced to the abatis in front of the rebel works and then by the flank over their fortifications by the paths the rebel pickets used, to escape danger from their torpedoes. The skirmishers were formed a few hundred yards beyond the works, when I reported in person the occupation of the rebel fortifications in front of the Twenty-fourth Army Corps. Private Duncan, of the Ninth Vermont Volunteers, was the first man to mount the parapet. There were ten guns in the forts along the left of our line and many more to the right, which I could not see.

After reporting I returned to the front, when I noticed that the pickets of the Twenty-fifth Corps were advancing to the works on their front. Our skirmishers were at once set in motion, following the Osborne pike, picking up rebel stragglers quite frequently. We had moved about two miles when General Wild and staff overtook us with about a company of colored soldiers marching by the flank, who passed the supports to our skirmishers, who were also marching by the flank. I sent word to the officer in charge of the reserve to move past the colored troops, which they did, and for the skirmishers to advance more rapidly. At the second line of fortifications there were a large number of heavy guns, over which sentinels from the skirmishers were posted. I should judge that about thirty guns were taken on the left of our line and guards placed over them. As soon as we came to the suburbs of the city I found that the town had already been occupied by Major Stevens with a few cavalry, and a sentinel posted on the road to halt all troops at that point. Major Stevens had passed our skirmish line about half an hour after we had occupied the reserve works. Here I waited until the arrival of the whole division, when the town was regularly occupied by one brigade of the division.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Captain, Thirteenth New Hampshire Vols., and Judge Advocate.

Assistant Adjutant-General.

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