Numbers 21. Report of Colonel Arthur H. Dutton, Twenty-first Connecticut Infantry, commanding Third Brigade.
HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, THIRD DIV., NINTH ARMY CORPS,
Suffolk, Va., May -, 1863.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of recent operations:
Early in the month of April my command was constituted as follows: The Fourth Rhode Island and Thirteenth New Hampshire Volunteers, stationed on the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad, three quarters of a mile north of Suffolk; the Twenty-fifth New Jersey Volunteers, on Jericho Creek, three quarters of a mile northwest of the above, and the Twenty-first Connecticut Volunteers, on the Nansemond River, 3 miles below Suffolk. The latter regiment had just commenced the work now known as Fort Connecticut, and an April 8 was joined by three companies of the Thirteenth New Hampshire, under Major Storer.
On the 10th ultimo, information having been received that the enemy was advancing from the Blackwater, I was ordered to proceed, with the Fourth Rhode Island, the Thirteenth New Hampshire, the One hundred and third New York, to a point on the Nansemond opposite the mouth of Western Branch, fortify the position, open direct communication with the Twenty-first Connecticut, and hold the entire line between the said point and the mouth of Jericho Creek, to prevent any crossing of the enemy. Below this point the river was safely held by gunboats. The command arrived at the point designated about midnight. At sunrise the work on the fortifications commenced; trees were felled, rifle-pits made, Battery Stevens commenced, and Lieutenant Bruce, of my staff, reconnoitered a site for a military road to the camp of the Twenty-first Connecticut. A road was already in progress from the latter camp direct to Jericho Creek, and only awaited the completion of a trestle bridge over Broer's Creek, under charge of Colonel Derrom, Twenty-fifth New Jersey.
On the evening of the 11th, however, orders were received to return instantly to Suffolk. No means of transportation being at hand, it became necessary to leave a considerable quantity of baggage and a small guard. The battalion of Major Storer was retained at Fort Connecticut, with instructions to maintain a strict watch on all sides to prevent a crossing the enemy, if possible, and, if forced to retreat, to do so by way of the new road, destroying camp equipage, &c., and demolishing the trestle bridge. No attack being made, on the following day our position was strengthened. I was assigned to the command of the line of defense included between Forts Halleck and Jericho. On this line I threw up rifle-pits and posted the troops in the most advantageous manner for concentration upon any given point, while at the same time I held myself in readiness to support General Corcoran, on my immediate right, should his be the line attacked. Not thinking it safe to send a train of wagons for the abandoned baggage, I dispatched two or three at a time to Battery Stevens, and by this means transferred everything in safety from that point to my headquarters. Six men from the Fourth Rhode Island remained there permanently to observe the enemy. The baggage of the Twenty-first Connecticut was transferred by hand over Broer's Creek and thence by wagons to its camp.
On the 12th the Fourth Rhode Island was assigned to the command of Brigadier-General Corcoran.