HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION, NINTH ARMY CORPS,
Near Peebles' House, Va., October 31, 1864.
MAJOR: I have the honor to report that in obedience to orders this division broke camp at 3 a. m. on the 27th instant, and at 3.30 a. m. the head of the column, Cutcheon's (Second) brigade, passed corps headquarters on the way by Fort Cummings. As many troops as could be massed between the slashing and the outer pickets were got into position. Colonel McLaughlen, by my orders, sent a party around to the right and rear of the enemy's vedette post at the abandoned work near the Hawks house, to capture the vedettes. The party reached there before daylight, and as soon as it was light enough to see, they came upon the vedette post, but unfortunately one musket was prematurely discharged, and the vedettes escaped, except one killed. Lieutenant-Colonel Cutcheon quickly advanced with his skirmishers, and met the enemy's skirmishers this side of the Watkins house in the woods. The First Brigade, Brigadier-General Hartranft, came up on the right at the Watkins house, and deployed skirmishers from his line, and the two brigades advanced, skirmishing with the enemy through and to the right of the Clements house field, a quarter of a mile from which they struck the enemy's intrenchments, fully manned and protected by slashing in front of Cutcheon, and abatis in front of Hartranft. The two brigades were formed for attack, supported by the Third Brigade, Colonel McLaughlen, and every point of the enemy's line carefully felt and examined for a weak point; none such, however, was found. Meantime, I extended my line up to the right of the Fifth Corps, which moved on my left and rear until we struck the enemy's works, when it came up on my left in line. The enemy's line returned sufficiently to give them an enfilading fire of artillery on my front, and then stretched again toward the southeast. In the afternoon I received orders to refrain from further offensive operations and to intrench. I intrenched my main line at a distance from the enemy's line of from 250 yards on the left to 300 yards on the right. Some of my skirmishers advanced into the slashing. About 5 p. m. the enemy made a demonstration on my skirmish line, and was driven back.
On the morning of the 28th I received orders to withdraw as soon as the right of the Fifth Corps should begin to draw off. Cutcheon's brigade was drawn in along the Third Division line, and acted as support to that division. The other two brigades were extended across, connecting nearly with the Fifth Corps, and all came in as if on drill. While Hartranft was in the watkins field, his skirmishers in the Clements field, the rebels came over our main line of pits with a cheer. I drew up my troops in the Smith field, in obedience to orders of Major-General Parke, and waited the passage of the Fifth corps, on my left, when I withdrew my lines, about 2 p. m., by the lines of the Second Division, and returned to camp.
My casualties were 64.* A nominal list will be sent in. The reports of brigade commanders are inclosed.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
O. B. WILLCOX,
Major P. M. LYDIG,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Ninth Army Corps.
* For statement in detail, see pp. 157, 158.