[N.p., but likely Virginia. N.d., but late 1865]. pp., manuscript in ink, on folded folio sheets of lined paper. Likely written in the hand of Ord's assistant, Lieut. Col. Thomas O. Welles, with several corrections, probably in Ord's hand. Occasional minor spotting. Overall very good. Item #WRCAM56829
A highly-detailed contemporary manuscript account of General Edward Ord's military operations with the 24th U.S. Army Corps in the last months of the Civil War around Richmond, Petersburg, and Appomattox, with content related to African-American troops split off from the Army of the James to populate the XXV Corps, and relating some of their activities late in the war. The manuscript was likely written by Ord's assistant Lieut. Col. Thomas O. Welles, the son of Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. The numerous corrections, cross-outs, edit markings, and other emendations appear to be in the more pinched hand of Ord himself.
An 1839 West Point graduate, General Edward Ord fought in the Seminole Wars, was brigade commander of the Pennsylvania Reserves at the start of the Civil War, earned the rank of major general, and led the 2d Division of the Army of Tennessee in the Siege of Vicksburg. In January 1865 he took command of the Army of the James during the Appomattox Campaign. During their eight month stint, his men participated in operations that resulted in the Confederacy's evacuation of Richmond and the surrender of General Robert E. Lee. At the time of Lee's surrender, General Ord was commanding the 24th, 5th, and 25th Colored Corps.
This manuscript provides Ord's account of specific details of corps movements and activities from December 1864, to April 9, 1865. His command included White and Colored troops, and armies of the East Regiments of South and North Carolina. He describes the separation of White and Black troops; an attack by Longstreet in late December 1864, before he took over the unit; subsequent battles in 1865; important actions after Richmond's fall in April; and events leading to Appomattox. Ord also records the addition of two brigades of Colored troops after leaving Farmville, loss of supplies by the Army of Northern Virginia during their flight, officers breaking from a Confederate line bearing a white flag and relaying messages from Generals Gordon and Longstreet requesting a truce until General Lee could speak with General Grant regarding surrender. He ends with the dissolution of the corps and praise for all involved.
Within these pages Ord mentions many notable officers such as Major General John Gibbon, Brevet Major General Alfred H. Terry, Brigadier General Adelbert Ames, Brigadier General Charles Devens, Brigadier General Robert S. Foster, Brevet Major General John W. Turner, Brigadier General T.M. Harris, and others. Following are a few excerpts from the manuscript:
Regarding the composition of the 24th Corps: "The material from which this Corps was selected, was from organizations, which had (prior to 1864) never been associated together, and who represented all the armies of the East Regiments from South Carolina / North Carolina. The Army of the Potomac and the Army of Western Virginia, all were assembled in the 24th Corps. The 10th and 18th Corps from which it was formed were each composed of three divisions, two white, and one colored. By hard fighting and disease these organizations had been so much reduced that in December 1864, it was determined to consolidate into one corps, the white divisions; perhaps this was also brought about by the desire to separate the white troops from the colored in order to try the experiment of a colored corps, accordingly the four  white divisions were reduced to three and styled the 24th Army Corps."
Following the fight between Gen. Read's and Col. Washburne's troops against Gen. Lee's forces: "As was learned afterwards this little fight delayed the movements of Lee's Army and forced him to entrench so that Sheridan and the sixth Corps were enabled to strike the enemy on the flank and capture over 6000 prisoners and about two miles of wagon trains artillery & c. The command 24th and 25th corps moved out from Burkesville as soon as it could be found which direction the rebels were taking and on the evening of the 6th struck the enemy near the head of his column at Rice's Station finding him heavily entrenched, preparations were immediately made for assaulting when night came on, in the morning he had flown but was pushed so hard by his pursuers that he had not time to stop at Farmville and receive his supplies from several trains which had come down by rail from Lynchburg and awaited him there. During the halt in Farmville, Fosters' Division was increased by the addition of our and Turners by the addition of two Brigades of colored Troops, after leaving Farmville the colored followed close on the heels of Sheridan's Calvary, being joined about noon by the 5th Corps temporarily assigned to Ord's Army and marched from daylight until 12 o'clock a.m., a distance of between 35 & 40 miles, the infantry by this march being able to overtake the cavalry."
About the 24th Corps' competence: "After finishing their duties at Appomattox, they marched to Richmond where they were put into camp for a few weeks and then assigned to different parts of Virginia, on July 10th the 3d Division was broken up and the Troops formed into two separate Brigades, on the 1st of August the corps as an organization ceased. Most of the troops are now out of the service and those that are not soon will be and the 24th corps hereafter will be only known as of the past....The existence of the 24th corps, was short but eventful, the 1st and 2d Fort Fisher Expeditions, Richmond, Petersburg, Appomattox C.H. Their long wearisome marches, their pluck, endurance, and valor displayed, under all hardships, have earned for them a name deserving of records, and worthily have they sustained their corps badge the 'Lone Heart' and I think that anyone who has been associated with the 24th corps, may well say with me that 'hearts are trumps'."
His ultimate appraisal and somber memorial of the unit: "During the short campaigns of the 24th corps, here briefly sketched - many gallant officers and men fought their last fight - and now lie moldering in the clay hills or the swamps between the old lines of Fort Harrison, and the pretty little valley of the Appomattox - and when those now living, who served through these campaigns, remember the long course of discipline through which they went in their camps during the winter of '64 & '5 - the frequent target practice - the daily drills...and unknown gullies pits and torpedoes all had to be passed, and were passed, under a deadly fire, during dark and rainy nights and after long hours of watching and digging, until nature as almost exhausted - when they think of the gallant fellows who stuck to their work so nobly and fell apparently so unheeded - but not forgotten - the tear of sorrow for the dead - of pride in themselves and their leaders rise up, to make them bless these days of peace, which they have helped to win, and teach them how terrible a thing is war."
As previously stated, the manuscript is executed in one hand and corrected in another. The manuscript was likely written by Ord's assistant Lieut. Col. Thomas O. Welles, the son of Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. The numerous corrections, cross-outs, edit markings, and other emendations appear to be in the more pinched hand of Ord himself. The intended purpose of the composition of this manuscript is unknown to us.
Edward Otho Cresap Ord (1818-1883) was a career soldier who served in the Mexican American and Civil Wars, ultimately attaining the rank of Major General. After the Mexican- American War, he spent most of his time serving in California and the western frontier. Despite strong Southern sentiments, Ord remained loyal to the Union and joined the Northern cause when war broke out. His aggressive action in battle caught the eye of Ulysses S. Grant, who later used Ord to replace troublesome, politically appointed generals John A. McClernand and Benjamin Butler in 1863 and 1865 respectively. After the war, he served in California and Texas before retiring in 1880, a which point, in conjunction with Grant, he worked on several Mexican railroad schemes. He died in Havana, en route to Vera Cruz, after contracting yellow fever.
A significant primary account of important actions in the closing months of the Civil War, including an assessment of African- American troops, by an important Union commander who went on to further fame on the Western frontier.