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Regimental History: 1865

ith their numbers greatly reduced, the officers and men who had re-enlisted or whose term of service had not expired were formally reorganized into a five-company battalion known henceforth as the 28th Battalion Massachusetts Volunteers. Capt. John Connor made his troops ready for the coming campaign until Maj. Fleming returned in early January.

As the war wound down, the men of the 28th Massachusetts were reunited with their proud old comrades in a reconstituted Irish Brigade, which Col. Robert Nugent, former commander of the 69th New York, had worked diligently to establish after the original brigade was disbanded in June 1864. Recruiting resumed in fall 1864. All three of the old New York units were brought back up to strength and the 28th Massachusetts returned to the fold.

Nugent was rewarded with command of the "new" Irish Brigade not only because he worked so tirelessly to pull it back together, but also because he maneuvered to prevent the 116th Pennsylvania Infantry from returning. That unit's commander, Col. St. Clair Mulholland, would have assumed command of the brigade by virtue of having greater seniority than Nugent. The 7th New York Heavy Artillery was first attached to the brigade in place of the 116th Pennsylvania, then was replaced in February by the 4th New York Heavy Artillery.

Numbering some 185 men fit for duty, the 28th Massachusetts joined faithfully with the Irish Brigade in a number of actions around Petersburg during spring 1865. Most significant for the battalion was the battle at Hatcher's Run, fought on March 25.

Immediately following the successful repulse of the Confederate attack on Fort Stedman, Gen. Meade ordered the 2nd Corps to assault the rebel entrenchments on the far left end of the line in anticipation of a breakthrough. The 28th Massachusetts led the way in this advance, capturing outer picket lines thought to be impregnable. The men then held tenaciously to their position, repulsing two determined Confederate charges launched from the main line.

As the rebels moved around the right flank of the Irish Brigade, the 28th was exposed to a withering crossfire that left 71 casualties, including Lt. Thomas Parker, who was mortally wounded. The Irish steadfastly held their position, expended most of their ammunition, and retired only when relieved by units from the 5th Corps late in the day. Among the many wounded was Maj. Fleming, who had been in his usual place at the front of the regiment.

On April 2 came what would turn out to be the last engagement in which the 28th Massachusetts fought, at Sutherland Station along the South Side Rail Road. After nine long months of siege, Grant's army finally broke through the Confederate entrenchments and captured Petersburg.

In this battle, the Irish Brigade was sent forward to attack the rear guard protecting Lee's now retreating army. The first effort was repulsed due to enfilading fire of artillery, but a second push launched soon after was successful in taking the Confederate works. The Irish took more than 150 rebel prisoners, along with two cannon and a battle flag. Once again, the battalion lost its commanding officer, this time Capt. Patrick Black, who had succeeded the wounded Fleming.

The 28th Massachusetts then embarked on long, hard marches in pursuit of Lee's army. On April 4, the battalion had a chance meeting with Maj. Gen. Phil Sheridan, a fellow Irishman who saluted the unit to the cheers of jubilant soldiers. The 28th was present but not actively engaged at Sailor's Creek on April 6 and Farmville on April 7.

Following Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, the battalion encamped at Burkesville, Virginia, for nearly a month. The 28th Massachusetts returned to Washington, D.C., on May 15 under the command of Capt. Patrick H. Bird. The battalion marched in the Grand Review down Pennsylvania Avenue on May 23, every man proudly wearing a sprig of evergreen in his forage cap.

The battalion served on guard duty in Washington until June 25 and was mustered out of federal service five days later. The veterans of the 28th then traveled back to Massachusetts together. They were paid and discharged at Readville on July 5, 1865.

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