NEW MARKET HEIGHTS BATTLE DETAILS
Co. E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, Ft. Lincoln, defenses of Washington, Library of Congress
Brevet Major General Alfred H. Terry lined up his entire division of White troops in battle line, which included Abbott’s Second Brigade, Pond’s First Brigade and Plaisted’s Third Brigade. Brig. General Charles Paine’s Third Division of Colored Troops would attack New Market Heights on the left flank of Terry’s Second Brigade under Col. Abbott. First he sent in The Third Brigade under Colonel Samuel A. Duncan, which consisted of 4th USCT, 6th USCT and the 2nd USCT Cavalry. These men were sent in as skirmishers to reveal the strength of the confederate line and told to capture the heights if possible. At the same time, General Terry deployed the Seventh Connecticut Volunteers as skirmishers for Abbott’s Second Brigade
Out of 12 flag bearers all were killed or wounded but one. One of the flag barriers was Alfred Hilton who carried two flags one belonging to a dead flag bearer and the other belonging to himself. As men were being shot he struggled to keep the flags from touching the ground until he was shot in the leg. He said “Boys, save the colors”. Private Charles Veal grabbed the regimental flag and Sergeant Fleetwood Grabbed the American flag and they continued their climb of New Market Heights. Out numbered with many dead and wounded they retreated back to their line, which was still entangled in the abatis. Fleetwood rallied the survivors around his flag for another attach. Some men made it to the top and as Butler requested they said, “remember Fort Pillow”, however completely out numbered, they were killed or captured then murdered.
Casualties were heavy, some where between 400 to 500 men. Colonel Duncan was wounded badly. Company D of the 6th regiment lost 27 of 30 enlisted men. In forty minutes of fighting Company D of the 6th USCT lost 87% of its men, which was the highest reported loss of a Union company during a single charge in the Civil War.
Their courage in saving the flag was recognized by Congress. Fleetwood, Veal and Hilton of the 4th regiment as well as Sergeant Alexander Kelly and Sergeant Thomas R. Hawkins of the 6th regiment received Congressional Medals of Honor. Hilton died of his wounds a month later.
General Ord (numbering 4,000 men) attached Fort Harrison where they found little resistance. The Confederates had been concentrating their strength on the Negroes at New Market Heights leaving only 200 men to guard Fort Harris.
Confederates were massing at the point of Duncan’s attack. Here, Paine deployed his Second Brigade of colored troops consisting of 36Th, 38Th and 5Th USCT under Col. Draper. The First Brigade, the 22nd USCT under Col. Holman, flanked these men to the left.
Apparently, Draper was sent in to support the retreating Duncan’s Brigade and protect Abbott’s left flank. It appears that the Confederates followed Duncan’s retreat and pushed the line of battle back to the area of Three Mile Creek.
Meanwhile the 22nd USCT was attacking the Confederates left flank in advance of Draper. He was unseen by Draper since he was west of Four Mile Creek in a wooded area.
Flanked by the 22nd USCT and facing Draper's charge, The Texas, Benning’s Brigades and re-enforcing brigades retreated down New Market road. Gary’s Cavalry withdrew from the works and went up Spring Hill to make a stand with the First Rockbridge Artillery. Draper was in close pursuit. As the Confederates evacuated the trenches Terry’s men followed the colored troops to the heights and again drove the Confederates from their position.
During the first wave most of the White officers were killed or wounded and Black sergeants took command. Sergeants given Congressional Medals of Honor for rallying their troops were, First Sergeant Powhatan, First Sergeant James Bronson and Sergeant Robert Pinn of the Ohio 5th regiment. Medals of Honor were also given to men among the first men to enter the Rebel works were First Sergeant Edward Ratcliff, Sergeant James H. Harris and Private William H. Barnes of the 38th regiment. Cpl. James Miles and Pvt. James Gardiner of the 36th regiment won Congressional Medals of Honor for their bravery at the top of the hill. Casualties among black troops exceeded 1000 and those for white troops were minimal.
Fort Harris was actually the prize of the day. It was the strongest point on the Confederate line protecting the capitol of the Confederacy, Richmond Virginia. As a result, the defenses around Richmond collapsed signally the beginning of the end of the Civil War. By 7:00 am Butler’s men occupied Fort Harrison. The next day General Robert E. Lee ordered that the fort be taken back. However, the 22nd had arrived at Fort Harris and help to defend the fort.
Philadelphia recruiting poster includes an image of Private James Gardiner bayoneting a Confederate officer at New Market Heights Battle, Library of Congress
CONFEDERATE BATTLE REPORT
Official Confederate New Market Heights Battle reports are not available. The only available Confederate records are included in the book “Hood’s Texas Brigade “ by J. B. Polley. Polley was a member of the Texas Brigade and was present at the Battle of New Market Heights. Polley wrote his account of the battle many years following the Civil War. Polley claims that Benning’s Brigade was stationed at New Market Heights and the Texas Brigade was a mile and one half from them. Many of Polley's claims are exaggerated and should be supported with Official records. Polley is described as suffering from "“old soldierism” – the tendency of veterans to romanticise their war experiences –and this is a danger for which the reader must be constantly alert.” An example of his “old soldierism” is Polley’s opinion that Black soldiers did not want to fight. Polly said that a captured black soldier told them ”Dar wahnt no way outer jinin’, but fo’ God, Marster, dis chile wouldn’t nebbah un chawged you white folkses breas’ wuks lack we did, eff der Yankkees hadn’t er tole us day’d shoot us eff we didn’t.”
However, Polley's troop strength and location prier to the battle agree with Butler's pre-battle intelligence.
“Along toward the last days of September General Grant believed the time ripe for renewed activity on the north side; wherefore, he started 40,000 men in that direction, under General Ord, with instructions to proceed without delay into Richmond. On the 27th these crossed the James River at Deep Bottom, got well into position on the 28th, and at daylight of the 29th, with negro troops in the van and covering their entire front, moved forward against the 3000 Confederates, all told, then between them and their goal. Of this 3000, Johnson's brigade was on the river above Drury's Bluff, Benning's, at New Market Heights, Gary's, guarding the Charles City Road-and the Texas, at the Phillips house, between Benning's and Johnson's, two miles to the right of the one and three to the left of the other. Half way between the Texas and Johnson's commands, was Fort Harrison, then occupied by a small force of Confederate artillery. On the inner line of intrenchments around the city, a mile and a half in rear of the Texas Brigade, and a like distance in rear of Fort Harrison, was Fort Gilmer, which was defended by a few heavy siege guns, under the management of a few trained artillerists and the City Battalion, composed of old men and boys, and such clerks in governmental departments as were able to bear arms. The line to be defended against the 40,000 Federal soldiers extended from Drury's Bluff down the river about eight miles.”
“With daylight came a dense, obscuring fog, and through it was heard a roar that sounded like the bellowing of ten thousand wild bulls; it was the shout of the negroes as they valorously charged the picket line in their front. A minute later it was learned that the first attack would be up a narrow creek valley across which ran the Confederate line, and thither the Texas Brigade hastened. In this little valley the fog was so thick as to render large objects, a hundred feet distant, in-distinguishable. Forming in single line, six feet apart, the Texans and Arkansans awaited the onset of the enemy. They could distinctly hear the Federal officers, as in loud tones they gave such commands as were needed to keep their men moving in line, but until the line approached within a hundred feet, could see nothing; even then, only a wavering dark line was visible. As it became so, and as was usual in those days, without waiting for orders, the Confederates sprang to the top of the low breastworks, and commenced firing" shooting at shadows," one of them said.
About the same instant a Federal officer shouted in stentorian voice, "Charge, men-Charge!" But only by 'the negroes immediately in front of the First Texas was the order obeyed by a rush forward that carried a regiment of the poor wretches up to, and in one or more places, across the breast-works, and right in among the First Texans. The latter, since Spottsylvania Court House well-provided with bayonets, were experts in the use of them, defensively and offensively, and in less than three minutes one-half of the assailants were shot down or bayoneted, and the other half, prisoners. In front of the other regiments the darkey charge lasted but a second or two, and covered not more than five paces. It was, in fact, simply a spasmodic response to the order. Then the black line halted, and for a moment stood motionless, obviously deliberating whether the more danger was to be apprehended from the Southern men in front, or the Northern men in rear. Apparently, they decided on a compromise, for the half of those that survived the terrible fire poured into their ranks, threw down their guns, and wheeling, fled to the rear, and the other half dropped fiat on the ground, and lay there until they were led away as captives.
In effect, it was a massacre. Not a dozen shots in all were fired by the blacks, not a man in the Texas Brigade received a wound, and save in the First Texas, not a man was for a second in danger. The firing lasted not exceeding five minutes, but in that short space of time, if the New York Herald be good authority, a Confederate brigade numbering scant 800 men, killed 194 negroes and 23 of their white officers. Estimating the killed as one-fifth of the total loss, it will appear that about 1000 of the colored defenders of the Union were shot out of service in that five minutes. Of the many negroes who dropped to the ground unhurt, quite a number preferred to serve their individual captors as slaves, to confinement in Southern prisons, and did so serve them until the close of the war.”
"The firing had hardly ceased when word came that Gary's cavalry and Benning's brigade had been driven from their positions, and were in rapid retreat to the inner line of intrenchments on which stood Fort Gilmer, and that if the Texas Brigade did not "get a move on," and a fast one at that, it would be cut off from Richmond and its comrade commands on the north side. Immediately following that information, came a courier from General Gregg with the more alarming intelligence that Fort Harrison had been captured by the enemy, and with an order that the Texas Brigade report as quickly as possible to Gregg at that point. The capture of the fort, as every man knew, placed the brigade in a critical position, and within a minute it was double-quicking up the outer line of intrenchments it had so long guarded-the broad, level ditch affording not only the shortest route, but as well, the best footing for rapid travel. It had not gone a mile, though, before it was a long, straggling line of panting, perspiring and almost exhausted men."
J. B. Polley, Hood’s Texas Brigade, p254
Polley's claim that the Texas Brigade was redeployed before the Black troops captured New Market Heights is an example of his exaggerations. He claimed that Benning's Brigade was driven from their trenches while his Texas Brigade was redeployed. This seems unlikely since he also says Benning's Brigade was on the left flank of the Texas Brigade. If they had been driven off the Texas Brigade would have to leave their position as well.
Modern historians used Polley's claim however they recognized Polley's flaw in his argument. Modern historians simply removed the Benning's Brigade from the battle to make Polley's claim more plauseable.
UNION BATTLE REPORTS
Butler estimated the enemy defenses holding the 8-mile long New Market Line Defense is as follows:
CONFEDERATE UNIT COMMANDER SIZE
Twenty- Fifth Virginia (City Brigade) Elliot 200
Grigg's Texas brigade Bass 400
Seventh South Carolina Cavalry Gary 400
Twenty-Fourth Virginia Cavalry Gary 400
Benning's (Georgia) Brigade DuBose 400
Militia reserves (2nd Virginia Reserve Battalion) Guy 175 Chaffin Farm Heavy Artillery 100
Wade Hamptons Legion 400
General Ben Butler, Butlers Book, p723
Burk & McFetridge, Invirons of Richmond, Polley's description of Confederate works and positions guarding Richmond Virginia, September 28th, 1864
Park Service Map, Note that Benning's Brigade is not included. Wade Hamptons Legion and the City Brigade were also not included but were deployed near New Market Heights as well.
Colonel Duncan was wounded in the battle and did not report on his failed charge of the rebel works. However, Black Civil War Correspondent Thomas Chester covered Duncan's charge and reported the following from the field:
"In the onward to Richmond move of the 29th ult. the 4th United States Colored troops, raised in Maryland, and the sixth United States colored Troops, from Pennsylvania, gained for themselves undying laurels for their steady and unflinching courage displayed in attacking the Rebels at great disadvantage. These two regiments were deployed as skirmishers.
"It was just light enough to see as they pushed out of a skirt of woods from our breastworks at DeepBottom ; and a soon as emerging from it they were fired upon by the rebel sharpshooters, who fell back before these advancing regiments. They pushed on across a ravine, where they were exposed to a severe enfilading fire by the enemy's sharpshooters, occupying a house in a skirt of wood on our left. It was under that fire the first men of these regiments were killed, among whom was Captain S. W. Vannuys. The sharpshooters were soon dislodged and our troops entered another woods, pushed beyond it and crossed the Three Mile Creek. On account of the marshy state of the ground, slush, timber, undergrowth and brush, this line became somewhat confused, but some advancing beyond these difficulties, they reached the enemy's abatis in front of his breastworks which they charged with cheering. Two lines of abatis had here to be overcome, which was handsomely accomplished. It was here that many of the colored troops fell while attempting to force a passage over the abatis. There was no flinching of these two regiments in this terrible position, but they manfully received and returned the fire until they were three times ordered to fall back which they did in good order. In the attempt of the fourth and the sixth regiments to pass over the abatis, the fourth lost it's entire color guard. Alfred B. Hilton, of the fourth carried the American flag, which was presented to it by the colored ladies of Baltimore, to the very edge of the breastworks, and, lying down, held aloft the national colors. When they were ordered to fall back, this brave man was shot down, but is not dangerously wounded and his exclamation was, " Save the Flag !" Sergeant Major Fleetwood successfully brought the colors back riddled with thirty rents, with no other
loss to himself than a shot to his bootleg."
Thomas Morris Chester
Black Civil War Correspondent
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XLII/1 [S# 87]
AUGUST 1-DECEMBER 31, 1864.--The Richmond (Virginia) Campaign.
No. 333.--Report of Col. Alonzo G. Draper, Thirty-sixth U. S. Colored Troops, commanding Second Brigade, of operations September 29.
FIELD HOSPITAL, EIGHTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
GENERAL: On the morning of the 29th ultimo my brigade was massed in column in rear of the woods near Ruffin's house before daybreak. We were directed to lie down and wait for further orders. After the Third Brigade had preceded us for half a mile or more I received an order to form line of columns and advance. We advanced immediately across the open field, leaving Ruffin's house on our left. On this field we received a skirmish fire from the woods. When nearly down to the ravine I received an order from Brigadier-General Paine to move my brigade to the right, as "we were getting the worst of it there." We immediately moved by the right flank and again by the left (by the proper evolutions), and formed at the ravine, where the troops lay down in line. We were here subjected to the fire of the New Market batteries, which did little damage. After lying here about half an hour I was ordered to form my brigade into line of double columns and assault the enemy's works in front. The Twenty-second U.S. Colored Troops were to skirmish on our left. This they did for awhile, but did not continue to the works. After passing about 300 yards through young pines, always under fire, we emerged upon the open plain about 800 yards from the enemy's works. Across this the brigade charged with shouts, losing heavily. Within twenty or thirty yards of the rebel line we found a swamp which broke the charge, as the men had to wade the run or stream and reform on the bank. At this juncture, too, the men generally commenced firing, which made so much confusion that it was impossible to make the orders understood. Our men were falling by scores. All the officers were striving constantly to get the men forward. I passed frequently from the right to the left, urging every regimental commander to rally his men around the colors and charge.
After half an hour of terrible suspense, by starting the yell among a few, we succeeded in getting them in motion. The entire brigade took up the shout and went over the rebel works. When we reached the palisades the rebels fell back to the woods on the side of Signal Hill. We again assaulted and drove them out. I immediately formed for defense, and sent a courier to Brigadier-General Paine for re-enforcements, which arrived in about twenty minutes to a half hour. In this assault we had no supports. Lieut. Samuel S. Simmons, Thirty-sixth U.S. Colored Troops, acting aide-de-camp on my staff, abandoned me shamefully at the ravine, and went to Deep Bottom without my knowledge. I respectfully recommend that he be dismissed for cowardice.(*) His true name is De Forest, and he has been once before dismissed the service. This I have lately learned from officers to whom he has confessed it. All the other officers and men of the brigade, except Captain Strong, brigade commissary, whom I shall mention in a separate report, displayed the greatest courage. A few may be enumerated for particular acts: Lieut. Col. G. W. Shurtleff, Fifth U.S. Colored Troops, though repeatedly wounded, still strove to lead his regiment; First Lieut. Edwin C. Gaskill, Thirty-sixth U.S. Colored Troops, rushed in front of his regiment, and, waving his sword, called on the men to follow. At this moment he was shot through the arm, within twenty yards of the enemy's works; First Lieut. Richard F. Andrews, Thirty-sixth U.S. Colored Troops, had been two months sick with fever and was excused from duty. He volunteered, being scarcely able to walk. He rode to the thicket, dismounted, and charged to the swamp, where he was shot through the leg; First Lieut. James B. Backup, Thirty-sixth U.S. Colored Troops, excused from duty for lameness, one leg being partially shrunk so that he could walk but short distances, volunteered, hobbled in as far as the swamp, and was shot through the breast; Lieutenant Bancroft, Thirty-eighth U.S. Colored Troops, was shot in the hip at the swamp. He crawled forward on his hands and knees, waving his sword and calling on the men to follow.
Below, IN FRONT OF HEADQUARTERS OF SUPERVISORY COMMITTEE FOR RECRUITING COLORED REGIMENTS, Philadelphia recruiting poster includes an image of Private James Gardiner bayoneting a Confederate officer at New Market Heights Battle, Library of Congress
When the brigade were making their final charge, a rebel officer leaped upon the parapet, waved his sword and shouted, "Hurrah, my brave men." Private James Gardiner, Company I, Thirty-sixth U.S. Colored Troops, rushed in advance of the brigade, shot him, and then ran the bayonet through his body to the muzzle. Sergt. Maj. Richard Adkins, Thirty-sixth U.S. Colored Troops, distinguished himself by his gallantry in urging on the men. Many sergeants of the Thirty-sixth distinguished themselves in urging on the men, but I have not their names. The brigade numbered about 1,300 effective men when it made the assault. We lost here 13 commissioned officers and 434 enlisted men, at the lowest estimate. Went in with thirty-two line officers and lost 11. At Laurel Hill the loss of the Fifth U.S. Colored Troops increased the figures to 16 officers and 537 enlisted men. Another staff officer, my inspector-general, wounded next day, makes a loss of 17 officers.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel Thirty-sixth U. S. Colored Troops.
Maj. Gen. BENJAMIN F. BUTLER,
Commanding Army of the James.
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XLII/1 [S# 87]
AUGUST 1-DECEMBER 31, 1864.--The Richmond (Virginia) Campaign.
No. 331.--Report of Capt. Albert Janes, Twenty-second U. S. Colored Troops, First Brigade, of operations September 29-30.
HEADQUARTERS TWENTY-SECOND U.S. COLORED TROOPS,
SIR: In accordance with verbal orders from headquarters First Brigade, Third Division, Eighteenth Army Corps, I have the honor to make the following report of the engagement of the 29th and 30th ultimo, in which the Twenty-second U.S. Colored Troops participated, commanded by Maj. J. B. Cook:
At 4 a.m. on the 29th the regiment moved with the brigade from Deep Bottom, Va., toward the enemy's lines. His pickets were encountered on the edge of a woody ravine (through which runs Four-Mile Creek) by the skirmishers of the Third Brigade (Duncan's), which was deployed preparatory to a charge. The First Brigade was moved in column by division, the Twenty-second in front, to the rear of the center of the line as a support. A charge was made by the Third Brigade which proved unsuccessful. The First Brigade (the support) had in the meantime conformed to the movements of the line. The Twenty-second U.S. Colored Troops was then deployed as skirmishers and moved forward under a heavy fire of artillery from the right, which nearly enfiladed the line. One officer and eight men were wounded by shells from this source. The line moved forward through a dense tangle of underbrush and felled trees into an open plain. Here the, first fire of the enemy's pickets was encountered, who were stationed across the plain in a piece of woods. One man was killed and several wounded in crossing this plain. The enemy was found to be in force beyond the woods in rifle-pits covering the New Market road. The rifle-pits had an abatis in front. As the charging column came up to the support of the skirmish line a part of the regiment assembled on the right and moved forward into the works, driving the enemy in confusion from them. After following the enemy a few hundred yards across the road, the regiment, being again deployed, assembled on the left, and with the rest of the brigade moved toward Richmond, on the New Market road, and encamped for the night to the right of Fort Harrison. On the morning of the 30th the regiment moved to the right of the fort refaced and repaired to earth-works adjacent to the fort. At 1 o'clock the enemy was seen making preparation for an attack. At 2 o'clock our pickets were driven in and five distinct lines of the enemy charged our line. The attack was general. The charging column was repulsed. A second time charged and second time repulsed. A counter-charge was then made by the Twenty-second, which added impetus to the already flying rebels. In this counter-charge the regiment encountered a strong [force] which was stationed under the lee of an isolated fort, and from which we received a volley of musketry which killed several men and wounded two officers (Maj. J. B. Cook and Capt. Jacob F. Force), but they, too, were put [to] flight, and, as no other advantage could be gained, the regiment again took its position in line behind the breast-works, in all the maneuvering the most unflinching bravery was displayed by both officers and men.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Captain, Commanding Regiment.
Lieut. D. L. PROUDFIT,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., 1st Brig., 3d Div., 18th, Army Corps.
Captain, commanding Regiment.
The War of the Rebellion XLII Part 1
Report. No 331
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XLII/1 [S# 87]
AUGUST 1-DECEMBER 31, 1864.--The Richmond
HEADQUARTERS THIRD NEW
LIEUTENANT: In accordance with instructions received from brigade headquarters, I have the honor to make the following report of part taken by my command in recent operations north of the James:
On September 29 moved at 4 a.m. with Second Brigade, in First Division column, from Deep Bottom toward New Market road. Before the heights, was ordered by Col. J.C. Abbott, commanding brigade, to throw my regiment forward to join the Seventh Connecticut Volunteers, skirmishing, and command the skirmish line. Advanced about 200 yards across ravine and light woods, came to opening, from which I discovered the enemy's position to be in continual line of breast-works and rifle-pits at foot of the hills, and running with New Market road. Colonel Abbott instructed me to advance my line as rapidly as possible, reporting success to him, exercising my own discretion. When in full view of enemy and his works, 500 yards across the opening, I advanced a light line and drew from the enemy the disposition of his forces. Finding my line flanked on the left by works similar to those in my front, and discovering that he was reenforcing the flank, I ordered my men to lie down, the advantage of the rolling ground being such as to entirely protect them from his infantry while his artillery played over us into the ravine. I then dispatched a messenger to Colonel Abbott, informing him of disposition of my command, respectfully suggesting that a force be sent to relieve my left flank. Was informed that General Terry had sent a detachment of colored troops to that duty. As soon as those troops advanced, I pushed forward my first line of skirmishers, and finding but small force in my front ordered my whole command to charge. The enemy, discovering the success of the colored troops on my left, gave us their works without much struggle. Finding my way clear I determined to gain the position on the heights before the enemy should discover the actual strength of my force. He had already started with his guns. Leaving the Seventh Connecticut Volunteers, commanded by Captain Atwell, in charge of the work on the road, I advanced with Third New Hampshire, and took position on the heights, immediately pushing out a few skirmishers. They captured a Mr. Libby, owner of the farm we occupied, said to be of Libby Prison notoriety. This gentleman was in his loaded wagon started for Richmond. From him and the negroes of the place captured I learned that the enemy's battery consisted of eight guns. I judge from my own observations of the enemy that his force was about 600 infantry, 200 cavalry, and the battery. The cavalry at one time advanced as if to charge, but seeing the remainder of Colonel Abbott's command advancing, retired. My own force was less than 300. In this operation, so remarkably successful, I am much indebted to Captain Atwell and his command (Seventh Connecticut Volunteers) for the cheerful and gallant manner in which they obeyed my orders, as I am positive that had the enemy discovered my real force, or seen the least spirit other than determined bravery, they would not have given us the position. Occupying this position half an hour I received orders to rejoin the brigade.
Afternoon of same day marched with First Division on reconnaissance to within two miles of city of Richmond. Returned to our intrenched lines same evening.
During the day the officers and men of my command behaved in a manner creditable to themselves and to my perfect gratification.
I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAMES F. RANDLETT,
Major Third New Hampshire Volunteers, Comdg. Regiment.
Lieut. E. LEWIS MOORE,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., 2d Brig., 1st Div., loth Army Corps.
HDQRS. SECOND BRIG., FIRST
DIV., TENTH ARMY CORPS,
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Second Brigade in the late movements north of the James: At about 3 p.m. of September 28 I marched from near Petersburg, crossing the pontoon bridge on the Appomattox a little after dark, thence to Deep Bottom, where, crossing the pontoon over the James, I bivouacked at about 2 a.m. I was in line at 4 a.m. pursuant to orders from Brevet Major-General Terry, commanding the division, and marched out from Deep Bottom toward the Kingsland road, and came into line of battle on that road, fronting the New Market road and heights. Having thrown out the Seventh Connecticut, Capt. S.S. Atwell commanding, as skirmishers I advanced, following the skirmishers at about 250 yards toward the enemy's works on theNew Market road. Between my first position and those works there was a difficult ravine and swamp, and my line was enfiladed by a sharp artillery fire from the enemy's battery-on my right. Captain Atwell having reported that the enemy's works were well manned, and the skirmishing being sharp, I strengthened the skirmish line by sending forward the Third New Hampshire, Maj. J. F. Randlett commanding, with orders to press forward strongly, while I followed with the main line as before. Major Randlett having reported that the enemy were advancing on my left and massing in front, I went forward to the skirmish line to make an examination. I ordered him again to press forward and at once advanced the main line. Just at that time Paine's division commenced a vigorous attack upon the enemy upon my left, which was successful, and as my line advanced into the open ground, the enemy evacuated their works in my front, having a few minutes previous taken off their artillery from the height on my extreme right. I advanced into the works, the Third New Hampshire occupying the deserted battery on the right. The loss here was 1 officer mortally wounded and 10 men wounded, nearly all on the skirmish line. I commend highly Captain Atwell, who first advanced the skirmish line, and Major Randlett, who went to its support, for coolness, courage, and judgment. I then, pursuant to orders from General Terry, advanced along the New Market <ar87_703> road to Laurel Hill, where I rested until about 3 p.m., when I moved with the rest of the division to the Darbytown road, and thence about three miles toward Richmond, where I halted for about an hour, when the division returned to Laurel Hill and I took position on the extreme right.
From the 29th of September to October 1 I occupied different parts of the intrenchments, and was employed on fatigue and picket duty. On the latter date, about 2 p.m., I again marched toward Richmond by the same road as before, arriving within about one mile and a half of the enemy's works. By order of General Terry I deployed my brigade as skirmishers, the Sixteenth New York Heavy Artillery being the reserve, and advanced. The regiments in the skirmish line were as follows, commencing on the right: Sixth Connecticut, Col. Alfred P. Rockwell; Seventh Connecticut, Capt. S.S. Atwell; Third New Hampshire, Lieut. J. Homer Edgerly and the Seventh New Hampshire, Lieut. Col. A. W. Rollins. The line advanced with alacrity under a raking fire of artillery, on its left at first but gradually extending toward its right until it bore upon either flank. The progress of the line was not however arrested until within 600 or 800 yards of the enemy's works, when I received an order from General Terry to halt, and very soon an order to retire. When halted the brigade was probably within less than two miles of the city. I cannot speak too highly of the faithfulness and zeal of officers and men in this difficult and audacious reconnaissance, nor have I ever known a line to advance in so good order under a fire so severe, over so long a space of difficult ground, to works of such known strength. During the whole of this afternoon a heavy rain was falling. My command returned to Laurel Hill that night, arriving about 9 p.m. My loss in this reconnaissance was 1 man killed, 16 wounded, and 18 missing.
From the 1st to the 7th of October I remained within the intrenchments at Laurel Hill doing fatigue and picket duty. On the morning of the 7th, the enemy having fallen upon our advanced cavalry post on the right, I received orders from Brevet Major-General Terry, commanding division, to take position in the woods beyond what was then the right of the intrenchments. Subsequently, pursuant to an order from Major-General Birney, I moved back to the New Market road, then down the road until my left rested in the edge of the woods. I then advanced in line of battle through the woods until my line was a prolongation of that in the intrenchments, with the right somewhat refused. I threw out skirmishers from the Third New Hampshire and Seventh Connecticut, under command of Major Randlett, who succeeded in detaining the enemy's line for about an hour, but at about 9.30 a.m. the skirmish line was compelled to retire, and immediately my whole line became engaged. The attack fell most heavily near my center, occupied by the Sixteenth New York Heavy Artillery (Major Prince commanding), as is attested by their heavy loss, but it was withstood with the utmost steadiness by them. It is as gratifying as it is noteworthy, that although the enemy's line approached within fifty yards of mine, and the attack was most determined, there was not the slightest wavering, so that at the close of the fight the men stood almost in the very tracks where their feet were planted at its commencement. The evident purpose of the enemy was to break the line at the center by the momentum of the first onset, as they advanced at double-quick and with a yell, but they staggered under the first extremely rapid and deadly fire of the carbines (which being on the right and left of the brigade, easily held their position while they aided the center by an oblique the), <ar87_704> and after persisting vainly for half an hour, retreated in the utmost confusion, and with heavy loss. In this engagement, as in others, the conduct of the officers and men of this brigade was most commendable. Colonel Rockwell, commanding the Sixth Connecticut, with a military pride not often surpassed, maintained his line most perfectly during the attack, his men literally standing shoulder to shoulder, while his own bearing was most admirable. Lieutenant-Colonel Rollins, of the Seventh New Hampshire, near the commencement of the fight, was injured by his horse, which was shot, falling upon his foot, and was obliged reluctantly to leave the field. The name of Private Philip Francis, Company C, Third New Hampshire Volunteers, ought not to be omitted in this report. He was on the skirmish line and was wounded. Concealing himself under a log, the enemy's line swept over him. On their retreat he drew his carbine on three men of the enemy, who were lagging behind, commanded them to halt, captured and brought them into our lines. My loss in this engagement was 14 killed, 46 wounded, and 20 missing. At about 3 p.m., by order of General Terry, I advanced in line of battle toward the Darbytown road, supporting Colonel Curtis' brigade, Second Division. Having been halted near the point where the enemy had during the day posted their batteries, two of my regiments, the Sixth and Seventh Connecticut, were detached, under Colonel Rockwell, who still continued the advance toward the Darbytown road. Having found no enemy they returned, and at about 9 p.m., pursuant to orders, I withdrew the brigade and bivouacked on the line which I occupied during the fight of the morning.
I inclose herewith official reports from the commanding officers of the several regiments.
I am, captain, very respectfully,
JOSEPH C. ABBOTT,
Colonel Seventh New Hampshire Volunteers, Comdg. Brigade.