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The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies

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OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 42, Part 1 (Richmond-Fort Fisher)
Page 880 OPERATIONS IN SE.VA. AND N.C. Chapter LIV.

to attack when orders came to move to the rear of Fort Gilmer and rest. We reached Fort Gilmer a little before daybreak; rested until about 8 a.m. and were ordered back to the vicinity of Battery Harrison. The preliminaries were arranged for an assault, and the assault ordered at 2 p.m. In the meantime the enemy had thrown up a retrenchment making Battery Harrison an inclosed work. I was to support Anderson's brigade. I occupied a rugged line on the right of Anderson. He was to move out to a ravine in his front and wait for me to file out of my rugged position and form in rear of him. (All the details are known to the major-general, but I mention this point for a purpose which will appear presently.) I gave full and explicit instructions to my brigade. Every officer and man knew exactly what he was to do. Anderson did not stop at the ravine, but passed on. To give my promised support and carry out my part in the arrangement it was necessary for my brigade to file out at the double-quick, and, without halting, or even moderating to quick time, to move by the right flank in line against the enemy. I deplored this and felt that my men were not having a fair chance, but it was too late to give new orders and instructions. All that was left me to do, I thought, under the circumstances, was to try to carry out the agreed-upon arrangement, and this [I] did. My brigade was ordered to follow about 100 yards in rear of Anderson's, and if they stopped to pass over them and charge the enemy's works. My orders were obeyed, and my dead close under the enemy's works attest their honest efforts to achieve the object for which they were given. My right regiment (Colonel Walker) was streaming along at a run, unable to gain its position on the line of the brigade. This I halted for an instant, closed its ranks, and put it on the left against a little redan on the line a short distance in front of the enemy's retrenchments, and it was carried and much consternation produced among the enemy, who left one face of Fort Harrison-that looking toward B. Aiken's house-and did not occupy it again; but it was too late to help the main assault-that had failed; but it was a diversion, and more- a sort of distraction to the enemy, which saved the lives of many of my retiring men. My shattered ranks were ordered to the rear to reform. I dispatched a staff officer to General Hoke to explain my situation and to say that I would make another effort in conjunction with him if he would assault. My four repulsed regiments, rallied by their gallant colonels, moved up, sadly reduced in numbers, but with firm and solid tread, as well in hand and obedient to orders as at the beginning. General Hoke assaulted, but so feebly, and was so quickly repulsed, that I did not put my regiments in again, but took up a position to support the troops in the redan in case they were assailed by the enemy. After dark, when all my dead and wounded except those immediately under the works of the enemy were brought off, the troops were withdrawn to the line of the morning. We failed to take the fort, and there is, therefore, no occasion for praise; but while I think it right that success should be, as it is, the measure of the soldier's merit, I would be ungrateful to the living and false to my glorious dead if I did not express my admiration of their heroic conduct in this action. They failed to take the fort, but it was because the difficulties from beginning to end of the attack were too much for human valor. Our loss here was severe, summing up in killed and wounded 377; some of the wounded are prisoners. I took into this action 1,165 muskets, 129 officers.

The next day we remained quiet, but at dark were advanced to a line that had been selected during the day by the engineers and intrenched.


Page 880 OPERATIONS IN SE.VA. AND N.C. Chapter LIV.
OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 42, Part 1 (Richmond-Fort Fisher)
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