Numbers 35. Report of Colonel Breed N. Hyde,
Third Vermont Infantry, of engagement at Lee's Mill, or Burnt Chimneys.
HDQRS. THIRD REGIMENT VERMONT VOLUNTEERS,
Camp near Warwick Creek, April 17, 1862.
Having been ordered to take position yesterday under direction of Captain West, of General Smith's staff, I placed my regiment in the woods to the left of a position taken by Captain T. P. Mott's battery. Six of my companies were deployed as skirmishers, or as supports, the left of the line on the road leading from Lee's Mill to Yorktown, the right resting in the edge of the woods near Captain Mott's battery. The line of skirmishers was nearly a mile in length. The left of my line in the morning connected with a line of pickets or skirmishers of the Fifth Vermont. The line of the Fifth Vermont was withdrawn during the day without notice to me or Major Seaver, commanding my line of skirmishers, thus leaving the extreme left exposed to a flank movement of the enemy. The four remaining companies were placed near the right of the line of skirmishers.
Between 2 and 3 o'clock in the afternoon I received verbal orders to send two of my companies across the creek, and if possible gain possession of the enemy's works on our right, with orders to make a signal with a white flag to signify that we were in possession of the works, thus warning our artillery to cease firing. Two companies, D and F, were ordered immediately to carry out this order. Companies E and K were ordered to support this movement, with instructions that reenforcements would follow immediately, which information was given under instructions received.
At a little before 3 o'clock I ordered the advance of Companies D and F, Captain Harrington, Company D, commanding with the support of Companies E and K, Captain Bennett, senior officer, the whole under the command of Captain Harrington. The whole advanced steadily without firing, Companies D and F somewhat deployed, Companies E and K in close order until nearly across the creek (the enemy having from the first moment of advance opened a severe enfilading fire from our left,) when our men opened a telling fire, which drove the enemy from the rifle pits in front. The enemy retired before our steady advance, leaving us in complete possession of the rifle pits in our front, and of an earthwork, say, 300 yards in the rear of them. The ammunition having become useless, our men were soon unable to reply to the enemy advancing with two regiments on our left and one in our front. The enemy's fire telling on our men fearfully, and no supports or signs of re-enforcements making their appearance, though a full statement was sent in due season to headquarters of the brigade, which, unfortunately, did not reach the general commanding the brigade, I reluctantly ordered a retreat, which was very reluctantly obeyed. We held the enemy's rifle pits about forty minutes. The whole time from the order of advance to the order for retreat was nearly one hour. The loss to the four companies engaged, in killed, wounded, and missing, including commissioned officers, is about 75, of which 22 were killed outright. I had 7 men of the other companies wounded during the day's operations.*
Very respectfully submitted.
B. N. HYDE.
Captain THEODORE READ, Assistant Adjutant-General.
*See p. 367