No. 19. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Charles H. Burtis,
Seventy-fourth New York Infantry.
HDQRS.74TH REGIMENT NEW YORK VOLUNTEERS, Camp near Williamsburg, Va., May 7, 1862.
COLONEL: I have the honor to report that my regiment went into action at this place on the 5th instant about 2 o'clock p.m., myself in Chipchase, adjutant.
Agreeably to your orders, we proceeded from the woods where we had been held in reserve to a point where the enemy had been firing with fatal effect on three regiments of our division, whose ammunition had become exhausted at this moment, when a general panic seemed imminent. My regiment (with the exception of the left flank company was marched by the right flank up the road toward and opposite the abatis and breastworks of the enemy on the west side of the road, where he was posted in strong force and well masked by large fallen timbers. Arriving at the point indicated we formed in line of battle, and marched forward under a most galling enfilading fire of grape, canister, and shell from the enemy, over the large fallen trees, which, interlacing each other, rendered the advance one of almost insurmountable difficulty. My gallant men overcame all obstacles, however, and went forward without faltering, taking advantage of such cover as the and intrepidity worthy the highest commendation. The same spirit of daring, colones, and bravery inspired and governed the officers and men throughout the entire action, until their ammunition was expended and many of their guns guns had become foul and useless. It was then, and only then, that they retired, and this was done in the best of order under the circumstances.
Owing to the difficulties of the position it was impossible for me to communicate my orders to the regiment. For this reason the commandants of companies were obliged to advance and retire under cover of the fallen timber as well as circumstances would permit. The left flank company, Lieutenant Stewart commanding, having been detached from the regiment to deploy as skirmishers in advance of a portion of the Third Brigade of this division by orders from General Hooker through Captain Dickinson, performed their duties under difficulties and dangers as perilous as those performed by the balance of my regiment.
After retiring to the woods the remainder of my regiment was again formed, when General Hooker ordered me to proceed 600 yards to the rear and deploy as skirmishers, which order I was in the act of executing when one of your aides brought orders for me form immediately into brigade line, which order was promptly obeyed.
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The best proof I can offer in evidence of the bravery of my regiment is exemplified in the official of the number of killed, and missing as furnished you yesterday, showing an aggregate loss among our officers and men of over 26 per cent.*
I am, colonel, your very obedient servant,
CHAS. H. BURTIS,
Colonel NELSON TAYLOR, Commanding Second Brigadier, Hooker's Div.
*Embodied in return,p.450.