Numbers 354. Report of Colonel James Deshler,
Chief of Artillery, of the engagement at Malvern Cliff (Turkey Bridge).
CAMP NEAR SWIFT CREEK, VA.,
July 15, 1862.
GENERAL: In compliance with your letter of yesterday to General Holmes I inclose herewith a report of the number of batteries serving with this division:
You will notice in the column of remarks opposite to Graham's battery that that battery lost two guns-one rifled Parrott and one 6-pounder-near Malvern Cliff, on June 30, through the battery was not directly in action.
While the division was in position near New Market, on the afternoon of the 30th ultimo, I received directions from General Holmes to take six rifle guns and to go to a position down the road toward Malvern Cliff, to be shown to me by Captain Meade, Engineer Corps, and there to open upon the enemy. i accordingly proceeded with six rifle guns, taken by sections from Brem's, Branch's and French's batteries, with the Thirtieth Virginia as a support, down the road toward the enemy's position on Malvern Cliff. Captain Meade accompanied me, and designated two points as practicable for establishing a battery. Upon consultation with him, and also Major Stevens, Engineers, I selected a position, and after great difficulty succeeded in getting five guns in battery. This difficulty was caused by a heavy growth of forest timber and much underbrush. In order to get the guns in position it was necessary to leave the road and go for some distance through a thick wood.
In the mean time, while I was thus occupied, General Holmes had brought his division down the road to support this advanced battery. Being in front myself I saw nothing of the batteries until 10 p. m. of that night, so that the facts I now give your relative to the loss of these guns are from the evidence of others and not from my own personal observation.
As soon as I had the rifle gun battery in position, and received word from General Holmes that the infantry were in position to support me, I opened fire. The enemy immediately responded with a very large battery or rather a number of batteries, situated upon a commanding cliff or hill. Their guns occupied such an extent of ground that it gave them almost across-fire upon me. It was impossible to tell accurately the number of pieces that they had in battery. I tried to count them, but could not do so, as they made such a smoke that i could not see their lines clearly. I judged that they had from twenty-five to thirty pieces playing upon my battery. Being so much superior to me in metal, after about an hour's firing they had pretty well disabled my battery, so many men being wounded that the guns could not be properly served, and it being necessary to disable the caissons in order to supply the pieces with horses, one or two limbers and caissons [were] blown up, &c. Under these circumstances I ceased firing and withdrew my pieces. None of the guns or caissons which were in action were lost, but, as I afterward learned, unfortunately, the reserve batteries were so situated that the enemy's shell and shot, which passed over my battery, fell among them. In addition, they were exposed to a heavy cross-fire from gunboats in James River.
At this time there appears to have been very bad conduct on the