Numbers 261. Report of Brigadier General Charles Devens, jr., U. S. Army, commanding Second Brigade.
HEADQUARTERS SECOND BRIGADE, Near Falmouth, Va., December 17, 1862.
LIEUTENANT: In regard to the part taken by this brigade in the recent operations on the Rappahannock, I have the honor to report that, about an hour before sunset on the evening of Thursday, the 11th instant, I received the order from Brigadier-General Newton, commanding the division, to cross my brigade as the advance guard of the left wing of the army over the pontoon bridges which had been constructed over the Rappahannock. General Newton further directed that I should cross the brigade in two columns, preceding it by skirmishers, and should rest the right of my brigade line, as soon as I could form it, upon the bank of a ravine, which be designated. The brigade was immediately moved to the bridges, and three companies of the Second Rhode Island Regiment were thrown across in advance, under Captain S. B. M. Read, of that regiment, supported at once by the rest of the regiment (Colonel Wheaton). The two columns, consisting of the Tenth Massachusetts, Colonel Eustis, and Seventh Massachusetts, Lieutenant-Colonel Harlow, by the upper bridge, and the Thirty-seventh Massachusetts, Colonel Edwards, and Thirty-sixth New York, Colonel Browne, by the lower bridge, immediately followed. On crossing, the skirmishers almost immediately engaged those of the enemy, a considerable body of whom were posted in the garden and cluster of houses just above the bridges, and along the front, but found no serious difficulty in forcing them out of the garden and houses, and driving them away from our immediate front, so that the other regiments could form without embarrassment.
In this affair 3 privates and a captain of a Georgia regiment were taken prisoners by our skirmishers. Two men of the Second Rhode Island were wounded, and, probably, much greater injury was inflicted on the enemy.
Having crossed with the skirmishers, I indicated to Colonel Eustis, as he led the Tenth Massachusetts up the bank, the designated point to form in line, which he at once did, and was followed rapidly by the other regiments of the brigade. The other brigades of the division were also moved across the river and formed, but were almost instantly withdrawn, and I was directed, with this brigade, to hold the crossing during the night. The position of the line esa changed, as far as was deemed necessary, for this purpose, by drawing it in closely, so as to form a tete-de-pont, and during the night (one of the bitterest of the season) the men were awake and under arms, the outpost and pickets being several times engaged with those of the enemy, especially soon after daylight the next morning. During the day, the left wing of the army having crossed, the brigade was twice under artillery fire from the batteries of the enemy, and also on Saturday morning, by which it suffered considerably.
On Saturday afternoon the brigade was moved farther to the left than the position it had previously occupied in front of the bridges, and for the two hours before nightfall was under a very severe fire of shot and shell from the batteries of the enemy. The casualties suffered at this time and at the former times will be found in the annexed list.
On Sunday the brigade was in reserve, and on Monday in the front line, but not in any way engaged. On Monday evening, learning the