On the 20th, we had driven the enemy within their lines, and had gained positions for our batteries.
On the 21st, we strengthened our positions, and steadily advanced our skirmish lines until they were within 100 yards of the works of the enemy.
On the 22nd of May, Major-General Grant having ordered a charge on the enemy's works of the entire line to be made at 10 a. m., the attack to be made with loaded muskets and fixed bayonets, no shot to be fired until a foothold was obtained in the works of the enemy, I moved the THIRD Brigade, consisting of the SEVENTEENTH Illinois Volunteers, commanded by Major Frank F. Peats; Eighth Illinois Volunteers, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Sturgess; Eighty-first Illinois Volunteers, under Colonel J. J. Dollins; Thirty-SECOND Ohio, under Colonel B. F. Potts, and the Seventh Missouri Volunteers, under Captain Robert Buchanan, to a point within 200 yards of the strongest work of the enemy, known as Fort Hill, under cover of a hill, forming the command in the ravine. Having been furnished with scaling ladders, I [divided] my command into two separate columns, the left column consisting of the Eighth Illinois and Thirty-SECOND Ohio Regiments, and the right column consisting of the Seventh Missouri and Eighty-first Illinois, the SEVENTEENTH Illinois, under Major Peats, in conjunction with the regular skirmish line, under Colonel H. Lieb, being deployed on the crest of the hill, as near the works of the enemy as possible, to cover the advancing columns, the scaling-ladders being distributed between the two columns.
At 10 a. m. precisely, the order to advance was given. The right column, led by Captain Buchanan, advancing up the hill, soon came under the fire of the enemy. Volley after volley was poured upon them, deviating the head of the column to the left, but not stopping the steady advance, until the head of the column rested upon the ditch of the work. The left column, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Sturgess, steadily advanced under a heavy fire until it reached a point near the works of the enemy, when I ordered it to halt and form a reserve, to support the right column, now resting upon the edge of the ditch. I then ordered Captain Buchanan to form his regiment in line as rapidly as possible, and Colonel Dollins to extend his regiment in line on the left of the Seventh Missouri. This evolution we performed under a very destructive fire of both small-arms and field pieces, involving the loss of a large number of men. Finding the fire of the enemy so destructive, I ordered the men to lie down until the fire of the enemy would slacken, our batteries having opened upon the enemy. After lying down some time, the fire of the enemy having almost ceased, I ordered the command up and forward, which was done with loud cheers and great vigor. The enemy relieved their ramparts with infantry, and opened with grape and canister, literally sweeping down officers and men. The men advanced to the edge of the ditch, the Seventh Missouri getting into the ditch with their ladders (which were found unserviceable), and planted their colors in the ditch. In the mean time the fire of the enemy killing and wounding two-THIRDS of the officers, including Colonel Dollins, Eighty-first Illinois, and many of the men, the regiment fell back in much confusion. Finding the Seventh Missouri had sustained equally as heavy loss, and, from the strength of the work, that it was not possible to make a successful assault in the face of the work, I ordered the officers of the Seventh Missouri and Eighty-first Illinois to retire with the remnants of their commands to the rear and reform them. The rest of the command continued to hold the position gained until finally ordered to their camps at nightfall.