No. 124. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Charles B. Merrill, Seventeenth Maine Infantry.
CAMP SICKLES, May 7, 1863.
SIR: The Seventeenth Regiment Maine Volunteers crossed the Rappahannock at the United States Ford on Friday, May 1, and arrived at Chancellorsville about 5 p.m. Soon after, we were formed in line of battle, but the firing at the front ceasing, we marched with the brigade, and bivouacked near the Plank road leading to Culpeper.
On Saturday afternoon (May 2), the regiment took part in the reconnaissance to the front with the Third Brigade, during which we were exposed to a brisk shelling from the enemy, and had 4 men slightly wounded. While engaged upon this duty, the forces of the enemy passed to our rear, and at night occupied the camping-ground we had left. By orders from superior headquarters, the regiment under my command was placed, with a portion of Ward's brigade, in a column under the command of Colonel Egan, of the Fortieth New York Volunteers, to take part in a night attack upon the enemy, in order to regain the position lost by our forces during the afternoon. The column was formed at 9 p.m., and marched on the left of the line, supporting the general line advanced at that time by the Third Army Corps. Our course led us into a morrow road through dense woods. The enemy soon opened upon us a severe musketry fire in front and on both flanks. The regiment in advance and the head of our regiment were thrown into temporary confusion, but the left wing remained firm. When we were formed into column we had received orders not to fire until a line of battle was arranged, and the Fortieth New York had wheeled into line. In this position we could do nothing, and were forced back for a short distance. The column was reformed and again advanced, meeting with a fire from the enemy, concealed in the woods. No one knew the exact position of the enemy's forces, and we were ordered by Colonel Egan to form a line of battle facing to the right, but as it was thought that our own forces were in that direction, the line of the Seventeenth was formed facing to the left. The formation was scarcely completed before we received a volley of musketry from our front, which we returned with vigor. Soon after, by order from General Ward, the forces with which we acted were withdrawn, and our regiment bivouacked on the field near the woods.
In this affair the Seventeenth Maine Volunteers sustained a loss of 1 killed, 7 wounded, and 18 missing. A brass field piece and four caissons, left in the road by the enemy, captured from our forces in the afternoon, were drawn back and delivered to Captain Randolph by a detachment from this regiment.
On Sunday morning, May 3, this regiment rejoined its brigade, and, while forming into line of battle, the enemy opened the fight, which lasted through the day. We were ordered to the support of the batteries in the field, and remained at that duty until they were withdrawn, exposed to a heavy cross-fire of artillery and musketry, from which we suffered severely. By order of General Birney, the regiment changed position to repel an advance of the enemy, occupying the hill in the middle of the field, and gaining time for the removal of the artillery. Soon after, the brigade was ordered from the field to the road in the rear of the large brick house previously as the headquarters of Major-General Hooker. While retiring, the regiment was divided