Numbers 219. Report of Colonel Emory Upton, One hundred and twenty-first New York Infantry.
HDQRS. 121ST REGIMENT NEW YORK VOLUNTEERS, May 10, 1863.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the participation of the One hundred and twenty-first New York Volunteers in the action at Salam Church, Va., Sunday, May 3:
The regiment was deployed to the left of the Plank road, about 3 miles from Fredericksburg, and had advanced in line of battle nearly a mile, when it came upon our skirmishers in the edge of a belt of timber, about 300 yards through, beyond which was Salem Church. The skirmishers reported the enemy in line of battle in the opposite edge of the woods.
About 5.30 p. m. I received an order to push rapidly through the woods, and engage the enemy, who were supposed to be hastily withdrawing. I sent the report of the enemy's position to the general commanding the brigade, and immediately advance the line. The regiment marched steadily to within 50 yards of the opening, when it was assailed by a heavy fire of musketry from the enemy concealed behind a ditch. The fire was received without creating the slightest confusion. The regiment moved forward, with a cheer, about 20 yards farther. The enemy opposite the center and left wing broke, but rallied again 20 to 30 yards to his rear.
The Ninety-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers now camp up to our left and the Twenty-third New Jersey to our right, but opened fire before coming on our line. Lieutenant-Colonel Olcott endeavored to have the Twenty-third New Jersey charge, but without success. The firing became very heavy on both sides, and was maintained about five minutes. It was impossible to remain longer.
Having lost nearly 200 in killed and wounded, the regiment fell back to a crest 450 yards this side of the woods, where the colors were planted. Around them rallied about one half the regiment, 20 or 30 from the Ninety-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers, under Major Lessig and Captain Boyle; also, a few from the New Jersey Brigade.
The enemy came out of the woods to the left of the house, but were driven back by the fire from these men, who then advanced to a house 50 yards farther to the front, which position they held until relieved by Russell's brigade.
I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of both officers and men during the entire action. Deserving of mention are Lieutenant-Colonel Olcott, whose coolness and courage are only equaled by his other accomplishments as a soldier; Adjt. F. W. Morse bore the colors while in the woods, was wounded, and had his horse shot under him; Captain Galpin; gallant Captain Mather, though severely wounded through the shoulder, bore the colors and remained by them until night; Captains Kidder and Douw, and Lieutenants Gorton, Burrell, Cronkite, Butts, Adams, and Pierce.
Captain Arnold and Wendell, and Lieutenants Upton, Doubleday, Bates, and Ford, fell, gallantly cheering on their men.
It was the first time the regiment had ever been in action. It went into the engagement with 453, and suffered a loss of 44 killed, 115 wounded, and 110 missing, making a total of 269.* Notwithstanding the
*But see revised statement, p. 189.