New Jersey were too few to hold them in check. Just after we had opened fire briskly, American colors were spied on the other side of the field in front of us, the rebels having been sandwiches in between them and us, and at the edge of the wood. An officer came running across the open field, the enemy having retreated to our left, and said that those colors belonged to a New Jersey regiment, the regiment supporting it having retreated and left them in the woods, begging us to advance across the field or they would be cut off. We advanced firmly, taking the part of the regiment on our right, the men not firing until after we had entered the woods, where we found a New Jersey regiment (the number I can't recall) hotly pressed and just getting out of ammunition. Forming directly behind them, we let them fall through our ranks, opening fire as they passed. As the rebels retired from our right, we formed toward the left, the fire from that direction being very severe, and I sent the lieutenant-colonel back for our three left companies and for support. The rebels were behind a wicker fence, and their fire was galling in the extreme. Maintaining this position from some time, losing heavily, till I thought support must have arrived, I ordered the regiment back to the edge of the woods there, the men cheering as they cleared the woods. Here we found our three left companies and the Tenth Massachusetts.
When well out of the woods, Colonel Eustis, commanding brigade, Colonel Browne having been wounded, ordered us to fall back to the other side of the field, where were the Seventh Massachusetts and the One hundred and thirty-ninth New York [Pennsylvania], the Fifteenth New Jersey being still on our right. Halting here a few moments, we were all ordered across the brook on the next hill by the house, where we rested for the night and the next day in the front line of battle, ammunition being served to us there.
Monday, at dusk, we started on our retreat to Banks' Ford, which we reached in good order, the enemy shelling us the last part of the way. We recrossed the Rappahannock there about 2 a. m., Tuesday, May 5. We performed picket duty at the ford, and guarding the pontoon train till Friday, May 8, when we marched to our old camp, or rather to the neighborhood of it, the army having preceded us. In eleven days' campaigning, the regiment did four and one half days' picket duty, and fought two battles. The battle of Sunday afternoon, May 3, is known as that of Salem Heights. The list of casualties I transmit herewith. The regiment did splendidly. Nothing could have surpassed the determination with which they advanced to the extreme front, when a regiment was flying panic-stricken through their ranks; the gallantry with which they drove back the rebels; the pertinacity with which they held their ground until support could come up; the pertinacity with which they held
with which they retired when ordered back.
This regiment, as much or move than any other, contributed toward checking the enemy, when our forces were being driven on the right. It saved the New Jersey regiment in the woods from annihilation and probable capture.
When all did so well, both officers and men, it is impossible to particularize, but I cannot fail to acknowledge the gallantry of Lieutenant Colonel S. B. M. Read and Major H. C. Jenckes, who rendered most efficient service. The regiment, what there is left of it, is now in fine health and spirits.
I am, general, yours, very respectfully,
H. ROGERS, JR.,
Colonel Second Rhode Island Volunteers.
General E. C. MAURAN, Adjutant-General of Rhode Island.