Numbers 247. Report of Colonel John C. Lee, Fifty-fifth Ohio Infantry.
HDQRS. FIFTY-FIFTH Regiment OHIO VOL. INFANTRY,
[May] -, 1863.
SIR: I have the honor to report of following as the operations of this regiment in the movement over the Rappahannock, just concluded:
On leaving Brooke's Station there were 2 field officers, 4 staff officers, 23 officers of the line, 99 non-commissioned officers, and 343 enlisted men.
The second night was spent in the crossing at Kelly's Ford, and, with the heave load, served to fatigue the command; yet the march of the next day was cheerfully made. To cross the Rapidan and picket the front of the division prevented sleep after 1 a. m. on Wednesday night.
The march of the 30th was readily accomplished, and on the two following nights sleep was allowed. On Friday, day and night, and on Saturday afternoon, owing to the attack being made in the rear and to the right of the picket line, the picket company was cut off, and 31 of the company fell into the hands of the enemy.
During Saturday, the 2nd instant, the regiment was posted in a rifle-pit on the south side of the old Turnpike road, on the right of the Second and on the left of the First Brigade. This old Turnpike road ran straight in the prolongation of the rifle-pit in which the regiment was posted at least 100 rods, with heavy timber on each side. Open ground was in front of the rifle-pit so far as it was occupied by our regiment.
At about 6 p. m. a heavy discharge of musketry on our right and rear announced the approach of the attacking column. Almost simultaneously, from artillery posted in the old Turnpike road on the right, and within short range, the enemy delivered an enfilading fire of grape and canister upon the men in the rifle-pit. There was no enemy in front, direct or oblique, but the firing clearly told him to be in the rear and but little to the right.
Every officer and man remained at his post, including Lieutenant-Colonel Gambee, who was with the line at the pit.
At this juncture, I hastily rode to General Devens and yourself, reported the condition of affairs, and requested leave to change front. The general commanding the division answered, "Not yet," and I hastily returned to the regiment. Soon discovering that a part, if not all, of the First Brigade had confusedly given way, I again reported to yourself and General Devens that additional fact. Without receiving any orders whatever, I again rapidly returned to my command. A storm of fire from both the artillery and musketry was falling upon the helpless line, which yet was without an enemy upon whom to fire.
My horse, receiving a wound, dashed furiously with me toward the enemy's advancing left, carrying me beyond possibility of directing the movements of the battalion, partially for the time disabling me, and escaping to the rear.
That gallant regiment, the Twenty-fifth Ohio Volunteers Infantry, having deployed and presented a front to the advancing attack, with its left resting near the road, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Bambee, the companies successively from the right withdrew from the rifle-pit and formed line in rear of the Twenty-fifth, where the fighting was maintained until both the regiments were swept from their position by the overwhelming force of the attack. As a regiment it could not again rally.