War of the Rebellion: Serial 068 Page 0131 Chapter XLVIII. SOUTH SIDE OF THE JAMES.

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HDQRS. NINETY-EIGHTH Regiment NEW YORK VOLS., Near Port Walthall, Va., May 22, 1864.

SIR: In compliance with your directions, I have the honor to make the following report of operations of my regiment from the 12th to 16th instant:

On the 12th instant, on reaching the Richmond turnpike my regiment was detached to the brigade of Brigadier-General Wistar, under whose directions it was employed until the evening of the 14th instant, supporting batteries in various positions near the Half-Way House, during the last day furnishing three companies as outposts in front of the enemy's works on the right of the turnpike near Drewry's Bluff. On the 14th it was placed under command of Brigadier-General Heckman, and after various changes posted in the front line of the army on the left of Heckman's brigade, and about 1,000 yards from the enemy's main redoubt, on its left; first, the Eighth Maine, and second, the Twenty-first Connecticut Volunteers, both temporarily under the command of General Heckman, the space between the left of the Twenty-first Connecticut and the turnpike being occupied by the brigade of General Wistar. The positions of my right and the rest of the line are indicated in the accompanying diagram.* The troops were in single line of battalions, deployed and without support nearer than the field near the Half-Way House, three-fourths of a mile distant. The line was concave in form, the right salient to the enemy, and reaching to within one-half mile, of the James. The troops were posted in a slight ravine or depression of ground,the reverse slope of which partially protected them from the fire from the forts. The woods extended from 4 to 10 rods in front of the line and along the edge (the outposts were placed between them and the enemy), and was a smooth, open plateau, across which outpost firing was continually maintained. In front of each regiment a rude breast-work of logs was hastily thrown up. On the evening of the 15th, at sundown, the outpost-firing ceased entirely and a dense fog settled down, making the darkness almost impenetrable. About 3 o'clock the next morning, 16th, the outposts were attacked by the enemy in force along the whole line, and soon driven in. At the same time a heavy shell and case fire was opened from both the enemy's redoubts. My regiment, reserving its fire until the enemy became distinctly visible through the fog, at a distance of not over 4 roads, received them with a file fire, which soon drove them back. Meanwhile, under cover of this front attack, the enemy marched a heavy column through the open space between General Heckman's right flank and the river, and furiously attacked his right rear. Before this onset the right regiment gave way in confusion, and the column passed rapidly down the line, crushing everything before it. Hearing the shots of the advancing enemy, and learning from stragglers their source, I sent Captain Kreutzer, my senior officer, to Colonel Pickett, commanding Twenty-fifth Massachusetts Regiment on my right, and the fourth of Heckman's brigade, informing him that I proposed to swing back the right of my regiment so as to form a line at right angles to the breast-works, and desiring him to form on my right. This he refuse to de, stating he would face by the rear rank and charge the enemy when he came opposite him, which maneuver he shortly afterward put in


*Not found.