Numbers 90. Report of Major General Robert Ransom, jr., C. S. Army, commanding Department of Richmond, of operations May 16.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF RICHMOND,
May 23, 1864.
COLONEL: I have the honor to make the following very brief report of the actions of the division under my command in the battle of the 16th instant below Drewry's Bluff:
The division was composed of Gracie's, Hoke's, Barton's and Kemper's brigade, commanded, respectively, by Brigade-General Gracie, Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis, Colonel Fry, and Colonel Terry.
In compliance with orders from your headquarters, at 2 o'clock on the morning of the 16th I began to move the troops from behind the trenches next to Drewry's Bluff, and by a little after daylight had the division in two lines of battle south of and close to Kingsland Creek, the right resting just to the left of Fort Stevens and extending some 200 yards to the left of river road. The second line was but abut 50 yards in rear of the first, but as the movement was made the distance was increase to 200 or 300. Gracie occupied the left of the first line and Lewis the right; Terry the left of the second and Fry the right. Colonel Dunovant's cavalry was thrown near the river, and Lieutenant-Colonel Lightfoot's artillery was but a short distance in rear of the second line of infantry.
So soon as the disposition were completed, movements being retarded by almost perfect obscurity of the densest fog, the advance was ordered about 4.45 o'clock. Very quickly the strong line of our skirmishers [became] engaged and the enemy was pressed as vigorously as possible across the open field in front and to the right of Willis' house, and after a little over field in front and to the right of Willis' house, and after a little over one hour's stubborn fighting the enemy's rifle-pits and breast-works were carried about 100 yards inside the woods and in front of the fields above mentioned. These works ran along a small road leading from the river road to the turnpike. After taking the works I found that from the perfect inability to see anything the lines had become confused and required readjusting, and that ammunition had to be replenished throughout. These causes occasioned considerable delay, and in order not to retard the movements directed in the order for battle, I sent to General Beauregard for fresh troops to continue the pressure upon the enemy. Before these arrived and before we had gotten ammunition, the enemy made a vigorous and telling assault upon Hoke's left, driving his men hastily toward the intermediate line tot he right of Fort Stevens. At once Colonel Lewis was ordered to thrown the only regiment he had in hand at the double-quick to that point, which was handsomely done, and he engaged the enemy long enough to allow Colquitt's brigade, of the reserve, to arrive, and it was at once thrown to the same point and rapidly attacked and rove back the enemy. Arrangements were at once made to perfect our line, and so soon as it was the order to advance was given. Just at this juncture I received orders from General Beauregard to send Colquitt's brigade to the right, as it was badly needed there. This brigade being now in the front line and engaging the enemy, it could not be detached, and I ordered Barton's to the right in its stead. The directions given for the second advance were to keep touched to the right, joining Hoke's division, intending to throw forward the left so soon as the woods should be cleared.