War of the Rebellion: Serial 080 Page 0548 OPERATIONS IN SE.VA. AND N.C. Chapter LII.

Search Civil War Official Records

two or three regiments of the Second Brigade. At the same time the Fifty-first New York Infantry and Second New York Mounted Rifles charged on the enemy's line near the ravine and carried it, taking a few prisoners, one regiment being on each side of the ravine, and a considerable distance intervening between their left and the rest of the division, which should have been filled by the regiments ordered to charge down the line to the right, but subsequently sent against the hill. At this time Griffin was slowly advancing up the hill a step at a time, and as his advance gave him room, extricating such of his men as had got mixed with the troops of the other divisions and getting them into good shape, the whole of my command being at this time beyond the enemy's lines, and beyond and to the right of the fort. Everything in the fort or crater was in great confusion, and owing the failure to advance the space was overcrowded with troops to such an extent as to render the great majority useless, and it seemed apparent that we could not hope to do much more at this point.

Anticipating that an attack would be made on the right or left, which would relieve us enough to enable us to advance, reform, and charge the hill, I was about arranging for reforming and connecting my lines, when the Fourth Division unexpectedly advanced and attempted to pass over the men in the crater and charge the enemy's line through our troops. In this they were but partially successful, the largest number halting in the crater or anywhere that they could find space amongst our troops, thus greatly aggravating the difficulty of overcrowding and confusion. The right of this division nearly connected with the Fifty-first New York Volunteers near the ravine, and partly covered the troops of my division, who had charged up the hill and fallen back into the covered way or ditch. Shortly after the arrival of the colored troops the enemy made an assault on us, when these troops fled in confusion, sweeping a portion of my line back into the crater and pits in its vicinity. On the left of my line, held by the Second Brigade, my troops repulsed the enemy's assault and the troops of the First Brigade held their position. The assault was quickly renewed and the fighting was hand-to-hand and desperate. One regiment lost its colors, the color bearer being wounded and taken prisoner; the colors of two regiments were entirely torn to pieces and the staves broken. My division had thus far suffered severely. All the regimental commanders of the Second Brigade, 7 in number, were disabled; 3 killed, and 4 mortally or severely wounded, and 1 of the latter a prisoner. No regiment had an officer left of higher rank than a captain, and scarcely 400 effective men were left in the brigade, who were now forced back into the crater and into the pits on the right. At the same time the regiments of the First Brigade nearest the crater lost very heavily, including upward of 100 prisoners. Some 200 men in the division were also entirely prostrated by the heat and exertion. The major portion of the division had now been hotly engaged for some five hours. A very hot fire was opened by the enemy, more particularly from the flanks, the fire of their guns sweeping the rear of our line, but in front they were mostly too close to fire. The fire from our line now became quite slack. Most of the men were so exhausted that it was physically impossible to get any work out of them, and their suffering from thirst was very great, it being impossible to get any water at all. The enemy had been so roughly handled in their last assault, after the colored troops had fallen back, that they did not seem disposed to renew it, but kept up a hot fire. I now commenced making preparations to connect the line and intrench it.