Report of Colonel Joshua B. Howell, Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania Infantry, commanding Brigade, of operations on south side of the James River, Va., May 20, 1864.
HDQRS. FIRST Brigadier, FIRST DIV., TENTH ARMY CORPSM
Intrenchments, May 21, 1864.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor respectfully to report to you for the information of the brigadier-general commanding the division the operations and result of the fight of yesterday by by the troops under my command:
At 2 p. m. yesterday I received the order from Brigadier-General Terry, commanding the division, to take with me the Thirty-ninth Illinois and Sixty-seventh Ohio Volunteers, two regiments of my brigade (the Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers being already then at the front and under fire), and the Sixth Connecticut Volunteers and proceed to the front, assume command of all the troops already there, and retake the ground and position which had been lost in the morning, and recapture the rifle-pits and re-establish the line and hold it. It was suggested to me by General Terry that I should go out in advance of my brigade to the picket-line and see the state of things existing there - the nature of the ground, &c. I went out at once. The wisdom and propriety of the general's direction struck me as soon as I cam on the ground. I found the Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers in very imminenyt peril of being overwhelmed by the superior force of the enemy. It was boldly sustaining itself. The lieutenant-colonel (Campbell) commanding that regiment has since told me that ten minutes later and my old regiment would have been crushed. The Sixth Connecticut Volunteers had been ordered out before I left the intrenchments. I passed them on my way out. That regiment came promptly and boldy up under its brave and gallant commander, Major Klein. I formed it in line of battle - threw it rapidly forward. It was succeeded by the Sixty-seventh Ohio Volunteers, noble and brave regiment, officers and enlisted men. They came up on double-quick. I threw that regiment forward also. The Thirty-ninth Illinois Volunteers then came up bravely on the double-quick, were formed in the general [line] of battle on the run. These three regiments went forward with cheers, delivering their fire rapidly, steadily, and with a low aim. I never saw troops behave better. The fire of the enemy was very rapid and very heavy, but my brave boys dashed forward gallantly. We drove the enemy, and soon made a connected line of battle with the Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell, and with the One hundred and forty-second New York Volunteers, Colonel Curtis commanding. I communicated the fact the General Terry by Captain Hooker, my acting assistant adjutant-general, that my troops were all engaged. I received an order from General Terry directing me to swing my right toward the left and recapture the rifle-pits and hold them. That order was promptly obeyed and carried into successful execution. We drove the enemy like the wind, captured and reoccupied the rifle-pits, and held them firmly. Directly after taking the rifle-pits, Brigadier-General Walker, of the rebel forces, dashed out on the road in front of the rifle-pits and was immediately wounded and captured by Company C, of the Sixty-seventh Ohio Volunteers, and sent in as a prisoner.
It was a brave and gallant fight by all the brave and gallant regiments which constituted my command engaged in it. I never saw officers and men behave better. Their promptness, zeal, and dashing