Number 257. Report of Colonel Harris M. Plaisted, Eleventh Maine Infantry, of operations July 23-27

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 80)

Numbers 257. Report of Colonel Harris M. Plaisted, Eleventh Maine Infantry, of operations July 23-27.1

HEADQUARTERS ELEVENTH MAINE VOLUNTEERS,
Deep Bottom, Va., July 29, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the operations of the troops under my command in taking and holding the rebel battery on the New Market and Malvern Hill road below the Four-Mile Creek.

The Eleventh Maine, under Lieutenant-Colonel Hill, had taken the position on the 21st and again on the 22d, capturing 14 prisoners with the loss of but 1 man, but not feeling able to hold the same without re-enforcements, he fell back at dark both days to the redoubt on the bluff. I was ordered by General Foster to retake the position with the

Eleventh Maine at daylight on the morning of the 23d, and hold the same, if practicable; that other troops would arrive during the day. The Eleventh was accordingly advanced through the strip of woods along the left bank of the Four-Mile Creek, and after a close fight of twelve hours the enemy was pushed back, step by step, tree by tree, beyond the Malvern Hill road and a position secured within fifty yards of the road and about 100 yards from the rebel battery, and commanding both. Rifle-pits were dug and the regiment held the position through the night. Colonel Currie’s brigade, of the Nineteenth Corps, having arrived, I received orders from the general during the night to advance to the road at daylight and secure the position, if possible. The Eleventh Maine was accordingly advanced and the road and battery both secured with trifling loss. The Eleventh Maine, which was the only regiment engaged, lost 4 killed, and about same number wounded. This regiment was then relieved by two regiments of Colonel Currie’s brigade and returned to camp on the right bank of the creek, after having been three days and three nights constantly in the presence of the enemy, and for the most part fighting.

At 10.30 p.m. the 25th, by orders from the general, I returned to the bluff with the Eleventh Maine, and assumed command of the Union troops below the creek. Colonel Currie’s pickets had been driven in and the position on the New Market and Malvern Hill road lost. No part of the woods on the crest in front of the woods was held by him, the enemy holding both. Many of his pickets had been captured, the balance were within the fortifications. Two companies of the Eleventh Maine were thrown forward on the left to secure the entrance of the margin of the wood along the Four-Mile Creek leading to the enemy’s position on the Malvern Hill road, and one company, same regiment, placed in the grove on the right; two regiments of Currie’s brigade were advanced a few hundred yards to the front and lay in line of battle until morning. At daylight the enemy opened a heavy fusillade from the crest in front of the woods upon the two regiments in the open field, and both regiments retired within the fortifications. Reporting to General Foster that these troops could not be relied upon to retake the lost position on the Malvern Hill road, the Tenth Connecticut Volunteers, Third Brigade, Tenth Corps, was ordered to report to me. The Tenth Connecticut, Colonel Otis, having reported, it was placed in reserve, and the Eleventh Maine advanced along the creek in the woods. The enemy was soon met in great force. Stoutly resisting he was slowly but steadily pushed back until confronted in the line of rifle-pits dug and occupied by the Eleventh Maine on the night of the 23d. From this position he could not be dislodged by sharpshooting, so numerous were the enemy, though the opposing lines in some parts were only about fifteen paces apart. I then caused the four pieces of artillery (Lieutenant Dickinson, First Connecticut Battery) to open upon the rebel position. After a most vigorous shelling a charge was ordered and the rifle-pits carried by assault. It was not thought practicable to make any farther advance, though the courage of the rebels seemed broken, as the front of the regiment would have to be too much extended. A position had been secured commanding the New Market and Malvern Hill road and within a few yards of the enemy’s main line of works and the rebel battery of four guns, 20-pounder Parrotts. This position was gained against great odds-a division of Longstreet’s corps-Kershaw’s division, as was learned from prisoners. The contest of sharpshooting was kept up until dark, when the Eleventh Maine was relieved at the front by the Tenth Connecticut, and the Eleventh placed in reserve. General Hancock arrived during the night

with the Second Corps and Gregg’s cavalry and attacked the enemy at sunrise, turning his left flank and seizing the Malvern Hill road below the rebel battery of four guns. The Tenth Connecticut and Eleventh Maine commanded the road leading from the battery in the other direction toward Spring Hill, and opened such a heavy fire upon battery and road the guns could not be removed in that direction, hence their easy capture by the Union forces. The commanding officers of the Eleventh Maine and Tenth Connecticut were the first to reach the guns.

On the 26th the Eleventh Maine lost 23 killed and wounded, including a commissioned officer. The sharpshooters of the Tenth Connecticut twenty-two men, were engaged a portion of the time during the day and lost 6 wounded, including the officer in command. This regiment also had 2 men wounded on the morning of the 27th.

The small number of casualties, considering the close and constant fighting, was owing to the excellent cover afforded by the trees and to the skill of the men in bushwhacking. The loss of the enemy, it is believed, was ten times as many; 108 dead and wounded rebels were seen from the gun-boat lookout carried to the rear in the afternoon of the 26th, and prisoners captured on the morning of the 27th said they lost 40 men in ten minutes, when the Eleventh charged the rebels out of the rifle-pits. The rebels were in such numbers they were much exposed where exposure was almost certain death.

The conduct of the officers and men of these two regiments throughout the contest was all that could be expected or desired of the bravest men and best soldiers. To name all who deserve honorable mention would be but to call the roll of all those who were engaged. I cannot, however, omit to mention specially Lieutenant-Colonel Hill and Major Baldwin, Eleventh Maine, their services were so conspicuous. The former had the immediate command of the Eleventh, and is entitled to great credit for the admirable manner in which he fought the regiment. He was ably seconded by Major Baldwin. Lieutenant Dickinson, First Connecticut Artillery, performed excellent service with his four pieces, James rifles. Without the support of his guns success against such odds, if not impossible, would have been purchased at much greater loss of life.

I have the honor to be, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. M. PLAISTED,

Colonel Eleventh Maine, Commanding.

Captain P. A. DAVIS,

Asst. Adjt. General, Third Brigadier, First Div., 10th Army Corps.

Source:

  1. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XL, Part 1 (Serial Number 80), pages 694-696

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