Number 261. Reports of Colonel Louis Bell, Fourth New Hampshire Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations June 30 and July 30

   

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in Part 1 (Serial Number 80)

Numbers 261. Reports of Colonel Louis Bell, Fourth New Hampshire Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations June 30 and July 30.1

HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier, SECOND DIV., TENTH ARMY CORPS,
July 1, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my brigade in the action of the 30th ultimo:

In obedience to orders, I had 350 men, under command of Captain Mendenhall, Ninety-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, under the brow of the hill, behind where the rifle-pits are dug in the skirt of the woods, at 5 p.m., and the One hundred and sixty-ninth New York Volunteers in command of Major Colvin, in rear of the first party as support. Shortly after, in obedience to an order from the general commanding, I moved Captain Mendenhall’s command into the edge of the woods and opened fire on the parapet of the enemy’s work to our right, to cover Colonel Barton’s proposed movement. The left of Captain Mendenhall’s command was exposed to a heavy fire from their left, and was compelled to move by the right flank under the brow of the hill and then went into the woods. The whole of Captain Mendenhall’s line was then formed within the woods on the crest of the hill. Within a few minutes a regiment of the enemy came out on our left over the works and seemed about to charge the left flank of Captain Mendenhall’s line. I ordered the One hundred and sixty-ninth New York Volunteers to move to a position previously designated, forming a line nearly at right angles with Captain Mendenhall’s line. The right of the One hundred and sixty-ninth New York Volunteers advanced, and being met with a heavy fire, fell back a few feet to the crest of the hill, from which they opened fire on the enemy’s regiment, soon compelling

it to move into the woods toward our right, where they disappeared in rifle-pits. Before this time a force estimated at two regiments was seen by Captain Mendenhall and other officers, to move to our right and go into the works in Colonels Barton’s and Curtis’ front. I was unable to gain any ground, and a short time before dark, in obedience to orders, I withdrew my men, leaving only the regular picket party in the rifle-pits. Out of about 750 men engaged 150 were killed and wounded. It gives me great pleasure to bear witness to the gallantry of the officers in command of the parties, and especially to mention Captain Mendenhall, Ninety-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Lieutenant Zent, Thirteenth Indiana Volunteers.

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

LOUIS BELL,

Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Captain I. R. SEALY,

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
HDQRS. THIRD Brigadier SECOND DIV.,. TENTH ARMY CORPS,
August 3, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the brigade under my command in the action of July 30 before Petersburg:

The brigade moved from the line of works at 11 p.m. July 29, and marched through the line of works occupied by the Ninth Corps. At 2.30 the brigade was formed in column of regiments, deployed en masse in an angle formed by the trenches. After the mine was sprung in obedience to orders, I moved the brigade to the line of works next the works of the enemy, and very soon after again formed column of regiments, deployed. I received an order to move forward to the line we had taken from the enemy, gaining as much ground to the right as practicable. On arriving at the works I put the brigade in line as well as I could do it under the severe fire, holding one regiment in reserve. After remaining at this place for some time I sent a staff officer for instructions, and received orders to gain as much ground to the right as I could, and to assault the battery on my right when the Ninth Corps advanced. I directed the regiment held in reserve to form on the right. On this regiment moving they were met by a severe fire. At this moment all the colored troops in my front broke and came back, dashing through my men with arms at a trail and bayonets fixed. The officers and men of my command tried to resist the dash of those retreating but to no avail. Quite a number of my men were wounded by the bayonets of the retreating troops, and the brigade was disorganized by the large number of fugitives passing through it. After vainly attempting to reform the brigade under a severe enfilading fire from both the right and left, the enemy being near us in front also, I fell back from this line to the one I had previously occupied, and after holding this line some three hours was relieved by other troops and marched to the rear. Had my command not been run over and confused by the mob of panic-stricken negroes I could have held the position I occupied against any force then visible, though I should have met with a severe loss in doing so, owing to the sharp fire, almost enfilading my line from both right and left.

The conduct of the regimental officers is deserving of the highest praise.

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

LOUIS BELL,

Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Captain I. R. SEALY.

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

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 703-705

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