HDQRS. SEVENTH REGIMENT RHODE ISLAND VOLS.,
Near Petersburg, Va., June 30, 1864.
By very severe marching we crossed the Chickahominy the 14th [June] and the James on the 15th, and in the afternoon of the 16th formed line and dug pits in front of the enemy’s works around Petersburg.
*For portion of report (here omitted) covering operations from May 4 to June 12, 1864, see Vol. XXXVI, Part I, p.931.
On our right their first lines had already been carried, and the next morning before daybreak part of our brigade drove them from the works in our immediate front.
In the fighting of the 17th we were lightly engaged, part of the forenoon occupying a captured battery or fort on our extreme left, and as the enemy occupied the next battery and completely on our flank, and had sharpshooters nearly in our rear, it was rather a trying position. During the afternoon we formed part of the supporting line, and the First and Third Divisions of the Ninth Corps again drove the enemy, and at night he fell back still farther, and on the 18th was driven into his last line of works, which he still occupies. At this part of the line we have thrown up works within about 100 yards of his position, each brigade occupying a place on the advance line two days out of four. To-day we mustered in the pits, and the places of nearly two-thirds of our fighting force two months ago were vacant. Both officers and men that crossed the Rapidan with us, through the hardships and carnage of this long campaign, have nobly faced exposure, privation, and death at every call of duty, and deserve great credit, with one or two lamentable exceptions among the officers now absent, and four or five among the men. The former, though they may be good soldiers in time of peace, though far from the trying scenes of a soldier’s life, they may do their duty well, so long as our dreams are so frequently molded by the roar of artillery, so long as battle-fields, where a soldier is stamped as such or branded as an impostor, come so often, will probably deprive us of their assistance. Fear not for them though the rebels expect them. “Life is too precious to shorten its span.”
Of those officers that are with the regiment now, all have worked nobly, and some of those now absent deserve our thanks for their services while here. Captains Potter and Allen both deserve praise for the part they took while with us, and Lieutenant Peckham, on brigade staff, deserves much credit for his share in the work. Brave and determined, he has won the confidence of all. His conduct on the 2nd of June, when, alone and with a small pistol, he captured three armed rebels, deserves special motion. Concerning the four or five exceptions among the enlisted men, orders were written at the time to shame and disgrace them before the regiment, but before opportunity offered to publish the orders, and which is a lamentable fact, by the bullets of the enemy the blood of each offender washed away the stain of his error.
The places of two-thirds of our fighting force of two months ago are vacant. Where are our missing companions? Look on the bloodstained hills, in the desolate valleys, and among the battle-scarred forests from the Rapidan to the Appomattox, and you can see where many of them sleep, and though their places are vacant their names are sacred and encircled with a halo of glory. Many others have returned to their friends maimed with deformities they must carry to the grave, but they, while here, will be cared for and loved, and when they pass away their names shall be remembered. Better, had better, the fate of either than to be worthy the curses of sire or son, or merit the scorn of mother or sister. Hard indeed has been the work and terrible the carnage of the past two months, and not soon shall we forget the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, and 18th of May, when we shared in the hard struggle around Spotsylvania, nor the fighting of the 24th, 25th, and 26th across the North Anna. The skirmishers of the 30th and 31st of may and 1st and 2nd of June at Totopotomoy Creek will, too, be remembered, and the bloody charge of the 3rd of June, when nearly one-third of the regiment
went down, will never be forgotten. The work of the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th of June, at Cold Harbor, will, too, claim their place in memory, and the continued work of the past two weeks here will make a deep mark on the records of the brain. Our hard marches also, which have not been few, have left their impression, as well as the many nights we have used the shovel and pick in the trenches and pits. But through all the Seventh has shown a gallantry, coolness, fidelity, and perseverance worthy her native State, and we hope no Rhode Islander can look on our record with any but the feelings of pride, though his joy must be tinged with sadness for the fallen brave. They have added much to the bright laurels won in previous campaigns, and nobly earned a soldier’s brightest reward-the approbation of his superiors. Our decimated ranks tell of the hard work we have done. You would hardly recognize our short line of to-day as all that is left of the 900 that left Rhode Island with us less than two years ago; but though the chances of war have called us to weep over the graves of so many noble comrades, those that remain are true as steel, as has been proven on many a hard-fought field. May the future be as free from dishonor as the past.
For the sake of giving a corrected report I have infringed on the jurisdiction of two other commanders, Captain Winn, who commanded the regiment from the opening of the campaign to the forenoon of the 18th of May, and Captain Channell, who commanded from the 15th of June to the forenoon of the 17th of the same.
Inclosed please find a complete list of the killed and wounded in the regiment from the commencement of the campaign to date.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Captain, Commanding Seventh Rhode Island Volunteers.
Brigadier General E. C. MAURAN,
Adjutant-General State of Rhode Island.
HDQRS. SEVENTH REGIMENT RHODE ISLAND VOLS.,
Near Petersburg, Va., August 7, 1864.
CAPTAIN: In compliance with circular order from brigade headquarters, I have the honor to report that on the morning of the 30th ultimo, according to orders from division headquarters, this regiment followed the division with tools (three per man) to the intrenchments to the left of the ravine and remained in the path just back of our works until the troops were driven back from the crest opposite the enemy’s battery up the ravine, then, as there was some confusion, the regiment dropped their tools and took position in the pits, which we occupied until a little after noon, when a brigade commander, who was ordered to relieve the First Brigade, ordered the regiment back. I then reported to General Potter, and was assigned position between the railroad and ravine which we occupied until Sunday night. I would also report that though the regiment remained in our pits I participated in the charge that carried the enemy’s pits on the immediate left of the ravine. The regiment lost in the action 4 wounded.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Seventh Rhode Island Volunteers.
Captain P. E. PECKHAM,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
- 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 564-566 ↩