No. 212. Report of Colonel Joshua K. Sigfried, Forty-eighth Pennsylvania Infantry, commanding First Brigade, of operations July 30.1
HDQRS. FIRST Brigadier, FOURTH DIV., NINTH ARMY CORPS,
Before Petersburg, Va., July 31, 1864.
SIR: In obedience to orders I moved my brigade on the morning of the 30th instant down the covered way, immediately in rear of Colonel Humphrey’s brigade, of the Third Division. On arriving at the meadow I was halted by the stopping of Colonel H.’s brigade. After remaining here some time, I, in accordance to orders, moved by the brigade of the Third Division, at a flank, as directed, across the field, through the crater made by the explosion of the mine. Great difficulty was experienced in passing through this crater, owing to its crowded condition-living, wounded, dead, and dying crowded so thickly that it was very difficult to make a passage way through. By the great exertions of the officers and heroic determination of the men, my brigade finally made its way through and was halted beyond by the rebel line of intrenchments, which was filled with troops of the First, Second, and Third Division; behind this line it formed in good order. The Forty-third Regiment U. S. Colored Troops moved over the crest of the crater toward the night, charged the enemy’s intrenchments and took them, capturing a number of prisoners, a rebel stand of colors, and recapturing a stand of national colors. This line was part of the continuous line connecting with the crater. The balance of my brigade was prevented from advancing into this line by the number of troops of the First, Second, and Third Division in front of them. This position left my brigade very much exposed to the fire of the enemy, and it was so
exposed at least an hour. Owing to the crowded lines of troops of the stated divisions immediately in front it was impossible to get my brigade on. Just as the troops in front were about to make a charge a white color-bearer with his colors crossed the work in retreat. The troops gave way and sought shelter in the crater, where was concentrated a terrific fire from the enemy’s batteries and intrenchments. My brigade held its position until pushed back by the mass of troops, black and white, who rushed back upon it, and until the enemy occupied the works to its left and the opposite side of the intrenchments, when, becoming exposed to a terrific flank fire, losing in numbers rapidly and in danger of being cut off, it fell back behind the line temporarily occupied by part of the Eighteenth Corps, where it originally started from.
Too much praise cannot be awarded to the bravery of both officers and men. The former fearlessly led while the latter as fearlessly follow through a fire hot enough to cause the oldest of troops to falter. The field officers particularly distinguished themselves. Colonel Delevan Bates,* commanding Thirtieth U. S. Colored Troops, fell shot through the face at the head of his regiment, while his major, James C. Leeke, stood on the ramparts urging the men on, with the blood from a wound through his breast gushing from his mouth. Lieutenant Colonel H. Seymour Hall, commanding Forty-third Regiment, lost his right arm bravely leading his regiment. His adjutant, First Lieutenant James O’Brien, deserves honorable mention, having displayed the most heroic courage and daring, standing on the summit of the crater cheering the men on amidst a terrific fire of shot and shell. He received a severe wound through the breast. Captain A. D. Wright (Forty-third), in charging the rebel line with his men, personally captured a stand of rebel colors and 5 prisoners, bringing all safely to the rear, although receiving a wound through the right arm. Colonel O. P. Stearns, commanding Thirty-ninth, put his regiment into the fight with great coolness and ability. His officers and men bravely did their work. Lieutenant Colonel Charles J. Wright, commanding Twenty-seventh, remained on the rebel works with part of his command until the enemy occupied the opposite side and until but few men remained with him, when he directed them to retire through the ravine on the right. He received two shots, neither of which disabled him sufficiently to leave his command. Where so many displayed such bravery and fearlessness it is difficult to enumerate; suffice it to say that all did their duty.
I have to regret the loss of First Lieutenant William Washburn, of Thirty-fifth Massachusetts Volunteers, acting aide-de-camp on my staff, a valuable officer, who was wounded in the neck and taken prisoner while delivering an order to the brigade. My staff behaved well, were constantly busy, and of great assistance in maneuvering the brigade. Had it not been for the almost impassable crowd of troops of the leading divisions in the crater and intrenchments Cemetery Hill would have been ours without a falter upon the part of my brigade.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. K. SIGFRIED,
Colonel Forty-eighth Regiment Pennsylvania Vet. Vol. Infty., Commanding
Captain GEORGE A. HICKS,
Asst. Adjt. General, Fourth Division, Ninth Army Corps.
*Awarded a Medal of Honor.
J. K. SIGFRIED,
Colonel Forty-eighth Regiment Pennsylvania Veteran Vol. Infantry.
BEFORE PETERSBURG, VA., July 31, 1864.
- 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 596-598 ↩