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OR XL P1 #250: Report of Colonel Joshua B. Howell, 85th PA, commanding 1/1/X/AotJ, June 16, 1864

Numbers 250. Report of Colonel Joshua B. Howell, Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania Infantry, commanding First Brigade, of operations June 16.1

Near Bermuda Hundred, Va., June 18, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor respectfully to report to you for the information of Brigadier-General Foster, commanding division, that in pursuance with orders, about 7 a.m. 16th instant, I marched out my brigade, consisting of the Thirty-ninth Illinois Volunteers, Sixty-seventh Ohio Volunteers, and the One hundred and thirty-third Ohio

Volunteer National Guard, the Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers being already in the front on picket. At the first rifle-pits beyond the intrenchments I had the pleasure of meeting General Foster and General Terry, where the head of my column was halted by the order of General Terry. In company with General Foster and General Terry I went to the rifle-pits on a line with Howlett’s house and beyond Ware Bottom Church. After remaining there a short time I received the order from General Foster to move my column to the place where I had captured General Walker on the 20th ultimo. There I met one of his staff officers, who directed me from General Foster to move my column to the Clay house. I was here joined by a section of artillery, under the command of Lieutenant Gillen, fifth New Jersey Battery. When we came up to the intrenchments near the Clay house I had the pleasure to meet General Foster there, who directed me to send forward a regiment as skirmishers. I sent forward the Thirty-ninth Illinois Volunteers, and he also directed me to support them by another regiment. I supported them by the Sixty-seventh Ohio Volunteers. By his direction I put my artillery in position and supported it by the One hundred and thirty-third Ohio. Subsequently I moved my whole command forward and took possession of the enemy’s rifle-pits in front, placed the artillery so as to command all approaches to them (this was with the approval of General Foster), the Thirty-ninth still being in advance as skirmishers. About 1 o’clock I was informed that the enemy were driving in the skirmishers on my right by a non-commissioned officer from Colonel Plaisted’s brigade. I immediately ordered two companies of the Sixty-seventh Ohio to move down to the right. I took from them four men and a reliable non-commissioned officer and proceeded myself to ascertain the position of the enemy. We had not proceeded up the road more than twenty yards before we encountered the enemy in some force. I deployed my little party and returned their fire, and they ran down into the hollow and into the rifle-pits beyond. I brought up then the two companies of the Sixty-seventh Ohio, and we held them there beautifully. I beg leave to state here that about this time I sent to Colonel Plaisted to send me three companies to be deployed on my right. That gallant officer promptly responded to my request, and the companies he sent behaved themselves gallantly. I wish here to speak in high praise of the non-commissioned officer who brought me the first information.

About 2 o’clock I directed Lieutenant Gillen to bring up a piece of artillery and post it on the brow of the hill commanding the enemy’s rifle-pits beyond the hollow; that gun was served elegantly under the command of that meritorious officer, and the enemy’s fire soon slackened from the effect of his own fire and my own musketry. About 3 o’clock Lieutenant-Colonel Jackson came up to me. That gallant officer told me that he had three guns at my disposition, and wished to know where I would have them posted; I directed him where they should be placed. Before this I had sent my acting assistant adjutant-general, Captain Hooker, to take charge of the left and a piece of artillery belonging to Captain Warren’s battery. I wish to speak here of the energy, skill, and courage of that officer, and how much I am indebted to him for his services during the entire day. The guns furnished me were placed in a line with the gun on the left, placed by Captain Hooker; the battery opened with grand effect on the enemy. About 4 or 5 o’clock I got the order to fall back, which was done in perfect coolness and order; no confusion, no hurry. We fell back in the rifle-pits on a line with Ware Bottom Church, the place designated. About sunset the enemy made

a dash upon us. My old brigade held their ground nobly. The One hundred and thirty-third being new to fire broke and run, with the exception of two or three companies. I respectfully beg leave here to state that the conduct of Colonel Innis was irreproachable. I rode up and down the line and saw him cool and composed and trying to rally his men. My horse was shot under me at this time. I wish to say to the general that these men are unused to fire; they have to be educated to it. My belief is that they will never break again. I believe they are brave men; they came back with a cheer, those that I saw.

I wish to speak in the highest terms of praise of my old brigade, field and staff, line officers, and enlisted men, and all the artillery that served with me. Braver men never drew a sword, carried a musket, or fired a gun. I have already referred to the conduct of and my indebtedness to Captain Hooker, my assistant adjutant-general. I now desire to commend also my aide-de-camp, Lieutenant McGregor.

I have been obliged to make use of an amanuensis to make out my report. I have also the honor to transmit the report of the Thirty-ninth Illinois Volunteers herewith.

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


Colonel Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania Vols., Commanding Brigade.

Captain P. A. DAVIS,

Assistant Adjutant-General.


  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 685-687
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