Hdqrs. Second Brigade, First Division, Tenth Corps,
Before Richmond, Va., October 13, 1864.
Sir: I have the honor to report the part taken by this brigade in the reconnaissance this day made toward Richmond on the Darby road by the greater portion of the Tenth Corps.
In obedience to orders from division commander the brigade, about 1,100 strong, moved from camp at 4 a. m., following the First and Third Brigades in the following order: The Seventh Connecticut, Capt. S. S. Atwell; Sixth Connecticut, Col. A. P. Rockwell; detachment Sixteenth New York Heavy Artillery, Major Prince; Third New Hampshire Volunteers, Major Randlett: Seventh New Hampshire, Col. J. C. Abbott. Arriving at the forks of the Darbytown and Mill roads, the division formed line of battle, this brigade on the left at right angles with the former road and with its left resting thereon. The Seventh Connecticut was deployed to skirmish. The Sixth Connecticut, on the right, and the Sixteenth New York, on the left, formed the line, with the Third New Hampshire in reserve on the right and the Seventh New Hampshire on the left, each in double column closed in mass. After some delay in waiting for cavalry, the line moved forward slowly and steadily over the field and its earth-works and into a thick and troublesome young wood. On our left across the road was Brig. Gen. William Birney’s (Third) division. Upon nearing Pleasants’ plantation the enemy’s pickets were met and driven in. A sharp tire from an unseen enemy was soon encountered and the line of battle halted about 8
o’clock. The troops on my left having skirmished well forward the brigadier general commanding directed me to ascertain by my skirmish line what was in front. As soon as Captain Atwell neared the edge of the wood his men were met by a very severe fire. Captains Townsend and Thompson and Sergeant Austin were particularly zealous in reconnoitering. The green tops of the slashing in front rose so high (six to ten feet in some places) as to prevent a good view. Captain Thompson climbed a tree. It was discovered that across a slashing, variously estimated at from 100 to 150 yards wide at different places, was a strong breast-work well lined with rebels, and at an angle thereof were at least two guns in position, which at various times during the day fired shot, spherical case, and canister. The skirmish line of this brigade having gone farther than the waiting line on the right a little confusion arose and my skirmishers were fired into by our friends on the right, without further damage than temporarily deranging the right of the skirmishers. The nature of my front having been ascertained the brigades on my right continued the examination. The Third New Hampshire was detached to support the First Brigade, Colonel Pond commanding, and did not rejoin me until the command was on the way to camp.
After a time General Ames informed me that Colonel Pond’s brigade was to assault on the right at a point where there appeared to be little or no slashing. He instructed me that the moment the assault commenced my strong skirmish line should move up as far as practicable and vigorously engage the enemy, and that in case Colonel Pond should be successful, and the enemy in my front should show signs of breaking, I should charge with my whole force. At 2 o’clock the assault was unsuccessfully made. An exceedingly heavy fire was drawn from the enemy along the entire front of the division, and evidently a fire from veteran troops, as it was low and well directed; yet the concealment of the undergrowth and a few small trees greatly protected the men. My next instructions were to hurry back my wounded and stand ready to return. At, perhaps, 3.30 p. m. I was ordered to fall back to the open field, leaving my skirmishers, and form line of battle on the left of the division. I faced my command about, and it moved in as good order as the wood permitted to the field and the line indicated. While moving I received orders to call in the skirmishers, and they joined my line in the field, whence we were soon ordered to this camp.
Permit me to express my satisfaction with the behavior of the brigade during the entire day. There was the most cheerful and prompt obedience. Upon Captain Atwell, commanding the Seventh Connecticut, which alone did the firing, the burden of the day fell, and he showed his usual good sense and courage. The other battalion, for seven hours under a fire at times very annoying, manifested great steadiness and good discipline. My staff officers continue to merit my perfect confidence.
I inclose a list of casualties: 33 in the Seventh Connecticut, 15 in the Sixteenth New York Heavy Artillery, 3 in the Third New Hampshire. The killed were all well tried and favorite soldiers. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOS. R. HAWLEY,
Capt. Charles A. Carleton,
Assistant Adjutant-General, First Division.
- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XLII, Part 1 (Serial Number 87), pages 706-707 ↩