|Annual Report of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts 1862, pages 168-186, “the Fifteenth Regiment.”|
The report made by Lieutenant-Colonel Kimball of this
regiment is so full and complete, and written with so much modesty and ability,
that I copy it almost entire. It is
made up to November 10th. since
that time, the Fifteenth has had another baptism of blood at
Fredericksburg, and Lieutenant-Colonel Kimball has been promoted Colonel of the Fifty-Third
regiment, and is now on his way to New Orleans, under orders to report to Major-General Banks, in command of the department
of the Gulf. The Colonel (Ward) of
the Fifteenth lost a leg at Ball’s Bluff, and is not yet sufficiently
recovered to join his regiment. Here
is the narrative of Lieut. Col. Kimball:
The Fifteenth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers Infantry
was organized in
county in the month of June, 1861, under the call for three years volunteers to
put down the rebellion then and now existing in our country.
for a nucleus the regiment had three companies of state militia around
which to rally. Seven companies of
entirely new organization being added, the whole was mustered into the service
During the process of recruiting, organizing and
drilling, the regiment was encamped in the city of Worcester, the camp being known as
, from which place the regiment left,
On Sunday, August 25, orders were received to march immediately to Poolesville. Md. , a town north west from Washington , a distance some thirty-five miles. The line of march was taken up at , P. M., and ten miles accomplished before a halt for the night was ordered. Here was the first experience of the bivouac. Under a cloudless sky, bright with ten thousand lights, the men, wearied by the unusual toil, threw themselves upon the grass-grown earth, to forget in sleep the then called hardships of a soldier’s life. The march next day was eighteen miles, the bivouac at night a piece of woodland, near the town of Dawsonville .
Poolesville was reached August 27th, and the regiment ordered into camp by General Charles P. Stone, commanding Corps of observation, on a large common or plain near the town, which, on account of its being disputed property and therefore not in use, served well the double purpose of a drill and camp ground. By order of Colonel Devens, this camp was called and known as Camp Foster , in honor of the Hon. Dwight foster, Attorney General of the State of Massachusetts . The Potomac River constituting the dividing line between the two armies, a large force was required for picket duty, in order to protect the line extending from Seneca Falls to Point of Rocks. Guarding that part of this line between Conrad’s Ferry and the lower end of Harrison's Island , a distance of three miles, became the duty of the Fifteenth Regiment. Five companies were sent to the river on this duty, and were relieved at the expiration of fourteen days by the balance of the regiment. Nothing of importance occurred to break the monotony of the established camp and picket duties, until the battle at Ball’s Bluff, pending which time the regiment rapidly improved in drill and discipline.
At , October 20th, orders were received at camp to march to the river, and join that portion of the regiment on duty there. At , A. M. August (October) 21st, five companies crossed the river from Harrison 's Island , and were posted on Ball’s Bluff. The remaining five companies were hurried across from the Maryland shore as soon after daybreak as possible, the sound of the musketry announcing that skirmishing had already commenced. of the events of that disastrous day we respectfully refer you to the official report of the battle, by the commanding officer. Suffice it here to say,, after an obstinate resistance from morn till night, against superior forces, our forces were driven from the Bluff to the river. The only means of transportation across the rive r were two boats, one capable of holding sixty men, the other a small life-boat, not more than sixteen. Into these the troops were crowded. The large boat soon sunk, filled with men, many of them wounded, and for want of proper means of propelling the smaller one, it was but of little service at that critical moment. The only chance of escape left was by swimming, made extremely hazardous by the galling fire which the enemy poured into the river.
Of the 625 men of the regiment who in the morning crossed the river, but 313 returned uninjured at night. Two officers were killed, four wounded, seven taken prisoners. Our morning reports, immediately after the battle, show a loss among the enlisted men of 26 killed outright, 66 wounded, and 224 missing in action. nothing worthy of note occurred after the battle. During the fall and winter many recruits were received from the State, the regiment numbering in aggregate 903 on February 24th. Orders to march were received February 25th, and the camp was broken. February 26th, Adamstown was reached, from which place the troops were transported by rail to Harper’s Ferry, arriving at the latter place at five, P. M., crossing the Potomac by pontoon bridge.
At Harper’s Ferry the regiment was quartered in buildings till November 2d, when it was marched to Bolivar Heights , one company remaining at Harper’s Ferry on provost guard duty. Camp was struck March 7th, and the line of march taken up for Charlestown , the fine weather and good roads rendering the march an easy one. At Charlestown the regiment remained until March 10th, and then moved on to Berryville, a distance of thirteen miles. At Berryville traces of the enemy were discovered, and their cavalry were driven from the town by our advance. One company of the regiment, deployed as skirmishers, exchanged shots with the enemy, but no casualties occurred on either side. remained in camp at Berryville until March 13th, when orders were received to push on to Winchester, but when within two miles of the town were ordered back to camp at Berryville, as Winchester had been occupied by the forces under General Banks.
March 14th, the regiment returned to Charlestown ; March 15th, marched to Bolivar, and pitched camp on the heights on the ground formerly occupied. March 22d, left Harper’s Ferry by rail for Washington , and arriving late at night, were quartered in barracks near the Capitol. Went into camp near the city the next day, remaining until ordered to Alexandria , on the night of March 23d. Reached Alexandria at five A. M., March 24th. March 29th, the regiment embarked for Hampton on board steam transports, and sailed at three P. M., the weather cold and stormy.
April, 1st, disembarked at Hampton , and went into camp near the town. April 4th, the march up the Peninsula commenced, halting the first night at Big Bethel, marching from thence to an estate owned by one Mr. Bowers, and known during our stay as Camp Misery , a name entirely in keeping with the condition of the camp, which by a long rain storm was made truly miserable.
From this point progress was made necessarily very slow, as the enemy in force were strongly entrenched before Yorktown , a distance of not more than three miles. Here the labor of felling timber and making roads commenced, in order that the artillery and trains might be brought to the front. April 11th, the regiment was moved forward to within one mile of the enemy’s works, to take an active part in the operations of besieging Yorktown . This camp, known as Camp Advance , was soon abandoned for a better position a half a mile advanced, at which place a permanent camp, known as Camp Winfield Scott was established.
From this time until the evacuation by the enemy of Yorktown , the regiment was actively employed, doing picket duty, supporting artillery, throwing up earthworks, & ect. Although under artillery fire many times, but one casualty occurred in the regiment, the wounding of an officer by a piece of shell. During the siege of Yorktown , the first company of Andrew sharpshooters, Captain John Saunders, became attached to the regiment. with their telescopic rifles this company was highly effective in silencing the enemy’s batteries, at times driving them from their guns. their loss during the siege was three men wounded.
While before Yorktown , Colonel Devens left the Fifteenth to take command of a brigade, having been appointed a brigadier-general. The command of the regiment was immediately assumed by Lieutenant Colonel Kimball.
May 4th, the enemy evacuated their entire line of works, which were at once occupied by our forces, the Fifteenth being one of the first regiments to plant their standard within the fortifications. The regiment remained at Yorktown until transports were in readiness to convey the troops to West Point . May 6th, embarked for West Point , arriving early the next morning, in time to reinforce General Franklin, who was engaged with the enemy. hastily landed, the regiment was immediately formed in line of battle to support the forces already engaged; were not called into action, and suffered no loss. May 9th the troops marched to Eltham, on the Pamunkey river, a distance from West Point of two and a half miles, encamping on a large plantation known as Camp near Eltham.
Here the troops remained until preparations were completed for the onward march toward Richmond . Camp was struck May 15th, and a tedious march was made of a few miles to a place called Austin ’s Church, where, encamped in the woods, the regiment remained until fair weather rendered the roads in better condition for moving the army. Left Austin’s Church May 18th, and proceeded some three miles towards the famous Chickahominy River , encamping in a large field of grain known as Camp near Mayo’s House. March was resumed May 21st, and a place known as Savage’s House, near Bottom’s Bridge, was reached. The heat at this time was intense, and for want of proper rest many of the men fell out from the ranks in an exhausted condition; which were affected with sunstroke, but none died in consequence. A march of five miles the following day, and the command reached the Tyler estate, near the banks of the Chickahominy.
Early in the afternoon of May 31st, rapid and heavy firing was heard, distinctly heard, from across the river. The troops under General Sumner, including the Fifteenth Regiment, were immediately ordered under arms, and marched to the assistance of General Casey. Crossing the river on a bridge of logs, called Sumner's Grapevine Bridge , the column advanced about two miles, and formed near Fair Oaks Station, in anticipation of an attack. the regiment had barely time to load before the battle, which raged fiercely until after dark, commenced. The first position taken by the fifteenth regiment was in support of a battery of light artillery, commanded by Lieutenant Kirby of the regular service, which was playing with great effect upon the concealed enemy. the position was trying to the men, in the extreme; as but a small portion were engaged, the balance could only stand firmly before the storm of bullets, to resist the charge, should one be attempted. Three times did the foe, flushed with the victory of the morning, and confident of success, rush upon the battery almost to the cannon’s mouth, but each time were driven back in disorder, leaving many brave men within a few yards of our bayonets. Before they could rally from this terrible fire of canister and musketry, a charge upon them was ordered. With wild shouts and cheers, the unwavering line advanced into the almost impenetrable thicket, but the enemy had fled; their dead and wounded alone were left, the evidence of a glorious victory. That night the troops rested upon their arms on the battle field, the horrors of which were made doubly revolting by the unceasing groans of the wounded.
In the battle of Fair Oaks , the regiment sustained a loss of five killed, seventeen wounded. the battle-field became the permanent camp at fair oaks. a breastwork of logs was thrown up, behind which the regiment stood in line of battle many weary hours, both day and night, during the entire month of June, in anticipation of an attack. Heavy details were made for fatigue duty, slashing timber, building fortifications, & ect. The detail for picket was also large, and the duty arduous, skirmishes being a frequent occurrence. The men suffered much from sickness incidental to the climate, some deaths occurred, and many were sent back to general hospitals.
June 27th, an attack was made upon our lines, and the regiment was ordered from one position to another, in support of the troops engaged. although not brought into action, the regiment was under fire, the result of which was the wounding of one man slightly. June 28th, the attack was resumed with vigor, but casualty occurred to the regiment, notwithstanding the severe artillery fire to which it was exposed at times during the day. At , P. M., camp was struck; the regiment marched to Savage station, for the purpose of destroying ordnance stores, prior to the abandoning of that post. Throughout the entire day, June 29th, the men were kept busily at work, and when it was accomplished, awaited the approach of the troops then slowly falling back from Fair Oaks . The troops arrived about , P. M., and were posted in a strong position to check the advance of the enemy.
Of the engagement of the evening, we again respectfully refer you to the report of the commanding officer of the regiment. The fifteenth took an important part in the fight, and was posted on picket till P. M., when the troops were quietly withdrawn and the retreat continued to White Oak Swamp or Glendale . On the march from Savage Station, a few men fell out from utter exhaustion, and were captured by the enemy, but were soon paroled and exchanged. In the rear again at Glen Dale, the regiment was engaged with the enemy on the evening of June 30th, the result of which fight was a success, enabling the army trains to reach a place of comparative safety.
At two o’clock, A. M., July 1st, the pickets were withdrawn from the field, and the retreat continued to Malvern Hill. In the battle of July 1st, the regiment was not actively engaged, that part of the line to which it was assigned not being attacked, but was at times under severe artillery fire. Harrison ’s Landing, the destination of the army, was reached on the morning of July 2d, where under cover of the gunboats, the troops found a place of safety. In the various battles occurring on the retreat from Fair Oaks to Harrison ’s Landing, the regiment lost eleven wounded and twenty-six missing. On the arrival at Harrison ’s Landing, the soldiers were thoroughly worn out by the unceasing fighting and marching of the week. A suitable place was selected, and a permanent camp established, known as Camp Near Harrison’s Landing. During the month of July but little was required of the regiment, the intense heat of the weather rendered constant drilling highly injurious. A reconnoissance in force to Malvern Hill was made, the troops leaving camp on the evening of August 4th, arriving at their destination early the following morning. The regiment was not engaged in the skirmish of the following morning, and returned to Harrison 's Landing without the loss of a man.
August 15th, the camp was struck and the army moved for Newport News , arriving at the latter place August 22d. The regiment embarked on board the stem transport Mississippi , for Alexandria . Arrived August 28th, and left the following day for Chain Bridge. Here the long promised rest was expected, but the distant booming of cannon told that a battle was raging, and an order, requiring the division to which the Fifteenth was attached to march immediately to Centreville, in time to cover the retrograde movement of the army towards Washington .
A reconnoisance in force was made September 1st, by the division, but no enemy was found. The same day the army was withdrawn from Centreville, and at the regiment composing a part of the rear guard, moved, reaching Fairfax Court House at sunrise, September 1st. The same night the enemy attacked the rear guard, near Vienna , but was repulsed, and the retreat to Arlington Heights successfully covered. The Fifteenth was not under musketry fire in the skirmish of September 1st, but lost several men by being taken prisoners. September 2d, the Potomac was again crossed and the camp established at Tenallytown. September 5th, marched to Rockville . September 6th, Camp Defiance was established, a short distance beyond Rockville . Left Camp Defiance September 8th, in advance of the column, meeting with no obstruction until reaching Hyattstown, where a body of the enemy’s cavalry was discovered. A few well directed shots soon dispersed the party, which proved to be merely scouts, and the march was continued to Urbana .
The following day the city of Frederick was entered, already occupied by our forces. Left Frederick September 14th, arriving at South Mountain on the night of the battle, relieving a brigade at nine o’clock in the evening, who were resting where they had ceased firing at the enemy upon the approach of night. the next morning’s sun revealed that the worsted enemy has retired during the night, and pursuit was immediately commenced. Late at night, September 15th, the regiment reached Keedysville, and bivouacked for the night. September 16, preparations for the impending battle were made, and the regiment was ordered to be in readiness the next day.
On the morning of the memorable 17th, the great battle of Antietam commenced, and at General Sumner’s corps was ordered to the front, to follow up the success already achieved by the troops under Gen. Hooker. It has been the subject of much remark, that troops never went into battle more cheerfully than did ours that morning, so confident were all that the shattered enemy would be driven ere night across the river. At , the Fifteenth in the front line of the division, became engaged, and for twenty minutes sustained a terrific fire from the enemy, at the expiration of which time the disheartening order to fall back was given. we have neither time, space, nor heart, to record in detail the disasters to the Fifteenth on that day. It was repulsed in common with all other regiments attached to the division. In the history of our state we claim to be mentioned as having fought a good fight, as an evidence of which we ask only that the list of casualties occurring in the regiment that day may always be coupled with the official report of the commanding officer. the record stands thus: 24 officers and 582 non-commissioned officers and privates went into the fight: five officers were killed, six were wounded, one of which number has since died; 60 enlisted men left dead on the field; 248 wounded, 24 missing, total, 343 killed, wounded and missing. Included in this number is the loss sustained by the Andrew sharpshooters, which was two officers killed, eight non-commissioned officers and privates killed and seventeen wounded, one of whom has since died of his wounds.
The National and State colors, hardly to be recognized as the same once so bright and beautiful, were brought off on safety by hands other than those who bore them into the fight, together with a battle flag of the enemy, since delivered at headquarters, army of the Potomac, by virtue of an order requiring that all trophies be thus turned over. The enemy, held in check by our artillery, did not follow up their success, and a stand was made by the remnants of the regiments, which position was not attacked by any force of infantry. On the night of the 18th, the enemy evacuated, the terrible battle-field falling into our hands the next morning.
Almost all of the wounded were found in and about a barn near the field, where, as well cared for by the enemy as circumstances would permit, they impatiently awaited our arrival. The robbed and disfigured bodies of our noble dead were laid by kind hands into humble graves hastily dug and prepared for their reception. September 22d, nothing loth to leave the scene of carnage, the regiment marched from Sharpsburg to Harper’s Ferry, forded the Potomac , and occupied the same ground as a camp left more than six months before. no movement of any importance occurred during the month of October. Occasional picket duty and drills were all that were required of the troops. October 30th, camp was again broken, and the advance into Virginia commenced. The line of march lay along the east side of the Blue Ridge , occupying from day to day the Passes or Gaps through which demonstrations on the part of the enemy might be expected. October 31st, Gregory’s Gap was occupied. November 1st, the advance reached Snicker’s Gap. No enemy appeared. November 2d, encountered the cavalry of the enemy near Ashby’s Gap. The regiment being at the head of the column, was ordered to skirmish through a piece of woodland, and to occupy a hill commanding the mountain road. No resistance was however offered at our approach, and the hill known as Fernue was taken without a firing a shot. November 3d, the town of Paris and Ashby’s gap were occupied November 5th, left Paris for Warrenton, marching by day, bivouacking by night by the roadside. November 9th, entered Warrenton, and encamped, where, November 10th, the regiment still remains under marching orders.
In this report, hurriedly written, many interesting incidents connected with the history of the regiment have been unavoidably omitted. An exact statement of the gained and losses of the regiment cannot be given, as at times all regimental books, papers and accounts have been separated from the regiment for weeks together. the loss in battle, given herein, may be considered as accurate in aggregate, although many of the wounded and missing in action have since died, or were ascertained to be dead.
Three hundred and ninety-one recruits have been received from the State. One hundred and fifty-six enlisted men have been discharges for disability, thirty discharged by order, forty-two have died of disease; forty-eight have deserted. We have upon our rolls, this 10th day of November, twenty-seven officers, seven hundred and ninety-six enlisted men, present and absent. of this number, fifteen officers and three hundred and forty-eight man are present.
It is proper to state, that one of two officers of the Company of Sharpshooters killed at Antietam , was Captain John Saunders, who raised and commanded this corps. In his loss Massachusetts lost a brave and noble-hearted soldier and citizen. His body was brought home, and is buried among his kindred at Salem .
The following is an abstract of the roster of this regiment.;
52 Commissions have been made for this regiment during the year 1862.
Brigade, 2d Div., 2d Corps,
To His Excellency Governor Andrew, State of Massachusetts :Sir, In answer to your “Circular” of the 17th ult., this day received, I have the honor to make the following statement. During the month of March, 1862, I took command of the First Minnesota regiment, brigaded with the fifteenth Massachusetts and other regiments, under the command of Brig. General Gorman, at Berryville, Va., on their way to Winchester. We marched to that place, returned to Harper’s Ferry and then marched to Washington , where we took transports for Fort Monroe. From this point we marched to Yorktown . the fifteenth was then under the command of col. Devens. About this time he was promoted, and the command devolved upon Lieutenant-Colonel Kimball.
I should have stated that a
company of Sharpshooters from your state, commanded by the late Captain John
Saunders, had been attached to the Fifteenth.
The regiment at that time was considered one of the best in the service
for discipline and military instruction, and on picket duty and, in some small
skirmishes before the enemy’s works at Yorktown, I found it equal also to any
regiment for courage. The brigade
moved from this place to
. The Fifteenth, with my regiment,
were present in time for the action there, and though not actually engaged, we
were on the field as a “reserve”, and under fire.
From here we marched with the army to Chickahominy, and arrived on the
with other troops of the division to which we belonged, in time to check the
enemy, who were just about turning the right flank of what remained of General
Casey’s troops, and thereby we saved the day.
In this fight I did not see the Fifteenth, my regiment being engaged far
to their right, but all who did see it spoke well of it.
After our right and rear had been turned at
, it became necessary to change our position, and fall back to the left by the
We had not gone over two miles when we found the enemy close upon us. we therefore had to halt, and with other troops under General Sumner’s command, we checked the rebels and drove them back. This was at the battle of Orchard Station ,(or Peach Orchard.) It was, however, found that the enemy in force were coming on our left and rear. we had, therefore, to fall back rapidly to Savage Station, about two miles, and by the time we got our batteries and troops in position, (those troops belonged to Sumner’s corps, of which we formed a part,) he enemy opened on us with great vigor. This battle occupied all the afternoon and until after dark. About nine, P. M., we received orders to continue our march back, our heavy artillery and wagons having by this time got out of the enemy’s reach. Fatigued though we were we marched all that night, and by daylight reached the other side of the White Oak Swamp . here we again rested to allow the wagon train and artillery to get out of the way. The enemy were soon upon us again, and we were in the battle of White Oak Swamp. While this fight was going on, some corps of our army in the rear and left were driven back by the enemy, and we had to come back about a mile to their relief at “double quick,” and took part in the battle of Nelson’s Farm. Here we again succeeded in checking the enemy, and keeping him in check, till night would allow us to withdraw and take up our line of march. The next morning at daybreak found us at Malvern Hill, well worn down with fatigue. We rested but a few hours, when were again called upon to fight the battle of Malvern Hill, and before daybreak next morning again we marched to Harrison ’s Landing. During all this march, and in these fights, as I commanded the brigade, (General Gorman being absent sick,) and the Fifteenth consequently under my command, I can testify to their gallant conduct in battle, and the cheerfulness with which they endured the extraordinary fatigue. About a week after we had reached Harrison ’s Landing, General Gorman, having recovered his health, returned from Baltimore and took command of the brigade. We left Harrison ’s Landing, marching to Fort Monroe , and without any accident reached Alexandria . We afterwards marched out to Centreville to assist General Pope, and then returned to the Potomac . At the battles of South Mountain and Antietam we were present. The loss of the Fifteenth Massachusetts in the last battle tells the work they had to do, and I know they did it well. I was promoted at Harper’s Ferry, and took command of this brigade. Nothing remarkable happened on our march down to this place.. The Fifteenth though greatly reduced in numbers, are yet the same reliable regiment as before.
In your Circular you ask in regard to recommendations for the welfare of our troops. In reply, let me urge upon your Excellency the great necessity of keeping the ranks of the old regiments filled up, in preference to raising of new regiments. But few of the old regiments can muster under arms much over two hundred men, and it is expected that they can do the duty of a regiment of a thousand strong. This disheartens the men, and moreover, causes them to loose all pride as soldiers, when they see how small and insignificant in numbers their regiment appears on parade. I am sorry to say, I also think that the officers, in a measure, become somewhat more careless in their manner of doing their duty; nor can the regiment be properly manoeuvered, the companies are too small.
The Fifteenth Massachusetts, by their last morning report have 352 present here, for duty. They report 780 “present and absent.” (This does not include the Sharpshooter company.) Thus, you see 428 officers and men are reported absent from their command. Of these absentees, 368 are reported “absent sick.” Many of them have been absent a long time. Now it is my belief that many of these reported sick are able to join their regiments; and it is my belief, moreover, that many of them no doubt are better able to do duty than others now in the field. Some of them can be found in many of our hospitals north, doing duty as nurses, orderlies, &c. Their places can be well filled by disabled men and old women. Others are no doubt skulking and hiding. I do not speak of the Fifteenth Massachusetts as the only regiment so afflicted. I know such is the case in all our army. Many regiments are much worse off in this respect than the Fifteenth. In my brigade the last reports of the different regiments are as follows: First Minnesota, present, 408; present and absent 785. Thirty-Fourth New York , present, 405; present and absent, 669. Eighty-Second New York , present 410; present and absent, 766. Nineteenth Maine , present, 819; present and absent, 922. This last is a new regiment that joined us at Harpers Ferry in October last. There is something wrong in all this. The government is paying two men for the service of one. I would also state, in addition, my brigade, in this respect of absentees, is not near so badly off as many others. I have , perhaps, made my statement more lengthy than you may think necessary; if so, excuse me. I regard this matter as one of the greatest importance. It will be impossible for us to succeed in this war until our Northern people reflect on the matter more seriously than they do. This is no child's play we are at. It requires every man, though he may not be in the army, to do all he can to assist it. Why cannot laws be passed compelling the police and municipal authorities to inquire into and see what persons in their section of country and in the army are absent from it? We have a great many officers of the regular army on the retired list, many wounded officers of the volunteer service, who might be put on duty as inspectors, (their traveling expenses paid, ) to visit the hospitals and different places, with authority to arrest and turn over to civil authorities all skulkers from duty. I have been informed, through enlisted men, that in some of our hospitals a soldier can get his discharge by paying five dollars; and from the same sources, I am also informed that at the “Convalescent Camp”, at Alexandria, there are many very great abuses that ought to be remedied, such as men wishing to join their regiments in the field being obliged to run away from there in order to do so. I cannot vouch for the truth of these reports, but I think it would be well to have the matter looked into.
Very respectfully, your
, D. C.,
To his Excellency Hon. John A. Andrew, Governor
We landed at
On the 31st of May, the Fifteenth and Twentieth were engaged in the great battle of Fair Oaks . The Fifteenth , as a part of Gorman’s brigade, made a brilliant bayonet charge, which routed and drove the enemy from that portion of the field, and there we bivouacked. The next morning the enemy renewed the attack, but principally on Richardson ’s Division, and these regiments were but partially engaged. During this time the Nineteenth was doing important duty in guarding the bridge across the Chickahominy. From this time until the commencement of the movement on James River , no action was fought, but the troops were constantly engaged in reconnoissances, skirmishes, picket duty, and labor of the most arduous kind.
On the 30th of June we commenced the march to James River . This was a series of battles and combats the whole distance. In the morning the Twentieth, temporarily attached to Burn’s Brigade, was warmly engaged at Allen’s Farm with a superior force, and behaved most handsomely. In the evening the battle at Savage’s Station was fought, in which the Fifteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth were all engaged, repulsing the enemy at every point. After a long nights march across White Oak Swamp , the next day found the same regiments at Glendale , (Nelson’s Farm,) engaged with the enemy at close quarters for three hours, routing them and driving them from the field. Another night march, and at daylight they were at Malvern Hill, ready for action. After this days hard fight, another night march brought them to Harrison ’s Landing. During all this, marching by night and fighting by day, without rest and short of rations, no troops ever behaved better. On the 3d of august these regiment(s) formed part of the force which, under General Hooker, re-took and held Malvern Hill. On the 16th of August the evacuation of the Peninsula was commenced. The division marched, via Yorktown , to Newport News ; embarked for Alexandria ; landed the 29th of August; marched to Chain Bridge; returned to Alexandria ; then marched to Centreville, to the relief of General Pope’s army.
After its retreat on Washington , the division formed a part of the army under General McClellan, ordered in pursuit of Lee, then invading Maryland . On the 15th of September the enemy was found, strongly posted in the passes of south Mountain, from which he was driven with great loss. On the 17th, near Sharpsburg , was fought the battle of Antietam , where these regiments (now greatly reduced in numbers) were in the hottest of the fight, as their list of killed and wounded testifies. As I was wounded early in the action, I had no opportunity of seeing them, and have not seen the reports of the brigadiers, but have no reason to believe their conduct different from that of all other occasions.
Since that the division has marched to Harper’s Ferry and Warrenton, and is now in front of Fredericksburg .
I have already forwarded, through the military channels, a list of officers and soldiers who were distinguished for gallantry and good conduct, recommending them for promotion, and I would again commend to your Excellency Col. Lee, of the Twentieth, Colonel Hinks, of the Nineteenth, Lieutenant-Colonel Kimball, of the fifteenth, and Lieutenant-Colonel Palfrey, of the Twentieth. Great credit is due to these officers for the splendid condition in which these regiments took the field. The Fifteenth and Nineteenth are, in my opinion, fully equal to any two in the service. The Twentieth was badly cut up at Ball’s Bluff. Many officers were wounded and taken prisoners, and the regiment thereby deprived of their services.
I have, on two occasions, strongly recommended the appointment of Colonel Hinks as Brigadier-General. he disciplined and brought into the field one of the finest regiments, and has been twice wounded while gallantly leading it in battle. I again urge the appointment, and respectfully ask your Excellency’s favorable endorsement.
I trust your Excellency will not think me presumptuous in offering a suggestion in regard to promotions and appointments. The system, which seems to have been adopted and carried out to a limited extent, of promoting officers who, by their gallantry and good conduct, have merited it, is an excellent one, and I would not confine these promotions to their regiments. I think it adds to an officer’s usefulness to place him in a regiment in which he has no acquaintances; and this holds good to a greater degree in promotions from the ranks.
I would also call your attention to the importance of filling up the old regiments. Recruits, sent to these, learn their duties and become acquainted with the details of camp life much sooner, whilst they impart life and vigor to the old soldiers.
I have the honor to be, very
Head-Quarters 2d Brigade, 3d
Division, 6TH Corps,
Excellency John A. Andrew, Governor of the
The Fifteenth Massachusetts Regiment was commanded by me as Colonel in the battle of Ball’s Bluff in October, 1861, in several skirmishes in the Valley of Virginia during the month of March, 1862, and during most of the siege of Yorktown , I having been transferred from it just before the close of operations there. Since that time it has participated in all the important battles of Virginia and Maryland , and on all occasions it has behaved with the most distinguished gallantry and determination. Called upon both at Ball’s Bluff and at Antietam, where it was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel (now Colonel) Kimball, to endure the terrific loss of more than one half of its men engaged, it exhibited a courage and fidelity more than worthy of veteran troops, for it was worthy of the holy cause which had drawn its men from their peaceful homes.
Having command of this brigade during the latter portion of the operations against Yorktown , the Seventh Massachusetts and the Tenth Massachusetts came under my command as a portion of the brigade. At the battle of Williamsburg , May 5th, the Seventh Massachusetts was under fire for the first time, and engaged with the enemy on the left of our line, losing several men. The Tenth Massachusetts was in reserve, and not actively engaged.
In moving up the Peninsula, the first passage of the Chickahominy was made by the left wing of the army, under Brigadier (now Major ) General Keyes, and the Seventh Massachusetts was the first regiment to cross, with a loss of several men; and the same night, the seventh and Tenth Massachusetts with one or two other regiments from other brigades formed an improvised brigade under my command, and held the Richmond side of the Chickahominy during the night, and until the afternoon of the next day, when the crossing of the left wing was effected.
At the battle of Fair Oaks , May 31st, the Seventh and Tenth Massachusetts were both actively engaged, but the seventh was in a far less exposed position than the Tenth, and suffered much less severely. After the line to the left of it had been broken, the tenth Massachusetts was forced back in some confusion, but (the colonel having been carried from the field wounded, and the other field officers being absent,) it was again re-formed under my own immediate supervision, by Captain Ozra Miller, the senior captain, and twice again led forward, displaying the greatest gallantry, and materially checking the progress of the enemy on this portion of the field.
Having been disabled at the battle of fair Oaks, I did not command the brigade during the subsequent six weeks, but have, on undoubted authority, that the Seventh and Tenth both participated with the greatest credit in the battles of the seven days retreat of the army to Harrison’s Landing, more especially in that of Malvern. in which action, as at Fair Oaks , the Tenth was more exposed and suffered more severely than the Seventh.
At the battle of Malvern, the Tenth was commanded by Major (formerly Captain) Miller, who fell mortally wounded at its head. In any allusion that your Excellency may make to the heroic dead of Massachusetts , I know of no one more worthy to be mentioned by name, than Major Ozra Miller of the Tenth Massachusetts. Accepting the command of his regiment under the circumstances I have stated at Fair Oaks , he proved himself fully equal to it during the most trying scenes of that day. dying at the head of his regiment only a month later at Malvern, he had lived long enough to inspire both those below and those above him in rank with unqualified respect for his stern courage, his lofty patriotism, and his unswerving fidelity to duty.
The regiments composing this brigade being among the last to embark from Yorktown, after the retreat of the army down the peninsula, did not arrive in time to take part in the battles in front of Washington at the end of august, although marched directly from the boats at Alexandria towards Fairfax, without waiting even to disembark the horses of the mounted officers. On the day of the battle of Antietam the brigade marched twenty miles, reaching the field at nightfall, and were next day put in the front line, but the battle not being renewed, only the skirmishers and sharpshooters of our line were engaged.
On the 5th day of October, the Thirty-Seventh Massachusetts, then fresh from Massachusetts, was added to the regiments of this brigade, but the brigade, with the exception of some slight affairs on the Upper Potomac has not been in action until the passage of the Rappahannock on Thursday the 11th inst., when this brigade, including these regiments, formed the advance of the left wing of the army; and crossing the river at sunset, and driving back the outposts of the enemy, it held the bridges until the next morning, when the main body crossed.
On Friday the 12th inst., and on Saturday the 13th inst., it was under very heavy artillery fire. On Monday it was in the front line of battle, and on Monday night, learning that we were about to evacuate, I had so much confidence in this brigade and the Massachusetts troops which form a large portion of it, that I asked that it might be the last brigade to recross, and it was accordingly designated with the brigade of Colonel Lorbert of New Jersey, for this purpose. Throughout all these operations, the courage, earnestness, and fidelity of the Seventh, Tenth, and Thirty-Seventh Massachusetts could not be exceeded.
I have stated very hurriedly and briefly what the Massachusetts regiments under my command have done, because their deeds are their best eulogy. The commanding officers of the regiments will undoubtedly furnish, in answer to the Circular of November 5th, in detail, the military history (so desirable to be preserved) of their respective corps, and I shall take great pleasure in calling their attention to its importance.
In conclusion, I cannot but express the sincere gratification and pride that every citizen must feel in the noble troops the State of Massachusetts has furnished, in this tremendous struggle against a rebellion, whose wantonness and wickedness find no parallel in history. Fully aware of their deep responsibilities in girding on the sword for the defense of the country, submitting cheerfully to the hardships incident to their situation, always obedient to the just and necessary (although often irksome) restraints of military life, in the hour of trial, ”no dangers fright them and no labors tire.”
I have the honor to be
Head-Quarters 2d Division,
Having received a Circular from you, dated
As to any suggestion to “promote the efficiency and welfare of Massachusetts soldiers,” I will only say. that it is of the first importance to her regiments to fill them up and keep them full, as nearly as possible; to promote from those in the field mostly for good conduct in service, and in cases where this is not practicable, to promote by seniority, as in the regular army; and moreover to hold the lieutenancies open to sergeants, according to their seniority. For example, in a regiment, let the sergeant-major take the first vacancy of second lieutenant, the colonel filling his place by the ranking first sergeant. This sergeant will fill the second vacancy of second lieutenant and so on. Where the rule of promotion has been observed by some regiments under my command, generally, placing new officers in companies to which they did not originally belong, it has been found to increase the discipline to a remarkable extent. promotions that are made, as they are in some States, through favoritism and political influence at home, are exceedingly disheartening and demoralizing.
Should your Excellency have any specific inquiries to make of me as an officer, I will answer them with pleasure, to the extent of my knowledge.
I am, sir, very