Report of Maj. Nathan Church, Twenty-sixth Michigan Infantry.
May 4-June12, 1864--Campaign from the Rapidan to the James River, Va.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXVI/1 [S# 67]
HDQRS. TWENTY-SIXTH MICHIGAN VOLUNTEERS,
October 21, 1864.
May 3, 1864, the regiment was encamped near Stevensburg, Va., where it had been in winter quarters since December 8, 1863, and commanded by Maj. Lemuel Saviers, constituting a part of the First Brigade, First Division, Second Army Corps; about 4 p.m. received orders to be in readiness to march at 11 p.m., and moved out at the appointed time with 20 officers and 432 men. Crossed the Rapidan at Ely's Ford on the following morning at 7 o'clock, and was deployed as flankers to cover the left flank of the division on the march to Chancellorsville, where the division halted and the regiment assembled and camped for the night. Next morning at 6 o'clock moved out toward Orange Court-House, encountering the enemy about 4 p.m. Two companies were deployed as skirmishers on the left of the line during the fight of that day. The remainder of the regiment was lying in support in the woods to the right of the road. Lost here but 1 man, wounded. At 11 p.m. was moved out of the woods with the brigade to the left, where a line was formed and breast-works thrown up. Six companies were thrown out as skirmishers to cover a road on which Stuart's cavalry, having been driven back by our cavalry, was posted, and remained on picket during the night. On the 7th, charged the enemy's dismounted cavalry with eight companies deployed as skirmishers, driving them about 2 miles, capturing several prisoners and an important dispatch from General Lee. Lost 6 wounded.
On the 8th marched to Todd's Tavern and constructed breastworks. About 2 p.m. the division was moved toward Corbin's Bridge, and engaged the enemy. Regiment lost but 1 officer, wounded. Withdrew to our works at 6 p.m., near Todd's Tavern.
On the 9th marched to Po River, crossed, deployed as skirmishers, and advanced about 2 miles, when we halted and lay on picket all night in close proximity to the enemy, who was busy fortifying. About 4 p.m. on the 10th, the enemy attacked our right, which was driven back, and, coming in our rear, the regiment was ordered to move out by the left flank, and took another position to cover the recrossing of the troops, which done the regiment followed and was sent out on picket to the right. Lost 3 wounded and 1 missing.
On the 11th the regiment was sent out to reconnoiter the enemy's position; moved up the north bank of the Po about 2 miles, crossed, deployed as skirmishers, and advanced down the river to find his left and develop his force, drove in his pickets, charged a skirmish line sent to oppose us, driving them into their works, and maintained our position for half an hour within 300 yards of their intrenchments. Having accomplished the object of the reconnaissance, we recrossed the river and returned to the picket-line. Lost in this affair, 3 killed and 15 wounded. At 11 p.m., having been relieved from the picket-line, the regiment moved to the left of the Sixth Corps, where the brigade had preceded it, having marched all night; it reached the ground where the First Division was massed for the assault just in time to form in column without halting. Aligning its ranks as it advanced, the regiment moved up in gallant style, and was the first to reach the works (striking them immediately at the Angle), which were gained after a fierce hand-to-hand fight with the bayonet. The two brass pieces just at the left of the Angle were fired once only, and just as the regiment had gained the works. A rush was made for them; the gunners captured and sent to the rear. Here it became mingled up with men of other regiments coming upon its left, and with them charged along in rear of the works, rolling up the rebel line for over a mile, capturing a large number of prisoners, guns, and colors. When about a mile from the point where the works were first struck we encountered another line, running nearly perpendicular to the line which we were rolling up, and which sharply contested our advance. Having unavoidably become much broken up, and being opened on by a heavy fire from the woods on our right, we were obliged to fall back, losing over half the ground we had taken from them, though the men who thronged their works had been made prisoners and sent to the rear. The regiment was then reformed and moved with the brigade to the woods on our left, where we threw up works. The enemy having retaken the works on the right nearly to the Angle, we were ordered to that point, and crept along on the outside of the works until our line overlapped the enemy's half the length of the regiment, our right resting near the point where the large oak tree was cut down by musket balls. We fought them for half an hour over the breast-works within reach of their muskets, losing a large number in killed and wounded, when they made signs of surrendering, waving handkerchiefs on their rammers. We ceased firing and called to them to come over, when the whole line for 70 or 80 yards rose up and started to come in.
At the same moment a fresh line of support came up to them from the other side, and, giving a cheer, rushed for the works, when most of them turned and jumped into the intrenchments again. About 20 who were in the works immediately in front of us were taken. We fought this new line for half an hour longer, when the regiment was relieved and again taken to the left, when it rejoined the brigade and remained during the night. In this memorable charge the regiment lost 27 men killed 5 commissioned officers and 93 men wounded, and 14 missing, the most of whom are now known to have been killed; nearly one-half of the casualties of this day were either killed or have since died. Major Saviers, commanding the regiment, was struck four times. Seven out of the 9 color guards were either killed or wounded. The regiment was complimented by General Barlow and Miles for the manner in which it performed its work on that day, and has the credit of first planting its colors on the enemy's works. Capt. A. G. Daily, senior officer present, assumed command.
The 13th moved out and occupied the works to the left of the Angle, which we faced about and strengthened. During the day a small party of volunteers from this and other regiments, under directions of General Miles, rushed in between the lines, and drew off two guns and caissons, where they had remained since the 12th, protected by the enemy's fire. The regiment remained here until the morning of the 15th, losing 3 men wounded, when it moved to the rear of the Ninth Corps, and lay in reserve until the night of the 17th. Capt. James A. Lothian returned from recruiting service and assumed command. The 18th, at daylight returned and reoccupied works we had abandoned on the 15th; under fire most of the day, losing 1 man, wounded. Relieved at night and again placed in reserve in rear of the Ninth Corps, remaining there until the 20th Total casualties 30 men killed, 6-commissioned officers and 114 men wounded, and 15 men missing.
Marched at 11 p.m., and at 2 p.m. the 21st reached Milford Station and commenced fortifying; 22d, engaged in throwing up earth-works; 23d, marched at 8 a.m. for North Anna River, arriving there at 2 p.m. Regiment held in reserve during the fight of that day. The 24th, at 12 m., crossed the river at Jericho Bridge under a vigorous shelling and had a spirited skirmish with the enemy, driving them into their works. Skirmish line relieved at 4 p.m., and regiment placed in reserve. Lost in this action 1 commissioned officer and 4 men killed, and 1 commissioned officer and 8 men wounded. Remained in reserve until the 26th.
At 9 p.m. recrossed the North Anna and marched toward the Pamunkey, crossing that river on pontoons at 1 p.m. the 28th. We then advanced to the vicinity of Haw's Shop, formed line and built temporary works. The 29th, at 12 m., moved down the Richmond road, skirmishing in advance of the division, and drove in the enemy's pickets and developed his position on the opposite side of the Totopotomoy Creek, at Shelton's farm. At night relieved from the skirmish line, and placed in reserve. The 30th, moved out and occupied works on the front line. 31st, position unchanged; three companies were sent around to the left, crossed the creek, and skirmished with the enemy, losing 1 killed and 3 wounded.
June 1, on skirmish line during the day. Withdrew toward night, and at dark marched for Cold Harbor, arriving there about 10 a.m. on the 2d. Late in the afternoon was deployed as skirmishers, and advanced upon the enemy near Gaines' Hill, driving them into their intrenchments. About 5 p.m. received orders to charge their intrenchments, which we did in connection with the One hundred and fortieth Pennsylvania Volunteers, with unsupported skirmish line, across an open field, but were obliged to fall back, as they were occupied by a line of battle, and opened on us with grape and canister from four guns. Lost in this assault 15 wounded, and 5 missing. 3d, on skirmish line covering left flank of the corps. 4th, went into intrenchments within 200 yards of the enemy's works, where we remained under fire until the 12th. Casualties 3 killed, 7 wounded, and 1 missing. Regiment on picket the night of the 12th, when the position was abandoned by our troops.
Major, Commanding Regiment.
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