Report of Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw, C. S. Army, Commanding Kershaw's Brigade.
DECEMBER 11-15, 1862.--Battle of Fredericksburg, Va.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXI [S# 31]
HEADQUARTERS KERSHAW'S BRIGADE,
Near Fredericksburg, Va., December 26, 1862.
Maj. JAMES M. GOGGIN,
MAJOR: I have the honor to submit a report of the operations of my command during the recent engagement.
On the morning of the 11th instant, by daylight, the brigade was formed in line of battle in the position assigned me, the right resting at the left of Howison's Hill, and the left near Howison's Mill, on Hazel Run. Ordered during the morning to re-enforce the picket of General Barksdale, at Deep Run, the Fifteenth Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, Colonel De Saussure, was sent, but found the bridge at that point already completed, and perfectly commanded by the batteries on the other side. This regiment remained on picket until withdrawn to its former position, by order of the major-general commanding, on Friday morning, after a night of such intense cold as to cause the death of one man and disable, temporarily, others. With this exception, the troops were kept in position strengthening our defenses nightly without any incident requiring notice until Saturday, the 13th.
About 1 o'clock of that day I was directed to send two regiments into the city to the support of General Cobb, then engaged with part of his brigade at the foot of Marye's Hill, and having called for re-enforcements. I sent forward at once Col. John D. Kennedy with his own (Second) regiment <ar31_589> and the Eighth Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, Capt. E. T. Stackhouse commanding. Within a few minutes after, I was directed to take my entire command to the same point and assume command there. I had just moved when I was informed that General Cobb was wounded, and was directed by Major-General McLaws to hasten forward in person immediately and take command. Leaving my staff to conduct the troops, I proceeded as rapidly as possible to the scene of action, reaching the position at Stevens' house at the moment that Colonel Kennedy arrived with the Second and Eighth Regiments, and just in time to meet a fresh assault of the enemy. The position was excellent. Marye's Hill, covered with our batteries-then occupied by the Washington Artillery, Colonel [J. B.] Walton commanding--falls off abruptly toward Fredericksburg to a stone wall, which forms a terrace on the side of the hill and the outer margin of the Telegraph road, which winds along the foot of the hill. The road is about some 25 feet wide, and is faced by a stone wall about 4 feet high on the city side. The road having been cut out of the side of the hill, in many places this last wall is not visible above the surface of the ground. The ground falls off rapidly to almost a level surface which extends about 150 yards, then, with another abrupt fall of a few feet, to another plain which extends some 200 yards, and then falls off abruptly into a wide ravine, which extends along the whole front of the city and discharges into Hazel Run. I found, on my arrival, that Cobb's brigade, Colonel McMillan commanding, occupied our entire front, and my troops could only get into position by doubling on them. This was accordingly done, and the formation along most of the line during the engagement was consequently four deep. As an evidence of the coolness of the command, I may mention here that, notwithstanding that their fire was the most rapid and continuous I have ever witnessed, not a man was injured by the fire of his comrades.
The first attack being repelled at 2.45 p.m., the Third Regiment, Col. J. D. Nance, and Seventh, Lieutenant-Colonel Bland, came into position on the hill at Marye's house, with Colonel De Saussure's Fifteenth Regiment South Carolina Volunteers in reserve, and under cover of the cemetery. James' Third South Carolina Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Rice commanding, I left in position at Howison's Mill, to protect our right from any advance of the enemy up Hazel Run. While the Third and Seventh Regiments were getting into position, another fierce attack was sustained, and those regiments, especially the former, suffered severely. Col. J. D. Nance, that gallant and efficient officer, fell, at the head of his regiment, severely wounded in two places. Lieutenant-Colonel [W. D.] Rutherford, upon whom the command devolved, was almost immediately shot down, dangerously wounded, as also was Major [R. C.] Maffett, the next in command. Captain [R. P.] Todd, the senior captain, was disabled. Captain [W. W.] Hance, the senior captain, upon assuming command, was dangerously, if not mortally, wounded, and his successor, Captain [J. C.] Summer, killed. Notwithstanding these unprecedented casualties, the regiment, without hesitation or confusion, gallantly held their position under command of Capt. John K. G. Nance, assisted by my aide.de-camp, Lieut. A. E. Doby, and in every attack repulsed the enemy on that flank, assisted as gallantly by the Seventh Regiment, immediately on their right.
In the mean time line after line of the enemy deployed in the ravine, and advanced to the attack at intervals of not more than fifteen minutes until about 4.30 o'clock, when there was a lull of about a half hour, during which a mass of artillery was placed in position in front of the town, <ar31_590> and opened upon our position. At this time I brought up Colonel De Saussure's regiment. Our batteries on the hill were silent, having exhausted their ammunition, and the Washington Artillery ware relieved by a part of Colonel Alexander's battalion. Under cover of this artillery fire, the most formidable column of attack was formed, which, about 5 o'clock, emerged from the ravine, and, no longer impeded by our artillery, impetuously assailed our whole front. From this time until after 6 o'clock the attack was continuous, and the fire on both sides terrific. Some few, chiefly officers, got within 30 yards of our lines, but, in every instance, their columns were shattered by the time they got within 100 paces. The firing gradually subsided, and by 7 o'clock our pickets were established within 30 yards of those of the enemy.
Our chief loss after getting into position in the road was from the fire of sharpshooters, who occupied some buildings on my left flank in the early part of the engagement, and were only silenced by Captain [W.] Wallace, of the Second Regiment, directing a continuous fire of one company upon the buildings.
General Cobb, I learn, was killed by a shot from that quarter. The regiments on the hill suffered most, as they were less perfectly covered. During the engagement Colonel McMillan was re-enforced by the arrival of the Sixteenth Georgia Regiment, and a brigade of General Ransom's command was also engaged, but as they did not report to me, I am unable to give any particulars in regard to them. That night we materially strengthened the position, and I more perfectly organized and arranged my command, fully expecting the attack to be renewed next day. I sent the Third Regiment in reserve, in consideration of their heavy loss.
At daylight in the morning the enemy was in position, lying behind the first declivity in front, but the operations on both sides were confined to skirmishing of sharpshooters. We lost but 1 man during the day, but it is reported that we inflicted a loss upon the enemy (Sykes' division) of 150.
Monday morning discovered the pickets of the enemy behind rifle-pits constructed during the night along the edge of the ravine. From this position they were nearly all driven by our batteries, and nothing of interest occurred during the day. General Semmes relieved Cobb's brigade Monday night.
Tuesday morning, as soon as the haze lifted, the enemy's pickets being no longer visible, I sent out scouts from my own brigade to the left and from General Semmes' to the right. The former soon returned, reporting the evacuation of the town, which the latter soon confirmed, with the additional information that the bridges had been removed. I sent forward two companies, one from each brigade, and afterward two regiments, in obedience to the order of the major-general commanding, to occupy the town. A number of prisoners, and a quantity of arms, ammunition, &c., were taken, the particulars of which have already been reported.
During these operations I was ably and gallantly aided by Captain [C. R.] Holmes, assistant adjutant-general, Lieutenant [A. E.] Doby, aide-de-camp: who were present on the field in the active discharge of their duties. Lieut. J. A. Myers, ordnance officer, was at his post promptly replenishing our exhausted ammunition. Lieut. W. M. Dwight, assistant inspector-general, was disabled from his injuries received at Maryland Heights, but was on the field and received a contusion on the head from a shell. Colonel McMillan, commanding Cobb's <ar31_591> brigade, rendered valuable assistance, and when offered the alternative of being relieved Saturday night, gallantly claimed the honor of remaining. All the regimental field officers and company commanders are entitled to commendation for coolness and courage, and their successful efforts to produce a deliberate and effective fire under the most trying circumstances.
Besides the field officers already mentioned as wounded, Maj. F. Gail-lard, Second Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, was struck in the face before he got into position, and was subsequently severely wounded while conveying directions at my request to the regiments in the rear. For particular mention of others who distinguished themselves in the engagement, I beg leave respectfully to refer to the reports of commanders, herewith submitted.
Capt. G. B. Cuthbert's company, Second Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, was thrown out by me on the edge of Hazel Run on the 13th in an exposed position, but one from which they could harass the enemy on their left flank. They held the position the whole day, exhausting their ammunition and effectively annoying the enemy. His loss was considerable, including 2 officers severely wounded.
Captain Read's battery was posted on the hill on the right of my first position, and did great damage to the advancing columns of the enemy. They fired 136 rounds of ammunition, affording excellent practice in the field. I will here remark that during the engagement on Saturday my command fired about 55 rounds per man.
A large red and white battle-flag, with the figure I in the center, and an embroidered guide flag of the Sixty-ninth New York Regiment are among the trophies taken in battle by my command, and have already been forwarded to division headquarters.
I append herewith a recapitulation of the losses sustained by my brigade.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. B. KERSHAW,
RETURN TO FREDERICKSBURG ORDER OF BATTLE (ANV) PAGE