Report of Brig. Gen. Solomon Meredith, U.S. Army, Commanding Fourth Brigade.
APRIL 27-MAY 6, 1863.--The Chancellorsville Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXV/1 [S# 39]
CAMP NEAR FITZHUGH'S CROSSING, VA.,
May 28, 1863.
Capt. T. E. ELLSWORTH,
A.D. C. and A. A. G., First Division, First Army Corps.
CAPTAIN: In compliance with orders from headquarters First Division, First Army Corps, I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my command, the Fourth Brigade, in the recent operations of the Army of the Potomac against the enemy:
The brigade, consisting of the Second, Sixth, and Seventh Wisconsin Volunteers, the Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers, and the Twenty-fourth Michigan Volunteers, broke camp near Belle Plain Landing at 12 m. on April 28; marched west, passing near White Oak Church, to within 2 miles of the Rappahannock, at Fitzhugh's Crossing, where we were halted until 12 midnight, when I received orders to move my command to the bank of the river and prepare for an aggressive movement. The brigade, however, moved slowly, in consequence of the delay in getting forward the pontoons. It was not until daylight that we got upon the river bank, at the place selected for our crossing, and, fortunately, a heavy fog, obscured us from view until sunrise, when the enemy opened a brisk fire upon us from their rifle-pits, which continued for some time, and interfered with getting the boats to the bank and into position for a crossing. At this juncture the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers, Colonel Bragg, and Twenty-fourth Michigan Volunteers, Colonel Morrow, were ordered to the front, and to deploy along the bank of the river and return the fire. The movement was promptly executed, and a brisk engagement ensued, which lasted for a few minutes. At this time the troops engaged in laying the pontoons had fallen back in great disorder, when the Second and Seventh Wisconsin and the Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers were deployed, under cover of a slight crest running parallel to the river, and ordered to lie down, by which means they were to some extent protected from the enemy's fire. The Fourteenth Brooklyn being deployed as skirmishers and moving toward the river, the Sixth Wisconsin and the Twenty-fourth Michigan fell back to the position occupied by the other three regiments of the brigade.
At 9 a.m. the brigade was ordered to cross the river in boats and drive the enemy from their position, the Sixth Wisconsin and Twenty-fourth Michigan moving in the advance, immediately followed by the Second and Seventh Wisconsin, and the Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers moving up in double-quick. A part of the Second Wisconsin had been ordered to bring forward the pontoons, which it performed in fine style, under a shower of musketry. The Second and Seventh Wisconsin and Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers opened fire on the enemy, which was continued for a few minutes, until the pontoons could be placed in the water, when the whole brigade crossed, under a direct and enfilading fire, charged the rifle-pits, killing 30, wounding a large number, and capturing nearly 200 prisoners.
The cool courage displayed by Colonel Bragg, of the Sixth Wisconsin, and Colonel Morrow, of the Twenty-fourth Michigan, and the officers and men of their commands, in crossing the river and charging the enemy's works, entitle them to the highest praise. The Second Wisconsin, Colonel Fairchild; the Seventh Wisconsin, Colonel Robinson, and the Nineteenth Indiana, Colonel Williams, in promptly supporting the Sixth Wisconsin and Twenty-fourth Michigan in their rapid and enthusiastic movements in crossing, are also entitled to the admiration of their superior officers.
The Sixth Wisconsin immediately formed and moved to the right as far as the Bernard house. The Twenty-fourth formed the left, while the Second and Seventh Wisconsin and Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers formed a line to cover the laying of the pontoons. Skirmishers were immediately thrown to the front. As soon as the bridge was completed, the brigade was moved to the left, to prevent a flank movement should the enemy make the attempt, the Twenty-fourth having its left resting on the Rappahannock, and the regiment lying at right angles with the river, the Nineteenth Indiana, with its left resting on the right of the Twenty-fourth, and parallel to the river, the Seventh and Second Wisconsin continuing the line, the Sixth, with its right on the Rappahannock, its left joining the Second. Around this parallelogram was a ditch, in which the men took shelter. The men lay upon their arms all night.
During the forenoon of the 30th the men were busy improving their defenses, which were made quite secure by 4 p.m., when the enemy opened fire upon us from a battery on a hill commanding our position and directly in our front. Two men of the Twenty-fourth Michigan were killed and 2 wounded. Major Finnicum, of the Seventh Wisconsin, was hit by a fragment of a shell, but injured slightly. During the night, intrenching tools being furnished, the men were at work on the intrenchments.
May 1, expecting an attack, the troops were ordered under arms at 4 p.m. in the trenches, and remained there until dark.
May 2, the brigade withdrew from their trenches, and, under cover of the river bank, to the bridge, and recrossed the Rappahannock.
Moved at 9 a.m., resting a few moments to allow the pickets to join us, a part of whom assisted in saving the boats. The brigade moved along the River road to the Catlett road; then to near Hartwood Church; thence to within about 2 miles of the United States Ford, where we were ordered to encamp at 10 p.m.
At 2 a.m. (3d instant), the brigade was again formed, and, crossing at the United States Ford, advanced to the front, where, at 6 a.m., it was deployed in line of battle, the Twenty-fourth, Nineteenth, Seventh, and Second forming in rear of Sykes' division, and the Sixth 15 paces in rear of the Twenty-fourth. The men were ordered to throw up defenses in front of the line, which were completed at 12 m., the men lying on their arms, momentarily expecting an attack. The Twenty-fourth was here detached and moved to the right, on the Rapidan, where it did picket duty until our forces recrossed the river.
On the 4th instant the men were in position.
On the 5th instant the men in position. Received orders to march at 2 a.m. Moved by a new road cut through the woods to the United States Ford, where we arrived shortly after daybreak, when we were ordered to fall back to the crest, and, forming in two lines of battle, faced to the rear, when I ordered the men to make coffee.
At 8 a.m., the troops in our advance having crossed, I ordered the brigade to move across the Rappahannock. A heavy rain had been falling since dark of the preceding day. We moved to and by the Catlett road to near Hartwood Church, where the brigade encamped at 5 p.m.
At 8 a.m. on the 6th, the troops were again in motion. We marched to White Oak Church, thence to near Fitzhugh's farm, where the brigade is still encamped.
Of the troops of this command I cannot speak too highly. With heroic fortitude and bravery, on the bloody fields of Gainesville, Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and their late gallant struggle in forcing a crossing of the Rappahannock River, they have won for themselves imperishable honors. To officers and men I wish to award the credit of their noble deeds and thank them for winning for themselves so enviable a reputation. I respectfully request that the general commanding the army make honorable mention of the officers and men of this command for their gallantry in crossing the river on April 29.
I am greatly indebted to the officers of my staffs--Capt. J. D. Wood, assistant adjutant-general; Capt. H. Richardson, acting assistant inspector-general; Lieuts. S. H. Meredith, aide-de-camp, and C. C. Yemans, acting aide-de-camp--for their promptness in the discharge of their duties on the battle-field and on the march.
Accompanying this, please find tabular statement of the casualties of the command.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
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