Report of Col. Walter Phelps, jr., Twenty-second New York Infantry, Commanding First Brigade.
APRIL 27-MAY 6, 1863.--The Chancellorsville Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXV/1 [S# 39]
NEAR FITZHUGH'S HOUSE, VA.,
May 7, 1863.
Capt. T. E. ELLSWORTH,
Aide-de-Camp and Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this brigade during the late operation of the division in the passage of the Rappahannock at the Fitzhugh Crossing, Wednesday, April 29, and its subsequent crossing at the United States Ford Saturday, May 2, and its operations on the right:
Tuesday, April 28, the command left Belle Plain, having the advance of the column, and bivouacked at 5.30 p.m. of that day about a mile from the Rappahannock, near the Fitzhugh Crossing. At 10.30 p.m. I received orders to move my brigade to the river, accompanying the pontoon train, which was then in motion. Three-eighths of a mile from the river the pontoon train halted, and the boats having been unloaded, by order of General Wadsworth, commanding the division, I detailed the Twenty-second, Twenty-fourth, and Thirtieth Regiments New York Volunteers to carry them by hand to the crossing. The Fourteenth New York State Militia was detached temporarily to act as skirmishers. Several of the boats were transported to the river by the men. It was found impracticable to transport all in this manner, however, and the Thirtieth was relieved from this duty, the Fourteenth New York State Militia and the Twenty-second and Twenty-fourth New York Volunteers being detailed on the duty specified. The Thirtieth Regiment was unemployed during the morning, remaining in position about a quarter of a mile from the river bank. The Twenty-second and Twenty-fourth Regiments assisted in unloading the boats that reached the river between 3 and 4 a.m. of the 29th, and in launching them. While employed on this duty they were subjected to the continuous fire of the enemy, posted in rifle-pits on the opposite side of the river. At this <ar39_263> time a sudden volley from the enemy threw the teams into disorder. The stacks of arms of the Twenty-second were run over by them and 2 men of the regiment severely injured. The Fourteenth New York State Militia was then moved forward and deployed as skirmishers along the river bank. At the same time the Twenty-second was moved to a point near the bank designated by Lieutenant-Colonel Kress, of General Wadsworth's staff.
Both regiments did good service at these points. After the crossing of the two regiments of the Fourth Brigade, the Twenty-fourth was employed in building the bridges on this side and the Twenty-second ordered across the river to do the same. About 10 a.m. the Second Brigade, of this division, crossed on the bridge, and the Fourteenth, Twenty-second, and Twenty-fourth Regiments, having completed the duty assigned them, joined the command, and the First Brigade also crossed, terming line of battle on the brow of the hill, the Second being on my right, the Fourth on my left, and the Third being in my rear, under the hill. We remained in this position during the day and night of Wednesday, April 29.
Thursday, April 30, about 12 m., Stewart's battery having been posted in front of my line, I was ordered to move to the left, joining the Fourth Brigade. This position I retained until the division recrossed the river on the Saturday following. The next day the enemy's batteries opened on our lines, but there was but 1 man wounded by their fire in my brigade. During the night of Thursday, by order of General Wadsworth, substantial rifle-pits were thrown up along my entire front, in which the men took position at daybreak on the morning of Friday, May 1. Nothing unusual occurred during the day. There was no picket firing and the enemy's batteries did not open. I picketed my own brigade front during the time we were in position across the river.
Saturday morning, May 2, the enemy's batteries opened upon our lines, but were handsomely replied to by our batteries and effectually silenced. At 9 a.m. I received orders to move my brigade across the river, after which the picket line was to fall slowly back to the rifle-pits and then cross also. This movement was safely executed, and my brigade picket left in command of Captain [Walter P.] Tillman, acting assistant adjutant-general, who withdrew the line safely, and joined the command on this side about 10 a.m. At 10.30 a.m. the division moved toward the United States Ford, this brigade being third in column. At 9 p.m. bivouacked about 2 miles from the ford, making a march of about 20 miles during the day.
At 1.30 a.m., Sunday, May 3, received orders to move toward the river and cross at the United States Ford. The column crossed about 3 a.m. At 4.30 a.m. General Wadsworth, in person, designated the position for this brigade to occupy, and at 6 o'clock this brigade, with others of the division, occupied a position on the right of the general line, near the one occupied by the Eleventh Corps the night before. Here the troops threw up rifle-pits, and prepared such defenses as the character of the ground and the material to be obtained admitted.
During Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Tuesday night, we held this position, nothing occurring except an occasional order to form line of battle.
Wednesday, May 6, at 3 a.m., I received orders to recross the river, which was accomplished with the other brigades of the division at 6 a.m., when the line of march was resumed. At 6 p.m. we bivouacked near the point occupied by the division when the advance was made in January last, under Major-General Burnside.
Thursday, May 7, the march was resumed, and at 4.30 p.m. of that day this brigade bivouacked near the Fitzhugh house, where the command still remains.
I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of the officers and men of my command during the movements above enumerated. They appeared to vie with each other in the discharge of the various duties assigned them, and I take great pleasure in alluding to their general efficiency and gallantry.
A list of the casualties has already been forwarded you.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WALTER PHELPS, JR.,
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