Report of Brig. Gen. Alfred Sully, U. S. Army, Commanding First Brigade.
DECEMBER 11-15, 1862.--Battle of Fredericksburg, Va.
HEADQUARTERS FIRST BRIGADE,
Camp near Falmouth, Va., December 18, 1862.
Capt. E. WHITTLESEY,
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my brigade in the recent action at Fredericksburg:
Agreeably to orders from the division headquarters, I moved my brigade from camp, at about 6.30 a.m. on December 11, toward Fredericksburg, in the following order: Thirty-fourth and Eighty-second New York Volunteers, Fifteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, Nineteenth Maine Volunteers, and First Minnesota Volunteers; in all, including officers, 2,211 strong.
After marching about 2 miles, we were halted, by orders, under a hill in front of Fredericksburg. Two companies of the Nineteenth Maine were detached, under Major Cunningham, to support a battery on this side of the river. We remained in our position until near sunset, waiting the placing of a pontoon bridge. Subsequently we crossed, under a fire of the enemy, and occupied the city.
The next morning early we moved to the outskirts of the city, on the right, beyond the position occupied by Colonel Hall's brigade, which was in advance in capturing the city, and I advanced companies of different regiments as skirmishers (the enemy's pickets retiring), and took possession of the heights near the city. The enemy disputed our movement by artillery fire, but with no serious loss on our part.
Afterward it was necessary to send forward the Eighty-second to strengthen a crest we occupied. A detachment from this regiment, under Captain Cummings, was sent to a paper mill to draw off the water from a canal supplying the mill. This was executed under fire. This difficult position my brigade held until the morning of the 13th, when the attack against the enemy's works commenced. My brigade was ordered out to the support. We moved out of the city under fire, and took a position on the right of our line of battle.
Here the Fifteenth Massachusetts was ordered to the left, to join Colonel Owen's brigade. Major Philbrick, commanding, being wounded, the command fell upon Captain Murkland, senior officer present, Captain Watson having been taken sick; and here, also, Dr. Haven, their surgeon, in his anxiety to be near his regiment, exposed himself unnecessarily and was killed.
I was stationed on the Plank road, exposed to the enemy's batteries, but I managed to find good shelter for my brigade. A battery was stationed on the right of me, supported by part of my command. By order, I soon after deployed to the right, in order to charge; but, after having taken position, this order was countermanded, and I moved to the brigade engaged on my left. I here placed my men, with orders to lie down.
I had detached the First Minnesota to support the battery on my right, as I found the enemy's infantry was threatening it. The rest of the brigade I placed in as good a position as possible to be of service, and protected at the same time from a murderous fire; but a brigade of another division was placed, closed en masse, in my rear, which drew a heavy fire of artillery, causing them to fall back and a heavy loss to my brigade. We held the position, no man falling back, till 12 o'clock that night, when we were relieved by other troops.
Here I should state that the Thirty-fourth New York Volunteers found a color belonging to none of my regiments, thrown away in a most cowardly manner by some regiment unknown. I would recommend that the Thirty-fourth be allowed to keep this color.
On the night of the 14th, the First Minnesota and Fifteenth Massachusetts were ordered on picket in a dangerous position, which they held till relieved next night; though during the day of the 15th the enemy's fire caused other regiments, on their right, not belonging to my brigade, to fall back. I was ordered, with the rest of the brigade, to the support. I placed the Nineteenth Maine on the right, under cover of houses; the Eighty-second in houses in front. Lieutenant Murphy, in command of two companies of this regiment, I sent down the road to occupy a house on the right of the First Minnesota; this they did in gallant style, under a galling fire of the enemy's sharpshooters.
I am happy to state my loss is not so severe as in many other brigades. It is as follows: Killed--officers, 1; enlisted men, 14; wounded--officers, 5; enlisted men, 70; missing, enlisted men 14. Total, 104.
It would be impossible for me to make any distinction in the conduct of the regiments of the brigade; but it may, however, be my duty to especially notice the Nineteenth Regiment Maine Volunteers, who for the first time smelt gunpowder, and apparently did not dislike the smell of it.
My thanks are due to Captain McCallum, my acting assistant adjutant-general, and my aide, Lieutenant King. The first was severely wounded in the action of the 12th.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
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