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Report of Col. Robert McAllister, Eleventh New Jersey Infantry,
commanding First Brigade, Fourth Division, of operations May 3-13.
HDQRS. THIRD BRIG., THIRD Div., 2D ARMY CORPS,
August 11, 1864. MAJOR: In compliance with Special Orders, No. 209, dated headquarters Army of the Potomac, August 5, 1864, I have the honor to report the following as being the operations of the First Brigade, Fourth Division, Second Army Corps (which I had the honor to command), in the march from Brandy Station and the battle of the Wilderness, it being the
The brigade was composed of nine regiments, viz, the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Eleventh New Jersey Volunteers, the First and Sixteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, and the Twenty-sixth and One hundred and fifteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, the division being under command of Brigadier-General Mott.
May 3, received orders to move out of huts late in the day; also, orders to be in readiness to move at 12 o'clock at night.
May 4, at 1 p. m. formed and moved toward Ely's Ford ; arrived there at 11 a. m.; detailed Sixth and Eleventh New Jersey Volunteers for ammunition guard; reached Chancellorsville about 3 p. m., and bivouacked for the night.
May 5, resumed the march at 5 a. m. toward Todd's Tavern. On reaching the Brock road received orders to move my brigade up that road and find the junction with the Furnace road. Moved as ordered a short distance, when the order was countermanded and two regiments only allowed to go, the Fifth and Eighth New Jersey Volunteers, under command of Col. William J. Sewell. A short halt and the brigade moved along the Brock road to a high piece of ground, halted, faced to the front, and built breast-works for about one hour, during which time I ordered out a picket on skirmish line, covering my brigade, under command of Major Moffett, Twenty
th Pennsylvania Volunteers, and placed them in person with one of my staff. Returning to the brigade and consulting with General Mott, commanding, thought it advisable to place Colonel Sewell in command of the skirmish line, which I did, with instructions that when we advanced he would advance and drive in the enemy's skirmish line and move forward until they received the fire from the enemy's line of battle; then lie down, and I would pass over them with my line of battle and attack the enemy. An advance was ordered by the right of companies to the front;" over the breastworks we went, but the dense thicket of underbrush made it impossible for the troops to keep their proper distance, so that when coming into line of battle, owing to pressure from the Sixth Corps on my right and the Excelsior Brigade on my left, there was not room to form line of battle in two ranks, which caused some little difficulty. We moved forward ; the enemy's skirmishers opened on us, when I rode forward in front of line of battle and ordered the skirmish line to adyance more rapidly. After moving a short distance the line of battle passed over the skirmish line and commenced firing. On receiving the enemy's fire, to my great astonishment, the line began to give way on the left. It is said first the Excelsior Brigade, then my left regiment-First Massachusetts Volunteers-and regiment after regiment, like a rolling wave, fell back, and all efforts to rally them short of the breast-works were in vain. To assign a cause for this panic is impossible, unless it was from the fact that a large number of troops were about to leave the service. I think this had much to do with it. In the advance the Eighth New Jersey Volunteers was on my right, and in coming up they found themselves in rear of the left regiment of the Sixth Corps, who were engaging the enemy. The Eighth New Jersey laid down, but soon the troops in front gave way and the Eightli received the fire from the enemy. The Fifth, on its left, gave way and carried back with it a portion of the Eighth, leaving Captain Stelle with a small portion of the regiment and the colors. He was afterward relieved by Brigadier-General Ward, and should be noticed for gallantry. The loss in this regiment was heavy. It is now late in the evening and my brigade is formed behind the breast-works along the road. Twelve o'clock midnight called at General Mott's headquarters and received orders to advance at 5 a. m. next morning; detailed Lieutenant-Colonel Baldwin, First Massachusetts Volunteers, as brigade officer of the day, who was to report to me as to General Ward's left. Lieutenant-Colonel Baldwin left at 2 a. m., and was taken prisoner. Not hearing from him gave me some considerable trouble, for the hour to advance had arrived. He was to have taken command of the skirmish line and had instructions to that effect. I now ordered out the skirmishers and sent an aide to find General Ward's left; moved forward. Receiving reports from my aide as to Ward's left, found it necessary to move to the left by obliquing and moving forward. After advancing a considerable distance General Mott and staff came up and directed me to give Colonel Sewell command of the three right regiments, which I did. The Fifth, Sixth, and Eleventh New Jersey Volunteers were then under his immediate command, leaving me but three regiments. The Eighth New Jersey, Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania, and Sixteenth Massachusetts Volunteers were at that time detailed from the brigade and in the rear. We were soon in position, and the three regiments, under Colonel Sewell, had a skirmish as they moved into an open space in General Ward's brigade on their left. When I got my three regiments to their rear they were fighting. A colonel that I did not know asked me to relieve him, so that he could get ammunition, and that he would be back soon. I did so, and he retired, and I saw him no more. We advanced with the line as it advanced and halted when it halted, skirmishing as we moved along, driving the enemy back. I was informed that my left would be protected by General Barlow. I saw no connection. At one time I saw a line drawn up facing to my left, and felt that all was right; in a short time it disappeared. Feeling some apprehension for my left I reconnoitered and saw nothing.
In a short time, Colonel Frank, of General Barlow's division, came with a few troops, and said that he wished to pass through my line to the front. I told him that I had skirmishers out and that I was advancing with the line of battle and did not wish him to go ahead of me, and that I understood that he was to protect my left, that I had orders to advance when this line advanced, and halt when it halted. He replied that he had orders “to find the enemy wher
ever he could find him, and whip him.” Saying this, he spurred his horse, faced his men to the left, and moved around my left flank, and advanced in my front, and soon engaged the enemy. But a very little firing took place until some of his men came back running, and in a few minutes a verbal message came for me to relieve him. This I declined to do, as my orders were to advance with this line. A few minutes more and all his troops came running back. I had my men stop them, and refused to let them through. Colonel Frank said to me, "I want to get ammunition. I asked him “where ?” He replied “Away back in the rear.” I informed him that mules loaded with ammunition had just come up on my right and if he would detail a few men I would send with them a sergeant and get the ammunition, which could be had in a few minutes. moment the pickets became engaged and I opened my ranks and let Colonel Frank's command through, as I supposed, to get the ammunition. This is the last I saw of him or his command. This was near 9 a, m.
All now became quiet, the pickets ceased firing, and my men laid dowli. I took an orderly with me and went through the picket-line to reconnoiter. By crawling along from tree to tree in front I discovered a ravine; parallel with it lay a number of very large trees; behind these trees and in tlie ravine were the enemy's pickets; a short distance in rear of the enemy's pickets was a railroad cut, and on the left across a ravine was an embankment; there was the position of the enemy. After taking a careful survey of it, I came
I back and sent an aide to report the fact to General Mott, commanding division.
About 11.30 a. m. I heard firing on my left and rear. I soon discovered we were flanked. I immediately ordered a change of front to meet it; ordered Colonel Sewell to "change front on the right company, right regiment,” which he did. I then ordered “ about face, left half wheel by regiments.” The line was soon formed, facing the enemy, when General Mott and staff came up and was informed of the difficulty. At this time some troops (but did not know what they were) were engaging the enemy in my front; a few moments more they gave way and I received the fire of the enemy. Held the enemy in front and delivered volley after volley into their ranks, but I soon discovered that they had flanked my left and were receiving a fire in my front, on my left flank, and rear. horse was mortally wounded by two or three rifle-balls, but still able to move slowly. At this time my line broke in confusion, and I could not rally them short of the breast-works. Sick myself, and unable to walk, I urged my wounded horse slowly along before the enemy's advancing line and reached the breast-works in safety. There changed horses and reformed my brigade. My staff was very active and soon had them formed, as ordered, behind the second line of breast-works, my right resting near General Ward's brigade, the interval being filled up by a few stragglers that were between the two brigades.
My instructions to my men were that they must hold this line under any circumstances and at all hazards. Soon the enemy's column charged the front line and the battle raged furiously. Myself and staff rode along my line to prevent our men from breaking if the front line should give way. The first line gave way and we received the shock of battle. My brigade poured volley after volley and held the enemy in check so they could not hold the first line of
breast-works. The regiment on my right, Sixteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Merriam, and Eleventh New Jersey Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Schoonover, on my left, advanced and took possession of the front works. They made a handsome charge across the field; everything was now working favorably. In a few minutes my horse was mortally wounded by two rifle-balls. I dismounted and walked toward my line; was hit by a spent ball on or near my old wound that paralyzed my leg, and for the time was unable to perform duty. Communicating the fact to General Mott, I retired from the field.
In conclusion permit me to say that both officers and men deserve credit for the heroism and bravery displayed, for all seemed to do their duty nobly. Much credit is due my staff in all the trying scenes and dangers of this day; not an officer or man left his post except the stragglers between the brigades spoken of above.
Saturday, May 7, 12. m., felt better and reported to General Mott for duty. Took command of my brigade and relieved Col. N. B. McLaughlen. At 4 p. m. moved along the Brock road and relieved General Robinson.
May 8, 4.30 a. m., ordered to be ready to move ; at 7.30 a. m. moved ; at 11.30 a. m. lialted in a pine woods near Todd's Tavern; fortified ; some firing on our left; remained all night.
May 9, ordered to be in readiness to move at a moment's notice. At 2 p. m. moved, and occupied the line of works near the tavern; remained there all night.
It being the march to Spotsylvania Court-House, Va., and the oper
ations in front of that place.
May 10, ordered to be ready to move at 3 a. m. Moved at 4 a. m, toward Spotsylvania Court-House ; formed in column of masses in rear of Second Brigade, near the Brown house ; 2 p. m., ordered to be ready to move on the enemy's works at 5 p. m.; 4.30 p. m., line ready, with skirmishers in front; Sixth New Jersey Volunteers detailed for that purpose, Colonel Gilkyson in command, with full instructions ; my brigade in front line, Second Brigade in rear, Colonel Campbell on my right, with two regiments of the Sixth Corps; 5 p. m. General Mott instructed me to forward. I gave the order. We moved through the woods and drove the enemy's skirmishers back toward their works. On reaching the open field, the enemy opened his batteries, enfilading our lines and causing our men to fall back in confusion, excepting a small portion of the front line. Colonel Blaisdell, Colonel Campbell, and myself consulted as to what was to be done, and concluded that there was nothing left but to fall back, which we did, to the foot of the hill. Before reaching this place we threw out a line of pickets in advance of the old one, and massed our forces as a reserve, and remained for the night.
May 11, 3 a. m., ordered to move my reserves back behind the breast-works and leave the pickets. At dawn of day moved with the division to the right in rear of the Sixth Corps and massed. In the afternoon moved to the left and went into tie breast-works vacated by the Sixth Corps. As soon as it was dark ordered to move to the Brown house, and took position behind breast-works.
May 12, at dawn of day we moved forward with other troops to charge the works, my brigade in the third line. When first line reached the open field, in the rapid movements they seemed to part in my front and left an open space into which I pushed my brigade forward during the advance and assisted in driving the enemy from his line of works and followed in rapid pursuit until they rolled the tide of battle back on us, when we fell back into and behind their first line of works. Prisoners were sent to the rear. We now commenced hauling back the artillery that we had captured. My men worked hard at this and turned two of these guns on the enemy, who were at this time advancing upon us. Capt. H. D. Crane, Seventh New Jersey Volunteers, with a squad of men succeeded in removing and manning one of these guns and deserves to be mentioned favorably. Adjt. C. F. Moore and Lieut. Joseph T. Note, with a squad of men from the Sixth New Jersey Volunteers, brought back and manned another steel gun. Private Page, of this regiment, rendered very efficient service in working it. Two brass pieces were also brought back by other parties from my command and assistance rendered to others. Great credit is due to these officers and men for their gallantry. Capt. William J. Evans, of the Seventh New Jersey Volunteers, lost his life while thus engaged; he worked heroically. In the advance and retreat to this point, regiments, brigades, and divisions, as well as corps, became somewhat mingled together, but to do justice, great credit is due to all, for each had their representatives in this fight and fought most gallantly. This place now became the assailing point, for the enemy retook the works to our right and determined to dislodge us. Their massed columns advanced again and again, and each time were driven back, but still the battle raged. Heavy masses of our troops held them in check and determined not to let them gain an inch. Irrespective of commands the officers present moved forward troops to hold this point. Having now lost the intrenchments to our right, we formed a line in an obtuse angle, but line after line melted away before the enemy's fire and it seemed almost impossible to hold the crest of the hill. The Sixteenth Massachusetts Volunteers was ordered by General Mott from my left to this position. They lost heavily, and the brave Lieut. Col. Waldo Merriam, commanding the regiment, was killed. Much credit is due the officers and men of this regiment. About this time the brave and gallant Capt. T. W. Eayre, assistant adjutant-general of General Mott's staff, was also killed. Ammunition would run out and a new supply would be furnished. Guns would become foul, when we would order the men back to wash them out and then return to fight on. The rain poured down, the mud became almost impassable, men became exhausted, night closed on us, and if we ceased firing a moment the rebels would advance. The First Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers was now brought in the line to relieve some that were worn down with fatigue, fought splendidly until the firing ceasel, about 3 a. m. on the morning of the 13th, after firing several hundred rounds of cartridges to the man. The brigade I had the honor to command, though mingled with others to some extent, bore a gallant part in this terrible battle, many of them under that galling fire for fourteen hours. The officers and men present did their duty faithfully. Lieutenant-Colonel Schoonover, Eleventh New Jersey Volunteers, deserves great credit in assisting in getting off the artillery, urging men forward, and encouraging them to stand to their posts, he remaining from the begin