rendering it almost impenetrable. An ordinary cart-road leading through this wood from the shore to the field-work, a distance of about a mile, was the only mode of communication. The woods in front of the battery had been cut down a distance of three hundred yards, forming an open space to be played on by the rebel guns, about two hundred feet wide. The woods immediately in rear of the work were also cut down to permit the manoeuvring of their own forces. Their battery consisted of an earth-work with three faces covering the open space before and the woods at each side of the open space, but with a general direction of fire to the front. The guns were mounted in embrasure and consisted of a fine twenty-four-pounder brass Dahlgren howitzer, a long eighteen-pounder brass field-gun of the date of 1834, and a new twelve-pounder brass field-piece. In front of the work is a ditch eight feet wide and about three feet deep, and filled with water. This earth-work is about thirty-five yards wide, and is erected across the road by which our men must advance. The ground in front of the work is a deep marsh on which the trees which were felled still lay. The difficult nature of this ground was increased by the pits from which the turf and earth for the field-work had been taken. Branches were strewn over the front of the work, making it difficult to discover it from the wood in front. The defending force consisted of about three hundred men, within the breastwork, and about three thousand as a reserve and deployed as skirmishers on the left of the battery. The rebels relied chiefly for the defence of their flanks on the almost impenetrable nature of the wood on each side. Their entire force, with the exception of the force working the battery, was scattered in front and in the woods on the left as skirmishers. Our army advanced from the bivouac-ground of the night previous, where they had spent the night with nothing but thin overcoats to protect them from a cold driving rain. They had left their knapsacks and blankets on the transports, each man carrying nothing but his haversack, with three days provisions, and his cartridge-box with forty rounds of ball-cartridge. The order of advance was as follows: The centre, under the command of Gen. Foster, was composed of the Twenty-fifth Massachusetts, Col. Upton; Twenty-third Massachusetts, Col. Kurtz; Twenty-seveneth Massachusetts, Col. Lee, and the Tenth Connecticut, Col. Russell, moved forward about eight o'clock. They were followed by the second column, under Gen. Reno, consisting of the Twenty-first Massachusetts, Lieut.-Col. Maggi; the Fifty-first New-York, (Shepard Rifles,) Col. Ferrero; Ninth New-Jersey, Lieut.-Col.----; and the Fifty-first Pennsylvania, Colonel Hartraaf. The third column, led by Gen. Parke, was formed of the Fourth Rhode Island, Col. Rodman; First battalion, Fifth Rhode Island, Major Wright; and Ninth New-York, Col. Hawkins. As the Twenty-fifth Massachusetts, at the head of the first column, advanced up the road, the Twenty-third and Twenty-seventh were thrown out on the right and left flank to prevent a flank movement from the enemy. They soon encountered strong bodies of the rebel skirmishers, when a sharp fire was opened. The progress of our men was marked by these encounters until they reached the open space in front of the enemy's battery, when the skirmishers were called in and preparations for an advance in column made. The right and left attacking columns commenced the movement through the woods to gain their respective positions, in doing which the right under Gen. Parke came under the enemy's fire. The Fourth Rhode Island returned the fire with energy. A battery of six twelve-pounder boat-howitzers from the vessels of the navy headed the advancing column in the centre. The battery was commanded by Midshipman Benjamin H. Porter, of New-York, detailed from the frigate Roanoke, assisted by acting master E. P. Meeker, of New-Jersey, acting master's mate Hammond, and Lieuts. Tilson and Hughes of the coast guard, the guns were placed in position at a curve of the road, from which they commanded the enemy's battery. They opened fire, and kept it up briskly until their ammunition gave out. The battery suffered severely in the fight, and at one time was too short-handed to be worked effectively. At this period the brave and patriotic chaplain of the Twenty-fifth Massachusetts, Rev. Mr. James, disregarding the dangers by which those at the guns were surrounded, helped to work the guns himself until their ammunition was exhausted. An advanced position was taken by the Twenty-fifth Massachusetts and maintained under a terrible fire from the enemy's battery, until the forty rounds of ball-cartridge distributed to the men were exhausted, when they were relieved by the Tenth Connecticut. The Connecticut men maintained this position with the fortitude of veteran troops. The movements of our flank columns of attack had not yet attracted the attention of the enemy. After their most advanced skirmishers had been driven in by our men, another party was thrown out to turn the flank of our centre column. This movement was intercepted by the Twenty-third and Twenty-seventh Massachusetts regiments, and a sharp encounter between their skirmishers and three companies of the Second battalion, Wise Legion, under the command of Lieut.-Col. Frank Anderson, (fillibustero,) resulted in the repulse of the Virginians, with the loss of Capt. O. Jennings Wise, mortally wounded, Captain Robert Coles, killed, and several officers slightly wounded. The engagement was now at the fiercest, the constant rattle of musketry, varied only when a volley was discharged, was perfectly deafening. The lull in the storm was filled up by the roar of our battery and that of the enemy, which sent charge after charge of grape-shot and shrapnel among our soldiers. No sign of flinching was visible in our ranks. The wounded from the field, that were borne
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Doc . 2 .-fight at Port Royal, S. C. January 1 , 1862 .
Doc . 82 .-fight in Hampton roads , Va. , March 8th and 9th , 1862 .
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.