previous next

[218] report of the part taken by his battalion, Third Rhode Island artillery, in the battle of Secessionville, James Island, S. C., June 16th, 1862. Major Metcalf's command were thrown forward into the position of which he first speaks, with the Third New-Hampshire regiment, and supported by the Ninety-seventh Pennsylvania and Forty-seventh New-York regiments, for the purpose of keeping down the fire of the enemy's main work, while Gen. Stevens made his second advance. This was so well done by the Third New-Hampshire regiment, and by Major Metcalf's battalion while with the New-Hampshire regiment, that the enemy were wholly unable to man their guns, and Gen. Stevens succeeded in bringing forward his command to a small embankment about four hundred yards of the work, without the loss, I believe, of a man, while crossing a large open space before reaching the embankment.

I desire to express to your Excellency my extreme admiration of the courage and soldierly conduct of Major Metcalf's battalion, and particularly of the Major himself. It is my belief that no officers or men could have behaved better under fire than they did, and certainly no officer could have led his command with more skill or bravery than did Major Metcalf.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Robert Williams, Col. First Mass. Cavalry, Commanding Post.

Major Metcalf's report.

James Island, S. C., June 18, 1862.
Lieutenant: I have the honor to report, that in accordance with instructions received in the evening of the fifteenth instant, from the Acting Brigadier--General Commanding First division, headquarters brigade, my battalion was held in readiness to move at three o'clock on the morning of the sixteenth, company I (Capt. Strahan) being detailed for duty at the battery in advance of the First brigade, and a detachment under Lieut. Metcalf, of company K, remaining in charge of the battery at this point. My command comprised but five companies, B, E, F, H, and K, numbering three hundred and sixty enlisted men, with two field, three staff, and fourteen company-officers.

Leading the brigade, three companies, B, F, and K, of my battalion were deployed as skirmishers, under the direction of Major Sisson, at the entrance to the wood covering the approach to the rebel battery. The other companies marched steadily to the front, halting in a position to support the troops of the First brigade, who had fallen back, and being joined at this point by the parties thrown out as skirmishers.

After again advancing in line, under orders to support the Ninety-seventh Pennsylvania volunteers, the battalion was ordered to take position on the right of the Third regiment New-Hampshire volunteers, and for this purpose crossed the marshy ground flanking the enemy's battery. We had hardly formed in line of battle and commenced firing, when an order came to capture a field-battery in their rear, which was firing with fatal effect on the Third New-Hampshire regiment. The battalion was immediately ordered to about-face and advance upon the thicket behind which the enemy's field-guns were concealed. In effecting this object we encountered a galling fire from the enemy's sharp-shooters in the thickets at our front and left, and many were wounded in our ranks, but all pressed forward, the men cheering and firing with spirit.

I urged them into the cover of the woods as rapidly as possible, and with great difficulty they forced their way in, encountering small parties of rebels, many of whom were shot and bayoneted, one prisoner being secured. A few of my men succeeded in reaching the inner edge of the thicket and gaining sight of the field-guns, three in number, without horses, and supported apparently by only two or three companies of infantry. I felt confident of securing them, but the Third New-Hampshire regiment having fallen back, I deemed it my duty to order my men to retire, which they did in good order, but slowly and reluctantly, bringing off such of our dead and wounded as could be seen on our way.

Feeling my utter want of experience, I have great hesitation in speaking of the conduct of those under my command, some of whom were not, like myself, for the first time under fire. I keenly appreciate the honor of leading such men into battle, and cannot too highly praise their coolness, steadiness, and courage. If any faltered, I was spared the shame of seeing it, where all did their duty so well. I mention a few whose bearing was conspicuous, without detracting from the merits of others.

Major H. T. Sisson deserves much credit for his successful management of the skirmishers during the advance, and for his constant efforts to aid me in carrying out the various orders received in the course of the morning.

I take great pleasure in speaking of the Adjutant of the battalion, First Lieut. J. Lanahan, Co. I, always prompt and cool, and sustaining me in every difficulty by his good judgment and long experience as a soldier. First Lieut. A. E. Green, commanding Co. B, was especially energetic and active. Second Lieut. E. S. Bartholemew, Co. E, nobly proved himself deserving the commission he had received since our departure from Hilton Head, falling mortally wounded while cheering on his men into the thicket from which the enemy so severely annoyed us. Capt. H. Rogers, Jr., and First Lieut. C. R. Brayton, of Co. H, were untiring in their exertions, and zealously supported me. First Lieut. A. W. Colwell, of Co. F, and Second Lieut. D. B. Churchill, of Co. K, particularly attracted my notice by their coolness and energy.

I am pleased to name First Sergeant G. W. Green and Sergeant J. B. Batchellee, of Co. B, First Sergeant 0. A. Thompson, of Co. E, and First Sergeant W. Wheeler, Jr., of Co. K, as distinguished for gallant conduct. I shall feel justified in recommending them to the Governor of Rhode Island for promotion.

Creative Commons License
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.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
June 18th, 1862 AD (1)
June 16th, 1862 AD (1)
16th (1)
15th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: