In the course of the night Smith's line was felt several times by the enemy, each attempt to advance being stopped by a few volleys from our side. One of the heavy batteries on the right threw shells into Petersburg all night. Nothing occurred along our line to-day beyond the usual ragged firing on our right and right-centre. The last few days of rest have been well improved in reorganizing the army as far as practicable.
The colored troops.
in the field, near Petersburg, Virginia, June 27, 1864.The problem is solved. The negro is a man, a soldier, a hero. Knowing of your laudable interest in the colored troops, but particularly those raised under the immediate auspices of the Supervisory Committee, I have thought it proper that I should let you know how they acquitted themselves in the late actions in front of Petersburg, of which you have already received newspaper accounts. If you remember, in my conversations upon the character of these troops, I carefully avoided saying anything about their fighting qualities till I could have an opportunity of trying them. That opportunity came on the fifteenth inst., and since, and I am now prepared to say that I never, since the beginning of this war, saw troops fight better, more bravely, and with more determination and enthusiasm. Our division, commanded by General Hinks, took the advance on the morning of the fifteenth instant, arrived in front of the enemy's works about nine o'clock A. M., formed line, charged them, and took them most handsomely. Our regiment was the first in the enemy's works, having better ground to charge over than some of the others, and the only gun that was taken on this first line was taken by our men. The color-sergeant of our regiment planted his colors on the works of the enemy, a rod in advance of any officer or man in the regiment. The effect of the colors being thus in advance of the line, so as to be seen by all, was truly inspiring to our men, and to a corresponding degree dispiriting to the enemy. We pushed on two and a half miles further, till we came in full view of the main defenses of Petersburg. We formed line at about two o'clock P. M., reconnoitred and skirmished the whole afternoon, and were constantly subject to the shells of the enemy's artillery. At sunset we charged these strong works and carried them. Major Cook took one with the left wing of our regiment as skirmishers, by getting under the guns, and then preventing their gunners from using their pieces, while he gained the rear of the redoubt, where there was no defence but the infantry, which, classically speaking, “skedaddled.” We charged across what appeared to be an almost impassable ravine, with the right wing all the time subject to a hot fire of grape and canister, until we got so far under the guns as to be sheltered, when the enemy took to their rifle-pits as infantrymen. Our brave fellows went steadily through the swamp, and up the side of a hill, at an angle of almost fifty degrees, rendered nearly impassable by fallen timber. Here again our color-sergeant was conspicuous in keeping far ahead of the most advanced, hanging on to the side of the hill, till he would turn about and wave the stars and stripes at his advancing comrades; then steadily advancing again, under the fire of the enemy, till he could almost have reached their rifle-pits with his flag-staff. How he kept from being killed I do not know, unless it can be attributed to the fact that the party advancing up the side of the hill always has the advantage of those who hold the crest. It was in this way that we got such decided advantage over the enemy at South Mountain. We took, in these two redoubts, four more guns, making, in all, five for our regiment, two redoubts, and part of a rifle-pit as our day's work. The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh United States colored troops advanced against works more to the left. The Fourth United States colored troops took one more redoubt, and the enemy abandoned the other. In these two we got two more guns, which made, in all, seven. The Sixth regiment did not get up in time, unfortunately, to have much of the sport, as it had been previously formed in the second line. We left forty-three men wounded and eleven killed in the ravine, over which our men charged the last time. Our loss in the whole day's operations was one hundred and forty-three, including six officers, one of whom was killed. Sir, there is no underrating the good conduct of these fellows during these charges; with but a few exceptions, they all went in as old soldiers, but with more enthusiasm. I am delighted that our first action resulted in a decided victory. The commendations we have received from the Army of the Potomac, including its general officers, are truly gratifying. Hancock's corps arrived just in time to relieve us (we being out of ammunition), before the rebels were reinforced and attempted to retake these strong works and commanding positions, without which they could not hold Petersburg one hour, if it were a part of Grant's plan to advance against it on the right here. General Smith speaks in the highest terms of the day's work, as you have doubtless seen, and he assured me, in person, that our division should have the guns we took as trophies of honor. He is also making his word good in saying that he could hereafter trust colored troops in the most responsible positions. Colonel Ames, of the Sixth United States colored troops, and our regiment, have just been relieved in the front, where we served our tour of forty-eight hours in turn with the other troops of the corps. While out, we were subjected to some of the severest shelling I have ever seen, Malvern Hill not excepted. The enemy got twenty guns in position during the night, and opened on us yesterday morning at daylight. Our