previous next

Doc. 45.-skirmish near Cold Harbor.

New-York Herald account.

Cold Harbor, Va., May 24.
the most important skirmish that has occurred between our troops and the rebels in front of Richmond, took place this morning. Engaged on our side was the Fourth Michigan regiment, Colonel Woodbury, who fought for two hours with desperate and heroic courage an entire rebel brigade. We lost one man killed, two mortally wounded, and four seriously wounded, and did not lose a prisoner. The rebels lost one hundred killed and wounded, and thirty-seven prisoners. The following is a detailed account of the affair:

Intelligence having reached headquarters that quite a force of the enemy was near New-Bridge, the Fourth Michigan regiment, Col. Woodbury, was sent to feel them, and, if necessary, interrupt their quiet. The regiment left camp at seven A. M., their Colonel at their head, and all in splendid spirits at the prospect of a rencontre with the rebels. A secondary object of the expedition was to obtain information in regard to the roads and fords in the vicinity. Lieut. N. Bowen, of the Topographical Engineers, went with the expedition, as also a squadron of the Second regular cavalry, under command of Capt. Gordon; a company of the Fifth cavalry, Lieut. Coster; a company of the Eighteenth infantry, Capt. Forsyth, and a company of the Second infantry, Capt. McMillen. New-Bridge is four miles from the camp. They went down the main road about two miles, to what is called the Old Mill, and thence turned to the right through a piece of woods, keeping it till they came to an open field, commanding a view of the Chickahominy River.

A portion of company A, Fourth Michigan regiment, Capt. Rose, was here sent forward as I skirmishers, and the remnant of the company kept as reserves. The regiment filed out of the wood by flank, and formed in line of battle very nearly parallel with the river, the left extending across the main road. Here the rebels were seen lying behind a fence across the river. The right wing of Colonel Woodbury's regiment was ordered to cross the river, which at this point is about thirty feet wide. In the men plunged, all accoutred as they were, but contrived to keep their muskets in condition to use. In some places the stream, which had been swollen by the rain during the night and morning, was so deep that the men were obliged to swim, and none got over without wading waist-deep in water. But this was not the worst. The enemy, who had lain concealed behind a fence close to the opposite bank of the river, kept up an incessant fire upon them. Fortunately the enemy's shots passed harmlessly over their heads; but the shooting did not dismay the men in the least. Lieutenant Bowen attempted to cross the stream with his horse, but the latter was shot under him before he had advanced a third of the way across. This prevented field-officers and the cavalry from attempting to ford the stream. All the companies but two passed the river. One of these remained behind to act as skirmishers in the wood on the right, and the other to keep an eye on the bridge and to the left beyond, to prevent being flanked on either side by the enemy.

As soon as our men crossed the river the work of firing commenced. Captain Rose's company discharged the first volley on our side. All the remaining companies had their muskets to their shoulders in double-quick time. The firing was brisk and continuous on both sides. The rebels had two pieces of artillery from which they hurled shells at our men, but the shells, like their volleys of musketry, passed over the heads of our men. Their cannon were planted on a hill beyond, while the infantry still kept position behind the fence, which, in addition to having an embankment as the base, in the style of old Virginia fences, had a deep and wide ditch in front. The shooting continued for nearly two hours. Our men drove the rebels behind the fence and their encampment at the left. They fled, leaving their dead and wounded behind them, taking refuge in encampments on the hill.

On our side the last shot was fired. It was not deemed prudent to pursue the retreating enemy. It was evident that they had mistaken our force, or else acted in retiring more intensely cowardly than we have ever thought them to be. They had four regiments engaged, Fourth and Fifth Louisiana regiments, a Virginia and an Alabama regiment, besides their artillery, while on our side there were actually only eight companies of the Fourth Michigan who did the fighting. Under the circumstances, of course, it was not deemed prudent to follow the foe.

The battle ended, then came the care of the killed and wounded. The following is a list of the killed and wounded on the National side:

killed.--Private Abel M. D. Piper, company B, shot through the heart.

wounded.--Privates Franklin Drake, company B, mortally; Wm. H. Chase, company C, mortally, compound fracture of the thigh; George E. Young, company D, flesh-wound in the arm; Martin Brockway, company B, compound fracture of fore-arm; Charles Bruner, company A, flesh-wound in thigh; Charles Bunow, wounded in the mouth; Corporal John Campbell, company B, flesh-wound in thigh.

The rebel loss is estimated in killed and wounded at about one hundred. In the ditch were bound twenty-eight dead bodies. Among the killed were two lieutenants. One was shot with two balls through the head, and the body of the other was completely riddled with bullets. Of [145] the thirty-seven prisoners we took, fifteen were wounded. Our men brought them on their shoulders across the stream, whence they were taken to a dwelling-house near by, and every possible care given them by our surgeons. They all expressed astonishment at the care shown them, and stated that they had been told that if they ever fell into our hands they would be killed; and such fate they expected would be theirs.

Our men partook of the dinner the Louisiana Tigers had prepared for themselves. They captured their company books; and brought away rifles, muskets, swords, sashes, etc. I might recount any number of narrow escapes, had I time.

General McClellan having received intelligence of the skirmish, rode toward the river and met the regiment on its return. He grasped General Woodbury warmly by the hand and said: “General, I am happy to congratulate you again on your success. I have had occasion to do so before, and do so again with pleasure.” He also shook hands with Capt. Rose, of the first company, and said: “I thank you, Captain: your men have done well.”

To some of the men he said: “How do you feel, boys?” They exclaimed: “General, we feel bully!”

“ Do you think anything can stop you from going to Richmond?” he asked, and an enthusiastic “No!” rang from the whole line.

All the officers of the regiment behaved remarkably well. Gen. McClellan telegraphed immediately to Gen. Porter that the Fourth Michican had covered themselves with glory.

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 Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
New Bridge (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
Chickahominy (Virginia, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

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.
May 24th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: