The late campaign on the North side of the James.
In Camp, North Side of the James,
August 13 1864.
To the Editor of the Richmond Dispatch:
Preparations have been actively made for the last few days to open a mortar battery upon the enemy's pontoon bridge near Deep Bottom
, and it was announced everything would be in Readin by 10 A. M. Our four guns (Third Richmond Howitzers) were posted on New Market Heights where we have been on picket for the past week.
The ten-in mortars were sunk a short distance in front of our battery and at the base of the hill on which we were posted, whilst to our left, and about eight hundred yards in our front, four eight-inch sea- coast howitzers were placed, to be used as mortars.
Near the village of New Market
, and several hundred yards to the left and front of the sea-coast howitzers, a section of Major Starke
's Local Defence Artillery (Parrots) were posted as a protection to the-front and left of the mortar howitzers.
Our main line of entrenchments were only a short distance in front of our company, but a strong line of rifle-pits have been thrown up on a line with the mortar howitzers.
We opened with the mortars at 3 P. M., and the great, huge shells were sent whirling over towards the enemy's line, causing no little confusion in their camps.
The mortar howitzers and Starke
's Parrot guns joined in the fracas.
Pretty soon a gunboat came steaming down the river, and leisurely "heaving to," commenced an accurate fire upon our lines.
A slow fire was kept up during the day, but nothing of importance was accomplished.
Sunday August 14th.--Fighting at and near New Market Heights.
is in command of our line, composed of — brigades.
The morning dawned with never a cloud upon the horizon, and for a time an unusual quietude prevailed; though during the night the tramp of Federal soldiery crossing the pontoon bridges was distinctly heard.
The enemy have a pontoon bridge above, and one below, Deep Bottom
; therefore, to appear on our right, they are compelled to cross the upper pontoon, not being able to move to our left without re-crossing the James
or passing immediately in front of our batteries on New Market Hill
A splendid brass band on our right strikes up that holy hymn of ancient days, "Old Hundred."
Clearly through the calm Sabbath morning's air comes the soft melody of that Heaven-born hymn; and as those notes rise higher and higher yet upon the morning breeze, they seem carrying an invocation upward to the Throne of Grace to aid us in the coming struggle.
Hark! the scene changes; a short distance to our right, the sharp, ringing notes of the skirmisher's rifle warns us of danger ahead — and men hurry to gather up their implements of death.
The skirmishing on our right increases, and loud cheers are heard in the woods; in breathless suspense we await the issue; presently our men come running across the field; and now it is evident that our skirmish line (a very strong one, protected by rifle-pits,) has been driven from its position and forced back to the main line.
This so exposed the right flank of the line protecting the mortar howitzer battery that it was compelled to fall back to the entrenchments running across New Market Heights.
There being no horses to the battery, it was impossible to save it, and for a time we thought Starke
's Parrots would " go up;" but finally succeeded in getting them on the hill.
Far away in our front we could plainly see the enemy moving heavy columns of infantry to our left, and in the woods we could distinguish the gleaming of muskets innumerable.
Skirmishing on our left commences; the situation becomes interesting and precarious; a four pas
and the day will be lost.
rapidly masses his troops to meet the enemy, and our whole line is in commotion.
On our right and front the enemy's skirmishers press close to our lines, and our infantry have all moved to the left.
We are without protection, and we must fight hard or else the hill is lost.
We open a rapid fire upon the enemy, and, in the meantime, withdraw our "right section," under the command of Lieutenant H. C. Carter
, and send it off at a "double-quick" to the left.
Not one moment too soon did it arrive on the left, for the enemy were pressing us closely.
Going into position at the Fussel House
, near where the Darbytown
road crosses Bailey
's run, this section opened a destructive fire upon a column of the advancing enemy, and broke them at the first round.
Five Yankee batteries replied, but our boys held their ground, and the enemy were effectually checked.
I herewith make a few extracts from the Philadelphia Inquirer
of the 18th:
"The enemy fell back to a strong position, and the Second division, Second corps, was drawn up in line of battle beyond where Hancock
captured the four guns two weeks ago. (This would bring the Yankee
line just where the Darbytown
road crosses Bailey
's run, near Fussel's mill.) Here the First brigade, under Colonel Marcy
, took the lead and charged across a corn- field, over a hill and down into a ravine, where they came to a swamp with a stream (Bailey
's run) on the other side; the ground covered with impenetrable brush on the margin.
"During all this time they were exposed to a heavy fire from the rebel artillery, which did a great deal of damage.
It was found impossible to cross the ravine, and the men were halted and lay concealed as well as possible until dark, when they were withdrawn.
had his horse shot under him, and mounting General Barlow
's horse, the animal became unmanageable and fell on the Colonel
, badly bruising him.
"The division lost at least three hundred men in the engagement.
The First and Third divisions, which were in support, lost about two hundred and fifty men from the effects of the rebel artillery."
In referring to the shelling on Saturday, the 13th, the Inquirer
, (gunboat), while engaging a rebel battery, received a shell, which exploded, killing three men and wounding eight others."
The "rebel battery" was a "section" of Hurt
's battery, McIntosh
's battalion, Lieutenant Ferrell
Towards night the enemy charged our skirmish line on the right with a heavy line of battle, but were held in cheek.
Our Toss to-day was one man: private E. N. Mahoney
, wounded in the arm. Several others were struck but not disabled, among whom was Corporal S--. His "suspender." was cut in two by a shell.
After dark our right section returned to the "heights," we having been reinforced by the remaining companies of our battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel R. A. Hardaway
August 15th."All quiet to-day save occasional picket skirmishing.
August 16th.--The enemy charged on our left, in front of Wright
's brigade, and for a time held possession of our works; but they were finally driven out with great slaughter, the poor deluded black being the chief sufferer.
In our front the fighting amounted to nothing more than very heavy skirmishing and an extremely unpleasant shelling from land batteries, gunboats, &c. At one time during the day it became necessary to move one of our guns some distance "by hand" and in the very teeth of the enemy; This was done under a terrible musketry fire, during which privates M. H. Gardner
and William M. Mann
fell, both painfully wounded.
August 17th--All quiet to-day.
August 18th--Our troops on the left made a reconnaissance in force, the which amounted to finding the enemy still in force and strongly entrenched. --Shelling and skirmishing passed up and down the lines, but none of our company were hurt.
August 19th and 20th.--Our skirmishers have become quite amicable with the enemy's sharpshooters, and everything is quiet.
Sunday, August 21st.--The enemy have all returned to the south side after having accomplished — what ?--the capture of four iron howitzers and the loss of fully one thousand
men for each gun in killed, wounded and missing.
W. S. W.