HEADQUARTERS NINTH ARMY CORPS,
Opposite Fredericksburg: Va., January 7, 1863.
SIR: I have the honor to forward the reports of division, brigade, regimental, and battery commanders of the Ninth Corps d'Armee on the recent Fredericksburg operations.
It will be seen that the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, at General George W. Getty's division, furnished volunteers to the Engineer Brigade, constructing the bridges near the Lacy house, on December 11, 1862; but, under the fire of the enemy's sharpshooters, their efforts were of so little avail that Major Spaulding, of that brigade, withdrew them. The Eighty-ninth Regiment New York Volunteers, Col. H. S. Fairchild, of the same division, was more fortunate. This regiment covered the ineffectual work on the central pontoon, near the old steamboat landing, from 2 a.m. until 4 p.m., when Colonel Fairchild was ordered by General Burnside to send 100 men with 4 officers across in boats, and dislodge the enemy opposite. They crossed in four boats, an officer and 25 men in each, and performed their duty in the most dashing and successful style, capturing 4 officers and 60 soldiers of the rebels and dispersing the remainder. Colonel Fairchild crossed the rest of the regiment in like manner, and the bridge was then completed.
The Forty-sixth Regiment New York Volunteers, Lieut. Col. Joseph Gerhardt, of General William W. Burns' division, was the first to cross the bridge. Hawkins' brigade, of Getty's division, also crossed the <ar31_311> same evening, and, with Howard's division, of the Second Corps d'Armee, occupied the town that night. The remainder of my corps, under orders from right grand division headquarters, crossed the next day (the 12th), immediately after the Second Corps.
On the next morning (the 13th), I was ordered by Major-General Sumner to extend my left over Hazel Run to Deep Run, and to form the corps in three lines, with batteries in suitable positions, connecting on the right with the Second Corps (General Couch)and on the left with General Franklin.
It will be thus seen that the troops of this command occupied the center, which I understood it my duty to hold, and at the same time to a afford support to the attacks which Generals Franklin and Couch were to make. Accordingly, Brig. Gen. S. D. Sturgis' division was placed nearest to Couch's corps, Burns' division nearest to Franklin's, and between Deep and Hazel Runs, and Getty's division between Sturgis.' and Burns'. Each division was in two lines. No good positions were found for the light batteries by Captain Edwards, chief of artillery, but several were brought into action afterward by other officers, and did some service.
About noon of the 13th, I directed the Second Division to support General Couch's attack, then about to begin. General Sturgis promptly got his troops in readiness, and selected a point near a brick-kiln for Dickenson's horse artillery. A portion of Hooker's grand division had now crossed the river, and was in the rear of Couch's troops. As soon as Couch's left began to break, General Sturgis advanced four regiments of Ferrero's brigade, under cover of Dickenson's battery, now in position. General Ferrero succeeded in checking the advance of the enemy on the left of the Second Corps, and drove him back to his cover of stone wall and rifle-pits. But the gallant Dickenson fell gloriously at his post, and his battery suffered considerably in men and horses, under a concentrated fire of artillery and some musketry. Maj. Sidney Willard, commanding Thirty-fifth Massachusetts Volunteers, also fell, fighting firmly with his regiment. Ferrero's brigade now encountered the full weight of the enemy's metal, and Nagle's brigade was ordered to its support. These devoted troops moved up with prompt alacrity, and finally the Fifty first Regiment New York Volunteers, Col. R. B. Potter, which had been supporting Dickenson, was thrown forward.
All these troops behaved well, and marched under a heavy fire across the broken plain, pressed up to the field at the foot of the enemy's sloping crest, and maintained every inch of their ground with great obstinacy until after nightfall, but the position could not be carried. Lieut. Col. W. B. Sayles, Seventh Rhode Island, was killed, and Major Babbitt, of the same regiment, was mortally wounded, in the gallant effort. They fell at the head of their troops.
Meantime General Whipple sent me Carroll's brigade, consisting of the Eighty-fourth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Bowman; One hundred and tenth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Crowther, and One hundred and sixty-third Regiment New York Volunteers, Major Byrne, which, together with some brigades of General Griffin's division, also sent to co-operate, all gallantly pushed up to the support of General Sturgis' left, under a heavy fire, gaining also a certain point, but beyond this nothing could live. The attack was also supported by Phillips' battery, belonging to Hooker's grand division, for which Capt. S. H. Weed, Fifth U.S. Artillery, found a position. This battery was ably served, though with considerable exposure and loss, and much praise is due to its commander, as Well as Captain Weed, <ar31_312> who belonged to another corps, but, with the professional zeal of a true soldier, was ready to serve in any part of the field. Capt. W. W. Buckley's Rhode Island battery was also brought into action toward evening, and kept up the fire with coolness and judgment, covering the withdrawal of Sturgis' division, which was finally relieved at 7.20 p.m. by troops belonging to General Griffin.
General Burns crossed Deep Run, in support of General Franklin's command, at 3 p.m. General Getty's division was he]d, both as a reserve and as a corps of observation, to watch the communications of the center and guard the left of the town. But at 4 o'clock (the contest still raging) I determined to advance this division, also hoping to draw off some portion of the enemy's troops from our right, and, possibly, to find a weak point in his lines, and effect a lodgment.
It must be borne in mind that all the troops formed under fire. It was impossible to clear the shelter of the town otherwise than by marching each regiment, by a flank, to the open ground, and even this could not be done without confusion. Thus forming in two brigade lines, Getty's division marched gallantly over the broken field, crossed the railroad cutting, then an old canal ditch and some marshy ground, under an artillery fire which increased every moment, until he nearly reached the enemy's works in his front, when a line of musketry opened, and his first brigade was forced back under a severe front and enfilading storm.
The second line (Harland's brigade) likewise advanced, under a fire of shell and shrapnel, to the ridge bordering the railroad, and main-rained their ground with their picker, s. Here Lieutenant-Colonel Curtis, commanding Fourth Rhode Island Volunteers, fell, cheering and leading on his men. The service lost in Lieutenant-Colonel Curtis a skillful and intrepid officer.
In pursuance of orders from General Burnside, Burns' division re-crossed Hazel Run next morning, and this corps was then selected to make the main attack. It was formed accordingly. Captain Weed had also selected positions for six batteries to support the movement, and placed several in position, when the order was suspended, and finally countermanded.
On the 15th, the enemy's pickets between Hazel and Deep Runs advanced in line of skirmishers, probably with a view of gaining the crest of the bank on Hazel Run, from which, by a sudden dash, they might obtain an enfilading fire upon our troops, as well as upon the horses of the two batteries, sheltered by the upper bank of the stream near the Bowling Green road. This movement was anticipated by General Getty, and prevented by the troops of Generals Getty and Burns, together with 200 of Berdan's Sharpshooters.
During the night of the 15th, the corps recrossed the Rappahannock, the whole body numbering about 16,000 officers and men, with five batteries, except the pickets, which were withdrawn later--were crossed over noiselessly in less than two hours. The most perfect order prevailed; no confusion in the ranks; no signs of alarm or demoralization, notwithstanding many hours of passive exposure to the enemy's sharpshooters and artillery. The ease with which this remarkable withdrawal was effected was due partly to the arrangements made by Major Crosby (Twenty-first Connecticut Volunteers), provost-marshal, who, with a pioneer party at the bridge, and a cavalry patrol from the bridge toward the camp, paved the way smoothly and rapidly for the movements, and partly to the superior organization of the different departments---quartermaster's <ar31_313> and commissary departments, medical and ambulance corps--all of which performed their work so perfectly that supplies of every kind had been received, and the wounded removed so promptly that when the order came there was not a wagon of any description in the way. The heads of these departments deserve great credit.
Concerning the batteries which took part in the preliminary operations, as they were detached under the chief of artillery, Army of the Potomac, Brigadier-General Hunt, their reports belong more properly to him. I must beg leave here, however, to call attention to the necessity of an artillery officer of higher rank in this and every other army corps. An officer who ranks as lieutenant, or at most as captain, whose time and attention are absorbed in the duties of his own battery, cannot select the positions and direct the operations of all the batteries of a corps. Such a command is equal to that of a colonel, and the importance and responsibilities of the position render it indispensable, in my humble judgment, that this corps should have for chief of artillery an officer of commensurate rank and experience.
I respectfully commend for good conduct Brig. Gen. S. D. Sturgis, commanding Second Division; Brig. Gen. George W. Getty, commanding Third Division, and Brig. Gen. W. W. Burns, commanding First Division. It is sufficient to say for these officers that by their promptness, coolness, and good judgment the long line between General Couch, on our right, and General Franklin, on our left, was preserved intact; that every support That could be rendered was afforded, and that not the least sign of demoralization appeared in the ranks of the Ninth Corps. But the troops themselves deserve no less credit; greater devotion and bravery could not be shown. They only wait a fairer field to prove themselves equal to victory. I must express my thanks to Generals Griffin and Carroll and Captain Phillips for timely assistance.
The reports of the different commanders, including that of General Carroll, mention many names for gallantry and meritorious services, to which I respectfully call the attention of the major-general commanding.
The old troops all behaved well, and among the new regiments the Seventh Rhode Island, Colonel Bliss, and the Eleventh New Hampshire, Colonel Harriman, greatly distinguished themselves.
To Surgeon O'Connell, medical director, the whole army is indebted for his timely preparations, which sheltered the wounded of all corps.
Captain Marsh, chief of ambulance corps, proved the thoroughness of his excellent arrangements by the removal of some 1,300 wounded across the river. He also mentions Lieutenant Harris for his untiring devotion to the wounded.
To Major Crosby, provost-marshal; Capt. R. A. Hutchins, assistant adjutant-general; Lieut. O. M. Dearborn, chief of ordnance; Captain Shurtleff, acting inspector-general, and Lieuts. Levi C. Brackett and Charles A. McKnight, aides-de-camp, I am under obligations for active assistance in distributing orders.
To the officers and men of Companies B and C, of the Sixth New York Cavalry, serving on escort and orderly duties, which were faithfully discharged, my thanks are also due.
Accompanied herewith is a list(*) of the officers and men of the Eighty-ninth Regiment New York Volunteers who crossed the river in boats, before referred to. <ar31_314>
The casualties are as follows:
Commissioned officers 8 42 .... 50
Enlisted men 93 988 197 1,278
Total(*) 101 1,030 197 1,328
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
O. B. WILLCOX,
Lieut. Col. J. H. TAYLOR,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Hdqrs. Right Grand Division.