HDQRS. THIRD DIVISION, NINTH ARMY CORPS,
Near -Falmouth, Va., December 28, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the movements of this division, in the engagements with the enemy, from Thursday morning, the 11th instant, till Tuesday morning, the 16th instant:
At 2 o'clock on the morning of the 11th instant, the Eighty-ninth Regiment New York Volunteers, Col. H. S. Fairchild commanding, was placed in position on the river bank, opposite the old steamboat landing, to cover the laying of the central pontoon bridge. The engineers met with no opposition at first, and had succeeded in laying two-thirds of the bridge when they were driven from the work by the enemy's sharpshooters, who had occupied the buildings on the other side of the river bearing on the bridge. Four several attempts were made, but in each case the workmen were repulsed with loss.
At length Colonel Fairchild received orders from General Burnside to detail 4 officers and 100 men to cross the river in pontoon boats and take possession of the houses, driving out the sharpshooters. This order was most gallantly carried into effect. Captains Hazley, S. L. Judd, F. Burt, and Lieut. W. M. Lewis, each in command of a detachment of 25 men, occupying each a boat, covered by the fire of the batteries and of regiments drawn up in line along the river bank, pushed hastily across, jumped out, and the next instant were in possession of the disputed buildings. Sixty-four prisoners, among them 4 officers, fell into their hands. The remainder of the sharpshooters beat a hasty retreat.
Colonel Fairchild immediately crossed over with the remainder of his gallant regiment in boats, and occupied the city in the vicinity of the bridge. This was accomplished by 4 p.m., December 11, and the bridge was now soon completed.
Equal or greater difficulty had been experienced in laying the bridge at the Lacy house. Nearly 100 men of the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, under the command of Captain Marsh and Lieutenants Ford and Morgan, volunteered to assist the engineers, at the call of General Woodbury, and succeeded in laying one bay of the bridge, when, having two of their number wounded, they were ordered to retire by Major Spaulding, of the engineers.
Hawkins' brigade crossed at the central bridge at 8 p.m., December 11, and occupied the lower part of Fredericksburg, connecting on the right with Howard's division, Second Corps. One company from each regiment was thrown forward as a picket for the night. The next morning the One hundred and third Regiment New York Volunteers was placed on picket. The right rested on the railroad, where it connected with the pickets of the Second Corps, and the line extended a short distance along the railroad to the first cut, and thence to the left, along the ridge immediately in rear of the railroad at Hazel Creek.
At 5 p.m., December 12, Harland's brigade crossed at the central bridge, and was formed in line in Caroline street, the right resting on the railroad. Here arms were stacked, and during the night the troops occupied the houses and inclosures on the river side of the street, or <ar31_332> east side. Hawkins' brigade stacked arms in line immediately in front of the Second Brigade in the same street, and occupied the houses on the opposite side. The Ninth Regiment New York Volunteers and the Fourth Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers were thrown forward as pickets, and relieved the One hundred and third Regiment New York Volunteers.
Early on the morning of December 13, the division was moved to the extreme lower end of Fredericksburg, near Hazel Creek, where it was massed under cover of the river bank, and remained until late in the afternoon.
While in that position the troops suffered considerably by the premature bursting of shells from one of our own batteries on the other side of the river--Diederichs' battery, First New York Artillery Battalion.
The Tenth Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers, afterward strengthened by the Eleventh Connecticut Volunteers, was placed on picket, and relieved the regiments which went on the night before.
When the action began on the right, the enemy's line of pickets was observed falling back, whereupon Colonel Donohoe, of the Tenth New Hampshire Volunteers, advanced his line and occupied the railroad as far as across Hazel Creek, and also a small block-house on the other side of the creek, near the railroad. This line was held henceforth until the evacuation of the town.
At 5 p.m. orders were received from General Willcox, commanding Ninth Army Corps, to advance by brigade front and charge the enemy. The orders were immediately communicated to the brigade commanders. Colonel Hawkins, First Brigade, was to advance by the right of companies, halt, and reform behind the railroad, and then advance in line to the attack. Colonel Harland, Second Brigade, was to follow in similar formations and support Colonel Hawkins.
Just previous to the advance of the First Brigade, Captain Stevens, of my staff, was sent to communicate with the commander of a large body of men on the right front, who, under cover of a ravine, were holding this position close up to the enemy's line, in order to inform him of this advance and to request his support. No general officer could be found. The men seemed to be broken detachments from many regiments; but finally Major Burns, or Byrnes, was found, who undertook to advance with the First Brigade. He failed to do this, however. Some disorder was necessarily occasioned by the irregularities of the ground; nevertheless, the First Brigade reached the railroad without any accident, and, forming behind it, advanced to the attack in tolerable order. But it was now dark, and after advancing well up to the enemy's line the First Brigade received a severe front and enfilade fire, was thrown into partial confusion, and was obliged to fall back under the cover afforded by a depression of ground and the bed of an old canal. From this position they were withdrawn and reformed behind the railroad, and finally stationed for the night in a position in front of the slaughter-house, parallel to Caroline street. The Ninth Regiment New York Volunteers did not participate at all in this attack, being directed by Colonel Hawkins, under some misconception of orders, to support a battery near the brick-kilns. The Second Brigade advanced in good order to a position immediately in rear of the line of pickets, and protected by the ridge bordering the railroad. In their advance they were exposed to a heavy fire of shell and shrapnel. Lieutenant-Colonel Curtis, Fourth Rhode Island Volunteers, while gallantly leading forward and encouraging his men, was killed. Colonel Harland maintained his position <ar31_333> until morning, when he was withdrawn to his original position in Caroline street. The picket line was held by the One hundred and third New York Volunteers.
On December 14, at 7 p.m., the Sixteenth Connecticut assumed the duty of picketing, and relieved the One hundred and third New York.
On December 15, the line was strengthened by the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers and by 200 Berdan Sharpshooters, who were sent across Hazel Creek to secure our flank. Soon after dark on the 15th, Harland's brigade was moved up in position a little in front of Caroline street, in the lower part of the town, and the position to be occupied by the line of battle, in case of an attack on the part of the enemy, indicated. Preparations were made for throwing up intrench-merits and loop-holing the houses for musketry. Soon after, the Second Brigade was moved across the river into their old camp, the Eighth and Sixteenth Connecticut Volunteers being relieved by the Thirteenth New Hampshire Volunteers.
The First Brigade followed immediately in rear of the Second, and by 4 a.m. every regiment of the Third Division, Ninth Army Corps, occupied its former camp. During these operations, Benjamin's battery (E), Second U.S. Artillery, was placed in battery on the spurs of the heights above Falmouth, where he had a good enfilade fire on the city and works immediately in rear of it.
On the 11th, he received orders to fire on the city, which he did. Benjamin, from his position, succeeded in silencing the enemy's guns on the right whenever they opened fire, but was unable to damage their works in the center, the distance being too great.
On the 16th instant, he was directed by Colonel Hays to shell the stone wall, which was the enemy's line of defense. After many of the shots, squads of men could be seen running out from behind it. One of his guns burst at the second discharge. The ammunition projectiles furnished were of a miserable quality.
Lieutenant Gilliss' battery (A), Fifth Artillery, was stationed on the morning of the 11th on the bank of the river to the right of the Lacy house, and, in compliance with orders from Brigadier-General Hunt, chief of artillery, shelled the houses occupied by sharpshooters during the day.
The next day he crossed the river and parked in the lower part of Fredericksburg. His battery was not again brought into action, and he recrossed the river and returned to camp on the night of the 15th.
The total loss of the division amounted to 1 officer killed (Lieutenant-Colonel Curtis, commanding Fourth Rhode Island Volunteers, at the head of his regiment), while advancing, by the bursting of a case-shot from one of the enemy's batteries; 7 commissioned officers wounded; 12 enlisted men killed; 200 enlisted men wounded; 64 enlisted men missing. Total, 284.(*)
Ample preparations for receiving and caring for the wounded were made under the direction of Surg. M. Storrs, medical director of the division, and his assistants.
Capts. Hazard Stevens and Charles T. Gardner, both of my staff, deserve especial mention for the prompt and cheerful manner in which, under fire, they communicated my orders to the different commanders.
Inclosed herewith will be found the reports of brigade, regimental, and battery commanders. Also a list of the non-commissioned officers and <ar31_334> privates of the Eighty-ninth New York Volunteers, who gallantly crossed the river in the first boats and drove the enemy from the lower part of the city.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. W. GETTY,
Brigadier-General, Comdg. Third Division, Ninth Army Corps.
Capt. ROBERT A. HUTCHINS,