HDQRS. FIFTH REGIMENT RHODE ISLAND VOLUNTEERS,
Camp Pierce, New Berne, N. C., March 18, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to submit to you the following report of the operations of the First Battalion of the Fifth Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers in the battle of the 14th instant:
At the signal given from the brigade flag-ship, on the morning of the 13th of March, 1862, the boats of the steam-transports Curlew and Eagle, in which the battalion was quartered, were cleared away, filled with men, and dispatched to the steamer Eastern Queen at about 8 o'clock. That forenoon I landed with three companies and a half, and with these took my position in line, according to orders, on the left of the Eighth Connecticut. I continued the march until I received orders to halt and bivouac for the night. About 2 the next morning the adjutant brought the two remaining companies into camp. At daybreak the 14th I formed the battalion in line, awaiting orders, which soon came, and were to continue to follow on the left of the Eighth Connecticut. The column moved about 6.30 o'clock a.m. and passed slowly along the route followed the day before. Not long after the firing commenced in front, and the orders came to keep well closed up. Soon after Captain D'Wolf came down the line and ordered us to close up, and we commenced the double-quick.
After following the main road a short distance farther we turned off to the left and entered the woods. Just after we turned a cannon ball passed over our heads, which showed that we were approaching the battery, and caused us to press forward more eagerly to support the attack. After passing through a swampy place we came to a halt on the brow of a bluff, where we awaited further orders and the further movements of the Eighth Connecticut. As the bullets flew very thick over our heads we were ordered to lie down. When the Twenty-first Massachusetts was driven from the battery and the enemy made a sally the orders came to fix bayonets and prepare to receive a charge. We formed in line of battle, left in front, but as they were driven back before we saw them, we continued as we were before that. Our orders were still to continue on the left of the Eighth Connecticut. At last the orders came to turn the right flank of the enemy. We passed down into the hollow, filed off still farther to the left, and passed over <ar9_240> another elevation, when we came to the railroad, just below the brickyard. Then, with General Parke at our head, we pushed on, passed in rear of the breastworks of the enemy, and as we came upon the high open ground behind it we came under a raking fire from the rifle pits across the railroad and the brick-yard, where the enemy lay in large force.
We pushed on at the double-quick until we came under cover of the trees, where we formed in line of battle and prepared to charge on the enemy in the battery. As they had retired, I was ordered first to send one company and afterward the whole battalion, and to proceed cautiously and find out what the firing was on our left. I sent the adjutant ahead to find out the direction we should take. As it was pointed out by the general's aide, Lieutenant Lydig, we passed down into a hollow and ascended the left-hand side cautiously until we reached the brow of the elevation, when we came in view of the enemy and immediately opened upon them a brisk fire, which immediately had an effect, for their fire slackened and stopped when we ceased firing. We opened upon them two or three times afterward until we were afraid of firing upon the Fourth Rhode Island, who were advancing upon them on our right. When the Fourth charged upon them we ceased firing and awaited orders.
It was on this hill that we met with the greater part of our loss. As we had no colors, I was ordered to follow in the rear of the Eighth Connecticut, and leaving a few to take care of the killed and wounded we passed down to the railroad, and at 11 o'clock took up our line of march for the city of New Berne. When we reached the main road, which crossed the railroad, we turned to the left, and continued our march until we received orders to halt and take possession of a rebel camp off to the right from the road which had been occupied by the rebel artillery.(*)
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major, Comdg. First Bat. Fifth Regt. Rhode Island Vols.
CHARLES T. GARDNER,