12th New Hampshire Infantry Excerpts from First Battle of Fredericksburg Records
From Fredericksburg Records: D-NH-45-Bartlett, A. W.
12th New Hampshire Infantry
Fbg Cl J. H. Potter
2B Cl. S. S. Carroll
3D BG A. W. Whipple
III BG G. Stoneman
CGD MG J. Hooker
Cv C1 J. H. Potter
2B Cl S. M. Bowman
3D MG A. W. Whipple
III MG D. E. Sickles
WAR OF THE REBELLION:
A COMPILATION OF THE
UNION AND CONFEDERATE ARMIES.
PREPARED, UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR, BY
The late Lieut. Col. ROBERT N. SCOTT, Third U. S. Artillery.
PUBLISHED UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF
Lieut. Col. HENRY M. LAZELLE, Twenty-third U. S. Infantry.
PURSUANT TO ACTS OF CONGRESS.
SERIES I-VOLUME XXI.
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE.
Page 392 OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA. [CHAP. XXXIII]
Report of Brig. Gen. Amiel W. Whipple, U. S. Army, commanding Third Division.
HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, THIRD ARMY CORPS,
December 18, 1862.
CAPTAIN: In compliance with orders from Brigadier-General Stoneman, commanding Third Corps, my division left its encampment on the morning of the 11th instant, and at 8.30 o'clock deployed in the ravine to the left and rear of the Phillips house. It consisted of Piatt's and Carroll's brigades, Potter's regiment, and two batteries, viz, Eleventh New York and Second (Excelsior) New York: under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Hayward; Battery H, First Ohio Artillery, having been temporarily detached for service on the north bank of the river. Piatt's brigade was composed of the One hundred and twenty-second Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Franklin; the One hundred and twenty-fourth New York Volunteers, Colonel Ellis, and the Eighty-sixth New York Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel Chapin. Carroll's brigade contained the Eighty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Bowman; the One hundred and tenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Crowther, and the One hundred and sixty-third New York Volunteers, Major Byrne. The Twelfth New Hampshire Volunteers, Colonel Potter, formed an independent command. The Eleventh New York Battery, Captain Von Puttkammer, consisted of six 3-inch rifled pieces; the Second (Excelsior) New York Battery, Captain Bruen, consisted of six light 12 pounder brass pieces, and Battery H, First Ohio Artillery, Lieutenant Norton, consisted of six 3-inch rifled pieces. We remained in position during the day, and bivouacked in the same place at night.
On the morning, of the 12th, the division moved as directed to the head of the center bridge. Orders were then received from General Stoneman to move the division over the upper bridge, hold the approaches to the city from the southwest, and, under the orders of General Couch, protect his right flank while moving forward to attack the enemy in front.
[CHAP. XXXIII] BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG, VA. 393
In pursuance of this order, at 11 a. m. the head of Piatts brigade entered the city, but the troops of Couchs corps were so densely massed upon the river bank as to obstruct the passage, and the column was compelled to halt, the pontoon bridge being crowded and the troops stretching far to the rear. While halted in this position, the enemy observed them and opened a galling fire of shells, which fell near the head of the bridge and into the ranks of the Twelfth New Hampshire Regiment, wounding 2 officers and 5 men, 2 of them severely. The range was remarkably accurate, and, therefore, after crowding the leading regiment upon the Fredericksburg shore, the rest, by direction of General Couch, were retained upon the opposite bank, sheltered, as far as possible, at the foot of the slope and in ravines. A portion of the One hundred and twenty-second Pennsylvania Volunteers took post at the mills, but subsequently was relieved, to enable the regiment to recross the river and join the division, which was directed by General Stoneman to bivouac upon the north bank and guard the ford near Falmouth during the night.
Upon the morning of the 13th, orders were received to cross the river and send one brigade to report to General Willcox; with the remainder of the division to guard the approaches to the city from the west, and protect the right flank of Howard's division while making an attack in front. Piatts brigade was placed in position; the One hundred and twenty-second Pennsylvania Volunteers deployed as skirmishers upon the Fall Hill road, between the two canals, above the city, and upon the crest of the ridge upon which stands Mrs. Washingtons monument, and two companies of the One hundred and twenty-fourth New York Volunteers were advanced in front of Kenmore mansion, supported by the Twelfth New Hampshire Volunteers, the remainder of Piatts brigade in reserve. Of the two batteries, four pieces were placed by General Piatt at the upper end of the city, to sweep the flats and bridges across the canal, and four others near the upper junction of Charles and Prince Edward streets with Fauquier and Lewis streets, to command the approaches from the front. Carrolls brigade reached its position just in time to move forward to the support of a portion of Willcoxs corps, which, having suffered severely, was retiring. He was directed to take the crest of a hill in front.
This little command, numbering scarcely 600 muskets, with a loud shout rushed upon the assailants, and, after a sharp engagement, drove them from the ridge and held the crest as directed, successfully resisting the efforts of superior forces striving to regain it.
For a notice of the many who distinguished themselves in this affair, I would refer to the reports of brigade and regimental commanders.
I beg leave, however, to mention in terms of commendation the bravery and skill of Colonel Carroll himself, who, by the energy and rapidity of his attack, gained success with a small sacrifice of life. At night, the only time when, from his position, he could communicate with the rear, as the enemy covered the space not only with the fire from their batteries but also with that of sharpshooters, Colonel Carroll sent a staff officer to report that his ammunition was nearly exhausted. Lieutenant Eddy, my aide-de-camp and ordnance officer, accompanied by Lieutenant Weise, of the ambulance corps, and an orderly went out to find the position of Carroll's brigade, for the purpose of forwarding the needed supplies. Neither of the parties has since been heard from. They probably entered the enemy's lines and were captured. Carroll's brigade retained its position until the night of the 14th, when it was
relieved and sent to the rear of the Twelfth New Hampshire Volunteers, to strengthen the right flank.
Meanwhile Piatts brigade and Potters regiment had been successively placed in front to guard against an attack, or check an advance of the enemy, exposed to the fire of their batteries, and occasionally exchanging shots with sharpshooters from rifle-pits. Both officers and men would have preferred to bear a part in more exciting conflicts, but, with rare exceptions, they performed the duties assigned them, under arms and under fire almost continually for three successive days and nights, faithfully watching and coolly prepared for any service that might be required.
On the 15th, the front of my line of defense was diminished, the left flank resting upon the canal basin and connecting with Griffins right. Upon his left, General Humphreys relieved me of the portion of the line in front of Kenmore. Having been placed under the orders of General Butterfield, arid directed by him to prepare for the defense of Fredericksburg upon the right, earthworks were thrown up at the corner of Charles and Fauquier streets, for the protection of a section of Captain Bruen's battery. The brick warehouses at the basin and the mills at the lower canal bridge were loop-holed for musketry. It was designed to throw up earthworks for the remaining batteries at the brick dwelling beyond the canal, but the order was subsequently countermanded.
At night I was directed to resume the defense of that portion of the line just taken by Griffin's division. The change of forces required for this was effected at 2.30 a. m. on the 16th.
At 4 a. m. I received the order to send the main body of my troops across the upper bridge; to withdraw my reserves to the canal banks, and send two officers to report to General Sykes, who was charged with the withdrawal of the pickets. These orders were complied with, and the whole command withdrew in perfect order to the position assigned to it on this side of the river.
In the withdrawal of the pickets I would call attention to the coolness and presence of mind of the officers and men of the One hundred and twenty-fourth New York Volunteers, on duty at the Fall Hill road, beyond the canal. Colonel Ellis, who was in command, was perfectly prepared to contend, foot by foot, with any force the enemy might throw against him.
I beg leave also to mention, in terms of commendation, the members of my staff, Captain Dalton, assistant adjutant-general, and my aides, Captains Van Horn, Morgan, and Hall, and Lieutenant Nevin; and especially Lieutenant Eddy, whose disappearance is due to persistent efforts in the discharge of duty through well-known peril.
In conclusion, I would state that this division recrossed the Rappahannock with a loss of 19 killed, 91 wounded, and 18 missing.*
A list of the casualties is herewith appended. The brave who have fallen are a severe loss. Those who remain have won the confidence of their commander, and the morale of the division is better than it was before the battle of Fredericksburg.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. W. WHIPPLE,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters Third Corps.
*But see revised statement, p. 135.
[CHAP. XXXIII] BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG, VA. 395
Report of Brig. Gen. A. Sanders Piatt, U. S. Army, commanding First Brigade.
HEADQUARTERS PIATT'S BRIGADE,
Near Falmouth, Va., December 16, 1862.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that I resumed my command on the evening of the 11th instant.
On the morning of the 12th, by direction, my brigade took its place in the division column, and moved toward the middle bridge over the Rappahannock. Before reaching this, in pursuance of further orders, we retraced our steps and crossed the Rappahannock at the upper bridge, and entered the town of Fredericksburg. The head of my column, upon reaching the top of the bank at Fredericksburg, was forced to halt, on account of a number of troops that were massed in the street. While in this condition, the enemy's batteries opened and continued shelling the column. I immediately changed the head of my column to the right, and placed the first regiment, under cover of the river bank; the two remaining regiments, under my instructions, given through one of my aides, took shelter under the opposite bank of the river. The enemy's batteries ceased when, in obedience to orders, I recrossed the river and encamped for the night.
On the morning of the 13tb, in pursuance of orders received, my brigade again occupied the advance in the column; crossed the river and took position up the river and on the right of the bridge, placing us on the right flank of the Army of the Potomac. Masking my troops under the hill, I immediately proceeded to relieve the pickets on the extreme right, belonging to General Sully's brigade. This picket consisted of a regiment, the line starting perpendicularly to the river; thence bearing to the left, and running equidistant from the enemy's works from the first change in direction to the left, till it rested on the right of the Twelfth New Hampshire Volunteers, commanded by Colonel Potter. On making a reconnaissance of the ground in front, I found it advantageous to push the picket lines farther forward, and it was done, on the road that lay between the canal and the race. In this position everything remained until dark, when I placed the Excelsior Battery in position to command the open ground in front, and the other two regiments to the right and left to support it in case of an attack during the night. Late at night, when the firing ceased, the men lay down in line and slept by their arms.
Of the energy of the officers under my command, and the coolness of the men throughout the whole battle of the 13th, while the shells were flying in every direction over them and bursting among them, I cannot speak too highly.
I had the misfortune, by the stumbling of my horse and the loosening of the saddle-girth, to be precipitated to the ground, injuring my back so severely as to render me unable to walk since.
The remainder of the report will be rendered by Colonel Franklin, who took command of the brigade, I being unable to remain upon the field, and have been reported unfit for duty since the morning of the 14th.
A. SANDLERS PIATT,
Brigadier-General, Comdg. First Brigade, Third Division.
Capt. HENRY R. DALTON, Assistant Adjutant-General.
398 OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA. [CHAP. XXXIII]
Report of Col. Joseph B. Potter, Twelfth New Hampshire Infantry (unattached).
POTOMAC CREEK, VA., December 19,1862.
SIR: I have the honor to report that, in compliance with instructions from Headquarters Third Corps, Army of the Potomac, (dated Bellair, Va., December 9,1802, my regiment moved from camp, on Potomac Creek, on the morning of December 11, in the direction of Fredericksburg, Va., and bivouacked for the night about 1 mile from the Rappahannock River.
On the morning of the 12th instant, my regiment was ordered up to the river, in front of the lower pontoon bridge. I remained in position near the bridge until 12.30 p. m., when I was ordered to the upper pontoon bridge, in the vicinity of the Lacy house. As my command approached this bridge, the rebels commenced shelling the head of the column. The regiment moved forward until it was sheltered by the bluffs of the river, where it remained until near 5 p. m., when it was ordered to retire to a position in the rear of the Lacy house, and near the railroad. Two officers and 5 enlisted men were wounded by shell and shot when my regiment approached the river.
On the morning of December 13, my regiment was ordered forward, and crossed the Rappahannock by the upper bridge, and took position on the bank of the river.
At about 12 m. the regiment took position on the street (the third from the river), and in the vicinity of the headquarters of General Whipple.
At 2 p. rn. my regiment was ordered forward, and took position on Prince Edward street, in the rear of the Kenmore house. It remained in that vicinity as a support to the batteries, Owen's Rhode Island and Battery A, Fourth Artillery, immediately in rear of the Kenmore house.
On the night of December 15, my regiment was ordered to, and took position near, the canal, between Carrolls and Piatt's brigades.
At 2.30 a. m. I was ordered to occupy the ground between the reservoir and the Kenmore house, and to establish pickets from the Kenmore house, and to unite with the pickets of Carrolls brigade. Two companies were detailed for this duty, and were placed in position by Lieutenant-Colonel Marsh. The remainder of the regiment took position on the street (the third from the river), where it remained until 5 a. m., when it was ordered to recross the river and take position in its present camp. Lieutenant-Colonel Marsh, after recrossing the river with the regiment, returned to the vicinity of the Kenmore house and brought over the two companies left there on picket duty.
[CHAP. XXXIII] BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG, VA. 399
I inclose herewith a list* of the wounded and missing during the recent engagement in the vicinity of Fredericksburg, Va.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. H. POTTER,
Colonel Twelfth New Hampshire Volunteers, Comdg. Regiment.
Headquarters Whipple's Division, Bellair, Va.
7 Jan 2000