2 - Battle of Malvern Hill (Series I, Volume 11, Part 2)

No 89: Report of Brig. Gen. John J. Abercrombie, U.S. Army, commanding Second Brigade, of the battle of Malvern Hill. July 12, 1862

Captain: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my brigade in the action of 1st July, 1862:

On the 30th of June my brigade crossed Turkey Creek Bridge and proceeded on the road to Richmond about 2 miles, and deployed into line of battle to the right of the road in an elevated field, where it remained for a few hours; but finding my position much exposed to the enemy's shells at long range, another and a less exposed position was taken. No advances being made by the rebels, the brigade bivouacked for the night.

Early on the morning of the 1st instant orders from division headquarters were received to cross a ravine immediately in front of my line, to support a portion of Howe's brigade and several batteries previously advanced to Malvern Hill. It was soon discovered the enemy was preparing for an attack both in front and on our left, as they were seen to emerge in great force in both directions. Two regiments, viz, the First U.S. Chasseurs and the Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, moved up to the support of Griffin's battery and the Sixty-second New York. With the three other regiments of my brigade, viz, Thirty-first and Twenty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers and First Long Island, I moved to the support of General Howe's brigade, and took up a position on the crest of the hill on the right of the tongue of woods. Subsequently the First U.S. Chasseurs and Thirty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered to take up their position in line of battle across the extreme point of this tongue of woods in support of General Palmer's brigade. The Twenty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers were sent to the support of General Howe's brigade, while the two remaining regiments, First Long Island Volunteers and Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, formed line of battle in the edge of the timber almost perpendicular to the batteries. The enemy appearing in large force on the left, with the obvious intention of charging the batteries, the Long Island and Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers changed front by the left, and forming in front and under the fire of the batteries they held this position under a heavy fire of the enemy until relieved (their ammunition being exhausted) by the Twenty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Neill, who continued a heavy fire upon the enemy until dark, when, 60 rounds per man having been expended, they were relieved by a regiment of General Sickles' brigade.

The First Chasseurs and the Thirty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers meanwhile had been under a heavy fire from the enemy's artillery and infantry, and after expending all their ammunition they were relieved by some regiments of General Hooker's division. The brigade then returned to the position they had occupied in the morning, where they bivouacked until orders were received to take up the line of march. From early in the morning until dark the brigade was exposed to a storm of short and shell from the enemy's batteries and during the afternoon was hotly engaged with a much superior force of the enemy's infantry.

During the heat of the contest, and while the brigade was between the enemy and our own batteries (which were firing over their heads), several unfortunate accidents occurred, which resulted in the loss of several men. In consequence, I was induced to ride up to them, with a view of increasing the elevation of some of the pieces, and again to communicate with the division commander, General Couch, whom I found near by, in a most exposed position, calmly directing the operations of his division, when I informed him of the fact that most of the regiments of my brigade had expended all their ammunition (60 rounds), when a portion of General Hooker's division was ordered to relieve him.

The regiments composing my brigade all acquitted themselves throughout the battle in a highly-commendable manner, and acted, with a very few exceptions, like veterans. If the Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers ever lost anything previously they more than regained it this time. The commanders of regiments-Colonel Shaler, of the First Chasseurs; Colonel Cross, of the First Long Island; Colonel Neill, Twenty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Lieutenant-Colonel Vallee, commanding temporarily Sixty -first Pennsylvania-exhibited a great degree of coolness, and managed their regiments in a most satisfactory manner. Colonel Williams' regiment having been engaged for the greater part of the time farther to the right with General Howe's brigade I am unable to say more than this. From their uniform good conduct in other battles I have no doubt that it and its commander conducted themselves most gallantly.

In alluding to the line officers, I should be doing a great injustice to my personal staff, Lieutenants Appleton and Slipper, were I to omit alluding to their soldierly bearing and promptness in communicating my orders during the hottest of the fight, and of some seven or eight in has been my lot to be engaged in during a long period of military life the hottest of them all. These gentlemen-Lieutenant Appleton particularly-conducted regiments to their respective positions in the coolest and most gallant manner, for which they deserve especial attention.

A tabular account, together with a nominal list of killed, wounded and missing has already been forwarded.

I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant.

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