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Captain Patrick J. Condon's

fredericksburg Report

 

Near Falmouth, Va., December 24, 1862.

SIR: In compliance with a verbal request from division headquarters Hancock's, I have the honor to report, as accurately as my memory and the very few notes I penciled at the time furnishes me, with the action of my regiment in the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13.

We leave camp at about 9a.m. Thursday, December 11, under command of Maj. Joseph O'Neill, Colonel Fowler being yet, I believe, in hospital from the effects of a wound received at the battle of Antietam, and Lieutenant-Colonel Bentley, who was also wounded at Antietam, and recently returned, suffering from indisposition, remaining sick in camp. We bivouac for the night, with the other regiments of the brigade on a small hillock, surrounded by trees, about 1 mile this side of the river.

Friday, December 12, cross on pontoon bridge early this morning, without loss or accident, the regiments of the brigade in the following order, viz: Sixty-ninth New York Volunteers, Eighty-eighth New York Volunteers, Twenty-eighth Massachusetts, Sixty-third New York Volunteers, and the One Hundred Sixteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Arriving in Fredericksburg, the head of the column file to the left along the southern bank of the river, and form by battalion closed in mass on the dock, where we stack arms for the night without fire.

Saturday, December 13, all quiet, until 9.30 o'clock this morning, when heavy cannonading is heard on our left. At 10a.m. my regiment is ordered by General Meagher to exchange positions with the One hundred and sixteenth Pennsylvania, and bring up the left or rear of the brigade. This movement was effected while we were drawn up in line of battle on the first regular street next and parallel to the river, immediately after losing 2 men, where the center of our regiment halted on a cross street. Between 11a.m. and noon the brigade is ordered into action. We are addressed by General Meagher, who informs us we are to support French's division. A few minutes after, the brigade moved by the left flank, filing to the right and left around half a dozen streets, until we top over the crest of a hill under a heavy cannonade along the right-hand sidewalk to the mill-race or canal. The fire on us here is galling and destructive.

I see General Hancock riding along on the left-hand sidewalk opposite me, hunting up stragglers 4 or 5, who were sheltering themselves by a house on the left. We cross the canal, some dashing through, up to their hips in water, the three temporary planks thrown across it not affording sufficient accommodation under such a heavy fire as we experienced. Immediately on the south side of the canal, and while yet on the double-quick, we formed into line of battle, and marched, I should think about 50 yards, up another slope, and lay down behind a regiment of French's division, to breath and collect the scattered. One minute or so sufficed, when we again took up the line of battle, marching over the recumbent bodies of the last regiment alluded to.

The Sixty-third, after a few paces' march, met with an obstacle which divided its center, causing the right wing to oblique to the right and the left wing to the left. The obstacle passed, I took charge of the left wing and marched it by the right flank, or, more properly, a right oblique, in a run , to form in line with the right wing. Passed by General Meagher here, waving his sword and closing us in. By the time the junction was formed, we were in hot contest with the enemy, the skirmishers, who were in advance, joining in our ranks. The firing and loading, as far as me eye could detect, was executed kneeling and lying along our line after the first volley.

After being engaged, I think, three-quarters of an hour, I saw Caldwell's brigade advancing to our relief in a perfect line of battle; the two regiments of his brigade on the left that struck my eye were advancing nobly in our rear, and, when arrived on our line, some few lay down amongst our thinned ranks and commenced firing over our heads, but were immediately ordered to cross over our line, which they did, only to fall back again in less than two minutes. I looked around and saw General Caldwell about 4 paces in my rear, ineffectually endeavoring to rally his brigade. A sergeant of the regiment pointed out to me our flag falling back. Two of my company were wounded alongside of me, one of whom I tucked under my arm and consigned the other to the care of another member of my company. With 7 men and these 2 wounded, I retired, meeting the colonel of the Twenty-eighth Massachusetts, with about 10 men of his regiment and one flag. We shook hands, he Colonel Byrnes remarking our brigade was gone, meaning cut up. I recrossed the mill-race, still bearing this wounded man with me, and followed by the other men of our regiment, under a fusilading fire from cannon and sharpshooters, and marched up the street on the sidewalk, then the right-hand one of the road we traveled about 500 yards; and on a cross-road, to the right from the canal, we overtook our colors, in the hands of Sergeant Chambers, of Company I. Captains Sullivan and Gleeson and Lieutenants Dwyer, Quirk, Higgins, Flynn, and Daidy were there with 11 men. General Meagher was there on horseback, and said that this should be the rallying point of the brigade. In two or three minutes this place became too hot for us, so we marched down the street toward the position we occupied in the lower part of the city before going into action. On our march down, at the very place we had lost the 2 men in the morning, a solid shot came bounding over the hill and struck Captain Sullivan in the thigh from the effects of which he since died), throwing me down, who was at his left elbow, marching a few paces at the head of the remnant of the regiment.

Major O'Neill was wounded, as near as I can learn, about the time I was rectifying the division of our regiment in the center, caused by the obstacle mentioned in my remarks, convenient to where we crossed French's line. Of this I am not certain, as nobody told me until we were relieved by Caldwell's brigade and falling back.

Allow me to state that the loss of our gallant major was felt by all, and by no one more so than myself, for, indeed, he was a gallant and intrepid soldier, ever prompt and brave, exacting, but kind and generous with all. The unavoidable absence of Colonel Fowler and Lieutenant-Colonel Bentley at such a time was, I am sure, as much regretted by them as by us, for they are and have proved themselves as true and valiant soldiers as we can desire. Poor Captain Sullivan is gone, but his name and deeds in connection with his regiment and brigade will live in history. Of the other officers and men of the regiment I will not speak, as they all have done their part and nobly, and even the humblest private may be styled a hero.

One hour after returning to the dock the report of the regiment stood thus: Thirty muskets and 8 commissioned officers present; 1 commissioned officer killed and 7 wounded; 1 enlisted man killed and 32 wounded.

I counted fifty files, including corporals, going into action. We crossed the pontoon bridge during the night with our wounded, bivouacking where we had spent the night of the 11th, on this side of the river.

Sunday, December 14, 9a.m., cross over to Fredericksburg again. Remain there until midnight, December 15, when we retreat over the bridge, and march to our former and present camp.

December 16, Lieutenant-Colonel Bentley came to camp, and I resigned the command to him.

Very respectfully,

P.J. CONDON
Captain, Company G, Sixty-third New York Vols., Irish Brigade

 

 

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