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Lt. Col. Richard C. Bentley's 

Fredericksburg Report

 

Camp near Falmouth, Va.,

December 21, 1862

In compliance with circular of this date, I have the honor to report that at midnight of the 10th instant I was called by a messenger, and, immediately waiting upon Brigadier-General Meagher, was directed to cause reveille to be sounded at 4a.m. of the 11th, and be ready to move in light marching order, with three days’ rations, at 6.30 o’clock.

Accordingly my command was prepared as directed. I had not since my return from the North whither I went wounded from the battle of Antietam been able to mount or perform more than executive and ordinary camp duties. Reported the command at brigade headquarters, and, by the advice of my surgeon, myself, as unable to accompany them, and , by direction, yielded command to Maj. Joseph O’Neill.

Leaving camp, the regiment proceeded to the heights near Phillips house, remaining until evening; then failing to the rear a short distance, bivouacked for the night.

In the morning Friday resumed the position of the day before, and at about 9a.m. proceeded to cross the Rappahannock, and, moving along the river bank to the lower end of the city of Fredericksburg, rested on arms until the morning, then taking position in an adjoining street within the town. Here line of battle was formed with 48 files and color-guard and 18 commissioned officers; the Sixty-ninth and Eighty-eighth New York and Twenty-eighth Massachusetts Volunteers upon the right and the One hundred and sixteenth Pennsylvania on the left. Remained in this position some length of time, the enemy shelling briskly, wounding 3 men of the regiment seriously. Brigadier-General Meagher, commanding the brigade, here directed the formation to be changed, placing the Sixty-third Regiment on the extreme left.

At near 1 o’clock moved by the flank up the street, and, filing to the left, came upon the narrow bridge crossing the mill-race under a severe and destructive fire from the enemy’s artillery. A portion of the regiment crossed the bridge, but with difficulty, and to save time (under so heavy a fire) a goodly part of the officers and men forded the race and clambered up the bank, and lying, rested a few minutes to allow all to cross and come upon the line. Then advancing double-quick about 50 yards, came upon a line of troops lying upon the ground, considerably obstructing the advance, but moved forward over them at a run encountering an unfinished and abandoned earthwork, dividing the right and left wings, which, however, after passing, reunited, the left moving by the flank, continuing the advance in line to and passing the advanced line of skirmishers near the crest of the slope, when the infantry of the enemy appeared within short range, covered by a stone wall and earthworks. The line was halted, fired and lying down, continued the fire until relieved by the Eighty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers. During this time the regiment was constantly under a heavy fire from the enemy’s artillery, their sharpshooters from every cover within range, and the infantry in front.

From reports from reliable officers, I am pleased to say the officers and men behaved with coolness and bravery under trying circumstances and obeyed orders with promptness

While passing the abandoned work, or immediately thereafter, Maj. Joseph O’Neill, then in command, received a serious wound in the right arm, and, leaving the field, the command devolved to upon Capt. P.J. Condon, who conducted the regiment with skill.

After being relieved regularly, the remnant of the regiment, with the colors, came off the field, halting, by order of General Meagher, at the heads of the streets of the city where the brigade rallied and marched to the street from which it moved in the morning, near the hospitals of the brigade. During this march Capt. John Sullivan received a wound in the thigh from a round shot, from which he died on Monday night, the only officer killed. The loss in this regiment (a list * of which has been forwarded) was 1 officer and 1 enlisted man killed, 6 officers and 32 enlisted men wounded, and 4 enlisted men missing. One of the latter has since returned, having been taken prisoner and paroled.

Unable as I was to be present with the regiment as I have ever before been with it, and wish always to be), my report may be meager; but having submitted it to several officers, I am assured that in the main it is correct.

To attempt to speak of and enumerate the officers would be fulsome, as they have all distinguished themselves on other fields in my presence and received honorable mention therefor. In Major O’Neill I lose for a time the services of a brave and valuable assistant in the field. No braver or cooler heart and head could there be in so terrible a place. Capt. R.P. Moore, too, is one of our oldest, and most valuable officers; while in Lieutenant McDonald, acting adjutant, I lose a good soldier, and so well acquainted with the details of the office I scarce know how to replace him.

My thanks are due to Captains Condon, Cartwright, and Gleeson and Lieutenant Dwyer, more fortunate that their comrades, for the conspicuous part they performed in conducting the regiment through and out of so severe a contest.

With much regard, I am, very respectfully,

R.C. BENTLEY,
Lieutenant-Colonel, 63rd New York Infantry

Commanding Regiment.

Lieut. John J. Blake,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

 

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