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Charles Merrill Transcript
[Extracts from Colonel Merrill’s Official Report]
The 17th Maine crossed the Rappahannock at the United States Ford, on Friday May 1st, and arrived at Chancellorsville about 5: P.M. Soon after, we were formed in line of battle, but the firing at the front ceasing, we were marched with the Brigade and bivouacked near the plank road leading to Culpepper.
On Saturday afternoon (May2nd) the Regiment took part in a reconnaissance to the front with the 3rd Brigade, during which we were exposed to a brisk shelling from the enemy and had four men slightly wounded. While engaged upon this duty, the force of the enemy passed to our rear and at night occupied the camping ground we had left. By orders from Superior Head Quarters the Regiment under my command was placed with a portion of Ward’s Brigade in a column under command of Col. Egan 40th New York Vols. to take part in a night attack upon the enemy in order to regain the position lost by our forces during the afternoon.
The column was formed at 9 P.M. and marched, on the left of the line, supporting the general line advanced at that time by the 3rd Army Corps. Our course led us into a narrow road through dense woods – The enemy soon opened on us a severe musketry fire in front and on both flanks. The regiment in advance and the head of our Regt. was temporarily thrown into confusion – but the left wing remained firm. When we were formed into column we had received orders not to fire until the 40th wheeled into line. In this position we could do nothing, and were forced back for a short distance. The column was reformed and again advanced meeting with a fire from the enemy concealed in the woods – no one knew the exact position of the enemy’s forces and we were ordered by Col. Egan to form a line of battle facing to the right, but as it was though that our own forces were in that direction, the line of the 17th was formed facing to the left. The formation was scarcely completed before we received a volley of musketry from our front, which we returned with vigor. Soon after by order of General Ward, the forces with which we acted were withdrawn and our Reg’t bivouacked in the field near the woods. In this affair the 17th sustained a loss of one (1) killed – seven (7) wounded and eighteen missing. A brass field piece and four caissons left in the woods by the enemy, captured from our forces in the afternoon, was drawn back and delivered to Capt. Randolph by a detachment from this regiment.
On Sunday morning May 3rd this regiment rejoined its Brigade and while forming into line of battle, the enemy opened the fight which lasted through the day – We were ordered to the support of the batteries in the field, exposed to a heavy crossfire of artillery and musketry from which we suffered severely.
By order of Gen. Birney, the Reg’t changed position to repel an advance of the enemy occupying a hill in the middle of the field thus gaining time for the removal of the artillery. Soon after the Brigade was ordered from the field to the road in the rear of the large brick house occupied formerly as Head Quarters of Maj. Gen. Hooker. While retiring the Reg’t was divided and separated by other troops, and one portion under Major West, supported Randolph’s battery in a new position, the other portion with myself passing to the rear re-formed and returned, and the Reg’t re-united, for the remainder of the day supported the batteries on our front.
In this battle, the Reg’t sustained a loss of three killed, and forty nine wounded and 17 missing. – We have to mourn the loss of 1st Lieut. Johnson Co. H who fell mortally wounded while in the discharge of his duty upon the field – He was a faithful soldier and was beloved by all. Capt. Golderman Act. Major was severely wounded in one of his legs – Capt. Merrill Co. G in the arm, Lt. Brown Co. A, in the leg. Lt. Lord Co. K was badly wounded by a shell, and has suffered amputation of one foot.
At sunset we were ordered to the front of our line and posted to support the batteries; remaining all night. On Monday the Reg’t was engaged in throwing up earthworks and had one man wounded. May 5th Col. Roberts returned to duty and the Regiment was placed under his command.
The officers and men of this Regiment in all these occasions behaved nobly and I trust have maintained the reputation of the “Old Brigade of which they are the youngest members.
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