Report of Col. Thomas W. Hyde, First Maine Veteran Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, of operations October 19.
HDQRS. THIRD BRIGADE, SECOND DIVISION, SIXTH CORPS,
October 28, 1864.
SIR: In obedience to orders from division headquarters, I have the honor to submit the following report of this brigade during the action of the 19th instant, together with the reports of regimental commanders:
Just before daybreak on the 19th instant, hearing firing on the picket. line on the right, and shortly afterward hearing it on the left, reveille was- sounded, and the brigade held under arms. About 6.30 o'clock orders came from division headquarters to fall in and move out by the left flank at once, and in a few minutes orders came to move out at double-quick and take position on the left of the Second Brigade of this division, in two lines, parallel to the pike. This position was taken up by the regiments of this brigade, the first consisting, from right to left, of the Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, Forty-ninth New York, First Maine Veteran Volunteers; the second, of the Seventy-seventh New York Volunteers, One hundred and twenty-second New York Volunteers, Forty-third New York Volunteers. We were immediately ordered to move forward, and at the same time to hold the right, so that the left should Swing forward and extend across the pike. We had moved but ~ short distance when we were halted and ordered to move bat k anti take position on the crest of the hill just left. This we did, and seeing the enemy moving to our left the regiments were so moved that when they had reached the crest they were formed on the left of the Second Brigade, in one line, in the following order, from right to left: Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, Seventy-seventh New York, Forty-ninth New York Volunteers, First Maine Veteran Volunteers, One bundled and twenty-second New York Volunteers. The Forty-third New York was thrown slightly to the rear, in reserve, on the left. Our line, conforming to the crest of the hill, formed an arc of a circle. Two companies of the First Maine were thrown forward and to the left as skirmishers, and the enemy pressing them strongly and moving past their left (the skirmish line previously thrown out from the Vermont Brigade having retired), they were re-enforccd by two companies of the Forty-third New York Volunteers, and the line extended to the left, connecting with a cavalry skirmish line. The three left regiments, as soon as formed on the hill, threw up a slight breast-work of rails, and the three right regiments sent forward vedettes.
Daring all this time the fog had been very dense, and the smoke from the guns of our skirmishers, who were warmly engaged with the foe, rendered the atmosphere still more dense, so that it was almost impossible to see through it a short distance, when suddenly the enemy appeared in two lines, within thirty yards of our line of battle. The density of the fog had allowed them to rush over our vedettes without their being able to warn the line, and under cover of the steepness of the hill they approached thus near unobserved. Instantly upon seeing the lines, ours was ordered to fire, which they did, and which was returned almost simultaneously by the enemy. Seeing the lines waver a charge was ordered, which was executed in fine style, driving the enemy off the hill, they leaving a number of prisoners in our hands, together with some of their killed and wooded. It was while leading in this charge that the commanding officers of the One hundred and twenty-second New York Volunteers and Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, Maj. J. M. Brower and Capt. D. J. Taylor, were killed, both brave and faithful soldiers. We followed them about 100 yards, when the regiments were ordered hack and directed to reform on the crest of the hill in the position just vacated. Mounted officers (who were afterward said by prisoners to be General Early and staff, and two of whose horses we succeeded in killing) were seen through the mist reforming and urging their men to a second assault, and we had scarcely reformed on the hill when the enemy appeared again on the crest within thirty yards of our lines, and as before, we poured a heavy volley into them, charging, when they fled in the wildest confusio,,. We returned to the hill again, and the enemy opened a very heavy artillery fire upon us. We remained in this position a few moments, when order" came to retire, and General Bidwell went to the right of his line to superintend the movement, when he was mortally wounded by a shell, and a second afterward Capt. G. S. Orr on his staff, lost an arm. Lieut. Col. W. B. French assumed command, and the lines were retired without the slightest confusion or disorder about 300 yards, obliquing toward the Winchester pike. We then took position in one line on a road running perpendicular to the Winchester pike, threw up a breast-work of rails, anti replenished our ammunition During this retrograde movement the enemy did not press wither having received too hot a blast already. Our skirmish line, under command of (captain Sumner, First Maine Volunteers, was wheeled so as to be perpendicular to the Winchester pike, the left resting near it aud the right connecting with the skirmish line of the Second Brigade, and placed under cover of a stone wall.
The main line was again ordered to retire and oblique to the right so as to gain ground toward the Winchester pike. General L. A. Grant ordered a position to be taken on a crest of a hill about one mile and a half in rear of Middletown, but this order was countermanded by General Getty, and the brigade placed in single line about one mile from Middletown, on the right of the Winchester pike and extending across and perpendicular to it, connecting with the Second Brigade on our right and on our left with the cavalry. We then threw up a slight breastwork of rails and remained in this position until 1 p. m., when the Second Brigade was withdrawn, and their position taken up by the Forty-ninth New York. Forty-third New York Volunteers, and a battalion of heavy artillery belonging to a provisional brigade, which had wandered to the front and was ordered by Lieutenant-Colonel French into the position. The Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers were thrown forward as skirmishers, r eating their left on the pike and their right on the skirmishers of the First Maine. About 3.30 p. m. the Second Brigade resumed their former position, and the Forty-third New-York and Forty-ninth New York theirs, and the heavy artillery battalion went to join their command to the rear. About 4 p. m. we were ordered to advance, the line being. then formed from right to left, in the following order: Seventy-seventh, Forty-ninth, One hundred and twenty-second, Forty-third New York Volunteers, First Maine Veteran Volunteers. In advancing we were ordered to guide left on the Winchester pike, but to move very slowly, so as to allow the brigades on the right to gain ground in advancing, that the whole division might execute a change of direction to the left. This brigade was ordered to commence the movement, which was done, but the brigade on our right did not gain ground as fast as was expected, and we had advanced about 250 yards, when the enemy opened on us with canister from a battery behind the mill, and an infantry fire from a line posted behind a stone wall in our front and right, and whose fire upon the troops On our right was masked by houses and the nature of the ground; also a battery on the left opened directly upon that flank. This enfilading artillery fire on both flanks and heavy musketry caused the brigade to waver, and as there was no protection or cover in front we were ordered to fall back, it being intended to retire a short distance until the troops on our right should advance and divide the enemy's fire, but the nature of the ground afforded no cover until the position occupied during the day was reached, where the troops were speedily reformed and advanced at a doublequick, and took possession near Middletown of a stone wall, from behind which we engaged the enemy for a short time, when another charge of the whole line was ordered. We advanced at a double-quick, and when near Middletown the battery which had played into our left was seen in position, and the left of the regiments supporting it not over fifty yards distant from the pike. About twenty men of the Forty-third New York Volunteers and First Maine Veteran Volunteers opened fire on their flank and charged; the battery limbered upend retired at a run, accompanied by the supports. Our men passed through the town, formed themselves again, opened fire on the flank of the same battery, and it was limbered up and ran again to the rear, with its supports, without returning a shot. Pursuit was kept up until we reached the works on the Winchester pike near Cedar Creek, and fire was opened on the confused mass of men and vehicles crossing that stream, and kept up until they were charged upon [by] the cavalry, when the brigade moved back and went into camp on the ground occupied the previous day.
The voice of all present bears witness to the skill with which Lieut. Col. W. B. French, Seventy-seventh New York Volunteers, handled the brigade after the 1amented Bidwell fell and to the gallantry of Major Long, assistant adjutant-general, who by his coolness and good judgment contributed no unimportant part to the success of our arms.
Good service was rendered by Capt. George H. Selkirk, acting assistant inspector-general, by Capt. George S. Orr, acting aide-de-camp, until seriously wounded, and by Lieut. Lemuel C. Small, aide-de-camp.
The behavior of the officers and men was everything that is commendable. When so many deserve a mention, to name a few would but excite invidious comparison.
Herewith appended is a nominal list of casualties. [Not attached]
General D. D. Bidwell, attached to the brigade from its first organization as colonel Forty-ninth New York Volunteers, and endeared to all by his many soldierly virtues, kindness of heart, and sterling patriotism, has at last fallen in the first line of battle.
I am, majors very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Maj. CHABLES MUNDEE,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Division.