October 14, 1863
From the Official Records:
OCTOBER 9-22, 1863–The Bristoe, Virginia, Campaign.
No. 28. –Report of Col. John R. Brooke, Fifty-third Pennsylvania Infantry, commanding Fourth Brigade.
HDQRS. FOURTH BRIG., FIRST DIV., SECOND CORPS,
October 17, 1863.
MAJOR: I have the honor to communicate the following statement of the late actions and operations in which my command was engaged on the 14th instant, it being on that day rear guard of the corps:
On the morning of the 14th, I had been assigned position at Auburn, on the left of the First Brigade, and had been there about half an hour when, at 6.45 a.m., the enemy opened a very brisk shelling upon our position, my command being in perfect range of their fire, which, although coming from our rear, in no wise intimidated, though it somewhat disconcerted the troops. As quickly as possible I put my command under cover of the hill. At 7 a.m. the firing ceased, the enemy having been driven off by the Third Division.
I here received from the general commanding division orders to place my brigade in position to cover the front, which was done in the following order: The Fifty-third Pennsylvania, Second Delaware, and Fifty-seventh New York (the latter had been detached from the Third and assigned to my brigade that morning), being deployed as skirmishers; the Fifty-seventh New York being on the right; the One hundred and forty-fifth Pennsylvania and Sixty-fourth New York I held in reserve as support to the line, the latter on the right. I maintained this position with slight skirmishing until the whole corps had retired, sending in the meantime intelligence to the general commanding division that a heavy column of infantry and artillery was moving in a line parallel to our line of march.
I now withdrew my line and moved to the rear, followed by the enemy, who pressed upon my skirmishers. I had not moved more than a quarter of a mile when I was attacked on my right and rear, the enemy succeeding in throwing a column of infantry across the road, and cutting off the Fifty-seventh New York, which was in the rear of my column. Lieutenant-Colonel Chapman, commanding the latter regiment, proved himself equal to the emergency, and by promptly moving to the left, by a slight détour, succeeded in soon rejoining the column, with but slight loss. I held the enemy at bay on my right and rear by fighting him sharply with my flankers and skirmishers, and finally drove him by my fire into the woods on my right. The attack consisted of a heavy line of skirmishers, followed by two lines of battle, the first showing five regiments. By the steadiness of our fire, I so impeded the enemy’s movements that he relinquished the pursuit.
Coming up with the main column of the corps about 2 miles from Catlett’s Station, I formed my command to cover the approaches to my position, placing Lieutenant Hunt’s section of artillery in position to command the road, which was here assigned to my command. I remained here until the main body had moved and was well on its way, when I followed it toward the railroad to Catlett’s Station. Upon arriving at the high ground there, I received an order from the division commander to remain at this point until the rear of the main column had passed out of sight, which I did.
Resuming the march, I proceeded cautiously toward Bristoe Station. It soon became evident that a battle was being fought at or near the latter place, and I pushed on with all the speed possible. I was soon after met by Captain Marlin, acting assistant inspector-general of the division, who brought me orders to push on as rapidly as possible. I at once urged my troops forward, who, although much jaded, exerted themselves to the utmost, and we soon arrived on the ground, when I was at once placed on the left of the Irish (Second)Brigade. My line was placed in the railroad cut, the bank of which formed an admirable defense, which I made more secure by erecting a strong barricade across the cutting on my left.
Without loss of time. I had thrown out the Sixty-fourth New York as skirmishers, to the front, who soon came in contact with the enemy, and, though nearly half of the regiment consisted of men who had but recently joined under the enrollment act, they steadily maintained their ground, and behaved with the gallantry that has been so often before displayed by the Sixty-fourth New York, repelling every assault of the enemy with the coolness and determination of veterans. The enemy advanced twice upon my position, but, from some unexplained cause, retired without attacking. Nothing of moment occurred after this, the march being resumed at about 9 p.m., and continued until about 4 a.m. of the 15th, when we went into bivouac on the present ground.
I cannot speak too highly of the cool and brave conduct of officers and men, in the execution of the severe and trying duties that devolved on my command.
All behaved gallantly, and I would respectfully ask for them the notice of the general commanding.
Inclosed herewith I have the honor to forward list of casualties.(*)
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN R. BROOKE,
Colonel, Commanding Brigade.
Maj. JOHN HANCOCK,
compiled by Scott Kunkle & Joel Peterson, 1999