December 13, 1862
53rd PVI Casualties
From the Official Records:
DECEMBER 11-15, 1862.–Battle of Fredericksburg, Va. No. 76.–Reports of Col. John R. Brooke, Fifty-third Pennsylvania Infantry.
FALMOUTH, VA., December 19, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to report the following as the substance of the occurrences through which my regiment passed during the recent battle of Fredericksburg:
On the morning of the 11th of December, we moved out of Falmouth before daylight, and, joining the brigade, were marched to a position near the Phillips house, where we remained all night. Early next morning we marched down to and over the bridge into Fredericksburg. Shortly after arriving at our assigned position in the town, the regiment was advanced as skirmishers, and, meeting the skirmishers of the enemy on the outskirts of the town, drove them back, losing 1 man during the action. About 2 o’clock, the regiment being relieved, was withdrawn, and joined the brigade on the river bank, where it remained all night.
The following morning, December 13, we were drawn up in line in Main street. At 12.30 p.m. I received the order of Colonel Zook to march up the railroad, and upon reaching the outskirts of town to bear to the right and form in rear of General French’s last line, which being done in good order, the line advanced to the front, passed the junction of the roads, and moved steadily forward to within 60 yards of the enemy’s rifle-pits, the whole advance being made under a deadly shower of canister and musket balls. Finding it impossible to advance farther, I threw the right wing into and behind the houses, beyond the forks of the road; then gradually withdrawing the left, I threw the whole force remaining behind and into the houses referred to, keeping up an incessant fire upon the enemy’s lines, until the cartridges were all exhausted. During the action the right was severely assailed, and sending to the colonel commanding notice of the fact, I soon saw the gallant Colonel Miles, of General Caldwell’s brigade, coming to my support. I directed him to place his regiment on the right of the road, which he immediately did, but not a moment too soon, as the enemy were evidently trying to turn our right. I sent several times for relief to the colonel commanding, one officer being shot down while carrying the message. As none came, I did not retire, but, when all the ammunition of living, dead, and wounded was exhausted, fixed bayonets, and stood fast, determined to hold the point to the last. After a time, I went in person to Colonel Owen, commanding a brigade in General Howard’s division, and asked for men, to return the fire of the enemy, which was harassing us greatly. The men were sent, and did good service.
I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of my officers and men. Captains Coulter and Eicholtz and Lieutenants (commanding companies) Shields, Potts, and Smith were badly wounded, while gallantly leading on their men. Lieutenant Cross fell mortally wounded, while bravely cheering on the men. The wounded invariably threw their cartridge-boxes to their comrades before leaving the field, and would then retire alone.
Of those who escaped unhurt I cannot speak too well. It is sufficient that they did their duty. I would respectfully request honorable mention of Lieut. W. D. W. Miller, aide-de-camp, of General Hancock’s staff, whose gallantry is beyond all praise. I would also add that the Twenty-seventh Connecticut Volunteers deserve all praise for the gallant manner in which they conducted themselves. The colonel commanding knows well how hard the men fought, it being directly under his own eye.
Lists of killed and wounded have already been sent forward. I will only say that my loss was 155.
I also found men of Kimball’s brigade in the front.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant
JOHN R. BROOKE,
Colonel Fifty-third Pennsylvania.
Lieut. CHARLES P. HATCH,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
FALMOUTH, VA., December 19, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to report that, in obedience to orders from headquarters right grand division, I proceeded, on the morning of December 7, 1862, with a large detail of the different regiments of the command, to the battle-field in front of Fredericksburg, Va., where I found and buried 913 of our soldiers, and brought to this side of the river the bodies of 5 officers, making a total of 918. Nearly all the dead were stripped entirely naked by the enemy.
I would also report that those bodies nearest the enemy’s works were recognized as belonging to Kimball’s brigade, of French’s division, and to the different regiments of Hancock’s division. The burying occupied two days.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN R. BROOKE,
Colonel Fifty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers.
Lieut. Col. J. H. TAYLOR,
Chief of Staff and Assistant Adjutant-General.
compiled by Scott Kunkle & Joel Peterson, 1999