Report of Brig. Gen. Zealous B. Tower, U. S. Army, commanding Second Brigade.
Hdqrs. 2d Brig., 2d Div., 3d Army Corp, Army of Va.,
August 14, 1862.
Sir: I have the honor to report, for the information of the general commanding the division, that Saturday, at 5 o’clock, in obedience to his orders, my brigade left camp, 2 miles south of Culpeper, and advanced on the Orange Court House road 3 ½ miles. At that point the brigade was by direction broken directly to the right, and marched a half mile into position in line of battle in front of the enemy’s left. After examining the position, two batteries were placed on the hill-slope, where my right had rested, two of my regiments, Twenty-sixth New York Volunteers, Colonel Christian, and Eighty-Eighth Pennsylvania, Colonel McLean, deployed en potence, supported them on the right hand, and two regiments, Ninetieth Pennsylvania, Colonel Lyle, and Ninety-fourth New York Volunteers, Colonel Root, supported them on the left.
Although this position was within musket-range of the enemy’s left he did not open fire upon us. No orders were given me to commence an attack, and this was probably prudent, as the position of the enemy, his strength, and the nature of the ground he occupied were unknown, and could not be ascertained in the night. At one time I gave orders for opening with the batteries, but hearing that General Carroll’s brigade was entering woods on my left countermanded the order, fearing that the fire of these batteries might injure our own forces. All the regiments of my command marched promptly to their positions, formed in good order, and were cool and ready for action. Only one soldier of the Eighty-eighth Pennsylvania Regiment, commanded by Colonel McLean, was wounded.
At 3 o’clock a. m. General McDowell gave me orders to withdraw into the woods to the rear of my first position to cover the right of the new line of battle, then being formed to meet the enemy in the morning should he renew the attack. This order was promptly executed. I have no doubt that the firm stand taken by this division, commanded by general Ricketts, and the prompt and accurate fire of the batteries on the left, checked the enemy’s advance, threw them into confusion, silenced their batteries, and caused the retreat of their right.
In the morning I returned to the position occupied by my troops during the night in company with General Bayard and his command of cavalry, reconnoitered the enemy’s position, and hurried the removal of some wounded men from the hospital belonging to General Gordon’s brigade.
About 7 o’clock Sunday morning, the 10th, orders were sent me by General McDowell to move with the brigade to the Madison road to meet the reported advance of the enemy. This order was promptly obeyed. Colonel Christian’s regiment led, followed by Colonel Lyle, Colonel Root, and Colonel McLean, and two pieces of artillery, a portion of General Bayard’s cavalry in advance. From the reports forwarded by the cavalry I expected to find the enemy near at hand, but it soon became apparent that the enemy’s numbers had been magnified. Colonel Christian’s regiment was therefore pushed forward, and two companies of skirmishers thrown out to the right and left, Colonel Lyle supporting at the cross-roads and the other regiments near at hand. I went forward to the second cross-roads, where was a detachment of cavalry. No enemy in sight. General Bayard was requested by me to send forward his cavalry and scour the country on both roads for the distance of 1 mile. Having thus advanced nearly 3 miles on the Madison road and found no forces of the enemy, by orders from General McDowell my brigade was withdrawn and resumed its position of the morning.
It gives me pleasure to state that my men marched rapidly forward when ordered without straggling, and that both officers and men were eager for the fight, cool, and determined.
My adjutant-general, Captain Arrowsmith, and my aide, Lieutenant Fessenden, were intelligently active, and gave me great assistance in the movements of the regiments.
Dr. Cox, my brigade surgeon, was detained in Culpeper to take charge of hospitals, for which he was eminently suited by his experience and skill as a surgeon. The brigade quartermaster, Lieutenant Gerker, and the brigade commissary, Captain Jones, have been vey active and attentive to their respective duties both while the troops were in camp and during marches, and the surgeons have given great assistance to the wounded of General Banks’ corps.
Dr. Smith, of the Ninety-fourth, and Dr. Steele, of the Twenty-sixth New York Volunteers, were occupied part of the first night in the care of the wounded of General Gordon’s brigade.
Z. B. TOWER,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Second Brigade.