Report of Col. Silas Colgrove, Twenty-seventh Indiana Infantry.
Hdqrs. Twenty-seventh Regt. Indiana Volunteers,
August 12, 1862.
Sir: I have the honor of submitting the following report of the part taken in the battle of the 9th instant by the Twenty-seventh Regiment Indiana Volunteers:
My regiment occupied the extreme right of our brigade in the position first occupied. I was ordered by you to throw two companies forward and occupy an advanced position. I immediately sent Companies F and C about three-quarters of a mile to our right and front, occupying a high ridge of ground covered with timber, and deployed a part of each company forward about one-quarter of a mile as skirmishers, holding about half of each company on the highest part of the ridges as reserves. From this position the surrounding country for some distance was in plain view, and from the disposition made of the two companies our right was amply secured from surprise by any flank movement of the enemy on our right. Shortly after this disposition had been made of my two companies the artillery on our front and left commenced firing, which continued until about 6 p.m.
At or about this time I received orders from you through your assistant adjutant-general, Captain Scott, for me to form my regiment and march to the front, which order I complied with as promptly as possible. I marched to the front and near the Sixteenth Indiana Battery and was then halted by your command, as I suppose, for some minutes and until I received orders to march to the front and on the right of the Second Massachusetts Regiment. I immediately marched to the front and right to gain my position in compliance with the above order. As soon as I had gained the desired position I halted the regiment and formed line of battle in an open field about 300 yards in front of the foot of the ridge in our front, which was covered with a thick undergrowth and heavy timber. About the time I commenced forming my regiment into line the Third Wisconsin Regiment, or six companies of it, that had been brought into the action some time previous, fell back out of the woods and came down the hill apparently badly cut to pieces, a part of whom rushed through my ranks and delayed me some in forming my line of battle.
As soon as my line was formed I marched to the front in order to bring my regiment into action. To gain the position of the enemy I had to cross an open space of ground of about three yards, though which meandered a small stream, with very deep and steep banks. In crossing this my ranks became considerably broken. I halted the regiment a moment in order to adjust my ranks. At this time you rode up on my right and ordered me forward at double-quick. The regiment moved forward at double-quick time. I think we had at this time about a quarter of a mile to go until we reached the enemy. The shape of the hill and woods was such that it brought my left wing to the foot of the hill and into the woods at least 100 yards before the right wing reached the woods. The hill on my left was also steep and abrupt. From these causes the left wing of my regiment was not able to come into action as promptly as the right. The whole regiment having had to pass through the woods and up hill at double-quick, the result was that no part of the line at any time during the action was as perfect as it should have been. When we had traversed the hill and crossed the woods on its summit we suddenly came to a wheat field. We had scarcely reached the inclosure before the enemy opened a very heavy fire upon us, which was promptly returned by my right wing, the left not having arrived yet upon the line of battle. The enemy appeared to be posted in great numbers in the woods in our front across the field and within rifle-range. They also had skirmishers thrown forward and screened behind the stacks of wheat in the field on my right and nearly at a right angle with my line. The enemy had a regiment drawn up in line of battle, the line extending nearly across the field and facing toward my left. This regiment also opened a cross-fire upon me.
Shortly after the left wing came up and engaged the enemy it was reported to me that we were firing upon our own troops. I saw you at the right of my regiment and rode forward and informed you of my information. You replied that you would ride forward and see. By this time a large portion of my regiment, in consequence of said report, had almost ceased firing. I saw you on the right of my regiment ride forward to the fence and immediately a very heavy fire was opened upon that part of the line by the enemy upon you. I cannot conceive how you possibly escaped it without injury. From this moment the firing of the enemy became heavier along the whole line, I suppose induced by the temporary slacking of the firing in my lines. The firing of the enemy seemed to me to increase. I soon saw symptoms of disorder in my ranks, and in spite of all I could do the regiment fell back, and was not rallied until it reached the open ground on the other side of the woods, a distance of 150 to 200 yards. In rallying and reforming the regiment at this point, and indeed during the whole action, I was aided by yourself and your staff, and particularly Captain Scott, your assistant adjutant-general, whose energy and bravery it is impossible to commend too highly.
My regiment being reformed, we advanced across the hill the second time, and when again near the line of the first battle I halted my men in order to correct and close up my lines and rest them a moment, after which we marched to the front and opened fire upon the enemy. We had fired but one or two rounds when I was informed that the enemy had gained our rear on the right flank. I immediately rode to the right of my line, and by the time I got there I found a regiment of the enemy marching in column by companies a little in front of my line and within 20 steps of my right. I immediately gave the order to my right to change front by the right flank and by file right, which order was obeyed by Company A only. The enemy opened a very heavy fire upon us. My regiment was soon compelled to fall back a second time, and was not rallied until we had retreated to the creek in the bottom. At this point again you in person (and I noticed Captain Wilkins, assistant adjutant-general, of General Williams’ staff, and Captain Scott) assisted me in rallying the regiment. From this point I was order by you to fall back on my original position.
There are many cases of individual bravery, and especially among my non-commissioned officers, that I might mention. The whole conduct of my regiment and officers transpired under your own personal observation, so far as it was possible for one man to observe. I therefore forbear making any special mention of it.
Inclosed is a list of casualties of the regiment during the action.*
Your obedient servant,
Colonel Twenty-seventh Regiment Indiana Volunteers.
General George H. Gordon,
Comdg. Third Brigade, Second Corps, Army of Virginia.
*Embodied in revised statement, p. 137. [Report No. 2.]