Report of Colonel Patrick Kelly, Eighty-Eighth New York Infantry.
Camp near Falmouth, VA., December 20, 1862.
Captain: In accordance with orders from headquarters right grand division, Army of the Potomac, the Eighty-eighth New York Volunteers left camp on the morning of the 11th, and proceeded toward the pontoon bridge, arriving in the vicinity of General Sumner’s headquarters about 10 a.m., where they were halted, with the rest of Hancock’s division, and remained there until about 4 p.m., when, by order of General Meagher, they advanced about 1 mile, where they bivouacked for the night in a wood.
Early next morning we again resumed our line of march toward the pontoon bridge, which we crossed, arriving in Fredericksburg without an accident, and took up a position in the street next the river, where we remained that day and right. At nightfall an order was received from General Couch that no fires should be lighted, which order was willingly and uncomplainingly complied with by my men.
Again, on Saturday morning, the men were under arms, and marched about a half a mile to the right of the position they occupied the night previous, where they formed line of battle, in connection with the other regiments of the brigade, between the hours of 10 and 11 a.m., as near as I can judge. We marched by the right flank, crossing the mill-race on a single bridge, where we filed to the right and reformed line of battle under a terrific enfilading artillery fire from the enemy. We then advanced in line of battle under a most galling and destructive infantry fire, crossed two fences, and proceeded as far as the third fence, where my men maintained their position until their ammunition was exhausted, and more than one-half of the regiment killed and wounded. At this fence Colonel Byrnes, of the Twenty-eighth Massachusetts Volunteers, and myself agreed to go over the field and collect the remnants of our regiments, which we did, meeting in the valley near the mill-race. Marching from thence to the street from which we started, we reported with our regiments and colors to Brigadier-General Meagher. He (General Meagher) being under the impression he had permission to remove his wounded to the other side of the river, so as to avoid the fire of the enemy, ordered those men of his brigade who were still unhurt to convey their wounded comrades over, which they did, and bivouacked there for the night.
Early next morning, in accordance with orders from General Hancock, were recrossed the river and took up the position we occupied the night previous, holding the same until the night of December 15, when we recrossed the river and proceeded to the camp which we left Thursday, December 11, where we now are.
I cannot close this report without saying a few words with regard to the officers and men of my regiment. That the officers did their duty is fully evident from their loss, having 4 killed and 8 wounded. The gallantry and bravery of the men is too plainly visible in their now shattered and broken ranks, having lost on that day about 111 killed and wounded.*
I am, Colonel, most respectfully, yours,
Colonel Eighty-eighth New York Vols., Meagher’s Irish Brigade.
Captain William G. Hart,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.