Henry F. W. Little.

The Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion online

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earthworks in front of us, and there was not a company

New Hampshire Volunteers. 313

but felt the effects ot' the Confederate tire. As soon as
the charging columns of the enemy began falling back,
many of their men, rather than retreat under such a
deadly fire, came into our lines and surrendered. This
first assault being over, we calmly waited for another
attack, which we felt sure would be made ; but finding
our opposition so determined, no further advance was
attempted by the enemy, who at once began their retreat
in the direction of the Darbytown road and the outer
defenses of Richmond. During the afternoon the regi-
ment was moved out to a point about a mile from our main
line, but did not again come in contact with the enemy.
During the night we were ordered back to the position
where we had fought, and at once commenced the erec-
tion of a line of earthworks for the further protection of
our lines. The Army of the James continued to hold the
line which they had gained, running from the left bank of
the James River across Chapin's Farm to Fort Harrison,
northeasterly across the New Market road, and then retir-
ing until the right again rested on the James River at
Deep Bottom. The casualties of the Seventh New Hamp-
shire in the battle of Laurel Hill were three killed and
fifteen wounded.

Sergt. Otis A. Merrill, of Company H, relates the fol-
lowing incident :

"After the assault of the enemy on our lines at the
battle of Laurel Hill, Va., October 7, 1864, an incident
occurred, which for coolness and bravery I think was not
often excelled, although it was performed by a 'Johnny
Reb.' I was a witness to all that transpired, except that I
did not hear the conversation, but give it as reported at
the time. The enemy had fallen back out of sight in the
woods beyond the open field, and left their dead and
wounded on the ground where they had fallen. Immedi-
ately in our front was a slight hollow, beyond which and

314 History of the Seventh Regiment

about a hundred yards distant the ground again rose to
about the same height as where we were stationed ; on the
edge of the ridge was a narrow strip of old-growth woods,
which was the nearest point the enemy reached on our
left. Beyond and to our left was an open field, over
which the artillery duel had taken place. Some of our
men had volunteered to bring in the wounded and pris-
oners who had preferred remaining behind stumps and
trees, rather than retreat under the fire from our repeating
carbines. The rest of us were standing on or near the
line where we had just repelled the attack. General
Terry was sitting on his horse a short distance in our rear,
when a handsome young ' orderly,' dressed as a Union
cavalry sergeant (but who was a rebel spy), who was
mounted on a fine dark horse, rode up, gave the military
salute to the general, and said: 'General Birney sends
his compliments, and wishes to know what your losses are
and how many horses you have lost that belong to the
artillery. He wishes to have your division ready to move
at a moment's notice, as he is going to advance upon the
enemy at once.' The sergeant spy politely saluted the
general, and turning his horse rode away towards the
front, and rode through the right wing of our reginient, out
among the men picking up the wounded, until he was
clear through the strip of woods ; he was still going on
when someone told him that he had better come back, or
the 'Johnnies' would get him. He was not afraid of that.
He then lay flat upon his horse's back and neck, and
putting spurs to his horse galloped across the field to
where the enemy's artillery was stationed, and was safe.
But few shots were fired at him, as our skirmish line had
not yet been sent out, and most of the men bringing in the
wounded were unarmed, and those of us back on the line
dared not fire for fear of shooting our own men who were
between the spy and ourselves."'

New Hampshire Volunteers. 315

At the battle of Laurel Hill most of the enemy's artil-
lery was placed behind and between some farm-buildings
about a third of a mile from our lines, across an open
tield. In the house there lived a woman and her
little boy, about six or seven years old, who remained
there during the battle. The shells from our batteries
repeatedly went through the house, and one of them shot
otf' a hand of the woman. x\t"ter the battle she and her
son were cared for by our men, and were taken aboard
our hospital steamer on the James River, where she
remained for a long time. The reason given by her for
remaining in the house during the battle was, that if she
left the house, the rebel soldiers would steal her chickens,
which they afterwards did, as well as the buildings, with
which to build winter quarters.

This movement made by the Tenth and Eighteenth
Corps to the north of the James River on the 28th of
September was, undoubtedly, an attempt to enter Rich-
mond by surprise. The plan appears to have been well
laid, but seems to have failed through some unaccountable
accident, such as often disturbs the studied calculations of
the most efficient generals. The defenses north of Rich-
mond had been guarded for some months by less than
three thousand Confederate troops. The number and
position of every regiment and company was well known
at the headquarters of the army, and having been un-
molested by our troops for a long time, they had fallen
into that loose and careless discharge of duty which the
absence of a foe is liable to engender.

It was supposed that the capture of the line of works
across Chapin's Farm had opened the door to the Confed-
erate capital ; but unfortunately for the enterprise, Gen-
eral Ord, who was in command of the Eighteenth Corps
and of the movement on the left by the Varina road, fell,
wounded by a Minie ball, a moment after his first division

3i6 History of the Seventh Regiment

had entered Fort Harrison. By the delay of a day,
caused by General Ord's severe wound, he having in his
pocket the orders for the Eighteenth Corps, the chance
of success was gone, for the rebel generals, Hoke and
Field, with their divisions, had been hurried from the south
of Petersburg to the north of the James ; and after a vain
attempt to regain their lost position, at once guarded
the various approaches to Richmond by new lines of
great strength, which were deemed wholly impregnable to

Early on the morning of the 8th, having a tew moments
of spare time, the writer improved the same by going
over the battle-field of the day before and in the heavy
growth of pines in our immediate front, giving us a rare
chance to see what havoc our brigade of seven-shooters had
made on the rebel lines that had so gallantly charged down
upon us. We found the ground in the woods along our
whole brigade front thickly dotted with the bodies of the
Confederate slain, which as yet our forces had not had
time to bury. The dead lay in the same position in which
they had fallen, and the weather being quite cool, the bodies
were in a much better condition than is usual under such
circumstances. The death wounds we found were re-
ceived in a great variety of places. A few we particularly
noticed were shot through the head, in some cases the
bullet SToing throu