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Adjutant and Inspector General Reports

1864 Report

Troops in the Field

Seventeenth Infantry Regiment

The SEVENTEENTH REGIMENT, although a new organization, and placed in the front of the fiercest battles of the campaign, when it had been but fourteen days in the field, had shown itself worthy to stand by the side of the "Old Brigade," and has made for itself a record, such as is customary for Vermont soldiers.

Companies A, B, C, D, E, F and G left the State on the 18th of April, under command of Lieut. Col. Charles Cummings, and arrived at Alexandria, Va., on the 22d, where they were assigned to the 2d Brigade, 2d Division, 9th Army Corps, commanded by Col. Griffin of the Sixth New Hampshire. They marched from Alexandria on the 27th to Bristow Station, and thence, on the 4th of May, to Bealton Station, on the 5th they crossed the Rappahannock and the Rapidan, and at 2 A. M., on the 6th, leading the Corps, advanced along the plank road leading from Germania Ford to the battle-field of the Wilderness. At sunrise the regiment was in line of battle on the right of the brigade. At 9 A. M. they advanced through a dense pine thicket and drove the enemy from behind a rail fence, which they had occupied during the morning, and held the position during the forenoon, under a sharp fire of musketry and artillery, repulsing a charge made by the enemy upon both flanks to regain the position. At noon the regiment was moved about a mile to the left, and placed upon the right of an extended line, then forming for a charge upon the enemy posted behind log breastworks in a thick wood. Here the regiment was exposed to a galling musketry fire, during which Lieut. Col. Cummings was wounded, and the command devolved upon Major William B. Reynolds. At 2 P. M. the charge was ordered, and the enemy driven from his position. Maj. Reynolds in his report, says, that "no colors were advanced beyond those of this regiment." The regiment had been drilled as a battalion but twice; but all accounts agree, that, though ignorant of tactics, the men fought with the utmost heroism. The casualties in this engagement were, -- Killed 9; Wounded 64; Missing 7; Total 80. Owing to the prevalence of measles in the regiment, in numbered, on the morning of the engagement, but 313 muskets. I annex the Report of Maj. Reynolds in Appendix C.

On the 10th of May, the regiment advanced towards Spotsylvania, and occupied, on the 11th, a position before the intrenchments of the enemy. At 4 A. M. on the 12th they advanced to the attack, and at 5 A. M. met the enemy in line of battle outside of his entrenchments, and immediately engaged them. The enemy were in a ravine, the crest in front of which was occupied by the regiment, and were unable either to retreat, or to drive the regiment from its position. At 7 A. M., having exhausted their ammunition, they were relieved by the 48th Pa. Vols. and retired about twenty paces, while ammunition was brought forward. In this affair the enemy lost severely. At 11 A. M. an advance was made upon the enemy's works, across an open field, and under a heavy fire; but the troops upon the right having been repulsed, the regiment withdrew to its former position. Several attempts were made by the enemy to dislodge them by a battery distant about 400 yards, but the position was held, the gunners shot down at their guns, and the battery finally silenced.

At night the position was made secure by a slight parapet of rails, logs and earth, and was occupied by the regiment, under constant fire, until 2 A. M., on the 19th, when they were withdrawn about three miles to the left. Major Reynolds, in his Report, says, --"Of the conduct of the regiment on all occasions I cannot speak too highly. Called so recently from their homes to such a bloody discipline, the officers and men of the regiment have evinced a courage and an endurance worthy of veterans." The casualties were sever: -- Killed, 10; Wounded, 3 officers and 57 enlisted men; Total 70. I annex in Appendix C, the report of Maj. Reynolds.

On the 24th of May the regiment, with the brigade to which it was attached, crossed the North Anna River, remaining on the south side of the river until the 26th, when they re-crossed and marching easterly crossed the Pamunkey, at Dabney's Ferry, near Hanover Town, o the night of the 28th. On the 3d of June, the 2nd Brigade was brought up to the support of the 1st Brigade in a vigorous assault upon the enemy's intrenced position. The Seventeenth was o the right of the line, which was wheeled forward, at right angles with the main line. Being subjected to an enfilading fire from the right, two companies were detached and sent to the right, to assist the skirmishers, and soon silenced the fire in their front. There was found to be a strong rifle pit in front of the line, filled with the enemy, and a masked battery; and the brigade, not receiving the support which was expected, withdrew, firing vigorously all the time. The officers and men behaved gallantly. Capt. A. J. Davis, of Company B, one of the most active and reliable officers in the regiment, received a wound, of which he soon after died. The casualties in the regiment from the 20th of May to the 6th of June were 2 officers wounded, one of whom subsequently died, and 2 enlisted men killed, and 30 wounded, of whom 3 died immediately after; Total 24. The regiment was under fire nearly every day. I annex in Appendix C, the Report of Lt. Col. Cummings.

On the 8th of June Company H, joined the regiment, with 57 effective men.

On the 12th of June, the Ninth Corps left their entrenchments near Cold Harbor and arrived near James River on the night of the 14th, crossed the river at 11 P. M. of the 15th and at noon of the 16th, after a march of 22 miles, arrived near Petersburgh. At 6 P. M. the Second Brigade, to which the regiment was attached, was drawn up in line of battle to support a portion of the Second Corps, then about to make a charge. The charge proving unsuccessful, the regiment was moved to the right, and at three o'clock the next morning, the enemy's works were charged and carried, the Seventeenth Regiment having the right of the front line of the Second Brigade, and after marching p a steep hill, charging impetuously forward, driving in the enemy's skirmishers, and carrying a strong line of earthworks, full manned, and capturing two guns, a caisson, six horses, seventy prisoners, and the Color4s and Adjutant of the 17th Tennessee. The officers and men of the regiment distinguished themselves for their gallantry in this charge, and won high commendation. The casualties were five killed and sixteen wounded. Among the killed was Lieut. Guy H. Guyer, one of the most gallant and faithful officers of the regiment. I annex in Appendix C, the detailed report of Lieut. Col. Cummings, and also the General Order issued by Maj. Gen. Burnside, in reference to this brilliant assault.

The regiment continued in advanced works, and most of the time under a hot fire, until the 20th of June. The casualties subsequent to the engagement above mentioned, were as follows: -- In the earthworks, June 17th, Killed 1, Wounded 4; -- On skirmish line, June 18th, Wounded 4: -- In the earthworks, June 19th, Killed 4, Wounded 1: -- Total from June 8th to June 20th, Killed 10, Wounded 25.

From June 20th to July 29th the regiment was constantly in active service, and suffered loss nearly every day. The casualties between those two dates were: Killed 5; Wounded 27; Total, 32.

On the 30th of July, the Seventeenth Regiment, under command of Major Reynolds, constituted a portion of the force, which made the gallant but unfortunate charge upon the enemy's works, immediately after the blowing up of one of the enemy's forts by means of a mine previously prepared. The first line of works, including the demolished fort, were carried with but little loss; but upon the farther advance, the enemy poured so terrific a fire of case and cannister, that the troops were thrown into confusion and compelled to seek protection in the trenches and the ruins of the fort, where they were attacked in front and flank and driven back to their original position. The Seventeenth behaved gallantly and their loss was very severe. The brave Major Reynolds fell, while gallantly leading his men. His death was a loss to the regiment, which can hardly be repaired. Recently promoted to the position of Major, he joined the regiment, when at Alexandria, and in every conflict of the campaign he was in the front of danger, ever ready to cheer on his men. He was beloved and deeply mourned by them. Lieuts. William E. Martin and John R. Converse, both brave and promising young officers, were also killed. Of the eight commissioned officers, who went into the engagement, not one returned. The casualties were as follows; -- Commissioned officers, Killed 3, Wounded 1, Missing 4; Total. 8. Enlisted men, Killed 3, Wounded 23, Missing 17; Total 43; Aggregate 51. I annex the report, in detail, of Lieut. Col. Cummings in Appendix C.

On the 13th of August the regiment was strengthened by the addition of Company I, numbering 87 men.

The regiment has continued in the lines in front of Petersburgh. On the 30th of September, the Second Division was attacked by the enemy, and the Seventeenth Regiment again met with severe loss. No detailed report of the part taken by the regiment has been received; but I am assured, that both officers and men manifested their usual coolness and intrepidity. The casualties were as follows: -- Commissioned Officers, Wounded and Missing, 3; Enlisted men, Killed, 3; Wounded, 41; Missing, 29; Total Loss, 77. Among the wounded and missing was the brave Lieut. Col. Charles Cummings; and subsequent reports, from rebel sources, give information of his death within a few hours after he was captured. He was widely known, as a gentleman of character and position, and his death is deeply felt.

As the result of hardship and exposure, and this last severe service, the regiment has been reduced to an effective force of one officer and eighty-five men, -- to be increased, immediately, by Company K, now mustered, with 93 officers and men. No regiment, which has been raised in the State, has met with the difficulties and delays, which have baffled this regiment from the commencement. No regiment has had such severity of service with so little of preparation. But the officers and men, by their patient perseverance, amid all obstacles attending their organization, and their cool and determined bravery in action, when brought to face the most experienced veterans of the rebel army, have won for themselves the respect and admiration of the citizens of the State.

The alterations reported in the regiment, since taking the field, have been as follows: -- transferred to Veteran Reserve Corps 5; Discharged 12; Deserted 43; Died 128; Total 188.

The following table shows the condition of the regiment at the several dates specified: --

SEVENTEENTH REGIMENT.

ABCDEFGHI
Apr. 30, '64Near Bristow, Va.584450102-32--
June 1, '64Near Hanover C. H.531268254-29--
June 30, '64Near Petersburg, Va.5792502961311-
Aug. 1, '64"537165355116--
Sep. 1, '64"642233345-64--
Sep. 15, '64"647244343-60--

Legend:

A - Date
B - Station.
C - Aggregate
D - On Duty
E - Sick
F - Absent with Leave
G - Absent without Leave
H - In arrest or confinement
I - Prisoner of War
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