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Adjutant and Inspector General Reports

1865 Report
Appendix C

Official Reports

IX. REPORT OF CAPT. RILEY B. STEARNS, SEVENTH REGIMENT VERMONT VOLUNTEERS.

Camp Parole, near Vicksburg, Miss.,
April 16th, 1865.

Lieut. George W. Sheldon,
Adjutant 7th Vermont Veteran Volunteers:

Sir--I have the honor to report, that, in obedience to instructions from regimental and brigade Headquarters, I relieved Capt. Parker on the skirmish line, in front of my command, on the evening of the 30th ult. Nothing of interest transpired during the night; the enemy fired at our position several times, which was returned by my men. Soon after daylight on the 31st, the enemy opened upon me with shell from a gun on one of the inland faces of the Fort on our extreme left, and I soon found that they have got our range admirably. I had, during the night, constructed rude bomb proofs, and during the shelling ordered my men into them. The shelling soon stopped, and all was quiet on the line until about 12 M., when the same gun again opened fire. The shelling was now so terrific, that I determined to fall back a short distance as soon as it became dark, and dispatched Corporal Crothers to Regimental Headquarters for instructions. I sent word by him that I expected to be assaulted before dark, and requested that the gun, which was annoying me, be silenced, or that the enemy's lines in my front be shelled, and I would fall back under fire.

At about 2 o'clock, P. M., the enemy fired the slash of trees &c., covering the ground on the right of me, and I gave the order to my men to fall back singly, as I foresaw that we should be smoked or burnt out, for there were several trees felled close to my position. As soon as the first man left I countermanded the order, for hundreds of bullets were sent after him. I think, however, that he was uninjured. During the shelling many of my men, and others on the left, had left their rifle pits and fallen back. In doing this, one of my men was wounded (Private Storrs). Just before sunset the fire had extended around my rear and on my left, making so dense a smoke that our liens could not be seen. At this time the shelling was resumed, and in less than ten minutes fifteen shells were exploded inside and directly over the pit, in which myself and ten men were stationed. I had my men cover themselves as best they could and ordered bayonets to be fixed in anticipation of a charge being made.

At sunset the shelling suddenly ceased, and the charge was made, in which myself, and twenty of my men were captured. The assaulting party was composed of Capt. Wilcox, of Gen. Gibson's Staff, a Lieut. and thirty men, fifteen of whom were picked from the entire garrison. The remainder were volunteers. the charge was so sudden and vigorous, that we could offer but little resistance. I gave the command to fire, which was obeyed by the majority of my men, but the next instant every man had at least one musket at his head, with a summons to surrender. I found two muskets and a revolver pointing at me, with a request to come out of the pit. I accepted the alternative thus offered, and in a short time found myself before Gen. Gibson, C. S. A., who paid a very high tribute to the men of my command. He said he had never seen troops standing shelling, as we had that day. From him I learned the plan which resulted in my capture, which is as I have described it. The fire was kindled that the smoke might cover the assaulting party from our batteries. Gen. Gibson informed me that no other part of the line would be molested,--that mine was particularly obnoxious to them, as that forenoon we had killed his Chief of Artillery, Col. Garnet, and wounded several others. I was taken to Mobile the 1st, to Meridian, Miss., the 3d, where I have been confined to a stockade, until three days since I came to Jackson, and from there to this place; arrived here last evening. Appended is a list of the men captured. I do not know how many go away,--think some must have been killed.

Respectfully your obedient servant,

[Signed.]R. B. STEARNS,
Capt. 7th Vt. Vet. Vols.