The Battle of Honey Hill, S.C.
Report of Colonel Alfred S. Hartwell
Fifty-Fifth Massachusetts Infantry
Commanding Second Brigade
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records
of the Union and Confederate Armies,
128 Vols.,
(Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1882)
Copy provided by Marjorie Kwiatkowski; HTML text prepared by Gary W. Myers


GENERAL HOSPITAL,
Beaufort, S.C., December 6, 1864.

ADJUTANT: I have the honor to report that, pursuant to the instructions of Brig. Gen. J. P. Hatch, commanding expedition, I assumed command of the Second Brigade on Monday, the 28th ultimo, having for my staff officers, Lieut. G. F. McKay, Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, acting assistant adjutant-general; Capt. W. D. Crane, Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, acting aide; Lieut. E. R. Hill, Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, acting aide; Lieutenant Wilcoxson, Third Rhode Island Artillery, quartermaster. Having transmitted to the regimental commanders the printed orders and directions of the commanding general, and having caused some intrenchment tools to be sent to the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, I went on board the steamer Golden Gate before midnight of the 28th and got under way at the signal as ordered. In passing around the bow of a small steamer, the small boats attached to the steamer Golden Gate were cut off. I put back in search of these, but in the dense fog three (or two) small boats could not be found. Ran aground and lost our way during the night. In the morning landed in small boat at what seemed to be the shore opposite Hall's Island. About noon succeeded in landing at Boyd's Neck with four companies Fifty-fourth Massachusetts. Found two companies Fifty-fourth Massachusetts already landed. Remained at Boyd's Neck during the day and night of the 29th, by verbal orders of the commanding general, throwing out pickets at dusk and putting the troops into position as soon as disembarked, with orders to be ready to march at daylight of the 30th. By verbal orders from the commanding general, sent out to the cross-roads two companies Fifty-sixth New York for picket. Having sent on a little before day of the 30th ultimo the Thirty-fifth U.S. Colored Troops, Fifty-sixth New York, and some of the Thirty-second U.S. Colored Troops to join their (First) brigade, and leaving the Thirty-fourth U.S. Colored Troops at the Neck for further orders, marched at daylight with eight companies Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, eight companies Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, and Mesereau's and Titus' batteries, under Lieutenant-Colonel Ames, Third Rhode Island Artillery. When half way between cross-roads and church received orders from commanding general to leave four companies as guard at cross-roads, to intrench, and left there four companies Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, with two small boat howitzers and detail of marines, who reported to me on the road for this purpose, On arriving near the church orders were received from the commanding general to forward the artillery, which was done also orders to advance as the troops in front advanced, leaving two companies as guard at church. Left two companies at church with instructions to throw out vedettes to observe. About half a mile from the church, by orders from commanding general, went into line in a corn-field on our left as we advanced. Next advanced in the road by the flank, flied into a field on our right as we advanced, and formed column by company, putting out with the pioneers a fire in the grass. Advancing to the brow of the hill, received orders to halt and hold my command compact and ready. Next, by successive orders from the commanding general, advanced over and part way down the hill slowly and keeping the formation in column on the right of the road. Received here a verbal order from General Potter to send one regiment in support of the One hundred and twenty-seventh New York, I think, but am not positive, as another order was at the same moment brought from the commanding general for me to advance by the flank down the road in support of the Thirty-fifth U.S. Colored Troops. As I passed the commanding general he gave me verbal orders to support the Thirty-fifth U.S. Colored Troops, and not to go into action, if I could help it, until further orders, adding that a staff officer would show me the position. On reaching the base of the hill, a staff officer directed me to file to the right. I sent one of my aides to halt and front the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts as soon as its left should rest upon the road, which was done. An officer, I think Colonel Gurney, of the One hundred and twenty-seventh New York, informing [me] that our left was hard pressed, I directed the two remaining companies of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts to file to our left and go on the right by file into line in support of the One hundred and twenty-seventh New York. My line now extended across the road. The musketry from the enemy was severe at this point; the men whom we had in front of my line along and near the road had come to the rear in confusion, and as I could not well remain where I was, and had no orders to fall back, I gave the order to advance. This was done in line for only two or three rods, when the strong fire from the enemy's artillery and musketry, aided by the obstructions of the thicket and swamp, forced me back. I was here hit in the hand by a musket-ball. Forming column of companies as well as possible in the road from the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, I advanced until the guns from the enemy's fort threw canister so severely into the head of the column that I was obliged to fall back again. At this time Captain Gouraud assisted me in rallying my men, my own voice having nearly given out.

I must here give my testimony, that of the men of the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts who were near all cheerfully seemed to follow me to advance a second time toward the fort, under severe fire. On turning the last angle in the road in front of the fort, the grape and canister became insupportable. Captain Crane, acting aide, was killed, with his horse; Lieutenant Hill, second acting aide, was knocked off his horse by concussion; and my own horse was killed and fell on me. The road seemed to be swept of everything. I was pulled from under my horse and back by an officer and a man of the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, and during the time was hit in the boot heel by a shot that burned my ankle, and in the side by a spent grape shot that knocked me down and partially stunned me, and lodged in the coat; also, by a spent musket ball in the back, that lodged in the shirt; in consequence of which, I regret extremely to say, I was unable to give further orders or superintendence, and was taken to the rear.

Knowing the quality of the fine body of men assigned to my command, I am deeply pained to have been prevented from fighting them longer and showing myself deserving of the honor and responsibility placed upon me. Among many who did well, I beg to mention with great praise the following names for the consideration of the commanding general, these men having attracted my notice for particular coolness and efficiency under fire, viz: Major Nutt, Captains Woodward, Thurber, and Torrey, all of Fifty-fourth [Fifty-fifth] Massachusetts; Lieutenant McKay, Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, acting assistant adjutant-general, and Lieutenant Hill, Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, acting aide.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. S. HARTWELL,
Colonel Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, Formerly Comdg. Second Brigade.

Lieut. L. B. PERRY,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen. to Brigadier-General Commanding.


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