Report of Brig. Gen. Erastus B. Tyler, U. S. Army, commanding First Brigade.
HEADQUARTERS TYLER'S BRIGADE, Camp in the Field, December 16, 1862.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report, for the information of the general commanding the Third Division, that I marched from our bivouac, on the morning of the 13th instant, with the Ninety-First Pennsylvania Infantry, 23 officers and 401 men; the One hundred and thirty-fourth Pennsylvania Infantry, 24 officers and 518 men; the One hundred and twenty-sixth Pennsylvania infantry, 26 officers and 606 men, and the One hundred and twenty-ninth Pennsylvania Infantry, 26 officers and 575 men, making a total of 99 officers and 2,100 enlisted men.
From the time we left camp until we were ordered into action no opportunity was afforded the regimental commanders to have further calls, but such efforts were made to prevent straggling in crossing the river, and in passing through the city of Fredericksburg, as to induce me to believe that, with the exception of the regimental detail of 12 [p.437] men, left in charge of knapsacks, my brigade took its fully duty strength into action.
A list of casualties of the different regiments, prepared with great care by the colonels, I herewith send you, making my total loss 4 officers and 46 men killed; 29 officers and 294 men wounded, and 83 men missing. [footnote:] See revised statement, p.137 [end of footnote] Of the latter I have good reason to believe a large majority were either killed or severely wounded.
The position first assigned us on the right of the Plank road subjected us to an enfilading fire from the enemy's batteries on the crest of the hill beyond. Of our loss there I am unable to give an accurate account, from the fact that we did not again occupy that position after crossing to the left of the road. The loss there is principally accounted for among the missing.
I was delaying somewhat in the formation of my double line of battle, on the left of the road, by the constant passing of limbers to the rear and front, and the deep mud along the whole line. As soon, however, as the formation was complete, I ordered the charge sounded, having previously cautioned the command not to fire a gun until ordered to do so by me. The brigade moved forward in as good order as the muddy condition of the ground on the left of my line would admit, until we came upon a body of officers and men lying flat upon the ground in front of the brick house, and along the slight elevation on its right and left. Upon our arrival, the officers commanded halt, flourishing their swords as they lay, while a number of their men endeavored to intimidate our troops by crying out that we would be slaughtered, &c. An effort was made to get them out of the way, but failed, and we marched over them. When we were within a very short distance of the enemy's line, a fire was opened on our rear, wounding a few of my most valuable officers, and, I regret to say, killing some of our men. Instantaneously the cry ran along our lines that we were being fired into from the rear. The column halted, receiving at the same time a terrible fire from the enemy. Orders for the moment were forgotten, and a fire from our whole line was immediately returned. Another cry passed along the line that we were being fired upon from the rear, when our brave men, after giving the enemy several volleys, fell back.
It will be impossible for me in this report to mention the many acts of heroism on that bloody field, but it is due the officers and men to state that they performed their duties well, and they need no higher encomiums than to know that their conduct on the field was highly complimented by their division and grand division commanders.
Lieutenant-Colonel O'Brien, One hundred and thirty-fourth Pennsylvania Infantry, led the right front; Colonel Frick, One hundred and twenty-ninth Pennsylvania Infantry, the left; Colonel Elder, One hundred and twenty-sixth Pennsylvania Infantry, the right rear, and Colonel Gregory, Ninety-First Pennsylvania Infantry, the left, discharging their respective duties creditably and satisfactorily, their voiced being frequently heard above the din of battle, urging on their men against the terrible shower of shot and shell, and, last but not least, the awful musketry, as we approached the stone wall. Of the conduct of those officers I cannot speak too highly.
Major Thompson, of the One hundred and thirty-fourth; Lieutenant-Colonel Armstrong and Major Anthony, of the One hundred and twenty-ninth, are entitled to great credit for their efforts and officer-like conduct during the engagement. Colonel Elder received a serious wound [p.438] (fracture of the thigh), and was carried off the field, Lieutenant-Colonel Rowe assuming command. Colonel Gregory received a slight wound in the hand, and his horse fell under him, pierced with five balls. Major Todd, of the Ninety-first, lost his right leg from a shell just before the charge was sounded, and I fear it will cost his life. He was a brave and valuable officer. Adjutant Reed, of the One hundred and thirty-fourth, received a serious wound in the thigh while at the head of his regiment. Lieutenant- Colonel Armstrong had his horse shot under him. Adjutants Green and Tayman exhibited great coolness in the discharge of their duties. Captains Lieb, Taylor, Breckenridge, Lawrence, Hague, Lyons, Walker, McCready, and Doebler were severely wounded. Lieutenant-Colonel O'Brien had a very narrow and miraculous escape, a ball passing through his saddle from front to rear directly under him. It may not be improper for me to say that Captain Thomas, acting inspector-general, upon your staff, after having his horse shot, and thus prevented from serving you, joined his company in the One hundred and twenty-ninth, and was wounded while leading them in the charge.
I desire to call the particular attention of the commanding general to the accompanying reports from the regimental commanders relative to the creditable conduct of officers of the line.
I take pleasure in being able to report that the medical department of the command was well and able conducted; and although a number of our medical officers were absent, under the personal attention of the acting medical director, Dr. McKinney, assisted by the acting brigade surgeon, Nugent, our wounded were well and promptly attended to. Col. M. S. Quay, late of the One hundred and thirty-fourth Pennsylvania Infantry, was upon my staff as a volunteer aide-de-camp, and to him I am greatly indebted. Notwithstanding his enfeebled health, he was in the saddle early and late, ever prompt and efficient, and especially so during the engagement on the field.
To my staff who were with me, Capt. H. C. Ranney, assistant adjutant-general, and Lieut. James B. Diehl, aide-de- camp, am I particularly indebted for their promptness and untiring efforts during the entire six days and nights that we were under arms.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. B. TYLER, Brigadier-General.
Capt. CARSWELL McCLELLAN, Assistant Adjutant-General.