DECEMBER 17, 1862.
COLONEL: In obedience to circular order of this date, I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Fourth Rhode Island in the recent operations:
On the afternoon of the 12th instant, the regiment crossed the Rappahannock to Fredericksburg. Immediately upon its arrival in that city, Lieutenant-Colonel Curtis, commanding, received orders to report with his regiment to Colonel Hawkins, commanding First Brigade, Third Division, for picket duty. In obedience to orders, the regiment was marched to the rear of the city, and the men posted near the line of the railroad, relieving the One hundred and third Regiment New York Volunteers, which had been picketed there. The Ninth New York had followed the Fourth Rhode Island from the city, and occupied a position near the brick-kilns in our rear, acting as a reserve.
It was about 7 p.m. when the Fourth Rhode Island relieved the One hundred and third New York. At about 3 a.m. on the 13th instant, the pickets of the Fourth Rhode Island were relieved by the Ninth New York, the Fourth Rhode Island taking its position as a reserve at the place vacated by the Ninth New York. About 8 a.m. the regiment was relieved by the Tenth New Hampshire, and immediately rejoined its brigade.
During the day, until about sunset, the Fourth Rhode Island lay, with its brigade, near the pontoon bridge, changing its position once a few paces, to secure a partial protection from the enemy's fire under the hillside. While there, several of the men were wounded by shells fired from one of our own batteries across the river, very many of which exploded in our immediate vicinity. «23 R R--VOL XXI» <ar31_354>
The regiment having been formed in line of battle near the headquarters of Brigadier-General Willcox, was ordered to advance with its brigade to the support of the First Brigade, Third Division, Ninth Army Corps. The advance was made to where the Ninth New York lay on the ground, in the rear of and supporting a battery. At this moment, and before the regiment (which had been unavoidably somewhat broken by the obstacles around and over which it had been compelled to pass) had entirely reformed, the lieutenant-colonel commanding was shot dead by a fragment from a shell.
Maj. M.P. Buffum immediately assumed command; and the Fourth Rhode Island lay on its arms during the night in that place, the Ninth New York being withdrawn in the evening, occupying its proper position in line in the Second Brigade. In the morning the regiment was withdrawn with the brigade; and from that time until the evening of the 15th remained in line in the principal street of Fredericksburg, near the headquarters of General Willcox.
About dark on the evening of the 15th, the regiment accompanied its brigade to the road back of the city, and, forming in line of battle (with the Twenty-first Connecticut on our right and the Eighth Connecticut on our left), threw out guards 200 or 300 feet in advance, and stacked arms, the men lying down in the rear of the stacks. Presently orders were received to fall in, take arms, and march. The Fourth Rhode Island, following the Twenty-first Connecticut, marched down through the city, across the pontoon bridge, back to its old camp.
The following is a list(*) of the killed, wounded, and missing of the Fourth Rhode Island: * * *.
Summary.--Commissioned officers, killed, 1; wounded, 1; enlisted men, wounded, 8; missing, 6. Total, 16.
I have the honor to be, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major, Commanding Fourth Rhode Island Volunteers
Col. EDWARD HARLAND,
Commanding Second Brigade.