My regiment, the 4th U.S.C.T., lined up for the charge upon the rebel works at New Market Heights, Va., on the morning of September 29, 1864, with elevlen officers and 305 enlisted men. There was but one field officer with us, Major A. S. Boernstein who was in cormiand. Our adjutant, Geo. Allen supervised the right, and I as Sergeant-Major, the left. When the charge was started, our Color guard was full; two sergeants, (carrying the Colors,) and ten corporals. Only one of the twelve came off that field on his own feet. Most of them are there still. Early in the rush one of the sergeants went down. I regret much not being able to recall his name. A bullet cut his flagstaff in two,and went through his body, The other sergeant, Alfred B, Hilton, Co. H., a magnificent specimen of a man, over six feet tall and splendidly proportioned caught up the other flag and pressed forward with them both. It was a deadly hailstorm of bullets sweeping men down as hail-stones sweep the leaves from trees, and it was not long before he also went down, shot through the leg. As he fell, he held up the flags and shouted, "Boys, save, the Colors." Before they could touch the ground, Corporal Charles Veal, Co. D. had seized the blue flag, and I the American flag, which had been presented to us by our lady friends before leaving Baltimore, Md., our home. It was very evident that there was too much work cut out for our two regiments, (the 4th and 6th U.S.C.T.) to accomplish. Strong earthworks, protected in front by two lines of abatis, and one line of palisades, and in the rear by a lot of men who evidently knew how to shoot, and largely outnumbered us. We struggled through the two lines of abatis, a few got through the palisades, but it was sheer madness, and those of us who were able, had to get out as best we could. Reaching the line of our reserves, and no commissioned officer being in sight, I rallied the survivors around the flag, rounding up at first 85 men and three commissioned officers. Through the day, about thirty more men came along--"All that was left of them."
I have never been able to see how Veal and I lived under such a hail of bullets unless it was because we were both such little fellows. I think I weighed then about 125 pounds, and he about the same. He did not got a scratch. I had a bullet pass between my legs, cutting my boot leg, trousers and even my stocking, without breaking the skin. Hilton, Veal and myself were awarded Medals of Honor.
I have contrasted the official figures of the famous charge of the Six Hundred at Balaklava with official figures of ours,with this result:
Duncan's Brigade N. Mkt. Hts. Va. had 683. Lost 365. Per cent. 53.7
Light Brigade, Balaklava, had 673. Lost 247. Per cent. 36.7
Our excess was: had 10 more. Lost 18 more. Per cent. 17 greater
Last updated: February 26, 2015