NEAR HAGERSTOWN, MD., July 8, 1863.
SIR: Col. R. M. Powell having fallen into the hands of the enemy, it devolves upon me, as lieutenant-colonel of the regiment, to report the part taken by it as far as came under my observation in the action of [July] 2 and 3, near Gettysburg, Pa.
About 4 p.m. on the 2d instant, General Hood’s division was drawn up in line of battle, fronting the heights occupied by the enemy. The Fifth Texas Regiment occupied the right of the brigade, resting on General Law’s left, whose brigade was the one of direction. At the word “Forward,” the regiment moved forward in good order. The enemy had a line of sharpshooters at the foot of the first height, behind a stone fence, about three-fourths of a mile from our starting point, which distance was passed over by our line at a double-quick and a run.
At our approach, the enemy retired to the top of the first height, protected by a ledge of rocks. A short halt was made at the stone fence, to enable those who had fallen behind to regain their places. When the command “Forward” again fell from the lips of our gallant colonel, every man leaped the fence, and advanced rapidly up the hillside. The enemy again fled at our approach, sheltering himself behind his fortified position on the top of the second height, about 200 yards distant from the first.
From this position we failed to drive them. Our failure was owing to the rocky nature of the ground over which we had to pass, the huge rocks forming defiles through which not more than 3 or 4 men could pass abreast, thus breaking up our alignment and rendering its reformation impossible. Notwithstanding the difficulties to overcome, the men pressed on to the pass of the precipitous stronghold, forming and securing the enemy’s second position, many of our officers and men falling in passing the open space between the heights. Here we halted, there being small clusters of rocks far below the elevated position of the enemy, which gave us partial protection. From this position we were enabled to deliver our fire for the first time with accuracy.
Seeing that the men were in the best obtainable position, and deeming a farther advance without re-enforcements impracticable (a great many of the regiment having been already disabled), I looked for Colonel Powell, to know his next order. Failing to see him, I concluded at once that he, like many of his gallant officers and men, had fallen a victim to the deadly missiles of the enemy, which were being showered like hail upon us. I moved toward the center, passing many officers and men who had fallen, having discharged their whole duty like true soldiers. I had not proceeded far when I discovered the prostrate form of our noble colonel, who had fallen at his post, his face to the foe. I hastened toward him, when I received a wound in my left arm. On reaching the colonel, I found that he was not dead; but seeing the rent in his coat where the ball had passed out, my fears were excited that his wound would prove mortal. The hemorrhage from my own wound forced me from the field, leaving the command upon Major Rogers.
The officers and men of my wing of the regiment continued to discharge their duties in a manner worthy of our cause so long as I remained upon the field, and from their conduct heretofore I would not hesitate to vouch for them during the remainder of the battle.
Captain [John S.] Cleveland, of Company H, was on the right. His skillful management of his own company aided me vastly in the direction of my wing.
Lieutenant-Colonel Fifth Texas Regiment.
Lieut. JOHN W. KERR,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.