From a Seneca Falls, New York newspaper in 1862:
A Brave and Daring Soldier.
Mr. EDITOR: – Thinking it may not prove objectionable to you, and will be gratifying perhaps to many of your readers, I send you an extract of a letter from Lieut. Mundy, written since the terrible conflict, or series of conflicts with the Rebel Army near Richmond, during the change of McClellan’s base of operations, recently made. The letter is a lengthy one, but without troubling you with many of the details which it furnishes, I simply desire your publication of that part of it which refers to the conduct of James Hitchcock, on of the young men in his Regiment who went from our village. He says:
“I must allude to the splendid and noble behavior of James Hitchcock, of Seneca Falls. He displayed as much courage, noble daring and heroism as any man possibly could throughout the fight, until he was severely wounded. The old bullet-riddled flag which had been so gallantly defended by our brave and noble boys, fell to the ground. The Ensign was instantly killed. Two others who had volunteered to carry the old emblem had fallen; Hitchcock rushed forward as we were exposed to a most galling and murderous fire and raised the flag, asking Col. Rice, who was leading the Regiment forward in a brave and most desperate charge, if he would permit him to take charge of that old banner? With his consent, he rushed forward in advance of his Regiment, and while waving it in the face of the enemy, was struck by a musket ball in the leg inflicting a severe wound, though not so serious as to make amputation necessary. Holding on to the flag-staff and waving the flag as he went limping along on his wounded limb toward Col. Rice, refusing to deliver it to any one save the Colonel himself. He resigned it into his hands, amidst the praises of every officer and man in the Regiment. He was complimented by the Colonel commanding, and promoted on the spot to Sergeant in his Company. Col. Rice alluded to his conduct as a model for every soldier.”
It seems appropriate that this story involves the 44th New York Infantry Regiment, also known as Ellsworth Avengers or the People’s Ellsworth Regiment. The regiment was raised in the fall of 1861 to honor the memory of Elmer Ellsworth, who was killed in Alexandria, Virginia in May 1862 after he took down a secession flag flying from a hotel. The “bullet-riddled flag” mentioned in this letter does not seem to be an exaggeration: at the May 27, 1862 Battle of Hanover Court House “The 44th New York suffered 25% casualties and its battle flag received 44 bullet holes.” During the Seven days the regiment was mostly in the fights at Gaines’ Mill and Malvern Hill.
You can see the 44th’s second National Color at the New York State Military Museum.
By October 1862 there were only 200 men left in the regiment. The Albany Normal School Company was formed to help replenish the ranks. This site also has a photo of a memorial to Ellsworth.
Apparently James Clay Rice was officially promoted to Colonel on July 4, 1862. In 1864 General Rice was killed at Spotsylvania. According to his obituary at Harper’s Weekly, six bullets passed through his clothing at Malvern Hill.