previous next

History of Lane's North Carolina brigade.

By General J. H. Lane.

Battle of the Wilderness-report of General Lane.

Headquarters Lane's brigade, September 8, 1864.
Major,--I have the honor to report that on the 5th of May my brigade marched to the left of the Plank road to a point beyond Wilderness Run and near Mr. Tuning's residence, where we were formed in line of battle, with Thomas's brigade on our left, and ordered to advance, with the view of sweeping the enemy from Scales's front. We had moved forward but a short distance when the enemy opened upon our corps of sharpshooters, which had been deployed in advance. This picked body of brave men, under its intrepid commander, Captain John G. Knox, quickly returned their fire with deadly effect, and vigorously charging them succeeded in capturing one hundred and forty-seven prisoners, including eight commissioned officers. [125] Before the brigade proper could become engaged we were ordered back to the Plank road to the support of Heth's division. On reaching that point, the other brigades of our division (Wilcox's) having already been put into action, General Wilcox ordered us to the right of the road. As the brigade was filing into the woods the enemy's sharpshooters advanced on the left flank and opened fire. I at once ordered Colonel Barbour to deploy his, the Thirty-seventh North Carolina regiment, to the left and parallel to the road to protect our flank. While giving these instructions the rest of the brigade was halted in rear of Scales's by Major Palmer of General A. P. Hill's staff. I was soon after informed by General Hill in person that a part of Scales's brigade had given way, and I was ordered to move forward and re-establish the line, letting my left rest on McGowan's right. After cautioning the Seventh, the left regiment, to be careful not to fire into McGowan, the order for the advance was given, when the brigade, its left being about one hundred yards from the Plank road, moved handsomely forward with their usual battle yell. The advance was necessarily slow, as we had to move through a swamp filled with dense undergrowth and dead fallen trees.

The Thirty-eighth North Carolina regiment of Scales's brigade, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Ashford, took position in our line between the Eighteenth and Twenty-eighth regiments on the right, and assisted us in driving the enemy back and out of the swamp. Our corps of sharpshooters fought on the right with the Eighteenth regiment.

The enemy, reinforced, flanked us on the right, and on attempting to get in our rear, Colonel Barry broke back two of his companies and was soon afterwards forced to change the entire front of his regiment to meet the enemy in that direction. The enemy pressed this regiment so heavily that he was compelled to retire at dark. While these movements were going on, on the right, the Seventh regiment, which was on the left and under the impression that McGowan was in front — none of us at that time were aware that McGowan had withdrawn under orders from Generall Wilcox — reserved its fire and pressed forward to within seventy-five yards of the enemy, who were massed in strong force on the high ground beyond the swamp. Here a terrible fire was opened upon it, and when it had become hotly engaged, the enemy, under cover of the darkness and dense smoke which had settled in the swamp, threw out a column on our left flank. When this column had gotten within a few paces of the Seventh, it demanded its surrender, and at the same time fired a destructive volley into it, which caused its left flank to fall back in considerable disorder. This exposed condition [126] of my flanks induced me to order the balance of the brigade back to the high ground in the rear of the swamp; which order was executed with difficulty on account of the darkness and the character of the ground. The Seventh, Eighteenth, Twenty-eighth, and Thirty-third regiments, were all subsequently taken to the rear of Scales's brigade, which occupied a short breastwork that ran diagonally to the road on the right, where we found the Thirty-seventh regiment, to which point Colonel Barbour informs me it had been previously ordered. I then reported to General Wilcox in person, told him of the result of our fight, informed him where my brigade was, and was ordered by him to let it remain in its position, as it would be relieved by Anderson before daylight.

It gives me great pleasure to be able to bear testimony to the gallant bearing of my command in this engagement, and to the cool and unflinching bravery with which both officers and men advanced against a largely superior force, which was constantly reinforced. Nobly did they perform their work, driving the enemy out of the swamp and forcing them to seek shelter behind their temporary breastworks on the dry ground beyond. We were the last troops to become engaged, and without hope of any assistance kept up this unequal contest from about 5 o'clock P. M. until 9, when the threatened envelopment of my whole command induced me to withdraw it to the point already referred to.

While the whole brigade — except the Thirty-seventh reigment which had been detached just before we advanced, and was not actively engaged — fought with so much gallantry, it is due the Twenty-eighth regiment to state that it advanced further than any other part of my command, and occupied for a time a portion of the enemy's entrenchments beyond the swamp. Out of ammunition, the men supplied themselves from the boxes of the dead and wounded, and held this position until dark, when they fell back and reformed on the right of the Thirty-third regiment.

We rested that night, as ordered by General Wilcox, in rear of Scales, with a part of Heth's division in our rear — there were also other troops to the left of the road. Next morning about day it was ascertained that the enemy was advancing, and as we had not been relieved by Anderson's division and no further orders had been received from any one, I endeavored to form my brigade in line of battle perpendicular to the road. Just as I had succeeded in forming the Thirty-third, Eighteenth and Thirty-seventh with one-half of the Thirty-third broken back parallel to the road, the enemy in large force pressed back Scales, and the troops to the left of the road being driven out in disorder, [127] the enemy struck our left at the angle formed by the two wings of the Thirty-third regiment. We opposed this force for à short time (the Thirty-third regiment fighting like heroes), but could not long stand the terrible fire on our front and flank. We were forced back in disorder with the other troops and reformed again to the rear. We afterwards occupied a position to the left of the road, and that night connected with Ramseur of Ewell's corps and intrenched. Unfortunate as was the affair of the morning, I can attach no blame whatever to my brigade for anything it did on that occasion. The fight of the day previous, the subsequent gallantry of my command in many hard fought battles, and the great losses it has sustained in this campaign, are sufficient to show that brave men are sometimes forced to turn their back to the foe. If a mistake was made either on the night of the 5th or morning of the 6th, the fault was elsewhere than with my command.

Colonel C. M. Avery, commanding the Thirty-third regiment, was wounded while gallantly passing up and down his lines on the 6th, cheering his men by his presence and urging them to stand firm. He was again wounded in several places while going from the field, and has since died. We also have to mourn the loss of two other brave spirits belonging to the same regiment, Lieutenant A. P. Lyon, Co. B, and J. L. Farrow, Co. H. Colonel Jno. H. Barry is deserving great praise for the manner in which he handled his regiment in protecting our right flank on the 5th. He has shown himself fully competent to fill a more responsible place than that which he now holds. Colonel W. H. A. Speer proved himself a worthy commander of that gallant regiment which occupied for a time a portion of the enemy's intrenchments beyond the swamp. He speaks of Captain F. F. Lovill, Co. A, Acting-Major, and his Adjutant R. S. Folger as having acted “very gallantly throughout” this engagement. Lieutenant-Colonel Wm. Lee Davidson, commanding the Seventh regiment, while gallantly encouraging his men on the left, fell into the hands of the enemy when the flank of his regiment was thrown into confusion. Captain Jno. G. Knox, commanding the corps of sharpshooters, who is one of the bravest of the brave, and to whom we are indebted for much of the efficiency of that fine body of men, also fell into the hands of the enemy on the right. Captain V. V. Richardson, a most reliable officer of oft tried gallantry, and next in command to Captain Knox, fell at the same time severely wounded. Sergeant-Major C. T. Wright, of the Thirty-seventh regiment, a brave and noble boy, lost his life from the wound received on the 6th.

I would be doing great injustice to gallant, accomplished and efficient [128] officers were I not to call special attention to my staff, Captain E. J. Hale, Jr., the Assistant Adjutant-General, and my aid, Lieutenant Oscar Lane, under the hotest fire, frequently rode along the line, encouraging the men, watching our flanks and carrying orders, while Captain E. T. Nicholson, the A. I. G., discharged all his duties most faithfully.

From the night of the 6th, until the afternoon of the 8th, when we commenced moving by the right flank in the direction of Spotsylvania Court-house, we were moved frequently, and made to occupy various points on the line to the left of the plank road, at all of which the men worked with untiring energy, cutting down trees, making abattis, and throwing up entrenchments.

The following is a Tabulated list of our casualties on the 5th and 6th days of May, with the names of all the officers killed, wounded and missing:

 Officers.Men.Officers.Men.Officers.Men.Officers.Men.Officers and men.
Seventh Regiment 3461434898106
Eighteenth Regiment 7333 1435457
Twenty-eighth Regiment 1435411648488
Thirty-third Regiment315550 388103111
Thirty-seventh Regiment 1115 3615253
Grand Total34016213513824391415

Officers killed.

Colonel C. M. Avery, Thirty-third; Lieutenant A. P. Lyon, Company B, Thirty-third; Lieutenant J. L. Farrow, Company H, Thirty-third.

Officers wounded.

Seventh Regiment--Lieutenant Jno. Ballentine, Company E; Lieutenant E. B. Roberts, Company I; Lieutenants W. H. Haywood and A. M. Walker, Company K.

Eighteenth Regiment--Captain V. V. Richardson, Company E; Lieutenant H. Long, Company E; Lieutenant J. D. Currie, Company K. [129]

Twenty-Eighth Regiment--Lieutenant M. J. Endy, Company D; Lieutenant E. S. Edwards, Company G; Lieutenant A. W. Stone, Company E.

Thirty-third Regiment--Captain W. T. Avery, Company I; Lieutenant J. D. Fain, Company, C; Lieutenant J. W. Tate, Company F; Lieutenant W. L. White, Company I; Lieutenant J. G. Rencher, Company K.

Thirty-seventh Regiment--Lieutenant J. W. Cochrane, Company D.

Officers missing.

Seventh Regiment--Lieutenant-Colonel W. L. Davidson, Captain J. G. Knox, Company A; Captain W. G. McRae, Company C; Lieutenant S. L. Hayman, Company E.

Twenty-eighth Regiment--Lieutenant E. Hurley, Company E.


James H. Lane. Major Jos. A. Engelhard, A. A. G., Wilcox's Light Division.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Plank (Pennsylvania, United States) (3)
Wilderness Run (Virginia, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
6th (4)
September 8th, 1864 AD (1)
May 5th (1)
May (1)
8th (1)
5th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: