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The twenty-fourth South Carolina at the battle of Jonesboro.


Official report of Colonel Ellison Capers.

headquarters twenty-Fourth regiment,) South Carolina Volunteers, Jonesboro, Ga., September 12th, 1864.
To Major B. B. Smith, A. A. G., Gist's Brigade:
Major,—I submit herewith a report of the part borne by my regiment in front of Jonesboro on the afternoon of the 1st instant.

The brigade having been ordered from the left of the corps at I o'clock P. M. to the extreme right, was placed in position by the Lieutenant-General, in person, on the right, and east of the railroad. The left rested on the railroad cut, which, at that point, was some eight or ten feet deep, the formation of the brigade being in one rank. Our line ran through a thick undergrowth and wood near the railroad, and was entirely without fortifications. The Second battalion of Georgia Sharp-shooters, Major Whitely, occupied the left of the brigade, resting on the railroad cut, and the Twenty-fourth came next, the Sixteenth South Carolina next, and the Forty-sixth Georgia on the right. [482]

Lieutenant-General Hardee directed me to make my position as strong as possible, and told me that he relied upon our brigade to hold the right of his line. The men climbed up the small trees, bent them over, and, using pocket-knives to cut across the trunks, succeeded in a half hour in making a first-rate abatis of little trees, interlaced thickly, and held by half their thickness to the stumps. Along my line I brought up rails and logs from the rear, and made a tolerable breastwork. As we were bent-back to cover the right of the corps, the direction of my line exposed us to an enfilade from the other side of the railroad cut, and to protect my companies against this I built traverses of logs on the left of my left companies. These proved our salvation. Rapid firing began in my front about 4 o'clock, and in a half hour my skirmishers came in, closely followed by the assaulting line of the enemy. The assault seemed directed mainly against the positions on the right and left of the railroad, and only reached to the centre of the Twenty-fourth. It was handsomely repulsed—Major D. F. Hill directing the fire of the companies on the left with splendid effect.

Again, at 5 1/2 o'clock, the enemy moved forward along the entire front of the Twenty-fourth. I fired by rank, and rapidly, and the movement was checked. But on the west side of the railroad the firing was heavy and the fighting continuous, and I soon saw that the position on that side had been carried—the enemy occupying the works.

Unfortunately the battalion of sharp-shooters was retired just at this moment, without orders from brigade headquarters, and the enemy promptly moved up on our side and occupied Whitley's works, and fired wildly over my left, now protected by my traverses. During this fire Hill was killed, and many of our men wounded.

An assault being made from the front, Companies B, Lieutenant Easterling, G, Lieutenant Beckham, and K, Lieutenant Siegler, were driven from my left, after a gallant stand. Beckham being nearest me, I ordered him to rally his company at once and retake his place before it would be too late. He responded with his usual gallantry, and, assisted by yourself and my Adjutant, Lieutenant Holmes, I rallied my men and we retook our position-occupying the traverses on the left.

For the gallant assistance offered by yourself and by Lieutenants Holmes, Beckham and Easterling in effecting this I feel myself greatly indebted.

Seeing the urgent necessity of driving the enemy from the position [483] of the sharp-shooters, which brought them right on us, Major Smith and Lieutenants Beckham and Easterling charged them with companies ‘B’ and ‘G,’ and after a close fight drove them entirely out of our works; meanwhile, Major Whitely brought up his battalion and reoccupied his position on the railroad cut. Companies ‘B,’ ‘G’ and ‘K’ now resumed their place in line and the firing lulled, the enemy in my front retiring to the bottom of the hill.

While we were fighting on the left Lieutenant-Colonel Jones directed the firing of the centre and right of the 24th, and repulsed every assault of the enemy.

It is to be noted that the assault did not reach the two regiments to the right of mine, and that the heaviest attack was on my left, and at the railroad. The firing of the enemy, for the most part, was wild and entirely over us. I attributed this to the confusion in his advance and attack, caused by our abatis; for there was no lack of spirit in his assault. Our small loss in killed is attributed to this wild firing on the enemy's part.

From our prisoners we learned that the troops assaulting us belonged to General Jeff. Davis's division. I have counted over 200 graves in our front, most of them marked. The battle began about 4 1/2 P. M. and lasted until dark. At midnight the Lieutenant-General in person, with his staff, rode up to our position, and did me the honor to return his thanks for our conduct, and gave directions for our retirement. In a half hour after, by the order of the Colonel commanding the brigade, the 24th marched out from our position, and in advance of the brigade reached Lovejoy by daylight and went to work at once on the new line formed there.

In the action at Jonesboro the regiment sustained an irreparable loss in the death of Major D. F. Hill. He fell while endeavoring to arrest the retirement of the sharp-shooters on my left, shot through the heart by one of the enemy behind our works. A cool, brave man and a good soldier, Major Hill's loss is deplored by every man and officer of his regiment.

I beg to note especially the gallant conduct of Major B. B. Smith, Assistant Adjutant General; of my Adjutant, Lieutenant Holmes, and of Lieutenants Easterling and Beckham and Seigler, who gave me every assistance, and in the most handsome manner rallied and led the men in our hard fight to retake the position we at first lost.

With the greatest satisfaction I report the conduct of the officers [484] and soldiers of the 24th South Carolina volunteers in the engagement as meriting the highest approval.

Respectfully submitted,

Ellison Capers, Colonel 24th South Carolina Volunteers.

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R. F. Beckham (5)
D. F. Hill (4)
Easterling (4)
B. B. Smith (3)
Holmes (3)
Whitely (2)
Ellison Capers (2)
Whitley (1)
Siegler (1)
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W. J. Hardee (1)
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