Gregg's brigade of South Carolinians in the Second. Battle of Manassas.
By Edward McCRADY, Jr., Lieut.-Col. First S. C. Volunteers.
[An address before the Survivors of the Twelfth Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, at Walhalla, South Carolina, 21st August, 1884.]
When I look around upon you all, my old comrades, and see in this peaceful assembly the now quiet faces I have often seen lit with the fire of battle, and gaze upon your maimed forms and scarred countenances, and recall the time when I saw your blood shed, I hardly can tell which feeling is uppermost in my heart.
It is surely gratifying to those of us who survive once more to meet; but as I recall each face before me, my memory is busier with those who are not here.
Such meetings as these must be sad—infinitely sad. We meet the survivors of a lost cause and lost friends, of hopes and aspirations which all the chastenings of the last twenty years have not taught us were unfounded or unworthy.
If our memories to-day, then, are filled with sadness let us thank God they bring to us no recollections of shame, but of honor and glory.
You and I, my comrades, have realized as well the satire as the pathos of the old story of Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim
. Twenty odd years ago,
as we marched away with flags flying and drums beating, to fight for our State, the eyes of all the world, we thought, were upon each and every one of us, and we looked forward with exultation to the time when the war over, we would glory in telling of our heroic deeds.
We did not doubt but that we would have attentive and eager listeners to our tales.
We have learned since that few things are so wearisome to our friends as our old war stories.
And when two or three of us, old soldiers, get together and commence—as we are sure to do-forming our lines of battle and marshaling our little battalions, and charging the enemy's breastworks, and all that, do we not see those from whom we looked for wondering admiration quietly slipping away uninterested in our well worn martial exploits?
Do we not hear them humming something about the old king, who
Fought all his battles o'er again,
And thrice he routed all his foes, and
Thrice he slew the slain?
And, after all, is it not enough if we can say with Uncle Toby:
... And for my own part, though I should blush to boast of myself, Trim.
Yet had my name been Alexander, I could not have done more at Namur than my duty.
And may we not content ourselves with the recollection, that if we did no more than our duty, that we did try
to do faithfully?
Begging, then, the patience of our friends who honor us with their presence to-day, let me ask them to bear with us while we go over the battle of the 29th August, 1862, the second day of the great battle of Manassas
, on which day our brigade bore so conspicuous a part, and in which battle, all together, the State of South Carolina
suffered so terribly.
Colonel William Allan
, who was Chief of Ordnance
on General Jackson
's staff, and who is as able a writer as he was a faithful and gallant soldier, whose pen has contributed so much to the truth of the history of the war, and to whom the soldiers of our corps especially are so much indebted for the preservation of their records, in a recent letter to the Philadelphia Times
describing the battlefields of Manassas
, as they appeared on a visit twenty years after the events which have made them so famous, thus describes the position which our brigade held on Friday, the 29th of August, 1862:
‘We were now at the extreme northern limit of the field of the second battle, and we turned to the southwest, and soon found our way to the position taken by Jackson on August 29th, 1862, and held by him so tenaciously
during that day in the woods.
This position runs along the unfinished roadbed of the section of the Manassas Gap railroad, which was intended to give an independent line from Manassas to Alexandria.
The war came on before the line was completed, and the crumbling banks and cuts still stand, after twenty years, only to mark the site of numberless deeds of heroic valor.
Jackson availed himself of the protection offered by the cuts and hills of the railroad, and here met and repulsed during the 29th the tremendous assaults, which Pope made in the hope of overwhelming his meagre forces before Lee could bring Longstreet to his aid. A veritable stone wall his men proved here for a second time on this historic field.
The fury of Pope's attacks that day fell on Jackson's left, held by A. P. Hill; and here Gregg's brigade of South Carolinians fought with unsurpassed courage from morning till late in the afternoon.
More than six hundred of his one thousand, five hundred men had fallen around the heroic Gregg, when, with ammunition exhausted, he replied to General Hill that he “thought he could still hold his position with the bayonet.”
, of Baltimore
, who, you recollect, was military secretary of General Lee
, in an address before the Association of the Army of Northern Virginia, delivered in 1874, in discussing some of the disputed questions of the war, observes:
It has been sixty years since Waterloo, and to this day writers are not agreed as to the facts of that famous battle.
It is not fourteen years since our war began, and yet who, on either side, of those who took part in it, is bold enough to say that he knows the exact truth with reference to any of the great battles in which the armies of the north and south met each other?
The justice of this remark of Colonel Marshall
is well illustrated, my comrades, in the history of the battle in which we took the prominent part mentioned by Colonel Allan
No battle of the late war has been so much studied and discussed as that of the second day of the Second Manassas
, Friday, the 29th August, 1862.
The second defeat of the Federal
forces on Bull Run
, following other reverses, created such exasperation in the Northern
minds that the administration in Washington
, as well as the commander under whom the disaster had occurred, found it necessary to offer a sacrifice to appease at once the anger and fears of the people.
A distinguished officer, one from whose skill and valor we of Gregg
's brigade had already suffered, and had reason to appreciate, was selected as the victim.
was tried, convicted and cashiered, ‘condemned,’ as the Board of Officers who re-examined his case say, ‘for not having taken part in his own battle.’
Twenty odd years after, the country is still discussing the justice of that conviction,
and at last he has been vindicated by the action of Congress.
This discussion, carried on with great earnestness and ability in both houses of Congress, as well as by his counsel, has attracted the attention of professional students of military history, and the examination of witnesses from both sides of the great struggle has revived and kept alive the interest in the battle as if it had been fought but yesterday.
, no battle, probably, has been so much studied and discussed.
This discussion would naturally have been very interesting to us, who took an active part in that battle, but our interest is greatly increased when we find that the discussion has now resulted in the question seriously asked and warmly debated: Was there a battle at all on the 29th August, 1862
This is, indeed, a startling question to us, when we recollect that our brigade was engaged from daylight until dark, and lost over six hundred men out of fifteen hundred carried into action, including eight out of eleven field officers, and half of our company officers.
But the question is asked, and is thus answered by the Board of Officers who have reviewed General Porter
‘The judgment of the court-martial upon General Porter's conduct was evidently based upon greatly erroneous impressions, not only respecting what that conduct really was, and the orders under which he was acting, but also respecting all the circumstances under which he acted.
Especially was this true in respect to the character of the battle of the 29th of August. That battle consisted of a number of sharp and gallant combats between small portions of the opposing forces.
These combats were of short duration, and were separated by long intervals of simple skirmishing and artillery duels. Until after 6 o'clock only a small part of the troops on either side were engaged at any time during the afternoon.’
, who made the report for our brigade after General Gregg
's death, describing our position, says:1
‘Our line made an obtuse angle pointing towards the enemy, one side of which ran nearly parallel with the railroad cut, and the other along the fence bordering the cleared field before spoken of. Within these contracted lines was the little tongue of woodland, which we occupied, and which we were directed to hold at all hazards.
On this spot, barely large enough to hold the brigade, we stood and fought, with intervals of cessation, from eight o'clock in the morning until dark.’
reports the three days fighting:2
My loss was one hundred and ninety-nine killed and thirteen hundred and eight wounded; total, fifteen hundred and seven, of which Gregg's brigade lost six hundred and nineteen.
The brave Colonels, Marshall, of South Carolina, and Forbes, of Tennessee, were killed.
Lieutenant-Colonel Leadbetter, of South Carolina, also met a soldier's death.
Colonels Barnes, Edwards, McGowan, Lieutenant-Colonels McCorkle, Farrow and McCrady, and Major Brockman, of Gregg's brigade, were wounded.
The stubborn tenacity with which Gregg's brigade held its position this day is worthy of highest commendation.
‘Assault after assault was made on the left, exhibiting on the part of the enemy great pertinacity and determination; but every advance was most successfully and gallantly driven back.
General Hill reports that six separate and distinct assaults were then met and repulsed by his division, assisted by Hays' brigade, Colonel Forno commanding.
By this time the brigade of General Gregg, which, from its position on the extreme left, was most exposed to the enemy's attack, had nearly expended its ammunition.
It had suffered severely in its men, and its field officers, except two, were killed or wounded.’
in his report,4
after mentioning a threat made on Longstreet
‘While the demonstration was being made on our right, a large force advanced to assail the left of Jackson's position, occupied by the division of General A. P. Hill.
The attack was received by his troops with their accustomed steadiness, and the battle raged with great fury.
The enemy was repeatedly repulsed, but again pressed on the attack with fresh troops.
Once he succeeded in penetrating an interval between Gregg's brigade on the extreme left and that of General Thomas but was quickly driven back with great slaughter by the Fourteenth South Carolina regiment, then in reserve, and the Forty-ninth Georgia, of Thomas' brigade.
The contest was close and obstinate, the combatants sometimes delivering their fire at ten paces.
General Gregg, who was most exposed, was reinforced by Hays' brigade under Colonel Forno, and successfully and gallantly resisted the attack of the enemy, until the ammunition of his brigade being exhausted, and all its field officers but two killed or wounded, it was relieved, after several hours of severe fighting, by Early's brigade and the Eighth Louisiana regiment.’
Is it not strange then that in the face of these official reports it should be questioned whether or not there really was a battle on the 29th August, 1862?
The discussion arose in this way: Pope
charged that Porter
, who was on the extreme left of the Federal
line, and who he (Pope
) had directed to attack and turn Jackson
's right, had remained idle and inactive all the day, while he (Pope
) ‘fought a terrific battle’ on his right (our left.) To this Porter
answered that the position Pope
had directed him to take was a mile in rear of our line; that Longstreet
was in force before him, and that Pope
was holding him responsible for not doing on the left what he (Pope
) himself, with the bulk of the army, had been unable to do on the right; and that, moreover, he (Porter
) had heard no such firing on Pope
's right as would inform him that a battle was raging.
Singular to say the noise of our engagement does not appear to have been heard at the other end of the line.5
A battle, technically speaking, is defined to be an engagement between two armies, as distinguished from the skirmishes or minor actions fought between their smaller sections.
In this sense, it is true that there was no general battle on the 29th; but that there was a battle of great severity between considerable parts of the two armies, we, the survivors of Gregg
's Brigade, are here to testify to-day.
It has seemed to me, therefore, my comrades, that it would be interesting to you, and valuable to the history of our State, to recall with you this morning the part taken by our brigade on that memorable day, and with the official reports of the officers, both Federal and Confederate, before us to inquire who were our opponents, the troops of what States and commands we fought, and how many there were that we encountered during those long hours from sunrise to dark.
I am the more induced to take this battle for the subject of our recollections to-day as I have the original draft of the report I made of the movements of the First Regiment, written very soon after the battle, which is valuable, because, as you remember, the reports made by the regimental officers
were all lost by General
, and he himself had made none when killed at Fredericksburg
The report of General McGowan
, admirable as it is, was made several months after the battle, when other great and stirring events had intervened, and when all the officers commanding regiments on the occasion had been killed, or were absent, wounded, while he was recompiling it; and as his own regiment had been held in reserve until late in the day, he himself was uninformed as to some occurrences of the early morning, which I think worthy of note.
The story of this battle can never be told without commencing with Jackson
's great march from Jeffersonton
, on Monday morning, the 25th of August, to Manassas
, where we arrived on Tuesday evening—a march of fifty seven miles in two days.
, with his famous Light Division in Wellington
's army in the Peninsula
, was accorded the honors of the victory at Talavera
, because, though he reached the field too late to take part in the action, he had made the extraordinary march of sixty-two miles in twenty-six hours, leaving only seventeen stragglers behind.
But this was done, not with a corps, but with a small picked body of troops—three regiments, which he had carefully trained for long marches, and who were thoroughly equipped, and well shod and fed, and fresh when they started.
Our march was commenced as you will well recollect, after we had already been marching and skirmishing with the enemy across the Rapidan
for a week, when we were already jaded and when we were miserably shod.
I shall never forget that march; not all the struggle and bloodshed which followed it could efface the impression of the indomitable will and heroic endurance of our men as hungry and bare-footed they toiled over the rugged roads and rocky hillsides, pressing on as if the goal was peace and rest, and not the bloody fields to which they were so exultingly if painfully traveling.
Can I ever forget the blood stains that I myself saw on the road left by the shoeless men whose suffering was first and only to be told by the gaping wounds on their bare feet as they lay dead on the field, to which they had so heroically struggled—to die?
Thrilling descriptions of this march have been given by writers
of both North and South—one an author, to whom I shall have other occasions to refer, and who, himself, took an active part in these operations, and commanded a brigade in Banks
' corps of Pope
and who has written, I think, the best account of the campaign published.
It tells how every precaution was taken to conceal our march from Pope
‘All unnecessary noise,’ he says, ‘was suppressed.
Every road leading in the direction of the Federal
army was watched by the Confederate cavalry.
The troops moved as men will move when they are impelled by enthusiasm.
Their eyes sparkled, their expression was ardent, and their step elastic.
They seemed to have been lifted out of the obscurity of their lives into a higher plane of glorious achievements.’
He tells of that scene, which, no doubt, all of you who were there will remember, and which has been so well described, too, by Professor Dabney
in his Life of Jackson
, when Jackson
stood by the road side to see us all pass as the evening of the first day's march closed in. He says:
Near the end of the day's march General Jackson rode to the head of his column.
There, on a great stone, he stood gazing as his soldiers passed.
It was sunset.
His face was darkened by exposure; his uniform was soiled and dingy, but his figure was rigid, and his expression, though stern, was radiant with hope.
Before him passed in review his faithful men and their devoted leader. * * * And now some of those men of the old Stonewall brigade were before him. Jackson could not repress their enthusiasm.
In vain he sent to them to be silent; in vain urged them not to make known their presence to the enemy by their cheers.
Such considerations had been urged to the first troops passing, and they had repressed their desires, giving token of their expressions of confidence and admiration for their commander by silently swinging their caps in the air. But the men of the old brigade, now grown into a division, could not repress their shouts.
They cheered tumultuously.
‘It is of no use,’ said Jackson; ‘you see,’ turning to one of his staff, ‘I can't stop them.’
Then he added, ‘who could not conquer with such men as these?’
Alas! alas!! alas!!!
We halted, as you well recollect, late on Tuesday evening within a mile or two of Manassas Junction
, and lay there for the night, worn and weary, but ready for whatever might happen the next morning.
, with two regiments of his command, pressed on and secured the depot that night with but little resistance, and happily with but little loss—fifteen killed and wounded. By day
dawn the next morning we were on our feet again, pushing on to the Junction
to break our long fast on the stores provided for Pope
Arrived there, our mess details were soon made, and we were just about to receive the longed — for rations, when an officer rode up and ordered General Gregg
to move his brigade forward immediately to meet the enemy.
For once our gallant commander was slow in obeying such an order.
He knew that our men were absolutely famishing, and in no condition to march or fight until they had had some food, for, on that march of two days, all the rations we had had were three ears of green corn each, plucked from the field on the road side.
Another and more pressing message came, but General Gregg
still delaying, that our mess detail should return with our rations, General Jackson
himself rode up, and very peremptorily ordered us forward.
We had gone but a little distance when the firing ceased.
, with his brigade of our division, having repulsed a brigade of New Jersey
troops, which escaping by the train which had brought them from Alexandria
, and no other force appearing, we lay during that morning, Wednesday, in the old trenches which General Johnston
had built around Manassas
On our march to this position, we passed through the camp in which our Federal friends had the day before been quietly resting, and saw on all sides abundant supplies.
We managed, however, to keep our ranks pretty steadily, until coming up to a large sutler's store, and the firing in front having ceased, thus relieving us from the sense of a pressing necessity for our presence, it was more than our officers could do to restrain our hungry men from a charge upon that well-stored establishment.
I do not know where he got it from, but this is the account given by General Gordon
of the storming of that sutler's store, and which I do not think you will consider a bad one.
‘Weak and haggard from their diet of green corn and apples, one can well imagine with what surprise their eyes opened upon the contents of the sutler's stores, containing an amount and variety of property such as they had never before conceived of. Then came a storming charge of hungry men, rushing in tumultuous mobs over each other's heads, under each other's feet—anywhere, everywhere, to satisfy a craving hunger, stronger than a yearning for fame.
There were no laggards in that charge, and there was abundant evidence of the fruits of victory.
It is barely possible that the luckless purveyors of luxuries for Pope's army witnessed such amusing scenes without reflecting upon an ensuing ruin.
Men, ragged and famished, clutched tenaciously at whatever came in their way, whether of
clothing or food, of luxury or necessity.
Here a long yellow-haired, barefooted son of the South claimed as prizes a tooth-brush, a box of candles, a quantity of lobster salad, a barrel of coffee; while there another, whose butternut colored homespun hung around him in tatters, crammed himself with lobster salad, sardines, potted game and sweetmeats, and washed them down with Rhenish wine.’
It is said that our friend, General Trimble
, was very indignant at this sacking of the stores he had captured the night before and had guarded until our division came up. But, my comrades, his troops had been there several hours before us, and we were not present to see the stores they had rifled, and to grudge them the supper they had eaten.
However that may be, I know I forgave the fellow who, in flat disobedience of my positive order, cane up from the rear with a Westphalia ham, hard tack, and a bottle of wine, and shared them with me.
, continuing his account, says:
‘Nor was the outer man neglected.
From piles of new clothing the soldiers of Jackson arrayed themselves in the blue uniforms of the Federals.
The naked were clad, the bare-footed where shod, the sick and wounded were provided with comforts and luxuries, to which they had long been strangers.’
But in this he is mistaken, and while I do not wish to be critical upon our leaders, I have always thought that this was an instance in which the real weakness of our army organization exhibited itself.
We held possession of Manassas
for nearly twenty four hours—all of Wednesday, from daylight until dark—and we had captured there two miles of burdened cars, laden with clothing, shoes, oats and corn, and there were there horses, wagons and ambulances, besides the contents of the sutler's stores; but so far from these things having been distributed, our brigade, you recollect, was left that night to cover the burning of these stores while Jackson
, with the rest of our corps, moved to the neighborhood of the position on which we were the next afternoon to meet the enemy and there contend with him for three days.
Now, had we had an active, efficient and well organized quartermaster staff, why could not these supplies of clothing and shoes have been distributed amongst us?
No enemy was pressing us from early in the morning for the rest of the day, and the details, which were ordered in the afternoon, too late for the purpose, might have effectually distributed the much-needed shoes to our bare-footed men. Late in the afternoon I was ordered to send all the men of the First,
who were in actual need of shoes, to the Quartermaster
, at the Junction
, and I sent, as I recollect, out of about three hundred of the regiment, one hundred men, who might be said to be bare-footed; but they returned without the shoes, the enemy, threatening us from Gainesville
, it was determined to set fire to the supplies we had not availed ourselves of the morning hours to distribute.
I have dwelt upon this because the failure of the Maryland campaign
has been attributed in a great measure to the straggling, which, I believe was, to a great extent, caused by the want of shoes in the army, and the blame has always fallen on the men and on the line officers.
General E. P. Alexander
tells us that General Lee
exclaimed with tears, ‘My army is ruined by straggling;
’ and Colonel Chesney
, the English
military writer who has paid such an exquisite tribute to our beloved leader, and whose writings are so full of appreciation and praise of our soldiers in other respects, dwells upon this charge as that to which they were amenable.
But I would ask any one who had walked over that battle-field, and had seen the feet of the dead, to say how the living, whose feet were in the same condition, could have held out longer on that campaign?
Had it been realized when we captured these stores that every pair of shoes was equivalent to a man for our army, and had the energy with which General Jackson
himself would swim swollen streams to find a ford for the men, been exercised as much in seeing that they were clothed and shod, I cannot but think it would have added greatly to his ability to carry out his brilliant conceptions, and would have saved his devoted followers from undeserved censure.
Left to cover the burning of the stores, our brigade moved out as the evening was closing in and picketed in the direction of Gainesville
The bright light of the conflagration behind us rendered the woods in our front but darker and more impenetrable to our eyes as we strained them watching for the enemy, who, we supposed, attracted by the flames and informed by them of Jackson
's movement from the junction, would endeavor by a rush to recover the stores not yet destroyed.
But no such effort was made, and at 2 o'clock in the morning we withdrew from the woods, and passing the burning spoils, we took up our line of march for Centreville
, whither the rest of our division had proceeded us the evening before.
In the first light of the morning we crossed Blackburn's ford, and felt ourselves on hallowed ground as we passed where Bonham
's Brigade of South Carolinians had been stationed the year before on that day which first had made Manassas Plains famous in the annals
of war. Arrived at Centreville
, we breakfasted on such of the supplies as we had brought away with us from the junction, and rested there awhile from our night's watch
Then again we were up and on the march; now back in the direction of the old battle-field, we moved down the Warrenton turnpike
After crossing Bull Run
, at the stone bridge, we filed to the right and made our way across the country to Sudley's ford, and were placed in position behind the railroad cut, which was to be our rampart and defence the next day. It was now late in the afternoon.
was hurrying up his troops ‘in pursuit of Jackson
,’ as he had telegraphed to Washington
; and King
's Division of McDowell
's corps, without a thought of their proximity to us, were marching quietly along the Warrenton turnpike
, which we had just left and by which we had just come from Centreville
, when, without note of warning, a quick and rapid fire of artillery sent bursting shells within their ranks.
So far from retreating, Jackson
had thrown his corps directly upon the flank of the columns Pope
had ordered to press forward in our ‘pursuit.’
was fully aware of Pope
's movements, and to meet King
he had at noon sent forward Taliaferro
through the woods along the deep cuts and steep embankments of the unfinished railway towards the Centreville pike
Here he formed his line in a wood on the brow of a hill, with Groveton
on his left, and awaited King
's approach, and King
, all unconscious, marched to his destruction.
You recollect, my comrades, how the noise of this battle on our right burst upon us:
—death shots falling thick and fast
As lightnings from the mountain cloud.
Our brigade was hurried to the scene of action, and ordered to report to General Ewell
, who was directing the battle; but we were not engaged that afternoon, and as I have much to say of the next day's work, which concerns us so much more nearly, I must hasten on without dwelling upon the brilliant commencement of the three days struggle.
Suffice it to say, that it was a short but most terrific contest, in which both sides suffered very heavily, the Federals
leaving more than one-third of their forces engaged dead or wounded on the field, while we suffered heavily, and lost both of the division commanders engaged—Generals Ewell
—who were wounded.
We lay that night on the hard and rocky sides of the railroad cut,
knowing that many of us who did sleep were sleeping their last sleep on earth, and that others were watching for the rising of the sun, whose setting beams would fall upon their lifeless bodies; and yet, on that summer night, the moon shone sweetly, and the stars came out quietly, as if there was nought but peace and good-will upon earth, as if no fierce men were lying waiting but the end of their vigils to commence again their murderous strife.
The night passed on, and the day, the long day for those who should survive it, commenced—Friday, the 29th August—during which over six hundred of our little band of fifteen hundred were to fall.
The first dawn was greeted by the shells of the enemy, who had been preparing during the night to throw their main force upon our left, and to overwhelm us before Lee
's corps came to our assistance.
Some of these shells fell in our ranks, and thus, early in the day, was the bloody work begun.
About seven o'clock the brigade was put in motion in the following order: the Twelfth, Thirteenth, First, Orr
's Rifles, and Fourteenth, and we were marched back again to our first position of the evening before, the extreme left of Jackson
On our approach to the spot we were to occupy we were halted, and a company from each regiment was detailed as skirmishers, to cover our front and flanks.
The skirmishers crossed the railroad cut, and pushed into the woods opposite, while General Gregg
posted our regiments upon the hill on which the left of our line of battle was to rest, and which he was instructed that he was to hold at any and every cost.
Our position upon this hill or rocky knoll was slightly in advance of Jackson
's general line; here, the ground rising to some extent, the grade of the railroad bed, in our immediate front, rendered the depth of the cut about six feet, but sloping away to our right and left, reduced it to one or two feet on our flanks, while further on to our right, in front of Thomas
' brigade, it rose to an embankment.
The ground upon our side of the road-bed was almost entirely bare, while, on the other side, it was covered by a thick growth of brush.
On our right, too, this growth extended to about fifty yards of our flank, while on our left, at about the same distance, was a field inclosed by a worm fence.
The portion of this field, nearest our position, was cleared and open, but on the side of the field, furthest from us, there was a stand of corn closely covering it. This position was important, not only because it was our extreme left, but because of the Sudley ford
which it commanded.
On arriving at this spot, our skirmishers having preceded us and
crossed the cut, the brigade was posted, the First on the right, the Thirteenth (Colonel Edwards
) next, then the Twelfth (Colonel Barnes
), and then the Fourteenth (Colonel McGowan
); the last mentioned regiment thrown back along the worm fence I have mentioned and facing the north.
's Rifles, Colonel Marshall
, were placed behind the centre in reserve.
Our line thus made an obtuse angle, pointing towards the enemy.
The rest of our division was posted as follows: Thomas
' brigade of Georgians on our right, behind where the grade of the railroad bed began to rise from a cut to an embankment, and next to them Fields
' brigade of Virginians
, the right of our divisison.
's and Pender
's brigade of North Carolinians, and Archer
's of Tennesseeans, were held in support of the first line, Branch
in the rear of our brigade.
's Light Division was posted and ready for the day's bloody work.
's division, under General Lawton
, formed the centre of Jackson
's line, and Taliaferro
's, under General Starke
, was on the extreme right.
We had been posted in our position but a few moments, I think, when the crack of the rifles in the woods in our front informed us that our skirmishers had come upon the enemy.
We were eagerly listening to the dropping fire in our front, when General Gregg
came up to me and telling me that it was desired to feel the enemy and ascertain what the force before us was, but that General Jackson
did not wish a general engagement brought on, he ordered me to move the first regiment across the cut, crossing one rank at a time; and his instructions were, that when I had got the regiment safely across I would be met by Lieutenant Fellows
, of the Thirteenth, who would guide me to where the skirmishers had engaged the enemy, upon coming up with whom I was to give them two or three volleys, and then charge them with the bayonet.
How I, a regimental officer, was to be responsible for bringing on a general engagement, if I carried out these instructions, I did not very well understand; but you recollect, my comrades, that the General
was very deaf, and on such occasions very impatient of explanations, so as my orders were at least clear, whatever might be the consequences, I hastened to obey them, and under his supervision his old regiment was crossed over the cut, and left him upon its adventurous expedition.
Under Lieutenant Fellows
' guidance I changed our front somewhat to the left, and the regiment advanced gallantly to its work.
We had advanced but a little distance, however, and had not reached the point at which the volleys were to be given and the charge with the bayonet made, when, interrupting the programme thus marked out for us,
our enemies took the initiative without waiting our compliments, but intent it seemed on gratifying our inquisitiveness, opened on us quite a severe fire.
The ground over which we were advancing was thickly wooded and covered with underbrush, so that we could see but a few paces in our front; and here, too, it sloped both to the front and flanks; from the hollow, at the bottom of the slope, the enemy poured into the regiment a destructive fire.
The fire was returned with spirit; but upon attempting to move forward to the charge, as directed by General Gregg
, I found our left exposed, and that we were already in danger of capture, as we had marched into the very jaws of our enemy.
Instead, therefore, of carrying out the brilliant manoeuvres proposed, I sent a message to General Gregg
telling him of the situation.
The messenger had scarcely gone when a fire was opened upon us from our right and rear, as well as from the left, and finding both flanks endangered, and the enemy in such force, I sent Captain Shooter
, the next in command in the regiment, to explain to General Gregg
our critical condition, and to ask for support.
The fire increased rapidly, and finding the position becoming more and more untenable, I determined to extricate the regiment, if I could, without waiting for the assistance I had asked, as I feared if I waited much longer that it would be too late.
This was accomplished with some difficulty, and we formed on a position in which we could hold our own, until you, my comrades, came up to our help.8
I certainly had not ascertained anything more about the enemy than that they were in considerable force in our immediate front, and were advancing upon us. So, while we are awaiting the coming of the Twelfth, which General Gregg
sent us word he would send, let us turn, as we now may do, to the Federal
reports, and learn what my reconnoissance had not disclosed, viz: what forces of the enemy
these were against whom our little regiment had been sent, and who you, of the Twelfth, were also to meet as you so gallantly came hastening to our assistance.
Major-General Franz Sigel
‘On Thursday night, August 28th, when the first corps was encamped on the heights south of Young's Branch, near Bull Run, I received orders from General Pope to attack the enemy vigorously the next morning.
I accordingly made the necessary preparations at night, and formed in order of battle at daybreak, having ascertained that the enemy was in considerable force beyond Young's Branch, in sight of the hills we occupied.
His left wing rested on Catharpin Creek, towards Centreville; with his centre he occupied a long stretch of woods parallel with the Sudley Springs (New Market) road, and his right was posted on the hill on both sides of the Centreville-Gainesville road.
I therefore directed General Schurz to deploy his division on the right of the Gainesville road, and by a change of direction to the left to come into position parallel with the Sudley Springs road.
General Milroy, with his brigade and one battery, was directed to form the centre,’ &c.
's division was to form the left of Sigel
's attack; but we, I think it will appear, are only concerned at the time with Schurz
's division and Milroy
's independent brigade.
So we need not follow Schenck
's movements, which, in fact, did not amount to much.
It will interest you, I think, my comrades, to know the composition of this division and brigade which Sigel
had ordered to attack us. Schurz
's division, I find, was composed of two brigades of three regiments each.
The first brigade was commanded by Colonel Schimmelfenning
, one of the best educated, General Gordon
says, of all those foreigners who offered their swords to the Federal
government-one whom it was your destiny to meet again upon that glorious but disastrous day to us, as we lost our great leader in the hour of victory at Chancellorsville
This brigade, which was upon the right of the division as it advanced, was composed of the Sixty-first Ohio, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel McGroarty
; Seventy-fourth Pennsylvania, commanded by Major Blessing
, and a regiment which the Federal
government had the audacity to call the Eighth Virginia.
Who the commander of this bogus regiment was I have not been able to ascertain.
The second brigade was commanded by another foreigner, with an equally euphonious name, Colonel Krzyzanowski
This brigade was composed of the Fifty-fourth New York, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Ashby
; the Fifty-eighth New York, commanded by Major Henkel
, and Seventy-fifth Pennsylvania, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Mahler
brigade consisted of the Eighty-second Ohio, and four regiments designated as the Second, Third, Fifth and Eighth Virginia, but which we will take leave to assume were not recruited on Virginia
's other division consisted of two brigades of four regiments each.
So in his corps he had nineteen regiments.
in his report estimated this corps, after deducting losses by death, wounds and sickness, prior to the 27th August, as nine thousand strong—that is, nearly five hundred men to a regiment.
's division, then, which was marching upon us, of six regiments, was little less than three thousand strong, and Milroy
's two regiments, which during the fight, as it will appear, came to Schurz
's assistance, added, say, one thousand, making the force assailing our left somewhat about four thousand strong.
It is always difficult, in studying the reports of the opposite side, to locate precisely the relative positions of the particular corps of the contending forces; but in this struggle we are fortunately able to fix one point with some definiteness, from which we can arrange the positions of the attacking and defending bodies with some accuracy.
, detailing the operations of his brigade, the advance of which commenced at about half past 5, A. M., says:
‘Scarcely had the skirmishers passed over two hundred yards when they became engaged with the enemy.
For some time the firing was kept up, but our skirmishers had to yield at last to the enemy's advancing column.
At this time I ordered my regiment up, and a general engagement ensued.’
I will not just now follow him in his description of the ‘general engagement,’ but will recur to it directly.
I skip that now, to quote from the part of the report, telling of the position his brigade occupied after we had returned to the railroad, the following:
‘We were then enabled to secure our wounded and some of our dead, and also some of the enemy's wounded belonging to the 10th South Carolina regiment.’
This is no doubt a typographical error for the 1st South Carolina
, and the wounded Krzyzanowski
secured were some of our poor fellows who fell while our regiment was out there alone before you had come up, our regiment thus having struck the left brigade of Schurz
's division as it was advancing to our attack.
We had not as long to wait the coming of the Twelfth as I have taken to tell you of the forces you were to meet when you came.
Promptly answering our summons, you came up under your gallant and beloved commander, Colonel Barnes
, and moving upon the left of the First, we joined you, and charged and drove the enemy
some distance beyond the point from which our regiment had before been driven back.
But finding the enemy still strong upon our right, and again receiving his fire from that flank and in our rear, I halted the First, and throwing back the right wing, endeavored thus to hold our position, which now became necessary for the safety of the Twelfth, as you had pressed forward without us. Captain Shooter
returned at this time, and informed me that General Gregg
had sent Colonel Edwards
with the Thirteenth to our support on the right, but the denseness of the undergrowth preventing our seeing him, or his finding us, I sent Sergeant L. A. Smith
, who volunteered to go to communicate with Colonel Edwards
, and to guide him to our position.
This Sergeant Smith
did at great personal danger, the enemy's sharpshooters having possession of the woods between the advance of the Thirteenth and ourselves.
, in moving to our support, had met the enemy in such force as to compel him to engage them, and thus prevented his effecting a junction with the First.
About this time I received a message from Lieutenant-Colonel Jones
of the Twelfth, requesting me to move the First forward to the support of the Twelfth. Colonel Barnes
had pushed you upon the enemy to some distance in advance, and you were then being pressed by them in superior numbers.
The enemy, however, upon our right rendered it impossible for the First to advance; indeed, it was all we could do to hold our own position, and had we moved forward, both regiments, as it appeared to me, would have been taken in rear and cut off. Fortunately, just at this time, Colonel Marshall
with the Rifles came up and advanced to the support of the Twelfth.
The four regiments were then recalled, and we were again posted behind the railroad cut.
In this affair the four regiments engaged suffered severely, and lost some of our very best men, but it will amuse you, serious as the subject is, to learn how the enemy over-estimated our numbers, especially when I read you the bombastic and extravagant accounts of it by the redoubtable Milroy
, two of whose regiments it was that attacked the right flank of the First, thus preventing its coming to your support, and preventing the Thirteenth from forming a junction with the First.
reports, after describing the position and the order of his line of battle:9
‘In this order our whole line advanced from point to point, taking advantage
of the ground before us until our whole line was involved in a most vehement artillery and infantry contest.’
‘Meanwhile the fire in front had extended along the whole line and become very lively, my regiments pushing the enemy vigorously before them, about one-half a mile.
The discharges of musketry increased in rapidity and volume as we advanced, and it soon became evident that the enemy was throwing heavy masses against us.’
Think of the ‘heavy masses’ of three regiments coming to the support of a fourth.
, who was immediately in front of the First when we sent to ask for assistance, says:11
‘Scarcely had the skirmishers passed over two hundred yards when they became engaged with the enemy.
For some time the firing was kept up, but our skirmishers had to yield at last to the enemy's advancing column.
At this time I ordered my regiments up, and a general engagement ensued.
However, I noticed that the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-eighth regiments had to fall back owing to the furious fire of the enemy, who had evidently thrown his forces exclusively upon those two regiments. The Seventy-fifth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, which up to this time had not taken part in this engagement, was (at the time the Fifty eighth and the Fifty-fourth retired) nobly led by Lieutenant-Colonel Mahler upon the right flank of the enemy and kept him busy until I had brought the Fifty eighth at a double quick up to its previous position, when those two regiments successfully drove the enemy before them, thereby gaining the position of the Manassas Gap railroad.’
seems to have been everywhere, dashing about independently, even, of his independent brigade.
... After passing a piece of woods I turned to the right, where the Rebels had a battery that gave us a good deal of trouble.
I brought forward one of my batteries to reply to it, and soon heard a tremendous fire of small arms, and knew that General Schurz was hotly engaged to my right in an extensive forest.
I sent two of my regiments, the Eighty-Second Ohio, Colonel Cantwell, and the Fifth Virginia, Colonel Zeigler, to General Schurz's assistance.
They were to attack the enemy's right flank, and I held my two other regiments in reserve for a time.
The two regiments sent to Schurz were soon hotly engaged, the enemy being behind a railroad embankment, which afforded them an excellent breastwork.
The railroad had to be approached from a cleared ground on our side through a strip of thick timber, from 100 to 500 yards in width.
I had intended, with the two regiments held in reserve (the Second and Third Virginia regiments), to charge the Rebel battery, which was but a short distance
from us over the top of the hill on our left, but while making my arrangements to do this, I observed that my two regiments engaged were being driven back out of the woods by the terrible fire of the Rebels.
I then saw the brave Colonels, Cantwell and Zeigler, struggling to rally their broken regiments in the rear of the forest, out of which they had been driven, and sent two of my aides to assist them and assure them of immediate support.
They soon rallied their men, and charged again and again up to the railroad, but were driven back each time with great loss. I then sent the Second Virginia to their support, directing it to approach the railroad at a point on the left of my other regiments where the woods ended, but they were met by such a destructive fire from a large Rebel force that they were soon thrown into confusion, and fell back in disorder.
The enemy now came on in overwhelming numbers. General Carl Schurz had been obliged to retire with his two brigades an hour before, and then the whole Rebel force was turned against my brigade, and my brave lads were dashed back before the storm of bullets like chaff before the tempest.
And so on. General Gordon
, in a note13
to his account of this part of the battle, says: ‘Thus far in the battle the feats of valor on the Federal
side we have given from official reports.’
‘It is remarkable,’ he adds, ‘that the most patient research among Confederate reports reveals no account of any heavy or prolonged struggle up to this time
with either General Schurz
Indeed, the Confederates
claim to have resisted the efforts of these Federal officers with but a small part of their force.’
, who was on our right, advanced it seems to our support—I suppose when Colonel Edwards
with the Thirteenth and Colonel Marshall
with the Rifles moved out—but he disposes of the part his brigade took in it in a few lines.
‘General Gregg's brigade meeting the enemy there (near the railroad), this brigade advanced to his right, the regiments being thrown in successively until all became engaged.
The energy were in strong position on the railroad.
We at once advanced and drove them from it.’
Thus, as I understand, General Thomas
disposes of the rest of Milroy
's brigade and of Schenck
's division of Sigel
At any rate, he is the only other officer on our side who found anything worthy to note of the performances at this time, so elaborately reported by Milroy
, you recollect, was in our rear in support of our brigade, and when he saw our brigade engaged, he, too, sent in three
regiments—the Thirty-seventh, Eighteenth and Seventh North Carolina, which became actively engaged no doubt with Colonel Schimmelfenning
's brigade, which was on the extreme right of Sigel
's corps, and lapping over our left.
But General Lane
, who made the report, makes very light of the affair.
He, himself, with the Twenty-eighth and Thirty-third North Carolina had been sent by General Branch
to dislodge the enemy who were in the woods beyond the cornfield on our left, but learning, he says, that the enemy were in force in the woods, and that General Gregg
had been ordered not to press them, he informed General Branch
, and was ordered by him to remain where he was.15
All this took place, as you will remember, before ten o'clock, and I cannot but think, on reading the Federal
reports, that the results of the reconnoissance, on which the First was sent, were far more important than could have been contemplated when a single regiment was ordered ‘to feel the enemy.’
The audacity of the attack of the First, the dash with which it was supported by the Twelfth, and the promptness and vigor of the Thirteenth and Rifles in meeting Milroy
, seem to have disconcerted the enemy and checked his advance upon the position which we were to hold so tenaciously for the rest of the day. Judging from the Federal
reports, and the further action of Sigel
, we must have crippled his corps beyond what could have been expected.
It was now about 10 o'clock. Our position in the morning had scarcely been regained when the enemy were reported advancing in force through the woods from which we had just retired.
Four companies of the First were again sent forward under Captain Shooter
, by General Gregg
's order, as skirmishers, to meet them.
, with the Thirteenth, was placed in the position held by the First previous to our advance, and with the remaining six companies of our regiment I was placed by General Gregg
in position about twenty yards in rear of the Thirteenth.
The Twelfth was some distance in rear of the First.
The Fourteenth and Rifles confronting the cornfield to the left.
These positions had scarcely been taken when the skirmishers of the First were driven back before the advance of the enemy in force, and falling back across the railroad, the companies formed in their places upon the wings of the regiment.
They had scarcely done so before the breaking of the
bushes and the orders of the officers, as they strove to preserve the alignment of the regiments advancing through the woods to our assault, could be distinctly heard, and told of the approach of the enemy still concealed by the heavy brush.
Let us see who it was that was coming so steadily and cautiously to our attack.
During the affair in front of the railroad, which I have just described, General Kearney
, of Heintzelman
's corps, had been ordered to the support of Sigel
, and had arrived upon the ground, and some of his regiments had probably taken part in that fight, as Schurz
reports that two small regiments sent to his support had slipped in between the two brigades.
But, however that may be, Kearney
was now in our front, ready for action, and Sigel
had written, requesting him to attack at once with his whole force, as Longstreet
, who was expected to reinforce Jackson
during the day, had not yet arrived upon the battle-field, and it was hoped to gain decisive advantages before his arrival.
seems to have found difficulty in getting into position on his right (our left), and he had to request Schurz
to shorten his front and condense his line by drawing his right nearer to his left, so as to make room for him on his right.
Orders were given Colonel Schimmelfenning
having seen the letter of Sigel
, ordered a general advance of his whole line, which he claims was executed with great gallantry, ‘the enemy,’ he says, ‘yielding everywhere before us.’16
Is this not a little news to you and me, my comrades?
, with the four companies of the First, after some very sharp skirmishing, in which we again lost some very valuable men, did fall back, as he was expected to do, having developed the line of attack, but except this, I do not know of any yielding anywhere on our line.
Certain it is, they left us where they found us—behind the railroad cut.
And now began the really terrific work of the day, which ended only with the day itself From the dense growth which shielded the enemy from our view, they poured in upon us a deadly fire.
Our men had seldom better direction for their aim than the bushes from which the fire came.
The enemy dared not cross the railroad cut, though in superior force to ours, and, after vainly endeavoring to force us from our position by their fire, they were compelled themselves
to retire in confusion.
As they fell back, however, cheers told us of other and fresh troops advancing.
The Federal reports of this battle are very curious reading to us, especially of this attack.
claims that Colonel Schimmelfenning
not only got possession of the embankment on his right (our extreme left), but that he advanced beyond it. He admits that he fell back under heavy pressure, but he insists that he held the embankment.17 Krzyzanowski
's skirmishers had two mountain howitzers, from the effect of the fire of which, we are told, it was said the Confederates
recoiled for a time, then he, too, advanced and gained the embankment which Schurz
claims that he continued to hold until about 2 o'clock in the afternoon.18
Now, the earth from the excavation, over which all this fighting took place, made an embankment on each side, and if the Federals
mean that they held their side and we held our side, I have no question to make with them.
But they were the assailants.
Their purpose was to dislodge us from our side before Longstreet
came up, and if they did not do this, I do not see the cause of the exultation.
We had no objection to their remaining there until Longstreet
was ready to make his attack.
But if they mean to say that they ever got possession of the embankment on our side before Grover
's attack in the afternoon, they say what you and I, my comrades, know is not so. I here say before you all, who were participants and witnesses, that Gregg
's brigade never yielded a foot of ground until Kearney
's attack late in the afternoon.
Not even Grover
's brilliant assault moved our brigade an inch.
But, as I was saying, as Schurz
's troops fell back from their attack, cheers in the distance told us of fresh troops advancing.
‘It was now two o'clock. The fight again broke out in the centre; but the struggle there was carried on by the division of Heintzelman's corps, commanded by General Hooker, and by a brigade from Reno's division.
The contest was maintained by a Federal line, of which Robinson was in command on the right, Hooker in the centre, and Milroy rampant generally on the left.’
These were the troops whose cheers we heard when Schurz
's division fell back, and the right of this assault on our centre lapped over until it struck our brigade, which was on the left.
The attack was
short and sharp, but easily repulsed.
There are no reports of Reno
from which to learn the particulars of the part his troops took in the affair, but it is certain that we engaged them, for I, myself, after the assault was over, questioned prisoners taken from his corps by our regiments.
It must not be supposed that there was rest and safety for our troops during the interval between the attacks I have been describing.
There was no quiet for us that day from dawn till evening.
The Federal sharpshooters held possession of the woods in our front, and, whether or no assaults were being made, kept up a deadly fire of single shots whenever any one of us was exposed.
Every lieutenant who had to change his position did so at the risk of his life.
What then was our horror, during one of these intervals of attack, to see General Jackson
himself walking quietly down the railroad cut examining our position, and calmly looking into the woods that concealed the enemy.
Strange to say he was not molested.
He was spared that day to fall at Chancellorsville
, at the moment of his greatest success, by a similar unnecessary personal exposure.
I venture to say that on neither occasion had he the right thus recklessly to expose a life of so much consequence to the cause for which we were fighting.
And now took place the most brilliant action of the enemy during that day, the assault of the New England
brigade under Grover
‘Many days after the battle, while the earth was covered with shreds of clothing, with pieces of leather, and with all the fragments of a crash of arms, while the dead strewed the field and the earth was red with blood, men and women followed the course of those heroic men of New England and knew not nor cared to know that it was on the same ground that Milroy had defied the whole Confederate army together.’
Let me give you, my comrades, General Gordon
's account of this attack, and then read you General Jackson
's short report of it from our side.
These accounts do not exactly agree as to what was actually accomplished by our gallant assailants.
When did the stories of those on opposite sides in battle correspond?
But both accounts do agree in the heroism of the attack and the desperate resistance with which it was met. They disagree, too, as to the troops on our side who met the charge.
represents the assault as delivered in front of Ewell
's divisions, whereas General
reports that the break made by the New Englanders was in an interval between Thomas
's brigade and Gregg
's. On this point surely General Jackson
is the best authority, and you and I, my comrades, are here to-day to corroborate him, and to bear the witness of wounds received in that terrific struggle.
I, for one, cannot be mistaken, for that night I shared my canteen with a poor fellow of a New Hampshire regiment, who lay dying on the ground he had reached, and from which his brave companions had been driven back.
This is General Gordon
's account, written in a style fitting the conduct of his countrymen, whose deeds he was extolling:21
At three o'clock an officer galloped up to General Grover with an order to advance in line of battle over the cleared ground, to pass the embankment, enter the edge of the woods beyond and hold them.
For this work there was no reliance but the bayonet, and General Grover so told his men. Move slowly forward, he said, till the enemy's fire was felt; then advance rapidly and return it, and then the bayonet; give them one withering volley and then the bayonet, man to man, in the struggle.
His line was formed, the First, Eleventh, and Sixteenth Massachusetts, the Second New Hampshire and the Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania.
These men entered a heavy wood where the enemy's skirmishers were found, and they pressed them to their reserves which in turn fell back until the railroad embankment was seen ten feet in height.
As the Federals emerged from the woods, the first Confederate line from behind this cover opened a heavy fire.
It was returned.
The Federals leaped up the embankment and the Confederates met them on its summit.
For a few minutes there was a severe struggle.
Neither had yielded to a fire which had been delivered almost muzzle to muzzle; nor had the Federal line halted before awful volleys that tore life out of men in that leaden storm as the tornado tosses leaves and branches from its path.
It was a pure contest of muscle, hand to hand, man to man. But it was brief; skulls dashed in here with muskets clubbed, lives let out there with bayonet thrusts, were held in consternation by the Confederates.
They turned in flight.
Over the embankment our men followed in pursuit—over the bodies of slain and mangled wretches that had rolled down the declivity when the breath went out of their bodies; on through the scattered and broken fragments of the first line of the enemy to a second which was broken like a reed.
One frantic effort the Confederates made here; one terrible volley they delivered.
The Federal onset never ceased.
With wild yells on they came, and the Confederates continued their flight.
Still onward pursued the Federals, until a third defensive line was reached, from which the foe advancing met a thin and wasted front of gallant men. The Confederates were fresh, their ranks were closed and their numbers were larger than Grover's. Now, too, the Confederate artillery opened from the Confederate right with an enfilading fire.
The right centre and a portion of the left line were swept
With the Sixteenth Massachusetts General Grover tried to turn the enemy's flank; but the break in his own, and the length of the enemy's line told against him. He was obliged to retire first to the embankment, and thence, pursued by musketry from the woods and by shell and canister from the Confederate artillery, to his first position under the hill.
The survivors rallied to their colors.
Colors? In some regiments there were no colors left—nothing but the staff; in others there were shreds of colors only.
Of the brave men of that brigade four hundred and eighty-six officers and men were killed, wounded or missing.
In the Eleventh Massachusetts regiment the loss was one hundred and twelve out of two hundred and eighty three officers, non-commissioned officers and privates carried into action.22
Now let us turn to General Jackson
's account of this affair.
‘About two o'clock, P. M., the Federal infantry, in large force, advanced to the attack of our left, occupied by the division of General Hill.
It pressed forward in defiance of our fatal and destructive fire with great determination, a portion of it crossing a deep cut in the railroad track, and penetrating in heavy force an interval of near a hundred and seventy-five yards, which separated the right of Gregg's brigade from the left of Thomas's brigade.
For a short time Gregg's brigade, on the extreme left, was isolated from the main body of the command.
But the Fourteenth South Carolina regiment, then in reserve with the Forty-ninth Georgia, left of Colonel Thomas, attacked the exultant enemy with vigor, and drove them back across the railroad track with great slaughter.
General McGowan reports that the opposing forces at one time delivered their volleys into each other at the distance of ten paces.’
I have before me the draft of the report I made as soon after the battle as I was sufficiently recovered from the wound I received to write, and I cannot better tell what happened at this time under my own immediate observation than by reading to you an extract from it:23
‘The greater portion of the day had now been spent, and we still held the ground, but none doubted that the great struggle was still to come.
The cheers were soon again heard, and the breaking of the bushes, as the enemy advanced.
Upon our left, too, this time they came in force up the railroad cut, and were soon on us with a fire both from front and left flank.
This time they were in force also to sweep around upon our right and endeavor to cross the cut. Here, as they advanced, they came upon Thomas's brigade, posted in the thicket on our right.
A short resistance, and Thomas's brigade gave way before the superior numbers of the assailants.
As the enemy followed them, they came upon the right flank of Colonel Edwards
(the Thirteenth) and ourselves.
We had no time to form a regular line to meet them, but such as proved itself equal to the task was soon filled up. I directed companies A C and L to wheel to the right, which, with their reduced numbers, just filled in the space between Colonel Edwards and ourselves.
He, too, formed some of his men to the right.
The enemy pressed in on us in pursuit of the troops on our right, which had been broken.
But they met desperate resistance.
They came upon us in ten and twenty paces, but our men stood gallantly to their posts.
The work of death was terrific, but as each man fell, his place was filled by another.
Here Captain Barksdale, Lieutenant Munro, Lieutenant Hewitson, and Sergeant Smith, Company C, distinguished themselves by their gallantry and efficiency.
But the unequal fight could not long have been maintained.
Fortunately, just at this time Colonel Barnes with the Twelfth came to our assistance.
With a shout the Twelfth came charging with the bayonet, and the Georgians having rallied behind and supporting him, the enemy gave way, and were driven back across the woods from which they came.’
I am glad, my comrades of the Twelfth, that I happened to have preserved the copy of the report made by me at the time, as it enables me thus to supply an omission in the facts furnished General McGowan
when, after the deaths of General Gregg
and Colonel Barnes
, and the loss of all the reports that had been made, he was called upon, in the absence, too, of those who could have given him the information, to make the report of the brigade.
I am sure we are indebted to him for the admirable report he made.
I am sure, too, it is no disparagement of our friends of the Fourteenth, nor lack of full appreciation of their gallant conduct, mentioned by General Jackson
, when I claim for Colonel Barnes
and yourselves the distinguished part the Twelfth bore in that action.
I recollect, just before the battle, Colonel Barnes
saying to me that he intended to use the bayonet on every opportunity.
He said he thought long-taw firing a mistake on our part; that it wasted ammunition, which was a matter of great consequence to us, and more than that, lost to us the advantages of the élan
of our troops, which he thought greater than that of the enemy, and he was determined, therefore, to close with him whenever the occasion offered.
When, then, Grover
and his New Englanders broke in upon our neighbors and threatened to cut off our brigade from the corps, I looked anxiously for the Twelfth, which I knew was lying just in our rear.
I did not have to wait long.
Up you were in a moment, and Colonel Barnes
, true to his purpose, gave the order for the charge without stopping to fire.
is enthusiastic over the charge of Grover
's brigade, but I think if he could have seen the Twelfth as they rose with a rush and a shout, and with cold steel
and nothing more, closed in with the New Englanders, he would have found room for his brush on our side, too, of the picture he has so well drawn.
The struggle, indeed, was a memorable one.
It was the consummation of the grand debate between Massachusetts
and South Carolina
had exhausted the argument in the Senate, and now the soldiers of the two States were fighting it out eye to eye, hand to hand, man to man. If the debates in the Senate chamber
were able and eloquent, the struggle on that knoll at Manassas
was brave and glorious.
Each State showed there that it had ‘the courage of its convictions.’
does not exaggerate or paint too highly the scene of that conflict.
But it was too fearful, if not too grand, to last.
Slowly at first the New Englanders began to give back, and step by step we pressed on them every inch gained by us, until Colonel McGowan
, with the Fourteenth of our brigade and the Forty-ninth Georgia, coming up to our assistance, Grover
's men at last broke, and then followed the awful and pitiful carnage of brave men who have failed in an assault.
Grape and canister cruelly tearing to pieces in their retreat those whose lives had escaped while fighting hand to hand with their foes.
But our work was not yet over for the day. Another assault was preparing for us. This time it was Phil. Kearney
, a distinguished soldier in the Mexican
war, one for whom South Carolinians had a very kindly feeling from his intimacy with a beloved son of the State
who had fallen, killed by the Indians, in a small affair a year or two before the breaking out of the war, and in whose death the State
had felt that she had lost a young soldier of brilliant promise.24 Kearney
, who was to die before our division but three days after, was now forming his line for another determined effort to turn our left and drive us from the position we had held all day.
‘The Federal line was formed with Poe's brigade on the right, Birney on the left, and Robinson in reserve.
Before it were the six brigades of A. P. Hill's division and one of Ewell's in two lines.
Hill held the most important point of Jackson's line—his left.
He had been entrusted with this defence because Jackson knew that his zeal and courage in the Southern cause was equal to his own. Notwithstanding this disparity of numbers, General Kearney, without hesitation, gave the command to assault the
The brave Federal troops dashed forward over all impediments and rolled the first line of the enemy upon his right.
It was the beginning of victory, it presaged success, but that was all. The force was too light, the wave was spent and began to recede.
General Stevens, of Reno's command, was on the ground on Kearney's left.
He saw that assistance was needed, and he charged forward in support, but in vain.
He did not have the numbers.’
adds in a note to page 276: ‘As appears from previous pages, the superiority of numbers in front of Kearney
were greatly on Hill
Now General Gordon
has certainly endeavored to be fair in his story of this day, and appreciating how hard it is to see and to write impartially, when we are describing such scenes in which our sympathies and interest are all on one side, I think we may well say that he has been eminently so, barring an occasional outburst against individuals.
But let us see as to the disparity of the force with which Kearney
attacked us at this time.
By General Hill
's field return, on the 20th July we had in our division of six brigades, ten thousand six hundred and twenty-three men present for duty.26
Our division lost at Cedar Run
, 9th August, one hundred and ninety-four killed and wounded,27
leaving us ten thousand four hundred and twenty-nine, with which we commenced the march to Manassas
Our division had been fighting and marching for several days, and it is safe to say that at least five hundred of the six hundred and nineteen, we lost out of our brigade alone that day, had already fallen before Kearney
We had fought Sigel
's corps all the morning, and that corps Pope
estimated at nine thousand,28
's division was so completely exhausted by its fight with us by noon that it took no further part in the action of the day.29
We had fought Hooker
's division of Heintzelman
's corps, which, it appears, was five thousand five hundred30
strong, together with a brigade at least of Reno
's, say one thousand five hundred more.
And now came Kearney
, with four thousand five hundred31
comparatively fresh troops, and with him Stevens
' division of Reno
's corps, also fresh troops.
's corps was estimated by Pope
as seven thousand, but estimated by Ropes as eight thousand
consisted of fifteen regiments organized into five brigades and two divisions.33 Stevens
's division comprised but three small brigades, one of three and the other two of two regiments each.
The regiments of the division, under Pope
's estimate, averaged four hundred and sixty-six men each.
added three thousand two hundred and sixty-six men to Kearney
's four thousand five hundred—together, over seven thousand seven hundred fresh troops attacking a division originally, it is true, of a little over ten thousand, but which had then been fighting ten hours at least.
Surely the disparity was entirely against Hill
's division, and not in our favor.
's division, as it was relieved at midday by Hooker
, General Gordon
says, page 259:
‘From 5 o'clock in the morning his (Schurz's) division had been under fire.
Since the evening before they had been without food; from death and from wounds their losses had been severe; from constant engagements, they had exhausted their ammunition.
They retired behind the hill on which the battery of the second brigade had been in position, and from thence they moved to a wood about four hundred yards to the rear.
The division of Schurz's took no further part in the actions of the day. The General commanding this division praised the conduct of his troops, and they were entitled to praise.’
We think so too. They were entitled to praise.
But who on our side had this division been contending with since five in the morning? Was it not with Hill
And had we been eating while they were without food?
Had not we, too, suffered from death and from wounds?
Was not our ammunition expended equally with them?
And yet they were relieved as having done their full share of the day's work, while we, after having withstood Hooker
's division and Gower
's charge, since Schurz
had been relieved, were expected to be more than a match for Kearney
's and Stevens
's seven thousand fresh troops.
indeed had a beginning of victory, a presage of success.
Our men were thoroughly exhausted.
Whatever the spirit was still willing to do and dare, the flesh was failing.
's epigram as he witnessed the charge at Balaklava
, ‘c'est magnifique mais ce n'est pas la guerre
,’ had no application here.
It was the reverse.
war, but it was not grand.
Ten hours of actual conflict had exhausted all the romance of the battle.
It was business; it was work, wearisome work in the face of death we were doing.
Our feet were worn and weary, and our arms were nerveless.
Our ears were deadened with the continuous roar of the battle, and our eyes were dimmed with the smoke.
Ah! we too needed rest.
The rest Schurz
's men were having yonder, over the hill in their rear.
It mattered not to him that we were tired, and that our ammunition was gone.
On, on he came, pouring into us his deadly volleys, and then the rush.
Our men fell fast around us. The Thirteenth and the First after having held our position all day, at last were pushed back.
The enemy pressed on, crossed the cut, and slowly but steadily compelled us, step by step, to yield the long coveted position—the position, on the extreme left, a little in advance of Hill
's line, with which, early in the morning, our brigade had been entrusted, and which we had maintained all day. But we would not give it up without a desperate struggle.
Now again the same hand to hand fight we had with Grover
, we renewed with Kearney
—we were not, however, entirely without help.
came to our assistance with one of his regiments, and, literally, with coat off, personally took part in the affray.
With his aid we made a stand on the top of the knoll, and there, over the bodies of our dead and wounded comrades, we struggled on. On our left, too, the Rifles were still contending for the cornfield, and there that gallant soldier, Colonel J. Foster Marshall
, and his Lieutenant-Colonel
, D. A. Leadbetter
, were both killed, with many other good men of that devoted regiment, but the enemy attacking them was again repulsed, and those who had pressed the rest of us back to the top of the hill, now hesitated and commenced to yield.
We pressed them in our turn.
They broke and fell back in disorder.
I recollect that as they did so, they left a mule which, notwithstanding all the turmoil, was quietly cropping a green blade, here and there, in the blood-stained grass around him. His singular appearance attracted our attention even in that terrible moment, and I was looking at him, wondering, when some one exclaimed, ‘Why, he has a mountain howitzer behind him!’
Sure enough, there it was. Amidst the roar of musketry and the din of arms we had not noticed this instrument of destruction which, in a few yards of us, had been mowing down our men with canister.
Probably it was one of the same that Sigel
had sent to Krzyzanowski
and which Gordon
tells us were ‘happily placed’ in his skirmish line in the first attack in the morning.
, who was supporting Kearney
, was on hand to make one more last effort of the day. We heard the cheers of his men as he ordered them in—telling us that our work was not yet done.
It was at this time that an officer rode up to Gregg
, with a message from General Hill
, asking if he could hold the position any longer; and then was his famous reply, that his ammunition was exhausted, but ‘he thought he could still hold his position with the bayonet.’
And this was absolutely true.
The ammunition we had carried into action had been expended for some time; and it was one of the cruelties of our position, that before the Infirmary corps were allowed to help a wounded man, before his wound was looked at, he must be stripped of his accoutrements, and his ammunition distributed among his comrades.
This economy, and the ammunition we got from the dead and wounded of our assailants, had enabled us to carry on the fight.
I have always wished that the scene which followed General Gregg
's message could be painted by some great artist able to do it justice.
Having sent word to Hill
that he had no ammunition, but would hold the position with the bayonet, General Gregg
drew up the remnants of his five regiments, now reduced to a mere handful, in two lines, the Twelfth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth in one line, in front, under Lieutenant-Colonel Simpson
, of the Fourteenth, (now the honored Chief-Justice
of the State
) and the First and Rifles under my command, as a second line, behind the First.
All the other field officers, except Lieutenant-Colonel Jones
, of the Twelfth, had by this time been killed or wounded.
We were upon the top of the hill, the point to which we had been driven back by Kearney
, some two or three hundred yards from the railroad excavation.
Here General Gregg
formed us to await the assault of the enemy, whose cheers we heard as they were ordered forward.
1 can see him now, as with his drawn sworn, that old Revolutionary scimitar we all knew so well, he walked up and down the line, and hear him as he appealed to us to stand by him and die there.
‘Let us die here, my men, let us die here.’
And I do not think, my comrades, that I exaggerate when I say that our little band responded to his appeal, and were ready to die, at bay, there if necessary.
The moment was, indeed, a trying one—a trying one to men who had shown themselves no cowards that day. We could hear the enemy advancing, and had not a round with which to greet them, but must wait the onslaught with only our bayonets.
On they came.
They had nearly reached the railroad, and were about to cross to the charge when a shout behind paralyzed us with dread.
Was all the glorious fight we had made that livelong day to end in our capture
by an unseen movement to our rear?
Terror stricken we turned, when lo!
there were our friends coming to our assistance, and not the enemy to our attack.
Field, with his Virginians
, and Pender
, with his North Carolinians, relieved by Early
, of Ewell
's division, came rushing up, comparatively fresh for the work, and cheering us as they advanced on either side of our little band, waited not the assault, as we were doing perforce, but with a wild Confederate yell, rushed upon Stevens
as he was in the confusion of crossing to our attack.
The Federals halted, turned and fled, our friends crossing the railroad and pursuing them.
He ‘did not have the numbers,’ Stevens
reported, and Gordon
agrees with him that as usual the Federals
had not expected that the attack would have been so easily repulsed.
Indeed, he believed that the troops who had relieved us would soon be driven back, and the contest renewed on the hill where we stood, and he determined upon a desperate move in case his apprehensions should be realized.
Telling Colonel Simpson
of his fears, he ordered him to move the Fourteenth back to the old field near the fence, and there to lie down until our troops fell back—to lie still as they did so, and to let them pass, and the enemy in pursuit of them, and then to rise and charge with the bayonet the pursuing enemy.
With bayonets fixed, the Fourteenth moved back to the old place, and lay down as directed.
Happily, our friends had done their work better than General Gregg
had anticipated, and Stevens
‘did not have the numbers’ to resist their fury.
So, as the sun went down, we rested from our terrible labors of the day—we rested, but not in security.
The evening shades crept upon the bloody field, and the contending armies paused for the night in their fierce struggle.
An angry shell now and then, however, came hurtling through the trees, and one of them falling in a group of the First, killed Lieutenant John Munro
, who had greatly distinguished himself during the day, and with him his comrade, young Nat. Heyward
, who, during the battle, had been serving on my staff.
Thus ended the part taken by Gregg
's brigade of South Carolinians at Manassas
, and of which Gordon
says: ‘In Southern histories and by Southern firesides the brave deeds that Southern soldiers had on this day achieved, were to mark it as the bloody and glorious day of the 29th August.’
In a small affair the next morning I had the misfortune to be wounded with a few others of the brigade, about a dozen, I believe, but the brigade took no part in the great battle of the 30th.
But on this third day of that great struggle, on the extreme opposite
part of the field, the right of Longstreet
's corps, other South Carolinians were to be as prominent in the terrible work of that day, the 30th, as we had been on the 29th, and to suffer as terribly.
can justly point with peculiar pride to the famous charge of Pickett
's division of Virginians
—a charge now almost as famous as that at Balaklava
‘The State of North Carolina
should write immortal
on the banner of its Fifth regiment,’ was the tribute of its heroic adversary at Williamsburg
The lamented Cobb
, and his brigade, have indelibly associated the name of Georgia
's heights at Fredericksburg
; and each State can name some battlefield on which its troops especially distinguished themselves, and I think in doing so South Carolina
can find none in which her sons more gloriously maintained her fame than in the great battle of which I have been speaking.
Lest it should be thought that I have exaggerated the deeds of her soldiers on that day, let me give a few figures as to the losses of this State, which will better illustrate their conduct than any panegyric which might be composed.
estimated the strength of Jackson
's corps at Manassas
at seventeen thousand three hundred and nine,34
but Colonel Allan
, after a very careful computation, puts the strength of Jackson
's infantry at twenty-two thousand five hundred.35
The total losses in our corps, including Ewell
's fight at Bristol
of the 26th, Trimble
's capture of Manassas
that evening, Archer
's affair with the New Jersey brigade on the 27th, and the battles of the 28th, 29th and 30th, were three thousand six hundred and fifty-one,36
about one in every six; deducting the strength (one thousand five hundred) and losses (six hundred and nineteen) of our brigade, will leave the losses of the rest of the corps very nearly one man in every seven, while in our brigade the casualties were two out of every five
men carried into action; and these losses it will be borne in mind, with the exception as I have mentioned of about a dozen wounded on Saturday morning, were all incurred in the single day's fight of Friday.
But as I have said it was not left to our brigade alone to maintain the honor of South Carolina
on the plains of Manassas
's corps the State
was represented by Jenkins
's and Evans
' brigade, the Hampton Legion
, then in Hood
's brigade, and the Fifteenth regiment, and James
's battalion in Drayton
did they maintain her fame.
I cannot now be the historian of their deeds, and of the prominent part they, too, bore in the great battle of the 30th; but let me give you some more figures, which will show that however justly proud you and I, my comrades, are of our own part, we can claim no monopoly of South Carolina
's glory at Manassas
's army, on that occasion, was composed of one hundred and thirty-five regiments of infantry, Jackson
's corps sixty-eight, and Longstreet
's corps sixty-seven.
Of these, forty two were from Virginia
, twenty-eight from Georgia
, seventeen and two battalions, say eighteen regiments, from South Carolina
, thirteen from North Carolina
, eleven from Alabama
, nine from Louisiana
, five and a half from Mississippi
, and three each from Tennessee
The loss in the forty-two regiments from Virginia
, in killed and wounded, was 1,588;38
in the twenty-eight regiments from Georgia
, 2,173; in the seventeen regiments and two battalions,39
say eighteen regiments, from South Carolina
in the thirteen regiments from North Carolina
, 757; in the nine regiments from Louisiana
,. 477; in the three regiments from Texas
, 366; in the three regiments from Tennessee
The exact numbers of the killed and wounded in the regiments from Alabama
, respectively, cannot be known, as there were no regimental reports of casualties of the three brigades of Wilcox
The only report of casualties in these brigades is from Wilcox
, who commanded them on that day, and he gives only the total in the three brigades at 330.41
In the five other regiments from Alabama
, which were reported, there were 276, killed and wounded; in the two from Mississippi
, 156, and in the two from Florida
It must be remembered, however, that the regiments were not all of equal numbers.
For instance, in our division, by the field return of July 20, 1862, the regiments generally averaged three hundred and
while in our brigade at Manassas
they averaged only three hundred.43
Still greater was the disparity in the regiments of Jackson
's and Ewell
's division which had been in the Valley
's regiments in the Manassas
campaign averaged but two hundred and fifty; others had not more than one hundred and fifty;44
It is probable, therefore, that of the forty-two regiments from Virginia
, the seventeen which had been with Jackson
in the Valley
did not average two hundred.
So, too, some of the regiments which had been in the Peninsula
, under Johnson
, were greatly reduced.
But there is another comparison by which the disproportionate loss of South Carolina
troops in this battle can be more accurately shown.
By Colonel Allan
's estimate, as we have seen, Jackson
's corps of infantry was 22,500 strong, and he puts Longstreet
's at 26,768.45
So that Lee
had 49,268 infantry present.
The official list of casualties at Manassas
, makes a total of 7,244;46
but these include forty-nine casualties in the artillery, which, for our present purpose, must be excluded,47
leaving 7, 195 killed and wounded in the infantry.
To these we must add the losses in our two regiments (Twelfth and Rifles) omitted in the official list, i. e
., two hundred and sixty-one, and the losses in the brigades of Wilcox
, three hundred and thirty, making our total loss in the infantry, 7,786.
Of the 49,268 infantry which Lee
had at Manassas
, South Carolina
furnished about 6,000, as follows: Gregg
's brigade, 1,500,48 Jenkins
, (estimate) 1,500,49 Evans
Hampton Legion (estimate) 300,51
's brigade, Fifteenth regiment, 415, James
's battalion, 160 equals 575.52
Of the 7,786 casualties in the army as above, 1,749 occurred in the South Carolina regiments as follows: Gregg
's brigade lost 619, Jenkins
, 404, Evans
, 631, Hampton Legion, 74, and the Fifteenth regiment 21, equals 1,749. South Carolina
thus lost more than one-fourth, or two out of every seven of all
her troops present, while the loss in the rest of the army was little more than one in every seven.
But the losses of South Carolina
were not to be counted by numbers only.
Her best blood was poured out on that rocky bed at Manassas
In our brigade that distinguished citizen and soldier, Colonel J. Foster Marshall
, and Lieutenant-Colonel D. A. Leadbetter
, were killed.
's brigade Colonel Thomas J. Glover
, one of the most promising sons of the State
, and Colonel Moore
, of the Second Rifles, fell, doing their duty nobly.
's brigade our loss in killed was still heavier.
At the head of the Seventeenth regiment fell one who had been an honored governor of the State
, whose advanced years did not warrant his service in the field, but whose devotion to the State
revived the energy of his youth, and with Governor Means
fell also his son, Major Robt S. Means
. Colonel J. M. Gadberry
, of the Eighteenth Regiment, and Lieutenant-Colonel T. C. Watkins
, of the Twenty-third Regiment, also died upon the fatal, if glorious, field for our State.
Just in front of the deepest part of the railroad cut, where the knoll is highest, a rough hewn stone monument tells where the brave Federal soldiers fell within a few feet of the coveted goal.
The crumbling bank and the filling cut are fast effacing the last traces of the spot where her soldiers fought so desperately for the honor of South Carolina