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The truth of history.

Defence of Fort Gregg—The battle of Jericho Ford—Troops surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse—Last official reports made to General Lee after the surrender, etc.

In the account of the Unveiling of the Soldiers' Monument in Blandford Cemetery, Petersburg, Va., from the correspondent of the Richmond (Va.) Dispatch, and published in its issue of June 8, 1890, and republished in the Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XVII, pp. 388-403, occurs the following misstatement: ‘Fort Gregg, whose defence by the small band of gallant Mississippians was one of the bravest, most glorious, and most stubborn in the annals of the war.’

This inadvertant publication has elicited from General James H. Lane several material communications, explaining not only how the oft-repeated error as to the real defenders of Fort Gregg first gained currency, but correcting other erroneous statements heretofore made. He also makes a valuable suggestion.

Under date of September 5, 1890, he writes:

General Lee, at Appomattox Courthouse, ordered official reports from all of his general officers. I made ,nine [published, with the letters of Lieutenants Snow, Craige, Howard and Rigler, in the Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. III, pp. 19-28, January, [72] 1877], and I have no doubt other officers did the same. I have reason to fear whether these reports, as a whole, have found their way to the War Record Office in Washington. I think, however, from the circumstances under which they were made, they will be found among General Lee's private papers. I would like to see the last official reports of Lee's subalterns, made at Appomattox Courthouse after the surrender, published as a whole. It would make a valuable and interesting volume, and we would then know officially everything reported at the time about the heroic defence of Fort Gregg and its capture. I have always thought that the false claim set up for Harris's brigade was at the instance of General Mahone, because Harris's brigade formed a part of his division. There are other instances in which he did my command injustice. * * * He claimed all of the prisoners and one of the flags captured by my brigade in front of the works at Spotsylvania Courthouse on the 12th of May, but his claim was never recognized by Generals Lee and Early. He claimed two pieces of artillery captured by Cooke's, McRae's, and Lane's brigades in their glorious charge upon Hancock's entrenchments at Reames' Station, but General A. P. Hill would not recognize that claim. Colonel William J. Pegram told me that he receipted to General Weisiger for them as “brought off the field of battle,” and that he declined to receipt for them as “captured” by Mahone's old brigade, as the North Carolina brigades had captured them and left them behind them, and McGowan had turned them upon the enemy before Mahone's old brigade retired them to our rear. This is the fight in which (General Hill told me) the noble and gallant Pegram begged and cried to be allowed to participate. General Mahone also claimed flags captured by McRae's brigades.

Yours most sincerely,

[The desire of General Lane that the reports made to General Lee by his general officers, after the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, be collected and published in one volume, commands eager and general acquiescence. The editor would be thankful for the privilege of preserving in the Southern Historical Society Papers all or any of these reports.

It is to be hoped that reports were made, as requested, by a majority if not all of the officers.

The editor wrote to General G. W. C. Lee, in furtherance of the [73] suggestion of General Lane, and had response from him October 23, 1890. He wrote: ‘Soon after the death of my father all of his military papers were sent to Colonel Charles Marshall, who had been acting as his military secretary, and who had been requested by the faculty of this institution [Washington and Lee University] to prepare a biographical sketch of its late president. Colonel Marshall did write the sketch, but was not satisfied with it, and consequently it has never been published.’

American history is materially indebted to Colonel Marshall for valuable contributions, which have commanded profound attention. The latest, most familiar to the public, being his oration delivered at the laying of the corner-stone of the Lee Monument at Richmond, October 27, 1887. (Published in the Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XVII, pp. 215-245—‘Lee Monument Memorial Volume.’) Doubtless Colonel Marshall will favor the public, in book form, with the valuable papers in his possession left by General Lee.]

Auburn, Alabama, September 17, 1890.
my dear Sir:

I herewith send you copies of the editorial in the Petersburg Index and my reply in the Richmond Dispatch. Should you wish further evidence of the gross injustice of the editorial, which I have always thought was prompted by General Mahone you are respectfully referred to the following:

Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. II, pp. 300, 301; Vol. III, pp. 19, 28; Vol. IX, pp. 103, 107; 124, 129; 145, 156.

A Correspondence between Generals Earl and Mahone, pp. 13 and 14, has the following about the 12th of May:

Lane's attack on the enemy's flank and rear did contribute materially to the repulse of the assaulting column, as it was thereby thrown into much confusion. Had you gone to your brigade and seen that it properly supported Lane, you would have rendered far greater service than by riding about, out of danger, denouncing his brigade, as you were understood to have done. This attack of Burnside's was unexpected, and thwarted the proposed movement for the relief of Ewell, as Lane's brigade was not in a condition to prosecute it, and your brigade had not moved to his support. The purpose was, when the two brigades struck the column of the enemy [74] pressing Ewell, to support them with the rest of the corps. You contributed nothing whatever to promote the success of that movement or the repulse of Burnside, and I think you were not under fire at the time; and you have now placed yourself in a lamentable predicament by your disingenuous and evasive statement of the facts of the case, as well as your unfounded insinuations against your superiors and Lane's brigade, which latter behaved most gallantly on that occasion, as it had done in the early morning when Ewell's line was first broken.’

Pages 12, 13:

Lane's brigade was taken out of the trenches immediately adjoining the salient referred to in your letter, and then passed over to the front, which would have been impossible had an attack been pressing that point. There had been a previous artillery fire upon it, which had subsided. It is true Lane was to lead the attack, and your brigade, under Colonel Weisiger, was to follow and support him, the route for the attacking column being along in front of our line of works until the enemy should be reached. Both brigades were passed into a body of oak woods in front of the works, to the right of the salient, for the purpose of concealing the troops from the enemy until the movement began. You did not remain in the woods with your brigade, but retired to the edge of it towards our works and near the Fredericksburg road. Lane, after receiving his orders from me, began the movement, advancing on a battery in front of the salient, which it was necessary to capture or drive out of the way, to enable the attacking force to pass on to Ewell's front. He got possession of the battery, and then encountered Burnside's corps, moving up to attack the salient, now held by Walker's brigade of Heth's division, under Colonel Mayo. Lane attacked Burnside's corps in flank and rear, and his men got mixed up in the column of the enemy. He was now subjected to the infantry fire of the enemy, a flank, rear and front fire from artillery, besides being in danger of our own guns playing upon the enemy; and as you have stated that you saw “that a part of the North Carolina brigade had given way,” I will here say that General Lane, in his report, dated 16th September, 1864, makes the following statement: “ The infantry fire in our rear was for a short time more severe than that in front, as Mahone's brigade poured such a fire into us that Lieutenant-Colonel Cowan and Lieutenant-Colonel McGill had to rush back and ask them not to fire into us.” And he further says: “My brigade continued to fight the enemy until the heads of two parallel lines of the enemy, which were coming from Ewell's front, were in skirmishing [75] distance of us, and as I could see no indications of an intention on the part of Colonel Weisiger to comply with my request, I ordered my command to fall back, which was necessarily done in some confusion, as the line had been broken capturing prisoners, and the woods through which they withdrew rendered it almost impossible to preserve anything like a line of battle.”

The request to Colonel Weisiger mentioned, was to move out of the woods and unite in the attack on the enemy, but Colonel Weisiger remained in the woods, and the brigade was not seriously engaged. During all this time you were not with your brigade, and if you had been, it was very singular conduct for you to leave it at so critical a juncture as you represent, to ride back to the lines for support. Had you gone to your brigade instead, and led it with that daring peculiar to Jackson, at least, the results might have been much greater. As it was, after Lane started, and while he was attacking the flank and rear of the enemy, the head of Burnside's column got to within a very short distance of the salient, and all our energies had to be directed to its repulse, a large number of guns were turned upon it, and by an obstinate resistance and heavy fire from Walker's brigade and Thomas's, which latter was on the left of the salient, the enemy was repulsed with heavy slaughter. General Lee and myself were on Heth's line watching the attack and directing the effort to repel it. * * *

Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. IX, pp. 241-246, gives my official report of the battle of Jericho Ford, and other interesting matter.

As to the statement that Field and Mahone surrendered more than half of General Lee's strength at Appomattox Courthouse, I have hastily made the following condensation from the paroles, Vol. XV, Southern Historical Society Papers, which I think is correct:

First corps.

Longstreet's Headquarters42
Pickett's Division (Stewart's, Corse's, Hunton's and Terry's Brigades)1,380
Field's Division (Anderson's, Benning's, Bratton's and Texas Brigades)4,974
DuBose's Brigade358
Humphrey's Brigade257
Semmes' Brigade178


Second corps.

Gordon's Headquarters147
Early's Division (Walker's, Lewis' and Johnston's Brigades)1,127
Gordon's Division (Evans', Terry's and Louisana Brigades)1,368
Grimes' Division (Battle's, Cook's, Cox's and Grimes' Brigades)1,823

Third corps.

Corps Headquarters, &c149
Heth's Division (Cooke's, Davis', McComb's and McRae's Brigades) 1,571
Mahone's Division (Finegan's, Forney's, Harris', Sorel's, Weisiger's Brigades)3,493
Wilcox's Division (Lane's, McGowan's, Scales', Thomas' Brigades)2,712
Johnson's Division (Wallace's, Moody's, Ransom's and Wise's Brigades)2,281


First Corps7,189
Second Corps4,465
Third Corps10,206
Field's Division4,974
Mahone's Division3,493

The above is infantry alone, and does not include the artillery, cavalry, &c., with the Army of Northern Virginia; nor does it include Ewell's Reserve Corps, Bridgford's Provost Battalion and other small bodies from Richmond.

In all of the above I have tried to call your attention to historical facts, without any coloring at all, and, as far as possible, let others speak in behalf of my gallant brigade of North Carolinians. I hope it will interest you.

I think my letter was published in the Dispatch of September 20, [77] 1867, and, as far as I know, neither it nor the article in the Petersburg Index has ever been republished. I have never read Pollard's book, I am sorry to say.

Yours very sincerely,

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