Since the foregoing address was delivered, several letters and statements from participants have been received.
From these it has been deemed proper to make some extracts, under the belief that they will throw light upon and add interest to what has been already said:
(now General) V. D. Groner
, of Norfolk, Virginia
, who, as colonel of the Sixty-First Virginia regiment, commanded that regiment at the Battle of the Wilderness
, in his letter dated March 5, 1892, says:
The Twelfth was on the right, the Forty-First next; then came in order the Sixty-First, Sixteenth and Sixth regiments.
We moved in this direction at right angles with the road some little distance, and then wheeled to the left, the Twelfth being on the extreme right, Forty-First next, in echelon, and then the Sixty-First, Sixteenth and Sixth.
Mahone, I think, had been given another brigade, but what it was I do not remember.
In front of the Sixth and Sixteenth we met General Wadsworth's command.
There was considerable fighting on the left of the Sixty-First, but Wadsworth being mortally
wounded and a large number of his command captured or killed, our entire front was soon cleared of the enemy.
I discovered on the report Lieutenant Colonel Minetree,1 in command of the Forty-First, that the Twelfth had been lost.
I halted the brigade, reported to Mahone, and went forward myself, to see if I could find where the Twelfth was. We had halted only about sixty or seventy yards from the road, but there was a dense woods in front of us and a great deal of fire and smoke.
In fact, I do not think I have ever seen a battle-field where there was more destruction to life and more horrors than that of the Wilderness.
Captain John R. Patterson
, who, as first lieutenant of Company E, Twelfth Virginia regiment, commanded that company in the action, in a statement furnished by him, says:
I distinctly remember seeing Colonel Sorrel attempt to take the flag from the gallant Ben. May.
This occurred when we near the plank-road.
Before we reached the plank-road I recollect looking down the line to my left, and seeing Sergeant George J. Morrison, of Company A, one of the best soldiers in the regiment, throw down his gun and start to the rear.
Although we were then driving the enemy, the thought flashed through my mind that, if such a man as George Morrison was going to the rear, the bottom of the fight must be out on that part of the line; but as we advanced, swinging around to the left, I learned that he had been shot through the body.
Just before I saw George Morrison, as above narrated, I remember hearing General Mahone, who at the time was riding immediately in rear of our part of the line, about ten feet from where I was, whilst we were pressing forward under heavy fire, say in his accustomed calm and imperturbable tone, “Steady in the Twelfth!”
Our regiment crossed the plank-road, and I remember seeing numbers of the enemy in utter confusion and route running through the woods.
In a little opening about twenty yards in our front, a single man appeared, when one of our boys next to me raised his gun to shoot him, when I said, “Don't shoot!
We will catch him.”
Just then the Federal soldier dodged behind a tree, and as we approached jumped out and started to run again.
I then said to the
man whom I had just before prevented from firing, “Let him have it!”
At the crack of the gun the retreating Federal fell dead.
This was on the north side of the plank-road.
The regiment was now halted, and we were ordered to return to the balance of the brigade.
As we came back over the ground over which the enemy had just been driven, the other regiments of the brigade naturally supposed we were the enemy and fired into us. As soon as this fire opened, knowing what it was, I fell flat on the ground in the plank-road.
Some one exclaimed, “Show your colors!”
I shall never forget what I consider one of the bravest acts I ever witnessed.
The color-bearer stepped out on the plank-road and calmly waived his colors over his head, although a line of our own men, not more than fifty yards—indeed, not that far—in his front, were at the time pouring a deadly fire into us, which resulted in killing and wounding some of the best men in our regiment.
Judge D. M. Bernard
, of Petersburg
, of Company E, Twelfth Virginia regiment, furnishes the following statement:
I have read with pleasure the correspondence and statements relating to the Battle of the Wilderness, you have handed me for perusal.
I was a member of the corps of sharpshooters of Mahone's brigade, commanded by Colonel Feild at the Battle of the Wilderness, and remember well that we passed through marsh, swamp and burning woods.
I was struck with the coolness and soldiery bearing of Colonel Feild, and with the dash and gallantry of a mounted staff-officer, who, I believe, was Colonel Sorrel.
Whilst we were advancing through the woods, I picked up a fine pair of officer's gloves, which I immediately handed to this staff officer, who was at the time riding near me. Receiving the gloves with a smile he thanked me for them, saying, “They are the very things I need.”
I was not an eye-witness of the May-Sorrel flag incident, but remember hearing of it about the time of its occurrence.
So gallant an act was to be expected of Ben. May, as all who knew him can testify.
I well remember, too, and can never forget, how, not many days after this battle, when he had received his mortal wound at Spotsylvania Courthouse, my heart was melted while shaking, in our last good-bye, the poor fellows hand, hot with the lever that I knew must and which did in a few hours burn out his noble life.
To the foregoing the following letter from Major Andrew Dunn
, of Petersburg
, may be added: