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The last charge at Appomattox. [from the Richmond, Va. Dispatch August 12, 1900.]

The Fourteenth Virginia Cavalry.

It fought Victoriously to the bitter End—a fight on April 9, 1865, wherein Confederates captured cannon —Two last men killed.

To the Editor of the Dispatch:
The last charge and captures at Appomattox Courthouse by any branch of the Army of Northern Virginia—at what time were they made, and who made them? [251]

These pertinent questions will be considered, it is hoped, by Confederate veterans throughout the length and breadth of the Army of Northern Virginia, and will be determined fairly, by those especially who were present for duty on the last day of the war at Appomattox Courthouse.

This last charge occurred on the morning of the 9th of April, 1865, and my recollection is that we retired some time before noon of that day. I heard no further firing along our infantry or cavalry lines.

Our cavalry had been sorely pressed on all sides from Petersburg to Appomattox Courthouse. The demand on this branch of the service had been necessarily extremely exacting—not only to work in the advance of our columns, but in protecting the rear and flanks of our several lines of retreat, and to serve in the places of disabled and knocked out staff officers and couriers—and our ranks meantime were naturally reduced greatly in number by the death, wounds, and capture of men and horses, and in effectiveness by details, dismounts, fatigue, and hunger, that told most severely on our staggering horses, that had become a burden either to be abandoned or led dismounted; until at the last our entire brigade force was about equal to a depleted regiment at the latter end of the war.

The Fourteenth Virginia Cavalry.

Our regiment the 14th Virginia Cavalry, that was commanded at the time by myself as Captain of Company B, no field officer being present, had been transferred from General John M. McCausland's Brigade but a few weeks prior to the surrender, and assigned to General R. L. T. Beale's Brigade—W. H. F. Lee's Division.

On the night of the 8th, in obedience to orders delivered by Major Joseph Van Holt Nash, Adjutant-General of Cavalry—Stuart's Corps-we advanced our regiment to the head of our brigade and division and march through the village of Appomattox Courthouse, where there had been a skirmish the night before. When we had passed the village some little distance, in the direction of Lynchburg, we were halted and ordered to dismount—to hold our horses and not to turn them loose. There we remained, holding them by their bridles, and sitting and lying down on the ground, catching every wink of sleep that was possible, until the morning of the 9th.

Soon after day, General W. H. F. Lee rode to the head of our regiment, inquiring who was in command. When told and directed [252] to myself, he promptly ordered, ‘Captain, mount your regiment!’ This done, by his orders we moved forward and downward into the valley and thence through a skirt of woods, and soon came in view of a battery of the enemy that had been shelling during the morning. Then, upon orders, we formed, and charged across an open field into a piece of woods, capturing two handsome pieces of field artillery, with several elegantly attired officers, and a number of their men, that were all sent as rapidly as possible to the rear. Advancing quickly beyond the enemy's battery, we captured their reserve camp which they had hurriedly deserted, leaving their breakfasts on the fires. Rapidly passing through this camp, we were attacked on our right by another column of the enemy. Turning our attention to that, and animated by our success, we charged and routed that force also, all of which involved a good deal of time, from start to finish. After which we were ordered to ‘stop firing and come out.’

In these movements we were supported by the rest of our brigade, commanded by General Beale. Before we were enabled to retire, with our fraction of a brigade, I heard no further firing along our lines. Winding our way over the hills, we saw our infantry quietly closing in, and soon afterwards we were overtaken by General W. H. F. Lee, who informed us that General R. E. Lee had surrendered.

Last men killed.

James H. Wilson, the color-bearer of our regiment, was mortally wounded while planting his colors on one of the guns that we captured. He was seen soon afterwards by his comrade, W. L. Moffett, lying on the ground, his beautiful bay mare standing by him, his colors folded and leaning against a tree. In this trying time of excitement and disappointment he bade Moffett good-by, and his last words were: ‘Moffett, it is hard to die just as the war is over.’ And so this heroic spirit passed away to join noble comrades who had preceded him.

He and James Walker, both of Company H, 14th Virginia Cavalry, were from Rockbridge county, Va., and are believed to be the two men killed last in battle in the Army of Northern Virginia. Can any stronger claim be preferred?

I have already furnished the Assistant Adjutant-General of our brigade with accounts of this last fight from John E. Bouldin, M. C. Morris, Samuel B. Hannah. Company B; W. B. F. Leech and J. [253] H. Whitmore, Company H; George M. Francisco, Company I, 14th Virginia Cavalry, who participated in the charge and acted with distinguished gallantry, as did every man and officer who engaged in it. Dr. T. P. Hereford, then Assistant-surgeon, 14th Virginia Cavalry, remained on the ground and cared for the wounded in a small house a short distance from where General Lee surrendered. He says that in this charge there were from sixteen to twenty killed and wounded of our regiment, although not over 100 or 120 men and officers were engaged.

A fine tribute.

In a recently published ‘History of the 9th Virginia Cavalry,’ a most interesting work, by its former Colonel, R. L. T. Beale, commanding our brigade at Appomattox, we find the following tribute to the men and officers of the 14th Virginia Cavalry, who participated in this last charge, together with a foot-note by the son of General Beale, who edited the notes of his father, page 147, as follows:

‘Supporting and participating in part in the last charge which was made upon the artillery by any arms of the Army of Northern Virginia, they cheered their comrades of the 14th Virginia, led by gallant Captain E. E. Bouldin, of the Charlotte Troop, returning with two twelve-pound brass guns, wrested from General Sheridan while the terms of surrender were being signed. (Note.—In this last charge the brave young Color-Bearer, James Wilson, and Samuel Walker, of Company H, 14th Virginia Cavalry, both from Rockbridge county, laid down their lives, the last men to fall in battle in the Army of Northern Virginia.)’

In this connection—and we would invite the attention of all comrades to it—we learned last year, through the appearance in the Suffolk (Va.) Herald of a private letter to a friend, written by our Adjutant, Major Joseph Van Holt Nash, that he had been gathering data—facts, and incidents of merit illustrative of the service and achievements of his regiment and our brigade—to be incorporated in a complete history of the operations thereof from organization to Appomattox Courthouse, with special devotion to the military career and achievements of that noble gentleman and Christian soldier, General W. H. F. Lee, whom we all know was the son of our beloved chief and accomplished general, Robert E. Lee.

In correspondence thereafter with Major Nash I learned that in prosecution of his labor of love, he was anxious to secure the cooperation of all officers and men of the 9th, 10th, 13th, and 14th Regiments [254] of Cavalry, that first composed the brigade under command of General W. H. F. Lee, as we learned, and then, on his promotion. by General Chambliss, and at the death of the latter, by General Beale, of Westmoreland, and it is hoped that every comrade will embrace this opportunity to perpetuate the honor and devotion of his comrades and of his respective command. Aside from Major Nash's desire to write a fair and accurate history of his regiment and brigade, he, as well as the writer, participated in this last engagement of the war at Appomattox Courthouse, and all of us who did naturally feel the liveliest interest in our claim that we were the last command in the Army of Northern Virginia to have engaged and routed the enemy in a charge at Appomattox, and to have captured men, officers and artillery, secured them in the rear about the time of the surrender, and had ceased fighting only, as General Beale says, ‘while the terms of surrender were being signed.’ These officers and men and two handsome brass guns were wrested from the elated and victorious command of General Phil. Sheridan, in spite of their exultation and our depression.

We all hope that every surviving comrade will aid Major Nash in his arduous task and communicate freely with him at Atlanta, Ga., with facts and incidents of the camp and field, of the march, battle, and surrender, lending all aid that is possible to perpetuate the patriotism, the bravery, and the self-sacrifice of our army.

Let history show how gallantly our soldiers fought even when hope was gone and nothing left but their sense of duty to a just cause, and to the grandest army and commander that this world has ever known.

E. E. Bouldin, Formerly Captain Campany B, 14th Virginia Cavalry.
P. S.—It is hoped that the press will notice the desire of Major Nash to get this information for publication.

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