Brook Church fight, and something about the Fifth North Carolina cavalry.
Death of James B. Gordon.He was the Murat of the army of Northern Virginia—The New artillery and its disastrous First experience under Fire—Attack on Kennon's Landing—Sacrifice of men and Horses— shelled with 100-Pounders.
The Brook turnpike above Richmond runs almost due north and south. The military road at Brook, or Emmanuel church, strikes it at right angles from the east, in which direction this road crosses the upper Chickahominy at Meadow bridge. In his midnight retreat of May 11th, from Yellow Tavern, General Sheridan took this military road at Brook Church to escape, intending to cross the Chickahominy and move to his right from there to the James. And this he did, but he assuredly had an awful time of it and a narrow escape at Brook church. Early on the morning of the 12th, Colonel James B. Gordon was in his rear at Brook Church. Sheridan was met by our forces of cavalry and infantry at Meadow bridge, which we had destroyed, and the river there was otherwise unpassable. Sheridan says some fords were discovered by scouts, but if so, why on earth did he have such a desperate and deadly time repairing that bridge, as my references will show he did? Sheridan's rear occupied a strong position of his own selection on the military road, which he swept with canister constantly from several batteries. Gordon dismounted the First and Second cavalry, attacked him fiercely, and sent his aide, Lieutenant Kerr Craige, into Richmond for some artillery and to propose to the officer in charge of that portion of the city defences a combined attack on Sheridan's flanks. The Fifth was held in reserve in column, under fire, just off the right of the military road, going east. With our regiment, as we all knew, Gordon intended to charge those batteries up the military road after he got some supports from Richmond. And that charge, which he would  have led in person, would have been about the last of the Fifth North Carolina cavalry. In a few minutes some artillery came. And oh! such artillery! It was the most beautiful in all its appearances that we ever beheld. The smoke of battle had never been about it. Gordon placed it to the slight oblique right and front of our regiment on the elevation of some old entrenchments. It fired once Immediately, one or more of Sheridan's guns were turned on it—canister for the first time in its history rattled around those beautiful guns and among its wheels, and every man about the battery flew into the ditches of those old entrenchments. Gordon was furious. He raved and begged. He called it ‘Band-Box Artillery,’ which would have occurred only to him, possibly, under such a fire. But those artillerists ‘held the trenches faithfully’ against Richmond's invaders. Some few of them couldn't even stand that, and came through the woods by us. We laughed at them, ridiculed them, and asked them to go back and man their guns. But they looked at us as if they thought we were surely crazy. Gordon became utterly disgusted and went back at a gallop right into the fire down that military road, and there he received the wound which ended his life and brilliant career six days later. The battle was raging furiously at Meadow bridge on Sheridan's front, and right flank. The command of the brigade now devolved on Colonel Andrews, of the Second, as ranking officer. The Fifth was dismounted to join in the attack on foot. Company F was in front of that column. The order was to cross the road, still swept by canister, and form on its left. Captain Erwin looked calmly around at us and said: ‘Come on boys.’ He led, and over the road the regiment went and formed in line of battle. We advanced fast to a horizontal, wide, board fence, which looked literally perforated with rifle balls, and after short firing on our part the enemy disappeared. Sheridan had broken over at Meadow bridge and escaped. Sheridan himself says on page 791, volume 67, War Records. ‘The enemy considered us completely cornered, but such was not the case.’ Well, of course, none of us knew for certain, but those of us who were there will never cease to believe that if he had not broken over at Meadow bridge that he and his men would have been given quarters in Richmond for the rest of the war. He also says, page 801, of his raid: ‘The result was constant success and the almost total annihilation of the Rebel cavalry.’  This shows, I regret to say, how unreliable his statements are, as he soon had full proof of by that same ‘Rebel cavalry.’ That the reader may see what a desperate state they were in at Meadow bridge, I refer to volume 67, pages 791, 813, 814, 819, and 835. He lost 625 men on his raid and 1,003 horses—volume 67, page 185, and volume 68, page 851. We had no force to follow Sheridan, and it was useless, as, after his passage of the Chickahominy, he could easily connect with Butler on the James, as he did, near Haxall's Landing on May 14th.