The battle at Bethesda Church. From the times-dispatch, August 13th, 1905.Graphic description of it by Lieutenant Colonel C. B. Christian.
The color bearer killed.One among the bloodiest Contests of the great war of the Sixties.
[For the privation of, and the list of the officers under fire on Morris Island, see Vols. XII, and XVIII, Southern Historical Society Papers, the latter by Hon. Abe Fulkerson, late Colonel 63rd Tennessee Infantry.—Ed.]
The sharp combat at Bethesda Church, on the afternoon of May 30th, 1864, was the beginning of the series of battles at Cold Harbor, which wound up by the decisive repulse of Grant on June 3d. Our loss on that occasion, except in Pegram's brigade, was small, says General Early in his report, which is found in Vol. 51, Part 1, Series 1, of the War Records, Serial Number 107. He was at that time commanding Ewell's corps. Colonel Edward Willis,1 of Georgia, and Col. J. B. Terrill, of the Thirteenth Virginia, had both been named as Brigadier Generals, but were killed ere their commissions reached them. Willis was a brilliant young officer of great promise and of distinguished service. A West Pointer by training, he had won a name which will live in the annals of the Army of Northern Virginia. Colonel J. B. Terrill was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute; had commanded the Thirteenth Virginia with great courage and skill, succeeding James A. Walker and A. P. Hill as colonel of a regiment which had no superiority in the Confederate  Army. His brother, General Terrill, of the United States Army, was a West Pointer, and had been killed at Perryville, Ky. Colonel Christian's account of this combat gives us a picturesque glimpse of the charge of the Forty-ninth Virginia Regiment, which made its mark under Colonel (Governor) William Smith, at First Manassas, and sustained its reputation to the close of its career. Colonel Christian was a V. M. I. man and one of those sturdy fighting men who always had ‘his place in the picture by the blasting of the guns.’ His adventures from Bethesda Church to Morris island bring vividly before the mind the days that verily ‘tried men's souls.’ The army was so steadily fighting at the time of this action that reports are scant, and Colonel Christian is doing his State and his comrades worthy service in thus giving his memory of valiant deeds.
Editor of The Times-Dispatch.Sir–This was the bloodiest fight of our Civil War considering the number engaged on our side. The per cent. in killed and wounded was three times as great as that of the French at the battle of Waterloo. The loss of officers was full ninety per cent. of all engaged (mostly killed.) It was there the dashing Colonel Edward Willis, of the 12th Georgia (in temporary command of our brigade), was killed. His staff officer, the chivalrous young Lieutenant Randolph,2 of Richmond, also was killed; 'twas there the brave Col. J. B. Terrill, of the Thirteenth Virginia, ended his useful career, as did, also, Major Watkins, the brave soldier of the Fifty-second. 'Twas there Colonel J. C. Gibson, like an old ‘war-horse,’ always scenting the battle in the breeze, came down from the hospital on one leg and got the other shattered to pieces. In fact, every field officer and nearly every company officer in the brigade, present in action, was either killed or wounded. General Lee's lines were formed at right angles to the——road leading down James River near second Cold Harbor. The enemy on our front shifted  their position and threw up earthworks lower down on the road, and parallel to it. Orders came to Early's old brigade (the fourth Virginia), composed of the Forty-ninth, Fifty-second, Fifty-eighth, Thirty-first and Thirteenth Regiments, to march down the road and make a reconnoissance preliminary to second Cold Harbor battle. Our regiment, the Forty-ninth, Virginia, having lost nine color bearers in the battles from Wilderness to Richmond, I went down the line to select another. I came to a tall, lanky, beardless boy, from Amherst, with a ‘red cap’ on, so soon to die, but to die game. I said, ‘Orendorf, will you carry the colors?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Colonel, I will carry them. They killed my brother the other day; now damn them let them kill me too.’ He took the flag, so soon to be his winding sheet, and the brigade was marched out and down the road, the Forty-ninth at his head, for some distance, and halted, General Ramseur ‘bossing the job.’ I then heard a single piece of artillery firing at intervals in a strip of woods on the left, and being at the head of the column, I heard General Ramseur say to General Early: ‘General, let me take that gun out of the wet.’ General Early vigorously advised and protested against it. Ramseur insisting, General Early finally acquiesced in the move.