previous next

Battle of Mine Run, Nov. 28th.

Before daylight our army fell back about two miles and we began constructing breastworks on a high hill west of Mine Run. The enemy soon appeared on the east side of Mine Run, and commenced exchanging shots with our sharpshooters. A heavy rain fell and added to our discomfort. By night Battle's brigade had thrown up works almost strong enough to resist bomb shells and cannon balls.

Early on the 29th, the Yankees began a rapid and continuous shelling from their batteries, which caused us to seek protection behind our works. The wind blew fiercely and chilled us to the bone. In the afternoon we saw an adventurous Yankee regiment approach in line of battle, when Carter's battery opened on them, and the line broke and scattered in confusion. We could see several wounded men carried off on litters. We stayed in the trenches all night ready for a charge, a detail from each company remaining awake. The fierce, cold winds made sleep light and uncomfortable.

December 1, 1863. A remarkably quiet day. Not a cannon shot [255] fired and scarcely a report from a musket. Meade was plainly making some movement but we could not discover what. The intensely cold weather continues. I was told by some Yankee prisoners that some of their pickets were actually frozen to death while on post, and that others were carried off wholly insensible from cold. I can believe the story, as I never suffered more in my life.

December 2. We learned that Meade had crossed most of his force at Jacob's and Germanna Fords, and that the chance for a battle was now slight. We took the Germanna Ford road and hurriedly pursued, overtaking and capturing over 150 prisoners. Early and Johnson captured many on their respective roads. At night we went in direction of Morton's Ford, and slept in the woods.

The Confederate Congress is in session, and the papers publish President Davis' message, which I read with great interest and approval. His views about substitutes are excellent. My daily newspaper bills are heavy, as I take the Richmond Dispatch and the Examiner, and sometimes buy the Whig as well as the Illustrated News, price 50 cents each.

Sutler Brewer brought in some oysters and sold them at $20 a gallon. Messes club together and buy. I could not be a sutler. Their prices seem cruel and extortionate.

December 15. Sent private Tom Kimbrough to Orange Courthouse after boxes and trunk. Lieutenant George Wright came today. The trunk was mine and contained a large ham, pickles, a bushel or more of crackers, biscuit and cakes, a pair of boots and pair of pants. These came from home from the best of mothers, and anticipated Xmas. Lieutenant W. brought a negro cook.

Our officers sent a memorial to the Secretary of War to transfer the Twelfth Alabama to Alabama for recruiting purposes, as we are opposed to consolidating with another regiment on account of our diminished ranks, until we have had a fair opportunity to recruit. The following is a copy of the petition:

We, the undersigned officers of the Twelfth Alabama regiment, in behalf of ourselves and the men under our command, having the interest and good of the service at heart, in view of the recommendation of the Secretary of War, in his recent report to Congress, to consolidate the regiments which have fallen below the minimum required by law to retain their present organization, beg leave most respectfully to represent:

That the Twelfth Alabama regiment has been in service in the [256] field since July, 1861; and that in consequence of the ravages of disease and the casualties of battle in the hard fought fields of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, in which Rodes' old brigade has participated and acquired glory, the regiment has become reduced below the minimum; that the regiment is one of only two Alabama regiments which, within our knowledge, have not received any conscripts—and it being our desire to preserve intact the organization under which we have fought for now nearly three years—and to which we are attached by many hallowed memories of the past, by many associations of danger, trial, fatigue, hardship and suffering, and desiring that the name ‘Twelfth Ala-Bama’ be not obliterated from the rolls of the army.

We, feeling perfectly convinced of our ability to recruit our shattered ranks by such a course, beg most respectfully that the regiment be transferred to Mobile, Ala., or some other point in the State, during the winter months, or until the opening of the spring campaign, then to return with full ranks to take our places once again with our comrades of the “Army of Northern Virginia.”

This petition is to be forwarded through the regular channels to General S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector General, C. S. A.

December 24. Christmas eve in the army bears no resemblance to the preparations at home for Christmas festivities.

Christmas day. Ate a hearty dinner, minus the home turkey and cranberries and oysters and egg-nog and fruit cake, and then wrote to my mother and sisters.

At 9 o'clock Dec. 26, Major Proskauer led the regiment towards Paine's Mills, where we were to relieve the 14th North Carolina, on fatigue duty, sawing plank for the Orange road, We lost the way, and marched 20 miles to reach a mill only 12 miles distant from camp, arriving after dark. Companies F, B and C moved three miles from nearest mill to ‘SquireCollins. Supped and breakfasted at the ‘Squire's.’ The 14th North Carolina desired to stay, and our regiment wished to return, so the engineer got an order from Gen. Lee permanently detailing the 14th North Carolina for this work.

General Lee issued an order directing that furloughs be furnished hereafter at the rate of four to the 100 men present for duty. I had a ‘drawing’ in company F, and Wm. Minims drew the furlough and application was made for him. I addressed a letter [257] of inquiry to Gen. R. H. Chilton, Chief of Staff, as to whether in the event an enlisted man obtained a recruit for his company, and actually enlisted him in service, the commanding General would grant the man so doing a furlough of 30 days?

Dec. 31, 1863. The last day of a most eventful year. It goes out in gloom; wet, muddy and still raining.

Jan. 1, 1864. New Year's Day. A very beautiful day. May the future of the South be as bright and glorious!

It is extremely cold, below zero. Major Whiting, Division Inspector, examined the arms and clothing of the men, and found them sadly in need of shoes, many of them being barefooted, and the others having no soles to their shoes, the uppers only remaining.

Sunday, Jan. 3rd. Summoned to brigade headquarters with Capt. R. M. Greene, of Opelika, from the 6th Alabama, and Lieut. Dunlap, of Mobile, from the 3rd Alabama, to investigate the stealing of two cows from the Misses Lee. We could obtain no light on the subject. Rations of all kinds are very scarce now, only half a pound of bacon per day to each man, and this irregularly. From three-quarters of a pound to a pound of flour and no vegetables, nor syrup, nor coffee, nor indeed ought else, per man. The hearty fellows get hungry.

Colonel Chilton, chief of General Lee's staff, on the 4th, answered my letter of inquiry of the 29th ult., and sent me a copy of ‘General Orders No. 1, Current Series, A. N. Va.,’ which granted furloughs to all enlisted men who actually mustered in a recruit in the Army of Northern Virginia. Wesley Moore telegraphed his brother, Micajah, who had just reached 18 years, to come on. I think the order will do great good, and I am gratified at having had such notice and approval taken of my suggestion. I wonder if my letter induced this famous ‘general order?’

A great snow fell during the night of January 8th. The water particles congealed into white crystals in the air, and sprinkled the ground about four inches deep. The regiment was ordered out to witness the execution of two deserters.

Battle's brigade left early for picket duty on the Rapidan river. I was left in camp as its commander, and have more men in camp, left on account of bare feet and bad shoes, than Colonel Goodgame carried off with him.

I issued strict orders for the sentinels to walk their posts constantly, and to pass no man with a gun, and to arrest all who attempted [258] to leave or enter camp with guns, without my written permission. I issued these orders because some of the men have already left with guns in search, I suspect, of hogs, cows or other things, belonging to citizens, that might be eaten. At night Lieutenant Karcher arrested eight men with guns and confined them in the guardhouse. As punishment I directed the prisoners to lay a causeway around the guard lines for the sentinels use.

January 17. Marched Company F to Captain Pickens' headquarters and they were paid for November and December, and commutation for clothing from December 12, 1862, to December 12, 1863. The men felt rich with their depreciated money. How cheerful and jocular they are!

January 21. Orders from General Lee to send applications for furloughs at rate of 12 to 100 men present. Tom Clower and Pierce Ware are the lucky ones.

January 26. This has been a bright, pleasant day, a most memorable one in the history of Battle's brigade. General Battle made speeches to each one of his regiments, and they re-enlisted unconditionally for the war. I never witnessed such unanimity upon a matter of such vital importance. The brave Twelfth Alabama, when the invitation was given to those who desired to volunteer to step forward two paces, moved forward as one man. General Battle spoke eloquently. Other officers spoke well. Battle's brigade is the first in the Army of Northern Virginia to re-enlist unconditionally for the war. This is an act of which we should well be proud to our dying day.

January 27. General Battle sent the following communication to each regiment in his brigade:

Headquarters Battle's Brigade, January 26, 1864.
The Brigade Commander has the pleasure of presenting the subjoined communication from Major-General Rodes:

Headquarters Rodes' Division, January 26, 1864.
Brigadier-General battle, Commanding Battle's Brigade:
General,—I have just received your message by Captain J. P. Smith, informing me of the glorious conduct of my old brigade in re-enlisting for the war without conditions. Conduct like this, in the midst of the hardships we are enduring, and on the part of men who have fought so many bloody battles, is in the highest degree creditable to the men and officers of your command. I always was [259] proud, and now still more so, that I once belonged to your brigade. As their division commander, and as a citizen of Alabama, I wish to express my joy and pride, and as a citizen of the Confederacy, my gratitude at their conduct. The significance of this grand movement, when considered in connection with the circumstances accompanying it, will not be underrated, either by the enemy or our own people. They will, as I do, see in this the beginning of the end, the first dawn of peace and independence, because they will see that these men are unconquerable. To have been the leaders of this movement in this glorious army throws a halo of glory around your brigade which your associates in arms will recognize to envy, and which time will not dim. Convey this evidence, feebly at best, but doubly so in comparison with what I would express of my appreciation of the course you and your men have pursued in this matter, and see now, having written ‘Excelsior’ in the records of your camp history, that your fighting record shall hereafter show you, not only to have been among the brave, but the bravest of the brave.

And now, dear sir, let me congratulate you upon being the commander of so noble a body of gallant and patriotic men!

(Signed)

R. E. Rodes, Major-General.


June 6, 1864. About 8 o'clock Rodes' division packed up their baggage and marched down the breastworks near Richmond, and turning to the left at the same point as we did on the 30th of May, and continuing our course nearly a mile under a hot, broiling sun, when, coming up with Early's division, under Ramseur, and Gor-.don's division, we halted a few hours. At 2 o'clock P. M. we resumed our march towards the right flank of the enemy, going one mile, and then halting until dark. Skirmishing was brisk, and cannonading rapid in our front. We expected to be engaged at any moment, but something prevented, and we returned to a pine woods on the Mechanicsville turnpike, and remained during the night A good many straggling Yankees were captured, and reported the enemy moving to their left flank, and say their men are destitute of shoes, deficient in rations, and very tired of fighting, etc. They also report Burnside's negroes at the front. The enemy, unwilling to expose their own persons, not only invoke the aid of Ireland, Germany and the rest of Europe, but force our poor, deluded, ignorant slaves into their ranks. They will prove nothing but food for our bullets. [260]

We remained in camp until evening, when we removed to a more pleasant locality. The enemy has disappeared from our left and left centre, and gone towards our right, and Early's command enjoys a respite from the heavy and exhaustive duties of the past month.

Sergeant Gus P. Reid of my company, was appointed acting second lieutenant by Colonel Pickens, and assigned to command of Company D. The day was again marked by unusual quiet; cannon and musketry were seldom heard. I seized a moment to write a letter expressing sympathy to Mrs. Hendree, of Tuskegee, at the untimely death of her excellent and gallant son, Edward, who was killed May 5th at the Wilderness while commanding sharpshooters. The first twelve months of the war we were mess-mates and intimate friends. He was afterwards made first lieutenant in the Sixty-first Alabama. He was the only son of a widowed mother, and of exceeding great promise.

Remained in our bivouac until near 6 o'clock, when we were ordered to ‘pack up’ and ‘fall in.’ Rev. Dr. William Brown preached to us. After his sermon we marched two miles towards the right of our line, and halted in an old field near an old Yankee camp, occupied by some of McClellan's troops before his memorable ‘change of base’ in 1862. There weslept till near 3 o'clock next morning, when we were hurriedly aroused, but as we soon found out, needlessly.

There are rumors that Grant is mining towards our fortifications, and attempting his old Vicksburg manoeuvers. But he will find he has Lee and Beauregard to deal with now. Mortars are said to be mounted, and actively used by both sides, on the right of our line. Appearances go to show Grant's inclination to besiege rather than charge Gen. Lee in the future. The fearful butchery of his drunken soldiers—his European hirelings—at Spotsylvania C. H., it seems, has taught him some caution. His recklessness in sacrificing his hired soldiery is heartless and cruel in the extreme. He looks upon his soldiers as mere machines, not human beings, and treats them accordingly.

Three years ago to-day, June 12, 1861, my company—‘The Macon (County, Ala.) Confederates’—were enlisted as soldiers in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States, and I became a ‘sworn in’ volunteer. I remember well the day the company took the prescribed oath to serve faithfully in the armies of the Confederate [261] States, and I can truthfully say I have labored to do my whole duty to the cause since then. Then I was a young Georgia student in an Alabama college, scarce 17 years of age, very unsophisticated in the ways of the world, totally unacquainted with military duties, war's rude alarms, and ever-present perils. Now I am something of a veteran, having served nearly one year as a private and two as a lieutenant, and being the larger part of the time in command of my company, composed principally of men much older than myself. I have participated in a great number of hotly contested battles and sharp skirmishes, have marched through hail and snow, rain and sleet, beneath hot, burning suns, and during bitter cold by day and by night, have bivouacked on bloody battle fields with arms in my hands, ready for the long roll's quick, alarming beat, have seen many a loved comrade, whose noble heart beat high with hope and bounded with patrioitic love for his dear native South, slain by the cruel invader, and lying still in death's icy embrace. But despite the innumerable dangers I have passed through, through God's mercy, I am still alive, and able and willing to confront the enemies of my country.

At 2 o'clock in the morning of June 13th, my corps took up the line of march, some said to assume its position on the right of the army, and others to the south side of the James, still others thought it was a grand flank movement in which Grant was to be outgeneraled as McClellan was, and Lee, as usual, grandly triumphant. None of the numerous suppositions proved correct. Battle's Alabama brigade, under Colonel Pickens of the Twelfth Alabama, led the corps, and we crossed the Chickahominy and entered the Brook turnpike, five miles from Richmond. Here we turned towards Louisa Courthouse and halted near Trevillian's depot, seven miles from Gordonsville. On our route we passed the late cavalry battlefields, where Generals Hampton, Butler and Fitzhugh Lee defeated General Sheridan, et als. A great many dead and swollen horses on the ground, and graves of slain soldiers were quite numerous. The fight was too warmly contested.

Early's corps is now hotly pressing Hunter towards Liberty and Salem, Va. Yankee armies are seldon caught when they start on a retreat. In that branch of tactics they excel. They will run pellmell, if they think it necessary. Prudence with them is the better part of valor, and they bear in mind the lines from Butler's Hudibras— [262]

He who fights and runs away
Will live to fight another day;
But he who fights and is slain
Will never live to fight again.

June 23. I became quite ill, and was sent to hospital. But left Lynchburg hospital June 28th, joined my regiment two miles from Staunton, found the command ready for rapid marching, and packed my valise, retaining only an extra suit of underclothing. In my valise I left my diary, kept for two years past, and giving daily, brief accounts of all that has happened to myself and my immediate command. It is too large and heavy to carry along with me, though I have become very much attached to it—from such constant use and association—but I must make a virtue of necessity and entrust it to the keeping of an unknown and perhaps careless quartermaster. No officer's baggage wagons are allowed on the expedition, and all of us have left the greater portion of our clothing and all our company documents, papers, etc. In the afternoon we passed through Staunton and bivouacked six miles beyond, on the famous Valley turnpike.

We marched some distance on the turnpike, then turned to the right and halted near a little village called Keezeltown. Received notice from hospital of death of private Robert Wynn, of Auburn. Poor Bob! He had been married but a short time to the young sister of Sergeant R. F. Hall, and, soon after he joined us, he had an attack of pneumonia, which, together with nostalgia (a species ofmelancholy, common among our soldiers, arising from absence from home and loved ones), soon brought his young career to an end. Our valley army under that old bachelor, lawyer and soldier, Lieutenant-General Early, is composed of the small divisions of Major-Generals Robert E. Rodes, of Alabama, J. C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, late vice-president of the United States, J. B. Gordon, of Georgia, and S. D. Ramseur, of North Carolina. All of them small—some of the brigades no larger than a full regiment, some of the regiments no larger than a good company, and many of the companies without a commissioned officer present, and having only a corporal's guard in number of enlisted men. We are all under the impression that we are going to invade Pennsylvania or Maryland. It will be a very daring movement, but all are ready and anxious for it. My own idea has long been that we should transfer [263] the battle-ground to the enemy's territory, and let them feel some of the dire calamities of war.

Returned to the turnpike on 30th and marched eighteen miles, half mile beyond New Market. This place was the scene of the Dutch General Siegel's signal defeat by General Breckinridge. The men who ‘fit mit Siegel's’ preferred running to fighting on that occasion.

July 1st, 1864. Marched 22 miles to-day, from NewMarket to two miles beyond Woodstock, where we remained for the night. This is the anniversary of the first day's battle at Gettysburg, and one year ago late in the afternoon, just before my brigade entered the city, I was wounded. I well remember the severe wound in the head received that day by Lieutenant Wright, near my side, and his earnest appeal to me to tell him candidly the nature of his terrible wound. I shall never forget the generous forgetfulness of self and warm friendship for myself shown by Captain Nicholson, of Company I, when the command was forced back by overwhelming numbers. I had been wounded, and fearing that I would be captured, hobbled off after my regiment, as it fell back under a very close and galling fire from the rapidly advancing Yankees. Nicholson, noticing my painful efforts to escape, suddenly stopped, ran to me and catching my arm offered to aid me, but appreciating his well-meant kindness, I declined his proffered assistance and begged him to hurry on, telling him, to induce him to leave me and save himself, that I would stop unless he went on:

On July 3rd we marched through the historic old town of Winchester and encamped at Smithfield. The good people of Winchester received us very enthusiastically.

July 4. Declaration of Independece day, but, as we had other business before us, we did not celebrate the day in the old time style. We marched through Halltown to Charlestown near the old field where that fanatical murderer and abolitionist, John Brown, was hung, and halted under a heavy cannonading at Bolivar Heights, near Harper's Ferry. This place on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Potomac river, surrounded by elevated mountains, was once a United States arsenal and government foundry. The Yankee camps had been hastily forsaken and our men quickly took possession of them and their contents. After dark General Battle took his brigade into the town where a universal pillaging of United States government property was carried on all night. The town was [264] pretty thoroughly relieved of its stores, and the 4th of July was passed very pleasantly. Corporal Henderson, while in a cherry tree, gathering fruit, was wounded by a minie ball and carried to hospital in the afternoon. Fuller H. is the son of Rev. S. Henderson, D. D., a noted Baptist minister of Alabama, and is a true and unflinching soldier. (Note. The poor fellow was editor, after the war, of the Tuskegee News, and fora few weeks, at his request, I edited the paper for him, as he was the owner, publisher, printer, editor and job printer, and overcrowded with his duties. During the time I wrote some mysterious orders, as if emanating from a Kuklux organization, signing them by order of ‘Grand Cyclops,’ calling upon the Klan to meet at a certain cave in the woods, near the town of Tuskegee, for the transaction of important business. Fuller, the night of the publication of the News, got out some posters and pasted them on the doors of certain stores in the town, and excitement and alarm was created by our innocentjoke. There was no kuklux organization in or near Tuskegee, and it was our boyish prank. The result was that more than one carpet bagger left Alabama for his late home in the North.)

In Company with Capt. James P. Smith, A. I. G., and late of Stonewall Jackson's staff, Capt. Greene of the 6th Ala., and Sergt. Reid of my company, I retuned to town in the morning and procurred some envelopes, writing paper, preserved fruits, etc. The enemy's sharpshooters from Maryland Heights fired pretty close to us repeatedly, and bullets fell so rapidly it was dangerous to walk over the town, but as we were on a frolic, resolved to see everything and dare everything, we heeded the danger very little. We returned to camp near Halltown.

July 6. Rodes' and Ramseur's divisions crossed the Potomac at Shepherdstown, and marched through the famous town of Sharpsburg. Signs of the bloody battle fought there in Sept. 1862, between Lee and McClellan, were everywhere visible. Great holes, made by cannon balls and shells, were to be seen in the houses and chimneys, and trees, fences and houses showed countless marks made by innumerable minie balls. I took a very refreshing bath in Antietam creek, upon whose banks we bivouacked. Memories of scores of army comrades and childhood's friends, slain on the banks of this stream, came before my mind and kept away sleep for a long while. The preservation of such an undesirable union of States is not worth the life of a single southerner, lost on that memorable [265] battle field. Lieut. John Fletcher of my company, from Auburn, and Capt. Tucker of Co. D. commanding the 12th Alabama, were killed at Sharpsburg.

Left the Antietam and marched through a mountainous country towards Harper's Ferry, where constant cannonading could be heard. Our brigade halted near Rohrersville, three miles from Crampton's Gap, and the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 12th and 61st Ala., of which the brigade was composed were sent in different directions to guard roads. The 12th Alabama was on picket all night, leaving outpost for the brigade at 3 o'clock P. M.

Rodes' division was taken within a short distance of the Ferry, halted for an hour or two, and then marched across the mountain at Crampton's Gap, where Gen. Howell Cobb's brigade of Georgians fought in 1862, and where Lieut-Col. Jeff Lamar, of Tom Cobb's Legion, was killed.

On July 9th we marched through and beyond Frederick City, but neither saw nor heard anything of the mythical ‘Barbara Freitchie,’ concerning whom the gentle Quaker poet, Whittier, erred sadly as to facts in his poem. We found the enemy, under Gen. Lew. Wallace, posted on the Heights, near Monocacy river. Our sharpshooters engaged them, and private Smith of Co. D. was killed. Gen. Gordon attacked the enemy with his division, and routed them completely, killing a large number. Col. John Hill Lamar, of the 60th Georgia who had but six months before married the charming Mrs. Carter of Orange, Va., was killed. He was a brother of the wife of Capt. A. O. Bacon of Macon, Ga. There is a report that Gen. Early levied a contribution on Frederick City, calling for $50 000.00 in money, 4500 suits of clothes, 4000 pairs of shoes, and a quantity of bacon and flour. Battle's brigade was in line of battle all the evening, and marched from point to point, but was not actively engaged, though exposed to the fire of cannon and minie balls. Two divisions of the 6th Army Corps and some ‘hundred days men’ opposed our advance. The latter were very easily demoralized and ran away.

Marched nearly twenty-five miles to-day, the 10th, on the main road to Washington City, passing through Urbana, Hyattstown, and other small places. It was a severe march.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: