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A correction of General Patton Andersons report of the battle of Jonesboro, Ga.

[The following letters explain themselves, and are cheerfully published. Besides their historic value, they are models of soldierly courtesy which cannot be too warmly commended to any who may have occasion to controvert statements made by others in reference to events of the war.]

Letter from General Clayton.

Clayton, Ala., December 31, 1877.
Rev. J. Wm. Jones, Secretary, &c., Richmond, Va.:
Dear sir: My attention has been called to a report of the battle of Jonesboroa, Ga., on the 31st August, 1864, by General Patton Anderson, and especially to a statement which, if suffered to pass unnoticed, may do injustice to the officers and men of the Thirteenth Louisiana regiment, of Gibson's brigade. I can best notice it by copying from my own report of that battle, written a few days after.

That it may be better understood, let it be remembered that General Anderson commanded the front line, composed of Deas', Brantley's. and Sharpe's brigades.

The second or supporting line was commanded by myself, and was composed of Gibson's brigade in the centre, Holtzclaw's brigade (Colonel Bush. Jones commanding) on the right, and Mannegault's brigade, of Anderson's division, on the left. Stovals' brigade, of my division, had that morning been sent to report to General Stevenson, further to our left, and Baker's had several days before been sent to Mobile. Preparatory to moving forward, brigade commanders had been instructed that they should halt beyond certain earthworks and fallen timber in our front, to correct the alignment, before morning, to the assault, and that they would be guided by the centre.

When this point was reached, seeing that the troops in the front line were already falling back, and fearing the effect on my own, and seeing, also, now that the attack had begun, the importance of pressing it at once, I rode forward and ordered the whole division to move on without halting. [128]

Brigadier-General Gibson, seizing the colors of one of his regiments, dashed to the front, and to the very works of the enemy. This conduct created the greatest enthusiasm throughout his command, which again, as in the engagement of the 28th of July previously, moved against a salient in the enemies works. This gallant brigade lost half its numbers, and was finally driven back.

This was my official report as to that brigade, written a few days after the battle. I regret that a portion of it is lost, or I would enclose it. My recollection of everything that transpired in that battle is still clear, especially as to the part performed by Gibson's brigade, and every portion of it. My own eyes bore witness to its splendid conduct from the beginning to the close. It captured the guns of the enemy, and occupied their main works until overwhelming and increasing numbers forced their abandonment. It was handled with skill, and fought with the heroism of desperation. The living may protest with confidence against reproach for the conduct of that day, and the dead may well defy it.

Now, as to what General Anderson says in regard to the Thirteenth Louisiana, I state, without qualification, he was imposed on.

He had but recently come in command of his division. He was very badly wounded and carried from the field to the rear, where he wrote his report, without having an opportunity to correct an erroneous impression received in the heat of a terrible battle.

A reading of his report shows that he made the statement complained of in some doubt as to its accuracy, (see November number Southern Historical Society Papers, page 201). I am not and cannot be mistaken as to what I state.

To go a little more into particulars, General Gibson left my side when he rode through his brigade. I immediately sent a staffofficer with orders to General Mannegault's brigade, and myself rode around the right of Gibson's brigade in front of Holtzclaw's where I met General Anderson pressing forward his own men. Here I also met Generals Brantley and Sharpe.

I ordered a disposition to protect our right flank lest we might be taken unawares in that direction, and we were all engaged in urging forward the troops on Gibson's right.

The left of Holtzclaw's brigade was suffering terribly, but the right, though fully on a line, was scarcely engaged.

The Thirty-sixth Alabama was as warmly engaged and perhaps suffered as badly as Gibson's brigade. There were men lying here [129] and there partially concealed behind piles of rails, and in the rifle pits, but in no considerable number. From the time I met General Anderson we were not separated one hundred yards, and at no time out of sight of each other. No part of Gibson's brigade was about us. We were on a line with his front, but to the right, when we both fell in twenty steps of each other.

About this time Gibson's brigade fell back, as I afterwards learned, by his order.

I was unhurt and walked to General Anderson, who was immediately moved off the field. How General Anderson came to fall into error in regard to the Thirteenth Louisiana, I have no means of knowing; but this I do know, General Anderson would rise from his grave, if he had the power, to prevent an injustice to a soldier.

The Bayard of the “land of flowers” may have been led into an error; he could not purpose an injustice.

It is a singular circumstance that a portion of that command which most distinguished itself should need or seem to need this defense. But I will not moralize.

If excuse is demanded for this communication, or, if the speaking of my own opportunity for knowing whereof I testify shall provoke a criticism, let me say with becoming modesty, that there are men living who know whether this is true or false, but perhaps none who can so well testify as to the point in issue as myself. He who has once commanded brave soldiers should give sleepless vigils to their honor. Nor can he ever shift the responsibility of its vindication from aspersion, wherever or however made; especially since it was all that was left from their heroic struggle to the living, and all the dead secured in dying.

H. D. Clayton, Formerly Maj-Gen'l Commanding Clayton's Div., C. S. A.


Letter from General S. D. Lee.

Columbus, Miss., January 28, 1878.
Rev. J. Wm. Jones, Secretary Southern Historical Society.
My dear sir: In the November number of the Southern Historical Society Papers is General Patton Anderson's report of the battle of Jonesboroa. There was no more gallant and honorable soldier in the Confederate Army than Patton Anderson. He was the peer of any in chivalry and honorable bearing, and would have given his life rather than intentionally have wronged an individual or a regiment of troops.

As to his implied reflection on the Thirteenth Louisiana, I have just this to say: About the time of the incident related of the color-bearer of the Thirteenth Louisiana, General Anderson was terribly wounded in the face and passed immediately by me being borne from the field. A more painful sight was seldom seen.

I cannot but believe the general was in error is to the Thirteenth Louisiana, and believe that his absence and distance from the army on account of his painful wound alone prevented a further enquiry and correction of this matter, and, knowing him as I did, I take the liberty of writing this letter, believing that no injury can possibly befall the memory of the lamented Patton Anderson.

I know that Gibson's brigade (the Thirteenth was one of the regiments of that brigade) was as gallant as any on the field of Jonesboroa. They reached and for some time staid in the works of the enemy, and the list of killed and wounded (about one-half) attested their heroism and should vindicate their record on that field. Possibly the incident might have occurred after the withdrawal of the brigade from the works of the enemy, where they lost half of their number. All troops, under such terrible circumstance, are a little scattered, and it requires time to rearrange them, and the color-bearer, from excessive gallantry or excitement, was no doubt separated a short distance from his regiment. But I do state most emphatically that the incident (implied) related is the first and only time I ever heard aught against any man of Gibson's gallant Louisiana brigade. [131]

I saw them around Atlanta and in Hood's Nashville campaign, and I know that, on consultation with Major General Clayton, I designated Gibson's brigade to cross the Tennessee river in open boats, in the presence of the enemy, opposite Florence, Ala., and a more gallant crossing of any river was not made during the war. The enemy was supposed to be in large force, covered by the banks, but Gibson and his men never enquired as to numbers when they were ordered forward, and their gallant bearing soon put the enemy's sharpsh-sooters to flight and secured a good crossing for two divisions of my corps.

At Nashville, where Hood was defeated by Thomas, Gibson's brigade, of my corps, was conspicuously posted on the left of Pike, near Overton Hill, and I witnessed their driving back, with the rest of Clayton's division, two formidable assaults of the enemy, and my corps repulsed all attacks till compelled to retire because the two corps on my left had given back and the enemy was already in my rear. They were rallied readily, about two and one-half miles in rear of the original line, by brigades and divisions.

I recollect, near dark, riding up to a brigade near a battery and trying to seize a stand of colors and lead the brigade against the enemy. The color-bearer refused to give up his colors, and was sustained by his regiment. I found it was the color-bearer of the Thirteenth Louisiana, and it was Gibson's Louisiana brigade. Gibson soon appeared by my side, and in my admiration of such conduct I exclaimed: “Gibson, these are the best men I ever saw. You take them and check the enemy.” Gibson did lead them and did check the enemy.

This incident ought to satisfy any member of the Thirteenth Louisiana that that regiment was as gallant as any in the service and it affords me great pleasure, as a comrade, to add my mite in their vindication.

Yours truly, S. D. Lee.


Letter from General R. L. Gibson.

Washington, January 22, 1878.
Rev. J. Wm. Jones, Secretary, Richmond, Va.:
Dear sir: My attention has been called by a member of the Thirteenth Louisiana regiment, writing from New Orleans, to a criticism by General Anderson in his report of the battle of Jonesboroa, Ga., August 31, 1864, published in the November number of the Southern Historical Magazine, that might be construed to reflect upon that regiment.

It will be observed, by referring to the report, that General Anderson expresses his own doubt as to the correctness of the information which was furnished him, and on which his report is based. It is, indeed, extraordinary that General Anderson should have permitted himself to have said a word in criticism of a regiment which had served with him on so many battle-fields, and that had often received from him the highest praise.

That regiment was in my brigade at the battle of Jonesboroa, and I feel it my duty to put upon record the fact that it bore itself in that, as it had done on many historic battle-fields, with distinguished valor. It was commanded by Colonel Francis Lee Campbell, who, like General Anderson, went down to his grave bearing several wounds received under the colors of his regiment.

My brigade consisted of the Sixteenth and Twenty-fifth (consolidated) Louisiana regiments, Colonel Joseph Lewis commanding; the Fourth Louisiana regiment, Colonel Sam. E. Hunter commanding; the Thirtieth Louisiana regiment, the Fourth Louisiana battalion, and Austin's battalion of sharpshooters, Major J. E. Austin commanding, and the Nineteenth Louisiana regiment, Colonel F. C. Zacharie commanding.

Colonel Lewis, at the head of his regiment, was killed, sword in hand, at the works of the enemy. Colonel Hunter (since dead), with his noble regiment, drove the enemy from his position. Indeed, every regiment did its duty in the assault, as was evidenced by the fact that the brigade lost more than half its numbers, and, as I remember, was complimented by General Clayton, commanding [133] the division, who was an eye-witness of the assault and lost three horses in the charge, riding just on the right of the brigade.

Perhaps I may be permitted to relate a circumstance that occurred on another field, and that will illustrate the metal of this regiment. At the battle of Nashville, where the army met with a disaster and was in retreat, Fenner's battery was placed in position on the pike and ordered to fire over the heads of the retreating troops for moral effect. When it was observed that the enemy was pressing close, General Stephen D. Lee desired infantry to drive him back. It was found that this regiment, with those associated with it, were formed in regular order just in the rear of the battery. He rode up to the color-bearer of the Thirteenth Louisiana and said, “Give me those colors, I wish to lead this regiment and brigade to drive back the enemy.” The color-bearer and officers replied, “No, general, it is not necessary to expose yourself in that way; point in the direction you desire these colors to be borne, and we will carry them forward as long as there is a shred of them or a man left.” General Lee turned to the writer and said: “These are the best men I have ever seen.” The enemy was checked.

This regiment was one of the first to cross the Tennessee river on the advance of Hood's army to Nashville, and was the last, as the rear guard of that army, to recross it on the retreat, and fired the last volley in regular line of battle in the last ditch of the Confederacy at Mobile. Its record is too well established to need defense at this late day.

If General Anderson were living he would be glad of the opportunity to expunge even the hypothetical criticism which he makes, and would recall with pride the many occasions on which this regiment had received warm encomiums from his lips.

Very respectfully, R. L. Gibson.


Report of Major General H. D. Clayton of battle of Jonesboro, Ga.

[From original Ms.]

headquarters Clayton's division, in the field.
Major: I have the honor to make the following report: This division was moved from East Point on the night of the 30th August, and after an exceedingly fatiguing march, reached Jonesboroa about the middle of the day of the 31st. Here resting about two hours, I received orders from the Lt.-Gen. Commanding to send a brigade to report to General Stevenson, and to move out for battle. I was directed to form my two remaining brigades, Gibson's and Holtzclaw's, (Brig-Gen. Stovall having been sent to report to General Stevenson,) in the second line and on the right of General Manigault's brigade, which was also placed under my command.

Between 3 and 4 P. M. the front line moved out of the breastworks to make the attack. Having a considerable quantity of brush-wood to go through and to pass over the breastworks, both of which I knew would create confusion in the line, I ordered that it should halt so soon as it should reach the open field beyond, and gave the order to move forward as soon as the front line moved. A portion of the line in front seemed to move forward with great reluctance, and when I had reached the point where I had directed the alignment to be rectified, I found that many of the troops in front who had then scarcely engaged the enemy were coming back, and some of them were endeavoring to conceal themselves in the gullies of the old field. Fearing the effect of this upon my own men, and seeing, now that the attack had fairly begun, the importance of pressing it at once, I rode forward and ordered the whole command to move on. Brig-General Gibson seizing the colors of one of his regiments dashed to the front and up to the very works of the enemy. This conduct created the greatest enthusiasm thoughout his command, which again, as in the engagement of the 28th July, previously mentioned, moved against a salient in the enemy's works. Unfortunately a large portion of the whole command stopped in the rifle-pits of the enemy, behind piles of rails and a fence running nearly parallel to [135] his breastworks; and to this circumstance I attribute the failure to carry the works. Never was a charge begun with such enthusiasm terminated with accomplishing so little. This gallant brigade lost one-half its numbers and was finally driven back, as was also Manigault's upon the left. Holzclaw's brigade, Colonel Bush. Jones commanding, which, except its left, had not been so warmly engaged, was subsequently withdrawn.

H. D. Clayton, Major General. Major J. W. Ratchford, A. A. General.

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