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Chapter 14:

  • The Wilderness, 1864
  • -- Grant Moves on Richmond -- the opening battles of May -- the ‘bloody angle’ -- battle of Drewry's bluff -- service of North Carolina commands -- Hoke's division.

In March, 1864, Gen. U. S. Grant was given the supreme command of all the Federal forces in the field. From that time on, the Federal armies were, as General Grant says,
all ready to move for the accomplishment of a single object. They were acting as a unit so far as such a thing was possible over such a vast field. Lee, with the capital of the Confederacy, was the main end to which all were working. General Grant, in Battles and Leaders.

The cost in men and money was not to be counted in the accomplishment of that end. General Lee's army had been so worn by constant attrition, that at the beginning of this campaign many Federal officers were of opinion that he could not recruit it enough to make another year's campaign.1 This belief may account for the apparently reckless expenditure of blood in this year's operations against Lee. Men were thrown against the Confederate works and slaughtered, until at Cold Harbor, ordered to assault again,
his immobile lines pronounced a silent, yet emphatic verdict against further slaughter, Swinton.

by refusing to budge. Attrition seemed to be the grand strategy of this campaign in which, according to the official returns published in the Rebellion Records, 88,387 Federals were killed, wounded or captured from May to November2— [230] a loss probably greater than the numerical strength of the army that inflicted it. The continued attacks by new Federal troops, notwithstanding these startling losses, however, produced a depressing effect on the Confederate soldiers. They were often heard to say: ‘It is of no use to kill these fellows; they are like flies, kill one and two come in its place.’

At midnight on May 3d, General Grant's army began to cross the Rapidan, and move on the Germanna ford road toward the Wilderness. General Webb, of that army, gives this concrete illustration of the comparative strength of the two armies:

His [Grant's] 118,000 men, properly disposed for battle, would have covered a front of twenty-one miles, two ranks deep, with one-third of them held in reserve; while Lee, with his 62,000 men, similarly disposed, would cover only twelve miles. Grant had a train which he states in his ‘Memoirs’ would have reached from the Rapidan to Richmond, or sixty miles. Through the Wilderness.

This great army marched toward Richmond on the Germanna road. Two parallel roads, the Orange turnpike and the Orange plank road, cross the Germanna road, nearly at right angles, not far from the famous Wilderness tavern. As General Grant's columns stretched out along the Germanna road, General Lee moved the corps of Ewell and A. P. Hill on the two parallel roads, to strike the Federal flank. General Longstreet's corps at the time of contact of these armies, May 5th, was distant a day's march. General Ewell's corps, moving on the turnpike, was diminished by the absence of Gen. R. D. Johnston's North Carolina brigade, then stationed at Hanover Court House, and by Hoke's North Carolina brigade, just then ordered up from North Carolina. Anderson's division of Hill's corps also was not present at the opening of the battle. ‘So,’ says Colonel Venable of Lee's staff,

on May 5th, General Lee had less than [231] 28,000 infantry in hand. Richmond Address.

The willingness of the great Confederate commander to do battle against such odds is an enduring tribute to the fighting qualities of his followers.

In General Ewell's corps were these North Carolina troops: Daniel's brigade, composed of the Thirty-second, Colonel Brabble; Forty-fifth, Colonel Boyd; Fifty-third, Colonel Owens, and Second battalion, Major Hancock; Ramseur's brigade, made up of the Second, Colonel Cox; the Fourth, .Colonel Grimes; the Fourteenth, Colonel Bennett, and the Thirtieth, Colonel Parker; Johnston's brigade (absent the first day), constituted as follows: Fifth, Colonel Garrett; Twelfth, Colonel Coleman; Twentieth, Colonel Toon; Twenty-third, Colonel Blacknall; and the First, Colonel Brown, and Third, Colonel Thruston, in Steuart's brigade.

Ewell's battle of the 5th was entirely distinct from Hill's fight of the same day. As Ewell advanced—Jones' brigade in front, followed by Battle's and Doles' on Battle's right—Griffin's division of Warren's corps, composed of the brigades of Ayres, Bartlett and Barnes, fell upon Jones and drove him back. Jones' men somewhat disordered Battle's line as they gave way, but Doles held steady on the right. General Daniel was sent to the aid of Doles, who was hard pressed, and Gordon a little later formed on Daniel's right. These North Carolinians and Georgians gallantly dashed against Griffin's men, forced Ayres across the pike, and restored the Confederate line. Gordon being on the flank captured many prisoners. Wadsworth's Federal division, supported on the left by Dennison's brigade, advanced through the dense thickets to reinforce Griffin. He reached the firing line, says Humphreys, just about the time that Daniel's and Gordon's brigades got on the ground, with his left flank toward them. They

took instant advantage to attack, and his front line being so entangled in the wood as not [232] to admit of ready handling, its left fell back quickly and in some confusion, and the enemy passing through the opening thus made, took Dennison's brigade in flank, as well as two brigades of the right, and after a short, sharp engagement forced them also to retire. The Virginia Campaign of 1864 and 1865.

McCandless' brigade of Crawford's division was also engaged and broken by these same brigades, assisted by a front fire.

During the busy work of Daniel and Gordon on the flank, the Confederate front also had been seriously struggling. Steuart's brigade, along with Battle's, engaged the right of Griffin, whose left had been turned by Daniel and Gordon. In Steuart's attack, the First and Third North Carolina regiments, forming his right, bore an honorable part. They charged upon a line of infantry supporting one of Griffin's batteries, drove it and captured two howitzers. The Regimental History of the Third regiment thus describes the capture: ‘Preceding and up to the capture of the howitzers, the fighting was desperate, muskets and their butt ends and bayonets being used. . . . We recall that in a gully, which ran for more than a brigade front, Confederates and Federals were so nearly on even terms or at equal advantage, that they were simultaneously demanding each other to surrender. We, however, succeeded in establishing the superiority of our claim and came off victors.’ In the rest of Ewell's hard fighting that afternoon, the North Carolinians were not called upon to take part. Ramseur's brigade was in reserve. The First North Carolina cavalry was on Ewell's left. At nightfall, Ewell had resisted all assaults, and at once fortified the line he held.

While Ewell's forces were thus engaged, Gen. A. P. Hill's corps was battling with Getty and Hancock on the lower road. The fact, however, that there are in the official records so few reports from the officers engaged, makes it difficult to fully ascertain the parts borne by the North Carolina troops. There were four North Carolina [233] brigades and one regiment, the Fifty-fifth, Colonel Belo, in Hill's corps: Kirkland's—the Eleventh, Colonel Martin; Twenty-sixth, Lieutenant-Colonel Jones; Forty-fourth, Colonel Singeltary; Forty-seventh, Colonel Faribault; Fifty-second, Colonel Little; Cooke's brigade—the Fifteenth, Lieutenant-Colonel Yarborough; Twentysev-enth, Colonel Gilmer; Forty-sixth, Colonel Saunders; Forty-eighth, Colonel Walkup; Lane's brigade—the Seventh, Colonel Davidson; Eighteenth, Colonel Barry; Twenty-eighth, Colonel Speer; Thirty-third, Colonel Avery; Thirty-seventh, Colonel Barbour; Scales' brigade—Thirteenth, Colonel Hyman; Sixteenth, Colonel Stowe; Twenty-second, Colonel Galloway; Thirty-fourth, Colonel Lowrance; Thirty-eighth, Colonel Ashford. Cooke and Kirkland were in Heth's division, Scales and Lane in Wilcox's division.

When Heth's division, the head of A. P. Hill's corps, approached the Federal lines, General Meade ordered Getty's division of Sedgwick's corps, supported by Hancock's corps, to attack the Confederates and drive them back to Parker's store, so that Hancock might connect with Warren's left. Hancock formed the divisions of Birney, Mott, Gibbon and Barlow on Getty's left. These five divisions were resisted all the afternoon by Heth's and Wilcox's divisions alone, Anderson, Hill's other division commander, being still absent with his command. The divisions of Getty, Birney, Mott, two brigades of Hancock and two of Barlow were composed of seventynine regiments. The two divisions that opposed them numbered forty regiments. Of these forty regiments, twenty, as seen above, were from North Carolina.

Heth's division was drawn up across the plank road. Cooke's North Carolina brigade had two of its regiments, the Fifteenth and Forty-sixth, on the right of the road, and two, the Twenty-seventh and Forty-eighth, on the left of the road. During a part of the engagement, Kirkland's men supported Cooke. Later it passed to the front [234] line and was heavily engaged. Both of these brigades did steady, hard fighting during all the afternoon as they met the heavy masses of the Second corps. How effective their fire was is shown by a statement made by Col. W. J. Martin of the Eleventh regiment. He says, in his Regimental History: ‘At one time, during the fighting on the 5th, our regiment lay down behind a line of dead Federals so thick as to form a partial breastwork, showing how stubbornly they had fought and how severely they had suffered. It was a novel experience, and seems ghastly enough in the retrospect.’ As the Federals continued to multiply in Heth's front, Wilcox's division was withdrawn from the flank and put in to relieve Heth. This brought the brigades of Lane and Scales into the thickest of the fight. Wilcox assigned Scales and Lane to the right of the road, McGowan to the road and Thomas to his left. ‘The two brigades on the right,’ says Humphreys

Lane's and Scales'), passed through Heth's lines and advanced at different times as far as the swamps, in and near which they encountered Hancock's and Getty's men with varying success, but were finally forced back to Heth's position. The Campaign of 1864 and 1865.

Lane says in his account of the battle, that his men did not lose ground until they were doubled in on both flanks. Davis' brigade, of which the Fifty-fifth North Carolina formed a part, was posted behind a hill crest, and Colonel Cooke says in his Regimental History, ‘Our line never wavered. About 3:30 our skirmish line was driven in and the first line of the Federal forces charged us, but they got no further than the crest of the hill in front of us, and were repulsed with great loss; from then until sunset they charged us seven times, but we repulsed every attack.’

As these troops were to be relieved by Longstreet at daylight, no attempt was made to readjust their tangled lines that night. The jaded men sank to sleep just where they had been fighting. The two armies were so close [235] to each other that many men from both sides were, while searching for water, captured by their opponents. The failure to form fresh line of battle or to fortify during the night came near working disaster, for the Federals assaulted at dawn, and as a result much disorder was created. Cooke's men, contrary to orders, had slightly intrenched, and they, bravely assisted by Williams' North Carolina battery, held their front intact. Just as the men on each side of them began to be pressed beyond their flanks, Longstreet's corps arrived and restored the broken lines by an energetic onset. In this early morning fight, the North Carolinians were heavy sufferers. Lane says: ‘We opposed this force for a short time (the Thirty-third fighting like heroes), but could not long stand the terrible fire in our front and flank.’ Col. C. M. Avery, of this regiment that Lane praises, was mortally wounded while courageously passing up and down his line and urging his men to stand firm.

During the morning attacks on Hill's position, and the splendid fighting of Longstreet's men, who flanked Hancock and doubled him up, repeated assaults were made on Ewell's lines, but they were all repelled. His men had intrenched themselves and were anxious to be attacked. ‘Grant,’ comments General Webb of the Federal army,

had been thoroughly defeated in his attempt to walk past General Lee on the way to Richmond. Battles and Leaders.

Owing to the absence of official reports, no accurate summary of North Carolina losses is possible. Lane reports his loss as 43 killed, 229 wounded and 143 missing. Captain Graham states that the loss in Cooke's brigade was about 1,080. The total Federal loss in this battle was 15,387.

On the 7th, General Grant began to move his army toward Spottsylvania Court House. That night the race of the two armies for Spottsylvania began. Warren was pushed out of the way, and Lee's army occupied the coveted [236] point. During the movements on the 7th, Ramseur's brigade was ordered to form on Daniel's right to prevent a movement that Burnside was making to cut off the Second corps. Ramseur reports: ‘Moving at a double-quick, I arrived just in time to check a large flanking party of the enemy, and by strengthening and extending my skirmish line, I turned the enemy's line, and by a dashing charge with my skirmishers, under the gallant Maj. E. A. Osborne of the Fourth North Carolina regiment, drove not only the enemy's skirmishers, but his line of battle back, capturing some prisoners, and the knapsacks and shelter tents of an entire regiment.’

New lines were soon formed around the court house; Longstreet's corps resting on the Po river, Ewell's in the center, and A. P. Hill's on the right. The 9th of May was a day of comparative rest from fighting. The Confederates spent the day in intrenching, and made a most formidable line around the town.

On the 10th, Hancock's corps crossed the Po to ascertain whether Lee was moving. This corps was afterward ordered to return. As it was being withdrawn, Heth's division, under directions from General Early, attacked it. His attack especially fell upon the brigades of Brooke and Brown, and General Humphreys states that their loss was severe. General Early, in his account of this affair, says:

Heth's division behaved very handsomely, all of the brigades, Cooke's, Davis', Kirkland's and Walker's, being engaged in the attack. Preface to Valley Campaign.

During this retreat of the Federals, the woods in their rear took fire, and their retreat, as well as the Confederate advance, was through the burning forests. Many of the Union wounded were burned to death.

But the day was to close with a sterner conflict. Hancock had been recalled from across the Po to join in a front attack on Lee's lines. The first assault was on Longstreet's corps, and was disastrously repulsed. The [237] Federals then, after as careful a reconnaissance as the proximity of the lines permitted, decided that the part of Lee's line held by Doles' brigade was vulnerable to front assault. Accordingly a storming force was organized. Colonel Upton, with three brigades of Sedgwick's corps, twelve regiments in all, led the storming columns against the works held by Doles and his three Georgia regiments. Upton was followed by Mott's division of Hancock's corps. This division numbered seventeen regiments. The attack of the first line, made after a violent artillery fire, was somewhat of a surprise to the Confederates. Doles' three regiments, after a splendid resistance, were overrun, and the assailants poured through the gap thus made. But it was a death-trap into which they had bravely plunged. Daniel's North Carolina brigade, withdrawing from its line, attacked Upton on one flank. Gordon hurried forward Battle's Alabamians to strike him in front R. D. Johnston's North Carolinians joined Daniel on the flank, and Steuart's North Carolinians and Virginians fired into the other flank, as did also the Stonewall brigade. The Federals were forced out of the works, leaving, says General Ewell, 100 dead men in the works and many outside of them. Upton states his loss at 1,000. Mott's division did not follow closely Upton's lead, and it seems to have been more easily repulsed. During the interim, squads of Confederates slipped over the works and picked up muskets and ammunition, and all along the line many a soldier had several muskets. These they fired in rapid succession, and as they were reloaded by comrades, the fire was incessant. Many of Upton's men lay down outside the works to await the approaching night in order that they might retire in safety. The conduct of one of Gen. R. D. Johnston's regiments drew from General Lee the following letter: [238]

Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia. May 11, 1864.
Sir: Yesterday evening the enemy penetrated a part of our line and planted his colors upon the temporary breastworks erected by our troops. He was immediately repulsed, and among the brave men who met him, the Twentieth North Carolina regiment, under Colonel [T. F.] Toon, of the brigade commanded by Brig.-Gen. R. D. Johnston, captured his flag. It was brought to me by Maj. John S. Brooks, of that regiment, who received his promotion for gallantry in the battle of Chancellorsville, with the request that it be given to Governor Vance. I take great pleasure in complying with the wish of the gallant captors, and respectfully ask that it be granted, and that these colors be presented to the State of North Carolina as another evidence of the valor and devotion that have made her name eminent in the armies of the Confederacy.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Va. R. E. Lee. Hon. Secretary of War, Richmond,

The next day was rainy and disagreeable, and no serious fighting took place. There were movements, however, along the Federal lines during the day that indicated a withdrawal from the front of Longstreet's corps. Late in the afternoon, under the impression that General Grant had actually begun another flanking movement, General Lee ordered that all artillery on the left and center that was ‘difficult of access’ should be withdrawn from the lines, and that everything should be in readiness to move during the night if necessary. Under this order, General Long, Ewell's chief of artillery, removed all but two batteries from the line of Gen. Edward Johnson's division. Johnson's division held an elevated point somewhat advanced from the general line, and known as the salient, or ‘Bloody Angle,’ the breastworks there making a considerable angle, with its point toward the enemy. .. To provide against contingencies, a second line had been laid off and partly constructed a short distance in rear, so as to cut off this salient.

General Law, in Battles and Leaders.


Against this salient, thus stripped of its artillery, General Grant was, on the rainy 11th, preparing a grand assault. Hancock was ordered to take three divisions of the Second corps to join the Ninth corps in an assault at 4 o'clock on the morning of the 12th. Barlow's, Birney's and Mott's divisions were massed during the night in front of Johnson's position. Gibbon's division was moved up as a reserve, but really joined in the assault. Russell's and Getty's divisions were directed to be under arms and ready to move wherever needed.

Johnson had heard the heavy movements of troops in the night, and, promptly reporting it to General Ewell, asked for the return of the artillery. Orders were issued for the guns to be replaced at daylight, and Gordon was directed to take position to aid any threatened point.

Owing to a heavy fog, General Hancock delayed his advance until the first glimmer of the morning. Then, with a rush, his serried columns, wedged almost into one moving mass, dashed over the works, capturing Generals Johnson and Steuart and over 2,000 men. The Confederate artillery was just galloping on the field, and was captured before it could fire a shot. The infantry, however, struggled desperately for the works. General Hancock says in his report: ‘The interior of the intrenchments presented a terrible and ghastly spectacle of dead, most of whom were killed by our men with the bayonet, when they penetrated the works. So thickly lay the dead at this point that at many places the bodies were touching and piled upon each other.’ Almost all of the First and Third North Carolina regiments were among the captured. Col. S. D. Thruston of the Third was wounded, and Col. H. A. Brown of the First regiment was also ‘wounded, captured and recaptured three times.’ Colonel Brown says of the Federal assault: ‘The terrific onslaught of this vast multitude was irresistible, there being a rectangular mass of 20,000 Federal troops. . .. The portion of the works assaulted by this formidable [240] column was little more than 400 yards wide. The clash of arms and the murderous fire around this bloody angle are indescribable.’

The Federals found that it was easier to get within the Confederate lines than it was to stay there. As soon as they were fairly inside, they began to extend their lines on both flanks, and at the same time to move forward. By a singular coincidence it fell to the lot of North Carolina troops to attack them on three sides. The first fresh troops that they encountered in front were R. D. Johnston's North Carolinians of Gordon's division. The impact was too strong for Johnston. That gallant officer was wounded, and his men, though struggling heroically, driven back. Gordon, however, threw forward his other brigades, and by hard fighting drove the Federals back toward the place of their entrance.

On Gordon's right, the extension of the Federal left encountered Lane's North Carolina brigade. ‘They were checked by General Lane,’ says Colonel Venable,

who, throwing his left flank back from the trenches, confronted their advance. Richmond Address.

General Lane, in his report, tells how this was done: ‘In the best of spirits, the brigade welcomed the furious assault which soon followed, with prolonged cheers and death-dealing volleys. . . . It is impossible for me to speak in too high terms of my command in repulsing this terrible attack of the enemy—men could not fight better, nor officers behave more gallantly; the latter, regardless of danger, would frequently pass along the line and cheer the men in their glorious work. We justly claim for this brigade alone the honor of not only stemming, but of rolling back this “tide of Federal victory which came surging furiously to our right.” ’

On the other side of the angle, similar bravery was shown. General Ewell's report clearly shows the service of the North Carolinians there. He says: ‘Their main effort was evidently against Rodes' position to the left of [241] the angle, and here the fighting was of the most desperate character. General Rodes moved Daniel's brigade (all North Carolinians) from its works to meet the enemy. General Kershaw extended so as to allow Ramseur (North Carolina brigade) to be withdrawn, and as Daniel's right was unprotected, Ramseur was sent in there. He retook the works to Daniel's right along his whole brigade front by a charge of unsurpassed gallantry, but the salient was still held by the enemy, and a most deadly fire poured on his right flank.’ Davis and McGowan then went in, and these brigades held their ground until 3 o'clock, when all were withdrawn to the new line behind the salient. General Daniel was mortally wounded, and General Ramseur seriously, but the latter courageously remained on the field. General Ramseur in his report thus describes the part his brigade took in this most gallant movement: ‘Major-General Rodes ordered me to check the enemy's advance and drive him back. To do this, I formed my brigade in a line parallel to the two lines of works (which the enemy had taken and were holding) in the following order: On the right, Thirtieth North Carolina, Colonel Parker; on the left, Fourteenth North Carolina, Colonel Bennett; right center, Second North Carolina, Colonel Cox; left center, Fourth North Carolina, Colonel Grimes. This formation was made under a severe fire. Before ordering the charge, I cautioned the men to keep the alignment, not to fire, to move slowly until the command “Charge!” and then to move forward on the run, shouting “Charge!” and not to pause until both lines of works were ours. . . . Two lines of Yankees were driven pellmell out and over both lines of our original works, with great loss. This was done without any assistance on my immediate right. The enemy still held the breastworks on my right, enfilading my line with a destructive fire, at the same time heavily assaulting my right front. In this extremity, Colonel Bennett, Fourteenth North Carolina, offered to take his regiment from left to [242] right, under a severe fire, and drive back the growing masses of the enemy on my right. This bold and hazardous offer was accepted as a forlorn hope. It was successfully executed; the enemy was driven from my immediate right, and the works were held, notwithstanding the enemy still enfiladed my line from a part of our works in front of Harris' brigade, which he held unto the last. For this all honor is due Colonel Bennett and the gallant officers and men of his regiment. To Colonels Parker, Cox, Grimes and Bennett, to the gallant officers and patriotic men of my little brigade, the country owes much for the successful charge, which I verily believe turned the fortune of the day at that point in our favor.’

Hancock,’ says General Law, ‘had been reinforced by the divisions of Russell and Wheaton, and about half of Warren's corps as the battle progressed.’ All day long the men contended like fiends for the works over which both Federal and Confederate flags were waving. Two extracts from official reports will show the fierceness of the fighting. Brigadier-General Grant, of the Vermont brigade, says: ‘It was not only a desperate struggle, but it was literally a hand-to-hand struggle. Nothing but the piled up logs and breastworks separated the combatants. Our men would reach over the logs and fire into the forces of the enemy, would stab over with their bayonets; many were shot or stabbed through the crevices between the logs. ... . It was there that the somewhat celebrated tree was cut down by bullets, there that the bush and logs were cut to pieces and whipped into basket stuff.’

General McGowan, on the Confederate side, says: ‘Our men lay on one side of the breastworks, the enemy on the other, and in many instances men were pulled over. The trenches in the “bloody angle” had to be cleared of the dead more than once.’

General Grant in his report sums up this attack in the brief sentence, ‘But the resistance was so obstinate that the advantage gained did not prove decisive.’ General [243] Humphreys states from Federal records that Grant's loss in this sanguinary assault was 6,820. There are no official returns of the Confederate losses. General Lane states the loss in his brigade at 470. General Daniel's death was a great blow to his State and to the army. His masterly handling of his men at Gettysburg, his hard fighting in the Wilderness, and his skillful management at Spottsylvania, showed his great worth as a soldier. His care for his men, and his affectionate interest in their comfort and happiness, showed that he was more than a mere soldier. His largeness of heart and generous nature had been proved in countless ways. In his fall, North Carolina lost a son whom its people not only honored but thoroughly esteemed.

The captured angle, rendered useless by the second line was abandoned on the 14th. Attacks by the Federals on that day and again on the 18th were repulsed. On the 19th, Ewell's corps was directed to cross the Ni, and threaten Grant's communication. Ewell became right heavily engaged, and Ramseur's brigade again rendered conspicuously brave service.

While this active campaign was being waged above Richmond, another army, in which North Carolina was largely represented, fought, under General Beauregard's able direction, the battle of Drewry's Bluff on the south side of the Confederate capital. Of the four division commanders under Beauregard, three of them, Gens. Robert Ransom, Hoke and Whiting, were citizens of North Carolina. The following North Carolina troops were part of that organization: Hoke's old brigade under Col. W. G. Lewis, made up of these regiments—Sixth, Colonel Webb; Twenty-first, Lieutenant-Colonel Rankin; Fifty-fourth, Colonel Murchison; Fifty-seventh, Colonel Godwin; First North Carolina battalion, Colonel Wharton; Clingman's brigade, composed of these regiments—Eighth, Colonel Whitson; Thirty-first, Colonel Jordan; Fifty-first, Colonel McKethan; Sixty-first, Colonel Radcliffe; Ransom's brigade—Twenty-fourth, [244] Colonel Clarke; Twenty-fifth, Colonel Rutledge; Thirty-fifth, Colonel Jones; Forty-ninth, Colonel McAfee; Fifty-sixth, Colonel Faison; Martin's Brigade—Seventeenth, Lieutenant-Colonel Lamb; Forty-second, Colonel Brown; Sixty-sixth, Colonel Moore. The following cavalry regiments were present: Third, Colonel Baker; Fourth, Colonel Ferebee; Sixth, Colonel Folk. Miller's and Cumming's batteries also participated in the campaign.

General Butler, commanding an army estimated at 36,000 men, was to advance on Richmond from the south James side, intrench as he came, and ultimately join General Grant. The united armies were then to crush Lee and take Richmond. When Butler's initiatory movements began, there were few Confederate troops in his front. But General Hoke's division was hurried there, thus stopping his brilliant campaign in North Carolina. General Whiting's force was moved up, and General Ransom's division placed under General Beauregard's direction. Scattered troops were also hastily sent to Beauregard. That able soldier soon organized them into an effective command, and took the offensive from General Butler by moving against the latter's works. General Hoke's division reached Petersburg on the 10th of May. General Beauregard at once placed Hoke in charge of the column of six brigades, with orders to proceed at once toward Drewry's bluff and effect a junction with General Ransom's division. General Whiting arrived at Petersburg on the 13th, and General Beauregard, after explaining to him his plans, set out, escorted by a regiment of Colquitt's brigade and Colonel Baker's Third North Carolina cavalry, to assume command in front. General Beauregard estimated his strength at 25,000 men.

On the 13th of May, General Terry assaulted the Confederate lines near Wooldridge's hill. Gen. M. W. Ransom's brigade, on the extreme Confederate right, was [245] engaged in his repulse. As Terry advanced, the Confederate skirmishers, under the dashing Capt. Cicero A. Durham, made a most stubborn resistance, and did some gallant fighting, in which Durham was mortally wounded. The first assault of the Federals was disastrously repulsed. As the Federal charge was broken, ‘the Forty-ninth and Twenty-fifth North Carolina regiments,’ says Judge Roulhac, ‘leaped over the works and poured a destructive volley into the ranks of the flanking party.’ While the Federals were preparing for a second attack, the Confederate forces were withdrawn to an inner line. During this engagement, Gen. M. W. Ransom was severely wounded, and Colonel Rutledge succeeded to the command of the brigade.

On the 16th, General Beauregard, putting Ransom's division on his left, next to Drewry's bluff, Hoke's on his right, Colquitt in reserve, ordered an attack at daylight. The attack was to begin by Ransom's turning the Federal right. Whiting's division, then at Walthall Junction, and almost directly in rear of Butler, was, as soon as the Federal front was broken, to strike Butler's flank and rear. Each division was accompanied by a battalion of artillery and a small cavalry force. From this admirably conceived plan, General Beauregard expected to destroy or capture Butler's army.

The Confederate troops took position by bright moonlight. Just after dawn a fog, so dense that a horseman could not be seen at fifteen paces, settled down and greatly retarded operations. General Ransom's left was confronted by Generals Weitzel's and Brooks' Federal divisions. General Hoke faced Terry's and Turner's divisions. The Federals occupied a line of works that the Confederates had constructed. In front of a good part of the Federal line, telegraph wires had been stretched near the ground.

General Ransom moved out of the trenches before day, and formed line of battle with Grade, supported by [246] Terry on his left, and Hoke's old brigade, commanded by Colonel Lewis, supported by Fry on the right. He struck Heckman's brigade on the extreme right, and carried his line of works by storm, forcing Heckman back in confusion toward the center. In this attack, the North Carolina brigade acted with the utmost bravery, and lost some most gallant officers and men. Soon after the engagement opened, the Twenty-fourth regiment, Colonel Clarke, and the Forty-ninth, Major Davis then in command (Colonel McAfee being wounded and Lieutenant-Colonel Fleming being in charge of the skirmish line), were ordered to the right flank of Johnson's brigade, and shared nobly in the hard fighting done by that brigade, materially helping Johnson to clear his front and capture the works in front of him. The confusion caused by the fog and the additional derangement of lines consequent upon an attack, caused General Ransom to halt and reform his battle front. The cavalry under Colonel Donovant was dismounted and actively employed as skirmishers on the left of Ransom's line, and the artillery was engaged all the morning. General Beauregard says of this action that General Ransom's troops behaved with ‘acknowledged gallantry.’

On the right, General Hoke, of whom General Beauregard says, ‘he handled his command with that resolution and judgment for which he was conspicuous,’ formed his line with Hagood and Johnson on his left, and Clingman (North Carolina) and Corse on his right. At dawn he threw out skirmishers, and opened his artillery. The infantry attack began with an advance of Hagood's and Johnson's brigades. They went in with determination and success. Hagood's brigade captured five pieces of artillery and a number of prisoners, and the two brigades occupied the enemy's works. But the enemy attacked Hoke's front with fierceness. Especially on Johnson's right was the fighting continuous, Generals Terry and Turner struggling tenaciously to hold their ground. [247] General Clingman's and General Corse's brigades were sent to Johnson's right. A spirited attack by them failed to entirely carry the intrenchments before them. General Butler, however, withdrew his forces to the line of Proctor's creek.

All day the Confederate commander anxiously expected General Whiting to make the flank attack ordered, and from which it was hoped so much would result. For reasons stated at some length in General Whiting's report, he failed to carry out the part assigned, and the defeat of General Butler was not so complete as the Confederate commander had hoped to make it. This battle, however, resulted in what General Grant styled ‘the bottling up’ of Butler's forces in defensive works, and shattered all expectations of active co-operation on Butler's part in the advance on Richmond.

During the day General Dearing, commanding General Whiting's cavalry, forced his way by Ames' men, reported to General Beauregard, and returned that afternoon with many prisoners. The boldness of the movement won warm praise from Dearing's superiors.

An assault on part of Butler's advanced lines of intrenchments and rifle-pits took place on the 20th of May at Howlett's house. Those held by Ames were captured and retained; but Terry was fortunate enough to regain from the Confederates those that he at first lost to them. In this action, the young and chivalrous Lieut.-Col. J. C. Lamb, of the Seventeenth North Carolina, was mortally wounded. The North Carolina losses in this series of actions were, killed, 99; wounded, 574.

After the battle at Drewry's bluff, Lewis' brigade (Hoke's) was ordered to join General Lee, and the Forty-third regiment that had been acting with it took its old place in Daniel's brigade. This brigade was now commanded by Gen. Bryan Grimes, he having been promoted on General Daniel's death.

General Hoke, to whom a permanent division, composed [248] of Martin's and Clingman's North Carolina brigades and Colquitt's and Hagood's brigades, had been assigned, also reported to General Lee at Cold Harbor just in time to be of the utmost service to him.

Commenting on the services that had just been rendered by General Hoke's command, and also upon its record at Cold Harbor, Colonel Burgwyn says:

In the spring of 1864 the Confederate authorities decided to anticipate the pending campaign by the capture of some of the towns held by the enemy in eastern North Carolina. Brig.-Gen. R. F. Hoke was selected to command the expedition. He took with him his own, Ransom's, Terry's Virginia brigade, the Forty-third North Carolina regiment, of which your distinguished citizen, Thomas S. Kenan, was colonel, and several batteries of artillery, assisted by the ram Albemarle operating in the Roanoke river.

Capturing Plymouth (April 20, 1864), after one of the most brilliant of assaults, with some 2,500 prisoners and large supplies of provisions and munitions of war, General Hoke marched to Washington, forced the evacuation of the place, and promptly invested New Bern, which was to be assaulted the next day with every prospect of success, when telegrams from President Davis, Secretary of War Seddon, Generals Lee and Beauregard ordered him to withdraw from New Bern with all haste, and interpose his troops between Butler and Richmond. Moving without a moment's delay, General Hoke reached Petersburg in advance of Butler; but so close was the race, that as Hoke's troops filed into the works protecting Petersburg, the advance of Butler's army appeared in view, making for the same point. This march of General Hoke's troops stands at West Point as the most rapid movement of troops on record. Appointed a major-general for his distinguished services as above, Hoke with his division, of which Clingman's brigade was part, helped to win the victory of Drewry's Bluff. Transferred to the north bank of the James, they saved the day at Cold Harbor. Hurried again to the southern side of the James, they reached the works defending Petersburg just in time to save the cty on the memorable attack, June 17, 1864.

3 [249]

1 General Webb's article, ‘Through the Wilderness.’

2 Vol. XXXVI, I, p. 195.

3 Memorial Address on Clingman.

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