Gregg's brigade of South Carolinians in the Second. Battle of Manassas.
By Edward McCRADY, Jr., Lieut.-Col. First S. C. Volunteers.
[An address before the Survivors of the Twelfth Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, at Walhalla, South Carolina, 21st August, 1884.]
When I look around upon you all, my old comrades, and see in this peaceful assembly the now quiet faces I have often seen lit with the fire of battle, and gaze upon your maimed forms and scarred countenances, and recall the time when I saw your blood shed, I hardly can tell which feeling is uppermost in my heart.
It is surely gratifying to those of us who survive once more to meet; but as I recall each face before me, my memory is busier with those who are not here.
Such meetings as these must be sad—infinitely sad. We meet the survivors of a lost cause and lost friends, of hopes and aspirations which all the chastenings of the last twenty years have not taught us were unfounded or unworthy.
If our memories to-day, then, are filled with sadness let us thank God they bring to us no recollections of shame, but of honor and glory.
You and I, my comrades, have realized as well the satire as the pathos of the old story of Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim
. Twenty odd years ago,
as we marched away with flags flying and drums beating, to fight for our State, the eyes of all the world, we thought, were upon each and every one of us, and we looked forward with exultation to the time when the war over, we would glory in telling of our heroic deeds.
We did not doubt but that we would have attentive and eager listeners to our tales.
We have learned since that few things are so wearisome to our friends as our old war stories.
And when two or three of us, old soldiers, get together and commence—as we are sure to do-forming our lines of battle and marshaling our little battalions, and charging the enemy's breastworks, and all that, do we not see those from whom we looked for wondering admiration quietly slipping away uninterested in our well worn martial exploits?
Do we not hear them humming something about the old king, who
Fought all his battles o'er again,
And thrice he routed all his foes, and
Thrice he slew the slain?
And, after all, is it not enough if we can say with Uncle Toby:
... And for my own part, though I should blush to boast of myself, Trim.
Yet had my name been Alexander, I could not have done more at Namur than my duty.
And may we not content ourselves with the recollection, that if we did no more than our duty, that we did try
to do faithfully?
Begging, then, the patience of our friends who honor us with their presence to-day, let me ask them to bear with us while we go over the battle of the 29th August, 1862, the second day of the great battle of Manassas
, on which day our brigade bore so conspicuous a part, and in which battle, all together, the State of South Carolina
suffered so terribly.
Colonel William Allan
, who was Chief of Ordnance
on General Jackson
's staff, and who is as able a writer as he was a faithful and gallant soldier, whose pen has contributed so much to the truth of the history of the war, and to whom the soldiers of our corps especially are so much indebted for the preservation of their records, in a recent letter to the Philadelphia Times
describing the battlefields of Manassas
, as they appeared on a visit twenty years after the events which have made them so famous, thus describes the position which our brigade held on Friday, the 29th of August, 1862:
‘We were now at the extreme northern limit of the field of the second battle, and we turned to the southwest, and soon found our way to the position taken by Jackson on August 29th, 1862, and held by him so tenaciously
during that day in the woods.
This position runs along the unfinished roadbed of the section of the Manassas Gap railroad, which was intended to give an independent line from Manassas to Alexandria.
The war came on before the line was completed, and the crumbling banks and cuts still stand, after twenty years, only to mark the site of numberless deeds of heroic valor.
Jackson availed himself of the protection offered by the cuts and hills of the railroad, and here met and repulsed during the 29th the tremendous assaults, which Pope made in the hope of overwhelming his meagre forces before Lee could bring Longstreet to his aid. A veritable stone wall his men proved here for a second time on this historic field.
The fury of Pope's attacks that day fell on Jackson's left, held by A. P. Hill; and here Gregg's brigade of South Carolinians fought with unsurpassed courage from morning till late in the afternoon.
More than six hundred of his one thousand, five hundred men had fallen around the heroic Gregg, when, with ammunition exhausted, he replied to General Hill that he “thought he could still hold his position with the bayonet.”
, of Baltimore
, who, you recollect, was military secretary of General Lee
, in an address before the Association of the Army of Northern Virginia, delivered in 1874, in discussing some of the disputed questions of the war, observes:
It has been sixty years since Waterloo, and to this day writers are not agreed as to the facts of that famous battle.
It is not fourteen years since our war began, and yet who, on either side, of those who took part in it, is bold enough to say that he knows the exact truth with reference to any of the great battles in which the armies of the north and south met each other?
The justice of this remark of Colonel Marshall
is well illustrated, my comrades, in the history of the battle in which we took the prominent part mentioned by Colonel Allan
No battle of the late war has been so much studied and discussed as that of the second day of the Second Manassas
, Friday, the 29th August, 1862.
The second defeat of the Federal
forces on Bull Run
, following other reverses, created such exasperation in the Northern
minds that the administration in Washington
, as well as the commander under whom the disaster had occurred, found it necessary to offer a sacrifice to appease at once the anger and fears of the people.
A distinguished officer, one from whose skill and valor we of Gregg
's brigade had already suffered, and had reason to appreciate, was selected as the victim.
was tried, convicted and cashiered, ‘condemned,’ as the Board of Officers who re-examined his case say, ‘for not having taken part in his own battle.’
Twenty odd years after, the country is still discussing the justice of that conviction,
and at last he has been vindicated by the action of Congress.
This discussion, carried on with great earnestness and ability in both houses of Congress, as well as by his counsel, has attracted the attention of professional students of military history, and the examination of witnesses from both sides of the great struggle has revived and kept alive the interest in the battle as if it had been fought but yesterday.
, no battle, probably, has been so much studied and discussed.
This discussion would naturally have been very interesting to us, who took an active part in that battle, but our interest is greatly increased when we find that the discussion has now resulted in the question seriously asked and warmly debated: Was there a battle at all on the 29th August, 1862
This is, indeed, a startling question to us, when we recollect that our brigade was engaged from daylight until dark, and lost over six hundred men out of fifteen hundred carried into action, including eight out of eleven field officers, and half of our company officers.
But the question is asked, and is thus answered by the Board of Officers who have reviewed General Porter
‘The judgment of the court-martial upon General Porter's conduct was evidently based upon greatly erroneous impressions, not only respecting what that conduct really was, and the orders under which he was acting, but also respecting all the circumstances under which he acted.
Especially was this true in respect to the character of the battle of the 29th of August. That battle consisted of a number of sharp and gallant combats between small portions of the opposing forces.
These combats were of short duration, and were separated by long intervals of simple skirmishing and artillery duels. Until after 6 o'clock only a small part of the troops on either side were engaged at any time during the afternoon.’
, who made the report for our brigade after General Gregg
's death, describing our position, says:1
‘Our line made an obtuse angle pointing towards the enemy, one side of which ran nearly parallel with the railroad cut, and the other along the fence bordering the cleared field before spoken of. Within these contracted lines was the little tongue of woodland, which we occupied, and which we were directed to hold at all hazards.
On this spot, barely large enough to hold the brigade, we stood and fought, with intervals of cessation, from eight o'clock in the morning until dark.’
reports the three days fighting:2
My loss was one hundred and ninety-nine killed and thirteen hundred and eight wounded; total, fifteen hundred and seven, of which Gregg's brigade lost six hundred and nineteen.
The brave Colonels, Marshall, of South Carolina, and Forbes, of Tennessee, were killed.
Lieutenant-Colonel Leadbetter, of South Carolina, also met a soldier's death.
Colonels Barnes, Edwards, McGowan, Lieutenant-Colonels McCorkle, Farrow and McCrady, and Major Brockman, of Gregg's brigade, were wounded.
The stubborn tenacity with which Gregg's brigade held its position this day is worthy of highest commendation.
‘Assault after assault was made on the left, exhibiting on the part of the enemy great pertinacity and determination; but every advance was most successfully and gallantly driven back.
General Hill reports that six separate and distinct assaults were then met and repulsed by his division, assisted by Hays' brigade, Colonel Forno commanding.
By this time the brigade of