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Hagood's Brigade.

The Confederate lines attacked at that time were held by Hagood's South Carolina Brigade, and were those to the north of Petersburg, commencing at the Appomattox river on the west, and extending eastwardly across the Charles City dirt road and railroad north of and alongside of Hare's Race Course to the salient on the lines held by Colquitt's brigade. Hagood's, Colquitt's and Clingman's brigades comprised Hoke's division. Clingman's brigade did not come up until the 19th. The extreme west of the line was held by a Virginia battery on the banks of the Appomattox, and from there to the Charles City dirt road were the 11th, 21st, 27th and 25th regiments. Between the dirt road and railroad was a fort, and to the east of the railroad was another fort. These forts were held by the 7th battalion, under Major James H. Rion. Colonel Nelson was absent, and did not return until the 19th. He was killed five days afterwards, on nearly the same field. From Rion's forts to Colquitt's salient there was a short gap. The forts were somewhat nearer to the Federal lines than the salient, but when on the 19th the forts were abandoned and new lines established south of Hare's Race Course, in the old canal, then the gap was closed and Colquitt's salient became nearer the Federal lines. Beyond Colquitt's salient to the east the lines ran to the salient, variously called Pegram's (who occupied it on the 18th of June), Elliott's (who there fought the mine fight in August) and Gracie's (who held it after the mine fight). None of these, however, were engaged on the 18th of June.

The attack of the Federals commenced on the 16th. From the Virginia battery, on the banks of the Appomattox, to the Colquitt salient, the Confederate lines were there held by General Wise's Virginia brigade and the Virginia reserves. The Federals came across the James river and advanced on Petersburg by the Charles City roads. They swept across Wise's lines, leaving no Confederate position occupied except that of the Virginia battery at the Appomattox. From that point to Colquitt's salient, the Confederate lines remained undefended until late in the evening and during the night, when they were re-occupied by the arrival of reinforcements of Hagood's brigade. [224]

Hagood's brigade had been on the north side of the James river, confronting Grant's army, from before the battle of Cold Harbor, on the 3d of June, along down the Chickahominy, Malvern Hill, and Haws's Shop; and on the morning of the 16th were on the north bank of the James river, near the pontoon bridge at Drewry's Bluff. We were hurriedly marched across the bridge to the south side of the James, and on to the Petersburg and Richmond railroad, near Chester Courthouse. It was a cool morning, and as I was marching near Major Rion, there came to my nose the most fragrant scent a weary soldier ever inhaled.

“What is that?” I asked.

“Hush,” said Orderly-Sergeant Malone, of D, the front company, ‘Major Rion has opened his brandy flask.’ Rion always carried a flask filled with French brandy for an emergency, and, wearied with the fatiguing campaign and march, he had taken a morning dram. I believe the smell did me as much good as the dram did for him.

We came to the railroad, about sixteen miles or so from Petersburg, and halted along the track. The 7th, under Colonel Rion, was in front and nearest to Petersburg. Towards evening, Major Ed. Willis, of the Quartermaster's department, came along from Richmond with an engine, tender, and two cars. He called for two companies of volunteers from the brigade to go to Petersburg. Colonel Rion stepped out and said: ‘The whole battalion will go.’ He directed me to put the eight companies, comprising some 500 men, on the train. It was close packing, standing and sitting, inside and outside, on engine, tender and cars. I was on top taking in the scenery and the pine smoke from the engine. I was a dirty white man before we started, but by the time we arrived in Petersburg I was black.

Right across Pocahontas Bridge and up the Main street we marched, my blackness illuming and leading the way. It was just after Wise's brigade had given way. They were running back, some hatless, some shoeless, and nearly all without guns. The women of Petersburg were out on the sidewalks, carrying their household goods from place to place.

“What brigade is that?” they asked.

Hagood's brigade,” I proudly answered.

“We are safe now,” said they, as they went down on their knees on the pavements. Hagood's brigade had saved them twice recently [225] before, in May, at the battles of Walthall Junction, and of Swift Creek. Their gratitude was an inspiration to every man in the regiment.

Out we marched on the Charles City road, until we came just south of Hare's Race Course. There we were marched into a depression among the hills, where General Hoke had his headquarters, and were rationed. About dusk we were marched to the north of the race course, and into an open field nearly aligned on Colquitt's salient, and we commenced immediately to throw up breastworks with bayonets, swords, tin plates, etc. Three times during the night we were drawn up in line of battle to charge, and the order was countermanded. At last, towards morning, our pickets were put out in front, and we went to sleep on our arms.

Just at daybreak the adjutant was directed to relieve the pickets, and draw them in nearer if necessary. We knew the enemy were facing us across the field, When the Adjutant came to the picket line in the gray of the morning, there could be seen Federal pickets approaching two of Wise's abandoned forts in our front, as if to take possession of them. The forts were as near to us as they were to the Federals. The old picket combined with the relief and made a dash for the forts; they got there before the Federals, and the Federals lost several men. The Federals fled. I reported to Major Rion, who sent me to General Hoke. He ordered Major Rion to advance his whole battalion into the forts, and to hold them if he could.

By the time I rejoined the regiment Major Rion had his line of battle ready, and we moved away from Colquitt's left, across the gap to the forts. The Federals began to comprehend the situation. They commenced shelling us and sending forward their infantry to attack the forts. This was kept up all that day.

Early in the day General Hagood came to us, and made his headquarters on the left of the left fort, next to the dirt road. Across the road, along a marshy slope, were the 25th and other regiments of his brigade, extending down to the Appomattox river.

Between our dirt road and the 25th regiment was a deep drain, and it became necessary to bridge this drain in order that there might be access along our lines. General Hagood's staff was scattered, and I can recall none who were with him except Lieutenant Dwight Stoney, a glorious little soldier then, and now in the Charleston express office. The General made use of me, and among other things, he intimated he wanted that bridge built. I informed [226] him our battalion pioneer corps, under Lieutenant Hill, of Company C, was back at Hares's Race Course. He directed me take Dwight Stoney's pretty marsh tacky, with a good switch, ride fast as I crossed the railroad where it converged to the dirt road, and bring up the pioneers. The Federals were sending their shells down the railroad as down a sluice. But the pony carried me safely, and I soon had the pioneers at the front. When I reported with them, Lieutenant Hill was temporarily absent, and General Hagood turned the pioneers over to me to build the bridge. A veteran soldier can do almost anything, and soon I raised a cloud of dust which drew afresh the shelling of the Federals.

About this time some of Captain Dave Walton's company came in from the front, and said one of Wise's abandoned cannon and limber chest were at the foot of the hill in front, about sixty yards away. The General gave me leave to stop raising the dust, and to take the pioneers and recover the gun. We brought it back into the road, alongside of the left fort, wheeled it round, and got it ready for the next charge of the Federals. The General said when we put it in position, that we had no artillerists to manage it. I told him ‘some of Rion's old company B, were among the pioneers and were drilled in artillery practice.’ ‘All right, go ahead.’ This was the only gun used that day or the next, so far as I know, on our lines, and it did good service, as Mr. Alley testifies.

About the time General Hagood came to us and was endeavoring to establish the line down to the river, Captain Ward Hopkin's, Captain Walters', and perhaps some other companies, were marched to the front and towards the river, across the open field. I was standing on the parapet of the fort watching them. The Federals trained their guns upon them, and I saw these brave soldiers killed. Along with them were Lieutenant Allemong and Sergeant Beckman. I knew them all well. Ward Hopkins was a classmate with me in the South Carolina College, and no more knightly spirit ever served the Confederacy. Beckman and I had gone to the same Sunday-school and church in our boyhood.


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