The Eleventh at five Forks fight.
From the Richmond, Va., Times-dispatch, July 1, 1906.
Graphic story of daring deeds performed on hopeless field of Battle—‘had Pickett
been there’—The sad story of five Forks told for the first time.
The movements and experience of my command, the 11th Virginia Infantry, Terry
's Brigade, at Five Forks
, I have often been asked to write.
That battle removed from further action in battle array the Army of Northern Virginia, ‘that noblest army that ever trod this globe,’ as General Hampton
called it. With the solidarity of that army gone, the life of the Southern Confederacy was flickering and low, and soon extinguished.
, the 31st of March, 1865, found Pickett
's Division on the march,
detached from General Lee
's Army, and co-operating with General Fitz Lee
's Division of Cavalry.
The brigade of William R. Terry
, of Bedford
, as we called him—was composed of the 1st, 3rd, 7th, 11th and 24th Regiments of Virginia Infantry.
Amongst its previous commanders were James L. Kemper
, A. P. Hill
and James Longstreet
That morning it was leading the division, and the 24th Infantry (Major Bentley
commanding) was leading the brigade.
It was a beautiful morning.
Everybody was in fine spirits.
The “esprit du corps,” so characteristic of Pickett
's Division, marked it as a body of men of which any commander might be proud.
‘Enemy in front,’ holding ford over Hatcher's Run
, came from one of our scouts.
The division was at once halted, and General Pickett
rode up to me (my regiment was next to the 24th) and told me that Terry
would take the 24th Regiment and drive the enemy from the ford in our front.
said he would accompany him; that there were troops on the march in the rear of his division, but I should permit none of them to pass me. He also said if Major Bentley
needed help he would send for my regiment and that I should transmit my orders to Colonel Joseph Mayo
, commanding the 3rd Infantry, and next behind me. Soon after Bentley
engaged the enemy, Generals Rosser
rode up at the head of Rosser
's Cavalry Division, of which Dearing
commanded one of the brigades.
Would stay in fight.
I halted them, and told General Rosser
's orders, that no troops should pass the head of his division.
‘Well,’ said General Rosser
, ‘my division may halt, but Jim Dearing
and myself are going down to help Terry
I knew Rosser
well, for they were both from my county of Campbell
, and I knew that objection on my part would be useless.
They both had rather be in a fight than out of it. Braver men I never knew.
They galloped to the front.
Just then a courier from Pickett
summoned me down.
I transmitted my orders to Mayo
, and moved rapidly to the ford.
As the enemy saw our approach he evacuated the ford, and hid himself on the eminence just beyond.
had crossed when I got there, and I rode across and sought General
and asked for orders.
‘Follow this road until your rear company crosses the stream, then march by the right flank and charge them.’
I said to him: ‘General, I am marching right in front; do you remember the move indicated by your order will throw my rear rank in front and put the left of each of my companies where the right should be?’
“Yes, yes, but it is quicker.
is ready to charge, and has orders to close dress on your left.
You must close on the creek.”
I rode back to the creek, about six of my companies had crossed, when General Rosser
rode up and ordered me to move at once by the right flank and charge them.
I told him I would do so as soon as I had crossed my whole command; he was very impatient and rode off. As my last company crossed, I moved by the right flank, charged and immediately engaged the enemy, and soon got them on the run; we captured there just seventeen horses.
As I had heard that General Terry
had just had his horse killed under him, I sent him a horse, but learned from my courier that the General
's leg had been broken and he had relinquished command to Colonel Mayo
We pursued the enemy that day to Dinwiddie Courthouse, and had been continually on the run, when to our surprise, we were ordered to halt, although we could see the enemy still fleeing before us. We were kept there until late in the night, probably until long after midnight, when we were again put on the march, and to our surprise, were taken on the back track, until we reached the Dinwiddie Courthouse Road
, which road we followed until we reached Five Forks
, where we were halted and ordered to entrench ourselves.
We felled trees and by noon had made a substantial breastwork.
We could plainly hear a heavy and continuous fire some distance to our left; all sorts of rumors were afloat.
At that time General Pickett
was absent and no one seemed to know where he was. 'Twas said that General Bushrod Johnson
, on our left, was being beaten back, and was calling for aid; again that General Munford
, with two cavalry brigades, had reinforced Johnson
, and in turn was driving the enemy, &c. Joe Mayo
came to my headquarters and complained that as far as he knew, there were no pickets in our front.
I told him there were none from my command, but that I knew there were troops in our front, and I believed the enemy, but
possibly General W. H. F. Lee
's Brigade of Cavalry, as he had been operating with us the night before.
said that Ransom
, on our left, was appealing for aid, but that in Pickett
's absence no one would assume the responsibility of weakening his division.
General Geo. H. Steuart
(known as Maryland Steuart
), the senior brigadier
, refused the responsibility.
I urged Mayo
to throw a picket in our front; our men in the works had been on the march and battlefield continuously for forty hours, and they would sleep in the trenches.
He said he thought so, too, but he feared more of an attack upon our left, as the firing from that direction was continually getting nearer and nearer.
Just then a courier in great haste and much excited, rode up to Mayo
; from whom he came or what was his communication I do not know.
only said to me, ‘Ransom
still asks for help,’ and rode off, but a moment later rode back and ordered me to cover my front with one company, and to order that company to cover one-half of the brigade front as outposts.
I immediately sent Lieutenant Whit Lazenby
with Company B to execute this order.
There was now a general feeling of uneasiness among our officers and men!
we had seen so much service, that something in the wind told when things were going wrong.
I felt very anxious as to Lazenby
and his company.
I knew that he (Lazenby
, would fight them as long as he had a cartridge in his box, but I thought possibly he might lack discretion.
I rode a short distance in my front and met one of Lazenby
's men (I had forgotten his name, but that gallant old comrade, Ned Ewart
, came to my rescue a day or two since, and in conversation with him I was informed that this man was Ned Farmer), mounted upon a splendid horse and marching a prisoner beside him. Ned
said he had captured him on the lines.
The prisoner stated that he belonged to General Merritt
's Cavalry Division.
I sent Farmer with his horse and prisoner to Colonel Mayo
Farmer telling me that Lazenby
was all right, I felt assured.
Soon after that I heard firing along Lazenby
's line; he was evidently engaged.
I called the regiment at once to arms, and awaited developments.
The firing on Lazenby
's line soon ceased, but I had no report
from him. Soon Lieutenant Clarence Haden
, of Company B, came in and reported that Lazenby
and his whole command had been captured by the enemy.
I at once advised Colonel Mayo
I received no reply from him, or to my communication, but instead, an order to march my regiment by the left flank down our line of works and report to General Ransom
, and place myself and command under his orders.
Wanted a Division.
In the forgetfulness of forty years I cannot say how far I marched, but I do not think more than a fourth of a mile, when I met General Ransom
and reported to him, giving my name and rank.
‘What command have you, colonel?’
I replied, ‘The largest and best regiment in the army.’
His reply was, ‘I want a division,’ and then said, ‘You march here,’ pointing immediately to our rear, ‘and strike him wherever you find him, if possible hold him until I join you.’
On my march I encountered my old schoolmate, Will Early
, commanding a section of artillery.
He told me they were driving us, but that he had a good position and would give him grape and canister as soon as he got in sight.
(Dear, gallant Early
died there.) I moved rapidly through the dense pines and soon caught glimpses of the enemy's colors.
They were marching rapidly by the flank.
I immediately sent, at short intervals, three couriers (one of whom was Captain Ro. Mitchell
), with orders to report to General Ransom
or Colonel Mayo
or General Steuart
, and tell them a large body of the enemy was in our immediate rear.
I would engage him at once and they could direct their march by my guns.
They were between us and our wagon and ammunition trains, and I advised that the division be faced about, and cut our way through and save the trains.
I never heard anything from any of my couriers.
Just here I met a Captain Hubbard
, a gallant fellow; I forget his command.
We agreed to close on each other and attack at once.
We advanced and opened fire, and, although I saw his colors fall several times, so intent was he upon his move that he continued his march by the flank.
I determined to stop him and did so, but I found to my sorrow I had stopped a monster.
and myself were being enveloped, so I undoubled my ranks so as to present as
long a front as possible, and, expecting every moment the whole of Pickett
's Division to my relief.
Getting out of a hot place.
As the enemy advanced I continued my fire, but began to march backwards.
The pines were so thick I had to dismount, but kept my face to the enemy, watching his movements, when suddenly I heard a man in my rear, some ten or twenty steps, say: ‘Oh, I surrender!’
I turned and saw Yankee Cavalry in or about our works that we had recently left, and where I expected to find Pickett
I called for my horse and mounted him, and said to my men that I was but a short while out of prison, and I would not go back, but that I advised them to surrender, and told Jake Friar, my adjutant, my intention to get out, if possible.
I laid flat on my horse and galloped down my line to the left.
I saw one of my companies get through just before I got there, but the cavalry and infantry, as I thought, but it proved to be dismounted cavalry (Chumberlayne
's Division), came together.
I rode rapidly back to my colors and ordered a surrender.
‘Sic transit gloria mundi.’
We had fought our last battle.
's Brigade of dismounted cavalry that I had been fighting in my front, and Pennington
's Brigade of mounted cavalry in my rear.
I cannot close without adding that when I ordered, in a loud tone, my regiment to surrender, several of Pennington
's cavalry made a dash for my colors.
That brave and glorious man, Hickok
, my color sergeant, drew his pistol and began firing on them, asking: ‘What did you say, Colonel Hutters
I repeated my order, but Hickok
, dear fellow, had been shot down, and I thought killed, but God be praised, I hear he still lives, an honored citizen of Botetourt
, his native county.
No braver man ever bore the colors of his country on the field of battle, and even at this late day I waft him a ‘well done.’
I have not seen him since Five Forks
His division loved him and would have followed him anywhere.