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The battle of the Wilderness.

The official reports of the campaigns of 1864-5 were not published by the Confederate authorities, and few of them have ever been in print in any form. We have been endeavoring to collect full sets of these reports for all of our armies, and shall publish from time to time such as we shall be able to secure. We earnestly ask that any one having reports of these campaigns will forward them without delay to this office. The following reports of the battle of the Wilderness have never been in print, so far as we are aware:

Report of General James Longstreet.

headquarters First Army corps, March 23, 1865.
Colonel — On the 11th of April, 1864, I received orders at Bristol from the Adjutant and Inspector-General to report with the original portion of the First corps (Kershaw's and Field's divisions and Alexander's battalion of artillery) to General R. E. Lee, commanding Army of Northern Virginia. On the 14th I reached Charlottesville, and awaited there the arrival of my troops, which were somewhat delayed by want of transportation on railroad. As the troops arrived they were encamped at points between Charlottesville and Gordonsville.

On the 22d, in obedience to orders received from the Commanding-General, I marched my command to Mechanicsville, and encamped in the near neighborhood thereof.

On the 2d Field's division was moved to the north of Gordonsville, to meet an expected advance of a portion of the enemy by way of Liberty mills. On the 4th was advised by the Commanding-General that the enemy appeared to be moving towards Stevensburg, and, as directed by him, started about four (4) o'clock in the afternoon and marched to Brock's bridge, on the border of Orange county, a distance of about sixteen (16) miles.

Early on the morning of the 5th resumed my march on the----and Catharpin roads to Richard's shop, on Catharpin road. During the latter part of this day's march, Rosser was skirmishing in my front with his brigade of cavalry. At 12.30 A. M. on the 6th started for Parker's store, on the Plank road, in obedience to orders received from the Commanding-General, who also informed me that Generals Hill and Ewell had been heavily engaged the previous day. Arriving at Parker's store about dawn, I was directed tomove my column down the Plank road to relieve the divisions of Heth and Wilcox, which were in position in face of the enemy on the right and left of the Plank road, at right angles with it and about three miles below Parker's store. Kershaw's division was in [79] the lead, arriving in rear of the line held by these two divisions; and when the head of my column had filed to the right, and had only time to deploy two regiments of Kershaw's old brigade, an advance was made by the whole line of the enemy, and the divisions of Heth and Wilcox broke and retreated in some confusion. With considerable difficulty, but with steadiness, opening their ranks to let the retreating divisions through, Kershaw formed his line on the right and Field on the left of the Plank road. Having checked the advance of the enemy, I ordered a general advance by my line, which was made with spirit rarely surpassed, and before which the enemy was driven a considerable distance. The woods were dense and the undergrowth almost impossible to penetrate.

This success was not purchased without the loss of many of the bravest officers and men of my corps. The circumstances under which they fought were most unfavorable. Thrown suddenly, while still moving by the flank, and when hardly more than the head of the column could face the enemy, into the presence of an advancing foe, with their ranks broken each instant by bodies of our retreating men, they not only held their own, but formed their line, and in turn, charging the enemy, drove him back in confusion over half a mile to a line of temporary works, where they were reinforced by reserves.

About 10 o'clock Major-General M. L. Smith and the other officers sent cut to examine the enemy's position, reported that the left of the enemy's line extended but a short distance beyond the Plank road. Special directions were given to Lieutenant-Colonel Sorrel to conduct the brigades of Generals Mahone, G. T. Anderson and Wofford beyond the enemy's left, and to attack him on his left and rear — I have since heard that the brigade of General Davis formed a part of this flanking force — the flank movement to be followed by a general advance — Anderson's brigade on the right and Wofford's on the left, Mahone being in the centre. They moved by the flank till the unfinished railroad from Gordonsville to Fredericksburg was reached. Forming on this railroad facing to the north, they advanced in the direction of the Plank road till they encountered the enemy in flank and rear, who was then engaging the brigades of Gregg, Benning and Law in front. The movement was a complete surprise and a perfect success. It was executed with rare zeal and intelligence. The enemy made but a short stand and fell back in utter rout, with heavy loss, to a position about three-quarters of a mile from my front attack. I immediately made arrangements to follow up the successes gained, and ordered an advance of all my troops for that purpose.

While riding at the head of my column moving by the flank down the Plank road, I came opposite the brigades which had made the flank movement and which were drawn up parallel to the Plank road, and about sixty yards therefrom, when a portion of them fired a volley, which resulted in the death of General Jenkins and the severe wounding of myself.

I immediately notified the Commanding--General of my being [80] obliged to quit the field, and the command devolved on Major-General Field.

To the members of my staff I am under great obligations for their valuable services. They conducted themselves with their usual distinguished gallantry. Much of the success of the movement on the enemy's flank is due to the very skillful manner in which the move was conducted by Lieutenant-Colonel Sorrel.

I have the honor to forward the accompanying reports of subordinate commanders of corps.

I am, Colonel, with great respect, your obedient servant,

J. Longstreet, Lieutenant-General. To Lieutenant-Colonel W. H. Taylor, A. A. G.

Operations of Kershaw's division.

On the 4th of May, 1864, in camp near Gordonsville, Virginia, I received orders from the Lieutenant-General Commanding to put my division in motion to join the First and Third corps, between Orange Courthouse and Fredericksburg. On arriving within ten miles of the scene of action at the Wilderness, we bivouacked on the Catharpin road on the afternoon of the 5th. At 1 o'clock A. M. of the 6th, put the command in motion and reached General Lee's position on the Orange Plank road with the head of the column, and reported to Lieutenant-General Longstreet, who directed me to relieve the division of Major-General Wilcox, in our front. Proceeding with a staff officer of General Wilcox, who was to indicate the position, I moved the column down the road by a flank, preceding them by some four hundred yards. During this movement the enemy attacked in our front on the Plank road, and before I reached the scene of action, our entire line in front of me fell back in confusion. Returning immediately to the head of my column, which had then arrived about opposite the position occupied by the Commanding-General, I directed Colonel J. W. Hennegan, commanding Kershaw's brigade, to file to the right and form line of battle with his left resting upon the Plank road. Before this movement could be completely executed, the retreating masses of Heth's and Wilcox's divisions broke through my ranks and delayed Colonel Hennegan until they had passed to the rear. Almost immediately the enemy were upon us. Ordering Colonel Hennegan forward to meet them with the right of his command, I threw forward the Second South Carolina regiment on the left of the road, and deployed and pushed forward Brigadier-General Humphreys with his brigade also on the right of the road, with his right resting on it-General Hennegan having passed sufficiently to the right to admit of the deployment of General Humphreys to his left. This formation was made successfully and in good order [81] under the fire of the enemy, who had so far penetrated into the interval between Hennegan and the road as to almost enfilade the Second South Carolina, which was holding the left of the road, and some batteries which were there stationed. Humphreys was pushed forward as soon as he got into position, and made for a time steady progress. In the meantime, General Bryan's brigade coming up, was ordered into position to Hennegan's right. That officer, in obedience to orders, had pushed forward and driven the enemy in his front for some distance through the dense thicket which covered the country to the right of the Plank road, but they being heavily reinforced, forced him back to the line which Humphreys had by this time reached. Here the enemy held my three brigades so obstinately that I endeavored to bring up General Wofford's brigade to extend my right, but that officer not having arrived (marching as rear guard to the wagon train), and urged forward by the Lieutenant-General Commanding, I placed myself at the head of the troops and led in person a charge of the whole command, which drove the enemy to and beyond their original line, and occupied their temporary field works some half mile or more in advance. The lines being rectified, and Field's division and Wofford's brigade of my own having arrived, upon the suggestion of Brigadier-General Wofford, a movement was organized, under the orders of the Lieutenant-General Commanding, to attack the enemy in flank from the line of the Orange railroad on our right, with the brigades of General Anderson of Field's division and Brigadier-General Wofford's of my own, supported by Mahone's brigade, while we continued to hold the enemy in front, who was at intervals bearing down upon our lines, but always without any success. This movement, concealed from view by the dense wood, was eminently successful, and the enemy was routed and driven pell-mell as far as the Brock road, and pursued by General Wofford to some distance across the Plank road, where he halted within a few hundred yards of the Germana road. Returning with General Wofford up the Plank road and learning the condition of things in front, we met the Lieutenant-General Commanding coming to the front almost within musket range of the Brock road. Exchanging hasty congratulations upon the success of the morning, the Lieutenant-General rapidly planned and directed an attack to be made by Brigadier-General Jenkins and myself upon the position of the enemy upon the Brock road, before he could recover from his disaster. The order to me was to break their line and push all to the right of the road towards Fredericksburg. Jenkins' brigade was put in motion by a flank, in the Plank road, my division in the woods to the right. I rode with General Jenkins at the head of his command, arranging with him the details of our combined attack. We had not advanced as far as the position still held by Wofford's brigade, when two or three shots were fired on the left of the road, and some stragglers came running in from that direction, and immediately a volley was poured into the [82] head of our column from the woods on our right occupied by Mahone's brigade. By this volley General Longstreet was prostrated by a fearful wound. Brigadier-General Jenkins, my Aidde-Camp, Captain Alfred E. Doby, and Orderly Marcus Baum were instantly killed. As an instance of the promptness and ready presence of mind of our troops, I will mention that the leading files of Jenkins' brigade on this occasion instantly faced the firing and were about to return it, but when I dashed my horse into their ranks, crying “they're friends,” they as instantaneously realized the position of things, and fell on their faces where they stood. This fatal casualty arrested the projected movement. The Commanding-General soon came in person to the front, and ordered me to take position with my right resting upon the Orange railroad. Though an advance was made later in the day, my troops became no more engaged, except General Wofford, who moved against the enemy in the afternoon on the left of the Plank road, and met with some success in that quarter and suffered some loss.

I have not the particulars of casualties at hand, except those in Kershaw's brigade, which were 57 killed, 239 wounded and 26 missing. Among the losses of that brigade were two of the most gallant and accomplished field officers of the command: Colonel James D. Nance, commanding Third South Carolina regiment, and Lieutenant-Colonel Franklin Gaillard--both gentlemen of education, position and usefulness in civil life and highly distinguished in the field. Captain Doby had served with me as aid-de-camp from the commencement of the war. He distinguished himself upon every battle field, and always rendered me the most intelligent and valuable assistance in the most trying hour. Orderly Baum was on detached service, and was not called to the front by his necessary duties, but during the entire day he had attached himself to the staff and continued actively discharging the duties of orderly, although remonstrated with for the unnecessary exposure, until he lost his life.

It is most pleasing to recall the fact that going into this action as they did under the most trying circumstances that soldiers could be placed in, every officer and man bore himself with a devoted firmness, steadiness and gallantry worthy of all possible commendation.

J. B. Kershaw, Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.


Report of General Goode Bryan.

brigade headquarters, August 14th.
Major J. M. Goggin, A. A. G.:
Major — I have the honor to submit the following report of the action taken by the brigade I have the honor to command on the 6th of May, in the battle known as the battle of Wilderness run. The command being in camp near Vediersville on the night of 5th, was put in motion towards Parker's store, on the Plank road leading to Fredericksburg, at one o'clock on the morning of the 6th, and after a rapid march of three hours reached the road and was immediately pushed to the front down the Plank road. Some considerable confusion having arisen in a portion of Lieutenant-General Hill's corps, the march of the brigade was much obstructed by stragglers from this corps, and was forced from the Plank road into the woods in its march to the front. At one time, some fears were entertained that the many stragglers to the rear would cause some confusion in my own command, and that I should be unable to get them in good order to the front. These fears were soon removed, for both officers and men aided me in the endeavor to stop the tide of stragglers to the rear, whom they marched boldly to the front. About a mile down the Plank road from Parker's store, I was ordered to file to the right of the road and form line of battle with my left resting on said road. Here again the discipline of the command was severely tried, for while forming line of battle in a dense thicket under a severe fire of the enemy, the line was constantly broken through by men hurrying to the rear; but having advanced my sharpshooters under the command of Lieutenant Strickland, of the Tenth Georgia, to the front, he checked the enemy and allowed me to form line of battle, the men forming quickly, notwithstanding the cry of the stragglers.

At the command forward, the gallant fellows sprung forward with a shout, driving back the enemy's first line without firing a gun. The second line of the enemy was behind a line of log breastworks, which checked for a moment our rapid advance, but after a few well directed volleys, the enemy broke from the entrenchments, the command pursuing to the distance of about a mile to a swamp, where, the enemy being reinforced and my ammunition being reduced to only five rounds, I ordered the command to fall back to the enemy's log breastworks, which I held till relieved by General Jenkins.

I cannot speak in too high terms of the bravery manifested by my command under the trying circumstances under which it went into the fights. Each brigade forming separately under a heavy fire, the line constantly being broken through while being formed, the dense character of the woods in which the line was formed, rendering it impossible for either men or officers to see the character [84] or numbers of the enemy we were to attack,--all these things combined proved that both men and officers acted well and gallantly. For the part each regiment performed in the action, I have the honor to refer you to the accompanying report of the colonels.

I cannot close this report without mentioning the efficient aid rendered me by Captain Walker, my Inspector-General, and the judicious assistance rendered me by Captain Kibbee, Tenth Georgia regiment, acting Assistant Adjutant-General, and to the gallantry shown by my personal aid, Lieutenant Townsend, who was wounded early in these battles.

To Couriers Morris and Dobbs I am indebted for much assistance in the fight, for their bravery and energy, forcing to the front the few men who manifested a disposition to straggle to the rear.

The command lost killed 31 men and officers and 102 wounded.

I am,

Goode Bryan, Brigadier-General.

Report of General William Mahone.

headquarters Mahone's brigade.
Major — In obedience to orders, this brigade “broke camp” on the 4th May and moved down on the Rapidan near Willis' ford, when it was charged with a portion of the line assigned to the care and defence of the division, covering the left and rear of the army then moving down upon the enemy, who had already crossed a part of his army at the lower fords of the river.

The evening of the following day, the 5th May, we proceeded to join the balance of our army then confronting the enemy in the Wilderness, and camped near Vediersville for the night.

The next day, the 6th May, we were with our troops on the Plank road, and where the fight was already earnestly progressing, at an early hour. We were at once assigned a position in support of a part of the line of Lieutenant-General Longstreet's front, but very soon after were ordered to join and co-operate with Anderson's and Wofford's brigades of that corps in an attack upon the enemy's left flank.

As the senior Brigadier, I was, by Lieutenant-General Longstreet, charged with the immediate direction of this movement.

Wofford and Anderson were already in motion, and in a few moments the line of attack had been formed, and the three brigades, in imposing order and with a step that meant to conquer, were now rapidly descending upon the enemy's left.

The movement was a success, complete as it was brilliant. The enemy were swept from our front on the Plank road, where his advantages of position had been already felt by our line, and from which the necessity for his dislodgment had become a matter of much interest. [85]

Besides this valuable result, the Plank road had been gained, and the enemy's lines “bent back” in much disorder — the way was open for greater fruits. His long lines of dead and wounded which lay in the wake of our “swoop” furnished evidence that he was not allowed time to “change front,” as well as of the “execution of our fire.” Among his wounded, Brigadier-General Wadsworth, commanding a division, fell into our hands.

Lieutenant-Colonel G. M. Sorrel, of General Longstreet's staff, who was with me in conducting this movement, and Captain Robertson Taylor, Assistant Adjutant-General of Mahone's brigade, who was wounded in the fight, specially deserve my earnest commendation for efficiency and conspicuous gallantry on this occasion.

The casualties of the brigade were as follows:

1officer and 19men killed.
3officer and 123men wounded.
 7men missing.
Total, 4officer and 149men

I am, Major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

William Mahone, Briadier-General. To Major T. S. Mills, A. A. G., Anderson's Division.

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