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History of Lane's North Carolina brigade.

By Brigadier-General James H. Lane.

No. 4.

Battles around Richmond (concluded)--report of Colonel Lane.

headquarters Twenty-Eighth regiment, North Carolina Volunteers, Near Richmond, July 12, 1862.
Brigadier-General L. O'B. Branch, Commanding Fourth Brigade, Light Division:
General — I have the honor to report that on Wednesday, the 25th of June, I left camp with my regiment, numbering four hundred and eighty, and with the balance of your brigade proceeded up the Telegraph road, crossed the Chickahominy on the morning of the 26th, and advanced towards the Meadow bridge. Two of my companies were ordered to Mrs. Crenshaw's bridge to apprise Lieutenant-Colonel Hoke, with a portion of his regiment which was doing picket duty on the south side of the Chickahominy, [98] that the way was clear. We then continued our march towards Mechanicsville.

The fight had commenced on our reaching this place, and we were ordered to support a battery which was firing from the works to the left of the road. I had one man wounded that evening. We slept upon the field, and were held as a support again next morning, when the artillery opened upon us and another one of my men was wounded. As soon as it was ascertained that the enemy had abandoned his position and was in full retreat, we were ordered to follow, and on reaching Cold Harbor, the Seventh North Carolina troops and my regiment were ordered into the woods to the left of the road leading to the battlefield. The Seventh preceded us, and when I was about to form my regiment on its left, a sharp fire, both of infantry and shells, was opened upon us, causing one of the wings of the Seventh to give way. On asking the cause of this, I was informed by some of the company officers of the Seventh, whose names I do not know, that Colonel Campbell had ordered them to fall back, and as there was a large pond of water in my rear, I led my regiment out of the woods by the left flank, when I met you and was ordered back. I then marched up the road and wheeled my entire regiment into the same piece af woods. Colonel Lee followed with his regiment, which he intended posting on my right, but the enemy opened upon him just as he was about to turn the angle of the road, and his right was thrown into confusion. This caused Companies D, A and I, of the right wing, and Company H, to the left of the colors, in my regiment, to give way. Company D promptly reformed and came into line; the other three companies, I am told, reformed and attached themselves for the remainder of the day to other regiments. They were not with me. Colonel Campbell's regiment, seven of my companies, Lieutenant Webb, of Company H, and a few rank and file from the three missing companies, engaged the enemy in the woods, and were exposed to a hot fire, when fresh troops came up and relieved us temporarily.

Major James Barbour, General Ewell's Assistant Adjutant General, approached me soon afterwards and requested me to take my command to the support of a portion of his forces, which had advanced into the open field in front of the woods. My command advanced most gallantly through the woods and into the open field, although exposed to a front and right enfilade infantry fire, and bravely remained there until General George B. Anderson's [99] brigade debouched from the woods to our left and charged across the field. I ordered my men to cease firing when the brigade was nearly in front of us, and, forming on its right, assisted them in clearing the field of the enemy.

At the “advice” of General Anderson, my men being now very much fatigued, I remained with a portion of his brigade in a somewhat sheltered position until nightfall, when I rejoined you. Our loss in this engagement was thirteen killed and seventy-eight wounded.

Sunday evening we recrossed the Chickahominy, and on Monday evening (the 30th) were among the first to engage the enemy. The whole brigade advanced, driving the foe before us, notwithstanding the character of the ground. My regiment, in its advance, had to pass through two skirts of wood, containing swampy ground, and an intermediate open field, in which there was a dwelling, surrounded by a yard and garden, all of which, I am told, had been converted into a temporary breastwork by the enemy. All of my men behaved well in this action, notwithstanding they were exposed to a murderous fire of shell, grape and small arms. I did not remain with my regiment until the close of the fight, as a flesh wound in the right cheek forced me to leave the field. Our loss was six killed and fifty wounded.

We were not actively engaged in the Tuesday's fight, though we were ordered out late in the evening and were exposed to a terrific shelling, first in the open field in front of the enemy's guns, and then to the left, in a small piece of woods. Fortunately we had only one man wounded and none killed.

With only one field officer, three captains, but few lieutenants, and our ranks greatly reduced by sickness, caused by the hardships we had to undergo in our retreat from Hanover Courthouse, we had to contend with the enemy in the recent terrible engagements before Richmond under many disadvantages; but our loss--one hundred and fifty killed and wounded out of an effective force of four hundred eighty, including the ambulance corps, about one-third--will show how nobly the Twenty-eighth behaved in this great struggle for independence.

I would respecfully call your attention to Captain T. James Linebarger, of Company C, and Captain D. A. Parker, of Company D; First Lieutenant N. Clark, of Company E; First Lieutnant E. G. Morrow, of Company G; First Lieutenant W. W. Cloninger, of Company B, and Second Lieutenant Robert D. Rhyne, of Company [100] B. All of these officers behaved with great gallantry and bravery.

Sergeant-Major Milton A. Lowe, on the battlefields of the 27th and 30th, more than once proved himself a brave and fearless young defender of Southern rights, and has won the admiration of all who saw him.

Color-Bearer J. P. Little, of Company C, was wounded on the 27th, but was at his post again in a short time.


James H. Lane, Colonel Commanding Twenty-eighth N. C. V.
P. S.--Our entire loss in all the battles before Richmond was subsequently ascertained to be one hundred and seventy-seven (177).

It is due to Company H that I should state that I never had cause to complain of it after the Cold Harbor fight. In all the battles from that time to the close of the war, it behaved most gallantlly, and always in a manner to reflect credit both upon itself and the brigade to which it belonged.

Extracts from General A. P. Hill's report.

General Branch having come up, was ordered forward as a support to the brigades already engaged, and Johnston's battery took position near McIntosh and Braxton.

Arriving at the creek, upon which Gaines' mill is located, half mile from Cold Harbor, the enemy was discovered upon the opposite bank. Gregg's brigade was at once thrown in line of battle, and the skirmishers directed to effect a lodgment. * * * * Branch was ordered up and formed on Gregg's right. Pender having cleared my right flank, to which service he had been assigned, Archer was sent to relieve him, thus putting him (Archer) on my extreme right. Anderson was formed on Branch's right, and Field on his right, and connecting with Archer. Crenshaw and Johnston were brought into battery on the left of the road and in rear of Gregg's line. I had delayed the attack until I could hear from General Longstreet, and this now occurring, the order was given. This was about half-past 2 P. M. Gregg, then Branch, and then Anderson, successively became engaged. The incessant roar of musketry and deep thunder of artillery told that [101] the whole force of the enemy were in my front. Branch becoming hard pressed, Pender was sent to his relief. * * * * * * * Gregg and Branch fought with varying success-Gregg having before him the vaunted Zouaves and Sykes' regulars. Pender's brigade was suffering heavily, but stubbornly held its own. Field and Archer met a withering storm of bullets, but pressed on to within a short distance of the enemy's works, but the storm was too fierce for such a handful of men. They recoiled, and were again pressed to the charge, but with no better success. These brave men had done all that any brave soldiers could do. Directing their men to lie down, the fight was continued and help awaited, From having been the attacking party, I now became the attacked, but stubbornly, gallantly, was the ground held. My division was thus engaged two hours before assistance was received. * * *

About 7 o'clock, the General-in-Chief in person gave me an order to advance my whole line, and to communicate this order as far as I could to all the commanders of troops. This was done. and a general advance being made, the enemy were swept from the field, and the pursuit only stopped by nightfall and the exhaustion of our troops.

The firing becoming very heavy, I was ordered forward with my division. Branch's brigade took the route, and with springing steps pressed forward. Arriving upon open ground, he formed his line and moved to the support of the troops in his front.

Finding that General Magruder needed assistance, I sent two brigades — Branch's and Thomas' (Anderson's). They were, however, not actively engaged. My division, however, was placed in line of battle near the scene of action and under fire, but passive.

Among the general and field officers killed and wounded during these battles are Colonels Campbell, C. C. Lee, * * killed, and Colonels Cowan, J. H. Lane, * * wounded.

Especial mention for conspicuous gallantry is made of the following officers: Colonels * * * J. H. Lane and Cowan.

Extracts from General Lee's report.

Pressing on towards the York River railroad, A. P. Hill, who was in advance, reached the vicinity of New Cold Harbor about 2 P. M., where he encountered the enemy. He immediately formed his line nearly parallel to the road leading from [102] that place towards the McGehee's house, and soon became hotly engaged. * * * * The principal part of the Federal army was now on the north side of the Chickahominy. Hill's single division met this large force with the impetuous courage for which that officer and his troops are distinguished. They drove the enemy back and assailed him in his strong position on the ridge. The battle raged fiercely and with varying fortune more than two hours. Three regiments pierced the enemy's line and forced their way to the crest of the hill to his left, but were compelled to fall back before overwhelming numbers. The superior force of the enemy, assisted by the fire of his batteries south of the Chickahominy, which played incessantly on our columns as they pressed through the difficulties that obstructed their way, caused them to recoil. Though most of the men never had been under fire until the day before, they were rallied and in turn repelled the advance of the enemy. Some brigades were broken, others stubbornly maintained their positions, but it became apparent that the enemy were gradually gaining ground. * * * * The arrival of fresh troops enabled A. P. Hill to withdraw some of his brigades, wearied and reduced by their long and arduous conflict. * * *

Huger not coming up and Jackson having been unable to force the passage of White Oak swamp, Longstreet and Hill were without the expected support. The superiority of numbers and advantage of position were on the side of the enemy. The battle raged furiously until 9 P. M. By that time the enemy had been driven with great slaughter from every position but one, which he maintained until he was enabled to withdraw under cover of darkness. At the close of the struggle, nearly the entire field remained in our possession, covered with the enemy's dead and wounded. Many prisoners, including a General of division, were captured, and several batteries with some thousands of small arms were taken. Could the other commands have co-operated in the action, the result would have proved more disastrous to the enemy. * * * *

General Branch's congratulatory address to his brigade.

General order no. 6.

headquarters Fourth brigade, Light division, July 29, 1862.
The General commanding the brigade having been authorized to have inscribed on the battle-flags of his regiments the [103] names of actions in which they have participated, avails himself of the opportunity to refer to some of these actions.

At Newberne, besides the fleet of gunboats, you fought 13,000 of the best troops in the Federal service, having reserves of 7,000. You numbered less than 4,000--not ten of whom, officers and men, had ever been in battle before. After an uninterrupted fire of four hours--which has not been exceeded by any you have since heard (except for one hour at Gaines' mill), and after you had inflicted on the enemy a loss of not less than half of your own numbers in killed and wounded — you made good your retreat out of a peninsula in which he had confidently boasted that he would capture you as he would “chickens in a coop.”

At Slash church, you encountered the division of General Porter and a part of the division of General Sedgwick, numbering at least 20,000, including 5,000 United States regulars.

You, with the two other regiments temporarily acting with you, numbered about 4,000, repulsed the enemy's attack, and boldly advancing, attacked him with such vigor that after six hours combat, you withdrew in perfect order to prevent being surrounded in the night — the enemy not daring to follow you beyond the field of battle.

Your commander might have justified himself in retiring before such superior forces both at Newberne and Slash church; but when on assuming a command, he resolved never to retreat before any hostile force without fighting it, he did not place too high an estimate on the valor and discipline of the brave men it is his pride to command.

In the late brilliant operations below Richmond, you were the first brigade to cross the Chickahominy; you were the first to meet the enemy, and the first to start him on that retreat in which the able combinations of our General-in-Chief allowed him to take no rest until he found shelter under the guns of his shipping. You captured from him a flag before any of the troops had crossed the Chickahominy.

At Mechanicsville, you were under a heavy fire on Thursday evening, the 26th, and Friday morning, which you had no opportunity to return.

At Gaines' mill you opened the fight and continued in it until the enemy had been driven from every part of the field.

On Monday, at Frazier's Farm, you were again in the heat of the engagement, from its opening to its close, driving the enemy before you for a great distance and capturing a battery. [104]

On Tuesday, at Malvern hill, you were again under a terrible fire, which you had no opportunity to return.

Though rarely able to turn out 3,000 men for duty, you have, in six pitched battles and several skirmishes, lost 1,250 in killed and wounded.

Of five Colonels, two have been killed in battle, two wounded, and one taken prisoner by an overwhelming force.

While making this bloody but brilliant record for your brigade, you have been, as soldiers of freedom should always be, modest, uncomplaining, and regardful of what is due to others.

Your ranks have been thinned by the casualties of war, but be not discouraged. In a few days they will be filled by recruits, and yours will be the proud task of teaching them to maintain the reputation you have achieved.

The regiments of the brigade are respectively entitled to have inscribed on their flags as follows:

The Seventh regiment--“Newberne, Slash Church, Mechanicsville, Gaines' Mill, Frazier's Farm, Malvern Hill.” The same inscription is to be inscribed on the flags of the Twenty-eighth, Thirty-seventh and Thirty-third regiments.

The Eighteenth regiment--“Slash Church, Mechanicsville, Gaines' Mill, Frazier's Farm, Malvern Hill.”

Branch's attillery (Captain Latham)--“Newberne” and “Slash church.”

The Quartermaster of the brigade will furnish flags inscribed as above.

L. O'B. Branch, Brigadier-General Commanding.

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