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History of Lane's North Carolina brigade.

By General J. H. Lane.

Battle of Spotsylvania Court-House — report of General Lane.

Headquarters Lane's brigade, September 16th, 1864.
Major,--I have the honor to report that after leaving the Wilderness battle-field on the afternoon of the 8th of May, my brigade marched continuously and rapidly until 2 o'clock on the morning of the 9th. At 6 o'clock A. M. we resumed our march, reached Spotsylvania courthouse about 12 M., and at once entrenched on the left of the road leading to Fredericksburg — our right resting on the road. Next day we moved to the left and connected with Johnson's brigade, and subsequently occupied Johnson's position, our right resting at the salient beyond the brick-kiln. That night we moved very rapidly to the support of a part of Ewell's command, but not being needed, we were ordered back to our previous position. On the 11th we were ordered still further to the left. I did not like this position, and seeing that I could get a more commanding one, and at the same time shorten the line and [146] thereby connect with Steuart's brigade of Johnson's division, I threw four of my regiments forward, abandoning the old line of works with the exception of the part occupied by the Thirty-seventh regiment on the right. The Twenty-eighth formed close upon Steuart in the “Double Sap” which had been thrown up by Johnson's pioneer corps, with its right resting upon a boggy piece of ground. The Eighteenth entrenched itself on an elevated point on the opposite side of this boggy place, with its right resting on a swampy branch. The Seventh and Thirty-third regiments intrenched on the same line between the swampy branch and the left of the Thirty-seventh, the right of the Seventh resting on the Thirty-seventh, and the left of the Thirty-third on the branch. This new line of intrenchments, thrown up and occupied by the Seventh, Thirty-third and Eighteenth regiments, formed an exterior obtuse angle with the line occupied by the Thirty-seventh, and was nearly at right angles to an adandoned arm of the old works, which ran to the rear from the apex of this obtuse angle. I informed Major-General Wilcox of what I had done, and it met with his approval. With Steuart close upon our left and Walker, of Heth's division, on our right, we occupied this position until the following morning.

About daybreak on the morning of the 12th, I was on the left of my line when the enemy penetrated Johnson's front. I ordered the Twenty-eighth regiment to hold its position until I was satisfied that the Yankees had struck Steuart and were making for our rear. I then ordered Colonel Spear to move his regiment by the right flank to the abandoned arm of the old works above referred to, but before I could withdraw this regiment, with the Eighteenth, Thirty-third and Seventh, to the point indicated, the enemy, under cover of the dense fog which prevailed at that time, struck us in the flank and rear, and succeeded in capturing some prisoners from the left of the Twenty-eighth and Eighteenth regiments. The Seventh and Thirty-third withdrew in order and formed as directed on the left of the Thirty-seventh, while the Eighteenth and Twenty-eighth, though thrown into some confusion, came up like brave men and formed on their left. Thus thrown back behind this arm of the old works, we could enfilade the new, which we had just left. In the best of spirits the brigade welcomed the furious assault, which soon followed, with prolonged cheers and death dealing volleys — the unerring rifles of the Thirty-seventh and part of the Seventh thinning the ranks of the enemy in front, while the rest did good execution in rear. It is impossible for me to speak in too high terms of my command in repulsing this terrible attack of the enemy — men could not fight better, nor officers behave more gallantly — the latter [147] regardless of danger, would frequently pass along the line and cheer the former in their glorious work. We justly claim for this brigade alone the honor of not only successfully stemming, but rolling back this “tide of Federal victory which came surging furiously to our right.”

As soon as I had changed the front of my brigade, I sent my aid, Lieutenant Oscar Lane, to Major-General Wilcox for reinforcements, as I was afraid the enemy, under cover of the fog, would attempt to turn my left. When Scales's brigade came up just after the enemy had made their last desperate effort to force us from our position, I directed them to form on my left, and while this movement was being executed by that brigade, Doles's brigade of Ewell's corps, moved in line of battle from the woods, and occupied the new works from which my men had driven the enemy. At General Doles's suggestion, I formed my brigade on the right of his, and both moved forward over the intrenchments and abattis into the pine thicket in front, in pursuit of the enemy. I apprised General Wilcox of this movement, and when we had advanced between three hundred and four hundred yards into the thicket, I was ordered by him, through Lieutenant Lindsey, to fall back to the works, Having informed Doles's brigade of this order, and having also sent back to notify the troops in our rear of what we were about to do, I ordered a withdrawal of the brigade by wings. I withdrew the right wing first, and in perfect order; the left then retired under Captain Hale, and in good order, but not until they had poured a few volleys into a body of Yankees immediately in their front. As the works were occupied by other troops on our return, the brigade was formed to the rear, in the woods, and allowed to rest.

After the rain we were ordered to occupy that part of the line between the salient and the brick-kiln, which had previously been held by McGowan. Soon after taking this position, our corps of sharpshooters, under Captain W. T. Nicholson, of the Thirty-seventh regiment, was sent out, in obedience to orders, to reconnoitre the ground in advance of the salient, and were soon actively engaged.

The Seventh and Thirty-third regiments were afterwards sent under Lieutenant-Colonel Cowan, into the oak woods to the right of the salient, to ascertain if the enemy had a line of battle in that direction. They were subsequently instructed to attack the enemy as soon as his position was discovered. Lietenant-Colonel Cowan ordered four companies--two from the Seventh and two from the Thirty-third--under Captain Thomas G. Williamson, of the Seventh, to precede him as skirmishers. Captain Williamson engaged the enemy's skirmishers, drove them back upon their line of battle and reported the result to [148] Lieutenant-Colonel Cowan, who was making his arrangements for an attack when I joined him with the balance of the brigade.

I had been ordered to the oak woods near the ice-house by Generals Early and Wilcox, with instructions to face to the front; after the left of my line had gotten well into the woods to advance upon the enemy and try to capture the battery which was planted in the open field beyond the salient, and which had been enfilading that part of our works which we had just left. The main object of this movement, however, as I was informed, was to relieve Ewell's front, which at that time was heavily pressed by the enemy. On reaching Lieutenant-Colonel Cowan, I faced my whole brigade as directed, the regiments being in the following order from right to left: Seventh, Thirty-third, Thirty-seventh, Eighteenth, Twenty-eighth. In this position I threw forward skirmishers before advancing, Captain Williamson, with his four companies, being still on the right flank. Mahone's brigade, under Colonel Weisiger, had formed about one hundred yards in our rear as a support. Just here I received orders from General Early, through one of General Wilcox's couriers (Baily), to advance at once and rapidly. To guard against a flank attack I ordered the Seventh regiment back at right angles to our general line and then had it moved forward, under Captain J. G. Harris, in the direction of Williamson's skirmishers. When I ordered the general advance I notified Colonel Weisiger of the fact through my Adjutant-General, Captain Hale, and requested him to follow us in supporting distance. My men, as usual, moved forward very handsomely and, encouraged by their officers, drove the enemy's sharpshooters out of the oak woods, rushed upon their battery of six guns--four Napoleons and two rifles — which was in the open field, and struck Burnside's assaulting column in flank and rear. Our men commenced yelling too soon and drew upon themselves a terrible fire of canister from four of the guns above referred to. The enemy's artillerists fought with great gallantry, some being shot down while serving their pieces after a part of the battery had fallen into our hands. We also suffered from the fire of two other batteries--one on the right and rear, on the Fredericksburg road, and the other to our right and front. We were in great danger, too, from the fire of our own guns of Walker's artillery when we were fighting the assaulting column. The infantry fire in our rear was for a short time more severe than that in front, as Mahone's brigade poured such a fire into us that Lieutenant-Colonel Cowan and Lieutenant-Colonel McGill had to rush back and ask them not to fire into friends. What induced these brave Virginians to fire upon us I have never been able to learn. [149]

After my brigade captured the battery of six guns, which we were unable to bring off for the want of horses, and because there was no road by which we could bring it off by hand, we turned our whole attention to Burnside's column, which was taken by surprise as it advanced to the assault of the salient. Some part of my brigade became mixed up with the enemy, and for a time there was fighting at close quarters. As soon as we had passed the battery, I sent Captain Hale to request Colonel Weisiger to form his brigade on the right of mine, that we might sweep around to the left and up to our works, and add to the captures already made by my brigade. This message was delivered to Colonel Weisiger when his brigade was in the oak woods between the little stream of water and the crest of the hill that sheltered them from the enemy's fire. My brigade continued to fight the enemy until the head of the two parallel lines of the enemy, which were coming from Ewell's front, were in skirmishing distance of us, and as I could see no indications of an intention on the part of Colonel Weisiger to comply with my request, I ordered my command to fall back, which was necessarily done in some confusion, as the lines had been broken in capturing prisoners, and the woods through which they withdrew rendered it almost impossible to preserve anything like a line of battle.

While all four of the regiments of my command that moved upon the battery and Burnside's column behaved nobly, the Thirty-seventh had the best opportunity of displaying its bravery, as it was immediately in front of the four pieces that were turned upon us, and suffered heavily from canister. I have never seen a regiment advance more beautifully than it did in the face of such a murderous fire. The Seventh regiment also behaved very gallantly on our right flank. It there engaged the enemy, and prevented them from getting in our rear, and did not fall back until the rest of the brigade commenced retiring.

The corps of sharp shooters, under Captain W. T. Nicholson, did good service that day, and are deserving much praise.

Among the brave spirits that fell during this hard but glorious day's work were my Aid, Lieutenant Oscar Lane; Captain N. Clark, Company E, Twenty-eighth regiment; Captain H. C. Grady, Company D, Thirty-seventh regiment; Lieutenant E. A. Carter, Company A, Thirty-Seventh regiment; Lieutenant C. T. Haigh, Company B, Thirty-seventh regiment; Lieutenant B. A. Johnston, Company C, Thirty-seventh regiment. Than these none were more attentive to [150] duty — none more upright in their conduct — none more gallant on the battle field.

Colonel John D. Barry, of the Eighteenth regiment, and Colonel W. H. A. Speer, of the Twenty-eighth, behaved with great coolness in withdrawing their commands while attacked in the morning, and in the flank movement that afternoon seemed determined to offset the loss sustained by their regiments earlier in the day. Colonel W. M. Barbour, of the Thirty-seventh, behaved with his usual gallantry in both engagements, but was unfortunately captured in the latter, after the order had been given for the brigade to fall back. Lieutenant-Colonel R. V. Cowan, commanding the Thirty-third regiment, was conspicuous for his gallantry both in the morning and afternoon; but he particularly distinguished himself in the morning, when, hat in hand, he was constantly running along his line and cheering his men, though himself all the time exposed to a storm of Yankee bullets. Captain J. G. Harris, who has frequently commanded the Seventh regiment, and has been commanding in this campaign ever since the Wilderness fight, has proved himself worthy of a higher position. I was also struck with the bravery displayed by Captain J. R. McAulay, Company I,, Seventh regiment, in the morning fight. A brave, Christian officer, he was always to be found at his post ready for any duty that was assigned him, however dangerous and arduous. Lieutenant C. T. Haigh, Company B, Thirty-seventh regiment, was amongst the foremost in the charge upon the battery, and won the admiration of all who saw him.

Again do I beg leave to call attention to my staff. My Aid, Lieutenant Oscar Lane, after behaving very gallantly in the morning, was struck in the afternoon by a shell, and has since died of his wounds. Captain E. J. Hale, Jr., the Assistant Adjutant-General, also behaved well in the forenoon, but had better opportunities of displaying his gallantry in the flank movement in the afternoon, when, by his boldness, he not only escaped capture, but took several prisoners, and sent them safely back to the rear.

I am indebted for my own life to private P. A. Parker, Company D,. Thirty-seventh regiment, who killed the Yankee that had leveled his gun and was in the act of firing upon me — the Yankee was not more than ten paces from us at the time. Private Parker is a brave young man, and has shown himself an excellent soldier in camp and on the march, as well as in battle.

In the flank movement my brigade capturedthree flags and a large number of prisoners — supposed to be about four hundred--notwithstanding, [151] General Mahone said, in the presence of Lieutenant-Colonel McGill, that afternoon, that “the d — d North Carolinians were deserting his brave Virginians.”

First Lieutenant James Grimsley, Company K, Thirty-seventh regiment, with a small squad of men, had the honor of capturing the colors of the Seventeenth Michigan, and about thirty prisoners. Lieutenant Grimsley is a very brave man.

Second Lieutenant O. A. Wiggins, Company E, Thirty-seventh regiment, was captured by the enemy, but by his boldness succeeded in making his escape, and brought off with him the flag of the Fifty-first Pennsylvania regiment and several prisoners.

Private J. H. Wheeler, a brave soldier of Company E, Eighteenth regiment, is entitled to the credit of capturing the battery flag.

Some of the prisoners captured by my brigade were sent to the rear under small guards and others without any guard at all, and there taken charge of by Mahone's brigade and conducted to the Courthouse.

As General Mahone claims for his brigade one of the flags and most of the prisoners captured by mine, I deem it my duty, in justice to my own command, to make the following statement: In our advance through the oak woods we encountered nothing but the enemy's skirmishers, except the force on our right flank, which was held in check by the Seventh North Carolina regiment of my brigade until we had fallen back. The battery which we captured and were unable to bring off was in the open field at least one hundred yards from the oak woods, and Burnside's assaulting column, which we fought, advanced upon the salient through an open space and a pine thicket, and as General Mahone's brigade of “brave Virginians” never left the oak woods in which it formed line of battle, it was impossible for it to capture any large number of the enemy, except the unarmed ones sent by us to the rear. I had far better opportunities of witnessing the performance of Mahone's brigade than did General Mahone himself. I was in the oak woods, I was in the open field, and I was also in the pine thicket beyond the opening, and I know that Mahone's brigade did not leave the oak woods, and that it lost a golden opportunity for covering itself with merited glory by not forming on my right and sweeping around, as I had requested it to do. When we fell back Captain Hale met with Colonel Weisiger and, at his request, conducted him and his brigade out of the oak woods. I never saw General Mahone after he introduced me to Colonel Weisiger and I had taken my command into the woods, but I am told by some of my officers that he [152] was riding around on horseback in the edge of the woods, near the Fredericksburg road, abusing my brigade generally, and claiming for his own most, if not all, of the prisoners that were brought to the rear, when really his brigade was leaving the woods guided by my Adjutant General, unconscious at the time that they were all to be made such heroes of by their General for having unnecessarily taken charge of the captives of another command.

The following is a Tabulated list of the casualities on the 12th, with the names of the officers killed, wounded and missing.

Officers.Men.Officers.Men.Officers.Men.Officers.Men.Officers and Men.
General Staff1     1 1
Seventh N. C. Regiment 11328 434346
Eighteenth N. C. Regiment 111481339148157
Twenty-eighth N. C. Regiment171173975121126
Thirty-third N. C. Regiment 4217 2224345
Thirty-seventh N. C. Regiment41833023898695
Grand Total641101061329429441470

Officers killed.

General Staff--Lieutenant Oscar Lane, A. D. C.--mortally wounded.

Twenty-eighth Regiment--Captain N. Clark, Company E.

Thirty-seventh Regiment--Captain H. C. Grady, Company D; Lieutenant E. A. Carter, Company A; Lieutenant C. T. Haigh, Company B; Lieu-tenant B. A. Johnston, Company C.

Officers wounded.

Seventh regiment--Adjutant Jno. W. Pearson; Lieutenant J. L. Stafford, Company H; Lieutenant T. P. Molloy, Company D.

Eighteenth regiment--Lieutenant A. McCollenny, Company H.

Twenty-eighth regiment--Lieutenant R. D. Orman, Company B.

Thirty-third regiment--Lieutenant W. F. McEntyre, Company D; Lieutenant I. N. Anderson, Company I.

Thirty-seventh regiment--Acting Ensign R. M. Staley; Captain D. L. Hudson, Company G; E. H. Russell, Company I--on the 10th May.


Officers missing.

Eighteenth regiment--Captain F. M. Wooten, Company H; Captain T. C. Lewis, Company I; Lieutenant D. S. Bullard, Company A; Lieutenant Neil Townsend, Company D; Lieutenant A. A. Rowland, Company D; Lieutenant G. W. Corbett, Company E; Lieutenant Frank McIntosh, Company F; Lieutenant I. Q. Elkins, Company H.

Twenty-eighth regiment--Captain S. S. Bohannon, Company I; Lieutenant H. C. Andrews, Company G; Lieutenant P. H. Turner, Company K.

Thirty-seventh regiment--Colonel Wm. M. Barbour; Lieutenant I. D. Brown, Company C.

After we had fallen back and reformed that afternoon, we occupied the works to the left of the road near the court-house. From that time until the 21st, we frequently changed our position to the left of the court-house, strengthened old works, built new ones, and sometimes marched to the support of other commands, but were not actively engaged.

The following is a list of our casualties from sharp shooting and shelling from the 13th to the 20th May.

Officers.Men.Officers.Men.Officers.Men.Officers.Men.Officers and men.
Seventh N. C. Regiment         
Eighteenth N. C. Regiment         
Twenty-eighth N. C. Regiment 1 1   22
Thirty-third N. C. Regiment     4 44
Thirty-seventh N. C. Regiment  1   1 1
Grand Total 111 4167

Officers wounded.

Thirty-seventh regiment--Captain William T. Nicholson, Company E, on 18th instant.

Action near Spotsylvania Court-house, May 21.--On the afternoon [154] of the 21st we moved to the right, following Scales's brigade, to a church some distance to the right of the Court-house. Here we turned to the left, marched beyond the works, and formed the Thirty-third, Twenty-eighth, and Thirty-seventh regiments in line of battle in the woods to the left of a small road; the Seventh and Eighteenth, under Colonel Barry, being formed in rear as a support. In obedience to orders, we then advanced through an almost impenetrable abattis, dislodged and drove back a strong line of the enemy's skirmishers, and held their main line of breastworks until after dark, when we were ordered back to the church.

In this charge Lieutenant E. S. Edwards, Company G, Twenty-eighth North Carolina, was killed. Lieutenant Edwards was regarded by Colonel Speer as one of his best officers.

That night we commenced our march in the direction of Ashland.

List of casualties in the charge on the 21st May:

Officers.Men.Officers.Men.Officers.Men.Officers.Men.Officers and men.
Seventh North Carolina Troops, 1 1   88
Eighteenth North Carolina Troops,   1 3 44
Twenty-eighth North Carolina Troops,1  2  123
Thirty-third North Carolina Troops,         
Thirty-seventh North Carolina Troops,  12  123
Grand Total11112 321618

Officers killed.

Twenty-eighth regiment--Lieutenant E. S. Edwards, Company G.

Officers wounded.

Thirty-seventh regiment--Lieutenant O. A. Wiggins, Company E.


James H. Lane, Brigadier General. Major Joseph A. Engelhard, A. A. G. of Wilcox's Light Division, A. P. Hill's Corps.


General Lee acknowledges the receipt of the captured flags.

Headquarters A. N. Va., on battle-field, May 13, 1864.
Major-General C. M. Wilcox, Commanding Division:
General,--General Lee directs me to acknowledge the receipt of the flags captured by Lane's brigade in its gallant charge of yesterday, and to say that they will be forwarded to the Honorable Secretary of War, with the accompanying note, and the names of the brave captors.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

C. S. Venable, A. D. C.

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