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Battle of Drewry's Bluff, May 16th, 1864.

report of General R. F. Hoke.

headquarters Hoke's division, May 25th, 1864.
Captain,—On Sunday, the 15th instant, the intention to attack the enemy on the morning of the 16th at early light was made known to me by the commanding General, while occupying the intermediate line of entrenchments around Drewry's Bluff, and confronting the enemy, who occupied the outer line of said entrenchments, extending his right through the woods in the direction of James river, while his left rested upon an elevated position across the railroad, with his masses immediately in front of our right and resting upon the railroad.

The commanding General, seeing the right was the weak point of the enemy, determined upon this as the point of attack. The brigades of Colquitt and Ransom were ordered relieved by an extension of my line to the right, which placed my division in line of battle, commencing at Fort Stephens, with Hagood's brigade on the left, Johnson's on his right, then Clingman, with Corse upon his right. These two brigades, under the command of General Colquitt, were held in reserve immediately in rear of Hagood's brigade. The division commanded by Major-General Ransom, being in the field on our extreme left, was to turn the right of the enemy and pivot upon his right and connect with my left, while I was to engage the enemy in front with strong lines of skirmishers, and also open upon them with all my artillery. At the earliest dawn I ordered my entire artillery to open and advanced the skirmishers of my whole front, and awaited the movement on my left for one hour before advancing my line of battle, thinking it would require this length of time to make the move, and knowing I must lose heavily by an advance upon the front, which it was the desire of the commanding General to avoid by the flank move. Owing to the dense fog I could see nothing of the movement of Major-General Ransom, and supposing by this time the right of the enemy had been turned, I ordered forward the brigades of Hagood and Johnson, with one section of Lieutenant-Colonel Eschelman's artillery, and found the enemy still occupying our entire line of entrenchments in heavy force, supported by eight pieces of artillery, with a second line of entrenchments along the line of woods immediately in front of our outer line of works. [228]

After commencing the move I could not recede, and ordered an attack by these two brigades, which was handsomely and gallantly done, which resulted in the capture of five pieces of artillery by Hagood's brigade and a number of prisoners, besides killing and wounding many, and also in occupying the works. One regiment on the left of Hagood's brigade extended across the outer line of works in the direction of James river, which was ordered forward to connect with the right of General Ransom's division, but to my amazement found the enemy in strong force behind entrenchments. It was not intended that this regiment should attack the enemy in this position, as the movement was to be made by the troops on the left; but they, in their eagerness to enter the engagement, did so, and I am sorry to say suffered most heavily. When it was seen that the enemy still occupied my front this regiment was ordered back to the line of entrenchments to await the further development of the flank movement. In the meantime the enemy made two charges upon the front of Hagood and Johnson to retake the lost works and artillery, but were most handsomely repulsed, and were followed on the left of Hagood's brigade and driven from the woods in their front, and with the assistance of our artillery the ‘pike’ was cleared of the enemy before the flanking column reached that point. During this time the masses of the enemy between our intermediate and outer line of works had moved upon the right flank and rear of General Johnson, which was some distance on the right of the pike and in the outer line of works, and made his position quite critical; but the stubbornness of the General made it all right. He was repeatedly attacked in this position, but repulsed every effort of the enemy.

It was at this time I was anxious to get a brigade to throw down the outer line of works, which would have completely placed that portion of the enemy in the woods between our outer and intermediate lines at our mercy; but owing to a misunderstanding of the officer who conducted these forces they were placed in position improperly, and were of no avail during these repeated attacks upon the right of General Johnson. I became alarmed for him, as he had several times sent to me for assistance, and ordered two regiments of Clingman's brigade to report to him, which I did with great reluctance, as I felt it would defeat my plans on my right; but necessity compelled me. In order, also, to relieve the position of General Johnson, which was our key, I ordered forward Corse with his brigade and Clingman with his two regiments. They went forward in good style and drove the enemy from their front, but owing to the [229] superior numbers and strong entrenchments they were not able to drive them entirely from their positions.

The commanding General will recollect that I before stated that the strength of the enemy was in front of these two brigades, both in position and forces, and therefore great credit should be given them for their actions. They were both small commands, but did their duty well. At the time the attack was made the enemy felt as if our forces were coming on them from all sides, and commenced retreating hastily. The losses of these commands were necessarily heavy, owing to a front attack.

I cannot refrain from calling the attention of the General commanding to the fact that his desire to relieve my command of a front attack by the flank move was in no portion of the line accomplished, in consequence of which my losses were very heavy.

My brigade commanders entered into the move with spirit, and rendered every co-operation, for which I am under many obligations. A report of casualties has been furnished. I respectfully call attention to the names who are spoken of for gallantry mentioned in the enclosed reports of the brigade commanders.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

[Signed] R. F. Hoke,

Major-General. Captain J. M. Otey, A. A. General.

Report of General Johnson Hagood.

headquarters Hagood's brigade, South Carolina Volunteers, May 22d, 1864.
Captain Adams, Acting Adjutant-General:
Captain,—I am directed to submit a report of the part taken by my brigade in the battle of Brewry's Bluff, of the 16th instant.

My command occupied the left of our second or intermediate line, embracing Fort Stephens, and with its right on the turnpike. The enemy occupied our exterior line of breastworks, which had been previously abandoned, supported by a battery of five pieces where the turnpike crosses these works, with skirmishers well thrown out towards us. They had also constructed a second line of works in rear of this, at some two hundred yards distance, and had entangled the abattis between the two lines with wire. [230]

Shortly after General Ransom's division had engaged the enemy on my left, and while his advance was still paralleled to my line, I was ordered to advance and drive the enemy from our outer line of works. This was happily accomplished under cover of the early daylight without serious loss—the brigade capturing the battery of five pieces before referred to and several prisoners. My men now occupied this outer line, a desultory exchange of shots going on between it and the enemy's second line of works. Three companies of the Twenty-Fifth Regiment on my extreme right were also at this time thrown back perpendicular to my front, to assist by a flank fire Johnson's brigade, which was driving the enemy from the portion of the outer line on my right.

General Ransom's division had now, in accordance with the plan of battle, advanced some three hundred yards in front of my left, and was privoting upon its right to sweep the enemy by a flank attack from the woods and works in front of our centre. At this time I was ordered by the Division Commander to change front forward to the right and form line of battle parallel to the turnpike. In accomplishing this, my left drove the enemy from that portion of their second line of works which it struck, and the whole movement was much impeded by the abattis and wire entanglement referred to. I now held the turnpike with my line at right angles to the general line of battle. General Ransom's division advancing in echellon full eight hundred yards upon and in rear of my left, the enemy firing obliquely upon my rear from the woods between General Ransom and myself, and I was immediately attacked by a heavy force in my front. The position was obstinately held in the hope that the advance of the division on my left and the brigade on my right would relieve me. Seeing, however, that the brigade was suffering severely, and the regiment on the left having, under orders of its Colonel, (properly given under the circumstances), begun to retire from the heavy pressure of the enemy upon its flank, I directed the resumption of our former position behind our outer line of works. The enemy almost immediately retreated from my immediate front.

Subsequently my brigade was put in position to protect the right flank of the division from an apprehended attack which did not occur, and Colonel Gaillard's regiment (Twenty-Seventh) was detached to assist General Ransom's further advance down the general line of battle.

The brigade generally behaved with a steadiness and gallantry that was extremely gratifying. Colonel Gantt, Colonel Gaillard, Lieutenant- [231] Colonel Nelson, Major Glover, and Captain Wilds, commanding regiments, discharged their duty with marked ability. Major Rion, of the Seventh South Carolina Battalion, and Captain Brooks, of the same, behaved with conspicuous gallantry, continuing with their commands, the former throughout the day and the latter until I ordered him to the rear after he had received three severe wounds. The severity of the fire of the enemy is illustrated by the fact that fifty-seven bullet marks were found upon the flag of the Seventh Battalion South Carolina Volunteers after the fight, and in one of its companies there were sixty-five casualties, of which nineteen were killed outright.

The general list of casualties appended will show that the losses of this battalion were scarcely exceptional.

My staff, Captain Molony and Lieutenants Mazyck and Martin, behaved with great gallantry and marked efficiency. They were all dismounted by the enemy's fire during the fight. Captain Molony having a second horse, which he obtained during the day, killed.

I also desire to mention for meritorious conduct coming under my immediate observation the name of Private I. K. Williams, of the Twenty-Seventh.

The casualties of the brigade were 433. Its field return of the preceding day was 2,235.

I append a list of names mentioned for gallantry by regimental commanders, many of which came also under my observation.

A number of prisoners were captured by the brigade, but as they were hurried immediately to the rear, I can only estimate the number loosely at 300, including several officers.

The battery captured, consisted of three Napoleons and two twenty-pounder Parrotts, fully equipped, and was turned over to Colonel Waddy with a request that it be assigned to Captain Owens, of the Washington Artillery, whose fire materially assisted in its capture.

Officers and men mentioned for gallant conduct by regimental commanders:

In Twenty-Seventh Regiment South Carolina Volunteers: Lieutenant Gelling, Company ‘C,’ Acting-Adjutant; Color-Bearer Tupper; Private H. P. Foster, Company ‘D,’ of Color Guard; First Sergeant Pickens B. Watts, Company ‘E.’

In Seventh Battalion South Carolina Volunteers: Sergeant J. H. Onby, Company ‘H,’ Color-Bearer, killed.

In Eleventh Regiment South Carolina Volunteers: Lieutenant H. W. G. Bowman, Color-Bearer Hickman, Company ‘B;’ Privates J. [232] Jones, G. W. Hicks, Company ‘K;’ Private A. P. Bulger, Company ‘D;’ Private A. Mixson, Company ‘F.’

In Twenty-Fifth South Carolina Volunteers: Private W. A. Dotteur, Company ‘A;’ Private Wise, Company ‘F;’ Sergeant B. P. Izlan, Company ‘G;’ Private J. T. Shewmake, Company ‘G;’ Sergeant H. J. Greer, Company ‘B.’

I am, Captain, respectfully,

Johnson Hagood, Brigadier-General Commanding.

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