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Memoranda of Thirty-Eighth Virginia infantry.

from diary of Colonel George K. Griggs.

The Thirty-eighth regiment Virginia infantry, with Company A, Captain Daniel Towns; Company B, Captain Iver R. Cabell; Company C, Captain W. Simpson; Company D, Captain R. C. Herndon; Company E, Captain Joseph R. Cabell; Company H, Captain Joseph Terry; Company K, Captain George K. Griggs, all of Pittsylvania county; Company F, Captain Jed Carter, of Halifax; Company G, Captain W. Towns, of Mecklenburg; and Company I, Captain Fields, with Colonel E. C. Edmonds, of Fauquier; Lieutenant Colonel P. B. Whittle, of Georgia, and Major J. C. Carrington, of Pittsylvania, left Camp Lee at Richmond, Virginia, July 6th, 1861, for Winchester, Virginia. On its arrival there, placed in the brigade of General E. K. Smith. On the 18th July, ordered and proceeded to march to Manassas. On account of an accident on the railroad the regiment was delayed, and did not reach the battlefield until the 22d, too late to participate in the action. General Smith having been wounded on the 21st, Colonel Forney, of Alabama, was placed in command of the brigade; but he was relieved in a few days by Brigadier-General C. M. Wilcox, and assigned to the division of General G. W. Smith. It acted on picket duty, &c.; and when the army retired from Centreville it formed a part of the rear guard, leaving Manassas on the 10th of March, 1862. While on the march, it was assigned to the brigade of General R. Toombs, of Georgia, whose command it joined near Orange Courthouse, March 30th, 1862. On the 11th of April received orders, and marched to Richmond, and thence by steamer to King's Landing on the 14th, and marched near the line of defence around Yorktown. On the 17th, was ordered into the trenches at Dam No. 1, where it served every alternate day until the 2d of May, when it was transferred to command of Brigadier General J. A. Early, which it joined at Fort Magruder, and proceeded to retire with the army on the 3d of May, reaching Williamsburg on [251] the evening of the 4th. On the 5th, was engaged in the battle near Williamsburg, with very unfavorable circumstances, the mud being very deep, and the command double quicked for a long distance, and through underbrush, briers, &c. Continued to retire towards Richmond, subsisting at times on parched corn, and went into camp near the city on the 18th. On the 24th, the regiment was transferred to brigade of General S. Garland, to the pleasure of all, and General D. H. Hill's division. Ordered on picket duty on Williamsburg road on 27th, and continued on duty up to the 31st, when it acted in the opening of the battle of Seven Pines, where it lost some good officers and privates. Captain Griggs captured the flag of the One hundred-and-fourth regiment of Pennsylvania volunteers; and though the enemy were strongly posted, and it was necessary to wade through swamps, brush, &c., they were driven from their position with considerable loss. June 18th, the regiment was transferred to General L. A. Armistead, Brigadier Huger's division. Was engaged in the opening of the battle of Malvern Hill, acting as skirmishers of its division, and then remaining in the action until night. July 3d, was transferred to General A. P. Hill's division. On the 11th, crossed to the south of James river, and placed in command of General R. H. Anderson. The division remained in camp until the 16th of August, when a march was ordered. Reached Louisa Courthouse on the 17th; on the 19th at Orange Courthouse; on the 20th at Clark's Mountain; on the 21st to Stevensburg; on the 24th to Jefferson; on the 25th at Fauquier White Sulphur Springs, had a skirmish with the enemy. Left on the night of the 27th; reaching Salem on the 28th; White Plains the 29th; through Thoroughfare Gap to battlefield, near Grovertown, on the 30th; in battle late in the evening of the Second Manassas. Marched from Manassas on the 1st September; reached Frying Pan on the 3d; Leesburg on the 4th; waded the Potomac on the 6th into Maryland; halting at Frederick City on the 8th; left on the 10th; engaged the enemy, and drove him from Maryland Heights, opposite Harper's Ferry, on the 12th. On the 15th, the force at Harper's Ferry having surrendered, crossed into Virginia 16th, marched all night, reaching Shepherdstown in the morning of 17th, and participated in the battle of Sharpsburg; on the 19th, retired with the army. November 22d, the brigade transferred to division of General George E. Pickett. On the 11th December skirmishing near Fredericksburg, and on the 13th engaged in the battle of that place. Went into camp 27th December near Guinea Station, and remained until 14th February, 1863. Received orders, [252] and marched in direction of Richmond, passing through the city on 19th and went into camp near Chester station. March 1st moved to east Petersburg, remained until 27th, marched reaching near Ivor station after hard march through swamp, &c., on the 30th; camped until 9th April; moved in direction of Suffolk, halting at Franklin depot on night of 10th; cooked four days rations, and crossed Blackwater at South Quay on 11th, with Generals Hood's and Pickett's divisions. The regiment, with the brigade, marched on 12th on Sommerton road, arriving in about seven miles of Suffolk, the regiment marching in front. Company K, Captain Griggs, was ordered forward as skirmishers, and soon engaged the enemy's pickets and drove them within three miles of Suffolk, night stopping further advance-Captain Griggs remaining in advance with his company as sentinels. Early on the next morning, 13th, advance continued, the regiment still being in advance of brigade, and drove the enemy into his fortifications around Suffolk. Line of battle soon formed, and the men waited anxiously for the order to advance on the works, but it did not come. Captain Joseph R. Cabell, now Major, having been promoted, took charge of the line of skirmishers, and drove the enemy into his works near the city, and it was the impression of Major Cabell that the city might now have easily been captured, but no further advance being ordered, the day passed by with desultory fighting between the skirmishers. Lieutenant William G. Cabaniss. Company K, with ten privates, was ordered to cross the Dismal Swamp and cut the M. & P. railroad east of Suffolk, but finding a heavy picket guarding the point at which he was to cross, and his object being secret, he returned without any success. On the 14th, a lady in attempting to leave her house near the enemy's line of battle for a place of safety was wantonly shot by the enemy. No other service except as picket duty was required of the regiment, and 3d May fell back with division, halting on 4th at 12 o'clock near Franklin depot, having marched about twenty-seven miles over a very swampy road. The march was continued until the 9th, went into camp on Falling Creek seven miles below Richmond. On 15th marched through the city, and continued the march until 17th; went into camp near Hanover Junction and remained until 2d June. The enemy reported in King & Queen, the regiment with brigade proceeded to New Town; finding no enemy, marched on 5th to Reedy Mills, on 6th to Aylett's and returned to Hanover on 8th; marched to New Market 10th, crossed the Rapidan at Summerville ford, and rested on 11th near Culpeper Courthouse. Left on 15th with three days cooked rations [253] and ten days on wagons. On 17th the sun was so excessively hot that many of the men who had never failed to keep up fell on the road exhausted. Passed Ashby's Gap on 18th, and on 19th crossed Blue Ridge at Snicker's Gap. A heavy rain fell at night, raised the river, and the command had to rest until evening, when forded the Shenandoah at Shepherd's Mills, and to prevent being washed down by the rapid deep water the men had to march four deep and hold to each other. On 25th June passed through Martinsburg, and forded the Potomac at Williamsport into Maryland. Passed Hagerstown on 26th; entered Pennsylvania at Middleburg; halted at night at Green Castle; through Chambersburg on 27th. At night the regiment was ordered to Scotland to guard commissary stores, and rejoined the brigade on 29th, when it, with the division, was marched back through and south of Chambersburg and halted until 2d July, when again marched through Chambersburg on Baltimore turnpike to within two miles of Gettysburg; the regiment was often fired on during the day by bushwhackers. At 3 A. M. on morning of 3d the division was ordered forward to the right of Gettysburg and formed line of battle in front of;——the troops remained under partial shelter by a small strip of woods until the order of advance, when they moved forward as steadily as when on drill. The Fifty-seventh Virginia regiment of the brigade was immediately to left of the regiment; Thirty-eighth charged the enemy across a wide plain—they being sheltered behind a rock fence, earthworks, &c.—and though unprotected and having to climb two high fences in the face of a concentrated fire from the masked number of the enemy's artillery, the troops moved steadily forward, driving the enemy from his strong position, capturing all his guns, but only for a moment; having no reinforcement, and the enemy in strong force on our left and rear, the few surviving men cut their way back. The loss was irreparable to the regiment as well as division; the noble and beloved Colonel E. C. Edmonds killed; Lieutenant-Colonel Whittle, who had lost an arm at Malvern Hill, was seriously wounded in thigh; Captain Towns killed, and all the other company officers more or less seriously wounded. Never did men more than these on that day. In retiring, the regiment with the division had the difficult duty of escorting the prisoners captured into Virginia, arriving at Williamsport on 7th July. The regiment did the various camp duties up to October 7th, when, with the brigade, now commanded by Brigadier-General S. M. Barton, General Armistead having been killed at Gettysburg, left Petersburg, where it was in camp, for Kingston, North Carolina, and went into camp near that place on 8th. Major [254] J. R. Cabell had been promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, Captain G. K. Griggs to Major, date from 3d July. The regiment remained in winter quarters until 1st November it was sent to Hanover Courthouse, Virginia, and returned on 11th to Kingston, North Carolina. On 30th January, 1864, the regiment with the division ordered to invest Newbern. On morning of 1st February formed line of battle at Polletsville and opened fire on enemy's works at Brice's Creek. Remained in line of battle until night 3d, when fell back and with rapid and hard marching arrived in camp at Kingston on 4th, remained until 14th, took train for Richmond, Virginia, going into camp near the city on 3d May on nine-mile road. Ordered and disposed of all surplus baggage. Marched on 7th, taking steamer to Drewry's Bluff to check the enemy under Butler. Colonel Whittle having been retired, Lieutenant-Colonel J. R. Cabell promoted to Colonel and Major G. K. Griggs to Lieutenant-Colonel. He having cut the Petersburg and Richmond railroad near Chester station, remained in breastworks until 62 A. M. On 10th ordered forward. The brigade under General Barton was divided by order of General Ransom and sent on different roads (official report made of the campaign), and soon engaged the forces of General Butler, United States Army, estimated at from twenty to thirty thousand strong, upon the Richmond and Petersburg turnpike. In this action the Thirty-eighth Virginia regiment was formed on the left of brigade and left of the turnpike. About 9 o'clock A. M. the signal for advance was given, the regiment moved forward and soon engaged the enemy's skirmishers, driving them upon their line of battle. At this point I found my left entirely unprotected and the enemy upon a line with my own. I immediately reported the fact to Colonel Cabell and one of General Barton's staff and deployed my left, Company K, Lieutenant W. G. Cabaniss commanding, perpendicular to my line of battle and continued the advance, breaking and driving back three lines of battle the depth of my regiment, capturing two pieces of artillery. My ranks having in this time been so much depleted from casualties, and the enemy on my left having passed around and in my rear, I was ordered by Captain Thom, Acting Adjutant and Inspector General, to fall back, and turning about, fought its way out, killing about fifteen, wounding many, and capturing fifty of the Thirteenth Indiana regiment. My loss in this action was heavy, and none more regretted than that of the brave and noble Colonel Cabell, who fell mortally wounded in the early part of the action. For casualties you are respectfully referred to Forms A and B.

I cannot mention any particular instance of gallantry where all [255] acted so well. The regiment was engaged on duty after this in trenches around Richmond, operating against the Sheridan raiders until 16th May. When the battle of Drewry's Bluff was fought, the brigade, then commanded by Colonel Fry, formed a part of the attacking force on the left, and acting as a support to Brigadier-General Hoke's North Carolina Brigade, which, owing to the density of the fog, was invisible at forty paces, and having left my front my regiment was precipitated upon the enemy's works, and many were shot down without firing a gun, while laboring under the delusion that General Hoke's brigade was in our front, and it was not until when within twenty paces of the enemy's works, which were yet invisible, that a fire was made, when, with much reduced ranks, only a few of the right and many of the left wing entered the enemy's works, capturing many prisoners. I lost here many good and noble men, who had attested their gallantry upon many a bloody field. For casualties you are referred to Forms C and D.

Lieutenant-Colonel George K. Griggs was shot through the thigh. The regiment, with the brigade, took the train for Milford on the 18th, and marched thence to Spotsylvania Courthouse to join General Lee, but finding him falling back, returned to Hanover Court house, having marched two days and nights on short rations, and but little rest. May the 29th, the division was reunited, and General Picket took command, to the great joy of all. On the 17th June, it took part in driving the enemy from our lines, near Bermuda Hundreds, which was accomplished with the loss of one killed and wounded. Since that time my regiment has been holding one of the most exposed positions on this most important line, and has been engaged in several skirmishes with the enemy since occupying its present position. August the 25th, the enemy's picket line in my front was captured with some prisoners, but my loss here was not repaid by the advantage gained, having lost two very valuable officers—Captain Joyce, Company A, killed, and Captain W. G. Caba niss, shot through the face, so as to disable him from service—besides some good men. November the 17th, it being desirable to advance our picket line, and all necessary arrangements being made, the line being slightly reinforced moved forward, and before the enemy well knew what was going on the larger number were prisoners. I lost one man wounded in this charge, established my picket line as far as was desired, captured about thirty-seven privates and non-commissioned officers, one lieutenant and one captain.

Brigadier-General George H. Steuart, of Maryland, was placed in [256] command while on the line. Lieutenant-Colonel Griggs had been promoted to Colonel—date from 16th May—and continued on the lines until the night of the 4th of March, 1865, when it left with the division by railroad to Farmville; reached there on the 10th, to intercept forces of General Sheridan, but that General changing his course the division returned to Richmond. On the 14th, proceeded to Atlee's Station, and continued to follow after Sheridan until he left for Petersburg On the 26th, the regiment proceeded to Battery 45, south of Petersburg, and proceeded to throw up fortifications. Left on the 30th March to meet Sheridan, who was approaching from Dinwiddie Courthouse; arriving and bivouacking at night at Five Forks. The regiment was rear guard, and skirmished most of the day with the enemy. The division moved at 8 A. M. toward the Courthouse; engaged the enemy about 2 P. M., and drove them until dark. The regiment did not become actively engaged. The enemy bringing up his infantry in the night, the division commenced to retire at 4 1/2 A M. On 1st April, halting at Five Forks, it proceeded to throw up rifle-pits along the road. The enemy attacked in the evening with about 35,000 infantry and Sheridan's cavalry. To oppose which was Pickett's division, two brigades of Johnson's division, and Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry. Colonel G. K. Griggs was ordered early in the action to take his regiment to the left of Brigadier-General Ransom, which he did at a double-quick, deployed his regiment in single rank, and opened a deadly fire on the enemy, who were marching to our left three columns of infantry. His front was checked, but there being no support to the left of the regiment, the enemy's heavy columns soon passed its left and rear — the regiment thus became exposed to front and rear fires. The situation was immediately reported to headquarters, and the men kept up a deadly fire until their ammunition was expended, and the enemy had rapidly closed in, forming a horseshoe shape. Colonel Griggs ordered the few men he had to cut their way out as best they could. The regiment fought against at least ten to one, and, knowing the fact, yet there seemed to be no fear among them, and some were seen to club their guns after expending all their ammunition. On the 2d April, the command attempted to cross the Appomattox river at Extra Mills; not being able so to do, turned up the river to cross at Deep Creek bridge; failing here, halted for the night; marching on the 3d, and crossing Deep Creek at 11 A. M., and continued marching on the 4th to near Amelia Courthouse; formed line of battle here, living on rations of parched corn. The [257] enemy attacked with cavalry; driven off, and march continued, reaching Sailor's Run about 12 M., when it fought its last battle, and although broken down with hard marches, &c., the men fought with as much determination as on any previous field, repelling every attack, until surrounded by overwhelming numbers, when it, with the division, cut its way to Farmville as best it could, where as many of the division as were left rallied and continued the retreat to Appomattox Courthouse, and surrendered with the army.

Geo. K. Griggs, Colonel Thirty-eighth Virginia Regiment Infantry.

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