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The Fifteenth Virginia. [from the Richmond, Va., Dispatch, November 12, 1899.]

Composed of Richmond, Henrico and Hanover boys. Career of this gallant regiment.

Incidents of the capture of Harper's Ferry and the bloody battle of SharpsburgColonel Vance and ‘Molly Cottontail.’

I want to tell what I know about the part taken in the Sharpsburg campaign by the 15th Virginia Infantry, whose rifles cracked from Bethel to Appomattox.

There were eight companies in the regiment, organized and composed of men from Richmond and vicinity—to-wit: Company A, Church Hill, city; Company B, Virginia Life Guard, city; Company C, Patrick Henry Rifles, Hanover; Company D, Old Dominion Guard, city; Company E, Ashland Grays, Hanover; Company G, [49] Henrico Southern Guard, Henrico; Company H, Young Guard, city; Company I, Hanover Grays, Hanover.

Having lost its colonel (T. P. August, wounded) and major (John Stewart Walker, killed at Malvern Hill), the regiment recruited and reorganized, broke camp on August 30, 1862, near Culpeper Courthouse, and started on its eventful march for the first invasion beyond the Potomac.

On August 31st we bivouacked at Fauquier White Sulphur Springs, September 1st, at Gainesville, September 2d, at Bull Run, September 3d, at Leesburg, and September 6th, we crossed the Potomac by fording the river—up to our breast. September 7th, we bivouacked near Frederick City, Md., and on the 10th passed through the city. Many ‘rebel’ flags were displayed from windows and housetops. We did not see or hear of any Federal flags, nor the notorious and much-talked — of Barbara Freitchie. September 11th we crossed South mountain, within six miles of Harper's Ferry, and on the 12th, 13th, and 14th, we were kept busy beating back the enemy sent to the relief of Harper's Ferry. On the 15th that town surrendered, our prizes being 12,737 men, 47 cannon, 24 mounted howitzers, large quantities of small arms, ammunition, horses, and ambulance and quartermaster's stores. The last were very much needed, as our army was much in want of shoes and underwear.

September 16th, after paroling the prisoners, we took up our march back into Virginia, with full stomachs. After a long and tedious march, we bivouacked late at night near Shepherdstown. On the 17th the bugle called us before day, and a forced march was begun for the Potomac, which we reached about sunrise-hungry and tired, and having a cold stream to wade. The enemy's guns at Sharpsburg could be distinctly heard at that early hour, D. H. Hill, with bulldog tenacity, holding McClellan in check while Longstreet and Jackson were coming to his aid.

It took us only a few hours to reach our position under Jackson, on the extreme left of the line, and just at a time when that part of the line had commenced to give way before greatly superior numbers. In our immediate front the enemy were driven back over half a mile, after a fight of nearly two hours, and the expenditure by us of nearly every cartridge; but it was a dearly bought victory, for our little command sustained a greater loss that day than any other in the army. It went into action under the command of Captain E. M. Morrison, of Company C, the only field officer being still absent on account of wounds. The regiment was much depleted, and was also [50] worn down from loss of sleep, long marches and poor rations. Straggling from sore feet and sickness had reduced our strength from a possible 175 men to an effective strength of 14 officers and 114 men. The heavy loss from our ranks had naturally cast a deep feeling of depression over the rest of the little band.

The brave Captain E. J. Willis, who took command after Morrison fell, held up his overcoat for me to count the bullet-holes, and I counted about eight. It was perforated at least six or eight times by bullets; besides, his metal scabbard was cut in two. Willis was, before the war, pastor of Leigh Street Baptist church.

Of the fourteen officers who entered the fight, one, Captain A. V. England, of Company D, was killed, and six—Captain E. M. Morrison, commanding the regiment; Lieutenant Bumpass; Lieutenant J. K. Fussell, our own J. K.; Lieutenant J. H. Allen; Lieutenant George Berry, and Lieutenant George P. Haw—were wounded. Of the 114 non-commissioned officers and privates, 10 were killed and 58 wounded.

We held our part of the lines until after dark, when we withdrew about a hundred yards to the crest of a hill in our rear, where we lay unmolested all the next day, the 18th, in full view of the enemy. That afternoon Captain Willis had me gather up all the wounded that could walk (of which I had twenty), and take them across the Potomac at Shepherdstown, which we forded at night.

We went on our way to the hospital at Winchester, with not a mouthful to eat except what I could beg on the route, but the women along the road helped me to wash and bind up the men's wounds, which was the only medical attention they received during our weary march. After getting them safe to the hospital I returned to the regiment, which I joined September 23d, near Martinsburg, where they were undergoing ‘repairs.’

Thus ended a three-weeks' campaign of a regiment which seems to have been almost forgotten by the good people of Richmond, though raised amongst them. It was the first regiment to organize in 1861, and left this city for the front May 24th, armed with guns of four different calibres—viz., Springfield, Enfield, Mississippi rifle, and smooth-bore.

Company F, the Emmett Guards, and Company K, the Marion Rifles, disbanded after the first year, their term of enlistment.

Our regiment bared its breast for four long years to all comers Yet, for all the hardship, fatigue, and privations endured, some little things gave us cheer and amusement. While taking a short [51] rest in Hagerstown, Md., the doors and windows of the houses being filled with women and children, eager to see a live ‘rebel,’ a soldier left the line and approached a group of boys on the sidewalk, appropriated a boy's hat, put his dilapidated covering on the boy's head, and returned to ranks amid the merriment of his comrades. Imagine the ‘rebel yell’ that went up when a woman appeared with a pair of tongs, lifted it from the pavement, where the boy had thrown it, and deposited it in the gutter.

Colonel Zeb. Vance, the gallant and witty North Carolinian, at the battle of Fredericksburg, where Jackson wanted to ‘drive them in the river,’ was taking his regiment through a dense thicket and undergrowth, where ‘ole hares’ were plenty. It was when the fire was heaviest that the little things seemed paralyzed from fear. The boys were so busy picking up and bagging them that they almost forgot the enemy in their front. One ‘old lady,’ though, didn't lose her head, but took to the rear, and in passing Colonel Vance he put his sword under his arm, clapped his hands, and exclaimed: ‘Go it, old Molly Cottontail! If 'twasn't for honor, I would be with you.’

James B. Lacy, Late Sergeant-Major 15th Virginia Infantry, Confederate States Volunteers, Army of Northern Virginia.

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