Report of Maj. Gen. Daniel H. Hill, C. S. Army, of egagement at King's School-House and battles of Mechanicsville and Gaines' Mill, engagement at White Oak Swamp Bridge, and battle of Malvern Hill.
PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN--SEVEN DAYS' BATTLES
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XI/2 [S# 13]
----- ---, 1862.
Capt. A. S. PENDLETON,
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit a report of the part taken by my division in the engagements around Richmond which resulted in lifting the young Napoleon from his intrenchments around that city and setting him down on the banks of the James, 25 miles farther off, with a loss of 51 pieces of artillery, 27,000 stand of arms, and 10,000 prisoners.
On June 25 my division constituted the supporting force to a portion of the brigades of Generals Wright and Ransom which were engaged with the Yankees near King's School-House, on the Williamsburg road. We were exposed all day to an artillery fire, but with little loss.
We marched that night through the mud to the vicinity of the Mechanicsville Bridge, and there awaited the advance of Major-Generals Jackson and A. P. Hill. The plan of operations was for the former officer to come down by the way of Hanover Junction and get in rear of Mechanicsville, while the latter should cross at Meadow Bridge and move directly upon Mechanicsville, so as to unmask the bridge opposite it and enable my division to cross over, followed by that of Major-General Longstreet. To the four divisions of Generals Longstreet, Jackson, A. P. Hill, and myself was intrusted the task of turning the right flank of the Yankee army.
About 3 o'clock on the afternoon of June 26 the firing began at Meadow Bridge, and was followed by the rapid running of the Yankees toward Mechanicsville. My division was put in motion and crossed the Chickahominy after a little delay in repairing the bridge. General A. P. Hill was then hotly engaged about the town, and my leading brigade (Ripley's) was pushed forward to his support. The Yankees were beginning to retreat across the creek (Beaver Dam) toward Ellison's Mill, but their artillery was still on the plain on this side. The three batteries of Jones' battalion, of my division, and Hardaway's battery and Bondurant s were brought into action and drove the Yankee artillery off the field.
In the mean time I had received several messages from General Lee and one from the President of the Confederate States to send forward a brigade. In advancing with this brigade I met Brigadier-General Pender, whose brigade had just been roughly handled, who told me that with the assistance of two regiments of Ripley's brigade he could turn the position at Ellison's Mill by the right, while two regiments should advance in front. Brigadier-General Ripley was directed to cooperate with General Pender, and the attack was made about dark. The enemy had intrenchments of great strength and development on the other side of Beaver Dam and had the banks lined with his magnificent artillery. The approach was over an open plain, exposed to a murderous fire of all arms, and an almost impassable stream was to be crossed. The result, as might have been anticipated, was a disastrous and bloody repulse. Nearly every field officer in the brigade was killed or wounded and a large number of officers of all grades were equally unfortunate.
Those hero-martyrs-- Colonel [M. S.] Stokes, of the First North Carolina Regiment, and Col. Robert A. Smith, Forty-fourth Georgia-- deserve more than a passing notice. The former had served with credit in the Mexican war, and was widely and favorably known in his own State. The latter, though in feeble health and scarcely able to walk, insisted upon being at the head of his regiment, and attracted my particular attention by his gallantry.
Lieutenant-Colonel [John B.] Estes, of the Forty-fourth, was severely wounded, and 2 captains, 10 lieutenants, and 321 privates were killed and wounded in this regiment. Of the First North Carolina Regiment, Colonel Stokes and Maj. T. L. Skinner, 6 captains and the adjutant were killed and 133 privates were killed and wounded. These two regiments (never before under fire) were badly demoralized and scarcely preserved their organization in the subsequent operations. Capt. H. A. Brown, of the First North Carolina Regiment, and Captains [J. W.] Beck and [S. P.] Lumpkin, of the Forty-fourth Georgia, rallied the fragments of their commands, and are handsomely spoken of by Brigadier-General Ripley.
The Third North Carolina Regiment and the Forty-eighth Georgia were less exposed than the other two regiments of Ripley's brigade, and of consequence suffered less severely, but Major [Edward] Savage, of the Third North Carolina, fell badly wounded.
The batteries of Captain Rhett and Captain Hardaway were particularly distinguished in this engagement.
The division slept on the field that night. About 9 p.m. I received an order from General Lee to co-operate with Major-General Jackson on the Cold Harbor road, going by way of Bethesda Church. The route we had to take was found at daylight to be held by the enemy in force, with strong intrenchments mounted with artillery. I sent the brigades of Garland and Anderson to the left to turn the position, while my other three brigades and all the division artillery were kept on the main road, ready to advance when the rear of the works was gained. The Yankees abandoned their earthworks when Garland and Anderson gained their rear and the whole division moved on.
The shorter road, upon which Major-General Jackson marched, being obstructed, he was compelled to turn off and follow in my rear. We therefore reached Cold Harbor first, capturing a few wagons, ambulances, and prisoners. The division moved up cautiously to the edge of Powhite Swamp, where the Yankees were found to be strongly posted, with ten pieces of artillery commanding the only road upon which our guns could be moved. Captain Bondurant's battery was brought into action, but in less than half an hour was withdrawn and badly crippled. By the order of Major-General Jackson the division was moved back to the edge of the woods parallel to the road to cut off the retreat of the enemy from the attack of Major-Generals Longstreet and A. P. Hill.
It soon became apparent, however, that the fire on our right was receding and that the Yankees were gaining ground. Jackson's division and mine were then ordered forward to the support of Longstreet and A. P. Hill, who had been hotly engaged for several hours. My division occupied the extreme left of the whole Confederate line. The order of advance of the division was, Garland on the left, next Anderson, next Rodes, next Colquitt; Ripley being on the extreme right. In advancing we had a dense swamp to cross, with tangled undergrowth, and the radius of the wheeling circle had to be shortened. These combined causes produced much confusion and a lapping of brigades and the separation of regiments from their proper places. Several regiments of my division were thrown into the rear and did not engage the enemy. The Forty-eighth Georgia and the fragments of the Forty-fourth Georgia (Ripley's brigade) were thus thrown into the rear. The Sixth and Twenty-seventh Georgia (Colquitt's brigade)were the only regiments of their brigade which drew trigger. The other three regiments of this brigade-- Twenty-third Georgia, Twenty-eighth Georgia, and Thirteenth Alabama-- preserved their positions in rear, but did not engage the Yankees. The Fifth and Twenty-sixth Alabama (Rodes' brigade) encountered a battery in their front, which they charged and captured. Col. C. C. Pegues, the noble Christian commander of the Fifth Alabama, fell mortally wounded in this charge.
Upon falling (says General Rodes) he called to the next officer in command, Major [E. L. ]Hobson, and told him that the Fifth had always been in the advance, and that it was his last wish that it should go ahead and allow no regiment to pass it. Major Hobson gallantly- carried out his wishes, and led the regiment constantly ahead of all others in the division except the Twenty-sixth Alabama, which, under its brave Colonel (O'Neal), kept steady with it.
In crossing the swamp--
The Third Alabama encountered troops of our own ahead of them and halted. The Sixth did not, but moved on at a rapid pace into the field in front of the enemy's battery and in face of their infantry, encountering there an enfilading fire from the battery and a heavy fire of musketry in front, and finding themselves unsupported, the men were required by Colonel Gordon to lie down, and finally, no support arriving, they retired under cover in perfectly good order, and there awaited, with the Third Alabama, further orders.
In regard to the Twelfth Alabama General Rodes says:
The Twelfth Alabama, which in some confusion had shifted to the left late in the evening, joined the troops which came up on the left of Hill's division.
Anderson's brigade, on the left, met the Yankees on the edge of the swamp and was first engaged. The contest was short but bloody, and the woods were entirely cleared of the Yankees, who fell back behind a fence and ditch and the brow of a hill.
My division now occupied the edge of the wooded swamp, separated from the Yankees by an open field some 400 yards wide. Confederate troops upon our right, subsequently discovered to be Winder's and Lawton's brigades, were advancing across the plain to attack them. I found Generals Anderson and Garland discussing with great enthusiasm the propriety of attacking the Yankees in flank with their two brigades, while Lawton and Winder attacked in front. The only objection to the movement was that a Yankee battery on our extreme left could enfilade our line on its advance. Garland observed, "I don't think it can do much harm, and I am willing to risk it. " Anderson responded in the same spirit, and I ordered an advance of the whole division. To prevent the destruction of life item the battery I resolved to make an attempt to capture it. Two regiments of Elzey's brigade (I think) were found separated from their command, and these I ordered under my volunteer aide, Mr. Sydnor, perfectly acquainted with the ground, to get in rear of the battery, while the Twentieth North Carolina, Col. Alfred Iverson; the Third North Carolina, Col. Gaston Meares, and the First North Carolina, commanded by Capt. H. A. Brown, were ordered to make a direct advance. Unfortunately Colonel Iverson alone carried out his orders fully.
Says General Garland:
Colonel Iverson was seriously wounded at an early period while gallantly leading up his regiment to take the battery. The regiment after he was wounded was led by Lieut. Col. Franklin J. Faison. It advanced gallantly and took the battery,which it held for ten minutes. The gallant Faison received a mortal wound in the very act of turning a captured piece upon the fleeing foe. He was greatly beloved and his memory will be cherished with veneration and pride. The enemy soon returned to the battery, and the regiment, having sustained a loss of 70 killed and 202 wounded and being without support, retired, by order of Major [William H.] Toon.
Heavy as was this loss, no doubt a greater loss was saved to the division in its advance by this gallant attack. The temporary silence of the battery enabled the division to move up in fine style and turn the tide of battle in our favor.
The effect of our appearance (says General Garland) at this opportune moment upon the enemy's flank, cheering and charging, decided the fate of the day. The enemy broke and retreated, made a second stand, which induced my immediate command to halt under cover of the road-side and return their fire, when, charging forward again, we broke and scattered them in every direction.
The statements of the Yankees themselves and of the French princes on McClellan's staff fully concur with General Garland that it was this final charge upon their right flank which decided the fortunes of the day. The Yankees made no further resistance, but fled in great confusion to Grapevine Bridge.
It was now fairly dark, and hearing loud cheers from the Yankees in our immediate front, some 200 yards distant, I ordered our whole advance to halt and wait an expected attack of the enemy. Brigadier-General Winder, occupying the road to Grapevine Bridge, immediately halted, and the whole advance columns were halted also. The cheering, as we afterward learned, was caused by the appearance of the Irish Brigade to cover the retreat. A vigorous attack upon it might have resulted in the total rout of the Yankee army and the capture of thousands of prisoners, but I was unwilling to leave the elevated plateau around McGehee's house to advance in the dark along an unknown road, skirted by dense woods, in the possession of Yankee troops.
The night was spent in caring for the wounded and making preparations for the morning. I drew back the advanced troops several hundred yards to McGehee's house, and sent across the swamp for my division artillery. This, however, did not come up till sunrise next morning. All of the advanced troops of General Jackson reported to me for orders, and with my own were intrusted with guarding the road to Grapevine Bridge. Soon after daylight it was discovered that the Yankees had retreated across the Chickahominy, destroying all the bridges. The Yankee general John F. Reynolds, with his aide, was discovered in the woods by my pickets and brought to me. Major-General Jackson came up after sunrise and assumed command of his own and my division.
My thanks are especially due to Brigadier-Generals Garland and Anderson for their skill in discovering the weak point of the Yankees and their boldness in attacking it. Their brigades, being more exposed than the others of my command, suffered more severely. Brigadier-General Rodes was on the field, and displayed his usual coolness and judgment, though very feeble from the unhealed wound received at Seven Pines. The brigade of Brigadier-General Ripley was not engaged, owing to that officer not keeping it in hand and not pressing vigorously to the front. Colonel Colquitt, commanding brigade, in like manner did not keep his brigade in hand, and three of his regiments did not draw trigger. The Sixth and Twenty-seventh Georgia, of this brigade, commanded by those pure, brave, noble Christian soldiers Lieut. Col. J. M. Newton and Col. Levi B. Smith, behaved most heroically, and maintained their ground when half their number had been struck down.
My seven division batteries, under Captains Carter, Hardaway, Bondurant, Rhett, Clark, Peyton, and Nelson, were all engaged at one time or another at Mechanicsville and all in like manner at Cold Harbor. Bondurant had 3 men killed, 10 wounded, and 28 horses killed or disabled at the latter place. The other six batteries suffered but little. Under the immediate supervision of Major-General Jackson they opened across the swamp upon the Yankee batteries just before our final charge. On June 28 Major-General Ewell was sent with his division to Dispatch Station, on the York River Railroad, while General Stuart went down to the White House, the terminus of this road. Both expeditions were completely successful, and the Yankee line of communication being thus cut, McClellan was compelled to change his base. He spent two days in destroying vast military and medical stores south of the Chickahominy, and attempted to hold the crossings over that stream. Scouts from Hood's brigade and the Third Alabama (Rodes' brigade) succeeded in crossing, and my Pioneer Corps, under Captain Smith, of the Engineers, repaired Grapevine Bridge on the 29th, and we crossed over at 3 o'clock that night. McLaws' division had a bloody fight at Savage Station on the afternoon of the 29th instant. That night the Yankees continued their retreat, leaving 1,100 sick and wounded in our hands.
Jackson's command, my division leading, passed Savage Station early in the morning of the 30th instant, and followed the line of the Yankee retreat toward White Oak Creek. We picked up about 1,000 prisoners and so many arms, that I detached the Fourth and Fifth North Carolina Regiments to take charge of both.
At White Oak Creek we found the bridge destroyed and the Yankee forces drawn up on the other side. Twenty-six guns from my division and five from Whiting's division opened a sudden and unexpected fire upon the Yankee batteries and infantry. A feeble response was attempted, but silenced in a few minutes. Munford's cavalry and my skirmishers crossed over, but the Yankees got some guns under cover of a wood which commanded the bridge, and the cavalry was compelled to turn back. The skirmishers staid over all day and night. We attempted no further crossing that day. The hospitals and a large number of sick and wounded at White Oak Creek fell into our hands. Major-Generals Longstreet and A. P. Hill attacked the Yankees in flank at Frazier's farm, some 2 miles in advance of us that day, and a corresponding vigorous attack by Major-General Huger on their rear must have resulted most disastrously to them. The obstacles he met, which prevented his advance, may have been of a character not to be overcome. I do not know and cannot judge of them. The bridge being repaired, Jackson's command crossed over, Brigadier-General Whiting's division leading, and effected a junction with General Lee near a church a few miles from Malvern Hill. Whiting's division was turned off the road to the left at the foot of this hill and mine to the right. We had to advance across an open field and ford a creek before getting under cover of the woods. We were in full view while effecting these objects, and suffered heavily from the Yankee artillery. Brigadier-General Anderson, on the extreme left, had become engaged, his brigade roughly handled, and himself wounded and carried off the field before the other brigades had crossed the creek. By the order of Major-General Jackson the division was halted in the woods and an examination made of the ground. The Yankees were found to be strongly posted on a commanding hill, all the approaches to which could be swept by his artillery, and were guarded by swarms of infantry securely sheltered by fences, ditches, and ravines. Tier after tier of batteries were grimly visible on the plateau, rising in the form of an amphitheater. One flank was protected by Turkey Creek and the other by gunboats. We could only reach the first line of batteries by traversing an open space of from 300 to 400 yards, exposed to a murderous fire of grape and canister from the artillery and musketry from the infantry. If that first line were carried, another and another still more difficult remained in the rear. I had expressed my disapprobation of a farther pursuit of the Yankees to the commanding general and to Major-Generals Jackson and Longstreet even before I knew of the strength of their position. An examination now satisfied me that an attack could not but be hazardous to our arms.
About 2 o'clock, I think, I received a note from General Jackson, inclosing one from Col. R. H. Chilton: chief of General Lee's staff, saying that positions were selected from which our artillery could silence the Yankee artillery, and as soon as that was done Brigadier-General Armistead would advance with a shout and carry the battery immediately in his front. This shout was to be the signal for a general advance, and all the troops were then to rush forward with fixed bayonets. I sent for all my brigade commanders and showed them the note. Brigadier-General Rodes being absent sick, the gallant Gordon was put in command of his brigade. That accomplished gentleman and soldier Col. C. C. Tew, Second North Carolina Regiment, took command of Anderson's brigade. Garland, Ripley, and Colquitt, and these two colonels were present at the interview. Instead of ordering up 100 or 200 pieces of artillery to play on the Yankees, a single battery (Moorman's) was ordered up and knocked to pieces in a few minutes. One or two others shared the same fate of being beat in detail. Not knowing how to act under these circumstances, I wrote to General Jackson that the firing from our batteries was of the most farcical character. He repeated the order for a general advance at the signal of the shouting from General Armistead. As well as I could learn the position of our troops the division of Brigadier-General Whiting was on my left: Major-Generals Magruder and Huger on my right, and Major-General Holmes some miles in our rear.
While conversing with my brigade commanders shouting was heard on our right, followed by the roar of musketry. We all agreed that this was the signal agreed upon, and I ordered my division to advance. This, as near as I could judge, was about an hour and a half before sundown. We advanced alone; neither Whiting, on the left, nor Magruder and Huger, on the right, moved forward an inch. The division fought heroically and well, but fought in vain. Garland, in my immediate front, showed all his wonted courage and enthusiasm, but he needed and asked for re-enforcements. I sent Lieutenant-Colonel Newton, Sixth Georgia, to his support, and observing a brigade by a fence in our rear, I galloped back to it and found it to be that of Brigadier-General Toombs. I ordered it forward to support Garland and accompanied it. The brigade advanced handsomely to the brow of the hill, but soon retreated in disorder. Gordon, commanding Rodes' brigade, pushed gallantly forward and gained considerable ground, but was forced back. The gallant and accomplished Meares, Third North Carolina Regiment, Ripley's brigade, had fallen at the head of his regiment, and that brigade was streaming to the rear. Colquitt's and Anderson's brigades had also fallen back. Ransom's brigade had come up to my support from Major-General Huger. A portion of it came, but without its Brigadier- It moved too far to the left and became mixed up with the mass of troops near the parsonage on the Quaker road, suffering heavily and effecting little. Brigadier-General Winder was sent up by Major-General Jackson, but he came too late, and also went to the same belt of woods near the parsonage, already over-crowded with troops. Finally Major-General Ewell came up, but it was after dark and nothing could be accomplished. I advised him to hold the ground he had gained and not to attempt a forward movement.
The battle of Malvern Hill might have been a complete and glorious success had not our artillery and infantry been fought in detail. My division batteries, having been three times engaged, had exhausted all their ammunition and had been sent back for a fresh supply. If I had had them with me with a good supply of ammunition I feel confident that we could have beaten the force immediately in front of us. Again, the want of concert with the infantry divisions was most painful. Whiting's division did not engage at all, neither did Holmes'. My division fought an hour or more the whole Yankee force without assistance from a single Confederate soldier. The front line of the Yankees was twice broken and in full retreat, when fresh troops came to its support. At such critical junctures the general advance of the divisions on my right and left must have been decisive. Some half an hour after my division had ceased to struggle against odds of more than 10 to 1 and had fallen back McLaws' division advanced, but to share a similar fate.
So far as I can learn none of our troops drew trigger, except Me-Laws' division, mine, and a portion of Huger's. Notwithstanding the tremendous odds against us and the blundering management of the battle we inflicted heavy loss upon the Yankees.
They retreated in the night, leaving their dead unburied, their wounded on the ground, three pieces of artillery abandoned, and thousands of superior rifles thrown away. None of their previous retreats exhibited such unmistakable signs of rout and demoralization. The wheat fields about Shirley were all trampled down by the frightened herd, too impatient to follow the road. Arms, accouterments, knapsacks, overcoats, and clothing of every description were wildly strewn on the road-side, in the woods, and in the field. Numerous wagons and ambulances were found stuck in the mud, typical of Yankee progress in war.
The actual loss in battle was, in my opinion, greater on our side than on that of the Yankees, though most persons differ with me. The advantage in position, range, caliber, and number of guns was with them. The prestige of victory and the enthusiasm inspired by it were with us. Their masses, too, were so compact that shot, shell, and ball could hardly fail to accomplish a noble work.
My division was employed during the week after the battle in gathering up arms and accouterments, burying our own and the Yankee dead, and removing the wounded of both armies. We then returned to our old camp near Richmond, with much cause for gratitude to the Author of all good for raising the siege of that city and crowning our arms with glorious success.
The following list of killed and wounded will show that we lost 4,000 out of a little less than 10,000 taken into the field. Among these we have to mourn those gallant spirits Col. Robert A. Smith, Forty-fourth Georgia; Col. M. S. Stokes and Maj. T. L. Skinner, First North Carolina; Col. Gaston Meares, Third North Carolina; Col. T. J. Warthen, Twenty-eighth Georgia; Lieutenant-Colonel [Franklin J.] Faison, Twentieth North Carolina, and Capt. Thomas M. Blount, quartermaster of the Fourth North Carolina Regiment, who fell while gallantly carrying on horseback the colors of the Thirtieth North Carolina. Regiment.
List of casualties.
COMMAND KILLED WOUNDED MISSING Ripley's brigade 164 731 30 Garland's brigade 192 637 12 Rodeo' brigade 122 440 --- Anderson's brigade 159 704 --- Colquitt's brigade 72 633 6 Jones' artillery 5 22 --- Hardaway's battery 1 25 --- Nelson's battery (no report) --- --- --- Total 715 3,192 48 715 3,192 48 Aggregate.......3,955
This embraces the entire loss in the division, with the exception of one battery, from which no report has been received. My thanks are due to all of my staff for faithful and efficient service. Major Ratchford, adjutant-general, and Lieutenant Reid, aide-de camp, were much exposed and were ever prompt and active; Major Pierson, chief of artillery, was always on horseback by the side of the battery engaged; Captain Tayloe, inspector-general, rendered valuable and important service. The ordnance officers, Captain West and Lieut. T. J. Moore, attended faithfully to their duties. Lieutenant Sydnor, of the Hanover Light Dragoons, volunteer aide, at Cold Harbor was conspicuous for his zeal and gallantry. Sergeant Harmeling, commanding the couriers, and Private Lewis Jones, courier, merit particular mention for the zealous and intelligent performance of duty.
D. H. HILL,
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