Report of Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, C. S. Army, commanding Third Division, of skirmishes at Hundley's Corner, battles of Gaines Mill and Malvern Hill, and skirmish at Westover. PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN--SEVEN DAYS' BATTLES
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XI/2 [S# 13]
HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION,
Near Somerset, Va., August 4, 1862.
Capt. A. S. PENDLETON,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Valley District.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the movements of my division in the recent operations before Richmond:
The march from Ashland and the movements preliminary to the fight at Gaines' Mill were all made under the immediate direction of the major-general commanding. I need only mention that in the skirmish at Hundley's Corner, on Thursday evening, the First Maryland and Thirteenth Virginia, and in that on the next day the Thirteenth Virginia and Sixth Louisiana, were the regiments engaged.
On Friday, having formed line along the edge of a wood, I was ordered to throw skirmishers across a field on my right into a wood some 400 yards distant, in which the enemy were understood to be posted, and to follow them with my main body.
The skirmishers passed through the wood without becoming engaged, but before the division reached it orders came to turn more to the left, as heavy firing was heard in that direction. Before arriving at the field of battle I was met by Colonel Taylor, of General Lee's staff, sent to bring up re-enforcements, and received directions for the march of my division.
On nearing the battle ground I ordered the Fourth Brigade, General Elzey, into the woods on the left Of the road passing from Gaines' house toward McGehee's, and as my other two brigades were not yet up I took advantage of the interval to report to General Lee, who ordered me to hurry up my division as rapidly as possible, indicating where it was to take part in the action. I accordingly ordered the Seventh Brigade, General Trimble, and the Eighth Brigade, Colonel Seymour, into the woods on the right of the road, and, by General Lee's instructions, sent back Capt. G. Campbell Brown, assistant adjutant-general, to bring up the divisions of Generals Jackson and Whiting and Lawton's brigade.
Having crossed the branch and commenced the ascent of the hill, my division soon became warmly engaged with the enemy. The density of the woods and the nature of the ground were such as to prevent any extended view; and this fact, together with the importance of holding the position occupied by the Louisiana Brigade, and that portion of Trimble's which was on its left, now severely pressed by the enemy, made it necessary to confine my exertions mainly to that locality. These troops were attacked in front and flank by superior numbers, and were for hours without re-enforcements. The Louisiana Brigade, having sustained a very severe loss in field officers, besides suffering in rank and file, was driven off the field, but the line was held by part of Trimble's brigade, consisting of a portion of the Fifteenth Alabama Regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Trentlen (Colonel Cantey with the balance having accidentally become separated from the regiment), and the Twenty-first Georgia Regiment, under Major Hooper. I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of these troops, which were immediately under my observation. They were opposed to constantly renewed forces of the enemy, and held their ground against vastly superior numbers, advantageously posted, after the troops immediately to their right had fallen back, gaining ground slowly against large odds.
Lieutenant-Colonel Trentlen, of the Fifteenth Alabama, displayed the most indomitable bravery, encouraging and keeping his men in place when in many instances their ammunition was exhausted and their pieces had become too hot to lead, and at a time when there were no troops in supporting distance and the abandonment of this position might have been attended with the most disastrous results. I was also particularly struck by the gallantry of Private Frank Champion, Company F, Fifteenth Alabama Regiment, who, on horseback, was very conspicuous in rallying and encouraging the troops, those he was ordering taking him for an officer of rank.
Among many officers who attracted attention by their gallant bearing I would enumerate Maj. A. A. Lowther, Captain Feagin, of Company B; Second Lieutenant Brear, Company G; Brevet Second Lieutenant Bethune, Company K, Fifteenth Alabama Regiment.
General Trimble also furnishes the names of the following officers as having shown conspicuous bravery: Maj. T. W. Hooper (wounded); Capt. J. B. Akridge, Company K; Capt. James C. Nisbet, Company H; First Lieut. W. J. Warren, Company I; First Lieut. M. T. Castleberry, Company C; Second Lieut,. J. W. Patrick, Company K, Twenty-first Georgia Regiment; and Capts. P. V. Guerry, Company C, Fifteenth Alabama, and James Brown, Company A, Sixteenth Mississippi, who were shot dead while leading their companies in a charge.
During the late campaign in the valley Captain Brown's company was detached as scouts, and he rendered very effective service in this capacity, giving much valuable information and proving himself a most capable and brave officer.
Col. James Cantey, Fifteenth Alabama Regiment, accidentally separated from his regiment in the confusion, succeeded, with the assistance of Capt. G. Campbell Brown, assistant adjutant-general, just returned from carrying orders, in rallying a number of the fugitives, whom he led again into action.
The Fifth Texas, of Hood's brigade, and a portion of the Hampton Legion first came to my assistance, and rendered valuable service in keeping back the enemy, until the arrival of General Lawton enabled our forces to take the initiative. General Lawton, after assisting in clearing the front, wheeled part of his brigade to the right, attacking the enemy in flank, thus opening the way to the remainder of General Trimble's brigade, which was on my right, and which advanced to the field beyond the woods.
The small body of troops with me had held their ground for two hours or more alone, when the re-enforcements already mentioned came up; and they having exhausted all their own ammunition and in many cases that of the dead and wounded, and having been closely engaged for more than four hours, the most of them were withdrawn from the field about dusk.
I remained on the ground myself until after dark, in order that the troops which came up later in the day might profit by what I had learned of the ground and the position of the enemy. I found the Thirteenth Georgia Regiment, Colonel Douglass, temporarily separated from the rest of Lawton's brigade on its left, but instead of waiting for orders, gallantly and successfully advancing against the enemy (though he was strongly posted) until assurances that those in front were friends caused doubts in the minds of the men, and made it advisable to halt them under cover until the movement of the Fifth Texas and the balance of Lawton's brigade was certain to dislodge the enemy.
On Saturday, under orders from Major-General Jackson, I advanced, preceded by a cavalry force, down the north bank of the Chickahominy to Dispatch Station, and destroyed a portion of the railroad track. The station and stores had, unfortunately, been burned by the cavalry advance guard before my arrival.
About noon on Sunday I was ordered to prevent the enemy from crossing Bottom's Bridge, and took position accordingly until about 6 p.m., when I received directions to return to Grapevine Bridge and follow General Jackson's division.
Tuesday morning on the march I was joined by General Early and ordered to my division, who took command of the Fourth Brigade, General Elzey having been dangerously wounded at Cold Harbor. At this time General Early was so disabled from the effects of a wound received at Williamsburg as to be unable to mount his horse without assistance.
At Malvern Hill my division was in reserve, General Trimble being posted in rear of General Whiting's left; Colonel Stafford with the Louisiana Brigade, on the right of General Whiting's line, and General Early in rear of Colonel Stafford. About dark General Early was ordered to the right to support General D. H. Hill, and was exposed on the march and after his arrival to a heavy artillery fire. When morning came his troops were the only ones on that part of the field.
Colonel Stafford's brigade was detached from my command, and consequently I can give no account of his movements. I refer you to his report, herewith forwarded.
At Westover, on the Friday following, my division was placed in front, and advanced until our skirmishers became engaged with those of the enemy, when we were ordered to halt.
1 inclose the reports of Generals Early and Trimble and Colonels Walker and Stafford. General Trimble furnishes the diagram. On a comparison of his report with mine some discrepancies will be observed, which can in part be accounted for by the lapse of time and the confusion in describing movements over ground not examined by us together. The report of Col. Bradley T. Johnson, commanding the Maryland Line, is also appended, as are detailed lists of the killed and wounded, showing an aggregate loss of 987.
My staff at Gaines' Mill (or Cold Harbor) consisted of Lieut. Col. J. M. Jones (adjutant-general's department), acting inspector-general; Maj. James Barbour and Capt. G. Campbell Brown (assistant adjutant general's department), and Lieut. Hugh M. Nelson, aide-de-camp, who was slightly wounded. At Malvern Hill the same, with the addition of Lieut. T. T. Turner, aide-de-camp. Maj. B. H. Green, division commissary of subsistence, was also with me on the field on both occasions.
R. S. EWELL,
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