Report of Lieut. Gen. James
Longstreet, C. S. Army,
Commanding First Army Corps, Of Operations April 14-May 6.
MAY 4-JUNE 12, 1864--Campaign from the Rapidan to the James River, Va.
HEADQUARTERS FIRST ARMY CORPS, March 23, 1865.
Lieut. Col. W. H. TAYLOR, A. A. G.
COLONEL: On April 11, 1864, I received orders at Bristol from the Adjutant and Inspector-General to report with the original portion of the First Corps (Kershaw's and Field's divisions and Alexander's battalion of artillery) to General R. E. Lee, commanding Army of Northern Virginia. On the 14th I reached Charlottesville, and awaited there the arrival of my troops, which were somewhat delayed by want of transportation on railroad. As the troops arrived they were encamped at points between Charlottesville and Gordonsville. On the 22d, in obedience to orders received from the commanding general, I marched my command to Mechanicsville, and encamped in the near neighborhood thereof. On the 2d [May] Field's division was moved to the north of Gordonsville to meet an expected advance of a portion of the enemy by way of Liberty Mills. On the 4th was advised by the commanding general that the enemy appeared to be moving toward Stevensburg, and, as directed by him, started about 4 o'clock in the afternoon and marched to Brock's Bridge, on the border of Orange County, a distance of about 16 miles. Early on the morning of the 5th resumed my march on the [Orange plank] and Catharpin roads to Richards' Shop on Catharpin road. During the latter part of this day s march Rosser was skirmishing in my front with his brigade of cavalry.
At 12.30 a.m. on the 6th started for Parker's Store, on the plank road, in obedience to orders received from the commanding general, who also informed me that Generals Hill and Ewell had been heavily engaged the previous day. Arriving at Parker s Store about dawn, I was directed to move my column down the plank road to relieve the divisions of Heth and Wilcox, which were in position in face of the enemy on the right and left of the plank road, at right angles with it and about 3 miles below Parker's Store. Kershaw's division was in the lead, arriving in rear of the line held by these two divisions, and when the head of my column had filed to the right, and had only time to deploy two regiments of Kershaw's old brigade, an advance was made by the whole line of the enemy, and the divisions of Heth and Wilcox broke and retreated in some confusion. With considerable difficulty, but with steadiness, opening their ranks to let the retreating divisions through, Kershaw formed his line on the right and Field on the left of the plank road. Having checked the advance of the enemy, I ordered a general advance by my line, which was made with spirit rarely surpassed, and before which the enemy was driven a considerable distance. The woods were dense and the undergrowth almost impossible to penetrate. This success was not purchased without the loss of many of the bravest officers and men of my corps. The circumstances under which they fought were most unfavorable. Thrown suddenly, while still moving by the flank, and when hardly more than the head of the column could face the enemy, into the presence of an advancing foe with their ranks broken each instant by bodies of our retreating men, they not only held their own, but formed their line, and in turn, charging the enemy, drove him back in confusion over half a mile to a line of temporary works, where they were re-enforced by reserves. About 10 o'clock Maj. Gen. M. L. Smith and the other officers sent out to examine the enemy's position, reported that the left of the enemy's line extended but a short distance beyond the plank road. Special directions were given to Lieutenant-Colonel Sorrel to conduct the brigades of Generals Mahone. G. T. Anderson, and Wofford beyond the enemy s left, and to attack him on his left and rear--I have since heard that the brigade of General Davis formed a part of this flanking force--the flank movement to be followed by a general advance, Anderson's brigade on the right and Wofford's on the left, Mallone being in the center. They moved by the flank till the unfinished railroad from Gordonsville to Fredericksburg was reached. Forming on this railroad facing to the north, they advanced in the direction of the plank road till they encountered the enemy in flank and rear, who was then engaging the brigades of Gregg, Benning, and Law in front. The movement was a complete surprise and a perfect success. It was executed with rare zeal and intelligence. The enemy made but a short stand, and fell back, in utter rout with heavy loss, to a position about three-quarters of a mile from my front attack.
I immediately made arrangements to follow up the successes gained, and ordered an advance of all my troops for that purpose. While riding at the head of my column, moving by the flank down the plank road, I came opposite the brigades which had made the flank movement, and which were drawn up parallel to the plank road, and about 60 yards therefrom, when a portion of them fired a volley, which resulted in the death of General Jenkins, and the severe wounding of myself. I immediately notified the commanding general of my being obliged to quit the field, and the command devolved on Major-General Field.
To the members of my staff I am under great obligations for their valuable services. They conducted themselves with their usual distinguished gallantry. Much of the success of the movement on the enemy's flank is due to the very skillful manner in which the move was conducted by Lieutenant-Colonel Sorrel.
I have the honor to forward the accompanying reports of subordinate commanders of corps.
I am, colonel, with great respect, your obedient servant,
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