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History of Kershaw's Brigade by D. Augustus Dickert

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but no relief. The water became a deeper crimson, the corpses grew
more numerous. Every tree about us, for thirty feet from the ground,
was barked by balls. Just before night a tree six or eight inches in
diameter, just behind the works, was cut down by the bullets of the
enemy. We noticed at the same time a large oak hacked and torn in such
a manner never before seen. Some predicted its fall before morning,
but the most of us considered that out of the question. But about
10 o'clock it did fall forward on our works, wounding some men and
startling a great many more. An officer, who afterwards measured this
tree, informed me that it was twenty-two inches in diameter. This was
entirely the work of rifle balls. Midnight came, still no relief; no
cessation of the firing. Numbers of the troops sank, overpowered, into
the muddy trenches and slept soundly. The rain continued. Just before
daylight we were ordered, in a whisper, which was passed along the
line, to slowly and noiselessly retire from the works.... Day dawned,
and the evacuation was complete.

Thus ended one of the most stubbornly contested battles of the war,
if not of the century. The whole army, from one end to the other, sung
the praises of the gallant South Carolinians, who, by their deeds of
valor, made immortal the "Bloody Angle."

* * * * *


From North Anna to Cold Harbor--Joined by the Twentieth South

It was while entrenched south of North Anna that our troops heard of
the death of our great cavalry leader, General J.E.B. Stuart, who fell
mortally wounded at Yellow Tavern, on May the 18th. If the death of
Jackson was a blow to the army and the South, the death of Stuart was
equally so. He was the Murat of the Southern Army, equally admired and
beloved by the infantry as the cavalry. The body of the army always
felt safe when the bugle of Stuart could be heard on the flank or
front, and universal sadness was thrown around the Army of Northern
Virginia, as well as the whole South, by his death. It was conceded
by the North, as well as the South, that Stuart was the finest type
of cavalry leader in either army, Longstreet badly wounded, Stuart
and Jenkins dead, certainly gave the prospects of the campaign just
opening anything but an assuring outlook.

* * * * *


About this time our brigade was reinforced by the Twentieth South
Carolina Regiment, one of the finest bodies of men that South Carolina
had furnished during the war. It was between one thousand and one
thousand two hundred strong, led by the "silver-tongued orator,"
Lawrence M. Keitt. It was quite an acceptable acquisition to our
brigade, since our ranks had been depleted by near one thousand since
the 6th of May. They were as healthy, well clad, and well fed body of
troops as anybody would wish to see, and much good-humored badgering
was indulged in at their expense by Kershaw's "web feet." From their
enormous strength in numbers, in comparison to our "corporal guards"
of companies, the old soldiers called them "The Twentieth Army Corps."
I here give a short sketch of the regiment prior to its connection
with the brigade.

The Twentieth Regiment was organized under the call for twelve
thousand additional troops from South Carolina, in 1862, along with
the Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth, Holcomb Legion, and other
regiments. The companies composing the Twentieth assembled at the race
course, in Charleston, S.C., in the fall of 1862. The companies had
already organized in the respective counties, and elected officers,
and after assembling in Charleston and organizing the regiment,
elected the following field officers:

Colonel----L.M. Keitt.
Lieutenant Colonel----O.M. Dansler.
Major----S.M. Boykin.
Adjutant----John Wilson.
Quartermaster----John P. Kinard.
Surgeon----Dr. Salley.
Assistant Surgeon----Dr. Barton.
Chaplain----Rev. W.W. Duncan.

Company A, Anderson and Pickens----Captain Partlow.
Company B, Orangeburg----Captain McMichael.
Company C, Lexington----Captain Leaphart.
Company D, Orangeburg----Captain Danley.
Company E, Laurens----Captain Cowen.
Company F, Newberry----Captain Kinard.
Company G, Sumter----Captain Moseley.
Company H, Orangeburg and Lexington----Captain Ruff.
Company I, Orangeburg and Lexington----Captain Gunter.
Company K, Lexington----Captain Harmon.

Captain Jno. P. Kinard, of Company F, was made Quartermaster, and
First Lieutenant Jno. M. Kinard was promoted to Captain.

A singularity of one of the companies, I, was that it had twenty-eight
members by the name of Gunter. The Captain and all three Lieutenants
and seven non-commissioned officers were of the name of Gunter, and it
is needless to add that it was called the Gunter Company.

Colonel Keitt, acting as Brigadier General while in Charleston, the
entire management of the regiment was left to Lieutenant Colonel
Dansler. He was a fine officer, a good tactician, and thorough
disciplinarian. A courteous gentleman, kind and sociable to all, he
was greatly beloved by officers and men, and it was with feelings of
universal regret the regiment was forced to give him up, he having
resigned in the spring of 1864, to accept the position of Colonel of
the Twenty-Second Regiment.

The regiment remained at the race course for several months, for drill
and instruction. In February, 1863, they were moved to the west end of
James' Island, near Secessionville, for guard and picket duty. After
this, they were transferred to Sullivan's Island, and quartered in the
old Moultrie House and cottages adjacent. Four companies were ordered
to Battery Marshall, on the east side of the Island, to assist in the
management of the siege guns at that point.

On the 7th of May the Federal gunboats crossed the bar and made an
attack upon Forts Sumter, Moultrie, and the batteries on Morris'
Island. Here the regiment was subjected to a heavy cannonading
from the three hundred pounders from the Federal ironclads. Colonel
Dansler, however, moved the regiment to the east, in the sandhills,
thus avoiding the direct fire of the enemy. One of the ironclads was
sunk and others badly crippled, drawing off after dark. In December
eight companies were moved over to Mt. Pleasant and two to Kinloch's

During the memorable siege of Morris' Island, the Twentieth did its
turn at picketing on that island, going over after dark in a steamer
and returning before day.

On the night of the 30th July, 1863, while the regiment was returning
from Morris' Island, the tide being low, the steamer Sumter, on which
the regiment was being transported, was forced to take the main ocean
channel. It was the duty of those on garrison duty at Fort Sumter
to signal Moultrie and the shore batteries of the movements of the
transport steamer. For some cause or other Sumter failed to give the
signals, and Moultrie being aware that there was a steamer in the
harbor and no signals up, opened upon the ill-fated steamer with all
her guns, thinking it one of the enemy's ironclads. This was a signal
for the shore batteries to open their guns, and in a few moments
shells came crashing through the decks and cabins of the crowded
steamer from all sides. This created a panic among the troops, and had
it not been for the self-possession and coolness of the captain of
the steamer, the loss of life would have been appalling. The captain
turned his boat and beached it as soon as possible, not, however,
before the men began leaping over the sides of the vessel in one grand
pell-mell. The dark waves of unknown death were below them, while the
shells shrieked and burst through the steamer. There was but little
choice for the panic stricken men. Fortunately the waters here were
shallow enough for the men to touch bottom and wade out, some to Fort
Johnson, some to Fort Sumter, while others remained in the shallows
until relieved by small boats from shore. The regiment lost sixteen
men, either killed or drowned.

On the 16th or 18th of May, 1864, the regiment was ordered to
Virginia, and reached Richmond about the twenty-second, and was
ordered to join Kershaw's Brigade, reaching it about the 28th of May,
near South Anna River.

After the resignation of Lieutenant Colonel Dansler, Major Boykin
was promoted to that position, and Captain Partlow made Major. By
the death of Colonel Keitt, Boykin and Partlow were raised in regular
grade, and Captain McMichael made Major. Lieutenant Colonel Partlow
was wounded at Deep Bottom soon after this, and did Hot return to duty
until near the close of the war. Colonel Boykin and Major McMichael
were both captured at Cedar Creek, and neither returned until after
peace was declared. The regiment was commanded during the remainder of
the service, with short exceptions, by Captain Leaphart.

Colonel Keitt being senior Colonel now in the brigade, was placed in
command. It was unfortunate for Colonel Keitt and his command, being
transferred to our army just at the moment it was in one of the most
active and vigorous campaigns of the war. The men were ill-prepared to
meet the requirements expected of soldiers, to undergo forced marches
in the burning heat of summer, to accustom themselves so suddenly to
the scant and badly-prepared food, night pickets in the open, in face
of the enemy, and all the hardships incident to a soldier's life in
the field. These troops had seen but little of real service, having
only done garrison duty around Charleston, quartered in barracks or
good tents, while now they had to take the field, with no advantage of
the veterans, in the way of supplies and in accommodations, and with
none of their experience and strength of endurance. They had all the
courage of the veteran troops, but lacked acclimation. Their company
discipline was well enough, and had excellent company and field
officers, but were sadly deficient in regimental and brigade drill. It
is doubtful if either their commander or any of their field officers
had ever been in brigade drill or executed a maneuver in a larger body
than a regiment. Like all new troops in the field, they had overloaded
themselves with baggage, and being thus overloaded, straggling was
universal in the regiment, until they became endured to the fatigues
and hardships of the march. Had they come out two or three months
earlier, and taken on the ways and customs of the soldier in the
field, it would have been much better. Still they deserve the
highest degree of praise for their self-denials, their endurance, and
fortitude in the march and in battle. The necessity of the occasion
caused them to learn rapidly the intricacies in the life of the
veteran, and their action in battle in a few days after their arrival,
stamped them as a gallant body of men.

On the night of the 31st of May orders came to prepare to march. Grant
had withdrawn from our front, and was still rolling along on Lee's
right. Both armies were now moving in the direction of Cold Harbor,
where McClellan, two years before, had tried to stay the flight of
his troops and to check the victorious march of Jackson, Hill, and
Longstreet. Now Grant was tempting fate by moving his beaten troops
to this ill-fated field, there to try conclusions with McClellan's old

The Federals were moving with rapid gait to this strategic point, but
Lee having the inner line, was first on the field. It must be borne in
mind that since the 4th of May the army had been idle scarcely a day.
From that day to the 1st of June it had been one continual battle. If
the infantry was not engaged, it was the artillery that kept hammering
away, while Stuart's Cavalry hovered around the flanks and rear of the
enemy, ready at a moment to swoop like an eagle upon his prey. We
were continually under arms, either on a forced march night and day,
checking the enemy here, baffling him there, driving back his advance
lines, or assaulting his skirmishers. At night the sound of the
enemy's drums mingled with that of our own, while the crack of the
rifles in the sharpshooters' pits was almost continuous. Early on the
morning of June 1st Kershaw's Brigade was aroused and put on the march
at a rapid pace in a southeasterly direction.

When nearing the old battlefield of Cold Harbor the men began to snuff
the scent of battle. Cartridge boxes were examined, guns unslung, and
bayonets fixed, while the ranks were being rapidly closed up. After
some delay and confusion, a line of battle was formed along an old
roadway. Colonel Keitt had never before handled such a body of troops
in the open field, and his pressing orders to find the enemy only
added perplexity to his other difficulties. Every man in ranks knew
that he was being led by one of the most gifted and gallant men in the
South, but every old soldier felt and saw at a glance his
inexperience and want of self-control. Colonel Keitt showed no want of
aggressiveness and boldness, but he was preparing for battle like in
the days of Alva or Turenne, and to cut his way through like a storm

As soon as the line was formed the order of advance was given, with
never so much as a skirmish line in front. Keitt led his men like
a knight of old--mounted upon his superb iron-gray, and looked the
embodiment of the true chevalier that he was. Never before in our
experience had the brigade been led in deliberate battle by its
commander on horseback, and it was perhaps Colonel Keitt's want of
experience that induced him to take this fatal step. Across a large
old field the brigade swept towards a densely timbered piece of
oakland, studded with undergrowth, crowding and swaying in irregular
lines, the enemy's skirmishers pounding away at us as we advanced.
Colonel Keitt was a fine target for the sharpshooters, and fell before
the troops reached the timber, a martyr to the inexorable laws of the
army rank. Into the dark recesses of the woods the troops plunged,
creeping and crowding their way through the tangled mass of
undergrowth, groups seeking shelter behind the larger trees, while the
firing was going on from both sides. The enemy meeting our advance in
a solid regular column, our broken and disorganized ranks could
not cope with them. Some of the regimental officers seeing the
disadvantage at which our troops were fighting, ordered a withdrawal
to the old roadway in our rear. The dense smoke settling in the woods,
shielded our retreat and we returned to our starting point without
further molestation than the whizzing of the enemy's bullets overhead.
The lines were reformed, and Colonel Davis, of the Fifteenth, assumed
command (or perhaps Colonel Henagan).

Colonel William Wallace, of the Second, in speaking of this affair,

"Our brigade, under the command of the lamented Colonel Keitt, was
sent out to reconnoitre, and came upon the enemy in large force,
strongly entrenched. Keitt was killed, and the brigade suffered
severely. A few skirmishers thrown out would have accomplished the
object of a reconnoissance, and would have saved the loss of many
brave men. Our troops finding the enemy entrenched, fell back and
began to fortify. Soon our line was established, and the usual
skirmishing and sharpshooting commenced. That same evening, being on
the extreme left of Kershaw's Division, I received orders to hasten
with the Second Regiment to General Kershaw's headquarters. I found
the General in a good deal of excitement. He informed me that our
lines had been broken on the right of his division, and directed me
to hasten there, and if I found a regiment of the enemy flanking his
position, to charge them. I hurried to the point indicated, found that
our troops to the extent of a brigade and a half had been, driven
from their works, and the enemy in possession of them. I determined
to charge, however, and succeeded in driving them from their
position, with but little loss. Our regiment numbered one hundred and
twenty-seven men. The enemy driven out consisted of the Forty-eighth
and One Hundred and Twelfth New York. We captured the colors of the
Forty-eighth, took some prisoners, and killed many while making
their escape from the trenches. We lost in this charge one of our
most efficient officers, Captain Ralph Elliott, a brother of
General Stephen Elliott. He was a brave soldier and a most estimable

Our lines were formed at right angles to that on which we had fought
that day, and the soldiers were ordered to fortify. The Second and
Third on the left were on an incline leading to a ravine in front of a
thicket; the Fifteenth and Twentieth, on the right of the Third, were
on the brow of a plateau; in front was the broad old field, through
which we had marched to the first advance; the Third Battalion,
Eighth, and Seventh, on extreme right, were on the plateau and fronted
by a thicket of tall pines.

As nearly all regimental commanders had been killed since the 6th of
May, I will give them as they existed on the 1st of June, three weeks

Second--Major Wm. Wallace.
Third--Lieutenant Colonel W.D. Rutherford.
Seventh--Captain James Mitchel.
Eighth--Major E.S. Stackhouse.
Twentieth--Lieutenant Colonel S.M. Boykin.
Third Battalion--Captain Whitener.
Brigade Commander--Colonel James Henagan.

Grant stretched his lines across our front and began approaching
our works with his formidable parallels. He would erect one line of
breastworks, then under cover of night, another a hundred or two yards
nearer us; thus by the third of June our lines were not one hundred
yards apart in places. Our pickets and those of the enemy were between
the lines down in their pits, with some brush in front to shield them
while on the look out. The least shadow or moving of the branches
would be sure to bring a rifle ball singing dangerously near one's
head--if he escaped it at all. The service in the pits here for two
weeks was the most enormous and fatiguing of any in the service--four
men being in a pit for twenty-four hours in the broiling sun during
the day, without any protection whatever, and the pit was so small
that one could neither sit erect nor lie down.

Early on the morning of the 3rd of June, just three days after our
fiasco at Cold Harbor, Grant moved his forces for the assault. This
was to be the culmination of his plan to break through Lee's lines or
to change his plans of campaign and settle down to a regular siege.
Away to our right the battle commenced. Heavy shelling on both sides.
Then the musketry began to roll along in a regular wave, coming nearer
and nearer as new columns moved to the assault. Now it reaches our
front, and the enemy moves steadily upon our works. The cheering on
our right told of the repulse by our forces, and had a discouraging
effect upon the Federal troops moving against us. As soon as their
skirmish line made its appearance, followed by three lines of battle,
our pickets in front of us were relieved, but many fell before gaining
our breastworks, and those who were not killed had to lie during the
day between the most murderous fire in the history of the war, and sad
to say, few survived. When near us the first line came with a rush at
charge bayonets, and our officers had great difficulty in restraining
the men from opening fire too soon. But when close enough, the word
"fire" was given, and the men behind the works raised deliberately,
resting their guns upon the works, and fired volley after volley into
the rushing but disorganized ranks of the enemy. The first line reeled
and attempted to fly the field, but were met by the next column, which
halted the retreating troops with the bayonet, butts of guns, and
officers' sword, until the greater number were turned to the second
assault. All this while our sharpshooters and men behind our works
were pouring a galling fire into the tangled mass of advancing and
retreating troops. The double column, like the first, came with a
shout, a huzzah, and a charge. But our men had by this time reloaded
their pieces, and were only too eager awaiting the command "fire." But
when it did come the result was telling--men falling on top of men,
rear rank pushing forward the first rank, only to be swept away like
chaff. Our batteries on the hills in rear and those mounted on our
infantry line were raking the field, the former with shell and solid
shot, the latter with grape and canister. Smoke settling on the ground,
soon rendered objects in front scarcely visible, but the steady flashing
of the enemy's guns and the hail of bullets over our heads and against
our works told plainly enough that the enemy were standing to their
work with desperate courage, or were held in hand with a powerful grasp
of discipline. The third line of assault had now mingled with the first
two, and all lying stretched upon the ground and hidden by the dense
smoke, caused the greater number of our bullets to fly over their
heads. Our elevated position and the necessity of rising above the
works to fire, rendered our breastworks of little real advantage;
considering, too, the disparity of numbers, then three lines against
our one, and a very weak line at that. The loud Rebel yell heard far
to our right told us to be of good cheer, they were holding their own,
and repulsing every assault. The conflict in front of Breckenridge's
Division was the bloodiest, with the possible exception of that of
Mayree's Hill, in front of Fredericksburg, and the "Bloody Angle," of
any during the war. Negro troops were huddled together and forced to
the charge by white troops--the poor, deluded, unfortunate beings
plied with liquor until all their sensibilities were so deadened that
death had no horrors. Grant must have learned early in the day the
impossibility of breaking Lee's line by direct charge, for by twelve
o'clock the firing ceased.

This last assault of Grant's thoroughly convinced the hero of
Vicksburg and Missionary Ridge of the impossibility of breaking Lee's
lines by direct advances. He could not surprise him at any point, or
catch him off his guard, for Lee knew every foot of the ground too
well, having fought all over if for two years. It was estimated and
confirmed afterwards by official reports, that Grant had lost sixty
thousand men from his crossing of the Rapidan to the end of the 3rd of
June, just thirty days--more men than Lee had in the commencement of
the campaign. Grant had become wiser the more familiar he became with
Lee and his veterans, and now began to put in new tactics--that of
stretching out his lines so as to weaken Lee's, and let attrition do
the work that shells, balls, and the bayonet had failed to accomplish.
The end showed the wisdom of the plan.

The two regiments on the left of the brigade did not suffer so greatly
as the others, being protected somewhat by the timber and underbrush
in their front. The enemy's dead lay in our front unburied until
Grant's further move to the right, then it became our duty to perform
those rites.

* * * * *


Colonel Lawrence Massillon Keitt was the second son of George and Mary
Magdalene Wannamaker Keitt. He was born on the 4th day of October,
1824, in St. Matthews Parish, Orangeburg District, S.C. He received
his early education at Asbury Academy, a flourishing institution near
the place of his birth.

In his thirteenth year he entered Mt. Zion College at Winnsboro,
Fairfield County, where he spent one year in preparation for the South
Carolina College, which he entered in his fourteenth year, graduating
third in his class. He read law in Attorney General Bailey's office
in Charleston, S.C., and was admitted to the bar as soon as he was of
legal age. He opened a law office at Orangeburg, the county seat.

At the first vacancy he was elected a member to the Lower House of
the General Assembly of the State, in which body he served until his
election to the Lower House of Congress in 1853. He served in that
body until December, 1860, when he resigned his seat and returned
to South Carolina on the eve of the secession of his State from the
Union. He was a leading Secessionist and was elected a member of
the Secession Convention. That body after passing the Ordinance of
Secession elected him a delegate to the Provisional Congress of the
Confederate States, which met at Montgomery, Ala. He was a very
active member. On the adjournment of the Provisional Government of
the Confederate States he returned to South Carolina and raised the
Twentieth Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers and went into the
Confederate Army. His command was ordered to Charleston. He served
with his command on James' Island, Sullivan's Island, Morris' Island,
and in Charleston in all the important engagements. He was in command
of Morris' Island twenty-seven days and nights during its awful
bombardment. When ordered to evacuate the island he did so, bringing
off everything without the loss of a man. He was the last person
to leave the island. General Beauregard in his report to the War
Department said it was one of the greatest retreats in the annals of

The latter part of May, 1864, he left Charleston with his command and
joined General Lee's Army thirteen miles from Richmond. He carried
about sixteen hundred men in his regiment to Virginia. It was called
the "Twentieth Army Corps." He was assigned to Kershaw's Brigade and
put in command of the brigade. On the first day of June, 1864, while
leading the brigade, mounted on a grey horse, against a powerful force
of the enemy he was shot through the liver and fell mortally wounded.
He died on the 2d of June, 1864. By his request his remains were
brought to South Carolina and laid by the side of his father in
the graveyard at Tabernacle Church. Thus passed away one of South
Carolina's brightest jewels.

* * * * *


From Cold Harbor to Petersburg.

The field in the front at Cold Harbor where those deadly assaults
had been made beggars description. Men lay in places like hogs in a
pen--some side by side, across each other, some two deep, while others
with their legs lying across the head and body of their dead comrades.
Calls all night long could be heard coming from the wounded and dying,
and one could not sleep for the sickening sound "W--a--t--e--r" ever
sounding and echoing in his ears. Ever and anon a heart-rending wail
as coming from some lost spirit disturbed the hushed stillness of the
night. There were always incentives for some of the bolder spirits,
whose love of adventure or love of gain impelled them, to visit the
battlefield before the burial detail had reached it, as many crisp
five-dollar greenbacks or even hundred-dollar interest-bearing United
States bonds could be found in the pockets of the fallen Federal
either as a part of his wages or the proceeds of his bounty. The
Federal Government was very lavish in giving recruits this bounty as
an inducement to fill the depleted ranks of "Grant the Butcher." Tom
Paysinger, of the Third, who had been detailed as a scout to General
Longstreet, was a master hand at foraging upon the battlefield.
Whether to gain information or to replenish his purse is not known,
but be that as it may, the night after the battle he crept quietly
through our lines and in the stillness and darkness he made his way
among the dead and wounded, searching the pockets of those he found.
He came upon one who was lying face downward and whom he took to be
beyond the pale of resistance, and proceeded to rifle his pockets.
After gathering a few trifles he began crawling on his hands and
knees towards another victim. When about ten steps distant the wounded
Federal, for such it proved to be, raised himself on his elbow,
grasped the gun that was lying beside him, but unknown to Paysinger,
and called out, "You d----n grave robber, take that," and bang! went
a shot at his retreating form. He then quietly resumed his recumbent
position. The bullet struck Paysinger in the thigh and ranging upwards
lodged in his hip, causing him to be a cripple for several long
months. It is needless to say Paysinger left the field. He said
afterwards he "would have turned and cut the rascal's throat, but he
was afraid he was only 'possuming' and might brain him with the butt
of his gun."

We remained in our position for several days and were greatly annoyed
by the shells thrown by mortars or cannon mounted as such, which
were continually bursting overhead or dropping in our works. The
sharpshooters with globe-sighted rifles would watch through the brush
in front of their rifle pits and as soon as a head was thoughtlessly
raised either from our pits, which were now not more than fifty yards
apart, or our breastwork, "crack!" went a rifle, a dull thud, and
one of our men lay dead. It is astonishing how apt soldiers are
in avoiding danger or warding it off, and what obstacles they can
overcome, what work they can accomplish and with so few and ill
assortment of tools when the necessity arises. To guard against the
shells that were continually dropping in our midst or outside of
our works, the soldiers began burrowing like rabbits in rear of our
earthworks and building covered ways from their breastwork to the
ground below. In a few days men could go the length of a regiment
without being exposed in the least, crawling along the tunnels all
dug with bayonets, knives, and a few wornout shovels. At some of these
angles the passer-by would be exposed, and in going from one opening
to another, only taking the fraction of a second to accomplish, a
bullet would come whizzing from some unseen source, either to the
right or left. As soon as one of these openings under a covered
way would be darkened by some one passing, away a bullet would come
singing in the aperture, generally striking the soldier passing
through. So annoying and dangerous had the practice become of shooting
in our works from an unseen source that a detail of ten or twenty men
was sent out under Lieutenant D.J. Griffith, of the Fifteenth, to
see if the concealed enemy might not be located and an end put to
the annoyance. Griffith and his men crept along cautiously in the
underbrush, while some of our men would wave a blanket across the
exposed places in the breastwork to draw the Federal fire, while
Griffith and his detail kept a sharp lookout. It was not long before
they discovered the hidden "Yank" perched in the top of a tall gum
tree, his rifle resting in the fork of a limb. Griffith got as close
as he well could without danger of being detected by some one under
the tree. When all was ready they sighted their rifles at the fellow
up the tree and waited his next fire. When it did come I expect
that Yankee and his comrades below were the worst surprised of any
throughout the war; for no sooner had his gun flashed than ten rifles
rang out in answer and the fellow fell headlong to the ground, a
distance of fifty feet or more. Beating the air with his hands and
feet, grasping at everything within sight or reach, his body rolling
and tumbling among the limbs of the tree, his head at times up, at
others down, till at last he strikes the earth, and with a terrible
rebound in the soft spongy needles Mr. "Yank" lies still, while
Griffith and his men take to their heels. It was not known positively
whether he was killed or not, but one thing Lieutenant Griffith and
his men were sure of--one Yankee, at least, had been given a long ride
in midair.

After Grant's repulse at Cold Harbor he gave up all hopes of reaching
Richmond by direct assault and began his memorable change of base.
Crossing the James River at night he undertook the capture of
Petersburg by surprise. It appears from contemporaneous history that
owing to some inexcusable blunders on our part Grant came very near
accomplishing his designs.

To better understand the campaign around Petersburg it is necessary to
take the reader back a little way. Simultaneous with Grant's advance
on the Rapidan an army of thirty thousand under the Union General
B.F. Butler was making its way up the James River and threatening
Petersburg. It was well known that Richmond would be no longer tenable
should the latter place fall. Beauregard was commanding all of North
Carolina and Virginia on the south side of the James River, but his
forces were so small and so widely scattered that they promised little
protection. When Lee and his veterans were holding back Grant and the
Union Army at the Wilderness, Brocks Cross Roads, and Spottsylvania
C.H., Beauregard with a handful of veterans and a few State troops was
"bottling up Butler" on the James. What Kershaw had been to Lee at the
Wilderness, McGowan at Spottsylvania, General Hagood was to General
Beauregard on the south side around Petersburg. General Beauregard
does not hesitate to acknowledge what obligations he was under to the
brave General Hagood and his gallant band of South Carolinians at the
most critical moments during the campaign, and it is unquestioned that
had not General Hagood come up at this opportune moment, Petersburg
would have fallen a year before it did.

General Beauregard fought some splendid battles on the south side, and
if they had not been overshadowed by the magnitude of Lee's from the
Wilderness to the James, they would have ranked in all probability
as among the greatest of the war. But from one cause and then another
during the whole campaign Beauregard was robbed of his legitimate
fruits of battle.

The low, swampy nature of the country below Richmond, especially
between the James and the Chickahominy, prevented Lee's scouts from
detecting the movements of Grant's Army for some days after the
movement began. Grant had established his headquarters at Wilcox's
Landing, on the James, and had all his forces in motion on the south
of the river by the 13th of June, while Lee was yet north of the

General Beauregard and the gallant troops under him deserve the
highest praise for their conduct in successfully giving Butler battle,
while Petersburg was in such imminent peril, and Lee still miles and
miles away. It is scarcely credible to believe with what small force
the plucky little Creole held back such an overwhelming army.

When Grant made his first crossing of the James and began the movement
against Petersburg, General Beauregard had only Wise's Brigade of
infantry, twenty-two pieces of artillery, two regiments of cavalry
under General Bearing, and a few regiments of local militia.

Grant had ordered the Eighteenth Corps (Smith's) by way of the White
House to Bermuda Hundreds, and this corps had crossed the narrow neck
of land between the James and the Appomattox, crossing the latter
river on a pontoon bridge, and was at the moment firing on Petersburg
with a force under his command of twenty-two thousand, with nothing
between General Smith and Petersburg but Beauregard's two thousand men
of all arms. Kant's Cavalry and one division of negro troops, under
Hinks, had joined their forces with Smith after coming to the south
side. Hancock's and Warren's Corps crossed the Chickahominy at Long
Bridge and the James at Wilcox's Landing, and with Grant at the head,
all were pushing on to Petersburg. Wright (Sixth) and Burnside (Ninth)
crossed by way of Jones' Bridge and the James and Appomattox on
pontoon bridges, pushing their way rapidly, as the nature of the
ground permitted, in the direction of Petersburg. Beauregard in the
meantime had been reinforced by his own troops, they having been
transferred temporarily to Lee, at Spottsylvania Court House.

Hoke's Division reached Petersburg at twelve o'clock, on the 15th of
June. Hagood's Brigade, of that division, being transported by rail
from the little town of Chester, reached the city about night. Bushrod
Johnson's Brigade was ordered up from Bermuda on the 16th. Beauregard
being thus reinforced, had ten thousand troops of all arms on the
morning of the 16th, with which to face Meade's Army, consisting
of Hancock's, Smith's, and Burnside's Corps, aggregating sixty-six
thousand men. Meade made desperate and continuous efforts to break
through this weak line of gray, but without effect Only one division
of Federals gained any permanent advantage. Warren, with four
divisions, now reinforced Meade, bringing the Federal Army up to
ninety thousand, with no help for Beauregard yet in sight. From noon
until late at night of the 17th the force of this entire column
was hurled against the Confederate lines, without any appreciable
advantage, with the exception of one division before alluded to. Lee
was still north of the James with his entire army, and undecided as
to Grant's future movements. He was yet in doubt whether Grant had
designs directly against the Capital, or was endeavoring to cut his
communications by the capture of Petersburg. Beauregard had kept
General Lee and the war department thoroughly advised of his peril
and of the overwhelming numbers in his front, but it was not until
midnight of the 17th that the Confederate commander determined to
change his base and cross to the south side of the James. It was at
that hour that Kershaw's Brigade received its orders to move at once.
For the last few days the army had been gradually working its way
towards the James River, and was now encamped near Rice's Station.
From the manner in which we were urged forward, it was evident that
our troops somewhere were in imminent peril. The march started as a
forced one, but before daylight it had gotten almost to a run. All the
regiments stood the great strain without flinching, with the exception
of the Twentieth. The "Old Twentieth Army Corps," as that regiment was
now called, could not stand what the old veterans did, and fell by the
way side. It was not for want of patriotism or courage, but simply a
want of seasoning. Fully half of the "Corps" fell out. When we reached
Petersburg, about sunrise, we found only Wise's Brigade and several
regiments of old men and boys, hastily gotten together to defend their
city, until the regulars came up. They had been fighting in the ranks,
these gray-beards and half-grown boys, for three days, and to their
credit be it said, "they weathered the storm" like their kinsmen in
Wise's Brigade, and showed as much courage and endurance as the best
of veterans. On the streets were ladies of every walk in life, some
waving banners and handkerchiefs, some clapping their hands and giving
words of cheer as the soldiers came by with their swinging step, their
clothes looking as if they had just swum the river. Were the ladies
refugeeing--getting out of harm's way? Not a bit of it. They looked
equally as determined and defiant as their brothers and fathers in
ranks--each and all seemed to envy the soldier his rifle. If Richmond
had become famous through the courage and loyalty of her daughters,
Petersburg was equally entitled to share the glories of her older
sister, Richmond.

Kershaw's Brigade relieved that of General Wise, taking position on
extreme right, resting its right on the Jerusalem plank road, and
extending towards the left over the hill and across open fields. Wise
had some hastily constructed works, with rifle pits in front. These
later had to be relieved under a heavy fire from the enemy's battle
line. As the other brigades of the division came up, they took
position on the left. Fields' Division and R.H. Anderson's, now of
this corps, did not come up for some hours yet. General Anderson, in
the absence of General Longstreet, commanded the corps as senior Major
General. Before our division lines were properly adjusted, Warren's
whole corps made a mad rush upon the works, now manned by a
thin skirmish line, and seemed determined to drive us from our
entrenchments by sheer weight of numbers. But Kershaw displayed no
inclination to yield, until the other portions of our corps came
upon the field. After some hours of stubborn fighting, and failing
to dislodge us, the enemy withdrew to strengthen and straighten their
lines and bring them more in harmony with ours. About four o'clock in
the afternoon Meade organized a strong column of assault, composed of
the Second, Fifth, and the Ninth Army Corps, and commanded in person,
holding one corps in reserve. The artillery of the four corps was put
in position, and a destructive fire was opened upon us by fifty pieces
of the best field artillery. The infantry then commenced the storming
of our works, but Field's Division had come up and was on the line.
General Lee had given strength to our position by his presence, coming
upon the field about eleven o'clock, and gave personal direction
to the movements of the troops. The battle raged furiously until
nightfall, but with no better results on the enemy's side than had
attended him for the last three days--a total repulse at every point.
By noon the next day Lee's whole force south of the James was within
the entrenched lines of the city, and all felt perfectly safe and
secure. Our casualties were light in comparison to the fighting
done during the day, but the enemy was not only defeated, but badly

Kershaw and Fields, of Lee's Army, with ten thousand under General
Beauregard, making a total of twenty thousand, successfully combatted
Grant's whole army, estimated by the Federals themselves as being
ninety thousand. These are some figures that might well be taken
in consideration when deeds of prowess and Southern valor are being
summed up.

Grant seemed determined to completely invest Petersburg on the south
side by continually pushing his lines farther to the left, lengthening
our lines and thereby weakening them. On the 21st of June the Second
and Sixth Corps of the Federal Army moved on to the west of the
Jerusalem plank road, while the Fifth was to take up position on the
east side. In the manoeuver, or by some misunderstanding, the Fifth
Corps became separated from those of the other divisions, thereby
leaving a gap of about a division intervening. General Lee seeing
this opportunity to strike the enemy a blow, and as A.P. Hill was then
coming up, he ordered him to push his force forward and attack the
enemy in flank. Moving his troops forward with that despatch that ever
attended the Third Corps of our army, it struck the enemy a stunning
blow in the flank and rear, driving them back in great disorder,
capturing several thousand prisoners and a battery or two of
artillery. The enemy continued to give way until they came upon their
strong entrenched position; then Hill retired and took his place on
the line. Again Grant started his cavalry out on raids to capture and
destroy the railroads leading into Petersburg and Richmond, the route
by which the entire army of Lee had to look for supplies. But at
Reams' Station Hampton met the larger body of the enemy's cavalry and
after a hard fought battle, in which he utterly routed the enemy, he
captured his entire wagon train and all his artillery. A short time
after this Grant sent Hancock, one of the ablest Generals in the
Federal Army, (a true, thorough gentleman, and as brave as the
bravest, and one whom the South in after years had the pleasure of
showing its gratitude and admiration for those qualities so rare in
many of the Federal commanders, by voting for him for President of
the United States) with a large body of cavalry to destroy the Weldon
Road at all hazard and to so possess it that its use to our army
would be at an end. After another hard battle, in which the enemy
lost five thousand men, Hancock succeeded in his mission and captured
and retained the road. The only link now between the capital and
the other sections of the South on which the subsistence of the army
depended was that by Danville, Va. This was a military road completed
by the government in anticipation of those very events that had now
transpired. Another road on which the government was bending all its
energies to complete, but failed for want of time, was a road running
from Columbia to Augusta, Ga. This was to be one of the main arteries
of the South in case Charleston should fail to hold out and the
junction of the roads at Branchville fall in the hands of the enemy.
Our lines of transportation, already somewhat circumscribed, were
beginning to grow less and less. Only one road leading South by way
of Danville, and should the road to Augusta, Ga., via Columbia and
Branchville, be cut the South or the Armies of the West and that of
the East would be isolated. As gloomy as our situation looked, there
was no want of confidence in the officers and the troops. The rank and
file of the South had never considered a condition of failure. They
felt their cause to be sacred, that they were fighting for rights and
principles for which all brave people will make every sacrifice to
maintain, that the bravery of a people like that which the South had
shown to the world, the spirits that animated them, the undaunted
courage by which the greatest battles had been fought and
victories gained against unprecedented numbers, all this under such
circumstances and under such leadership--the South could not fail.
Momentary losses, temporary reverses might prolong the struggle, but
to change the ultimate results, never. And at the North there
were loud and widespread murmurings, no longer confined to the
anti-abolitionist and pro slavery party, but it came from statesmen
the highest in the land, it came from the fathers and mothers whose
sons had fallen like autumn leaves from the Rapidan to the Appomattox.
The cries and wails of the thousands of orphans went up to high Heaven
pleading for those fathers who had left them to fill the unsatiate
maw of cruel, relentless war. The tears of thousands and thousands
of widows throughout the length and breadth of the Union fell like
scalding waters upon the souls of the men who were responsible for
this holocaust. Their voices and murmuring, though like Rachael's
"weeping for her children and would not be comforted," all this to
appease the Moloch of war and to gratify the ambition of fanatics.
The people, too, of the North, who had to bear all this burden, were
sorely pressed and afflicted at seeing their hard earned treasures or
hoarded wealth, the fruits of their labor, the result of their toil
of a lifetime, going to feed this army of over two millions of men, to
pay the bounties of thousands of mercenaries of the old countries and
the unwilling freedmen soldiers of the South. All this only to humble
a proud people and rob them of their inherent rights, bequeathed
to them by the ancestry of the North and South. How was it with
the South? Not a tear, not a murmur. The mothers, with that Spartan
spirit, buckled on the armor of their sons with pride and courage, and
with the Spartan injunction, bade them "come home with your shield, or
on it." The fathers, like the Scottish Chieftain, if he lost his first
born, would put forward his next, and say, "Another one for Hector."
Their storehouses, their barns, and graneries were thrown open,
and with lavish hands bade the soldiers come and take--come and buy
without money and without price. Even the poor docile slave, for whom
some would pretend these billions of treasure were given and oceans of
blood spilled, toiled on in peace and contentment, willing to make
any and every sacrifice, and toil day and night, for the interest and
advancement of his master's welfare. He was as proud of his master's
achievements, of our victories, and was even as willing to throw his
body in this bloody vortex as if the cause had been his own. The women
of the South, from the old and bending grandmothers, who sat in the
corner, with their needles flying steady and fast, to the aristocratic
and pampered daughter of wealth, toiled early and toiled late with
hands and bodies that never before knew or felt the effects of
work--all this that the soldier in the trenches might be clothed and
fed--not alone for members of their families, but for the soldiers
all, especially those who were strangers among us--those who had left
their homes beyond the Potomac and the Tennessee. The good housewife
stripped her household to send blankets and bedding to the needy
soldiers. The wheel and loom could be heard in almost every household
from the early morn until late at night going to give not comforts,
but necessities of life, to the boys in the trenches. All ranks were
leveled, and the South was as one band of brothers and sisters. All
formality and restraint were laid aside, and no such thing as stranger
known. The doors were thrown open to the soldiers wherever and
whenever they chose to enter; the board was always spread, and a ready
welcome extended. On the march, when homes were to be passed, or along
the sidewalks in cities, the ladies set the bread to baking and would
stand for hours in the doorway or at some convenient window to cut and
hand out slice after slice to the hungry soldiers as long as a loaf
was left or a soldier found.

With such a people to contend, with such heroes to face in the field,
was it any wonder that the North began to despair of ever conquering
the South? There was but one way by which the Northern leaders saw
possible to defeat such a nation of "hereditary madmen in war." It was
by continually wearing them away by attrition. Every man killed in the
South was one man nearer the end. It mattered not what the cost might
be--if two or a dozen soldiers fell, if a dozen households were put in
mourning, and widows and orphans were made by the score--the sacrifice
must be made and endured. The North had found in Grant a fit weapon
by which to give the blow--a man who could calmly see the slaughter
of thousands to gain an end, if by so doing the end in view could be
expedited. The absence of all feelings of humanity, the coolness
and indifference with which he looked upon his dead, his calmness
in viewing the slaughter as it was going on, gained for him the
appellation of "Grant, the Butcher." Grant saw, too, the odds and
obstacles with which he had to contend and overcome when he wrote
these memorable words, "Lee has robbed the cradle and the grave." Not
odds in numbers and materials, but in courage, in endurance, in the
sublime sacrifice the South was making in men and treasure. Scarcely
an able-bodied man in the South--nay, not one who could be of
service--who was not either in the trenches, in the ranks of the
soldiers, or working in some manner for the service. All from sixteen
to fifty were now in actual service, while all between fourteen and
sixteen and from fifty to sixty were guarding forts, railroads, or
Federal prisoners. These prisoners had been scattered all over the
South, and began to be unwieldy. The Federals under the policy of
beating the South by depleting their ranks without battle in the field
had long since refused the exchange of prisoners. They had, by offers
of enticing bounties, called from the shores of the Old Country
thousands of poor emigrants, who would enlist merely for the money
there was in it. Thousands and thousands of prisoners captured could
not speak a word of English. They had whole brigades of Irish and
Dutch, while the Swedes, Poles, Austrians, as well as Italians, were
scattered in the ranks throughout the army. In the capturing of a
batch of prisoners, to a stranger who would question them, it would
seem more like we were fighting the armies of Europe than our kinsmen
of the North. In fact, I believe if the real truth of it was known,
the greater part of the Federal Army in the closing days of the
Confederacy was either foreigners or sons of foreigners.

Were there ever before such people as those of the Southland? Were
there ever such patriotic fathers, such Christian mothers, such brave
and heroic sons and daughters? Does it look possible at this late day
that a cause so just and righteous could fail, with such men and women
to defend it? It is enough to cause the skeptic to smile at the faith
of those who believe in God's interference in human affairs and in the
efficacy of prayers. The cause of the South was just and right, and
no brave men would have submitted without first staking their all upon
the issue of cruel, bloody war. Impartial history will thus record the

* * * * *


In the Trenches Around Petersburg.

As soon as General Lee's Army was all up and his lines established, we
began to fortify in earnest. The breastworks that were built now were
of a different order to the temporary ones in the Wilderness and at
Cold Harbor. As it was known now that a regular siege had begun, our
breastworks were built proportionately strong. Our lines were moved to
the left to allow a battery to occupy the brow of a hill on our right,
Kershaw's Brigade occupying both slopes of the hills, a ravine cutting
it in two. Field pieces were mounted at intervals along the line with
the infantry, every angle covered by one or more cannon. The enemy
commenced shelling us from mortars from the very beginning of our
work, and kept it up night and day as long as we remained in the
trenches. The day after Kershaw took position Grant began pressing our
picket line and running his parallels nearer and nearer our works. It
was said that Grant won his laurels in the West with picks and shovels
instead of rifles and cannon, but here it looked as if he intended
to use both to an advantage. As soon as he had his lines located, he
opened a fusilade upon Petersburg, throwing shells into the city from
his long-ranged guns, without intermission. It was in the immediate
front of the right of the brigade and the battery on the hill that
the enemy's mine was laid that occasioned the "Battle of the Crater"
a month afterwards. Before we had finished our works, several night
assaults were made upon us, notably the one up the ravine that
separated the Second and Third on the night of the 21st of June. It
was easily repulsed, however, with little loss on our side, the enemy
firing too high. What annoyed the soldiers more than anything else was
the continual dropping of shells in our works or behind them. We could
hear the report of the mortars, and by watching overhead we could see
the shell descending, and no one could tell exactly where it was going
to strike and no chance for dodging. As every old soldier knows, card
playing was the national vice, if vice it could be called, and almost
all participated in it, but mostly for amusement, as the soldiers
scarcely ever had money to hazard at cards. While a quartet was
indulging in this pastime in the trenches, some one yelled, "Lookout,
there comes a shell!" Looking up the disciples of the "Ten Spots" saw
a shell coming down right over their heads. Nothing could be done but
to stretch themselves at full length and await developments. They were
not long in suspense, for the shell dropped right upon the oilcloth on
which they had been playing. There it lay sizzling and spluttering as
the fuse burned lower and lower, the men holding their breath all the
while, the other troops scattering right and left. The thing could not
last; the tension broke, when one of the card-players seized the shell
in his hands and threw it out of the works; just before exploding. It
was the belief in the brigade that those men did not play cards again
for more than thirty days.

Another annoyance was the enemy's sharpshooters, armed with
globe-sighted rifles. These guns had a telescope on top of the barrel,
and objects at a distance could be distinctly seen. Brush screened
their rifle pits, and while they could see plainly any object above
our works, we could not see them. A head uncautiously raised above the
line, would be sure to get a bullet in or near it.

About one hundred yards in our rear, up the ravine, was a good
spring of water. The men could reach this in safety by going down the
breastworks in a stooping posture, then up the ravine to the spring.
A recruit in the Second Regiment had gone to this spring and was
returning. When about twenty paces from the works he undertook,
through a spirit of adventure; or to save a few steps, to run
diagonally across the field to his regiment. It was his last. When
about midway he was caught by a bullet from the enemy's picket, and
only lived long enough to call out, "Oh, mother!" Many lost their
lives here by recklessness or want of caution.

After remaining in the trenches about two weeks, Kershaw's Brigade was
relieved by a part of Hoke's Division and retired to some vacant lots
in the city in good supporting distance of the front line. We were
not out of reach of the shells by any means; they kept up a continual
screaming overhead, bursting in the city. The soldiers got passes
to visit the town on little shopping excursions, notwithstanding
the continual bursting of the shells in the city. The citizens of
Petersburg, white and black, women and children, like the citizens of
Charleston, soon became accustomed to the shelling, and as long as one
did not drop in their immediate vicinity, little attention was paid to
it. One night after a furious bombardment the cry was heard, "The city
is on fire; the city is on fire." A lurid glare shot up out of the
very heart of the city, casting a dim light over the buildings and the
camps near about. Fire bells began ringing, and the old men rushing
like mad to fight the fire. As soon as the enemy discovered that the
city was on fire, they concentrated all their efforts to the burning
buildings. Shells came shrieking from every elevated position on the
enemy's lines, and fell like "showers of meteors on a frolic." Higher
and higher the flames rose until great molten-like tongues seemed to
lick the very clouds. The old men mounted the ladder like boys, and
soon the tops of the surrounding buildings were lined with determined
spirits, and the battle against the flames began in earnest. We could
see their forms against the dark back-ground, running hither and
thither, fighting with all the power and energy of the brave and
fearless men they were. They paid no heed to the screaming, shrieking,
bursting shells all around, but battled bravely to save the city.
After the burning of several contiguous buildings, the flames were
gotten under control, and eventually the fire was extinguished. I have
seen many battles, but never more heroism displayed than by the old
citizens and boys that night in Petersburg. The soldiers were not
allowed to leave their camp, and all the citizens of military age
were away in the army, so the old men and boys had to fight this fire
single-handed and alone, and amid a perfect storm of shot and shell.

Grant had been daily reinforced by recruits and forces from the West.
Butler had received a large reinforcement from Banks, on the lower
Mississippi, and was gradually working his way up to Richmond. A great
number of these troops, to judge from the prisoners we captured,
were foreigners; many could not speak a word of English. Kershaw was
ordered to reinforce the troops on the north side, and on the 13th of
July we crossed the James on a pontoon bridge, near Chaffin's Bluff,
after an all night's march over brush, briars, through field and bog,
and took position on a high ridge running out from the river. In front
of us was a vast swamp of heavy timber and underbrush, called Deep
Bottom. Beyond Deep Bottom the enemy had approached and entrenched,
being supported by gun boats in the James. This position it was
determined to surprise and take by assault. Early at night the brigade
was moved out in this swamp, along a dull road that ran along its
edge, and advanced in the direction of the enemy. No attempt of
assault, was ever more dreaded or looked on with such apprehension,
save, perhaps, our charge on the works at Knoxville, than this night
charge at Deep Bottom. When near the enemy's position, we formed line
of battle, while it was so dark in the dense woods that an object ten
feet away could not be distinguished. We had to take and give commands
in whispers, for fear the enemy would discover our presence. We moved
forward gradually, a few steps at a time, each step a little nearer
the enemy, who lay asleep behind their works. We had advanced,
perhaps, two hundred yards, and as yet had encountered none of the
enemy's pickets or videttes, showing how securely they felt in regard
to a night attack. While halting to adjust our lines, which had to
be done every few paces, Colonel Rutherford and myself were
reconnoitering in front, and discovered a white object a few feet
away. The men saw it, too, and thought it a sheep. The Colonel
advanced and gave it a slight jab with his sword. In a moment a white
blanket was thrown off, and there lay, as nicely coiled up as little
pigs, two of the Yankee sentinels. They threw up their hands in a
dazed kind of way, and to our whispered threats and uplifted
swords, uttered some unintelligible jargon. We soon saw they did
not understand a word of English. So it was we captured almost
their entire picket line, composed of foreigners of Banks' Army, of
Louisiana. Just then, on our right, whether from friend or foe, I
never learned, several discharges of rifles alarmed both armies. It
was too late then to practice secrecy, so the command "charge" was
given. With a tremendous yell, we dashed through the tangled, matted
mass of undergrowth, on towards the enemy's line. Aroused thus
suddenly from their sleep, they made no other resistance than to fire
a few shots over our head, leaving the breastworks in haste. Some lay
still, others ran a few rods in the rear, and remained until captured,
while the greater part scampered away towards their gun boats.

Colonel Henagan, of the Eighth, being in command of the brigade,
ordered breastworks to be thrown up on the opposite side of an old
road, in which the enemy lay and which they had partly fortified. The
next day, about 3 o'clock, the enemy opened upon us a heavy fusilade
with their siege mortars and guns from their gun boats and ironclads
in the James. These were three hundred-pounders, guns we had never
before been accustomed to. Great trees a foot and a half in diameter
were snapped off like pipe-stems. The peculiar frying noise made in
going through the air and their enormous size caused the troops
to give them the name of "camp kettles." They passed through our
earthworks like going through mole hills. The enemy advanced in line
of battle, and a considerable battle ensued, but we were holding our
own, when some watchers that Colonel Henagan had ordered in the tops
of tall trees to watch the progress of the enemy, gave the warning
that a large body of cavalry was advancing around our left and was
gaining our rear. Colonel Henagan gave the command "retreat," but the
great "camp kettles" coming with such rapidity and regularity, our
retreat through this wilderness of shrubbery and tangled undergrowth
would have ended in a rout had not our retreat been impeded by this
swamp morass. We reached the fortification, however, on the bluff, the
enemy being well satisfied with our evacuation of the position so near
their camp.

The brigade, with the exception of marching and counter-marching,
relieving other troops and being relieved, did no further service than
occupying the lines until the 6th of August. The brigade boarded the
train on that day at Chester for destination at that time unknown.

About the first of July the enemy, commanded by General Burnside,
undertook to blow up a portion of our lines by tunneling under the
works at a convenient point suitable for assault, and attempted to
take our troops by surprise. The point selected was that portion of
the line first held by Kershaw's Brigade, near Cemetery Hill, and in
front of Taylor's Creek, near Petersburg. The continual night assaults
on us at that point and the steady advance of their lines were to gain
as much distance as possible. From the base of the hill at Taylor's
Creek they began digging a tunnel one hundred and seventy yards long,
and at its terminus were two laterals, dug in a concave towards our
works, of thirty-seven feet each. In these laterals were placed eight
hundred pounds of powder, with fuse by which all could be exploded at

General Beauregard, who commanded at this point, had been apprised of
this undertaking, and at first had sunk counter-mines. But this was
abandoned, and preparations were made to meet the emergency with arms.
At this point and near the "Crater," as it was afterwards called,
were stationed Colquit's (Ga.), Gracie's (Ala.), and Elliott's (S.C.)
Brigades. Elliott's was posted immediately over it with Pegram's
Battery. Rear lines had been established by which the troops could
take cover, and reinforcements kept under arms night and day, so that
when the explosion did take place, it would find the Confederates
prepared. Batteries were placed at convenient places to bear upon the
line and the place of explosion.

On the morning of the 30th of July, everything being in readiness,
the fuse was placed, and at 3.30 o'clock the light was applied. Before
this terrible "Crater," soon to be a hollocu of human beings,
were massed Ledlie's, Potter's, Wilcox's, and Ferrero's Divisions,
supported by Ames'. In the front was Ferrero's Division of negro
troops, drunk and reeling from the effects of liquor furnished them by
the wagon loads. This body of twenty-three thousand men were all under
the immediate command of Major General Ord. On the left of Burnside,
Warren concentrated ten thousand men, while the Eighteenth Corps, with
that many more, were in the rear to aid and support the movement--the
whole being forty-three thousand men, with eight thousand pounds
of gun-powder to first spring the mine. General Sheridan, with his
cavalry, was to make a demonstration in our front and against the
roads leading to Petersburg. Hancock, too, was to take a part, if all
things proved successful--fifty thousand men were to make a bold dash
for the capture of the city. Immediately over the mine was Elliott's
Brigade, consisting of the Seventeenth, Twenty-sixth, Twenty-third,
Twenty-second, and Eighteenth South Carolina Regiments. At 3.30
o'clock the fuse was lighted, and while the Confederates, all
unconscious of the impending danger, lay asleep, this grand
aggregation of men of Grant's Army waited with bated breath and
anxious eye the fearful explosion that eight thousand pounds of
powder, under a great hill, were to make. Time went on, seconds into
minutes. The nerves of the assaulters were, no doubt, at extreme
tension. Four o'clock came, still all was still and silent. The
Federal commanders held their watches in hand and watched the tiny
steel hands tick the seconds away. The streaks of day came peeping up
over the hills and cast shadows high overhead. The fuse had failed! A
call was made for a volunteer to go down into the mine and relight the
fuse. A Lieutenant and Sergeant bravely step forward and offered to
undertake the perilous mission. They reach the mouth of the tunnel
and peer in. All was dark, silent, sombre, and still. Along they grope
their way with a small lantern in their hands. They reach the barrel
of powder placed at the junction of the main and the laterals. The
fuse had ceased to burn. Hurriedly they pass along to the other
barrels. Expecting every moment to be brown into space, they find all
as the first, out. The thousands massed near the entrance and along
Taylor's Creek, watched with fevered excitement the return of the
brave men who had thus placed their lives in such jeopardy for a cause
they, perhaps, felt no interest. Quickly they placed new fuse, lit
them, and quickly left the gruesome pit. Scarcely had they reached
a place of safety than an explosion like a volcano shook the earth,
while the country round about was lit up with a great flash. The earth
trembled and swayed--great heaps of earth went flying in the air,
carrying with it men, guns, and ammunition. Cannon and carriages were
scattered in every direction, while the sleeping men were thrown high
in the air.

But here I will allow Colonel F.W. McMaster, an eye witness, who
commanded Elliott's Brigade after the fall of that General, to tell
the story of the "Battle of the Crater" in his own words. I copy
his account, by permission, from an article published in one of the
newspapers of the State.


In order to understand an account of the battle of the "Crater," a
short sketch of our fortifications should be given.

Elliott's Brigade extended from a little branch that separated it
from Ransom's Brigade on the north, ran three hundred and fifty yards,
joining Wise's Brigade on the south. Captain Pegram's Virginia Battery
had four guns arranged in a half circle on the top of the hill, and
was separated from the Eighteenth and Twenty-second South Carolina
Regiments by a bank called trench cavalier.

The Federal lines ran parallel to the Confederate. The nearest point
of Pegram's Battery to the Federal lines was eighty yards; the rest
of the lines was about two hundred yards apart. The line called gorge
line was immediately behind the battery, and was the general passage
for the troops. The embankment called trench cavalier was immediately
in rear of the artillery and was constructed for the infantry in case
the battery should be taken by a successful assault.

The general line for the infantry, which has been spoken of as
a wonderful feat of engineering, was constructed under peculiar
circumstances. Beauregard had been driven from the original lines made
for the defense of Petersburg, and apprehensive that the enemy, which
numbered ten to one, would get into the city, directed his engineer,
Colonel Harris, to stake a new line. This place was reached by General
Hancock's troops at dark on the third day's fighting, and our men were
ordered to make a breastwork. Fortifications without spades or shovels
was rather a difficult feat to perform, but our noble soldiers went
to work with bayonets and tin cups, and in one night threw up a bank
three feet high--high enough to cause Hancock to delay his attack.
In the next ten days' time the ditches were enlarged until they were
eight feet high and eight feet wide, with a banquette of eighteen
inches high from which the soldiers could shoot over the breastwork.

Five or six traverses were built perpendicularly from the main trench
to the rear, so as to protect Pegram's guns from the enfilading fire
of the big guns on the Federal lines a mile to the north. Besides
these traverses there were narrow ditches five or six feet deep which
led to the sinks.

The only safe way to Petersburg, a mile off, was to go down to the
spring branch which passed under our lines at the foot of the hill,
then go to the left through the covered way to Petersburg, or to
take the covered way which was half way down the hill to Elliott's

At this point a ravine or more properly a swale ran up the hill
parallel to our breastworks. It was near Elliott's headquarters where
Mahone's troops went in from the covered way and formed in battle

The soldiers slept in the main trench. At times of heavy rains the
lower part of the trench ran a foot deep in water. The officers slept
in burrows dug in the sides of the rear ditches. There were traverses,
narrow ditches, cross ditches and a few mounds over officers' dens,
so that there is no wonder that one of the Federal officers said the
quarters reminded him of the catacombs of Rome.

An ordinary mortal would not select such a place for a three mouths'
summer residence.

About ten days after the battle, and while I was acting Brigadier
General and occupying General Elliott's headquarters, a distinguished
Major General visited me and requested me to go over the lines with
him. I gladly complied with the request. He asked me where the men
rested at night. I pointed out the floor of the ditch. He said, "But
where do the officers sleep?" We happened then to be in the narrow
ditch in front of my quarters, and I pointed it out to him. He
replied, in language not altogether suitable for a Sunday School
teacher, that he would desert before he would submit to such

* * * * *


The explosion took place at 4.45 A.M. The "Crater" made by eight
thousand pounds of gun powder was one hundred and thirty-five feet
long, ninety-seven feet broad and thirty feet deep. Two hundred and
seventy-eight men were buried in the debris--Eighteenth Regiment,
eighty-two; Twenty-second, one hundred and seventy, and Pegram's
Battery, twenty-two men.

To add to the terror of the scene the enemy with one hundred and
sixty-four cannon and mortars began a bombardment much greater than
Fort Sumter or battery were ever subjected to. Elliott's Brigade near
the "Crater" was panic stricken, and more than one hundred men of the
Eighteenth Regiment covered with dirt rushed down. Two or three noble
soldiers asked me for muskets. Some climbed the counterscarpe and
made their way for Petersburg. Numbers of the Seventeenth joined the
procession. I saw one soldier scratching at the counterscape of the
ditch like a scared cat. A staunch Lieutenant of Company E. without
hat or coat or shoes ran for dear life way down into Ransom's
trenches. When he came to consciousness he cried out, "What! old Morse
running!" and immediately returned to his place in line.

The same consternation existed in the Federal line. As they saw the
masses descending they broke ranks, and it took a few minutes to
restore order.

* * * * *


About fifteen minutes after the explosion General Ledlie's Corps
advanced in line. The cheval-de-frise was destroyed for fifty yards.
Soon after General Wilcox's Corps came in line and bore to Ledlie's
left. Then Potter's Corps followed by flanks and was ordered to the
right of Ledlie's troops.

The pall of smoke was so great that we could not see the enemy until
they were in a few feet of our works, and a lively fusillade was
opened by the Seventeenth Regiment on the north side of the "Crater."
I saw Starling Hutto, of Company H, a boy of sixteen, on the top of
the breastworks, firing his musket at the enemy a few yards off with
the coolness of a veteran. As soon as I reached him I dragged him down
by his coat tail and ordered him to shoot from the banquette. On
the south of the "Crater" a few men under Major Shield, of the
Twenty-second, and Captain R.E. White, with the Twenty-third Regiment,
had a hot time in repelling the enemy.

Adjutant Sims and Captain Floyd, of the Eighteenth Regiment, with
about thirty men, were cut off in the gorge line. They held the line
for a few minutes. Adjutant Sims was killed and Captain Floyd and his
men fell back into some of the cross ditches and took their chances
with the Seventeenth.

It was half an hour before the Federals filled the "Crater," the gorge
line and a small space of the northern part of the works not injured
by the explosion. All this time the Federals rarely shot a gun on the
north of the "Crater."

Major J.C. Coit, who commanded Wright's Battery and Pegram's battery,
had come up to look after the condition of the latter. He concluded
that two officers and twenty men were destroyed. Subsequently he
discovered that one man had gone to the spring before the explosion,
that four men were saved by a casemate and captured.

Colonel Coit says he took twenty-five minutes to come from his
quarters and go to Wright's Battery, and thinks it was the first gun
shot on the Federal side. Testimony taken in the court of inquiry
indicate the time at 5.30 A.M.

* * * * *


General Stephen Elliott, the hero of Fort Sumter, a fine gentleman and
a superb officer, came up soon after the explosion. He was dressed in
a new uniform, and looked like a game cock. He surveyed the scene for
a few minutes; he disappeared and in a short time he came up to me
accompanied by Colonel A.R. Smith, of the Twenty-sixth, with a few
men, who were working their way through the crowd. He said to me:
"Colonel, I'm going to charge those Yankees out of the 'Crater'; you
follow Smith with your regiment."

He immediately climbed the counter scrape. The gallant Smith followed,
and about half a dozen men followed. And in less than five minutes he
was shot from the "Crater" through his shoulder. I believe it was the
first ball shot that day from the northern side of the "Crater."
He was immediately pulled down into the ditch, and with the utmost
coolness, and no exhibition of pain turned the command over to me, the
next ranking officer. Colonels Benbow and Wallace were both absent on

I immediately ordered John Phillips, a brave soldier of Company I, to
go around the "Crater" to inform the commanding officer of the serious
wounding of General Elliott, and to inquire as to the condition of the
brigade on the south side. Major Shield replied that Colonel Fleming
and Adjutant Quattlebaum, with more than half the Twenty-second,
were buried up, but with the remainder of his men and with the
Twenty-third, under Captain White, and a part of Wise's Brigade we had
driven the Yankees back, and intended to keep them back.

Being satisfied that the object of the mine was to make a gap in
our line by which General Meade could rush his troops to the rear, I
ordered Colonel Smith to take his Regiment, and Captain Crawford with
three of my largest Companies, Companies K, E and B, containing nearly
as many men as Smith's, to proceed by Elliott's headquarters up the
ravine to a place immediately in rear of the "Crater"--to make the men
lie down--and if the enemy attempted to rush down to resist them to
the last extremity. This was near 6 o'clock A.M., and the enemy had
not made any advance on the North side of the "Crater."

By this time the "Crater" was packed with men. I counted fourteen
beautiful banners. I saw four or five officers waiving swords and
pointing towards Petersburg, and I supposed they were preparing for a
charge to the crest of the hill.

* * * * *


The line and strength of the Brigade from left to right was as

Twenty-sixth Regiment, two hundred and fifty men;
Seventeenth, four hundred;
Eighteenth, three hundred and fifty;
Twenty-second, three hundred;
Twenty-third, two hundred.

In all one thousand and five hundred men, a full estimate.

* * * * *


The first severe attack of the enemy was on the South of the "Crater,"
which was defended by a part of the Twenty-second under Major Shedd,
and Benbow's Twenty-third under Captain White. The enemy attacked with
fury. Our men fought nobly, but were driven down their ditch. Wise's
Brigade then joined in, and our men rushed back and recovered the
lost space. About this time they shot Colonel Wright, leading the
Thirteenth Minnesota regiment, and then the Federals slacked their
efforts and bore to their right, and multitudes of them climbed the
"Crater" and went to the rear of it and filled the gorge line and
every vacant space on the North side. No serious aggressive attack
was made on the Twenty-third Regiment during the rest of the day. The
principal reason I suppose was the direct line to Cemetery Hill was
through the Seventeenth Regiment. Every Federal officer was directed
over and over again to rush to the crest of the hill.

* * * * *


The Federals being checked on the South of the "Crater" charged
Company A, the extreme right Company, next to the "Crater." Captain
W.H. Edwards was absent sick, and a few of the men were covered with
dirt by the explosion and were consequently demoralized. Private
Hoke was ordered to surrender--declared he never would surrender to a
Yankee. He clubbed his musket and knocked down four of his assailants,
and was bayoneted. There were five men killed in Company A. Company
F was the next attacked, and private John Caldwell shot one man and
brained two with the butt of his musket. Lieutenant Samuel Lowry, a
fine young man of twenty years, and four privates were killed. Company
D surrendered in a traverse, and twenty-seven men were killed. Had the
splendid Lieutenant W.G. Stevenson been present the result would have
been different. Fourteen out of twenty-seven of these men died in
prison of scurvy at Elmira, N.Y. Private J.S. Hogan, of Company D,
leaped the traverse. He joined in Mahone's charge, and after the fight
was sickened by the carnage; went to the spring to revive himself,
then went into the charge under General Sanders. After the battle he
procured enough coffee and sugar to last him a month. This young rebel
seemed to have a furor for fighting and robbing Yankees. At the battle
of Fort Steadman he manned a cannon which was turned on the enemy, and
in the retreat from Petersburg he was in every battle. He was always
on the picket line, by choice, where he could kill, wound or capture
the enemy. He feasted well while the other soldiers fed on parched
corn, and surrendered at Appomattox with his haversack filled with

Company C, the next Company, had fourteen men killed. Its Captain,
William Dunovant, was only eighteen years of age, and as fine a
Captain as was in Lee's Army. lieutenant C. Pratt, a fine officer not
more than twenty-five years old, was killed. The command devolved on
Sergeant T.J. LaMotte. G and H had two each; I, three; K, five; and B,
one; F, five.

The Federals had the advantage over the Seventeenth because there were
some elevated points near the "Crater" they could shoot from. After
being driven down about fifty yards there was an angle in the ditch,
and Sergeant LaMotte built a barricade, which stopped the advance.
A good part of the fighting was done by two men on each side at a
time--the rest being cut off from view.

* * * * *


About 6:30 I went down a narrow ditch to see if Smith and his men
were properly located to keep the enemy from going down to the ravine
before I got back. I saw there was a vacant space in our trench. I
hustled in and saw two muskets poked around an angle, as I got in
the muskets were fired and harmlessly imbedded the balls in the
breastworks. I immediately concluded that it was not very safe for the
commander being on the extreme right of his men and went lower down.
In a short time I again went in a ditch a little lower down the hill,
anxious about the weak point on our line. I was smoking a pipe with a
long tie-tie stem. As I returned I observed a rush down the line. As
I got in the ditch the bowl of the pipe was knocked off. A big brawny
fellow cried out, "Hold on men! the Colonel can't fight without his
pipe!" He wheeled around, stopped the men until he picked up the bowl
and restored it to me. I wish I knew the name of this kind-hearted old

The principal fighting was done by the head of the column. A few game
fellows attempted to cross the breastworks. A Captain Sims and a negro
officer were bayoneted close together on our breastworks, but hundreds
of the enemy for hours stuck like glue to our outer bank.

* * * * *


The sun was oppressively hot. There was very little musketry, the
cannonading had closed; it was after 7 o'clock, and the soldiers on
both sides, as there was not much shooting going on, seemed to resort
to devices to pass the time. I saw Captain Steele throwing bayonets
over a traverse. I saw Lamotte on one knee on the ground, and asked
what he was doing. He whispered, "I'm trying to get the drop on a
fellow on the other side." They would throw clods of clay at each
other over the bank. As an Irishman threw over a lump of clay I
heard him say, "Tak thart, Johnny." We all wished that Beauregard had
supplied us with hand grenades, for the battle had simmered down to a
little row in the trenches.

* * * * *


At 8.10 A.M. Ferrero's four thousand three hundred negroes rushed
over and reached the right flank of the Seventeenth. This horde of
barbarians added greatly to the thousands of white men that packed
themselves to the safe side of the breastworks. Thousands rushed down
the hill side. Ransom's Twenty-sixth and Twenty-fifth Regiments were
crazy to get hold of the negroes. "Niggers" had been scarce around
there during the morning, now they were packed in an acre of ground
and in close range. The firing was great all down the hill side, but
when it got down to the branch the musketry was terrific, and Wright's
Battery two hundred yards off poured in its shells. About half past
8 o'clock, at the height of the battle, there was a landslide amongst
the negroes. Colonel Carr says two thousand negroes rushed back and
lifted him from his feet and swept him to the rear. General Delavan
Bates, who was shot through the face, said at that time that Ransom's
Brigade was reported to occupy those lines.

When the battle was at its highest the Seventeenth was forced down
its line about thirty yards. Lieutenant Colonel Fleming, of Ransom's
Forty-ninth Regiment, came up to me and pointed out a good place to
build another barricade. I requested him to build it with his own men,
as mine were almost exhausted by the labors of the day. He cheerfully
assented, stepped on a banquette to get around me, and was shot in the
neck and dropped at my feet.

At this moment of time an aide of General Bushrod Johnson told me
that the General requested me to come out to Elliott's headquarters. I
immediately proceeded to the place, and General Mahone came up. I was
introduced to him, and suggested to him when his men came in to form
them on Smith's men who were lying down in the ravine. A few minutes
afterwards, by order of General Johnson, Captain Steele brought out
the remnant of the Seventeenth Regiment, and they marched in the
ravine back of Mahone's men.

* * * * *


By this time General Mahone's Brigade of Virginians, eight hundred men
strong, was coming in one by one, and were formed a few steps to the
left and a little in advance of Smith's and Crawford's men. I was
standing with General Johnson, close to Elliott's headquarters, and
could see everything that transpired in the ravine. It took Mahone so
long to arrange his men I was apprehensive that the enemy would make a
charge before he was ready. A few Federal officers began to climb out
of the main ditch until they numbered perhaps twenty-five men. General
Mahone was on the extreme right it seemed to me busy with some men--I
have heard since they were some Georgians. Captain Girardey had gone
to Colonel Weisinger, who was worried with the delay, and told him
General Mahone was anxious to take some of the Georgians with him. But
the threatening attitude of the enemy precipitated the charge.

The noble old Roman, Colonel Weisinger, cried out "Forward!" and eight
hundred brave Virginians sprung to their feet and rushed two hundred
yards up the hill. It had not the precision of a West Point drill, but
it exhibited the pluck of Grecians at Thermopylae. The men disappeared
irregularly as they reached the numerous ditches that led to the main
ditch until all were hid from view. The firing was not very great for
the bayonet and butt of the muskets did more damage than the barrel.
If any one desires a graphic description of a hand to hand fight I beg
him to read the graphic detailed account given by Mr. Bernard in his
"War Talks of Confederate Veterans."

In a few minutes the enemy in the ditches up to fifty yards of the
"Crater" were killed or captured. The whole battlefield of three acres
of ground became suddenly quiet comparatively.

Mahone in an hour's time sent in the Georgia Brigade, under General
Wright. There was such a heavy fire from the "Crater" the brigade was
forced to oblique to the left and banked on Mahone's men. In a few
minutes after they landed at the foot of the "Crater" in their second

Sanders' Alabama Brigade came up at this time. Besides his Alabamians
were Elliott's Brigade and Clingman's Sixty-first North Carolina.
The charge was made about one o'clock P.M., and the Federal artillery
poured all its fire on the "Crater" for some minutes, slaughtering
many of their own men. At this charge Lieutenant Colonel Gulp, who was
absent at the explosion, being a member of a courtmartial, came up and
took charge of the Seventeenth in the ravine, where Captain Steele had
them. In the charge of the "Crater" under Sanders were Colonel
Gulp, Colonel Smith and Lieutenant Colonel J.H. Hudson with the
Twenty-sixth, and a large number of privates, especially from the
Seventeenth Regiment, which also had a good many in Mahone's charge.

A good many of the Twenty-third joined in the charge, and Private W.H.
Dunlap, Company C, Twenty-third Regiment, now of Columbia, was the
first man who got in the "Crater" on the south side.

While the men were piled up around the "Crater" Adjutant Fant heard
some Alabama soldiers picking out the fine banners within, and he was
lucky to get two of them. He laid them down, and in a minute they were
spirited away.

A little incident recited by Honorable George Clark Sanders, Adjutant
General, illustrates how true politeness smoothes the wrinkled brow of
war. He says that he saw a fine looking Federal officer making his
way out of the "Crater" with much pain, using two reversed muskets for
crutches, seeing one leg was shot off. He said I'm very sorry to
see you in so much pain. The soldier replied the pain occurred at
Spottsylvania a year ago. This is a wooden leg shot off to-day--then
gave his name as General Bartlett, but Colonel Sanders kindly helped
him out.

The horrors of war are sometimes relieved with incidents which amuse
us. Adjutant Fant tells an amusing incident of Joe Free, a member of
Company B. The Adjutant had gone In the afternoon to the wagon yard
to be refreshed after the labors of the day. There was a group of men
reciting incidents. The Adjutant overheard Free say He had gone into
an officer's den for a few minutes to shade his head from the heat of
the sun, as he was suffering from an intense headache, and as he began
to creep out he saw the trench full of negroes. He dodged back again.
Joe says he was scared almost to death, and that he "prayed until
great drops of sweat poured down my face." The Adjutant knew that his
education was defective and said, "What did you say, Joe?" "I said
Lord have mercy on me! and keep them damned niggers from killing me!"

It was an earnest and effective prayer, for Mahone's men in an hour
afterwards released him.

In a recent letter received from Captain E.A. Crawford, he says the
enemy formed three times to charge, but we gave them a well directed
volley each time and sent them into the rear line in our trench. When
Mahone came in and formed my three companies charged with him.
Colonel Smith told me they charged four times. Cusack Moore, a very
intelligent private of Company K, said they charged five times. After
the charge Captain Crawford requested General Mahone to give him
permission to report to his regiment, and he ordered him to report to
General Sanders, and he joined in that charge with his men. Company
K had fifty-three men, Captain Cherry; Company E, forty, and Captain
Burley, Company B, twenty-five; in all, one hundred and eighteen men.

Lieutenant Colonel Culp was a member of a military court doing duty in
Petersburg at the time of the explosion, and could not get back until
he reported to me at Elliott's headquarters. I made some extracts from
his letter recently received: "I recollect well that in the charge
(the final one) which we made that model soldier and Christian
gentleman, Sergeant Williams, of Company K, was killed, and that one
of the Crowders, of Company B, was killed in elbow touch of me after
we got into the works. These casualties, I think, well established the
fact that Companies K and B were with me in the charge, and, as far
as I know now, at least a portion of all the companies were with me.
I recollect that poor Fant was with as very distinctly, and that
he rendered very efficient service after we got to the 'Crater' in
ferreting out hidden Federals, who had taken shelter there, and who,
for the most part, seemed very loath to leave their biding places. I
feel quite confident that Capt. Crawford was also there, but there is
nothing that I can recall at this late day to fasten the fact of his
presence on my mind, except that he was always ready for duty, however
perilous it might be, and I am sure his company was there, in part at
least. So, too, this will apply to all of the officers of our regiment
whose duty it was to be there on that occasion, and who were not
unavoidably kept away. In the charge that we made we were to be
supported by the Sixty-first North Carolina. They were on our left,
and I suppose entered the works entirely to the left of the 'Crater,'
for I am sure that our regiment, small as it was, covered the
'Crater,' and when I reached the old line with my command we found
ourselves in the very midst of the old fort, which, I may say, had
been blown to atoms in the early morning. When we arrived the Federals
began, in some instances, to surrender to us voluntarily, others, as
before intimated, had to be pulled out of their hiding places. And
with these prisoners we captured quite a number of colors, probably
as many as a dozen, certainly not less than eight or ten. I was so
occupied in trying to clear the trenches of the enemy that I gave no
attention to these colors after they fell into the hands of our men,
and afterwards learned, to my sorrow, that they had fallen into hands
which were not entitled to them. Suffice it to say that few, if any
of them, could be found. After perfect quiet had been restored, and we
were thus robbed of these significant trophies of our triumph at which
we felt quite a keen disappointment, it is pleasing to me to say that
I think that every man of our regiment who was present acted his part
nobly in the performance of the hazardous duty assigned us on that
memorable occasion. You gave me the order to make the final charge
already referred to."

* * * * *


The Confederates only had twenty-six cannon, and only three of them
were conspicuous. The Federals had one hundred and sixty-four cannon
and mortars. They fired five thousand and seventy-five rounds. They
had only one man killed and two wounded.

General Hunt and others spoke slightingly of our guns, with two
exceptions, Wright's Battery and Davenport's, which is mentioned
as the two-gun battery. General Hunt the day before had accurately
prepared to silence all these guns, except the Davenport Battery.
General Hunt said he expected a company of infantry would take us
in fifteen minutes after Pegram's Battery was gone. But the Wright
Battery was a complete surprise. It was constructed just behind
Ransom's Brigade, about one hundred yards. General Hunt never could
locate the place, and shot at short range above five hundred shells
doing no damage, but honeycombing the surrounding ground.

Wright's Battery was in five hundred yards of the "Crater," and
Colonel Coit informed me he shot about six hundred rounds of shell and
shrapnel at short range.

In my opinion it did more damage than all our guns put together. Its
concealed location gave it a great advantage overall other guns.

Davidson's Battery had only one gun, which only could shoot in one
line. But it created more anxiety amongst the enemy than any other.
The infantry officers constantly alluded to its destructive power,
and they dug a trench to guard against its fire. Major Hampton Gibbes
commanded it until he was wounded, and then Captain D.N. Walker for
the rest of the day did his duty nobly, and no doubt killed many
Federals. General Warren was ordered to capture this gun about 8.30,
but at 8.45 he was ordered to do nothing "but reconnoitre." This was
before Mahone came up.

The most interesting of our guns were the two coehorns of Major John
C. Haskell, because all of his shells were emptied into the "Crater,"
which was packed with men. General Mahone says: "In the meantime
Colonel Haskell, a brilliant officer of our artillery, hunting a place
where he could strike a blow at our adversary, presented himself for
any service which I could advise. There were two coehorn mortars in
the depression already referred to, and I suggested to him that he
could serve them. I would have them taken up to the outside of the
'Crater,' at which place he could employ himself until one o'clock,
as perhaps no such opportunity had ever occurred or would be likely
to occur for effective employment of these little implements of war.
Colonel Haskell adopted the suggestion, and the mortars being removed
to a ditch within a few feet of the 'Crater,' they were quickly at
work emptying their contents upon the crowded mass of men in this
horrible pit."

Lieutenant Bowley, a Federal officer, says: "A mortar battery also
opened on us. After a few shots they got our range so well that the
shells fell directly among us. Many of them did not explode at all,
but a few burst directly over us and cut the men down cruelly."
He also speaks of a few Indians from Michigan. "Some of them were
mortally wounded, and, drawing their blouses over their faces, they
chanted a death song and died--four of them in a group."

* * * * *


About 3 o'clock p.m. absolute quietness prevailed over the battlefield
where the carnage of war rioted a few hours before. My Orderly, M.C.
Heath, a boy of sixteen, who now is a distinguished physician of
Lexington, Ky., came to me at Elliott's headquarters and told me
that the Lieutenant Colonel and Adjutant sent their compliments and
requested me to come to dinner at my den in the trench. I went, and
had to step over the dead bodies--all negroes. A narrow ditch led to a
plaza six feet square, where a half dozen men, in fine weather, could
sit on campstools. On the breastworks hung a dead negro. In the ditch
I had to step over another dead negro. As I got to my plaza I saw two
more negroes badly wounded in a cell two feet deeper than the plaza
where I slept. One of the negroes was resting his bloody head on a
fine copy of Paley's philosophy, which I came across in my wanderings.
Heath's big basket was well stored with good viands, and we ate with
the ferocity of starving men, regaling ourselves with the incidents
of battle, without any expressions of sorrow for our friends, Colonel
David Fleming and Adjutant Quattlebaum, who a few yards above were
entombed in our old sleeping place in the "Crater" which we occupied
as our quarters until they succeeded us ten days before, or any
lamentations for the hundreds of dead and dying on the hillside

The joy of the glorious victory drowned out all sentiments of grief
for a season, and it seemed a weird holiday.

* * * * *


Mr. Barnard, in his interesting article on the "Crater," criticises a
remarkable paragraph in Colonel Roman's work, "basing his statements
made by General Bushrod Johnson and Colonel McMaster." The only
objection to my statement was I said Mahone's charge was at 10 o'clock

The paragraph is as follows:

"Such was the situation. The Federals unable to advance
and fearing to retreat, when, at 10 o'clock, General Mahone
arrived with a part of his men, who had laid down in the
shallow ravine to the rear of Elliott's salient held by the
forces under Colonel Smith, there to await the remainder
of the Division, but a movement having occurred among the
Federals, which seemed to menace an advance, General Mahone
then forwarded his Brigade with the Sixty-first North
Carolina, of Hoke's Division, which had now also come up.
The Twenty-fifth and Forty-ninth North Carolina, and the
Seventeenth South Carolina, all under Smith, which were formed
on Mahone's left, likewise formed in the 'Crater' movement,
and three-fourths of the gorge line was carried with that
part of the trench on the left of the 'Crater' occupied by the
Federals. Many of the latter, white and black, abandoned
the breach and fled under a scourging flank fire of Wise's

This is confusion worse confounded. It is difficult to find a
paragraph containing so many blunders as the report of General Johnson
to Colonel Roman.

The Sixty-first North Carolina of Hoke's Brigade was not present
during the day, except at Sander's charge two hours afterwards. The
Twenty-fifth and Forty-ninth North Carolina were not present at all,
but remained in their trench on the front line.

Smith's men on the extreme right did not as a body go into Mahone's
charge. Captain Crawford with one hundred and eighteen men did charge
with Mahone. In fact he commanded his own men separate from Smith,
although he was close by.

Colonel Roman's account taken from General Johnson's statement is

* * * * *


I dislike to differ with Mr. Bernard, who has been so courteous to me,
and with my friend, Colonel Venable, for we literally carried muskets
side by side as privates in dear old Captain Casson's company, the
Governor's Guards, in Colonel Kershaw's Regiment, at the first battle
of Manassas, and I shot thirteen times at Ellsworth's Zouaves. Venable
was knocked down with a spent ball and I only had a bloody mouth. And
the rainy night which followed the battle we sheltered ourselves under
the same oilcloth. But I can't help thinking of these gentlemen as
being like all Virginians, which is illustrated by a remark of a great
Massachusetts man, old John Adams, in answering some opponent, said:
"Virginians are all fine fellows. The only objection I have to you is,
in Virginia every goose is a swan."

Colonel Venable says: "I am confident the charge of the Virginians was
made before 9 o'clock a.m." Mr. Bernard says, in speaking of the time:
"Mahone's Brigade left the plank road and took to the covered way."
"It is now half-past 8 o'clock." In a note he says: "probably between
8.15 and 8.30." "At the angle where the enemy could see a moving
column with ease the men were ordered to run quickly by, one man at a
time, which was done for the double purpose of concealing the approach
of a body of troops and of lessening the danger of passing rifle balls
at these points."

It took Mahone's Brigade, above eight hundred men, to walk at least
five hundred yards down this covered way and gulch, one by one,
occasionally interrupted by wounded men going to the rear, at least
twenty minutes. At a very low estimate it took them half an hour to
form in the ravine, to listen to two short speeches, and the parley
between Weisinger and Girardey. With the most liberal allowance this
will bring the charge at 9.15 A.M., but it took more time than that.

Captain Whitner investigated the time of the charge in less than a
month after the battle. I extract the following, page 795, 40th "War
of Rebellion:" "There is a great diversity of opinion as to the time
the first charge was made by General Mahone * * * But one officer of
the division spoke with certainty, Colonel McMaster, Seventeenth South
Carolina Volunteers. His written statement is enclosed." Unluckily the
paper was "not found." But there is no doubt I repeatedly said it was
about ten o'clock A.M.

General Mahone took no note of the time, but says: "According to
the records the charge must have been before nine o'clock. General
Burnside in his report fixes the time of the charge and recapture of
our works at 8.45 A.M." 40th "War of Rebellion," page 528. He is badly
mistaken. General Burnside says: "The enemy regained a portion of his
line on the right. This was about 8.45 A.M., but not all the colored
troops retired. Some held pits from behind which they had advanced
severely checking the enemy until they were nearly all killed."

[Illustration: James Evans, Major and Surgeon, 3d S.C. Regiment.]

[Illustration: Capt. D.A. Dickert, Co. H, 3d S.C. Regiment. (Age 15
years when he first entered service.)]

[Illustration: Capt. L.P. Foster, Co. K, 3d S.C. Regiment.]

[Illustration: J.E. Tuesdale, Co. G, 2d S.C. Regiment.]

"At 9.15 I received, with regret, a peremptory order from the General
commanding to withdraw my troops from the enemy's lines."

Now this battle indicated as at 8:45 was a continuation, of the one
that many officers said was about half-past eight o'clock. And both
Mahone and Mr. Bernard were mistaken in stating that the great firing
and retreat of soldiers was the result of the Virginian's charge,
whereas at this time Mahone's Brigade was at the Jerusalem plank road.
Moreover, when Mahone did come up his eight hundred men could not
create one-fourth of the reverberation of the Seventeenth Regiment,
Ransom's Brigade, and the thousands of the enemy. Besides Mahone's
men's fighting was confined to the ditches, and they used mostly the
butts and bayonets instead of the barrels of their muskets. No it
was the fire of Elliott's men, Ransom's men, the torrent of shells
of Wright's Battery and the enemy, Ord's men, and the four thousand
negroes, all of them in an area of one hundred yards. The part of the
line spoken of by Generals Delavan Bates and Turner and others as
the Confederate line were mere rifle pits which the Confederates held
until they had perfected the main line, and then gave up the pits.
They were in the hollow, where the branch passes through to the

Now the tumultuous outburst of musketry, Federal and Confederate, and
the landslide of the Federals, was beyond doubt before I went out to
Elliott's headquarters on the order of General Johnson.

For two hours before this Meade had been urging Burnside to rush to
the crest of the hill until General B. was irritated beyond measure,
and replied to a dispatch: "Were it not insubordination I would say
that the latter remark was unofficer like and ungentlemanly." Before
this time Grant, Meade and Ord had given up hope. They had agreed
to withdraw, hence the positive order to withdraw my troops from the
enemy's line at 9.15.

Now this must have been before Mahone came up, for there is no
allusion to a charge by any Federal General at the court of inquiry.
With the 8.30 charge made at the hollow, there was a synchronous
movement made by General Warren on the south of the "Crater," but at
8.45 he was informed that it was intended alone for a reconnoissance
of the two-gun battery.

At 9.15 General Warren sends dispatch: "Just before receiving your
dispatch to assault the battery on the left of the 'Crater' occupied
by General Burnside the enemy drove his troops out of the place and I
think now hold it. I can find no one who for certainty knows, or seems
willing to admit, but I think I saw a Rebel flag in it just now, and
shots coming from it this way. I am, therefore, if this (be) true no
more able to take this battery now than I was this time yesterday. All
our advantages are lost."

The advantages certainly were not lost on account of Mahone's men, but
on account of the losses two hundred yards down the hill, of which he
had doubtless been advised. He saw what he thought was a "Rebel
flag," but for a half an hour he had heard of the terrific castigation
inflicted on the Federals down the hill.

But here is something from the court of inquiry that approximates the
time of Mahone's charge.

General Griffen, of Potter's Ninth Corps, in reply to the question
by the court: "When the troops retired from the 'Crater' was it
compulsory from the enemy's operations, or by orders from your
commanders?" Answer. "Partly both. We retired because we had orders.
At the same time a column of troops came up to attack the 'Crater,'
and we retired instead of stopping to fight. This force of the enemy
came out of a ravine, and we did not see them till they appeared on
the rising ground."

"What was the force that came out to attack you? The force that was
exposed in the open?" Answer, "five or six hundred soldiers were all
that we could see. I did not see either the right or left of the line.
I saw the center of the line as it appeared to me. It was a good line
of battle. Probably if we had not been under orders to evacuate we
should have fought them, and tried to hold our position, but according
to the orders we withdrew."

General Hartranft, of Ninth Corps, says in answer to the question
"Driven out?" "They were driven out the same time, the same time I had
passed the word to retire. It was a simultaneous thing. When they saw
the assaulting column within probably one hundred feet of the works I
passed the word as well as it could be passed for everybody to retire.
And I left myself at that time. General Griffen and myself were
together at that time. The order to retire we had endorsed to the
effect that we thought we could not withdraw the troops that were
there on account of the enfilading fire over the ground between our
rifle pits and the 'Crater' without losing a great portion of them,
that ground being enfiladed with artillery and infantry fire. They
had at that time brought their infantry down along their pits on both
sides of the 'Crater,' so that their sharpshooters had good range, and
were in good position. Accordingly we requested that our lines should
open with artillery and infantry, bearing on the right and left of
the 'Crater,' under which fire we would be able to withdraw a greater
portion of our troops, and, in fact, everyone that could get away.
While we were in waiting for the approach of that endorsement and the
opening of the fire, this assaulting column of the enemy came up and
we concluded--General Griffin and myself--that there was no use in
holding it any longer, and so we retired."

This proves beyond doubt that Mahone's charge was after 9.15. It
probably took Burnside some minutes to receive this order and some
minutes for him and Griffin to send it down the line, and to send
orders to the artillery to open on their flanks to protect them. This
would bring Mahone's charge to 9.30 or 9.45.

* * * * *


I ordered Smith to take his regiment, the Twenty-sixth, and Crawford
with Companies K, E, and B, to lie down in the ravine. Every General
was ordered to charge to the crest. Had the enemy gotten beyond
Smith's line fifty yards they could have marched in the covered way to
Petersburg; not a cannon or a gun intervened. General Potter says
his men charged two hundred yards beyond the "Crater," when they
were driven back. Colonel Thomas said he led a charge which was not
successful; he went three or four hundred yards and was driven back.
General Griffin says he went about two hundred yards and was driven
back. Colonel Russell says he went about fifty yards towards Cemetery
Hill and "was driven back by two to four hundred infantry, which rose
up from a little ravine and charged us." Some officer said he went
five hundred yards beyond the "Crater." There was the greatest
confusion about distances. General Russell is about right when he said
he went about fifty yards behind the "Crater." When they talk of two
or three hundred yards they must mean outside the breastworks towards
Ransom's Brigade.

From the character of our breastworks, or rather our cross ditches, it
was impracticable to charge down the rear of our breastworks. The only
chance of reaching Petersburg was through the "Crater" to the rear.
Smith and Crawford, whose combined commands did not exceed two hundred
and fifty men, forced them back. Had either Potter, Russell, Thomas,
or Griffin charged down one hundred yards farther than they did, the
great victory would have been won, and Beauregard and Lee would have
been deprived of the great honor of being victors of the great battle
of the "Crater."

* * * * *


After the explosion, with less than one thousand two hundred men, and
with the co-operation of Wright's Battery and Davenport's Battery, and
a few men of Wise's Brigade, resisted nine thousand of the enemy from
five to eight o'clock. Then four thousand five hundred blacks rushed
over, and the Forty-ninth and Twenty-fifth North Carolina, Elliott's
Brigade, welcomed them to hospitable graves at 9 o'clock A.M.

At about 9.30 A.M. old Virginia--that never tires in good works--with
eight hundred heroes rushed into the trench of the Seventeenth and
slaughtered hundreds of whites and blacks, with decided preference for
the Ethiopians.

Captain Geo. B. Lake, of Company B, Twenty-second South Carolina, who
was himself buried beneath the debris, and afterwards captured, gives
a graphic description of his experience and the scenes around the
famous "Crater." He says in a newspaper article:


The evening before the mine was sprung, or possibly two evenings
before, Colonel David Fleming, in command of the Twenty-second South
Carolina Regiment--I don't know whether by command of General
Stephen Elliott or not--ordered me to move my company, Company B,
Twenty-second South Carolina, into the rear line, immediately in rear

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