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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 Carolina.

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 Landing.

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 antagonist.

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 center.

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, says:

“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 gentleman.”

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 later:

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 warfare.

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 Chickahominy.

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 demoralized.

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 verdict.

* * * * *


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 once.

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 headquarters.

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 array.

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 hardships.

* * * * *


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 furlough.

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 follows:

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 provisions.

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 soldier.

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 charge.

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 around.

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 a.m.

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 Brigade.”

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 unintelligible.

* * * * *


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 breastworks.

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.

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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.”

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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