Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 01/May/General Wilcox on Seven Pines

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Southern Historical Society Papers: Volume 1, Number 5  (1876)  by Cadmus Marcellus Wilcox
General Wilcox on Seven Pines
Southern Historical Society Papers, May 1876

Letter from General Wilcox in Reference to Seven Pines.

Baltimore, March 23, 1876.

Rev. J. William Jones,
 Secretary Southern Historical Society, Richmond, Va.:

Dear Sir—The February number of the Southern Historical Society Papers has in it a letter from General Johnston, pointing out errors as to the strength of the Army of Northern Virginia in the beginning of June, 1862; these errors being, as he alleges, in the account of the "Seven Days Fighting," now being published by the Society.

The last paragraph of the letter referred to our losses at Seven Pines, as follows: "The author gives our loss at Seven Pines, on the Williamsburg road, at about 4,800. General Longstreet, in his official report, dated June 11th—when, if ever, the number of killed and wounded must have been known—gives it roughly at 3,000. General D. H. Hill, whose division did all the fighting on that road from three o'clock (when it began) to six, and four-fifths of it from six to seven, when it ended, sets his down at 2,500, leaving 500 for that of R. H. Anderson, who came into the front line at six on the 31st, and Pickett's and part (two regiments) of Pryor's, June 1st, which is consistent. According to the writer, two brigades and a half in two hours lost about as heavily as four brigades in four hours of hard fighting."

The two brigades and a half mentioned by General Johnston were not all of Longstreet's division that fought on the 31st of May and June 1st. After the capture of the enemy's entrenchments and artillery on the right of the road in a field, and near several houses, a portion of the Eleventh Alabama, of Wilcox's brigade, under Colonel Nydenham Moore, was ordered to drive the enemy from the woods near a small house, several hundred yards to the right and a little to the front. In executing his orders, Colonel Moore's horse was killed and he himself received two wounds, one of which proved mortal, he dying about one month subsequently. The fraction of his regiment under him at the time lost heavily. Nor were Pickett's brigade and part of Pryor's all of Longstreet's command that were engaged on the 1st of May. It was on Wilcox's front that the firing began early on the morning of the 1st of May, and soon extended to the left, covering Pryor's entire front. These brigades were in line on the left, parallel with the Williamsburg road and facing north, the right of Wilcox's brigade over a mile to the east of the captured works of the enemy, on the right of the road. These two brigades had been advanced to the front between ten and twelve o'clock the night before. Wilcox's relieved Anderson's brigade about twelve o'clock, and one of his regiments (the Nineteenth Mississippi) that had joined Anderson before the firing ceased was thrown further east on the Williamsburg road three or four hundred yards, on picket, and occupied the most advanced point reached by our troops May 31st. The losses in Wilcox's and Pryor's brigades were light. They were not long under fire, being soon ordered to retire and re-form on the right of the road, near the captured works of the enemy. A part of Armistead's brigade, of Huger's division, and a portion of Mahone's brigade, of the same division, were also engaged for a short time, and to the left of Pryor Colonel Lomax, Third Alabama, Mahone's brigade, was killed.

Truly, &c.,

C. M. Wilcox.

P. S.—As General Johnston was wounded late in the afternoon of May 31st, and was never again in command of the Army of Northern Virginia, he may not have read all of the official reports of the battle of Seven Pines.

C. M. W.