Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 02/September/General R. E. Rodes' Report of the Battle of Gettysburg
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General R. E. Rodes' Report of the Battle of Gettysburg
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|Southern Historical Society Papers, September 1876|
General R. E. Rodes' Report of the Battle of Gettysburg.
[General R. E. Lee's, General Longstreet's, General Ewell's and General Early's reports of the Gettysburg campaign have been published, together with General J. E. B. Stuart's report of those stirring and important movements which preceded and which followed the great battle.
We are indebted to the courteous kindness of Mrs. Rodes for the MS. of the original report of Major-General R. E. Rodes, whose division bore so important a part in that campaign. We are sure that many inquirers after the truth of history will thank us for giving (for the first time) to the world this report of the accomplished soldier, whose gallantry and skill won for him so high a reputation, and whose death on the field at Winchester was lamented as a sad loss to the army, and to the Confederacy.
We hope hereafter to publish others of the more important reports of this great campaign.]
Headquarters Rodes' Division, Orange C. H., 1863.
Lt. Col. A. S. Pendleton, A. A. General Second Army Corps:
Colonel—In compliance with orders, I have the honor herewith to submit a report of the operations of this division during the period which elapsed from the breaking up of camp at Grace church, in Caroline county, to its return to the Rappahannock waters.
During this period the division was organized as follows: Daniel's North Carolina brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General Junius Daniel, composed of the following regiments: Thirty-second North Carolina, commanded by Colonel E. C. Brabble; Forty-third North Carolina, commanded by Colonel Thomas S. Keenan; Forty-fifth North Carolina, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel H. Boyd; Fifty-third North Carolina, commanded by Colonel W. A. Owens, and Second North Carolina battalion, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel H. S. Andrews;—Doles' Georgia brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General George Doles, composed of the Fourth Georgia, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel D. R. E. Winn; Twelfth Georgia, commanded by Colonel Edward Willis; Twenty-first Georgia, commanded by Colonel John T. Mercer, and Forty-fourth Georgia, commanded by Colonel S. P. Lumpkin;—Iverson's North Carolina brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General Alfred Iverson, composed of the Fifth North Carolina, commanded by Captain S. B. West; Twelfth North Carolina, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel W. S. Davis; Twentieth North Carolina, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel N. Slough, and Twenty-third North Carolina, commanded by Colonel D. H. Christie;—Ramseur's North Carolina brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General S. D. Ramseur, composed of the Second North Carolina, commanded by Major E. W. Hurt; Fourth North Carolina, commanded by Colonel Bryan Grimes; Fourteenth North Carolina, commanded by Colonel R. T. Bennett, and Thirtieth North Carolina, commanded by Colonel F. M. Parker;—Rodes' Alabama brigade, commanded by Colonel E. A. O'Neal, composed of Third Alabama, commanded by Colonel C. A. Battle; Fifth Alabama, commanded by Colonel J. M. Hall; Sixth Alabama, commanded by Colonel J. N. Lightfoot; Twelfth Alabama, commanded by Colonel S. B. Pickens, and Twenty-sixth Alabama, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Goodgame; and Lieutenant-Colonel Thos. H. Carter's battalion of sixteen pieces of artillery, composed of Carter's, Page's, Fry's and Reese's batteries.
Receiving orders to march on the 3d of June, the division was put in motion early on the morning of the 4th, and after marching some sixteen miles, bivouacked two miles north of Spotsylvania courthouse. Next day, after a march of twenty-one miles, turning to the right at Verdiersville, in order to cross the Rapidan at Racoon or Sommerville ford, we bivouacked near Old Verdiersville. After marching about four miles on the 6th, I received orders "to halt and wait further orders." Resuming the march on the 7th, we crossed the Rapidan at Sommerville ford, passed through Culpeper courthouse, and bivouacked four miles beyond, on the Rixeyville road, having marched about nineteen miles.
On the 8th, finding that a long march was ahead of us, and that the supplies had to be closely looked to, I ordered all the baggage, tents, &c., that could be spared to be sent to the rear. By this means each brigade was enabled to transport three days' rations in its train, in addition to an equal amount in the division commissary train, the men also carrying three days' rations each in his haversack. Hence, when the division resumed its march, it was supplied with full nine days' rations.
On the 9th, anticipating an order to do so, I moved the division towards Brandy Station to the support of General Stuart's cavalry. Halting, under Lieutenant-General Ewell's orders, at Botts' place, I subsequently, under orders, advanced to Barbour's house in advance of the station, but did not get in reach of the enemy, he having apparently been repulsed by the cavalry. Resumed the road, under orders, and after a ten-mile march bivouacked on Hazel river, near Gourd Vine church. Next day the route was resumed at an early hour, and on, without exception, the worst road I have ever seen troops and trains pass over. The route designated for the division led by Newby's × roads to Washington, but finding the portion of the road between these two points absolutely impracticable, and the men and horses well nigh exhausted by the severe march to Newby's × roads, I was compelled to proceed by Gaines' × roads. Before taking that route, however, I found that the movements of the division were not likely to be discovered by the enemy, and hence that there was no necessity for taking the more tortuous and difficult road by Washington. The route via Gaines' × roads to Flint Hill being a good one, we reached the latter place early in the afternoon, and halted an hour or more to await the passage of Early's division, which I knew was to precede mine, and which was to have entered the turnpike upon which I was marching at Flint Hill. Ascertaining that General Early had been compelled to abandon his prescribed line of march, by reason of the impracticable character of the Fodderstack road, and acting under orders from Lieutenant-General Ewell, I resumed the march, and bivouacked about one and a half miles north of Flint Hill, having marched about fifteen miles.
On the 12th of June, having received orders to proceed in advance of the other divisions of the corps, my command crossed the Blue Ridge, through Chester Gap, passed through Front Royal, forded both forks of the Shenandoah river, and halted for a few hours near Cedarville. Here the Lieutenant-General fully unfolded his immediate plan of action to me, which was in brief as follows, orders being given me to proceed at once, and in accordance with this plan to the execution of my part of it:
The main features of the plan were the simultaneous attack of Winchester and Berryville; the subsequent attack of Martinsburg, and the immediate entrance into Maryland, via Williamsport, or any other point near there which events indicated as best. My division was ordered to take the Berryville road via Millwood, to attack and seize Berryville, then to advance without delay on Martinsburg, and thence proceed to Maryland, there to await further orders; this while the two other divisions of the corps reduced Winchester. To enable me to carry out this plan the better, and to obtain full supplies of fresh meat, &c., as soon as possible after crossing the Potomac, and for other purposes not necessary to mention, the cavalry brigade of General A. G. Jenkins, of about 1,600 men, which had just joined the column, was placed under my command.
In obedience to my instructions, the division was at once moved directly from Cedarville towards Millwood, by an unfrequented road, under the guidance of Mr. John McCormack, a most excellent guide and soldier. To conceal the movements of the infantry, the cavalry were ordered to take the road by Nineveh church and White Post, and a part of it to proceed to Millwood. After a march of seventeen miles, the division bivouacked near Stone bridge.
On the 13th, we moved on towards Berryville, but before reaching Millwood, the advance of the infantry was discovered by some of the enemy's cavalry, who had come up from Berry's ferry (apparently en route to Berryville), a result which would have been avoided had General Jenkins occupied Millwood during the night before, as he was ordered to do. Finding our movements discovered, the division was marched, with the utmost celerity, through Millwood, upon Berryville, where Jenkin's brigade, after driving in the enemy's cavalry, was found, held at bay by the Federal artillery. Arriving on the field, and communicating with General Jenkins, it was apparent that the enemy were preparing to evacuate the place, but still held it, as well as I could judge, with infantry, cavalry and artillery. I immediately determined to surround them if possible, and ordered General Jenkins to march to the left of the town, to cut off the retreat of the enemy towards Winchester. The infantry, save one brigade, without being halted, were ordered to move to the right and left of the place to unite in its rear. These movements were begun and executed under cover, but before their execution was much advanced, it became apparent to me that the enemy was retreating, and I ordered the Alabama brigade, Colonel O'Neal commanding, to advance rapidly upon the town; which was done. I was mortified to learn that the enemy, abandoning his tents, a few stores, &c., had left his cavalry and artillery to keep our cavalry in check, and had some time before retreated with his infantry towards Charlestown, without being discovered. I found that the approaches to the town were well defended by rifle pits and earthworks for guns, and that with an adequate force it was capable of being strongly defended. It had, however, been held by a force too small to admit of a successful defence against my command. The enemy's force there consisted of two small regiments of infantry, one of cavalry, and a battery of rifle guns, in all about 1,800 men, under the command of Colonel McReynolds. Neither my troops nor General Jenkins' cavalry suffered any loss, the enemy firing only a few rounds of artillery after my arrival. A portion of General Jenkins' men had been skirmishing during the afternoon of the previous day, and on the morning of the 13th, and had lost a few men, among them Lieutenant Charles Norvell who was wounded and captured in a gallant charge upon the enemy near Nineveh.
After securing such stores as were at all valuable, the division was again put in motion towards Martinsburg. General Jenkins had already proceeded in pursuit of the enemy, by a road west of Berryville. One portion of his command, under my orders, pursued him by the Charlestown road. Just before reaching the road to Summit Point, I was informed by an officer of cavalry that the enemy pursued that route, and later that he had gone towards Winchester. I followed him to Summit Point, where we bivouacked, after having marched about twenty miles, not including the wide detours made at Berryville by the brigades of Daniel, Doles, Ramseur and Iverson, in the effort to surround the enemy.
Major Sweeny's battalion, of Jenkins' brigade, which had been put in pursuit of the enemy under my direct orders, overtook his rear guard near the Opequon creek, and made a most gallant charge upon it, capturing a piece of artillery, which they were unable to hold, the enemy being too strong for them. Major Sweeny, who acted very gallantly in this affair, was very badly wounded in the charge. In the absence of any official report from General Jenkins, I cannot explain why he did not intercept a portion, at least, of the enemy's force. It seems, however, clear that before the close of the day, the General made a fierce attack upon a detachment of cavalry and infantry at Bunker Hill, losing several men in a gallant attack upon a party of the latter, who had thrown themselves into two stone houses, well provided for defence, with loop-holes and barricades fixed for that purpose. He captured here about seventy-five or one hundred prisoners, and drove the balance towards Martinsburg. These facts I learned on the next day.
On the morning of the 14th it was apparent that during the night the enemy had continued his march to Winchester, whither I ordered the only force of cavalry I could then communicate with—Sweeny's battalion—to follow and annoy him. Not having heard anything from Winchester, though I had dispatched several couriers to the Lieutenant-General commanding, I hesitated for a few moments between proceeding towards Martinsburg, in accordance with my general instructions, and turning towards Winchester. The reflection that should my division be needed there, I would that day receive orders to turn back, determined me to push on to Martinsburg as rapidly as possible, which I did, reaching that place late in the afternoon, after a very fatiguing march of nineteen miles.
Arriving in the field before Martinsburg, ahead of the troops, I found General Jenkins, with his command, before the enemy, skirmishing with him occasionally. The enemy's forces were drawn up in line of battle on the right of the town, exhibiting infantry, cavalry and artillery. General Jenkins, through Captain Harris, of my staff, had summoned the Federal commander to surrender, which he declined doing.
Before the infantry came up I ordered General Jenkins to move most of his force to the left of the town; to dismount it, and send it forward as skirmishers; to endeavor to get possession of the town, thus cutting off the enemy's retreat towards Hedgesville and Williamsport, and to report to me what force, if any, he discovered in and to the left of the town. At the same time Lieutenant-Colonel Carter was directed to take the best position for his artillery, to enable him to silence the opposing battery, which was annoying us. Without halting, the infantry was put in a position for a direct attack, the Alabama brigade on the right supporting the artillery, which had already opened; Ramseur on the left, Doles and Iverson in the centre, Daniel in reserve. Before these preparations had been completed, however, the enemy's battery had been nearly silenced; and fearing he would retreat, I ordered Ramseur's brigade, and each of the others in turn, to advance with speed upon the enemy's position.
Notwithstanding their fatiguing march, the troops exhibited great enthusiasm, and rapidly occupied the town and the enemy's position. Ramseur's brigade, being in the lead, pursued the enemy at almost a run for two miles beyond the town, but quick as it was, the dismounted cavalry and a squadron or two on horseback, under General Jenkins, were ahead of them, and after a few shots, compelled the enemy to abandon all his guns, with perhaps one exception. Five of his pieces, with their caissons and most of their horses, were thus captured. Nothing was seen of the Federal infantry after the attack began, nor was it known, for some hours after their retreat, that it escaped by the Shepherdstown road, whilst the cavalry and artillery fled by way of Williamsport. This latter fact, together with the darkness, prevented the cavalry from discovering that the force had divided. Could the division have reached the town an hour or two earlier, thus giving me time to seize the principal roads leading into Martinsburg, I feel certain that I would have captured the whole force. Under the circumstances, however, nothing was proper except a direct attack, as to have awaited daylight would have lost to us all the artillery and the stores, which we secured by moving ahead without delay. General Jenkins continued the pursuit of the enemy that night nearly to the river, capturing many prisoners. Many others were taken in town by the infantry. The enemy endeavored to burn the stores accumulated at Martinsburg, and to a large extent succeeded in doing so, but left in our hands some 6,000 bushels of fine grain, some commissary stores, about 400 rounds of rifled artillery ammunition, and small arms and ammunition in small quantity. With the artillery were captured two excellent ambulances.
After recalling Ramseur from the pursuit, and putting a regiment of Doles' brigade in that town as a guard, the appropriate officers were set to work gathering prisoners who were concealed in the houses of many of the Union families of the town, and taking inventories of the supplies.
On the 15th, the troops were allowed to rest until after 10 A. M., when for the first time I received information as to the progress of events at Winchester, and about the same time learned that General Milroy, with his shattered command, had passed Smithfield en route for Harper's Ferry, and had already gotten out of my reach. General Jenkins' gallant brigade, under his impetuous leadership, had already succeeded in crossing the Potomac above Williamsport, and after driving off the small force at that place, had advanced into Pennsylvania. Leaving Colonel Lightfoot with his regiment, the Sixth Alabama, as a guard at Martinsburg, and ordering the pioneers of the division to continue, during that day and the next, the destruction of the railroad, I put the division in motion for Williamsport, and arrived there by dark, after the most trying march we had yet had—most trying because of the intense heat, the character of the road, and the increased number of barefooted men in the command. Three brigades, Ramseur's, Iverson's and Doles', with three batteries of artillery, were ordered across the Potomac at once. It was not until this day that the troops began to exhibit unmistakable signs of exhaustion, and that stragglers could be found in the line of march, and even then none but absolutely worn out men fell out of line. The whole march from Culpeper courthouse to Williamsport, which was an extremely rapid one, was executed in a manner highly creditable to the officers and men of the division.
A halt at Williamsport was absolutely necessary, from the condition of the feet of the unshod men. Very many of these gallant fellows were still marching in ranks with feet bruised, bleeding and swollen, and withal so cheerfully, as to entitle them to be called the heroes of the Pennsylvania campaign. None but the best of soldiers could have made such a march under such circumstances.
As soon as possible after arriving at Williamsport, a strong guard was placed over it, and the necessary instructions were given to General Jenkins about obtaining supplies of cattle and horses. In obedience to orders, the command remained at Williamsport during the 16th, 17th and 18th, in which time, with the aid of General Jenkins' cavalry, the commissaries and quartermasters obtained, in a proper manner, large supplies in their respective departments. The pioneers, under Captain Chichester, were busy during our rest here trying to destroy the aqueduct over the Conococheague. Some 5,000 pounds of leather were bought by Major Paxton at Williamsport and sent to the rear. At Hagerstown and Williamsport thirty-five kegs of powder were purchased and sent back.
I may as well mention here that at Williamsport, Hagerstown, Chambersburg, &c., large quantities of such articles as were suitable for Government use were obtained by purchase, or certificate, and sent back by Quartermasters Paxton, Rogers and Harman. During the march into Pennsylvania some two or three thousand (2,000 or 3,000) head of cattle were taken, and either appropriated for the command, or sent to the rear for the other divisions. Some 1,200 or 1,500 were thus sent back. The horses were almost all seized by the cavalry of General Jenkins, and were rarely accounted for. My best efforts were made to suppress all irregularities, and being very generally and cheerfully seconded by officers and men, they succeeded satisfactorily. Some few cases of fraud, and some (at Greencastle) of violence to property—the latter traceable to the cavalry—were heard of. A few instances of forced purchases were reported, but never established. I believe that one quartermaster seized such articles as velvet, &c., but I could not find him out. In all cases of purchase that came before me the parties were fully paid and satisfied.
On the 17th or 18th the Lieutenant-General commanding visited my quarters, and gave me additional instructions, to the effect that the division should, on the 19th, resume its march, and move slowly towards Chambersburg, until the division of General Johnson had crossed the Potomac. Accordingly on the 19th it was put in motion, and proceeded to Hagerstown, where, in obedience to further instructions, its march was directed towards Boonsboro', as if threatening Harper's Ferry, and halted about two miles from Hagerstown on the Boonsboro' road. Remaining two days near Hagerstown—during which period I received further verbal instructions in a personal interview with Lieutenant-General Ewell—on the 22d the division resumed its march, and on that day penetrated into the enemy's country. Iverson's brigade was the first to touch Pennsylvania soil. After a march of thirteen miles we bivouacked at Greencastle. During the night, under orders, I reported in person at the headquarters of the Lieutenant-General commanding—then at Beaver Creek, between Boonsboro' and Hagerstown—and after an interview with him and General Early, rejoined my command next day, Lieutenant-General Ewell accompanying me.
General Jenkins had, in the mean time, advanced to Chambersburg, where he was ordered to remain until my division came up, which he failed to do, because of the reported approach of the enemy in strong force. The result was that most of the property in that place which would have been of service to the troops, such as boots, hats, leather, &c., were removed or concealed before it was reoccupied. From this date General Jenkins was directly under the orders of the Lieutenant-General in effect, as the latter was thenceforth constantly with the advance guard of infantry.
At Greencastle the orders of General Lee regulating the conduct of troops and officers of all departments whilst in the enemy's country were received, but they had, in substance, been anticipated by orders, first from division and then from corps headquarters. The conduct of the troops of this division was entirely in accordance with those orders, and challenged the admiration of their commanding officers, whilst it astonished the people along the line of march. These latter, very generally, expected to be treated by us with the wanton cruelty generally exhibited by their troops when they are upon our soil. As a general rule, they apparently expected to see their houses burned down, and all their property carried off or destroyed.
From the 23d of June the movements of my command were executed under the immediate supervision of the commander of the corps.
Resuming its march on the 24th, the division made fourteen miles, passing through Chambersburg, which had been reoccupied by General Jenkins that morning, and bivouacked on the Conococheague, two and a half miles beyond the town. The Third Alabama regiment, Colonel Battle commanding, was left in the town as a guard for the people, property, &c.
At Chambersburg the division of General Johnson joined mine, and the two, moving on slowly without noteworthy incident, reached Carlisle on the 27th. The brigades of Daniel, Iverson and Ramseur occupied the United States barracks at this place, that of General Doles bivouacked on the campus of Dickinson College, a portion of his force acting as guard for the town, while the Alabama brigade bivouacked on and picketed the Baltimore turnpike, one and a half miles from town. Large supplies of cattle, horses and flour were obtained here and on the march, and in the barracks stables a large quantity of grain was found. Most of the Government property, except the grain, had been removed by the enemy, but musketoons, holsters, tents, and a small quantity of subsistence stores were found in the barracks.
Jenkins' cavalry, on our arrival at Carlisle, advanced towards Harrisburg, and had, on the 29th, made a thorough reconnoisance of the defences of the place, with a view to our advance upon it—a step which every man in the division contemplated with eagerness, and which was to have been executed on the 30th—but on the 30th, having received orders to move towards the balance of the army, then supposed to be at or near Cashtown, we set out for that place, marching through Petersburg, and bivouacking at Heidlersburg after a march of at least twenty-two miles.
On the 1st of July, in pursuance of the order to rejoin the army, the division resumed its march, but upon arriving at Middletown, and hearing that Lieutenant-General Hill's corps was moving upon Gettysburg, by order of General Ewell the head of the column was turned in that direction. When within four miles of the town, to my surprise, the presence of the enemy there in force was announced by the sound of a sharp cannonade, and instant preparations for battle were made. On arriving on the field, I found that by keeping along the wooded ridge on the left side of which the town of Gettysburg is situated, I could strike the force of the enemy, with which General Hill's troops were engaged, upon the flank, and that, besides moving under cover, whenever we struck the enemy, we could engage him with the advantage in ground. The division was therefore moved along the summit of the ridge with only one brigade deployed at first, and finally—as the enemy's cavalry had discovered us, and the ground was of such character as to admit of cover for a large opposing force—with three brigades deployed; Doles on the left, "Rodes' old brigade," Colonel O'Neal commanding, in the centre, and Iverson on the right. The artillery and the two other brigades moved up closely to the line of battle. The division had to move nearly a mile before coming in view of the enemy's forces, except a few mounted men, and finally arrived at a point, a prominent hill on the ridge, whence the whole of that portion of the force opposing General Hill's troops could be seen. To get at these troops properly, which were still over half a mile from us, it was necessary to move the whole of my command by the right flank, and to change direction to the right. Whilst this was being done, Carter's battalion was ordered forward, and soon opened fire upon the enemy, who at this moment, as far as I could see, had no troops facing me at all. He had apparently been surprised—only a desultory fire of artillery was going on between his troops and General Hill's—but before my dispositions were made, the enemy began to show large bodies of men in front of the town, most of which were directed upon the position which I held, and almost at the same time a portion of the force opposed to General Hill changed position so as to occupy the woods on the summit of the same ridge I occupied (I refer to the forest touching the railroad, and extending along the summit of the ridge towards my position, as far as the Mummasburg road, which crossed the ridge at the base of the hill I held). Either these last troops, or others which had hitherto been unobserved behind the same body of woods, soon made their appearance directly opposite my centre. Being thus threatened from two directions, I determined to attack with my centre and right, holding at bay still another force, then emerging from the town (apparently with the intention of turning my left), with Doles' brigade, which was moved somewhat to the left for this purpose, and trusting to this gallant brigade thus holding them until General Early's division arrived, which I knew would be soon, and which would strike this portion of the enemy's force on the flank before it could overpower Doles. At this moment Doles' brigade occupied the open plain between the Middletown road and the foot of the ridge before spoken of. The Alabama brigade, with a wide interval between it and Doles, extended from this plain up the slope of the ridge and over its summit. Iverson's brigade extended from the summit down the western or right slope of the ridge. Daniel's brigade supported Iverson's, and extended some distance to the right of it. Ramseur was in reserve. All the troops were in the woods except Doles' and a portion of "Rodes'" (O'Neal's) brigade, but all were subjected to some loss or annoyance from the enemy's artillery.
Whilst making some examination into the position and apparent intentions of the enemy, with the view of attacking him, this artillery fire became so annoying that I ordered the Alabama brigade to fall back from the line it had occupied, abreast with Iverson, so as to obtain some little shelter for the troops. The right regiment, Third Alabama, was under my order placed on a line with Daniel's brigade, Colonel O'Neal being instructed to form the balance of the brigade upon it. These dispositions were but temporary and unimportant, and are mentioned only because they are necessary to a full understanding of Colonel O'Neal's report.
Finding that the enemy was rash enough to come out from the woods to attack me, I determined to meet him when he got to the foot of the hill I occupied, and as he did so, I caused Iverson's brigade to advance, and at the same moment gave in person to O'Neal the order to attack, indicating to him precisely the point to which he was to direct the left of the four regiments then under his orders; the Fifth Alabama, which formed the extreme left of this brigade, being held in reserve, under my own immediate command, to defend the gap between O'Neal and Doles. Daniel was at the same moment instructed to advance to support Iverson, if necessary, if not, to attack on his right as soon as possible. Carter's whole battalion was by this time engaged hotly, a portion from the right, the remainder from the left of the hill, and was subjected to a heavy artillery fire in return.
Iverson's brigade attacked handsomely, but suffered very heavily from the enemy's musketry fire from behind a stone wall along the crest of the ridge. The Alabama brigade went into action in some confusion, and with only three of its regiments, the Sixth, Twelfth and Twenty-sixth, the Fifth having been retained by my order, and for reasons explained to Colonel O'Neal, the Third having been permitted by Colonel O'Neal to move with Daniel's brigade. The three first mentioned regiments moved with alacrity (but not in accordance with my orders as to direction) and in confusion, into the action. It was soon apparent that they were making no impression upon the enemy, and hence I ordered forward the Fifth Alabama to their support, but, to my surprise in giving this command to its colonel, Hall, I found that Colonel O'Neal, instead of personally superintending the movements of his brigade, had chosen to remain with this reserve regiment. The result was that the whole brigade, with the exception of the Third Alabama, the movements of which will be seen by reference to the reports of Generals Ramseur and Iverson, and Colonel Battle, was repulsed quickly, and with loss. (Upon investigation recently, I find that just as O'Neal's men were about starting, and upon his informing me that he and his staff officers were not mounted, and that he had no mounted men with him, I permitted him to send Lieutenant Arrington, of my staff, to Colonel Battle, commanding the Third Alabama regiment, with his orders, and that Lieutenant Arrington delivered them to Colonel Battle).
Iverson's left being exposed thus, heavy loss was inflicted upon his brigade. His men fought and died like heroes. His dead lay in a distinctly marked line of battle. His left was overpowered, and many of his men being surrounded, were captured.
General Daniel's gallant brigade, by a slight change in the direction of Iverson's attack, had been left too far to his right to assist him directly, and had already become engaged. The right of this brigade coming upon the enemy, strongly posted in a railroad cut, was under its able commander's orders thrown back skillfully, and the position of the whole brigade was altered so as to enable him to throw a portion of his force across the railroad, enfilade it, and attack to advantage. After this change, General Daniel made a most desperate, gallant and entirely successful charge upon the enemy, driving him at all points, but suffering terribly. The conduct of General Daniel and his brigade in this most desperate engagement elicited the admiration and praise of all who witnessed it.
Just as his last effort was made, Ramseur's brigade, which, under my orders, had been so disposed as to support both Iverson and O'Neal, was ordered forward, and was hurled by its commander, with the skill and gallantry for which he is always conspicuous, and with irresistible force, upon the enemy, just where he had repulsed O'Neal and checked Iverson's advance. In the meantime General Early's division had been brought into action on my left with great success, and Doles, thus relieved, without waiting for orders, and though greatly outnumbered, boldly attacked the heavy masses of the enemy in his front. After a short but desperate contest, in which his brigade acted with unsurpassed gallantry, he succeeded in driving them before him, thus achieving on the left, and about the same time, a success no less brilliant than that of Ramseur in the centre, and Daniel on the right. In this affair Doles handled his men with a skill and effect truly admirable, exhibiting marked coolness and courage.
O'Neal's shattered troops, which had assembled without order on the hill, rushed forward, still without order, but with all their usual courage, into the charge. Fry's battery, by my order, was pushed closely after Ramseur.
The Twelfth North Carolina, which had been held well in hand by Lieutenant-Colonel Davis, and the shattered remnants of the other regiments of Iverson's brigade, which had been rallied and organized by Captain D. P. Halsey, A. A. General of the brigade, made under his guidance a dashing and effective charge, just in time to be of considerable service to Ramseur and Daniel, and with them pressed closely after the enemy.
These successes were rapidly followed by a successful attack on my right, on the part of General A. P. Hill's troops, who renewed their attack in time to put a stop to a murderous enfilade and reverse fire to which, in addition to the heavy direct fire it encountered, Daniel's brigade had been subjected from the time he commenced fairly his final advance.
The enemy was thus routed at all points. My division followed him closely into and through the town, Doles and Ramseur entering in such close contact with the enemy, that the former, who penetrated the heart of the town first of all, had two sharp and successful encounters with the enemy in the streets, and the latter, who entered further to the right, captured the colors of the 150th Pennsylvania regiment in its streets, Lieutenant Harney, of his brigade, tearing them from the hands of the color bearer, and falling almost immediately thereafter mortally wounded.
In the pursuit the division captured about 2,500 prisoners—so many as to embarrass its movements materially.
The troops being greatly exhausted by their march, and somewhat disorganized by the hot engagement and rapid pursuit, were halted and prepared for further action. I did not change their position materially, nor order another attack, for the following reasons:
1st. In the midst of the engagement just described, the corps commander informed me, through one of his officers, that the General commanding did not wish a general engagement brought on, and hence, had it been possible to do so then, I would have stopped the attack at once, but this, of course, it was impossible to do then.
2d. Before the completion of his defeat before the town, the enemy had begun to establish a line of battle on the heights back of town, and by the time my line was in a condition to renew the attack, he displayed quite a formidable line of infantry and artillery immediately in my front, extending smartly to my right, and as far as I could see to my left in front of Early. To have attacked this line with my division alone, diminished as it had been by a loss of 2,500 men, would have been absurd. Seeing no Confederate troops at all on my right, finding that General Early, whom I encountered in the streets of the town within thirty minutes after its occupation by our forces, was awaiting further instructions, and receiving no orders to advance, though my superiors were upon the ground, I concluded that the order not to bring on a general engagement was still in force, and hence placed my lines and skirmishers in a defensive attitude, determined to await orders or further movements, either on the part of Early or the troops on my right. My skirmishers were promptly thrown out, so as to cover more than half the town and the front of the division, which was drawn up in two lines, Doles', Iverson's and Ramseur's brigades making the front line, and extending from the left of the centre of the town along one of its principal streets, and out on the road to Fairfield. The second line, composed of the brigades of Daniel and O'Neal, extended along the railroad, about 200 yards in rear, and considerably to the right of the first. In this position we remained quietly, but with considerable annoyance from the enemy's sharpshooters and artillery, until the morning of the next day.
On the 2d of July nothing of importance transpired in my front. The rest of the men, generally, was only disturbed by the occasional skirmishing and desultory firing of the opposing sharp-shooters, but Daniel's brigade, which had been, early in the morning, moved by my orders so as to connect with Fender's division on the crest of the ridge before spoken of, was subjected to a galling artillery fire, especially in the afternoon. Late in the afternoon, however, an attack was made upon the enemy's position by some troops of the right wing of the army, which produced some stir among the enemy in my immediate front, and seemed to cause there a diminution of both artillery and infantry. Orders given during the afternoon, and after the engagement had opened on the right, required me to co-operate with the attacking force as soon as any opportunity of doing so with good effect was offered. Seeing the stir alluded to, I thought that opportunity had come, and immediately sought General Early, with a view of making an attack in concert with him. He agreed with me as to the propriety of attacking, and made preparations accordingly. I hastened to inform the officer commanding the troops on my right (part of Pender's division) that in accordance with our plan I would attack just at dark, and proceeded to make my arrangements; but having to draw my troops out of town by the flank, change the direction of the line of battle, and then to traverse a distance of twelve or fourteen hundred yards, whilst General Early had to move only half that distance without change of front, the result was, that before I drove the enemy's skirmishers in, General Early had attacked and had been compelled to withdraw. After driving in the enemy's line of skirmishers, the advance line was halted by General Ramseur, who commanded the right brigade, to enable him to report to me certain important facts (for statement of which I refer to his report) he had discovered as to the nature of the ground and of the defences. These facts, together with Early's withdrawal, of which I had been officially informed, and the increased darkness, convinced me that it would be a useless sacrifice of life to go on, and a recall was ordered. But instead of falling back to the original line, I caused the front line to assume a strong position in the plain to the right of the town, along the hollow of an old road bed. This position was much nearer the enemy, was clear of the town, and was one from which I could readily attack without confusion. The second line was placed in the position originally held by the first. Everything was gotten ready to attack at daylight; but a short time after assuming this new position, I was ordered to send, without delay, all the troops I could spare, without destroying my ability to hold my position, to reinforce Major-General Johnson. As my front line was much more strongly posted than my second, and was fully competent to hold the position, and as the reinforcements had to be in position before daylight, I was compelled to send to General Johnson the troops of my second line—i.e., the brigades of Daniel and O'Neal (excepting the Fifth Alabama). These brigades participated in the engagement on the left, under General Johnson, and remained under his orders until the following night, when our whole corps changed front to rear, so as to extend the line occupied by the other two corps. For a report of their operations on the third July, I have, therefore, to refer respectfully to the report of General Johnson, and to those of General Daniel and Colonel O'Neal, herewith filed.
This order left me powerless to do more than hold my position, unless the enemy should be very much weakened in my front, for I had now remaining but a single thin line, composed of two small brigades, about the third of another, and one regiment the Fifth Alabama, of O'Neal's brigade—in all not over 1,800 men facing what I believed then, and now, to be the most impregnable portion of the enemy's line of entrenchments. The gallant men and officers of this line held their new position all day on the 3d July, under a sharp and incessant fire from the enemy's sharpshooters, and an occasional artillery fire. The enemy made during the day several ineffectual efforts, by advancing heavy lines of skirmishers, equal almost, if not fully, to my main line and using their artillery to dislodge them from their position.
On the 3d, my orders were general, and the same as those of the day before, and accordingly when the heavy cannonade indicated that another attack was made from the right wing of our army, we were on the lookout for another "favorable opportunity to co-operate." When the sound of musketry was heard, it became apparent that the enemy in our front was much excited, and the "favorable opportunity" seemed to me close at hand. I sent word to Lieutenant-General Ewell, by Major Whiting of my staff, that in a few moments I should attack, and immediately had my handful of men, under Doles, Iverson and Ramseur, prepared for the onset. But in less than five minutes after Major Whiting's departure, before the troops on my immediate right had made any advance, or showed any preparation therefor, and just as the order "forward" was about to be given to my line, it was announced, and was apparent to me, that the attack had already failed.
This attack was accompanied, preceded, and succeeded by the fiercest and grandest cannonade I have ever witnessed. My troops lay about half way between the artillery of the Second corps, and that of the enemy on Cemetery Hill, and directly under the line of fire of fully one hundred guns; a most trying position even when the opposing artillerists confined their attention to each other, and one which became fearfully so, when both parties, as they did at short intervals, dropped shells in their midst, whilst the sharpshooters were constant and skillful in their attentions. They underwent this terrible trial, not only without murmuring or faltering, but with great cheerfulness, and with the utmost coolness.
It is proper to mention that during the night of the 2d, and on the 3d, my troops did not occupy any portion of the town, except that still held by the sharpshooters of the Alabama brigade, under that promising young officer Major Blackford, of the Fifth Alabama. These sharpshooters, together with those of Doles', Iverson's and Ramseur's brigades, annoyed the enemy's artillery and infantry constantly during the period of our occupation of the town, and acted with rare and praiseworthy gallantry.
During the night of the 3d my division fell back to the ridge which had been wrested from the enemy in the first day's attack, and being reunited, was posted so that the railroad divided it about equally. Expecting to give battle in this position, it was strengthened early on the morning of the 4th. We were not disturbed, however, in the least during the day; in fact, the enemy exhibited so small a force, entered the town and followed us at so late an hour, that it was generally believed he had retreated.
During the day of the 4th, all the wounded who could walk, or be transported in wagons and ambulances, were sent to the rear—many, as it turned out, to be captured or sacrificed in the effort to escape the enemy's cavalry—but near one-half of them, say about 760, were left in the hands of the enemy. This painful result was of course unavoidable. Four surgeons, six assistants, three hospital stewards, and ninety-four attendants were left to attend to the wounded, and with them ten days' supply of such food and medicines as were needed. This was all we could do for them.
Subsequent to the departure of the wounded, Iverson was detached with his brigade as a guard for the train, but unfortunately too late to overtake it and prevent its partial destruction. By a forced march he arrived at Hagerstown soon after the passage of the train, and found a heavy force of the enemy's cavalry driving back our cavalry through the streets. Making a hasty but skillful disposition of his troops, he soon routed them, capturing a considerable number. Great credit is due Brigadier-General Iverson for the handsome and prompt manner in which this affair was managed.
On the night of the 4th we began to fall back towards Hagerstown, by way of Fairfield, bivouacking on the night of the 5th, after a most wearisome march in mud and rain, two miles west of Fairfield.
On the morning of the 6th my division became the rear guard of the army, and early in the morning was attacked by the enemy's skirmishers, deployed over a line extending entirely across the valley, and therefore fully one and a half or two miles long. Later it was attacked from the Emmetsburg road. The morning attack was sharply repulsed by General Daniel's skirmishers on the left, and General Doles' on the right of the road, the Forty-fifth North Carolina, Captain Hopkins commanding, having a pretty brisk action on the extreme left, driving the enemy from a commanding position there, in reply to his summons to surrender. General Daniel's loss was only two killed, two wounded and five missing—General Doles' nothing. The other—an extremely feeble attack—was repelled by a few of General Doles' men. The road being entirely clear behind us for four or five miles, at 3½ P. M. we resumed the march, and proceeded, without annoyance or delay, across the mountain, by Montery Springs, to Waynesburg.
Reaching Hagerstown next day, the division rested there, without serious disturbance until the evening of the 11th, when it was moved through, and about one and a quarter miles west of Hagerstown, on the National road. Here, during the 13th, 14th and 15th, battle was again, and eagerly by my division, offered to the enemy. During these three days my division occupied the extreme left of the line of battle. Nothing of importance occurred here except a brisk attack of the enemy's skirmishers (after being reinforced), and his cavalry, upon Ramseur's sharpshooters. This attack was made late on the afternoon of the 14th of July, after the withdrawal of nearly all the artillery, and of all the main line of infantry. The enemy had unquestionably discovered this movement. His advance was so firmly and gallantly met by Ramseur's men, and the Second Howitzers, Captain Watson, that he fell back with the loss of many killed and wounded, and about twenty of the cavalry captured.
On the memorable night of the 14th of July, the Second corps fell back to Williamsport, and forded the river. The artillery under Lieutenant-Colonel Carter, I had sent off early in the afternoon, with orders to cross at Falling Waters, four miles below Williamsport, on the pontoon bridge which had been placed there. My division waded the river just above the aqueduct over the mouth of the Conococheague; the operation was a perilous one. It was very dark, raining, and excessively muddy. The men had to wade through the aqueduct, down the steep bank of soft and slippery mud, in which numbers lost their shoes, and down which many fell. The water was cold, deep and rising, the lights on either side of the river were dim, just affording enough light to mark the places of entrance and exit, the cartridge boxes of the men had to be placed around their necks—some small men had to be carried over by their comrades—the water was up to the armpits of a full sized man. All the circumstances attending this crossing combined to make it an affair not only involving great hardship, but one of great danger to the men and company officers; but be it said to the everlasting honor of these brave fellows, they encountered it not only promptly, but actually with cheers and laughter. We crossed without the loss of a single man, but I regret to say, with the loss of some 25,000 or 30,000 rounds of ammunition, which were unavoidably wet and spoiled. After crossing, I marched by orders a short distance beyond "Falling Waters," and then bivouacked—and there ended the Pennsylvania campaign, so far as this division was concerned.
I cannot, however, close this portion of my report without my pride and admiration of the conduct of the men and officers of this division, from the time it left Grace church until our return to Virginia. Better marching, less straggling, hardships more cheerfully borne, conduct in an enemy's country more commendable and more generally marked by gentlemanly and soldierly characteristics, and finally, better behavior in battle than was exhibited by this division during that period, has not been, and I believe will never be exhibited by any other troops in the service. By their conduct at Gettysburg, I claim to have won the expression from the General commanding the army, who saw their attack on the 1st of July, "I am proud of your division." Earnestly do I wish that the name of each officer and private who distinguished himself during this eventful campaign could, with reason, be enrolled here, to be transferred to history. I hope it will yet be done in a different manner. Whilst I cannot mention all who won distinction during this campaign, it is my duty to record here the names of those officers whose conduct, either from my own observation, or from the voluntary testimony of many competent witnesses, I know to have been such as to entitle them to the admiration of brave men, and to the gratitude of a good people.
First among them are Brigadier-Generals Junius Daniel, George Doles, and S. D. Ramseur; Lieutenant-Colonel T. H. Carter, Captain D. P. Halsey, A. A. G. of Iverson's brigade, and Colonel D. H. Christie, Twenty-third North Carolina, who has since died from the wounds he, and Lieutenant Harney, Company ——, Fourteenth North Carolina, of my division, and Brigadier-General A. G. Jenkins and Major Sweeney, of the cavalry brigade. All the field officers, with one exception, are spoken of highly on all hands for their conduct. Appendix B will show what general, field and staff officers were under fire during the engagements. Company officers did their duty nobly. The men, generally, acted in a manner worthy of all praise.
Many valuable lives were lost during the bloody fight at Gettysburg, among them Colonel Christie, already mentioned; Lieutenant-Colonel D. R. E. Winn, Fourth Georgia; Lieutenant-Colonel Andrews, commanding Second North Carolina battalion, and many others. Among the wounded I regret to have to record the names of Colonel F. M. Parker, Thirtieth North Carolina; Lieutenant-Colonel Lumpkin, Forty-fourth Georgia, a most valuable and estimable officer, who lost a leg; Lieutenant-Colonel R. D. Johnston and Major C. C. Blacknall, Twenty-third North Carolina; Colonel J. N. Lightfoot, Sixth Alabama; Colonel R. T. Bennett, Fourteenth North Carolina; Captain Page, commanding battery; Colonel Thomas S. Kenan, Forty-third North Carolina; Lieutenant-Colonel Boyd and Major Winston, of the Forty-fifth North Carolina; Major Lewis, Thirty-second North Carolina; Major Hancock, Second North Carolina battalion; Lieutenant Bond and Colonel Green, of General Daniel's staff, besides many valuable and distinguished company officers, whose names will be found in the tabular statements appended to reports of brigade commanders.
My staff officers, Major H. A. Whiting, Major Green Peyton, Captain W. A. Harris, Captain M. L. Randolph (the two last named officers attached to the division as chiefs of ordnance and of the signal corps respectively, voluntarily serving in the field during the battle with distinguished ability and courage). Lieutenants Hutchinson and Arrington, Captain D. D. Peden, acting A. I. General, and Surgeon W. S. Mitchell, all did their duty nobly during the whole campaign, and deserve mine and the country's warmest thanks for their services. Major Julian Mitchell, acting division commissary (Major Adams having been taken sick at Culpeper courthouse), discharged the duties of his arduous position with an energy and capacity I have never seen equaled.
The appendix marked A will show the strength and the loss of each brigade at Gettysburg. Appendix B will show the general, field and staff officers who were present in the engagements. In the accompanying reports of brigade commanders will be found an account of the operations of each brigade, and the part borne by each in the campaign, in a more detailed form than my limits will admit of, and to these you are respectfully referred.
SKIRMISH AT MANASSAS GAP.
After recrossing the Potomac, with the exception of twenty-four hours spent in an ineffectual effort to strike the Federal force at Hedgesville, the division remained quietly in camp near Darkesville, Berkeley county, until the 22d of July, when it resumed the march up the Valley. Bivouacking at Winchester one night, the next afternoon found us, after a march of twenty-three miles, facing nearly the whole Federal army in the vicinity of Manassas Gap. My division was ordered there to relieve Wright's brigade (of about 600 men), of Anderson's division, but arrived too late to do so. The enemy having already engaged Wright's skirmishers, it was necessary for his whole brigade to deploy, so as to cover strongly and hold the line which he occupied until I could establish my line of battle a little in its rear. I caused this movement to be executed, acting under General Ewell's orders. These precautions were proper, as the enemy were making an apparently determined advance with an extended front, and had full 20,000 troops already in view, whilst others were coming through the gap. All my sharpshooters, about 250 men, were, as soon as possible, sent to strengthen Wright's line. Rodes' (old) brigade, under Colonel O'Neal, the first to arrive, was deployed behind Wright's on a ridge some 300 yards in his rear. The main line was strongly posted on a spur of the mountains, which commanded the ridges occupied by Wright and O'Neal. The enemy attacked in force, driving the front line of skirmishers back slowly. Wright's men fought obstinately, as did the sharpshooters. After obtaining possession of the ridge occupied by the first line of skirmishers, the enemy attempted to make a further advance in line of battle, and with a force sufficient to have overwhelmed the first line—which had now rallied at the foot of the ridge—but failed signally, the gallant fellows of that line breaking his solid lines repeatedly. His officers acted generally with great gallantry, but the men behaved in a most cowardly manner. A few shots from Carter's artillery and the skirmishers' fire halted them, broke them, and put a stop to the engagement. Only a few shots were fired by my second line of skirmishers. Of course my main line was not engaged. The fight, if it be worthy that name, took place in full view of the division, and whilst the conduct of our men, and of Wright's particularly, was the subject of admiration, that of the enemy was decidedly puerile.
Wright's brigade lost, I, about eighty men, killed and wounded, including amongst the latter Colonel Walker, commanding the brigade. My total loss was fifteen killed, wounded and missing, including one officer of Ramseur's sharpshooters killed. The enemy's loss was, in my opinion, greater than ours. By a prisoner's statements, and from what I saw, the enemy had at least two corps backing his attacking force. General Meade's dispatch from Front Royal next day showed that a very large portion, if not all of his army, was present.
During the night, the pontoons, baggage, &c., having been safely disposed of, my division fell back on the Luray road, about two miles from Front Royal, and bivouacked, Johnson's division remaining at Front Royal as rear guard. This day's work, including a march of twenty-seven miles on one of the hottest of summer days, the excitement of a threatened battle, and the night march of four or five miles, damaged the division seriously. Its marches had been admirable up to the time of reaching Front Royal, but for some days after that the men were broken down, and therefore straggled. Fortunately the marches during this period were quite short. Continuing the march leisurely, resting near Luray a day or two, the division arrived at Madison courthouse, by way of Thornton's Gap and Sperryville, on the 29th of July.
In concluding what I have to say about this campaign, I beg leave to call attention to the heroes of it, the men who day by day sacrificed self on the altar of freedom, those barefooted North Carolinians, Georgians and Alabamians, who, with bloody and swollen feet, kept to their ranks, day after day, for weeks. When the division reached Darkesville, near one-half of the men and many officers were barefooted, and fully one-fourth had been so since we crossed the Blue Ridge. These poor fellows had kept up with the column and in rank during the most rapid march of this war, considering its length, over that worst of roads for footmen, the turnpike, and during the hottest days of summer. These are the heroes of the campaign.
|I have the honor to be, Colonel,|
|Yours very respectfully,|
R. E. Rodes, Major-General.