Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 08.djvu/117

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"General Lee to the Rear."

"General Lee to the Rear"—The Incident with Harris' Mississippi Brigade.

We take great pleasure in publishing the following detailed account of the incident which occurred with Harris' gallant Mississippians on the 12th of May, 1864, and to which we briefly alluded in our paper in the January number as being (alike with the scene with the Texans in the Wilderness, and that with Gordon's division at Spotsylvania) "well authenticated":

Letter from General N. H. Harris.

Vicksburg, August 24th, 1871.

Colonel Charles S. Venable,
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.:

Dear Sir—I am about to trespass upon your kind attention in a matter which may seem at first entirely personal, but the contrary will appear to you after a full and complete statement of my object and wishes. You will recollect, Colonel, that on the morning of the 12th of May, 1864, my brigade (Mississippi), having double-quicked from the left of our lines, was halted on the Courthouse road, near Spotsylvania Courthouse; that, after a halt at this point of a half hour, General Lee in person ordered the brigade (I being at the right of the brigade) to an attention, put it on the march, left in front, and himself at the head, moved in the direction of the salient from which the troops of General Edward Johnson had been driven; that, moving at the quick-step, we were soon under a heavy artillery fire from the batteries of the enemy in front and to our right; that, whilst thus advancing, General Lee, yourself, myself and staff at the head of the brigade, a twelve pound (ricochet) shot passed just in front of General Lee, so near as to excite his horse very much, causing him to rear and plunge in such a manner as would have unseated a less accomplished horseman.

The men, seeing the narrow escape of their beloved commander, earnestly urged him to go back, and one or two of them caught hold of the bridle of his horse and turned the animal around. General Lee then spoke to the men and told them that if they would drive the enemy from the captured works, he would go back, The men responded with a hearty "we will!"

The brigade moved forward to the point of attack, drove the enemy from the captured works and held the position until 4 A. M. of the 13th, resisting effectually the repeated efforts of Grant's massed forces to dislodge them.

With this statement of facts, which I have no doubt will readily recur to you, I beg to call your attention to an entirely different version of this affair given by Major John Esten Cooke in his life