Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 20.djvu/76

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

ing any attack from that direction. They fled pell-mell before us, leaving their light camp equipage scattered in every direction, making scarcely any resistance until they reached the Orange plank-road; when, having a natural fortification, strengthened hurriedly by them, they stoutly resisted us. Just at this point you dashed up to the front of my regiment, the Twelfth Virginia, and approached our color-bearer, Benjamin H. May (as gallant a soldier as ever carried a flag or shouldered a musket, and who was killed at Spotsylvania Courthouse the 12th of May), and asked him for his colors to lead the charge. He refused to give up his colors, but said: 'We will follow you.' With great enthusiasm we followed you in the direction of the plank-road. The enemy broke and fled before us. I remember seeing you then dash with great speed up the road in the direction, I suppose, of General Longstreet, to inform him that the way was clear. Our color-bearer, in the excitement of the moment, failed to observe that the other regiments of the brigade had halted at the plank-road. We became detached and passed over the road forty or fifty yards before halting. Our colonel, Colonel D. A. Weisiger, observing that we were in advance of the brigade, ordered us to fall back on a line with the brigade. In doing so the other regiments, mistaking us for the enemy, fired into us, killing and wounding several of our men, and I always thought the same volley killed General Jenkins and wounded General Longstreet, this apparently putting an end to all operations for the day, as there seemed to be very little done afterwards during the day.

"I had the pleasure of a short conversation with General Longstreet returning from Gettysburg, three years ago, and he told me that, while he knew he was wounded by his own men, he never knew exactly how it occurred. He said everything was working beautifully up to this point, and what seemed to be an opportunity for a brilliant victory was lost by this unfortunate circumstance.

"I have so often thought of your bravery and gallant bearing as you led us through the woods up to the plank-road, I feel that I would like to know with certainty whether or not my recollections are correct as to the part you took in that charge.

"Wishing you a long life, much happiness and great prosperity.

"I am, very truly, your comrade,"

"John R. Turner."

To this letter General Sorrel replied as follows: