Lane's Report, Sept. 8, 1864 - Wilderness (May 5, 1864)


Head Quarters Lane's Brigade
Sept 8th 1864


I have the honor to report that, on the 5th of May, my Brigade marched to the left of the Plank Road to a point beyond Wilderness Run and near a Mr. [Tiening's or Tuning's] residence where we were formed in line of battle with Thomas' Brigade on our left, and ordered to advance with the view of sweeping the enemy from Scales' front.  We had moved forward but a short distance, when the enemy opened upon our Corps of Sharp Shooters, which had been deployed in advance.  This picked body of brave men, under their intrepid commander Captn. Jno. [G.] Knox, quickly returned their fire with deadly effect, and vigorously charging them, succeeded in capturing one hundred and forty seven (147) prisoners, including eight commissioned officers.  Before the Brigade proper could become engaged, we were ordered back to the Plank Road to the support of Heth's Division.  On reaching that point, the other brigades of this Division, having already been put into action, Genl. Wilcox ordered us to the right of Scales, who was then engaged in the woods to the right of the road.  As the Brigade was filing into the woods, the enemy's Sharp shooters advanced on the left flank and opened fire.  I at once ordered Col. Barbour to deploy his, the 37th N.C. Regiment,
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to the left and parallel to the road to protect our flank. While giving these instructions, the rest of the Brigade was halted in rear of Scales by Maj. Palmer of Genl. A.P. Hill's Staff, and I was soon afterwards informed by Genl Hill in person that a part of Scales' Brigade had given way, and was ordered by him to move forward and reestablish the line, letting my left rest on McGowan's right.  After cautioning the 7th - the left regiment - to be careful not to fire into McGowan, the order for the advance was given, when the Brigade, its left being about one hundred yards from the Plank Road, moved handsomely forward with their usual battle yell.  The advance was necessarily slow as we had to move through a swamp filled with dense undergrowth and dead fallen trees.

The 38th N.C. of Scale's Brigade, commanded by Let. Col. Ashford, took position in our line between the 18th and 28th Regiments on the right, and assisted us in driving the enemy back and out of the swamp.  Our Corps of sharp shooters fought on the right with the 18th Regiment.

The enemy reinforced flanked us on the right, and, on attempting to get in our rear, Col. Barry broke back two of his Companies, and was soon afterwards forced to change the entire front of his regiment to meet the enemy in that direction. The enemy pressed this regiment so heavily that it was compelled to retire at dark.  While these movements were going on

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on the right, the 7th Regiment, which was on the left and under the impression that McGowan was in its front -  none of us were aware at that time that McGowan had withdrawn under orders from Genl Wilcox - reserved its fire and pressed forward to within seventy five yards of the enemy, who were massed in strong force on the high ground beyond the swamp.  Here a terrible fire was opened upon it, and when it had become hotly engaged, the enemy, under cover of the darkness and the dense smoke which had settled in the swamp, threw out a column on our left flank.  When this column had gotten within a few paces of the left of the 7th, it demanded its surrender and at the same time fired a destructive volley into it, which caused its left flank to fall back in considerable disorder.  This exposed condition of my flanks induced me to order the balance of the Brigade back to the high ground in rear of the swamp, which order was executed with difficulty on account of the darkness and the character of the ground.  The 7th, 18th, 28th, and 33rd Regiments were all subsequently taken to the rear of Scales' Brigade, which occupied a short breast work that ran diagonally to the road on the right, where we formed the 37th Regiment, to which point Col. Barbour informs me it had previously been ordered.  I then reported to Genl. Wilcox in person, told him of the result of our fight, informed him where my Brigade was, and was ordered by him to let it remain in its position, as it would be relieved by Anderson
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before day light.

It gives me great pleasure to be able to bear testimony to the gallant bearing of my Command in this engagement, and to the cool and unflinching bravery with which both officers and men advanced against a largely superior force, which was constantly reinforced.  Nobly did they perform their work, driving the enemy out of the swamp and forcing them to seek shelter behind their temporary breastworks on the dry ground beyond.  We were the last troops to become engaged and, without hope of any assistance, kept up this unequal contest from about five O'clock P.M. until nine, when the threatened envelopment of my whole command induced me to withdraw them to the point already referred to.

While the whole Brigade - except the 37th Regiment which had been detached just before we advanced and was not actively engaged - fought with so much gallantry, it is due to the 28th Regiment to state that it advanced further than any other part of the Command and occupied for a time a portion of the enemy's intrenchments beyond the swamp.  Out of ammunition, the men supplied themselves from the boxes of the dead and wounded and held this position until dark, when they fell back and reformed on the right of the 33rd Regiment.

We rested that night, as ordered by Genl. Wilcox, in rear of Scales, with a part of Heth's Division in our rear - there were also other troops to the left of the road.  Next

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morning about day it was ascertained that the enemy was advancing and as we had not been releived [relieved] by Anderson's Division and no further orders had been received from anyone, I endeavoured to form my Brigade in line of battle perpendicular to the road.  Just as I had succeeded in forming the 33rd, 18th, and 37th with one half of the 33rd broken back parallel to the road, the enemy in large force pressed back Scales and the troops to the left of the road being driven out in disorder, the enemy struck our left at the angle formed by the two wings of the 33rd Regiment.  We opposed this force for a short time - the 33rd Regiment fighting like heroes - but could not long stand the terrible fire on our front & flanks.  We were forced back in disorder with the other troops and reformed again to the rear.  We afterwards occupied a position to the left of the Road, and that night connected with Ramseur of Ewell's Corps and intrenched.  Unfortunate as was the affair of the morning, I can attach no blame whatever to my Brigade for anything it did on that occasion.  The fight of the day previous, the subsequent gallantry of my Command in many hard fought battles and the great losses it has sustained in this Campaign are sufficient to show that brave men are sometimes forced to turn their backs to the foe.  If a mistake was made either in the night of the 5th or morning of the 6th, the fault rests elsewhere than with my Command.

Col. C.M. Avery, Comg. 33rd Regiment, was wounded

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while gallantly passing up and down his lines on the 6th cheering his men by his presence and urging them to stand firm. He was again wounded in several places while going from the field and has since died.  We also have to mourn the loss of two other brave spirits belonging to the same Regiment, Lieutenants A.P. Lyon, Co. "B." and I.[J.] L. Farrow, Co. "H."  Col. Jno. D. Barry is deserving great praise for the manner in which he handled his Regiment in protecting our right flank on the 5th.  He has shown himself fully competent to fill a more responsible place than that which he now holds.  Col. W.H.A. Speer proved himself a worthy commander of that gallant Regiment which occupied for a time a portion of the enemy's intrenchments beyond the swamp.  He speaks of Captn. E.F. Lovill Co. "A." Actg. Major, and his Adjt., R.S. Folger, as having acted "very gallantly throughout" this engagement.  Let. Col. Wm Lee Davidson, Comdg. the 7th Regt. while gallantly encouraging his men on the left, fell into the hands of the enemy when the left flank of his Regiment was thrown into confusion.  Captn Jno. G. Knox, Comdg. the Corps of sharp shooters, who is one of the bravest of the brave, and to whom we are indebted for much of the efficiency of that fine body of men, also fell into the hands of the enemy on the right.  Captn V.V. Richardson, a most reliable officer of oft tried gallantry, and next in command to Capt. Knox, fell at the same time severly wounded.  Sergt. Major C.T. Wright of the 37th Regiment, a

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brave and noble boy, lost his life from the wound received on the 6th.

I would be doing great injustice to gallant, accomplished and efficient officers were I not to call special attention to my Staff.  Captn E.I.[J.] Hale, Jr. the A.A.G. and my aid Lieut. Oscar Lane, under the hottest fire, would frequently ride along the line encouraging the men, watching our flanks and carrying orders, while Captn E.T. Nicholson, the A.I.G. discharged all his duties most faithfully.

From the night of the 6th until the afternoon of the 8th, when we commenced moving by the right flank in the direction of Spotsylvania C.H., we were moved frequently and made to occupy various points along the line to the left of the Plank Road, at all of which the men worked with untiring energy, cutting down trees, making abattis, and throwing up intrenchments.

The following is a tabulated list of our Casualties on the 5th & 6th of May with the names of all the Officers Killed, wounded & missing.

7th Regt.
18th Regt
28th Regt
33rd Regt
37th Regt
Gr. Total
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Officers Killed
Col. C.M. Avery 33rd      Lieut. A.P. Lyon Co. "B" 33rd      Lieut. I.[J.] L. Farrow Co. "H" 33rd Regt.
Officers Wounded
7th Regt. - Lieut. Jno. Ballentine Co. "E,";   Lieut. E.B. Roberts Co. "I,";  Lieuts. W.H. Haywood & A.M. Walker Co "K"

18th Regt. - Captn V.V. Richardson, Co "E,";  Lieut. H. Long Co E,;  Lieut. I.[J.] D. Currie Co K

28th Regt. - Lieut M.I.[J.] [Endy], Co "D";  Lt. E.S. Edwards Co "G";   Lieut. A.W. Stone, Co "K"

33rd Regt. - Captn W.H. Avery, Co "I";  Lieut. I.[J.] D. Fain, Co "C";  Let. I.[J.] W. Tate, Co "F,";  Lieut. W.L. White, Co. "I";  Lieut. I.[J.] G. Rencher Co. "K"

37th Regt - Lieut. I.[J.] M. Cochrane, Co. "D."

Officers Missing
7th Regt. - Let. Col. Davidson; Captn I.[J.] G. Knox Co. "A";  Captn W.G. McRae Co "C"; Let. S.L. [Hayman] Co. "E"
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28th Regt. - Lieut. E. Hurley, Co. "E"
James H. Lane
Brig. Genl.
[to:] Maj. Jos A. Engelhard
Wilcox's Lt. Divn.
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--Transcriptions made by Terri Stout-Stevens, Pfafftown, NC, in 1997 and 1998.  Edited by Marty Olliff, Assistant Archivist, Auburn University, who takes all responsibility for any errors.


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