Head Quarters Lane's Brigade
September 16th 1864
I have the honor to report that, after leaving the Wilderness Battle Field on the afternoon of the 8th of May, my Brigade marched continuously and rapidly until 2 o'clock on the morning of the 9th. At 6 A.M. we resumed our march, reaching Spotsylvania C.H. about 12 m. and at once intrenched on the left of the road leading to Fredericksburg - our right resting on the road. Next day we moved to the left and connected with Johnston's Brigade, and subsequently occupied Johnston's position - our right resting at the Salient beyond the Brick Kiln. That night we moved very rapidly to the support of a part of Ewell's Command but not being needed, we were ordered back to our previous position. On the 11th we were ordered still further to the left. I did not like this position, and seeing that I could get a more commanding one and at the same time shorten the line and thereby connect with Stuart's Brigade of Johnston's Division, I threw four of my Regiments forward, abandoning the old line of works with the exception of the part occupied by the 37th Regiment on the right. The 28th formed close upon Stuart in the "double sap" which had been thrown up by Johnston's Pioneer Corps, with its right resting upon a boggy piece of ground. The 18th intrenched itself on an elevated point on the opposite side of this boggy place with its right[page 2]
resting on a swampy branch. The 7th and 33rd Regiments intrenched on the same line between the swampy branch and the left of the 37th, the right of the 7th resting on the 37th, and the left of the 33rd on the branch. This new line of intrenchment, thrown up & occupied by the 7th, 33rd, and 18th Regiments, formed an exterior obtuse angle with the line occupied by the 37th and was nearly at right angles to an abandoned arm of the old works which ran to the rear from the apex of this obtuse angle. I informed Maj. Genl Wilcox of what I had done and it met with his approval. With Stuart close upon our left and Walker of Heth's Division on our right, we occupied this position until the following morning.
About day break on the morning of the 12th I was on the left of my line when the enemy penetrated Johnston's front. I ordered the 28th Regiment to hold its position until I was satisfied that the Yankees had struck Stuart and were making for our rear. I then ordered Col. Speer to move his Regiment by the right flank to the abandoned arm of the old works above referred to, but before I could withdraw this Regiment with the 18th, 33rd, and 7th to the point indicated, the enemy, under cover of the dense fog which prevailed at that time, struck us in flank and rear and succeeded in capturing some prisoners from the left of the 28th and 18th Regiments. The 7th and 33rd withdrew in order and formed as directed on the left of the 37th while the 18th and 28th though thrown into some confusion, came up like brave men, and formed on their left. Thus thrown back behind this arm of the
old works we could enfilade the [rear] which we had just left. In the best of spirits the Brigade welcomed the furious assault which soon followed, with prolonged cheers and death dealing volleys - the unerring rifles of the 37th and part of the 7th thinning the ranks of the enemy in front while the rest did good execution in rear. It is impossible for me to speak in too high terms of my Command in repulsing this terrible attack of the enemy. Men could not fight better nor officers behave more gallantly - the latter regardless of danger would frequently pass along the line and cheer the former in their glorious work. We justly claim for this Brigade alone the honor of not only successfully stemming but rolling back the tide of Federal victory which came surging furiously to our right.[page 4]
As soon as I had charged the front of my Brigade, I sent my Aid, Let. Oscar Lane, to Maj. Gen. Wilcox for reinforcements, as I was afraid the enemy, under cover of the fog, would attempt to turn my left. When Scale's Brigade came up just after the enemy had made their last desperate effort to force us from our position, I directed them to form on my left, & while this movement was being executed by that Brigade, Doles' Brigade of Ewell's Corps moved in line of battle from the woods & occupied the new works from which my men had driven the enemy. At Genl. Dole's suggestion I formed my Brigade on the right of his and both moved forward over the intrenchments and abattis into the pine thicket in front in pursuit of the enemy. I apprised
Genl. Wilcox of this movement and, when we had advanced between three hundred and four hundred yards into the thicket, I was ordered by him through Lieut. Lindsey to fall back to the works. Having informed Doles' Brigade of this order and having also sent back to notify the troops in our rear of what we were about to do, I ordered a withdrawal of the Brigade by Wings. I withdrew the right wing first and in perfect order - the left then retired under Capt. Hale and in good order, but not until they had poured a few volleys into a body of Yankees immediately in their front. As the works were occupied by other troops on our return, the Brigade was formed to the rear in the woods and allowed to rest.[page 5]
After the rain we were ordered to occupy that part of the line between the Salient and the Brick Kiln which had previously been held by McGowan. Soon after taking this position, our corps of sharp shooters, under Capt. W.T. Nicholson of the 37th Regiment, was sent out in obedience to orders to reconnoiter the ground in advance of the Salient & were soon actively engaged.
The 7th and 33rd Regiments were afterwards sent under Let. Col. Cowan into the oak woods to the right of the Salient to ascertain if the enemy had a line of battle in that direction - they were subsequently instructed to attack the enemy as soon as his position was discovered. Lt. Col. Cowan ordered four Companies - two from the 7th and two from the 33rd - under Capt. Thos. G. Williamson of the 7th to precede him as skirmishers. Capt. Williamson engaged the enemys skirmishers, drove them back upon
their line of battle and reported the result to Let. Col. Cowan who was making arrangements for an attack when I joined him with the balance of the Brigade.[page 6]
I had been ordered into the oak woods near the ice house by Generals Early & Wilcox with instructions to face to the front after the left of my line had gotten well into the woods, to advance upon the enemy and try to capture the Battery which was planted in the open field beyond the Salient and which had been enfilading that part of our works which we had just left. The main object of this movement however, as I was informed, was to relieve Ewell's front, which at that time was heavily pressed by the enemy. On reaching Lt. Col. Cowan I faced my whole Brigade as directed-the Regiments being in the following order from right to left: 7th, 33rd, 37th, 18th, 28th. In this position I threw forward skirmishers before advancing - Capt. Williamson with his four Companies being still on our right flank. Mahone's Brigade under Col. Weiseger had formed about one hundred yards in our rear as a support. Just here I received orders from Genl. Early through one of Genl. Wilcox's Couriers (Bailey) to advance at once and rapidly. To guard against a flank attack, I ordered the 7th Regiment back at right angles to our general line and then had it moved forward under Capt. J.G. Harris in the direction of Williamson's skirmishers. When I ordered the general advance, I notified Col. Weiseger of the fact through my Adjt. Genl. Capt. Hale and requested him to follow us in supporting distance. My men as usual moved forward very
handsomely and, encouraged by their officers, drove the enemy's sharp shooters out of the oak woods, rushed upon their Battery of six guns - four Napoleons and two Rifles - which was in the open field, and struck Burnside's assaulting column in flank and rear. Our men commenced yelling too soon and drew upon themselves a terrible fire of Canister from four of the guns above referred to. The enemy's artillerists fought with great gallantry - some being shot down while serving their pieces after a part of the Battery had fallen into our hands. We also suffered from the fire of two other Batteries - one on the right and rear on the Fredericksburg road and the other to our right and front. We were in great danger too from the fire of our own guns of Walking Artillery when we were fighting the assaulting column. The infantry fire in our rear was for a short time more severe than that in front, as Mahone's Brigade poured such a fire into us that Lt. Col. Cowan & Let. Col. McGill had to rush back and ask them not to fire into friends. What induced these "brave Virginians" to fire upon us I have never been able to learn.[page 7]
After my Brigade captured the Battery of six guns which we were unable to bring off for the want of horses, and because there was no road by which we could bring it off by hand, we turned our whole attention to Burnside's column which was taken by surprise as it advanced to the assault of the salient. Some part of my Brigade became mixed up with the enemy & for a
time there was fighting at close quarters. As soon as we had passed the Battery, I sent Capt. Hale to request Col. Weiseger to form his Brigade on the right of mine that we might sweep around to the left and up to our works and add to the captures already made by my Brigade. This message was delivered to Col. Weiseger when his Brigade was in the oak woods between the little stream of water and the crest of the hill that sheltered them from the enemy's fire. My Brigade continued to fight the enemy until the heads of the two parallel lines of the enemy which were coming from Ewell's front were in skirmishing distance of us and as I could see no indications of an intention on the part of Col. Weiseger to comply with my request, I ordered my command to fall back, which was necessarily done in some confusion, as the lines had been broken in capturing prisoners and the woods through which they withdrew rendered it almost impossible to preserve anything like a line of battle.[page 8]
While all four of the Regiments of my command that moved upon the Battery & Burnside's column behaved nobly, the 37th had the best opportunity of displaying its bravery as it was immediately in front of the four pieces that were turned upon us & suffered heavily from Canister. I have never seen a Regiment advance more beautifully than it did in the face of such a murderous fire. The 7th Regiment also behaved very gallantly on our right flank. It there engaged the enemy and prevented them from getting in our rear and did not fall back until
the rest of the Brigade commenced retiring.[page 9]
The Corps of sharp shooters under Capt. W. T. Nicholson did good service that day & are deserving much praise.
Among the brave spirits that fell during this hard but glorious day's work were my aid Let. Oscar Lane: Capt. N. Clark Co. "E" 28th Regt; Capt. H. C. Grady Co "D" 37th Regt; Lieut. E.A. Carter Co "A" 37th Regt; Lt. C.T. Haigh Co. "B" 37th Regiment, Let. B.A. Johnston Co "C" 37th Regt. Than these none were more attentive to duty - none more upright in their conduct - none more gallant on the battle field.
Col. Jno. D. Barry of the 18th Regiment, and Col. W. H. A. Speer of the 28th behaved with great coolness in withdrawing their Commands while attacked in the morning, and in the flank movement that afternoon seemed determined to offset the loss sustained by their Regiments earlier in the day. Col. W.M. Barbour of the 37th behaved with his usual gallantry in both engagements, but was unfortunately captured in the latter after the order had been given for the Brigade to fall back. Let. Col. R.V. Cowan, commanding the 33rd Regiment, was conspicious for his gallantry both in the morning and afternoon, but he particularly distinguished himself in the morning, when, hat in hand, he was constantly running along his line & cheering his men though himself all the time exposed to a storm of Yankee bullets. Capt. J. G. Harris who has frequently commanded the 7th Regt. and has been commanding it in this campaign ever since the Wildnerness fight,
has proved himself worthy of a higher position. I was also struck with the bravery displayed by Capt. I. R. McAulay Co. "I" 7th Regt. in the morning fight. A brave Christian officer he was always to be found at his post ready for any duty that was assigned him however dangerous and arduous. Let. C. T.Haigh Co. "B" 37th Regt. was amongst the foremost in the charge upon the Battery & won the admiration of all who saw him.[page 10]
Again do I beg leave to call attention to my Staff. My Aid Let. Oscar Lane after behaving very gallantly in the morning was struck in the afternoon by a shell and has since died of his wounds. Capt. E. J. Hale Jr. the A.A. Genl. also behaved well in the forenoon, but had better opportunities of displaying his gallantry in the flank movement in the afternoon, when, by his boldness he not only escaped capture, but took several prisoners and sent them safely back to the rear.
I am indebted for my own life to Privt. P.A. Parker Co. "D" 37th Regt. who killed the Yankee that had levelled his gun and was in the act of firing upon me - the Yankee was not more than ten paces from us at the time. Privt. Parker is a brave young man and has shown himself an excellent soldier in Camp and on the march as well as in battle.
In the flank movement my Brigade captured three flags and a large number of prisoners - supposed to be about four hundred - notwithstanding Genl. Mahone said in the presence of Lt. Col. McGill that afternoon that "the d___d North Carolinians
were deserting his brave Virginians."[page 11]
1st Let. James Grimsley Co. "K" 37th Regt. with a small squad of men had the honor of capturing the colors of the 17th Michigan and about thirty prisoners. Lieut. Grimsley is a very brave man.
2nd Lieut. O.A. Wiggins Co. "E" 37th Regt. was captured by the enemy but by his boldness succeeded in making his escape & brought off with him the flag of the 51st Pennsylvania Regiment and several prisoners.
Privt. I. H. Wheeler, a brave soldier of Co "E" 18th Regiment is entitled to the credit of capturing the Battery flag.
Some of the prisoners captured by my Brigade were sent to the rear under small guards and others without any guard at all, and there were taken charge of by Mahone's Brigade and conducted to the Court House.
As Genl. Mahone claims for his Brigade one of the flags and most of the prisoners captured by mine, I deem it my duty in justice to my own command to make the following statment. In our advance through the Oak Woods we encountered nothing but the enemy's skirmishers, except the force on our right flank which was held in check by the 7th N.C. Regt. of my Brigade until we had fallen back. The Battery which we captured and were unable to bring off was in the open field at least one hundred yards from the oak woods, and Burnside's assaulting column which we fought advanced upon the Salient through an open space and a pine thicket, and as Genl. Mahone's
Brigade of "brave Virginians" never left the oak woods in which it formed line of battle, it was impossible for it to capture any large number of the enemy except the unarmed ones sent by us to the rear. I had far better opportunities of witnessing the performance of Mahone's Brigade than did Genl. Mahone himself. I was in the Oak Woods, I was in the open field and I was also in the pine thicket beyond the opening and I know that Mahone's Brigade did not leave the oak woods, and that it lost a golden opportunity for covering itself with merited glory by not forming on my right and sweeping around as I had requested it to do. When we fell back Captn. Hale met with Col. Weiseger and, at his request, conducted him and his Brigade out of the Oak Woods. I never saw Genl. Mahone after he introduced me to Col. Weiseger and I had taken my command into the woods, but I am told by some of my officers that he was riding around on horseback in the edge of the Woods near the Fredericksburg road abusing my Brigade generally and claiming for his own most if not all of the prisoners that were brought to the rear, when really his Brigade was leaving the woods guided by my Adjt. Genl. unconscious at the time that they were all to be made heroes of by their General for having unnecessarily taken charge of the Captives of another Command.[page 12]
The following is a tabulated list of the Casualties of the 12th with the names of the officers killed, wounded and missing.
|Genl. Staff||Let. Oscar Lane A.D.C. Mortally Wounded|
|28th Reg.||Captn. N. Clark, Co "E"|
|37th [Regimemt]||Captn. H.C. Grady, Co "D"; Let. E.A. Carter, Co. "A"; Let. C.T. Haigh, Co "B"; Let. B.A. Johnston, Co. "C."|
|7th Regt||Adj. Jno. W. Pearson; Let. J.L. Stafford Co. "H"|
|18th||Lieut. T. P. Malloy Co. "D"; Lieut. A.M. [Collins] Co. "H"|
|28th||Lieut. R.D. Orman Co. "B"|
|33rd||Lieut. W.F. McEntyre Co "D"; Let. I.N. Anderson Co. "I"|
|37th||Actg. Ensign R.M. Staley; Captn. D.L. Hudson Co. "G"; Lieut. E.H. Russell Co. "I" - on the 10th May|
|18th Regt.||Captn. T.M. Wooten, Co. "H"; Captn. T.C. Lewis Co. "I"; Lieut. D.S. Bullard, Co. "A"; Let. Neil Townsend, Co. "D"; Lieut. A.A. Rowland, Co. "D"; Let. G.W. Corbett, Co. "E"; Lieut. Frank McIntosh Co. "F"; Let. I.L. Elkins, Co. "H"|
|28th||Captn. S.S. Bohannon, Co. "I"; Let. H.C. Andrews Co. "G"; Lieut. P.H. Turner, Co. "K"|
|37th||Col. Wm. M. Barbour; Lieut I.D. Borwn, Co. "C"|
After we had fallen back & reformed that afternoon, we occupied the works to the left of the road near the Court House. From that time until the 21st, we frequently changed our position to the left of the C.H., strengthened old works, built new ones, & some-times marched to the support of other commands, but were not actively engaged.
The following is a list of our casualties from sharp shooting & shelling from the 13th to the 20th of May.
37th Reg. Captn. Wm T. Nicholson, Co. "E", 37th Reft. on 18th [inst]On the afternoon of the 21st we moved to the right - following Scales Brigade - to a church some distance to the right of the C.H. Here we turned to the left, marched beyond the works and formed the 33rd, 28th & 37th Regiments in line of battle in the woods to the left of a small road - the 7th & 18th under Col. Barry being formed in rear as a support. In obedience to orders we then advanced through an almost impenetrable abattis, dislodged and drove back a strong line of the enemy's skirmishers, and held their main line of breastworks until after dark when we were ordered back to the Church.
In this charge Lieut. E.S. Edwards Co. "G" 28th N.C. was killed. Lieut. Edwards was regarded by Col. Speer as one of his best officers.
That night we commenced our march in the direction of Ashland.
List of Casualties in the Charge on the 21st May.
[To:]8th Regt. Lieut. E.S. Edwards, Co. "G"Officers Wounded7th [Regt.] Lieut. O.A. Wiggins, Co. "E"Respectfully,
James H. Lane.
--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.
Return to the Lane Papers Inventory
Go to the AU Archives and
Manuscripts Department Homepage