J. B. (Joseph Benjamin) Polley.

Hood's Texas brigade, its marches, its battles, its achievements online

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very few, if any, of that regiment reached the hill beyond. ]My
charge was continued across the branch and up the hill, in the
direction of a heavy battery the enemy had playing on us from
the hill beyond.

" Seeing nothing of General Kemper's brigade or any other
of our forces on my right, and no support visible in my rear,
I ordered my regiment to halt under the crest of the hill. See-
ing Major (Captain) Sellers, assistant adjutant-general, I
went to him for orders. He ordered me to halt. I returned
to the center of my regiment, which was but a few steps up
the hill, and found that my right wing had failed to receive
the order to halt, and had passed over the crest of the hill,
and was advancing under a murderous fire from two of the
enemy's batteries. As these batteries swept the field over
which our reinforcements had to come, I determined to charge
the one immediately in my front, in preference to recalling my
right. It was here that I first missed my gallant lieutenant-
colonel, J. C. Upton. His fall was the cause of my right
not getting the order to halt.

" The charge was gallantly made ; the battery cleared and
passed; the enemy fleeing before us. As I passed down the
hill bc3'ond the battery taken, I observed the enem^' in still
heavier force than any we had encountered on the hill before
us. They were drawn up in three lines of battle, the rear
line of which was moving by the left flank at a run, for a point
of timber on my right, some 400 yards distant. Seeing no
support on my right, it was evident that I must gain this
point of timber before him to prevent my right from being
turned. I sought Colonels WofTord, of the Eighteenth


Georgia regiment, and Gary, of the Hampton Legion, and
announced the movement of the enemy and my determination
to move by my right flank to the timber. They assented to
the move, and I moved by my right flank up the hollow as
rapidly as the exhausted condition of my men would permit
me. We gained the woods, the head of my column leading
the enemy's by some fifty yards, when we fired into them and
drove them from the woods. After getting distance sufficient
to cover the command, I ordered a halt, intending to collect
my men and giving them a few moments' rest (they had made
three separate charges and continued the run for one and one-
half miles and were very much exhausted) and await our

" Before my lines were well-formed, a regiment of our forces
came up through the woods from the rear. As it passed my
lines, the command of forward was given. My command, mis-
taking it for them, moved forward, and thus became consider-
ably scattered by intermixing with that regiment. We rallied
and advanced to their right through the orchard and passed
the house, driving the enemy from his position there, and
gained the hollow beyond. Near the gate beyond the garden,
I was struck down, and must refer to the report of Captain
Ike N. Turner, who was left in command. Captain K. Bryan,
my acting major, being wounded.

" The separation of the regiments of the brigade during the
battle probably increased the casualties in my regiment, inter-
fering to some extent with its eflBciency, and demonstrated the
absolute necessity of having brigade commanders present with
brigades at all times during the engagement.

" My flag was borne into action by Color-Sergeant W. V.
Royston, of Company I ; next by Corpl. J. Miller, Company
B ; Private C. Moncrief, Company C ; Private Shepherd, Com-
pany B ; Sergeant Simpson, Company A ; Private J. Harris,
Company D ; Sergt. F. C. Hume, Company D, all of whom
were shot down while gallantly bearing the flag in front of the
regiment. It was borne through the remainder of the fight
by Private Farthing, Company D.

" I had three companies left without a commissioned officer,
viz.. Companies C, H and I, but they pressed forward with-
out faltering.


" Where all behaved so nobly distinctions cannot, with pro-
priety, be made. All, both officers and men, sustained well the
reputation of the Lone Star flag, under which they fought
through the battle. Among the list of killed I have to lament
the death of the brave and chivalrous Lieut. Col. John C.
Upton, who fell while gallantly leading the right wing of his
regiment to victory. My list of killed is 15, wounded 245,
missing 1. The regiment captured three stands of colors and
two batteries. Six guns and quite a number of prisoners were
sent to the rear."

Following the above report of Colonel Robertson, comes that
of Captain King Bryan, who was that day acting as major of
his regiment. No report from Captain Turner is to be found.
After saying that he (Bryan) was not wounded before Rob-
ertson was, and that he succeeded Robertson in the command,
Captain Bryan relates what happened after Robertson was
wounded; that is, after the Fifth Texas halted in the hollow
beyond the house referred to by Colonel Robertson. He sa3^s :

" By the time the line was halted and formed. General Evans'
brigade had come up on our left, when the command, forward,
was given, and the Fifth Texas and Hampton's Legion moved
off in good order to the edge of the field. Being then within
80 yards of the enemy, another of our impetuous charges
swept that wing of the enemy's line away like chaff before
the wind, the right remaining intact, supported by a battery
and another strong line of infantry formed perpendicularly
to the other line, distant from the Chinn house about 600
yards. Another battery was near the Chinn house on the
left and in rear of the line we had assailed and broken.
The pursuit was rapid, the rush being mainly directed toward
the last mentioned battery; but this was managed with such
precaution as to move in time to effect its escape, we capturing
two caissons only. In the charge some confusion occurred on
our right which caused me to hasten to that flank, and coming
in contact with a brigade of fresh troops, I moved rapidly
along its line, appealing to it to move faster, not knowing what
might be awaiting us beyond the house. The pursuit was con-
ducted to the left of the house and through the oi-chard and
yard. On the cast of the liouse is a wide hollow, and in it a


mass of timber running northeast, beginning opposite the
house and extending in the direction named about 700 yards,
when it turns more to the eastward, leaving a large open field
on the north. At the head of the hollow, about 400 yards
from where the timber makes the turn to the eastward, w^as a
batter}'. Opposite this point or turn in the timber, and on the
ridge upon which the Chinn house stands, rested the left of
that pei*pendicular line, which consisted of two heavy regi-
ments. Being delayed by going to the right, on arriving east
of the house I had the satisfaction of seeing our flag at the
timber, it having pursued that far and halted, and was waving
briskly, that the men might see and rally to it. I recognized
the tall and manly forms of Captains J. S. Cleveland and
Turner with it and directing its movements. I found a num-
ber of our men who had been forced to take shelter in a deep
wash in the side of the ridge from a terrible flank fire poured
upon them from the perpendicular line described. It was this
fire during this pursuit and subsequent advance upon it which
caused our very heavy losses on that day. We were not allowed
to remain long in our then secure position. A small brigade
came up, moving toward the last mentioned line of the enemy,
and the only unbroken one on that part of the field.

" As the brigade reached our thinned ranks, the command
forward was given, and all started off in the new direction
with the same spirit which had characterized their previous
movements on that day, but gradually settled down to conform
to the movements of the brigade. Our flag dashed up the
slope to the center of the brigade, and then led on in the direc-
tion of the enemy. About this time I joined the colors and
remained near them. I found Captain Turner and Sergeant
Hume, of Company D, and privates Jimmy Harrison and G.
W. Farthing, of the same company, with them. Captain Cleve-
land having just fallen, dangerously wounded in the neck, hav-
ing discharged his every duty as an officer and soldier, to his
company and his country. Harris had the flag when I joined
the party. His enthusiasm was such that it could not be re-
strained. He would from time to time rush to the front a dis-
tance of 60 or 70 yards, face to the advancing line, wave the
flag and shout, ' Come on ' ; but we were soon deprived of his
gallant and cheering example. He was cut down by a severe


wound in the right thigh, falling far in the van of our line.
Sergeant Hume took the flag when young Harris fell, and bore
it high above all others which were then floating over the field,
as a beacon to our men who had been separated from it. Ser-
geant Hume, after bearing the flag about 200 yards, was also
shot down. Being near him, I received the colors from him as
he fell, and carrying them a short distance I transferred them
to Private Farthing, who carried them through the remainder
of the day.

" The brigade had steadily followed our flag, but I now dis-
covered that the line had diminished by the men falling be-
hind, and the nearer we approached the enemy the greater was
this evil; but as vacancies occurred in the rank they were
promptly closed from the flanks. On arriving within 70 yards
of the enemy I found that we had not more than 200 men in
line and in supporting distance of the flag; but the hill-side
was covered with those who had fallen behind, yet slowly ad-
vancing, still loading and firing as they came, the nature of
the ground being such that they could shoot over us with
effect upon the enemy. I halted the colors and closed the line
upon them, intending to await the coming up of those scat-
tered men before advancing the attack further. Here I dis-
covered that the whole command devolved upon me, all evi-
dence of any other organization than that of the Fifth Texas
having disappeared from the field. In this I was assisted by
Captain Turner; but the enemy would not permit our delay.
By the time the line had closed upon the flag, which had halted
immediately in front of the colors of his left regiment, the
commander of that regiment dashed through his lines to the
front and commanded his men to charge, the left of which
had gotten in motion, when some well-directed shots from our
side brought the officer and his horse both down. This was
followed by a yell and a rush from our side, which, together
with our well-directed fire, completed the work. They broke by
the left flank, and fled behind the batteries at the head of the
hollow, the whole line following in the same trace. On dis-
covering this, wc halted and poured our fire upon them as they
passed. We might have made an advantageous movement and
cut off the rear of their line, but their right was obstructed
from our view by high ground until they reached a point


Shaepsbtjeg, or Antietam

Beueving that the only hope of the SnntI, (•„
against the great numbers and resource of the V tl T"'''
rapcl fighting General Lee moved Wrrr™;tot:rd Mar Snd"
Jackson led the advance-marching nortlnvard on July 31-^


M^^:^ arrN^th'"^-"''™- '' *^^ So^uth''aT;fea^:

bZZ"^' °\"^' ^^'[ °^ "^"Sust, buried its dead, the
Brigade marched northward ou the morning of September 1
and on the 5th forded the Potomac River at^Point of Rocks-
he men keepmg step, as best they could on the slippery bot-
tom to the tune of " Maryland, My Maryland," pkyed by
Colhns brass band. But the reception it and other Confed-
erate commands were accorded by the Marylanders was as
nearly freezing as the waters they waded4he truth being
that they were entering a section of the State the resident!
of which were, as a rule, pronounced Unionists. Two days
later, the brigade camped on the Monocacy, near Frederick
City whence, on the 10th, it marched on to Hagerstown

At Frederick City, General Lee had his army in a position

the North The Federal army was practically without a com-

Td Pn^e F k'-'I '"'™S}o>>t faith in both McClellan

and Pope. For a brief space of time, the game was in Gen-
eral Lee's hands. Not knowing it, though, he divided h"s
arniy, sending Jackson, with all his command and neariy half
of Longstreet's, up the river to capture Harper's Ferry, then
held by a force of 11,000 Federals who, he feared, mighf inter


about opposite to our left, and we deemed victory too secure
to hazard the result by a movement the certainty of which
could not be clearly foreseen. We pursued, keeping up our
fire till the last one had taken shelter behind their guns.

" Our attention was now attracted to the open field north of
the timber. Here was to be seen the heaviest line of the day
advancing steadily across the field, firing rapidly as they ad-
vanced upon our troops (Jenkins' brigade) who had fought
upon the right and up through the timber, and at that time
occupying a position in the timber fronting this line. Now
that we had disposed of our immediate foe, our next impulse
was to assist our friends, and accordingly we turned our fire
upon the flank of the advancing line, moving forward at the
same time, the range being too great for our fire to be fully
effective; but we had not gone more than 150 yards when we
encountered the line of fire from the enemy's battery, which
was playing across our front upon General Jenkins, when it
was determined to move down to the timber by the right flank
to a point opposite General Jenkins' line, and there file out
and form upon his left. In this movement I was wounded and
had to quit the field, when the command devolved upon Cap-
tain Turner.

" We went into the last attack with the new brigade not
expecting to act a very conspicuous part in the new drama,
but rather, as auxiliaries to the brigade, and I felt surprised
and disappointed when I found that we had the whole work
left upon our hands. Yet we shrank not from the responsi-
bility, and with the smiles of fortune upon our side, we suc-
ceeded in breaking the line, though it was fully five times our
strength. This was the third heavy line the Fifth Texas had
encountered that day, in each instance achieving complete suc-
cess. But for the timely breaking of that line the fortunes of
the day might have been changed. Had it remained intact ten
or fifteen minutes longer it might have co-operated with the
heavy line then advancing upon our front, before which our
men had to yield ground for a time, by flanking our position
in the timber. Such a movement at that time must have been
attended with very disastrous results to us."


rupt his communications with Richmond by way of the Shen-
andoah valley. The order for the movement was embraced in
Special Order No. 191, and in this was disclosed not only Lee's
plans but the position and the place it would hkely be in the
near future, of every command in his army. A copy of that
order fell into the hands of a careless staff officer, and was
used by him as a wrapper for cigars. The bundle was lost,
and picked up on the street by a Unionist; he smoked the
cigars and sent the wrapper to General McClellan, who, by
that time, was in command of the Federal army.

McClellan got possession of the order on the 13th. Up to
that date, his movements had been characterized by even more
caution and timidity than he had displayed when approach-
ing Richmond in May; but informed by the order that Jack-
son was at Harper's Ferry and Longstreet at Hagerstown,
he felt that his opportunity had come, and immediately ordered
his army forward — his aim, to crush Longstreet before Jack-
son could rejoin him. Thus it happened that in the late after-
noon of the 13th his advanced forces came in contact Avith the
Confederates, under D. H. Hill, left by Lee, who rode with
Longstreet to Hagerstown, to hold the gaps in the range of
mountains between Hagerstown and Frederick City.

Hearing the sound of Hill's guns, and informed by a scor.t
that the whole Union araiy was moving against the small force
then under his command. General Lee realized the peril In Avhich
he had placed his army by dividing it. Up to that moment
he had believed Jackson would have ample time to capture
Harper's Ferry and return to him before any advance was
made by the Federals. But he might yet, he thought, con-
test the passage of the gaps through which McClellan and his
army must come, long enough to reunite his scattered troops,
and he therefore, on the morning of the 14th, ordered Long-
street's command to the aid of Hill.

Hood's division left Its camp at Hagerstown in a frame of
mind that threatened Insubordination. At the close of the
last day's fighting at Second Manassas, Texas scouts captured
quite a number of well-appointed ambulances and their teams.
Hood ordered them distributed among the regiments of his
division, but Major-General Shank Evans, under whose com-
mand the division temporarily fell on the 1st of September,


interfered, ordering the captured vehicles and teams turned
over to his South Carolina brigade, for its exclusive use. Hood
refused to do this, and, placed under arrest by Evans, was
ordered by Longstreet, a friend and crony of Evans in the
old United States army, back to Culpeper Court House, to
await trial on charges to be preferred by Evans. The matter
coming to Lee's ears, he countermanded Longstreet's order by
directing that Hood should remain with the army, but did not
release that officer from arrest. And, therefore, since Septem-
ber 1, Hood, bereft of command, had followed in rear of the
Texas Brigade.

Feeling that the commander they most trusted was deeply
wronged, the officers and men of the division had given loud
expression to their indignation, and now as they marched to-
ward what might be another battle, their wrath grew intense.
The Texans, naturally, felt most aggrieved, and were most
outspoken. Coming late in the afternoon to where General Lee
sat on his horse by the side of the road, almost within the
range of the enemy's guns, each man as he passed gave expres-
sion to the resolve that if any fighting was done by the Texas
Brigade, Hood must command it. General Lee was not inat-
tentive, and understanding the full significance of the demand,
he raised his hat courteously and replied, " You shall have him,
gentlemen." The men began to cheer, but " when the gallant
Hood, his head uncovered and his face proud and joyful, gal-
loped by to his rightful place at the head of the division, the
cheers deepened into a roar that drowned the volleys of the
hundred cannons that were even then vengefully thundering
at the gap. And, as the same order that released Hood from
arrest, relieved the division of Evans, and left the ambulances
in possession of it, happiness was at once restored.

Having reached the summit of Boonesboro Gap, Hood's
division took position on the left of the turnpike, its right
resting upon that road. From this point the advance of Mc-
Clellan's long lines could be seen moving up the slope in their
front, evidently intending to dislodge the Confederate forces
posted on the sharp ridges overlooking the valley to the east.
Half an hour later. Hood moved the command to the right
of the turnpike, our troops on that side having been driven
back. In the new position taken, the men were ordered to fix

Dick Pincknkv
Company G, Fourth Texas Regiment


bayonets, and when the enemy came within a hundred yards,
to fire and charge. The charge was made to the accompani-
ment of a Confederate yell, and sent the Federals flying pell-

The Confederates on the left of the pike, however, yielded
ground to the enemy, who, advancing, took strong position
near the western foot of South Mountain. This fact reported
to General Lee, he decided to fall back toward Sharpsburg —
the movement beginning on the morning of the 15th, and
Hood's division, assisted by artillery and cavalry, forming the
rear guard, and holding the Federals in check until the other
troops of Longstreet's command marched quietly to their des-
tination west of Antietam Creek. This was no easy task. The
three days' rations issued to the division on the 13th included
no meat, and were therefore the sooner exhausted. No cloth-
ing or shoes had been furnished it since it left Richmond, and
in a month and a half of hard marching and harder fighting
hundreds of the men had become ragged and barefooted, while
lack of provisions forced them to subsist on green com and
green apples. Nevertheless, they remained in high spirits, and
contended as gallantly with the enemy as ever, on the 15th
and during the forenoon of the 16th, when they overtook the
main army, then in line west of Antietam Creek, confronting
the Federals in position on its east side.

On the afternoon of the 16th Hood's division took position
in an open field in front of the Dunker or Saint Mumma church
— the Texas Brigade on the left, Law's on the right — and
against it, about an hour before sunset, advanced Hooker's
Federal corps. With that it contended until a late hour in
the night, and, when the firing had in great measure ceased,
was so close to the enemy that it could distinctly hear his
orders to troops being massed on liis front.

From General Hood's official report is taken the following:
" I was ordered to take position in line of battle on the right
of the road leading to Boonesborough, but soon received orders
to move to the extreme left, near Saint Mumma church, on the
Hagerstown pike, remaining in this position, under fire of the
shells from the enemy, until nearly sunset on the evening of
the 16th. The enemy, having crossed higher up the Antietam,


made an attack on the left flank of our line of battle, the
troops of this division being the only forces on our side en-
gaged. We succeeded in checking and driving back the enemy
a short distance, when night came on, and soon the firing
ceased. . . . The officers and men of my command having
been without food for three days, except a half ration of beef
for one day, and green corn, General Lawton, with two bri-
gades, was directed to take my position, to enable my men to

" On the morning of the 17th, about 3 o'clock, the firing
commenced along the line occupied by General Lawton. At 6
o'clock, I received notice from him that he would require all
the assistance I could give him. . . . Being in readiness,
I at once marched out on the field in line of battle, and soon
became engaged with an immense force of the enemy, consist-
ing of not less than two corps of their army. It was here that
I witnessed the most terrible clash of arms, by far, that has
occurred during the war. The two little giant brigades of
this division Avrestled with this mighty force, losing hundreds
of their gallant officers and men, but driving the enemy from
his position and forcing him to abandon his guns on our left.
The battle raged with the greatest fury until about 9 o'clock,
the enemy being driven from 400 to 500 yards. Fighting, as
we were, at right angles with the general line of battle, and
General Ripley's brigade being the extreme left of General D.
H. Hill's fores and continuing to hold their ground, caused
the enemy to pour in a heavy fire upon the rear and right flank
of Colonel Law's brigade, rendering it necessary to move the
division to the left and rear, into the woods near the Saint
Mumma church, which we continued to hold until 10 a. m,,
when General McLaws arrived with his command, which was at
once formed in line and moved forward, engaging the enemy.
My command was marched to the rear, ammunition replen-
ished and returned at 12 m., taking position, by direction of
the general commanding, in rear of the church, with orders to
hold it. About 4 p. m., by order, the division moved to the
right, near the center, and remained there until the night of
the 18th, when orders were received to recross the Potomac."

General Hood is liberal in this report of the praises he be-

Captain h. P. Hughes
Company- F, Fourth Texas Regiment



stows upon subordinate officers of the division. Among the
Texas officers complimented by him is Major W. H. Sellers.
Of him he says : " Too much cannot be said of the members

Online LibraryJ. B. (Joseph Benjamin) PolleyHood's Texas brigade, its marches, its battles, its achievements → online text (page 10 of 32)