J. B. (Joseph Benjamin) Polley.

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

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of my staff, the chief, Major W. H. Sellers, having his horse
shot while ably directing the Texas Brigade at the battle of
Manassas during the time of my being sent for by the com-
manding general to receive additional orders. He has proven
himself competent to command a brigade under all circum-
stances. This distinguished officer, together with my two
aides. Major B. H. Blanton and Lieut. James Hamilton, had
their horses shot during the battle at Sharpsburg while most
gallantly pushing forward the troops and transmitting or-
ders." He also mentions the gallantry and the valuable serv-
ices rendered to him of his Texas couriers. Privates M. M.
Templeman, T. W. C. Lake, J. P. Mahoney, James Malone,
W. E. Duncan, J. A. Mann, W. J. Barbee, W. G. Jesse, J. J.
Haggerty, and J. H. Drake. But he does not mention the
tears that coursed down his cheeks, and the sobs that choked
his utterance, when he saw his brave men falling fast before
the merciless fire of the outnumbering enemy, and his every
appeal for aid to them was met by the statement that there
were no troops to send to their reKef until McLaws should

To this report General Hood appends a list of the casual-
ties in the division from the date of its departure from Rich-
mond — the list showing that the Texas Brigade lost at Free-
man's Ford, 10 men; at Second Manassas, in the two days'
fighting, 628 men ; and at Sharpsburg, in the two days' fight-
ing, 548 men.

From the report made by Colonel W. T. Wofford, of the
Eighteenth Georgia, as commander of the Texas Brigade, it
is necessary to quote but few passages — his report as a whole
being covered by those of the regimental commanders. Speak-
ing of the movement to the right and in front of the church
mentioned by General Hood, Colonel Wofford says : " While
we were moving to this position, the enemy opened a heavy
fire upon us from their long-range guns, which was continued
after we were in position, and resulted in the wounding of a
lieutenant and a private of the Fourth Texas. Late in the
evening of the 16th, we were ordered by General Hood to move


by the left flank through the open field in front of the church
and to its left about 700 yards, to meet the enemy, who, it
was then ascertained, had commenced to cross Antietam Creek
to our left. We then formed line of battle and moved up to a
corn-field in our front, and awaited the advance of the enemy,
who had, by this time, opened on us a brisk fire of shot and
shell from some pieces of artillery which they had placed in
position immediately in our front and to the left of our lines,
wounding one officer and some dozen men.

" While our line of battle rested upon the corn-field. Cap-
tain Turner, commanding the Fifth Texas, which was our
right, had been moved forward into some woods, where he met
a party of our skirmishers driven in by the enemy, whom he
engaged and finally drove back, with the loss of one man. Our
skirmishers, consisting of 100 men, under the command of
Captain W. H. Martin, of the Fourth Texas, who had been
moved into the woods in front and to the left of the Fifth
Texas, were hotly engaged with the enemy, but held their
ground until they had expended all their cartridges, and then
fell into our line of battle, about 9 o'clock at night, about
which time we were relieved by General Lawton's brigade, and
were withdrawn from the field to the woods in rear of Mumma
church, for the purpose of cooking rations, our men not hav-
ing received any regular allowance in three days.

" At '3 o'clock in the morning of the 17th, the picket firing
was very heavy, and at daylight the battle was opened. Our
brigade was moved foru'ard at sunrise, to the support of Gen-
eral Lawton, who had relieved us the night before. INIoving
forward in line of battle in the regular order of regiments, the
brigade proceeded through the woods into the open field to-
ward the corn-field, where the left encountered the first line of
the enemy. Seeing Hampton's Legion and Eighteenth Georgia
moving slowly fonvard, but rapidly firing, I rode hastily to
them, urging them forward, when I saw two full regiments,
one in their front and the other partly to their left. Perceiv-
ing at once that they were in danger of being cut off", I or-
dered the First Texas to move by the left flank to their relief,
which they did in a rapid and gallant manner. By this time,
the enemy on our left having commenced falling back, the
First Texas pressed them rapidly to their guns, which now


poured into them a fire on their right flank, center and left
flank from three different batteries, before which their well-
formed line was cut down and scattered; being 200 yards in
front of our line, their position was most critical. Riding
back to the left of our line, I found the fragment of the
Eighteenth Georgia regiment in front of the extreme right
battery of the enemy, located on the pike running by the
church, which now opened upon our thinned ranks a most de-
structive fire. The men and officers were gallantly shooting
down the gunners, and for a moment silenced them. At this
time the enemy's fire was most terrific, their first line of in-
fantry having been driven back to their guns, which now
opened a furious fire, together with their second line of infan-
try, upon our thinned and almost annihilated ranks. . . .

" During the engagement ... I was drawn to the left
of our line, as it first engaged the enemy, who had succeeded
in flanking us on the left, and to escape from being sur-
rounded, changed the direction to left-oblique, thus causing
large intervals between the regiments on the left and right of
the line. The Fifth Texas, under the command of Captain
Turner, moved with spirit across the field and occupied the
woods on our right, where it met the enemy and drove and
held them back until their ammunition was exhausted, and then
fell back to the woods with the balance of the brigade. The
Fourth Texas, which in our line of battle was between the
Fifth and First Texas, was moved by General Hood to the
extreme left of our line on the pike road, covering our flank
by holding the enemy in check.

" The brigade went into action numbering 854, and lost, in
killed, wounded and missing, 560 — over one-half.

" Without specially naming the officers and men who stood
firmly to their post during the whole of this terrible conflict, I
feel pleased to bear testimony, with few exceptions, to the gal-
lantry of the whole brigade. They fought desperately: their
conduct was never surpassed. Fragments of regiments, as
they were, they moved boldly upon and drove before them the
crowded lines of the enemy up to their cannons' mouths, and,
with a heroism unsurpassed, fired upon their gunners, des-


perately struggling before yielding, which they had never been
forced to do before."

Lieutenant-Colonel S. Z. Ruff, commanding the Eighteenth
Georgia, says in his official report: " The next morning, 17th
instant, just after daylight, the brigade was drawn up in line
of battle, and ordered to lie down under cover of the hill from
a terrible storm of shell that the enemy's batteries were at that
time pouring into the woods. A heavy firing of musketry had
been going on in our front for some time. About 7 a. m. the
brigade was ordered to move forward in the direction of the
firing. Advancing about a quarter of a mile through the tim-
ber, we came upon the enemy posted in front of a piece of corn,
and immediately opened fire upon them. After one or two
rounds they gave way, and fell back to a considerable dis-
tance in the corn. Advancing, with the left of the regiment
resting on the right of the Legion, which had its left upon
the turnpike, we drove the enemy in fine style out of the com
and back upon their supports. At the far edge of the corn,
the ranks of the retreating line of the enemy unmasked a bat-
tery, which poured a round or two of grape into our ranks
with terrible effect ; but it was soon silenced by our riflemen,
and the gunners ran away. At this moment we discovered a
fresh line of the enemy advancing on our left flank in an oblique
direction, threatening to cut us off, and our ranks being re-
duced to less than one-third their original strength, we found
it necessary to fall back. At the edge of the woods we met
supports and rallied on them a part of our men ; but the regi-
ment was too much cut up for further action, and in a short
time, in connection with the whole brigade, was taken from
the field.

" We carried 176 men into the action, and lost 101 in killed,
wounded and missing; most of the missing are either killed or

Lieutenant-Colonel M. W. Gary, of Hampton's Legion,
says: "The battle opened about day-break along the whole
line. The Legion was placed to the left of the brigade, the
Eighteenth Georgia being to its right. We began to advance
from under cover of woods in rear of a church, and engaged


the enemy as soon as we emerged from them, the enemy being
in line of battle near the edge of the cornfield immediately in
our front. We advanced steadily upon them, under a heavy
fire, and had not gone far when Herod Wilson, of Company
F, the bearer of the colors, was shot down. They were raised
by James Estes, of Company E, and he was shot down. They
were then taken up by C. P. Poppenheim, of Company A, and
he, too, was shot down. Major J. H. Dingle, jJr., then caught
them and began to advance with them, exclaiming, ' Legion,
follow your colors ! ' The words had an inspiring effect, and
the men rallied bravely under their flag, fighting desperately
at every step. He bore the colors to the edge of the com
near the turnpike road, on our left, and, while bravely uphold-
ing them within 50 yards of the enemy and three Federal flags,
was shot dead. I immediately raised the colors and again un-
furled them amid the enemy's deadly fire, when Marion Wal-
ton, of Company B, volunteered to bear them. I resigned them
into his hands, and he carried them gallantly and safely
through the battle. Soon after the death of Major Dingle, I
discovered that the men to our right were falling back from
being flanked on the right. I went to the fence of the turn-
pike road, and discovered, about 200 yards distant, a brigade
of the enemy in hne of battle, covering our entire left flank.
I immediately ordered the men to fall back under the crest of
the hill. I then rallied them and reformed them, and remained
with the brigade the remainder of the day. . . . Strength
of battalion in action, officers and men, 77. Killed, 3 officers
and 3 privates ; wounded, 3 officers and 46 privates."

Lieutenant-Colonel B. F. Carter, commanding the Fourth
Texas, says in his official report of the battle of the 17th:

" Soon after daylight the brigade formed line of battle in
regular order, the Fifth Texas being on my right and First
Texas on my left, and about 7 a. m. were ordered to advance.
I received no order as to which was the directing battalion,
but, advancing diagonally to the right through the woods, we
entered the open field on the right of the turnpike road. Here
the fire upon us became severe, and, owing to our troops being
in front of us, and the dense smoke pervading, we were unable
to return the fire or see the enemy clearly. Still advancing, I


came directly behind the Eleventh Mississippi, when I received
the order from Captain Sellers for the Texas Brigade to halt.
Halting, I ordered the men to lie down. At the same moment,
the Eleventh Mississippi was ordered to advance, and a por-
tion of two companies on my right, mistaking the order, ad-
vanced with them. After a moment I received an order from
General Hood to move to the left until the left of my regi-
ment rested on the crest, in advance, next to the tum-pike
road. Moving left-oblique in double-quick, I occupied the po-
sition indicated, and was then ordered by General Hood to
move directly up the hill on the left of the troops then ad-

" The enemy then occupied the hill in strong force, which
receded before our steady advance. Arriving on the top of
the hill, at the intersection of the corn-field with the tum-
pike, I found the enemy not only in heavy force in the corn-
field in front, but occupying a ravine in the field on the left
of the turnpike, from which position they poured a destructive
fire upon us. I discovered at once that the position was un-
tenable, but if I fell back the troops on my right who had
entered the corn-field would be surrounded; so, wheeling my
regiment to the left, I posted the men along the fence on either
side of the turn-pike, and replied as best we could to the tre-
mendous fire of the enemy. We held this position for some
time, until the troops in the corn-field on my right were falling
back, when I ordered the regiment to move along the line of
fence by the left flank. This movement, however, exposed us
so much that we fell back directly under the hill. Here I
ordered the regiment to halt and form, but at the same mo-
ment received an order from General Hood to move by the
left flank into the woods. Forming here, I advanced on the
left of the turnpike up to the fence at the edge of the field,
and rested in this position until I was ordered by Colonel
Woff'ord to fall back to the point we started from in the morn-
ing, where the remnant of the brigade was formed.

" I cannot speak in too high terms of the conduct of both
officers and men of my command. Exposed to a tremendous
fire from superior numbers, in a position which it was apparent
to all we could not hold, they fought on without flinching until
the order to fall back was given. These men, too, were half-


clad, many of them barefooted, and had been only half-fed
for days before. The courage, constancy and patience of our
men is beyond all praise."

In the omitted part of his report, Colonel Carter, among
other things, states that he carried into action about 200 men.
The list of casualties that he appended is not published, but
elsewhere it appears that the Fourth Texas lost 10 killed and
97 wounded.

Gallant Captain Ike. N. M. Turner commanded the Fifth
Texas during the engagements of the 16th and 17th at
Sharpsburg, and is as laconic in his report as he was brave
in action. He says : " About 8 o'clock at night (on the 16th)
we were relieved, and retired to the woods in rear of the church.
Slept until about day, when firing commenced in front. We
were called to attention ; thrown around the hill in line of
battle to protect us from grape and shell. We had not occu-
pied this position more than half an hour before we were
ordered out as support for the Third Brigade. We caught
up with said brigade where our first line had been fighting.
Here the Fifth was ordered to halt, by Major (Captain)
Sellers, and allow the regiments on the right of the Third to
advance. While lying here. General Hood rode up, ordering
me to incline to the right, press forward, and drive the enemy
out of the woods, which we did. The enemy twice tried to
. regain their position in the woods by advancing a force
through the lower edge of the corn-field, which we repulsed.
From a point of timber about 400 yards to our front and
left, I discovered strong reinforcements marching out by the
left flank down a hollow, which protected them from our fire.
Allowing them to get within 75 yards of us with lines un-
broken, I saw we would soon be hard pressed. Sent four times
to Major (Captain) Sellers for support, determined to hold
my position as long as possible. My men were out of ammu-
nition, the enemy not more than 100 yards in my front, no
support, no ammunition ; all of our troops had fallen back
on my left ; I deemed it prudent to fall back also.

" Officers and men, with few exceptions, behaved well.
*' The casualties of the regiment were 5 killed and 81


The brunt of the battle of the 17th on that part of the
hne occupied by the Texas Brigade, fell upon the First Texas,
and its men bore it like the heroes they were. By their brav-
ery on that field of carnage they proved that, given the same
opportunity, either one of the Texas regiments could be de-
pended on to do all that mortals may to punish a foe and
wrest from him a victory. The Fourth Texas had its day at
Gaines' Mill, where it was the first Confederate command to
break the enemy's lines ; the Fifth Texas secured its oppor-
tunity when at Second Manassas, having exterminated the
Zouaves, it " slipped the bridle," as General Hood said, and
breaking loose from the brigade, went a mile to the front and
never ceased fighting as long as its men could see to aim ; it
was the turn of the First Texas at Sharpsburg, and, when
weighed in the balance, it was not found wanting. As ex-
pressed in the nomenclature of camp, at Gaines' Mill it was
the " Hell-roaring Fourth " that carried off the honors ; at
Second Manassas it was the " Bloody Fifth," and at Sharps-
burg it was the " Ragged First."

Lieutenant-Colonel P. A. Work commanded the First Texas
at Sharpsburg. That part of his official report in which he
relates the movements of the regiment is as follows :

" The brigade, having been formed in order of battle upon
the ground occupied by it on the night of the 16th, in the
following order, to wit. First Texas in the center, Eighteenth
Georgia left center. Fourth Texas right center, Fifth Texas
on the right flank, and Hampton's Legion on the left flank,
was moved forward to engage the enemy about — o'clock, the
latter having made an attack upon our forces occup^nng a
position in front of this brigade. Advancing through the
woods some 200 yards, under a heavy fire of grape, canister
and shell from the enemy's artillery, the brigade emerged into
an open clover field some 200 to 250 yards in width, across
which the forward movement was continued for some 150 to
200 yards, when, it being discovered that the left flank of the
brigade was exposed to attack, I was ordered to move by the
left flank, following a corresponding move of the Eighteenth
Georgia and Hampton's Legion upon my left, which I did
until ordered to move by the right flank, which was also done.


Advancing now by the right flank (my original front), I en-
tered a cornfield and soon became engaged with a force of the
enemy, driving them before me to the farther side of the corn-
field. As soon as the regiment became engaged with the enemy
in the cornfield, it became impossible to restrain the men, and
they rushed forward, pressing the enemy close until we had
advanced a considerable distance ahead of both the right and
left wings of the brigade. Discovering that this would prob-
ably be the case when my men first dashed forward, I dispatched
you two different messengers, to wit — Capt. John R. Wood-
ward, Company G, and Private A. G. Hanks, Company F —
stating that I was driving the enemy and requesting you to
hurry up the regiments on my right and left to my support.
It was not until we reached the farther side of the cornfield
that I could check the regiment. By this time we had broken
the first line of battle of the enemy and had advanced to within
some thirty steps of his second line, secreted behind a breast-
work of fence rails throAvn up in heaps upon the ground, when
a battery of artillery some 150 or 200 yards in our front was
opened upon us. My men continued firing, a portion of them
at the enemy's men and others at the artillerists, the result of
which was that the enemy's second line broke and fled, and the
artillery was limbered up and started to the rear, when the
whole fire of my regiment was concentrated upon the artil-
lerists and horses, knocking over men and horses with such
effect that the artillery was abandoned. Very soon, however,
a force of the enemy was moved up to the support of this ar-
tillery, when it again opened fire upon us.

" Just at the farther side of the cornfield was the point
where I was in great doubt as to the proper move to be made
by me. I was aware that my regiment had advanced 150 or
200 yards farther than the regiment upon my left, so diverg-
ing as to leave a wide interval between the right flank of the
Eighteenth Georgia and my left, thus exposing both regiments
to attack- — the Eighteenth upon the right and the First Texas
upon the left flank. I was aware at the same time that a
heavy force of the enemy was massed upon my left, and felt
confident that in case I moved farther to the front I would be
attacked upon my left and rear and annihilated. Had I moved
forward to carry the enemy's battery I would have exposed the


regiment to attack from three different directions, to wit, from
the front from infantry and artillery and upon the left and
rear from infantry. I am told also by some of the men that
had I advanced a little farther to the front my right flank
would have become exposed to attack, and am assured that
some distance to my front, and obliquely to my right, was a
large force of the enemy. This I did not discover myself.
At this juncture I dispatched Acting Adjutant W. Shropshire
to say to you that unless the regiments upon my left were
moved up quickly to my relief and support upon my left, I
would be forced to abandon my position and withdraw. Be-
fore the return of Shropshire a fire of musketry was opened
upon me from my left and rear, which determined me at once
to withdraw, as I had but a handful of men left, all of which
must have been slain or captured had I remained longer. I
at once gave the order to fall back and the few men remain-
ing to me retired, turning to fire upon the enemy as rapidly as
their pieces could be loaded and fired.

" I entered the engagement with 226 men, officers (field and
staff) included, of which number 170 are known to have been
killed and wounded, besides twelve others who are missing, and,
doubtless, also killed or wounded.

" During the engagement I saw four bearers of our State
colors shot down, to wit: First, John Hanson, Company L;
second, James Day, Company M; third, Charles H. Kingsley,
Company L, and fourth, James K. Malone, Company A.
After the fall of these, still others raised the colors until four
more bearers were shot down. Not having seen plainly who
these were, I am unable to give their names in this report, but
will do so as soon as, upon inquiry, I can ascertain.

" It is a source of mortification to state that upon retiring
from the engagement our colors were not brought off. I can
but feel that some degree of odium must attach under the most
favorable circumstances, and although such are the circum-
stances surrounding the conduct of this regiment, the loss of
our flag will alwaA's remain a matter of sore and deep regret.
In this connection it is but proper to state, in addition to that
detailed in the above and foregoing report, the additional cir-
cumstances and causes which led to its loss. When the order
to retire was given, the colors began the movement to the rear,


when the color-bearer, after roving but a few paces, was shot
down. Upon their fall some half dozen hastened to raise them,
one of whom did raise them and move off, when he was shot
down, which was not discovered by those surviving. While fall-
ing back, and when we had nearly reached the cloverfield here-
inbefore alluded to (being still in the cornfield), I gave the
order to halt, and inquired for the colors, intending to dress
upon them, when I was told that the colors had gone out of
the cornfield. Then I gave the order to move on out of the
corn and form behind the crest of a small ridge just outside
of the corn and in the cloverfield. It was when I reached this
point that I became satisfied our colors were lost, for I looked
in every direction and they were nowhere to be seen. It was
then too late to recover them. There was no one who knew
the spot where they had last fallen, and, owing to the density
of the com, a view of no object could be had but for a few
feet. By this time, also, the enemy had moved up and was
within some thirty-five or forty yards of my left (proper)
and rear, and another force was following us. No blame, I
feel, should attach to the men or officers, all of whom fought
heroically and well. There was no such conduct upon their
part as abandoning or deserting the colors. They fought
bravely, and unflinchingly faced a terrible hail of bullets and
artillery until ordered by me to retire. The colors started

Online LibraryJ. B. (Joseph Benjamin) PolleyHood's Texas brigade, its marches, its battles, its achievements → online text (page 11 of 32)