J. B. (Joseph Benjamin) Polley.

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

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" It would be invidious to make special mention of gallantry
in either officers or men when all did so well, fighting greatly
superior numbers and at great disadvantage. I might safely
assume that the bearing of the entire command was of the
highest creditable character.

" No guns or colors were captured, and but few (some


twenty-five) prisoners, a number of whom were sent to the rear
with wounded men."

No report by Colonel Taylor is to be found.

Of the First Texas, Lieutenant-Colonel P. A. Work says :

" The regiment, together with the brigade having been
ordered forward to the attack about 4 p. m., continued to ad-
vance by the front for a distance exceeding half a mile, the
Fourth Texas upon the right and the Third Arkansas upon the
left, when Company I, commanded by Lieutenant J. H. Woot-
ers, and thrown out as skirmishers, engaged the skirmishers
of the enemy, driving them back upon a regiment supporting
the enemy's battery, and then, aided by volunteers from this
(First Texas) regiment, engaging the regiment and artillery,
succeeded in driving back the regiment and silencing the
enemy's guns, taking and holding possession of the latter.

" While this regiment was closely following our skirmish-
ers, and had reached to within 125 yards of the enemy's ar-
tillery, the Third Arkansas Regiment on my left, became hotly
engaged with a strong force of the enemy upon its front and
left, thus leaving my left flank uncovered and exposed, to pro-
tect which I halted, and threw out upon my left and rear Com-
pany G, commanded by Lieutenant B. A. Campbell (some
forty men), which soon engaged the enemy and drove them
from their threatening position to the left and the front of the
Third Arkansas. It was while in the execution of this order
that Lieutenant Campbell, a brave and gallant officer, fell,
pierced through the heart.

" Owing to the failure (as informed by Brigadier-General
Robertson) of the troops that were assigned to the position
on the left of this (Robertson's) brigade to arrive promptly,
neither this nor the Third Arkansas was able to advance, with-
out advancing against a vastly superior force, and with the
left flank of the Third Arkansas (protecting my left) exposed
to attack.

" After the lapse of several minutes, Benning's brigade made
its appearance, but instead of occupying the ground to the
left of Robertson's brigade, so as to enable the latter to move
forward with its left flank secure from attack, it occupied the
ground still occupied, by a portion at least, of this brigade, the


Fifteenth Georgia Regiment falling in and remaining with the
First Texas Regiment. After several inejffectual efforts upon
the part of both the commanders of the Fifteenth Georgia and
myself to separate the men of the two regiments, we gave the
order to move forward when both regiments, thus commingled,
moved forward and occupied the crest of the liill, some 100
yards or more to the front, and where the enemy's artillery was
stationed, where we remained until the close of the day and
until two o'clock on Friday morning.

" During the evening of the 2nd an incessant fire was kept
up by this regiment, and the enemy was several times repulsed
in their efforts to retake the hill. My position was such that
I was enabled to pour a deadly enfilading fire into the enemy
as they advanced through a wheat field to attack the troops
in position on my left, and I have no doubt that this fire con-
tributed greatly to the repulse of the enemy attacking our
forces some 300 or 400 yards on my left.

" Once during the evening the troops on my left were driven
back, and my left was exposed, when, directing Captain H'.

E. Moss, Company D, to take charge of the colors, and re-
taining them there with a few men to hold the hill until the
regiment could safely retire, I ordered the regiment to fall
back to a stone fence about 100 yards in my rear. The major
part of the regiment and the Fifteenth Georgia fell back as
ordered, but quite a large number, having noticed that the
colors were not moving to the rear, refused to withdraw, and
remaining upon the crest of the hill, succeeded in holding the
enemy in check in their immediate front, and obliquely upon
their front and left, until the troops upon my left had been
re-formed and were again advancing, when I directed Major

F. S. Bass to return to the crest of the hill with the body of
the regiment, and, with Captain D. K. Rice, of Company C,
proceeded myself to collect together all fugitives, slightly
wounded, and exhausted men, and placed them so as to protect
my right and rear from an attack in that quarter, one of my
advanced scouts in that direction having reported to me that
a column of the enemy was moving down a ravine or hollow
and threatening me in that quarter.

" Having made every disposition to guard my right and
rear, I placed Captain D. K. Rice in charge of such defense,


and proceeded to the Third Arkansas Regiment, of which
General Robertson had ordered me to take charge. After the
loss of some half hour in searching for the Third Arkansas, I
found Lieutenant-Colonel Taylor and Major Reedy, of that
regiment, both alive and uninjured, and in charge of the regi-
ment, which was doing its duty nobly and well.

" Late in the evening a terrific fire of artillery was concen-
trated against the hill occupied by tliis (the First) regi-
ment, many were killed and wounded, some losing their heads,
and others so horribly mutilated and mangled that their iden-
tity could hardly be established, but notwithstanding this, all
the men continued heroically and unflinchingly to maintain
their position.

" Immediately after dark, having detailed Companies E and
I for the purpose, I sent three pieces of the artillery captured
to the rear. There were three other pieces — two at one point
and one at another — that I was unable to remove, for the
reason that they were located between the lines of the enemy
and our own, and were so much exposed that they could not
be approached except under a murderous fire. While they
could not be removed by us, neither could they be approached
by the enemy, for the same fire that drove the artillerists from
their guns and the infantry from their support, was ever in
readiness to keep them in check and drive them

" Every man of the regiment proved himself a hero. Hun-
dreds might be mentioned, each of whom with reason and pro-
priety might point to his gallant acts and daring deeds, and
the lieutenant-colonel commanding feels that he cannot call
attention to the bearing of a few only of those, without doing
some share of injustice to those not mentioned; and though he
is urged to mention the names of Privates W. Y, Salter, Com-
pany I; J. N. Kirksey and G. Barfield, of Company B, and
W. J. Barbee, of Company L, for great and striking gallantry,
and does mention them, he feels that he is neglecting others
of equal merit. Private Barbee, though a mounted courier,
acting for Major-General Hood, entered the ranks of his com-
pany, L, and fought through the engagement. At one time
he mounted a rock on the highest pinnacle of the hill, and
there, exposed to a raking, deadly fire of artillery and mus-


ketry, stood until he had fired twenty-five shots, when he re-
ceived a minie-ball wound in the right thigh, and fell.

" Having exhausted their original supply of ammunition,
the men supphed themselves from the cartridge boxes of their
dead and disabled comrades, and from the dead and the
wounded of the enemy, frequently going in front of the hill to
secure a cartridge box. Many of the officers threw aside their
swords, seized a rifle, and going into the ranks, fought bravely
and nobly.

" The regiment lost in killed 25, in wounded 48, and missing
20, a list of the names of whom, giving the company and
character of wound of those wounded, is hereto annexed as
part of this report."

In the report of Major John P. Bane, of the Fourth Texas,
is told what that regiment did. He says :

" About 4.30 p. M., the 2nd instant, we were ordered to ad-
vance on the enemy, who occupied the heights about one and
one-fourth miles distant, the Fifth Texas, the directing bat-
talion, on my right, and the First Texas on my left. Ad-
vancing at double-quick, we soon met the enemy's skirmishers,
who occupied a skirt of thick undergrowth about one-quarter
of a mile from the base of the cliffs, upon which the enemy
had a battery playing upon us with the most deadly effect.

" After a short pause, while repelling the skirmishers, I was
ordered by General Robertson to move by the right flank, so
as to cover all the ground between us and the directing bat-
talion. Moving about 200 yards, I met the enemy in full
force in a heavy wooded ground, sheltering themselves behind
rocks, from which, after a sharp contest, he was driven to
the heights beyond in our front and in close proximity to the
mountain, and there I was pained to learn that the gallant
Lieutenant-Colonel B. F. Carter was severely wounded while
crossing a stone wall near the base of the mountain. I was
also informed that Colonel John C. G. Key, while gallantly
urging the men to the front, was severely wounded. The
command then devolved upon me. Many of the officers and
men had been killed and wounded by this time.

" Finding it impossible to carry the heights by assault with
my thinned ranks, I ordered my command to fall back to the


skirt of timber, the position then occupied being enfiladed by
the batteries on the left, and exposed to heavy fire by mus-
ketry in my immediate front. Being joined by the Fifth
Texas on my right, I again attempted to drive the enemy
from the heights by assault, but with like results. Again, be-
ing reinforced by the Forty-eighth Alabama, commanded by
the gallant Colonel James L. Sheffield, and the Forty-fourth
Alabama, whose commander I did not learn, we again charged
their works, but were repulsed, and then, under the order of
General Law, I ordered my command to fall back under cover
of the timber on a slight elevation within short range of the
enemy. I formed my regiment in line of battle, leaving the
battle-field contested ground.

" At the dawn of day, I had a stone wall about two feet
high thrown up, which afforded some protection to the men
occupying the position from which we had driven the enemy,
until sunset of the 'Srd instant, at which time I was ordered
to move my command. In conjunction with the remainder of
the brigade, by the right flank, to occupy the ground from
which we first advanced upon the enemy.

" I accord to each and all of my officers and men my warm-
est congratulations for their continued and unceasing gal-
lantry during the entire engagement."

Lieutenant-Colonel King Bryan, of the Fifth Texas, writes :
" Colonel R. M. Powell having fallen Into the hands of the
enemy, It devolves upon me as lieutenant-colonel of the regi-
ment, to report the part taken by it as far as came under
my observation In the action of July 2 and 3, near Gettys-
burg, Pa.

" About 4 p. M. on the 2nd Instant, General Hood's division
was drawn up in line of battle, fronting the heights occupied
by the enemy. The Fifth Texas Regiment occupied the right
of the brigade, resting on General Law's left, whose brigade
was the one of direction. At the word, ' Forward,' the regi-
ment moved forward In good order. The enemy had a line
of sharpshooters at the foot of the first height, behind a stone
fence about three-fourths of a mile from our starting point,
which distance was passed over by our line at a double-quick
and a run.


" At our approach, the enemy retired to the top of the first
height, protected by a ledge of rocks. A short halt was made
at the stone fence, to enable those who had fallen behind to
regain their places. When the command ' forward ' again
fell from the lips of our gallant colonel, every man leaped the
fence and advanced rapidly up the hill-side. The enemy again
fled at our approach, sheltering himself behind his fortified
position on the top of the second height, about 200 yards
distant from the first.

" From this position we failed to drive them. Our failure
was owing to the rocky nature of the ground over which we
had to pass, the huge rocks forming defiles through which not
more than three or four men could pass abreast, thus break-
ing up our alignment and rendering its re-formation impos-
sible. Notwithstanding the difficulties to overcome, the men
pressed on to the pass of the precipitous stronghold, forcing
and securing the enemy's second position, many of our officers
and men falling in passing the open space between the heights.
Here we halted, there being small clusters of rocks far below
the elevated position of the enemy, which gave us partial pro-
tection. From this position we were enabled to deliver our
fire for the first time with accuracy.

" Seeing that the men were in the best obtainable position,
and deeming a further advance without reinforcements im-
practicable (a great many of the regiment having been already
disabled) I looked for Colonel Powell, to know his next order.
Failing to see him I concluded at once that he, like many of his
gallant officers and men, had fallen a victim to the deadly
missiles of the enemy, which were being showered like hail upon
us. I moved toward the center, passing many officers and
men who had fallen, having discharged their whole duty as
true soldiers. I had not proceeded far when I discovered the
prostrate form of our noble colonel, who had fallen at his
post, his face to the foe. I hastened toward him, when I re-
ceived a wound in my left arm. On reaching the colonel,
I found that he was not dead: but seeing the rent in his coat
where the ball had passed out, my fears were excited that his
wound would prove mortal. The hemorrhage from my own
wound forced me from the field, leaving the command upon
Major Rogers.


" The officers and men of my wing of the regiment con-
tinued to discharge their duties in a manner worthy of our
cause so long as I remained upon the field, and from their
conduct heretofore I would not hesitate to vouch for them
during the remainder of the battle."

Following Colonel Bryan's report is that of Major J. C.
Rogers, who says :

" I have the honor to foi*ward a continuation of the report
of the part taken by the Fifth Texas Regiment in the action
of the 2nd and 3rd instant after the wounding of Colonels
Powell and Bryan, when the command devolved upon me, the
regiment still holding the position as left by Colonel Bryan,
firing with accuracy and deadly effect.

" The order to fall back came from some unknown source,
and, finding that the regiments on our right and left had re-
tired, it became necessary to follow. I therefore gave the
order for the regiment to about face and retire to the rear,
which they did in good order until they reached the position
mentioned in Colonel Bryan's report as the second position of
the enemy, and here they were halted and re-formed, in con-
nection with the other regiments. From the exhausted con-
dition of the men, it was deemed necessary to remain here for a
few moments.

" The regiments were again ordered forward, and obeyed in
the most gallant manner, and regained their first position,
which they held as long as it was tenable; and a further ad-
vance being impracticable, owing to the nature of the ground
as expressed in Colonel Bryan's report, they again retired in
good order to an open space about fifty yards in rear, when
here it was discovered for the first time that nearly two-thirds
of our officers and men had been killed and wounded.

" Only a few moments were here consumed to allow the men
to recover their breath, when, in obedience to orders, I again
moved the regiment forward to attack the enemy in their im-
pregnable position. The coolness and determination of the
men and officers were equal to the occasion. They advanced
boldly over the gi'ound strewn with the bodies of their dead
and dying comrades to the base of what they knew to be an
impregnable fortification. We held this position until it was


discovered that we had no supports either on the right or left
and were about to be flanked, and therefore were again com-
pelled to retire, which the regiment did in good order, to the
point mentioned in Colonel Bryan's report as the second posi-
tion of the enemy, which place we were ordered to hold at all
hazards, which we did.

" Just before day on the morning of the 3rd, orders reached
me that breastworks must be thrown up, and the position
held. The order was obeyed. During the day, constant skir-
mishing was kept up with the enemy, which resulted in the loss
to us of many of our best scouts. Late in the evening, in
obedience to orders, I about-faced my regiment, and marched
three-quarters of a mile to the crest of the ridge from which
the charge of the day previous commenced. Here we threw
up breastworks, behind which we remained during the night.

" I would respectfully beg leave to call attention to the
valuable assistance I received from Colonel John S. Cleveland
in the management of the right wing of my regiment, and
Captain T. T. Clay on the left ; also, to the heroic conduct of
T. W. Fitzgerald, of Company A, who was color-bearer. He
pressed gallantly forward, and was badly wounded far in front.
J. A. Howard, of Company B, color-corporal, then took the
flag, and remained firmly at his post. He was almost in-
stantly killed. The colors were then taken by Sergeant W. S.
Evans, of Company F, who flaunted them defiantly in the
face of the foe during the remainder of the fight, always ad-
vancing promptly to the front when the order was given.

" The general conduct of officers and men was beyond all

In the report of Surgeon Lafayette Guild, medical director
of the Army of Northern Virginia, the losses at Gettysburg
of the regiments composing the Texas Brigade are given as
follows :

Third Arkansas — Killed, 26; wounded, 116.

First Texas — Killed, 24; wounded, 54.

Fourth Texas — Killed, 14; wounded, 73.

Fifth Texas— Killed, 23; wounded, 86.

Making a total of 87 killed and 329 wounded. Any dif-
ferences between this and a summation of regimental reports


of losses may be accounted for by the fact that in losses re-
ported by regimental commanders, missing men who after-
wards rejoin their regiments are included.

Judged by its losses, which are usually held true criterions
of the gallantry of a regiment and the dangers it faced, the
Third Arkansas bore the brunt of the battle at Gettysburg.


Gettysburg to Chickamauga

That General Lee's plan of battle for July 2nd contem-
plated a united and practically simultaneous assault upon the
whole length of the Federal lines at Gettysburg, may be held
as established beyond controversy by the facts when viewed
in the light of a discriminating, dispassionate judgment.
Longstreet's opening guns were to be the signal for Hill, hold-
ing the center of the Confederate line, and Ewell, holding its
left, to move their veterans forward and engage the Federals
in their respective immediate fronts. The object in view was
two-fold ; such a general attack would engage the attention
of the enemy at all points and prevent the withdrawal by him
of forces from unthreatened positions for the purpose of rein-
forcing those seriously menaced ; and, with every Confederate
command on tlie firing line, instant advantage could be taken
of any confusion created in the enemy's ranks by such suc-
cesses as might be won by Longstreet's men.

Why Ewell and Hill failed to act in concert with Long-
street, as unquestionably they were instructed, has never been
satisfactorily explained. It is doubtful if it can be. Hill,
two hours and a half after Longstreet began his assault, did
send fon\'ard a few of his brigades, and three of these ad-
vanced to the very foot of Cemetery Ridge and captured eight
pieces of artillery, while another, Wright's, reached the sum-
mit of the ridge and seized and, for a while, held twenty Fed-
eral cannon. This cut in two the Federal line, and had the
success thus gained been promptly utilized, the Federal army
would have been compelled to retreat. Hill, though, did not
rise to the occasion, but held his other troops in line, but inac-
tive, a mile to the rear, when they should have been well to tlie

At the time Wright's gallant brigade seized the twenty



tnTi: I ^"''f'^nd B«,„,ng's brigades had fought their wav
to the base of the precipitous cliffs forming the west wal7o^
the same moun a>n, driving the enemy befol them and Mc
Laws d.v,s,o„ had advanced beyond the Peach O dm d Yhc

Fw^l-rr^ "" "°"'"''''" """1 *'"™y before it If th n
Ewel had but moved his men fonvard in a determined assault
and thus given employment to the Union forces „ his fron'
Federal General Warren could not so easily have found a br '
gade and a battery to lead at full speed to the crest of ?; '
Round Top and. with them, drive th^e AlabamLs to « e I
ter of Devil's Den. But Ewell made no movement of anv
kmd untd just before sunset-after Lon

Online LibraryJ. B. (Joseph Benjamin) PolleyHood's Texas brigade, its marches, its battles, its achievements → online text (page 17 of 32)