J. B. (Joseph Benjamin) Polley.

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

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mighty wrestle for supremacy that was punctuated by vigor-
ous kicks and thrusts at each other. Which was first worsted,
which first raised the cry for help from his compatriots that
was immediately joined in by the other, will never be known,
the two cries arising so nearly simultaneously. The Federals
were first to move to the rescue, but the Texans were not far


behind them in starting — the lines of battle meeting about the
center of the field — and for a few minutes there was a hot
fight, the First and Fifth Texas bearing the brunt of it and
each losing men. The Fifth, however, might have escaped
any loss, had it not carried the Lone Star flag on an unus-
ually long staff. Floating high above the corn, this flag
caught the eye of an expert Federal artillerist, and the shell
he fired at it exploding just in front of it. Major Whaley
and another man were killed outright, and four men were
wounded. Although under fire, the Fourth Texas, Eighteenth
Georgia and Hampton's Legion suffered no loss.

On the 22nd, General Lee's effort was to force a passage
across the Rappahannock and bring on an engagement. That
night, Confederate cavalry raided Catlett's station, and cap-
tured, among other things. General Pope's dispatch book.
Forwarded to Lee, this revealed the exact location of each com-
mand of Pope's army, of its pressing need of reinforcements,
and of the dates on which these were expected to arrive. Lee
immediately changed his plan of operations. Obeying his in-
structions, Jackson made a flank movement, and passing well
around the Federal right flank, arrived on the afternoon of
the 26th, at Bristoe's station, seven miles from Manassas
Junction, the main depot of supplies for Pope's army. Hav-
ing destroyed these, he marched on the morning of the 27th
to the plains of Manassas, the scene of the battle of that
name, and by his seemingly erratic movements in that section,
set the Federal commanders far and near to guessing where he
might be found.

Nevertheless, Jackson's command was in grave peril. Only
by the speedy arrival of Longstreet's columns could disaster
to it be averted. Longstreet, however, was held on the south
side of the Rappahannock by the main Federal army until
the 26th, when, learning that Jackson was in his rear and
imagining there was a chance to capture him and his whole
command. Pope opened the way for Longstreet's advance by
a rapid retreat in the direction of Washington. At 2 p. m.
of the same day, the 26th, the Texas Brigade began its long-
est and most exhausting march. On a bee-line, it was about
thirty miles to Groveton, the little town near which Jackson
was practically hemmed in — by way of Thoroughfare Gap,


it was nearly, if not quite, forty. All that night and until
after sunset of the next, the men tramped steadily but wearily
and sleepily on — their only rest, that taken in the five minutes
of every hour allowed them. All knew that Jackson's men
were in peril and that only by their timely arrival could he
hope to escape defeat and capture, and all willing to do their
best, there was no grumbling, no voluntary' straggling, and
but little lagging.

The sky was cloudless, the sun hot, the dust thick, and
places where we might fill our canteens with water, few and
far between ; but still, although feet blistered, legs grew
wearier and wearier, flesh sweltered and bones ached, and after
each brief rest we rose to our feet stiff and sore, we moved on
and on — toward the last, too near the point of exhaustion to
bestow a glance of admiration on the beautiful scenery through
which we were passing, and almost too tired even to respond,
with a cheer, to the grateful salutations of the bevies of ladies
fair who at the little towns on our route stood on the streets
to encourage us b}^ their approving smiles. Indeed, so fatigu-
ing became the march of the 27th, so sleepily and unob-
servantly did we plod along, that few saw the gruesome spec-
tacle of the corpse in gray uniform that hung by the neck
from the limb of an oak, scarcely two hundred yards from the
road we followed. It was that of a self-confessed spy, who,
lured by the promise of an immense sum of gold, had under-
taken to delay the march of Longstreet's troop long enough
to afford time for Pope and his lieutenants to capture or de-
stroy Jackson and his men.

The night of August 27th was one of sound slumber and
imperatively needed rest. Awaking next morning, refreshed
and vigorous, the men lighted their fires and clustering around
them were cooking and eating their slender rations when the
announcement was made that at 8 a. m. the march would be
resumed. Thoroughfare Gap, although yet half a day's jour-
ney distant, was in plain view, and through it we must pass,
and beyond it reach, in order to relieve Jackson and his brave
men. It was occupied by the enemy when in the afternoon we
approached it, and Law's brigade and skirmishers from the
Texas took an active part in the fighting that followed, and
which resulted in the retreat of the enem}'. The way clear, the


Texas Brigade marched through the gap, following the rail-
road track, and shortly after sunset went into bivouac on a
hill-side just beyond.

An hour later, everybody except Bill Calhoun, of Company
B, Fourth Texas, was resting comfortably. He was an odd-
ity of whom the Texas Brigade was proud, for although
usually sad of countenance and melancholy of mien, in his
bosom dwelt a spirit of drollery that was constantly efferves-
cing and running over. His mess-mate and bed-fellow was
Davidge. Carrying out a well-conceived plan for an equit-
able distribution of baggage, Davidge, on the morning of
the 28th, was intrusted with the transportation of the blankets
and tent-cloths of the mess — Bill Calhoun with that of the
provisions and the frying-pan. Davidge straggled, and when
camping time came, was not on hand. Confident that he
would soon put in his appearance. Bill prepared supper for
the mess, and Davidge still remaining absent, ate it all him-
self. Then lighting his pipe, between puffs he chatted with
such of his company as would listen and respond. The re-
sponses, after a while, growing few and sleepy, he declined
an invitation of a friend to share the friend's blankets, and
remarking that Davidge would surely be along soon, stretched
himself out on the bare ground, and was soon asleep. But
the night was cool enough to make some covering necessary,
and though Bill endured the hardness of his couch and the
chilliness of the air without a murmur until midnight, he
could endure it no longer. Standing erect in the midst of the
2500 recumbent forms that darkened the moonlit hill-side, he
broke into magniloquent apostrophe :

"Oh, Davidge, Davidge!" he cried, "friend of my bosom
and possessor of my blanket, where art thou, Davidge, this
cold and comfortless night? Art thou, indeed, false to thy
many professions, false to the sacred obligations of the true
and loyal friendship thou hast so often and fervently de-
clared, and oblivious of duty, forgetful of the friend who has
confided to thee even the well-worn blanket on which he de-
pendeth for protection from the chilling blasts of winter.'* Art
thou now peacefully and blissfully, but alas, ungratefully, re-
clining on some hospitable feather bed and dreaming of the
joys that will be thine ' when this cruel war is over,' or art


thou, bellied and betra>'ed by the demon of intemperance
that hath bestowed upon thee such a damnable thirst for
apple-jack, wallowing like a filthy and disreputable hog in the
dirt before the door of some far-away mountain still-house,
while I — thy friend and mess-mate, thy boon companion in
happiness and adversity — stand here alone, a homeless, house-
less, blanketless orphan, his wandering and faltering foot-
steps guided only by the pale light of yonder refulgent orb of
night, his shivering body covered onl}^ by the blue canopy of
the sky, his restless slumber watched over only by the mj-riads
of twinkling stars that shine in the heavens above him? Alas,
Davidge, thou hitherto trusted friend and companion and
confidant of my youth and my manhood ! Thou hast been
weighed in the balance and found wanting. The surrounding
and circumambient circumstances and facts furnish proof
strong as holy writ, that I have been duped, deceived and out-
witted, and ungratefully left to encounter the slings and ar-
rows of misfortune alone and unsustained by any human aid."
And dropping suddenly from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Bill nudged the nearest man with his foot, and in a voice of
entreaty that would have melted the hardest of hearts, said:
" Say, Bill Hamb}^ roll over just a little bit, and let me get
under the shadow of 3'our blanket. If you don't, ere the
morning's dawn illumines the eastern horizon, I'll be a stand-
ing monument to man's inhumanity to man."

The morning of the 29th dawned unclouded, but full of
portentous sound. From the direction of Groveton came the
deep bellows of artillery and the dull indistinct roar of mus-
ketry. General Pope was obviously early at work in his effort
to bag Jackson's little army before that of Longstrect could
reach and relieve it. Shortly after sunrise, the Texas Brigade
— the only command that had passed through the gap — was in
motion toward the sound of the firing. In advance of it went
Lieutenant-Colonel John C. Upton, of the Fifth Texas, in com-
mand of one hundred and fifty skirmishers and with orders
to keep the way clear for the brigade. He obejed these or-
ders both in letter and spirit, for although opposed by infan-
try, cavalry and artillery, he put them to retreat and ad-
vanced so rapidly, and the brigade followed so close on his
heels, that General Longstrcet more than once sent orders


forward to halt the Texas Brigade until the troops in its rear
could overtake it.

By 11 A. M. Upton drove the Federals beyond the cut in an
unfinished railroad, in which Jackson's men, although sorely
beset, were yet holding their ground, and coming up, Law's
Brigade fell into line of battle to the right of Jackson, and
the Texas Brigade on the right of Law's — the other troops
as they arrived extending Longstreet's line a mile or more
to the right of the Texas Brigade. Approximately Long-
street's line faced to the northeast, Jackson's to the southeast,
thus forming an obtuse angle, the Federal lines running par-
allel with those of the Confederates, but northeast and south-
east of them.

The Texas Brigade formed along the southwestern edge of
a strip of timber extending far to its right, but only a short
distance to its left. In front of this strip of timber, lay an
open, slightly undulating wheatfield, or meadow into which,
in front of the Fifth Texas, Eighteenth Georgia and Hamp-
ton's Legion, the woods jutted. Across the wheatfield, which
in front of the First and Fourth Texas was about three hun-
dred yards wide, stood a rather dense forest, covering, perhaps,
four hundred acres of land, which immediately in front of those
regiments was about three hundred and fifty yards wide — its
northeast edge approaching within thirty yards of the crest
of the slope on whose southwest side it lay. From that crest,
the ground sloped rapidly for a couple of hundred yards to
one of the prongs of Young's branch, and beyond the prong,
rose as rapidly until its highest altitude reached, it stretched
off toward Bull Run Creek in a fairly level plateau, dotted
sparsely with clumps of young pine and cedar.

Having secured position on his right, Longstreet seemed dis-
posed to let Jackson maintain the contest unaided save by the
artillery under his command, which he posted on the high
hills just to the left of Law's Brigade. Assisted by that, Jack-
son's men repulsed every one of the five successive, well-
planned, bravely-led and gallant assaults made upon them
during the afternoon. Then at the point of exhaustion, they
made their first urgent appeal for help. Longstreet still loth
to extend it. General Lee, at sunset, ordered Hood's division
forward. In five minutes from the time Lee gave the order,


it was advancing, a strong line of skirmishers in its front.
Much to its surprise, the Texas Brigade was not fired upon
by even Federal skirmishers until, having crossed the wheat-
field and passed through the timber beyond that, it came to
open ground. There, the enemy's skirmishers opened a brisk
fire upon our own, but continued it only a few minutes and
then fled. The twilight is short in Virginia, and troops mov-
ing in line of battle through a woodland obstructed by under-
growth, make slow headway, and by the time the main line of
the brigade reached the open ground, and descending the
slope, crossed the branch at its foot, it was too dark to dis-
tinguish friends from foes at ordinary musket range.

Somehow, too, it happened that Law's and the Texas Bri-
gades moved forward on converging lines. Owing to this
circumstance, one of Law's regiments passed across the front
of the First Texas, and when halted at the branch to perfect
its alignment, stood exactly in front of the Fourth Texas.
This failure to move straightforward, on parallel lines, com-
bined with the darkness to intermingle the two brigades and
create confusion. While a semblance of order was being re-
stored, from the hill-side in our rear came the flashes and re-
ports of many small arms, fired, obviously, by opposing bodies
of troops. Staff officers immediately galloped in that direc-
tion, but before they had gone half-way the firing ceased, and
as if by magic, a line of camp-fires appeared all along the crest
of the ridge in our rear. Five minutes later, the Texas
Brigade was ordered to move by the left flank, which placed
the First Texas in the lead. We had gone scarcely a hun-
dred yards, though, when a loud peremptory "Halt ! " broke
the silence that had fallen on the field, and the next moment
a shot rang out, and was followed by several others.

At the word, the brigade came to a sudden stop, the men
standing motionless with wonder. A minute later the strange
caution came whispered from man to man, all along the line,
" Silence ! We are surrounded by the enemy." It was the
truth, and for a minute or more, a sadly humiliating truth,
since to be surrounded presaged speedy capture and resulting
shame and mortification. But our humiliation lasted but a
second or two ; with arms still in our hands, we could fight
our way out, or die ; and thus resolving, we asked each other


in whispers how in the mischief we had got ourselves into
such a trap. It had been easy to do so ; moving forward on
converging lines, the two brigades of the division had simply
driven themselves, wedge-like, into the unoccupied space be-
tween two Federal brigades — the darkness of the night and
the suddenness of the movement having prevented them from
discovering our passage. When, however, they did discover
it, they moved closer to each other and thus closed the gap
through which we had entered. But in doing that, they made
the gap between themselves and the brigade on their left wider
than was safe, and through this, after midnight, we stole,
with bated breaths and noiseless steps, back to the line from
which we had started.

The loss of the Texas Brigade on the 29th was light. As
now recalled, but two of its men were wounded, and one cap-
tured. Colonel Work, of the First Texas, was one of the
wounded. While advancing with his regiment in the darkness
and over strange ground, he ordered his men to shoot at
everybody that appeared in the front. The men, however,
were unwilling to do this, lest they fire into their friends, and
coming at last within sixty yards of a line of troops stand-
ing silent and motionless, refused to fire at them. Work in-
sisted they were Yankees, and to prove it, unwisely pushed
forward alone to decide the question. But when within twenty
yards of the suspected line, he ran up against a vidette whom
he took to be a lone Confederate, and asked if the troops

just beyond him were not Yankees. " You are a rebel, d

you," instantly exclaimed the vidette, making a movement to
bring his gun to his shoulder. But before he could level it,
Colonel Work sprang at him, wrested the gun out of his
hands, and aiming at him, pulled the trigger.

His gun in an enemy's hands, the vidette fled, but he need
not have done so, for only a snap of the cap rewarded the ef-
forts of Work to shoot him. Work pursued, but had gone
hardly five steps when he ran against the muzzle of a gun in
the hands of another Federal. Dropping the gun he held,
Work knocked the weapon of his new assailant to one side, and
its shot went wild. Then remembering he wore a pistol. Work
reached for it, but before he could draw it, the Federal clubbed
his gun and struck the colonel over the head with it. The


blow did not fell the plucky Confederate, but it sent him reel-
ing backwards, and one of his spurs caught in the undergrowth
and tripped him up. The Federal rushed on him to adminis-
ter the coup-de-grace, but just then Captain W. H. Gaston
of the First Texas heard the racket, and surmising that his
doughty colonel was in pressing need of reinforcements, came
up in a run. Not caring to fight two Confederates with an
unloaded gun, the Federal took to his legs.

It was Bill Calhoun that was captured. Davidge, whose
untimely absence the night before had been so eloquently
lamented and denounced by him, having that morning put
in an appearance, Bill went forward with his comrades of the
skirmish line in high good humor with himself and everybody
else. Unluckily, however, his desire to get in close range of
a Yankee, in order, as he said, " to show the blue-bellied cuss
what a feller from ole Brushy can do in the way of quick
shootin'," led him too far to the front. As with cocked gun
held in his hands across his breast, he passed a little clump of
cedars, one of the " cusses " he was in search of stepped out,
and leveling a gun at him, cried, " Surrender, you d — d rebel !
Surrender, or I'll blow your brains out."

Noting at a glance that the Federal " had the drop on
him," and that in the shadow of the cedars stood other sol-
diers in blue. Bill released the clutch of his fingers on his gun,
and letting it drop with a clang to the rocky ground, ex-
claimed, "Sun-ender? Why, of course I surrender — who in
h — ll's talkin' 'bout not surrenderin '? " Such an odd way of
submitting to capture so amused the Federal that he forgot
to lower his gun, but held it aimed in the general direction
of his captive — its barrel moving up, down and sidewise in
time to the laughter that shook his form. " See here, Mis-
ter," called Bill, " please quit pintin' ycr gun at me — hit mout
go off unbeknownst to yer, an' eff hit do, hit's jest as apt ter
hit a feller as ter miss him."

With the morning of the 30th, came another unclouded sky.
At sunrise. General Pope wired to Washington that he had
won a great victory, that the Confederates were in full retreat
and that he was making preparations for a vigorous pursuit.
An hour later, he discovered that Lee's army was yet in his
front, ready to test conclusions with liis own. It was 1 p. m.,


however, before the Federal commander renewed the contest by
an attack along the whole length of Jackson's hne — his most
desperate and determined assault being on the Louisiana and
Virginia Confederates occupying the railroad cut. It was a
gallant affair on both sides, the courage and steadfastness of
the assailed being fairly matched by the daring and deter-
mined bravery of the assailants.

Line after line of the Federals moved forward, their battle-
flags waving, their alignments as straight as though they were
on the parade ground, and their men stepping boldly, briskly
and confidently. When within a hundred and fifty yards of
the red-clay embankment behind wliich crouched the Confed-
erates, a loud resounding huzza would burst from the throats
of the men, and they would spring forward in a seemingly
reckless charge. But in a minute's time the scene would
change. As they came within fifty yards of their waiting op-
ponents, the flash, the smoke and the roar of three thousand
well-aimed rifles would burst from the embankment, a wHd,
blood-curdling Confederate yell rise high above the din of bat-
tle, and when the smoke lifted, the survivors of a fire as ter-
rible and destructive as was ever hurled at a foe could be
seen fleeing back to the Union lines, up and across a hill-side
darkened by the forms of their dead, dying and wounded. It
was both a saddening and a magnificent spectacle. While
the sympathies and hopes of the Texans on the skirmish line
a mile away to the right, went with the troops that so pluckily
held the railroad cut, they made no attempt to conceal their
admiration of the splendid daring, the American courage of
the assailants.

Although they repulsed the enemy at every point on their
line, Jackson's men were not made of iron. The strain on
them was terrible, the pressure unceasing, and at 4.30 p. m.
General Jackson called for assistance. The artillery of Lono -
street and Colonel Stephen D. Lee was first to give it — its en-
filading fire on the left flank of the still advancing Federals
sweeping them down in long rows. At the moment it ap-
peared most eff'ective and demoralizing, Longstreet ordered
his command forward, and it went with a will and a vim that
carried consternation to the Federals and soon put them to


Springing into line when the order reached them, each man
eager for the fray, the Texas Brigade moved rapidly across
the wheat-field into the woods be3'ond — the Eighteenth
Georgia in the center; on its right Hampton's Legion and
beyond that the Fifth Texas, and on its left, the Fourth
Texas, and beyond that the First Texas. Some little skir-
mishing took place in the woods, but it was only when the
open ground beyond the timber was gained that the main
forces of the enemy were encountered. The alignment of the
five regiments, as a brigade, was lost when they entered the
timber, and as each seemed bent on making a record that
should be distinctively and peculiarly its own, there was so
little concert of action between them that any attempt to de-
scribe their movements as a brigade would be confusing both
to writer and reader. Instead, each regiment will be given
space to tell its own story through the medium of the official
report of its immediate commander, and the pen of one or
more of its members. But only such parts of the reports
will be given as relate to the battle of August 30.

To economize space, official and non-official reports and ac-
counts will appear in the order in which the regiments stood,
looking from the left to the right. That will give the report
of Lieutenant-Colonel P. A. Work, of the First Texas, first
place. The official reports of the battle of Second Manassas
are to be found in Part II, Volume XII, of War of the
Rebellion Records. Colonel Work says :

The regiment, having been withdrawn from the ground occupied
by it on the battleground of the evening previous, was placed in
position about daylight of the morning of August 30, with its left
resting upon the turnpike road at the point occupied by it the day
previous. During the day I received instructions through Capt.
W. H. Sellers, assistant adjutant-general, to keep the regiment at
attention, and advance to attack the enemy whenever ordered. By
Captain Sellers I was informed that General Kemper's Brigade
would be advanced simultaneously with the Texas Brigade, mov-
ing diagonally across the front of the latter; that mine would
be the directing regiment, and would move slowly, with its left
flank resting upon the turnpike road, the other regiments of the
brigade inclining and gradually wheeling to the left, so that at
the proper point the Texas and Kemper's Brigades would present
an even, unbroken front.

John Coi,eman Robkkts
Company C, Fourth Texas Regiment



About 4 or 4.30 p. m. I was ordered to advance, when I at
once put the regiment in motion. After having advanced about
125 yards, I was informed by the acting adjutant of the regiment,
W. Shropshire, that the Fourth Texas Regiment had not moved,
when, supposing my movement premature, I halted and dispatched

Online LibraryJ. B. (Joseph Benjamin) PolleyHood's Texas brigade, its marches, its battles, its achievements → online text (page 7 of 32)