J. B. (Joseph Benjamin) Polley.

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

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a messenger to ascertain the truth. Before the return of the
messenger, Lieut. James Hamilton, aide-de-camp, galloped up and
informed me that the Fourth Texas was some 150 yards in ad-
vance of me. I at once moved at the double-quick and soon came
upon a line with the Fourth (just after moving out of the timber
into the large open field where the engagement took place). As
the regiment advanced, a battery of the enemy fired into us re-
peatedly, but before either this or any other regiment of the
brigade could charge upon it, it limbered up and moved off at a
rapid gait up the turnpike road, until it reached an orchard upon
an elevated, commanding position, where it halted and again
opened fire upon us. This regiment continued to advance up the
turnpike road, with its left resting thereon, until halted in a hol-
low, by an order delivered by a courier (Barbee, I believe). From
this hollow I received an order (through Barbee) to move for-
ward to the second hollow beyond the one I was then in, where
I would halt and receive orders, which order I executed, moving
forward to the hollow designated and halting, exposed to the fire
of the above-mentioned battery while crossing the two intervening
ridges. I failed to receive any orders at this place, and it was at
this last-mentioned hollow that I discovered that I was alone. I
had been watching so intently the battery in my front and the
movements of the troops in its immediate vicinity, that I did not
know when the other regiments of the brigade left me. Discov-
ering that I was alone, I called to Templeman (acting as courier)
and asked as to the whereabouts of the other regiments. He could
not then inform me, but said that he would ascertain and let me
know, and galloping off, soon returned, stating the Fourth Texas
had crossed the creek opposite my right flank, had moved up and
taken a battery upon a ridge which he pointed out, and had moved
on over the ridge after the infantry support. I at once moved
by the right flank across the creek and upon the ridge desig-
nated. Having moved the right of the regiment to the top of
the ridge, and placed the regiment under cover from an enfilad-
ing fire from two batteries, to wit, the one above mentioned at
the orchard, and the second on a ridge running parallel to the
one upon the top of which my right was then resting, I advanced,
myself, to a point from which I hoped to discover the locality of
the Fourth Texas. I heard a heavy firing of musketry or rifles


down in the hollow in front of where I was standing, but, owing
to a swell or second ridge upon the descending slope to the hol-
low, not a man could I discover.

About this time Barbee galloped up and informed me that all
of the brigade were down in the hollow, were hard pressed, and
needed assistance. Selecting a place where I could pass the ridge
with as little loss as possible, I fronted the regiment and moved
forward some 35 yards to a depression crossing the ridge. Once
in this depression, I believed I could cross the ridge protected
wholly from the fire of the orchard battery, and partially from
the battery upon the parallel ridge. Just as the regiment had
reached the depression alluded to, and just as I was in the act
of giving the order to move by the right flank. Captain Sellers
brought me an order to take my regiment under cover, and was
so earnest that he gave the order to right-about before I could
give it myself. As the regiment moved back over this 35 yards,
a heavy fire of grape and canister was opened on us from the
two batteries above mentioned, and it was here that several were
wounded. Having brought the regiment under cover, I was di-
rected by Captain Sellers to move down into the hollow, where
flowed the creek spoken of above, and there rest. About the time
I reached the last-mentioned hollow quite a number from the sev-
eral regiments of the brigade joined me, and, falling into the
ranks, remained until their respective regiments successively
reached the hollow and formed upon this.

"We lost 3 killed and 7 wounded. It is proper to state, that
of the killed, one, R. B. Stephens, of Company E, was killed by

a rifle ball while skirmishing, and a second, Walker, of

Company E, was killed while with the scouts, under Lieutenant-
Colonel Upton, of the Fifth Texas.

It is a matter of regret that I received no notice and did not
discover the movements of the other regiments of the brigade in
time to have changed my front and contributed the best eff'orts
of the regiment in aiding in taking the battery captured, and in
the attack upon the troops routed by them.


Second Manassas (Continued)

The Fourth Texas held place in the line of battle, on the
right of the First Texas, and between that regiment and
Hampton's Legion. Relating the movements of the Fourth
on the 30th, one of its survivors writes:

"In front of the Fourth as it emerged from the timber,
stood two lines of the enemy's infantry in battle array—
the first, a hundred yards or so from the timber— the second,
beyond Young's branch. Beyond the second was posted on
commanding ground a battery of four guns, wliich, from
the time we came in view of it, poured shot and shell mto our
ranks with an accuracy of aim that caused much loss. The
first line seemed panic-stricken by the mere sight of us, for
holding its ground only long enough to fire one volley, and
that aimed too high to do much execution, it about-faced in
one movement and the quickest time on record, and receiving
our fire in its rear, fled at a speed that soon took it out of sight
and range. Then, neither consulting Colonel Carter, nor giv-
ing him'' time to utter a command, the men of the Fourth,
moved by a common impulse, began a charge upon the battery

" The Federal infantry in our front, beyond the branch, fired
two or three volleys at us as we plunged down the slope, and
into and across the little stream, but it no sooner saw us mov-
ing up the hill toward it, than it, too, took to precipitate
flio-ht. The battery, though, held its ground, and as we
neared it, began to hurl at us grape and canister that tore
great gaps in our ranks. Behind it lay, in a thicket of cedars,
a regiment whose special duty it was to support it, but when
that saw the two lines in front break into flight, it also broke
and fled, leaving the battery entirely without support. Then,
feeling themselves deserted, the men belonging to the battery
abandoned it and made for the rear, leaving only their cap-
tain to stand by it. And that he did, with a courage and hero-



ism that, although wasted on the impossible, deserv^edl}" won
the admiration and even the sympathy of the foes he was
doing his best to destroy. Even when we had come within
forty yards of the guns, he stood at the only loaded one, and
was in the act of discharging it when he was shot down. That
gun was loaded with grape and canister, and, huddled to-
gether as the regiment then was, each man of us seeking to
be the first to lay hands on a cannon, had he discharged it,
fully one-half of the Fourth Texas would have been wounded
and killed.

" The battery captured, the Fourth Texas formed in line
facing in the direction of the enemy — forming, according to
my recollection, in a low swale not over fifty yards beyond
the battery and at no time advancing beyond the swale. Not
another Confederate command was in sight, either to right
or left, and naturally, our men felt lonely, the colonel, anxious.
To move forward, might be to invite disaster — to fall back,
was to abandon the trophies we had won at a terrible sacrifice
• — to stay there and, Micawber-like, wait ' for something to
turn up,' was not military conduct. The enemy solved the
problem. While Colonel Carter and other officers consulted
as to what should be done, it was discovered that a large force
of Federals, hidden from view in the valley of Young's branch
— which, making a bend to the right below where we had
crossed it, was now on our left — was moving on our rear.

" One glance over the brow of the hill convinced Colonel Car-
ter that at such a crisis, ' discretion was the better part of
valor,' and he moved the regiment, by the right flank, back to
Young's branch, at the point where we had crossed it, and
thence up it a couple of hundred yards, where it halted and
remained until after sunset. We were not there more than
five minutes, when a magnificently arrayed Confederate bri-
gade — it was Kemper's, I think — came marching up to and
over us, on its way to take part in the battle. ' What are
you fellows skulking here for.? ' asked one of its men. ' We
are not skulking,' replied a red-haired Texan: 'we are just
holding this branch for you folks to hide in when the Yankees
up yonder on the hill whip you back.' ' They'll never do
that,' boasted the man of Kemper's Brigade. But he
boasted too soon, for in less than twenty minutes, he and


many hundreds of his brigade came running back to the
branch for shelter from the bullets that pursued them. ' I
told you you'd come back a-ninnin', said the red-headed Texan,
but there was no rejoinder.

" Of what the other regiments of the Texas Brigade did, I
have little personal knowledge. We had evidence of what the
Fifth Texas had done in the ghastly, horrifying spectacle
that met our eyes as, while lying in the branch, we looked at
the hill-side then in our rear, nearly an acre of which that
regiment had covered with killed and wounded Zouaves, the
variegated colors of whose gaudy uniforms gave the scene,
when looked at from a distance, the appearance of a Texas
hill-side when carpeted in the spring by wild flowers of many
hues and tints.

" Certainly the career of the Fifth New York Zouaves was
neither a long nor a brilliant one. While camped in 1861-2
across the Potomac River, from the Fifth Texas, it is said
they threatened that if they ever met the Fifth Texas in
battle, they would ' wipe it off the face of the earth ' — the
Fifth Texas in retort, declaring that if it ever met the Zouaves*
it would cover the ground ' with their ring-streaked and
striped bodies.' At Gaines' Mill, the Fifth New York
Zouaves encountered the Fourth Texas, and driven in con-
fusion from the first line of works there, defeated, could only
boast of the speed that enabled them to outstrip their com-
rades of other regiments in a wild, go-as-you-please race to
the protecting shelter of the Chickahominy swamplands ; at
Second Manassas, they met the Fifth Texas, and instead of
wiping that command ' off the face of the earth,' as they had
boasted they would, were themselves, as a command, practi-
cally annihilated. Certainl}'^, the laurels they won on fields
of battle were not many, for the survivors of Second Manassas
proved too few to maintain a separate organization, and for
the remainder of the war, served only on details, as guards
and nurses at prisons and hospitals. Blotted from history
by the Fifth Texas, the regiment has remained ' unhonored
and unsung,' save in so far as that has been done in song
and story laudatory of the Fifth Texas, or descriptive of
* Carnage Hill,' as by Union veterans, the hill-side on which
so many of its men were killed, has been called.


" In all the annals of warfare, ancient and modem, no greater
mortality was ever inflicted in the same space of time by as
few men as were engaged in the affair. Actual and careful
account made after the battle was over for the day, dis-
closed that 443 of the Zouaves were killed, and that of these,
294 fell dead in the tracks where they stood when the Texans
of the Fifth fired their first volley. Only ten prisoners were
taken, and of these but four were wounded. One of the
wounded, an officer, said, while being taken to the rear, that
not over fifty of the regiment escaped death, wounds, or cap-
ture. Against that estimate should be placed the fact,
vouched for by many members of the Fifth Texas, that at
least twice that number were seen to reach the shelter of tim-
ber beyond Young's branch.

" Captain Mark Kenis, the commander of the battery cap-
tured by the Fourth Texas, deserves more than a passing
notice. A Virginian by birth, no braver soldier than he served
in either army. His experience with the Texans was some-
what similar to that of the Zouaves. His battery was one
of those that were massed on the high hill south of Powhite
Creek, at the battle of Gaines' Mill. There he was lucky
enough, when the capture of the position seemed inevitable, to
escape with four of his guns. With these same four guns he
fought the Fourth Texas again at Second Manassas. That
night, members of the Fourth Texas returned to the battery,
and finding its gallant commander still alive, offered to carry
him to a hospital for surgical attention. But he declined
such aid, saying that he knew he was mortally wounded and
must soon die, and that all he asked was to be let die by his
guns, as he had sworn to do when given command of them.
His wish was respected, and the watch, the keep-sakes and the
letter he wrote were a few days later sent through the lines
to the parties he named."

Another member of the Fourth Texas, General William R.
Hamby, writes as follows :

" Resuming our march early in the morning of August 29th,
we could hear cannonading in our front, causing our column
to press forward in a forced march, as we knew Stonewall
Jackson was already engaged. We struck the enemy near

Lieutenant Ben M. Baker
Company B, Fifth Texas Regiment


the village at Groveton about the middle of the forenoon, and
at once formed line of battle, the Texas Brigade on the right
of the turnpike leading from Warrenton across Bull Run to
Centerville, and Law's Brigade of our division on the left of
the pike and connecting with the right of Jackson's line. The
balance of Longstreet's Corps forming to the right of the
Texas Brigade, thus placing us about the center of the Confed-
erate line of battle. Our line was formed in the edge of a nar-
row strip of timber ; in our rear was a small glade or abandoned
field; our skirmish line was at the further side of the timber
in front of us ; in front of our skirmish line was an open field
some three hundred yards wide; then came another body of
timber in which the enemy had formed their lines. Their sharp
shooters and their artillery kept up a regular fire, but did
little execution,

" Late in the afternoon we were ordered forward, but had
scarcely cleared the outer edge of the woods where our skir-
mish line had been on duty before we met the enemy advancing
to meet us. Raising a shout we charged them at double quick
and drove them from the open field back through the woods ;
while passing through this timber a cavalry charge was made
along the pike to our left, but was soon repulsed ; we then
crossed another field, passing over a small creek and advanced
up a hill into another body of timber. Night had overtaken
us sometime before we entered this last woods, which was
probably three-fourths of a mile from where we started. The
conflict here was close and obstinate and continued until it
was so dark we could not distinguish friend from foe. The
Federal and Confederate lines were badly mixed, resulting in
many cases of hand-to-hand conflict. It was here that Lieu-
tenant-Colonel Work, then in command of the First Texas,
was struck on the head with a gun by a Federal soldier. The
dense woods only added to the darkness and the embarrass-
ment of a battle at night, which is the most undesirable service
in which a soldier can engage. While our losses had been com-
paratively small that day, yet many of those brave Texans
were destined to join the innumerable caravan on the shores
of the great beyond before the setting of another sun. We
were far advanced inside the Federal lines and practically
surrounded on three sides. We remained in this position until


after midnight, when we quietly withdrew and returned to the
same position we held before the fight commenced, bringing
with us a few prisoners and several flags as the result of
the engagement. The prisoners were New York troops and
said they belonged to Hatch's Brigade.

" In consequence of our withdrawal General Pope, the Fed-
eral commander, fell under the erroneous impression that Gen-
eral Lee's whole army was in retreat and telegraphed that fact
to Washington and issued orders that his troops be throwm
' forward in pursuit of the fleeing rebels,' but he soon became
convinced that the rebels were not retreating, but were still
in strong force along his entire front, and before the close of
the day he realized that the ' fleeing rebels,' as he termed Gen-
eral Lee's army, not only had no intention of retreating, but
were actually advancing, and then it was the matter of but a
few hours when the pursuers became the pursued.

" During the forenoon of August 30, sharp firing was kept
up between the skirmish lines of the opposing armies. In ad-
dition to the whistling of the minie balls that would oc-
casionally hit a man in our lines, the Federal Artillery on a
hill about half a mile in front of us were shelling the woods
in which we were located and while not doing much damage,
were very annoying. As the shells came shrieking through
the tree tops over our heads, they seemed to say, ' Where are
you.'' Where are you? ' and when they burst there is no
question but what they plainly said, ' Found you.'

" About three o'clock we witnessed an artillery duel between
the Confederate batteries on our left and the Federal artillery
in our front. Our guns were under the direction of General
Stephen D. Lee, who at that time was a colonel of artillery.
The enemy's batteries were silenced and our batteries advanced
at a gallop about 200 yards in front of our lines and again
opened fire, with shot and shell and doing great execution. It
was one of the most brilliant artillery actions it was ever my
fortune to witness. The fire of our guns was so rapid and so
accurate that the Federal infantry, then seriously threatening
Jackson's line to our left, were broken and their artillery
forced to change position and seek shelter.

" It was about four o'clock, or possibly some later, in the


afternoon of August 30th, when we were again ordered for-
ward. We advanced through the timber in front of us and
were met by the enemy in the open field near where we had
met them the previous day. Again raising a yell and charg-
ing at double quick we drove them from the field through the
timber to another field and across a creek where we made a
short halt, re-formed our lines and prepared for another
charge. The battery on the crest of the hill in our front and
their infantry supports were subjecting us to a heavy fire.
While we were re-forming our lines, Albert Nicholls of Com-
pany B, Fourth Texas, broke ranks and ran some thirty or
forty steps up the hill towards the enemy to pick up a hat
which he said had been left there for him by a gentleman from
New York. We started at a run, firing and reloading as we
advanced, and but for the fact that the enemy over-shot us,
we would never have reached the top of the hill, and yet with
that in our favor we lost heavily in making that charge of
about 200 yards. The Fifth Texas was to our right and
came in contact with the Fifth New York Zouaves, as gallant
a regiment of soldiers as ever fired a gun. The New York
Regiment covered the Fifth Texas, while in front of the Fourth
Texas was a battery of artillery. The Zouaves were dressed
in blue jackets, red trousers and white leggins, and presented
a picturesque appearance, but out of 490 who went into ac-
tion that day, 297 of them fell where they stood, and I verily
believe if any one had been disposed, he could have walked
from one end of their line to the other without touching the
ground. The officers and men of the battery shared a similar
fate, standing to their guns until we were upon them, the most
of them being either killed or wounded before they permitted
their four guns to fall into our hands, but the troops support-
ing the battery fled in disoi'der. When the Fifth Texas fired
their last volley into the ranks of the Zouaves, their right
could almost cross bayonets with the left of the New Yorkers.
The valor of the Zouaves was only exceeded by the gallant
charge of the Texans.

" It was a singular coincidence that the Zouaves and the
battery which suffered so heavily at the hands of the Texans
at Second Manassas should have also fought us at Gaines'
Mill the 27th of June previous, when the Zouaves lost about


one-third of their number while the battery lost two of their
guns, besides many of their men killed and wounded. The
battery was composed of Pennsylvania soldiers and was com-
manded by Captain Mark Kerns, who although wounded early
in the day at Gaines' Mill, stayed with his guns until the Fed-
eral line was swept from the field, and at Second Manassas, al-
though nearly all his men had fallen, he loaded and fired his
guns until he himself was struck down when we were only a
few steps from him. When we reached the gun beside which
he fell, with his life blood fast ebbing away, he said : ' I prom-
ised to drive you back, or die under my guns, and I have kept
my word.' After crossing the hill on which Kerns' battery
was located we deflected somewhat to the left, while the Fifth
Texas, Hampton's Legion, and Eighteenth Georgia had gone
to the right, thus widely separating us from these regiments
of our brigade. We pushed on after the retreating Federals
down the hill across a small hollow and came in contact Avith
the Pennsylvania Reserves, who were in a pine thicket in front
of us. We here discovered the enemy in heavy force on the
hill to our left and almost in our rear. We were being en-
filaded by both infantry and artillery, which forced us to
change direction and fall back, as we were then about half a
mile in front of the balance of the Confederate line on this part
of the field. The friendly sides of a ravine protected us some-
what until we could re-form our line and take a survey of the
situation. We then crossed the hill in our rear, keeping up
a rapid fire and holding the enemy at a safe distance when
the Fourth Texas was joined by the First Texas, who had
been engaged on our left and nearer the turnpike. The Fed-
erals came up within about 200 yards of our line ; the inter-
vening space between the two lines was covered with the dead
and wounded, both Union and Confederate. It was on this
part of the field where Sergeant Bible, of Company E, and
Charley McAnnally and Niles Fawcett, of Company B, and
others were killed, besides many wounded, myself among the

" A comrade who was wounded and unable to leave the field
gives a graphic description of his surroundings. He said he
laid on that field as the sun was slowl3'^ sinking behind the hills.


and as the shadows of night came on, the feelings that came
over him were beyond his powers of expression; midway be-
tween two lines of battle with shot and shell from friend and
foe falHng thick, and every few moments some poor unfortu-
nate would cry out in anguish, ' Oh, God, I am hit again.' His
mother from his infancy had taught him to pray, but on this
day the thought of prayer never entered is mind, and yet, he
says, he could embrace every act of his hfe in a single thought.
" Evans' Brigade soon came up to our support, followed
soon thereafter by a general advance of the entire Confederate
line which swept the Union forces from the field. The battle
continued until darkness put an end to the conflict, the Con-
federate lines being about two miles in front of where we had
started, but if an hour more of daylight had remained. Pope's
army would have been captured or destroyed, as many organi-
zations left the field in a rout, and to use the language of a
distinguished Federal officer, ' The road was filled with fleeing
men, artillery and wagons, all leaving the field in a panic, the
shadows of night enabling them to escape In safety across Bull

" A short time before the battle commenced, James Thomas,
of Company B, Fourth Texas, remarked to some of his com-
rades that if he went into the battle that day he knew he would
be killed. Captain McLaurin, then in command of the com-
pany, heard the remark and told him if he felt that way for
him not to go into action, and that he would send him to

Online LibraryJ. B. (Joseph Benjamin) PolleyHood's Texas brigade, its marches, its battles, its achievements → online text (page 8 of 32)