Walter Clark.

Histories of the several regiments and battalions from North Carolina, in the great war 1861-'65 online

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ett's right to guard the flank, and Heth was supported by

Thirty-Third Regiment. 563

Lane's and Scales' Brigades. Longstreet's and Hill's Artil-
lery and part of Swell's were to open fire simultaneously,
and tlie attacking column was to advance under the combined
fire of these Confederate batteries. General Lee says "the
batteries were directed to be pushed forward as the infantry
progressed, to protect their flanks and to support their at-
tack closely." If this had been done the battle would have
been ours. But the ammunition was exhausted before we
started. This fact General Lee says, was unknown to him.
One hundred and fifteen Confederate guns opened fire about
1 o'clock. Eighty Federal guns replied to them. This artil-
lery duel continued for two hours when the fire on the Fed-
eral side slackened and almost ceased. The attack began
about 3 p. m. The assaulting column moves steadily on un-
der a hot and heavy fire both of musketry and artillery.
Owing to the nature of the ground, the formation of the lines
and the character of the enemy's works, (the stone fence, etc.)
Pickett's men come first upon the enemy. They hold their
ground for a time, but it is almost impossible to live under
such a tempest of fire. Pickett staggers and falls back. Davis
of Pettigrew's command, falters and flees. Lane and Scales
leap to the front. They overtake Pettigrew and the two lines
(Pettigrew and Trimble) then become one (Major Saunders)
and the advance is continued. They reach the stone wall.
Pettigrew is broken in pieces and leaves the field. Lane and
Scales fight on. Their right and left are wholly unprotected.
Pickett and Pettigrew are gone. The Federal fire (artillery
and musketry) is concentrated upon these two matchless bri-
gades. They mount their breastworks. A furious volley is
poured into them by the second Federal line. They retreat,
not in disorder, but as General Trimble says, "sullenly
and slowly, in almost as good order as they had
advanced." Peerless soldiers. In the procession of the cen-
turies doubtless we might find equal courage and devotion
in the annals of war, but the instances have been at long in-
tervals. Von Moltke, the German, says our army was a
"mob." Triton of minnows ! Oh that Stonewall Jack-
son could have had him in his front about six
hours. He would have gone down in history by the side

564 North Carolina Troops, 1861-'65.

of Burnside, Pope and Nathaniel P. Banks. We can-
not wonder at Trimble's language to Lane : "If tlie troops
I had the honor to command today (Lane's aaid Scales^
Brigades) couldn't take that position, all hell can't take it."
General Trimhle denies that he used the profane language at-
tribiited to him by General Lane, but says he "used some em-
phatic expression of commendation," etc. There are men
who, as Wellington says, never even "stumble on the truth."
A certain writer, whose name I am glad I do not know, says :
"The right (Pickett) behaved gloriously; the left (Petti-
grew) faltered and fled. Each body acted according to its
nature, for they were made of different stuff ; the one of com-
mon earth, the other of finest clay. Pettigrew's men were
North Carolinians, Pickett's were superb Virginians." This
man ought to be sent to the insane asylum. I cannot reply
to such childish twaddle. Has this man ever read Lee's gen-
eral order as to the conduct of certain troops ? I forbear.

General Trimble, who commanded Lane's and Scales' Brig-
ades on the third day, says : "We passed over the remnant of
their line (Pettigrew's) and immediately after some one close
by my left sung out, 'three cheers for the Old North State,'
when both brigades (Scales' and Lanes') sent up a hearty
shout, on which I said to my aid, "Charley, I believe those
fine fellows are going into the enemy's line." My men
(Lane's and Scales' Brigades) were the last to leave the field.
This I know as I rode in the line between the two Brigades
(Lane's and Scales') from the start down to the Emmetts-
burg road, passing over the wreck of Lleth's Division (Pet-
tigrew's). Before my line recoiled under a concentrated fire
from my front and left, I looked to the right where Pickett's
men had been seen to advance and beheld nothing but isolated
and scattered remnants of that splendid line. * * *
Thus I am sure that my command continued the contest some
time after Pickett's force had been dispersed. General Trim-
ble in these statements is substantially supported by Gen-
eral Lane and Colonel Avery, of the Thirty-third. These of-
ficers say the "whole right had given way" before Lane's
Brigade left the field. General Trimble says further : "No
one acquainted with the fact can, for a moment, doubt the


1. James M. Hunt, 1st Lieut.. Co. D. B.

S. John G, Justice, 1st Lieut, and Adjt. 6.

3. James W. Gibbs, 2d Lieut., Co. F. 7.

4. Isaac L. Farrow, 2d Lieut.^ Co. H. 8.

Major F. Joines, 2d Lieut., Co. D.
George H. Snow, 1st Lieut., Co. H.
Wilson H. Lucas, 1st Lieut, Co. A.
James W. Atkinson, Color Sergeant
Co. G.

Thirty-Third Eegiment. 565

intrepid bravery and splendid bearing of Pickett's men ; they
did all that any men could do under the circumstances, but
others did as well, went as far or farther, fought longer, and
lost as heavily."

General Lane says : "General Thomas, who could see from
his position in the road every thing that was going on, in-
formed me that Brockenborough's Brigade, which was on
the left of Heth's (Pettigrew's) Division, did not advance
further than the road, and that Davis' Brigade, which was
next to it, pushed forward, in advance of the general line, and
was driven back. The remaining brigades of Heth's (Petti-
grew's) Division were Pettigrew's and Archer's. As soon
as Pettigrew's command gave back Davis', Lowrance's
(Scales) Brigade and my own, without even having halted,
took position on the left of the troops that were fighting
(Pettigrew's Brigade and Archer's.) That is, we occu-
pied that part of the fighting line formerly held by Davis,
of Pettigrew's (Heth's) Division. My brigade was now
the extreme left of the attacking force, and the Thirty-
third Begiment was on the left of the brigade. I never
saw, even in drill, a more beautiful line than my brigade
kept as it advanced under that murderous fire. The field
was open — no troops in front of us, and it was our yell,
as we joined the front line that caused General Trimble to
make that remark, "I believe those fine fellows are going into
the enemy's line." The men reserved their fire in accord-
ance with orders, until within good range of the enemy, and
then opened with telling effect, repeatedly driving the can-
noneers from their pieces, completely silencing the guns in
our front and breaking the line of infantry which was formed
on the crest of the hill. We advanced to within a few yards
of the stone wall. Some of my right had gone over the fence,
yelling furiously. My left, under Colonel Avery, was here
very much exposed, and a column of infantry was thrown
forward by the enemy in that direction which enfiladed my
whole line. When I ordered Colonel Avery, in obedience to in-
structions from General Longstreet, to face to the left for the
purpose of meeting the fianking column of the enemy, he re-

566 North Carolina Troops, 1861-'65.

plied : "My God, General, do you intend rushing your troops
into such a place unsupported, when the whole right has given
way?" I looked to the right and saw that it was as he
stated ; no line of battle was any where visible on the right.
Colonel Avery had already reached the fence and his men
were firing and cheering. My brigade, I know, was the last
to leave the field, and it did so by my order." Major Joseph
H. Saunders, of the Thirty-third, says : "Just before I was
,shot, I distinctly remember seeing a Yankee color-bearer just
in front of the left of the regiment get up and run away,
trailing his flag and followed by his regiment, so that there
was nothing to keep our regiment from going into the ene-
my's ranks. I see from the "Virginian" that Captain Young
states Lane's and Scales' Brigades did not reach the point at-
tained by Pettigrew's. As to this point I can be perfectly
positive as we overtook the first line, and the two lines (Petti-
grew and Trimble) then became one, and the advance was
continued. There can be no mistake about this."

Colonel Lowrance, commanding Scales' Brigade, says:
"We silenced the pickets in our front. * * ■ * ISTow all
had apparently forsaken us. The two brigades (Lane's and
Scales') now reduced to mere squads, not numbering in all
800 men, were the only lines to be seen upon that vast field,
and with no support in view, the brigade retreated."
There can be no doubt that Pettigrew's old brigade and
Archer's maintained the contest a short time after Davia
had fled, but Lane and Scales continued to fight some
time after Pettigrew and Archer had been swept from
the field. Thus it is undisputable that Lane and Scales
went to the front and stayed there some minutes firing and
cheering, after Pettigrew and Pickett had entirely disap-
peared. In thus remaining on the field of battle and con-
tinuing the fight after all the other troops had retreated, they
were exposed to a raking artillery fire on both flanks, and to
a blinding, overwhelming artillery and musketry fire in front.
In the language of General Trimble — a gallant old hero — -
we "maintained our ground after they (the other
troops) had been driven back." Our brigade, too, retreated
in obedience to orders (unlike the troops of Pettigrew and

Thirty-Third Regiment. 567

Pickett) not in disorder, but "sullenly and slowly, in almost
as good order as they had advanced." There is nothing supe-
rior to it in all history. It is the crowning glory of these
two incomparable brigades. Match such heroism if you
can — surpass it you cannot.

But, on the other hand. Captain Young, aide-de-camp to
General Pettigrew, says : "Our brigade (Pettigrew's) gave
way, and simultaneously with it the whole line. The sup-
ports, under Major-General Trimble, did not reach as far as
we had." This account differs wholly from the statements
made by General Trimble, General Lane, Colonel Avery,
Major Saunders and Colonel Lowrance. Thus by the testi-
mony of unimpeachable witnesses we prove that Trimble's
men (Lane and Scales) went as far as or farther than any
other troops engaged — that they were the last to leave the
field — that Trimble continued the contest, unaided, for some
time after Pickett's and Pettigrew's men had been driven
from the field, exposed, all the while, to a crushing musketry
and artillery fire on both flanks and in his front. Pickett
and Pettigrew's men broke and fled without orders. Lane's
and Scales' North Carolinians stayed on the field until they
were ordered to retreat, and they "marched back slowly and
sullenly in almost as good order as they had advanced." If
on this bloody day Pickett and Pettigrew had remained on
the field and supported Lane's and Scales' Brigades, the re-
sult might have been different. The casualties in the regi-
ment were 10 killed, 53 wounded. The brigade loss was 660
out of an effective total of 1,355. Major Joseph H. Saun-
ders, of the Thirty-third, a capital soldier and a true man,
was seriously wounded in the third day's charge. He was
near the stone wall, and, with a cheer, was leading his men
against the enemy, when he fell, shot through the face, and
remained unconscious for several hours.

Among others who here laid down their lives in defence of
all that was dear were Lieutenants H. H. Baker and Thomas
A. Cowan, of Company A. They were manly men, and fear-
less soldiers. July 4 it rained hard all day and that night,
unmolested, we began our retreat through mud and water.

568 North Carolina Troops, l861-'65.


July 11 we formed line of battle at Hagerstown, where we
remained until the 13th. We had frequent skirmishes with
the enemy, but no actual engagement. On the night of the
13th we left Hagerstown. It was very dark and rainy, and
we fared worse, if possible, than we did on the retreat from
Gettysburg on the night of the 4th. By command of Major-
G-eneral Heth, who was temporarily in command of the Light
Division, Lane's Brigade formed the rear guard at Falling
Waters on the 14th, and it alone held the bridge, though re-
peatedly attacked, until every man had crossed. It then
slowly retired, in perfect order, vigorously shelled by the en-
emy. General Heth was charmed with the gallant bearing
of the brigade. He said to General Lane : "In covering the
retreat you have done nobly. I expected your whole brigade
would be killed, wounded or captured." General Pettigrew —
the Sir Philip Sidney of the South — wns killed at Falling

After , crossing the Potomac the brigade encamped near
Culpepiser Court House for some days, and then moved to
Orange Court House, and did picket duty at Morton's Ford
until Stuart's fight at Jack's Shop on 22 September. We
were then ordered to Liberty Mills as a support to Stuart's
Cavalry, but when we reached that place the fight was over.
General Stuart had defeated the enemy. We went into win-
ter quarters at Liberty Mills and did picket duty beyond the
mills, and on the Stanardsville road.

General Pender died of the wound which he received at
Gettysburg. General Lee pays him the highest compliment
in his power when he says : "We would have succeeded" (at
Gettysburg) "had Pender lived." Shortly after Pender's
death Wilcox was assigned to the command of the "Light
Division." While in camp at Liberty Mills a great many
furloughs were granted, and every effort was made to lighten
the burdens of the men who, at so great a sacrifice, had so
gallantly upheld the honor of our arms.

During the winter we made a very trying march through
snow and mud to Madison Court House. Our object was

Thirty-Third Regiment. 569

to catch some Federal cavalry raiders, but we had poor suc-

In October the Federal commander, General Meade,
moved towards Washington along the Orange & Alexandria
Railroad — apparently unwilling to fight General Lee on the
Rappahannock. At the unfortunate battle of Bristoe Sta-
tion, 14 October, Lane's Brigade formed line of battle, with
bullets whistling all about them, but did not engage the en-
emy, though expecting every moment to be ordered to the
fighting line. Darkness seems to have put an end to the un-
equal conflict. Our brigade helped to tear up the railroad,
and we did the work thoroughly. October 25th we encamped
at Brandy Station, and remained there several days. No-
vember 7th Hoke's (Colonel Godwin) and Hay's Brigades
suft'ered heavily while doing picket duty near Rappahannock
Station. They were completely surrounded and most of
them were captured. The next morning, 8 November, the
brigade fell back, formed line of battle near Culpepper Court
House, and repulsed the enemy's cavalry charge, sustaining
but little loss. On the 9th we went back to our old camp at
Liberty Mills.


At Mine Run, 2 Decernber, we were drawn tip in line of
battle, preparatory to a night attack, but at daybreak we dis-
covered there was no enemy to fight. During the night he
had quietly decamped. The weather was intensely cold, no
fires were allowed, and the men suffered no little in the
trenches and on the skirmish line. At the battle of the Wil-
derness, 5 and 6 May, 1864, the brigade greatly distinguished
itself. It was ordered to the fighting line about 5 p. m. (5
May) when our troops in front, fighting Hancock, a skillful
and determined officer, could hardly hold their ground. Col-
onel Venable, of General Lee's staff, said to Colonel Palmer,
of A. P. Hill's Corps, "Thank God, I will go back and tell
General Lee that Lane has just gone in and will hold his
ground until other troops arrive tonight." Lane did hold
his groxmd, and actually drove back the enemy, greatly supe-
rior in numbers, a short distance at the point of the bayonet.

570 North Carolina Troops, 1861-'65.

We remained in the woods in mire and mud until about 9 p.
m. — the two lines, Federal and Confederate, being but a
few yards apart. We could almost hear the Federals breath-
ing. Colonel Davidson, of the Seventh, in the darkness (and
it was very dark), lost his bearings, and stumbled on the Fed-
erals. They quietly put out their hands and drew him in.
j^ot a word was spoken.

Lieutenant Isaac L. Farrow, Company H, lost his life in
this battle. He was a good soldier, always at the post of

About 9 p. m., in obedience to orders we withdrew from
this position, and bivouacked on a hill in our rear, expecting
to be relieved by Longstreet at daybreak the next morning,
but for some reason Longstreet failed to appear at the ap-
pointed time. A little before sunrise, we settled down to a
good breakfast cooked from Yankee rations captured the even-
ing before, when, suddenly, sharp and rapid firing was heard
in our front, followed by the hasty retreat of our skirmish
line. We formed line of battle as quickly as possible behind
some improvised breastworks of logs and dirt. In a
minute, as it seemed to me, the enemy in large force was
upon us. Colonel Avery walked up and down the line en-
couraging our men, both by actions and words. He was but
a few feet from the writer of this sketch. I said to him:
"Colonel, get down behind the breastworks. You will be
killed if you walk about in that way."

"ISTo, no," said he, "it will make the men fight better."

We stayed the onset for a few minutes, but no fire could be
hotter, and we were compelled to retreat. The trees were
literally shot to pieces.

I never saw Colonel Avery again. He received five
wounds that morning, and died a glorious death a few weeks
afterward. He was a brave and faithful ofiicer, a true
friend, and the knightliest of men. General Lane says of
this fight: "We opposed this force for a short time (the
Thirty-third fighting like heroes) but could not long stand
the terrible fire in our front and flank." The casualties in
the Thirty-third, 5 and 6 May, were : Killed, 3 officers and 40
men ; wounded, 5 officers and 50 men ; missing, 38 men.

Thirty-Third Regiment. 571


At Spottsylvania Court House, 12 May, there can be little
doubt that Lane's Brigade saved Lee's army from a terrible
defeat. Johnson's line at the Salient had been broken and the
Federals were pouring into the huge gap thus made in our
ranks, when Lane's Brigade arrested their progress on the
right. I never saw such heroism as was then displayed, both by
officers and men. It was impossible to surpass it. The Fed-
erals were advancing in overwhelming numbers and with
deafening yells, but Lane's Brigade, so placed that it could
attack them in front and on the flank, not only held its
ground, but it advanced beyond the entrenchments, over the
fallen timber, and drove the enemy a considerable distance
to the rear. General Lane himself rode up to the brigade
when the fire was hottest, his lips quivering with the glow
and ardor of battle, and said to us: "You must hold your
ground ; the honor and safety of the army demand it." Lieu-
tenant-Colonel Cowan, of the Thirty-third, seized the colors
of his regiment, and with a loud shout rushed upon the foe.
The Thirty-third followed him, and swept everything before
them. The other regiments of the brigade behaved with
equal intrepidity, and the army was saved. That fight alone
would make Lane's Brigade immortal. General Lane, in his
official report, says : "It is impossible for me to speak in too
high terms of my command in repulsing this terrible attack
of the enemy — men could not fight better, nor officers behave
more gallantly; the latter, regardless of danger, would fre-
quently pass along the line and cheer the men in their glorious
work. We justly claim for this brigade alone the honor
of not only stemming, but rolling back this tide of Federal
victory which came surging furiously to our right." Colonel
Venable, of Lee's staff says: "They (the Federals) were
checked by General Lane, who, throwing his left flank back
from the trenches, confronted their advance." An English
war correspondent thus writes to his paper in London:
"Lane's North Carolina veterans stopped the tide of Federal
victory as it came surging to the right." General Early's
testimony is to the same effect.

572 North Carolina Troops, 186]-'65.

oapt0eed thkee flags.

In the fight in the afternoon of the same day (12 May) in
front of the works to the left of the brick kiln, the brigade
fought well, and won high praise from Greneral Lee himself.
The object was to relieve Ewell by attacking Burnside's flank
and rear. The brigade moved forward cheerfully and
quickly and soon drove the enemy out of the oak woods, and
captured a battery of six guns, b^it were unable to bring them
off. We struck Burnside's flank and rear and took him com-
pletely by surprise. Our sudden and sharp attack demoral-
ized him. Lane captured nearly 400 prisoners and three bat-
tle flags. General Early says: "Lane's attack on the en-
emy's flank and rear contributed materially to the repulse of
the assaulting column, as it was thereby thrown into much
confusion. Mahone's Brigade (Colonel Weisiger) had been
ordered to support Lane, but it got lost in the woods and never
fired a gun, except at Lane's Brigade." General Lane says:
"The infantry firing in our rear was, for a short time, more
severe than that in front, as Mahone's Brigade poured such a
fire into us that Lieutenant-Colonel Cowan and Lieutenant-
Colonel McGill had to rush back and ask them not to fire into
friends." General Mahone rode up to the Thirty-third and
said to Colonel Cowan in a sharp, piping voice: "Go right
straight back. I will take great pleasiire in reporting you
to General Lee ; you have left my brigade in the woods to do
all the fighting." And yet Colonel Weisiger (Mahone) got
lost in the woods, never fired a gun at the enemy, biit fired
several guns at his friends, and was actiially led out of the
woods by that gallant soldier, Captain E. J. Hale, of Lane's
Brigade. I do not think this important battle, as General
Early says it was, is mentioned in the Confederate Military
History. Colonel Venable writes : "General Lee directs me
to acknowledge the receipt of the flags captured by Lane's
Brigade in its gallant charge of yesterday, and to say that
they will be forwarded to the Honorable Secretary of War,
with the accompanying note and the names of the brave cap-
tors." The casualties in the regiment were : Killed, 4 men ;
wounded, 2 officers and IT men. Erom the 13th to the 20th

Thirty-Third Regiment. 573

oJ^'May, we were not seriously engaged, though the regiment
sustained a slight loss from sharpshooting and shelling. Our
sharpshooters were commanded by Captain J. C. Mills, of
Burke, and they were of very great service to the regiment.
Captain Mills was a model officer — brave, cool, resolute and
of excellent judgment.

On 21 May, the regiment made a reconnoissance to the
right of the court house, but sustained little loss. The battle
of Jericho Ford was fought 23 May. Professor Hill (Con-
federate Military History) says : "Lane's North Carolinians

* * * became entangled in a river-side fight with the
Federal line posted on a crest." This account is (uninten-
tionally) misleading. The facts are these: Lane's men
moved into the battle with steadiness and resolution. They
drove back the enemy to his original position, at the point of
the bayonet, maintained their ground, removed their dead
and woimded and were not relieved until 11 o'clock at night,
long after the firing had ceased. True, the regiment on the
right of the Thirty-third gave way, but every man of the
Thirty-third remained firm. The enemy on our right ad-
vanced towards the gap made by the fleeing regiment, and
the Thirty-third was thus exposed to a front and flank fire,
but it did not waver, nor hesitate, but boldly charged the en-
emy, drove him back to his works and. steadfastly held their
ground until relieved at 11 o'clock that night, long after the
battle was over. General Lane says: "These three regi-
ments of my brigade, the Thirty-third, Eighteenth, Twenty-
eighth (the Seventh was on detached duty) fought very gal-
lantly. They drove the enemy back to a commanding posi-
tion near the river, held the groimd over which they fought,
removed all their dead and wounded, and were not relieved
by Davis' Brigade until 11 o'clock that night, at which time

Online LibraryWalter ClarkHistories of the several regiments and battalions from North Carolina, in the great war 1861-'65 → online text (page 49 of 69)