The Richmond Daily Dispatch
June 30, 1862
|Brig. Gen. Roger Atkinson Pryor led a|
brigade at the Battle of Gaines' Mill,
June 27, 1862.
(Library of Congress)
The great battle.
the enemy in full retreat
details of the fight
Storming of Mechanicsville.
capture of Ellyson's Mills?
battle of Beaver Dam Creek.
the fight at Gaines Mills!
the enemy in full retreat
details of the fight
Storming of Mechanicsville.
capture of Ellyson's Mills?
battle of Beaver Dam Creek.
the fight at Gaines Mills!
Operations were then suspended on our side, but the enemy kept up a deafening roar of artillery till late in the night. Longstreet's forces had meanwhile crossed, and marched parallel with the Chickahominy. The brigades of Gens. Featherstone and Pryor were in advance, and proceeding some distance, halted for the night. About midnight, Featherstone received orders to change his position, and to occupy a skirt of woods near Beaver Dam Creek, and facing the Federal batteries. He did so, and the men were scarcely asleep when, twilight approaching, the enemy discovered the bivouac, and immediately commenced to shell it vigorously. The men, thus unceremoniously aroused, seized their muskets and fell in, and Gen. Featherstone, just arrived from headquarters, led them to storm the position — mounting ten guns, and supported by two or three brigades. Sharp fighting now commenced on all sides, when Gen. Pryor sent for assistance, and Wilcox soon came upon the ground.
To cover the infantry attack, and draw off the artillery fire, the 3d Richmond Howitzers, some pieces of the Donaldsonville and Thomas Artillery, moved up and played upon the enemy's position magnificently.--Having engaged the enemy for a long time, and finding it impossible to cross the creek without a bridge, one was constructed by some of the 19th Mississippi and 14th Louisiana, under fire when the whole force advanced, and closed up with the enemy, driving them in great confusion from the field. The difficulties of attack at this position were such that it is impossible to give a correct idea without maps — the battery being on a height, flanked by rifle pits, a deep creek at the foot of the hill, and covered with a thick hedge.
A daring attack.
Fight at Ellyson's Mills.
While Featherstone, Pryor, and Wilcox were thus successfully engaging the enemy on the right of our advance, Gen. Maxcy Gregg and his brigade were also hard at work, and successfully stormed the strong position of Ellyson's Mills, and took up the line of march on the left. They did not advance on the Mills by the road, as had been done on Friday evening by Ripley, but simply made a feint in that direction, crossed the main body higher up the creek, took the redoubts and rifle pits en flank carried them with the bayonet, pushed through the camps, and followed the road towards Gaines's Mills, whither the enemy were retiring.
At Gaine's Mills.
The heads of our three columns having reached Waller Hogan's farm, north bank of the Chickahominy, about 9 miles northeast of Richmond, all came to a halt, and Gens. Lee and Longstreet took up quarters in the house and made dispositions for a further advance towards Gaines's Mills, distant about one mile through the woods. Featherstone's brigade having suffered much in the morning, Wilcox led, being followed by Pryor, and Featherstone in reserve. The composition of Wilcox's command is mostly Alabamans; Pryor has the 14th Louisiana, St. Paul's battalion, 3d Virginia, and one other regiment; Featherstone has the 19th and 12th Mississippi, and 2d Mississippi battalion.
Character of the ground.
But to the southeast of Gaines's house is a large tract of timber, commanding all advances upon the main road, and in this McClellan and McCall had posted a strong body of skirmishers, with artillery, to annoy our flank and rear when advancing on their camps on the high grounds, if we did so by the main road or over the table lands to the north.
|Pvt. Peter Kurtz, 5th Virginia Infantry. The 5th|
Virginia was part of the Stonewall Brigade, which
stormed the Union right at Gaines' Mill.
Such a position was never stormed before. In descending into the deep creek, the infantry and artillery fire that assailed the three brigades was the most terrific on record. Twenty-six pieces were thundering at them, and a perfect hailstorm of lead fell thick and fast around them. One of Wilcox's regiments wavered,--down the General rushed, furiously, sword in hand, and threatened to behead the first man that hesitated. Pryor steadily advanced, but slowly; and by the time that the three brigades had stormed the position, passed up the hill through timber, and over felled trees, Featherstone was far in advance. Quickly the Federals withdrew their pieces, and took up a fresh position to assail the three brigades advancing in perfect line of battle from the woods and upon the plateau. Officers had no horses, all were shot — Brigadiers marched on foot, sword in hand,--regiments were commanded by Captains, and companies by Sergeants, yet onward they rushed, with yells and colors flying, and backward, still backward fell the Federals, their men tumbling every moment in scores.
But what a sight met the eyes of these three gallant brigades! In front stood Federal camps, stretching to the northeast for miles! Drawn up in line of battle were more than three full divisions, commanded by McCall, Porter, Sedgewick, &c.--banners darkened the air — artillery vomited forth incessant volleys of grape, canister and shell — heavy masses were moving on our left through the woods to flank us! Yet onward came Wilcox to the right, Pryor to the left, and Featherstone in the centre--one grand, matchless line of battle — almost consumed by exploits of the day — yet onward they advanced to the heart of the Federal position, and when the enemy had fairly succeeded in almost flanking us on the left, great commotion is heard in the woods!--volleys upon volleys are heard in rapid succession, which are recognized and cheered by our men--"It is Jackson!" they shout, "on their right and rear!"
Yes, two or three brigades of Jackson's army have flanked the enemy, and are getting in the rear! Now, the fighting was bitter and terrific. Worked up to madness, Wilcox, Featherstone and Pryor dash forward at a run, and drive the enemy with irresistible fury — to our left emerge Hood's Texan brigade, Whiting's comes after, and Pender follows! The line is now complete, and "forward" rings from one end of the line to the other, and the Yankees, over 30,000 strong, begin to retreat! Wheeling their artillery from the front, the Federals turn part of it to break our left, and save their retreat. The very earth shakes at the roar! Not one piece of ours has yet opened! all has been done with bullet and bayonet, and onward press our troops through camps upon camps, capturing guns, stores, arms, clothing, &c. Yet, like bloodhounds on the trail, the six brigades sweep everything before them, presenting an unbroken, solid front, and closing in upon the enemy, keep up an incessant succession of volleys upon their confused masses, and unerringly slaughtering them by hundreds and thousands!
Stonewall at work.
In total, we captured many prisoners, and thirty [ peices ] of artillery up to 5 P. M.Friday, and in the battle of Gaines's Mills, captured 26 field-[ peices, ] 15,000 stand of arms, 6 stand of colors, three Generals, (Reynolds, Sanders and Rankin,) and over 4,000 prisoners, including dozens of officers of every grade — from Colonel to Lieutenants of the line.
The Federal force.
Charges and repulses.
These facts are true of Wilcox's, Pryor's, and Featherstone's brigades, who formed our right, and we are positive that from the composition of Whiting's, Hood's, and Pender's brigades, who flanked the enemy and formed our left, they never could be made to falter, for Whiting had the 11th 16th and 2nd Mississippi, and two other regiments, unknown to us — Hood had four Texan and one Georgia regiment, and the material of Pender's command was equally as good as any, and greatly distinguished itself. These were the troops mostly engaged and that suffered most. It is gross injustice in any to talk of our troops making "three charges,""repulses," &c., &c. Our troops received the command but once, and if Satan and all his host had confronted them, instead of mortal Yankees, the result would have been the same. There were no repulses — all arrangements worked like a charm; and we ought not only to do our soldiers justice, but heartily thank Providence for his guiding hand and assistance, in the immortal events of Thursday and Friday.
"Who took the batteries?"
Money was found quite abundantly among the slain. Some men, in interring the dead, often searched the pockets, &c., one man finding not less than $150 in gold; another fished out of some old clothes not less than $500; another $1,000 in Federal notes-Watches, both gold and silver, were found among the spoils, one lucky individual having not less than six chronometers ticking in his pocket at one time. As a general thing, more money was found upon the dead on the field than on any other of which we have heard.
Clothing in abundance was scattered about, and immense piles of new uniforms were found untouched. Our men seemed to take great delight in assuming Federal officers' uniforms, and strutted about seriocomically, much to the amusement of dusty powder begrimed youths, who sat lolling and smoking in the shade. Every conceivable article of clothing was found in these Divisional Camps, and came quite apropos to our needy soldiery, scores of whom took a cool bath, and changed old for new underclothing, many articles being of costly material and quite unique.
The amount of ammunition found was considerable, and proved of very superior quality and manufacture. The exact amount captured we have not yet ascertained, but from the immense piles of boxes scattered through the camps, we conjecture that the enemy had laid in quite an unusual supply, expecting to use it, doubtless, upon our devoted men, and so they would, did our troops stand, as they do, at "long taw," and not come to "close quarters."
The cannon and arms captured in this battle were numerous and of very superior workmanship. The 26 pieces were the most beautiful we have ever seen, while immense piles of guns could be seen on every hand — many scarcely having the manufacturer's "finish" even tarnished. The enemy seemed quite willing to throw them away on the slightest pretext, dozens being found with loads still undischarged. The number of small arms captured, we understand, was not less than 15,000, of every calibre and every make.
The Federal wounded were collected together, and formed a very large field hospital. The court-yard of a farm house was selected, and scores could be seen reclining on the grass, and expert surgeons operating with much skill and zeal. By mutual agreement surgeons are not considered prisoners of war, hence at the close of the late battle, many Federal surgeons remained behind, and their services seemed very much appreciated by the men. As many as could be were conveyed to town and attended to, good conveyance being furnished, and much care manifested for their welfare.
The gallant dead--Col. Wheat,
The casualties in the 12th regiment Mississippi volunteers, Featherstone's brigade, Long street's division, commanded by Major W. H Lilly, are as follows. Major W. H. Lilly, wounded early in the morning's action, while leading the regiment in the first charge. In the morning engagement this regiment lost 12 killed, 68 wounded, and 9 missing. Number taken into the field, officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates, 397. In the evening engagement, (Capt. S. B. Thomas commanding regiment,) the loss was 6 killed, 38 wounded, and 18 missing. Number of officers and prisoner taken into battle, 308. The regiment lost 153 killed, wounded, and missing, during the day, out of 397 men.
The above is as near correct as it is possible to be certain, as several reported missing have been found killed, and others wounded.
The 19th Mississippi volunteers lost 31 killed and 150 wounded, out of 521 that went into action in the morning.
The 2d Mississippi battalion lost 106 killed and wounded, out of 234 taken into action in the morning.
The following is a list of casualties in the Purcell Battery, in the battle of Thursday evening last: Killed--Lieut. Wm. A. Allen; Corporal Murphy, Privates Boyd and Stillman.
Wounded--Lieut. H. M. Fitzhugh; Serg't Crow, McGruder, Temple, Ball, Messier; Corporals Eddins, Beck; Privates Beckham, Cheatham, Thos. Berry, Donahoe, Geo. Dockerty, Davis, Daniel, Ege, Flemming, Finnell, Mott, Grigsby, Herring, Holland, Heart, Harrow, Geo. W. Johnston, E. P. Jones, W. T. Flint, James, Kimball, Mitchell, Mahoney, McLeod, Morton, O Brien, F. S. Price, Ritchie, Rose, Sacrey, T. H. Thompson, B. M. Temple, Partington, W. T. Smith, T. T. Yager.
This list proves the desperate bravery exhibited by the command in the bloody strife.--We learn that Mr. Dawson, a young English man, who came over in the Nashville, volunteered for the engagement, and received a wound while acting most gallantly.
The Crenshaw Battery, of this city, (attached to Gregg's brigade,) acted with distinguished gallantry in Friday's battle. The casualties are: Serg't S. Strother and Private Robt Hines, killed; Corporal Wm. B. Allen, Marion Knowles, Geo. Young, Benton Graves, Daniel Lancaster, Thos. Mallory, and Thomas Ryder, wounded. The company lost fully one third of their horses, and had three of their guns disabled. All the pieces were brought off the field, however, though, owing to a lack of horses, some had to be dragged away by hand
Casualties in Co. E., 44th Ga. Regiment, engaged before Ellyson's Mills, Thursdayevening: Killed--Privates A. Bagwell, J. Lee, E. Davis, R. M. Dawson, J. H. Digby. Missing — W. J Reeves. M. P. Swinney. Wounded--Capt. J. W. Adams, slightly in arm; Lieut. J H. Connally, slightly in chest; Lieut. S. A Scott, slightly in shoulder and knee; Lieut Manly, in hand and knee; Corp'l A C Cald well, badly; Corp'l T. L. Hatcher; Corp'l Madden, slightly; Privates J. M. Davis, W. S. Brown, J. W. Perkins, slightly; E. G. Curbow, badly; Daniel Curbow, slightly; Wm Bagwell, J. A. Collins, Joseph Beall, Robert Norris, J. Norris, F. J. Weldon, Green Allison, W. S. Futral, N. T. Gibson, H. H. Gibson, Wm. Jester, T. T. Bishop.
Engagement at Coal Harbor.
Among the sad incidents of the battle may be mentioned the death of Lieut. W. Eugene Webster, of Maryland, chief executive officer of the Arsenal, who was acting as Aid to Gen. Rodes. He fell in the thickest of the fight, while gallantly cheering on a regiment His body was brought to the city on Saturday. Lieut. W. was a relative of Gen. Lee.
We regret to learn that Major T. S. Skinner, 1st N. C., was killed in the engagement on Thursdayevening, in the attack on the Federal entrenchments.
At Garnett's farm.
The loss in the 7th is reported at seventy-odd men killed, wounded, and missing. In the 8th, upwards of eighty. Col. Lamar, of the 8th, was severely wounded in the groin, and fell into the hands of the enemy. Lieut. Col. Towers was captured, but uninjured. The Yankees were completely hidden behind their works, and did not suffer much apparently. We took a captain, lieutenant, and some five or six privates, the Yankee picket force at the point. Later a flag of truce was granted to take away our dead and wounded, but a conference with Col. Lamar was refused. The Federal surgeons, however, did not think his wound a fatal one, and, therefore, would not allow him to be taken away.
Gen. Toombs's brigade.
Our total loss may be summed up as follows Killed 24; wounded 160, and 4 missing, up to the time the reports came in Col. McIntosh of the 15th, lost his leg, Capt. Birch was killed' Capt. Tilley dangerously wounded, and Lt. Edwards slightly wounded. This engagement was a spirited and creditable affair, General Toombs obeying strictly his written orders.
Gen. Lee pushed his advance until 10 o'clock last night, (Saturday,) and at 11 was in occupancy of the York River Railroad, the enemy's principal line of communication. This in effect pierces the enemy's centre, and separates their forces on the northside of the Chickahominy from those on the southside. Brig. Gen. Riker is among the prisoners brought to the city yesterday morning.
Capt. Wm. Randall, company K, 1st Louisiana, was not killed as at first reported. He received a severe wound in the right arm at the elbow joint. Maj. Edward Savage, N. C. State troops, was among the wounded. Among the well known citizens of Richmond who met soldiers deaths were Clarence Warwick, son of Abram Warwick Bradfute Warwick, son of Corbin Warwick and Samuel D. Mitchell, son of the late Wm. Mitchell, Jr. They were all young men. Col. J. G. Seymour, of the 6th Louisiana was killed Saturday.
Among the killed in the desperate fight of Fridayafternoon, was Col. J. W. Allen of the 2d regiment Virginia volunteers. He was shot through the head and expired almost instantly. At the time he received the fatal shot, he was acting Brigadier-General of Jackson's celebrated "Stonewall Brigade." His body was brought to this city yesterday morning, and during the day deposited in Holly wood Cemetery. Maj. Frank B. Jones, of the same regiment, is thought to be mortally wounded, having lost a leg. His condition is at least, exceeding critical.
Capt. Wood McDonald, son of Col. Angus W. McDonald, of Winchester, and aid to Gen. Elzey, was killed in the same engagement. Major P. J. Sinclair, of the 5th North Carolina regiment, received a painful wound in the thigh, and was brought to the city yesterday afternoon by Dr. Coffin, by whom his wound was dressed. He is now at the American Hotel. Private Charles Lucas, of the "Wise Artillery," from Martinsburg, was killed on Fridayafternoon. His brother, Serg't Benj. Lucas, of the same company, was seriously wounded.
In the engagement near "Fair Oaks," yesterday afternoon, Brigadier General Griffith had one of his legs broken, and apprehensions are felt that amputation may be necessary. A Federal Lieutenant, who was captured yesterday morning and brought to the head quarters of Gen. Lee, reports that two entire regiments had deserted during the morning. The Confederate forces yesterday afternoon occupied the enemy's position at the White House, on the Pamunkey, but all the stores of the enemy at that point were destroyed by them in their retreat.
An official Dispatch.
Headquarters, June 27, 1862His Excellency, President Davis:
--Profoundly grateful to Almighty God for the signal victory granted to us, it is my pleasing task to announce to you the success achieved by this army to-day.The enemy was this morning driven from strong position behind Beaver Dam Creek, and pursued to that behind Powhite Creek, and finally after a severe contest of five hours entirely repulsed from the field.
Night put an end to the contest. I grieve to stand that our loss in officers and men is great.
We sleep on the field, and shall renew the contest in the morning.
I have the honor to be, very respectably,
(signed)R. E. Lee, General