Report of A.P. Hill Commanding the Light Division

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Seven Days Battle Report: A.P. Hill's Report

No. 326. -- Report of Maj. Gen. Ambrose P. Hill, C. S. Army, commanding Light Division, of the battles of Mechanicsville, Gaines' Mill, Frazier's Farm (Nelson's Farm, or Glendale), and Malvern Hill.  

HEADQUARTERS LIGHT DIVISION, Camp Gregg, February 28, 1863.

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Light Division in the battles of the Chickahominy:

In obedience to orders, received from the general commanding, on Wednesday night, June 25, I concentrated my division near the Meadow Bridge, viz:

The brigades of J. R. Anderson, Gregg, Field, Pender, and Archer, the brigade of General Branch having been directed to move to the bridge some 7 miles above, where the Brooke turnpike crosses the Chickahominy, the batteries of Braxton, Andrews, Pegram, Crenshaw, Mcintosh, Bachman, and Johnson, with four extra horses to each gun (Johnson's battery accompanied Branch), in all about 14,000 men.

The brigades and batteries were entirely concealed from the view of the enemy. My orders were that General Jackson, moving down from Ashland, would inform General Branch of his near approach. As soon as Jackson crossed the Central Railroad Branch was to cross the Chickahominy, and, taking the river road, push on and clear the Meadow Bridge.

This done, I was to cross at Meadow Bridge, and, sweeping down to Mechanicsville, open the way for General Longstreet. It was expected that General Jackson would be in the position assigned him by early dawn, and all my preparations were made with the view of moving early. General Branch, however, did not receive intelligence from General Jackson until about 10 o'clock, when he immediately crossed and proceeded to carry out his instructions. He was delayed by the enemy's skirmishers and advanced but slowly.

Three o'clock having arrived, and no intelligence from Jackson or Branch, I determined to cross at once rather than hazard the failure of the whole plan by longer deferring it. General Field, already selected for the advance, being in readiness, seized the bridge, and the Fortieth Virginia, Colonel Brockenbrough, leading, his brigade passed over, meeting but slight opposition, the enemy falling back to Mechanicsville. The division being safely over, Anderson and Archer followed Field; Gregg and Pender turned short to the right, and moved through the fields to co-operate on the right of the first column.

Beaver Dam Creek curves around Mechanicsville, the high banks being on the north side and in possession of the enemy. This naturally strong line of defense had been made very much stronger by rifle pits and earthen epaulements for guns.

The enemy opened a concentric fire of artillery on the head of Field's column, who, throwing his brigade into line of battle, with Pegram in the center, steadily advancing, drove the enemy from Mechanicsville.

Anderson was ordered to make a flank movement to the left, and take in reverse a battery which was spiteful in its activity, while McIntosh was sent forward to attract its attention and keep it employed. Archer was moved up to the support of Field, and formed line on his (Field's) left, with his own left resting on the turnpike. Braxton was sent in to the assistance of Mcintosh. Gregg and Pender approached the village in line of battle over the hills and open fields from the direction of the river. Field had driven the enemy from the village and its surroundings across Beaver Dam Creek to his stronghold. Archer swept along to his left, and with the same result. Pender was ordered to support these brigades already engaged, and to take position on the right of Field. This was gallantly done in the face of a murderous fire. Andrews galloped up to the assistance of Pegram.

The battle now raged furiously along my whole line; The artillery fire from the enemy was terrific. Their position along Beaver Dam Creek was too strong to be carried by a direct attack without heavy loss, and expecting every moment to hear Jackson's guns on my left and in rear of the enemy, I forbore to order the storming of their lines. General Branch, having come up, was ordered forward as a support to the brigades already engaged, and Johnson's battery took position near McIntosh and Braxton. Gregg was held in reserve near Mechanicsville. The Thirty-eighth North Carolina, Colonel [William J.] Hoke, and the Thirty-fourth North Carolina, Colonel [Richard H.] Riddick, of Pender's brigade, made a gallant but abortive attempt to force a crossing.

Meeting General Ripley, who had just crossed his brigade at the Mechanicsville Bridge, I requested him to turn the enemy's left lower down the creek. This was gallantly attempted, but failed and with heavy loss. Anderson, with [the] Thirty-fifth Georgia, Col. E. L. Thomas, leading, had moved as heretofore directed, and encountering the enemy drove them back, and Colonel Thomas with his regiment crossed the creek and gained an admirable position for charging the enemy's batteries. The Fourteenth Georgia, Lieutenant-Colonel [Robert W.] Folsom, pushed forward to his support, but Lieutenant-Colonel Folsom being stricken down, the regiment lost his gallant leading, and but few crossed. Colonel Thomas held his own until the battle closed, when he withdrew and joined his brigade on [the] south side of the creek.

The battle ceased about 9 o'clock, my brigades resting along the creek, the object of this attack, viz, clearing the way for Longstreet, having been fully accomplished. It was never contemplated that my division alone should have sustained the shock of this battle, but such was the ease, and the only assistance received was from Ripley.

Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson, commanding Nineteenth Georgia, and Major Bronaugh, Second Arkansas Battalion, were killed, and Colonels Starke, Conner, Hoke, Thomas, A. J. Lane, Lieutenant-Colonel Folsom, and Captain Van de Graaf, commanding Fifth Alabama Battalion, wounded.


The morning of the 27th before dawn the enemy again opened a rapid fire of artillery, it being directed principally to the village of Mechanicsville. My division was immediately under arms. This shelling having continued some hour or more, I was directed by General Lee to take the route to Gaines' Mill. Gregg's brigade was put in advance.

It was soon found that the enemy had retired from his lines along Beaver Dam Creek, two companies from Gregg's brigade having handsomely dashed across and cleared the pits of the few men left as a blind. The evidences of precipitate retreat were palpable all along the route. Arriving at the creek upon which Gaines' Mill is located, half a mile from Cold Harbor, the enemy were discovered upon the opposite bank. Gregg's brigade was at once thrown in line of battle, and the skirmishers directed to effect a lodgment. Andrews' battery was brought up and the woods opposite vigorously shelled. The skirmishers rushing forward cleared the crossing, and Gregg immediately filed his brigade across, forming line successively as each regiment crossed. His whole brigade being over, he made the handsomest charge in line I have seen during the war. The enemy were pressed, and the general soon sent me word that he had brought the enemy to bay, and that they were in force in his front, and requested permission to attack. This was refused, however, and he was directed to await orders from me. Branch was ordered up and formed on Gregg's right. Pender having cleared my right flank, to which service he had been assigned, Archer was sent to relieve him, thus putting him (Archer) on my extreme right. Anderson was formed on Branch's right, and Field again on his right and connecting with Archer. Crenshaw and Johnson were brought into battery on the left of the road and in rear of Gregg's line.

I had delayed the attack until I could hear from General Longstreet, and this now occurring, the order was given. This was about 2.30 p.m. Gregg, then Branch, and then Anderson successively became engaged. The incessant roar of musketry and deep thunder of the artillery told that the whole force of the enemy was in my front. Branch becoming hard pressed, Pender was sent in to his relief. Field and Archer were also directed to do their part in this murderous contest. Braxton's battery, accompanying Archer, had already opened. They were ordered to turn the enemy's left. These two brigades, under their heroic leaders, moving across the open field, met the enemy behind an abatis and strong intrenchments at the base of a long, wooded hill, the enemy being in three lines on the side of this declivity, its crest falling off into a plateau, and this plateau studded with guns.

My front now presented a curved line, its convexity toward the enemy. Desperate but unavailing attempts were made to force the enemy's positions. The Fourteenth South Carolina, Colonel McGowan (having hurried up from picket duty on the other side of the Chicks hominy and arriving in the thick[est] of the fight), on the extreme left, made several daring charges. The Sixteenth North Carolina, Colonel McElroy, and Twenty-second, Lieutenant-Colonel Gray, at one time carried the crest of the hill and were in the enemy's camp, but were driven back by overwhelming numbers. The Thirty-fifth Georgia, Colonel Thomas, also drove through the enemy's lines like a wedge, but it was all of no avail. Gregg and Branch fought with varying success, Gregg having before him the vaunted Zouaves and Sykes' regulars. Pender's brigade was suffering heavily, but stubbornly held its own. Field and Archer met a withering storm of bullets, but pressed on to Within a short distance of the enemy's works, but the storm was too fierce for such a handful of men. They recoiled and were again pressed to the charge, but with no better success. These brave men had done all that any soldiers could do. Directing their men to lie down, the fight was continued and help awaited. From having been the attacking I now became the attacked, but stubbornly, gallantly was the ground held. My division was thus engaged full two hours before assistance was received. We failed to carry the enemy's lines, but we paved the way for the successful attacks afterward, and in which attacks it was necessary to employ the whole of our army that side the Chickahominy.

About 4 o'clock re-enforcements came up on my right from General Longstreet and later Jackson's men on my right and center, and my division was relieved of the weight of the contest. It was then con-tinned on more equal terms, and finally the extreme left of the enemy's line was most gallantly carried by Hood's brigade.

At 7 o'clock the general-in-chief in person gave me an order to advance my whole line and to communicate this order as far as I could to all commanders of troops. This was done, and a general advance being made, the enemy were swept from the field, and the pursuit only stopped by night-fall and the exhaustion of our troops. The batteries of Crenshaw, Johnson, Braxton, and Pegram were actively engaged; Crenshaw and Johnson pretty well knocked to pieces. Pegram, with indomitable energy and earnestness of purpose, though having lost 47 men and many horses at Mechanicsville, had put his battery in condition for this fight also.


Sunday, the 29th, having been placed under the orders of Major-General Longstreet, I recrossed the Chickahominy, Longstreet's division leading.

On Monday, the 30th, arrived in about 1 mile of the cross made by the Long Bridge road and the Quaker road near Frazier's farm. The enemy were retreating along the Quaker road. My division was halted, my field hospitals established, and brigades closed up. The division of General Longstreet, now commanded by Brig. Gen. R. H. Anderson, was in line of battle some three-quarters of a mile in advance of mine.

The staff officer of General Longstreet at this time delivered me an order to take the command on the field. I did so, and reporting to General Anderson that such was the case, we rode over the ground and made such dispositions as were necessary.

Before the battle opened General Longstreet returned and resumed the command. The fight commenced by fire from the enemy's artillery, which swept down the road, and from which His Excellency the President narrowly escaped accident. The battle had continued some little time, when I received an order from General Longstreet, through Captain Fairfax, to send a brigade to the left to the support of Generals Pryor, Featherston, and others. General Gregg was detached on this service and guided by Captain Fairfax. The fire becoming very heavy, I was ordered forward with my division. Branch's brigade took the route and with springing steps pressed forward. Arriving upon open ground, he formed his line and moved to the support of the troops engaged in his front. Field and Pender were successively thrown forward. Field pressed forward with such ardor that he passed far in front of my whole line. The Sixtieth Virginia, Colonel [William E.] Starke, and Fifty-fifth, Colonel [Francis] Mallory, charged and captured two batteries of Napoleon guns, and the Sixtieth crossed bayonets with the enemy, who obstinately contested the possession of these guns. General Pender, moving up to the support of Field, found that he had penetrated so far in advance that the enemy were between himself and Field. A regiment of Federals, moving across his front and exposing their flank, were scattered by a volley. Pender continued to move forward, driving off a battery of rifled pieces. The Forty-seventh Virginia, Colonel [Robert M.] Mayo, having gotten possession of a battery, turned its guns on the enemy, and thereby greatly assisted Gregg, who was hotly engaged on the left. To this regiment also belongs the honor of capturing Major-General McCall. The brigade of General Featherston having become very much scattered and been forced back, Colonel [Samuel] McGowan, with [the] Fourteenth South Carolina, retrieved our ground.

On our extreme right matters seemed to be going badly. Two brigades of Longstreet's division had been roughly handled and had fallen back. Archer was brought up and sent in, and in his shirt-sleeves, leading his gallant brigade, affairs were soon restored in that quarter.

About dark the enemy were pressing us hard along our whole line, and my last reserve, General J. R. Anderson, with his Georgia brigade, was directed to advance cautiously and be careful not to fire on our friends. His brigade was formed in line, two regiments on each side of the road, and obeying my instructions to the letter, received the fire of the enemy at 70 paces before engaging themselves. Heavy re-enforcements to the enemy were brought up at this time, and it seemed that a tremendous effort was being made to turn the fortunes of the battle. The volume of fire that, approaching, rolled along the line was terrific. Seeing some troops of Wilcox's brigade who had rallied with the assistance of Lieutenant Chamberlayne and other members of my staff, they were rapidly formed, and being directed to cheer long (page 839) and loudly, moved again to the fight. This seemed to end the contest, for in less than five minutes all firing ceased and the enemy retired.

My brigades rested upon the battle ground until relieved near dawn by Major General Magruder. The trophies of my division this day were fourteen pieces of artillery and two stand of colors.

The next evening was fought the battle of Malvern Hill. Finding that General Magruder needed assistance, I sent him two brigades--Branch's and Thomas' (Anderson's). They, however, were not actively engaged. My division was placed in line of battle near the scene of action and under fire, but passive.

In this series of battles, in which my troops so well did their part, I beg leave to remind the general-in-chief that three of my brigades had never before been under fire. Two of my batteries---Pegram's and Davidson's, the latter having just been ordered up from my camp--were engaged at Malvern Hill, and for two hours each nobly did its work, as their battered condition and many casualties sadly attested.

Among the general and field officers killed and wounded during these battles are Cols. R. P. Campbell and C. C. Lee, Lieut. Cols. T. C. Johnson, A.M. Smith, William J. Green, and J. C. Shackelford, Majs. W. N. Bronaugh. [Thomas M.] Burke, and M. V. McLaughlin, killed, and Brig. Gens. J. R. Anderson and Pender, Cols. W. J. Hoke, R. H. Riddick, James Conner, McGowan, John F. Goodnet, R. H. Cowan, A. J. Lane, J. H. Lane. E. L. Thomas, Thomas Hardeman, and W. E. Starke, Lieut. Cols. R. W. Folsom, T. J. Simmons, William M. Barbour, W. S. Christian, H. H. Walker, and H. Howard, and Majs. John A. Fire, J. W. Livingston, Charles N. Hickerson, and W. L. Grice, wounded.

Lieutenant-Colonel [Lewis M.] Coleman, of the artillery, during the absence of Lieut. Col. R. L. Walker, from sickness, acted as my chief of artillery, and with energy and efficiency. The gallantry of Lieutenant Chamberlain, the adjutant, was conspicuous. The members of my staff--Maj. R. C. Morgan, assistant adjutant-general; Maj. J. G. Field, assistant quartermaster; Maj. E. B. Hill, division commissary; Maj. J. M. David, volunteer aide-de-camp, wounded severely at Cold Harbor; Captain Adams, signal officer, serving on my personal staff; my aides-de-camp, Lieuts. F. T. Hill and Murray Taylor, and Captain Douglas, my chief engineer officer, were all gallant and zealous in the discharge of their duties. Surgeon Watson, medical director, made efficient arrangements for the care of the wounded. The ambulance corps and drivers deserve especial mention for their active and untiring exertions in bringing off the wounded.

Especial mention for conspicuous gallantry is made of the following officers: Colonels Starke, Mallory, McGowan, Thomas, Riddick, Barnes, Hamilton, Hoke, J. H. Lane, and Cowan, Lieutenant-Colonels Folsom, R. H. Gray, McElroy, Simpson, and H. H. Walker, Majrs. C. C. Cole and A. S. Van de Graaf, Lieuts. Young, Norment, Crittenden, Bryan, Haskell, and Shotwell, Thirty-fourth North Carolina; Captain Collins, Engineers, and of the artillery, Captains Pegram, Davidson, Braxton, Crenshaw, Andrews, and Mcintosh, and Lieutenant Fitzhugh, and Sergt. J. N. Williams, sergeant-major Nineteenth Georgia Regiment. Captain Wright and his company of cavalry, from Cobb's Legion, acting as my escort, were of great service to me, and by my permission made a gallant charge upon a body of the enemy's infantry.

There are many cases of individual daring both among officers and men, and I regret that I do not know their names.

This report, being made out so long after the events transpired, is not, of course, so perfect as I would desire, and injustice may be done officers and regiments. I respectfully refer you to the accompanying brigade reports for details.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. P. HILL, Major-General.

Brig. Gen. R. H. CHILTON, Adjutant and Inspector General, Army of Northern Virginia.