Report of Pender's Brigade at the Seven Days

Last updated June 17th, 2007 by Jenny

** Return to main Seven Days report page **

Seven Days Battle Report: Pender's Brigade

No. 348. -- Report of Brig. Gen. William D. Pender, C. S. Army, commanding Sixth Brigade, of the battles of Mechanicsville, Gaines' Mill, and Frazier's Farm (Nelson's Farm, or Glendale).  

RICHMOND, VA., July 16, 1862

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that, as a part of the Light Division of the Army, I left my camp near Friend's house, on the Chickahominy, Wednesday afternoon, June 25, with my brigade, and marched to a point near the crossing of the Chickahominy, on the Meadow Bridge road, where I joined the division.

Upon resuming the march next day my brigade was placed fifth in order, so that after crossing late in the afternoon I was ordered to cross the field direct for Mechanicsville to meet the brigades in front that were making the march by the road. Soon after leaving the Meadow Bridge road one or two pieces of artillery were opened upon us from wood directly above Mechanicsville. I at once deployed into line of battle, bringing up one section of Andrews' battery. My line was then advanced and the enemy's artillery soon withdrew.

Here, owing to my imperfect knowledge of the roads and partial misleading of the guide, my left regiment went too far to the left, and consequently did not join the brigade until late at night, for while it was coming up after being sent for it was ordered by some one to support another brigade; and I would here mention it was reported to me as behaving well under a very murderous fire, to which it was soon exposed, losing about 200 men. This was the Sixteenth North Carolina, commanded by Lieut. Col. John S. McElroy.

Upon reaching Mechanicsville I was ordered by you to support General Field. I at once made my dispositions to do so, but soon found that by taking the direction General Field was going [it] left his right much exposed to a heavy fire of artillery, which was playing at the same time on Pegram's battery with great effect. This artillery was obliquely to the right and lower down Beaver Dam Creek than I saw any troops going. I at once changed the direction of two of my regiments, so as to bring them to the right of this artillery, and succeeded in getting within 150 or 200 yards of it before we were opened upon, but when they did open upon us it was destructive, and the obstacles so great in front, the creek and mill-dam, that after the Thirty-eighth North Carolina had reached these obstacles, and within less than 100 yards of the enemy's rifle pits, they had to fall back. This regiment here advanced boldly and maintained its ground well. The Thirty-fourth North Carolina--the other regiment that had been led by me to the right--had made too much of a detour, and did not come up until the Thirty-eighth had been repulsed. After bringing it up I sent it farther to the right, to make as much diversion as possible in that direction.

General Ripley at this time came up with his brigade, advancing over part of the same ground which had been passed by the Thirty-eighth North Carolina, directly in front of the mill. The Thirty-fourth North Carolina advanced to the creek and there maintained its position until after dark, when I had it withdrawn, so that with this and General Ripley with part of his brigade we held the extreme right of our position until about daylight next morning, when I was relieved. General Ripley had been relieved before.

Other brigades came up during the night. The Twenty-second North Carolina, which had followed to support General Field, when getting to the creek near him, came suddenly upon a regiment of the enemy, just across the run, and after some little parley opened fire, driving the enemy quickly away, but found it impossible to cross. The loss of this regiment here was also very heavy; among others its brave colonel (Conner) received a severe wound in the leg.

I should state, while relating the incidents of this day's fight, that Colonel Hoke (Thirty-eighth North Carolina) was also wounded and had to leave the field. The adjutant of the Thirty-eighth was wounded also, but nobly maintained his position until after dark.

At daylight on Friday morning I had changed my position in obedience to your orders, bringing my brigade directly in front of the mill on Beaver Dam Creek. About this time the enemy seemed to make a faint attack upon the troops on my right, when those brigades moved forward, and I moved mine forward also until they had gained the creek, getting in the bed of it. Here our line was halted until a general concert of action could be had, by which their attention might be diverted to the extreme right from those in the immediate front. At this time I brought up a section from each of three batteries I found in the plain in the rear; one of these was from the Donaldsonville Artillery, under Lieut. V. Maurin, who shelled them with spirit and effect, his men being exposed to a galling fire from the enemy's sharpshooters, not 200 yards off in the rifle pits. The section of Andrews' Maryland Battery was under Lieut. William F. Dement, who also did fine service. Captain Andrews, as usual, was present, chafing for a fight. I do not know to whose battery the other section belonged.

We moved forward soon after, crossing the run and mill-race with great difficulty. The' Thirty-fourth North Carolina, Col. Richard H. Riddick, was the first to gain the enemy's works, but they had a few moments before left under cover of their rifle pits. I should here mention that a part of Andrews' battery was engaged the evening before assisting Pegram's battery. After crossing the creek we marched down the Chickahominy, not meeting the enemy until we reached Gaines' Mill, who opposed the right brigades of the division. I here brought up two sections of Andrews' battery, under Lieutenants Dement and Dabney, who shelled the enemy with considerable effect. We again moved forward, crossing at Gaines' Mill. Soon I was ordered by you to pass to the right and throw out skirmishers, and, if possible, surround the enemy, who were lower down the stream. We drove them off, but they retired upon their main body. Here again a portion of Andrews' battery was brought into play, with the desire to draw fire from the enemy's artillery and to show us its locality, but failed to do so. Through the misconception of an order by Colonel Riddick his regiment had not come up, and I found myself weak and asked for support. General Archer was sent forward, and I ordered to support General Branch farther up the road.

I found Colonel Riddick at the forks of the road near Cold Harbor, and my brigade was at once ordered into action. I formed into line of battle and moved into the wood to the right of the right-hand road, finding only the enemy and a fragment of one of our regiments. We were soon hotly engaged, and drove the enemy slowly before us for about 250 yards. My brigade had started in weak, and suffered heavily here, and seeing fresh regiments of the enemy coming up constantly, I sent my aide, Lieutenant Young, to ask for support. Two of my regiments, Sixteenth and Twenty-second North Carolina, had gained the crest of open ground, getting into the enemy's camp, but, finding themselves flanked, fell back, which caused those on the left, who were not so far advanced, to fall back also. About this time Col. C. C. Lee, Thirty-seventh North Carolina, who had been sent to our support, came up. My men were rallied and pushed forward again, but did not advance far before they fell back, and I think I do but justice to my men to say that they did not commence it. The enemy were continually bringing up fresh troops, and succeeded in driving us from the wood.

My men here fought nobly, and maintained their ground with great stubbornness. The left were subject to enfilade fire from musket and cannon.

It was now nearly night, and here ended the part taken by my brigade, except so far as Lieutenant Young, my side, was concerned, for he, not being satisfied with fighting as long as his general, went back, and remained principally with General Ewell until the battle was closed. I would here state that Lieutenant Young acted both on this day and the day previous with the most heroic bravery and coolness. Words fail me in expressing my admiration of his conduct through the whole of the Chickahominy battles. I here lost Colonel Green, my volunteer >ar13_901>aide, which was irreparable. He was an accomplished officer, and won the highest praise for his noble conduct. He was a noble man lost on that glorious day. Lieutenant Hinsdale, my acting assistant adjutant-general, was also of great service and deserves the highest praise.

Before going further I must particularize a little. Lieut. Col. J. S. McElroy, commanding Sixteenth; Lieut. Col. R. H. Gray and Maj. C. C. Cole, Twenty-second, acted with great courage and judgment, leading their regiments forward promptly and with determination, not halting for a moment until they found the enemy in their rear. Colonel Riddick was here wounded, leaving his regiment without a field officer.

Up to this time I had lost my volunteer aide, killed; my three colonels, wounded; also three adjutants, wounded, and Lieutenant Young, slightly wounded on the side of the head.

The Thirty-fourth, Colonel Riddick, lost in this short fight between 20 and 30 in killed.

Sunday we crossed the Chickahominy, marching down the south side of the river.

Meeting the enemy again on Monday evening, my brigade, after being in direct range of the enemy's shell for some time, was ordered forward, and went in rear of Kershaw's brigade--at least his men were coming out from my front as we went in. Reaching the farther side of the field, on the right, at the junction of the Long Bridge and Darbytown roads, we came in contact with the enemy once more. Here, just as my brigade was getting under fire, a regiment of the enemy bore down at double-quick in our front, passing from right to left, apparently not seeing us. When in our front, about 75 yards off, our men fired a volley into them and scattered them in every direction. In our front was a fine battery of rifle pieces that had been abandoned, but they were apparently trying to regain it, as we had quite a skirmish near it. They continued to make efforts here to flank us. They had quite a force upon my right, which was several times pushed forward.

General Field, I have since learned, was a long way in front, but the enemy were in considerable force between us, if I am to judge from the stand they made. At this position I left a few men to hold the flank and pushed forward the rest well into the woods, and but for the untimely failure of ammunition would have captured many prisoners. They were in considerable disorder, but were still too strong to be attacked with what few men I had, most of whom were without ammunition. We here soon forced a battery, which had opened upon our right, to limber up and leave. They evidently, from what I saw and from what I heard from prisoners, had a strong force within a few hundred yards of these batteries.

Dark coming on, I withdrew my men to the edge of the woods, holding our ground and the batteries taken. I had but a handful of men, but succeeded in getting two other regiments I found near (of General Field's brigade, which he had withdrawn), posting them so as to hold the front, while I held the right flank. I subsequently led forward one of these regiments, and ordered it to move in such a direction as to flank a force which seemed to be hotly engaging a part of our troops on the left of the road.

After making these arrangements I found that General Archer was on the right flank and on my right. This ended the fighting of my brigade in the late operations before Richmond, for, although ordered into action next evening, we did not get in, owing to the lateness of the hour, the thickness of the wood, and my ignorance of the relative position of our forces.

My aide, Lieutenant Young, had two horses shot under him in this engagement, and then took the colors of one of the regiments, leading it promptly and well to the front. Lieutenant-Colonels McElroy and Gray--the latter assisted by Major Cole--displayed their usual boldness in leading their regiments to the front.

The Thirty-eighth North Carolina here, as on Thursday, behaved well. I would mention that the Thirty-fourth North Carolina on Friday behaved with great credit under a heavy and murderous cross-fire, and here let me mention that Lieutenant Shotwell, Thirty-fourth North Carolina, cannot be spoken off too highly for his gallant conduct; for he was not satisfied to take the colors, [but] seized the color-bearer and rushed him to the front, thus encouraging the regiment to move forward at a very critical moment. There are numerous instances of noble conduct by members -of my command, but space would fail to mention all, and I will leave the result of their efforts to show how most of them did.

I am forced to say that we had too many cases of shameful and disgraceful desertions of their colors.

Here I would mention the loss on Thursday of a most competent and gallant officer, Maj. W. N. Bronaugh, of the Second Arkansas Battalion. With his death ceased the battalion, as far as was concerned its usefulness on the field.

My total loss in killed and wounded was about 800. The brigade left camp on the evening of the 25th with between 2,300 and 2,400, including Andrews' battery, thus showing a loss of one-third of my entire command.

Andrews' battery behaved on all occasions with conspicuous coolness and bravery. Their loss was, however: slight.

The service has lost for a time, if not permanently, an invaluable and accomplished officer in Col. James Conner, Twenty-second North Carolina. Colonels Hoke and Riddick--the former wounded on Thursday, the latter on Friday--were great losses to me.

In conclusion, I would mention Mr. Goldman, an independent, with the Thirty-eighth North Carolina, who acted with the most conspicuous bravery and courage, also great capacity. He should be rewarded.

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

W. D. PENDER,

Brigadier-General Sixth Brigade, Light Division.

Maj. Gen. A. P. HILL,

Commanding Light Division.