Report of J.R. Anderson's Brigade

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No. 339. -- Report of Brig. Gen. Joseph R. Anderson, C. S. Army, commanding Third Brigade, of the battles of Mechanicsville, Gaines' Mill, and Frazier's Farm (Nelson's Farm, or Glendale).

HEADQUARTERS THIRD BRIGADE,
Camp on Mills' Farm, Va., July 25, 1862.

GENERAL: In compliance with your order I respectfully submit a report of the part taken by the Third Brigade in the combats before Richmond:

On Wednesday evening, June 25, in pursuance of your order, I put the brigade in motion and marched to Meadow Bridge, where we bivouacked that night.

On Thursday afternoon I was ordered by you to march, and followed the First Brigade (General Field), crossing the Meadow Bridge, and down the road toward Mechanicsville. When within a few hundred yards of Mechanicsville, the enemy having opened from his battery to the left and beyond the place, my battery (Captain Mcintosh) was directed by your order to take position and draw his fire, while I was directed to make a detour to the left, under the direction of a guide, and capture the battery. We had to march about a mile, a part of the way through a very dense wood, so that it was impossible to know whether we would strike a favorable point of attack. I ordered Colonel Thomas, commanding the leading regiment, to make a detour, so as, if possible, to take the battery in reverse or in rear, and the other regiments to support him.

Being totally unacquainted with the ground, we came within range of the enemy's guns, and the sharpshooters too much to the right. Colonel Thomas, however, dashed forward with his regiment, withholding his fire, and succeeded in crossing the creek (Beaver Dam) and gaining the wood, dislodging the enemy posted there and driving them back. They were soon heavily re-enforced and renewed the attack and were a second time repulsed with loss, Colonel Thomas being well supported by the Fourteenth Georgia Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Folsom, and the Third Louisiana Battalion, Colonel [Edmund]Pendleton.

In the mean time the Forty-ninth and Forty-fifth Georgia came up and were posted on the right, opening a fire from their position on the enemy lodged in their rifle pits beyond the creek. Night approaching, and having now ascertained the position and strength of the enemy's works--that they were, contrary to our expectations, located on the far side of Beaver Dam; that my right was separated from them by a wide morass, through which ran the creek, considerably dammed up, and that the ground gained by the daring of the Thirty-fifth and Fourteenth Georgia and Third Louisiana Battalion was still separated from the enemy's main work by a deep ravine and their position strengthened by abatis at the foot of the hill, while its crest was strongly supported by extensive rifle pits, manned with sharpshooters--I concluded it was better to adopt another line of approach by a movement farther to the left, unobserved, through the woods, perhaps three-quarters of a mile, so as to gain the table-land near the Old Church road, and take the work in rear. Darkness prevented the execution of this plan, and I determined to bivouac my brigade, and reported to you my readiness to execute the enterprise the next morning.

In this fight I have to report the loss of some of my best officers in killed and wounded and many of the men, all of whom behaved in a manner worthy of all praise. I would especially notice the conduct of Col. E. L. Thomas, commanding Thirty-fifth Georgia, who evinced fearlessness and good judgment not only in this affair, but throughout the expedition. He was wounded on this occasion, but remained always on duty at the head of his regiment. His adjutant, too, Lieutenant Ware, was conspicuous for his gallantry, and sealed with his life his devotion to the cause of his country, as did other valuable officers, whose names have been reported to you. I have also, as the result of this action, to regret the loss from the service, at least for a time, of Col. A. J. Lane, commanding Forty-ninth Georgia, who received a painful and serious wound in the arm, and of Lieutenant-Colonel [Thomas J.] Simmons, of the same [Forty-fifth] regiment; nor can I omit to call special attention to the gallant conduct of Capt. L. P. Thomas, quartermaster of the Thirty-fifth Georgia, who volunteered his services for the occasion in the field, seeing his regiment deficient in field officers. He rendered valuable service until he was seriously wounded. Lieutenant.Colonel [Robert W.] Folsom, Fourteenth Georgia, also deserves special mention. This officer was confined to his sick bed, but as soon as the order to move forward was given he got up and gallantly led his regiment, though laboring under the effects of disease.

On Friday morning, the enemy having evacuated the place attacked the evening before by my brigade, I commenced the march as ordered by you---deployed in line of battle in the edge of the woodland north of the Mechanicsville road, between the village and the river. Soon I received orders to fall in, the column proceeding down the road, and placed my brigade in the position assigned it, next to the Second Brigade, Brigadier-General Gregg's. Captain McIntosh's battery, attached to my brigade, having exhausted its ammunition and one piece being disabled, was left behind to renew its supply and repair damages, and I ordered up Capt. Greenlee Davidson's battery, Letcher Artillery, from the other side of the Chickahominy. It was, however, so late in the day before that gallant and active officer received my order that it was not in his power to reach me before the affair at Cold Harbor, though I learn that he took a part in the fight at a point in that field which he reached before ascertaining where my command was posted. Crossing the stream at Gaines' Mill I was ordered by you to proceed up the right-hand road, and afterward I received an order from you, through one of your aides, to march with caution, as the enemy were said to be in force at Turkey Hill. I threw forward an advance guard and flankers on each side of the road in the woods until I arrived at the cross-roads where we observed the enemy's pickets, two of whom we captured in the woods on our right. I then filed to the right, marching through the woods by the right flank until my right reached the field in which General Pender's battery was posted and playing on the enemy. Here I faced to the front and marched forward in line of battle, driving the enemy's skirmishers before us, while I was supported by General Field's brigade, a few paces in rear.

On arriving near the edge of the woods we came under a brisk fire of the enemy, which increased as we emerged from it, and crossed the narrow slip of land to the crest of the hill. This hill was separated by a deep ravine and creek from the enemy's position. Here the brigade encountered a very hot fire, both of musketry and shell, which brought us to a halt from the double-quick in which I had commenced the charge. But it was only after a third charge, in which every effort was made by me to gain the enemy's lines beyond the ravine, that, in consequence of some wavering in the center, I concluded to order my men to lie down in the edge of the wood and hold the position. At the same time, it seeming to be totally impracticable at this point to effect a passage of the ravine, I ordered the Thirty-fifth and Forty-fifth Georgia, who, under their brave leaders (Cols. E. L. Thomas and T. Hardeman, the former on my right flank and the latter on my left), had proceeded a considerable distance in advance of the center, to fall back in line and lie on the ground, which position we maintained until by the general charge the day was won.

On the night of the 29th, Sunday, my brigade, having had a very exhausting march in the position assigned it in your column, bivouacked on the Darbytown road near Atlee's. Many of the men fell down by the way-side, unable to march farther on that day.

The next evening, 30th, when the firing commenced at Frazier's farm, I received an order from you to form close column of regiments on the side of the road, which was executed on the right. Here we were within the range of the enemy's guns, but had not many casualties.

About sunset I received your order to bring forward my brigade and form line of battle on the crest of the ridge, which was quickly done, the road dividing my line into two parts, the Third Louisiana Battalion and Fourteenth Georgia Regiment forming the left, while the Thirty-fifth, Forty-fifth, and Forty-ninth Georgia formed the right wing. I was then ordered to send forward my left wing under the senior officer present, Lieutenant-Colonel Pendleton, of the Third Louisiana Battalion, who led it into the fight. A few minutes later, by your order, I led the remainder of my brigade into the fight, with a warning from you that one of our brigades was in my front. This order was promptly and enthusiastically executed by the whole command, the more so, doubtless, as at this moment the President of the Confederate States galloped by us the whole length of my column and was recognized and vociferously cheered by the men. We had about half a mile to march, and the sound and flash of the musketry indicating the enemy's position to be on the left of the road, I filed to the left and changed my front forward, so as to form line of battle parallel to what appeared to be that of the enemy.

By this time it was dark. I immediately gave the order, "Forward in line of battle. The march was handsomely performed. Orders >were given that no musket was to be fired till we came up with and recognized our friends in front. The march was continued in perfect order under a galling fire until we came up to a fence, and on my right found my left wing in position under Lieutenant-Colonel Pendleton. I immediately ordered my brigade over the fence, and placing myself in its front, reformed the line, still believing our friends to be in front and determined to proceed to their aid.

At this moment I was just able to see a force, which seemed to be a brigade or division, marching down upon us, and was soon satisfied that they were the enemy; but it was impossible to inspire the men with this belief, especially as the enemy, not then more than 50 or 75 yards from us, were constantly singing out, "For God's sake, don't fire on us; we are friends." An order to fire at this moment I was satisfied would be unavailing, so I ordered, "Charge bayonet in double-quick," hoping that a moment more would satisfy my men of their mistake. At this moment Lieutenant.Colonel Coleman, of the artillery, who happened to come up, rendered me valuable assistance in attempting to undeceive my command; but it seemed to be impossible, and its consequent demoralization was great and unfortunate. All doubt should soon have been removed by the command "Fire" on the part of the enemy, who delivered a very deadly fire, received by my then left wing, and chiefly the Forty-fifth Georgia, Colonel Hardeman. The men were ordered to lie down and continue the firing, until finally the enemy were driven from the field.

It was in this affair that Colonel Hardeman, while nobly encouraging his brave men, was severely wounded, and I myself, receiving a blow on my forehead, fell disabled for a time, which devolved the command on Col. Edward L. Thomas.

The lists of killed and wounded in my brigade in these three fights, amounting to 364, have already been reported to you.

In closing this statement, general, of the part taken by my brigade in the battles around Richmond, I respectfully refer to the reports of the regimental commanders for details.

Where so many officers and men did their duty well it would be difficult to particularize. But it is due to Capt. Roscoe B. Heath, my able assistant adjutant-general, that I should acknowledge the obligation I am under to him for his valuable assistance not only on these occasions, but throughout his service as the chief of my staff. Notwithstanding the fact that he was suffering from severe illness he insisted on accompanying me on this march against my earnest advice, and after passing through the battles of June 26 and 27 was only induced to retire by assurance from the surgeon that further exertion would cost him his life.

I beg to commend to your notice my aide, Lieut. William Norwood, who evinced throughout zeal, enterprise, and daring; and to my volunteer aides, Capts. William Morris and Phillip Haxall, I am indebted for valuable assistance in delivering orders in entire disregard of danger, as well as in encouraging and rallying the troops. It was in the engagement of June 27, at Cold Harbor, that Captain Morris was severely, and I fear dangerously, wounded by a musket-ball breaking his thigh bone.

My brigade commissary, Maj. Lewis Ginter, and quartermaster, Maj. Robert T. Taylor, more than justified my favorable estimate of their qualifications.

I have not referred more particularly to the two field batteries attached to my brigade, commanded by those accomplished officers Capts. ----- Mcintosh and Greenlee Davidson, because they were under your immediate command.

Nor should I omit to express my unmeasured approbation of the fidelity of the surgeons of this brigade in the performance of their onerous and responsible labors. The chief surgeon and his assistants, I know by personal observation, devoted their skill and sleepless energies to the alleviation of the sufferings of our brave men. The infirmary corps system, too, I regard as wisely conceived, and was, as far as my observation extended, faithfully executed by the several details.

I have the honor to be, general, your obedient servant,

J. R. ANDERSON,

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Maj. Gen. A. P. HILL,

Commanding Light Division.

[Inclosure.]

RICHMOND, VA., July 28, 1863.

SIR: I observe a clerical error in my report of the operations of the brigade commanded by me in the battles of last year in this vicinity which I will ask the favor of you to have corrected.

In the fifth line of first page [of] manuscript, "June 26" should read "June 25," the latter being the day of the month on which the march was commenced.

I have the honor to be, general, your obedient servant,

J. R. ANDERSON.

General S. COOPER,

Adjutant and Inspector-General, Richmond, Va.