In Longstreet's Attack at Second Manassas: An account from the 4th Texas
Private Bennett Wood of Co. C of the 4th Texas Infantry was wounded in action three times during his four years of wearing the gray. The first time he was shot in the face at Gaines Mill, the second time through the leg at Gettysburg, and the final time in the foot at the Wilderness. One of his most vivid memories, however, was the Texas Brigade's bitter fight at the Second Battle of Manassas. Wood's account was featured in Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray 1861-65 and is reproduced below just as he wrote it.
After resting from the fatiguing operations below Richmond, Lee's army began early in August a movement northward. After weary, hot marches with many prostrations from sunstroke, we found ourselves moving up the Rappahannock and the Federals opposing us at all the crossings, but after persistent efforts and some fighting we finally reached Thoroughfare Gap. Here we found a strong force of the enemy in order to delay our march, but as soon as the troops could be formed into line of battle we moved forward and soon had them going. When we reached Manassas, we took position on Jackson's right and being favorably situated, we could see the troops of both Jackson and his adversary.
About dark, Hood's brigade and another brigade on our right were called to attention. We saw that a forward move was to be made and soon engaged the enemy. In the darkness, we could not tell the execution we were doing, but knew that we were driving them back. This continued for half or three-quarters of a mile. At this point, we discovered the 4th and 5th Texas were mixing up and some Yanks were among us. We could see a line a few rods ahead of us, and by sky-lighting them could tell by the shape of their blouses that they were Yankees. We were halted at a branch, reformed and rested. While resting, I could hear troops moving in front and the wheels of the artillery grating on the gravel not a hundred yards away.
About 3 a.m., after a reconnaissance has been made, as intended, we were quietly moved back to the position we first held where we rested under arms until daylight. All day we waited and could see the enemy charge Jackson's position, see them fall back and other try to they got so persistent and so numerous that two or three batteries rushed out from our positions and unlimbered for action. It was not a minute until bursting shells were tearing down their lines and not many minutes until the Yankees were hurrying to the rear. Still they tried again with the same result, a retreat. I don't mean that Jackson's men were lookers-on while the artillery did such effective work, for they held a constant line of fire while the enemy was in range.
Up to this time, the Texans were in line waiting, ready and eager for orders forward. Then James Drake, courier of General Hood's staff, at full speed dashed down the line and as he passed in front of his old company (my Co. C) he yelled out, 'Boys, they are coming!' Every man was on his feet and in three minutes the order was given to go forward. We moved quickly through a thin skirt of timber where we met the enemy, Sickles' brigade of Pennsylvania and New York Zouaves who were chosen to meet the Texans. [The New Yorkers were under the command of General Gouverneur K. Warren]
|Uniform of the Duryea's Zouaves|
5th New York
As soon as we were in sight and range, our defiant Texas yell rolled out over the field at the same time our rifles sent their death messengers among the foe, and they were soon on the move to the rear. Our pursuit was so hurried that they artillery could not time their fuses to make the shells effective, for they passed passed and beyond our line before they exploded. We drove the retreating enemy beyond the branch [Young's Branch] where we had orders to halt that our support might relieve us and push the fight.
Captain W.P. Townsend of Co. C was second in command of the regiment and as brave a man as ever drew a sword. He took observations and then said, "Men, the support is not in sight, that battery in front will be more difficult to take after its support rallies and returns, so I propose that we take it now," he said. The battery consisted of five Napoleons, the finest I ever saw. He gave orders to charge. We did charge, though it was only 90 or 100 yards, and only took four or five minutes. I never saw more havoc in a few minutes in so small a space. Those men worked their guns until we literally annihilated them. I never saw a man leave his gun, not even a driver, though some did attempt to take the caissons to the rear, but every horse and every man was shot down. Our colors were placed on the guns, we pushed the infantry back under the hill, halted to take a breath, and looking forward to the left, the whole earth for a mile seemed a solid mass of Yankees.
We then noticed a column passing to our rear, evidently to cut us off as we had moved some 400 yards forward of the troops on our left, so we moved back to the branch, still in range of the captured battery. Two of these guns were still loaded with grape, but no one was left to discharge them. As we advanced until within a few feet from them, they would throw their guns around on a bunch of men and then fire. I escaped twice by quickly moving to the right or left to escape the coming charge. Soon after taking position of the branch, I heard a mighty cheer to our rear, our support coming at the double quick, every foot seeming to move at once. And just in front, our artillery came at full speed for 300 yards, unlimbered, and fired a dozen shots, limbered and dashed forward, then repeated until they reached their position.
The reinforcements passed us and from then until after dark the battle raged, gradually getting further, but we knew brave men on both sides were dying. Don't think for a moment that I intend ignoring the 5th Texas for they, too, slipped the bridle and went as far and did as much as any troops on that glorious battlefield. I am writing just what I saw and know.
After dark, our brigade moved to the right for a new position. I went to General Hood for permission to return to the field to see after my brother Egbert Wood. He told me after we got into position that I could go. After some little whole, some of the boys came and said that General Hood had consented for us to go. When we got in front of the captured battery, the litter bearers had gathered the wounded. Brother Egbert had a hole through his right breast, a grapeshot an inch in diameter was afterwards cut out by the backbone, but he recovered. Major Townsend, James Galloway, Winch Kirk, and many others were wounded by that battery. The next day I assisted in burying 17 men in one grave 30 yards in front of that battery. My messmate Whitten was so torn by grapeshot that he seemed to have no whole bones. The Zouaves who were pitted against the Texas brigade I guess were all killed, for the earth was strewn with them and I never heard of one after that day. If any escaped, they changed their big legged pants for another uniform.
|Private Emzy Taylor on the left and his cousin George M. Taylor, both of Co. E of the 4th Texas Infantry|
Report of Lieut. Col. Benjamin Franklin Carter, 4th Texas Infantry
SEPTEMBER 8, 1862.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the operations of my regiment in the
action of the 29th ultimo:
From the position where the brigade was formed in line of battle and rested during the afternoon we were ordered to advance on the enemy about dusk. With the 1st Texas, as directing battalion, on my left, and 18th Georgia on my right, I advanced through the timber we were lying in, then through an open field in front, thence in to a second wood, where a sharp fire of musketry was going on in our front between our skirmishers and the enemy. Cautioning the men not to fire without orders, I advanced to within 50 yards, when we were fired on by the enemy. Replying with a volley, the enemy were silenced. It was not entirely dark, and it was almost impossible to ascertain the position of our forces or that of the enemy.
Advancing cautiously across the second field, I crossed the small creek at the bottom of the hill, and advancing up the second hill, with your assistance we formed in our original brigade order of battle, the 2nd Mississippi being on our left. Here, throwing out pickets to the front and on the flanks, we lay quietly until about 2 a. m. on the 30th, when we withdrew to our original position. I regarded our situation during the night as extremely critical. We had penetrated the enemy's lines; he was lying in unknown force very near us, and our scouts reported a battery in position within 300 yards of us. One of my pickets was shot during the night within 100 yards of the regiment.
The officers and men all behaved admirable while under fire and amid the confusion resulting from a night attack. I append a list of casualties, marked A,* which fortunately was small.
B. F. CARTER,
|Flag of the 4th Texas Infantry|
SEPTEMBER 8, 1862.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the operations of my regiment in the
action of the 30th ultimo:
After our return to the position of the previous day early in the morning of the 30th we rested on our arms in line of battle during the day. Soon after 4 o'clock in the afternoon we were ordered to advance in the same order of battle as the day previous, the 1st Texas, on our left, being the directing battalion. Company A (Capt. S. H. Darden) was deployed as skirmishers in our front early in the morning; was engaged with the enemy during the day. Passing through the skirt of wood we rested in we advanced through the first field, thence through the second skirt of timber to the next field.
While yet in the wood a heavy firing of musketry commenced on the right of our brigade, but no enemy appeared in front of my regiment. As we emerged
from the wood I discovered a battery stationed on the hill beyond the small creek, supported by infantry in strong force, who opened fire on us. The distance to the creek at the bottom of the hill was about 300 yards. We advanced in double-quick down the hill to the creek, where we halted in accordance with your orders, and were pretty well protected by the banks and some trees growing there. Here the regiment, somewhat broken in our rapid advance, has quickly reformed.
We had halted scarcely a minute when I discovered the right of the brigade advancing up the hill, and immediately ordered the regiment to charge the battery. Two or three guns on the right of the battery were directly on front of my regiment, at about 100 yards' distance from the creek, on a small eminence sloping gradually to the bottom, the ground being flat and smooth. We were greeted with a terrific fire of grape, canister, and musketry, and my principal loss was sustained here. The regiment gallantly responded to the order to charge, and carried the hill and battery on the run, utterly routing the supports and killing the gunners, who stood to their guns until we approached to within 20 paces.
I hurried the regiment rapidly forward to the next valley beyond the hill, where a dry, shallow ravine afforded some protection from the fire of the enemy, who had taken refuge on the next hill, covered with a growth of short pine, and were keeping up a sharp fire of musketry on us. The 18th Georgia formed in the same ravine on my right, but the 1st Texas had disappeared from my left, and I did not see it any more until our return to the creek.
While advancing through the first field, before meeting the enemy, I had received a caution to look well to my left; that we had no supports there, the Third Brigade being held as a support for the batteries and not advancing. In crossing the different hills, and especially form the battery hill, I discovered large masses of the enemy on our left moving down at right angles to the course we were going. We remained in the shallow ravine spoken of several minutes, driving the enemy from the short pines in front by our fire, when I discovered the 18th Georgia was moving by the right flank away from me along the ravine, and about the same time the enemy commenced firing on me from a wooded ridge to my left and in rear of my left flank.
I sent Adjutant Price to Col. Wofford, of the 18th Georgia, to ascertain where he was going; to tell him the enemy were moving in large force around our left flank, and ask him for support. The reply received was he could not come, but was going to the right. I found myself exposed with my weakened force to an increasing fire from the enemy in front, on my left, and in rear of my left, with no support on either flank, and not a Confederate soldier but my own regiment in sight. To meet the movement of the enemy around my left I changed front perpendicularly to the left across the raving we occupied, and finding myself uncovered by their movement, I fell back about 50 yards to the dry bed of a shallow cross-fire of the enemy, and some of the wounded were, I fear, taken prisoners here. The ravine we were in extended to the left, up the hill on which the battery was situated we had taken , were it terminated. In the prolongation of it on the opposite side of the hill was a thin hedge of small growth, affording a partial protection.
Seeing no prospect of supports, and believing my whole command would be sacrificed in the present position against the immense numbers of the enemy, I ordered the regiment to march by the left flank, keeping it as well as possible under cover of the ravine and hedge spoken of. The movement was executed with remarkably good order, the enemy being kept at a respectfully distance by our rapid fire. Reaching the small creek, the regiment was formed under cover of its banks, and soon afterward, by your orders, I moved up the creek by the right flank and connected with the 1st Texas, now on my right. Throwing out skirmishers to the front on the hill-side, covering the captured guns with their fire, we rested here until dark. We were not again engaged.
About half an hour after forming in the creek, while resting, Gen. Evans rode up from the woods in our rear and was cheered by our men, when he
addressed a few words in return. I cannot speak too highly of both officers and men of my command. The coolness, good order, and prompt obedience to orders displayed under the most trying circumstances and the daring courage in the charge were worthy of the reputation the 4th Texas had already established. The skulkers, if any, were so few as to escape observation.
Our loss was severe, including some of the best officers. Major Townsend fell badly wounded in the leg whole gallantly leading the right of the regiment in its charge on the battery. Previous to and during the action he had rendered invaluable services to me, and his loss was greatly felt by the regiment. Capt. [D. U.] Barziza, Company C; Capt. [James T.] Hunter, Company H; Lieut. [M. C.] Holmes, Company H, and Lieut. [A. D.] Jeffries, Company D, were all wounded in the same charge-the first and last slightly; the other two severely. Lieut. [C. E.] Jones, Company H, and Lieut. [T. J.] Johnson, Company D, were killed on the field in the same charge, and died as brave men should, in the front of battle, and their loss in irreparable to their companies and the regiment.
Color-Sergeant Edward M. Francis, of Company A, fell severely wounded while leading the colors in front of the regiment, and they were gallantly borne the
remainder of the action by Color-Corporal William Parker, of Company H.
Herewith I append a list of casualties in the regiment, marked B.*
I cannot, in justice, discriminate further when all behaved so well. Adjt. F. L. Price rendered me great assistance and bore himself coolly throughout the action.
B. F. CARTER,
Capt.W. H. SELLERS,
Source: Official Records
CHAP. XXIV.] CAMPAIGN IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA. PAGE 614-16
[Series I. Vol. 12. Part II, Reports. Serial No. 16.]
Post a Comment