Tarheels During the Civil War

Monday, December 21, 2009

4th North Carolina at Seven Pines

Report of Maj. Bryan Grimes, Fourth North Carolina Infantry.

Hdqrs. Fourth North Carolina State Troops
June 5, 1862.
Colonel: In accordance with General Orders, No.--, I have the honor most respectfully to submit the following report as embracing the action of the regiment under my command during the battle of May 31.
After marching to the field agreeably to orders, when near the Williamsburg road the enemy commenced an enfilading fire from a battery stationed in the road, concealed by the woods. I then filed my regiment to the left and brought it into line of battle, and ordered it to lie down until the other regiments of the brigade moved up. Just as the next regiment reached us a courier arrived from the front calling for re-enforcements, and you ordered me forward. The woods were very thick and water deep in ponds from recent rains, in places waist-deep. The enemy, during our advance through the woods, playing upon us with canister and shell, it was impossible to keep an accurate alignment; halted at the edge of the woods, rectified the alignment as near as possible before uncovering my men, and then ordered them to advance, which was through a thick and entangled abates, formed by felling the trees in opposite directions, which was difficult and tedious to march through. At this time I first saw the redoubt of the enemy about half a mile in front, and somewhat to the right, of my center, which caused me to right-oblique my command. The enemy also had a section of a battery (two pieces) which was dealing destruction to my left wing, while my center and right wing were being mowed down by grape and canister from the redoubt; but the men steadily advanced in admirable order. The enemy fled from the field pieces on my left, and we then concentrated our whole attention to the redoubt. Between this entangled brush-wood and the redoubt was a plowed field, rendered very miry by the late rains, in which the men would mire ankle deep at every step; through this we continued our way. Other regiments at this time were emerging from the thicket both on my right and left, when I gave the order to charge upon the redoubt, which was done by my men in gallant style. When within about 100 yards of the redoubt my horse was killed, catching me under him in his fall. Assisstance came and I was extricated uninjured, when we rushed on. When within 30 or 40 yards of the redoubt I saw that we were 200 yards in advance of any other regiment and thought best to fall back to a ditch midway between the redoubt and entangled woods, which I ordered, and the regiment retired in good order; but the color-bearer misunderstanding the order, fell back beyond the ditch to this entangled brush. Those who had taken cover in the ditch then followed the colors, which were then halted, and all ordered to lie down, being still within 250 yards of the redoubt.
About this time our battery arrived and commenced playing upon the enemy. As an evidence of the severity of the fire of the enemy while in front of the battery 46 of my men were found killed within an area of one acre. After allowing my men time to recover from their fatigue, just then I saw my third color-bearer shot down. Captain Simonton and myself rushed up to raise the colors. Captain Simonton, reaching them first, placed them in my hands, raising them aloft, calling upon my men to rally around their standard. It was done with alacrity, and, together with several other regiments, we reached the redoubt, the enemy fleeing.
About 300 yards distant to the left I saw two regiments of the enemy drawn up in line of battle, protected and partially concealed by woods. I faced my men to the left and double-quicked them through an open field to reach a cover of the same woods, but before reaching it I saw breastworks to my right thrown up, which the enemy were leaving, and ordered my men to move by the right flank and get behind their breastworks, firing upon them during the while, which was continued until I saw a regiment of ours marching to the left to attack them. I ordered them to cease firing for fear of shooting our friends. In a short time we were ordered forward to support a regiment in front and to our right, which was done. While at this spot, of my four officers who had followed the flag through the day two were shot--Captain Simonton killed instantly and Captain Wood very seriously wounded. From here we were ordered to fall back from the breastworks, and in a short time it became dark, and orders arrived for me to retire to the road. Just before doing so I ordered them to count the number then present, which was 54, whose names should be most honorably mentioned.
Particularly conspicuous among them for coolness and deeds of daring were Lee A. Steel, of Company B; Robert Peel, of Company D, and Robert Gibbons, of Company E. It is impossible for me to obtain the names of those who acted with more than common gallantry in the first and hottest part of the engagement, as the company officers, who had better opportunity of noticing them, are absent wounded, consequently many deserving of honorable mention would be left out. My situation during the action was particularly called to the daring and gallant conduct of the adjutant (Thomas L. Perry), whose services were invaluable to me; since died of his wounds.
No braver men died that day than Captain Barnes of Company F, and Lieutenant White, of Company C, who were killed while leading their men up to the breastworks; but where all acted so well, with perhaps one or two exceptions, who failed to keep up, it is almost impossible to say who behaved with most gallantry, as reference to the list of casualties will show, leaving the encampment with 29 officers, 23 of them being killed and wounded.
All else occurred under your own eye, which it is unnecessary for me to mention.
I am, colonel, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
Bryan Grimes,
Major, Commanding Fourth Regiment N.C. State Troops.

Series I. Vol. XI. (Part I.) Ch. XXIII. Pgs. 955-957

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