Tarheels During the Civil War

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Report of Brig. Gen. Samuel Garland on the Seven Days.

Report of Brig. Gen. Samuel Garland, jr., C.S. Army, commanding Third Brigade, of the engagement at King's School-House, or Oak Grove, and battles of Mechanicsville, Gaines' Mill, and Malvern Hill.

Headquarters Third Brigade, Third Division
July 14, 1862.
Major: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this brigade in the recent engagements and operations of the army before Richmond:
On June 25 the movements of the enemy on the Williamsburg road inducing Major-General Huger, whose troops were in front, to call for support, I was ordered to move forward my brigade in supporting distance of Generals Armistead and Wright and co-operate with them to such extent as the exigency might require. Those generals having moved forward their troops into the woods in front of our lines on the Williamsburg road, my brigade was placed in the vacated rifle pits and kept under arms and exposed to artillery fire during the entire afternoon. The Fifth North Carolina, Col. D.K. McRae, was ordered to move forward out of the rifle pits across the field in front to the edge of the woods opposite and protect a section of artillery brought up to that point to silence the enemy's guns. This duty they performed with their accustomed alacrity and happily escaped casualties.
Having spent more than half the day under arms and under fire, the brigade was permitted to return to camp after dark and make preparations for the impending movements. I mention the foregoing fatigues and exposure because they were in the nature of extra duty borne by this brigade on the eve of general operations, and the troops should receive the proper credit for it.
Cooking until a late hour of the night and then catching a little sleep, the brigade moved about 2 o'clock on the morning of June 26, along with the rest of the division, to a position on the Mechanicsville turnpike just behind the crest of the commanding hills which overlook the Chickahominy, where we remained in position, masked from the observation of the enemy, until Maj.Gen. A.P. Hill's troops should carry Mechanicsville from the other side. This part of the plan being at length accomplished late in the afternoon, this brigade, along with the rest of the division and Major-General Longstreet's, crossed the Chickahominy, and was drawn up in line of battle under the crest of a hill on the right of the turnpike just in rear of Anderson's brigade. In taking this position the brigade was exposed to a severe artillery fire from the works of the enemy on the Beaver Dam Creek. The fire ceasing as night closed in, the men slept upon their arms in line of battle.
At an early hour on the morning of the 27th we were put in motion to move off to the position assigned the division en echelon to Major-General Jackson's column on the left as we swept down the Chickahominy. To reach this position it was necessary to cross the Beaver Dam Creek. The line of the Mechanicsville turnpike being still obstructed by an earthwork of the enemy, where they had artillery and some infantry, while our artillery engaged that of the enemy and part of the division remained to support it, this brigade, along with that of General Anderson, moved up a road more to the left, and turning in through the country and crossing the creek higher up at a secret ford, turned the position of the enemy and gained the Mechanicsville turnpike again without firing a shot. The enemy meanwhile withdrew their guns and retired, leaving the way open for the artillery to come up from Mechanicsville and the other brigades also. The whole division was now reunited and effected a junction with Major-General Jackson's forces near where the road from Pole Green Church crosses the turnpike.
From thence we moved to Jackson's left, and taking a circuitous route by Bethesda Church, proceeded to Cold Harbor and thence toward New Cold Harbor, which point we reached early in the afternoon of Friday, the 27th. As we approached a road crossing the line of our route near New Cold Harbor the enemy was discovered in line of battle with artillery to oppose our progress. Their position was quite a strong one and dispositions were made for an engagement. Captain Bondurant's battery, of this brigade, being brought up to the front, took position just to the right of the road, and Anderson's brigade being in line of battle on the right, this brigade was placed in line of battle on the left of and perpendicular to the road by which we had advanced, the Fifth North Carolina, on the right, holding a little copse of timber just next the battery and the road, the rest of the line in the edge of a second growth of diminutive pines, which should be called a jungle - not a piece of timber - through which I threw forward a line of skirmishers to the farther side, next and near to the enemy. These skirmishers found themselves on one side of a valley through the bottom of which ran a ditch, the ground rising to a crest on the other side, where on the edge of the woods the enemy's lines extended, being some 400 yards off. Their line of battle seemed oblique to our own, and in my view the advance of my own brigade in line of battle through the tangled growth in front seemed impracticable, and further liable to the objection that my right flank would be exposed to the fire of the enemy's line, posted obliquely to my own. These views were stated to the general of division, and determined the direction of the subsequent movement of the brigade. An active artillery fight was now carried on for some time, in which Captain Bondurant's battery was engaged. That fine officer, his men, and officers, behaved well and rendered an effective fire; but the enemy soon ascertaining the exact range and bringing up heavier metal, Captain Bondurant sustained a loss of 2 killed and 1 mortally wounded, since dead, making 3; 14 wounded and 28 horses killed and disabled. He was now relieved and sent to the rear, having fired nearly all his rounds. Captain Bondurant had also been engaged at Mechanicsville on Thursday evening.
Major-General Jackson arriving on our part of the field, a change was made in the disposition of our infantry forces equivalent to a change of front to rear on the left battalion of my brigade, the expectation being that the enemy would be rolled back upon us and received by us in this new position. The sounds of an active engagement were now heard going on immediately in front of the last position, and perceiving that the result was doubtful, brigade after brigade of our division was ordered to proceed toward the sound of the firing. To do this all had to cross an open field several hundred yards wide under a vigorous enfilading fire of artillery and gain a skirt of timber covering a ravine some half mile in front. This brigade was ordered forward last to go to the support of the others, this being deemed more judicious on the whole than to charge the enemy's batteries and infantry supports already referred to.
Reaching the skirt of woods referred to, I there found the rest of the division lying unengaged under cover, the fight being still farther on in another woods, separated by an opening of 800 or 1,000 yards. General Anderson's brigade, the first sent over, seems to have driven some of the enemy from the belt of woods in which I found the division. Owing to the necessity of prolonging lines to left or right as the brigades came up, I found that several regiments were detached from their brigades and that there were several lines of our troops in the belt of timber in reserve to each other.
Communicating with General Anderson, we ascended out of the raving to commanding open ground, from whence we could see the engagement in front of us. We perceived a line of fresh troops brought up at right angles to our position to the edge of the woods in our front and pouring volley fires into a line screened from our view by the woods. We concluded, from our imperfect knowledge of localities, that the line we saw must be the enemy and that their flank was fairly exposed to us. In the absence of superior commanders we were consulting as to taking the responsibility of ordering a charge on this exposed flank of the enemy across the intervening open fields under the heavy fire of artillery when Major-General Hill joined us in person. We pointed out to him the situation and explained our proposed plan, which he at once adopted and ordered the charge to be made without delay, as the evening was already wearing late. Under the order of the general of division all the brigades were to advance, and accordingly no time was lost in sending back detached regiments to their brigades. This will account for the fact that I found on the left and under my general supervision the Third North Carolina, Colonel Meares, of General Ripley's brigade, and one of the regiment of General Rodes' brigade. By a change of position, unnecessary to be detailed, I had placed Colonel McRae, with the Fifth North Carolina, on the left of my brigade, and the line being a long one with the additions stated, I requested him to exercise a general supervision over the troops on the left, subject to my orders.
The whole line now moved forward with rapidity and enthusiasm. So soon as it had well cleared the skirt of timber and emerged upon the open plateau the enemy's artillery played upon it, but their fire was checked by a movement presently to be mentioned. The effect of our appearance at this opportune juncture, cheering and charging, decided the fate of the day. The enemy broke and retreated, made a second brief stand, which induced my immediate command to halt under good cover of the bank on the road-side and return their fire, when, charging forward again, they broke and scattered in every direction, and following, I found that I had effected a junction with Major-General Jackson's column, meeting with General Lawton in person and with the officers and troops of Hood's and Winder's brigades.
The battle was now over, except a scattering fight around a house to our left, near which the enemy's batteries had been posted. As our line moved forward several regiments on the left, viz, the Twentieth North Carolina and Third North Carolina, were swung around by Major-General Hill's orders to attack this battery, and thus to prevent it from playing on the other troops charging over the plain. In this movement the Twentieth North Carolina, Colonel Iverson, participated, sustaining a heavy loss, and at a later period I sent Col. A.M. Scales, Thirteenth North Carolina, to re-enforce our troops there. The attack was partially successful, our troops especially acting handsomely and maintaining themselves against superior numbers.
Having effected the junction with Major-General Jackson's troops as above stated, I suggested to General Lawton that further re-enforcements should be sent to this point on the left, which being done, the enemy made no further stand, but abandoned the entire field.
Thus ended the battle of Cold Harbor, in which this brigade bore an honorable part, sustaining a loss there of about 500 killed and wounded. That night, with the other troops, we bivouacked on the field.
The next morning about 10 a.m. we moved with the other troops in the direction of the Grapevine Bridge to Turkey Hill. Finding the bridge destroyed and that the enemy had some force and a battery on the other side, we were halted and drawn up in line of battle on the left of the road, while several of our batteries shelled the supposed position of the enemy.
We were delayed at this point during that day and the next. On the morning of the ---, the Grapevine Bridge being rebuilt and the road clear, this brigade, with the rest of the division, crossed, and, moving across the line of the York River road, struck into the road to Bottom's Bridge, down which we proceeded, capturing prisoners, &c., until we turned to the right, following the course of the enemy, and took the road crossing the White Oak Swamp and running into the Long Bridge road. Upon reaching the White Oak Swamp we found the bridge destroyed and the enemy drawn up in a strong position on the other side with artillery. The infantry being kept under cover, our artillery was brought up in force and opened on the enemy with marked effect. They withdrew their battery to a safer position.
At this point we were delayed another day until the enemy retired and the bridge over the White Oak Swamp was rebuilt.
Crossing next morning, we followed up the retreat of the enemy toward James River into the Long Bridge road and then into the Quaker road toward Turkey Bridge.
At Malvern Hill the enemy made their last stand, with several batteries and two lines of infantry in a commanding position. Our own infantry were put under cover near the road, waiting to observe the effect of the fire of our artillery, this brigade lying behind that of General Ripley, in reserve, with Colquitt's still in our rear. The concentrated fire of two of the enemy's batteries from the hill was too heavy for the single battery (Moorman's) which we opposed to them.
Late in the afternoon orders were communicated that the commander-in-chief had selected a position from which our artillery could enfilade the enemy's batteries; that the effect of our fire could be seen, and that when the enemy's guns were crippled or silenced a general advance of the infantry would be ordered. The enfilading fire soon commenced, and the commander of this division, accompanied by several of the brigade commanders, including the writer, went to a point from which the effect could be observed. So far from producing marked effect, the firing was so wild that we were returning to our posts under the impression that no movement of infantry would be ordered, when suddenly one or two brigades, belonging to a division on our right (either Magruder's or Huger's), charged out of the woods toward the right with a shout. Major-General Hill at once exclaimed, "That must be the general advance! Bring up your brigades as soon as possible and join in it." Hurrying back to my own brigade, I moved it down the road by the flank to the edge of the field over which the enemy's batteries were playing and filing out to my right formed line of battle. I was then ordered to advance and charge the batteries, which were some 800 or 900 yards off on a commanding hill, straight to the front, supported by two lines of infantry. There was no cover, and the ground nearest the enemy was plowed. Anderson's, Ripley's, and Rodes' brigades, Gordon commanding, had proceeded farther down the road, thus keeping under partial cover, and approaching somewhat nearer and on the right of the enemy's position. When ordered forward I saw no troops of our own in front of me.
The brigade moved forward with alacrity about half way to the battery or nearer, when the terrible fire of artillery and the opening fire of the infantry induced it to halt, lie down, and commence firing without my orders and contrary to them. The fire of the enemy was very severe, and being satisfied that the exhibition of force presented by a single brigade on that front was not sufficient to intimidate the foe nor to carry the position, I sent my acting aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Haywood, to inform Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill that unless I was re-enforced quickly I could effect nothing, and could not hold the position I then occupied. After some delay a brigade appeared from the woods in my rear and seemed coming up to my support. But their movements seemed slow, and before they reached me my men began to give way, and very many ceased to respond to my efforts to hold them in line and maintain the position. Remaining on the spot until, in spite of every effort, the men could no longer be held there, the brigade fell back to the edge of the woods from which we had started.
It is not my desire to indulge in criticism or crimination. It is enough to say that there was somehow a want of concert and co-operation in the whole affair that made a successful attack impracticable and the consequent disorder and straggling of troops most lamentable. My own brigade went up as far as any troops I saw upon the field and behaved as well. If they retired, so did all the rest who were ordered to charge the battery. The whole division became scattered.
As night closed in General Ripley, Colonels Gordon and Colquitt (commanding brigades), and myself set to work in concert to collect our commands together, and bivouacked them in a place of security. Next morning we found that the enemy were themselves so far damaged by the previous day's work that they had retreated from Malvern Hill. Having gotten our commands together during the day, suitable details were made for burying the dead.
This brigade, along with the rest of the division, was now put in bivouac near the scene of the late battle-fields, with orders to collect the arms and munitions, get off the wounded, the prisoners, &c. I had neglected to say that Colonel McRae, of the Fifth North Carolina, with his own regiment and the Fourth North Carolina, of Anderson's Brigade, had been previously ordered back upon similar duties nearer to Richmond. They were not present at Malvern Hill. These duties being all discharged, and our army receiving orders to return toward Richmond, this brigade, along with the division, returned to its old position near the Williamsburg road.
It affords me pleasure to testify to the general good conduct of the regimental commanders of this brigade throughout these trying scenes. Colonel McRae, absent from Malvern Hill under orders, exhibited his accustomed gallantry and good judgment at Cold Harbor, rendering me material assistance in looking after the left of my line. Colonel Scales, Thirteenth North Carolina, was conspicuous for his fine bearing. Seizing the colors of his regiment at a critical moment at Cold Harbor, and advancing to the front, he called upon the Thirteenth to stand to them, thus restoring confidence and keeping his men in position. Colonel Iverson was seriously wounded at an early period while gallantly leading up his regiment to take the battery at the house on the left at Cold Harbor. This movement seems to have been ordered by the division commander. The Twentieth North Carolina, after Colonel [Alfred] Iverson was wounded, was led by Lieut. Col. Franklin J. Faison. It advanced gallantly and took the battery, which it held for ten minutes. The gallant Faison received a mortal wound in the very act of turning one of the captured pieces upon the fleeing foe and breathed out his noble spirit in the moment of victory. He was greatly beloved and his memory will be cherished with veneration and pride.
Having sustained a loss of 70 killed and 202 wounded in this charge, which was temporarily successful, the enemy soon returned in larger force, and this regiment, having no supports, retired, under orders from Major [William H.]Toon, to the cover of the wood out of which it had charged.
Colonel [Benjamin O.]Wade, Twelfth North Carolina, conducted his regiment with coolness and discretion.
Colonel Christie, Twenty-third North Carolina, had the misfortune to be wounded in the successful charge at Cold Harbor while leading his regiment and bearing himself handsomely, when the command of this regiment again fell upon Lieut. I.J. Young, who had been in command during the absence of Colonel Christie from the effect of his injuries at the Seven Pines. I desire to notice the conduct of Lieutenant Young as worthy of special commendation. He was severely wounded at Malvern Hill while leading his regiment and compelled to retire.
In the absence of three regimental commanders, who led the Thirteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-third North Carolina in the recent engagements, the regimental reports of those commands refrain from the selection of the names of particular officers and men for special gallantry.
Colonel McRae presents the following from the Fifth North Carolina as deserving special mention at Cold Harbor, viz: Maj. P.J. Sinclair, wounded early and compelled to retire; Lieutenants Riddick, Sprague, Davis, Brookfield (severely wounded), Taylor, and Haywood; Color-Sergeant Grimstead, wounded, and Privates Noah McDaniel, who captured 7 prisoners, and John Trotman.
Colonel Wade, Twelfth North Carolina, mentions the good conduct of Lieutenant Plummer, Company C, and Private T.L. Emory, Company G. 
My personal staff during these engagements consisted of Capt. Charles Wood, assistant adjutant-general, and Lieuts. R.D. Early and F.M. Haywood, jr., the last at Malvern Hill only. I can most sincerely testify to their gallantry and intelligence. Lieutenant Early was severely wounded and Captain Wood had his horse instantly killed under him by a solid shot.
I present a succinct statement of killed and wounded and file lists of the same by name.
I have the honor to subscribe myself, major, your obedient servant,
S. Garland, Jr.,
Brig. Gen., Comdg. Third Brigade, Third Division.

Major Ratchford,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

Series I. Vol. XI (Part II) Ch. XXIII. Pgs. 639-645.

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