Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"That was enough; we charged."

Saturday, July 30, 1864, Fort Harrison

On Monday last, the brigade marched north up the works east of Richmond. At some point, I know not where, we were stopped and countermarched back to our original positions. No one explained why we were marching in the first place or what happened to cause us to return.

On Thursday, we again took to the march and the Yankees took an objection to it. As we moved, they shelled us. The day before, they shelled us as we stayed in one place. At least on Thursday, we took some satisfaction in knowing that we would be soon be returning the compliment.

Near Fussell's Mill, the brigade formed into line. All of the our regiments were there. The First, having being detached to garrison Fort Harrison, had rejoined us about ten days earlier. The Twelfth was on the far left of the brigade line. If we looked to our own far right, we could see the distinctive flags of Lane's brigade of North Carolinians.

Before we could light into the Yankees, we had to make our way through a woods. Once breaking the woods, there was a road. There was a marsh after crossing the road. This was not to stop us or slow us down. We pressed on and by doing so, lost contact with Lane's brigade. After the marsh we entered a cornfield. After the cornfield we came to a hill and reached the crest.

All the while we were moving through these obstacles, we were under fire. First there was their artillery and then their muskets once we came within range. When we took the hill, we found that the Yankees had fled to a line of woods in their rear. They had artillery there and continued to shell us from the other side of a field that separated us. That was enough; we charged. Across the field we went, faster than they could flee. The Thirteenth charged with us and we took one of their guns.

Our elation at driving then from their position and taking one of their guns was short lived. We had advanced past any support and were taking flanking fire from our right. Lane's brigade finally caught up after being slowed in the marsh and drove them off. We would have suffered greatly had they not made a timely arrival. Under orders, we reformed our lines and advanced.

We intended to keep the ground we had won and started digging new works to protect our new position. All the while, that d----d Yankee artillery kept shooting at us but caused no significant damage. I know of only one casualty in the company- John Neill who suffered a wound. There were a fair number of prisoners taken and one of them is missing his shoes.

Chaplain Betts visited us earlier today. He brought us news and not all of it was good. Sullivan has died of his wounds. Truesdale, wounded two months ago, had his leg amputated and now is with Sullivan in that Great Place. There was some good news. We had all believed that Howell had been killed at Falling Waters. He was not killed but instead captured. He is somewhere North in a Yankee prison.

I wonder what happened to that gun we took.

I Send You These Few Lines

The battle described here came to be known as Deep Bottom. The details come from the original brigade historian's account of the battle.

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of the Crater. This was an attempt by the Union to break the Confederate lines at Petersburg by digging a tunnel to an underground chamber underneath the Confederate works, filling it with gunpowder and igniting it. The explosion caused many casualties and created a large crater in the Confederate works. Union troops charged into and around the crater. The Confederates rallied quickly and inflicted numerous losses upon those troops stuck in the crater. The costly attack failed.

Tooms and his pards knew nothing of this at the time. They were too far away.

Sullivan was Andy Sullivan. Truesdale was John C. Truesdale. Their deaths, as well as the wounding of John Neill and the good news about John N. Howell are a matter of public record at the National Archives.

Chaplain Betts was assigned to the 12th South Carolina.

Despite my best efforts, I can find nothing to indicate what happened to that captured cannon.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

"I have new drawers."

Wednesday, July 13, 1864, Chaffin's Bluff, Virginia

Aside from the occasional musket round thrown our way from the other side, there is very little action to take up our efforts. We do not mind this as this relative respite gives us the chance to improve our works and ourselves. There are not so many of manning the line here. When we are not on the line, we sew and mend and there is a great deal of that to do. Strengthening the works keeps us from getting in too much trouble.

The quality and quality of our rations does not permit us of enough energy to allow any trouble. For a brief while, there was coffee in abundance. Each of us could have two cups per day. This was real coffee, not the barn sweepings that get graced with the name of coffee. It was captured from the Yankees for all we know, not that it mattered. We did not question it's origins. It was grand if temporary. It is no longer issued to us. We might not see its like again.

If only the rest of our rations were as grand. We would not recognize wheat flour if we saw it. There is some corn meal issued to us and we make the most of it, or perhaps the least of it. The water here is bad and it is so much the worse since there is no coffee to mask the taste. There were some wild onions here but we wiped them out some time ago. We think that we can identify our meat ration as having been, when alive, of animal origins but we cannot tell what kind of animal.

One piece of brightness that has shone upon us is that Lieutenant Williamson has bestowed clothing riches upon us. I have new drawers. I cut up my old ones to patch my shirt with. Hancock got a new jacket.  White got a blanket, the only one issued. Some of us got something but some of us got nothing. More than anything I wanted shoes but there were only nineteen pair to be issued and others got them.

Hagins has returned from sick furlough. Terry has gone on sick furlough so the company is neither weaker nor stronger.

The First has been removed from the brigade. That regiment now is the garrison of Fort Harrison. The four regiments left will have to get along without the First.

The news tells us that the gallant horseman Stuart, recently killed, is replaced with that South Carolinian Wade Hampton. He has a bit of a reputation as skillful cavalryman. He has a big pair of boots to fill.

I think that if a horse neared our camp, we would kill it and roast it.

I Send You These Few Lines.

The clothing issue was taken from records at the National Archives. The records document the issuance of 5 jackets, 18 pair of trousers, 9 shirts, 2 pair of drawers, 19 pairs of shoes and a single blanket. Tooms and his pards will need to take good care of what has been given to them. There's no telling when or if there will be any more.

That there was a good deal of coffee issued at one point comes from the brigade historian. They thought they were doing very well at two cups a day. Some of my modern friends would think themselves suffering if they did not have much more.

The poor rations are also mentioned in the brigade history.

Fort Harrison, part of the Richmond defenses, needed a unit to be the garrison and it was the First South Carolina was picked. The brigade, much understrength already, was just further reduced by twenty percent.

John M. Hagins and William Terry's medical furloughs are a mater of record at the National Archives.

Lee's army is split at this time of the war. There are just too many Yankees in too many places for Lee to properly protect. Lee now provides his own troops to other commands to the weakening of his own. Tooms and his brigade, plus one other, are on loan to Richard Ewell who is defending Richmond. Is this loan temporary or permanent?