A new spring season of active campaigning has begun. If there was any doubt, it vanished yesterday. We did not sleep well Wednesday night. None of the officers were very forth coming concerning what would be happening on Thursday but no matter. We have, in our many experiences as seasoned veterans have taught us, learned how to read the signs.
The Ordnance fellows were issuing ammunition to us. Lieutenant Williamson was making his rounds making sure that our cartridge boxes were full. We have also learned that a full complement of forty rounds might not last through a full battle. We often carry one or more packages of rounds in our pockets. I have two.
I ate no breakfast that morning. I do not know when or if any more rations would be issued by the Commissary so I ate nothing. Now that things have died down, I have eaten the last of the rations issued on Tuesday. My haversack is empty and I am hungry. So is everyone else. I need to capture me a Yankee.
At first light, the brigade formed up and crossed Hatcher's Run. After awhile, we encountered Johnson's division primed and ready for battle. Our brigade fell in on Johnson's left. Our lines paralleled the tracks of the Southside some four or so miles in our rear. The skirmishing in front of our lines was very spirited and not much different from a full battle. Some rounds made it to us but they were probably overshoots not really aimed at us.
|Major General Bushrod Johnson.|
Then came today. I did not eat but that is now normal. We were put under arms early in the rain which ceased some two hours later. Down White Oak Road we advanced. General Johnson ordered us into line of battle. In the distance, we could barely see some Yankees. On our left were some Alabamians. Then we received our orders; advance and attack the Yankee left. We were cheered at the thought that this would be an attack, not a defense.
Our brigade advanced. On our right was the 13th, our left, the 1st. Our brigade front covered only a few hundred yards. We perhaps had just about one thousand in the line. We could see every regiment in the line and all the colors. There were that few of us.
Some woods were between us and the Yankees. We lost some of our formation in clearing the woods. When we emerged from cover, we hurled ourselves at the enemy. We were supposed to drive them across Johnson's divisional front so he could take the Yankees in the flank. As it was, we had caught them in the flank ourselves. They seemed unawares that any Confederates were hard by.
We were pouring volley after volley into them and driving them ahead of us. Then they threw in support and we had some hard going. And yet, we pushed forward through their hail of lead and found ourselves overlapping their flank. Their lines collapsed under our weight. Several pockets of Yankees formed themselves ahead of us but being unable to support each other, they all gave way.
They brought up artillery but we could see it founder in the mud once it left the road. They managed to get off some rounds to some effect. At about this time, we heard someone say, "Lee is watching us." We cheered as we looked for ourselves and found that our Lee along with General McGowan were observing the attack.
|General Robert E. Lee|
|Brigadier General Samuel McGowan|
To avoid being surrounded, it was necessary to shoot our way out of our predicament and back to the safety of some works taking our prisoners with us. I had not heard so much buzzing around my head since I felled a nest of paper wasps with a rock as a boy. There were two holes in my jacket but no holes in me. I had my Yankee and his haversack.
White is missing.
I Send You These Few Lines
Grant is probing for weaknesses in Lee's ever-thinning defensive line. Union cavalry commander Phil Sheridan has been sent by Grant to the far west of Lee's lines to threaten and perhaps cut the Southside Railroad and Lee's supply line. When Tooms and his pards saw Pickett early in the day, they were seeing Lee's response to this new threat. Pickett and some cavalry under Fitzhugh Lee were ordered to counter Sheridan and keep the railroad open.
|Major General George Pickett.|
|Brigadier General Fitzhugh Lee.|
|Major General Philip Sheridan.|
The Battle of White Oak Road, described but not named by Tooms, was another response by Lee to a nearer threat, one posed by the V Corps, commanded by Gouverneuor Warren which was looking for a weak spot to poke a hole into. The mixed lot of Confederate brigades from different divisions were sent to attack Warren's exposed flank. The end result was a substantial nose-bleeding for Warren but these were acceptable losses.
|Major General Gouverneur K. Warren, V Corps commander.|
The Union forces in the counter-attack that were immediately facing McGowan's brigade were commanded by Joshua Chamberlain, previously the regimental commander of the 20th Maine. He now commands a brigade with the 185th New York and the 198th Pennsylvania.
|Brigadier General Joshua Chamberlain.|
|Flag of the 198th Pennsylvania Infantry.|
Johnson's attack incurred losses that were not acceptable and his force lost control of the road.
Johnson commanded four brigades, one each of Virginians, Alabamians, South Carolinians and North Carolinians.
John White, one of the Dandy Eights mess, has been captured. He was released from Fort Delaware in June of 1865. The Eights now number six.
With the Union seizure of the White Oaks Road, Pickett is now cut off from the rest of the army. He moves his force to a position where he believes he can best protect the railroad, a place called Five Forks.