The Claremont Cavalry
Holcombe's Legion South Carolina Volunteers, Company A
Holcombe Legion Mounted Company A
7th Regiment, Company I South
Holcombe's Legion Commanders
On December 20, 1860 South Carolina seceded from the Union. Newly elected, Governor Pickens named Holcombe's Legion for his wife, Lucy Petway Holcombe. The Legion was formed as a home guard. On April 12, 1861, the South fired on Fort Sumter. During July of 1861, companies from all over South Carolina rendevouzed in Columbia after a call from President Jefferson Davis. Holcombe's Legion was one of those companies. On November 13, 1861 Holcombe's Legion went into service for thirteen months in state defense.The Legion served with a cavalry unit consisting of five companies along with a battalion and infantry unit with ten companies. It was under the jurisdiction of the Third Military District Department of South Carolina and Georgia under Brigader General Nathan G. "Shanks" Evans. The Regimental Colonel was P.F. Stevens with Major General J.C. Pemberton over the department. The Legion camped at Camp Walsh near Adam's run from November 18, 1861 until the end of the year.
By January of 1862 Holcombe's legion was at Camp Blair with 650 men. By February 15th they were between Togodo and Willstown opposite Jehossee Island and were down to 492 men. On March 29, 1862, they participated in battle at Edisto Island, South Carolina. On April 15, 1862, Holcombe's Legion entered Confederate service. The Legion participated in the Battle of Seven Pines near the Chickahominy River on the Richmond, Virginia peninsula on May 31, 1862. Between July and August the cavalry moved to Richmond with the 17th South Carolina Volunteers, Benbow's 23rd Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, Leake's Virginia Battery, and Boyce's South Carolina Battery. A portion of the troops were sent to Charlotte, North Carolina. By July, the infantry and cavalry units of Holcombe's Legion were separated. On October 1, 1862 Holcombe's Legion was picketted on the Peninsula with 158 men. By October 31st, they had 138 men. During November and December, 1862 the Legion was at Camp Walker near Forge Bridge about 20 miles southeast of Richmond on the Chickahoming River. By December 10th they had 127 men.
During January and February of 1863, Holcombe's Cavalry was camped above Cole's Ferry at Camp Peter near Diascund Brige, about 8 miles ESE of Forge Bridge on Diascund Creek which feeds into the Chickahominy River from the north. On March 14, 1863, the Legion was at Chaffin's Farm and on April 9 with 175 men, they were at Barhamsville, Virginia a few miles east of Diascund Bridge.
The South Carolina 7th Cavalry Regiment was organized by the increase in the Calvary Battaltion of the Holcombe Legion to a regiment on March 18, 1864, per S.O. #65, Adjutant and Inspector's General's Office. The unit surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9, 1865.
The assignments of Holcombe's Legion
As part of Holcombe's Legion, Company A , the "Claremont Guard," participated in the battle at Edisto Island, South Carolina on 29 March 1862.
3rd Military District of South Carolina, Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida (May-June 1862)
2nd Military District of South Carolina, Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida (June-July 1862)
Unattached, Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia (September - December 1862)
Wise's Brigade, Elzey's Command, Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia (December 1862 - April 1863)
Wise's Brigade, Department of Richmond (April - September 1863)
Hunton's Brigade, Department of Richmond (September 1863 - March 1864)
With the 7th Cavalry Regiment, they participated in the following battles:
The Battle of Seven Pines, Virginia (May 31, 1862)
Petersburg Siege, Virginia (June 1864 - April 1865)
New Market Heights, Virginia (29 September 1864)
Ropers' Farm, Virginia (30 September 1864)
Sayler's Creek, Virginia (6 April 1865)
Appomattox Court House, Virginia (9
Army of Northern Virginia
COL. W.P. SHINGLER - Resigned following prolonged disagreement with Jefferson Davis in May of 1864.
LT. COL. A.C. HASKELL - Wounded at Fredricksburg, Chancellorsville, Cold Harbor and Darbytown Road.
LT. COL E.M. BOYKIN - Husband of daughter of Wade Hampton and after her death married the daughter of Frank Hampton.
LT. COL. ISSAC MCKISSICK - Wounded at Williamsburg and Cold Harbor.
Field and Staff
The five Cos. comprising Holcomb’s Legion S.C. Cav, (Cos. A,B,C, D, E) were with five Cos of S.C. Cav. commanded by Captain J. H........, W;L. Wallace, S.M. Boykin, W.L. ???????, J.J. ..... formed into a Regt. called no. 7 S/C/ Cav.
Company A Cavalry
Unit became Company I 7th Regt. S.C. Cavalry
Walsh, Thomas V. -
C to Lt
Nov 21 -1 Dec 31, 1861 - at Camp Walsh (near Adam’s Run)
Jan and Feb 1862 - at Camp Blair
July 31 -1 Aug 31, 1863 - at Bottom’s Bridge, VA
Nov and Dec 1864 - Petersburg, VA
Jan and Feb 1865 - Petersburg, VA
Jan 1862- at Camp Walsh near Adams Run except Cos A, B, C, D Cavalry at Camp Stevens near Adams Run an d Capt Blair’s Co. attached Inf.
Feb 1862 - Camp Blair near Adams Run
June 1862 - Camp Hope near Adams Run
Dec. 1862 - Camp Walker near Forge Bridge
August 1864 - Stony Creek, Va except Cos A, B, I and K at Nottoway Bridge, VA Cos D and G at Rowanty Creek, VA
November 1864 - The
and cavalry of the Legion were practically separated in July 1862 and
that time nothing of the history of the latter has been known to the
There has been no official communication between them. Hence no notice
is taken of the officers of the cavalry arm in the report.
Company A Cav Battn. Holcombe’s Legion SCV - Muster Roll of Captain R.V. Walsh’s Company of the Holcomb’s Legion from the 18th day of November 1861 when last mustered to the 18th day of November 1862
I certify on honor that I have carefully examined the men whose names are borne on this rill, their horses and equipment and have accepted them into the service of the confederate states for the term of the existing war from this 18th day of November 1861, under the act of Congress August 21, 1861.
Company A - Nov 13
to Dec 31,
1861 - Camp Stevens near Adams Run
Jan and Feb 1862 - Co. A Cav. Holcombe Legion SCV
Jan and Feb 1862 - Camp Taylor
Mch and Apr 1862 -
near Adams Run, S.C.
November and Dec. 1862 - Camp Walker near Forge Bridge
Jan and Feb 1863 - Camp Peter near Deascund Bridge
Mar and Apr 1863 - Barhamsville, VA - This Company was under Genl. Wise’s command in the expedition to Wiliamsburg, April 11, 1863,
May and June 1863 - Bottoms Bridge, VA
July and Aug, 1863 - Bottoms Bridge, VA
Sept and Oct 1863 - Camp Elzay, VA
Nov and Dec. - Camp
Nov 21 - Dec 31, 1861 - Camp Walsh
Jan and Feb 1862 - Company went on an expedition on Edisto Island. Private Saterfield being on guard was wounded in the foot by the falling and consequent discharge of a ?????’s gun. After lingering some time in the Hospital, his leg was amputated but he died in a few hours after the operation. The expedition started on the 22 of Jan. 1862 from Camp Walsh near Adams Run and returned on 25 of same month, marched across 30 miles.
March and April 1862 - Camp Capers
Sept and Oct 1863 - Mt Pleasant
Nov and Dec 1863 Sullivan’s Island
Jan and Feb 1864 - Batland Island, Georgia
Mar to Aug 1864 - Nottoway R.R. Bridge - The Company has not been mustered until now since Feb 29, 1864 because of its impracticalibility. The last muster was at Savanna, Georgia since then the company has been transferred to Va after many marches and changes of station in N.C. For the last three months it has been stationed at Nottoway Bridge, Weldon R.R. During this time the nearness of the enemy has prevented a muster.
Sept and Oct 1864 - Petersburg, VA Company A was stationed at Nottoway RR Bridge on 15 Oct 1864 since then it marched to this place distance of about 25 miles. A portion of the company was engaged wit the enemy on the night of 27 Oct, 1864 in retaking some rifle pits that was taken by the enemy earlier in the fight and in which it was successful, loosing one man killed and more wounded
Nov and Dec Petersburg Va - The company was engaged with the enemy on the night of the 5 Nov, 1864 in which it lost one man killed, three wounded and one captured.
Jan and Feb 1865 -
The five company unit of the cavalry of Holcombe's Legion never had the distinction of participating in great and famous battles. The job that fell to them during the War Between the States was that of "holding the line" between Richmond and Williamsburg, Virginia. They participated in many marches and skirmishes and lost many of their fellow confederates to death on the battle field.
South Carolina 7th Cavalry Regiment, Company I
Formerly Holcombe's Legion, Company A "The Claremont Guard"
The men listed here were present at the Appomattox surrender.
reference for roster: The Appomattox Roster. R. A. Brock. The Southern Historical Society, published in 1887.
Peter Edward Ridgeway
Peter Ridgeway of Clarendon County enlisted as a member of the Claremont Cavalry, Company A, Holcombe's Legion in April of 1861. He was enrolled for Confederate service as a private in Company I of the 7th Regiment South Carolina Cavalry by March of 1864. He had enlisted in Sumter, South Carolina for the duration of the war.
Information from South Carolina
There is a CSA marker at the foot of his grave site.
Pension Application # 2723 and 2724: Peter Edward Ridgeway stated that he enlisted in Company I of the 7th regiment under Captain Walsh. On his application, he stated that he enlisted in April of 1861. He was discharged from the service at Appomatox, Virginia on the 9th of April 1865. He received a pension until his death and then his widow, Margaret applied for and received a pension.
*Peter Edward Ridgeway, great great grandfather of Cynthia Ridgeway Parker
**T.J.(Tyre J.) and W. J. (Walter J.)Dinkins, present at Appamatox, the twin sons of Langdon Hastings Dinkins and Francis T. James. William Asa Spann was a son of Emily Dinkins and James Richard Spann.
Spann and the
Dinkins from the reseach of Barbara
Jernigan Fowler .)
John Bagnel Brogdon
John Bagnel Brogdon became a
private in the
company that eventually served as
He served throughout the war and
Col. William J. Crawley
Captain W. J Crawley, Company D is the same person
He was a Citidel graduate of 1855.
Information submitted by
Thomas Vardell Walsh, captain of Company A. Holcombe's Legion, and of the same group of men when mustered into the 7th Cavalry Regiment, was promoted to Lt. Colonel, but resigned due to illness. He became quite prominent after the war. He served as the Judge of Probate for Sumter County. On 7 July 1909, he formed, along with S.M. Pierson, and J.N. Brown, a general livestock company, known as the S.M. Pierson Company. T.V. Walsh owned 24% of the company, along with J.N. Brown, while S.M. Pierson owned 52% of the shares.
THE FALLING FLAG.
EVACUATION OF RICHMOND,
RETREAT AND SURRENDER
By EDWARD M. BOYKIN,
LT. COL. 7th REG’T S. C. CAVALRY.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874, by
E. J. HALE & SON,
in the Office of the Librarian of
TO THE OFFICERS AND MEN OF THE
7th South Carolina Cavalry,
SHORT ACCOUNT OF AN INTERESTING
AND THAT OF
THE CAUSE THEY LOVED SO WELL, AND
BY ONE WHO CONSIDERS HAVING BEEN
The writer only attempts to give some account of what occurred within his own observation; he would have esteemed it a privilege to enter into all the detail that lights up the last desperate struggle, made by that glorious remnant of the Army of Northern Virginia, with its skeleton battalions from every Southern State; illustrating their own fame and that of their noble leader, mile by mile, on that weary march from Richmond to Appomattox.
But he has confined himself to his own experiences, and in a great measure to what happened to his own Brigade, because it was written out, immediately after the war, from that standpoint. And if there be any merit in it, it is simply as a journal—what one man saw, and the impression produced thereby. This, even within a limited range, if truly put, represents at least a phase of the last act in the bloody drama that had been enacting for four years. More than this he could not hope to do, but leaves to abler hands the greater task that swells the current of events into the full tide of history.
CAMDEN, SOUTH CAROLINA,
EVACUATION OF RICHMOND, 1865.
On Saturday, the 1st day of April, 1865, orders reached us at camp headquarters of the Seventh South Carolina Cavalry, Gary's Brigade, to send forward all the dismounted men of the regiment to report to Lt. Col. Barham, Twenty-fourth Regiment Virginia Cavalry, in command of dismounted men of the brigade, for duty on the lines. Began to think that a move was intended of some sort, but on the brink, as all knew and felt for some time, of great events, it was difficult to say what was expected. On Sunday, the 2d, about mid-day, orders came for the wagon train of the brigade, spare horses, baggage of all sorts, that was to go at all—the greater part was to be left—to move into Richmond at once, and fall into the general train of the army of the north bank of the James River. Richmond then was to be evacuated, so all felt, though no public statement of the fact had been made; heavy fighting had been going on during the day, in the neighborhood of Petersburg, but there had been one unceasing roar of battle around us for months, and no particular account was taken of that.
The brigade was ordered to move after nightfall from its position (our winter quarters) between the Williamsburg and the "Nine Mile" road, about four miles from Richmond, and immediately behind the outer line of works on the edge of the battle field of the "Seven Pines."
We moved after dark—the Seventh South Carolina, Col. Haskell; the Hampton Legion, South Carolina, Lieut. Col. Arnold; the Twenty-fourth Virginia, Col. Robbins, and a small party of the Seventh Georgia, part of a company only—Gen. Gary commanding the brigade.
The Seventh Georgia were, with the exception spoken of, dismounted, though belonging to our brigade. We halted on the Charles City road, found all the infantry gone; Gen. Longstreet, who commanded on the north bank, had been withdrawn with Gen. Field's Division across the river, to reinforce Gen. Lee around Petersburg, some two or three days before, leaving only the Division of Gen. Kershaw in our immediate neighborhood, and Gen. Custis Lee in command of the Marine Brigade and City Reserves, next the river, near Fort Gilmer, all under the command of Lt. Gen. Ewell; also Hankin's Battery, Virginia, attached to our brigade.
We were to wait until two o'clock, and as soon as our dismounted men, who were filling the place of infantry pickets withdrawn, should come in, we were to move on to the city, acting as "rear guard," and burn Mayo's Bridge. It was all out now; there had been a heavy fight in the morning, near Petersburg, Gen. Lee all but overwhelmed, Gen. A. P. Hill killed, and the army in full retreat on Burkville, to effect, if possible, a junction with Gen. Johnston, in North Carolina.
We built big fires of brush wood, to give light and warmth, and deceive the enemy. It was cold, though in April; the men, as usual, light-hearted and cheerful round the fires, though an empire was passing away around them; some, with an innate consciousness of the work before them, when they heard that the halt was to be for two or three hours, wrapped in their overcoats, with the capes drawn over their heads, were soon sound asleep, forgetting the defeat of armies, the work of yesterday, the toil and danger of to-morrow, in some quiet dream of a home perhaps never seen again.
Two o'clock came and passed; our men had not come in. The General waited until four o'clock. I think we were at this point six miles from Richmond. We should have been there at daylight, and we were to burn the bridge in time to prevent the enemy's crossing, as our whole train, with infantry and artillery, had crossed during the night. Our brigade of cavalry, and one company of artillery attached to it, were all that were on this side—the north bank of the river. We could wait no longer, and moved off slowly. In a short time after we started a tremendous explosion took place toward the river, lighting up everything like day, and waking every echo, and every Yankee for thirty miles around. It was evidently a gunboat on the river at "Drury's Bluff." Two others followed, but they did not equal the first. She was iron-clad—the "Virginia," as we afterwards heard—just completed. She burst like a bomb-shell, and told, in anything but a whisper, the desperate condition of things. There was no time to be lost; the Yankees had heard it as well as ourselves, and we moved on at once.
We overtook, just at daylight, and passed a small squad of our dismounted men from the Seventh, who had got in from the picket line. When we reached the intermediate line of works, where the "Charles City" and "New Kent" roads come together, not far from the "turnpike gate," which all who travelled that road—and who of the army of Northern Virginia did not?—will remember, the sun was just rising, and an ugly red glare showed itself in the direction of Richmond that dimmed the early sunshine.
At this point the General determined (though expecting the enemy's cavalry every moment) to occupy the works, and wait for the dismounted men. The guns of the battery that accompanied us were placed in position, and our men dismounted and occupied the lines on the right and left of the road. In about a half hour's time, and to our great satisfaction—for it seemed a hard case to leave the poor tired fellows to be gobbled up—a straggling line of tired men and poor walkers, as dismounted cavalry always must be in their big boots and spurs, showed themselves over the hill, dragged themselves along, and passed on before us into the city. We followed on, went down the steep hill by the house where General Johnston's headquarters were about the time of the retreat from Yorktown, and got into the river road, and so had the enemy behind us. It was here he might have cut us off from the city and secured the bridge.
We passed into the "Rockets," the southern suburb of Richmond, at an easy marching gait, and there learned that the bridge had taken fire from some of the buildings, which by this time we could see were on fire in the city. Fearing our retreat would be cut off at that point, which would throw us from our position as rear-guard, we pushed on rapidly, the column moving at a trot through the "Rockets."
The peculiar population of that suburb were gathered on the sidewalk; bold, dirty looking women, who had evidently not been improved by four years' military association, dirtier (if possible) looking children, and here and there skulking, scoundrelly looking men, who in the general ruin were sneaking from the holes they had been hiding in—not, though, in the numbers that might have been expected, for the great crowd, as we soon saw, were hard at it, pillaging the burning city. One strapping virago stood on the edge of the pavement with her arms akimbo, looking at us with intense scorn as we swept along; I could have touched her with the toe of my boot as I rode by her, closing the rear of the column; she caught my eye—"Yes," said she, with all of Tipperary in her brogue, "after fighting them for four years ye're running like dawgs!" The woman was either drunk or very much in earnest, for I give her credit for feeling all she said, and her son or husband had to do his own fighting, I will answer for it, wherever he was, or get no kiss or comfort from her. But I could not stop to explain that General Longstreet's particular orders were not to make a fight in the city, if it could be avoided, so I left her to the enjoyment of her own notions, unfavorable as they evidently were to us.
On we went across the creek, leaving a picket at that point to keep a lookout for the enemy, that we knew must now be near upon our heels. It was after seven o'clock, the sun having been up for some time. After getting into Main street and passing the two tobacco warehouses opposite one another, occupied as prisons in the early years of the war, we met the motley crowd thronging the pavement, loaded with every species of plunder.
Bare-headed women, their arms filled with every description of goods, plundered from warehouses and shops, their hair hanging about their ears, were rushing one way to deposit their plunder and return for more, while a current of the empty-handed surged in a contrary direction towards the scene.
The roaring and crackling of the burning houses, the trampling and snorting of our horses over the paved streets as we swept along, wild sounds of every description, while the rising sun came dimly through the cloud of smoke that hung like a pall around him, made up a scene that beggars description, and which I hope never to see again—the saddest of many of the sad sights of war—a city undergoing pillage at the hands of its own mob, while the standards of an empire were being taken from its capitol, and the tramp of a victorious enemy could be heard at its gates.
Richmond had collected within its walls the refuse of the war—thieves and deserters, male and female, the vilest of the vile were there, but strict military discipline had kept it down. Now, in one moment, it was all removed—all restraint was taken off—and you may imagine the consequences. There were said to be 5,000 deserters in the city, and you could see the grey jackets here and there sprinkled in the mob that was roaring down the street. When we reached somewhere between Twentieth and Twenty-fifth streets—I will not be certain—the flames swept across Main street so we could not pass. The column turned to the right, and so got into the street above it. On this (Franklin street) are many private residences; at the windows we could see the sad and tearful faces of the kind Virginia women, who had never failed the soldier in four long years of war and trouble, ready to the last to give him devoted attendance in his wounds and sickness, and to share with his necessities the last morsel.
These are strong but not exaggerated expressions. Thousands, yes, tens of thousands, from the Rio Grande to the Potomac, can bear witness to the truth of everything I say. And it was a sad thought to every man that was there that day, that we seemed, as a compensation for all that they had done for us, to be leaving them to the mercy of the enemy; but their own General Lee was gone before, and we were but as the last wave of the receding tide.
After getting round the burning square we turned back towards the river. The portion of Mayo's, or rather the lesser bridge that crossed the canal, had taken fire from the large flouring mill near it, and was burning, but not the main bridge; so we followed the cross street below the main approach to the bridge, at the foot of which was a bridge across the canal, forcing our horses through the crowd of pillagers gathered at this point, greater than at any other—they had broken into some government stores. A low white man—he seemed a foreigner—was about to strike a woman over a barrel of flour under my horse's nose, when a stout negro took her part and threatened to throw him into the canal. We were the rear regiment at this time. All this occurred at one of those momentary halts to which the rear of a marching column is subjected; in another moment we moved on, the crowd closed in, and we saw no more. After crossing the canal we were obliged to go over a stone conduit single file.
At last we were on the main bridge, along which were scattered faggots to facilitate the burning. Lieut. Cantey, Sergt. Lee and twenty men from the Seventh were left, under the supervision of Colonel Haskell, to burn the bridge, while the rest went slowly up the hill on which Manchester is built, and waited for them. Just as the canal bridge on which we had crossed took fire, about forty of Kautz' cavalry galloped easily up Main street, fired a long shot with their carbines on the party at the bridge, but went on up the street instead of coming down to the river. They were too late to secure the bridge, if that had been their object, which they seemed to be aware of, as they made no attempt to do so. Their coming was of service to the city. General Ord, as we afterwards understood, acted with promptness and kindness, put down the mob, and put out the fire, and protected the people of Richmond from the mob and his own soldiers, in their persons and property.
As we sat upon our horses on the high hill on which Manchester is built, we looked down upon the City of Richmond. By this time the fire appeared to be general. Some magazine or depot for the manufacture of ordnance stores was on fire about the centre of the city; it was marked by the peculiar blackness of smoke; from the middle of it would come the roar of bursting shells and boxes of fixed ammunition, with flashes that gave it the appearance of a thunder cloud of huge proportions with lightning playing through it. On our right was the navy yard, at which were several steamers and gunboats on fire, and burning in the river, from which the cannon were thundering as the fire reached them. The old war-scarred city seemed to prefer annihilation to conquest—a useless sacrifice, as it afterwards proved, however much it may have added to the grandeur of the closing scene; but such is war.
Moving slowly out of Manchester, we soon got among the host of stragglers, who, from a natural fear of the occupation of the towns both of Petersburg and Richmond, were going with the rear of our army. Civilians, in some cases ladies of gentle nurture, without means of conveyance, were sitting on their trunks by the roadside—refugees from Petersburg to Richmond a few days before, now refugees from Richmond into the highway; indeed the most were from Petersburg, driven out literally by the artillery fire. The residents of Richmond, as a general thing, remained.
Two ladies here got into our regimental ambulance, rode for a few miles, and then took refuge in some farm house, I suppose, as they disappeared before the day was over.
By the roadside, or rather the sidewalk, were sitting on their bags some hardy, weather-beaten looking men. They were what was left of the crew of the "famous Alabama," and had just landed from the gunboats that had been blown up on the river, which had first started us on our march. Admiral Semmes was with them; I remember some of our young men jesting with the bronzed veterans, but we did not then know the renowned Captain of the great Confederate war ship was there in person, or he certainly should not have had to complain of being left standing in the road and dusted by the "young rascals of the cavalry rear-guard," as he does in his book. Some one of the "young cavalry rascals" would have been dismounted, and his horse given to the man who had carried our flag so far and fought it so well.
Acting as rear-guard, we moved very slowly, giving time for all stragglers, wagons and worn out artillery horses to close up. Already we began to come upon a piece of artillery mired down, the horses dead beat, the gun left, and the horses double-teamed into the remaining pieces. So we went into camp that night, after marching all day, only eleven miles from Richmond, on the "Burkville road." Burkville is the point at which the railroad branches west to Lynchburg and south to Danville, and was our objective point.
The brigade went into camp, or bivouac rather, by squadrons, in a piece of woods, the men picketing their horses immediately behind their camp fires. The fires burned brightly, the horses ate the corn the men had brought in their bags and what forage they could get hold of during the day. Our surgeon, Dr. McLaurin, had gotten up his ambulance, and helped out our bread and bacon with a cup of coffee and some not very salt James River herring, that he had among his stores—and so ended the first day's march.
We did not move until nearly nine o'clock next morning, as at our slowest marching gait we out-travelled the march we were covering. The day was spent in following after the movements of the army. Occasional pieces of artillery left upon the roadside showed that the horses were giving out. After dark we crossed the Appomattox, some twenty or twenty-five miles from Richmond, at the railroad bridge, which was planked over so our horses could cross. After crossing the river we went into camp about a mile beyond, surrounded by most of the infantry of the north bank, General Longstreet's immediate command, the men leading their horses over. One of the young men attached to our mess, a good looking young fellow, had his pockets filled with ham and biscuits near the crossing by some good Samaritan he had met, and so our herring, grilled by one of the couriers on the half of a canteen, was helped out by this addition.
We were suddenly roused in the night by a fire in the dry grass on which we were sleeping. It caught from our camp fire and was among our blankets before we knew it. There was a general jumping up and stamping it out. One of the men created quite a sensation by shaking his India rubber, which was on fire; it flew to pieces in a shower of flame. The effect of the night attack is still shown in the blistered and scorched condition of my field-glasses. We were at this point but a few miles from Amelia Court House, between which and our camp of that night the road from Petersburg joins the road from Richmond, and the two columns respectively met—the two streams flowed into one—forming what was left of Lee's great army of Northern Virginia—the men exchanging in the fresh morning air kindly greetings with one another, from Texas to Maryland, from the Potomac to the Rio Grande. They marched along, leaving their fate in the hands of the great leader they knew so well and had trusted so long.
About a mile or two from Amelia Court House our brigade was ordered to graze their horses in a clover field, still keeping the regiments together as near as could be in squadrons, for we could make no calculations, as will be seen, upon the movements of the enemy's cavalry. Colonel Haskell, Colonel Robbins, of the Twenty-fourth Virginia, and myself were seated upon the steps of an old house, breakfasting with Colonel Robbins, who had been fortunate enough to meet a friend who had filled his haversack, and shared his good luck with us, watching the men and horses who were eating what they could get, when here it came at last: "Mount the brigade and move up at once!" The enemy had gotten in force between us and Burkville, and his cavalry had struck our wagon and ordnance train some three or four miles from where we were. So there was mounting in hot haste, and off we went at a gallop.
We soon reached the point they had first attacked and set fire to the wagons—the canvas covers taking fire very easily. Their plan of operation seemed to be to strike the train, which was several miles long at a given point, fire as many wagons as their number admitted of doing at once, then making a circuit and striking it again, leaving an intermediate point untouched.
We did not suppose the troops actually engaged in the firing exceeded three or four hundred well mounted men, but had a large body of cavalry moving parallel with them in easy supporting distance. This was a very effectual mode of throwing the march of the wagon train into confusion, independent of the absolute destruction they caused.
The burning caissons, as we rode by, were anything but pleasant neighbors, and were exploding right and left, but I do not recollect of any of our men being hit by them.
We could hear the enemy ahead of us, as we pressed our tired horses through the burning wagons and the scattered plunder which filled the road, giving our own wagon-rats and skulkers a fine harvest of plunder. Many of the wagons were untouched, but standing in the road without horses, the teamsters at the first alarm taking them out and making for the woods, coming back and taking their wagons again after the stampede was over, sometimes to find them plundered by our own cowardly skulkers, that I suppose belong to all armies. I have no doubt Cæsar had them in his tenth legion, and Xenophon in his famous ten thousand.
So far the enemy, in carrying out his plan of attack, had kept in motion; but after passing a large creek that crosses the road and runs on by "Amelia Springs," they halted at an old field on the side of the road and made a front. As the head of our column crossed the creek a lady was standing in the mud by the road side with a soldier in a "grey jacket." She had been with the ordnance train—the ambulance in which she had been riding was taken, the horses carried off, and as we closed up she was left as we found her. She was from Mississippi, and had left Richmond with her friends in the "Artillery," and was much more mad than scared, and she stood there in the mud (she was young and pretty) and gesticulated as she told her story, making up a picture striking and peculiar. There was no time to listen, but promising to do our best to punish the aggressors, who had taken her up and dropped her so unceremoniously in the mud, which was the amount of the damage, and advising her to take shelter in a large white house on the hill, we moved on to meet the partly ahead, who, near enough their reserve now for support, had halted to give us a taste of their quality.
At first they called out to come on and get their "greenbacks," seeing the small party in advance with the General, but as the regiments rode into the field, which was large enough to make a display of the entire line, they stood but to exchange a scattering fire, and then moved in retreat along a road running parallel to the main road and leading to "Amelia Springs." The Seventh, from position, was the leading regiment, and moved at a gallop in pursuit. The road swept round a point of wood on the left and an old field on the right grown up with pine. In advance rode five well mounted men of the regiment, as a lookout, led by the adjutant—General Gary immediately behind them—and the head of our column, the Seventh cavalry, next. As the advance guard rounded the bend in the road it was swept by the fire of the enemy, who had halted for that purpose, wheeling instantly in retreat as soon as they delivered their fire. Four men out of the five, all except the adjutant, were hit, one of them in the spine, "Mills," an approved scout, and one of the best and bravest men in the army. Throwing his arms over his head with a yell of agony, wrung from him by intense pain, he pitched backwards off his horse, which was going at full speed. The horse, a thoroughbred mare, kept on with us in the rush. (I will here say that I never saw the young man again—he was just in front of me when he fell—until three or four years after, in a pulpit, as a Presbyterian preacher. He had gotten over his wound without its doing him permanent injury). On we went, picking up some of the rear of the party who had not moved quick enough. The main body had gotten where there were thick woods on both sides of the road, where they halted to make a stand. But we were upon them before they made their wheel to face to the rear, or rather while they were in the act of making it, and so had them at advantage; we were among them with the sabre. The work was short and sharp, and we drove them along the road clear of the wood into the open field, where there was a strong dismounted reserve. Here we caught a fire that dropped two of our leading horses—Captain Caldwell’s and Lieutenant Hinson’s. Caldwell’s horse was killed dead. Hinson’s fell with a broken leg, catching his rider under him and holding him until relieved. A heavy fire swept the woods and road, so we dismounted the brigade as fast as the men came up, extending the dismounted line along the front of the enemy’s fire, and moving to the left as he fell back to a stranger position. As we moved in advance they gave up the position by the house they had first taken, fell back across the field and ravine to the top of the opposite hill, where they halted in force and threw up temporary breastworks, made from a rail fence, and from that position repeated the invitation to "Come and get greenbacks." We moved up, occupied the ravine immediately in their front, which was deep enough to shelter the mounted officers, the line officers and the men being dismounted. Here General Gary determined to hold his position, until General Fitz Lee, who commanded our cavalry, came up, not deeming it advisable to attack the enemy in his present position and numbers. In half an hour’s time General Fitz Lee came up with his division, dismounted his men, formed line, flanked the position, charged it in front, two or three heavy volleys, a shout and a rush. The enemy finding his position untenable moved off to the main body, not more than two or three miles from them—moving rapidly, as we found several of their wounded on the roadside, left in the hurry of their retreat. We moved on slowly after them—the sun being nearly down—to "Amelia Springs," some two miles off, crossed the creek, and, though we had commenced the fight in the morning, were politely requested (everybody knows what a military request is) by General Lee to move down the road until we could see the Yankee pickets, put the brigade into camp, post pickets, and make the best of it—all of which we did.
We did not have far to go to find the pickets—about a mile; posted our own two or three hundred yards from the brigade; sent to the mill on the creek at "Amelia Springs" and drew rations of flour and bacon.
I had here one of those unexpected surprises that sometimes gleam upon us under the most unpropitious circumstances. As we rode up to the big white house on the hill General Fitz Lee stood giving orders for the disposition of the troops. Our men were in numbers filling their canteens with water at the well in the yard, when a lieutenant from the Hampton Legion came from the well with his canteen in his hand. "B.," I said, "I am very thirsty; will you give me a drink from your canteen?" "Certainly, sir," said he, and handed it to me. I took a large swallow and discovered it was excellent old apple brandy. I had eaten nothing since a very light breakfast; had been working hard in the saddle all day; had the breath knocked out of my body by a spent ball on the chest at the close of the charge in the woods; the excitement of the fight was over, and I was lying over the pommel, rather than sitting on my saddle, but as that electric fluid went down my throat I straightened up like a soldier at the word of command; I felt a new life pouring through my veins, and the worry and care of the situation was all gone, and I was ready for what was to come next—such is the power of contrast. B., who was watching me, raised a warning finger not to betray his secret, for what was a canteen of apple brandy to that crowd, that would not be denied? So I concealed my satisfaction and his secret, but have never forgotten my obligation to Lieutenant B. of the Hampton Legion.
All around us through the stillness floated the music of the Yankee bands, mocking with their beautiful music our desperate condition; yet our men around their fires were enjoying it as much, and, seemingly, with as light hearts as the owners of it. Occasionally, as a bulge call would ring out, which always sounds to a trooper as a challenge to arms, a different expression would show itself, and a harder look take the place of the softer one induced by "Home, Sweet Home," or "Annie Lawrie."
So we made our bivouac in sight of the enemy’s pickets, eating our homely rations with the keen relish and appetite health and hard work give. While our neighbors, whose interest in us could not be questioned, gave us the benefit of many a soft air, that told of other and very different senses, we, in the language of romance, addressed ourselves to slumber, expecting an attack at or before daylight. This was our first night in sight of their outposts, and we had yet to learn their plan of attack. The game was in the toils and they meant to play a sure hand, with no more waste of material than was absolutely necessary. There was no night attack that I recollect in the course of the retreat. General Grant’s large force seemed to be kept perfectly in hand, massed with great care to strike with effect at any given point on our line of march, gain the result of an overwhelming attack in force, and draw off in time to prevent disorder among their own troops—a wise arrangement under the circumstances.
Another pleasing incident occurred at this camp, as everything is relative and is great of little, according to circumstances. One of the non-commissioned officers of my old company came to me and asked if I would like to have my canteen filled with some very fine old apple brandy. One of General Lee’s couriers had found a barrel of it covered up with leaves in an adjoining piece of woods, and let a few of his friends into the secret. Would I? Of course I would, and if we ever came out ahead I would recommend him for promotion. The canteen came full, and proved to be of the same tap as the "long swallow" was of which I had partaken so unexpectedly. That canteen of apple brandy, like Boniface’s ale, was meat and drink for the rest of the time I was a soldier of the Southern Confederacy.
We got of about eight o’clock in the morning, not having been disturbed, as we expected, moved back across the creek that runs through the meadows at the foot of the hill below the hotel at "Amelia Springs," halted and formed line, facing to the rear along the creek, from the ford at the road down the creek to the mill, destroyed the brigade, and held the position as rear-guard, until General Lee, whose camp was above us on the hill, around the hotel, formed his column and moved, we following slowly in the rear.
We marched that day, until the afternoon, among the infantry, artillery and wagons, going towards Farmville, on the Appomattox river and the Lynchburg railroad. There was a bridge across the river, at which, as was afterwards shown, it was General Lee’s purpose to cross his infantry wagons and artillery.
We had been having a very tiresome march on our worn-out horses, through the fields on the side of the road, giving up the road proper to the wagon trains and troops, sometimes dismounting and leading our horses, to relieve them as much as possible.
About two or three o’clock we saw the infantry in front of us breaking from the line of march by brigades into a large field on the left of the road, and rapidly forming into compact masses in proper position and relation with one another, to be used as might be required. We halted and did the same, being the only cavalry at that point. We soon heard heavy firing on another road over to the right, two or three miles from us, artillery and small arms, and nearer to us—not a mile—was a lesser fight going on, to which we moved at once. The last, which was over before we got to it, was between General Lee’s division of cavalry and a body of the enemy’s infantry. They were, as we were told, a fresh set of troops who had just come on, and were literally gobbled up be Lee. We met the prisoners—some eight or nine hundred—going to the rear. Their coats were so new and blue, and buttons so bright, and shirts so clean, that it was a wonder to look upon them by our rusty lot.
They were pushing on to coöperate with the larger movement that was going on to the right, and fell in with General Lee’s cavalry, and after a very respectable fight had their military experience brought to an abrupt conclusion. Lee’s men had possessed themselves of a complete set of new brass instruments that formed their band.
The fight on the right was the heaviest and most damaging to us that
on the retreat, and is known as the Battle of "Sailor’s Creek," or
Bridge," where the divisions of General Kershaw and General Custis Lee,
under the command of Lieutenant and General Ewell, were knocked to
General Richard Anderson's command, composed of Pickett's Division and
Bushrod Johnson's", with Huger's artillery. Pickett's and Huger's
were, I think, destroyed, but Johnson managed to get through. General
Ewell and Lee were, I know, taken prisoners. All this we knew nothing
at the time, only that there was heavy fighting, and that being a
of course, excited no surprise.
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