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A History of The Middle
New River Settlements
and Contiguous Territory.

By David E. Johnston (1906).


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Chapter VII.  1861 - 1865  (Part 10)


Colonel Robert C. Trigg's 54th Regiment of Virginia Infantry and Colonel James M. French's 63rd Virginia Regiment of Infantry, served in the Chickamauga and other subsequent campaigns in the Southwest under Generals Bragg and Hood.  In these two regiments were a large number of New River men, and they made records as good and brave soldiers, acquitting themselves with great credit in all the battles in which they were engaged.

In the early days of November, 1863, General Averill starting out from Beverly with about three thousand men, passed over into Pocahontas County and attacked Colonel William L. Jackson's 19th Virginia Regiment of Cavalry near Mill Point, and compelled it to retire to Droop Mountain, where it was reinforced by General Echols with the 22nd Virginia Regiment of Infantry, the 23rd Virginia Battalion of Infantry, a part of the 14th Virginia Regiment of Cavalry, Lurty's and Chapman's batteries, aggregating about 1900 men.  The command of General Averill consisted of the 3rd Independent Company of Ohio Cavalry, 28th Ohio Infantry, 2nd, 3rd, and 8th West Virginia Mounted Infantry, and the 10th West Virginia Regiment of Infantry.  After a contest of about six hours duration, the Confederate left having been turned, General Echols withdrew from the contest and retired through Lewisburg and Union, crossing Salt Pond Mountain.  The Confederate loss in this engagement was 275; among the slain being the gallant Major R. A. Bailey of the 22nd Regiment, and among the wounded was the brave and daring Captain John K. Thompson of the same regiment.  The Federal loss was 119.  While General Echols was engaged in the battle of Droop Mountain, a force of about 1,000 men under the Federal Brigadier General A. N. Duffie, was advancing upon the Kanawha road to Lewisburg, and which threatened to cut off or intercept Echol's retreat.  The force from the Kanawha left Charleston on the 3rd of November, and entered Lewisburg on the morning of the 7th, a few hours after the command of General Echols had passed that point.

General Duffie on his way from the Kanawha, was joined at Tyree's by Colonel White with two regiments of infantry, and on reaching Lewisburg joined General Averill's forces, bringing their aggregate up to about 5,000 men.  The Federals followed the retreating troops of Echols to Second Creek in Monroe County, and then retraced their steps by way of Meadow Bluff, and in the direction of Beverly.

General Averill, seemingly not satisfied with his previous attempts to reach the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, set out again for that purpose from New Creek on the 8th day of December with about the same command and same number of men that he had with him in the battle of Droop Mountain.  This time he struck for Salem, Virginia, by the most obscure and mountainous routes he could find.  He reached Salem on the 16th, destroyed some portions of the railroad track and small bridges, burned a considerable quantity of Confederate commissary stores, and retired beyond the mountains with a loss of 119 men.  At the time of Averill's advance to Salem, General Scammon from the Kanawha, had advanced to and occupied Lewisburg, but soon retired.

Wharton's command had marched from about Covington late in 1863 to the Narrows, and from thence by way of Dublin to East Tennessee, where it joined General Longstreet's command; retiring with it to the neighborhood of Bristol, took up winter quarters at Saltville, where it remained until about the 1st of May, 1864, when it moved to the Valley of Virginia.

General McCausland's command, 36th and 60th Virginia Regiments, and other troops, including Bryan's Battery wintered at the Narrows, while the brigade of Echols spent the winter in Monroe County.  The cavalry brigade of Jenkins during the winter was for the most part on outpost duty in connection with the two Thurmond companies.    A part, however of Jenkins' men were in East Tennessee, where on the 13th day of November, 1863, Corn's 8th Virginia Cavalry had a spirited engagement with the enemy, in connection with Colonel Giltner's Kentucky Cavalry, in which the enemy was defeated with loss; the 8th Virginia Regiment losing one killed and three wounded, and capturing the enemy's wagon train and over 300 prisoners.  In December, 1863, Colonel Slemp's 64th Virginia Regiment, was driven with loss out of Jonesville, Virginia, by the 16th Illinois Cavalry.  With the closing of these as the principal events the campaign in Western Virginia and in East Tennessee ended for the year of 1863.

General Lee's army of Northern Virginia, on its return from Gettysburg, had encamped, as heretofore stated, at Bunker's Hill, and in that vicinity.  On the 9th of July Pickett's division turned over the Federal prisoners, which were captured at Gettysburg, to the command of General Imboden, and reached camp at Bunker's Hill on the 15th, where it remained until the 19th, and then removed to Smithfield, in Jefferson County.  On the 20th it marched to Millwood, and thence to Berry's Ferry on picket duty, and from here on the 21st marched through Front Royal to Chester Gap.  On the 22nd it marched all night, reaching Gaines' Cross-roads at daylight on the 23rd, and that night bivouacked at Hazel River.  On the 24th it passed through Culpeper Court House and went into camp near the Rapidan.  On August 4th Longstreet's and Hill's corps crossed to the South side of the Rapidan, and went into camp in the County of Orange.

The Federal General Meade, in command of the Federal Army of the Potomac, having advanced his troops into Culpeper County, and thrown his vanguard out to the Rapidan; General Lee made up his mind to strike him by a flank movement, on his right, by way of Madison Court House, and set out with the army of Northern Virginia about the second week of  in October.  The Federal General immediately withdrew north of the Rappahannock, and finally behind Bull Run, whither Lee followed, and then retired to his winter quarters in Orange.  The principal fighting on this expedition was by the cavalry.  Longstreet's corps, except Pickett's division, had, on the 9th of September, been detached from the army of Northern Virginia and sent to General Bragg, in Tennessee, and therefore was not with General Lee in his advance against General Meade in October.  On the return of General Lee's army to its quarters in Orange, Pickett's division was sent to Taylorsville, Virginia, to rest and recuperate.  It spent the early part of the winter at this place.

Captain David A. French, with a section of his battery, and other troops under the command of Colonel A. W. Starke, on August 5th, 1863, marched to Blake's farm, near Deep Bottom on James River, where quite a severe engagement took place with Federal gunboats, which were driven off; after which the command marched to Pickett's farm at Turkey Island, where the attack was renewed on the Federal boats.  In these engagements, the loss in French's company was three wounded, viz:  Boston Bailey, Henley Clyburn, and Eustace Gibson, the latter reported to have been mortally wounded, but he recovered and lived for many years, and became a prominent man in West Virginia politics, having served two terms in Congress from the Huntington district.

General Pickett having been assigned to the command of the department of North Carolina, Kemper's brigade, now commanded by Colonel Joseph Mayo, Jr.,  (Kemper having been disabled at Gettysburg),  on the 8th day of January, 1864, broke camp at Taylorsville, and took up its line of march through Richmond and on to Petersburg, where it was put  aboard a railroad train and transported to Goldsboro, North Carolina, where it remained but a few days.  On Saturday, the 29th, the brigade marched to Kingston on the Neuse, and thence through bogs, swamps, and mud, crossing the Trent to the vicinity of Newberne, where some Federal prisoners were taken and a gunboat blown up by Lieutenant Wood, of the Confederate Navy.  Among the captured prisoners were some 35 of the 2nd Loyal North Carolina Regiment, and who had been Confederate soldiers, but had deserted and joined the enemy.  They were recognized, sent to Kinston, tried by Court Martial, condemned and hung.  About the middle of February, 1864, the brigade moved to Goldsboro, where it remained until the 5th of March, when it was transported by rail to Wilmington, and from that place by streamer to Smithfield, at the mouth of the Cape Fear.   The 24th Virginia Regiment was  sent to garrison Fort Caswell, the remaining regiments were in bivouac  near the town of Smithfield.  Leaving the latter named place on Friday, March 25th, by steamer, the brigade reached Wilmington on the morning of the 26th, to find the ground covered with snow, which increased in depth as the train carrying the men receded from the coast.   The brigade debarked from the cars at Goldsboro, where it went into bivouac, and remained until Friday, April 1st, when it again set off, marching through snow and mud to Tarboro, which was reached on the 3rd; the distance marched being fifty miles in less than three days.  On the 10th orders were issued to be ready to move, and on the morning of the 15th the command began its march down the Tar through Greenville, and across to the Roanoke, to the vicinity of Plymouth, which was reached on the evening of the 17th.   The Confederate troops engaged in this enterprise were Ransom's and Hoke's North Carolina brigades and Kemper's Virginia brigade, all commanded by Brigadier General Robert F. Hoke.  The Federal troops holding the town of Plymouth, consisted of the 16th Connecticut Regiment, 2nd Massachusetts heavy artillery, 2nd North Carolina, Companies B and E, 12th New York Cavalry, Companies A and F, 85th New York, 24th New York Battery, 101st Pennsylvania, and 103rd Pennsylvania; aggregating 2,834 men, all under the command of Brigadier General Wesells.  The fight opened on the evening of the 17th, and continued until 10 o'clock A. M. on the 20th, when General Wesells surrendered himself and troops to the Confederates as prisoners of war.  The Confederate Ram Albemarle came down the Roanoke on the 19th and joined in the attack, greatly aiding in the success of the battle.  The Confederates lost about 300 men, Colonel Mercer, of the 21st Georgia of Hoke's brigade, being among the slain.  Company D of the 7th Virginia lost A. L. Fry, and John W. East, wounded.

After only a few hours rest, General Hoke, on the evening of the same day on which Plymouth had fallen, turned the head of his column toward Washington on the Pamlico Sound, which point he reached that night, and immediately prepared to take it by assault; when on the next morning it was found that the enemy had evacuated the place and retired upon Newberne, whither General Hoke immediately marched, and made ready to assault that place; from which, however, he was recalled on the 6th day of May with hurry orders to go to the defense of Petersburg, now threatened, and about to be assailed by the Federal General Butler, who had landed at City Point on the James with a large army and was advancing upon the city.  General Hoke, at the head of his command, left the front of Newberne on the 6th day of May, 1864, and by a rapid march passed through Petersburg before noon of Thursday, the 12th, a distance of nearly 175 miles by the route traveled.  Mr. D. H. Hill, Jr., in his Confederate Military History of North Carolina, on page 248, speaking of this march of General Hoke from Newberne to Petersburg, says: "This march of General Hoke's troops stands at West Point as the most rapid movement of troops on record."  These troops of Hoke moved across the Appomattox and out to Swift Creek, and formed in line of battle, and lay  upon their arms the night of the 12th.  On moving forward on the morning of the 13th, it was found that the enemy had drawn his lines back towards Bermuda Hundreds, and the Confederates were allowed to pursue their way along the turnpike in the direction of Richmond; halting, however, within the defenses of Drury's Bluff.

The armies of Lee and Grant were in a death grapple at Spottsylvania, and no help could come from Lee's army, proper, to meet General Butler's menace against Richmond and Petersburg.

General Beauregard had hastened up from the South, with all troops from his military district that could be spared, so that by the 15th he had assembled an army in and around Petersburg and the defenses of Drury's Bluff, aggregating a little more than 13,000 men.   Immediately organizing his troops into divisions, he prepared to attack the enemy, who had now drawn his lines closely up to and around the Drury's Bluff defenses.  Beauregard's left division, under Major General Robert Ransom, and which was to lead the attack, was composed of Gracie's Alabama brigade, Hoke's North Carolina brigade, commanded by Colonel Lewis, Barton's Virginia brigade by Colonel Fry, and Kemper's Virginia brigade commanded by Colonel Terry.  At two o'clock A. M. on Monday, the 16th, the various commands moved to the respective places assigned them.    Among the batteries of artillery assigned to and which fought with General Ransom's division, was that of Captain David A. French, commanded in the early morning of that day by Lieutenant Daniel W. Mason.  Its losses were as follows, viz:   Wounded, Hugh Hurley, William Kelly, Charles E. Pack, D. C. Robinson, and William Woodyard.  It may be here noted that this battery under the command of  Captain French, with Armistead's, and some infantry supports, all under the command of Colonel Starke, on the 6th day of May, 1864, had quite a spirited engagement with the enemy's gunboats on the James, driving them off without loss to the Confederates.

Before daylight on the morning of the 16th of May, 1864, Ransom's division of four brigades, 19 regiments, opened the battle on the Confederate left, which was immediately taken up along the whole line, and raged with varying fortune for several hours, but resulted in the defeat of the enemy,  but resulted in the defeat of the enemy, and his withdrawal and retirement within his fortified lines at Bermuda Hundreds, with a loss of about 4,500, that of the Confederates being 2,827.  The loss in Kemper's brigade of four regiments, the 3rd Virginia being on detached duty in North Carolina, and did not reunite with the brigade until the 28th of June, was 57 killed, 264 wounded; the loss in the 1st Virginia was 12 killed, 25 wounded;  in the 7th Regiment 2 killed, 37 wounded;  in the 11th Regiment, 15 killed, 94 wounded;  in the 24th Regiment, 28 killed, 108 wounded;  among the latter the gallant Lieutenant Colonel Richard L. Maury, seriously, and Major Joseph Hambrick, mortally, the former falling within a few steps of the enemy's line of works.  Company D of the 7th lost John W. East and John S., Dudley, wounded; and the Mercer company of the 24th Regiment lost James Calloway, F. M. Mullins, Joseph Stovall, and George Smiley killed, and Harvey G. White, and others whose names the author has been unable to secure, wounded.

Kemper's brigade captured four flags, and 458 prisoners, including Brigadier General Heckman, of New Jersey, who was captured by Sergeant Blakey of Company F, 7th Regiment, General Heckman surrendering his sword and pistols to Colonel C. C. Flowerree, of the 7th Regiment.  An account of the charge of Kemper's brigade in this battle, the capture of the Federal General Heckman by Sergeant Blakey, and the flag of the 23rd Massachusetts Regiment by the 7th Virginia Regiment has been written and published by Mr. Tristram Griffith, of a Massachusetts regiment, and who was a participant in this battle.  He writes as follows:  "During the night of the 15th General Beauregard moved Ransom's division from its position in reserve on the Turnpike, in rear of his center, to his left, crossed Kingsland Creek by the Old Stage Road and by daylight of the morning of the 16th had them in a double line of battle in an open field with their left well overlapping the right of the Union line.  At early dawn in a dense fog that made it impossible to distinguish friend from foe, Ransom's division moved forward and by a right half wheel attempted to crush Butler's right, get possession of the road to his base of supplies, and destroy his army.  The 23rd Alabama battalion and the 41st Alabama Regiment deployed as a heavy line of skirmishers well to the left of the line of advance, and the 60th Alabama on the left of the first line swung around the right of the Union line, took, the seven companies of the 9th New Jersey posted on the right of the Old Stage Road in front and flank, killing and wounding ten officers and 120 men, and drove them from their position to the rear.  The 23rd Alabama Battalion and the 41st Alabama Regiment by this time massed into a strong line of battle, swung to the left, passed down the road nearly to the Gregory house, Heckman's headquarters, and halted.    The 60th Alabama passed over a few logs thrown up during the night by the 9th New Jersey, and when the right touched the Old Stage Road they, too, halted.  The 43rd and 59th Alabama on the right of the 60th struck the Federal line of battle in front of the 23rd and 27th Massachusetts.  Before reaching the edge of the woods they became demoralized, and General Gracie, who commanded them, sent word to the line in rear for assistance.  Kemper's brigade advanced to help of General Gracie.  The 24th and the 11th Virginia of Kemper's brigade passed over the 43rd and 59th Alabama, and went into the edge of the woods within a hundred feet of the Federal line, where they lost their organization, and lay down to escape the heavy fire.  The 7th and the 1st of Kemper's brigade, on the left of the 24th and 11th Virginia, passed over about the same ground as did the 23rd Alabama Battalion and 60th Alabama.  The right flank of the 1st Virginia struck the two companies of the 9th New Jersey, who, unconscious that the seven companies of their regiment on the right of the road had been driven to the rear, and that their right flank was exposed, were bravely holding their position.  Without obeying the order to surrender, and without sending word to the 23rd Massachusetts, across the little brook on their left they ran pell-mell down the road into the rear of the 41st Alabama, where in astonishment they surrendered.  The 1st Virginia passing over the light log work built by the Jersey men, took a right half wheel through the woods and brush, crossed the little brook, when their right flank came unexpectedly among the men of Company G on the right flank of the 23rd Massachusetts.  Captain Raymond, who had just taken command of the 23rd, Colonel Chambers having been sent to the rear, mortally wounded, was near the right of the line.  The first intimation he had that our right had been turned, was when he saw the Confederates among the men of his company, and heard them calling out, "surrender!"  He instantly gave the order, "Change front to rear on left company,"  but, in the thick wood and fog and the confusion of battle the order was not understood.  The men broke back as they saw those on their right go, leaving all but two of their right flank company in the hands of the enemy.  The color guard and colors kept  together and about 150 feet in the rear of the line came in contact with the left of the 1st Virginia, who gave them a volley, killing and wounding several of the men.  Corporal Charles D. Fernald, carrying the State colors, moved back toward the old line of battle, and joined a group of the men of the regiment centered around Lieutenant Wheeler, of Heckman's staff.    Lieutenant Wheeler being just then mortally wounded and some one calling out "Rally on the 27th,"  Fernald and some others moved in that direction and joined the right of that regiment.  Colonel Lee, of the 27th, had been informed that there was trouble on the right by several of the men and officers of the 23rd who ran by him.  Doubting the report, he passed to the right of his regiment to investigate, and about twenty feet beyond he found himself surrounded by the advancing enemy, to whom he was obliged to surrender.



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