The Georgia in the Civil War Message Board

Re: Question about Howell's Brigade

I'm still new at this type of research but I am also interested in my GGGrandfather James W Brooks who was in the 16th Georgia Infantry Co. D. You may already have this but if not I will post of couple of battle reports from the Official Rec of the Civil War. I see where the 24th and the 16th Georgia were in April and also in June/July 1862 but have not yet determined where exactly they were in May. Sorry this is so long but the officer is wordy.

GENERAL: Deeming it of vital importance to hold Yorktown, on York River, and
Mulberry Island, on James River, and to keep the enemy in check by an
intervening line until the authorities might take such steps as should be
deemed necessary to meet a serious advance of the enemy on the Peninsula, I felt compelled to dispose my forces in such a manner as to accomplish these objects with the least risk possible under the circumstances of great hazard which surrounded the little army I commanded.

I had prepared as my real line of defense positions in advance at Harwood's
[Howard's] and Young's Mills. Both flanks of this line were defended by boggy
and difficult streams and swamps. In addition, the left flank was defended by
elaborate fortifications at Ship Point, connected by a broken line of redoubts
crossing the heads of the various ravines emptying into York River and
Wormley's Creek, and terminating at Fort Grafton, nearly in front of Yorktown. The right flank was defended by the fortifications at the mouth of Warwick River and at Mulberry Island Point, and the redoubts extending from the Warwick to James River. Intervening between the two mills was a wooded country about 2 miles in extent. This wooded line, forming the center, needed the defense of infantry in a sufficient force to prevent any attempt on the part of the enemy to break through it. In my opinion, this advanced line, with its flank defenses, might have been held by 20,000 troops. With 25,000 I do not believe it could have been broken by any force the enemy could have brought against it. Its two flanks were protected by the Virginia and the works on one side and the fortifications at Yorktown and Gloucester Point on the other. Finding my forces too weak to attempt the defense of this line, I was compelled to prepare to receive the enemy on a second line, on Warwick River. This line was incomplete in its preparations, owing to the fact that 1,000 negro laborers, whom I had engaged in fortifying, were taken from me and discharged by superior orders inn December last, and a delay of nine weeks consequently occurred before I could reorganize the laborers for the engineers. Keeping, then, only small bodies of troops at Harwood's and Young's Mills and at Ship Point, I distributed my remaining forces along the Warwick line, embracing a front from Yorktown to Minor's farm of 12 miles, and from the latter place to Mulberry Island Point of 1 1/2 miles. I was compelled to place at Gloucester Point, Yorktown, and Mulberry Island fixed garrisons, amounting to 6,000 men, my whole force being 11,000; so that it will be seen that the balance of the line, embracing a length of 13 miles, was defended by about 5,000 men. After two reconnaissances in great force from Fort Monroe and Newport News, the enemy, on April 3, advanced and took possession of Harwood's Mill. He advanced in two heavy columns-one along the old York road and the other along the Warwick road, and on April 5 appeared simultaneously along the whole front of our line from Minor's farm
to Yorktown. I have no accurate data upon which to base an exact statement of his force, but from various sources of information I was satisfied that I had
before me the enemy's Army of the Potomac, under the command of General
McClellan, with the exception of the two corps d'armee of Banks and McDowell, respectively, forming an aggregate number of certainly not less than 100,000, since ascertained to have been 120,000. On every portion of my lines he attacked us with a furious cannonading and musketry, which was responded to with effect by our batteries and troops of the line. His skirmishers were also well thrown forward on this and the succeeding day and energetically felt our whole line, but were everywhere repulsed by the steadiness of our troops. Thus, with 5,000 men, exclusive of the garrisons, we stopped and held in check over 100,000 of the enemy. Every preparation was made in anticipation of another attack by the enemy; the men slept in the trenches and under arms, but to my utter surprise he permitted day after day to elapse without an assault. In a few days the object of his delay was apparent. In every direction; in front of our lines; through the intervening woods, and along the open fields, earthworks began to appear.

Through the energetic action of the Government re-enforcements began to pour in, and each hour the Army of the Peninsula grew stronger and stronger, until all anxiety passed from my mind as to the result of an attack upon us.
The enemy's skirmishers closely pressing us in front of Yorktown,
Brigadier-General Early ordered a sortie to be made from the redoubts, for the purpose of dislodging him from Palmentary's peach orchard. This was effected in the most gallant manner by the Second Florida (Colonel Geo. T. Ward) and Second Mississippi Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel John G. Taylor), all under the command of Colonel Ward. The quick and reckless charge of our men, by throwing the enemy into a hasty flight, enabled us to effect, with little loss, an enterprise of great hazard against a superior force, supported by artillery, when the least wavering or hesitation on our part would have been attended with great loss. The Warwick line, upon which we rested, may be briefly described as follows:

Warwick River rises very near York River and about a mile and a half to the
right of Yorktown. Yorktown and Redoubts Nos. 4 and 5, united by long curtains and flanked by rifle pits form the left of the line until, at the commencement of the military road, it reaches Warwick River, here a sluggish and boggy stream, 20 or 30 yards wide, and running through a dense wood fringed by swamps. Along this river are five dams-one at Wynn's Mill, one at Lee's Mill, and three constructed by myself. The effect of these dams is to back up the water along the course of the river, so that for nearly three-fourths of its distance its passage is impracticable for either artillery or infantry. Each of these dams is protected by artillery and extensive earthworks for infantry. After eleven days of examination the enemy seems very properly to have arrived at the conclusion that Dam Numbers 1, the center of our line, was the weakest point in it, and hence, on April 16, he made what seems to have been a serious effort to break through at that point. Early on that morning he opened at that dam a most furious attack of artillery, filling the woods with shells, while his sharpshooters pressed forward close to our lines. From 9 a. m. to 12 m. six pieces were kept in constant fire against us, and by 3 p. m. nearly three batteries were directing a perfect storm of shot and shell on our exposed position. We had only three pieces in position at that point, but two of them could not be used with effect and were rarely fired, so that we were constrained to reply with only one 6-pounder of the Troup Artillery, Cobb's (Georgia) Legion, Captain M. Stanley, under the particular charge of
Lieutenant Pope. This piece was served with the greatest accuracy and effect,
and by the coolness and skill with which it was handled the great odds against us were almost counterbalanced.

By 3.30 p. m., the intensity of the cannonading increasing, heavy masses of
infantry commenced to deploy in our front and a heavy musketry fire was opened upon us. Under the cover of this continuous stream of fire an effort was made by the enemy to throw forces over the stream and storm our 6-pounder battery, which was inflicting such damage upon them. This charge was very rapid and vigorous, and before our men were prepared to receive it several companies of a Vermont regiment succeeded in getting across and occupying the rifle pits of the Fifteenth North Carolina Volunteers, who were some hundred yards to the rear, throwing up a work for the protection of their camp. This regiment immediately sprang to arms and engaged the enemy with spirit, under the lead of their brave but unfortunate commander, [Robert M.] McKinney, and, aided by the Sixteenth Georgia Regiment, repulsed the enemy, but when the gallant McKinney fell a temporary confusion ensued, which was increased by an unauthorized order
to fall back. The enemy renewed the attack with great force. At this moment the Seventh and Eighth Georgia, under command of Colonels Wilson and Lamar, respectively, the left of the Sixteenth Georgia, under command of Colonel Goode Bryan, and the two companies of Captains Martin and Burke, of the Second Louisiana, under Colonel [J. T.] Norwood, accompanied by the Fifteenth North Carolina, with fixed bayonets and the steadiness of veterans, charged the rifle pits and drove the enemy from them with great slaughter.
Colonel Anderson, commanding his brigade, and the commanding officers of the troops above mentioned, deserve great praise for the promptness with which they rushed to the conflict and repelled this serious attempt of the enemy. Subsequently the enemy massed heavier bodies of troops and again approached the stream. It was evident that a most serious and energetic attack in large force was being made to break our center, under, it is believed, the immediate eye of McClellan himself, but Brigadier General Howell Cobb, who was in command at that point, forming the Second Louisiana, Seventh and Eighth Georgia, of Colonel [George T.] Anderson's brigade; the Fifteenth North Carolina, Twenty-fourth Georgia, and Cobb's Legion, in line of battle on our front, received the attack with great firmness, and the enemy recoiled with loss from the steady fire of our troops before reaching the middle of the water. Brigadier-General McLaws, commanding the Second Division (of which Cobb's command formed a part), hearing the serious firing, hastened to the scene of action, and exhibited great coolness and judgment in his arrangements. The Tenth Louisiana, Fifteenth Virginia, a part of the Seventeenth Mississippi, and the Eleventh Alabama were ordered up as reserves, and were placed in position, the Tenth Louisiana marching to its place with the accuracy of a parade drill. The other regiments were assigned positions out of the range of fire. In addition, General McLaws placed the whole of his division under arms, ready to move as circumstances might require. Colonel Anderson had led two of his regiments, the Seventh and Eighth Georgia, into action and held two others in reserve, while Brigadier-General Toombs advanced with his own brigade, under the immediate command of Brigadier-General Semmes, close to the scene of action, and by my order (having just arrived) placed two regiments of
this brigade into action, retaining the rest as reserves. These dispositions
and the enemy's suffering from his two repulses rendered our position perfectly secure. Darkness put an end to the contest.

The dispositions of General McLaws were skillfully made; his whole bearing and conduct is deserving of the highest commendation. I cannot designate all the many gallant officers and privates who distinguished themselves, and respectfully call the attention of the commanding general to the accompanying reports; but I would fail to do my duty if I did not specially mention some particular instances. Brigadier-General Cobb, commanding at this point, exhibited throughout the day the greatest courage and skill, and when, once at a critical moment, some troops in his line of battle wavered, he in person rallied the troops under a terrible fire, and by his voice and example entirely re-established their steadiness.

Brigadier-General Toombs had in the morning, by my order, detached from his division Colonel Anderson's brigade to support Brigadier-General Cobb, and late in the evening, when ordered forward by me, promptly and energetically led the remainder of this command, under fire, arriving just before the enemy ceased the vigor of his attack and in time to share its dangers. Brigadier General P. J. Semmes commanded Toombs' brigade, the latter being in command of the division, and showed his usual promptness and courage. Colonel William M. Levy, of the Second Louisiana Regiment, was the colonel commanding at Dam Numbers 1, and evinced judgment, courage, and high soldierly qualities in his conduct and arrangements, which I desire specially to commend. Captain Stanley was in command of two pieces of artillery, including the 6-pounder so effectively served. Both he and Lieutenant Pope conducted themselves with skill and courage.
Captain Jordan's piece was in a very exposed place, and was soon disabled,
after a few rounds, and was properly withdrawn. Both he and his men exhibited great steadiness under the terrible fire which swept over them.
The enemy's loss of course cannot be accurately estimated, as the greater part of it occurred over on their side of the stream, but I think it could have
scarcely been less than 600 killed and wounded. Our own loss was comparatively trivial, owing to the earthworks, which covered our men, and did not exceed 75 killed and wounded. All the re-enforcements which were on the way to me had not yet joined me, so that I was unable to follow up the action of April 16 by any decisive step. The re-enforcements were accompanied by officers who ranked me, and I ceased to command.
I cannot too highly commend the conduct of the officers and men of my whole command, who cheerfully submitted to the greatest hardships and deprivations.

From April 4 to May 3 this army served almost without relief in the trenches.
Many companies of artillery were never relieved during this long period. It
rained almost incessantly; the trenches were filled with water; the weather was exceedingly cold; no fires could be allowed; the artillery and infantry of the enemy played upon our men almost continuously day and night; the army had neither coffee, sugar, nor hard bread, but subsisted on flour and salt meat, and that in reduced quantities,* and yet no murmurs were heard. Their gallant comrades of the Army of the Potomac and the Department of Norfolk, though not so long a time exposed to these sufferings, shared their hardships and dangers with equal firmness and cheerfulness. I have never seen, and I do not believe that there ever has existed, an army (the combined armies of the Potomac, Peninsula, and Norfolk) which has shown itself for so long a time so superior to all hardships and dangers. The best drilled regulars the world has ever seen would have mutinied under a continuous service in the trenches for twenty-nine days, exposed every moment to musketry and shells, in water to their knees, without fire, sugar, or coffee, without stimulants, and with and inadequate supply of uncooked flour and salt meat. I speak of this in honor of these brave men, whose patriotism made them indifferent to suffering, discase, danger, and death. Indeed, the conduct of the officers and men was such as to deserve throughout the highest

I beg leave to invite the attention of the Department to the reports which
accompany this, and to commend the officers and men there named to the most favorable consideration of the Government. I cannot close this report without publicly bearing testimony to the great and devoted services of the cavalry of the Peninsula so long under my command. Always in the presence of superior forces of the enemy, I owe much of the success which attended my efforts to keep them with in the walls of their fortresses to the alacrity, daring, vigilance, and constancy of the Third Virginia Cavalry and the independent companies from James City, Matthews, Cloucester, and King and Queen Counties. The services rendered by the officers of my staff have been invaluable. To these I owe my acknowledgments. Captains Bryan and Dickinson, of the Adjutant-General's Department; Majors Magruder and Brent, of the Commissary and Ordnance Departments, respectively; Captain White, acting chief quartermaster; Colonel Cabell, chief of artillery; Lieutenant-Colonel Cary, acting inspector-general; Lieutenant Douglas, of the engineers; Lieutenants Eustis and Alston, aides-de-camp; Dr. George W. Millen, acting staff officer, and Messrs. J. R. Bryan H. M. Stanard, D. T. Brashear, and Henry A. Boyce, who as volunteer aides have rendered most important services, and to Private E. P. Turner, of the New Kent Cavalry, on duty sometimes in the field, at others in the assistant adjutant-general's office.

My thanks are due to Lieutenant-Colonel Ball, of the Virginia Cavalry, who for
several weeks during the siege acted as a volunteer aide. His conduct on the
5th in my immediate presence, and under a severe fire of the enemy, was very gallant, and worthy of the high reputation which he won at Manassas.
I am also greatly indebted to Major George Wray, of the One hundred and
fifteenth Virginia Militia, who has aided me in the administration (civil as
well as military) of the affairs of the Peninsula, and to Lieuts. Joseph
Phillips and Causey, of the Confederate Army. The local knowledge of these
officers has been of great advantage to the service, while their intrepidity
and enterprise have been in the highest degree conspicuous on every occasion.

I cannot express too strongly my estimate of the services rendered by my chief quartermaster, Major Bloomfield. Soon after he took charge he introduced order, promptness, and economy in the management of his department. The scarcity of supplies and materials was so great as to make it almost impossible to procure them. The genius, energy, and extraordinary industry of Major Bloomfield, however, overcame all obstacles, and enabled the Army of the Peninsula to move, to march, and to fight with the regularity of a machine. This statement is made in justice to Major Bloomfield, who is absent on account of sickness at the time that I write. I ask the attention, also, of the Government to the valuable services rendered by Mr. William Norris, of Baltimore, the signal officer in charge of the signal service of the Peninsula, and to those of his efficient assistant, Lieutenant Lindsay, of the Fifteenth Virginia Regiment. It is but just to Colonel Charles A. Crump that I should bear testimony to the zeal, gallantry, and decided ability with which he performed the various duties of commander of the post at Gloucester Point during the year in which he was under my command. He was worthily supported on all occasions by Lieutenant Colonel P. R. Page and the other officers and men constituting his force. That accomplished officer Captain Thomas Jefferson Page, of the Navy, successfully applied the resources of his genius and ripe experience to the defense of Gloucester Point, while the important work opposite was commanded with devoted zeal and gallantry by Brigadier-General Rains. My thanks are due to Captain Frederick Chatard, of the Navy, for valuable services as inspector of batteries, and to Lieutenant-Colonel Noland, late of the Navy, the efficient commander of the batteries at Mulberry Island Point. That patriotic and scientific soldier Colonel B. S. Ewell rendered important services to the country during my occupation of the Peninsula, as did Colonel Hill Carter, the commander at Jamestown, and his successor, Major J. R. C. Lewis. I should fail in my duty to the country, and especially to the State of Virginia, if I neglected to record the self-sacrificing conduct of Captain William Allen, of the artillery. At the very commencement of the war this gentleman erected at his own expense on Jamestown Island extensive fortifications for the defense of the river, and from that time until he was driven from his home he continued to apply the resources of his large estate to the benefit of the country, and so great and disinterested were his zeal and devotion as an officer, that he lost almost the whole of his immense
possessions in endeavoring to remove the public property committed to his
charge and that of the commanding officers. I cannot commend his conduct as an officer too highly to the Government nor his patriotism as a citizen too warmly to the love and respect of his countrymen.

To Captains Rives, St. John, Clarke, and Dimmock, of the engineers, and their
able assistants, the country is greatly indebted for the formidable works which enabled me to meet and repulse with a very small force the attack of an army of over 100,000 well-drilled men, commanded by the best officers in the service of the enemy. The steadiness and heroism of the officers and men of the artillery of the Peninsula, both heavy and light, were very conspicuous during the attack on April 5 and throughout the siege which followed.
The high state of efficiency of this arm of the service was mainly due to
Colonel George W. Randolph, chief of artillery, on my staff, who applied to
its organization, discipline, and preparation for the field the resources of
his great genius and experience. To this intrepid officer and distinguished
citizen the country is indebted for the most valuable services from the battle of Bethel, where his artillery principally contributed to the success of the day, to the period when he was removed from my command by promotion. He was ably assisted by Lieutenant-Colonels Cabell and Brown, of the same corps.
The medical officers deserve the highest commendation for the skill and
devotion with which they performed their duty in this sickly country.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


No.208. Report of Colonel Thomas R.R.Cobb,
Georgia Legion, of operations June 26-July 10.
CAPTAIN: In compliance with the order of General Stuart I have the honor to
report the operations of the cavalry under my command from June 26 to July 10: We left our camp on an hour's notice on the evening of June 25, joining General Stuart upon the Brooke turnpike and continuing the march until we met the army of General Jackson near Ashland that night.

Nothing special occurred with my command on 26th. On the 27th, near the close of the battle at Cold Harbord, we were ordered forward into the field. The position in which we were halted exposed my entire line to the fire of one of the enemy's batteries, which lost no time in opening upon us. Finding my men immediately within the range and to shells striking under their horses and exploding over their heads, I promptly removed them under the cover of the hill; fortunately no casualty occurred.

On Saturday, 28th, one of my squadrons, under command of Major Delony, was in advance, with orders to proceed to Dispatch Station. Finding it defended by cavalry, they were promptly charged and put to flight. On pursuing them beyond the railroad another company of cavalry was found in line, who were as promptly charged and routed.

The only casualties to this quadroon was a flesh wound received in the arm by Lieutenant Early; a slight saber cut on the head by a private (Walters), and
slight wounds to once or two horses. Our success enabled us to cut the wires and break the communication between the enemy and his base. While separated from the main column on 28th my command captured three wagons and teams of the enemy had several prisoners that were sent to the rear.

On Sunday, 29th, I was detached and ordered to proceeded to Tunstall's Station to destroy the track, cars, &c., at that point, which was done. On that evening I rejoined the command at the White House. On Monday, 30th, by order, I left one squadron at the White House to complete the work of destruction there, with orders to preserve certain property and send it to Richmond. This squadron did not rejoin me until after the 10th.

I continued with the column until Thursday, July 3, when I was ordered by
General Stuart to take position near Shirley, on James River, in the rear of
the enemy. This position I occupied until the 10th. I found the rear guard
consisted of about 2,000 infantry, one battery of artillery, and about 500
cavalry. These protected a wagon train of 300 or 400 wagons. With the
assistance of a few guns and two regiments of infantry I think I could have
captured this train and its guard, and I applied accordingly both to General
Lee and General Stuart. They were not furnished, doubtlessly for good reasons, until General A.P.Hill arrived on the 6th (I believe), at which time the entire train and guard had crossed the creek and joined the main army.

My scouts brought in numerous prisoners, who were sent to the rear, and my
command collected a large number of small-arms and other stores, which were secured.

All of which is respectfully submitted.
Colonel,Commanding Georgia Legion.

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