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Mobile Advertiser's Account of Spottsylvania


Army of Northern Virginia

Spottsylvania C.H. May 16

Our mail communications are so much exposed to the depredations of the enemy that I do not feel at liberty to write you as fully as usual in regard to the movements of the army. You must feel satisfied for the present with the assurance that as far as human foresight can discern, all is well in this quarter. The army is in better spirits and better fighting condition than I have ever known it, and notwithstanding its recent important victories, the men say they will not be content until Grant is either completely overthrown or driven across the Rappahannock.

The enemy is gradually withdrawing to the right in the direction of the Fredericksburg railroad. A portion of his forces are already on the east side of the Ny, one of the branches of the Matapony river. In making this movement he found it necessary to abandon two of his field hospitals on our left, one of which contains 1600 wounded men, and the other 800, making together 2,400 wounded prisoners who have fallen into our hands. Prisoners taken yesterday state that this change of position was made to secure their communications with Fredericksburg from whence the army is drawing its supplies. The pressure upon Grant must have been very great, or he would not have left so large a number of his wounded in our hands. Once on the east side of the Mattapony, he might move with comparative safety down to Bowling Green and even to West Point where he could form a junction with the Peninsula army. If such be his plans, it is plain that he has had enough of Gen. Lee and does not desire to cross swords with him again, at least without material reinforcements.

The enemy succeeded in removing the guns in the angle of our line of entrenchments heretofore described -- sixteen in number. Finding he could not save the caissons, he was about to destroy them after taking them some distance when Wofford of Georgia came upon him and prevented it. Wofford rushed upon the party having them in charge, beat them off, and saved thirteen of the caissons. On the day previous, Wright of the same State encountered a force of the enemy as it was retiring to the right, and fell upon it with great violence, capturing 125 prisoners, one stand of colors, and a guidon, and inflicting considerable loss in killed and wounded. The enemy fled in dismay.

The announcement of the death of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart has been received with universal sorrow by the Army of Northern Virginia, of which he has been a conspicuous officer since the beginning of the war. However much men may differ in their estimates of his abilities as an officer, all accord to him the purest patriotism, an ardent zeal, a talent for organizing forces, great powers of endurance, and a cheerful and sanguine temper which he communicated to his whole command, and which never yielded to despondency.under even the most adverse skies. Now that life's fitful fever is over, the gay and gallant cavalier sleeps well in his honored grave.

It is not Capt. McCarthy's company of Richmond Howitzers of Gen. Alexander's artillery command that lost its guns a few minutes on the 10th, but another company of the same organization.

The rains continue and the roads are almost impassible.

- A

Mobile Daily advertiser & Register

May 28, 1864

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Howard Grove Hospital, Ward K

Richmond, Va. May 18, 1864

Lt. Geo. F. Savage:

Dear Friend - We left Drewry's Bluff on the morning of the 12th about 1 o'clock under orders for the city of Richmond to stop some raiders who were trying to burn and capture the place. We arrived at the spot about 8 o'clock and our regiment was thrown out as skirmishers, extending through a wheat field, and the raiders were dismounted in a thick piece of woods. We advanced about a quarter of a mile when the firing commenced and I fired several rounds and had just loaded my gun and was down on my knees with hunkers resting on my heels when a shot from the right flank pierced me through both thighs and my right heel, the ball lodging in the left thigh. I was carried off immediately by Skinner and Cornelius. I was the only one in the company hurt that day. We have to mourn the death of Lt. Shelton who fell the same day. Lt. Redwood was slightly wounded, also Capt. Mims and Lt. Bruton, and several privates; but the great slaughter was on the 16th, at or just below Drewry's Bluff. The brigade, especially the 43rd regiment, is cut all to pieces. . . .

Your friend,

E.N. Maxly

Mobile Advertiser & Register

May 29, 1864

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Army of Northern Virginia

Spottsylvania C.H., May 18, 1864

The calm which has prevailed along the lines since the great battle of the 12th was broken at an early hour this morning. At dawn of day before any of us but the brave men who keep watch in the trenches had left our blankets, the enemy opened a furious artillery fire upon Maj. Gen. Gordon of Ewell's corps. Of course Gen. Long, formerly of Gen. Lee's staff, and now commanding the artillery of Ewell's corps, was not slow in returning this early morning salutation of the Federal army. For nearly two hours, the cannonade equalled that at Gettysburg. The enemy seemed to have massed his heaviest and best guns on that part of the lines which he had assaulted successfully on the 12th, and all supposed that another death struggle for the mastery was about to occur. Fortunately the precautions taken by our great chief were so wise and his dispositions so admirable that all the brave Confederate soldier had to do when he rose from his dreams on the ground behind the entrenchments was to reach out for his trusty musket. . .

The attack was begun as soon as it was light enough for the enemy to see how to train his splendid guns upon our position. The fire was very heavy and was kept up without intermission from near 4 o'clock until 6 when the infantry were brought forward to carry the works. The assault by the latter, however, was very feeble, the enemy at no time coming nearer than 75 yards from our entrenchments. At many places they kept at a respectful distance of two and three hundred yards. The artillery fire was reopened at 7 o'clock for half an hour or more and again at 9, and fresh and ernest efforts were made to bring the infantry up to their work as on the 12th, but all to no purpose. They would advance but would not fight as heretofore, being easily repulsed in many instances by our sharpshooters and skirmishers alone.. No attack was made upon other parts of the lines.

A few prisoners were taken who report that the assaulting column consisted of 8,000 men from the II and VI Corps who in response to a call from Gen. Grant had volunteered their services in this attack. If the federal army has reached a point of demoralization where it becomes necessary to call for volunteers to assault our works, and if the volunteers when they come forward do no better than they did today, then the struggle here is approaching its end. But there is a homely and wise maxim which teaches us not to shout until we get out of the woods. After all, these movements on the right and feeble attacks on the left may have a meaning which we do not fully understand.. .

The number of wounded men left by the enemy in the two field hospitals which he abandoned a few days ago was not 2400 as I was informed at the time by a staff officer in high position, but 900. We still hold the battlefield of the Wilderness and our badly wounded who were left there.

- A

Mobile Daily Advertiser & Register

May 31, 1864

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Richmond, Tuesday, May 24, 1864

From rough notes kindly furnished me by Col. Forsyth of the 3rd Alabama I have prepared the following sketch of the part taken by Battle's brigade up to the great fight of Thursday, the 12th in which Col. F was wounded.

On the 4th we moved from near Morton's Ford, down the Rapidan River, striking the Fredericksburg Turnpike at Mine Run, and forming line of battle behind our old entrenchments at this point. Marched several miles down the pike and bivouacked near Locust Grove. Early next morning, slight in front indicated the appearance of the enemy, and the column moved slowly forward, feeling for the foe, until 12 o'clock when the line was immediately formed at the foot of a range of hills perpendicular to the road where they crossed it -- making a salient angle with it a short distance on the right.

The order of battle was as follows: Fifth Alabama, Col. Hall; Third, Col. Forsyth; Sixty-first, Col. Swanson; and Twelfth, Col. Perkins. The 5th and 3rd occupied the right of the road behind a small stream; and the 6th, 61st, and 12th on the left of the road. Battle's brigade held the second line in support of Jones' Virginia Brigade.

Orders were given for regimental commanders to move up rapidly to the crest of the hill and hold it at all hazards in case Jones gave way. The woods in front were so thick that it was impossible to see more than 20 steps from our line, and all thought that Gen. Jones held the crest of the hill. The enemy soon hurled a heavy column against Gen. Jones, sweeping down on his flank and it became evident that he was pressing our men back. At this juncture, Battle's brigade moved up at a double quick, but instead of finding Jones on the hill, his men were scarcely thirty steps beyond the branch. While crossing the branch the line became broken and scattered and the cry from the front of "fall back," "surrounded," "cut off" caused such confusion in both lines that the 3rd and 5th Alabama became involved in the greatest difficulty.

The left of Doles' Georgia Brigade gave way at the same time, and the whole line was compelled to fall back and reform, which was quickly done, and later in the day another opportunity was offered of punishing the enemy severely, which was done with a good will. It is proper to state that Gen. Rodes attached no blame to the officers and men of Battle's Brigade for this mishap, which was plainly due to the failure of the line in their front.

About this time, the 6th and 61st Alabama swung around from the left of the road, struck the enemy on the flank, drove him handsomely, and inflicted heavy loss. The 12th Alabama, being on the extreme left, did not come in contact with the enemy. While driving the Yankees, the 6th and 61st captured two pieces of artillery and a large number of prisoners.

The mishap on the right of the brigade was a source of much mortification as those very regiments had been conspicuous for gallantry on every other field, and had never before turned their backs on the foe. As before stated, Gen. Rodes placed the blame where it rightly belonged.

On the night of the 8th, the brigade moved down the line towards Spottsylvania Courthouse, and about 6 p.m. on the 9th were formed
in line behind a Mississippi brigade with orders to charge over and drive the enemy from his post in order to extend the line to the right. This was done with splendid dash, forcing back two lines of battle and driving them to hastily formed breastworks about half a mile in advance. Night ended the contest, and the troops were withdrawn to occupy the line in which the general engagement was to be made.

Early next morning the brigade was put to work building a second line of defense just in rear of the point at which Ewell's corps joined Anderson's. All was quiet in its immediate front until 5 1/2 p.m. when a heavy assault was made on a weak and exposed point on Dole's line, forcing the position and causing part of Daniel's brigade to leave its works. Battle's brigade was double-quicked to the right, together with Gordon's and Johnston's. Battle's men were amongst the first to reach the entrenchments and recovered two pieces of artillery and one stand of colors.

In the first fight, Capts. Phelan and Molten, Lt. May and Ensign H.A. Hardy were wounded, and Capt. Witherspoon slightly wounded and made prisoner. Second engagement, Col. Lightfoot, Lt. Col. Hobson, Adj. Pegues, and Lt. McGowan were wounded. Third engagement, Col. Hall, Maj. Praskaner, and Col. Pickens were wounded. Fourth engagement, Col. Forsyth, Lt. Col. Goodgame, Adj. Gayle, and Lt. Taite were wounded and Adj. Thomas and Lt. Bilbro killed.

Yesterday there was quite a lull in the storm, and to-day all is quiet. Weather exceedingly hot and dry.

- Gamma

Mobile Daily Advertiser & Register

June 1, 1864

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Army Northern Virginia

Spottsylvania C.H. May 20

We had a little excitement last evening, but to-day all is a quiet as a summer morning. it was ascertained yesterday that the enemy was again retiring from our left front where he had been so handsomely repulsed the day before by Gordon, and was moving towards the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad. Gen. Lee, not disposed to follow along in the same direction, nor to allow his adversary to proceed alone, ordered to Ewell to advance and strike him in the flank and rear, and thus compel him to return to his former position. Ewell marched out of the trenches late in the afternoon, and encountered the enemy a little before sunset. A sharp combat ensued, the enemy being thrown into considerable confusion and retiring before our troops. It is believed that the attack would have resulted in important captures had all portions of the command behaved equally well, but Jones' brigade of Johnson's division, which did not stand firmly in the Wilderness and was the first to break in the great battle of the 12th, fled incontinently, and some report that the Stonewall brigade did not do as well as it might have done. The latter is composed of troops from the valley of the Shenandoah and the former from the counties in Southwestern Virginia. Pegram's brigade of the same division on the contrary displayed much gallantry.

In consequence of the unsteadiness of a portion of the corps here alluded to, Ewell did not press his advantage, nor bring off some 45 wagons which he captured. Indeed, finding that the enemy was receiving heavy reinforcements and it being no part of his instructions to bring on a general engagement within the Federal entrenchments, he returned late at night to his former position, leaving his dead and a portion of his wounded behind. His losses were small, not exceeding 100 in killed and wounded. Through some oversight, the ambulances of the corps did not accompany it, or the wounded might have been removed. The real object of the demonstration, however, was fully accomplished; the movement to the right was checked, and Gen. Grant reduced to the condition of the man who receives unexpected news on a journey, and who stops to scratch his head, being in doubt which way to turn or what to do, whether to go on or return.

Since different accounts of the attack upon Johnson's division of Ewell's corps on the morning of the 12th have been given to the public, and since all these accounts probably have more or less of error in them, I have applied to an intelligent officer who was present throughout the battle, and who was in a position to understand what was going on as fully as General Ewell himself, for the facts as far as they fell under his eye. The following is the substance of the statement of the officer to whom I made application:

On the morning of the 12th Johnson's division occupied the right of Ewell's corps, Hays' brigade being on his left, then J.M. Walker's (Stonewall), next Jones' and then Stewart's. At the junction of General Jones' and Stewart's brigades, the line of works made a bend at nearly a right angle, in which a battalion of artillery had been posted. The artillery had been withdrawn the proceeding evening, and the line of Jones' brigade was extended to cover this gap. At 3 o'clock on the morning of the 12th, Gen. Johnson asked for artillery, saying the enemy was massing heavily in his front, and Page's battalion was started to him. Jones' brigade of six regiments had but three in line when the assault was made at 4 o'clock --one had been detached to cover the gap of half a mile between Stewart's brigade and Lane's brigade of Wilcox's division on the right; one had been deployed as skirmishers; and another had just been sent out to relieve the latter. The enemy made their attack in mass with a rush upon the point where the artillery had been, and the three regiments of Jones' brigade gave way almost without firing a shot. The artillery which had been sent was just driving up to the works at the gallop as the enemy poured over, killing the horses and preventing the men from unlimbering the guns, and capturing the guns and Gen. Johnson who was endeavoring to rally his command. As the enemy rushed in, the Stonewall brigade on the left of the gap and Stewart's on the right of it received them with a heavy fire, but the enemy closing down on Stewart on the flank, front and rear, succeeded in taking the larger part of his command in the works. In attempting to swing around his brigade so as to oppose the enemy in front, Gen. Walker was severely wounded and carried from the field. The senior colonel not being aware of this, there was no head to the brigade, and each regiment from right to left continued to fight at the works until its flank was turned, inflicting heavy loss on the foe and losing much themselves. The enemy still pressing his advantages, Johnston's North Carolina Brigade of Goodwin's command was put in on the left of the Louisiana (late Stafford's) brigade and succeeded in checking the enemy for a time. The loss of Johnson's division was about 2,000 prisoners, and 18 pieces of artillery, besides the killed and wounded.

The enemy had now gained possession of a wood within our works and advanced nearly a quarter of a mile from the works to McCoul's house. At this point Gordon threw in three regiments of his Georgia brigade near McCoul's house at a charge who struck the enemy in front and on their left and drove those they met out of the works and over them. The Federals being thus checked , he formed the other three regiments of his brigade and Pegram's Virginia brigade and put them in on the right of the other three regiments, and pushed back the enemy in splendid style, regaining Stewart's and parts of Jones' line, and the artillery; this position they continued to hold during the day against repeated assaults, although their left was never supported by other troops. A little after Gordon had gone in, Ramseur's North Carolina brigade of Rodes' division made a magnificent charge upon the enemy's right as they passed through the works, driving them out with slaughter and retaking the line of the Louisiana and part of the Stonewall brigade, and here they stood all day.

Although these troops were doing splendidly, there was still a gap of some length between Ramseur's right and Pegram's left, where the enemy held our works, and through this they continued to press; to close this gap and regain our whole line and the artillery, there was desperate fighting. Battle's Alabama brigade of Rodes' division was thrown in on Ramseur's right, his centre passing the McCoul house, and drove the enemy back some distance into the woods, gaining a foothold in the wood, which they resolutely held.

The enemy now occupied the outside of our works on the crest where Jones' brigade broke, and our line was along the works of the Stonewall brigade, and those broke off towards the right through the wood nearly to Pegram's left. Again and again the enemy made desperate efforts to drive out the Confederates and press through the gap still exiting, but they failed. Harris' Mississippi brigade was sent up at this time and put in on Ramseur's right, over the same ground as Battle's, and it drove the enemy from another portion of the works; and the ground thus regained they held for the remainder of the day. Subsequently Perrin's and McGowan's South Carolina brigades were brought up and put in on the right of Harris, and still later the remnant of Johnson's division moved up to close the gap between Pegram's left and the right of the other troops to about one hundred yards in the angle of the works, which the enemy continued to hold, and from which we did not succeed in ousting them. Our artillery was so far regained as to enable Maj. Cutshaw to take his artillerymen to the pieces and work them during the rest of the day with marked effect upon the enemy; but the horses having all been killed, and the enemy's sharpshooters being near, the guns could not be withdrawn. During these operations we captured on this part of the line abut 1,000 prisoners from every corps in the Federal army. Our captures during the day were quite equal to those made by the enemy.

It is apparent from this brief narrative that while we did not regain the whole of our lines, we should probably not have lost any part of them if the artillery had been in position when the assault was made.

No one has been appointed to succeed General Stuart, the cavalry for the present, under an order from Gen. Lee reporting to him by divisions. Hampton is the ranking officer of that arm of the service in Virginia.

I fear my letters have reached you irregularly, owing to the recent interruption of our communications. I have written promptly, and have done all in my power to get them through in time.

- A

Mobile Daily Advertiser & Register

June 1, 1864

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[From an Occasional Correspondent)

Chaffin's Farm, May 26, 1864

Although the telegraph has given the news of the operations around Richmond, yet I trust that a brief account on the part that Gracie's brigade acted will prove interesting to many of our Alabama friends.

The brigade arrived at Richmond about the 1st of May and camped of the Mechanicsville Pike, six miles from the city until the 8th. On that day Gen. Gracie was ordered to Drewry's Bluff, and stationed at Fort Stephens on the outside line of fortifications. On the 9th learning that the Yankees were advancing, he with a line of skirmishers, one piece of artillery and the 43rd Alabama regiment moved forward on a reconnaissance. About two miles from our lines he found the enemy with a battery of artillery and two regiments of cavalry. A sharp skirmish took place which result in driving them off, capturing a number of arms and horses and two stands of colors. It was almost dark when the fight ended and we returned to our camp.

On the 10th Gen. Ransom ordered Gracie's and Barton's brigade to move forward and attack the enemy. Gen. Barton was on the right and Gracie on the left of the turnpike leading to Petersburg. Near the Half-way House, our skirmishers drove in the Yankee pickets and Barton's line was quickly engaged. Protected by thick woods, and having every advantage of position, the Yankees fought stubbornly, but Gen. Barton succeeded in driving them back with severe loss, and captured their battery. Being unable to bring it off, and the enemy having received strong reinforcements, he was compelled to fall back. On the left, Gracie's brigade drove the enemy before them with but little difficulty for more than two miles, killing many and capturing over seven hundred prisoners. One company in the 59th Alabama with 44 men captured an entire Yankee company with their captain, first lieutenant and 45 privates. Gen. Gracie was on every part of the field, exhibiting his usual skill and gallantry. Finding that the Yankee force was much larger than was expected, and that they had fallen back to their entrenchments, our forces again returned to their camp.

The next day all were busy in making arrangements for the contest that every one certainly expected would take place on the 12th. We had received heavy reinforcements. Gen. Bragg and the President had been at headquarters. It was known that Beauregard was at Petersburg, and it was intended that we should attack in front and he in the rear. No one doubted our success. Great was the astonishment therefore of us all when at 2 o'clock 2 p.m. we were roused up and started on a forced march for Richmond. Sheridan and his raiders were in sight of the city. All of the regular troops had been withdrawn, and the peril of the city has never been greater since the days when McClellan was laying siege to it. The local defense troops acted nobly. Every citizen capable of bearing arms was hastening to the place of action. We arrived at the fortifications on the Mechanicsville Pike by 8 o'clock am. having marched fifteen miles without halting, and what is equally as bad, without breakfast, over a very slippery and muddy road. The enemy's artillery were throwing shell into the suburbs of the city. Gen. Gracie formed his brigade in line of battle and advanced against them immediately.

The 43rd Alabama Regiment was deployed as skirmishers and were quickly hotly engaged. The enemy fell back slowly, fighting stubbornly and contesting every inch of ground. They were "mounted rifles," and the Yankee mounted men are the bravest and best troops in their service. They had several pieces of artillery well posted and skillfully managed. The main body of Gen. Sheridan's forces were building bridges across the Chickahominy, and the troops fighting as men only covering their retreat. These facts of course were knot known by us till the fight was over. Our Skirmishers drove the enemy to the banks of the Chickahominy about a mile from where the fight began. Our line of battle was not engaged at all. After building the bridge, the Yankees beat a hasty retreat, leaving their dead on the field and their wounded to our mercy. our loss was heavy for the number engaged. Eight were killed dead, and 34 wounded, three of whom have since died.. . .

We have lost heavily in these fights. The brigade only had 1500 men for duty. Of this number, 366 mostly from the 9th and 43rd Alabama regiments have been killed and wounded. . .

- Andy

Mobile Daily Advertiser & Register

June 3, 1864

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Richmond, Thursday May 26, 1864

. . . Since Fitz Lee's failure to capture to capture the negro troops in Charles County after breaking down his cavalry in a hard ride, he is censured bitterly.. . .

- Gamma

Mobile Daily Advertiser & Register

June 2, 1864

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Rear Guard, Army of Northern Virginia

Near Ashland, May 28, 1864

Editors Evening News

Enclosed I send you a list of the casualties of the 8th regiment Alabama volunteers. . . We left our works in the vicinity of Hanover Junction yesterday at 11 a.m., our division commanded by Brig. Gen. Mahone forming the rear guard.

Our large wagon train is a great encumbrance to us, and if at some time or other the Yanks should capture some 500 of our quartermaster wagons, together with quartermasters and teamsters, I assure you the infantry of the army of Northern Virginia would not regret it. On yesterday at 11 p.m. we went into camp some four miles from here. We left there at 8 (or 3?) this morning and are now resting for a while in the woods in the road to give the wagons a chance to get a little ahead.

Grant cannot go much farther; he must soon engaged us again; and who will doubt the issue? A brilliant victory surely awaits us. Orders have come to fall in again, and I must therefore close abruptly. I shall soon write again.

- F.C.F. R***r, Co. H, 8th Ala.

Mobile Daily Advertiser & Register

June 7, 1864

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From Our Special Correspondent

Army of Northern Virginia

Banks of the Chickahominy

May 31

We are too near to the enemy to speak with much particularity of the military condition in front of Richmond. Grant, as you are aware, has brought his whole army across to the south side of the Pamunkey. His right rests on or near the Central railway, and his left on the Totopotomoy Creek, whilst his front is protected by two strong lines of entrenchments, running for some distance along the crest of the hills on the north side of the last mentioned stream. His position is a strong one -- so strong, indeed, that I hope General Lee will be able to give him battle upon some other field.

A reconnaissance was made yesterday afternoon to ascertain the true position of the enemy's left wing. Pegram's brigade, commanded by Col. Edwin Willis of the 12th Georgia alone was engaged. A sharp combat ensued in the course of which it became necessary to charge upon one of the enemy's batteries with a view to its capture. The brigade behaved handsomely and was gallantly led, but unfortunately Col. Willis received a mortal wound in the groin from a grapeshot from which he died this afternoon about 2 o'clock. He was one of the best and bravest officers Georgia has ever sent to the field and one of the most promising morally and intellectually. He graduated a short time before the war broke out at West Point and served some time with General Jackson, who was so much impressed by his merits that he recommended him for the appointment of brigadier general. Indeed, young as he was, he had attracted the attention of Gen. Lee, Gen. Ewell, and almost every prominent officer in the army. There is hardly an officer in the entire army who did not know the young hero. I was with him a short time before his death, and found him calm and quiet, brave, resolute and confident, yet modest and meek as a Christian warrior should be when he is brought face to face with death. Painful and grievous as this war has been and

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