#113 – Lieut. George S. Davidson

29 06 2008

 

Report of Lieut. George S. Davidson, Commanding Section of Artillery

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 563-564

HEADQUARTERS GENERAL N. G. EVANS’ COMMAND,

Stone Bridge, July 23, 1861

GENERAL: The second section of Latham’s battery, under my command, was on the morning of the 21st stationed on the hill commanding the stone bridge over Bull Run and its approaches. It was on the south side of the turnpike, and about six hundred yards west of the bridge. About 6 o’clock a.m. the enemy appeared on the high ground east of the bridge, nearly opposite my position. They opened fire from a single piece of rifled cannon, which was stationed on high ground north of the turnpike, not less than three-quarters of a mile east of my position. The fire from this piece and others near the same position was kept up at intervals until near 9 o’clock a.m.

About this time it was known that the enemy was forming in force upon your left flank. I was ordered to join Major Wheat’s command, which lay nearly a mile northwest of my first position. I passed by Van Pelt’s house, and went on to the Carter house, about one hundred yards northeast of which I placed my section in battery. Finding that the enemy, still encroaching upon our flank, had changed his position, I was ordered by yourself to return to the turnpike, which I followed to a high point about fifteen hundred yards west of the stone bridge. I placed my pieces in battery on open ground within two hundred yards north of the turnpike. From this position you ordered my second piece, under Lieut. Clark Leftwich, to advance along the turnpike and up the Sudley road. He accordingly took position about one hundred yards east of the Sudley road, bearing nearly five hundred yards north from the stone house of Matthews.

From this position Lieutenant Leftwich opened upon the enemy, advancing along the Sudley road, about one thousand yards distant. He inflicted considerable injury upon them, and maintained his position until our infantry had retired. He then retired to a hill south of the turnpike, and about one thousand yards distant from and west of Robinson’s house. Here he remained, firing upon the enemy until he had expended all ammunition from his limber chest. The horses of the caisson having run off, Lieutenant Leftwich came to ask me for ammunition, which I being unable to furnish him, he proceeded to the Lewis house, where he rejoined and reported to Captain Latham.

Lieutenant Leftwich had not fired more than six or eight times from his first position on the Sudley road when the enemy advanced toward our right (as our regiment then fronted), and came within range of my gun. I immediately opened fire upon him, which I kept up until I found the enemy advancing along the Sudley road toward my position. I then moved my gun into the turnpike immediately at the mouth of the lane leading to Robinson’s house, and fired upon the enemy with canister, and with good effect, until he had come up within one hundred and fifty yards of my gun. Having expended my ammunition, I reported my command to Captain Latham, then posted on Lewis’ farm, about four hundred yards east of the house.

I cannot close my report without testifying to the courage and coolness of my gunners, Charles Perry and James B. Lee. The men also served at the guns in a manner highly honorable to them. I had one man wounded by a shell, but met with no other casualties, except that I broke a caisson pole and a gun-carriage axle while obeying your double-quick command along the turnpike to my third position north of the turnpike. About the same time also a wheel ran off from my gun-carriage. I, however, repaired these damages and went on.

Respectfully, general, your most obedient servant,

GEORGE S. DAVIDSON

Brig. Gen. N. G. Evans

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6 responses

3 07 2008
steve keating

Harry
Thanks for posting this, I’ll carry it with me the next time I walk the ground.

3 07 2008
Harry Smeltzer

No problem, Steve. You might want to take all the reports for Evans’ brigade (they’re all posted, look under “Official Reports – Confederate” or “Orders of Battle – Confederate” to the right and follow the links provided). I’ll be getting to Burnside’s reports pretty soon.

1 12 2008
cenantua

From pp. 48-51 of my work in the VRHS about Latham’s Battery…

“At about 6 a.m. on July 21 the Federals appeared on the high ground east of the stone bridge, almost opposite Davidson’s position. At 7 a.m., a Union artillery piece came up and fired the first shot of the morning. ‘They opened fire from a single piece of rifled cannon,’ wrote Davidson, ‘which was stationed on high ground north of the turnpike, not less than three quarters of a mile east of my position.’ The lone piece was soon joined by others and kept up the fire at intervals until 9 a.m.

At that hour the enemy was found to be forming upon Evans’ left flank. Davidson was at once ordered to join Major C.R. Wheat’s 1st Louisiana Special Battalion, which lay nearly a mile northwest of the section’s first position. Along their route, Davidson’s section passed Van Pelt’s house and continued on to a position about one hundred yards northeast of the Carter house, where the guns were placed in front of the infantry. ‘Finding that the enemy, still encroaching upon our flank, had changed his position, I was ordered… to return to the turnpike, which I followed to a high point about 15 yards west of the stone bridge.’ In a position about two hundred yards north of the turnpike and across from the Robinson house, Davidson again placed his section in battery on open ground. The exhausting movements of Davidson’s section were far from over.

From the post near the Robinson house, Gen. Evans ordered Davidson’s second piece, under Lieutenant Leftwich, to advance to support Col. J.B.E. Sloan’s 4th South Carolina Infantry. As he took his gun along the turnpike at a double-quick pace, Leftwich’s caisson pole and gun carriage axle broke. Despite the break, the degree of which must have been minor, Leftwich’s piece succeeded in taking position about one hundred yards east of the Sudley Road and on a knoll (not Buck Hill, however) about five hundred yards north from the stone house.

While Davidson fire on the Federal left, Leftwich’s crew opened by 9:45 a.m. into Ambrose E. Burnside’s Rhode Islanders, then advancing along the Sudley Road at a range of about one hundred yards. Davidson reported that he ‘inflicted considerable injury upon them, and maintained his position…’

Soon after Leftwich’s section opened, Captain John D. Imboden’s (Staunton) battery arrived atop Henry Hill and joined in the fray. As the Confederate artillery kept the Federal troops busy, Wheat charged on the right and Sloan advanced beyond the woods and aide in temporarily halting the Union advance. At about 11:00 a.m., Bee’s and Bartow’s brigades arrived off across the Sudley Road to contend with the Federal line that had extended to the Dogan house. The armies faced off for nearly two hours before the situation became critical for the Confederates and forced Bee to withdraw. As the Confederate infantry retired, so did Leftwich.

Leftwich limbered up and quickly moved to a hill south of the turnpike about one thousand yards west of the Robinson house. Unlimbering the gun again, the crew fired until they finally exhausted all of their ammunition. With the horses of the caisson having fled, Lieutenant Leftwich was forced to go to Davidson for more ammunition which Davidson, in fact, could not spare. Lieutenant Leftwich then proceeded with his gun and empty caisson to Captain Latham’s position.

In action apart from Leftwich, Lieutenant Davidson described the battle as it unfolded for him:

‘Lieutenant Leftwich had not fired more than six or eight times from his first position on the Sudley road when the enemy advanced toward our right… and came within range of my gun. I imediately opened fire upon him, which I kept up until I found the enemy advancing along Sudley road toward my position. I then moved my gun into the turnpike immediately at the mouth of the lane leading to Robinson’s house, and fired upon the enemy with canister, and with good effect, until he had come up within a hundred and fifty yards of my gun. Having expended my ammunition, I reported my command to Captain Latham, then posted on Lewis’ farm, about four hundred yards east of the house.’

Davidson commended the ‘coolness’ of gunners Charles Perry and James B. Lee, who both served his gun.

For Captain Latham the day started from his position near Lewis’ Ford, a quarter mile from where Davidson was positioned. There, with a section of the Loudoun Artillery under Lieutenant Heaton, the action opened at about 10 a.m., when the ‘enemy’s skirmishers appeared, crossing the open ground in my front,’ reported Latham. “Almost at the same time they brought a single piece of artillery (Ransom’s battery) to bear upon my position…’ Latham immediately returned fire from his section. Soon a second piece joined the single gun already in his front. Firing shot, shell, and canister, after a short time, Latham silenced the enemy guns.

Latham wrote in his report that he believed ‘one or more of their pieces [were] disabled by our fire, and my half-battery remained for some time in-active.’ Latham’s section was credited as being the first Confederate artillery to fire that morning as it harassed not only the two opposing guns but also Schenck’s Brigade on the east bank. Following the battle, Gen. Beauregard stated in his report that Latham’s guns had ‘worsted Captain Ayres[?] battery which was quite under the illusion that it had weightier metal than its own to contend with.’

Latham later moved his section ‘to an entrance in the open field about six hundred yards east of the Lewis house, for the purpose of protecting the advance of Col. Wither’s and Preston’s regiments.’ It was while in this position that Latham was rejoined by Lieutenant Davidson’s section. Reunited, the Lynchburg Artillery was ordered by Captain D.B. Harris, of the engineers, to advance. Accompanied by Harris himself, the battery moved across the field to ‘a position on the ridge about 400 yards north of the Lewis house,’ where the battery remained a short time before being conducted by Harris across a ravine ‘leading to the mouth of Young’s Branch.’ By about 1:30 p.m., the battery had taken position upon the ridge which lay beyond the ravine and at a distance of about five hundred yards east of the Henry house.

At the same time that Latham placed his battery on line, Elzey’s and Early’s brigades entered into action against Keyes’ Federal Brigade as it made its way across the turnpike. Latham’s guns unleasehed a furious fire upon the brigade moving as reinforcements from a distance of about seven hundred yards. In short order the Federals were driven back in what Latham reported as ‘disorder.’ Moving the battery again for the last time, Latham positioned his guns about three hundred yards to the right of thei last position and continued fire upon the retrating enemy until the charge of J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry rendered further shelling from the Lynchburg battery unsafe. Captain Latham commended Lieutenant Folks [Folkes] and gunners Rice and Richardson for ‘efficient service,’ serving the guns ‘with spirit and skill.’ Losses for the company were not recorded in muster rolls or in post-action reports.

Of all of the men mentioned in the different reports…

Davidson, George S.: Enl. and elected 1st Lt., 4/23/61. Absent sick in Lynchburg (10/31/61). Present (11/61). Took leave of absence, 4/6/62, intent on raising an artillery company. Raised Co. C, 13th Bttn. Va. Light Artillery. Resigned as captain 10/4/64 due to age (48) and inability to furnish himself with a horse. Buried 3/21/81 near Estelville, Scott Co., Va., age 64.

Folkes, William J.: 2nd Lt. Enl. 4/23/61. Relieved and ordered to the Secretary of War, 4/28/62. NFR (No Further Record).

Leftwich, Lincoln Clark: B. 1834, son of Augustine and Ann Elizabeth Williams Clark. She was the daughter of James and Ann Thornton Clark of Camden, SC. Attended Spring or Stony Hill College, Mobile, Alabama. Enl. 4/23/61. Detached service in Lynchburg (10/61). Present (10/31/61). Received commission PACS and ordered to report to Gen. McCullock (12/61). After transfer to the west, served as chief of artillery for Van Dorn. Seriously wounded at Corinth. Later joined the CS Navy and was captured near Wilmington, NC aboard the “Anglo-rebel blockade runner steamer “Minnie.” During the sea chase with the USS Connecticut, the Minnie “showed English colors” until she was overtaken and captured on 5/9/64 at 3:45 p.m. in latitude 34 degrees N., and longitude 75 degrees and 28′ W. Leftwich surrendered himself as a passenger and Naval officer to Cdr. John J. Almy. Leftwich later married Susan Jane Jackson (1854-1912) at Blacksburg, Va. No children. He died 6/15/07, age 73. Buried in Presbyterian Cemetery, Lynchburg; range 2, lot 11, no marker. Brother-in-law of Lt. William King, also of the Lynchburg Artillery.

Perry, Charles M. Enl. 4/23/61, 3rd Cpl. Sick in Lynchburg (10/31/61). Present as pvt. (12/61). Died 8/24/64 in Lunenburg of typhoid.

Rice, Robert: Enl. 4/23/61. Sick in Richmond as 2nd cpl. (10/31/61). Later listed as pvt. and still absent; said to be discharged but no record.

Richardson, Thomas F.: Enl. 4/23/61. 1st cpl (10/31/61); 5th sgt. (10/31/61?); reenlisted after battery reorganized, elected lieutenant. KIA 5/5/62 at Williamsburg.

1 12 2008
Shout Out « Bull Runnings

[...] noted on the OOBs – I try to do that when I’m not sure).  Check out the comments to posts here, here, here, and here.  Now it’s a question of me getting all this other good stuff [...]

1 02 2012
Mark Reardon

Gentlemen,

Thank you for your informative blog and you (Harry) for this marvelous web site. I was asked questions about the specific ranks of Lts Leftwich and Davidson by my boss here at the U.S. Army Center of Military History on Fort McNair, DC. We are in the process of publishing a commemorative brochure on the opening months of the Civil War. I am sure I would not have been able to answer his question given our sources on hand or other sites in the internet. With much appreciation, Mark R.

1 02 2012
Harry Smeltzer

Mark,

Thanks for the note, and thanks for the thanks! If you have any questions and can’t find the answer here, be sure to drop me a note and I’ll see what I can dig up.

By the way, there are no gentlemen here. It’s just me, but lots of good folks send me useful stuff. I’m always on the lookout for primary material on the battle and campaign.

Harry

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