Unknown, Hampton’s Legion [?], On the Battle (3)

11 09 2011

Further Particulars of the Manassas Battle – The Capture of Sherman’s Battery

We have some very interesting and authentic accounts of the battle at Manassas, from an officer who was in the thickest of the action, and who testifies to the extremely courageous and devoted action of the Hampton Legion, that held one of the most important positions in the fight, in front of the deadly fire of Sherman’s Battery.

The infantry companies of the Legion joined the line of battle about 9 o’clock in the morning, having marched seven miles, after a hastily-snatched breakfast, to take their part in the general action. In a few moments after the line was formed, Col. Johnson fell by a shot from the battery. He was instantly killed, the ball striking and tearing away the upper portion of his head. Colonel Hampton himself, assisted by Surgeon Darby and Adjutant Barker, bore the body from the fire.

At this instant, the men missing for a moment the presence of their commander, cried out “We have no commander.” Capt. Garey, who was commanding the left wing, suddenly called out, “Follow me, Hampton Guards, follow to victory.” The effect of the tones of the command was instant. The noble and gallant Edgefield company made a rushing charge towards the enemy, in advance of the rest of the Legion nearly three hundred yards, and so far on the left flank that for a moment they were under the fire of the Washington Artillery. The Guards advanced to within 1– or 120 paces of the enemy. Unable to maintain their position, they retired, falling back upon the column of the Legion. It was then that Col. Hampton, after a few thrilling words at the head of the Legion, ordered its fire to be opened upon the deadly battery that was mowing down his ranks.

Nobly and gallantly did his men respond. Firing by file and maintaining their position, they stood steadily until three o’clock in the evening, under the deadly fire of one of the most destructive batteries in the Federal army.

At this time of the day, the Legion fell back about 200 yards, when Gen. Evans, of South Carolina, rode up to the line, and making himself known to the men, added his noble and patriotic encouragements to those of their gallant commander.  A shout rises as Beauregard himself rides to the line, and in stirring words appeals to the Legion to hold its devoted position but a few moments longer, and the victory would be won.
The men were suffering horribly from the most aging thirst, when a number of officers and privates volunteered on the desperate mission of bringing water from a ravine near by through the fire of the enemy. But three returned from the gallant errand. Lieuts. Bates and Tompkins, of the Watson Guards, and private N. N. Cartlidge, and they just in time to join Col. Hampton’s last and desperate charge upon the battery.

The Legion had advanced about thirty paces, when the charge was joined by the 49th Virginia Regiment, under command of Col. Smith, who led the charge on foot – his horse having been shot from under him. Col. Hampton offered his own horse. At that time, when within about 150 yards of the battery, Colonel Hampton received his wound. He was struck by a ball in the temple. As he was raised, the cool and self-possessed gallantry of the brave man was exhibited. In calm and affecting words he exhorted Co. Smith to stand by the Legion and to help to support its flag. The words added a new spirit to the combined charge. The Legion advance to it with its right wing under the command of Col. Conner, and the left under that of Capt. Garey – the command of the intrepid Watson Guards, who had so distinguished themselves in the opening of the action, being devolved upon Lieut. W. D. Jennings, until joined by Lieuts. Bates and Tompkins, who had undertaken the brave mission of bringing water to the suffering men through the thickest of the fire.

The slaughter of the enemy at the battery, as the combined charge of the Virginia Regiment and the Hampton Legion swept over it, is said to have been terrific. The fugitives were pursued by the companies of the Legion to near Centreville. For four or five miles, the pursuit is described to have been over dead bodies, which strewed the retreat of the enemy.

The Legion reports about thirty killed and mortally hurt, with the immense number of nearly three hundred wounded – truly a gallant record. Neither its cavalry companies nor artillery arrived in time for the action; had they done so, quicker work would have been made by the Legion. As it is, with the gallant record it has made, and the compliments of Beauregard given it the day after the victory, it may boast, indeed, to have had a distinguished part in the glorious day.

The names of Captains Conner, Garey, Adjutant Barker and Surgeons Darby and Taylor are mentioned among those who distinguished themselves heroically in the fight.

The escapes of many of the men through the storm of fire are described as almost miraculous. The South Carolinians are better shots than the enemy. At three fires from one of the Corporals, J. W. Tompkins, two Yankees were seen to bite the dust; and at one time in the action, Lieutenant Jenkins, with a revolver, fired into the enemy a number of shots, nearly each one of which struck its man. Many of the Legion had their clothes torn through with bullets.

Richmond Examiner, 7/25/1861

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2 responses

25 10 2011
T.K. Tortch

“The noble and gallant Edgefield Company. . . .”

My Great-Great-Grandfather was wounded at 1st Manassas; he would have been with the “Watson Guards” out of Edgefield, South Carolina. He was at 2nd Manassas, too, and IIRC received a battlefield promotion to Major after that. Somewhere or another at home in Edgefield (I grew up there) the family’s got a document formally recognizing the promotion.

Incidentally, he ended up buying M. C. Butler’s home in Edgefield after the war; the house is still in the family.

Excellent site, btw. Ancient history to be sure, but not so far back; my Great Grandmother who grew up in South Georgia died in 1986 just shy of 100 years old – everybody she knew in her parents and grandparent’s generation had lived through or participated in the war & she could relate their stories as told to her.

25 10 2011
Harry Smeltzer

Thanks T. K.!

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