Report (incomplete) of Major William Henry Chase Whiting
SUPPLEMENT TO THE O.R. – VOL.1: REPORTS ADDENDUM TO SERIES I, VOL. 2, pp 185-189
Headquarters, Third Brigade,
Camp Bee, August 1, 1861
Major: Having been assigned to the command of the Third Brigade, in consequence of the death of the lamented Brigadier-General [Barnard Elliot] Bee, the duty devolves upon me of presenting a report of the operations of the Brigade on July 21, compiled from the reports of the commanding officers engaged and from the notes of the distinguished aides of General Bee, Brigadier-General [States Rights] Gist, Adjutant-General of South Carolina; Major R. A. Howard of Texas; Colonel [William Pinkney] Shingler; Major [Walter H.] Stevens; Captain [A.] Vander Horst of South Carolina; and Lieutenant [James Hoffman] Hill, C. S. A., Assistant Adjutant-General.
The Brigade bivouacked at Camp Walker the night of July 20. The First Tennessee and a portion of the Eleventh Mississippi together with the Sixth North Carolina had not joined in consequence of detention on the railroad.
At 5 a. m. on July 21, General Bee received orders from General [Pierre Gustave T.] Beauregard to advance to the support of the position occupied by Generals [H. Grey] Latham and [Philip St. George] Cocke near Stone Bridge and to its right, immediately putting his command, consisting of the Second Mississippi, Colonel [William Clark] Falkner, two companies of the Eleventh Mississippi under Lieutenant-Colonel [Philip Frank] Liddell, the Fourth Alabama, Colonel [Eggbert J.] Jones and Imboden’s Battery of four 6-pounders in motion. He shortly took post in Latham’s left and Cocke’s right in close column of Division. Here he was joined by the Eighth Georgia, Lieutenant-Colonel [William Montgomery] Gardner and the Seventh Georgia, Colonel [Lucius J.] Gartrell.
Arriving upon the ridge occupied by the Lewis House, General Bee advanced across the adjacent ravine upon the ‘ridge of pines,’ dispatching Major Howard to the front to make a reconnaissance of the ground.
On leaving the thickets, which cover the ridge of pines, nearly the whole field of the day’s operations was in view. The ground is chiefly covered and occupied by several small farms; through the middle, from left to right runs a small creek, a branch of Bull Run. On the left are dense thickets of oak and pine extending across the Manassas Road. On the right of the Centreville Turnpike, as one looks from the ridge of pines southwest, is an isolated wood surrounded by fields of grass and corn beyond the creek. This grove or “wood of pines” to the right and front proved important positions in the early part of the day. In advance of the ridge of pines and on either side of a levee, connecting the Lewis ridge with the Centreville Turnpike across the ridge of pines, are two small houses, that of the Widow Henry on the left and of Robinson on the right. These houses became conspicuous marks during the action and are important in locating the movements. Beyond the cleared ground of the farms and distant about 1500 yards from the ridge of pines is a thick skirt of timber, where upon in a fron of pines a mile to a mile and a half the enemy were collected in heavy numbers. Although other troops of the enemy were plainly visible in large force to the right in the distance, this space in front of the ridge of pines formed their principal field of attack. General Bee proceeded at once to assault the position.
He had scarcely posted his battery near the Widow Henry’s house and a little to the right of it, when the enemy’s artillery opened a heavy fire from six rifled guns. Line of battle was advanced at once, the General directing Captain [John D.] Imboden to maintain his position until further orders and placing Colonel Gartrell and Colonel Gardner with the Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Georgia in the left of the battery; Colonel Falkner, Second Mississippi on the right; Colonel Jones, Fourth Alabama on the right of Falkner and detaching Lieutenant-Colonel Liddell to the “isolated wood” at the request of General [Nathan George] Evans, to support a gun of his posted near the left of the wood and well advanced toward the enemy. General Evans’ force being small, he requested the General’s aid and with that view the Second Mississippi and Fourth Alabama were thrown rapidly on the creek and the whole line advanced. General Evans was now hotly engaged with the enemy’s advance. The Second Mississippi took a position in the grove above mentioned and the enemy made a demonstration on Stone Bridge against General Evans, while making his movement on our left in force, which General Evans, leaving part of his command near the bridge, promptly marched with the remainder to resist it near the branch and the isolated wood. His command was engaged with the enemy’s advance when General Bee arrived upon the field.
The Fourth Alabama formed along a line of fence connecting it with the pine grove to the right. This movement was led straight at the enemy by General Bee in person, conducting the Fourth Alabama through the fields and attacking the enemy strongly posted about a small farm house a little in advance of the position. Here for three-quarters of an hour a fierce battle ensued in which the men, and their General were alike, distinguished. In the meantime, the enemy had posted two more batteries and Imboden was contending manfully against fourteen pieces of artillery arranged in three batteries. The horses of the caissons attached to General Evans’ guns on the left of the isolated wood took fright and ran to the rear, thus depriving that gun which had been effectively severed of its ammunition. Against one of those batteries, the General directed the advance of a part of the Mississippians who delivered an effective fire upon them, naturally aiding Imboden.
He (General Bee) received information from General Evans that a column of the enemy was moving upon his right and rear. General Bee instantly dispatched Major Howard and Captain Vander Horst to ascertain the fact; but before they could return the information was repeated and the General reluctantly ordered his line of battle [illegible]. As this proved to be a mistake the column refused to move while bravely bringing the Fourth Alabama into the fire. The movement of General Bee was organized expressly to capture the enemy’s left battery then fiecely playing upon […illegible…] turning out to be either Jackson’s or a portion of some other brigade who had now arrived on the field. It is regarded as a misfortune, since it deprived our troops of selected positions, exposed them to severe and disastrous fire in moving to a new one in the rear, and naturally disheartened them by the backward movement. It is probable enough that the overwhelming numbers of the enemy could have forced the Brigade sooner or later from its position, but up to that time, they not only had not done so, but the Fourth Alabama led by the General in person was holding the most advanced position attained by any of our troops during the battle.
It was during this backward movement that our heaviest loss was sustained in both officers and men. The Eighth Georgia had been joined by its gallant chief, Colonel [Francis S.] Bartow and had moved from the left of Imboden toward the grove of pines in the right and front, its then commander and distinguished Lieutenant-Colonel [William] Montgomery Gardner severely wounded. The Colonel of the Fourth Alabama, [Eggbert J.] Jones, was mortally struck down. The whole line fell back behind the creek and reformed upon the ridge near the first position later in the morning, the enemy steadily following and advancing his batteries. Here the Brigade was joined by the troops of the Hampton Legion under Colonel Wade Hampton. Deprived of their leader with most of their field officers shot, the Brigade still enticed the fight directed by their General in person. The Second Mississippi in particular, seven companies strong, charged with other troops and captured Rickett’s Battery, all the horses of which they killed with their musketry. The honor of this brilliant feat of arms they share with a portion of the Eleventh under Lieutenant-Colonel Liddell, the Sixth North Carolina which lost its Colonel, [Charles F.] Fisher, and a portion of Colonel Hampton’s Legion.
Three batteries of the enemy were taken in all, near the line occupied by the Third Brigade; […illegible…] Preston and his men of Jackson’s Brigade. This Brigade and a portion of those of Colonel [Jubal Anderson] Early were, I learn, greatly distinguished in battle on the left of the Third [Brigade] where the enemy persistently concentrated heavy columns of attack.
For six hours the battle had raged with doubtful future, the ridge to which the Widow Henry’s and the Robinson House are situated being alternately in the hands of the contending forces (Colonel Early’s Brigade, Army of the Potomac) when Brigadier-General [Edmund Kirby] Smith, second in command of the Army of the Shenandoah, advanced on either side of the Manassas Road and across the ridge and threw their command fiercely at the enemy’s right…
[W. H. C. Whiting]
Major T. G. Rhett
Headquarters, Duncan’s House