An Eye Witness, Co. B, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle

10 01 2020

For the Advertiser.

A Letter from Capt. Gary’s Company

Headquarters C. S. A.
Manassas, Va, July 22nd ‘61

Mr. Editor: On Sunday morning the 21st instant, the Infantry of the Legion arrived at this place, a few hours before day break, having left the city of Richmond on Friday evening. We were out two nights and a day without provisions, having left in accordance with a sudden and unexpected order, thereby depriving us of the chance of preparing rations for the men. At the break of day we drank a hasty cup of coffee, and soon after were on the march for the field of battle, some seven miles distant. We hear the booming of cannon as we started, which continued until we reached the scene of action. The fight had commenced early in the day with Gen. A. G. Evans, who commanded, I believe, the 3rd and 4th Regiments from South Carolina. He held the enemy a hardly contested fight although he had only some fifteen hundred men, and they (the enemy) a very large force, several thousand.

The Legion arrived about ten o’clock and immediately backed up the General’s command. We formed in line of battle calmly and coolly. The men could not have been more composed than they were even if going to dress parade. The fight was opened with great vigor by the enemy with artillery and Infantry, armed with every kind of weapon known to modern warfare. They were in number about ten to one, but we began the fight regardless of all odds. Soon Lieut. Col. D. J. Johnson fell dead from his horse. He was an ornament to the Legion and his death will add another bright name to the historic record of the gallant men of South Carolina. So soon as his death was known, on motion of Capt. Adams and Capt. Austin, the command of the left wing was tendered to Capt. Gary. He immediately announced his willingness to take it, and told them “that he would lead them to death or victory,” – whereupon three cheers were given for the Captain, and they advanced upon the enemy. Capt. G. Soon gave the order to charge, and led his men some two hundred yards in advance of the line of battle on our side; by some mistake in the order, he was left alone with his gallant Company under a galling fire. Whilst in this position Willliam R. Dorn was shot down by a ball passing through the top of his cap, and stunning him severely, but he soon arose and continued to charge. John L. Coleman was also knocked down by a spent ball. At the same time we were mistaken by our own men and were fired on by our side and by the enemy. We then quickly fell back under cover of a ravine, regained our position on the left of the Legion, all the time subject to a hot fire. So soon as we rejoined the Legion, we were ordered to the front and were fired upon by an immense army, but were compelled after sustain a loss of several killed and many wounded to fall back, where we rallied and were honored by the presence of Gen. Beauregard, Gen. Bee and Gen. Evans. Gen Beauregard said “we must win the day.” Capt. Gary responded “we will followe wherever he leads.” We gave the General three cheers, and three more for our gallant Colonel, who is as brave a man as ever drew a sword in defense of his country, with a heart as soft and gentle as that of a woman. We were ordered to hold ourselves in reserve to charge a battery. Soon we were ordered to charge. We charged up to the house of Spring Hill Farm owned by John Henry; here Colonel Hampton was wounded and carried from the field. Captain Conner ordered the legion to fall back and form – announced that he would assume command as Colonel, and Lieut. Lowdnes immediately took charge of Company “A” – Capt. Gary as Lieut. Colonel, Lieut. Tompkins taking command of Company “B.” We again charged up the house and then upon the battery of Captain Rickett’s, which was taken possession of by Lieut. Col. Gary commanding in the name of the Legion. The enemy here retreated towards Stone Bridge and from there to centreville they were followed by Col. Kershaw’s and Cash’s Regiments and the Legion, with Artillery and Cavalry. The road was filled with every thing appertaining to camp life, and some unusual luxuries, such as champagne and lemons. The Cavalry pursued them and captured some 30 pieces of cannon and some five or six hundred prisoners. We then fell back and slept upon the bloody field of battle and returned next morning to this place.

There were thirty thousand of the enemy engaged, and some fifteen thousand on our side. We lost, I suppose, five hundred killed and wounded. The enemy some twenty-five hundred killed and wounded. It was a great pitched battle with West point officers against West Point, and we carried the day, having routed and demolished the flower of their army.

Our company lost killed and wounded as follows:

Thomas A. May, killed.
J. Milledge Hart, seriously wounded – now at Richmond.
Wm. C. Corely, mortally wounded – now at this place.
Davis Bodie, seriously wounded in the arm – now at Culpeper Court House.
Jesse Stone, seriously wounded – now in Richmond.
Sergeant J. T. Nicholson, slightly wounded.
J. W. Jennings,                      “              “
Corporal M. A. Padget,       “              “
R. J. Borknight,                     “              “
J. W. Rochell ,                        “              “
J. W. Rhodes,                         “              “
J. E. Burkhalter,                   “               “
R. T. Carroll,                          “               “
J. L. Coleman,                       “                “
M. A. Griffith,                       “                “
Wm. Jennings,                     “                 “
R. A. Turner,                        “                 “
Thadeus Freeman,             “                 “
John Jennings,                     “                 “

There are a few incidents of the battle that may interest the relatives of those concerned. M. A. Griffith had his canteen shot through. Wm. Jennings had his shot off and his gun knocked out of his hand. His brother, John Jennings, finding him down and almost senseless, dragged him to the shade of a tree. He then started to rejoin his company but soon discovered that his brother was being carried off by two Aouaves. He fired and killed one; fired again and missed; fired again and killed the other, whereupon he and his brother started back to us – met five Zouaves that were pursued by Cavalry, – Levelled their pieces at them and halted the five, and with the assistance of Cavalry brought them to this place as prisoners.

All of our commissioned and non-commissioned officers bore themselves as became volunteers from old Edgefield. Capt. Gary is supported by as fine a set of officers as ever belonged to any Company. Lieutenants Tompkins, Bates and Jennings, bore themselves with uncommon coolness and courage, always prompt in the execution of every order. Lieut. Tompkins, in command of the company after Col. Hampton was wounded, bore himself gallantly, in the whole engagement, and especially in the charge of Ricket’s battery, taken by Capt. Gary acting as Lieutenant Colonel. Lieut. Bates , as every one expected of him, proved himself as brave as the bravest. Lieut. Jennings at one time had command of the Company, – Capt. Gary acting as Lieut. Colonel – Lieuts. Tompkins and Bates having gone for water for the Company and coming very near losing their lives by being cut off – showed that he wielded the sword with as much facility as he did the scalpel.

The 1st Sergeant B. E. Nicholson, fought bravely and at last fainted and was born from the field by Virginians. 2nd. Sergeant R. A. Tompkins was always at his post and could not have acted better. He was at all times cool and brave. Sergeants J. T. Nicholson and J. W. Jennings were both wounded, which speaks for itself. Sergeant Corley was sick when he went on the field and was reluctantly compelled to leave the field with others towards the last of the battle. Corporal J. W. Tompkins particularly distinguished himself with his courage and soldierly bearing during the entire engagement. Corporal Medlock was in the whole fight, acted bravely and well. Corporal Eidson was one of the Color-guard to the flag and was always where the shot fell fastest and thickest. Corporal Herlong was sick and lame when he went into the engagement, and was overcome with heat and exhaustion. The other Corporals were wounded. Nothing need be added when men are wounded in the ranks – you know they are in the right place. In fact, all of the Company did well, and if I were permitted to particularize, I could name many of the privates whose courage could not be surpassed by any one.

The Cavalry and Artillery were not with the Legion.

Dr. Pollard has been appointed assistant Surgeon in the C. S. Army.

Dr. J. H. Jennings is here amputating limbs night and day, for friends and enemies.

I hope you will pardon this long account, as it is given for the benefit of those who are related to those in the Engagement.

AN EYE WITNESS

Edgefield (SC) Advertiser, 8/7/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy


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