Rebel Units and Commanders at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run: Epilogue and Order of Battle

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SOPO Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of five guest posts by Dr. Nigel Lambert, a semi-retired British biochemist with a lifelong interest in the American Civil War.  Nigel has worked closely with Bryce Suderow over the first half of 2021 thoroughly researching the Confederate Order of Battle at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run, February 5-7, 1865.  Read on and you will soon see why this is such a difficult task.  I want to thank Dr. Lambert for his generous decision to publish this series of articles here at the Siege of Petersburg Online.  This article is the copyrighted work of Nigel Lambert and may not be reproduced without his express written consent. All rights reserved.

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Rebel Units and Commanders at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run.

Epilogue

By Dr Nigel Lambert, May 2021

Anyone reading textbook accounts of the battle of Hatcher’s Run may be forgiven for feeling confused as to who was fighting in gray; with various reputable authors referring to different commanders both within their accounts and on battle-maps. It is not ideal to have well-cited accounts of the battle featuring different commanders. Similarly, it is unfortunate that visitors to the preserved battlefield today, will view site-boards with battle-maps depicting erroneous Rebel brigade commanders. The previous three articles have explored in significant detail which Rebel units were fighting at Hatcher’s Run between February 5-7th 1865, and who was commanding them. Several notable conflicts have been highlighted and hopefully resolved, whereas other incongruities have been reported, but still remain inconclusive.

Three sources of potential error have been identified:

1) Many authors have understandably used the End of January 1865 Confederate Inspection Reports in the O.R. to determine who was present in the Rebel army at Hatcher’s Run, about a week later. The reports shows that Gen. MacRae, Gen. Johnston and Col. Lowe were all present and commanding their respective brigades. Thus, it is natural to assume that they led these commands a week later at Hatcher’s Run. Unfortunately, in that intervening week, other reliable sources show that Generals MacRae and Johnston went on leave and Col. Baker returned from leave to resume his command from Col. Lowe. While it is known that Col. Lea replaced Gen. Johnston, it is still not totally clear who replaced Gen. MacRae as brigade commander at the battle. So here are three Rebel brigades that have caused problems in ascribing commanders. Absences of other senior Rebel commanders associated with the battle, have been more consistently documented, for example Gen. York and Gen. Mahone were known to be absent ill and Gen. Sanders had been dead for over 5 months.

2) Units in the Rebel Army were formally named after their latest commander of commensurate rank, notably a Brig-Gen. for a brigade and a Maj-Gen for a division. At the late stage of the war when Hatcher’s Run took place, promotions could not keep pace with the incapacitation of senior Rebel field officers, hence it was not uncommon for a named unit to be commanded by someone of a different name. For example, York’s Brigade was commanded by Col. Peck, as Gen. York was absent ill as stated above. If we just consider the Rebel Army Infantry divisions and brigades: 3 out of the 4 divisions had a different commander to the division’s name, and 7 out of 15 brigades had a different commander to the brigade’s name. The scope for confusion is considerable, particularly if these issues are not dealt with explicitly within accounts.

3) Hawks’ extensive database is a very accessible, valuable and detailed resource for understanding the structures and commanders of all the armies that fought in the Civil War’s Eastern Theatre. The information is presented on a monthly basis throughout the entire civil war, with data taken mainly from the O.R. and Ray Sibley’s reference book. However, this gargantuan database requires careful interpretation, if inaccurate conclusions are to be avoided. Just because a commander is attributed to a given unit on a given month, does not necessarily mean that they were commanding for the entire month. Some command changes that occurred mid-month are duly noted in the database; but not all. This situation is especially acute at the time of the Hatcher’s Run battle, towards the end of the war, when Rebel command was relatively fluid due to injuries, absences and illness. A good illustration is the command of Heth’s Division for February 1865, the month of the Hatcher’s Run battle. The database records Gen. Joseph Davis as commanding, and any casual reader would understandably assume that Gen. Davis was leading Heth’s Division at the battle. In truth, it is clear that Gen. Heth was commanding his Division at Hatcher’s Run and that Gen. Davis was only in command of the Division at some point during that month.

It is incumbent upon history to remember accurately those brave officers who led their soldiers into deathly combat at Hatcher’s Run in February 1865. Whatever must the spirit of for example, Col. John Baker, think when seeing his name and contribution being completely absent from many prominent battle-maps and texts, despite him having led the renowned “Lawton – Gordon – Evans” Georgian brigade throughout the battle. It is time for these unfortunate errors to be addressed.

Below I provide an Order of Battle for the Rebel Infantry and Cavalry for the Battle of Hatcher’s Run; this involves significant revisions to established narratives. I have also included brigade strengths taken from the end of January Inspection reports. Sadly, no such data is available for those in Mahone’s Division. Uncertainties still exist; notably, the command structure of MacRae’s Brigade, and whether all three Rebel cavalry brigades were indeed present at the battle. Attempts are on-going to resolve these and other gaps in our knowledge of who fought in gray on those three deadly days in February 1865. This is therefore very much a living document and hopefully should more information come to light, an even more accurate Order of Battle can be formulated.

 


Order of Battle

 

Army of Northern Virginia

Commencement of the Battle of Hatcher’s Run, dawn February 5, 1865.

 

SECOND CORPS

Maj-Gen. John B Gordon

 

Early’s Division

Brig-Gen. John Pegram

 

Pegram’s Brigade

Col. John Hoffman

(631 effectives)

13th Virginia Capt. George Cullen; 31st Virginia Capt. Nathan Clawson; 49th Virginia Capt. Jerome Norvill; 52nd Virginia Lt-Col. John Lilley; 58th Virginia Lt-Col. John Kasey.

 

Johnston’s Brigade

Col. John Lea

(775 effectives)

5th North Carolina Major James Taylor; 12th North Carolina Capt. John Drake; 20th North Carolina Major Duncan Devane; 23rd North Carolina Capt. Abner Peace; 1st Battalion North Carolina Sharpshooters Capt. Reuben Wilson.

 

Lewis’ Brigade

Brig-Gen. William Lewis

(902 effectives)

6th North Carolina Capt. John McPherson; 21st North Carolina Capt. John Byrd Snow; 54th North Carolina Capt. R.A. Barrow; 57th North Carolina Capt. John Beard.

 

 

Gordon’s Division

Brig-Gen. Clement Evans

 

Evans’ Brigade

Col. John Baker

(1156 effectives)

13th Georgia Lt-Col. Richard Maltbie; 26th Georgia Maj. Benjamin Grace; 31st Georgia Col. John Lowe; 38th Georgia Lt-Col. Philip Davant; 60th Georgia and 61st Georgia combined Col. Walters Jones; 12th Georgia Battalion Capt. George Johnson.

 

Terry’s Brigade

(A consolidated brigade made up of the remnants from Stonewall Brigade, Jones’ Old Brigade and Steuart’s Old Brigade)

Brig-Gen. William Terry

(1,104 effectives)

2nd Virginia, 4th Virginia, 5th Virginia 27th Virginia 33rd Virginia Col. Abraham Spengler; 21st Virginia, 25th Virginia, 42nd Virginia, 44th Virginia, 48th Virginia Col. Norvel Cobb; 10th Virginia, 23rd Virginia, 37th Virginia Lt-Col. Dorlias Martz.

 

York’s Brigade

(A consolidated brigade)

Col. William Peck

(434 effectives)

1st Louisiana Lt. Enoch Farmer; 2nd Louisiana Capt. Charles Farris; 5th Louisiana 6th Louisiana and 7th Louisiana combined Lt. James Weymouth; 8th Louisiana Capt. Louis Prados; 9th Louisiana Lt. T.A. Upshaw; 10th Louisiana Lt. Enoch Farmer; 15th Louisiana Lt. J.B. Penrose

 

 

THIRD CORPS

Lt-Gen. A.P. Hill

 

Heth’s Division

Maj-Gen. Henry Heth

 

Cooke’s Brigade

Brig-Gen. John Cooke

(1,417 effectives)

15th North Carolina Col. William Yarborough; 27th North Carolina Lt-Col. Joseph Webb; 46th North Carolina Lt-Col. Alexander McAlister (tentative); 48th North Carolina Capt. John Moore (tentative); 55th North Carolina Capt. Walter Whitted.

 

Davis’ Brigade

Brig-Gen. Joseph Davis

(978 effectives)

1st Confederate Battalion Maj. Francis McClung; 2nd Mississippi Lt-Col. John Blair; 11th Mississippi Col. Reuben Reynolds; 26th Mississippi Maj. Tully Parker; 42nd Mississippi Col. Andrew Nelson.

 

McComb’s Brigade

Brig-Gen. William McComb

(907 effectives)

2nd Maryland Battalion Capt. Joseph McAleer; 1st Tennessee Capt. William Daniel; 7th Tennessee Lt-Col. Samuel Shepherd; 14th Tennessee Capt. William Winfield (tentative); 17th Tennessee and 23rd Tennessee Col. Horace Ready; 25th Tennessee and 44th Tennessee Capt. Jonathon Spencer; 63rd Tennessee Capt. A. A. Blair.

 

MacRae’s Brigade

Lt-Col. James Adams (tentative)

(1,203 effectives)

11th North Carolina Capt. William Kerr; 26th North Carolina uncertain; 44th North Carolina uncertain; 47th North Carolina Maj. William Lankford; 52nd North Carolina Capt. John Alexander.

 

 

Mahone’s Division

Brig-Gen. Joseph Finegan

(Up to 4,600 effectives)

 

Finegan’s Brigade

Col. David Lang

(no data for end of January)

2nd Florida Col Walter Moore; 5th Florida Lt-Col William Baya; 8th Florida Maj. Thomas Clarke; 9th Florida Capt. H.C. Simons; 10th Florida Lt-Col William Scott; 11th Florida Col. Theodore Brevard.

 

Harris’ Brigade

Brig-Gen Nathaniel Harris

(no data for end of January)

12th Mississippi Lt-Col. Thomas Manlove; 16th Mississippi Lt-Col. James Duncan; 19th Mississippi Col. Richard Phipps; 48th Mississippi Col. Joseph Jayne.

 

Sanders’ Brigade

Col. William Forney

(no data for end of January)

8th Alabama Lt-Col. J.P. Emrich; 9th Alabama Maj. James Crow; 10th Alabama Lt-Col. William Smith (tentative); 11th Alabama Capt. Martin Stewart; 13th Alabama Col. James Aiken; 14th Alabama Capt. John Terrell.

 

Sorrel’s Brigade

Brig-Gen. Moxley Sorrel

(no data for end of January)

3rd Georgia Capt. James Matthews; 22nd Georgia Capt. George Thomas; 48th Georgia Capt. Alexander Flanders; 64th Georgia Capt. Creswell Walker; 2nd Georgia Battalion Capt. George Jones; 10th Georgia Battalion Maj. James Frederick (tentative)

 

Weisiger’s Brigade

Brig-Gen. David Weisiger

(no data for end of January)

6th Virginia Col. George Rogers; 12th Virginia Capt. Thomas Owens; 16th Virginia Capt. Solomon Eley; 41st Virginia Lt-Col. Joseph Minetree; 61st Virginia Col. Virginius Groner.

 

Lee’s Cavalry Division

Maj-Gen. W.H.F. “Rooney” Lee

 

Barringer’s Brigade

Brig-Gen. Rufus Barringer

(1,356 Cavalrymen)

1st North Carolina Cavalry Col. William Cheek; 2nd North Carolina Cavalry Col. William Roberts; 3rd North Carolina Cavalry Lt-Col. Roger Moore; 5th North Carolina Cavalry Col. James McNeill.

 

Beale’s Brigade

Brig-Gen. Richard Beale

(958 cavalrymen)

9th Virginia Cavalry Lt-Col. Thomas Waller; 10th Virginia Cavalry Lt-Col. Robert Caskie; 13th Virginia Cavalry Col. Jefferson Phillips.

 

Dearing’s Brigade

Brig-Gen. James Dearing

(710 cavalrymen and 69 artillerymen)

8th Georgia Cavalry Col. Joel Griffin; 4th North Carolina Cavalry Col. Dennis Ferebee; 16th Battalion North Carolina Cavalry Lt-Col. John Edelin; Graham’s Petersburg Virginia Battery Capt. Edward Graham.

 

Nigel Lambert’s Hatcher’s Run Series:

 

About the Author

Photo of Dr. Nigel Lambert at Petersburg National Battlefield

Visiting Petersburg National Park (Oct 2015)

Dr Nigel Lambert is British and lives near Norwich, England. Semi-retired, Nigel is a biochemist by profession, although from the turn of this century he has been involved in health research from a social perspective. A life-long Civil War enthusiast, he has been privileged to visit many of the wonderful battlefields on several occasions. A recent chance encounter with a civil war rifle ignited his interest in the battle of Hatcher’s Run. Surprised by the sparse and conflicting literature on the battle, he decided to employ his scientific knowhow to create this series of articles exploring the Rebel Order of Battle for Hatcher’s Run.

 

 

 

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