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The 48th Alabama at Fussell’s Mill, August 16, 1864

Editor’s Note: Bryce Suderow was kind enough to pass along this account of the Battle of Fussell’s Mill, August 16, 1864, which was buried in the middle of the 1891 book Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Western Arkansas on page 464. This account is notable because it discusses the actions of the sharpshooter battalion from Law’s Alabama Brigade. Also note that Watts was mistaken in calling this fight “Gaines’ Mill.”  He was at Fussell’s Mill, during the Second Battle of Deep Bottom, on August 16, 1864 based on the account he gives.  Bryce gives his assurance that this is indeed an account of Fussell’s Mill rather than Gaines’ Mill, aka Cold Harbor.

The following description of the military career of Mr. [James Brit] Watts [of the 48th Alabama] is here given in his own graphic language and style:

“I wish to state a few words in regard to the battle of Gaines’ Mill [sic, Fussell’s Mill, August 16, 1864, at the Second Battle of Deep Bottom]. I will say that I was a sharpshooter and a scout from Company C, Forty-eighth Alabama Infantry up till the battle of Gaines’ Mill, and our battalion of sharpshooters charged the Federal sharpshooters and drove them back in their breastworks, wherein myself and comrades were so near the enemy that it seemed like it was almost impossible for us to make our escape. While thus exposed to the heavy fire from the artillery and rifles of the Federal lines, our boys were coming in a full breast at a charge bayonets and yelling, but my comrades were repulsed and retired, to rally and come again, which they did, but were repulsed again. All this time myself and comrades were in forty yards of the Federal breastworks, pouring a fire upon them with our Whitney rifles. In about five minutes I looked back and saw the Confederate line charging with determination. This charge was the third charge of the Confederates. As they charged within fifteen steps of my rear I saw the last man in my old Company C fall; his name was John Barton; he was first lieutenant of Company C, Forty-eighth Alabama. In this engagement we had six of as good southern soldiers to fall with our flag as ever lived. When my lieutenant fell forward with the flag he raised himself up as high as possible and waved his flag. I could not stand it any longer, so I rose up and made a few leaps backward and seized our colors. At that moment my lieutenant spread himself flat to the ground. He had received a deadly shot. At that moment as he sank down his dying words were to ‘stamp the flag on the Federal works. ‘  As I seized the flag and leaped forward to stamp it on the Federal works the flag-staff was shot in two, but I regained hold of the fractured end and ran forward. In a few leaps I reached the Federal works and planted my staff within three feet of the Yankee line. At that moment a Yankee captain seized hold of our flag and while myself and the Yankee captain were de-fending ourselves from each others blows, tussling over the flag, one of my comrades shot and killed the captain, and in another instant my comrade fell, shot dead.  In another moment I was yelling and waving our colors for my boys to rally to the old Forty-eighth flag. At the same time I heard Major Carrie cry out to the Forty-seventh Alabama to rally to the aid of the flag of the Forty-eighth, for it was stamped upon the Federal works.  So the boys raised a terrible yell and here they came with bayonets presented. Then came the death struggle while I held the banner. It was a hand-to-hand fight, but quickly over.  I was the only man left in Company C, Forty-eighth Alabama Regiment. After this, and from that very hour, I was chosen as color-bearer for the Forty-eighth Alabama Regiment.  I was the only man left in Company C, and there had six brave boys fallen from under that flag at this battle. Besides this the Forty-eighth had lost three men over half of her number.  It seemed like the solemn hour had come, for we left home with 127 men in Company C, and now  was cut down to one man only. We were the winners of the victory.  The regiments that suffered in this battle were the Forty-eighth, Forty seventh and Fifteenth Alabama, the Third [sic, First], Fourth and Fifth Texas, and the Third Arkansas. We were fighting against odds five to one. Besides the Federals were mixed troops of negroes, Indians and New Yorkers, and they all fought at the point of the bayonet.1

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Fussell's Mill 18640816 Page 464


  1. Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Western Arkansas. Chicago and Nashville: Southern, 1891, p. 464. Print.
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