Editor’s Note: Base transcription is from the CD-ROM version of The Confederate Veteran at Eastern Digital. Minor corrections were made by Brett Schulte.
Two Boys of the Fifth Texas Regiment.1
Jess[e] B. Lott [5th Texas], of Navasota, Tex., says:
Judge Martin satisfactorily fixes the date, September 29, 1864, of the Fort Gilmer fight. The Texas Brigade, with other troops, assaulted the enemy’s works on the 8th of October [sic, October 7, at the Battle of Darbytown and New Market Roads], when Gen. [John] Gregg was killed. W. H. Snell, Company B, 5th Texas Regiment, and I were in Fort Gilmer when the negroes rolled over in the ditch in front. We were on picket duty the night before the fight, and during the night we could hear the enemy giving commands distinctly, information of which was sent back to the rear. There was unusual commotion among the enemy’s troops, but we supposed Gen. Lee understood it as a feint. The next morning revealed the fact that they were all negroes. We fought negro troops all day. Our picket force fell back to the works between where the Texas Brigade was fighting [on New Market Heights] and Fort Harrison, on our right. We repulsed them with heavy loss, but when Fort Harrison fell, we were cut off and fell back again to Fort Gilmer. We found forty or fifty men with two pieces of the heavy artillery. We repulsed two or three charges before the fight was over. Snell and I had an understanding that in the event we were overpowered we were to jump up on top of the parapet and run down to where the stockade joined the works and jump on the inside.
When we landed in the fort, we found a very few old soldiers, and were told that it was a company of Virginia militia. . . . We had been fighting from the time we could see, and when we landed in the fort, the excitement was pretty well all gone. . . .We were shooting with deadly aim, and when they surrendered and crawled through the culvert, it was the only time during the war that I felt like shooting prisoners, as the officers (white men) wore red caps and sashes. We could plainly see the race for the works to our left between our troops and the enemy, which Gen. Reese speaks of, and when we saw our troops’ triumph, the tension on our part of the line was happily relieved. I don’t remember seeing an officer in the fort, so each one fought for himself, for while we were fighting we would run to different angles in the fort and take aim, rise up, and fire at the same time. This was kept up for quite a while, when hand grenades were thrown over among them and they ran up the white flag. Snell and I did not remain in the fort long after the last repulse. It was my impression that there were eighty or one hundred surrendered and sixty or seventy killed in the ditch and just on the outside. We went down the line to another fort between Fort Gilmer and Fort Harrison (Judge Martin calls it Fort ‘Gregg’).
Now I cannot understand Gen. Reese to say there were only five or six men in Fort Gilmer at this time, but that there were five or six conspicuous men, men that were running from one angle of the fort to the other to keep the negroes from scaling the walls. At no time did they command the fort where we were (on the right), because we rose right over their heads and gave them such volleys as held them back. I have been sorry that we didn’t remain in the fort longer after the surrender, but we were fagged out, hence there was no interest in the prisoners or number of dead to us. I would be glad to meet Dr. May or any one else to talk over this fight.
- Lott, Jess B. “Two Boys of the Fifth Texas Regiment.” Confederate Veteran, Volume 13, Number 9, pp. 416-417 ↩