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NP: August 10, 1864 The Southern Banner (Athens, GA): Wright’s Brigade at the Crater, July 30, 1864

Headq[uar]t[e]rs Wright’s Brigade,
August 2, 1864

Editors Petersburg Express: In your editorial columns of August 1, 1864, giving an account of the engagement of July 30 [1864 at the Crater], there are some erroneous statements about the action of Wright’s Brigade1 [Wright/Mahone/Third/ANV] that I desire to correct.

You state that Gen. [William] Mahone2, getting his troops into position, ordered his Brigade [Weisiger/Mahone/Third/ANV] to retake a portion of the works and instructed Wright’s Brigade to come up in such position as would ensure the recapture of the remaining portion.3 No such instructions were given. When Mahone’s Brigade charged, only one regiment and a half of Wright’s Brigade, had emerged from the covered way leading to the battle field.4 They were ordered by Captain [Victor J. B.] Girardey, Mahone’s A[ssistant]. A[djutant]. General, to charge with the right of Mahone’s Brigade, which they did gallantry [sic, gallantly].5 You state in the meantime, Wright’s Brigade, commanded by Col. [Matthew R.] Hall [of the 48th Georgia, the writer of this letter], instead of coming directly up, by some means deployed and came around and thus failed to retake that portion of the line assigned them. This statement is incorrect, and without foundation. That portion of the Brigade that did not go in with Mahone’s was moved up rapidly, formed in line, and charged the works on the right of Mahone’s Brigade. They made a gallant charge, and the list of casualties amounting to two hundred and thirty-one, is sufficient evidence of the murderous fire to which they were exposed.

Wright’s Brigade was as well represented on the edge of the immense hole, caused by the explosion, as any Brigade on the line. One of Wright’s regiments planted their colors on the edge of that immense hole and remained there until the last Yankee had been disposed of, and they ordered away.6

M[atthew]. R. Hall,
Lieut[enant]. Col[onel]. Com[man]d’[in]g Brigade.7

SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Brett Schulte.

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  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: Ambrose “Rans” Wright’s Georgia Brigade was no longer commanded by their namesake. Wright was kept out of most of the 1864 fighting due to illness, and never returned to his brigade.  They were in Anderson’s old division, now Mahone’s Division, in A. P. Hill’s Third Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. By this point in 1864 they had seen their leadership decimated, resulting in a Lieutenant Colonel commanding. See The Confederate General, Volume VI, pp. 161-163 for more on Wright and his absence.
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: William Mahone was the division commander for Wright’s Brigade. He led a counterattack against the Union forces after they had driven away the Confederates holding this portion of the line after the explosion under Pegram’s Salient.
  3. SOPO Editor’s Note: The counterattacks were aimed at the massive, gaping crater from which the battle took its name.
  4. SOPO Editor’s Note: Mahone, a former Railroad Engineer who was intimately familiar with the area, utilized a ravine to get his forces near the battlefield while being sheltered from taking casualties.
  5. SOPO Editor’s Note: Girardey often operated in this manner, doing more than your typical staff officer and even leading troops in combat.  Interestingly, Girardey would be promoted from the rank of Captain directly to Brigadier General, the only instance of its kind in the Confederacy, and named the commander of this brigade a day after this letter was written.  Unfortunately for the newly minted Brigadier General he would be killed only a few weeks later on August 16, 1864 at the Second Battle of Deep Bottom near Fussell’s Mill. For more on Girardey, see The Confederate General, Volume II, pp. 192-193
  6. SOPO Editor’s Note: Hall’s account is essentially correct.  A portion of his brigade went un during the initial counterattack, the rest of the brigade went in a few hours later, and they all hung on at the lip of the Crater until a final attack by Sanders’ Alabama Brigade, not mentioned in this letter, finally caused a mass surrender of the remaining Union forces. For much more on the Battle of the Crater, see Earl J. Hess’ book Into the Crater: The Mine Attack at Petersburg.
  7. No title. The Southern Banner (Athens, GA). August 10, 1864, p. 1 col. 6
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