Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Brett Schulte.
Interesting Letter from Ransom’s Brigade.
Camp Ransom’s Brigade, June 20.
Editors Confederate.—Knowing that you take an interest in all soldiers, and especially in North Carolina brigades, I have determined to give you an account of the part taken by Ransom’s brigade in the defence of the “Cockade City.”1
On Wednesday evening, [June] the 15th, we were in camp at Chaffin’s farm, three miles below Drewry’s Bluff, living magnificently from the luxurious gardens which the troops that had been stationed there before us had been provident enough to leave in fine vegetation, and also the fisheries, with true soldierly instinct, almost oblivious of the distant roaring of Lee’s cannonading.
At 7 o’clock p. m. that day, we received orders directly from General Lee, to report “without loss of time,” to Gen. Beauregard. We were soon ready and on the march. The men were in excellent plight and soon it was known along the lines that Petersburg was in danger; and this influence was electric, for we all love Petersburg, and I have often heard it said in the brigade that they had rather fight for Petersburg and Weldon than any other places in the Confederacy. I suppose that the brigade has imbibed some of this veneration for noble “little Petersburg” from their gallant commander, Gen. Matt Ransom, who has frequently said, that should there ever be a battle around Petersburg, he trusted that his brigade might participate. The only regret that we have is that he was not with us.
Marching all Wednesday night [June 15, 1864], we arrived at Petersburg Thursday morning [June 16, 1864] very early. We were ordered in a double-quick to the front lines, at their intersection with the Baxter road, and placed in a position under a very heavy fire of artillery and infantry enfilading us from the left of the front entrenchments, which had been taken by the enemy on the night previous [June 15, 1864].
In placing the brigade in position, Captain John C. Pegram, A[ssistant]. A[djutant]. G[eneral]., fell mortally wounded. He was a brave, generous and noble man, combining in him elements of the gentleman and officer that are rarely met with even in our army. From the day that the brave Bartow fell upon the first battle ground of Manassas to the present time, there has not fallen any soldier who more gallantly died than did Capt. Pegram. The brigade feels his loss deeply.
We held this line on Thursday [June 16, 1864]. That evening late, the enemy charged our lines, only engaging in our front the 24th North Carolina regiment, commanded by Major [Thaddeus D.] Love, and were handsomely repulsed. They charged right up to the works, but not being able to pierce the 24th, they threw down their arms and surrendered.2 We rested on our arms quietly on Thursday night, though the left of our army was constantly engaged in heavy sharpshooting.
Soon Friday morning [June 17, 1864] I was aroused from a deep sleep, worn almost out from fatigue, by loud cheering of the enemy on our left, but waited patiently, anticipating every moment to hear a yell of defiance from our Southern boys; but soon stragglers and immediately after large bodies of our army were seen rapidly retiring from the left, saying that the enemy had taken the left of our lines.
This some attribute to the weakness of the lines held by Maj. Gen. Bushrod Johnson’s old Brigade (Tennessee) but officers in that Brigade affirm that there was an open interval on their left, entirely unoccupied, into which the yankees crept and filed immediately in their rear, thereby necessitating their retreat.
The only alternative for us, was to form line in rear, and facing to the enemy, as they were now seen charging up our captured works; which we did in perfect order, and awaited their arrival ; but they did not attack our new line.
The 24th [North Carolina] regiment lost considerably in killed and wounded in leaving the intrenchments, and the 25th North Carolina lost some. Our new line held by us on Friday [June 17, 1864], was unattacked during the day, but we were exposed to some shelling.
Friday night at 8 o’clock we received orders to support Gen. Wise’s Brigade on our left , as the yankees were sorely pressing it. We moved off immediately, but upon arriving in rear of the position held by this Brigade, no one being there to inform us of its retreat, Col. [Paul F.] Faison [of the 56th North Carolina], commanding the Brigade, threw forward some scouts and soon ascertained that their works were held by the enemy. The Brigade [i.e. Ransom’s Brigade] was then ordered to retake them. Every thing depended upon the charge of this Brigade, and the men mindful of their Plymouth reputation3, and thinking of the sufferings to be entailed on the citizens of Petersburg should the enemy break our lines, were determined to conquer or perish in the attempt. They dashed forward with a yell and the yankees were soon dislodged, though we lost heavily in so doing.
We captured about four hundred prisoners, with two stands of colors ; the prisoners we took stating that their two regiments were all killed or captured. This was a gallant charge and should rank Ransom’s Brigade side by side with Gordon’s noble Brigade, Ramseur’s and some others of Lee’s army which have immortalized themselves upon the blood-stained fields of Spotsylvania Courthouse.
It would be doing great injustice, were I not to include the 22nd South Carolina regiment in this charge. They sustained the well-earned reputation that has been characteristic of South Carolina troops since the inauguration of hostilities.
In this charge Colonel J. C. Jones [sic, John G. Jones] of the 35th N. C. regiment, and Capt. Blackwell of the same, were both killed. Col. Jones won immortal renown in the Plymouth fight, and again distinguished himself in the charge of his regiment at the Ware Bottom Church, and sealed his fate in the last glorious charge of Ransom’s brigade. He was a good soldier and true Christian, and his memory together with the brave Blackwell, will be embalmed in the hearts of all the members of this brigade who knew their estimable qualities. Col. Jones’ own regiment laments his loss even as a mother “mourns over her first born.” I have never seen anything equal to the devotion of his men for him.
Lieut. Col. [Samuel C.] Bryson, of the 25th N. C., also acted very well, displaying his usual coolness in the charge of his regiment, though he was wounded very early in the action, but not dangerously hurt. Maj. Love, when his regiment on Friday morning was forced to fall back, displayed traits of soldierly ability that won the admiration of all who saw him, and showed himself a brave and efficient officer.
After making the above charge, we were ordered back to a new line, which we now hold, having been several times assaulted in our position by the enemy, but with no effect upon our lines. I believe I utter the sentiment of every rue soldier around Petersburg, when I say that the yankees will have to charge through scenes yet unknown to them before they take Petersburg. We have made up our mind to die, if there need be, in the cause of her hospitable inhabitants, and may we soon be able by the assistance of Divine Providence, to expel these miscreants from before her gates and let the busy scenes of merchandise and the gleeful notes of children’s happy tones once again resound through streets now only reverberating with the roar of cannon.
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Petersburg was referred to as the Cockade City due to the cockades worn by the Petersburg Volunteers during the War of 1812. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Francis C. Barlow’s Division of the Union Second Corps charged on this part of the line. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Ransom’s Brigade had captured the town of Plymouth, North Carolina earlier in 1864. See this site for a good article from the Raleigh Confederate. ↩
- “Interesting Letter from Ransom’s Brigade.” Raleigh Confederate. June 23, 1864, p. 2 col. 4 ↩