Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Bryce Suderow and is included in a collection of articles from the Columbus Sun. His transcription of this article is published here with his written permission.
In the Trenches Near Petersburg
Va., March 28th, 1865
Dear Captain: Before this letter reaches you, you will no doubt have heard of the bloody ordeal your old regiment passed through on the 25th inst. And knowing that you feel a deep interest in our welfare I will give you a short history of the part taken by the 45th Ga. on that day.
On the evening of the 24th, we received orders to be ready to move at a moment’s warning. At 10 o’clock p.m. Lane’s and Thomas’ Brigades were on the plank road leading towards the leadworks. We arrived in rear of Gordon’s command about 1? o’clock that night. We were then placed in a ravine, and remained there as reserves until Gordon captured the works, and returned to his old lines. I don’t think this move paid, as our loss was very heavy in falling back, which was about 9 o’clock a.m. We then received orders to march back to our quarters, and arrived there about 10 o’clock. The men had hardly taken off their accoutrements before we were ordered to fall in, and march to the right where the enemy were making some demonstrations. We marched half a mile, halted, and were ordered back to camps; and arrived just in time to get on our house-tops and witness a fight that was going on in our immediate front. Col. Simmons who had stopped a moment to see Gen. Thomas, came dashing up and ordered us to fall in immediately.
We were soon in line and marching at a double quick to join in the conflict. The 45th and 49th Georgia regiments being nearer the works than the 35th and 14th were the first upon the field. The enemy had captured the works occupied by our pickets, in a ravine about three quarters of a mile in advance of our main works. We were ordered by Gen. Lane to take them with our two regiments, Col. Simmons commanding the two. Lt. Col. Conn commanding the 45th. We found [formed] our line of battle on the brow of the hill, about two hundred and fifty yards from our rifle pits, now occupied by the enemy. The skirmishers were soon sent forward and we commenced the advance. As we passed the crest of the hill, we saw the hateful foe on forbidden ground. With a yell from one end of our line to the other that made the “welkin ring” we were up and at them like a “thousand of bricks”. Our line was good, our yell frightful, our fire murderous, and our victory complete. The enemy in confusion fled, falling at every step. The gallant Lt. Col. Conn fell here, his last words were, “Forward boys, forward.” On our extreme left, far in advance of our lines, there was a regiment of Yankees about two hundred and fifty in number, doing some execution for us, and eight of our sharpshooters charged and drove them back to their old line.
Col. Simmons, Lt. Colonel Conn, and Major Gibson, acted most gallantly. I am unable to state the loss of the enemy, but their loss in killed and wounded was far greater than ours. Thus far all things worked well; but now comes the unpleasant part of the story. In going into a fight, we should always have one way to go in, and two to come out — but this was not our fortune. We had none to go in and none to come out. General Thomas and Col. Simmons were both opposed to the move, but the order was given, and their duty was to obey.
After we held the lines two hours or more, the enemy formed a line of battle, consisting of four brigades and two regiments of another. The hill was blue as far as we could see, both to the right and left. Our two regiments, numbering in all about four hundred guns, fought them until they were within fifty yards of our front or works, they had nearly surrounded us, they having five thousand, we four hundred! our ammunition was about this time completely expended, and Col. Simmons gave us orders to fall back. We had a hill of two hundred and fifty yards to run up, the enemy firing into us both right and left. We knew if we escaped it would be a miracle, but we thought we would try it. Some did not hear the command, and remained in the pit and gave the Yankees the benefit the butts of their guns. We fell back, reformed in our main works — having ninety-eight all told in the 45th Ga. and about one hundred in the 49th. Those that remained behind were captured. Our gallant brigade commander was struck by a spent ball, but did not leave the field. On Sunday and Sunday night we remained quiet.
On Monday morning Lane’s brigade, with sharpshooters of Thomas’ and Scales’ brigades, attacked the enemy’s picket line, drove them in, and we established our lines on the hill in our front, where it should have been placed at first. We sent in a flag of truce then to recover the bodies of our men, which was granted. Major McClellan [Maj. Arthur McClellan of Wright’s staff], a brother of Gen. G.B. McClellan, who is not Gen. Wright’s staff of the U.S.A., was bearer of the flag of truce. He said he never saw men fight as we did not Saturday. He gave us the credit of being the most gallant, if not the most desperate fighters he ever saw, or rather that ever fought his command.
When we were ordered to the right, Capt. Bush was on picket from our regiment with thirty-seven men, and the Yankees charged the pickets of our entire brigade, and were repulsed three different times by our picket force alone. The fourth charge was with two lines of battle, and our men were compelled to surrender. I send you a list of the casualties in our regiment, which please have published. Ensign Bydie has been dropped from the roll, and is now waiting for the report to carry to Georgia. I have written in great haste, he is waiting only on me.
Capt. Co. F, 45th Ga.1
- “In the Trenches Near Petersburg,” Columbus Sun, April 15, 1865, p. 1 col. ? ↩