Editor’s Note: This article was provided by and transcribed by K. S. McPhail (New Kent County History and Thread the Rude Eye).
TWO STORIES OF BRAVE MEN.
Further On Gen. Johnson Hagood and a Federal Hero.
Correspondence News and Courier.
Washington, January 14.
Two memorable, incidents of the late war, which excited more or less attention, at the time of their occurrence, have been recently recalled to recollection coder circumstances that invest them with a new interest. Many of General Johnson Hagood’s old soldiers will doubtless recall the circumstances of the first affair, while some members of Gen. Kershaw’s brigade can perhaps testify more in detail to the facts of the second.
For the information of your other readers, however, it should be briefly staled that on the 21st of August, 1864, Gen. Hagood’s brigade, with five others, were ordered to carry a strongly entrenched Federal position on the Weldon road, near the Yellow Tavern, a few miles from Petersburg, Virginia. For some reason only two brigades, of which Gen. Hagood’s was one, went into action, and Gen. Hagood, at the head of his men, swept over and beyond the first line of entrenchments in a charge that carried all before it.
At the second line they were confronted by overwhelming numbers, and met by such a close and deadly fire that their advance was checked; and further progress being manifestly impossible, the command halted and endeavored to maintain’ the unequal fight where it Stood. Being wholly unsupported, however, and it plainly appearing that the assault had failed on this account, retreat became inevitable.
At this critical moment a mounted officer dashed out of the Federal breastworks, and, riding down the Confederate ranks commanded the men to throw down their arms and surrender themselves prisoners. A number of both officers and men, deeming their plight a hopeless one, obeyed the order almost mechanically, add the officer had already taken the colors from the hands of the ensign, when Gen. Hagood, who was on foot and at some distance, discovered what was taking place, and recognizing the necessity for prompt action, ordered his men to shoot the officer on the spot. This order was not heard, or at any rate was not obeyed, and firing his pistol at the bold rider without effect, General Hagood advanced rapidly toward him, and demanded that he should give up the colors on the instant. The officer replied that the command had surrendered, and that Gen. Hagood was himself a prisoner. Gen. Hagood replied that no one but himself had any authority to surrender, that he did not propose to do so, and again demanded the flag to be given to him, adding that the officer was at liberty to return to his own lines if he did so.” “You have made a brave fight, General,” responded the brave and determined Federal, “but if you will look behind you, you will see that you are lost.” A single glance in the direction indicated revealed to Gen. Hagood the fact that the enemy had closed in behind him, and that his command was surrounded. There was not a moment to be lost. Gen. Hagood presented his pistol and peremptorily demanded, “Will you surrender that nag, sir, immediately yes or no?”
“By the living God, No!” fairly shouted the gallant but fated man, and with the words fell heavily to the ground as the ball from his adversary’s pistol entered his side.
Seizing the colors and springing into the saddle from which the officer had fallen, Gen. Hagood led the charge against the foe in his rear, and his command fought its way back to the Confederate lines.
As stated in the affidavit appended below, Gen. Hagood learned a few days afterwards, from Northern papers received through the lines, that the officer referred to was Capt. Dailey, of Gen. Cutler’s staff.
The following papers have just been filed in the United States Pension Office in this city:
Council Bluffs, Ia., Aug. 7, 1879.
Gen. Hagood: I am the person whom you shot on the 21st day of August, 1864, at what is known with us as the battle of the Globe (or Yellow) Tavern, on the Weldon Railroad. Doubtless you remember the circumstances. In the many comments on the event of your shooting me, etc., I have been repeatedly reported as dead from the effects of the shot. The last report of the event, together with an account of that battle, that has been brought to my notice was one published in the weekly Philadelphia Enquirer of some week in June, 1878. The article was by a Capt. Young, of the Confederate service. In this publication I was reported as being shot dead at that time.
Your address has been sent me by Senator Gordon. What I want is this: That if you do not deem it inconsistent or improper, you will furnish me with a certificate stating the facts and circumstances of your firing at and wounding a Federal officer on the occasion as above, and if you ever heard the name and rank of such officer, state upon information. My rank at the time was that of Captain, and I was then upon Gen. Cutler’s staff, who commanded the division with which yours came in contact.
I am making application for pension, desire to use your certificate in that way. Should you see fit to favor me with it, be kind enough to sign and verify the same before the clerk of one of your courts of record, who will affix his seal to the same. With the wound inflicted as above, and one afterwards received on the 31st of March, 1865, at Gravely Run, I am almost totally disabled. The ball from your pistol entered my right side and penetrated to my backbone, from which place it was, after a long time, extracted. Your certificate will be of great value to me. Should you see fit to favor me with it, please do so at your very earliest convenience.
I am very respectfully yours,
D. B. Dailey.
Columbia, S. C, Aug. 18, 1879.
Capt. D. B. Dailey, Council Bluffs, Iowa:
My Dear Sir- Your communication of the 7th instant, requesting from me a sworn statement of the facts connecting you and myself with the combat, on the 21st of August, 1864, upon the Weldon road, with the view of being used by you in an application for a pension, was received a few days ago.
Enclosed you will find an affidavit of the facts as I saw them, and which in all important particulars I believe to be correct. It is made out from memoranda taken at the time.
I have never before given a detailed statement of the incident to any one, nor have any of the publications upon the subject emanated, directly or indirectly, from me. Capt. Young, to whom you refer, was not a member of my brigade, and I do not now recollect ever having met him. His account is based upon the general army rumor of the day. I made a very brief official report of the part my brigade took in the action, which may or may not now be in Washington among the papers of the Confederate War Office.
Will you permit me to express the little pleasure given me by the receipt of your letter- the knowledge that your wound had not proved mortal. We were both, under different circumstances, endeavoring to do our duty, and your gallant bearing made a profound impression upon me. It will be a matter of great satisfaction to me if I shall have contributed in the least by the statement enclosed to your obtaining from the government the recognition of your services which they so well deserve.
I am, very respectfully,
Gen. Hagood’s affidavit, which by reason of its legal character and intent necessarily omits the details of the conversation that occurred during the fight, together with other incidents supplied in the first portion of this article, is as follows:
State of South Carolina,
Personally appeared before me, D. B. Miller, Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas of the County and State aforesaid, Johnson Hagood, who, being duly sworn, deposeth and says as follows:
That he, the deponent, is now Comptroller-General of the State of South Carolina, and was, during the late civil war, in the service of the Confederates, commanding a brigade of Hoke’s division of the Army of Northern Virginia.
That on the 21st of August, 1864, his brigade, then temporarily reporting to Major General Mahone, was with five other brigades ordered to assail the Federal position on the Weldon road, near Globe Tavern, a few miles below Petersburg.
That when his brigade had reached the Federal intrenchments and was struggling to carry them, it became apparent that the assault would fail, the other brigades not co-operating vigorously as directed.
That the Federals pushed out a deployed line behind him to cut off his retreat, and at the same time he saw among his men a mounted Federal officer, who had apparently come through a sallyport. This officer had seized a regimental flag and demanded a surrender. Some officers and men had surrendered, but were not carried in; others refused but just around him ceased fighting. Firing had ceased nowhere from the Federal line, and nowhere else from the Confederate line. Deponent called to the men to shoot the officer and fall back in retreat, they either did not in the noise of battle hear the order, or bewildered by the surrender of part of their number, failed to obey. It was a critical moment demanding decision and immediate action. In a few moments the disposition to surrender would have spread, and the brigade would have been lost. Deponent approached the officer, demanding the colors, and that he should go back into his own lines, telling him he was free to do so. The officer decisively refused, and the deponent shot him through the body. Mounting the horse from which the officer fell deponent led his men against the line in the rear, and succeeded in bringing off the larger part of his command. Deponent learned a few days afterward, from Northern papers received through the lines, that the officer referred to was Capt. Dailey, of General Cutler’s staff.
The attempt of this officer to secure the surrender of a whole brigade came very near succeeding. It was one of the most dashing feats witnessed by deponent on either side during the war. Upon the chance of securing a prize for the side he served, Captain Dailey doubly staked his life, for he was while in the Confederate line in as much danger from the fire of his own men as from his enemy.
Deponent further says that he makes this affidavit at the request, received through the mail, of D. B. Dailey, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, who informs him that he is the Capt. Dailey referred to; that he is disabled from this and other wounds, and is applying for a pension from the United States Government.
Deponent has never known Captain Dailey, except on the battle field as described; has no pecuniary interest whatever in the application by him for a pension, and complies with the request for a statement of facts in the hope, most sincerely entertained, that it may benefit a brave soldier.
- “Two Stories of Brave Men.” Anderson (SC) Intelligencer. February 5, 1880, p. 1 col. 1-2 ↩