Editor’s Note: This article was provided by and transcribed by K. S. McPhail (New Kent County History and Thread the Rude Eye).
The 12th. W. Va. I. Flag Staff.
Last week we published an account of the finding by R. W. Mahan, of the Twelfth West Virginia Infantry flag staff eagle which had been presented to the regiment by General Gibbin [sic, Gibbon] for gallant service at the assault on Fort Gregg. The eagle had been lost ten years ago and accidentally found by Mr. Mahan in Mr. Corcoran’s grocery window, it having been presented to Mr. Corcoran several years ago by a Pittsburgh, Wheeling & Kentucky railway brakeman. In referring to the recovery of this treasure, the Wellsburg Herald says:
The battle which is spoken of in the inscription was in taking Fort Gregg, a strong enclosed redoubt, the moat salient and commanding to the south of Petersburg. It was strongly manned by Harris’s Mississippi Brigade. For a time Gibbin’s [sic, Gibbon’s] men dashed themselves against it in vain; ultimately, however, the fort was carried. The 2nd division of the 4th [24th] corps1 did the charging and took the fort. General Gibbon said to the division as they marched to position for the charge, the regiment that planted its colors first on the fort should have a golden eagle for its colors. Around the fort was a ditch 10 feet wide and six feet deep with water two feet deep in it, and the men had to climb up an earthwork 12 feet high. The boys finally made a way to reach the parapet and got the colors of the Twelfth on the fort when the color bearer was killed and the flag fell into the fort amongst the Confederates. Then Col. Curtis did the bravest act of his life when he rushed into the fort with his regiment and recaptured the colors. Corporal Apple, of Company F, from Hancock county, run his bayonet through the Johnny that had our colors and threw him on the parapet of the fort. For his gallantry he got a medal from the secretary of War. Apple was one of the color guards and our flag was there to stay.
Out of the Mississippi Brigade only 300 remained. The loss to Gibbin’s [sic, Gibbon’s] Division was 500. The Brigade Colonel W. B. Curtis commanded consisted of the 12th W. Va. 23d Ills., and 24th Penn. The 23d pushed their color bearer up on the parapet just as a cannon was discharged and he was blown to atoms. Colonel Curtis came out of the fort with a Major on one side and a Colonel on the other, as prisoners. We were proud of our Colonel for there are few who do not love a brave man.
General Grant witnessed the assault and speaks of it in his history as the most daring and determined he ever witnessed.2