Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
THEY ROUTED THE OFFICERS.
Hornets That Caused a Column to Countermarch.
FROM THE RICHMOND DISPATCH.
On August 25, 1864, our command, the Ninth Virginia Cavalry, Richmond Light Infantry, Blue’s Brigade, William H. F. Lee’s Division, General Wade Hampton in command, moved out of camp in front of Major Malone’s residence, and crossed Rowanty creek towards the Petersburg and Weldon railroad we were ordered to dismount and advance on foot as infantry. Just as the head of the column came near the field, where a fence had been pulled down by the videttes, the captain of my company pulled off his hat and rode as rapidly across the field as his horse would carry him. He was observed striking himself and horse with his hat, and the head of the column stopped. General Beale, seeing this, rode in advance of us, but all at once he, too, left us in the same abrupt manner. Generals Hampton and Lee observing this with astonishment, rode to the front, asking what was the matter, and why the column did not advance. They soon found out, as their horses began to kick and plunge about, and then they rapidly joined our captain and General Beale. This was the first time the bloody Ninth had ever seen their brave leaders behave in such a manner. We thought they must have struck a hornet’s nest, which proved to be the case.
The videttes, in pulling down the fence, had upset a nest, and the little fiends defended the road so well that we had to countermarch to enter the field. Here we soon engaged the enemy’s cavalry, who were armed with sixteen-shooters, but we charged and drove in the pickets. On advancing a little farther we were met with such a continuous shower of bullets that we were compelled to seek cover and lay as flat down as possible. Just here occurred one of the coolest and bravest acts I ever witnessed between our line and that of the enemy. Five horses had been left tied to some trees by the Yankees. Walter Callis, a member of my company, advanced in the opening, and deliberately commenced unfastening the halters. One horse had been so frightened that the knot was so tight it seemed impossible to untie it. Walter threw his whole weight against it several times, but did not succeed in unfastening it, when some of the boys called to him to cut it.
“You fool, I am not going to spoil the halter,” said he.
All this time the enemy were pouring the shot into us as fast as they could, but, notwithstanding, Walter brought horses and all safely to the rear.
About this time we heard the report of small arms and cannon on our left. We knew then that the infantry were engaged. We drove the enemy back beyond the railroad, where they made a desperate stand. Here a Miss Gosee was shot. After driving the enemy back from the railroad, our command swung around to the right, taking the Yankees in the left and rear. From that time on to the end of the battle, which lasted until late in the night, we had our own way with them.
After they were driven from their earthworks and had fallen back toward the Jerusalem plank-road, we perceived what a hard-fought battle it was, though so little mention has been made of it by writers. In a fort at the junction of Church and Halifax roads there were forty-eight horses belonging to the Tenth Massachusetts Battery, killed in a space of about a quarter of an acre.
General Hancock’s corps had been engaged in destroying the Petersburg and Weldon railroad, from the former city towards Stony Creek. General A. P. Hill, with his command, supplemented by the cavalry, was sent to drive him off, which Hill did in fine style, sustaining heavy loss, however, as his men had to charge strong works through open fields more than a mile wide, without a bush or depression to shield them. We captured 2,000 prisoners, to say nothing of the killed and wounded. We thought at the time that General Hancock was among the prisoners. He must have made a narrow escape, as I learned from one of the prisoners twenty-five years afterward, whom I have captured twice since, and sincerely hope he has reason to believe that he fared better on the two last occasions than on the first. This prisoner, Joseph Lenty1, of Troy, N. Y., states that he had bitten off forty-eight cartridges, and placed them on a fence-rail in front of him ready for the “Johnnies,” and was eager for them to advance, when one of them tapped him on the shoulder and said: “You are my prisoner.” After the roar of the cannon and the crack of the musketry had ceased the calm and rest we so much needed was followed by a terrific storm. Thus ended the battle of Reams’ Station.
Private Company B, Ninth Virginia Cavalry.
REAMS’ STATION, Va., 1896.2
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The only Joseph Lenty I could find was a private in Company K, 7th New York Heavy Artillery, and that unit was indeed present at the Second Battle of Ream’s Station on August 25, 1865. It seems likely this is the Joseph Lenty that Moncure is writing about. ↩
- “They Routed the Officers.” Anderson (SC) Intelligencer. March 25, 1896, p. 4 col. 3 ↩