Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Brett Schulte.
Gen. [Cecil] Clay Corrects a Pennsylvania Comrade.
EDITOR NATIONAL TRIBUNE: In your issue of April 19, among the “Random Shots” is a statement by A. R. Depew, of Co. A, 188th P[ennsylvani]a., that “Fort Harrison was stormed by the Third Brigade, Third Division, Eighteenth Corps, and not by the First Division, as stated in a recent communication in THE NATIONAL TRIBUNE by Gen. Clay.”
The only reason I take any notice of this is, because I wish to attract the attention of the numerous readers of your valuable paper to the loose way in which people make statements as to events and persons about which they know nothing, and for which they have no authority.
In my account of the capture of Fort Harrison I said, as to those who had been writing about this same subject before, “A number of these were enlisted men, who in attending to their duty could have had but a limited field of observation and an imperfect idea of what went on elsewhere than in their immediate vicinity; while some who were wounded before the fort was entered were deprived of the opportunity for personal knowledge of what followed, and others are shown by what they write, to have depended on hearsay principally.”
Now comes your correspondent (Depew), who may have belonged to any or all of these classes, and adds to his disqualifications for writing about the matter, ignorance as to what brigade and division he belonged to.
My article was written to show who took Fort Harrison, which was done by the First Division, Eighteenth Corps; what troops first entered it—the 58th P[ennsylvani]a.—and who carried in the first color—the writer. I also called attention to the fact that, of the three brigade commanders, if one were more than another to be commended, Col. [Samuel H.] Roberts, commanding the Third Brigade, should have most credit. He handled his brigade admirably; it never faltered nor wavered, but went steadily on, pushed over the parapet and were first on and in the works; and he did this while suffering from a violent fever, with which he had been confined to bed, where he had to return when the fight was over. If Mr. Depew will read my article a few times, he will see where his own regiment was while the fight went on. It was there, in the Third Brigade, First Division, Eighteenth Corps, and lost some men.
It had been in that brigade and division since the beginning of June, 1864, and remained in it until the Eighteenth and Tenth Corps were consolidated [in December 1864], some time after Fort Harrison, when the Third Brigade, First Division, Eighteenth Corps, became the Third Brigade, Third Division, Twenty-fourth Corps. Fort Harrison was not taken by a brigade, but by a division—the First Division, Eighteenth Corps.
A charge by a brigade would have failed, as did the charge of that sort on Fort Gilmer by a regiment or two at a time. The division lost 700 men during the day, most of them in the assault on Fort Harrison. The fire that inflicted that loss, concentrated on a brigade would have left it too weak to do anything with the defenders of the works had it reached them.—CECIL CLAY, Washington, D. C.1
- Clay, Cecil. “Fort Harrison…Gen. Clay Corrects a Pennsylvania Comrade.” National Tribune 24 May 1888. 4:5. ↩