UPR: Report of LtCol John W. McGill, 18th North Carolina, Lane’s Brigade, of operations May 6-July 28, 1864

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in Unpublished Reports Volume XL

Editor’s Note: Brett Schulte recently noticed this report transcribed online among the James H. Lane Papers at the Auburn University Archives web site.  Permission was asked for and granted by Auburn University Libraries, Department of Special Collections & University Archives to reproduce these transcriptions here at The Siege of Petersburg Online.  These transcriptions are copyrighted by Auburn University Libraries, Department of Special Collections & University Archives and may not be reproduced without their express written consent.  The transcription attribution reads as follows: “Transcriptions made by Terri Stout-Stevens, Pfafftown, NC, in 1997 and 1998.  Edited by Marty Olliff, Assistant Archivist, Auburn University, who takes all responsibility for any errors.”

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Unpublished Report of LtCol John W. McGill, 18th North Carolina, Lane’s Brigade, of operations May 6-July 28, 18641

Hd. Qu[a]r[ter]s 18th N[orth] C[arolina] T[roops]
Near Petersburg V[irgini]a
Sept[ember] 9th/64

Capt[ain]

I have the honour to submit for your information the following account of the part taken by the 18th Regt. in this campaign from the 6th of May to the 28th of July 1864 exclusive.

[SOPO Editor’s Note: I have decided to keep the portion of this report prior to the Siege of Petersburg intact so you can see what the regiment went through.  Editing and comments will be light to non-existent for the May 6 to June 12 portion of the report.]

Daylight on the morning of the 6th [of May 1864], dawned upon the [18th North Carolina] Regiment lying in the woods near the Plank Road, worn out from fatigue undergone on the previous day, out of amunition, and the arms so badly fould from the fireing in the engagement of the 5th, that but few of them would fire. About 4 ½ O’clock A.M., the enemy advanced and were held in check for a short time by some troops in line, a little in front of the right of this Regiment. As soon as the advance of the enemy was made known, the Regiment was formed into as good a line as circumstances would permit, and every preparation made to receive him, that could be made, in the short time allowed. Believing that there was a line of battle (of our own troops) in my front, the Regiment was cautioned not to fire. There was also a line of troops about (30) thirty yards in rear of the position occupied by the 18th. During the night before, or very early in the next morning, these troops had thrown together a few logs, with the view of protecting themselves from the fire of the enemy. In a short time after the enemy commenced fireing, these men (I do not

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know who commanded them) returned their fire, delivering it over the 18th, laying in line in front of them. Being thus exposed to the fire of both friend and foe, the Regiment became somewhat confused, and commenced to fall back. Seeing this, and observing Col Barry near the left of the Regiment where this confusion existed, I suppose that he had ordered the Regt. to fall back to this temporary work above mentioned. On this supposition I ordered the right wing of the Regiment to fall back to this line, but when it had arrived at this point, the retreat became general, and from the line of fire of the enemy it appeared that he had nearly entirely surrounded us. At the distance of about two hundred yards in rear of this line of logs, with the assistance of Captains Lewis, Poisson, Brice, and Wooten, and Lieut E.N. Robinson, and other officers, I halted and reformed the right wing, on the Regimental Colours, and started to advance upon the enemy, in concert with a small body (as I have since learned) of Walkers Brigade of Heths Division, but the enemy appearing on the right flank of Walkers men, in such numbers as to render a further advance imprudent, it was deemed expedient to withdraw. About (200) two hundred yards further to the rear, I found Genl Kershaw’s Brigade in line of battle. I immediately reported to Genl Kershaw, and requested him to assign me to position where I could render some assistance in checking the advance of the enemy, but Genl Kershaw becoming much exasperated

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at the bad conduct of some stragglers, ordered every one who did not belong to his Brigade to leave its vicinity. Just then I learned that a portion of the Brigade was a short distance further to the rear, and as Genl Kershaw had so ordered away, every soldier who did not belong in his (Kershaw’s) Brigade I move the detachment under my command consisting of men from every Regiment in this Brigade (Lane’s) about (200) two hundred yards further to the rear, where I found the 37th N.C. Regiment under Col Barbour, a portion of the 7th Regiment under Capt. McAulay, and a portion of Scales’ Brigade under Col. Hyman. Having united with this portion of the Brigade, I reported to Col Barbour, the senior officer present and was ordered to move to the Plank Road at which point I arrived with about one hundred and fifty men to the Regiment, and united with the remainder of the Regiment under Col. Barry and Maj Wooten, who had been ordered to the other side of the Plank Road, to repel a threatened advance of the enemy in that direction. From this point, the Regiment with the rest of the Brigade, was ordered to the left of the 3rd corps, and placed into line in such a manner as to connect with the two corps (2nd and 3rd) which had hitherto been separated. In this position the Regiment threw up breast works and remained until Sunday morning May 8th when orders were received to move. About 12 O’clock at night, the Regiment bivouaced in an open field. Early next morning the march was resumed, and about 10 O’clock

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A.M. the column arrived at Spottsylvania C.H. Here the Regiment again threw up breastworks and remained until about 10 O’clock next morning when it was ordered further to the left, and there built breastworks. A dense fog covered the earth on the morning of the 12th so dense in fact, that it was scarcely possible to distinguish an object at a distance of (10) ten paces. About 5 O’clock A.M. the enemy advanced and broke through our lines, in Maj Genl Edward Johnston’s front at some distance on the left of the 28th N.C. Regt and taking the latter Regiment in the flank, swept around, and came up in the rear of the left of the 18th. At the same time he advanced in our front and being thus attacked in front and rear Col Barry ordered the Regiment to fall back in the direction of the 33rd N.C. in line on right of the 18th and separated from it by a small march. But the enemy pursueing in superior numbers the Regiment was not hanlted, until it had reached a short line of earth works in rear of the line previously occupied by the 33rd. Here those of the Regiment, who had escaped capture, were formed, and by direction of Genl Lane placed with the 28th and 33rd in line to check a further advance of the enemy which we succeeded in doing. The Casualties, and especially in prisoners were very heavy in this affair. But taking into consideration the situation at the time when the Regiment was ordered to fall back, it was a subject of much wonder that any escaped capture, as the Regiment being busily engaged in front with the Enemy.

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his approach in our rear was not discovered until he had nearly enveloped the Regiment and when first seen by Col Barry, his colours were very near our own which, I regret to say were with their gallant bearer Ensign, J.O. Frink captured. Among the missing were Capts, Lewis of Co “I”, Wooten of Co. “H”, 1st Lieuts Corbett of Co “E”, McIntosh of Co “F” and 2nd Lieuts, Townsend & Rowland of Co “D”, Elkins of Co “H”, Bullard of Co. “A” and one hundred and thirty-three enlisted men. After the enemy had been checked, the Regiment was moved to the position occupied on Tuesday. About 3 O’clock P.M. the Brigade was ordered to assault the left flank of the enemy. In this assault, the Regiment numbering (28) twenty eight enlisted men, and (10) ten field and line Officers took a part, capturing several prisoners and one stand of colours the latter taken by private J.H. Wheeler of Co “E.” In this engagement, the Regiment was fired into from the rear by some of Mahone’s Brigade, who were to support the assaulting columns but failed to do so, and thereby necessitated a retreat. During this retreat Capt Brice, an Officer of tried gallantry was spoken to in a very abrupt, and insulting manner by Genl Mahone. I do not remember how this occurred, and as Capt Brice is now absent wounded, I have no means of ascertaining. This I do know however, that while assisting Lt. McCallum of the field (who had been badly wounded near me in retreat) that a man on horse back, (who I afterwards learned was Genl Mahone) rode up to a squad of eight or ten men (having a lot of prisoners under guard) a short distance in front of me

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and enquired if there was any Officer present. I replied that I was an Officer. He then demanded, using the expression, “Where in the Hell are you taking these men to” I informed him that I was taking them to their command which I saw forming near a house about two hundred yards in front of our line before Spottsylvania C.H. He (Genl Mahone) then ordered me back to the front with these men remarking, that the “d___d North Carolinians were deserting his brave Virginians.” I replied to him that I thought that it was just the reverse, and as I saw, that the Brigade was forming at the house above mentioned and did not see any good, that I could accomplish by needlesly exposing myself and my men to the fire of the Enemy’s Artillery, I did not obey his order where upon he commended abusing the Brigade generally. I endeavored to stop him from this by starting the circumstances but as he disregarded my statement, I remarked to him that he might “go to Hell” or any where else but as for me, I would form with my command and accordingly move forward, with about (30) thirty men to the Brigade, who had joined me while talking with Genl Mahone. The casualties in this action were slight. Among the wounded was 1st Lieut McCallum of Co “H” an Officer conspicuous for coolness and bravery in action. After this engagement the Regiment remained at Spottsylvania C.H. occupying several positions along the lines at different times until the afternoon of the 21st of May, when with the Brigade it was ordered to a Church (name not known) about one mile south of the Court House, and sent forward to feel, and if possible, to ascertain

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the strength of the enemy’s position at that point. In this advance the Regiment with the 7th N.C. composed the second or supporting line, and assisted in driving the enemy from a line of works. About dark it was withdrawn, and ordered to march in a direction nearly south from Spottsylvania C.H. About the dawn of day the next morning (22nd) [May 22, 1864] a halt was ordered for an hour or two, at the expiration of this period, the march was resumed and continued, until about 4 O’clock P.M. Having in this time arrived in the vicinity of Nolls turn out on the V[irgini]a. C[entral]. R[ail]. R[oad]. a halt was ordered and the troops bivouaced in the woods until morning and were again ordered to march, and at 11 O’clock A.M. on 23rd May were ordered into camp near Anderson’s turn out. Here however, they were permitted to remain but a short time. The enemy having crossed the North Anna river at Jericho Ford, Wilcox Division was ordered to attack them. This was done. The Regiment taking a part in the assault. At dark, the Regiment with the Brigade was withdrawn, and placed into line near Anderson’s house, and remained here until Saturday the 28th when orders were received, to march to Atlees station, near which place, it remained until Monday morning May 30th, when it was ordered to take position on Totopotomy creek. Here the Regiment threw up works under a very severe Artillery fire, and sustained a loss of (1) one commissioned Officer Lt. F. Lewis Co “B” and (7) seven enlisted men wounded (the latter nearly all receiving mortal wounds.) At this position the Regiment remained until the 2nd

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of June [1864] when it was ordered to Cold Harbour where it arrived about 2 O’clock P.M. and was ordered into position near McGhee’s house. Here it suffered from the fire of the enemy’s sharp shooters losing one commissioned Officer, Lt Buchanan of Co “F” (mortally) and (5) five enlisted men wounded.

 

[SOPO Editor’s Note: McGill’s description of the 18th North Carolina’s experiences early in the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign starts here.]

 

On Monday morning June 14th [sic, 13th]2 the enemy having disappeared from our front The Brigade [Lane/Wilcox/Third/ANV] was ordered to march in the direction of Fraziers Farm, and at about 2 O’clock P.M. the Cavalry having reported the enemy in our front. The Brigade was formed into line, and moved forward into position under a severe Artillery fire. The 18th [North Carolina] Regiment, losing (3) three enlisted men wounded. At this place known as Riddles shop, the Regiment built (2) two lines of breastworks and remained until the evening of the 17th June, when it was ordered to Atlees Farm. The next morning (June 18th) the march was resumed, and continued until about dark, when the Regiment was ordered into position in the vicinity of Battery No. 37 on the fortifications around Petersburg. Early the next morning [June 19, 1864], the Brigade [Lane/Wilcox/Third/ANV] was moved to the left and the [18th North Carolina] Regiment placed into position between Batteries No. 34 and 35. About 2 O’clock P.M. June 21st [1864] orders were received to move in the direction of Ream’s Station. At a distance of about (3) three miles from Petersburg, a halt was ordered and a line of works commenced. But before the works were completed, orders were received to move back to the original position, where it remained until about 12 O’clock June 22nd [1864] when Wilcox’s Division [Wilcox/Third/ANV] was ordered to the rear

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of the enemy’s left flank, to feel his position. At about 2 O’clock P.M. the [18th North Carolina] Regiment with the Brigade [Lane/Wilcox/Third/ANV] formed into line and was ordered to advance. After moving forward about one mile, it came up with and drove in the enemy’s line of skirmishers, capturing some prisoners and losing (3) three men killed & wounded. Soon after this the [18th North Carolina] Regiment was recalled and ordered to support Wright’s Georgia Brigade of Anderson’s Division [Wright/Mahone/Third/ANV], who had assaulted and taken a line of the enemys works while the demonstration above mentioned was being made. A little after dark these works were abandoned and the troops holding them withdrawn and marched back to the position they had previously occupied. The [18th North Carolina] Regiment remained in line before Petersburg often changing its position until the night of the 2nd of July [1864] when it was ordered to the north side of the James River here it went into position a little above New Market heights, and enjoyed a season of quiet and rest until the 27th of July [1864] when the enemy having thrown a heavy force on the north side of the James, endeavored to drive in our skirmishers. Col[onel] [John D.] Barry [of the 18th NC], then commanding the Brigade while riding along the skirmish line, was wounded. Of the conduct of the officers and men of the Regiment throughout this laborous Campaign I cannot say too much. All have undergone with unflinching patriotism, every species of hardship, and met cheerfully, with the unyielding determination of true Sons of the South

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every effort of the enemy to advance. Where all have acted so uniformly well it is extremely difficult to particularize. But I cannot pass unmentioned the good conduct of private Christopher McAuslin of Co “E” and James Hartman of Co “D.” At the commencement of this Campaign Private McAuslin was detailed as an Ambulance driver, (which detail had been given him in consideration of previous good conduct) But preferring to share the hardship and danger with his Comrades in the line, he asked to be relieved from duty as a [teamster] and to be returned to his Company. His request being granted, he shouldered his musket, and has bravely performed his duty, was slightly wounded at Jericho Ford and severely wounded at Turkey Ridge on the 2nd of June, from the effects of which, he is not suffering. Hartman was a drummer but after the loss sustained by the Regiment at Spottsylvania Court House, on the 12th May he voluntarily laid aside his Drum, and has since that time discharged his duty as a Soldier with Conspicuous gallantry. It has been his custom since he has been in the service, at the commencement of each Campaign to exchange his drum for his Musket. Having done so in the Campaign of /63, and at the battle of Gettysburg Pa. Was severely wounded and fell into the hands of the enemy.

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I am very much indebted to 1st Lieut W.H. McLaurin (Adjt) for the able and efficient assistance he has rendered in every engagement since the commencement of the Campaign exposing himself in the hour of danger or and by his calm and chivalrous bearing, furnished an example well worthy of being intimated. I also beg leave to call your attention to the good conduct of Ensign Jno. O. Frink. In the engagement of the 5th and 6th May, his conduct was such as to elicit the enconiums of all who witnessed it. The Casualties since the commencement of the Campaign to 27th July are as the following statement will show

Killed Wounded Missing Total
Off. Men Off. Men Off. Men Off. Men
Wilderness, May 5th & 6th 7 3 33 14 3 54
Spottsylvania C.H., May 12th 1 1 14 8 133 9 143
Spottsylvania C.H., May 21th 1 3 4
Jericho Ford, May 23rd 4 2 6
Storr’s Farm, May 23rd 1 7 1 7
Turkey Ridge, June 2nd 1 5 1 5
Riddle’s Shop, June 14th [sic, 13th] 3 3
Petersburgh, June 22nd 2 1 3
Phillips House, July 27th 1 1
Total  1 10 6 68 8 152 15 225

 

I have the honor to be Capt[ain] very
Respectfully
Your Ob[e]d[ien]t Servant

J[ohn]. W. McGill
Lt Col Comdg 18th N[orth]. C[arolina]. T[roops].

[Capt E.J. Hale Jr.
A.A. Genl]

 

Source/Notes:

  1. McGill, John W. (1864, September 9). (Official Report sent to E. J. Hale, Jr.). James H. Lane Papers (RG 501, Box 2, number 76). Auburn University Libraries Department of Special Collections & University Archives, Auburn, AL.
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: I was worried about the date here.  The Skirmish at Riddell’s Shop occurred on Monday, June 13, 1864.  Clearly McGill misremembered the date, as he even mentions they had the skirmish on a Monday.

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