SOPO Editor’s Note: This report of Brigadier General Clement A. Evans for the Battle of Fort Stedman on March 25, 1865 was not published in the Official Records for the Siege of Petersburg. Had it been published, it would have been located in OR, Vol. XLVI, Pt. 1. It’s an important report because Evans commanded Gordon’s Division of the Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, a key participant in the Battle of Fort Stedman. It is located in the book Intrepid Warrior: Clement Anselm Evans Confederate General from Georgia : Life, Letters, and Diaries of the War Years on page 534. Much thanks go to Dale Nicholls and Fred Ray for helping me track this one down and publish it.
Hdqtrs. Gordon’s Division [Second Corps, ANV] March 25, 1865
Captain V. Dabney, A.A.G.
I have the honor to submit the following general account of the action of this division [Gordon’s Division, Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia] in the affair of this morning [March 25, 1865] on Hare’s Hill [i.e. The Battle of Fort Stedman]. In accordance with instruction, Fort Stedman ( the enemy’s work opposite Colquites [sic, Colquitt’s] Salient) was penetrated by this division, one by the division sharpshooters1, one by the 31st [Georgia] and 13th Georgia regiments, Col. J[ohn]. H. Lowe commanding2, and one by the Louisiana troops Col. [Eugene] Waggaman [Tenth Louisiana] commanding.3 Immediately afterwards Terry’s brigade4 was thrown across the enemy’s works, formed and advanced along the breastworks in rear of them, driving the enemy from them for a space of about six or seven hundred yards, capturing a number of prisoners and several pieces of artillery. Evans’ Brigade5 commanded by Col. [John H.] Baker [Thirteenth Georgia] co-operated with Brig. Gen. [William] Terry as soon as the Brigade was crossed from our breastworks to those of the enemy. Day was breaking just as Terry’s brigade was formed, and the enemy had been aroused. The division advanced as far as the orders which I received permitted and as far as prudence justified under the circumstances existing. Their orders were not to assault a line of breast-works and a fort directly in front, especially if protected by abatis or other obstructions. I communicated my situation to the Major-General commanding [General John Gordon] with the statement that to advance further I must charge a strong line of the enemy aided by their artillery and was instructed to await further orders. The orders to retire were afterwards received and the Division withdrawn under a galling fire of artillery and small arms to their original position. The division is entitled to claim the capture of the south half of Fort Stedman and about six or seven hundred yards of the breastworks in which were very many mortars and other pieces of artillery—and at least four hundred of the prisoners captured. Among the prisoners was Brig. Gen. [Napoleon B.] McLaughlin, captured by Lieut. Gwin [William O. Gwyn (also filed under “W. O. Groyn”) of the 31st Georgia] of Col. Lowe’s regiment. The Division lost 43 killed and 122 wounded.’
I regret to state that Brig. Gen. Terry is severely wounded. To his skill and cool courage I was very greatly indebted during the morning. I could not but observe his own efficiency and of his admirable staff. Col. Baker commanding Evans brigade was slightly wounded also while in the brave discharge of his duty. We have to mourn over the loss of several gallant officers and good men among those killed and severely wounded. To Brig. Gen. Terry, Col. Baker, Col. Waggaman, Col. Lowe I feel peculiarly indebted for their conspicuous zeal in executing the orders given. Many of the troops behaved well, but in this as in former actions, I could but observe how sadly we need re-organization and discipline. It is almost impossible at times to maneuver the troops at all.
C[lement]. A. Evans,
Brig. Gen. Commanding [Gordon’s] Division [Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia]6
- SOPO Editor’s Note: By 1864/65, most (all?) Confederate brigades in the Army of Northern Virginia had created sharpshooter battalions, comprised of the best shots in the brigade. These battalions often combined together at a division level to create a larger force. Fort Stedman is one such example of the sharpshooter battalions in Gordon’s Division coming together to act as essentially a large regiment composed of the best men in the division. They were used when success was critical, as it was at Fort Stedman. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: These regiments were two of the six Georgia regiments in Evans’ former brigade, Gordon’s Division ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The two Louisiana infantry brigades in the ANV had been so badly used up by this point that they were essentially a battalion sized force. However, they were typically referred to as a “force” or “command” or “brigade” even to the end. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: William Terry’s Virginia Brigade was in a similar situation to the Louisiana troops. Three Virginia Brigades, including the famous Stonewall Brigade, were part of this new combined force. Each brigade was essentially a regiment, so Terry’s brigade had three combined regiments of Virginia troops. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Presumably the rest of Evans’ Georgia Brigade minus the 13th and 31st Georgia regiments formed this force. ↩
- Stephens, Robert Grier, Jr. (ed). Intrepid Warrior: Clement Anselm Evans Confederate General from Georgia : Life, Letters, and Diaries of the War Years (Morningside Bookshop: 1992), p. 534: I learned of the existence of this report in a roundabout manner. Dale Nicholls, author of an upcoming book on the 38th Georgia, contacted me and mentioned Clement Evans wrote a report on Fort Stedman which had not been included in the Official Records. When I asked how he learned of its existence, he pointed me to fellow TOCOWC blogger Fred Ray’s book Shock Troops of the Confederacy. After digging into the source, it turns out Evans’ report is tucked away inside Intrepid Warrior a book filled with letters and diary entries of Evans from his Civil War experience. Much thanks to both Dale and Fred for pointing this source out to me, and to Dale for transcribing it. ↩