History of Lane’s North Carolina Brigade [at Petersburg, Part 4].1
By Gen. JAMES H. LANE.
[SOPO Editor’s Note: This series of articles written by James H. Lane about his brigade spans the entire war. The articles you’ll read here focus, naturally enough, on the Siege of Petersburg and Appomattox only. This is the fourth of five articles on Petersburg.]
From Petersburg to Appomattox.
APPOMATTOX C. H., April 10th, 1865.
Major – I have the honor to report that on the night of the 1st of April , four regiments of my brigade, with intervals between the men varying from six to ten paces, were stretched along the works between Battery Gregg and Hatcher’s run, in the following order from right to left: Twenty-eighth [North Carolina], Thirty-seventh [North Carolina], Eighteenth [North Carolina], Thirty-third [North Carolina]. The right of the Twenty-eighth resting near the brown house in front of General [William] McRae’s winter quarters, and the left of the Thirty-third on the branch near Mrs. Banks’s. The enemy commenced shelling my line from several batteries about nine o’clock that night, and the picket lines in my front opened fire at a quarter to two o’clock the following morning. The skirmishers from McGowan’s brigade, who covered the works held by my command, were driven in at a quarter to five o’clock, and my line was pierced by the enemy in strong force at the ravine in front of the right of the Thirty-seventh, near General McGowan’s headquarters. The Twenty-eighth, enfiladed on the left by this force, and on the right by the force that had previously broken the troops to our right, was forced to fall back to the plank road. The enemy on its took possession of this road and forced it to fall still further back to the Cox road, where it skirmishers with the enemy and supported a battery of artillery by order of Brigadier – General Pendleton. The other regiment fought the enemy between McGowan’s winter quarters and those occupied by my brigade, and were driven back. They then made a stand in the winter quarters of the right regiment of my command, but were again broken, a part retreating along the works to the left, and the remainder going to the rear – these last, under Colonel [Robert V.] Cowan [of the 33rd North Carolina], made a stand on the hill to the right of Mrs. Banks’s, but were forced back to the plank road, along which they skirmishers for some time, and then fell back to the Cox road, where they supported a battery of artillery by order of Lieutenant – General Longstreet.
That portion of my command which retreated along the works to the left, made two more unsuccessful attempts to resist the enemy, the last stand being made in the Church, road, leading to the Jones house. It then fell back to Battery Gregg, and the battery to its left, but under Major [Thomas J.] Wooten and assistant by a part of Thomas’s brigade, it soon after charged the enemy, by order of Major – General Wilcox, and cleared the works as far as the branch, on which the left of the Thirty-Third rested the night previous. Here we were rejoined by Colonel Cowan, and we deployed as skirmishers to the left of the Church road and perpendicular to the works, but did not hold this position long, as we were attacked by a strong line of skirmishers supported by two strong lines of battle. A part of us retreated to Battery Gregg and the rest to the new line of works near the “dam.” Battery Gregg was subsequently attacked by an immense force, and fell after the most gallant and desperate defence. Our men bayonetted many of the enemy as they mounted the parapet. After the fall of this battery, the rest of my command along the new line, was attacked in front and flank, and driven back to the old line of works running northwest from Battery 45, where it remained until the evacuation of Petersburg. We were here rejoined by the Twenty-Eighth, under Captain Linebarger.2
On the afternoon of the 3d [April 3, 1865] we crossed the Appomattox at Goode’s bridge, bivouaced at Amelia Courthouse on the 4th, and on the 5th formed line of battle between Amelia Courthouse and Jetersville, where our sharp-shooters, under Major Wooten, became engaged. Next day, while resting in Farmville, we were ordered back to a fortified hill to support our cavalry, which was hard pressed, but before reaching the hill the order was countermanded, we were moved rapidly through Farmville, and sustained some loss from the artillery while crossing the river near that place. That afternoon we formed line of battle, facing to the rear, between one and two miles from Farmville, and my sharpshooters were attacked by the enemy. During the night we resumed our march, and on the 9th, while forming line of battle, we were ordered back, and directed to stack our arms, as the Army of Northern Virginia had been surrendered.
My officers and men behaved well throughout this trying campaign, and superiority of numbers alone enable the enemy to drive us from our works near Petersburg. Colonel Cowan, though indisposed, was constantly with his command, and displayed his usual gallantry, while Major Wooten nobly sustained his enviable reputation as an officer. We have to mourn the loss of Captain Nicholson, Faine, McAulay and Long, and other gallant officers.
Captain E. J. Hale, Jr., Assistant Adjutant – General, and First Lieutenant E. B. Meade, Aide de Camp, were constantly at their posts, displaying great bravery, and giving additional evidence of their efficiency as Staff Officers.
I am unable to give our exact loss at Petersburg. I surrendered at this point fifty-six officers and four hundred and eighty-four men, many of the latter being detailed nonarmsbearing men, who were sent back, to be surrendered with their brigade.
The Seventh [North Carolina], the other regiment of my command, is absent in North Carolina on detached service.
I am, Major,
Your obedient servant,
JAMES H. LANE, Brigadier – General.
Major JOS. A. ENGELHARD, Assistant Adjutant – General.
Lane’s North Carolina Brigade History, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 9-10:
- SHS Papers: Volume 9: History of Lane’s North Carolina Brigade at Petersburg, Part 1 by James H. Lane
- SHS Papers: Volume 9: History of Lane’s North Carolina Brigade at Petersburg, Part 2 by James H. Lane
- Lane, James H. “History of Lane’s North Carolina Brigade.” Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 10, pp. 57-59 ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Lane is describing the Third Battle of Petersburg, including the Battle of Fort Gregg, fought on April 2, 1865. Lane’s implication that his brigade defended Fort Gregg is simply wrong. Harris’ Mississippi Brigade made up the vast majority of the defenders, as shown conclusively in John J. Fox’s book Confederate Alamo. ↩