History of Lane’s North Carolina Brigade [at Petersburg, Part 5].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 last of five articles on Petersburg, with a focus on Wooten’s sharpshooter battalion.]
[General Lane had furnished us a roster of every officer and man of his brigade who surrendered at Appomattox C. H., but we reserve this to publish along with the roster of the whole army, which we have in course of preparation – a “bead roll of fame” worthy to be printed in letters of gold. Another number will complete this interesting sketch of a gallant brigade.]
CORPS OF SHARP-SHOOTERS.
Our corps of sharp-shooters was organized in the fall of 1863, at Liberty Mills. It was composed of picked marksmen and brave men. Its officers, too, were all cool and brave.2
This fine body of men were not only thoroughly instructed in skirmish drill, but were frequently practiced in calculating and stepping off distances, firing at targets and similar exercises, which rendered them very efficient. The first commander was the intrepid Captain John G. Knox, of the Seventh regiment, who was captured in the Wilderness. Captain William T. Nicholson, of the Thirty-seventh, another brave young officer, temporarily commander them until Major Thomas J. Wooten, of the Eighteenth, was assigned as their permanent commander. Major Wooten was exceedingly modest, but a cool, cautious and fearless officer, and was universally beloved by his men.
This body, composed of men from the different regiments of the brigade, first distinguished themselves under Knox in the Wilderness, when they dashed into the enemy on the left of the road and captured a large number of prisoners. On the 12th May, at Spotsylvania Court-house, under Nicholson, they were kept our a long time in front of the salient to the left of the Fredericksburg road, where they behaved with great gallantry in the presence of General Lee, and were complimented by him on the field. Under Wooten they established a still more glorious reputation – especially in their first dash at the enemy’s picket line, which called forth a complimentary communication from superior head-quarters; in their double-quick deployments and advance and captured in the battle at Jones’s farm; in their sudden rush into the enemy’s disordered ranks and large captures at the Pegram house, and in the part they bore in the recapture of the hill taken from us the day of Gordon’s attack on Fort Steadman [sic, Stedman]. They also behaved with great gallantry when Grant broke our lines at Petersburg, and on the retreat to Appomattox Courthouse they were frequently thrown forward to fight the enemy when the brigade was not engaged.
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. 206-207 ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: By the Siege of Petersburg, most (all?) of the Confederate brigades had a battalion of sharpshooters, composed of picked men from each regiment. Major Thomas J. Wooten was the commander of Lane’s Sharpshooter Battalion during the entire Siege of Petersburg, and became famous for his seine-hauling attacks in which dozens of Yankee prisoners were scooped off of the picket line with few Confederate losses. ↩