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Monday, October 14, 2013

Hood's "Texians" in Battle

As counterpoise to the Union account of the Battle of Eltham from Adams' Story of a Trooper, I present Nicholas "Chaplain" Davis' telling of events from The Campaign from Texas to Maryland.

"After a tiresome day's march, during which we were several times thrown into
line of battle, we reached Williamsburg, where the army had halted at about 5
P. M., and passing through, bivouacked about two miles above town. About an
hour after we had passed through, the advance guard of the enemy appeared,
and after exchanging a few artillery compliments, retired. On the following
morning afield onset was made and continued until morning. In this battle
the Yankees were repulsed with a heavy loss, amounting in killed, wounded
and prisoners to about 5,000. Our loss was also severe, and amounted to about
2,500 The courage and endurance of our troops were fearfully tried in this
engagement, but they stood the test like true Southrons and patriots, battling
for freedom. On the night previous to this battle, news reached our Generals
that the enemy with gunboats and transports was pushing up York river. It
was now evident that by a rapid movement on our rear, they expected to re-
tard our progress until they could disembark troops at Eltham's Landing, oppo-
site West Point, and by cutting our army in two, at least capture our artil-
lery and wagon train, Great energy and courage were now required to save the
retreating army. If they were allowed time to select and occupy their posi-
tion serious disaster must be the result. This enterprise was committed to
proper hands. At 11 o'clock that night, Gen. Whiting's Division, notwithstand-
ing their hard day's march, were called up and put in motion. Through the rain
and mud they marched until day, and on until night again, when a halt was
ordered, and tired, hungry and wet, the men dropped where they stood and
slept in spite of the storm. The next morning scouts were thrown out to feel
for the position of the enemy, and the command was allowed a few hours rest.
This being "ration day," and the commissary missing, the men were informed
that they could go across the road to a corn crib and help themselves to some
corn on the cob, to be eaten raw, or roasted in the ashes, as their different
tastes might prompt. All were hungry enough to appreciate this liberality,
and such corn-cracking as followed has seldom been heard outside a hog-pen,
and a hearty laugh went round when some wag, seated on a log, called impe-
riously for "a bundle of fodder and bucket of salt and water." After night,
two men of the 5th Texas* got separated from their company, which was put on
picket duty, and while searching for it came upon a squad of men in the
woods, just as the order "Fall in, company," was delivered. Not being cere-
monious they obeyed promptly and marched off. Judge of their surprise and
chagrin when they, too late, discovered that they had joined a Yankee com-
pany, and being unable to "surround it" as the Irishman did the Hessians,
they quietly surrendered their arms and acknowledged themselves ''taken in."


The command was put in motion at daylight of May 7th, and about 7 o'clock
A. M., came upon a picket of the enemy, who fired two shots at Gen. Hood,
who was riding at the head of the 4th Texas, now in front. One shot struck
Corporal Sapp, of Co. H, in the head, inflicting a severe but not dangerous
wound . Private John Deal, of Co. A, whose gun was loaded, immediately fired
upon the pickets as they ran, and struck the only one in sight, killing him
instantly . Some confusion was observed at first in consequence of empty guns,
but Gen Hood immediately called out to the men to "move up," which they
did at double quick, and line of battle was immediately formed on the brow
of a hill. Beyond this hill, which had a precipitous descent, was an open
field of six or eight hundred yards width. On the opposite side were some
four or five companies of the enemy, who immediately began falling back
into the timber, but not until several random shots had been fired by our men,
which we afterwards discovered had killed five and wounded as many more.
Company B (Captain Carter) was then ordered by Gen. Hood to deploy as
skirmishers and "feel the enemy." They advanced across the open field, and
entering the timber, began a "running fight." Co. G (Captain Hutcheson)
was then ordered forward to support Co. B, if necessary; if not, to deploy on
its right the latter course was adopted. Company K (Captain Martin) was
next sent to support Company B, and Company E (Captain Ryon) to the sup-
port of Company G. After retreating about half a mile, the Yankees made a
stand behind an old mill-dam, and a spirited engagement ensued between them
and the right platoon of Company B, under Captain Carter, and Company G,
Captain Hutcheson ; Company H (Captain Porter) now arrived upon the
ground, with orders to support the left platoon of Company B, under Lieuten-
ant Walsh. The firing now became general, and the enemy, many of their
guns missing fire, threw them down and fled. While pursuing then, the se-
cond platoon of Company B came upon a large force (some two hundred)
protected by a heavy palisade. This was more than was bargained for, and
the boys, some twenty-five in number, immediately "treed" and answered
their volleys by picking off every one who showed his head. At this juncture
General Hood appeared, and ordered the Lieutenant in command to charge
the works, and he would send support. Just as the command "charge" was
given, and the boys with a yell, had started for the works, the first platoon
of Company B. appeared upon the left flank of the palisade, and the Yankees
fled in confusion, leaving seventeen killed and several wounded in the track of
their flight. While Company B was thus engaged, Company G had also its
share of "fun." Discovering a company of about eighty Yankees, Captain
Hutcheson with his company and part of Company E, attacked them so vigo-
rously that they dared not run, and were so unnerved that they fired volley
after volley into the tree-tops. Captain Hutcheson, who was a Chesterfield in
manner, did not for a moment forget himself during the fight. "Charge them,
gentlemen, charge them."- "Aim low, gentlemen, aim at their waistbands,"
were his constant exhortations, until a portion of the enemy cried for quar-
ters "Throw down your arms, gentlemen, you scoundrels, throw them down.
Sixteen obeyed the order, and the remainder taking advantage of the momen-
tary cessation of hostilities, turned and fled. Bewildered, however, they took
the wrong direction, and coming upon the 5th Texas where it was lying down
in line-of-battle, they were greeted by a volley, which left not one standing.
The fruits of Captain H's victory, were eleven killed, several wounded, and
sixteen prisoners, together with several stand of arms. While these events
were transpiring, the 1st, 5th, and remainder of the 4th Texas had entered the
timber, leaving the 8th Georgia to support the artillery in the rear. A Yan-
kee regiment now appeared upon the left and rear of the skirmishers, with the
intention, doubtless, of cutting them off. There we witnessed, for the first time,


The regiment now advancing 1st California† evidently intended to fight
well, and advanced steadily to within 80 paces of the 1st Texas, when they
halted, poured in a volley, and with three huzzahs attempted to charge. This
was expected, and "aim low, fire" was ordered by Colonel Rainey, and a dis-
charge followed that seemed to mow down the whole front rank, and sent the
remainder in confusion back .again. A whole-souled hearty yell now went up
from the Texans, such as only Southerners can give, and they in turn, charg-
ed. But the Californians were not yet ready to yield, and rallying, they made
a stubborn resistance, and for about twenty minutes the fire raged with terri-
ble fury. The Texans charged again, and the enemy broke and fled, leaving
about two hundred killed; and wounded on the field, and several prisoners in
our hands. The loss of the 1st Texas in this engagement was six killed and
twenty-two wounded. Among- the former we regret to chronicle Lieutenant
Colonel Black and Captain. Decatur, who were loved and mourned by all as
brave men.

After the rout of this regiment, the enemy did not again attack us, but con-
tented themselves with shelling us from their gunboats, and sweeping the
woods with grape from a battery they had planted upon the river bank, with-
out, however, doing us the slightest injury. While this was going on, the
boys had a hearty laugh at the conduct of an


who was attached to the 1st Texas Regiment. During the entire battle, with
musketry, he had conducted himself in the most gallant manner, and had even
succeeded in capturing a Yankee, whom he turned over to the proper officer,
with the brief announcement, "Major, Yank yours, gun mine," and again par-
ticipated in the smuggle. When the first shell came tearing through the
tree-tops, with its screaming inquiry, "Where you, where you?" he uttered a
significant "ugh!" and listened until it burst. At that' instant another came
and exploded just over our heads, when he sprang to his feet, exclaiming, "no
good for Indian," and made for the rear with the agility of an antelope. The
boys did not, however, reproach him, because it has long been understood
that Indians won't stand to be shot at by wagons, more particularly when the
projectile itself shoots so terribly. The entire loss of the brigade in this
engagement was thirty-seven. Of that number Captain Denny, Commissary of the
5th, was killed by a picket, and two men captured, as previously related.
Corporal Sapp, of Company H, and private Spencer, of Company G, 4th Texas, were
wounded; all the other casualties were of the 1st Texas, of which regiment who
cannot speak too highly. These are the men who came from their distant homes,
at their own expense, before the President had called upon Texas for troops to
assist in this great struggle. And, though their names have not occupied a
place in the journals of the day, they have ever been at their posts, ready and
to do and die for our common cause. They are a lively, merry set. and though
often hungry and "ragged," they have shown in numberless instances that they
can march as far and fight as hard as any troops in the service."

 * these presumably are the two captured Texans from Adams' account.

† the 1st California mentioned is in fact the Pennsylvania regiment of that name.

Nicolas A. Davis(1824-194) a self-trained Presbyeterian minister was chaplain of the 4th Texas Infantry. Besides his normal ministerial duties he founded a medical ward in Richmond for members of Hood's Texas Brigade known as the "Texas Hospital."

"Among the first attractions in which Texas has an interest, stands most prominently the Texas Hospital, a large building capable of accommodating 300 patients very comfortably, and 350 if put to the push. Dr. Lindly has the entire supervision, assisted by Dr. Dandridge, both from Texas. Dr. Hughes is likewise a sharer in the duties, though not as yet commissioned. Dr. Allen, of Washington county, has been with the institution since its establishment since its establishment, but leaves for Texas in a few days. All the offices of clerk, steward, matron, nurses, &c., are filled by Texians; Mr. & Mrs. Ferrell, of Houston, holding the positions of steward and matron respectively, with great satisfaction to all concerned. The sick are delighted with this successful hospital, and I am rejoiced to see how completely all work for the general good - fulfilling to the letter the description that I gave your readers, when in Richmond last, of what we ought to have."

From the Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph, March 23, 1863

-To be continued-

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