Brigade Report of Battle of Fredericksburg

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No.323. Report of Colonel Clement A.Evans, Thirty-first Georgia Infantry, commanding Lawton's brigade.


HEADQUARTERS LAWTON'S BRIGADE, Near Port Royal, Va., December 19, 1862.

MAJOR: On the 13th instant, about 9 a.m., Lawton's brigade, Colonel E. N.Atkinson commanding, was formed in line of battle in a wood about three-fourths of a mile west of the railroad, nearly opposite Hamilton's Crossing, below Fredericksburg, Va., the right resting on the left of another brigade of Ewell's division, the Thirteenth Georgia, Colonel J.M.Smith commanding, being the extreme right, and successively toward the left the Sixtieth Georgia, Colonel W.H. Stiles; Sixty-first Georgia, Colonel J.H.Lamar; Thirty-eighth Georgia, Captain William L.McLeod; Thirty-first Georgia, Colonel C.A.Evans, and the Twenty-sixth Georgia, Captain [B.F.] Grace, being six regiments, numbering about 2,000 rank and file. While thus resting in line, the shells of the enemy fell upon the regiment on the right, wounding several, but was borne without flinching by men who in many engagements have proved themselves not deficient in courage or patriotism.

About 1.30 p.m. the brigade was ordered forward, and all the regiments advanced at once in line, except the Thirteenth Georgia. The failure of this regiment to move at the proper time is subject to the following explanation: while in line, this regiment rested upon the slope of a hill intervening between it and the other regiments, which prevented Colonel Smith from observing, at the time, the forward movement of the brigade, and, receiving no order to advance, our line passed out of sight before he was aware that he had been left behind. Receiving orders communicated by yourself soon afterward, he advanced to rejoin the brigade, but was too late to participate in the section. Subsequently, being ordered to join Colonel [R.F.] Hoke, commanding Trimble's brigade, he placed his regiment in a trench near the edge of the field, on Colonel Hoke's left, where he remained until Monday morning.

In the mean time, the brigade moving forward about 250 yards, Captain Grace, commanding the Twenty-sixth Georgia, on the left, encountered the enemy, being apprised of their proximity to him by a volley poured into his ranks, which for a moment checked his advance. But quickly recovering, the regiment delivered its fire, reloaded, and, advancing, drove the enemy before them through the woods. Having encountered the enemy so soon, they became for the time separated from the brigade, and, on reaching the ditch which skirted the edge of the woods, they observed the remaining regiments far out on the plain. Here Captain Grace was directed to halt his command, and not advance into the open field.

The remaining four regiments, consisting of the Sixtieth Georgia, Colonel Stiles; Sixty-first Georgia, Colonel Lamar; Thirty-eighth Georgia, Captain McLeod, and Thirty-first Georgia, Colonel Evans, pushing ahead, came upon the enemy in a minute of time after they were first encountered by Captain Grace, receiving their fire without producing scarcely a perceptible check; fired in return, and, with loud cheers, dashed forward. From this time the contest consisted of but a series of temporary halts made by the enemy, only to be driven away from their positions. At the railroad the enemy made their most determined resistance, and for a few minutes poured a heavy fire into our line. Seeing that a charge was the most effectual plan to dislodge them, the order was given, and so rapidly accomplished that many of the enemy were captured, and, a few, in their attempts to get away, received the application of the bayonet. As an incident of the battle, I desire to state that one of the enemy, after surrendering, leveled his gun to fire at our passing line, but a bayonet thrust from the hands of Captain W.D. Wood, of the Thirty-first Georgia, prevented the intend barbarism.

At this part of the railroad a short neck of woods juts out into the plain, so that on our right and left were the open fields, while before the line lay this neck of thickly matted woods. Under its shelter the enemy fled, pursued by these four regiments with so much precipitation that both parties entered the ditches beyond almost together. At the railroad and in these ditches a large number of prisoners were captured and sent to the rear, among whom was one colonel and several officers of minor grade. A battery posted to the left on a hill about 200 yards distant from the last ditches referred to, tempted the troops still farther into the field, firing as they advanced toward it upon men and horses with such effect as to cause a portion of the battery to be withdrawn and the remainder to be abandoned. The prize was virtually in the hands of these gallant men, being abandoned and within 75 yards of the place where they stood, but at this moment a heavy line of the enemy advanced on our right flank [learned since to have been General Birney's division], and seeing that all had been accomplished which was in the power of these men to do, I communicated the order to them to retire to the protection of the woods. In the heat of the contest these four regiments may have gone too far, but brave men in that important struggle feel that they scarcely went far enough.

Colonel Atkinson, in command of the brigade, participating fully in the enthusiasm of the charge, was wounded in the arm above the elbow soon after entering the field, and fell into the hands of the enemy. Colonel Lamar, wounded by having a part of one his fingers shot off, retired from the ground, and Major [C.W.] McArthur succeeded to the command, leading the regiment into the open plain, assisted by Captain Peter Brenan. Colonel W.H.Stiles, commanding his regiments through the entire fight. I have the pleasure to state did his duty and did it well.

I cannot forbear to mention in terms of unqualified praise the heroism of Captain E. P.Lawton, assistant adjutant general of the brigade, from the beginning of the advance until near the close of the fight, when he received a dangerous wound and was unavoidably left in the open plain where he fell. Cheering on the men, leading this regiment, or restoring the line of another, encouraging officers, he was everywhere along the whole line the bravest among the brave. Just as the four regiments emerged from the neck of woods referred to, his horse was shot under him, and in falling so far disabled him that thousands less ardent or determined would have felt justified in leaving the field, but, limping on, he rejoined the line again in their advance toward the battery, but soon received the wound with which he fell.

It is gratifying to me to be able to record that officers and men generally behaved with a courage characteristic of the Southern soldier, continuing for the brigade a well-deserved reputation. The report of casualties will testify how severe the fire was through which these brave men passed in driving the enemy before them.

The Staunton Artillery, commanded by Lieutenant A.W. Garber [attached to this brigade], at 4.30 o'clock was ordered to the extreme right of our lines, and was actively engaged on the plain about two hours, when the batteries of the enemy ceased firing. The officers and men behaved with coolness and gallantry. Lieutenant Garber had his horse shot under him during the engagement, but suffered no loss of his men.

I am extremely gratified to mention that by the activity of Surg.George F.Cooper, senior surgeon of the brigade, although with limited transportation, our numerous wounded received prompt attention.*

I have the honor to be, major, your obedient servant,


Colonel, Commanding Brigade.

Major S.HALE,

Acting Asst.Adjt.General ,Ewell's Division.

Lieuts.Thomas B.Settle and Joel D.Wilson, Thirty-first Georgia, reported killed.


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