11. June 9, 1864 The Charleston Mercury ITEM #9655 June 9, 1864 The Charleston Mercury Great Battle of May Twelfth at Spottsylvania Court House. The Conflict, as Described by an English Correspondent. Mr. HEWSON, the correspondent of the London Herald, is writing a series of very interesting letters for that journal, descriptive of the operations of the spring campaign in Virginia. We regret that the pressure upon our columns will not allow us to publish these letters in full. We must content ourselves with reproducing the most interesting portion of his last, giving a minute and graphic account of the great conflict of the 12th of May: RICHMOND, May 25, 1864. On the 12th of May the battlefield lay, before dawn, enveloped in a heavy fog. At 4 o'clock in the morning of that day the hostile lines burst, as under the sudden bidding of an electric wire, into a fierce connonade. An explosion in its suddenness, it raged from the first moment of its opening in the full depth of its fury. The metalic peal of the solid shot, the sharp clap and the flat crash of the shell rose from side to side with rapidity. They seemed to shake the very earth with their thunders. That terrific storm, while undiminished in depth, underwent immediately after its first outburst a change in character, for the sharper peals of shot and shell were succeeded in a moment by the duller thurls that hurlling forward grape and canister, told of a struggle deepened into the sternness of close quarters. The suddenness of the thunders with which the artillery rent the air was not greater than that with which the deafening storm burst from the infantry. The musketry that followed immediately after the very first gun, was so great in volume from its opening that it bespoke clearly the presence of large masses of men. Rising in a deep roll one and unbroken, its blended ringing clared that the hostile thousands from whom it swelled up must have met in conflict, hand to hand. The peals in quick succession of the artillery, did not drown its voice; but on it went distinctly, a flowing roar that rose to Heaven, like the constant outcry of a rushing river. Divination was not necessary with all those evidences to tell me, as I rose from my blanket in the rear, that, as in the case of our own conflict at Inkerman, an attack, prepared with deliberation, in close proximity to the Confederate lines, had moved suddenly from the cover of the morning fog. The field works that protected Ewell fight on the morning of the 12th extended through a wood. They occupied the line of a low ridge, and, by what appears to me to be a grave error, lay somewhat down its reverse slops. An enemy approaching them could not be seen from some part of the works until he had appeared over the rise in their immediate front. Retreating from them, he received, once behind that swell of the ground, protection from the fire of part of those defences. The course of the breastworks followed that of the ridge, and accordingly formed, at one place, a salient with an angle so small as to be almost acute. They consisted of two lines which ran one parallel with the other; and containing between both, a space sufficiently wide for a line of battle, would be described by military engineers as a sap. 'Epaniments were placed in support of the whole at several points of the line; and at the salient, sufficient for so many as twenty guns. A general understanding of the position may be obtained from this description, after, it has been stated that the sides of the salient, subject, as they were, in the event of an attack, to enfilade from its apex, were protected for some distance down the line, with a series of short traverses. General J. M. Jones' brigade occupied the salient. On the left of Jones' men were formed the Stonewall, under Walker; and next in order of the line of battle, the Louisianians under Hays. The right of Jones - who, be it recollected, held the salient - rested on the brigade of Stuart. Such was the distribution on the morning of the 12th, behind the breastworks of Ewell right wing, of the men constituting the division of General Edward Johnston. On the right of this division was an unoccupied part of the works about two hundred yards in length, and further on that staunch brigade of Wilcox division - Lane, Jones' brigade had sent one of its best regiments, the 21st Virginia from the salient, to cover the gap between Stuart and Lane as skirmishers. Two others were also sent out of the works in the same capacity, with the view of protecting the angle of the position from sudden attack. But three regiments of the brigade remained to defend a weak point that had been held previously by six. Of twenty guns that had been planted in the salient, sixteen had, under an expectation entertained during the night of an attack upon the extreme right, been withdrawn. Such was the array and strength of Ewellright on the morning of the 12th. Johnston, informed at three o'closk a. m., that the enemy was massing in his front, sent off in hot haste for guns to replace those that had been removed from his works during the night. In the meantime the signs in the front began rapidly to take the definite form of attack. His skirmishers came in short notice; and the forest behind them impressed the senses with the feeling that, wrapped as it was in fog, it was swarming with masses of human life. Pagebattalion of artillery had, in response to the demand of General Johnston, come up to the salient in a trot; but a tremendous column of the enemy having at that moment emerged from the [ ], it had arrived only to have its horses shot dead in their traces, and its men mowed down in the act of unlimbering. So terrible was the fire of the enemy that but one of the guns was brought into action. Captain W. Carter had, with great devotion, succeeded, unassisted, in making that ready for work; and, standing at it, heroically alone, continued, until his capture, to fire it, charged with grape and canister, into the Federal ranks. General Johnston had no sooner become aware of the exact point of the attack than he rushed towards the salient. He was too late. The column that had burst from the fog upon that weak point, held it already in possession. The three regiments which had been left in line for its defence, had fled before the storming mass, without firing a shot, Johnston, caught in the rush of friend and foe, was made a prisoner; and was thus left, by the bad conduct of some of his own men, to waste his brave spirit ingloriously in prison. His bravery is of the . His conduct as a general officer was marked by constancy and address. A great favorite with Lieutenant General Ewell, he was known amongst the rank and file, in affectionate recognition of his courage and obstinacy, as 'Old Blucher.' The salient carried, and one-half of Jones' men killed, wounded or captured, the enemy poured through the Confederate line in immense force. The Stonewall Brigade, on the immediate left of the gap thus opened in the confederate ranks became exposed on the right flank. Gen. Walker, its chief, attempted immediately to swing that wing around; but, while in the act, was disabled by a very severe wound in the side. Pressed hotly by the Federal advance, that movement became then, after even the brief delay consequent on that accident, impossible. The pressure upon its flank having commenced, many of the men forced into disorder were killed, wounded or captured; but several of the regiments wheeling into position behind the short traverses running back from their breastworks, disputed every foot of the ground they held with a steadiness worthy of their traditions. Colonel Terry, while holding, with unflinching firmness, one of those short fronts, received a severe wound. The Stonewall Brigade, however, overborne by the movement upon its flank, was finally forced back; and what of it was neither captured, wounded nor killed, found protection behind the battle array of the brigade that had been in line on its left - Hays' Louisianians. Stuart brigade on the right of the regiments that had occupied the salient, was taken by the surging masses of the Federalists in flank. Those of them who were neither captured, killed nor wounded, found shelter behind the brigade that had been in line upon their right - Lane of Wilcox division. Engaged in front with a heavy column of the enemy, Lane, on learning of the miscarriage at the salient, became alarmed for his left flank; and having immediately swung his line around almost squarely with it original position, encountered the enemytriumphant advance. Charging in fine style, he drove it back after a contest that must have cost it dearly. His North Carolinians thus won the glory of being the first to stem the tide of Federal victory on the right. While the Stonewall Brigade fought and fell back, the next on its left - Hays'- had time to swing round. Colonel Mouagan, its senior Col. being in command, it confronted the rushing advance to the left. Standing behind a traverse that extended perpendicularly from the original position of the brigade, it presented a front as firm as a ledge of rock. The wave of the enemy triumph surged up to that barrier; but, having broken upon it in mere spray, left the honor of the arrest of its overflow on that side of the field to those houseless, landless warriors of Louisiana. Between Hays' men on the one side and Lane on the other, the Federalists had driven all opposition from their path. For a width of a mile they had swept the works of their defenders; but though complete masters within that limit, were confronted by an impassable barrier on the one hand and on the other. Pouring through the gap they had made, their masses formed rapidly from the right and from the left, with the view of turning the line of Hays on that side, and of Lane on this, by pressure on those officers'exposed ranks. Apprehension of attack during the night on the front of Hays, had led to the transfer to its support of the fine brigade of Pegram. The other brigades of the division under the command of Gordon - two - were, at the time of the assault upon the salient, half a mile to the left. Springing forward without orders, Gordon moved at quick'in the direction of the fire that had burst upon the dawn in sudden thunders. Rushing into the fog, he could see neither friend nor foe; but guided by the instincts of a soldier, still sped forward rapidly under the bidding of the battle- hoarsest roar. The thick haze into whose unknown depths he drove on, soon lit its murderous terrors, as he closed into the conflict, with lurid flashes; and, in the next moment, flung out a sheet of lightning that hurled about the ears of his advancing ranks a very tempest of bullets. Gordon had come up in column. General R. D. Johnston Brigade first upon the field, he threw rapidly into line; and launching it against the enemy through the fog, checked the advance. Having arrested, thus, at one point, the surging ranks of the foe, he sought to stop him as they swept around his right. The torrent streaming rapidly in that direction, he was about to be borne back by the flank, when, bringing up his own brigade, its firm line presented to the riverlike rush an additional width of barrier. The living flood of Federal triumph dashing against it in vain, swept still farther around, again threatening the Confederate right with destruction under a rapid movement upon its flank. Gordon having by that time brought up his third brigade - Pegram- formed it under the command of Colonel Huffman, somewhat detached from the others, across the new front of the enemyadvance. The whole line then delivered a murderous volley into the dim masses of human life that stood before its shrouded - and very, very many of them winding sheeted - in that morning fog. Instantly seizing the colors of the centre regiment of his own brigade, Gordon spurred forward under a storm of bullets, ordering a charge. His men rushed upon the misty ranks that they had just cut gashes through with their deadly fire. Their fury bore down all resistance. The charge had become a chase. Huddling the Federalists in headlong flight over the breastworks that had been held during the night by Stuart, that murderous race was continued for half a mile beyond. Opposition had disappeared before the pursuits still, however, it held its way in unabated fury. Starting out suddenly from the fog upon a hostile force in line, Gordondemand for a surrender having, in the confusion of his sudden appearance, obtained no reply, the Federalists fell where they had but a moment before stood in lusty life, a battle array of dead and dying! The enemy still held the ground he had won on Stuart left. Gordon falling therefore back, occupied the works he had carried so gloriously. His charge had cost the Confederates the services for a time, of Brigadier General R. D. Johnston. That gallant officer was disabled by a wound, that is, however, not very severe. Col. Jones, a soldier of high promise, lay upon the field mortally wounded. Lieutenant Colonel McArthur, and Colonel Garrett, both officers of ability, gave up upon that field their life blood in manly assertion of the liberties that have been handed down to them from our common ancestors of the days of Runneymeade. Terribly, however, were the Confederate lives, lost in that movement, avenged. For a width of three hundred yards the Federal slain were scattered over a length of three-quarters of a mile; and, in all the open fields included in that space, lay in a sickening slaughter. Four guns that had been taken at the time of the enemy advance were, during the charge, recaptured; and in the absence of horses, sent by manual labor for some distance to the rear. The Federalists continued to hold their ground in the salient, and along the line of works to the left of that angle, within a short distance of the position of Monaghan (Hays') Louisianians, Ramseur North Carolinians, of Rodes' division, formed, covering Monaghan right, and ordered to charge, were received by the enemy with a stubborn resistance. The desperate character of the struggle along that brigade front was told terribly in the horseness and rapidity of musketry. So close was the fighting there for a time that the fire of friend and foe rose up rattling in one common road. Ramseur North Carolinians dropped from the ranks thick and fast, but still he continued with glorious constancy to gain ground foot by foot. Pressing under a fierce fire, resolutely on, on, on, the struggle was about to become one of hand to hand, when the Federalists shrunk from that bloody trial. Driven back, they were not defeated. The earthworks being at the moment in their immediate rear, they bounded to the opposite side, and having thus placed them in their front, renewed the conflict. A rush of an instant brought Ramseur fellows to this side of the defences, and, though they crouched close to the slopes, under enfilade from the guns of the salient, their musketry rattled in deep and deadly fire on the enemy that stood in overwhelming numbers but a few yards from their front. Those brave North Carolinians had thus, in one of the very hottest conflicts of the day, succeeded in driving the enemy from the works that had been occupied during the previous night by a brigade which, until the 12th of May, had never yet yielded to a foe - the Stonewall. The Confederate line had been reestablished by Ramseur to the position held during the night by Gen. J. M. Jones' left, it had been restored by Gordon to the point occupied during the same time by Jones' right. The gap originally made remained however, still in the possession of the enemy, and with it all the guns - with the exception of the four retaken by Gordon - that had been captured at the time of the rush into the salient. Through that the Federal masses swept out between the flank of Gordon - of Pegrambrigade - on the one hand, and of Ramseur on the other, endeavoring, by movements to the right and to the left in conjunction with heavy attacks in front, to give the unrecovered space greater width. They still protruded from the open interval between the flanks of those officers and continued to press still forward with the view of preventing their connection by an intervening array of battle. Moving out in tremendous force with the ultimate purpose of driving them still farther apart and of turning their lines, they were encountered by the stern front of Battle Albamians of Rhodes' Division. Battle met the crushing weight of the advance unaided. He sought to insert his line between Gordon left - Pegram men - and the right of the brave fellows under Ramseur. Receiving the shock of the forward movement as a rock hurls back a wave of the sea, he pressed after the recoil, foot by foot. Closing in on it slowly, he succeeded, after a severe struggle, in pressing it back into the breastworks of the salient - for a part, be it recollected, a sap'- under a fire of musketry that exceeded anything I ever heard in its rapidity and volume. It roared unceasingly, a very river of death. Forcing his way on with heroic resolution; now straining forward; the standing in obstinate resistance; and next, for a moment, yielding stubbornly, as the mortal struggle swayed from side to side, Battle kept, with indomitable courage, laboring onward, inch by inch. Aided by the fire of Ramseurmen on the left flank of the Federalists, he succeeded, finally in driving them from a part of the works on that officer right. The gap in the Confederate array had been reduced to a small extent by Battle left. The other part of his line continued to swing heavily backwards and forwards as the tide of the battle rolled from side to side. Shattered terribly by the severity of the contest, he was reinforced by Harris' Mississippians, of Anderson division, and McGowan South Carolinians, of Wilcox division. The heaviness of the fire at the point where these brigades went into action was terrible. Two young oaks, each upwards of twelve inches in diameter, pierced so often across their trunks, were thus actually cut down, to the serious injury of some of McGowan men, by minnie bullets. Fresh troops being put in continually, in front of Harris and McGowan, the contest grew in fierceness. Reeling to and fro, for the width of a brigade front, it surged now to this side, then to that, over a bloody space of over two hundred and fifty yards. The guns that had been captured in the salient by the rush of the first attack, lay, during the fierce struggle in their original position - at one time within the onward roll of the Federal lines, and at another closed within the surging ranks of the Confederates. Major Cutshaw, a gallant officer of the battalion of artillery, whose pieces lay thus between the ebb and flow of battle, hung devotedly in their immediate rear, and watching the moment that saw them included in the advancing array of the Confederate infantry, sprang forward from his lair in the thicket to load them with canister and grape - Bang! bang! bang! he plied them in hot haste; and thus tearing the ranks of the enemy at close quarters into shreds, he continued, with rare steadfastness, hurlling his thunders until the line of his supports had begun once more to yield. - Retiring again and again as the tide of strife rolled back upon him, he continued, on each occasion, to watch his opportunity in patient resolution, and whenever the battle surged onward, bounded to his guns to work them with the same ardor and with the same havoc. McGowan behaved, in the struggle for the works at the salient, gloriously. He fell, in its progress, painfully, but I hope not dangerously wounded. Several of his best officers yielded up their lives on that field of blood. General Harris set a brilliant example in the stern strife, to his brigade, but though he escaped accident in the tempest of bullets which swept on the wings of death around him, he lost heavily. His losses in officers includes some men of high promise. Colonel Baker and Lieutenant Colonel Feltus, of the 16th Mississippians, and Colonel Hardin, of the 19th, are not amongst the least of the gallant soldiers who fell dead from the Confederate lines in that murderous salient. South Carolinians and Mississippians continued, however, to rival each other in their persistent striving to recover the captured works; and finally obtained firm possession of them still further in advance of the foothold that had been secured in them previously by Battle. Consolidating within the defences thus far recovered on the left of the salient, the strife was renewed in their front - and very often so close to the muzzles of their rifles as the opposite slopes of the breastworks behind which they crouched under enfilade from the apex of the salient. Perrin brigade of Anderson division, sent up to reinforce Battle, formed behind some light works in the rear. Ordered to charge into the salient, its chief, as he rode at the head of its left wing, received a Minnie bullet in the thigh. - The femoral artery cut, he had hardly time to say me back, boys,'when the poor fellow had bled to death. Two of his regiments had been, at the time, rushing at the works on the right under the direction of a gallant and promising young officer, now commanding the brigade, Colonel J. C. Saunders. They succeeded in making a lodgment in the defences on the left of Gordon. The other three regiments, bounding on to the left as Perrin fell, swept also without opposition into the breastworks on the right of the men of Harris and McGowan. The width held by the enemy at the salient had thus been reduced to about one hundred yards; but, included within it, at the appex, a battery of artillery that, captured in the morning, swept both sides by enfilade. Captain Wynne, the Adjutant General of Perrinbrigade, attempted to communicate with the Colonel commanding; but, venturing recklessly with that view across the immediate rear of the salient - where nothing human could apparently survive - returned to the left, after having run the gauntlet of the enemy skirmishers, with a painful wound in his arm. Saunders, in the meantime, threw out some of his Alabamians as sharpshooters; and by the accuracy of their aim, succeeded in silencing the guns that had been hurling shell into his ranks in deadly enfilade. Opening again from time to time, they burst upon him repeatedly; but in a moment afterwards the hands by which they had been worked fell under his unerring rifles, stiff in death. The enemygrasp upon the sap' at the angle of the salient, still undisturbed, Col. Saunders maintained his ground in this way on both sides of it, with admirable resolution. From four oin the morning until half-past one, the struggle within the salient had raged in terrible fierceness. At the expiration of that time it sank into a comparative lull. The roll of the heavy skirmish shooting went on without intermission, however, around that angle of blood, and awaited, after a brief break in the main contest, into the furious roar of a renewed attack. The restored front on each side of the salient burst into thread like flashes; and from two on, throughout the evening until nightfall, and from nightfall until midnight, and from midnight until the approach of dawn of the 13th, a close and rapid fusilade rushed up in commingled road from the contending ranks. At one time bursting through the gap on Gordonright, and endangering his flank; at others raging up to the face of the very works held by that officer, by Saunders, by McGowan, by Harris, by Battle, by Ramseur, the conflict raged furiously until the enemy repelled firmly at all points of his attack, it settle, long after midnight, into the sharp and venomous whizzings of the skirmishers. The four guns that Gordon had recaptured still remained two hundred yards in his rear. They could not be removed under the terrible fire that swept over the ground they occupied. Fourteen guns remained in possession of the enemy, and, with those four, constituted substantially the only object of continuing the murderous struggle for the salient. The conditions of that contest had changed Lee policy of defence for that of attack, and had thus made a further maintenance of it highly inexpedient. A material advantage, of some importance to the enemy, lay in the possession of the height on which the salient stood, but even this did not, in the opinion of the Commander in Chief justify an avoidable waste of the lives of his men. Before dawn, on the morning of the 13th, a line of works had been thrown up by the pioneers of the 2d corps, under Major Green, half a mile in rear of the point to which the contest of the day had been narrowed, and, connecting the original defences on the right with those on the left, by a route considerably shorter, presented a favorable position for return to the policy of defence. Covered by skirmishing, the gallant fellows who had fought their way so stubbornly over the bloody ground within the salient, into the works that had been captured by the enemy in his rush of the morning of the 12th, retired before day on the 13th to that new line. In the battle of the Ny, no officer earned such glory as General Gordon. His admirable flank movement at the Wilderness, his repulse of the enemyrush through the position of Dole, and his dash and skill in stemming the Federal torrent from the salient on the 12th, won the admiration of the army. General Lee acknowledge, on the field, publicly, the great services of that officer, and informing him at the time that he should ask for his promotion, has had him rewarded with the rank of Major General. The battles, ending with the morning of the 13th, had closed. A more stubborn contest than that of the 12th has not been witnessed during the war. The losses of the Confederates, during these struggles, include between two and three thousand prisoners, eighteen guns, and from six to seven thousand killed and wounded. Those of the enemy in the conflicts of the 10th and of the 12th, including as they do the disaster at the hands of Early flanking force, of the murderous repulses from the front of Field, and from that of Dole, and the terrible havoc of Gordon charge on the right of the salient, cannot have been less, in killed and wounded, than from twenty to thirty thousand. The rotting dead found unburied on the ground the Federalists occupied during those contests presented a spectacle utterly horrible in the immensity of their number. During the campaign the losses in Ewell corps, according to an official statement of the chief of its medical staff - Dr. Hunter Maguire - does not exceed in killed and wounded, after summing the losses of each of its brigades up to the 13th of this month, 3,500.