Col. J. Foster Marshall's official report of
the action of the 1st Regiment South Carolina Rifles
during the Battle of the Seven Days
return to the Orr's Rifles page
[The Seven Days would be the Light Division's (and Brigade's) first action of the War. Gregg's Brigade would sit out the first two days being on the march on Day One (June 25, 1862) and in reserve on Day Two. Day Three (June 27, 1862), the bloodiest of the seven, would be their introduction. They were sent in against Fitz-John Porter's V Corps under extremely heavy fire, said by some to be thickest of the War. The battle is best known as Gaines' Mill but to the Confederates, 1st Cold Harbor.]
Official Records Report of Colonel J. Foster Marshall
Hdqrs. First Regt. South Carolina Vol. Rifles, Second Brigade, Light Division, 1862

[submitted to General Maxcy Gregg, commanding the Second Brigade of Major General A.P. Hill's Light Division]

 

SIR: In obedience to orders from headquarters I have the honor to submit the following report, as embracing the part that my regiment took in the battles before Richmond, commencing Thursday, June 26, and ending on Tuesday night,July 1, instant:

On Wednesday night, June 25, the brigade took up the line of march for Meadow Bridge, on Chickahominy, and halted about 3 a.m. to rest the troops preparatory to the coming struggle.

On Thursday evening, 4 p.m., the brigade was put in motion for Meadow Bridge, which we reached about 6 p.m., the enemy having abandoned all their intrenchments near the bridge and fallen back upon their stronghold at Mechanicsville. The other brigades of the division having engaged the enemy in and around Mechanicsville, there seemed to be no immediate need of our brigade, and, in obedience to orders, I formed my regiment in line of battle in rear of a hedge-row to await further orders. Here, during a heavy cannonade of shell and courage for two and a half hours without the privilege of returning a shot; but I am happy to report that not a man shrank from his post of duty.

I had 1 private killed by a shell--Samuel O. Reid, of Company G. Night closed with the capture of Mechanicsville.

On the morning of the 27th the Second Brigade of Maj. Gen. A. P. Hill's division was put in the advance and pressed on after the enemy as rapidly as circumstances would allow. On approaching Gaines' Mill the enemy was discovered in strong force on the opposite side of the creek to resist our crossing and the rebuilding of the bridge. After reconnoitering the position of the enemy the Second Brigade was soon formed into line of battle, Colonel Hamilton on the right, supported by Colonel Edwards; Colonel Barnes on the left, supported by Colonel Marshall. Thus formed, we advanced upon the enemy, and in fifteen minutes after we opened fire they retreated in the direction of Cold Harbor.

The division having crossed over, General Gregg was again put in the advance, and was ordered to reconnoiter and scour the woods and fields that lay on the left of the road leading to the enemy's works. For this purpose the same line of battle was formed by the brigade as before, crossing at Gaines' Mill, and the order to advance given. As soon as we discovered the enemy, posted in a pine thicket, the charge was made, and in ten minutes we drove them out, and those we did not capture or wound beat a hasty retreat to the main battle ground, selected and fortified by the enemy.

 

At 2 p.m. we advanced to Cold Harbor, where we rested a few moments preparatory to a charge upon the enemy's positions. The Crenshaw Battery was ordered forward, which in a gallant style opened upon the enemy's position in front. This disclosed two heavy batteries of the enemy, who commenced throwing shot and shell into our ranks at a destructive rate.

The Second Brigade was now formed into line of battle, with Colonel Hamilton on the right, Colonel Marshall in the center, Colonel Barnes on the left, and Colonel Edwards for a support. In this position we advanced upon the enemy at a double-quick under heavy discharges of shell, grape, and canister, many falling killed and wounded. We dashed through tree tops, mud, marshes, and branches, driving the enemy before us until we got possession of the brow of the hill upon which the enemy's batteries in strong force were posted. Here we remained for about two hours, exposed to canister, grape, and musketry, while a heavy cannonade was going on over our heads between the Crenshaw Battery and those of the enemy.

 

At 4 p.m. you, having determined to take a battery which had been throwing grape and canister on our right, called for the First South Carolina Volunteer Rifles. I asked what were your orders. You replied that you wanted me to take a battery, with my regiment, which had been playing on our right and drive the enemy back. The battery was about 500 yards in that direction,pointing with your hand. I replied that I would do it if it were possible.

I placed the two flanking companies, Captains Perrin's and J. J. Norton's, 100 yards in front as skirmishers, covering the front of my regiment when deployed, and under the command of Captain Perrin. I placed Captain Miller's company 50 paces in rear of Captain Perrin's to support him, and Capt. Miles M. Norton 50 paces in rear of Capt. J. J. Norton to support him. I placed the four companies under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Ledbetter in rear of these companies. Thus disposed, I placed the six remaining companies, viz, Captains Harrison's, Moore's, Cox's, Hennegan's, Hawthorne's, and Hadden's, all the captains being present and in command of their respective companies. Before giving the command to advance I called upon the regiment to remember the State from whence they came; to put their trust in God, and acquit themselves like men.

At this awful moment there was not a quiver nor a pallid cheek, nor a disposition to give way on account of feeble health, when there were, as I personally know, more than 20 men who had just risen from beds of sickness to participate in the battles. There was a calmness and settled determination on the part of every man to do or die in the attempt. I gave the command, "Double-quick, march!" and as soon as we had gained the old field, "Charge bayonets," at the same time deploying the six remaining companies to the left, supporting the entire line of skirmishers.

As soon as we emerged from the pines we were met by a most destructive fire from the enemy in front and on our left and as soon as we had cleared about 100 yards of the old field two heavy batteries on our left, about 600 yards off, poured into our ranks a deadly fire of grape and canister.

Here it was that my adjutant, Lieut. J. B. Sloan, was shot down at my side while gallantly aiding me and urging on the charge of the regiment. Here also fell Capt. R. A. Hawthorne [Company F] gallantly leading his company [including Robert and Oby Lyles]. A few paces farther fell Captain Hennegan, another noble spirit, leading his company. Close by his side fell his gallant lieutenant fell the gallant and patriotic Lieut. Samuel McFall, and near him fell Sergeant-Major McGee nobly cheering the men on to the charge.

My men, although now under three cross-fires, and falling thick and fast from one end of the line to the other, never once faltered. Finding no battery, they dashed on to the woods in front, where were posted seven regiments of the enemy, including the Pennsylvania Reserves. Here my men got the first chance to exchange shots. They commenced a deadly fire upon the enemy, advancing upon them as they delivered the fire, some of the men having it hand-to-hand, clubbing their rifles, then dispatching four or five with the bayonet; many taking deadly aim through the forks of trees.

While this successful movement was going on the left wing of my regiment was about being outflanked by about 500 New York Zouaves, who came down upon my left in a desperate charge. I looked for my support, but could not see any, and then to the left of the field for the other two regiments, but could not see either of them, and thus I was left alone contending against seven regiments. At this time Lieutenant Higgins gathered around him some 30 riflemen, who poured into the ranks of the Zouaves such a deadly fire as to bring their left to a stand-still. During this halt of the Zouaves I ordered my regiment to fall back, after having drove the enemy to their camp to the edge of the woods, where we entered, and then filing to the right conducted them in safety down a road, where I formed the remnant under cover of the hill in front of the Zouaves. Just as I was forming, a North Carolina regiment came up and assisted us in giving a complete check to any further movement of the enemy in this quarter.

Thus ended one of the most desperate charges I ever before witnessed, and I feel thankful to a kind Providence that so many of us escaped to witness the most complete triumph of our arms in the hardest-con-tested battle before Richmond, and the one which decided the fate of the Yankee Army.

That night the regiment, in connection with Colonel Hamilton's and a portion of the Thirteenth South Carolina Volunteers, under command of Major Farrow, slept upon the battle-field.

 

On Saturday morning I called for a report of the different companies of my regiment of the killed, wounded, and missing, and found from their reports that my worst fears were realized as to the destruction of my regiment. In that charge we had sustained a loss of 76 killed, 221 wounded, and 58 missing, and I had only 149-- officers, noncommissioned officers, and privates--for duty. Early that morning I made a detail from each company to bury the dead, and so severe was the work of death in some of the companies that it took the detail all day to bury their dead. This sad duty performed, we were permitted again to sleep that night on the battle-field.

Early Sunday morning the brigade was put under marching orders, and about 9 a.m. we took up the line of march for the south side of the Chickahominy, via New Bridge.

After marching until 9 o'clock that night we bivouacked about 12 miles below Richmond, on the Darbytown road, close upon the rear of the enemy, who, we learned, had been driven that day and the day previous from his strong fortifications in front of Richmond.

On Monday, the 30th, we took up the line of march and pushed down the Darbytown road until we came upon the enemy strongly intrenched behind breastworks. The brigades of our division that were in front of the Second Brigade were soon engaged with the enemy, and our brigade was permitted to rest for a few moments preparatory to any emergency that might occur.

 

More troops were called for by General Hill, and the Second Brigade was rapidly advanced to the field of action. When near the position of the enemy two regiments--Colonels Edwards' and McGowan's--were advanced to the right to engage the enemy, and the other two regiments---Colonels Hamilton's and Barnes'--and my own were advanced to the left to engage the enemy if they presented themselves. Here we were exposed to a heavy fire from the enemy, not being able to return a single shot on account of our friends, General Longstreet's division being in front.

Here I had 9 wounded without the least chance of inflicting any damage upon the enemy, but we had the consolation of hearing the shout of triumph from our friends in front and the rout of our enemies. We slept upon the battle-field that night.

The next morning we were marched back to the brigade camping ground that we had occupied the day before, for the purpose of having rations issued to the troops. Here we rested as a reserve to the forces that were engaged in the Tuesday's battle.

About 6' o'clock in the evening the Second Brigade, in connection with the other brigades of the division, was put in motion to render any assistance that might be needed by our friends in the desperate battle that was then raging, we formed in line of battle in rear of our advancing column, ready to strike a blow where most needed. Here we were again exposed to a heavy fire of shot and shell for an hour, but fortunately no one of my regiment was injured.

Thus ended the series of hard-fought battles before Richmond, resulting in a complete triumph of the Confederate arms and the repulse of the Grand Army of the Potomac under the self-styled "Young Napoleon," who had been forced to seek protection under cover of their gunboats 30 miles down the James River.

It affords me pleasure to bear record to the gallant and officer-like conduct in which my field officers, Lieut. Col. D. A. Ledbetter and Maj. J.W. Livingston, bore themselves throughout the day, and especially in the charge. Major Livingston received a severe wound on the left side while making the charge.

I am proud to record the gallant manner in which Capt. James M. Perrin, as commander of the skirmishers, acquitted himself, he deserves great credit for the coolness and bravery he displayed on that occasion. Also Capt. J. J. Norton, his junior in command of the skirmishers, who was wounded in the left arm while gallantly leading his company.

The handsome manner in which Captains Miller and Miles M. Norton supported the advance companies entitles them to great praise. Captain Miller was wounded in the right side while gallantly leading his company, which had 13 killed on the field. Capt. Miles M. Norton, who had left a sick bed to lead his men into action, bore himself in a gallant manner at the head of his company and is entitled to great credit. Capt. F. E. Harrison was shot down, having received a severe wound in his leg while gallantly leading his company through the severest of the fight.

Capt. G. W. Cox was shot down while nobly leading his company through the charge. He had 16 killed on the field.

Captains Moore and Hadden, who passed through unscathed, were distinguished for their coolness and bravery throughout the entire engagement.

William C. Davis distinguished himself for his coolness and bravery during the battle. He received a severe wound on the head, bound it up, and fought throughout the day.

Lieut. W. W. Higgins, of Company G, was conspicuous for his coolness and bravery during the battle, fighting the Zouaves and bringing them to a stand-still with 30 men.

Lieutenant Latimer, Company G, fell seriously wounded in the ankle while gallantly supporting the skirmishers. He has since died.

Lieutenant McKay, of Company H, was seriously wounded in the arm while leading his company after his captain fell.

Lieutenant Philpot, of Company A, fell dangerously wounded while gallantly sustaining the charge of his company.

Lieutenant Norris, of Company K, fell mortally wounded (since dead) while nobly leading his company after his captain had fallen.

Lieuts. John B. Sloan, of Company D; Fullerton, of Company F; Pratt, of Company G; Cheshire, of Company K; Holcombe, of Company A; Dickson, of Company C, and Mace, of Company H, who passed through uninjured, deserve great credit for the coolness and bravery displayed by them throughout the engagement.

To Lieutenant Robertson, Company B, commander of the Infirmary Corps, the regiment is greatly indebted for the prompt and timely assistance afforded the wounded during the thickest of the battle. This corps worked all night carrying off the wounded, and were until 12 m. the next day before their labors were ended. They deserve great credit.

To my surgeon, Dr. T. A. Evins, I am greatly indebted for the prompt preparations of the surgical department for the battles and for the skill and ability he displayed in his operations and taking care of the wounded.

To my chaplain, Rev. H. T. Sloan, I have always been indebted for the high moral influence he has exercised over the regiment, and particularly after this bloody battle in administering spiritual comfort to the dying and superintending the burial of the dead of the regiment. He is entitled to great credit for the faithful discharge of the duties of his office under great privations and trials.

My commissary, Captain Edwards, was always at his post with rations for the men, never allowing the regiment to be without something to eat during the battles.

My quartermaster, Capt. Thomas B Lee, was transferred a few days previous to the brigade staff, in which he bore himself gallantly. I am greatly indebted to him for his valuable services while acting as quartermaster to my regiment.

To my special aides, Lieuts. J. T. Parks and William J. Marshall, I was greatly indebted during the battle for their valuable services in extending my orders. They distinguished themselves for their coolness and bravery. During the day Lieutenant Parks captured 7 prisoners.

During the charge my color-sergeant (Kyle, of Company B) was distinguished for his coolness and the gallant manner in which he bore the regimental flag. When in the thickest of the fight he was shot down, dangerously wounded through the thighs. Corporal Milford, of Company F, one of the color guard, gathered the colors and bore them triumphantly through the charge; it has three bullet-holes through it and one nearly cutting the staff in two.

To the gallant non-commissioned officers and privates, who each personally distinguished himself for coolness and bravery during the bloody battle, the country owes a debt of lasting gratitude. It is the private who has to bear the heat and burden of the day, and his name should be placed high in the niche of fame. They are all entitled to the highest reward of a grateful country.

It is gratifying for me to report upon the accurate and deliberate firing of my regiment. There was not a tree on the side where we entered the woods marked by a ball higher than 6 feet and lower than the knees, while on the Yankee side they ranged from 30 feet down to the ground.

The result of our contest with the enemy was 253 regulars and Pennsylvanians and 32 New York Zouaves killed on the field, and 23 wounded prisoners, among them a major and a first lieutenant.I trust that the part performed by my regiment in the recent battles before Richmond meets with the approval of our general. The highest ambition of the regiment was to perform every duty in the great struggle assigned to it, and to contribute by its efforts, in connection with other regiments, to the complete overthrow of the enemy, and to see victory perch upon the Confederate standard.

The following is a synopsis of the casualties of the First Regiment South Carolina Volunteer Rifles, as made out by the commanders of companies on the 12th instant; copies of such reports accompany this report:

Killed 81

Wounded 234

Missing 4

Total 319

Carried into action 537

Infirmary Corps 40

Pioneer Corps 10

Total on field for duty 587

 

Respectfully submitted.

J. FOSTER MARSHALL,

Colonel First Regiment South Carolina Volunteer Rifles.

 

P. S.--In reference to proper persons to be recommended for promotions I ask for further time, and I desire a conference with the general.


from "The Seven Days' Battles" at URL--http://members.aol.com/StnWall46/7days.html. Accessed 01/20/99.