22nd Letter: “They Fell Like Pigeons” (June 30, 1862)

Hanover Cty Va

June 30th

62

Dear Mother,

Again I have been spared by an overruling Providence to pass through another engagement with the enemy of a desperate character, the result of which was a glorious victory of the Confederates, but alas, sad thought, it was accompanied with the killing of two of our company and wounding 18.  Sargt Duncan was killed and the ever faithful and Christian solider, D B Paine – my mess mate, and the wounding of Newt Shaw in the shoulder and Charley Gaston, though neither of them are dangerous, Newts was slightly in the shoulder.

I tried twice to write to you all after we left Staunton but they marched us so fast, that I could not get time to finish it, though I would like to give you the details of our sojourn at Staunton, but the Great Battle before Richmond is now the subject of conversation.

Click image of CSA Lieutenant General Thomas Jonathan

Click image of CSA Lieutenant General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson to learn more.

Gen Johnson attacked the Yankees in front while Gen Jackson went to their rear. Gen Whitings division joined Jackson at Staunton and from there we took the cars and came with in ten miles of Ashland, and marched there that night where Gen Whiting told us we would draw 3 days rations of beef and crackers and crack crackers coock our beef without utensils and be ready to march at daylight, and that we were going right into the enemy enemies lines.

June 30, 1862: page 1

June 30, 1862: page 1

Sure enough we commenced the march in the rear of the evening led by the renowned Stonewall Jackson. Our Division was in front but the Texas Brigade was the advance Guard. After going about 5 miles – we came upon some of the enemy, the Texas scouts capturing several of them, They burned a bridge after them and tried to plant a battery on the other side from us, but we pressed them too close, bringing up our artillery, fired one or two rounds at them, killing two and wounding several, when they put out in Bull Run style, they had also cut trees in the road, but we soon had another one cut out and a bridge made, and kept pushing on.

Click image of Confederate Lieutenant John Bell Hood to learn more.

Click image of CSA Lieutenant John Bell Hood to learn more.

Late in the evening the Texas Brigade had a skirmish with them, which resulted in their rout again, we were quickly drawn up in line of battle, but the Texans met them again and did not give us a chance. We started much marching and marched slowly along feeling our way, for we were there in the enemys lines, and of course had to go slow. We crept along until about 4 O clock in the evening, (Friday) when we heard the artillery open to our right – and after awhile the rattle of musketing which got faster and heavier.  We moved off at quick time.

Click image of Lieutenant General Ambrose Powell (A.P.) Hill to learn more.

Click image of CSA Lieutenant General Ambrose Powell (A.P.) Hill to learn more.

Gen Longstreet Hills Division had opened the ball, We formed a line of battle in an old field.  by this time, the enemys Guns Battery began to play on us and at least two miles. It was the third shot I think that blowed a Texans head off and wounded Sargt Goodwin. in three feet of me. We then started and went through a ravine 12 men deep and got into the open field in full view of the enemys battery with was at least a mile and half off, the grape shot, canisters and shell falling thick and fast in our devoted ranks. Two divisions had tried to dislodge the enemy, but failed, when Gen Whiting rode out in front of us and told us to charge the Yankees. We never stopped untill within 30 yds of the enemies first breastwork. There was a branch between us and the first one, which was 8 ft wide, the banks being 6 ft high and perfectly straight.  It had The first one was about 20 steps from the branch, made of logs about 4 ft high and the same width at the bottom and placed so closely that it seemed almost impossible for a ball to go through it without an accident, and beside that one they had another about 30 steps further up on the hillside. behind both of which the Yankees were thick as they could be, and where the breastworks were, the bushes and trees were so thick we could not see where the enemy was by the flash of their guns, and up on top of the hill they had 8 pieces of artillery. When we stopped and commenced firing on them, we were in plain open view and exposed to the fire of the Yankees from both redoubts and the Battery.

June 30, 1862: page 2

June 30, 1862: page 2

They gave the order to charge again and we darted down the hill with a yell, into the branch and by the time we got over the Yanks started. We fired at them and they fell like pigeons. We climbed the first one and before we got to the next one they were out of it and going at full tilt. They tried to rally at their guns, but it was no use, they had started and had no idea of stopping. They had messed up two pieces and started off with them, but our balls killed enough of the hordes to stop the Guns. We drove them on before us, beyond the batteries at least a mile into the swamp.

They never saved a single piece out of the battery that we took. They threw away guns knapsacks haversacks –  every thing that would impede their progress. They give our Rgt and 4th Ala the credit of taking 8 peices. The battle extended for 4 miles and we drove them back at all points – taking 30 or 40 pieces of artillery.

June 30, 1862: page 3

June 30, 1862: page 3

It is certain that we have routed them and have taken 15 or 20,000 prisoners. It is said that we have got them surrounded, but I don’t know what to believe about it. I was unwell the evening. we went into the fight, but, as soon as we were fairly into it the excitement drove it all away, that evening we piled our blankets and lost them all, and I was without any that night, and was perfectly wet to the knees, and tried to sleep and couldn’t,

I hope I may never live to witness such a sight again.

Our Lt Col said he wanted some men to help him with the wound wounded, so I went with him and was up all night, waiting on the wounded. untill day light. I hope I may never live to witness such a sight again, men groaning, shivering and weltering in their blood. This is monday and the fight was on Friday and there is are some of our wounded on the field and some have died from want of attention. I will drop this subject for this time. I know in this you will hear more than I can tell you now.

June 30, 1862: page 4

June 30, 1862: page 4

I left Rgt yesterday, I have cold from reposun and my bowels are deranged but I think I will be able to join the Rgt in a few days. I will give you a list of the ill and wounded. Jess Hardgrove and Pierce were the only ones that are dangerous and I think they will get well. I will write you again as soon as possible.

I took a capt prisoner and had a hole cut in my coat sleeve by a minie ball and I am quite certain I killed the Yankee that did it.  He shot at me as I was going over the first breast work. I shot at him as he ran and saw him fall. I must close for want of paper. Give my love to all the family and enquiring friends. Write as soon as possible to your devoted son P.M.B.


Blogger’s Notes:

  • This is the third letter in a row in which Parham began by acknowledging an overruling Providence as the reason he was spared in battle, the previous two describing the Battle of Seven Pines, this one the Battle of Gaines’ Mill.
  • Following the Battle of Seven Pines described in the previous letter, Parham was transported along with the 11th Mississippi by rail car from the Richmond area to Staunton, Virginia to join CSA Major General Stonewall Jackson’s (Shenandoah) Valley Army.  Shortly after arrival, the 11th Mississippi began the rapid march back toward Richmond.  Parham wrote that he tried twice to write to you all after we left Staunton but they marched us so fast, that I could not get time to finish it.  Stonewall Jackson had the unique ability to motivate his men to undergo sustained rapid marches, earning them the nom de guerre Jackson’s Foot Cavalry.
  • A History of Company G, Eleventh Mississippi Regiment, C.S.A. documents information about comrades mentioned by Parham.
    • William G. Duncan was promoted to Corporal August, 1861, and to Fifth Sergeant April 4, 1862.  He was killed at Gaines’s Farm.
    • David B. (DB) Paine was during Gaines’s Mill mortally wounded and died at Field Hospital, June 27, 1862…He deserves more than a brief mention when speaking of faithful soldiers.  He was most methodical and conscientious in the discharge of every duty called upon to perform, and…that the Confederacy lost a hero who deserves to be held in loving memory in the person of David Brainerd Paine. This 21 year old man left quite an impression on survivors of the Lamar Rifles 40 years later and was held in high regard by Parham in this letter.  What greater legacy is there for one to leave behind than to be described by comrades as ever faithful in carrying-out duties and Christian?
    • William N. (Newt) Shaw was present at…Gaines’s Farm and was absent wounded until he was present second day at Sharpsburg…at Weldon Railroad, where he was killed on first day.
    • Charles (Charley) Gaston was wounded at Gaines’s Farm…wounded again at Spottsylvania; present at Hanover Junction, and was absent wounded until close of war.  Slightly wounded by sharpshooter June 5th, 1864.
    • Jesse (Jess) Hardgrove was present at Seven Pines, Gaines’s Farm, and White Oak Swamp, and died June 29, 1862, from the effects of wound.  Parham must not have been aware about Hardgrove’s passing at the time of writing the letter the following day.
    • William A. Pierce at Gaines’s Farm was wounded…then wounded at Bethsaida Church.
  • The Texas Brigade Parham wrote about was commanded by CSA Lieutenant General John Bell Hood whom US Army Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas is named after.
  • Click image to hear the rebel yell.

    Click image to hear the “Rebel Yell.”

    Parham stated they gave the order to charge again and we darted down the hill with a (Rebel) yell.  The Yankee’s retreat which followed was described as Bull Run style, meaning the Union soldiers dropped everything, turned around, and fled at full speed as they had at First Battle of Bull Run (also known as First Battle of Manassas).

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