Echoes from the Campfire – The writings of the men of the 7th Tennessee: May 19 – May 28, 1862

Posted on Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

The 7th Tennessee numbered 594 going into the battle of Seven Pines.


Echoes from the Campfire – The writings of the men of the 7th Tennessee:

May 19 – May 28, 1862

Chronicling the events leading up to the battle of Seven Pines, May 31, 1862:

19 May 1862:

Thomas Holloway (Co. H) – “Wilson County.” [Chickahominy River, VA] – “… Our forces evacuated [Yorktown] and retired in direction of Richmond. At Williamsburg the enemy appeared in front of our fortifications. The rear guard (Longstreet’s division) let in on them with such deadly fire as to completely repulse them. Our loss was also heavy… The enemy’s gun boats then ran up York River to West Point and landed in considerable force and proceeded some distance from the River when they were gallantly met by the Texas troops under Gen. Hood who was with the aid of one regiment from our brigade… We are compelled to stay close to our Regts. as we are always looking for orders. Our Brig. is rear guard now, hence we may get into a fight at any moment. The Yankees, I understand, are now at the Chickahominy River and we about 3 or 4 miles this side. We fall back slowly a little every day. Our line will be somewhat about Richmond, which place is going to be defended at all hazards … The boys are all well and in fine spirits and ready to fight. We are without tents and had for some time but one blanket, but now most of us [have] two, and as we have learned to be shifty we do very well. Sometimes we do not get anything to eat in a day or two but that doesn’t amount to much. Tomorrow is the anniversary of our enlistment, at which time it … has been my intention all the while to enjoy for a season the delights and leisures of Home but I have not been so favored. My country says my services are needed in her defense and I should feel recreant to my duty did I not submit without a murmur…”

21 May 1862:

Robert Hatton (Staff) – “7th Tennessee Letters.” [Chickahominy River, VA] – “I am here [Chickahominy River, 12 miles from Richmond] with the First Tennessee regiment, Col. Turney, to support Gen. Stewart’s cavalry, in guarding the crossing at Bottom Bridge … The Seventh and Fourteenth Regiments, and our battery, are back at our camps … That my wife and children should be surrounded by the enemy, and that a fight should have taken place in sight of where they are domiciled, pains me, Sophie, beyond expression. We have just received the account of Morgan’s surprise and defeat in Lebanon…”


Abram Bostick (Co. K) – “Bostick Letters.” [near Richmond, VA] – “… Tom [Bostick – his brother] is aide to General Hatton (who has recently been promoted) with the rank of Major. The position is decidedly easier and better for him than that of Captain of a company. Our Captain is a clever fellow. His name is Norris. J.F. Goodner is our Colonel. I mess with 1st Lieutenant Baird. A big fight is daily looked for. We are confident of success…”


Robert Hatton (Staff) – “7th Tennessee Letters.” [near Richmond, VA] – “… Gen’l: [Gustavus W. Smith]- Col. Goode [Goodner?] & the infantry regiment were retired to this point after my note informing you of the advance of the enemy. We are in position on each side of the road – our line of pickets and videttes being established in rear of our former lines but protecting the same ground. From the manner in which the enemy approached I expected he would move upon us here. We have, however, been waiting for him over 2 1/2 hours & he had not appeared. He has artillery – some pieces were seen this evening passing Watkins – the point where our pickets were stationed this morning. The strength of the force that advanced we could not ascertain. I think there were not less than 3 or 4 regiments of infantry on this side of Watkins. No considerable [force] of cavalry was seen at any one point but small squads have shown themselves along our whole line to the right of the railroad. I have ordered up to support me, four guns of Braxton’s artillery, to supply the place of Pelham’s that was retired at noon today. My instructions are not definite. Have you any for me?…”

24 May 1862:

David Phillips (Co. K) – “Phillips Family History.” [near Richmond, VA] – “…This has been a day of importance to this brigade. We have been bringing up the rear of the army. Since we left camp beyond Chickahominy today, General Hatton decided to make a stand about nine miles from Richmond. Colonel Forbes’ regiment was on picket and soon in the morning ours and Colonel Turney’s were ordered out to support them. Colonel Forbes was posted in a skirt of woods beside the main road. Captain Braxton’s artillery was posted in an open field considerably in the rear of Colonel Forbes. Colonel Turney was on the left with one wing beyond the railroad. The right wing of the 7th was on the right in a skirt of woods in the rear of the artillery while the left was on the extreme right in front of the artillery.”

“It began to rain soon after we had taken our positions which continued all the forenoon completely drenching us all. I suppose it was about ten o’clock when the enemy’s skirmishers and Colonel Forbes began to fire on each other. In a short time, Colonel Forbes’ skirmishers having fallen back upon the reserve, a sharp fire of musketry was commenced on the road in front of our position. The enemy advanced to the edge of the woods directly in front of our position and about 500 yards off and opened a flanking fire on Colonel Forbes’ men. Our artillery was brought to bear on them and we succeeded in driving them from their position. Shortly afterwards the rattle of small arms ceased without any loss on our side. About the same time the enemy brought up their artillery and opened on our battery. There was a brisk cannonading for an hour when our gunners, getting short of ammunition, left the field. This was done without the knowledge of our regiment. The enemy kept up fire for a while, when, having no fire in return, they made a bold dash at our position with their artillery, two regiments of cavalry and five regiments of infantry. Upon seeing the odds against us, we made a hasty retreat back to the right wing of our regiment. While we were doing this the enemy’s cavalry made a charge up the road at us which cut us off, but Company A of the 14th., the rear guard of that regiment, seeing them, ambushed themselves and when in good distance fired and emptied 15 saddles. The rest, dismayed, wheeled around and fled.”

“The enemy got their artillery in position about 400 yards off, opened on us retreating through the woods, which would have been destructive if they had aimed lower. We formed in rear of our encampment and kept our position in line of battle the rest of the day. In evening we were relieved by Hampton’s brigade. The enemy made no further demonstrations. Our loss was two killed in the 14th and two missing in ours. The loss of the enemy was at least ten to one, about fifty it was supposed. A good day’s work if we did have to run.”

28 May 1862:

Robert Hatton (Staff) – “7th Tennessee Letters.” [near Richmond, VA] – “My brigade will move in an hour from its encampment, en route for Meadow Bridge, on the Chickahominy. We got word to attack the enemy tomorrow, beyond the river…

…Would that I might bind my heart, before the battle, my wife and children. That pleasure may never again be granted me. If so, farewell…”

…If I should not return, be a mother to…my children…”


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