Whispers from the Campfire — Writings of the men of the 7th Tennessee: August 7 – 9, 1862

Posted on Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

The 7th Tennessee lost 46 men out of 431 in the fight at Cedar Run.


150 years ago several 7th Tennesseans wrote about the battle of Cedar Run:
Here are their words –

August 7, 1862:

[Barry Crompton, historian] – On Thursday, August 7, Jackson’s three divisions – his old one under Winder; and that of Ewell; and A.P. Hill’s recently arrived Light Division – prepared for a fast march. They tramped over plantation paths and by-roads to Orange Court House with Archer’s men arriving about midnight of the 7th/8th, and immediately going into bivouac. As Jackson’s forces approached, Banks’ forces moved about eight miles beyond Culpeper and established a line in the valley of Cedar Run.


August 8, 1862:

[Barry Crompton, historian] –  Some time on the night of the 7th, Jackson issued the order of march for the troops to be ready at dawn. Jackson directed the troops to march northwards, crossing into Madison County at Barnett’s Ford due north of Orange Court House, then on into Culpeper County. Ewell was to lead, Hill in the middle and Winder to bring up the rear. However, when Hill was ready to march on the morning of the 8th, he saw troops in front of his so he waited for these troops to move before he got his own division on the road. This decision meant that Ewell’s men only marched eight miles while Hill’s men, normally fast-moving, only managed one mile. An opportunity had been lost.


August 9, 1862:

[Barry Crompton, historian] –  On the morning of the 9th a new start was made by the Confederates and this time it was successful. Archer’s men, now 1200 strong, marched off in the direction of Culpeper, crossing the Rapidan at Barnett’s Ford. Hill’s division was this time in the rear of Jackson’s force, as the normal custom was to rotate divisions for the day’s march each morning. The brigades were in the following order: Thomas, Branch, Archer, Pender, Stafford, Field and Gregg.

The advance had hardly begun before the distant sound of cannon announced that Jackson’s advanced divisions had met the enemy. Orders were sent for Hill to hurry up. The day was remarkably hot and sultry and the red dust of the dirt road almost suffocating. Hill’s troops (including Archer’s brigade) pressed rapidly on. They arrived at the North fork of Cedar Run about 5:00 PM. Ewell’s division, which held the right, was wavering, and the left of Winder’s division had been turned and routed. Jackson in person, with a part of several Virginia regiments, was holding the center and protecting the artillery.

Hill, on viewing the situation, promptly threw forward Thomas’ brigade to the relief of Ewell, then Branch’s, Archer’s and Pender’s brigades to aid the routed left wing. Branch was formed on the right, Archer next, and Pender made a detour to the left and formed at almost right angles to Branch and Archer.

Archer moved forward with the 1st and 7th Tennessee, 5th Alabama battalion and the 19th Georgia, leaving the 14th Tennessee, which was in the rear, to come up and overtake the brigade. Archer advanced several hundred yards in this manner, obliquing towards the right in order to get near the left of Branch’s brigade. Archer’s line became somewhat broken and the brigade halted for a few minutes for it to reform. During this time the 14th Tennessee came up onto line. Archer rode up the road, about 50 yards on his right and found Branch’s brigade in the open field and in a line even with that of his own brigade, firing at the enemy to their front – Gordon’s Federal brigade.

Archer returned to his brigade and received orders from A. P. Hill to advance. The brigade marched out of a stand of woods and immediately encountered the long range fire of an enemy posted in the margin of another wood beyond a wheat field. The brigade halted and commenced a rapid fire for several minutes before Archer could move forward across the open field. In crossing the field it was exposed to a heavy fire from the enemy, who, from their position in the woods, were comparatively safe. Archer’s loss here was 19 killed and 116 wounded.

After entering the wood and in passing through it, Archer’s two left regiments met and became mixed with the right of Pender’s brigade, which was sweeping forward with a left oblique. Pender and Archer could not disentangle their units so they agreed to share command; Pender taking the right and Archer the left. They did not meet again with any opposition, but took a number of prisoners and continued the pursuit until dark.


9 August 1862:

[2nd Lt. John H. Moore, 7th TN, Co. B]“… Our lines were scarcely formed when a regiment of cavalry charged upon Branch, which he repulsed with the loss of half their men. Branch and Archer advanced rapidly, gradually pushing back the Federals, until they reached a wheat-field occupied by their reserve lines. Here an obstinate stand was made, and for a few moments the battle seemed doubtful, but opportunely Pender threw his brigade upon their right flank. This changed the aspect at once. They hesitated a moment, then broke and fled in confusion from the field. Darkness prevented a pursuit. In this battle the Seventh again lost heavily. Among the wounded were Col. John A. Fite and Acting Major James C. Franklin.”


9 August 1862:

[Lt. Col. John Fite, 7th TN] – “… It was the hottest day I nearly ever saw. We hadn’t gone far until we came up with the Federal cavalry; our cavalry were massed in front of us and around the Federal cavalry back. When we reached the Federal army it was formed on the north side of a little valley. We took position on the other side. I suppose our lines were about 250 – 300 yards apart. There was a wheat field in front of us, the wheat had been cut and shocked. There I saw the grandest sight I ever witnessed, at least 10,000 Federal Cavalry came charging across the field. They evidently were under the impression that we had nothing there but the cavalry. We were in the woods just at the edge of the field. They came charging across the field and when they got about 50 or 75 yards from us we opened on them. They were evidently surprised, they halted, and we poured volley after volley into them, a great many of them fell off their horses. Immediately Pope’s whole army advanced across the field, and we lit into them. They broke ranks and run everywhere, some of them got behind wheat shocks, soon we were ordered to advance, and we started across the field to meet their army on the other side of the field. About half of the way across the field I was wounded, my left leg was broken by a Yankee bullet. Fortunately for me I was shot close to where an old house had stood. The foundation of the old chimney was there. I dragged myself up to where one of the old chimneys had stood.”


9 August 1862:

[Henry T. Childs, 1st TN] – “… It was the hottest day I ever saw, the big men continually falling by the wayside, worn out by fatigue and oppressive heat. About 3 p.m., the Yankees ran into line to give us battle. …

[We] form[ed] on the left of Pender’s ‘Tarheels’ in battle array, our line began to move. Soon we met the old Stonewall Brigade being driven back by the Yankees, and soon after we met a column of Yankees in a big wheat field, the wheat in shocks. Every boy leveled his gun, and the roar of battle began. Behind the fence on the far side of the field stood another column of Yankees. Then the order rang down our line: ‘Forward! Guide, center!’ And when we reached the fence it was turned bottom side up, and on we moved, while bullets whistled by our ears. While crossing a ravine in the field our company officers told us to hold our fire until we reached the line of Yankees at the fence. When we reached the brow of the ridge at a ‘trail arms’ with fixed bayonets and the wild Rebel Yell, we made a terrible dash for the fence…

…When we reached the fence the line of Yankee soldiers was not there. They had retreated into a dense thicket and jungle. Right into it we followed. As we scrambled through the bushes we picked up prisoners and sent them to the rear. When we emerged from the jungle, a distance of half a mile, we were in another field. The moon was shining brightly. An officer dashed along the line, ordering: ‘Halt! Cease the pursuit!’…”

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