Archer's Seven Days Report

Last updated June 18th, 2007 by Jenny

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Seven Days Battle Report: Archer's Brigade

No. 347. -- Report of Brig. Gen. J. J. Archer, C. S. Army, commanding Fifth Brigade, of the battles of Mechanicsville and Gaines' Mill.

HDQRS. FIFTH BRIG., LIGHT DIV., July 10, 1862.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that [on] the evening of June 26, by direction of Maj. Gen. A. P. Hill, I marched my brigade, 1,228 strong, into Mechanicsville and thence up the Mechanicsville turnpike in line of battle, the left flank guided by the line of the turnpike;the Nineteenth Georgia (Lieut. Col. T. C. Johnson) on the left, the First Tennessee (Lieut. Col. J. C. Shackelford) on the right, the Fifth Alabama Battalion (Captain Van de Graaff) and Seventh Tennessee (Col. John F. Goodner) supporting. The Fourteenth Tennessee (Col. W. A. Forbes) became separated from me during the movement, and becoming involved with General Field's brigade, did not join me until night.

The brigade moved on steadily to the Beaver Dam Creek under a heavy fire of artillery and rifles from the batteries and strongly intrenched positions of the enemy on the opposite bank. Night closed in before a crossing could be effected. We remained through the night in possession of the ground we had gained and the next morning the enemy abandoned their works.

My loss in this action was 43 killed and 171 wounded; among the former was Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson, commanding Nineteenth Georgia, who fell gallantly cheering his men in battle; and among the latter the gallant and efficient Captain Van de Graaff, commanding the Fifth Alabama Battalion.

On the 27th, at Cold Harbor, my brigade, reduced to less than 1,000 men, advanced alone and unsupported across an open field to attack the enemy, strongly posted and protected in the wood beyond by the works which a short time afterward it required seven brigades to carry. The troops under my command, except the Nineteenth Georgia, which was held in reserve, advanced at a double-quick to within 20 steps of the breastworks, when they fell back before the irresistible fire of artillery and rifles. The obvious impossibility of carrying the position without support prevented me from attempting to check the retreat. Had they not fallen back I would myself have ordered it. A half hour later my brigade, constituting the right of the Light Division, again moved forward to the attack of the same position and entered it in the front line of attack. Beyond this point my brigade, worn-out, exhausted, and intermingled with the regiments and brigades of the supporting line, did not advance as an organized body. With a few of my command, however (mostly Georgians, who, not having been engaged in the first charge, were fresher than the rest), and some soldiers of other brigades, I continued on from a quarter to half a mile farther under a heavy artillery fire from batteries which were taken by Hood's brigade, while under the eminence on which they were posted I was forming for attack the few men, not more than 100, remaining with me. I remained on the field during the night, and the next morning was spent in burying the dead and attending the wounded.

My loss in this action was 49 killed and 271 wounded, making the total loss in the two battles 542, besides Corporal Trezevant, of the Hampton Legion, in command of my couriers, killed, and James L. Crittenden, volunteer aide, wounded. All the field officers of the Nineteenth Georgia, First and Seventh Tennessee Regiments, and the two senior captains successively in command of the Fifth Alabama Battalion were killed or wounded.

I regret that the short period of my service with the brigade and want of personal acquaintance with the officers and soldiers render it impossible for me to name many whose distinguished gallantry I noticed on the field. I have, therefore, to refer you to the accompanying reports of the regimental commanders. I would not, however, fail to remember the intrepidity of Lieutenant-Colonel Shackelford, who was killed while most gallantly discharging his duty, and of J. W. Williams, sergeant-major of the Nineteenth Georgia. Mr. George Lemmon, my volunteer aide and acting adjutant, and James L. Crittenden, volunteer aide, rendered throughout the most gallant and efficient service, both the regular officers of my staff being absent sick.

The couriers of the cavalry of Hampton's Legion, attached to my staff, rendered fearless and valuable service.

Capt. Carter M. Braxton, with his Fredericksburg Battery, seconded by Lieutenant Marye, rendered efficient service in both actions, and displayed remarkable skill and gallantry.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. J. ARCHER,

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

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