Thursday, July 21, 2011

11:00 am: Col Evans (CS) reinforced on Matthew's Hill

Matthew’s Hill
Shanks Evans finally won a battle within the battle he had been waging. On top of Henry Hill, Barnard Bee had been insisting Evans fall back to his position, while Evans had been insisting that Bee bring his and part of Bartow’s brigade to Matthew’s Hill to drive the Union men back to Sudley Ford before more of them arrived.

Bee had been partially convinced because the rest of Bartow’s brigade, a mixed-arms regiment called Hampton’s Legion, and the beginning of Jackson’s brigade were finally arriving at Henry Hill. But he had also been persuaded when it became clear that Burnside had finally gotten his brigade together, with all four regiments now in line and punishing Evans’ small command.

Bee brought his men down just as the Tigers made a daring gambit. Evans wrote: “The fire was warmly kept up until the enemy seemed to fall back. Major Wheat [the Tigers’ commander] then made a charge with his whole battalion.” It was a cover-up for a foolish attack that gave Burnside the upper hand. Wheat was shot through both lungs (he would live, amazingly) and a huge number of his Tigers were knocked out of the battle.

As the new Confederates rushed into battle so did new Union men. Porter’s 27th New York fell into line to the right of Burnside’s 71st New York, extending the line to the south, parallel to Sudley Road. In front of them the gray uniformed 8th New York came hurrying to join up in their line – except it wasn’t the 8th New York. In a mistake that would famously be repeated over and over they were Confederates and they opened fire on the stunned New Yorkers.

Johnston recorded in his official report:
…I waited with General Beauregard near the center the full development of the enemy’s designs. About 11 o’clock the violence of the firing on the left indicated a battle, and the march of a large body of troops from the enemy’s center towards the conflict was shown by clouds of dust. I was thus convinced that his great effort was to be made with his right. I stated that conviction to General Beauregard, and the absolute necessity of immediately strengthening our left as much as possible
After the war Johnston would describe his words urging Beauregard to take the attack on the left seriously more bluntly: “The battle is there. I am going.” A startled Beauregard scrambled to issue orders to reinforce Henry Hill and follow Johnston there.

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