Battle of Gaines Mill
PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN–SEVEN DAYS’ BATTLES
No. 263. — Report of Col. B. B. Gayle, Twelfth Alabama Infantry, of the battle of Gaines’ Mill.
HEADQUARTERS TWELFTH ALABAMA REGIMENT.
About 2 o’clock on the morning of June 26 the Twelfth Alabama Regiment, in conjunction with the others of General Rodes’ brigade, left its position on the Williamsburg road and commenced the march in the direction of the Chickahominy, the object being to cross the river and attack the enemy in the rear.
On the night of the 26th the regiment, having crossed the river, remained on the battlefield near Mechanicsville.
At an early hour next morning it resumed the march, and while doing so was fired on by the enemy’s battery, but no damage done. After being detained for some time in the forward movement by blockaded roads the regiment reached the new field of action.
This was about 3 p.m. Friday, the 27th. Here it was exposed to a severe fire of artillery; but the order being given to the men to hold their position, all remained at their posts save two or three. The only damage done at this point was a slight wound inflicted on the person of Lieutenant [E. H.] Jones, Company I. This fire from the battery continued about twenty or thirty minutes, after which the regiment continued to advance, and finally halted under the edge of the woods.
About 4 o’clock in the afternoon the Twelfth Alabama, together with the Fifth and Twenty-sixth, was ordered to cross an open field and penetrate the opposite woods, where firing had commenced. While crossing this field a battery opened on our lines from the left, but did us no harm. It was not long before the regiment had marched through the woods and swamp, all in the brigade having lost distance in executing the difficult maneuver.
Here we remained until half an hour before sunset, our front lines being engaged with the enemy. The charge having now commenced, the Twelfth Alabama was immediately ordered over the fence, and in a few moments joined the enthusiastic throng and was advancing rapidly on the retreating lines of the enemy. While in this charge the regiment was exposed to the fire of the enemy, but only a few were wounded.
On reaching the opposite woods such was the enthusiasm and excitement that our different lines of battle became partially united and regiments became entirely separated from their brigades. In addition to this, many in the rear commenced firing rapidly, while nothing could be seen in front but our own men. The commander of the Twelfth Alabama, seeing that it was impossible to reunite with the other regiments of the brigade, held his regiment back until the excitement grew less intense, and thereby prevented his men from following the foolish example set by some regiment directly in front.
As soon as the advancing lines had moved on considerably farther I determined to seek my position, though it was then a difficult task to find the brigade. Just at this point Lieutenant [H. W.] Cox, of the Twelfth Alabama, called my attention to the extreme left. I perceived at once that it was falling back slowly, and immediately facet my regiment about and hurried over to give all support in my power. A new line of battle was now coming up from the rear with the same object in view. I found it to be a part of General Jackson’s command, and united with them in the advance upon the enemy, the latter of whom immediately <ar13_639>gave way. Our line of battle was now halted, the enemy having fled on our approach.
Directly opposite our lines was a very formidable battery, which had proved to be a great annoyance during the whole afternoon. After some contention between two officers of apparently equal rank, supposed to be brigadier generals, it was concluded to charge it; so the whole line moved on rapidly and in excellent order, but we had not advanced far before the battery ceased firing and made good its retreat.
The order was now given to retire a few rods to the rear and remain for the night. While making these charges the Twelfth Alabama was placed between a portion of General Jackson’s command and Hampton’s Legion, the latter being on the right.
The casualties in the Twelfth Alabama in this battle were not heavy, as will be seen from the list of casualties already sent to brigade headquarters.(*) The number carried into battle, as near as can be ascertained, was about 200; number killed, 1; number wounded, 11.
B. B. GAYLE,
Colonel, Commanding Twelfth Alabama Regiment.