The 4th South Carolina at Manassas: Critical Delaying Action under Shanks Evans

Without the swift movement of gen. Nathan “Shanks” Evans to confront McDowell’s flanking column on Matthews Hill, Thomas J. Jackson might have never had the opportunity to earn the name “Stonewall” on Henry Hill.

Correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch – August 8, 1861
Fourth South Carolina Regiment.

Camp Pettus, 7 miles North of Manassas,
Aug.5, 1861.

In reading the letters of your numerous correspondents with regard to the late battle at Stone Bridge, I see they nearly all allude to particular regiments, and the prominent parts enacted by each of them in achieving that great victory. Though I have been glad to see the gallantry and prowess of each regiment and legion thus chronicled to the world, I have been surprised to see that the very first regiment and battalion which were engaged in that conflict, and who sustained the whole shock of the enemy, unsupported for two hours, have been scarcely mentioned at all. I allude to the Fourth South Carolina Regiment, under Col. J. B. E Sloan, and the Louisiana Regiment, under Maj. Wheat As I am a member of the ” Fourth,” I speak of what I know. Our regiment, with Major Wheat’s command, and two six-pounders of Latham’s Artillery, had been encamped for four or five days previous to the battle, within a few hundred yards of the Stone Bridge, waiting and watching for the enemy. Before daylight on Sundaymorning, 21st, we were aroused by the firing of our pickets. Being formed in line of battle, our regiment by sunrise was lying upon the ground directly in front of the bridge, and covered by the brow of the sharp hill to the left of the road. Soon after sunrise, the long straight turnpike upon the opposite side of the Run was filled with the columns of the enemy as far as the eye could reach. They came within five hundred yards of us, threw out their skirmishers, and opened a battery upon us, feeling with ball and shell around and over the hill to find our position. Our regiment remained here with no other firing except between our skirmishers and those of the enemy, until about eight o’clock, under the immediate supervision of Gen. Evans, whose headquarters were within one hundred yards of our position.

At about 8 o’clock we received a message that the enemy had crossed the Run in large force about three miles above, and were marching down to flank us on our left. With drawing without the knowledge of the army in our front, and which was composed of eight or ten thousand men, we commenced a double quick to meet the column which had crossed above. After accomplishing a mile or more, we came in sight of their long line of bayonets, glistening in the morning sun. Halting, we formed in a small hollow or ravine, with Maj. Wheat’s battalion on our right and a little advanced from our position. The enemy formed on a commanding hill, four or five hundred yards in front, and opened upon us with a heavy fire of musketry, and grape-shot from the Rhode Island Battery. Both the Louisianians and our regiment returned the fire with spirit, and several of our men were killed and wounded thus early in the day, or before 9 o’clock.

Soon afterwards, we received an order to form under cover of a wood to our right, and somewhat nearer the enemy. Here we remained for some time, in the edge nearest the enemy, keeping up our fire, and having many of our men killed and wounded. The first reinforcement of which we were aware joined us here, and arrived at 9½ or 10 o’clock. It proved to be the 4th Alabama Regiment and some other companies, under command of the lamented Col. Bee.

With this noble regiment, which has been deservedly spoken of for its gallantry, we retired when the fire became too hot to be withstood. We, however, soon rallied, and returned to the fight, remaining in it through-out the day. A large portion of our regiment were in the first charge made upon Sherman’s Battery; and many eye-witnesses will avow that the regimental flag, presented to us a few weeks ago by the patriotic ladies of Leesburg, was the very first planted upon one of those guns. It was done by Major Robert Maxwell, our gallant color-bearer. These pieces were, I believe, taken several times before we finally succeeded in holding them. This much I have thought should be said, in justice to the 4th Regiment and the Louisiana battalion, without in the least intending to detract from any other command. Where all did nobly, comparison would be odious. History will, however, record that we were first in the fray, and, with about 1,000 men, (as four of our companies remained at the bridge as skirmishers and a reserve,) kept 30,000 of the enemy in check for one and a half or two hours.

After the day was ours, and victory had perched upon the new-born banners of the South, our regiment returned to its former camping-ground, now a portion of the battlefield, and, for the first time that day, partook of a soldier’s meal. Our tents and blankets had also been sent off, and, without either, we were exposed that night to a drenching rain, catching what we could of sleep, and dreaming of the thrilling incidents of the day. The loss of our regiment in killed and wounded was 102 men, out of 700 fit for duty. Among the gallant dead was our Adjutant General, Sam, Wilks. of Anderson, South Carolina.–Our army boasts no more chivalric and accomplished gentleman. Himself and horse fell within fifty yards of our encampment, pierced by more than a dozen bullets

S. S.C

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  1. Pingback: Bull Run Sesqui on the Web « Bull Runnings

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