low the wagon train as he did, and was therefore surprised on arriving at Sailor's Creek to find that my rear was menaced. As the troops in my front had halted, I detached Humphreys' brigade, commanded by Colonel Fitz Gerald, and Gary's dismounted battalion, under Lieutenant-Colonel Barham, to take position near the house occupied as a hospital by Pickett's division, to cover my crossing Sailor's Creek. Upon arriving at the top of the hill on the south side of the creek, I was informed by General Ewell that the enemy had possession of the road in front of General Anderson, and that we were to hold the enemy in check while that officer attempted to open the way. My command then consisted of only three brigades -Humphreys', Simms' [Brigadier General J. P. Simms commanding], and Du Bose's brigade [Brigadier General D. M. Du Bose commanding]- and the dismounted cavalry already mentioned; the whole at that time amounted to less than 2,000 effective men. Du Bose was placed in the edge of the wood, with his right resting on the road; Simms, on the left of the road, a little in advance. General Lee's division was on the left of the road, his right occupying a line in front of Du Bose, his left on the same line, or nearly so. In the meantime the enemy attacked and overpowered Humphreys and the dismounted cavalry, forcing them back to my position. They were formed at once on the left of the road, and Simms was moved farther to the right. The enemy planted batteries near the hospital and swept our position at short range, and under cover of the fire the Second and Sixth Corps attacked us. Both in his [General Lee's] front and my own they were repulsed, with loss, on every advance, but pressed on constantly with fresh troops, extending all the while to our left. During this attack I received from General Anderson a message, through Captain S. D. Shannon, aide-de-camp, to the effect that he had commenced his movement, and hoped to be successful if I could hold out a few moments longer. Sending him an encouraging reply, I continued to resist the enemy for some time, hoping to hear from General Anderson that the way was open. Unfortunately his attempt had failed, and the enemy made his appearance in rear of Simms' brigade at the same time he was engaged in front and flank. That officer attempted to extricate his command, but found it impossible to do so without confusion, as he was attacked on all sides. This condition of things being discovered by the other troops, all fell back toward the rear and left. I kept up something of a skirmish as the command retreated; but after moving some 400 yards I discovered that all who had preceded me had been taken by the Yankee cavalry, who were in line of battle across the road. I then directed the men about me and the members of my staff to make their escape in any way possible. I discovered afterward that but one had succeeded, as the enemy had completed the circle around our position when General Anderson's line was broken. My losses in killed and wounded must have been considerable, but I have no means of estimating the number.
The conduct of the officers and men of the command under these trying circumstances is beyond all praise, and worthy the reputation of these veteran regiments. On no battle-field of the war have I felt a juster pride in the conduct of my command.
I beg leave expressly to include in these just encomiums the little command of Lieutenant-Colonel Barham, and especially that officer.
I am, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. B. KERSHAW.
Major CAMPBELL BROWN,