Friday, May 25, 2012

Elijah Hunt, Private, Company B, 15th Georgia Infantry of Benning's Brigade Pt.2

Elijah Hunt was a Private in Co. B of the 15th Georgia Infantry  – they fought under Benning’s Brigade and mentioned in some of these histories (another good website) - .  My prior research had shown he enlisted early on, July 14th, 1861 and mustered out in November 1863 (when he died) and so he would have been a part of the campaigns at Fredericksburg, Gettysburg and Chickamauga.  Here’s a second excerpt from this Benning's Brigade website regarding subsequent action at Gettysburg after the first day:
As Col. DuBose led the 15th forward, he expected to encounter some of McLaws’ pickets. After advancing about 500 yards from the rest of the brigade, DuBose reported that “instead of finding his troops [McLaws’] upon my left, that the enemy were moving around upon my left in heavy force.”  Gen. Benning elaborated on DuBose’ position - “he suddenly found himself in the immediate presence of two long lines of the enemy, one almost at right angles to the other, with his own line between the two, the head of it being not far from the angle they made with each other. They opened fire on him, which he returned, so as to check their advance a little”. The enemy forces were William McCandless’ brigade of Pennsylvania Reserves. The 15th Georgia, alone in Rose Woods, was facing at least four Union regiments. Ironically, the northern troops had been sent out in response to the additional skirmishers Benning had ordered out to cover his left flank. The Pennsylvanians had advanced west from the area around Little Round Top, into the Wheatfield, then pivoted to the south and advanced into Rose Woods.  The 15th fired its first volley into them from a distance of about forty yards. The northern force heavily outnumbered them, and Federal troops quickly turned both of the 15th’s flanks, while advanced in its front. About this time Col. DuBose received the messenger from Gen. Benning bearing the clarified version of Law’s orders. Observing the enemy overlapping both of his regiment’s flanks, DuBose drew his line of battle back about 70 or 80 yards, and tried to readjust the facing of his front.  The new orders from Col. Benning, coupled with the necessity to withdraw, demanded this displacement be towards the southwest, rather than towards Devil’s Den. The time from the regiment’s first shot to its reaching the second defensive position was on the order of ten minutes.
Reaching their new position, the men took cover behind rocks and trees and for several minutes put up a desperate fight, but the enemy again pinned their front and worked around both flanks. Seeing northerners within 20 to 40 yards of his men, and no re-enforcements coming to his relief, DuBose again ordered a retreat. The regiment fell back another 300 or 400 yards, rallied behind a stone fence, and for a few more minutes, checked the advance of the enemy. Sheer numbers allowed the enemy to again turn both of the 15th’s flanks.
Besides enduring an exhausting, running fight, the Georgians were sustaining heavy casualties, and losing prisoners with every move. During one of these stops, which lasted for mere minutes, “The enemy was in twenty steps of our front line, and the colors had been shot down a half dozen times. Men in Company C, the color company, said that nine were killed with the colors, and they were finally left on the ground, as it was certain death to pick: them up.”  Sgt. James B. Thompson, Company G, First Pennsylvania Rifles, ultimately picked up the flag of the Fifteenth Georgia and carried it out of Rose Woods, a trophy.  After retreating some 400 yards farther back, DuBose again rallied the remnant of his regiment behind another stone fence. This time they found themselves completely enfiladed by one of the enemy's batteries. A final, hurried retreat reunited the 15th with the balance of Benning’s brigade, along Seminary Ridge, having just experienced its own share of adventures.
Between 260 and 265 men served with 15th Georgia on July 3, 1863, and Col. DuBose reported that 101 of them became casualties that day.  Some were wounded or captured on skirmish duty, but it is probable that at least ninety were lost during this romp through Rose Woods. Gen. Benning (stated), “He [DuBose and the 15th] was fortunate to escape at all. His escape is high evidence both of his skill and courage. I did not go to his assistance, because, when I heard the fire, it seemed to be (and was, indeed) so far on my left that I thought some of General McLaws' men had been sent forward to check an advance of the enemy.”

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