06 May, 2013

Tomorrow in Texas history, Mrs. Sharkey never forgot and we will not either.

Today, May 6, 2013 is the 149th anniversary of the supreme sacrifice that the Texas Brigade made in the Wilderness of Virginia.

The Army of Northern Virginia(ANV) was on the verge of being split in two by the massive attack of Hancock's and Burnside's corps along the Orange Plank Road employing 5 divisions against A. P. Hill's defense line of 2 divisions. Relentlessly the Federals pushed their way almost unopposed up the Orange Plank Road until they approached the Widow Tapp's farm - the only cleared area in the vicinity. General Lee and his staff watched nervously as A.P. Hill's Corp was disintegrating by the massive Federal assault. The situation for the ANV was critical. General Lee sent General Wilcox to hurry General Longstreet and the 1st Corps forward.

The Texas Brigade - 800 Texans and Arkansans -- in the front of Longstreet's Corps advanced at the double-quick with tattered battle flags flying and surged down the Orange Plank Road ready for action. A scene of utter confusion met their eyes as they approached the rear of A.P. Hill's fast disappearing battle line.

As General Gregg - C.O. of the Texas Brigade - was forming the Brigade in line from column-of-fours, General Lee approached General Gregg and inquired of him what troops was he commanding. "The Texas Brigade," Gregg proudly answered. " I am glad to see it!" replied Lee, adding, "When you go in there, I wish you to give those men the cold steel. They will stand and fire all day, and never move unless you charge them." Saluting General Lee, Gregg took his leave, rode to the center of the Texas Brigade and shouted: "Attention, Texas Brigade! The eyes... of General Lee... are upon you! Forward...march."

One of the most famous and dramatic incidents of the war occurred at this moment - the famous "Lee to the rear" episode. Lee removed his gray felt hat and lifting himself in the stirrups was heard to say by those soldiers nearest him, "Texans always move them!" General Lee greatly affected by the response to his words, moved through the opening in the Texas Brigade and attempted to lead the Texans as they started their advance. As General Lee urged Traveller on, several of the soldiers nearest him sprang to the front and surrounding Traveller , grabbed at the reins in an effort to stay General Lee's forward course. Words to the effect of "General Lee to the rear," "We won't move until you go back," Go back General Lee, go back," were heard.

As General Gregg advanced across the clearing of the Widow Tapp's farm, his regiments were aligned in what had become their usual battle order - the 3rd Arkansas on the left and the 1st, 4th, and 5th Texas posted in that order on the Arkansans' right.

And so the Texas Brigade crashed into the Federal infantry and thus saved the ANV from probable destruction that day - but the cost was staggering - of 800 Texas Brigade men less than half stood standing and more would die later - and the Texas Brigade after that day for all practical purposes ceased to be an effective military combat force due to their meager numbers - less than 10% of the number in the Old Brigade just three years earlier.

YES - this day was Texas' Finest Hour.

Long Remember.

The above extracted from Hood's Texas Brigade: Lee's Grenadier Guard by H.B. Simpson, 1970.

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