Fraser's Battery at Cold Harbor: Gallant Falligant & Alex Campbell's Ultimate Act of Kindness

lelliott19

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"Years later, Grant said—looking back over his long career of bloody fights—that Cold Harbor was the only battle he ever fought that he would not fight over again under the same circumstances." In Chapter XX, Four Years Under Marse Robert, Major Robert Stiles describes a significant, but little-noted event that occurred June 1 and 2, 1864, during the Battle of Cold Harbor - the actions of Lt. Robert Falligant and Fraser's (Georgia) Battery of Cabell's Battalion Artillery.

Stiles refers to it as 'Splendid Service of Lieut. Robt. Falligant, of Georgia, with a Single Gun.' Stiles goes on to describe the difficult removal of that cannon from its isolated position, under cover of darkness: "Removal of Falligant's Lone Gun at Night." [Stiles, pages 275-283.] In summary of Falligant's performance at Cold Harbor, Stiles says:

Take the case of Lieutenant Falligant at Cold Harbor already mentioned. Our battalion report set forth his splendid conduct in detail; General Kershaw, commanding our division, was full of enthusiastic admiration, and promised--and I have no doubt fulfilled his promise--to press Falligant's promotion; yet no notice was ever taken of the matter. If Falligant had done in Napoleon's army precisely what he did in the Army of Northern Virginia I have no doubt he would have been decorated on the field and promoted to be full colonel of artillery. He was a second lieutenant when he rendered his superb service at Cold Harbor, '64. If I mistake not, he was a second lieutenant at Appomattox. [Stiles, p. 339.]​
In his report, Brig Gen William Nelson Pendleton, Chief of Artillery praised Falligant:
During the night a Napoleon gun from Cabell's battalion, under Lieutenant Falligant, was advanced to the angle where Kershaw's line broke back to the rear, a position much exposed, the enemy's sharpshooters being within 50 yards, but enfilading and very badly annoying him....Lieutenant Fallingant's gun constantly engaged the enemy, who repeatedly attempted its capture. It, however, successfully repelled their advances, expending upon them a large amount of ammunition. ...Kershaw's line was also during the night changed and four additional guns of Cabell's battalion arranged in position. Fallingant's gun was noiselessly removed by hand to a new location-the angle of the new line.​

It's a fascinating story, at least to me. Despite Stiles' detailed description, it's still a bit difficult to understand exactly what happened out there. Luckily, Lieutenant Robert Falligant lived through the war and left behind some additional details. After the war, Falligant was active in the Lafayette McLaws Camp, UCV at Savannah, where he was frequently called to speak.

In order to paint a more complete picture, I have taken the liberty of combining text excerpts from several of Falligant's speeches, reported in Savannah newspapers, and provided that combined text, chronologically below:

During the last, long death-grip of the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia, as they wrestled fiercely from the Wilderness to Petersburg, a gun of Fraser’s battery, from the old Irish section, was ordered at midnight to a point of great peril upon the broken lines of Cold Harbor. The officer in command who went to examine the proposed location was advised by his superiors not to tell his men where they were going. Knowing them better, he told the truth and called for volunteers. Every man stepped forward with a shout, and Alex Campbell, who was sergeant of the other gun, begged to be allowed to go along and act as gunner to the Old Warhorse, as they called the grim Napoleon.​
Wafford [sic Wofford] the afternoon before [June 1, 1864], when Keitt, was killed, had been driven from the adjoining echelon, and it was necessary to hold the fragment of the line until the new line in the rear was completed. The gun was placed at the extreme end of the fragment of the line supported by Bryan’s brigade. At the break of day came the first onset, met with double-shotted canister and the roar of musketry. [Alex] Campbell, with ringing voice, would give the command, "Ready! Fire!" then waving his hat with a shout of defiance, give the commands again.​
He was a magnificent looking soldier," said Judge [Lt. Robert] Falligant, "and as he fought his gun on that day he would stand bolt upright, facing the enemy, scorning to take advantage of the breastworks. Time and again, I warned him of the danger he was running, but he was unconscious of it."​
"Ah, Lieutenant," he would say with a smile, "the Yankee bullet was never molded that can kill me."​
Between the charges, seeing a wounded Federal soldier writhing in the scorching sunlight, he [Campbell] rushed forward at the imminent risk of his own life, took him in his arms and brought him under shelter. The enemy seemed to understand his purpose and would not fire on him.
Another charge came, and still the same defiance; a third, and with the war cry on his lips, poor Campbell fell. [That Yankee bullet that could kill him] came, striking him in the stomach, and he fell in front of the gun he had been fighting, mortally wounded. I supported him in my arms and he asked me the extent of his wound. I told him it was mortal. There under the mouth of the gun he had fought so valiantly, he lay, breathing out his life. The men were reluctant to fire over his body, and he saw it.​
"I have done my duty." he said to me. Then turning to the men, he raised his shattered body on one arm, and, with the other, seizing his hat and waiving a last defiance, shouted: ‘Give them hell, boys; don’t mind me!’​
“Poor Campbell! A perfect soldier; with heart as tender as a woman, and brave as the bravest, he fills an unknown grave upon the soil of Virginia, so rich in the blood of heroes.​
Moving out at midnight, they [Fraser's Battery] took position on the reformed line, and at daylight met the assault of the fresh troops from Butler’s corps. What a magnificent battle scene! Through the gray dawn the lines of blue, tipped with steel, advanced in martial splendor. When the command, ready! was given to the artillery. ‘Hold on, Cap!’ shouted the Mississippians (three lines deep supporting us), “Let them come closer! Give us a chance!’ A few moments later the royal welcome of the deep mouthed cannon and rattling musketry swept those in front from the very face of the earth. ‘Great God, look yonder, lieutenant!’ shouted Frank Keenan, as he swung the old warhorse around, and on they came in solid column just in front of Callaway’s guns of Fraser’s battery, and Paine’s of Manly’s battery; Truly it was, ‘Battles’ magnificently stern array!’​
With ‘Old Glory’ flying from a dozen staffs, their generals in the lead an hundred feet away, they rushed upon the Confederate lines. Another roar of cannon, another crash and rattle of musketry, another wild rebel yell, and the shattered columns staggered, then broke and fled in confusion and dismay. Dick Conway, whom you buried recently, got his furlough there, and brought back to Mrs. Fred Habersham the flag of Fraser’s battery. It fell just where Hart and Moore had fallen—its staff shot to pieces, its silken folds literally torn in fragments by the enemy’s bullets. Like theirs, it was the last fight of the old battle flag.​
Postscripts:
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Alex Campbell, the Sergeant/cannonier who rescued the wounded Union soldier from between the lines and was mortally wounded at his gun, is enumerated on the 1860 US Census at Savannah, GA as Alexander Campbell, male, age 32, occupation, Wharf Clerk. Although the carded records at Fold 3 show his birthplace as Ireland, the census record shows he was actually a Scottish immigrant, born in Argyllshire, Scotland. Sadly, the census record also reveals that he was married "within the last year" likely to Eloise L. Campbell, the young woman age 32, enumerated in the same household. Carded records show that Campbell enlisted May 18, 1862 at Savannah and died June 4, 1864 at Shady Grove Church, which must have been in use as a hospital.

Maj. Robert Stiles, author of Four Years Under Marse Robert, was Adjutant of Cabell’s battalion of artillery when Campbell fell at Cold Harbor. According to Falligant, Stiles came to the line to visit the gun during the engagement, cooly walking over an open field for 200 yards, under a terrific fire of sharpshooters. He was at the cannon during the charge in which Campbell was killed. When Alex Campbell fell, Maj. Stiles took Campbell’s place at the Napoleon, and conducted the firing during the balance of the engagement.
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Map courtesy of the Civil War Trust. Prepared by Steven Stanley. Approximate location of Falligant's Napoleon added by the author. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/maps/cold-harbor-june-1-1864
Position of Falligant's Lone Cannon - In Four Years under Marse Robert, Stiles includes a lengthy description of the difficult, isolated position of the cannon, at the point of the angle of Wofford's/Bryan's line. According to Pendleton's report, Falligant's cannon was positioned at the "point of the angle" where Kershaw's line was pushed back and bent to the rear. According to Bobby Krick, this bent portion of the line included all of Wofford's brigade and half of Bryan's, or about 675 - 1050 feet from the ravine/gap where the breach occurred on June 1. (Thanks @Tom Elmore for helping me calculate the distance.)
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Flag of Fraser's Battery - Although Falligant refers to Cold Harbor as the "last fight of the old battle flag," it was not the last fight of the war for Fraser's Battery, which was present at the surrender at Appomattox. The old flag was sent home after Cold Harbor, and a new one presumably took its place. [Savannah Morning News. (Savannah, Ga.), July 19, 1876, page 3.]

Sources:
Image - Robert Falligant, portrait, circa 1890. Courtesy of Georgia Historical Society. https://georgiahistory.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/D22DC814-4613-4F81-A621-147375864327
Image - Confederate Battery, by @dave Shockley @Virginia Dave ; previously posted here
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/re...le-of-saltville-virginia.153272/#post-1959921
Four Years Under Marse Robert, Maj. Robert H. Stiles, Neale Publishing Company, New York, 1904, pp. 275 - 293; p. 339. https://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/stiles/stiles.html#stiles266
The Savannah Morning News. (Savannah, Ga.), July 19, 1876, page 3.
The Savannah Morning News. (Savannah, Ga.), June 13, 1898, page 3.
The Savannah Morning News. (Savannah, Ga.), January 17, 1901, page 3.
The Savannah Morning News. (Savannah, Ga.), January 04, 1902, page 3.
1860 US Census Chatham County, GA, 3rd District, Savannah https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GYBP-G7F?i=71&cc=1473181
 
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lelliott19

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Here's the kicker to this story....for our relic hunter and collector friends @ucvrelics @redbob @Package4 @Billw12280 @Lanyard Puller James N. How'd you like to dig these up?

....Judge Falligant concluded his talk with a stirring and pathetic account of the burial of the guns of Fraser's Battery at the conclusion of the war.​
The men of the battery had fought through four years of bloody strife and they were hardened to look without emotion upon the most tragic and affecting scenes of battle. Their eyes were wet with tears, said Judge Falligant, when they buried their guns in the soil of old Virginia.​
"The caissons and carriages were dismounted and a trench was dug in which the guns were tenderly laid to rest. There, in the shade of the hills over which the battery had fought so long and so well, its buried guns lie to-day."​
Judge Falligant's talk was one of the most enjoyable of the many excellent ones that have been made the Sons of Veterans and at its conclusion the camp gave him a rising vote of thanks. <end of article>​

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The Savannah Morning News. (Savannah, Ga.), January 17, 1901, page 3, column 3.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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#5
These are always tough reads. I mean, someone's last moment on earth recorded like this? Must have read hundreds and it's still hard.

I'm sorry but you can't help getting distracted by the understatements in a lot of these. Shot at from all sides, in the middle of a desperate battle, risking his life and enfilading and very badly annoying him. Badly annoyed, like bullets were gnats.

Great post, thank you!
 

redbob

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#6
Here's the kicker to this story....for our relic hunter and collector friends @ucvrelics @redbob @Package4 @Billw12280 @Lanyard Puller James N. How'd you like to dig these up?

....Judge Falligant concluded his talk with a stirring and pathetic account of the burial of the guns of Fraser's Battery at the conclusion of the war.​
The men of the battery had fought through four years of bloody strife and they were hardened to look without emotion upon the most tragic and affecting scenes of battle. Their eyes were wet with tears, said Judge Falligant, when they buried their gins in the soil of old Virginia.​
"The caissons and carriages were dismounted and a trench was dug in which the guns were tenderly laid to rest. There, in the shade of the hills over which the battery had fought so long and so well, its buried guns lie to-day."​
Judge Falligant's talk was one of the most enjoyable of the many excellent ones that have been made the Sons of Veterans and at its conclusion the camp gave him a rising vote of thanks. <end of article>​

View attachment 311438 i
The Savannah Morning News. (Savannah, Ga.), January 17, 1901, page 3, column 3.
Finding those guns would certainly make someone's day. I once worked for a Doctor who in his early years was making a housecall in rural Alabama and as he parked his car, he thought that he was parking it near a piece of pipe but he later realized that it was the tube of a 10# Parrott Gun. The elderly lady of the house told him that it had been her Father's and that it was in her way. A little later in the day, a wrecker came and picked up the Doctor's new cannon barrel. He had a carriage made for it and when I last saw him headed out to his new practice in New Mexico, the trailer with his Parrott was proudly being hauled behind his car.:cannon:
 
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#7
Here's the kicker to this story....for our relic hunter and collector friends @ucvrelics @redbob @Package4 @Billw12280 @Lanyard Puller James N. How'd you like to dig these up?

....Judge Falligant concluded his talk with a stirring and pathetic account of the burial of the guns of Fraser's Battery at the conclusion of the war.​
The men of the battery had fought through four years of bloody strife and they were hardened to look without emotion upon the most tragic and affecting scenes of battle. Their eyes were wet with tears, said Judge Falligant, when they buried their guns in the soil of old Virginia.​
"The caissons and carriages were dismounted and a trench was dug in which the guns were tenderly laid to rest. There, in the shade of the hills over which the battery had fought so long and so well, its buried guns lie to-day."​
Judge Falligant's talk was one of the most enjoyable of the many excellent ones that have been made the Sons of Veterans and at its conclusion the camp gave him a rising vote of thanks. <end of article>​

View attachment 311438
The Savannah Morning News. (Savannah, Ga.), January 17, 1901, page 3, column 3.
That would be an amazing find! I have never been relic hunting myself, unless online dealers or militaria shows count :giggle:. One day I may try my luck at it but I'm afraid I would get addicted and not be able to stop.
 

lelliott19

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@Pat Young I meant to tag you in the OP
Alex Campbell, the Sgt working Falligant's gun who rescued a wounded Union soldier from between the lines. He was born in Argyllshire, Scotland. I know you enjoy reading about immigrant participants in the CW so wanted to bring this man to your attention.
 
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Pat Young

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#9
@Pat Young I meant to tag you in the OP
Alex Campbell, the Sgt working Falligant's gun who rescued a wounded Union soldier from between the lines. He was born in Argyllshire, Scotland. I know you enjoy reading about immigrant participants in the CW so wanted to bring this man to your attention.
Thank you.
 



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