Granbury's Texas Brigade at Bald Hill, July 21st-July 22nd

Luke Freet

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 8, 2018
Location
Palm Coast, Florida
I have recently bought John R. Lundberg’s Granbury’s Texas Brigade. It has been a wonderful read, and I may use it to make a thread on Regimental Histories on the history of the second most famous Texas Brigade (and my personal favorite). However, i like to highlight Lundberg’s description of the Brigade’s actions at Bald Hill, on both July 21st and the more famous engagement on the 22nd. If you get the book, you will find this in Chapter 13: Hood Takes Command.

On July 17th, 1864, Joe Johnston was replaced at the head of Confederate forces in Georgia with John Bell Hood. While this caused much despair among the soldiers, they stiffened their lips and carried on fighting under their new commander, if with reluctance. The new commander brought with it a new style of conflict, where aggressive action was to be encouraged. Hood attempted to break the Union Army of the Cumberland at Peachtree Creek on July 20th. Cleburne’s Division, including the Texas Brigade (currently under Brigadier Jame A. Smith, temporarily replacing the “ill” Hiram Granbury), served as Hood’s principle reserve in this engagement. Hood was about to send the Division into the fight when he received word of General McPherson’s flanking movements to the East of Atlanta. Thus, after suffering 2 killed and 18 wounded, the brigade would march to the Eastern outskirts of Atlanta, taking position around the strategically vital Bald Hill [1].

During the night of the 20th, Cleburne’s men filed into the premade breastworks east of the city. Cleburne placed Lowrey’s Alabama and Mississippi Brigade along the line just south of the Georgia Railroad, with Dan Govan’s Arkansas Brigade in the center and finally J. A. Smith’s Texans and Tennesseans on the right “just north of Bald Hill”. From left to right, Smith placed the 7th Texas, 6th&15th Texas, 5th Confederate, and 10th Texas, with the 17th&18th “sloping up the northern end of the hill”, with the 24th&25th Texas to their right holding the flank. To the brigade’s right was William Martin’s Cavalry division [2].

The positions Cleburne’s men took up had many drawbacks which became rather apparent that morning. J. A. Smith’s men were exposed to plunging fire from Captain Francis Degress’ 1st Illinois Light Artillery, situated on an opposing ridge. The fire from this battery inflicted upon Smith’s men 40 men killed and more than 100 wounded [3].

Following this, McPherson launched an assault on Bald Hill by Mortimer Leggett’s and Gersham’s Divisions, first hitting the dismounted horsemen to Smith’s right, forcing some of Smith’s nearby skirmishers to duck in cover to avoid being shot by their own men. The cavalry broke and ran, and the skirmishers captured. Leggett reached the summit of Bald Hill, before William Hall’s Iowa Brigade struck the outnumbered 24th&25th Texas, under Lt. Colonel Willian Neyland. Neyland swung his right wing to refuse his flank, before launching a counterattack, pushing back Hall’s men, though resulting in his own wounding and forcing the Confederates to retake their abandoned positions. J. A. Smith then deployed his men in a single stretched line to cover the positions abandoned by Wheeler’s horsemen, before Cleburne withdrew his command around nightfall. The battle casualties that day were 47 killed, 120 wounded, and 19 captured [4].

Hood now planned for a bold flanking maneuver to uproot McPherson’s force from his new position around Bald Hill. This maneuver will be undertaken by Hardee’s Corps, by now straining on their third day without sleep. Maney’s and Cleburne’s Division would strike the 17th Corps’ position on Bald Hill directly from the south [5].

At around 1pm, Cleburne and Maney launched their attack. Cleburne formed his command with Govan on his left, Lowrey in reserve, and Smith’s Brigade on the right. Smith’s men in this case were aligned from left to right (west to east): 6th&15th Texas, 7th Texas, 10th Texas, 24th&25th Texas, 5th Confederate, and 17th&18th Texas. The left wing of the Brigade joined Govan in their attack upon Hall’s Iowans, taking heavy casualties but overrunning the Union position, taking two cannon and nearly the entire 16th Iowa captive [6].

Around the same time, the right flank of the brigade, primarily the 5th Confederate and 17th&18th Texas, pushed across the Union’s exposed left flank. At around 2pm, General McPherson rode forward to inspect the commotion on his flank. He ran into the 92 strong 5th Confederate Regiment. Captain Richard Beard ordered McPherson to surrender, but the General merely turned to escape on his horse. He was then cut down by a volley of skirmishers; according to the smashed watch of one of his staffers, he was killed at 2:02pm. Though some dispute who fired the fatal shot, it is without certainty Smith’s Texans were responsible for killing McPherson, the highest ranked Union officer killed in the war. [7].

The 5th Confederate and 24th&25th Texas also managed to captured Colonel Robert K. Scott, commander of Leggett’s 3rd Brigade, along with “numerous ambulances, artillery pieces, and enemy battle flags”; the 24th&25th Texas managed to take the colors of the 3rd Iowa. However, as they overran the Union second line, the hitting power of the two far right regiments began to break down, becoming little more than a skirmish line [8].

Finally, the rest of the brigade came upon Leggett’s rear on Bald Hill. Ironically, as they were assualting the line from the east and rear, the Texas would charge against their old breastworks from the day prior. Here, Scott’s Brigade, sans their commander, jumped from the westward breastworks they’d constructed to the old confederate breastworks, and brutal fighting ensued. Smith called for support, but none came. It would be here the brigade would suffer most of its casualties, including every original regimental officer it went into action with that morning [9].

Union Colonel John M. Oliver then arrived on the flank of the Texans, launching a counterattack. Here, James A. Smith was wounded, as was his second in command, Col. Roger Q. Mills of the 10th Texas. While the brigade reeled from the deadly battle ensuing, the isolated 17th&18th Texas and 5th Confederate were overrun and captured by the 99th Indiana and 15th Michigan; nearly 165 rebels were captured. Eventually, Lt. Colonel Robert B. Young of the 10th Texas took command of the battered brigade, and after several more half-hearted assaults, gave the order to fall back to the second line, letting through Lowrey’s and Strahl’s Brigades, who proceeded to get chewed up [10].

The final engagement of the day came at 5pm. Hardee formed up Cleburne’s division and half of Maney’s Division in one final assault. Ensign Horsea Garrett, color bearer of the 10th Texas, led the charge to within 10 paces of the Union line, but realized not a dozen men of his side were near him, the rest having been cut down or fled the field or otherwise exhausted and confused as to what was going on. Garrett pulled back, as did the rest of the brigade as the Battle of Bald Hill came to an end [11].

Thus ended Smith’s Texans’ participation in the climactic battle of Bald Hill. The brigade started operations around Atlanta with about 1300 men; on the 23rd of July, Ltc. Young could only report roughly 750 were effectives. Total casualties that day amounted to 311 men (19 KIA; 107 WIA; 25 MIA; and 160 Captured), and, adding in the casualties from the previous two days of combat, the brigade suffered around 517 casualties over the three days of action [12].

Despite the casualties, the Texans achieved the most Confederate successes of that dreadful and bloody day: they had routed two lines of Union works; they captured a brigade commander, most of a regiment, 15 guns, two stands of colors, and numerous ambulances; and had killed General McPherson. Given the achievements of Cleburne’s division at Bald Hill and Brown’s Division just to the north, and the fact that the Confederate assaults were not properly coordinated and spread out over multiple fronts, it may have been possible that the Confederates could have concentrated and routed McPherson’s army from the field. However, that opportunity passed; it may have been Hood’s last chance at a victory.

h3HNvNCk_s6EqM6xXEFeh5uiMjkNbLkCXfIppOiTsgbB5e0CKR.png

(Actions by Cleburne’s and Maney’s Divisions near Bald Hill, July 22nd. Lundsberg, 253)
1614810474643.png

(Lundsberg 198-199)

1614810286983.png

(Ltc. Robert B. Young, 10th Texas, and commander of the Brigade following the wounding of James A. Smith and Roger Mills on July 22nd. Lundsberg, 194).
1614810381096.png

(Lundsberg 194)
1614810434597.png

1614810442423.png

(Lundsberg 196-197)
1614810148528.png

("Private Malcolm M. Hornsby, Company B, 18th Texas Dismounted Cavalry, captured at the Battle of Atlanta, July 22, 1864. (Courtesy Texas State Library and Archives Commission)", Lundsberg, 199-200)

Citations
[1] Lundberg, John R. Granbury’s Texas Brigade: Diehard Western Confederates, 240-245;
[2] Lundberg, 245-246.
[3] Lundberg, 246-247
[4] Lundberg, 247-249. Lundberg lists the following casualties for the Texans: 6th&15th Texas lost 6 killed, 18 wounded, and 6 captured; 7th Texas lost 2 killed and 7 wounded; 10th Texas lost 8 killed and 12 wounded; 17th&18th Texas suffered 12 killed and 39 wounded; and 24th&25th Texas, the most heavily engaged, 9 killed, 25 wounded, and 9 captured. The 6th&15th Texas also lost Captain Rhoads Fisher and Matthew M. Houston; command devolved to Captain S. E. Rice. Ltc. Neyland was also wounded and replaced by Maj. William A. Taylor.
[5] Lundberg, 249.
[6] Lundberg 250-254.
[7] Lundberg, 254.
[8] Lundberg, 254-255
[9] Lundberg, 256
[10] Lundberg, 256.
[11] Lundberg, 258-259.
[12] Lundberg, 259-260. The 1300 figure for brigade strength comes from taking Young’s 750 effective number from July 23rd and adding back the previous 3 days’ casualties. 6th&15th Texas lost 44 casualties (5 KIA; 24 WIA; 15 MIA) including Captain S. E. Rice wounded; 7th Texas went in with “a mere one hundred rifles” and suffered 30 casualties; command of the 10th Texas devolved to Captain James Formwalt, counting 5 killed and 15 wounded; the 17th&18th Texas under Captain William H. Perry lost 119 of 160 men brought into action (12 KIA; 29 WIA; 87 Captured); Major William A. Taylor’s 24th&25th Texas lost 28 men (4 KIA; 21 WIA; 3 Captured); and the 5th Confederate lost 71 out of 92 men, mostly captured, including Major Richard J. Person.
 

Lampasas Bill

Corporal
Joined
Sep 24, 2018
Granbury's was a great unit. I Was recently doing a survey of CW burials in Oak Hill Cemetery here in Lampasas and came across the graves of at least eight veterans of Granbury's Brigade.
 

Luke Freet

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 8, 2018
Location
Palm Coast, Florida
Granbury's was a great unit. I Was recently doing a survey of CW burials in Oak Hill Cemetery here in Lampasas and came across the graves of at least eight veterans of Granbury's Brigade.
Considering that the units had around 9800 men in and out of the ranks over the war, and yet the consolidated regiment only had 401 in April of 1865 when it surrendered, you'll find a lot of them all over.
 

Similar threads

Top