Among the dead

More than forty years after the war, Robert Stiles, the Richmond Howitzers’ memoirist, recalled that the bloody defeat at Malvern Hill in 1862 depressed much of the gray army.

“The demoralization was great and the evidences of it palpable everywhere. The roads and the forests were full of stragglers; commands were inextricably confused, some, for the time, having actually disappeared. Those who retained sufficient self-respect and sense of responsibility to think of the future were filled with the deepest apprehension.”

That would be no wonder for the 13th which lost fifteen of its officers along with thirty-three privates, all of them killed outright or mortally wounded.

Adding the sixty-one wounded among the six hundred forty they took into the fight, they had suffered almost twenty percent casualties.

Regimental commander Lieutenant Colonel John L. Carter was only severely wounded, but the dead included Dewitt C. Marshall, the 13th’s sergeant major, and captains William J. Eckford of the Wayne Rifles and Lawrence L. Barker of the Pettus Guards.

The Winston Guards had lost two lieutenants and the Pettus Guards and the Alamutcha Infantry had each lost one. The Pettus Guards and the Newton Rifles had each lost their first sergeant.

The Winston Guards had lost a junior sergeant and so had the Kemper Legion and the Alamutcha Infantry. The Alamutcha’s also had lost a corporal, but the Wayne Rifles had lost two.

Indeed, the Wayne Rifles had the most men killed, eleven in all, seconded only by the Pettus Guards with eight. And one reason the Wayne Rifles had lost so many was due to a misunderstood command.

1st Lieutenant Samuel H. Powe, who would succeed Eckford, a graduate of Princeton University, as captain of the Wayne Rifles, described the misunderstanding in an 1864 letter, according to the regiment’s independent historian Jess N. McLean:

“Our regiment advanced to within one hundred yards of the enemy’s line,” Powe wrote, “when a halt was ordered and a general firing ensued on our side. Being on top of a ridge and greatly exposed an order was given by Lt. Col. Carter to ‘fall back,’ which Capt. Eckford, being on the extreme left, understood as ‘forward.’

“When he immediately gave the order ‘Forward my brave boys” and waving his sword over his head, and at the same time half turning towards his men, he was struck by a ball to the heart…passing out the right side of his backbone.”

Eckford lived until 10 p.m. that night, July 1, 1862, according to Powe. His fellow captain, Lawrence L. Barker of the Pettus Guards, was killed outright.

About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
This entry was posted in Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade, Battles: Malvern Hill, Battles: The Seven Days, Jess N. McLean, Newton Rifles, The Alamutcha Infantry, The Kemper Legion, The Pettus Guards, The Winston Guards, Wayne Rifles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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