Battle of Hanover Court House: North Carolina Standard Newspaper

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Battle of Hanover Court House: North Carolina Standard, June 4, 1862

Battle of Hanover Court House (A.K.A. Lebanon Church)
May 27, 1862
(Part of the Peninsula Campaign)

North Carolina Standard
June 4, 1862

The Fight at Hanover Court House
Richmond, Virginia, May 30, 1862

I give you an account of the fight at Lebanon Church in Hanover County
on the 27th inst.

About 11:30 a.m., a captain of the Virginia cavalry informed Colonel
Charles Lee of the 37th N.C.T. that the enemy was advancing but that
he believed it would be a mere marauding party which might be captured
by prompt action.

General Branch was at his headquarters more than a mile distant and as
no time could be lost, Colonel Lee at once sent three of his companies
under Lt. Col. Barber to meet them and notified General Branch of the same. 
Colonel Lee soon learned that the enemy was advancing in considerable
force; he, therefore, sent forward the remainder of his regiment and placed
it in line of battle across the road and sent back for Captain Latham’s artillery
to reply to the battery which had opened upon his regiment.  He also asked
Colonel Wade of the 12th N.C.T. to place his regiment in the woods on the
right to prevent flank movements.  He then deployed Company A of the 37th
as skirmishers to protect the left flank.

Captain Latham with two guns of his battery came forward and replied
vigorously for a short time until a shell was thrown into his caisson which
caused it to explode killing two men and two horses and wounding seven
men.  Our guns ceased to fire while moving back the disabled section. 
Company F of the 37th now opened fire with Enfield Rifles upon the advancing
enemy and put him to flight, killing a lieutenant and two of his men.  The
enemy now retired from view having engaged us for two hours.

General Branch about this time came upon the field and ordered the 18th
and 37th forward to support Colonel Lane’s 28th N.C.T., which had been
sent early in the morning to support two companies of the 37th on picket
some four miles distant.  These two regiments commenced to advance in
charge of Colonel Lee, the respective regiments being commanded by Col.
Cowen of the 18th and Col. Barber of the 37th. 

Colonel Lee soon ascertained that the enemy had planted a battery of artillery
on a hill in front of him with strong infantry support.  This was reported to
General Branch.  General Branch ordered Colonel Lee to charge the battery
with the 18th and 37th.  Colonel Lee sent to the General, asking him to
cause Latham to engage the battery and to send up other infantry support
for the 18th and 37th.

The 18th and 37th commenced the charge—the 18th sweeping gallantly
through an open field in the face of a terrible fire with good effect.  At the
same time the 37th advanced with rapidity and steadiness through a dense
forest in which the undergrowth was so thick that a man could not see more
than 30 steps. 

The 37th rushed forward with enthusiasm until it encountered Yankees who
were concealed behind logs, trees, and in the cut of a roadway which was
bordered by a fence of cedar brush.  Here the enemy had every advantage
of position while his force was vastly superior but Colonel Lee’s men stood
like veterans.  Officers and men stood as firm as rocks within fifteen to twenty
paces of the Yankee line.  Volley after volley of grape from the cannon and of
minie balls from their infantry mowed down our men, still the 37th moved
forward, driving the enemy before them.  Unable to withstand the well directed
fire of the 18th and 37th, the enemy fled from their battery, leaving their flag
in the field. 

While these two regiments were fighting as only brave men can fight, and were
driving from their position the enemy of six regiments of infantry and one battery
of artillery, strange to say, no assistance was sent to them though General
Branch had at his side a battery of artillery and four regiments of infantry.

At last when no more able to stand alone against such heavy odds, the two
regiments fell back stubbornly, contesting the ground as they retired.  They
had fought long, especially the 37th which had been under fire nearly six hours. 
Their loss was very heavy.  The 37th had only seven companies on the field
(Companies D and E being on picket and Company B being detailed to
guard the wagon train), yet it lost 160 in killed, wounded and missing,
more than one out of every three men.  The loss of the 18th was quite
severe they leaving 160 of their men on the field.

Colonel Campbell’s 7th and Colonel Wade’s 12th N.C.T. now covered the
retreat, holding the enemy in fine style.  None of our other troops were in the
action except Capt. Saunders’ Company of the 33rd N.C.T. which, while
deployed as skirmishers, captured a Yankee hospital and with it a surgeon,
four men and ten horses.  The hospital contained 49 wounded Yankees. 
Their loss was quite severe—greater, perhaps, then our own, including
field officers.

Our officers all behaved well. Colonel Lee and Major Dickerson were both
knocked from their horses by shells.  Lt. Col. Barber’s horse was killed
under him and he was slightly wounded in the neck.  Adjutant William F.
Nicholson’s horse was killed and then very nearly killed him.

Colonel Lane’s regiment was entirely cut off and had to take care of itself. 
Colonel Lane has cause to be proud of his men.  They encountered the
advance regiment of the enemy and killed some eighty or more and captured
some 68 prisoners who were sent to Richmond.

Colonel Lane was then opposed by a superior force which almost entirely
surrounded him yet he conducted his command off and reached Richmond
yesterday.  His loss, however, is great and as many of his men broke down
and it is believed were captured by the Yankee cavalry.

Captain Ashcraft and Farthing of the 37th with some 140 men were on picket
and started to Colonel Lane when they heard the firing.  Captain Ashcraft with
44 of his men and 15 of Captain Farthing’s escaped; the rest, it is feared,
were captured.

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Recommended Reading: Battle of Hanover Court House: Turning Point of the Peninsula Campaign, May 27, 1862 (Hardcover). Description: Researched from official reports as well as contemporary accounts, this is the first detailed look at the battle most widely known as Hanover Court House and Slash Church. The opening chapters set the stage for this crucial battle and outline the events that led up to May 27, 1862, and the high tide of the Peninsula Campaign. Continued below...

The book’s main focus is the series of battles that took place between the forces of Union V Corps commander Fitz John Porter and Confederate general Lawrence O’Bryan Branch. Photographs of the battle's central participants are included, along with appendices featuring the official reports of commanders and lists of casualties from both sides.

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