by NJ Rebel

America's Bloodiest Day:
Slaughter along a Sunken Road (Part Two)

Kimball With the failure of the assault by Weber's brigade of French's division, Second Army Corps, the Union attack on the Sunken Road appeared to lose some momentum. However, two more fresh brigades—those of Brig. Gen. Nathan Kimball and Col. Dwight Morris—determined to "try" the road. The pattern of these assaults against the waiting Confederates was another disastrous head-on attack, only to be repelled with horrible losses. This time, though, the brigades of Kimball and Morris held veteran units alongside the "fresh fish" of the nine-months regiments from Pennsylvania (130th and 132nd Pa.), Connecticut (14th), the Seventh Virginia [West Virginia] and the 108th New York. In Kimball's brigade surviving members of the veteran units of the Fourteenth Indiana and the Eighth Ohio quickly proceeded to engage the Confederates in the lane. Sgt. Thomas Galway of the Eighth Ohio, an Irishman and a member of the Fenian Brotherhood, remarked in his post-War memoirs of seeing the grass move as if hundreds of crickets were hopping about. Another from his unit told him it was not crickets doing the "hopping", but spent bullets! Galway also noted it did not take long for the fighting to turn into something approaching "systematic killing."

Tew On the Confederate side, Brig. Gen. George B. Anderson's North Carolinians knew their line would not hold for long against fresh and repeated Union assaults. Anderson went galloping back to the Piper Farmhouse to speak with his division commander, D. H. Hill, of an urgent need for as many reinforcements as could be located and sent to the endangered sector. Somewhere in the area of the upper portion of the Piper Orchard, as he returned to his men, Anderson received a wound in an ankle which put him out of action. Word quickly then was sent to the brigade's second in command, Col. C. C. Tew of the Second North Carolina. The news of Tew now being in command of the brigade could not easily be given to him. An officer on Anderson's staff had to traverse the length of the lane, under heavy and determined Federal infantry fire, to tell Tew of the command change. To show he understood he was now in command of the brigade, Tew stood up slightly and tipped his hat to show the message had been received. At almost the same moment, a Federal bullet slammed into Tew's head, mortally wounding him. (Tew did not die immediately, but lingered on until, after the fighting was over, when he expired in the act of preventing his sword from being claimed as a souvenir by one of the victorious Federals following the collapse of the Confederate defense.) In the space of as many minutes, the North Carolinians lost two brigade commanders! Command of the brigade now devolved upon the next field officer available. (The fighting was so savage that Anderson's brigade would emerge from the fight with all its senior commanders either KIA, MIA or WIA. In fact, one regiment—the Fourth North Carolina---would lose all its officers and emerge the next morning under the command of an Orderly Sergeant from Co. C.)

It is extremely difficult to piece together anything approaching a comprehensive timeline for the fight from the Confederate side owing to the horrible losses suffered. Suffice it to say, the eventual Federal success was purchased at a cost not only to themselves but at horrific blood-letting by the defending Confederate troops in the road. (More on the Sunken Road fight in the next installment.)

© 2002
Editors Note: Mr. Mayers is a feature writer on the writers staff. He can be contacted at