We arrived in Thomasville by noon, having marched from Albany a distance between fifty-five and sixty miles, in fifty-four hours. At Thomasville instead of finding five trains, the number I had requested to be sent, there were but two, and these could not be started until after dark, and did not arrive here until 2 o'clock Wednesday morning, occupying twice the time necessary between Thomasville and Savannah, and leaving the Second, Third, and Fourth Brigades at the former place. Upon arriving here, almost broken down by fatigue and want of rest, with officers and men similarly situated, I received before leaving the cars a peremptory order from yourself requiring me to take the militia of Georgia beyond the limits of the State, which was in direct violation of the statute organizing and calling them into service. Considering the jaded condition of both officers and men, I determined not to move the militia or the State Line beyond the limits of Georgia until satisfied in my own mind that absolute necessity demanded it.
In a personal interview with yourself you informed me that the enemy had moved out from Broad River; were encamped within a few miles of the Savannah and Charleston Railroad, threatening Grahamville and Coosawhatchie, and unless vigorously opposed would undoubtedly break the road at one or both of these points soon after daylight; and that the only force you had in your whole command which could by any possibility be brought upon the ground in time was two regular Confederate regiments from Charleston, and you believed these would be there too late; and that if I could hold the enemy in check until 2 p.m. and prevent their cutting the road before that time, several thousand re-enforcements from North and South Carolina, intended for Savannah, would arrive.
In this interview I showed you my qualified authority from the Governor to withdraw the Georgia State forces under my command from confederate service in case they were ordered beyond the limits of the State. After a full conference with yourself I was perfectly satisfied that for the purposes intended it was right and proper the movement should be made, and I gave orders accordingly. Notwithstanding some objections made by a portion of officers and men, the order was willingly obeyed.
The leading brigade arrived at Grahamville about 8 o'clock Wednesday morning, the 30th of November. You kindly tendered me the services of your chief of artillery (Colonel Gonzales), who, upon our arrival at Grahamville, introduced me to Colonel Colcock, commander of the military district; Major Jenkins, the commander of the immediate vicinity, and Captain De Saussure, Colonel Colcock's adjutant-general. To these four gentlemen particularly, and other officers acquainted with locality, I am indebted for the information upon which I based the directions of the whole operation for the day.
Colonel Colcock reported the enemy rapidly advancing, skirmishing with some companies of his cavalry and a few pieces of artillery. He was just starting to the front, and I requested him to select a position for my lending brigade so soon as I could dispatch it to him. I awaited the arrival of the second train of my own troops and the Forty-seventh Georgia which was momentarily expected from Charleston.
Having given the necessary orders to these forces, I joined Colonel Colcock a few minutes after 10 o'clock some four miles from the Grahamville depot and about one-half mile beyond the position we finally assumed. Colonel C. informed me the enemy had already occupied the position selected by him as the best for defense before my troops arrived. This made it necessary, in my judgement, that the leading brigade should be countermarched at once and placed in position on a line with our main battery. The troops in rear were hurried up and placed upon the same line to the right and left of the road. The enemy in the meanwhile steadily advanced along the main road upon our position. After a proper disposition of our forces had been made and a skirmish line ordered forward, Colonel Colcock , the commander of the district and next officer in rank upon the field to myself, was assigned to the immediate executive command of the main line; Colonel Gonzales was placed in charge of the artillery, and Major Jenkins of all the cavalry; Captain De Saussure, who was thoroughly acquainted with the whole country, remained near me. The Forty-seventh Georgia had not yet reached the field. Within five or ten minutes after these dispositions had been made the battle began by an advance piece of our artillery firing upon the enemy. Their line of battle was soon formed, and from that time until near dark made continuous efforts to carry our position. We bad actually engaged five pieces of artillery and it is due to the South Carolina artillerists that I should say I have never seen pieces more skillfully employed and gallantly served upon a difficult field of battle.
In an hour the enemy had so extended and developed their attack that it became absolutely necessary for me to place in the front line of battle my last troops (the Forty-seventh Georgia Regiment), making in all about 1,400 effective muskets on the field, and all engaged. From time to time alterations had to be made in our lines, by changing the positions of regiments and companies, extending intervals, &c., to prevent being flanked; and while we could not from the dense wood accurately estimate the number of the enemy, it was very clear their force largely exceeded ours, and I awaited with some anxiety the arrival of the Thirty-second Georgia and the forces expected from North and South Carolina.
Too much credit cannot be given to Colonel Colcock and Colonel Gonzales, Major Jenkins, and Captain De Saussure; to all the officers of my own staff; to Colonel Willis, commanding First Brigade of Georgia Militia; Colonel Wilson, commanding State Line Brigade; Major Cook, commanding the Athens and Augusta battalions of reserves; Lieutenant-Colonel Edwards, commanding the Forty-seventh Georgia Confederate Regiment; and to all the of officers and men of every arm engaged upon that field. In short, I have never seen or known of a battle-field upon which there was so little confusion, and where every order was so cheerfully and promptly obeyed, and where a small number of men for so long a time successfully resisted the determined and oft-repeated efforts of largely superior attacking forces. The flight of the enemy during the night and the number of their dead left upon the field is evidence of the nature of the attack as well as the defense.
About 4.30 p. m. Brigadier-General Robertson arrived with a portion of the Thirty-second Georgia from Charleston, a battery of artillery, and a company of cavalry. These constituted an effective reserve, but came up too late to be used in the action. During the night the enemy retired rapidly in the direction of their gun-boats.
Our loss in every arm of service was 8 men killed and 42 wounded. The enemy left over 200 of their dead upon the field, and their whole loss in killed and wounded is believed to be upward of 1,000.
At midnight Brigadier-General Chestnut arrived at Grahamville Station with about 350 effective muskets of South Carolina reserves, and a little before daylight upon morning of the 1st of December Brigadier-General Baker came up with 860 of his brigade from North Carolina; the remainder of his command (about 1,100) reached Coosawatchie at 9 o'clock. Lieutenant-General Hardee arrived at Grahamville Station between 8 and 9 o'clock of morning of the 1st of December.
The enemy having been beaten back on the 30th of November, and the Confederate forces having now arrived, there was, in my judgment, no longer any necessity for retaining the State troops of Georgia beyond their legal jurisdiction. I therefore asked and obtained permission to bring these exhausted troops back to their own State. They arrived here by Lieutenant-General Hardee's order, about 10 o'clock that night.
For full particulars of the engagement near Grahamville, S. C., I refer you to the reports of subordinate commanders, which will be forwarded as soon as furnished.
G. W. SMITH,
Lieut. Gen. W. J. Hardee,
The above copy is transmitted to General J. B. Hood because most of the operations referred to were by his direction while the militia formed part of his command.
G. W. S.
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