Confederate Controversy at Fort Gregg

by Brett Schulte on January 16, 2012 · 0 comments

I’ve been reading through and transcribing articles from the pages of the Southern Historical Society Papers for The Siege of Petersburg Online recently, and one heated controversy early in the life of the Papers caught my attention: Which Confederate units defended Fort Gregg, the “Confederate Alamo”, in a last ditch defense on April 2, 1865 at the Siege of Petersburg?

James H. Lane, a brigade commander in Cadmus Wilcox’s division, Third Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, had his official report published in the Southern Historical Society Papers in the January 1877 issue.  This was quite normal in the early days of the Southern Historical Society, a time before the Official Records existed.  Placing official reports of various battles into the Papers was a way for the Southern Historical Society to preserve them for posterity when they weren’t sure if it would happen any other way.  What followed Lane’s report, a letter from Lane to Wilcox claiming credit for the defense of his men and the Maryland artilleryman of Chew’s battery, sparked controversy.  Lane was not content to take the credit for the defense for his men.  He also implied Harris’ Mississipi Brigade, competitors to the claim of defenders of Fort Gregg, had run from the fight before it ever began.  An earlier address on the Siege of Petersburg by W. Gordon McCabe, former adjutant of Pegram’s Artillery battalionalso named Chew’s battery as the artillery at Fort Gregg.  This and Lane’s writings offended members of the Washington LA Artillery, who also claimed the title of Fort Gregg defenders.  A response to Lane and McCabe found its way into the February 1877 issue of the Southern Historical Society Papers in the form of an excerpt from a book on the Washington Artillery, a Vicksburg Times account of Harris’ brigade at Fort Gregg, and a letter meant to be taken as an official report from General Harris.  Naturally, these too accounts dsmissed Lane’s claims and those of Chew’s battery in favor of their own units.  So just who DID defend Fort Gregg, the “Confederate Alamo”?  Read on for the full story and a surprising voice of reason, you guessed it, in the pages of the Southern Historical Society Papers.


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