The 7th Tennessee at Fredericksburg Virginia
• Revised 04 MAY 17 •
Private David Phillips of Watertown, Tennessee was exchanged as a POW (captured at the Battle of Fair Oaks/Seven Pines) when his regiment was entrenched at Fredericksburg. At Prospect Hill, the 7th would stand firm next to a major breach in the Confederate line, on the far end of their right flank. When two regiments next to them broke and ran, the 7th held, even after they were attacked from the rear. These Wilson County boys where earning a reputation for extreme courage and valor under fire. They would be in the thick of it again, a few months later at Hazel Grove in the Battle of Chancelorsville.
From: The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock
“The 7th Tennessee had witnessed the rout of the 19th Georgia and accepted it philosophically, but the unexpected flight of the 14th Tennessee struck them with horror. Still unaware of the closing Northerners, 7th Tennessee men leapt from their ditch and tried to rally their demoralized comrades. Members of the 7th Regiment could not comprehend their comrades’ unseemly behavior. Their appeals to halt went unheeded, and the soldiers became “enraged at what seemed to them dastardly cowardice.” They rushed among the shattered 14th Tennessee, begging them to stand. Lieutenant John H. Moore of the 7th Tennessee reported that “officers and privates stormed at, shouted and threatened them as base cowards.” The 14th Tennessee refused to rally and continued its hasty retreat. According to Lieutenant Moore, some of the officers in the 7th Regiment “leveled their pistols and, with many privates, fired into these fleeing comrades and broken ranks.” The provocative incident was short-lived because astute leaders soon spotted the approaching Federals coming down the trench. The bluecoats lunged after the stampeding 14th Tennessee and blundered into the 7th Tennessee. Confederate officers frantically ordered their men to re-form. A Tennessee soldier recalled how the regimental officers “rushed to and fro, wildly shouting ‘into line, into line!’” An avalanche of Northern soldiers rushed into their midst. The Tennesseans had only two or three rounds of ammunition left.
The Confederates formed a ragged line and met the attackers head-on. General Archer ordered the 7th and 14th Tennessee to re-fuse their flank. The 14th Tennessee had vanished before the orders arrived, and the 7th Tennessee bore the full brunt of the Union onslaught. The Confederates lacked the cartridges to drive the Yankees back, but they quickly learned that the Northerners also had run low on ammunition, and neither side had time to reload. Both sides resorted to clubbed muskets and bayonets to force the other to yield. The 7th Tennessee held its own in the bludgeoning match, which allowed the 1st Tennessee—the “Hogdrivers”—to wheel out of the trench and assist.”
The Tennesseans were not astonished at the Georgians running because they did not think very highly of their abilities. But then when their fellow Tennesseans left the line, the men of the 7th were infuriated that men from their own state would behave so shamefully. So the same behavior they pretty much expected from the Georgians was considered disgraceful when done by Tennesseans.
David Phillips received a battlefield promotion to 3rd Lieutenant after the battle. The photo of him above nettles that rank. A few months later at Chancelorsville he was promoted again (2nd Lieutenant). He would survive Pickets Charge at Gettysburg, being captured at The Stone Wall. He somehow escaped from a POW camp, and would serve to the end of the war. He would die at age 30 from chronic respiratory issues contracted during his imprissonment. More of David Phillips.
By the time the 7th surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse, only a few dozen of the 800+ men remained from this honorable elite Middle Tennessee regiment.
A 360º Virtual Tour of the 7th Tennessee position at Prospect Hill on the Fredericksburg Battlefield:
Location of Propsect Hill
Lt. David Phillips is my Great, Great Uncle
– Bob Henderson