III. Cooked rations for three days will be carried in the haversacks of the men, and provision must be made for foraging the animals. Straggling from the ranks is strictly prohibited, and commanders will make arrangements to secure and punish the offenders.
IV. The movements herein directed will commence to-morrow, 20th instant, at dawn of day.
By command of General R.E. Lee:
A.P. MASON, A.A. G.
HEADQUARTERS CRENSHAW'S FARM,} August 19, 1862.}
General J.E.B. Stuart, commanding Cavalry:
General: I desire you to rest your men to-day, refresh your horses, prepare rations and every thing for the march to-morrow. Get what information you can of fords, roads, and position of the enemy, so that your march can be made understandingly and with vigor. I send to you Captain Mason, an experienced bridge-builder, etc., whom I think will be able to aid you in the destruction of the bridge, etc. When that is accomplished, or when in train of execution, as circumstances permit, I wish you to operate back toward Culpepper Court-House, creating such confusion and consternation as you can, without unnecessarily exposing your men, till you feel Longstreet's right. Take position there on his right, and hold yourself in reserve, and act as circumstances may require. I wish to know during the day how you proceed in your preparations. They will require the personal attention of all your officers. The last reports from the signal-stations yesterday evening were, that the enemy was breaking up his principal encampments, and moving in direction of Culpepper Court-House.
Very respectfully, etc., R.E. LEE, General.
These orders indicate General Lee's design—to reach the left flank of the enemy, prevent his retreat by destroying the bridges on the Rappahannock, and bring him to battle in the neighborhood of Culpepper Court-House. The plan failed in consequence of a delay of two days, which took place in its execution—a delay, attributed at that time, we know not with what justice, to the unnecessarily deliberate movements of the corps commanded by General Longstreet. This delay enabled the enemy to gain information of the intended movement; and when General Lee advanced on the 20th of August, instead of on the 18th, as he had at first determined to do, it was found that General Pope had broken up his camps, and was in rapid retreat. Lee followed, and reached the Rappahannock only to find that the Federal army had passed that stream. General Pope, who had promised to conduct none but offensive operations, and never look to the rear, had thus hastened to interpose the waters of the Rappahannock between himself and his adversary, and, when General Lee approached, he found every crossing of the river heavily defended by the Federal infantry and artillery.
In face of this large force occupying a commanding position on the heights, General Lee made no effort to cross. He determined, he says, "not to attempt the passage of the river at that point with the army," but to "seek a more favorable place to cross, higher up the river, and thus gain the enemy's right." This manoeuvre was intrusted to Jackson, whose corps formed the Confederate left wing. Jackson advanced promptly to the Warrenton Springs Ford, which had been selected as the point of crossing, drove away a force of the enemy posted at the place, and immediately began to pass the river with his troops. The movement was however interrupted by a severe rain-storm, which swelled the waters of the Rappahannock, and rendered a further prosecution of it impracticable. General Lee was thus compelled to give up that plan, and ordered Jackson to withdraw the force which had crossed. This was done, and General Lee was now called upon to adopt some other method of attack; or to remain inactive in face of the enemy.
But to remain inactive was impossible. The army must either advance or retire; information which had just reached the Confederate general rendered one of these two proceedings indispensable. The information referred to had been obtained by General Stuart. The activity and energy of this officer, especially in gaining intelligence, now proved, as they proved often afterward, of the utmost importance to Lee. Stuart had been directed by General Lee to make an attack, with a cavalry force, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, in the enemy's rear; he had promptly carried out his orders by striking the Federal communications at Catlett's Station, had destroyed there all that he found, and torn up the railroad, but, better than all, had captured a box containing official papers belonging to General Pope. These papers, which Stuart hastened—marching day and night, through storm and flood—to convey to General Lee, presented the clearest evidence of the enemy's movements and designs. Troops were hastening from every direction to reenforce General Pope, the entire force on James River especially was to be brought rapidly north of the Rappahannock, and any delay in the operations of the Confederates would thus expose them to attack from the Federal forces concentrated from all quarters in their front.
JACKSON FLANKS GENERAL POPE.
It was thus necessary to act with decision, and General Lee resolved upon a movement apparently of the most reckless character. This was to separate his army into two parts, and, while one remained confronting the enemy on the Rappahannock, send the other by a long circuit to fall on the Federal rear near Manassas. This plan of action was opposed to the first rule of the military art, that a general should never divide his force in the face of an enemy. That Lee ventured to do so on this occasion can only be explained on one hypothesis, that he did not highly esteem the military ability of his opponent. These flank attacks undoubtedly, however, possessed a great attraction for him, as they did for Jackson, and, in preferring such movement, Lee was probably actuated both by the character of the troops on both sides and by the nature of the country. The men of both armies were comparatively raw levies, highly susceptible to the influence of "surprise," and the appearance of an enemy on their flanks, or in their rear, was calculated to throw them into disorder. The wooded character of the theatre of war generally rendered such movements practicable, and all that was requisite was a certain amount of daring in the commander who was called upon to decide upon them. This daring Lee repeatedly exhibited, and the uniform success of the movements indicates his sound generalship.
To command the force which was now to go on the perilous errand of striking General Pope's rear, General Lee selected Jackson, who had exhibited such promptness and decision in the campaigns of the Valley of Virginia. Rapidity of movement was necessary above all things, and, if any one could be relied upon for that, it was the now famous Stonewall Jackson. To him the operation was accordingly intrusted, and his corps was at once put in motion. Crossing the Rappahannock at an almost forgotten ford, high up and out of view of the Federal right, Jackson pushed forward day and night toward Manassas, reached Thoroughfare Gap, in the Bull Run Mountain, west of that place, passed through, and completely destroyed the great mass of supplies in the Federal depot at Manassas. The whole movement had been made with such rapidity, and General Stuart, commanding the cavalry, had so thoroughly guarded the flank of the advancing column from observation, that Manassas was a mass of smoking ruins almost before General Pope was aware of the real danger. Intelligence soon reached him, however, of the magnitude of the blow aimed by Lee, and, hastily breaking up his camps on the Rappahannock, he hurried to attack the force assailing his communications.
The first part of General Lee's plan had thus fully succeeded. General Pope, who had occupied every ford of the Rappahannock, so as to render the passage difficult, if not impossible, had disappeared suddenly, to go and attack the enemy in his rear. General Lee promptly moved in his turn, with the great corps under Longstreet, and pushed toward Manassas, over nearly the same road followed by Jackson.
The contest of generalship had now fully begun, and the brain of General Lee was matched against the brain of General Pope. It is no part of the design of the writer of this volume to exalt unduly the reputation of Lee, and detract from the credit due his adversaries. Justice has been sought to be done to General McClellan; the same measure of justice will be dealt out to his successors on the Federal side; nor is it calculated to elevate the fame of Lee, to show that his opponents were incapable and inefficient. Of General Pope, however, it must be said that he suffered himself to be outgeneralled in every particular; and the pithy comment of General Lee, that he "did not appear to be aware of his situation," sums up the whole subject.
It is beyond our purpose to enter upon any thing resembling a detailed narrative of the confused and complicated movements of the various corps of the army under General Pope. These have been the subject of the severest criticism by his own followers. We shall simply notice the naked events. Jackson reached Manassas on the night of August 26th, took it, and on the next day destroyed the great depot. General Pope was hastening to protect it, but was delayed by Ewell at Bristoe, and a force sent up from Washington, under the brave General Taylor, was driven off with loss. Then, having achieved his aim, Jackson fell back toward Sudley.
If the reader will look at the map, he will now understand the exact condition of affairs. Jackson had burned the Federal depot of supplies, and retired before the great force hastening to rescue them. He had with him about twenty thousand men, and General Pope's force was probably triple that number. Thus, the point was to hold General Pope at arm's-length until the arrival of Lee; and, to accomplish this great end, Jackson fell back beyond Groveton. There he formed line of battle, and waited.
It is obvious that, under these circumstances, the true policy of General Pope was to obstruct Thoroughfare Gap, the only road by which Lee could approach promptly, and then crush Jackson. On the night of the 27th, General McDowell was accordingly sent thither with forty thousand men; but General Pope ordered him, on the next morning, to Manassas, where he hoped to "bag the whole crowd," he said—that is to say, the force under Jackson. This was the fatal mistake made by General Pope. Thoroughfare Gap was comparatively undefended. While General Pope was marching to attack Jackson, who had disappeared, it was the next thing to a certainty that General Lee would attack him.
All parties were thus moving to and fro; but the Confederates enjoyed the very great advantage over General Pope of knowing precisely how affairs stood, and of having determined upon their own plan of operations. Jackson, with his back to the mountain, was waiting for Lee. Lee was approaching rapidly, to unite the two halves of his army. General Pope, meanwhile, was marching and countermarching, apparently ignorant of the whereabouts of Jackson,
General Lee, in personal command of Longstreet's corps, reached the western end of Thoroughfare Gap about sunset, on the 28th, and the sound of artillery from the direction of Groveton indicated that Jackson and General Pope had come in collision. Jackson had himself brought on this engagement by attacking the flank of one of General Pope's various columns, as it marched across his front, over the Warrenton road, and this was the origin of the sound wafted to General Lee's ears as he came in sight of Thoroughfare. It was certainly calculated to excite his nerves if they were capable of being excited. Jackson was evidently engaged, and the disproportion between his forces and those of General Pope rendered such an engagement extremely critical. Lee accordingly pressed forward, reached the Gap, and the advance force suddenly halted: the Gap was defended. The Federal force posted here, at the eastern opening of the Gap, was small, and wholly inadequate for the purpose; but this was as yet unknown to General Lee. His anxiety under these circumstances must have been great. Jackson might be crushed before his arrival. He rode up to the summit of the commanding hill which rises just west of the Gap, and dismounting directed his field-glass toward the shaggy defile in front.
[Footnote 1: "Not knowing at the time where was the enemy."—General Porter.] and undecided what course to pursue.
The writer of these pages chanced to be near the Confederate commander at this moment, and was vividly impressed by the air of unmoved calmness which marked his countenance and demeanor. Nothing in the expression of his face, and no hurried movement, indicated excitement or anxiety. Here, as on many other occasions, Lee impressed the writer as an individual gifted with the most surprising faculty of remaining cool and unaffected in the midst of circumstances calculated to arouse the most phlegmatic. After reconnoitring for some moments without moving, he closed his glass slowly, as though he were buried in reflection, and deliberating at his leisure, and, walking back slowly to his horse, mounted and rode down the hill.
The attack was not delayed, and flanking columns were sent to cross north of the Gap and assail the enemy's rear. But the assault in front was successful. The small force of the enemy at the eastern opening of the Gap retired, and, by nine o'clock at night, General Longstreet's corps was passing through.
All the next morning (August 29th), Longstreet's troops were coming into position on the right of Jackson, under the personal supervision of Lee. By noon the line of battle was formed. Lee's army was once more united. General Pope had not been able to crush less than one-half that army, for twenty-four hours nearly in his clutches, and it did not seem probable that he would meet with greater success, now that the whole was concentrated and held in the firm hand of Lee.
[Footnote 1: The hour of Longstreet's arrival has been strangely a subject of discussion. The truth is stated in the reports of Lee, Longstreet, Jones, and other officers. But General Pope was ignorant of Longstreet's presence at five in the evening; and General Porter, his subordinate, was dismissed from the army for not at that hour attacking Jackson's right, declared by General Pope to be undefended. Longstreet was in line of battle by noon.]
THE SECOND BATTLE OF MANASSAS.
Lee's order of battle for the coming action was peculiar. It resembled an open V, with the opening toward the enemy—Jackson's corps forming the left wing, and extending from near Sudley, to a point in rear of the small village of Groveton, Longstreet's corps forming the right wing, and reaching from Jackson's right to and beyond the Warrenton road which runs to Stonebridge.
The field of battle was nearly identical with that of July 21, 1861. The only difference was, that the Confederates occupied the ground formerly held by the Federal troops, and that the latter attacked, as Johnston and Beauregard had attacked, from the direction of Manassas, and the tableland around the well-known Henry House.
The Southern order of battle seems to have contemplated a movement on one or both of General Pope's flanks while he attacked in front. An assault on either wing would expose him to danger from the other, and it will be seen that the fate of the battle was decided by this judicious arrangement of the Confederate commander.
The action began a little after noon, when the Federal right, consisting of the troops of Generals Banks, Sigel, and others, advanced and made a vigorous attack on Jackson's left, under A.P. Hill. An obstinate conflict ensued, the opposing lines fighting almost bayonet to bayonet, "delivering their volleys into each other at the distance of ten paces." At the first charge, an interval between two of Hill's brigades was penetrated by the enemy, and that wing of Jackson's corps was in great danger of being driven back. This disaster was, however, prevented by the prompt stand made by two or three regiments; the enemy was checked, and a prompt counter-charge drove the Federal assaulting columns back into the woods.
The attempt to break Jackson's line at this point was not, however, abandoned. The Federal troops returned again and again to the encounter, and General Hill reported "six separate and distinct assaults" made upon him. They were all repulsed, in which important assistance was rendered by General Early. That brave officer attacked with vigor, and, aided by the fire of the Confederate artillery from the elevated ground in Jackson's rear, drove the enemy before him with such slaughter that one of their regiments is said to have carried back but three men.
This assault of the enemy had been of so determined a character, that General Lee, in order to relieve his left, had directed Hood and Evans, near his centre, to advance and attack the left of the assaulting column. Hood was about to do so, when he found a heavy force advancing to charge his own line. A warm engagement followed, which resulted in the repulse of the enemy, and Hood followed them a considerable distance, inflicting heavy loss.
It was now nearly nine o'clock at night, and the darkness rendered further operations impossible. The troops which had driven the enemy were recalled from their advanced position, the Southern line was reformed on the same ground occupied at the commencement of the action, and General Lee prepared for the more decisive struggle of the next day.
Morning came (August 30th), but all the forenoon passed without a resumption of the battle. Each of the adversaries seemed to await some movement on the part of the other, and the Federal commander made heavy feints against both the Confederate right and left, with the view of discovering some weak point, or of inducing Lee to lay himself open to attack. These movements had, however, no effect. Lee remained obstinately in his strong position, rightly estimating the advantage it gave him, and no doubt taking into consideration the want of supplies General Pope must labor under, a deficiency which rendered a prompt assault on his part indispensable. The armies thus remained in face of each other, without serious efforts upon either side, until nearly or quite the hour of three in the afternoon.
General Pope then resumed the assault on Lee's left, under Jackson, with his best troops. The charge was furious, and a bloody struggle ensued; but Jackson succeeded in repulsing the force. It fell back in disorder, but was succeeded by a second and a third line, which rushed forward at the "double-quick," in a desperate attempt to break the Southern line. These new attacks were met with greater obstinacy than at first, and, just as the opponents had closed in, a heavy fire was directed against the Federal column by Colonel S.D. Lee, commanding the artillery at Lee's centre. This fire, which was of the most rapid and destructive character, struck the enemy in front and flank at once, and seemed to sweep back the charging brigades as they came. The fire of the cannon was then redoubled, and Jackson's line advanced with cheers. Before this charge, the Federal line broke, and Jackson pressed forward, allowing them no respite.
General Lee then threw forward Longstreet, who, knowing what was expected of him, was already moving. The enemy were pressed thus in front and on their flank, as Lee had no doubt intended, in forming his peculiar line. The corps of Jackson and Longstreet closed in like two iron arms; the Federal forces were driven from position to position; the glare of their cannon, more and more distant, indicated that they had abandoned further contest, and at ten at night the darkness put an end to the battle and pursuit. General Pope was retreating with his defeated forces toward Washington.
On the next day, Lee dispatched Jackson to turn Centreville and cut off the retreat of General Pope. The result was a severe engagement near Germantown, which was put an end to by a violent storm. General Pope, now reenforced by the commands of Generals Sumner and Franklin, had been enabled to hold his ground until night. When, on the next day (September 2d), the Confederates advanced to Fairfax Court-House, it was found that the entire Federal army was in rapid retreat upon Washington.
Such had been the fate of General Pope.
LEE INVADES MARYLAND.
The defeat of General Pope opened the way for movements not contemplated, probably, by General Lee, when he marched from Richmond to check the advance in Culpepper. His object at that time was doubtless simply to arrest the forward movement of the new force threatening Gordonsville. Now, however, the position of the pieces on the great chess-board of war had suddenly changed, and it was obviously Lee's policy to extract all the advantage possible from the new condition of things.
He accordingly determined to advance into Maryland—the fortifications in front of Washington, and the interposition of the Potomac, a broad stream easily defended, rendering a movement in that direction unpromising. On the 3d of September, therefore, and without waiting to rest his army, which was greatly fatigued with the nearly continuous marching and fighting since it had left the Rapidan, General Lee moved toward Leesburg, crossed his forces near that place, and to the music of the bands playing the popular air, "Maryland, my Maryland," advanced to Frederick City, which he occupied on the 7th of September.
Lee's object in invading Maryland has been the subject of much discussion, one party holding the view that his sole aim was to surround and capture a force of nine or ten thousand Federal troops stationed at Harper's Ferry; and another party maintaining that he proposed an invasion of Pennsylvania as far as the Susquehanna, intending to fight a decisive battle there, and advance thereafter upon Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Washington. The course pursued by an army commander is largely shaped by the progress of events. It can only be said that General Lee, doubtless, left the future to decide his ultimate movements; meanwhile he had a distinct and clearly-defined aim, which he states in plain words.
His object was to draw the Federal forces out of Virginia first. The movement culminating in the victory over the enemy at Manassas had produced the effect of paralyzing them in every quarter. On the coast of North Carolina, in Western Virginia, and in the Shenandoah Valley, had been heard the echo of the great events in Middle and Northern Virginia. General Burnside's force had been brought up from the South, leaving affairs at a stand-still in that direction; and, contemporaneously with the retreat of General Pope, the Federal forces at Washington and beyond had fallen back to the Potomac. This left the way open, and Lee's farther advance, it was obvious, would now completely clear Virginia of her invaders. The situation of affairs, and the expected results, are clearly stated by General Lee:
"The war was thus transferred," he says, "from the interior to the frontier, and the supplies of rich and productive districts made accessible to our army. To prolong a state of affairs in every way desirable, and not to permit the season for active operations to pass without endeavoring to inflict other injury upon the enemy, the best course appeared to be the transfer of the army into Maryland."
The state of things in Maryland was another important consideration. That great Commonwealth was known to be sectionally divided in its sentiment toward the Federal Government, the eastern portion adhering generally to the side of the South, and the western portion generally to the Federal side. But, even as high up as Frederick, it was hoped that the Southern cause would find adherents and volunteers to march under the Confederate banner. If this portion of the population had only the opportunity to choose their part, unterrified by Federal bayonets, it was supposed they would decide for the South. In any event, the movement would be important. The condition of affairs in Maryland, General Lee says, "encouraged the belief that the presence of our army, however inferior to that of the enemy, would induce the Washington Government to retain all its available force to provide for contingencies which its course toward the people of that State gave it reason to apprehend," and to cross the Potomac "might afford us an opportunity to aid the citizens of Maryland in any efforts they might be disposed to make to recover their liberty."
It may be said, in summing up on this point, that Lee expected volunteers to enroll themselves under his standard, tempted to do so by the hope of throwing off the yoke of the Federal Government, and the army certainly shared this expectation. The identity of sentiment generally between the people of the States of Maryland and Virginia, and their strong social ties in the past, rendered this anticipation reasonable, and the feeling of the country at the result afterward was extremely bitter.
Such were the first designs of Lee; his ultimate aim seems as clear. By advancing into Maryland and threatening Baltimore and Washington, he knew that he would force the enemy to withdraw all their troops from the south bank of the Potomac, where they menaced the Confederate communications with Richmond; when this was accomplished, as it clearly would be, his design was, to cross the Maryland extension of the Blue Ridge, called there the South Mountain, advance by way of Hagerstown into the Cumberland Valley, and, by thus forcing the enemy to follow him, draw them to a distance from their base of supplies, while his own communications would remain open by way of the Shenandoah Valley. This was essentially the same plan pursued in the campaign of 1863, which terminated in the battle of Gettysburg. General Lee's movements now indicated similar intentions. He doubtless wished, in the first place, to compel the enemy to pursue him—then to lead them as far as was prudent—and then, if circumstances were favorable, bring them to decisive battle, success in which promised to open for him the gates of Washington or Baltimore, and end the war.
It will now be seen how the delay caused by the movement of Jackson against Harper's Ferry, and the discovery by General McClellan of the entire arrangement devised by Lee for that purpose, caused the failure of this whole ulterior design.
LEE IN MARYLAND.
The Southern army was concentrated in the neighborhood of Frederick City by the 7th of September, and on the next day General Lee issued an address to the people of Maryland.
We have not burdened the present narrative with Lee's army orders and other official papers; but the great force and dignity of this address render it desirable to present it in full:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,} NEAR FREDERICKTOWN, September 8, 1862.}
To the People of Maryland:
It is right that you should know the purpose that has brought the army under my command within the limits of your State, so far as that purpose concerns yourselves.
The people of the Confederate States have long watched with the deepest sympathy the wrongs and outrages that have been inflicted upon the citizens of a Commonwealth allied to the States of the South by the strongest social, political, and commercial ties.
They have seen, with profound indignation, their sister State deprived of every right, and reduced to the condition of a conquered province. Under the pretence of supporting the Constitution, but in violation of its most valuable provisions, your citizens have been arrested and imprisoned upon no charge, and contrary to all forms of law. The faithful and manly protest against this outrage, made by the venerable and illustrious Marylanders—to whom in better days no citizen appealed for right in vain—was treated with scorn and contempt. The government of your chief city has been usurped by armed strangers; your Legislature has been dissolved by the unlawful arrest of its members; freedom of the press and of speech have been suppressed; words have been declared offences by an arbitrary desire of the Federal Executive, and citizens ordered to be tried by military commission for what they may dare to speak.
Believing that the people of Maryland possessed a spirit too lofty to submit to such a government, the people of the South have long wished to aid you in throwing off this foreign yoke, to enable you again to enjoy the inalienable rights of freemen, and restore independence and sovereignty to your State.
In obedience to this wish, our army has come among you, and is prepared to assist you, with the power of its arms, in regaining the rights of which you have been despoiled. This, citizens of Maryland, is our mission, so far as you are concerned. No constraint upon your free will is intended—no intimidation will be allowed. Within the limits of this army, at least, Marylanders shall once more enjoy their ancient freedom of thought and speech. We know no enemies among you, and will protect all of every opinion. It is for you to decide your destiny, freely, and without constraint. This army will respect your choice, whatever it may be; and, while the Southern people will rejoice to welcome you to your natural position among them, they will only welcome you when you come of your own free will.
R.E. LEE, General commanding.
This address, full of grave dignity, and highly characteristic of the Confederate commander, was in vivid contrast with the harsh orders of General Pope in Culpepper. The accents of friendship and persuasion were substituted for the "rod of iron." There would be no coercive measures; no arrests, with the alternative presented of an oath to support the South, or instant banishment. No intimidation would be permitted. In the lines of the Southern army, at least, Marylanders should enjoy freedom of thought and speech, and every man should "decide his destiny freely, and without constraint."
This address, couched in terms of such dignity, had little effect upon the people. Either their sentiment in favor of the Union was too strong, or they found nothing in the condition of affairs to encourage their Southern feelings. A large Federal force was known to be advancing; Lee's army, in tatters, and almost without supplies, presented a very uninviting appearance to recruits, and few joined his standard, the population in general remaining hostile or neutral.
The condition of the army was indeed forlorn. It was worn down by marching and fighting; the men had scarcely shoes upon their feet; and, above the tattered figures, flaunting their rags in the sunshine, were seen gaunt and begrimed faces, in which could be read little of the "romance of war." The army was in no condition to undertake an invasion; "lacking much of the material of war, feeble in transportation, poorly provided with clothing, and thousands of them destitute of shoes," is Lee's description of his troops. Such was the condition of the better portion of the force; on the opposite side of the Potomac, scattered along the hills, could be seen a weary, ragged, hungry, and confused multitude, who had dragged along in rear of the rest, unable to keep up, and whose miserable appearance said little for the prospects of the army to which they belonged.
From these and other causes resulted the general apathy of the Marylanders, and Lee soon discovered that he must look solely to his own men for success in his future movements. He faced that conviction courageously; and, without uttering a word of comment, or indulging in any species of crimination against the people of Maryland, resolutely commenced his movements looking to the capture of Harper's Ferry and the invasion of Pennsylvania.
[Footnote 1: The reader will perceive that the intent to invade Pennsylvania is repeatedly attributed in these pages to General Lee. His own expression is, "by threatening Pennsylvania, to induce the enemy," etc. That he designed invasion, aided by the recruits anticipated in Maryland, seems unquestionable; since, even after discovering the lukewarmness of the people there by the fact that few joined his standard, he still advanced to Hagerstown, but a step from the Pennsylvania line. These facts have induced the present writer to attribute the design of actual invasion to Lee with entire confidence; and all the circumstances seem to him to support that hypothesis.]
The promises of his address had been kept. No one had been forced to follow the Southern flag; and now, when the people turned their backs upon it, closing the doors of the houses in the faces of the Southern troops, they remained unmolested. Lee had thus given a practical proof of the sincerity of his character. He had promised nothing which he had not performed; and in Maryland, as afterward in Pennsylvania, in 1863, he remained firm against the temptation to adopt the harsh course generally pursued by the commanders of invading armies. He seems to have proceeded on the principle that good faith is as essential in public affairs as in private, and to have resolved that, in any event, whether of victory or disaster, his enemies should not have it in their power to say that he broke his plighted word, or acted in a manner unbecoming a Christian gentleman.
Prompt action was now necessary. The remnants of General Pope's army, greatly scattered and disorganized by the severe battle of Manassas, had been rapidly reformed and brought into order again, and to this force was added a large number of new troops, hurried forward from the Northern States to Washington. This new army was not to be commanded by General Pope, who had been weighed and found wanting in ability to contend with Lee. The force was intrusted to General McClellan, in spite of his unpopularity with the Federal authorities; and the urgent manner in which he had been called upon to take the head of affairs and protect the Federal capital, is the most eloquent of all commentaries upon the position which he held in the eyes of the country and the army. It was felt, indeed, by all that the Federal ship was rolling in the storm, and an experienced pilot was necessary for her guidance. General McClellan was accordingly directed, after General Pope's defeat, to take command of every thing, and see to the safety of Washington; and, finding himself at length at the head of an army of about one hundred thousand men, he proceeded, after the manner of a good soldier, to protect the Federal capital by advancing into upper Maryland in pursuit of Lee.
MOVEMENTS OF THE TWO ARMIES.
General Lee was already moving to the accomplishment of his designs, the capture of Harper's Ferry, and an advance into the Cumberland Valley.
His plan to attain the first-mentioned object was simple, and promised to be successful. Jackson was to march around by way of "Williamsport and Martinsburg," and thus approach from the south. A force was meanwhile to seize upon and occupy the Maryland Heights, a lofty spot of the mountain across the Potomac, north of the Ferry. In like manner, another body of troops was to cross the Potomac, east of the Blue Ridge, and occupy the Loudon Heights, looking down upon Harper's Ferry from the east. By this arrangement the retreat of the enemy would be completely cut off in every direction. Harper's Ferry must be captured, and, having effected that result, the whole Confederate force, detached for the purpose, was to follow the main body of this army in the direction of Hagerstown, to take part in the proposed invasion of Pennsylvania.
This excellent plan failed, as will be seen, from no fault of the great soldier who devised it, but in consequence of unforeseen obstacles, and especially of one of those singular incidents which occasionally reverse the best-laid schemes and abruptly turn aside the currents of history.
Jackson and the commanders cooeperating with him moved on September 10th. General Lee then with his main body crossed the South Mountain, taking the direction of Hagerstown. Meanwhile, General McClellan had advanced cautiously and slowly, withheld by incessant dispatches from Washington, warning him not to move in such a manner as to expose that city to danger. Such danger existed only in the imaginations of the authorities, as the army in advancing extended its front from the Potomac to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. General McClellan, nevertheless, moved with very great precaution, feeling his way, step by step, like a man in the dark, when on reaching Frederick City, which the Confederates had just evacuated, good fortune suddenly came to his assistance. This good fortune was the discovery of a copy of General Lee's orders of march for the army, in which his whole plan was revealed. General McClellan had therein the unmistakable evidence of his opponent's intentions, and from that moment his advance was as rapid as before it had been deliberate.
The result of this fortunate discovery was speedily seen. General Lee, while moving steadily toward Hagerstown, was suddenly compelled to turn his attention to the mountain-passes in his rear. It had not been the intention of Lee to oppose the passage of the enemy through the South Mountain, as he desired to draw General McClellan as far as possible from his base, but the delay in the fall of Harper's Ferry now made this necessary. It was essential to defend the mountain-defiles in order to insure the safety of the Confederate troops at Harper's Ferry; and Lee accordingly directed General D.H. Hill to oppose the passage of the enemy at Boonsboro Gap, and Longstreet was sent from Hagerstown to support him.
An obstinate struggle now ensued for the possession of the main South Mountain Gap, near Boonsboro, and the roar of Jackson's artillery from Harper's Ferry must have prompted the assailants to determined efforts to force the passage. The battle continued until night (September 14th), and resulted in heavy loss on both sides, the brave General Reno, of the United States army, among others, losing his life. Darkness put an end to the action, the Federal forces not having succeeded in passing the Gap; but, learning that a column of the enemy had crossed below and threatened him with an attack in flank, General Lee determined to retire in the direction of Sharpsburg, where Jackson and the forces cooeperating with him could join the main body of the army. This movement was effected without difficulty, and Lee notices the skill and efficiency of General Fitz Lee in covering the rear with his cavalry. The Federal army failed to press forward as rapidly as it is now obvious it should have done. The head of the column did not appear west of the mountain until eight o'clock in the morning (September 15th), and, nearly at the same moment ("the attack began at dawn; in about two hours the garrison surrendered," says General Lee), Harper's Ferry yielded to Jackson.
Fast-riding couriers brought the welcome intelligence of Jackson's success to General Lee, as the latter was approaching Sharpsburg, and official information speedily came that the result had been the capture of more than eleven thousand men, thirteen thousand small-arms, and seventy-three cannon. It was probably this large number of men and amount of military stores falling into the hands of the Confederates which afterward induced the opinion that Lee's sole design in invading Maryland had been the reduction of Harper's Ferry.
General McClellan had thus failed, in spite of every effort which he had made, to relieve Harper's Ferry, and no other course remained now but to follow Lee and bring him to battle. The Federal army accordingly moved on the track of its adversary, and, on the afternoon of the same day (September 15th), found itself in sight of Lee's forces drawn up on the western side of Antietam Creek, near the village of Sharpsburg.
[Footnote 1: All along the march he had fired signal-guns to inform the officer in command at Harper's Ferry of his approach.]
At last the great opponents were in face of each other, and a battle, it was obvious, could not long be delayed.
THE PRELUDE TO SHARPSBURG.
General Lee had once more sustained a serious check from the skill and soldiership of the officer who had conducted the successful retreat of the Federal army from the Chickahominy to James River.
The defeat and dispersion of the army of General Pope on the last day of August seemed to have opened Pennsylvania to the Confederates. On the 15th of September, a fortnight afterward, General McClellan, at the head of a new army, raised in large measure by the magic of his name, had pursued the victorious Confederate, checked his further advance, and, forcing him to abandon his designs of invasion, brought him to bay a hundred miles from the capital. This was generalship, it would seem, in the true acceptation of the term, and McClellan, harassed and hampered by the authorities, who looked but coldly upon him, could say, with Coriolanus, "Alone I did it."
Lee was thus compelled to give up his movement in the direction of Pennsylvania, and concentrate his army to receive the assault of General McClellan. Jackson, marching with his customary promptness, joined him with a portion of the detached force on the next day (September 16th), and almost immediately those thunders which prelude the great struggles of history began.
General Lee had drawn up his army on the high ground west of the Antietam, a narrow and winding stream which flows, through fields dotted with homesteads and clumps of fruit and forest trees, to the Potomac. Longstreet's corps was posted on the right of the road from Sharpsburg to Boonsboro, his right flank guarded by the waters of the stream, which here bends westward; on the left of the Boonsboro road D.H. Hill's command was stationed; two brigades under General Hood were drawn up on Hill's left; and when Jackson arrived Lee directed him to post his command on the left of Hood, his right resting on the Hagerstown road, and his left extending backward obliquely toward the Potomac, here making a large bend, where Stuart with his cavalry and horse-artillery occupied the ground to the river's bank.
This arrangement of his troops was extremely judicious, as the sequel proved. It was probable that General McClellan would direct his main attack against the Confederate left, with the view of turning that flank and hemming in the Southern army, or driving it into the river. By retiring Jackson's left, Lee provided for this contingency, and it will be seen that the design attributed by him to his adversary was that determined upon.
General McClellan occupied the ground on the eastern bank of the Antietam. He had evidently massed his forces opposite the Confederate left, but a heavy order of battle stood opposite the centre and right of Lee, where bridges crossed the stream.
The respective numbers of the adversaries can be stated with accuracy. "Our forces at the battle of Antietam," said General McClellan, when before the committee of investigation afterward, "were, total in action, eighty-seven thousand one hundred and sixty-four."
General Lee says in his report: "This great battle was fought by less than forty thousand men on our side."
Colonel Walter H. Taylor, a gentleman of the highest character, and formerly adjutant-general of the army, makes the Confederate numbers somewhat less. In a memorandum before the writer, he says:
Our strength at Sharpsburg. I think this is correct:
Jackson (including A.P. Hill) 10,000
D.H. Hill and Walker 7,000 _ Effective infantry 29,000
Cavalry and artillery 8,000 _ Total of all arms 37,000
This disproportion was very great, amounting, as it did, to more than two for one. But this was unavoidable. The Southern army had been worn out by their long marching and fighting. Portions of the command were scattered all over the roads of Northern Virginia, wearily dragging their half-clothed limbs and shoeless feet toward Winchester, whither they were directed to repair. This was the explanation of the fact that, in spite of the ardent desire of the whole army to participate in the great movement northward, Lee had in line of battle at Sharpsburg "less than forty thousand men."
General McClellan made a demonstration against his adversary on the evening of the 16th, before the day of the main struggle. He threw his right, commanded by General Hooker, across the Antietam at a point out of range of fire from the Confederates, and made a vigorous attack on Jackson's two divisions lying near the Hagerstown road running northward, and thus parallel with Lee's line of battle. A brief engagement took place in the vicinity of the "Dunker Church," in a fringe of woods west of the road, but it was too late to effect any thing of importance; night fell, and the engagement ceased. General Hooker retaining his position on the west side of the stream.
The opposing lines then remained at rest, waiting for the morning which all now saw would witness the commencement of the more serious conflict.
THE BATTLE OF SHARPSBURG.
The battle of Sharpsburg, or Antietam, for it is known by both names, began at early dawn on the 17th of September.
General McClellan had obviously determined to direct his main assault against the Confederate left, a movement which General Lee had foreseen and provided for, and at dawn commenced a rapid fire of artillery upon that portion of the Confederate line. Under cover of this fire, General Hooker then advanced his infantry and made a headlong assault upon Jackson's line, with the obvious view of crushing that wing of Lee's army, or driving it back on Sharpsburg and the river. The Federal force making this attack, or advancing promptly to support it, consisted of the corps of Generals Hooker, Mansfield, and Sumner, and numbered, according to General Sumner, forty thousand men, of whom eighteen thousand belonged to General Hooker's corps.
[Footnote 1: "In anticipation of a movement to turn the line of Antietam, Hood's two brigades had been transferred from the right to the left," etc.—Lee.]
Jackson's whole force was four thousand men. Of the truth of this statement of the respective forces, proof is here given:
"I have always believed," said General Sumner afterward, before the war committee, "that, instead of sending these troops into that action in driblets, had General McClellan authorized me to march there forty thousand men on the left flank of the enemy," etc.
"Hooker formed his corps of eighteen thousand men," etc., says Mr. Swinton, the able and candid Northern historian of the war.
Jackson's force is shown by the Confederate official reports. His corps consisted of Ewell's division and "Jackson's old division." General Jones, commanding the latter, reported: "The division at the beginning of the fight numbered not over one thousand six hundred men." Early, commanding Ewell's division, reported the three brigades to number:
"Old Division," as above 1,600
Jackson's corps 4,000
[Footnote 1: After General Lawton was disabled.]
This was the entire force carried by General Jackson into the fight, and these four thousand men, as the reader will perceive, bore the brunt of the first great assault of General McClellan.
Just as the light broadened in the east above the crest of mountains rising in rear of the Federal lines. General Hooker made his assault. His aim was plainly to drive the force in his front across the Hagerstown road and back on the Potomac, and in this he seemed about to succeed. Jackson had placed in front Ewell's division of twenty-four hundred men. This force received General Hooker's charge, and a furious struggle followed, in which the division was nearly destroyed. A glance at the casualties will show this. They were remarkable. General Lawton, division commander, was wounded and carried from the field; Colonel Douglas, brigade commander, was killed; Colonel Walker, also commanding brigade, was disabled; Lawton's brigade lost five hundred and fifty-four killed and wounded out of eleven hundred and fifty, and five out of six regimental commanders. Hayes's brigade lost three hundred and twenty-three out of five hundred and fifty, and all the regimental commanders. Walker's brigade lost two hundred and twenty-eight out of less than seven hundred, and three out of four regimental commanders; and, of the staff-officers of the division, scarcely one remained.
In an hour after dawn, this heavy slaughter had been effected in Ewell's division, and the detailed statement which we have given will best show the stubborn resistance offered by the Southern troops. Still, they were unable to hold their ground, and fell back at last in disorder before General Hooker, who pressed forward to seize the Hagerstown road and crush the whole Confederate left. He was met, however, by Jackson's Old Division of sixteen hundred men, who had been held in reserve; and General Lee hastened to the point threatened Hood's two small brigades, one of which. General Hood states, numbered but eight hundred and sixty-four men. With this force Jackson now met the advancing column of General Hooker, delivering a heavy fire from the woods upon the Federal forces. In face of this fire they hesitated, and Hood made a vigorous charge, General Stuart opening at the same time a cross-fire on the enemy with his horse-artillery. The combined fire increased their disorganization, and it now turned into disorder. Jackson seized the moment, as always, throwing forward his whole line, and the enemy were first checked, and then driven back in confusion, the Confederates pursuing and cheering.
The first struggle had thus resulted in favor of the Confederates—with about six thousand they had repulsed eighteen thousand—and it was obvious to General McClellan that, without reinforcements, his right could not hold its ground. He accordingly, just at sunrise, sent General Mansfield's corps to the aid of General Hooker, and at nine o'clock General Sumner's corps was added, making in all forty thousand men.
The appearance of affairs at this moment was discouraging to the Federal commander. His heavy assaulting column had been forced back with great slaughter; General Hooker had been wounded and borne from the field; General Mansfield, while forming his line, had been mortally wounded; and now, at nine o'clock, when the corps of General Sumner arrived, the prospect was depressing. Of the condition of the Federal forces, General Sumner's own statement conveys a very distinct conception: "On going upon the field," said General Sumner, before the war committee, "I found that General Hooker's corps had been dispersed and routed. I passed him some distance in the rear, where he had been carried wounded, but I saw nothing of his corps at all, as I was advancing with my command on the field. I sent one of my staff-officers to find where they were, and General Ricketts, the only officer we could find, stated that he could not raise three hundred men of the corps." General Mansfield's corps also had been checked, and now "began to waver and break."
Such had been the result of the great Federal assault, and it was highly creditable to the Confederate arms. With a comparatively insignificant force, Jackson had received the attack of the entire Federal right wing, and had not only repulsed, but nearly broken to pieces, the large force in his front.
The arrival of General Sumner, however, completely changed the face of affairs, and, as his fresh troops advanced, those which had been so roughly handled by Jackson had an opportunity to reform. This was rapidly effected, and, having marshalled his troops, General Sumner, an officer of great dash and courage, made a vigorous charge. From this moment the battle began to rage with new fury. General Lee had sent to the left the brigades of Colquitt, Ripley, and McRae, and with these, the troops of Hood, and his own shattered division, Jackson presented a stubborn front, but his loss was heavy. General Starke, of the Old Division, was killed; the brigade, regimental, and company officers fell almost without an exception, and the brigades dwindled to mere handfuls.
Under the great pressure, Jackson was at length forced back. One of General Sumner's divisions drove the right of the Confederates beyond the Hagerstown road, and, at this moment the long struggle seemed ended; the great wrestle in which the adversaries had so long staggered to and fro, advancing and retreating in turn, seemed at last virtually decided in favor of the Federal arms.
This was undoubtedly the turning-point of the battle of Sharpsburg, and General Lee had witnessed the conflict upon his left with great anxiety. It was impossible, however, to send thither more troops than he had already sent. As will be seen in a moment, both his centre and right were extremely weak. A.P. Hill and General McLaws had not arrived from Harper's Ferry. Thus the left had been reenforced to the full extent of Lee's ability, and now that portion of his line seemed about to be crushed.
Fortunately, however, General McLaws, who had been delayed longer than was expected by General Lee, at last arrived, and was hurried to the left. It was ten o'clock, and in that one hour the fighting of an entire day seemed to have been concentrated. Jackson was holding his ground with difficulty when the divisions of McLaws and Walker were sent to him. As soon as they reached the field, they were thrown into action, and General Lee had the satisfaction of witnessing a new order of things. The advance—it might rather be called the onward rush—of the Federal line was checked. Jackson's weary men took fresh heart; that great commander promptly assumed the offensive, and, advancing his whole line, drove the enemy before him until he reoccupied the ground from which General Sumner had forced him to retire.
From the ground thus occupied, the Federal forces were unable to dislodge him, and the great struggle of "the left at Sharpsburg" was over. It had begun at dawn and was decided by ten or eleven o'clock, and the troops on both sides had fought as resolutely as in any other action of the war. The event had been decided by the pertinacity of the Southern troops, and by the prompt movement of reenforcements by General Lee from his right and centre. Posted near his centre, he had surveyed at one glance the whole field of action; the design of General McClellan to direct his main assault upon the Confederate left was promptly penetrated, and the rapid concentration of the Southern forces in that quarter had, by defeating this movement, decided the result of the battle.
Attacks on the Confederate centre and right followed that upon the left. In the centre a great disaster was at one time imminent. Owing to a mistake of orders, the brave General Rhodes had drawn back his brigade posted there—this was seen by the enemy—and a sudden rush was made by them with the view of piercing Lee's centre. The promptness and courage of a few officers and a small body of troops defeated this attempt. General D.H. Hill rallied a few hundred men, and opened fire with a single gun, and Colonel Cooke faced the enemy with his regiment, "standing boldly in line," says General Lee, "without a cartridge." The stand made by this small force saved the army from serious disaster; the Federal line retired, but a last assault was soon begun, this time against the Confederate right. It continued in a somewhat desultory manner until four in the evening, when, having massed a heavy column under General Burnside, opposite the bridge in front of Lee's right wing, General McClellan forced the bridge and carried the crest beyond.
The moment was critical, as the Confederate force at this point was less than three thousand men. But, fortunately, reenforcements arrived, consisting of A.P. Hill's forces from Harper's Ferry. These attacked the enemy, drove him from the hill across the Antietam again; and so threatening did the situation at that moment appear to General McClellan, that he is said to have sent General Burnside the message: "Hold your ground! If you cannot, then the bridge, to the last man. Always the bridge! If the bridge is lost, all is lost!"
The urgency of this order sufficiently indicates that the Federal commander was not without solicitude for the safety of his own left wing. Ignorant, doubtless, of the extremely small force which had thus repulsed General Burnside, in all four thousand five hundred men, he feared that General Lee would cross the bridge, assail his left, and that the hard-fought day might end in disaster to his own army. That General Lee contemplated this movement, in spite of the disproportion of numbers, is intimated in his official report. "It was nearly dark," he says, "and the Federal artillery was massed to defend the bridge, with General Porter's corps, consisting of fresh troops, behind it. Under these circumstances," he adds, "it was deemed injudicious to push our advantage further in the face of fresh troops of the enemy much exceeding our own."
The idea of an advance against the Federal left was accordingly abandoned, and a movement of Jackson's command, which Lee directed, with the view of turning the Federal right, was discontinued from the same considerations. Night had come, both sides were worn out, neither of the two great adversaries cared to risk another struggle, and the bitterly-contested battle of Sharpsburg was over.
The two armies remained facing each other throughout the following day. During the night of this day, Lee crossed with his army back into Virginia. He states his reasons for this: "As we could not look for a material increase of strength," he says, "and the enemy's force could be largely and rapidly augmented, it was not thought prudent to wait until he should be ready again to offer battle."
General McClellan does not seem to have been able to renew the struggle at that time. "The next morning," he says, referring to the day succeeding the battle, "I found that our loss had been so great, and there was so much disorganization in some of the commands, that I did not consider it proper to renew the attack that day."
This decision of General McClellan's subjected him subsequently to very harsh criticism from the Federal authorities, the theory having obtained at Washington that he had had it in his power, by renewing the battle, to cut Lee to pieces. Of the probability of such a result the reader will form his own judgment. The ground for such a conclusion seems slight. The loss and disorganization were, it would seem, even greater on the Federal than on the Confederate side, and Lee would have probably been better able to sustain an attack than General McClellan to make it. It will be seen that General Meade afterward, under circumstances more favorable still, declined to attack Lee at Williamsport. If one of the two commanders be greatly censured, the other must be also, and the world will be always apt to conclude that they knew what could be effected better than the civilians.
But General McClellan did make an attempt to "crush Lee," such as the authorities at Washington desired, and its result may possibly throw light on the point in discussion.
On the night of the 19th, Lee having crossed the Potomac on the night of the 18th, General McClellan sent a considerable force across the river near Shepherdstown, which drove off the Confederate artillery there, and at daylight formed line of battle on the south bank, protected by their cannon north of the river. Of the brief but bloody engagement which followed—an incident of the war little dwelt upon in the histories—General A.P. Hill, who was sent by Lee to repulse the enemy, gives an animated account. "The Federal artillery, to the number of seventy pieces," he says, "lined the opposite heights, and their infantry was strongly posted on the crest of the Virginia hills. When he advanced with his division, he was met by the most tremendous fire of artillery he ever saw," but the men continued to move on without wavering, and the attack resulted in the complete rout of the enemy, who were "driven pell-mell into the river," the current of which was "blue with floating bodies." General Hill chronicles this incident in terms of unwonted eloquence, and declares that, by the account of the enemy themselves, they lost "three thousand men killed and drowned from one brigade," which appears to be an exaggeration. His own loss was, in killed and wounded, two hundred and sixty-one.
This repulse was decisive, and General McClellan made no further attempt to pursue the adversary, who, standing at bay on the soil of Virginia, was still more formidable than he had been on the soil of Maryland. As we have intimated on a preceding page, the result of this attempt to pursue would seem to relieve General McClellan from the criticism of the Washington authorities. If he was repulsed with heavy slaughter in his attempt to strike at Lee on the morning of September 20th, it is not probable that an assault on his adversary on September 18th would have had different results.
No further crossing at that time was undertaken by the Federal commander. His army was moved toward Harper's Ferry, an important base for further operations, and Lee's army went into camp along the banks of the Opequan.
LEE AND McCLELLAN—THEIR MERITS IN THE MARYLAND CAMPAIGN.
General Lee and his adversary had displayed conspicuous merit in the campaign thus terminated, and we shall pause for a moment to glance back upon this great passage at arms.
To give precedence to General McClellan, he had assembled an army, after the defeat at Manassas, with a promptness for which only his own great personal popularity can adequately account, had advanced to check Lee, and had fully succeeded in doing so; and had thus not only protected the fertile territory of Pennsylvania from invasion, but had struck a death-blow for the time to any designs General Lee might have had to advance on the Federal capital. If the situation of affairs at that moment be attentively considered, the extreme importance of these results will not fail to appear. It may perhaps be said with justice, that General McClellan had saved the Federal cause from decisive defeat. There was no army to protect Washington but the body of troops under his command; these were largely raw levies, which defeat would have broken to pieces, and thus the way would have been open for Lee's march upon Washington or toward Philadelphia—a movement whose probable result would have been a treaty of peace and the independence of the Southern Confederacy. All these hopes were reversed by McClellan's rapid march and prompt attack. In the hours of a single autumn day, on the banks of the Antietam, the triumphant advance of the Confederates was checked and defeated. And, if the further fact be considered that the adversary thus checkmated was Lee, the military ability of General McClellan must be conceded. It is the fashion, it would appear, in some quarters, to deny him this quality. History will decide.
The merit of Lee was equally conspicuous, and his partial failure in the campaign was due to circumstances over which he had no control. His plan, as was always the case with him, was deep-laid, and every contingency had been provided for. He was disappointed in his aim by three causes which he could not foresee. One was the great diminution of his force, owing to the rapidity of his march, and the incessant fighting; another, the failure in obtaining recruits in Maryland; and a third, the discovery by General McClellan of the "lost dispatch," as it is called, which revealed Lee's whole plan to his adversary. In consequence of the "finding" of the order of march, McClellan advanced with such rapidity that the laggards of the Southern army on the hills north of Leesburg had no opportunity of joining the main body. The gaps in the ranks of the army thus made were not filled up by Maryland recruits; Lee fell back, and his adversary followed, no longer fearful of advancing too quickly; Jackson had no time after reducing Harper's Ferry to rejoin Lee at Hagerstown; thus concentration of his troops, and a battle somewhere near Sharpsburg, were rendered a necessity with General Lee.
In this tissue of adverse events, the discovery of the order of march by General McClellan occupies a very prominent place. This incident resembles what the French call a fatality. Who was to blame for the circumstance still remains a mystery; but it may be said with entire certainty that the brave officer upon whom it was charged was entirely guiltless of all fault in the matter.
[Footnote: The officer here referred to is General D.H. Hill. General McClellan said in his testimony afterward, before the congressional committee: "When at Frederick, we found the original order issued to D.H. Hill," etc. The inference was thus a natural one that General Hill was to blame, but that officer has proved clearly that he had nothing to do with the affair. He received but one copy of the order, which was handed to him by General Jackson in person, and, knowing its great importance, he placed it in his pocket-book, and still retains it in his possession. This fact is conclusive, since General Hill could not have "lost" what he continues to hold in his hands. This mystery will be cleared up at some time, probably; at present, but one thing is certain, that General Hill was in no manner to blame. The present writer desires to make this statement as explicit as possible, as, in other accounts of these transactions, he was led by General McClellan's language to attribute blame to General Hill where he deserved none.]
Whatever may have been the secret history of the "lost dispatch," however, it certainly fell into General McClellan's hands, and largely directed the subsequent movements of the opposing armies.
From what is here written, it will be seen that Lee was not justly chargeable with the result of the Maryland campaign. He had provided for every thing as far as lay in his power. Had he not been disappointed in events to be fairly anticipated, it seemed his force would have received large accessions, his rear would have closed up, and the advance into Pennsylvania would have taken place. Instead of this, he was forced to retire and fight a pitched battle at Sharpsburg; and this action certainly exhibited on Lee's part military ability of the highest order. The force opposed to him had been at least double that of his own army, and the Federal troops had fought with a gallantry unsurpassed in any other engagement of the war. That their assault on Lee failed, was due to the fighting qualities of his troops and his own generalship. His army had been manoeuvred with a rapidity and precision which must have excited even the admiration of the distinguished soldier opposed to him. He had promptly concentrated his forces opposite every threatened point in turn, and if he had not been able to carry out the axiom of Napoleon, that a commander should always be superior to the enemy at the point of contact, he had at least done all that was possible to effect that end, and had so far succeeded as to have repulsed if not routed his adversary. This is the main feature to be noticed in Lee's handling of his troops at Sharpsburg. An unwary or inactive commander would have there suffered decisive defeat, for the Confederate left wing numbered, throughout the early part of the battle, scarcely more than four thousand men, while the column directed against it amounted first to eighteen thousand, and in all to forty thousand men. To meet the impact of this heavy mass, not only desperate fighting, but rapid and skilful manoeuvring, was necessary. The record we have presented will enable the reader to form his own opinion whether Lee was equal to this emergency involving the fate of his army.
Military critics, examining this great battle with fair and candid eyes, will not fail, we think, to discern the truth. That the Southern army, of less than forty thousand men, repulsed more than eighty thousand in the battle of Sharpsburg, was due to the hard fighting of the smaller force, and the skill with which its commander manoeuvred it.
LEE AND HIS MEN.
General Lee and his army passed the brilliant days of autumn in the beautiful valley of the Shenandoah. This region is famous for its salubrity and the beauty of its scenery. The mountain winds are pure and invigorating, and the forests, which in the season of autumn assume all the colors of the rainbow, inspire the mind with the most agreeable sensations. The region, in fact, is known as the "Garden of Virginia," and the benign influence of their surroundings was soon seen on the faces of the troops.
A Northern writer, who saw them at Sharpsburg, describes them as "ragged, hungry, and in all ways miserable;" but their forlorn condition, as to clothing and supplies of every description, made no perceptible difference in their demeanor now. In their camps along the banks of the picturesque little stream called the Opequan, which, rising south of Winchester, wanders through beautiful fields and forests to empty into the Potomac, the troops laughed, jested, sang rude camp-ballads, and exhibited a joyous indifference to their privations and hardships, which said much for their courage and endurance. Those who carefully considered the appearance and demeanor of the men at that time, saw that much could be effected with such tough material, and had another opportunity to witness, under circumstances calculated to test it, the careless indifference, to the past as well as the future, peculiar alike to soldiers and children. These men, who had passed through a campaign of hard marches and nearly incessant battles, seemed to have forgotten all their troubles and sufferings. The immense strain upon their energies had left them apparently as fresh and efficient as when the campaign begun. There was no want of rebound; rather an excessive elasticity and readiness to undertake new movements. They had plainly acquired confidence in themselves, rightly regarding the event of the battle of Sharpsburg, where they were so largely outnumbered, as highly honorable to them, and they had acquired still greater confidence in the officers who commanded them.
We shall hereafter speak more particularly of the sentiment of the troops toward General Lee at this period of his connection with the army. The great events of the war continually modified the relations between him and his men; as they came to know him better and better, he steadily rose in their admiration and regard. At this time—the autumn of 1862—it may be said that the troops had already begun to love their leader, and had bestowed upon him as an army commander their implicit confidence.
Without this confidence on the part of his men, a general can effect little; with it, he may accomplish almost any thing. The common soldier is a child, and feels that the directing authority is above him; that he should look upon that authority with respect and confidence is the first necessity of effecting military organization. Lee had already inspired the troops with this sentiment, and it was mainly the secret of his often astounding successes afterward. The men universally felt that their commander was equal to any and every emergency. Such a repute cannot be usurped. Troops measure their leaders with instinctive acumen, and a very astonishing accuracy. They form their opinions for themselves on the merits of the question; and Lee had already impressed the army with a profound admiration for his soldiership. From this to the sentiment of personal affection the transition was easy; and the kindness, consideration, and simplicity of the man, made all love him. Throughout the campaign, Lee had not been heard to utter one harsh word; a patient forbearance and kindness had been constantly exhibited in all his dealings with officers and men; he was always in front, indifferent plainly to personal danger, and the men looked now with admiring eyes and a feeling of ever-increasing affection on the erect, soldierly figure in the plain uniform, with scarce any indication of rank, and the calm face, with its expression of grave dignity and composure, which remained unchanged equally on the march and in battle. It may be said that, when he assumed command of the army before Richmond, the troops had taken him on trust; now they had come to love him, and when he appeared the camps buzzed, the men ran to the road, called out to each other: "There goes Mas' Robert!" or "Old Uncle Robert!" and cheers followed him as he rode by.
The country generally seemed to share the opinion of the army. There was exhibited, even at this early period of the war, by the people at large, a very great admiration and affection for General Lee. While in the Shenandoah Valley, where Jackson was beloved almost beyond expression, Lee had evidences of the position which he occupied in the eyes of the people, which must have been extremely gratifying to him. Gray-haired men came to his camp and uttered prayers for his health and happiness as the great leader of the South; aged ladies greeted him with faltering expressions full of deep feeling and pathetic earnestness; and, wherever he went, young girls and children received him with their brightest smiles. The august fame of the great soldier, who has now passed away, no doubt renders these memories of personal interviews with him dear to many. Even the most trifling incidents are cherished and kept fresh by repetition; and the writer of these pages recalls at the moment one of these trifles, which may possibly interest some readers. There stood and still stands an ancient and hospitable homestead on the south bank of the Opequan, the hearts of whose inmates, one and all, were ardently with the South in her struggle. Soon after Sharpsburg, General Lee one day visited the old manor-house crowning the grassy hill and overshadowed by great oaks; Generals Jackson, Longstreet, and Stuart, accompanied him, and the reception which he met with, though we cannot describe it, was such as would have satisfied the most exacting. The children came to him and held out their small hands, the ladies divided their attention between him and the beloved "hero of the Valley," Jackson; and the lady of the manor could only express her sense of the great honor of receiving such company, by declaring, with a smile, that the dinner resembled the famous breakfast at Tillietudlem in Scott's "Old Mortality." General Lee highly enjoyed this, and seemed disposed to laugh when the curious fact was pointed out to him that he had seated himself at table in a chair with an open-winged United States eagle delineated upon its back. The result of this visit, it appeared afterward, was a sentiment of great regard and affection for the general personally by all at the old country-house. Old and young were charmed by his grave sweetness and mild courtesy, and doubtless he inspired the same sentiment in other places.
His headquarters were at this time in a field some miles from Winchester. An Englishman, who visited him there, described the general and his surroundings with accuracy, and, from the account printed in Blackwood's Magazine, we quote the following sentences:
"In visiting the headquarters of the Confederate generals, but particularly those of General Lee, any one accustomed to see European armies in the field cannot fail to be struck with the great absence of all the 'pomp and circumstance of war' in and around their encampments. Lee's headquarters consisted of about seven or eight pole-tents, pitched with their backs to a stake fence, upon a piece of ground so rocky that it was unpleasant to ride over it, its only recommendation being a little stream of good water which flowed close by the general's tent. In front of the tents were some three four-wheeled wagons, drawn up without any regularity, and a number of horses roamed loose about the field. The servants, who were, of course, slaves, and the mounted soldiers, called 'couriers,' who always accompany each general of division in the field, were unprovided with tents, and slept in or under the wagons. Wagons, tents, and some of the horses, were marked 'U.S.,' showing that part of that huge debt in the North has gone to furnishing even the Confederate generals with camp equipments. No guard or sentries were to be seen in the vicinity; no crowd of aides-de-camp loitering about, making themselves agreeable to visitors, and endeavoring to save their generals from receiving those who had no particular business. A large farm-house stands close by, which, in any other army, would have been the general's residence pro tem., but, as no liberties are allowed to be taken with personal property in Lee's army, he is particular in setting a good example himself. His staff are crowded together, two or three in a tent; none are allowed to carry more baggage than a small box each, and his own kit is but very little larger. Every one who approaches him does so with marked respect, although there is none of that bowing and flourishing of forage caps which occurs in the presence of European generals; and, while all honor him, and place implicit faith in his courage and ability, those with whom he is most intimate feel for him the affection of sons to a father. Old General Scott was correct in saying that, when Lee joined the Southern cause, it was worth as much as the accession of twenty thousand men to the 'rebels.' Since then every injury that it was possible to inflict, the Northerners have heaped upon him. Notwithstanding all these personal losses, however, when speaking of the Yankees, he neither evinced any bitterness of feeling, nor gave utterance to a single violent expression, but alluded to many of his former friends and companions among them in the kindest terms. He spoke as a man proud of the victories won by his country, and confident of ultimate success, under the blessing of the Almighty, whom he glorified for past successes, and whose aid he invoked for all future operations."
The writer adds that the troops "regarded him in the light of infallible love," and had "a fixed and unshakable faith in all he did—a calm confidence of victory when serving under him." The peculiarly interesting part of this foreign testimony, however, is that in which the writer speaks of General Lee's religious sentiment, of his gratitude for past mercies, and prayers for the assistance of the Almighty in the hours of conflict still to come. This point we shall return to, endeavoring to give it that prominence which it deserves. At present we shall leave the subject of General Lee, in his private and personal character, and proceed to narrate the last campaign of the year 1862.
LEE PASSES THE BLUE RIDGE
From the central frontier of his headquarters, near Winchester, the key of the lower Valley, General Lee was able to watch at once the line of the Potomac in his front, beyond which lay General McClellan's army, and the gaps of the Blue Ridge on his right, through which it was possible for the enemy, by a rapid movement, to advance and attack his flank and rear.
If Lee had at any time the design of recrossing into Maryland, he abandoned it. General McClellan attributed that design to him. "I have since been confirmed in the belief," he wrote, "that if I had crossed the Potomac below Harper's Ferry in the early part of October, General Lee would have recrossed into Maryland." Of Lee's ability to thus reenter Maryland there can be no doubt. His army was rested, provisioned, and in high spirits; the "stragglers" had rejoined their commands, and it is certain that the order for a new advance would have been hailed by the mercurial troops with enthusiasm. No such order was, however, issued, and soon the approach of winter rendered the movement impossible.
More than a month thus passed, the two armies remaining in face of each other. No engagement of any importance occurred during this period of inactivity, but once or twice the Federal commander sent heavy reconnoitring forces across the Potomac; and Stuart, now mounting to the zenith of his reputation as a cavalry-officer, repeated his famous "ride around McClellan," on the Chickahominy.
The object of General Lee in directing this movement of the cavalry was the ordinary one, on such occasions, of obtaining information and inflicting injury upon the enemy. Stuart responded with ardor to the order. He had conceived a warm affection for General Lee, mingled with a respect for his military genius nearly unbounded, and at this time, as always afterward, received the orders of his commander for active operations with enthusiasm. With about eighteen hundred troopers and four pieces of horse-artillery, Stuart crossed the Potomac above Williamsport, marched rapidly to Chambersburg, in Pennsylvania, where he destroyed the machine-shops, and other buildings containing a large number of arms and military stores; and continued his way thence toward Frederick City, with the bold design of completely passing around the Federal army, and recrossing the river east of the Blue Ridge. In this he succeeded, thanks to his skill and audacity, in spite of every effort of the enemy to cut off and destroy him. Reaching White's Ford, on the Potomac, north of Leesburg, he disposed his horse-artillery so as to cover this movement, cut his way through the Federal cavalry disputing his passage, and recrossed into Virginia with a large number of captured horses, and without losing a man.
This expedition excited astonishment, and a prominent officer of the Federal army declared that he would not have believed that "horse-flesh could stand it," as the distance passed over in about forty-eight hours, during which considerable delay had occurred at Chambersburg, was nearly or quite one hundred miles. General McClellan complained that his orders had not been obeyed, and said that after these orders he "did not think it possible for Stuart to recross," and believed "the destruction or capture of his entire force perfectly certain."
Soon afterward the Federal commander attempted reconnoissances in his turn. A considerable force of infantry, supported by artillery, crossed the Potomac and advanced to the vicinity of the little village of Leetown, but on the same evening fell back rapidly, doubtless fearful that Lee would interpose a force between them and the river and cut off their retreat. This was followed by a movement of the Federal cavalry, which crossed at the same spot and advanced up the road leading toward Martinsburg. These were met and subsequently driven back by Colonel W.H.F. Lee, son of the general. A third and more important attempt to reconnoitre took place toward the end of October. General McClellan then crossed a considerable body of troops both at Shepherdstown and Harper's Ferry; the columns advanced to Kearneysville and Charlestown respectively, and near the former village a brief engagement took place, without results. General McClellan, who had come in person as far as Charlestown, then returned with his troops across the Potomac, and further hostilities for the moment ceased.
These reconnoissances were the prelude, however, of an important movement which the Federal authorities had been long urging General McClellan to make. Although the battle of Sharpsburg had been indecisive in one acceptation of the term, in another it had been entirely decisive. A drawn battle of the clearest sort, it yet decided the future movements of the opposing armies. General Lee had invaded Maryland with the design of advancing into Pennsylvania—the result of Sharpsburg was, that he fell back into Virginia. General McClellan had marched from Washington with no object but an offensive-defensive campaign to afford the capital protection; he was now enabled to undertake anew the invasion of Virginia.
To the success of such a movement the Federal commander seems rightly to have considered a full and complete equipment of his troops absolutely essential. He was directed at once, after Sharpsburg, to advance upon Lee. He replied that it was impossible, neither his men nor his horses had shoes or rations. New orders came—General Halleck appearing to regard the difficulties urged by General McClellan as imaginary. New protests followed, and then new protests and new orders again, until finally a peremptory dispatch came. This dispatch was, "Cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive him south," an order bearing the impress of the terse good sense and rough directness of the Federal President. This order it was necessary in the end to obey, and General McClellan, having decided in favor of a movement across the Potomac east instead of west of the mountain, proceeded, in the last days of October, to cross his army. His plan was excellent, and is here set forth in his own words:
"The plan of campaign I adopted during this advance," he says, "was to move the army well in hand, parallel to the Blue Ridge, taking Warrenton as the point of direction for the main army, seizing each pass on the Blue Ridge by detachments as we approached it, and guarding them after we had passed, as long as they would enable the enemy to trouble our communications with the Potomac.... We depended upon Harper's Ferry and Berlin for supplies until the Manassas Gap Railway was reached. When that occurred, the passes in our rear were to be abandoned, and the army massed ready for action or movement in any direction. It was my intention, if, upon reaching Ashby's or any other pass, the enemy were in force between it and the Potomac, in the Valley of the Shenandoah, to move into the Valley and endeavor to gain their rear."
From this statement of General McClellan it will be seen that his plan was judicious, and displayed a thorough knowledge of the country in which he was about to operate. The conformation of the region is peculiar. The Valley of the Shenandoah, in which Lee's army lay waiting, is separated from "Piedmont Virginia," through which General McClellan was about to advance, by the wooded ramparts of the Blue Ridge Mountains, passable only at certain points. These gaps, as they are called in Virginia, are the natural doorways to the Valley; and as long as General McClellan held them, as he proposed to do, by strong detachments, he would be able both to protect his own communications with the Potomac, and, if he thought fit to do so, enter the Valley and assail the Confederate rear. That he ever seriously contemplated the latter design is, however, extremely doubtful. It is not credible that he would have undertaken to "cut off" Lee's whole army; and, if he designed a movement of that description against any portion of the Southern army which might be detached, the opportunity was certainly presented to him by Lee, when Jackson was left, as will be seen, at Millwood.
No sooner had General McClellan commenced crossing the Potomac, east of the mountain, than General Lee broke up his camp along the Opequan, and moved to check this new and formidable advance into the heart of Virginia. It was not known, however, whether the whole of the Federal forces had crossed east of the Blue Ridge; and, to guard against a possible movement on his rear from the direction of Harper's Ferry, as well as on his flank through the gaps of the mountain, Lee sent Jackson's corps to take position on the road from Charlestown to Berryville, where he could oppose an advance of the enemy from either direction. The rest of the army then moved guardedly, but rapidly, across the mountain into Culpepper.
Under these circumstances, General McClellan had an excellent opportunity to strike a heavy blow at Jackson, who seemed to invite that movement by crossing soon afterward, in accordance with directions from Lee, one of his divisions to the east side of the mountain on the Federal rear. That General McClellan did not strike is not creditable to him as a commander. The Confederate army was certainly divided in a very tempting manner. Longstreet was in Culpepper on the 3d of November, the day after General McClellan's rear-guard had passed the Potomac, and nothing would seem to have been easier than to cut the Confederate forces by interposing between them. By seizing the Blue Ridge gaps, and thus shutting up all the avenues of exit from the Valley, General McClellan would have had it in his power, it would seem, to crush Jackson; or if that wily commander escaped, Longstreet in Culpepper was exposed to attack. General McClellan did not embrace this opportunity of a decisive blow, and Lee seems to have calculated upon the caution of his adversary. Jackson's presence in the Valley only embarrassed McClellan, as Lee no doubt intended it should. No attempt was made to strike at him. On the contrary, the Federal army continued steadily to concentrate upon Warrenton, where, on the 7th of November, General McClellan was abruptly relieved of the command.
He was in his tent, at Rectortown, at the moment when the dispatch was handed to him—brought by an officer from Washington through a heavy snow-storm then falling. General Ambrose E. Burnside was in the tent. McClellan read the dispatch calmly, and, handing it indifferently to his visitor, said, "Well, Burnside, you are to command the army."
Such was the abrupt termination of the military career of a commander who fills a large space in the history of the war in Virginia. The design of this volume is not such as to justify an extended notice of him, or a detailed examination of his abilities as a soldier. That he possessed military endowments of a very high order is conceded by most persons, but his critics add that he was dangerously prone to caution and inactivity. Such was the criticism of his enemies at Washington and throughout the North, and his pronounced political opinions had gained him a large number. It may, however, be permitted one who can have no reason to unduly commend him, to say that the retreat to James River, and the arrest of Lee in his march of invasion toward Pennsylvania, seem to indicate the possession of something more than "inactivity," and of that species of "caution" which achieves success. It will probably, however, be claimed by few, even among the personal friends of this general, that he was a soldier of the first ability—one competent to oppose Lee.
As to the personal qualities of General McClellan, there seems to be no difference of opinion. He was a gentleman of high breeding, and detested all oppression of the weak and non-combatants. Somewhat prone to hauteur, in presence of the importunities of the Executive and other civilians unskilled in military affairs, he was patient, mild, and cordial with his men. These qualities, with others which he possessed, seem to have rendered him peculiarly acceptable to the private soldier, and it is certain that he was, beyond comparison, the most popular of all the generals who, one after another, commanded the "Army of the Potomac."
LEE CONCENTRATES AT FREDERICKSBURG.
In returning from the Valley, General Lee had exhibited that combination of boldness and caution which indicates in a commander the possession of excellent generalship.
One of two courses was necessary: either to make a rapid march with his entire army, in order to interpose himself between General McClellan and what seemed to be his objective point, Gordonsville; or, to so manoeuvre his forces as to retard and embarrass his adversary. Of these, Lee chose the latter course, exposing himself to what seemed very great danger. Jackson was left in the Valley, and Longstreet sent to Culpepper; under these circumstances, General McClellan might have cut off one of the two detached bodies; but Lee seems to have read the character of his adversary accurately, and to have felt that a movement of such boldness would not probably be undertaken by him. Provision had nevertheless been made for this possible contingency. Jackson was directed by Lee, in case of an attack by General McClellan, to retire, by way of Strasburg, up the Valley, and so rejoin the main body. That this movement would become necessary, however, was not, as we have said, contemplated. It was not supposed by Lee that his adversary would adopt the bold plan of crossing the Blue Ridge to assail Jackson; thus, to leave that commander in the Valley, instead of being a military blunder, was a stroke of generalship, a source of embarrassment to General McClellan, and a standing threat against the Federal communications, calculated to clog the movements of their army. That Lee aimed at this is obvious from his order to Jackson to cross a division to the eastern side of the Blue Ridge, in General McClellan's rear. When this was done, the Federal commander abandoned, if he had ever resolved upon, the design of striking in between the Confederate detachments, as is claimed by his admirers to have been his determination; gave up all idea of "moving into the Valley and endeavoring to gain their rear;" and from that moment directed his whole attention to the concentration of his army near Warrenton, with the obvious view of establishing a new base, and operating southward on the line of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.