Late in the night Jackson came out of the darkness and seated himself by my camp fire. He mentioned that I would move with him in the morning, then relapsed into silence. I fancied he looked at me kindly, and interpreted it into an approval of the conduct of the brigade. The events of the day, anticipations of the morrow, the death of Davis, drove away sleep, and I watched Jackson. For hours he sat silent and motionless, with eyes fixed on the fire. I took up the idea that he was inwardly praying, and he remained throughout the night.
Off in the morning, Jackson leading the way, my brigade, a small body of horse, and a section of the Rockbridge (Virginia) artillery forming the column. Major Wheat, with his battalion of "Tigers," was directed to keep close to the guns. Sturdy marchers, they trotted along with the horse and artillery at Jackson's heels, and after several hours were some distance in advance of the brigade, with which I remained.
A volley in front, followed by wild cheers, stirred us up to a "double," and we speedily came upon a moving spectacle. Jackson had struck the Valley pike at Middletown, twelve miles south of Winchester, along which a large body of Federal horse, with many wagons, was hastening north. He had attacked at once with his handful of men, overwhelmed resistance, and captured prisoners and wagons. The gentle Tigers were looting right merrily, diving in and out of wagons with the activity of rabbits in a warren; but this occupation was abandoned on my approach, and in a moment they were in line, looking as solemn and virtuous as deacons at a funeral. Prisoners and spoil were promptly secured. The horse was from New England, a section in which horsemanship was an unknown art, and some of the riders were strapped to their steeds. Ordered to dismount, they explained their condition, and were given time to unbuckle. Many breastplates and other protective devices were seen here, and later at Winchester. We did not know whether the Federals had organized cuirassiers, or were recurring to the customs of Gustavus Adolphus. I saw a poor fellow lying dead on the pike, pierced through breastplate and body by a rifle ball. Iron-clad men are of small account before modern weapons.
A part of the Federal column had passed north before Jackson reached the pike, and this, with his mounted men, he pursued. Something more than a mile to the south a road left the pike and led directly west, where the Federal General Fremont, of whom we shall hear more, commanded "the Mountain Department." Attacked in front, as described, a body of Federals, horse, artillery, and infantry, with some wagons, took this road, and, after moving a short distance, drew up on a crest, with unlimbered guns. Their number was unknown, and for a moment they looked threatening. The brigade was rapidly formed and marched straight upon them, when their guns opened. A shell knocked over several men of the 7th regiment, and a second, as I rode forward to an eminence to get a view, struck the ground under my horse and exploded. The saddle cloth on both sides was torn away, and I and Adjutant Surget, who was just behind me, were nearly smothered with earth; but neither man nor horse received a scratch. The enemy soon limbered up and fled west. By some well-directed shots, as they crossed a hill, our guns sent wagons flying in the air, with which "P.P.C." we left them and marched north.
At dusk we overtook Jackson, pushing the enemy with his little mounted force, himself in advance of all. I rode with him, and we kept on through the darkness. There was not resistance enough to deploy infantry. A flash, a report, and a whistling bullet from some covert met us, but there were few casualties. I quite remember thinking at the time that Jackson was invulnerable, and that persons near him shared that quality. An officer, riding hard, overtook us, who proved to be the chief quartermaster of the army. He reported the wagon trains far behind, impeded by a bad road in Luray Valley. "The ammunition wagons?" sternly. "All right, sir. They were in advance, and I doubled teams on them and brought them through." "Ah!" in a tone of relief.
To give countenance to this quartermaster, if such can be given of a dark night, I remarked jocosely: "Never mind the wagons. There are quantities of stores in Winchester, and the General has invited me to breakfast there to-morrow."
Jackson, who had no more capacity for jests than a Scotchman, took this seriously, and reached out to touch me on the arm. In fact, he was of Scotch-Irish descent, and his unconsciousness of jokes was de race. Without physical wants himself, he forgot that others were differently constituted, and paid little heed to commissariat; but woe to the man who failed to bring up ammunition! In advance, his trains were left far behind. In retreat, he would fight for a wheelbarrow.
Some time after midnight, by roads more direct from Front Royal, other troops came on the pike, and I halted my jaded people by the roadside, where they built fires and took a turn at their haversacks.
Moving with the first light of morning, we came to Kernstown, three miles from Winchester, and the place of Jackson's fight with Shields. Here heavy and sustained firing, artillery and small arms, was heard. A staff officer approached at full speed to summon me to Jackson's presence and move up my command. A gallop of a mile or more brought me to him. Winchester was in sight, a mile to the north. To the east Ewell with a large part of the army was fighting briskly and driving the enemy on to the town. On the west a high ridge, overlooking the country to the south and southeast, was occupied by a heavy mass of Federals with guns in position. Jackson was on the pike, and near him were several regiments lying down for shelter, as the fire from the ridge was heavy and searching. A Virginian battery, Rockbridge artillery, was fighting at a great disadvantage, and already much cut up. Poetic authority asserts that "Old Virginny never tires," and the conduct of this battery justified the assertion of the muses. With scarce a leg or wheel for man and horse, gun or caisson, to stand on, it continued to hammer away at the crushing fire above.
Jackson, impassive as ever, pointed to the ridge and said, "You must carry it." I replied that my command would be up by the time I could inspect the ground, and rode to the left for that purpose. A small stream, Abraham's creek, flowed from the west through the little vale at the southern base of the ridge, the ascent of which was steep, though nowhere abrupt. At one point a broad, shallow, trough-like depression broke the surface, which was further interrupted by some low copse, outcropping stone, and two fences. On the summit the Federal lines were posted behind a stone wall, along a road coming west from the pike. Worn somewhat into the soil, this road served as a countersink and strengthened the position. Further west, there was a break in the ridge, which was occupied by a body of horse, the extreme right of the enemy's line.
There was scarce time to mark these features before the head of my column appeared, when it was filed to the left, close to the base of the ridge, for protection from the plunging fire. Meanwhile, the Rockbridge battery held on manfully and engaged the enemy's attention. Riding on the flank of my column, between it and the hostile line, I saw Jackson beside me. This was not the place for the commander of the army, and I ventured to tell him so; but he paid no attention to the remark. We reached the shallow depression spoken of, where the enemy could depress his guns, and his fire became close and fatal. Many men fell, and the whistling of shot and shell occasioned much ducking of heads in the column. This annoyed me no little, as it was but child's play to the work immediately in hand. Always an admirer of delightful "Uncle Toby," I had contracted the most villainous habit of his beloved army in Flanders, and, forgetting Jackson's presence, ripped out, "What the h—are you dodging for? If there is any more of it, you will be halted under this fire for an hour." The sharp tones of a familiar voice produced the desired effect, and the men looked as if they had swallowed ramrods; but I shall never forget the reproachful surprise expressed in Jackson's face. He placed his hand on my shoulder, said in a gentle voice, "I am afraid you are a wicked fellow," turned, and rode back to the pike.
The proper ground gained, the column faced to the front and began the ascent. At the moment the sun rose over the Blue Ridge, without cloud or mist to obscure his rays. It was a lovely Sabbath morning, the 25th of May, 1862. The clear, pure atmosphere brought the Blue Ridge and Alleghany and Massanutten almost overhead. Even the cloud of murderous smoke from the guns above made beautiful spirals in the air, and the broad fields of luxuriant wheat glistened with dew. It is remarkable how, in the midst of the most absorbing cares, one's attention may be fixed by some insignificant object, as mine was by the flight past the line of a bluebird, one of the brightest-plumaged of our feathered tribes, bearing a worm in his beak, breakfast for his callow brood. Birdie had been on the war path, and was carrying home spoil.
As we mounted we came in full view of both armies, whose efforts in other quarters had been slackened to await the result of our movement. I felt an anxiety amounting to pain for the brigade to acquit itself handsomely; and this feeling was shared by every man in it. About half way up, the enemy's horse from his right charged; and to meet it, I directed Lieutenant-Colonel Nicholls, whose regiment, the 8th, was on the left, to withhold slightly his two flank companies. By one volley, which emptied some saddles, Nicholls drove off the horse, but was soon after severely wounded. Progress was not stayed by this incident. Closing the many gaps made by the fierce fire, steadied the rather by it, and preserving an alignment that would have been creditable on parade, the brigade, with cadenced step and eyes on the foe, swept grandly over copse and ledge and fence, to crown the heights from which the enemy had melted away. Loud cheers went up from our army, prolonged to the east, where warm-hearted Ewell cheered himself hoarse, and led forward his men with renewed energy. In truth, it was a gallant feat of arms, worthy of the pen of him who immortalized the charge of the "Buffs" at Albuera.
Breaking into column, we pursued closely. Jackson came up and grasped my hand, worth a thousand words from another, and we were soon in the streets of Winchester, a quaint old town of some five thousand inhabitants. There was a little fighting in the streets, but the people were all abroad—certainly all the women and babies. They were frantic with delight, only regretting that so many "Yankees" had escaped, and seriously impeded our movements. A buxom, comely dame of some five and thirty summers, with bright eyes and tight ankles, and conscious of these advantages, was especially demonstrative, exclaiming, "Oh! you are too late—too late!" Whereupon, a tall Creole from the Teche sprang from the ranks of the 8th regiment, just passing, clasped her in his arms, and imprinted a sounding kiss on her ripe lips, with "Madame! je n'arrive jamais trop tard." A loud laugh followed, and the dame, with a rosy face but merry twinkle in her eye, escaped.
Past the town, we could see the Federals flying north on the Harper's Ferry and Martinsburg roads. Cavalry, of which there was a considerable force with the army, might have reaped a rich harvest, but none came forward. Raised in the adjoining region, our troopers were gossiping with their friends, or worse. Perhaps they thought that the war was over. Jackson joined me, and, in response to my question, "Where is the cavalry?" glowered and was silent. After several miles, finding that we were doing no good—as indeed infantry, preserving its organization, cannot hope to overtake a flying enemy—I turned into the fields and camped.
Here I will "say my say" about Confederate cavalry; and though there were exceptions to the following remarks, they were too few to qualify their general correctness. The difficulty of converting raw men into soldiers is enhanced manifold when they are mounted. Both man and horse require training, and facilities for rambling, with temptation so to do, are increased. There was but little time, and it may be said less disposition, to establish camps of instruction. Living on horseback, fearless and dashing, the men of the South afforded the best possible material for cavalry. They had every quality but discipline, and resembled Prince Charming, whose manifold gifts, bestowed by her sisters, were rendered useless by the malignant fairy. Scores of them wandered about the country like locusts, and were only less destructive to their own people than the enemy. The universal devotion of Southern women to their cause led them to give indiscriminately to all wearing the gray. Cavalry officers naturally desired to have as large commands as possible, and were too much indulged in this desire. Brigades and regiments were permitted to do work appropriate to squadrons and companies, and the cattle were unnecessarily broken down. Assuredly, our cavalry rendered much excellent service, especially when dismounted and fighting as infantry. Such able officers as Stuart, Hampton, and the younger Lees in the east, Forrest, Green, and Wheeler in the west, developed much talent for war; but their achievements, however distinguished, fell far below the standard that would have been reached had not the want of discipline impaired their efforts and those of their men.
After the camp was established, I rode back to Winchester to look after my wounded and see my sister, the same who had nursed me the previous autumn. By a second marriage she was Mrs. Dandridge, and resided in the town. Her husband, Mr. Dandridge, was on duty at Richmond. Depot of all Federal forces in the Valley, Winchester was filled with stores. Prisoners, guns, and wagons, in large numbers, had fallen into our hands. Of especial value were ordnance and medical stores.
The following day my command was moved ten miles north on the pike leading by Charlestown to Harper's Ferry, and after a day some miles east toward the Shenandoah. This was in consequence of the operations of the Federal General Shields, who, in command of a considerable force to the east of the Blue Ridge, passed Manassas Gap and drove from Front Royal a regiment of Georgians, left there by Jackson. Meanwhile, a part of the army was pushed forward to Martinsburg and beyond, while another part threatened and shelled Harper's Ferry. Jackson himself was engaged in forwarding captured stores to Staunton.
On Saturday, May 31, I received orders to move through Winchester, clear the town of stragglers, and continue to Strasburg. Few or no stragglers were found in Winchester, whence the sick and wounded, except extreme cases, had been taken. I stopped for a moment, at a house near the field of the 25th, to see Colonel Nicholls. He had suffered amputation of the arm that morning, and the surgeons forbade his removal; so that, much to my regret and more to his own, he was left. We reached camp at Strasburg after dark, a march of thirty odd miles, weather very warm. Winder, with his brigade, came in later, after a longer march from the direction of Harper's Ferry. Jackson sat some time at my camp fire that night, and was more communicative than I remember him before or after. He said Fremont, with a large force, was three miles west of our present camp, and must be defeated in the morning. Shields was moving up Luray Valley, and might cross Massanutten to Newmarket, or continue south until he turned the mountain to fall on our trains near Harrisonburg. The importance of preserving the immense trains, filled with captured stores, was great, and would engage much of his personal attention; while he relied on the army, under Ewell's direction, to deal promptly with Fremont. This he told in a low, gentle voice, and with many interruptions to afford time, as I thought and believe, for inward prayer. The men said that his anxiety about the wagons was because of the lemons among the stores.
Dawn of the following day (Sunday) was ushered in by the sound of Fremont's guns. Our lines had been early drawn out to meet him, and skirmishers pushed up to the front to attack. Much cannonading, with some rattle of small arms, ensued. The country was densely wooded, and little save the smoke from the enemy's guns could be seen. My brigade was in reserve a short distance to the rear and out of the line of fire; and here a ludicrous incident occurred. Many slaves from Louisiana had accompanied their masters to the war, and were a great nuisance on a march, foraging far and wide for "prog" for their owners' messes. To abate this, they had been put under discipline and made to march in rear of the regiments to which they pertained. They were now, some scores, assembled under a large tree, laughing, chattering, and cooking breakfast. On a sudden, a shell burst in the tree-top, rattling down leaves and branches in fine style, and the rapid decampment of the servitors was most amusing. But I must pause to give an account of my own servant, Tom Strother, who deserves honorable and affectionate mention at my hands, and serves to illustrate a phase of Southern life now passed away.
As under feudal institutions the arms of heiresses were quartered with those of the families into which they married, in the South their slaves adopted the surname of the mistress; and one curious in genealogy could trace the descent and alliances of an old family by finding out the names used by different slaves on the estate. Those of the same name were a little clannish, preserving traditions of the family from which their fathers had come, and magnifying its importance. In childhood I often listened with credulous ears to wondrous tales of the magnificence of my forefathers in Virginia and Maryland, who, these imaginative Africans insisted, dwelt in palaces, surrounded by brave, handsome sons, lovely, virtuous daughters, and countless devoted servants. The characters of many Southern children were doubtless influenced by such tales, impressive from the good faith of the narrators. My paternal grandmother was Miss Sarah Strother of Virginia, and from her estate came these Strother negroes. Tom, three years my senior, was my foster brother and early playmate. His uncle, Charles Porter Strother (to give him his full name), had been body servant to my grandfather, Colonel Richard Taylor, whom he attended in his last illness. He then filled the same office to my father, following him through his Indian and Mexican campaigns, and dying at Washington a year before his master. Tom served in Florida and Mexico as "aide-de-camp" to his uncle, after which he married and became father of a large family. On this account I hesitated to bring him to Virginia, but he would come, and was a model servant. Tall, powerful, black as ebony, he was a mirror of truth and honesty. Always cheerful, I never heard him laugh or knew of his speaking unless spoken to. He could light a fire in a minute under the most unfavorable conditions and with the most unpromising material, made the best coffee to be tasted outside of a creole kitchen, was a "dab" at camp stews and roasts, groomed my horses (one of which he rode near me), washed my linen, and was never behind time. Occasionally, when camped near a house, he would obtain starch and flat-irons, and get up my extra shirt in a way to excite the envy of a professional clear-starcher; but such red-letter days were few.
I used to fancy that there was a mute sympathy between General Jackson and Tom, as they sat silent by a camp fire, the latter respectfully withdrawn; and an incident here at Strasburg cemented this friendship. When my command was called into action, I left Tom on a hill where all was quiet. Thereafter, from a change in the enemy's dispositions, the place became rather hot, and Jackson, passing by, advised Tom to move; but he replied, if the General pleased, his master told him to stay there and would know where to find him, and he did not believe shells would trouble him. Two or three nights later, Jackson was at my fire when Tom came to give me some coffee; where upon Jackson rose and gravely shook him by the hand, and then told me the above.
After the war was closed, Tom returned with me to New Orleans, found his wife and children all right, and is now prosperous. My readers have had so much fighting lately, and are about to have so much more, as to render unnecessary an apology for introducing Tom's history.
To return. Cannonading continued without much effect, and Ewell summoned me to his presence, directing the brigade to remain in position till further orders. Jackson, busy with his trains, was not at the moment on the field, which he visited several times during the day, though I did not happen to see him. To reach Ewell, it was necessary to pass under some heavy shelling, and I found myself open to the reproach visited previously on my men. Whether from fatigue, loss of sleep, or what, there I was, nervous as a lady, ducking like a mandarin. It was disgusting, and, hoping that no one saw me, I resolved to take it out of myself the first opportunity. There is a story of Turenne, the greatest soldier of the Bourbons, which, if not true, is ben trovato. Of a nervous temperament, his legs on the eve of an action trembled to such an extent as to make it difficult to mount his horse. Looking at them contemptuously, he said: "If you could foresee the danger into which I am going to take you, you would tremble more." It was with a similar feeling, not only for my legs, but for my entire carcass, that I reached Ewell, and told him I was no more good than a frightened deer. He laughed, and replied: "Nonsense! 'tis Tom's strong coffee. Better give it up. Remain here in charge while I go out to the skirmishers. I can't make out what these people are about, for my skirmish line has stopped them. They won't advance, but stay out there in the wood, making a great fuss with their guns; and I do not wish to commit myself to much advance while Jackson is absent." With this, he put spurs to his horse and was off, and soon a brisk fusillade was heard, which seemed gradually to recede. During Ewell's absence, surrounded by his staff, I contrived to sit my horse quietly. Returning, he said: "I am completely puzzled. I have just driven everything back to the main body, which is large. Dense wood everywhere. Jackson told me not to commit myself too far. At this rate my attentions are not likely to become serious enough to commit any one. I wish Jackson was here himself." I suggested that my brigade might be moved to the extreme right, near the Capon road, by which Fremont had marched, and attempt to strike that road, as this would enable us to find out something. He replied: "Do so; that may stir them up, and I am sick of this fiddling about." Had Ewell been in command, he would have "pitched in" long before; but he was controlled by instructions not to be drawn too far from the pike.
We found the right of our line held by a Mississippi regiment, the colonel of which told me that he had advanced just before and driven the enemy. Several of his men were wounded, and he was bleeding profusely from a hit in his leg, which he was engaged in binding with a handkerchief, remarking that "it did not pester him much." Learning our purpose, he was eager to go in with us, and was not at all pleased to hear that I declined to change General Ewell's dispositions. A plucky fellow, this colonel, whose name, if ever known, I cannot recall. The brigade moved forward until the enemy was reached, when, wheeling to the left, it walked down his line. The expression is used advisedly, for it was nothing but a "walk-over." Sheep would have made as much resistance as we met. Men decamped without firing, or threw down their arms and surrendered, and it was so easy that I began to think of traps. At length we got under fire from our own skirmishers, and suffered some casualties, the only ones received in the movement.
Our whole skirmish line was advancing briskly as the Federals retired. I sought Ewell, and reported. We had a fine game before us, and the temptation to play it was great; but Jackson's orders were imperative and wise. He had his stores to save, Shields to guard against, Lee's grand strategy to promote; and all this he accomplished, alarming Washington, fastening McDowell's strong corps at Fredericksburg and preventing its junction with McClellan, on whose right flank he subsequently threw himself at Cold Harbor. He could not waste time chasing Fremont, but we, who looked from a lower standpoint, grumbled and shared the men's opinion about the lemon wagons.
The prisoners taken in our promenade were Germans, speaking no English; and we had a similar experience a few days later. In the Federal Army was a German corps, the 11th, commanded by General O.O. Howard, and called by both sides "the Flying Dutchmen." Since the time of Arminius the Germans have been a brave people; to-day, in military renown, they lead the van of the nations; but they require a cause and leaders. In our Revolutionary struggle the Hessians were unfortunate at Bennington, Saratoga, and Trenton. We have millions of German citizens, and excellent citizens they are. Let us hope that the foregoing facts may be commended to them, so their ways may be ways of peace in their adopted land.
Although the movement along the enemy's line was successful, as described, it was rash and foolish. Fremont had troops which, had they been in the place of these Germans, would have made us pass one of Rabelais's unpleasant quarters of an hour. Alarm and disgust at my own nervousness occasioned it, proving weak nerves to be the source of rash acts.
Fremont made no further sign, and as the day declined the army was recalled to the pike and marched south. Jackson, in person, gave me instructions to draw up my brigade facing west, on some hills above the pike, and distant from it several hundred yards, where I was to remain. He said that the road was crowded, and he wanted time to clear it, that Fremont was safe for the night, and our cavalry toward Winchester reported Banks returned to that place from the Potomac, but not likely to move south before the following day; then rode off, and so rapidly as to give me no time to inquire how long I was to remain, or if the cavalry would advise me in the event that Banks changed his purpose. This was near sunset, and by the time the command was in position darkness fell upon us. No fires were allowed, and, stacking arms, the men rested, munching cold rations from their haversacks. It was their first opportunity for a bite since early morning.
I threw myself on the ground, and tried in vain to sleep. No sound could be heard save the clattering of hoofs on the pike, which as the night wore on became constant. Hour after hour passed, when, thinking I heard firing to the north, I mounted and looked for the pike. The darkness was so intense that it could not have been found but for the white limestone. Some mounted men were passing, whom I halted to question. They said their command had gone on to rejoin the army, and, they supposed, had missed me in the dark; but there was a squadron behind, near the enemy's advance, which, a large cavalry force, had moved from Winchester at an early period of the day and driven our people south. This was pleasant; for Winder's brigade had marched several hours since, and a wide interval existed between us.
More firing, near and distinct, was heard, and the command was ordered down to the pike, which it reached after much stumbling and swearing, and some confusion. Fortunately, the battery, Captain Bowyer, had been sent forward at dusk to get forage, and an orderly was dispatched to put it on the march. The 6th (Irish) regiment was in rear, and I took two companies for a rear guard. The column had scarce got into motion before a party of horse rushed through the guard, knocking down several men, one of whom was severely bruised. There was a little pistol-shooting and sabre-hacking, and for some minutes things were rather mixed. The enemy's cavalry had charged ours, and driven it on the infantry. One Federal was captured and his horse given to the bruised man, who congratulated the rider on his promotion to a respectable service. I dismounted, gave my horse to Tom to lead, and marched with the guard. From time to time the enemy would charge, but we could hear him coming and be ready. The guard would halt, about face, front rank with fixed bayonets kneel, rear rank fire, when, by the light of the flash, we could see emptied saddles. Our pursuers' fire was wild, passing over head; so we had few casualties, and these slight; but they were bold and enterprising, and well led, often charging close up to the bayonets. I remarked this, whereupon the Irishmen answered, "Devil thank 'em for that same." There was no danger on the flanks. The white of the pike alone guided us. Owls could not have found their way across the fields. The face of the country has been described as a succession of rolling swells, and later the enemy got up guns, but always fired from the summits, so that his shells passed far above us, exploding in the fields. Had the guns been trained low, with canister, it might have proved uncomfortable, for the pike ran straight to the south. "It was a fine night intirely for divarsion," said the Irishmen, with which sentiment I did not agree; but they were as steady as clocks and chirpy as crickets, indulging in many a jest whenever the attentions of our friends in the rear were slackened. They had heard of Shields's proximity, and knew him to be an Irishman by birth, and that he had Irish regiments with him. During an interlude I was asked if it was not probable that we would encounter Shields, and answering affirmatively, heard: "Them Germans is poor creatures, but Shields's boys will be after fighting." Expressing a belief that my "boys" could match Shields's any day, I received loud assurance from half a hundred Tipperary throats: "You may bet your life on that, sor." Thus we beguiled the weary hours. During the night I desired to relieve the guard, but was diverted from my purpose by scornful howls of "We are the boys to see it out." As Argyle's to the tartan, my heart has warmed to an Irishman since that night.
Daylight came, and I tried to brace myself for hotter work, when a body of troops was reported in position to the south of my column. This proved to be Charles Winder with his (formerly Jackson's own) brigade. An accomplished soldier and true brother-in-arms, he had heard the enemy's guns during the night, and, knowing me to be in rear, halted and formed line to await me. His men were fed and rested, and he insisted on taking my place in the rear. Passing through Winder's line, we moved slowly, with frequent halts, so as to remain near, the enemy pressing hard during the morning. The day was uncommonly hot, the sun like fire, and water scarce along the road; and our men suffered greatly.
Just after midday my brisk young aide, Hamilton, whom I had left with Winder to bring early intelligence, came to report that officer in trouble and want of assistance. My men were so jaded as to make me unwilling to retrace ground if it could be avoided; so they were ordered to form line on the crest of the slope at hand, and I went to Winder, a mile to the rear. His brigade, renowned as the "Stonewall," was deployed on both sides of the pike, on which he had four guns. Large masses of cavalry, with guns and some sharp-shooters, were pressing him closely, while far to the north clouds of dust marked the approach of troops. His line was on one of the many swells crossing the pike at right angles, and a gentle slope led to the next crest south, beyond which my brigade was forming. The problem was to retire without giving the enemy, eager and persistent, an opportunity to charge. The situation looked so blue that I offered to move back my command; but Winder thought he could pull through, and splendidly did he accomplish it. Regiment by regiment, gun by gun, the brigade was withdrawn, always checking the enemy, though boldly led. Winder, cool as a professor playing the new German game, directed every movement in person, and the men were worthy of him and of their first commander, Jackson. It was very close work in the vale before he reached the next crest, and heavy volleys were necessary to stay our plucky foes; but, once there, my command showed so strong as to impress the enemy, who halted to reconnoiter, and the two brigades were united without further trouble.
The position was good, my battery was at hand, and our men were so fatigued that we debated whether it was not more comfortable to fight than retreat. We could hold the ground for hours against cavalry, and night would probably come before infantry got up, while retreat was certain to bring the cavalry on us. At this juncture up came General Turner Ashby, followed by a considerable force of horse, with guns. This officer had been engaged in destroying bridges in Luray Valley, to prevent Shields from crossing that branch of the Shenandoah, and now came, much to our satisfaction, to take charge of the rear. He proceeded to pay his respects to our friends, and soon took them off our hands. We remained an hour to rest the men and give Ashby time to make his dispositions, then moved on.
Before sunset heavy clouds gathered, and the intense heat was broken by a regular downpour, in the midst of which we crossed the bridge over the west branch of the Shenandoah—a large stream—at Mount Jackson, and camped. There was not a dry thread about my person, and my boots would have furnished a respectable bath. Notwithstanding the flood, Tom soon had a fire, and was off to hunt forage for man and beast. Here we were less than ten miles from Newmarket, between which and this point the army was camped. Jackson was easy about Massanutten Gap. Shields must march south of the mountain to reach him, while the river, just crossed, was now impassable except by bridge.
We remained thirty-six hours in this camp, from the evening of the 2d until the morning of the 4th of June—a welcome rest to all. Two days of light marching carried us thence to Harrisonburg, thirty miles. Here Jackson quitted the pike leading to Staunton, and took the road to Port Republic. This village, twelve miles southeast of Harrisonburg, lies at the base of the Blue Ridge, on the east bank of the Shenandoah. Several streams unite here to form the east (locally called south) branch of that river; and here too was the only bridge from Front Royal south, all others having been destroyed by Ashby to prevent Shields from crossing. This commander was pushing a part of his force south, from Front Royal and Luray, on the east bank.
The army passed the night of June 5 in camp three miles from Harrisonburg toward Port Republic. Ewell's division, which I had rejoined for the first time since we met Jackson, was in rear; and the rear brigade was General George Stewart's, composed of one Maryland and two Virginia regiments. My command was immediately in advance of Stewart's. Ashby had burnt the bridge at Mount Jackson to delay Fremont, and was camped with his horse in advance of Harrisonburg. The road to Port Republic was heavy from recent rains, causing much delay to trains, so that we did not move on the morning of the 6th. Early in the day Fremont, reenforced from Banks, got up; and his cavalry, vigorously led, pushed Ashby through Harrisonburg, where a sharp action occurred, resulting in the capture of many Federals—among others, Colonel Percy Wyndham, commanding brigade, whose meeting with Major Wheat has been described. Later, while Ewell was conversing with me, a message from Ashby took him to the rear. Federal cavalry, supported by infantry, was advancing on Ashby. Stewart's brigade was lying in a wood, under cover of which Ewell placed it in position. A severe struggle ensued; the enemy was driven, and many prisoners were taken. I had ridden back with Ewell, and so witnessed the affair, uncommonly spirited, and creditable to both sides. Colonel Kane of Philadelphia was among the prisoners and painfully wounded. Having known his father, Judge Kane, as well as his brother, the Arctic explorer, I solicited and obtained from Jackson his parole.
Colonel Nicholls, left wounded near Winchester, had married a short time previous to the war, and his young wife now appeared, seeking to join her husband. Jackson referred her request to Ewell, who passed it to me. Of this I was informed by Captain Nicholls, 8th regiment, brother to the colonel, killed a few days after at Cold Harbor. Much cavalry skirmishing was still going on around Harrisonburg, dangerous for a lady to pass through; and besides, she had come from Port Republic, seen our situation, and might be indiscreet. These considerations were stated to Captain Nicholls, but his sister-in-law insisted on seeing me. A small, fairy-like creature, plucky as a "Dandie Dinmont" terrier, and with a heart as big as Massanutten, she was seated in a nondescript trap, drawn by two mules, driven by a negro. One look from the great, tearful eyes made of me an abject coward, and I basely shuffled the refusal to let her pass on to Jackson. The Parthian glance of contempt that reached me through her tears showed that the lady understood and despised my paltering. Nicholls was speedily exchanged, became a general officer, lost a foot at Chancellorsville, and, after leading his people up out of captivity, is now the conservative Governor of Louisiana.
The skirmishing spoken of in the above connection developed into severe work, in which General Ashby was killed. Alluding to his death in an official report, Jackson says, "As a partisan officer I never knew his superior." Like Claverhouse, "with a face that painters loved to limn and ladies look upon," he was the most daring and accomplished rider in a region of horsemen. His courage was so brilliant as to elicit applause from friend and foe, but he was without capacity or disposition to enforce discipline on his men. I witnessed his deep chagrin at the conduct of our troopers after the enemy had been driven from Winchester in May. With proper organization and discipline, his bold riders under his lead might have accomplished all that the lamented Nolan claimed as possible for light cavalry. Popular imagination, especially the female, is much in error as to these matters. Graceful young cavaliers, with flowing locks, leaping cannon to saber countless foes, make a captivating picture. In the language of Bosquet, "'Tis beautiful, but 'tis not war"; and grave mishaps have been occasioned by this misconception. Valor is as necessary now as ever in war, but disciplined, subordinated valor, admitting the courage and energies of all to be welded and directed to a common end. It is much to be desired that the ladies would consent to correct their opinions; for, after all, their approval stimulates our best fighting.
On the 7th of June we marched to a place within four miles of Port Republic, called Cross Keys, where several roads met. Near at hand was the meeting-house of a sect of German Quakers, Tunkers or Dunkards, as they are indifferently named. Here Jackson determined to await and fight Fremont, who followed him hard; but as a part of Shields's force was now unpleasantly near, he pushed on to Port Republic with Winder's and other infantry, and a battery, which camped on the hither bank of the river. Jackson himself, with his staff and a mounted escort, crossed the bridge and passed the night in the village.
Ewell, in immediate charge at Cross Keys, was ready early in the morning of the 8th, when Fremont attacked. The ground was undulating, with much wood, and no extended view could be had. In my front the attack, if such it could be called, was feeble in the extreme—an affair of skirmishers, in which the enemy yielded to the slightest pressure. A staff officer of Jackson's, in hot haste, came with orders from his chief to march my brigade double-quick to Port Republic. Elzey's brigade, in second line to the rear, was asked to take my place and relieve my skirmishers; then, advising the staff officer to notify Ewell, whom he had not seen, we started on the run, for such a message from Jackson meant business. Two of the intervening miles were quickly passed, when another officer appeared with orders to halt. In half an hour, during which the sound of battle at Cross Keys thickened, Jackson came. As before stated, he had passed the night in the village, with his staff and escort. Up as usual at dawn, he started alone to recross the bridge, leaving his people to follow. The bridge was a few yards below the last house in the village, and some mist overhung the river. Under cover of this a small body of horse, with one gun, from Shields's forces, had reached the east end of the bridge and trained the gun on it. Jackson was within an ace of capture. As he spurred across, the gun was fired on him, but without effect, and the sound brought up staff and escort, when the horse retired north. This incident occasioned the order to me. After relating it (all save his own danger), Jackson passed on to Ewell. Thither I followed, to remain in reserve until the general forward movement in the afternoon, by which Fremont was driven back with loss of prisoners. We did not persist far, as Shields's force was near upon us. From Ewell I learned that there had been some pretty fighting in the morning, though less than might have been expected from Fremont's numbers. I know not if the presence of this commander had a benumbing influence on his troops, but certainly his advanced cavalry and infantry had proved bold and enterprising.
In the evening we moved to the river and camped. Winder's and other brigades crossed the bridge, and during the night Ewell, with most of the army, drew near, leaving Trimble's brigade and the horse at Cross Keys. No one apprehended another advance by Fremont. The following morning, Sunday, June 9, my command passed the bridge, moved several hundred yards down the road, and halted. Our trains had gone east over the Blue Ridge. The sun appeared above the mountain while the men were quietly breakfasting. Suddenly, from below, was heard the din of battle, loud and sustained, artillery and small arms. The men sprang into ranks, formed column, and marched, and I galloped forward a short mile to see the following scene:
From the mountain, clothed to its base with undergrowth and timber, a level—clear, open, and smooth—extended to the river. This plain was some thousand yards in width. Half a mile north, a gorge, through which flowed a small stream, cut the mountain at a right angle. The northern shoulder of this gorge projected farther into the plain than the southern, and on an elevated plateau of the shoulder were placed six guns, sweeping every inch of the plain to the south. Federal lines, their right touching the river, were advancing steadily, with banners flying and arms gleaming in the sun. A gallant show, they came on. Winder's and another brigade, with a battery, opposed them. This small force was suffering cruelly, and its skirmishers were driven in on their thin supporting line. As my Irishmen predicted, "Shields's boys were after fighting." Below, Ewell was hurrying his men over the bridge, but it looked as if we should be doubled up on him ere he could cross and develop much strength. Jackson was on the road, a little in advance of his line, where the fire was hottest, with reins on his horse's neck, seemingly in prayer. Attracted by my approach, he said, in his usual voice, "Delightful excitement." I replied that it was pleasant to learn he was enjoying himself, but thought he might have an indigestion of such fun if the six-gun battery was not silenced. He summoned a young officer from his staff, and pointed up the mountain. The head of my approaching column was turned short up the slope, and speedily came to a path running parallel with the river. We took this path, the guide leading the way. From him I learned that the plateau occupied by the battery had been used for a charcoal kiln, and the path we were following, made by the burners in hauling wood, came upon the gorge opposite the battery. Moving briskly, we reached the hither side a few yards from the guns. Infantry was posted near, and riflemen were in the undergrowth on the slope above. Our approach, masked by timber, was unexpected. The battery was firing rapidly, enabled from elevation to fire over the advancing lines. The head of my column began to deploy under cover for attack, when the sounds of battle to our rear appeared to recede, and a loud Federal cheer was heard, proving Jackson to be hard pressed. It was rather an anxious moment, demanding instant action. Leaving a staff officer to direct my rear regiment—the 7th, Colonel Hays—to form in the wood as a reserve, I ordered the attack, though the deployment was not completed, and our rapid march by a narrow path had occasioned some disorder. With a rush and shout the gorge was passed and we were in the battery. Surprise had aided us, but the enemy's infantry rallied in a moment and drove us out. We returned, to be driven a second time. The riflemen on the slope worried us no little, and two companies of the 9th regiment were sent up the gorge to gain ground above and dislodge them, which was accomplished. The fighting in and around the battery was hand to hand, and many fell from bayonet wounds. Even the artillerymen used their rammers in a way not laid down in the Manual, and died at their guns. As Conan said to the devil, "'Twas claw for claw." I called for Hays, but he, the promptest of men, and his splendid regiment, could not be found. Something unexpected had occurred, but there was no time for speculation. With a desperate rally, in which I believe the drummer-boys shared, we carried the battery for the third time, and held it. Infantry and riflemen had been driven off, and we began to feel a little comfortable, when the enemy, arrested in his advance by our attack, appeared. He had countermarched, and, with left near the river, came into full view of our situation. Wheeling to the right, with colors advanced, like a solid wall he marched straight upon us. There seemed nothing left but to set our backs to the mountain and die hard. At the instant, crashing through the underwood, came Ewell, outriding staff and escort. He produced the effect of a reenforcement, and was welcomed with cheers. The line before us halted and threw forward skirmishers. A moment later, a shell came shrieking along it, loud Confederate cheers reached our delighted ears, and Jackson, freed from his toils, rushed up like a whirlwind, the enemy in rapid retreat. We turned the captured guns on them as they passed, Ewell serving as a gunner. Though rapid, the retreat never became a rout. Fortune had refused her smiles, but Shields's brave "boys" preserved their organization and were formidable to the last; and had Shields himself, with his whole command, been on the field, we should have had tough work indeed.
Jackson came up, with intense light in his eyes, grasped my hand, and said the brigade should have the captured battery. I thought the men would go mad with cheering, especially the Irishmen. A huge fellow, with one eye closed and half his whiskers burned by powder, was riding cock-horse on a gun, and, catching my attention, yelled out, "We told you to bet on your boys." Their success against brother Patlanders seemed doubly welcome. Strange people, these Irish! Fighting every one's battles, and cheerfully taking the hot end of the poker, they are only found wanting when engaged in what they believe to be their national cause. Excepting the defense of Limerick under brilliant Sarsfield, I recall no domestic struggle in which they have shown their worth.
While Jackson pursued the enemy without much effect, as his cavalry, left in front of Fremont, could not get over till late, we attended to the wounded and performed the last offices to the dead, our own and the Federal. I have never seen so many dead and wounded in the same limited space. A large farmhouse on the plain, opposite the mouth of the gorge, was converted into a hospital. Ere long my lost 7th regiment, sadly cut up, rejoined. This regiment was in rear of the column when we left Jackson to gain the path in the woods, and before it filed out of the road his thin line was so pressed that Jackson ordered Hays to stop the enemy's rush. This was done, for the 7th would have stopped a herd of elephants, but at a fearful cost. Colonel Hays was severely wounded, among many others, and the number of killed was large. Upon my promotion to Major-General, Hays succeeded to the command of the brigade, served through the war, returned to the practice of the law, and died in New Orleans. He was brother to Colonel Jack Hays, formerly of Texas, now of California, and shared much of the fighting ability of that renowned partisan.
The young officer who guided us through the wood deserves mention, as he was one of the first to reach the battery, where he was killed. Lieutenant English, near Harper's Ferry, Virginia, proved to be his name and place of birth.
Many hours passed in discharge of sad duties to the wounded and dead, during which Fremont appeared on the opposite bank of the river and opened his guns; but, observing doubtless our occupation, he ceased his fire, and after a short time withdrew. It may be added here that Jackson had caused such alarm at Washington as to start Milroy, Banks, Fremont, and Shields toward that capital, and the great valley was cleared of the enemy.
We passed the night high up the mountain, where we moved to reach our supply wagons. A cold rain was falling, and before we found them every one was tired and famished. I rather took it out of the train-master for pushing so far up, although I had lunched comfortably from the haversack of a dead Federal. It is not pleasant to think of now, but war is a little hardening.
On the 12th of June the army moved down to the river, above Port Republic, where the valley was wide, with many trees, and no enemy to worry or make us afraid. Here closed Jackson's wonderful Valley campaign of 1862.
[Footnote 3: A part of the foregoing text was published in the number of the "North American Review" for March, 1878, under the title of "Stonewall Jackson and the Valley Campaign." In a kind and friendly letter, dated New York, March 21, General Shields corrects some misapprehensions into which I had fallen, more especially concerning his personal connection with the events described. I had been unable to procure a copy of General Shields's report, which, he informs me in the same letter, was suppressed by Secretary Stanton.]
The Louisiana brigade marched from its camp near Conrad's store, to join Jackson at Newmarket, on the 21st of May. In twenty days it marched over two hundred miles, fought in five actions, of which three were severe, and several skirmishes, and, though it had suffered heavy loss in officers and men, was yet strong, hard as nails, and full of confidence. I have felt it a duty to set forth the achievements of the brigade, than which no man ever led braver into action, in their proper light, because such reputation as I gained in this campaign is to be ascribed to its excellence.
For the first time since several weeks, friend Ewell and I had a chance to renew our talks; but events soon parted us again. Subsequently he was wounded in the knee at the second battle of Manassas, and suffered amputation of the leg in consequence. His absence of mind nearly proved fatal. Forgetting his condition, he suddenly started to walk, came down on the stump, imperfectly healed, and produced violent haemorrhage.
About the close of the war he married Mrs. Brown, a widow, and daughter of Judge Campbell, a distinguished citizen of Tennessee, who had represented the United States at the court of St. Petersburg, where this lady was born. She was a kinswoman of Ewell, and said to have been his early love. He brought her to New Orleans in 1866, where I hastened to see him. He took me by the hand and presented me to "my wife, Mrs. Brown." How well I remember our chat! How he talked of his plans and hopes and happiness, and of his great lot of books, which he was afraid he would never be able to read through. The while "my wife, Mrs. Brown," sat by, handsome as a picture, smiling on her General, as well she might, so noble a gentleman. A few short years, and both he and his wife passed away within an hour of each other; but his last years were made happy by her companionship, and comfortable by the wealth she had brought him. Dear Dick Ewell! Virginia never bred a truer gentleman, a braver soldier, nor an odder, more lovable fellow.
On the second day in this camp General Winder came to me and said that he had asked leave to go to Richmond, been refused, and resigned. He commanded Jackson's old brigade, and was aggrieved by some unjust interference. Holding Winder in high esteem, I hoped to save him to the army, and went to Jackson, to whose magnanimity I appealed, and to arouse this dwelt on the rich harvest of glory he had reaped in his brilliant campaign. Observing him closely, I caught a glimpse of the man's inner nature. It was but a glimpse. The curtain closed, and he was absorbed in prayer. Yet in that moment I saw an ambition boundless as Cromwell's, and as merciless. This latter quality was exhibited in his treatment of General Richard Garnett, cousin to Robert Garnett, before mentioned, and his codisciple at West Point. I have never met officer or soldier, present at Kernstown, who failed to condemn the harsh treatment of Garnett after that action. Richard Garnett was subsequently restored to command at my instance near Jackson, and fell on the field of Gettysburg.
No reply was made to my effort for Winder, and I rose to take my leave, when Jackson said he would ride with me. We passed silently along the way to my camp, where he left me. That night a few lines came from Winder, to inform me that Jackson had called on him, and his resignation was withdrawn.
Charles Winder was born in Maryland, graduated at West Point in 1850, embarked soon thereafter for California in charge of a detachment of recruits, was wrecked on the coast, and saved his men by his coolness and energy. He left the United States army to join the Confederacy, and was killed at Cedar Run some weeks after this period. Had he lived, he would have reached and adorned high position.
And now a great weariness and depression fell upon me. I was threatened with a return of the illness experienced the previous autumn. For many weeks I had received no intelligence from my family. New Orleans had fallen, and my wife and children resided there or on an estate near the city. I hoped to learn of them at Richmond; change might benefit health, and matters were quiet in the Valley. Accordingly, a short leave was asked for and granted; and although I returned within three days to join my command on the march to Cold Harbor, we were absorbed in the larger army operating against McClellan, and I saw but little of Jackson.
I have written that he was ambitious; and his ambition was vast, all-absorbing. Like the unhappy wretch from whose shoulders sprang the foul serpent, he loathed it, perhaps feared it; but he could not escape it—it was himself—nor rend it—it was his own flesh. He fought it with prayer, constant and earnest—Apollyon and Christian in ceaseless combat. What limit to set to his ability I know not, for he was ever superior to occasion. Under ordinary circumstances it was difficult to estimate him because of his peculiarities—peculiarities that would have made a lesser man absurd, but that served to enhance his martial fame, as those of Samuel Johnson did his literary eminence. He once observed, in reply to an allusion to his severe marching, that it was better to lose one man in marching than five in fighting; and, acting on this, he invariably surprised the enemy—Milroy at McDowell, Banks and Fremont in the Valley, McClellan's right at Cold Harbor, Pope at second Manassas.
Fortunate in his death, he fell at the summit of glory, before the sun of the Confederacy had set, ere defeat, and suffering, and selfishness could turn their fangs upon him. As one man, the South wept for him; foreign nations shared the grief; even Federals praised him. With Wolfe and Nelson and Havelock, he took his place in the hearts of English-speaking peoples.
In the first years of this century, a great battle was fought on the plains of the Danube. A determined charge on the Austrian center gained the victory for France. The courage and example of a private soldier, who there fell, contributed much to the success of the charge. Ever after, at the parades of his battalion, the name of Latour d'Auvergne was first called, when the oldest sergeant stepped to the front and answered, "Died on the field of honor." In Valhalla, beyond the grave, where spirits of warriors assemble, when on the roll of heroes the name of Jackson is reached, it will be for the majestic shade of Lee to pronounce the highest eulogy known to our race—"Died on the field of duty."
I reached Richmond, by Charlottesville and Lynchburg, the day after leaving camp, and went to the war office, where I found letters from my family. My wife and children had left New Orleans on a steamer just as Farragut's fleet arrived, and were on the Atchafalaya River with friends, all well. While reading my letters, an acquaintance in high position in the office greeted me, but went on to say, if I knew what was afoot, my stay in Richmond would be short. Taking the hint, and feeling improved in health in consequence of relief from anxiety about my family, I returned to the station at once, and took rail to Charlottesville. Arrived there, I met the Valley army in march to the southeast, and joined my command.
That night we camped between Charlottesville and Gordonsville, in Orange County, the birthplace of my father. A distant kinsman, whom I had never met, came to invite me to his house in the neighborhood. Learning that I always slept in camp, he seemed so much distressed as to get my consent to breakfast with him, if he would engage to have breakfast at the barbarous hour of sunrise. His house was a little distant from the road; so, the following morning, he sent a mounted groom to show the way. My aide, young Hamilton, accompanied me, and Tom of course followed. It was a fine old mansion, surrounded by well-kept grounds. This immediate region had not yet been touched by war. Flowering plants and rose trees, in full bloom, attested the glorious wealth of June. On the broad portico, to welcome us, stood the host, with his fresh, charming wife, and, a little retired, a white-headed butler. Greetings over with host and lady, this delightful creature, with ebon face beaming hospitality, advanced, holding a salver, on which rested a huge silver goblet filled with Virginia's nectar, mint julep. Quantities of cracked ice rattled refreshingly in the goblet; sprigs of fragrant mint peered above its broad rim; a mass of white sugar, too sweetly indolent to melt, rested on the mint; and, like rose buds on a snow bank, luscious strawberries crowned the sugar. Ah! that julep! Mars ne'er received such tipple from the hands of Ganymede. Breakfast was announced, and what a breakfast! A beautiful service, snowy table cloth, damask napkins, long unknown; above all, a lovely woman in crisp gown, with more and handsomer roses on her cheek than in her garden. 'Twas an idyl in the midst of the stern realities of war! The table groaned beneath its viands. Sable servitors brought in, hot and hot from the kitchen, cakes of wondrous forms, inventions of the tropical imagination of Africa, inflamed by Virginian hospitality. I was rather a moderate trencherman, but the performance of Hamilton was Gargantuan, alarming. Duty dragged us from this Eden; yet in hurried adieus I did not forget to claim of the fair hostess the privilege of a cousin. I watched Hamilton narrowly for a time. The youth wore a sodden, apoplectic look, quite out of his usual brisk form. A gallop of some miles put him right, but for many days he dilated on the breakfast with the gusto of one of Hannibal's veterans on the delights of Capua.
"THE SEVEN DAYS AROUND RICHMOND."
Leaving Gordonsville, we proceeded in a southeasterly direction, passing Louisa Court House and Frederickshall, and camped at Ashland on the Fredericksburg Railway, twelve miles north of Richmond, on the evening of the 25th of June. To deceive the enemy, General Lee had sent to the Valley a considerable force under Generals Whiting, Hood, and Lawton. The movement was openly made and speedily known at Washington, where it produced the desired impression, that Jackson would invade Maryland from the Valley. These troops reached Staunton by rail on the 17th, and, without leaving the train, turned back to Gordonsville, where they united with Jackson. The line from Gordonsville to Frederickshall, south of which point it had been interrupted, was used to facilitate our movement, but this was slow and uncertain. The advance frequently halted or changed direction. We were pushing between McDowell and McClellan's right, over ground recently occupied by the enemy. Bridges had been destroyed, and, to conceal the movement, no guides were trusted—an over-caution occasioning delay.
During the day and night of the 25th I suffered from severe pains in the head and loins, and on the morning of the 26th found it impossible to mount my horse; so the brigade marched under the senior colonel, Seymour, 6th regiment. A small ambulance was left with me, and my staff was directed to accompany Seymour and send back word if an engagement was imminent. Several messages came during the day, the last after nightfall, reporting the command to be camped near Pole Green Church, beyond the Chickahominy; so far, no fighting. Lying on the floor of a vacant house at Ashland, I had scarce consciousness to comprehend these messages. Pains in head and back continued, with loss of power to move my limbs.
Toward daylight of the 27th sleep came from exhaustion, and lasted some hours. From this I was aroused by sounds of artillery, loud and constant, brought by the easterly wind. Tom raised me into a sitting posture, and administered a cup of strong coffee. The sound of battle continued until it became unendurable, and I was put into the ambulance by Tom and the driver, the former following with the horses. We took the route by which the troops had marched, the din of conflict increasing with every mile, the rattle of small arms mingling with the thud of guns. After weary hours of rough road, every jolt on which threatened to destroy my remaining vitality, we approached Cold Harbor and met numbers of wounded. Among these was General Elzey, with a dreadful wound in the head and face. His aide was taking him to the rear in an ambulance, and, recognizing Tom, stopped a moment to tell of the fight. Ewell's division, to which Elzey and I belonged, had just been engaged with heavy loss. This was too much for any illness, and I managed somehow to struggle on to my horse and get into the action.
It was a wild scene. Battle was raging furiously. Shot, shell, and ball exploded and whistled. Hundreds of wounded were being carried off, while the ground was strewn with dead. Dense thickets of small pines covered much of the field, further obscured by clouds of smoke. The first troops encountered were D.H. Hill's, and, making way through these, I came upon Winder's, moving across the front from right to left. Then succeeded Elzey's of Ewell's division, and, across the road leading to Gaines's Mill, my own. Mangled and bleeding, as were all of Ewell's, it was holding the ground it had won close to the enemy's line, but unable to advance. The sun was setting as I joined, and at the moment cheers came up from our left, raised by Winder's command, which had turned and was sweeping the Federal right, while Lawton's Georgians, fresh and eager, attacked in our front. The enemy gave way, and, under cover of the night, retired over the Chickahominy. Firing continued for two hours, though darkness concealed everything.
The loss in my command was distressing. Wheat, of whom I have written, was gone, and Seymour, and many others. I had a wretched feeling of guilt, especially about Seymour, who led the brigade and died in my place. Colonel Seymour was born in Georgia, but had long resided in New Orleans, where he edited the leading commercial paper—a man of culture, respected of all. In early life he had served in Indian and Mexican wars, and his high spirit brought him to this, though past middle age. Brave old Seymour! I can see him now, mounting the hill at Winchester, on foot, with sword and cap in hand, his thin gray locks streaming, turning to his sturdy Irishmen with "Steady, men! dress to the right!" Georgia has been fertile of worthies, but will produce none more deserving than Colonel Seymour.
The following morning, while looking to the burial of the dead and care of the wounded, I had an opportunity of examining the field of battle. The campaign around Richmond is too well known to justify me in entering into details, and I shall confine myself to events within my own experience, only enlarging on such general features as are necessary to explain criticism.
The Chickahominy, a sluggish stream and subject to floods, flows through a low, marshy bottom, draining the country between the Pamunky or York and James Rivers, into which last it discharges many miles below Richmond. The upper portion of its course from the crossing of the Central Railroad, six miles north of Richmond, to Long Bridge, some three times that distance to the southeast, is parallel with both the above-mentioned rivers. The bridges with which we were concerned at and after Cold Harbor were the Federal military bridges, Grapevine, York River Railroad, Bottom's, and Long, the lowermost; after which the stream, affected by tide, spread over a marshy country. The upper or Grapevine Bridge was on the road leading due south from Cold Harbor, and, passing Savage's Station on York River Railroad, united with the Williamsburg road, which ran east from Richmond to Bottom's Bridge. A branch from this Williamsburg road continued on the south bank of the Chickahominy to Long Bridge, where it joined the Charles City, Darbytown, and Newmarket roads coming south-southeast from Richmond. Many other roads, with no names or confusing ones, crossed this region, which was densely wooded and intersected by sluggish streams, draining the marshes into both the Chickahominy and James. We came upon two of these country roads leading in quite different directions, but bearing the same name, Grapevine; and it will astound advocates of phonics to learn that the name of Darby (whence Darbytown) was thus pronounced, while it was spelt and written Enroughty. A German philologist might have discovered, unaided, the connection between the sound and the letters; but it would hardly have occurred to mortals of less erudition.
At the beginning of operations in this Richmond campaign, Lee had seventy-five thousand men, McClellan one hundred thousand. Round numbers are here given, but they are taken from official sources. A high opinion has been expressed of the strategy of Lee, by which Jackson's forces from the Valley were suddenly thrust between McDowell and McClellan's right, and it deserves all praise; but the tactics on the field were vastly inferior to the strategy. Indeed, it may be confidently asserted that from Cold Harbor to Malvern Hill, inclusive, there was nothing but a series of blunders, one after another, and all huge. The Confederate commanders knew no more about the topography of the country than they did about Central Africa. Here was a limited district, the whole of it within a day's march of the city of Richmond, capital of Virginia and the Confederacy, almost the first spot on the continent occupied by the British race, the Chickahominy itself classic by legends of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas; and yet we were profoundly ignorant of the country, were without maps, sketches, or proper guides, and nearly as helpless as if we had been suddenly transferred to the banks of the Lualaba. The day before the battle of Malvern Hill, President Davis could not find a guide with intelligence enough to show him the way from one of our columns to another; and this fact I have from him. People find a small cable in the middle of the ocean, a thousand fathoms below the surface. For two days we lost McClellan's great army in a few miles of woodland, and never had any definite knowledge of its movements. Let it be remembered, too, that McClellan had opened the peninsular campaign weeks before, indicating this very region to be the necessary theatre of conflict; that the Confederate commander (up to the time of his wound at Fair Oaks), General Johnston, had been a topographical engineer in the United States army; while his successor, General Lee—another engineer—had been on duty at the war office in Richmond and in constant intercourse with President Davis, who was educated at West Point and served seven years; and then think of our ignorance in a military sense of the ground over which we were called to fight. Every one must agree that it was amazing. Even now, I can scarcely realize it. McClellan was as superior to us in knowledge of our own land as were the Germans to the French in their late war, and owed the success of his retreat to it, although credit must be given to his ability. We had much praying at various headquarters, and large reliance on special providences; but none were vouchsafed, by pillar of cloud or fire, to supplement our ignorance; so we blundered on like people trying to read without knowledge of their letters.
To return to the field of Cold Harbor, the morning (Saturday) after the battle. McClellan had chosen an excellent position, covering his military bridges over the Chickahominy. His left, resting on the river, and his center were covered by a small stream, one of its affluents, boggy and of difficult passage. His right was on high ground, near Cold Harbor, in a dense thicket of pine-scrub, with artillery massed. This position, three miles in extent, and enfiladed in front by heavy guns on the south bank of the Chickahominy, was held by three lines of infantry, one above the other on the rising ground, which was crowned with numerous batteries, concealed by timber. McClellan reported thirty-six thousand men present, including Sykes's and Porter's regulars; but reenforcements brought over during the action probably increased this number to fifty thousand. Lee had forty thousand on the field.
Longstreet attacked on our right, near the river, A.P. Hill on his left. Jackson approached Cold Harbor from the north, his divisions in column on one road as follows: Ewell's, Whiting's, Lawton's (Georgians), and Winder's. At Cold Harbor Jackson united with the division of D.H. Hill, in advance of him, and directed it to find and attack the enemy's right. His own divisions, in the order above named, were to come up on D.H. Hill's right and connect it with A.P. Hill's left. Artillery was only employed by the Confederates late in the day, and on their extreme left.
D.H. Hill and Ewell were speedily engaged, and suffered heavily, as did A.P. Hill and Longstreet, all attacking in front. Ignorance of the ground, densely wooded, and want of guides occasioned confusion and delay in the divisions to Ewell's rear. Lawton came to Ewell's support, Whiting to A.P. Hill's; while of the three brigades of the last division, the second went to Longstreet's right, the third to A.P. Hill's center, and the first was taken by Winder, with a fine soldierly instinct, from right to left, across the battle, to reenforce D.H. Hill and turn the Federal position. This movement was decisive, and if executed earlier would have saved loss of men and time. So much for fighting on unknown ground.
During the day of Saturday, McClellan remained on the south bank of the Chickahominy with guns in position guarding his bridges; and the only movement made by Lee was to send Stuart's cavalry east to the river terminus of the York Railway, and Ewell's division to the bridge of that line over the Chickahominy and to Bottom's, a short distance below. Late in the evening General Lee informed me that I would remain the following day to guard Bottom's and the railway bridges, while Stuart's cavalry watched the river below to Long Bridge and beyond. From all indications, he thought that McClellan would withdraw during the night, and expected to cross the river in the morning to unite with Magruder and Huger in pursuit. Holmes's division was to be brought from the south side of the James to bar the enemy's road; and he expressed some confidence that his dispositions would inflict serious loss on McClellan's army, if he could receive prompt and accurate information of that General's movements. Meantime, I would remain until the following (Sunday) evening, unless sooner convinced of the enemy's designs, when I would cross Grapevine Bridge and follow Jackson. It is to be presumed that General Lee disclosed so much of his plans to his subordinates as he deemed necessary to insure their intelligent execution.
The morning light showed that the Federals had destroyed a part of the railway bridge near the center of the stream. We were opposite to Savage's Station (on the line toward Richmond), from which distinct sounds reached us, but dense forest limited vision to the margin of the river. Smoke rising above the trees, and explosions, indicated the destruction of stores. In the afternoon, a great noise of battle came—artillery, small arms, shouts. This, as we afterward learned, was Magruder's engagement at Savage's Station, but this din of combat was silenced to our ears by the following incident: A train was heard approaching from Savage's. Gathering speed, it came rushing on, and quickly emerged from the forest, two engines drawing a long string of carriages. Reaching the bridge, the engines exploded with terrific noise, followed in succession by explosions of the carriages, laden with ammunition. Shells burst in all directions, the river was lashed into foam, trees were torn for acres around, and several of my men were wounded. The enemy had taken this means of destroying surplus ammunition.
After this queer action had ceased, as sunset was approaching, and all quiet at Bottom's Bridge, we moved up stream and crossed Grapevine Bridge, repaired by Jackson earlier in the day. Darkness fell as we bivouacked on the low ground south of the river. A heavy rain came down, converting the ground into a lake, in the midst of which a half-drowned courier, with a dispatch, was brought to me. With difficulty, underneath an ambulance, a light was struck to read the dispatch, which proved to be from Magruder, asking for reenforcements in front of Savage's Station, where he was then engaged. Several hours had elapsed since the courier left Magruder, and he could tell nothing beyond the fact of the engagement, the noise of which we had heard. It must be borne in mind that, during the operations north of the Chickahominy, the divisions of Magruder and Huger had remained in position between McClellan's left and Richmond.
In the night the enemy disappeared from Savage's, near which we passed the following (Monday) morning, in march to rejoin Jackson. We encountered troops of Magruder's, Huger's, and other divisions, seeking to find their proper routes. Countless questions about roads were asked in vain. At length, we discovered that Jackson had followed the one nearest the Chickahominy, and about noon overtook the rear of his column, halted in the road. Artillery could be heard in front, and a staff officer was sent to find out the meaning of it.
Enfeebled by pain, I used an ambulance to husband my little strength for emergencies; and I think it was here that General Wade Hampton, accompanied by Senator Wigfall, came up to me. Hampton had been promoted to brigadier for gallantry at Manassas, where he was wounded, but not yet assigned to a command. Wigfall had left the army to take a seat in the Confederate Congress as Senator from Texas, and from him I learned that he was in hopes some brigadier would be killed to make a place for Hampton, to whom, as volunteer aide, he proposed to attach himself and see the fun. Finding me extended in an ambulance, he doubtless thought he had met his opportunity, and felt aggrieved that I was not in extremis. Hampton took command of a brigade in Jackson's old division the next day, and perhaps his friend Wigfall enjoyed himself at Malvern Hill.
The staff officer returned from the front and reported the situation. D.H. Hill's division was at White Oak Swamp Creek, a slough, and one of "despond" to us, draining to the Chickahominy. The enemy held the high ground beyond, and artillery fire was continuous, but no infantry was engaged. There was no change until nightfall, when we bivouacked where we were. Our loss, one artilleryman mortally wounded, proved that no serious effort to pass the slough was made; yet a prize was in reach worth the loss of thousands. While we were idly shelling the wood, behind which lay Franklin's corps—the right of McClellan's army—scarce a rifle shot to the southwest, but concealed by intervening forest, Longstreet and A.P. Hill were fighting the bloody engagement of Frazier's Farm with Heintzelman and McCall, the Federal center and left. Again, fractions against masses; for of the two divisions expected to support them, Magruder's and Huger's, the latter did not get up, and the former was taken off by a misleading message from Holmes, who, from the south bank of the James, had reached the Newmarket road a day later than was intended. Longstreet and Hill fought into the night, held a large part of the field, and captured many prisoners (including General McCall) and guns, but their own loss was severe. After the action, Franklin quietly passed within a few yards of them, joined Heintzelman, and with him gained Malvern Hill, which McClellan had fortified during the day, employing for the purpose the commands of Keyes and Porter.
On the succeeding morning (July 1), Jackson followed the enemy's track from White Oak Swamp Creek toward Malvern Hill, passing the field of Frazier's Farm, and Magruder's division, which had arrived in the night and relieved the exhausted commands of Longstreet and Hill.
Malvern Hill was a desperate position to attack in front, though, like Cold Harbor, it could be turned on the right. Here McClellan was posted with his whole force. His right was covered by Turkey Creek, an affluent of the James; his left was near that river and protected by gunboats, which, though hidden by timber, threw shells across his entire front. Distance and uncertainty of aim saved us from much loss by these projectiles, but their shriek and elongated form astonished our landward men, who called them lamp posts. By its height, Malvern Hill dominated the ground to the north, the James River, and the Newmarket road on which we approached, and was crowned with a numerous and heavy artillery. On our side, from inferior elevation, artillery labored under a great disadvantage, and was brought into action in detail to be overpowered.
The left attack was assigned to Jackson, the right to Magruder, supported by Huger and Holmes—Longstreet and A.P. Hill in reserve. Jackson's dispositions were as follows: On the extreme left, the division of Whiting, then artillery supported by a brigade under Wade Hampton, my brigade, and on my right the division of D.H. Hill. In reserve were the remainder of Ewell's division and the brigades of Winder, Lawton, and Cunningham. It was perhaps 3 o'clock of the afternoon before these dispositions were completed.
As it was General Lee's intention to open from his right, Magruder was waited for, who, following Jackson on the road, was necessarily later in getting into position. Orders were for Hill to attack with the bayonet as soon as he heard the cheers of Magruder's charge. To be ready, Hill advanced over open ground to some timber within four hundred yards of the enemy's line, but suffered in doing so. Artillery sent to his support was crippled and driven off. It was 5 o'clock or after when a loud shout and some firing were heard on the right, and, supposing this to be Magruder's attack, Hill led his men to the charge. He carried the first line of the enemy, who, unoccupied elsewhere, reenforced at once, and Hill was beaten off with severe loss. The brigades of Trimble, Lawton, Winder, and Cunningham were sent to his assistance, but could accomplish nothing beyond holding the ground. About sunset, after Hill's attack had failed, Magruder got into position and led on his men with similar fortune. Like Hill, he and his troops displayed superb courage and suffered enormously; but it was not to be; such partial attacks were without the first element of success. My brigade was not moved from its position, but experienced some loss by artillery.
After the action, Stuart arrived from the north side of the Chickahominy, where he had been since Cold Harbor. Had he been brought over the Long Bridge two days earlier, McClellan's huge trains on the Charles City road would have fallen an easy prey to his cavalry, and he could have blocked the roads through the forest.
McClellan's guns continued firing long after nightfall, but the ensuing morning found him and his army at Harrison's Landing, in an impregnable position. Here ended the campaign around Richmond.
The strategy displayed on the Confederate side was magnificent, and gave opportunity for resplendent success; but this opportunity was lost by tactical mistakes, occasioned by want of knowledge of the theatre of action, and it is to be feared that Time, when he renders his verdict, will declare the gallant dead who fell at Gaines's Mill, Cold Harbor, Frazier's Farm, and Malvern Hill, to have been sacrificed on the altar of the bloodiest of all Molochs—Ignorance.
The crisis of my illness now came in a paralysis of the lower limbs, and I was taken to Richmond, where I learned of my promotion to major-general, on the recommendation of Jackson, for services in the Valley, and assignment to a distant field.
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Having expressed an opinion of McClellan as an organizer of armies, I will now treat of his conduct as a commander in this and his subsequent campaign. His first operations on the peninsula were marked by a slowness and hesitancy to be expected of an engineer, with small experience in handling troops. His opponent, General Magruder, was a man of singular versatility. Of a boiling, headlong courage, he was too excitable for high command. Widely known for social attractions, he had a histrionic vein, and indeed was fond of private theatricals. Few managers could have surpassed him in imposing on an audience a score of supernumeraries for a grand army. Accordingly, with scarce a tenth the force, he made McClellan reconnoiter and deploy with all the caution of old Melas, till Johnston came up. It is true that McClellan steadily improved, and gained confidence in himself and his army; yet he seemed to regard the latter as a parent does a child, and, like the first Frederick William's gigantic grenadiers, too precious for gunpowder.
His position in front of Richmond, necessitated by the establishment of his base on York River, was vicious, because his army was separated by the Chickahominy, a stream subject to heavy floods, which swept away bridges and made the adjacent lowlands impassable. Attacked at Fair Oaks while the river was in flood, he displayed energy, but owed the escape of his two exposed corps to Johnston's wound and the subsequent blunders of the Confederates. To operate against Richmond on the north bank of the James, his proper plan was to clear that river and rest his left upon it, or to make the Potomac and Rappahannock his base, as the line of rail from Aquia and Fredericksburg was but little longer than the York River line. This, keeping him more directly between the Confederate army and Washington, would have given him McDowell's corps, the withdrawal of which from his direction he earnestly objected to. The true line of attack was on the south of the James, where Grant was subsequently forced by the ability of Lee; but it should be observed that after he took the field, McClellan had not the liberty of action accorded to Grant. That Lee caught his right "in the air" at Hanover and Cold Harbor, McClellan ascribes to his Government's interference with and withdrawal of McDowell's corps. Reserving this, he fought well at Gaines's Mill, Cold Harbor, and Frazier's Farm. Always protecting his selected line of retreat, bringing off his movable stores, and preserving the organization of his army, he restored its spirit and morale by turning at Malvern Hill to inflict a bloody repulse on his enemy. In his official report he speaks of his movement from the Chickahominy to Harrison's Landing on the James as a change of base, previously determined. This his detractors sneer at as an afterthought, thereby unwittingly enhancing his merit. Regarded as a change of base, carefully considered and provided for, it was most creditable; but if suddenly and unexpectedly forced upon him, he exhibited a courage, vigor, and presence of mind worthy of the greatest commanders.
Safe at Harrison's Landing, in communication with the fleet, the army was transferred from McClellan to the command of General Pope; and the influence of McClellan on his troops can not be correctly estimated without some allusion to this officer, under whose command the Federal Army of the Potomac suffered such mortifying defeat. Of an effrontery while danger was remote equaled by helplessness when it was present, and mendacity after it had passed, the annals of despotism scarce afford an example of the elevation of such a favorite. It has been said that his talent for the relation of obscene stories engaged the attention and confidence of President Lincoln. However this may be, great was the consternation at Washington produced by his incapacity. The bitterness of official rancor was sweetened, and in honeyed phrase McClellan was implored to save the capital. He displayed an unselfish patriotism by accepting the task without conditions for himself, but it may be doubted if he was right in leaving devoted friends under the scalping-knife, speedily applied, as might have been foreseen.
With vigor he restored order and spirit to the army, and led it, through the passes of South Mountain, to face Lee, who was stretched from Chambersburg to Harper's Ferry. Having unaccountably permitted his cavalry to separate from him, and deprived himself of adequate means of information, Lee was to some extent taken unawares. His thin lines at Antietam, slowly fed with men jaded by heavy marching, were sorely pressed. There was a moment, as Hooker's advance was stayed by the wound of its leader, when McClellan, with storge of battle, might have led on his reserves and swept the field. Hard would it have been for the Confederates, with the river in rear; but this seemed beyond McClellan or outside of his nature. Antietam was a drawn battle, and Lee recrossed into Virginia at his leisure.
While it may be confidently believed that McClellan would have continued to improve by experience in the field, it is doubtful if he possessed that divine spark which impels a commander, at the accepted moment, to throw every man on the enemy and grasp complete victory. But his Government gave him no further opportunity. He disappeared from the war, to be succeeded by mediocrity, too well recognized to disturb the susceptibility of a War Secretary who, like Louvois, was able, but jealous of merit and lustful of power.
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Although in the last months of the war, after he had assumed command of the armies of the Confederacy, I had some correspondence with General Lee, I never met him again, and indeed was widely separated from him, and it now behooves me to set forth an opinion of his place in Southern history. Of all the men I have seen, he was best entitled to the epithet of distinguished; and so marked was his appearance in this particular, that he would not have passed unnoticed through the streets of any capital. Reserved almost to coldness, his calm dignity repelled familiarity: not that he seemed without sympathies, but that he had so conquered his own weaknesses as to prevent the confession of others before him. At the outbreak of the war his reputation was exclusively that of an engineer, in which branch of the military service of the United States he had, with a short exception, passed his career. He was early sent to Western Virginia on a forlorn hope against Rosecrans, where he had no success; for success was impossible. Yet his lofty character was respected of all and compelled public confidence. Indeed, his character seemed perfect, his bath in Stygian waters complete; not a vulnerable spot remained: totus teres atque rotundus. His soldiers reverenced him and had unbounded confidence in him, for he shared all their privations, and they saw him ever unshaken of fortune. Tender and protecting love he did not inspire: such love is given to weakness, not to strength. Not only was he destitute of a vulgar greed for fame, he would not extend a hand to welcome it when it came unbidden. He was without ambition, and, like Washington, into whose family connection he had married, kept duty as his guide.
The strategy by which he openly, to attract attention, reenforced Jackson in the Valley, to thrust him between McDowell and McClellan at Cold Harbor, deserves to rank with Marlborough's cross march in Germany and Napoleon's rapid concentration around Ulm; though his tactical manoeuvres on the field were inferior to the strategy. His wonderful defensive campaign in 1864 stands with that of Napoleon in 1813; and the comparison only fails by an absence of sharp returns to the offensive. The historian of the Federal Army of the Potomac states (and, as far as I have seen, uncontradicted) that Grant's army, at second Cold Harbor, refused to obey the order to attack, so distressed was it by constant butchery. In such a condition of morale an advance upon it might have changed history. In truth, the genius of Lee for offensive war had suffered by a too long service as an engineer. Like Erskine in the House of Commons, it was not his forte. In both the Antietam and Gettysburg campaigns he allowed his cavalry to separate from him, and was left without intelligence of the enemy's movements until he was upon him. In both, too, his army was widely scattered, and had to be brought into action by piecemeal. There was an abundance of supplies in the country immediately around Harper's Ferry, and had he remained concentrated there, the surrender of Miles would have been advanced, and McClellan met under favorable conditions. His own report of Gettysburg confesses his mistakes; for he was of too lofty a nature to seek scapegoats, and all the rambling accounts of that action I have seen published add but little to his report. These criticisms are written with unaffected diffidence; but it is only by studying the campaigns of great commanders that the art of war can be illustrated.