“Jackson's foot-cavalry” at the Second Bull Run.
by Allen C. Redwood, 55TH Virginia regiment, C. S. A.
In the operations of 1862, in Northern Virginia
, the men of Jackson
's corps have always claimed a peculiar proprietorship.
The reorganization of the disrupted forces of Banks
, and McDowell
under a new head seemed a direct challenge to the soldiers who had made the Valley
Campaign, and the proclamation of General Pope1
betokened to the “foot-cavalry” an infringement of their specialty, demanding emphatic rebuke.
Some remnant of the old esprit de corps yet survives, and prompts this narrative.
After the check to Pope
's advance at Cedar Mountain
, on the 9th of August, and while we awaited the arrival of Longstreet
's troops, A. P. Hill
's division rested in camp at Crenshaw
Our brigade (Field
's) was rather a new one in organization and experience, most of us having “smelt powder” for the first time in the Seven Days before Richmond
We reached the field at Cedar Mountain
too late to be more than slightly engaged, but on the 10th and 11th covered the leisurely retreat to Orange Court House
When, about a week later, Pope
began to retreat in the direction of the Rappahannock
, we did some sharp marching through Stevensburg
and Brandy Station
, but did not come up with him until he was over the river.
While our artillery was dueling with him across the stream, I passed the time with my head in the scant shade of a sassafras bush by the roadside, with a chill and fever brought from the Chickahominy
For the next few days there was skirmishing at the fords, we moving up the south bank of the river, the enemy confronting us on the opposite side.
The weather was very sultry, and the troops were much weakened by it,
and our rations of unsalted beef, eked out with green corn and unripe apples, formed a diet unsuited to soldiers on the march, and there was much straggling.
I fell behind several times, but managed to catch up from day to day. Once some cavalry made a dash across the river at our train; I joined a party who, like myself, were separated from their commands, and we fought the enemy until Trimble
's brigade, the rearguard, came up.
We were then opposite the Warrenton Springs
, and were making a great show of crossing, Early
's brigade having been thrown over the river where it became smartly engaged.
I have since heard that this officer remonstrated more than once at the service required of him, receiving each time in reply a peremptory order from Jackson
“to hold his position.”
He finally retorted: “Oh!
well, old Jube can die
what he wants, but tell General Jackson
I'll be----if this position can
The brigade moved off next morning, leaving me in the grip of the ague, which reported promptly for duty, and, thanks to a soaking overnight, got in its work most effectually.
The fever did not let go until about sundown, when I made two feeble trips to carry my effects to the porch of a house about one hundred yards distant, where I passed the night without a blanket-mine having been stolen between the trips.
I found a better one next morning thrown away in a field, and soon after came up with the command, in bivouac and breakfasting on some beef which had just been issued.
Two ribs on a stump were indicated as my share, and I broiled them on the coals and made the first substantial meal I had eaten for forty-eight hours. This was interrupted by artillery fire from beyond the river,
Confederate camp-servant on the March.|
and as I was taking my place in line, my colonel ordered me to the ambulance to recruit.
Here I got a dose of Fowler
's solution, “in lieu of quinine,” and at the wagon-camp that day I fared better than for a long time before.
Meanwhile they were having a hot time down at Waterloo Bridge, which the enemy's engineers were trying to burn, while some companies of sharp-shooters under Lieutenant Robert Healy
of “ours”--whose rank was no measure of his services or merit — were disputing the attempt.
A concentrated fire from the Federal
batteries failed to dislodge the plucky riflemen, while our guns were now brought up, and some hard pounding ensued.
But at sunset the bridge still stood, and I “spread down” for the night, under the pole of a wagon, fully expecting a serious fight on the morrow.
I was roused by a courier's horse stepping on my leg, and found this rude waking meant orders to move.
With no idea whither, we pulled out at half-past 2 in the morning, and for some time traveled by fields and “new cuts” in the woods, following no road, but by the growing dawn evidently keeping up the river.
's “Light division” was to earn its name and qualify itself for membership in Jackson
The hot August sun rose, clouds of choking dust enveloped the hurrying column, but on and on the march was pushed without relenting.
Knapsacks had been left behind in the wagons, and haversacks were empty by noon; for the unsalted beef spoiled and was thrown away, and the column subsisted itself, without process of commissariat, upon green corn and apples from the fields and orchards along the route, devoured while marching; for there were no stated meal-times, and no systematic halts for rest.
I recall a sumptuous banquet of “middling” bacon and “collards” which I was fortunate enough to obtain during the delay at Hinson's Mill where we forded the river, and the still more dainty fare of tea and biscuits, the bounty of some good maiden ladies at “The Plains
,” where our ambulance stopped some hours to repair a broken axle — the only episodes of the march which now stand out with distinctness.
It was far on in the night when the column stopped, and the weary men
dropped beside their stacked muskets and were instantly asleep, without so much as unrolling a blanket.
A few hours of much-needed repose, and they were shaken up again long before “crack of day,” and limped on in the darkness only half-awake.
There was no mood for speech, nor breath to spare if there had been-only the shuffling tramp of the marching feet, the steady rumbling of wheels, the creak and rattle and clank of harness and accouterment, with an occasional order, uttered under the breath and always the same: “Close up!
Close up, men!”
All this time we had the vaguest notions as to our objective: at first we had expected to strike the enemy's flank, but as the march prolonged itself, a theory obtained that we were going to the Valley
But we threaded Thoroughfare Gap, heading eastward, and in the morning of the third day (August 27th) struck a railroad running north and south-Pope
's “line of communication and supply.”
What a prize it was!
Here were long warehouses full of stores cars loaded with boxes of new clothing en route
to General Pope
, but destined to adorn the “backs of his enemies” ; camps, sutlers' shops--“no eating up” of good things.
In view of the abundance, it was not an easy matter to determine what we should eat and drink and wherewithal we should be clothed; one was limited in his choice to only so much as he could personally transport, and the one thing needful in each individual case was not always readily found.
However, as the day wore on, an equitable distribution of our wealth was effected by barter, upon a crude and irregular tariff in which the rule of supply and demand was somewhat complicated by fluctuating estimates of the imminence of marching orders.
A mounted man would offer large odds in shirts or blankets for a pair of spurs or a bridle; and while in anxious quest of a pair of shoes I fell heir to a case of cavalry half-boots, which I would gladly have exchanged for the object of my search.
For a change of underclothing and a pot of French mustard I owe grateful thanks to the major of the 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry, with regrets that I could not use his library.
Whisky was, of course, at a high premium, but a keg of “lager”--a drink less popular then than now — went begging in our company.
But our brief holiday was drawing to a close, for by this time General Pope
had some inkling of the disaster which lurked in his rear.
When, some time after dark, having set fire to the remnant of the stores, we took the road to Centreville
, our mystification as to Jackson
's plans was complete.
Could he actually be moving on Washington
with his small force, or was he only seeking escape to the mountains?
The glare of our big bonfire lighted up the country for miles, and was just dying out when we reached Centreville
The corduroy road had been full of pitfalls and stumbling-blocks, to some one of which our cracked axle had succumbed before we crossed Bull Run
, and being on ahead, I did not know of the casualty until it was too late to save my personal belongings involved in the wreck.
Thus suddenly reduced from affluence to poverty, just as the gray dawn revealed the features of the forlorn little hamlet, typical of this war-harried region, I had a distinct sense of being a long way from home.
The night's march had seemed to put the
Starke's Brigade fighting with Stones near the “deep cut.”
(see map, P. 509, and note, P. 536.)|
climax to the endurance of the jaded troops.
Such specters of men they were,--gaunt-cheeked and hollow-eyed, hair, beard, clothing, and accouterments covered with dust,--only their faces and hands, where mingled soil and sweat streaked and crusted the skin, showing any departure from the whitey-gray uniformity.
The ranks were sadly thinned, too, by the stupendous work of the previous week.
Our regiment, which had begun the campaign 1015 strong and had carried into action at Richmond
620, counted off that Thursday morning (August 28th) just 82 muskets!
Such were the troops about to deliver battle on the already historic field of Manassas
We were soon on the road again, heading west; we crossed Stone Bridge
, and a short distance beyond, our ambulances halted, the brigade having entered some woods on the right of the road ahead,--going into camp, I thought.
This pleasing delusion was soon dispelled by artillery firing in front, and our train was moved off through the fields to the right, out of range, and was parked near Sudley Church.
Everything pointed to a battle next day; the customary hospital preparations were made, but few, if any, wounded came in that night, and I slept soundly, a thing to be grateful for. My bedfellow and I had decided to report for duty in the morning, knowing that every musket would be needed.
I had picked up a good “Enfield
” with the proper trappings, on the road from Centreville
, to replace my own left in the abandoned ambulance; and having broken my chills, and gained strength from
marching unencumbered, was fit for service — as much so as were the rest at least.
Friday morning early, we started in what we supposed to be the right direction, guided by the firing, which more and more betokened that the fight was on. Once we stopped for a few moments at a field-hospital to make inquiries, and were informed that our brigade was farther along to the right.
, who had lost his leg the evening before, was carried by on a stretcher while we were there.
Very soon we heard sharp musketry over a low ridge which we had been skirting, and almost immediately we became involved with stragglers from that direction — Georgians, I think they were.
It looked as if a whole line was giving way, and we hurried on to gain our own colors before it should grow too hot. The proverbial effect of bad company was soon apparent.
We were halted by a Louisiana major, who was trying to rally these fragments upon his own command.
My companion took the short cut out of the scrape by showing his “sick-permit,” and was allowed to pass; mine, alas!
had been left in my cartridge-box with my other belongings in that unlucky ambulance.
The major was courteous but firm; he listened to my story with more attention than I could have expected, but attached my person all the same.
“Better stay with us, my boy, and if you do your duty I'll make it right with your company officers when the fight's over.
They won't find fault with you when they know you've been in with the ‘ Pelicans,’ ” he added, as he assigned me to company “F.”
The command was as unlike my own as it was possible to conceive.
Such a congress of nations only the cosmopolitan Crescent City
could have sent forth, and the tongues of Babel seemed resurrected in its speech; English, German, French
, and Spanish, all were represented, to say nothing of Doric brogue and local “gumbo.”
There was, moreover, a vehemence of utterance and gesture curiously at variance with the reticence of our Virginians
In point of fact, we burned little powder that day, and my promised distinction as a “Pelican
” pro tem.
was cheaply earned.
The battalion did a good deal of counter-marching, and some skirmishing, but most of the time we were acting as support to a section of Cutshaw
The tedium of this last service my companions relieved by games of “seven up,” with a greasy, well-thumbed deck, and in smoking cigarettes, rolled with great dexterity, between the deals.
Once, when a detail was ordered to go some distance under fire to fill the canteens of the company, a hand was dealt to determine who should go, and the decision was accepted by the loser without demur.
Our numerous shifts of position completely confused what vague ideas I had of the situation, but we must have been near our extreme left at Sudley Church, and never very far from my own brigade, which was warmly engaged that day and the day following.2
Toward evening we were again within sight of Sudley Church.
I could see the light of fires among the trees, as if cooking for the wounded was going on, and the idea occurred to me that there I could easily learn the exact position of my proper command.
Once clear of my major and his polyglot “Pelicans,” the rest would be plain sailing.
My flank movement was easily effected, and I suddenly found myself the most
private soldier on that field; there seemed to be nobody else anywhere near.
I passed a farm-house, which seemed to have been used as a hospital, and where I picked up a Zouave fez. Some cavalrymen were there, one of whom advised “me not to go down there,” but as he gave no special reason and did not urge his views, I paid no heed to him, but went on my way down a long barren slope, ending in a small water-course at the bottom, beyond which the ground rose abruptly and was covered by small growth.
The deepening twilight and strange solitude about me, with a remembrance of what had happened a year ago on this same ground, made me feel uncomfortably lonely.
By this time I was close to the stream, and while noting the lay of the land on the opposite bank with regard to choice of a crossing-place, I became aware of a man observing me from the end of the cut above.
I could not distinguish tile color of his uniform, but the crown of his hat tapered suspiciously, I thought, and instinctively I dropped the butt of my rifle to the ground and reached behind me for a cartridge.
he called;--his accent was worse than his hat. “Who are you?”
I responded as I executed the movement of “tear cartridge.”
He laughed and then invited me to “come and see.”
Meanwhile I was trying to draw my rammer, but this operation was arrested by the dry click of several gunlocks, and I found myself covered by half a dozen rifles, and my friend of the steeple-crown, with less urbanity in his intonation, called out to me to “drop that.”
In our brief intercourse he had acquired a curious influence over me. I did so.
My captors were of Kearny
's division, on picket.
They told me they thought I was deserting until they saw me try to load.
I could not account for their being where they were, and when they informed me that they had Jackson
surrounded and that he must surrender next day, though I openly scouted the notion, I must own the weight of evidence seemed to be with them.
The discussion of this and kindred topics was continued until a late hour that night with the sergeant of the guard at Kearny
's headquarters, where I supped in unwonted luxury on hard-tack and “genuine” coffee, the sergeant explaining that the fare was no better because of our destruction of their supplies at the Junction
's orderly gave me a blanket, and so I passed the night.
We were astir early in the morning (August 30th), and I saw Kearny
passed with his staff to the front,--a spare, erect, military figure, looking every inch the fighter he was. He fell three days later, killed by some of my own brigade.3
Near the Stone Bridge
I found about 500 other prisoners, mostly stragglers picked up along the line of our march.
Here my polite provost-sergeant turned me over to other guardians, and after drawing rations, hard-tack, coffee, and sugar, we took the road to Centreville
That thoroughfare was thronged with troops, trains, and batteries, and we had to stand a good deal of chaff on the way, at our forlorn appearance.
We were a motley crowd enough, certainly, and it did
look as if our friends in blue were having their return innings.
More than once that day as I thought of the thin line I had left, I wondered how the boys were doing, for disturbing rumors came to us as we lay in a field near Centreville
, exchanging rude badinage across the cordon of sentries surrounding us. Other prisoners came in from time to time who brought the same unvarying story, “Jackson
hard-pressed — no news of Longstreet
So the day wore on. Toward evening there was a noticeable stir in the camps around us, a continual riding to and fro of couriers and orderlies, and now we thought we could hear more distinctly the deep-toned, jarring growl which had interjected itself at intervals all the afternoon through the trivial buzz about us. Watchful of indications, we noted, too, that the drift of wagons and ambulances was from
the battle-field, and soon orders came for us to take the road in the same direction.
The cannonading down the pike was sensibly nearer now, and at times we could catch even the roll of musketry, and once we thought we could distinguish, far off and faint, the prolonged, murmurous sound familiar to our ears as the charging shout of the gray people — but this may have been fancy.
All the same, we gave tongue to the cry, and shouts of “Longstreet
's at ‘em, boys!
Hurrah for Longstreet
went up from our ranks, while the guards trudged beside us in sulky silence.
There is not much more to tell.
An all-day march on Sunday through rain and mud brought us to Alexandria
, where we were locked up for the night in a cotton-factory.
Monday we embarked on a transport steamer, and the next evening were off Fort Monroe
, where we got news of Pope
I was paroled and back in Richmond
within ten days of my capture, and then and there learned how completely Jackson
had made good the name of “Stonewall
” on his baptismal battle-field.