The Confederate in the field
A question which is often asked of the survivor of the Civil War
, when recounting the ‘battles, sieges, and fortunes he has passed,’ is, ‘How does it feel to be in battle?’
If he is in the habit of taking account of his sensations and impressions the answer is not so simple as might appear at first sight.
Much of the ground disputed by the contending forces in our Civil War was quite unlike the popular conception of a battlefield, derived from descriptions of European
campaigns or from portrayals of the same, usually fanciful.
The choice of a battle-ground in actual warfare is not determined by its fitness for the display of imposing lines, as at a review.
As often as not, the consideration of concealment of those lines has much to do with the selection, or else there is some highway which it is important to hold or to possess, or again, some vulnerable point of the foe invites attack, in which case the actual terrain
is such as may happen, and the disposition of the forces is made to conform as far as possible thereto.
The first engagement in which the writer took a modest part had been entirely foreseen, yet its development refuted all preconceived ideas of what a battle was like.
It was the beginning of the series which resulted in frustrating McClellan
's campaign on the Peninsula
and raising the siege of Richmond
, in 1862.
We had been holding the left of the Confederate
line on the Meadow Bridge
road, picketing the bridges spanning a fork of the Chickahominy
at that point—a Union picket-post being at the crossing of another branch, about a hundred yards distant, and in plain view from our outpost.