All these causes combined, dwindled the Army of Northern Virginia away to a mere frazzle, as General Gordon
expressed it, and Lee
fought the battle at Sharpsburg
with skeleton regiments, brigades and divisions.
I copy from my note book. * * * * * *
On the march.
On the 20th day of August, 1862, our brigade (Kemper
's) left Gordonsville
to open the campaign against Pope
The orders were to leave all knapsacks behind, and to travel in light marching order with three day's rations in our haversacks, a blanket on our shoulders, and eighty rounds of cartridges in our boxes and pockets.
Little we knew then that it would be two whole months to a day before we beheld our scanty wardrobe again, and for more than eight weeks we would be without a single change of underclothing, and that our attire on the return would shame the famous seven beggars of Coventry
, and cause a decent scarecrow to look like a well-dressed gentleman beside us. There was not a single article of either kind in camp.
The regiment, though reduced a hundred or so by the battles around Richmond
, had yet comparatively full ranks, and their esprit du corps
Indeed, they had gained that confidence in themselves and their officers that goes far to make a crack soldier and steady veterans; and veterans they were, with Blackburn's Ford, Bull Run
, and the seven days fight emblazoned on their banners.
They knew what a soldier's life was by this time, and had got trained in every phase of it. In the cantonments at Manassas Junction
, drilling six times a day; in the picket duty at Falls Church
and Munson's Hill; in the bivouac at Fairfax Courthouse; in the winter quarters at Centreville
; in the long marches from Manassas
, and thence to Johnson
, on the York river
; trench duty at Dam No. 1, at Yorktown
; the rear guard at Williamsburg
; the skirmish line on the road, holding the enemy in check; the builders of miles of fortifications; in the sudden dash and desperate battle of Seven Pines
, and then to the glorious excitement of following up the retreating army of McClellan
; and then the battle of Frazier's farm
, had taught Kemper
's men what war really was, and changed the raw levies, into gladiators who could meet death with a smile on their lips.
And so in the bright morning sunshine they jested as they received