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Chapter 21:

From May 8, 1862, when Jackson swooped down on McDowell, defeating Milroy, to June 9th, he furnished a series of valuable lessons to a select class of Union generals. Between these dates was compressed, with its marvelous series of triumphs, the most brilliant campaign of our civil war. For the rest, the Valley campaign must have been transcendent in any war known to history. It was a campaign approached, scarcely rivaled, but in naught surpassed, by Bonaparte's dazzling Italian campaign.

Taylor marched his Louisiana brigade, composed of the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth (Colonel Stafford) regiments and Wheat's battalion, with Bowyer's 4-gun battery (Virginian) into the valley with Ewell's division. The Louisianians of 1861-62 everywhere deserve a word for their elasticity on the march. No veteran from other States but will vouch for their springiness of step. The first time Taylor met Jackson was in the valley of Virginia. ‘Over 3,000 strong,’ neat in fresh clothing of gray with white gaiters, jaunty in frame, his Louisianians were marching by with a free and easy swing which caught Jackson's weary but observant eye, as they passed him, perched ungracefully upon the topmost rail of a ‘snake’ fence. ‘You seem to have no stragglers,’ he said to Taylor. ‘Never allow stragglers.’ ‘You must teach my people; they straggle badly.’ [215] ‘Just then,’ Taylor writes, ‘my Creoles started their band on a waltz.’ After a contemplative suck at a lemon —‘Thoughtless fellows for serious work,’ came forth. ‘I expressed a hope that the work would not be less well done because of their gaiety.’

After the victory of McDowell, Jackson had heard Front Royal was alive with Banks' blue coats. Hastening there on the 23d he fell upon one of the Federal detachments, annihilating it. The first attack was made by Bradley Johnson's Marylanders and Wheat's battalion with the remainder of Taylor's brigade supporting. The Federals then taking a stronger position, Wheat charged again in the front, while the Sixth sought their flank. The enemy fled across the river. Two bridges spanned the deep Shenandoah. One wagon bridge was above; some yards lower down was a railway bridge. Taylor was everywhere in the valley—everywhere, as far as he could, galloping at Jackson's side. The sharpest point of danger was always the place of Jackson, watching all things. The Federals, posted on the west bank, were punishing us with murderous discharges. Jackson, as usual, was on his horse, looking thoughtful. Taylor came up, suggesting a crossing on the railway ties. ‘Stonewall’ nodded. At the word, Kelly of the Eighth led his Acadians across the ties under a sharp fire. With some loss, Kelly's first files gained the opposite bank. The moment the Eighth appeared the enemy set fire to combustibles, previously placed on the wagon bridge. This bridge would, if fired, have involved serious delay to the Confederates. Taylor looked up again at the man on horseback—Jackson again nodded. At a new sign, the entire brigade rushed at the bridge and clambered over. The enemy, without halting to save their guns, fled wildly from the bridge toward Winchester.

Next morning Jackson took Taylor's brigade and struck the Federal wagon trains at Middletown. The pike was found full of cavalry, upon which the artillery [216] and ‘Taylor's infantry,’ said Jackson, ‘promptly opened, and in a few minutes the turnpike, which had just before teemed with life, presented a most appalling spectacle of carnage and destruction.’ A little later the Federal artillery attempted to cut its way through, but ‘General Taylor was ordered with his command to the attack,’ and this detachment also took to the mountains. Banks was found in battle array at Winchester, on the 25th. Again was Taylor called upon by Jackson. It concerned a high ridge on the west, massed with Federals, with viperish guns in position, seeking for gray-coats. ‘You must carry that ridge,’ said Jackson softly as Taylor came up. Taylor, never rash where his men's safety from useless carnage was at stake, led his column to the left, close to the base of the ridge, for protection from a plunging fire. To carry the height itself, the brigade had to ascend it with all the guns shelling them. As they marched, the Louisianians were in full view of both armies, stopping slaughter to watch a new slaughter through this deed of desperate derring-do. Closing up gaps, shoulder seeking shoulder, alignment coolly kept, every man stepped as though on parade, conscious of the multitudinous eyes fixed upon him. About half way up, the enemy's horse, swooping unexpectedly from the right, charged fiercely. To meet the onset, Taylor directed Lieutenant-Colonel Nicholls of the Eighth Louisiana, which was on the left, to withhold slightly his two flank companies. While carrying out this order Nicholls by one volley, emptying some saddles, drove off the horse, himself receiving shortly after a serious wound.1 Then [217] the ‘whole line magnificently swept down the declivity, bearing all opposition before it,’ said Jackson, who was no flatterer. The loss of the brigade in those three days was 21 killed and 109 wounded. Among the killed was Major McArthur, Sixth, who had captured two Federal flags with two companies of his regiment at Middletown, and Maj. Aaron Davis.

Jackson's hardest foeman proved to be the gallant Shields of Illinois. Impetuous as were all of Jackson's movements, his attack on Shields at Port Republic was sturdily resisted by the veteran soldier. The situation changed its fortunes hourly, like a chameleon's colors. Finally turning critical to tension, it became hugely enjoyed by ‘Stonewall.’ A battery was spitefully resisting all attempts at capture. Taylor coming up just then reports his chief ‘as being on the road a little in advance of his line where the fire was hottest, with the reins on his horse's neck, seemingly in prayer. Attracted by my appearance, he said in his usually low voice: “Delightful excitement!” ’ Next, seeming to waken up to the crisis in the fight, he ordered Taylor, in a high-pitched voice, to move against the battery on the plateau.

Taylor first attacked the left and rear of the enemy, and while thus engaged, the enemy was heard loudly cheering some success in front. Taking advantage of this enthusiasm, Taylor came out, unseen, from the wood. He was missing Hays, but the Seventh could not be found. Taylor looked around for them, but being pressed could not wait At a word, his brigade, with a rush and shout, swept through a gorge and impetuously broke upon the plateau. The next instant, the battery was theirs. Three times was that battery lost and won—a plaything of war, and cup-and-ball of the armies! Not to be balked of all his pieces, the enemy, moving up once more, finally succeeded in carrying off some of the guns. Taylor was not to be outwitted by the blue-coats. With a desperate rally, his brigade carried the battery for the [218] third time. That time our boys, each planting what Charles Lamb calls ‘a terribly fixed foot’ upon the plateau, held it to keep—held it like bulldogs, but like bulldogs baited by boys, and snarling at each attack. The plateau had grown dangerous. The enemy once more recovering was advancing upon them in a solid mass. Just then Ewell came up like a healthy breeze, to be welcomed with cheers. A moment later a shell came shrieking along. To it rebel yells responded somewhere in the advance and, freed from his ‘delightful excitement,’ Jackson rushed up like a whirlwind. The fighting in and around the battery was hand to hand, and many fell from bayonet wounds. Jackson came up and said the brigade should have the captured battery. ‘I thought the men would go wild with cheering, especially the Irishmen.’

Taylor's Louisianians bore from the valley two trophies, shared by no others. In the words of General Ewell: ‘To General Taylor and his brigade belong the honor of deciding two battles—that of Winchester and this one.’ ‘This one’—Port Republic, Jackson's closing victory—was a victory in which the glory largely belonged to Harry Hays' faithful Seventh. During the flank movement of Taylor's brigade, he had looked around for the Seventh, without seeing it. Up the slope, fighting sturdily, he was struggling. Riflemen were shelling his brigade from the slope. ‘Dislodge me yonder riflemen,’ he ordered. Two companies of the Ninth Louisiana were sent to do the dislodging, and did it cleverly. ‘Where is Hays?’ Taylor kept asking himself while mounting the dangerous slope. At last, the lost Seventh came into view sadly cut up. The Seventh had been with the rear of Taylor's column, when he marched out; and the thin line that remained was so pressed that Jackson ordered Hays to stop, and meet the enemy's rush. ‘Where have you been, boys?’ asked Taylor, much relieved in mind, when the regiment reappeared. ‘Been! [219] Old Jack told us to stop the rush—we stopped it!’ Apropos Taylor said of this: ‘The Seventh would have stopped a herd of elephants.’

The Seventh, Taylor reported, lost 156 killed and wounded—about half of its effective force. In the two days of Cross Keys and Port Republic the brigade lost 34 killed and 264 wounded. In the Sixth, Capt. Isaac A. Smith was killed, and Lieutenants Farrar and Martin wounded; in the Seventh, Lieut. J. H. Dedlake was killed, Lieutenant-Colonel De Choiseul mortally wounded, and Col. H. T. Hays, Captain Green and Lieutenants Brooks, Driver and Pendergast wounded; in the Eighth, Lieut. A. G. Moore was killed and Lieutenants Montgomery, Randolph and Wren wounded; in the Ninth Lieutenant Meizell killed; and in Wheat's battalion Lieutenants Cockroft, Coyle, McCarthy, Putnam and Ripley wounded. Captain Surget, adjutant-general, was greatly distinguished, and Lieutenants Hamilton and Kilmartin did valuable service.

Taylor's brigade remained with Jackson from the first to the last of the unparalleled series of triumphs of that famous commander, and steadily growing in that great soldier's special favor. After Malvern Hill, with the reorganization of the army of Northern Virginia, if one sought a Louisiana command, he had first to ask where Jackson's corps was. Puritan though he was, Jackson had learned to value the Louisianians for their freedom from ‘straggling’—not even frowning upon their partiality for ‘waltz music.’ Behind these, the soldier in Jackson had seen that courage which never faltered and had understood those young hearts, chirpy as crickets, which never weakened before a long march or quailed in front of the foe. The brigade was originally organized at Centerville in 1861, with the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Louisiana, Wheat's battalion closing the list. Its first commander, General Walker, was killed at Gaines' Mill. In Richard Taylor it had a leader—a fighter himself [220] who would not willingly have stinted a man's love for battle. He did not stay long with them, being promoted to major-general after the Seven Days campaign, and soon transferred to the Trans-Mississippi, where, with his own good sword, he was ‘to carve his name in the. Gold Book of the Republic.’ (Taylor's words.)

On June 12th Jackson's victorious command moved from the valley to the Chickahominy to become the left flank of Lee's army.

Here, before Richmond, Taylor's brigade found as comrades the Fifth and Tenth Louisiana, in Semmes' brigade of McLaws' division; the Second with Howell Cobb; the First with A. R. Wright; the Third battalion with J. R. Anderson; and the Fourteenth regiment, First battalion (Coppens') and Maurin's battery, in Pryor's brigade. The Washington artillery was attached to Longstreet's division, and the Madison (Moody's) battery to D. R. Jones' division.

Pryor, marching to the front via Mechanicsville, with Longstreet, was posted at Beaver Dam, where he was in battle on the 27th of June. In the affair at Ellison's mill, said Pryor, the battalion of Lieutenant-Colonel Coppens was especially distinguished. At Gaines' Mill these Louisianians bore a gallant part in the intrepid charges which cost so many lives, and at Frayser's Farm they held their ground with heroic tenacity. Through all this Captain Maurin, with his artillery, showed himself, as Pryor reported, ‘a most courageous and capable officer.’ The loss of Coppens' battalion was reported at 10 killed and 41 wounded; of the Fourteenth, 51 killed and 192 wounded, a total ranking among the heaviest regimental losses of the campaign; while Maurin's gunners had a loss of 4. The killed of the Fourteenth included Captains Bradley and Scott, and Lieutenants Fisher and Garrish.

Ewell's division was first in battle at Gaines' Mill, on [221] the 27th. Taylor being disabled by severe illness, Col. Isaac G. Seymour commanded the Louisiana brigade. In the afternoon, at the charge at Cold Harbor, he was shot from his horse and died in a few minutes. Here also fell Maj. Robert Wheat, known familiarly as Bob Wheat, cheeriest of souls, and not a stranger to the enemy, who remembered him as the chief of the ‘Tigers’ at Manassas. The Louisiana brigade fought desperately at Gaines' Mill, attacked in front and flank, and for hours without reinforcements, and lost 32 killed and 136 wounded from their ranks, already worn in the valley. Again, at Malvern Hill, the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth suffered in the bloody charge, ordered at dusk, ‘by an officer unknown’ to Colonel Stafford, losing the main part of the brigade casualties, 24 killed and 94 wounded. Capt. L. D. Nicholls, Eighth, and Lieutenants Foley and Pitman, Wheat's battalion, were killed at Cold Harbor, and Lieutenants Francis and McCauley, Sixth; Lieutenant Newport, Seventh; and Lieutenant LeBlanc, Eighth, were among the killed at Malvern Hill.

The other Louisiana commands were with that part of the army that opposed the main body of McClellan's forces before Richmond, while Jackson, Longstreet, and the Hills crushed the Federal right wing beyond the Chickahominy. The first fight of the whole great campaign was at King's schoolhouse, June 25th, the enemy taking the aggressive against Wright's brigade on the Williamsburg road. Wright went to the front at once with the First Louisiana, Lieut.-Col. W. R. Shivers commanding, and the Twenty-second Georgia, and soon, according to Wright's report, these brave men were dashing through the woods, with loud cheers, driving the enemy through a field to another wooded covert. ‘With a gallantry and impetuosity which has rarely been equaled, and certainly never excelled since the war began, these brave and daring Louisianians and Georgians charged through the open field and actually drove from [222] their cover the entire brigade, supposed at the time to be Sickles'.’ Colonel Shivers being among the wounded, Capt. Michael Nolan took command. A severe struggle followed and continued all day, ending in the two contestants occupying their original lines. The Louisiana regiment, sadly thinned in ranks, took part in the last charge which regained the line which had been temporarily lost. The regiment lost 22 killed, including Lieutenants Gilmore, Murphy and Trott, and 109 wounded. Again at Malvern Hill 8 were killed, including Lieutenants Fallon and Miller, and 40 wounded.2

On the 27th the Federal intrenched line, held since the battle at Seven Pines, was found vacant—Lee's masterly stroke in flank beyond the Chickahominy having been heard from—and the Confederates advanced through deserted camps to overtake the enemy at Savage's station, where the Fifth Louisiana lost but 6, while over 100 of the dead enemy were counted on its front. At Malvern Hill, the brigade, only 557 strong, charged the Federal line, a distance of 150 yards in the face of forty cannon and a terrible musketry fire from the front, as well as the fire from the rear by our own troops, shooting astray in the gloom of that night of blunder and carnage. The memory of that somber close of the great campaign is lighted by the heroism of Col. Eugene Waggaman's Tenth Louisiana. Up the hill the Tenth rushed at double-quick, thrown nearest the enemy by the diagonal advance. Waggaman, most intrepid of leaders, leaps far in advance of his line, and inspired by his example the men tear after him. The air is filled with shrieks of shells — no one hears them. Troops lying down for shelter see the Tenth sweep by like ghosts of war. They cheer them on, but do not rise to help them in that bullet-swept field. Not yet quite on the summit, the men of [223] the Tenth are crossing bayonets with a force fifteen times greater than their own. Driving back the first formidable charge, the thinned line finds itself among the Federal batteries. Though odds were all against them, they gained a title that odds can neither give nor take from. They are the heroes of Malvern Hill! Colonel Waggaman, rushing into the enemy's lines, was captured, as also was the gallant Capt. A. L. Lyons. Out of the 318 in action, 13 were killed, 36 wounded, and 38 fell into the enemy's hands.

In the same fierce finale of the Seven Days the Second regiment held for some time a hill crest, exposed to the Federal artillery, advanced and repulsed a threatening movement of the enemy, and then joined in the general charge upon the batteries. Their dead, said Gen. Howell Cobb, were found mingled with those of the other brigades, nearest the batteries of the enemy. ‘It was at this point of the battle that Col. Josiah T. Norwood, of the Second Louisiana, while gallantly leading his regiment, fell severely wounded. Major Ashton, of the same regiment, had seized the colors of the regiment after three brave men had been shot down in the act of bearing them forward, and was bravely cheering on his men, when, pierced by several balls, he fell and died instantly.’

The Seven Days afforded a superb exhibition of the highest qualities of the fighting American. During that week of colossal conflicts, beginning with Mechanicsville bridge on June 27th and ending with Malvern Hill on July 1st, Americans on both sides were fighting all day; sleeping on their arms at night when they could, up before dawn to renew the fight, and passing, day after day, through the terrible round of battle, which like ‘Don Worm in the bud,’ grows by what it feeds upon. Neither army, we are free to say now, had cause for shame in the details of heroism when written out by un-partisan pens. With this admission it may be added that in their marked discrepancy of numbers, the Confeder- [224] ates had more reason to rejoice in the genius of the great soldier, newly become their captain, emphasized as it was by their own trained and impetuous courage. [225]

1 Plainly, Francis Tillon Nicholls was a soldier who loved the breath of powder. Losing an arm by amputation, caused by this wound received May 25, 1862, he again faced the enemy at Chancellorsville, May 3, 1863. In that battle, a wound cost him a leg. Nicholls returned, thus maimed, to his State, to lead her liberators in days of political oppression, and to occupy stations of highest honor among her people. First conservative governor of Democratic Louisiana, in 1877, General Nicholls is, in 1898, chief justice of the supreme court of the State.

2 The Montgomery Guards losing all its officers, Private Thomas Rice was promoted to captain on the field. Captain Rice proved a gallant officer, and lived to lead his men on many a hard fought field. Three severe wounds still speak of his valor during the war.

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