previous next

[266] was defeated by a sudden rush of mine. His own report and the reports of all his officers show that there was nothing of the kind. He had been waiting for us for hours with his men and guns in position. The sudden rush began at one o'clock, and Casey's works were captured at three o'clock. It is a misnomer to call a deadly struggle for two hours a sudden rush. It is unjust to my division, as well as to that opposing me, to say that Casey's men fought badly. They fought better than the reinforcements sent to help them. Fowler Hamilton, a jolly dragoon officer, was asked in the Mexican war by some of the newly arrived troops, ‘Are the Mexicans brave?’ ‘They are brave enough for me,’ replied he. Casey's men were brave enough for me, and he himself was a veteran of approved courage and conduct. He seems to have been one of the very last to abandon his earthworks.

The battle of Seven Pines is a fine illustration of the prowess of untrained, untutored and undisciplined Southern soldiers. The great battles of Europe, in which veterans were engaged, show a loss of from one-tenth to one-fourth of those engaged. At Seven Pines our raw troops lost one-third of their number without flinching, moving steadily on to victory. The true test of the loss in battle is the number of casualties before the shouts of triumph rend the sky; for it has often happened that the chief loss of the defeated has been from the murderous fire upon their disorganized, unresisting, and huddled together masses. This has always been so when the defeat has been the result of a flank movement, or when a brilliant cavalry charge has followed up the rout.

But my theme deals with the individual private in the ranks and I will therefore give some personal anecdotes, which I know to be true, and are not sensational clap-trap for the occasion. After the capture of Casey's camp, one of my staff went with a litter to remove a private in the ranks, whom he had known at school. ‘No,’ said the wounded man, ‘let me alone, Ratchford, I am mortally wounded. Carry off some one who will live to fight for his country another day.’ Then waving off his comrade with a feeble effort of his poor, dying hand, he said, ‘Good-bye, Ratchford,’ while the white lips parted in a farewell smile.

The world has wondered at and has praised for two hundred and ninety-nine years the grand self-denial of the dying Sir Philip Sidney, who gave the cup of water intended for himself to the wounded soldier that was looking longingly at it and said, ‘Friend, thy wants are greater than mine.’ The world has done well to preserve this


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Casey (4)
J. W. Ratchford (2)
Philip Sidney (1)
Fowler Hamilton (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: