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The battle in which General Johnston was wounded. [from the Richmond times, March 29, 1891.]

described by his Courier, Drury L. Armistead.
Among the many who will cherish the memory and mourn the death of that grand old soldier and chieftain, General Joseph E. Johnston, there will be no one more sincere and loving than his old courier and soldier, Drury L. Armistead, of Prince Edward county, who so gallantly rescued him from the battle-field of Seven Pines, and to whom the General was so attached, and upon one occasion said: ‘Armistead is one of the bravest and truest soldiers I ever saw.’ Your correspondent has fortunately obtained the following account from Mr. Armistead of that memorable day:

Farmville, Va., March 28, 1891.

A memorable day.

General Johnston having removed his headquarters from a position on the River road, 29th May, 1862, to a position on the Nine-Mile road several miles east of Richmond, and having decided to attack McClellan after the heavy rain of the evening and fore-part of the night of that day, called for couriers to carry dispatches to his corps [186] and division commanders. The couriers detailed declared themselves entirely unacquainted with that section of the country, and the impossibility of finding the way anywhere on such a terribly dark night. I offered my services, which were accepted. General Johnston called me in his office and gave me instructions, pointing out on the map where I would find Generals Whiting and Smith, and said: “Deliver these dispatches to Generals Whiting and Smith and bring me their receipts for them as soon as possible; if you fail you had better not show yourself to me again.”

A terrible night.

I immediately started to find General Whiting. It was the worst night I ever saw. The rain poured down in sheets, the thunder roared, and the lightning, though blinding, was my only guide through the dense darkness. I rode at a full gallop until in the darkness I was suddenly knocked off my horse by a blow upon the breast. Somewhat dazed, upon rising I found a long pole placed across the road on a fence on either side, but tall enough for my horse to pass under. Though feeling hurt I remounted and proceeded on my way to find General Whiting, which I did after arousing a good many Dutch sleepers to direct me. After delivering my dispatches to General Whiting and taking his receipt for them, I proceeded to find General Smith, which I did with great difficulty. On my return to General Johnston's headquarters I found General Whiting's camp-fires lit and his men all astir. I arrived at headquarters on the morning of the 30th of May, some hours before daybreak, and delivered the receipts for the dispatches, for which the General thanked me.

The battle Begins.

The battle commenced on our right early in the day and raged with unmitigated fury. The left wing of our army was not moved forward until later in the day, when it pushed down the Nine-Mile road in the direction of York River railroad, encountering the enemy's guard pickets, which we drove in, captured their camp and a good many stores. The enemy seemed to be in full retreat. Our lines were pushed forward rapidly, General Johnston and staff riding in front of his line of battle. Just as he reached the point where the York River railroad crosses the Nine-Mile road the enemy opened a tremendous fire with musketry and artillery from a body of woods on our front and left. General Johnston and staff rode back about [187] two hundred yards to an elevated position near a small house, which he occupied until he was wounded. The fire of artillery and musketry in our front was then terrific. I being in a few yards of where General Johnston sat on his horse, dismounted and stood with my horse before me. I had an oil cloth strapped on the front of my saddle directly in front of my breast. The minnie balls were flying so very thick I thought I would stoop a little behind my horse, when as I stooped a bullet tore through the oil cloth, just missing the top of my head. It was a powerful close shave. About this time fresh troops going into battle stopped to load their muskets near where I stood, and double-quicked towards the enemy. When the line moved forward after loading, there was an old fellow who had not finished loading, and while thus standing, a shell struck the ground in a few feet of him; but he coolly remarked to himself, ‘you cannot do that again!’ During this time the battle was raging with great fury all along the line.

The General wounded.

Most of General Johnston's staff having been sent off on duty except myself and Colonel——, and the air seeming to be alive with whizzing bullets and bursting shells, Colonel——would move his head from side to side, as if trying to dodge them. General Johnston turned toward him and smiling said: ‘Colonel, there is no use of dodging; when you hear them they have passed.’ Just after saying this a shell exploded immediately in his front, striking the General from his horse, severely wounded and unconscious. I immediately sprang forward, catching him up in my arms, carried him out of the enemy's fire. Others coming to my assistance we moved him back about a quarter of a mile, and laying him down, hastily sent for a stretcher.

A Revolutionary relic.

He then regained consciousness, and finding that he had lost his sword and pistols said: ‘The sword was the one worn by my father in the old Revolutionary war and I would not lose it for ten thousand dollars; will not some one please go back and get it and the pistols for me?’ And several others and myself volunteered. On returning to the battle-field we found our line had been considerably pressed back and the spot where General Johnston fell to be midway between the line of battle, which was blazing in all its fury, with men falling [188] all around like leaves. I dashed through our line to the spot where the General had fallen, snatched up the sword and pistols, jumped upon my horse and was making back to our lines, when I hadn't got more than twenty yards when one of the pistols fell out of my hand. I quickly sprang to the ground, picked it up, when just as I did so a discharge of grape from a battery of artillery planted within a hundred and fifty yards from where I was, tore up the earth all around me; but I leaped upon my horse and reached our lines in safety, where I met one of the men who had volunteered to go back for the sword and pistols. He demanded me to turn them over to him. I said: ‘No; I will take them to the General myself.’ He replied, ‘I am your superior officer, and have the right to order you.’ I said, ‘Superior officer or not, you will not get this sword and these pistols unless you are a better man than I am, and I don't think you are.’

I then hastened to General Johnston, and we carried him several miles towards Richmond, to a house where we stayed all night, and had his wounds dressed by a surgeon.


Brought to Richmond.

The next day, the 31st of May, we moved him to Mr. Crenshaw's home on Church Hill, in Richmond, where he remained until he was convalescent, I remaining with him by his order until he recovered from his wound, except the time during the seven days battle, when he ordered me to report to General R. E. Lee as courier. General Johnston thanked me for recovering his sword and pistols, which were of the finest make, being a present from the inventor, Colonel Colt. The General made me a present of one of the pistols, and had on it engraved, ‘From General Joseph E. Johnston to D. L. Armistead,’ and on the reverse side of the breech ‘Seven Pines.’

On his recovery he also gave me a furlough to visit my home and two hundred dollars. The furlough was accepted, but the money I declined. When General Johnston was ordered to the command of the Western army, he offered to take me with him; but my friends didn't want me to leave the State, and I decided to remain. I have never met the General from that time until last year in Richmond at the unveiling of General Lee's statue. I also met him a few days later, the 30th of May, at Seven Pines, exactly twenty-eight years to the day from the time that I carried him off of the field.


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