previous next

Battle of Winchester, September 19th, 1864.

Early this morning our cavalry pickets on the Opequon were driven in, and it became evident that an engagement was imminent. News came that the cavalry under Fitz Lee and Lomax, and Ramseur's division of less than 2,000 infantry, were engaged by the enemy near Winchester, and Rodes' division left Stephenson's depot to go to their assistance. Gordon's division preceded us, and as soon as we reached Ramseur, we were ordered to ‘forward into line,’ and almost as quick as thought, we were rapidly hurried to the attack. General C. A. Evans, Georgia brigade, meeting overwhelming columns of the enemy, was forced back through the woods, and the Yankees were pressing after them, and came near capturing some of our artillery, when Colonel Carter and Lieutenant-Colonel Braxton opened on them with grape and canister, and the Yankees halted, and then fell back. As they began to fall back, Battle's brigade, which had formed in the rear of Evans, rushed forward and swept, with loud shouts, through the woods, driving the enemy swiftly before it. I commanded the right company [281] of our regiment and brigade in the charge. Colonel Pickens was not far from me, and General Early himself rode near me as we entered the action. I lifted my hat to the old hero as we ran forward, and noticed how proudly he watched our impetuous advance. The enemy soon ran precipitately before us, and officers and men were in the utmost confusion. We raised the well known ‘rebel yell’, and continued our onward run, for we actually ran, at our greatest speed, after the disordered host in our front. We could see that they had a much larger force than ours, but we cared not for numbers. We had never regarded superior numbers since we entered the service, in fact, we rather enjoyed it. The victory was then more creditable to us. We learned afterwards that the Sixth and Nineteenth army corps, with their full ranks and splendid equipment, were our opponents. As we moved forward we passed scores, yes, hundreds, of dead and wounded Yankees, and a large number of prisoners were captured. We passed entirely through the woods and into the open space beyond, when we halted for a moment, and then formed our line in the edge of the woods. While the lines were being established, Major Peyton, A. A. G. to General Rodes, rode up, and an indescribable, unexplainable something, I know not what, carried me to his side, as he sat motionless upon his horse. I had heard nothing, not even a rumor, nor whispered suggestion, yet something impelled me to ask, in a low tone, ‘Major, has General Rodes been killed?’ In an equally low, subdued tone that gallant officer answered, ‘yes, but keep it to yourself, do not let your men know it.’ ‘Then who succeeds to the command of this division?’ I asked. ‘General Battle,’ said he, and rode on to the next brigade. The dreadful news of MajorGeneral Rodes' sudden death, at such a critical moment, distressed and grieved me beyond expression. There was no better officer in the entire army than he, very few as brave, skillful and thoroughly trained. His men regarded him as second only to General Lee, excelled by none other. Robert E. Rodes was born at Lynchburg, Va., and graduated at the Virginia Military Institute, served two years as assistant professor, and afterwards became chief engineer of the A. & C. R. R. of Alabama. He entered the army as captain of a company from Tuscaloosa, was elected Colonel of the Fifth Alabama, and soon after promoted to brigadier-general, and succeeded General Ewell in command of the Fifth, Sixth and Twelfth Alabama and Twelfth Mississippi. The latter regiment [282] was transferred, and its place supplied by the Third and Twenty-sixth Alabama. He was wounded at Seven Pines and Sharpsburg. At Chancellorsville, in command of D. H. Hill's old division, he led the advance and swept everything before him. His clarion voice shouting, ‘forward men, over friend or foe,’ electrified his troops, and they were irresistible. They pushed on, under his gallant leadership, and completely routed the panic-stricken soldiers of ‘Fighting Joe’ Hooker. After Generals Jackson and A. P. Hill were wounded, General Rodes was in supreme command, but he modestly and patriotically yielded to General J. E. B. Stuart, who had been sent for by General Pendleton of the artillery. After this battle he was promoted to full major general, and put in charge of Battle's, Ramseur's (now Cox's), Doles' (now Cook's), and Daniel's (now Lewis') brigades. General Rodes was a precise and somewhat stern military man, of resolute expression and soldiery bearing, and enjoyed the implicit confidence of his superior officers, as well as his troops. A fragment of shell struck him behind the ear, and in a few hours this brave, skillful and trusted officer yielded up his heroic life as a holocaust to his country's cause. He married the accomplished Miss Virginia Hortense Woodruff, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., who survives with a son, his namesake, and a younger daughter, Bell Yancey. The young and gallant Colonel S. B. Pickens, of the Twelfth Alabama, took command of the brigade as senior colonel. He has commanded it nearly the entire time since we left Richmond. He was wounded during the engagement. The enemy had Crook's full, fresh corps and all his heavy force of cavalry as a reserve, and they came to the rescue of the defeated and routed Sixth and Nineteenth corps. Our ranks were very thin indeed, and our lines stretched out far too much. The enemy overlapped us for hundreds, I might say, thousands of yards, and we had no fresh troops in our rear to come to our aid. Sheridan must have had six to our one, yet our weakened forces held their ground, obstinately and proudly, until late in the afternoon, when Crook's fresh division drove back our small cavalry force under Fitz Lee. General Breckinridge, with Wharton's attenuated division, repulsed them, but the troops soon became impressed with the horrible, unendurable idea that they were flanked, and began to retreat in confusion. Just before this idea became prevalent, private John Attaway, of my company, was shot through the breast by a minie ball, and called me, as he fell, to go to him, saying he was [283] mortally wounded. I immediately began to walk from the right towards the left of the company, where Attaway was lying, bleeding and faint. I had gone but a few steps, and, while raising my right foot, was struck in the calf of the left leg by a minie ball, which broke the small (fibula) bone and badly fractured the large one. The ball flattened and came out sideways, severing muscles, veins, tendons and nerves. I was knocked down, but ordered two of my men to carry Attaway off the field, the brave and faithful fellow urging them to carry me off first, declaring he would die any way, and that my life must be saved. However, I had him moved away to the rear, before I consented for privates P. W. Chappell and Tobe Ward to place me on a blanket, and carry me to the rear. As I was borne back, Attaway called out for them to hasten with me out of danger, as bullets and shells and solid shot were flying thick and fast around us. His conduct was that of a true, magnanimous friend and generous soldier. Ward and Chappell carried me as gently and quickly as possible toward some ambulances in the rear. When we reached them we were told they belonged to the Louisiana brigade, and I was refused admittance into one. At this time the gigantic and gallant Colonel Peck, who had been wounded and retired from the field, rode up, and ascertaining the state of affairs, ordered the men to ‘take him up tenderly and put him in an ambulance,’ adding, ‘he is a wounded brother soldier and must be cared for.’

I thanked the Colonel, but he, in his bluff, soldierly way, interrupted and said he ‘had done nothing but what I would have done for him.’ Bidding a last farewell to my faithful men, I was driven to the Union Hotel, then turned into a hospital. (Note—Chappell and Ward were both afterward killed at Petersburg.) The surgeon examined my wound, and pronounced it a serious one, and dressed it, uncertain whether the leg should be amputated or not. In my own mind I resolved to die before submitting to its loss. The surgeon promised me, in event our army was to evacuate Winchester, to send me away in an ambulance, but a few minutes after shot and shell were fired into the Hospital building, crashing resistlessly through roof, walls, chimneys, etc., and knocking down bricks, plastering, planks and splinters over the helpless wounded and dying, and the demoralized surgeons, hastily detailing two or three of their number to remain with the wounded, fled incontinently, forgetting, in their anxiety to escape capture, all thought of their [284] promise to carry me along with them. Our scattered troops, closely followed by the large army of pursuers, retreated rapidly and in disorder through the city. It was a sad, humiliating sight, but such a handful of wornout men could not successfully withstand such overwhelming odds. I never saw our troops in such confusion before. It is said that Mrs. General Gordon, Mrs. Hugh Lee, and other patriotic ladies, ran impetuously into the streets and eloquently pleaded with the retreating soldiers to cease their flight and stand and confront the advancing enemy. Night found Sheridan's hosts in full and exultant possession of much abused Winchester. The hotel hospital was pretty full of desperately wounded and dying Confederates. The entire building was shrouded in darkness during the dreadful night. Sleep was impossible, as the groans, shrieks, sighs, prayers and oaths of the wretched sufferers, combined with my own severe pain, banished all thought of rest. Capt. Hewlett, of Co. H., wounded in the thigh, lay on the floor beside me. Wat Zachry, Sergeant Carr and Tom Crawford, wounded men of my company, made their escape from the city just as the Yankee cavalry entered in. A few noble women of Winchester ventured, with lanterns in their hands, to walk among the wounded and distribute sandwiches and cups of coffee with cheering words of comfort and sympathy. One sweet, Christian woman came to me and stooping, placed her gentle hand on my pale forehead and said, ‘my poor boy, you seem to be in much pain, though so quiet, take some refreshments, and tomorrow you shall have a better bed than this hard floor.’ I thanked her, drank some coffee, and inquired what she had heard of General Rodes. She told me his body had been saved and sent to Lynchburg. Many of my wounded comrades wept aloud and bitterly on learning for the first time the fate of their beloved commander. All seemed overcome with unaffected grief. General Goodwin of North Carolina, and Col. G. W. Patton were killed, and General York of Louisiana, lost an arm. The brave Capt. Tom Lightfoot of the 6th Alabama, by whose side I have stood in many a battle, was instantly killed. He was a younger brother of Col. J. N. Lightfoot, The enemy lost Brigadier General Russell killed, and Generals Upton, McIntosh and Chapman wounded. Report says that over 6000 Yankee wounded are now scattered over Winchester in every available building. Private houses have been seized and turned into hospitals, and their inmates forced to seek [285] other quarters. The churches, too, are used. It has been a victory bought at a fearful cost to them, if it be a victory at all.

Surgeons Cromwell and Love, of North Carolina, and Surgeons T. J. Weatherly, of the 6th Alabama, and Robert Hardy, of the 3rd Alabama, were left in charge of our wounded. Captain Hewlett and I were moved to a well ventilated room on the second floor and placed on a comfortable mattress. A short time after an elegant lady came in to see us, and inquired from what State we hailed. I replied, ‘Alabama,’ whereupon she said she had lost a favorite cousin, a captain in an Alabama regiment, killed at Seven Pines. He proved to be Captain Keeling of my company, and the good woman, Mrs. Mary Greenhow Lee (now of Baltimore), proposed to take us under her special care, and to have us carried to a private house where we would be better provided for. We gladly consented, and, after a brief absence, she returned with some litters, borne by negroes, who still remained faithful to their owners, despite the corrupting influence of the Yankees, and were carried to the law office once used by Hon. James M. Mason, our Minister to England, and his able partner, Mr. Clark. The office was on Main street, near Fort Hill, socalled from the remains of an old fort erected there in the days of the British General Braddock, and near the residence of Mr. Clark and his amiable daughter, Mrs. Susan P. Jones. Mrs. Jones sent us some delicacies, and made us a brief visit. I suffered much from my wound to-day. A party of Confederates, perhaps a hundred, marched by the office, under guard, on their way to some Northern prison. The sight was a painful one.

Major Lambeth, Lieutenant W. H. Hearne, Sergeant Lines and private Watkins, of the 14th North Carolina, were brought to the office and quartered with us. Captain Frost, of the 4th Georgia, from West Point, Ga., died of his wounds in hospital. The ladies gave him the kindest attention.

Yankees are continually passing our door, and frequently stop and gaze curiously and impertinently at us, and ask rude, tantalizing questions. They do not wait to be invited in, but stalk in noisily and roughly. Their conversation is coarse and insulting.

We have many conflicting and unreliable rumors of Early's movements. Six families, in the vicinity of the office, have agreed to alternately furnish us with our daily meals. They are those of Mrs. Susan Peyton Jones, Mrs. J. N. Swartzwelder, Mrs. Burwell, Mrs. [286] W. G. Kiger, Mrs. Snapp and Mrs. Marsteller. Three times each day they send us very palatable and abundant meals, nicely cooked, and of fine variety. Negro slaves bring them to us, and are very attentive and respectful, sincerely sympathizing with us in our sufferings, and openly declaring their purpose to remain with their mistresses (their masters are absent in the Southern army), and not regard the seductive promises made by the Yankees to induce them to abandon their life-long friends and homes.

Several pretty girls called to see us, and entertained us very agreeably with their charming conversation. Among them were Misses Nena Kiger, Gertrude Coffroth, Sallie Hoffman, Jennie Taylor, and Lizzie Swartzwelder. They are true to the cause and encourage us much.

September 25. (Sunday). All the churches in the city, except one, are filled with Yankee wounded. Our surgeons say our wounded will not number over 500, while theirs is between 4,000 and 5,000, nearly ten times greater than ours. Their killed is said to be equal to our killed and wounded together. Verily, a costly victory for them!

Miss Janet Fauntleroy, a very pretty and intelligent young lady, came to the office and brought us some delicacies. She is a granddaughter of Brigadier-general Fauntleroy, perhaps the oldest officer on the rolls of the Confederate army, now over eighty years of age, and daughter of Captain Fauntleroy of the Confederate navy, now serving his country on the high seas, aiding Admiral Semmes, Captain Maffitt, Commodore Maury and other gallant seamen. My wound gives me constant pain. The torn flesh protrudes nearly two inches, and the severed nerves torture me much.

September 27th, 28th and 29th. Three days of great suffering. Small bones are constantly working their way out of my wound, and the separated nerves and sinews keep me awake, night and day. The good ladies are ministering angels, so incessant are they in their kind attentions. They are doing most excellent service in the Confederate hospital, greatly assisting the surgeons. We owe them a debt of lasting gratitude.

One afternoon, while in conversation with the beautiful Miss Nena Kiger, a sharp piece of bone, making its exit from my wound, cut an artery, and ‘secondary hemorrhage’ was produced. Miss Nena ran immediately for a surgeon, and, in an incredibly short time, returned with Dr. Hardy, who promptly applied sulphate of iron and [287] bandaged my leg very tightly from the foot to the knee, thus checking the dangerous hemorrhage. The blood flowed in jets from the artery, and I soon became very faint and deathly sick. Drs. Weatherly and Hardy came to see me frequently during the day and night, and, although they gave me two large doses of morphine, I could not sleep at all for the pain. Poor John Attaway died of his wound at the residence of Mrs. Hist. He spoke often, while in his right mind, and in his delirium, affectionately of his mother, of Sergeant Stafford and myself. Mrs. Hist brought me some parting messages from him. May his brave spirit rest in peace!

The severed nerves in my left foot, below my wound, caused me real agony. My comrades in the office are cheerful and seem to improve. Sergeant Lines of the 14th North Carolina, is a native of the North, but is a true southerner in sentiment. Some of our best soldiers were born in the North, and deserve honor for their devotion to truth and their adopted homes.

Rumors are rife that General Early will attempt to retake Winchester soon. This is very improbable, as Sheridan's forces are too numerous. Reinforcements pass by the office every day going to the front, and Early's army must be a mere handful of exhausted, illy equipped men, incapable of any offensive movement. The ladies bring us all kinds of reports, usually very cheering. They always look on the bright side. Mosby's men venture into the city quite often at night, to see relatives and friends, and gain all the information they can. They are greeted warmly, and secreted by the citizens until they are ready to leave the city. They carry outmany letters for Dixie Land. The risk they run is very great, but they are daring scouts, accustomed to danger and fond of its excitement.

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 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.
Robert E. Rodes (8)
John Attaway (5)
J. A. Early (4)
Tobe Ward (3)
Sheridan (3)
S. D. Ramseur (3)
Fitz Lee (3)
Robert Hardy (3)
Janet Fauntleroy (3)
C. A. Battle (3)
T. J. Weatherly (2)
Lines (2)
Susan Peyton Jones (2)
Hist (2)
A. E. Hewlett (2)
J. B. Gordon (2)
C. A. Evans (2)
Crook (2)
George Clark (2)
P. W. Chappell (2)
Wat Zachry (1)
Zebulon York (1)
Bell Yancey (1)
Virginia Hortense Woodruff (1)
A. D. Wharton (1)
Charlie Watkins (1)
Upton (1)
Jennie Taylor (1)
Lizzie Swartzwelder (1)
J. N. Swartzwelder (1)
J. E. B. Stuart (1)
Stephenson (1)
R. H. Stafford (1)
Snapp (1)
Paul Semmes (1)
John Russell (1)
Samuel B. Pickens (1)
S. B. Pickens (1)
Green Peyton (1)
William N. Pendleton (1)
Peck (1)
G. W. Patton (1)
Mosby (1)
McIntosh (1)
D. H. Maury (1)
James M. Mason (1)
Marsteller (1)
Maffitt (1)
Love (1)
Lomax (1)
Tom Lightfoot (1)
J. N. Lightfoot (1)
B. F. Lewis (1)
Mary Greenhow Lee (1)
Hugh Lee (1)
Lambeth (1)
W. G. Kiger (1)
Nena Kiger (1)
Misses Nena Kiger (1)
Robert H. Keeling (1)
Susan P. Jones (1)
Stonewall Jackson (1)
Joseph Hooker (1)
Sallie Hoffman (1)
D. H. Hill (1)
Ambrose P. Hill (1)
W. H. Hearne (1)
Goodwin (1)
Frost (1)
Richard Stoddard Ewell (1)
Drs (1)
Doles (1)
John W. Daniel (1)
Cromwell (1)
Tom Crawford (1)
Henry W. Cox (1)
Henry R. Cook (1)
Gertrude Coffroth (1)
Werneth R. Chapman (1)
Thomas H. Carter (1)
W. M. Carr (1)
Burwell (1)
J. C. Breckinridge (1)
Braxton (1)
Braddock (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
September 19th, 1864 AD (1)
September 28th (1)
September 27th (1)
September 25th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: