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[341]

Demonstration on Harpers Ferry, from the Times-dispatch, December 9, 1906.

May 29, 1862—How Jackson Eluded Fremont and won three fights in four Days—Scouting in the Darkness—Famous Valley campaign of 1862— well—laid plans that worked well.


During the last week of May, 1862, my regiment, ‘the 2nd Virginia Cavalry,’ commanded by Colonel T. T. Munford (afterward General Munford) was doing duty around Bolivar Heights, near Harper's Ferry.

During the night of May 29th I was aroused by Colonel Munford, who ordered me to take my company (Company B, the Wise Troop, of Lynchburg), and move down the pike to the neighborhood of Halltown, which is near the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, to establish a picket.

As I was entirely ignorant of the country, having come there in the night, the colonel proceeded by the light of a Confederate candle to outline the route he wished me to take with pencil on a small piece of paper. He directed me to pass our infantry pickets, and not to go into Halltown, but to be sure to stop before the town and establish a picket, and to await future orders. I aroused my men—they grumbled very much about being waked so soon after going to rest, but they soon got saddled up and off. We started with positive instructions from Colonel Munford, not to go into Halltown. I suppose that place was looked on as being in the Yankees' lines, or too far from ours.

Scouting in the dark.

On we rode in an entirely new country. None of us had ever been there before. We passed infantry in the road. Some were asleep by the side, while others were sitting around camp fires. Muskets were sometimes stacked, but not always by a good deal. Then the artillery—the guns were in the road, the horses fastened to the fences; some of the men awake; others [342] asleep, as the infantry; but there were no signs of anybody being on duty that I could see. From the condition of the troops, I had no idea we were near the enemy. They were completely worn out, and most of them enjoying a well-earned rest in sleep.

After leaving these troops all behind we continued our ride, expecting every few minutes to come upon our infantry picket, but none appeared. We passed some houses on the road, but not a single living soul did we see. We finally came to several houses together, stretched along the pike for a distance of two hundred yards. It was still dark, .and everything seemed to be perfectly still in these houses, no lights, no chickens crowing. As it was getting on towards morning I concluded this village must be deserted. This was the first impression we had that we must be nearing the enemy's lines, having seen no pickets and nobody on duty, even in the bivouac, I could hardly conceive of our being so near as it turned out to be.

Passed Halltown Unawares.

As I with my men approached the last house in the pike in a group of houses, I saw a man dodge behind the back of the house. This was the first man we had seen since we left the sleeping soldiers in the pike. I hurried my horse through the open front gate and overhalued him before he could get away. It was still dark, and he evidently was not sure who we were. I took him around to where my men were, and after his seeing them, I convinced him as to our identity, and he seemed willing to talk. In reply to my first question to him asking what village this was, to my great surprise he answered ‘Halltown,’ and there now, we had disobeyed the most positive order not to go into Halltown, and had ridden entirely through it. I expressed no surprise to him, nor did I have any idea of giving him a chance of getting away, although I believed him all right, and inquired what side he was with. As it turned out afterwards he was a rebel, in sympathy with us, but not in the army.

Things looked ugly.

I next asked him were there any Yankees about, he replied, ‘Oh, yes.’ ‘Where are they?’ I asked. ‘A little way down the [343] pike, where the railroad crosses.’ ‘Who are they, and how many?’ He said it was a cavalry picket at the railroad crossing, and their reserved forces were some distance in the rear of the picket in a stone house on the right-hand side of the pike. All this I found to be true afterwards. The position of things looked a little ugly, so I thought the best thing I could do was to send the man back to General Jackson, so I told the soldier who had charge of him to arouse the first troop he found and tell the officers commanding that there was nothing between him and the enemy except a small company of cavalrymen, only about thirty men. Then to go to Jackson's headquarters, wherever they were, and turn the man over to him and ask for instructions for me.

It was now getting towards daylight, and the man before I sent him off a prisoner to Jackson, asked me to wait a few minutes, and he would show me the Yankee picket. I then sent the main body of my men back through the village. I and one man remained with the prisoner to watch the Yankee pickets as it became day.

Enemy's picket and a Captive.

We had not long to wait, for very soon we saw a cavalryman in blue mounted, watching intently in our direction. I then immediately dispatched him with his guard to the rear or to wherever General Jackson was, I and one man remaining at the far end of the village next to the Federal picket. I watched him closely to see if he communicated with his reserves, as I was uneasy about the status of our forces. I made no demonstration as long as the Yankee made none. While we watched each other a man came out of the woods to our left approaching us; we divided our attention with him. He continued to come on. I rode towards him, and took him in. He claimed he was a deserter from the Yankees. He did not seem to know much, but I sent him back to General Jackson also. All this occupied some time, and it was now sunrise, and the man I sent with the first prisoner (Mr. John T. Smith, of Lynchburg), returned with orders from General Jackson for the officer in charge of the picket to report to him at once.

[344]

First glimpse of Jackson.

I had never seen General Jackson, though we had come down the Valley with him.

I at once turned my picket over to the next command and hurried to my first sight of the general commanding, T. J. Jackson. I had not very far to go, as Jackson always kept well up to the front. I found the different commands all awake, having been aroused by my first courier sent back. John T. Smith, with the prisoner, had no difficulty in finding the general's headquarters under a tree on top of a high hill. I rode up, saluted, and asked was this General Jackson. On receiving an affirmative reply, I told him I was the officer in charge of the picket at Halltown; had received order from him to report at once. His first question was, ‘What is your rank?’ (I had no marks on me, in fact had no coat on). My reply was, ‘first lieutenant, Company B, 2nd Virginia Cavalry.’ ‘How many men have you in picket with you?’ ‘Thirty,’ I replied. ‘Are you acquainted with the country?’ ‘Never was here until last night,’ was my reply. He expressed no surprise at there being no one on duty that night on picket before I came. After a moment or two he told me to go back to Halltown, to take a man with me and make a reconnaissance to the left of the Federal picket, going through a farm road up a rather steep hill (this hill was out of view of the Federal picket at the railroad crossing), not to threaten the picket, but watch closely, and to return to him and report what I saw.

Reconnoitering the enemy.

I immediately returned to the picket post, took one man, and started on my scout. I passed to the left of Halltown, the Federal picket still in the same position, mounted, as we first saw him at daylight, took the farm road up to near the top of the hill. My man and myself dismounted, tied our horses in the woods, and crept very cautiously to the edge or summit of the hill, which was now an open field of wheat well grown. I knew we were on dangerous ground, and we were both careful to [345] conceal ourselves as best we could in the wheat and bushes at the fence on the top of the hill.

I was surprised to find I was so close to the Yanks on the heights. I could see the men in the fort, the sentinels on guard, the embrasure with guns pointing in our direction, and we were almost in rear of the Federal picket at the railroad. I was very uneasy about our situation, but I saw nothing to report until I got almost on them. I felt I must go on until I saw something, and I was soon entirely satisfied with what I saw. After noticing closely the ground in front, as well as the work, we crept back to our horses, rode down the hill, and passed in front of the Federal picket we first saw. He had not moved his position.

Another interview with Jackson.

I hurried to General Jackson to report, finding him at the same place. The infantry troops were called to attention, and forming in column in the pike, the artillery all hitched up and the men at the guns ready to move at a moment's notice, I saw we were on the eve of something very important. I hastened on to General Jackson and made my report of the situation as I saw it. He listened very attentively. The first question he asked in regard to the farm road was, ‘Could you get artillery up it?’ ‘Oh! yes,’ I answered, ‘easily.’ ‘Could you get it back,’ was the next question. ‘Certainly,’ I replied, ‘easy enough.’ ‘But if you were in a great hurry, could you do it so easily?’ Now I told him I did not know so well about that. He then asked me how many guns I saw in the fortifications. On my reply to him—for I had counted them—he asked me how did I know they were real cannon or ‘shams.’ I told him I could not be sure of that, but they looked exactly like real ones. It struck me that he was examining me as much to see if I had really been where he sent me, so as to determine how far he could use me in the future, for General Jackson knew all that country thoroughly. After I was through with my report, almost immediately he said, ‘We will not go that,’ meaning, of course, up the hill road.

[346]

‘Drive in the Federal picket.’

He then told me to go back to my picket, form my men in columns of fours and drive the Federal picket in, ‘I will support you.’ I returned immediately to Halltown, finding the troops all on the pike in the same direction. I moved my reserve up to where my one man was on duty facing the Federal picket, he joining us, and without more ado charged the picket. He fired his carbine and fled for his reserves, we followed him so closely that we did not give the reserves time to form, and scattered them in all directions in the woods, some leaving their horses and arms in and around the stone schoolhouse. We gathered up the arms and accentrements, blankets, etc. I halted to consider what next. I had done what General Jackson ordered, driven the picket in on the reserve and also driven off and scattered the ‘reserve,’ breaking up the station, capturing horses and arms.

I wanted to hear of our support, when I caught the welcome sound of tramp, tramp, tramp, which I knew was infantry, and soon old Stonewall, at the head of his old brigade, came up on quick time. I reported to the general what I had done and showed the result to him. His only reply was, ‘I wish you and your men to stay with me as couriers, and assigned me with four men to go with Colonel Baylor, commanding the Stonewall Brigade, who was to make the advance on the works.’

We advanced through the woods to the top of the same ridge I had been on in the morning, but further to our right, and came in full view of the heights, threw our troops in line of battle, with skirmishers out well to the front, and reported to Stonewall (who was back hurrying up troops) that we were ready to advance. The order came, ‘Advance’ Colonel Baylor gave the order, ‘Forward!’ The skirmishers moved across the field, the line of battle following. The enemy were not yet seen, but we expected to meet them in the next field. Not a shot was fired. Just as our skirmishers got over the fence, and as we with line of battle got to the fence, here came a courier to Colonel Baylor from Jackson to halt. There we stood possibly fifteen minutes, when another courier came from Jackson ordering the [347] line of battle to fall back to the ridge on which we had first formed, and the skirmishers to fall back over the fence. We remained during most of the day and built fires as if we were going into camp. That night the army was in full motion up the Valley.

I did not get back to my regiment until I got to Strasburg. Jackson slipped by Fremont a few days later, fought the battles of Harrisonburg, Cross Keys and Port Republic inside of four days, winding up his memorable Valley campaign of 1862. This was the opening of that great campaign, and led to the movement to Richmond.

A. D. Warwick., Late First Lieutenant 2nd Virginia Regiment.

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