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Cavalry raids in the War of Secession. From the times-dispatch, January 17, 1909.

Major-General John B. Floyd and the State Line— surrender of Fort Donelson.

Captain R. F. Gross, of the ‘South Wales Borderers,’ whose command was a part of the advance guard of .General Lord Roberts in the recent Boer War, has favored us with a copy of his notes on the ‘Cavalry Raids in the War of Secession.’

Captain Gross spent several days in Richmond during October last, and in one of our war talks one evening at Captain Gordon McCabe's he mentioned the fact that he had made a study of the cavalry raids during our War of 1861-1865, and particularly those of General J. E. B. Stuart; whereupon Captain McCabe and I expressed a wish for copies of these notes, feeling sure that the observations of an accomplished military student, who had seen much army service, and who wrote as Colonel Henderson did in his ‘Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War’ from an impartial British standpoint, would be exceptionally interesting. In his letter transmitting the paper Capt. Gross modestly speaks of it as ‘very rough and unpolished,’ but we find it decidedly otherwise; and, as he has given us permission to do what we like with it, we will give tile readers of the Confederate column the pleasure of reading a few selections from his admirable papers.

R. W. H.

The surrender of Fort Donelson by General Buckner to General Grant was one of the deplorable events of the early war period, which gave rise to much controversy and bad feeling. The object of the Confederates was to hold Fort Donelson until General Albert Sidney Johnston could safely retreat from Bowling Green, and then to make good their own escape. After three days of hard fighting it was determined at a council of the principal officers, on the night of February 16, 1862, that the destruction of life attendant upon a further effort to extricate [281] the command would be too great to be thought of. General Buckner, commanding the Kentucky troops, who constituted the bulk of the force (the entire Confederate strength being about 10,000), believed escape impossible, and was a strong advocate of surrender. General Floyd's command held the ground highest up the river and nearest the point of practicable exit. He was unwilling to surrender, and so was Colonel N. B. Forres:, who then commanded a regiment of cavalry.

Unwilling to assume the responsibility of an extremely hazardous attempt to cut his way out with his entire command, against the judgment of a majority of the officers of the council, General Floyd claimed the ‘right (we give his own words) individually to determine that I would not survive a surrender there. To satisfy both propositions, I agreed to hand over the command to General Buckner, through General Pillow, and to make an effort for my own extrication by any and every means that might present themselves to me.’ General Floyd succeeded in getting away during the night with a large part of his own command before the terms of capitulation were made. Colonel Forrest also got out with all his cavalry.

I recall frequent conversations with the late General G. C. Wharton; also with Colonel Thomas Smith, of Warrenton, and Dr. (then Captain) I. W. McSherry, of Martinsburg—who were officers in Floyd's command—in regard to the conduct of both General Buckner and General Floyd in connection with the surrender at Donelson, and they all concurred in the opinion that General Floyd was fully justified in the course he pursue. The Confederate authorities at Richmond, however, took a different view and relieved General Floyd of his command.

The Legislature of Virginia, indignant at the treatment he had received, made him a major-general, and directed him to recruit and organize the classes not embraced in the Confederate conscription. His new command was called ‘The State Line,’ and was independent of the Confederate government. I was aware that it had rendered valuable services in Southwest Virginia, of which I was anxious to make a record. But not being a Confederate organization no reports of its operations are to be found in the ‘Official Records,’ and General Floyd's reports to the Governor were doubtless among the files of Adjutanteral [282] Richardson's office, which was burned on the night of the evacuation of Richmond.

It was, therefore, with great pleasure that we received last week a letter from Captain Micajah Woods, of Charlottesville, who was an officer in the ‘State Line,’ and for a time an aid on the staff of General Floyd, in which he says:

I hope during the coming spring to be able to send you a condensed history of the State Line, commanded by General John B. Floyd; in fact, I have several letters written to my parents giving quite a full account of all the history of this command. The services rendered by the State Line under Floyd seem to have been completely ignored in large measure in the current histories of Virginia and of the country. It is a remarkable fact that, after General Floyd retired from the Confederate service, by virtue of his own prowess and personal influence, he raised a command in Southwest Virginia and in Eastern Kentucky of about 5,000 men, and these men protected the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad and the Salt Works, which were essential almost to the Confederacy, and made large captures in Eastern Kentucky of equipments and ammunition, and broke up organizations that would have given great trouble in that region. I doubt if any other individual in the Confederacy in the fall of 1862 could have commanded the personal following that General Floyd did. While not trained as a soldier, he was intus et in cute,—a hero and a soldier. He sounded his bugle and thousands rallied to his standard in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, where he was born and known.

I was at his side at Carnifax Ferry when he was wounded: I was with him also at Cross Lanes (an engagement fought a few days before Carnifax Ferry), and I have never seen a more splendid figure on a battlefield, or a more fearless one than he presented. I was also with him as volunteer aid when seventeen years of age on the top of Sewell Mountain, when he was confronted by Rosecrans, and my recollection is distinct that he urged General Lee, who commanded the combined forces, to attack Rosecrans, and I still believe that, had an attack been made as suggested by General Floyd, who advised both an attack in rear and in front, we might have captured, without great loss, the whole of the army of Rosecrans.

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