previous next

Chapter 5:

  • Opening of the summer campaign in Virginia.
  • -- adventure at Verdiersville. -- the first cavalry. -- fight at Brandy Station. -- fight at Cunningham's Ford. -- heavy artillery. -- fight between the Hazel and Rappahannock rivers. -- passage of the latter, and march to Warrenton and Catlett's Station. -- artillery engagement. -- recrossing of the Rappahannock. -- fights at Waterloo Bridge. -- march to Salem and Bristow Station. -- capture of the large Federal supply-depots. -- fight at Manassas plains. -- fights Preliminary to the second battle of Manassas. -- second great battle of Manassas, or battle of Groveton. -- from the second battle of Manassas to the invasion of Maryland.

When the train which we were to take for Gordonsville reached the Hanover Court-house Station on the afternoon of the 16th August, our horses having been already safely placed in a stock-car awaiting its arrival, it was so densely crowded with troops, many of them lying stretched out on the tops of the carriages, that the General and Staff, not wishing to deprive any of these brave fellows of their seats, determined to ride on the tender of the locomotive, where, in the best possible spirits, we made ourselves as [73] comfortable as the circumstances of the case would allow. There is a feeling of great buoyancy in the breast of the soldier when, after a period of unusual inactivity, he goes forward again to the field-one seems to one's self so strong, and looks so gaily forward to the coming campaign. Too much occupied with the future to indulge in reveries of the past, or regrets for happy hours “departed never to return,” we filled up the time with talk and song as we rolled rapidly through the beautiful country, of which, by reason of the thick clouds of smoke that enveloped us, we could catch only occasional glimpses. We arrived at Gordonsville just at daybreak. When the morning light grew strong enough to enable us to see each other, we broke out at the same moment into a hearty roar of laughter, for it revealed faces as black as Ethiopia. The engine had been covering us with soot from the time we left Hanover Court-house, and it required many ablutions to restore the natural colour of our skins. After an hour's delay thus employed, and partaking of a light breakfast, we proceeded by special train to Orange Court-house, where we brought up at eleven o'clock in the morning.

We now mounted our horses and rode through the numerous encampments of our army to the headquarters of General Robert E. Lee, where we tarried an hour, and then proceeded to the camp of Jackson, a few miles off, which we reached about three P. M., just in time for dinner. The great Stonewall gave but little thought to the comforts of life, but he was so much the pet of the people that all the planters and farmers in whose neighbourhood he erected his simple tent, vied with each other in supplying him abundantly with the delicacies of the table; and accordingly we found an excellent dinner set out, to which we did full justice. Immediately after rising from the repast, General Stuart despatched Captain Fitzhugh and Lieutenant Dabney of his Staff to the little village of Verdiersville, where he expected the arrival of Fitz Lee's brigade, and desired me to accompany himself on a little [74] reconnaissance to Clark's Mountain, where we had erected a signal-station, from which, it was said, there was a wide view of the plains of Culpepper, dotted over with the encampments of the Federal army. On our way we met one of our scouts, Mosby, who had acted as courier to General Stuart, and who subsequently so greatly distinguished himself in the guerilla warfare he conducted. Knowing him well acquainted with the position of the enemy, the General ordered him to ride with us. The view from the summit of Clark's Mountain is indeed magnificent. On the right the eye ranges over the dark green of the immense forests which line the borders of the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers for many miles, while in front stretches the vast fertile valley of Culpepper, engirdled in the remote landscape by the Blue Ridge, whose mountaintops, thickly wooded, afforded, in their dark-blue tint as we saw them, a lovely contrast with the splendour of the evening sky. There were abundant signs of active military life in this valley. Many thousands of tents were to be seen, the thin blue smoke of their camp-fires rising straight up in the still air; regiments of infantry were marching and counter-marching in various directions, and long waggon-trains were moving along the distant roads, escorted by cavalry detachments with gay pennons and guidons. From every indication we were convinced, as we set out on our return, that the enemy was preparing a general movement, probably a retrograde one; and this proved to be the fact.

18th and 19th August.

It was late in the night when we reached the little village of Verdiersville, finding there Fitzhugh and Dabney, who reported, to General Stuart's great surprise, that our cavalry had not as yet arrived. Captain Fitzhugh was sent immediately in search of it, while the rest of us bivouacked in the [75] little garden of the first farmhouse on the right of the village. Being so far outside of our lines we did not unsaddle, taking off only our blankets; and, for myself, I observed the precaution of lying down with my weapons, which made Lieutenant Dabney ask my why I would persist in making myself so uncomfortable; but he had reason to regret that he had not the prudence to profit by my example. We slept little during the night, and were awake with the dawn. About four A. M. we heard the heavy trampling of a long column of cavalry and the rumbling of artillery, and saw through the mist of the morning a strong body of horsemen crossing the road which led through the village, about 400 yards distant from us. General Stuart, confidently believing that this was Fitz Lee's brigade, sent Mosby and the only other courier we had with us to order the command to halt, and inform the commanding officer that he wished to see him immediately. A few seconds later we heard pistol-shots in rapid succession, and saw our two men coming towards us at a full run, a whole squadron of the enemy in close pursuit. I stood close to the General, handing him his blankets, as the Yankees, not more than a hundred and fifty yards from us, came rattling along. Stuart, without hat or haversack, jumped into the saddle, and, lifting his animal lightly and cleverly over the garden enclosure, gained the open field; after him Dabney, leaving behind him his sword and pistols. I had to run about fifteen steps to the place where my horse was tied to the fence, and reaching it, I unfastened the bridle, but had no time to throw the reins over his head. The animal became excited, and reared and plunged fearfully, and I was obliged to vault upon his back without the rein — a feat which I safely accomplished, and afterwards succeeded in forcing him through the garden gate, which was opportunely held open for me by the old lady of the house. Here I came directly upon the major who commanded the detachment, who placed his revolver at my breast and demanded my surrender; but before he or his [76] men could divine my intentions, by a smart slap on my horse's head I turned it in the right direction, and, putting the spurs deep into his flanks, I extricated myself by a tremendous flying leap from the hostile circle which was rapidly drawing closer and closer around me. A shower of carbine and pistol bullets followed my retreating figure, and the Yankees, enraged by the trick I had played them, dashed after me in hot and furious pursuit. The greater number of my pursuers I soon left far behind me, thanks to the speed of my noble black charger; but a few, and the major foremost among them, were still close upon me. The latter discharged at me three barrels of his revolver, one of the bullets passing through my uniform without scratching the skin. After a race of nearly a mile the Yankees gave up the game, and I was able to get hold of my bridle, having been until then, so far as all management of my horse was concerned, in a perfectly helpless condition. Captain Fitzhugh, who had been taken prisoner by the same troops the previous night while on his way to look after Fitz Lee's brigade, and who, having given his parole, had been allowed to witness the whole affair, told me afterwards that he could not understand how I ever made my escape, and that at every shot fired by the major he had shut his eyes so that he might not see me fall.

Soon after getting clear of my pursuers I was joined by Mosby, and we rode back some distance to see what had become of our companions. We soon found the General bareheaded, looking at the disappearing column of the enemy, who were carrying off in triumph his beautiful hat, the present of a lady in Baltimore, and his haversack, containing some important maps and documents. Dabney made a sorry appearance as he came up without his arms, and I could not help maliciously asking him if he felt quite comfortable now. Stuart covered his head with his handkerchief as a protection against the sun, and we could not look [77] at each other, despite our heat and indignation, without laughing heartily at the figures we respectively cut. The driver of a sutler's waggon belonging to a Georgia regiment whom we fell in with on our return, happily supplied General Stuart with a new hat; but the tidings of our mishap and adventure had spread like lightning through the whole army, and excited a great sensation. Wherever we passed an encampment on our way, the troops cheered us, and vociferously inquired of General Stuart what had become of his hat?

Fitz Lee's brigade, which had been detained by bad roads and a misconception of orders, did not join us until late that night, when Robertson's brigade also arrived on the Rapidan. Hampton's command had been left behind on the lines of the Chickahominy on picket duty. It was a great satisfaction to be with our troops again, and to be assured that an opportunity would soon be afforded us of paying off the Yankees for their recent attentions to us. On the morning of the 19th we marched with General Fitz Lee's brigade towards the Rapidan, where Robertson's command had encamped. There we bivouacked, and made our preparations for the fight which would in all probability take place on the following day. The army of General Pope had retreated, in accordance with our expectations, for a considerable distance, and taken a new position on the north side of the Rappahannock, leaving a large body of cavalry on our side of the river, in the neighbourhood of Brandy Station, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. This force we had orders to drive off.

20th August.

At daybreak, with two brigades, we crossed the Rapidan. The passage was attended with difficulty, especially with the artillery, on account of the depth of the water. Lee's brigade [78] was sent to the right, in the direction of Kelly's Ford; General Stuart and Staff marched with Robertson's brigade in the direction of Stevensburg, about one mile from Brandy Station, and both commands were to unite near the latter place. Our advance-guard came first in contact with the enemy, who, broken by the attack, fled in great confusion, and were pursued through the little village and more than a mile beyond it. The joy of the inhabitants, who for a long time had seen none but Federal soldiers, and who had been very badly treated by them, cannot be described. Men, women, and children came running out of all the houses towards us with loud exclamations of delight, many thanking God on their knees for their deliverance from the enemy. A venerable old lady asked permission to kiss our battle-flag, which had been borne throughout so many victorious fights, and blessed it with tears. The enthusiasm was so great that old men and boys, all that were able to carry a gun, in spite of our earnest remonstrances, followed our column to join in the fight with the detested Yankees.

The enemy, strongly reinforced, had now taken position about two miles from Stevensburg, on the outskirts of an extensive wood. Several small detachments had been pushed nearer towards us, and were patrolling on our flanks. One of these, in strength about half a squadron, mounted on grey horses, operated with great dash; but, advancing imprudently, was cut off by a body of our men, who fell upon them like a thunderbolt, killing and taking prisoners all but six, who saved themselves by the fleetness of their horses. The Federals dismounted many of their cavalrymen; and their line of sharpshooters, about a mile in length, poured upon us from the dense undergrowth a heavy fire, wounding several of our men and horses. This checked for a time our onward movement; but a large number of our troops, having been also dismounted, engaged the Federal tirailleurs with great [79] gallantry, and we then charged with the main body upon the enemy's centre, and quickly drove them from their position. In the melee I captured a very good horse, which was unfortunately wounded very soon afterwards; but I took from it an excellent saddle and bridle that had belonged to an officer.

The enemy's retreat was now so rapid it was difficult to keep up with them, so that General Stuart, in order not to exhaust all our horses, took only one regiment, the 7th, in the pursuit with him, giving orders to the rest to follow at an easy trot. We were not long in reaching the heights near Brandy Station, from which we saw the Federal cavalry in line of battle in the large open plain before it. They were about 3500 strong, and, being drawn up in beautiful order, presented, with their arms glittering in the sun and their waving battle-flags, a splendid spectacle. Our brave fellows of the 7th were immediately placed to confront them, and the sharpshooters of both parties were soon engaged in a brisk skirmish. With great impatience and anxiety we now waited the arrival of our reserves, and courier after courier was sent to hurry them to the spot. As even our colour-sergeant had to perform orderly duty, I took the battle-flag from his hands. This act attracted the attention of the enemy's sharpshooters at a distance of 800 yards, and they kept up, from that remote point, for some time, a surprisingly well-directed fire at me, one of their bullets cutting a new rent in the glorious old ensign.

The enemy now commenced his serious attack, and as our position, by reason of his vastly superior numbers, was a precarious one, General Stuart, taking the standard himself, ordered me to gallop in haste to our reserves, assume myself the command, and bring them up as fast as the horses could run. After a short, sharp ride, I reached the regiments, and with a loud voice commanded them, in the name of their [80] General, to move forward at a gallop. As I was well known to every man in the division, the order was at once obeyed, and in a few minutes I arrived with the column at the spot where General Stuart awaited us with the greatest solicitude, just in time to form hurriedly our lines and dash onward with the wild Virginia yell to the rescue of the 7th. Occupying the place of honour in front of the regiments, I shared to the full extent the excitement of the onset. The enemy, as usual, received us with a rattling volley, which emptied several saddles; but a few seconds more and we were in the midst of them, and their beautiful lines, which we had so much admired, had broken into flight. I had the satisfaction here of saving my life by a magnificent blow upon one of my antagonists, who, at the very moment of firing at me, received my full right-cut on the lower part of the neck, severing his head nearly from his body.

During the confusion of the melee, I discovered suddenly that a fresh squadron of the enemy was attacking us on the right flank, a manoeuvre which, in the disorder inevitable after a charge, might have turned out disastrously for us; and, collecting about eighty of our men around me, I threw myself with this comparatively small force upon them. They at once slackened their pace, and when we had got within forty yards of them, halted, and received us with a volley which had very little effect. Upon this they fled precipitately, and were chased by us into the woods, where many of them were cut down and made prisoners. The main body of the enemy meanwhile had rallied several times, but again and again they had to yield before our impetuous advance, until the last of them were driven through the waves of the Rappahannock, where their infantry and artillery, strongly posted on the farther bank, offered them protection, leaving behind many of their dead and wounded and several hundred prisoners.

I had a happy feeling when riding out of the battle and [81] wiping the blood from my sword on my horse's mane. I was complimented by General Stuart most warmly for my behaviour, and to this day it is to me one of the most exciting recollections of the war. The whole had been a genuine cavalry-fight, with sabres crossing and single combatinci-dents that very rarely occur in modern warfare-reminding me very much of the battle-pieces of the Dutch painter Wouvermans. The Yankees gave a most amusing description of me in their newspapers. In their accounts of the fight it was stated that the rebels in their charge had been led on by a giant, mounted on a tremendous horse, and brandishing wildly over his head a sword as long and big as a fence-rail, who had made a terrible impression on their troops. Fitz Lee did not arrive with his brigade on the battle-field until five o'clock in the afternoon, having himself had a hard encounter with a strong force of the enemy, which he had succeeded in driving back, taking many prisoners. The rest of the day we were busy in burying the dead and taking care of the wounded. I occupied myself chiefly with nursing Captain Redmond Burke of our Staff, who, while charging gallantly by my side, had received a bullet in the leg. We bivouacked on the battle-field, which is now a desert where the bones of men and animals are bleaching on every hand. Many fights afterwards took place on the same ground, and the place is historic. Future generations of Virginians, as they pick up rusted bits of shell, and bullets, and fragments of broken weapons, with which the whole field has been so often strewn, will recall with pride the noble deeds done by their fathers in the battles at Brandy Station.

21st August.

During the night and early in the morning a large party of our army had arrived in the vicinity of Brandy Station, and [82] soon after day-light the boom of artillery from Jackson's corps, which was in advance, announced to us that Old Stonewall was already at work. General Robert E. Lee had established his headquarters in a grove quite near us, and as we could get nothing for breakfast, we gladly accepted his invitation to share his own frugal meal, which consisted of rye coffee, bread, and wild honey. Orders were now given us to proceed immediately to the front and co-operate with Jackson in the event of any further extensive operations being attempted. The firing of the morning we soon found to have been nothing more than an artillery duel between some of Jackson's guns and the Federal batteries, from which the latter withdrew after one of their caissons had been exploded. Some infantry and cavalry, which had been posted on the opposite bank of the river, having also disappeared, we received orders to cross the Rappahannock, with two regiments of horse and a section of rifle pieces, and reconnoitre the enemy's position. As the road we had to take was tortuous, leading through several ravines up the hilly country on the other side of Cunningham's Ford, and thus affording the enemy a good opportunity for ambush, I was sent ahead with sixty of our men, to gain the heights as quickly as possible, and select without delay a favourable position for our guns. This we found readily enough, on a commanding hill in the midst of a corn-field, as we met with no resistance, and saw only a few squads of cavalry afar off. Riding over the ground where the enemy's batteries had recently been placed, I was surprised at the evidences it presented of the tremendous effects of Jackson's artillery. The spot where the caisson had been blown up was covered with dead and wounded men, and muskets and all sorts of equipments lay around, which had been thrown away by the supporting force. As this had consisted of new levies, the men had been demoralised by our well-directed fire, and fled in utter stampede upon the [83] explosion of an ammunition-chest in the very midst of them. Among other things, I captured here one of the enemy's large regimental drums, which I presented to one of Jackson's regiments, to the delight of every man in it.

Scarcely had our rifle pieces been put in position, when there came in sight a considerable force of the enemy's cavalry, which was held in check only by the accurate aim and rapid service of our gunners, and the bold advance of the 5th Virginia Cavalry under Colonel Rosser on our left. We very soon discovered, however, that just now the enemy was disinclined to allow any further proceedings on our part. Several batteries from different points opened upon us, and a large body of infantry made its appearance, throwing forward at double-quick two lines of skirmishers in excellent order. The command was at once given for us to retire; and as Colonel Rosser's regiment, by reason of the enemy's rapid advance, had been placed in great danger of being cut off, I was sent to warn him of the peril of his position, leaving him to get out of it as best he could. I reached Rosser in safety, but, to rejoin General Stuart without loss of time, I was compelled to ride back along the same line, upon which the enemy's skirmishers had been pushing closer and closer, and where again shot after shot was fired at me. It is not a pleasant experience to serve, for so long a distance, as a target for practised marksmen, and to count the chances, with every lope of one's horse, of getting safely past them. The last eight or ten of these tirailleurs were not more than eighty or a hundred yards distant from my path, and I could distinctly hear the officer calling out to his men to take a quiet aim and bring that impudent rebel officer down. But they missed me, and the tall stalks of a neighbouring corn-field soon concealed me for a time from their view. My troubles, however, were not yet over. On getting in sight of the ford, I discovered it to be already occupied by the Yankee cavalry, who immediately [84] observed me, and started in pursuit. The sharpshooters being now also again on my track, firing incessantly, and yelling like bloodhounds, I had but one way left; so, urging my horse1 some distance higher up the river, and forcing him to a tremendous leap from the high bank into the deep stream, I crossed it swimming, the Yankee bullets like hailstones slashing the water all around me. I was received with great enthusiasm and loud cheering by our own men, who had witnessed the whole scene, full of anxiety for my fate. Rosser also reached us safely with his command some hours later, but he had been obliged to cut his way through, with the loss of several of his men and two of his officers.

A heavy cannonade was kept up for the remainder of the day by the enemy's batteries, which took position on the opposite bank of the river, and were answered with spirit by Jackson's guns, but little damage was done on either side. The Yankees employed here a shell which, being closed by a peculiar screw, made in its flight a most extraordinary noise, very like the high notes of the mocking-bird. This excited the lively merriment of our careless fellows, who greeted every one of these melodious missiles with a loud piping imitation from one wing of our army to the other.

22d August.

The darkness of the night had not yet given way to dawn, when we again set out for active operations, with portions of Fitz Lee's and Robertson's brigades and our horse-artillery, numbering about 2000 men. A strong demonstration was to be made in the direction of Wellford's Ford on the Rappahannock, [85] to divert the attention of the Federals, and facilitate the daring raid we were afterwards to undertake. Accordingly, we marched about five miles northward, crossed the Hazel river, a tributary of the Rappahannock, and arrived about eight o'clock at Wellford's Ford, where the opposite banks of the latter stream were occupied by the Yankees in great numbers. The enemy's artillery was soon engaged in a brisk duel with our two batteries of horse-artillery, which suffered severely, losing many men and horses, in consequence of the superior positions and greater weight of metal of their antagonists. About ten o'clock we were relieved by Jackson's batteries, and, withdrawing from the field without the knowledge of the enemy, proceeded in rapid trot eight miles higher up the river to Waterloo Bridge, where we crossed it, and continued our march to Warrenton. Late in the evening we entered this little town, and were received with the liveliest demonstrations of joy by the inhabitants.

We were now again exactly in the rear of the Federal army, the right wing of which we had marched round; and our bold design was nothing less than to capture the Commander-in-Chief and his headquarters, which, as our scouts reported, had been established at Catlett's Station, a point on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. After an hour's rest to feed our horses, we left Warrenton behind us, continuing our march with great caution. Night was now rapidly approaching, and the angry clouds, which had been gathering in the sky throughout the afternoon, soon burst upon us in a tremendous thunderstorm and the heaviest rain I ever witnessed. [86] The narrow roads became in a short time running streams of water, and the little creeks on our route foamed and raged like mountain torrents. But this was the very condition of the elements we could most have desired. The enemy's pickets, in the fury of the storm, indifferent to everything but their own personal comfort, were picked up, one after another, by our advanced-guard to the last man, and we had thus arrived within the immediate neighbourhood of the main body of the enemy without the least information on their part of our approach.

Having been sent back by General Stuart with some orders to the rear of our column, I had, on my return, a very amusing adventure. In passing one of the farmhouses on the road, my sharp eye discovered, behind the curtains of one of the windows, a Federal officer, who disappeared on my approach. Instantly dismounting, I knocked at the door, ordering it to be opened at once; but instead of this, I heard tables and chairs moved hurriedly against it, which so much provoked me that I threw my whole weight upon the light frame. The door gave way with a loud crash, and hurled my Yankee, with all his chair-and-table fortifications, over upon the floor of the little parlour. Before I could lay hands upon the poor fellow-who, being unarmed, and seeing himself at the mercy of so powerful-looking an adversary, had risen from his humiliating position with the drollest expression of extreme terror on his face — a very pretty young woman came out of the adjoining room, bearing a waiter in her hands with a bottle of wine and other refreshments, which she offered me in the most graceful manner possible, placing herself at the same time between me and my victim. Tactics like these were so novel to me that for a moment I quite lost my selfpossession; [87] but, very soon recovering my wits, I thanked her politely for her hospitality, which I should be very ready to accept after I had done my duty. But approaching again and again my prisoner, I encountered again and again this charming obstacle, so that we played for a good while the juvenile game of fox-and-goose. The scene of action had in the mean time shifted towards a broad door-like window, which opened upon the garden side, and from the gathering darkness, and its proximity to the surrounding forest, afforded a very fair opportunity of escape; so seeing no other way of bringing the interview to a satisfactory conclusion, I levelled my pistol at the officer's breast, and said, “Madam, if you cannot bear separation from the enemy of your country, I will leave him with you, but not alive.” This had the desired effect. The fair creature abandoned her position, and in the midst of her bitter tears and pathetic appealings, which my sense of duty alone enabled me to resist, I bore my prisoner off. He was a handsome young man, a lieutenant in an infantry regiment, and had contracted an engagement of marriage with his protectress before the war commenced.

The rain was still pouring in torrents at eleven P. M., when we came directly upon the Federal encampment, which extended about a mile in length on either side of the railroad. We halted at the distance of about two hundred yards to form our long lines and make our dispositions, which we accomplished without attracting the notice of our adversaries in the heavy rain and amid the incessantly-rolling thunder. The sound of a single trumpet was the signal for nearly 2000 horsemen to dash, as they did with loud shouts, upon the utterly paralysed Yankees, who were cut down and made prisoners before they had recovered from their first astonishment. I myself had instructions to proceed with a select body of men to General Pope's tent, which was pointed out to us by a negro whom we had captured during the day, and who had [88] been “impressed” by one of Pope's staff-officers as a servant. Unfortunately for us, the Commander-in-Chief had, for once, this day his “headquarters in the saddle” --an intention which he had so boastfully announced at the commencement of his campaign-and had started a few hours before our arrival on a reconnaissance, so that we found only his private baggage, official papers, horses, &c. &c. I obtained as booty a magnificent field-glass, which was afterwards of great service to me. The scene had become in the mean time a most exciting one, and the confusion, which is always the consequence of a night attack, had reached its highest point. The Federal troops on the other side of the railroad, which was not so easily accessible, had recovered from their panic, and, reinforced by some companies of the so-called Bucktail Rifles, commenced a vigorous fire upon our men, who were scattered all over the field burning and plundering to their hearts' content. In the background our reserves were actively employed in firing the immense depots and waggon-trains and the railway bridge; and the flames, rising from a hundred different points at once, reddened the dark cloudy night. It was difficult to recognise friend or foe. Shots fell in every direction-bullets whizzed through the air on all sides-no one knew where to strike a blow or where to level his revolver — no one could be certain whether the man riding at his elbow was Federal or Confederate.

Having received orders from General Stuart to cut the telegraph wire, I proceeded with twenty men to the execution of this purpose; but just as we had reached a pole, I saw suddenly, by the vivid illumination of a flash of lightning, a whole company of the enemy drawn up in line not fifteen steps from us; and I had just time to call out to my men to lie down, when a rattling volley sent a shower of bullets over our heads. I galloped back to the General asking for a squadron to assist me in carrying out his orders. The squadron was [89] immediately granted. Attacking the Federal infantry myself in front, while Colonel Rosser took them in flank, we succeeded in driving them farther back. But they still maintained a rapid fusillade, and to climb the pole and cut the wire was a very dangerous undertaking. A young fellow of not more than seventeen volunteered to perform the daring feat, and, using my shoulders as a starting-point, he ran up the pole with the agility of a squirrel; the wire, severed by a stroke of his sabre, was soon dangling to the ground; and the brave boy escaped unhurt, several bullets, however, having struck the pole during his occupation of it.

About three o'clock in the morning the work of destruction at Catlett's Station was complete, and the order was given to re-form and start upon our return. The alarm had been spread over a great part of the Federal wing, and troops were marching against us from several directions. Our success, in spite of the great confusion of the midnight attack, had been very decided. We had killed and wounded a great number of the enemy; captured 400 prisoners, among whom were several officers, and more than 500 horses; destroyed several hundred tents, large supply-depots, and long waggon-trains; secured, in the possession of the Quartermaster of General Pope, 500,000 dollars in greenbacks, and 20,000 in gold; and, most important of all, had deprived the Federal Commander of all his baggage and private and official papers, exposing to us the effective strength of his army, the disposition of his different corps d'armee, and the plans of his whole campaign. Our loss was comparatively small; and after a rapid march, impeded only by the deluge of water still pouring down upon us, and compelling us to swim several creeks which were ordinarily but a few inches in depth, we reached Warrenton, with all our prisoners and booty, at eight o'clock the following morning.

We had but a few minutes' rest in the little town of [90] Warrenton, when our rear-guard reported a strong force in pursuit of us, and a heavy cannonade from the direction of Jackson's position summoned us to move on. These few minutes, however, we employed to advantage. Wet by the rain of twelve hours, and chilled by the sharp air of the morning, we found grateful reinvigoration in the viands that were offered us by the kind citizens of the place, who heard with the greatest delight of the success of our expedition. I was enjoying some delicious coffee, served by the fair hands of a lovely and accomplished young girl, whose acquaintance I had made the previous day, when, hearing that we had taken Pope's Quartermaster, she laughed heartily, and told us that when he had been quartered at her father's house a few days before, he had, in boasting of the magnificent army of Pope, declared his intention of entering Richmond before the end of the month, and that she had made him a bet of a bottle of champagne that he would not. She now regarded her wager as lost, as the Quartermaster would doubtless enter Richmond before the time specified-earlier, indeed, but under other circumstances, than he had expected-and she begged me to obtain permission from General Stuart to pay the champagne. General Stuart, of course, readily acceded to the playful request; and as our column passed along she stood at the garden gate of her home, with a malicious smile on her face and the bottle in her hand, and paid her wager most gracefully to the Yankee Quartermaster, who took the joke very well and the champagne very willingly, declaring that he should always be happy to drink the health of so charming a person.

23d to 26th August.

We were soon out of sight of Warrenton. The glowing radiance of the sun breaking at last through the parting [91] clouds brought life and cheer to our drenched and chilled column. About twelve o'clock we reached the scene of action, where there had been only a heavy artillery-fight, and not, as we had supposed, a general engagement. Our pursuers having stopped at Warrenton, we had therefore a short period of welcome inactivity, and the orders to dismount and feed the horses were received with pleasure by every man of our fatigued command. As soon as I had taken the proper care of my horse, and emptied my long cavalry boots of several quarts of water they contained, I fell fast asleep in the shade of a gigantic hickory-tree, from which refreshing slumber I was suddenly aroused some hours later by a spirited cannonade. The enemy were advancing, and the guns of Robertson's brigade had engaged a Federal battery. One of our squadrons, going forward to support the artillery, and being unnecessarily exposed by their captain, suffered here severely by a single well-directed shell, which, bursting at the head of the column, killed and wounded fourteen men. The fighting ceased at night, and we encamped upon the ground occupied by us during the day. At daybreak on the 24th, the enemy still advancing in heavy force, we marched rapidly towards the Rappahannock, which we found much swollen, but which we crossed in safety at eight o'clock.

General Stuart now galloped over to the headquarters of General Robert E. Lee, about five miles distant, and ordered me to proceed with the Staff and couriers to Waterloo Bridge, six miles higher up the river, near which a portion of our cavalry was to encamp. This bridge was now the only one left which for a considerable tract of country afforded a passage across the Rappahannock, and its preservation was therefore of great importance to our future military operations. Just as I reached the bridge an orderly galloped up to me at full speed, reporting that a strong body of the enemy, consisting of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, was rapidly advancing upon [92] us, and was at that moment not more than a mile from the spot. The position of a senior staff-officer in the Confederate army was a very important and responsible one, and General Stuart had given me instructions, in his absence, to issue any necessary commands in his name; so I immediately despatched a courier to the commanding officer of the nearest regiment, the 7th Virginia Cavalry, with orders for him to proceed with all haste to the river, and post his men as dismounted sharpshooters on the woody cliffs on both sides of the bridge; and galloping myself after our artillery, which had marched some distance to the rear, and taking back with me the first two pieces I fell in with, I arrived at the bridge just in time to receive the dense column of the approaching Federals with a destructive fire of canister from my light howitzers, which for a little while effectually checked their advance. It was not long, however, before they threw their skirmishers forward, and a brisk fusillade was rattling along the line. Their batteries also opened heavily upon us, and were answered gallantly by my howitzers. Matters were proceeding thus favourably when, about twelve o'clock, General Stuart, whom I had informed by an orderly of the state of affairs, arrived with reinforcements, expressing his great satisfaction with what had been done, and thanking me for having saved the bridge. The fight now became more and more general. The enemy brought several brigades of infantry into action, and opened upon us with several new batteries. In the mean time all the guns of our horse-artillery had arrived upon the ground, and were pouring their deadly missiles into the Federal ranks. Twice did the Yankees succeed in setting fire to the bridge with incendiary shell, but the flames were instantly extinguished by our gallant men. Several times their storming columns, advancing at a doublequick, got nearly across to our side of the river; but again and again were they hurled back, leaving their dead and wounded [93] behind them, by the well-directed fire of our sharpshooters and of our field-pieces, which were now concentrated upon the narrow path. The darkness of the night at last put an end to the conflict, and we found ourselves with small loss masters of the situation against vastly superior numbers.

Early on the morning of the 25th the contest was renewed, and for several hours we had very hot work, until about eleven A. M. we were relieved by our infantry, and enabled to take some rest from our exhausting duties. During the afternoon I received from Fitz Lee's Quartermaster, Major Mason, as a mount for my negro servant William, an excellent grey mule, which was among our captures at Catlett's Station, and will often be mentioned in succeeding portions of this narrative. It will be recollected that some of the spolia opima of Catlett's Station were greenbacks and gold. As these were contained in solid iron safes, of which the key had been lost, it was not the easiest matter in the world to get at them. It was thought, however, a profitable employment of our earliest leisure to investigate General Pope's sub-treasury, and our men had been hammering away at the safes for some time without result, when General Stuart turned round to me and said, laughingly, “If nobody can open these strong boxes, we must call on Major Armstrong (a nickname he had given me) to assist us.” Accepting the banter at once, I delivered a few heavy blows upon the safes with a serviceable axe, which laid them open, amid the loud cheers of our soldiers, who, with their accustomed idle curiosity, had formed a large circle round us. Two boxes of excellent cigars, which the Yankee Quartermaster had kept in this place of security, doubtless as the Cockney at the French custom-house expressed it, “pour fumigation luimeme,” fell to me as my share of the spoil — a great luxury indeed, to one who had long been deprived of the aromatic Havana weed.

In the evening I was sent over to General Robert E. Lee's [94] headquarters to carry thither the captured despatches and papers; and being invited by the General to partake of his modest supper, I had to relate many particulars of our recent raid, to which he listened with great interest. There was a good deal of merriment among the young staff-officers at headquarters concerning one of our Catlett's Station prisoners, whom I had taken over with me under charge of a courier for further instructions-and who, just as we were sending off the main body of these prisoners to Richmond, had been discovered to be a good-looking woman in full Federal uniform. In order that she might follow to the field her warlike lord, she had enlisted as a private soldier in the same company with him, and now claimed to be excepted from the rest of the prisoners as a privilege of her sex. It was decided, however, that this modern Jeanne d'arc must share the fate of her comrades for the present, and further decision in the case was left to the Richmond authorities. The whole of Longstreet's corps had now been removed from Richmond to Culpepper, and occupied the line of the Rappahannock opposite the Federal army. Jackson's troops had been quietly withdrawn from the front, and his corps had been in motion during the whole of the afternoon, marching nobody but General Lee and his Lieutenant knew where. I also went back to General Stuart with marching orders for himself and the greater part of his cavalry.

26th and 27th August.

The line of our march lay directly in the tracks of Jackson's troops, who, by the extraordinary rapidity of their movements, had gained the title of the “Foot-cavalry” of the army, and who had now been taken by their great leader upon an expedition in flank of the enemy, which was brilliantly [95] successful, and insured the failure of Pope's whole campaign. Our column consisted of nearly 6000 horse and our flying artillery. Starting at daybreak, we forded the Rappahannock near Hinzen's Mill, eight miles above Waterloo Bridge, and proceeded with great caution all day through the extensive forests of the county of Faughire, taking by-paths in the woods, where we were often compelled to ride in single file. Passing near the little town of Orleans, we reached Salem late in the afternoon, where at last we overtook Jackson's corps, but where we did not tarry, pushing forward in advance to Gainesville, at which place we arrived after night-fall. Here a squadron was left behind on picket, and here I received orders from General Stuart, who had continued his march to Bristow Station, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, to remain and keep open the communications between himself and Jackson. At Gainesville we passed a most exciting and unsatisfactory night. As the day had been excessively hot, I had given orders to my men to unsaddle, that our weary horses might be refreshed; and I had just taken the saddle off my own steed, when our pickets, who had been posted about a mile outside the village towards Centreville, came in at full gallop, reporting the enemy's cavalry in close pursuit of them. We had barely time to get ready for action when the Yankee advance-guard came thundering along through the darkness of the night. They were received with a sharp fire from the revolvers of myself and my staff of couriers; but in a moment, supported by our charging squadron, we threw ourselves upon them, driving them back in confusion, and taking several of their number prisoners. The enemy made no further effort to dislodge us; but our pickets, excited by the suddenness of the first attack, rode in five or six times during the night with false alarms, which brought us into the saddle, and I hailed with great satisfaction the daylight, which relieved me from my anxiety. I now pushed rapidly [96] forward to Bristow Station, which our cavalry had already left, after having accomplished their work of destruction. They had torn up the track of the railroad for a long distance, captured four trains and a considerable number of prisoners, and demolished everything that could be of the least value to the enemy. There was now no time to be lost by us. From the plains of Manassas, about seven miles distant, rolled the thunder of cannon, and I hurried on as fast as our horses could carry us, crossing the memorable stream of Bull Run, just in the neighbourhood where the first battle of the war had been fought, and reaching Manassas about nine o'clock in the morning.

The plateau of Manassas presents an area of about three miles square, over which the Yankees had built an irregular town of storehouses, barracks, huts, and tents, which was fortified on all sides by continuous redoubts. Here were collected stores and provisions, ammunition and equipments for an army of 100,000 men (besides an enormous quantity of luxuries unknown to warfare), the capture of which was a most important success to our arms. The sight that was presented to me at the moment of my arrival was truly a magnificent one. In front, rapidly advancing, were the long lines of our cavalry, their pennons fluttering gaily in the morning air, and moving in company with them might be seen the horse-artillery, from whose pieces, as well as from the guns we had captured in the redoubts and were now serving with admirable effect, dense clouds of white smoke were spread over the plain; on the left Jackson's veteran columns were pushing forward at a double-quick, while in the distant view the blue masses of the enemy were in rapid flight towards the glimmering woods. I found General Stuart exceedingly delighted with his success. He had taken the troops guarding the place completely by surprise, capturing the greater part of them and twelve pieces of artillery in the [97] redoubts without much fighting, and had just routed three brigades of infantry that had been sent from Alexandria as reinforcements. The enemy in their flight had left behind their dead and wounded and more than 1500 runaway negroesmen, women, and children. The quantity of booty was very great, and the amount of luxuries absolutely incredible. It was exceedingly amusing to see here a ragged fellow regaling himself with a box of pickled oysters or potted lobster; there another cutting into a cheese of enormous size, or emptying a bottle of champagne; while hundreds were engaged in opening the packages of boots and shoes and other clothing, and fitting themselves with articles of apparel to replace their own tattered garments. The liquors, with a proper degree of precaution, were at once seized by the Quatermaster and placed under a strong guard, to avert the consequences of immoderate indulgence. There was a good deal of jealousy between Jackson's artillery and our own with regard to the disposition that was to be made of the captured horses. Among other prizes of this description we had taken a Yankee sutler's waggon-one of those large gaudily-painted vans drawn always by four excellent horses; and General Stuart desired me to trot rapidly over with the waggon to our horse-artillery, assign the horses to the nearest battery, and dispose of the contents as I thought proper. It gave me great pleasure, after I had changed the four stately bays into stout artillery-horses, to divide the plunder among our brave cannoneers, who soon collected round the waggon in large numbers, and received the contents with loud demonstrations of delight. The different boxes were speedily opened by my sword, and were found to contain shirts, hats, pockethandkerchiefs, oranges, lemons, wines, cigars, and all sorts of knick-knacks. I helped myself only to two boxes of regalias, which I managed to tie securely to the pommel of my saddle.

We were occupied throughout the day in collecting as [98] much of the booty as we could carry off with us, and preparing the rest for destruction. During the afternoon we received reports that the Federal army was moving rapidly upon us from various points, and very soon Ewell's division, which formed Jackson's rear, was hotly engaged with their advance-guard. The main body of our infantry commenced now to march off quietly in the direction of Centreville, turning afterwards towards the Stone Bridge and Sudley's Mill, while the cavalry remained on the plains to apply the torch to the captured property as soon as this might be necessary. All the storehouses and depots were filled with straw and hay, and combustibles were also placed in forty-six railway cars, which had been pushed closely together. The battle had in the mean time become fierce — the thunder of cannon and the roar of musketry rolling incessantly; but although the enemy in vastly superior numbers attacked us with vigour, and although the old hero Ewell lost a leg in the conflict (a casualty which disabled him for a long time from again taking the field), they were wholly unable to break the lines of those veterans who had given their commander the name of Stonewall, and who held their ground until night put an end to the slaughter. Then they withdrew from their position and joined the main body of their corps.

Just as the sun was disappearing behind the range of distant hills that formed the western horizon, the flames were rising from a hundred different points of the plain, bringing out vividly each one of a legion of dark figures which were moving about, in the midst of the conflagration, to assist in spreading the fire, and fanning it into fury wherever it languished. The glow reflected from all these burning buildings, tents, and railway cars, with the red glare from the mouths of the cannon, and the sparkling of the bursting shells as seen against the darkening forest, made up a spectacle of strange mysterious splendour. After all that we wished to [99] preserve had been secured, and all that we wished to destroy had been laid in ashes, we followed the route of our retreat towards Centreville. In the confusion of the moment, and the increasing darkness of the night, I had become separated, with several other members of the Staff and a number of couriers, from General Stuart, with no hope of finding him until morning, so we bivouacked in a small pine grove in the neighbourhood of Centreville, which place had already been passed by the greater portion of our troops.

28th and 29th August.

At an early hour of the following day we set out to join General Stuart at Sudley's Mill, a place about eight miles north of Manassas, where Jackson's corps was drawn up in line of battle, expecting a fresh attack of the enemy, and where the prisoners taken during the last few days, about 1800 in number, were collected; but the indefatigable Stuart had already started, at the time of our arrival, with his cavalry upon a new enterprise in the enemy's rear, leaving orders for me to follow him to the village of Haymarket. I pushed forward immediately with Lieutenant Dabney and two couriers, several of the other members of the Staff being obliged to remain behind on account of the weary condition of their horses, and soon discovered that the journey we had to perform was an exceedingly difficult one. Since General Stuart had left Sudley's Mills, several hours before our own departure from that place, the position of the hostile army had been a good deal changed, the left wing having shifted more to our right, and the cavalry patrols were crossing the country in every direction, so that at many points of our progress we were informed that bodies of Federal horse had passed along but a few minutes before our approach. About [100] two o'clock in the afternoon there was a heavy cannonade and continuous musketry-fire heard in the direction of Jackson's position, announcing that the enemy had commenced their attack; but, at the same time, we heard a cannonade in the direction of Haymarket, and believing Stuart to be there at work, I regarded it as my duty to continue my march. Very soon, however, we heard firing all around us, and I was convinced that we had been misled by the sound, and the great number of narrow unfrequented bridle-paths in the woods. As it was impossible to decide where we should find friend or foe, our situation became a very critical one. About dusk we discovered in a small opening before us a negro on horseback, who had no sooner seen us than he galloped off in hurried flight, but was overtaken after a short chase by one of our couriers. It was difficult to make him believe that we were not Yankees, and his delight was indescribable when at last he recognised us as friends. He told me that a squad of Federal cavalry was at that moment engaged in pillaging his master's house, which he pointed out to us not more than three-quarters of a mile distant — that he had saved himself on one of the horses in the stable — that the enemy were all around us-and that Haymarket was occupied by them in strong force. Of Stuart and his cavalry the faithful negro had not seen or heard anything. Being perfectly at a loss, and nearly cut off from our army on all sides, I resolved to attempt returning by the same route we had come, and, protected by the darkness of the fast-coming night, to endeavour to rejoin Jackson's men. Silently we rode along the narrow lane for several hours, each one of us fully conscious of the danger of our situation, when suddenly the tramp of a body of horsemen sounded right in front of us — a scouting party as we could scarcely doubt, of the Federal cavalry. I explained to my companions that there was no choice left but to cut our way through. Our plan hastily formed was this. [101] The two couriers were to ride on either side of Dabney and myself, and to fire right and left with their revolvers, leaving us to open the way in the centre with our sabres. The advancing party having now arrived within twenty-five steps from us, I gave the customary order, “Halt! One man forward!” and, this being disregarded, the loud command, “Charge!” Just at this moment several voices cried out, “That is Major von Borcke! halt, halt: we are friends!” which at once checked our furious onset, and we found, to our great surprise and delight, and amid hearty laughter on all sides, that we had been on the eve of attacking the remaining part of General Stuart's Staff and escort, who had also been separated from the General, and, like ourselves, were in search of him. We heard now that the way to Jackson, who had repulsed the enemy after a sanguinary conflict, was perfectly unobstructed, and that one of our cavalry regiments, the 1st Virginia, was encamped a couple of miles farther to the rear. Thither we at once determined to ride, that we might refresh our weary horses, and seek rest for ourselves for the few remaining hours of the night.

We joined General Stuart early on the morning of the 29th at Sudley's Mill, where Jackson had established his headquarters in a building which was used, at the same time, as an hospital for several hundred of the wounded of the previous day's battle. Stuart was exceedingly amused at our story, and laughed very much at the adventure of the night before, confessing, however, that it was through his fault that I had become involved in the difficulty. At seven o'clock on the morning of the 29th the attack was renewed by General Pope, who tried his best to crush Jackson before Longstreet, who was rapidly approaching with his strong corps, could arrive. As old Stonewall had already gone to the front at the time of my arrival, I was sent to him by General Stuart to get orders for the disposition of the cavalry; and to my question [102] at starting, “Where shall I find General Jackson?” my chief replied, with a smile, “Where the fight is hottest.” So I galloped forward over the battle-field, still strewn with the dead of yesterday's conflict, towards a point where twenty pieces of our artillery, concentrated into one battery, were hotly engaged with an equal number of Federal guns. Here I felt sure of finding Jackson himself. The Yankee batteries were firing much too high, throwing their shot and shell in rapid succession upon a piece of soft swampy ground about a quarter of a mile beyond our position, over which I must ride if I did not choose to make a long circuit around it. My horse had already been sinking several times a little in the bog, when suddenly the ground beneath him, which was covered with a treacherous surface of verdure, gave way entirely, and my brave bay sank till half his body was buried in the morass. I leaped from his back just in time to gain a secure footing myself, but every effort to extricate the animal was in vain. Meanwhile shells were plunging and bursting nearer and nearer to me, throwing upon myself and horse a heavy shower of mud and dirt, excited by which, and not a little insulted, the noble beast made renewed exertions to get free, each time sinking deeper and deeper in the mire. I had already decided to abandon my steed and execute my orders on foot, when a body of our infantry marching by came very readily to my assistance, and, by dint of spades, ropes, and poles, managed to liberate the animal, which emerged from the bog perfectly black, and trembling in every limb, as I jumped again into the saddle. Without further accident I reached General Jackson, who, looking at me with astonishment, said, with his quiet smile, “Major, where do you get your dye? I could never have believed that a bay horse might be changed so quickly into a coal-black one.” Then, upon my explaining my mission, he gave me orders for Stuart, who [103] was to operate with his cavalry on the right flank, and hold the enemy in check until Longstreet could take his place.

On my return to Sudley's Mill I found everything changed, and great excitement prevailing there. Two brigades of the enemy had suddenly appeared in our rear, just where our provision and ammunition trains had been stationed. General Stuart had only a small portion of his cavalry and one battery of his horse-artillery at hand, but he was making every effort to save the trains, which were of the first importance to our army. There was the greatest confusion possible among the waggon-drivers: many of whose teams were “hitched on,” and were driving off at the top of their speed; others had to be held back by main force to the performance of their duty, and made to put the horses to the waggons. All this time a rattling hail of the enemy's bullets was falling all around us. The quartermaster in charge of the trains, and many others, had already been killed. A little coolness and energy on the part of our commander, however, soon wrought a great improvement in the situation. Our sharpshooters were quickly dismounted and placed behind a fence, where they received the enemy with a very well-directed fire; while Pelham, who had come up at full gallop with his guns, threw from a favourable position such a deadly shower of grape and canister upon the advancing lines of the foe, as brought them suddenly to a halt.

Having been ordered to place the right wing of our sharpshooters, I was brought very conspicuously to the notice of the enemy as the only man on horseback at this part of the field, and several bullets had already whistled past me in uncomfortable proximity to my person, when one of the Yankee marksmen sent a ball, to my infinite annoyance, crashing right through a box of regalia cigars which, it may be remembered, I had tied to the pommel of my saddle as my part of the spoils of the sutler's waggon taken at Manassas [104] Plains. I was just expressing my displeasure in pretty round terms, and directing the attention of some of our men to the impudent fellow who had fired the shot, when General Stuart rode up and directed me to ride in full haste back to Jackson, and make report of the state of affairs, and order, in his name, the first troops I should meet on the way to his immediate assistance.

After a rapid gallop of a few minutes I met two brigades of A. P. Hill's division, which I ordered to proceed at a doublequick to the point of danger. Very soon I encountered General Hill himself, to whom I made the necessary explanations, and who at once proceeded in person to the threatened position. Meanwhile the cannonade had become fearful, more and more batteries had joined in the action, and from a hundred pieces of artillery the thunder of the battle roared along our lines. In the dense smoke that enveloped the field, and amid the bursting of innumerable shells, it was not easy to find General Jackson, whom I discovered at last sitting comfortably on a caisson, quietly writing his despatches. After I had made my report, I remarked to the General that it had been very difficult to find him, and that this was rather a hot place for him to be in. “My dear Major,” he replied, “I am very much obliged to you for the orders you have given. Hill will take care of the enemy in the rear. I know what they are; there cannot be more than two brigades of them. And as for my position here, I believe we have been together in hotter places before.” The great hero then calmly resumed his writing, cannon-shot ploughing up the ground all around him and covering his Ms. with dust, so that, like one of Napoleon's generals under similar circumstances, he was in no need of sand to dry up his ink. In the mean time the trains had been saved, and the bold Yankees that had attacked our rear had been driven back with fearful loss, leaving the greater part of their number prisoners in our hands. [105]

It was now about mid-day, and the engagement had become general. The Federal Commander-in-Chief again and again attempted to break Jackson's line, but again and again his forces had to recoil with wasted ranks from the stone wall in front of them. We were pressing slowly forward on our right, where our horse-artillery, under the gallant Pelham, did excellent service. Our cavalry was also here actively employed, one regiment alone, the 5th Virginia, under Colonel Rosser, taking 500 prisoners. Many of the enemy's wounded having fallen into our hands, we had erected a temporary hospital in a shady grove, near a cool clear spring, where several hundred of them had been received. It may have been that the enemy by accident fired too high, or they may have mistaken this group of men for a body of our troops, but suddenly a heavy fire was concentrated upon this point, and it was indeed a sickening sight to see shot after shot strike in among them, shell after shell explode over this dense mass of sufferers, who, with limbs shattered or lacerated by ghastly wounds, attempted to crawl out of the way, cursing their own friends for the agonies they had to endure.

The enemy, finding that they could not dislodge us, did not renew their attack later than four o'clock in the afternoon, and at five the advance of Longstreet's corps made its appearance, amid loud cheering all along our lines. These troops took up their position in line of battle on Jackson's right wing as fast as they arrived, and before sundown the last division of the corps, Hood's Texans, had come up, forming the extreme right of Longstreet's line. Yet farther on was Stuart with a portion of his cavalry-Fitz Lee, with the larger part of his brigade, having been detailed to Jackson on the extreme left. General Robert E. Lee had also now arrived, and the men of our army, throughout its entire extent, were cheered by the confident belief that on the following day a great victory would be gained for our arms. [106]

Shortly before dusk we had yet a brisk little cannonade between some Federal batteries and a section of the famous Washington Artillery, which occupied a space intervening between Hood's Texans and our own position. While this was going on, a body of Federal cavalry impudently trotted over an open field quite within range of our guns, which opening opportunely upon them, and dropping a shell or two that exploded directly among their ranks, the whole squadron scattered in every direction, amidst the derisive cheers of the gunners and all of our troops who witnessed their rapid disappearance. After nightfall the Texans became engaged in a very heavy skirmish, which sounded for some time like a general conflict, but which ended, without much loss on either side, in their driving the enemy from a small piece of ground in our front. Late in the night I was requested by General Stuart to bear him company in a little reconnaissance outside our lines, which came very near terminating disastrously, as on our return, in the thick darkness, we were received with a sharp but fortunately ill-aimed fire from our own men. The rest of the night we slept by the side of our guns, and as we could not unsaddle our horses, I had nothing for a pillow but a cartridge-box which I had picked up on the ground.

30th August.

The two great armies were now in full force confronting each other. Each numbered from 50,000 to 60,000 men, though Pope's may have a little exceeded the latter number, as he had been drawing reinforcements from Alexandria, where his reserves of 20,000 men had been collected. The early morning and forenoon of this memorable day passed in comparative quiet, yet before set of sun was to be fought one [107] of the most sanguinary conflicts of the war. From time to time the rattle of slight skirmishing sounded along the lines, as it always does when two hostile armies are brought so closely together, and at long intervals the boom of cannon broke, like a sullen warning, through the hazy, sultry air. On our right was a body of Federal cavalry operating with great audacity, and as some of their skirmishers approached our position with what I regarded as excessive impudence, I determined (with the consent of General Stuart) to give them a lesson. At my request General Hood detailed to me several of his Texan marksmen, who moved forward with alacrity and pleasure to this exciting little enterprise, crawling through the high grass and along the fences with the suppleness of serpents, in a manner that might have excited the envy of the cleverest Indian on the war-path. The Federal cavalryman seemed not a little surprised to see me, as being on horseback I was the only one of the party visible to them, and were evidently quite undecided what to do when I halted at a distance from them of about 200 yards. Among my riflemen, one had been pointed out to me as the best shot, who was a Prussian by birth, but who had lived for many years on the prairies of Texas. He was the first to fire. Raising his rifle, he said to me with a certain pride, a smile lighting up his brown weatherbeaten features, “Now, Major, you shall see what an old Prussian can do.” An instant afterwards the crack of the rifle was heard, and the foremost of the Yankees rolled in the dust, then a second victim fell pierced by the bullet of another Texan, and the bold body of Federal cavalry galloped off as if a legion of demons were in chase of them, amidst the tumultuous shouts of Hood's men, and of our own cavalry and cannoneers, who had been looking on with great interest. Unfortunately we could not lay hold of the riderless horses, which rapidly followed their vanishing companions; but nothing could prevent my Texans from getting their spoils [108] from the dead — a booty, in their opinion, richly merited by them.

About two o'clock in the afternoon the oppressive stillness of the situation gave place to commotion and activity. Adjutants were galloping to and fro. General Stuart was hastily summoned to General Lee's headquarters, where Jackson and Longstreet were already in council with our Commander-in-Chief. Strong reserves were posted in the centre, and forty pieces of cannon were concentrated there. Our horse-artillery was in readiness for action; and Colonel Rosser, who commanded the 5th Virginia Cavalry, but was an artillerist by education, had four batteries temporarily placed under his charge, with which he trotted to the front. Every one now saw that we were on the eve of great events, and a strange feeling of anxiety, as is often the case just before a battle, came over many a stout heart — a feeling which can be compared only to the heavy sultry silence that precedes the thunderstorm.

The greater part of the two hostile armies were separated by a narrow open valley of about three miles in length and half a mile in breadth, shut in by two parallel ranges of wooded hills, which fell away on the left into a wide wooded plain occupied by the outermost divisions of Jackson's corps, and closed on the extreme right by overlooking heights, which were held by our horse-artillery. It had been reported to General Lee that the enemy had massed large forces opposite to his centre, or the lower part of the little valley just described, which induced him to suppose that General Pope had determined to try one of Napoleon's manoeuvres de force, and would attempt, by overwhelming numbers, to break through the centre in a sudden attack, trusting to dispose of the two wings easily thereafter. Our noble leader had not been deceived, and his measures to frustrate the plans of the enemy had been admirably concerted. [109]

About three o'clock in the afternoon the close columns of the Yankees emerged suddenly out of the dark green of the opposite forest at a double-quick, five extended lines, at intervals of sixty yards, comprising at the least 15,000 men. Their colours were borne proudly aloft, and they advanced across the open space before us in beautiful order. Nearer and nearer they came, each one of us looking on with hushed anxiety at the imposing columns which moved towards the Confederate position as a water-spout moves over the deep. The silence was something appalling, when, at the instant, forty pieces of artillery poured a withering shower of shells into the very midst of the advancing host, while, at the same time, their first line was received with a perfect sheet of fire from our triple infantry line concealed in the dense undergrowth of the forest. The artillery was in charge of Colonel Stephen D. Lee, and the accuracy with which the shells exploded in the very faces of the foe testified to the admirable service of the guns. It was as if an annihilating bolt out of the thunder-cloud had let loose its fury upon those doomed men, who until now had been pressing onward like moving walls, and they now wavered and swayed to and fro as if the very earth reeled beneath their feet. Again and again roared the thunder of our guns, again and again deadly volleys sent their hail of bullets into the dense ranks of the enemy, until all at once this splendidly-organised body of troops broke in disorder, and became a confused mass of fugitives. The Federal officers did their best to reanimate them. With the utmost energy and courage they brought their men forward to three several assaults, and three times were they hurled back, leaving hundreds of their number dead and wounded on the plain. At last physical strength and moral endurance alike gave way before the terrible effect of our fire, and the whole force fled in disorderly rout to the rear, a flight which could no longer be checked. At this moment the wild yell of [110] the Confederates drowned the noise of the guns. As far as the eye could reach, the long lines of our army, with their red battle-flags, lit up by the evening sun to a colour like blood, were breaking over the plain in pursuit. It was a moment indeed of the intensest excitement and enthusiasm. With great difficulty could the cannoneers be kept back to their pieces. Scarcely could we, the officers of the general Staff, resist the impulse to throw ourselves with our victorious comrades upon the retreating enemy.

Thus the running fight was kept up for nearly two miles, our men, flushed with success, driving everything before them, and taking many prisoners. Suddenly, however, their headlong advance was vigorously checked at the village of Groveton, situated on a range of hills, now held by the main body of Pope's army, from which more than 100 pieces of artillery hurled their terrible missiles upon the Confederates exposed in the open plain and exhausted by the pursuit. In their turn they staggered, halted, and fell slowly back; but before the shouts of triumph of the Federals had died away, the onset was renewed and continued until we had brought the last man of our reserves into action. As the sun sank behind the heights of Manassas, the enemy, after a very gallant struggle, was driven entirely from the field, retreating towards Centreville in great confusion, leaving behind them many thousands of dead, wounded, and prisoners, besides many pieces of cannon and regimental standards, and a considerable quantity of small arms.

In the mean time our cavalry had been pressing forward on the right flank, driving the Federal horse with little resistance before them over a rolling wooded ground, from which we could see plainly the progress of the battle. Our horseartillery, acting in concert with Rosser's four batteries, and advancing on a line parallel with that taken by the cavalry on the Groveton side, had been pouring a destructive flank-fire [111] on the dense ranks of the Yankees. This fire was energetically returned by the numerous batteries of the enemy, which, firing too high, threw their shells all over the woods through which we of the cavalry were passing, breaking and shattering trees and branches in every direction, and inflicting much injury on men and horses. I myself received several slight injuries from the splinters and flying limbs with which the air was filled, and made a very narrow escape from serious damage, as one of the enemy's shells exploded between my horse's legs, striking, strange to say, neither rider nor animal.

After the taking of the Groveton heights, as the enemy was retreating in the direction of Centreville-all except their cavalry, which fell back towards Manassas Plains-our main line of battle had to move as on a pivot, the right wing advancing rapidly, and the whole standing nearly perpendicular to our former position. As the retreat led through a densely-wooded country, where cavalry could be of little use, only Fitz Lee's brigade joined our army in the pursuit-General Stuart pushing forward with Robertson's brigade to drive off the strong force of Federal cavalry which had been there brought together, and which would otherwise have operated successfully on our exposed flank. The 2d Virginia Cavalry, under the gallant Colonel Munford, was in the advance, and arrived at the plateau of Manasses before the two other regiments of the brigade had come up. Here they found the Yankee horse in far superior numbers, drawn up in two magnificent lines of battle, one behind the other. Without waiting for the arrival of their comrades, the brave fellows of the 2d, their intrepid Colonel at their head, threw themselves upon the foe. They succeeded in breaking the first line by their impetuous charge, but having been thrown into some disorder by the length of the attack, the second line of the enemy, using well its opportunity, made a counter-charge in splendid style, and drove them back in confused flight, [112] shooting and sabering many of the men, the rallied Yankee regiments of the first line joining in the pursuit. At this moment we arrived with the 7th and 12th at the scene of the disaster, and, receiving our flying comrades into our ranks, we charged furiously the hostile lines, scattering them in every direction, recapturing all our men who had fallen into their hands, killing the commander of the entire force and many other officers, among whom was the Major who had given me such a run at Verdiersville, besides killing and wounding a large number of their soldiers, and taking several hundred prisoners and horses. The pursuit was not abandoned until we had chased them over the stream of Bull Run; and we heard later that the stampeded horsemen had continued their flight into the fortifications of Centreville. Our loss was comparatively small in killed, consisting mostly of wounded, among whom was the brave commander of the 2d, Colonel Munford, who had received several sabre-cuts on the head.

Night had now set in, and as we approached the field of battle on our return to the main body of our army, we found that fighting and pursuit had entirely ceased, darkness having at last checked our victorious progress. It was exceedingly unfortunate for the Confederates that the battle had been commenced so late in the afternoon, as two hours more of daylight would have rendered the result of the day yet more disastrous to the Federal army. Their loss, however, during the several days' fighting which terminated with the battle of Groveton, had been immense, amounting to at least 20,000 men in killed, wounded, and prisoners, 30 pieces of artillery, about 40,000 small arms, many standards, and uncounted stores of ammunition and provisions. The Yankee troops were totally demoralised, and had lost all confidence in their commanding general; and the Government at Washington, not less than the whole people of the North, looked with the [113] greatest terror and anxiety into the future. Our loss had also been heavy, estimated in the last battle alone at 6000 in killed and wounded. Many a noble fellow breathed his last sigh for the South on the slippery heights of Groveton.

The little military family of our own Staff had specially to grieve for the loss of one of our number-Captain Hardeman Stuart, a nephew of our General, who had charge of the Signal Corps2 of our cavalry. Poor Stuart, having been surprised with his party on the morning of the 3 oth by a body of Federal horse, was only able to escape with two of his men, leaving their apparatus and horses behind. Reaching the Confederate lines on foot just as the battle was commencing, and not being able to render more important service, these three heroes seized each one of the muskets which had been thrown down in large numbers by the enemy in their retreat, and joined the ranks of the 18th Mississippi infantry, which were just moving at a double-quick towards the Groveton heights. There they fell in glorious companionship after the regiment had captured several of the enemy's batteries. We encamped on the field of battle, and were occupied during the greater part of the night in carrying water to the wounded, and otherwise ministering to the wants of the sufferers to the extent of our ability.

We rested but a few hours after the fatigues of Groveton, and I was roused at peep of day by General Stuart, who desired me to accompany him on a little expedition to reconnoitre the position of the enemy. It was a dark cloudy morning, and a sharp wind drove a drizzling rain, which had [114] been falling throughout the night, right in our faces, so that we found the ride through the small pine thickets that lay in our way exceedingly disagreeable. Of the enemy we could discover nothing ourselves. From our scouts, and from the Federal prisoners that were still coming in every half-hour in squads of eight or ten, we learned that the army of General Pope had made a halt in and around Centreville. I was now asked by General Stuart to ride over to Jackson's headquarters, on the left of our lines, to make report and carry him important papers, and to proceed thence yet further to the left to Sudley's Mill, with orders for General Fitz Lee with his brigade, which had bivouacked there during the night, to march at once along the Little River turnpike in the direction of Fairfax Court-house, to a point where General Stuart himself, with Robertson's brigade, taking a short cut across the fields, would join him in the afternoon.

The headquarters of Jackson were at least five miles distant on our extreme left, and I had to ride along the entire line of our army, which at this moment was somewhat irregular. As the surface was much broken and covered with dense forests, I ran a narrow hazard of losing my way, and was compelled to make frequent inquiries of the different bodies of troops I passed en route. My appearance in the saddle was not a little bizarre, as I pushed onward through the rain, which still continued to descend soakingly. For protection against the storm I had wrapped myself up completely in my black oil-cloth cloak, at the same time turning down the wide brim of my slouched hat so as wholly to conceal my face. If these precautions kept me comparatively dry, they made it difficult for any one to distinguish me from a Yankee cavalier, and thus involved me in a ridiculous adventure, which might have had a tragical result. I had been questioning an infantry quartermaster as to the whereabouts of General Jackson, and my interlocutor, forming some grave suspicions from my [115] appearance and foreign accent, took his measures accordingly. A few minutes after I had left him, two men on horseback came up, placing themselves on either side of me, and commenced a conversation which could not have been more impertinently inquisitive if they had learned to ask questions in Connecticut. I very soon wearied of this crossexamination, and so informed my companions, adding that if they desired anything at my hands they might express themselves fully. Whereupon they made polite apologies, declaring that they desired nothing beyond the pleasure of my company; but as at this moment three other horsemen came riding towards us, their manner underwent a sudden change, and they demanded my surrender as a Yankee, and called upon me to hand over to them any papers that might be in my possession. Exceedingly annoyed at this, I threw open my oil-cloth cloak, disclosing my grey uniform, and said to them, with some disgust, that if they still doubted my confraternity, one or two of them might ride with me to General Jackson's headquarters, when they would soon be convinced of their mistake; but that under no circumstances whatever would I expose to their inspection important papers which had been committed to my charge, and that, if need were, I would defend them with my life. This, however, wrought no change of opinion in my pertinacious accusers. They replied that any stranger might tell the same story; and that, as for my grey coat, it was a common Yankee trick to assume the Confederate uniform — it was just what a spy would naturally do. Losing all patience, I now drew my shining Damascus blade, and, driving my spurs into the flanks of my steed, I separated myself by a sudden leap from my disagreeable companionship, and continued in a quiet walk upon my journey. The quartermaster's troopers were taken completely by surprise by this determined movement, but they drew their revolvers, and, as if undecided what steps to take in the matter, slowly [116] followed me at the distance of twenty or thirty yards. Fortunately I soon met an officer of my acquaintance, who was exceedingly diverted at my predicament, and quickly satisfied my would-be captors of their error. I was still so provoked, however, that I sent my card to the suspicious quartermaster, inviting him to meet me at General Stuart's headquarters, where I should be most happy to give him a good lesson for his future conduct. But he never came, and I never heard of him again.

After a long and weary ride over the battle-fields of the last few days, which were still cumbered with the unburied corpses of the slain, I at last found Jackson, who was just returning with General Robert E. Lee from a little reconnaissance beyond the Stone Bridge over Bull Run. Here they had been fired at by the advance pickets of the enemy, but had fortunately sustained no injury. They received me very kindly, and laughed at the recital of my recent adventure; but our interview was a short one, as I had to hasten after General Fitz Lee, who had already been ordered by Jackson to proceed with his command in the direction of Fairfax Courthouse, and was thus several hours ahead of me. A disagreeable gallop through the intricate bridle-paths of the forest enabled me to overtake our horsemen at the end of five or six hours. They had just come to a halt, as our advanced-guard had surprised and taken to the last man a picket of the 2d U. S. Cavalry, regular army, and two of our squadrons were on the point of starting to attack the Yankee picket reserves, who, having no idea of our approach, had bivouacked carelessly in and around a farmyard about a mile and a half higher up the road. Fitz Lee had been a lieutenant in the 2d U. S. Cavalry3 before the war, and he was greatly delighted at [117] making prisoners in this way of many of his old comrades. For myself, being badly in want of a new horse, the steed I then bestrode having been very nearly broken down by the fatigues of the campaign, I joined with alacrity and pleasure the attacking detachment. There was but little fighting to be done. We rushed so suddenly and unexpectedly upon the Yankee reserves that they had not even time to mount, and two full companies with their officers fell into our hands. We captured also their horses, from among which I lost no time in exchanging a noble bay for my own worn-out animal. The officers gave their parole not to escape, and were treated by us with the utmost courtesy, being allowed to ride their own horses, and accompany our Staff at the head of the column. They had served in former days both with Fitz Lee and Stuart; and it was curious, as an illustration of the war, to hear these quondam companions-in-arms talking and laughing over the olden time. Late in the afternoon we were joined by Stuart with Robertson's brigade, and continued our march towards Fairfax Court-house.

We had been informed by our scouts that a large waggontrain of the enemy was moving on a parallel turnpike two miles distant from us, in the same direction with our column, and the shades of night were just closing in upon us when the heavy rumbling of the convoy, which was several miles in length, became distinctly audible. As the escort protecting this train consisted of several brigades of infantry, General Stuart did not regard it as prudent to hazard a direct attack, and concluded to pay them only a distant salutation. This was very handsomely done by our horse-artillery, which, being well posted on an eminence, soon began to perform great execution on the long line of waggons, whose white tops we could see, through the dusk of evening, winding slowly along the road like a gigantic snake. The confusion in a few minutes became bewildering, as the balls from our guns [118] went crashing through the heavily-laden vans, and the loud cries of the drivers vainly endeavouring to get out of range commingled in tumultuous din with the disorderly commands of the officers of the supporting force, who did not seem to know from what quarter to expect the attack, or how to meet it; and by the time they had formed their line of battle, and were pushing bravely forward upon our position, we had proceeded already several miles upon the back-track towards the small village of Chantilly, which we reached about 10 o'clock, and where our cavalry encamped for the night.

Some six miles distant from Chantilly — in very unsafe proximity, it must be admitted, to the enemy's lines-lived on their plantation of family who were old and dear friends of Stuart. Finding himself in their neighbourhood, and not having seen them for a considerable time, our General could not resist the opportunity afforded by our night's halt in bivouac of paying them a visit, and the members of his Staff determined to keep him company. A brisk canter through the dark woods brought us about midnight to the mansion, where all were fast asleep except two ferocious dogs that tried unsuccessfully to resist our entrance to the immediate grounds. Stuart proposed that we should arouse the slumbering inhabitants with the dulcet-notes of a serenade; and the serenade was attempted; but the discordant voices that joined in the effort sounded so very like the voices of the wild Indians in their war-whoop, that the proprietor, at once awakened and fully persuaded that his peaceful residence was surrounded by a party of marauding Yankees, carefully opened a window and begged most anxiously that the building and the lives of its inmates might be spared, promising that he would do his best to satisfy our demands. His surprise and delight, when at last he recognised “JebStuart's voice, cannot be described. In a few minutes the [119] whole household, young and old, were aroused, and we remained talking with our kind friends, until the morning sun, stealing through the curtains of the drawing-room, reminded us that it was time to be off. And so, after a hasty but hearty breakfast, we took leave of the hospitable family and rode back to our command.

Meanwhile the Federal army had halted in the neighbourhood of Fairfax Court-house, and was there throwing up intrenchments. Our Generals, however, did not suppose that they really intended to make a stand at that point, and their further retreat towards Alexandria was confidently expected. As they had received strong reinforcements from Alexandria and Washington, General Lee did not deem it advisable to press them vigorously the day after the battle of Groveton. Our own army had suffered severely in fight and from fatigue during the recent continuous engagements and marches, and fresh troops from Gordonsville and Richmond were hourly looked for. Our men, therefore, had been employed only in burying the dead, and collecting the ample spoils of victory. The small arms lying about everywhere were picked up and cleaned. Thus the morning of the 1st of September passed off quietly enough.

Stuart and I rode off to Jackson's corps, which was stationed at Ox Hill, and found Old Stonewall with his outposts very much amused at the effect of the rifle practice of some of his marksmen upon a squad of Yankee cavalry who had been advancing imprudently, and were just galloping off in a hurry across an open field. About noon the cavalry received orders to proceed cautiously along the road to Fairfax Court-house, Jackson's corps following at a short distance behind. The beautiful weather of the early morning had now changed into a drenching downpour of rain, and our column marched slowly onward, the 5th Virginia in the lead, with whose commander, Colonel Rosser, I was riding in [120] front of the regiment. We were discussing our late fights and adventures, when suddenly the few men who formed our extreme advance and were riding a few rods ahead of us, came back at full gallop, and at the same moment rattling volleys from the thick pine-woods which lined the turnpike on either side sent a shower of balls over our heads. We had fallen into an ambuscade, which, if the Yankees had waited a little longer before firing, might have turned out very disastrously for us; but as only the head of our column was visible to them, and as they fired much too high, the damage done was inconsiderable, only a few men and horses being wounded. The order to wheel about was quickly given and quickly executed. Volunteering to ride back and report to General Stuart, I galloped rapidly to the rear, the 5th Virginia following in haste, and the Yankees still delivering their fire, which was now wholly ineffective, the bullets clattering through the forest. Two pieces of our horse-artillery, which had been detailed to the 5th, and which had loitered a little in the rear, I brought to a halt on a slight eminence in the road, and ordered to open fire as soon as the road was clear of our cavalry, the main body of which I arrested. A few minutes afterwards, I met Jackson and Stuart, who had been summoned to the front by the firing and the halting of the column. Old Stonewall made his dispositions with his usual celerity. He ordered Stuart to move along the by-roads towards Fairfax Court-house, and ascertain if the Federals were only making a demonstration, or if this was a general advance. For himself he was determined to stop the farther progress of the Yankees at once, and before we had turned off into the dark narrow path through the woods, the leading division of his corps had formed line of battle, and, advancing at double-quick, was soon hotly engaged with the enemy.

The rain was still pouring in torrents. The appearance of our column as it made its tortuous way through the dripping [121] woods was not inspiriting, nor was its temper as buoyant as it might have been under happier auspices of sky and surroundings. The rattling of musketry and the roar of the cannonade on our left becoming every moment louder and fiercer, we could not but entertain some anxiety as to the result, for in case of Jackson's defeat, our situation would be rendered exceedingly precarious. Late in the evening, however, our patrols and scouts reported the bulk of General Pope's army in full retreat towards Alexandria; and the approaching darkness making our further advance impracticable, General Stuart determined to return. We were warranted now in believing that Jackson had been victorious, but as we had no information of the enemy's position, or of the strength of the force they had sent against him, it was necessary to march back with great circumspection. After several false alarms, we reached an outpost a little past midnight, wet and chilled to the very bones. Jackson's fight had been a sanguinary one, but the Yankees had been driven back with heavy loss, leaving behind them their dead and wounded, and 1000 of their number as prisoners in our hands. Among their dead were two Generals, one of whom, the famous warrior Phil Kearney, had years before left an arm on one of the battle-fields of Mexico. His body was respectfully taken care of, and sent, with all military honours, into the Federal lines under flag of truce the next day.

We pitched our camp in a dense pine-grove near Chantilly, and for the remainder of the night were occupied in drying our drenched garments by the heat of roaring wood-fires. On the morning of the 2d September we were agreeably surprised by the arrival of Hampton's splendid brigade, which had been retained on picket duty on the James, Chickahominy, and Pamunkey rivers, and our loud cheering was heartily responded to by the dashing horsemen of the Carolinas and Mississippi, who had long been anxious to meet the enemy [122] under the lead of the gallant Stuart. As yet they had seen no fighting under his direct orders. Their desire was very speedily to be gratified. The main body of the Federal army had retreated towards Alexandria, but a strong cavalry force with horse-artillery still held Fairfax Court-house and its neighourhood, and Stuart had been directed to drive them off.

The sun of the following day had just begun to exert its reinvigorating power upon our shivering limbs when we again set out for action. In the advance were Hampton's brigade, with the flying artillery attached to it, and the latter soon became hotly engaged with some of the enemy's batteries. From point to point we drove the Yankees slowly before us, until late in the afternoon they offered more determined resistance on a ridge about two miles in front of the Court-house. Hampton was now ordered to make a little circuit to the left to take the enemy in flank, and as soon as we heard the thunder of his guns we pressed forward with Fitz Lee's force, driving the Yankees in rapid retreat from their position. Stuart and I reached the abandoned heights, far ahead of our troops, just in time to see the long blue lines of the Federals trotting through the village, and their track marked by blazing farmhouses to the right and left in the fertile fields around it. The General, justly exasperated at the sight, turned round to me and said, “Major, ride as quick as you can, and bring up some of Pelham's guns at full gallop, that we may give a parting salute to these rascally incendiaries.” Not less eager than he, I reached the artillery in a few minutes, and, getting the pieces into position without loss of time, we sent several shells with so much accuracy into the rear of the hostile column that, leaving their dead and wounded, they galloped off in the greatest confusion.

The magnificent lines of Hampton's brigade now appeared in brisk pursuit on the left, our Virginia horsemen, under Fitz Lee, had just joined us, and every one burned with the desire [123] to throw himself forward upon the enemy. Stuart and myself took the lead: waving our battle-flag, which I had taken from the standard-bearer, high over my head, I echoed the loud yell of our men that came thundering after us, our artillery meanwhile firing shot after shot, which hurtled through the air above us; and so we entered the village of Fairfax Courthouse at the moment that the last of the Federal cavalry, in headlong flight, galloped out on the opposite side. It was a moment of the wildest joy and excitement. The delirious joy and gratitude of the inhabitants, who for more than a year had been under Yankee rule, cannot be described when I planted the Confederate colours upon a little open space in the centre of the village, and thus took formal possession of it again. As night was approaching, and we knew, from the freshness of their horses, there was little chance of overtaking the fugitive Yankees, only two squadrons were sent in pursuit of them, and the rest of our command halted and encamped around the Court-house. Amid all the confusion and intoxication of the hour I did not lose the opportunity of capturing a very good and well-equipped Yankee horse that was galloping about riderless, his master having been killed by a shell from our artillery. One gets a sharp practical eye for such things after a little experience of active warfare.

General Stuart established his headquarters at the house of a citizen whose daughter he had previously known, and regarded as a young lady of very ardent patriotism. Her subsequent conduct did not justify this opinion. In a playful imprudent manner the General had bestowed upon her a sort of honorary commission upon his Staff, which caused her to be arrested at a somewhat later period by the Federal authorities; but long before the termination of the war she managed to marry a Yankee officer, and took the oath of allegiance to the Northern Government, thus doubly discrediting the title of Virginian. After half an hour's rest, [124] Stuart requested me to ride with him to the headquarters of General Jackson, who had bivouacked only a few miles from the Court-house. A rapid gallop soon accomplished the distance, and we arrived just in time to partake of his simple supper, consisting of coffee and corn-bread.4 At the conclusion of the repast, the night being already far advanced, we accepted General Jackson's invitation to sleep for a few hours till dawn beneath his small tent-fly. Wearied out by the exertions of the previous day, I was still deeply wrapt in slumber when I felt the pressure of a light touch on my shoulder, and a mild voice said to me, “Major, it is time to rise and start.” Before I was yet fully awake, my caller placed a basin of water and a towel on a camp-stool near my head, and continued, “Now, Major, wash quickly; a cup of coffee is waiting for you, your horse is saddled, and you must be off at once.” To my utter surprise, I now discovered that my attentive servitor was the great Stonewall himself — the light touch had been given by the iron hand, and the soft voice was that which had been heard in short energetic sentences so often amid the tumult of battle. I shall never forget the smile that broke over his kindly face at my amazement in recognising him.

General Stuart was himself already in the saddle, and in a few minutes we galloped back to the Court-house, the newly-risen sun just touching the tops of the tall hickorytrees, and the whole forest exhaling the most delicious odour, for the delight and refreshment of only such “early birds” as ourselves. Half an hour after our return to the village, our [125] whole command was mounted and on the march to the little town of Drainsville. We rode in advance with Hampton's brigade, which had some slight skirmishing with small bodies of Federal cavalry that from time to time made their appearance, but were driven back with little difficulty. The part of Virginia through which we were passing abounds with delicious peaches, and as this fruit was just ripening, it was a very grateful attention in the proprietors of the different farms and orchards on the road to invite us to partake of it freely. At one point of our day's march there came out to the highway, from a neighbouring mansion which was decorated with the Confederate flag, a little cavalcade, consisting of an old gentleman with grey hair, and three very pretty daughters. Galloping up to the column, the old gentleman addressed himself accidentally to Stuart, begging that he would be good enough to point out the famous cavalry leader whom he and his fair daughters were so anxious to see. Stuart, after having maintained for a while his incognito, at last acknowledged that he was himself the man, and the surprise of paterfamilias and the blushing confusion of the young ladies, amused us not a little. They all insisted upon our stopping for a short time at their house, where luncheon had been prepared for the General and Staff; and I must admit that, in my breakfastless condition, I awaited Stuart's consent, which was only hesitatingly given, with some impatience.

Soon after this we witnessed a most touching scene. At the portico of a modest, cheerful dwelling by the roadside, there stood, as we rode along, an elderly lady in deep mourning, who held by the hand a fair-haired boy of about fifteen years of age, and who asked of the General that she might be permitted to bless our battle-flag. Having invoked the favour of heaven upon our colours in a manner as earnest as it was unaffected, she told us that she was a widow who had lost already two sons in the war, but that she was ready to [126] sacrifice her last child for the sacred cause of her country. The eyes of the boy brightened up, and his fist was clenched at this; and tears fell down on our beards as we turned the heads of our horses towards the passing column. During the afternoon we rode over the ground, in the immediate neighbourhood of Drainsville, where Stuart in the year 1861 had fought his first fight. He showed me with pleasure the different positions which he and the enemy had occupied, and explained how differently he would have acted at that time, had he been favoured with the benefit of his present experience.

We encamped in and around Drainsville, our headquarters being established in the ample garden of a hotel in the centre of the village. Here, for the first time since we had left Hanover Court-house, were we enabled to reinforce our very dilapidated wardrobe from our long-missed portmanteaus, which we found in the waggons belonging to the cavalry staff. The following day was one of strange, blessed, uninterrupted quietude at Drainsville, the first day of rest after three weeks of continuous hard fighting. I have no power to convey the feeling of enjoyment with which, after a refreshing bath and the investment of the outward man in clean clothing from head to foot, I lay stretched upon my blanket beneath the shade of a wide-spreading hickory-tree. The day was delicious. The breeze came to me burdened with the fragrance of the latest summer flowers, lifting gently my hair, and whispering to me from the swaying branches overhead. Even the horses seemed to join in the general lassitude of the camp. They lay around us in the deep rich grass, which they were too lazy to crop, the very types of perfect physical satisfaction. And so we rested at headquarters — the officers, the soldiers, the negroes, the horses, the mules, all wrapped in the dolce far niente which marked the termination of our eventful summer campaign in Virginia.

1 This was the same charger which saved me at Verdiersville by his fleetness, an excellent coal-black Virginia horse, of medium size, well-bred and strongly built, but one of the fleetest and best jumping horses I ever rode. I could fire from his back as accurately as on foot, and the animal seemed to understand perfectly his master's intentions, so that whenever I raised my revolver, my faithful black, however excited he might have been the moment before, stood as quiet as possible, one fore-foot raised from the ground, scarcely breathing until the shot had been fired, and then bounding forward with all his native animation.

2 The Signal Corps is an institution peculiar to the American armies, organised for telegraphic communications between distant points by the waving of flags of various colours in the daytime, and of lights of various colours at night. It is somewhat similar to the old semaphore system, and in campaigning can only be employed to advantage in a hilly region of country, where the signals can be made from elevated spots.

3 General Robert E. Lee had been the Lieutenant-Colonel of this fine regiment, and many other Confederate officers had formerly served in it.

4 This article of food formed so much the most considerable part of our commissariat during the whole of my campaigns, that it may be well to explain that in America “corn-bread” invariably means bread made of Indian meal, and not of wheat flour. The Virginians are especially skilled in its preparation, and the old negro cook of the planter's family used to produce several varieties of this bread which were exceedingly palatable and nutritious.

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.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Jackson (Mississippi, United States) (21)
Warrenton (Virginia, United States) (7)
Centreville (Virginia, United States) (7)
Virginia (Virginia, United States) (6)
Richmond (Virginia, United States) (6)
Manassas, Va. (Virginia, United States) (6)
Brandy Station (Virginia, United States) (6)
Verdiersville (Virginia, United States) (5)
Hampton (Virginia, United States) (5)
Waterloo bridge (United Kingdom) (4)
Haymarket (Virginia, United States) (3)
Groveton (Virginia, United States) (3)
Gordonsville (Virginia, United States) (3)
Culpepper (Arkansas, United States) (3)
Chantilly (Virginia, United States) (3)
Bull Run, Va. (Virginia, United States) (3)
Washington (United States) (2)
Stevensburg (Virginia, United States) (2)
Salem (Massachusetts, United States) (2)
Napoleon (Ohio, United States) (2)
Hazel River (Virginia, United States) (2)
Gainesville (Virginia, United States) (2)
Dunavant (Virginia, United States) (2)
United States (United States) (1)
Texas (Texas, United States) (1)
Rapidan (Virginia, United States) (1)
Pamunkey (Virginia, United States) (1)
Ox Hill (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Orleans, Ma. (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Orange Court House (Virginia, United States) (1)
Mississippi (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Mexico (Mexico, Mexico) (1)
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (1)
Kelly's Ford (Virginia, United States) (1)
Connecticut (Connecticut, United States) (1)
Chickahominy (Virginia, United States) (1)
Baltimore, Md. (Maryland, United States) (1)

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.
J. E. B. Stuart (43)
Hardeman Stuart (27)
Stonewall Jackson (21)
Fitz Lee (17)
Pope (14)
Robert E. Lee (11)
Rosser (9)
Robertson (8)
Dabney (7)
Longstreet (6)
Hood (4)
Norman Fitzhugh (4)
Mosby (3)
A. P. Hill (3)
John Pelham (2)
Munford (2)
Ewell (2)
Yankee (1)
Virginians (1)
Mason (1)
Manasses (1)
Stephen D. Lee (1)
Phil Kearney (1)
Jeb (1)
Hampton (1)
Redmond Burke (1)
Heros Borcke (1)
Armstrong (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.
August 26th (2)
1861 AD (1)
1800 AD (1)
1500 AD (1)
1000 AD (1)
September 2nd (1)
September 1st (1)
August 30th (1)
August 29th (1)
August 28th (1)
August 27th (1)
August 22nd (1)
August 21st (1)
August 20th (1)
August 19th (1)
August 18th (1)
August 16th (1)
24th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: