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Chapter 19: operations in winter and Spring, 1862-63.

On the 16th of December, as soon as it was discovered that the enemy had recrossed the river, in accordance with the orders received, I moved to the vicinity of Port Royal, arriving by nightfall.

The enemy was content with the experiment he had made, and did not attempt any further movement at that time. I proceeded the next day to picket the river from a place called the Stop-Cock, near the Rappahannock Academy, to the vicinity of Port Tobacco, below Port Royal, the river having been watched on this line previous to my arrival by some of Brigadier General Wm. H. F. Lee's cavalry, which I relieved.

My division was encamped in the vicinity of Port Royal, on the hills back from the river, and when it was ascertained that the enemy was not preparing for a new movement in any short time, the different brigades built permanent winter quarters at suitable places. After a careful examination of the country, I proceeded to fortify the banks of the river at points likely to afford facilities for crossing, and I established a line of defence also along the main road running parallel with the river, where high embankments with cedar hedges on them afforded good cover for troops and excellent breastworks. This line commenced at the upper end of the Hazelwood estate, the former residence of that distinguished Virginian, John Taylor of Caroline, and with the defences on the river extending to Camden, the residence of Mr. Pratt, some distance below Port Royal, passing in rear of that town, which was now nearly abandoned on account of the depredations of the enemy's gunboats and the fear of their repetition. New roads were constructed in rear of the line of defence out of reach of artillery from the opposite [185] bank, for the purpose of facilitating communication between the different positions, and two Whitworth guns under Captain W. W. Hardwick were placed on a high hill in rear of Port Royal, for the purpose of preventing the gunboats which were below from ascending the river; and subsequently torpedoes were placed in the bed of the river some two or three miles below Port Royal under the superintendence of some one sent from headquarters.

The enemy established a line of cavalry pickets on the opposite bank of the river as far down as ours reached, and the two were in sight of each other. The river at Port Royal is between six and eight hundred yards wide, and immediately opposite Port Royal is the small village of Port Conway, which was occupied by the enemy's pickets.

We were compelled to haul our supplies in wagons from Guiney's depot on the railroad, and as the winter was a severe one with much snow and rain, the country roads, which we had to use, became almost impassable from the mud, and we were compelled to employ the men for a considerable time in corduroying them at the worst places.

In the month of January, 1863, I was promoted to the rank of Major General and was assigned to the permanent command of Ewell's division, the name of which was now changed. Colonel R. F. Hoke of the 21st North Carolina Regiment, who had commanded Trimble's brigade since the termination of the Maryland campaign, was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and assigned to the brigade he already commanded, and the name of that also was changed. The brigade had previously consisted of the 21st North Carolina, the 12th and 21st Georgia, and the 15th Alabama Regiments, and a North Carolina battalion of two companies. The 12th and 21st Georgia were now transferred to a Georgia brigade in D. H. Hill's division, and the 15th Alabama to a brigade in Hood's division, [186] the 6th, 54th, and 57th North Carolina Regiments from Hood's division, taking the place in Hoke's brigade of those transferred from it.

The 25th and 44th Virginia Regiments were transferred from my own brigade to that of J. R. Jones, in Jackson's division, and subsequently Colonel William Smith of the 49th Virginia, who had been so severely wounded at Sharpsburg and had not yet returned, was appointed Brigadier General and assigned to my old brigade as it remained after the transfer of the two regiments. The organization of the artillery was now changed, and in the place of the batteries which had heretofore been attached to brigades, battalions were organized, which were to be under the general control of the Chief of Artillery for the Corps, and a battalion to be assigned to a division on an active campaign, or when required for defence. In consequence of this arrangement, a number of promotions took place among the artillery officers, and Captain J. W. Latimer, a youthful but most gallant and efficient officer, was made a Major of Artillery, a promotion which he had richly earned, though he was scarcely twenty-one years old. All the batteries heretofore attached to the division, except Latimer's, were sent to the rear of Bowling Green to winter, in order to be more convenient to forage. Latimer's battery was retained to be used in case of need, and it became Tanner's by virtue of the promotion of the first lieutenant.

My assistant adjutant general, while I was a brigadier general, Captain F. Gardner, had resigned the previous summer, and my aide, Lieutenant S. H. Early,1 had resigned while we were in the valley after the Maryland campaign, as he was over fifty years of age, and the condition of his family required his presence [187] at home. I had had no regular personal staff since then. I found no assistant adjutant general with Ewell's division when I succeeded to the command at Sharpsburg, and Major Samuel Hale, who held the commission of a commissary, had been acting in that capacity for me while I commanded the brigade and continued to do so while I commanded the division. I found with the division Major J. P. Wilson and Mr. Henry Heaton, who had been acting as volunteer aides to General Ewell and then to General Lawton, and they continued with me in that capacity until after my promotion.

After I was assigned to the division as major general, Major Hale received the commission of adjutant general with the rank of major, and A. L. Pitzer and Wm. G. Callaway were commissioned as aides with the rank of first lieutenants.

My division staff as then organized consisted of the following officers, all of whom except those above designated had been with General Ewell as members of his staff:

Subsequently, in the spring, Major John W. Daniel, who had been commissioned at my instance, was also assigned to me as an assistant adjutant general. Lieutenant Robert D. Early, who had been acting as aide in one of the brigades in D. H. Hill's division, also reported to me during the winter, as acting aide, and continued in that capacity until he was made an assistant adjutant general to a brigade in Jackson's old division. [188]

A company of mounted men organized as scouts, couriers and guides by General Ewell, had remained attached to the division under the command of Captain W. F. Randolph, but it was transferred in the spring to General Jackson's headquarters. My division, as it remained after the changes above mentioned, was composed of four brigades, to-wit: Hays' Louisiana brigade, Hoke's North Carolina brigade, Lawton's Georgia brigade (commanded by Colonel Evans), and Smith's Virginia brigade, organized as follows:

Hays' brigade: 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th Louisiana Regiments.

Hoke's brigade: 6th, 21st, 54th, and 57th North Carolina Regiments and Wharton's North Carolina battalion.

Lawton's brigade: 13th, 26th, 31st, 38th, 60th, and 61st Georgia Regiments.

Smith's brigade: 13th, 31st, 49th, 52nd, and 58th Virginia Regiments.

In a few days after the battle, the other divisions of Jackson's corps were moved to positions above me, covering the river from the mouth of Massaponix to my left, Jackson's old division being on my immediate left, then A. P. Hill's division, and then D. H. Hill's. In January General Trimble, who had been severely wounded near Groveton on the 29th of August previous, was made a Major General and assigned to Jackson's division, which had always heretofore remained without a regular division commander, even while General Jackson was a Major General, as his command had included other troops.

The enemy made no demonstration whatever on my front, and we had nothing to disturb our quiet during the winter, except a little incident by which two officers were captured by the enemy in rather a singular manner. There were a considerable number of ducks on the river, and Major Wharton, commander of the battalion in Hoke's brigade, and Captain Adams, the assistant [189] adjutant general of the brigade, took it into their heads to go shooting. There were several boats at Port Royal which I had directed to be hauled up on the bank with orders to the pickets to keep watch over them and not permit them to be launched.

On the day the Major and the Captain took for their sport, the picket at Port Royal happened to be from their brigade, and they easily induced the sentinel on duty to let them have the use of one of the boats, to row into the mouth of a creek above, on our side, where the ducks were most numerous. The day was a very windy one with the wind blowing across towards the enemy. By keeping near the bank they avoided the effect of the wind until they got opposite the mouth of the creek, when it struck their boat and forced it out into the stream. Not being expert boatmen, and moreover being excited by the danger, they lost control of the boat and were driven helplessly to the northern bank into the hands of the enemy's pickets, and of course were made prisoners. The Major having an old newspaper with him, pulled it out when he reached the shore and proposed an exchange, a practice sometimes prevailing with the pickets in spite of all orders, but the Federal on post was rather too shrewd to have that game played on him, insisting that it was not exactly a case for exchange of such civilities. This was a caution to all persons disposed to sporting and to interfere with the orders to the pickets; and we had no more duck shooting in boats.

Burnside made an abortive effort in January to advance again by flanking us on the left, but he stuck in the mud, and we were not put to any inconvenience by the movement. About the last of the month he was relieved of his command, and a new commander for the Federal Army was selected, in the person of Major General Joseph Hooker, called “Fighting Joe.”

Though we passed the winter without the excitement attending an advance of the enemy, still we were not [190] without some excitements of our own, and I may as well relate the following occurrence to show how men who had passed through the stirring scenes of the previous year, who had fought with Jackson in the valley, around Richmond, at Manassas, Sharpsburg, and Fredericksburg, could amuse themselves in winter quarters.

We had several severe snow storms during the winter, and after one of them, when the snow lay deep on the ground, Hoke's brigade challenged Lawton's for a battle with snow balls, which challenge was accepted. The two brigades were marshalled under their respective commanders-Hoke on the one side, and Colonel EDvans on the other. Evans stood on the defensive in front of his camp and Hoke advanced against him. Evans' force was much the larger, but being Georgians who had been brought from Savannah in the beginning of the previous summer, his men were not accustomed to the fleecy element. Hoke's men were more experienced, and when they made a bold dash at the Georgians, pelting them most unmercifully with their well pressed balls, and giving the usual Confederate yell, there was no withstanding the shock of the onset. Evans' men gave way in utter confusion and rout, and Hoke's men got possession of their camp.

The Georgians seeing that their camp and all their effects were in possession of the enemy, who seemed to be inclined to act on the maxim that “to victors belong the spoils,” took courage, rallied, and came back with such vim that Hoke's men in their turn were routed, and retreated in utter dismay. No time was given for them to rally, but they were pursued to their own camp, their leader having been captured in the pursuit. Evans' men did not deem it prudent to press their victory too far, but retired, though in good order. They acted magnanimously and released the leader of their opponents on his parole of honor, not, however, without his having been well wallowed in the snow.

There was no official report of this battle, but all the [191] particulars were related at division headquarters by one of the aides who happened to be present, and who was himself captured under suspicious circumstances on Hoke's retreat, but begged off on the ground that he was a neutral and a mere spectator. He was much joked by the other young men at headquarters, who charged him with skulking on the occasion, and there was some reason to suspect that he did not stand the storm of snow balls as well as he did that of shot and shell on many another occasion. Many, very many of the poor fellows who shared in this pastime poured out their life's blood on subsequent battlefields, and a small remnant were surrendered at Appomattox Court-House with arms in their hands, and tears rolling down their cheeks.

About the first of March my division was moved to Hamilton's Crossing to take place of Hood's, which had been sent with Longstreet south of James River, and a body of cavalry took the place of my division on the right. In my new position, it was my duty to picket and watch the river from the mouth of Hazel Run at the lower end of Fredericksburg to the mouth of Massaponix, which was done with three regiments at a time, posted at different positions on the bank. These pickets were in full view of and in musket range of the enemy's pickets on the opposite bank, and also under the fire of the guns on Stafford Heights, but by a tacit arrangement there was never any firing from either side on ordinary occasions, but the picketing detachments on both sides were moved into position and regularly relieved without molestation.

In the month of April the 31st Virginia Regiment of Smith's brigade, in company with the 25th Virginia of Jones' brigade, Trimble's division, was sent to the valley for the purpose of accompanying an expedition into Northwestern Virginia under General Imboden, and did not return until late in May.

The growing timber on the range of hills which had constituted our line of defence at the battle of Fredericksburg [192] had been almost entirely cut down during the winter to construct tents, and furnish firewood for Hood's division, and there were left only a few scattering trees on the hills and a thin skirt in front. Shortly after my removal, General Jackson, whose headquarters had been below, near Moss Neck, removed also to the vicinity of Hamilton's Crossing.

Brigadier General J. B. Gordon, who had been Colonel of the 6th Alabama Regiment in Rodes' brigade, D. H. Hill's division, and very severely wounded at Sharpsburg, was assigned in April to the command of Lawton's brigade, which took his name.

There was perfect quiet along the river front until the night of the 28th of April, though Fitz. Lee's brigade of Stuart's cavalry had a fight with the enemy at Kelley's Ford in Culpeper in March, and there was another affair with the cavalry in April.

1 Lieutenant Early, at General Early's request (and accompanied by his young son, John Cabell Early, aged fifteen years), rejoined the army in 1863 during its northern invasion, and was severely wounded at the battle of Gettysburg.

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