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Chapter 10: Second Manassas-SharpsburgFredericksburg

  • Not at Second Manassas or Sharpsburg
  • -- a glimpse of Richmond in the summer of 1862 -- Col. Willis, of the Twelfth Georgia -- Jackson in the Railroad cut at Manassas -- Sharpsburg the hardest fought of Lee's battles, Fredericksburg the easiest won -- the Mississippi brigade Entertains a baby -- a conscript's first fight -- magnificent spectacle when fog curtain rose -- aurora borealis at close of the drama.

I was not with the Army of Northern Virginia from the time it left Richmond moving north after the Seven Days battles until it returned to Virginia after the invasion of Maryland; thus I missed the campaign against Pope and the first Maryland campaign, the great battles of second Manassas and Sharpsburg, or Antietam. No soldier can expect to be present for duty in all the battles of a protracted warsickness, wounds, and capture will naturally prevent. But the fact is, I was that exceptionally fortunate soldier who never experienced either disabling sickness or wounds or captivity until the very end of the struggle, and my absence from the active front is to be accounted for on other grounds.

It will be remembered that at Malvern Hill several of the guns of our battery, my gun among them, were so roughly handled by the concentrated fire of the Federal artillery that we were compelled to send them to Richmond to be recast and remounted. This could not be done in time to enable the battery to move with the army when it marched against Pope. One section was equipped a little later and caught up in time to take part in the battle of Sharpsburg. But this was not my section, and the captain would not permit me to leave with the section first ready. Therefore I saw nothing of the campaigns against Pope in Virginia and McClellan in Maryland, and if I am to keep to the general line of reminiscence [119] I must simply omit the late summer and early autumn of 1862, for of course nothing of general interest occurred while we were hanging about Richmond waiting for a new equipment. We had not yet, to any great extent, equipped our artillery, as we did later, especially in the Manassas and Maryland campaigns, by captures from the armies opposed to us.

I have said nothing worth recording occurred during our stay around Richmond. The statement should be modified so far as to say that one of the noticeable features of the general condition was the heartrending affliction of my friends, almost every family having lost a relative, or some intimate associate, during the week of bloody battle. It had not, however, yet come to pass, as it did later, that black became the recognized dress for woman in Richmond, and that she actually appeared flippant and worldly and unfeeling if she wore any color. In the second Punic war, when Hannibal was investing Rome, the tribune Oppius had a law enacted forbidding women to wear colors during the public distress. But in our great conflict no such enactment was necessary, for the devoted women of our seven-hilled city; dark death had entered every home and his sombre garb was everywhere.

Of course, too, the hospitals were crowded just at this time, and in the homes of citizens many wounded soldiers were cared for; so that it seemed the one fitting province of women, young and old, to serve as nurses and attendants upon the wounded and the dying. I think, too, though I am not sure, that the churches had already begun to give their bells to be moulded into cannon. Certainly, long before the end of the war, the people of Richmond went to church through silent streets, and ceased to hear that heavenliest of all earthly sounds, which runs like a holy refrain through the sweetest poetry and the tenderest memories of Englishspeaking peoples.

To me these weeks around Richmond meant more than I can express in welding the links that bound me to these dear people. I had dedicated my life to them — I was theirs and they were mine. I felt it; they felt it. Yes, these people [120] were my friends, this city was my home. Our mother and sisters had not yet been able to get South, but the faithful people of my father's former pastoral charge assured me that they stood ready to receive and care for them with open hearts in open homes, and, until they arrived, noble women stood ready, in case my brother or I should need such ministrations, to do, as far as possible, a mother's and a sister's part by us.

While I have of course no personal reminiscence to relate either of the Manassas or the Maryland campaign of 1862, yet an account was given me of the very crisis and climax of the former, in its essential character and all its surroundings so striking, that I feel called upon to make record of it. I actually did so, indeed, while a prisoner at Johnson's Island in 1865, and now use the memorandum then made.

One of the most promising of the younger officers of the Army of Northern Virginia in the spring of 1864 was Col. Edward Willis, of the Twelfth Georgia Regiment. I saw him but once and under the following circumstances: Our battery passed the winter of 1863-1864, not in the great artillery camp on the Central Railroad, but with the advanced line of infantry guarding the middle fords of the Rapidan River. Battalion headquarters were in a pine thicket between Raccoon and Morton's fords. One beautiful day in the early spring I was seated in our headquarters' tent at work on one of the battalion reports, which it was my duty, as adjutant, to make to Artillery Headquarters, when a very striking-looking head intruded itself in the tent door and, in a very nonchalant, familiar tone, the owner of the head asked, “Is Gibbes about?”

We were not very punctilious about such matters in the Confederate service, perhaps not enough so; but the intruder and interlocutor was obviously, I thought, a private soldier and a specially untidy looking one at that-his hat unquestionably “a slouch,” his hair long and unkempt, his long overcoat, of whatever original ground color, now by long usage the color of the ground, and ending in a fringe of tatters around the skirt; under it no sign of a coat or of anything save a gray flannel shirt, no badge or insignia of rank anywhere [121] visible, nor even an appropriate place for any, and his badly-worn pants turned up around his very small feet shod in very rough shoes. I say it did stir me a little unpleasantly that just this man should ask, in just these words and just this tone, for Major Wade Hampton Gibbes, of South Carolina, a young West Pointer, who had recently been assigned to duty with us. I might have answered differently had not a second glance revealed a face of such commanding intellect and personal force that I said, “If you will wait a moment, I'll see,” and a moment later the very effusive meeting between Gibbes and himself, and Gibbes' introduction, to Colonel Cabell and myself, of “Col. Edward Willis, of the Twelfth Georgia,” made me very glad I had answered as I had. They had been at West Point together, I think, when the war broke out. Gibbes seated himself, tailor fashion, at one end of a large box of clothing for one of the batteries, which had not yet been opened, and Willis stretched out on the box and put his head in Gibbes' lap, who began running his fingers through the long, tangled, tawny hair, which hung almost to Willis' shoulders. It would have been greatly to the advantage of the hair if Gibbes had used a comb instead of his fingers.

They began talking of their West Point classmates and comrades. I was going on with my work and not listening closely, yet I could not help being struck with the vigor and the trenchant quality of Willis' characterization of the men. But in a few moments he began telling of Jackson, and then I dropped my pen and hung eagerly on his words. I knew he had been on Jackson's staff and hoped he would tell, as he did, how he came to leave it.

He said that after Second Manassas, perhaps after Sharpsburg, Jackson sent for him and said: “Captain Willis, you have earned your promotion, sir. You may take your choice between continued service on my staff, with the rank of major, and a majority in an infantry regiment.”

To which Willis, without hesitation, replied: “I'll take the infantry regiment, General.”

A reply which revealed the mettle of the man, as Jackson indicated by saying: “Sorry to lose you, sir; but you've [122] made a soldier's choice; you'll be assigned to duty with the Twelfth Georgia.”

Ere long he became colonel of the regiment, and at the time of which I write it was well understood throughout the army that no one commanded a better regiment and no regiment had a better commanding officer than the Twelfth Georgia.

Soon Willis began to talk of the campaign against Pope, which he regarded as Jackson's masterpiece, and as he had been closely with Jackson through it all, I considered what he said of value, as it certainly was of surpassing interest. He first expatiated at some length upon the masterly — I had almost said dastardly-way in which Jackson managed to find out all Pope's plans and purposes, and yet to elude and delude and deceive and defraud him in the most heartless and malignant fashion as to his own movements and designs. Part of the time, while waiting for Lee and Longstreet, Jackson was in extreme peril, dodging between and against the huge Federal Army corps, rushing blindly like avalanches to crush him. On one or two occasions, I think Willis said, he even went so far as to sacrifice his skirmish line, that is, arrange to have them captured by Pope's troops in a particular position, from which even the skirmishers themselves, as well as their captors, would naturally infer that “Old Jack” was marching in a certain direction and about a certain time would be about a certain place, when quite the reverse was the actual truth. In short, it must be admitted that all of Jackson's dealings with Pope, about this time, were disingenuous in the extreme. Someone, not Willis, has said substantially that they embodied a continuous, tortuous, twisted, aggravated, protracted lie-over fifty miles long.

But at last, as Willis said, all these tactics of deception were exhausted! Jackson was straight in front, in the famous position in the railroad cut, and Pope's whole army moved upon him. They advanced in imposing array, with several lines of battle-bands playing, flags flying, and their artillery, following the second line, slowly firing as they approached. Just as his dispositions — the best he could make [123] for resisting such an onslaught — were complete, Jackson heard from Longstreet, who promised him aid in two hours. The shock could be delayed, however, only a few moments, and Jackson, feeling the imminence of the crisis, started down his lines to communicate to his troops, worn with fatigue and suspense, his own heaven-born faith and fire and Longstreet's assurance of help. I understood from Willis that he rode along the line with him, and that all he said was:

Two hours, men, only two hours; in two hours you will have help. You must stand it two hours.

It was the crisis of the campaign, and both sides fully appreciated it. The enemy came right on until within two hundred yards, and then broke into the rush of the charge. The officer commanding the leading centre brigade, and who was riding a powerful coal-black charger, carried the colors in his hand and rested the staff on the toe of his boot. Striking his spurs deep into the flanks of his horse, at the same time reining him in, Willis said he came on, with great plunges, the standard flapping about him and the standard bearer, cap in hand, yelling at his side. The whole line thus gallantly led, rushed upon Jackson's men with the enthusiasm of assured victory.

A hundred yards nearer and the full fire from Jackson's line burst upon them, but from the inclination of the musket barrels it looked as if the gallant fellow on the black horse would be the only man to fall. On the contrary, while many fell and the line wavered, he was miraculously unhurt, and his men rallied and pressed on after him. For a moment it looked as if he would actually leap into the cut upon his foes, but the next moment the great horse reared wildly and fell backward, but his heroic rider jammed the color staff into the earth as he went down, only ten yards from the muzzles of Jackson's muskets. The spell that held them together was broken, the advancing lines halted and wavered throughout their length — a moment more and the whole magnificent array had melted into a mass of fugitives.

Again Jackson rode down his lines: “Half an hour men, only half an hour; can you stand it half an hour?” [124]

And now, as Willis said, it seemed as if some of his men exhaled their very souls to him in shouts, while others, too much exhausted to cheer, took off their hats and gazed at him in adoration as he passed. The enemy, reformed, began again to advance, and Jackson quickened his horse's gait. “They are coming once more, men; you must stand it once more; you must stand it half an hour.”

Could they have stood it? We shall never know — for before the mighty wave broke again into the crest and foam of the actual charge, the Texas brigade was in on Jackson's right and Old Pete and Old Jack together swept them in the counter-charge like chaff before the whirlwind.

I have not pretended to give Colonel Willis' exact words, and yet in my memorandum account of his visit to our camp above referred to I incorporated his words as nearly as I could recall them, and I have now conformed very closely to that memorandum. I never listened to more vivid delineation of strategy or of battle. He was thoroughly stirred while uttering it, and its impression upon us may be gathered from Colonel Cabell's words as he and Gibbes and I stood watching Willis as his figure disappeared in the thick pines: “Stiles, there goes the only man I ever saw who, I think, by possibility might make another Jackson!”

In less than a month from that time he was made a brigadier-general, for brilliant service on the field, and the very next day yielded up his glorious young life in battle.

Willis' name is not to be found on the roster of Confederate general officers, but there is no doubt about the facts of his promotion and death. The circumstances are entirely familiar to me and are full of touching and tragic interest. These lists of Confederate officers are very imperfect. My Uncle William and my Cousin Edward, mentioned in these reminiscences, are both entered on the list of field officers, but my name is not mentioned.

While I do not regard discussions as to the purposes and success or failure of campaigns, or the comparative numbers engaged on the two sides, as properly within the general scope of this book, yetI shall occasionally, when the matter is of special interest, or I hope to be able to add something of special [125] value, do violence to these declared views-so I here take the liberty of saying that it is by no means admitted among intelligent Confederate soldiers that the only or the main design of the first Maryland campaign was to stir up revolt in Maryland or to recruit our army by enlistment there. It is not disputed that these may have been among the objects sought to be accomplished, nor that, so far as this is true, the campaign was a failure. The Confederate view of the matter, from a military standpoint, is in brief this:

By our invasion of Maryland we cleared Virginia of enemies, sending them home to defend their own capital and their own borders. We subsisted our army for a time outside our own worn-out territory. We gathered large quantities of badly-needed supplies, to a great extent fitting out our troops with improved firearms, in place of the old smoothbore muskets, and replacing much of our inferior field artillery with improved guns. At Harper's Ferry alone we captured eleven thousand prisoners, seventy-three pieces of artillery, thirteen thousand stand of excellent small arms and immense stores; besides all which, we delayed further immediate invasion of Virginia; indeed, as has been strongly said:

Such had been the moral effect upon the enemy that the Confederate capital was never again seriously endangered until the power of the Confederacy had been so broken in other quarters, and its available territory so reduced in dimensions, that the enemy could concentrate his immense resources against the capital.

One word now as to the numbers engaged at Sharpsburg. This battle has been much misunderstood. It was really the most superb fight the Army of Northern Virginia ever made. This will readily appear when we recall the fact that General McClellan in his official report says that he had actually present for duty on the field that day eighty-seven thousand one hundred and sixty-four (87,164) men of all arms. General Early thinks he had ninety-three thousand one hundred and forty-nine (93,149), while Colonel Taylor says and shows that General Lee had less than thirty-five thousand two hundred and fifty-five (35,255); Early says less [126] than thirty thousand (30,000). Take it even at thirty-five thousand (35,000) and eighty-seven thousand (87,000), and remember that General Lee remained on the field all the day following the battle; that McClellan did not attack him, and states in his testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War (Reports, Vol. 2, Part 1, 1862-3, p. 441) as the reason therefor, that:

The next morning (the 18th) I found that our loss had been so great and that there was so much disorganization in some of the commands that I did not consider it proper to renew the attack that day, especially as I was sure of the arrival that day of two fresh divisions amounting to about 15,000 men.

Two further remarks, and we leave this part of the story of the Army of Northern Virginia, of which I am not able to say quorum pars fui. And, first, that General McClellan's part in all this campaign appears to have been greatly to his credit and honor. Summoned by the President and begged to see if he could not, by his personal influence, do something to heal the discords and want of union and cohesion in the Army of the Potomac; then asked to take charge of it again himself; then, with wondrous vigor gathering a composite army and unifying and enheartening it; and lastly, so handling it, on the march and in the field, as to save the Federal capital and to clear Northern soil of invasion.

But one incident must not be forgotten: McClellan was inspired and enabled to march with such unwonted speed, to move with such unerring judgment and to fight with such tremendous vigor and pertinacity by the contents of a little paper which was picked up by a Federal soldier in one of our deserted camps, and which turned out to be a copy sent to one of our division commanders of General Lee's order of battle and of campaign, showing in detail the position and duty assigned to each important command in the army, and of course just how our force was divided. There is no doubt as to the facts. McClellan recites them in his testimony above referred to, p. 440, and speaks of the effect of this order upon his movements. It was well understood among us. As Colonel Taylor says: [127]

The God of battles alone knows what would have occurred but for the singular incident mentioned; it is useless to speculate on this point, but certainly the loss of this battle order constitutes one of the pivots on which turned the event of the war.

Again .Culpeper Court House is the appointed trysting place of the army, while waiting fuller development of the plan of General Burnside, the new commander of the Army of the Potomac, and we, the right section, having at last gotten our new equipment of guns, had a delightful march thither through a country full of good things and kind people, in the season of harvest and of fruit. Here, too, we met, with great rejoicing, our comrades of the left section, from whom we had been separated during the Manassas and Maryland campaigns; and from this point were ordered, about the 19th of November, to Fredericksburg, in connection with Longstreet's corps, arriving there on the afternoon of the 21St, marching the last day through one of the steadiest, heaviest, and coldest downpours of autumnal rain I ever experienced. As the Federal batteries of heavy guns on Falmouth and Stafford Heights commanded almost the entire southern bank of the river and particularly the road by which we would naturally enter the town, and as it was specially desired that they should not be apprised of our arrival, we were halted just outside the town and back of the point of a hill, until after nightfall, and then marched to a dark and desolate bivouac, without fire and without food, and frozen to the very soul — the more so as we had of course steamed up while walking. I recall this as one of the most comfortless and trying nights of my life, and yet so sound and tough were we that I do not recall that a single man of us wheezed, or even. sneezed, from the exposure.

In a few days, everything appearing to be quiet at the front, we were sent down into Caroline County, along and near the R. F. & P. Railroad, to go into camp for the winter. We selected an ideal position, went vigorously to work and built the very best shelters for our horses and cabins for ourselves that we ever put up anywhere; but hardly had they been completed, tried, pronounced eminently satisfactory [128] and christened “Sleepy Hollow,” when orders came for us to return at once to Fredericksburg, and that through a blizzard of most inclement weather. Of course we went and without delay — I cannot say absolutely without grumbling. Indeed the right to grumble is the only civil, political, or social right left to the soldier, and he stands much in his own light if he does not exercise it to the full. We found rather an uncomfortable and forbidding location selected for us outside of Fredericksburg, and we were in a temper too bad to do much for its improvement, so that, as to external conditions, we had rather a hard, comfortless winter; though, even as to these, we perhaps did better than the commands who were ordered to the front later.

The next incident of interest was the bombardment of the old town, but I do not care to enlarge upon this. Really I saw then and see now no justification for it. True the town was occupied by armed men,--Barksdale and his men, our old brigade,--but then the fire did not drive them out; in the nature of things, and especially of the Mississippi brigade, of course it would not, and it did drive out the women and children, many of them. I never saw a more pitiful procession than they made trudging through the deep snow, after the warning was given and as the hour drew near. I saw little children tugging along with their doll babies,--some bigger than they were,--but holding their feet up carefully above the snow, and women so old and feeble that they could carry nothing and could barely hobble themselves. There were women carrying a baby in one arm and its bottle, its clothes, and its covering in the other. Some had a Bible and a tooth brush in one hand, a picked chicken and a bag of flour in the other. Most of them had to cross a creek swollen with winter rains, and deadly cold with winter ice and snow. We took the battery horses down and ferried them over, taking one child in front and two behind and sometimes a woman or a girl on either side with her feet in the stirrups, holding on by our shoulders. Where they were going we could not tell, and I doubt if they could.

I was about to say that the armed then had orders to come out, and would have done so at the proper time. But I am [129] not so sure about this, and certainly can't blame the Federals for not knowing it, when we really couldn't get the plaguey Mississippians to understand it themselves. They were ready to fight anything, from his Satanic Majesty down; but they were a very poor set indeed as to judging when not to fight, or when to stop fighting. Why, there was Colonel Fizer, of the Seventeenth. He was down on the river bank below the town. Of course he must have had retiring orders and ought to have seen that the Federal batteries absolutely dominated our shore; and yet he sent word to General Barksdale that if he would just let the Howitzers come down, with a couple of their guns, he could “drive these people back anyhow.” And “Old Barksdale,” who was every bit as bad as Fizer, and a little worse, actually sent the order, and our boys actually started. It would have been a practical impossibility to get these two poor little guns anywhere near the river. No two fragments of guns or men would have held together five minutes after they appeared on the plain that stretched out from the foot of the hills to the river and their intentions became known to the batteries on Stafford Heights. Fortunately, our division general, McLaws, and his staff met the guns just before they emerged on the plain, and the general demanded of the officer in charge where we were going and by whose order, and, on being told, instantly countermanded the order and sent us back. It is fair to say for General Barksdale that when our captain galloped rapidly into town and explained the matter to him, he himself withdrew his own order; but General McLaws had already acted. The incident strongly accentuated the necessity for the battalion organization of the artillery, and in our case it was put into immediate effect, I think, just after the battle.

But Fizer was not the only officer of the Mississippi brigade that could not get it into his head, even a little later, that the troops were to abandon the town and retire before the enemy, who had now gotten their pontoons down, and the head of their column landed in the town. The brigade had been hospitably received by the citizens and its blood was up in their defense. [130]

The Twenty-first Mississippi was the last regiment to leave the city. The last detachment was under the command of Lane Brandon, already mentioned as my quondam classmate at Yale, and son of old Colonel Brandon, of the Twenty-first, who behaved so heroically at Malvern Hill. In skirmishing with the head of the Federal column-led, I think, by the Twentieth Massachusetts-Brandon captured a few prisoners and learned that the advance company was commanded by Abbott, who had been his chum at Harvard Law School when the war began.

He lost his head completely. He refused to retire before Abbott. He fought him fiercely and was actually driving him back. In this he was violating orders and breaking our plan of battle. He was put under arrest and his subaltern brought the command out of town.

Buck Denman,--our old friend Buck, of Leesburg and Fort Johnston fame,--a Mississippi bear hunter and a superb specimen of manhood, was color sergeant of the Twenty-first and a member of Brandon's company. He was tall and straight, broad-shouldered and deep-chested, had an eye like an eagle and a voice like a bull of Bashan, and was full of pluck and power as a panther. He was rough as a bear in manner, but withal a noble, tenderhearted fellow, and a splendid soldier.

The enemy, finding the way now clear, were coming up the street, full company front, with flags flying and bands playing, while the great shells from the siege guns were bursting over their heads and dashing their hurtling fragments after our retreating skirmishers.

Buck was behind the corner of a house taking sight for a last shot. Just as his fingers trembled on the trigger, a little three-year-old, fair-haired, baby girl toddled out of an alley, accompanied by a Newfoundland dog, and gave chase to a big shell that was rolling lazily along the pavement, she clapping her little hands and the dog snapping and barking furiously at the shell.

Buck's hand dropped from the trigger. He dashed it across his eyes to dispel the mist and make sure he hadn't passed over the river and wasn't seeing his own baby girl [131] in a vision. No, there is the baby, amid the hell of shot and shell, and here come the enemy. A moment and he has grounded his gun, dashed out into the storm, swept his great right arm around the baby, gained cover again, and, baby clasped to his breast and musket trailed in his left hand, is trotting after the boys up to Marye's Heights.

And there behind that historic stone wall, and in the lines hard by, all those hours and days of terror was that baby kept, her fierce nurses taking turns patting her, while the storm of battle raged and shrieked, and at night wrestling with each other for the boon and benediction of her quiet breathing under their blankets. Never was baby so cared for. They scoured the country side for milk. and conjured up their best skill to prepare dainty viands for her little ladyship.

When the struggle was over and the enemy had withdrawn to his strongholds across the river, and Barksdale was ordered to reoccupy the town, the Twenty-first Mississippi, having held the post of danger in the rear, was given the place of honor in the van and led the column. There was a long halt, the brigade and regimental staff hurrying to and fro. The regimental colors could not be found.

Denman stood about the middle of the regiment, baby in arms. Suddenly he sprang to the front. Swinging her aloft above his head, her little garments fluttering like the folds of a banner, he shouted, “Forward, Twenty-first, here are your colors!” and without further order, off started the brigade toward the town, yelling as only Barksdale's men could yell. They were passing through a street fearfully shattered by the enemy's fire, and were shouting their very souls out-but let Buck himself describe the last scene in the drama:

I was holding the baby high, Adjutant, with both arms, when above all the racket I heard a woman's scream. The next thing I knew I was covered with calico and she fainted on my breast. I caught her before she fell, and laying her down gently, put her baby on her bosom. She was most the prettiest thing I ever looked at, and her eyes were shut; and --and — I hope God'll forgive me, but I kissed her just once.


Fredericksburg was the simplest and easiest won battle of the war. The Federal batteries on Falmouth and Stafford Heights across the river absolutely dominated the town and our bank of the river and the flats on our side; but our troops were back on the hills, which we had fortified somewhat, and which we could have held against the world. It is believed that less than twenty thousand of our men, about one-fourth of those present for duty, were actually engaged. Our loss was comparatively light, the Federal loss very heavy, especially in the attack upon Marye's Heights and the famous stone wall, in front of which dead men were lying thicker than I ever saw them on any other field. I attempted to count them, but found it impossible. I could have walked considerable distances in front of this wall, stepping only on dead men, and it was with difficulty that I so guided my horse as to avoid trampling upon them. Burnside saw, or his corps commanders showed him, his mistake, and he refused to renew the attack, as we were hoping that he would. There is, or perhaps I should say there was, a feeling that we should have ourselves made attack upon him, and that General Jackson favored it. Colonel Taylor, General Early, and other authorities scout any such idea. I do not feel that anything would be gained by reopening the discussion.

Tennyson is in error when he says, in “Locksley Hall,” that “Woman is the lesser man.” She is the greater man. A good woman is better than a good man, a bad woman is worse; a brave woman is braver than any man ever was. During the bombardment I was sent into Fredericksburg with a message for General Barksdale. As I was riding down the street that led to his headquarters it appeared to be so fearfully swept by artillery fire that I started to ride across it, with a view of finding some safer way of getting to my destination, when, happening to glance beyond that point, I saw walking quietly and unconcernedly along the same street I was on, and approaching General Barksdale's headquarters from the opposite direction, a lone woman. She apparently found the projectiles which were screaming and exploding in the air, and striking and crashing through the [133] houses, and tearing up the streets, very interesting-stepping a little aside to inspect a great, gaping hole one had just gouged out in the sidewalk, then turning her head tQ note a fearful explosion in the air. I felt as if it really would not do to avoid a fire which was merely interesting, and not at all appalling, to a woman; so I stiffened my spinal column as well as I could and rode straight down the street toward headquarters and the self-possessed lady; and having reached the house I rode around back of it to put my horse where he would at least be safer than in front. As I returned on foot to the front the lady had gone up on the porch and was knocking at the door. One of the staff came to hearken, and on seeing a lady, held up his hands, exclaiming in amazement: “What on earth, madam, are you doing here? Do go to some safe place if you can find one.” She smiled and said, with some little tartness: “Young gentleman, you seem to be a little excited. Won't you please say to General Barksdale that a lady at the door wishes to see him.” The young man assured her General Barksdale could not possibly see her just now; but she persisted. “General Barksdale is a Southern gentleman, sir, and will not refuse to see a lady who has called upon him.” Seeing that he could not otherwise get rid of her, the General did come to the door, but actually wringing his hands in excitement and annoyance. “For God's sake, madam, go and seek some place of safety. I'll send a member of my staff to help you find one.” She again smiled gently,--while old Barksdale fumed and almost swore,--and then she said quietly: “General Barksdale, my cow has just been killed in my stable by a shell. She is very fat and I don't want the Yankees to get her. If you will send some one down to butcher her, you are welcome to the meat.”

Years afterwards I delivered a Confederate memorial address at Fredericksburg, and when I told this incident noticed increasing interest and something very like amusement among the audience, who had ceased to look at me, but all eyes were turned in one direction, and just as I finished the story and my eyes followed theirs — there before me sat this very lady, apparently not a day older, and the entire audience rose and gave her three deafening cheers. [134]

One of the marked features of the battle was that when we lay down in our blankets on the night of the 12th we could see nothing, but could plainly hear Burnside's immense force getting into position, and when we rose on the morning of the 13th a dense fog overhung the entire flat in our front, shutting out all vision. Once or twice we did see men, our own skirmishers, moving about, as the blind man in the Scriptures saw when partially healed-“Men as trees walking.” I remember that when a Federal cavalry officer lost his bearings in the fog and came too near our lines we heard every command and every movement, till suddenly two or three of the horsemen loomed up in the mist in dim outline, magnified to the size of haystacks. A moment more and they ran into the Texas brigade at the foot of the hill in our front, and a volley emptied many a saddle, their gallant leader's among them.

A little later a light breeze sprang up. There was a swaying movement of the thick vapor and then, all at once, it rolled up like the stage curtain of a theatre, and there, spread out in the wide plain beneath, was the most magnificent martial spectacle that can be imagined — a splendidlyequipped army of at least one hundred thousand men, in battle array. General Burnside testified that he had that number on our side of the river. For a moment we forgot the terrible business ahead of us in the majesty and glory of the sight.

We were stationed on what was afterwards known as “Lee's Hill,” an elevation centrally located between the right and left flanks of our line, and jutting out at quite a commanding height into and above the plain. For these reasons General Lee made it, for the most part, his field headquarters during the fight. Portions of the city and of Marye's Heights were not visible, at least not thoroughly so; but every other part of the field was, clear away down, or nearly down, to Hamilton's Crossing. From it we witnessed the break in our lines on the right, where the Federals came in over a piece of marshy ground, supposed to be impassable, between Lane's) North Carolina and Archer's Tennessee brigade. The entire attack, from its inception to its unexpected [135] success, was as clearly defined as a movement on a chessboard, and I confess that tears started to and even from my eyes; but a moment later a great outburst of fire a little back of the line of battle indicated that the intruders had been gallantly met by our second line, or our reserves, and in a few moments out they rushed, the victors yelling at their heels. My uncle, William Henry Stiles, colonel of the Sixtieth Georgia, and who, in the absence of the general, was in command of Lawton's brigade in the battle, told me an amusing story of this particular fight.

When his brigade, with others, was ordered to stem this irruption, drive out the intruders and reestablish-or rather, for the first time properly extend and connect-our lines, his men were double-quicking to the point of peril and he running from one end to the other of his brigade line to see that all parts were kept properly “dressed up,” when he observed one of the conscripts who had lately been sent to his regiment — a large, fine-looking fellow — drop out and crouch behind a tree. My uncle, a tall, wiry, muscular man, was accustomed to carry a long, heavy sword, and having it at the time in his hand, as he passed he struck the fellow a sound whack across his shoulders with the flat of the weapon, simultaneously saying, “Up there, you coward!” To his astonishment the man dropped his musket, clasped his hands and keeled over backwards, devoutly ejaculating, “Lord, receive my spirit!”

Uncle William said the entire denouement was so unexpected and grotesque and his haste so imperative, that he scarcely knew how he managed to do it, but he did turn and deliver a violent kick upon the fellow's ribs, at the same time shouting, “Get up, sir! the Lord wouldn't receive the spirit of such an infernal coward;” whereupon, to his further amazement, the man sprang up in the most joyful fashion, fairly shouting, “Ain't I killed? The Lord be praised” and grabbing his musket he sailed in like a hero, as he ever afterwards was. The narrator added that he firmly believed that, but for the kick, his conscript would have completed the thing and died in good order.

On our part of the line I witnessed a scene not quite so humorous as this, but strongly characteristic. I saw a tall [136] Texan bring up the hill, as prisoners, some fifteen or twenty low, stolid Germans,--Bavarians I think they were, --no one of whom could speak a word of English. He must have been a foot taller than any of them, as he stood leaning on his long rifle and looking down upon them with a very peculiar expression. I asked him where he got them and he replied in the most matter-of-fact way, “Well, me and my comrade surrounded 'em; but he got killed, poor fellow.!” He really looked as if he could have surrounded the entire lot alone.

Not often have I come in contact with relations more beautiful than existed in some cases between young Southern masters in the service and their slave attendants. These latter belonged for the most part to one of two classes: either they were mature and faithful men, to whose care the lad's parents had committed him, or else they were the special chums and playmates of their young master's boyhood days, who had perhaps already attended and waited upon him in college.

My first cousin, eldest son of the uncle above mentioned, and who was a captain in his regiment, was seriously wounded late in the evening of the battle, but the casualty was not generally known, probably because the surgeons finding him on the field, after a hurried examination, pronounced his wound necessarily and speedily mortal, and added: “We are sorry to leave you, Captain, but we and the litter bearers have all we can attend to.” To which he replied: “Certainly, gentlemen, go on and attend to the men; but you are mistaken about me. I haven't the least idea of dying.”

They left him; the litter bearers of course did not report his case, and probably neither his father nor any member of his company was aware of his having been wounded. But there was one faithful soul to whom he was more than all the rest of the regiment. If he continued “missing” the world was empty to him, and so, in cold and darkness and sadness, he searched every foot of ground the regiment had fought over, till at last he found him. Then he wandered about until he got from the bodies of dead men blankets enough to make a soft, warm bed, and carefully [137] lifted him on to it, and covered him snugly. He then managed to start a fire and get water for him, and finally, most important of all, got from the body of a dead Federal officer a small flask of brandy and stimulated him carefully.

About daylight the doctors came by again and, surprised to find him alive, made a more careful examination and found that the ball had passed entirely through his body from right to left, just between the upper and lower vital regions; but they added that he would have died of cold and exposure had it not been for the faithful love that refused to be satisfied until it had found and provided for him. That was the night of the 13th of December. On the 25th, I think it was, he walked up to the third story of a house in Richmond to see my mother, who had meantime gotten through from the North.

The battle closed, as it began, with a marked, and this time a beautiful, natural phenomenon. It was very cold and very clear, and the aurora borealis of the night of December 13th, 1862, surpassed in splendor any like exhibition I ever saw. Of course we enthusiastic young fellows felt that the heavens were hanging out banners and streamers and setting off fireworks in honor of our victory.

Our friends, the enemy, seemed in no hurry to leave our neighborhood, though they did not seem to long for another close grapple, and as we appeared equally indifferent to any closer acquaintance with them, General Burnside and his army, on the night of December 15th, apparently insulted, retired to their own side of the river and began to get ready for Christmas.

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