Chapter 8: battle of Cedar Mountain (continued).
While our troops were forming in the manner indicated in the last chapter, General Jackson
was silently advancing.
His leading division of three brigades was commanded by General Ewell
, our old antagonist at Winchester
commanded the foremost brigade of this division, and was therefore the first of all the enemy's infantry to encounter our cavalry under Bayard
In the morning, at eleven o'clock, the enemy's artillery opened on our cavalry, before Roberts
had crossed Cedar Creek
with infantry; but Knapp
's battery replied, and the enemy withdrew.
After the main body of our infantry had crossed the creek and taken up the line designated, Bayard
formed his line on a ridge in the plain that held the cornfield, and about two-thirds of a mile in advance of the infantry.
In this position hetreceived for a time the enemy's fire from his field-guns, and then fell back, but in a few minutes advanced again to the ridge.
came up with his skirmishers he scoured the woods on our left of the road beyond the plain, but found no enemy until he came in sight of the ridge, where, formed in daring array, he saw the fearless Bayard
Early then passed a short distance to his right of the road, and Bayard
fell back before him to the crest of a second hill, which was in front of the plateau containing our batteries and the infantry of Augur
Although a large
number of our cavalry remained in the wheat and corn fields, many retired even to the creek, across which they came in a half-disordered state, as if some resistless power were brushing them back.
At this time our batteries opened, and Early
withdrew to a slight depression behind the crest of the foremost ridge between the wood and the cornfield.
Here he brought up four guns and engaged our batteries.
As yet none of our infantry were visible in his front.
Hardly had Early
taken up his position, when suddenly the two remaining brigades of Ewell
's division appeared on the northwest face of the mountain, at an elevation several hundred feet above the plain, where the whole scene of action was unfolded beneath them.
Here, two batteries, placed in position by Ewell
, hurled shells upon our guns “without molestation,” as the enemy claims.
now advanced his division along the Culpeper
road as far as Early
His batteries were placed in echelon along the road, and his infantry stationed as follows: Campbell
brigade was in the woods fronting the wheat-field and opposite Crawford
's, which was concealed by the woods on our side of the same field; Taliaferro
's brigade was drawn up parallel to and facing the road, in rear of the batteries; while Winder
's (or the Stonewall) brigade was in reserve.
's division of six brigades was still farther to the rear, but within supporting distance.
The fire from opposing batteries had been gradually growing warmer until about 3 P. M., when it perceptibly increased.2
Although the enemy's guns seemed to have
the advantage of the highest ground, our artillery practice was admirable.
Indeed it was so on both sides.
From where my brigade was stationed we could see our shells bursting in every direction over the enemy.
From the plateau near the cornfield we answered the enemy from his lofty station on Cedar Mountain
, from Early
's right, and from Winder
's brigade in the Culpeper
road, just beyond the wheat-field.
On our right my guns still covered the wood in our front, and, though silent, were ready to take part in the tragedy unfolding before us.
Between three and four o'clock, with a view of attacking, Banks
moved forward his whole line (excepting my brigade) about four hundred yards, saying to General Roberts
's chief-of-staff, that he thought he “should attack their batteries before night,” that he did not “believe the enemy was in considerable force yet,” that “his men were in the best fighting condition,” and that he “believed he could carry the field.”
So far there had been no opposition to our advance, and this perhaps caused Banks
to believe that he was frightening Jackson
A battalion from the Eighth and Twelfth Regulars, under Captain Pitcher
, from Prince
's brigade, had advanced through the corn to within thirty yards of the enemy's line, where, despite grape, canister, and musketry, they maintained their position until their commander and nearly all the company-officers were killed or disabled; until, indeed, the general advance of their brigade.
Before five o'clock Banks
had determined on a new aggressive movement.
This was to attack the enemy with two regiments, one from the left and another from the right of his line of battle.
It was a remarkable movement.
We have the official correspondence from Banks
, announcing what had been done and what was to follow.
“I have ordered a regiment from the right” (said Banks
in his despatch) “to advance.”
, peering across the wheat-field into the dark forest beyond, over which the smoke of Winder
's batteries hung in thick clouds, aided Banks
in giving form to the shapeless plans which had flitted through the latter's brain.
would have attempted with one regiment the capture of the enemy's batteries in the Culpeper
road, had not Crawford
persuaded him to increase his force to a brigade.4
At five o'clock in the afternoon Crawford
was ordered to advance through the woods, preparatory to an attack on the enemy's left flank.
, commanding the six companies of the Third Wisconsin Regiment of my brigade, had swept with his skirmishers through the woods between my position and the wheat-field, without finding the enemy, when General Williams
received orders from Banks
to send these companies to report to Crawford
received this order, Crawford
himself, in violation of military law and etiquette, had ordered the Wisconsin
companies to join his troops then filing into the woods for the general charge which Banks
contemplated making all along his line.
's unlawful order Ruger
replied that he was momentarily expecting orders from General Gordon
, his brigade-commander, and suggested that before taking his regiment from the brigade it would be better to have
superior authority ;5
but at the same time he advanced his command towards Crawford
's appeal to Banks
was answered through an order to Williams
, communicated to me; and thus these companies of the Third Wisconsin Regiment were detached from my brigade and placed on the right of Crawford
's brigade will now claim our closest attention, we will cross over to the other side and look again upon our enemy's line of battle.
In front of the two brigades of Prince
's division was Early
, reinforced by Thomas
's brigade of A. P. Hill
's division, with their right resting on a clump of cedars and supported there by four batteries.
This portion of the enemy's line extended to within half a mile of the mountain, upon the face of which and bearing upon the field were the two remaining brigades of Ewell
, with more batteries.
Here, therefore, were four brigades of the enemy opposed to two on the left of our line, with the further advantage that two of the four were in an almost unassailable position, and were supported by batteries having a plunging fire upon us. In the road and opposite our right was stationed Winder
's division of three brigades, one of which, the second (Campbell
's), commanded by General Garnett
, was in line in the woods on the edge of the wheat-field and immediately opposite Crawford
Then came Taliaferro
's brigade, which closed the gap between Early
's left and Garnett
The remaining brigade of Winder
's division (the Stonewall
) was in reserve, as also were five of the six brigades of Hill
's division, which were successively formed on the enemy's left of the road.
's reserve brigade was formed a little to the left of Branch
, who was followed by Archer
, and Field
On our left we had two brigades preparing to charge through the cornfield upon three brigades and four batteries in their front, while two brigades7
and more batteries of the enemy were ready to spring from the mountain-side upon their flank.
On our right a single brigade (Crawford
's) confronted the enemy's left; but here the enemy had only a single brigade in line of battle.
These three brigades confronted six of the enemy's, with the advantage to the latter of receiving our attack in positions strengthened by numerous batteries.
These were the lines.
Now let us look at the reserves.
On our side, on the extreme right, there yet remained my brigade of two regiments and four companies of the Third Wisconsin that had not then moved forward; besides which there was the Tenth Maine (our old Winchester
associate), which for some unaccountable reason had been dropped out of Crawford
's line when the regiments of his brigade advanced, and was now destined, as we shall see, to wrestle alone with the enemy in a vain effort to retrieve the fortunes of the day. On the left of our line there was absolutely no reserve.
So that against the six entire brigades of the enemy held in reserve we could throw barely four small regiments; in numbers we could oppose the enemy's 8,000 by not over 2,500 men.
This was the military disposition made by Banks
for an assault along his whole line, over the corn and wheat fields; these the numbers which he hurled against six entire and fresh brigades of the enemy, comprising at least twenty-four regiments, with six brigades in reserve.
We left the regiments of Crawford
's brigade filing into the woods.
At about half-past 5, these troops in long
line, with the six companies of my Third Wisconsin upon the right flank, burst with loud cries from the woods, swept like a torrent across the wheat-field, were arrested for a moment by a high rail-fence in the edge of the timber, and then disappeared in the thick forest, bearing before them the enemy's second brigade of Winder
's division,--broken, thrown back in masses from front to rear, and intermingled with their assailants.
The storm burst suddenly upon the enemy.
It came while they were deciding that there was no hostile infantry in their front, and gave them barely time to open fire.
But the enemy's line extended farther to our right than our own, and the companies of the Wisconsin
regiment received a deadly fire, which soon reached their rear, but did not stop them.
Unshrinkingly they dashed on, although the farther they advanced the more withering the fire became.
At last, with a loss of eighty killed and wounded out of the two hundred and sixty-seven that charged across the field, they fell back into the woods, to be re-formed and again to advance, as will hereafter appear.
While this attack was in progress, Banks
threw forward his two brigades on the left of the Culpeper
moved his infantry against the right and front of Early
's line, but without effect.
Early stood “like a rampart,” says the Southern
historian, and “hurled back all efforts made against him.”
's advance through the cornfield, with his right along the Culpeper
road, uniting with the regiments assaulting across the wheat-field, forced back the enemy's line in their front, and threw it in such confusion that if there had been no reserve to the enemy, and no
brigades on Cedar Mountain to rush in and take Prince in flank and rear, and if I had been ordered to move forward simultaneously with my brigade as a support
, the chances are that we would have whipped Jackson
But notwithstanding the defiance with which our fellows braved death in that heroic charge, the destiny of overpowering numbers was against us. Campbell
brigade had been thrown, helpless and confused, into a disordered mass, over which, with cries of exultation, our troops poured, while field and woods were filled with clamor and horrid rout,--poured like an all-destroying torrent, until the left of Jackson
's line was turned and its rear gained.
Then, while the left of Taliaferro
's brigade gave way, Geary
's blows upon its right and upon the left of Early
began to tell.10
had been overthrown, so next was Taliaferro
; and then came the left of Early
's brigade, which, first wavering, then fell back, until on both sides of the road a vast irruption had been made, which involved the whole of the enemy's line even as far towards the right as one half of the latter brigade.11
That this success was achieved without a desperate resistance, Southern writers will not admit.
It is claimed that the Twenty-first Virginia, which was on the extreme right of the left brigade, “fought like lions, until the invading lines had penetrated within twenty yards of their rear,” and that owing to the “terrific din of the musketry, the smoke, and the dense foliage,” this short distance only intervened when the foe was for the first time seen.
Then, says the Southern
“the orders of the officers
were unheeded amid the vast uproar and shouts of the assailants.
was slain, but the survivors of the second brigade fought on without rank or method, with bayonet-thrust and musket clubbed, until borne back, like angry foam on mighty waves, towards the high road.”
Though the right of Early
's brigade still stood unmoved, we were gaining the rear of the enemy's line in the open field, when Jackson
called upon his reserves.
He threw forward the old Stonewall brigade of Winder
's division, with Branch
's of Hill
's division; and these, with the newly formed lines of those that had been broken, arrested our progress, and compelled our hitherto victorious troops to fly back through the bloody timber over the fatal wheat and corn fields.
says1 the two brigades of his reserves “drove our troops back with terrible slaughter;” while Hill14
says, “The pursuit was checked, and the enemy driven back.”
But to Dabney
must we turn for Jackson
's achievements in heroic measure.
As contrasting the laconic despatch of Jackson
himself, from the actual field of his prowess, with the gorgeous word-painting of his Boswellian Dabney
, the quotation is pertinent:--
It was at this fearful moment that the genius of the storm reared his head amidst the tumultuous billows, and in an instant the threatening tide was turned.
Jackson appeared in the mad torrent of the highway, his figure instinct with majesty, and his face flaming with the inspiration of battle.
He ordered Winder's batteries to be instantly withdrawn, to protect them from capture, issued his summons for his reserves, drew his own sabre for the first time in the war, and shouted to his broken troops, with a voice which pealed higher than the roar of battle,
“Rally, brave men, and press forward!
Your general will lead you. Jackson will lead you. Follow me!”
Fugitives, with a general shame, gathered around their adored general, who, rushing with a few score of them to the front, placed them behind the fence which bordered the roadside, and received the pursuers with a deadly volley.
They recoiled in surprise, while officers of every grade, catching the general fervor of their commander, flew among their men, and in a moment restored the failing battle.
Fragments of Early and Taliaferro returned to their places, forming around that heroic nucleus, the Thirteenth Virginia, and swept the field clear of the enemy.
The Stonewall brigade had already come up and changed the tide of battle in the bloody woodlands; for some of the regiments, sweeping far around to the left through the field of brushwood, had taken the Federalists in turn upon their flank, and were driving them back with a fearful slaughter into the stubblefield.
Scarcely was this Titanic blow delivered when the fine brigade of Branch, from the division of A. P. Hill, hardly allowing itself time to form, rushed forward to second them and complete the repulse.
The Federal commander now brought forward a magnificent column of cavalry, and hurled it along the highway full against the Confederate centre.
No cannon was there to ravage their ranks; but, as they pressed back the line for a little space, the infantry of Branch closed in upon their right, Taliaferro and Early upon their left, and opened fire, when it fled to the rear, scattered and dissipated.
So Jackson delivered blow after blow upon his insulted left wing.
It was between half-past 5 and six o'clock when the Federal
assault was made.
Although at least one half of Banks
's command must have succeeded in gaining the enemy's rear, in the Stonewall brigade (which, with Branch
's, has received the praise of checking our pursuit) the loss was light, being only ten killed and fifteen wounded.
It now becomes necessary to take up the history of the Tenth Maine, which for some unaccountable reason, as I have said, was dropped out of Crawford
's brigade when the charge was made.
After a little delay it was moved into the woods in its front by one of Banks
's staff-officers; ordered to halt and lie down, with its left resting near the road, where a United States battery, under Captain Best
, was receiving two for every one of its solid compliments sent the enemy.
In the road and near the regiment were Banks
From where the Tenth Maine was stationed, a movement of troops on the enemy's side was perceived; and Banks
's reply, when this was pointed out to him,--“Thank you, sir; this is provided for,” --was heard, although it was soon found that Banks
was simply indulging in tragic metaphor, and had not provided for that or anything else.
And from this point shells and shot could be seen coming faster and faster from Ewell
's batteries on Cedar Mountain
; from Early
's right, near the clump of cedars; from Winder
in the road, and from every point in the more than a mile of circumference occupied by the enemy.
While the Tenth Maine remained in these woods, the battle began with the crash, which came to our ears as my brigade rested on the right, awaiting orders from General Williams
,--began in volleys so terrible that the sound of artillery was unnoticed or a relief.
From where the Tenth Maine was, the enemy could be seen planting new batteries nearer and nearer to ours, on the plateau from whence our guns had not been moved during the day. Then Geary
's skirmishers came into view, following up those of the enemy who were retiring through the cornfield; while riderless horses were running around between opposing fires.
The roar that met the assault of our troops as the new brigades of the
enemy turned upon them, was borne to the ears of the Tenth Maine as they lay there idle in the northern edge of the woods, their hearts beating with an excitement and an apprehension which one must feel to depict.
One of the officers15
of this regiment went forward through the woods and saw part of Geary
's brigade of Ohio
troops in the road advancing by flank.
Before this officer were the wheat-field, the shocks, and the opposite belt, as described.
The firing was then still farther to the front, but out of sight.
When the assault we have described had been checked, and our troops were being driven back in confusion, Major Perkins
, of Banks
's staff, ordered Colonel Beal
, commanding the Tenth Maine, to advance through the woods,16
telling him it was Banks
Accordingly this regiment moved out into the wheat-field, first passing down a slight hill, then over a ridge at right angles to the road, then down again.
knew only that his brigade was somewhere in front, that it was not in sight; and he was told that an Ohio regiment on the left of the road was also advancing.
The prospect that confronted the regiment as it entered upon this murderous pathway was this: The distance from the woods to those opposite, in the edge of which the enemy's musketry was both heard and seen, was less than six hundred yards; the Ohio
's brigade) were retreating slowly along the road, turning often to fire upon the increasing numbers of the enemy.
Yet the Tenth Maine pressed on until it came to the ridge which has been described.
Then were seen the remnants of Crawford
's brigade coming back to their right, leaving a clear way for them to fire.
The enemy now rapidly filled the woods in front and opened on the Maine
which pressed on, though the fire was most murderous, until it found itself the only regiment visible on the field.
The woods opposite were still filling up with the enemy; fugitive officers and men were returning singly and in squads, calling out to the colonel of the. Tenth Maine, as they passed, that there were too many of them for him to handle.
Alone, of all that had preceded, with brigade after brigade of the enemy pouring into the thick forest in its front, surrounded with the broken and defeated fragments that disheartened the men by their cries, this plucky regiment “gave three cheers, in that narrow valley of death, between those belts of timber.”
No wonder that Colonel Beal
, who had received no other order than to advance through the woods, was “strongly impressed with the conviction that Banks
could not expect his single regiment to advance unsupported upon the whole of Jackson
But he was mistaken; for no sooner had Colonel Beal
, with a view of regaining the woods to continue the fight under such cover as the enemy had, and such as it was proper for him to seek, faced his regiment about and moved a few steps, than Banks
, who saw that Colonel Beal
was not advancing, asked Major Pelouze
, his adjutant-general, “why that regiment did not advance,” and ordered him to “direct it to do so.”
18 Major Pelouze
galloped forward and delivered the order, saying that Banks
“forbade this backward movement.”
persisted, and the regiment kept on. A furious altercation, with angry gesticulations, arose, during which Major Pelouze
proceeded to the rear of the regimental colors and ordered the regiment to advance, crying out in loud tones that “Siegel
was in the
rear,” or “was coming,” and also informing Colonel Beal
“wished him to know that there was only a small force of the enemy in front of him.”
was with the regiment but five minutes, when he was disabled, and then Colonel Beal
placed his command behind the ridge to secure so much of protection.
It was while fighting behind this ridge, “and when they had not been firing long,” that skirmishers from the Second Massachusetts Regiment were seen to the right, on a run,1 followed by the regiment and the remainder of the brigade.
The hour, says Major Gould
, was about sunset, and the enemy's fire so severe that soon the line of the Tenth Maine began to melt away.
The enemy's skirmishers could be seen, darting around in the woods on the right of this regiment; also the front of the enemy's line, at least three times longer than that of the Tenth Maine,19
was visible ;20
and there was a flank fire from the Culpeper
road on their left, where the Ohio
troops under Geary
had been driven back, and this fire crossed at right angles that from the woods opposite,--the one into which my brigade had just come and formed in line of battle.
For a description of the “huge gaps” and dreadful carnage; of the reeling and plunging of the wounded, the shock of the falling of the dead, the excitement of the men, the conceivable and inconceivable positions they took in loading, their swearing and gibing at the enemy, intermingled with the din of musketry, while the bright sunset streamed in their eyes over the dark and smoky woods which covered the superior numbers of the foe and greatly gave them the advantage,--and for an account of the charge of Federal cavalry 21
with which Banks
sought to retrieve his fortunes,
and of which the grandiloquent Dabney
speaks as “a magnificent column of cavalry,” reference is made to the full details in Major Gould
The events that transpired here serve to fix for us the fact, that when I came up with my brigade the Tenth Maine was contending alone with all the reinforcements (at least three brigades) that Jackson
had thrown in to sustain his left; they show, too, not only the severity of the fire of the enemy from the protection of the woods, but that his advance along the Culpeper
road enabled him to deliver a flank fire down the whole length of the wheatfield.
As my brigade appeared, the Tenth Maine fell back into the woods, passed through them, and retired from the action.
The time it was under fire behind the ridge is variously estimated at from thirty minutes to five; 22
its loss was one hundred and seventy, killed and wounded.
Our position, as given by Major Gould
, was a little to the rear of that regiment and about three hundred yards to its right.
Now we are prepared to examine the details of our own movements.
We have seen the condition of Banks
's line when skirmishers from the Second Massachusetts of my brigade were seen coming into action, and we can, from the official reports of Jackson
, know exactly the force of the enemy that confronted us.
It was about half-past 5 o'clock in the afternoon, when General Williams
, my division commander, sent me an order to observe him, and when he made a signal by waving his handkerchief, to throw forward my whole command to support Crawford
with his staff was on
the hillside, in rear of the woods through which Crawford
's brigade had passed; he was plainly in sight from where I stood.
That there might be no delay, I withdrew my command from the wood, formed a brigade line, then fixed my field-glass upon General Williams
, and awaited his summons.
Moments passed; the fire of the artillery, now falling off for a moment and again resumed, mingled with the pitiless crash of musketry that rose from the assaulting column I was to support,--and yet no signal, but instead thereof a messenger dashing up from General Banks
, the first from him that day: “General Banks
directs that you send the Second Massachusetts Regiment down the pike to him.”
Before I could do more than give the order, before the regiment could take a step on its course, a horseman, spurring in furious haste, dashed to my side.
It was Captain Pittman
, aid to General Williams
: “General Williams
directs you to move your whole command to the support of General Crawford
may have waved his handkerchief while I was engaged in moving the Second Regiment in compliance with Banks
's order: I did not perceive it. But the delay was only momentary.
The Second sprang forward; so did the remaining companies of the Third Wisconsin; so did the Twenty-seventh Indiana.
It was now a little before six o'clock. The rattle and roar of musketry had given place to a dreadful and ominous silence.
A thick smoke curling through the tree-tops, as it rose in clouds from corn and wheat fields, marked the place to which we were ordered,--the place where the narrow valley was strewn with dead.
I gave the order, and my brigade responded.
Down the slope from Brown's house (the little cottage) at a run, through the marshy land at its base, over Cedar Creek
to the steep hill and up its sides into the woods, I pressed my troops
with speed unabated, despite remonstrances from some of the officers that the men could not hold out at that pace.
At the edge of the woods I rallied and gathered up the companies of the Third Wisconsin, part of the broken fragments of Crawford
's brigade, a second time to be baptized in the fiery flood of Cedar Mountain
So we went until we had penetrated the woods, and stood in line of battle on the very edge of the wheat-field.
We had come at topmost speed to support Crawford
, but his whole line had melted away.
We had come to sustain, but we remained alone to bear the brunt of the fight, ourselves unsupported.
The whole distance we had passed over, in an incredibly short period of time, was about one thousand five hundred yards, of which nearly four hundred23
was through the woods.
When I gained the timber I looked for Crawford
's regiments, but so broken had they been by their repulse that I could find, of all, only what remained of the six Wisconsin
Of the Twenty-eighth New York, the Fifth Connecticut, or the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania, not a vestige met my eyes.
The slaughter had indeed been fearful.
Though the Forty-sixth New York, the Fifth Connecticut, and part of the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania had reached a battery upon which they had charged, they had been compelled to fall back, leaving many of their number on the field.
In the Twenty-eighth New York, Colonel Donelly
was borne mortally wounded from the field; Lieutenant-Colonel Brown
's arm was shattered; Major Cook
was wounded, and a prisoner.
In the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania, Colonel Knipe
was twice wounded, and was carried from the field; Lieutenant-Colonel Selfridge
's horse was shot under him; Major Mathews
wounded: of its twenty company-officers who went into action, 17 were killed, wounded, or missing, and 226 of its rank and file.
In the Fifth Connecticut, Colonel Chapman
, Lieutenant-Colonel Stone
, and Major Blake
were missing, supposed to have been killed.
In the Third Wisconsin, Lieutenant-Colonel Crane
was killed, pierced with several fatal wounds, and great havoc was wrought among officers and men by a terrific fire of musketry which, falling upon their flank from the underbrush and the woods, swept the companies engaged with great destruction.24
But there was, however, one relic of Crawford
's brigade, and that was Crawford
I saw him back in the woods sitting quietly on his horse, with a musket across his saddle, although at about this time the only regiment of his brigade then in action, the Tenth Maine, was out in the wheat-field, where an officer from Banks
's staff was then or had been urging it forward.
As soon as the firing upon my line began, Crawford
disappeared, and this was about the time that the Tenth Maine fell back,--thus making the last appearance of Crawford
and his brigade simultaneous with our first movement upon the scene.
My line of battle was quickly formed,--the Second on the left, then the Twenty-seventh Indiana, and on the right the Third Wisconsin.
From the edge of the wood we looked across the wheat-field, not over four hundred yards, at the long lines of the enemy, who, having now advanced into clear ground, opened upon us a heavy fire, which was immediately responded to by the Twenty-seventh Indiana and Third Wisconsin regiments.
As I rode up to the Second Massachusetts, I was amazed that no firing was going on. There sat Colonel Andrews
, rather complacently, on the left flank of his regiment, and
in line with it. “Why don't you order your men to fire?”
“Don't see anything'to fire at,” was the cool response.
“Move by the right flank and join on with the Twenty-seventh, and you will soon find enough to fire at,” I replied.
The regiment was moved where the field was a little more exposed to Colonel Andrews
' vision, and I heard no further complaint that he could not find “anything to fire at.”