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Beginning and the ending. [from the Richmond (Va.) times, January 26, February 2, 1896.]


Reminiscences of the first and last days of the war, by Gen. George A. Hundley. Interesting personal Observations.

The thrilling and exciting times immediately preceding the war-the first battle of Manassas.


My dear sir,—In response to your request, I have witten you the enclosed sketch, giving an account of some of my army experiences. I have striven as far as possible to suppress the irrepressible ‘ego,’ and, if it should seem to your readers that I have thrust [295] into the narrative too much of my own personality, I beg to remind them that, in relating my own experiences, I have ever kept steadily in view a desire to give them a correct idea of the men and times of which I write, and of war scenes of which the historian takes little account. History too often moves along on stilts, giving a very imperfect idea of the realities of war.

It constantly keeps before the eye the deeds and supposed achievements of the great figures and the great movements of the contending forces. This is all very well, but of this I think the public has a surfeit, and I have tried to give them some insight into the interior working of the great machinery of war. I have been actuated in this labor by a desire to oblige an old comrade of those days of which I write, and I trust you will find it such as you desired it to be.

Your friend and comrade,


The following is the sketch referred to in the foregoing letter:


The beginning and the ending.

In the winter of 1860-‘61, I was a student at Judge Brockenborough's celebrated law school in Lexington, Va. The law class, I think, was fairly representative of the feelings and opinions of the people of Virginia at that time. It was composed of bright young men from all sections of the State, and I well remember how different were the feelings with which the news of Lincoln's election was received by the Union men and the secessionists. The latter rejoiced ‘with an exceeding great joy,’ hailing his election as the harbinger of Southern independence, whilst the former mere correspondingly depressed, recognizing in that untoward event the token of coming disaster to our common country.

War-cloud gathering.

As the session wore on and spring advanced, secession was a frequent topic of discussion in our debating-society, I with others taking the Union side in these discussions to the last. Soon our noble old preceptor became a candidate for the Convention, and called in William McLaughlin (afterwards the commander of a battalion of light artillery in the Confederate army and now a circuit judge) as his assistant in teaching our class. Public meetings were held, and old Dr. George Junkin, of Washington College, with his squeaking voice, frequently addressed those meetings and managed [296] to make his shrill shouts of ‘Union,’ ‘Union,’ heard above the cackling of the obstreperous students of the various institutions of learning in town. I remember young Harmer Gilmer, of Richmond, one of our law class, disconcerting one of the Union speakers very much by suddenly crying out, as the man reached one of his best periods, ‘Come to my arms, you greasy fritter.’ I suppose Harmer caught the expression in some of the meetings of the sovereigns in ‘Old Market Hall.’

The war cloud was now gathering thick and fast in the far South, and its distant mutterings grew ominous as the Virginia Convention assembled. We law students went to our homes, and, as the Court of Appeals was then in session in Richmond, I went there to get my license, appearing for examination before Judges Moncure, Robertson, and Daniel. I went first to Judge Moncure, and found him at Ford's Hotel. Truly in him I beheld ‘a man without guile.’ One so simple and unpretending, so gentle and kind, and at the same time so great, we rarely meet. He took me into his private room, where his good wife, the very counterpart of himself in woman's attire, sat knitting. First this gentle couple put me at my ease by asking about my home and introducing some familiar topics, about which we chatted until I forgot what I came for. Gradually the old judge introduced the law into our conversation and drew out of me what little I knew about it—I almost imagining that I was imparting to the old gentlemen before me valuable information. I left him highly pleased with myself and my legal attainments, but, bless me, what a check was in store for my vanity. I next sought Judge Robertson, who boarded at the Exchange and Ballard, and he frightened me half to death. He examined me two hours and then signed my license. Judge Daniel, seeing the signature of his brethren, signed without a word, for which act I heartily thanked him, for Judge Robertson had about used me up. Whilst in Richmond I visited the Convention, where I saw all the notables of that day and time, some of whom I was destined to see very frequently on another field of discussion in the near future. The venerable John Janney presided; Henry A. Wise, John Tyler, James Marshall, Summers, Goode, Jack Thornton, and Jubal Early were on the floor.

Early Championed the Union.

John Goode was the fire-eater of the Convention, and he and rugged Jubal Early, the devoted champion of the Union, frequently [297] locked horns in debate. One day Goode insulted Early. The latter quietly took his seat, but every one knew that the matter would not stop there. That evening, or the next, after some correspondence, Goode apologized. ‘Old Jube,’ as he is best known to his soldiers, was a true type of the Virginia Unionist. These men opposed secession, and loved the Union for the sake of the fathers and for its own sake, but they loved Virginia and their own people above all else. So, when Lincoln called for troops and Virginia seceded, they hesitated not a moment as to which side they would take in the now inevitable conflict. Nothing in all history is grander than the conduct of Early and his fellow Unionists. The shock of battle could not shake their dauntless courage, and neither defeat, nor time, nor poverty, nor temptation has cooled the ardor of their devotion to their State and its people. By all means let a shaft go up in honor of ‘Old Jubal,’ and inscribe on its base the simple words: ‘He loved Virginia with all his heart and soul and mind.’

Whilst in Richmond, I saw two companies from Danville pass along the streets with drum and fife, and the sight thrilled me so I could hardly wait to get home. I hurried back, and joined the first company made up in the neighborhood. How the boys rushed into the army as if to a frolic in those stirring days of 1861! We were ‘mustered in’ at Charlottesville, and one poor fellow who was rejected because he had a crooked little finger (just think of that!) went home crying as if his heart would break.

For the first year of the war, I was in the infantry (the Nineteenth Virginia regiment); after that I was in the cavalry till the end. At Manassas Junction, we camped for a long time and struggled with measles, hooping cough, mumps, pneumonia, and typhoid fever, whilst General Scott was grooming another antagonist, with whom he was soon to further test our mettle. It was there I first saw General Lee. General Beauregard held a review for him. Tall and straight, with iron-gray hair, and moustache as black as the raven's wing, he was the very embodiment of warrior grace and symmetry as he sat on his horse, and viewed our undisciplined lines with a serious face and grave and dignified mien. I never looked upon his like before, and know I never shall again. I saw him last at Farmville on our way to the doom of Appomattox. I never saw him after the war, and am glad I never did. He will live in my poor memory, one of the least of his boys, as a soldier, and as such I want ever to think of him.

The Nineteenth regiment soon left Manassas and pitched its tents [298] at Centreville, next to the enemy. Near there I met again some of my old Lexington friends, McLaughlin, Poague, and others of the Rockbridge Artillery, those splendid cannoneers, who afterwards became so famous in the Army of Northern Virginia.

Testing the sentinels.

Camp life at Centreville was not without its amusing incidents. I remember quite vividly putting the lieutenant-colonel commanding our regiment (John Bowie Strange) in the guard-house one night. A favorite pastime with him was ‘testing the sentinels,’ as he termed it. He would go through the lines at night, and then try to pass back by the sentinels without giving the pass-word. They, knowing who he was, and being green, sometimes suffered him to pass into the camp without the word. He would overawe and bulldoze them if he could. So one night, I being the officer of the guard, he tried his old game on one of my sentinels. I had carefully instructed them all not to let him pass under any circumstances without first giving the pass-word, but to arrest him and call for the corporal of the guard, making him mark time until the corporal arrived. About 12 oa clock I heard one of the sentinels calling for the corporal, and I could hear Strange's voice, pitched in a high and peremptory key, demanding that he let his colonel pass, but the man ordered him to halt and mark time, which he promptly did. I ordered the corporal to go and bring the colonel into the guard-tent. Presently the colonel was marched in, his sabre clanking and rattling as he strode along in charge of the corporal. When he got inside I asked the corporal who his prisoner was, and held the lantern up to the colonel's face, pretending that I did not know him. ‘Oh!’ said I, ‘this is Colonel Strange!’ ‘Well, sir, what are you going to do with me now?’ said he, in his gruffest tone. ‘Well, Colonel,’ said I, ‘you can go to your tent and go to bed.’ He replied, ‘I am glad to see you know your duty, sir,’ and a broad smile spread over his face as he strode out to the music of his rattling sabre and the suppressed tittering of the boys.

Only a few cavalry pickets and scouts were between us and the enemy, and, being apprehensive of a night attack, we had a strong guard around the camp. One night after this, when it again came my turn to be officer of the guard, and I had about forty men under me, quite an exciting episode occurred. Alarms had not been infrequent, and all were on the qui vive. [299] Late at night one of my sentinels on the hill next to our picket line cried out, ‘Halt!’ ‘Halt!’ and added, quickly, ‘Turn out the guard!’ I got the whole guard quickly under arms, and started for the beat of the sentinel, giving the alarm at a double-quick. Before we reached him, he fired his gun and ran in. As we reached the line one of the foremost of my men cried, ‘There they are!’ and fired. Then ensued an indiscriminate fusilade. I narrowly escaped being shot by my own men. My gum coat was scorched by a bullet or fire from a musket, but I escaped without injury to my person. By this time the camp was in an uproar. Men rushed out of their tents without their outer-clothing, and fired their guns in the air without aim or object. Some forgot to withdraw ramrods after loading, and the peculiar whistling of these implements could be heard as they flew over our heads. Colonel Strange threw out two companies as skirmishers, but no enemy was found, and the real cause of the alarm was never ascertained. It is quite possible that some of the enemy's scouts were prowling around the camp, and were discovered by the sentinel.

First came Bull Run.

It was not long after this before we learned what real fighting was. First came ‘Bull Run,’ which awakened us to the realities of war. Here the enemy made a reconnoissance in force, and that night I was sent in command of a detachment of 100 men to picket the ford at which they had attempted a passage. Our mounted scouts were passing and repassing the ford all night, and I did not get ten consecutive minutes of sleep. I would occasionally fall into a doze, but invariably felt myself shaken by one of the guards, and half-awake would catch the whisper, ‘Lieutenant! Lieutenant! They are coming!’ The enemy never materialized, however; the sounds heard usually proceeded from the splashing of the hoofs of a friendly scout's horse in the water on the other side of the stream.

The battle of Manassas followed quickly after this little affair on our right. Our regiment was stationed at Lewis' Ford, supporting Latham's Battery, which was masked near the road.

I shall never forget the morning of the day that ushered in that memorable battle. It was a typical summer morning in the ‘Old Dominion.’ The air was perfectly still. Not a leaflet rustled, and the trembling dew-drops hanging from twig and leaf waited to kiss the brows of the soldier boys doomed to die that day—waited for the breath of the zephyr to send them on their errand of love, but [300] waited in vain. Before dawn those who were awake heard a confused and uncertain hum in the direction of Centreville, which ere the day broadly dawned had grown into a mighty rumbling of artillery wheels, rattling of wagons, trains, and din of human voices. How sound travels on such a morning, when the world is waking to life again! I slept that dreamless sleep that only comes to a tired man out beneath the wide sky, breathing the unfettered air on such a summer's night, and awoke refreshed beyond the conception of one who has never enjoyed such a privilege.

Before the sun was up we had our coffee simmering on the fire in tin-cups (we had some coffee in those days), and saluted him as he arose with this delightful libation, and such a sun-rise it was! Altogether it was such a morning as Bagby describes in his ‘Reubenstein.’ He describes a country home with apple trees all in bloom, and says something like this: As the sun rose kissing from blossom and leaf the trembling dew-drop, a little bird 'way down in the orchard awoke and began to trill his matin song. Then another, and another, and another, answered back the first little bird till the world was full of melody, and then the servant gal threw open the blinds in the house, and it was day once more. So, that morning the robin in the oak on the hill, and the red bird in the bottom by the stream, seemed to sing their sweetest for the boys in gray, till old McDowell chimed in with his deep base from the other side, when the feathered songsters quit in disgust.

Curious weapons.

What a morning for a battle! We had scarcely swallowed our coffee when the boom of the two guns immediately in our front and the hurling of a few shells far over our heads warned us that the ball was about to open, and hastened us down to our hastily-constructed rifle-pits (they had been thrown up with bayonets and tin-cups the night before). As the enemy's skirmishers approached and the minie-balls whistled overhead and thumped the earth-works in front, I noticed that one man took a Testament from his pocket, and siting bolt-upright, with his head above the breast-works, began to read. He seemed totally unconscious that he was disobeying orders and exposing his person to the bullets at the same time. Lieutenant Brown ordered him several times to lower his head behind the embankment, but he seemed not to hear, until Brown drew his sword and threatened to take his head off, when he suddenly returned to consciousness and obeyed. This old sword of Brown's was a most [301] curious and antique specimen. It was shaped something like a reap-hook or Turkish scimeter. Brown had been a colonel of militia, and I suppose had sported this sword on many a ‘general muster’ day, when walking-sticks and umbrellas constituted the arms of the rank and file. A brave old fellow, though, was Brown, and he fought through the war, though ‘muster free’ when he entered the army. By the way, amongst the curious things of that day and time, nothing was more curious than some of the weapons with which we armed ourselves, unless it was the idea of war which led us to adopt such weapons. I believe our entire army was armed with Bowie knives. I, myself, purchased in Richmond, at an exorbitant price, a formidable-looking knife, all unconscious of the fact that the modern soldier has a decided reluctance to submitting his person to the carving process, whatever may have been the fashion in Caesar's day. Most of my company, though, were armed with knives of wonderful make and fashion. Truly they were ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ They were manufactured at Howardsville, Albemarle county, in Driscoll's foundry. They weighed as much as five or six pounds, and proved very serviceable shortly after in hacking the ‘blue-beef,’ of wild-onion flavor, with which our commissariat abounded One officer got Driscoll to make him a two-edged sword, weighing, I suppose, twenty-five pounds, and a ‘Bowie’ weighing half as much. The sword, which was ground to a sharp edge, was fully four inches broad, and Peter Francisco would have found difficulty in wielding it. When we fell back from Centreville to Bull Run, one of the hottest days I ever felt, it was pathetic to see this officer, with these two formidable weapons and a pistol to-boot buckled around his waist, staggering along under the rays of that July sun. He fell a martyr to his efforts to keep up with the column, for he had a sunstroke, and was not in the battle of Manassas. He learned better afterwards, and fought bravely through the war, distinguishing himself by his courage and zeal. After the war he became well known to the people of Richmond, and occupied high official positions.

There is no exaggeration about these things. How they make us smile when we think of them! When the firing began that morning, a negro cook left his fire, seized a musket, and started down to the breastworks with the evident intention of fighting it out by the side of his master. Some officer, much to my regret, ordered the faithful fellow back, and in the discussion that followed it was urged that to allow him to fight with us and for us would be to put a negro on [302] an equality with white men. How times have changed! Then a negro was denied the privilege of fighting for his master, but since then he has disported himself and made laws for that same master in legislative halls.

Presently the enemy debouched in front of us and Latham, until then as silent as the grave, ran two of his pieces (I think he had two at that point) out into the road and opened on them. His command, ‘Ready!’ ‘Aim!’ ‘Fire!’ repeated each time in stentorian tones, could plainly be heard from one end of the line to the other, and we all felt for the first time that peculiar elation which the booming of our own cannon always produced. This was the first taste of our masked battery which the enemy got, and it proved unpalatable, as they scampered away in great haste. After they retired, Latham turned his attention to two of their guns in the road in front of him and ‘knocked them into pie.’ We saw them there the next day spiked and abandoned where they stood. Though not occupied ourselves for some time after that, we began to hear the increasing roar of battle over on the extreme left, about the Henry House. An Alabamian came down to our line and told us bad news from that quarter. He said our men were being cut to pieces and driven back. Then came an order for us to double-quick to the left. Out of our rifle-pits we tumbled, coming into line on the plain in rear of our former position. Just as we started at a double-quick, the enemy saw us and commenced to shell us. I saw a rifle shell almost spent pass close to the head of our column, bounding and ‘swapping ends’ as it went. It came very near the long legs of a tall, lanky sergeant, and he jumped up about three feet as it passed under him. This ugly customer seemed to take all the starch out of the fellow, for he dropped out behind a tree just before we reached our position on the left, and the last I saw of him that day he was parting with his breakfast, swallowed so eagerly a short while before. I never suffered so from heat before or since. I believe when we halted my tongue was almost hanging out. We crossed a small branch, and I dropped down and drank out of a bloody pool where some of the wounded had been washed. I could not help it. My thirst was intolerable.

Fearful roar of artillery.

We were halted and ordered to lie down behind a slightly-rising ground covered with stunted pine and oak bushes, and the enemy continued to shell us savagely. Presently we saw a long column of [303] men coming up on the extreme left and rear, and for some time did not know whether they were friends or foes. We could see them passing a small opening in the timber, but could not make them out. All at once above the steady roll of musketry in our front, there broke out the most awful blended roar of artillery and musketry. The earth fairly shook and trembled. Colonel Strange mistook the sound and thinking the enemy's cavalry were charging, from the shaking and trembling of the earth, threw the regiment into column of companies preparatory to forming squares. He never took his short-stemmed pipe out of his mouth, and was very cool, but we could see he was uneasy. In a few minutes an excited aide came tearing through the bushes in front of us and shouted out, ‘Bring your guns to the front, now, Captain Latham, and you can give 'em h-ll.’ We afterwards learned that the cause of this terrible fire in the front was the advent of that column we had seen pass in on the left, which proved to be Kirby Smith's command hurrying to the field from the Manassas Gap railroad, guided by the sound of the guns. They poured in their fire both of musketry and cannon, as they wheeled into line, and the enemy replied, making their last desperate struggle to retain the fickle goddess on their side. Even this battle episode was not without its ludicrous incidents. I will relate only one. We had in our company a rather stupid fellow, whose father had sent along with him an old darkey with a hunchback, known as ‘Uncle Jim,’ and who cooked for the mess of which this young fellow was a member. ‘Uncle Jim,’ of course, had gone back to the wagons along with numerous other darkies. Whilst we were lying down as before described, with the conflict raging fearfully just in front, and shot and shell occasionally ploughing through our ranks, but mostly passing over us, this youth began to pray aloud. He seemed to be at a great loss what to say (I fear his early education had been neglected); so he began: ‘Oh, Lord, if Uncle Jim was here! Oh, Lord, send Uncle Jim to me!’ And when that fearful roar came, in a perfect agony he exclaimed: ‘Oh, Lordy! Oh, Lordy! if Uncle Jim was just here!’

This incident reminds me of another that occurred in 1863, whilst I was in the cavalry. We were at Culpeper Courthouse, and the government was sending out conscripts to the various commands. One of these conscripts, who was over forty-five years of age—the conscription being extended beyond that age—was sent to us from Albemarle. He was a very quiet, respectable looking farmer, with iron-gray hair and beard, and he candidly told us that he was dreadfully [304] afraid, that he had been very reluctant to come, and felt sure he would run the first fight he got into, and disgrace himself forever.

It was pitiful to witness his dread of the future and hear him talk. Instead of deriding and scoffing at what seemed to be his craven nature, the man's evident sincerity and distress excited our compassion, and we tried to comfort him, telling him it was like taking a plunge in a cold bath. After the first shock he would not mind it (which by the way was a sort of pious fraud).

He never seemed to be reconciled or to put any faith in himself, but the very first battle he got into he fought like a veteran, and died on the field like the hero he was, though all unconscious of it himself. This was truly pathetic, and I shall always be slow to judge a man's courage till he is tried.

Latham did not need a second invitation to make it warm for our foes, as had been suggested to him, but swept around us with his two guns and caissons at a gallop, and unlimbered on the hill in front in time to give the demoralized foe a few parting shots. We were then ordered up to the front, and reached our line of battle just in time to see the enemy on the opposite hill retiring in confusion into the woods. They had lost all semblance of organization, and reminded me of nothing so much as a swarm of bees shaken down on the ground before a hive and making all possible speed to get into it, with much humming and buzzing, climbing over each other in their haste to get inside. They had just given us pretty good evidence of their power to sting, but then they seemed to have lost all inclination in that direction. Our regiment, being comparatively fresh, was ordered to pursue the retreating enemy, and away we went. We picked up, as we passed, a New York Zouave, standing nonchalantly on the hillside in great baggy, red trousers, and one leg crossed over the other. He seemed to have made up his mind to do no more marching or fighting, and was just waiting for us to take him prisoner. On that hill I came close to the first dead man I ever saw on a battle-field, and his features are even now as distinctly visible to me in memory as they were to my eyes that day. In after years I witnessed many more horrible sights on other battlefields, and I scarcely ever think of them. This dead soldier impressed me greatly. He was a young Federal cannoneer, and lay on his back with arms wide extended, one hand clutching a tuft of grass, and powder stains upon his handsome young face.

We saw no more of the enemy; but such wreck and devastation I never saw. The earth was strewn for miles with muskets, knapsacks, [305] cartridges, clothing, crackers, pork, wagon-wheels, caissons, cannon, and broken-down wagons, whilst the little pines and broom-straw were broken and beaten down in the track of the fleeing army as if a cyclone had swept over its pathway.

Shouts of victory.

As we halted for a moment on that hill I looked back at the one we had just left, and saw the whole Confederate army advancing in battle-array, stretching out to our view, for a mile or more, in perfect order, with flags flying and filling the air with shouts of victory. It was a thrilling sight, and my blood even now leaps through my veins as I think of it, as if I had not known the chilling influences of thirty-three winters since that day.

We followed the enemy about six miles to Sudley Church, at which point they had left many of their wounded. That night my company was detailed to take a large number of prisoners to Manassas Station, and we had to pass over the battle-field again. The horrors of the day were intensified by the shadows of the night. Stiff figures of dead men, lying here and there on the plain, dimly seen through shimmering moonlight—dogs and human ghouls that might be seen prowling amongst the dead and dying, and slinking away into the bushes as we passed—the shrieks and moans of the wounded, as yet ungathered into the hospitals—all these things pass before me again as I write. These last are the ghosts that I would lay if I could, but I cannot; they will linger and mingle with the glorious visions of our first triumph.

Twelve miles that night we marched after a long day of battle. When at last we reached our destination and turned over our prisoners, we fell down on the ground to sleep where we stopped, and knew no more till the morning of the next day was far spent. When I awoke I was lying on my back, with the rain beating in my face. The rain had already laid the dust—yes, laid it on my face and clothing. What a sight I must have been, if I only looked half as badly as my comrades lying around me! The thunder of that Sabbath day shook from the battlements of high Heaven to the earth some of the tears that angels are said to weep over the antics of men.

Our first battle was over—the telepraph had spread the news far and wide, and some men who had hardly taken time to acknowledge the enemy's first salute, spread themselves over the interior, telling tales of dire disaster to all save themselves. For a little while, until [306] the truth had time to catch up with them, they were the centres of gaping and admiring crowds, only to sink into insignificance again, loaded with the scorn of women and the contempt of men, when the truth became known. So Manassas was fought and won, and, although I could fill a volume with reminiscences of other battles and marches which come teeming into my brain, I must pass on to the closing of the great drama.

In the spring of 1865 the condition of the Confederacy may be aptly described by applying to it the touching words of Raphael Semmes, used in speaking of his good ship, the Alabama, just before the battle with the Kearsage. He says she was no longer the alert, swift, formidable greyhound of the seas, as when he first assumed command of her, but after her long and eventful cruise, during which she had been for the most part denied harbor privileges by neutral nations, she came limping back, her timbers riven and shaken by many a storm, to meet her superior at every point, save in the courage and devotion of her crew to the cause of the Confederacy. Now Lee's thin lines after Five Forks were withdrawing towards Amelia Courthouse, the point of concentration where he expected to find rations for his hungry troops. The cavalry, Fitzhugh Lee's Division, to which I then belonged, was bringing up the rear, and had a fine opportunity of witnessing the fighting qualities of the gallant Henry A. Wise and his brigade.

‘Try it, sir.’

Never did troops show better discipline or fight more obstinately and bravely than those men under their heroic old general. As we approached the home of Mr. Joseph B. Wilson, of Amelia county, we halted and formed lines in the open fields surrounding his house, and the writer, who knew him and his family well and had often shared their hospitality, rode up to the house and warned them to seek safety in the cellar, as we would attempt to check the enemy there. Whilst conversing with Mr. Wilson, his little girl, Judy, ran up and threw her arms around my neck, exclaiming, ‘Oh, don't let the Yankees come!’ I never wished so heartily that I had been ‘a host within myself.’ I had not the heart to tell her that we could only keep ‘those people’ back for a little while and then we must retreat.

So I gently disengaged the child's arms, and told her we would try, but she must make haste and hide, for we would soon be fighting [307] all around her house. Thus reassured, she quickly dried her tears, and ran back into the house. After a short and sharp skirmish we moved on, and the next morning reached the courthouse. We passed Wise's Brigade, drawn up in line, on the road just before we reached the village, and one of our men jokingly said: ‘Oh, you need not be forming line there, we could break through you.’ The old General, who heard the remark, exclaimed in that deep voice of his: ‘Try it, sir;’ and the cavalry gave the old man a hearty cheer, for they knew how often the exultant enemy had tried in vain to break those lines on that march.

Reaching the village, I beheld the first signs of dissolution of that grand army which had endured every hardship of camp or march with unshaken fortitude, and, with immortal daring, wrestled with its giant antagonist on every field of battle from Manassas to Petersburg, when, looking over the hills, I saw swarms of stragglers moving in every direction.

Whilst the command rested there I rode over to my old home, which lay near the road (farther on) over which we were retreating. There I filled my haversack, and was resting when I heard the thunder of exploding magazines of ammunition. I knew but too well what this meant, and, bidding a hasty adieu to my relatives, who till then had known nothing of ‘war's rude alarms’ save the echoes from distant fields, soon rejoined my command. At Amelia Springs we fought and drove the enemy's cavalry, who had broken in on our wagon-train near Flat Creek, burned many wagons, and scattered Lamkin's mortars, which were being transported in wagons along the road. The familiar occupation of Lamkin and his boys was gone, but they readily dropped into other arms of the service as they had changed from field to mortar battery before, and faced the enemy again on the last day at Appomattox.

Immortal foot cavalry.

At Amelia Springs young James Rutherfoord, assistant inspector-general on the staff of General Dearing, was killed, and I saw his bleeding body brought past, lying across his saddle, followed and supported by one of his brother staff-officers, weeping bitterly over the limp form of his young friend. That night, as I lay upon the ground with a few dying embers close by, and was trying to get to sleep, but could not on account of the thoughts that kept crowding my mind, those inspired by the momentous events then passing, [308] jostling those that came welling up from childhood's memories, as I was leaving the scenes of those memories, perhaps forever, I heard the tramp of some of that immortal ‘foot cavalry,’ that still clung to our standards and answered old ‘Marse Bob's’ roll-call, and they halted there for the night.

Soon a tired, dusty, foot-sore soldier came up to my fire and asked if he could parch some corn. I said, ‘Yes, certainly.’ I watched the poor fellow by the flickering light as he drew a handful of corn out of his dirty old haversack and put it in his pan. I said, ‘My friend, is that all you have?’ He said, ‘Yes, and I have had nothing better for three days.’ ‘Are you going to stand by Marse Bob to the last?’ The light which flashed up in the old soldier's face from the fire of a noble spirit almost outshone that thrown out by the dying embers beneath, as he proudly straightened up and replied: ‘Yes, sir, to the last!’ I reached for my haversack, just filled that day by loving hands, and handing it to my old comrade, told him to help himself. This he modestly did, and even while he satisfied his appetite, gentle slumber visited my tired eyelids, and, as with the morning light came the ringing call of ‘boots and saddles,’ I looked around for my comrade of the night before, but the ‘foot-cavalry’ were already gone, and he was on his way to ‘Sailor's Creek,’ where it may be he sealed his devotion to his country's cause with his blood. If my haversack was lighter that morning, so was my heart, and as long as I have a crust I think I shall be proud to share it with one like him.

We moved on hurriedly to the ‘High Bridge,’ intending to dislodge a detachment of the enemy then in possession of that point. They were composed of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, how strong I do not know, but we captured 800 of them and fed them on Confederate delicacies until we reached Appomattox, and there, not being able to board them any longer, we were guilty of the rudeness of asking them to leave and go home. Our cavalry commands were sadly wasted, regiments being no more than companies and brigades hardly good regiments. The engagement was short and sharp, but the boys had lost none of their mettle.

Three desperate men.

The enemy's cavalry charged that part of the line where I stood three times. They were mounted, and we dismounted. A single, well-directed volley scattered them each time, but the second time [309] three Federal officers stood their ground, and attempted to cut their way out. We were not much more than a skirmish line, and here these three desperate men came down right amongst us, whilst our men were reloading, cutting and slashing with their sabres as they came. A sight so unusual puzzled our men at first, but soon finding these fellows to be in earnest, some one cried out, ‘Kill the d——d Yankees,’ and instantly the three men went down as if they had suddenly melted away. I remember seeing the dust fly from their coats behind as the bullets passed through their bodies. One of these officers proved to be General Theodore Read, of the Federal army, who was in command of the detachment. I have since learned, through a lawyer friend, Walter Sydnor, of Hanover county, Va., an interesting fact concerning this officer. He says that after the war he was a student at the University of Missouri, and there met Dr. Daniel Read, the father of General Read, an elegant old gentleman, who was then the president of that institution, and that the old gentleman blamed General Grant for the death of his son, and never forgave him. He told my friend that his son was on the staff of a corps commander under General Grant, and being yery young, and ambitious of distinction, but, having had little opportunity to distinguish himself on the staff, he begged to be given the command of that detachment, believing the war nearly over, and his opportunities almost gone, this, perhaps, was his last, as he thought. Grant yielded, and gave it to him. The old gentleman said Grant well knew that in so doing he was throwing his boy in the path of Lee's whole army, and that his chances of ever coming out alive were few; that as commanding officer, he should not have sacrificed the boy in that manner. He was very bitter towards Grant, says my friend.

It was a sad day for this ambitious youth when he sought distinction by throwing himself in the path of those harassed veterans of Lee, even though they were on the road to Appomattox. Those grim warriors of Brandy Station and Trevillian's little knew and little recked of this ambitious youth or his hopes. He had crossed the retreating lion's path and he must meet his doom.

A brave Federal officer.

Soon the same cavalry came charging down again, and this time one officer stood his ground after a volley had again scattered his men. Major James Breathed, our chief of artillery, who will never be forgotten as long as a cavalryman of the Army of Northern Virginia [310] lives to think of his dash and courage, came up in the meantime and rode right through our line, accompanied by——Scruggs, a courier. As Breathed rode toward the brave Federal, who quietly awaited him, he seemed to me to make a motion with his drawn sabre as if to convey a challenge, which the Federal accepted, and every man stood still to witness the tilt between two such gallant men. They went at it, and fought for some minutes pretty evenly matched, whilst Scruggs sat his horse close by. Soon the Federal wounded Major Breathed in the arm and seemed to get some advantage, when Scruggs shot the brave fellow dead. I was not near enough to hear whether Scruggs demanded his surrender or not, but I am sure he evinced no intention of surrendering. I passed him as he lay gasping his last, and looked with pity into the dying face of the foeman, so brave. Here the gallant Colonel Boston was urging forward his men, and it was the last I ever saw of him alive, for presently they brought him out dead, a ball having entered his mouth and caused instant death. Some few years ago, in conversation with General Rosser, he told me that he also witnessed this duel between Breathed and his Federal antagonist.

The next day we passed through Farmville, and in the evening halted at the coal pits in Cumberland county, where two roads crossed. The wagon trains were passing, and our cavalry was massed between them and the enemy, held in readiness, but not anticipating an attack. Our beloved old General was sitting beneath an old oak tree near the road, leaning against the trunk of the tree, when suddenly the Federal cavalry opened fire upon us, and came near recapturing all our prisoners, who were held under guard in a bottom in front of us. General Lee slowly remounted his horse and rode past as we formed for the charge. We cheered him, and he gravely lifted his hat in acknowledgment of our greeting. I believe, if Grant's whole army had been there then, they could not have reached or harmed that grey head as long as one of those cavalry boys lived to raise a sabre or handle a pistol. We soon repulsed them and captured General Gregg. I suppose he surrendered his sword to Fitz. Lee, as I saw the latter twirling it in his hand as he rode up after the enemy had retired, When we came back to the cross-roads we found that ‘Marse Bob’ had not left us unprovided with support, for I saw the shining barrels of a grim line of infantry extending across the road, and the black muzzles of a battery pointing down the road. Then, finding that we needed no help, our brethren wheeled into the road and resumed the march. [311]

Describing what was done on this day, April 7th, General Fitzhugh Lee, at page 386 of his ‘General Lee,’ says:‘The once great Army of Northern Virginia was now composed of two small corps of infantry and the cavalry corps, and resumed the march toward Lynchburg, but after going four miles stopped, and was formed into line of battle in a well-chosen position to give the trains time to get ahead. It was attacked by two divisions of Humphreys' Second Corps, which had been long hanging on its rear, but repulsed them, Mahone handling Miles very roughly. Humphreys lost five hundred and seventy-one men killed, wounded, and missing. Preceding this attack, Crook's cavalry division crossed the river above Farmville, and was immediately charged by the Southern cavalry and driven back. The Federal General Gregg and a large number of prisoners were taken. General Lee was talking to the commander of his cavalry when Cook appeared, saw the combat, and expressed great pleasure at the result.’

The last Camp-fires.

On we went to Appomattox, and I never again saw General Lee, but his image abides in my memory and heart. After dark we saw Longstreet's camp-fires twinkling on the hills on either side of the road as we passed, and these were the last camp-fires of the Army of Northern Virginia. The old boys of R. E. Lee Camp, of Richmond, occasionally hold one to keep us in mind of those real ones till all cross over the river and ‘on fame's eternal camping-ground their silent tents are spread.’

Just as the dawn was breaking the next morning we moved through Appomattox Court House, greeted by shot and shell from the enemy's batteries as our column slowly advanced through the early morning mists. Finding the enemy in great force in our front, we moved off after sunrise to the right and passed around their flank, fighting as we went. I think I see General Munford now riding along that ridge, crested with the smoke of the skirmish line, as our main body passed. Soon we reached the rear of the enemy, between him and Lynchburg, and there we fired the last guns of Appomattox, and the last man that died on the field was a cavalryman. They carried him to the rear on a blanket just as the news of the flag of truce and the impending surrender reached us. Then sadly and slowly we moved on to Lynchburg, intending, no doubt, to join Johnston in the Carolinas. We heard the salutes by the enemy [312] in honor of the surrender as we marched, and it proved to be the death-knell of the Confederacy. The Army of Northern Virginia had been the soul of the Confederacy, and that having taken its flight, the Confederacy could not live.

Reaching Lynchburg that night, we found everything in dire confusion, and there, all hope having fled, the cavalry, the last organized body of our army, disbanded. When I left my old home in Amelia, I took with me my young cousin, Eugene Jefferson, a boy, who fought by my side at ‘High Bridge,’ Farmville, and Appomattox. When we disbanded that night at Lynchburg, I took him to the Norvell House, and we got supper. I paid forty dollars for our supper, the last use made of Confederate money till I reached the Appomattox river at Stony Point, where I paid the ferryman ten dollars to ferry us over. I would as soon have given him a bale of it if I had it. This boy and I passed to the Amherst side of the river after supper and slept on the hill. Next morning we passed down the river on that side 'till we reached Howardsville. Singularly enough, it was at that place, just four years previously, I had entered the army, and there my career as a soldier ended. There Sheridan's men burned my law books and my trunk with my law license in it, where this document had lain securely and almost forgotten for four years. I am practicing law now without a license, so far as that goes, and recently in a West Virginia court, when asked for my license before qualifying, I had to plead the vandalism of Phil. Sheridan, as my excuse for not producing the license.

Governor Smiths Entreaties.

At Howardsville my young relative and I encountered Governor William Smith, venerable nomen. He had left Richmond before the enemy entered and was then stopping at the house of Mr. Zack Lewis. The old man came out to see us and expostulated with us on returning home. He begged us to turn back and go to Johnston, in North Carolina. He insisted that the end was not yet, that hope had not departed and we would yet gain our independence. This and much to the same effect he said. I had the uttermost respect and admiration for this loyal old Virginian. The whole army had been filled with praises of his superb courage, and laughed at the stories of his ignorance of and bitter contempt for military tactics, but I knew the game was up, and I bade the heroic and undaunted old Governor good-bye, and continued my journey, crossing [313] over into Buckingham. Nothing better illustrates the name and character of Virginia than the lives of those three eminent Governors of the State—Smith, Wise, and Floyd. Although old men, they all three entered the army, and led the youth of their State where the battle raged hottest. Some years after this I served with Governor Smith in the Legislature, and learned to love and admire him more and more.

Passing through Buckingham, a citizen showed me a tree on the roadside, just beyond the court-house, where General Lee had slept on his way to Richmond the previous night. That evening, after we had crossed over into Amelia, we met some Yankee marauders, who, presenting pistols, halted us and wanted to know whether we were bushwhackers. They informed us that they had just taken a pistol from a Confederate colonel in front of us. This colonel proved to be my good friend, Major W. F. C. Gregory, of Wise's staff. They wound up by insisting on our taking a drink in token of amity, which we reluctantly did, and one of the scoundrels actually hugged me. If he had been an honest Federal soldier I should have minded it less, but for this camp-follower to hug me was all I could bear. The next day, when nearing home, I saw a plow stopped in the midst of a furrow and a negro plowman lying behind the plow asleep, with his face upturned to the broiling sun. Here was a picture of freedom to the negro. Reaching home in a few days, we thought best to go to Burkeville and get our paroles. On the way there I passed a good old man whom I had known from my boyhood, Mr. Stephen Harper, going to the same place, with a bag in his hand to get rations. He had been a wealthy man, but the enemy had destroyed and stolen all he had, leaving him without food. Here was a picture of the desolation of old Virginia.

As we passed through the railroad cut, near Burkeville, the Yankees lined the track on either side, and one fellow told us we were d——d stragglers. I told him if I had had the pleasure of his acquaintance a few days before I should have been happy to argue the question, but just then I begged to be excused. The more honorable ones shamed him and bade him hold his peace. We obtained our paroles and resumed the cares and duties of citizenship. I got me some more law books, and, thanks to my fellow-Virginians, have never wanted for clients from that day to this.


[314] [From the Daily Charlotte (N. C.) Observer, January 5, 1896.]


A secret session debate of the North Carolina secession Convention of 1862.

Dr. Kemp B. Battle, a delegate to the Convention, makes public for the first time Proceedings of a very important meeting of our War—time History—The debate centered on what to do with our slaves, eastern North Carolina having been captured by the Federals—a bitter feeling manifest in the discussion between former Union men and the secessionists.


The following paper was read before the North Carolina Historical Society, at Chapel Hill, at the meeting held November, 1895:

Roanoke Island was captured by an overwhelming Union force on the 8th of February, 1862. Hatteras had been in their possession since the 29th of August of the preceding year. All the counties of the State bordering on Albemarle Sound were exposed to their raids.

On the 22d of February, 1862, Mr. William S. Pettigrew, the delegate from Washington county to the convention of the State, usually known as the Secession Convention, appeared in his seat, and asked for a secret session, which was granted. I was one of the delegates from Wake county, and took rough notes of the ensuing debate, and will give its substance. I will first briefly describe the speakers.

Mr. Pettigrew, a brother of the distinguished general, J. Johnston Pettigrew, now a minister of the Protestant Episcopal Church, was then owner of two of the most beautiful plantations in the South, Magnolia and Belgrade, large in area, fertile, surrounded by swamps, yet healthy. His numerous slaves were most kindly treated, religiously trained, contented and happy. His manner of speaking was very deliberate, polished, earnest and most impressive.

Mr. Fenner B. Satterthwaite, member from Beaufort county, was a born orator. The most eloquent speech I heard in that body of great men was from him. He was one of the leaders of one of the strongest bars in the State. [315]

Mr. Kenneth Rayner, delegate from Hertford county, had been for years a conspicuous politician. He spoke always with vehemence, and was occasionally so fiery as to appear excited by anger.

Dr. Rufus K. Speed, of Elizabeth City, was such an impressive speaker that he was selected by the Whig party as candidate to be elector-at-large on purpose to meet the Democratic orator, E. Graham Haywood.

Nicholas W. Woodfin, when a boy, rode into Asheville after meal on a mule bareback. By his energy and talents he rose to be a leader of the Buncombe bar and afterwards State senator from Buncombe. His speeches were always strong, but his pronunciation of many words was strange, even to affectation.

The convention was in an exceedingly gloomy frame of mind, because the easy capture of the Hatteras forts and of Roanoke Island made it certain that Washington and Newbern would not be more fortunate, and all eastern North Carolina would be speedily overrun. It is impossible for me to transfer to you the impression made under these circumstances by the intense earnestness of the speakers, all of whom, except Mr. Woodfin, were in constant dread of hearing news of ruined homes and the desertion of their slaves.

Mr. Pettigrew began by stating that he had left his home at the mercy of the enemy. It was his intention not to return to the convention as long as there was danger of invasion of his county, but many of his neighbors, strong friends of the Southern Confederacy, had begged him to resume his seat with the view of obtaining some protection. It was a cause of regret to him that members spoke of adjourning the convention. Let us never yield. If beaten, let us retreat from the sea-shore to the hills; from the hills to the mountains.

Washington and Tyrrell are isolated. He ordered his slaves, ordinarily perfectly obedient, to be ready to start with him away from danger of capture. Only five appeared at the rendezvous. The residue ran off to the swamps. After his departure they returned to their cabins. This conduct was for two reasons. Firstly, they were afraid of suffering in the up country from cold and want of food. Secondly, they had hopes of emancipation, as one of them candidly admitted. The slaves of his brother had behaved in a similar manner, and doubtless such was the universal feeling. Will the convention do nothing to save the wealth and people of these counties?

The remedy is to remove the slaves by military force. Individuals cannot effect such removal. They have not the means. [316]

There is disaffection to the Confederate cause. There are Union men who railed at a friend of his for removing his family. Another had been met by men with shot-guns, who threatened to drag him out of his vehicle in order to detain him in the county. He had heard that a meeting of justices of the peace had been held in Tyrrell county, who had decided to fold their arms and submit to the inevitable, and also not to permit the militia to leave the county; and further, that if the State endeavored to prevent their remaining neutral they would appeal to Roanoke Island. These resolutions were adopted not from disloyalty to the Southern cause, but from fear of the enemy and love of their homes. He closed by an eloquent appeal for some measure of relief.

Mr. Woodfin asked, ‘Can the gentleman point out a remedy?’

Mr. Satterthwaite began by stating that he had said some time ago, on the fall of Roanoke, that our eastern section is almost subiugated. We ought to have courage to look on the dark side of the picture. We may be subjugated. We ought to form some idea of what we shall do in such event. We should unite on some plan, but did not believe that the measure recommended by Mr. Pettigrew was a good one. In the first place it is impracticable. In the second it is injurious, unwise, dangerous. Would the upper counties agree to have these slaves settled among them? They would be afraid. The slave-owners of the East have no more right to be aided in this manner than the poor. It would be wrong to leave the non-slaveholders exposed to death and destruction of their property. The authorities once had power to protect East Carolina. That power is lost, gone forever, he feared, but he will vote for any measure proper, for its protection.

He was sorry to hear Mr. Pettigrew say that he had heard of Union men willing to submit to Roanoke Island. Union men (meaning those who belonged to the Union party before war) are as patriotic and loyal to the Southern cause as any others. Look at the battle-fields and you will find them. Both parties have erred in judgment. Let us draw no distinction between secessionists and Union men. We should frown on any imputation that Union men will give up the fight. They were the last in the move; they will be the last out. We should pass resolutions of sympathy and endeavor to induce the Confederate authorites to send troops to protect our people. The troops have been all withdrawn from Hyde county. There are only a few in Beaufort. They will not remain four hours after the enemy comes. Suppose the enemy should come, [317] what must the people do? They will give up. We should not expect anything else. Imagine a man with wife and children. The enemy comes up—no means of escape. The alternatives are death and dishonor to his wife, or submission. What will he do?

Mr. John C. Washington, of Lenoir county: Stand up for the South!

Mr. Rayner: What did our ancestors in the Revolution, when Cornwallis marched through the land? The Whigs treated those who took protection as traitors.

Satterthwaite: What would you do?

Rayner: Under threat of dishonor to wife and children I might speak the word of submission, but I would steel my heart against them. What one does under duress cannot and should not be charged against him.

Dr. Speed said that he had been informed that the statement of Mr. Pettigrew, in regard to one of the men mentioned, is denied by him. He had heard no mutterings of treasons from the common people, but has heard them from the chief men. When there was a demand for their services, colonels and lieutenant-colonels and other officers of militia could not be found. He expressed the opinion that negro men walking about and refusing to go home should be shot.

Mr. Pettigrew explained that Mr. Satterthwaite misunderstood him when he spoke of Union men. He did not refer to the old distinctions between the parties, but to those who are now disloyal to the Confederacy.

Mr. Woodfin: The proclamation of President Lincoln presented the issue whether we would assist in the subjugation of the Southern people, or be subjugated ourselves. This convention did not make the revolution.

He assured Mr. Pettigrew that the West will support all slaves, will put them to work on railroads, and in the cultivation of fertile mountain lands, which can be bought for from seventy-five cents to one dollar per acre.

The subject here dropped. No action was taken by the convention.

I add that Mr. Pettigrew and many others afterwards removed their slaves into the centre and west of the State, where they found employment at remunerative prices. Those so removing were known as ‘refugees.’

Mr. Satterthwaite's firing up at the supposed imputation that

“Union men” were more disloyal than secessionists shows a feeling [318] which was quite strong with many who opposed secession until after Sumter was fired on. They thought that President Davis, Governor Ellis, and their party generally, regarded them with some degree of suspicion, or at least lacking in ardor for the Southern cause. There was an early division in the convention on this line, Graham, Badger, Satterthwaite, etc., against Edwards, Ruffin, Biggs, Howard, etc. The contest for Governor between Vance and Johnston was the result of this difference of sentiment, each party, however, uniting in the avowal of hostility to the restoration of the Union and determination to fight to the bitter end for independence.

I add further that all the speakers in the foregoing discussion are dead except Mr. Pettigrew, who, having left the University of North Carolina fifty-eight years ago, is still doing active and efficient work in the cause of his Master, universally honored and beloved.


[From the Richmond (Va.) Dispatch, February 9, 1896.]

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