Harper's Ferry and first Manassas.Extracts from the diary of Captain James M. Garnett, in charge of General Reserve Ordnance train, Army of Northern Virginia, from January, 1863, to February, 1864; and Ordnance officer of Rodes's (later Grimes's) Division, 2d Corps, A. N. Va., from February, 1864, to April 9, 1865.
Reserve Ordnance train, A. N. Va., Camp near Cobham Station, V. C. R. R., Wednesday, September 9th, 1863.Monday, April 15th, 1861, maybe considered the commencement of this war for Virginia, for on that day appeared Lincoln's proclamation for 75,000 men to ‘crush the rebellion,’ which hurried up our old fogy Convention, and compelled their secession on Wednesday, April 17th. I was at that time at the University of Virginia, that session being my third, as I went there from the Episcopal High School of Virginia in '57, spent sessions '57-8 and '58-9 at the University, taught '59-‘60 at Greenwood, Mr. Dinwiddie's boarding-school in this (Albemarle) county, and returned to the University the session of ‘60-‘61. This proclamation created quite a sensation at the University, raising the military enthusiasm to the highest pitch, and especially filling our two companies, the ‘Southern Guard,’ Captain E. S. Hutter, and the ‘Sons of Liberty,’ Captain J. Tosh, with an earnest desire to lend a hand in the defence of our State.  The taking of Harper's Ferry was the first object that presented itself to our minds, and when, on Wednesday, Captain Duke returned from Richmond with authority to take 300 men to Harper's Ferry, our two companies, with the ‘Albemarle Rifles,’ Captain Duke, and the ‘Monticello Guards,’ Captain Mallory, from Charlottesville, offered our services. We immediately got ready, and that night, when the train from Staunton, with the ‘West Augusta Guards,’ the ‘Mountain Guards,’ and Imboden's Battery, from Augusta county, came along, we joined them and went on to Harper's Ferry, taking up different volunteer companies all along the railroad, until, when we reached Strasburg about 12 o'clock Thursday, where we had to ‘take it afoot,’ our force was quite formidable, numbering some eight or ten companies, of seventy to eighty men each, and a battery of four pieces. We marched from Strasburg to Winchester, eighteen miles, between 1 o'clock and 8, pretty good marching, considering it was our first effort; wagons were along to carry the little baggage we had, and to relieve us, but most of the men marched the whole way. We stopped in Winchester only long enough to take supper, supping at different private houses, the citizens welcoming us with lavish hospitality, thoa some, not knowing that the movement was authorized by Governor Letcher—as it had not then been publicly made known that Virginia had seceded—thought it was a move of the self-constituted Secession Convention, which had met in Richmond on Tuesday, April 16th, and the fact of which meeting, I think, helped to hurry up our laggard Convention to do what it ought to have done two months before. I, and many others, supped that night with my friend, David Barton, Jr., who had volunteered from the University for this special service, not being a regular member of our company, the ‘Southern Guard.’ He has since gone to his God, where wars will never trouble him more, having been killed in the first battle of Fredericksburg, December 13th, ‘62. About 9 o'clock we all started on the train for Harper's Ferry, only thirty-two miles distant, but such was the slowness of the train and the uncertainty of the commanding officers as to what force we should find at the Ferry, that we did not reach there until 4 o'clock the next morning, about six hours after Lieutenant Jones, of the United States Army, with his handful of men, had burnt the Armory buildings and retreated towards Carlisle, Pa. We learnt that some of the Clarke and Jefferson companies had gotten in the neighborhood  the evening before, in time to have taken the place and saved the buildings, arms, &c., but they also were ignorant of the force at the Ferry and delayed to attack. It is quite amusing now to think of the way in which military affairs were conducted at Harper's Ferry when we first went there. General William H. Harman, Brigadier-General Virginia Militia, was in command until General Kenton Harper, Major-General Virginia Militia, arrived there; these two officers were afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel and Colonel respectively of the 5th Virginia regiment. On Friday, the day we reached the Ferry, the Baltimore outbreak took place, and when we received the news we were greatly elated, but unfortunately it was merely a puff of wind, which soon died out. Then was the time, if ever, for the Marylanders to have armed and organized, and Maryland would not now be trodden down by Lincoln's serfs, with no prospect of ever obtaining her independence. We continually had alarms at the Ferry. On Saturday morning our company was turned out to attack the train, which was said to be coming down loaded with Federal troops, and about 11 o'clock that night we were roused to go up on the Loudoun heights and support Imboden's Battery, which the enemy couldn't have gotten at in any conceivable way except by approaching through Loudoun on Virginia soil, and the other University company, the ‘Sons of Liberty,’ were sent across the bridge and down the railroad, just opposite this battery and ourselves, and just where we were directed to fire if the enemy came, and if our smooth-bore muskets could carry that far, which was more than doubtful. The next morning (Sunday), we scrambled down the mountain and returned to our barracks, very much wearied, after first reporting ourselves at the ‘General's Headquarters,’ where an amusing little scene took place between the Acting Inspector-General, who found fault with the way in which one of the men ordered arms, and one of our lieutenants, who informed him that the company had had a drill-master. The next day we learnt that the Governor had ordered the ‘Charlottesville Battalion,’ as our four companies under Captain George Carr (formerly of the U. S. Army) were called, to return home, and that evening we left for Winchester, where we remained all night, and went to Strasburg the next morning in wagons provided for our accommodation. I think we were rather glad on  the whole that we were leaving the Ferry, though our military ardor was not quite cooled down by our ‘short, but arduous’ campaign. We saw a little service, at all events, having been ordered out twice, in the morning and at night (and the night march was pretty severe for us), and having stood guard several times; my post was at the old burnt Armory buildings. We also saw some fun in searching the houses of Harper's Ferry for secreted arms, a great many of which we found. On the whole we were very much pleased with our expedition, and considered war fine fun in those days; how we have changed our opinions since! On our return by Manassas Junction on Wednesday, April 24th (my birthday, by the way and the day on which I attained my majority), I received permission from our Captain to go on to Alexandria, in order to pay a visit to the Episcopal High School, where my relations, Mr. McGuire's family, resided. I created quite a sensation, with my blue flannel shirt, red collar and cuffs, black pants, white cross-belts, musket and accountrements, and from the fact that I had been to Harper's Ferry. After remaining there two or three days, the last time I have had an opportunity of seeing the dear old place, on Saturday I returned to the University.
Sunday, September 20th, .I have neglected this narrative for nearly a fortnight, but as today is Sunday and I have nothing to do, there being no service near, I will endeavor to continue it now. Soon after reaching the University, our company requested the Governor, through our Captain, Ned Hutter, to accept our services, but he and General Lee, then commanding the Virginia forces, refused, saying that it was ‘too much good material to put in one company.’ We were required to give up our Minie muskets, which we had gotten at Harper's Ferry; so, after continuing our drills a few times more, our company disbanded, and the different members scattered themselves throughout the State and the South, entering the service in different capacities. Some received appointments in the Virginia Provisional Army, which appointments were vacated by general order about September 1st following. I applied for one of these, but before receiving it the Virginia forces were turned over to the Confederacy, and no more appointments were made; I consider  it fortunate now that I didn't get it. I determined to remain at the University till the end of the session, but in May, just before the election of Thursday, May 24th, I went home to Hanover county, desiring to vote in my own county for the Ordinance of Secession, which was at that time ratified almost unanimously by the people of the State. The Yankees about that time raised their ‘hue and cry’ about Union feeling in the South, and especially in Virginia, but the unaninimity with which the Ordinance of Secession was ratified well shows—what we knew all along—that there was no Union feeling in the State, except in some of the Western counties, which have now still further earned our contempt by forming the Yankee ‘bogus’ State of ‘West Virginia.’ The Yankees have found out by this time that the farce of Union feeling in the South is played out, and have left off making a fuss about it. After voting for secession (and for the taxation amendment too, thoa it was against the interest of Eastern Virginia), I returned to the University, but very little studying of text-books did I do during the remainder of the session. My attention was chiefly occupied in studying Mahan's ‘Field Fortification’ and other works on engineering, especially the articles of the encyclopedias in the University library, as I had some idea at that time of applying for an appointment in the Confederate Engineer Corps, but I gave that out before the close of the session, and on Tuesday, July 2d (the session ended on the 4th), I left the University with the intention of joining Captain (now Brigadier-General) W. N. Pendleton's battery, the ‘Rockbridge Artillery,’ which some of my friends and college-mates had already joined. After remaining at home long enough to get ready, and declining to apply for an appointment in the Marine Corps, which I believe I could have gotten at that time, I left Hanover Junction with my friend Channing Page, now Captain of a battery, July 13th, for Winchester, both of us intending to join Pendleton's battery, which we found encamped near that place. I remained at Mrs. Barton's a few days, and on Wednesday, July 17th, enlisted in Pendleton's1 battery, in which I then had several friends, amongst others, Dave Barton,2 Holmes Boyd,3 Bob McKim,4 LIV. Massie,5 Clem. Fishburne,6 and Channing Page,7 with all of whom I had been at college the previous session, and Joe Packard,8 an old school-mate at the Episcopal High School. I was not destined to remain quiet long after entering the service,  for about midday of the day following we started on our march to Manassas to take part in the great battle which was expected to come off. Our destination was revealed to us when we had gotten a few miles from Winchester, and the announcement was received with loud cheering. After crossing the Opequan I attempted to go forward to Millwood, but was stopped by Colonel Preston, commanding the advance regiment (4th Virginia), although I had permission from my immediate commander, Captain Pendleton. How angry I was at this infringement of what I considered my rights after obtaining my Captain's permission! but being helpless of myself, I appealed to my friend Sandy Pendleton,9 Aid to General Jackson, our Brigadier, to obtain the General's permission for me, in which he succeeded, and I went forward, sending a message on the way to my cousins, who were staying at Mr. John E. Page's in the neighborhood, to meet me at Millwood. They reached there soon after I did, and I remained until our battery came through, thoa my walk-and my passion too-had given me a severe headache, and I was forced to ride in the ammunition-wagon attached to our battery, in which I crossed the Shenandoah, fortunately being thus prevented from wading, which nearly all of the men had to do. After crossing the river I rode on to Paris on the horse of Bowyer Brockenbrough,10 First Lieutenant of our battery, and a former college-mate of mine, and we slept on a porch [in Paris], sheltered from the rain which fell. Oversleeping ourselves we found that the battery had the start of us about two hours. Bowyer went on ahead, and I followed on foot until a little boy with some ladies offered me part of his horse, and in this way I reached Piedmont station, where the infantry were taking the cars. Our battery went on a mile beyond and waited there nearly all that day (Friday) for the rest of the artillery to come up, when we started about 7 o'clock P. M., and travelled until 4 A. M., rested two hours at The Plains, and reached Manassas about half-past 2 P. M., Saturday, July 20th. General Johnston's force was thought to be about 18,000 men, with five batteries, thoa I doubt whether the infantry force was quite so large. Most of this force reached Manassas in time for the battle, General Kirby Smith's brigade coming up while the action was going on. We slept quietly that night, thoa our only rations were some provisions that had been sent to one of my friends, which fortunately lasted us for supper and breakfast. The next morning Joe Packard and I went to Bull Run to bathe; while there an old darkey passed, remarking that, if we knew as much as he did, we wouldn't be  there; we didn't think much of it at the time, but his remark occurred to us afterwards. On returning to camp we found that one of our guns was ordered to the front. I obtained permission to be assigned to this gun, and as I had the horse of a surgeon, which I had ridden down from Piedmont station, I galloped on with it, but after going a mile or two we were ordered back without having our anticipations of a fight realized. We found the whole battery hitched up and ready to go forward. The cannonading had commenced on the extreme left about 6 A. M., and was then going on. Presently we were astonished by a shot striking within twenty steps of some of us who were lying down, and ricocheting over our heads; it was fired at a party on a hill beyond us, but fell short. What an excitement this, to many of us, first shot, created. We were soon ordered to a more secure position on the roadside, the wagons being sent back towards Manassas, and with them I sent the horse that I had been riding, which was stolen at Manassas. The owner afterwards came to me about the horse and I gave him what information I had, but am ignorant whether he ever got his horse. Our position at this time was not far from Mitchell's Ford on Bull Run, which was about the centre of our line, where there was very little fighting during the day. We had not been long in our position near the road before Genaral Johnston came along, riding at full speed towards the field, and spoke to Captain Pendleton, and we were immediately ordered forward at a trot, cannoneers on the caissons. We went at this speed for about three miles, till we came to the Lewis House within reach of the enemy's shells, where we were halted for a while. Here I first saw men wounded, some severely and covered with blood, others slightly, limping to the rear. We were then but poorly supplied with ambulances, and our surgeons but poorly acquainted with their duties, so I suppose the men suffered extremely. Besides the wounded coming to the rear, some, as usual, saying we were ‘cut all to pieces,’ here were officers rallying stragglers, staff-officers and couriers riding to and fro, reserve troops and artillery awaiting orders, and other incidents to the immediate rear of a line of battle. We did not wait long, but were soon ordered to the front. We went up through a low pine thicket, the shells hissing and screaming all around us, so that it was a miracle that some of us were not knocked off the caissons. On reaching the top of the hill, we turned to the right and took position amongst the other artillery wherever each piece could find  room enough for itself, so that our battery was scattered along the line. We were immediately in front of a piece of woods in the edge of which the brigade to which we belonged, and which that day gained for itself the soubriquet ‘Stonewall,’ was lying, and which unfortunately received most of the shells aimed at us. On taking position we immediately unlimbered and commenced firing, and kept it up for about two hours and a half, from 12 to 2:30 P. M. How well I remember that day! LIV. Massie,11 No. 1, sponging and ramming, Dave Moore,12 No. 4, inserting the friction primer and pulling the lanyard, Lyt. Macon,13 No. 5, not performing the duties of No. 5, as I was acting in that capacity that day, but receiving the shot from me and giving them to No. 2, assisting also to roll up the gun after each recoil, and talking all the time, Bill Brown,14 Corporal, coolly and deliberately aiming the piece, and making almost every shot tell, and Joe Packard,15 No. 7, receiving the shot from No. 6 at the limber, advancing a short distance, and giving them to me as I went to and fro between the piece and the limber. Our little 6-pounder, which we thought more of than we would now of a 30-pounder Parrott, did good work that day. Our captain occasionally passed us, going from one piece to another to see that we were doing our duty, and shrugging his shoulders as a shell would come rather close for comfort. I saw him once or twice near our piece, conversing with him a short while, and I thought he was occupied most of the time in going up and down the line. During the action a limber chest was blown up, belonging to a piece of Stanard's battery, on our immediate left. The wheel-horses fell as if they had been struck by lightning, and it quite astonished us for a while, thoa it didn't interfere with our work. The musketry fire on our left gradually grew hotter and hotter, and presently what was our surprise to receive orders for all the artillery to leave the field! We went off as rapidly as possible, feeling very doubtful as to which party would gain the day, and thinking that the withdrawal of the artillery looked badly for us-but we didn't know.
Camp near Gordonsville [Va.], Tuesday, December 22, 1863.I have put off writing here for some time, owing to movements of the army and absence from camp, but I will endeavor to continue now and keep up this record more regularly.  After the artillery was withdrawn to the Lewis House, the infantry became very heavily engaged, and the roll of musketry continued for more than an hour, when the enemy, much to our gratification, commenced to retreat, and the retreat became an utter rout. We had unlimbered our pieces and taken position near the Lewis House, and on the retreat of the enemy we fired a few shots at them, but the distance was almost too great for our short-range pieces, our battery then consisting only of one regulation six-pounder, two small Virginia Military Institute six-pounders, and one twelve-pounder howitzer. About this time, our President, Jefferson Davis, who had that day come up from Richmond, came on the field, and many of the battery shook hands with him, but I did not seek that honor, though standing quite near him. I cannot describe our joy when we discovered that the enemy were actually retreating and our men were in pursuit, but our joy was not unmingled with sorrow, for we soon heard of the death of many dear friends. Soon after the retreat commenced, I heard of the death of a most intimate friend, H. Tucker Conrad, of Martinsburg, belonging to company D, 2d Virginia regiment. He was my school-mate at the Episcopal High School for two years, and my college-mate at the University of Virginia for two more, and a very dear friend. At the breaking out of the war he was a student of Divinity at the Episcopal Theological Seminary, near Alexandria, and after returning home he enlisted in the ‘Berkeley Border Guards,’ the company from Martinsburg, belonging to the 2d Virginia regiment. He came out of Martinsburg to enlist in his country's service while Patterson's army was around the place, and not long after he died, as he would have wished to die, fighting for his country's independence. His brother, Holmes A. Conrad, of the same company, was also killed that day, and almost at the same time with Tucker. I was not so well acquainted with Holmes, but Tucker I knew long and intimately, and can testify to his character and worth; a most devoted friend, a most faithful man, and a most pious Christian, he endeared himself to all who knew him, and his loss was most deeply felt. Often have I thought of the pleasant times we have had together at school and at college. I trust that we may meet again in the world to come. After the retreat several of our battery were sent on the field to  collect and bring off captured guns and harness. This was my first view of a battle-field; men dead and wounded, scattered all around, horses dead and mangled, and others alive and wounded, arms and accoutrements strewed everywhere, and guns and caissons, some in good condition, others knocked to pieces-met our view on all sides; such scenes were new then, but they have become quite familiar since. We brought off several guns, with much harness and many blankets and overcoats, to the Lewis House, where we were camped for the night, I taking it on a caisson cover. I was awaked about daylight the next morning by the rain, but crept between the two folds of the caisson cover and slept a while longer. On awaking I saw passing several pieces of artillery, and among them a thirty-pounder Parrott piece, all of which had been captured on the retreat.
Reserve Ordnance Train to Major-General Rodes's Division, I expect to be more occupied than I have heretofore been. We spent Monday following the first battle of Manassas near the Lewis House, it raining incessantly the whole day, and none of us being able to procure any rations but hard crackers, and those only what had been captured. Fortunately one of my messmates, Joe Packard, had a jug of honey, and we lived off of honey and hard tack that day. That night, after imagining that I had found a comfortable place in a barn-loft to spend the night, I was summoned to go ‘on guard’ for the first time in my military experience in the battery, and as Captain Pendleton wouldn't hear to letting us off guard duty that night, I had to turn out notwithstanding the rain. We had two posts, and Bev. Jones16 was my companion in the relief. How it did rain! but we took it the best way we could, and, after the first relief was over, endeavored to find something to eat, but were not very successful. I frequently recall this first night ‘on guard,’ barring my Harper's Ferry experience, and must confess that it was almost as disagreeble as any other night I ever spent in that occupation. The next day we had some rations issued to us,  and then moved back and camped near the house where General Jackson had his headquarters on the road to Manassas Station. We camped in the open field near a muddy stream, exposed to the heat of the sun and the attacks of innumerable insects, with the muddiest water to drink, and when it rained our camp was a perfect slush. Our stay at this camp produced such a vivid impression on us that we ever afterwards referred to it as ‘Camp Mudhole.’ While at this camp, about August 3d, I obtained permission from Captain Pendleton to go up to Clarke county for three days to visit my cousins at Mr. Page's, which furlough I spent there very pleasantly, and on returning found that the battery had moved down about one mile below Centreville on the turnpike to Fairfax Courthouse, and was camped there with the brigade (‘Stonewall’ ) to which it was attached. This camp was named by General Jackson ‘Camp Harman.’ It was very pleasantly situated about one-fourth of a mile off the road, on the edge of a piece of woods, and convenient to two excellent springs. We enjoyed our stay there very much, thoa the daily routine of camp life became very monotonous. We drilled both morning and evening, and part of the time before breakfast also, but that was soon dispensed with. We had three posts of guard duty, one at the guns and two at the horses, and each one's turn came once in every five or six days. While here we exchanged some pieces of our battery and obtained two additional pieces, so that it was now constituted two (2) ten-pounder Parrott rifled guns, three (3) six-pounder smooth-bore guns, and one (1) twelve-pounder Howitzer; the six-pounder we retained was the one at which I served at the first battle of Manassas, which was then the third piece, but now the sixth, at which I was No. 2; this was the only piece used at the battle of Hainesville (or Falling Waters), the first skirmish that occurred in the Valley of Virginia, and this was the first piece fired in the Valley after the war commenced; it was also used in the war with Mexico and should have been preserved, but it has now, alas! been melted up to make twelve-pounder Napoleons, and so ‘gone the way of all flesh.’ Some more of my University friends joined the battery at this camp, among whom were Randolph Fairfax (a noble boy, afterwards killed at the first battle of Fredericksburg, December 13th, ‘62), Lanty Blackford and Berkeley Minor.17 Our mess at that time consisted of about twenty-five or thirty, nearly all of the best fellows in  the company, and we employed two Irishmen to cook for us, but the number being entirely too large, some of us employed a servant and organized another mess, consisting of ten of us, and ever afterwards knowne as ‘Mess No. 10;’ it consisted of David Barton,18 Holmes Boyd,19 Johnny Williams,20 Lyt. Macon,21 Lanty Blackford,22 Randolph Fairfax,23 Kinloch24 and Philip25 Nelson, Bev. Jones,26 Ned Alexander,27 and myself.28 This was one more than the number, but Kinloch Nelson was sick for some time and we took Lanty Blackford in his place.