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Stuart's cavalry in the Gettysburg campaign.

By Col. John S. Mosby.
A review by Col. T. M. R. Talcott.

After reading Col. Mosby's book, which I had not seen until recently, I asked Col. Walter H. Taylor whether he had made any reply to it, and received the following letter from him:

Dear Colonel,—I have received your letter of the 10th inst. I read what Mosby had to say about Gettysburg some time ago. I did not attach much importance to his statements and did not publish, neither have I any intention to publish, anything in reply. I think some of the partisans of General Stuart have done him more harm than good in their contributions concerning army movements in the Gettysburg Campaign. What I have claimed is simply this: Although certain discretion was allowed General Stuart as to his movements, he was admonished all the while to keep in touch with our main army and to keep General Lee informed as to the movements of the enemy. Secondly: that General Lee was greatly disturbed and embarrassed at not receiving any tidings from General Stuart concerning the movements of the enemy.

Some of General Stuart's defenders have claimed that he simply exercised the discretion allowed him when he crossed the Potomac where he did and pursued the route that he did; and that it was impossible for him to keep General Lee informed of the movements of himself and the enemy because the enemy intervened between him and General Lee. It is not a good defense of General Stuart to say that it was impossible for him to communicate with General Lee when he had himself put himself in a position where it was impossible, although admonished [22] all the while not to do this. In a few words, it seems to me that this describes impartially just how far General Stuart was to be blamed. * * * Yours very truly,


In the preface of his book, Col. Mosby says:

These pages have been written as a duty I owe to a soldier to whom great injustice has been done. The statements in the two reports of the commanding general in regard to his orders and the management of the cavalry in the Gettysburg campaign have been generally accepted without question; and the criticisms of his staff officers and biographers on the conduct of the Chief of Cavalry have assumed them to be true. * * I have tried to explain how his name is signed to papers that do so much injustice as well to himself as to General Stuart.

In a note on page 203, Col. Mosby says:

My criticism of General Lee's report, which I believe he signed without reading, does not imply any criticism of him as a general. * * * * It is doubtful if he ever read it, or if it was even read to him.

On page 209 he further says:

The report is understood to have been written by a staff officer. * * * It is unfair to Stuart as it says nothing about Ewell having gone several days in advance into Pennsylvania; and that Stuart was ordered to join him with three brigades of cavalry—or that Stuart had authority to cross the Potomac in Hooker's rear—or that he left two brigades of calvary with Longstreet and General Lee.

As regards Col. Mosby's belief that General Lee signed his reports without reading them, or even having them read to him, Col. W. H. Taylor, whose attention I called to Col. Mosby's note on page 203, of his book, has this to say:

In reference to Colonel Mosby's note on page 203 of his book, you and I know that General Lee never sent a formal battle report to the Department that was not carefully revised before [23] he signed it; and Col. Mosby's gratuitous assertion that the report of Gettysburg was signed without being read, and his doubt if General Lee ever read it, or if it was even read to him, is a bald assumption on his part, contrary to the evidence of those who were present and know the manner employed and the care exercised in the preparation of all of his reports.

My own observation, as a member of his staff, of General Lee's preparation of official documents was not as frequent or for so long a period as that of his Adjutant General; but even without this emphatic statement from Col. Taylor, I cannot for one moment entertain the suggestion made by Col. Mosby that General Lee signed his official reports of the battle of Gettysburg without reading them, or having them read to him.

Col. Mosby says that General Lee's report is unfair to Stuart because it says nothing about Ewell having gone several days in advance into Pennsylvania. It was not that Ewell advanced ahead of time, but that Stuart was two days behind time in crossing the Potomac, which permitted the Federal army to intervene between his command and that of Ewell; so that after crossing the Potomac, instead of going west to Fredericktown, Md., as indicated by General Lee, Stuart was forced to moye northward through Westminster to Carlisle, Penn., in order to effect a junction with Ewell at that point.

Col. Mosby is mistaken in saying that General Lee's report made no mention of the fact that Stuart had authority to cross the Potomac in Hooker's rear, as will be seen by reference to the extracts from the reports, hereinafter quoted.

Col. Mosby's statement that General Lee's report is unfair to Stuart, in that it says nothing about Stuart's having ‘left two brigades with Longstreet and Lee,’ is in support of his contention, in defense of Stuart, that Lee had sufficient cavalry to keep him informed of the enemy's movements during Stuart's absence. The two brigades referred to were by General Lee's instructions to Stuart, left in Virginia, to watch the flank and rear of the army until the enemy retired from their front, then picket the passes of the Blue Ridge and close upon the rear of the army; but it was not until after the enemy was in Maryland and the order to follow had been repeated, that they crossed the [24] Potomac and joined General Lee. It cannot, therefore, by properly said that Lee had these two brigades of cavalry available to mask his movements and keep him informed of the enemy's movements during the absence of Stuart. If they were not available because of failure to obey orders, Stuart must have erred in the selection of the officer whose duty it was to carry them out.

To facilitate comparison of the two reports, in so far as they relate to the cavalry, the following extracts from them are given in alternate quotations from each report, under nine different headings, as follows:

(1) Cavalry was directed to hold the mountain passes until the enemy crossed the Potomac.

First report:

General Stuart was left to guard the passes of the mountains and observe the movements of the enemy, whom he was instructed to harass and impede as much as possible, should he attempt to cross the Potomac.

Second report:

General Stuart was directed to hold the mountain passes with part of his command as long as the enemy remained south of the Potomac.

(2)If the enemy attempted to cross the Potomac a part of the cavalry was to cross into Maryland.

First report:

In that event General Stuart was directed to move into Maryland,

Second report:

And with the remainder to cross into Maryland.

(3) Discretion as to his crossing the Potomac east or west of the Blue Ridge was given at the suggestion of Stuart.

First report:

Crossing the Potomac east or west of the Blue Ridge as in his judgment should be best. Second Report:

Upon the suggestion of the former officer that he could damage [25] the enemy and delay his passage of the river by getting in his rear, he was authorized to do so, and it was left to his discretion whether to enter Maryland east or west of the Blue Ridge.

(4) After crossing the Potomac Stuart was to take position on the right of the advancing column.

First report:

And take position on the right of our column as it advanced.

Second report:

But he was instructed to lose no time in placing his command on the right of our column as soon as he perceived the enemy moving northward.

(5) When Longstreet and Hill were encamping near Chambersburg June 27th, nothing had been heard from Stuart.

First report:

By the 24th, the progress of Ewell rendered it necessary that the rest of the army should be in supporting distance, and Longstreet and Hill marched to the Potomac. The former crossed at Williamsport, and the latter at Shepherdstown. The columns reunited at Hagerstown, and advanced thence into Pennsylvania, encamping near Chambersburg on the 27th. No report had been received that the Federal army had crossed the Potomac, and the absence of the cavalry rendered it impossible to obtain accurate information.

Second report:

It was expected that as soon as the Federal army should cross the Potomac, General Stuart would give notice of its movements, and nothing having been heard from him since our entrance into Maryland, it was inferred that the enemy had not left Virginia.

(6) By the route Stuart pursuel the Federal army was interposed between his command and our main body.

First report:

General Stuart continued to follow the movements of the Federal army south of the Potomac, after our own had entered Maryland, and in his efforts to impede its progress advanced as far as Fairfax Court House. Finding himself unable to delay the [26] enemy materially, he crossed the river at Seneca and marched through Westminister to Carlisle, where he arrived after General Ewell had left for Gettysburg. By the route he pursued the Federal army was interposed between his command and our main body, preventing any communication with him until he arrived at Carlisle.

Second report: (nothing).

(7) The march towards Gettysburg was slower than it would have been if the movements of the Federal army had been known.

First report:

The march towards Gettysburg was conducted more slowly than it would have been if the movements of the Federal army had been known.

Second report:

General Ewell was recalled from Carlisle and directed to join the army at Cashtown or Gettysburg, as circumstances might require. The adance of the enemy to the latter place was unknown, and the weather being inclement the march was conducted with a view to the comfort of the troops.

(8) Intelligence of Stuart's arrival at Carlisle was received on July 1st, after Hill had met the enemy.

First report:

The leading division of General Hill met the enemy in advance of Gettysburg on the morning of July 1st. During the afternoon intelligence was received of the arrival of General Stuart at Carlisle, and he was ordered to march to Gettysburg and take position on our left.

Second report:


(9) Jones and Robertson were ordered to join the army as soon as it was known that the enemy was in Maryland.

First report:



Second report:

As soon as it was known that the enemy had crossed into Maryland, orders were sent to the brigades of Robertson and Jones, which had been left to guard the passes of the Blue Ridge, to join the army without delay, and it was expected that General Stuart with the remainder of his command would soon arrive.

These are in substance all of the statements in General Lee's two reports ‘in regard to his orders and the management of the cavalry in the Gettysburg campaign,’ which Mosby says, ‘have been generally accepted without question,’ but which he does not believe General Lee is responsible for, although they appear over his signature. He thinks the advance of Longstreet and Hill on the 24th was premature and resulted disastrously; he claims that Stuart was carrying out orders of General Lee when he moved directly to Carlisle after crossing the Potomac at Seneca (probably through failure to give due weight to General Lee's letter of the 23rd); and he endeavors to show that General Hill was responsible for the miscarriage of General Lee's plans; and that the scout's report and Ewell's recall were not as stated, but if he has made any specific denial of the above statements of General Lee ‘in regard to his orders and the management of the cavalry in the Gettysburg compaign,’ it has escaped my attention.

General Lee says in his first report: ‘No report had been received that the Federal army had crossed the Potomac, and the absence of the cavalry rendered it impossible to obtain accurate information.’ Mosby says in answer to this that the cavalry, with Stuart, was not needed to obtain information of the enemy's movements, and that it was better employed elsewhere.

In his second report, General Lee says: ‘General Stuart was directed to hold the mountain passes with part of his command (i. e., Robertson's and Jones' brigades), as long as the enemy remained south of the Potomac, and with the remainder (three brigades), to cross into Maryland and place himself on the right of General Ewell. Upon the suggestion of the former officer (Stuart), that he could damage the enemy and delay his passage of the river by getting in his rear, he was authorized to do [28] so, and it was left to his discretion whether to enter Maryland east or west of the Blue Ridge; but he was instructed to lose no time in placing his command on the right of our column as soon as he perceived the enemy moving northward. * * It was expected that as soon as the Federal army should cross the Potomac General Stuart would give notice of its movements, and nothing having been heard from him since our entrance into Maryland, it was inferred that the enemy had not yet left Virginia.’ Mosby says (pages 179 and 180), ‘he could not have expected Stuart to communicate with him while he was executing the movement, simply because Stuart was too far away and the Blue Ridge and Hooker's army was between them.’ This is a denial of what General Lee says he expected of Stuart, and is justified only by Mosby's assumption that Stuart was acting under General Lee's orders in moving directly to Carlisle.

Whether or not General Lee had a right to expect that General Stuart would promptly take position on Ewell's right, and keep him informed as to the movements of the enemy, either directly or through General Ewell, must be determined by the instructions General Stuart had received from General Lee. Col. Mosby himself says (page 214), ‘The gravamen of the complaint the report makes against Stuart is that the cavalry was absent and that it was needed, not in the battle, but to make preliminary reconnaissances before the battle.’

Lee's instruction to Stuart.

Col. Mosby says (page 72), that General Stuart rode to see General Lee on the night of June 21st, but there is no record of what passed between them at that meeting. The next day (June 22), General Lee wrote to General Stuart as follows (page 89):

I have just received your note of 7:45 this morning, to General Longstreet. I judge the efforts of the enemy yesterday were to arrest our progress and ascertain our whereabouts. Perhaps he is satisfied. Do you know where he is and what he is doing? I fear he will steal a march on us and get across the Potomac before we are aware. If you find that he is moving northward and that two brigades can guard the Blue Ridge and take care [29] of your rear, you can move with the other three into Maryland and take position on General Ewell's right, place yourself in communication with him, guard his flank, keep him informed of the enemy's movements and collect all the supplies you can for the use of the army. One column of General Ewell's army will probably move towards the Susquehanna by the Emmittsburg route, another by Chambersburg. Accounts from last night state there was no enemy west of Frederick. A cavalry force (about 100), guarded the Monocracy bridge, which was barricaded. You will of course take charge of Jenkins' brigade and give necessary instructions.

On the same day (June 22), General Lee wrote to General Ewell, as follows: ‘I directed General Stuart, should the enemy have so far retired from his front as to permit of the departure of a portion of the cavalry, to march with three brigades across the Potomac and place himself on your right and in communication with you, keep you advised of the movements of the enemy and assist in collecting supplies for the army. I have not heard from him since.’

Col. Mosby says (page 88), that this letter ‘settles a question that has been raised whether Stuart's instructions required him to remain in Virginia and march north on the right flank of the two corps that were with Lee, or to move into Pennsylvania and join Ewell on the Susquehanna.’ It merely advised General Ewell, who had been authorized to move towards the Susquehanna, that Stuart would be on his right and in communication with him during his march, and not after he reached the Susquehanna.

When on June 22nd, Ewell was authorized to move towards the Susquehanna he was in Maryland, ‘opposite Shepherdstown,’ and Anderson's division of Hill's corps was to be at Shepherdstown the next day—which would relieve Early's division and enable Ewell to move his whole corps into Pennsylvania, with Jenkins' cavalry in advance and Imboden on his left. If Hooker was moving northward, Stuart was to cross the Potomac with three brigades of his cavalry, ‘take position on Ewell's right, place himself in communication with him, guard his flanks,’ etc., and he was also to ‘take charge of Jenkins' brigade.’ [30] The other divisions of Hill's corps were advancing to the Potomac at Shepherdstown. Longstreet had been withdrawn from the Ashby's and Snicker's Gap Roads, west of the Shenandoah, aud was to follow the next day. The first and third corps were moving to follow Ewell's advance when General Lee wrote to General Stuart on the 22nd, and asked: ‘Do you know where he (Hooker) is and what he is doing? I fear he will steal a march on us and get across the Potomac before we are aware.’

Col. Mosby says (page 91), that General Stuart received another letter from General Lee, which differed from the first (of June 22), ‘in suggesting to Stuart to cross the Potomac in Hooker's rear.’ He quotes from this letter of June 23rd, but does not give it in full. According to the official records, it was as follows:

Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, June 23, 1863, 3:30 P. M.,
Major-General J. E. B. Stuart, commanding cavalry.
General,—Your notes of 9 and 10:30 A. M. today have just been received. As regards the purchase of tobacco for your men, supposing that Confederate money will be taken, I am willing for your commissaries or quartermasters to purchase this tobacco and let the men get it from them.

If General Hooker's army remains inactive, you can leave two brigades to watch him, and withdraw with the three others, but should he not appear to be moving northward, I think you had better withdraw this side of the mountain tomorrow night, cross at Shepherdstown next day, and move over to Fredericktown.

You will, however, be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hindrance, doing them all the damage you can, and cross the river east of the mountains. In either case, after crossing the river, you must move on and feel the right of Ewell's troops, collecting information, provisions, etc.

Give instructions to the commander of the brigades left behind, to watch the flank and rear of the army, and (in the event of the enemy leaving their front), retire from the mountains west of the Shenandoah, leaving sufficient pickets to guard the [31] passes, and bringing everything clean along the Valley, closing upon the rear of the army.

As regards the movements of the two brigades of the enemy moving toward Warrenton, the commander of the brigades must do what he can to counteract them, but I think the sooner you cross into Maryland, after to-morrow, the better.

The movements of Ewell's corps are as stated in my former letter. Hill's first division will reach the Potomac today, and Longstreet will follow tomorrow.

Be watchful and circumspect in all your movements. I am very respectfully and truly yours,


R. E. Lee, General.

The letter of the 23rd was written by General Lee after receiving two notes from General Stuart, which; no doubt stated in reply to his letter of the 22nd that General Hooker's army was still inactive, although Mosby did not so report to General Stuart until the next day. In it General Lee tells Stuart that Longstreet and Hill are moving to the Potomac; and Stuart chose the route via Seneca, with full knowledge that they were following Ewell.

According to the first order, Stuart was to cross the Potomac if Hooker's army was moving northward, and according to the second order he was to do so even if Hooker's army remained inactive. In his last order General Lee suggested that he cross the Potomac west of the Blue Ridge mountains ‘and move over to Fredericktown,’ which would place him on the right of Ewell; but discretion was allowed Stuart to cross east of the mountains if he could do so without hindrance. In either case, after crossing the Potomac, ‘he must feel the right of Ewell's troops, collecting information, provisions, etc.’ He was to be with Ewell on the march towards the Susquehanna and not merely to join him ‘on the Susquehanna.’

Of the movements of Longstreet and Hill while Hooker was still lying quiet south of the river, of which Stuart was advised as above stated, Col. Mosby says (page 103): [32]

This premature movement of Longstreet's and Hill's troops * * * * made the Gettysburg campaign the Illiad of the South. It set Hooker's army in motion for the Potomac the next day.

And on page 173:

The selection (by Stuart), of the route through Hooker's army was based on the theory that the conditions would be maintained as they were until Stuart got through. The preservation of the status in Hooker's army depended on Lee. At that time the design was perfectly practicable; his army corps were separated by many miles.

And he further says on page 179:

If Longstreet and Hill had rested one day longer in the Shenandoah Valley, Hooker would have done the same, and Stuart would not have found the roads blockaded by his (Hooker's) column, marching to the Potomac. Early on the evening of the 25th Stuart would have crossed and bivouacked for the night at Seneca.

And again on Page 192:

If Longstreet and Hill had stayed quiet a day longer Stuart would have crossed the Potomac in advance of Hooker's army early in the evening of the 25th, and the fate of the Confederate cause might have been different. There was no pressing necessity for the movement.

General Lee did regard the movement of Longstreet and Hill as a pressing necessity, for he says in his first report: ‘By the 24th, the progress of Ewell rendered it necessary that the rest of the army should be in supporting distance.’

From the above quotations it would appear that Col. Mosby holds General Lee responsible for the failure at Gettysburg, because he ordered Longstreet and Hill to cross the Potomac ‘prematurely,’ and thereby set Hooker's army in motion, which delayed Stuart's crossing at Seneca two days; but Stuart knew they were moving before it was too late to change the route he had selected.

The only ground upon which the advance of Longstreet and Hill could be regarded as premature is that it put the Federal [33] army in motion and delayed Stuart's crossing of the Potomac; and if that made the Gettysburg campaign ‘the Illiad of the South,’ it must have been because of the absence of Stuart's cavalry and lack of information; but Mosby elsewhere repeatedly denies that it was the absence of the cavalry that caused the failure at Gettysburg. He goes so far as to say (on page 180): ‘It would have been far better if the orders had been less rigid and Stuart been given discretion to operate independently of the main army.’ Furthermore he claims that Hill and Heth should bear the blame because they precipitated the battle by an unexpected collision with the enemy. This might have been avoided if they had been informed of the movements of the Federal army, of which they were ignorant because the cavalry was absent.

There is nothing in either order to Stuart, or in General Lee's letter to General Ewell, of June 22nd, that justifies Col. Mosby's inference that Stuart was ‘to move to Pennsylvania and join Ewell on the Susquehanna,’ or to justify his statement on page 180:

Lee had informed Stuart that he would find Ewell on the Susquehanna. Stuart obeyed orders, and on the morning of the 28th, moved in that direction.

The reason why General Stuart availed of the discretion allowed him to cross the Potomac east of the Blue Ridge will, I think, be found in Col. Mosby's Book (pages 76, 77, 78, 79), where he says:

I pointed out to Stuart the opportunity to strike a damaging blow, and suggested to him to cross the Bull Run Mountains and pass through the middle of Hooker's army into Maryland. * * * * He could pass the Bull Run Mountains early in the morning and cross the Potomac early in the evening. * * * *

When I got back from my trip inside Hooker's lines with my drove of mules, Stuart told me that General Lee was anxious to know if Hooker's army was moving to cross the Potomac. He did not ask me to go, but I volunteered to return and find out for him. With two men I recrossed the mountain on the path where I had been bushwhacked the day before; and on [34] the morning of June 23, was again riding between the camps of the different corps in Fairfax and Loudoun. All was quiet, there was no sign of a movement. Hooker was waiting for Lee. * * The camps of the different corps were so far apart that it was easy to ride between them. After gathering the information General Lee wanted, I turned my face late in the afternoon to the Bull Run Mountain. .. Reynolds with the first Corps was at Guilford, about two miles off; the third corps (Sickles), was at Gum Springs about the same distance in another direction; while Meade's corps and the cavalry were six or eight miles away at Aldie.

He says on page 81:

I got to Stuart early the next morning. He listened to what I told him, wrote a dispatch, sent off a courier to General Lee. * * * * The information was that Hooker's army was still resting in the camps where it had been for a week.

And again, on pages 169 and 170, June 24th:

Stuart was anxiously waiting to hear what Hooker was doing. He must then have received General Lee's order of 5 P. M., of the 23rd. * * * I told him that Hooker was quiet, waiting on Lee.

After hearing my report, Stuart wrote a letter to General Lee—the most of it at my dictation—giving him the information I had brought.

The information obtained by Col. Mosby on the 23rd and communicated to General Stuart on the morning of June 24th, after he had received the second letter from General Lee, dated June 23rd, giving him permision to cross the Potomac east of the Blue Ridge, provided he could do so without hindrance, no doubt influenced him to cross at Seneca instead of Shepherdstown, for Hooker's army had then made no, movement northward; and he believed that by crossing at Seneca he would lose no time in getting into the position assigned him on Ewell's right; but at the critical moment Hooker's movement toward the Potomac began, and delayed Stuart's crossing of the river two days. Thus it occurred that when he entered Maryland on [35] the night of the 27th, the whole of the Federal army was also in Maryland, and communication with General Lee was cut off; for, as Mosby says, Pleasanton's cavalry, which was the rear guard of the Federal army, crossed the Potomac at Edwards' Ferry at the same time that General Stuart crossed at Seneca. Ewell was by that time at Carlisle, and Longstreet's and Hill's corps were also in Pennsylvania at Chambersburg, having, as General Lee says, advanced so far without any report that the Federal army had crossed the Potomac.

General Lee says in his second report that General Stuart was directed to lose no time in placing his command on the right of our column as soon as he perceived the enemy moving northward. He might have said that Stuart was authorized to cross the Potomac and join with Ewell in his advance without waiting for the enemy to move northward; for Ewell's right was the place assigned to him at the time Ewell's advance was ordered. There was no uncertainty about his instructions to take position on Ewell's right and guard his flank, for they were reiterated whether he crossed the Potomac at Shepherdstown, as General Lee suggested, or elsewhere. That was the essential point of his instructions, and General Lee had the right to expect that they would be carried out.

Stuart knew he was expected to be on Ewell's right and intended to be there. His report as published by Col. Mosby, states the causes of his delay in getting into position, (pages 176, 177 and 178):

‘Accordingly, three days rations were prepared and on the night of the 24th, the following brigades—Hampton's, Fitz Lee's and W. H. F. Lee's—rendezvoused secretly near Salem Depot. * * At one o'clock at night the brigades, with noiseless march, moved out. * * Moving to the right we passed through Glasscock's Gap without difficulty and marched for Haymarket. * * As we neared Haymarket, we found Hancock's corps en route through Haymarket for Gum Springs, his infantry well distributed through his trains. I chose a good position and opened with artillery on his passing column with effect, scattering men, wagons and horses in wild confusion; disabled one of the enemy's caissons, [36] which he abandoned, and compelled him to advance in order of battle to compel us to desist. * * I sent a dispatch to General Lee concerning Hooker's movements and moved back to Buckland to deceive the enemy.’

From this it appears that at the very outset of his enterprise, General Stuart encountered such a ‘hindrance’ as General Lee anticipated might occur if he tried to pass through Hooker's army, but he did not then abandon his own plans and adopt General Lee's suggestion to cross the Potomac at Shepherdstown; for as Mosby says (page 177):

He made a wide detour through Fairfax and crossed the Potomac the night of the 27th at Seneca, and went into bivouac on the Maryland shore. On the same night Pleasanton's cavalry corps, the rear-guard of the army, crossed ten or twelve miles above on the pontoon at Edwards' Ferry, and marched on to Frederick.

If Stuart had crossed the Potomac at Shepherdstown on the 25th, as suggested by General Lee, he would have been in position on General Ewell's right on the 26th of June, on which date the two columns of the Second Corps left Chambersburg, going towards the Susquehanna and General Lee arrived at that place. (See page 15).

If he had crossed at Seneca on the 25th, as he expected to do before Hooker's army moved, he might still have had time ‘to move over to Fredericktown,’ as indicated by General Lee; but when he had crossed the Potomac on the 27th, it was too late to go to Fredericktown, and Ewell's movement had so far progressed that it was too late for Stuart to join him en route to the Susquehanna. The only thing that was then left for him to do was to go on to Dover, where he had reason to believe he would find Ewell's corps. Unfortunately he was again too late, for before he got to Dover, looking for the column that General Lee said would probably move by Emmittsburg, both columns of Ewell's corps had been withdrawn and General Lee was concentrating his army for the battle of Gettysburg.

It is a pleasure to concur with Col. Mosby, when he says, on page 59: [37]

As the Chief of Cavalry of an army—as a commander of outpost service in masking his own side and unmasking the other— Stuart never had an equal.

General Lee knew this from past experience, and for that very reason felt more keenly the absence of Stuart and his cavalry when they were most needed in the Gettysburg campaign, to mask the movements of his army, and keep him informed of every movement of the enemy.


Capt. William Henry Murdaugh. Naval career and Reminiscences of this distinguished officer.

One of the most interesting contributions to Portsmouth war history was the sketch of the naval career of Capt. Murdaugh, one of the most distinguished officers sent out by Portsmouth during the Civil War, delivered by Mayor J. Davis Reed before Stonewall Camp, C. V., recently. The address was as follows: Commander, Veterans, Ladies and Gentlemen: I feel highly honored at being asked by Stonewall Camp, Confederate Veterans, to deliver an address on the naval career of my kinsman, Capt. William Henry Murdaugh, who served both in the United States and Confederate States navies.

No task you might have given me could have been more cheerfully done, but I regret that one better qualified than myself had not been assigned this work.

Fortunate, Capt. Murdaugh wrote something about his naval career, and much of this I will use.

The subject of this paper should really be the ‘Naval Career and Reminiscences of Capt. Murdaugh.’

William Henry Murdaugh was the eldest son of John D. Murdaugh, who, after graduating at the College of William and Mary, came to this city from his ancestral home in Nansemond county to practice law.

He was a man ever active in city affairs, representing it in the General Assembly for years and also in the State Senate. Among the few instances of father and son meeting in the same service his was one. He was an elector for this district at the election of Harrison and Tyler. President Tyler offered the appointment of midshipman to his son, the subject of this sketch, whose naval career began first on the frigate Constitution, which sailed from here in October, 1841. After an absence of three months she returned disabled and the whole ship's crew and officers transferred to the Brandywine. [39]

While absent in the Constitution, his father, who he had left in perfect health, died, and from this time his life was devoted to the task (which he made a pleasure), of assuming that father's place.

His life when not off in the performance of his naval duties was lived here among many of you, and all with whom he associated can bear testimony to his high sense of honor and unblemished life of modest worth.

In the year, 1846 he began the completion of his education as a naval officer at the naval school at Annapolis, this school not having been established when he received his appointment.

Of this school and of his cruise on the Brandywine he writes:

After my voyage around the world I was granted a leave of absence of three months, but little of it did I get. Mr. Bancroft, the Secretary of the Navy, had just established the naval school at Annapolis; this was a pet scheme of his and he caught up all midshipmen he could lay his hands on and corralled them at the school; so a lot of the Brandywine midshipmen met again sooner than had been anticipated. Fort Severn had been turned over to the navy for the school. It had been unoccupied for a long time and was in charge of an old artillery sergeant. We had to shake ourselves down into quarters as best we could and we Brandywines took possession of a detached building that had, I believe, been the bake house for the garrison and called it Brandywine cottage. A row of one-story frame buildings was called Apollo row, because a lot of dilettante fellows had herded together and taken some of the best rooms. Some shed rooms leaning against the west wall which had been used as a cover for field pieces became Mustark Abbey on account of a very handsome fellow amongst those who occupied the rooms who was named Byrons. These rooms went by the name of the Abbey. A large mass of the youngsters who didn't care where they were put brought up in what had been the soldiers' barracks, a large two-story frame building, and this got the name of Rowdy Row. All those names held for years; in fact, until the place was remodeled and better quarters built. Our cottage not being quite ready for occupancy, we had to hold out temporarily in room No. 13 Rowdy Row, so numbered because [40] thirteen fellows occupied it. The cots had not come when we got there, so there were thirteen mattresses on the floor, with pillows towards the walls.

While I was there Nag Hunter threw a somersault on his mattress and stuck the heels of his boots through the plastering at the head of his bed. Books had to be piled high to keep these marks from Capt. Buchanan during his daily inspection.

Franklin Buchanan, he who afterward commanded the Merrimac in the first day's fight in Hampton Roads, was sent to organize the school in its new condition. Buchanan was one of the tartars of the service and the way he slammed us about in those early days of the naval Academy was a caution. It took but a small offense to bring about the carrying out of the terminating clause of most of the rules for the government of the school, ‘he shall be dropped from the rolls and restored to his freedom.’ There was quite a weeding out process going on, and while much simply mischievous conduct only brought a heavy bullyragging, as we used to call it, upon offenders, anything that smacked of ungentlemanly conduct infallibly caused one to be restored to his friends.

One Sunday afternoon I was in St. John's Church in the gallery. In a pew below I saw Captain Buchanan. In the midst of the service one Peter W., a large and remarkably handsome fellow, came into the gallery in his midshipman's jacket, a suit service fatigue uniform. Peter was very drunk and would not keep still; he would wander about and once he gave a kind of warhoop. For such conduct we did not think old Buck, as we called him, could wait for the next day to run him out of town.

The next morning all the delinquents were assembled at 9 o'clock at the captain's office. I was one of them, I remember, but my offense was the not expressing myself with sufficient clearness in an official letter I had sent through him. After an awful nagging from the eagle-eyed, eagle-nosed martinet, I fell back and he said, ‘Mr. W.’ Poor Peter! How he looked as he stepped forward. He was seedy and disheveled from his spree of the day before, and knowing that he was going to be dismissed, he was a sight to behold. ‘Mr. W.,’ was hissed [41] at him, ‘I saw you in church yesterday afternoon in a round-jacket, and every time you stooped down I saw a fathom of your shirt-tail. Now, sir, this may be dress for a jacktar, but not for a gentleman, I'd have you remember.’ Poor W., as we trooped out of the office, threw up his head in exultation. Old Buck had not seen that he was drunk nor had he heard the whoop.

The first night I was at sea there was a very heavy swell running and the wind was rising. I was attending to the taking in the jib when the ship made a dip. I saw a green mass of water coming over the catheads. With this sea I went on my back until I was stopped half stunned by my head coming in contact with some hard substance. I was fully sure that I had gone with the water down the fore hatch and that I was down in the bowels of the ship. However, I was only jammed in between the foremast and the pipe rail, my head being caught between two fixed blocks. I might here, as Pepys in his diary says, ‘be funny,’ did I choose, after the manner of Sidney Smith, who, when there was a question of putting down a pavement of wooden blocks about Westminster Abbey, said; if they could only get the bishops to put their heads together the job might be done. I have told of my baptism at sea.

We hauled the Constitution alongside the frigate Brandywine and transferred to that ship all our stores, and even the yards and sails. The change from the dark, old-fashioned Constitution to the light, airy, beautiful modern ship, the Brandywine, was a delight to me.

Notwithstanding the glories of old Ironsides, I have ever held her in horror. The horrid winter cruise in which I suffered from cold, wet, hunger and loss of sleep, and when with a heart full of the delights of anticipation of the joys of home to find that home a house of mourning.

Today I got hold of a delightful book written by my old friend and classmate, Admiral Franklin. The title is ‘Memoirs of Admiral Franklin.’ The style in which the book is written is admirable and the kindliness with which he speaks of his old friends who went with the South in her troubles is just what might have been expected from such a true, large-hearted man. [42] Franklin and I stood near together on the navy list At the parting of our ways his lead to high honors, to the commander of ships and fleets and the companionship of kings and potentates and grandees both native and foreign. Mine led to insignificance and the companionship of mule drivers, tanners, ferrymen and brick makers. Sure I am that he and I have one thing in common, and that is a clear conscience. The great honors might have been mine, too, but in heart I should have known myself to be a poltroon. I have never for a moment regretted taking the course I did take. I thought I did right at the time; I know I did right now.

In the spring of 1843 I sailed from Norfolk in the Brandywipe with the corvette St. Louis in company bound to the East Indies, the squadron commanded by Commodore Foxhall A. Parker. The cruise of the Brandywine was an ideal one.

It was the opinion of all officers, old and young, and of the men, old and young, whom I met in after life, that a happier and a better representation ship of the American navy never floated. First our commander-in-chief, a Virginia gentleman of the old school with a distinguished ancestry. Courtly but always gentle and simple in manner and remarkably handsome in person, he was beloved by all who knew him. Then the lieutenant, Charley Chauncey, the executive officer, thorough seaman, great on organization and discipline. He went in the dinghey every day when the ship was in port to pull around her to see that she was free from spot or blemish on the outside. Inboard no yacht was ever neater or more presentable.

Commodore Parker has a fatherly interest in the midshipmen and everything in his power to make us comfortable and to help in the making of us good men and officers. Every fine night at sea he would have the band on deck to make music for us to dance by, and often we would be joined by the older officers of the ship in our waltzes and quadrilles.

We were to be joined at Bombay by Caleb Cushing, whom we were to take to China, the first American diplomat sent to that country. We had with us a number of attaches, etc., belonging to the mission. Among the attaches was Dr. E. K. Kane, afterwards the Arctic hero. [43]

Our voyage to Rio de Janeiro was one of fifty-four days. The novelty of sea life made it interesting to us neophytes. We caught sharks and dolphins and struck porpoises and shipjacks. Sea birds, too, we could catch, such as petrels and boobies, with baited hooks. As we approached the Brazilian coast we were becalmed on the Abrolhoes shoals and we hauled in lots of gouper and red snappers. We luxuriated on this fine fish diet, but we had also not disdained the meat of the shark and porpoise.

As illustrating the force of attraction of objects on the ocean, which is well known, I mention this instance. An English merchantman brig called the Condor was becalmed near us for several days, and two or three times we had to lower our boats and tow her away to a safe distance from our ship.

The St. Louis kept company with us all the voyage to Rio. Sometimes the commodore would signal for her to come within hail and she would run along parallel with us so graceful in her movements I thought, showing the bright copper on her bottom as she lazily dipped or rolled on the long ocean swell. Nobody could speak on these occasions but the commanding officer. On one of these speaking times, when a stone could easily have been thrown from one ship to another, one of the midshipmen of the St. Louis was, we thought, playing smart. He would shin up to the main royal masthead and put his cap on the main truck. This attracted the attention of our commodore, and after the ships had parted company he said to the pitt luff: ‘I don't see our midshipmen much aloft, Mr. Chauncey. Give the order hereafter that these midshipmen of each watch keep watch in the three tops.’ This was news to us. Up in the tops we could sit down, even lie down if we thought fit, and nobody could see if we read a novel in our high perch. I was the unfortunate one that got this delightful condition broken up. A soft bright warm day I was in the maintop. To get rid of the gabbling of the men who were on the weather side of the top I took the lee side, and making a sort of an awning of the royal studding sails stretched myself out with the ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ in my hand. The quiet and the opportunity were too much for me and I fell into a snooze. Unfortunately the officer of the deck hailed the top. Now it [44] was my province to answer the hail. The men in the top would have given me a shake had they known the condition of things, but they fancied I had gone below for a minute or so, and one of them answered the hail. Then came ‘where is the officer of the top?’ It took some little time to find me in my canvass cover, and as I had heard nothing of what had been going on, they knew as well as I did that I had been asleep. The commodore happened to be on deck. He did not punish me individually, as I had every reason to expect, but he broke up the watch keeping in the tops. My station, when ‘all hands were called’ was in the main top. Well I remember how my heart would sink within me when I heard in the voice shouting to us in the steerage, ‘turn out, fellows; it's all hands reef topsails.’ This we always knew meant very bad weather, as the watch on deck could reef the topsails unless it was blowing very hard. To a sleepy headed growing boy, who got too little rest anyway, to have to get out of his warm hammock, hunt maybe for his shoes which were going from side to side of the ship awash in sea water, to have to crawl up into the main top, plastered every now and then against the shrouds and ratlines by the force of the wind, then to have to spend maybe an hour in the top, on the cap of the mainmast head in rain, hail or snow, straining his shrill pipe to be heard through the fury of the gale, the rattling of blocks and flapping of canvass, to get some rope hauled on deck below or another one slackened, was hard lines to say the least of it.

The topsails nowadays are cut in half with another yard added between the dead hours of the night a midshipman's halves, the greatest boon to seamen. Sometimes the old huge topsails while being reefed would catch the wind the wrong way and belly over the ward and put the men in danger of being knocked from the foot ropes. As this condition of things cannot always be seen from the deck in the darkness, often with my heart in my throat would I be shouting to the persons below to luff the ship or brace the yards more in to save the men. How often I think when I heard of the hard times professional men have on shore, preachers of all others getting the most of the pitying, how men go through life never experiencing that agony that comes to [45] one when they feel that the lives of many men are hanging upon his weak judgment. Hic opus est.

From Rio we went to Bombay, a voyage of eighty days, during which we never sighted land. My recollection of India are a confused jumble—the smell everywhere of burning sandal wood, it was before the days of the common use of matches, of Hindoo temples, of endless balls, dinners and picnics given us by the governor general, navy men, army men in red coats, and native princes, veritable princes some, merchant princes others.

The country places of these natives, with the trees in the spacious ground twinking with colored lights, the beautiful open arched houses, the music, the dancing naucht girls, the delicious viands and the cooling drinks made all an earthly paradise to me.

From Bombay we ran down the coast of Hindoostan, sighting the ancient city of Gou in passing. After a short run we anchored off Colombo, in the Island of Ceylon. Here again we were the recipients of all sorts of courtesies and attention.

The Governor, Sir Colin Campbell, was one of England's heroes. A noble looking old Scotchman. I remember that when he came on board the Brandywine the band played ‘The Campbells are Coming.’ The commodore and Mr. Cushing were quartered at the Governor's palace during our brief stay at the delightful island. We gave a midday entertainment to the people who had treated us so generously. The anchorage at Colombo being an open roadstead and the ship rolling a good deal, it was not safe to get the ladies from the boats to the ship by the side ladder, so an arm chair was attached to a whip from the main yard arm and after the lady was seated, her skirts enveloped in a flag, at a pipe from the boatswain's mate the men would run away with the whip, the fair one would go half way up to the yard arm and then, by tightening an inboard whip and lowering on the other, she would be landed on the deck.

In the year 1848 he acted as passed midshipman on the sloop Jamestown, a vessel of twenty-two guns and a tonnage of 985. This vessel being in service during the Mexican war.

In 1849 he was transferred to the sloop Decatur, of sixteen guns and of but 566 tons. [46]

In 1851 he was granted a leave of absence to go with the Grinnell Arctic expedition in search of Sir John Franklin, and was master and acting first officer of the two schooners of this expedition.

Dr. Kane, in his history of this expedition, writes as follows:

August 15. The Rescue, which has proved herself a dull sailer, had lagged astern of us, when our master, Mr. Murdaugh, observed the signal of “men ashore” flying from her peak. We were now as far north as latitude 75 min. 58 sec., and the idea of human life somehow or other involuntarily connected itself with disaster. A boat was hastily stocked with provisions and dispatched to the shore. Two men were there upon the land ice, gesticulating in grotesque and not very decent pantomime --genuine, unmitigated Esquimaux. Verging on 76 min. is a far northern limit for human life, yet these poor animals were as fat as the bears which we killed a few days ago. Their hair, manelike, flowed over their oily cheeks, and their countenances had the true prognathous character seen so rarely among the adulterated breeds of the Danish settlements. They were jolly, laughing fellows, full of social feeling. Their dress consisted of a bearskin pair of breeches, considerably the worse for wear; a seal skin jacket, hooded but not pointed at its skirt, and a pair of coarsely stitched seal hide boots. They were armed with a lance, harpoon and air bladder, for spearing seals upon the land floe. The kaiack, with its host of resources, they seemed unacquainted with.

When questioned by Mr. Murdaugh, to whom I owe these details, they indicated five huts, or families, or individuals, toward a sort of valley between two hills. They were ignorant of the use of bread, and rejected salt beef, but they appeared familiar with ships, and would have gladly invited themselves to visit us, if the officer had not inhospitably declined the honor.

September 19, Dr. Kane writes: ‘The sun, so long obscured, gave us today a rough meridian altitude. Murdaugh, always active and efficient, had his artificial horizon ready upon the ice and gave us an approximate latitude. We were in 75.20 sec. 11 min. north.’

On January 11:

It blows at times so very fiercely that I [47] have never felt it so cold; five men were frostbitten in the attempt to save stores; thermometer at 23. In less than two days everything about us was as firmly fixed as ever. But the whole topography of the ice was changed, and its new configuration attested the violence of the elements it had been exposed to. Nothing can be conceived more completely embodying inhospitable desolation. From masthead the eye traveled over a broad champagne of undulating ice, crowned at its ridges with broken masses, like breakers frozen as they rolled toward the beach. Beyond these you lost by degrees the distinction of surface. It was a great plain, blotched by dark, jagged shadows, and relieved only here and there by a hill of upheaved rubbish. Still further in the distance came an unvarying uniformity of shade, cutting with saw-toothed edge against desolate sky.

At one time, on the 13th, the hummock ridge astern advanced with a steady march upon the vessel. Twice it rested, and advanced again — a dense wall of ice, thirty feet broad at base and twelve feet high, tumbling huge fragments from its crest, yet increasing in mass at each new effort. We had ceased to hope, when a merciful interposition arrested it, so close against our counter that there was scarcely room for a man to pass between.

This expedition was in the Arctic regions for over a year.

Capt. Murdaugh was given a Victoria medal by the British government for his services in this expedition, which, however, he did not receive from the Navy Department, to whom it was sent for delivery, until after his disabilities were removed during the administration of President Cleveland. He also received a medal from the St. George's Society, of New York city, composed of British residents of that city, for the same service in search of Sir John Franklin.

From 1853 to 1856 he was on the steamer Water Witch; in 1857 and 1858 lighthouse inspector; 1859 flag lieutenant of the Brazilian squadron; in, 1860 and 1861 on the United States frigate Sabine, and of his service on this ship I will quote from a paper written by him for this camp and read to it some time before his death. (Read pages 1 and 2, lower half of page 3 and part 4, lower part 6, 8, last of page 10): [48]

Capt. Murdaugh entered the service of the Confederacy on the acceptance of his resignation from the United States navy, about May 1, 1861, shortly thereafter taking part in the defense of Fort Hatteras in an attack made by the United States fleet consisting of the Minnesota, Wabash, Susquehanna, Cumberland, Pawnee and Harriett Lane, August 29, 1861. During this engagement he had his arm badly shattered and never fully regained the use of it.

He was, as far as I can ascertain, the first Confederate naval officer to be wounded. He escaped being made prisoner at that time by being carried to the Confederate gunboat Winslow by his men before the fort surrendered.

I find in a scrap book kept during the war the following account of the defense of Fort Hatteras:

Much of the disaster which occurred on Thursday may be attributed to the fact that we did not possess ourselves of Fort Clark by the bayonet that night, but wiser heads than mine thought otherwise. Certain it is in my opinion that it was one of the causes, second only by the shameful neglect of the authorities in not properly fortifying the coast that caused our defeat. From these two causes we have the following result: The possession of Fort Hatteras, the key of the sound, the road open to invasion at any moment, Capt. Barron, Lieut. Sharp and about 700 or 800 men prisoners.

I must not forget to mention a trivial circumstance, it may seem, but one which exhibits the brave man and patriot, on going to the fort about 2 o'clock at night Lieut Murdaugh might be seen standing in the moonlight upon the well defended ramparts of Hatteras; he was calmly superintending the work about the guns, having one fixed so as to better bear on the enemy with which he himself intended to fight. No one who saw him could doubt but that he would do good service.

Fort Clark, then in the possession of the enemy, opened fire also on Hatteras and several land batteries which the enemy had erected on shore. This, with the continuous firing of the fleet composed of the Minnesota, Wabash, Susquehanna and Columbus, pouring a continuous stream of shot and shell. All eyes were turned on the gallant little fort fighting against such [49] desperate odds, amid a perfect hailstorm of shot and shell a boat leaves the fort. What can it mean? My! they are bringing the wounded to the steamer. What a terrible scene. Never shall I forget it. Surely that blackened face, that body covered with blood, cannot be the noble, chivalrous Lieut. M. Alas it is. He had fallen battling against them by the side of his gun. With words of encouragement on his lips, after several effective shots, but finding the enemy beyond the range, he remarked to his men: “Well, boys, we will wait until they come up and then give it to them again.” But he had hardly uttered the words ere an eleven inch shell exploded close by, sent several fragments through his left arm, shattering it to pieces.

After his wound had been dressed he was taken to Newbern, receiving every kindness and attention from the people of that hospitable town. From there he was removed to his home, where, after months of illness and suffering, he recovered sufficiently to report for duty, this first being selected with another to seek a safe place for the removal of the navy yard stores and machinery. Charlotte was the place chosen to become our inland navy yard, rendering much service to the country. Soon after he was ordered to join Commodore Barron and Capt. Bulloch in England, who were superintending the building of several ships, one of which he was to command. Capt. Bulloch, in a letter to Commodore Barron, dated Liverpool, August 31, 1864, says:

I feel now a reasonable certainty of getting a ship very shortly and the commander should be placed in communication with me. Murdaugh, I suppose, ought to have the ship, and he would do his work well. If you can detail him please send him to me at once. If his duties as ordnance officer preclude this, I hope you will let Whittle come. The service requires a man willing to put his shoulder to the wheel and capable of making an executive.

While awaiting the building of these ships his duty was to visit the various arsenals in Europe to obtain the latest improvements in guns, etc.

As an instance of his popularity in the old service as well as the new, some years after the war ended his brother, John Murdaugh, [50] met an officer of the United States Navy at Panama and after enquiring after his brother William, said: ‘Had I known Buck Murdaugh was in that fort I'd have aimed my gun to fire over it.’ The United States officer was on one of the opposing fleet.

He missed the command of the Shenandoah, the vessel referred to in Capt. Bulloch's letter, owing to his absence from England at the time of her completion, and it was feared the vessel could not have been gotten out if held in port a day longer than was necessary.

Capt. Murdaugh conceived a plan of carrying the war into the enemy's country by making an attack on some of the ports on the Northern Lakes.

Of this plan Lieut. Minor, of the Confederate States navy, has this to say in a letter to Admiral Buchanan:

Early in February of last year Lieut. William H. Murdaugh, of the navy, conceived the plan of a raid on the Northern Lakes, based on the capture by surprise of the U. S. S. Michigan, the only man-of-war on those waters, and on mentioning his views to Lieut. Robert Carter and myself I need not tell you how cordially we entered into them, and endeavored by every means in our power to carry them into execution; but it was only after repeated efforts that the government was induced to take any active part in promoting the expedition, though Mr. Mallory, the Secretary of the Navy, was in favor of it from the inception of the plan, but money, or rather the want of it, seemed to be the cause of delay, which, however, being provided to the amount of $25,000, we, together with Lieut. Walter R. Butt, one of our wardroom mess on board the old Merrimac, were at last ordered to hold ourselves in readiness to proceed on the duty assigned us, when suddenly the order was changed, it having been decided in cabinet council that our operations on the lakes might embarrass our relations with England and thus prevent the completion of ironclads and other vessels building for us in the private shipyards of that country.

With this expedition thus broken up, Murdaugh, disheartened, sought other duty, and he, Carter and Butt were ordered [51] abroad, leaving me here as the only representative of a scheme whose prospects were so inviting and so brilliant.

Capt. Bulloch again wanted Capt. Murdaugh detailed to command one of three vessels to make an attack on the New England ports.

In a letter to the Secretary of the Navy from London, January 10, 1865, Capt. Bulloch says:

I have long thought that a severe blow might be struck at New Bedford, Salem, Portland and other New England towns by sending from this side ships prepared with incendiary shells and Hall's rockets. If you will send out Commodore Davidson and Lieut. J. Pembroke Jones and will detail Lieut. Murdaugh, who is now in Europe, these three officers to command the ships, and each having not more than two subordinates of prudence and experience, I think the expedition could be secretly managed in the spring or early summer.

This scheme was never consummated, coming as it did so soon before the termination of the war.

What I have here recorded does not do justice to the naval career of Capt. Murdaugh. That the services he performed do not appear to be brilliant or distinguished, yet nevertheless they were of great value to the Confederacy.

Nothing was more vital to the success of the Confederacy than the securing of guns and ammunition, and this service required a man of intelligence, tact and diplomacy, and was well performed by him.

One thing is certain, no one sacrificed more for his beloved State and Southland than he did; none were more faithful in the discharge of duty, no matter how insignificant the work assigned might have been; no officer in the United States or Confederate States navies was braver and his record is one that I believe his city and his State can feel justly proud of.

I thank you for your attention.

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