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John D. Billings, Hardtack and Coffee: The Unwritten Story of Army Life, I. The tocsin of war. (search)
e of Squatter Sovereignty, that is, the right of the people living in a Territory which wanted admission into the Union as a State to decide for themselves whether they would or would not have slavery. The southern Democrats nominated John C. Breckenridge, of Kentucky, at that time Vice-President of the United States. The doctrine which he and his party advocated was the right to carry their slaves into every State and Territory in the Union without any hindrance whatever. Then there was tend to meddle with slavery A Bell and Everett Campaigner. where it then was, but opposed its extension into any new States and Territories. This latter fact was very well known to the slave-holders, and so they voted almost solidly for John C. Breckenridge. But it was very evident to them, after the Democratic party divided, that the Republicans would succeed, and so, long before the election actually took place, they began to make threats of seceding from the Union if Lincoln was elected.
ng-rooms, fine library, and luxurious surroundings. Adjoining was the home of Senator Rice, of Minnesota; that of Senator Breckenridge, of Kentucky, adjoined Rice's. All day the callers came and went. Mrs. Douglas, one of the most diplomatic women xpected to meet at such a ceremonious affair overcame every scruple. Stephen A. Douglas and his universally admired wife, Mr. and Mrs. John C. Breckenridge, Senator and Mrs. Jefferson Davis, Senator and Mrs. Yulee, Senator and Mrs. Mason, of VirginMrs. John C. Breckenridge, Senator and Mrs. Jefferson Davis, Senator and Mrs. Yulee, Senator and Mrs. Mason, of Virginia, Senator and Mrs. Gwyn, of California, Judah P. Benjamin, Senator and Mrs. John J. Crittenden, Colonel Syms, of Kentucky, the Cabinet, and many others to the number of forty sat down to that stately dinner. My escort was Stephen A. Douglas, andrane, of New York; Banks, of Alabama; General Magruder; Mr. Clingman; Mr. and Mrs. Vance; Mr. Harris, of Virginia; John C. Breckenridge; Senator Rice, of Minnesota; Chief Justice Taney; Barkesdale, member of Congress from Mississippi, who was later k
continued to show itself at intervals by weak demonstrations, which we afterward ascertained were directly intended to cover the desperate assault he made with Breckenridge on the left of Rosecrans, an assault that really had in view only a defensive purpose, for unless Bragg dislodged the troops which were now massing in front ofo withdraw General Polk's corps behind Stone River and finally abandon Murfreesboroa. The sequel proved this to be the case; and the ill-judged assault led by Breckenridge ending in entire defeat, Bragg retired from Murfreesboroa the night of January 3. General Rosecrans occupied Murfreesboroa on the 4th and 5th, having gaint instead he allowed us to gain time, intrench, and recover a confidence that at first was badly shaken. Finally, to cap the climax of his errors, he directed Breckenridge to make the assault from his right flank on January 2, with small chance for anything but disaster, when the real purpose in view could have been accomplished
thigh at the moment he was thus contributing to my safety. Wildly cheering, the men advanced along the ridge toward Bragg's headquarters, and soon drove the Confederates from this last position, capturing a number of prisoners, among them Breckenridge's and Bates's adjutant-generals, and the battery that had made such stout resistance on the crest-two guns which were named Lady Breckenridge and Lady Buckner --General Bragg himself having barely time to escape before his headquarters were taLady Breckenridge and Lady Buckner --General Bragg himself having barely time to escape before his headquarters were taken. My whole division had now reached the summit, and Wagner and Harker — the latter slightly wounded-joined me as I was standing in the battery just secured. The enemy was rapidly retiring, and though many of his troops, with disorganized wagon-trains and several pieces of artillery, could be distinctly seen in much confusion about half a mile distant in the valley below, yet he was covering them with a pretty well organized line that continued to give us a desultory fire. Seeing this,
This day I learned from some of these irregulars whom we made prisoners that Breckenridge's division of infantry, en route to the Shenandoah Valley by way of Gordonsv party sent out to cut the telegraph wires along the railroad in the night. Breckenridge had been ordered back to the valley by General Lee as soon as he heard of Huar Staunton, but now that my expedition had been discovered, the movement of Breckenridge's troops on the railroad was being timed to correspond with the marches of m days later than I did from Grant's. The arrival of this body also permitted Breckenridge to pass on to Gordonsville, and from there to interpose between General Huntwas in the neighborhood of Lexington-apparently moving on Lynchburg-and that Breckenridge was at Gordonsville and Charlottesville. I also heard, from the same sourcet a great deal before I could reach Hunter, now that the enemy's cavalry and Breckenridge's infantry were between us, the risks of the undertaking seemed too great to
n on the 5th of June, to take command of the Valley District. When Early had forced Hunter into the Kanawha region far enough to feel assured that Lynchburg could not again be threatened from that direction, he united to his own corps General John C. Breckenridge's infantry division and the cavalry of Generals J. H. Vaughn, John McCausland, B. T. Johnson, and J. D. Imboden, which heretofore had been operating in southwest and western Virginia under General Robert Ransom, Jr., and with the colu befell him later, clung to him till the end of the war. The Confederate army at this date was about twenty thousand strong, and consisted of Early's own corps, with Generals Rodes, Ramseur, and Gordon commanding its divisions; the infantry of Breckenridge from southwestern Virginia; three battalions of artillery; and the cavalry brigades of Vaughn, Johnson, McCausland, and Imboden. This cavalry was a short time afterward organized into a division under the command of General Lomax. After d
nd Wilson's divisions, to Kerneysville, whence he was to proceed toward Leetown and learn what had become of Fitz. Lee. About a mile from Leetown Torbert met a small force of Confederate cavalry, and soon after encountering it, stumbled on Breckenridge's corps of infantry on the march, apparently heading for Shepherdstown. The surprise was mutual, for Torbert expected to meet only the enemy's cavalry, while the Confederate column was anticipating an unobstructed march to the Potomac. Torbert attacked with such vigor as at first to double up the head of Breckenridge's corps and throw it into confusion, but when the Confederates realized that they were confronted only by cavalry, Early brought up the whole of the four infantry divisions engaged in his manoeuvre, and in a sharp attack pushed Torbert rapidly back. All the advantages which Torbert had gained by surprising the enemy were nullified by this counter attack, and he was obliged to withdraw Wilson's division toward my ri
haw and Fitzhugh Lee had returned to Petersburg, Breckenridge to southwestern Virginia, and at one time even m the night of the 18th Wharton's division, under Breckenridge, was at Stephenson's depot, Rodes near there, anhad stampeded the Confederate cavalry and thrown Breckenridge's infantry into such disorder that it could do lun, and swept around Gordon, toward the right of Breckenridge, who, with two of Wharton's brigades, was holdin of Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry had been left back by Breckenridge, but, with Averell on the west side of the Vallet on the go till it reached the position held by Breckenridge, where it endeavored to make a stand. The ground which Breckenridge was holding was open, and offered an opportunity such as seldom had been presented durision could be formed for the charge, it went at Breckenridge's infantry and Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry with such taneously with this cavalry charge, Crook struck Breckenridge's right and Gordon's left, forcing these divisio
in, the valley is only about three and a half miles wide. All along the precipitous bluff which overhangs Tumbling Run on the south side, a heavy line of earthworks had been constructed when Early retreated to this point in August, and these were now being strengthened so as to make them almost impregnable; in fact, so secure did Early consider himself that, for convenience, his ammunition chests were taken from the caissons and placed behind the breastworks. Wharton, now in command of Breckenridge's division-its late commander having gone to southwest Virginia-held the right of this line, with Gordon next him; Pegram, commanding Ramseur's old division, joined Gordon. Ramseur with Rodes's division, was on Pegram's left, while Lomax's cavalry, now serving as foot-troops, extended the line to the Back road. Fitzhugh Lee being wounded, his cavalry, under General Wickham, was sent to Milford to prevent Fisher's Hill from being turned through the Luray Valley. In consequence of the
ned to ride over to General Grant's headquarters on Gravelly Run, and get a clear idea of what it was proposed to do, for it seemed to me that a suspension of operations would be a serious mistake. Mounting a powerful gray pacing horse called Breckenridge (from its capture from one of Breckenridge's staff-officers at Missionary Ridge), and that I knew would carry me through the mud, I set out accompanied by my Assistant AdjutantGeneral, Colonel Frederick C. Newhall, and an escort of about ten oBreckenridge's staff-officers at Missionary Ridge), and that I knew would carry me through the mud, I set out accompanied by my Assistant AdjutantGeneral, Colonel Frederick C. Newhall, and an escort of about ten or fifteen men. At first we rode north up the Boydton plank-road, and coming upon our infantry pickets from a direction where the enemy was expected to appear, they began to fire upon us, but seeing from our actions that we were friends, they ceased, and permitted us to pass the outposts. We then struggled on in a northeasterly direction acrosscountry, till we struck the Vaughn road. This carried us to army headquarters, which were established south of Gravelly Run in an old corn-field. I rode
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