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Chapter 42:

  • The battle-field
  • -- capture of prisoners -- confusion of the enemy's retreat to Centreville -- loss of baggage -- bivouac on the field -- conversation of officers with prisoners -- Burnside and McClellan's reenforcements -- how their destination was changed from point to point by the rapidity of Lee's movements -- Retrospect -- the strong position of Centreville is turned by one of Jackson's fast flank movements -- the enemy fall back from Centreville in great haste and confusion -- heavy skirmishing with the enemy's Rearguard near Fairfax -- death of Generals Stevens and Kearny -- further retreat of the enemy, who enter their fortified lines round Arlington Heights and Alexandria -- Jackson crosses into Maryland -- he is followed by several Confederate divisions, which hold the Mountain passes at Boonsboro -- Jackson suddenly moves from Frederick City.

I was so much fatigued when the engagement closed that I would fain have gathered a few sticks and bivouacked where sunset found me, but falling in with a cavalry party detailed to watch the enemy during night, we rode over a large part of the battle-field, and pickets being posted, the “reliefs” luckily found a few tents standing, left like thousands of other things in the hurry of retreat, and we camped there. Barrels of cracker-bread, some excellent corned beef, and half a sack of ground coffee were also discovered in beating about through the timber, so that fires being lighted, we unslung our mess traps, and were soon engaged in ravenously devouring our highly prized supper. The coffee proved a great luxury to the whole party, few of whom had tasted this beverage since the capture of stores before Richmond in June. Had the oldest and best of wines been offered in exchange, I doubt if any would have parted with their steaming cups of Rio.

We formed several groups round as many fires, lighted near the tents, and with the all-consoling pipe, soon found ourselves launching forth into the merits and ups and downs of Pope's eventful campaign. Some troopers of the party, however, had made a discovery of something stronger than coffee, and having found a violin among the deserted effects of the [455] departed Yankees, were dancing to a lively tune. With long, uncut beards, whiskers, and moustaches, heavy riding-boots, and sabres, and attired with Yankee light-blue overcoats, our troopers capered about with all the elegance of young bears. It was impossible to blame them for their gaiety; they had been fearfully overworked, and although sent out again on outpost duty, were sufficiently far from the front to attract attention. Our bivouac had evidently been a general quartermaster's camp; we found so many things belonging to such a department, as put the matter beyond doubt. In the largest of the tents were his desks, stools, tables, and bed — in others were provisions of various sorts, as if some commissary also had been in company, while much hay, straw, and corn, proved very acceptable to our half-starved animals. We could plainly discern the enemy's camp-fires on Centreville Heights, and rockets were frequently bursting in the air, conveying intelligence from point to point. The greatest number of troops seemed to be stationed farther up the roads towards Fairfax, judging from the large luminous bodies of clouds hanging in that direction.

Except the snorting of horses, nothing was heard during the night — the first relief fell in about midnight, and trotted off in the darkness — the old guard returned and brought no news. How long I remained half dozing or sound asleep, I know not, but as my boots became very hot from being near the fire, I awoke in a bad temper, and found not less than half-a-dozen Federal prisoners sitting on logs round the fire, who were talking in subdued tones. They were infantry men--two were officers, and at a short distance I could perceive one of our over-coated and heavy-heeled cavalry men standing guard with his carbine cocked.

The prisoners had been captured near the banks of Bull Run, secreted in the bushes, and had surrendered without resistance. They were dusty, ragged, hungry, and haggard, or their looks very much belied them; so that finding I could not sleep, I sat up by the fire, lit my pipe, and began conversing with the officer commanding our party, who was still awake. After a few hints, he understood me, and invited the officers to a drink of liquor, and laid our crackers and coffee before them, [456] so that many minutes had not elapsed ere the whole Federal party were busily engaged cooking, and seemed very grateful for our considerate behavior. “Men must eat, you know,” said the commandant, sucking his pipe, “whether friend or foe-pitch into the grub, fellows,” said he, “you'll have a long march to-morrow.” Some of the men cooked for the two officers, who, after eating, played with empty pipes — a hint which was quickly perceived. I gave them a little tobacco, and the privates being allotted a tent, bundled in among the straw, and were happier than if sleeping in the St. Nicholas Hotel. The commandant and myself were soon engaged in conversation with the two officers, whose eyes we kept from closing by giving occasional draughts of whiskey, a process they did not seem averse to, for one of them, a red-nosed lieutenant, seemed such an adept in emptying a small half-pint cup, that I would wager he could account for a dozen at any time, and never even cough or wink. We did not try the experiment with him, however, but adroitly managed to keep the stone jar on our side of the fire, without wounding his sensitiveness.

“ Ah you always manage to out-manoeuvre us,” said one. “Had it not been for Cedar Run, this present disaster would not have befallen us. How so? That is very plain; for if Pope had been able to maintain his position south of the Rappahannock, all McClellan's and Burnside's forces would have reenforced him at Fredericksburgh; instead of that, our men were ordered to Aquia Creek. It was thought we could hold the north bank of the Rappahannock for some short time; but when Pope was forced back on Manassas by Jackson's flank movement, the point of debarkation was again changed to Alexandria — a considerable distance in our rear. Thus your General Lee seemed to understand the anxiety of Pope to be reenforced, and, by rapid movements, prevented the mass of those troops arriving until too late.”

“Well, those which did arrive did not do much, I think. Prisoners from McClellan's men say that the whole army was disaffected, and that general officers made no bones about calling Pope a fool publicly.”

“True, those troops of McClellan, which arrived on the twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth did not do much, as you say, but I can assure you they suffered much-yes, horribly-and [457] more's the pity that such willing men should have been sent to wholesale slaughter under the orders of such a cabbage-head as Pope. Parts of Burnside's and Hunter's troops which had been long in the field and had been hurried on to Pope, were expected to work wonders, but, upon the proof, broke into disorder. Besides, we had no regular supplies. Your generals had appropriated or destroyed the d6p6ts at Manassas; the railroad to our rear also had been destroyed in part by your cavalry, so that, you may scarcely believe it, we have been living for the past week very irregularly and precariously, while, worse than all, our ammunition was scant, and there seemed to to be no fixed arrangements for supplying us with any thing from Alexandria or Washington. I am heartily sick of the business.”

“Yes,” chimed in Rednose, “I wish I was strolling up Broadway to-night,” --“into some bar-room,” he might have added, for, from a sidelong glance cast at our precious stone jar, he evidently wanted “a whet,” sugar or no sugar.

In answer to inquiries, the. first speaker continued: “ I always heard that Cedar Run had cost Banks upwards of three thousand men, killed, wounded, and prisoners, and during the last three fights, I should judge we could not have lost less than fourteen thousand more.1 I did not hear that we had lost thirty pieces of artillery, but your statement is doubtless correct, for I know we must have suffered fearfully, judging from the hurry and confusion of retreat. Your pickets informed me, that all the roads are literally blocked up with wagons, caissons, and cannon. I do not doubt it, for it is no use disguising the fact that we were completely routed. Your attack upon our left was a fierce affair, and Porter suffered terribly. Had your assault upon our centre succeeded as well, [458] we should never have reached Centreville alive. Sigel behaved like a hero there, and so did McDowell; had they not rushed into the wide gap with fresh troops and stubbornly defended it, our whole army would have been divided and slaughtered piecemeal.

It is true, as you have been told, that we never had confidence in Pope; we all felt that he was perfectly bewildered during the week, galloping from this place to that, giving orders one minute and countermanding them another. We did as directed, however, and here we are, prisoners, but might have fallen into worse hands, judging from your hospitality and kindness.

” We explained that several thousand (six thousand) prisoners had been captured during the past few days, and were paroled as far as convenience would permit, which news surprised them; but the bare idea of a parole, and the possible chance of strolling up Broadway ere many days, had a visible effect upon Mr. Rednose, who unceremoniously seized our jar, and helped himself to a very considerable suck therefrom.

As conversation continued, we ascertained from the Federal captain who had been speaking, that he was employed on the staff during the day, and had traversed the greater part of the field, so that his remarks were not all hearsay. He described the loss of the enemy as being truly considerable, and did not deny that their line officers had suffered much. Banks had not participated in the engagement, and it was generally supposed he had been cut off by our forces.2 The various brooks and streams were represented as quite discolored, and contained many bodies of friend and foe-temporary and other bridges were broken at different places, and cannons, wagons, and horses were not unfrequently seen partly submerged.

Nothing in the world could have induced me to travel over that blood-stained plain-one battle-field is much like another, and I had seen so many, that few things novel would have repaid me for the labor, had I been so inclined. Nothing but revolting, sickening sights could be met with; and save the lights of burying parties, and ambulance trains slowly moving [459] to and fro in all directions, little was there to tempt me from my couch of straw. What might transpire on. the morrow none could. imagine, but reports were confirmed that Jackson was busily engaged in provisioning his corps from captured stores, and no one doubted that he would soon be in motion. The probable object of his anticipated movement I have alluded to at the end of the preceding chapter.3

Long before daylight on the morrow, (August thirty-first,) our videttes were relieved, and others fully rested took their place. Few things of value were left for them; our troopers during the night had ransacked the woods, and appropriated every thing which could be of use or ornament. Coffee, cracker-bread, sugar, and shoes, were in most demand, while [460] others found overcoats, new saddles, and harness, canteens, and illustrated newspapers; so that when the old guard fell in and trotted back to camp, with large bundles of hay and bags of corn strapped on behind them, few regretted having been sent to the front during night. From the loud conversation and laughter continually going on in their ranks, I had a shrewd suspicion that another barrel had been discovered somewhere in the woods; but while taking frequent sucks from their canteens, they winked knowingly at one another, and “never let on” to the commanding officer.

As I approached Headquarters through the numerous infantry camps the men were busy cleaning their arms, and ammunition was being distributed. “I wish the commissary would come along,” said one hungry-looking fellow, “for we've been fed on nothing else but cartridges for the past week!” All was bustle and preparation; but the transportation trains, artillery horses, and the ambulance corps looked so jaded and worn, that I could not help thinking our army was too much prostrated to commence the line of march on that day. In truth, every one was fatigued, and had been fearfully overworked. As to our cattle-the chief machinery of an army-they seemed more dead than alive, and were as bony as Rosinante, nor could all the coaxing in the world, or an abundance of captured hay and corn, tempt them from hanging their heads dejectedly or lying immovable upon the ground. Our mules, even-those animals which stand up under all fatigue like things of steel — were spiritless, and their raw sides told plainly of the fearful labor and forced marches to which they had been subjected. Men and animals seemed inclined for sleep; and I noticed more than one youngster, with a bandaged head or limb, moaning in his sleep; fatigue had numbed the sense of pain. They were too proud to leave ranks for a flesh wound; and there many of these heroic boys lay fast asleep against the trees, with half a blanket thrown round them, their toes protruding from their boots, their garments in rags, and their faces blackened with powder.

“ Surely we can't move to-day,” I remarked to an aide I met, who, rein in hand, was leading his animal to a brook.

“I hope not,” was the reply. “If we do, I shan't; in fact, [461] I can't I've been out half the night, and am more dead than alive; in fact, I will shun Headquarters till perfectly rested; for if I go there, I shall be surely accommodated with another night ride of thirty miles. I was bogged and bothered last night, and came within an ace of being taken, for the enemy's camps were not more than half a mile from me,, and no fires burning. They are moving — I suppose you have heard it?-and Jackson is moving also. He started out early this morning, through the hills on our left; and report says he'll fall upon their flanks near Fairfax or Fall's Church. Lee, at the same time, will push the rear — mind if he don't; and then there'll be another big fight, sure, and a few more thousands of us will be tumbled over.”

The information was correct. Jackson, with scarcely any thing to encumber him but ammunition, was off on a forced march; but his wagons (nearly all empty) were to start towards Leesburgh, and be there within three days. What did this mean.? The movement of our trains was always an unerring thermometer of coming events; but why send them into Loudon, when the enemy are in force round Winchester, but thirty miles from Leesburgh? Such were my thoughts, and I felt “Hold on awhile,!” whispered a friend, “there's a heavy cavalry force sent into the Valley, which will soon dislodge them, and send them into Harper's Ferry, howling. Who knows, but we may go into Maryland ere many days?” continued my friend, slapping me on the back in triumph.

“Who knows, indeed?” I thought, and smoked in silence. I felt annoyed to think that camp rumors regarding an invasion of Maryland might prove true. The people of that State had done but little for us, and were playing fast and loose with Both parties, and as a State it was unworthy of our assistance. It could not be denied that we were far from being in a fit condition to meet the fierce tide of opposition, which would surely roll against us; for my knowledge of Northern craft and hypocrisy convinced me that the enemy had a large force scattered through the States, which would be rapidly concentrated around Washington by land and wafer, against which a tired, hungry, shoeless, and jaded army of seventy-five thousand men [462] could effect but little. When we suddenly broke up camps round Richmond to pounce upon Pope, our whole available force did not muster more than eighty-five thousand; and allowing for losses at Cedar Run, and the three days engagements on the plains of Manassas, ten thousand may be safely deducted from that total, if not more. A strong, unconquerable will was the sole motive power which had hitherto kept Our army moving, but how long even that would respond to the many trials, privations, and battles yet in store, was a question of anxiety to me; for if our men were made of oak or steel, they could not have been more severely and fiercely tried than they had been during June, July, and August. “Our Generals know best,” I thought, in conclusion, and, with that conviction, said nothing.

Next day (September first) it was understood that Jackson was fully in position on the left flank of the retreating enemy, and Lee began his advance upon Centreville. Little opposition was met with, and we followed on as rapidly as prudence and caution would permit. Pope's army was evidently in a state verging on open panic, so that when our advance guards assailed their rear on various roads, they broke into confusion, leaving much of their baggage in our hands. The succession of combats that ensued at various times during the day and the morning following were not of great importance, yet many fresh troops which acted as their rear-guard suffered considerably; two leading generals, and many other officers of note, being killed, while vainly endeavoring to rally their panic-stricken troops.4

Fast as they retreated towards Arlington and Alexandria, they [463] did not effect their inglorious flight within those mighty strongholds without much annoyance and loss from our active cavalry, who hung in clouds upon their rear, pistolling and sabring with but little opposition. All the roads, indeed, gave endless tokens of the many combats which had ensued, for dead, wounded, baggage, and prisoners were numerous. It was never expected by the humblest drummer in our ranks that Lee would attempt any assault upon Arlington Heights or the intrenched camps extending for miles round Alexandria. Lee's estate was on the Heights, and no one knew better than he the almost impregnable nature of the many fortifications thrown up there in the fall of the previous year. Operations were contemplated in another direction. Jackson was proceeding towards Leesburgh by the Drainsville (or river) road, while many troops were marching parallel to him on the Gum Spring road, so that the Upper Potomac was evidently intended to be our next field of operations.

In following the general line of march, which was now well beaten by the passage of troops, I frequently fell in with an old acquaintance; and the scenes through which we passed were familiarly known to me. I have before remarked on the great fertility of the fields of Loudon and adjacent counties compared with the plains of Manassas and parts of Fauquier County, through which we had but recently marched. I was informed, indeed, that the old farmers had been advised by Confederate officers to stay at home and cultivate their fields, even when we had retreated thence seventeen months before; so that well-stocked barn-yards and abundant crops of every sort of grain were now awaiting our long lines of empty wagons which accompanied us. The behavior of Federals to the inhabitants had been cruel and exacting; but not dreaming of our ever visiting those parts again, they never imagined these accumulated crops would by any chance fall into our hands. Their calculations were incorrect, and our advance was pursued so rapidly that we gave no opportunity for their removal or destruction.

Our march was greeted everywhere with loud demonstrations of joy; and when it became known that our destination was Maryland, enthusiasm ran wild. Old and young, white and black, thronged the roadsides with banners and waving [464] handkerchiefs. Gray-haired fathers and half-frantic mothers sought sons and relatives in the various regiments which continually passed along the hot and dusty roads. Everywhere it seemed a holiday. The mere fact that the enemy had been repeatedly whipped, filled every one with so much joy, that women young and old wept freely, while old men waved their hats and tossed them in the air with delight. Tables were spread for us by the roadside, and superintended by some bright-eyed girl, while darkies grinned, and laughed, and skipped about with all the grimaces and antics of young monkeys. Nods of recognition were frequent along the Gum Spring road, for our brigade had been stationed many months in Loudon; and as we approached Leesburgh, I was met by farmer Wilkins, who, in a white felt hat, blue homespun coat, and yellow leather riding-breeches, fell into line, and almost squeezed my fingers off in his warmth and excitement. From him I learned some particulars regarding Yankee rule on the Upper Potomac since our departure, and the recital affected the old man even to tears-“Not that I weep for the loss of my sons,” said he; “but I do cry because I am not young enough to bear arms against the cursed wretches who have been quartered among us so long.”

It grieves me to omit the many instances of petty despotism in Leesburgh which my friend related to me; but a single example must suffice. I must premise that the first act of Geary's men had been to sack the shop of Dr. Motts, an apothecary, and gut the building. Geary himself took up his quarters in Motts's residence, to the great discomfort and annoyance of madame and the children — the doctor being with us in the army. From this residence Geary issued various rhapsodical orders, and strutted about with a clanking sabre like a modern Alexander, before whom all the rustic population were expected to bow down.

Dr. Janney, an old gentleman of sixty years, was summoned before him. “You were President of the State Convention which decided upon secession, Mr. Janney?” “I feel proud to own it,” was the calm reply. “I want accommodation in your house, sir, for several officers. I hear you refuse.” “I have no accommodation in the house, sir, for more than my [465] family. I can not accommodate your men, and would not if I could.” Despite his years, his tottering gait and infirmities, he was immediately sent to Washington, and incarcerated in a loathsome prison. He was desired to take the oath of allegiance as the price of his release, but the brave old man smiled, and replied with scorn: “Never, while there is breath in my body!”

My old friend finished his narrative by telling me that the enemy had, during our absence, erected several pontoon-bridges over the river, at various points; and although some of them required repairs, he was certain we could avail ourselves of them, and soon render them practicable for crossing into Maryland. The river was low, however; and even should the temporary bridges prove worthless, there were several fords by which we could cross, and establish ourselves in the rear of the many Federal fortifications which in times past had frowned so ominously on our small force under Evans.

We were now approaching Leesburgh. The town lay at the foot of the hills over which we were then crossing, and the loud roar of voices, and waving of banners, told me that the head of our column was entering the place amid the wildest demonstrations of its inhabitants. Bands played, colors wanted? men shouted, women wept, and all was a scene of dust, confusion, and noise. “Dixie,” “Maryland,” the “Bonnie blue flag,” and the “Marseillaise,” were drowned in the tumult of voices, bumping of wagons, jingling of artillery; and the heavy tramp of infantry. Vainly did ambitious musicians blow till red or black in the face; the mouths of commanders were seen to move, and gestures followed, but, no sounds of command were audible; yells, cheers, shouts, laughter, and rapid high-toned greetings were heard on every hand, until I began to think we were marching into Bedlam. Bread, cheese, butter, eggs, meats, fruits-every thing eatable was strewn on the sidewalks; while loaves of bread were flying through the air in all directions, which were quickly caught and stuck on the men's bayonets. The bayonet, indeed, was particularly useful in this respect, and I could not help noticing that many had new shoes, loaves of bread, chunks of pork and fresh meat, dangling thus from bayonet-points; while cups of tea, coffee, soup, and the like [466] were freely handed to our thirsty fellows, who hastily drank and joined ranks again.

Our officers kept moving, however, and no halt was sounded until we were a considerable distance beyond town, and strict guards were placed to prevent stragglers from going to or staying there. I learned that Jackson's corps had travelled by the Drainsville road, passed over Goose Creek, two miles east of and below Leesburgh, had rapidly pushed ahead to Point of Rocks, where he crossed, broke up the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad there, thus isolating Harper's Ferry from all telegraphic and other connection with Washington, and was still pushing forward towards Frederick, the State capital of Maryland. Such rapid marching seems incredible with defective transportation and worn-out troops. It must be confessed, however, that no part of our army was troubled with loaded trains, for, except extra ammunition, all the wagons were empty!

Parties of our cavalry swam their horses at Edwards's Ferry, and having scoured the country far and wide, even to within a short distance of Washington, (thirty miles off,) returned with information to the effect that no enemy was visible-all their numerous earthworks were tenantless, and no opposition need be expected to our crossing. Among other points, it was ascertained that White's Ford, Coon's Ford, Ball's Bluff, and other places could be well crossed by infantry and cavalry, and, if repaired, the enemy's old pontoons would prove safe enough for artillery and other trains. These places were selected, and the work of crossing immediately began. Cavalry with light artillery landed first; and at different places infantry were pouring across, the water in many parts of the shoals not being more than two or three feet deep. It was a refreshing amusement on a warm day, and our dusty infantry seemed to enter into the spirit of the thing with right good will. Accidents would sometimes occur, and many a field officer, from indiscretion or bravado, deviated from the prescribed route, and suddenly found himself, horse and all, floundering about in deep water, amid the derisive groans and jeers of his troops; while an odd Dutchman or two were observed standing on the banks, bewailing the loss of their drums, as the huge instruments floated and rolled down stream towards Washington. [467]

Considering all things, our passage of the Potomac was a decided success, and no sooner accomplished than instant dispositions were made for moving on towards Frederick, and forming line with Jackson, already in battle array there. Bands played “My Maryland,” until the sound was oppressive; for I did not believe at the time that our occupation of any portion of the State would be of great duration. We had not been long upon the march, however, ere cavalry men and quartermasters rode a considerable distance into the interior, and were soon actively buying up whatever stores could be or service to us, so that we had not progressed far ere many things were delivered out in rations, which had been unknown to the majority of us for many months. It was evident that chiefs of the quartermaster's and commissary departments had received full and final instructions, and were obeying them with alacrity, and to the letter. No violence or incivility was shown on our part, our agents were received with much urbanity, and all transactions were satisfactorily arranged with Confederate scrip or Federal paper. The few inhabitants we met betrayed evident pleasure at our arrival, but were extremely cautious and circumspect in showing it. They would look on and smile as we passed, but seemed much constrained in manner, as if feeling certain that Union men were in their midst quietly taking note of all actions or expressions, and ready to divulge names at fitting opportunities. Some few young men openly avowed their Southern feeling, and joined us, but the greater number stood aloof as if thinking, “I should much like to assist you if I dare; but how long will they remain? I am between two fires; I must sacrifice principle and secure my home. Let them fight it out; for Maryland will go with the strongest.” Women were more ardent in their expressions than men; and while I cannot but despise the thousands standing with hands in pockets idly looking on, while Southern States were fighting their battles, I must admire the beauty, kindness, and whole-souled fervor of Maryland women, who, in thousands of ways, evinced their loyalty and love for our cause.

But while various divisions of our army were taking up positions between Frederick and the river, movements were transpiring in other directions. It was said that a heavy force under Johnston was between Fairfax and Centreville, watching the [468] enemy's movement round Arlington Heights and Alexandria; and that, should they think proper to sally forth from those strongholds, and make a rush for Richmond by the Manassas route, while Lee was far away, their progress would be stopped at Centreville by heavy earthworks and batteries, which had been hurriedly thrown up there for that purpose. The report was plausible, and the necessity for such precautions admitted by all, but whether any such force or fortifications existed in fact I have never been able to learn with certainty.

Cavalry were reported advancing rapidly upon Winchester, and accounts came in of several severe skirmishes with the Federals under White, who was said to be falling back upon Harper's Ferry, where General Miles commanded with thirteen thousand men and fifty guns. I also heard that some of our forces had branched off from Leesburgh, and were marching towards the village of Berlin, situated but a few miles from, and in the rear of, the Maryland Heights, commanding Harper's Ferry from the north bank of the Potomac; while others were said to be secretly moving towards the Loudon Heights, which could command part of Harper's Ferry, Bolivar, Bolivar Heights, and a large area of the Shenandoah Valley from the south side of the Potomac. This information was given with much secrecy; but I could scarcely credit the idea that Miles and White were such blockheads as not to be aware of the fact that forces were thus secretly massing in different directions, and only waiting for final orders to encircle them. From their actions one would be led to suppose Federal commanders were asleep, or that they thought all Confederate attacks would come from the direction of Winchester, where much of our cavalry was stationed, foraging and the like. Suffice it to say, that many of our troops must have been elsewhere than in line between the Potomac and Frederick, for, except Jackson's corps, I saw few others there.

We had now been in Maryland some time, and were drawn up in line-of-battle night and day, yet no enemy appeared. A full week had elapsed since we fired our last shot at the Federal rear-guard near Fairfax; and, although in the enemy's country, accumulating and transporting into Virginia vast quantities of supplies, no signs were visible of the Federals' approach, and [469] the usual greeting among us was the stereotyped expression used by McClellan during the winter months of ‘61 and the early part of ‘62, namely: “All quiet on the Upper Potomac to-night!”

Our various departments were extremely busy, and from their energy and industry were evidently making the most of their time. New wagons and teams were being bought in all directions; our cavalry had been scouring the whole country far and wide to our rear, having penetrated to Chambersburgh and other towns of Pennsylvania; and as they sent to our lines all that they purchased or appropriated, vast quantities of all things were being transported to the river and sent across into Virginia. In fact, wagon-trains were unceasingly moving, with captured or purchased supplies, from the first moment we put foot on Maryland soil.

General Lee had issued a stirring Address to the Marylanders, and it was hoped that it might have some effect upon the sluggish population of that State, who sighed over their wrongs, but sat and apathetically gazed while others achieved her independence. Few responded to the call — all were calculating chances dimly foreshadowed in their future; and it may be that thousands in distant parts of the State, and particularly in Baltimore, would have willingly rushed to meet us, but the Federal system of espionage was so scientifically arranged that a cat could not mew in Baltimore without the fact being instantly recorded in full at the provost-marshal's office.

From reports daily reaching us, previous rumors were confirmed, that Pope, having resigned, had been sent to quell Indian uprisings in Minnesota Territory, and that McClellan was once again in power. It was also known that heavy forces from all parts of the States were rapidly arriving at Washington; and that his army, thus hurriedly formed from the remnants of every command in the service, far outnumbered ours, and indications were given that an onward movement would soon commence. Our generals had important work. to accomplish, however, before McClellan could possibly arrive; hence it did not at all surprise us to learn that Jackson, as usual, was about to take the initiative.5 On the tenth, reports came in that the [470] Federal cavalry advance-guard had already reached the Monocacy river, a few miles fronting our line above and below Fredericksburgh, and that heavy skirmishing had occurred there. This was positive proof that McClellan was advancing, and far more rapidly than we had expected.

On the eleventh, our line from Frederick to the Potomac was suddenly broken up, and Jackson's corps proceeded very rapidly towards Hagerstown, as if intending to penetrate into Pennsylvania. Ambrose Hill moved his division towards Jefferson, as if going in the direction of Harper's Ferry. The whole army, indeed, was leaving the open country, and taking up positions on the west side of the South Mountain, which, extending in a long chain, presented a natural barrier to McClellan's further advance. Up to the present time, he had enjoyed the advantage of but one good road from Washington to Frederick, and beyond the latter place, if he should be tempted to push on so far, he would find none but the ordinary dirt roads. Nay, worse than this: should he attempt to pursue our supposed retreating army, he must of necessity pass the mountain chain through several gaps-one being at Boonesborough; one southward of the latter place, called Turner's Gap, on the Middleton road; another, more southwardly still, called Crampton's Gap, on the Burkittsville road; and one near the Potomac, on the direct route from Petersville to Harper's Ferry. To delay McClellan's movements through these mountain passes, D. H. Hill had thrown his own division and a few other troops into these gaps; Hood, with his brave Texans and others, held Boonesborough; Hill himself was at Turner's Gap, on the Federal main line of advance; and the other generals at the points lower down towards the river. All these passes had been [471] fortified by Hill, who on the twelfth had all things in readiness to fiercely dispute all attempts at assault. It was not expected that he could hold the vast numbers of the enemy at bay for an indefinite time; but all who knew D. H. Hill and Hood were conscious that the enemy would have hot work before dislodging them, and must lose much time in doing so.. This, in fact, was all that Lee originally intended, as the events that now rapidly succeeded each other fully demonstrated.

Reports having reached him on the eleventh, while on the banks of the Monocacy, that Miles and White were strongly fortified at Harper's Ferry, and that the Confederates had made no, demonstrations in that direction, McClellan imagined that those generals were able to withstand a siege of many weeks, if so compelled, and that little danger was to be apprehended from any rebel diversion in that direction. The strong positions occupied by D. H. Hill in the South Mountain passes appeared so formidable, and the small force was so well and so ostentatiously displayed, that McClellan imagined the mountain barrier to be garrisoned and supported by the whole Confederate army, so that much valuable time was consumed by him in preparing to dislodge it. From the eleventh to the thirteenth, little or nothing was attempted by him, save frequent reconnoissances; and although the roads from the Monocacy to Frederick6 and the [472] South Mountain were open to him, his advance was slow and tedious; while, on the other hand, Confederate generals were unusually active, and preparing to capture the Ferry, together with the garrison and its numerous supplies. The position of D. H. Hill in the mountains had been designed for no other purpose than to occupy the roads and delay McClellan until Miles and White had surrendered.

While the shrewd and calculating Hill was deceiving McClellan's advance, Jackson and others were busily availing themselves of the precious time thus gained to achieve success at the Ferry. Having started from Frederick on the eleventh, Jackson rapidly pushed ahead on the Hagerstown road, as if intending to occupy that place, but immediately branched off to the left towards the Potomac, and crossed it the same night at Williamsport. No opposition was met with, and the column still proceeded onwards, our cavalry advance having a few hours before handsomely driven Colonel White and the Federal cavalry from Martinsburgh, where many useful stores were discovered and appropriated. Still moving forward, Jackson pursued the Shepherdstown road, and arrived within sight of Bolivar on the afternoon of the twelfth. The range of hills in Bolivar was occupied by the enemy, and extensive earthworks had been dug to defend them. It was evident at a glance that while the enemy held the formidable positions of the Maryland and Loudon Heights, frowning as they were with cannon, and fully commanding the Bolivar Heights and the whole country for many miles round, that any attack upon Bolivar and its surroundings would be mere waste of life and powder. So that having opened a furious cannonade on the latter place to attract attention and detain the main body of the enemy on the Virginia side of the river, Jackson was relying upon the attack which other parts of our force was hourly expected to make from the rear of the Maryland Heights. It was known that nearly every gun on those heights pointed up the Shenandoah Valley, and little harm was expected from them when taken in reverse.

On Friday, simultaneously with Jackson's appearance before Bolivar, west of the Potomac, a large infantry force of ours made its appearance at Solomon's Gap, and was three miles away eastward on the Heights, gradually approaching the [473] highest point of the mountain-chain, which overlooks Harper's; Ferry at the river. A close inspection of the ground satisfied us that our attack in that direction would be “up-hill” work; the top of the heights having been cleared of superfluous timber, it was seen that the enemy had erected barricades of wood, from behind which light artillery could play upon our advance. The position was truly formidable, and, if provisioned and garrisoned properly, was capable of holding out for any length of time.

Towards sunset, our men had gradually worked their way within a few hundred yards of the enemy's main position, and skirmishing became exceedingly brisk and lively. During the entire afternoon, we could plainly hear and sometimes see Jackson's artillery shelling the enemy in and around Bolivar; and when darkness came on, we all felt certain that the next day would find us masters of the position, from which we could shell the enemy out from the Bolivar Heights across the river, and thus fully invest the place.

Next morning at sunrise we opened fire, and a fierce struggle of infantry commenced for the possession of the Maryland Heights, while, at the same time, Jackson was gradually pushing the enemy in all directions from his front. Towards noon, after repeated efforts, and in the face of artillery which had been turned on us, our men rushed over the barricades and successively took several very strong positions, from which determined men should not have been so easily repulsed. Making one final charge, the heights were cleared, and the enemy driven in great confusion down the opposite side. Three shells thrown towards Bolivar Heights, and the loud yells of our men, telegraphed our success to Jackson, who now attacked the enemy from every side. His advance, the smoke of which was seen about one mile away in the Valley, was slow and all “up-hill,” yet he was gradually forcing the enemy from their strong positions; but was unwilling apparently to sacrifice many men in the accomplishment of his purpose by an assault in force, rightly concluding that their position would prove untenable after our possession of the Maryland Heights.

At the close of the second day's operations, Jackson had turned the enemy's left on the Bolivar Heights; our troops were in full possession of the Maryland Heights; and all were [474] busily engaged in placing cannon in position for the morrow's work. The whole scene below us was animating. The long lines of Federal brigades on the hill-sides and in the valley were all turned towards Jackson in the west; smoke of the batteries curled away from the woods, while on every hand we could perceive our forces taking up positions from which a perfect shower of shot could be thrown upon the gradually contracting lines of the enemy. Troops and artillery were already on the Loudon Heights to our left, batteries swept the Charleston, Shepherdstown, and Sandy Hook roads; and all that the Federals did was to protect or destroy the several bridges by which our forces on the east could communicate with Jackson on the west side of the stream. In short, the enemy's fate was sealed; they could not live long under our concentrated fire from various directions, and they must soon surrender. Yet they were evidently fighting against time, and seemed determined to stand and be slaughtered rather than capitulate; for the fact was possibly known to them as to us, that McClellan was not twenty miles distant, with an overwhelming force; and should D. H. Hill in the mountain-chain give way, and fail to hold him in check, nothing could prevent the place from being speedily relieved.

Next morning, all was silent, and the enemy perhaps imagined that circumstances had forced us to abandon the siege. Great activity was observed among them, as we could plainly perceive from the Maryland and Loudon Heights, thousands of feet above the scene. Immediately after noon, Jackson's attack was recommenced with great fury; while, to add to the enemy's dismay, batteries on the Loudon and Maryland Heights, and from every hill in our possession, were pouring shot and shell upon their masses below, so that they knew not where to look for shelter, and were moving about in all directions. The people in Harper's Ferry itself were running to and fro like madmen, vainly endeavoring to escape the shells that were bursting in and around the place. Officers on horseback were galloping furiously through the streets; infantry endeavored to screen themselves as best they could behind houses, rocks, earthworks, and the like; while the long line of smoke around Bolivar heights told of [475] Jackson's steady advance upon those positions. At sunset, the Federals were pushed into the valley, and seemed huddled together in a small space awaiting slaughter. Had daylight lasted a little longer, or the attack commenced sooner, the work would have ended on Sunday, the fourteenth.

At nightfall, all was bustle in throwing up works still nearer the enemy, and additional guns were planted in all directions, for it was evident that our officers were pushed for time, and seemed determined to bring matters to a climax early on the morrow. When morning dawned, the bombardment was recommenced, our batteries vomited fire and smoke from every point of the compass, while the echo of so many pieces among the mountains not only made it impossible to hear ordinary sounds, but it seemed that the very hills trembled to their foundations. At length white flags began to appear at various points along the enemy's lines, and the firing gradually ceased. I saw a party of horsemen ride towards Jackson's position on Bolivar Heights, and, after some short time, our signal corps telegraphed that the enemy had unconditionally surrendered.

This fact was soon known throughout our whole force, and loud, long yells rent the sky; from hill and plain the roar of voices could be heard in all directions, but those who understood the true position of affairs were 10th to cheer or give way to any extravagant demonstrations of joy; for on the previous day many of us had heard heavy cannonading going on eastward, and couriers, hot, dusty, and jaded, brought word that a fierce engagement had taken place at the several passes in the South Mountains. It was understood that D. H. Hill had been particularly pressed at Turner's Gap, and was forced to relinquish his position at nightfall, after having sustained severe loss, and inflicted much punishment upon the enemy. No one doubted that Hill had fought heroically; but from the moment that Hooker and Reno's corps attacked him at three P. M. the previous day, it was evident he was greatly outnumbered, and unable to extend his line of defence over many points of the mountain, which commanded and overlooked the Gap. Hood, who had been fighting higher up the mountain-chain, and defending the pass at Boonesborough, rapidly gathered his men and marched to Hill's relief; and it was doubtless the headlong, reckless valor of these reenforcements [476] which saved Hill from total discomfiture. The loss on either side at Boonesborough, Turner's Gap, and Crampton Gap-the latter being forced by Franklin's corps on the same day-was severe for the time all were engaged; and if twenty-five hundred killed, wounded, and prisoners is put down for our casualties, I am sure it will not more than cover the total. Of the enemy's loss we had no positive information, but as they were the assailants, it was possibly much greater.7

Hill's obstinate defence of the mountain-passes had, however, delayed McClellan from marching directly to the relief of Harper's Ferry; and thus gained a day's time for Jackson, who, as we have seen, was on the eve of accomplishing the conquest of Harper's Ferry on the fourteenth. Yet Jackson was in a critical position; he was fully aware that McClellan was now west of the South Mountains, and pushing after Longstreet and Hill in the direction of Sharpsburgh. Time was more precious then than ever; hence it was that Jackson opened his bombardment on the fifteenth so early in the morning. Our various army corps and divisions were very much scattered, and as the enemy were rapidly following Lee, the greatest expedition was necessary to form a junction with him before any heavy engagement could take place.

When Miles, therefore, after a council of war, had run up white flags8 in different parts of his lines, and the [477] capitulation was officially announced, the enemy were ordered to march into the village of Bolivar and stack arms, which they did with much apparent reluctance. There were no signs of insubordination or mutiny — all passed off very quietly and orderly; and as they filed past in fours, and took up the line of march eastward towards the Ferry, to commence their journey to Washington, many began to laugh and smoke good-humoredly, jocularly observing that they “hoped it would be a long time ere their parole would be broken by any exchange.” The sudden change in the position of affairs within so few hours made us languid and sleepy; where all had been life and bustle, noise and carnage, but three hours before, was now all quietness and peace.9 The enemy were busy in packing knapsacks and haversacks; regiments marching by with arms, returned in a few moments without them; wagons of every description, cannon of every calibre, officers of every grade, and troops from every State, were passing and repassing towards our headquarters, and within a few hours all had filed past on parole. Then, many of our troops began to move up the Potomac towards Williamsport to join Lee, and participate in the great engagement which was expected to take place between the two armies.

1 General Pope admitted, unofficially, that his losses during the twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth, and thirtieth amounted to over seventeen thousand killed, wounded, and prisoners, but the authorities at Washington contradicted the report, and said the total would not be more than eight thousand, as many stragglers were returning to the ranks again. Pope certainly had better opportunities of knowing the truth than General Halleck, for when General Sumner and others joined him near Centreville with twenty thousand men, Pope said they had arrived too late, and would barely fill up the loss sustained by him during the week. It will not be possible to know the whole truth till all is over, for the North always misrepresents matters.

2 This was incorrect, for he joined Pope on the march from Centreville, but lost much of his baggage, as usual.

3 A Southern gentleman thus writes of Jackson, whom about this period he saw for the first time: “There you see self-command, perseverance, indomitable will, that seems neither to know nor think of any earthly obstacle, and all this without the least admixture of vanity, assumption, pride, foolhardiness, or any thing of the disposition to exert its pretensions, but from the quiet sense of the conviction of his relative position, which sets the vexed question of self-importance at rest; a peculiarity, I would remark, of great minds. His face also expresses courage in the highest degree, and his phrenological development indicates a vast amount of energy and activity. His forehead is broad and prominent, the occipital and sincipital regions are both large and well-balanced; eyes expressing a singular union of mildness, energy, and concentration; cheek and nose both long and well formed. His dress is a common gray suit of faded cassimere, coat, pants and hat — the coat slightly braided on the sleeve, just enough to be perceptible, the collar displaying the mark of major-general. Of his gait it is sufficient to say, that he just goes along; not a particle of the strut, the military swagger, or ‘turkey-gobbler’ parade, so common among officers of small rank and smaller minds. It would be a profitable study for some of our military swells to devote one hour each day to the contemplation of the ‘magnificent plainness’ of old Stonewall. To military fame, which they can never hope to attain, he unites the simplicity of a child, the straightforwardness of a Western farmer. There may be those who would be less struck with his appearance as thus accoutred, than if bedizened with lace and holding the reins of a magnificent barb caparisoned and harnessed for glorious war; but to one who had seen him as I had, at Coal Harbor and Malvern Hills, in the rain of shell and the blaze of the dead lights of the battle-field, when nothing less than a mountain would serve as a breastwork against the enormous shells, and iron bolts twenty inches long, which showered and shrieked through the sickly air, General Jackson in tatters would be the same as General Jackson in gilded uniform. Last Sunday he was dressed in his old faded uniform as usual, and bestrode as common a horse as one could find in a summer's day. In my view he is without peer-he is a nonpareil. He has enough energy to supply a whole manufacturing district, and enough genius to stock two or three military schools like West-Point.”

4 The enemy's loss in these skirmishes has been estimated at more than ten hundred killed and wounded. Among many officers who fell were Generals Stevens and Kearny. The latter met his death in a singular manner. The Federal cavalry finding Jackson close upon their flank, and Lee in hot pursuit at the rear, in the neighborhood of Fairfax Court-House, beat a hasty retreat, and infantry becoming alarmed, abandoned every thing, and ran also. Stevens and Kearny immediately faced about with their divisions; and while the latter was out reconnoitring, he suddenly came upon one of our Georgia regiments. Perceiving danger, he shouted, “Don't fire-i'm a friend!” but instantly wheeled his horse round, and, lying flat down upon the animal, had fairly escaped many bullets, when one struck him at the bottom of the spine, and, ranging upwards, killed him almost instantly.

5 Jackson was the observed of all observers during our stay in Maryland, and hundreds travelled many score miles to see the great original “Stonewall,” against which Federal generals had so often broken their heads. Crowds were continually hanging round his Headquarters, and peeping through the windows, as if anxious to catch him at his “incantations,” for many believed he was in league with the Old Boy and had constant intercourse with him. Others, again, actually thought that he was continually praying, and imagined that angelic spirits were his companions and counsellors; and it was not until the great man had mounted his old horse, and frequently aired himself in the streets, that many began to think him less than supernatural. His shabby attire and unpretending deportment quite disappointed the many who expected to see a great display of gold lace and feathers; and when he ordered his guards to clear his quarters of idle crowds, many went away muttering: “Oh! He's no great shakes after all!”

6 Some very amusing scenes occurred in Frederick during our retreat from that place. On the morning of the twelfth few troops were there save two or three squadrons of Stuart's cavalry. Burnside's forces were rapidly advancing upon the town, and his cavalry were not more than two miles distant. Leave-takings were going on, and patriotic young Marylanders, who had joined our army, were on door-steps, talking to or kissing their sweethearts, desirous of remaining until the last moment. A great noise and much dust visible at the east end of the town told of the Federal advance, and all our young love-sick soldiers immediately mounted and left the place. Within a few moments, up rode a few squadrons of Federal cavalry, commanded by a Dutch major with immense moustache. Halting before the city hall, with a great fuss and show, he exclaimed: “Vere ish de Got tam repels? Vere ish de Got fur tam Stuart — vere ish he mit his cavalrie? Let me shee him, unt I show him some tings!” A lady present told him that a few of Fitz-Hugh Lee's cavalry had just left. “Goot! Young voomans,” said Meinheer, and immediately started in pursuit, saying, “Ve show de repels some tings.” The major and his command had fairly got into the main street, when a few squadrons of Confederate cavalry met them, and both parties rushed together in strife, and, within a few moments afterwards, the Federals retreated, amid the hoots and groans of those at the windows. The Dutch major was, shortly afterwards, pulled out of a cottage, and with a table-cloth wound round a slight wound in his head, was sent to our rear.

7 Brigadier-General Garland was the only officer of note among the Confederates who fell at South Mountain. McClellan admitted the Federal loss to be some twenty-five hundred killed and wounded. Major-General Reno was killed there just as the action closed.

8 The moment white flags were raised in token of surrender, General Miles was struck by a cannon-shot, and his thigh was torn away. “O my God! I am killed!” he exclaimed, and fell from his horse. His death was purely accidental; for the smoke of batteries and the haze of morning prevented our gunners from detecting truce-flags then flying. Among the twelve thousand troops and over three hundred commissioned officers captured, I noticed many of the following regiments, namely: Eighty-seventh, Thirty-second, Third, and Sixtieth Ohio Infantry; the Twelfth, One Hundred and Twenty-sixth, One Hundred and Eleventh, Thirty-ninth, One Hundred and Fifteenth, and One Hundred and Thirty-fifth New-York Infantry; First and Third Maryland Home Brigade, (infantry;) Sixty-fifth Illinois, Ninth Vermont, Fifteenth Indiana. Several New-York, Ohio, and Indiana batteries were attached to these various regiments. Of artillery, over fifty pieces fell into our hands, and, among them, twelve three-inch rifled guns; six of James's steel guns, rifled; six twenty-four-pound howitzers; four twenty-pound Parrott guns, rifled; six twelve-pound guns, rifled; four twelve-pound howitzers; two ten-inch Dahlgren guns; one fifty-pound Parrott gun, rifled; six six-pound guns, rifled; and several of “Fremont's” guns, namely, mountain howitzers. Most of these guns were of superb manufacture. In addition to these were several captured on the Maryland Heights, namely: two one hundred and twenty-six-pound rifled guns; one ninety-six-pound rifled gun; and four brass Napoleons, rifled. The commissariat was found to have more than sufficient rations for two weeks for fourteen thousand men, besides large quantities of forage, hay, straw, corn, meal, etc. Their wagon-train consisted of over two hundred wagons, with excellent teams and harness. The number of arms taken was over twelve thousand, with complete equipments for twice that number of men. Of ammunition, medicine, and general stores, we secured large quantities. Several regimental flags were discovered among our spoils; but the enemy made away with many, to prevent them falling into our hands. The casualties on our part were not numerous; the enemy suffered considerably from our concentrated fire.

9 An unfortunate Yankee letter-writer, who was among the prisoners, saw Jackson for a moment, and thus describes him: “Old Stonewall, after riding along the river-bank, returned to Bolivar Heights, the observed of all observers. He was dressed in the coarsest kind of homespun, seedy and dirty at that; wore an old hat which any Northern beggar would consider an insult to have offered him; and in his general appearance was in no respect to be distinguished from the mongrel bare-footed crew who followed his fortunes. I had heard much of the decayed appearance of the rebel soldiers, but such a looking crowd! Ireland in her worst straits could present no parallel; and yet they glory in their shame!”

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