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Chapter 9: battle of Cedar Run.

After McClellan had been safely housed at his new base on James River, Major General John Pope, of the United States Army, made his appearance in Northern Virginia, between the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers, at the head of an army called the “Army of Virginia,” and composed of the corps of McDowell, Banks, and Fremont, the latter being then under Sigel. General Pope issued a vain-glorious address to his troops, in which he declared that he had never seen anything of the “rebels” but their backs; and he talked largely about making his “headquarters in the saddle,” and looking out for the means of advancing, without giving thought to the “lines of retreat,” which were to be left to take care of themselves. He certainly was producing great commotion in the poultry yards of the worthy matrons, whose sons and husbands were absent in the service of their country, when General Lee sent “StonewallJackson to look after the redoubtable warrior.

After remaining in camp several days near Richmond, Ewell's and Jackson's divisions were ordered to Gordonsville under General Jackson, and, taking the lead, Ewell's division arrived about the 15th of July. On the next day after our arrival, a body of the enemy's cavalry, having crossed the Rapidan, advanced through Orange Court-House towards Gordonsville, and my brigade and the Louisiana brigade were moved out with a regiment of cavalry for the purpose of intercepting the retreat of this body, but it made its escape across the Rapidan by swimming that river, as the water was high. Ewell's division went into camp near Liberty Mills on the Rapidan, on the road from Gordonsville to Madison Court-House, and I remained there, with occasional movements when approaches of the enemy's cavalry [93] were reported, until the 7th of August. In the mean time, Jackson's force had been reinforced by the division of A. P. Hill, and there had been skirmishing and fighting between our cavalry and that of the enemy in Madison County and at Orange Court-House.

General Jackson ordered a forward movement to be made on the 7th of August, and on that day Ewell's division crossed into Madison at Liberty Mills, and moved down the Rapidan toward Barnett's Ford, bivouacking for the night near that point. Early next morning, we moved past Barnett's Ford, driving a small detachment of the enemy's cavalry from the Ford, and took the road for Culpeper Court-House. General Beverly Robertson's cavalry now passed to the front and had a skirmish and some artillery firing with the enemy's cavalry at Robinson's River, where the latter retired. We crossed Robinson's River and bivouacked north of it at the mouth of Crooked Creek, Robertson's cavalry going to the front some two or three miles.

On the morning of the 9th, I was ordered by General Ewell to move forward in advance to the point occupied by our cavalry some three or four miles ahead of us, and to put out strong pickets on the road coming in from the right and left. My brigade had now increased in strength to something over 1,500 officers and men for duty, by the return of absentees. As we moved forward, the 44th Virginia Regiment under Colonel Scott, and six companies of the 52nd Virginia were detached to picket the side roads. Robertson's cavalry was found at a position about eight or nine miles from Culpeper CourtHouse, not far from Cedar Run, and in his front, in some open fields, bodies of the enemy's cavalry were in view, watching his movements. On our right was Cedar Run or Slaughter's Mountain, and between it and Culpeper road were the large open fields of several adjacent farms in the valley of Cedar Run, while the country on the left of the road was mostly wooded.

After General Ewell came up, my brigade was moved [94] to the right towards the mountain, for the purpose of reconnoitring, and a section of the battery attached to it was advanced to the front under Lieutenant Terry and opened on the cavalry in our view. This elicited a reply from some of the enemy's guns concealed from our view in rear of his cavalry, but no infantry was visible. My brigade was then moved back to the Culpeper road and along it about a mile, to its intersection with a road coming in from Madison Court-House, where it remained for some hours.

Shortly after noon, Captain Pendleton, of General Jackson's staff, came with an order from the General, for me to advance on the road towards Culpeper CourtHouse, stating that General Ewell would advance on the right, over ,the northern end of Slaughter's Mountain, with the rest of the division, and that I would be supported by Brigadier General Winder with three brigades of Jackson's division, which would soon be up; but I was ordered not to begin the movement until I received information from General Winder that he was ready to follow me.

While waiting for the message from General Winder, General Robertson and myself reconnoitred the position of the enemy's cavalry, and the country immediately in my front, for the purpose of ascertaining how I would advance so as to surprise the force immediately in front of us. Just ahead of me, the Culpeper road crossed a small branch, a tributary of Cedar Run, and then passed for some distance through a, thick woods, leaving a narrow belt on the right of it. Between this belt and the mountain the country was an undulating valley, consisting of several adjoining fields.

All of the enemy's cavalry visible was in the field in this valley, and the position where my command was posted was hidden from its view by an intervening ridge, which crossed the road diagonally from the woods into the fields and fell off into the low grounds on the small branch mentioned. No infantry had yet been discovered, [95] and we were in doubt whether the enemy had any in the vicinity. On the left of the road was a long, narrow meadow on the branch, and as my brigade could not march along the road except by flank, nor without great difficulty through the woods if deployed in line, I determined to form it in the meadow out of view of the enemy, and then advance obliquely across the road, against his cavalry, following it through the fields on a route parallel to the road.

About 2 o'clock in the afternoon, a messenger came from General Winder saying that he was ready to follow me, and I commenced my movement. The brigade was formed in line in the meadow, on the north of the branch, with the 13th Virginia, under Colonel Walker, thrown out as skirmishers to cover the front and flank of the left of the brigade, which had to pass obliquely through the corner of the woods. It then advanced to the ridge behind which the enemy's cavalry was posted, the right regiment (12th Georgia) moving by flank so as to avoid observation, and forming in line as it reached the ridge, when the whole moved over the crest and came in view of the cavalry, which scampered off in a great hurry, receiving as it went a slight volley at long range, by which one or two saddles were emptied.

The brigade then swung around to the left and moved forward in line for about three-fourths of a mile, until we reached a farm road leading from Mrs. Crittenden's house on our right across the Culpeper road, Colonel Walker still continuing to cover the left, by moving with his regiment extended as skirmishers into the woods across the road, until we came to the farm road. At this latter point the Culpeper road emerged from the woods and ran along the left of a field in our front, by the side of the woods to its termination, where it passed between a cornfield on the right and a wheatfield on the left. Colonel Walker immediately re-formed his regiment on the left of the brigade and we advanced across the farm road into the field beyond, to the crest of a ridge, where [96] we discovered a considerable body of cavalry on the opposite side of the wheatfield, on a high ridge over which the Culpeper road ran, and three batteries of artillery opened on us, from over the crest of the ridge in front.

No infantry had yet been seen, but the boldness with which the cavalry confronted us and the opening of the batteries, satisfied me that we had come upon a heavy force, concealed behind the ridge on which the cavalry was drawn up, as the ground beyond was depressed. I therefore halted the brigade, causing the men to cover themselves as well as they could by moving back a little and lying down, and then sent word for General Winder to come up. The position which I now occupied was in an open field on Mrs. Crittenden's farm. Immediately to my right and a little advanced, was a clump of cedars, and from that point the ground sloped off to our right to a bottom on a prong of Cedar Run, the whole country between us and Slaughter's Mountain consisting of open fields. The northern end of the mountain was opposite my right and about a mile distant. On my left was the woods mentioned, which was very dense and extended for a considerable distance to the left.

In front of this woods, about a hundred yards from my left, was the wheat field, in a hollow, or small valley, and immediately in my front was the cornfield, and a small branch ran from the wheatfield through the cornfield, to which the ground sloped. On the farther side of the wheatfield was the high ridge on which the enemy's cavalry was formed, and beyond which his batteries were posted; and it extended across the road into the fields on the right, but was wooded on the left of the road. It was on and behind this ridge the enemy's batteries were posted, and it was in the low ground beyond that I supposed, and it subsequently turned out, his infantry was masked.

Immediately after sending for General Winder, I sent back for some artillery, but this request had been anticipated, [97] and Captain Brown, with one piece, and Captain Dement, with three pieces of their respective batteries of Maryland artillery, soon came dashing up, and were posted at the clump of cedars on my right. They immediately opened on the enemy's cavalry and his batteries, causing the former speedily to retire through the woods over the ridge. Those guns continued to be served with great efficiency during the action and rendered most effectual service.

As there was a long interval between my right and the northern end of Slaughter's Mountain, where General Ewell was, I posted the 12th Georgia Regiment, under Captain Wm. F. Brown, on that flank, to protect the guns which were operated there. During all this time the enemy poured an incessant fire of shells upon us, and we were looking anxiously for the opening of Ewell's guns from the mountain, and the arrival of Winder. General Winder came up as rapidly as possible, and, when he arrived, he took position on my left, and at once had several pieces of artillery brought into action with good effect. Ewell's guns had by this time opened and a brisk cannonading ensued.

From the position I occupied, I had an excellent view of the whole ground-except that beyond the ridge where the enemy's infantry was kept concealed,--and seeing that a force could be moved from our left around the wheatfield, under cover, so as to take the enemy's batteries in flank, I sent information of the fact to General Winder; but, in a very short time afterwards, the glistening bayonets of infantry were discovered moving stealthily to our left, through the woods on the ridge beyond the wheatfield, and I sent my aide, Lieutenant Early, to warn General Winder of this fact, and caution him to look out for his flank. Lieutenant Early arrived to find General Winder just mortally wounded by a shell, while superintending the posting of some batteries at an advanced position, and the information was given to General Jackson who had now arrived on the field. [98]

After the artillery fire had continued some two hours from the time it was first opened on me, the enemy's infantry was seen advancing through the cornfield in my front, but it halted before getting within musket range and lay down. His line overlapped my right and I sent a request to General Jackson for a brigade to put on that flank, which was promised.

Before it arrived, however, several pieces of the artillery battalion attached to A. P. Hill's division, which was just coming up, dashed in front of my brigade down the slope to within musket range of the enemy in the cornfield, and commenced unlimbering, when the enemy's whole force rose up and moved forward. I saw at once that these pieces would be captured or disabled unless relieved immediately, and my brigade was ordered forward at a double quick. On reaching the guns, the brigade halted and opened fire on the enemy, checking his advance and enabling the artillery to open on him with canister. At the same time a heavy force of infantry had moved through the wheatfield, and fire was opened on it from the brigades of Jackson's division on my left, which were posted in the edge of the woods adjoining the field, and the fight became general, raging with great fury. Brown's and Dement's guns opened with canister, and the 12th Georgia was brought from the right and posted on the crest of a small ridge, leading out from the main one around in front of the clump of cedars on my right, so as to have a flank fire on the enemy immediately in front of the brigade.

Just as I had made this arrangement, Thomas' brigade of Hill's division came up to my support as promised, and I posted it on the right of the 12th Georgia, behind the crest of the same ridge, which was so shaped that Thomas' line had the general direction of the main line, but was in advance of it. The arrival of this brigade was very timely, as the enemy was advancing with a line overlapping my right considerably. Thomas confronted this part of the opposing force, and effectually checked its progress, strewing the ground with the [99] killed. While posting this brigade, the left of my own brigade was concealed from my view, and as soon as I had given Colonel Thomas his instructions, I rode to see what was the condition of things on that part of the line. On getting to where I could see, I discovered that it had given way, and the men of several regiments were retiring rapidly to the rear, while a portion of the enemy had crossed the little stream in front of where my left had been. The only thing now standing, as far as I could see, was Thomas' brigade on my right, the 12th Georgia, four companies of the 52nd Virginia, and part of the 58th Virginia.

It was a most critical state of things, and I saw that the day would probably be lost, unless I could hold the position I still occupied. I could not, therefore, go to rally my retreating men, but sent my Assistant Adjutant General, Major Samuel Hale, to rally them and bring them back, while I rode to the rest of my troops and directed their commanders to hold on to their positions at all hazards. On my giving the directions to Captain Brown of the 12th Georgia, he replied: “General, my ammunition is nearly out, don't you think we had better charge them?” I could not admit the prudence of the proposition at that time, but I fully appreciated its gallantry. This brave old man was then 65 years old, and had a son, an officer, in his company. The position was held until other troops were brought up and the greater part of the retreating men rallied, and the day was thus prevented from being lost.

The enemy had penetrated into the woods on my left, and the brigades of Jackson's division there posted had been driven back, after a desperate conflict. The left of the line had thus given way, and the enemy had got possession of the woods, from which he had poured a galling fire into the rear of my regiments on the flank, which had been thrown into confusion, and compelled to retire in some disorder. Colonel Walker of the 13th Virginia had withdrawn his own regiment and part of the 31st Virginia in good order, after they had been [100] almost surrounded by the enemy. Only my own brigade, Thomas' brigade, and the three brigades of Jackson's division had been engaged up to this time, but some of the other brigades of Hill's division were now coming on the field, and being at once ordered into action, the temporary advantage gained by the enemy was soon wrested from him, and he was forced back into the wheatfield, and then across it over the ridge beyond.

Colonel Walker with the 13th Virginia, and part of the 31st, and Captain Robert D. Lilley with part of the 25th Virginia, returned to the attack while the woods on our left was being cleared of the enemy, and participated in his final repulse. Finding himself being driven from the field, after sunset, the enemy made a desperate effort to retrieve the fortunes of the day by a charge with cavalry. We had no regular line formed at this time, and our men were much scattered in advancing, when a considerable body of cavalry came charging along the road from over the ridge, towards the position where the left of my brigade and the right of Jackson's division had rested during the action. Without being at all disconcerted or attempting to make any formation against cavalry, small regiments nearby, among which was the 13th Virginia, poured a volley into the head of the approaching cavalry, when it had got within a few yards, causing it to turn suddenly to its right up through the wheatfield, followed by the whole body, which made its escape after encountering a raking fire from our troops further to the left, by which many saddles were emptied. The attack on the enemy was thus resumed and he was driven entirely from the field.

We were ordered to pursue on the road towards Culpeper Court-House, and the division of General A. P. Hill was placed in front, my brigade following it. Pursuit was made for two miles, when the enemy's reinforcements, coming to the aid of the beaten troops, were encountered, and there was some skirmishing after dark between Hill's leading brigade and the enemy, and an affair between one of our batteries and some of the [101] enemy's artillery, but night put an end to any further operations. During the night, General Jackson ascertained that Pope's whole army had concentrated in his front, and he therefore determined not to attack him. In moving forward in pursuit of the enemy from the field, my brigade rejoined the rest of the division under General Ewell, and, after operations for the night were suspended, we bivouacked about where the enemy's infantry had been masked when I first encountered his batteries. The two brigades with General EDwell had not been engaged, but his artillery had done good service, and prevented any attempt to flank us on the right.

On the morning of the 10th (Sunday), after some manoeuvring on our part, and a little shelling from the enemy, we moved back and covered the battlefield with our troops, while the wounded were being carried off, and the small arms abandoned by the enemy were being gathered. Later in the day we moved farther back and took position in rear of the battlefield, Ewell's division being posted on the end and side of Slaughter's Mountain, and the other divisions crossing the Culpeper road on our left. We remained in this position all night and next day, but there was no fighting, as each army awaited the advance of the other.

On Monday, the 11th, the enemy requested a truce for the purpose of burying his dead, which was granted, until 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and subsequently extended, at his request, to give him time to complete the burial — the arrangements on our side being under the superintendence of General Stuart, and on the side of the enemy under that of Brigadier General Milroy.1 [102]

I went on the field under General Ewell's orders, to superintend the burial of a portion of our dead, who had not been buried by their proper commanders. I found on the field, stacked up, a very large quantity of excellent rifles, which the division, detailed to gather them up, omitted to carry off. Some of the enemy's men were taking these rifles, but I made them desist, and demanded that a part already carried off, under direction of a staff officer of General Sigel, should be brought back, which was complied with. I then sent for a detail from my brigade and had these arms carried off in wagons sent to me from the rear, there being six full wagon loads. While this work was going on, I heard a Federal soldier say: “It is hard to see our nice rifles going that way,” to which another replied: “Yes, but they are theirs, they won them fairly.”

The enemy had very large details on the field, and several general officers rode on it, while the burial was going on. This work was finally concluded a little before dark, when the truce was concluded. The enemy buried on this day over six hundred dead, a very large proportion of which were taken from the cornfield in front of the positions occupied by Thomas' and my brigade on the day of the battle. My detail buried the bodies of 98 of our men, nearly the whole of which were taken from the woods in which the brigades of Jackson's division had been engaged. From the want of sufficient tools on our part and the hardness of the ground where we buried our men, our work was not completed until about the same time the enemy completed his.

On returning to my brigade, I found our troops preparing to move back to our former position south of the Rapidan, as the army of Pope concentrated in our front was entirely too large for us to fight. Our movement to the rear commenced immediately after dark, Hill's division bringing up the rear of the infantry and our cavalry that of the whole army. On the next day, the 12th, Ewell's division recrossed at Liberty Mills and [103] returned to its old camps in that vicinity, the withdrawal of our entire force having been effected without serious molestation from the enemy. In this action, Banks commanded the Federal troops immediately on the field, but Pope came up at its close with a portion of McDowell's Corps and the whole of Sigel's.

The loss in my brigade was 16 killed and 145 wounded, and the loss in General Jackson's whole command was 223 killed, 1,060 wounded and 31 missing, making a total loss of 1,314. The enemy's loss in killed and wounded very greatly exceeded ours, and we captured 400 prisoners, including one Brigadier General (Prince), besides securing one piece of artillery and more than 5,000 small arms.

Pope, or at least his soldiers, had now seen something more of the “rebels” than their backs, and he was soon to see other sights.

Shortly after our return from the battle, Lawton's brigade was transferred from Jackson's division to Ewell's, and Starke's Louisiana Brigade, newly created out of regiments which had been attached to other brigades during the battles around Richmond, and had accompanied Hill's division, was attached to Jackson's division. General Jackson's command, as now constituted, was composed of fourteen brigades, to-wit: four in his own and Ewell's divisions each; and six in Hill's division, besides the artillery attached to the divisions (about four batteries to each); and Robertson's cavalry which was co-operating with us.

1 Milroy, in his report, states that the truce was requested by us, but General Jackson says it was applied for by the enemy, and no one will doubt his word. I know that the extension was applied for by Milroy or his staff officer, for I was on the ground in communication with General Stuart at the time. This same Milroy was himself prevented by me from riding to the rear of the ground on which the enemy's dead lay, and he witnessed the taking from the field, under my directions, of very large quantities of small arms, which had been abandoned by Banks' men on the day of the battle.

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