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Chapter 7: Atlantic coast defenses.-assigned to duty in Richmond as commander in chief under the direction of the Southern President.

The defenseless condition of the States south of Virginia bordering on the Atlantic coast was an object of solicitude to the Confederate War Department. Important seaports and the sections adjoining them were at the mercy of combined Federal fleets and armies. Their proper defense was most difficult, the means most inadequate. It was a good field for a capable engineer. Lee was available, and the emergency demanded his services. Reluctantly he was ordered from Richmond, cheerfully he obeyed, and on November 6th proceeded to South Carolina, where he at once commenced to erect a line of defense along the Atlantic coasts of that State, Georgia, and Florida.

His four months labors in this department brought prominently into view his skill. Exposed points were no longer in danger. Well-conceived defensive works rose rapidly. Public confidence in that department was permanently restored, and with it came to Lee a new accession of popularity and esteem. His headquarters was wisely established at Coosawhatchie on the railroad, a point midway between Charleston, S. C., and Savannah, Ga., and from which he could give close supervision to the defenses of these important cities. From this point, referring to the union of his family on Christmas day, he writes:

Coosawhatchie, S. C., December 22, 1861.
I shall think of you on that holy day more intensely than usual, and shall pray to the great God of heaven to shower his blessings upon you in this world and to unite you all in his [129] courts in the world to come. With a grateful heart I thank him for his preservation of you thus far, and trust to his mercy and kindness for the future. Oh, that I were more worthy and more thankful for all that he has done and continues to do for me!

And again on Christmas day he wrote:

I can not let this day of grateful rejoicing pass without some communion with you. I am thankful for the many among the past that I have passed with you, and the remembrance of them fills me with pleasure. As to our old home, if not destroyed it will be difficult ever to be recognized. Even if the enemy had wished to preserve it, it would almost have been impossible. With the number of troops encamped around it, the change of officers, the want of fuel, shelter, etc., and all the dire necessities of war, it is vain to think of its being in a habitable condition. I fear, too, the books, furniture, and relics of Mount Vernon will be gone. It is better to make up our minds to a general loss. They can not take away the remembrances of the spot, and the memories of those that to us rendered it sacred. That will remain to us as long as life will last and that we can preserve. In the absence of a home I wish I could purchase Stratford. It is the only other place I could go to now acceptable to us, that would inspire me with pleasure and local love. You and the girls could remain there in quiet. It is a poor place, but we could make enough corn-bread and bacon for our support, and the girls could weave us clothes. You must not build your hopes on peace on account of the United States going to war with England. Our rulers are not entirely mad, and if they find England is in earnest, and that war or a restitution of the captives1 must be the consequence, they will adopt the latter. We must make up our minds to fight our battles and win our independence alone. No one will help us.

In still another letter from the same place the general writes Mrs. Lee:

I am truly grateful for all the mercies we enjoy, notwithstanding the miseries of war, and join heartily in the wish that the next year may find us in peace with all the world. I am delighted to hear that our little grandson is improving so fast and is becoming such a perfect gentleman. May his path be strewn with flowers and his life with happiness. I am very glad to hear also that his dear papa is promoted. It will be gratifying to him, I hope, and increase his means of usefulness. While at Fernandina I went over to Cumberland Island and walked up to Dungeness, the former residence of General Greene. It was my first visit to [130] the house, and I had the gratification at length of visiting my father's grave. He died there, you may recollect, on his way from the West Indies, and was interred in one corner of the family cemetery. The spot is marked by a plain marble slab, with his name, age, and date of his death. Mrs. Greene is also buried there, and her daughter, Mrs. Shaw, and her husband. The place is at present owned by Mr. Nightingale, nephew of Mrs. Shaw, who married a daughter of Mrs. James King. The family have moved into the interior of Georgia, leaving only a few servants and a white gardener on the place. The garden was beautifully inclosed by the finest hedge of wild olive I have ever seen.

The harbor of Charleston, S. C., was now greatly strengthened. Floating batteries were constructed and earthworks at proper places erected. At Savannah forts were built opposite Hilton Head, and at the best points to cover the river approaches. Lee watched every detail, and his eye, with a soldier's glance, overlooked the whole Department. His lines were admirably located, and his dispositions for the general defense of the department were so skillfully planned that it was not until near the close of the four years war that his enemy could surmount the difficulties they presented. These cities were the cherished objective points of the administration at Washington, and large numbers of soldiers and sailors were at various times during the war employed to secure their capture. Their safety for so long a period from impending dangers upon every side was due to the military skill of Lee, as well as to the efforts of the accomplished officers who were in immediate command-General Ripley at Charleston and General Lawton at Savannah. Well might a prophetic tongue utter at this period that the “time would come when Lee's superior abilities would be vindicated, both to his own renown and the glory of his country.”

On February 8, 1862, he writes his wife from Savannah: “I wrote you the day I left Coosawhatchie. I have been here ever since endeavoring to push forward the works for the defense of the city. Guns are scarce as well as ammunition. I shall have to bring up batteries from the coast, I fear, to provide for this city. Our enemies are trying to work their way through the creeks and soft marshes along the interior of the [131] coast, which communicate with the sounds and sea, through which the Savannah flows, and thus avoid the entrance to the river, commanded by Fort Pulaski. Their boats require only seven feet of water to float them, and the tide rises seven feet, so that at high water they can work their way and rest on the mud at low. I hope, however, we shall be able to stop them, and my daily prayer to the Giver of all victory is to enable us to do so. We must make up our minds to meet with reverses and overcome them. But the contest must be long, and the whole country has to go through much suffering. It is necessary we should be humble and taught to be less boastful, less selfish, and more devoted to right and justice to all the world.”

And again from the same place, he says on February 23d: “The news from Tennessee and North Carolina is not at all cheering. Disasters seem to be thickening around us. It calls for renewed energies and redoubled strength on our part. I fear our soldiers have not realized the necessity of endurance and labor, and that it is better to sacrifice themselves for our cause. God, I hope, will shield us and give us success. I hear the enemy is progressing slowly in his designs. His gunboats are pushing up all the creeks and marshes to the Savannah, and have obtained a position so near the river as to shell the steamers navigating it. I am engaged in constructing a line of defense at Fort Jackson, which, if time permits and guns can be obtained, I hope will keep them out.”

Spring was now rapidly approaching, and active military operations would soon be resumed in many quarters. Richmond, the dual capital city, was menaced by an army from the North large in numbers and splendidly equipped. Forts Henry and Donelson had fallen in February before the combined attacks by land and water of the Federals, opening the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, and resulting in the capitulation of Nashville, the capital of Tennessee. The outlook was a serious one from a Southern standpoint, and demanded the counsel of the wisest, coolest, and most courageous leaders. The great interests at stake induced the President to summon General Lee from the [132] Southern Department to Richmond, and on March 13th he was assigned to the position of commander of the armies of the Confederacy and charged with the duty of conducting all the military operations of the Southern armies under the direction of the President. A few months previous to this his name had been mentioned in connection with the position of Secretary of War. The appointment, however, was not made, possibly because it was considered unwise to confine such great military talent within the bureau of a cabinet officer.

General Lee's youngest son, Robert, eighteen years old at this time, made up his mind to leave the University of Virginia and go into the army. His father gave him permission, saying in a letter to his wife:

Richmond, March 16, 1862.
I went with him to get his overcoat, blankets, etc. There is great difficulty in getting what is good. They have all to be made, and he has gone to the adjutant general's office of Virginia to engage in the service. God grant it may be for his good. I told him of the exemption granted by the Secretary of War to the professors and students of the University, but he expressed no desire to take advantage of it. As I have done all in the matter that seems proper, I must now leave the rest in the hands of our merciful God. I hope our son will make a good soldier.

During that month the Federal commanders displayed great activity. McClellan's large and well-organized army was being transferred to the Peninsula. General Lee wrote to his wife from Richmond, March 22, 1862: “Our enemies are pressing us everywhere and our army is in the fermentation of reorganization. I pray that the great God may aid us, and am endeavoring by every means in my power to bring out the troops and hasten them to their destination.”

Much had happened during his absence from Virginia. The campaign was subjected to new conditions, and the location of the two principal armies in that State had been changed. The next battlefield was to be much closer to Richmond. Johnston and Beauregard after the battle of Manassas continued to occupy that section, extending their outposts, however, closer to Washington, while partially blockading the Potomac River by some [133] heavy guns at a point near the mouth of Quantico Creek, where the channel runs on the Virginia side.

The inactivity of this army during the remainder of the summer and the fall months convinced the Federal authorities that no offensive campaign would be undertaken by it. About the latter part of September the Southern President visited the army and held a conference with Generals Johnston, Beauregard, and G. W. Smith in reference to active operations. These officers proposed, General Johnston states, a plan to cross the upper Potomac and place their army in the rear of Washington and fight the battle there. They demanded that the army should be increased for that purpose by troops drawn from all parts of the Confederacy, so as to number sixty thousand effectives. These conditions the President was unable to comply with, so all hope of any advance was abandoned, and the army prepared to go into winter quarters. Mr. Davis frankly told them that the whole country was applying for arms and troops, and that he could do no more to increase the strength of the army at that point than to send it as many recruits as there were arms in the ordnance stores at Richmond-namely, twenty-five hundred. Many advantageous changes were now made in the organization of the army. Brigades were put into divisions and placed under such commanding officers as Van Dorn, G. W. Smith, Longstreet, T. J. Jackson, and Holmes. The northern frontier of Virginia was formed into a new military department, and General Johnston's command was extended to the Alleghany Mountains on one side, Chesapeake Bay on the other, and divided into three districts: the Valley, to be commanded by T. J. Jackson; the District of the Potomac, under the immediate charge of Beauregard; and that section lying around the mouth of Acquia Creek was placed under the immediate charge of Major-General Holmes. On August 31st the President nominated to the Senate five persons to be generals in the Confederate army: First, Samuel Cooper, from May 15, 1861; second, A. S. Johnston, May 28th; third, R. E. Lee, June 14th; fourth, J. E. Johnston, July 4th; fifth, G. T. Beauregard, July 21st. Officers who resigned from the United States Army had been [134] promised by the Confederate Government when it was first established at Montgomery, Ala., that they should hold the same relative rank to each other when commissioned in the army of the Confederate States. Cooper, who had been the adjutant general of the United States Army, was the senior colonel. Albert Sidney Johnston resigned a colonelcy, General Lee a colonelcy, which he had only held a short time, and Beauregard a captaincy. General Joseph E. Johnston but a short time previous to the outbreak of the war had been a lieutenant colonel of the First Cavalry, United States Army, and was ranked in that army by all the officers named except Beauregard. Upon the death of General Jesup, the quartermaster general shortly before the war, General Scott was asked to recommend an officer to fill the vacancy, and he is reported to have said that if the Secretary of War would put into a hat the names of A. S. Johnston, R. E. Lee, and J. E. Johnston, and one of said names be taken out, a good quartermaster general would be secured. Mr. John B. Floyd, who was the Secretary of War at the time, naturally threw his influence in favor of J. E. Johnston, as he came from his section of Virginia and was a relative, and he received the appointment. In those days the quartermaster general had the rank of brigadier general. When the writer once asked Mr. Davis if J. E. Johnston was not entitled to be the ranking senior general in the Southern army, he replied, “No, because the quartermaster general was not considered in the line of promotion or eligible to active work in the field. It was a staff position, and by law he could not command troops except by special assignment, and that therefore I went back to General Johnston's old rank in determining the relative rank of the five generals.”

As the Confederate army showed no disposition to enter upon an offensive campaign, it soon became an interesting problem to the Washington authorities how to defeat Johnston's army and capture Richmond. This indisposition to attack gave McClellan ample time to arrange his plans, and he took it. His deliberate methods were very provoking to his own Government, and a matter of much suspense to the one opposed to him. He leisurely organized and equipped his army. The [135] North liberally and rapidly responded to the demand for more men. For the three months succeeding the battle of Manassas troops were poured into the Department at Washington at the rate of 40,000 per month, so that at the end of that period McClellan officially reported that he had 147,695 men present for duty. In December following, his report shows 175,854 present for duty, and in March, 1862, 171,602, while the army of his opponent in February had only 47,306 present for duty, including the force under Jackson in the valley and a small number under Holmes at Acquia Creek, and in March about 50,000.

It is difficult to conceive why, with these immense odds in his favor, McClellan did not advance in the early spring against Johnston's position. This plan was discussed as well as two or three others. McClellan at last, it seems, told the Federal President in positive language that he did not approve the movement on Johnston's position at Centreville, but preferred to take his army down the Potomac River into Chesapeake Bay, up the Rappahannock River, and form a base of operations at a place called Urbana; or, better still, continue down Chesapeake Bay and around to Fort Monroe, using that formidable fort as a base, and advance on Richmond from that direction up the Peninsula formed by the James and York Rivers, upon whose surfaces the gunboats of his navy could be floated, and thus a thorough protection be given to his flanks. A solemn conclave of twelve general officers of the Federal army considered these various propositions, and, by a vote of eight to four, agreed to approve McClellan's plan of the peninsular route as opposed to Mr. Lincoln's proposition for a movement similar to the one made by McDowell. The difficulties in the way at the time for a change of base to the lower Peninsula were the fact that the proximity of Johnston's army to Washington seriously threatened the safety of that city. In March, however, General Johnston solved the problem by a retrograde movement to the line of the Rappahannock, trebling his distance from the Federal capital. While this retreat gave up a great deal of valuable country and raised the blockade of the Potomac, its strategic advantages [136] were great. His army could then be in a position to better receive a direct advance from the Federal troops, or could by a rapid march prevent any army which should be transported by water and landed at points closer to Richmond from reaching that city before he could.

As soon as Johnston had retreated McClellan advanced his troops to the position Johnston had occupied during the winter. They were then countermarched and brought back to Alexandria, a Virginia city a few miles below Washington, where arrangements were made as rapidly as possible to transport them to the Peninsula, Mr. Lincoln stipulating that at least fifty thousand men should be left in and around Washington for its immediate defense. He did not propose to “exchange queens,” because the capture of Washington by Johnston would be attended with much greater results than the capture of Richmond by McClellan.

At that time the Southern forces on the Peninsula were under the command of Major-General J. Bankhead Magruder, an accomplished and well-known officer, who had formerly distinguished himself in the service of the United States. “Prince John,” as he was called, occupied a strong position from river to river. The embarkation of McClellan's troops began on March 17th, and he left in person on April 1st, reaching Fortress Monroe on the afternoon of the 2d. When he arrived fifty-eight thousand men and one hundred guns had preceded him. Magruder was a short distance in his front with eleven thousand men. His left was at Yorktown, on York River, and his line of battle extended along the Warwick River to Mulberry Island, on the James, where his right rested. Gloucester Point, opposite Yorktown, projects well out into the river. Fortifications had been constructed there, and it was expected that the guns at that point as well as those at Yorktown by crossfire could prevent the passage of the Federals up York River in any attempt to reach the Confederate rear.

It will be remembered that when the British held Yorktown over a century ago they also fortified and held Gloucester Point, and to it, at one time, Cornwallis [137] attempted to retreat when the troops of Washington were closing around him. Magruder's front was twelve miles long and in many respects strong. In a portion of it the ground was swampy, while dams had been constructed by which the water could be backed up, rendering the passage of the stream impracticable for artillery and infantry nearly three fourths of its distance. McClellan stopped in front of this line on April 5th, having left Fort Monroe the day before. Until he reached it he was ignorant of its existence. In addition to the large army which McClellan proposed should accompany him up the Peninsula, was a separate or detached corps under McDowell, over forty thousand strong, which was intended to operate upon either bank of York River in order to turn the Confederate position, should much resistance be offered to McClellan's advance on Richmond. After McClellan left Washington, the military governor, General Wadsworth, reported to President Lincoln that he had left only twenty thousand troops for its defense. This report, and General Jackson's movements in the Valley of Virginia, alarmed the Federal authorities, and they immediately ordered McDowell's corps to return to Washington. With the corps of McDowell's added to McClellan's great army the fall of Richmond might have been accomplished.

These movements of the Federal troops were of course speedily communicated to General Johnston on the Rappahannock, and D. H. Hill's, D. R. Jones's, and Early's divisions were put in march to re-enforce Magruder. General Beauregard had been detached from Johnston and sent to Kentucky. When later it was evident the Peninsula would be the route selected for the Federal advance, Johnston at once proceeded to that point with the remainder of his army, except General Ewell's division, which with a regiment of cavalry was left on the line of the Rappahannock, and Jackson's division, in the Valley of Virginia. Had McClellan assailed Magruder's lines at once his largely superior numbers would have won a victory in all probability, though the defensive line was a strong one. General Johnston arrived in person April 14th, and assumed command on the 17th. His advance did not arrive at Yorktown [138] till the 10th, the other divisions following a few days later. For six days McClellan was in front of Magruder before Johnston's arrival, but instead of assaulting, he commenced arrangements for a dilatory siege. Johnston, upon the arrival of all of his troops, had, together with Magruder's forces, fifty-three thousand men; McClellan one hundred and thirty-three thousand, including twelve thousand of Franklin's division on board of transports in readiness to move up York River. He sat down in front of Magruder's position to await the arrival of his siege trains, and began the construction of scaling ladders, which might be useful to assault permanent works, and the erection of batteries for his heavy guns, much to the annoyance of the Washington authorities, for the falling back of his opponents to new intrenched lines in rear would render useless his great guns and his great labor in getting them in position.

On Johnston's arrival in the Peninsula he closely examined the defensive lines of Magruder, but did not like them, and returned at once to Richmond to lay his views before his President. “McClellan's army,” said he, “should be encountered in front of Richmond by uniting there all the available forces of the Confederacy; the grand army thus formed, surprising that of the United States by an attack, when it was expecting to besiege Richmond, would be almost certain to win.” Mr. Davis declined to decide so important a question hastily, and asked General Johnston to call upon him at a stated hour, when he would have Randolph, his Secretary of War, and General Lee both present. Johnston suggested that he invite Generals G. W. Smith and Longstreet also, and the conference was duly held. The Secretary of War objected to Johnston's plan because it involved the evacuation of Norfolk and the destruction of the famous Merrimac, or Virginia, as she was last named. General Lee could not vote in favor of General Johnston's proposition because the withdrawal of troops from South Carolina and Georgia would expose the important seaports of Charleston and Savannah to danger and capture. He thought that the Peninsula had excellent battlefields for a small army [139] contending with a great one, and for that reason argued that the contest with McClellan's army should be made there. General G. W. Smith agreed with General Johnston's views, while Longstreet took but little part, which Johnston attributed to his deafness. Mr. Davis announced his decision in favor of the opinion of General Lee, and ordered Johnston to concentrate his army on the Peninsula as soon as possible, giving him in addition the command of the Department of Norfolk. McClellan threw up an immense amount of earth in front of the Confederate position. Batteries were erected for one hundred of the heaviest Parrott guns and thirty mortars, the range of some of the former being over four miles. His big gun batteries were out of the reach of any guns in Johnston's army, and therefore would be unmolested while delivering their fire. Ascertaining that these batteries would be ready for action in a few days, General Johnston gave orders to General Huger, in command at Norfolk, and to General Lee's brother, Captain Sydney Smith Lee, of the navy, who was in command of the Gosport navy yard, to evacuate these places and to remove to a safe place as much of the valuable public property as possible.

On May 3d General Johnston issued his orders for the withdrawal of his army from the Yorktown lines. He had delayed McClellan's advance for a month, which gave time to greatly strengthen the works around Richmond, as well as to advance the preparations for the great battle which now was inevitable. The Confederate army marched out of its lines at midnight. The rear guard of cavalry followed at daylight.

This retreat of Johnston's was a surprise to Mc-Clellan. He did not anticipate a retrograde movement on the part of the Confederates till they should have been hammered out of their lines by his big guns. His pursuit was not commenced for six hours after the departure of the Southern rear guard. At noon on the 4th Johnston's army had only reached Williamsburg and its vicinity. At this point the Federal advance encountered his rear guard. Some fighting took place in the afternoon, and on the next day a heavy conflict ensued between portions of the two armies, resulting [140] in the loss to the Federals of twenty-two hundred and twenty-eight men, and to the Confederates of twelve hundred. Johnston then leisurely continued his retreat. A force under Franklin was sent up York River by Mc-Clellan to make an attempt to get on his flank and rear. When they landed they were attacked and driven back to their boats, and held in that position till the whole of Johnston's force had passed the threatened point. His army was now composed of four divisions under G. W. Smith, Magruder, D. H. Hill, and Longstreet. Jackson was in the Shenandoah Valley, while Ewell, who had been left on the Rappahannock, had retired to Gordonsville. He could not depend, therefore, upon these two commands for immediate re-enforcement.

It can not be denied that a battle fought at Richmond would liberate troops from other points and thus give additional re-enforcements to Johnston; but the evacuation of Norfolk and the destruction of the Virginia — which had been such a protection to James River — as well as the moral effect of a retreat which allowed a vast hostile army to knock at the very gates of Richmond, were undesirable.

McClellan, with his five corps under Sumner, Franklin, Porter, Heintzelman, and Keyes, slowly followed the Confederate army as it fell back on Richmond. As he arrived in its immediate vicinity he began to deploy his legions, taking care to extend well his right so that it might reach out for McDowell's junction. This officer, with an army nearly equal to Johnston's whole force, was directly charged with the protection of Washington, and was specially instructed in any manoeuvres he should attempt, that the safety of the Federal capital must be steadily kept in view. From the vicinity of Washington he moved out on the line of railroad beyond Manassas to Culpeper Court House. Ewell, who had been on the Rappahannock with his division, was then at Gordonsville, and later went over into the Shenandoah Valley to join Jackson. There being no enemy directly threatening Washington then, McDowell wisely marched to Fredericksburg. He was well located there, being about fifty miles from his capital and about the same distance from McClellan's right flank. He could therefore easily [141] return to Washington, if necessary, or re-enforce McClellan in his attack on Richmond.

In order to watch this movement of McDowell's, General Joseph R. Anderson, with nine thousand men, had taken up a position between Fredericksburg and Richmond, with the object of holding McDowell in check as well as he could with such an inferior force, while General Johnston attacked McClellan's army. Both commanders knew well that if these forty-one thousand men could be added to the Federal army, the capture of Richmond would follow. McClellan at last succeeded in getting orders issued from Washington for McDowell to advance to his support. General Johnston promptly decided, upon this information reaching him, to try at once the fortunes of battle; but was greatly relieved, when he received word from Stuart's cavalry that McDowell, after starting from Fredericksburg, had countermarched and was proceeding in the direction of Washington. A Confederate commander in the Valley of Virginia was responsible for McDowell's change of direction.

Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born at Clarksburg, Harrison County, then in Virginia, now West Virginia. Thirty-seven years afterward he was born again on the field of Manassas, and, amid the rifle's flash and cannon's roar, christened “Stonewall.” Neither of the two Governments lost sight of the great importance of the Valley District --one, because Washington could be easily reached by hostile troops from that section; the other, because the force there was a part of General Johnston's army, and might enter into future military combinations as an important factor. It was most fortunate for the South that Stonewall Jackson was selected to command this department. He was combative; his facial characteristics, “including a massive iron-bound jaw,” have been compared to those of Julius Caesar and William of Normandy. Activity, vigilance, and restlessness were marked traits of his character. His thoughts were with God and his cause. In camp he organized prayer meetings among his soldiers, and when the meeting began, the hymn raised, and the proceedings evidently a success, he often went to sleep. [142] “If silence be golden, he was a bonanza.” It was said of him at that time that he sucked lemons, ate hardtack and drank water-and praying and fighting appeared to him to be the whole duty of man. General Ewell, it is related, once said he admired Jackson's genius, but he never “saw one of his couriers approach him without expecting an order to assault the North Pole.”

From a humble professor in the Virginia Military Institute he rapidly grew into a giant of war. He believed in a short, sharp, decisive contest. When first appointed a professor he occupied a room on one of the upper floors of barracks. Some of the cadets, in a mischievous spirit, took away a portion of the steps below his room during the night. The next morning, having an appointment to fill, he came out at an early hour, and, seeing what had been done, without a moment's hesitation seized one of the supporting posts and lowered himself hand over hand. “In civil war,” said he, in 1860, “when the swords are drawn the scabbards should be thrown away” ; and he would have fought under the “black flag” with as pleasant a smile as his countenance could assume. Earnestly and conscientiously believing the South was right, in the spring of 1861 he was strongly inclined to war.

In some respects he resembled Blucher; like him he was bold, bluff, and energetic, and, as with Blucher, his loyalty to the cause he adopted was a passion. The grim old soldier whom Wellington welcomed at Waterloo smoked, swore, and drank at seventy, and just there the resemblance ceased. Above others, on either side, Jackson understood the great value of celerity in military movements, and his infantry was termed “foot cavalry.” To be under heavy fire, he said, filled him with a “delicious excitement.” His death afterward, at Chancellorsville, lost the South Gettysburg; for General Lee has said, “Had I Stonewall Jackson at Gettysburg I would have won a great victory.”

He was a blazing meteor of battle; his enterprising and aggressive spirit sought relief in motion-always motion. To such a commander the defense of the beautiful Valley of Virginia was intrusted.

After his return from Romney he was at Winchester, [143] then Woodstock, some forty miles below, then following Shields from Strasburg, and on March 23d attacked him at Kernstown and was repulsed; Banks, who was on his way from the Valley to Manassas, was ordered back to destroy this bold soldier; and Blenker, with ten thousand men on his way to Fremont, was instructed to report to him as he followed Jackson up the Valley, where later the latter took up position at Swift Run Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Shenandoah River being in his front, his flanks protected by the mountain sides, while Ewell was not far away across the mountains in his rear at Gordonsville. “Stonewall” did not like to be cooped up in the mountains, and wrote General Lee at Richmond, asking him to re-enforce him with five thousand men, intimating that he would then be glad to get reports from him. On April 29th Lee replied that his request could not be complied with, but suggested his union with General Edward Johnson, who had some thirty-five hundred men near Staunton. Lee was anxious to gain success in the Valley, because it would retard the offensive campaign against Richmond, and informed Jackson that if he was strong enough to hold Banks in check, Ewell might, by uniting with Anderson's force between Fredericksburg and Richmond, attack and possibly destroy McDowell, then at Fredericksburg. Banks had some twenty thousand men at Harrisonburg watching General Edward Johnson, and six thousand men, under Milroy and Schenck, had moved west of the mountains, and were in front of Johnson, while Fremont was marching with ten thousand men to join them.

Evading Banks at Harrisonburg, Jackson moved to Staunton, joined his force with Johnson's, and defeated Milroy and Schenck; Ewell marched then from Gordonsville to the Valley, and Banks fell back to Strasburg. Jackson, having disposed of the two Federal commanders, returned with great swiftness, united with Ewell, defeated the Federal forces at Front Royal, and then pushed on with great rapidity to attack Banks, who, hearing of his approach, fell back to Winchester, where he was defeated and followed to the Potomac River. The defeat of the Federal troops in the Valley, and Jackson's presence on the Potomac, produced consternation [144] at the Federal capital. General McDowell, who had commenced his march from Fredericksburg to join McClellan, was turned back toward Washington, being directed to send twenty thousand men of his command at once to the Shenandoah Valley to reinforce Fremont, who had moved down the Valley to get in Jackson's rear and capture him. McClellan wanted McDowell badly, and McDowell desired to go to his support, and both generals practically intimated to the Washington authorities that they were scared; that they did not think Washington was in danger of capture by Jackson, and that moving a part of McDowell's troops to the Shenandoah Valley would not succeed in destroying Jackson's forces.

Jackson in the mean time, having disposed of Banks, determined to prevent the union of Shields (who had arrived from McDowell's army) with Fremont, and by a series of brilliant manceuvres fought the battles of Cross Keys and Port Republic, holding one commander at arm's length while he hammered the other. By this admirable campaign, in which his great military genius was displayed, McClellan was deprived of the co-operation of McDowell's army, while Jackson contributed largely to the success of the battles around Richmond.

His splendid work in the Valley is summed up by one of his biographers: “In three months he had marched six hundred miles, fought four pitched battles, seven minor engagements, daily skirmishes, defeated four armies, captured seven pieces of artillery, ten thousand stand of arms, four thousand prisoners, and a very great amount of stores.” His movements produced a panic at the Federal capital. The Secretary of War issued a call to the governors of the loyal States for militia to defend the city. On May 25th, to the Governor of Massachusetts he declared that “intelligence from various quarters leaves no doubt that the enemy in great force are marching on Washington. You will please organize and forward immediately all the militia and volunteer forces in your State.” John A. Andrew, the Governor of Massachusetts, issued a proclamation: “Men of Massachusetts, the wily and barbarous horde of traitors menaces again the national capital.” Todd, [145] Ohio's Governor, following suit, said: “To the gallant men of Ohio: I have the astounding intelligence that the city of our beloved Government is threatened with invasion, and am called upon by the Secretary of War for troops to repel the overwhelming and ruthless invaders.”

Richmond was probably saved at that period by Jackson. McClellan determined to clear the way for McDowell's march by attacking a brigade of North Carolinians under Branch, which was then at Hanover Court House, some fourteen miles from Richmond, guarding and watching the country in front of Johnston's left. To make this attack certain, General Fitz John Porter was given twelve thousand men, and partially accomplished the object of the expedition by defeating Branch and destroying the bridges and railroads in the vicinity of Ashland. Slowly but surely McClellan was diminishing the distance between the lines of his army and the Southern capital, and his big Parrott guns were now nearly in a position to throw shot within the walls of the city. On May 23d the Fourth Corps, under Keyes, crossed the Chickahominy at Bottom's Bridge and took position at a place called Seven Pines, some five miles from the city; the Third Corps, under Heintzelman, followed. The Chickahominy now divided McClellan's army into two parts. Two of his corps were on the south, and three-Sumner's, Franklin's, and Porter's — on the north side, McClellan's headquarters being at Gaines Mill. The Chickahominy River rises some twelve miles northwest of Richmond, flows in an easterly direction at first, and then takes a southeasterly course, till it empties into the James, some thirty miles below Richmond. It was directly interposed between McClellan and Richmond, being in some places not more than four or five miles from the city, and the numerous roads leading out from Richmond to the Peninsula and adjacent sections of country cross it on bridges. North of Richmond was Meadow Bridge; a little farther down, and opposite to Gaines Mill, New Bridge; still farther down, where the Williamsburg road crosses the Chickahominy, Bottom's Bridge; while lower down still is Long Bridge. [146]

McClellan spent two weeks in traversing the forty miles from Williamsburg to the Chickahominy at Bottom's and New Bridges. His base of supplies was established at West Point; his stores could be safely transported by water, and from West Point the railroad running to Richmond had been put in good order in his rear, so that his supplies could be easily brought within reach for distribution. The Chickahominy proper afforded no greater obstacle to the advance of an army than an ordinary small river, the obstruction being the swamps and bottom lands. The stream flowed through a belt of heavy timbered swamp, which averaged three hundred or four hundred yards wide, sometimes in a single channel and sometimes in two or three, and the water when high overflowed the land.

The Federal army having large pontoon trains, as well as facilities for making trestle bridges, surmounted these difficulties. After two of McClellan's corps crossed this stream and took position nearer to Richmond, it was evident the battle could be no longer postponed. General Johnston therefore decided to attack these advance corps, and if possible overwhelm them before they could be re-enforced by any portion of the three corps upon the other side of the Chickahominy. The heavy rains had swept away the communicating bridges between the two wings of McClellan's army, but the railroad bridge, which had been repaired, was not affected by the swollen condition of the stream. On it planks were laid, and in that way the left wing supplied.

The battle of Seven Pines, or Fair Oaks, was well planned, and had the Southern attack been made in the forenoon instead of the afternoon, Johnston would have had greater success. “It can never be too often repeated that war, however adorned by splendid strokes of skill, is commonly a series of errors and accidents.” Sumner succeeded in crossing his corps over the bridges trembling with the current's rush, and over causeways on each side covered with mud and water. His guns had to be unlimbered and prolonges used, while the men who were tugging at the ropes were nearly waist deep in some places in the water. It can not be said that this battle was a complete success for [147] the Southern arms. Sumner's arrival enabled the other two Federal corps to maintain their ground until the curtain of night lowered on the scene. Ten pieces of artillery, sixty-seven hundred rifles and muskets, and quantities of stores and tents were, however, secured by the Confederates. The two corps of the Federals numbered thirty-eight thousand, and after Sumner's re-enforcements arrived, fifty-six thousand. The former lost some six thousand men, the latter fifty-seven hundred and thirty-nine; and McClellan had received a check to his “On to Richmond!”

Johnston, after giving orders to his troops to sleep on the ground they occupied when the contest for the night ceased, and to renew the battle at dawn the next morning, was wounded, at first slightly in the shoulder by a musket ball, and a few moments afterward was struck on the breast by a heavy fragment of shell, knocked from his horse, and had to be carried from the field in an ambulance. General Gustavus W. Smith, the next officer in rank, immediately assumed command of the army. He determined to carry out Johnston's plans and continue the attack on the next day, and so informed General Lee, asking for all the assistance he could give him. In a note dated Richmond, June 1st, 5 A. M., General Lee replies:

Ripley will be ordered, and such forces from General Holmes as can be got up will be sent; your determination to strike the enemy is right. Try and ascertain his position and how best he can be hit. It will be a glorious thing if you can gain a complete victory. Our success on the whole, yesterday, was good, but not complete.

Truly, R. E. Lee, General. To General G. W. Smith, Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia.

When that note was penned, General Lee knew he had been directed to take command of the army on that day; he did not reach Smith's headquarters until 2 P. M., and was magnanimous enough to wish that Smith should gain and get the credit for a great victory.

The attack on June 1st was not made as contemplated by General Johnston first and Smith afterward, because it was apparent that the destruction of a portion [148] of McClellan's army before it could be succored was no longer a possibility. There was no demoralization in the Confederate ranks anywhere, and the assertion that the Federal army could have gone into Richmond on the second day-June 1st-can not be maintained. General G. W. Smith, commanding, sums up the fighting on that day by saying: “The Federals, in position, were attacked on the first day of June by but two Confederate brigades. That attack was repulsed. Four Federal regiments then advanced and attacked the position held by one Confederate brigade. These four regiments were withdrawn from the front of that brigade.” Only small portions of either army were engaged on the first of June.

The battle on the Williamsburg road on the day before was fought by D. H. Hill with four of his brigades and one of General Longstreet's. The other five of Longstreet's and the whole of Huger's division, which General Longstreet was expected to employ, were not put into the fight, while the troops charged with the duty of attacking the Federal right were advanced too late to be of service. Napier has well said that “he who wars walks in a mist through which the keenest eye can not always discern the right path.” If the incomplete battle of Seven Pines or Fair Oaks did not add to the military fame of the Union commander or to that of the officer charged with the details of the attack on the Confederate side, it was nevertheless of benefit to the Southern commander, for it kept McClellan quiet for a month, and enabled him to complete his preparations to beat him.

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