previous next

9% of the text is displayed below. If you wish to view the entire text, please click here


Chapter 8: commands the army defending Richmond, and seven days battles.

General Lee and Mr. Davis were on the field on May 31st, and the latter was at once informed of Gen, eral Johnston's being wounded. Riding back with General Lee to Richmond that night, Mr. Davis told him he proposed to assign him at once to the command of the Confederate army defending Richmond, and would make out the order as soon as he reached the city. Accordingly, very early the next morning General Lee received the following:

Sir: The unfortunate casualty which has deprived the army in front of Richmond of its immediate commander, General Johnston, renders it necessary to interfere temporarily with the duties to which you were assigned in connection with the general service, but only so far as to make you available for command in the field of a particular army. You will assume command of the army in eastern Virginia and in North Carolina, and give such orders as may be needful and proper.

Very respectfully, Jefferson Davis.

On the reception of this note, General Lee published

Special orders no. 22.

headquarters, Richmond, Va., June 1, 1862.
In pursuance of the orders of the President, General R. E. Lee assumes command of the armies of eastern Virginia and North Carolina. The unfortunate casualty that has deprived the army in front of Richmond of the valuable services of its able general is not more deeply deplored by any member of the command than by its present commander. He hopes his absence will be [150] but temporary, and while he will endeavor to the best of his ability to perform his duties, he feels he will be totally inadequate to the task unless he shall receive the cordial support of every officer and man.

By order of General Lee. W. H. Taylor, Assistant Adjutant General.

On June 2d Special Orders No. 126 were issued from the Adjutant and Inspector General's office.

Special orders no. 126.

Richmond, Va., June 2, 1862.
By direction of the President, General Robert E. Lee, Confederate States army, will assume the immediate command of the armies in eastern Virginia and North Carolina.

By command of the Secretary of War.

John Withers, Assistant Adjutant General

At an early hour on June 1st the Southern President rode to the front to direct, in person, General Smith to transfer the command of the army to General Lee, in order to relieve the latter from the embarrassment of first announcing this change. Later General Lee rode out, reaching the field about two o'clock, and formally assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia, which he was thereafter destined to lead against the Army of the Potomac on many hard-fought fields. Eighteen hours afterward General G. W. Smith, whose health had not been strong, was taken ill, and had to be relieved of all military duty.

At last, one year after the commencement of the war, Robert E. Lee was in active command of a large army in the field. His task was difficult, his responsibility great. The opposing hosts were thundering at the city's gates. Inch by inch they had crept so close that spectators on the housetops could see their fire-fringed lines and hear the angry roar of their cannon. Upon his shoulders rested the safety of his capital. With quiet dignity he assumed his duties. The troops were immediately ordered back to their former stations, and the battle of Seven Pines was confided to the Muse of History. The next move on the military chessboard absorbed his immediate attention. The strongly constructed battle lines of his powerful enemy were uncomfortably [151] close. McClellan had already commenced to strengthen his front at Seven Pines. Franklin's corps was brought from the north to the south side of the Chickahominy and posted on the right of that portion of his line. On the left was Sumner, and to his left Heintzelman extended as far as the White Oak swamp. In their rear Keyes was in reserve. On the north or left bank of the Chickahominy Fitz John Porter's corps was still stationed, near Gaines Mill, with McCall's division of Pennsylvania reserves at Mechanicsville and on Beaver Dam Creek-eleven divisions in all. Richmond, Mc-Clellan's coveted prize, was but five miles away. To reach it he had to pass over the lines of the Army of Northern Virginia. These lines were held by five divisions-A. P. Hill's on the left: at Meadow Bridge, Huger's and Magruder's next, supported by Longstreet's and D. H. Hill's. Lee at once considered the best manner to attack. The intrenchments in his front were too strong for a direct assault, so the only alternative left was to turn one or both of his enemy's flanks. The Federal left was “defended by a line of strong works, access to which, except by a few narrow roads, was obstructed by felling the dense forests in front.” These roads were commanded to a great distance by heavy guns in the fortifications. The difficulties here were as great as would be encountered in a direct attack. The only way to get at McClellan was by assaulting his right, and the Confederate commander was not long in finding it out. In order to do this successfully he must fortify his lines, particularly his center and right, so that they could successfully resist any attack made upon them, while his left wing was withdrawn to be thrown on the Federal right and rear.

In Lee, as with McClellan, the military engineer was combined with the army commander. Earthworks were rapidly constructed. The topographical features of the country were scientifically made available; and ere many days had passed the Southern troops were everywhere behind strong intrenchments, while between them and the city was a line of more permanent works, which had been constructed some time before as a precautionary measure, and behind which the troops could be rallied [152] if the first lines were successfully assailed. Almost every day now a soldierly looking man, clad in a neat but simple gray uniform, conspicuous by the absence of the wreath, gold braids and stars usually found on the uniforms of general officers, sitting his horse like a dragoon, might be seen riding along the lines. No long column of staff or couriers followed him, no display, no ostentation, none of the pomp of war. His enemy's right was the place to attack, but where was it located and how was it defended? Were the roads leading to it obstructed, and were the woods “slashed,” or would the attacking column have to assault lunettes, redans, irregular pentagons, and inclosed redoubts? How was he to ascertain all this? Fortunately he had the very officer in his army who could obtain replies to these important questions, and he was the commander of his cavalry, James Ewell Brown Stuart, commonly called Jeb Stuart from the three first initial letters of his name. This distinguished cavalryman was a native of Patrick County, Va., a graduate at West Point of the class of 1854, and a soldier from the feathers in his hat to the rowels of his spurs. He was twenty-nine years old when Lee ordered him to locate McClellan's right flank and in the full vigor of a robust manhood. His brilliant courage, great activity, immense endurance, and devotion to his profession had already marked him as a cavalry commander of unquestioned merit. He had the fire, zeal, and capacity of Prince Rupert, but, like him, lacked caution; the dash of Murat, but was sometimes rash and imprudent; was as skillful and vigorous as Frederick the Great's celebrated cavalry leader, and, like Seidlitz, was willing to break the necks of some of his men by charging over rough ground if he made bold horsemen of the rest and gained his object. He would have gone as far as Cardigan, with “cannon to right of him, cannon to left of him, cannon in front of him.” He was a Christian dragoon — an unusual combination. His Bible and tactics were his text-books. He never drank liquor, having given a promise to his mother to that effect when a small boy, but when wet from the storm and wearied from the march he would drink, without cream or sugar, the contents of a tin quart [153] cup of strong coffee. Duty was his guiding star. Once when on the eve of an expected battle he was telegraphed that his child was dying and urged to go to her, he replied: “I shall have to leave my child in the hands of God; my duty requires me here.” Lee knew him well. He had been a classmate at the United States Military Academy of his eldest son, and was his aid-decamp when John Brown was captured. Such was the man who stood before his commander on June 11, 1862, to receive his instructions. The next morning, at an early hour,

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Richmond (Virginia, United States) (17)
Washington (United States) (15)
Mechanicsville (Virginia, United States) (12)
Jackson (Mississippi, United States) (11)
Gordonsville (Virginia, United States) (10)
Virginia (Virginia, United States) (7)
Fredericksburg, Va. (Virginia, United States) (7)
Chickahominy (Virginia, United States) (7)
Ashland (Virginia, United States) (6)
Tunstall (Virginia, United States) (5)
Beaver Dam Creek, Md. (Maryland, United States) (5)
United States (United States) (3)
Seven Pines (West Virginia, United States) (3)
Orange Court House (Virginia, United States) (3)
North Carolina (North Carolina, United States) (3)
Meadow Bridge (West Virginia, United States) (3)
Malvern Hill (Virginia, United States) (3)
Hanover Court House (Virginia, United States) (3)
Cedar Mountain (Virginia, United States) (3)
York (Virginia, United States) (2)
Westover (Virginia, United States) (2)
Twymans Mill (Virginia, United States) (2)
Petersburg, Va. (Virginia, United States) (2)
New Bridge (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
Harrison's Landing (Virginia, United States) (2)
Hampton (Virginia, United States) (2)
Fortress Monroe (Virginia, United States) (2)
Williamsburg (Virginia, United States) (1)
White Oak Swamp (Virginia, United States) (1)
West Virginia (West Virginia, United States) (1)
West Point (Virginia, United States) (1)
Waterloo bridge (United Kingdom) (1)
Warrenton (Virginia, United States) (1)
Wade Hampton (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Varina (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Talleysville (Virginia, United States) (1)
Slaughter Mountain (Virginia, United States) (1)
San Francisco (California, United States) (1)
Rockbridge (Virginia, United States) (1)
Ripleys (West Virginia, United States) (1)
Rapidan (Virginia, United States) (1)
Providence Forge (Virginia, United States) (1)
Powhite Creek (Virginia, United States) (1)
Port Republic (Virginia, United States) (1)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Patrick County (Virginia, United States) (1)
Pamunkey (Virginia, United States) (1)
Middletown (Virginia, United States) (1)
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (1)
Luray (Virginia, United States) (1)
Louisa Court House (Virginia, United States) (1)
Kelly's Ford (Virginia, United States) (1)
Headquarters (Washington, United States) (1)
Harrisonburg, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Glendale, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Georgia (Georgia, United States) (1)
Frederick (Virginia, United States) (1)
Franklin, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Dunavant (Virginia, United States) (1)
Drewry's Bluff (Virginia, United States) (1)
Culpeper, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Charlottesville (Virginia, United States) (1)
Charles City (Virginia, United States) (1)
Chancellorsville (Virginia, United States) (1)
Beaver Dam (Wisconsin, United States) (1)
Austerlitz (Ohio, United States) (1)
Arlington (Virginia, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Ashland McClellan (73)
Robert E. Lee (51)
John Pope (44)
T. J. Jackson (44)
Fitz Lee (41)
J. E. B. Stuart (27)
Jackson Longstreet (19)
Stonewall Jackson (18)
Abraham Lincoln (16)
Daniel H. Hill (13)
Ambrose P. Hill (13)
Fitz John Porter (12)
Henry W. Halleck (12)
Benjamin Huger (8)
John Bankhead Magruder (7)
Banks (7)
W. H. C. Whiting (6)
Irvin McDowell (6)
James Ewell Brown Stuart (5)
Edwin M. Stanton (5)
Richard S. Ewell (5)
Jefferson Davis (5)
Ambrose E. Burnside (5)
Louis Marshall (4)
Robert Edward Lee (4)
Johnny Lee (4)
Gustavus W. Smith (3)
Sydney Smith Lee (3)
Lawton (3)
Latane (3)
Thomas Jonathan Jackson (3)
Fremont (3)
G. W. Smith (2)
Royall (2)
Beverley Robertson (2)
George W. Randolph (2)
John Pelham (2)
John S. Mosby (2)
R. E. Lee (2)
J. E. Johnston (2)
Heintzelman (2)
Dix (2)
Thomas R. Cobb (2)
Henry Clitz (2)
James R. Branch (2)
R. H. Anderson (2)
John E. Wool (1)
Charles Winder (1)
Wilcox (1)
Wellington (1)
George Washington (1)
Robert Toombs (1)
Walter Taylor (1)
Swinton (1)
Edwin Sumner (1)
Stoneman (1)
Martha Stevens (1)
Sigel (1)
William H. Seward (1)
Winfield Scott (1)
Richmond (1)
Ransom (1)
Pryor (1)
Nelson (1)
McClellan Napoleon (1)
Murat (1)
Munford (1)
McLaw (1)
McCall (1)
James King (1)
E. D. Keyes (1)
Kemper (1)
D. R. Jones (1)
Joseph Eggleston Johnston (1)
Jenkins (1)
Hundley (1)
Joseph Hooker (1)
John B. Hood (1)
Holmes (1)
D. H. Hill (1)
Haxall (1)
Wade Hampton (1)
Grace (1)
Goldsborough (1)
Gibson (1)
Fitzhugh (1)
Fitz (1)
Featherstone (1)
Nathan G. Evans (1)
Drayton (1)
Dobbs (1)
Dabney (1)
Silas Casey (1)
Buell (1)
John Brown (1)
P. G. T. Beauregard (1)
Joseph Addison (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: