previous next

Xv. June, 1862

  • Huger fails again.
  • -- a wounded boy. -- the killed and wounded. -- Lee assumes command. -- Lee prepares to attack McClellan -- Beauregard watches the gold. -- our generals scattered. -- hasty letter from Gen. Lee. -- opening of grand battle. -- first day, 26th June. -- second, etc. -- Lee's consummate skill. -- every day for a week it rages. -- streets crowded with blue Jackets. -- McClellan retires.

June 1

The ambulances are now bringing in the enemy's wounded as well as our own. It is the prompting of humanity. They seem truly grateful for this magnanimity, as they call it; a sentiment hitherto unknown to them.

The battle was renewed to-day, but not seriously. The failure of Gen. Huger to lead his division into action at the time appointed, [132] is alleged as the only reason why the left wing of the enemy was not completely destroyed. But large masses of the enemy did cross the river, on bridges constructed for the purpose, and they had 50,000 men engaged against a much less number on our part; and their batteries played upon us from the north bank of the Chickahominy. The flying foe kept under shelter of this fire-and these guns could not be taken, as the pontoon bridge was defended by heavy artillery.

All day the wounded were borne past our boarding-house in Third Street, to the general hospital; and hundreds, with shattered arms and slight flesh wounds, came in on foot. I saw a boy, not more than fifteen years old (from South Carolina), with his hand in a sling. He showed me his wound. A ball had entered between the fingers of his left hand and lodged near the wrist, where the flesh was much swollen. He said, smiling, “I'm going to the hospital just to have the ball cut out, and will then return to the battle-field. I can fight with my right hand.”

The detectives are jubilant to-day. They say one of their number,--, did heroic feats of arms on the field, killing a Yankee colonel, and a private who came to the rescue. At all events, they brought in a colonel's sword, pistols, and coat, as trophies. This story is to be in the papers to-morrow!

June 2

Great indignation is expressed by the generals in the field at the tales told of the heroism of the amateur fighters. They say — stripped a dead colonel, and was never in reach of the enemy's guns. Moreover, the civilians in arms kept at such a distance from danger that their balls fell among our own men, and wounded some of them! An order has been issued by one of the major-generals, that hereafter any stragglers on the field of battle shall be shot. No civilians are to be permitted to be there at all, unless they go into the ranks.

Gen. Johnston is wounded-badly wounded, but not mortally. It is his misfortune to be wounded in almost every battle he fights. Nevertheless, he has gained a glorious victory. Our loss in killed and wounded will not exceed 5000; while the enemy's killed, wounded, and prisoners will not fall short of 13,000. They lost, besides, many guns, tents, and stores-all wrung from them at the point of the bayonet, and in spite of their formidable abattis. Prisoners taken on the field say: “The Southern soldiers would [133] charge into hell if there was a battery before them-and they would take it from a legion of devils!” The moral effect of this victory must be great. The enemy have been taught that none of the engines of destruction that can be wielded against us, will prevent us from taking their batteries; and so, hereafter, when we charge upon them, they might as well run away from their own guns.

June 3

Gen. Lee henceforth assumes command of the army in person. This may be hailed as the harbinger of bright fortune.

June 4

Col. Bledsoe sent word to me to-day by my son that he wished to see me. When I met him he groaned as usual, and said the department would have to open another passport office, as the major-generals in the field refused to permit the relatives of the sick and wounded in the camps to pass with orders from Brig.-Gen. Winder or his Provost Marshal.

June 5

I reopened my office in the department.

June 6

Gen. Winder getting wind of what was going on, had an interview, first with Mr. Benjamin, who instructed him what to say; and then bringing forward the Provost Marshal, they had a rather stormy interview with Mr. Randolph, who, as usual, yielded to their protestations against having two passport offices, while martial law existed.

And so Col. Bledsoe came in and told me to “shut up shop.” The Secretary had revoked his order.

June 7

But business is in a great measure suspended, and so I have another holiday.

June 8

I learn that Col. Bledsoe has to grant passports to the army, as the pickets have been instructed to let no one pass upon the order of Gen. Winder or his Provost Marshal.

June 9

It is now apparent that matters were miserably managed on the battle-field, until Gen. Lee assumed command in person. Most of the trophies of the victory, and thousands of arms, stores, etc. were pillaged by the promiscuous crowds of aliens and Jews who purchased passports thither from the Provost Marshal's detectives.

June 10

Col. Bledsoe sent for me again. This time he wanted me to take charge of the letter room, and superintend the young gentlemen who briefed the letters. This I did very cheerfully; [134] I opened all the letters, and sent to the Secretary the important ones immediately. These, for want of discrimination, had sometimes been suffered to remain unnoticed two or three days, when they required instant action.

June 11-12

Gen. Smith, the New York street commissioner, had been urged as commander-in-chief.

June 13

Gen. Lee is satisfied with the present posture of affairs-and McClellan has no idea of attacking us now. He don't say what he means to do himself.

June 14

The wounded soldiers bless the ladies, who nurse them unceasingly.

June 15

What a change! No one now dreams of the loss of the capital.

June 17

It is not yet ascertained what amount of ordnance stores we gained from the battle.

June 18

Lee is quietly preparing to attack McClellan. The President, who was on the battle-field, is very cheerful.

June 19

To-day so many applications were made to the Secretary himself for passports to the armies, and beyond the lines of the Confederate States, that, forgetting the revocation of his former order, he sent a note into the Assistant Secretary, saying he thought a passport agent had been appointed to attend to such cases; and he now directed that it be done. Bledsoe came to me immediately, and said: “Jones, you'll have to open a passport office again — I shall sign no more.”

June 20

Moved once more into the old office.

June 21

Gen. Beauregard is doubly doomed. A few weeks ago, when the blackness of midnight brooded over our cause, there were some intimations, I know not whether they were well founded, that certain high functionaries were making arrangements for a flight to France; and Gen. Beauregard getting intimation of an order to move certain sums in bullion in the custody of an Assistant Treasurer in his military department, forbid its departure until he could be certain that it was not destined to leave the Confederacy. I have not learned its ultimate destination; but the victory of the Seven Pines intervening, Gen. Beauregard has been relieved of his command, “on sick leave.” But I know his army is to be commanded permanently by Gen. Bragg. There are charges against Beauregard. It is said the Yankee [135] army might have been annihilated at Shiloh, if Beauregard had fought a little longer.

June 23

And Gen. Johnston, I learn, has had his day. And Magruder is on “sick leave.” He is too open in his censures of the late Secretary of War. But Gen. Huger comes off scotfree; he has always had the confidence of Mr. Benjamin, and used to send the flag of truce to Fortress Monroe as often as could be desired.

June 24

Gen. Lee's plan works like a charm Although I have daily orders from Mr. Randolph to send persons beyond our lines, yet the precautions of Lee most effectually prevent any spies from knowing anything about his army. Even the Adjutant-General, S. Cooper, don't know how many regiments are ordered into Virginia, or where they are stationed. Officers returning from furlough, cannot ascertain in the Adjutant-General's office where their regiments are! They are referred to me for passports to Gen. Lee's headquarters. No man with a passport from Gen. Winder, or from his Provost Marshal, can pass the pickets of Gen. Lee's army. This is the harbinger of success, and I predict a career of glory for Lee, and for our country! There are some vague rumors about the approach of Stonewall Jackson's army; but no one knows anything about it, and but few believe it. Recent Northern papers say he is approaching Winchester, and I see they are intrenching in the valley to guard against his terrible blows. This is capital! And our people are beginning to fear there will be no more fighting around Richmond until McClellan digs his way to it. The moment fighting ceases, our people have fits of gloom and despondency; but when they snuff battle in the breeze, they are animated with confidence. They regard victory as a matter of course; and are only indignant at our long series of recent reverses, when they reflect that our armies have so seldom been led against the embattled hosts of the enemy.

June 25

The people of Louisiana are protesting strongly against permitting Gen. Lovell to remain in command in that State, since the fall of New Orleans (which I omitted to note in regular order in these chronicles), and they attribute that disgraceful event, some to his incompetency, and others to treason. These remonstrances come from such influential parties, I think [136] the President must listen to them. Yes, a Massachusetts man (they say Gen. L. came from Boston) was in command of the troops of New Orleans when that great city surrendered without firing a gun. And this is one of the Northern generals who came over to our side after the battle of Manassas.

June 26

To-day a letter, hastily written by Gen. Lee to the Secretary of War, stated that his headquarters would be at -- , or beyond that point, whence couriers could find him if there should be anything of importance. the Secretary might desire to communicate during the day. This is the day of battle! Jackson is in the rear of McClellan's right wing! I sent this note to the Secretary at once. I suppose Mr. Randolph had been previously advised of Gen. Lee's intention to fight to-day; but I do not know it. I know some of the brigadier-generals in the army do not know it; although they have all been ordered to their commands. This is no uncommon order; but it is characteristic of Lee's secretiveness to keep all of his officers in profound ignorance of his intentions, except those he means to be engaged. The enemy cannot possibly have any intimation of his purpose, because the spies here have no intelligence; and none are permitted to pass the rear pickets in sight of the city without my passport. What a change since the last battle!

To-day, in compliance with an intimation of the President, all in the departments, who felt so disposed, formed a military organization for the defense of the city, and especially of the archives, which had been brought back since the assumption of command by Gen. Lee. Col. Bledsoe denounced the organization as a humbug! Defending the government, or readiness to defend it, in such times as these, is no humbug! In the fluctuations of a great battle, almost in the suburbs of the city, a squadron of the enemy's horse might penetrate even to the office of the Chief Executive, when a few hundred muskets, in the hands of old men and boys, might preserve the papers.

After dinner I repaired, with Custis and a few friends, to my old stand on the hill north of the Jews' Cemetery, and sat down in the shade to listen. Many persons were there as usual-for every day some firing could be heard — who said, in response to my inquiries, that distant guns had been heard in the direction of the Pamunky River. [137]

“ That is Jackson!” I exclaimed, as the sounds were distinctly discerned by myself; “and he is in their rear, behind their right wing!”

All were incredulous, and some doubted whether he was within a hundred miles of us. But the sounds grew more distinct, and more frequent, and I knew he was advancing. But how long could he advance in that direction without being overwhelmed? Everywhere else along the line a deathlike silence reigned, that even the dropping fire of the pickets, usually so incessant, could be heard.

This suspense continued only a few minutes. Two guns were then heard northeast of us, and in such proximity as to startle some of the anxious listeners. These were followed by three or four more, and then the fire continued with increasing rapidity. This was Gen. A. P. Hill's division in front of the enemy's right wing, and Lee's plan of battle was developed. Hill was so near us as to be almost in sight. The drums and fifes of his regiments, as they marched up to the point of attack, could be easily heard; how distinctly, then, sounded his cannon in our ears And the enemy's guns, pointed in the direction of the city, were as plainly discerned. I think McClellan is taken by surprise.

One gentleman, who had been incredulous on the subject of a battle to-day, held his watch in his hand ten minutes, during which time one hundred and ninety guns were heard. Saying he believed a battle was in progress, he replaced the watch in his pocket, and sat down on the ground to listen.

Another hour, and the reports come with the rapidity of seconds, or 3600 per hour! And now, for the first time, we hear the rattle of small arms. And lo two guns farther to the right,--from Longstreet's division, I suppose. And they were followed by others. This is Lee's grand plan of battle: Jackson first, then Hill, then Longstreet — time and distance computed with mathematical precision! The enemy's balloons are not up now. They know what is going on, without further investigations up in the air. The business is upon earth, where many a Yankee will breathe his last this night McClellan must be thunderstruck at this unexpected opening of a decisive battle. Our own people, and even our own general officers, except those who were to participate in the attack, were uninformed of Lee's grand purpose, [138] until the booming of Jackson's guns were heard far on our left.

As the shades of evening fall, the fire seems to increase in rapidity, and a gentle breeze rising as the stars come out, billows of smoke are wafted from the battle-field. And now, occasionally, we can distinctly see the bursting of shells in the air, aimed too high by the enemy, and exploding far this side of our line of battle.

Darkness is upon us, save the glimmer of the stars, as the sulphurous clouds sink into the humid valleys. But the flashes of the guns are visible on the horizon, followed by the deep intonations of the mighty engines of destruction, echoing and reverberating from hill to hill, and through the vast valley of the James in the rear.

Hundreds of men, women, and children were attracted to the heights around the city to behold the spectacle. From the Capitol and from the President's mansion, the vivid flashes of artillery could be seen; but no one doubted the result. It is only silence and inaction we dread. The firing ceased at nine o'clock P. M. The President was on the field, but did not interfere with Lee.

June 27

At the first dawn of day, the battle recommenced, farther round to the east. This was enough. The enemy had drawn in his right wing. And courier after courier announced the taking of his batteries by our brave defenders! But the battle rages loud and long, and the troops of Jackson's corps, like the march of Fate, still upon McClellan's right flank and rear. Jackson's horse, and the gallant Stuart, with his irresistible cavalry, have cut the enemy's communications with their base on the Pamunky. It is said they are burning their stores!

What genius! what audacity in Lee! He has absolutely taken the greater portion of his army to the north side of the Chickahominy, leaving McClellan's center and left wing on the south side, with apparently easy access to the city. This is (to the invaders) impenetrable strategy. The enemy believes Lee's main forces are here, and will never think of advancing. We have so completely closed the avenues of intelligence that the enemy has not been able to get the slightest intimation of our strength or the dispositions of our forces.

June 28

The President publishes a dispatch from Lee, [139] announcing a victory! The enemy has been driven from all his intrenchments, losing many batteries.

Yesterday the President's life was saved by Lee. Every day he rides out near the battle-field, in citizen's dress, marking the fluctuations of the conflict, but assuming no direction of affairs in the field. Gen. Lee, however, is ever apprised of his position; and once, when the enemy were about to point one of their most powerful batteries in the direction of a certain farm-house occupied by the President, Lee sent a courier in haste to inform him of it. No sooner had the President escaped than a storm of shot and shell riddled the house.

Some of the people still think that their military President is on the field directing every important movement in person. A gentleman told me to-day, that he met the President yesterday, and the day before, alone, in the lanes and orchards, near the battle-field. He issued no orders; but awaited results like the rest of us, praying fervently for abundant success.

To-day some of our streets are crammed with thousands of bluejackets-Yankee prisoners. There are many field officers, and among them several generals.

General Reynolds, who surrendered with his brigade, was thus accosted by one of our functionaries, who knew him before the war began:

General, this is in accordance with McClellan's prediction; you are in Richmond.

“ Yes, sir,” responded the general, in bitterness; “and d-n me, if it is not precisely in the manner I anticipated.”

“ Where is McClellan, general?”

“I know not exactly; his movements have been so frequent of late. But I think it probable he too may be here before night!”

“ I doubt that,” said his fellow-prisoner, Gen. McCall; “beware of your left wing! Who commands there?”

Gen. Jackson.”

Stonewall Jackson? Is he in this fight? Was it really Jackson making mince-meat of our right? Then your left wing is safe!”

Four or five thousand prisoners have arrived.

June 29

The battle still rages. But the scene has shifted farther to the east. The enemy's army is now entirely on this [140] side of the Chickahominy. McClellan is doggedly retiring toward the James River.

June 30

Once more all men are execrating Gen. Huger. It is alleged that he again failed to obey an order, and kept his division away from the position assigned it, which would have prevented the escape of McClellan. If this be so, who is responsible, after his alleged misconduct at the battle of the Seven Pines?

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 People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
June 26th (2)
June, 1862 AD (1)
June 30th (1)
June 29th (1)
June 28th (1)
June 27th (1)
June 25th (1)
June 24th (1)
June 23rd (1)
June 21st (1)
June 20th (1)
June 19th (1)
June 18th (1)
June 17th (1)
June 15th (1)
June 14th (1)
June 13th (1)
June 12th (1)
June 11th (1)
June 10th (1)
June 9th (1)
June 8th (1)
June 7th (1)
June 6th (1)
June 5th (1)
June 4th (1)
June 3rd (1)
June 2nd (1)
June 1st (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: