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Chapter 9: Malvern Hill and the effect of the Seven Days battles

  • Not a Confederate victory
  • -- the Federal artillery fire -- demoralization of Lee's Army -- “McClellan will be gone by daylight” -- the weight of Lee's sword -- Stuart -- Pelham -- Pegram -- “Extra Billy” -- to battle in a trotting sulky -- the standard of courage.

I have said nothing as yet about Malvern Hill. No Confederate cares to say anything about it. If McClellan had done nothing else in the seven days to stamp him as a general, and his army nothing else to stamp them as soldiers, beyond the selection of this position, the disposition and handling of his artillery, and the stubborn and successful stand there made, after and in spite of the experiences of the six days preceding — the reputation, both of general and of soldiers, might well be rested on this basis alone. If it had been a single, isolated battle, it would have gone down into history simply and squarely as a defeat for the Confederates, and even when viewed in its historic connection, it must yet be admitted that all our assaults were repulsed and our pursuit so staggered that the Federal general was allowed to withdraw his army without being closely pressed.

Upon our side there was not a single relieving feature in the picture. In the first place, the battle ought never to have been fought where it was. If the orders of Lee had been carried out, it would not have been, for McClellan would never have reached this position. The “third line,” of which Lee and Jackson spoke in the interview described in the preceding chapter, was never drawn. The understanding in the army at the time was that Huger and Holmes were to have drawn it, but that their commands lost their way in [102] the almost trackless forest. In an address on “The campaigns of Gen. Robert E. Lee,” delivered at Washington and Lee University in 1872, on January 19th, Lee's birthday, Gen. Jubal A. Early says: “ ... Holmes' command, over six thousand strong, did not actually engage in any of the battles.” But Col. Walter H. Taylor, in his “Four years with General Lee,” published in 1877, already referred to, repeats three times — on pages 51, 53, and 54-that Holmes' command numbered ten thousand or more; and it is obvious, upon a comparison of the two statements, that Early's figures, “over six thousand,” did not include Ransom's brigade, which numbered thirty-six hundred.

It seems incredible, yet it appears to be true, that General Holmes was very deaf; so deaf that, when heaven and earth were shuddering with the thunder of artillery and the faces of his own men were blanched with the strain, he placed his hand behind his ear, and turning to a member of his staff, said, “I think I hear guns.” The story was told by one of his own brigadiers, and if anything approximating to it was true, then a great responsibility rests upon some one for putting an officer so far disabled in charge of troops,--especially at such a crisis and for such a service,--whatever his other qualifications may have been.

As before stated, General Lee left but twenty-eight thousand men on the Richmond side of the Chickahominy when he crossed to the other side to attack McClellan, and of course looked to these fresh troops, when his victorious but decimated and worn-out soldiers had driven the enemy into their arms, to fall upon the Federal general and gather the fruits of victory. But here are more than one-third of these fresh troops, and the very ones Lee had arranged should cut off the retreat of his gallant foe, that never got into action at all, and McClellan was permitted to reach and occupy the strong position which saved his army and cost the lives of thousands of ours. And even this was not all. Magruder, a most vigorous officer, to whose command we were attached, lost his way and thus delayed the attack and gave McClellan further time for his dispositions. And when at last we did attack, it was in a disconnected and desultory [103] fashion, which even to a private soldier seemed to promise no good result. But I cannot give a fairer or better idea of our view of the battle than by quoting from pages 48, 49 of Colonel Taylor's admirable book:

From these extracts I think it will be clear to the candid reader that the retreat to the James River was a compulsory one, and due to a defeat then acknowledged by General McClellan himself.

The fighting, however, was not invariably attended with success to the Confederates; notably, the defense of Malvern Hill by the Federals was in favor of the latter, which result was as much due to the mismanagement of the Confederate troops as to the naturally strong position occupied by the Federals and their gallantry in its defense.

Considerable delay was occasioned in the pursuit from the fact that the ground was unknown to the Confederate commanders. On this occasion General Magruder took the wrong route and had to be recalled, thereby losing much precious time; and when after serious and provoking delay the lines were formed for attack, there was some misunderstanding of the orders of the commanding general, and instead of a spirited, united advance by the entire line, as contemplated, the divisions were moved forward at different times, each attacking independently, and each in turn repulsed. Moreover, owing to the peculiar character of the ground, artillery could not be advantageously placed to aid the assaulting columns; whereas the Federal batteries, strongly posted and most handsomely served, contributed in a very great degree to the successful stand made by McClellan's retreating army at Malvern Hill.

I have characterized the foregoing as a fair statement, as it certainly is, and yet even this fails to convey an adequate impression of the stunning and temporarily depressing effect of this battle upon our army. As to my own experience and feelings, the revelation I am about to make may be a damaging one, yet I have no desire to sail under false colors, and then, too, my own case may serve to confirm and in part to explain the remarkable statements below made as to the sudden and fearful deterioration in the condition of our army which this battle, for the time, effected.

Three of the guns of the old battery were put in action against McClellan's majestic aggregation of batteries, by way of at least making a diversion in favor of our assaulting [104] infantry, a diversion which I presume we to some extent accomplished; for I never conceived anything approximating the shower and storm of projectiles and the overwhelming cataclysm of destruction which were at once turned upon our pitiful little popguns. In the short time they existed as effective pieces they were several times fired by fragments of Federal shell striking them after the lanyard was stretched and before it was pulled; and in almost less time than it takes to tell it the carriages were completely crushed, smashed, and splintered and the guns themselves so injured and defaced that we were compelled to send them to Richmond, after the battle, to be remoulded.

We were put in action, too, after a long, hot run. I was as sound and strong as human flesh could well be, and yet my lungs seemed to be pumped out, my brain reeled and my tongue clave to the roof of my mouth, which was burnt so dry that I experienced great difficulty in swallowing. Nevertheless, I managed to do my part in serving my gun, until, in a few moments, it was completely disabled, when I fell to the earth, a horror of great darkness came upon me, and the only distinct impression I can recall is that I felt I would be glad to compromise on annihilation.

When I roused myself from this semi-stupor or swoon the detachment seemed to have disappeared, but in a few moments I found most of the men. I remember catching by the collar one who had dropped down, “all in a heap,” in an unnecessarily exposed position on the projecting root of a large tree and jerking him up; when on the instant a shell tore to pieces the root upon which he had been seated, and yet he sank down again but a step or two from the spot. It was the first battle in which members of the company had been killed outright. The wonder is that any survived who were working these three pieces; but I suppose it is to be accounted for by the fact that the guns were quickly disabled and put out of action.

According to his own report of June 20, 1862, McClellan had three hundred and forty pieces of field artillery. I see no reason for doubting that a very large proportion of these were massed upon Malvern Hill. Nothing human can long [105] withstand the fire of such a mass of artillery concentrated, as the Federal guns at Malvern Hill were, upon very short attacking lines of infantry. Colonel Taylor says divisions were marched forward at different times, each attacking independently and each in turn repulsed. I think it was even worse than this, and that in some cases single brigades advanced to the attack and were almost literally swept backward by what seemed to be the fire of a continuous line of battle of artillery.

The effect of these repeated bloody repulses can hardly be conceived. One fearful feature was the sudden and awful revulsion of feeling among our soldiers, inspired by six days of constant victory and relentless pursuit of a retreating foe. The demoralization was great and the evidences of it palpable everywhere. The roads and forests were full of stragglers; commands were inextricably confused, some, for the time, having actually disappeared. Those who retained sufficient self-respect and sense of responsibility to think of the future were filled with the deepest apprehension. I know that this was the state of mind of some of our strongest and best officers; in fact, I do not know of any general officer in the army, save one, who did not entertain the gloomiest forebodings, and I recall hearing at the time, or rather a day or so afterwards, substantially the same story of that one which within the last few years and a short time before his own death was related by Dr. Hunter McGuire, Jackson's medical director, a man whom of all men he loved and trusted next after his great chief, Robert Lee. I quote from an address first delivered by Doctor McGuire at Lexington, but repeated several times afterwards by special request:

At Malvern Hill, when a portion of our army was beaten and to some extent demoralized, Hill and Ewell and Early came to tell him that they could make no resistance if McClellan attacked them in the morning. It was difficult to wake General Jackson, as he was exhausted and very sound asleep. I tried it myself, and after many efforts, partly succeeded. When he was made to understand what was wanted he said: “McClellan and his army will be gone by daylight,” and went to sleep again. The generals thought him mad, but the prediction was true.

The Hill here referred to is probably not our old friend “D. H.,” but A. P. Hill, a more brilliant soldier, yet, perhaps, [106] not so peculiarly distinguished for imperturbable grit. The story illustrates two of the greatest and most distinguishing traits and powers of Jackson as a general: he did not know what demoralization meant, and he never failed to know just what his adversary thought and felt and proposed to do. In the present instance, not only did all that Jackson said and implied turn out to be true, that McClellan was thinking only of escape, and never dreamed of viewing the battle of Malvern Hill in any other aspect, but in an incredibly short time our army had recovered its tone and had come to take the same view of the matter. Indeed, as I believe, nothing but another untoward accident prevented Mc-Clellan's surrendering his entire army to Lee, notwithstanding his successful defense at Malvern Hill. The matter will be found circumstantially set out in Colonel Taylor's book, pages 41-44, substantiated and confirmed by a full extract from General Stuart's manuscript of “Reports and notes on the war,” and also by extracts from the report of the “Committee on the Conduct of the war,” and is in outline as follows:

Stuart, Lee's chief of cavalry, following up McClellan's movements after Malvern Hill, from the heights above Westover, overlooked the entire Federal army huddled together in the river bottoms of and adjacent to Westover plantation, apparently in a state of utter disorganization and unpreparedness, and he could not resist the temptation of dropping a few shells among them, which produced a perfect stampede among the troops and wagons, but at the same time had the effect of calling the attention of the Federal commanders to the fact that the position of their army was utterly untenable without command of the heights from which these shells had been fired, and they immediately sent a heavy force to take possession of them. Stuart at once informed General Lee and received word that Jackson and Longstreet were en route to support him; but again the guides proved incompetent, and Longstreet was led six or seven miles out of the way, and Stuart, after resisting as long as he could, was compelled to yield possession of the heights, which were promptly occupied and fortified by an [107] adequate Federal force, and McClellan's army was, for the first time, safe from successful attack.

After having for the third time traced the failure of the plans of the Confederates to the incompetence or to the delinquency of guides,--in the misleading of Holmes and Huger, of Magruder, and now of Longstreet,--it seems proper to remark that the entire region which was the theatre of the Seven Days battles is, for the most part, covered by heavy pine forests and cypress swamps, and these traversed by many wood roads, or paths rather, undistinguishable the one from the other. The confusing character of the country is well illustrated by the fact that the last time I went there, with a party of survivors of our old battery, with the view, if possible, of identifying certain positions occupied by our guns in the campaign of 1864, we had two guides born and reared in the neighborhood and who professed to be perfectly familiar with the country and with the positions we desired to find; and yet these men insisted upon leading us astray, and would have done so, but that my recollection and my instinct of locality were so opposed to their views that I simply refused to be misled. Unassisted and unaccompanied I found the first position sought, the rest of the party, with the guides, wandering around for hours and finally working around to me. But it should be remembered that the generals who were misled by guides, to the disarrangement and defeat of General Lee's perfectly arranged plans, so far at least as I have reason to believe, had never been in the region before.

Yet, once more. “Stuart, glorious Stuart,” as Colonel Taylor justly calls him, while his boyish indiscretion in firing into the huddled masses of the enemy from Evelington Heights, before informing General Lee of the situation, was apparently the cause of the loss of another great opportunity --yet it should not be forgotten, in this connection, that the great plan of the Seven Days battles owed its inspiration, or at least its completion and perfection, to the information derived from Stuart's marvelous ride around McClellan's entire army just in advance of Lee's attack, more than to any other source outside the imperial intellect of the Commanderin-Chief [108] himself. Stuart was a splendidly endowed cavalry leader, his only fault being a tendency to indulge too far his fondness for achievements that savored of the startling, the marvelous, and the romantic.

One more general reflection: Whatever effect the Seven Days battles may have had upon other reputations, Federal or Confederate-and there were upon our side generals whose names stood high upon the roster of our main army when these operations began, but never again appeared upon it after they closed-yet there is one name and fame which these seven days gave to history and to glory, as to which the entire world stands agreed, and all the after chances and changes of the war but expanded the world's verdict. When we contemplate Lee's great plan and the qualities of leadership which these operations revealed in him, we know not which most to admire — the brilliance, the comprehensiveness, or the almost reckless audacity of the scheme and of the man. It is a singular fact, and one which seems to demand explanation, that the prominent impression which Lee invariably seems to make is that of roundness, balance, perfection; and yet unquestionably his leading characteristic as a general is aggressive audacity. Take for example his leaving but 28,000 of 80,000 men between McClellan and Richmond, and with the other 52,000 crossing a generally impassable stream and attacking McClellan's 105,000 in entrenched positions. Mayhap old Jubal Early, who knew Lee and knew war as well as any other man on either side, has the right of it and suggests the true explanation when he says, speaking of this very operation: “Timid minds might regard this as rashness, but it was the very perfection of a profound and daring strategy.”

And when we attempt to measure the effect of these Seven Days battles-when we note that within less than one month from the day he took command of an army with which he had had no previous personal connection, Lee had completely secured its confidence and correctly estimated its capabilities, had conceived and perfected his great plan and every detail essential to its successful execution, had begun to put it into operation and actually delivered his first great [109] blow; when we note further that within a week after that blow was struck Richmond was entirely relieved and within a few weeks more Washington was in serious peril, and the United States Government had called for three hundred thousand more men; when, we say, all this is considered, we may well ask when did the weight of one great Captain's sword, only this and nothing more, cause the scales of war to dip with such a determined, downward sag?

One of the most important features of these seven days of battle was that it was the first prolonged wrestle of the Army of Northern Virginia, the struggle that really gave birth to that army; that gave it experience of its own powers, cohesion, character, confidence in itself and in its great commander-proper estimate of its great opponent, the Army of the Potomac, and its commander. Then, too, these days of continuous battle tested the individual men, and especially the officers of the army, winnowing the chaff from the wheat and getting rid of some high in command who did not catch the essential spirit of the army or assimilate well with it, or bid fair to add anything of value to it; at the same time this week of continuous battle brought to the front men who had in them stuff out of which heroes are made and who were destined to make names and niches for themselves in the pantheon of this immortal army.

Among those in my own branch of the service who came prominently to the front, besides Tom Carter, who never lost the place he made for himself at Seven Pines in the affectionate admiration of the artillery and of the army, were the boy artillerists Pegram and Pelham, both yielding their glorious young lives in the struggle-Pegram at the very end, Pelham but eight months after Malvern Hill. The latter, an Alabamian, was commander of Stuart's horse artillery, devotedly loved and admired by his commanding general, the pride of the cavalry corps, one of the most dashing and brilliant soldiers in the service, though but twenty-two years of age when he fell. He was knighted by Lee himself in official report as “the gallant Pelham.”

The other, Pegram, was a more serious and a more powerful man, who came of a family of soldiers who had rendered [110] distinguished service, both in the army and navy, prior to the war; an elder brother, a graduate of West Point and a singularly attractive man, rising to the rank of major-general in the Confederate service, and also losing his life in battle. The younger brother, the artillerist, a student when the war began, enlisted as a private soldier in a battery raised in the City of Richmond, which he commanded when the Seven Days battles opened, rendering with it signal and distinguished service. Eventually he rose to the rank and command of colonel of artillery, and was recommended for appointment as brigadier-general of infantry, General Lee saying he would find a brigade for him just as soon as he could be spared from the artillery; but meanwhile he fell in battle at Five Forks in the spring of 1865, even then hardly more than a stripling in years.

He had always been such a modest, self-contained and almost shrinking youth that his most intimate friends were astonished at his rapid development and promotion; but it was one of those strongly-marked cases where war seemed to be the needed and almost the native air of a young man. He was, in some respects, of the type of Stonewall Jackson, and like him combined the strongest Christian faith and the deepest spirituality with the most intense spirit of fight.

As commander of an artillery battalion he built up a reputation second to none for effective handling of his guns, his favorite method, where practicable, being to rush to close quarters with the enemy and open at the shortest possible range. He admitted that it seemed deadly, but insisted that it saved life in the end. When stricken down he lived long enough to express his views and feelings, briefly but clearly, with regard to both worlds, and there never was a death more soldierly or more Christian.

Another, a very different and very racy character, who was a good deal talked about after and in connection with the fighting around Richmond in 1862 was old “Extra Billy,” ex-Governor William Smith, of Virginia, whom I mentioned as prominent among the Southern members in the Congress of 1859-1860. He was one of the best specimens of the political [111] general, rising ultimately to the rank of major-general; a born politician, twice Governor of the Commonwealth,once before and once after this date,--already beyond the military age, yet one of the most devoted and enthusiastic soldiers in the service. As a soldier he was equally distinguished for personal intrepidity and contempt for what he called “tactics” and for educated and trained soldiers, whom he was wont to speak of as “those West P'int fellows.”

It is said he used to drill his regiment at Manassas, sitting cross-legged on the top of an old Virginia snake fence, with a blue cotton umbrella over his head and reading the orders from a book. On one occasion he was roused by the laughing outcry, “Colonel, you've run us bang up against the fence!” “Well, then, boys,” said the old Governor, looking up and nothing daunted; “well, then, of course you'll have to turn around or climb the fence.”

In 1862 this story was current about him,--though I do not vouch for the truth either of this or of that just related,that he was ordered to carry a work and to take his command through the abattis in front of it, reserving their fire. The regiment started in, the old Governor intrepidly riding in advance. The abattis swarmed with sharpshooters and his men were falling all about him, but they followed on heroically. At last they appealed to him, “Colonel, we can't stand this, these Yankees will kill us all before we get in a shot.” It was all the old hero wanted and he blazed forth: “Of course you can't stand it, boys; it's all this infernal tactics and West P'int tomfoolery. Damn it, fire! and flush the game!” And they did, and drove out the sharpshooters and carried the work.

My own dear father is one of the prominent figures in my recollections of that summer about Richmond. He was fond of horses, an excellent judge of them, and used to ride or drive the very best that could be found. I say “ride or drive.” He was then between sixty-five and seventy years of age and, though vigorous and enthusiastic, found it very comfortable to drive sometimes; but his selected vehicle was at once the most unclerical and unmilitary that could well be imagined — a regulation skeleton “trotting sulky.” He [112] kept his saddle at our battery and his habit was, when we were not actually fighting or on the move, to return to Richmond at night, coming down in the morning with a big market basket strapped under his sulky full of bread and good things. His approach was generally heralded by the shouts of the soldiers who followed; when, looking up the road, we would see him, often standing on the shafts, scattering biscuit and reading aloud the latest telegrams. Hundreds of men would sometimes follow him to our camp, and then he would have prayers with them and make a brief religious address.

Coming in this way one morning he did not find us; the battle was on and we had gone to the front. As he could not get his saddle, he kept right on in his sulky, hoping to overtake us. In some way he managed to pass through and get ahead of the second line and went on, actually between the first and second lines of battle, until his further progress was obstructed by a line of works which had been captured by the first line, when he was forced to turn back, amidst a storm of ridicule from the second line:

That's right, old man; this ain't no place for you, nor for me neither, if I could only git my colonel to think so!

“Say, mister, won't your buggy carry double?”

“Haven't you got a place for me?”

“Oh, please, sir, take me with you! I ain't feeling so mighty well this morning. I'm powerful weak, right now.”

Father always followed the Scripture rule of “answering a fool according to his folly,” and so he jeered back at them, telling them “good-by,” but saying he'd be back in a minute --as he actually was, riding, bareback and blind bridle, and passing right ahead with the troops. I have heard of following a fox hunt in one of these sulkies, but I venture to say this is the very first time a man ever entered battle in one.

It will at once occur to the reader as remarkable that father was not arrested. He was, a few days later, at Malvern Hill, by order of Gen. Rans. Wright, of Georgia, and a staff officer, as I recollect, of General Armistead, told me that he was directed to arrest him on one of the earlier battle-fields of the Seven Days, and made the attempt; that up to that [113] time he had regarded himself as a pretty daring rider and scout, but that father, whom he did not then know, led him such a chase as he had never before had, and that he returned to his general and reported that he didn't believe there was any harm in that old fellow, though he was certainly a crank, and if he got killed it would be his own fault; but that, unless positively so ordered, he didn't propose to get a bullet through his brain following that old fool right up to the Yankee skirmish line.

It must be remembered that my father was a Christian minister, devoted to the soldiers, and a sort of chaplaingeneral among them. He was ready to whisper the consolations of religion in the ear of a dying man, to help the litter bearers, or to carry a wounded man off on his horse. Then, too, he was well known to many of our generals to whom, by the way, he carried a vast amount of information gathered on his daring scouts ahead even of our skirmishers. I myself heard two or three of the most prominent generals say that it was their belief my father had seen more of the fighting of the Seven Days, from start to finish, than any other one man in or out of the army. I was of course deeply anxious about him, but he could not be controlled, and my belief was then, and is now, that the Federal skirmishers often refrained from firing upon him simply because they did not care at the time to expose their position.

Many of our soldiers knew him, especially the Georgians, Virginians and Mississippians. Georgia was his native State. In his early days he had done a great deal of evangelistic work in all parts of it, and many young men and boys in the army had heard their parents speak of him. I remember one evening, after a most impressive sermon to Cobb's or Cummings' brigade, overhearing a lot of soldiers talking at a spring, when one of them, anxious to appear a little more familiarly acquainted with the preacher than the rest, said, “I've heard my mother talk of the old Doctor many a time. I reckon the old fellow's given me many a dose of physic for croup.”

An incident occurred, on or near the Nine-Mile road, some time before the week of battle opened which is strongly [114] illustrative at once of my father's faith and of the childlike simplicity of the great bulk of our soldiery. Two companies, I think from South Carolina, were supporting a section of our battery in an advanced and somewhat isolated position. About the middle of the afternoon father drove down from Richmond, and after he had distributed his provisions and talked with us a while, proposed to have prayers, which was readily acceded to. Quite a number of men from the neighboring commands gathered, and just as we knelt and my father began his petitions the batteries across the way sent two or three shells entirely too close to our heads to be comfortable — I presume just by way of determining the object of this concourse.

I confess my faith and devotion were not strong enough to prevent my opening my eyes and glancing around. The scene that met them was almost too much for my reverence and came near being fatal to my decorum. Our Carolina supports, like the rest of us, had knelt and closed their eyes at my father's invocation and, simple-hearted fellows that they were, felt that it would be little less than sacrilege to rise or to open them until the prayer should be completed; and yet their faith was not quite equal to assuring them of God's protection, or at least they felt it would be wise and well to supplement the protection of heaven by the trees and stumps of earth, if they could find them, and so they were actually groping for them with arms wide extended but eyes tight closed, and still on their knees.

I hardly know what might have been the effect upon me of this almost impossibly ludicrous scene had I not glanced toward my father. As was his habit in public prayer, he was standing; his tall, majestic figure erect and his worshipful, reverent face upturned to Heaven. Not a nerve trembled, not a note quavered. In a single sentence he committed us all to God's special keeping while he worshiped; and then, evidently, he did worship and supplicate the Divine Being without the slightest further consciousness of the bursting shells, which in a few moments ceased shrieking above or about us, and our little service closed without further interruption. And then it was beautiful to observe how these simple-hearted boys gazed at my father, as if indeed [115] he had been one of the ancient prophets; but I heard some of them say they liked that old preacher mighty well, but they didn't just feel certain whether they wanted him around having prayers so close under the Yankee guns; that he “didn't seem to pay hardly enough attention to them things.”

Colonel Brandon, father of my Yale classmate of that name, who was a captain in the regiment, was lieutenantcolonel of the Twenty-first Mississippi. He was a dignified, majestic-looking officer and a rigid disciplinarian, but an old man and very stout and heavy. I do not recollect whether Colonel Humphreys was present at Malvem Hill, but Brandon certainly went in with his regiment when the brigade, as I remember, unsupported, made repeated quixotic efforts to capture the Federal guns massed on the hill. They were exposed to the fire I have already described, and of course suffered bloody repulse. Colonel Brandon had his ankle shattered while the regiment was advancing in the first charge. On the way back his men proposed to carry him with them to the rear, but he refused. He was sitting up and pluckily applying his handkerchief as a tourniquet above the wound, and he simply said: “Tell the Twentyfirst they can't get me till they take those guns!”

When the line passed him on the second charge, Brandon put his hat on his sword, held it up and waved it, cheering the regiment on, but in a few moments the bleeding remnant staggered to the rear again, and again they came for their colonel, insisting that they must carry him with them. The old soldier actually drew his revolver, declaring that he would shoot down any man who laid hands upon him, and he repeated his former message: “Tell the Twenty-first they can't get their colonel till they take those guns!”

Again the charge swept by the prostrate old man, who waved his sword and his hat, urging his men up the awful slope; but when again they returned to the rear utterly broken and shattered, the old hero had fainted and the litter bearers bore him off the field.

I saw him in Richmond a few days later. His leg had been amputated below the knee. He was doing wondrous well physically, but was full of deep dissatisfaction, mortification [116] and rage about the battle. I admitted the gross mismanagement and was saying something in extenuation, when the old fellow broke in:

Oh! it is not mismanagement that hurts me, sir; it is cowardice — the disgraceful cowardice of our officers and men.

I was astounded, and protested that I saw nothing of this, when he broke out again:

Saw nothing of this, sir? Why, I saw nothing else! There is General----,

mentioning a man I never heard mentioned on any other occasion save with admiration for his courage and devotion. “Why, sir, with my own eyes I saw him perceptibly quicken his pace under fire and that right before the men. And I saw him visibly incline his head, sir, and that right in the presence of the men. He ought to be shot to death for cowardice.”

I confess I was utterly confounded. I had myself seen General ---- repeatedly passing and repassing a knoll more fearfully torn by artillery fire perhaps than any other spot of earth I ever looked upon. His men were behind ithe passed over it and in front of them. My recollection is that officers were not mounted. Of course he quickened his pace, partly because his presence was required first at one end of the line and then at the other; but the marvel to me was that he lived at all. As to the inclination of his head, all I saw was that instinctive inclination, equally natural under a heavy fire and a heavy rain. When I recalled the scene and the heroic conduct of General , I remember saying to myself, “What is the true standard of courage?”

There were a number of Yale men in the Twenty-first Mississippi, among others two brothers, Jud. and Carey Smith. We used to call Jud. “Indian Smith” at Yale. I think it was at Savage Station, when the Seventeenth and Twenty-first Mississippi were put into the woods at nightfall and directed to lie down, that Carey Smith, the younger brother, putting his hand in his bosom, found it covered with blood, when he withdrew it, and saying: “What does this mean?” instantly died. He had been mortally wounded without knowing when. [117]

Judson Smith went almost deranged; yes, I think altogether deranged. He bore his dead brother out of the woods. His company and regimental officers proposed to send the body to Richmond in an ambulance and urged Judson to go with it. He refused both propositions. He kept the body folded to his bosom, and all through the night his comrades heard Judson kissing Carey and talking to him and petting him, and then sobbing as if his heart would break. Next morning he consented to have his brother's body sent to Richmond, but refused to go himself. When the regiment moved he kissed Carey again and again, and then left him, following the column all day alone, allowing no one to comfort him or even to speak to him. So that night he lay down alone, not accepting the proffered sympathy and ministrations of his friends, and resumed his solitary march in the morning.

That was Malvern Hill day, and when the regiment, on its first charge, stopped ascending that fearful slope of death and turned back, Jud. Smith did not stop. He went right on, never returned and was never seen or heard of again.

The family was one of wealth and position in Mississippi, the father an old man, and having only these two boys. When he heard of the loss of both almost in one day he left home, joined Price's army as a private soldier, and at Iuka did just as his eldest son had done at Malvern Hill, which was the last ever seen or heard of him, and the family became extinct.

Walking over the field of Malvern Hill the morning after the battle, I saw two young Federal soldiers lying dead, side by side, their heads upon the same knapsack and their arms about each other. They were evidently brothers and enough alike to be twins. The whole pathetic story was plainly evident. One had first been wounded, perhaps killed, and when the other was struck he managed to get to his dead or dying brother, placed the knapsack under his head, and then lying down by him and resting his head on the same rude pillow, slipped his dying arms around his brother's body and slept in this embrace.

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