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Advance sheets of
Reminiscences of secession, war, and reconstruction,
by Lieutenant-General Richard Taylor.

[The following advanced sheets from General Taylor's forthcoming book will be read with an interest which will excite a desire to see the whole work. We publish without note or comment of our own, and without, of course, expressing any opinion as to the justness of some of the keen thrusts of the distinguished Author.]

The Valley of Virginia.

The great Valley of Virginia was before us in all its beauty. Fields of wheat spread far and wide, interspersed with woodlands, bright in their robes of tender green. Wherever appropriate sites existed, quaint old mills, with turning wheels, were busily grinding the previous year's harvest, and, from grove and eminence, showed comfortable homesteads. The soft vernal influence shed a languid grace over the scene.

The theatre of war in this region was from Staunton to the Potomac, one hundred and twenty miles, with an average width of some twenty-five, and the Blue Ridge and Alleghany bounded it east and west. Drained by the Shenandoah with its numerous affluents, the surface was nowhere flat, but a succession of graceful swells, occasionally rising into abrupt hills. Resting on limestone, the soil was productive, especially of wheat, and the underlying rock furnished abundant metal for the construction of roads. Frequent passes or gaps in the mountains, through which wagon roads had been constructed, afforded easy access from east and west, and, as has been stated, pikes were excellent, though unmetaled roads became heavy after rains.

But the glory of the Valley is Massanuttin. Rising abruptly from the plain near Harrisonburg, twenty-five miles north of Staunton, this lovely mountain extends fifty miles and as suddenly ends near Strasburg. Parallel with Blue Ridge and of equal height, its sharp peaks have a bolder and more picturesque aspect, while the abruptness of its slopes gives the appearance of greater altitude. Midway of Massanuttin a “gap” affords communication between Newmarket and Luray. This eastern or Luray valley, much narrower than the one west of Massanuttin, is drained by [137] the eastern branch of the Shenandoah, which, at Front Royal, at the northern end of the mountain, is joined by its western affluent, whence the united waters flow north, near the base of Blue Ridge, to meet the Potomac at Harper's Ferry.

The inhabitants of this favored region were worthy of their inheritance. The North and South were peopled by scions of colonial families, and the proud names of the “Old dominion” abounded. In the central counties of Rockingham and Shenandoah were many descendants of Hessians, captured at Trenton and Princeton during the Revolutionary era. These were thrifty, substantial farmers, and, like their kinsmen of Pennsylvania, expressed their opulence in huge barns and fat cattle. The devotion of all to the Southern cause was wonderful. Jackson, a Valley man by reason of his residence at Lexington (south of Staunton), was their hero and idol. The women sent husbands, sons, lovers to battle as cheerfully as to marriage feasts. No oppression, no destitution could abate their zeal. Upon a march I was accosted by two elderly ladies, sisters, who told me they had secreted a large quantity of bacon in a well on their estate, hard by. Federals had been in possession of the country, and, fearing the indiscretion of their slaves, they had done the work at night with their own hands, and now desired to give the meat to their own people. Wives and daughters of millers, whose husbands and brothers were in arms, worked the mills, night and day, to furnish flour to their soldiers. To the last, women would go distances to carry the modicum of food between themselves and starvAltior to a suffering Confederate. Should the sons of Virginia ever commit dishonorable acts, grim in iced will be their reception on the farther shores of Styx. They can expect no recognition from the mothers that bore them.

The year the war closed the Valley was ravaged with a cruelty surpassing that inflicted on the Palatinate two hundred years agone. That foul act smirched the fame of Dubois and Turenne and public opinion, in what has been deemed a ruder age, forced an apology from the grand “monarque.” Yet we have seen the report of a Federal General, wherein is recounted the many barns, mills, and other buildings destroyed, concluding with the assertion that “a crow flying over the Valley must take rations with him.” In the opinion of the admirers of the officer making [138] this report the achievement on which it is based ranks with “Marengo.” Moreover, this same officer (Lieutenant-General Sheridan), many years after the close of the war, denounced several hundred thousands of his fellow-citizens as “banditti,” and solicited permission of his Government to deal with them as such. May we not pause and reflect whether religion, education, science, and art combined have lessened the brutality of man since the days of Wallenstein and Tilly?


Of most of the important battles of the war I have written except of Shiloh, on which I purpose to dwell, but will first say a few words about Gettysburg, because of the many recent publications thereanent. Some facts concerning this battle are established beyond dispute. In the first day's fighting a part of Lee's army defeated a part of Meade's. Intending to continue the contest on that field, a commander, not smitten by idiocy, would desire to concentrate and push the advantage gained by the previous success and its resultant a “morale.” Instead of attacking at dawn, Lee's attack was postponed until the afternoon of the following day in consequence of the absence of Longstreet's corps. Federal official reports show that some of Meade's corps reached him on the second day several hours after sunrise, and one or two late in the afternoon. It is positively asserted by many officers present, and of high rank and character, that Longstreet, on the first day, was nearer to Lee than Meade's reinforcing corps to this commander, and even nearer than a division of Ewell's corps, which reached the ground in time to share in the first day's success. Now, it nowhere appears in Lee's report of Gettysburg that he ordered Longstreet to him or blamed him for tardiness; but his report admits errors, and quietly takes the responsibility for them on his own broad shoulders. A recent article in the public press, signed by General Longstreet, ascribes the failure at Gettysburg to Lee's mistakes, which he (Longstreet) in vain pointed out and remonstrated against. That any subject involving the possession and exercise of intellect should be clear to Longstreet and concealed from Lee is a startling proposition to those possessing knowledge of the two men. We have biblical authority for the story that the angel in the path was visible to the ass though invisible [139] to the seer, his master; but suppose that instead of smiting the honest, stupid animal, Balaam had caressed him and then been kicked by him, how would the story read? And thus much for Gettysburg.


Shiloh was a great misfortune. At the moment of his fall, Sidney Johnston, with all the energy of his nature, was pressing on the routed foe. Crouching under the bank of the Tennessee river, Grant was helpless. One short hour more of life to Johnston would have completed his destruction. The second in command-Beauregard — was on another and distant part of the field, and before he could gather the reins of direction, darkness fell and stopped the pursuit. During the night Buell reached the northern bank of the river and crossed his troops. Wallace, with a fresh division from below, got up. Together they advanced in the morning, found the Confederates rioting in the plunder of captured camps, and drove them back with loss. But all this was as nothing compared with the calamity of Johnston's death. Educated at West Point, Johnston remained in the United States Army for eight years, and acquired a thorough knowledge of the details of military duty. Resigning to aid the cause of the infant Republic of Texas, he became her adjutant-general, senior brigadier and Secretary at War. In the war with Mexico he raised a regiment of Texans to join General Zachary Taylor, and was greatly distinguished in the fighting around and capture of Monterey. General Taylor, with whom the early years of his service had been passed, declared him to be the best soldier he had ever commanded. More than once I have heard General Zachary Taylor express this opinion. Two cavalry regiments were added to the United States Army in 1854, and to the colonelcy of one of these Johnston was appointed. Subsequently, a brigadier by brevet, he commanded the expedition against the Mormons in Utah. Thus he brought to the Southern cause a civil and military experience far surpassing that of any other leader. Born in Kentucky, descended from an honorable colonial race, connected by marriage with influential families in the West, where his life had been passed, he was peculiarly fitted to command Western armies. With him at the helm, there would have been no Vicksburg, [140] no Missionary Ridge, no Atlanta. His character was lofty and pure; his presence and demeanor dignified and courteous, with the simplicity of a child, and he at once inspired the respect and gained the confidence of cultivated gentlemen and rugged frontiersmen. Besides, he had passed through the furnace of ignorant newspapers, hotter than that of the Babylonian tyrant. Commanding some raw, unequipped forces at Bowling Green, Kentucky, the accustomed American exaggeration represented him as at the head of a vast army, prepared and eager for conquest. Before time was given him to organize and train his men, the absurdly constructed works on his left flank were captured. At Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland, were certain political generals, who, with a self-abnegation worthy of Plutarch's heroes, were anxious to get away and leave the glory and renown of defense to others. Johnston was in no sense responsible for the construction of these forts nor the assignment to their command of these self-denying warriors, but his line of communication was uncovered by their fall and he was compelled to retire to the southern bank of the Tennessee river. From the enlighteners of public opinion a howl of wrath came forth. Johnston, who had just been Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Napoleon, was now a miserable dastard and traitor, unfit to command a corporal's guard. President Davis sought to console him, and the noblest lines ever penned by man were written by Johnston in reply. They even wrung tears of repentance from the pachyderms who had attacked him, and will be a text and consolation to future commanders who serve a country tolerant of an ignorant and licentious press. As pure gold he came forth from the furnace, above the reach of slander, the foremost man of all the South, and had it been possible for one heart, one mind, and one arm to save her cause, she lost them when Albert Sidney Johnston fell on the field of Shiloh. As soon after the war as she was permitted, the commonwealth of Texas removed his remains from New Orleans, to inter them in a land he had long and faithfully served. I was honored by a request to accompany the coffin from the cemetery to the steamer, and as I gazed upon it there arose the feeling of the Theban who, after the downfall of the glory and independence of his country, stood by the tomb of Epaminondas.

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