Glimpses of the Confederate army
Randolph H. Mckim, D. D., Late First Lieutenant, and A. D. C. 3d Brigade, Army of Northern Virginia
[This chapter was prepared by Dr. McKim
at the request of the Editors of the ‘Photographic History
of the Civil War
’ to describe the Confederate army from the standpoint of the individual and to bring out conditions under which the war was waged by that army, as well as to show the differences between those conditions and the life and activity of the Union
The following pages are written under the limitations imposed by these conditions.]
Writers on the Civil War
frequently speak of the Southern
army as ‘the Secession army.’
Yet the most illustrious leaders of that army, Robert E. Lee
, to name no more, were in fact opposed to secession; though when Virginia
at length withdrew from the Union
, they felt bound to follow her. I think it likely indeed that a very large proportion of the conspicuous and successful officers, and a like proportion also of the men who fought in the ranks of the Confederate armies were likewise originally Union men—opposed, at any rate, to the exercise of the right of secession, even if they believed that the right existed.
It will be remembered that months elapsed between the secession of the Gulf
States and that of the great border States, Virginia, North Carolina
, and Tennessee
, which furnished so large a proportion of the soldiers who fought for the Southern Confederacy.
But, on the 15th of April, 1861, an event occurred which instantly transformed those great States into Secession States—the proclamation of Abraham Lincoln
The drum-major of the first Virginia, April, 1861
C. R. M. Pohle of Richmond, Virginia, drum-major of the crack Richmond regiment, the First Virginia, presented a magnificent sight indeed, when this photograph was taken in April, 1861.
The Army of Northern Virginia did not find bands and bearskin hats preferable to food, and both the former soon disappeared, while the supply of the latter became only intermittent.
Bands, however, still played their part now and then in the Virginia men's fighting.
David Homer Bates records that when Early descended on Washington a scout reported to General Hardin at Fort Stevens: ‘The enemy are preparing to make a grand assault on this Fort to-night.
They are tearing down fences and are moving to the right, their bands playing.
Can't you hurry up the Sixth Corps?’
Many of the regiments raised among men of wealth and culture in the larger cities of the Confederacy were splendidly equipped at the outset of the war. Captain Alexander Duncan of the Georgia Hussars, of Savannah, is authority for the statement that the regiment spent $26,000 on its initial outfit.
He also adds that at the close of the war the uniforms of this company would have brought about twenty-five cents.|
upon them to furnish their quota of troops to coerce the seceded States back into the Union
Even the strongest Federalists, like Hamilton
, had, in the discussions in the Constitutional Convention, utterly repudiated and condemned the coercion of a State.
It was not strange, then, that the summons to take up arms and march against their Southern brethren, aroused deep indignation in these States, and instantly transformed them into secession states.
But for that proclamation, the Southern
army would not have been much more than half its size, and would have missed its greatest leaders.
A glance at its personnel will perhaps be instructive.
In its ranks are serving side by side the sons of the plain farmers, and the sons of the great landowners—the Southern
Not a few of the men who are carrying muskets or serving as troopers are classical scholars, the flower of the Southern
In an interval of the suspension of hostilities at the battle of Cold Harbor
, a private soldier lies on the ground poring over an Arabic grammar—it is Crawford H. Toy
, who is destined to become the famous professor of Oriental
languages at Harvard University.
In one of the battles in the Valley of Virginia
a volunteer aid of General John B. Gordon
is severely wounded—it is Basil L. Gildersleeve
, who has left his professor's chair at the University of Virginia to serve in the field.
He still lives (1911), wearing the laurel of distinction as the greatest Grecian
in the English-speaking world.
At the siege of Fort Donelson
, in 1862, one of the heroic captains who yields up his life in the trenches is the Reverend Dabney C. Harrison
, who raised a company in his own Virginia
parish, and entered the army at its head.
In the Southwest
a lieutenant-general falls in battle—it is General Leonidas Polk
, who laid aside his bishop's robes to become a soldier, having been educated to arms at West Point
It is a striking fact that when Virginia
threw in her lot with her Southern sisters in April, 1861, practically the whole body of students at her State University, 515 out of 530 who
were registered from the Southern States
, enlisted in the Confederate army.
This army thus represented the whole Southern people.
It was a self-levy en masse
of the male population in all save certain mountain regions in Virginia
, North Carolina
, and Georgia
One gets a perhaps new and surprising conception of the character of the rank and file of the Southern
army in such incidents as the following: Here are mock trials going on in the moot-court of a certain artillery company, and the discussions are pronounced by a competent authority ‘brilliant and powerful.’
Here is a group of privates in a Maryland infantry regiment in winter-quarter huts near Fairfax, Virginia
; and among the subjects discussed are the following: Vattel and Philmore on international law; Humboldt
's works and travels; the African explorations of Barth
; the influence of climate on the human features; the culture of cotton; the laws relating to property.
Here are some Virginia
privates in a howitzer company solemnly officiating at the burial of a tame crow; and the exercises include an English speech, a Latin oration, and a Greek ode!
These Confederate armies must present to the historian who accepts the common view that the South
was fighting for the perpetuation of the institution of slavery a difficult—in fact, an insoluble—problem.
How could such a motive explain the solidarity of the diverse elements that made up those armies?
The Southern planter might fight for his slaves; but why the poor white man, who had none?
How could slavery generate such devotion, such patient endurance, such splendid heroism, such unconquerable tenacity through four long years of painfully unequal struggle?
The world acknowledges the superb valor of the men who fought under the Southern Cross
—and the no less superb devotion of the whole people to the cause of the Confederacy
Colonel Theodore Roosevelt
has written, ‘The world has never seen better soldiers than those who followed Lee
has testified that ‘for steadiness and efficiency’ Lee
's army was unsurpassed in ancient or modern times.
‘We have not been able to rival it.’
And General Charles A. Whittier
has said, ‘The Army of Northern Virginia will deservedly rank as the best army which has existed on this continent, suffering privations unknown to its opponent.’
Nor is it credible that such valor and such devotion were inspired by the desire to hold their fellow men in slavery?
Is there any example of such a phenomenon in all the long records of history?
Consider, too, another fact for which the historians must assign a sufficient motive.
On the bronze tablets in the rotunda of the University of Virginia, memorializing the students who fell in the great war, there are upwards of five hundred names, and, of these, two hundred and thirty-three were still privates when they fell; so that, considering the number of promotions from the ranks, it is certain that far more than half of those alumni who gave up their lives for the Southern
cause, volunteered as private soldiers.
They did not wait for place or office, but unhesitatingly entered the ranks, with all the hardships that the service involved.
Probably no army ever contained more young men of high culture among its private soldiers—graduates in arts, in letters, in languages, in the physical sciences, in the higher mathematics, and in the learned professions—as the army that fought under the Southern Cross
And how cheerful—how uncomplaining—how gallant they were!
They marched and fought and starved, truly without reward.
Eleven dollars a month in Confederate paper was their stipend.
Flour and bacon and peanut-coffee made up their bill of fare.
The hard earth, or else three fence-rails, tilted up on end, was their bed, their knapsacks their pillows, and a flimsy blanket their covering.
The starry firmament was often their only tent.
Their clothing—--well, I cannot describe it. I can only say it was ‘a thing of shreds and patches,’ interspersed with rents.
A fine-looking group of Confederate officers
The officers in Camp at the east end of Sullivan's Island, near Charleston, illustrate forcibly Dr. McKim's description of the personnel of the Confederate army.
The preservation of the photograph is due to the care of the Washington Light Infantry of Charleston, S. C., in which these men were officers.
To the left stands M. Master, and in front of him are Lieutenant Wilkie, R. Choper, and Lieutenant Lloyd.
Facing them is Captain Simmonton, and the soldier shading his eyes with his hand is Gibbs Blackwood.
It is easy to see from their fine presence and bearing that these were among the many thousands of Southerners able to distinguish themselves in civil life who nevertheless sprang to bear arms in defense of their native soil.
‘In an interval of the suspension of hostilities at the battle of Cold Harbor,’ writes Randolph H. McKim in the text of this volume, ‘a private soldier lies on the ground poring over an Arabic grammar—it is Crawford H. Toy, who is destined to become the famous professor of Oriental languages at Harvard University.
In one of the battles in the Valley of Virginia, a volunteer aid of General John B. Gordon is severely wounded—it is Basil L. Gildersleeve, who has left his professor's chair at the University of Virginia to serve in the field.
He still lives (1911), wearing the laurel of distinction as the greatest Grecian in the English-speaking world.
At the siege of Fort Donelson, in 1862, one of the heroic captains who yields up his life in the trenches is the Reverend Dabney C. Harrison, who raised a company in his own Virginia parish and entered the army at its head.
In the Southwest a lieutenant-general falls in battle—it is General Leonidas Polk, who laid aside his bishop's robes to become a soldier in the field.’|
But this was not all. They had not even the reward which is naturally dear to a soldier's heart—I mean the due recognition of gallantry in action.
By a strange oversight there was no provision in the Confederate army for recognizing either by decoration or by promotion on the field, distinguished acts of gallantry.
No ‘Victoria Cross,’ or its equivalent, rewarded even the most desperate acts of valor.
Now with these facts before him, the historian will find it impossible to believe that these men drew their swords and did these heroic deeds and bore these incredible hardships for four long years for the sake of the institution of slavery.
Everyone who was conversant, as I was during the whole war, with the opinions of the soldiers of the Southern
army, knows that they did not wage that tremendous conflict for slavery.
That was a subject very little in their thoughts or on their lips.
Not one in twenty of those grim veterans, who were so terrible on the battlefield, had any financial interest in slavery.
No, they were fighting for liberty, for the right of self-government.
They believed the Federal
authorities were assailing that right.
It was the sacred heritage of Anglo-Saxon
freedom, of local self-government, won at Runnymede
, which they believed in peril when they flew to arms as one man, from the Potomac
to the Rio Grande
They may have been right, or they may have been wrong, but that was the issue they made.
On that they stood.
For that they died.
Not until this fact is realized by the student of the great war will he have the solution of the problem which is presented by the qualities of the Confederate
The men who made up that army were not soldiers of fortune, but soldiers of duty, who dared all that men can dare, and endured all that man can endure, in obedience to what they believed the sacred call of Country.
They loved their States; they loved their homes and their firesides; they were no politicians; many of them knew little of the warring theories of Constitutional interpretation.
But one thing they knew—armed legions were
Talented young volunteers under the Southern cross in the first year of the war
There is an artist among the young Confederate volunteers, judging from the device on the tent, and the musicians are betrayed by the violin and bugle.
This photograph of 1861 is indicative of the unanimity with which the young men of the South took up the profession of arms.
An expensive education, music, art, study abroad, a knowledge of modern and ancient languages—none of these was felt an excuse against enlisting in the ranks, if no better opportunity offered.
As the author of the accompanying article recalls: ‘When Virginia threw in her lot with her Southern sisters in April, 1861, practically the whole body of students at her State University, 515 out of 530 men who were registered from the Southern States, enlisted in the Confederate army.
This army thus represented the whole Southern people.
It was a self-levy en masse of the male population.’
The four men in the foreground of the photograph are H. H. Williams, Jr., S. B. Woodberry, H. I. Greer, and Sergeant R. W. Greer of the Washington Light Infantry of Charleston, S. C.|
marching upon their homes, and it was their duty to hurl them back at any cost!
Such were the private soldiers of the Confederacy
as I knew them.
Not for fame or for glory, not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity, but, in simple obedience to duty as they understood it, these men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all—and died!
I would like to add a statement which doubtless will appear paradoxical, but which my knowledge of those men, through many campaigns, and on many fields, and in many camps, gives me, I think, the right to make with confidence, viz.: the dissolution of the Union was not what the Southern soldier had chiefly at heart.
The establishment of the Southern Confederacy was not, in his mind, the supreme issue of the conflict.
Both the one and the other were secondary to the preservation of the sacred right of selfgovern-ment.
They were means to the end, not the end itself
I place these statements here in this explicit manner because I believe they must be well considered by the student of the war, in advance of all questions of strategy, or tactics, or political policy, or racial characteristics, as explanatory of what the Confederate armies achieved in the campaigns and battles of the titanic struggle.
The spirit—the motives—the aims—of the Southern
soldier constituted the moral lever that, more than anything else, controlled his actions and accounted for his achievements.
A conspicuous feature of this Southern army is its Americanism.
Go from Camp to camp, among the infantry, the cavalry, the artillery, and you are impressed with the fact that these men are, with very few exceptions, Americans
Here and there you will encounter one or two Irishmen.
tells a story of a most amusing encounter between two gigantic Irishmen at the battle of Gettysburg
—the one a Federal Irishman, a prisoner, and the other a Rebel Irishman, private in the Ninth Louisiana—a duel with fists in the midst
Officers of the Washington artillery of New Orleans
This photograph shows officers of the Fifth Company, Washington Artillery of New Orleans, in their panoply of war, shortly before the battle of Shiloh.
On the following page is a photograph of members of the same organization as they looked after passing through the four terrible years.
Nor were such force and ability as show in the expressions of these officers lacking in the gray-clad ranks.
‘And how cheerful—how uncomplaining—how gallant they were!’
Dr. McKim records. ‘They had not even the reward which is naturally dear to a soldier's heart—I mean the due recognition of gallantry in action.
By a strange oversight there was no provision in the Confederate army for recognizing, either by decoration or by promotion on the field, distinguishing acts of gallantry.
No “Victoria Cross,” or its equivalent, rewarded even the most desperate acts of valor.’
But brave men need no such artificial incentive to defend their homes.|
of the roar of the battle!
Very, very rarely you will meet a German, like that superb soldier, Major Von Borcke
, who so endeared himself to ‘Jeb
But these exceptions only accentuate the broad fact that the Confederate army was composed almost exclusively of Americans
That throws some light on its achievements, does it not?
I think the visitor to the Confederate
camps would also be struck by the spirit of bonhommie
which so largely prevailed.
These ‘Johnnie Rebs,’ in their gray uniforms (which, as the war went on, changed in hue to butternut brown) are a jolly lot. They have a dry, racy humor of their own which breaks out on the least provocation.
I have often heard them cracking jokes on the very edge of battle.
They were soldier boys
to the bitter end!
, in his report, describing the dark and difficult night-passage of the Potomac
on the retreat from Gettysburg
, says, ‘All the circumstances attending this crossing combined to make it an affair not only involving great hardship, but one of great danger to the men and company officers; but, be it said to the honor of these brave fellows, they encountered it not only promptly, but actually with cheers and laughter.’
On the other hand, some from the remote country districts were like children away from home.
They could not get used to it—and often they drooped, and sickened and died, just from nostalgia
. In many of the regiments during the first six months or more of the war, there were negro cooks, but as time went on these disappeared, except in the officers' mess.
Among the Marylanders, where my service lay, it was quite different.
We had to do our own cooking.
Once a week, I performed that office for a mess of fifteen hungry men. At first we lived on ‘slapjacks’—almost as fatal as Federal bullets!—and fried bacon; but by degrees we learned to make biscuits, and on one occasion my colleague in the culinary business and I created an apple pie, which the whole mess
‘These ‘Johnnie Rebs’ are a jolly lot’
This quotation from the accompanying text is thoroughly illustrated by the photograph reproduced above.
It was taken in 1861 by J. D. Edwards, a pioneer camera-man of New Orleans, within the Barbour sand-batteries, near the lighthouse in Pensacola harbor.
Nor was the Confederate good humor merely of the moment.
Throughout the war, the men in gray overcame their hardships by a grim gaiety that broke out on the least provocation—at times with none at all as when, marching to their armpits in icy water, for lack of bridges they invented the term ‘Confederate pontoons’ in derision of the Federal engineering apparatus.
Or while a Federal brigade magnificently led—and clad—swept on to the charge, the ragged line in gray, braced against the assault, would crackle into amazing laughter with shouts of ‘Bring on those good breeches!’
Hey, Yank, might as well hand me your coat now as later!|
considered a chef d'oeuvre
! May I call your attention to those ramrods wrapped round with dough and set up on end before the fire?
The cook turns them from time to time, and, when well browned, he withdraws the ramrod, and, lo!
a loaf of bread, three feet long and hollow from end to end.
The general aspect of the Confederate
camps compared unfavorably with those of the men in blue.
They were not, as a rule, attractive in appearance.
The tents and Camp equipage were nothing like so ‘smart,’ so spick and span—very far from it, indeed!
Our engineer corps were far inferior, lacking in proper tools and equipment.
The sappers and miners of the Federal
army on Cemetery Hill
, at Gettysburg
, did rapid and effective work during the night following the first day's battle, as they had previously done at Chancellorsville
—work which our men could not begin to match.
When we had to throw up breastworks in the field, as at Hagerstown
, after Gettysburg
, it had usually to be done with our bayonets.
Spades and axes were luxuries at such times.
Bands of music were rare, and generally of inferior quality; but the men made up for it as far as they could by a gay insouciance
, and by singing in Camp and on the march.
I have seen the men of the First Maryland Infantry trudging wearily through mud and rain, sadly bedraggled by a long march, strike up with great gusto their favorite song, ‘Gay
So let the wide world wag as it will,
We'll be gay and happy still.
The contrast between the sentiment of the song and the environment of the column was sufficiently striking.
In one respect, I think, our camps had the advantage of the Union
camps—we had no sutlers, and we had no camp-followers.
But though our Camp equipage and equipment were so inferior to those of our antagonists, I do not think any experienced soldier, watching our marching columns of infantry or cavalry, or witnessing our brigade drills, could fail to be
Confederate types—‘gay and happy still’
A conspicuous feature of the Southern army was its Americanism.
In every camp, among the infantry, the cavalry and the artillery, the men were, with few exceptions, Americans.
In spite of deprivations, the men were light-hearted; given a few days' rest and feeding, they abounded in fun and jocularity and were noted for indulgence in a species of rough humor which found suggestion in the most trivial incidents, and was often present in the midst of the most tragical circumstances.
In so representative a body the type varied almost as did the individual; the home sentiment, however, pervaded the mass and was the inspiration of its patriotism—sectional, provincial, call it what you will.
This was true even in the ranks of those knighterrants from beyond the border: Missourians, Kentuckians, Marylanders.
The last were name worthy sons of the sires who had rendered the old ‘Maryland Line’ of the Revolution of 1776 illustrious, and, looking toward their homes with the foe arrayed between as a barrier, they always cherished the hope of some day reclaiming those homes—when the war should be over.
To many of them the war was over long before Appomattox—when those who had ‘struck the first blow in Baltimore’ also delivered ‘the last in Virginia.’
To the very end they never failed to respond to the call of duty, and were — to quote their favorite song, sung around many a camp-fire—‘Gay and Happy Still.’|
thrilled by the spectacle they presented.
Here at least, there was no inferiority to the army in blue.
The soldierly qualities that tell on the march, and on the field of battle, shone out here conspicuously.
A more impressive spectacle has seldom been seen in any war than was presented by ‘Jeb
's brigades of cavalry when they passed in review before General Lee
at Brandy Station
in June, 1863.
The pomp and pageantry of gorgeous uniforms and dazzling equipment of horse and riders were indeed absent; but splendid horsemanship, and that superb esprit de corps
that marks the veteran legion, and which, though not a tangible or a visible thing, yet stamps itself upon a marching column-these were unmistakably here.
And I take leave to express my own individual opinion that the blue-gray coat of the Confederate officer, richly adorned with gold lace, and his light-blue trousers, and that rakish slouchhat he wore made up a uniform of great beauty.
Oh, it was a gallant array to look upon—that June day, so many years ago!
When our infantry soldiers came to a river, unless it was a deep one, we had to cross it on ‘Confederate pontoons,’ i. e., by marching right through in column of fours.
This, I remember, we did twice on one day on the march from Culpeper
at the opening of the Gettysburg campaign
Among the amusements in camp, card-playing was of course included; seven--up and vingt-et-un, I believe, were popular.
And the pipe was ‘Johnnie Reb
's’ frequent solace.
His tobacco, at any rate, was the real thing—genuine, no makebelieve, like his coffee.
Often there were large gatherings of the men, night after night, attending prayer-meetings, always with preaching added, for there was a strong religious tone in the Army of Northern Virginia. One or two remarkable revivals took place, notably in the winter of 1863-64.
It seems to me, as I look back, that one of the characteristics which stood out strongly in the Confederate army was the independence and the initiative of the individual soldier.
The private soldier of the Confederacy
This photograph shows the private soldier of the Confederacy ‘at home’ early in 1862.
The men are members of the Washington Artillery, the crack New Orleans organization.
They were dandies as compared with most of the volunteers.
On the mess-tent to the left, the sign announces that Hemming's mess consists of Sergeant Hemming and Privates Knight, Hoerner, and Potthoft.
Even at this date there was no such commissary organization as in the North.
The individuality of the Southern soldier was shown in the absence of anything like company kitchens, each mess preparing its rations to suit its own fancy, and according to what might be its special resources or luck in foraging on the road.
And when the fierce struggle had swept down the rivers and closed the ports, the Confederates ‘marched and fought,’ to quote Dr. McKim, ‘and starved truly without reward.
Eleven dollars a month in Confederate paper was their stipend.
Flour and bacon and peanut coffee made up their bill of fare.
The hard earth or else three fence-rails, tilted up on end, was their bed; their knapsacks, their pillows; and a flimsy blanket their covering.
The starry firmament was often their only tent.
Their clothing—well, I cannot describe it. I can only say it was ‘a thing of shreds and patches’ interspersed with rents.’
It would have been a better army in the field if it had been welded together by a stricter discipline; but this defect was largely atoned for by the strong individuality of the units in the column.
It was not easy to demoralize a body composed of men who thought for themselves and acted in a spirit of independence in battle.
It was a characteristic of the Confederate
soldier—I do not say he alone possessed it—that he never considered himself discharged of his duty to the colors by any wound, however serious, so long as he could walk, on crutches or otherwise.
Look at that private in the Thirty-seventh Virginia Infantry—he has been hit by a rifle-ball, which, striking him full between the eyes, has found its way somehow through and emerged at the back of his head.
But there he is in the ranks again, carrying his musket—while a deep depression, big enough to hold a good sized marble, marks the spot where the bullet entered in its futile attempt to make this brave fellow give up his service with the Confederate
Look at Captain Randolph Barton
, of another Virginia
He is living to-day (1911) with just about one dozen scars on his body.
He would be wounded; get well; return to duty, and in the very next battle be shot again!
Look at that gallant old soldier, General Ewell
Like his brave foeman, General Sickles
, he has lost his leg, but that cannot keep him home; he continues to command one of Lee
's corps to the very end at Appomattox
Look at Colonel Snowden Andrews
At Cedar Mountain
, in August, 1862, a shell literally nearly cut him in two; but by a miracle he did not die; and in June, 1863, there he is again commanding his artillery battalion!
He is bowed crooked by that awful wound; he cannot stand upright any more, but still he can fight like a lion.
As you walk through the camps, you will see many of the men busily polishing their muskets and their bayonets with wood ashes well moistened.
‘Bright muskets’ and ‘tattered uniforms’ went together in the Army of Northern Virginia.
Confederates who served the guns members of the famous Washington artillery of New Orleans
The young men of the cities and towns very generally chose the artillery branch of the service for enlistment; thus, New Orleans sent five batteries, fully equipped, into the field—the famous Washington Artillery—besides some other batteries; and the city of Richmond, which furnished but one regiment of infantry and a few separate companies, contributed no less than eight or ten full batteries.
Few of the minor towns but claimed at least one.
The grade of intelligence of the personnel was rather exceptionally high, so that the artillery came in time to attain quite a respectable degree of efficiency, especially after the objectionable system under which each battery was attached to an infantry brigade, subject to the orders of its commander, was abolished and the battery units became organized into battalions and corps commanded by officers of their own arm. The Confederate artillery arm was less fortunate than the infantry in the matter of equipment, of course.
From start to finish it was under handicap by reason of its lack of trained officers, no less than from the inferiority of its material, ordnance, and ammunition alike.
The batteries of the regular establishment were, of course, all in the United States service, commanded and served by trained gunners, and were easily distributed among the volunteer ‘brigades’ by way of ‘stiffening’ to the latter.
This disparity was fully recognized by the Confederates and had its influence in the selection of more than one battle-ground in order that it might be neutralized by the local conditions, yet the service was very popular in the Southern army.|
, the historian of the Army of the Potomac, exclaims, ‘Who can ever forget, that once looked upon it, that army of tattered uniforms and bright muskets, that body of incomparable infantry, the Army of Northern Virginia, which for four years carried the revolt on their bayonets, opposing a constant front to the mighty concentration of power brought against it; which, receiving terrible blows, did not fail to give the like, and which, vital in all its parts, died only with its annihilation.’
Apropos of muskets, you will observe that a large portion of those in the hands of the Confederate
soldiers are stamped ‘U. S. A.
’; and when you visit the artillery camps you will note that the three-inch rifles, the Napoleons, and the Parrott guns, were most of them ‘Uncle Sam's’ property, captured in battle; and when you inspect the cavalry you will find, after the first year, that the Southern
troops are armed with sabers captured from the Federals
During the first year, before the blockade became stringent, Whitworth
guns were brought in from abroad.
But that soon stopped, and we had to look largely to ‘Uncle Sam’ for our supply.
We used to say in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign
, of 1862, that General Banks
was General Jackson
's quartermaster-general—yes, and his chief ordnance officer, too. General Shields
was another officer to whom we were much indebted for artillery and small arms, and later General Pope
But these sources of equipment sometimes failed us, and so it came to pass that some of our regiments were but poorly armed even in our best brigades.
For instance the Third Brigade in Ewell
's corps, one of the best-equipped brigades in the army, entered the Gettysburg campaign
with 1,941 men present for
The only known photograph of Texas boys in the army of Northern Virginia
This group of the sturdy pioneers from Texas, heroes of many a wild charge over the battlefields of Virginia, has adopted as winter-quarters insignia the words ‘Wigfall Mess,’ evidently in honor of General Wigfall, who came to Virginia in command of the Texas contingent.
The general was fond of relating an experience to illustrate the independence and individuality of his ‘boys.’
In company with Major-General Whiting he was walking near the railroad station at Manassas, and, according to wont, had been ‘cracking up’ his ‘Lone Star’ command, when they came upon a homespun-clad soldier comfortably seated with his back against some baled hay, his musket leaned against the same, and contentedly smoking a pipe.
The two officers passed with only the recognition of a stare from the sentry, and Whiting satirically asked Wigfall if that was one of his people, adding that he did not seem to have been very well instructed as to his duty.
To his surprise the Texan general then addressed the soldier: ‘What are you doing here, my man?’
‘Nothina much,’ replied the man; ‘jes' kinder takina care of this hyar stuff.’
‘Do you know who I am, sir?’
asked the general.
‘Wall, now, 'pears like I know your face, but I can't jes' call your name—who is you?’
‘I'm General Wigfall,’ with some emphasis.
Without rising from his seat or removing his pipe, the sentry extended his hand: ‘Gin'ral, I'm pleased to meet you—my name's Jones.’
Less than a year later, this same man was probably among those who stormed the Federal entrenchments at Gaines' Mill, of whom ‘Stonewall’ Jackson said, on the field after the battle: ‘The men who carried this position were soldiers indeed!’|
duty, but only 1,480 muskets and 1,069 bayonets.
But this was not all, or the worst.
Our artillery ammunition was inferior to that of our antagonists, which was a great handicap to our success.
When General Alexander
's chief of artillery at Gettysburg
, was asked why he ceased firing when Pickett
's infantry began its charge—why he did not continue shelling the Federal
lines over the heads of the advancing Confederate column; he replied that his ammunition was so defective, he could not calculate with any certainty where the shells would explode; they might explode among Pickett
's men, and so demoralize rather than support them.
It will help the reader to realize the inequality in arms and equipment between the two armies to watch a skirmish between some of Sheridan
's cavalry and a regiment of Fitzhugh Lee
. Observe that the Federal
cavalryman fires his rifle seven times without reloading, while the horseman in gray opposed to him fires but once, and then lowers his piece to reload.
One is armed with the Spencer repeating rifle; the other with the old Sharp
In another engagement (at Winchester
, September 19, 1864), see that regiment of mounted men give way in disorder before the assault of Sheridan
's cavalry, and dash back through the infantry.
Are these men cowards?
No, but they are armed with long cumbrous rifles utterly unfit for mounted men, or with double-barreled shotguns, or old squirrel-rifles.
What chance has a regiment thus armed, and also miserably mounted, against those well-armed, well-equipped, wellmounted, and well-disciplined Federal cavalrymen?3
Another feature of the conditions prevailing in the Confederate army may be here noted.
Look at Lee
's veterans as
Amusements in a Confederate camp—1864
This Camp of Confederate pickets on Stono Inlet near Charleston, S. C., was photographed by George S. Cook, the same artist who risked his life taking photographs of Fort Sumter.
It illustrates the soldiers' methods of entertaining themselves when time lay heavy on their hands.
Among the amusements in camp, card-playing was of course included.
‘Seven-up’ and ‘Vingt-et-un’ were popular.
And the pipe was ‘Johnnie Reb's’ frequent solace.
His tobacco, at any rate, was the real thing—genuine, no make-believe, like his coffee.
Often one might see large gatherings of the men night after night attending prayer-meetings, always with preaching added, for there was a strong religious tone among Southern soldiers, especially in the Army of Northern Virginia. One or two remarkable revivals took place, notably in the winter of 1863-64.
That this photograph was taken early in the war is indicated by the presence of the Negroes.
The one with an axe seems about to chop firewood for the use of the cooks.
A little later, ‘Johnnie Reb’ considered himself fortunate if he had anything to cook.|
they march into Pennsylvania
, in June, 1863.
See how many of them are barefooted-literally hundreds in a single division.
The great battle of Gettysburg
was precipitated because General Heth
had been informed that he could get shoes in that little town for his barefooted men!
These hardships became more acute as the war advanced, and the resources of the South
were gradually exhausted, while at the same time the blockade became so effective that her ports were hermetically sealed against the world.
With what grim determination the Confederate
soldier endured cold and nakedness and hunger I need not attempt to describe, but there was a trial harder than all these to endure, which came upon him in the fourth year of the war. Letters began to arrive from home telling of food scarcity on his little farm or in the cabin where he had left his wife and children.
Brave as the Southern
women were, rich and poor alike, they could not conceal altogether from their husbands the sore straits in which they found themselves.
Many could not keep back the cry: ‘What am I to do?
Food is hard to get. There is no one to put in the crop.
God knows how I am to feed the children!’
So a strain truly terrible was put upon the loyalty of the private soldier.
He was almost torn asunder between love for his wife and children and fidelity to the flag under which he was serving.
What wonder if hundreds, perhaps thousands, in those early spring months of 1865, gave way under the pressure, slipped out of the Confederate
ranks, and went home to put in the crop for their little families, meaning to return to the colors as soon as that was done!
Technically, they were deserters, but not in the heart or faith, poor fellows!
Still, for Lee
's army the result was disastrous.
It was seen in the thinning ranks that opposed Grant
's mighty host, week after week.
This is the South
's explanation of the fact, which the records show, that while at the close of the war there were over a million men under arms in the Federal
armies, the aggregate of the Confederates
was but 133,433.
How could an army so poorly equipped, so imperfectly armed, so ill fed and ill clothed, win out in a contest with an army so vastly its superior in numbers and so superbly armed and equipped?4
How could an agricultural people, unskilled in the mechanical arts, therefore unable to supply properly its armies with munitions and clothing, prevail against a great, rich, manufacturing section like the North
, whose foreign and domestic trade had never been so prosperous as during the great war it was waging from 1861 to 1865?
Remember, also, that by May, 1862, the armies of the Union
were in permanent occupancy of western
and middle Tennessee
, of nearly the whole of Louisiana
, of parts of Florida
, of the coast of North
and South Carolina
and of southeastern, northern, and western Virginia
Now, the population thus excluded from the support of the Confederacy
amounted to not less than 1,200,000.
It follows that, for the last three years of the war, the unequal contest was sustained by about 3,800,000 Southern whites with their slaves against the vast power of the Northern States
And yet none of these considerations furnishes the true explanation of the failure of the Confederate armies to establish the Confederacy
It was not superior equipment.
It was not alone the iron will of Grant
, or the strategy of Sherman
A power mightier than all these held the South
by the throat and slowly strangled its army and its people.
That power was Sea Power.
The Federal navy, not the Federal
army, conquered the South
‘In my opinion,’ said Field
-Marshal Viscount Wolseley
, in a private letter to me, dated November 12, 1904, ‘in my opinion, as a student of war, the Confederates
must have won,
A future historian, while history was in the making—1864
In the center of this group, taken before Petersburg, in August, 1864, sits Captain Charles Francis Adams, Jr., then of the First Massachusetts Cavalry, one of the historians referred to in the text accompanying.
In his oration on General Lee, delivered October 30, 1901, Captain Adams vigorously maintains that the Union was saved not so much by the victories of its armies as by the material exhaustion of the Confederacy; a view ably elaborated by Hilary A. Herbert, former colonel of the Confederate States Army, in an address delivered while Secretary of the Navy, at the War College in 1896.
A quotation from it appears on page 88, of Volume I, of the photographic history.
In the picture above, the officer on Captain Adams' left is Lieutenant G. H. Teague; on his right is Captain E. A. Flint.
The fine equipment of these officers illustrates the advantage the Northern armies enjoyed through their splendid and never-failing system of supplies.
The First Massachusetts was in active service at the front throughout the war and the conditions that Captain Adams actually witnessed afford a most direct basis for the truth of his conclusions.|
had the blockade of the Southern
ports been removed by us. . . . It was the blockade of your ports that killed the Southern Confederacy, not the action of the Northern
Compare with this mature opinion of the accomplished English soldier the words of Honorable Hugh McCulloch
, one of Lincoln
's Secretaries of the Treasury
. ‘It was the blockade that isolated the Confederate States
and caused their exhaustion.
If the markets of Europe
had been open to them for the sale of their cotton and tobacco, and the purchase of supplies for their armies, their subjugation would have been impossible.
It was not by defeats in the field that the Confederates
were overcome, but by the exhaustion resulting from their being shut up within their own domain, and compelled to rely upon themselves and their own production.
Such was the devotion of the people to their cause, that the war would have been successfully maintained, if the blockade had not cut off all sources of supply and bankrupted their treasury.’
Again he says: ‘It must be admitted that the Union
was not saved by the victories of its armies, but by the exhaustion of its enemies.’
Charles Francis Adams
, in his oration on General Lee
, vigorously maintains the same view, and Colonel Hilary A. Herbert
, while Secretary of the Navy
, delivered an elaborate address in 1896, in which he demonstrated the correctness of that interpretation of the true cause of the failure of the South
In concluding, I may recall the well-known fact that the men in gray and the men in blue, facing each other before Petersburg
, fraternized in those closing months of the great struggle.
A Confederate officer, aghast at finding one night the trenches on his front deserted, discovered his men were all over in the Federal
trenches, playing cards.
The rank and file had made a truce till a certain hour!