Chapter 2: deeds of valor
's stirring poem was suggested by a newspaper account of the ringing retort made by General Kearny
to a colonel.
The military historian, John C. Ropes
, writing of the battle at Chantilly
, September 1, 1862, says: ‘the gallant Kearny
also was killed, while reconnoitering in front of his troops; a loss which was very deeply felt.
He was a man who was made for the profession of arms.
In the field he was always ready, always skilful, always brave, always untiring, always hopeful, and always vigilant and alert.’
So that soldierly legend is still on its journey,—
That story of Kearny who knew not to yield!
'Twas the day when with Jameson, fierce Berry, and Birney,
Against twenty thousand he rallied the field.
Where the red volleys poured, where the clamor rose highest,
Where the dead lay in clumps through the dwarf oak and pine,
Where the aim from the thicket was surest and nighest,—
No charge like Phil Kearny's along the whole line.
When the battle went ill, and the bravest were solemn,
Near the dark Seven Pines, where we still held our ground,
He rode down the length of the withering column,
And his heart at our war-cry leapt up with a bound;
He snuffed, like his charger, the wind of the powder,—
His sword waved us on and we answered the sign;
Loud our cheer as we rushed, but his laugh rang the louder.
‘There's the devil's own fun, boys, along the whole line!’
How he strode his brown steed!
How we saw his blade brighten
In the one hand still left,—and the reins in his teeth!
He laughed like a boy when the holidays heighten,
But a soldier's glance shot from his visor beneath.
Up came the reserves to the mellay infernal,
Asking where to go in,—through the clearing or pine?
Forward! 'Tis all the same, Colonel:
You'll find lovely fighting along the whole line!’
Kearny—‘how we saw his blade brighten’
In Brigadier-General Philip Kearny, Stedman selected as the hero of his poem one of the most dashing veteran soldiers in the Civil War. He had entered the army in 1838, at the age of twenty-two, but soon went to France to study cavalry methods.
After several months in the school at Saumur he entered the French service and fought with conspicuous gallantry along with veterans of Napoleon in the Arab war against Abd-el-Kader that won Algeria to France.
In the American-Mexican War, at the close of the battle of Churubusco, he made a charge into Mexico City, during which he received a wound that necessitated the amputation of an arm. His love of fighting led him across the Atlantic in 1859 to take part in the Italian War against the Austrians.
His bravery at Magenta and elsewhere won him the cross of the Legion of Honor.
At the outbreak of the Civil War he returned—to his death.|
Oh, evil the black shroud of night at Chantilly,
That hid him from sight of his brave men and tried!
Foul, foul sped the bullet that clipped the white lily,
The flower of our knighthood, the whole army's pride!
Yet we dream that he still,—in that shadowy region
Where the dead form their ranks at the wan drummer's sign,—
Rides on, as of old, down the length of his legion,
And the word still is ‘Forward!’ along the whole line.
The following poem was suggested by General Pleasonton
's article in the century, which is reprinted in battles and leaders, III, 172 ff.
the charge has been the subject of a good deal of controversy, which may be followed in battles and leaders, III, 186 ff.
The sun had set;
The leaves with dew were wet:
Down fell a bloody dusk
On the woods, that second of May,
Where Stonewall's corps, like a beast of prey,
Tore through with angry tusk.
‘They've trapped us, boys!’
Rose from our flank a voice.
With a rush of steel and smoke
On came the rebels straight,
Eager as love and wild as hate;
And our line reeled and broke;
Broke and fled.
Not one stayed—but the dead!
With curses, shrieks, and cries,
Horses and wagons and men
Tumbled back through the shuddering glen,
And above us the fading skies.
Kearny's men after the battle of Fair Oaks
This photograph directly illustrates Stedman's poem.
It is June, 1862.
Men of Kearny's brigade, one seated, others standing and sitting by, are gathered before the Widow Allen's house, now used as a hospital after those bloody days, May 31st and June 1st—the battle of Fair Oaks or Seven Pines.
McClellan had advanced up the Peninsula to within five miles of Richmond.
About noon of May 31st the Confederate attack on the Union troops about Seven Pines threatened to become heavy, but the message for reinforcements did not reach the commanding officer in the rear till three o'clock. General Kearny was sent forward.
He thus reports: ‘On arriving at the field of battle we found certain zigzag rifle-pits sheltering crowds of men, and the enemy firing from abatis and timber in their front.
General Casey remarked to me on coming up, “If you will regain our late camp, the day will still be ours.”
I had but the Third Michigan up, but they moved forward with alacrity, dashing into the felled timber, and commenced a desperate but determined contest, heedless of the shell and ball which rained upon them. . . . I directed General Berry [with the Fifth Michigan] to turn the slashings and, fighting, gain the open ground on the enemy's right flank.
This was perfectly accomplished.
The Thirty-seventh New York was arranged in column to support the attack.
Its services in the sequel proved invaluable.
In the meanwhile my remaining brigade, the One hundred and fifth and Sixty-third Pennsylvania, came up, under General Jameson. . . . Eight companies of the Sixty-third Pennsylvania, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Morgan and most spiritedly headed by General Jameson, aided by his daring chief of staff, Captain Potter, were pushed through the abatis (the portions never until now occupied by us), and nobly repelled a strong body of the enemy, who, though in a strong line and coming up rapidly and in order, just failed to reach to support this position in time, but who, nothing daunted and with a courage worthy a united cause, halted in battle array and poured in a constant heavy roll of musketry fire.’|
There's one hope, still—
Those batteries parked on the hill!
‘Battery, wheel!’ ('mid the roar)
‘Pass pieces; fix prolonge to fire
Trot!’ In the panic dire
A bugle rings ‘Trot!’—and no more.
The horses plunged,
The cannon lurched and lunged,
To join the hopeless rout.
But suddenly rode a form
Calmly in front of the human storm,
With a stern, commanding shout:
‘Align those guns!’
(We knew it was Pleasonton's.)
The cannoneers bent to obey,
And worked with a will at his word:
And the black guns moved as if they had heard.
But, ah, the dread delay!
‘To wait is crime;
O God, for ten minutes time!’
The General looked around.
There Keenan sat, like a stone,
With his three hundred horse alone,
Less shaken than the ground.
‘Major, your men?’
‘Are soldiers, General.’ ‘Then
Do your best;
Hold the enemy back at all cost,
Till my guns are placed;—else the army is lost.
You die to save the rest!’
By the shrouded gleam of the western skies,
Brave Keenan looked into Pleasonton's eyes
For an instant-clear, and cool, and still;
Then, with a smile, he said: ‘I will.’
Battery at “action front.”
The pictures of the battery at ‘action front’ and of the Germanna Plank Road as seen from the hill near the Lacy house, recall vividly the two notable events of Chancellorsville that form the theme of Lathrop's poem.
On May 2, 1863, ‘Stonewall’ Jackson had marched around the right flank of the Union army and late in the afternoon had fallen with terrific force upon Howard's (Eleventh) Corps, driving it along in confusion.
Pleasonton had started out at four o'clock to pursue the Confederate wagon-train, since Jackson was supposed to be in retreat for Gordonsville, but about six he discovered that his force was needed to repel an attack.
His official report runs: |
I immediately ordered the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry to proceed at a gallop, attack the rebels, and check the attack at any cost until we could get ready for them.
This service was splendidly performed, but with heavy loss, and I gained some fifteen minutes to bring Martin's battery into position facing the woods, to reverse a battery of your corps, to detach some cavalry to stop runaways, and to secure more guns from our retreating forces. . . . Time was what we most wanted.
Fortunately, I succeeded, before the advancing columns of the enemy came in sight, in placing twenty-two pieces of artillery in position, double-shotted with canister, and bearing on the direction the rebels were pursuing.
To support this force, I had two small squadrons of cavalry, ready to charge upon any attempt made to take the guns.
My position was upon the extreme left of the line of the Eleventh Corps, and as it recoiled from the fierce onset of the rebels through and over my guns, it was soon apparent we must meet the shock.
In rear of the Eleventh Corps the rebels came on rapidly, but now in silence. . . . I ordered all the guns to fire as they were advancing.
This terrible discharge staggered them and threw the heads of their columns back on the woods, from which they opened a tremendous fire of musketry, bringing up fresh forces constantly, and striving to advance as fast as they we were swept back by our guns. In another place he adds:
Suspecting that they might play the trick of having their men lie down, draw the fire of artillery, then jump up and charge before the pieces could be reloaded, I poured in the canister for about twenty minutes, and the affair was over.
The Germanna Plank road in 1864
‘Where ‘Stonewall's’ Corps, like a beast of prey tore through with angry tusk’|
‘Cavalry, charge!’ Not a man of them shrank.
Their sharp, full cheer, from rank to rank,
Rose joyously, with a willing breath—
Rose like a greeting hail to death.
Then forward they sprang, and spurred, and clashed;
Shouted the officers, crimson-sashed;
Rode well the men, each brave as his fellow,
In their faded coats of the blue and yellow;
And above in the air, with an instinct true,
Like a bird of war their pennon flew.
With clank of scabbards and thunder of steeds
And blades that shine like sunlit reeds,
And strong brown faces bravely pale
For fear their proud attempt shall fail,
Three hundred Pennsylvanians close
On twice ten thousand gallant foes.
Line after line the troopers came
To the edge of the wood that was ring'd with flame;
Rode in, and sabred, and shot—and fell;
Nor came one back his wounds to tell.
And full in the midst rose Keenan tall
In the gloom, like a martyr awaiting his fall, While the circle-stroke of his sabre, swung
'Round his head, like a halo there, luminous hung.
Line after line—aye, whole platoons,
Struck dead in their saddles, of brave dragoons
By the maddened horses were onward borne
And into the vortex flung, trampled and torn;
As Keenan fought with his men, side by side.
So they rode, till there were no more to ride.
But over them, lying there shattered and mute,
What deep echo rolls?—'Tis a death-salute
From the cannon in place; for, heroes, you braved
Your fate not in vain; the army was saved!
Over them now—year following year—
Over their graves the pine-cones fall,
And the whippoorwill chants his spectre-call;
But they stir not again: they raise no cheer:
They have ceased.
But their glory shall never cease,
‘So they rode, till there were no more to ride’: the Chancellorsville battlefield, where had swept on May 2, 1863
Across this spot swept the charge of the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry, celebrated in Lathrop's lines.
Major Pennock Huey thus reported the affair: ‘We moved off briskly to the right, and found General Howard had fallen back, and the enemy's skirmish-line had crossed the road on which we were moving, throwing us between their skirmishers and battle-line.
The whole regiment made a desperate charge on the main column of Jackson's corps, who were crossing the road in our front, completely checking the enemy, losing Major Keenan, Captain Arrowsmith, and Adjutant Haddock, with about 30 men and about 80 horses.
I immediately re-formed the regiment to support the reserve artillery.
We afterward moved back, and formed across the roads, to stop stragglers of the Eleventh Corps.
Here we remained all night.’ But in the words of the poet, ‘The rush of their charge is resounding still.’|
Nor their light be quenched in the light of peace.
The rush of their charge is resounding still
That saved the army at Chancellorsville.
The poem is true in every detail.
The facts, often misstated, are set forth in a letter which the poet's granddaughter, Miss Michelle Cutliffe Ticknor
, courteously furnished for these pages.
During the war, the wife of the poet daily visited the improvised hospitals of Columbus, Georgia
. ‘in one of these, the old bank's building, Mrs. Ticknor
first saw the boy, Isaac Newton Giffen
, and was so haunted by his pitiful condition that when the doctors declared his case hopeless, she carried him in her own carriage to “torch Hill
,” the country home of the Ticknors.
There under the personal care of Dr.Ticknor
And Mrs. Ticknor
he won his fight against death.
Brought to “torch Hill
” in October, 1864, he left only in March, 1865, on receiving news of Johnston
During his convalescence Mrs. Ticknor
to read and write, and his deep gratitude toward the Ticknors leaves only one solution to his fate.
How he met it, however, remains as obscure as his family history.
That his father was a blacksmith in the mountains of East Tennessee
is the only positive fact of his ancestry.
He was sixteen years of age when taken by Mrs. Ticknor
and had been engaged in eighteen battles and skirmishes.’
it will thus be seen that the boy was wounded in one of the battles about Atlanta
were opposing Sherman
We may suppose that the Captain
's reply, given in the poem, was written after the battle of Nashville
, December 15-16, 1864.
in March, 1865, Johnston
was again opposing Sherman
, this time in the Carolinas, and it must have been in one of the closing battles of the war that ‘little Giffen
’ lost his life.
Out of the focal and foremost fire,
Out of the hospital walls as dire,
Smitten of grape-shot and gangrene,
（Eighteenth battle, and he sixteen!)
such as you seldom see,
Little Giffen, of Tennessee.
‘To the edge of the wood that was Ringed with flame’: Wilderness trees after the artillery firing that followed the cavalry charge
Blasted by the artillery fire that saved the Federals at Chancellorsville, the Wilderness woods, only a couple of hundred yards south of the Plank Road, reveal the desperate nature of the conflict in the early evening of May 2, 1863.
Of the close of the fight, the Union General Alfred Pleasonton reported: ‘It was now dark, and their presence could only be ascertained by the flash of their muskets, from which a continuous stream of fire was seen encircling us, and gradually extending to our right, to cut us off from the army.
This was at last checked by our guns, and the rebels withdrew.
Several guns and caissons were then recovered from the woods where the enemy had been posted.
Such was the fight at the head of Scott's Run.
Artillery against infantry at 300 yards; the infantry in the woods, the artillery in the clearing.
War presents many anomalies, but few so curious and strange in its results.’|
‘Take him—and welcome!’ the surgeons said;
‘Little the doctor can help the dead!’
So we took him and brought him where
The balm was sweet in the summer air;
And we laid him down on a wholesome bed—
Utter Lazarus, heel to head!
And we watched the war with abated breath—
Skeleton boy against skeleton death.
Months of torture, how many such!
Weary weeks of the stick and crutch;
And still a glint of the steel-blue eye
Told of a spirit that wouldn't die.
And didn't. Nay, more!
in death's despite
The crippled skeleton learned to write.
‘Dear Mother,’ at first, of course; and then
‘Dear Captain,’ inquiring about the men.
Captain's answer: ‘Of eighty-and-five,
Giffen and I are left alive.’
Word of gloom from the war, one day;
‘Johnston pressed at the front, they say.’
Little Giffen was up and away;
A tear—his first—as he bade good-by,
Dimmed the glint of his steel-blue eye.
‘I'll write, if spared!’ There was news of the fight;
But none of Giffen.
He did not write.
I sometimes fancy that, were I king
Of the princely knights of the Golden Ring,
With the song of the minstrel in mine ear,
And the tender legend that trembles here,
I'd give the best on his bended knee,
The whitest soul of my chivalry, For Little Giffen, of Tennessee.
William Black, the youngest wounded soldier reported
Lest the instance of ‘Little Giffen’ seem an uncommon one, there is presented here the winning face of little William Black.
He was the youngest boy, it is true, to be reported ‘wounded.’
Yet General Charles King's researches on Boys of the war days in Volume VIII brings out the fact that ‘over 800,000 lads of seventeen or less were found in the ranks of the Union army, that over 200,000 were no more than sixteen, that there were even 100,000 on the Union rolls who were no more than fifteen.’|
The daughter of the regiment: (Fifth Rhode Island）
The young lady here celebrated had attracted attention in New York as the troops passed through the city on the way to the front.
The New York Herald of April 25, 1861, said:
the volunteers bring along with them two very prepossessing young women, named Martha Francis and Katey Brownell, both of providence, who propose to act as “daughters of the regiment,” after the French plan.
Who with the soldiers was stanch danger-sharer,—
Marched in the ranks through the shriek of the shell?
Who was their comrade, their brave color-bearer?
Who but the resolute Kady Brownell!
Over the marshland and over the highland,
Where'er the columns wound, meadow or dell,
Fared she, this daughter of little Rhode Island,—
She, the intrepid one, Kady Brownell!
While the mad rout at Manassas was surging,
When those around her fled wildly, or fell,
And the bold Beauregard onward was urging,
Who so undaunted as Kady Brownell!
When gallant Burnside made dash upon Newberne,
Sailing the Neuse 'gainst the sweep of the swell,
Watching the flag on the heaven's broad blue burn,
Who higher hearted than Kady Brownell!
In the deep slough of the springtide debarking,
Toiling o'er leagues that are weary to tell,
Time with the sturdiest soldiery marking,
Forward, straight forward, strode Kady Brownell.
Reaching the lines where the army was forming,
Forming to charge on those ramparts of hell,
When from the wood came her regiment swarming,
What did she see there-this Kady Brownell?
‘Gallant Burnside’: at the height of his career photographed eight months after the events of Scollard's poem; while with his staff-officers at Warrenton, Virginia, November 14, 1862
General Burnside entered the war in May, 1861, as colonel of the First Rhode Island Volunteers.
At Bull Run, July 21, 1861, he at first commanded the brigade in which the regiment was serving, but was soon called upon to take charge of the Second (Hunter's) division in the presence of the opposing Confederates.
Under his command, Kady Brownell showed herself ‘so undaunted’; the two Rhode Island regiments in the battle were in his brigade, the colonel of the Second losing his life early in the section.
On August 6, 1861, Burnside was commissioned brigadier-general of volunteers, and from January to July, 1862, commanded the Department of North Carolina.
He captured Roanoke Island, occupied New Berne in the manner alluded to in Scollard's poem, and forced the evacuation of Fort Macon, at Beaufort.
In July, as major-general of volunteers, he was asked to take chief command of the Army of the Potomac, but he refused.
In September the offer was renewed, and again refused.
Finally, on November 9th, he accepted.
His disastrous repulse a month later at Fredericksburg was followed by his resignation as chief, though he served no less faithfully, both as department and corps commander, to the end of the war.|
why she saw that their friends thought them foemen;
Muskets were levelled, and cannon as well!
Save them from direful destruction would no men?
Nay, but this woman would,--Kady Brownell!
Waving her banner she raced for the clearing;
Fronted them all, with her flag as a spell;
Ah, what a volley—a volley of cheering—
Greeted the heroine, Kady Brownell!
Gone (and thank God!) are those red days of slaughter!
Brethren again we in amity dwell;
Just one more cheer for the Regiment's Daughter!—
Just one more cheer for her, Kady Brownell!
Up from the South, at break of day,
Bringing to Winchester fresh dismay,
The affrighted air with a shudder bore,
Like a herald in haste to the chieftain's door,
The terrible grumble, and rumble, and roar,
Telling the battle was on once more,
And Sheridan twenty miles away.
And wider still those billows of war
Thundered along the horizon's bar;
And louder yet into Winchester rolled
The roar of that red sea uncontrolled,
Making the blood of the listener cold,
As he thought of the stake in that fiery fray,
With Sheridan twenty miles away.
‘Over the Marshland and over the highland’: Federal fortifications near the railroad, South of new Berne
This view recalls the incident of March 14, 1862, described by Clinton Scollard in The daughter of the regiment. Burnside's attack on New Berne was part of the blockading movement which sought to close every port along the Southern coasts.
The Fifth Rhode Island was in General John G. Parke's brigade.
The soldiers were so eager to engage the enemy that many of them leaped from the ship into the water and waded waist-deep to the shore, and during the day often waded knee-deep in mud. The next morning little could be seen in the ‘open piney woods,’ owing to the dense fog. This condition accounts for the confusion that might have proved serious but for Kady Brownell.
The brigade marched on out of the woods, and charged the Confederate works.
Burnside himself reported: ‘Too much praise cannot be awarded to the officers and men for their untiring exertion and unceasing patience in accomplishing this work.
The effecting of the landing and the approach to within a mile and a half of the enemy's work on the 13th I consider as great a victory as the engagement of the 14th.
Owing to the difficult nature of the landing, our men were forced to wade ashore waist-deep, march through mud to a point twelve miles distant, bivouac in low, marshy ground in a rain-storm for the night, engage the enemy at daylight in the morning, fighting them for four hours amid a dense fog that prevented them from seeing the position of the enemy, and finally advancing rapidly over bad roads upon the city.
In the midst of all this, not a complaint was heard; the men were only eager to accomplish their work.’ Burnside's success was rewarded by the rank of major-general of volunteers.|
But there is a road from Winchester town,
A good, broad highway leading down:
And there, through the flush of the morning light,
A steed as black as the steeds of night
Was seen to pass, as with eagle flight;
As if he knew the terrible need,
He stretched away with his utmost speed.
Hills rose and fell, but his heart was gay,
With Sheridan fifteen miles away.
Still sprang from those swift hoofs, thundering south,
The dust like smoke from the cannon's mouth,
Or the trail of a comet, sweeping faster and faster,
Foreboding to traitors the doom of disaster.
The heart of the steed and the heart of the master
Were beating like prisoners assaulting their walls,
Impatient to be where the battle-field calls;
Every nerve of the charger was strained to full play,
With Sheridan only ten miles away.
Under his spurning feet, the road
Like an arrowy Alpine river flowed,
And the landscape sped away behind
Like an ocean flying before the wind;
And the steed, like a barque fed with furnace ire,
Swept on, with his wild eye full of fire;
he is nearing his heart's desire;
He is snuffing the smoke of the roaring fray,
With Sheridan only five miles away.
The first that the general saw were the groups
Of stragglers, and then the retreating troops;
What was done?
what to do?—a glance told him both.
Then striking his spurs with a terrible oath,
He dashed down the line, 'mid a storm of huzzas,
And the wave of retreat checked its course there, because
The sight of the master compelled it to pause.
With foam and with dust the black charger was gray;
By the flash of his eye, and his red nostril's play,
He seemed to the whole great army to say:
‘I have brought you Sheridan all the way
From Winchester down to save the day.’
hurrah for Sheridan!
hurrah for horse and man!
And when their statues are placed on high
Under the dome of the Union sky,
The American soldier's Temple of Fame,
There, with the glorious general's name,
Be it said, in letters both bold and bright:
‘Here is the steed that saved the day
By carrying Sheridan into the fight,
From Winchester—twenty miles away!’
The General's death
The general dashed along the road
Amid the pelting rain;
How joyously his bold face glowed
To hear our cheers' refrain!
His blue blouse flapped in wind and wet,
His boots were splashed with mire,
But round his lips a smile was set,
And in his eyes a fire.
A laughing word, a gesture kind,—
We did not ask for more,
With thirty weary miles behind,
A weary fight before.
The gun grew light to every man,
The crossed belts ceased their stress,
As onward to the column's van
We watched our leader press.
Within an hour we saw him lie,
A bullet in his brain,
His manly face turned to the sky,
And beaten by the rain.
Such is the death the soldier dies
‘The General's death’
This sylvan scene, as it looked a few months after the death of General George W. Taylor, on August 27, 1862, recalls Pope's Virginia campaign.
‘Stonewall’ Jackson in a series of forced marches had swept round to the rear of Pope's army, seized the railroad, and then captured the immense depot of supplies at Manassas Station.
To meet him, after an all-day's march from near Alexandria on August 26th, Union troops under General Taylor crossed Bull Run near the spot pictured above.
They advanced about two miles to occupy the important point Taylor made all the dispositions for an attack on the Confederate force, which at once opened upon the advancing brigade with a heavy discharge of round-shot, shell, and grape.
The men nevertheless moved forward undaunted and defiant.
Within 300 yards of the earthworks Taylor discovered that he was greatly outnumbered.
A force of cavalry was making for his rear.
He stood in danger of being surrounded.
Nothing was left but to regain the bridge.
While directing the movement, Taylor received a wound from which he soon died.
Assistance arrived, and he was carried across the stream, begging the officers to rally the men of his brigade and prevent another Bull Run.|
Such is the death a soldier dies.
Though suggested by the Spanish
war, this poem is so vivid and forms so good a companion piece to the preceding, that it is here included.
Such is the death the soldier dies:
He falls,—the column speeds away;
Upon the dabbled grass he lies,
His brave heart following, still, the fray.
The smoke-wraiths drift among the trees,
The battle storms along the hill;
The glint of distant arms he sees;
He hears his comrades shouting still.
A glimpse of far-borne flags, that fade
And vanish in the rolling din:
He knows the sweeping charge is made,
The cheering lines are closing in.
Unmindful of his mortal wound,
He faintly calls and seeks to rise;
But weakness drags him to the ground:—
Such is the death the soldier dies.
‘At dawn,’ he said, ‘I bid them all farewell,
To go where bugles call and rifles gleam.’
And with the restless thought asleep he fell,
And glided into dream.
A great hot plain from sea to mountain spread,—
Through it a level river slowly drawn:
He moved with a vast crowd, and at its head
Streamed banners like the dawn.
‘Such is the death the soldier dies’: Confederates who fell in Ewell's attack on May 19, 1864
His musket dropped across him as he fell, its hammer down as it had clicked in that last unavailing shot—here lies one of the 900 men in gray and behind him another comrade, left on the last Spotsylvania battlefield.
In the actions about Spotsylvania Court House, of which this engagement was the close, the Union army lost about fifteen thousand.
With sympathy for the last moments of each soldier, such as Robert Burns Wilson has put into his poem opposite, the horror of war becomes all too vivid.
Ewell's attack illustrates the sudden facing of death that may come to every soldier.
The desperate fighting about Spotsylvania had been prolonged ten days and more, when General Lee thought the Union army was withdrawing to his right.
To ascertain whether this was true he directed Ewell to feel out the Federal position.
After a long detour through roads nearly impassable, Ewell came upon the enemy ready to receive him. The object of his movement thus accomplished, he prepared to return, but found himself fiercely attacked.
It was necessary then to make a stand, for no effective fighting can be done in retreat.
The late afternoon and the early evening were filled with the fierce encounter.
Only when darkness came was Ewell able in safety to withdraw.|
‘Where bugles call and rifles gleam’: illustration for |
The men of the 74th New York Infantry, as they drill in their Camp of 1861, exemplify the martial splendor of Cutler's poem; nor was its hero animated by a more unflinching resolve than they.
The regiment's record tells the story.
It was organized in New York and till August 20th was stationed at Camp Scott, on Staten Island, as the fifth in Sickles' ‘Excelsior Brigade.’ Barely a month after Bull Run, the first overwhelming Federal defeat, this regiment was on its way to Washington.
The fall of the year, as the picture shows, was spent in the constant marching and drilling by which McClellan forged that fighting instrument known to fame as the Army of the Potomac.
The volunteers were indeed where bugles called and rifles gleamed, but they were impatient for service on the ‘great hot plain’ to hear the ‘dissonant cries of triumph and dismay.’ Marching about under the leafless trees over
ground frequently covered with snow did not satisfy their notions of the glory of military service.
The next year brought to both officers and men the long-wished — for opportunity.
In April, 1862, they floated down the Potomac to take part in McClellan's Peninsula campaign.
At the battle of Williamsburg, May 5th, the regiment performed distinguished service, fighting behind an abatis of felled timber and holding a position against the main force of the Confederate army.
Of 36 of its number the regiment might report, ‘And with the dead he lay,’ and the total loss mounted to 143.
Through the rest of the campaign, at Fair Oaks and during the Seven Days Battles, it was in the hard fighting.
At Chancellorsville it served under General Berry, who was killed on May 3, 1863.
At Gettysburg it appeared with ranks thinned by two years of continuous service, yet sustained a loss of eighty-nine.
There came a blinding flash, a deafening roar,
And dissonant cries of triumph and dismay;
Blood trickled down the river's reedy shore,
And with the dead he lay.
The morn broke in upon his solemn dream,
And still, with steady pulse and deepening eye,
‘Where bugles call,’ he said, ‘and rifles gleam,
I follow, though I die!’