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Reminiscences of the army of Northern Virginia,

By J. William Jones.

Paper no. 9.

Cedar Run (Slaughter's Mountain.)

After the seven days battles around Richmond we had a brief season of rest, which was greatly enjoyed after the marches, hardships and [82] dangers which we had encountered. But soon the “Foot cavalry” began to loathe the swamps of the Chickahominy, and sigh for the green fields, fresh breezes, clear streams, buttermilk, and apple-butter of the mountains. They were soon to be gratified.

“The situation” was one of difficulty, and would have greatly perplexed a less sagacious and determined leader than General Lee. McClellan was strongly intrenched at Harrison's Landing, and it was uncertain whether he would advance against Richmond by the north side — cross the river and move on Petersburg — or join the forces which General Pope was collecting in Culpeper. The arrival of this latter General from the West and his assuming command of the Army of Virginia was heralded in all of the Northern papers. He came up to his headquarters on a special train decked with flags, streamers and flowers. He had issued his famous order, which afterwards proved so prophetic that I quote it in full, as follows:

Washington, July 14, 1862.
To the officers and soldiers of the Army of Virginia:
By special assignment of the President of the United States, I have assumed command of this army. I have spent two weeks in learning your whereabouts, your condition and your wants, in preparing you for active operations, and in placing you in position from which you can act promptly and to the purpose. I have come from the West, where we have always seen the backs of our enemies, from an army whose business it has been to seek the adversary and to beat him when found, whose policy has been attack and not defense. In but one instance has the enemy been able to place our Western army in a defensive attitude. I presume I have been called here to pursue the same system, and to lead you against the enemy. It is my purpose to do so, and that speedily. I am sure you long for an opportunity to win the distinction you are capable of achieving. That opportunity I shall endeavor to give you. Meantime I desire you to dismiss from your minds certain phrases which I am sorry to find much in vogue among you. I constantly hear of taking strong positions and holding them, of lines of retreat, and bases of supplies. Let us dismiss such ideas. The strongest position a soldier should desire to occupy is one from which he can easily advance against the enemy. Let us study the probable lines of retreat of our opponents and leave our own to take care of themselves. Let us look before and not behind. Success and glory are in the advance; disaster and shame lurk in the rear. Let us act on this understanding, and it is safe [83] to predict that your banners shall be inscribed with many a glorious deed and that your names will be dear to your countrymen forever.

John Pope, Major-General Commanding.

This order was copied into the Richmond papers, and was at once the object of jibes and jests, which became more and more pointed as the campaign progressed.

But he issued other orders directing his men “to live on the country,” holding citizens of his district responsible for the acts of “bushwhackers,” requiring citizens to take the oath of allegiance to the United States Government, move out of his lines, or be treated as spies, and others of like import, which inaugurated a system of pillage, plunder and outrage which excited the burning indignation of our press, and made the army eager to be led against this new hero, whose “Headquarters,” he said, were “in the saddle.”

When, therefore, on the 17th July, 1862, we broke camp near Richmond and the head of our column moved toward the mountains, the “Foot cavalry” started off with their old swing and cheers rang along our lines. General Lee had sent Jackson with his own and Ewell's divisions to Gordonsville for the purpose of watching and checking the movements of Pope until McClellan should develop his purpose. We reached Gordonsville on the evening of the 19th July, and found in the vicinage abundant pasturage for our jaded animals, beautiful camps for the troops, and the warmest hospitality on the part of the people.

I had opportunity at this time of seeing a good deal of General Jackson--sometimes at his headquarters, sometimes in the hospitable homes of the people, and frequently at preaching — and was more than ever impressed with his genius as a soldier and his high qualities as a man. Just before the march to Cedar Run I was called to his Headquarters to give him information concerning the roads between the Rapidan and Louisa Courthouse. I had been familiar with these roads from my boyhood, and thought I knew them thoroughly. But when “Old jack” begun to question me about the streams, and hills, and cross-roads, and bridle-paths, and showed the most perfect familiarity with them, I had to say: “I thought I knew all about that country, General; but I can give you no information, as you evidently know more about it than I do.”

I remember being very much amused at seeing him several times fast asleep at preaching, and at hearing General Ewell ask one day: “What is the use of General Jackson's going to church? He sleeps all of the [84] time.” One day a visitor alluded to Pope's orders, and said: “Well, General, here is a new candidate for your favor.” “Yes, and by God's blessing he shall receive my attention,” was the quiet reply.

A. P. Hill's splendid “Light division” had been sent up to join us, and on the 2d of August there was a sharp cavalry fight in the streets of Orange Courthouse, between Colonel W. E. Jones and a strong reconnoitering force which Pope had sent across the Rapidan. Learning that Pope's line was considerably extended, Jackson determined to strike his centre at Culpeper Courthouse before he could concentrate his whole force. Accordingly, we broke camp on the afternoon of August 7th, it being Jackson's purpose to reach Culpeper Courthouse very early on the morning of the 9th. But by some misconception of orders A. P. Hill only crossed the Rapidan on the 9th, and Jackson thus encountered the enemy eight miles short of his objective point. It was on this march that his negro servant Jim told some officers who were inquiring about “Old jack's” habits: “Yes, the General is a great man for praying at all times. But when I see him get up a great many times in the night to pray, then I know there is going to be something to pay, and I go straight and pack his haversack, because I know he will call for it in the mornina.”

I have a very vivid recollection of that march — the enthusiasm with which the men cheered “Old jack” as he rode to the front, the joy with which the people hailed us as their deliverers from the reign of terror which Pope's orders had inaugurated, and the impatience of the men at the slow advance of our column, as the roads were obstructed by the Federal cavalry, who kept up a constant skirmish with our advance guard.

Ewell's division led the advance, and as Early's brigade was in front, and my own regiment (the Thirteenth Virginia Infantry) in advance of the brigade, I had a fine opportunity of witnessing the manoeuvering for position and the skirmishing. A little after 12 o'clock our brigade was halted at a school-house on the road, eight miles from Culpeper Courthouse, near Slaughter's Mountain, and not far from Cedar Run. Some time was spent in reconnoitering the position of the enemy, and bringing our own troops into position.

There was some sharp controversy at the time between General Pope and General Banks as to who was responsible for bringing on that battle; but if those gentlemen have not yet settled it satisfactorily, I would advise them to call General Early to the stand, and he would testify that neither Pope nor Banks was the responsible party, bat that Early himself brought on the fight by direct orders from Jackson. [85]

I happened to be near General Early when Captain A. S. Pendleton, a gallant officer of Jackson's staff, rode up, gave the military salute, and said: “General Jackson sends his compliments to General Early, and says that he must advance on the enemy, and he will be supported by General Winder.” The prompt reply, drawled out in earnest tones, was: “Give my compliments to General Jackson, and tell him I will do it.”

The situation at this moment was as follows: The other two brigades of Ewell's division were supporting batteries splendidly posted on Slaughter's Mountain; Winder, commanding Jackson's old division, was moving in column along the main road to support Early, and A. P. Hill was coming on to Winder's support. General Banks commanded the Federal forces, which consisted of his own corps, and Rickett's division of McDowell's corps, actually engaged, and numbering about seventeen thousand men, with large reinforcements rapidly approaching. Jackson's entire force numbered 18,623 men, but they were veterans, flushed with victory, and eager to meet their old friends of the Valley campaign, and to give their new friend, General Pope, an opportunity of seeing something else save the backs of the enemy.

As soon as General Early received Jackson's order, he called for eight picked men of the Thirteenth Virginia, whom he sent forward as scouts, threw that splendid regiment into skirmish line, and advanced his brigade (consisting of the Forty-ninth Virginia, Fifty-second Virginia, Fifty-eighth Virginia, Thirty-first Virginia, Twenty-fifth Virginia, Thirteenth Virginia and Twelfth Georgia) across a field to the left of the road to the cover of a small body of woods, behind which he very carefully formed his line of battle, while the Thirteenth Virginia advanced as skirmishers a little way into the woods. Presently Colonel Walker, of the Thirteenth, called back in his ringing voice: “General Early, are you ready?” “Yes; go on,” was the reply, and soon after there was sharp skirmishing, which presently gave place to the roar of battle.

Soon after the opening of the fight some one suggested to the surgeons, chaplains, &c., of the brigade that by riding up on the hill to the right we would have a better view of the field, and could also see when our services were needed by the wounded.

Accordingly we rode up and had a splendid panoramic view of the whole scene. Banks's line of battle, his artillery in position, and his splendidly appointed cavalry seemingly preparing for a charge; Ewell's two brigades on the mountain and his batteries superbly served; Early's brigade moving in line of battle on the enemy with the precision of [86] dress-parade; Winder deploying his troops to support Early, and A. P. Hill hurrying up in column — all combined to form a battle picture of a grandeur rarely witnessed. We had been joined by some citizens and a number of straggling cavalrymen, and our party formed a considerable group, who were reveling in the splendid panorama when our enjoyment was brought to a very sudden termination. A Federal battery, probably mistaking us for some General and his staff, galloped into position within easy range, and opened fire upon us with six pieces as hard as they could drive. At first the missiles fell short, but they would doubtless soon get the exact range, and we suddenly discovered that we had important duties elsewhere.

Without considering “the order of our going” we galloped down the hill to the cover of the woods. A negro servant of one of our surgeons happened to be mounted on the doctor's best horse, and led the party. As we called a halt and gathered together again the doctor began to upbraid the boy for “being so much frightened and riding his horse so hard.” The negro meekly replied: “Doctor, I don't love the whizzing of dem ar things any better then you do sah. ‘Sides, I don't think you orter blame me ’ cause my horse kin beat yours a runnina.”

A roar of laughter greeted this sally, for it was perfectly evident that each man had done his “level best” in getting away from “the whizzing of dem ar things.”

Meantime the battle raged furiously. Hastening towards the front, I saw the bleeding, mangled form of the gallant Winder, who was mortally wounded just as he was putting in his division and skillfully directing the fire of Poague's and Carpenter's batteries. A West Point officer of rare merit, General C. S. Winder had succeeded General Garnett in the command of the “Stonewall” brigade, was now in command of the old “Stonewall” division, and had already won a reputation which opened before him a most brilliant career. Jackson said of him in his official report:

It is difficult within the proper reserve of an official report to do justice to the merits of this accomplished officer. Urged by the Medical Director to take no part in the movements of the day, because of the enfeebled state of his health, his ardent patriotism and military pride could bear no such restraint. Richly endowed with those qualities of mind and person which fit an officer for command, and which attract the admiration and excite the enthusiasm of his troops, he was rapidly rising to the front rank of his profession. His lost has been severely felt.


General Winder lived only three hours after he fell, and died mourned by the whole army.

At five o'clock in the evening the crisis of the struggle came by the advance of the Federal infantry to turn Early's right flank, and that being defeated by the opportune arrival of Thomas's Georgia brigade of A. P. Hill's division, a still more formidable attack was made on the left. The second Virginia brigade, Taliaferro's brigade, and half of Early's brigade were driven back in confusion, and a great disaster seemed inevitable. But Colonel Lindsay Walker's artillery-men stood to their guns and used grape and canister with terrific effect; Colonel J. A. Walker and his famous old Thirteenth Virginia stood as firm as a rock; a part of the Thirty-first Virginia stood by them; General Early held firmly the troops under his immediate eye, and at the supreme crisis Jackson himself dashed upon the field, the very personification of the genius of battle, and rallied his broken legions with magic words and heroic examples. Drawing his sword (for the first time during the war), he shouted out in clear ringing tones which were heard above the roar of the battle: “Rally, brave men, and press forward! Your General will lead you! Jackson will lead you! Follow me!” His presence acted like a charm; his officers caught the inspiration; the fugutives rallied at once around the heroic nucleus formed by Colonel Walker with the Thirteenth Virginia, the “Stonewall” brigade, came forward in in gallant style, A. P. Hill sent in Branch's brigade of brave North Carolinians, the enemy was repulsed, and the disaster turned into victory. Just at this point in the battle I witnessed the charge of a magnificent column of Federal cavalry, who came forward in a style which excited our highest admiration, and deserved a better fate, for Branch's men repulsed them in front, while Walker threw the Thirteenth Virginia behind a fence and delivered, as they galloped back, a withering fire at very short range, which emptied many a saddle.

Jackson now hurried up Pender's and Archer's brigades of A. P. Hill's division, advanced Ewell from the mountain, threw forward his whole line, and, when night put an end to the contest, had driven the enemy two miles, holding the whole battle-field, the enemy's dead and many of his wounded falling into our hands. Jackson had no idea of stopping short of Culpeper Courthouse, and I know personally the fact that guides were detailed from the “Culpeper minute men” of my regiment to conduct his columns on the proposed night march. But the night proved very dark, the cavalry brought information that Banks was receiving heavy reinforcements, and Jackson very reluctantly decided to wait for the morning. The next morning General J. [88] E. B. Stuart reached the army “on a tour of inspection” (it is shrewdly suspected that “Jeb” had “snuffed the battle from afar,” and had come to claim the privilege of going in), and at the request of Jackson made a reconnoissance which fully developed the fact that Pope had already received large reinforcements, and that others were rapidly coming forward. Jackson determined therefore, to await the attack from the enemy; and we spent the 10th in looking after our wounded, burying our dead, and collecting arms, ammunition, &c., from the battle-field. Old “Stonewall” announced his victory by the following characteristic dispatch:

August 11th--6 1/2 A. M.
On the evening of the 9th instant God blessed our arms with another victory. The battle was near Cedar Run, about six miles from Culpeper Courthouse. The enemy, according to statements of prisoners, consisted of Banks's, McDowell's and Siegel's commands. We have over four hundred prisoners, including Brigadier-General Prince. While our list of killed is less than that of the enemy, we have to mourn the loss of some of our best officers and men. * * * We have collected about one thousand five hundred small arms and other ordnance stores.

On the morning of the 11th General Banks asked for a truce to enable him to bury his dead. The request was granted, and as Early's brigade on our side had charge of it, I had full opportunity of witnessing the scene, which was indeed a novel one.

That night we deliberately moved back toward the Rapidan, and as my brigade brought up the rear, I can testify of my own knowledge that the “hot pursuit” by the Federals, and “rapid retreat of the rebels,” about which General Pope telegraphed his Government, were as complete romances as that famous dispatch, purporting to come from General Pope, announcing the capture of ten thousand of Beauregard's army on his retreat from Corinth. [General Pope two years afterward denied that he ever sent such a dispatch, and claimed that it was manufactured by General Halleck.] I never saw a more leisurely march than we made on our return, and if there was any “hot pursuit” our rear guard did not hear of it. The fact was that “Old jack” gained a splendid victory at Cedar Run (Slaughter's Mountain), and learning that the enemy had received large reinforcements he waited two days for an attack, and then marched leisurely back across the Rapidan to await the coming of General Lee. Some incidents of the battle may be [89] given. There was in one of the regiments a Quartermaster who was noted for his elegant uniform and splendid trappings. During the progress of the fight this gentleman rode up on Slaughter's Mountain, where he was spied by rough old Ewell, who thus accosted him: “I say, you man with the fine clothes on! Who are you, and where do you belong?” Being informed, with all possible dignity, that he was “Captain------, Quartermaster of the------Virginia regiment,” the grim old soldier threw up both hands and exclaimed: “Great heavens! a Quartermaster on a battle-field; who ever heard of such a thing before? But as you are here I will make you useful as well as ornamental,” and thereupon he sent him with a message which carried him under very heavy fire. The gallant Quartermaster carried the message and brought the answer, but says that he soon after discovered that his train needed looking after, and never ventured near General Ewell during a battle again.

Another gallant Quartermaster, Major J. G. Field, of General A. P. Hill's staff, rendered most important service, going, as was his wont, into the thickest of the fight, until he was severely wounded. His wound caused the loss of his leg, but he returned after a short absence to render valuable service until the surrender, and recently filled with ability the office of Attorney-General of Virginia.

When our men found out from prisoners that General Banks commanded the opposing forces, they raised the shout: “Get your requisitions ready, boys! Put down everything you want! Old ‘Stonewall's Quartermaster’ has come with a full supply for issue!”

I saw A. P. Hill that day as he was putting his “Light division” into battle, and was very much struck with his appearance. In his shirt-sleeves and with drawn sword he sought to arrest the stragglers who were coming to the rear, and seeing a Lieutentant in the number, he rode at him and fiercely inquired: “Who are you, sir, and where are you going?” The trembling Lieutenant replied: “I am going back with my wounded friend.” Hill reached down and tore the insignia of rank from his collar as he roughly said: “You are a pretty fellow to hold a commission — deserting your colors in the presence of the enemy, and going to the rear with a man who is scarcely badly enough wounded to go himself. I reduce you to the ranks, sir, and if you do not go to the front and do your duty, I'll have you shot as soon as I can spare a file of men for the purpose.” And then clearing the road, he hurried forward his men to the splendid service which was before them.

I have not left myself space to give a full sketch of the truce, but [90] may say that the contrast between Early and Milroy — the mingling together of “the blue” and “the gray” in friendly converse or sharp trades, and the animated discussions between the two parties-would make a chapter of great interest.

I rode out on the neutral ground with a brother Chaplain with no purpose whatever of any discussion of the points at issue in the great contest; but we soon found ourselves surrounded by groups of the “boys in blue,” and before we knew it were engaged in a sharp discussion of of various matters pertaining to the war. Then we got on the different battles, ending with Cedar Run. A Colonel with whom I was talking finally pulled out his pocket-book and offered to bet me $100 that “in less than twenty-four hours Jackson would be in full retreat on Richmond and Pope in close pursuit.” I replied: “I cannot take your bet, Colonel, for several reasons. In the first place, I do not bet at all; in the second place, I have not $100 about me; and, in the third place, it would be very difficult to find a stake-holder who would be satisfactory to both parties; but we shall see what we shall see.”

During the campaign of second Manassas I one day met a long column of prisoners going to the rear, and was surprised to see among them my friend, the Colonel. He at once recognized me, and pleasantly called out: “I say, Chaplain, ain't you sorry now that you did not take my bet?” “Well! No Colonel,” I replied, “I think you will probably need all of your spare cash now. But if you will excuse me for anything which may squint toward exultation over a prisoner, I would like to ask you if you do not think Stonewall Jackson has chosen a singular route by which to retreat on Richmond, and if you do not regard Pope's close pursuit as rather erratic?” He frankly owned up; we had a pleasant chat together; I shared my rations with him, and, as we parted, he said, “If you ever make up your mind to bet, Chaplain, you may bet your bottom dollar that I will never offer to bet again on any movement where Pope is in command on our side and Lee and Jackson on the other.”

On the 14th of August we had, by Jackson's orders, deeply interesting thanksgiving services in the army.

The battle of Cedar Run caused General Pope to pause in his career of “seeing the backs of the enemy,” and we rested undisturbed in our beautiful camps until General Lee came with the rest of the army, and we started on that brilliant campaign by which “Headquarters in the saddle” were summarily dismounted by the “foot cavalry” and their gallant comrades, and General Fitz John Porter made the scapegoat of Pope's blunders.

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