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Notes and Queries. did General Armistead fight on the Federal side at First Manassas or confess when dying at Gettysburg that he had been engaged in an “Unholy cause?”

We have, in previous “Notes and Queries,” answered in the negative both of these questions; but we now submit the following conclusive statement of the whole case.

General Abner Doubleday in his book on Chancellorsville and Gettysburg (page 195), makes the following remarkable statement in describing the charge of Pickett's Division. * * * “Armistead was shot down by the side of the gun he had taken. It is said he had fought on our side in the first battle at Bull Run, but had been seduced by Southern affiliations to join in the rebellion, and now dying in the effort to extend the area of slavery over the free States, he saw with a clearer vision that he had been engaged in an unholy cause, and said to one of our officers. who leaned over him: ‘Tell Hancock I have wronged him and have wronged my country.’ ”

The friends of General Armistead are indignant at this statement which they pronounce a slander “out of the whole cloth,” and are anxious that its refutation should have the widest circulation.

We, therefore, submit the following vindication of as gallant a gentleman as ever served his country in the old army — as conscientious a patriot as ever followed his convictions of duty into the Confederate army:

1. In reference to the charge that he fought on the “Union” side at First Manassas (Bull Run), it is easy to show that it was a physical impossibility for him to have been present at that battle on either side.

General L. A. Armistead was the son of General Walker K. Armistead, of the old army, was himself a “West-Pointer,” entered the Mexican war as First Lieutenant, was breveted Captain for “gallant and meritorious conduct” at Contreras, and Churubusco, and Major for his conduct at Molino del Rey. In March, 1855, he was commissioned Captain in the Sixth Infantry, and at the breaking out of the war he had been made Major and was serving on the Pacific coast. When [424] Albert Sidney Johnston resigned his commission in the United States army, and, after being relieved by General Sumner, begun his weary and perilous journey across the plains, Major Armistead accompanied him.

General Johston wrote as follows to his wife from Vallecito:

Vallecito, 130 miles to Yuma, Sunday, June 30, 1861.
. . . . . . I received your letter of June 25th, by Major Armistead who arrived here this morning. Our party is now as large as need be desired for safety or convenience in travelling. They are good men and well armed. Late of the army we have Major Armistead, Lieutenants Hardcastle, Brewer, Riley, Shaaf, Mallory, and Wickliffe. . . . .

In a description of the journey Captain Gift, who was of the party, says:

. . .We had now crossed one hundred miles of desert and near the Colorado and Fort Yuma. It Was necessary to approach the place with caution, as a trap might be set for us. A scout was sent forward, and at noon, it being July the 4th, we heard the national salute. The scout returned and reported all of the officers of the garrison sick, and that we could cross the river without fear. In the afternoon we camped in sight of the post, at the village on the west bank of the river. We stationed sentinels, and preserved our military appearance. Major Armistead was the first sentinel on post, and was approached by a soldier from the garrison, who was one of the Major's old regiment, and who desired a parley. He had come with a proposition from some of the soldiers to desert over to us, and then to seize the place and plunder it. But for the General's coolness on that occasion, we would in all like-lihood have left Fort Yuma behind as a heap of smoking ruins.

Colonel Wm. Preston Johnston in his Life of General Albert Sidney Johnston (from which the above extracts are taken), goes on to narrate other interesting details of this journey, and (on page 291) gives an “Intinerary” which shows every stage of the route from June 16th, 1861, when the party left Los Angels, to July 28th when they arrived at Mesilla.

If further confirmation were needed we might give other proofs, but will only submit the following letter:

Safe Deposit Co., of St. Louis, 513 Locust street, St. Louis, July 20th, 1882.
Rev. J. Wm. Jones, Secretary of S. H. Society:
Dear Sir,--In your issue of July, I find this in your Notes [425] and Queries: “Did General Armistead fight on the Federal side at First Manassas?” General A. Sidney Johnston, Captain (or Major) Armistead with other officers of the army who had resigned in California, arrived at Mesilla on the 27th of July, 1861, and were my guests for a week, during which time they assisted us in the capture of a large amount of stores and material, also forcing the evacuation of the posts west of the Rio Grande. Yours respectfully,

Thus it is in proof that General Armistead was in California when his State seceded, and the war broke out — that as soon as he heard of it he resigned — that he was with General A. S. Johnston in his famous journey across the plains, and that he arrived at Mesilla a week after the first battle of Manassas (or Bull Run), was fought on the 21st of July, 1861, and that it was, therefore, as much a physical impossibility that Armistead could have been present at the battle, as it was a moral impossibility that he could, with his convictions, have drawn his sword against his native State, his kindred, his own people.

General Doubleday's repetition of this rumor is as unworthy of the candor of a brave soldier, as it is incompatible with the pains-taking of the accurate historian.

2. The other count in the indictment, viz: that General Armistead, when dying, “saw with a clearer vision, that he had been engaged in an unholy cause, and said to one of our officers, who leaned over him, ‘ tell Hancock I have wronged him, and have wronged my country,’ ” is rather more difficult to meet with positive proof, but we have been able to secure evidence amounting to a moral certainty that this also is utterly untrue.

Major Armistead made his choice calmly, deliberately, and with all of the facts before him. With all of his devotion to the Union, love for “the old flag,” and attachment to his brother officers, he had decided that he could neither fight against the South, nor remain neutral in the great struggle; and he made his perilous journey, reached Richmond, tendered his sword to the Confederacy, and was made Colonel of the 57th Virginia Regiment, and in April, 1862, Brigadier-General.

In all of these positions he served faithfully, and gallantly — none of his comrades ever heard the slightest intimation that he doubted the justice of the cause for which he fought, and it would take proof of the very strongest character to convince those who knew him that he confessed when dying, that he had been battling for an “unholy cause.” [426]

His intimate friend, Colonel R. H. Dulaney, of Loudoun county, Virginia, writes: “Of course, we cannot tell what Lewis said to the Federal officer when captured. He might have regretted the necessity of the war, but he would have denied every principle he had held during his life if what General Doubleday says were true.”

His friend, General Wm. H. Payne, of Warrenton, Virginia, and his old staff officer, Major Peyton Randolph, are equally emphatic in denying the moral possibility of Armistead's using any such language, when himself.

We have a letter from Colonel R. W. Martin, of Pittsylvania county, who was wounded at General Armistead's side, who had frequent conversation with Federal officers who ministered to Armistead in his last moments, and who not only heard nothing of this recantation, but indignantly denies its possibility, saying: “General Armistead was no hypocrite, he could not have felt that he was sinning against his country, and have been the brave and gallant defender of the cause that he was — for no life lost during the struggle was more freely and willingly sacrificed for principle than was his.”

Charles H. Barnes, in his History of the Philadelphia brigade, (pp. 190-192,) gives an appreciative notice of General Armistead's gallantry, and death, but puts no such words into his mouth, nor do any of the other numerous writers on Gettysburg, so far as we have seen.

But in addition to this negative testimony, we submit the following correspondence, which explains itself, and settles the question beyond peradventure:

Letter to General Hancock.

office Southern Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia, July 10, 1882.
General W. S. Hancock:
Dear Sir,--I send you by this mail the June number of Southern Historical Society Papers, and beg leave to call your attention to the first item of Notes and Queries, (page 284,) in reference to General L. A. Armistead. Of the first statement — that General Armistead fought on the Federal side at first Manassas--we have the most positive refutation.

In reference to the alleged message to you, I beg to ask if you ever received such a message, and if so, had you any reason to doubt General Armistead's being himself at the time? To be frank, General Armistead's relatives and friends are very indignant at this statement, and look upon it as leaving a stain upon the memory of that gallant [427] soldier, which they are anxious to wipe out, and they are fully satisfied that either there is some mistake about the terms of the message, or else that he was delirious when he sent it.

In confirmation of this view we have always understood that you saw General Armistead personally just after he was wounded, and the kindness with which you received and treated him, has always been a fragrant memory of those terrible days, when brother fought brother — each from honest conviction that he was maintaining the right. Now if it was true that you had a personal interview, it does not appear why General Armistead should have sent you such a message. Was there anything in your intercourse during that interview, (may I ask?) which gave color to this alleged message?

I am sure you will pardon the liberty I take in addressing you this letter, which is prompted by a desire to vindicate General Armistead, and a conviction that the gallant soldier whom I address will be only too ready to do justice to the memory of his old friend.

Waiving the question of who was right, and who was wrong in that great struggle, all who knew General Armistead must feel that he followed the fortunes of the State that gave him birth, from conscientious convictions of duty, and those who knew him well, will be slow to believe that after leading his men to the heights of Gettysburg, with unsurpassed heroism, he whimpered and repented of his course after he received his fatal wound — unless indeed he was delirious from the effects of that wound.

Begging an early reply to this letter, I am, with high respect, and with best wishes for your health and happiness,

Very truly, your obedient servant,

J. Wm. Jones, Secretary Southern Historical Society.

To this letter there was the following reply:

Letter from General Hancock.

Governor's Island, New York, July 15th, 1882.
Rev. J. Wm. Jones, No. 7, Library Floor State Capitol, Richmond, Virginia:
Dear Sir,--Your favor of the 10th instant was duly received.

I have enclosed your letter referring to General Armistead on the field of Gettysburg, to General H. H. Bingham, M. C., from Philadelphia. [428] He was the officer to whom the message was delivered, and is the best witness in the case.

I have no doubt that he will answer your inquiry fully. I am,

Yours very truly,

On July the 20th, General Hancock sent us the following:

Letter from General Bingham.

house of representatives, Washington, D. C., July 19th, 1882.
My Dear General:
Your favor of July 14th, covering enclosures from Southern Historical Society, duly received and contents noted.

Of course, I cannot now recall all the details in the matter of General Armistead's condition and words at the time of his capture, July 3, 1863; but my report, made to you immediately following the battle, is correct in every particular. Armistead, after I informed him that I was an officer upon your staff, and would deliver any personal effects that he might desire forwarded to his family, made use of the words, as I now recall them, “Say to General Hancock for me, that I have done him, and you all, a grievous (or serious) injury, which I shall always regret.”

His condition at the time, was that of a man seriously wounded, completely exhausted, and seemingly broken-spirited. I had him carried immediately to the hospital. The physician in charge, or who attended his wounds, could more specifically give testimony as to his mental condition.

I return to you the letter of J. Wm. Jones, Secretary of the Southern Historical Society.

Very truly yours,

It will be seen from the above, (which we doubt not is an entirely accurate statement of General Bingham's recollection of what occurred, except that he does not enter into the details of his kindness to General Armistead, which we will ever cherish in grateful remembrance,) that the message actually sent by the dying hero, was a very different one from that which General Doubleday gives. Mortally wounded, “completely [429] exhausted,” [he had arisen from a sick bed, against the remonstrances of surgeons and friends, to go into that charge,] and no doubt “broken-spirited,” when he saw his gallant band hurled back by overwhelming odds from the position they had so heroically won--General Armistead received unexpected kindness from his old comrade and intimate friend, General Hancock, from whom he had been estranged by the events of the war, was deeply touched by it, and very naturally sent the message: “Say to General Hancock for me, that I have done him, and you all grievous injury, which I shall always regret.” i. e., I have wronged you by cherishing bitter, vindictive, feelings towards old friends, who, in this hour of my extreme need, meet me with this great kindness. The message contains not one word of regret for the service he had rendered the Confederacy — not one intimation that he now “saw with clearer vision” that he had “wronged his country,” or had been engaged in an “unholy cause” --and in thus changing the words, and forcing their meaning, General Doubleday proves that he lacks the calmness of the historian, and shows the same bitter spirit of the partizan as when he recklessly affirms that we poor Confederates were fighting “to extend the area of slavery over the free States.”

The Confederate charge upon the heights of Gettysburg is a grand episode in history of which every true American should be proud. There was no more conspicuous figure in that grand battle picture than brave old Armistead who led his men with characteristic heroism, and fell on the crest of the battle wave, bequeathing to his people a name above reproach.

We enter our burning protest against having that fair name and fame tarnished by the flippant, reckless, pen of General Doubleday, whose book will be of little value to the future historian if this is a fair specimen of his historic accuracy.

The Number of Guns in Cutts's Battalion at Sharpsburg.

In our April number we denied the accuracy of the statement of General D. H. Hill's report (as quoted by General Palfrey), that he had “near sixty pieces of Cutts's Battalion” of Artillery at Sharpsburg — saying that it was evidently a typographical error as no Confederate battalion ever had anywhere near sixty pieces of artillery.

But to settle the matter, we wrote Colonel Cutts on the subject, and submit his conclusive reply in which he shows that his own command at Sharpsburg consisted of twenty-four guns, and that, while before and after the battle other guns were temporarily under his command, these were [430] all he had during the battle. General Hill no doubt meant to say that he had sixteen (instead of sixty) pieces of Cutts's Artillery engaged at Sharpsburg; but the letter of the gallant Georgian explains itself.

Americus, Ga., August 24th, 1882.
Dr. J. Wm. Jones, Secretary Southern Historical Society.
Sir,--All my headquarter papers were captured just before the surrender, still I can give you number of guns in my command at Sharpsburg. At this time my own battalion consisted of four companies with six guns each, twenty-four guns. In addition I had attached to my command a four-gun battery known as Captain Bondurant's Battery, and a four-gun battery from North Carolina, name not known to me. Still, after my arrival at Sharpsburg those last two batteries were ordered to report to their proper commands, leaving me only twenty-four guns that I considered subject to my orders, until late in the afternoon of the first day, or rather the second day for it was after all the heavy fighting was over, when General Stonewall Jackson turned over to me five guns, being parts of batteries that seemed broken up, or remnants of batteries left after the fight. Counting those it would make twenty-nine guns. Still I carried off the field my twenty-four guns, the North Carolina battery of four and the five guns turned over by General Jackson: this count would make thirty-three guns.

Captain Bondurant had reported to his proper command, but the North Carolina battery had remained at my headquarters. In order to further explain the situation of my command, and how odd batteries were with me, I will have to go back to the battle of Boonsboro. My command there was in the fight, that is three of my batteries and one held in reserve. At this time, and just before the fight on the mountain, Captain Bondurant's battery of four guns were turned over to me and served during the battle and remained with me until after we arrived on the battle-field of Sharpsburg. The night after the battle of Boonsboro our army fell back to Sharpsburg, and I was left without orders with the five batteries, twenty-eight guns, wagons, &c., coming from the battle-field. On the mountain, late at night, I received orders to return to my camp one-half mile from Boonsboro on the Hagarstown road, and across the road from General D. H. Hill's headquarters — this I did, and received no orders to leave through neglect of General Hill's Staff Officer or Chief of Artillery.

At about sun-rise next morning, I found that our army was gone, and did not know when they would make a stand for the next battle. [431] I at once started moving on the Williamsport road, with the view of making that point and crossing; but to make sure of the situation, I galloped rapidly towards Boonsboro, mainly to see what danger my rear was in from the enemy. On this trip I found a battery of four guns near the road, men asleep, horses unharnessed, &c. On inquiry, I found this was a North Carolina battery belonging or attached to General Ransom's brigade. I ordered the Captain to move rapidly, and gain my command, and we would get off together or “go up” together. In this way I was forced to add one more battery to my command, and at a very critical moment. How I had been very near unto the enemy's cavalry, fifteen hundred strong, then in line of battle across the Hagerstown road, and how I had to counter-march and return near Boonsboro, and then take another road, flanking Boonsboro, and passing up towards Williamsport by another route, and going above Sharpsburg, in order to flank the Yankee army that was between me and our army, and after passing well to the north of Sharpsburg, returned to that place with the whole Yankee army just on my left, and just by my side, I need not now relate. Still I did this, and was complimented by General Lee in person. All this, I presume, is not necessary to mention; if so, I should give it more fully. Regretting the delay in my reply.

I am, very respectfully,

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