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Chapter 25:

Late in June, 1863, Lee's bugle once more sounded for invasion. His army, in thoroughness of discipline, numbers and equipment, was the most formidable that had marched under the flag of the seceding States. There were ardent Confederates who believed that the Pennsylvania movement would prove a military mistake. Such distrust, however, nowhere showed itself on the surface. For Lee himself the invasion was a necessity. He saw that matters were fast going to the bad in the West. He knew that Vicksburg was making a heroic but hopeless defense. Her fall would bring the Mississippi a free and unmortgaged gift to the Federals. By a new and possibly successful invasion of the North he might offset inevitable disaster in the West. Such was his hope. He knew his army, he trusted in its strength and fiber.

Fredericksburg in December, and Chancellorsville in May had raised in an extraordinary manner the spirit of the army—victorious at both points. Its courage was accompanied by an increasing hope. Far more than ever before, a consciousness of invincibility had begun to be felt by rank and file. It proved to be a great error, an error which cost us the campaign. Yet, under the glorious history of the latter part of 1862 and the early [255] part of 1863, the error seemed to most minds, the direct result of recent events.

With his right, Lee had gripped the old defenses of Fredericksburg, associated with thronging memories of triumph; his left covertly advanced, under Ewell, toward Culpepper and thence to the Shenandoah valley. Early's division was directed by Ewell to march straight to the valley. On June 14th Early trapped Milroy, capturing 4,000 prisoners, with much material. Hays' brigade was at the front from the beginning of this movement, pushing the enemy back, with skirmishing during the 13th and 14th. On the latter day Early took the Louisianians around a considerable detour to the west, and about 5 p. m. ordered them to assault the enemy's works on a hill which appeared to be the key to their fortified position. After the artillery, which included the Louisiana Guard, had shelled the astonished Federals, who were not looking for fight in that direction, ‘Hays advanced as was directed,’ Early said, ‘and ascended the steep slope of the hill leading to the enemy's works through a brushwood that had been felled to answer the purpose of abatis, and drove the enemy from his works in fine style, capturing in the assault six rifled pieces, two of which were immediately turned upon the enemy.’ The enemy discovered the advance of Hays when he reached the edge of the abatis, about 150 yards from the works, and then, ordered to charge, his men swept forward so rapidly that they were in the redoubt before the enemy had time to fire more than four or five rounds. ‘A most brilliant achievement,’ said Early of this assault. At some distance was a small redoubt with two pieces of artillery, manned by infantry. Here the Seventh, Col. Davidson B. Penn, gallantly secured two guns. In the main work, a battery of the Fifth U. S. artillery (regulars) was captured, caissons and trappings complete.

Hays, in the movement against the key position in the defenses of Winchester, had the Louisiana Guard artillery [256] with him. Here Capt. C. Thompson, of the Louisiana Guards, fell mortally wounded, his death saddening the glorious victory. With D'Aquin nobly dead at Fredericksburg and Thompson slain at Winchester it was evident that the officers of the famous battery did not hide behind its caisson wheels. Hays reports his brigade loss for the two days at 14 killed and 78 wounded. Lieutenant Terry, Seventh, and Captain Dejean, Eighth, were killed. Lieut. John Orr, adjutant of the Sixth, was the first to mount the parapet. The adjutant did not regret the bayonet thrust which he received on this occasion. That night, while Hays' brigade was expecting another assault on the coming day, and the Guard was training its guns upon the main fort of Milroy, the enemy decamped. But Ewell had arranged for such a sequel. Nicholls' brigade, which had been skirmishing with the Federal line during the 13th and 14th, was sent with Steuart's brigade to the north of Winchester during the night. In the dark they struck the head of the retreating column, and being fiercely assailed a desperate fight resulted, turned into victory by the timely arrival of the Stonewall brigade. A Federal flanking party under the immediate command of General Milroy was gallantly met by the Second and Tenth Louisiana, who afterward led by General Johnson in person captured 1,000 prisoners and a stand of colors. The brigade loss was 2 killed and 13 wounded.

From Winchester Ewell marched boldly into Pennsylvania, Early crossing the Potomac at Shepherdstown on the 22d, and then marching through Maryland to Gettysburg. Hays' brigade was camped peacefully near the historic Pennsylvania village on the 26th. Ewell then advanced, with Gordon in the van, to York, near the Susquehanna river and the capital of Pennsylvania, 75 miles north of Washington. Johnson's division crossed at Boteler's ford and marched to Carlisle, still further north, and west of Harrisburg. In the last days of June [257] these commands were ordered back by General Lee toward South mountain.

Hooker, haunting the north bank of the Rappahannock, had observed Ewell's movement into the valley and believed it meant mischief to the North. When he found Longstreet following Ewell he also started for the Potomac. An army between the capital and invasion was the one besetting desire of Halleck, intent on defending Washington. Lee, consummate master of all strategy, no sooner had seen Hooker fairly in pursuit of Ewell than he took his hand off Fredericksburg, and A. P. Hill crossing the mountains marched with Longstreet into Maryland and on to Chambersburg.

Hooker's army was in Maryland keeping between Lee and Washington, on June 26th and then Hooker, chafing under Halleck's restrictions and unable to control events, with a great battle in the air, asked to be relieved from his command. Sober Meade succeeded him. This changed altogether the current of Lee's movement. Seeing Meade moving northwest from Frederick, intent on loosening his grip from the river, Lee became fearful for his own communications and the safety of Richmond, naked before her foe. General Dix was at Fortress Monroe, and before a resolute attack Richmond might have fallen. The capture of Harrisburg was abandoned; Longstreet and Hill were ordered eastward through the passes of South mountain, and Early back from the Susquehanna. Lee himself drew back from his invasion, striving to engage Meade's attention by a diversion east of the mountain.

Cautious Meade had seen through his great adversary's purpose. Having selected the general line of Pipe creek for his defense, he now threw his left wing forward to Gettysburg as a mask Already Lee was disposed to make sure of the same point. The shadow of the mighty battle was on them both.

On the 1st of July, 1863, the vanguards of the two [258] armies clashed on the west of Gettysburg. At 9 a. m. the first gun was heard. The shadow had melted away. Gettysburg, sternly questioning, alone was visible. On the Confederate side was A. P. Hill, with Heth and Pender; on the Federal, Reynolds, with the Third and Eleventh corps. The result of the first encounter was a victory for Hill. Gallant Reynolds—a heavy loss to his army—was killed during the action. History puts no faith in precedents, else Gettysburg would have opened another page on July 3d. Lee himself had no illusions. On the evening of the first day he showed his sound common sense in what he said to Longstreet: ‘They are there in position. I am going to whip them, or they are going to whip me.’ He trusted in his troops; cared little for the disparity in force; but never quite forgot that war had its lottery.

While Hill was fighting for Seminary ridge, Ewell, on his way back from the east, was in time to strike from the north; and his effective blow, which hurled Schurz back through the town, uncovered the Federal line still defiant on Seminary ridge, and compelled it to give up the strong position occupied during the next two days by Hill and Longstreet. ‘Hays' brigade,’ said Early, ‘advanced toward the town on Gordon's left in fine style, encountering and driving back into the town in great confusion the second line of the enemy,’ until the Louisianians formed in line in the street running through the middle of Gettysburg. They captured two pieces of artillery and Federal soldiers at every turn, and having no men to spare for guards, sent them to the rear as they pressed on. Hays declared he was satisfied that the brigade captured more prisoners than its own number. Their own loss was Captain Richardson, Fifth, and 6 men killed and 37 wounded. The Louisiana Guard artillery, also effectively participating, lost one man killed. During the evening Nicholls' brigade came to the east of Gettysburg and took position. [259]

The morning of July 2d found Hays' brigade, moved during the night to the east and front of the town, facing the northern extremity of Cemetery hill, the new Federal line. To the east of that was Culp's hill, faced by Nicholls' brigade, on the right of Johnson's line. The two Louisiana brigades waited all day, expecting orders to assault, which were not given until after the batteries, opening at 4 p. m., had for some time been thundering against the strong Federal position. Finally, about 7 o'clock, Johnson was ordered to the assault and his men advanced gallantly up the sides of ‘a rugged and rocky mountain, heavily timbered and difficult of ascent; a natural fortification, rendered more formidable by deep intrenchment and thick abatis.’ Colonel Williams reported that his men ‘engaged the enemy near the base of these heights; and having quickly driven his front line into the intrenchments on their crest, continued forward until they reached a line about 100 yards from the enemy's works, when they again engaged him with an almost incessant fire for four hours, pending which several attempts to carry the works by assault, being entirely unsupported on the right, were attended with more loss than success.’

As soon as Johnson was engaged Early ordered forward his assaulting line, Hays on the right, Avery's North Carolinians on the left, and Gordon supporting, against Cemetery hill. It was a little before 8 p. m. and the darkness was some screen to their movement; but the enemy's artillery was in furious activity, and as the Louisianians crossed a hill in front they were dangerously exposed. But they swept on down into a hollow at the foot of Cemetery hill. There they found a considerable body of the enemy which opened fire, and the batteries began throwing canister, but the smoke and darkness enabled the brigade to escape ‘what in the full light of day could have been nothing else than horrible slaughter.’ Panic seized the Federals as Hays pushed [260] on up the slope, over a stone wall where many prisoners were taken; over an abatis, and through a line of riflepits where more prisoners were taken. The summit was gained, and with a rush along the whole line, Hays' men captured several pieces of artillery, four stand of colors and still more prisoners. Meanwhile, the North Carolinians, encountering stone wall after stone wall, had lost their commander, Colonel Avery, and not more than 40 or 50 were together in the last charge. The Louisianians, alone at the summit of Cemetery hill in the face of Howard's corps, at first encountered a strange silence. But soon, through the dark, heavy masses of infantry were heard approaching. Expecting support, Hays for an instant thought they were the friends promised in the crisis. But he soon perceived that the enemy was confronting him and surrounding him, and after a volley from his depleted ammunition he was forced to fall back in order to a stone wall at the foot of the ridge. His loss was heavy—26 killed, 151 wounded, and 55 missing. Among the gallant dead were Col. T. D. Lewis, Captains Victor St. Martin and L. A. Cormier, and Lieutenants W. P. Talbot, A. Randolph, R. T. Crawford. Lieut.-Col. A. De Blanc succeeded to the command of the Eighth. Early next morning (3d) Williams' men and their comrades, reinforced, renewed the assault, and the enemy in turn with a greatly strengthened line made a desperate effort to recapture their line of breastworks. The fighting continued till noon without favorable result. The loss of the brigade during the entire battle was 43 killed and 309 wounded. Lieutenant-Colonel Nolan, one of the best and most gallant officers of the Louisiana contingent, was killed in the charge across Rock creek toward Culp's hill, on the night of July 2d. Capt. Thomas Rice, of the Montgomery Guards, First Louisiana, took command of the regiment after Colonel Nolan's death, from July 2d to July 5th, when the army fell back into Virginia.

About midnight following the 2d of July, the Washington [261] artillery, having reached the field dusty and tired, were ordered to take position at the Peach orchard, whence Federal General Sickles had been driven. Before daylight of the 2d Eshleman's battalion was in position; Captain Miller and Lieutenants Hero, McElroy and Brown with four Napoleons; two Napoleons of the Fourth under Captain Norcum and Lieutenant Battles, and two Napoleons of the Second under Captain Richardson and Lieutenant Hawes. The howitzers were in reserve under Lieutenant Apps.

With some changes in position at daylight, they were engaged ‘moderately’ during the forenoon, under a fire which disabled the gallant Norcum. Walton now had 75 guns posted in one great battery, menacing Cemetery hill, and 63 more were massed before Hill's corps, including the Donaldsonville boys, to the north. Toward noon there was an outburst of Hill's guns, but it soon subsided and, says Colonel Alexander, ‘the whole field became as silent as a churchyard until 1 o'clock.’ The enemy waited for what Lee might do, and Lee was making ready for the last assault on Cemetery hill. It had been arranged that when the column was ready General Longstreet should order two guns fired by Captain Eshleman. At 1:30 a message came to Walton from Longstreet: ‘Let the batteries open.’ ‘In a moment,’ says Col. William Miller Owen of the Washington artillery, ‘the report of the first gun rang out upon the still summer air (fired by Miller's battery). There was a moment's delay with the second gun, a friction-primer having failed to explode. It was but a little space of time, but 100,000 men were listening. Finally a puff of smoke was seen at the Peach orchard, then came a roar and a flash, and 138 pieces of Confederate artillery opened upon the enemy's position.’

From the opposing heights came back a thundering Federal answer, and the most terrific artillery battle of the war was on. The roar was deafening, stupendous— [262] the gorges of the hills vibrating with the shock and the two ridges echoing crash after crash. The Washington artillery and the Madison men were under both a direct and an enfilading fire, but stood bravely to their work. ‘About 30 minutes after the signal guns had been fired,’ according to Major Eshleman, ‘our infantry moved forward over the plateau in our front.’ Captain Miller and Lieutenant Battles were then ordered forward, but they had suffered so severely that only four pieces could be taken to support the charge. These, with one piece of Haskell's battalion, were the only guns advanced, and they came under the concentrated fire of the enemy. At the same moment, the brave men under Pickett and Pettigrew were seen falling back from the hill. Miller, Battles and Richardson were then withdrawn. It was found that Lieutenant Brown was severely wounded, Lieutenant Battles had both his guns disabled, and Miller had lost so many horses that he could manage but one piece. Major Eshleman then, with the howitzers of Moody's Madison artillery, Parker's battery, and a section of Cabell's, with the infantry 200 yards behind him, held the enemy in check till dark. Eshleman's loss was 3 killed, 26 wounded, 16 missing, and 37 horses killed. Lieutenant Apps was among the wounded.

Early in the day Captain Richardson had pointed out to Major Eshleman a 3-inch rifle gun abandoned by its defenders between the hostile lines, with the horses dead but harnessed to the pieces. William Forrest and James Brown, drivers, at once volunteered to bring the piece off. The gun was drawn off, and ammunition with it, under a hot and jealous fire from the enemy's sharpshooters. Forrest was not content with running this peril. Finding that in order to serve the gun against its old masters horses and harness must be had, he set out to hunt these, groping in the sulphurous and perilous semi-darkness between the lines, and brought them in despite the sharpshooters. A few days later the brave man was wounded [263] at Williamsport. In telling the story of heroic deeds, this of Richardson's drivers should not be forgotten.

The three Louisiana batteries aside from the Washington artillery won equal honor. If one called them the D'Artagnan, Athos and Porthos of the Louisiana artillery contingent in the army of Northern Virginia, one would not go far wrong. Among their comrades they were known as the Louisiana Guard artillery, Maurin's Donaldsonville Cannoneers, and Moody's Madison ‘Tips.’ Capt. Charles A. Green, of the Guard, with his Parrott guns, joined Hampton's cavalry on the evening of the 2d just in time to engage the enemy. At their position they could see the enemy's wagon-trains rolling away. The Guard could do nothing toward their capture, for the business in hand was of a more war-like nature. On the 3d they gave effective aid to Stuart and Hampton in the cavalry battle on the right flank. The Guard lost 7 killed and wounded. Maurin's Donaldsonville boys were just in time at Gettysburg, July 1st, to relieve one of Pegram's batteries whose ammunition had been expended on the foe. To keep worthily in a heady fight the place of a Pegram battery, was not easy; doubtless Pegram's eyes, young but keen, looking approvingly on the work and on the men doing it. Moody's Madison boys, with Alexander, shared the work of Colonel Walton's men shelling the Peach orchard on the 2d and the memorable artillery duel of the 3d. They were warmly commended by Colonel Alexander.

Only as Confederates is it permitted to us, in this work, to express an interest in Pickett's mighty charge. As Louisianians, it is made our duty to report a gallant charge up the same Cemetery hill by a Louisiana brigade commanded by a brigadier from Louisiana. We need not repeat the glorious story of July 3d. It is one of those tales of heroes which, as the Skalds tell us were rehearsed in Valhalla, will grow in acute interest as [264] the years recede from the field and from what has made it memorable.

This may be said for conclusion. If Pickett's famous division of Virginians made a heroic attempt to storm Cemetery hill on July 3d, so had Hays, with a brigade of Louisianians, made the same difficult journey on July 2d. If Pickett's charge with Virginians be immortal, who may doubt that the amaranth will equally crown Hays' charge with Louisianians? Between a brigade and a division there may be a difference in the length of the battle lines. In honor, there can be none!

After Pickett's division had been swept away on the perilous slope of Cemetery hill, Gettysburg was a battle lost to the Confederates. Lee still held to the ground where the battle storm had raged; but the battle had been fought and won against him. That Chancellorsville, in May, 1863, was the clearest, strongest, most carefully-planned victory gained, with equal conditions, by the army of Northern Virginia, is admitted in the North itself. It was the fight of a strong plan on one side, of no plan on the other. Against this, Gettysburg, in July following, was the first victory gained by the army of the Potomac which called a permanent halt to Confederate movement northward en masse. A year later, Early was to hazard a bold but useless rush as far as the breastworks of Washington. Not being ‘in mass,’ at best a minor affair, it served to emphasize the supreme lesson taught at Gettysburg.

Lee retreated at his ease by way of Hagerstown and Williamsport.1 Meade slowly, too slowly indeed for one [265] who had to his credit a decided victory, followed him hesitatingly across the river. Begun late, Meade's pursuit was active enough to have enabled him to strike Lee's flank by debouching through Manassas gap. The attempt was unsuccessful Lee withdrew to Culpeper while Meade advanced to the line of the Rappahannock. It was a duel in ‘points’ between the two—Lee, for all his small army, altogether the bolder and readier master. The commanders began a race for the possession of the Orange & Alexandria railroad. Lee's gaze was fixed upon Bristoe station. Warren, forming Meade's rear guard, gained success in a brilliant side engagement with A. P. Hill, which enabled Meade to post himself strongly at Centerville. For the moment Lee felt himself foiled. Throwing out a line of troops along Bull run, he destroyed the railroad south of that point and retired at his leisure, a leisure with a certainty of future triumph in it. Meade, quickly leaving Centerville, followed him, repairing the road as he went. Reaching the Rappahannock he crossed, forcing the passage. Lee, without delay, put the Rapidan between himself and the army of the Potomac.

Meade's continued movement might mean peril. In order to deter him, if possible, from advancing farther into the interior during the winter of 1863-64, Lee caused certain works previously constructed on the north side of the Rappahannock to be converted into a tete-de-pont to defend a pontoon bridge already laid down. Lines of rifle-pits were constructed at the same time on each bank. November 7, 1863, proved a day of gloomy remembrance both for Hays' brigade and the Louisiana Guard artillery. On the north bank, in the rifle-pits, was Hays' brigade; in the redoubt on the same side [266] was stationed the Guard with four guns. No position during the war was more helplessly exposed than this. The Louisianians were at first the only troops north of the river—the Sixth, under Colonel Monaghan; Eighth, Captain Gusman; Fifth, Capt. J. G. Angell, and Seventh, Col. T. M. Terry, were more or less advanced, and the Ninth, Col. W. R. Peck, was held in the works. Col. D. B. Penn was in command of the brigade during the early part of the fight. About 2 o'clock p. m. Sedgwick's two corps began to crowd about the devoted brigade, which was soon forced to concentrate behind the breastworks, where they held their position, under artillery fire, unsupported until about 4:30, when Hoke's brigade came over and took position to assist them. At dusk, according to Sedgwick, an assault was made by two brigades of Russell's division. There were three heavy lines, as Hays, who was in the fort by 4 o'clock, saw them. At the center, the first Federal line was broken and some of it captured. But the second and third lines swarmed over his right, leaving the battery in the hands of the enemy, and while he was preparing to order the Seventh and Ninth to a desperate counter charge his center was broken. New lines of the enemy appeared, and the Seventh and Fifth regiments and Hoke's brigade were surrounded so as to make escape impossible. ‘My men,’ says Hays, ‘continued at their post in the works, fighting well to the last, and it was only when the command was cut in two and the enemy in complete possession of the entire hill that any thought was entertained of falling back. Indeed, there was no effort made by any one in my command to recross the river until nothing else remained but surrender. Many then escaped by swimming and fording the river, and some few on the pontoon bridge. The force under my command was small, between 800 and 900. That of Hoke's brigade was also small. The force of the enemy, I am confident, could not have been less than 20,000 to 25,000.’ His [267] report of loss was 2 killed, 16 wounded and 684 missing. The loss in Green's battery, commanded by Lieutenant Moore, was 1 killed and 41 missing. Twenty-eight escaped. Hays himself was made prisoner, but was saved by a restive horse. Being surrounded, his horse took fright and ran away, carrying him clattering over the pontoon bridge, the bullets still seeking him. The General used afterwards to call this a ‘narrow escape.’

It was something more, it was the most disastrous event in the history of the Louisiana Guard artillery. With guns gone the company temporarily was as Samson shorn of his locks. During its battle work its loss had been more in the ratio of numbers than that of any other Louisiana battery serving in Virginia. After the exchange in May, 1864, the company was formed into a mounted battery and detailed to act with the cavalry. It was employed chiefly in raiding the enemy's outposts and surprising their communications. The service was arduous; and finally, when the horses could not be replaced for the work, the battery took its place in the trenches near Richmond, and was in the retreat to Appomattox. The valor of the Louisiana Guard artillery, previous to Rappahannock bridge and on that day of wild fighting, assured the full performance of duty by the men. Whether riding with Hampton's legion or guarding like watchdogs the trenches, its valor was always to the fore. No special mention will be made hereafter of the Louisiana Guard artillery, save that the battery was at Appomattox, was surrendered there, but not before firing its last gun. Their comrades salute them, with no stain upon their record as Confederate artillerists from Norfolk to Appomattox.

Meanwhile the North, drunken with delight after Gettysburg, still demanded energy from the victorious commander. Action! action! always action! was the solitary message weighing down the telegraph. Lee had prudently put his army into cantonments for the winter [268] over a considerable space. Several of the lower fords of the Rapidan were left open. Lee had defended his right flank, however, by a line of intrenchment facing Mine run, at right angles to the Rapidan.

Meade was spurred beyond his usual hesitation. He resolved to turn Lee's position and seriously cripple his great adversary by a quick blow. Marching orders were issued to the several corps, the day and hour being added for each march; but one corps commander was three hours late. A pontoon bridge proved too short on account of high water in the Rapidan. So Meade got into position two days later than he had wished. Lee smiled, having already hastily concentrated. When ready for attack on the fourth day, Meade found Lee secure in his position (November 26th to 30th). Each army went back to its own lines. The troops being once more in winter quarters remained there. The North did not quite like the quiet after failure, but winter gripped hard both town and camp.

During this futile campaign there was some brisk fighting, and many brave men fell. General Early having taken command of Ewell's corps during the illness of his chief, Hays was put in charge of Early's division and Col. William Monaghan commanded the remnants of his brigade and Hoke's. Leroy A. Stafford, with the rank of brigadier-general earned gallantly on many fields, again led the Second brigade. Both of these commands were on duty.

Hays' brigade was in line of battle beyond Mine run during the 27th, and during the skirmishing of the day, Captain Bringhurst, of the Ninth, and three privates were killed. Then retiring to the Confederate side of Mine run, they remained there several days. On the 30th Lieutenant Wehmer and several privates were wounded on the skirmish line. That night they slept on their arms, but no battle followed.

Stafford's brigade was at Payne's farm, where there [269] was severe fighting on the 27th. The brigade advanced with a cheer to the support of the Stonewall brigade, but under a murderous fire found it impossible to proceed be. yond the crest on which the Confederate line had been established. The brigade lost 16 killed and 88 wounded. Three officers lost their lives: Lieutenants Kenna, Mc-Rae and Cotton. [270]

1 At Williamsport on the 6th, the trains, being unable to cross the Potomac on account of high water, were assailed by the Federal cavalry, with artillery, and successfully defended by General Imboden, and the Washington artillery and Donaldsonville battery. Eshleman, seeing his only salvation was a bold attack, sent Miller's battery forward 600 yards, supported by a line of skirmishers and later by Norcum's Napoleon gun. By this bold move Miller and Norcum repulsed the enemy in their front, while Battles, Squires and Richardson held the Federals back on other roads. Hawes, with two Napoleons, relieved two other batteries which had briefly aided them, and fought under a galling fire, losing 12 men at one piece. On this day the Louisiana gunners, after a most fatiguing march of two days without sleep, rest or food, were of vital importance to the army of Northern Virginia.

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