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Malvern Hill. Recollections of the fight by one who was there. [extracts from official Federal and Confederate Records.]

As a Confederate soldier, a member of one of the regiments of General William Mahone's brigade of Virginians, I was present with a musket in my hand in nearly a score of the principal engagements between the Army of Northern Virginia and its opponent, the Army of the Potomac, but of all these I remember no engagement which, in its dramatic incidents, came up to my preconceived idea of a battle as did that of Malvern Hill, Fought in an open field, with desperate valor on both sides, the combatants in full view of each other, except when the smoke of battle or the darkness of night enshrouded them, the struggle of the contending forces, the one attacking, the other repelling, presented a scene never to be forgotten by those who were present. To give some account of this memorable conflict, recalling its well-remembered features to many ex-soldiers, is the object of this article. From the official reports of prominent Federal and Confederate officers, not readily accessible to the general reader, striking passages descriptive of the battle—and these reports singularly abound in such passages—will be taken, and the writer will give his own personal recollections of the engagement as he now, after a lapse of a quarter of a century, vividly remembers it almost distinctly as if it were an occurrence of yesterday.1 In view of the fact that its twenty-fifth anniversary has but recently passed a sketch of the battle so prepared, it is believed, will interest the readers of your journal.

On the afternoon of July 1, 1862, the Federal army, under General George B. McClellen, occupied the hill and plateau upon which stood some dwellings and other buildings erected upon a part of the land belonging to the old Virginia country-seat situated in the county of Henrico, some fourteen miles below Richmond, known during and since colonial time as ‘Malvern Hill.’ The Confederate army, under [57] General Robert E. Lee, flushed with a succession of victories during the preceding six days, was pushing forward, and the Federal army, strongly posted, had determined to make a stand.

General Lee thus describes the position: ‘Early on July 1 Jackson reached the battle-field of the previous day, having succeeded in crossing White Oak Swamp, where he captured a part of the enemy's artillery and a number of prisoners. He was directed to continue the pursuit down the Willis Church road, and soon found the enemy occupying a high range, extending obliquely across the road, in front of Malvern Hill. On this position of great natural strength he had concentrated his powerful artillery, supported by masses of infantry, partially protected by earthworks. His left rested near Crew's house and his right near Binford's. Immediately in his front the ground was open, varying in width from a quarter to a half mile, and, sloping gradually from the crest, was completely swept by the fire of his infantry and artillery. To reach this open ground our troops had to advance through a broken and thickly-wooded country, traversed nearly throughout its whole extent by a swamp, passable at but few places, and difficult at these. The whole was within range of the batteries on the heights and the gunboats in the river, under whose incessant fire our movements had to be executed.’

But the best description of the field of battle and of the position of the Federal troops is given by General Ambrose R. Wright, to whose brigade of Georgians and Mahone's brigade of Virginians was assigned the duty of opening the engagement, as we will hereafter see. General Wright's very clear pen-picture is well worth perusal. Here is what he says:

Immediately in our front, and extending one mile, stretched a field, at the farther extremity of which was situated the dwelling and farm buildings of Mr. Crew (formerly Dr. Mettert). In front and to our left the land rose gently from the edge of the woods up to the farm-yard, when it became high and rolling. Upon the right the field was broken by a series of ridges and valleys, which ran out at right angles to a line drawn from our position to that of the enemy, and all of which terminated upon our extreme right in a precipitous bluff, which dropped suddenly down upon a low, flat meadow, covered with wheat and intersected with a number of ditches, which ran from a bluff across the meadow to a swamp or dense woods about five hundred yards farther to our right. This low, flat meadow stretched up to and swinging around Crew's house, extended as far Turkey Bend on James river. The enemy had drawn up his artillery [58] (as well as could be ascertained, about fifty pieces) in a crescent-shaped line, the convex-line being next to our position, with its right (on our left) resting upon a road which passed three hundred yards to the left of Crew's house on Malvern Hill, the left of their advanced line of batteries resting upon the high bluff which overlooked the meadow to the right (our right) and rear of Crew's house. Their infantry, a little in rear of the artillery, and protected by the crest of the ridge upon which the batteries were placed, extended from the woods on our left along the crest of the hill and through a lane in the meadow on our right to the dense woods there. In rear of this and beyond a narrow ravine, the sides of which were covered with timber, and which ran parallel to their line of battle and but a few rods in rear of Crew's house, was another line of infantry, its right resting upon a heavy, dense woods, which covered the Malvern Hill farm on the east. The left of this line rested upon the precipitous bluff which overhung the low meadow on the west of the farm. At this point the high bluff stretched out to the west for two hundred yards in a long ridge or ledge, nearly separating the meadow from the lowlands of the river, upon the extreme western terminus of which was planted a battery of heavy guns. The latter battery commanded the whole meadow in front of it, and by a direct fire was able to dispute the manoeuvring of troops over any portion of the meadow. Just behind the ravine which ran in rear of Crew's house, and under cover of the timber, was planted a heavy battery in a small redoubt, whose fire swept across the meadow. These two batteries completely controlled the meadow from one extremity of it to the other and effectually prevented the movement of troops in large masses upon it. The whole number of guns in these several batteries could not have fallen far short of one hundred. The infantry force of the enemy I estimated at least 25,000 or 30,000, from what I saw. Large numbers, as I ascertained afterward, were posted in the woods on our extreme right and left, and the line of ditches across the meadows were lined with sharp-shooters.

What was the plan of battle? Let General J. Bankhead Magruder, the Confederate commander who directed the plan of battle, explain:

Soon after, Mahone's brigade having arrived and the hour growing late, I gave the order that Wright's brigade, supported by Mahone's should advance and attack the enemy's batteries on the right; that Jones' division, expected momentarily, should advance on the right, and Ransom's brigade should attack on the left; my plan being to hurl about 15,000 men against the enemy's batteries and [59] supporting infantry; to follow up any successes they might obtain, and, if unable to drive the enemy from his strong position, to continue the fight in front by pouring in fresh troops; and in case they were repulsed to hold strongly the line of battle where I stood, to prevent serious disaster to our own arms. This plan was substantially carried out, producing the favorable results which followed.

About four in the afternoon our brigade (Mahone's), which had been slowly marching along the Quaker or Willis Church road in the direction of Malvern Hill, is halted. A few paces ahead of us is a dashing-looking general officer, mounted and splendidly uniformed, with a large retinue of staff officers and couriers. General Mahone rides up to this officer to receive his orders. Just at this time a solid shot fired from a gun of a Federal battery near Crew's house, now concealed from our view by an intervening body of woods, comes skipping along, nearly spent, narrowly missing the group of officers and couriers and passing through our ranks, opened for the purpose, as we saw it bounding slowly towards us — a reminder that the enemy was near at hand. All around the open field through which this shot came bounding towards us were pieces of artillery. In the road in which we halted were long lines of troops, and the dashing-looking officer was no other than General Magruder. His orders to General Mahone to charge the enemy's batteries along with General Wright were then given. The men in the ranks understood this order to be to charge the battery that fired the shot, which, like a gauntlet thrown down, seemed to challenge our assault.

In a few moments we are in motion, forming a line of battle with our faces in the direction of the Federal artillery, whose fire seems now to increase. Between us and the enemy intervenes the body of woods referred to, and we see nothing of them as we move forward. A hundred or two yards of forward movement brings us into these woods—a body of large chestnuts and oaks. Through the tops of these tall trees, far above our heads, the shot and shell of the now vigorously-used Federal artillery howl and crash, putting us in constant danger of injury from falling fragments of huge limbs of trees. But on we go, until we reach a ravine, or gully, along the bottom of which ran a small branch. Here we halt. In the ravine is a brigade of troops, all sitting with their backs to the wall of the gully next to the enemy, seemingly secure from danger, ensconced, as they were, in what appeared to be comparatively a bomb-proof, and looking far more comfortable than we felt under an order to charge a battery and on our way to execute this order. The occasion of our temporary [60] halt just here was an examination as to the route by which it would be best to go forward. In the dilemma, one of the couriers attached to our regiment suggested to our colonel that we might go through a little gate in sight, a short distance to our right. The courier's suggestion is taken, and we move to our right and file through this gate, meeting, as we pass, a poor fellow with a bullet hole through his neck and the pallor of death on his face, his friends, as they bear him past us, saying, ‘Look out for sharp-shooters’—another reminder, and not an agreeable one, either, of the presence of our armed adversaries.

We are now very close to the enemy. We are at the foot of the hill upon the table-ground of which stand the Crew house and other buildings and McClellan's army awaiting our assault-so close that we feel the vibrations of the earth at each discharge of the Federal guns. Not three hundred yards intervene between us and these guns, the slope of the hill, however, perfectly protecting us, we being now opposite to the extreme left of the Federal line of battle. To our right in a beautiful field (the meadow mentioned by General Wright), with its yellow shocks of recently-harvested wheat, are stationed the Federal sharp-shooters against whom we have been warned. Posted behind the shocks of wheat, they see us, but we cannot see them, whilst they pick off our men as they come up to take position in line of battle at the foot of the hill, preparatory to the intended charge. As each man files up he is ordered to lie down—an order most cheerfully obeyed, the recumbent position affording much protection from the fire of these sharpshooters, whose bullets are constantly hissing past us.

As I marched along to this position I looked over towards the woods on Turkey creek skirting this meadow. The prospect was beautiful, and as my eye took in the landscape, with everything in that direction so tranquil that clear summer afternoon, and in such striking contrast with the harsh notes of war every second reaching the ear from the hill in the front and to the left of us, I was reminded of a certain meadow in a neighboring county, which with its low grounds and fringe of dense woods, were delightfully familiar to me in the holiday seasons of my then recent boyhood. The wheat shocks, the low grounds, the woods in the distance, now before me, seemed to duplicate in every particular those elsewhere located, and now vividly recalled, over which, with gun and dog, I had so often hunted, and with which I associated nothing but happiness, and a crowd of memories rushed upon me. This would not be a truthful [61] record if I did not here state that I would have gladly then and there ended the war, changed the situation of affairs and transferred myself to the scene of these memories, far away from the angry roar of hostile cannon.

The crisis is now at hand. General Mahone, seizing the colors of one of our regiments, commands us to move forward. We rush up the slope of the hill towards the enemy, yelling at the top of our voices. Just as we near the brow of the hill, when my eye, on a level with them, takes in the field with its houses, I catch a glimpse of four artillery horses hitched to a gun, or to a caisson, dashing away at full speed. At the sight of this my heart leaped with joy. The enemy are flying! Their artillery and infantry are routed! We are victors without firing a gun! These were my thoughts. But I was terribly mistaken. My eye saw only those four horses in flight. No men, no other horses drawing pieces of artillery, no infantry, are flying. It was imagination—the wish being father to the thought—which, magnifying for the instant what was actually seen, had drawn the picture of the whole force of the enemy in full retreat.

Our line of battle was allowed to get well upon the hill, when the enemy's infantry, stationed not more than one hundred and fifty or two hundred yards in front of us, and their artillery in the rear of the infantry, suddenly opened upon us with terrific fury. Our men are driven back with terrible loss, but only to gain the protection of the brow of the hill, there to rally and return to the charge. The enemy's infantry line meanwhile is seemingly immovable. It stood as if at a dress parade. I could scarcely believe my own eyes as I looked upon it. Soon, however, dense volumes of smoke considerably obscured their line, but there were the red flashes of the guns and the crimson-looking Federal colors floating over the dark line of men plainly visible.

The company of which I was a member being next to the right company of the Twelfth Virginia regiment, and this regiment being the right regiment of Mahone's brigade, and Mahone's brigade being on the extreme right of the Confederate line of battle, just where I was the fire from the enemy was not so severe as it appeared to be on our left, and this gave me an opportunity to watch the troops to our left as they repeatedly moved forward in line of battle to charge the enemy. What I now saw impressed me very much. Every few minutes a column, a regiment or two, would move steadily forward in line of battle towards the enemy, cheering as they advanced. [62] Then there would be the deafening roll of musketry, and in a few moments all would be hidden from view by smoke. On the occasion. of one charge my eyes were upon the advancing line when it received the fire of the enemy. The poor fellows reeled and fell, it seemed by the dozens. The line, broken, is forced back to seek shelter under the brow of the hill. In a few minutes the men are rallied, and returning to the charge, meet the same fate. This was a fair sample of the many charges made during the afternoon.

Let us now draw from the official reports of leading officers. What is there found will not fail to interest and furnish some exceptionally graphic pen-pictures of this historic engagement. First let the Confederate commanders speak.

General Lee says: ‘On the right the attack was gallantly made by Huger's and Magruder's commands. Two brigades of the former commenced the action; the other two were subsequently sent to the support of Magruder and Hill. Several determined efforts were made to storm the hill at Crew's house. The brigades advanced bravely across the open field, raked by the fire of a hundred cannon and the musketry of large bodies of infantry. Some were broken and gave way, others approached close to the guns, driving back the infantry, compelling the advanced batteries to retire to escape capture, and mingling their dead with those of the enemy. For want of concert among the attacking columns their assaults were to weak to break the Federal line, and after struggling gallantly, sustaining and inflicting great loss, they were compelled successively to retire. Night was approaching when the attack began, and it soon became difficult, to distinguish friend from foe. The firing continued until 9 P. M., but no decided result was gained. Part of the troops were withdrawn to their original positions, others remained on the open field, and some rested within a hundred yards of the batteries that had been so bravely but vainly assailed. The general conduct of the troops was excellent—in some instances heroic. The lateness of the hour at which the attack necessarily began gave the enemy the full advantage of his superior position and augmented the natural difficulties of our own.’

General Magruder says: ‘The fire of musketry and artillery now raged with terrific fury. The battle-field was enveloped in smoke, relieved only by flashes from the lines of the contending troops. Round shot and grape crashed through the woods, and shells of enormous size, which reached far beyond the headquarters of our gallant commander-in-chief, burst amid the artillery parked [63] in the rear. Belgian missives and Minnie balls lent their aid to this scene of surpassing grandeur and sublimity. Amid all our gallant troops in front pressed on to victory, now cheered by the rapid fire of friends on their left, as they had been encouraged in their advance by the gallant brigades on the right, commanded by Generals Wright and Mahone. Nevertheless, the enemy from his strong position and great numbers, resisted stoutly the onset of our heroic bands, and bringing into action his heavy reserves, some of our men were compelled to fall back. They were easily rallied, however, and led again with fury to the attack. The noble, accomplished, and gallant Harrison, commander of the Charles City Troop, uniting his exertions with my own, rallied regiment after regiment, and, leading one of them to the front, fell pierced with seven wounds, near the enemies batteries.’

General Wright says:

At 4:45 o'clock I received an order from General Magruder, through Captain Henry Bryan, one of his staff, to advance immediately and charge the enemy's batteries. No other troops had yet come upon the field. I ordered my men forward, and springing before them led my brigade, less than one thousand men, against a force I knew to be superior in the ratio of at least twenty to one. Onward we pressed, warmly and strongly supported by General Mahone's brigade, under a murderous fire of shot, shell, cannister, and musketry. At every step my brave men fell around me, but the survivors passed on until we had reached a hollow about three hundred yards from the enemy's batteries on the right. Here I perceived that a strong force of infantry had been sent forward on our left by the enemy with a view of flanking and cutting us off from our support, now more than one thousand yards in our rear. I immediately threw the left of the Third Georgia regiment a little back along the upper margin of the hollow, and suddenly changing (the) front of this regiment, poured a galling fire upon the enemy, which he returned with spirit, aided by a fearful direct cross fire from his batteries. Here the contest raged with varying success for more than three-quarters of an hour; finally the line of the enemy was broken and he gave way in great disorder.

General Mahone says:

The brigade, although prompt in moving to the position assigned it, and in doing which was exposed to the fire of the enemy's sharpshooters, adroitly posted behind wheat shocks in the valley on our right, had not gotten into place when the order came from General Magruder, who, I presume, supposed all was ready with us, that the charge assigned to our forces (General Wright's brigade and my own) should be made. It was now 5 P. M. [64] The order was responded to with spirit and alacrity by our troops, but with less order and effect than was desirable and would otherwise have been secured, owing to the circumstances which I have adverted to.

Our troops, however, went forward with an earnest over a succession of steep hills and ravines until coming up within a few hundred yards of the enemy's left batteries, where they encountered his advance troops in large force, strongly positioned behind the crest of hills under the cover of his guns.

At this time there were no other troops engaging the enemy in our view or in supporting connection, and here for about two hours the fire and fury of battle raged with great obstinacy and destruction on both sides, our men finally succeeding in driving the enemy from the heights occupied in our front and immediately under his guns and upon his reserve at that point, and occupying the position from which he had resisted our advance with such obstinacy and deadly effect.

Colonel E. C. Edmonds, of the Thirty-eighth Virginia regiment of General Armistead's brigade, commanding the brigade, says:

I am proud to say we did hold our position through all of the storm of bullets, canister, grape, (and) shell, with occasional shells from the huge pieces playing upon us from the gunboats, until we saw the gallant Wright, with hat off and glittering blade, leading the brigade across the hill to our support.2 [65]

New life was infused among those wearied with watching and waiting; every man was at his post; loud shouts of welcome rent the air; all sprang to their feet, feeling certain of victory with such a support. Being the ranking colonel of the brigade (Colonel Hodges being stunned and having his beard singed by the explosion of a shell when just emerging from the wood), General Armistead being absent, I gave the order to charge, which was most gallantly performed by all engaged. Again leading, closely followed by General Wright's brigade until we reached the musket-range of the enemy's supports to his artillery, where the fire from both became so galling a momentary pause ensued. Six times was the attempt made to charge the batteries by the regiments of Armistead's brigade (just mentioned), and as many times did they fail for want of support on the left, involving the necessity of falling back a short distance under the cover of the brow of the hill.

Major Joseph R. Cabell, commanding the Thirty-eighth Virginia regiment, says: ‘When Generals Mahone and Wright came up with their brigades the order was given to charge, which was obeyed with promptness and alacrity, the Thirty-eighth being on the right and leading the charge. After getting in about seventy-five yards of the enemy they were halted and commenced a terrific fire, after which the order was given to charge, which the men did most gallantly-attempted five separate and distinct charges—but were compelled to fall back for the double reason of not being supported on the left and the heavy reinforcements coming up to the support of the enemy.’

Let us see what is stated by the Federal officers:

General McClellan says:

When the battle commenced in the afternoon I saw that in the faces and bearing of the men which satisfied me that we were sure of victory.

The attack was made upon our left and left center, and the brunt of it was borne by Porter's corps (including Hunt's reserve artillery and Tyler's heavy guns) and Couch's division, reinforced by the brigades of Sickles and Meagher. It was desperate, brave, and determined, but so destructive was the fire of our numerous artillery, so heroic the conduct of our infantry, and so admirable the dispositions of Porter, that no troops could have carried the position. Late in the evening the enemy fell back, thoroughly beaten, with dreadful slaughter. So completely was he crushed and so great was his losses that he has not since ventured to attack us.


General Couch, in his report, says:

The enemy were now massing large columns on our front.

At about 4:30 P. M., after an incessant cannonade, they boldly pushed forward a large column from their right in the open field to carry Griffin's position. The fire of the three batteries was concentrated upon them. Kingsbury's battery having been withdrawn for ammunition, was relieved by three guns of battery C, Rhode Island Artillery, and two guns (Allen's Fifth Massachusetts), under Captain Weeden. The attacking column kept on, continually reinforced, until within range of Griffin's Rifles, when it was stopped and formed line.

From this time until 8 P. M. there was enacted one of the sublimest sights ever presented in war, resulting in a glorious victory to our arms.

General Porter, clearly in mistake as to the date of the commencement of the attack, putting it certainly an hour too late, says: ‘The same ominous silence which had preceded thee attack in force at Gaines' Mill now intervened, lasting until about six o'clock, at which time the enemy (General John B. Magruder's corps) opened upon us suddenly with the full force of his artillery, and at once began to push forward his columns of infantry to the attack of our positions. Regiment after regiment, and sometimes whole brigades, were thrown against our batteries, but our infantry withheld their fire until they were within short distance (artillery mowing them down with canister), dispersed the columns in every case, and in some instances followed the retiring mass, driving them with bayonet, capturing prisoners, and also flags and other trophies, some of which have been forwarded to your headquarters.’

About sunset an advance is ordered, and we move forward to the next hill some seventy-five yards in our front, Colonel David A. Weisiger, the colonel of our regiment, gallantly leading it in the charge; and from this new position we open fire upon the enemy. At this point occurred a little incident that I have often recalled. A colonel of some regiment—who he was, or what his regiment, I never knew—an elderly man, hair and beard very gray, was squatting among the men under the brow of the hill, where were a large number of our regiment, all of us mixed up together, the enemy being very close at hand just over the hill—the men rising to fire and resuming their squatting positions whilst loading. Being within a few feet of the old fellow, I heard him earnestly urging those near him [67] to fire fast upon the enemy. ‘Fire fast, men. Fire fast. Give it to 'em. Give it to 'em, boys,’ he would say. Just then some one cried out, ‘Boys, we are firing into our friends!’ Brandishing his sword with considerable energy at the man who volunteered the information, he exclaimed, ‘Firing upon our friends! They are damned Yankees. If you say we are firing on our friends, God damn you, I will cut you in two with my sword.’ Turning to the men around him, he continued to urge them to ‘fire fast.’ ‘Give it to 'em, boys,’ he repeated. ‘Give it to 'em. Fire fast. They are nothing but damned Yankees.’ Lieutenant John R. Patterson, of our regiment, enthused with admiration at the old officer's conduct, exclaimed, ‘Go it, colonel! I'll stand at your back,’ or words to that effect. Hearing Lieutenant Patterson's hearty, but rather familiar endorsement, and struck, as he had been, with the conduct and words of the old gentleman, turning to Lieutenant Patterson, I said: ‘Who is that old officer you are speaking to so familiarly?’ ‘Don't know,’ energetically replied Patterson, still enthused, ‘I just know he is a colonel.’

Night coming on, some of our men actually got in among the enemy before discovering their position, so close were the contending forces on the extreme right of our line. A member of our regiment, private Henry B. Cowles, thus came very near being captured, but before being discovered made his way back to our line.

Let us now take an extract from General Wright's report. This officer says:

The firing had now become general along the left and center of our line, and night setting in, it was difficult to distinguish friend from foe.

Several of my command were killed by our own friends, who had come up on our immediate left, and who commenced firing long before they came within range of the enemy. This firing upon us from our friends, together with increasing darkness, made our position peculiarly hazardous; but I determined to maintain it at all hazards as long as a man should be left to fire a gun. The fire was terrific now beyond anything I have ever witnessed-indeed, the hideous shrieking of shells through the dusky gloom of closing night, the whizzing of bullets, the loud and incessant roll of artillery and small arms, were enough to make the stoutest heart quail. Still my shattered little command, now reduced to less than three hundred, with about an equal number of General Mahone's brigade, held our position under the very muzzles of the enemy's guns, and poured volley after volley with murderous precision in their serried ranks.


The firing is kept up until nine o'clock at night, when both parties, wearied with the fight, seemed to cease firing by consent. Soon after the firing ceased, numbers of the enemy could be seen in our immediate front, moving about with lanterns in their hands, looking after their dead and wounded. The crest of the hill where we now are is held by a thin line of battle, consisting mainly of the remains of the depleted brigades of Mahone and Wright.

General Mahone, in his report, says: ‘Utter darkness now covered the scene, and the tragedy closed, leaving General Wright and myself with the remnants of our shattered brigades in possession of the ground which they had at a heavy sacrifice of kindred blood, but with spirit and gallantry, won. General Wright and myself, conjointly as equals, and not as his senior, arranged and positioned for the night all the various troops which were now within the reach of our authority, first establishing our picket line, and then giving such attentions to the wants of the wounded around us as our capacity and resources would admit.’

General Wright, in his report, says:

Night had thrown her black pall over the entire field, and the firing ceased except from a few of the enemy's guns, which continued at intervals to throw shell and grape around the entire circuit of the field. Our forces had all retired and left us (Mahone and myself) alone with our little band to dispute the possession of the field with the insolent but well-chastised foe. Upon consultation we determined to remain where we were, now within one hundred yards of the enemy's batteries, and if any of the foe should be left when morning dawned, to give him battle again. We had lost too many valuable lives to give up the decided advantage which we had won from the enemy * * * *

A strong picket was advanced all around our isolated position, and the wearied, hungry soldiers threw themselves upon the earth to snatch a few hour's rest. Detachments were ordered to search for water and administer to our poor wounded men, whose piercing cries rent the air in every direction. Soon the enemy were seen with lanterns busily engaged in moving their killed and wounded, and friend and foe freely mingled on that gloomy night in administering to the wants of wounded and dying comrades.

After getting our disposition made for the night I wrote a dispatch to General Magruder informing him of what I had done and my present condition, asking that my worn-out and exhausted men might be relieved. Again at daylight I renewed the application.

General Magruder, in his report, says:

Darkness had now set [69] in, and I thought of withdrawing the troops, but, as we had gained many advantages, I concluded to let the battle subside and to occupy the field, which was done to within one hundred yards of the enemy's guns. Pickets were accordingly established by Brigadier-Generals Mahone and Wright, whose brigades slept on the battle field in the advanced positions they had won. Armistead's brigade and a portion of Ransom's also occupied the battle-field.

Stretched as we were on the naked ground on the slope of the hill now occupied by those forming the thin line of battle which held the position, with a slight rain occasionally falling, with no blankets to protect us (our baggage had been left in the rear), and with the pitiful cries of wounded men audible all around us, although very much wearied, we found the place where we lay on the gravelly soil anything but comfortable. Yet there we slept. Although the noises heard from the direction of the enemy unmistakably indicated their retreat, yet in the early morning they are still in position in our front and exchange a few shots with the pickets posted at points of our line. That there was a retreat and no assault by any considerable force upon our army at this time was, indeed, a God send to us. Let Brigadier-General Isaac R. Trimble state the condition of our army at this time. In his report he says: ‘The next morning by dawn I went off to ask for orders, when I found the whole army in the utmost disorder—thousands of straggling men asking every passer-by for their regiments; ambulances, wagons, and artillery obstructing every road, and altogether, in a drenching rain, presenting a scene of the most woeful and disheartening confusion.’

When it became light enough to see, and I looked over the part of the field within the range of our vision, it presented a horrible sight. In all directions could be seen the corpses of the slain. The slaughter of the Confederates had been terrific. Let General Jubal A. Early here speak. In his report he says:

As soon as it was light enough next morning an appalling spectacle was presented to our view in front. The field for some distance from the enemy's position was literally strewn with the dead and wounded, and arms were lying in every direction. It was apparent that the enemy's main body, with his artillery, had retired, but a body of his cavalry, supported by infantry, was soon discovered on the field. To the right, near the top of a steep hill leading up towards the enemy's position, we saw a body of our own troops, some distance off, lying down, which proved to be a small body under Brigadier-Generals Mahone and Wright. [70]

In the mean time parties of our men were going to the front in search of the wounded, and after a demonstration by the enemy's cavalry, which was abandoned on the firing of a few shots by the Maryland regiment posted in the woods some distance to my left, the parties from both armies in search of the dead and wounded gradually approached each other and continued their mournful work without molestation from either side, being apparently appalled for a moment into a cessation from all hostile purposes by the terrible spectacle presented to their view.

Here is General Mahone's report as to the enemy appearing in our front the next morning:

At an early hour next morning a large body of the enemy's cavalry made their appearance on the line which he had occupied with his artillery, at first and for a while indicating by their movements the purpose of a descent upon our ambulance corps and details then employed on the field, the one in their legitimate duties and the other in collecting scattered arms and accoutrements.

The small body of troops now remaining upon the field and under my command were of my own brigade exclusively, and with but few exceptions of the Twelfth Virginia, the exertions and gallantry of whose colonel (D. A. Weisiger) in conducting the operations of his regiment merit high commendation. With these I continued to hold the ground which we had occupied during the night, mainly with the view of protecting our details from any onslaught by the enemy's cavalry, employing details from my own limited force to care for the wounded and to gather up the scattered arms and accoutrements in my own immediate vicinity.

As soon as the enemy had retired, what remained of our brigade was marched back to the body of the woods through which we had moved in line of battle the afternoon before, and there went into bivouac. Soon after we were dismissed, several of us returned to the field of battle and strolled over it, and I thus had a better opportunity of forming a correct idea of the great slaughter on both sides.

The enemy as well as ourselves had suffered no little. The position of their line of battle where it confronted our right was distinctly marked by a long line of thickly-strewn corpses of Federal soldiers.

After walking about the field for an hour or more I returned to our bivouac, thoroughly impressed with the severity of the conflict of the preceding day, as must have been all who participated in it or had a like opportunity of going over the bloody field so recently after the combatants ceased their fierce struggle. In this sketch of [71] the engagement, I have endeavored, with the help of the official reports, to furnish a simple narrative of its leading and most striking features, giving at the same time an account of it as viewed from the standpoint of one of several thousand soldiers who took part in this exceptionally tragic action with muskets in their hands, without attempting to account or to fix upon any officer or officers in command or troops engaged the responsibility for the failure of the Confederate forces to accomplish more after such frightful loss of life. If what I have written has interested the reader and has given him a clearer conception of this closing scene of the seven days battles around Richmond, the sketch will have served its purpose.

George S. Bernard. Petersburg, Va., September 23, 1887.

The truth of history.

Defence of Fort Gregg—The battle of Jericho Ford—Troops surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse—Last official reports made to General Lee after the surrender, etc.

In the account of the Unveiling of the Soldiers' Monument in Blandford Cemetery, Petersburg, Va., from the correspondent of the Richmond (Va.) Dispatch, and published in its issue of June 8, 1890, and republished in the Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XVII, pp. 388-403, occurs the following misstatement: ‘Fort Gregg, whose defence by the small band of gallant Mississippians was one of the bravest, most glorious, and most stubborn in the annals of the war.’

This inadvertant publication has elicited from General James H. Lane several material communications, explaining not only how the oft-repeated error as to the real defenders of Fort Gregg first gained currency, but correcting other erroneous statements heretofore made. He also makes a valuable suggestion.

Under date of September 5, 1890, he writes:

General Lee, at Appomattox Courthouse, ordered official reports from all of his general officers. I made ,nine [published, with the letters of Lieutenants Snow, Craige, Howard and Rigler, in the Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. III, pp. 19-28, January, [72] 1877], and I have no doubt other officers did the same. I have reason to fear whether these reports, as a whole, have found their way to the War Record Office in Washington. I think, however, from the circumstances under which they were made, they will be found among General Lee's private papers. I would like to see the last official reports of Lee's subalterns, made at Appomattox Courthouse after the surrender, published as a whole. It would make a valuable and interesting volume, and we would then know officially everything reported at the time about the heroic defence of Fort Gregg and its capture. I have always thought that the false claim set up for Harris's brigade was at the instance of General Mahone, because Harris's brigade formed a part of his division. There are other instances in which he did my command injustice. * * * He claimed all of the prisoners and one of the flags captured by my brigade in front of the works at Spotsylvania Courthouse on the 12th of May, but his claim was never recognized by Generals Lee and Early. He claimed two pieces of artillery captured by Cooke's, McRae's, and Lane's brigades in their glorious charge upon Hancock's entrenchments at Reames' Station, but General A. P. Hill would not recognize that claim. Colonel William J. Pegram told me that he receipted to General Weisiger for them as “brought off the field of battle,” and that he declined to receipt for them as “captured” by Mahone's old brigade, as the North Carolina brigades had captured them and left them behind them, and McGowan had turned them upon the enemy before Mahone's old brigade retired them to our rear. This is the fight in which (General Hill told me) the noble and gallant Pegram begged and cried to be allowed to participate. General Mahone also claimed flags captured by McRae's brigades.

Yours most sincerely,

[The desire of General Lane that the reports made to General Lee by his general officers, after the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, be collected and published in one volume, commands eager and general acquiescence. The editor would be thankful for the privilege of preserving in the Southern Historical Society Papers all or any of these reports.

It is to be hoped that reports were made, as requested, by a majority if not all of the officers.

The editor wrote to General G. W. C. Lee, in furtherance of the [73] suggestion of General Lane, and had response from him October 23, 1890. He wrote: ‘Soon after the death of my father all of his military papers were sent to Colonel Charles Marshall, who had been acting as his military secretary, and who had been requested by the faculty of this institution [Washington and Lee University] to prepare a biographical sketch of its late president. Colonel Marshall did write the sketch, but was not satisfied with it, and consequently it has never been published.’

American history is materially indebted to Colonel Marshall for valuable contributions, which have commanded profound attention. The latest, most familiar to the public, being his oration delivered at the laying of the corner-stone of the Lee Monument at Richmond, October 27, 1887. (Published in the Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XVII, pp. 215-245—‘Lee Monument Memorial Volume.’) Doubtless Colonel Marshall will favor the public, in book form, with the valuable papers in his possession left by General Lee.]

Auburn, Alabama, September 17, 1890.
my dear Sir:

I herewith send you copies of the editorial in the Petersburg Index and my reply in the Richmond Dispatch. Should you wish further evidence of the gross injustice of the editorial, which I have always thought was prompted by General Mahone you are respectfully referred to the following:

Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. II, pp. 300, 301; Vol. III, pp. 19, 28; Vol. IX, pp. 103, 107; 124, 129; 145, 156.

A Correspondence between Generals Earl and Mahone, pp. 13 and 14, has the following about the 12th of May:

Lane's attack on the enemy's flank and rear did contribute materially to the repulse of the assaulting column, as it was thereby thrown into much confusion. Had you gone to your brigade and seen that it properly supported Lane, you would have rendered far greater service than by riding about, out of danger, denouncing his brigade, as you were understood to have done. This attack of Burnside's was unexpected, and thwarted the proposed movement for the relief of Ewell, as Lane's brigade was not in a condition to prosecute it, and your brigade had not moved to his support. The purpose was, when the two brigades struck the column of the enemy [74] pressing Ewell, to support them with the rest of the corps. You contributed nothing whatever to promote the success of that movement or the repulse of Burnside, and I think you were not under fire at the time; and you have now placed yourself in a lamentable predicament by your disingenuous and evasive statement of the facts of the case, as well as your unfounded insinuations against your superiors and Lane's brigade, which latter behaved most gallantly on that occasion, as it had done in the early morning when Ewell's line was first broken.’

Pages 12, 13:

Lane's brigade was taken out of the trenches immediately adjoining the salient referred to in your letter, and then passed over to the front, which would have been impossible had an attack been pressing that point. There had been a previous artillery fire upon it, which had subsided. It is true Lane was to lead the attack, and your brigade, under Colonel Weisiger, was to follow and support him, the route for the attacking column being along in front of our line of works until the enemy should be reached. Both brigades were passed into a body of oak woods in front of the works, to the right of the salient, for the purpose of concealing the troops from the enemy until the movement began. You did not remain in the woods with your brigade, but retired to the edge of it towards our works and near the Fredericksburg road. Lane, after receiving his orders from me, began the movement, advancing on a battery in front of the salient, which it was necessary to capture or drive out of the way, to enable the attacking force to pass on to Ewell's front. He got possession of the battery, and then encountered Burnside's corps, moving up to attack the salient, now held by Walker's brigade of Heth's division, under Colonel Mayo. Lane attacked Burnside's corps in flank and rear, and his men got mixed up in the column of the enemy. He was now subjected to the infantry fire of the enemy, a flank, rear and front fire from artillery, besides being in danger of our own guns playing upon the enemy; and as you have stated that you saw “that a part of the North Carolina brigade had given way,” I will here say that General Lane, in his report, dated 16th September, 1864, makes the following statement: “ The infantry fire in our rear was for a short time more severe than that in front, as Mahone's brigade poured such a fire into us that Lieutenant-Colonel Cowan and Lieutenant-Colonel McGill had to rush back and ask them not to fire into us.” And he further says: “My brigade continued to fight the enemy until the heads of two parallel lines of the enemy, which were coming from Ewell's front, were in skirmishing [75] distance of us, and as I could see no indications of an intention on the part of Colonel Weisiger to comply with my request, I ordered my command to fall back, which was necessarily done in some confusion, as the line had been broken capturing prisoners, and the woods through which they withdrew rendered it almost impossible to preserve anything like a line of battle.”

The request to Colonel Weisiger mentioned, was to move out of the woods and unite in the attack on the enemy, but Colonel Weisiger remained in the woods, and the brigade was not seriously engaged. During all this time you were not with your brigade, and if you had been, it was very singular conduct for you to leave it at so critical a juncture as you represent, to ride back to the lines for support. Had you gone to your brigade instead, and led it with that daring peculiar to Jackson, at least, the results might have been much greater. As it was, after Lane started, and while he was attacking the flank and rear of the enemy, the head of Burnside's column got to within a very short distance of the salient, and all our energies had to be directed to its repulse, a large number of guns were turned upon it, and by an obstinate resistance and heavy fire from Walker's brigade and Thomas's, which latter was on the left of the salient, the enemy was repulsed with heavy slaughter. General Lee and myself were on Heth's line watching the attack and directing the effort to repel it. * * *

Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. IX, pp. 241-246, gives my official report of the battle of Jericho Ford, and other interesting matter.

As to the statement that Field and Mahone surrendered more than half of General Lee's strength at Appomattox Courthouse, I have hastily made the following condensation from the paroles, Vol. XV, Southern Historical Society Papers, which I think is correct:

First corps.

Longstreet's Headquarters42
Pickett's Division (Stewart's, Corse's, Hunton's and Terry's Brigades)1,380
Field's Division (Anderson's, Benning's, Bratton's and Texas Brigades)4,974
DuBose's Brigade358
Humphrey's Brigade257
Semmes' Brigade178


Second corps.

Gordon's Headquarters147
Early's Division (Walker's, Lewis' and Johnston's Brigades)1,127
Gordon's Division (Evans', Terry's and Louisana Brigades)1,368
Grimes' Division (Battle's, Cook's, Cox's and Grimes' Brigades)1,823

Third corps.

Corps Headquarters, &c149
Heth's Division (Cooke's, Davis', McComb's and McRae's Brigades) 1,571
Mahone's Division (Finegan's, Forney's, Harris', Sorel's, Weisiger's Brigades)3,493
Wilcox's Division (Lane's, McGowan's, Scales', Thomas' Brigades)2,712
Johnson's Division (Wallace's, Moody's, Ransom's and Wise's Brigades)2,281


First Corps7,189
Second Corps4,465
Third Corps10,206
Field's Division4,974
Mahone's Division3,493

The above is infantry alone, and does not include the artillery, cavalry, &c., with the Army of Northern Virginia; nor does it include Ewell's Reserve Corps, Bridgford's Provost Battalion and other small bodies from Richmond.

In all of the above I have tried to call your attention to historical facts, without any coloring at all, and, as far as possible, let others speak in behalf of my gallant brigade of North Carolinians. I hope it will interest you.

I think my letter was published in the Dispatch of September 20, [77] 1867, and, as far as I know, neither it nor the article in the Petersburg Index has ever been republished. I have never read Pollard's book, I am sorry to say.

Yours very sincerely,

Lee and his Lieutenants. [editorial Petersburg daily index, September 11, 1869.]

In Pollard's new work, ‘Lee and His Lieutenants,’ in the sketch of Major-General Cadmus M. Wilcox's career, there occurs an error into which the author should not have fallen, considering his claimed acquaintance with the composition of General Lee's army.

On page 506 the following occurs:

From this summary record we must detach one incident that glorified the last days of the Confederacy, and is generally related as having fitly closed, with illuminated scroll, the career of the Army of Northern Virginia. It is the story of the defenders of Fort Gregg. Whose troops they were that gave this last example of devotion on General Lee's lines had been subject to some doubt; but it is now certain that they were of General Wilcox's command.

It is certain that no such thing is the case. The infantry garrison of Fort Gregg was composed entirely of members of the Mississippi brigade of Harris, formerly Posey's, and the brigade was, from the battle of Manassas to Appomattox, a part of R. H. Anderson's, latterly Mahone's, division.

On the same page General Wilcox is accredited with three performances erroneously. He was not engaged, except slightly, on the first evening at the Wilderness; his troops did not hold their own on the 12th of May at Spotsylvania, and instead of achieving success at Jericho Ford, May 24th, as Pollard relates, his brigades (Lane's and McGowan's) behaved most disgracefully, and were replaced by Davis' and Cooke's troops of Heth's division.

On page 522, in the biography of General Field, of Virginia, the historian relates that his division, when surrendered, constituted more than half of General Lee's force then under arms. This is not so. The divisions of Field and Mahone together did form the larger portion of the army. Why the silence in regard to the latter corps [ought to have been division], which rendered as splendid service on the retreat as was ever performed in the halcyon days of the Confederacy?


The truth of history—a letter from Brig.-Gen. Lane. [for the Dispatch.]

Richmond, Va., September 19, 1867.
The Petersburg Index, in its editorial notice of Mr. Pollard's new work entitled, ‘Lee and His Lieutenants,’ does great injustice to Lane's North Carolina brigade and the other gallant troops composing Wilcox's division.

That paper asserts: ‘Wilcox was not engaged, except slightly, on the first evening at the Wilderness,’ whereas Heth's and Wilcox's divisions were both hotly engaged, and succeeded in keeping back two or more corps of the Yankee army. In my official report I stated that we—that is, my brigade—were the last troops to become engaged, and, without hope of assistance, kept up the unequal contest from about 5 o'clock P. M. until 9. My aggregate loss in the fights of the 5th and 6th was four hundred and fifteen.

The next error is in the assertion that ‘Wilcox's troops did not hold their own on the 12th of May at Spotsylvania.’ General Early, however, is of a different opinion, for in his ‘Memoir of the Last Year of the War for Independence,’ page 25, he says:

On this morning the enemy made a very heavy attack on Ewell's front, and broke the line where it was occupied by Johnson's division. A portion of the attacking force swept along Johnson's line to Wilcox's left, and was checked by a prompt movement on the part of Brigadier-General Lane, who was on that flank. As soon as the firing was heard General Wilcox sent Thomas's and Scales's brigades to Lane's assistance, and they arrived just as Lane's brigade had repulsed this body of the enemy, and they pursued it for a short distance. As soon as Mahone's division arrived from the left, Perrin's and Harris's brigades, of that division, were sent to General Ewell's assistance, and were carried into action under his orders. Brigadier-General Perrin was killed and Brigadier-General McGowan severely wounded while gallantly leading their respective brigades into action, and all the brigades sent to Ewell's assistance suffered severely.

Subsequently, on the same day, under orders from General Lee, Lane's brigade, of Wilcox's division, and Mahone's own brigade (under Colonel Weisiger) were thrown to the front for the purpose of moving to the left and attacking the flank of the column of the enemy which had broken Ewell's line, to relieve the pressure on him, and, if possible, recover the part of the line which he had lost. [79] Lane's brigade commenced the movement, and had not proceeded far when it encountered and attacked, in a piece of woods in front of my line, the Ninth corps under Burnside, moving up to attack a salient on my front. Lane captured over three hundred (300) prisoners and three battle-flags, and his attack on the enemy's flank, taking him by surprise, no doubt contributed materially to his repulse. Mahone's brigade did not become seriously engaged. The attacking column which Lane encountered got up to within a very short distance of a salient defended by Walker's brigade, of Heth's division, under Colonel Mayo, before it was discovered, as there was a pine thicket in front, under cover of which the advance was made. A heavy fire of musketry from Walker's brigade and Thomas's, which was on its left, and a fire of artillery from a considerable number of guns on Heth's line, were opened with tremendous effect upon the attacking column, and it was driven back with heavy loss, leaving its dead in front of our works. This affair took place under the eye of General Lee himself.

The original of the following communication is still in my possession:

headquarters Army of Northern Virginia, on battlefield, May 13, 1864.
General C. M. Wilcox, Commanding Division:
General: General Lee directs me to acknowledge the receipt of the flags captured by Lane's brigade in its gallant charge of yesterday, and to say that they will be forwarded to the Hon. Secretary of War with the accompanying note and the names of the brave captors.

I am, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

C. S. Venable, A. D. C.

The Index is again mistaken when it says, ‘Instead of achieving success at Jericho Ford May 24th, as Pollard relates, his brigades (Lane's and McGowan's) behaved most disgracefully and were replaced by Davis's and Cooke's troops, of Heth's division.’ The Thirty-seventh regiment alone of my brigade behaved badly on that occasion; but in justice to this regiment it must be remembered that it lost its colonel and many of its bravest company officers in the fight of the 12th. The Seventh was guarding a point on the river, [80] and was not actively engaged. The other three regiments fought very gallantly, drove the enemy back to a commanding position near the river, held the ground over which they fought, removed all their dead and wounded, and were not relieved by Davis's brigade until 11 o'clock that night, at which time the fighting had ceased.

Lastly, the Index denies that Fort Gregg was defended by any part of Wilcox's command, and says: ‘The infantry garrison at Fort Gregg was composed entirely of members of the Mississippi brigade of Harris, formerly Posey's.’ This assertion is not true. The true defenders of Fort Gregg were a part of Lane's North Carolina brigade, Walker's supernumerary artillerists of A. P. Hill's corps, armed as infantry, and a part of Chew's Maryland battery. Harris's brigade and a few pieces of artillery occupied Fort Alexander, which was to the rear of Fort Gregg and higher up the Appomattox; and that fort was evacuated, the infantry and artillery retiring to the inner line of works, before Fort Gregg was attacked in force. I have letters from Lieutenants Snow, Craige, Howard, and Rigler, of my brigade, who were in Fort Gregg when it fell; and these officers estimate the number of Harris's brigade in that fort at not more than twenty, including a Lieutenant-Colonel Duncan and his adjutant, while they estimate the number from my brigade to have been at least three-fourths of the entire force.

I commanded a North Carolina brigade from the battle of Sharpsburg to the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, and during that time, with the single exception of the Thirty-seventh regiment at Jericho Ford, my entire command always behaved most gallantly, and won for themselves an enviable ‘army reputation.’

James H. Lane, Late Brigadier-General, C. S. A.

General Early's Valley campaign.

by General A. L. Long, Chief of artillery Second corps, Army Northern Virginia.
[The following paper, now amended, originally appeared in this serial in March, 1877 (Vol. III, No. 3, pp. 112, 122 inclusive). Unintentionally, due credit was not then given several highly meritorious [81] officers and their commands for efficient service rendered in the momentous campaign treated of, whilst some essential incidents were omitted. The natural desire of the gallant author to rectify the deficiencies in his narrative in a corrected republication, has been through circumstances deferred. For years suffering under the touching deprivation of vision and otherwise greatly physically afflicted, he bore these visitations of Providence with a fortitude wholly noble. He was relieved April 29, 1891, when, it may be confidently trusted, his heroic and devoted spirit found eternal companionship in Celestial Realms with the patriot chief who so loved and trusted him—the Christian Hero, Robert E. Lee. The daughter of General Long, Miss Virginia T. Long, writes the editor that ‘the last thing dictated’ by her so lamented father was the letter for publication ‘making the corrections’ embodied in the present publication. The editor has great pleasure in dutifully doing justice to all concerned.]

In compliance with his instructions, General Early, on the 13th of June, withdrew his corps, consisting of about eight thousand infantry and twenty-four pieces of artillery, from the Army of Northern Virginia, and proceeded towards Staunton. The artillery was subsequently increased to forty guns, and his forces were further augmented by the addition of about fifteen hundred cavalry and two thousand infantry. At Charlottesville Early received intelligence of the rapid advance of Hunter upon Lynchburg with a force of twenty thousand men.

Promptly shifting his objective point, and availing himself of the Orange and Alexandria railroad, he moved with such rapidity that he reached Lynchburg in time to rescue it. At that time the only force at hand for the defence of Lynchburg was the division of Breckinridge, less than two thousand strong, and a few hundred home guards, composed of old men and boys, whose age exempted them from active service. Hunter, finding himself unexpectedly confronted by Early, relinquished his intended attack upon the city, and sought safety in a rapid night retreat.

The next day Early instituted a vigorous pursuit, which continued with uninterrupted pertinacity, until Hunter was overtaken in the neighborhood of Salem, a small town on the Virginia and Tennessee railroad, where he was defeated and forced to a hazardous and disorganizing retreat through the mountains to the Ohio river. [82]

Having at a single blow liberated the Valley, Early determined upon an immediate invasion of Maryland and a bold advance on Washington City. As his instructions was discretionary, he was at liberty to adopt that course, which, at the time was, both in a political and military point of view, the best plan of action that could have been assumed.

The defence of Richmond being the settled policy of the Confederate Government, General Lee had on two occasions assumed the offensive in order to relieve that place from the paralyzing influence of the Federals.

The invasion of Maryland in 1862, and the campaign into Pennsylvania the following year, had relieved Richmond of the presence of the enemy for more than a year, but the tide of war had again returned, and that celebrated city was gradually yielding to the powerful embrace of her besiegers, which could only be loosened by a strong diversion in her favor.

This Early undertook with the force at his command, after the disposal of Hunter's army. By uniting with his own corps the division of Breckinridge and Ransom's cavalry, Early found himself at the head of about twelve thousand men. Though he knew this force to be inadequate to the magnitude of the work in hand, nevertheless he determined to overcome his want of numbers by the rapidity of his movements, thus hoping to acquire a momentum by velocity that would enable him to overcome that produced by the superior gravity of his opponents.

After the dispersion of Hunter's forces, one day in preparation sufficed Early for the commencement of his advance upon Maryland. His route through the Valley extended over a distance of two hundred miles or more; but the road was good, and although the country had been laid waste a short time before by Hunter, the genial season and fertile soil had already reproduced abundant subsistence for the horses and mules of the expedition; but the greater part of the supplies for the troops were necessarily drawn from Lynchburg and Richmond. To prevent delay, therefore, orders were sent to these places directing supplies to be forwarded to convenient points along the line of march. Staunton was reached on the 27th of June. This was the most suitable point at which to supply the army, and there Early made a short halt to make the necessary arrangements to insure the uninterrupted continuance of his march. In this he was ably assisted by Colonel Allan, Majors Harman, Rogers, Hawks, and [83] other members of his staff. The beautiful Valley of Virginia everywhere gave evidence of the ravages of war. Throughout the march down the Valley the unsparing hand of Hunter was proclaimed by the charred ruins of the once beautiful and happy homes. At Lexington the cracked and tottering walls of the Virginia Military Institute, the pride of Virginia and the Alma Mater of many of the distinguished sons of the South, were seen, and near them appeared the blackened remains of the private residence of Governor Letcher. Mrs. Letcher, with an infant hardly a week old, had been moved from her bed to witness the destruction of her house.

These melancholy scenes are almost too sad to relate; nevertheless they are facts that must stand in eviendence of the cruelty with which the war was prosecuted by the North against the South.

When Early reached Winchester he learned that there was a Federal force at Harper's Ferry and another at Martinsburg, which it was necessary to dislodge before attempting the passage of the Potomac: and this was effected by the 4th of July without much opposition, the Federals having withdrawn without waiting an attack. The way being now clear, the passage of the Potomac was made on the 5th at Shepherdstown, and the army advanced to Sharpsburg.

Since the defeat of Hunter the advance of Early has been so rapid that his design to invade Maryland had not reached the Federal authorities in time to oppose his passage of the Potomac. But his entrance into Maryland being now known, it had produced great consternation as far as Baltimore and Washington. The boldness of this movement caused Early's forces to be greatly exaggerated, and rumor soon magnified it to four or five times its real strength.

The invasion was considered of such magnitude that the cities of Washington and Baltimore were thought to be in such imminent danger that the greatest alacrity was instituted in every direction to collect troops for the defence of those places.

The object of General Early being simply a diversion in favor of the operations about Richmond, he remained a day or two at Sharpsburg, in order that the impression created by his invasion might have time to produce its full effect before he exposed his weakness by a further advance. At this time all the troops in the vicinity of Washington had been collected, besides which a large numbers of quartermaster's employees had been improvised as soldiers, thus making the force at hand exceed twenty thousand men, while two corps from the army besieging Richmond, and a part of another corps from North Carolina, intended to reinforce that army, had been detached and put in rapid motion for the defence of the Capital. [84]

In the face of these odds Early continued his advance into Maryland. At Frederick he found General Wallace, with about ten thousand men, in position to oppose the passage of the Monocacy. Immediate preparations were made to dislodge Wallace and effect a crossing of that stream. Rodes was thrown forward on the Baltimore and Ramseur on the Washington City road, while Gordon and Breckinridge, with a portion of Ransom's cavalry inclining to the right, moved to the fords a mile or two below the railroad bridge. At the same time the heights contiguous to the river were crowned by Long's artillery (consisting of the guns of Nelson, Braxton, King and McLaughlin), to cover the movement of the other troops.

When the troops had gained their position, the crossing at the lower fords was promptly accomplished, and Breckinridge and Gordon, quickly forming their line of battle, advanced rapidly up the stream towards the Federal position, and, after a short but spirited conflict, defeated Wallace, whose army soon fell into a panic and fled in wild confusion, spreading dismay for miles in every direction by the terrible accounts they gave of the tremendous force Early was leading through the country. The route being now open, Early proceeded by rapid marches to within cannon-shot of the walls of Washington. Since his entrance into Maryland his force had been exaggerated by the inhabitants and the soldiery he had met, until in their terrified imagination it was magnified to thirty or forty thousand men.

On his arrival before the Federal Capital, the exaggerated rumor of his strength having preceded him, its occupants were variously affected. The Federal authorities and all of their adherents were in a state of consternation, while the Southern sympathizers were full of exultation—for at the time it was thought by many he would take the city. Had he had twenty or thirty thousand men he would have done so, with a prospect of holding it, and giving a new turn to subsequent military operations. But Early was too prudent and sagacious to attempt an enterprise with a force of eight thousand men which, if successful, could only be of temporary benefit. He was therefore content to remain in observation long enough to give his movement full time to produce its greatest effect, and then withdrew in the face of a large army and recrossed the Potomac without molestation.

This campaign is remarkable for having accomplished more in proportion to the force employed, and for having given less public satisfaction, than any other campaign of the war. The want of appreciation of it is entirely due to the erroneous opinion that the [85] City of Washington should have been taken; but this may be passed over as one of the absurdities of public criticism on the conduct of the war.

By glancing at the operations of Early, from the 13th of June to the last of July, it will be seen that in less than two months he had marched over four hundred miles, and with a force not exceeding twelve thousand men, he had not only defeated but entirely dispersed two Federal armies of an aggregate strength of more than double his own; had invaded Maryland, and by his bold and rapid movement upon Washington, had created an important diversion in favor of General Lee in the defence of Richmond, and had re-entered Virginia with a loss of less than three thousand men. After remaining a short time in the neighborhood of Leesburg, he returned to the Valley by way of Snicker's Gap, and about the 17th of July occupied the neighborhood of Berryville.

Early had no sooner established himself at Berryville than a considerable force of the enemy appeared on the Shenandoah, near Castleman's Ferry, and partially effected a crossing, but were promptly driven back with heavy loss, after which they retired to the neighbor of Harper's Ferry.

About the same time a large force under General Averill was reported to be advancing from Martinsburg to Winchester. Being unwilling to receive an attack in an unfavorable position, Early sent Ramseur, with a division and two batteries of artillery, to Winchester, to retard Averill, while he withdrew with the main body of the army and supply trains by way of White Post and Newtown to Strasburg.

Ramseur, having encountered the enemy a few miles east of Winchester, was defeated, with a loss of four pieces of artillery, and forced to retire to Newtown, where he rejoined Early.

Averill, being arrested in his pursuit of Ramseur near Newtown, fell back to Kernstown, where he was soon joined by General Crook, with the forces from Harper's Ferry.

From Newtown, Early continued his march to Strasburg without interruption. On the 23d he was informed of the junction of Crook and Averill, and of their occupation of Kernstown; thereupon it was determined to attack them without delay. The security of the trains having been properly provided for, the army was put in motion early on the morning of the 24th towards the enemy.

About noon a position was gained from which it was observed that the enemy was in possession of the identical ground which had been occupied by Shields when encountered by Stonewall Jackson in [86] March, 1862. The memory of that battle evidently did much to inspire the troops to deeds of valor in the approaching conflict.

Early quickly made his disposition for battle. The divisions of Breckinridge and Rodes were thrown to the right of the turnpike, and those of Ramseur and Gordon were deployed to its left, the artillery being disposed of so as to cover the advance of the infantry, while the cavalry received instructions to close behind the enemy as soon as defeated.

Perceiving that the left flank of the enemy was exposed, Breckinridge, under cover of a wooded hill, gained a position from which he bore down upon it, and in gallant style doubled it upon the centre. This success was so vigorously followed up by the other troops, that the Federals gave way at all points, and were soon in rapid retreat, which was accelerated by a vigorous pursuit. In this battle the losses on the part of the Confederates were insignificant, while those of the Federals in killed, wounded and prisoners were considerable. While on the retreat a large number of their wagons and a considerable quantity of their stores were destroyed to prevent capture.

Finding that the enemy had again sought safety behind his defences, Early determined to re-enter Maryland, for the double purpose of covering a retaliatory expedition into Pennyslvania, and to keep alive the diversion which had already been made in favor of the defence of Richmond. Therefore, about the 6th of August, he crossed the Potomac in two columns—the one at Williamsport, and the other at Shepherdstown—and took a position between Sharpsburg and Hagerstown.

This occupation of Maryland was destined to be of short duration, for since Early's audacity had caused his strength to be so greatly magnified, and the importance of his operations so exaggerated, Grant had considered it necessary to largely increase the army of the Shenandoah, and to supersede Hunter, whose incapacity had long been obvious, by Phil. Sheridan, one of the most energetic and unscrupulous of his lieutenants. Being aware of the great increase of force prepared to be brought against him, Early recrossed the Potomac and returned up the Valley, being slowly followed by Sheridan, who had now taken command of the Middle Department.

On reaching Fisher's Hill, a position three miles west of Strasburg, Early halted and offered battle, which Sheridan made a show of accepting until the morning of the 17th, when he was discovered to be retreating towards Winchester. He was immediately pursued by Early, and being overtaken near Kernstown, a spirited skirmish ensued [87] while he continued to retire. Night coming on the combatants separated, Early bivouacking in the neighborhood of Winchester, while Sheridan crossed the Opequon.

About this time Lieutenant-General Anderson joined Early with one division of infantry, a division of cavalry, and a batallion of artillery, thus increasing his force to about twelve thousand men, while that of Sherdian exceeded forty thousand. Notwithstanding the great disparity of numbers, the campaign was characterized by a series of skilful movements and brilliant skirmishes, including a successful attack on the Eighth Corps of Sheridan's army, near Berryville, on the 3d of September by Anderson's command, which resulted on the 19th of September in the battle of Winchester, which had doubtless been hastened to a conclusion by the departure of Anderson from the Valley on the 15th with Kershaw's division and Cutshaw's battalion of artillery for Richmond. Anderson had no sooner turned his back on the mountains than Sheridan threw his whole force against Early at Winchester and defeated him, not so much by force of numbers, as by one of those chances of war which sometimes beset the ablest commander; for after having gallantly contested the field, and firmly maintained their position until near the close of the day, a portion of his troops was seized with a panic, which rapidly spread until the greater part of the infantry and cavalry fell into confusion, and troops who had never before turned their backs upon the enemy retired in disorder from the field. The artillery alone remained firm, and covered with distinguished gallantry the retreat of the other troops, until a place of safety was gained and order restored, and then retired fighting, step by step, until it extricated itself from overwhelming numbers, leaving heaps of dead to testify to its matchless conduct and power. Sheridan's forces were so shattered that he could not immediately avail himself of the success he had gained, and Early was permitted an uninterrupted retreat to Fisher's Hill.

Notwithstanding his force had been considerably weakened by its late disaster, Early determined to maintain his position on Fisher's Hill. He could not realize that every man was not as stout-hearted as himself, nor that the troops he had so often led to victory were not invincible; and, besides his reluctance to abandon the rich and beautiful Valley, there were other and stronger reasons for his decision. It was evident that, if left unopposed in the Valley, Sheridan would immediately concert a plan of co-operation with Grant, either by advancing directly upon Richmond or by operating on its lines of [88] communication with a powerful cavalry until a junction was formed with him below Petersburg; in which case the important diversion in favor of Lee would have come to naught. Therefore the object of detaining Sheridan with his formidable force in the Valley sufficiently warranted Early, on the soundest military principles, in his determination to oppose him at all hazard.

The defiant attitude assumed by him was the most effective he could have adopted for accomplishing his object, and it created a deception as to his strength that made his opponent cautious, but which was quickly dissipated by a collision. His force at this time was less than seven thousand men, while that of Sheridan was greater by at least four to one.

Sheridan's forces having sufficiently recovered from the effect of the battle, pursued Early, and on the 22d attacked him in his position on Fisher's Hill. The thin Confederate ranks could offer but feeble resistance to the overwhelming force brought against them, and the conflict was consequently of short duration; and, owing to the extent and difficulty of the position, the Confederates sustained considerable loss before they could extricate themselves.

Early then retired up the Valley to a position above Harrisonburg, while Sheridan pursued as far as New Market. Both armies then remained inactive for some days, in order to rest and reorganize their forces. Kershaw's division of infantry and Cutshaw's battalion of artillery, after leaving Early and marching from Winchester to Gordonsville, returned, recrossing the mountain at Swift-Run Gap and rejoining Early near Lewis farm.

About the first of October, Sheridan retraced his steps down the Valley to the neighborhood of Middletown, where he took up a position on an elevated plateau behind Cedar Creek. Early, perceiving that his adversary had retired, pursued him to the neighborhood of Strasburg, where he took up a position from which he might be able to attack with advantage. On the 15th of October, Early made a demonstration in force in front of Sheridan's army and after a spirited engagement captured several hundred prisoners, besides losing some men killed and wounded, General Conner being among the latter. Sheridan had unwittingly assumed a position that gave his adversary admirable advantages and opportunity to execute a surprise.

Early entrusted a considerable force to General Gordon for that purpose. Having made himself familiar with the work in hand, Gordon, on the night of 18th October, proceeded to its execution. [89] Crossing Cedar creek sufficiently below the Federal pickets to avoid observation, he cautiously proceeded in the direction of the Federal encampments without accident or discovery. A favorable point for the accomplishment of his plans was gained just before daybreak on the 19th. The camp was reached, and in the midst of quiet sleep and peaceful dreams the war-cry and the ringing peals of musketry arose to wake the slumbering warriors and call them affrighted to their arms. The drums and bugles loudly summoned the soldier to his colors; but, alas! there was no ear for those familiar sounds! The crack of the rifle and the shouts of battle were upon the breeze, and no other sounds were heeded by the flying multitude.

Gordon's surprise had been complete, and when the dawn appeared long lines of fugitives were seen rushing madly towards Winchester. Such a rout had not been seen since the famous battle of Bull Run.

The Federals left artillery, baggage, small arms, camp equipage, clothing, knapsacks, haversacks, canteens, in fact everything, in their panic. The whole camp was filled with valuable booty, which in the end proved a dangerous temptation to the Confederates-many of whom, instead of following up their brilliant success, left their ranks for plunder.

If an apology for such conduct were ever admissible, it was so on this occasion—the troops having been so long unaccustomed to the commonest comfort while making long and fatiguing marches and battling against large odds, and being now broken down, ragged and hungry, they would have been superhuman had they resisted the tempting stores that lay scattered on every hand. Our censure of this conduct must be mingled with compassion, when we remember that instances arise when the demand of nature is irresistible.

The Federals finding that they were not pursued when they reached the neighborhood of Middletown, their spirits began to revive, and the habit of discipline and order assumed its sway, and the shapeless mass of the morning regained the appearance of an army.

Sheridan, having been absent, met his fugitive army a little below Newtown. Order having been restored, he reformed his troops, and, facing them about, returned to the scene of their late disaster. The Confederates being unprepared for an attack, were quickly defeated and forced to retire to Fisher's Hill; from there to New Market, where Early maintained a bold front for several weeks. By this return of fortune Sheridan not only recovered all that had been lost in the morning, but acquired considerable captures from the Confederates. [90]

The Confederates then retired to the neighborhood of Staunton, and further operations were suspended on account of the inclemency of the season.

Sheridan then occupied the lower Valley, where he employed himself in completing the work of destruction so bravely begun by Hunter, in which he seemed to vie with Alaric. His work of devastation was so complete that he exultingly reported to his superior that a ‘crow in traversing the Valley would be obliged to carry his rations.’ Before the spring was open Sheridan was in motion with a cavalry, or rather mounted infantry, force nine thousand strong, his objective point being Staunton. The force of Early, having been greatly reduced, was entirely inadequate for an effective resistance. Staunton was therefore evacuated, and Early retired to Waynesboroa. His entire force now only consisted of Wharton's division of infantry, six pieces of artillery, and a small body of cavalry, making in all about eighteen hundred men. With this force he took a position to protect an important railroad bridge over the south branch of the Shenandoah, and at the same time to cover Rockfish Gap, a pass connecting the Valley with Eastern Virginia. This pass was doubly important, as it gave passage both to the Charlottesville turnpike and Central railroad.

As Sheridan was without artillery, and the ground being unfit for the operation of cavalry, Early could have easily maintained his position with reliable troops: but, contrary to his belief, there was considerable disaffection in Wharton's division. Therefore, without his knowledge, his little army harbored the elements of defeat, for at the first show of an attack the malcontents threw down their arms, and, almost without opposition, Sheridan carried the position, compelling Early with his faithful few to seek safety in retreat. A number of these, however, were captured before they could make their escape.

Sheridan, having now removed all opposition, passed through Rockfish Gap into Eastern Virginia, traversed the interior of the State, and formed a junction with Grant almost without interruption.

On reaching Gordonsville Early collected a handful of men and threw himself upon the flank and rear of Sheridan, but his force was too small to make any impression. He was only induced to make this effort by his extreme reluctance to witness an unopposed march of an enemy through his country.

It has been said that Early, at the head of his faithful band, hovering like an eagle about the columns of Sheridan, displayed [91] more heroic valor than when at the head of his victorious army in Maryland.

Among some of those whom superior rank has not brought into special notice are Colonels Carter (Acting Chief of Artillery), Nelson, King, Braxton, and Cutshaw; Majors Kirkpatrick and McLaughlin, of the artillery, distinguished at Winchester; Captains Massey, killed, and Carpenter, wounded; Captain Garber wounded at Berryville; Colonel Pendleton, Adjutant-General of Early's corps, killed at Fisher's Hill while gallantly rallying the fugitives; Colonel Samuel Moore, Inspector-General of Early's corps; Colonel Green Peyton, Adjutant-General Rodes' division; Captain Lewis Randolph, of Rodes' staff; Colonel R. W. Hunter, Adjutant-General Gordon's division; Colonel Carr, Inspector-General Breckinridge's division, captured near Cross Keys, Valley of Virginia; Major Brethard, artillery; Major S. V. Southall, Adjutant-General of Artillery, wounded at Monocacy; Captain Percy, Inspector of Artillery; Major Moorman, of artillery; Lieutenant Long, Engineer Corps, killed at Cedar creek while rallying fugitives; Lieutenant Christian, of the artillery, also wounded at Cedar creek; Lieutenant Hobson, of artillery, killed at Monocacy; Dr. McGuire, Medical Director of Early's corps; Dr. Strath, Chief Surgeon of Artillery; Major Turner, Chief Quartermaster of Artillery; Major Armstrong, Chief Commissary of Artillery. Besides these there are many others, whose names are not in my possession, worthy of the highest distinction.

In operations of the character above described long lists of casualties may naturally be expected, in which the names of the bravest, noblest, and truest are sure to be found. While it is impossible for me to make separate mention of these, memory dictates the names of Rodes and Ramseur. From Richmond to the memorable campaign of the Wilderness they bore a conspicuous part, and their names rose high on the roll of fame. Rodes fell in the battle of Winchester, at the head of his splendid division, and Ramseur was mortally wounded at Cedar creek in his heroic attempt to retrieve the fortune of the day. Their fall was a noble sacrifice to the cause for which they fought, and their memory will ever remain green in the hearts of their countrymen.

1 See ‘The War of the Rebellion,’ published pursuant to act of Congress, approved June 16, 1880, series 1, vol. XI, part II, for the several reports here referred to.

2 General Fitz John Porter, in his account of the battle, published in the Century Magazine, makes the following statement in respect to the fire from the gun-boats-exploding an idea that long prevailed:

Almost at the crisis of the battle—just before the advance of Meagher and Sickles—the gun-boats on the James River opened their fire with the good intent of aiding us, but either mistook our batteries at the Malvern house for those of the enemy, or were unable to throw their projectiles beyond us. If the former was the case, their range was well estimated, for all their shot landed in or close by Tyler's battery, killing and wounding a few of his men. Fortunately members of our excellent signal-service corps were present as usual on such occassions; and the message signaled to the boats, “For God's sake stop firing,” promptly relieved us from further damage and the demoralization of a “fire in the rear.” Reference is occasionally seen in Confederate accounts of this battle to the fearful sounds of the projectiles from these gun-boats. But that afternoon not one of their projectiles passed beyond my headquarters; and I have always believed and said, as has General Hunt, that the enemy mistook the explosions of shells from Tyler's siege-guns and Kusserow's thirty-two-pounder howitzers, which

Hunt had carried forward, for shells from the gun-boats.

General Fitz John Porter, Century Magazine vol. 8 p. 628.

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