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Lieutenant-General A. P. Hill. [from the Richmond Dispatch, July 26, August 2, 1891].

Some Reminiscences of the famous Virginia Commander——Curious Mistakes growing out of the absence of his insignia of Rank—Teamsters' blunders Reproved with Vigor—The First burial of his remains.

Having seen an account of the removal of the remains of Lieutenant-General A. P. Hill from Hollywood cemetery to the site of the monument erected to his memory at the intersection of Laburnam avenue and the Hermitage road, about two miles north of Richmond, my mind was naturally drawn to the career of that gallant officer in the war for Southern independence.

It was my fortune to be a member of his military family during the First Maryland campaign, which, as is well known, included the capture of Harper's Ferry with about ten thousand Federal troops, together with immense supplies and arms, and closed with the terrific engagement at Sharpsburg, as we called it, or Antietam, as the Federals have it.

As I prefer, at this distant day, to deal with the more pleasing features of the struggle, I will give you a few anecdotes, all bearing on the gallantry and native pluck of him who I esteem to have been one of the bravest officers of an army noted above all things for undaunted courage and intrepid valor.

I belonged to the much-abused and poorly-appreciated corps of commissaries of subsistence of the Army of Northern Virginia, having reached there with the brigade of General L. O. B. Branch a short time before the memorable Seven Days Fight Around Richmond.

His absent insignia.

General Hill had but lately won and received his major-general's commission, and our brigade was assigned to his light division early in the formation of it. My acquaintance with him began then, but only such as would exist between a subordinate and superior officer, with only occasional official intercourse.

It was his habit when on the march to wear what was called then a ‘hunting-shirt,’ without a coat or any insignia of rank visible. To those who knew him the insignia of a general was stamped on his [179] every feature; but with those who did not know him this omission to display the three stars often led to amusing blunders.

It was after we had chased ‘little Mack’ to the cover of his gunboats at Harrison's landing, and were returning to the lines around Richmond that one of these occurred. I had been directed by the quartermaster of the division (General J. G. Field, since Attorney-General of Virginia), to hold the wagon-train at a given point on the road until ordered forward by him. The train was halted and I placed a faithful sergeant at the head to allow it to move only when ordered by Major Field, while I and others rode off to a spring for water, in full view of the road and distant only a few hundred yards. As I had reached my turn at the dipper and drank I discovered the train in motion, and supposing all was right, but anxious to know our destination, I galloped rapidly to the road and found the sergeant somewhat nonplussed at what had taken place.

A courier.

He said a courier came and told him to move the wagons on as there was an artillery train coming up behind. He told the courier the train was awaiting the orders of Major Field, and would go forward as soon as the Major said so. To this the courier replied General Hill ordered the wagons forward, when the sergeant consentingly replied well if General Hill told you to order them forward all right, and the train was put in motion. The sergeant finding that I approved of the course was much relieved, and we trotted off towards the head of the wagon train. Presently we came to a delightful shady grove just on the roadside, where a number of officers were resting their steeds and enjoying the refreshing breeze on a hot July day and a fearful dusty march. One of them I saluted and said: ‘Good morning, General,’ and exchanged a few words with the party and continued on.

The sergeant said in a subdued tone: ‘Didn't you call that man General?’

I said: ‘Yes; that is General Hill.’

To this he said he'd be ‘dad burned’ if that wasn't the courier that told him to move the train forward.

And so it was; but the General knew the sergeant did not recognize him and gave the order accordingly.

A lesson to Pat.

When at Gordonsville, before the engagement at Cedar Mountain, Major E. B. Hill, brother of the General, and commissary of the [180] division, was taken sick and was sent up to his home at Culpeper or to Richmond, and I was ordered to report to Major-General Hill for duty, while one of the regimental commissaries was ordered to report to General Branch in my stead.

Out of this movement against the enemy the Second Manassas and Maryland campaign developed in rapid succession, and I found myself loaded with the responsibility of providing for a family of about fifteen thousand, and daily widening the distance between us and our base of supplies. It was near Fredericktown that another ocurrence of misidentity led to the discomfiture of the misidentifier. We were breaking camp at early dawn—in fact, before dawn. Our wagons, with the headquarter wagon driver by a noble son of the Emerald Isle, were to take the lead on the road. The General was in his ambulance, probably intending to take his saddle at daylight. The ambulance driver wanted to pass the headquarter wagon, and the Irish driver of the wagon, being a little contrary, would not move out of the way of the ambulance, and signified his unwillingness to the ambulance driver in terms more emphatic than elegant. The first thing he knew General Hill leaped out of the ambulance and gave him several severe raps across the shoulders with the flat of his sword, which brought a loud ‘Big yer pardon, Gineral; big yer pardon, Gineral! Didn't know you were in the ambulance.’ ‘That will learn you to give way to any ambulance wanting to pass you,’ said the General, quietly seating himself in the ambulance, which now had all the way that Pat could possibly give it.

How he served a ‘non-combatant.’

While at Harper's Ferry I went to his office in an upper room where he was paroling the prisoners for instructions as to the distribution of the immense stock of hard bread and other supplies captured there. A man wearing a rusty cavalry uniform of the Federal army came in and asked General Hill for a pass to go over into Loudoun, claiming to be a non-combatant resident of that county who had been caught at the Ferry when it was surrounded.

‘What are you doing with those clothes on?’ said General Hill. ‘I bought them,’ said the man.

‘You are lying,’ said the General. ‘Get out of here, you—— scoundrel.’ And grabbing the fellow by the shoulders he pushed him to the head of the stairs and started him down with all the momentum a vigorous kick from his military boot would impart to him.


Broke his sword over him.

At Sharpsburg he arrived late in the engagement because of a forced march from Harper's Ferry, crossing at Boteler's ford, near Shepherdstown. While hurrying to take position on the line he encountered a second lieutenant of some command crouching behind a tree. His indignation was so wrought up that he took the lieutenant's sword and broke it over him.

A thrilling page.

On the withdrawal of the Confederates to the Virginia side it devolved upon General Hill to cover the retreat. How well he did so, and with what terrible loss to the troops who attempted to cross in pursuit, is no part of the object of this writing, but is a thrilling page in the history of that notable campaign. From there we moved out to Bunker's Hill, on the Valley turnpike between Winchester and Martinsburg, and from there to a point near Castleman's Ferry, which is on the road to Snicker's Gap in the Blue Ridge mountains, not far from Loudoun Heights. Here a good long rest was enjoyed, and we all did well on an issue of rations that I have never seen equaled in variety. For over thirty days my abstracts were complete in three columns—to wit: ‘Flour, fresh beef, salt.’ Once on one of the marches to this place another teamster fell into trouble by the absence of three stars.

Another teamster's Blunder.

The wagon train was crossing a stream, and a teamster was belaboring his mules with all his might to keep them from drinking. The General's horse was drinking near by, and General Hill told the teamster to stop beating the mules so unmercifully. The muledriver invited him to attend to his own business, as he himself proposed to do as he pleased with his team. His surprise was as great as McClellan's or Pope's at Jackson's rear movements, when he felt the sharp raps of General Hill's rapier on his back applied with the vigor of an experienced hand. He, too, begged the General's pardon.

I would not be understood as intimating that these things occurred by design of the General, or that he purposely moved around incognito. By no means. It was his consideration of comfort that led him to leave off his coat. Nothing else.


His apology.

When General Miles surrendered at Harper's Ferry, he was dressed so fine and Hill so plainly, that Miles apologized for his good clothes, saying he expected to meet some of the high officials of the Confederacy, and had therefore put on his best uniform.

Get to the rear.

At the battle of Cedar Mountain, General Prince was captured and taken to General Hill, just in rear of the Confederate line, where the minnie balls were flying briskly around.

General Prince said: ‘General, the fortunes of war have thrown me in your hands.’

Hill with impetuosity said: ‘D——n the fortunes of war, General; get to the rear; you are in danger here.’

Hill's duties required him to undergo the exposure, but he could not bear the idea of having even an enemy unnecessarily exposed.

Breaking camp at Castleman's Ferry, in November, we moved up the Valley, crossed the Blue Ridge by the turnpike from Newmarket to Gordonsville, and marched toward Fredericksburg, which we reached (or the vicinity of it) about December 1, 1862.

At this time I was relieved of duty by the return of Major Hill, and went back to my brigade, which had lost its beloved Branch at Sharpsburg, and was now under command of Brigadier-General James H. Lane, who had earned his promotion while in command of the Twenty-eighth North Carolina, one of the regiments of that hard-fought brigade.

Closing incidents.

The battle of Fredericksburg passed and so did the winter, when the spring-time called us to Chancellorsville, the sad scene of the wounding of Stonewall Jackson. General Hill was wounded near the same spot and about the same time. He was not in command for a day or so, but was an interested spectator of that heated engagement which was under the direct command of General J. E. B. Stuart. This over, a reorganization, so to speak, took place. General A. P. Hill was made lieutenant-general and W. D. Pender major-general of Hill's Light division. From then on I only saw General Hill occasionally. But our friendship—for it was nothing less than that—continued to the end. And on the morning of the 2d of April, 1865, [183] when I saw his dead body brought from the field in the ambulance, I know that no one except his nearest of kin could have felt a sharper pang of grief than I did, and none had warmer tears course down their cheeks than myself.

General Hill was firm, without austerity; genial, without familiarity, and brave, without ostentation. The gentleman and soldier were so completely blended in him that he never had to deviate from one to act the other. He was both all the time.

D. F. C.

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