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‘The bloody angle.’

The Confederate disaster at Spotsylvania Court-House, May 12, 1864, by which the Stonewall Brigade was annihilated.

General Lee to the rear.’

Accounts by General James A. Walker, Colonel Thomas H. Carter, Lieutenant Wm. S. Archer, Rev. M. S. Stringfellow and Major D. W. Anderson.

The following communications appeared in the Richmond Times, on February 5th, 12th, 26th, March 5th, and April 2nd, 1893, respectively. An extract from an editorial upon the communication of General Walker is a pertinent comment:

One statement in General Walker's paper fails to do full justice to that immortal army which General Lee commanded in that glorious campaign. He says that Grant crossed the Rapidan on the 4th of May with 141,000 men, and that General Lee had opposed to him 64,000. We know with definite certainty that Grant had many more than 141,000, and, while it cannot be demonstrated with mathematical certainty that General Lee had much fewer than 64,000, it can be with moral certainty.

The Thirty-sixth volume of series I, part 3, of the “Rebellion record,” at page 426, gives the numbers that Grant had present for duty on the morning of May 31, 1864, after all the fighting of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania was over. This is the official record of the War Department at Washington. It states that he had present for duty on the morning of May 31st, 129,620 men. What seems to be the most reliable account of his losses between May 4th and 31st is that of Captain Phisterer, an officer of the regular army, in his “statistical record.” He places his losses between those days at 66,171. Now, if this be added to those present for duty we have for Grant on May 4th a grand total of 195,791 men. This of course [229] includes the Ninth corps under Burnside, and the reinforcements that joined him on the way in the Wilderness. But all those were under his immediate command when he commenced the movement, and he could have had them all present for duty and in position on May 4th, if he had seen how he could have used them. They are therefore chargeable to him as troops present for action on that day.

‘But this is not all. Butler, under his command, had on the lower James 36,950 more (2d, page 427), so, that Grant commenced his move, commanding, in the field, 232,731 men. What had General Lee to oppose to this vast host? General Early has proved to a moral demonstration in the Southern Historical Papers for July, 1876, that General Lee had on the Rapidan less than 50,000 men. The volume of the “Rebellion record” that we have quoted from contains a letter from General Beauregard to President Davis, giving the number with which he opposed Butler, and they were 14,530 men. So, that 64,530 Confederates were all that successfully opposed this vast host of 232,731 men throughout that long and bloody summer, in which they killed and wounded more men than all of themselves combined.’

General James A. Walker's account.

When I was in Richmond at the unveiling of the A. P. Hill statue in May last, while fighting my battles over with old comrades, the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse came up, and the statements contained in this letter were made by me, and seemed to be news to the other gentlemen present, and I promised I would write them for publication as soon as I could find time to do so.

After much delay I have written what follows, giving the occurrences related as they appeared to the restricted vision of an eyewitness. There was doubtless much that occurred very near me that I did not see, but what I did see is indelibly written on my memory.

A little retrospection will not be amiss before speaking of that day's work. It will be remembered that the Army of Northern Virginia, having defeated McDowell, McClellan, Pope, Burnside and Hooker, met its first check at the hands of General Meade, a Virginian, at Gettysburg. The Federal Government then brought General Grant from the West, flushed with victory, to command the largest and best equipped army ever gathered on American soil. Its appointed task was to destroy the army of General Lee and capture [230] the Capital of the Confederate States. To accomplish this cherished object, the new commander was promised all the men, the means and the munitions of war he should ask for.

On the 4th of May, 1863, when General Grant crossed the Rapidan river, his whole force amounted to 141,000 men, while that of General Lee amounted to 64,000, the odds being over two and a-quarter to one.

Any other commander except Robert E. Lee would have felt it prudent to retire before such odds, and watch for opportunities to strike his antagonist at exposed points, and select and fortify a strong position near Richmond. But General Lee was as bold and daring as he was skillful and prudent, and he knew the men he commanded were equal to any task that mortals could accomplish, and that they relied on him with unquestioning faith. They believed that whatever General Lee did was the very best that could be done; and they believed that whatever he set before them to do they could and they would do.

General Lee knew that with such men, the veterans of three years experience, he could confidentially calculate on defeating an army of more than two and one-fourth to one.

As soon as he learned that his adversary had crossed the river he broke his camp around Orange Courthouse and advanced into the Wilderness, and on the 5th gave battle to the enemy as soon as he came up with him, and General Grant, instead of following a retreating foe, found himself compelled to halt, concentrate his vast army, and deliver battle before he had crossed the river thirty-six hours.

After two days hard fighting, General Grant was no nearer Richmond than when it began, and he gave up the task of driving General Lee before him, and of defeating him in a pitched battle.

The 7th of May was passed in comparative quiet, the Confederates confidently awaiting the expected attack, which never came.

The two armies then rested about seventy-five miles northwest of Richmond, with the Confederate right and the Federal left flank nearest to Richmond, which lay to the southwest.

It will be seen that by moving by his left flank General Grant could pass around General Lee's right and place his army between his adversary and the Confederate capital.

On the afternoon and night of the 7th, General Grant began his first flank movement, and withdrew from the front of his adversary, and [231] attempted, by a secret and quiet movement, to pass around General Lee's right flank under cover of darkness, and get between General Lee's army and Richmond. It will readily be seen that General Grant had a longer line to traverse to reach any point between his antagonist and Richmond than General Lee had to reach the same point. In military phrase, General Lee operated on the inner and shorter line, while Grant had the outer and longer line. But this advantage for the Confederate commander was counterbalanced by the fact that General Grant, by covering his movement with his cavalry and thin lines of infantry pressed close to the lines of his foes, and making the demonstrations as if an attack was imminent, could withdraw the great bulk of his army from the front, and get several hours the start before his real designs could be fathomed.

When General Grant, on the 7th day of May, began his flank movement his objective point was Spotsylvania Courthouse, which would place him in rear of Lee's right flank. General Lee on the night of the 7th discovered Grant's movement, and at once began to bring up his infantry by forced marches to support Stuart's cavalry, which was already in front of the marching columns of blue, making, as they always did, a gallant fight to delay them until the infantry came up. The division of General Anderson, of Hill's corps, reached the Courthouse on the morning of the 8th, and almost at the same moment the vanguard of the Federal army came upon the ground. The advance guards of the two armies at once grappled, and the Confederates drove back the enemy and seized upon the strategic points to hold them for the battle-ground.

While these advance guards were thus confronting each other at Spotsylvania Courthouse on the morning of the 8th, the remainder of the two armies, stretched back for ten miles, were hurrying up as fast as forced marches could bring them, and as division after division of the Federal army arrived it would swing round the left of their line as a pivot and form on the left of the troops already in line, while the Confederates would swing round the right flank and form on the right of their line.

Thus all that beautiful spring day the hostile armies were wheeling into line, and all day fierce combats and bloody skirmishes were going on between detachments and divisions as they struggled for coveted positions.

The artillery on either side as it came up would seize upon the [232] heights, and quickly unlimbering, would salute the new arrivals with the thunder of the guns and the screeching and bursting sounds of shot and shell. It was a grand game of war played by two gallant armies, led by the two great Generals with consummate skill and ability.

It was late in the afternoon of the 8th when Johnson's division, of Ewell's corps arrived on the field, and the enemy was pressing our men hotly and lapping over their right flank as we came up.

I then had the honor to command the Stonewall Brigade of Johnson's division, and when our corps commander, glorious old General Ewell, rode out to meet us, and commanded us to move up at double quick, the model men of that brave brigade, notwithstanding their forced march of sixteen or eighteen hours had nearly exhausted their physical strength, responded with a yell, and amid the bursting of the enemy's shell and the whistling of the deadly minie balls, dashed into line and checked the advance of the enemy. This brigade was the first of the division to get into line, and formed immediately on the right of that splendid North Carolinian, General Ramseur, who fell at Winchester the same year, and whose gallant Tar Heels were as true as steel, and shed lustre on the Confederate armies on many a battle field.

The other brigades of the division came up and formed in rapid succession under the enemy's fire in the following order: On the right of the Stonewall Brigade was the Louisiana brigade, commanded by General Harry Hays, than whom no braver, knightlier soldier ever drew sword. His command on the 5th had formed two brigades, but on that day General Stafford, one of the bravest and best men I ever knew, was killed at the head of his men, and his brigade had been consolidated with that of Hays. On the right of Hays came J. M. Jones' brigade, commanded by Colonel Witcher, their brave leader having also fallen in battle at the same time General Stafford was killed. On the right of the Louisianans came the brigade of George H. Steuart. The position thus taken by Johnson's division was such as the fortune of battle gave it. It was determined for us by the enemy, more than by our own choosing, and formed a sharp salient not far from the right of Jones' brigade. I have frequently heard the Confederate engineers censured for allowing this salient in the lines, but as I have shown already they had nothing to do with forming the line, and as I will show hereafter, it [233] had nothing to do with the disaster which happened to Johnson's division on the 12th.

Soon after the division was in line, night came on, and skirmishers were thrown out and quiet reigned, but it was the hush which precedes the tornado. Tired and worn out as the soldiers were there was no rest for them that night.

The greater part of the line of the division was along the outer edge (the edge next to the enemy) of a body of fine oak timber. As soon as night put an end to the combat, axes, picks and shovels were sent for, and along the whole line through the night the men worked like beavers, and the crash of falling trees, the ring of axes, and the sound of the spade and shovel were heard. Trees were felled and piled upon each other and a ditch dug behind them with the earth out of it thrown against the logs. The limbs and tops of the trees as cut off from the trunks were used to form abattis, by placing them in front of the breastworks with the sharpened points towards the enemy.

By daylight next morning a very formidable line of fortifications frowned upon the foe, and our troops rested quietly and confident of victory, should the enemy attack them. Between the morning of the 9th and the morning of the 12th, this line of breastworks was much strengthened, and became one of the very best lines of temporary field works I ever saw. It was apparently impregnable. Just behind the intrenched line of infantry, artillery was placed at the most eligible points, to sweep the approaching enemy with shot and shell and cannister.

A description of the ground in front of the Confederate troops at this point will serve to explain the situation more fully.

Just in front of Ramseur's position there was a cleared and open space for two or three hundred yards. Then came a dense forest of pine timber with the limbs hanging down to the ground, shutting off all view of the interior.

The enemy's skirmishers occupied the edge of the forest, nearest Ramseur's line, and kept up a spirited fire at short range, which compelled his men to keep close behind their breastworks. On Ramseur's right, in front of the Stonewall brigade, the pine forest was much less dense, and did not approach so near our line, while our skirmishers were pushed into the timber, and the enemy's skirmishers were kept at a safe distance. Opposite the right of the Stonewall brigade the timber which came so close to their front terminated [234] or gave out, and in front of the Louisiana brigade and Jones' brigade there was a broad plateau; an old field without timber or obstruction of any kind extending for six or eight hundred yards. Then the ground descended into a rather deep hollow or ravine covered with oak timber, which belt of timber extended much further beyond, and was filled with the enemy's troops. The skirmishers from Hays' and Jones' brigade were posted in this timbered ravine, one thousand yards in front of the breastworks.

All day on the 9th we were left in quiet, and on the 10th nothing excited suspicion until after the hour of noon, when the enemy's skirmishers in the edge of the pine forest in front of Ramseur became particularly active and spiteful, and muffled sounds began to issue from the unseen recesses of the wood, which were suspicious, and it was believed that the enemy was massing there for an attack. This was reduced to a certainty later in the afternoon, when in an instant a column of the enemy rushed out from among the pines and dashed swiftly across the intervening space between them and Ramseur. Ramseur's men were ready, and poured a deadly volley into them, but the blue lines did not falter, and before our men could reload they were on the works. Our men used the bayonets, but were driven back, and the blue coats, with three cheers and a tiger given in regular hip! hip! hurrah! style, moved on in pursuit. The two regiments on the left of the Stonewall Brigade had poured an oblique fire on foe as they advanced, and after the works were carried were drawn back and formed at right angles to the breastworks, from which position they delivered a murderous fire into the flank of the enemy after they crossed the line.

The triumph of the victors was of short duration, for soon Ramseur's retiring line was reinforced, and in turn the enemy was driven back pell mell at a double-quick, and as they recrossed our works and the open space to seek the friendly gloom of the pine forest they had a few moments before left in such gallant array, they were shot down until the ground was covered with their dead and wounded. Ramseur's lines were restored, and there were no further demonstrations on the 10th or 11th. The night of the 11th was damp and misty, with a dense fog resting on the ground.

During the night it was reported to General Lee that the enemy was again withdrawing from his front, and preparing to make another flank movement. To meet this the artillery was at once withdrawn [235] from the front and placed in readiness to march at early dawn. Only two guns of Carrington's Battery were left to support Johnson's division.

Before it became light enough to distinguish objects, the rapid firing of our skirmishers in the wooded ravine in front of the centre of Johnson's line gave notice that the enemy was advancing, and the heavy tramp of a large body of infantry and the sharp words of command could be distinctly heard. Very soon our skirmishers came falling back, firing as they came, and announced what we already knew, that a heavy column was advancing to the attack. Our men were all up and ready for them with their muskets cocked, peering through the gloom for the first glimpse of their foes. For several moments, which seemed very much longer to the anxious and expectant Confederates, no enemy came in sight; but the tramp of armed men drew nearer, and the commands of their officers sounded more distinctly.

The enemy, consisting of Hancock's corps, formed in columns of brigades, had emerged from the ravine and advanced about one-third of the way across the open plateau before they could be seen, or could themselves see our works on account of the fog. All at once the slowly-lifting fog showed them our heavily fortified position, some four or five hundred yards in their front. At this expected but unwelcome sight the advancing columns paused and wavered and hesitated, and seemed to refuse the task before them. Their mounted officers rode in front and urged them on, while many officers on foot and horseback shouted: ‘Forward! men, forward!’ and repeated the words again and again. Then the moment for the Confederate fire had come, and the men, rising to full height leveled their trusty muskets deliberately at the halting column, with a practiced aim which would have carried havoc into their ranks. But the searching damp had disarmed them, and instead of the leaping line of fire and the sharp crack of the muskets came the pop! pop! pop! of exploding caps as the hammer fell upon them. Their powder was damp, and with their muzzle-loading muskets there was no help for them. A few, very few, pieces fired clear; but fresh caps on most of them only produced another failure. A muzzle-loading musket with damp powder behind the ball is as useless to a soldier in an emergency like that as a walking-cane.

As the enemy received no fire from our lines they took heart and [236] again moved forward with rapid strides. On they came unopposed, and in few moments had torn our well-constructed abattis away and were over our works taking prisoners of our unarmed troops.

I saw officers ride up to the lines and step from their stirrups on to our breastworks without harm to themselves or to their horses.

This statement as to the failure of the muskets of our men to fire is true as to that portion of our line between the Stonewall Brigade and the salient, which was as far as my vision extended, but I have been informed by officers of Jones' Brigade that the right of that brigade had been more careful or more fortunate, and their muskets were in good order, and that the enemy was repulsed in front of that portion of our lines with great loss, and that they held their position until the enemy's troops, who had crossed to their left, had swung round in the rear and came up behind our lines.

I speak advisedly when I say that if the muskets of our men had been serviceable they would never had gotten within three hundred yards of our line. One well-directed volley, such as our men knew so well how to give, delivered at the moment the line wavered and halted, would have thrown them into confusion, and made their future movements too slow and dispirited to render success in such a charge possible. Such attacks must be made with dash, rapidity and united effort to ensure success.

I had peculiar opportunities for witnessing this assault, because the enemy on this occasion, as in their attack on Ramseur on the 10th, did not attack the Stonewall Brigade at all, but attacked immediately on their right, directly in front of Jones' Virginia and Hays' Louisiana Brigades, and with perfect safety and without a shot coming in any direction, I stood upon the breastworks in front of the right regiment of my brigade and witnessed it all.

As soon as the enemy began to cross our works the right regiment of my brigade, the Fourth Virginia, then commanded by the brave Colonel (afterwards General) William Terry, was formed at right angles to the works, so as to fire down the inside of our line. I was very soon wounded and left the battle-field, and what happened afterwards is only known to me as to others, as history relates it.

The dreadful carnage on both sides, in that salient which gave to it the name of the ‘Bloody Angle;’ the touching incident of the devotion of General Lee's soldiers to his person; when the old hero, in the midst of the heaviest fire, and when his troops were being pressed [237] back, rode to the front of one of his brigades just ready to go into the fight, and offered to lead it in the charge. How his brave boys refused to follow him, shouting with tears in their eyes: ‘General Lee to the rear! General Lee to the rear! We will go forward, but General Lee must go to the rear!’ Until some of the men firmly, but respectfully, laid their hands upon the bridle of his horse and turned his head to the rear. Then the old hero raised his hat in his peculiar dignified way, and rode slowly back, while the brigade went forward with more dash and courage than ever before, because they had commanded ‘Mars Bob,’ and he had obeyed their command.

It was in this bloody angle that an oak tree, as large around as a man's body, was cut down by minie balls alone, and its trunk can now be seen in the war office at Washington city.

I have spoken of this charge of Hancock's corps, because it has been ignorantly charged that our troops were taken by surprise.

There may have been some want of care on the part of the troops and their officers in not keeping their powder dry, and had it been a rainy night, they would have taken greater precautions, and the disaster would never have occurred.

As an illustration of the dangers and the casualties of the campaign of 1864, it is only necessary to take Johnson's division as a sample. That division had been recruited and reorganized during the preceding winter, and went into the campaign with a major-general, four brigadier-generals, and a full complement of field and company officers. Its rank and file was composed of about 6,000 men. On the 5th and 6th of May, two of its brigade commanders were killed, and about one-half of its field officers, and about one-third of the men were killed or wounded. After the 6th of May it was increased by the addition of Hays' brigade, about 800 strong. On the 12th two more of its brigade commanders were wounded, and the one remaining, with the division commander, was captured. Of the rank and file nearly all in line on that day were killed, wounded or captured. The whole remnant of the 6,000 was formed into one small brigade, and a colonel promoted to command it.

A fact not generally known, is that on the 12th of May, 1864, the famous Stonewall brigade, which had won renown on so many battlefields, ceased to exist as a separate organization, and the few remaining members, not above two hundred in all, with the other fragments [238] of Johnson's division, were incorporated into a single brigade, called Terry's brigade.

The official designation of Stonewall brigade was not given to that body of men until after the death of its General, Paxton, at Chancellorsville, in May, 1863. Prior to that it had been known either by its number, or the name of its commander.

When Stonewall Jackson was its commander in 1861, it was called the First Virginia brigade. After General Jackson was promoted to major-general in October, 1861, it was commanded by General Garnett, and was called Garnett's brigade. General Garnett, having incurred General Jackson's displeasure at Kernstown, was relieved of command, but afterwards fell at Gettysburg, leading his brigade in the charge of Pickett's division.

After Garnett, General Winder commanded the brigade for about four months, until he was killed at Slaughter's mountain. While he commanded it, it was called Winder's brigade. When the gallant Winder fell, General Jackson had Major Paxton, of his staff, promoted to the rank of brigadier-general, and assigned to the Command of Winder's brigade; and it was called Paxton's brigade until he was killed at Chancellorsville in May, 1863.

Then I was assigned to its command, and for a few weeks only it was known as Walker's brigade; when, by authority of the Secretary of War, it received the official designation of Stonewall brigade, by which it had been unofficially known in the army before, and which name it had received on the plains of Manassas on the 21st of July, 1861, when the brave Bee pointed to the First Virginia brigade, under command of General Jackson, and said to his brave men, retiring, before overwhelming odds: ‘There stands Jackson and his Virginians like a stone wall.’ The compliment was paid to the brigade for its gallant stand as much as to its commander.

On the 12th of May, 1864, in the Bloody Angle, the old brigade was annihilated, and its name faded from the rolls of the Army of Northern Virginia, but it will ever live on the rolls of fame, and history will record its deeds of glory.


Colonel Thomas H. Carter's letter.

Editor of the Times.
I have read with interest in your Sunday's paper General James A. Walker's account of the capture of General Edward Johnson's division in the salient, near Spotsylvania Courthouse, May 12, 1864, and also the editorial on the subject in your issue of February 7th.

General Walker's record for splendid courage, as well as his whole career as a soldier, is well established and known in the Army of Northern Virginia, and is a guarantee of the correctness of his account of the battle as he saw it.

While, however, the damp ammunition of the infantry may have prevented a successful resistance against the attack of Hancock, the chief cause of the capture of the division was the absence of the artillery from the line, the removal of which had been ordered and carried out on the afternoon of May 11th.

This reason General Johnson always asserted with emphasis and feeling; he justly and indignantly denied to the end of his life the statement in some current accounts, and in one history, that he was surprised on this occasion.

The salient projected far in advance of the general direction of the line of battle. General Walker's description of the woods and ground around and works forming it is excellent.

Speaking in a general way, the whole projection, called the salient, may be likened to an irregularly-shaped horseshoe, with heels turned out, a mile or more around and a half mile across the heels. It was a wretchedly defective line, in a military sense, its adoption having been brought about as described by General Walker. It was only kept because of the work done upon it, and the belief that our troops, entrenched, could never be driven out.

So defective was it that in the battle of the 10th in order to confront that onset I had to transfer the guns and caissons from the inside and right of the toe of the horseshoe to the corresponding positions outside of the works, with our backs to the enemy at that point, fortunately not there in sight. But the breastworks were good of the kind, and much of the ground in front was sufficiently open to see for a short distance the enemy's lines, when charging, and had the artillery been in place the line could not have been carried. [240]

One of my battalions of artillery in command of Major R. C. M. Page, occupied the toe and the right of the salient. It was withdrawn the afternoon of May 11th by order of General Long, chief of artillery, second corps (Ewell's), who was doubtless acting under orders, and who said the cavalry had reported the renewal of the flank movement towards Richmond by the enemy.

The object of the withdrawal of the artillery was to prevent the disclosure of our expected movement that night.

General Johnson protested at the time against the withdrawal of the artillery, saying he had been along his front and had seen no indication of a movement of the enemy.

I told him we greatly preferred to remain, the breastworks were built, we would be in place and, supported by infantry, absolutely impregnable against successful assault, but must, of course, obey orders. The battalion was taken to the rear, and went into bivouac.

The night was dark, murky and dripping. About 1 o'clock sounds of troops marching, counter-marching, halting and chopping bushes in front of the salient were reported to General Johnson. He at once dispatched a courier to General Ewell, reporting these facts, and asking the return of the artillery. This courier lost much time in finding General Ewell's and General Long's headquarters. Failing to return in time, General Johnson sent off another courier, with more urgent calls for the artillery.

I was sleeping close by General Long's headquarters, and one of the couriers finally reached him. The order was quickly sent me to be in position by daybreak. Striking a light, I indorsed on the order that it was then twenty minutes to daybreak, and the men all asleep, but the artillery would be in place as soon as possible.

All too quickly it dashed out in the mud and darkness, the battery of my brother, Captain William Page Carter, in the lead, by turn, that morning. Most of this battalion reached the salient point just in time to be captured, before being unlimbered and placed in battery, the enemy pouring over the breastworks in rear of them. Only one gun of Captain Carter's battery unlimbered in the very apex of the salient, and fired a single shot, when he, in person, helping to load the gun, heard behind him the order, ‘Stop firing that gun.’

Turning his head, he saw within a few yards of him a large number of blue-coats, with muskets leveled at him and his men. He [241] shouted to the officer, ‘Don't shoot my men,’ and, of course, was compelled at once to surrender.

Captain Carter reports General Johnson limping up and down on top the breastworks, not deigning to protect himself, with stick in hand, from his wound at Alleghany, his clothes torn, encouraging his men in every way, by word and deed.

General Hancock said to General Harry Heth after the war that the attack on the salient was an accident, due to the location of a white house in front of it, which afforded a conspicuous object for the centre of his lines of battle for attack, and that he was not aware of the existence of a salient.

He furthermore said that he had 30,000 troops, in five or six lines of battle, and could have carried the salient, even had the artillery been in place.

The salient was a weak position, affording a divergent, instead of a convergent fire, and General Hancock believed, of course, what he said, for he was a gallant soldier and a gentleman, and the stoutest fighter of all the corps commanders we had to encounter during the war, his attacks always meaning heavy pounding from start to finish, but he is mistaken in this conjecture.

It would be a sufficient reply to say that neither he nor anyone else ever saw, during the war, a good line of artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia, properly supported by infantry in breastworks, with open front, carried by direct front assault, and the production of a single instance during the war may be safely challenged.

It matters not as to the five or six lines of battle in column of attack. When the front lines go down those in rear are not so eager to come along, the moral effect being as to the physical, several (or more) to one.

In further reply to General Hancock's surmise, it should be stated that notwithstanding his success at first, his attacking column never reached half way to the heels of the horse shoe salient.

Some soldiers seem disposed to think arillery is ‘sound and fury, signifying nothing.’

True, it cannot take the place of infantry. Infantry is the bulwark of every army of every age. Men with muskets can scale heights, descend depths, pierce thickets, and, numbered by thousands, can go anywhere and fill the air with deadly missiles. Artillery is a dependent auxiliary, defenseless except under proper conditions, but [242] massed in long line with open ground ahead is impregnable against front assault.

Skeptics would be disabused had they seen McClellan's sixty guns at Malvern Hill's plateau, repulse time and again, the flower of our infantry—the finest, in my belief, the world has ever seen.

I fully concur in the views you express in the editorial of the 7th of February, as to the superiority of the Southern soldier over the Northern. To an ordinary intelligence an enlistment of 700,000 men, all told, half fed, half clothed, practically unpaid and poorly furnished in all appointments of war, holding at bay for four years an enlistment of 2,700,000 men, with above conditions exactly reversed, ought to furnish mathematical demonstration of the superiority of the Southern soldier over the Northern. The philosophic reasons for this fact are not so easy to fathom.

I have written the above to throw some additional light on a disaster which was not well understood in current accounts, and which was always a source of irritation to General Johnson.

There was no sturdier, truer, braver division commander than General Edward Johnson, commonly known as “Old Alleghany.”

Letter of Lieutenant W. S. Archer.

Editor of The Times.
As I served throughout the war in the brigade which held the ‘Bloody Angle’ at Spotsylvania, and it has most unjustly been held responsible for the disaster there, I would like to add one statement to what has already been said, which I think has an important bearing on the result.

I do not remember accurately the points of the compass, but will assume that the general direction of the main line of works was up to the salient from south to north. At the salient the line curved sharply to the right and rear, running, I think, almost east. Now the picket line did not conform to the direction of the main line. On the contrary, it continued its northerly course for more than a thousand yards beyond the angle and then turned to the right and rear. Drawing a line due west from the angle you would strike a skirmish line at about three hundred yards. A line drawn from the [243] same point in a northwesterly direction would not reach the skirmish line under one thousand yards.

The attack came from the west and northwest. It is necessary to bear all this in mind to understand what followed. The ‘Bloody Angle’ was held by the Second Brigade, Colonel Witcher, of General Edward Johnson's division. The Forty-second Virginia Regiment, of this brigade, held the skirmish line during the day and night of the 11th of May. At daybreak on the morning of the 12th, the Forty-eighth regiment, to which I was attached, was taken out of the salient, marched to the front and deployed to relieve the Forty-second.

It was just at this time, and whilst both regiments were extended in skirmish order, that the cheering of the charging columns of the enemy was heard, and although they were evidently close to us, none could be seen on account of a dense fog which enveloped everything. Nearly the whole of the two regiments were forced from their direct line of retreat and compelled to make a detour, or else stand the chance of running into the enemy, whose columns of attack to our left when first started were several hundred yards nearer the angle than we were. Many men kept an easterly course to avoid the fire from our own men, who, whilst they could see nothing, could hear the cheering, and were simply firing into the fog, and rejoined their commands later in the day. Many others, myself among the number, after making a detour, reached the lines where they were held by the Third brigade, General Steuart. Only a very small number re entered the angle, where all of us should have been. On crossing the works, I started up the line towards the salient, but before reaching it the enemy could be seen directly in front and about seventy yards off the line where they had halted, and one good volley would have sent the whole, helter-skelter to the rear. But it was not to be. And I can testify from personal observation as to the truth of General Walker's statement.

The fire of Steuart's men in line of battte did not have the force of a hotly-contested skirmish. The penetrating mist which had been falling all night had wet the powder in the tubes, and the guns could not be fired. A sergeant of my regiment, who was with me, directed my attention to the angle. About forty yards away the enemy could be seen pouring over the works, and the artillery galloping into the salient. I saw the single gun mentioned by Colonel Carter unlimbered [244] and fired, and the battle lost, with many prisoners, for, although the battle raged around this angle all day and until 10 o'clock at night, we never drove them out, and they never gained an inch more.

This grievous loss was the result of a combination of unfortunate circumstances which sometimes happen wherever war is waged. These were: First, the falling mist, which rendered so many muskets unserviceable. Second, all the space in the salient occupied by the artillery and all that occupied by the Forty-eighth regiment was vacant, with neither musket nor cannon in it to fire a shot, and the enemy simply walked over the works without hindrance. The Forty-eighth, it is true, was a small regiment, for on the 5th of May more than one-half the men present, with the colors, had fallen in the gloomy depths of the Wilderness. There were enough left, however, to have held the salient if they had been in it with dry powder.

W. S. Archer, Lieutenant Forty-eighth Virginia Regiment.

Rev. M. S. Stringfellow's account.

Raccoon Ford, Culpeper county, Va., February 20, 1893.
Editor of The Times:
I have been very much interested in two articles which have recently appeared in your paper over the signatures of General James A. Walker and Colonel Thomas H. Carter, relating to the battle of the 12th of May, at Spotsylvania Courthouse. I feel some hesitancy in coming before the public after such men as the two abovemen-tioned, but as I feel that it is a duty we owe to our cause and ourselves to throw all the light we can upon so important an event, I will hazard a statement as to what followed the capture of Johnson's line. Being simply an old soldier and entirely unknown to you and the public, I will take the liberty of referring you to General James A. Walker himself as to my reliability. I have not the slightest doubt that had Colonel Carter's guns been in position, a very different story would have been told. I have seen the Colonel's boys handle their guns more than once, and I know he is making no idle boast. What I shall say is in substance what I have written in a series of sketches [245] under the title of ‘My Experience as a Sharpshooter, and Other War Sketches.’ I don't know of your rules, but I shall reserve the privilege of using this material in the way I have just mentioned.

During the operations around Spotsylvania Courthouse, General John B. Gordon had command of Evans' Georgia brigade and Pegram's Virginia brigade. As a member of the Thirteenth Virginia Infantry, I was attached to Pegram's brigade. We were in reserve. To be in reserve at a time like that implied two things—confidence upon the part of our commander, and hard work upon the part of the men. In neither case was there disappointment.

The evening of the 11th closed in dark and chilly. We were made more uncomfortable by the fact that orders came around for ‘no fires.’ So, rolling up in our oil cloths, we were soon dreaming, perhaps, that the ‘Cruel war was over.’ The gray dawn of the morning of the 12th found us standing at attention. Some time since I read an account of the battle of the 12th of May, written by a Northern officer. In this account he said that they were told that a blow would be struck which would end the war. Nothing was said by our officers, but there was a nameless something in the air which told each man that a crisis was at hand. Orders were given in low tones. The dim, shadowy outlines of the different commands as they took their positions under the sombre shades of the pines, gave a weird effect to the scene.

Just as the day began to streak the East, we heard a rapid firing on our extreme left. In a short time a courier dashed up to General Gordon with an order. ‘Attention! Left face, forward! Double quick!’ passed up our lines, and we were off on a run. Troops in reserve had to have what the horse jockeys call ‘good bottom.’ At that time we were in good order for a run. Not a fat man in our ranks. A quarter of a pound of meat and a pint of unsifted meal, with hard work, was our formula for reducing flesh. On this occasion, we demonstrated that the old saying, ‘a lean dog for a long chase,’ was a correct theory. How far we went, I am unable to say, but it was to General Lee's extreme left. Just as we arrived on a run, we saw our boys, Hood's Texas, I think, recapturing works which the enemy had gained temporary possession of. We had scarcely time to draw a long breath before another courier dashed up to General Gordon, when the command came quickly, ‘About face! forward! double quick!’ Back over our tracks we sped, covering the [246] whole distance at a run. The men needed no urging, for we all felt that there must be some urgent need. General Gordon, accompanied by a young man, who was detailed from my old company (A) at division headquarters as a courier, went ahead.

This young man told me afterwards that when General Gordon reached General Lee he reined his horse back on his haunches, throwing his hand to his cap, he saluted General Lee, and said: ‘What do you want me to do, General?’ General Gordon was then, he said, the most superb looking soldier he ever saw. During our absence, as we afterwards learned, the enemy had broken over our lines, capturing the greater part of General Edward Johnson's division. It was to retake and re-establish this line we had been sent for.

When we, the reserve, I mean, arrived, General Lee was seated upon Traveler, engaged in conversation with General Gordon. Our brigade came up on a run and went through the manoeuvre of ‘on the right by file into line,’ by which we changed front, facing towards Spotsylvania Courthouse. As the boys came up the General could read the same question in all their eyes which General Gordon had asked. The General was in great danger, for we were under a lively fire as we formed. I saw the dust fly from General Gordon's coat, just above his sword belt. Checking his horse, he threw his hand to his back. He seemed satisfied that it was only a little darning for Mrs. Gordon, who was always in reach, and spurred on down the line. I passed in a few feet of General Lee; he was perfectly calm. No one would ever have dreamed that General Grant held probably half a mile of his works. It was just then the circumstance occurred which has given rise to some controversy. I allude to General Lee's being turned back. What has caused some confusion has been the fact that almost the same identical thing happened twice during that campaign. In the first instance, General Lee wanted to lead the Texans, when they turned him back. On this occasion General Lee took his position on the right of our brigade, with the evident intention of leading it into action. General Gordon told the General he must go back and said: ‘These are Virginians, and they are going to do their duty,’ appealing to the men at the same time. All who heard him responded that he must go back, and they would do what he wanted done.

It took less time to form that line than it has taken me to tell it. [247] When rising in his stirrups, General Gordon gave the command, ‘Forward! Guide right!’

Those two brigades had a herculean task ahead of them. Thirty thousand troops, flushed with victory, held formidable works. The brigades possibly at that time, for they had already lost heavily since the campaign opened, not more than ten thousand strong, were about to grapple with this force. To General Lee's practiced eye it must have seemed a forlorn hope. How they acquitted themselves the sequel will show.

Immediately in front of our brigade was a dense growth of old field pines. When the order came to move forward, our boys stepped briskly to the front in perfect order, and were soon lost to view in the pine thicket. It was not until we had emerged from the thicket, on the opposite side from us, that we saw the enemy. To make our position plainer, I will here state that we were moving in a somewhat oblique line to a line of works which were under construction, and extended from heel to heel of the horseshoe, which contained the works Johnson had lost; in other words it was a simple straightening of our line of battle, throwing off the horseshoe. As we emerged from the pines we came suddenly upon this inner line, and which was heavily manned by the enemy. I don't think I exaggerate when I say that the enemy poured a volley into our faces at not over twenty yards. It was then, and not till then, that the ‘rebel yell’ rose wild and clear upon the morning air. It makes my blood jump quicker as I recall that scene. Never pausing a second, our boys mounted the works. In a moment the blue and the gray were mixed in a dense struggling mass. What must have been General Lee's feelings then, as he heard the crashing volley of the enemy, the wild cheer of his boys, and then comparative silence, for the boys were too busy to yell? Soon his practiced ear could detect a receding fire, as the enemy broke in confusion and were driven across the line of the horseshoe, towards Spotsylvania. Here they followed the line of Johnson's work towards the famous ‘Bloody Angle,’ our boys in hot pursuit.

As we advanced up a long slope, the ground gradually rising towards the ‘bloody angle,’ we discovered a dense mass of the enemy formed behind a worm fence, which struck Johnson's works at right angles. Somebody got it into his head that they had surrendered, and officers dashed in amongst our men yelling, ‘Cease firing, they [248] have surrendered.’ After some time the firing ceased, but our men continued to advance, every man with his gun cocked and ready to bring it to his shoulder. I was reminded of a big bird hunt. We were now, I think, in forty yards of the mass I speak of, when a shot came from their lines. As quick as thought our boys blazed away, and raising a yell dashed at them. In another moment the blue and the gray became a dense, surging mass. The fighting here was desperate. Pistols, guns, bayonets, swords, all came into play. A lieutenant of the Fifty-second Virginia was just to my right, almost touching me. I saw him put his hand upon a Yankee's shoulder, ordering him to surrender. The Yankee jerked away, and making a half turn, drove his bayonet through the lieutenant's body, killing him instantly. I had a loaded revolver in my hand, and 1 emptied it, in many instances close enough to burn their clothing. I recollect thinking during that fight of a remark Murat was credited with making, that he had been in a hundred battles and did not know whether he had ever killed a man. I saw then how that might easily happen. When so many bullets are flying it is impossible to say which did the work, and I am glad I did not know. The enemy broke again, retreating in the direction of the angle. We were now, I think, probably about 150 yards from it, when we became aware of a heavy fire from Johnson's old works, and discovered that they were heavily manned by the enemy. Turning from the pursuit of the mass in front of us we charged the works which were now to our left, killing, wounding and capturing everything in them.

At this juncture of affairs I am satisfied I was in less than fifty steps of the angle, and I am perfectly certain I could have gone to the angle without encountering an enemy. The officer commanding our brigade that day was, I think, Colonel Casey, of Bedford. Finding that our pursuit of the enemy had separated our brigade from the Georgians, he ordered us to close to the right. In doing so, we increased the distance between our left and the angle to probably a hundred, or possibly one hundred and fifty yards. Not long after this movement, about half an hour, I think, a large number of tile enemy made their appearance to our left and rear. Running through the entire length of the horse shoe, from toe to heel, was a skirt of timber. Under cover of this the enemy had crossed over at the angle, and passed down the centre about one hundred yards, coming out so as to strike our left. As they made their appearance, a part [249] of our left swung back from the works so as to front the advancing enemy. A small party of us, on the extreme left, thought they were a party cut off, and were coming in to surrender. We were so sure of it that we stood our ground until they came in ten steps of us. The foremost man was an Irishman. He had a cap in one hand and his musket in the other. When he reached the point I have just mentioned, he called out, ‘Surrinder!’ We soon saw our mistake; one of our party quickly threw his gun to his shoulder, fired at the Irishman and missed him; the Irishman threw his gun up, but before he could fire, another one of our party fired, killing him. We were too close to run, and knew that our men would open, and we would be between two fires. So we dropped flat on the ground, the enemy passing by, and over us-just then our left opened on them, and they came back pell-mell, and as they passed us going back our party jumped up, and gave them a parting shot. It was a close call for us. Had our left given back, we would have gone on to reinforce Johnson's party. This party of the enemy retreated, and crossed the works at the angle. From that time out, during the entire day, neither side occupied the space between our left and the angle. About this time Colonel Casey directed me to go in search of General Gordon, or some officer on Lee's staff, and directed me to explain the situation, and ask for reinforcements to fill the vacant space on our left.

I started along the line of works and went towards Spotsylvania Courthouse. As I approached the part of our line which was occupied by the Georgians, I noticed that they were all down behind the works, and as I advanced towards them they motioned to me to get down. I couldn't understand what they meant, until all at once I discovered a line of the enemy lying flat in a tall growth of broom-sedge, which covered an old field in front of the Georgians .Balaam when he saw the angel standing in his way with the flaming sword was not more astonished than I was. The first thought which passed through my mind was why on earth couldn't I see those fellows? They were so close I could almost distinguish one face from another, and why they didn't shoot me is a mystery, unless they thought I wasn't worth the ammunition. Under the circumstances I was very willing to overlook the slight. It has been said that ‘Where ignorance is bliss, 'twere folly to be wise.’ This was an exception to that rule. Ignorance was undoubtedly bliss in this case, but it would [250] have been very far from folly to have been wise. It took me very little while to disappear behind the works. I was now in a dilemma. I couldn't stay there, and after seeing what was out in the sedge I did not relish the idea of again taking the chances. After creeping along the works for some distance I found a place where the ground sloped back from them. Here, by lying flat and working along snake fashion I could keep out of sight until I reached the skirt of timber alluded to above, when I, made good time. Soon after leaving the Georgians I heard cheering and heavy firing. I think the enemy tried to break over the Georgians, and were driven back. After accomplishing what I was sent for I returned to my position on the left of our brigade. During the entire day there was an incessant fire on us, both from infantry and artillery. With the exception of the ground just at the angle the enemy had been driven out of Johnson's entire line. The tree which General Walker alludes to was but a few steps from us.

The fire from the Angle annoyed us all day. A party of us went to our commanding officers and volunteered to take it. Our plan was to crawl from one traverse to another (they being from fifteen to twenty steps apart all the way from our left to the angle) until we got up to the enemy. He declined, however, thinking it not worth the risk. I feel sure it could have been done.

In giving my account of this day's work I have not mentioned anything except our own operations, the Georgians being out of sight, but that they did their share I have not the slightest doubt. For they could always be depended upon to do as much as any command in our service. Night closed one of the most disagreeable days I ever spent. As soon as it was dark we were taken from the horseshoe, and placed in the line I spoke of from heel to heel. The next day was quiet. Toward evening General Ewell came to us with a paper (from Washington) with a full account of the battle of the 12th. Although nearly a third of a century ago, the press was alive, and wielded such an influence in the great war that the question as to ‘which is the most powerful the pen or the sword?’ is as far from settlement as ever. The general read us the Northern account, in which the army correspondent paid us, I think, a merited compliment when he said: ‘The fighting of the Rebels was simply splendid.’ ‘But, boys, you ought to hear what General Lee says about you,’ said the old general. Of course, we all besieged him to tell us, but [251] he rode off laughing, and said: ‘It would make you too vain.’ He never told us, but we felt sure it was something good, and, if possible, we were more willing than ever to do just what Marse Robert wanted done.

I have written more then I intended, but I suppose you know when an old soldier gets to fighting his battles over, he is hard to stop.

Yours, &c.,

M. S. Stringfellow, Co. A. Thirteenth Virginia Infantry, C. S. A.

Major D. W. Anderson's Relation.

Editor of The Times .
Will you allow another ‘Old Reb’ space in your valuable paper to say a word or two about the ‘Bloody Angle,’ in addition to what has been said by General J. A. Walker and others?

I claim the right to be heard on the grounds—first, that I belonged to the Second brigade (Jones' brigade), General Edward Johnson's division, and was present for duty on the 12th of May, 1864; second, on the eve of the preceding day, the 11th of May, I was detailed by order of General Johnson, with a number of men (General Jones having been killed, as stated by General Walker, and Colonel Witcher with his, the Twenty-first regiment, being detached to take charge of some strategic point) to serve as ‘field officer of the day,’ on that part of our lines occupied by Jones's brigade, with orders to place a sentinel on the works every ten paces, and to tell the regimental commanders to allow their men ‘to sleep on their arms,’ the sentinels to give the alarm if the enemy advanced. One who has not been a soldier, with the responsibility of such a position, can scarcely appreciate its character. But with the true soldier it was the crushing weight of eleven great States, with their millions of women and children in their quiet homes, as well as the safety of an army that stood as a ‘wall of brass,’ in the defence of the God-given right of local self-government. Such was the sense of my responsibility on the night of the 11th of May, 1864. I dared not close my eyes to sleep, but, standing there upon the border of my country, amid the gloom of that dark, misty night, could hear the drums of possibly a hundred regiments thundering ‘Yankee Doodle,’ mingled with [252] the notes of apparently more than double that number of trombones to drown the noise of the moving columns of the enemy concentrating in front of the ‘Bloody Angle.’

Third. I was within a few paces of General Johnson when we were captured; was with him during the entire time of our imprisonment; was exchanged at the same time, and returned with him to Richmond. I, therefore, had abundant opportunity to talk with General Johnson, which we did often, over the disaster of May 12th, and from General Johnson's lips, as well as from my own personal knowledge, I am prepared to confirm General Walker's opinion that neither General Johnson nor his men were surprised at the attack at the time it was made; but, on the contrary, I am quite sure, so far as Jones' brigade was concerned, all of us were expecting it.

I will state two facts, which I think will settle that point: While on duty as ‘officer of the day,’ as before stated, on the night of the 11th, the enemy became very active, and paraded all the bands and drum corps at their command, making the hills and dales resound with their music from 10 o'clock on the 11th till about 4 A. M. of the 12th, when all became quiet. At this time Captain W. H. Clary, then on General Johnson's staff, came to me with orders from General Johnson, directing me to see the regiment commanders and tell them to wake up their men and have them in the trenches, and to see that their guns were in good order.

That order was promptly obeyed by Jones' brigade. I suppose that the same orders were given to the other brigades in the division. Of one thing I am sure, however, and that is, that not one of the enemy came over the lines held by the Second brigade (Jones' brigade) till after we had surrendered to overwhelming numbers, who had turned our left by crossing our works beyond the salient in question, which threw them immediately on our left and rear.

The left of Jones' brigade rested immediately at the salient, with the entire brigade to the right of it. And just here I hope that General Walker will pardon me for saying that he made a slight mistake when he places the salient ‘not far from the right of Jones' brigade.’ Then again, General Walker says: ‘This statement as to the failure of the muskets of our men to fire is true, as to that portion of our line between the Stonewall brigade and the salient, which was, as far as my (his) vision extended; but I have been informed by officers of Jones' brigade that the right of that brigade had been more careful [253] or more fortunate, and that their muskets were in good order, and that the enemy was repulsed in front of that portion of our line,’ &c.

Now, I insist that Jones' entire brigade was beyond the salient from General Walker's standpoint, and hence beyond the range of his vision, according to his statement, and I will take the responsibility to say that what was true of the right of that brigade was true of the whole of that portion that was in the lines that morning—three regiments being absent, the Twenty-first, under Colonel Witcher, already alluded to, and the Forty-second and Forty-eighth, on picket, as I suppose, stated by Lieutenant Archer.

Deploring, as I did, the absence of the artillery, I asked General Johnson why it was. This was his reply: ‘I knew that the artillery had been removed, and ascertaining that the enemy was very active in my front, I sent a messenger to General Ewell during the night, telling him of the removal of the artillery, but by whose orders I did not know, and requesting him to order it back, as the enemy was very active in front, and that we would be sure to have an attack early next morning.’ General Ewell sent the reply: ‘The artillery has been ordered back, and will be in position by 2 o'clock.’ Then he added: ‘If the artillery had been in position we would have destroyed that army.’ That did not indicate a surprise on Johnson's part, I am sure. I had-supposed it possible, at least, that the Louisiana Brigade had been ‘caught napping’ that morning, and did not know otherwise till I read General Walker's article, for the reason that the left flank of my own (Jones') Brigade was turned, and I was told by members of the Stonewall (Walker's) Brigade that the enemy turned their right. I am glad the General explains—‘wet powder’—but what a pity! After surrendering we sat down in the trenches a few minutes, then the enemy began pouring over our works in heavy columns, and we were ordered to go to the rear.

I hesitated to take such a leap into the dark blue mass of human beings then before me, a closed column of about four hundred yards front and half a mile deep, thick as men could walk, pressing forward with rapid strides to support those more advanced. Such was the sight that met my gaze when I mounted the works for my ‘on to Fort Delaware march.’ I could but exclaim, ‘Oh, for a few rounds from Colonel Nelson's guns! What a target from the position they held on yesterday!’

All Yankeedom concentrated with a big ‘on to Richmond move.’ [254] Good heavens! where did they come from? Such were my thoughts as we pressed our way through their centre. We were marched back some two or more miles to Provost Marshal General Patrick's headquarters, and there I met with a young man, a lieutenant on General Patrick's staff, who, saluting me, said: ‘Well, General, we got a few of you this morning.’ I replied, ‘Yes; but, as the Yankee said when selling his razor strops, there are plenty more of the same sort left.’ He remarked again, rather boastingly, ‘We charged you with but 45,000 this morning.’

I suppose he alluded to the assaulting column, that had nearly passed over our works before I left, for I am quite sure there were at least 100,000 in the column through which I passed in crossing the plateau in front of Jones' and the Louisiana brigades, described by General Walker.

D. W. Anderson, Major Forty-fourth Virginia Regiment, Jones' Brigade, Johnson's Division. Scottsville, Albemarle county, Va.



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