The 30th Anniversary of First Bull Run, the Hatchet is Buried…

7 08 2011

…in them damned Yankee/Rebel skulls!!!!

Good stuff at Remembering.

 





Lint In My Pocket – Artillery On the Ridge

27 07 2010

Lint In My Pocket – Artillery On the Ridge is a blog maintained by Scott Summers, a poet and teacher in New Jersey.  Here’s how he recently described what he’s doing:

Originally, The Lint in My Pocket was meant to represent the small things that peter from my mind; however, I now see something different. I see the lint that lined the pockets of American Civil War soldiers, generals, colonels, civilians, etc. Like me, each of them carried lint in his/her pocket as well. Each of them was normal folk, as I am. Yet, these normal folk were thrust into incredible situations, situations laced with triumph, tragedy, love, hate, blood, breath, and death; they were forced to experience, in one way or another, the artillery on the ridge.

So, I press on. Hope you enjoy.

Last week, Scott posted this poem for the anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run:

Stonewall Jackson at Manassas: July 21, 1861

That beard hangs
from his chin
like an anvil.

Ain’t no lie.
Yankee bullets
veer `round his head

so not to smack
against his face.
We should just point

him toward Washington
and shackle up behind
like a chain of geese.

I swear we’d rename
this country Virginia
before it’s cold enough

to tighten your skin
and freeze your breath.

Enjoying!





SHSP – First Battle of Manassas and the Stonewall Brigade

21 04 2009

Southern Historical Society Papers

Vol. XIX. Richmond, Va. 1891, pp.82-92

History of the First Battle of Manassas and the Organization of the Stonewall Brigade

[From the Winchester, Va., Times, January 14, 1891]

HOW IT WAS SO NAMED

BY D. B. CONRAD, KANSAS CITY, MO., FORMERLY U. S. AND C.S. NAVY

He was as exact in the performance of his duties as a mathematical proposition; his only pleasure, walking daily at the same hour for his health; strict, grim and reticent, he imagined that the halves of his body did not work and act in accord. He followed hydropathy for dyspepsia, and after a pack in wet sheets every Sunday morning he then attended the Presbyterian church, leading the choir, and the prayer-meetings every night during the week. He ate the queerest food, and he sucked lemons constantly; but where he got them during the war, for we were many miles from a lemon, no one could find out–but he always had one. In fact, no one knew or understood him. No man ever saw him smile–but one woman, his wife. But he stood very high in the estimation of all for his rigid moral conduct and the absolute faith reposed in his word and deeds. Soon it was observed that every night there was singing and praying under “that tree,” and every Sunday morning and evening he held prayer-meetings, which, I regret to say, were attended by only a few–always strictly, however, by his staff, who seemed to have been chosen or elected because they were of his way of life. When thrown with him on duty he was uniformly courteous to all. He always kept his eyes half closed as if thinking, which he invariably did before answering; but his replies were short and to the point. Not many days elapsed before the officers found out that when he gave or wrote one of his short orders, it was always to be obeyed, or suspension at once followed neglect. In May many regiments arrived from Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, and there was some semblance of discipline–as an immense log guard-house, always filled, gave evidence.

One Sunday evening in early June the long roll was beaten, and we soon were in line, marching out between the high hills towards Shepherdstown bridge on the upper Potomac, accompanied by a long procession of carriages filled with our mothers and sisters, escorted by our middle-aged, portly fathers on horseback; for as we could not go to them, they daily visited us in our camp; and that evening, for the first time in our lives, it looked and felt like war. For were we not on our way to keep the Yankees out of Virginia? Were they not in force somewhere in Maryland, intending to cross over the bridge which we were marching to, to defend and burn? This was the feeling and belief of all of us; and as in the narrow country road winding around the many high hills our long line of bright bayonets glinted in the setting sun, our five full regiments, numbering nearly four thousand five hundred of the brightest, healthiest, and the most joyous of Virginia youth, stepping out quickly to the shrill music of the drum and fife, with its accompanying procession of vehicles carrying weeping mothers and sisters, it was my first and most vivid sight of what war might be. As darkness fell apace, all were left behind but the soldiers. It was our first night-march, and by two o’clock we were “dead beat!” Many fell asleep by the roadside, and were only aroused by the rattling of muskets, as the foremost regiment fired a volley without orders, and swept across the bridge, only to be sternly ordered back by “Old Jack, the sleepless,” who reprimanded its colonel and then personally superintended the firing of the wooden structure. During the next week we marched over several counties, and by the time we reached Winchester, where General J. E. Johnston had established his headquarters, we were in perfect trim, and knew each other well and felt like soldiers.

In Winchester we were regaled day and night with the speeches of ‘Fire-eaters,” “Original Secessionists,” Et id genus omne! I only recall the following: I saw a crowd listening eagerly with arrested attention to an orator. He was both corpulent and crapulent, who had just come from Washington, which was his present glory and distinction. He announced that he would redden the Potomac with the blood of every Yankee who crossed to invade the sacred soil of the South. One Southern man with a bowie knife was equal to any two Yankees, and that the war would be over after the first fight, when they would be driven out and away forever. Another orator drew a large audience; his chief distinction and glory seemed to be that he was and had been a “Nullifier” (whatever that was). An original “Secessionist;” had a brother fighting in Italy with Garibaldi, whom he announced was expected daily — the looked-for “Military Messiah;” and finally that he was a South Carolinian and came here to assist in fighting Virginia’s battles. Then there were groans and derision from the assembled Virginians.

For a week ending July 2d, we were encamped near Martinsburg, some four miles from the ford of the Potomac leading to Hagerstown, called Falling Waters, watching the Federal army under General Patterson. At sunrise the alarm was given: “the enemy are crossing!” and we were under arms on our way to the ford. Emerging on the turnpike, we were halted to support a battery; skirmishers were thrown out, and soon we were all engaged. We tried hard to hold Patterson until General Johnston could come up from Winchester, but were forced back, and here we saw Colonel Jackson under fire for the first time; stolid, imperturbable, undisturbed, as he was watched by every eye; and his example was quieting and of decided moral effect. There, for the first time, we saw the long line of blue, with the United States flag in the center, and both sides exchanged shots; the first of the many fights in the old Valley of Virginia. We fell back through Martinsburg; it was occupied by General Patterson; and at a small hamlet called” Bunker Hill,” some seven miles away, we, during the whole of July 4th, were in line of battle, expecting Patterson hourly. The next evening we fell back upon Winchester, and after our arrival there happened an episode which I will relate briefly, as it was the first and only attempt at a mutiny ever heard of in the Confederate army.

About 3 o’clock on the afternoon of July 17th the long roll was beaten and we were marched to an adjoining field, crushing under our feet as we moved along the stone fences bounding it. There we found our five regiments surrounding a number of tents, and when the hollow square was perfect we became aware that we enclosed a battalion of troops who had refused positively to further obey their commander. General Joe Johnston’s adjutant, Colonel Whiting, with Colonel Jackson and the colonel of the refractory troops, rode up into the square. The drums were ordered to beat the assembly, and, to our infinite relief, the battalion, under the command of its several captains, fell into line at once. Then there was a dead silence. This was a mutiny! What came next? How was it to be punished? Was every tenth man to be shot, or only the officers? As I rode along I heard these questions asked by both rank and file. Colonel Whiting then rode to the front with a paper in his hand, and when he arrived at the head of the troops he read aloud, with marked emphasis, in substance as follows: That General Johnston had heard with regret and surprise that, on the eve of an action, both men and officers had refused to obey the orders of their commander. He could only say that it was the imperative duty of all soldiers to obey orders; that their grievances would be redressed in time, but such an example would and should not go unpunished. He therefore expected of them instant obedience of their colonel’s orders; that Colonel Jackson, with five regiments, was there to enforce, if needed, his commands. Their own colonel then put them through their evolutions for so many minutes, and they were ordered back to their tents, and all was quiet. It seems hardly necessary to state that those were the last orders ever given by that colonel, as he was removed from command.

All of General Johnston’s army were then encamped around Winchester, when, on the 18th of July, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, again the long roll was sounded. From the number of mounted officers and men galloping furiously off to every encampment, it was evident that there was important news. General Patterson was known to be at Charlestown, twenty miles to the east, but nearer to the passes of the Blue Ridge than we were. General Beauregard was known to be at Manassas station, far to the east, eighty miles by direct line, with the Blue Ridge and the Shenandoah river running between him and us. Soon the news came–it was not an order, but simply a message from General Johnston to each brigade, regiment and individual soldier, that General Beauregard had just notified him from Manassas, on that morning at daybreak, he had been attacked by an overwhelming force of the enemy from Centerville. He was holding his own, but needed help. General Johnston had started, and would go day and night to his relief; and he expected every man who wanted to fight the enemy would up and follow. There is no man living of all that army to-day who can ever forget the thrill of “Berserker rage” which took possession of us all when the news was understood, and General Johnston’s inspiring message was repeated along the line. We were to help General Beauregard drive the enemy back; then, returning to the Valley, would hurl General Patterson across the Potomac and end the war.  For had not Secretary Seward proclaimed that in sixty days it would be over?  Every man sprang to his place, and in an incredibly short time we were rapidly moving through the dusty streets of old Winchester, there only to be the more inspired and encouraged, for there was not a mother or sister there who had not in the ranks a son or a brother, and who through tears and wails at being left undefended and alone, yet told us it was our duty to go. Our Virginia brigade took the lead and to the eastward, making for Ashby’s Gap. We footed it fast and furious; it was at first like a run, but soon slackened to the “route step,” and now we wondered at the old soldier’s puzzle: “Why, when the leading files of a mile of soldiers were only in a walk, that the rear files are always on a run?” As we passed through the rich and fertile Clarke County, the road was lined with ladies holding all manner of food and drink, for General Johnston’s staff had passed in a sweeping gallop and given tidings of our coming. At sundown we came to the cold, swift Shenandoah, and with two and three to every horse, the rest stripped off trousers, crossed, holding aloft on muskets and head, clothing and ammunition. This was the severest test, for it was a long struggle against a cold, breast-high current, and the whole night and the next day witnessed this fording of men, guns and horses. I did not see my mare for two days; nearly a dozen cousins and brothers or other relatives had to use her in the crossing. Luckily the road beyond was hard, dry and plain in the dark night as we slowly climbed the Blue Ridge, which rises precipitously from the river, and in a straggling line passed by the “Big Poplar Tree” that crowns the summit and is the corner of four counties, Clarke, Warren, Fauquier and Loudoun. Coming down the mountain by the hamlet of Paris, and there leaving the pike, we took the country road, soft and damp, to the railroad station of Piedmont, where, sleeping on the ground, we awaited the arrival of the train to carry us to Manassas Junction. At sunrise it came; a long train of freight and cattle cars, in which we packed ourselves like so many pins and needles; and, as safety for engine and cars was more essential than speed, for we had one engine only on that part of the old Manassas Gap railroad, we slowly jolted the entire day, passed the many country stations, warmly welcomed by the gathered crowds of women and girls with food and drink.

And when at sunset we arrived at Manassas Junction, sprung at once into line, and swept out into a broken country of pine forest. Four miles brought us to the banks of “Bull Run,” where we slept. That was Friday night, the 19th, and it had taken twenty-four hours to bring four thousand men to the expected field of action. Bright and early on Saturday, the 20th, we were up and examined with a soldier’s interest the scene of the conflict of the 18th. A line of fresh graves was rather depressing; the trees were lopped and mangled by shot and perforated by minnie balls. The short, dry grass showing in very many spots a dark chocolate hue, spreading irregularly like a map, which the next day became a too familiar sight. We could not make anything out of the fight, beyond that here was the ford, and here they came down to cross in force. They were simply repulsed from the ford; there was no pursuit, the artillery remaining on the hills beyond; and it was agreed that here, any day now, we were to fight against a direct assault. The enemy’s object, we supposed, was to get to Manassas Junction, murder every one there, and destroy buildings and stores.

The art of war was so simple and so well understood by all in those early days, that the opinions of high-up college graduates and successful lawyers were even sought for, and in all cases, I must do them justice to say, were given with the utmost freedom and liberality. Every man who had been in the Mexican war, or had been fighting abroad, was a colonel or a brigadier at once, and they swelled and swaggered around, dispensing willing information of tactics and grand strategy in the most profuse and generous way to an absorbent and listening crowd. The whole of Saturday, the 20th, did we lie in the pines, resting and surmising, greeting each new regiment as it arrived at all hours of the day and night, panting for the fight. Questions asked were: “Had the fighting begun yet?” Are we too late?” “When was it to be? Let us get a good place where we can kill every d—d Yankee, and then go home.” Not a sound or shot disturbed the quiet of long Saturday, and we slept peacefully in the pines that night. As the next day (Sunday, the 21st) broke we were jumped out of our lairs by the loudest gun I ever heard, apparently fired right at our heads, as we supposed, and from just over the bank of Bull Run, only a hundred yards distant; but it proved to be the signal gun from Centerville, four miles away, in the encampment of General McDowell. At a double quick we were in line along the bank of the stream, momentarily expecting the enemy to appear and open on us, and thus we awaited until the sun got over the tops of the trees, when a mounted officer rode up, and after a hurried interview with Colonel Jackson, we were, to our surprise, wheeled to the rear, and at double-quick, over fields and through the woods, we went to the extreme left of our army.

It then turned out that at that day and hour General McDowell had decided to attack us on our left; and as General Beauregard had decided to attack the Federals on their left, so, had it not been discovered in time by the Confederates, each army would have followed thereto in concentric circles. For two long, hot hours did we move towards the rattling of musketry, which at first was very faint, then became more and more audible. At last we halted under a long ridge covered with small pines. Here were the wounded of that corps who had been first engaged–men limping on gun or stick; men carried off in blankets, bleeding their life away; men supported on each side by soldiers–and they gave us no very encouraging news to troops as we were. They had been at it ever since sun-up. The enemy were as thick as wheat in the field, and the long lines of blue could not be counted. Up the narrow lane our brigade started, directly to where the musketry seemed the loudest, our regiment, the Second, bringing up the rear. Reaching the top, a wide clearing was discovered; a broad table land spread out, the pine thicket ceased, and far away over the hill in front was the smoke of musketry; at the bottom of the long declivity was the famous turnpike, and on the hills beyond could be seen clearly Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries. In their front, to their rear, and supported on each side, were long lines of blue. To our right, about one hundred yards off, was a small building, the celebrated “Henry House.” As ours was the last regiment to come up, and as the brigade, as it surmounted the hill, wheeled into line sharply to the left into the thickets, we were thus thrown to the extreme right of the line and of the entire army. Halting there and mounted on a gate-post, I could see the panoramas spread out before me. The brass pieces of Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries were seen wheeling into line, caissons to the rear, the horses detached and disappearing behind the hill. The glinting of the morning sun on the burnished metal made them very conspicuous. No cavalry were seen. I do not think that McDowell had any in action that day. Both batteries soon opened on us with shell, but no casualties resulted, for the reason that in their haste and want of time the fuses were not cut. I picked up many which fell to the ground with a dull sound, and found that the reason they did not explode. The infantry were engaged on the side of the long, gradual slope of the hill on which we stood, and in the bottom below, out of our sight, we could hear the sound and see the white smoke.

At this time there rode up fast towards us from the front a horse and rider, gradually rising to our view from the bottom of the hill. He was an officer all alone, and as he came closer, erect and full of fire, his jet-black eyes and long hair, and his blue uniform of a general officer made him the cynosure of all. In a strong, decided tone he inquired of the nearest aide, what troops we were and who commanded. He was told that Colonel Jackson, with five Virginia regiments had just arrived, and pointed to where the colonel stood at the same time. The strange officer then advanced, and we of the regimental staff crowded to where he was to hear the news from the front. He announced himself as General B. E. Bee, commanding South Carolina troops; he said that he had been heavily engaged all the morning, and being overpowered, are now slowly being pushed back; we will fall back on you as a support: the enemy will make their appearance in a short time over the crest of that hill. “Then sir, we will give them the bayonet,” was the only reply of Colonel Jackson. With a salute, General Bee wheeled his horse and disappeared down the hill, where he immortalized himself, Colonel Jackson and his troops, by his memorable words to his own command: “Close up, men, and stand your ground. Colonel Jackson with five regiments of Virginia troops is standing behind us like a stone wall, and will support you.” Thus was the name of “Stonewall” given to General Jackson and his famous brigade. General Bee was killed the next moment. Our entire line lay in the pine thickets for one long hour, and no man, unless he was there, can tell how very long it was to us. Under fire from two batteries throwing time-shells only, they did not do a great amount of killing, but it was terribly demoralizing. Then there was a welcome cessation; and we were wondering why, and when the fighting would begin for us. After nearly half an hour the roar of the field pieces sounded louder than I had yet heard, and evidently very near us; this was the much criticised movement of Ricketts, who had ordered his battery down the opposite hill, across the pike and up the hill we were on, where, wheeling into battery on the level top, opened with grape and canister right into the thicket and into our exposed line. This was more than Colonel Jackson could stand, and the general order was–” Charge and take that battery!” Now the fight of Manassas, or Bull Run, began in earnest–for the position we held was the key of the field. Three times did our regiment charge up to and take this battery, but never held it; for though we drove the regiment supporting it, yet another was always close behind to take its place. A gray-headed man, sitting sideways on horseback, whom I understood to be General Heintzleman, was ever in one spot directing the movements of each regiment as it came up the hill; and his coolness and gallantry won our admiration. Many fragments of these regiments charged on us in turn as we retreated into the pines, only to be killed, for I do not think any of them went back alive. The green pines were filled with the Seventy-ninth Highlanders and the red-breeched Brooklyn Zouaves, but the only men who were killed twenty or thirty yards behind, and in the rear of our line, were the United States Marines. Many of these I had sailed with, and they called on me by name to help them as they lay wounded in the undergrowth. “Water, water!” “Turn me over!” “Raise my head, and remove me out of this fire!” were their cries. I then saw what was afterwards too often the case–men with wounded legs, unable to move out of the fire, mortally wounded while lying helpless Our entire brigade thus fought unaided and alone for at least an hour–charging, capturing, retreating, and retaking this battery, resisting the charges of each fresh regiment as it came forward at quick-step up the slope of the hill, across the table-land, on its top and into the pine thickets where we were, until we were as completely broken up into fragments and as hard pressed as men ever were. It had gotten down to mere hand-to-hand fighting of small squads, out in the open and in the pines. There was no relief, no reinforcements, no fresh troops to come, or to fall back on. Luckily the enemy were in the same disorganized condition as we were. General Johnston seized the colors of a regiment, and on horseback, led a charge, excusing it afterwards as necessary at that moment to make a personal example. Our Colonel Jackson, with only two aids, Colonels Jones and Marshall, both subsequently killed, rode slowly, and without the slightest hurrah, frequently along our front, encouraging us by his quiet presence. He held aloft his left or bridle hand, looking as if he was invoking a blessing, as many supposed, but in fact to ease the intense pain, for a bullet had badly shattered two of his fingers, to which he never alluded, and it has been forgotten, for it was the only time he was ever wounded, until his fall in action in 1863. Thus the fate of the field hung in a balance at 2:30 P. M. At this moment President Davis and his staff made their appearance on the field, but not being known, attracted no attention. Both sides were exhausted and willing to say “enough!” The critical moment, which comes in all actions, had arrived, when we saw to our left a cloud of dust, and out of it emerged a straggling line of men with guns held at a trail. Slowly they came on to the field, not from want of spirit, but tired out from double-quicking in the heat and dust.  As they passed by and through our squads there were hurried inquiries; the enemy was pointed out to them, and when seen, from out of their dusty and parched throats, came the first “Rebel yell.” It was a fierce, wild cry, perfectly involuntary, caused by the emotion of catching first sight of the enemy. These new troops were Kirby Smith’s delayed men; the train had that morning broken down, but on arriving at the station near and hearing the sound of fighting, he had ordered the train stopped, and forming into line and rapidly marching, guided only by the roar of the guns, had arrived on the field at the supreme moment. The yell attracted the attention of the enemy, surprised and startled them. Inspired by the sight of the Federals the new Confederate troops, in one long line, with a volley and another yell, swept down the slope of our hill and drove before them the broken, tired enemy, who had been at it since sunrise. Kirby Smith was shot from his horse, but onward they went, irresistible, for there was no opposition. The enemy stood for a few moments, firing, then turned their backs for the first time. As if by magic the whole appearance of the scene was changed. One side was cheering and pursuing in broken, irregular lines; the other a slow-moving mass of blue backs and legs, guns, caissons and ammunition wagons, started down the hard, white pike. Our batteries, with renewed vigor and dash, had again come to the front, and from their high positions were opening with shot and grape. One solitary bridge was the point to which the fleeing Federals converged, and on that point was our fire concentrated. The result was at one seen–a wheel or two knocked off their caissons or wagons blocked the passage, and the bridge became impassable. The men cut loose their horses, mounted and rode away; others plunged into the mud and water, and the retreat became from that moment a panic, for the god Pan had struck them hard for the first and last time. There was never again the like to be seen in the subsequent four years. Our pursuit, singularly, was by artillery, our infantry having become incapable of further motion from sheer exhaustion; and Stewart had only a few companies out of the one regiment on the field; but they did good work in keeping up the rout until late in the night, when they were brought to a standstill at Centerville, where there was a reserve brigade that had not been in action; and so ended the part taken by the Stonewall Brigade in this their first fight. I may add here that our regiment was not gathered together for four days, and the brigade not for a week. With us, as with the rest of our victorious army, we were as much disorganized and scattered by our victory as the Federals by their defeat, and pursuit, unless by an organized force beyond Centerville, would have been simply a physical impossibility.





Comments?

19 04 2009

It was the hope of Mr. Hennessy and myself that this post would generate some conversation about the circumstances surrounding the origin of the “Stonewall” nickname.  I don’t know if it is the length of the article or the timing – just before the weekend – but the response has been, well, less than we anticipated, or at least less than we hoped for.  So here’s an appeal – what do you think?  Has the article convinced you?  Does it jive with your impressions, has it changed them, are you still convinced of an alternative?  How did you come to know what you know?  Please leave any comments on the original article.





Hennessy on the Naming of “Stonewall”

16 04 2009

The following appeared in Vol. VIII, No. 2 of Civil War: The Magazine of the Civil War Society, March-April 1990, and is reproduced here with the permission of the author.  My notes in {brackets}.

Stonewall Jackson’s Nickname

What did General Bee really say at First Manassas?  And what did he mean?

By John Hennessy

This is the way the story goes: At noontime on July 21, 1861, a bright, warm summer day, the brash young Confederacy seemed on the brink of woeful disaster.  The brushy fields behind widow Judith Henry’s house were crowded with fugitives, gray-clad and blue-clad Confederates milling about, sweat-soaked, bleeding, confused, and dazed.  Officers rushed among them trying to restore formations shattered in the morning fight, but their yelling, cursing, and speechmaking did little good.

The tangled, frightened mob refused organization.  On the hills a mile to the north were 17,000 Federals, ready to advance, their muskets and bayonets glinting in the mid-day sun and their cannon steadily lobbing shells toward the Confederates.  The battle — the War itself — was only two hours old.  Could all be lost already?

So it seemed.  But then, suddenly, a column of men appeared, marching four abreast up a rutted road on the rear slope of Mrs. Henry’s hill.  Emerging from the timber, the column filed right, then left, the men lying down in the tall grass and pine thickets lining the eastern edge of Henry’s farm.  It consisted of five regiments, nearly 2500 men, all Virginians.  The man at their head was an obscure brigadier, no long ago a professor at the Virginia Military Institute, named Thomas J. Jackson.

Jackson’s arrival did not go unnoticed by those thousands of Confederates milling about in widow Henry’s meadow.  One of them, South Carolinian Barnard Bee, whose commission as Brigadier General carried the same date as Jackson’s, frantically rode up to the Virginian.  “General, they are beating us back”, Bee exclaimed, as if he were appealing to a superior officer.  Jackson, his eyes flashing in that soon-to-be-familiar way, coolly intoned his reply: “Sir, we will give them the bayonet.”  Reassured, Bee wheeled his horse and galloped back to the sorry mob behind Henry’s house.  To the north, the Federals prepared to attack.

Bee dashed among his troops, finding the remnants of the 4th Alabama, and beseeched them to fall in.  But the men, tired and scared, would have none of it.  Then Bee, in desperation, rose in his saddle, drew his sword and pointed through the roiling smoke toward Jackson.  “There stands Jackson like a stone wall!” he bellowed.  “Rally around the Virginians!”

Drummers beat the rally.  Tangled knots of soldiers shook themselves out into ragged lines.  In a short time the dazed mob of Alabamians had formed up into steady ranks, anchored on Jackson’s rock solid regiments.  The Confederates gripped their rifles tightly and peered down their barrels.  After what seemed like an interminable wait, the enemy appeared, stepping ever closer.  At the last possible moment, the Confederate line exploded in a blaze of fire that drove the Federals back.

Again the attack came on, and again Jackson’s men, assisted by Bee’s reformed mob, drove them back.  This time the Confederates rose and dashed headlong in pursuit, toward the Federal cannon.  The enemy troops began to flee in wanton panic.

Teetering on the edge of disaster at mid-day, the Confederates had by late afternoon won a stunning victory on the Plains of Manassas.  And it was largely thanks to a man who, because of his performance that day, would soon be known to the world as “Stonewall” Jackson.  At least, so the story goes.

***

This account of how Jackson received his nickname is one of the enduring legends of the War.  With its high drama and cool heroism, it has thrilled countless school children and battlefield visitors, inspired generations of writers, sculptors, orators and soldiers.

But a century of enthusiastic retellings and embellishments — along with some festering skepticism — have taken their toll.  Fact and fiction have been melded into the story until they are indistinguishable.  And trying to separate them is not merely difficult; it is construed by worshipers of Jackson as a kind of historical blasphemy.  Yet his detractors persist, telling us that the story is overblown or misconstrued — that only the faintest strands of truth remain.

Clearly, it is time for a re-examination.  We must see whether we can find out what, exactly, Bee said — if indeed he said anything.  We must inquire into when he said it, and why.

The story gained notoriety quickly.  Only four days after the battle, a correspondent of the Charleston Mercury informed his readers of Jackson’s stoic retort to Bee, and Bee’s comparison of Jackson to a stone wall.  The story, and the inevitable nickname, spread quickly through the army, and within a few months General Jackson had become simply “Stonewall.”  And as such, by the end of the War, he had become one of the most famous men in the world.

As a foremost martyr to the Lost Cause, Jackson became after the War a subject of veneration, as did the legend of his christening at First Manassas.  Alleged eyewitnesses to the event (most of them members of the Stonewall Brigade) stepped forward by the dozens to reiterate and embroider the now-unshakeable myth.   Sanitized and polished, the story became a treasured piece of Virginiana, a staple of Southern lore.

Lurking in the shadows of the rosy glow, however, was a small but growing army of skeptics who, with considerable vigor, questioned the basic circumstances and meaning of the events of July 21, 1861.  Some, claiming that no reliable eyewitnesses ever emerged, went so far as to insist the Bee-Jackson incident never occurred.  North Carolinian D. H. Hill, for example, probably motivated as much by the age-old Carolinian resentment of Virginia gentility as by the absence of verifiable sources, labeled the entire episode “sheer fabrication.”

Others chose to re-interpret the legend, perhaps to reflect their own regional loyalties.  Bee’s fellow South Carolinian, Colonel John Cheves Haskell, said that according to sources he deemed reliable, Bee was actually denouncing Jackson by calling him a “stone wall,” because Jackson had refused to come to the aid of Bee’s “hard pressed” troops.  Virginians, on the other hand, put special emphasis on the postscript to the stone-wall reference – the part that went “rally around the Virginians.”  It is not surprising that the impressive statue of Jackson that today commands Henry Hill bears those very words.  It was erected by the State of Virginia.

Historians picking their way through this minefield of sectional and personal partisanship had to step carefully.  Most referred to the incident vaguely enough to avoid error; as R. M. Johnston put it in 1913, “something was said by somebody, during or immediately after the battle, that likened Jackson or his men or both to a stone wall.”  What these writers lacked was not the will to tackle the issue, but rather two essentials: reliable eyewitness accounts of the Jackson-Bee exchange, and comprehensive details of the events on Henry Hill that Sunday.

For some time, in fact, there was available only one primary account of what Jackson said to Bee, and vice versa.  It was written long after the war, in the 1890s, by Lieutenant William Robbins of Bee’s 4th Alabama Infantry.  By the time it appeared, the legend was already in place, and historians tended either to interpret the Robbins account to fit the legend, or in the case of a lack of fit, to discount Robbins’s account altogether.

Recently, however, three new eyewitness accounts have come to light, all written by members of the 4th Alabama, that confirm and expand upon Robbins’s account.  Two of them, a diary kept by Chaplain James G. Hudson {James G. Hudson, A Story of Company D, 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment, C.S.A., edited by Alma H. Pate, Alabama Historical Quarterly, (Spring 1961), XXIII} and the official report of Captain Thomas Goldsby, were in all probability written within a week of the battle.  The other account is an unpublished history of the 4th Alabama, by Robert T. Coles, written in 1909 {since published: Robert T. Coles, From Huntsville to Appomattox: R. T. Coles’s History of 4th Regiment, Alabama Volunteer Infantry, C.S.A., Army of Northern Virginia, edited by Jeffrey D. Stocker, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1996}.  Together, these four memoirs provide a clear and consistent picture of a very trying day for the 4th Alabama Infantry.

That July Sunday began full of hope and excitement for the men of the 4th Alabama, poised as they were near the center of the Confederate line at Blackburn’s Ford, certain they would be in the thick of the day’s fighting.  At 7 a.m., however, anticipation turned to disappointment.  The 4th was ordered into column and marched several miles north to the Stone Bridge — away, the grumbling men were sure, from the combat and the glory they craved.

As they neared the Stone Bridge, however, their mood changed yet again.  In front they could hear the rattle of musketry, and word came down the line of a potential crisis.  The Federals were trying to outflank the Confederates by crossing Bull Run two miles to above the Southerner’s left.  Eager for what one man called, “a chance to get a dab at the Yankees”, Bee’s men hurried over narrow roads and fence-studded farmland and, after only the briefest halt, threw themselves into the desperate fight on Matthew’s Hill.

Bee’s bloody attempt to drive back the Federal flanking column failed miserably.  By 11:30 a.m., the wreck of the 4th Alabama, along with two or three thousand other overwhelmed Confederates, was streaming back across the Warrenton Turnpike and up the slope of Mrs. Henry’s hill.

Once there, as the legend correctly holds, the Confederates milled about in disorganized mobs, edging toward the rear.  Then Jackson and his five regiments arrived.  Bee saw him, rode to him and, as related by a correspondent of the Mercury, told him of his plight.  “Sir, we will give them the bayonet”, Jackson told him.  Jackson in his after-action report confirmed the meeting with Bee: “Before arriving within cannon range of the enemy I met General Bee’s forces falling back.  I continued to advance with the understanding he would form in my rear.”

Here the legend and the eyewitness accounts begin to differ dramatically.  In the legendary version of the story it was at this time, about noon, that Bee returned to his troops and launched Jackson toward immortality.  But according to all four eyewitness accounts, Bee’s famous words were not spoken until two or three hours later.  By that time the tactical situation, and hence the meaning of what Bee said, were fundamentally changed.

The eyewitnesses recalled that Bee’s men, in serious trouble, continued rearward and formed 400 yards behind the right of Jackson’s line.  Captain Goldsby, on command of the 4th Alabama, wrote in his report, “Without any field officers, and almost surrounded by the enemy, we again fell back through a pine woods to an open field where we halted and awaited orders.  The thirst of the men was intense and almost intolerable.”

Meanwhile, one-quarter of a mile away, Jackson hurried to patch together a line of artillery in front of his now-prone infantrymen along the eastern edge of Henry Hill.  Benefitted greatly by a propitious lull granted him by the Federals, by 2 p.m. he had between 13 and 16 guns (no one knows for sure precisely how many) blazing away, including Alburtis’s Battery (the Wise Artillery), commanded by young Lieutenant John Pelham.

At about 2:30 p.m., 11 Union guns unexpectedly wheeled into position abreast of Widow Henry’s house, not 500 yards from Jackson’s line, and opened fire.  They were soon followed by Federal infantry.  The blueclad troops slowly closed with Jackson’s line, but hesitated, unsure of what they were facing.  Jackson’s men — at least a good number of them — rose and fired the first volley.

It was a savage firefight for a few minutes, but soon the Federals beat a hasty retreat to the cover of Sudley Road.  Jackson’s men, well satisfied by the apparent ease of their success, did not pursue.  In a few minutes yet another line of Unionists appeared, and again the Yankees approached Jackson’s line.  The Virginians’ task would not be so simple this time.

Meanwhile, Captain Goldsby and his tired band of Alabamians lay in the fields to Jackson’s right rear, waiting for someone to tell them what to do.  Soon General Bee galloped up to the regiment.  He had apparently been lost for some time, unable to find any familiar troops, and was anxious to get back into the fight.

All four eyewitnesses noted Bee’s bewildered arrival.  According to Goldsby, “At this place, a half mile behind our original position amid the bursting shells and the rattling storm of musketry, our heroic General Bee rode up to the regiment and inquired what troops we were.  Being told that ‘it was what remained of the 4th Alabama,’ he replied with an expressive gesture, ‘This is all of my brigade that I can find — will you follow me back to where the firing is going on?’  ‘To the death’ was the response.”

Regimental Chaplain Hudson, writing in his diary soon after the battle, recalled Bee’s arrival similarly: “While the 4th Regiment was recovering, General Bee rode up and asked who would follow him to the conflict.  Every man rose up, raised a shout and replied, ‘We will follow you to the death.'”

Lieutenant Robbins, writing in the 1890s, left yet another description that helps fix the position of the 4th Alabama and clearly indicates that by now Jackson’s men had become heavily engaged.  General Bee, wrote Robbins, ‘galloped up to the remnant of the 4th Alabama Regiment, which was so cut to pieces that Bee seemed not to recognize us at first, and he asked the question, ‘What regiment is this?’  We answered him, ‘The Fourth Alabama.’  At that time the heaviest masses of the Federals had so inclined to the left as to leave us comparatively unengaged, with little more than a skirmish line in our immediate front; but Jackson and his brigade, who were in position on high ground about 500 yards to our left, were being assailed by mighty masses of the enemy.  It was plainly the crisis of the day.  Bee then said to us, ‘Men can you make a charge of the bayonet?’ to which our poor battered regiment still had the pluck to respond, ‘Yes General; we’ll go wherever you lead and do whatever you say.'”

Private Robert Coles wrote in 1909 that at 2 p.m. “General Bee, very much depressed at the unfortunate turn of affairs, then proceeded to collect his forces.  Riding up to the 4th Alabama, he inquired what regiment is this; Captain Richard Clark and Captain Porter King quickly replied, ‘Why General, don’t you know your own men — this is what is left of the 4th Alabama.'”

These four accounts, remarkably consistent, point out two important facts that belie the legendery version of the story.  First, it is clear that at the time Bee spoke to the 4th, it was the general, not the regiment, who was discombobulated.  The regiment was simply lying still, waiting for orders.  There was, contrary to the legend, no rallying to be done (a point stressed by Lieutenant Robbins in another of his descriptions published in the Southern Historical Society Papers).

Bee, on the other hand, had been separated from his command for quite some time and was frantically trying to hunt up troops to bring back into the battle.  Which leads to the next point.  As Robbins explicitly states and the rest of the chroniclers imply, Jackson’s men were mightily engaged at the time of the incident.  It was Jackson, not Bee, who needed help.

Of Bee’s famous words, interestingly (and perhaps revealingly), the two men who wrote their recollections soon after the event said nothing, although clearly they were describing the same event as the post-war chroniclers.  Captain Goldsby wrote that after Bee spoke to the regiment, “he put himself on the left of our line and marched us by the left flank to where the fight was ranging around Sherman’s Battery.”  (Ricketts’s and Griffin’s batteries, the two Union batteries engaged on Henry Hill, were erroneously referred to by the Confederates as “Sherman’s Battery.”)  Parson Hudson remembered in his diary, “General Bee then led off in the direction of the house where the old lady [Mrs. Henry] was killed, and near where Sherman’s Battery was taken.”

But both of the post-war writers remembered that before Bee led the regiment into the fight he had something else to say.  Private Coles wrote: “After stating that this was the only part of his command he could find, he then said, “Come with me and go yonder where Jackson stands like a stone wall.”  Lieutenant Robbins described the moment more precisely, and only slightly differently: “Bee then pointed to the conflict going on upon the elevated ground to our left and said: ‘Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall; Let’s go to his assistance.’  I, myself, was there and heard the words.”

These descriptions, the only eyewitness accounts available, put a distinctly different light on the entire incident.  Rather than the Virginians helping the Alabamians, as the legend generally holds, Bee’s men were instead going to help the Virginians.  This rather revolutionary perspective — guaranteed to raise a Virginians hackles and warm the heart of a Carolinian or Alabamian — is borne out further by the descriptions of Bee’s and his men’s subsequent activities.

Following Bee’s words the 4th Alabama rose, fell into column, and marched to Jackson’s assistance.  En route the regiment became confused when Alburtis’s battery of artillery left Jackson’s line and split the Alabama regiment.  Bee rallied them, and with 100 men joined Jackson in the counterattack that captured much of the Federal artillery on Henry Hill.  In this attack Bee was mortally wounded.

It is the descriptions of Bee’s march to Jackson’s aid that remove virtually all question of the timing of the “stone wall” incident, placing it at nearly 3 p.m., several hours later than the legend holds.  The key event that times Bee’s move, witnessed by all four writers, is the withdrawal of Jackson’s artillery, led by Alburtis’s battery, from Henry Hill.  That artillery, as related to William Nelson Pendleton’s after-action report, pulled out only when Jackson’s men became heavily involved with Yankee infantry.

Goldsby wrote of the 4th’s march to aid Jackson’s counterattack, “[Bee] put himself on the left of our line and marched us by the flank to where the fight was going on around Sherman’s Battery.  As we were nearing the scene, a train of artillery that was falling back cut our line, thus separating the left company from the rest of the regiment.  This company, with our general at its head, obliqued to the right, upon the open plain, and proceeded about 100 yards, when our gallant and beloved commander fell mortally wounded.”

Chaplain Hudson’s diary reads, “As the regiment was moving up a narrow road, through a pine thicket, Alburtis’s battery, which had been driven from the position, came dashing down the road under full headway.  The men were compelled to file right and left into the thicket to prevent being run over.”  Hudson goes on to add, supporting Goldsby, that Bee then gathered about a company and led them to “where the battle was raging hottest,” where he was very soon mortally wounded.

Robbins also describes the advance: “General Bee at once placed himself at our left and led the 4th Alabamians towards Jackson’s position.  During this movement Alburtis’s Battery was compelled to fall back and galloped right through our ranks, producing considerable confusion.”  And Robbins also says that Bee was wounded shortly thereafter.

Finally, Private Coles remembered the incident briefly, his account varying only to the extent that he claimed Alburtis’s battery was then going into position rather than leaving it, as is so clearly stated by the others.

This then is the evidence.  The four accounts – two wartime and two post-war — are convincingly consistent.  They lack even a hint of the speculation, fabrication, or embellishment so apparent in most descriptions of the affair, most of which were written by Virginians who were nowhere near Bee that day.  Moreover, the Alabamian’s descriptions dovetail precisely with the terrain (including the monument marking the spot of Bee’s mortal wounding) and the known sequence of events.  In short, there is no reason to doubt their veracity.  They make sense.  Where does all this leave the legend?

Clearly the circumstances surrounding Bee’s words were not nearly as dramatic as depicted in the legend.  The event took place about three hours later than is commonly believed.  The crisis of the day — the mayhem following the retreat from Matthew’s Hill — had long since passed.  There were no disorganized mobs, and the Confederacy was not gasping its last.  Instead, the 4th Alabama, with only a captain in command, lay quietly waiting for orders, hundreds of yards behind the main battle lines.  If anyone needed rallying at that moment it was Bee, not the 4th.  The general had been separated from his battered command for at least an hour and by all accounts was confused and discouraged.

The general’s language, and its impact on the battle, is perhaps disappointing to those fond of the more dramatic tradition.  “Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall: let’s go to his assistance,” is hardly the stuff novelists, movie-makers, or sculptors would wish for, or would have you believe.  And while tradition tells us the image of Jackson standing like a stone wall electrified thousands of retreating Confederates and helped turn the battle’s tide, the evidence suggests that instead Bee’s words — some of the most famous uttered by any American — were probably heard by no more than 50 men and had not the slightest impact on the outcome of the battle.

On the other hand the circumstance of Jackson’s command at the time, according to the Alabamians, was significantly more trying than is commonly portrayed.  The Virginians were not lying quietly while the fight raged in front of them.  (There is no support for the Carolinians’ charge that Bee was damning Jackson’s inactivity by referring to him as a “stone wall”.)  Rather, they were heavily engaged in driving back a Union attack; even more literally than in the traditional versions, they were indeed standing like a stone wall.  And following the Federal repulse, Jackson’s men, joined by the ill-fated Bee, launched a counterattack that was in fact one of the day’s decisive moments.

So while this legend, like most, is not entirely accurate, devotees of Jackson and of romantic legend need not be disappointed, for neither is it apocryphal.  When Bee turned in his saddle, pointed through the billowing smoke toward Jackson’s battling men and yelled, “Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall,” he established Jackson and his men as a standard of excellence, objects for emulation.  To this day their conduct, at First Manassas and on a dozen other fields, remains the soldier’s benchmark for excellence.  Even when stripped of hyperbole and bias to the bare-bones eyewitness accounts, the sentiment of the legend, if not its details, survives intact.





Whadyousay?

9 04 2009

clint_eastwoodIn this article we have yet another version of what Barnard Bee said to his men that resulted in the bestowing of the name “Stonewall” on Thomas J.  Jackson and his command.  If you click on the Stonewall Jackson tag in the list at the bottom of the column on the right of this page (or just click here if you’re lazy), you’ll find other discussions and accounts of the incident.

There seem to be two questions – what did Bee say, and what did Bee mean by what he said?  Did he want his men to “determine to die here”, to “rally behind the Virginians”, or to “go to his assistance”?  Did he mean that Jackson was holding firm, or that he wasn’t moving forward?  What do you all think, and why?





SHSP – The Soubriquet “Stonewall”

8 04 2009

Southern Historical Society Papers

Vol. XIX. Richmond, Va. 1891, pp. 164-167

The Soubriquet “Stonewall”

[From the Richmond Dispatch, July 29, 1891]

HOW IT WAS ACQUIRED

A few more years will forever seal the lips of all who can speak from personal knowledge of the incidents of the “War Between the States.” Any of them, therefore, who can now contribute to the perfect accuracy of history may be pardoned for doing so, even at the risk of incurring the charge of egotism. This is my only motive for troubling you with this brief article. I am one of those who heard General Barnard E. Bee utter the words which gave Jackson the name of “Stonewall.”

THE EXACT FACTS

The speech of General Early (as I have seen it reported) at Lexington on the 21st instant is slightly inaccurate in its account of this matter in two particulars. As this inaccuracy does injustice to other Confederate soldiers no less gallant than the “Stonewall” brigade, I am sure the chivalric old General and all others like him, with hearts in the right place, will be glad to have it corrected and the exact facts stated.

THE FOURTH ALABAMA

It was to the FourthAlabama regiment that the words were spoken by General Bee, about 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon of July 21, 1861. This regiment, with the Sixth North Carolina and Second and Eleventh Mississippi, constituted Bee’s brigade; and as the brigade arrived at Manassas from the Valley in detachments, so it went into and fought through the battle, not as a whole, but by separate regiments. The Fourth Alabama having arrived at Manassas on Saturday, the 20th, was in movement very early on Sunday morning, the 21st, from near the junction towards the upper fords of Bull Run. The dust raised by the march of the Federal army to Sudley’s ford having attracted attention, the Fourth Alabama was hurried by General Bee in that direction, and we reached before 11 A. M. the plateau of the Henry House, whereon the main conflict occurred afterwards.

A GREAT SACRIFICE

Bee seeing that this was a good position for defence, but that the Federals would capture it unless delayed before the Confederate forces could reach there in sufficient numbers, ordered the Fourth Alabama to hasten a half mile further north beyond Young’s branch and the wood over there to aid Evans, Wheat, and others in detaining the Federal army.

This duty we performed at great sacrifice, standing fast for an hour or more against overwhelming numbers, losing our Colonel, Egbert Jones, mortally wounded; Lieutenant-Colonel Law and Major Scott, disabled, and a great number of other officers and men killed and wounded.

Then in obedience to orders we withdrew from our advanced position and took position on the Confederate battle-line and in rear of the Robinson House.

GENERAL JOHNSTON SEIZES THE FLAG

Here, without field-officers and under command of a captain, the Fourth Alabama maintained its ground and did its part in resisting the enemy. General Johnston at one time came to us there and led us forward on a charge against the enemy, bearing our flag in his own hand. That glorious old warrior never appeared more magnificent than he did at that moment on his prancing horse and flaunting our colors in the face of the foe, who fell back before us.

SMITTEN WITH FIRE

Soon after this, the leading design of the Federals all day being to turn the Confederate left, the heaviest fighting veered in that direction, and in consequence the enemy disappeared from the immediate front of our regiment, leaving us unengaged; but the fearful crash after crash of the Federal musketry, as fresh troops poured in against the Confederate centre and left, can never be forgotten by those who heard it. Farther and farther round its awful thunders rolled as if nothing could stay it. Our brigade comrades of the Sixth North Carolina separated, from us in the manœuvres of the day, had rushed in single handed and been smitten as with fire, and their gallant Colonel Fisher and many of his men were no more. Jackson and his glorious brigade were struggling like giants to withstand the fierce onslaught.

THE WORDS OF BEE

It was just at this moment our Brigadier-General Bee came galloping to the Fourth Alabama and said: “My brigade is scattered over the field, and you are all of it now at hand. Men, can you make a charge of bayonets?” Those poor, battered, and bloody-nosed Alabamians, inspired by the lion like bearing of that heroic officer, responded promptly, “Yes, General, we will go wherever you lead, and do whatever you say.” Bee then said, pointing towards where Jackson and his men were so valiantly battling about a quarter of a mile to the west and left of us,” Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall. Let us go to his assistance.” Saying this, he dismounted, placed himself at the left of the Fourth Alabama, and led the regiment (what remained of them) to Jackson’s position and joined them on to his right.

A CHARGE

Some other reinforcements coming up, a vigorous charge was made, pressing the Federals back. In this charge Bee fell mortally wounded, leading the Fourth Alabama. Barrow fell, not far from the same time and within a stone’s throw of the same spot, leading his Georgians. All the world knows how the Federals shortly thereafter were seized with a panic and fled incontinently from the field.

THE ERROR COMPLAINED OF

It is not true that General Bee said “rally behind the Virginians,” or behind anybody else. It is not true that he was rallying his men at all, for they were not retiring. The glory of the Stonewall Brigade does not need to be enhanced by any depreciation of the equal firmness and heroism of other men on that historic field. Let it never be forgotten that the Fourth Alabama lost more men on that day than any other regiment but one in the Confederate army, and every field from there to Appomattox was moistened with the blood of her heroes. But several of them still survive to corroborate, to the letter, the statement I have given you above.

Very respectfully,

WILLIAM M. ROBINS,

Former Major Fourth Alabama

Statesville, N. C., July 14, 1891








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