#74 – Col. R. E. Rodes

17 03 2009

Report of Col. R. E. Rodes, Fifth Alabama Infantry, of Skirmish at Fairfax Court-House

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 459-461

UNION MILLS STATION, Fairfax County, Va., July 24, 1861

CAPTAIN: In obedience to General Ewell’s instructions, I have the honor to present herein a statement in relation to the skirmish which occurred between a portion of my command and the enemy on the morning of the retreat of the advance guard of our Army to Bull Run and in relation to the retreat of this regiment.

On the night before the retreat referred to I sent Captain Shelley’s company (E) armed with rifled muskets, to sustain my advance guard.

This company had remained at the outpost on Braddock’s old road, some three and one-half miles from the regiment, until 7 a.m. on the morning of the 17th instant, when they returned towards camp to get provisions, having been sent off in such a hurry as to prevent their making preparations for breakfast, and had gotten within three-fourths of a mile of camp before the approach of the enemy was announced to them by one of my couriers coming in with a prisoner, who had been taken by a sentinel (Private Wethered, of Company H). The outpost and guard fell back fighting, not very severely, but killing several of the enemy. One of the guard (Kennedy, of Company H) killed two, having taken two deliberate musket-shots from the same spot at four of the Federalists, all of whom fired at him.

Shelley’s company, having advanced again to sustain the guard, had a sharp skirmish with them. This skirmish took place four hundred yards in advance of our breastworks, which are three-quarters of a mile east of our encampment, and which were by this time occupied by the main body of my command. Our skirmishers, being completely outflanked, retired in good order to their station in the barricades. The enemy did not follow them then, nor had they followed them twenty minutes after, when an officer of the regiment, Captain Fowler, returned to the breastworks.

They had outflanked my position to the right during the skirmish, for they could be seen crossing the clearing along the edge of which we were posted in large numbers. Up to and after the close of the skirmish I had received no definite orders to retreat, but had learned that General Bonham’s command was retreating, and that the troops at Fairfax Station were about to retreat. I had sent a courier to General Ewell for instructions, and an officer, Capt. J. D. Webb, to General Bonham, with orders to remain with him until his troops began to fall back. Captain Webb found the general’s command had already evacuated  their positions at the Court-House, and were on the Centreville road, and, upon telling General Bonham his instructions from me, received from him the reply, “Tell Colonel Rodes to commence his retreat immediately, and inform General Ewell of it.” General Ewell had already advised me, but after Captain Webb left me, of General Bonham’s movements.

As soon after the message from General Bonham as I could assemble the companies on the center of our line of defenses our retreat began. We retreated without molestation and in good order to McLean’s Ford, where I reported to General Jones, marching the regiment, except one company, across Bull Run. Just before sunset I was ordered by General Beauregard, through Colonel Chisolm, to move down to Union Mills. In obedience to this order, the regiment at once recrossed the run, and joined the main body of General Ewell’s command at the mills.

The result of the skirmish may be summed up thus: On our side two men wounded slightly–one in the leg, the other in the ear; on the side of the enemy, one prisoner and at least twenty killed and wounded. This estimate I consider safe. Two prisoners taken in the battle of the 21st, who state that they were in the column which advanced along Braddock’s road, stated the loss as much heavier–one, fifty killed and wounded; the other, seventy. These reports come to me from men of this regiment who conversed with said prisoners. In our retreat we lost eight or ten tents and two barrels of crackers; but this, in the case of the tents, was because the tents were thrown out of one wagon in order to give room for the many sick men we had.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. E. RODES,

Colonel, Commanding Fifth Regiment Alabama Volunteers

Capt. FITZHUGH LEE,

Act. Asst. Adjt. Gen., Second Brigade, Army of the Potomac





Pvt. George W. Bagby, 11th Virginia Infantry, Aide to Col. Thomas Jordan, AAG to Beauregard, On Camp and the Battle

26 02 2017

I believe that Garland found Captain Lay with a part of the Powhatan Troop at Manassas – certainly the place had been picketed for a few weeks – but that was all. Its strategic importance seemed to have been overlooked. On my arrival I found the boys comfortably quartered in tents and enjoying the contents of boxes of good things, which already had begun coming from home. In a little store at the station they had discovered a lot of delicious cherry brandy, which they were dispatching with thoughtless haste. Rigid military rule was not yet enforced, and the boys had a good time. I saw no fun in it. The battalion drill bore heavily upon me; Garland constantly forgot to give the order to shift our guns from a shoulder to a support. This gave me great pain, made me very mad, and threw me into a perspiration, which, owing to my feeble circulation, was easily checked by the cold breeze from the Bull Run Mountain, and thereby put me in jeopardy of pneumonia. Moreover, I longed for my night-shirt and the clean bed at Gordonsville. The situation was another source of trouble to me. After brooding over it a good while I got my friend Latham to write, at my dictation, a letter to John M. Daniel’s paper, the Richmond Examiner. The letter was not printed, but handed to General Lee, and additional troops began to come rapidly – one or two South Carolina regiments, the First Virginia Regiment, Captain Shields’s company of Richmond Howitzers, Latham’s Lynchburg Battery, in all of which, except the regiments from South Carolina, we had hosts of friends. The more men the sicker I got, and the further removed from that solitude which was the delight of my life. I made up my mind not to desert, but to get killed at the first opportunity. I might get a clean shirt, and would certainly get, in the grave, all the solitude I wanted.

Beauregard soon took command. This was a comfort to us all. We felt safe. About this time, too, the wives and sisters of a number of officers came from Lynchburg on a visit to the camp. That was great joy to us all. Lieutenant Latham’s little son, barely two years old, and dressed in full Rifle Grey uniform, was the lion of the hour. The ladies looked lovely. Such a relief after a surfeit of men; our eyes fairly feasted on them. Other ladies put in an appearance from time to time. Returning from Bristoe, where I had gone to bathe, my eyes fell on three of the most beautiful human beings they had ever beheld. Beautiful at any time and place, they were now inexpressibly so by reason of the fact that women were such a rarity in camp. They were bright figures on a background of many thousand dingy, not to say dirty, men. If I go to heaven – I hope I may – the angels themselves will hardly look more lovely than those young ladies did that solitary afternoon. I was most anxious to know their names. They were the Misses Carey – Hetty and Jennie Carey, of Baltimore, and Constance, their cousin, of Alexandria. No man can form an idea of the rapture which the sight of a woman will bring him until he absents himself from the sex for a long time. He can then perfectly understand the story about the ecstatic dance in which some California miners indulged when they unexpectedly came upon an old straw bonnet in the road. Pretty women head the list of earthly delights.

Over and over I heard the order read at dress parade, all closing with the formula, “By command of General Beauregard, Thomas Jordan, A. A. G.” This went on for some weeks without attracting any special attention on my part. At last some one said in my hearing: “Beauregard’s adjutant is a Virginian.” I pricked up my ears. “Wonder if he can be the Captain Jordan I knew in Washington? I’ll go and see,” I said to myself. Colonel, afterward General, Jordan received me most cordially, dirty private though I was. He was, as usual, very busy. “Sit down a minute. I want presently to have a little talk with you.” My prophetic soul told me something good was coming, and, when, after some preliminary talk about unimportant matters, he said: “So you are a ‘high private in the rear rank?'”

“Yes,” was my reply.

“Aren’t you tired of drilling?”

“Tired to death.”

“Well, you are the very man I want. Certain letters and papers have to be written in this office which ought to be done by a man of literary training, and you are just that person. I’ll have you detailed at once, and you must report here in the morning. Excuse me now, I am very busy.” Indeed, he was the busiest man I almost ever saw, and to-day in the office of the Mining Record, of New York, he is as busy as ever. A more indefatigable worker than General Thomas Jordan it would be hard, if not impossible, to find.

My duties at first were very light. I ate and slept in camp as before, reported at my leisure every morning at head-quarters, and did any writing that was required of me, General Jordan’s clerks being fully competent to do the great bulk of the work in his office. The principal of these clerks was quite a young man, seventeen or eighteen, perhaps, and was named Smith – Clifton Smith, of Alexandria, Va. – and a most assiduous and faithful youth he was. He is now a prosperous broker in New York. After midnight Jordan was a perfect owl; there were always papers and letters of a particular character, in the preparation of which I could be of service. We got through with them generally by one A.m., then had a little chat, sometimes, though not often, a glass of whiskey and water, and then I went back to camp, a quarter of a mile off, not without risking my life at the hands of a succession of untrained pickets. At camp things were comparatively comfortable. The weather was so warm that most of the men preferred to sleep out-doors on the ground. I often had a tent to myself. Troops continued to come. Many went by to Johnston (who, to our dismay, had fallen back from Harper’s Ferry), but many stayed. Water began to fail, wells in profusion were dug, but without much avail, and water had to be brought by rail. Excellent it was. Boxes of provisions continued to come in diminishing numbers, but upon the whole we lived tolerably well. The Eleventh Virginia, its quota now filled, had gone out on one or two little expeditions without material results. It formed part of Longstreet’s Brigade, and made a fine appearance and most favorable impression in the first brigade drill that took place. How thankful I was that I was not in it!

During these days when the camp of the Eleventh Virginia was comparatively deserted, the men being detailed at various duties, there occurred an episode which will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it. Coming down from head-quarters about one o’clock to get my dinner, I became aware as soon as I drew nigh our tents that something unusual was “toward,” as Carlyle would say. Sure enough there was. In addition to the ladies from Lynchburg, heretofore mentioned, we had been visited by quite a number of the leading men of that city, who came to look after their sons and wards. Several ministers, among them the Rev. Jacob D. Mitchell, had come to preach for us. But now there was a visitor of a different stripe. The moment I got within hailing distance of the captain’s tent I heard a loud hearty voice call me by my first name.

“Hello! George, what’ll you have? Free bar. Got every liquor you can name. Call for what you please.”

Looking up, I beheld the bulky form, the duskyred cheeks and sparkling black eyes of Major Daniel Warwick, a Baltimore merchant, formerly of Lynchburg, who had come to share the fortune, good or ill, of his native State. He was the prince of good fellows, a bon vivant in the fullest sense of the term, a Falstaff in form and in love of fun. What he said was literally true, or nearly so; he had all sorts of liquors. In order to test him I called for a bottle of London stout.

“Sam, you scoundrel! fetch out that stout.

How’ll you have it – plain? Better let me make you a porteree this hot day.”

“Very good; make it a porteree.”

He was standing behind an improvised bar of barrels and planks, set forth with decanters, bottles, glasses, lemons, oranges, and pineapples, with his boy Sam as his assistant. The porteree, which was but one of many that I enjoyed during the major’s stay, was followed by a royal dinner, contributed almost wholly by the major. This was kept up for a week or ten days, officers and men of the Lynchburg companies and invited guests, some of them quite distinguished, all joining in the prolonged feast, which must have cost the major many hundreds of dollars.

The major’s inexhaustible wit and humor, his quaint observations on everything he saw, his sanguine predictions about the war, and his odd behavior throughout, were as much of a feast as his eatables and drinkables. He was the greatest favorite imaginable. Everything was done to please him and make him comfortable, including a tent fitted up for him. Being much fatigued by his first day’s experience as an open barkeeper, he went to bed early, the boys all keeping quiet to insure his sleeping. Within twenty minutes they heard him snoring, and the next thing they knew the tent burst wide open and out rushed the corpulent major, clad only in his shirt, and as he came he shouted at the pitch of his stentorian voice: “Gi’ me a’r, gi’ me a’r! For God’s sake, gi’ me a’r!” Of course there was a universal burst of laughter, which the major bore with perfect good nature. Thenceforth he slept on a blanket under the canopy of heaven, enjoying it as much, he declared, as a deer hunt in the wilds of western Virginia. He carried with him, when he left, the Godspeed of hundreds of hearts grateful for the abundant and unexpected happiness he had brought them.

This was that same major who cut up such pranks in New York City a few months after the war ended – picking up a strong negro on the street and forcing him to eat breakfast with him at the Prescott House, imperiously ordering the white waiters to attend to his every want, then walking arm in arm with the negro down Broadway, each having in his mouth the longest cigar that could be bought, and puffing away at a great rate, to the intense disgust of the passers-by. Of this freak I was myself eye-witness. In the restaurants he would burst out with a lot of Confederate songs, and keep them up till scowls and oaths gave him to understand that it would be dangerous to continue, when he would suddenly whip off into some intensely loyal air, leaving his auditors in doubt whether he was Union or secesh, or simply a crank. In the street-cars and omnibuses he would ostentatiously stand up for negro women as they entered, deposit their fare, gallantly help them in and out, taking off his hat as he did, and bitterly inveighing against those who refused to follow his example. So pointed were his insults that his huge size alone saved him from many a knockdown. He lived too merrily to live long, and died in Baltimore in 1867, I believe.

Ever since the fall of Sumter Beauregard’s star had been in the ascendant. His poetical name seemed to carry a magical charm with it. Jordan had implicit faith in him. Many others looked upon him as likely to be the foremost military figure of the war, and were prepared to attach themselves to his fortunes. Keeping my place as a private detailed for duty in the adjutant’s office, I contented myself with a simple introduction to the general, and did not presume to enter into conversation with him – a privilege most editors would have claimed. (I was then editor of the Southern Literary Messenger.) But I availed myself of my opportunity to study this prominent character in the pending struggle. His athletic figure, the leonine formation of his head, his large, dark-brown eyes and his broad, low forehead indicated courage and capacity. Of his mental caliber I could not judge, but others spoke highly of it. He indefatigably studied the country around Manassas, riding out every day with the engineer officers and members of his staff. He was eminently polite, patient, and good-natured. I never knew him to lose his temper but once, and then the occasion was ludicrous in the extreme.

Just before the battle of Manassas the militia of all the adjoining counties were called out in utmost haste to swell our numbers. A colonel of one of the militia regiments, arrayed in old-style cocked hat and big epaulets, came up a morning or two before the battle and asked to see the general. When General Beauregard appeared, he said with utmost sincerity:

“General Beauregard, my men are mostly men of families. They left home in a hurry, without enough coffee-pots, frying-pans, and blankets, and they would like, sir, to go back for a few days to get these things and to compose their minds, which is oneasy about their families, their craps, and many other things.”

Beauregard’s eyes flashed fire.

“Do you see that sun, sir?” pointing to it.

“Yes, sir,” said the colonel, in wondering timidity.

“Well, sir, I might as well attempt to pull down that sun from heaven as to allow your men to return home at a critical moment like this. Go tell your men to prepare for battle at any instant. There is no telling when it may come.”

The colonel retreated in confusion.

Beauregard’s high qualities as an engineer—most signally proved by his subsequent defence of Charleston, compared with which the reduction of Sumter was a trifle—were acknowledged on all hands. What he would be at the head of an army in the open field remained to be seen. It was a trying time for him; but if he were nervous no one discovered it.

His staff was composed mostly of young South Carolinians of good family, and he had in addition a number of volunteer aids, all of them men of distinction. Ex-Governor James Chestnut was one, I think. William Porcher Miles, an accomplished scholar and elegant gentleman, I am sure was. So was that grand specimen of manhood, Colonel John S. Preston; also, Ex-Governor Manning, a most charming and agreeable companion. His juleps, made of his own dark brandy and served at mid-day in a large bucket, in lieu of something better, greatly endeared him to us all. One day all these distinguished gentlemen suddenly disappeared. Colonel Jordan simply said they had gone to Richmond; but evidently something was in the wind. What could it be? On their return, after a week’s absence, as well as I remember, there was an ominous hush about the whole proceeding. Nobody had anything to say, but there was a graver, less happy atmosphere at head-quarters. Gradually it leaked out that Mr. Davis had rejected Beauregard’s proposal that Johnston should suddenly join him and the two should attack McDowell unawares and unprepared. The mere refusal could not have caused so much feeling at head-quarters. There must have been aggravating circumstances, but what they were I never learned. All I could get from Colonel Jordan was a lifting of the eyebrows, and “Mr. Davis is a peculiar man. He thinks he knows more than everybody else combined.”

What! want of confidence in our president, at this early stage of the game? Impossible! A vague alarm filled me. I had been the first – the very first, I believe – to nominate Mr. Davis for the presidency; had violated the traditions of the oldest Southern literary journal in doing so. I had no personal knowledge of his fitness for the position. No. But his record as a soldier in Mexico, his experience as minister of war, and his fame as a statesman seemed to point him out as the man ordained by Providence to be our leader. And now so soon distrusted! I tried to dismiss the whole thing from my mind, it distressed me so. But it would not down at my bidding. Many prominent men came to look after the troops of their respective States, sometimes in an official capacity, sometimes of their own accord. Among them was Thomas L. Clingman, of North Carolina, with whom I had a slight acquaintance. How it came about I quite forget, but we took a walk, one afternoon, down the Warrenton road, and fell to talking about the subject uppermost in my thoughts—Mr. Davis. Clingman seemed to know his character thoroughly, and fortified his opinions by facts of recent date at Montgomery and Richmond. Particulars need not be given, if, indeed, I could recall them; but the upshot of it all was, that in the opinion of many wise men the choice of Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederate States was a profound, perhaps a fatal, mistake. Unable to controvert a single position taken by Clingman, my heart sank low, and never fully rallied, for the sufficient reason that Mr. Davis’s career confirmed all that Clingman had said—all and more.

As the plot thickened, so did occurrences in and around head-quarters. Beauregard kept open house, as it were, many people dropping in to the several meals, some by invitation, others not. The fare was plain, wholesome, and abundant, rice cooked in South Carolina style being a favorite dish for breakfast as well as dinner. The new brigadiers also dropped in upon us from time to time. One of them was my old school-mate, Robert E. Rodes, a Lynchburger by birth, but now in command of Alabama troops. In him Beauregard had special confidence, giving him the front as McDowell approached. Rodes was killed in the valley in 1864, a general of division, full of promise, a man of ability, a first-rate soldier. Lynchburg has reason to be proud of two such men as Garland and Rodes. Soldiers continued to arrive. As fast as they came they were sent toward Bull Run, that being our line of defence. Some regiments excited general admiration by their fine personal appearance, their excellent equipment and soldierly bearing. None surpassed the First Virginia Regiment in neatness or in drill— in truth, few approached it. The poorest set as to size, looks, and dress were some of the South Carolinians. Louisiana sent a fine body of men. But by odds the best of our troops were the Texans. Gamer men never trod the earth. In their eyes and in their every movement they showed fight, and their career from first to last demonstrated the truth, in their case at least, of the old Latin adage, “Vidlus index est animi” — the face tells the character. I verily believe that fifty thousand Texans such as those who came to Virginia, properly handled, could whip any army the North could muster.

But as a whole our men did not compare with the Union soldiery. They were not so large of limb, so deep in the chest, or so firm-set, and in arms and clothing the comparison was still more damaging to the South. A friend of mine, who lingered in Washington till he could linger no longer, halted a day at Manassas on his way to his old home in Culpeper County. With great pride I called his attention to Hays’s magnificent Louisiana regiment, one thousand four hundred strong, drawn out full length at dress parade. He shook his head, sighed heavily, and described the stout-built, superbly equipped men he had seen pouring by thousands upon thousands down Pennsylvania Avenue. This incident made little impression on me at the time, my friend being of a despondent nature; but after my talk with Colonel Clingman it returned to me, and, I confess, depressed me not a little.

The camps were now deserted, the regiments being picketed on Bull Run. It was painful for me to go among the empty tents; it was like wandering about college in vacation – nay, worse, for it was morally certain that some, perhaps many, would return to the tents no more. I missed the faces of my friends; I longed for the lemonade “with a stick in it” that Captain Shields and Dr. Palmer used to give whenever I made them a visit, and I really pined for the red shirt and cheery voice of Captain H. Grey Latham, as he went from tent to tent, telling them new jokes, and on leaving, repeating his farewell formula, “Yours truly, John Dooly,” which actually got to be funny by perpetual repetition and became a by-word throughout the army. Finally I got so sick of the deserted camp that I asked Clifton Smith to let me share his pallet in the little shed-room cut off from the porch at head-quarters. He kindly assented, and I moved up, but still took my meals at camp. Doleful eating it would have been but for the occasional presence of my dear friend, Lieutenant Woodville Latham, who, being judge of a courtmartial then in session, had not yet joined the Eleventh Virginia at Bull Run.

The nights were so hot that I found it almost impossible to sleep in Clifton Smith’s little shed-room. My mind was excited by the approaching battle, and my habit of afternoon napping added to my sleeplessness. So the little sleep I got was in a chair on the porch. Near me, on the dinner-table, too long for any room in the house, lay young Goolsby, a lad of sixteen, who acted as night orderly. The calls upon him were so frequent and the pain of being awakened so great, that finally I said to him: “Sleep on, Goolsby, I’ll take your place.” He was very grateful. So I played night orderly from 12 o’clock till 6 A. M. thenceforward, and on that account slept the longer and the harder in the afternoon. Near sunset on the 18th I arose from Smith’s pallet in the shed-room, washed my face, and walked out upon the porch. It was filled with officers and men, all looking toward Bull Run. One of them said:

“That’s heavier firing than any I heard during the war in Mexico.”

“It was certainly very heavy,” was the reply, “but it seems to be over now.”

And that is all I know about the battle of the 18th. I had slept through the whole of it! Major Harrison, of our regiment, was killed; Colonel Moore, of the First Virginia Regiment, and Lieutenant James H. Lee, of the same regiment, were wounded, the latter seriously, as it turned out. There were no other casualties that particularly interested me.

Every one knew the ordeal was at hand. The movements preceding the great tragedy had the hurry and convergence which belong to all catastrophes. A confused mixture of memories is left me – things relevant and irrelevant. L. W. Spratt, Thomas H. Wynne, Mrs. Bradley T. Johnson – the big guns of the intrenched camp; the night arrival of Johnston’s staff, the parting with my friend Latham – all these and many more recollections are piled up in my mind. Beauregard’s plan of battle had been approved by General Johnston. Ewell was to attack McDowell’s left at early dawn, flank him, and cut him off from Washington, our other brigades from left to right cooperating. Until midnight and later all of Colonel Jordan’s clerks were busy copying the battle orders, which were at once sent off to the divisions and brigades by couriers. I myself made many copies. The last sentence I remember to this day; it read as follows: “In case the enemy is defeated he is to be pursued by cavalry and artillery until he is driven across the Potomac.” He needed no pursuit, but went across the Potomac all the same. No, not all the same. Had we followed in force the result might have been different. I sat up as usual that night, but recall no event of interest.

As morning dawned, I wondered and wondered why no sound of battle was heard – none except the distant roar of Long Tom, which set the enemy in motion. How Ewell failed to get his order, how our plan of battle failed in consequence, and how near we came to defeat, is known to all. ‘Tis an old, and to Confederates, a sad story.

On the morning of the 18th, as Beauregard walked out to mount his horse, he stumbled and came near falling – a bad augury, which, we thought, brought a shadow over his face. But on this morning, the 21st all went well; the generals and their staffs, after an early breakfast, rode off in high spirits, victory in their very eyes. My duty was to look after the papers of the office, which had been hastily packed up, and, in case of danger, see that they were put on board a train, which was held in readiness to receive them and other valuable effects. The earth seemed to vomit men; they came in from all sides. Holmes, from Fredericksburg, at the head of his division, in a high-crown, very dusty beaver, I well recollect. He made me laugh. Barksdale, of Mississippi, halting his regiment to get ammunition. The militia ensconced behind the earthworks of the intrenched camp, their figures flit before me. It was a superb Sabbath day, cloudless, and at first not very hot. A sweet breeze from the west blew in my face as I stood on a hill overlooking the vale of Bull Run. I saw the enormous column of dust made by the enemy as they advanced upon our left. The field of battle evidently would be where the comet, then illuminating the skies, seemed to rest at night. Returning to head-quarters I reported to Colonel Jordan the movement upon our left.

“Has McDowell done that?” he asked, with animation. “Then Beauregard will give him all his old boots, for that is exactly where we want him.”

The colonel meant that Ewell would have a better chance of attack by reason of the weakening of McDowell’s left.

Again and again I walked out to watch the progress of the battle, which lasted a great deal longer than I expected or desired. The pictures of battles at a distance, in the English illustrated papers, give a good idea of what I saw, minus the stragglers and the wounded, who came out in increasing numbers as the day advanced, and disheartening President Davis as he rode out to the field in the afternoon. At noon or thereabout a report that our centre had been broken hurried me back to head-quarters, and although the report proved false, kept me there for several hours, the battle meanwhile raging fiercely, and not a sound from Ewell.

Restless and excited, I went into a neighboring house, occupied by a lone woman, who was in a peck of trouble about herself, her house, her everything. The bigger trouble outside filled my mind during the recital of her woes, so that I now recall none of them.

Unable longer to bear the suspense, I left important papers, etc., to take care of themselves, and set out for the battle-field, determined to go in and get rid of my fears and doubts by action. I reached the hill which I had so often visited in the morning, and paused awhile to look at some of our troops, who were rapidly moving from our right to our left. Just then – can I ever forget it? – there came, as it seemed, an instantaneous suppression of firing, and almost immediately a cheer went up and ran along the valley from end to end of our line. It meant victory – there was no mistaking the fact. I stood perfectly still, feeling no exultation whatever. An indescribable thankful sadness fell upon me, rooting me to the spot and plunging me into a deep reverie, which for a long time prevented me from seeing or hearing what went forward. Night had nearly fallen when I came to myself and started homeward. The road was filled with wounded men, their friends, and a few prisoners. I spoke kindly to the prisoners, and took in charge a badly wounded young man, carrying him to the hospital, from the back windows of which amputated legs and arms had already been thrown on the ground in a sickening pile.

At head-quarters there was a great crowd waiting for the generals and Mr. Davis to return. It was now quite dark. A deal of talking went on, but I observed little elation. People were worn out with excitement – too many had been killed – how many and who was yet to be learned. War is a sad business, even to the victors. I saw young George Burwell, fourteen years of age, bring in Colonel Corcoran, his personal captive.

I heard Colonel Porcher Miles’s withering retort to Congressman Ely, who tried to claim friendly acquaintance with him, but went off abashed in a linen duster with the other prisoners. I asked Colonel Preston what he thought of the day’s work.

“A glorious victory, which will produce immense results,” was his reply.

“When will we advance?” “We will be in Baltimore next week.” How far wrong even the wisest are? We never entered Baltimore, and that victorious army, rne-half of which had barely fired a shot, did not fight another pitched battle for nearly a year!

It was after midnight when I carried to the telegraph office Mr. Davis’s despatch announcing the victory. Inside the intrenched camp one thousand or twelve hundred prisoners were herded, the militia standing up side by side guarding them and forming a human picket-fence, funny to behold. It was clear as a bell when I walked back; the baleful comet hung over the field of battle; all was very still; I could almost hear the beating of my tired heart, that had gone through so much that day. Too much exhausted to play orderly, I slept in my chair like a top.

The next day, Monday, the 22d, it rained, a steady, straight downpour the livelong day. Everybody flocked to head-quarters. Not one word was said about a forward movement upon Washington. We had too many generals-in-chief; we were Southerners; we didn’t fancy marching in the mud and rain – we threw away a grand opportunity. For days, for weeks, you might say, our friends kept coming from Alexandria, saying with wonder and impatience: “Why don’t you come on? Why stay here doing nothing?” No sufficient answer, in my poor judgment, was ever given. The dead and the dying were forgotten in the general burst of congratulation. Now and then you would hear the loss of Bee and Bartow deplored, or of some individual friend it would be said: “Yes, he is gone, poor fellow”; but this was as nothing compared to the joyous hubbub over the victory. How proud and happy we were! Didn’t we know that we could whip the Yankees? Hadn’t we always said so? Henceforth it would be easy sailing – the war would soon be over, too soon for all the glory we felt sure of gaining. What fools!

Captain H. Grey Latham, in his red shirt, was a conspicuous figure at head-quarters. His battery had covered itself with renown; congratulations were showered upon him. I saw Captain (afterward colonel, on Lee’s staff) Henry E. Peyton come over from General Beauregard’s room blazing with excitement and exaltation. Yesterday he was a private – now he was a captain, promoted by Beauregard first of all because
of his signal gallantry on the field. “By – !” he exclaimed to me, “when I die, I intend to die gloriously.” Alas! Colonel Peyton, confidential clerk of the United States Senate and owner of one of the best farms in Loudoun County, is like to die in his bed as ingloriously as the rest of us.

A young Mr. Fauntleroy, desiring an interview with General Joseph E. Johnston, I offered to procure it for him, and pushed through the crowd to the table at which he sat. “Excuse me, General Johnston,” I began. “Excuse me, sir!” he replied, in tones that sent me away in a state of demoralization.

The next thing I remember is the coming on of night, and my resuming my post as night orderly. I was seldom aroused, and slept soundly in a chair, tilted back against the wall. In the yard just in front of me were a number of tents, one of which was occupied by President Davis. The rising sun awakened me. My eyes were still half open when Mr. Davis stepped out of his tent, in full dress, having made his toilet with care. Seeing no one but a private, apparently asleep in a chair, he looked about, turned, and slowly walked to the yard fence, on the other side of which a score or more of captured cannon were parked, Long Tom being conspicuous. The president stood and looked at the cannon for ten minutes or more. Having never seen him close at hand, I went up and looked at the cannon too, but in reality I was looking at him most intently.

That was the turning-point in my life. Had I gone up to him, made myself known, told him what I had done in his behalf, and asked something in return, my career in life would almost certainly have been far different. We were alone. It was an auspicious time to ask favors – just after a great victory – and he was very responsive to personal appeals. My prayer would have been heard. In that event I should have become a member of his political and military family, or, what would have suited me much better, have gone to London, as John R. Thompson afterward did, to pursue in the interest of the Confederacy my calling as a journalist. But Clingman’s talk had done its work. Already prejudiced against Mr. Davis, his face, as I examined it that fateful morning, lacked – or seemed to – the elements that might have overcome my prejudices. There was no magnetism in it – it did not draw me. Yet his voice was sweet, musical in a high degree, and that might have drawn me had I but spoken to him. I could not force myself to open my lips, but walked back to my chair on the open porch, and my lot in life was decided.

General Beauregard removed his head-quarters to the house of Mr. Ware, some distance from Manassas Station, a commodious brick building, in which our friend, Lieutenant James K. Lee, lay wounded. Mr. Ware’s family remained, but most of the house was given up to us. I slept in the garret with the soldier detailed to nurse Lieutenant Lee. In the yard were a number of tents occupied by the general and his staff. Colonel Jordan’s office was in the house. My duty, hitherto light and pleasant, now became somewhat heavy and disagreeable. I had to file and forward applications for furlough, based mainly upon surgeons’ certificates. This brought me in contact with many unlovely people, each anxious to have his case attended to at once. It was very worrying. Others beside myself, the clerks and staff officers, seemed to be as much worried by their labors as I was by mine. Fact is, young Southern gentlemen, used to having their own way, found it hard to be at the beck and call of anybody. The excitement of battle over, the detail of business was pure drudgery. We detested it.

The long, hot days of August dragged themselves away. No advance, no sign of it; the men in camp playing cards, the officers horse-racing. This disheartened me more than all things else, but I kept my thoughts to myself. At night I would walk out in the garden and brood over the possible result of this slow way of making war. The garden looked toward the battle-field. At times I thought I detected the odor of the carcasses, lightly buried there; at others I fancied I heard weird and doleful cries borne on the night wind. I grew melancholy.

Twice or thrice a day I went in to see Lieutenant Lee. Bright and hopeful of recovery, he gave his friends a cheery welcome and an invitation to share the abundant good things with which his mother and sisters kept him supplied. A visit to his sick chamber was literally a treat. The chances seemed all in his favor for two weeks or more after our arrival at the Ware house, but then there came a change for the worse, and soon the symptoms were such that his kinsman, Peachy R. Grattan. reporter of the court of appeals, was sent for. He rallied a little, but we saw the end was nigh. Mr. Grattan promised to send for me during the night in case anything happened, and at two o’clock I was called. The long respiration preceding death had set in. Mr. Grattan, kneeling at the bedside, was praying aloud. The prayer ended, he called the dying officer by name. “James” (louder), “James, is there anything you wish done?” Lieutenant Lee murmured an inarticulate response, made an apparent effort to remove the ring from the finger of his left hand, and sank back into the last slumber. I waited an hour in silence; still the long-drawn breathing kept up.

“No need to wait longer,” said Mr. Grattan; “he will not rouse any more.”

I went to my pallet in the garret, but could not sleep; at dawn I was down again. The long breathing continued; Mr. Grattan sat close to the head of the bed and I stood at the foot, my gaze fixed on the dying man’s face. Suddenly both his eyes opened wide; there was no “speculation” in them, but the whole room seemed flooded with their preternatural light. Just then the sun rose, and his eyes closed in everlasting darkness, to open, I doubt not, in everlasting day. So passed away the spirit of James K. Lee.

A furlough was given me to accompany the remains to Richmond, with indefinite leave of absence, there being no sign of active hostilities. In view of my infirm health a discharge was granted me after my arrival in Richmond, and thus ended the record of an unrenowned warrior.

Let me say a word or two in conclusion. In 1861 I was thirty-three years old; now I am fifty-five, gray and aged beyond my years by many afflictions. I wanted to see a great war, saw it, and pray God I may never see another. I recall what General Duff Green, an ardent Southerner, said in Washington, in the winter of 1861, to some hot-heads: “Anything, anything but war.” So said William C. Rives to some young men in Richmond just after the fall of Sumter: “Young gentlemen, you are eager for war—you little know what it is you are so anxious to see.” Those old men were right. War is simply horrible. The filth, the disease, the privation, the suffering, the mutilation, and, above all, the debasement of public and private morals, leave to war scarcely a redeeming feature.

The Old Virginia Gentleman: And Other Sketches, by George William Bagby

Hat Tip to John Hennessy

George W. Bagby bio 

Dr. George W. Bagby at Findagrave.com 





Lt. George Campbell Brown, Aide-de-camp to R. S. Ewell, On the Battle

23 02 2013

I joined a company raised near Spring Hill & even before its organization we experienced the evils of the elective system of officering troops. Every post from Captain to Corporal was elective – & after some intriguing & squabbling we split into two companies – one, under my cousin Capt. G. W. Campbell, Jr. joining the 1st Tenn. Regt. (Maney’s), the other under Capt. (afterwards Major) N. F. Cheairs joining the 3d Tenn. (Jno. C Brown’s).

When I had been in Camp Cheatham about a month, I was sent home with a severe acute rheumatism of both knees, and by the advice of my physician (who assured me I would not be fit for duty in the infantry for six months) resigned my position as 1st Lieutenant & accepted the offer just afterwards made me by Genl R. S. Ewell of A. D. C. of his Staff. I secured a horse after some difficulty & started him for Manassas Junction under charge of my Mother’s carriage driver Robert, who went as my servant. Went on in the passenger trains myself & reached the Junction on the 19th July, two days before the Battle of Manassas. I recollect the despair which came over me when I heard Genl E’s Hd. Qrs. were at Union Mills, 5 miles off, as I thought of my big trunk. But I left it at the station & started down the R. Rd. lined with tents & troops & of course covered with filth in consequence. Pretty soon a young man of affable address caught up with me, bringing with him two others that I soon found out were under his guard as it gradually dawned on me that I was too. It turned out that his Lieut. had charged him to keep special watch on me as I might be a spy.

In honor of my supposed rank, I was carried direct to Genl Ewell’s Hd. Qrs., one of the men with me being dismissed at his Regts Camp, the other’s convenience postponed to mine. On the way I nearly lost the confidence of my guard and felt quite like an imposter myself. We met a group of a half-dozen plainly-dressed riders going at a gallop towards the Junction. “There goes Genl Ewell, now,” said the guard. I was forced to confess that I had not recognized him. We found only Lt. Taliaferro present at Hd. Qrs. – a gawky, good-natured freckled young “Plebe” from West Point, but who, in my humbled condition, seemed then to me most majestic & terrific in his military power & of almost incredible affability & condescension, seeing that he welcomed me quite like an equal. He gave the guard a receipt for me & we sat together in the small shade the quarters afforded until Genl E. retd. in about an hour – a medium=sized & plain man, with well-shaped, spare figure & face much emaciated by recent sickness but indicative of much character & genius. I had not seen him for eight years & found it not easy to recall his features. He had evidently changed much by exposure & bad health.

That night he told me Genl Beauregard expected a fight on the morrow. I must not forget his first greeting to me – a characteristic one. Seeing him busy in giving orders when he first came up, I kept my seat waiting to make myself known till he should be at leisure. Talieferro went up to him & told him I had come. He immediately came & shook hands saying, “Well, Campbell, I am sorry you have come.” Thinking he meant that he had mean time appointed another officer on his staff, I faltered out that I was too, if it embarrassed him in any way. He laughed & said that he meant we would probably have a fight the next day – that he had hoped I would stay away long enough to miss it but as I was here, it could not be helped. Next day he lent me a horse (he had then but two) which on the 21st I, in my “zeal without knowledge” rode nearly to death.

Early on the morning of the 20th, it was known that McDowell might attack at any time & the nerves of all were strained to their highest tension, listening for the beginning of the conflict. A Lieut. Clendening of Alabama (6th Ala. I think) was on duty at a picket post 3 miles below Union Mills, and before we had got fairly ready to move, came rushing to Hd. Qrs. pale & breathless with excitement (not fear) to report that the enemy had thrown a bridge across Bull Run from the side of the steep hill opposite & were crossing a heavy force of all arms over it. He described it minutely – said that the hill was steep & they had two bridges, one above the other (thus [sketch not included]) and were then crossing rapidly. He had seen infantry and artillery, and an officer on a fine white horse had made a special impression upon him. “What had become of his picket?” He had forgotten it entirely and feared it was cut off – had gone beyond it with a field-glass and seeing the bridge & enemy not over a hundred yards from him had rushed to Hd. Qrs. to tell of them.

Not believing his story, of which the details were almost incredible, Gen, Ewell mounted him on a courier’s horse & sent him with R. F. Mason (afterwards Maj. & A.Q.M. on Ewell’s & Fitz Lee’s Staff) to find the picket & point out the bridge. The picket knew of no enemy – but Clendening with a confident air carried Mason to the stream & pointed out the bridges. He showed the troops crossing – called on Mason to listen to the rumble of artillery – and to look at the man on the white horse who sat at the end of the bridge, directing the movement. It was a pure figment of his heated brain! Mason returned with him to Hd. Qrs. & by way of corroboration brought a member of the picket. Clendening denied nothing. He had seemed much abashed when they proved him mistaken about the bridge – but said he really thought it was there. Je was placed under arrest & the affair investigated. Luckily for him, Gen. Ewell sent for his Colonel, Captain &c, & found out his character. He never drank – was plainly sober – & showed intense mortification at his error. There was insanity in his family – but not much – and it was finally determined, upon consultation with medical men, that hard living & mental excitement had produced temporary insanity. He was released & advised to resign – did so & went home, intensely grateful to Gen. Ewell. He was a man of high personal character. A drunkard or habitual liar would have been shot, or tried by a drum-head Court, at least. His false report had been communicated to Gen. Beauregard by courier, & though instantly contradicted (i.e. in half an hour) might have caused a serious delay or change in the movements of the whole army.

Our brigade consisted of the 5th Alabama, Col. Rodes, the 6th Alabama (12 companies), Col. Seibles & the 6th Louisiana, Col. Seymour, with four pieces of the Washington Arty. (brass 7. pdrs., & 12 pdr, howitzers) under a Capt. T. L. Rosser, & three (or four) Cavalry Companies under Lt. Col. Walter Jenifer. Rodes (killed as Major General) was already prominent, being much commended for his conduct on the retreat from Fairfax Station & Sangster’s X-roads, to the present position. His Lt. Col. (Jones) & Major (Morgan, afterwards Brig. Gen’l. of Cavy. in the West – Alabama or Tennessee) were good officers. Seibles was a tall blustering politician, out of his element – his Lt. Col. (Baker) a mere cipher. Both resigned without reaching a higher rank. His Major (Jno. B. Gordon) commanded a Georgia Brigade & came out of the war a Lieutenant General. Poor old Seymour was killed in temporary command of Taylor’s Brigade at Cold Harbor – a brave gentleman but inefficient, slow officer. His Lieut. Co., a turbulent fellow, staid away from the Reg’t a good deal, I was told, & was thrown over at the reorganization. Major James resigned in August or Sept. from a quarrel with the Lieut Col. whose very name I forget. James was sensible – I know nothing of his soldierly qualities.

Rosser ended the war as Major General of Cavalry – Jenifer as nominated Lieut. Col. of same. Jenifer was worthless as an officer – a great dandy but small man.

The three infantry regiments had over 2500 men for duty. Seibles had some 1360 on his rolls – the others about 250 less, each. The Cavy. was about 300 men – & the “Governor’s Mounted Guard” & “Goochland Troop” were very fine men & unusually intelligent. The other Companies I forget. The Governor’s Guard were composed of young gentlemen from Richmond – & had as privates, Warwicks, Haxales, Strothers, Allans, &c. The Goochlanders were of nearly similar material.

It seems now ludicrous, yet very sad, to recall how eagerly we all looked forward to our first fight. Roser kept his battery continually unlimbered, ready for action, posted on a high hill just above the RRd. bridge & ford at Union Mills. Seible’s reg’t covered the side of the hill above & below the ford, sheltered in rifle-pits & behind large rocks that lay thick on the hillside. Rodes was very strongly & skilfully posted (I remember Gen’l. Ewell’s praising his works for their engineering skill displayed) below the RRd. bridge – & Seymour above the bridge – each of them with part in reserve.

Holmes’ brigade from Fredericksburg had come up on the afternoon of the 19th or morning of the 20th & was in reserve at [?] house, a mile & a half in our rear. Holmes ranked Genl Ewell – hence a blunder on the 21st.

Genl Ewell’s staff then consisted of 1. Col. Humphrey Tyler, almost always drunk – ordered to him from Richmond. 2. Lt. (Cadet) John Taliaferro, son of “Farmer John” of Orange Co. – brave & willing but young & stupid. 3. Capt. (afterwards Maj Genl) Fitz Lee, assigned to him by mutual request – very valuable & efficient. 4. Capt. (afterwards A.Q.M.) Rhodes – willing & quick – did not stay long with him, being ordered to Richmond at his own request. 5. R. F. Mason (afterwards Maj. & A.Q.M.) energetic & efficient as a scout & cool & brave – not useful except on the field. 6. C. Brown – No Qr Mr or Commy – no Brigade Surgeon – till late in the fall. A. M. Hudnut of Richmond acted as Clerk at this time & until October.

21st July – First Manassas. The night before this, Gen. Ewell sitting, for want of chairs, in his half-empty trunk – I, in front of him on a pallet – told me we would probably fight next morning – & to be ready to ride by daylight. I was – and thew whole command lay ready under arms till 8 A.M. listening from before sunrise to the fire of the guns at Stone Bridge & in front of Mitchell’s Ford. At [?] an order came from Genl Beauregard to be in readiness to move & at [?] after waiting for the expected orders to advance till uneasy Genl Ewell sent for further instructions. I here insert the correspondence bearing on this affair, so misunderstood at the time – & by at least one person, so wantonly misrepresented – viz. the correspondent of the “Columbus (Ga.) Sun” – who insinuated a charge of treason against Genl Ewell – but apologized & retracted when called on to give authority for his statements. Genl Beauregard gave Genl Ewell full permission to publish his (Genl B.’s) letter in his own defense – but presently wrote to him, begging him to wait for the publication of his (Beauregard’s) official report, which would fully & satisfactorily explain the matter. Genl Ewell did so wait – but when the report came out its way of stating the affair was so vague & unsatisfactory that he was greatly disgusted, seeing the probability that nine out of ten who read it would still impute blame to him when in fact it belonged to Beauregard. It seems hard to believe the most important order of the day, seeing that it was to move the wheeling & guiding flank of a body of twelve or fourteen thousand troops, by a courier. Still more so that the name even of the courier should be unknown – & that having sent he should wait – within fifteen minutes ride of the camp of those troops for several hours, waiting to know why they did not execute his orders & neither go himself nor send a Staff Officer moreover a courier to see to their execution. But so it was – and in the eyes of some at least in our Brigade, Beauregard was great no longer.

As I find on examining my pages that the correspondence I spoke of is not among them I leave a space for it & proceed. Genl Ewell, being aware of the original programme of Genl Beauregard, uneasy at getting no orders sent to Genl Holmes to ask if he had any, & finding he had none, took the responsibility on himself of moving across Bull Run on the road towards Centreville, sending a Staff Officer to inform Genl Beauregard of what he had done – and sending word to D. R. Jones on his left – Genl Holmes promised to follow him & started to do so. But I omit a very important link. When Genl E. first sent to Holmes, he sent als to D. R. Jones on his left, who returned a copy of a dispatch stating that “Ewell was ordered to cross Bull Run and move on Centreville & directing him (Jones) to conform to the movement as soon as notified by Ewell that it had begun.” This is the substance of the communication – & on this were based the subsequent movements of Ewell & Holmes.

We crossed Bull Run at Union Mills Ford – the 6th La. only using th R. Rd. bridge. Halting on the hill beyond the stream to form and close up, we moved in column on the Centreville Road – Rodes in advance, then the Art’y – then Seibles – then Seymour. But we had barely gone a mile & a half, when Capt. Rhodes, who had gone to Genl Beauregard, returned in hot haste to discontinue the movement. The order that he brought is indelibly engraved in my memory, from its peculiar phraseology. It was in the form of a circular & ran thus: “On account of the difficulties of the ground in their front the troops will resume their former positions.” It was dated 10 1/2 A.M. & signed by Beauregard. It was some time afterwards before I fully appreciated that the “difficulties” were the Yankees whom D. R. Jones attacked at McLean’s Ford. He ran up against them as stupidly as if he were blindfolded – and got run off in a minute. But I suppose the real reason of our recall was the state of affairs on the left, but that Beauregard for some reason felt it better to give a false excuse than none at all – perhaps for fear of disheartening the men.

At any rate we went back to our little house on the hill side & the troops to their bivouacs – and waited through the long July day with only an occasional flutter of couriers or Staff, listening to the distant & heavy firing, as only those can listen who hear the noise for the first time – with nerves at such a high tension that every moment we seemed to hear the guns come nearer & nearer. We gradually learned the state of affairs – that the struggle was to be decided on the left, seven miles away – and we began to comprehend that only in case of our defeat or as a forlorn-hope to prevent it, could we expect to share in the combat. Yet when after three P.M. the order to move was brought by Capt. Rhodes or Capt. Lee (I’m not certain which) with a face very firm but far from exultant – we moved with enthusiasm and perfect confidence. The change of direction put the 6th La. in advance & the men, mostly hardy Irishmen, outfooted the less robust soldiers of the Ala. Regts. so much that we had twice to stop & wait for them. The day was excessively hot & dusty – yet those Irish marched over four miles an hour – but we did not reach the field soon enough to do more than take a look at the rear of the enemy hurrying across Bull Run a mile above the Stone Bridge & cheer Johnston & Beauregard & Davis as they rode past us.

In less than half an hour a rumor came to Genl Beauregard that a force of the enemy were crossing at Union Mills. Not even fully understanding the completeness of his victory, he at once ordered our troops to return there & if we found no enemy to encamp for the night on our old ground. We did so – and our share in the first Manassas consisted of a march two miles to the front and back – and another seven miles to the left and ditto – the only fire we were under being that of two rifled guns opposite Mitchell’s Ford which shelled the road we were on as we passed, but being three miles away, hit nobody.

Next day passed with a rain that became heavier til near noon – then slackened – & Jno. Taliaferro who had heard that his brother was wounded had gone to see him having brought back a wonderful account of the battle-field I begged leave to go see it – and with a courier named Bruce, rode over it. One Yankee, with his head blown clean off by a round shot & only the chin left with a short black beard on it, giving it a peculiar appearance of Beastliness (in its literal sense), made on me the impression, scarce effaced by subsequent horrible sights, of being the most horrible corpse imaginable. Another I remember with a rifle ball quite through both hips from side to side, who was lying in a branch into which he had evidently crawled hoping to ease his pain. Most of the wounded had been removed but we found one poor fellow mortally hurt, on an out-of-the-way hillside, covered with two or three oil-cloths by some charitable hand, but so helpless that he had not been able to cover his head & one ear was quite full of water from the rain. Bruce lifted his head, wiped out the water and gave him some whisky, or apple brandy, from his canteen – & we received for it a warm blessing from the poor Irish boy – very likely his last words to any human being, though we sent two of the ambulance corps to take him to hospital. I remember being surprised to find so few dead as I saw & learning afterwards that many had been buried & that I had not seen quite a large part of the field – though I was where the hardest fighting took place – near the Henry house.

A few days later we crossed Bull Run & took up our camp on the waters of Pope’s Head Run near its mouth. Here we lay quiet for two nor three months. No special events occurred, except that Capt. Rhodes left the staff for Richmond to become A.Q.M – and Major James resigned from the 6th La. because of his quarrel with Lt. Col. (whom I never saw to my knowledge) & was reappointed in the Engineers. Mr. (afterwards Major) B. H. Greene of Miss here joined us, as volunteer aid to Genl Ewell. My servant Robert, who had been first our cook & then our driver at home, cooked for the mess – & we catered by turns – living pretty well. Humphrey Taylor, who was really all the time in the “biled owl” stage of drunkenness, and had a remarkable faculty, that had once or twice deceived Genl Ewell, of listening with apparent attention & deep gravity to any orders given him & replying mechanically: “Yes, Sir, Very well. It shall be done at once, Sir – ” while all the time stupid, blind drunk – he, say, had been sent to Manassas Junction on the 21st, to find Genl Beauregard – had got drunk & never been heard of till I passed him on the afternoon of the 22d in a sutlers tent talking to an Indian, or a mulatto, woman who kept it – and the next we knew of him was a publication in a Federal paper giving the news of his capture at Cincinnati in an attempt, doubtless inspired by bourbon, to bring his wife away into our lines. I have never met him since though we exchanged for him late in the war. He was never of any use to the C.S. and I was surprised that they exchanged him, considering the circumstances of his capture – & that he brought it on himself.

Terry L. Jones, Ed, Campbell Brown’s Civil War: With Ewell and the Army of Northern Virginia, pp. 20-33





Brig. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, On the Battle

11 01 2013

July 31. 61—

Mrs. M. C. Lee

Dear Madam,

Your letter & the two enclosed came to my quarters within the last hour[.]  I assure you I feel deeply the gratitude due to an Overruling Providence for our deliverance.  From the rumors & confirmed reports I gather that the sons of our noble old State had their full share in the actions of the 18th & 21st.  As was proper they seemed to be the chief instruments & have suffered severely—

You will gather more of the details from papers than I can give you except that it is a fact that they brought a large number of handcuffs.  I am told a box of them was marked for Officers   –My brother told me he saw one numbered 500 or some such number but I am told there were thousands[.]   A circular has been sent from our Head Qrts. Inquiring into it.

I was not in the fight.  Crossing the river twice with my Brigade to take the offensive we were recalled both times, the lat time to go to Stone Bridge, the place of hardest contention[,] but the tide had turned before our arrival–  It is curious to read the exulting letters picked up on the field, some of them disgraceful even to our enemies–  Capt. Tillinghast – was killed Ramsey d[itt]o–  Rickets is a prisoner–  Orlando Wilcox d[itt]o.  Dr Stone & Gray do.  Andrew Porter[,] Fitz John Porter, Palmer, Stoneman, Miles, Heintzelman wounded, were on the field.  One co of 2d Drag. & 6 of Cavalry–  Major Sykes commanded a Battalion of Infantry–  I have not made many inquiries as you may suppose it is painful to find our old Army friends active against us–  Capt. Potter whom I left at Albuquerque N.M. professing never to take up arms against the South is a prisoner & I hear, loud in his threats of what they are going to do next–  The general tone of the prisoners is impudent in the extreme—

Mr. Moss wrote on the back of the letter enclosing those from Mrs. Fitzhugh that “he had made inquiries & Arlington had not been much abused.”  The papers state however that they were going to clear away the trees—

–Genl. Lee was traveling west a few days since but being without retinue it is likely [“likely” crossed out?] possible not to take the field–  They are repairing the rail road bridges burnt when we fell back from Fairfax & it seems a general advance is contemplated.  I think before very long you can go to Ravensworth & I hope to Arlington—

–I have had quite a holyday [sic] since the battle as changes in Brigades are being made.  Fortunately they leave me my best Regt. And the best colonel I have seen (Rodes 5th Ala.)  He is a Virginian & was a long time at the Institute—

–I have the same cavalry as before the battle and their horses are in fine condition.  If Miss Lee want to visit the battle field or to go to Ravensworth it can be managed without difficulty, particularly as regards the field–  The other would require notice a day or two before, but a horse could be sent to meet her at the Station[.]

–I believe I have told you all I know positively as regards who were present on the field & your other questions—

Mrs. Ricketts has joined her husband since the fight & she or some other Northern woman has been so violent in their expressions that it was threatened to put her in prison if she would not stop

–I have heard no names of the other ladies who came to enjoy our humiliation–  Indeed I don’t know but Mrs. Ricketts came after the fight—

–It is not likely that the women who came along to spend the winter in Richmond were the wives of old Officers–  They were I expect of the new forces or of volunteers–  I am sure Mrs. Miles was not along or he would never have been able to return–  Some blame is attached to us for not advancing in the panic, but although Alexandria might have been easily taken it would have been hard to hold & we were so embar[r]assed by wounded & prisoners that it would have been impossible to have supplied troops at that distance without the rail road—

With respects to Miss Mary

Yours—

R S. Ewell

P. S.

I will send you a list of Officers of the regular Army killed or Captured when I see a correct one – RSE–

Mary Lee Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia MSS/L5144a 1334-1666 Sec. 24. Used with permission.

Transcribed by Donald Pfanz.

Letter image

Notes





Brig. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, On the Retreat from Fairfax and the Battle

10 01 2013

July 31, 1861

Miss Lizzie Ewell

Dear Lizzie,

I received your note with the envelope a few days since. I am very sorry that I can not gratify your taste for blood and your ambition by any account of glory that I was to have reaped on the 18th or 21st. When we fell back from Fairfax Court-house Station my post had been assigned, in advance, at Union Mills on the extreme right flank of our position. I was, when directed to do so, at the critical moment, to take the road to Centreville to attack the enemy in flank, and the various other brigades, between this and the point of attack of the enemy, were also to cross the run and do likewise. On the 17th we all remained in position as the enemy did not make a decided attack. On the 21st we were roused before daylight with orders to hold ourselves in readiness at a moments warning, and very soon we could hear the booming of artillery and the faint discharge of musketry far up the run towards the turnpike. About nine A.M. the next General above me sent word he had crossed and was advancing, sending me a copy of his orders which looked to my doing so, although nothing had come to me. I also moved forward, but we were all arrested by an order to fall back to our old positions. The reason I had not received the order was that it had not been sent, but the time lost was so short that it made no difference – less than an hour. The reason of our recall was that our hands were full up the run, and the scales were doubtful.

At three P.M. I again received orders to cross, and went about 1 1/2 miles when I was directed to march my brigade to the stone bridge over Bull Run. My feelings then were terrible, as such an order could only mean that we were defeated and I was to cover the retreat. I reached [there] in time to find we had won, and marched back to Union Mills (Rail-road crossing of Bull Run.) Our line of battle from extreme left to right was nearly five miles. The battle took place on the left – across Bull Run – on open ground, the enemy having turned our flank. We should feel deeply our gratitude for the victory, for the march of the enemy was as a swarm of locusts, burning and destroying. They drove peoples stock into their pens merely to butcher them, leaving farmers without a live animal on their farms. The private memoranda found on the field speak of their depredations on the route.

On the 17th, the day we fell back from Fairfax, owing to the hurry of affairs, the troops at the Court-house fell back without warning me at the station, and the result was that Col. R. E. Rodes of my command (formerly of Lexington) was engaged with the enemy, and my flanks were about being turned before we knew that General Bonham had orders to retire. Either the Yankees lost their way or were over cautious for we extricated ourselves without loss of baggage or life. We were very near being surrounded by 10 or 15000 while we were less than 2000 without artillery. In the hurry of movements they forgot the most important orders sometimes. Col. Rodes is an old acquaintance of Benjamins, and excellent officer, behaved very gallantly, but in the blaze of more recent events his little skirmish will be overlooked. He killed and wounded some 40 of the enemy, including one captain, and drove them back to wait for their artillery. In the meantime we retired. All is doubtful as to future movements.

Remember me to the family. There is talk of an advance.

Yours,

R. S. Ewell.

Pfanz, Donald C., ed., The Letters of General Richard S. Ewell, Stonewall’s Successor, pp. 175-176

From a typescript in Library of Congress (original lost)





Interview: Robert Wynstra, “The Rashness of That Hour”

24 11 2010

A brand new release from Savas Beatie is The Rashness of That Hour: Politics, Gettysburg, and the Downfall of Confedertate Brigadier General Alfred Iverson, by Robert J. Wynstra.  Iverson is best known to us as the leader of an ill-fated advance on July 1, 1863, the results of which were a long line of dead Confederates and the supposedly haunted “pits” in which those men were buried.  Robert sat down – well, I assume he sat down – and pounded out some anwers to questions posed by Bull Runnings.

BR:  This being your first book, many readers may be unfamilar with you.  Who is Robert J. Wynstra?

RW:  My background is both in history and journalism. I recently retired as a senior writer with the News and Public Affairs Office in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. I hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history and a master’s degree in journalism, all from the University of Illinois. I spent two years as a teaching assistant in the History Department and recently taught as a visiting lecturer in the College of Media.

BR:  What was it that got you interested in history, in the Civil War era, and specifically Alfred Iverson?  He’s been a controversial figure almost to the point of dismissal by many students of the war. 

RW:  My interest in the civil war dates back to my teenage years. I grew up around the time of the Civil War centennial, with all the hoopla that went along with it. I visited Gettysburg during that time and came away with a real interest in that particular battle. One book, in particular, sparked my fascination with the Confederate side of the war. That was Douglas Southall Freeman’s three volume set, Lee’s Lieutenants. At the time, I was really caught up with the stories about Lee, Jackson, and Jeb Stuart fighting against hopeless odds. I’m always a sucker for underdogs, so I was totally hooked. I remember at the time that our local library obtained a set of the Official Records. I thought here’s everything you need to know, all in one place. Little did I know how naive that was.

In reading about Gettysburg, I came across the story of Iverson’s men being slaughtered along Oak Ridge on July 1. My immediate thought was: how could such a thing happen? I really wanted to know more, so I started digging into some of the primary sources. I initially decided to develop a complete roster of the entire brigade at Gettysburg. I obtained a gigantic pile of microfilm from the National Archives and spent months going through the compiled service records for every man in the four regiments. To my surprise, the records contained a number of contemporary letters, which I had no idea of at the time. As I read through them, I realized that there was much more going on behind the scenes than anyone knew. From there, I just continued digging deeper and deeper. Ten years later I’m still digging.

BR:  How do the fruits of your research compare to history’s judgment of Iverson?

RW:  Like many authors, I went into the process with the thought of producing a revisionist history of Iverson. I thought, surely he could not be as bad as everyone in his brigade said. To my surprise, I quickly found out that he was that bad, if not even worse. The surprises came in the details. The usual story is that he rose to his position through the influence of his father, who was a powerful U.S. senator and an ally of Jefferson Davis. He supposedly was widely hated by the men in his former regiment, who resented the fact that he was Georgian commanding a Tar Heel brigade. According to the standard account, he performed well before Gettysburg but for some reason he faltered badly there, possibly because he was drunk. He later redeemed himself at the battle of Sunshine Church in Georgia, where he surrounded and captured General Stoneman and most of the men from his command.

Like so many stories, that account is part true and part wrong. Clearly his father played a prime role in promoting his career. The idea that he performed reasonably well before Gettysburg is far from true. He spent the first year of the war on coastal duty in North Carolina. He certainly did well at Gaines’ Mill in the Seven Days campaign, where he was wounded and cited for gallantry. His regiment, however, broke and ran from the field at both South Mountain and Sharpsburg in the Maryland campaign. His next major fight came at Chancellorsville, where some of his men openly accused him of remaining well behind lines throughout the battle. Dodson Ramseur even heard that Iverson would be tried for cowardice. No trial ever happened, but clearly the dissatisfaction with his performance ran deep. Surprisingly, the men under his command at Sunshine Church also charged that he was nowhere near the front lines at that battle and had little to do with winning the victory. Later in the war, some of his commanders openly complained that he would withdraw along Sherman’s front without putting up any kind of a fight.

The men in his original regiment, the 20th North Carolina, certainly hated him well before Gettysburg. What remains less well-known is that he endured equally bitter disputes with the officers in two of the other regiments in his brigade. The conflicts reached into the highest levels of the state government in North Carolina, including Governor Zeb Vance and both Confederate senators, and served to seriously undermine his position. At least one of those disputes was still well underway even as they marched toward Gettysburg. For me, the most important thing to take away is an appreciation how much the politics behind the scenes affected events on the battlefield.

As bad as Iverson was, some of his opponents in the brigade were hardly better. There were few heroes in this story. Blind ambition—on both sides of the many controversies—often overruled sound judgment. Petty jealousies and personality clashes were more important in shaping events than military glory.

Another surprise was that there is virtually no evidence that he was drunk at Gettysburg, or even at Carlisle days before the battle. In fact, there is no reason to think that he was drunk at any time during the entire war.

BR:  I’m very interested in the research and writing processes of different authors.  How would you describe the way you work?

RW:  For me, everything goes back to using primary sources. I first obtained copies of letters and reminiscences from the well-known collections at places like Chapel Hill and Duke. Sometimes a single line in letter would open up a new line of inquiry. A major help for any researcher is the internet. Exhaustive searches would often uncover references to collections in obscure historical societies or private collections or smaller university repositories. Google books and other internet sources provided instant access to many of the older books and reminiscences. I eventually hired a professional researcher. With his help, I obtained a ton of great letters that were published in contemporary newspapers. Anytime a new book came out, I would turn immediately to the footnotes or endnotes and try to track down any primary sources that were new to me. Another treasure trove was the National Archives. With the help of a professional researcher, I obtained dozens of letters and diaries that had never been used before. In the writing process, I really want to give voice to the individual soldiers. As much as possible, I like to quote them directly.

BR:  What’s next?  I see you’re working on a something on Robert Rodes.

RW:  Yes, my next project is a full-scale treatment of Rodes’ Division in the Gettysburg campaign. I have accumulated a mountain of material on the other brigades in the division that did not fit into the Iverson book. A major emphasis will be on the events during the advance to the north. Although many at the time compared the results to those of Stonewall Jackson’s campaigns, Rodes’ actions at Berryville and Martinsburg in the Shenandoah Valley have been completely overlooked. Also I will be providing a detailed account of the encounters with the people in Pennsylvania as Rodes’ Division moved forward at the front of Lee’s invasion. The amount of supplies that they gathered up is truly staggering. There are lots interesting accounts on this aspect of the campaign. I have unearthed a ton of new information on the rounding up of free blacks and runaway slaves during the advance through Pennsylvania. Also, I hope to present the first detailed account of Albert Jenkins’ cavalry brigade during the time that it operated in coordination with Rodes’ Division. I will continue with the same emphasis on primary sources. Hopefully it will be a good read and provide some new insight.

The Rashness of That Hour has received the endorsement of historian Robert K. Krick.  A must-read for Gettysburg nuts, it includes 10 maps and over 30 photos.  The bibliography includes an impressive list of unpublished manuscript sources.





General Ewell at Bull Run – Campbell Brown

28 02 2010

GENERAL EWELL AT BULL RUN (1)

BY MAJOR CAMPBELL BROWN, AIDE-DE-CAMP AND ASSISTANT ADJUTANT-GENERAL TO GENERAL EWELL.

BATTLES AND LEADERS OF THE CIVIL WAR – Volume I: From Sumter to Shiloh, pp. 259-261

In General Beauregard’s article on Bull Run, in “The Century” for November [1884], is this severe criticism of one of his subordinates, the late Lieutenant-General R. S. Ewell:

“Meanwhile, in rear of Mitchell’s Ford, I had been waiting with General Johnston for the sound of conflict to open in the quarter of Centreville upon the Federal left flank and rear (making allowance, however, for the delays possible to commands unused to battle), when I was chagrined to hear from General D. R. Jones that, while he had been long ready for the movement upon Centreville, General Ewell had not come up to form on his right, though he had sent him between 7 and 8 o’clock a copy of his own order, which recited that Ewell had been already ordered to begin the movement. I dispatched an immediate order to Ewell to advance; but within a quarter of an hour, just as I received a dispatch from him informing me that he had received no order to advance in the morning, the firing on the left began to increase SO intensely as to indicate a severe attack, whereupon General Johnston said that he would go personally to that quarter.”

This contains at least three errors, so serious that they should not be allowed to pass uncorrected among the materials from which history will one day be constructed:

1. That Ewell failed to do what a good soldier would have done — namely, to move forward immediately on hearing from D. R. Jones.

2. That Beauregard was made aware of this supposed backwardness of Ewell by a message from D. R. Jones.

3. That on receiving this message he at once ordered Ewell to advance.

The subjoined correspondence, (2) now [March, 1885] first in print, took place four days after the battle. It shows that Ewell did exactly what Beauregard says he ought to have done — namely, move forward promptly; that his own staff-officer, sent to report this forward movement, carried also to headquarters the first intelligence of the failure of orders to reach him; that no such message was received from D. R. Jones as is here ascribed to him; and that the order sent back by Beauregard to Ewell was not one to advance, but to retire from an advance already begun.

It is not easy to understand these mistakes, as General Beauregard has twice given a tolerably accurate though meager account of the matter — once in his official report, and once in his biography published by Colonel Roman in 1884. Neither of these accounts can be reconciled with the later attitude.

Upon reading General Beauregard’s article, I wrote to General Fitzhugh Lee, who was Ewell’s assistant adjutant-general at Manassas, asking his recollection of what took place. I have liberty to make the following extracts from his reply. After stating what troops composed the brigade, he goes on:

“These troops were all in position at daylight on the 21st July, ready for any duty, and held the extreme right of General Beauregard’s line of battle along Bull Run, at Union Mills. As hour after hour passed, General Ewell grew impatient at not receiving any orders (beyond those to be ready to advance, which came at sunrise), and sent me between 9 and 10 A. M. to see General D. R. Jones, who commanded the brigade next on his left at McLean’s Ford, to ascertain if that officer had any news or had received any orders from army headquarters. I found General Jones making preparations to cross Bull Run, and was told by him that, in the order he had received to do so, it was stated that General Ewell had been sent similar instructions.

“Upon my report of these facts, General Ewell at once issued the orders for his command to cross the Run and move out on the road to Centreville.”

General Lee then describes the recall across Bull Run and the second advance of the brigade to make a demonstration toward Centreville, and adds that the skirmishers of Rodes’s 5th Alabama Regiment, which was in advance, had actually become engaged, when we were again recalled and ordered to “move by the most direct route at once, and as rapidly as possible, for the Lewis house” — the field of battle on the left. Ewell moved rapidly, sending General Lee and another officer ahead to report and secure orders. On his arrival near the field they brought instructions to halt, when he immediately rode forward with them to General Beauregard, “and General Ewell begged General Beauregard to be allowed to go in pursuit of the enemy, but his request was refused.”

As to the real causes of the miscarriage of General Beauregard’s plan of attack there need be little doubt. They are plainly stated by his immediate superior in command, General Joseph E. Johnston, in his official report, as being the “early movements of the enemy on that morning and the non-arrival of the expected troops” from Harper’s Ferry. He adds: ”General Beauregard afterward proposed a modification of the abandoned plan, to attack with our right, while the left stood on the defensive. This, too, became impracticable, and a battle ensued, different in place and circumstances from any previous plan on our side.”

There are some puzzling circumstances connected with the supposed miscarriage of the order for our advance. The delay in sending it is unexplained. General Beauregard says it was sent “at about 8 A. M.,” but D. R. Jones had received his corresponding order at 10 minutes past 7, and firing had begun at half-past 5.

The messenger was strangely chosen. It was the most important order of the day, for the movements of the army were to hinge on those of our brigade. There was no scarcity of competent staff-officers; yet it was intrusted to “a guide,” presumably an enlisted man, perhaps even a citizen, whose very name was unknown.

His instructions were peculiar. Time was all-important. He was ordered not to go direct to Ewell, but first to make a detour to Holmes, who lay in reserve nearly two miles in our rear.

His disappearance is mysterious. He was never heard of after receiving the order; yet his route lay wholly within our lines, over well-beaten roads and far out of reach of the enemy.

Lastly, General Beauregard, in his official report, gives as his reason for countermanding the movement begun by Ewell at 10 o’clock, that in his judgment it would require quite three hours for the troops to get into position for attack. Had the messenger dispatched at 8 been prompt, Ewell might have had his orders by 9. But at 9 we find Beauregard in rear of Mitchell’s Ford, waiting for an attack which, by his own figures, he should not have expected before 12.

It is not for me to reconcile these contradictions.

(1) This article appeared substantially as here printed in “The Century ” for March, 1885.— EDITORS.

(2) [CORRESPONDENCE.]

Union Mills, July 25th, 1861.

General Beauregard.

Sir: In a conversation with Major James, Louisiana 6th Regiment, he has left the impression on my mind  that you think some of your orders on the 21st were either not carried out or not received by me.

My flrst order of that day was to hold myself in readiness to attack — this at sunrise. About 10. General Jones sent a copy of an order received by him In which it was stated that I had been ordered to cross and attack, and on receipt of this I moved on until receiving the following:

10 &1/2 A.M.

On account of the difficulties of the ground in our front it is thought advisable to fall back to our former position.

(Addressed) General Ewell.       

(Signed) G. T. B.

If any other order was sent to me, I should like to have a copy of it, as well as the name of the courier who brought it.

Every movement I made was at once reported to you at the time, and this across Bull Run, as well as the advance in the afternoon, I thought were explained in my report sent in to-day.

If an order were sent earlier than the copy through General Jones, the courier should be held responsible, as neither General Holmes nor myself received it. I send the original of the order to fall back in the morning. The second advance in the afternoon and recall to Stone Bridge were in consequence of verbal orders.

My chief object in writing to you is to ask you to leave nothing doubtful in your report, both as regards my crossing in the morning and recall —and not to let it lie inferred by any possibility that I blundered on that day. I moved forward as soon as notified by General Jones that I was ordered and he had been.

If there was an order sent me to advance before the one I received through General Jones, it is more than likely it would have been given to the same express.

Respectfully,

R. S. EWELL. B. G.

Manassas, Va., July 26th, 1861.

General: Your letter of the 25th inst. is received. I do not attach the slightest blame to you for the failure of the movement on Centreville, but to the guide who did not deliver the order to move forward, sent at about 8 A. M. to General Holmes and then to you —corresponding in every respect to the one sent to Generals Jones, lion ha MI. and Longstreet — only their movements were subordinate to yours. Unfortunately no copy, in the hurry of the moment, was kept of said orders: and so many guides, about a dozen or more, were sent off in different directions, that it is next to impossible to find out who was the bearer of the orders referred to. Our guides and couriers were the worst set I ever employed, whether from ignorance or over-anxiety to do well and quickly I cannot say: but many regiments lost their way repeatedly on their way toward the field of battle, and of course I can attach no more blame to their commanding officers than I could to you for not executing un order which I am convinced you did not get.

I am fully aware that you did all that could have been expected of you or your command. I merely expressed my regret that my original plan could not be carried into effect, as it would have been a most complete victory with only half the trouble and lighting.

The true cause of countermanding your forward movement after you had crossed was that it was then too late, as the enemy was about to annihilate our left flank, and had to be met and checked there, for otherwise he would have taken us in flank and rear and all would have been lost.

Yours truly,

G. T. Beauregard

General R. S. Ewell, Union Mills, Va.

P. S. Please read the above to Major James. Ewell, Union Mills, Va.

N. B. The order sent you at about 8 A. M., to commence the movement on Centreville, was addressed to General Holmes and yourself, as he was to support you, but being nearer Camp Pickens, the headquarters, than Union Mills, where you were, it was to be communicated to him first, and then to you; but he has informed me that it never reached him. With regard to the order sent you in the afternoon to recross the Bull Run (to march toward the Stone Bridgei), it was sent you by General J. E. Johnston, as I am informed by him, for the purpose of supporting our left, if necessary.

G. T. B.

Do not publish until we know what the enemy is going to do—or reports are out —which I think will make it all right.

B.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine





The First Battle of Bull Run – P. G. T. Beauregard

24 02 2010

THE FIRST BATTLE OF BULL RUN

BY G. T. BEAUREGARD, GENERAL, C. S. A.

BATTLES AND LEADERS OF THE CIVIL WAR – Volume I: From Sumter to Shiloh, pp. 196-227

Soon after the first conflict between the authorities of the Federal Union and those of the Confederate States had occurred in Charleston Harbor, by the bombardment of Fort Sumter,—which, beginning at 4:30 A. M. on the 12th of April, 1861, forced the surrender of that fortress within thirty hours thereafter into my hands,—I was called to Richmond, which by that time had become the Confederate seat of government, and was directed to “assume command of the Confederate troops on the Alexandria line.” Arriving at Manassas Junction, I took command on the 2d of June, forty-nine days after the evacuation of Fort Sumter.

Although the position at the time was strategically of commanding importance to the Confederates, the mere terrain was not only without natural defensive advantages, but, on the contrary, was absolutely unfavorable. Its strategic value was that, being close to the Federal capital, it held in observation the chief army then being assembled near Arlington by General McDowell, under the immediate eye of the commander-in-chief, General Scott, for an offensive movement against Richmond; and while it had a railway approach in its rear for the easy accumulation of reinforcements and all the necessary munitions of war from the southward, at the same time another (the Manassas Gap) railway, diverging laterally to the left from that point, gave rapid communications with the fertile valley of the Shenandoah, then teeming with live stock and cereal subsistence, as well as with other resources essential to the Confederates. There was this further value in the position to the Confederate army: that during the period of accumulation, seasoning, and training, it might be fed from the fat fields, pastures, and garners of Loudoun, Fauquier, and the Lower Shenandoah Valley counties, which otherwise must have fallen into the hands of the enemy. But, on the other hand, Bull Run, a petty stream, was of little or no defensive strength; for it abounded in fords, and although for the most part its banks were rocky and abrupt, the side from which it would be approached offensively in most places commanded the opposite ground.

At the time of my arrival at Manassas, a Confederate army under General Joseph E. Johnston was in occupation of the Lower Shenandoah Valley, along the line of the Upper Potomac, chiefly at Harper’s Ferry, which was regarded as the gateway of the valley and of one of the possible approaches to Richmond; a position from which he was speedily forced to retire, however, by a flank movement of a Federal army, under the veteran General Patterson, thrown across the Potomac at or about Martinsburg. On my other or right flank, so to speak, a Confederate force of some 2500 men under General Holmes occupied the position of Aquia Creek on the lower Potomac, upon the line of approach to Richmond from that direction through Fredericksburg. The other approach, that by way of the James River, was held by Confederate troops under Generals Huger and Magruder. Establishing small outposts at Leesburg to observe the crossings of the Potomac in that quarter, and at Fairfax Court House in observation of Arlington, with other detachments in advance of Manassas toward Alexandria on the south side of the railroad, from the very outset I was anxiously aware that the sole military advantage at the moment to the Confederates was that of holding the interior lines. On the Federal or hostile side were all material advantages, including superior numbers, largely drawn from the old militia organizations of the great cities of the North, decidedly better armed and equipped than the troops under me, and strengthened by a small but incomparable body of regular infantry as well as a number of batteries of regular field artillery of the highest class, and a very large and thoroughly organized staff corps, besides a numerous body of professionally educated officers in command of volunteer regiments, (1) — all precious military elements at such a juncture.

Happily, through the foresight of Colonel Thomas Jordan,—whom General Lee had placed as the adjutant-general of the forces there assembled before my arrival,—arrangements were made which enabled me to receive regularly, from private persons at the Federal capital, most accurate information, of which politicians high in council, as well as War Department clerks, were the unconscious ducts. On the 4th of July, my pickets happened upon and captured a soldier of the regulars, who proved to be a clerk in the adjutant-general’s office of General McDowell, intrusted with the special duty of compiling returns of his army—a work which he confessed, without reluctance, he had just executed, showing the forces under McDowell about the 1st of July. His statement of the strength and composition of that force tallied so closely with that which had been acquired through my Washington agencies, already mentioned, as well as through the leading Northern newspapers (regular files of which were also transmitted to my headquarters from the Federal capital), that I could not doubt them.

In these several ways, therefore, I was almost as well advised of tho strength of the hostile army in my front as its commander, who, I may mention, had been a classmate of mine at West Point. Under those circumstances I had become satisfied that a well-equipped, well-constituted Federal army at least 50,000 strong, of all arms, confronted me at or about Arlington, ready and on the very eve of an offensive operation against me, and to meet which I could muster barely 18,000 men with 29 field-guns. (2)

Previously,—indeed, as early as the middle of June,—it had become apparent to my mind that through only one course of action could there be a well-grounded hope of ability on the part of the Confederates to encounter successfully the offensive operations for which the Federal authorities were then vigorously preparing in my immediate front, with so consummate a strategist and military administrator as Lieutenant-General Scott in general command at Washington, aided by his accomplished heads of the large General Staff Corps of the United States Army. This course was to make the most enterprising, warlike use of the interior lines which we possessed, for the swift concentration at the critical instant of every available Confederate force upon the menaced position, at the risk, if need were, of sacrificing all minor places to the one clearly of major military value—there to meet our adversary so offensively as to overwhelm him, under circumstances that must assure immediate ability to assume the general offensive even upon his territory,, and thus conquer an early peace by a few well-delivered blows.

My views of such import had been already earnestly communicated to the proper authorities; but about the middle of July, satisfied that McDowell was on the eve of taking the offensive against me, I dispatched Colonel James Chesnut, of South Carolina, a volunteer aide-de-camp on my staff who had served on an intimate footing with Mr. Davis in the Senate of the United States, to urge in substance the necessity for the immediate concentration of the larger part of the forces of Johnston and Holmes at Manassas, so that the moment McDowell should be sufficiently far detached from Washington, I would be enabled to move rapidly round his more convenient flank upon his rear and his communications, and attack him in reverse, or get between his forces, then separated, thus cutting off his retreat upon Arlington in the event of his defeat, and insuring as an immediate consequence the crushing of Patterson, the liberation of Maryland, and the capture of Washington.

This plan was rejected by Mr. Davis and his military advisers (Adjutant-General Cooper and General Lee), who characterized it as “brilliant and comprehensive,” but essentially impracticable. Furthermore, Colonel Chesnut came back impressed with the views entertained at Richmond,— as he communicated at once to my adjutant-general,— that should the Federal army soon move offensively upon my position, my best course would be to retire behind the Rappahannock and accept battle there instead of at Manassas. In effect, it was regarded as best to sever communications between the two chief Confederate armies, that of the Potomac and that of the Shenandoah, with the inevitable immediate result that Johnston would be forced to leave Patterson in possession of the Lower Shenandoah Valley, abandoning to the enemy so large a part of the most resourceful sections of Virginia, and to retreat southward by way of the Luray Valley, pass across the Blue Ridge at Thornton’s Gap and unite with me after all, but at Fredericksburg, much nearer Richmond than Manassas. These views, however, were not made known to me at the time, and happily my mind was left free to the grave problem imposed upon me by the rejection of my plan for the immediate concentration of a materially larger force,— i. e., the problem of placing and using my resources for a successful encounter behind Bull Run with the Federal army, which I was not permitted to doubt was about to take the field against me.

It is almost needless to say that I had caused to be made a thorough reconnoissance of all the ground in my front and flanks, and had made myself personally acquainted with the most material points, including the region of Sudley’s Church on my left, where a small detachment was posted in observation. Left now to my own resources, of course the contingency of defeat had to be considered and provided for. Among the measures of precaution for such a result, I ordered the destruction of the railroad bridge across Bull Run at Union Mills, on my right, in order that the enemy, in the event of my defeat, should not have the immediate use of the railroad in following up their movement against Richmond— a railroad which could have had no corresponding value to us eastward beyond Manassas in any operations on our side with Washington as the objective, inasmuch as any such operations must have been made by the way of the Upper Potomac and upon the rear of that city.

Just before Colonel Chesnut was dispatched on the mission of which I have spoken, a former clerk in one of the departments at Washington, well known to him, had volunteered to return thither and bring back the latest information of the military and political situation from our most trusted friends. His loyalty to our cause, his intelligence, and his desire to be of service being vouched for, he was at once sent across the Potomac below Alexandria, merely accredited by a small scrap of paper bearing in Colonel Jordan’s cipher the two words, “Trust bearer,” with which he was to call at a certain house in Washington within easy rifle-range of the White House, ask for the lady of the house, and present it only to her. This delicate mission was as fortunately as it was deftly executed. In the early morning, as the newsboys were crying in the empty streets of Washington the intelligence that the order was given for the Federal army to move at once upon my position, that scrap of paper reached the hands of the one person in all that city who could extract any meaning from it. With no more delay than was necessary for a hurried breakfast and the writing in cipher by Mrs. G— of the words, “Order issued for McDowell to march upon Manassas to-night,” my agent was placed in communication with another friend, who earned him in a buggy with a relay of horses as swiftly as possible down the eastern shore of the Potomac to our regular ferry across that river. Without untoward incident the momentous dispatch was quickly delivered into the hands of a cavalry courier, and by means of relays it was in my hands between 8 and 9 o’clock that night. Within half an hour my outpost commanders, advised of what was impending, were directed, at the first evidence of the near presence of the enemy in their front, to fall back in the manner and to positions already prescribed in anticipation of such a contingency in an order confidentially communicated to them four weeks before, and the detachment at Leesburg was directed to join me by forced marches. Having thus cleared my decks for action, I next acquainted Mr. Davis with the situation, and ventured once more to suggest that the Army of the Shenandoah, with the brigade at Fredericksburg or Aquia Creek, should be ordered to reenforce me,— suggestions that were at once heeded so far that General Holmes was ordered to carry his command to my aid, and General Johnston was given discretion to do likewise. After some telegraphic discussion with me, General Johnston was induced to exercise this discretion in favor of the swift march of the Army of the Shenandoah to my relief; and to facilitate that vital movement, I hastened to accumulate all possible means of railway transport at a designated point on the Manassas Gap railroad at the eastern foot of the Blue Ridge, to which Johnston’s troops directed their march. However, at the same time, I had submitted the alternative proposition to General Johnston, that, having passed the Blue Ridge, he should assemble his forces, press forward by way of Aldie, north-west of Manassas, and fall upon McDowell’s right rear; while I, prepared for the operation, at the first sound of the conflict, should strenuously assume the offensive in my front. The situation and circumstances specially favored the signal success of such an operation. The march to the point of attack could have been accomplished as soon as the forces were brought ultimately by rail to Manassas Junction; our enemy, thus attacked so nearly simultaneously on his right flank, his rear, and his front, naturally would suppose that I had been able to turn his flank while attacking him in front, and therefore, that I must have an overwhelming superiority of numbers; and his forces, being new troops, most of them under fire for the first time, must have soon fallen into a disastrous panic. Moreover, such an operation must have resulted advantageously to the Confederates, in the event that McDowell should, as might have been anticipated, attempt to strike the Manassas Gap railway to my left, and thus cut off railway communications between Johnston’s forces and my own, instead of the mere effort to strike my left flank which he actually essayed. (3)

It seemed, however, as though the deferred attempt at concentration was to go for naught, for on the morning of the 18th the Federal forces were massed around Centreville, but three miles from Mitchell’s Ford, and soon were seen advancing upon the roads leading to that and Blackburn’s Ford.  My order of battle, issued in the night of the 17th, contemplated an offensive return, particularly from the strong brigades on the light and right center. The Federal artillery opened in front of both fords, and the infantry, while demonstrating in front of Mitchell’s Ford, endeavored to force a passage at Blackburn’s. Their column of attack, Tyler’s division, was opposed by Longstreet’s forces, to the reenforcement of which Early’s brigade, the reserve line at McLean’s Ford, was ordered up. The Federals, after several attempts to force a passage, met a final repulse and retreated. (4) After their infantry attack had ceased, about 1 o’clock, the contest lapsed into an artillery duel, in which the Washington Artillery of New Orleans won credit against the renowned batteries of the United States regular army. A comical effect of this artillery fight was the destruction of the dinner of myself and staff by a Federal shell that fell into the fire-place of my headquarters at the McLean House.

Our success in this first limited collision was of special prestige to my army of new troops, and, moreover, of decisive importance by so increasing General McDowell’s caution as to give time for the arrival of some of General Johnston’s forces. But while on the 19th I was awaiting a renewed and general attack by the Federal army, I received a telegram from the Richmond military authorities, urging me to withdraw my call on General Johnston on account of the supposed impracticability of the concentration — an abiding conviction which had been but momentarily shaken by the alarm caused by McDowell’s march upon Richmond. (5)  As this was not an order in terms, but an urgency which, notwithstanding its superior source, left me technically free and could define me as responsible for any misevent, I preferred to keep both the situation and the responsibility, and continued every effort for the prompt arrival of the Shenandoah forces, being resolved, should they come before General McDowell again attacked, to take myself the offensive. General McDowell, fortunately for my plans, spent the 19th and 20th in reconnoissances; (6) and, meanwhile, General Johnston brought 8340 men from the Shenandoah Valley, with 20 guns, and General Holmes 1265 rank and file, with 6 pieces of artillery, from Aquia Creek. As these forces arrived (most of them in the afternoon of the 20th) I placed them chiefly so as to strengthen my left center and left, the latter being weak from lack of available troops.

The disposition of the entire force was now as follows: At Union Mills Ford, Ewell’s brigade, supported by Holmes’s; at McLean’s Ford, D. R. Jones’s brigade, supported by Early’s; at Blackburn’s Ford, Longstreet’s brigade; at Mitchell’s Ford, Bonham’s brigade. Cocke’s brigade held the line in front and rear of Bull Run from Bonham’s left, covering Lewis’s, Ball’s, and Island fords, to the right of Evans’s demi-brigade, which covered the Stone Bridge and a farm ford about a mile above, and formed part also of Cocke’s command. The Shenandoah forces were placed in reserve — Bee’s and Bartow’s brigades between McLean’s and Blackburn’s fords, and Jackson’s between Blackburn’s and Mitchell’s fords. This force mustered 29,188 rank and file and 55 guns, of which 21,923 infantry, cavalry, and artillery, with 29 guns, belonged to my immediate forces, i. e., the Army of the Potomac.

The preparation, in front of an ever-threatening enemy, of a wholly volunteer army, composed of men very few of whom had ever belonged to any military organization, had been a work of many cares not incident to the command of a regular army. These were increased by the insufficiency of my staff organization, an inefficient management of the quartermaster’s department at Richmond, and the preposterous mismanagement of the commissary-general, who not only failed to furnish rations, but caused the removal of the army commissaries, who, under my orders, procured food from the country in front of us to keep the army from absolute want—supplies that were otherwise exposed to be gathered by the enemy. So specially severe had been the recent duties at headquarters, aggravated not a little by night alarms arising from the enemy’s immediate presence, that, in the evening of the 20th, I found my chief-of-staff sunken upon the papers that covered his table, asleep in sheer exhaustion from the overstraining and almost slumberless labor of the last days and nights. I covered his door with a guard to secure his rest against any interruption, after which the army had the benefit of his usual active and provident services.

There was much in this decisive conflict about to open, not involved in any after battle, which pervaded the two armies and the people behind them and colored the responsibility of the respective commanders. The political hostilities of a generation were now face to face with weapons instead of words. Defeat to either side would be a deep mortification, but defeat to the South must turn its claim of independence into an empty vaunt; and the defeated commander on either side might expect, though not the personal fate awarded by the Carthaginians to an unfortunate commander, at least a moral fate quite similar. Though disappointed that the concentration I had sought had not been permitted at the moment and for the purpose preferred by me, and notwithstanding the non-arrival of some five thousand troops of the Shenandoah forces, my strength was now so increased that I had good hope of successfully meeting my adversary.

General Johnston was the ranking officer, and entitled, therefore, to assume command of the united forces; but as the extensive field of operations was one which I had occupied since the beginning of June, and with which I was thoroughly familiar in all its extent and military bearings, while he was wholly unacquainted with it, and, moreover, as I had made my plans and dispositions for the maintenance of the position, General Johnston, in view of the gravity of the impending issue, preferred not to assume the responsibilities of the chief direction of the forces during the battle, but to assist me upon the field. Thereupon, I explained my plans and purposes, to which he agreed. (7)

Sunday, July 21st, bearing the fate of the new-born Confederacy, broke brightly over the fields and woods that held the hostile forces. My scouts, thrown out in the night toward Centreville along the Warrenton Turnpike, had reported that the enemy was concentrating along the latter. This fact, together with the failure of the Federals in their attack upon my center at Mitchell’s and Blackburn’s fords, had caused me to apprehend that they would attempt my left flank at the Stone Bridge, and orders were accordingly issued by half-past 4 o’clock to the brigade commanders to hold their forces in readiness to move at a moment’s notice, together with the suggestion that the Federal attack might be expected in that quarter. Shortly afterward the enemy was reported to be advancing from Centreville on the Warrenton Turnpike, and at half-past 5 o’clock as deploying a force in front of Evans. As their movement against my left developed the opportunity I desired, I immediately sent orders to the brigade commanders, both front and reserves, on my right and center to advance and vigorously attack the Federal left flank and rear at Centreville, while my left, under Cocke and Evans with their supports, would sustain the Federal attack in the quarter of the Stone Bridge, which they were directed to do to the last extremity. The center was likewise to advance and engage the enemy in front, and directions were given to the reserves, when without orders, to move toward the sound of the heaviest firing. The ground in our front on the other side of Bull Run afforded particular advantage for these tactics. Centreville was the apex of a triangle — its short side running by the Warrenton Turnpike to Stone Bridge, its base Bull Run, its long side a road that ran from Union Mills along the front of my other Bull Run positions and trended off to the rear of Centreville, where McDowell had massed his main forces; branch roads led up to this one from the fords between Union Mills and Mitchell’s. My forces to the right of the latter ford were to advance, pivoting on that position; Bonham was in advance from Mitchell’s Ford, Longstreet from Blackburn’s, D. R. Jones from McLean’s, and Ewell from Union Mills by the Centreville road. Ewell, as having the longest march, was to begin the movement, and each brigade was to be followed by its reserve. In anticipation of this method of attack, and to prevent accidents, the subordinate commanders had been carefully instructed in the movement by me, as they were all new to the responsibilities of command. They were to establish close communication with each other before making the attack. About half-past 8 o’clock I set out with General Johnston for a convenient position,— a hill in rear of Mitchell’s Ford,— where we waited for the opening of the attack on our right, from which I expected a decisive victory by midday, with the result of cutting off the Federal army from retreat upon Washington.

Meanwhile, about half-past 5 o’clock, the peal of a heavy rifled gun was heard in front of the Stone Bridge, its second shot striking through the tent of my signal-officer, Captain E. P. Alexander; and at 6 o’clock a full rifled battery opened against Evans and then against Cocke, to which our artillery remained dumb, as it had not sufficient range to reply. But later, as the Federal skirmish-line advanced, it was engaged by ours, thrown well forward on the other side of the Run. A scattering musketry fire followed, and meanwhile, about 7 o’clock, I ordered Jackson’s brigade, with Imboden’s and five guns of Walton’s battery, to the left, with orders to support Cocke as well as Bonham; and the brigades of Bee and Bartow, under the command of the former, were also sent to the support of the left.

At half-past 8 o’clock Evans, seeing that the Federal attack did not increase in boldness and vigor, and observing a lengthening line of dust above the trees to the left of the Warrenton Turnpike, became satisfied that the attack in his front was but a feint, and that a column of the enemy was moving around through the woods to fall on his flank from the direction of Sudley Ford. Informing his immediate commander, Cocke, of the enemy’s movement, and of his own dispositions to meet it, he left 4 companies under cover at the Stone Bridge, and led the remainder of his force, 6 companies of Sloan’s 4th South Carolina and Wheat’s battalion of Louisiana Tigers, with 2 6-pounder howitzers, across the valley of Young’s Branch to the high ground beyond it. Resting his left on the Sudley road, he distributed his troops on each side of a small copse, with such cover as the ground afforded, and looking over the open fields and a reach of the Sudley road which the Federals must cover in their approach. His two howitzers were placed one at each end of his position, and here he silently awaited the enemy now drawing near.

The Federal turning column, about 18,000 strong, with 24 pieces of artillery, had moved down from Centreville by the Warrenton Turnpike, and after passing Cub Run had struck to the right by a forest road to cross Bull Run at Sudley Ford, about 3 miles above the Stone Bridge, moving by a long circuit for the purpose of attacking my left flank. The head of the column, Burnside’s brigade of Hunter’s division, at about 9:45 A. M. debouched from the woods into the open fields, in front of Evans. Wheat at once engaged their skirmishers, and as the Second Rhode Island regiment advanced, supported by its splendid battery of 6 rifled guns, the fronting thicket held by Evans’s South Carolinians poured forth its sudden volleys, while the 2 howitzers flung their grape-shot upon the attacking line, which was soon shattered and driven back into the woods behind. Major Wheat, after handling his battalion with the utmost determination, had fallen severely wounded in the lungs. Burnside’s entire brigade was now sent forward in a second charge, supported by 8 guns; but they encountered again the unflinching fire of Evans’s line, and were once more driven back to the woods, from the cover of which they continued the attack, reenforced after a time by the arrival of 8 companies of United States regular infantry, under Major Sykes, with 6 pieces of artillery, quickly followed by the remaining regiments of Andrew Porter’s brigade of the same division. The contest here lasted fully an hour; meanwhile Wheat’s battalion, having lost its leader, had gradually lost its organization, and Evans, though still opposing these heavy odds with undiminished firmness, sought reinforcement from the troops in his rear.

General Bee, of South Carolina, a man of marked character, whose command lay in reserve in rear of Cocke, near the Stone Bridge, intelligently applying the general order given to the reserves, had already moved toward the neighboring point of conflict, and taken a position with his own and Bartow’s brigades on the high plateau which stands in rear of Bull Run in the quarter of the Stone Bridge, and overlooking the scene of engagement upon the stretch of high ground from which it was separated by the valley of Young’s Branch. This plateau is inclosed on three sides by two small watercourses, which empty into Bull Run within a few yards of each other, a half mile to the south of the Stone Bridge. Rising to an elevation of quite 100 feet above .the level of Bull Run at the bridge, it falls off on three sides to the level of the inclosing streams in gentle slopes, but furrowed by ravines of irregular directions and length, and studded with clumps and patches of young pine and oaks. The general direction of the crest of the plateau is oblique to the course of Bull Run in that quarter and to the Sudley and turnpike roads, which intersect each other at right angles. On the north-western brow, overlooking Young’s Branch, and near the Sudley road, as the latter climbs over the plateau, stood the house of the widow Henry, while to its right and forward on a projecting spur stood the house and sheds of the free negro Robinson, just behind the turnpike, densely embowered in trees and shrubbery and environed by a double row of fences on two sides. Around the eastern and southern brow of the plateau an almost unbroken fringe of second-growth pines gave excellent shelter for our marksmen, who availed themselves of it with the most satisfactory skill. To the west, adjoining the fields that surrounded the houses mentioned, a broad belt of oaks extends directly across the crest on both sides of the Sudley road, in which, during the battle, the hostile forces contended for the mastery. General Bee, with a soldier’s eye to the situation, skillfully disposed his forces. His two brigades on either side of Imboden’s battery— which he had borrowed from his neighboring reserve, Jackson’s brigade — were placed in a small depression of the plateau in advance of the Henry house, whence he had a full view of the contest on the opposite height across the valley of Young’s Branch. Opening with his artillery upon the Federal batteries, he answered Evans’s request by advising him to withdraw to his own position on the height; but Evans, full of the spirit that would not retreat, renewed his appeal that the forces in rear would come to help him hold his ground. The newly arrived forces had given the Federals such superiority at this point as to dwarf Evans’s means of resistance, and General Bee, generously yielding his own better judgment to Evans’s persistence, led the two brigades across the valley under the fire of the enemy’s artillery, and threw them into action — 1 regiment in the copse held by Colonel Evans, 2 along a fence on the right, and 2 under General Bartow on the prolonged right of this line, but extended forward at a right angle and along the edge of a wood not more than 100 yards from that held by the enemy’s left, where the contest at short range became sharp and deadly, bringing many casualties to both sides. The Federal infantry, though still in superior numbers, failed to make any headway against this sturdy van, notwithstanding Bee’s whole line was hammered also by the enemy’s powerful batteries, until Heintzelman’s division of 2 strong brigades, arriving from Sudley Ford, extended the fire on the Federal right, while its battery of 6 10-pounder rifled guns took an immediately effective part from “a position behind the Sudley road. Against these odds the Confederate force was still endeavoring to hold its ground, when a new enemy came into the field upon its right. Major Wheat, with characteristic daring and restlessness, had crossed Bull Run alone by a small ford above the Stone Bridge, in order to reconnoiter, when he and Evans had first moved to the left, and, falling on some Federal scouts, had shouted a taunting defiance and withdrawn, not, however, without his place of crossing having been observed. This disclosure was now utilized by Sherman’s (W. T.) and Keyes’s brigades of Tyler’s division; crossing at this point, they appeared over the high bank of the stream and moved into position on the Federal left. There was no choice now for Bee but to retire — a movement, however, to be accomplished under different circumstances than when urged by him upon Evans. The three leaders endeavored to preserve the steadiness of the ranks as they withdrew over the open fields, aided by the fire of Imboden’s guns on the plateau and the retiring howitzers; but the troops were thrown into confusion, and the greater part soon fell into rout across Young’s Branch and around the base of the height in the rear of the Stone Bridge.

Meanwhile, in rear of Mitchell’s Ford, I had been waiting with General Johnston for the sound of conflict to open in the quarter of Centreville upon the Federal left flank and rear (making allowance, however, for the delays possible to commands unused to battle), when I was chagrined to hear from General D. E. Jones that, while he had been long ready for the movement upon Centreville, General Ewell had not come up to form on his right, though he had sent him between 7 and 8 o’clock a copy of his own order which recited that Ewell had been already ordered to begin the movement. I dispatched an immediate order to Ewell to advance; but within a quarter of an hour, just as I received a dispatch from him informing me that he had received no order to advance in the morning, the firing on the left began to increase so intensely as to indicate a severe attack, whereupon General Johnston said that he would go personally to that quarter.

After weighing attentively the firing, which seemed rapidly and heavily increasing, it appeared to me that the troops on the right wovdd be unable to get into position before the Federal offensive should have made too much progress on our left, and that it would be better to abandon it altogether, maintaining only a strong demonstration so as to detain the enemy in front of our right and center, and hurry up all available reinforcements — including the reserves that were to have moved upon Centreville — to our left and fight the battle out in that quarter. Communicating this view to General Johnston, who approved it (giving his advice, as he said, for what it was worth, as he was not acquainted with the country), I ordered Ewell, Jones, and Longstreet to make a strong demonstration all along their front on the other side of the Run, and ordered the reserves below our position, Holmes’s brigade with 6 guns, and Early’s brigade, also 2 regiments of Bonham’s brigade, near at hand, to move swiftly to the left. General Johnston and I now set out at full speed for the point of conflict. We arrived there just as Bee’s troops, after giving way, were fleeing in disorder behind the height in rear of the Stone Bridge. They had come around between the base of the hill and the Stone Bridge into a shallow ravine which ran up to a point on the crest where Jackson had already formed his brigade along the edge of the woods. We found the commanders resolutely stemming the further flight of the routed forces, but vainly endeavoring to restore order, and our own efforts were as futile. Every segment of line we succeeded in forming was again dissolved while another was being formed; more than two thousand men were shouting each some suggestion to his neighbor, their voices mingling with the noise of the shells hurtling through the trees overhead, and all word of command drowned in the confusion and uproar. It was at this moment that General Bee used the famous expression, “Look at Jackson’s brigade! It stands there like a stone wall”— a name that passed from the brigade to its immortal commander. The disorder seemed irretrievable, but happily the thought came to me that if their colors were planted out to the front the men might rally on them, and I gave the order to carry the standards forward some forty yards, which was promptly executed by the regimental officers, thus drawing the common eye of the troops. They now received easily the orders to advance and form on the line of their colors, which they obeyed with a general movement; and as General Johnston and myself rode forward shortly after with the colors of the 4th Alabama by our side, the line that had fought all morning, and had fled, routed and disordered, now advanced again into position as steadily as veterans. The 4th Alabama had previously lost all its field-officers; and noticing Colonel S. R. Gist, an aide to General Bee, a young man whom I had known as adjutant-general of South Carolina, and whom I greatly esteemed, I presented him as an able and brave commander to the stricken regiment, who cheered their new leader, and maintained under him, to the end of the day, their previous gallant behavior. We had come none too soon, as the enemy’s forces, flushed with the belief of accomplished victory, were already advancing across the valley of Young’s Branch and up the slope, where they had encountered for a while the fire of the Hampton Legion, which had been led forward toward the Robinson house and the turnpike in front, covering the retreat and helping materially to check the panic of Bee’s routed forces.

As soon as order was restored I requested General Johnston to go back to Portici (the Lewis house), and from that point — which I considered most favorable for the purpose — forward me the reinforcements as they would come from the Bull Run lines below and those that were expected to arrive from Manassas, while I should direct the field. General Johnston was disinclined to leave the battle-field for that position. As I had been compelled to leave my chief-of-staff, Colonel Jordan, at Manassas to forward any troops arriving there, I felt it was a necessity that one of us should go to this duty, and that it was his place to do so, as I felt I was responsible for the battle. He considerately yielded to my urgency, and we had the benefit of his energy and sagacity in so directing the reenforcements toward the field, as to be readily and effectively assistant to my pressing needs and insure the success of the day.

As General Johnston departed for Portici, I hastened to form our line of battle against the on-coming enemy. I ordered up the 49th and 8th Virginia regiments from Cocke’s neighboring brigade in the Bull Bun lines. Gartrell’s 7th Georgia I placed in position on the left of Jackson’s brigade, along the belt of pines occupied by the latter on the eastern rim of the plateau. As the 49th Virginia rapidly came up, its colonel, ex-Governor William Smith, was encouraging them with cheery word and manner, and, as they approached, indicated to them the immediate presence of the commander. As the regiment raised a loud cheer, the name was caught by some of the troops of Jackson’s brigade in the immediate wood, who rushed out, calling for General Beauregard. Hastily acknowledging these happy signs of sympathy and confidence, which reenforce alike the capacity of commander and troops, I placed the 49th Virginia in position on the extreme left next to Gartrell, and as I paused to say a few words to Jackson, while hurrying back to the right, my horse was killed under me by a bursting shell, a fragment of which carried away part of the heel of my boot. The Hampton Legion, which had suffered greatly, was placed on the right of Jackson’s brigade, and Hunton’s 8th Virginia, as it arrived, upon the right of Hampton; the two latter being drawn somewhat to the rear so as to form with Jackson’s right regiment a reserve, and be ready likewise to make defense against any advance from the direction of the Stone Bridge, whence there was imminent peril from the enemy’s heavy forces, as I had just stripped that position almost entirely of troops to meet the active crisis on the plateau, leaving this quarter now covered only by a few men, whose defense was otherwise assisted solely by the obstruction of an abatis.

With 6500 men and 13 pieces of artillery, I now awaited the onset of the enemy, who were pressing forward 20,000 strong, (8) with 24 pieces of superior artillery and 7 companies of regular cavalry. They soon appeared over the farther rim of the plateau, seizing the Robinson house on my right and the Henry house opposite my left center. Near the latter they placed in position the two powerful batteries of Ricketts and Griffin of the regular army, and pushed forward up the Sudley road, the slope of which was cut so deep below the adjacent ground as to afford a covered way up to the plateau. Supported by the formidable lines of Federal musketry, these 2 batteries lost no time in making themselves felt, while 3 more batteries in rear on the high ground beyond the Sudley and Warrenton cross-roads swelled the shower of shell that fell among our ranks.

Our own batteries, Imboden’s, Stanard’s, five of Walton’s guns, reenforced later by Pendleton’s and Alburtis’s (their disadvantage being reduced by the shortness of range), swept the surface of the plateau from their position on the eastern rim. I felt that, after the accidents of the morning, much depended on maintaining the steadiness of the troops against the first heavy onslaught, and rode along the lines encouraging the men to unflinching behavior, meeting, as I passed each command, a cheering response. The steady fire of their musketry told severely on the Federal ranks, and the splendid action of our batteries was a fit preface to the marked skill exhibited by our artillerists during the war. The enemy suffered particularly from the musketry on our left, now further reenforced by the 2d Mississippi — the troops in this quarter confronting each other at very short range. Here two companies of Stuart’s cavalry charged through the Federal ranks that filled the Sudley road, increasing the disorder wrought upon that flank of the enemy. But with superior numbers the Federals were pushing on new regiments in the attempt to flank my position, and several guns, in the effort to enfilade ours, were thrust forward so near the 33d Virginia that some of its men sprang forward and captured them, but were driven back by an overpowering force of Federal musketry. Although the enemy were held well at bay, their pressure became so strong that I resolved to take the offensive, and ordered a charge on my right for the purpose of recovering the plateau. The movement, made with alacrity and force by the commands of Bee, Bartow, Evans, and Hampton, thrilled the entire line, Jackson’s brigade piercing the enemy’s center, and the left of the line under Gartrell and Smith following up the charge, also, in that quarter, so that the whole of the open surface of the plateau was swept clear of the Federals.

Apart from its impressions on the enemy, the effect of this brilliant onset was to give a short breathing-spell to our troops from the immediate strain of conflict, and encourage them in withstanding the still more strenuous offensive that was soon to bear upon them. Reorganizing our line of battle under the unremitting fire of the Federal batteries opposite, I prepared to meet the new attack which the enemy were about to make, largely reenforced by the troops of Howard’s brigade, newly arrived on the field. The Federals again pushed up the slope, the face of which partly afforded good cover by the numerous ravines that scored it and the clumps of young pines and oaks with which it was studded, while the sunken Sudley road formed a good ditch and parapet for their aggressive advance upon my left flank and rear. Gradually they pressed our lines back and regained possession of their lost ground and guns. With the Henry and Robinson houses once more in their possession, they resumed the offensive, urged forward by their commanders with conspicuous gallantry.

The conflict now became very severe for the final possession of this position, which was the key to victory. The Federal numbers enabled them so to extend their lines through the woods beyond the Sudley road as to outreach my left flank, which I was compelled partly to throw back, so as to meet the attack from that quarter; meanwhile their numbers equally enabled them to outflank my right in the direction of the Stone Bridge, imposing anxious watchfulness in that direction. I knew that I was safe if I could hold out till the arrival of reenforcements, which was but a matter of time; and, with the full sense of my own responsibility, I was determined to hold the line of the plateau, even if surrounded on all sides, until assistance should come, unless my forces were sooner overtaken by annihilation.

It was now between half-past 2 and 3 o’clock; a scorching sun increased the oppression of the troops, exhausted from incessant fighting, many of them having been engaged since the morning. Fearing lest the Federal offensive should secure too firm a grip, and knowing the fatal result that might spring from any grave infraction of my line, I determined to make another effort for the recovery of the plateau, and ordered a charge of the entire line of battle, including the reserves, which at this crisis I myself led into action. The movement was made with such keeping and dash that the whole plateau was swept clear of the enemy, who were driven down the slope and across the turnpike on our right and the valley of Young’s Branch on our left, leaving in our final possession the Robinson and Henry houses, with most of Ricketts’s and Griffin’s batteries, the men of which were mostly shot down where they bravely stood by their guns. Fisher’s 6th North Carolina, directed to the Lewis house by Colonel Jordan from Manassas, where it had just arrived, and thence to the field by General Johnston, came up in happy time to join in this charge on the left. Withers’s 18th Virginia, which I had ordered up from Cocke’s brigade, was also on hand in time to follow and give additional effect to the charge, capturing, by aid of the Hampton Legion, several guns, which were immediately turned and served upon the broken ranks of the enemy by some of our officers. This handsome work, which broke the Federal fortunes of the day, was done, however, at severe cost. The soldierly Bee, and the gallant, impetuous Bartow, whose day of strong deeds was about to close with such credit, fell a few rods back of the Henry house, near the very spot whence in the morning they had first looked forth upon Evans’s struggle with the enemy. Colonel Fisher also fell at the very head of his troops. Seeing Captain Ricketts, who was badly wounded in the leg, and having known him in the old army, I paused from my anxious duties to ask him whether I could do anything for him. He answered that he wanted to be sent back to Washington. As some of our prisoners were there held under threats of not being treated as prisoners of war, I replied that that must depend upon how our prisoners were treated, and ordered him to be carried to the rear. I mention this, because the report of the Federal Committee on the Conduct of the War exhibits Captain Ricketts as testif ying that I only approached him to say that he would be treated as our prisoners might be treated. I sent my own surgeons to care for him, and allowed his wife to cross the lines and accompany him to Richmond; and my adjutant-general, Colonel Jordan, escorting her to the car that carried them to that city, personally attended to the comfortable placing of the wounded enemy for the journey.

That part of the enemy who occupied the woods beyond our left and across the Sudley road had not been reached by the headlong charge which had swept their comrades from the plateau; but the now arriving reenforcements (Kershaw’s 2d and Cash’s 8th South Carolina) were led into that quarter. Kemper’s battery also came up, preceded by its commander, who, while alone, fell into the hands of a number of the enemy, who took him prisoner, until a few moments later, when he handed them over to some of our own troops accompanying his battery. A small plateau, within the south-west angle of the Sudley and turnpike cross-roads, was still held by a strong Federal brigade — Howard’s troops, together with Sykes’s battalion of regulars; and while Kershaw and Cash, after passing through the skirts of the oak wood along the Sudley road, engaged this force, Kemper’s battery was sent forward by Kershaw along the same road, into position near where a hostile battery had been captured, and whence it played upon the enemy in the open field.

Quickly following these regiments came Preston’s 28th Virginia, which, passing through the woods, encountered and drove back some Michigan troops, capturing Brigadier-General Willcox. It was now about 3 o’clock, when another important reenforcement came to our aid—Elzey’s brigade, 1700 strong, of the Army of the Shenandoah, which, coming from Piedmont by railroad, had arrived at Manassas station, 6 miles in rear of the battle-field, at noon, and had been without delay directed thence toward the field by Colonel Jordan, aided by Major T. G. Rhett, who that morning had passed from General Bonham’s to General Johnston’s staff. Upon nearing the vicinity of the Lewis house, the brigade was directed by a staff-officer sent by General Johnston toward the left of the field. As it reached the oak wood, just across the Sudley road, led by General Kirby Smith, the latter fell severely wounded; but the command devolved upon Colonel Elzey, an excellent officer, who was now guided by Captain D. B. Harris of the Engineers, a highly accomplished officer of my staff, still farther to the left and through the woods, so as to form in extension of the line of the preceding reinforcements. Beckham’s battery, of the same command, was hurried forward by the Sudley road and around the woods into position near the Chinn house; from a well-selected point of action, in full view of the enemy that filled the open fields west of the Sudley road, it played with deadly and decisive effect upon their ranks, already under the fire of Elzey’s brigade. Keyes’s Federal brigade, which had made its way across the turnpike in rear of the Stone Bridge, was lurking along under cover of the ridges and a wood in order to turn my line on the right, but was easily repulsed by Latham’s battery, already placed in position over that approach by Captain Harris, aided by Alburtis’s battery, opportunely sent to Latham’s left by General Jackson, and supported by fragments of troops collected by staff-officers. Meanwhile, the enemy had formed a line of battle of formidable proportions on the opposite height, and stretching in crescent outline, with flanks advanced, from the Pittsylvania (Carter) mansion on their left across the Sudley road in rear of Dogan’s and reaching toward the Chinn house. They offered a fine spectacle as they threw forward a cloud of skirmishers down the opposite slope, preparatory to a new assault against the line on the plateau. But their right was now severely pressed by the troops that had successively arrived; the force in the south-west angle of the Sudley and Warrenton cross-roads were driven from their position, and, as Early’s brigade, which, by direction of General Johnston, had swept around by the rear of the woods through which Elzey had passed, appeared on the field, his line of march bore upon the flank of the enemy, now retiring in that quarter.

This movement by my extreme left was masked by the trend of the woods from many of our forces on the plateau; and bidding those of my staff and escort around me raise a loud cheer, I dispatched the information to the several commands, with orders to go forward in a common charge. Before the full advance of the Confederate ranks the enemy’s whole line, whose right was already yielding, irretrievably broke, fleeing across Bull Run by every available direction. Major Sykes’s regulars, aided by Sherman’s brigade, made a steady and handsome withdrawal, protecting the rear of the routed forces, and enabling many to escape by the Stone Bridge. Having ordered in pursuit all the troops on the field, I went to the Lewis house, and, the battle being ended, turned over the command to General Johnston. Mounting a fresh horse,— the fourth on that day,— I started to press the pursuit which was being made by our infantry and cavalry, some of the latter having been sent by General Johnston from Lewis’s Ford to intercept the enemy on the turnpike. I was soon overtaken, however, by a courier bearing a message from Major T. G. Rhett, General Johnston’s chief-of-staff on duty at Manassas railroad station, informing me of a report that a large Federal force, having pierced our lower line on Bull Run, was moving upon Camp Pickens, my depot of supplies near Manassas. I returned, and communicated this important news to General Johnston. Upon consultation it was deemed best that I should take Ewell’s and Holmes’s brigades, which were hastening up to the battle-field, but too late for the action, and fall on this force of the enemy, while reinforcements should be sent me from the pursuing forces, who were to be recalled for that purpose. To head off the danger and gain time, I hastily mounted a force of infantry behind the cavalrymen then present, but, on approaching the line of march near McLean’s Ford, which the Federals must have taken, I learned that the news was a false alarm caught from the return of General Jones’s forces to this side of the Run, the similarity of the uniforms and the direction of their march having convinced some nervous person that they were a force of the enemy. It was now almost dark, and too late to resume the broken pursuit; on my return I met the coming forces, and, as they were very tired, I ordered them to halt and bivouac for the night where they were. After giving such attention as I could to the troops, I started for Manassas, where I arrived about 10 o’clock, and found Mr. Davis at my headquarters with General Johnston. Arriving from Richmond late in the afternoon, Mr. Davis had immediately galloped to the field, accompanied by Colonel Jordan. They had met between Manassas and the battle-field the usual number of stragglers to the rear, whose appearance belied the determined array then sweeping the enemy before it, but Mr. Davis had the happiness to arrive in time to witness the last of the Federals disappearing beyond Bull Run. The next morning I received from his hand at our breakfast-table my commission, dated July 21st, as General in the Army of the Confederate States, and after his return to Richmond the kind congratulations of the Secretary of War and of General Lee, then acting as military adviser to the President.

It was a point made at the time at the North that, just as the Confederate troops were about to break and flee, the Federal troops anticipated them by doing so, being struck into this precipitation by the arrival upon their flank of the Shenandoah forces marching from railroad trains halted en route with that aim—errors that have been repeated by a number of writers, and by an ambitious but superficial French author.

There were certain sentiments of a personal character clustering about this first battle, and personal anxiety as to its issue, that gladly accepted this theory. To this may be added the general readiness to accept a sentimental or ultra-dramatic explanation—a sorcery wrought by the delay or arrival of some force, or the death or coming of somebody, or any other single magical event—whereby history is easily caught, rather than to seek an understanding of that which is but the gradual result of the operation of many forces, both of opposing design and actual collision, modified more or less by the falls of chance. The personal sentiment, though natural enough at the time, has no place in any military estimate, or place of any kind at this day. The battle of Manassas was, like any other battle, a progression and development from the deliberate counter-employment of the military resources in hand, affected by accidents, as always, but of a kind very different from those referred to. My line of battle, which twice had not only withstood the enemy’s attack, but had taken the offensive and driven him back in disorder, was becoming momentarily stronger from the arrival, at last, of the reenforcements provided for; and if the enemy had remained on the field till the arrival of Ewell and Holmes, they would have been so strongly outflanked that many who escaped would have been destroyed or captured.

Though my adversary’s plan of battle was a good one as against a passive defensive opponent, such as he may have deemed I must be from the respective numbers and positions of our forces, it would, in my judgment, have been much better if, with more dash, the flank attack had been made by the Stone Bridge itself and the ford immediately above it. The plan adopted, however, favored above all things the easy -execution of the offensive operations I had designed and ordered against his left flank and rear at Centreville. His turning column —18,000 strong, and presumably his best troops—was thrown off by a long ellipse through a narrow forest road to Sudley Ford, from which it moved down upon my left flank, and was thus dislocated from his main body. This severed movement of his forces not only left his exposed left and rear at Centreville weak against the simultaneous offensive of my heaviest forces upon it, which I had ordered, but the movement of his returning column would have been disconcerted and paralyzed by the early sound of this heavy conflict in its rear, and it could not even have made its way back so as to be available for manoeuvre before the Centreville fraction had been thrown back upon it in disorder. A new army is very liable to panic, and, in view of the actual result of the battle, the conclusion can hardly be resisted that the panic which fell on the Federal army would thus have seized it early in the day, and with my forces in such a position as wholly to cut off its retreat upon Washington. But the commander of the front line on my right, who had been ordered to hold himself in readiness to initiate the offensive at a moment’s notice, did not make the move expected of him because through accident he failed to receive his own immediate order to advance. (9) The Federal commander’s flanking movement, being thus uninterrupted by such a counter-movement as I had projected, was further assisted through the rawness and inadequacy of our staff organization through which I was left unacquainted with the actual state of affairs on my left. The Federal attack, already thus greatly favored, and encouraged, moreover, by the rout of General Bee’s advanced line, failed for two reasons : their forces were not handled with concert of masses (a fault often made later on both sides), and the individual action of the Confederate troops was superior, and for a very palpable reason. That one army was fighting for union and the other for disunion is a political expression; the actual fact on the battle-field, in the face of cannon and musket, was that the Federal troops came as invaders, and the Southern troops stood as defenders of their homes, and further than this we need not go. The armies were vastly greater than had ever before fought on this continent, and were the largest volunteer armies ever assembled since the era of regular armies. The personal material on both sides was of exceptionally good character, and collectively superior to that of any subsequent period of the war. (10) The Confederate army was filled with generous youths who had answered the first call to arms. For certain kinds of field duty they were not as yet adapted, many of them having at first come with their baggage and servants; these they had to dispense with, but, not to offend their susceptibilities, I then exacted the least work from them, apart from military drills, even to the prejudice of important fieldworks, when I could not get sufficient negro labor; they “had come to fight, and not to handle the pick and shovel,” and their fighting redeemed well their shortcomings as intrenchers. Before I left that gallant army, however, it had learned how readily the humbler could aid the nobler duty.

As to immediate results and trophies, we captured a great many stands of arms, batteries, equipments, standards, and flags, one of which was sent to me, through General Longstreet, as a personal compliment by the Texan “crack shot,” Colonel B. F. Terry, who lowered it from its mast at Fairfax Court House, by cutting the halyards by means of his unerring rifle, as our troops next morning reoccupied that place. We captured also many prisoners, including a number of surgeons, whom (the first time in war) we treated not as prisoners, but as guests. Calling attention to their brave devotion to their wounded, I recommended to the War Department that they be sent home without exchange, together with some other prisoners, who had shown personal kindness to Colonel Jones, of the 4th Alabama, who had been mortally wounded early in the day.

SUBSEQUENT RELATIONS OF MR. DAVIS AND THE WRITER

The military result of the victory was far short of what it should have been. It established as an accomplished fact, on the indispensable basis of military success, the Government of the Confederate States, which before was but a political assertion; but it should have reached much further. The immediate pursuit, but for the false alarm which checked it, would have continued as far as the Potomac, but must have stopped there with no greater result than the capture of more prisoners and material. The true immediate fruits of the victory should have been the dispersion of all the Federal forces south of Baltimore and east of the Alleghanies, the liberation of the State of Maryland, and the capture of Washington, which could have been made only by the Upper Potomac. And from the high source of this achievement other decisive results would have continued to flow. From my experience in the Mexican war I had great confidence in intelligent volunteer troops, if rightly handled; and with such an active and victorious war-engine as the Confederate Army of the Potomac could have immediately been made,— reenforced, as time went, by numbers and discipline,— the Federal military power in the East could never have reached the head it took when McClellan was allowed to organize and discipline at leisure the powerful army that, in the end, wore out the South. In war one success makes another easier, and its right use is as the step to another, until final achievement. This was the use besought by me in the plan of campaign I have mentioned as presented to Mr. Davis on the 14th of July, a few days before the battle, but rejected by him as impracticable, and as rather offering opportunity to the enemy to crush us. To supply the deficiency of transportation (our vehicles being few in number, and many so poor as to break down in ordinary camp service), I myself had assigned to special duty Colonel (since Governor) James L. Kemper, of Virginia, who quickly obtained for me some two hundred good wagons, to which number I had limited him so as not to arouse again the jealousy of the President’s staff. If my plan of operations for the capture of Washington had been adopted, I should have considered myself thereby authorized and free to obtain, as I readily could have done, the transportation necessary. As it was—though the difficult part of this “impracticable” plan of operations had been proven feasible, that is, the concentration of the Shenandoah forces with mine (wrung later than the eleventh hour through the alarm over the march upon Richmond, and discountenanced again nervously at the twelfth hour by another alarm as to how “the enemy may vary his plans” in consequence), followed by the decisive defeat of the main Federal forces — nevertheless the army remained rooted in the spot, although we had more than fifteen thousand troops who had been not at all or but little in the battle and were perfectly organized, while the remaining commands, in the high spirits of victory, could have been reorganized at the tap of the drum, and many with improved captured arms and equipments. I had already urged my views with unusual persistency, and acted on them against all but an express order to the contrary; and as they had been deliberately rejected in their ultimate scope by Mr. Davis as the commander-in-chief, I did not feel authorized to urge them further than their execution had been allowed, unless the subject were broached anew by himself. But there was no intimation of any such change of purpose, and the army, consistently with this inertia, was left unprovided for manoeuvre with transportation for its ammunition; its fortitude, moreover, as a new and volunteer army, while spending sometimes 24 hours without food, being only less wonderful than the commissary administration at Richmond, from which such a state of affairs could proceed even two weeks after the battle of Manassas. Although certain political superstitions about not consolidating the North may then have weighed against the action I proposed, they would have been light against a true military policy, if such had existed in the head of the Government. Apart from an active material ally, such as the colonies had afield and on sea in the War of Independence with Great Britain, a country in fatal war must depend on the vigor of its warfare; the more inferior the country, the bolder and more enterprising the use of its resources, especially if its frontiers are convenient to the enemy. I was convinced that our success lay in a short, quick war of decisive blows, before the Federals, with their vast resources, could build up a great military power; to which end a concerted use of our forces, immediate and sustained, was necessary, so that, weaker though we were at all separate points, we might nevertheless strike with superior strength at some chosen decisive point, and after victory there reach for victory now made easier elsewhere, and thus sum up success. Instead of this, which in war we call concentration, our actual policy was diffusion, an inferior Confederate force at each separate point defensively confronting a superior Federal force; our power daily shrinking, that of the enemy increasing; the avowed Federal policy being that of “attrition,” their bigger masses grinding our smaller, one by one, to naught. Out of this state we never emerged, when the direction of the Government was, as almost always, necessary, excepting when “Richmond ” was immediately in danger.

Thus, in the fall of 1861, about three months after the battle of Manassas,— after throwing my whole force forward to Fairfax Court House, with outposts flaunting our flags on the hills in sight of Washington, in order to chafe the Federals to another battle, but without success,— I proposed that the army should be raised to an effective of 60,000 men, by drawing 20,000 for the immediate enterprise from several points along the seaboard, not even at that time threatened, and from our advanced position be swiftly thrown across the Potomac at a point which I had had carefully surveyed for that purpose, and moved upon the rear of Washington, thus forcing McClellan to a decisive engagement before his organization (new enlistments) was completed, and while our own army had the advantage of discipline and prestige — seasoned soldiers, whose term, however, would expire in the early part of the coming summer. This plan, approved by General Gustavus W. Smith (then immediately commanding General Johnston’s own forces) as well as by General Johnston, was submitted to Mr. Davis in a conference at my headquarters, but rejected because he would not venture to strip those points of the troops we required. Even if those points had been captured, though none were then even threatened, they must have reverted as a direct consequence to so decisive a success. I was willing, then, should it have come to that, to exchange even Richmond temporarily for Washington. Yet it was precisely from similar combinations and elements that the army was made up, to enable it the next spring, under General Lee, to encounter McClellan at the very door of Richmond. If that which was accepted as a last defensive resort against an overwhelming aggressive army had been used in an enterprising offensive against that same army while yet in the raw, the same venture had been made at less general risk, less cost of valuable lives, and with greater certain results. The Federal army would have had no chance meanwhile to become tempei’ed to that magnificent military machine which, through all its defeats and losses, remained sound, and was stronger, with its readily assimilating new strength, at the end of the war than ever before; the pressure would have been lifted from Kentucky and Missouri, and we should have maintained what is called an active defensive warfare, that is, should have taken and kept the offensive against the enemy, enforcing peace.

No people ever warred for independence with more relative advantages than the Confederates; and if, as a military question, they must have failed, then no country must aim at freedom by means of war. We were one in sentiment as in territory, starting out, not with a struggling administration of doubtful authority, but with our ancient State governments and a fully organized central government. As a military question, it was in no sense a civil war, but a war between two countries—for conquest on one side, for self-preservation on the other. The South, with its great material resources, its defensive means of mountains, rivers, railroads, and telegraph, with the immense advantage of the interior lines of war, would be open to discredit as a people if its failure could not be explained otherwise than by mere material contrast. The great Frederick, at the head of a little people, not only beat back a combination of several great military powers, but conquered and kept territory; and Napoleon held combined Europe at the feet of France till his blind ambition overleaped itself. It may be said that the South had no Fredericks or Napoleons; but it had at least as good commanders as its adversary. Nor was it the fault of our soldiers or people. Our soldiers were as brave and intelligent as ever bore arms; and, if only for reasons already mentioned, they did not lack in determination. Our people bore a devotion to the cause never surpassed, and which no war-making monarch ever had for his support; they gave their all—even the last striplings under the family roofs filling the ranks voided by the fall of their fathers and brothers. But the narrow military view of the head of the Government, which illustrated itself at the outset by ordering from Europe, not 100,000 or 1,000,000, but 10,000 stands of arms, as an increase upon 8000, its first estimate, was equally narrow and timid in its employment of our armies.

The moral and material forces actually engaged in the war made our success amoral certainty, but for the timid policy which—ignoring strategy as a science and boldness of enterprise as its ally — could never be brought to new the whole theater of war as one subject, of which all points were but integral parts, or to hazard for the time points relatively unimportant for the purpose of gathering for an overwhelming and rapid stroke at some decisive point; and which, again, with characteristic mis-elation, would push a victorious force directly forward into unsupported and disastrous operations, instead of using its victory to spare from it strength sufficient to secure an equally important success in another quarter. The great principles of war are truths, and the same to-day as in the time of Caesar or Napoleon, notwithstanding the ideas of some thoughtless persons—their applications being but intensified by the scientific discoveries affecting transportation and communication of intelligence. These principles are few and simple, however various their deductions and application. Skill in strategy consists in seeing through the intricacies of the whole situation, and bringing into proper combination forces and influences, though seemingly unrelated, so as to apply these principles, and with boldness of decision and execution appearing with the utmost force, and, if possible, superior odds, before the enemy at some strategic, that is, decisive point. And although a sound military plan may not be always so readily conceived, yet any plan that offers decisive results, if it agree with the principles of war, is as plain and intelligible as these principles themselves, and no more to be rejected than they. There still remains, of course, the hazard of accident in execution, and the apprehension of the enemy’s movements upsetting your own; but hazard may also favor as well as disfavor, and will not unbefriend the enterprising any more than the timid. It was this fear of possible consequences that kept our forces scattered in inferior relative strength at all points of the compass, each holding its bit of ground till by slow local process our territory was taken and our separate forces destroyed, or, if captured, retained by the enemy without exchange in their process of attrition. To stop the slow consumption of this passive mode of warfare I tried my part, and, at certain critical junctures, proposed to the Government active plans of operation looking to such results as I have described,— sometimes, it is true, in relation to the employment of forces not under my control, as I was the soldier of a cause and people, not of a monarch nor even of a government. Two occasions there were when certain of the most noted Federal operations, from their isolated or opportune character, might, with energy and intelligent venture on the Confederate side, have been turned into fatal disaster; among them Grant’s movement in front of Vicksburg, and his change of base from the north to the south of the James River, where I was in command, in his last campaign against Richmond. I urged particularly that our warfare was sure of final defeat unless we attempted decisive strokes that might be followed up to the end, and that, even if earlier defeat might chance from the risk involved in the execution of the necessary combinations, we ought to take that risk and thereby either win or end an otherwise useless struggle. But, in addition to the radical divergence of military ideas,— the passive defensive of an intellect timid of risk and not at home in war, and the active defensive reaching for success through enterprise and boldness, according to the lessons taught us in the campaigns of the great masters,— there was a personal feeling that now gave cold hearing, or none, to any recommendations of mine. Mr. Davis’s friendship, warm at the early period of the war, was changed, some time after the battle of Manassas, to a corresponding hostility from several personal causes, direct and indirect, of which I need mention but one. My report of Manassas having contained, as part of its history, a statement of the submission of the full plan of campaign for concentrating our forces, crushing successively McDowell and Patterson and capturing Washington, Mr. Davis strangely took offense thereat; and, now that events had demonstrated the practicability of that plan, he sought to get rid of his self-accused responsibility for rejecting it, by denying that any such had been submitted — an issue, for that matter, easily settled by my production of the contemporaneous report of Colonel James Chesnut, the bearer of the mission, who, moreover, at the time of this controversy was on Mr. Davis’s own staff, where he remained. Mr. Davis made an endeavor to suppress the publication of my report of the battle of Manassas. The matter came up in a secret debate in the Confederate Congress, where a host of friends were ready to sustain me; but I sent a telegram disclaiming any desire for its publication, and advising that tli i safety of the country should be our solicitude, and not personal ends.

Thenceforth Mr. Davis’s hostility was watchful and adroit, neglecting no opportunity, great or small; and though, from motives all its opposite, it was not exposed during the war by any murmurs of mine, it bruited sometimes in certain quarters of its own force. Thus, when in January, 1862, the Western representatives expressed a desire that I should separate myself for a time from my Virginia forces and go to the defense of the Mississippi Valley from the impending offensive of Halleck and Grant, it was furthered by the Executive with inducements which I trusted,— in disregard of Senator Toombs’s sagacious warning, that under this furtherance lurked a purpose to effect my downfall, urged in one of his communications through his son-in-law, Mr. Alexander, in words as impressive as they proved prophetic: “Urge General Beauregard to decline all proposals and solicitations. The Blade of Joab. Verbum Sapienti” After going through the campaign of Shiloh and Corinth, not only with those inducements unfulfilled, but with vital drawbacks from the Government, including the refusal of necessary rank to competent subordinates to assist in organizing my hastily collected and mostly raw troops, I was forced, the following June, in deferred obedience to the positive order of my physicians, to withdraw from my immediate camp to another point in my department for recovery from illness, leaving under the care of my lieutenant, General Bragg, my army, then unmenaced and under reorganization with a view to an immediate offensive I had purposed. In anticipation and exclusion of the receipt of full dispatches following my telegram, the latter was tortuously misread, in a manner not creditable to a school-boy and repugnant to Mr. Davis’s exact knowledge of syntax, so as to give pretext to the shocking charge that I had abandoned my army, and a telegram was sent in naked haste directly to General Bragg, telling him to retain the permanent command of the army. The “Blade of Joab” had given its thrust. The representatives in Congress from the West and South-west applied to Mr. Davis in a body for my restoration; and when, disregarding his sheer pretext that I had abandoned my army, they still insisted, Mr. Davis declared that I should not be restored if the whole world should ask it! This machination went to such length that it was given out in Richmond that I had softening of the brain and had gone crazy. So carefully was this report fostered (one of its tales being that I would sit all day stroking a pheasant (11)) that a friend of mine, a member of the Confederate Congress, thought it his duty to write me a special letter respecting the device, advising me to come directly to Richmond to confound it by my presence — a proceeding which I disdained to take. I had not only then, but from later, still more offensive provocation, imperative cause to resign, and would have done so but for a sense of public obligation. Indeed, in my after fields of action the same hostility was more and more active in its various embarrassments, reckless that the strains inflicted upon me bore upon the troops and country depending on me and relatively upon the cause, so that I often dreaded failure more from my own Government behind me than from the enemy in my front; and, when success came in spite of this, it was acknowledged only by some censorious official “inquiry” contrasting with the repeated thanks of the Congress. I was, however, not the only one of the highest military rank with whom Mr. Davis’s relations were habitually unwholesome. It is an extraordinary fact that during the four years of war Mr. Davis did not call together the five generals [see page 241] with a view to determining the best military policy or settling upon a decisive plan of operations involving the whole theater of war, though there was often ample opportunity for it. We needed for President either a military man of a high order, or a politician of the first class without military pretensions, such as Howell Cobb. The South did not fall crushed by the mere weight of the North; but it was nibbled away at all sides and ends because its executive head never gathered and wielded its great strength under the ready advantages that greatly reduced or neutralized its adversary’s naked physical superiority. It is but another of the many proofs that timid direction may readily go with physical courage, and that the passive defensive policy may make a long agony, but can never win a war.

POSTSCRIPT.—Since the publication of the foregoing pages in “The Century” for November, 1884, General J. E. Johnston, in the course of a paper also contributed to “The Century” [see page 240], took occasion, for the first time, to set up with positiveness and circumstantiality the claim to having exercised a controlling connection with the tactics of all the phases of the battle of the 21st of July, 1861. Respecting such a pretension I shall be content for the present to recall that, while entirely at variance with the part I have ascribed to him in relation to that field, it is logically untenable, at this day, when confronted with the records of the period. In my own official report of the battle closely contemporaneous with the events narrated — a report that was placed in his hands for perusal before transmission— it is distinctly related that for certain reasons, chiefly military, General Johnston had left in my hands for the impending conflict the command of the Confederate forces. The precise circumstances of my direct conduct of and responsibility for the battle are stated in such terms that, had I not been in actual direction of the day’s operations on the part of the Confederates, General Johnston must have made the issue squarely then and there in his own official report. And all the more incumbent upon him was the making of such an issue, it seems to me, then or never, in view of the fact that the Confederate Secretary of War on the 24th of July, 1861, wrote me in these words:

“MY DEAR GENERAL: Accept my congratulations for the glorious and most brilliant victory achieved by you. The country will bless and honor you for it. Believe me, dear General,

“Truly your friend, L. P. WALKER.”

Further, General Lee thus addressed me:

“MY DEAR GENERAL : I cannot express the joy I feel at the brilliant victory of the 21st. The skill, courage, and endurance displayed by yourself excite my highest admiration. You and your troops have the gratitude of the whole country, and I offer to all my heartfelt congratulations at their success. . . . Very truly yours, R. E. LEE.”

Of the exact purport of these two letters General Johnston could not have been ignorant when he wrote his report of the battle. Nor could he have been unaware that the leading Southern newspapers had in effect attributed to me the chief direction of that battle on the Confederate side. Therefore, if it were the gross historical error which, twenty odd years after the affair, General Johnston characterizes it to be, and one that imputed to him the shirking of a duty which he could not have left unassumed without personal baseness, certainly that was the time for him by a few explicit words in his official report to dispose of so affronting an error. In that report, however, no such exigent, peremptory statement of his relation to the battle is to be found. On the other hand, upon page 57 of his “Narrative” published in 1874 (D. Appleton & Co.), may be found, I fear, the clew to the motive of his actual waiver of command in this curious paragraph:

“If the tactics of the Federals had been equal to their strategy, we should have been beaten. If, instead of being brought into action in detail, their troops had been formed in two lines, with a proper reserve, and had assailed Bee and Jackson in that order, the two Southern brigades must have been swept from the field in a few minutes, or enveloped. General McDowell would have made such a formation, probably, had he not greatly underestimated the strength of his enemy.”

Coupled with the disquieting, ever-apprehensive tenor of his whole correspondence with the Confederate War Department, from the day he assumed command in the Valley of Virginia in May, 1861, down to the close of the struggle hi 1865, the fair inference from such language as that just cited from his “Narrative” is that General Johnston came to Manassas beset with the idea that our united forces would not be able to cope with the Federal army, and that we should be beaten— a catastrophe in which he was not solicitous to figure on the pages of history as the leading and responsible actor. Originally and until 1875,I had regarded it as a generous though natural act on the part of General Johnston, in such a juncture, to leave me in command and responsible for what might occur. The history of military operations abounds in instances of notable soldiers who have found it proper to waive chief command under similar conditions.

(1) The professionally educated officers on the Confederate side at Bull Run included Generals Johnston, Beauregard, Stonewall Jackson, Longstreet, Kirby Smith, Ewell, Early, Bee, D. E. Jones, Holmes, Evans, Elzey, and Jordan, all in high positions, besides others not so prominent.— EDITORS.

(2) For the forces actually engaged in the campaign and on the field, see pp. 194-5.— EDITORS.

(3) “I am, however, inclined to believe he [the enemy] may attempt to turn my left flank by a movement in the direction of Vienna, Frying-pan Church, and, possibly, Gum Spring, and thus cut off Johnston’s line of retreat and communication with this place [Manassas Junction] via the Manassas Gap railroad, while threatening my own communications with Richmond and depots of supply by the Alexandria and Orange railroad, and opening his communications with the Potomac through Leesburg and Edward’s Ferry.”—(Extract from a letter addressed by General Beauregard to Jefferson Davis, July 11th, 1801.)

(4) It is denied that a serious attempt “to force a passage” was made on the 18th. (See page 178.) This engagement was called by the Confederates the battle of Bull Run, the main fight on the 21st being known in the South as the battle of Manassas (pronounced Ma-nass’-sa).—EDITORS.

(5) [TELEGRAM.] RICHMOND, July 19, 1861.
GENERAL BEAUREGARD, Manassas, Va.
We have no intelligence from General Johnston.  If the enemy in front of you has abandoned an immediate attack, and General Johnston has not moved, you had better withdraw your call upon him, so that he may be left to his full discretion.  All the troops arriving at Lynchburg are ordered to join you. From this place we will send as fast as transportation permits. The enemy is advised at Washington of the projected movement of Generals Johnston and Holmes, and may vary his plans in conformity thereto.
S. COOPER, Adjutant-General.

(6) Lack of rations, as well as the necessity for information, detained McDowell at Centreville during these two days.—EDITORS.

7) See General Beauregard’s postscript (page 226), and General Johnston’s consideration of the same topic in the paper to follow (page 245), and his postscript (page 258).— EDITORS.

(8) According to General Fry (page 188), the Union force in the seizure of the Henry hill consisted of four brigades, a cavalry battalion, and two batteries, or (as we deduce from General Fry’s statements of the strength of McDowell’s forces, page 195) about 11,000 men.— EDITORS.

(9) General R. S. Ewell. See statement of Major Campbell Brown, page 259.— EDITORS.

(10) This battle was noteworthy for the number of participants whose names are now prominently associated with the war. On the Confederate side, besides Generals Johnston and Beauregard, were Generals Stonewall Jackson, Longstreet, Ewell, Early, J. E. B. Stuart, Kirby Smith, Wade Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee, Thomas Jordan, R. E. Rodes, E. P. Alexander, and others. On the Federal side were Generals McDowell, W. T. Sherman, Burnside, Hunter, Heintzelman, Howard, Franklin, Slocum, Keyes, Hunt, Barry, Fry, Sykes, Barnard, Wadsworth, and others. —EDITORS.

(11) This silly tale was borrowed from an incident of Shiloh. Toward the end of the first day’s battle a soldier had found a pheasant cowering, apparently paralyzed under the ceaseless din, and brought it to my headquarters as a present to me. It was a beautiful bird, and I gave directions to place it in a cage, as I intended sending it as a pleasant token of the battle to the family of Judge Milton Brown, of Jackson, Tennessee, from whom I had received as their guest, while occupying that place, the kindest attentions; but in the second day’s conflict the poor waif was lost.— G. T. B. VOL. 1. 15

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine





Diary 7/19/1861 – Pvt. John Henry Cowin, Co. D, 5th AL

18 11 2009

Fortunately for us we had not much rain last night.  Slept very soundly, three of us under one blanket.  The trees kept off the heavy dew.  Four or five of the boys came in this morning.  They broke down on the road and were left behind.  Brother came back from the Junction, where he went yesterday of account of being sick.  He states that father is very unwell, not being able to walk at all.  He was quite uneasy yesterday as he thought we were in the fight.  The enemy sent over a flag of truce this morning asking permission to bury their dead.  They say that they lost fifteen hundred men.  The correct list is however hard to get at.  Our loss is thought to be between fifteen and thirty killed and forty or fifty wounded.  Have not heard a gun today.  The bearer of the flag of truce states that they retired to Centreville and are throwing up breastworks, thinking that we are pursuing them.  We are again placed in the bushes to prevent the enemy from crossing to our side of the creek.  We have orders to charge them should they attempt a crossing.  Col Rodes says he wants to give the Greensboro boys a chance at the enemy the first opportunity and he thinks this the best way to do it.  The glorious news of the repulse of Patterson by Johns[t]on came in this afternoon.  It is said that he has driven him beyond the Potomac, which we hope may be true.  Whether it be true or not Johns[t]on has sent Beauregard four thousand men to reinforce this line.  An attack is expected and all the sick have been removed from the Junction; Among those sent by Johns[t]on to Beauregard is Col Syd Moore’s regiment.  The Yankees have made no advance today.  Guess they do not like southern balls and bayonets.  At Winchester where the engagement took place between Johns[t]on and Patterson, Johns[t]on found he could not dislodge the enemy from their works, he gave the order to storm them.  The South Carolina boys pitched in and ran over their works in short order, completely routing them, capturing their artillery and ammunition and fifty prisoners, who arrived at the Junction yesterday.  Our provisions got pretty short today, but fortunately some were sent down to us, and we pitched in like a pack of hungry wolves.  We have nothing but hard crackers and fat meat.  Our cooking utensils consist of sticks sharpened at one end, upon which we put our meat and hold to the fire until done.  It eats firstrate too especially when a fellow is hungry.  We sleep again tonight under the trees and bushes.

Source – G. Ward Hubbs, ed. Voices from Company D, p 21





Diary 7/17/1861 – Pvt. John Henry Cowin, Co. D, 5th AL

14 11 2009

[Describing withdrawal from Fairfax Court House.]

After all the hustle and stir last night, no yankees came, but on the contrary every thing went on as ever, and I believe more so, for every one kept as still as possible, listening for the expected account.  This morning we heard firing out toward the pickets and all around the country.  about eight o’clock a couple of scouts came in at full speed, one having a yankee behind him captured by the pickets.  The regiment was immediately put in order of battle and marched down to the breastwork.  Tents were struck and the wagons loaded.  Father who was unable to walk, mounted a wagon horse and went off with the baggage.  Where we got to the breastworks Capt. Shelly’s Company was sent out as skirmishers, and soon we heard them open fire upon the enemy.  The firing was kept up for about an hour.  The balls whistling over our heads, I have often heard of balls whistling around a fellows head, but never knew what tune they played until this morning.  They came thick and fast, some falling within a few feet of us.  The pickets were driven in, but they came in orderly, displaying great coolness and bravery.  They fired each three or four rounds.  We remained at the breastworks about an hour and a half.  The pickets killed some ten or fifteen of the enemy.  We had only two men wounded, they very slightly.  One a member of the Warrior Guards (Tarrant) shot through the leg.  The other of Capt. Shelley’s company, having a portion of his ear shot away.  They came upon us with a large force and tried to flank us, and would have succeeded had we not received orders from the commanding general to retreat.  I think Col. Rodes intended to give them a fight, but had to obey the orders to retreat.  We left our breastworks with great reluctance, for there was all our work to be abandoned to the enemy without a fight.  The pickets from our company who were attacked were Jim Locke, Wm. Kennedy, George Nutting, John & Joe Wright.  They all got safely into Camp.  We left the breastworks and marched slowly and in order down the Centreville road.  The day was intensely warm, but we had to march ahead to avoid being flanked, as the enemy were pressing forward with great rapidity.  We marched eleven miles to Bull Run, where we met two Mississippi regiments, one South Carolina regiment and the Washington Artillery.  Here I found Father, who was much rejoiced to see us safe and well.  A good many broke down on the march.  Brother broke down, but managed to get a ride behind some one and came on safely.  I think one could have followed up our retreat and gathered at least two wagon loads of clothing, knapsacks &c, which the boys had thrown away.  A good many have now no clothing at all, not even a blanket.  We only remained at Bull Run about two hours, when we took up our line of march to a place called Union Mills, a distance of three miles.  We arrived there shortly after sunset, stacked arms, made fires, and dried our selves, as we had to ford creeks on the march.  Feel like I can do some sleeping tonight, as I did not have an opportunity last night.

Source – G. Ward Hubbs, ed. Voices from Company D, pp 19-20