Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 14.djvu/363
Ewell at First Manassas. 357
plainly imputing to him blame for not moving without orders — more especially right in the teeth of his own letter of unqualified exonera- tion. It seems to me a most singular doctrine to come from such a master of the art of war as Beauregard, that it was the duty of a brigade commander to initiate such a battle as that momentous one was inte7ided to be, merely because the plans were communicated to him the night before, and he was directed to hold himself in readi- ness to move at 7 o'clock next morning, upon receipt of further orders. General Fitz. Lee's vindication of General Ewell is conclu- sive, by his simple statement of the facts ; but not more so than General Beauregard's own letter to Ewell, written four days after the battle, beginning with: " I do not attach the slightest blame to you^\- and ending with: " I am fully aware that yo7i did all that could have been expected of you, etc. What that same letter convicts its au- thor of — even on the point of " technical " rule — this deponent saith not.
There are probably scores of men of that brigade now living, who can corroborate General Lee's testimony. I should not think it necessary to state my own vivid recollections of the occurrences of that memorable day, but that it so happened that by a circumstance which took place several months afterwards, the correspondence be- tween Beauregard and Ewell, now published for the first time, came into my possession. There were two companies of cavalry serving with Ewell's brigade on that day — viz : the Governor's Guard, Cap- tain Cabell, and my own, the Goochland Light Dragoons. My im- pression is, that the whole brigade — five thousand strong — was drawn up, ready to move, by seve?i o'clock in the morning. The cavalry were in the saddle, and in line, and continued so for two hours. I had opportunities of witnessing General Ewell's intense anxiety and excitement at not reciving the expected orders to advance. At last we did advance — if I am not mistaken, about 9 o'clock — merely in consequence of informal, but reliable information, that the order had been issued. As well as I remember, our position was some half a mile from the Union Mills tbrd. The road was narrow, winding ;md precipitous. The cavalry could only march by twos. I need not say that it required several hours for the whole brigade to get over. Three roads diverged from the ford, the centre one leading towards Centreville. We took the left one — I presume more directly towards the main body of the enemy. We proceeded perhaps a mile. I was told that the head of our column encountered the enemy's pickets. At that juncture came the order to return. We reached