Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/351

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General Joseph E. Johnston.

sufficiently explained and still a matter of controvery, the attack on the right did not begin until 2 o'clock in the afternoon. But even after the delay of all these hours, the rush of Hill and Longstreet had stormed and carried the entrenchments opposed to them, with the camp equipments, ordnance, and stores belonging to the troops assailed, driving Casey in utter route back upon Couch, and Couch upon Heintzleman, when their onward movement was stopped by the falling night. Johnston had stationed himself on the left to take part in the co-operating movement—where the force in front of Smith had been rescued from defeat by Sumner's opportune arrival—and had just ordered each regiment to sleep where it fought, to be ready to renew the battle at dawn, when he received a musket shot in the shoulder, and a moment after was unhorsed by a fragment of shell which struck him in the breast. The reins of his steed and of his victory fell from his hands. The brightness of his sword shone for an instant, and then the darkness swallowed it. The sharpness of it slept when the night became its sheath. A hero was borne upon his shield fallen but undismayed. Beneath the smitten breast there lived a heart unsmitten.

When Johnston was stricken down at Seven Pines, he left an army which had been animated by him to a new consciousness of valor; the Army of Virginia, whose organization was the work of his hand. Doubtless, one object of the blow was accomplished, in the check to McClellan's advance on the south side of the swamp. Nevertheless, as a strategy in the valley and the leap to Manassas was the shining image of the boldness and caution so happily mixed in him; so Seven Pines might be construed to be the malignant prophecy of that dark fate, which seemed thereafter to rise in meeting against him, and be the incessant wound of victory. Rarely has the countenance of fate worn a look and spoken from a lip so cynical, as in that chapter, wherein as it were, war's master was made his victim, his own edge turned against him. It was the superlative satire of events. Johnston's eminence was tried in the most fiery furnace in which such energies could be constrained to walk. The field of victory spread before him to be organized was, with recurring bitterness, snatched from him on the day the prizes were bestowed. We feel as if we were witnessing less the encounter of man with human circumstance, than the supernatural warfare of a Titan whose fight is with the skies.

Johnston reported for duty on the 12th of November, and on the 24th, received orders of that date, assigning him to the command of