Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 40/The Battle of Fredericksburg
BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG.
Gen. Alfred M. Scales' Address before the Association of the Virginia Division of the Army of Northern Virginia,
November 1, 1883.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Comrades:
We meet to-night to re-light our camp fires, to fight our battles over again, to renew the friendships formed in the hour of trial, and for the still nobler purpose of perpetuating the high deeds and sacred memories of our fallen comrades. I am deeply sensible of the occasion, and if I fall below its just demands, you will doubtless extend to me that indulgence which is always given to sincere effort and earnest purpose.
I speak to-night of Fredericksburg. I shall necessarily repeat much that has been said in the official and other reports, by men who were on the spot and witnessed what they wrote; sometimes, when it suits my purpose better, using the identical language.
General Joseph E. Johnston, after distinguished services at Manassas, Williamsburg and Seven Pines, fell painfully wounded at Fair Oaks, on the 1st day of June, 1862. He had deservedly secured the confidence and affection of the country, as well as of his own soldiers, and his fall, though temporary, cast a shadow of gloom over the Confederacy. The emergency was pressing—McClellan was by degrees approaching Richmond. General R. E. Lee, by an order of the President, assumed the command of the Army of Northern Virginia, on the 3d day of June, 1862. The battles of Mechanicsville, of the Chickahominy, of Savage Station, of Frazier's Farm and Malvern Hill, had been fought and Lee and Jackson, and the Army of Northern Virginia, had become immortal. McClellan, with an army of 156,838 men—115,102 of which were efficient, well organized, well equipped and confident, had been hurled back, broken and shattered to take shelter under their gun boats, and Richmond, the devoted capital of the Confederacy, around which so many hearts clustered, invoking upon her the protection of the patriot's God, was again free. The Confederates did not number more than 100,000 men. The theatre of war was changed; Cedar Run, Second Manassas, and Ox Hill, had shed new lustre upon Southern genius and Southern valor. The Confederacy was again triumphant, and Pope, with headquarters in the saddle, had been driven hopeless and helpless to a safe refuge under the very walls of Washington, never more, so far as I am advised, to meet a rebel foe. He was not wounded; he did not die; but he was translated to look after the Indians on the plains.
Between the 25th of August and the 2d of September, 1862, the Confederates had lost, between the Rappahannock and the Potomac, 9,112 men in killed, wounded and missing, including Ewell, Field, Taliaferro and Trimble, seriously wounded. The Federal losses were 30,000 men, 8 generals slain, 7,000 prisoners, 2,000 wounded in the hands of the Confederates, 30 pieces of cannon, more than 20,000 rifles, many ensigns, and an immense quantity of war material in the hands of General Lee, without estimating the vast amount destroyed by Jackson at Manassas. Again the theatre of war was changed; Harpers Ferry was captured, Maryland was invaded, and Sharpsburg was fought, and McClellan claimed the victory. Is the claim well founded? We are content with the facts.
Lee had about 35,000 fighting men, and of this number the troops of Jackson, and Walker, in all 14,000 men, were not on the ground when the battle commenced. McClellan had about 87,000 well fed, well clothed, and well equipped men. The Confederate loss was 8,790 killed and wounded. The Federal loss was 12,469 killed and wounded, and among them 13 general officers. McClellan made the attack with the view to overwhelm and destroy Lee's army, and was repulsed. On the night of the 17th of September, 1862, after the battle was ended, the Confederate general held the same position that he had in the morning. On the 18th of September, his position was unchanged, awaiting a renewal of the attack. McClellan dared not risk another encounter, but waited for re-inforcements. On the night of the 18th, Lee crossed the Potomac, and by 11 o'clock on the 19th of September, his whole army was in Virginia, carrying with him all the provisions, and everything of value obtained in Maryland. He carried with him also, the immense fruits resulting from the capture of Harpers Ferry, to wit: 11,000 prisoners, and 73 cannons, 13,000 rifles and other arms, 200 wagons of stores, ammunition, &c.—our loss was almost nothing. The invasion of Maryland was terminated. Lee was checked and had to return to Virginia. McClellan was repulsed all along the line; 35,255 men held their position all the day of the 17th and all the next day, against 87,000 men, and McClellan himself confesses: "I found that my loss had been so great, and there was so much disorganization in some of the commands, that I did not consider it proper to renew the attack the next day." McClellan had attacked an army scarce one-third of his own, and been repulsed with a loss one-third greater than his adversary; if such was a victory for the Northern Army let them enjoy it. A feeble attempt at pursuit was made by Porter's corps, which had been held in reserve; he reached the river after the Confederates had crossed, he threw a large force across the river, and captured four cannon, but he was, in turn, driven back by Hill into the river, losing 200 prisoners and sustaining a loss, in the aggregate, of 3,000 men against a Confederate loss of 261 men.
Since the 25th of June, the Army of Northern Virginia had marched over 280 miles, often without shoes, with half rations, and badly clad; had fought twelve pitched battles, and many conflicts; had met and defeated three armies, inflicting upon the enemy a loss of 76,000 men, of whom 30,000 were prisoners, taking 155 guns, 70,000 rifles, and taking and destroying near a million dollars worth of war material, provisions, &c., &c. Lee retired with his brave but wearied men to Winchester. They needed clothes and shoes—they required wholesome food and enough of it. Such an exhibition of courage, calm and steady, of patriotism that burned all the brighter in their sacrifices and sufferings, had excited the admiration of Europe, and made a page in the world's history the most brilliant and the most honorable. They thought not of their privations, they marched and fought, and their step was the prouder and their arms the stronger and their hearts the bolder as they remembered that these sacrifices were the price to be paid for equal rights under the Constitution. They are now in the far-famed Valley of Virginia, which fed both armies, but whose people were so true to their South-land that, though greatly impoverished, always, even to the end, cheerfully divided with the Southern soldier what they had left. The air was pure, food was abundant, the naked were clothed and shod, and the rest of the soldier was sweet. The army was recruited in strength, health, hope and numbers.
In a few days 30,000 men had been added to the army of Northern Virginia. McClellan was in front. His army, too, after so many severe conflicts and losses, needed rest, and he was in no haste to begin again hostilities. But McClellan was not suffered to remain long inactive. Richmond must be destroyed, and he was forced to move in that direction. On October 6th, McClellan had received a telegram from Lincoln embracing the following order: "Cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive him southward." He determined to cross the Potomac east of the Blue Ridge, and place himself between Lee and Richmond.
On the 26th of October the Federal army commenced to cross the Potomac at Berlin, five miles below Harper's Ferry, and by the 2d of November the entire army was on the Southern side. Lee was still in the Shenandoah Valley. As soon as he learned of the movement of McClellan he at once divined its purpose, broke up his camp on the banks of the Opequan, and moved on a Longstreet was sent to Upperville to be near and watch the movements of the enemy. Jackson was between Berryville and Charlestown, to guard the passes of the mountain, as well as the route to Harper's Ferry. It became evident by the last of October that the Federal forces were marching in the direction of Warrenton, and Lee at once ordered Longstreet with his entire corps to Culpeper Court House, which he reached on the 3d of November. Jackson was still at Millwood, but sent one division east of the Blue Ridge. The Federals, by degrees, were concentrating at Warrenton.line with the enemy. A division from
This was the position of the two armies. While Lee was anxiously and carefully watching the developments of the coming campaign, a sensation was produced on both sides of the Potomac by the recall of McClellan, and the appointment as chief in command of his army conferred on Burnside. McClellan was the ablest officer that ever was in charge of the Army of the Potomac—perhaps the ablest, as a whole, developed by the war on the Northern side, with, it may be, one exception, Gen. Thomas, if, indeed, he was an exception; on this point, to say the least, intelligent sentiment is much divided. In addition to his ability as an officer, his character as a man was unexceptionable. He fully recognized the alleged object of the war, and, in the prosecution of it, he was high-toned, honorable, and humane. When asked by Mr. Lincoln his views as to the conduct of the war he replied:
"This rebellion has assumed the character of a war; as such it should be regarded, and it should be conducted upon the highest principles known to Christian civilization. It should not be a war looking to the subjection of any State in any event; it should not be at all a war upon population, but against armed forces and political organizations. Neither confiscations of property, political executions, territorial organizations of States, nor forcible abolition of slavery, should be contemplated for a moment. * * * All private property and unarmed persons should be strictly protected, subject only to the necessity of military operations. All private property taken for military uses should be paid or receipted for; pillage and waste should be treated as high crimes. * * * A system of policy like this, and pervaded by the influences of Christianity and freedom; would receive the support of all truly loyal men, would deeply impress the rebel masses and all foreign states, and it might be humbly hoped commend itself to the favor of the Almighty."
Such a recognition of the claims of humanity, national law and religion, to say nothing of the constitution, in a fierce civil war, will be handed down to remote generations as worthy of all honor, shining the more conspicuously because it had no counterpart among the other officers of the United States in all that war. It found a counterpart in the uniform conduct of General Lee, and voiced itself in the general order issued by him to regulate the conduct of his troops as he advanced through Maryland into Pennsylvania to Gettysburg. Hear him! "The commanding general considers that no greater disgrace could befall the army, and through it our whole people, than the perpetration of the barbarous outrages upon the innocent and defenceless, and the wanton destruction of private property that has marked the course of the enemy in our own country. Such proceedings not only disgrace the perpetrators and all connected with them, but is subversive of the discipline and efficiency of the army and destructive of the ends of our present movement. It must be remembered that we make war only upon armed men, and that we cannot take vengeance for the wrongs our people have suffered without covering ourselves with shame in the eyes of all whose abhorrence}} has been excited by the atrocities of our enemy, and offending against Him to whom vengeance belongeth, without whose favor and support our efforts must all prove in vain."
These two men had written their names high and indelibly as warriors on the roll of fame. The one, McClellan, on his side had no superior, the other, General Lee, had no equal on either side. They now add to their well earned fame, sentiments worthy of the highest humanity and the best civilization of mankind. McClellan was removed. Words such as these awakened no response in the hearts of those who directed the war at Washington. He fell a victim to his noble sentiments, and the petty political jealousies and personal envy of his own administration.
Lee's sentiments were in perfect harmony with his life. He was honored more each day, as each day developed some new feature of greatness and goodness which excited the admiration of mankind, and bound to him in ties, that death could not sever, the personal affection of each and all of his soldiers. After the fights around Richmond, there was not a good man in the army that would not have gladly put in jeopardy his own life to preserve that of his leader. I remember well the effect of this order upon the army; they knew what he did was right, but I am sure I am in the bounds of truth when I say that it not only commanded the approval, but excited the pride of the army, and there was not one heart that did not inwardly feel that he was as good as he was great. It was obeyed almost literally; each man felt that his personal honor and the good name of Lee and his country were involved in it, and the public sentiment of the army frowned down any effort at disobedience.
But in contemplation of Lee I forgot myself and my task. I cannot paint the portrait, I must leave that to other and better artists. It has been done and will be done again. I have seen him in the storm of battle, in the hour of victory, when a nation sung his praises, and in the day of defeat, when no man blamed. I have seen him in the last days of the Confederacy when his grand army, the victors in so many battles, diminished in numbers, despondent in spirits and almost without hope, was in a steady and constant process of disintegration, night after night, hundreds of the best men would desert because they believed the cause was hopeless, and I have conferred with him as to the remedy. In all this he was the same quiet, dignified, lofty imperturbable self sacrificing soldier, without an enemy, without a rival. In all that illustrious army of Confederate officers—who in love of country and proud ambition carved their names in deathless deeds upon the escutcheon of the Confederacy—there was not one that envied Lee, not one that would have detracted the tithe of a hair from his fame. Whoever was second in this war, Robert E. Lee was and is and ever will be, by universal consent of soldiers, civilians at home and abroad, without a peer.
The same order, as we have seen, that removed McClellan appointed Gen'l Burnside commander of the Army of the Potomac. He had the greatest admiration for McClellan, and assumed a command which he had before declined with reluctance and distrust of his abilities. He was a good man, a good soldier, but without genius. His plan of the coming campaign, in his own language, was that he would march upon Richmond via Fredericksburg, cross the river promptly, and take possession of the heights south of Fredericksburg, which were afterwards held by the Confederates, before Lee could possibly concentrate his forces to interfere with the crossing, or check his onward march after he crossed to Richmond. He was prevented by the delay in his pontoons to reach him. A council of war was then held as to where the army should cross. It was first determined to cross at Skinker's Neck, about twelve miles below Fredericksburg, but the demonstration in that direction concentrated the Confederate forces there, and that was abandoned; he then determined to cross at Fredericksburg, first, as he said, because the enemy did not expect it—next, because he felt that this was the place to fight the most decisive battle, because if he divided their forces by piercing their line at one or two points, separating the wings, then a vigorous attack with the whole army would break them in pieces. This plan was submitted to the President and approved by him. It was opposed by Halleck at first, but he became acquiescent, and it was adopted.
Sumner's command reached Falmouth, on the north side of the river, and a little above Fredericksburg, on the 17th of November, 1862. On the next day General Franklin placed his whole command at Stafford Court-House, ten miles northeast of Fredericksburg, near Acquia Creek, a tributary of the Potomac. General Hooker's command was concentrated at Hartwood, about ten miles northwest of Fredericksburg, on the 19th. The cavalry were in the rear, covering the fords of the Rappahannock higher up the stream. On the 15th of November Lee sent a Mississippi regiment of infantry and Lewis' Light Battery to reinforce the small garrison at Fredericksburg, consisting at that time of the Fifteenth Virginia Cavalry, under Col. Ball. On the 17th, the day that Sumner arrived, the Confederate chieftain, ever vigilant, sent Longstreet, with McLaws and Ransom's divisions of infantry, W. H. F. Lee's cavalry, and Lane's rifle battery, to the town, which they reached on the 2Oth following. Up to this time everything pointed to Fredericksburg as the place for the concentration of the Federal troops; but Lee, anxious to remove all doubt, and to make no mistake, directed Stuart to cross the Rappahannock. This he did, in the face of the enemy, on the morning of the 18th, and reached Warrenton just after the departure of the enemy's column.
The information thus gained confirmed all the previous indications that General Burnside was moving on Fredericksburg. On the morning of the 19th the remainder of Longstreet's corps marched for that point. As we have already seen, the advance of Sumner reached Falmouth on the 17th, and made an effort to cross the river, according to report of General Lee, but was driven back by Colonel Ball with the Fifteenth Virginia Cavalry, four companies of Mississippi infantry, and Lewis' Light Battery. This is denied by Lossing in a note to his history of the civil war, in which he intimates that General Lee intentionally misrepresented the facts. The point is not very material, and will not add to or detract much from either side. The mistake, if mistake it be, is sufficiently explained in the attack made by Sumner's artillery on his arrival upon the Confederates on the south side of the river. This assault was made for some purpose, and it is not easy to see the purpose, unless it was in accord with Burnside's declared plan of crossing the river promptly and taking possession of the hills south of Fredericksburg while he was able. This view is confirmed by the facts, as conceded, that Sumner himself wished to cross, and was only prevented, as is alleged, by the order of Burnside. It does not definitely appear, assuming he had such an order, when it was given, whether before or after his attack. If before, then his conduct, if not in disobedience of the spirit of the order, was wanton and without an object; if after, then it would seem he was preparing to cross and do what it was understood General Burnside expected to do; but finding more troops and a more vigorous resistance than he expected, he held the north bank of the river until further communication with the commanding general.
A correspondent of the Philadelphia Enquirer, writing from Falmouth on the 18th of November, 1862, says that "five Mississippi regiments and Major Crutchfield's rebel cavalry brigade, it is reported on good authority, are here to dispute our crossing." Again he says, "the rebels on yesterday destroyed a scow in the river to prevent our crossing," nor does he anywhere intimate that the crossing was delayed for a moment. All these circumstances together justify the conclusion that the Confederates expected them to cross, that they were to cross, and would have crossed but for the vigorous resistance offered. This correspondent of the Enquirer evidently believed it, the Confederate commander believed it, and doubtless so reported it to General Lee. However the facts may be there is no man on either side with any knowledge of the history of the war and its leaders who, with a proper self-respect, will intimate that General Lee had for any purpose intentionally uttered an untruth. (Page 198, Rebellion Record, vol. 5, 1862-1863.)
The question arises, Why did not Sumner cross? Lee himself admits that he could not prevent it finally, except at too great a sacrifice, and his only object was to delay it until his troops could be concentrated. That concentration must take place on the heights south of Fredericksburg, and when once occupied by Lee's whole force, it would be almost impossible to dislodge him. Why, then, did not General Burnside cross when it was practicable and seize these heights? The question is more easily asked than answered, and, I imagine, can't be answered satisfactorily upon any correct military principle.
On the 21st, Sumner summoned the corporate authorities of Fredericksburg to surrender by 5 P. M., and threatened, in case of refusal, to bombard the city at 9 o'clock next morning, A storm was raging at the time of the summons. The same correspondent of the Philadelphia Enquirer says: "On the 18th very few men are to be seen in the city, but there are an abundance of women and children, and that during the silencing of the Confederate batteries on the 17th, the utmost consternation prevailed among the inhabitants. The children seemed very much frightened." No power on the Confederate side could prevent the execution of Sumner's threatened bombardment; the city was exposed to the guns off Stafford's Heights, and these were beyond the reach of the Confederate batteries. General Lee informed the city authorities, while he would not occupy the place for military purposes, he would not allow the enemy to do so, and directed them to remove the women and children as rapidly as possible. The bombardment did not take place—it is to be regretted that the threat, under all the circumstances, was ever made. In view of the threatened collision between the two armies, General Lee advised the evacuation of the city, and nearly the entire population left, and, as General Lee in his reports says, without a murmur. This was but another evidence of the high devotion of the people of the South to their cause, and though the blows fell most frequently, and the loss more heavily upon Virginia, because she was the battle-ground, yet all the States showed the same endurance and determination, and the people everywhere manifested a spirit of devotion and sacrifice which said to the world, our cause is holy, and its objects priceless. I witnessed, in part, the evacuation of Fredericksburg; I know something of the sufferings and heroism of that devoted people. It was a sad spectacle; the weather was inclement, the ground was frozen, women and children, the aged, infirm, sick and destitute, without food and thinly clad, without homes or shelter, formed in the mournful procession that went out from Fredericksburg; to seek food they knew not where, to find shelter nowhere save under heaven's canopy. Mothers could be seen with one child at the breast, while others followed, led with naked feet upon the frozen ground. Their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons were in battle array and could not help them. It was a sad, sad picture, and told of the horrors of war, and will tell to the last generation what the Confederate women and non-combatants did and were ready to suffer for their country. There were no murmurs, no protest, but many a God bless you, from suffering and pallid lips, greeted the soldiers as they passed, and as we well knew, many a silent prayer went up from pious hearts to the God of battles to protect their countrymen, to drive back the ruthless invaders, and again restore their husbands, sons and brothers to their homes and loved ones. Such women, if necessary to the cause, would themselves have lighted the brands to reduce to ashes their homes, and the brave soldier boys who witnessed their devotion, then and there determined to hurl back, with God's blessing, the foe or die. That prayer was answered; thousands of the enemy bit the dust to rise no more; thousands lived in agony and pain, and the remainder were driven back weary, wounded and sore, to the shelter of their guns on the north side of the Rappahannock. Wherever patriotism is honored, and heroism admired, let this be told in memory of the women of Fredericksburg. There should be in the old town, on the banks of the Rappahannock, a plain white marble monument to the memory of these brave women, and upon this let there be inscribed the memorable words of Lee: "History presents no instance of a people exhibiting a purer and more unselfish patriotism; they cheerfully incurred great hardship and privations, and surrendered their homes and property to destruction, rather than yield them into the hands of their enemies." I saw Fredericksburg afterwards; the city was sacked and many a home was in ashes; some of these women were there, and as they sat among its ruins as it were, in the very ashes of their desolation, they thanked God for their victory. When Burnside's army first began to move, Jackson, in pursuance of his instructions, crossed the Blue Ridge and placed himself near Orange Court House, to enable him more promptly to co-operate with Longstreet. Lee always had his troops well in hand, and seldom, if ever, made a mistake. Sometimes they were a little slow in their movements, but the fault was not his. He had time, place and circumstances well considered, and one move followed another as effect followed cause. He had no haphazard campaigns, no accidents, all was methodically and regularly done.
It has been said that the distance between Longstreet, at Culpeper, and Jackson, in the valley, was too great, and that McClellan could have crushed either one or the other, but with such an army as Lee had—always greatly inferior in numbers to the adversary—he was obliged to risk much. His enterprise and success under disadvantages showed his genius, and in this as in all cases, he had considered all the chances and made the right provision, and hence, Jackson was at the right spot at the right time. Longstreet's corps was on the left. The range of hills left the river about 550 yards above Fredericksburg; Anderson's division rested on the river, and those of McLaws, Hood and Pickett on his right, in the order named. Ransom's division supported the batteries on Marye's and Willis' hill, at the foot of which Cobb's brigade of McLaws' division, and the 24th N. C. of Ransom's brigade were stationed, protected by a stone wall. The immediate care of this part of line was committed to Gen. Ransom.
The Washington artillery, under Col. Walton, were posted on the crest of Marye's hill, and the heights to the right and left were held by part of the reserve artillery. Col. E. P. Alexander's battalion and the division batteries of Anderson, Ransom and McLaws, A. P. Hill, of Jackson's corps, was in position between Hood's right and Hamilton's crossing, on the railroad. The brigades of Pender, Lane and Archer, in front line, occupied the edge of the woods. Lieutenant-Colonel Walker, with fourteen pieces of artillery, was posted near the right, supported by the 35th and 40th Virginia regiments of Field's brigade, under Col. Brockenbrough. Lane's brigade was in advance of the general line, and held the woods which here projected into the open ground. Thomas' brigade was stationed behind, the interval between Lane and Pender and Gregg in rear of that, between Lane and Archer. These two brigades, with the 47th Virginia regiment and 22d Virginia battalion of Field's brigade, constituted Hill's reserve. Early and Talliaferro composed Jackson's second line, D. H. Hill his reserve. His artillery was posted along the line so as to command the open ground in front. Gen. Stuart, with his brigade of cavalry and his horse artillery occupied the plain on Jackson's right, extending to Massaponax creek.
About 2 A. M., on the 11th of December, the Federals commenced preparation to throw their bridges across the river, opposite Fredericksburg, and about a mile and a quarter below the mouth of Deep Run. For sixteen hours Barksdale, with two Mississippi regiments, 17th and 18th, assisted by the 8th Florida of Anderson's division, repelled all efforts of Burnside to lay his bridges; two Northern regiments were reported to have lost in the effort, 150 men; in a few minutes 150 pieces of artillery opened upon the town; this did not drive the brave Mississippians from their positions nor accomplish their purpose of laying the bridges. The bombardment was unnecessary and useless. Barksdale was finally withdrawn at the proper time, and three regiments were thrown across into the town, and the bridges were laid. On the 11th of December the entire army had crossed except Hooker's 5th corps. Lee was in a strong position on a ridge that ran from the river, diminishing in height to near Hamilton's crossing, and there held the wooded heights in front of the railroad. On the morning of the 13th the two armies confronted each other; a heavy fog enveloped the field; neither army was visible to the other; a hemisphere hung in breathless suspense upon the result; on the one side it was a war of conquest for the sake, as was alleged, of the Union; on the other it was a war in defence of homes, altars and firesides, in defence of the constitution, the keystone of the Union, which guaranteed the equality of States and the protection of private property.
On the Federal side, according to their own estimate, there were 113,000 men who answered at roll-call on the morning of the 13th of December as present for duty. On the Southern side the whole force, according to the most reliable statements, did not exceed 78,228 men. On the left, Gen. Franklin had under him more than half of Burnside's entire army. On the right, at and near Fredericksburg, Gen. Sumner had the remainder, except Hooker's 5th corps, which was held in reserve on the north bank of the river to support the right or left, and to press in case either command succeeded. Notwithstanding the advantages of position on the side of the South, the great disparity of forces in favor of the North made the conflict doubtful. Gen. Lee, in view of this, had authorized all the archives and valuables at Richmond of the Confederacy to be packed and in readiness for removal. The sun, as it were, veiled its face as if to shut out the slaughter and carnage which was soon to commence between brethren of the same race and the same country. The batteries from Stafford's Heights early in the day opened on Longstreet's position. About nine o'clock, or a little after, the fog partly lifted in the valley, and dense masses are seen moving in line of battle against A. P. Hill, of Jackson's corps. This force, under Meade, consisted of his division, Gibbons on his right with Doubleday in reserve. The young and gallant Pelham, of Stuart's horse artillery, with one section opened an enfilade fire upon the line which arrested its progress. Four batteries were turned upon him besides two others from Stafford's hills. For hours not less than thirty Federal cannon strove to silence him, but strove in vain. Never before was his skill and daring more conspicuous than to-day. Gen. Lee exclaimed, "it is inspiring to see such glorious courage in one so young."
General Jackson said with a Pelham on either flank, I could vanquish the world. He afterwards gave up his young life at the battle of Kellysville, near Culpeper Court House, at the age of 22, then in command of all the horse artillery. No more need be said. Lee and Jackson have written his history, and it lives forever. He was withdrawn by Stuart. The enemy extended his left down the Port Royal road, and all his batteries with vigor opened upon Jackson's line, eliciting no response. Meade with his infantry moved forward, joined battle all along the line, and attempted to seize position occupied by Lt.-Col. Walker. Walker reserved his fire until they had approached within less than 800 yards, and then opened fire with such destructive effect as to cause them to break and retreat in confusion. At 1 o'clock P. M., the main attack on the right was made by a heavy cannonade, under cover of which three compact lines of infantry advanced against Hill's front. Archer and Lane received this attack. The work was fierce and bloody, and the portion of the enemy's line in their front met a bloody repulse, but by some mischance, which has never been explained, there was an interval of about 600 yards between the right of Lane and the left of Archer. When Lane was assigned his position, which was some distance in front of Gen. Hill's first line, as occupied by Pender's brigade, and in front of several batteries, he soon discovered this interval, and knowing its danger, used his best efforts to have it closed, but in the confusion of the coming battle, it was omitted. The enemy, with nine regiments, pierced this interval to Lane's right, while a heavy force advanced to attack in his front. Thus assaulted in front and in flank, this gallant brigade of North Carolinians nobly maintained their ground, until the two regiments, 28th and 37th, had not only exhausted their ammunition, but such as could be obtained from their dead and wounded comrades, collected and handed them by their officers; when these two regiments had ceased firing for want of ammunition, the enemy in column doubled on the center, bore down in mass upon the brigade and it was forced to fall back, but did so in good order. Gen. Thomas, with his gallant Georgia brigade, came to Lane's assistance, and with the aid of the 18th and 7th regiments of Lane's on his left drove back the enemy and chased him to his original position. It has been said that this temporary success of the enemy was induced by the giving away in Lane's brigade of a regiment of North Carolina conscripts. This is untrue. There were no conscript regiments as such, and no troops could have behaved more gallantly, under the circumstances, than those attached to these regiments. Gen. Lee recognizes their gallantry in his report, when he says that attacked in front and flank, after a brave and obstinate resistance, the brigade gave way. Gen. Lane says, of his conscripts, "I cannot refrain from making special allusion to our conscripts, many of whom were under fire for the first time. They proved themselves worthy of a brigade that had borne itself well in all the battles of the last eight months, from Fredericksburg to Petersburg." In the meantime a large force had penetrated the interval as far as Hill's reserve, and encountered Gregg's brigade. The attack was sudden and unexpected, and mistaking the enemy for our own troops, Orr's rifles of this brigade were thrown into momentary confusion, and Gen. Gregg, while attempting to rally them, fell mortally wounded.
Hon. Wm. C. Gates, 3d Alabama District, then a captain, afterwards a colonel of the 15th Alabama, which, with the 12th and 21st Georgia and 21st North Carolina, formed Trimble's brigade, then commanded by Col. Robt. F. Hoke, told me that when this brigade, the 22d and 47th Virginia regiments of Col. Brockenbrough's command, and two others, Lawton under Atkinson, and Early under Walker, all of Early's division, rushed with a yell upon the enemy, as they advanced he saw Gen. Gregg, and as they swept by him, driving the enemy before them, the old hero, unable to speak, unable to stand alone, raised himself to his full height by a small tree, and, with cap in hand, them forward. It seemed that he had heard them as he lay mortally wounded and speechless, and as the fires of his patriotism dying out with the wasting energies of life were rekindled by the shouts of his comrades, he raised himself, cheered them on and died. Wolf, when told, as he lay wounded and dying, that the enemy fled, said, "I die contented." Gregg, with the rebel shout in his ears, which told him that a disaster had been converted into a victory, died in exultation.
This brigade, led by the dashing Hoke, seconded by the gallant Oates, who afterwards lost his arm before Richmond, swept everything before them, and as the Federals ran and massed in front of the 21st N. C., the "Tar Heels," says Col. Oates, mowed them down in files, and that charge made Hoke brigadier general, though it nearly cost him his life. His horse was stricken down by a shell; this threw Hoke, leaving one foot in the stirrup. The horse recovered and ran, dragging him some distance, until he was rescued by Col. Oates and his men.
Gregg's brigade, consisting of four regiments and one company of rifles, were under Col. Hamilton, and joined in the repulse of the enemy. Lawton's brigade, under Col. Atkinson, first encountered the enemy, followed on the right and left by Trimble and Hoke and Early under Col. Walker. Talliafero's division moved forward at the same time on Early's left, and his right regiment, the 2d Va., belonging to Paxton's brigade, joined in the attack. The enemy was pressed back to the line of the railroad embankment. They were here reinforced by Gibbons and Doubleday, but Hoke and Atkinson charged again and drove them back across the plains to their guns, inflicting great slaughter and capturing many prisoners. In this charge Col. Atkinson was severely wounded, and Capt. Lawton, the brigade adjutant, mortally wounded while gallantly leading his brigade. The attack on Hill's left was repulsed by the artillery on that part of the line which, in its turn, was assaulted by a furious cannonade from 24 guns. One brigade of the enemy moved up Deep Run, sheltered by its banks from our batteries, and surprised the flank of Pender's picket line, capturing an officer and 15 men of the 16th North Carolina regiment, but it was charged by the 16th N. C, of Pender's brigade, under the gallant Colonel McElroy, 57th N. C., under Col. Godwin, and 54th N. C., under Col. McDowell, of Hood's division, and driven back, the 57th leading and the others following in support. These two last regiments were under fire for the first time. The repulse on the right was decisive, and was not renewed, but the batteries and the sharpshooters kept up a brisk firing at intervals during the whole evening. Pender's brigade was placed in position on Friday morning early, on the extreme left of the division, where they had no shelter, not a log, or a tree, or an embankment, from the artillery of the enemy. Friday was taken up by skirmishing, and now and then a slight artillery duel.
There is no severer test of the mettle of troops than to be placed thus under a hot and deadly fire without protection and in a state of inaction. On Saturday, from early morn until late in the evening, this brigade had been exposed to a most destructive fire of shell, solid shot, and musketry. The artillery fire, at many times during the day, exceeded anything I ever saw, unless, perhaps, at Malvern Hill and Gettysburg. A spectator of the scene has, in words beyond my power, described it: "Such a scene at once terrific and sublime, mortal eye never rested upon before, unless it be the bombardment of Sebastopol by the combined batteries of France and England; never was there a more fearful manifestation of the hate and fury of man. The roar of hundreds of pieces of artillery, the bright jets of issuing flame, the screaming, hissing, shrieking projectiles, the wreaths of smoke as shell after shell burst into the still air, the savage crash of shattered forest, formed a scene likely to sink forever into the memory of all who witnessed it, but utterly defying verbal delineation. A direct and infolding fire swept each battery upon either side, as it was unmasked, volley replied to volley, crash succeeded crash, until the eye lost all power of distinguishing the lines of combatants, and the plain seemed a lake of fire, a seething lake of molten lead covered over by incarnate fiends drunk with fury and revenge." Solid shot, partly spent, rolled in our front and across the line, to our rear in great numbers, reminding one of the incessant action of balls on a billiard table when handled by a skillful player. Added to this was the incessant annoyance from the enemy's skirmishers. Pender sent out a few companies under Captain Cole to drive them back, and protect the batteries, which he did with great gallantry. During the evening General Pender was wounded by a spent ball, and was forced to retire to the hospital; the command of the brigade developed upon me in his absence, and that of the regiment upon Colonel Joseph Hyman; but he returned as soon as his wounds were dressed, and at his request I aided him in command of the brigade during the balance of the day. During the evening Lieutenant Sheppard, the aid of Pender, was killed while gallantly endeavoring to rally some troops, not our own, on our right (who had broken)—a son of the Hon. A. H. Sheppard, for many years a distinguished member of Congress from North Carolina; his death was worthy of his parentage, worthy of a soldier, and worthy of the cause.
General Pender was a West Point graduate, was among the first to resign after the secession of North Carolina, and offered his services to his State. He was very soon made Colonel of the 3rd, afterwards known as the 13th North Carolina, regiment. He was a very young man and yet had under him prominent and influential civilians, who were used to command and unused to obey, and restive and rebellious against military rule, and yet in two months or less time, he had made of it one of the best drilled, best disciplined and most efficient regiments of the service. Such merit could not be long concealed, and he was soon promoted to the colonelcy of a war regiment, and went immediately into active service in the field. He was promoted for gallantry and skill on the field to brigadier, and then to major-general in less time than twelve months. His last promotion was at the battle of Chancellorsville. He was wounded at Gettysburg, by the cap of a shell, in the thigh. We went to Staunton together, both wounded, in his ambulance; he suffered intensely on the way. We parted at Staunton to meet no more. His physician advised amputation; he sunk under the operation, and died, and thus fell one of the brightest, if not the most promising young officer of the Confederate Army. He was young and handsome, brave and skillful, prompt to decide and yet when decided, more prompt to execute. He was known, admired and trusted by his superior officers, beyond any of his age in the service; he was adored by his troops, and next to Jackson, there was perhaps no greater loss to the Army of Northern Virginia. The higher his promotion, the better fitted he seemed for his position; he was my comrade, my commander, my intimate personal friend. I must even here pause to render this feeble tribute to his memory and drop a tear on his untimely death.
As we have already shown, Longstreet's corps occupied the left of the Confederate line in the order mentioned. About 11 A. M., French, having massed his troops under cover of the houses in Fredericksburg, moved forward to seize Marye's and Willis' Heights. General Ransom, who was in immediate charge of this part of these hills, ordered Cooke's North Carolina brigade to occupy the crest, which they did in fine style. He placed his own, except the 24th North Carolina, a short distance in the rear. The 24th North Carolina was in the ditch on the left, and on a prolongation of line occupied by Cobb's brigade, which occupied the telegraph road in front of the crests protected by a stone wall. The artillery on Staffords Heights opened upon our batteries to protect the advance of their infantry. Our batteries could not reach them efficiently, and therefore were directed solely against the heavy lines of infantry as they advanced to the attack. They were driven back with great slaughter by the Washington artillery, and a well directed fire from Cobb's and Cook's brigades. Their loss was scarcely less than fifty per cent. Hancock, with his division, resumed the attack and was driven back with a loss of 2,013 out of 5,600 men, in the wildest confusion, by the same brigades. In this attack two regiments of Cook's brigade, the 46th under Colonel Hall, and the 27th, were badly exposed and suffered much as they were thrown into the road on a prolongation of Cobb's brigade, without rifle pits or any protection.
According to General Ransom, it was in this their assault that General Thomas R. Cobb, a distinguished civilian, statesman and soldier, was killed at the head of his troops, and at the same instant Brigadier-General Cooke was seriously wounded and taken from the field. Upon the death of General Cobb, which was universally lamented throughout the Confederacy, General Kershaw was ordered to reinforce General Ransom, which he did with two regiments, 2nd South Carolina, Colonel Kennedy, and 85th Cavalry, Captain Starkhouse, numbering about 700 men, and took command of the position in the telegraph road. Again did the troops under Sturgis and Getty, of the 9th Corps, renew the assault; but with the fresh troops by which Ransom had been reinforced, they were literally, says General Ransom, swept from the earth. The enemy, still not satisfied, with a pluck and desperation worthy of a better fate, gathered up the scattered fragments of the five divisions that had, each in his turn, been repulsed, made yet another assault; this too, like all the others, melted away before the pitiless storm of musketry and artillery which poured out its fury from the stone wall and the crest of Marye's Heights.
Kemper was ordered to report to General Ransom, and reinforced him with two of his regiments, including the 24th North Carolina. The Washington Artillery, under Colonel Walton, who had done splendid service and suffered much, was here relieved by a portion of Alexander's battalion. Burnside, receiving the particulars of this last repulse, ordered General Hooker to cross the river with the 5th corps, which had been, up to this time, in reserve, and "take the crest." Night approached; Hooker had learned the result of all the assaults so far, and endeavored to dissuade Burnside from it; but he was now desperate and obstinate, and insisted upon the order. Humphrey's division was selected for the sacrifice, and as a preparation for the advance, a heavy cannonade was ordered upon our lines, and continued with great fury until after sundown. The division then moved forward, apparently relying upon the bayonet. But why waste words? It did not get within bayonet distance, probably not more than 80 or 100 yards; the repulse was overwhelming; out of 4,000 men they lost 1,700.
Here fought Ransom, Cooke, Kershaw, Cobb, Kemper, Colonel Alexander, Colonel Walton, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and Louisiana. They stood side by side, supported and sustained by each other. There were no laggards, no stragglers; every man was in his place, and every man a soldier; and what was said of one State may be said of all who fought on the right or left on that memorable day. Six times did the foe, with great heroism, rush to the assault within 100 yards of the foot of the heights, and six times were they repulsed with bloody slaughter. If the battle raged furiously on our right, it was still more terrific and bloody on our left. The women and children of Fredericksburg, with all their sufferings, were terribly avenged, and the enemy sorely punished. On the 14th the Confederate troops were in line ready for the attack, which everything indicated would be renewed.
The Federals were also in line, but nothing was done during the day, save a fire at intervals from Stafford's hills on the Southern lines. The 15th passed in the same way. On the night of the 15th a storm of wind and rain raged most furiously; under cover of this Burnside returned to the North side of the Rappahannock, and the battle was over. 113,000 Federal soldiers under fire had been actually engaged with the vast artillery on both sides of the river, except a part that could not be used, which was left in the streets of Fredericksburg. Lee had an army of 78,000 (according to Palfrey and President Davis), of which only about 20,000 were engaged. The Federals lost 13,771 in killed and wounded and prisoners, 9,000 stand of arms and a large quantity of ammunition which had been left in Fredericksburg. Gen. Lee says of Cobb and Gregg, we have again to deplore the loss of two of the noblest citizens, and the army of two of its bravest and most distinguished soldiers." Gen. Burnside testified before the Committee on the Conduct of the War that all of his men were under artillery fire, and about half of them at different times were formed into columns of attack. His reply to the question as to the cause of his failure was: "It was found impossible to get the men to the works. The enemy's fire was too hot for them." Gen. Franklin, August 19, 1862, before the Senate committee said, "I fought the whole strength of my command as far as possible, and at the same time keep open my connection with the river." This battle was as fatal to the highest officers in command as it had been to the common soldier. Franklin was relieved because he could not perform impossibilities. Sumner, from disgust, resigned and died soon afterwards at the age of 72, and Burnside, in a short time, had to give way to Hooker, and resigned. Hooker was in his turned destroyed and forced to resign after the next fight. The rage and disappointment at the North knew no bounds; it gave way after some days to the consoling thought that Burnside, under cover of the storm, had escaped to the north side of the river, and was not annihilated. In the South there was unusual satisfaction, that so much had been done, tinged with a color of disappointment that the victory had not been more fruitful.
On the eve of the memorable 13th, as heretofore mentioned, just before dusk, I was with Gen. Pender, at his request, assisting in the command of his brigade. The firing had ceased, the work of the day, whether good or bad, had been done. The soldiers were eating their evening meal in contemplation of rest and sleep so necessary and sweet to the soldier, after two days of intense excitement and watchfulness, exposure and severe conflict. Courier rode up and handed to Gen. Pender an order from Gen. Jackson, through A. P. Hill. He read and re-read it, with a grave and anxious face, and handed it to me. It was in substance to hold his brigade in readiness to advance at near dusk (naming the hour), in connection with the whole line upon the enemy. This order was issued, and though there was some disappointment manifested, there was no grumbling among the troops, but all prepared with alacrity for the movement. Pender and I discussed the order—he in the light of his military education, and I in the light of its common sense and practicability. We both agreed that the order was injudicious and hazardous. In an hour it was countermanded and we slept. It has been said time and again that such a movement on the night of the 13th or on the 14th should have been made. This is not justified by the facts or circumstances in the case. Lee had but one army and if lost could not be replaced; a night attack was most hazardous; confusion and uncertainty would inevitably attend it, and the result might be disastrous. What had been done, had been done at so little loss to us, that we could form no idea of the damage, immense though it was, to the enemy. There were at least in our front 100,000 men, and at least 200 pieces of artillery, and most of them on Stafford's heights on the North side of the river beyond the reach of our guns. We did not know that so many of their troops had been actually engaged or the extent of their demoralization. The Federal government had determined upon a vigorous campaign against Richmond. There was murmuring by reason of the many disastrous failures, and their people demanded it. To this end McClellan, who was regarded as too slow, was removed and Burnside substituted. These facts, together with many other circumstances, indicated that the onward movement would not be abandoned, and that the attack would be renewed. Lee's position was almost impregnable, an assault by the Federals on the 14th, similar to the one of the 13th, promised well for the destruction of their army with comparatively little damage to us. Gen. Lee wisely determined to await further developments. On the night of the 13th, General Longstreet's line was strengthened by works and reinforced by troops in front, so that by next morning he says that he could have beaten back the world if attacked over the same ground. There were changes made also in Jackson's line, and the weaker parts reinforced. By 10 o'clock on the 14th, Gen. Longstreet, in a letter written at my request, says that it became evident that the attack would not be renewed by Burnside, and that Gen. Lee himself then considered the question of making an assault.
The attack was not made and the entire army, so far as I am advised, at the time endorsed General Lee's action. After the enemy had retired from our front and sheltered themselves at the river an attack on our part would have renewed the fight of the 13th with the positions of the two armies reversed, and the chances greatly in favor of the Federals. General Jackson, as shown by the above mentioned, order determined on the evening of the 13th to make a forward movement, and to make it at a late hour, so that if it failed, he should be able, under cover of the night, to withdraw his troops. This movement was attempted on a part of his line, and was placed in charge of General Early; but as Jackson says himself in his report, the first gun had hardly moved forward from the woods a hundred yards, when the enemy's artillery reopened and "so completely swept our front as to satisfy me that the proposed movement should be abandoned."
This should settle, and forever, the question as to Jackson's opinion and action in regard to attacking and "pushing the enemy into the river."
The troops engaged and the losses by States at Fredericksburg, were as follows:
| Lost killed
|North Carolina had 32 regiments.......................... 1,521|
|Georgia " 28 " 1 battery, 1 legion...... 1,069|
|Virginia " 25 " 1 " .............. 365|
|Mississippi " 7 " ............................ 65|
|Alabama " 9 " ............................ 70|
|South Carolina " 11 " 1 rifles.................... 531|
|Tennessee " 3 " ............................ 154|
|Louisiana " 10 " ............................ 77|
|Texas " 2 " ............................ 6|
|Florida " 2 " ............................ 45|
|North Carolina lost 1,522 out of 32 regiments.|
|Georgia " 1,069 out of 28 regiments, 1 battery, 1 legion.|
|All others " 1,313 out of 69 regiments, 1 rifles|
I have seen him since, an unpardoned rebel, without the privileges of the humblest citizen, in a land he had illustriously served as a statesman and heroically defended as a soldier with his blood. In all this there was no manifestation of weakness, no retraction}} of principle, no surrender of manhood. Eighteen years of disability and isolation have passed. He is now an old man, and stands upon the verge of the grave, and will die as he has lived, a patriot and hero. Grand old man. Grander still in the disabilities and isolation, which environ you in the land you love, twenty millions of hearts to-day invoke upon you and yours heaven's richest blessings, and generations yet unborn will be taught to cherish thy memory.
No, we were overwhelmed by numbers. The contest degenerated into a war of friction and waste. They could lose two to one and yet be greatly superior to us in numbers. The immigrants from the Old World, in countless numbers, were rushed to the front to supply the places made vacant by wounds, desertion and death.
Grant, in his campaign, but continued the policy inaugurated early in the war, of accomplishing, by a wearing out process, what he could not accomplish by skill or prowess. We yielded to overwhelming numbers; we fell commanding the respect of our enemies and the admiration of the balance of mankind. Richmond was the objective point of every movement. For this Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and all the battles of the Army of the Potomac were fought. For this Sherman marched through Georgia to the sea, leaving in his wake burning cities, ruined homes, and a desolate land. Richmond was the object. Virginia, for the most part, was the battleground. She bared her bosom to the storm, and for four long years breasted its fury, yet she faltered not; "but by her example proved that though her soil might be overrun, the spirit of her people was invincible." She lost nothing of her ancient renown. She gave Washington and Lee to the first Revolution. She gave seven Presidents to the Union. She gave Scott and Taylor to the Mexican war, and she gave Lee and Jackson, Ewell, Stuart, and A. P. Hill, among the dead, and Joe Johnston and Jubal Early, and a host of others, among the living, to the Confederacy. She gave, in the day of her wealth and power, an empire to the National Government, and in the day of her exhaustion and weakness, by the action of the same government, her territory was forcibly divided and a State carved out of it. But she still lives, and is to-day an empire within herself, the mother of heroes and States and statesmen, as well, the admiration of her sister States and the pride of her own people. God bless the noble old commonwealth! Richmond fell, then fell Virginia, and then the Confederacy.
My comrades, nearly eighteen years have passed since peace was declared. Of those who survived the war, a large number have, year by year, fallen into their graves; year by year time is tracing its indelible impressions upon us all. Many have grown gray, all of us fallen into the sere and yellow leaf, and we too must soon go the way of all the earth. While we live to us is committed the sacred duty of keeping green the graves, and to preserve unsullied the memories of the dead. While one of us may remain, let him, if need be, like old mortality, devote himself to the pious task of renewing and preserving the records and chiselling deeper in the marble, inscriptions that tell of deeds that must not die, and let me urge you, if it be necessary to this end, to teach your children the names of the battles, the names of the heroes, as far as it can be done, and the graves of the unknown martyrs. Let them take up the sacred task where we leave it, and let them so teach their children's children to the latest generation. Let Yankee Doodle and Dixie stand side by side; they were both inspired by the love of liberty. Let Manassas, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, King's Mountain and Yorktown live on the same sacred page of our history, for they were alike struggles in the cause of freedom and the rights of men. We were successful, that proves nothing as to the right; the principle is unchanged, impartial history will vindicate us, and to that tribunal we commit the Lost Cause.There is no conflict in all this with our duty to the Union. It is the duty of every citizen to honor it in peace and defend it in war, and I am sure none will respond to these duties of the citizens with more alacrity or faithfulness than the battle scarred veterans who followed Lee and Jackson, and their descendants.
BATTLE OF SECOND MANASSAS, INCLUDING
Extracts from the War Record of James M. Garnett, late Captain and
Ordnance Officer of Grimes' (formerly Rhodes') Division,
Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, C.S.A.
I have never written a full account of the Second Battle of Manassas, but in Volume 2, of my (M. S.) "Papers and Reviews" there will be found reviews of Vols I and II of "Papers of the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts," contributed to the Richmond Times of February 23 and March I, 1896, Vol. I treating of the "Campaigns of Virginia, 1861-62," and Vol. II of "The Virginia Campaign of 1862 under General Pope." These volumes well deserve publication, and are of great interest to the military student. I have no other copies of these reviews except the ones above mentioned, but in Volume 2 of my M. S. "Papers and Reviews" will be found my descriptions of the battles of Cedar Mountain and Second Manassas. From the latter and my personal recollections, I shall write here an account of the Second Manassas as far as I was in it. I have written previously an account of Cedar Mountain.
"After spending the night in the woods above the old unfinished railroad cut, not far from Dudley Mills, we awoke next morning much refreshed, but hungry, as our feast at Manassas did not last long. We waited for Longstreet all day of the 28th, but heard nothing of him. Nor did we see anything of the Yankees until the afternoon, when skirmishing began on our right, and soon both of our divisions, Jackson's and Swell's, were ordered in. Our division was now commanded by Gen. Wm. B. Taliaferro and our brigade by Col. W. H. S. Baylor, of the Fifth Virginia regiment. General Jackson having no staff officer with him, and seeing me (that formerly
- i.e., Seven Pines
- Actually, FIVE regiments: the "company of rifles" was the aforementioned 1st S.C. (Orr's) Rifle Regiment.
- 1,521 here, but...
- ...1,522 here.
- Does this refer to Orr's Rifles? If so, why the distinction from other regiments?