The Project Gutenberg EBook of Following the Flag, by Charles Carleton Coffin This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Following the Flag From August 1861 to November 1862 Author: Charles Carleton Coffin Release Date: September 4, 2013 [EBook #43641] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK FOLLOWING THE FLAG *** Produced by D Alexander, Linda Hamilton, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)
UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME
By CHARLES CARLETON COFFIN
Following the Flag.
Four Years of Fighting.
My Days and Nights on the Battlefield.
Winning His Way.
Price, postpaid, 50c. each, or any three books for $1.25
HURST & COMPANY
It will be many years before a complete history of the operations of the armies of the Union can be written; but that is not a sufficient reason why historical pictures may not now be painted from such materials as have come to hand. This volume, therefore, is a sketch of the operations of the Army of the Potomac from August, 1861, to November, 1862, while commanded by General McClellan. To avoid detail, the organization of the army is given in an Appendix. It has not been possible, in a book of this size, to give the movements of regiments; but the narrative has been limited to the operations of brigades and divisions. It will be comparatively easy, however, for the reader to ascertain the general position of any regiment in the different battles, by consulting the Appendix in connection with the narrative.
|I.||Organization of the Army of the Potomac||11|
|III.||Battle of Dranesville, and the Winter of 1862||38|
|IV.||Siege of Yorktown||49|
|V.||Battle of Williamsburg||65|
|VI.||On the Chickahominy||82|
|Affair at Hanover Court-House||84|
|VIII.||Seven Days of Fighting||108|
|Battle of Mechanicsville||111|
|Battle of Gaines's Mills||115|
|Movement to James River||121|
|Battle of Savage Station||123|
|Battle of Glendale||125|
|Battle of Malvern||131|
|IX.||Affairs in front of Washington||138|
|Battle of Cedar Mountain||140|
|X.||Battle of Groveton||147|
|The Retreat to Washington||157|
|XI.||[Pg 6]Invasion of Maryland||158|
|Battle of South Mountain||165|
|Surrender of Harper's Ferry||171|
|XII.||Battle of Antietam||175|
|The Attack upon the Center||206|
|General Franklin's Arrival||216|
|XIII.||After the Battle||238|
|XIV.||The March from Harper's Ferry to Warrenton||250|
|Removal of General McClellan||269|
|The Organization of the Army of the Potomac, April, 1862||278|
|Battle of Dranesville||41|
|Battle of Williamsburg||69|
|Battle of Fair Oaks||91|
|Battle of Mechanicsville||112|
|Battle of Gaines's Mills||116|
|Battle of Glendale||128|
|Battle of Malvern||134|
|Battle of Groveton||149|
|Battle-Field of Antietam||180|
|French's and Richardson's Attack||208|
|Burnside's Second Attack||232|
For more than three years I have followed the flag of our country in the East and in the West and in the South,—on the ocean, on the land, and on the great rivers. A year ago I gave in a volume entitled "My Days and Nights on the Battle-Field" a description of the Battle of Bull Run, and other battles in Kentucky, Tennessee, and on the Mississippi.
It has been my privilege to witness nearly all the great battles fought by the Army of the Potomac,—Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, at the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, the North Anna, Coal Harbor and at Petersburg. Letters have been received from those who are strangers to me as well as from friends, expressing a desire that I should give a connected account, not only of the operations of that army, from its organization, but of other armies; also of the glorious achievements of the navy in this great struggle of our country for national existence. The present volume, therefore, will be the second of the contemplated series.
During the late campaign in Virginia, many facts and incidents were obtained which give an insight into the operations of the armies of the South, not before known. Time will undoubtedly[Pg 10] reveal other important facts, which will be made use of in the future. It will be my endeavor to sift from the immense amount of material already accumulated a concise and trustworthy account, that we may know how our patriot brothers have fought to save the country and to secure to all who may live after them the blessings of a free government.
The battle of Bull Run, or of Manassas, as the Rebels call it, which was fought on the 21st of July, 1861, was the first great battle of the war. It was disastrous to the Union army. But the people of the North were not disheartened by it. Their pride was mortified, for they had confidently expected a victory, and had not taken into consideration the possibility of a defeat. The victory was all but won, as has been narrated in "My Days and Nights on the Battle-Field," when the arrival of a brigade of Rebels and the great mistake of Captain Barry, who supposed them to be Union troops, turned the scale, and the battle was lost to the Union army.
But the people of the North, who loved the Union, could not think of giving up the contest,—of having the country divided, and the old flag trailed in the dust. They felt that it would be impossible to live peaceably side by side with those who declared themselves superior to the laboring men of the Free States, and were their[Pg 12] rightful masters. They were not willing to acknowledge that the slaveholders were their masters. They felt that there could not be friendship and amity between themselves and a nation which had declared that slavery was its cornerstone. Besides all this, the slaveholders wanted Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri in the Southern Confederacy, while the majority of the people of those States wanted to stay in the Union. The Rebels professed that they were willing that each State should choose for itself, but they were insincere and treacherous in their professions. Kentucky would not join the Confederacy; therefore they invaded the State to compel the people to forsake the old flag.
A gentleman from Ohio accompanied a Southern lady to Columbus, on the Mississippi, to see her safely among her friends. General Polk was commander of the Rebel forces at that place, and they talked about the war.
"I wish it might be settled," said the General.
"How will you settle?"
"O, all we ask is to have all that belongs to us, and to be let alone."
"What belongs to you?"
"All that has always been acknowledged as ours."
"Do you want Missouri?"
"Yes, that is ours."
"Do you want Kentucky?"
"Yes, certainly. The Ohio River has always been considered as the boundary line."
"But Kentucky don't want you."
"We must have her."
"You want all of Virginia?"
"You want Maryland?"
"What will you do with Washington?"
"We don't want it. Remove it if you want to; but Maryland is ours."1
Such was the conversation; and this feeling, that they must have all the Slave States to form a great slaveholding confederacy, was universal in the South.
Besides this, they held the people in the Free States in contempt. Even the children of the South were so influenced by the system of slavery that they thought themselves superior to the people of the Free States who worked for a living.
I heard a girl, who was not more than ten years old, say that the Northern people were all "old scrubs"! Not to be a scrub was to own slaves,—to work them hard and pay them nothing,—to sell them, to raise children for the market,—to separate mothers from their babes, wives from their husbands,—to live solely for their own interests, happiness, and pleasure, without regard to the natural rights of others. This little girl, although her mother kept a boarding-house, felt that she was too good to play with Northern children, or if she noticed them at all, it was as a superior.
Feeling themselves the superiors of the Northern people, having been victorious at Manassas, the people of the South became enthusiastic for continuing the war. Thousands of volunteers[Pg 14] joined the Rebels already in arms. Before the summer of 1861 had passed, General Johnston had a large army in front of Washington, which was called the Army of the Potomac.
At the same time thousands rushed to arms in the North. They saw clearly that there was but one course to pursue,—to fight it out, defeat the Rebels, vindicate their honor, and save the country.
The Union army which gathered at Washington was also styled the Army of the Potomac. Many of the soldiers who fought at Manassas were three months' men. As their terms of service expired their places were filled by men who enlisted for three years, if not sooner discharged.
General George B. McClellan, who with General Rosecrans had been successfully conducting the war in Western Virginia, was called to Washington to organize an army which, it was hoped, would defeat the Rebels, and move on to Richmond.
The people wanted a leader. General Scott, who had fought at Niagara and Lundy's Lane, who had captured the city of Mexico, was too old and infirm to take the field. General McDowell, although his plan of attack at Bull Run was approved, had failed of victory. General McClellan had been successful in the skirmishes at Philippi and at Rich Mountain. He was known to be a good engineer. He had been a visitor to Russia during the Crimean war, and had written a book upon that war, which was published by Congress. He was a native of Pennsylvania and a resident of Ohio when the war broke out. The governors of both of those States[Pg 15] sent him a commission as a brigadier-general, because he had had military experience in Mexico, and because he was known as a military man, and because they were in great need of experienced men to command the troops. Having all these things in his favor, he was called to Washington and made commander of the Army of the Potomac on the 27th of July.
He immediately submitted a plan of operations to the President for suppressing the rebellion. He thought that if Kentucky remained loyal, twenty thousand men moving down the Mississippi would be sufficient to quell the rebellion in the West. Western Virginia could be held by five or ten thousand more. He would have ten thousand protect the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Potomac River, five thousand at Baltimore, twenty thousand at Washington, and three thousand at Fortress Monroe. One grand army for active operations was needed, to consist of two hundred and twenty-five thousand infantry, six hundred pieces of field artillery, twenty-five thousand cavalry, and seven thousand five hundred engineers, making a total of two hundred and seventy-three thousand men. In his letter to the President, General McClellan says: "I propose, with the force which I have requested, not only to drive the enemy out of Virginia, and occupy Richmond, but to occupy Charleston, Savannah, Montgomery, Pensacola, Mobile, and New Orleans; in other words, to move into the heart of the enemy's country, and crush the rebellion in its very heart."2
It was found a very difficult matter to obtain arms for the soldiers; for President Buchanan's Secretary of War, Floyd, had sent most of the arms in Northern arsenals to the South before the war commenced. But, notwithstanding this, so earnest were the people, and so energetic the government, that on the 1st of October, two months from the time that General McClellan took command, there were one hundred and sixty-eight thousand men in the Army of the Potomac, with two hundred and twenty pieces of artillery; besides this, the government had a large army in Kentucky, and another in Missouri. The Rebels had large armies in those States, and were making great efforts to secure them to the Confederacy. It was not possible to send all the troops to Washington, as General McClellan desired.
The Rebel army was commanded by General Joseph E. Johnston. He had about seventy thousand men, with his headquarters at Manassas. Some of the spies which were sent out by General McClellan reported a much larger force under Johnston, and General McClellan believed that he had one hundred and fifty thousand men. Strong fortifications were erected to defend Washington; General Johnston wished very much to take the city, and the people of the South expected that he would gain possession of it and drive out the hated Yankees. He pushed his troops almost up to General McClellan's lines, taking possession of Munson's Hill, which is only five miles from the Long Bridge at Washington.
The Rebels erected breastworks upon the hill, and threw shot and shells almost to Arlington House. From the hill they could see the spires of[Pg 17] the city of Washington, the white dome of the capitol, and its marble pillars. No doubt they longed to have it in their possession; but there were thousands of men in arms and hundreds of cannon and a wide river between them and the city.
One bright October morning I rode to Bailey's Cross-roads, which is about a mile from Munson's Hill. Looking across a cornfield, I could see the Rebels behind their breastworks. Their battle-flags were waving gayly. Their bayonets gleamed in the sunshine. A group of officers had gathered on the summit of the hill. With my field-glass, I could see what they were doing. They examined maps, looked towards Washington, and pointed out the position of the Union fortifications. There were ladies present, who looked earnestly towards the city, and chatted merrily with the officers. A few days after, I saw in a Richmond paper that the officers were Generals Lee, Beauregard, and Johnston, and that one of the ladies was Mrs. Lee.
General Lee was within sight of his old home; but he had become a traitor to his country, and it was to be his no more. Never again would he sit in the spacious parlors, or walk the verdant lawn, or look upon the beautiful panorama of city and country, forest and field, hill and valley, land and water,—upon the ripened wheat on the hillside or the waving corn in the meadows,—upon the broad Potomac, gleaming in the sunshine, or upon the white-winged ships sailing upon its bosom,—upon the city, with its magnificent buildings, upon the marble shaft rising to the memory of Washington, or upon the outline of the[Pg 18] hills of Bladensburg, faint and dim in the distance.
He joined the rebellion because he believed that a state was more than the nation, that Virginia was greater than the Union, that she had a right to leave it, and was justified in seceding from it. He belonged to an old family, which, when Virginia was a colony of Great Britain, had influence and power. He owned many slaves. He believed that the institution of slavery was right. He left the Union to serve Virginia, resigned his command as colonel of cavalry, which he held under the United States. He accepted a commission from Jefferson Davis, forswore his allegiance to his country, turned his back upon the old flag, proved recreant in the hour of trial, and became an enemy to the nation which had trusted and honored him.
The summer passed away and the golden months of autumn came round. The troops were organized into brigades and divisions. They were drilled daily. In the morning at six o'clock the drummers beat the reveille. The soldiers sprang to their feet at the sound, and formed in company lines to answer the roll-call. Then they had breakfast of hard-tack and coffee. After breakfast the guards were sent out. At eight o'clock there were company drills in marching, in handling their muskets, in charging bayonet, and resisting an imaginary onset from the enemy. At twelve o'clock they had dinner,—more hard-tack, pork or beef, or rice and molasses. In the afternoon there were regimental, brigade, and sometimes division drills,—the men carrying their knapsacks, canteens, haversacks, and blankets,—[Pg 19]just as if they were on the march. At sunset each regiment had a dress parade. Then each soldier was expected to be in his best trim. In well-disciplined regiments, all wore white gloves when they appeared on dress parade. It was a fine sight,—the long line of men in blue, the ranks straight and even, each soldier doing his best. Marching proudly to the music of the band, the light of the setting sun falling aslant upon their bright bayonets, and the flag they loved waving above them, thrilling them with remembrances of the glorious deeds of their fathers, who bore it aloft at Saratoga, Trenton, and Princeton, at Queenstown and New Orleans, at Buena Vista and Chapultepec, who beneath its endearing folds laid the foundations of the nation and secured the rights of civil and religious liberty. Each soldier felt that he would be an unworthy son, if traitors and rebels were permitted to overthrow a government which had cost so much sacrifice and blood and treasure, and which was the hope of the oppressed throughout all the world.
In the evening there were no military duties to be performed, and the soldiers told stories around the camp-fires, or sang songs, or had a dance; for in each company there was usually one who could play the violin. Many merry times they had. Some sat in their tents and read the newspapers or whatever they could find to interest them, with a bayonet stuck in the ground for a candle-stick. There were some who, at home, had attended the Sabbath school. Although in camp, they did not forget what they had left behind. The Bible was precious to them. They read its[Pg 20] sacred pages and treasured its holy truths. Sometimes they had a prayer-meeting, and asked God to bless them, the friends they had left behind, and the country for which they were ready to die, if need be, to save it from destruction.
But at the tap of the drum at nine o'clock the laughter, the songs, the dances, the stories, the readings, and the prayer-meetings, all were brought to a close, the lights were put out, and silence reigned throughout the camp, broken only by the step of the watchful sentinel.
The soldiers soon grew weary of this monotony. They had been accustomed to an active life. It was an army different from any ever before organized. It was composed in a great degree of thinking men. Many of them were leading citizens in the towns where they lived. They were well educated and were refined in their manners. They knew there was to be hard fighting and a desperate contest, that many never would return to their homes, but would find their graves upon the field of battle; yet they were ready to meet the enemy, and waited impatiently for orders to march.
There were grand reviews of troops during the fall, by which the officers and soldiers became somewhat accustomed to moving in large bodies. All of the troops which could be spared from the fortifications and advanced positions were brought together at Bailey's Cross-roads, after the Rebels evacuated Munson's Hill, to be reviewed by the President and General McClellan. There were seventy thousand men. It was a grand sight. Each regiment tried to outdo all others in its appearance and its marching. They[Pg 21] moved by companies past the President, bands playing national airs, the drums beating, and the flags waving. There were several hundred pieces of artillery, and several thousand cavalrymen. The ground shook beneath the steady marching of the great mass of men, and the tread of thousands of hoofs. It was the finest military display ever seen in America.
It was expected that the army would soon move upon the enemy. General McClellan, in a letter to the President, advised that the advance should not be postponed later than the 25th of November. The time passed rapidly. The roads were smooth and hard. The days were golden with sunshine, and the stars shone from a cloudless sky at night; but there were no movements during the month, except reconnaissances by brigades and divisions.
The Rebels erected batteries on the south side of the Potomac, below the Occoquan, and blockaded it. They had destroyed the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Chesapeake Canal, so that the Union army and the city of Washington were dependent on the one line of railroad to Baltimore for all its supplies. It was very desirable that the Potomac should be opened. General Hooker, who commanded a division at Budd's Ferry, wished very much to attack the Rebels, with the aid of the navy, and capture the batteries, but General McClellan did not wish one division to move till the whole army was ready. December passed, and the year completed its round. Cold nights and blustering days came, and the army, numbering two hundred thousand men, went into winter quarters.
There were but two events of importance during the long period of inactivity in the autumn of 1861,—a disaster at Ball's Bluff and a victory at Dranesville.
In October General Stone's division of the Army of the Potomac was at Poolesville in Maryland. General Banks's division was at Darnestown, between Poolesville and Washington. General McCall's division was at a little hamlet called Lewinsville, on the turnpike leading from the chain bridge to Leesburg, on the Virginia side. The main body of the Rebels was at Centreville, but there was a brigade at Leesburg.
It is a beautiful and fertile country around that pleasant Virginia town. West of the town are high hills, called the Catoctin Mountains. If we were standing on their summits, and looking east, we should see the town of Leesburg at our feet. It is a place of three or four thousand inhabitants. There are several churches, a court-house, a market-place, where, before the war, the farmers sold their wheat, and corn, oats, and garden vegetables. Three miles east of the town we behold the Potomac sparkling in the sunlight, its current divided by Harrison's Island. The distance from the Virginia shore to the island is about one hundred and eighty feet; from the island to the Maryland shore it is six or seven[Pg 23] hundred feet. The bank on the Virginia side is steep, and seventy-five or eighty feet high, and is called Ball's Bluff. A canal runs along the Maryland shore. Four miles below the island is Edward's Ferry, and three miles east of it is Poolesville.
In October, General McClellan desired to make a movement which would compel General Evans, commanding the Rebels at Leesburg, to leave the place. He therefore directed General McCall to move up to Dranesville, on the Leesburg turnpike. Such a movement would threaten to cut General Evans off from Centreville. At the same time he sent word to General Stone, that if he were to make a demonstration towards Leesburg it might drive them away.
On Sunday night, at sundown, October 20th, General Stone ordered Colonel Devens of the Massachusetts Fifteenth to send a squad of men across the river, to see if there were any Rebels in and around Leesburg.
Captain Philbrick, with twenty men of that regiment, crossed in three small boats, hauled them upon the bank, went up the bluff by a winding path, moved cautiously through the woods, also through a cornfield, and went within a mile and a half of Leesburg, seeing no pickets, hearing no alarm. But the men saw what they thought was an encampment. They returned at midnight and reported to General Stone, who ordered Colonel Devens to go over with about half of his regiment and hold the bluff.
The only means which General Stone had for crossing troops was one flat-boat, an old ferry-boat, and three small boats.
Colonel Devens embarked his men on the boats about three o'clock in the morning. The soldiers pushed them to the foot of the bluff, then returned for other detachments. The men went up the path and formed in line on the top of the bluff. By daybreak he had five companies on the Virginia shore. He moved through the open field towards the encampment which Captain Philbrick and his men had seen, as they thought, but which proved to be only an opening in the woods. But just as the sun's first rays were lighting the Catoctin hills he came upon the Rebel pickets in the woods beyond the field. The pickets fired a few shots and fled towards Leesburg, giving the alarm.
The town was soon in commotion. The drums beat, the Rebel troops then rushed out of their tents and formed in line, and the people of the town jumped from their breakfast-tables at the startling cry, "The Yankees are coming!"
General Evans, the Rebel commander, the day before had moved to Goose Creek to meet General McCall, if he should push beyond Dranesville. He had the Eighth Virginia, the Thirteenth, Seventeenth, and Eighteenth Mississippi Regiments, and a squadron of cavalry and four pieces of artillery.
Captain Duff, commanding a detachment of the Seventeenth Mississippi, was left at Leesburg. As soon as Colonel Devens's advance was discovered, he formed his men in the woods and sent word to General Evans, who hastened with his whole brigade to the spot.
General Stone placed Colonel Baker, commanding the First California Regiment, in command[Pg 25] of the forces upon the Virginia side of the river. Colonel Baker was a Senator from Oregon,—a noble man, an eloquent orator, a patriot, and as brave as he was patriotic. During the forenoon a portion of the Twentieth Massachusetts Regiment, commanded by Colonel Lee, was sent over.
Just before twelve o'clock General Stone sent word to Colonel Baker that the force of the enemy was supposed to be about four thousand. Colonel Baker was in doubt whether to remain or whether to send over more troops; but word came to him that the Rebels were advancing, and he ordered over the Tammany Regiment of New York troops, commanded by Colonel Cogswell, and Lieutenant-Colonel Wistar's California Regiment. Colonel Baker went over about two o'clock in the afternoon. By constant effort, he succeeded in getting about seventeen hundred men over during the day, and three cannon,—two mountain howitzers and one rifled gun. It was nearly three o'clock in the afternoon before General Evans began the attack. He had captured a courier the day before, sent by General McCall to General Meade, and from the despatches learned that General McCall was only making a reconnaissance. This information led him to bring all his forces back to Leesburg, and it also delayed his attack until late in the afternoon.
Captain Duff, of the Seventeenth Mississippi, was reinforced first by four companies of the Thirteenth and Eighteenth Mississippi, commanded by Colonel Jennifer. About two o'clock the Eighth Virginia arrived from Goose Creek, commanded by Colonel Huntoon. Other reinforcements were near at hand.
"Drive the Yankees into the river!" was General Evans's order.
He had the advantage of position, being on higher ground than that occupied by Colonel Baker. But he advanced very cautiously.
Colonel Baker formed his men on the eastern border of the field in the edge of the woods. The Fifteenth Massachusetts was on the right,—next there was a portion of the Twentieth Massachusetts, which had been sent over, and then the California and Tammany regiments. The Rebels began to fire at long range. Some of them climbed into the trees,—some secreted themselves in the shocks of corn which were standing in the field,—some crouched behind the fences and trees. Colonel Baker, to save his men, ordered them to lie down.
Colonel Jennifer, commanding a Rebel regiment, with a party of skirmishers, went round the north side of the field and came upon the Fifteenth Massachusetts, but the men of that regiment fired so steadily that the Rebels were forced to retire.
At the southwest corner of the field was a farm road, down which the Rebels advanced. The howitzers and the cannon were placed in position to rake that road, and the Rebels were compelled to leave it and form in the woods.
It was apparent to Colonel Baker and all of his command at three o'clock that the Rebels outnumbered them, but they prepared to make a brave fight. The fire from both sides began to be more fierce and rapid.
At this time General Gorman had crossed the river at Edward's Ferry, three miles below, with[Pg 27] fifteen hundred men. General Evans, to prevent a junction of the Union forces, moved his troops into a ravine, and came upon the left flank of Colonel Baker's command.
"I want to find out what the Rebels are doing out there," said Colonel Baker to Colonel Wistar, "and I want you to send out two companies."
Colonel Wistar sent out Captain Marco with one company, and went himself with the other. About fifty yards in front of Colonel Wistar was a hill, and behind this Evans was preparing to make a charge. Suddenly the Eighth Virginia, who had been lying upon the ground, sprang to their feet, and, without firing a shot, advanced upon Captain Marco. His men, without waiting for orders, fired, and for fifteen minutes there was a very hot time of it,—the two companies holding their ground against the superior force. Captain Marco had deployed his men as skirmishers, while the Virginians were in close rank, and so destructive was the fire from Captain Marco's command, that the Rebel lines gave way.
But it was at a fearful cost that the brave men held their ground so long. During this time all their officers, and all their corporals and sergeants but three, and two-thirds of the men, were killed or wounded! They fell back at last under command of a sergeant, carrying with them a lieutenant and fourteen men of the Eighth Virginia prisoners.
The Rebels having reformed their line, came down upon the left flank of the California regiment. Colonel Wistar saw them in the ravine, faced four of his companies to meet them, and gave them a volley which threw them into con[Pg 28]fusion, and, after firing a few scattering shots, they ran up the ravine, and disappeared behind the hill.
For an hour or more the firing was at long range, each party availing themselves of the shelter of the woods. The men were ordered by Colonel Baker to shield themselves as much as possible, but himself and the other officers stood boldly out in the hottest fire.
"That is pretty close!" said Colonel Baker to Colonel Wistar, as a bullet came between them. Soon another ball cut off a twig over Colonel Baker's head.
"That fellow means us," he said, pointing to a Rebel in a distant tree. "Boys, do you see him? Now some of you try him," he said to company C, of Colonel Wistar's regiment. The soldiers singled out the man, who soon tumbled from the tree. He repeatedly cautioned his men about exposing themselves. He wanted to save them for the final conflict, which he knew must come before long.
"Lie close, don't expose yourself," he said to a brave soldier who was deliberately loading and firing.
"Colonel, you expose yourself, and why shouldn't I?"
"Ah! my son, when you get to be a United States senator and a colonel, you will feel that you must not lie down in face of the 'enemy.'"
He knew that it would be asked if he was brave in the hour of battle. It was his duty to expose himself, to show his men and all the world that he was not afraid to meet the enemy, and was worthy of the position he held.
One of the Mississippi regiments tried again to outflank Colonel Baker's left. The Rebels came within fifty feet of the California regiment; but the constant and steady fire given by that regiment again forced them back. It was an unbroken roll of musketry through the afternoon. The Union soldiers held their ground manfully, but their ammunition was giving out. The men, as fast as their cartridge-boxes became empty, helped themselves from the boxes of their fallen comrades. They could not obtain reinforcements for want of boats, although there were troops enough upon the Maryland shore to overwhelm the enemy. The boats were old and leaky, and were used to carry the wounded to the island. General Stone had taken no measures to obtain other boats. He was at Edward's Ferry, within sight and sound of the battle. He had fifteen hun[Pg 30]dred troops across the river at that point, and he might have ordered their advance towards Leesburg. They could have gained General Evans's rear, for there was no force to oppose them. The troops stood idly upon the bank, wondering that they were not ordered to march. So the brave men on the bluff, confronted by nearly twice their number, were left to their fate.
"We can cut our way through to Edward's Ferry," said Colonel Devens.
"If I had two more such regiments as the Massachusetts Fifteenth, I would cut my way to Leesburg," said Colonel Baker.
He went along the line encouraging the men to hold out to the last. His cool bearing, and the glance of his eagle eye, inspired the men and they compelled the Rebels again and again to fall back. Lieutenant-Colonel Wistar was wounded, but refused to leave the field. He remained with his men and kept a close watch upon the ravine and the hillock at his left hand. He saw that General Evans was making preparations for a desperate onset. He was gathering his troops in a mass behind the hill.
"Drive the Yankees into the Potomac," said General Evans, again. He had more than two thousand men.
"There is not a moment to lose. A heavy column is behind the hill and they are getting ready to advance," said Colonel Wistar, hastening to Colonel Baker.
Lieutenant Bramhall was ordered to open upon them with his rifled gun. He brought it into position and fired a round or two, but two of his cannoneers were instantly killed and five others[Pg 31] wounded. Colonel Baker, Colonel Wistar, and Colonel Cogswell used the rammer and sponges, and aided in firing it till other cannoneers arrived. Colonel Wistar was wounded again while serving the gun. They could not reach the main body of Rebels behind the hill, but kept the others in check with canister as often as they attempted to advance.
The force behind the hill suddenly came over it, yelling and whooping like savages. Colonel Baker was in front of his men, urging them to resist the impending shock. He was calm and collected, standing with his face to the foe, his left hand in his bosom. A man sprang from the Rebel ranks, ran up behind him, and with a self-cocking revolver fired six bullets into him. Two soldiers in front of him fired at the same time. One bullet tore open his side, another passed through his skull. Without a murmur, a groan, or a sigh, he fell dead.
But as he fell, Captain Beirel of the California regiment leaped from the ranks and blew out the fellow's brains with his pistol.
There was a fierce and terrible fight. The Californians rushed forward to save the body of their beloved commander. They fell upon the enemy with the fury of madmen. They thought not of life or death. They had no fear. Each man was a host in himself. There was a close hand-to-hand contest, bayonet-thrusts, desperate struggles, trials of strength. Men fell, but rose again, bleeding, yet still fighting, driving home the bayonet, pushing back the foe, clearing a space around the body of the fallen hero, and bearing it from the field.
While this contest was going on, some one said, "Fall back to the river." Some of the soldiers started upon the run.
"Stand your ground!" shouted Colonel Devens.
Some who had started for the river came back, but others kept on. The line was broken, and it was too late to recover what had been lost. They all ran to the bank of the river. Some halted on the edge of the bluff and formed in line, to make another stand, but hundreds rushed down the banks to the boats. They pushed off into the stream, but the overloaded flat-boat was whirled under by the swift current, and the soldiers were thrown into the water. Some sank instantly, others came up and clutched at sticks, thrust their arms towards the light, and with a wild, despairing cry went down. Some clung to floating planks, and floated far down the river, gaining the shore at Edward's Ferry. A few who could swim reached the island. All the while the Rebels from the bank poured a murderous fire upon the struggling victims in the water and upon the bank.
Lieutenant Bramhall ran his cannon down the bank into the river, to save them from falling into the hands of the enemy. Some of the officers and soldiers secreted themselves in the bushes till darkness came on, then sprung into the river and swam to the island, and thus escaped,—reaching it naked, chilled, exhausted, to shiver through the long hours of a cold October night. Of the seventeen hundred who crossed the Potomac, nearly one half were killed, wounded, or captured by the enemy.
There was great rejoicing at Leesburg that night. The citizens who had been so frightened in the morning when they heard that the Yankees were coming, now illuminated their houses, and spread a feast for the Rebel soldiers. When the Union prisoners arrived in the town, the men and women called them hard names, shouted "Bull Run," "Yankee Invaders," but the men who had fought so bravely under such disadvantages were too noble to take any notice of the insults. Indians seldom taunt or insult their captives taken in war. Civilized nations everywhere respect those whom the fortunes of war have placed in their hands; but slavery uncivilizes men. It makes them intolerant, imperious, and brutal, and hence the men and women of the South, who accepted secession, who became traitors to their country, manifested a malignity and fiendishness towards Union prisoners which has no parallel in the history of civilized nations.
There was great rejoicing throughout the South. It gave the leaders and fomenters of the rebellion arguments which they used to prove that the Yankees were cowards, and would not fight, and that the North would soon be a conquered nation.
It was a sad sight at Poolesville. Tidings of the disaster reached the place during the evening. The wounded began to arrive. It was heart-rending to hear their accounts of the scene at the river bank, when the line gave way. Hundreds of soldiers came into the lines naked, having thrown away everything to enable them to swim the river. The night set in dark and[Pg 34] stormy. After swimming the river, they had crowded along the Maryland shore, through briers, thorns, and thistles, stumbling over fallen trees and stones in the darkness, while endeavoring to reach their encampments. Many were found in the woods in the morning, having fallen through exhaustion.
Thus by the incompetency of those in command, a terrible disaster was brought about. General McClellan and General Stone were both severely censured by the people for this needless, inexcusable sacrifice. Grave doubts were entertained in regard to the loyalty of General Stone, for he permitted the wives of officers in the Rebel service to pass into Maryland and return to Virginia, with packages and bundles, whenever they pleased, and he ordered his pickets to heed any signals they might see from the Rebels, and to receive any packages they might send, and forward them to his quarters.3
When these facts became known to the War Department, General Stone was arrested and confined in Fort Warren in Boston Harbor, but he was subsequently released, having no charges preferred against him.
Lieutenant Putnam of the Twentieth Massachusetts, who was so young that he was called the "boy soldier," was mortally wounded in the battle, was carried to Poolesville, where he died the next day. He came of noble blood. His father was descended from the ancestor of old General Putnam, who fought the French and Indians on the shores of Lake Champlain, who did not stop to unyoke his oxen in the field, when he[Pg 35] heard of the affair at Lexington, and hastened to meet the enemy.
Rev. James Freeman Clarke, at his funeral said:—
"His mother's family has given to us statesmen, sages, patriots, poets, scholars, orators, economists, philanthropists, and now gives us also a hero and a martyr. His great grandfather, Judge Lowell, inserted in the Bill of Rights, prefixed to the Constitution of this State, the clause declaring that 'all men are born free and equal,' for the purpose, as he avowed at the time, of abolishing slavery in Massachusetts, and he was appointed by Washington, federal judge of the district.
"His grandfather was minister of this church, [West Church, Boston,] honored and loved as few men have been, for more than half a century.
"Born in Boston in 1840, he was educated in Europe, where he went when eleven years old, and where in France, Germany, and Italy he showed that he possessed the ancestral faculty of mastering easily all languages, and where he faithfully studied classic and Christian antiquity and art. Under the best and most loving guidance, he read with joy the vivid descriptions of Virgil, while looking down from the hill of Posilippo, on the headland of Misenum, and the ruins of Cumę. He studied with diligence the remains of Etruscan art, of which, perhaps, no American scholar, though he was so young, knew more.
"Thus accomplished, he returned to his native land, but, modest and earnest, he made no display of his acquisitions, and very few knew that[Pg 36] he had acquired anything. When the war broke out, his conscience and heart urged him to go to the service of his country. His strong sense of duty overcame the reluctance of his parents, and they consented. A presentiment that he should not return alive was very strong in his mind and theirs, but he gave himself cheerfully, and said, in entire strength of his purpose, that 'to die would be easy in such a cause.' In the full conviction of immortality he added, 'What is death, mother? it is nothing but a step in our life.'
"His fidelity to every duty gained him the respect of his superior officers, and his generous, constant interest in his companions and soldiers brought to him an unexampled affection. He realized fully that this war must enlarge the area of freedom, if it was to attain its true end,—and in one of his last letters he expressed the earnest prayer that it might not cease till it opened the way for universal liberty. These earnest opinions were connected with a feeling of the wrong done to the African race and an interest in its improvement. He took with him to the war as a body servant a colored lad named George Brown, who repaid the kindness of Lieutenant Lowell by gratitude and faithful service. George Brown followed his master across the Potomac into the battle, nursed him in his tent, and tended his remains back to Boston. Nor let the devoted courage of Lieutenant Henry Sturgis be forgotten, who lifted his wounded friend and comrade from the ground, and carried him on his back a long distance to the boat, and returned again into the fight.
"Farewell, dear child, brave heart, soul of[Pg 37] sweetness and fire! We shall see no more that fair, candid brow, with its sunny hair, those sincere eyes, that cheek flushed with the commingling roses of modesty and courage! Go and join the noble group of devoted souls, our heroes and saints! Go with Ellsworth, protomartyr of this great cause of freedom. Go with Winthrop, poet and soldier, our Korner, with sword and lyre. Go with the chivalric Lyon, bravest of the brave, leader of men. Go with Baker, to whose utterance the united murmurs of Atlantic and Pacific Oceans gave eloquent rhythm, and whose words flowed so early into heroic action. Go with our noble Massachusetts boys, in whose veins runs the best blood of the age!"
I saw Colonel Baker often as I rode through the army. He had a great love for his soldiers. I had a long talk with him a few days before his death. He felt keenly the humiliations which had come upon the nation at Bull Run, but was confident that in the next battle the soldiers would redeem their good name.
Colonel Baker was mourned for by the whole nation. Eloquent eulogies were pronounced upon him in the Senate of the United States. It was on the 11th of December, and President Lincoln was present to do honor to the dead.
Senator McDougall spoke of his noble character, his great gifts, his love of music and poetry. Many years before they were out together upon the plains of the West riding at night, and Colonel Baker recited the "Battle of Ivry" as if in anticipation of the hour when he was to stand upon the battle-field:—
Senator Summer said of him:—
"He died with his face to the foe; and he died so instantly that he passed without pain from the service of his country to the service of his God, while with him was more than one gallant youth, the hope of family and friends, sent forth by my own honored Commonwealth. It is sweet and becoming to die for one's country. Such a death, sudden, but not unprepared for, is the crown of the patriot soldier's life."
On the old turnpike which leads from the Chain Bridge above Georgetown to Leesburg there is a hamlet of a half-dozen houses, called Dranesville. The great road to Alexandria joins the turnpike there, also a road which leads to Centreville. Near the junction of the roads, on[Pg 39] the west side of the turnpike, there is a large brick house, a fine old Virginia mansion, owned by Mr. Thornton, surrounded by old trees. Just beyond Mr. Thornton's, as we go toward Leesburg, is Mr. Coleman's store, and a small church. Doctor Day's house is opposite the store. There are other small, white-washed houses scattered along the roadside, and years ago, before the Alexandria and Leesburg railroad was built, before Virginia gave up the cultivation of corn and wheat for the raising of negroes for the South, it was a great highway. Stage-coaches filled with passengers rumbled over the road, and long lines of canvas-covered wagons, like a moving caravan.
It is a rich and fertile country. The fields of Loudon are ever verdant; there are no hillsides more sunny or valleys more pleasant. Wheat and corn and cattle are raised in great abundance.
On the 20th of December, 1861, General McCall, whose division of Union troops was at Lewinsville, sent General Ord with a brigade and a large number of wagons to Dranesville to gather forage. On the same morning the Rebel General Stuart started from Centreville with a brigade bound on the same errand.
General Ord had the Sixth, Ninth, Tenth, and Twelfth Regiments of Pennsylvania Reserves, with four guns of Easton's battery, and a company of cavalry. One of the regiments wore bucktails in their caps instead of plumes. The soldiers of that regiment were excellent marksmen. They were from the Alleghany Mountains, and often had the valleys and forests and hillsides rung with the crack of their rifles. They[Pg 40] had hunted the deer, the squirrels, and partridges, and could bring down a squirrel from the tallest tree by their unerring aim.
General Stuart had the First Kentucky, Sixth South Carolina, Tenth Alabama, Eleventh Virginia, with the First South Carolina Battery, commanded by Captain Cutts, also a company of cavalry. The two forces were nearly equal.
General Ord started early in the morning. The ground was frozen, the air was clear, there was a beautiful sunshine, and the men marched cheerily along the road, thinking of the chickens and turkeys which might fall into their hands, and would be very acceptable for Christmas dinners. They reached Difficult Creek at noon where the troops halted, kindled their fires, cooked their coffee, ate their beef and bread, and then pushed on towards Dranesville.
An officer of the cavalry came back in haste from the advance, and reported having seen a rebel cavalryman.
"Keep a sharp lookout," was the order. The column moved on; but General Ord was prudent and threw out companies of flankers, who threaded their way through the woods, keeping a sharp eye for Rebels, for they had heard that the enemy was near at hand.
On reaching Dranesville, General Ord sent a company down the Centreville road to reconnoitre. It was not long before they reported that the woods were full of Rebels. General Ord formed his men on both sides of the Centreville road. He sent the Ninth and Twelfth west of Mr. Thornton's house, into the woods, posted the Bucktails in front of the house, put three of[Pg 41] Easton's guns into position on a hill east of it, put the Tenth Regiment and the cavalry in rear of the battery on the Chain Bridge road, sent one cannon down the Chain Bridge road a short distance to open a flank fire, and directed the Sixth Regiment to take position west of the Centreville road, to support the Bucktails, and detached one company of the Tenth to move down the Alexandria road to cover the flanking cannon.
Standing by Thornton's house, and looking south, we see the Rebels on a hill, about half a mile distant. General Stuart plants his six guns on both sides of the road, to fire toward the Bucktails. The Eleventh Virginia and Tenth Alabama are deployed on the right of the road, and the Sixth South Carolina and the First Kentucky are sent to the left. The cavalry is drawn up behind the battery.
Having defeated the Yankees at Manassas and Ball's Bluff, the rebel soldiers were confident that they would win an easy victory. As soon as General Stuart formed his line, Cutt's Battery opened fire, sending shells down the road towards the Bucktails. The guns were not well aimed and did no damage. Easton's battery was hurried up from the turnpike. So eager were the artillerymen to get into position, that one gun was upset, and the men were obliged to lift it from the ground. But General Ord told the men where to place the guns. He jumped from his horse and sighted them so accurately, that they threw their shells with great precision into the Rebel ranks. The cannonade went on for a half-hour, Easton's shells tearing the Rebel ranks, while those fired by the Rebels did no damage whatever. One of Easton's shells went through a Rebel caisson, which exploded and killed several men and horses. So severe was his fire, that, although the Rebels had two more guns than he, they were obliged to retreat.
Meanwhile General Ord's infantry advanced. The Ninth came upon the First Kentucky in the woods. The pines were very dense, shutting out completely the rays of the winter sun, then low down in the western horizon. At the same time the Bucktails were advancing directly south. The men of the Ninth, when they discovered the Rebels, thought they were the Bucktails.
"Don't fire on us,—we are your friends!" shouted a Rebel.
"Are you the Bucktails?" asked one of the Ninth.
"Yes!" was the reply, followed by a terrific volley from the Rebel line.
The Ninth, though deceived, were not thrown into confusion. They gave an answering volley. The Bucktails hearing the firing advanced, while the Twelfth followed, the Ninth supporting them.
Upon the other side of the road a body of Rebels had taken shelter in a house. "Let them fellows have some shells," was the order to the gunners.
Crash! crash! went the shells into and through the house, smashing in the sides, knocking two rooms into one, strewing the floor with laths and plaster, and making the house smoke with dust. The Rebels came out in a hurry, and took shelter behind the fences, trees, and outbuildings.
"Colonel, I wish you to advance and drive back those fellows," said General Ord to the commander of the Sixth Regiment.
Captain Easton ordered his gunners to cease firing, for fear of injuring the advancing troops. The Sixth moved rapidly across the field, firing as they advanced. The Rebels behind the fences fired a volley, but so wild was their aim that nearly all the bullets passed over the heads of the Sixth. In the field and in the woods there was a constant rattle of musketry. The men on both sides sheltered themselves behind trees and fences, or crept like Indians through the almost impenetrable thickets.
The Bucktails were accustomed to creeping through the forests, and taking partridges and pigeons on the wing. Their fire was very destructive to the enemy. Stuart's lines began to waver before them. The South Carolinians fell[Pg 44] back a little, and then a little more, as the Bucktails kept edging on. The fire of the skilled mountaineers was constant and steady. It was too severe for the Rebels to withstand. They gave way suddenly on all sides, and fled in wild confusion down the Centreville road, throwing away their guns, clothing, knapsacks, and cartridge-boxes, leaving one caisson and limber of their artillery behind in their haste to get away. Nearly all of their severely wounded were left on the field. The Union loss was seven killed and sixty-one wounded, while so destructive was the fire of the Pennsylvanians that the Rebel loss was two hundred and thirty.4
The affair, though short, was decisive. The effect was thrilling throughout the army. The Union troops,—held in contempt by the Rebels,—defeated at Manassas, Ball's Bluff, and at Bethel, by superior forces, had met an equal number of the enemy, and in a fair fight had won a signal victory. It was a proud day to the brave men who had thus shown their ability to conquer a foe equal in numbers. They returned from Dranesville in high spirits, and were received with cheers, long and loud, by their comrades, who had heard the distant firing, and who had been informed of their victory.
Christmas came. The men were in winter quarters, and merry times they had,—dinners of roast turkey, plum-pudding and mince-pies, sent by their friends at home. After dinner they had games, sports, and dances, chasing a greased pig, climbing a greasy pole, running in a meal-bag, playing ball, pitching quoits, playing leap-[Pg 45]frog, singing and dancing, around the camp-fires through the long Christmas evening.
The winter passed away without any event to break the monotony of camp-life.
Officers and soldiers alike became disaffected at the long delay of General McClellan. The President and the people also were dissatisfied. President Lincoln, being commander-in-chief, selected the 22d of February, the birthday of Washington, on which all the armies of the Union were to make an advance upon the enemy; but it was midwinter, the roads were deep with mud, and the order was withdrawn. General Grant all the while was winning victories at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, and General Sherman and the navy had taken Port Royal, while the great Army of the Potomac, on which the country had lavished its means, and granted all that its commander asked for, was doing nothing.
The President, in March, issued an order to General McClellan to complete the organization of the army into corps, with such promptness and despatch as not to delay the commencement of the operations which he had already directed to be undertaken by the Army of the Potomac. General McClellan complied with the order.
The First Corps was composed of Franklin's, McCall's, and King's Divisions, and was commanded by Major-General McDowell.
The Second Corps was composed of Richardson's, Blenker's, and Sedgwick's Divisions, and was commanded by Major-General Sumner.
The Third Corps was commanded by Major-General Heintzelman, and was composed of Fitz-[Pg 46]John Porter's, Hooker's, and Hamilton's Divisions.
The Fourth Corps was commanded by Major-General Keyes, and was composed of Couch's, Smith's, and Casey's Divisions.
The Fifth Corps was composed of Shields's and Williams's Divisions, and was commanded by Major-General Banks.
It was a long, dull winter to the soldiers. They waited impatiently for action. Camp-life was not all song-singing and dancing. There were days and weeks of stormy weather, when there could be no drills. The mud was deep, and the soldiers had little to do but doze by the camp-fires through the long winter days and nights. Thousands who had led correct lives at home fell into habits of dissipation and vice. Their wives and children haunted their dreams at night. A sorrow settled upon them,—a longing for home, which became a disease, and sent thousands to the hospital, and finally to the grave. The army early in the winter began to suffer for want of something to do.
Some of the colonels and chaplains saw that it was of the utmost importance that something should be done to take up the minds of the men and turn their thoughts from the scenes of home. Lyceums, debating-societies, schools, in which Latin, German, arithmetic, reading, and writing were taught, were established. The chaplains,—those who were true, earnest men, established Sunday schools, and organized churches, and held prayer-meetings. God blessed their efforts, and hundreds of soldiers became sincere Christians, attesting their faith in Jesus Christ as[Pg 47] the Saviour of men by living correct lives and breaking off their evil habits. Under the influence of the religious teachings there was a great reform in the army. The men became sober. They no longer gambled away their money. They became quiet and orderly, obeyed the commands of their officers in doing unpleasant duties with alacrity. Some who had been drunkards for years signed the temperance pledge. They became cheerful. They took new views of their duties and obligations to their country and their God, and looked through the gloom and darkness to the better life beyond the grave. Several of the chaplains organized churches. One noble chaplain says of the church in his regiment:—
"I received into its communion one hundred and seventy members, about sixty of whom for the first time confessed Christ. At the commencement of the services I baptized six young soldiers. They kneeled before me, and I consecrated them to God for life and for death,—the majority of them baptized, as it proved, for death. I then read the form of covenant, the system of faith, to which all gave their assent. I then read the names of those who wished to enter this fold in the Wilderness; those who had made a profession of religion at home, and came to us as members of Christian churches, and those who now came as disciples of the Redeemer.
"Then followed the communion service. This was one of the most affecting and impressive seasons of my life. The powers of the world to come rested on all minds. The shadow of the great events so soon to follow was creeping over us, giving earnestness and impressive solemnity[Pg 48] to all hearts. It was a day never to be forgotten as a commencement of a new era in the life of many. It was a scene on which angels might look down with unmingled pleasure, for here the weary found rest, the burdened the peace of forgiveness, the broken in heart, beauty for ashes.
"Our position increased in a high degree the interest of the occasion. We were far from our churches and homes. Yet we found here the sacred emblems of our religion, and looking into the future, which we knew was full of danger, sickness, and death to many, we have girded ourselves for the conflict. It much resembled the solemn communion of Christians in the time of persecution. Our friends who were present from a distance, of whom there were several, rejoiced greatly that there was such a scene in the army. General Jameson was deeply moved and afterwards said it was the most solemn and interesting scene of his life.
"Again, on Sabbath, March 9th, the religious interest continuing, we held another communion. At this time twenty-eight were received into the church. Seven young men were baptized. The interest was greater than at the former communion, and it gives me the greatest satisfaction to know that this season, which gave to many the highest enjoyment ever known on earth, when the cup of thanksgiving was mingled with tears of gratitude, prepared for the sacrifice that was to follow. Many who were there never again partook of the wine of promise until they drank it new in the kingdom of God, and sat down at the marriage supper of the Lamb."5
The Rebel army suddenly evacuated Centreville, Manassas, and the line of the Potomac, carrying off everything of value. The Army of the Potomac moved on the 9th of March to Manassas, beheld the deserted encampments, returned to Alexandria, and sailed for Fortress Monroe. General McClellan decided to advance upon Richmond by the Peninsula, between the York and James Rivers. General McDowell, with McCall's and King's divisions, was stationed at Fredericksburg, to cover Washington. Blenker's division was detached from Sumner's Corps, and sent to the Shenandoah Valley. All the other divisions sailed down the Chesapeake. The troops landed at Newport News and went into camp.
The Rebel General Magruder occupied Yorktown. He was fortifying it and the Peninsula, erecting batteries to command York River, and to cover the approaches by land. The iron-clad Merrimack, with the Teazer and Jamestown gunboats, were in the James River. Admiral Goldsborough, with the Monitor, the Minnesota, and several gunboats, was watching them, and guarding the shipping at Fortress Monroe.
General McClellan submitted his plans to the President. He had two methods of operation in view;—one, to attack Magruder's works, between the York and the James, which might require[Pg 50] siege operations, and a delay of many weeks; the other, to obtain aid from the navy, attack the water-batteries at Yorktown, silence them, and then go up the York River with his army, sailing to West Point, within twenty-five miles of Richmond. Admiral Goldsborough could not spare gunboats enough to attack the batteries, and therefore General McClellan adopted the other plan.6
On the evening of April 3d the army received orders to march the next morning.
It was a beautiful night. The sky was cloudless. A new moon shed its silver light upon the vast encampment. The soldiers had been waiting two weeks. They were one hundred thousand strong, while the Rebel force did not number more than ten or twelve thousand.7
They expected to move to victory. They sang songs, wrote letters to their friends, burnished their guns, heaped the fires with fresh fuel, and rejoiced that after so many months of waiting they were to be active.
There were some who had a true appreciation of the work before them, and realized that they might fall in the hour of battle.
One who had fought at Bull Run, whose heart was in the great cause, prepared his last will and testament. At the close of it he wrote:—
"And now, having arranged for the disposition of my worldly estate, I will say that, possessing a full confidence in the Christian religion, and believing in the righteousness of the cause in which I am engaged, I am ready to offer my[Pg 51] poor life in vindication of that cause, and in sustaining a government the mildest and most beneficent the world has ever known."8
At three o'clock in the morning the soldiers were astir, roused by the drum-beat and the bugle. The fading fires were rekindled. Their coffee was soon bubbling on the coals. Before daylight they had their knapsacks packed, their tents taken down, and all things ready for the march. By sunrise they were on the road, General Heintzelman's corps leading the column. The roads were deep with mud, and the marching was heavy, but so enthusiastic were the soldiers that by ten o'clock the head of the column encountered the enemy's pickets in front of Yorktown.
Both armies were upon historic ground. It was at Yorktown that the British army under Lord Cornwallis laid down its arms in 1781. It was a flourishing village then. There were fine mansions, surrounded with shrubbery, shaded by old oaks and lindens. Virginia in those days had many wealthy families. The Peninsula was the first settled territory in America, and many of the planters had immense estates. One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence resided at Yorktown,—Governor Nelson. His house is yet standing,—a large two-story brick building, which General Magruder occupied for his head-quarters. It bears the marks of shot which were fired by the Americans during the siege in 1781. Governor Nelson commanded the Virginia militia then. He was a noble patriot, and aimed[Pg 52] the cannon himself at his own house to drive out the British who had possession of it.
Cornwallis had a line of earthworks around Yorktown, and those which Magruder erected were on pretty much the same line, only Magruder's, besides encircling the town, also reached across the Peninsula. The English general had between seven and eight thousand men. General Washington and Count Rochambeau had about fifteen thousand. They were large armies for those days, but very small when compared with that commanded by General McClellan.
It was a long march which the French and American troops made to reach Yorktown. They marched from New York, in July, through Philadelphia, Baltimore, Annapolis, Mount Vernon, and Williamsburg. They had no transports to take them down the Chesapeake, besides, there was an English fleet in the bay which might have captured the entire army had it moved by water.
In the American army were officers whose names are inseparably connected with the history of our country,—General Knox, Baron Steuben, Lafayette, General Clinton, General Lincoln, Colonel Scammell, the brave New Hampshire officer who was shot by a Hessian soldier. In the French army were Count Rochambeau, Marquis St. Simon, and Baron Viomeil. In the bay floated the English ships of war, and outside, near Cape Henry, was the Count de Grasse, with his formidable fleet.
On Sunday morning, the 13th of October, the place was completely invested. The Americans of the allied army moved down the road leading to Hampton, and swung round by Wormley Creek.[Pg 53] General Lincoln commanded the right wing, and had his head-quarters near the creek. Lafayette, with his light infantry, and Governor Nelson, with the Virginia militia, were on the north side of the Hampton road, while south of it were the New England and New Jersey and New York troops, under General Clinton. They held the center of the American line. The left wing of the Americans, on Warwick River, was composed of Maryland and Pennsylvania troops, under Baron Steuben. On the west side of the Warwick were Washington's and Rochambeau's head-quarters, on the south side of the road. The French troops held the ground from this point to York River west of the town.
Lord Cornwallis capitulated on the 16th of October. On the 17th his fine army marched out from the town along the Hampton road about a mile to a field, where the soldiers laid down their arms. The American army was drawn up on the north side of the road and the French on the south side,—two long lines of troops. The British army marched between them, the drums beating a slow march, and the colors which had waved proudly on so many battle-fields closely encased. It was a sorrowful march to the British soldiers. Some of them cried with vexation, and drew their caps over their faces to hide their tears. Lord Cornwallis felt the humiliation so deeply that he delegated General O'Hara to surrender up his sword.
It was an imposing scene. Washington and all the generals of the army, with their suits, in rich uniforms and on fine horses, the long lines of soldiers, the colors waving in the breeze, the[Pg 54] British army in its scarlet uniforms, the crowd of spectators from the country who had heard of the news, and had hastened to see the surrender, made it one of the grandest sights ever seen in America.
On such ground, hallowed by noble deeds, the troops of the Union, as their fathers had done before them, were to carry on the siege of Yorktown.
The Rebels also undoubtedly felt the influence of those stirring times of the Revolution. They believed that they were fighting for their liberty, and were engaged in a just war. But sincerity is not certain proof of the righteousness of a cause. Chaplain Davis, of the Fourth Texas regiment, has this vindication of the rebellion, written by the camp-fires at Yorktown:—
"How many pleasing recollections crowd upon the mind of each soldier as he walks over these grounds, or sitting thoughtfully by his fagots, recalls the history of the past, and compares it with the scenes of the present. The patriots of the Revolution were struggling for liberty, and so are we. They had been oppressed with burdensome taxation,—so were we. They remonstrated,—so did we. They submitted till submission ceased to be a virtue,—and so have we. They appealed to Parliament, but were unheard. Our Representatives in Congress pointed to the maelstrom to which they were driving the ship, but they refused to see it. Our fathers asked for equalities of rights and privileges, but it was refused. The South asked that their claim to territory won by the common blood and treasure of the country be recognized, and that our domes[Pg 55]tic institutions, as guaranteed by the Constitution, be respected. These petitions were answered by professed ministers of the Church of Jesus Christ in raising contributions from the sacred pulpit on the holy Sabbath of Sharpe's Rifles, to shed Southern blood on common territory. Their Representatives declared, upon the floors of Congress, that they were in favor of 'An Antislavery Constitution, an Antislavery Bible, and an Antislavery God!' What is now left us? Naught but the refuge our fathers had,—the God of Justice and the God of Battles. To him have we appealed, and by his aid and our good right arms we will pass through the ordeal of blood and come out conquerors in the end."9
Many thousands of the Union soldiers were thinking, reflecting men. There were ministers, professors in colleges, school-teachers, and learned and scientific men. Few there were who could not read and write. Thousands of them had been teachers and scholars in the Sunday schools. They had thought the war all over, and discussed the causes which led to it. They were familiar with the history of events,—of the struggle between Slavery and Freedom; for the possession of Kansas, where men and women were driven out, their buildings burned, or themselves thrown into rivers, or deliberately murdered, for preferring freedom to slavery. They recalled the attempt to compel the people of the North to return the slaves who were escaping to Canada,—also the kidnapping of free citizens of the North; the imprisonment of men and women for teach[Pg 56]ing a slave to read the Bible. They remembered that a Northern man could not travel with safety in the South before the war, that Slavery was opposed always to Freedom, that the system crushed the poor laboring men without distinction of color, race, or clime or country; that it was overbearing, imperious, aristocratic, arrogant, and cruel; that it kept the people from obtaining knowledge; that it was the foe of industry, the enemy of science, art, and religion.
They remembered the words of Mr. Stephens, of Georgia, the Vice-President of the Confederacy, who in the beginning opposed secession; who said to his associates in the convention which carried his State out of the Union:—
"It is the best and freest government, the most equal in its rights, the most just in its decisions, the most lenient in its measures, and the most inspiring in its principles to elevate the race of man that the sun of heaven ever shone upon. Now for you to attempt to overthrow such a government as this, unassailed, is the height of madness, folly, and wickedness."10
They remembered that Mr. Stephens asked those who were plotting treason these questions: "What reasons can you give to the nations of the earth to justify it? They will be calm and deliberate judges in the case; and to what law, to what one overt act, can you point on which to rest the plea of justification? What right has the North assailed? What interest of the South has been invaded? What justice has been denied, or what claim founded in justice and right has[Pg 57] been withheld? Can any of you name one governmental act of wrong deliberately and purposely done by the government at Washington of which the South had a right to complain? I challenge the answer."
They remembered that the Secretary of War under President Buchanan, Mr. Floyd of Virginia, had removed all the arms from the Northern arsenals to the South, that the slaveholders might be well prepared for war, and ready to seize the city of Washington.
They remembered that Mr. Toucey of Connecticut, who was President Buchanan's Secretary of the Navy, had sent nearly all the ships of war into foreign seas, that they might not be at hand in the hour of rebellion, when the government should pass into new hands, and that the Secretary of the Treasury stole millions of dollars of public funds intrusted to his care. They reflected that all of these men had forsworn themselves, that they were traitors and robbers, that they had deliberately, through years of power, planned to rebel, to destroy the government, and bring ruin upon the people if they could not have their way. They believed that without cause the Rebels had fired upon the flag, and inaugurated the war, and that to defend the flag and restore the Union, by crushing out the rebellion, was a duty they owed to their country and to God. They recalled the words of Thomas Jefferson, uttered long ago, in his notes on Virginia, who said, in view of the complicity of the South with slavery:—
"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that his justice cannot sleep[Pg 58] forever. The Almighty has no attribute that can take side with us in such a contest."11
Those thinking men remembered the words of the great man who wrote the Declaration of Independence, and they also remembered that the oppressed and down-trodden of all lands were looking to America,—to the principles of the government of the United States,—as their hope for the future. They did not forget their homes on the breezy hills of the North and in the sunny valleys, nor the church-bell, nor the school-house, and other things dearer to them than life. They must fight to maintain them. Their liberties were assailed. They could not falter in such a contest.
So they reflected as they sat by their camp-fires in the starry night, or lay upon the ground where their fathers achieved the last great victory which secured their independence.
The corps commanded by General Heintzelman, when it came into position before Yorktown, stood upon the ground which General Lincoln had occupied in the siege of 1781. General Sumner's corps had the center, and occupied the ground which Baron Steuben and General Clinton held in that siege. General Keyes's corps came to the Warwick River, at Lee's Mills, almost opposite the spot where General Washington had his head-quarters, while General Franklin was held in reserve to move up York River on transports when the enemy was driven from Yorktown.
General Heintzelman arrived in front of the works, and was greeted with shells from Magru[Pg 59]der's batteries. While the cannon were booming on that afternoon of the 4th, the following brief telegram was sent over the wires from Washington to Fortress Monroe:—
"By direction of the President, General McDowell's army corps has been detached from the force under your immediate command, and the General is ordered to report to the Secretary of War."
General McClellan received it on the 5th. He remarks:—
"To me the blow was most discouraging. It frustrated all my plans for impending operations. It fell when I was too deeply committed to withdraw. It left me incapable of continuing operations which had been begun. It compelled the adoption of another, a different, and a less effective plan of campaign. It made rapid and brilliant operations impossible. It was a fatal error. It was now of course out of my power to turn Yorktown by West Point. I had therefore no choice left but to attack it directly in front as I best could with the force at my command."12
This brief despatch will demand the patient consideration of historians in the future, who, when the passions and prejudices of men have passed away, calmly and dispassionately review the causes of the failure of the Peninsular campaign. On one hand, it is alleged to have been the fatal error; that it was an unwarrantable interference, which made it impossible for General McClellan to conduct the campaign to a successful issue.
On the other hand, it is asked how the presence[Pg 60] of McDowell would have enabled him to go to West Point without the aid of the navy, which he could not have.13
How did it compel the adoption of another plan, inasmuch as the order for the troops to advance and attack the works at Yorktown was issued on the 3d, and they marched on the 4th, and were engaged with the enemy before General McClellan received the orders? It is claimed, therefore, that the issuing of the order was not a fatal error; that it did not compel the adoption of another plan; that no other plan was adopted; that it did not leave General McClellan incapable of continuing operations already begun; that it did not deprive him of the power of taking West Point, inasmuch as he never had had the power; neither did it compel an attack directly in front, for that had already begun; and that the President in making the change was only enforcing the conditions on which he accepted the plan of a movement to the Peninsula,—the retention of a force sufficient to cover Washington,—which General McClellan had not complied with.
In the correspondence which passed between the President and General McClellan, the President has this explanation and vindication of his course:—
"My explicit directions that Washington should, by the judgment of all commanders of corps, be left entirely secure, had been entirely neglected. It was precisely this that drove me to detain McDowell. I do not forget that I was satisfied with your arrangement to leave Banks at Manassas Junction, but when that arrange[Pg 61]ment was broken up, and nothing was substituted for it, of course I was not satisfied. I was constrained to substitute something for it.
"And now allow me to ask you: Do you really think I should permit the line from Richmond via Manassas Junction to this city to be entirely open, except what resistance could be presented by less than twenty thousand unorganized troops? This is a question which the country will not allow me to evade."14
It will be interesting to see how the situation was viewed by the commanders of the two armies on the Peninsula. General McClellan's troops in front of the enemy, present and fit for duty, numbered one hundred thousand strong.15 He asked for reinforcements. He wrote thus to the Secretary of War:—
"It seems clear that I shall have the whole force of the enemy on my hands, probably not less than one hundred thousand men, and probably more. In consequence of the loss of Blenker's division and the First Corps (McDowell's), my force is possibly less than that of the enemy, while they have the advantage of position."16
"I was compelled," says General Magruder, "to place in Gloucester Point, Yorktown, and Mulberry Island, fixed garrisons, amounting to six thousand men, my whole force being eleven thousand; so that it will be seen that the balance of the line, embracing a length of thirteen miles, was defended by about five thousand men. On the 5th of April the enemy's columns appeared[Pg 62] along the whole front of my line. I have no accurate data upon which to base an exact statement of his force; but, from various sources of information, I was satisfied that I had before me the enemy's Army of the Potomac, with the exception of the two corps d'armée of Banks and McDowell, forming an aggregate number certainly of not less than one hundred thousand, since ascertained to have been one hundred and twenty thousand.... Thus with five thousand men, exclusive of the garrisons, we stopped and held in check over one hundred thousand of the enemy. Every preparation was made in anticipation of another attack. The men slept in the trenches and under arms, but to my utter surprise he permitted day after day to elapse without an assault."17
Siege operations commenced,—spades, picks, and shovels were given to the troops, and they began to throw up the breastworks. It was a slow, tedious, laborious undertaking. The mud was very deep, the ground soft, and it rained nearly every day. The woods were very dense. There were new roads made. The brooks were bridged. Some of the soldiers made gabions, or baskets of wicker-work, for the batteries. The teams floundered through the mud axle-deep. Thousands of horses gave out from sheer exhaustion. When the breastworks were ready, the heavy guns, their carriages, and the ammunition had to be hauled.
It was almost impossible to accomplish the work. The horses could not do it, and regiments[Pg 63] of men were detailed to drag the cannon through the mud.
The soldiers worked faithfully and enthusiastically day and night, through drenching rains, lying down to sleep in their wet garments, upon the water-soaked ground. Fever made its appearance, and thousands were sent to the hospitals, worn down by their hard labor and exposure. The bullets of the enemy killed very few of those noble men, but thousands sickened and died.
While the batteries were getting ready, there was a spirited affair at Lee's Mills on the 16th of April. General McClellan decided to make a reconnaissance at that point, and, if everything was favorable, to throw a portion of his force across the Warwick River, and gain a foothold upon the western shore. There was an old field on the east side of the stream, which was overgrown with young pines and oaks. A line of skirmishers, under cover of a heavy artillery fire, crept down through the pines to the edge of the stream. The Rebel battery upon the other side answered the Union artillery with solid shot and shells.
Colonel Hyde of the Third Vermont was ordered to cover the stream with two companies. The crossing was just below the dam, over which the water poured in a silver sheet. The creek was swollen with rains, but the sons of Vermont were not the men to falter. They plunged in up to their necks. Their ammunition was soaked, but they pushed on up the other bank, with a cheer. They were met by the Fifteenth North Carolina. They did not stop an instant, but[Pg 64] rushed upon the Carolinians, who fled to the rear in great confusion, and the Vermonters took possession of their rifle-pits. The commander of the Carolinians, Colonel McVining, fell mortally wounded, also many of his men, before the impetuous charge of the Green Mountaineers. But Rebel reinforcements were at hand. Anderson's brigade advanced, and the handful of men was obliged to recross the stream. The golden moment for throwing a division across and breaking the enemy's line was lost. Later in the day a second attempt was made by the Fourth and Fifth Vermont regiments to cross upon the dam, but the Rebel batteries swept it, and the attempt was not successful. The losses during the day were about one hundred on each side.
The month of April passed before the first siege guns were ready to open fire. Meanwhile Magruder was reinforced. On the first day of May a heavy battery near York River began to throw shells and solid shot into Yorktown. That night negroes came into General McClellan's lines and reported that the Rebels were leaving Yorktown, but their story was not believed by the General. Preparations were made to open a fire from all the guns and mortars on the 4th of May.
General Magruder kept close watch of the operations, and when General McClellan was ready, quietly retreated towards Williamsburg. He ordered his artillerymen to keep up a heavy fire through the night, to spike the guns just before daybreak, and leave the place. So through the night there was a grand uproar of artillery along the Rebel lines. The gunners seemed to vie with each other to see which could fire most rapidly[Pg 65] and throw away the most shot and shells. They took no aim, but fired at random towards the Union lines.
At daybreak it was discovered that there was no sign of life or motion in the Rebel camp. The guns still looked frowningly from the fortifications, tents were standing; but the troops were all gone, and Yorktown was deserted.
They carried off all their light artillery, nearly all their provisions and supplies, but left fifty-two heavy guns in the intrenchments. They planted torpedoes, and connected them with wires and cords. A Union soldier hit his foot against a wire and an explosion followed, which blew off his legs.
General Magruder, by showing a bold front, with eleven thousand men at first, had held an army of a hundred thousand in check, and gained a month of valuable time for preparations for the defense of Richmond.
The first battle in the Peninsular campaign of the Army of the Potomac was fought at Williamsburg, one of the oldest towns in Virginia. It was settled in 1632, and was capital of the Colony for many years before the Revolution. William and Mary's College is there, which was endowed by the king and queen of England with twenty thousand acres of land, and a penny on every pound of tobacco sent out of the Colony, and duties on[Pg 66] all the furs and skins. The college buildings were designed by Sir Christopher Wren, architect of St. Paul's in London.
The colonial governors resided at Williamsburg. The courts were held there. The government buildings were the noblest in America. The Governor's residence was a magnificent edifice, with a great estate of three hundred acres attached, laid out in lawns, parks, groves, flower-gardens, and peach-orchards. It was intersected by a brook. There were winding graveled walks, shaded by oaks and lindens.
On public occasions, and on birth-nights, there were grand receptions at the palace, as it was called, where all the public officers and gentlemen assembled to pay their respects to the governor. The judges and counselors, in flowing robes and powdered wigs, the gentlemen of the Colony in broidered waistcoats, ruffled shirts, buff breeches, black stockings, and red, yellow, green, blue, or purple coats, with gold and silver shoe-buckles, and ladies in silks and satins, rode up in their carriages, driven by coachmen, and attended by footmen in livery.
During the sessions of the House of Burgesses there were gay times. The town was filled with visitors. The wealth, fashion, and refinement of the Colony gathered there. It was there in the House of Burgesses that Patrick Henry uttered the patriotic sentiment,—"Give me liberty, or give me death." It was from Williamsburg that Sir William Berkeley wrote to the King's commissioners, thanking God that there were no common schools or printing-presses in Virginia. Washington, when but twenty-one years of age,[Pg 67] mounted his horse at the palace-gate, for his long journey to the head-waters of the Ohio, chosen by Governor Dinwiddie, out of all the aristocratic families of the Colony, to bear a message to the French commander in that far-off region; and there, at the same gate, he dismounted from his horse on the 22d of January, 1754, having faithfully accomplished what he had undertaken.
East of this old town, a small stream, which rises in the center of the Peninsula, runs southeast and empties into College Creek. Very near the head-waters of this stream another has its rise, which runs north to the York River, and is called Queen's Creek. On both streams there are mills. The main road from Yorktown to Williamsburg runs on the high land between the head-waters of the creeks. About a mile east of the town the road forks. General Magruder had thrown up a strong fortification at that point, which contained thirteen guns, and was called Fort Magruder. There were ten other earthworks which effectually commanded the roads, the ravines, and all the approaches from the east.
In pursuing Magruder, General Stoneman, with the cavalry and Gibson's battery, went up the Yorktown road, and came out of the dense forest in front of Fort Magruder. The guns opened fire, throwing shells, which killed and wounded several of the cavalrymen. Gibson brought his battery into position and replied. The Sixth United States Cavalry moved on towards the fort, but were met by infantry and cavalry, and were compelled to fall back with the loss of thirty men. Gibson was obliged to move his guns, for the batteries in the fort had the[Pg 68] range of his position. The mud was deep, and one of the guns sunk to the axle. The horses tugged and pulled, but they also sunk. Other horses were added, but the ground was marshy, and gun and horses went still deeper.
The Rebel gunners saw the confusion, and threw their shells upon the spot. Some burst harmlessly in the air, some fell into the mud, others tore up the ground and covered the artillerymen and teamsters with earth, others burst among the horses and men. The Rebel infantry came down upon the run, and Captain Gibson was obliged to leave.
The night came on dark and dismal. The rain fell in torrents. The troops who had been marching all day were drenched. The roads were narrow and muddy. There was a want of arrangement in the order of marching, and the divisions became confused. Wagons broke down, artillery sunk in the mire; but the troops were eager to get at the enemy, who had eluded their commander, first at Manassas, and now at Yorktown. They marched, some of them, till midnight, and then, without kindling a fire, lay down drenched, upon the dead forest leaves, having had no dinner, and without a supper. The rain-drops dripped from the trees through the night, but the soldiers were in line at daybreak, ready to move again in pursuit of the enemy.
General Hooker being in advance upon the Lee's Mills road, came upon the enemy's pickets posted along a deep ravine above the mill-pond, on the stream which empties into College Creek.
General Smith's division, when the army advanced from Yorktown, was on the Lee's Mills[Pg 69] road, but it moved towards the north and came in front of the enemy on the Yorktown road.
General Hooker's skirmishers, as soon as they saw the enemy, dashed on and drove them across the ravine, and approached within musket-shot of the fort. The artillery in the fort opened with a rapid fire of shells, but the skirmishers concealed themselves in the underbrush, and gave so[Pg 70] deadly a fire that they silenced the guns. No gunner could show his head without getting a ball through it.
General Hooker formed his division in line of battle. His first brigade was commanded by General Sickles, and was composed of the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Excelsior regiments from New York. His second brigade, General Grover's, was composed of the First and Eleventh Massachusetts, Second New Hampshire, and Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania. The third brigade was composed of the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth New Jersey regiments, and was commanded by Colonel Starr,—in all, about eight thousand men.
The First Massachusetts had the left of the line, then the Second New Hampshire, Eleventh Massachusetts, with the Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania on the right. The other brigades did not arrive till nearly noon. They formed on the left of Grover's brigade, towards the mill-pond.
The Rebel force in position behind the forts is supposed to have been about thirty thousand, commanded by General Longstreet. A Rebel officer states that it numbered not over twenty-five thousand.18
During the forenoon but a small force confronted General Grover's brigade, but in the afternoon dark columns appeared south of the fort, and, advancing down the ravines, crossed the stream above the mill-pond.
They attacked General Hooker's left wing in[Pg 71] great force. The skirmishers were driven in. Bramhall's battery came into position as the enemy advanced. "Shell with short fuses!" shouted the captain to his gunners.
The shells exploded in, around, and above the advancing columns, which still kept coming on. The musketry began,—quick and sharp volleys; yet the lines came on, across the open space, through the woods.
"Canister and spherical case!" was the order to the gunners. The cannon spouted a deadly fire, filling the air with terrible hail. The Rebel lines were checked. Foiled in the attack upon the center, they advanced once more upon the left flank, and the contest went on with increasing fury, like the rising of a winter tempest.
Grover and Sickles held their ground tenaciously, but were forced back inch by inch and step by step.
The contest was in the edge of the forest, over fallen trees, where men fell headlong in their endeavors to take new positions. The rain was falling, the ground was miry. The men were worn and weary; but they fought on, minding not hunger or thirst or exhaustion, calling for ammunition. Their cartridge-boxes were empty, but they would not turn their backs upon the enemy, or desert their comrades whose cartridges still held out.
From noon till four o'clock General Hooker fought unaided. He sent to Sumner for reinforcements, but Sumner felt that he could not spare any men from his front. He sent officers to bring up the brigades in the rear.
General McClellan was at Yorktown, and did[Pg 72] not know there was a battle going on till late in the day.
The Rebels saw that Hooker received no reinforcements, and pressed him heavily. His troops supporting some of the batteries gave way. The Rebels came on in a desperate charge, shot the horses, and five cannon fell into their hands.
"Reinforcements! I want reinforcements!" was Hooker's cry. The impetuous Kearney, whose division was the last to leave Yorktown, had heard the roar of battle, and rode ahead of his troops. He was an old soldier, had stormed the heights of Chapultepec, and was with Louis Napoleon in the great battle of Solferino. He started back to hasten forward his division, but it was already advancing.
The brave, energetic, resolute Berry, who commanded one of Kearney's brigades, met an aide of General Sumner's.
"Who is engaged at the front?" he asked.
"Hooker is at it."
"Is he supported by Sumner?"
"No. Sumner is taking position farther to the right."
The road was filled with teams and troops of other brigades belonging to Sumner's corps. Berry looked at the blockade a moment, then said to a captain of one of his batteries,—
"Captain, go ahead and clear the road for my brigade."
"Let the march be upon the double-quick," was the order sent down the line.
"Clear the road!" was the authoritative order sent up the line. The troops, the wagons, the[Pg 73] artillery, the ambulances, turned aside, and the brigade went on.
His quick ear caught the sound of musketry,—a constant, steady rattle, like the pattering of the rain-drops on the dead leaves.
"Throw aside your knapsacks, and place a guard over them," was his order. The men, panting for breath, came to a halt, threw their heavy knapsacks into a heap, and went on again, faster than before.
Kearney met them. "You have done well, General," was his salutation to Berry. He stimulated the men, and fired their ardor with his own wild enthusiasm. They rushed on through by-paths, across pastures and fields.
Hooker's line was giving way. It had been pushed back a mile, had lost a portion of its guns, and the exultant enemy were advancing for a decisive, a finishing stroke. Many had fired their last round of ammunition, and stood with empty muskets. How earnestly they looked towards the rear to see if the promised aid was ever to arrive!
Help at last. A dark column comes through the woods upon the run. A wild, tumultuous cheer rends the air. The men who are ready to drop from sheer exhaustion, who have confronted the enemy through the lagging hours, feel new strength as Berry sweeps past them, deploys his line right and left, and becomes a living barrier between them and the tide already rolling on over the bloody field. The enemy advances, but whole ranks go down before the deadly volleys given point-blank into their faces by that body of men whose brows are wet with the sweat of their[Pg 74] fast running. The breaker is broken. The wave which was ready to sweep Hooker from the face of the earth, instead of setting onward, begins to recede. It is beaten down before the fiery breath pouring like a furnace blast from the three thousand muskets.
The Rebels retreat. Berry advances. His volleys are steady and regular. Nothing can daunt his men. They feel that they are a power. Kearney sees that the time has come to decide the day.
"Give them the bayonet!" is the thrilling order which rings along the line.
An officer, young in years, fair of countenance, polished in manner, who has traveled at home and abroad, the same who in the silent hours of the last night at Yorktown wrote his last will and testament, the adjutant of General Berry, leads the men from Michigan. His voice rings loud and clear above the wild uproar. The men follow where he leads, into the leaden rain. They fall by scores, but on—on—on,—over the bloody field,—over fallen friends and foes,—they press the foe, regaining the ground, the lost cannon,—the victory!
"You are the hero of the day," said Kearney to Captain Smith, who had led the charge so gallantly, as he returned and reported for further duty, his clothes torn by the bullets of the enemy.
While this was transpiring on the left, there was its counterpart on the right.
General Hancock was detached by General Smith to cross the milldam at Queen's Creek, and attack the Rebels in that direction. He crossed the stream with the Sixth Maine, Fourth[Pg 75] Wisconsin, Forty-ninth Pennsylvania, and Forty-third New York, Wheeler's battery, and a squadron of cavalry.
He came upon a small party of Rebels, who rapidly retreated.
"I can go to Fort Magruder if well supported," was the despatch he sent back to General Smith.
He could see the fort across the open plain, smoking and flaming and throwing shells upon Hooker's command. General Smith sent the message to General Sumner, requesting permission to send supports.
"Stay where you are," was the reply.
Again Hancock sent for permission to go on. Smith sent the request to Sumner.
"Go," was the welcome answer.
The troops were on the march, when an aide from Sumner stopped the movement. The Rebels were threatening an attack on the center.
"I want more force to support us. The enemy is coming in superior force to attack me," was Hancock's third message.
His position was in a field near a farm-house, where the Rebels had thrown up a square redoubt, which they had abandoned.
From the farm-house to the woods west of it there was a rail-fence. Hancock threw out his skirmishers towards Fort Magruder, beyond the farm-house. Wheeler's battery was brought up and placed upon a knoll near the house. The Fifth Wisconsin and Forty-Third New York were stationed west of the house behind the fence. The Forty-ninth Pennsylvania was placed behind the house. Two companies of the Sixth Maine held the abandoned redoubt, while the other com[Pg 76]panies of that regiment were placed in support of the battery.
Two brigades of Rebels marched out from the forest into the field. Wheeler's battery opened with shells. The Rebels were half a mile distant, but, notwithstanding the fire, they moved steadily and rapidly over the intervening space. The skirmishers which had been thrown out from Hancock returned to the lines. The Rebels were near enough for canister, and the six pieces of cannon threw it into the advancing line. The Rebel cavalry dashed upon the Fifth Wisconsin, but only to lose a dozen men and horses. The infantry were close upon Wheeler, who covered the hillock with a murky cloud. Suddenly his fire ceased, then with whip and spur and shout the pieces went to the rear and took a new position and opened again. The regiments by the fence fell back and closed up in closer order. The Rebels again advanced, and the musketry began. The fight was at short range. The battery fired shell, canister, and shrapnel, and made terrible havoc.
Hancock saw that the moment for decisive action had come. He waved his cap to his troops. The officers along the line understood the meaning of the signal. They spoke but one magical word. The men, as if animated by an electric impulse, moved towards the enemy. Their bayonets became a gleaming, glittering, bristling, moving hedge. They broke into a run. Each man felt the enthusiasm of the moment. They heeded not the deadly volleys, but went on through the storm, with a cheer louder than the roar of the battle.
The Rebels did not wait to receive the blow, but fled in confusion from the field.
It was a glorious moment. Berry at that instant was throwing in a living barrier against the flood which had swept Hooker back. The battle was won. Night came on. It had rained through the day, and the men, victorious at last, lay down to sleep upon the field, while the Rebels fled towards Richmond, leaving several cannon, many wagons, and several hundred of their wounded in Williamsburg.
The total Union loss was two thousand two hundred and eighty-eight. The loss to the Rebels was from two thousand five hundred to three thousand.
"Our loss amounted to about two thousand five hundred," says the chaplain of the Fourth Texas.
When the news of the battle reached Richmond there was great consternation, which was increased by the news of the blowing up of the Merrimack on the morning of the 11th of May.
"In the President's mansion about this time all was consternation and dismay," says Pollard, the Southern historian.19
Jefferson Davis's niece wrote a letter to a friend in Vicksburg, but the mail-bag was captured by the Yankee pickets.
"General Johnston," said the young lady, "is falling back from the Peninsula, and Uncle Jeff thinks we had better go to a safer place than Richmond. O mother! Uncle Jeff is miserable. He tries to be cheerful and bear up against such a continuation of troubles, but oh! I fear he can[Pg 78]not live long, if he does not get some rest and quiet.
"Our reverses distressed him so much, and he is so weak and feeble, it makes my heart ache to look at him. He knows that he ought to send his wife and children away, and yet he cannot bear to part with them, and we all dread to leave him too. Varina and I had a hard cry about it to-day.
"O, what a blow the fall of New Orleans was! It like to have set us all crazy here. Everybody looks depressed, and the cause of the Confederacy looks drooping and sinking; but if God is with us, who can be against us? Our troops are not doing as well as we expected.... The regiments most apt to run are from North Carolina and Tennessee.... I am afraid that Richmond will fall into the hands of the enemy, as there is no way to keep back the gunboats. James River is so high that all obstructions are in danger of being washed away, so that there is no help for the city....
"Uncle Jeff was confirmed last Tuesday in St. Paul's Church, by Bishop Johns. He was baptized at home, in the morning, before church."20
The Confederate Congress adjourned hastily. They sent off their families. The railroad trains going out were crowded with passengers. The public documents were boxed up and sent away. Mrs. Jefferson Davis took down her window-curtains, tore up the carpets, packed her silver plate and pictures, and left the city.21 The Treasury Department removed its printing-presses to Geor[Pg 79]gia, and everybody prepared to leave the city, which they feared was doomed to fall into the hands of the Yankees.
When the Merrimack was blown up, the James River was open to the gunboats to Fort Darling, within ten miles of Richmond. The fort mounted four guns. Three of the gunboats bombarded it on the 13th, but were not able to silence the guns.
General McClellan's transports were at Yorktown and Fortress Monroe,—an immense fleet. His army was within five miles of the James. It will be for the future historian to inquire whether the army ought not to have been sent up the James instead of the Chickahominy.
After the battle of Antietam, a wounded Rebel officer who was left behind when Lee retreated, and who was General Magruder's Adjutant-General, conversed freely upon the Peninsular campaign.
"We were very much surprised at Yorktown," he said, "when we saw General McClellan make preparations for a siege."
"Yes, for we were ready to retreat at any moment. We had only a handful of men compared with his great army."
"How many men had Magruder at that time?"
"Not more than nine thousand and five hundred fit for duty, and they were strung out on a line thirteen miles long, from Gloucester to James River. If General McClellan had acted with vigor, and pushed our center as soon as he landed, he could have trampled us all down in the mud."
"But you had a large number of cannon, which swept the approaches, and could have inflicted great damage."
"He could have covered his real attack by feints on distant parts of the line, and Magruder's force was so small that he could not have resisted an earnest attack. The woods were so dense that McClellan could have effectually concealed all his movements."
"Some of General McClellan's officers were in favor of advancing at once."
"It was, in my judgment, if you will allow a Rebel to criticise your generals," said the officer with a smile, "his first mistake."
"Then you think it was a mistake on the part of General McClellan."
"Yes, for Lee's army had not reached us. Every day's delay on the part of General McClellan gave us reinforcements. It gave us time to fortify Richmond. The Confederate army was much reduced at that time. The term of enlistments of many regiments had expired, and the Conscription Act had not been enforced. The fortunes of the Confederacy at that time were not very bright, I must confess. Even the Confederate Congress closed its session and left Richmond, and, had it not been for McClellan's delay and the energy with which troops from all quarters were conscripted and rushed into Richmond, it would have gone hard with us. And when we evacuated Yorktown, General McClellan did not do as I should have done, had I commanded you Yankees."
"Ah! how so?"
"The Virginia, or the Merrimack, as you call[Pg 81] her, was blown up on the 10th. It was a bitter pill to us, and if I were Jefferson Davis I would hang old Huger, who commanded at Norfolk, for his cowardly conduct in evacuating the place. When the Merrimack was destroyed, General McClellan, instead of following us up the Peninsula through the mud, ought to have re-embarked his troops and made all haste up the James. Your gunboats went up to Fort Darling and got smashed, but if he had landed below the Fort he could have carried it from the rear with his infantry, for we had few troops there. He could have then brought his gunboats to Richmond ahead of us who were paddling in the mud of the Chickahominy."
"I suppose that General McClellan did what he thought was best at the time."
"Probably; but it happened to be the very best movement he could have made for us," said the officer, with a smile.
There was much suffering in the hospitals on the Peninsula. The medical department was not well organized, but the delegates of the Christian and Sanitary Commissions were present, and saved the lives of many men.
They saw a soldier in a tent one day who was fast passing away. He had fought his last battle with the enemy of his country. He was a noble man, but he was worn out by disease. He had worked in the slimy swamps, on the fortifications, and was covered with filth. He had lost all his strength, and was so weak that he could not raise his hand to his head. They washed him, changed his clothing, lifted him from the damp ground and placed him on a cot, gave him nourishing[Pg 82] food, talked to him of home, of mother, of Jesus, his best friend, of a better world. The soldier tried to thank them, but was too weak to articulate the words. He could only take the chaplain's hand, press it to his cheek, and bathe it with tears of gratitude.
Thus the friends at home, by their Christian sympathy and charity, sustained and comforted the brave defenders of their country, in their last hours.
On the 16th of May the whole army, with the exception of Hooker's division, which remained at Williamsburg, was at the White House on the Pamunkey, where a permanent depot was established. The cavalry under General Stoneman, and the infantry pickets, were on the banks of the Chickahominy.
General McClellan called for reinforcements. In response, the President informed him, on the 18th, that General McDowell had been ordered to march from Fredericksburg to join him by the shortest route, but was also ordered to keep himself in position to cover Washington, and General McClellan was instructed to open communication with him.
"This order," says General McClellan, "rendered it impossible for me to use the James River as a line of operations, and forced me to establish[Pg 83] our depots on the Pamunkey, and to approach Richmond from the north. It frustrated the plan of the campaign."
It will be for the future historian to determine whether the order to General McDowell to move overland compelled General McClellan to take the Chickahominy route, and frustrated the plan of the campaign, or whether, on the other hand, he had not chosen the route, by moving from Williamsburg on the 10th, and establishing his head-quarters and depots at White House, and throwing out his cavalry and pickets to Bottom's Bridge on the Chickahominy on the 16th, two days before the orders were issued.
The Chickahominy River runs north of Richmond, flows southeast, and becomes an affluent of the James above Williamsburg. It is fringed with forests and bordered by marshy lands, which at high water become impassable swamps, but at low water the stream is fordable in many places. The Rebels destroyed all the bridges as they retreated to Richmond.
The army came to the river at Bottom's Bridge. The Eleventh Maine was in the advance. They were brave, hardy men, from the lumber-swamps of the Pine-Tree State. The Rebel pickets saw them, set the bridge on fire, and fled. The Maine men gave them a volley, rushed forward, used their caps for fire-buckets, and extinguished the flames, and with their axes soon had it repaired for the use of the army.
Heintzelman's and Keyes's corps crossed to the southern bank, while the other corps pushed up the northern bank, towards Coal Harbor and Mechanicsville.[Pg 84]
Fourteen miles north of Richmond is Hanover Court-House. A Rebel force was stationed there, commanded by General Branch. On the 27th of May, General Fitz-John Porter, with Emory's brigade of cavalry, and Martindale's, Butterfield's, McQuade's, and Warren's brigades of infantry, proceeded to drive the Rebels from the place, and make a junction with McDowell. At noon General Emory, with the cavalry, came upon the enemy about two miles east of the Court-House, where the road forks,—the right hand road leading to the Court-House, the left hand to Ashland.
Berdan's sharpshooters and Martindale's brigade were near by, and General Porter formed in line of battle. The sharpshooters were thrown forward as skirmishers. Benson's battery came into position in a field on the right-hand side of the road, and commenced throwing shells over the heads of the sharpshooters.
The Rebels were posted on a hill near a farm-house,—their line reaching across both roads. General Martindale went up the Ashland road, driving in the skirmishers. The soldiers heard the whistle of a locomotive, and saw a train of cars upon the Virginia Central road bringing reinforcements to the Rebels. Captain Griffin's batteries were brought up, and a vigorous fire opened upon the railroad. The Twenty-second Massachusetts and Second Maine were thrown forward to the railroad. They tore up the track, and cut the telegraph-wire, under cover of the heavy fire of the artillery.
While this was transpiring on the Ashland road, there was a sharp contest on the road leading to Hanover. The Rebel infantry, concealed in the woods, opened a rapid fire upon the Twenty-fifth New York, which killed Lieutenant Fisk and wounded Lieutenant-Colonel Savage, and a number of the men. The Rebels sprang from the woods upon the regiment, and captured several prisoners. Colonel Johnson, commanding the regiment, fell back upon the reserve, which was coming into position in the rear, composed of the Seventeenth New York, Eighty-third Pennsylvania in the front line, and the Twelfth New York and Sixteenth Michigan in the second. They charged over the field, through the hollow, up the slope beyond, and came upon the Rebel batteries by the farm-house so rapidly, and with such force, that they captured a twelve-pound gun, which the enemy had not time to remove. The Rebels retreated towards the Court-House, followed by the cavalry, and all the artillery and infantry except Martindale's brigade. General Martindale sent two of his regiments up the railroad to join the main force at the Court-House, while he remained with the Second Maine, Twenty-fifth New York, a portion of the Forty-fourth New York, and two guns of Martin's battery.
While waiting and resting with this small force, after the exciting encounter of the afternoon, he was suddenly attacked by the Rebels, who greatly outnumbered him, and who by a surprise hoped to rout and defeat him, and cut off General Porter from the main command. But for more than an hour he held his ground, till[Pg 86] the column which had gone to the Court-House turned back and rejoined him.
As soon as General Porter heard the firing, he moved the Thirteenth and Fourteenth New York and Griffin's batteries down the road upon the double-quick. The Ninth Massachusetts and Sixty-second Pennsylvania were sent through the woods, across the angle between the Hanover and Ashland roads, while the Eighty-third Pennsylvania and Sixteenth Michigan pushed down the railroad. The troops last named moved with great rapidity. They came suddenly upon the left flank of the enemy. The Rebels evidently were not expecting to be attacked from that quarter. They fled through the woods in great confusion. The cavalry rode among them, and hundreds threw down their arms and gave themselves up as prisoners.
General McClellan, in his Report, thus speaks of this gallant affair: "Some two hundred of the enemy's dead were buried by our troops, seven hundred and thirty prisoners sent to the rear, one twelve-pound howitzer, one caisson, a large number of small arms, and two railroad trains captured." The Union loss amounted to fifty-three killed and three hundred and forty-four wounded and missing.
The force encountered was General Branch's division of North Carolina and Georgia troops, numbering about nine thousand. Their camp at Hanover Court-House was taken and destroyed.
General Porter fell back to Coal Harbor. The engineers made a survey of the Chickahominy and of the approaches to Richmond, and began to[Pg 87] build bridges across the stream and throw up earthworks.
The days were hot and sultry. There were heavy thunder-storms, succeeded by intense heat. The soldiers were provided with axes and shovels, and were set to work in the dark, miry swamps, working all day up to their waists in the muddy water. Disease in all its frightful forms of fever and dysentery made its appearance. The air was full of malaria. Hundreds died and thousands were sent to the hospitals.
One day a fine youth, who with ardor and enthusiasm had enlisted as a soldier, was brought into the hospital. He had been taken violently and suddenly with fever while in the marshes. The nurses laid him on a cot, gave him cold water, bathed his hot brows. He had a likeness of his mother, who had gone into the better land, and of his sister, who was far away in his pleasant home, in a gold locket on his neck. He dreamed and talked of home, and said, "I have a sister on my heart,—a sister on my heart,—a sister,—a sister."
The disease made rapid progress. The fever burned within,—a consuming flame which, before sunrise, had devoured all his young life. He was buried in the afternoon beneath the forest trees.
It was wearing work, the bridge-building, the construction of roads, and throwing up of intrenchments. Besides, there was the necessity of keeping close watch upon the enemy. If there were sad scenes, there were also amusing incidents.
A party of Maine boys, on picket, one day, saw[Pg 88] a pair of wagon-wheels. Not far off were the Rebel pickets, in an open field. The Down-East Yankees thought they would have some fun. They mounted a log upon the wheels, brought the mock cannon into position. One of them pretended to sponge it, another put in the cartridge, a third primed, a fourth sighted it, while a fifth stood ready to fire. The Rebels watched the operation a moment, and then scampered for the woods to get under cover! The Maine boys did not fire, but had a merry chuckle among themselves, and a hearty laugh with their comrades when they told the story in camp.
Seven miles from Richmond, near the York River Railroad, there is a grove of oaks, so green, so beautiful and fair, that the railroad station has received the name of Fair Oaks. A highway from Richmond crosses the railroad near the station called the Nine-Mile Road. The railroad runs east and the Nine-Mile Road southeast. The highway from Richmond to Williamsburg runs parallel to the railroad about a mile south of it, and is crossed by the Nine-Mile Road, a mile southeast from Fair Oaks. At the junction of the two highways are seven pines, standing in a cluster on the south side of the Williamsburg road.
The country around is level and covered mainly by a dense forest, but there is cleared land along the Williamsburg road toward Richmond. On the 23d of May, General Keyes was ordered to advance to Fair Oaks and hold the position. General Couch's division was halted at Seven Pines, while Casey's was thrown forward to Fair Oaks, encamped on Baker's farm. General Keyes cut down the trees in front of his line beyond Fair Oaks to form an abattis. They were also felled in front of Couch.
On Friday night, the 30th of May, there was a terrific thunder-storm. The heavens were sheets of flame, and the clouds poured torrents of water which deluged the country and flooded the Chickahominy.
Early in the morning on Saturday, the 31st, it was whispered in the Rebel camp that General Johnston was going to attack the Yankees who were South of the Chickahominy.22
"In such weather?" it was asked.
"The bridges are washed away, and it is impossible for McClellan to send over his right and center to the assistance of his left. His army is divided, and we can crush the force on the south side before he can reinforce it," was the answer.
General Huger's division moved out from Richmond at six o'clock, taking the Charles City road, which is south of the Williamsburg road, and which runs south of White-Oak Swamp. He was to make a long and rapid march east, then turn north, cross the Swamp, gain the rear of General[Pg 90] Couch, and cut off his retreat to Bottom's Bridge. He was to reach his position and begin the attack at eight o'clock. General Longstreet's division moved down the Williamsburg road and halted in the woods. General Whiting moved down the Nine-Mile Road and halted in the woods in front of Fair Oaks.
President Davis and his Cabinet went out with Longstreet to see the fight. Eight o'clock—nine o'clock—ten—passed, and there was no sound of Huger's guns. He was toiling in the mud, moving at a snail's pace. Longstreet and Whiting were impatiently waiting, concealed from observation in the woods.
At ten o'clock, General Keyes's pickets captured an aide of General Johnston in the edge of the woods. He was brought before General Keyes. While the General was talking with him, two musket-shots were fired in the woods, which produced an emotion in the young officer so marked that it was noticed by General Keyes, who feared that something might be going on in his front, and who immediately issued orders for his troops to be under arms.
Eleven o'clock came, and General Longstreet, getting out of patience at Huger's delay, ordered his troops to advance and begin the attack. His skirmishers went through the woods quickly, and came upon Casey's skirmishers on the Williamsburg road, and the firing began. But his regiments were slow in getting on. His artillery sank in the mud.
The rapid increase of the fire along the picket line alarmed General Keyes, who made quick preparations for whatever might happen.
Casey's division faced towards Richmond; Naglee's brigade was on the railroad,—two regiments north of it; Wessell's brigade was in the center, near "Fair Oaks," and Palmer's was on the left, south of the Williamsburg road. Spratt's battery was near the Oaks. Regan's battery was in rear of Spratt's. Bates's battery was south of the Williamsburg road, in a redoubt, while Fitch's[Pg 92] battery was in rear of the redoubt. Couch's division at Seven Pines was lying with Graham's brigade between the Williamsburg road and the railroad, Devens's brigade on the Williamsburg road, and Peck's brigade on the left.
Up to twelve o'clock there was little firing except by the pickets, and the men in Casey's command laid aside their arms and prepared to eat dinner. Soon after noon two shells were thrown into Casey's camp.
Suddenly there was a heavy roll of musketry in the woods. Officers sprang to their feet. They knew that it portended trouble. There was a quick saddling of horses and buckling on of belts. Orders were issued in imperious tones.
The men left their coffee-pots and plates of rice, seized their guns, and formed in line.
Casey's division was composed of undisciplined troops which had joined the army after its arrival upon the Peninsula. The men had had no experience, and yet they were placed in advance, nearest the enemy,—an oversight which was dearly paid for.
The force which Johnston had brought out numbered not far from thirty thousand. Casey's division numbered not far from seven thousand. Like an avalanche was the advance of the Rebels upon this small, undisciplined force. Generals Anderson, D. H. Hill, Jenkins, Pegram, and Wilcox swept along the Williamsburg road, striking Palmer's brigade on the left flank.
General Casey's pickets were but a short distance from camp, and they came streaming back in confusion, followed by the Rebels in masses. General Keyes saw that it was no feint, but an[Pg 93] attack by an overwhelming force. He despatched a messenger to General Heintzelman, who was behind him towards Bottom's Bridge, for reinforcements. The firing became quick and heavy. General Sumner, three miles distant across the Chickahominy, heard it, and ordered his command under arms. The aide sent to Heintzelman lost his way in the woods, and was a long while in bearing the important message. Keyes saw that there was danger on Casey's left, south of the Williamsburg road, where the Rebels were appearing in great force, and he ordered Peck's brigade of Couch's division to advance and support Palmer. Spratt's battery, near Fair Oaks, opened upon the Rebels as they came through the woods on the right, supported by the Eleventh Maine, One Hundredth New York, One Hundred and Fourth Pennsylvania, and Ninety-Second New York.
In the center, the One Hundred and Third Pennsylvania was sent forward to sustain the pickets, but quickly returned in confusion.
The Rebel lines came into the open field, following the retreating pickets. All of Casey's guns opened with canister, and the fire was so severe that General Hill ordered his men to lie down, as it was impossible to advance in the face of such a storm.24 General Hill dismounted from his horse, and criticised the fire of the different batteries. Longstreet's line was more than a mile in extent, and yet Huger and Whiting had not fired a cartridge. The fire was so terrible from the batteries, and from Palmer's, Wessell's,[Pg 94] and Naglee's lines, that Longstreet changed his plan of attack, and, instead of advancing directly upon the center, attacked on both flanks. Some of his regiments filed towards the south, and crept through the bushes unseen by Casey. The others moved north, some in front of Naglee, and prepared to charge upon Spratt's battery. General Casey saw the plan. He rode along the line, called upon three of Naglee's regiments to drive the enemy into the woods. There was a rail-fence between the combatants, but the troops sprang over it with a cheer, formed in line, and fought the enemy face to face. The battle raged with great fury around the Oaks.
The enemy was held in check a few minutes by the three regiments, but, being superior, advanced once more, firing as they came on. Naglee held his ground till the fighting was at close quarters,—till some of the Eleventh Maine were bayoneted. The order to retreat was given, and the lines fell back, followed closely by the enemy, who made a rush for Spratt's battery, and captured one of the guns.
Elated, the Rebels halted to reform their lines, before pushing on to other successes. But while re-forming, Bates and Fitch opened wide gaps in their ranks at every discharge of grape and canister. Once more they came on, shouting and screaming, and delivering their volleys and receiving the steady fire streaming from the rifles of Naglee's line, reinforced now by a regiment from General Peck's brigade of Couch's division.
Their line of march is from southwest to northeast. They come upon the left of Naglee's[Pg 95] position, curling round his flank, and pouring a cross fire into the rifle-pits. Colonel Bailey, Major Van Valkenburg, and Adjutant Ramsey of the artillery are killed, other officers are wounded. The advancing host leap over the slight earthworks, seize the guns, and prepare to turn them upon the backs of the men on Naglee's right. It is no use to contend for the ground or the guns against the superior force, and the men fall back once more. Casey's whole line also retreats to that held by General Couch.
Up to this moment, Longstreet's grand division only has been engaged; but two regiments of General Couch's division, who are moving up the railroad to support Naglee, see across the field beyond the Fair Oaks long lines of men,—some standing in battle line, and others advancing in column along the railroad. It is Whiting, who is deploying his forces from the Nine-Mile Road.
General Couch is made acquainted with the fact. He sends for the other two regiments of the brigade. Whiting pours his troops into the gap between Naglee and Couch, and cuts off the four regiments from the troops at Seven Pines.
The regiments thus isolated are thrown back towards Grape-Vine Bridge.
While this is transpiring on the right, there is disaster in the center, and on the left. The Rebels there are pushing on. Keyes rallies his troops. He sends forward regiment after regiment from his second line, to strengthen that in front, to hold his ground if possible, but it is growing thin. It sways to and fro, and breaks at last. It crumbles, piecemeal,—the troops[Pg 96] hastening towards the Seven Pines. He has one regiment still in reserve,—the Tenth Massachusetts.
He throws it into the broken gap. It requires nerve and muscle to march in where all are fleeing,—to be a breakwater where the flood sweeps all before it. But the regiment goes in as cheerfully as to a dress-parade. They deliver their volleys with deliberate aim. They hold their ground.
Three hundred yards in the rear, Heintzelman, Keyes, Casey, Naglee, and other officers are rallying the men. Fugitives are stopped, regiments which have been so stubbornly contesting the ground are induced to try it once more.
"Had that regiment been two minutes later," says General Keyes, "they would have been too late to occupy that fine position, and it would have been impossible to have formed the next and last line of battle, which stemmed the tide of defeat and turned it toward a victory."25
Thus far the Rebels have had it all their own way. Casey has been driven a mile. His camp is in the hands of Longstreet. He has lost many guns. Longstreet has made so good a beginning that, although Huger has not made his appearance from the South, the prospect is good for overwhelming the Union force on the southern bank.
But other actors arrive upon the ground,—the men who tossed their knapsacks into the woods at Williamsburg,—who became a wall of adamant on that memorable field. Berry and Jame[Pg 97]son march up the Williamsburg road and move out upon the left of the line forming behind the Tenth Massachusetts. Berry pushes down into the border of the swamp; Jameson sends one regiment to Peck and one to Birney, and moves straight on towards the abattis of fallen trees in front of Couch's line along the Williamsburg road with his two remaining regiments. His men lie down behind the fallen trees and pour their volleys into the advancing foe, moving on in stately grandeur. Jameson, unmindful of the storm around him, rides up and down the line, exposed to the fire of the enemy, not a hundred yards distant. Sheltered by the abattis, his two regiments are immovable. Like a hillock in the path of an avalanche, they turn the overwhelming force aside. It flows round them, right and left, but does not advance along the road.
Berry, far down in the woods towards White Oak Swamp, is pouring a terrible fire upon the masses, who still press toward Seven Pines. He holds them in check, repulsing all the assaults. There, in the thickest of the fight, is that young officer who made his last will and testament at Yorktown,—the "hero of the day" at Williamsburg,—animating the troops by his fearless daring, and there he gives his life to his country, shot through the brain.
In the rear of Seven Pines is the hospital, full of weak and sickly men, prostrated by fevers. They hear the tide of battle rolling nearer hour by hour. A soldier from the front says that the line is giving way and the Rebels are sweeping all before them. The words fall on the ears of Lieutenant Rice, of the Eleventh Maine. He[Pg 98] springs to his feet, and grasps a gun. "All of you who can hold up your heads, follow me!" he shouts.26 Men who have not been able to stand upon their feet spring up at the word. They are pale, sallow, emaciated, with sunken eyes and hollow cheeks. They form in line, twenty of them, seize their muskets. The fever is consuming them, but there is a warmer flame within their breasts,—the unquenchable desire to save their comrades from defeat and their country from destruction. Lieutenant Rice leads the weak and tottering party to the front. He moves on close to the enemy. He is one of the best marksmen of his regiment, and soldier after soldier falls from the ranks of the enemy by his unerring aim. He fires seven times, and then goes down before the bullets of the foe.
There is Willie Parker of the Eleventh Maine, a mere boy, who beholds the Rebel colors advancing from the woods, borne by a stalwart soldier.
"That flag must come down!" he says, as he raises his gun. There is a flash, a screaming in the air, as the swiftly-whirling bullet passes on. The color-bearer reels, staggers, and falls.
There is Sergeant Katon, the standard-bearer of the Eleventh, holding up, as high as he can reach, the broken flag-staff, while kneeling beside the dead body of Corporal Maddocks, who has fallen while guarding the torn and tattered but precious standard,—all this while the tempest surges around them, over them, through them; the very blast of death!
An officer with one hundred men, who has been out on picket, comes up the road.
"Where is my regiment?" he asks of the grim and veteran Heintzelman.
"I cannot tell you, sir."
"But I would like to join it."
"Very well, but if it is fighting you want, just go in, Colonel, for there is good fighting all along the line."
The battle rages furiously. Five o'clock—six o'clock—half past six—Berry holds them by the swamp, Jameson holds them with his three hundred men on the Williamsburg road; but between Seven Pines and Fair Oaks the tide is drifting on.
Jameson resolves to advance. The Rebels in front of him fall back along the road to Richmond. Thus, while Whiting is pushing east over the Nine-Mile Road, Jameson is marching west towards the Rebel capital, driving all before him.
"Fall back" is the imperative order which he receives. He would a great deal rather go on.
"What would you have done, if you had not been ordered back?" a friend asked.
"I would have been in Richmond or in Heaven before night," was the reply.27
But he obeys orders. Yet he cannot go back the way he advanced; the enemy is between him and Seven Pines. He faces south, picks his way through White Oak Swamp, comes round to Seven Pines, and again confronts the enemy.
The day is closing. Darkness is coming on. The Yankees are not yet swept into the Chickahominy. Longstreet has had success, but it is[Pg 100] not a great victory. The Union line has been pushed back a mile and a half. It has been broken,—almost disorganized. Berry's brigade is as firm and solid as ever. Jameson's has been divided and sent to different parts of the field. Casey's division has crumbled. Couch's has been broken. A great crowd of stragglers is moving towards Bottom's Bridge. Couch with two regiments and a battery have been pushed north towards Grape Vine Bridge. Such is the position at seven o'clock, as Whiting, fresh and vigorous, brings his brigade down the railroad to finish the work of this day.
But now there is another actor,—General Sumner, who has crossed the Chickahominy at Grape-Vine Bridge, and is pushing on with Sedgwick's gallant division.
General Sumner ordered his corps to be under arms at one o'clock. As the firing grew loud, he moved his troops to the Chickahominy and waited for orders to cross. He commenced crossing at three o'clock, but the swamp was flooded, and it was only by great exertion and perseverance that he was able to get Kirby's battery to the south bank.
Gorman's brigade led the column, composed of the First Minnesota, Fifteenth Massachusetts, Second New York Volunteers, and Thirty-Fourth New York,—Gorman joined General Couch. Kirby, with his six Napoleon guns, followed, and Dana's brigade closed the column, composed of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Massachusetts, Seventh Michigan, and Forty-Second New York. General Sumner rapidly formed his line, facing south. Whiting, up to this time, had been press[Pg 101]ing straight on towards the Seven Pines. He turned to crush this new force which had appeared unexpectedly on his flank.
It is a cloudy night and darkness is stealing on, as the Rebels change their front and move towards the north to sweep all before them. They advance across the field and through the woods, delivering a rapid fire. Suddenly there bursts a sheet of flame from Sumner's ranks.
The Rebels fall back, rally their broken lines, advance again, nearer and with desperation. "Canister! Canister! Give them canister!" is Kirby's order as he moves from gun to gun. The battle-cloud grows thick beneath the heavy vapors rising from the swamp. Quick, incessant flashes momentarily light up the deepening darkness. It is not possible for men to face so terrible a storm. Vain are all the efforts of the Rebel officers to rally their bleeding ranks.
Sumner has stood his ground. The time has come to advance. The Thirty-Fourth and Forty-Second New York, Fifteenth and Twentieth Massachusetts, and Seventh Michigan move forward.
There are two fences in front of them, and beyond the farthest one is the Rebel line waiting their advance. The soldiers know that it will be the last march of many, but with a cheer heard above the roar of battle, they rush into the darkness, dash the fences under foot, and spring upon the enemy's lines. It is the work of a minute. One short struggle, a volley, a holding of the breath, muttered curses, shouts, groans, a clashing of bayonets, the trampling of ten thousand feet, and the field is clear of the enemy!
General Johnston has failed in what he intend[Pg 102]ed to accomplish. He is borne from the field at this hour, wounded by a shell from Kirby's battery.
"As I rode down through the field," says a Rebel officer, "I met Franks, one of Longstreet's aides, looking as blue as indigo. What is the matter, Franks? Not satisfied with the day's work?" I inquired.
"Satisfied be hanged! I saw old Jeff, Mallory, Longstreet, and Whiting, and all of them, looking as mad as thunder. Just to think that Huger's slowness has spoiled everything! There he has been on our right all day and hasn't fired a shot, although he had positive orders to open the fight at eight o'clock in the morning."28
There are indescribable scenes of horror after a great battle,—the removal of the wounded, bleeding, dying, giving utterances to groans extorted by the intense pain,—the work at the hospitals, where the disabled, one by one, are laid before the surgeons. Yet, amid their terrible sufferings, the men are often cheerful, and hopeful for this life and the life which is to come.
A chaplain says: "Amongst the badly wounded was Joseph Bynon of Alleghany City, Pennsylvania, a young man of the most generous nature, universally popular in his regiment, and the staff of a widowed mother. He was lying on a blanket near the house, wounded in the bowels. I asked him about his sufferings. He replied, that he did not suffer much, that he was faint from the loss of blood as he supposed. I saw from his pulse that he had but a few moments to live, and said to him,
"'Joseph, are you willing and ready to die? I am afraid you cannot live.'
"'Well, doctor,' he whispered, 'I should like to live; I love my mother; this will be a great sorrow to her. And I should like to do something for my little nephew and niece. But there is another life, and I know I shall find mother there. I feel I have been a great sinner; in many things I have done wrong; but ever since my conversion I experienced in Camp Johnson, I have tried to follow my Saviour, and now I die trusting. My mind wanders; I find it difficult to think and speak. In praying to God, I may not say the things that are right; do, doctor, lift up my hands and clasp them together, and pray for me!'
"I lifted up the hands crimsoned with his own blood, and pressing them in mine, commended him to the Merciful One, who for us all had suffered the bitterness of death. He repeated word for word, prayed for his mother, and then said, 'O Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world, take away my sin; into Thine hand I commend my spirit!'
"The storm of battle raged again. The enemy's shells burst around the hospital, and the wounded were removed. He was lifted into an ambulance, but died before it reached Savage Station. Thus giving his life to his country, he passed on into the service of his God."29
At daybreak on Sunday morning, an orderly belonging to the Rebel army rode out of the woods into the Union lines.
"Where is General Anderson," he asked.
"Here he is. What do you want of him?" said a colonel.
"I have a despatch for him from General Pryor."
"I will take it. Soldiers, guard this man. You are my prisoner."
The orderly was much astonished to find himself a prisoner. The despatch gave information of the disposition of the Rebel forces for the battle soon to recommence.
During the night the balance of Sumner's corps crossed the Chickahominy, and at daybreak the troops, thus strengthened, were able to renew the battle. Sedgwick remained where he fought on Saturday. Richardson's division was next on his right. He formed in two lines,—with French's brigade in front on the railroad, and Howard and Meagher in the second line in his rear. Kearney, Couch, and Hooker, with the remnants of Casey's division, were in the vicinity of Seven Pines.
It would require many pages to give in detail the fight of Sunday morning. It must be given as a picture.
It began at five o'clock. At that hour, the Rebels are discovered south of the railroad in the woods in front of Richardson. Pettit opens with shells, and the stillness of the Sabbath is broken by deep reverberations rolling along the Chickahominy. There is a gap between Richardson and Kearney. Richardson moves toward Seven Pines to close it. From the woods where Pettit drops his shells, there is a volley—another—another—and the men drop from Richardson's ranks. The Rebels advance and attack French's brigade at short range. For an hour the men[Pg 105] stand in their places, and deliver their fire upon the columns which are pushed against them. Reinforcements come up from Longstreet's reserves. Howard is brought up from the second line to meet them. His horse is shot. He is twice wounded in the right arm, and is forced to leave the field. His arm is shattered, and the surgeon says it must come off. He meets Kearney, who lost his left arm years ago.
"We will buy our gloves together, Kearney," is the salutation of this Christian soldier and patriot.
But the onset of his brigade is magnificent. The rebel line is shattered by the resistless charge.
Hooker comes up the railroad. He falls like a thunderbolt upon the enemy in front, breaking, dividing, shattering them. They flee in confusion. Sickles is advancing along the Williamsburg road, Berry and Jameson are moving over the ground of Saturday between the Seven Pines and White-Oak Swamp. Richardson and Sedgwick are also in motion. From Fair Oaks to the swamp south of Seven Pines, the Union line advances over the bloody field. It is like the swinging of a wide gate, with its hinges near Fair Oaks, and reaching past Seven Pines to the swamp.
It is a triumphant march. The Rebels have failed in what they attempted, and are fleeing with broken, demoralized ranks to Richmond. Hats, caps, blankets, knapsacks, guns, all are thrown aside. The road is filled with the fleeing fugitives. Heintzelman and Sumner press on within four miles of the city. No troops oppose them.
"I have no doubt but we might have gone right[Pg 106] into Richmond," says General Heintzelman.30—"I think that if the army had pressed after the enemy with great vigor, we should have gone to Richmond," is the opinion of General Keyes.31
"They (the Federals) missed an opportunity of striking a decisive blow. These opportunities never returned," writes Prince de Joinville of France.32
General McClellan recalled the troops from their pursuit, and established his lines as they were on the morning of Saturday.
The loss on the Union side was 5,737. The Rebel loss, as reported in Smith's, Longstreet's, and Hill's divisions, was 6,783. Whiting's division also suffered severely, so that the entire Rebel loss was about 8,000.
A month passed by. General McClellan was preparing for a siege. There were six bridges built across the Chickahominy, which required labor day and night. The men were obliged to work up to their arms in the water. Miles of corduroy roads were constructed. The ground was so swampy and marshy that nothing could be done by horses. All the timber hauled to construct the bridges and the batteries was drawn by the men. The month of June was rainy. There were frequent storms, succeeded by hot sunshine. Sickness, in all its frightful forms, made its appearance. The men became discouraged. It was expected, day after day, that the attack would commence; but the commanding officers issued orders that no batteries should open till all were ready. The army, meanwhile,[Pg 107] began to be depleted of troops. Thousands were sent to the hospitals, and other thousands were carried out to their last resting-place, on the banks of the dark, dismal, sluggish stream, which soon became the river of death.
Reinforcements were called for and received: McCall's division of Pennsylvania Reserves, which reached the army on the 12th and 13th of June.
On the night of the 13th, General Stewart, with 1,800 Rebel cavalry, appeared in rear of the army. He came first upon two squadrons of Regular cavalry, at Hanover Old Church, overpowering and capturing them; then pushed on to Gorlick's Landing, on the Pamunkey, burning two schooners and fourteen wagons; then moved to the railroad at Tunstall's Station.
The train first arriving was one going east with sick and wounded men. The engineer saw the cavalrymen on the track as he rounded a curve. They motioned him to stop, but he put on more steam, and the train rushed past with lightning speed. Hundreds of bullets were aimed at him, but he escaped unharmed.
General Stewart crossed the Chickahominy at Long Bridge, below Bottom's Bridge, and came upon a Union hospital at Baltimore Cross Roads. He placed a guard over the hospital, and treated the sick men humanely. But the fright was very disastrous to many who found themselves thus suddenly in the hands of the enemy. Several died during the night. In the pockets of one Union soldier, after death, the chaplain found some touching and beautiful letters from a little brother and sister, telling him how much they missed him, how they longed for his return, how[Pg 108] they counted the days until he might come back, but above all telling how proud they were of their soldier brother. And they never heard a drum beat nor a fife play without thinking of him, and feeling glad that they had one noble brother to fight for their country.33
The chances for taking Richmond became less with each day's delay. While the Army of the Potomac were digging and delving in the swamps, and constructing batteries, their ranks thinning out by disease, the Rebels, also, were hard at work erecting defensive batteries, on firm ground, and mounting guns of large caliber. Their ranks, instead of growing thin, were filling up. Troops were hurried in from all parts of the South. The Conscript law which the Confederate Congress had passed was in operation, and was carried out with remorseless energy. Men were compelled to enter the service.
The Union army in front of Richmond, on the 20th of June, numbered, fit for duty, 115,102 men. There were 12,225 sick, and 20,511 absent. Leaves of absence and furloughs had been granted freely. Officers and men, on a slight pretext, found it not very difficult to obtain leave of absence, and thus this army, through no fault of the government, became greatly depleted.
At this time General Jackson was in the Shenandoah Valley with a large force. By his operations there, it was found necessary to keep General McDowell in position to cover Washington. On the 18th of June, General McClellan informed the Secretary of War that deserters said troops were on their way from Richmond to reinforce Jackson.
On the same day, a man entered the Union lines at Fredericksburg, who pretended to be a Frenchman. He stated that he met from ten to fifteen thousand men on their way to Gordonsville, going to join Jackson.
A despatch was also received from General Sigel, who was in the Valley, that a large body of Rebels had arrived at Gordonsville.
All of this went to show that a grand movement was to be made in the Valley, or upon Washington. Such, undoubtedly, the Rebel commanders intended the government at Washington should understand their plan to be. But they had no intention of marching down the Shenandoah Valley, or of attacking Washington. They wished to prevent any more reinforcements from joining General McClellan, and also to cover their real point of attack.
General McClellan's army was still divided by the Chickahominy. Sumner, Heintzelman, and Keyes were on the south side, and Porter and Franklin, with McCall's newly arrived troops, were on the north bank.
The real object of the Rebels was to crush the force on the north bank by a sudden stroke with their whole army. By the movement to Gordonsville they allayed suspicion, and transferred a[Pg 110] division to a position from which it could be hurled upon the flank of General McClellan's force on the northern bank.
All of the railroad cars and engines which could be obtained were brought to Richmond over the Lynchburg road. Whiting's and Ewell's divisions were placed on board and taken to Lynchburg, and thence to Gordonsville where they joined Jackson; but not stopping there, were brought with Jackson's army to Frederickshall, on the Virginia Central Railroad. From thence this large force marched to Ashland, arriving there on the 25th.34
General McClellan was informed by a deserter, on the 24th, that Jackson, Whiting, and Ewell were at Frederickshall, and that it was intended to attack his rear on the 28th.35 The information was confirmed on the 25th by negroes who arrived at the Union lines, and stated that Jackson was at Hanover Court-House.
General McClellan's lines were more than twenty miles in length. His extreme right was north of the city of Richmond, on the road called the Brooke Turnpike. No change was made in the position of the troops, no breastworks were thrown up to protect the rear and flank. The only change was the removal of the head-quarters' camp to the south side of the Chickahominy. General Fitz-John Porter was left in command of the troops on the north side.
On the morning of the 26th, the Rebel forces in Richmond moved out to join Jackson. General Branch's division marched by the Brooke road.[Pg 111] General A. P. Hill moved over the Mechanicsville Turnpike; while General Longstreet and General D. H. Hill took the Coal-Harbor road still farther east, and came to the Chickahominy at New Bridge. General Magruder, with one division, was left on the south side of the stream.36 The Rebel force north of the Chickahominy numbered about 60,000; south of it, about 20,000. The Union army north numbered about 30,000; south, 70,000.
If we were to start in a skiff at the bridge on the Brooke road, and float down the slow and winding Chickahominy three miles, we should come first to Meadow Bridge, on the road leading from Richmond to Shady-Grove Church. Two miles farther would bring us to the Mechanicsville Turnpike. The little village of Mechanicsville is two miles towards the north. Two miles below the Mechanicsville Bridge is the Upper Trestle Bridge, built by General McClellan. Two miles farther down is New Bridge, on the road leading from Richmond to Coal Harbor. There is a high hill on the south side of the stream, on the plantation of Dr. Lewis, where the Rebels had a battery which commanded the bridge and prevented General McClellan from using it. There was also a battery on the north side, which General McClellan had planted to prevent the Rebels from crossing at that point, and cutting off the force which he had advanced to Mechanicsville. Still farther down the stream were other[Pg 112] bridges which had been erected by General McClellan's engineers.
At noon the enemy was seen advancing upon Meadow Bridge. The long column descended the bank, forded the stream above the bridge, and disappeared in the woods.
The Bucktails, who had driven Stewart at Dranesville, were sent out to support the pickets,[Pg 113] but were surprised to see a body of cavalry dashing into the road behind them. They faced about, drove the cavalry, fell back to Mechanicsville, followed by the pickets.
General McCall, who commanded there, had thrown up a line of breastworks on the east side of the creek. He formed his troops on the slope, with his batteries on the crest of the hill. General Reynolds's brigade had the right, and General Seymour's the left. General Meade's brigade was brought up as a reserve. General Porter sent forward Griffin's and Martindale's brigades, which took position on the right of Reynolds. Having thus formed his line, he waited the advance of the enemy.
The force which came in sight first was A. P. Hill's division, followed by General Branch's.
A short distance from the Chickahominy, on the creek, was Ellison's Mills. The road from Mechanicsville to New Bridge crossed the creek at that point. Another road leading from Mechanicsville to Coal Harbor crossed it farther up. Timber had been felled, rifle-pits dug, and the artillery planted so as to rake the only two feasible approaches.
General Hill formed his line for the attack on Ellison's Mills, while General Branch advanced along the upper road against Reynolds.
The battle began at three o'clock, and raged with fury till nine o'clock. There were no movements in the Union lines. The men stood in their places and poured an uninterrupted fire upon the enemy, who were vainly endeavoring to cross the ravine and scale the heights. The artillery, fifty pieces, rained solid shot, shells, grape, canister,[Pg 114] shrapnel, all sorts of missiles, producing great slaughter.
General D. H. Hill arrived with his division, and joined in the attack upon Seymour at the Mills, but was received with a "murderous fire."37
The united efforts of the two Hills and General Branch were not sufficient to dislodge the two brigades which held the position. Griffin, Martindale, and Meade were ready to lend assistance, but were not engaged. Griffin only fired a few shots. The Union loss was eighty killed and about two hundred wounded. The Rebel loss is supposed to have been nearly three thousand. The assaults upon the rifle-pits were made with great desperation, but the men could not get through the impassable abattis, and were cut down by the constant and steady fire of musketry and canister at short range.
But the advance of General Jackson by Coal Harbor made it necessary to withdraw the troops from this strong position and concentrate the entire force on the north bank, to cover the bridges which had been constructed between the two wings of the army. During the night General McCall's division was withdrawn, contrary to the remonstrances of the brave men who had held the ground against five times their force; but they did not know that Jackson was on their rear with 40,000 men.
General McClellan ordered the heavy guns and all the baggage to be sent across the Chickahominy. He had already meditated a retreat to the James River.
"Run the cars to the last moment, and load[Pg 115] them with provisions and ammunition. Load every wagon you have with subsistence, and send them to Savage Station," was the order sent to Colonel Ingalls, the Chief Quarter-Master at White-House.
The battle which was fought on the 27th of June is known in the South as the battle of Coal Harbor; in the North, as the battle of Gaines's Mills. General Fitz-John Porter commanded the Union troops, and General Lee the Rebel army.
Starting from the Chickahominy and traveling up the little creek which supplies Dr. Gaines's Mill with water, we come to the battle-field, which lies on our right hand, east of the creek. The ravine is narrow and the banks on both sides are steep. General Porter has cut down the trees which stood on the hillside, and has thrown up rifle-pits and intrenchments. He is to hold the enemy in check, while General McClellan makes preparations for a retreat to James River. He has thirty thousand men against seventy thousand. Commencing on the creek near the Chickahominy, we see on our right hand General Morrell's division, with Butterfield's, Martindale's, and Griffin's brigades. Upon the other side is Longstreet, A. P. Hill, and Whiting.
General Griffin's brigade is south of the road which comes down from Coal Harbor. Across the road is General Sykes's division of regulars, composed of Warren's, Chapman's and Buchanan's brigades, confronted by Ewell's, D. H. Hill's, and Jackson's divisions. General Porter's second[Pg 116] line at the beginning of the battle is composed of McCall's division, stationed near the center, in rear of Griffin. He has some cavalry on the road leading to Alexander's Bridge.
Late in the day Slocum's division, of Sumner's corps, crosses Sumner's Bridge and takes position in rear of Sykes's.
It is a hot, sultry day. General Lee is at Hogan's plantation, near New Coal-Harbor, sitting[Pg 117] beneath the portico of the farm-house, absorbed in thought. He is neatly dressed in a gray uniform, buttoned to the throat. Longstreet is sitting in an old chair at the foot of the steps beneath the trees, eating a lunch, with his feet against a tree, his uniform faded and torn, buttons missing, and his boots old and dusty. Gregg, Wilcox, Pryor, Featherstone, and other generals are there waiting for Jackson, who has been marching hard all the morning to get into position. A courier comes down the Coal-Harbor road, delivers a message to Lee, who mounts his horse and rides away to New Coal-Harbor.38
It is past two o'clock in the afternoon before Lee is ready to begin the attack. There has been a cannonade all along the line north and south of the Chickahominy. Magruder, on the south side, has instructions to make a grand demonstration, as if he was going to attack McClellan. It is his intention to keep him from sending troops to Porter's aid.
Lee intends to make a grand onset and sweep Porter into the Chickahominy. Under cover of a tremendous fire from the artillery, A. P. Hill begins the attack upon Griffin and Martindale, but under the superior and effective fire of Captain Griffin's United States battery, Weeden's Rhode Island, and Allen's and Martin's Massachusetts batteries, the Rebel batteries are "overpowered and driven from the field."39 The Rebel infantry advances through the belt of timber, and descends the ravine. From the rifle-pits there[Pg 118] are sudden flashes and quick spirts of flame, and the battle-cloud becomes thick and heavy.
It would require many pages to make a full record of the terrible combat. How Longstreet urged his men into the woods,—how the battle rolled through the forest and surged back again,—how brigade after brigade marched against Martindale, Griffin, and Butterfield, only to fall back with broken and shattered ranks,—how the ground became thick with the dead and wounded,—how men fired into each other's faces and fell almost into each other's arms, mingling their life-blood in one crimson stream,—how Jackson pressed on over the plain, urging his men nearer and nearer,—how the Pennsylvania Reserves went up to aid the Regulars,—how couriers dashed through the woods, over the bridges to General McClellan, who was on the southern bank, asking for reinforcements,—how Slocum's division went over, reached the field, held in check the dark masses forming upon the flank of the Regulars and Reserves, and held the ground. The hours hung heavily. Three o'clock,—four o'clock,—five o'clock,—and no break in the line. Thirty-five thousand against seventy! But the pressure is terrible. French's and Meagher's brigades are ordered over. But moments are precious. Six o'clock; the onset is greater than ever. Every regiment, every man, is brought to the front, on both sides. The artillery still thunders, but the infantry are out of ammunition. Longstreet has been hurled back as often as he has advanced, and so has A. P. Hill and D. H. Hill, but Jackson is working toward the Chickahominy on the left. Sykes's men, who have been facing north,[Pg 119] are obliged to face east to meet the troops moving in a steady stream down the road leading to Old Coal-Harbor. Men begin to leave the ranks and move toward the rear. There is a desperate rush from Jackson's brigades upon the guns. The Union line gives way.
If there was a fresh division or a brigade even at hand, the tide might be stopped. There are sixty thousand men upon the southern bank of the river, but General McClellan is afraid that Magruder with his division will make an attack.
Whiting's division, which has been held in reserve by Lee, is ordered up. All of his desperate charges and onsets have failed. If Whiting fails, the battle is lost.
The Regulars and the Pennsylvania Reserves are worn out. Their ammunition is nearly gone. Porter orders up his last man. They can have no more support. At this moment, after they have held at bay for four hours the great host, they are called upon to withstand the last grand charge of Jackson.
Whiting advances, he is received with grape and canister. His line halts, wavers, almost breaks; but Jackson, Whiting, Hood, and Law urge the men to push on. They leap across the ravine, halt a moment, sheltered by the bank above them from the fire of the Union batteries, and then leap the breastwork and seize the guns. There is a short struggle, a falling back, a retreat, and the battle of Gaines's Mills is lost to General McClellan.
Meagher and French have reached the field, but they are too late to save the day. Twenty guns[Pg 120] have fallen into Lee's hands, and several hundred prisoners. The cavalry in the rear draw their sabers, dash upon the exultant foe, but it is an ineffectual charge. The retreating troops fall in behind French and Meagher, form a new line nearer the Chickahominy, as the darkness comes on. They have been driven from their first position, but Lee has not power enough to drive them into the Chickahominy. He decides to wait till morning before renewing the attack.
The morning dawns, and Porter is beyond his reach across the river, with all his siege guns, ammunition, and supplies.
How near Lee came to losing the battle may be seen by the following extract from the narration of a Rebel correspondent of the Richmond Whig:—
"It was absolutely necessary that we should carry their line, and, to do this, regiment after regiment, and brigade after brigade was successively led forward; still our repeated charges, gallant and dashing though they were, failed to accomplish the end, and our troops, still fighting, fell steadily back. Thus for more than two mortal hours the momentous issue stood trembling in the balance. The sun was getting far in the west, darkness would soon be upon us, and the point must be carried. At this juncture—it was now five o'clock—the division of the gallant Whiting hove in sight. On reaching the field their troops rapidly deployed in line.... The charge was made under the most galling fire I ever witnessed; shot, shell, grape, canister, and ball swept through our lines like a storm of leaden hail, and our noble boys fell thick and fast; and yet still, with[Pg 121] the irresistible determination of men who fight for all that men hold dear, our gallant boys rushed on.
"Suddenly a halt was made,—there was a deep pause, and the line wavered from right to left. We now saw the character of the enemy's works. A ravine deep and wide yawned before us, while from the other side of the crest of the almost perpendicular bank, a breastwork of logs was erected, from behind which the dastard invaders were pouring murderous volleys upon our troops. The pause made by our troops was but a brief breathing space. The voice of Law was heard, 'Forward, boys! charge them!' and with a wild, mad shout our impetuous soldiery dashed forward."40
On the morning of the 28th, General Keyes and General Porter, followed by long trains of wagons and herds of cattle, moved towards the south, through the dark forests of White-Oak Swamp. At White-House landing, sloops, schooners, barges, and steamers were departing for Yorktown. At Savage Station the torch was applied to all the stores which could not be removed. Barrels of pork, beef, sugar, bags of coffee, boxes of bread, were destroyed. A railroad train loaded with ammunition was standing on the track. The engine was ready for use. Far down the track, there was a pillar of cloud rising from the burnt bridge across the Chickahominy. The cars were set on fire. The engineer stepped upon the en[Pg 122]gine for the last time, and pulled the throttle. The wheels began to turn. He opened the valve to its full width, and jumped upon the ground. The engine sprang down the descending grade, propelled by the pent-up power. It is two miles from the station to the bridge, and over this distance it rushed like an unchained tiger. Sparkling, crackling, roaring with increasing velocity, dashing along the fields, over the meadows, through the forests, a trail of fire, a streaming banner of flame and smoke, a linked thunderbolt, rumbling, growling, exploding, leaping from the abutment full forty feet, bursting into a million fragments, jarring the earth with the mighty concussion, and disappearing beneath the waters, a wreck, a ruin forever!
General McClellan was obliged to leave some of his sick and wounded. Many soldiers shed tears as they bade a last farewell to their comrades.
"I would rather die than fall into the hands of the Rebels," said one.
"O my God! is this the reward I deserve for all the sacrifices I have made, the battles I have fought, and the agony I have endured from my wounds?"41 was the despairing cry of another.
"Do not be ashamed of your cause. Defend it boldly, and put your trust in God"; were the words of one noble chaplain, Rev. Mr. Marks, who would not leave them, but who remained to be a prisoner for their sakes. They prayed together and sang a hymn.
They were comforted, and resolved to meet their fate like men.
The Rebels made no attack on Saturday. They were compelled to repair the bridges which had been destroyed, before they could cross the Chickahominy. General Sumner commanded the rear-guard. He retreated slowly on Saturday to Peach Orchard, and halted to destroy the supplies.
On Sunday morning a portion of Lee's army advanced to attack Sumner, who was at Peach Orchard and Allen's Farm; but Hazard's and Pettit's batteries, with Sedgwick's division, quickly repulsed them.
Lee's divisions, one after another, filed across the hastily repaired bridges. General Franklin was north of the railroad. He saw them, and sent word to General Sumner, who fell back with Franklin to Savage Station. General Franklin was on the right, Sumner in the center, and Heintzelman nearer Richmond on the left. There was a misunderstanding of orders; and General Heintzelman moved across White-Oak Swamp, which exposed Sumner's left flank to the enemy.
Through the long Sabbath hours, these troops stood upon the wide plain facing northwest, seemingly motionless almost as statues, while the long wagon trains moved into the woods towards[Pg 124] the south. They were the rear-guard, and on them depended the salvation of the army.
Following the wagons were thousands of sick and wounded, working their way towards the swamp, urged on by hope of escaping the hands of the Rebels. It was heart-rending to hear the words of those who were too badly wounded to be moved, or who could not be taken away.
The sun went down. Evening was coming on, yet the twenty thousand men remained upon that field awaiting the attack,—three lines of resolute, determined men. Brooks's, Hancock's, and Burns's brigades were in front; with Osborn's, Bramhall's, Hazard's, and Pettit's batteries,—twenty-four guns.
It was past five o'clock before the enemy opened the battle. An hour passed of constant artillery firing. Then the Rebels advanced across the wide and level plain with yellings and howlings.
There was a stream of fire from Sumner's line,—a steady outpouring of deadly volleys. It was twenty thousand against forty thousand. There were answering volleys from the Rebel lines. Sumner's batteries left off firing shell and threw canister, and the lines, which had advanced so triumphantly, were sent in confusion across the field. Again they advanced, and were again repulsed. Longstreet and Jackson, once more under cover of the gathering darkness, urged on their reluctant troops. Sumner brought up his reserve brigades. It was a short, sharp struggle,—a wild night-tempest,—the roaring of fifty cannon, and thirty thousand muskets. The evening was unusually calm. Not a breath of air stirred the leaves of the trees. The stars shone brightly.[Pg 125] Strange the scene,—so weird and terrible upon that plain! A thousand men dropped from the Union ranks, and thrice that number from the ranks of the Rebels.
"Who are you?" asked an officer of the Fifth Vermont, dimly seeing a regiment in the darkness.
There was a momentary silence, and then the question, "Who are you?"
"The Fifth Vermont."
"Let them have it, boys," were the words of command shouted by the Rebel officer. The Vermonters heard it. There was no flinching. Instantly their rifles came to their cheeks.
There were two broad flashes of light, two rows of dead and wounded. But the Vermonters held their ground; and the Rebels, shattered, repulsed, and utterly defeated, disappeared in the gloom of night. It was hard for the brave men to go away from their fallen comrades and leave them upon the field which they had defended with their life's blood, but it was impossible to remove them; and the long lines closed in upon the wagons, marched down the forest road, and at daylight were south of White-Oak Swamp.
"Glendale" is the euphonious name given by Mr. Nelson to his farm, which is located two miles south of White-Oak Swamp. It is a place where several roads meet; from the north, the Swamp road; from the east, the Long-Bridge road; from the south, the road leading to Malvern Hill; from the southwest, the Newmarket road; from the[Pg 126] northwest, the Charles City road, leading to Richmond. There are farm-houses, groves, ravines, wheat-fields waving with grain. Upon the Malvern road, there is a church. West of the church, a half-mile, is the mansion of Mr. Frazier, where the Rebel lines were formed on the 30th of June.
At sunrise on that morning, all the divisions of the Union army were south of the swamp. Richardson and Smith, with Naglee's brigade, of Casey's division, were guarding the passage at the swamp. Slocum was on the Charles City road, northwest of the church. Kearney was between that road and the Newmarket road. McCall was on the Newmarket road, with Hooker and Sedgwick behind him, nearer the church.
Porter and Keyes were at Malvern with the trains, two miles distant.
Lee divided his army. Jackson, D. H. Hill, and Ewell followed McClellan down the Swamp road; while A. P. Hill, Longstreet, Huger, Magruder, and Holmes made all haste down the Charles City road from Richmond, to strike McClellan on the flank and divide his army. The President of the Confederacy went out with A. P. Hill to see the Union army cut to pieces.
Jackson reached the bridge across the sluggish stream in the swamp, but it was torn up; and on the southern bank stood Smith and Richardson. Hazard's, Ayres's, and Pettit's batteries were in position. Jackson brought up all his guns. There was a fierce artillery fight, lasting through the day. Jackson succeeded in getting a small infantry force across towards evening, but it was not strong enough to make an attack, and nothing came of all his efforts to harass the rear.
During the afternoon, the pickets on the Charles City road discovered A. P. Hill's troops filing off from the road, west of Frazier's farm, toward the south. They went across the fields, and through the woods to the Newmarket road. While the main body was thus taking position, a small body of infantry and a battery opened fire upon Slocum; but he had cut down the forest in his front, forming an impassable barrier, so that he was secure from attack.
General McCall formed his division of six thousand men, with Meade's brigade, north of the road, Seymour's south of it, and Reynolds's,—commanded in this battle by Colonel Simmons,—in reserve. He had five batteries,—Randall's on the right, Kerns's and Cooper's in the center, and Dietrich's and Kanerhun's on the left,—all in front of his infantry, looking down a gentle slope upon an open field; on the west there was a brook, fringed with a forest growth, with the farm of Mr. Frazier beyond.
It was half past two before Hill was ready to make the attack. He threw out two regiments as skirmishers, which advanced to feel of McCall's lines; but they were repulsed by the Seventh and Twelfth Pennsylvania Reserves. Hill had twelve brigades, six of his own and six of Longstreet's. Magruder and Huger had not arrived. His plan was to strike with all his force at once.
Brigade after brigade advanced, but recoiled before the direct fire of the batteries, sustained by the infantry.
"The thunder of the cannon, the cracking of the musketry, from thousands of combatants, mingled with screams from the wounded and[Pg 128] dying, were terrific to the ear and to the imagination," says a correspondent of the Cologne Gazette.
"Volleys upon volleys streamed across our front in such quick succession that it seemed impossible for any human being to live under it,"42 writes a Rebel officer.
Five o'clock! The battle has raged two hours and a half, sustained wholly by McCall, and Hill has not driven him an inch.
The Rebels desist from their direct attack in front, and throw all their force upon Seymour's left, south of the road. McCall sends over the Fifth and Eighth Regiments from his second line.
"Change front with the infantry and artillery," is his order.
Hill is pushing along his left flank to gain his rear.
McCall orders a charge, and it is executed with a promptness and vigor sufficient to check the advancing troops. But his line has become disordered by the charge. Hill improves the opportunity, and hurries up his reserve brigades, which fire while advancing.
The gunners of the German batteries leave their pieces. McCall rides among them, rallies them a moment, but the drivers are panic-stricken. They dash off to the rear, breaking through the infantry, and trampling down the men. The Rebels rush upon the deserted guns with unparalleled frenzy. The line of McCall is broken, and portions of his troops follow the fleeing cannoneers.
General McCall tries to rally the fugitives, but they are deaf to all his orders. They stream on through Hooker's and Sumner's line.
Will Hooker's men join the drifting current? Now or never they must be brave. Now or never their country is to be saved. All hearts feel it; all hands are ready. They stand in the gateway of centuries. Unnumbered millions are beckoning them to do their duty.
Hooker has Grover's brigade on the right, Carr's in the center, and Sickles's on the left,—just the order in which they stood at Williamsburg.
The Sixteenth Massachusetts, led by the heroic Colonel Wyman, met the pursuers. The Sixty-Ninth Pennsylvania, of Sedgwick's division, joining upon Hooker's right, delivered at the same moment a fire upon the flank of the enemy. Along Sumner's front, from King's, Kirby's, Tompkins's Owen's, and Bartlett's batteries, flashed double-shotted guns. It was as if a voice had said, "Thus far and no farther!" Hooker's infantry came into close battle-line, delivered a fire, which forced the Rebels over against Sumner's batteries; which, in turn, threw them against Kearney, and against Meade's brigade, which had not joined in the fight. Grover pushed on with the First and Sixteenth Massachusetts, the Second New Hampshire, and Twenty-Sixth Pennsylvania, with reckless daring. Hill was driven back over all the ground he had won, with great slaughter.
It was a decided repulse, but costly to the Sixteenth Massachusetts. Its noble colonel fell at the head of his regiment. These were the last words of one of the soldiers of that regiment: "I thank God that I am permitted to die for my country, and I thank him yet more that I am prepared,—or at least I hope I am."
So complete was the repulse that the Rebel troops became a mob, and fled in terror towards Richmond.
"Many old soldiers," says a Rebel officer, "who had served on the plains of Arkansas and Missouri wept in the bitterness of their souls like[Pg 131] children. Of what avail had it been to us that our best blood had flowed for six long days? Of what avail all of our unceasing and exhaustless endurance? Everything seemed lost, and a general depression came over all our hearts. Batteries dashed past in headlong flight. Ammunition, hospital, and supply wagons rushed along, and swept the troops away with them from the battle-field. In vain the most frantic exertions, entreaty, and self-sacrifice of the staff officers! The troops had lost their foothold, and all was over with the Southern Confederacy!"43
General Magruder's arrival alone saved Hill from an ignominious flight.
Through the night there was the red glare of torches upon the battle-field where the Rebel wounded were being gathered up. Great was the loss. Up to daylight there was no apparent diminution of the heart-rending cries and groans of the wounded. A mournful wail was heard from Glendale during that long, dismal night.44
The battle-field of July 1st, 1862, bears the pleasant name of Malvern. It is on the north bank of the James,—an elevated plain near the river, but declining gently towards the north,—divided into corn and wheat fields, bordered on the east and west and south by wooded ravines. The estate is owned by Dr. Carter. Although it bears a name so pleasant, there have been sad scenes upon those fertile fields,—not alone the shock, roar, and horror of a great battle, but the low wail of mothers for their infants, torn[Pg 132] from their arms and sold to slave-traders,—the agonies of men under torture of the whip, their flesh torn and mangled by an unfeeling master.
"Was he a good master?" I asked of an old negro at City Point, in July, 1864.
"No, sir. He was very bad, sir. He was de wussest dat eber was, sir. He was so bad dat we call him Hell Carter, sir. 'Cause we tink dat de Lord will send him to de bad place one ob dese days, sir. He go dere sure, sir."
The mansion is a quaint old structure, built of red bricks, surrounded by elms, and commanding a wide panorama of the James, of the valley of the Appomattox, and the distant Richmond hills.
The house was standing in the time of the Revolution, and was marked on the map of Cornwallis.
West of Malvern are the Strawberry Plains. A streamlet, which rises in the vicinity of Glendale, courses to the James through a wooded ravine between the Strawberry grounds and Malvern. The hill is so sharp and steep and high that General Barnard was able to plant two tiers of guns upon the slope, and crown it with heavy siege guns. The trees in the ravine were felled, and rifle-pits thrown up, extending along the western side and across the open field towards the north, where the slope of the hill shades into the level plain.
Eastward, the trees were felled and their branches lopped by the pioneers. It was a strong position, and these preparations made it impregnable. Lee must assail it from the northwest,—over the wide plain, exposed to the fire of sixty cannon.
Porter's corps occupied the ravine between Malvern and the Plains. Couch's, Kearney's, and Hooker's divisions held the front towards the north. Sumner's and Franklin's corps held the left; the Pennsylvania Reserves and the remainder of Keyes's corps, the center. The line was semicircular, and so well concentrated were the troops, that reinforcements, if needed, might be had with little delay.
In the James River, two miles distant, lay a fleet of five gunboats, carrying heavy guns,—near enough to throw shells upon the Strawberry Plains.
The Rebels advanced cautiously. Jackson, Ewell, Whiting, and D. H. Hill moved down the Quaker road, while Magruder, Longstreet, Huger, and Holmes came down the Richmond road. Jackson, D. H. Hill, and Ewell appeared in front of Couch; Huger and Magruder, in front of Morell's division of Porter's corps; while Holmes filed through the woods towards the James, along the western edge of Strawberry Plains.
Although the distance from Glendale is but two and a half miles, it was past ten o'clock before the head of Magruder's columns appeared in sight. A. P. Hill's division, which had been so terribly shattered at Glendale, was left behind.
Magruder shelled the woods and advanced cautiously. There was a pattering skirmish fire through the forenoon, with an artillery duel at long range.
Noon passed, and there was no apparent disposition on the part of the Rebels to make an attack. They dreaded the terrible fire from the numerous guns gleaming in the sun upon the hillside.
General Magruder brought all of the cannon into position which could be advantageously posted, and at two o'clock opened a rapid fire, which was replied to by the batteries on the hill. He threw forward his skirmishers at an earlier hour.
Jackson moved forward a division upon Couch an hour later, but it was hurled back in confusion by the fire of the batteries, and the deadly volley delivered from the rifle-pits.
Holmes, all the while, had been edging towards the river, to gain the rear of McClellan, but the enormous shells from the gunboats, which tore down the forests, paralyzed his soldiers.
There was a consultation among the Rebel commanders. Lee had intrusted the command in his center to Magruder. His brigadier-generals did not want to advance over the plain.
"I am unwilling to slaughter my brigade," said General Cobb, "but, if you command me, I shall make the charge if my last man falls."
"I intend to make the charge, no matter what it costs," said Magruder.
The commanders went to their brigades, murmuring that Magruder was drunk, that it would be madness to make the attack.45
Magruder formed his line in the woods. Armistead's brigade moved upon the Union picket line and drove it back. "Advance rapidly, press forward your whole line, and follow up Armistead's successes. They are reported to be getting off," was Lee's message to Magruder.
It was past six o'clock before Mahone, Ransom,[Pg 136] Wright, Jones, and Cobb were ready. At the word of command, fifteen thousand men move from the shelter of the woods and appear upon the open plain, moving in solid phalanx,—close, compact, shoulder to shoulder, to capture, by a desperate charge, the batteries upon the hillside. It is madness! Success has made them reckless.
With shoutings and howlings they break into a run. Instantly the hill is all aflame, from base to summit. Shells, shrapnel, and canister are poured upon them. There is the bellowing of a hundred cannon, mingled with the multitudinous rattling of thousands of small arms.
The Rebel lines melt away,—whole squadrons tumbling headlong. In vain the effort, the men waver, turn, and disappear within the woods.
Magruder is furious at the failure. Again the attempt,—again the same result.
The sun is going down behind the hills when he makes his last effort. Meagher and Sickles go up from the right, and strengthen Porter's center. There is a shifting of batteries,—a movement to new positions,—a re-arranging of regiments. The artillery on both sides, and the gunboats, keep up a constant fire.
The Rebels advance, but they are not able to reach the base of the hill. "From sixteen batteries," says the chaplain of the Fourth Texas, "and from their gunboats they beclouded the day and lit the night with a lurid glare. Add to this the light and noise of our own artillery, which had been brought forward, and, like an opposing volcano with a hundred craters, it gleamed, and flashed streams and sheets of fire,—while long lines of human forms cast their shadows upon the[Pg 137] darkness in the background, and each joined with his firelock in hand to contribute to the terrors of the awful scene."46
Officers and men, in this contest, go down in one indiscriminate slaughter. They are whirled into the air, torn, mangled, blown into fragments. They struggle against the merciless storm, break, and disappear in the darkness, panting, exhausted, foiled, dispirited, demoralized, refusing to be murdered, and uttering execrations upon the drunken Magruder.47
Although the army was upon James River, and in communication with the gunboats, and although the Rebels had been repulsed mainly by the artillery, orders were issued by General McClellan to retreat to Harrison's Landing. At midnight the troops were on the march, stealing noiselessly away, abandoning the wounded.
"Although," says General McClellan, "the result of the battle of Malvern was a complete victory, it was necessary to fall back still farther, in order to reach a point where our supplies could be brought to us with certainty."48
There were some officers who were much amazed at this order. They felt that having reached the river and defeated the enemy with terrible slaughter there should be no more falling back.
"It is one of the strangest things in this week of disaster," says Chaplain Marks, "that General McClellan ordered a retreat to Harrison's Landing, six miles down James River, after we had gained so decided a victory. When the order was received by the impatient and eager army,[Pg 138] consternation and amazement overwhelmed our patriotic and ardent hosts. Some refused to obey the command. General Martindale shed tears of shame. The brave and chivalrous Kearny said in the presence of many officers, 'I, Philip Kearny, an old soldier, enter my solemn protest against this order for retreat; we ought, instead of retreating, to follow up the enemy and take Richmond. And, in full view of all the responsibility of such a declaration, I say to you all, such an order can only be prompted by cowardice or treason.'"49
The prospects of the Rebels, which were so gloomy in April, were bright once more. They had driven the Army of the Potomac away from Richmond. It was August. A month had passed and General McClellan had shown no disposition to advance again upon Richmond. A consultation was held in that city. President Davis said that the time had come to strike a great blow. General Pope was in front of Washington with forty thousand men. It was determined to crush him, invade Maryland, and capture Baltimore and Washington. The Southern newspapers hinted that Tennessee, Kentucky, and the whole of Virginia were to be recovered, that Maryland was[Pg 139] to be liberated from oppression, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, and Cincinnati assailed.
General Lee's army numbered not far from one hundred thousand, having been reinforced by troops from the South. Those troops who had fought Burnside in North Carolina were hurried up; others were sent from South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia. Conscription was enforced vigorously. General Lee proposed to leave a force in Richmond large enough to hold it against McClellan, while he sent the main body of the army to fall like a thunderbolt on General Pope.
These preparations were known in Washington, and on the 3d of August General Halleck, who had been placed in command of all the troops in the field, telegraphed to General McClellan to send his army to Aquia Creek as soon as possible. General Burnside's troops were withdrawn from Fortress Monroe, and united to Pope's army.
General McClellan wished to remain upon the James and attack Richmond from that quarter, but General Halleck felt that it was absolutely necessary to unite the two armies. "You must move with all possible celerity," was the telegram sent on the 9th of August.
But it was not till the 16th that the army broke up its camp and moved down the Peninsula, to Yorktown.
While that despatch of the 9th was on the wires, Jackson, D. H. Hill, Ewell, and Winder were engaged with Pope on the Rapidan.
General Pope had advanced from the Rappahannock, to hold the enemy in check till the Army of the Potomac could be brought back from the Peninsula.[Pg 140]
Fertile and fair are the farms of Culpepper, as beautiful as any in the Old Dominion. They are watered by swiftly running streams. Their slopes are verdant and sunny, sheltered by the Blue Ridge from wintry blasts. Beyond the town of Culpepper, towards the south, there is a hillock, called Cedar Mountain, which rises abruptly, and in shape like a sugar-loaf. Near the Mountain is the house of Rev. Mr. Slaughter. Robinson's Creek winds through his farm, south of the Mountain, on its course to the Rapidan. North of the Mountain is the residence of Mrs. Crittenden. The house is shaded by overhanging trees. It stands on the west side of the highway leading from Culpepper to Madison. Standing there and looking towards the Mountain, we see fields of corn and wheat, groves and woods, bordering the field.
General Crawford's brigade of Banks's corps, in the advance from Culpepper to the Rapidan, on the 8th of August, encountered Jackson's pickets at the base of the Mountain, upon the farm of Mr. Slaughter.
On Saturday morning, the 9th instant, General Williams's division joined Crawford. As the troops approached the farm of Mrs. Crittenden, the base and summit of the Mountain seemingly became volcanic. There was an outburst of flame and smoke, a screaming in the air, and the deep reverberation of the cannonade.
Williams's batteries were soon in position, and replied with shot and shells.
General Banks arrived. He formed a line of[Pg 141] battle, placing Williams's division west of the Madison road, near Mrs. Crittenden's house, and Augur's division east of it, nearer the Mountain. On the right of the line west of the house was Gordon's brigade, next Crawford, Geary, Greene, and Prince.
Jackson, from his lookout on the Mountain, could see all the movements of General Banks. He threw out a line of skirmishers. Banks did the same. They met midway the armies, and began the contest. An hour passed of rapid artillery firing. Then the infantry became engaged, Jackson throwing his brigades upon Prince, turning his flank, and pushing him back. At the same time there was a furious attack upon Crawford. His men stood it awhile, then charged the Rebel lines, but were repulsed. Gordon moved in to take his place. The left of the line, Prince and Geary and Greene, was swinging back. Jackson was moving fresh brigades upon the center, but Gordon held them in check. His men dropped rapidly, but so destructive were his volleys that the Rebel line wavered and then retreated. But other brigades were thrown upon Gordon's right flank. They swept him with an enfilading fire, and he, too, was compelled to retreat or be cut off. He retired past Mrs. Crittenden's, across Cedar Creek. There Banks formed again, planted his artillery, and waited the advance of the enemy.
Ricketts's division came up from McDowell's corps, ready to receive Jackson, but the Rebel general was content with what he had already accomplished.
During the night there was an artillery duel, and a skirmish among the pickets.
In the morning, a white flag was displayed on the field, and the wounded were gathered, and the dead buried. Officers from both armies met and conversed freely of the war. General Hartsuff, and the Rebel General Stuart, who were old acquaintances, shook hands upon the ground where the contest had been so fierce.
General Jackson withdrew his forces after the battle towards Gordonsville, to wait the advance of the main army, under Lee, while General Pope pushed south to the Rapidan.
On the 16th, General Pope's cavalry captured a Rebel courier, who was bearing a letter from Lee to Jackson, from which it was ascertained that the whole of Lee's army was moving north from Richmond, to crush Pope before McClellan could join him. General Pope was prompt to act upon this information. He retreated to the north bank of the Rappahannock, planted his artillery to cover the fords, hoping to hold Lee in check till he was reinforced.
Lee followed rapidly with his whole army. He reached the Rappahannock on the 21st, attempted to cross, but was foiled in all his movements.
Suddenly, on the night of the 22d, General Stuart fell upon the Orange and Alexandria Railroad at Catlett's Station, in General Pope's rear. It was a dark, rainy night. Many army wagons were there, and some were burned. All the horses were taken. General Pope lost his personal baggage.
In the morning, General Pope understood that it was Lee's intention to gain his rear, and cut him off from Washington. Jackson was moving along the base of the Blue Ridge by swift marches.
The mountains, which at Leesburg are called the Catoctin Range, farther south are called the Bull Run Mountains. There is a gap at Aldie, and another one at the head of Broad Run, called Thoroughfare Gap. There the mountain is cut down sharp and square. There is room for the railroad, the turnpike, and the creek. A hundred men might hold it against a thousand. That part of the mountain south of the gap is about ten miles long.
One day I climbed the ridge to take a look at the surrounding country. Northward I could see the gap. A mile or two east of it, on the Manassas Gap Railroad, was the little village of Gainsville. Directly east was the cluster of houses called Greenwich, on the Warrenton and Centreville Turnpike. Ten miles distant, a little south of east, was Manassas Junction. Bristow's Station is south; Catlett's, southwest. Warrenton, one of the prettiest towns in Virginia, lies at the foot of the mountain, southwest, with roads radiating in all directions, as if it were the body of a spider, and the highways were legs. Westward is the Blue Ridge, looming dark and high, like an ocean billow ready to break over all the surrounding plains. In the northwest are the Cobble Mountains,—hillocks which lie between Bull Run and the Blue Ridge. Upon the railroad which winds towards Manassas Gap is the town of Salem.
If I had stood there on the 26th of August, I should have seen a body of Rebel troops moving across from the base of the Blue Ridge, through fields, through forests, and along the highways, towards Salem with great rapidity,—the men[Pg 144] footsore, weary,—many of them barefoot, few of them decently dressed,—but urged on by their officers. It is Jackson's corps pushing for Thoroughfare Gap.
At Warrenton, General McDowell is breaking camp, and moving east over the Centreville turnpike to reach Gainsville. General Sigel follows him. General Reno, with Burnside's troops, is marching for Greenwich. General Kearny's and General Hooker's men, who have fought at Williamsburg, Seven Pines, Glendale, and Malvern, have joined Pope, and are moving along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. General Porter is at Warrenton Junction. General Banks is coming up near the Rappahannock to join Porter.
On the 26th, General Ewell's division, having passed through Thoroughfare Gap, fell upon Manassas Junction, burnt the depot, an immense amount of stores, a railroad train, and the bridge across Bull Run.
General Taylor's brigade, of Franklin's corps, reached the spot, but were obliged to fall back towards Fairfax, their commander mortally wounded.
Lee was following Pope. He hoped to crush him,—to grind him to powder between his own and Jackson's force then in Pope's rear.
West of Manassas Junction is Kettle Run. General Ewell formed his line on the eastern bank, and waited Pope's advance. Hooker fell upon him on the afternoon of the 27th, and defeated him. Ewell fell back upon Jackson and A. P. Hill.
Hooker was out of ammunition. Pope ordered[Pg 145] Porter to join him, but he did not obey the order.
Jackson was in a dangerous place. He was not strong enough to advance and give battle to Pope, who was now pressing him. He must retreat and gain time,—delay an engagement till Lee could come up. He fell back before Pope from Manassas to Centreville, then turned west over the Warrenton turnpike, along which McDowell's army marched in the first battle of Bull Run, the 21st of July, 1861.
At this moment McDowell was moving east on the same turnpike.
At six o'clock King's division of McDowell's corps, which was in advance, came in collision with Jackson at Groveton, on the western edge of the old battle-field. Gibbon's and Doubleday's brigades were engaged a short time, but darkness put an end to the conflict.
Pope, with Hooker, Kearny, and Reno, had reached Centreville; Porter was at Manassas Junction; Banks, south of it; while Sigel and McDowell were southwest of Jackson, towards Warrenton. Jackson was in danger of being crushed. Pope, instead of being ground to powder, had maneuvered so admirably that he felt almost sure that Jackson would be utterly routed.
He lost no time in sending out orders. "Hold your ground at all hazards," was his despatch to General King. "Push on at one o'clock to-night," was the word sent to Kearny, who was to move west over Warrenton turnpike and attack Jackson's rear. "Assault vigorously at daylight," he added, "for Hooker and Reno will be on hand to help you."
"Move on Centreville at the earliest dawn," was the order sent to Porter at Manassas.
General Pope was sure that he could crumble Jackson before Longstreet, who, he knew, was rapidly advancing towards Thoroughfare Gap, could arrive. Ricketts's division was thrown north, to hold the gap.
But General King's troops were exhausted. Instead of holding the ground, he fell back towards the junction.
General Ricketts sent a small force up to the gap, but Longstreet, who had reached Salem, sent a part of his troops over the mountains north, gained their rear, forced them back, and thus opened the gate for the advance of his corps. Ricketts joined McDowell at the junction.
All this made it necessary for General Pope to issue new orders. He sent out his aides.
"Attack at once," was the word to Sigel.
"Push down the turnpike, as soon as possible, towards any heavy firing you may hear," was the despatch to Kearny and Hooker, also to Reno, commanding a division of Burnside's corps.
"Be on the field at daybreak," was the message to Porter.
"Send your train to Manassas and Centreville. Repair the railroad to Bull Run. Work night and day," were the instructions to Banks, who was guarding the trains.
It was of the utmost importance that the attack should be made instantly, before Longstreet arrived; and to that end General Pope directed all his energies.
The morning of the 29th dawned calm, clear, and beautiful. Sigel obeyed orders. He was on the northwest corner of the old battle-field, near Dogan's house. Jackson was north of the turnpike, his right resting on Bull Run, at Sudley Springs, and his left on the turnpike near Groveton, along the line of an unfinished railway.
Schurz was on the right in Sigel's corps, Milroy in the center, Schenck on the left, with Steinwehr in reserve. For an hour there was the deep roll of artillery.
Then the line advanced. There was a sharp contest,—Sigel occupying the ground which Jackson held in the first fight on that memorable field, and Jackson upon the ground, where Burnside, Howard, and Hunter formed their lines. Milroy was driven, but Schurz and Schenck held their position. Hooker and Kearny were astir at daylight. They crossed the stream at the Stone Bridge, swung out into the fields, and moved north towards Sudley Springs, forcing Jackson back on Longstreet, who was resting after his hard march, his men eating a hearty meal from the stores captured at Manassas. He was in no condition to fight at that early hour.
Time slipped away—precious hours! McDowell had not come. Porter had not been heard from. "Longstreet is getting ready," was the report from the scouts.
Noon passed. One o'clock came round. "Longstreet is joining Jackson," was the word from the pickets. The attack must be made at once if ever.
It began at two o'clock by Hooker and Kearny on the right, pushing through the woods and across the fields between Dogan's house and Sudley Church.50
The veterans of the Peninsula move upon an enemy whom they have met before. Jackson has made the line of a half-finished railroad his defense, and his men are behind the embankments and in the excavations. It is a long, desperate conflict. There are charges upon the enemy's lines and repulses. Three,—four,—five o'clock, and Porter has not come. McDowell, who should have marched northwest to Groveton to meet Longstreet, has, through some mistake, marched east of that place, and joined the line where Kearny and Hooker are driving Jackson.
At this hour, sunset, on August 29th, Kearny, Hooker, and Reno are pushing west, north of the turnpike, close upon the heels of Jackson. King's division of McDowell's corps is moving west along the turnpike past Dogan's house, to attack what has been Jackson's right center, but which is now the left center of the united forces of Jackson and Longstreet. Sigel's brigades have been shattered, and are merely holding their ground south of the turnpike. O, if Porter with his twelve thousand fresh troops was only there to fall on Jackson's right flank! But he is not in sight. Nothing has been heard from him. He has had all day to march five miles over an unobstructed road. He has had his imperative orders,—has heard the[Pg 149] roar of battle. He is an officer in the Regular service, and knows that it is the first requisite of an officer or a soldier to obey orders.
Longstreet is too late upon the ground to make an attack with his whole force. The sun goes down and darkness comes on. The contest for the day is over. Jackson has been driven on his right, and Heintzelman's corps holds the ground. Both armies sleep on their arms.
The auspicious moment for crushing Jackson[Pg 150] had passed. The most that Pope could hope for was to hold his ground till Franklin and Sumner, who had landed at Alexandria, could join him. Thus far the battle had been in his favor. He wished to save his wagons which were at Manassas. If he retreated across Bull Run and made that his line of defense, he must abandon his trains at Manassas. If he did this, Banks would be cut off. He hoped, with Porter's magnificent corps holding his left flank, to defeat Lee.
The morning of the 30th dawned. The pickets of the two armies were within a hundred yards of each other. The air was calm, the sky clear, and the morning as bright and beautiful as that Sabbath when the first great battle of the war was fought.
The Rebel line was crescent-shaped. Its left under Jackson reached from Sudley Springs to a point near the turnpike, about a mile and a half west of Groveton. Longstreet commanded the right wing, which extended from Jackson's command far to the southwest, stretching beyond the Manassas Gap Railroad.
This point was the center of the Rebel line. It was a high knoll or ridge of land which commanded two thirds of Lee's front. Here were forty-eight pieces of artillery. It was a very strong position. From this knoll eastward, the Rebel artillerymen looked down a long slope broken by undulations, the ground partitioned by fences, dividing it into fields, pastures, and wooded hills and hollows.
Pope had about forty thousand men, who stood face to face with the army which had driven[Pg 151] McClellan from the Chickahominy, and which met him a few days later at Antietam.
The troops which had come from the Army of the Potomac were worn and dispirited. Hooker's and Kearny's divisions had been in nearly all the battles of the Peninsula. Almost alone they had fought the battle of Williamsburg. They were at Seven Pines, in skirmish after skirmish on the Chickahominy, and at Glendale and Malvern. Hooker on this morning of the 30th had but two thousand four hundred and forty-one men—so sadly had disease and battle thinned the ranks.
Porter came up tardily. He had twelve thousand men, but they did not like General Pope. They believed that General McClellan had been cruelly sacrificed by the government. There was no hearty co-operation by the officers of Porter's command with General Pope. Griffin's and Piatt's brigades took the road to Centreville, either by mistake or otherwise, and were not in the battle.51 Instead of twelve thousand, Porter brought but seven thousand to the field. Sigel's troops were mainly Germans, wanting in discipline, vigor, energy, and endurance. Pope's army was a conglomeration, wanting coherence. He had, besides the troops from the Army of the Potomac, McDowell's, who had been an army by themselves; Sigel's, who had served under Fremont, whom they idolized; Reno's, who looked upon Burnside as the only commander who had achieved victories. General Pope was from the West. He was unacquainted with his troops, and they with him. He had issued an order[Pg 152] permitting them to forage at will, which had produced laxity of discipline and demoralization. Yet with all these things against him, he felt it to be his duty to offer battle to Lee.
Porter arrived with his seven thousand about nine o'clock, more than twenty-four hours late. He came into position in front of Sigel on the turnpike. Pope's line was thus complete. Hooker on the right at Sudley; Kearny and Reno next reaching to the turnpike; Porter next, with Sigel in rear; and McDowell commanding Reynolds's, King's, and Ricketts's divisions on the left, near the ground where the Rebels made their last stand in the first battle of Manassas.
Had General Pope awaited an attack, the battle might have had a different ending, but his provisions were exhausted, and he could not wait. He must fight at once and win a victory or retreat.
He had sent to Alexandria for provisions. General McClellan was there. The Army of the Potomac, when it arrived there, was in the department commanded by General Pope, and was therefore subject to his orders, which left McClellan without a command. Franklin and Sumner, with thirty thousand men, were moving out and could guard the trains. At daylight, while General Pope was forming his lines, endeavoring to hold at bay the army before which McClellan had retired from the Chickahominy, Savage Station, Glendale, and Malvern, General McClellan informed General Pope that the supplies would be loaded into cars and wagons as soon as Pope would send in a cavalry escort, to guard the trains!
"Such a letter," says General Pope, "when[Pg 153] we were fighting the enemy, and Alexandria swarming with troops, needs no comment. Bad as was the situation of the cavalry, I was in no situation to spare troops from the front, nor could they have gone to Alexandria and returned within a time by which we must have had provisions or have fallen back in the direction of Washington. Nor do I see what service cavalry could give in guarding railroad trains. It was not till I received this letter, that I began to feel discouraged and nearly hopeless of any successful issue to the operations with which I was charged."52
The battle at that moment was beginning; the reveille of the cannonade at that early hour was waking thousands to engage in their last day's work in the service of their country. Through the forenoon there was a lively picket firing, accompanying an artillery duel.
"The enemy is making a movement to turn our left," was Sigel's message to Pope a little past noon. Lee's division, as they passed down from Thoroughfare Gap, marched towards Manassas Junction, and came into line beyond McDowell.
General Reynolds, who was south of the turnpike, advanced to feel of Longstreet's position. He found the enemy sheltered in the woods. The musketry began. Porter, southwest of Dogan's house, moved into the forest, where the battle had raged the night before. He was received with sharp volleys. His men fought but a short time and retreated.
"Why are you retreating so soon?" General Sigel asked of the men.
"We are out of ammunition."53
They passed on to Sigel's rear.
Suddenly there were thundering volleys on the left. Lee was attacking with great vigor. At the same moment, Hooker, Kearny, and Reno were driving Jackson towards Sudley, swinging him back from his advanced position.
The battle line was swinging like a gate pivoted on its center. The Rebels followed Porter, cheering and shouting. Grover's brigade of Hooker's division, which had been facing west, changed its line of march to the south, came down past Dogan's house, to the line of unfinished railroad which Lee had taken for his defense.
Milroy's brigade of Sigel's corps was lying in the road which leads from Groveton towards the south.
The Rebels were advancing upon him. Schurz, who was still farther south, was retiring before the mass of Rebel troops, who came within reach of Milroy's guns, which thinned their ranks at every discharge. But the Rebels were on Milroy's left flank, which was bending like a bruised reed before their advance. Grover came down with those men who had never failed to do their whole duty.
"We stood in three lines," said a wounded Rebel officer to me at Warrington, two months after the battle. "They fell upon us like a thunderbolt. They paid no attention to our volleys. We mowed them down, but they went right through our first line, through our second, and advanced to the railroad embankment, and there we stopped them. They did it so splendidly that[Pg 155] we couldn't help cheering them. It made me feel bad to fire on such brave fellows."
They had charged into the thickest of the enemy's columns, but could not hold the position, and were forced back.
Lee formed his lines for the decisive onset. Making the point on the turnpike, where Longstreet's command joined Jackson's, he swung his right against McDowell, Sigel, and Porter.
Hood was on the left of the charging column, nearest the turnpike; then Pickett, Jenkins, Toombs, and Kemper. Evans and Anderson were in reserve.
It was impossible to withstand this force; yet it was a furious, obstinate, bloody fight.
"It had been a task of almost superhuman labor," writes Pollard, the Southern historian, "to drive the enemy from his strong points, defended as they were by the best artillery and infantry in the Federal army, but in less than four hours from the commencement of the battle, our indomitable energy had accomplished everything. The arrival of Anderson with his reserves, proved a timely acquisition, and the handsome manner in which he brought his troops into position showed the cool and skilful general. Our generals, Lee, Longstreet, Hood, Kemper, Evans, Jones, Jenkins, and others, all shared the dangers to which they exposed their men."54
Night put an end to the conflict. When darkness came on, Lee found that he was still confronted by men in line, with cannon well posted on the eminences towards Stone Bridge. He had[Pg 156] gained the battle-ground, but had not routed the Union army.
The retreat was conducted in good order across Bull Run. General Stahl's brigade was the last to cross Stone Bridge, which was accomplished at midnight, without molestation from Lee, who was too much exhausted to make the attempt to rout the forty thousand men, who had resisted the attack of all his troops,—the same army which had compelled General McClellan, commanding an army of a hundred thousand, to move from the Chickahominy to the James.
General Pope states his own force to have been not over forty thousand. If the whole of Porter's corps had been engaged, and if Banks had been available, he would have had about fifty thousand men. The force against him numbered not less than eighty thousand. In the subsequent battle of Antietam, Lee had the same army which fought this battle, estimated by General McClellan to number ninety-seven thousand men,55 with the exception of those lost him at South Mountain and Harper's Ferry.
The battle of Groveton was therefore one of the most bravely fought and obstinate contests of the war,—fought by General Pope under adverse circumstances,—great inferiority of numbers, with a subordinate commander who disobeyed orders; with other officers who manifested no hearty co-operation. It will be for the future historian to do full justice to the brave men who made so noble a fight, who, had they been supported as they should have been, would doubtless have won a glorious victory.[Pg 157]
General Sumner and General Franklin joined General Pope at Centreville. But the army was disorganized. The defeat, the want of co-operation on the part of some of the officers of the Army of the Potomac, had a demoralizing influence.
General McClellan was at Alexandria. On the 29th, while Pope was trying to crush Jackson before the arrival of Longstreet, waiting anxiously for the appearance of Porter, who had disobeyed the order given him, the President, solicitous to hear from the army, inquired by telegram of him: "What's the news from Manassas?"
"Stragglers report," was the reply, "that the enemy are evacuating Centreville, and retiring through Thoroughfare Gap. I am clear that one of two courses should be adopted: first, to concentrate all our available force, to open communication with Pope; second, to leave Pope to get out of his scrape, and at once use all our means to make the capital safe."56
General Pope had opened his communications unaided by General McClellan. He had moved to the Rapidan, to enable General McClellan to withdraw from the Peninsula; had held his ground till the Rebel cavalry cut the railroad at Manassas; then with great rapidity he had moved to crush Jackson, and had failed only through the deliberate disobedience of orders by General Porter.
Lee, on the second day after the battle of Groveton, made another flank movement north of Centreville, to cut off the Union army from Wash[Pg 158]ington. There was a fight at Chantilly, where the brave and impetuous Kearny was killed, and the enemy fell back behind the intrenchments in front of Washington, and passed from the hands of General Pope into the hands of General McClellan.
It will be for the future historian to determine the measure of blame or praise upon him,—the causes of disaster to the Army of the Potomac on the Peninsula, and to the Army of Virginia at Manassas. A military tribunal, composed of the peers of General Porter, has pronounced its verdict upon him. He has been cashiered,—lost his place and his good name forever.
"We are going to liberate Maryland," said a Rebel officer to a friend of mine who was taken prisoner at Catlett's Station. Throughout the South it was believed that the people of Maryland were down-trodden and oppressed, that the soldiers of President Lincoln prevented them from expressing their sympathy with the rebellion. In every Southern home and in the Rebel army, there was one song more popular than all others, entitled "Maryland."
General Lee had no intention of attacking Washington. It was his plan to raise the standard of revolt in Maryland, bring about a second uprising of the people of Baltimore, and transfer the war to the North. He issued strict orders that all private property in Maryland should be respected, that everything should be paid for.
On the 5th of September, he crossed the Potomac at Noland's Ford, near Point of Rocks. Jackson led the column. When he reached the middle of the stream he halted his men, pulled off his cap, while the bands struck up "My Mary[Pg 160]land," which was sung by the whole army with great enthusiasm.57
Lee moved towards Frederick, a quiet old town, between the mountains and the Monocacy. It was the harvest season. The orchards were loaded with fruit; the barns were filled with hay; the granaries with wheat; and there were thousands of acres of corn rustling in the autumn winds.
At ten o'clock on the morning of the 6th, General Stuart's cavalry entered the city. There were some Marylanders in the Rebel army, who were warmly welcomed by their friends. A few ladies waved their handkerchiefs, but the majority of the people of the city had made up their minds to stand by the old flag, and manifested no demonstrations of joy. Many of them, however, took down the stars and stripes, when they saw the Rebels advancing; but over one house it waved proudly in the morning breeze, as General Jackson rode into town. His soldiers dashed forward to tear it down.
What followed has been beautifully told by Whittier.
General Lee had a plan to execute other than the liberation of Maryland,—the invasion of Pennsylvania.
"We treat the people of Maryland well, for they are our brothers, but we intend to make the North howl," one of the officers said.
"Lee will cut his way to Philadelphia, and dictate terms of peace in Independence Square. He will stand with torch in hand and demand Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri, and peace, or he will lay that city in ashes," said another.
But before he could venture on an invasion of Pennsylvania he must have an open communication with Richmond. There were eleven thousand men under Colonel Mills at Harper's Ferry, who were strongly fortified. It would not do to[Pg 163] leave them in his rear. If that place were captured he could move north.
The geographical features of the country were favorable to the execution of his plans.
Ten miles west of Frederick the South Mountain rises above the surrounding country, dark, steep, rocky, and clothed with forests. Its most northern spur is near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. There are two gaps in the range west of Frederick. If Lee could hold these with a portion of his force, he could surround Harper's Ferry, situated on the Potomac, where that winding and impetuous river leaps through the rocky gorge.
If successful in capturing it, he could still hold the mountain gates, and pour the great bulk of his army north through the rich Cumberland valley. If McClellan was held at bay in his efforts to take the passes, and should move north, and come down the valley, then, pointing his guns in the passes westward upon McClellan, Lee could spring like a tiger on Baltimore and Washington.
The first thing to be done after resting his army was to seize Harper's Ferry.
The people of Frederick and the farmers round the city had a chance to sell all their goods,—their boots, shoes, clothes, flour, bacon, pigs, cattle, and horses, but they were paid in Confederate money, which was worth so many rags.
Lee's army was very dirty and filthy. It had made hard marches. The men had no tents. They had slept on the ground, had lived some of the time on green corn and apples, had fought battles, had been for weeks exposed to storms, sunshine, rain, mud, and dust, with no change of clothing. They had thrown all their strength into[Pg 164] this one grand invasion of the North, and had shown a wonderful vigor. The rest and repose, the good living which they found, were very acceptable. They obeyed General Lee's orders, and behaved well.
General Lee issued an address to the people of Maryland.
"The people of the South have seen with profound indignation their sister State deprived of every right and reduced to the condition of a conquered province.
"Believing that the people of Maryland possessed a spirit too lofty to submit to such a government, the people of the South have long wished to aid you in throwing off this foreign yoke, to enable you again to enjoy the inalienable rights of freemen," read the address.
But the people were not conscious of living under a foreign yoke, neither that they were a conquered province, and therefore did not respond to the call to rise in rebellion against the old flag.
It was time for Lee to proceed to the execution of his plans. The Army of the Potomac was approaching Frederick. Lee directed Jackson to move on the 10th of September directly west, cross South Mountain at Boonsboro' Gap, move through the town of Sharpsburg, cross the Potomac, and fall upon Martinsburg, where Colonel White, with a brigade of Union troops, was guarding a large amount of stores. General McLaw's and Anderson's divisions were to occupy Maryland Heights—the termination of the South Mountain range in Maryland—while General Walker was sent across the river into Virginia to[Pg 165] occupy Loudon Heights. Thus approaching from the north, east, south, and west, Colonel Miles would have no chance to escape. Longstreet was to move to Hagerstown to be ready for a sudden spring into Pennsylvania. Howell Cobb was to hold Crampton's Pass, and D. H. Hill the Boonsboro' Gap.
"The commands of General Jackson, McLaw, and Walker, after having accomplished the objects for which they have been detached, will join the main body of the army at Boonsboro' or Hagerstown," read the order.
On the 11th, the last regiment of Rebels departed from Frederick, and soon after the advance of the Army of the Potomac entered the place. The inhabitants shouted, waved their flags once more, and hailed McClellan as their deliverer.
Early in the forenoon of Sunday, the 14th of September, General Burnside, leading the Union army, ascended a high hill, a few miles west of Frederick, and looked down upon one of the loveliest valleys in the world. At his feet was the village of Middletown; beyond it, in the bottom of the valley, the Catoctin Creek winds through ever verdant meadows, past old mansions, surrounded with well-filled barns. North and south, far as the eye can reach, are wheat and clover fields, and acres of corn putting on its russet hues. Beyond the creek, the road winds along the mountain side, past the little hamlet called Bolivar. There are ledges, loose stones, groves of oak,[Pg 166] and thickets of mountain shrubs. There is a house on the summit,—once a tavern, where the teamsters and stagemen of former days watered their tired horses, and drank their ale, and ate a lunch. It is old and dilapidated now. But standing there and looking east, it seems as if a strong armed man might cast a stone upon Middletown, hundreds of feet below. Twelve miles away to the east are the spires of Frederick, gleaming in the sun. Westward from this mountain gate we many behold at our feet Boonsboro' and Keedysville, and the crooked Antietam; and still farther westward, the Potomac, making its great northern sweep to Williamsport. In the northwest, twelve miles distant, is Hagerstown, at the head of the Cumberland valley. Longstreet is there on this Sunday morning, sending his cavalry up to the Pennsylvania lines, gathering cattle, horses, and pigs.
General D. H. Hill beholds the Union army spread out upon the plains before him, reaching all the way to Frederick city,—dark-blue masses moving towards him along the road, through the fields, with banners waving, their bright arms reflecting the morning sunshine.
He is confident that he can hold the place,—so narrow,—the mountain sides so steep, and one Southerner equal to five Yankees. He hates the men of the north. He is a native of South Carolina, and was educated by the government at West Point. He was teacher of the North Carolina Military School. Before the war, he did what he could to stir up the people of the South to rebel. He told them that the South won nearly all the battles of the Revolution, but that[Pg 167] the Northern historians had given the credit to the North, which was a "Yankee trick." He published an Algebra in 1857, which Stonewall Jackson pronounced superior to all others, in which his inveterate hatred appears. His problems are expressive of hatred and contempt.
"A Yankee," he states, "mixes a certain number of wooden nutmegs, which cost him one fourth of a cent apiece, with real nutmegs worth four cents apiece, and sells the whole assortment for $44, and gains $3.75 by the fraud. How many wooden nutmegs are there?"
"At the Woman's Rights Convention, held at Syracuse, New York, composed of one hundred and fifty delegates, the old maids, childless wives, and bedlamites were to each other as the numbers 5, 7, and 3. How many were there of each class?"
"The field of Buena Vista is six and a half miles from Saltillo. Two Indiana volunteers ran away from the field of battle at the same time; one ran half a mile per hour faster than the other, and reached Saltillo five minutes and fifty four and six elevenths seconds sooner than the other. Required their respective rates of travel."58
On this bright morning, the men of the Nineteenth Indiana, troops from Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine,—from nearly all the loyal States,—are preparing to climb the mountain to meet the man who has violated his oath, and who hates the government that gave him an education.
The line of battle is formed by General Burnside along the Catoctin Creek. The Ninth corps, with General Cox's division in advance, is thrown south of the turnpike, and directed to move along[Pg 168] a narrow road which unites with the turnpike in the gap.
It is seven o'clock in the morning when Scammon's brigade of Ohio troops moves into position. Robertson's battery is south of the turnpike in a field, throwing shells up the mountain into the woods where Hill's men are lying sheltered from sight by the foliage.
There is a reply from the gap. Solid shot and shells fly from the mountain to the valley. Hayne's battery joins with Robertson's, Simmons opens with his twenty-pounders, and McMullin with four heavy guns, and while church-bells far away are tolling the hour of worship, these cannon in the valley and on the mountain side wake the slumbering echoes, and play the prelude to the approaching strife.
Scammon's brigade leads the way by the old Sharpsburg road, the men toiling slowly up the hill,—through the fields and pastures, over fences and walls, sometimes losing foothold, and falling headlong, or sliding downward.
The brigade was preceded by a line of skirmishers, and was followed by Crook's brigade.
The woods were full of Rebels, but the men moved on, driving back Hill's skirmishers, working up step by step, pushing them and the line supporting them toward the gap. A battery opened with canister, but the shot flew wild and high over their heads, and they pressed on. McMullin sent up two guns, but the gunners were picked off by the Rebel sharpshooters. The Twelfth Ohio charged up the hill, through a pasture, with a hurrah. Louder, deeper, longer was the cheer which rose from the valley far below,[Pg 169] where Sturgis, and Wilcox, and Rodman were forming into line. On,—into the fire,—close up to the stonewall, where the Rebels were lying,—they charged, routing them from their shelter, and holding the ground. There were places on the hillside, where the green grass became crimson,—where brave men had stood a moment before full of life and vigor and devotion to their country, but motionless and silent now,—their part in the great struggle faithfully performed, their work done.
Hill rallied his men. They dashed down the mountain to regain the ground. But having obtained it through costly sacrifice, the men from Ohio were not willing to yield it.
There was a lull in the battle at noon. Hill, finding that the chances were against him, sent to Hagerstown for Longstreet.
Burnside, on the other hand, waited for Hooker to arrive, who was next in the column. He commanded the First corps, composed of Ricketts's and King's divisions, and the Pennsylvania Reserves. He filed north of the turnpike, threw Ricketts's upon the extreme right, with the Reserves in the center, and King on the left. King was on the turnpike. There is a deep gorge between the turnpike and the old road south of it, which made a gap between Reno and Hooker.
The afternoon wore away before the troops were ready. Longstreet's men were panting up the mountain on the western side, Hood's division in advance. They were thrown upon the hillside south of the old tavern in the gap. It was past four o'clock when the order to advance was given. Wilcox's division led upon the extreme left.
It is a movement which will be decisive, for victory or defeat. The artillery—all the batteries which can be brought into position—send their shells up the mountain. Steadily onward moves the long line across the fields at the foot, up the pasture lands of the slope into the woods.
There is a rattling of musketry,—then heavy rolls, peal on peal, wave on wave, and a steady, constant roar; giving not an inch, but advancing slowly, or holding their ground, the veterans of the Peninsula continue their fire. The mountain is white with the rising battle-cloud. The line of fire goes up the mountain. The Rebels are falling back, fighting bravely, but yielding. There are shouts, yells, outcries, mingling with the thunder of the artillery, echoing and reverberating along the valleys.
Right and left and center are pushing on. Thousands on the plains below behold it, and wish that they were there to aid their brothers in arms. The day wanes, the shadows begin to deepen, revealing the flashes from cannon and musket. There is no giving back of Burnside's men, neither of Hooker's, but nearer to the crest, nearer the clouds, moves the starry banner.
"Please open upon that house with your battery," was the order of Colonel Meredith, of the Nineteenth Indiana, commanding a brigade in King's division, to Lieutenant Stewart of the Fourth United States Artillery. The house was filled with sharpshooters. Lieutenant Stewart sights his guns. The second shell crashes through the side as if it were paper, tears through the rooms. The Rebels swarm out from doors and[Pg 171] windows in hasty flight. The men from Indiana give a lusty cheer, and move nearer the enemy.
In vain the efforts of Hill and Longstreet and Hood to stop the fiery tide, rising higher, rolling nearer, overflowing the mountain, threatening to sweep them into the western valley. The lines surge on. It is like the sweep of a great tidal wave. There is a rush, a short, desperate, decisive struggle. The Rebel line gives way. The men from Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Maine, and Massachusetts, pour into the gap, shouting their victorious hurrahs.
General Hill has lost the battle. He has despised those men. He tried to injure their fair fame before the world in time of peace; he intimated that Northern men were arrant cowards; but after this battle at South Mountain he can issue an Algebra with a new statement of the wooden nutmeg and Buena Vista problems.
Lee was successful in what he had undertaken at Harper's Ferry. While Burnside was winning this victory, Colonel Miles was yielding that important post. He abandoned the strong position on Maryland Heights, tumbled the cannon down the mountain, when he might have kept McLaw and Anderson from gaining possession of the place. Jackson kept up a furious bombardment. Miles hung out the white flag, and was killed immediately after by a shell.
His troops were indignant at the surrender. Some shed tears.
"We have no country now," said one officer,[Pg 172] wiping the tears from his face. If Miles had held out a little longer, he would have been relieved, for Franklin was driving General Cobb from Crampton's Pass, and would have been upon the rear of McLaw and Anderson.
The cavalry made their escape under cover of the night. They followed winding forest-paths through the woods, at dead of night, avoiding the roads till they were north of Sharpsburg. While crossing the Williamsport and Hagerstown road they came upon Longstreet's ammunition train.
"Hold!" said the officer commanding the cavalry to the forward driver, "you are on the wrong road. That is the way."
The driver turned towards the north as directed, not knowing that the officer was a Yankee.
"Hold on there! you are on the wrong road. Who told you to turn off here, I should like to know?" shouted the Rebel officer in charge of the train, dashing up on his horse.
"I gave the order, sir."
"Who are you, and what right have you to interfere with my train, sir," said the officer, coming up in the darkness.
"I am colonel of the Eighth New York cavalry, and you are my prisoner," said the Union officer, presenting his pistol.
The Rebel officer was astounded. He swore bad words, and said it was a mean Yankee trick.
One hundred wagons and seventy-four men were thus quietly cut out from the Rebel trains.
I saw the prisoners as they entered Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. There were several negroes among them.
"As soon as I heard dat we was in de hands of de Yankees, I was mighty glad, sir, 'cause we darkees want to get to de Norf," he said.
"Why do you want to get to the North?"
"'Cause we be free up here. We don't get much to eat in the Souf," he said.
At the head of this company of prisoners marched a man with downcast eyes, sunburned, dusty, dressed in gray, with a black feather in his hat. His name was Fitz Hugh Miller. He was a Pennsylvanian. It was he who arrested Cook, one of John Brown's accomplices, and delivered him over to Governor Wise. Cook was tried, found guilty, and hung. When the war broke out, Miller went South, and was a captain in Lee's army. The people of Chambersburg knew him. He was a traitor.
"Hang him!" they shouted. "A rope!" "Get a rope!" There was a rush of men and women towards him. They were greatly excited. Some picked up stones to hurl at him, some shook their fists in his face, but the guards closed round him, and hurried the pale and trembling wretch off to prison as quickly as possible, and saved him from a violent death.
General Lee had been successful in taking Harper's Ferry, but he was not in position to spring upon the North. The eastern gates were wide open. Burnside had pushed D. H. Hill and Longstreet down the Mountain, and the whole Yankee army which he intended to keep out of the Antietam and Cumberland valleys was pouring upon him. He had been successful in most of his battles. He had driven McClellan from Richmond to the gunboats, had defeated Pope at[Pg 174] Groveton, had taken eleven thousand prisoners and immense supplies at Harper's Ferry. All that he had to do now was to defeat the new Army of the Potomac in a great pitched battle; then he could move on to Philadelphia and dictate terms of peace.
He resolved to concentrate his army, choose his ground, and give battle to McClellan. He must do that before he could move on. The advance of the Rebel army towards Pennsylvania roused the citizens of that Commonwealth to take active measures for its defense.
There were glorious exhibitions of pure patriotism. Governor Curtin called upon the people to organize at once; and fifty thousand men hastened to the various places of rendezvous. The old Revolutionary flame was rekindled. Disaster had not dispirited the people. The ministers from their pulpits urged their congregations to go, and themselves set the example. Judges, members of Congress, presidents of colleges, and professors took place in the ranks, and became soldiers. In every town the pulses of the people beat to the exigencies of the hour. Telegrams and letters poured in upon the Governor. "We are ready," "We shall march to-morrow," "Give us guns," they said.
Mothers, wives, and daughters said, "Go!"
There were tearful eyes and swelling bosoms, but brave hearts. Old men, gray-haired, weak, weary with the weight of years, encouraged the young and strong, and bestowed their blessings on those departing for the battle-field.
The army had been re-organized. It was not altogether the same army which had fought the battles of the Peninsula. The First corps, under the command of General Hooker, contained Doubleday's, Meade's, and Ricketts's divisions. Doubleday's troops were formerly under McDowell. They had been under fire at Cedar Mountain, and held the left at Groveton.
Meade commanded the Pennsylvania Reserves. McCall, their first commander, was a prisoner. Reynolds, who succeeded to the command, was in Pennsylvania organizing the militia. The Reserves had been in many of the battles,—Dranesville, Mechanicsville, Gaines's Mills, Glendale, Malvern, Groveton, and South Mountain.
Ricketts's troops were of McDowell's corps, formerly King's division. They too had been in the hottest of the fight at Groveton.
The Second corps was still in the hands of the veteran Sumner. Sedgwick, Richardson, and French were his division commanders.
Sedgwick and Richardson had been through the Peninsular campaign. They came up at Fair Oaks in a critical moment, and decided the day in that hard-fought battle. They had stood motionless through the long summer day at Savage Station,—a wall of adamant against Stonewall Jackson and Magruder. Richardson held the[Pg 176] bridge at White-Oak Swamp, while Sedgwick with Hooker repulsed A. P. Hill at Glendale. French's troops had been under General Wool at Fortress Monroe and Norfolk. They had seen skirmishes, but had never been engaged in a great battle. French had one brigade of new troops, fresh from the home barracks, inexperienced in drill and discipline, and unacquainted with the indescribable realities of a great battle. It was a powerful corps.
The Sixth corps was commanded by Franklin, and was composed of Smith's and Slocum's divisions, old soldiers of the Peninsula. A portion of them were engaged in the battle of Williamsburg. Smith's division was in the fight at Fair Oaks; and Slocum crossed to the north bank of the Chickahominy, in season to save Fitz-John Porter from annihilation in the battle of Gaines's Mills. They held the rear at White-Oak Swamp, and had borne their share in the battle of Malvern.
The Fifth corps was commanded by Porter, and was composed of Sykes's division of Regulars and Morell's division; the same which had fought gloriously at Gaines's Mills, and Malvern, and reluctantly at Groveton.
The Ninth corps was commanded by Burnside. He had four divisions,—Wilcox's, Sturgis's, Rodman's, and Cox's.
Sturgis's and Rodman's troops were Burnside's own, which had a good record at Roanoke and Newbern. Wilcox's were of Sherman's army from Port Royal, and had seen some of the hardships of campaigning. They had been hurried up from the South, when it was discovered that Lee[Pg 177] contemplated an invasion of the North. The Thirty-fifth Massachusetts in this corps had been but a few days in the service. How well they fought, we shall see hereafter.
The troops commanded by General Cox were of the Kanawha division,—Western Virginia and Ohio soldiers, who had seen service among the mountains.
The Twelfth corps, which had fought at Winchester and Cedar Mountain under Banks, was now commanded by General Mansfield. It contained but two divisions, Williams's and Greene's.
Couch commanded an independent division, the troops which had stemmed the tide at Seven Pines.
These corps composed the Army of the Potomac, which was organized into three grand divisions.
Burnside commanded the right wing, having his own,—the Ninth and First corps. General Cox commanded the Ninth after the death of Reno at South Mountain, and the appointment of Burnside to the command of the grand division.
The center was under the command of Sumner, and was composed of the Second and Twelfth corps,—his own and Mansfield's.
The left wing was commanded by Franklin, and was composed of the Fifth and Sixth corps.
General Lee's army was composed of the commands of Jackson, Longstreet, D. H. Hill, McLaw, and Walker.
An estimate of his forces in the battle of Antietam, obtained from prisoners, deserters, and spies, is ninety-seven thousand.
"It was fought for half a day with forty-five[Pg 178] thousand men on the Confederate side, and for the remaining half with no more than an aggregate of seventy thousand,"59 writes a Southern historian, who estimates McClellan's force at a hundred and thirty thousand.
The ground which General Lee selected for a decisive trial of the strength of the two armies is near the village of Sharpsburg, between the Antietam and Potomac Rivers. It is a quiet little village at the junction of the Hagerstown turnpike, with the pike leading from Boonsboro' to Shepardstown. Hagerstown is twelve miles distant, due north; Shepardstown, three and a half miles, a little south of west, on the Potomac.
In former years, it was a lively place. There were always country teams and market wagons rumbling through the town, but now the innkeepers have few travelers to eat their bacon and eggs. The villagers meet at nightfall at the hotel, smoke their pipes, drink a glass of the landlord's ale, and tell the story of the great battle.
The Antietam is a rapid, crooked mill-stream. It rises north of Hagerstown, on the borders of Pennsylvania, runs toward the south, and empties into the Potomac, three miles south of Sharpsburg. Its banks are steep. In some places there are limestone ledges cropping out. At low water, it is fordable in many places, but when the clouds hang low upon the mountains and give out their showers, it roars, foams, tumbles like a cataract.
Three miles northwest of the town, the Potomac makes a great bend to the east, comes within a half mile of the Hagerstown pike, then bears south toward Shepardstown.
Across the Antietam, three miles from Sharpsburg, to the southeast, is the northern end of Elk Ridge,—a mountain running south to Harper's Ferry, forming the west wall of Pleasant Valley.
The Antietam, below the Boonesboro' road, runs along the western base of the ridge. It is not more than four miles from the Antietam, opposite the head of the ridge, to the great bend in the Potomac, northwest of Sharpsburg. General Lee selected this narrow gate for his line of battle. It had many advantages. It was a short line. It could not be flanked. It was on commanding ground. General McClellan must attack in front. He must cross the Antietam, ascend the steep bank, over ground swept by hundreds of guns, and face a direct as well as a flanking fire. McClellan could not turn the right flank of the Rebels, because there the Antietam runs close to the base of Elk Ridge, then turns due west, and empties into the Potomac. He could not turn the left flank, for there the Rebel army leaned upon the Potomac.
The dotted line passing through Jackson's position is a narrow farm road, along which Jackson erected his defensive works.
The diagram represents the general positions of the divisions as they came upon the field.
Besides these protections to the flank, the line itself was very strong. There were hills, hollows, ravines, groves, ledges, fences, cornfields, orchards, stone-walls,—all of which are important in a great battle. Besides all of those natural defenses, General Lee threw up breastworks and rifle-pits to make his line as strong as possible. His line was on the ridge, between the Antietam and the Potomac.
There are three stone bridges across the Antietam near where the battle was fought. One of them will be known in history as the Burnside Bridge, for there the troops commanded by General Burnside forced back the Rebel right wing, and crossed the stream. It is on the road which leads from Sharpsburg to the little village of Roherville in Pleasant Valley.
A mile north, there is another at the crossing of the Boonesboro' and Sharpsburg turnpike. A half mile above, on the eastern bank, there is a large brick farm-house, where General McClellan had his head-quarters during the battle. Following the windings of the stream, we reach the upper bridge, on the road from Keedysville to Hagerstown. On the western bank are the farms of John Hoffman and D. Miller. There is a little cluster of houses called Smoketown.
Traveling directly west from Hoffman's one mile across the fields, we reach the Sharpsburg and Hagerstown pike, near the residence of Mr. Middlekauff. A quarter of a mile farther would carry us to the great bend of the Potomac. But turning south, and traveling the turnpike, we[Pg 182] reach the farm-house of Mr. John Poffenberger,60 a wooden building standing with its gable towards the turnpike. There are peach-trees in front, and a workshop, and a bee-bench.
There is a high ridge behind the house, crowned by Poffenberger's barn. Standing upon the ridge and looking west, we behold the turnpike at our feet, a mown field beyond, and fifty or sixty rods distant a cornfield, and a grove of oaks. That cornfield and those oaks is the ground occupied by Jackson's left wing.
A few rods south of Poffenberger's is the toll-gate. There a narrow lane runs west towards the Potomac. Another leads southwest, past an old house and barn, winding through the woods, and over the uneven ground where Jackson established his center. There is a grove of oaks between the toll-gate and the farm-house of Mr. J. Miller, a few rods further south. Mr. Miller had a large field in corn on the hillside east of his house at the time of the battle. Standing there upon the crest and looking east, we have a full view of the farm of John Hoffman. Here and on the ridge behind Poffenberger's, Jackson established his advanced line one half of a mile from his main line, west of the turnpike.
The cornfield was bordered on the east by a narrow strip of woodland, on the south by a newly mown field extending to the turnpike.
Walking across the smooth field to the turn[Pg 183]pike again, we behold a small one-story brick building on the west side of the road, with an oak grove behind it. It has no tower or spire, but it is known as the Dunker Church. A road joins the turnpike in front of the church, coming in from the northeast from Hoffman's farm and the upper bridge across the Antietam.
This building is on elevated ground. It was the pivot on which the fortunes of the day swung to and fro, where hinged the destiny of the nation. There Jackson's right wing joined D. H. Hill's division. There, around the church, fifty thousand men met in deadly strife.
The land slopes towards the east. Rivulets spring from the hillside, and flow towards the Antietam. Seventy or eighty rods east of the church is the residence of Mr. Muma. There is a graveyard north of his dwelling, white headstones marking the burial-place. There is a farm-road leading past his house to Mr. Rulet's beyond. It winds along the hillside into the ravine by Mr. Rulet's. There are branch roads; one leading to Sharpsburg, one down the hill to the middle bridge across the Antietam. The farms of Mr. Muma, Mr. Rulet, and Dr. Piper are broken lands, hills, ravines, corn and wheat fields, orchards, pastures, and mowing-grounds. D. H. Hill occupied the high grounds on Mr. Muma's farm; Longstreet held Rulet's, Dr. Piper's, Sharpsburg, and the hills south of the town.
Standing by the church and looking north, we see Poffenberger's house, three fourths of a mile distant; northeast we see Hoffman's farm, a mile and a half distant. Looking directly east over the house of Mr. Rulet, we behold the Antietam,[Pg 184] one mile distant, with General McClellan's head-quarters on the hill beyond.
Southeast, a mile and a quarter distant, is the middle bridge on the Boonesboro' pike. Directly south, along the Hagerstown turnpike, is Sharpsburg. Lee's head-quarters are in a field west of the town. Two miles distant, at the base of Elk Ridge, is the lower bridge. There the banks of the river are high, sharp, and steep. Behind the church are limestone ledges; in the woods, strong natural defenses.
These are the main features of the field:—
Poffenberger's house, the ridge behind it, the woods, and cornfields west of it.
Miller's house, the cornfield east, the mown field south, the turnpike and the woods west.
The church, the field in front, the woods behind it.
Muma's farm, Rulet's house, the orchard around it, the farm-road, and cornfield west of it.
The lower bridge, and the hills on both sides of the stream.
At daylight on Monday morning, after the battle at South Mountain, General Richardson's division of the Second Corps moved down the mountain side through Boonesboro' to Keedysville. It was found that General Lee was massing his troops on the west bank of the Antietam, and planting his batteries on the hills north of Sharpsburg. General Richardson deployed his troops. Captain Tidball and Captain Pettit ran their batteries up on the hills near Porterstown, and commenced a cannonade which lasted till night.
General Hooker's, General Mansfield's, General[Pg 185] Burnside's, General Sumner's, and General Porter's troops arrived during the night.
On the morning of Tuesday, the 16th, General McClellan reconnoitered the position which Lee had chosen. The forenoon passed before the corps were in position to make an attack.
General McClellan's plan was to attack the enemy's left with Hooker's and Mansfield's corps, supported by Sumner's; and, as soon as matters looked favorably there, to move Burnside across the lower bridge, and attack Lee's right, south of Sharpsburg. If either of these flank movements were successful, then he would move upon the center with all the forces at his disposal.
About two o'clock in the afternoon, Hooker crossed the Antietam by the upper bridge and by the ford near Pray's Mill. The Rebel pickets were in the cornfields on Mr. Hoffman's farm, and their first line in the strip of woods east of Miller's cornfield. The Pennsylvania Reserves were in advance. There was a sharp skirmish and a brisk cannonade which lasted till dark. The Rebels were forced back. They retreated almost to Poffenberger's house. General Hooker advanced, planted his guns on the hill near Hoffman's, and threw out his pickets. His men lay down to sleep in the fields and amid the rustling corn.
Mansfield crossed during the night. He went up from the stream but a short distance, halting nearly a mile in rear of Hooker. Sumner's corps remained east of the stream, near Pray's Mill. Porter was posted on the east side near General McClellan's head-quarters, while Burnside passed down through Porterstown and came into posi[Pg 186]tion on the farm of Mr. Rohrbach at the base of Elk Ridge, near the lower bridge.
An auspicious hour had passed by never to return. Lee had only Longstreet, D. H. Hill, and two divisions of Jackson's corps on the ground on Tuesday, the 16th. Jackson arrived on the morning of the 16th, after a hard night-march from Harper's Ferry. His troops were exhausted. They were not in condition to fight on Tuesday; but by the delay of General McClellan they obtained rest and strength. McLaw's, Anderson's, Walker's, and A. P. Hill's divisions had not arrived even when the great contest began on the 17th.61
A portion of Lee's line on the morning of that day was weak and thin. Longstreet held the right, opposite Burnside; D. H. Hill was on Rulet's farm, Hood was at the Dunker Church, and Jackson northwest of it, in front of Poffenberger's house. Hood's men were exhausted; they had marched rapidly to reach the field, and had been sent to the front upon their arrival, to keep Hooker in check, as he moved through Hoffman's cornfields on the afternoon of the 16th. Lawton, commanding Ewell's old division in Jackson's corps, relieved him during the night. At daybreak the "Ragged Texans," as Hood's men were called by their comrades, were cooking their cakes and frying their pork in the fields south of the church. Lee's head-quarters were on a hill beyond Sharpsburg, so high that he could overlook a large portion of the field. He saw that McClellan intended to turn his left, and threw all his available troops towards the Dunker Church.
On the morning of the 17th a breeze from the south swept up the valley, rolling dark clouds upon the mountains. There was a light fog upon the Antietam. Long before daylight the word, which roused the men from sleep, passed along the lines of Hooker's divisions. Without a drum-beat or bugle-call the soldiers rose, shook the dewdrops from their locks, rolled their blankets, and ate their breakfast.
The pickets of the two armies were so near each other that each could hear the rustle of the corn as they paced to and fro amid the rows. Occasionally there was a shot. Once, in the night, there was a volley beyond the woods towards Muma's. General Hooker was asleep in a barn near Hoffman's. He sprang to his feet, stood by the door, and listened. "We have no troops in that direction. They are shooting at nothing," he said, and lay down once more.
Five o'clock. It is hardly daylight, as the pickets, straining their sight, bringing their muskets to a level with their eyes, aim at the dusky forms stirring amid the corn-leaves, and renew the contest. There are bright flashes from the strip of woods, and from the ridge behind Poffenberger's. The first Rebel shell bursts in the Sixth Wisconsin, prostrating eight men. Hooker's guns, in the edge of the woods west of Hoffman's, are quick to respond.
Meade's division, composed of Seymour's, Magilton's, and Anderson's brigades, was in the center of Hooker's corps, and also in the advance.[Pg 188] Doubleday was on the right, and Ricketts behind Meade.
The order was given to Meade to move on, and to Ricketts and Doubleday to keep within close supporting distance. The direction taken by Meade brought him through the strip of woods northeast of Miller's house. Lawton's division of Jackson's corps held the ground by Miller's house, with Ripley, of D. H. Hill's division, joining on the narrow road north of Muma's, a quarter of a mile in front of the church.
At this early hour, before any movement was made, Tuft, Langner, Von Kleizer, Weaver, Weed, and Benjamin, with twenty-pounder Parrott guns, planted on the hills east of the Antietam, between the center and lower bridges, opened upon Lee's lines, throwing shells and solid shot into Sharpsburg, and upon D. H. Hill on Rulet's farm. "It enfiladed my line, and was a damaging fire,"62 says Stonewall Jackson, who brought up his batteries of heavy guns,—Prague's, Carpenter's, Raine's, Brokenbrough's, Caskie's, and Wooding's batteries.
Meade's men went cheerily to the work. They began at long range to give their volleys; they were in the hollow, northeast of Miller's. Lawton's troops looked down upon them from their shelter beneath the trees and behind the hills.
The Reserves began to drop beneath the galling fire. Hooker rode up to them upon a powerful white horse. The bullets flew past him, cutting down the corn, and bursting shells sprinkled him with earth; but he was calm amid it all, directing[Pg 189] the troops and holding them up to the work by his mighty will.
Nearer to the woods now, shorter the range, more deadly the fire. Ricketts came up on the left with Duryea's and Christian's brigades.
There were heavier volleys from the cornfield and open ground, fainter replies from the woods. It was an indication that Lawton was growing weaker.
"Forward!" It was an electric word. The Reserves, with Ricketts's two brigades, went up with a cheer into the woods, through into the open field, following the fleeing Rebels, who were streaming past Miller's, over the field in front of the church, into the woods behind it. The Reserves reached the middle of the field; but now from the woods into which Lawton had fled there were quick volleys of musketry and rapid cannon shots from Hayes's, and Trimble's, and Walker's, and Douglas's, and Starke's brigades of Jackson's division.
The Reserves stopped in the middle of the field. They gave a few volleys. The men dropped fast. Some of the wounded crawled, some hobbled away; others lay where they fell, motionless forever. The living turned and sought the shelter of the woods, from which they had driven the enemy.
The aspect of affairs suddenly changed. Jackson moved forward his whole line, not only across the field in front of the church, but extended farther north, towards Poffenberger's. "Send me your best brigade," was the message from Hooker to Ricketts. Hartsuff, of Ricketts's division, had not been engaged. A portion only of Doubleday's troops had been in. Hartsuff was on the hill be[Pg 190]hind Poffenberger. His troops, the Twelfth and Thirteenth Massachusetts, Ninth New York, and Eleventh Pennsylvania, went down the hill upon the run, south towards Miller's, past the retreating brigades, closing in like an iron gate between them and the exultant enemy. They came into line upon the crest of the hill, crowning it with their dark forms, and covering it with flame and smoke.
"I think they will hold it," said General Hooker, as he watched them presenting an unbroken front. Jackson pushed on his brigades, but they recoiled before the steady and destructive fire rolled out by Hartsuff, also by Gibbons, and Patrick, who were holding the ridge by Poffenberger's. Jackson's line melted away. "At this early hour," says Jackson, in his report, "General Starke was killed; Colonel Douglas, commanding Lawton's brigade, was killed; General Lawton, commanding a division, and Colonel Walker, commanding a brigade, were severely wounded. More than half of the brigades of Lawton and Hayes were killed or wounded; and more than a third of Trimble's; and all the regimental commanders in those brigades except two, were killed or wounded."63
Once more the Rebels retired to the woods behind the church. There was a lull in the storm. The shattered brigades of Jackson went to the rear, taking shelter behind the ledges. Hood, with his ragged Texans, came to the front by the church. Stuart, who was out on Jackson's left, towards the Potomac, came up with his artillery. Early's division also came to the front, all form[Pg 191]ing on the uneven ground west and northwest of the church in the woods; also Taliaferro's, Jones's, and Winder's brigades.
Hooker was quick to plant his batteries. Those of Doubleday's division galloped to the ridge northeast of Poffenberger's house. Gibbons's, Cooper's, Easton's, Gerrish's, Durell's, and Monroe's, were wheeled into position. Projectiles of every form cut the air. The oak-trees of the grove by Miller's were splintered and torn, the branches were wrenched from the trunks, and hurled to the earth.
Rebel shells tore through Poffenberger's house knocking out the gable, ripping up the roof, tossing boards and shingles into the air. The beehives in the yard were tumbled over, and the angry swarms went out, stinging friend and foe.
Hooker had crossed the turnpike, and was a few hundred feet beyond the toll-house. Hartsuff was wounded and carried from the field. The Reserves, broken and exhausted, were in the rear, too much shattered to be relied on in an emergency. Ricketts's brigades, which had met D. H. Hill, had fallen back. Hartsuff's, Gibbons's, and Patrick's alone were in front.
It was nearly eight o'clock, and Hooker's troops thus far had borne the whole of the contest unaided. They had driven Jackson from his front line, had assaulted his second, had received, like a stalwart knight of the olden time, unflinchingly the heavy blow which the Rebel commander had given.
Hooker rode forward and reconnoitered.
"That is the key to the position," he said, pointing toward the church.
"Tell Mansfield to send up a division," was the order sent to this venerable officer, who was slowly advancing from Hoffman's farm.
Williams's division went up into the strip of woods east of the cornfield, Crawford's brigade on the right, and Gordon's on the left.
"Tell Doubleday to hold them on the right. Don't let them turn our flank," was the word sent up to Doubleday, who was quietly watching the Rebels from the cornfield west of Poffenberger's.
There were signs of an advance of Jackson's line.
"Keep them well stirred up," was the message to the artillerymen. The thirty-six guns planted on the ridge reopened.
"I cannot advance, but I can hold my ground," said Ricketts.
While Crawford and Gordon were forming, General Mansfield was mortally wounded and borne to the rear, and the command of the corps devolved on General Williams. Green's division came up and formed on the right of Williams's, now commanded by Gordon, reaching south nearly to Muma's house. King's, Cothran's and Hampton's batteries, belonging to the Twelfth Corps, opened a rapid fire. The One Hundred and Twenty-third Pennsylvania was pushed across the turnpike into the woods west of Miller's, near the toll-gate.
While making these dispositions General Hooker dismounted and walked to the extreme front. There was a constant fire of musketry from the woods. He passed through it all, returned to his horse, and once more was in the saddle. He[Pg 193] was in range of the Rebels. There was a heavy volley. A bullet entered his foot, inflicting a painful wound. Three men fell near him on the instant. But he issued his orders with coolness and deliberation. "Tell Crawford and Gordon to carry those woods and hold them," he said to his aide as he rode slowly to the rear. He tried to keep in the saddle, but fainted. "You must leave the field and have your wound attended to," said the surgeon. It was with great reluctance that he rode to the rear; but Sumner at that moment was going up with his superb corps, the Second, which had never quailed before the enemy.
Williams formed his line, his own division on the right, and Green's on the left.
Patrick and Gibbons were moved down to the turnpike. The troops were enthusiastic. They had driven the enemy, had captured battle-flags and prisoners.
Gordon and Crawford advanced over the mown field, across the turnpike, into the woods, and poured in their fire. Jackson replied. The woods were all aflame. From every tree, and knoll, and ledge, and hillock, there were volleys of musketry, and flashes of artillery.
It was a terrible fire. Gordon and Crawford were close upon the Rebel lines, behind the ledges and the breastwork which they had thrown up. They almost broke through. A little more power, the support of another brigade, the pushing in of another division at this moment, and Jackson would have been forced from his stronghold; and if driven from that position he must fight in the smooth fields beyond, or be folded back upon the center and right, with the door half opened for[Pg 194] Hooker to march upon Shepardstown and cut off the retreat.
It is nearly nine o'clock when Gordon and Crawford stand within three hundred feet of the Rebel line, in the woods northwest of the church. They face west. They fight Grigsby, Stafford, and Stuart of Jackson's corps.
It is a critical moment with Jackson. The Yankees must be repulsed or all is lost. Early's and Hood's divisions are behind the church.
Early moves north, sweeping past the church. He strikes Crawford's flank and rear, and forces him back. Green hastens up to sustain Crawford, and is also driven across the turnpike into the field nearly to the strip of woods west of it.
Sedgwick's division of Sumner's corps has been coming into line in Miller's cornfield. If it had been earlier on the ground it would have been of infinite value. It is a noble division, led by an able commander.
General Sumner himself is there, gray-haired, sober, vigilant, watchful. He examines the ground and the positions of the enemy.
Sedgwick forms his division in three lines. Dana in front, Gorman in the second, and Howard in the third line. They pass in front of Mansfield's troops towards the church.
Jackson has been hurrying up reinforcements. The troops which have been on the march from Harper's Ferry are brought in.
"By this time," says Jackson, "the expected reinforcements, consisting of Semmes's, and An[Pg 195]derson's, and a part of Barksdale's, of McLaw's division, arrived, and the whole, including Grigsby's command, now united, charged upon the enemy, checking his advance, then driving him back with great slaughter."64
Jackson's line unites with D. H. Hill's in the field between the church and Muma's house. Muma's is east of the church. Sedgwick is northeast of it. As Sedgwick approaches the church, Jackson swings up his right wing from the field by Muma's. Sedgwick's second and third lines are close upon the first. The solid shot which the Rebel batteries fire cut through all the lines. The bullets which miss the men in Dana's brigade take effect in Gorman's, and those which pass Gorman strike down Howard's men.
Dana's brigade was close upon the enemy. The hot blasts from the Rebel artillery, and the sheets of flame from the infantry, scorched and withered the line. The volleys given in return were exceedingly destructive. But Gorman's and Howard's men stood with ordered arms, chafing under the terrible fire, without being able to give a reply. They were so close upon Dana that they could do nothing. Fifteen minutes has passed. Dana's brigade is lost from sight. By stooping, and laying my eyes near the ground, I can see the dusky forms of the men through the drifting cloud. They are holding their position.
But the troops which Jackson has been swinging up on his right, which have been hidden from Sedgwick and Sumner, suddenly appear. They seem to rise from the ground as they come[Pg 196] over the ridge of land in the field between the church and Muma's house. They move northeast to gain Sedgwick's rear.
"Change front!" is the quick, imperative order from Sumner to Howard. The third line under Howard has been facing southwest. The regiments break rank, move out in files, and form once more, facing southeast.
There is confusion. Some men think it an order to retreat, and move towards Miller's cornfield. The Rebel line advances in beautiful order. Howard is beset by three times his number of men. Gorman is attacked on his left. The Rebels pour a volley into the backs of his men. The whole force is outflanked.
A retreat is ordered, and the regiments fall back through Miller's cornfield to the woods.
The Rebels are strong and exultant. They cheer and scream and swing their caps. They think that they have won a victory. They press on to regain the woods from which they were driven in the morning.
"Form behind the batteries," shouts Sumner, riding along the lines. The troops are not panic-stricken. They are cool and deliberate.
Tompkins, Kirby, Bartlett, and Owen are ready with their howitzers. "Give them canister!" is the order.
The batteries are posted along the ridge, in the cornfield. The limbers and caissons are a few rods down the slope. The horses nibble the corn, they prick up their ears a little when a shot screams past, but are so accustomed to the firing that they do not mind it much.
Gorman, Dana, and lastly Howard, who has[Pg 197] stood like a protecting wall, gain the rear of the batteries, and the field is open for them.
The Rebels advance. The batteries open. The discharges are rapid. No troops can live under such a fire. In five minutes it is decided that they cannot force the Union troops from the cornfield, nor from the woods east of it. They retreat once more to the church and to the ravine by Muma's.
Sedgwick has been engaged a half hour, but his loss has been great.
The Fifteenth Massachusetts was in Gorman's brigade,—the regiment which fought so nobly at Poolesville.
Twenty-four officers and five hundred and eighty-two men marched towards the church, but in twenty minutes three hundred and forty-three were killed and wounded. Other regiments suffered as much.
Jackson's loss was as severe as Sedgwick's.
General Hood, in his official report, says: "Here I witnessed the most terrible clash of arms by far that has occurred during the war."65
"A little world of artillery was turned loose upon us," says the chaplain of the Fourth Texas.66
The diagram gives the position of the troops on this part of the field at the time of Sedgwick's attack.
The road running north from the church in the Hagerstown turnpike. That running northeast from the church leads to Hoffman's farm. The narrow way in the woods where Jackson established his head-quarters, is a farm-road.
In Dana's line is the Nineteenth Massachusetts.
It fought at Fair Oaks, Savage Station, White-Oak
Swamp, Glendale, and Malvern. Its ranks have
been sadly thinned. A great many brave men
have fallen, but those who survive emulate the
deeds of their comrades. They remember one who
fell in front of Richmond,—a descendant of a[Pg 198]
[Pg 199] glorious Revolutionary sire, the patriot Putnam, relative of the young officer,—Lieutenant Putnam, who fell mortally wounded at Ball's Bluff. He was born where the old General played in his childhood, before he became a rifle-ranger fighting the Indians in the dark forest bordering Lake Champlain. They could not forget Robert Winthrop Putnam, the frail and feeble boy. He was but sixteen years old when the flag was insulted at Sumter. His whole soul was on fire. He resolved to enlist. The surgeons would not accept him, he was so weak and slender. Again and again he tried to become a soldier, but was as often rejected.
The fire of patriotism burned within his breast. He slept in the room which his great ancestor had occupied in his youth. He sat by the window through the moonlit nights, and carved a wooden sword, thus feeding the consuming flame. On one side he cut this motto:—
Upon the other side, giving vent to his pent-up soul, were these words:—
He brooded upon his disappointment by day and dreamed of it at night. He made one more effort. No questions were asked; he was accepted, and became a soldier. He was intelligent, manly, courageous, and temperate. His drink was cold water. Calmly and deliberately he bade farewell to his aged parents and his young sister and brother, turned from the dear[Pg 200] scenes of home and childhood, hallowed by ever fragrant memories, buckled on his knapsack, and took his place in the ranks. When mortally wounded he refused to leave the field, but cheered his comrades in the fight. In his last letter, written to his sister, dated on the eve of battle, he wrote:—
"I left home to help defend a Constitution that was second to none in the world, a flag which every nation on earth respected; and if I am to die, I shall be happy to die in the service of my country."
The boy-soldier was gone from the ranks, but his spirit was there, an all-animating presence.
When the battle began in the morning, I was at Hagerstown. It was ten miles to the field, but though so far, the cannonade seemed very near. It rolled along the valley and rumbled among the mountains. The people left their breakfasts, and climbed the hills and steeples to behold the battle-cloud. The women were pale, and stood with tearful eyes, forgetting their household cares.
A ride directly down the Sharpsburg pike would have taken me to the rear of Lee's army. It would be a new and interesting experience to witness the fight from that side. I started down the pike, my horse upon the gallop. A mile out of town I met a farmer.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"To see the battle."
"You will run right into the Rebels if you keep on."
"That is what I want to do. I want to see the battle from their side."
"Let me advise you not to go. I was in their clutches yesterday. They threatened to take me to Richmond. They stole my horse and my money, and I am glad enough to get clear. Let me advise you again not to go. You had better go down to Boonesboro', and see the battle from our side."
It was good advice, and I was soon upon the Boonesboro' road.
I came across a Rebel soldier lying at the foot of an oak-tree. He was weak with sickness, worn down by long marches, and had dropped from the ranks. He belonged to Longstreet's corps. He was too weak to speak. His breathing was short and quick and faint. His cheeks were hollow, his eyes sunken. Two kind-hearted farmers came and took him into a house.
"I am sorry I came up here to fight you," he whispered. He had lain beneath the oak a day and a night, waiting death, expecting no help or mercy from any one. The unexpected kindness filled his eyes with tears.
Striking off from the turnpike I galloped across the fields, through woods, over hills and hollows, reached the Antietam, crossed it by a ford, and ascended the hill to Hoffman's farm.
Sedgwick and Williams were fighting to hold their ground. It was a terrific fire. There were heavy surges, like breakers upon the sea-beaches, like angry thunder in the clouds,—ripples, rolls, waves, crashes! It was not like the voice of many waters, for that is deep, solemn, sweet, peaceful; the symbol of the song of the redeemed ones, which will ascend forever before the throne of God, when all war shall have ceased.
It was a fearful contest in front of Sumner. Miller's cornfield was all aflame. The woods by the church smoked like a furnace. Hooker's cannon were silent, cooling their brazen lips after the morning's fever; but the men stood beside the guns, looking eagerly into the forest beyond the turnpike, watching for the first sign of advance from the Rebels.
All the houses and barns near Hoffman's were taken for hospitals. There were thousands of wounded. Long lines of ambulances were coming down from the field. The surgeons were at work. It was not a pleasant sight to see so many torn, mangled arms, legs, heads; men with their eyes shot out, their arms off at the shoulders, their legs broken and crushed by cannon shot. But they were patient, cheerful, and hopeful. The nurses and attendants made them comfortable beds of straw upon the ground. The agents of the Sanitary and Christian Commissions gave them coffee and crackers. Many a noble hero said, "I thank you! God bless you!"
In the hollow between Poffenberger's and Hoffman's were the Pennsylvania Reserves, what was left of them. Once they were fifteen thousand; now, a remnant. They were sad, but not disheartened. "We have had a terrible fight," said one. "Yes, and we thrashed the Rebels. Joe Hooker knows how to do it," another said. "We are badly cut up, though. We can't lose many more, because there ar'n't many more to lose," said the first.
"I am sorry Hooker is wounded. We had licked the Rebels fairly when he left the field. I guess they won't put us in again to-day; we[Pg 203] have done our share; but if they do, we are ready," said the others.
The shells and solid shot from the Rebel batteries in the woods north of the church were dropping around us.
"See there! see it tear the ground!" one shouted, and pointed towards the spot where a solid shot was throwing up the earth. "The man who owns that land is getting his plowing done for nothing," said another.
"Ha! ha! ha!"
Another shot struck near a soldier, and covered him with earth. "Fire away! you can't do that again, I'll bet," he said, as he brushed the dirt from his clothes.
"Stand by the guns!" was the quick, imperative order. The men sprang to their feet. Those who were at the spring, in the hollow of the field, filling their canteens, came to the lines upon the run.
"What's up?" asked an officer. "The Rebels are massing in front, and it looks as though they were going to attack."
"Gibbons's brigade is across the turnpike; he will hold them, I reckon," said another officer.
I rode up on the hill in rear of Poffenberger's. Captain Gibbons was in front of his battery, looking across the turnpike into the woods.
"It is a little risky for you to be on horseback. Do you see that fence over there?"
"Well, the Rebel skirmishers are there, and we are in easy range. If you want to get a sight of them, you had better dismount, tie your horse, and creep down under the shelter of this fence."
The cannon balls were thick upon the ground, and there were pools of blood where the artillery horses had fallen.
"This was a warm place an hour ago, and may be again; for I see that the Rebels are up to something over there."
I look as he directs, and see a column of troops moving through the woods. They are in sight but a moment. I walk along the line, past Gibbons's, Cooper's, Easton's, Durrell's, Muma's, and Gerrish's batteries, to Poffenberger's barn. Gerrish's battery is very near the building. The gunners are tired with their morning's work, and are sound asleep under the wheat-stacks, undisturbed by the roar a half-mile distant, where Sedgwick is at it, or by the shot and shells which scream past them.
Dead and wounded men are lying in Poffenberger's door-yard. The ground is stained with blood. Two noble white horses are there, one with his head smashed, the other with his neck torn,—both killed by the same shot. There are dead men in the turnpike. Gibbons's brigade is behind the stone wall. The toll-house is riddled with bullets. There are flattened pieces of lead among the stones. The trees are scarred. There are fragments of shells. The ground is strown with knapsacks, guns, belts, canteens, and articles dropped in the fight.
"I guess you are about near enough. This is the front line," says a soldier.
I think so, too, for the bullets are singing over our heads and past us. I go up through the woods, south of Poffenberger's, to Miller's cornfield. The contest has lost some of its fury. The[Pg 205] Rebels have been repulsed, and both sides are taking breath.
Mansfield's corps is in the woods, east of Miller's. Sedgwick's division is in the cornfield, behind the batteries of Cothran, Woodruff, Mathews, and Thompson. The batteries are pouring a constant stream of shells into the woods beyond the church.
The Union loss has been very heavy,—Hooker, Sedgwick, Dana, Hartsuff, wounded, and Mansfield killed. Meade commands Hooker's corps, and Howard, with his one arm, commands Sedgwick's division. He lost his right arm at Fair Oaks, but he is in the saddle again. The Rebel dead are thick around the church, and in the field in front of it, and along the turnpike, mingled with those who had fallen from the Union ranks. Five times the tide of battle has swept over the ground during the morning. The officers point out the exact spot where they stood. They tell what happened.
"We stood out there, in the center of the field," says an officer of the Tenth Maine. "We came up just as Ricketts was giving way. The Rebels were outflanking him, and his troops were streaming through the cornfield. The Rebels were pushing north towards Miller's. Our line of march was towards the west, which brought us partly in rear of their line. Those dead men which you see out there belonged to the Twentieth Georgia. They were on the right of the Rebel line. We gave them a volley right into their backs. They didn't know what to make of it at first. They looked round, saw that we were in their rear, then they cut for the woods. It forced back the whole Rebel line. Just then Corporal Viele, of company[Pg 206] K, of our regiment, and a corporal of the Second Massachusetts, dashed after them, and captured the Colonel of the Twentieth Georgia, and a lieutenant."
"And Lieutenant-Colonel Dwight, of the Second Massachusetts, captured a battle-flag," says a soldier of that regiment, his eyes sparkling with enthusiasm. "He brought it in under a shower of bullets, waving it over his head. He got clear back to the lines, and then was wounded, they say mortally."
There was a lull in the battle after the terrible fight around the church.
General French's division, of Sumner's corps, followed Sedgwick across the Antietam. The division, after crossing the stream, turned to the left, marching through the fields towards the house of Mr. Muma. Richardson, as soon as he crossed the bridge, filed to the left, moved along the bank of the river, crossed a little brook which springs from the hillside near Rulet's, encountered Hill's skirmishers, drove them up the ravine, and formed his line under cover of a hill.
French is in the ravine. Half of his division is north of the brook, the other half south. He has Weber's, Kimball's, and Morris's brigades. He forms his brigades, as Sedgwick did his, in three lines,—Weber in front, Morris in the second, and Kimball in the third line.
Morris's men have never been under fire. They are new troops. They have heard the roar of battle through the morning, and now, as they advance[Pg 207] across the fields, the Rebel batteries on the hills all around Rulet's house open upon them, gun after gun, battery after battery. The hillside grows white. A silver cloud floats down the ravine. They are so near that it infolds them. There are flashes, jets of smoke, iron bolts in the air above, also tearing up the ground or cutting through the ranks; they feel the breath of the shot, the puff of air in their faces, and hear the terrifying shriek. A comrade leaps into the air, spins round, or falls like a log to the ground. They behold a torn and mangled body. They saw not the shot which wounded him. It is a terrible experience, yet they bear the trial firmly. They drop upon the ground while the lines are forming, and the shells do them little damage.
Hill has his front line in the ravine by Muma's. The Rebel soldiers have an excellent opportunity to fill their canteens from the cool water bubbling up from his spring-house. The sharpshooters are in Muma's chambers, firing from the windows at French's troops as they advance over the field east of the house. There is a graveyard east of the house, and the skirmishers lie behind the graves, their muskets resting upon the white headstones.
French's division joins Sedgwick's; it faces southwest, while Richardson's faces west. French arrives while Sedgwick is having the great struggle in front of the church. Kirby's, Bartlett's, and Owen's batteries of Sedgwick's division are on the hillside east of Miller's field, raking the Rebel lines.
The diagram shows the positions occupied by French and Richardson, also by Franklin's and Porter's corps.
Smith relieved French in the afternoon.
The roads are narrow carriage-ways leading to the farm-houses.
The Rebels occupying Muma's house and barn annoy Sumner's artillerymen, who in turn aim[Pg 208] their guns at the buildings. A shell bursts in the barn and sets it on fire. A black cloud rises. The flames burst forth. The Rebels, finding the[Pg 209] place too hot for them, apply the torch to the house, and retreat to Rulet's orchard. The dark pillar of cloud, the bright flames beneath, the constant flashing of the artillery, and the hillsides alive with thousands of troops, their banners waving, their bayonets gleaming, is a scene of terrible grandeur.
Weber's brigade advances steadily, throwing down the fences, scaling the stone-walls, preserving a regular line. Not so with Morris's, which is thrown into confusion. The time has come to strike a great blow.
"Tell General Kimball to move to the front, and come in on the left of Weber," was French's order to General Kimball.
The brigade swings towards the south, past Morris's brigade, enters the ravine, and pushes on towards Rulet's.
It is a magnificent movement. Richardson at the moment is crowning the hill south of the brook, while Tidball's battery is throwing shells up the ravine into the orchard beyond Rulet's.
The hills are covered with troops. Far up the hillside in Rulet's, Muma's, and Dr. Piper's cornfields are Longstreet's and D. H. Hill's troops. On the hills south of Sharpsburg is A. P. Hill, just arriving from Harper's Ferry. The Rebel infantry is behind the stone walls and rail fences. All of the hills are smoking with artillery. Jackson's batteries by the church are still thundering at Howard, who, now that Sedgwick has been carried from the field, commands that division of Sumner's corps. Burnside's batteries by the bridge are all in operation.
Mr. Rulet and Mr. Muma live about half a[Pg 210] mile from the Hagerstown pike. A narrow path leads along the hillside to the pike. Just beyond Mr. Muma's, the road is sunk below the surface of the ground. It has been used many years, and has been washed by rains, forming a natural rifle-pit, in which D. H. Hill posts his first line. Between this pathway and the pike is a cornfield, in which he stations his second line. His artillery is planted on the knoll, higher up, near the turnpike.
It is but a few rods from Muma's to the road. "Bloody Lane," the inhabitants call it now. The distance from Rulet's is less. There is an apple-orchard west of Rulet's house. Beyond that the ground rises sharp and steep. It is a rounded knoll, sloping towards the west into the sunken path.
The line of advance taken by Weber carries him directly towards the smoking ruins of Muma's buildings, while Kimball passes between Muma's and Rulet's.
It is a gallant advance which they make. Weber's troops move over the mown field, past the burial-ground, leaping the fences. Some of the men pause a moment, rest their rifles on the rails and the tombstones, and take a long shot at the dark line in the cornfield. They cannot see the nearer line of Hill's division, lying close in the hidden road.
Kimball, a little farther south, joining his right to Weber's left, sweeps on in splendid order past Muma's spring-house, his left wing touching the apple-trees around Rulet's. The Rebel cannon on the hills are sending down a steady stream of shells. The Union batteries east of the Antietam[Pg 211]—the twenty-pounder Parrotts—are throwing rifled shot in reply. Richardson's batteries on the hillock beyond the ravine are firing from the southeast, while Kirby, Owen, Thompson, and Bartlett, are raining all kinds of shot from the north. It is a tumultuous roar. Under cover of this tremendous fire, French moves up the hill. His men reach the crest, and stand within ten rods of the sunken road. There is a rail fence between them and the road. Suddenly, thousands of men seem to grow out of the ground. The long line rises. The Rebels thrust the muzzles of their muskets between the rails. The work of death begins. French's men, instead of fleeing from this unexpected foe, intrenched in so strong a position, rush with a loud hurrah towards the fence. Hundreds fall while running, but those who survive pour their fire into the road. The combatants are not ten paces apart. Hill's line in the road is consumed like a straw in a candle's flame. It melts like lead in a crucible. Officers and men go down, falling in heaps. The few who are left after the tremendous volleys flee into the cornfield, towards the turnpike. French's men are wild with the enthusiasm which comes with success. They tear away the rails, leap over the fence, plunge into the road, trampling down the dying and dead, over the second fence, into the cornfield, and rush upon the second line with uncontrollable fury, scattering it, breaking it, like a bundle of brittle fagots. It is a terrible struggle. There are hand to hand fights in the corn-rows; Union and Rebel fall together, literally in heaps, like sticks of wood tossed together by choppers!
While French was thus dealing with General D. H. Hill, Richardson was engaging Longstreet. Richardson crossed the Antietam about ten o'clock. He marched down the western bank, across the farm of Mr. Newkirch, crossing the little stream coming down from Rulet's.
He moved to gain the high knolls between Rulet's and the Boonesboro' road. Having crossed[Pg 213] the brook, he faced west, drove in the Rebel pickets, and ascended the nearest knoll.
All of Longstreet's batteries opened upon him, but his men moved round the hillock, through the hollows, and marched well up to the Rebel lines with little loss. General Meagher, with his Irish brigade, was on the right, the tip of its wing touching Rulet's garden. Caldwell's brigade was on the left, reaching down nearly to the Boonesboro' turnpike. Brooks's brigade was in reserve.
Longstreet's batteries were on the hills around Dr. Piper's, and his troops a part of them in the pathway, the upper end of which was held by D. H. Hill. His line was so formed, and such was the ground, that Caldwell, instead of swinging round upon Sharpsburg, was obliged to fall in rear of Meagher, and become a second line, instead of a part of the first.
It was eleven o'clock when Richardson moved forward. French was pouring in his volleys north of Rulet's, and now Meagher, climbing the knolls, and rushing up the ravines, came upon the Rebels in the road. It was a repetition, or rather a continuation, of the terrible scene then enacting a few rods further north,—hundreds falling at every discharge. The courage of the Irish brigade did not flag for an instant. They fought till their ammunition was exhausted. They drove the Rebels from the road and held it. Again and again Longstreet endeavored to recover it, but could not succeed.
General Richardson was wounded and carried from the field. General Meagher was bruised by the falling of his horse. His men worn, exhausted, half their number killed and wounded,[Pg 214] were withdrawn. He retired by breaking ranks and filing to the rear, Caldwell's troops filing to the front at the same moment and taking their places. It was done as deliberately as a dress parade.
The ground towards the Boonesboro' pike is very much broken. There are numerous hillocks and ravines, cornfields, stone walls, and fences. Under shelter of these, Longstreet stealthily moved a division to attack Caldwell's right flank in the cornfield west of the sunken road. It was a part of the force attacking French. Brooks's brigade went upon the run up the ravine, and filled the gap between Caldwell and Kimball, and held it against all the assaults of the enemy.
On Caldwell's left, the sunken road winds among the hills. The Rebels still held that section. Colonel Barlow reconnoitered the ground. He commanded the Sixty-first and Sixty-fourth New York regiments. He ordered them to march by the left flank. They pushed out into the fields towards Sharpsburg, gained the rear of the Rebels still holding the road, and forced three hundred to surrender. He also captured their stand of colors.
There is once more a lull in the battle. Longstreet is making preparations to regain his lost ground. Having failed on French's right, by Rulet's, he renews the attack on the left. But Colonel Cross of the Fifth New Hampshire, who has watched with eagle eye the Indians of the western plains, who has tracked the grizzly bears of the Rocky Mountains, who is brave as well as vigilant, discovers the movement. It is the same which has been successful against Sedgwick.[Pg 215] The left of Caldwell is far advanced towards Dr. Piper's, when Colonel Cross discovers the Rebel force making a rapid movement to gain a hill in his rear. He changes front, and moves his regiment to gain the hill. The two lines are within close musket range. They make a parallel movement, firing as they run. It is an exciting race. Colonel Cross cheers his men, and inspires them with his own untamable enthusiasm. He gains the hill, faces his troops towards the enemy, and delivers a volley. It checks their advance a moment, but, rallied by the officers, they rush on, charging up the hill. Cross, reinforced by the Eighty-first Pennsylvania, which has followed him, gives the word.
"At them, boys!" He leads the counter charge. His troops rush down the hill. The Rebels do not wait their coming, but break in confusion. Another stand of colors, those of the Fourth North Carolina, and more prisoners, are the trophies.
Again Longstreet tries to drive back the center, and regain the road; and again Barlow repulses him, charging up through the cornfield, almost up to the Hagerstown turnpike, and gaining Dr. Piper's house. Vincent's and Graham's batteries gallop to the hills south of Rulet's, wheel into position, and reply to the batteries on the hills along the turnpike, north of Piper's. But the Rebel batteries by the church enfilade the ground west of the sunken road. Hancock, who now commands Richardson's division, can hold his ground, but he cannot advance. Thus by one o'clock, Lee has been pushed from his advanced lines on the right and on the center. He still holds the rocky[Pg 216] ledges in the woods behind the church; he maintains his position along the turnpike, and holds the lower bridge, where Burnside is endeavoring to force a crossing. All the while, there is a continuous cannonade by Poffenberger's, by Miller's, and in front of the church. There are occasional volleys of musketry, and a rattling fire from the skirmishers.
It was past noon when General Franklin's corps arrived upon the field. The troops had marched all the morning from Crampton's Pass. General Smith's division was in advance, followed by Slocum's. The corps crossed the Antietam, following the line over which Sedgwick had marched.
The Rebels were, at that hour, moving down from Sharpsburg to turn Caldwell's left flank. Hancock had just taken command of the division. He sent to Franklin for help. He was short of artillery. Franklin sent him Hexamer's battery, and two regiments. One of them was the Seventh Maine, commanded by Major Hyde. They were of Hancock's own brigade. He had tried them at Williamsburg, at White-Oak Swamp, and Malvern. General Hancock assigned them a perilous duty. "The Rebel skirmishers behind the hill are picking off our gunners. I want them driven from that position," he said. The regiment started towards the hill. The Rebels saw the movement and commenced a rapid fire. Major Hyde halted, gave a volley and marched on, the men loading their muskets as they advanced.
It was a brave movement. Unsupported by[Pg 217] other troops, the small body, numbering only one hundred and sixty-five men, and fifteen officers, struck out boldly towards the enemy. The batteries on the hills beyond Dr. Piper's played on them. The guns on the hill towards the church sent down their shells. The cannon on the knolls north of Sharpsburg sent solid shot across the ravine, diagonally through the line. The infantry in front of them gave rapid volleys. Shells from the Union batteries north of Muma's, mistaking them for Rebels, fired upon them. Yet not a man faltered.67
Once more beneath the terrible storm from foe and friend, Major Hyde halts his men, delivers a volley, and then with a cheer dashes upon the Rebel skirmishers, who are behind a wall, driving them back to the main line. Then marching by the left flank, seeking the shelter of a hill, he keeps up a steady fire. Officers and men fight with great bravery. Among the officers is Lieutenant Brown. He left the classic halls of Bowdoin College when his country called for the services of patriots. His captain falls. The company show signs of faltering. He springs to the front. He is their commander now.
"Rally, boys! Rally!" he shouts. But while the words are on his lips, he falls, shot through the brain.68
The Rebels came down in great force, and Major Hyde is obliged to fall back. Hexamer has used up his ammunition. He has been of great service. Woodruff takes his place. Pleasanton, commanding the artillery, brings sixteen guns to[Pg 218] bear upon the advancing troops. The fire is so steady and effective that the Rebel line retires without making an attack.
While this is taking place on the left, or south of Rulet's, the contest is still raging by Muma's. Hill is making desperate efforts to recover his lost ground in the cornfield and the sunken road.
French has been compelled to fall back into the shelter of the ravine by Muma's. His men are out of ammunition, and unless reinforced must yield.
It is at this moment that Franklin's two divisions move over the field northeast of Muma's. The men are weary with their long marching. They have heard the battle echoing along Pleasant Valley all the morning, and have hastened on to aid their comrades. They cross the fields with their standards waving. Irwin's brigade is in advance. It pushes through the corner of the woods, east of Miller's cornfield, passes Thomas's battery, and reaches the open field north of Muma's. Hill has a brigade lying upon the ground, behind a ledge. Irwin charges them. There is a short contest at the ledge. The Rebels yield and retreat across the turnpike, followed by Irwin.
The ground slopes gently from the church to the east. Jackson's batteries are where they have been all the morning, in the woods behind the church. They have full sweep of the field. They open upon Irwin, whose right flank is near the church, on the ground which Howard occupied in the forenoon. It is an enfilading fire. It is impossible for Irwin to advance. He cannot remain. He retires a short distance, and his men drop[Pg 219] upon the ground, sheltered by the ridge from the enemy's batteries, holding their position through the remainder of the day.
The Vermont brigade relieves General French. The Rebels have come down into the cornfield west of Muma's, from which they have been driven, and are rifling the pockets of the dead and wounded. General Smith gives the word. The Vermont brigade charges over the ground once more, driving the Rebels to the hills along the turnpike.
Slocum's division relieves Sedgwick's in the woods east of Miller's. General Franklin, as soon as he comes into position, orders an assault. Slocum forms his men to make the advance across the field where Mansfield and Sedgwick have fought. General Sumner is Franklin's superior officer, and he does not think it advisable to attack. He is not always free from despondent moods. His own corps has suffered severely. Sedgwick has been driven. French and Richardson are exhausted. There is a consultation among the officers commanding the corps and divisions and brigades, in the woods, in rear of Slocum's line. Sumner, Franklin, Smith, Slocum, Newton are there; also General Hunt, commanding the artillery.
Franklin wishes to attack with all his force. Smith, Slocum, and Newton second his wishes. Sumner alone is opposed. "My plan is," said General Franklin, "to bring up fifty pieces of the reserve artillery, plant them here, rain shells upon the enemy for a half hour, and then charge with my two divisions, and break their line."
Gen. McClellan visits the field, and directs the[Pg 220] commanders to hold their positions, but to make no attack.69
Some of the subordinate commanders retire gloomily to their commands. They disagree in opinion with their commander. They believe that the hour has come when the decisive blow can be given. As good soldiers, it is their duty to obey; but they sit down by the fence in the edge of the woods, dissatisfied with the decision of General McClellan. The reserve artillery is in the field northeast, a few rods distant,—a hundred guns. They believe that the time has come to use it. They do not like the plan of fighting in detachments—Hooker in the morning—then Mansfield—then Sedgwick's division—then French, and Richardson, and Burnside—who is separated from the main army, and has a hard task assigned him.
During the afternoon, the Rebels made a demonstration on the right by Poffenberger's. It was done to cover up their real intentions. I was talking with General Howard when an officer dashed up.
"The Rebels are advancing to attack us," said he.
"Let them have the heaviest fire possible from the batteries," was the reply.
As I rode towards the batteries on the ridge by Poffenberger's, thirty guns opened their brazen lips, each piece speaking three times a minute. The dark gray masses, dimly discerned through the woods and among the tasseled corn, wavered, staggered, reeled, swayed to and fro, advanced a few steps, then disappeared.[Pg 221]
General Burnside's task was the hardest of all. The banks of the river by the lower bridge are steep and high, and the land on both sides is broken. The road leading to the bridge winds down a narrow ravine. The bridge is of stone, with three arches. It is twelve feet wide, and one hundred and fifty feet long.
The western bank is so steep that one can hardly climb it. Oak-trees shade it. Half-way up the hill there is a limestone quarry,—excavations affording shelter to sharpshooters. At the top there is a stone wall, a hundred feet above the water of the winding stream, and yet so near that a stone may be thrown by a strong-armed man across the stream.
A brigade of Rebels, with four pieces of artillery, guarded the bridge. There were sharpshooters beneath the willows, and in the thick underbrush along the bank of the stream. There were riflemen in the excavations on the hillside and behind the trees. The four cannon were behind the wall, with the great body of infantry in support. The bridge, the hills and hollows on the eastern bank, are raked and searched in every part by the infantry.
South of Sharpsburg there are numerous batteries ready to throw solid shot and shells over the heads of the brigade by the bridge. If Burnside carries the bridge, there are the heights beyond, the ground in front all open, swept and enfiladed by batteries arranged in a semicircle, supported by A. P. Hill's and a portion of Longstreet's troops. A. P. Hill was not on the ground in the[Pg 222] morning, but arrived while the battle was in progress on the right and center.
General Burnside formed his troops on the farm of Mr. Rohrbach, with Sturgis's division on the right, Wilcox in the center, Rodman on the left, and Cox's division, commanded by Crook, in reserve. Benjamin's battery of twenty-pounder Parrotts, Simmons's, McMullen's, Durrell's, Clark's, Muhlenburgh's, and Cook's batteries were stationed on the hills and knolls of Rohrbach's estate during the night of the 16th. The troops lay on their arms, prepared to move whenever General McClellan issued the order.
At daybreak the Rebel batteries on the Sharpsburg hills began a rapid fire. The shells fell among the troops. Here and there a man was struck down, but they maintained their ground with great endurance. It was a severe test to the new regiments, which never had been under fire. It requires strong nerves to lie passive, hour after hour, exposed to a cannonade. But the men soon learned to be indifferent to the screaming of the something unseen in the air. They ate their hard tack, and watched the distant flashes from the white cloud upon the Sharpsburg hills. They talked of the guns, and learned to distinguish them by the sound.
"That is a rifle shot."
"There comes a shell."
"I wonder where that will strike."
With such remarks they whiled away the moments.
The Rebel brigade holding the bridge was commanded by General Toombs. Before the arrival[Pg 223] of A. P. Hill, the force of the enemy on this part of the field was about six thousand.
So vigorous was Burnside's attack, that nothing but the arrival of Hill prevented an irretrievable defeat.70
Burnside received his orders at ten o'clock.71 Hooker had been at it all the morning. Standing by his head-quarters, Burnside could see the dark lines moving to and fro on Miller's field. Mansfield was going up the slope. Sumner was crossing the Antietam. The batteries all along the line were thundering.
"You are to carry the bridge, gain the heights beyond, and advance along their crest to Sharpsburg, and reach the rear of the enemy," was the order from General McClellan to General Burnside. Easily ordered; not so easily accomplished. Burnside has less than fourteen thousand men to accomplish a task harder than that assigned to any other commander. He must carry the bridge, gain the ridge, then move over an open field to attack the heights beyond, which are steeper and more easily defended than the ledges by the church, or the hills west of the sunken road. It is by nature the strongest part of the line.
Burnside's batteries opened with renewed vigor. Cox, commanding the corps (Burnside commanding the left wing), detailed Colonel Kingsbury with the Eleventh Connecticut to act as skirmishers, and drive the Rebel sharpshooters from the head of the bridge.
A short distance—a third of a mile—below the bridge there is a ford. Rodman's division was[Pg 224] ordered to cross at that point, while Crook and Sturgis were ordered to carry the bridge.
The Eleventh Connecticut advanced, winding among the hills, deploying in the fields, firing from the fences, the trees, and stone walls. But from the woods, the quarry, the wall upon the crest of the hill, the road upon the western bank, they received a murderous fire. Crook's column, which had been sheltered by a ridge, marched down the road. The cannon upon the opposite bank threw shells with short fuses. The column halted and opened fire. Sturgis's division passed in their rear, and reached the bridge, under cover of the hot fire kept up by Crook.
The Second Maryland and Sixth New Hampshire charged upon the bridge. Instantly the hillside blazed anew with musketry. There were broad sheets of flame from the wall upon the crest, where the cannon, double-shotted, poured streams of canister upon the narrow passage. The head of the column melted in an instant. Vain the effort. The troops fell back under cover of the ridge sheltering the road leading to Rohrbach's.
General McClellan sent an aide to General Burnside with the message:—
"Assault the bridge and carry it at all hazards."
It was nearly one o'clock before the dispositions were all made for another attempt. Ferrero's brigade, consisting of the Fifty-first New York, Fifty-first Pennsylvania, Thirty-fifth and Twenty-first Massachusetts, was selected to make the decisive attack.
In Napoleon's campaigns, the bridge of Lodi[Pg 225] and the causeway at Arcola, swept by artillery and infantry, were carried by the bravery and daring and enthusiasm of his troops; but the task assigned to Ferrero's brigade was not a whit easier than those historic efforts. The Thirty-fifth Massachusetts had been in the service less than a month. They were hardy mechanics and farmers; Napoleon's soldiers were such by profession, who had endured the trials, hardships, and discipline of successive campaigns; but these men, gathering in solid column at noon behind the ridge, on this September day, had left their plows and anvils and benches, not because they loved military life, or the excitement of battle, or the routine of camp life, but because they loved their country. The Twenty-first Massachusetts had been with Burnside in North Carolina. Their commander, Colonel Clark, at home, was a teacher of youth, accustomed to the lecture-room of Amherst; but he had left his crucibles and retorts, and the shaded walks of the college he loved, and the pleasant society of the beautiful town, to serve his country. He was wounded at South Mountain, and Major King commanded them now.
The men from New York left their wheat-fields and mills, and the men from Pennsylvania their coal-mines and foundries, to be citizen soldiers. They have not learned the art of war.
The troops upon the opposite bank were also citizen soldiers, serving the so-called Confederacy with bravery and valor. They were sheltered by woods, by excavations, by walls and fences, ravines and hills. They had great advantage in position, and confidently expected to hold the[Pg 226] ground. Their commander could look down from his head-quarters on the Sharpsburg hills, and behold their gallantry.
To carry that bridge would be an achievement which would have forever a place in the history of the nation. Men, when preparing to do a great duty, where life and honor are at stake, sometimes, with clear vision, look down the path of ages. The mind asks itself, How will those who come after me look upon the work of to-day? The soul feels the weight of the hour, the responsibility of the moment, the duty of the instant. With the truly brave there can be no faltering then, in the face of danger. They can die if need be, but they cannot turn from their duty.
Once more the effort. Simmons plants two of his guns to sweep the hillside across the stream. The brave and noble Colonel Kingsbury leads out his regiment once more. The assaulting column prepare for the decisive movement. They fix their bayonets firmly, throw aside their knapsacks and all that encumbers them.
All is ready. The signal is given. The Eleventh Connecticut spring to their work. They dash down to the river, firing rapidly. Their Colonel falls, mortally wounded, but his men fight on. Enraged now at their loss, they fight to avenge him. The long, dark column is in motion. It emerges from the shelter of the ridge. Again the hillside and the wall above become a sheet of flame. Up to the bridge, upon it, dash the men in blue, their eyes glaring, their muscles iron, their nerves steel. The front rank goes down. Men pitch headlong from the parapet into the water. Stones fly from the arches. Shells, shrapnel,[Pg 227] canister, tear the ranks asunder, but on, to the center of the bridge and across it, with a yell louder than the battle, up the steep hillside, creeping, climbing, holding their breath, summoning all the heroism of life, all energy, into one effort, charging with the gleaming bayonet, they drive the Rebels from the bushes, the trees, the quarries, the wall!
The work is accomplished. The ground is theirs, won from General Toombs, who, before the war began, boasted that the time would come when he would call the roll of his slaves on Bunker Hill.
The Rebels flee in confusion across the field to gain the heights nearer the town. Ferrero's men lie down behind the wall and on the hillside, under shelter at last. They bathe their fevered brows, and satisfy their thirst in the stream, while the other divisions of the corps move down from their positions of the morning. It was gloriously done, and the place will be known, forever, in history, as the Burnside Bridge.
General Burnside was now separated from the main army. Longstreet held the hills east of the town, and from his batteries there, could partly enfilade Richardson on the one hand, and Burnside on the other. His cannon swept the bridge on the Boonesboro' pike. None of McClellan's troops had crossed there. It was nearly two miles from Richardson to Burnside. General McClellan was fearful that Lee would cross the middle bridge to the east side of the Antietam and cut off Burnside; therefore General Porter's corps was held in reserve east of the river by the heavy[Pg 228] guns.72 But Lee would have found it a difficult task, for Porter's heavy guns commanded the approach to the bridge from the west. If McClellan could not cross the bridge because Longstreet's guns swept it, neither could Lee have crossed under the fire of Taft, Langner, Von Kleizer, Weaver, Weed, and Benjamin.
The Antietam, a half-mile below Burnside's bridge, makes a sudden curve toward the west. It is crossed by one other bridge, at Antietam Iron-works, and then joins the Potomac. By throwing General Burnside across the Antietam, General McClellan designed not to turn the right of Lee and gain possession of his only line of retreat to Shepardstown, but to carry the heights, then pass along the crest towards the right.73 But this movement isolated General Burnside from the army. He must hold the bridge or be cut off. He would be in a cul de sac, a bag with only one place of escape, at the Antietam Iron-works.
When General Lee saw the preparations of Burnside to advance, after having carried the bridge, he weakened his left to strengthen his right. Hood, who was lying in reserve behind Jackson, was sent down. Longstreet moved some of his brigades. Jackson made a demonstration at Poffenberger's, already noticed, to make McClellan fear an attack at that point.
General Lee intended to do more than merely hold his line against Burnside.74 By massing his troops at Sharpsburg, when Burnside was far[Pg 229] enough advanced, Lee intended to seize the bridge and cut off Burnside's retreat.
Burnside's divisions crossed the stream at the bridge and at the ford, and formed for an advance upon the heights near the town. Wilcox was on the right, supported by Rodman in the center, Scammon's brigade on the left, and Sturgis in rear of Rodman.
While the troops were crossing and forming, Longstreet's and A. P. Hill's batteries kept up a constant fire of shells. Clark's, Durrell's, Cook's, and Simmons's batteries went across the bridge, gained the crest of the hill beyond, came into position, and opened fire in reply.
General Wilcox was on the road leading from the bridge to Sharpsburg, which passes up a ravine. A brook which has its rise beyond the town, gurgles by the roadside. Rebel batteries on the hills in front of the town enfiladed the ravine, sweeping it from the town to the river. There was no shelter for the troops while advancing. They must take the storm in their faces.
Neither was there any cover for Rodman, Sturgis, and Scammon. The ground, from the stone wall on the top of the river bank to the hills occupied by Hill and Longstreet, was all tillage land,—wheat-fields, and pastures, and patches of corn. There were fences to throw down, hills to climb, all to be done under fire from cannon arranged in crescent form, pouring down a concentrated fire from the heights.
The signal officer, upon Elk Ridge, five hundred feet above the battle-field, beholds all the operations of the Rebel army. From his lookout, with his telescope, he can sweep the entire field. His[Pg 230] assistant waves a flag, and an officer, with his eye at the telescope by McClellan's head-quarters, reads a message of this import, transmitted by the little flag.
"The Rebels are weakening their left, and concentrating their troops upon their right."
The officer writes it in his message book, tears out the leaf, and hands it to General McClellan. He thus knows Lee's movements, the disposition of his forces, as well as if he himself had looked from the mountain summit upon the moving column.
He can make a counter movement, if he chooses, by weakening his own right to help Burnside, or he can throw in Porter's corps of twelve thousand strong, to help Burnside, by a dash upon the center, or leave Burnside to struggle against the superior force in front of him, move Porter upon the double quick to the right, unite him with Franklin, order up fifty or eighty guns from his reserve artillery, gather the brigades of Hooker's, Williams's, and Sumner's corps to hold the line, while Franklin and Porter, twenty thousand strong, fall like a thunderbolt upon Jackson, and break him in pieces. He can adopt one other plan,—hold what has already been gained. He adopts the last, and makes no movement.
It was three o'clock before Burnside's troops were in position for the advance. The entire line moved, Wilcox and Crook up the ravine and on both sides of it, Rodman across the fields south of the highway, and Scammon along the river bank.
A. P. Hill, from his position, enfiladed Rodman, who was obliged to change his line of march.[Pg 231] He severed his right from Wilcox, and wheeled towards the southwest.
He was obliged to make this maneuver, to meet Hill face to face, but it brought upon his line an enfilading fire from the cannon and infantry nearer the town, and it opened a wide gap in the line, which Burnside was obliged to fill by pushing in Sturgis,—his only reserve.
The troops move quickly to the attack. Wilcox and Crook sweep all before them. The Rebel batteries which have had possession of the hills east of the town through the day are compelled to fall back from knoll to knoll.
There is a mill by the roadside, a half-mile east of the town. The hills opposite the mill on the right hand are sharp and steep. It is about half a mile across the fields to the Boonesboro' pike, where Richardson's left has been struggling to gain a foothold.
The Rebel batteries, which have been thundering all day from these hillocks between the Boonesboro' road and the highway to Burnside's bridge, have enfiladed Richardson. They have answered Taft, and Weber and Porter's batteries upon the east bank of the river; they have thrown solid shot almost to the head-quarters of General McClellan; but now, under the resolute advance of Wilcox and Crook, they are forced to withdraw.
Rodman meanwhile is wheeling in the open field, under a fire from front, right and left, pouring hot upon him like the concentrating rays of a lens.
Hill had his own division, consisting of Branch's, Gregg's, Field's, Pender's and Archer's[Pg 232] brigades, also Jenkins and Toombs. Hood was sent down from the church, and held in reserve.75
Rodman and Fairchild's and Harland's brigades; Scammon had his own and Ewing's. They drove Hill's first line back upon the second. Fairchild ordered a charge. His troops went across the field, through the waving corn with a huzzah. They faced a destructive fire. One shell[Pg 233] killed eight men of the Ninth New York. The color-bearers were shot. The guards fell. Captain Leboir seized one, Captain Lehay the other, and led the regiment up the hill to the road leading south from Sharpsburg. They found shelter under the wall, and halted.
The other regiments of the brigade joined them. Harland found greater opposition. His troops were cut down by a volley from a brigade of Rebels lying in a cornfield. They fought a while, became confused, crowded together, and were forced back.
General McClellan, from his head-quarters, can see all that is going on, for there is an unobstructed view of the field. He is with Fitz-John Porter on the high hill east of the Antietam.
An officer rides up swiftly. He is Burnside's aide. His horse pants.
"I must have more troops and guns. If you do not send them I cannot hold my position half an hour."
That is the message. Fitz-John Porter has twelve thousand troops. They have been spectators of the battle through the day. They have had breakfast and dinner, and nearly two days of rest since their arrival upon the ground. They might be a thunderbolt at this moment. Couch's and Humphrey's divisions will be up during the night.
But they are the only reserves present. Slocum has taken Sedgwick's place. He has not been engaged, and his men stand with ordered arms. Shall Porter be put in? McClellan consults Porter and Sykes, and then replies:—
"Tell General Burnside that I will send him[Pg 234] Miller's battery. I have no infantry to spare. He must hold his ground till dark. Tell him if he cannot hold his ground, he may fall back to the bridge; but he must hold that, or all is lost."
Porter's corps and Slocum's division of Franklin's, eighteen thousand men in all, have taken no part in the battle. Smith is holding an important position. He has made one gallant charge, but his troops are ready to fight. There are twenty thousand men which can take the offensive, and nearly a hundred guns of the artillery.76
The right flank of the Rebels is all but turned. Wilcox is close upon the town. Rodman has driven Hill, and is holding his ground. Such is the condition of affairs as the sun goes down.
It is useless for Burnside to struggle without supports. He fights till the coming on of twilight, and then recalls his troops.
The regiments of Fairchild's brigade, far up on the hillside, upon ground won from the enemy by their valor, go back reluctantly.
"The men," says Lieutenant-Colonel Kimball, of the Ninth New York, "retired in good order, at a slow step, and with tears in their eyes, at the necessity which compelled them to leave the field they had so dearly won."77
It was a necessity. Without reinforcements he could not hold his ground, and Lee could cut him off if he remained so far from the bridge.
The daylight is dying out. Through the hours from early morning the roar of battle has been[Pg 235] unceasing. Four hundred cannon have shaken the earth, and nearly two hundred thousand men have struggled for the mastery. At times the storm has lulled a little, like the wind at night, then rising again to the fierceness of a tornado. In the intervals of the cannonade, low moans come up from the hollows, like the wail of the night-wind on a lonely shore.
On the right, through the morning, the fiery surges ebbed and flowed, and dashed to and fro, now against the ledges in the woods, and now against the ridge by Poffenberger's. They have left crimson stains upon the threshold of the church. The sunken road has drunk the blood of thousands. The cornfields, changing from the green of Summer to the russet of Autumn are sprinkled with magenta dyes. The battle is at this hour indecisive, but the artillery of both armies put on new vigor as the sun goes down, as if each was saying to the other, "We are not beaten."
Once more the firing is renewed. Standing on the high hill east of the Antietam, occupied by Porter, I can see almost up to Poffenberger's. The batteries upon the hill in rear of his house are thundering. I can see the glimmer of the flashes, and the great white cloud rising above the trees, by Miller's. And there in the cornfield, Porter's, Williston's, and Walcott's batteries are pounding the ledges behind the church, and sweeping the hillside. The woods which shade the church where Jackson stands, are smoking like a furnace. Richardson's batteries, in front of Lee, are throwing shells into the cornfield beyond Rulet's.
The twenty-pounder Parrotts on the hill by my side open once more their iron lips. The hills all around Sharpsburg are flaming with Rebel guns. The sharpshooters all along the line keep up a rattling fire. Near the town, hay-stacks, barns, and houses are in flames. At my left hand, Burnside's heavy guns, east of the river, are at work. His lighter batteries are beyond the bridge. His men are along the hillside, a dark line, dimly seen, covered by a bank of cloud, illuminating it with constant flashes. All the country is flaming, smoking, and burning, as if the last great day, the judgment day of the Lord, had come.
Gradually the thunder dies away. The flashes are fewer. The musketry ceases, and silence comes on, broken only by an occasional volley, and single shots, like the last drops after a shower.
Thirty thousand men, who in the morning were full of life, are bleeding at this hour. The sky is bright with lurid flames of burning buildings, and they need no torches who go out upon the bloody field to gather up the wounded. Thousands of bivouac fires gleam along the hillsides, as if a great city had lighted its lamps. Cannon rumble along the roads. Supply wagons come up. Long trains of ambulances go by. Thousands of slightly wounded work their way to the rear, dropping by the roadside, or finding a bed of straw by wheat-stacks and in stables. There is the clatter of hoofs,—the cavalry dashing by, and the tramp, tramp, tramp of Couch's and Humphrey's divisions, marching to the field.
There are low wails of men in distress, and[Pg 237] sharp shrieks from those who are under the surgeon's hands.
While obtaining hay for my horse at a barn, I heard the soldiers singing. They were wounded, but happy; for they had done their duty. They had been supplied with rations,—hard tack and coffee,—and were lying on their beds of straw. I listened to their song. It was about the dear old flag.
Then there came thoughts of home, of loved ones, of past scenes, and pleasant memories, and the songs become plaintive. They sung the old song:—
There was sadness, but not discouragement. It was the welling up of affection, the return of sweet recollections, which neither hardship, suffering, privation, or long absence could efface. They loved home, but they loved the old flag better. Missed at home? Ah! how sadly!
The army commanded by General Lee in the battle, according to Pollard, the Southern historian, numbered seventy thousand. General McClellan states in his report that it was ninety-seven thousand. His estimate was made up from information obtained from deserters, spies, and prisoners:—
|D. H. Hill,||15,525|
|Ransom and Jenkins,||3,000|
|Artillery, 400 guns,||6,000|
General McClellan's forces were:—
Each division had its own artillery, which is enumerated in the above statement.
There were twelve thousand four hundred and sixty-nine killed, wounded, and missing from McClellan's army in this battle. About two thousand of them were killed, and nine thousand five hundred missing.
The Rebel loss is supposed to have been about fifteen thousand.
Thirteen guns, fifteen thousand small arms, six thousand prisoners, and thirty-nine colors were taken from the Rebels at Antietam, South Mountain, and Crampton's Pass.
The army expected a renewal of the attack on the morning of the 18th. It was a beautiful day. Two divisions, Couch's and Humphrey's, had arrived, which, with Porter's corps and Slocum's division of Franklin's, were fresh. Smith had been engaged but a short time on the 17th. There were nearly thirty-five thousand troops which could be relied upon for a vigorous attack. The reserve artillery could be brought in. There were several thousand Pennsylvania militia at Hagers[Pg 240]town, not of much account for fighting, but which could be used for train guards.
"Whether to renew the attack on the 18th, or to defer it, even with the risk of the enemy's retirement, was the question with me," says General McClellan.
He deliberated, and decided not to attack for the reasons, that, if he lost the battle, Lee could march on Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, without an enemy to oppose him, living on the country; the troops were tired; and the supply trains were in the rear. Sedgwick's division and Hooker's corps were somewhat demoralized and scattered. Sumner thought Sedgwick's division could not be relied upon to attack the enemy vigorously. Meade commanding Hooker's corps, said his troops could resist better than make an attack. The efficiency of the troops was good as far as it went.
"The morale of some of the new troops under Burnside was impaired," says General McClellan.78
"My command was in good condition, holding its position on the opposite side of Antietam. One brigade had been severely handled, but I considered it in fighting condition," says General Burnside.79
General McClellan expected fourteen thousand more men, and taking all things into consideration he decided not to renew the attack.
General Lee's army had seen great hardship. The Rebels had marched from Richmond. "One fifth of them were barefoot, one half of them in rags, and the whole of them famished," writes[Pg 241] Pollard the Southern historian.80 Lee was far from his supplies. He had no reinforcements at hand. His troops were much exhausted. A. P. Hill had marched with great rapidity from Harper's Ferry. Jackson's corps had suffered as severely as Hooker's. D. H. Hill had lost more than Sedgwick. Longstreet could hardly be a match for French, Richardson, and the whole of Franklin's corps. Lee, if defeated, had a great river in his rear which must be crossed at one ford, which would give McClellan the shortest line to Richmond. Sigel was in front of Washington. Heintzelman was at Alexandria. Keyes was at Yorktown. Could not these forces cut off his retreat to Richmond? He was in a perilous situation. He sent his wounded across the Potomac to Martinsburg and Winchester,—also his wagons, and made preparations for a rapid movement of his army into Virginia.
Early in the morning I rode to the right, came upon the line by Poffenberger's. Rations had been served; and the troops were in position, expecting orders to move.
Colonel Andrews, commanding Gordon's brigade in Mansfield's corps, was riding along the line. "How are your men, Colonel?"
"All right. They had a pretty hard time yesterday; but having had a good breakfast, they feel well. We expect to advance in a few moments."
I talked with the soldiers. "We gave them a good thrashing yesterday, and mean to drive them into the Potomac to-day," said one. The sharp[Pg 242]shooters were lying in the field in front of the church. All were ready.
At noon, I rode once more along the lines. Some of the batteries which had exhausted their ammunition in the battle had refilled their caissons, and were waiting orders to take position. The gunners were lying on the ground.
"Do you think there will be a battle to-day?" I asked an officer.
"O, yes. We shall be at it in a few minutes. We are all ready."
One o'clock,—the wounded men were all removed. The flag of truce had been taken down.
Two o'clock,—and no order to begin the attack. Officers were impatient. They wondered at the delay. I rode to Elk Ridge, and went up the mountain's side. Beyond Sharpsburg there was a cloud of dust. Baggage wagons were moving west. Lee's troops were in line, where they had been in the morning, but there were some indications of a retreat.
At sunset, I looked once more from the mountain. The evidences had increased that Lee intended to cross the Potomac.
The morning of the 19th dawned. Lee was gone! He took away all his artillery, except one iron gun and some disabled caissons and wagons.
Riding now over all the field, I found many Rebel dead in the woods by the church. Among them were bodies clothed in the Union blue, lying where they fell, close up to the Rebel line.
There was one soldier whose pulse was forever still, whose eyes looked straight toward the sky. The ground was stained with his blood, which had flowed from a wound in his breast. Upon[Pg 243] his countenance there was a pleasant smile, and a brightness as if a ray of glory had fallen upon him from heaven. His Bible was open upon his heart. I read:—
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."
I could not discover his name. He was unknown to the living. He belonged to a New York regiment, that was all I could learn. Doubtless the Lord was with him when he passed through the valley.
The slaughter had been terrible in the sunken road, where French and Richardson had charged. Across the fences, twenty thousand muskets had flashed. Williston's, Walcott's, Owen's, and Ayer's batteries had made terrible havoc in the ranks of Hill. Some of the enemy had fallen towards the advancing columns; some were lying across the fence behind them, shot while endeavoring to escape; some were killed while loading their guns; one while tearing the cartridge with his teeth. He had died instantly, and the cartridge was in his hand.
There was an officer still grasping his sword. He had fallen while cheering his men, with all his muscles set, his nerves under tension, the word of command on his lips. It was a fearful sight along that road. It was as if a mighty mower had swept them down at a single stroke.
Sharpsburg was full of Rebel wounded. I conversed with an officer of Walker's command.
"I have been in all the battles before Richmond and at Manassas, but I never experienced such a fire as you gave us yesterday," he said.
"I noticed that you lost heavily at the sunken road."
"Yes. It was a terrible slaughter. We couldn't keep our ranks closed, and if your troops had pressed on they might have broken through our line."
"They came pretty near it as it was, did they not?"
"Yes. We were all tired out. We got up from Harper's Ferry on the morning of the battle. We had no supper Tuesday, marched all night, had no breakfast, and went right into the fight as soon as we reached the field. We have lived on green corn and apples half of the time since we left Richmond. Half of our men are barefoot. We were in no condition to fight. We wondered that McClellan did not renew the battle yesterday. We expected it."
General McClellan was at the hotel, looking careworn and troubled. Lee was beyond his reach. The army was pouring through the town. Some soldiers cheered him as they passed, while others expressed their dissatisfaction because Lee had escaped.
The invasion of the North was ended. Neither Washington nor Baltimore had fallen into the hands of the Rebels. Lee had not dictated terms of peace in Independence Square. Maryland had not responded to the call to join the Confederacy.
The dreams indulged at the South of an upris[Pg 245]ing of the people of the State had proved delusive. Lee had captured Harper's Ferry through the incompetency of the commander of the place. That was the only material advantage gained. He had won a victory at Groveton, through the treasonable failure of General Porter to join General Pope, and the tardiness of General McClellan's withdrawal from the Peninsula, but had been defeated at South Mountain and Antietam.
General Lee retreated to Martinsburg and Winchester to rest his exhausted troops. General McClellan marched to Harper's Ferry and Berlin, on the Potomac, and went into camp. Lee could not take the offensive. His troops were worn and disheartened. They had marched with great rapidity; fought at Groveton; had moved on to Maryland; fought, some of them at South Mountain, others at Harper's Ferry; had lived on short rations, making up the lack of food with green corn. They were barefoot and ragged. They slept without tents or blankets. They were exposed to all the storms. The men of Georgia and Alabama and Texas shivered with the ague in the keen air of the mountains through the October nights. Some of them, for the first time in their lives, beheld the beautiful spangles of the hoar-frosts. At Winchester, in the heart of one of the loveliest and most fertile valleys in America, they were in want of food. Lee seized all the forage and provisions he could find among the farmers. He was obliged to wagon his supplies from Culpepper, eighty miles distant, over roads which became muddy after a half-hour's rain.
General McClellan, on the other hand, received[Pg 246] his supplies by rail within a mile or two of his camp. He thought that the army was not in condition to undertake another campaign; nor to bring on another battle, unless it had great advantages over the enemy.
"My present purpose," he wrote to General Halleck on the 27th, "is to hold the army about as it is now, rendering Harper's Ferry secure, and watching the river closely, intending to attack the enemy should he attempt to cross."
President Lincoln visited the army, and urged General McClellan to attack Lee. There was a favorable opportunity. Large reinforcements had been received, and the troops were in good spirits; the weather was favorable. Lee was far from his supplies; his army was smaller than McClellan's. But General McClellan was not disposed to move. On the 6th of October, he received orders from General Halleck to cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy, or drive him south. "You must move while the roads are good," was the telegram.
Some of the troops needed clothing, and were in want of shoes. The cavalry were deficient of horses. Complaint was made that supplies were withheld.
"The railroads are now embarrassed to supply you; and supplies here wait for the return of cars detained while loaded near your position," was the telegram of General Meigs from Washington.
On the 10th of October, General Stuart with two thousand Rebel cavalry crossed the Potomac, near the town of Hancock; visited Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, turned toward the east, rode round[Pg 247] McClellan's army, and escaped with little loss into Virginia. General McClellan's plans for his capture failed. The army was mortified, and the people indignant; but the raid, although nothing came of it, gave great pleasure to the Rebels.
President Lincoln sent a friendly letter to General McClellan.
"You remember," he wrote, "my speaking to you, of what I called your over-cautiousness. Are you not over-cautious when you assume, that you cannot do what the enemy is constantly doing? Should you not claim to be, at least, his equal in power, and act upon the claim? As I understand, you telegraph General Halleck, that you cannot subsist your army at Winchester, unless the railroad from Harper's Ferry to that point be put in working order. But the enemy does now subsist his army at Winchester, at a distance twice as great from railroad transportation as you would have to do without the railroad last named. Again, one of the standard maxims of war, as you know, is to operate upon the enemy's communications as much as possible without exposing your own. You seem to act as if this applies against you, but cannot apply in your favor. Change positions with the enemy, and think you not, he would break your communications with Richmond within the next twenty-four hours? You dread his going into Pennsylvania. But if he does so in full force, he gives up his communications to you absolutely, and you have nothing to do but to follow and ruin him; if he does so with less than full force, fall upon and beat what is left behind all the easier.... You know, I desired but did not order you[Pg 248] to cross the Potomac below, instead of above, the Shenandoah and Blue Ridge. My idea was, that this would at once menace the enemy's communications, which I would seize, if he would permit. If he should move northward, I would follow him closely, holding his communications. If he should prevent our seizing his communications and move toward Richmond, I would press closely to him, fight him, if a favorable opportunity should present, and at least try to beat him to Richmond on the inside track.
"I say 'try.' If we never try we never shall succeed. If he make a stand at Winchester, moving neither north nor south, I would fight him there, on the idea that if we cannot beat him when he bears the wastage of communication to us, we never can when we bear the wastage of going to him. This proposition is a simple truth, and is too important to be lost sight of for a moment.
"As we must beat him somewhere, or fail finally, we can do it, if at all, easier near us, than far away. If we cannot beat the enemy where he now is, we never can, he again being within the intrenchments of Richmond."81
The army numbered one hundred and twenty-three thousand men present and fit for duty. If General McClellan moved east of the Blue Ridge he was to receive thirty-five thousand reinforcements from Washington, making a total of about one hundred and sixty thousand.82 Lee's army was supposed to number about eighty thousand.
General McClellan still delayed to advance.[Pg 249] "The troops are in want of clothing," he said. But the chief quartermaster of the army cleared the government from all blame. "You have always very promptly met all my requirements. I foresee no time when an army of over one hundred thousand men will not call for clothing and other articles," was the telegram of Colonel Ingalls to General Meigs.
Among the wounded in the hospitals at Antietam was a young soldier of the Nineteenth Massachusetts. He was an only child of his parents. He had been kindly nurtured, and knew nothing of hardship till he enlisted in the army. He was very patient. He had no word of complaint. He trusted in Jesus, and had no fear of death. His mother came from her Massachusetts home to see him.
"Do you know that we think you cannot recover?" said the chaplain one day to him. It did not startle him.
"I am safe. Living or dying, I am in God's hands," he calmly replied.
"Are you not sorry, my son, that you entered the army, and left home to suffer all this?" his mother asked.
"O mother, how can you ask me such a question as that? You know I am not sorry. I loved my country, and for her cause I came," he replied.
He wanted to be baptized. It was Sabbath morning. The soldier lay upon a stretcher, and the weeping mother knelt by his side,—her only child. There was some water in his canteen. The chaplain poured it upon his marble brow, where death was soon to set his seal, and baptized him in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit.[Pg 250] Thus trusting in God and loving his country, he passed into a better life.83
There was another soldier who had been wounded in the leg. Mortification set in. The surgeons told him it must be amputated. He knew there was little chance for him to live, but calmly, as if lying down to slumber, he went to the amputating table, singing cheerfully, as if he were on the threshold of heaven:
He took the chloroform, became insensible. The limb was taken off. He never knew his loss, for after a few hours of drowsy, half-waking slumber, his spirit passed away.
The month of October passed. Pontoons were finally laid across the Potomac. They were down several days before the enemy moved, and General Lee, through his scouts and spies, undoubtedly had information of what was going on.
The army commenced crossing on the 27th, but the divisions were not all over till the 1st of November. Lee had moved a week before, and was at Culpepper, with the exception of his rear-guard,[Pg 251] Stuart's cavalry, and a force in the Shenandoah Valley.
Up to this period of the war there had been but few brilliant cavalry achievements on either side. At Springfield, Missouri, Zagonyi, with his fearless riders, had cut their way through the hosts which surrounded them. It was gloriously done. The cavalry, with the army of the Potomac on the Peninsula, had accomplished nothing worthy of mention.
General Stuart, commanding the Rebel cavalry, had audaciously rode round General McClellan's army at the Chickahominy and at Harper's Ferry. On the march from Berlin to Warrenton, General Pleasanton commanded the Union cavalry. He had the advance in the line of march. General Stuart covered the retreat of Lee. Day after day, from morning till night, there was an interchange of shots by the flying artillery of both armies,—Stuart holding his ground till Pleasanton's fire became too hot, then limbering up his guns, and retiring a mile to a new position.
The Rebels had not all left the Shenandoah Valley. But a force of ten thousand men remained there prepared to pass through the gaps of the Blue Ridge, and fall on McClellan's rear, if he left it exposed. General Hancock's division of Porter's corps, which was nearest the Blue Ridge, or which held the right of the army, in its march, moved upon Snicker's Gap. Arriving at the top and looking westward, there was a beautiful panorama; the town of Winchester, its white houses and church spires gleaming in the November sun; the trees yet wearing their gorgeous livery; the numerous camp-fires of the[Pg 252] enemy on the western bank of the Shenandoah; the blue smoke rising in columns and spirals to the clouds, the troops of the enemy moving with their long baggage trains towards the south.
Captain Pettit wheeled his Parrott guns into position on the top of the mountain, and sighted the guns. The first shell exploded in the Rebel line. In an instant, evidently without waiting for orders, the men took to their heels, disappearing in the woods. An unexpected shot sometimes unnerves old soldiers, who never think of shrinking from duty on the battle-field.
On the ridge west of the Shenandoah, two Rebel batteries were in position, with jets of white smoke bursting from the cannon in quick discharges. There was a small body of Rebels east of the river. Colonel Sargent, commanding the First Massachusetts cavalry, was ordered to drive them across the river. His troops deployed in the open field. At the word of command, they dashed down the hill, supported by a detachment of General Sykes's infantry. The Rebel cavalry did not wait their charge, but fled across the Shenandoah.
"Advance skirmishers!" was the order of Colonel Sargent. He had no intention of moving his whole detachment to the river bank, but only his skirmishers.
The cavalry and infantry misunderstood the order. Their blood was up. Away they went with a hurrah down to the river-bank. The houses on the other side were full of Rebel infantry. Two cannon commanded the ford, and swept it with canister.
"Down! down!" shouted Colonel Sargent.[Pg 253] He meant that the soldiers should fall upon the ground, and not expose themselves to the terrible fire which was coming upon them. They thought that he would have them rush down the steep bank and cross the stream, and with wilder enthusiasm—that which sometimes comes to men when in the greatest danger—they went down to the water's edge; some of them into the stream. There they saw their mistake, but they faced the storm a while, and gave volley for volley, although ordered back by their commander.
Six or eight were killed, and thirty wounded, during the few moments they were there.
Among the killed was the brave Captain Pratt, of the cavalry, shot through the heart. His pulse had just ceased its beating as I stood over him. The blood, still warm, was flowing from the wound. His countenance was calm and peaceful. He had died while doing his duty,—a duty he loved to perform, for he felt that he could not do too much for his country:—
Having secured Snicker's Gap, Pleasanton pushed on to Piedmont and Markham, pleasant places on the Manassas Gap Railroad. Markham is nestled easily at the foot of the mountain, where the railroad begins its long, steep gradient to[Pg 254] reach the summit of the gap. At this place, Stuart planted his guns, and a spirited engagement took place.
Pleasanton dismounted his cavalry, and advanced them as infantry, and drove Stuart, who retreated a mile, made another stand, and was again driven. The last fight took place in front of a pretty farm-house, occupied by a near relative of the Rebel General Ashby, who commanded a body of cavalry in 1861, and who was killed in Western Virginia. He was the boldest of all the Southern horsemen. He trained his horses to leap a five-barred gate. He could pick a handkerchief from the ground while his horse was upon a run. He was dashing, brave, and gallant, and a great favorite with the Southern ladies, who called him the bold cavalier.
After the battle, my friend and I visited the farm-house. Our appetites were keen, and we wanted dinner.
I found the owner at the door.
"Can I obtain dinner for myself, and oats for my horse?" was the question.
"Yes, sir, I reckon. That is, if my wife is willing. She don't like Yankees very well. Besides, the soldiers have stolen all our poultry, with the exception of one turkey, which she is going to have for dinner."
Roast turkey in old Virginia, after weeks of hard-tack and pork, was a dinner worth having.
"Please tell your wife that, although I am a Yankee, I expect to pay for my dinner."
A conference was had in-doors, resulting in an affirmative answer to my request.
A friend was with me. The cloth was laid,[Pg 255] and a little colored girl and boy brought in from time to time the things for the table. At last, there came the turkey, done to a nice brown, steaming hot from the oven, filling the room with a flavor refreshing to a hungry man, after the events of the morning. The hostess made her appearance, entering like a queen in stateliness and dignity. She was tall, and in the prime of womanhood. Her eyes were jet. They shone upon us like electric flashes. Her greeting was a defiance. Seated at the table, she opened the conversation.
"I should like to know what you are down here for, stealing our chickens and niggers?"
It was the first gun of the battle,—a rifle shot. Without any skirmishing, she had opened battery.
"Your Union soldiers, your thieves and ragamuffins, have stolen all my chickens and turkeys, and I had to kill this one to save it. And you have run off my niggers. I should have lost this turkey if I had not aimed a pistol at the soldier who was about to take it. I threatened to shoot him, and the coward sneaked off."
"Our generals do not permit depredations upon private citizens, when they can help it, but there are thieves in all armies," was the reply.
"O, yes; it is very well for you to apologize! But you are all thieves. General Geary's men, when they were here, stole all they could lay their hands on, and so did Blenker's, and so do McClellan's. You want to steal our niggers. We never should have had this war if you had minded your own business, and let our niggers alone."
"I am not aware that we stole your negroes before the war, but, on the contrary, our free citizens of the North were kidnapped, and sold into Slavery. South Carolina began the war by firing on the flag. It was the duty of President Lincoln to defend it."
"Lincoln! old Lincoln! He's an ape. I would shoot him if I could have the chance!"
"That would be a tragedy worth writing up for the papers. You would immortalize your name by the act. You would go down to history. The illustrated papers would have sketches of the thrilling scene," said my friend with provoking good humor.
"Yes, you would do just as you have done for twenty years,—get up lying pictures and stories about the South. You are a pack of liars. You think you are going to crush us, but you won't. Never, never! We will fight till the last man, woman, and child are dead before we will surrender!"
She was at a white heat of passion, pale and trembling with rage, the tears for a moment hiding the lightning flashes of her eyes.
"My dear madam, we may as well understand each other first as last. The people of the North have made up their minds to crush this rebellion. They have counted the cost, and the war will go on till every man, woman, and child in the South are exterminated, unless they yield. We are several millions more than you, and we shall conquer you."
It was a sudden outburst of passion and de[Pg 257]fiance; a sudden explosion, like the howl of a bulldog. All of her energy, hate, and bitterness was thrown into the word. Her lip quivered; her cheek put on a sudden whiteness. I was prepared to see the carving-knife hurled across the table, or a dish of gravy dashed in my face. She could utter only the one word—never! After the whirlwind, there was a shower of tears. Then she regained her composure.
"You outnumber us, but you can't subdue us. Never! never! We are a superior people. We belong to a high-born race. You are a set of mean, sneaking Yankees."
My brother-correspondent informed the lady that he had lived in the South; had traveled from Maryland to Savannah, Mobile and New Orleans many times, and was well acquainted with Southern society in all its aspects; and that the people of the South could lay no claim to superiority, unless it was in following the example of the patriarchs—sustaining the system of concubinage, and selling their own children into slavery.
A blush overspread her features. She knew that the assertion was true. But notwithstanding this home-thrust, she continued: "We are not half so bad as you represent us to be. You Yankees, from Massachusetts and Vermont, who go down South, do nothing but lie about us."
"I am not from Massachusetts, madam," said my friend. "I am a Pennsylvania Dutchman. I was born in Lancaster, and am well acquainted with your friend, James Buchanan."
"You Pennsylvanians are the meanest of all Yankees. You are an ignorant set. You live[Pg 258] on cabbage and sour-krout. You are a mean, stupid set of thieves as ever lived. General Geary's men stole all my cabbages. I hope both of you will be captured and put in prison. I hope you will get shot. If you will stay here to-night, I will have both of you on your way to Richmond before morning. There is a brigade of Rebels up in the gap."
"We are aware of that, and do not doubt, madam, that you would hand us over to them if you could, but we will keep our eyes open."
It was somewhat hazardous to get dinner so near a large body of Rebels, with no Union troops near at hand, but the flavor of roast turkey, after weeks of camp fare, was not to be resisted under the circumstances.
It would require much space to give a full report of our "table talk" on that occasion. It was rare and entertaining. But the dinner over, and our bills paid to the satisfaction of host and hostess, I said:—
"I hope that you will be delivered from the horrors of war. I do not wish you to suffer, but I do hope that those who have caused the war, who are now in arms, will be speedily crushed; and when the conflict is over, I hope we shall meet under more auspicious circumstances."
The storm of passion had subsided. "I beg your pardon, sir. You have treated me like gentlemen, and I have acted like a fool," she replied, extending her hand, and we parted good friends. There was, after all, a tender place in her heart.
After dinner we rode on again. Stuart, instead of passing through the gap, had turned south[Pg 259] along a rough and rocky road. Six miles below Markham, he made another stand at a place called Barbee's cross-roads,—roads which crossed from Markham to Chester Gap, from Thornton's Gap to Warrenton.
There was a rickety old house, once a tavern, where travelers from the valley to Warrenton and Alexandria found refreshment for themselves and food for their horses. But now grass was growing in the roads. There were old hats and cast-off garments in the windows. The roof was falling in; and there were props against the sides of the house to keep it from falling flat to the ground. The few farm-houses around were also tumbling down. Energy, enterprise, and industry had fled from the place; and it was as if the curse of God was upon it and upon the whole State. The people were reaping the inevitable reward which sooner or later must, according to the immutable laws of nature, come upon those who deliberately and systematically raise slaves for sale, as they would cattle, horses, sheep, and pigs.
Stuart placed three of his guns under the locust-trees, which shaded the road west of the old tavern. There were two more guns on a knoll, east of the tavern and south of it, hidden from sight, but so placed, that if Pleasanton charged down the turnpike, he would be cut to pieces by grape and canister. Stuart thought to get Pleasanton into a trap. He erected a barricade in the road behind a knoll, which Pleasanton could not see. He piled up wagons, rails, plows, harrows, boxes, and barrels. If Pleasanton charged, he would bring up against the[Pg 260] barricade, where he would be destroyed by the cross-fire of the batteries.
But Pleasanton was cautious as well as courageous. He came into position half a mile distant, and opened a fire which cut down the locust-trees, tore through the old tavern, and made it more than ever a ruin. He kept three hundred men in the road sheltered by a hill, and out of Stuart's sight, ready for a charge, and deployed a squadron of the Eighth Illinois, the Eighth New York, and a portion of the Sixth Regulars in the fields on the right-hand side of the road, keeping them mounted. They faced south. He dismounted the remainder of the Sixth Regulars, who left their horses in the woods, and moved round upon Stuart's left, east of the old tavern. They saw the barricade, and told Pleasanton what they had discovered. They commenced a sharp fire, to which Stuart replied. He weakened his force behind the locust-trees, and sent reinforcements to his right to hold in check the dismounted Regulars.
Suddenly the bugles on Pleasanton's right sounded a charge. The men drew their sabers. The sharp, shrill music set their blood in motion. It thrilled them.
Away they dashed. The three hundred men filing from the road into the field on the right, deploying into line, wheeling, then, with a hurrah, with a trampling of hoofs which shook the earth, increasing from a trot to a gallop, they fell upon Stuart's left. The Rebels fired their carbines.
The Rebel artillerymen under the locust-trees[Pg 261] wheeled their guns towards the northwest, but before they could fire, the three hundred were upon them. Instead of firing, the cannoneers leaped upon their horses, and made all haste to escape. They succeeded in carrying off their guns, but left twenty-two prisoners in the hands of Pleasanton.
The affair did not last more than twenty minutes, but it was the most brilliant of all the operations of the cavalry connected with the army of the Potomac up to that date,—the 6th of November, 1862.
The orders which General McClellan had issued to the army forbade the soldiers to forage. If supplies were wanted, the quartermasters and commissaries would supply them. Notwithstanding the order, however, the soldiers managed to have roast chickens and turkeys, and delicious mutton-chops, legs of veal, and pork-steaks. At night, there was stewing, frying, and roasting by the bivouac fires.
One night, I found lodgings with a farmer. He had a large farm, a great barn, and a well-filled granary. Fat turkeys roosted in the trees around his stables, and a flock of sheep cropped the clover of his fields.
He was a secessionist. "I was for the Union till the President called for seventy-five thousand men to put down the rebellion, as he calls it," said he.
"Why did you become a secessionist then?"
"Because that was interfering with State rights. The government has no right to coerce a State. So, when Virginia seceded, I went with her."
We were sitting by the cheerful fire in his kitchen. The evening was stealing on. There was a squeaking among his poultry. We went out, and were in season to see the dusky forms of men in blue moving towards the camp-fires. Every turkey had disappeared.
"I notice that you have a fine flock of sheep yonder," I said.
"Yes, sir, seventy Southdowns. One of the best flocks in the Old Dominion."
"I am afraid you will find some of them missing in the morning."
"I will get them into the barn," he said. "Here, you lazy niggers! Peter, John, Sam,—turn out and get up the sheep!"
He had twenty or more negroes. Those who were called started to get the sheep.
A half dozen soldiers unexpectedly appeared in the field.
"We will help you get up your sheep," they said.
The flock came slowly towards the fold, driven by the soldiers.
"Sho——o!" they suddenly shouted and made a rush forward. The sheep scattered everywhere, disappearing in the darkness, followed by the soldiers, laughing and chuckling, leaving the negroes and the farmer astonished and amazed. It was too dark to collect them again.
Morning came. The flock had disappeared. The nearest encampment was that of a regiment of Zouaves. The farmer, raving over his loss, visited it, and saw seventy sheep-skins lying behind the wall near the encampment. He[Pg 263] called upon the Colonel of the regiment, who received him with courtesy.
"Colonel," he said, "I see that your soldiers have killed my flock of sheep, and I want pay for them."
"You are mistaken, sir. The orders are very strict against taking anything. The quartermaster and commissary alone can forage. I do not allow any marauding."
"Well, sir, whether you allow it or not, they have stolen my sheep."
"I will see about that, sir. If I find that my men have been marauding, I will have them punished," said the Colonel. The regiment was ordered to appear on parade. The men were questioned, and all denied having killed any sheep. The camp was searched, but no saddles of mutton were discovered.
"It must have been some other regiment, sir, who committed the depredation," said the Colonel.
The farmer visited the next regiment, the Fifth New Hampshire, commanded by Colonel Cross.
"I come to see, sir, if it was your soldiers who stole my sheep last night," said the farmer.
"Impossible, sir. It couldn't have been the soldiers of this regiment. My men are from New Hampshire, sir,—the Old Granite State,—the State of Daniel Webster and Franklin Pierce. My soldiers would scorn to do a mean thing, sir. They come from a moral community. They are above suspicion, sir," said Colonel Cross.
"Will you have the camp searched, Colonel?"
"I could not think of such a thing, sir. I should[Pg 264] wrong the men. I would not have them think that I suspected them, sir. If an officer is continually suspecting his men they lose confidence in him. It never would do to let them mistrust that I had a doubt of their honor."
The farmer visited other regiments, but with no better success. He could not find out who had taken the sheep. The evidence was all against the Zouaves, the pelts being in their encampment.
At noon I dined with Colonel Cross. We sat around the camp-chest, which was our table. There was a saddle of mutton, hot, juicy, tender, and savory.
"My cook has a wonderful faculty of finding mutton, chickens, and pigs," said the Colonel, "but I obey the injunction of the apostle Paul, to eat what is set before me, asking no questions for conscience' sake." As I passed through the camp, on my way to the Colonel's quarters, I saw that the soldiers generally were dining on mutton.
"You live well," I said to a soldier.
"Yes, sir, I found a leg of mutton last night. Strange, wasn't it?"
He chuckled merrily and looked knowingly.
"I'll tell you how it was," said he. "The Zouaves played a joke on us a while ago, so last night we paid them. We knocked over the sheep and divided the spoil. We kept the carcasses and left them the pelts. That was fair, wasn't it." He chuckled again as he thought of the fun of the thing. "Of course the Colonel and the other officers don't know anything about it. They never smell round through the camp." He laughed again.
Thus the soldiers had their fun and their fresh provisions, notwithstanding the orders from headquarters. Few of the officers thought it worth while to inquire of the soldiers where they purchased their chickens, turkeys, and mutton.
The next day was cold, raw, and snowy,—an unusual day in the Old Dominion. The forests were in russet and yellow, for the leaves had not fallen. Winter had ushered itself prematurely into the presence of retiring Autumn. The driving storm shut the Blue Ridge from sight. My horse had lost his shoes. I found a blacksmith-shop built of logs. While the smith was putting on the shoes, I sat upon the forge warming my feet. The wind was high, and swept through the forest with a wild, surging roar, and came into the shop through the cracks and crevices, drowning the roar of the bellows. The snow-flakes sifted through the crazy roof, which had lost nearly half its time-worn shingles. Let the reader sit by my side on an old box, and take a look at the blacksmith.
He is fifty years old. We are reminded of the village blacksmith described by Longfellow, whose shop was beneath a spreading chestnut tree.
While fitting the shoes he gives a little of his experience in life. He has been a blacksmith thirty-five years. Last year, unassisted by any[Pg 266] one, in this little dingy shop, he earned about eleven hundred dollars; this year, he thinks it will be about thirteen hundred! The farmers hereabouts like his work. When we rode up, he was fitting the axles of a two-horse wagon. He is an excellent horse-shoer, can set wagon-tires, and do all sorts of handy things. His business with the farmers is a credit-business, but he has many cash customers. His wife and his young children live at Salem, four miles distant. He lives an isolated life. He takes his meals at a little log hut near by, with a free negro, but sleeps in the shop. Summer and winter he sleeps here, lying on the bare ground in summer, and curling up upon the warm cinders of the forge in winter. There is his bed, an old blanket. To-night, when his day's work is done, he will wrap himself in it, and lie down to refreshing sleep. Saturday night he goes home to Salem to see his wife, and returns at daylight on Monday. So he has lived for fourteen years. A singular life, but not a voluntary one. No. He is a slave! His owner lives down there, in that large white farm-house, with numerous out-buildings. Looking through between the logs of the shop, I can see the proprietor of this blood, bones, and brains; an old man, white-haired, walking with a cane about his stables, looking out for the comfort of his four-legged cattle on this snowy day. For thirty years has this man before me wielded the hammer, and made the anvil ring with his heavy strokes for his master; a thousand dollars a year has been the aggregate earnings. Thirty thousand dollars earned! of course it is not net earnings, but so much business done by one man, who has re[Pg 267]ceived nothing in return. Thirty thousand dollars' worth of unrequited labor. His wife is a slave, and his children are slaves, sold South, some of them. He will behold them no more. One has taken himself up North into freedom, and one daughter is singing of freedom in the presence of God.
"How much business do you do a year, uncle?"
"Last year I earned between ten and eleven hundred dollars; but this year it will be about thirteen hundred."
"Of course your master gives you a liberal share of what you earn."
"Not a cent, sir. I gets nothing only what the gentlemen gives me. I haved worked hard, sir, and master says if I take good care of the tools and shop, he will give 'em to me when he dies, so I takes good care of 'em."
"How old is your master?"
"He is seventy years old."
"I should think, when so many negroes are running away, you would want to get your freedom, for fear they would sell you down South."
"I told my master I would always stay with him, and so he has promised to give me the tools."
"I should think you would like to be where you could live with your wife."
"Yes, I would, sir; but they don't think of a man's feelings here. We ain't no more than their stock, sir! They abuse us, 'cause they's got the power."
"You have some money, haven't you, uncle?"
"Yes, I'se got about three hundred dollars. About fifty dollars is Southern confederate money. I'se mighty oneasy about that. 'Fraid[Pg 268] I shall lose it. The rest is in Virginia bank notes. I'se been saving it this long while."
"Don't you find it rather hard times?"
"Mighty hard, sir. Hain't had no sugar nor coffee this long while. One of your soldiers gave me a spoonful of sugar yesterday. You'se got a mighty fine army, sir. There's more good clothes in one regiment that went by yesterday, than in the entire Southern army."
"Then you have seen the Southern army?"
"O yes, General Walker's division went down a week ago to-day, and Longstreet went down a week ago day before yesterday."
This was important information, for all of my previous inquiries of white residents upon the matter, had brought only unsatisfactory replies.
"Walker's division, you say, wasn't very well clothed?"
"No, sir; they was miserably clothed. Lots on 'em was barefoot. One on 'em offered me six dollars for these ere shoes I'se got on, and I pitied him so, I was a good mind to let him have 'em; then I thought may be I couldn't get another pair. I was 'fraid he would suffer."
"I should think, uncle, you would be lonesome here, nights."
"O, I'se got used to it. It was kind of lonesome, at first, but I don't have anybody to trouble me, and so I gets along first-rate."
While he shaped the shoes and fastened them upon the feet of the horse with a dexterity equal to that of any New England blacksmith, I fell into revery. There was the smith—stout, hale, hearty, earning a handsome fortune for his master—robbed of his wages, of his wife, his children,[Pg 269] less cared for than the dumb beasts seeking the shelter of the stables in the storm,—a human being with a soul to be saved, with capabilities of immortal life, of glory unspeakable with the angels, with Jesus, God, and all the society of heaven, and yet, in the estimation of every white man in the slave states and one-half of the population of the free states, he has no rights which a white man is bound to respect! Men forget that justice is the mightiest power in the universe. There is judgment for every crime, and retribution for every wrong. The wheels of justice never stand still, but turn forever. Therefore there are vacant places by many firesides, and aching voids in many a heart, and wounds which time can never heal.
It was a pleasant march from Harper's Ferry to Warrenton. The roads were in excellent condition; dry and hard. The troops were in good spirits; living on turkeys, chickens, pigs, and mutton. They marched ten or twelve miles a day, built roaring fires at night, and enjoyed the campaign. The army was a week in reaching Warrenton. General McClellan was waited upon there by a messenger from Washington, who delivered him a sealed envelope containing orders relieving him of the command of the army and appointing General Burnside as his successor. The matter was soon noised abroad. There was much discussion upon the subject, relative to the cause of the removal. Some officers said that the Government wanted to destroy the army, and had begun[Pg 270] with General McClellan; others that the President, General Halleck, and Secretary Stanton were afraid of General McClellan's popularity; others, that they were wearied with his delays, and that there were no political reasons for the change.
The reasons for the removal undoubtedly have been truly stated by Mr. Montgomery Blair, who was at that time a member of the President's cabinet, that the President was friendly to General McClellan, but the military authorities at Washington and many of the officers of the army were hostile to him. They held that his delay to attack the Rebels at Manassas in the fall and winter; the delay at Yorktown; the keeping the army in the swamps of the Chickahominy; the operations on the Peninsula, showed conclusively that the command ought to pass into other hands.
The President resisted all the importunities of those who desired his removal when the affairs were so disastrous in front of Washington. The success at Antietam gave the President new confidence, but the failure to renew the attack with his reserves; the refusal of McClellan to cross the Potomac and attack Lee; his long delay at Berlin and Harper's Ferry, gave great dissatisfaction. These were the causes of his removal.84
General McClellan was much loved by a portion of his troops. When he rode along the lines for the last time, they cheered him. Some could not refrain from shedding tears. They believed that he was a good man, and that he had been thwarted in all his plans by General Halleck, Secretary Stanton, the President, and members[Pg 271] of Congress; and that if he could have had his own way, he would have won great victories.
There were other soldiers who did not join in the cheers. They rejoiced at his removal and the appointment of General Burnside. They felt that he had failed as a commander, and that he was incompetent to command a great army. They remembered their hardships, privations, sufferings, and losses on the Peninsula; they recalled the fact, that while the battle was raging at Malvern, he was on board a gunboat. Perhaps they did not fully weigh all the circumstances of the case—that it was necessary for him to consult Commodore Rogers relative to joint operations of the army and navy; but it looked like cowardice. General Kearny, the idol of his division, then sleeping in a soldier's grave, had declared it to be cowardice or treason; and the soldiers who had fought under the command of one who had been in the battle-clouds on the heights of Chapultepec and on the plains of Solferino, who had dashed like a lion upon the enemy at Williamsburg, Fair Oaks, Glendale, and Groveton, were not likely to forget the sentiments of one so brave and brilliant as he.
In all the battles of the Peninsula, they could not remember that General McClellan had been upon the field. When Fair Oaks was fought, he was north of the Chickahominy; when Lee with his whole army approached Gaines's Mills, he removed to the south side of the river. He passed White-Oak Swamp before the enemy came to Savage Station. He was at Malvern when they appeared at Glendale, and on board the gunboat when they came to Malvern. They did not con[Pg 272]sider that he rode to Malvern once during the day. Sitting by their camp-fires, the soldiers talked over the matter. There was no disaffection. They were too good soldiers to make any demonstration of disapprobation. Besides, General Burnside had been successful at Roanoke, Newbern, and South Mountain; and success gives confidence.
The soldiers were in earnest in carrying on the war. The people were impatient at the delays of General McClellan in the east, and General Buell in the west.
Riding from the east to the west and back again in the cars, after the battle of Antietam, I had an opportunity to know how the people were affected by the war. It was the last week in October. The mountains were purple, scarlet, and crimson, and had it not been that there was war in the land, one might have dreamed that he was in Eden,—so beautiful the landscape, so resplendent the days. But there were sad scenes. A mother bidding farewell to her son, the wife to her husband, the father to his children, taking them in his arms, perhaps, for the last time, dashing aside the tears, kissing them again and again, folding them to his heart, tearing himself away at last, sitting down by himself and weeping, while the swift train bore them away. It was not for military glory, not for honor, or fame, but for his country!
I saw an old man, whose head was crowned with years. He was on his way to Washington, to take back with him to his Pennsylvania home the body of his youngest son, who had died in the hospital. He had three other sons in the[Pg 273] army. He was calm, yet a tear rolled down his cheek as he talked of his loss.
"I shall take the body home, and bury it in the family ground. I shall miss my boy. But I gave him to the country. I want the government to push on the war. I want our generals to move. I want this rebellion crushed out," he said.
The stout-hearted Pennsylvania farmer left the car, and a lady sat in the seat he had occupied by my side.
She, too, was advanced in life. She had traveled all day, was sick and weary, but she had received a letter that one of her sons was dying at Frederick. He had been wounded at Antietam,—shot through the breast. She had three sons; two in the army, and one, a little one, at home.
"I am a widow," she said. "My husband was a sea-captain, and was lost at sea years ago. My boys supported me. When the war broke out, they wanted to go, and I couldn't say no. Joseph, the youngest, is not old enough to be a soldier; if he was, he would be with them. I should like to see my son once more. I hope God will spare him till I get there; but I am not sorry I let him go."
Opposite sat a well-dressed lady from Philadelphia. She had received a message, "Your son is dying; come quick if you would see him."
Tears were dropping from her eyelids. The train was not swift enough.
"Why don't they go faster?" she impatiently asked. She had a basket with wine, cordials, and delicacies.
"I thought I would take them, for if he don't want them, somebody will."
The two mothers, the one poor, earning her living by her needle, now that her brave boys were in the army; the other rich, able to have all that money can purchase, sat down together, and talked of their hopes and fears, both longing to clasp their loved ones to their hearts once more. There was no complaining, no regret that they had given their consent when their sons asked if they might enlist.
There was sorrow all over the land, for loved ones who had fallen at Williamsburg, Fair Oaks, Glendale, and Malvern, for those who were sleeping beside the Chickahominy, and for those who reposed beneath the shadow of South Mountain, and on the field of Antietam.
But a great change was going on in the minds of men. They had said: "We will have the Union as it was, and the Constitution as it is," not discerning that it was a war of moral elements, a contest between right and wrong, justice and injustice, freedom and slavery, civilization and barbarism.
But they began to discern that the elements of the contest were the rights of men, and God's eternal laws; that the armies of the Union were serving in the cause which had inspired Leonidas at Thermopylę, and Miltiades at Marathon; that the reveille which waked the soldier from his slumber was the drum-beat of all ages; that they were moving, not by the force of men's wills, not by opinions or acts of men in positions of honor and power, but by the resistless propulsion of God's immutable, changeless, eternal laws, which wither, blast, and destroy, when resisted, but which are as the dews of the morning, like sweet[Pg 275] summer showers, vivifying, strengthening and sustaining, when accepted and obeyed.
They mourned for the fallen, but they felt that they had lived for a great purpose, and had not died in vain. With defeat and disappointment there came a sublimer trust in God. There was a rekindling of faith and hope, a confidence,—
The Army of the Potomac was organized in October, 1861. There was a reorganization in April, 1862, and again in August of that year. The organization of that portion of the army which fought the battle of the Peninsula is annexed; also those troops which fought the great battle of Antietam. By means of this table and the accompanying diagrams the reader will be able to ascertain in most instances the positions of the several regiments,—not their exact locality, for regiments in battle are often detached to other parts of the field, as reserves, pickets, skirmishers, or guards.
The troops which took part in the battles of the Peninsula were the Second Corps (Sumner's), Third Corps (Heintzelman's), Fourth Corps (Keyes's), and Franklin's and McCall's divisions of the First Corps (McDowell's). McCall joined the army when it was on the Chickahominy. Shields's division of the Fifth Corps (Banks's) was sent to the Peninsula after the retreat to Harrison's Landing. It took no part in active operations there.
In the reorganization after the battle of Groveton and the retreat of Pope's army to Washington, the army was composed of six corps, as described p. 175. Many of the troops which had fought on the Peninsula were left at Alexandria, and other troops—Burnside's, from North Carolina; Sherman's, from Port Royal; Cox's from Western Virginia; new troops which had been but a few days in the service, and regiments from Wadsworth's command at Washington—were put in to fill their places.
It has not been possible to obtain a complete and correct list of all the regiments engaged in that battle. Some regiments, after the battle of South Mountain, were detached from their brigades, and sent on special service; others were kept in the rear, to guard the trains; others were sent on flank movements. But much care has been taken in the description of that battle to give the exact position of the divisions engaged, and also the brigades, so that it will be comparatively easy to ascertain the general position of most of the regiments.
5th U. S. Cavalry.
1st U. S. Cavalry.
|Graham's||Battery||"K" & "G"||1st||U. S.||6 Napoleon||guns.|
|Carlisle's||Battery||"E"||2d||U. S.||6 20-pds. Parrott||guns.|
|Robertson's||"||2d||"||6 3-in. ordnance||"|
|Benson's||"||"M"||2d||"||6 " "||"|
|Tidball's||"||"A"||2d||"||6 " "||"|
|Edwards's||"||"L" & "M"||3d||"||6 10-pds. Parrott||"|
|Gibson's||"||"C" & "G"||3d||"||6 3-in. ordnance||"|
|Livingston's||"||"F" & "K"||3d||"||4 10-pds. Parrott||"|
|De Russy's||"||"K"||4th||"||6 "||"|
|Weed's||"||"I"||5th||"||6 3-in. ordnance||"|
4 10-pds. Parr.
|Diederick's||"||"A" N. Y.||Art.||Batt'n||6 20-pds. Parrott||"|
|Voegelie's||"||"B" "||"||"||4 " "||"|
|Knieriem's||"||"C" "||"||"||4 " "||"|
|Grimm's||"||"D" "||"||"||6 32-pds. Howitzers.|
15th New York Volunteers.
50th " " "
Companies "A," "B," and "C," U. S. Engineers.
1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery. Col. Tyler.
8th Illinois Cavalry. Col. Farnsworth.
One Squadron 6th New York Cavalry.
|Clark's||Battery||"A" & "C"||4th||U. S.||6 Napoleon guns.|
|Frank's||"||"G"||1st||N. Y.||6 10-pds. Parrott||guns.|
|Pettit's||"||"B"||1st||"||6 " "||"|
|Hogan's||"||"A"||2d||"||6 " "||"|
5th N. H. Vols.
69th N. Y. Vols.
52d N. Y. Vols.
|Kirby's||Battery||"I"||1st||U. S.||6 Napoleon guns.|
2 12-pds. Howitzers
4 10-pds. Parrott
2 12-pds. Howitzers
|Owen's||"||"G"||——||6 3-in. ordnance guns.|
2d N. Y. S. M.
69th Penn. Vols.
19th Mass. Vols.
Note.—Blenker's division detached and assigned to the Mountain Department.
3d Pennsylvania Cavalry. Col. Averill.
|Griffin's||Battery||"K"||5th||U. S.||6 10-pds. Parrott guns.|
|Weeden's||"||"C"||5th||R. I.||— — — —|
|Martin's||"||"C"||5th||Mass.||6 Napoleon guns.|
|Allen's||"||"E"||5th||"||6 3-in. ordnance guns.|
2d Maine Vols.
14th N. Y. Vols.
17th N. Y. Vols.
4 10-pds Parrott
2 12-pds. Howitzers
|Smith's||"||4th||N. Y.||Battery||6 10-pds. Parrott||"|
|Bramhall's||"||6th||"||"||6 3-in. ordnance||"|
|Osborn's||"||"D"||1st||N. Y. Arty.||4 " "||"|
1st Excelsior (N. Y.)
1st Mass. Vols.
Col. Starr's Brigade.
5th N. J. Vols.
|Thompson's||Battery||"G"||2d||U. S.||6 Napoleon guns.|
4 10-pds Parrott
4 10-pds Parrott
105th Penn. Vols.
38th N. Y. Vols.
2d Mich. Vols.
|McCarthy's||Battery||"C"||1st||Penn.||4 10-pds. Parrott||guns|
|Flood's||"||"D"||1st||"||6 " "||"|
|Brady's||"||"F"||1st||"||4 10-pds. Parrott||"|
67th N. Y. Vols. (1st L. I.)
98th Penn. Vols.
2d R. I. Vols.
4 10-pds. Parrott
4 10-pds. Parrott
|Wheeler's||"||"E"||1st||N. Y.||4 3-in. ordnance||"|
|Kennedy's||"||1st||N. Y.||Battery||6 " "||"|
5th Wis. Vols.
2d Vermont Vols.
33d N. Y. Vols.
|Regan's||Battery||7th||N. Y.||Battery||6 3-in. ordnance||guns|
|Fitch's||"||8th||"||"||6 " "||"|
|Bates's||"||"A"||1st||N. Y. Art'y||6 Napoleon||"|
|Spratt's||"||"H"||1st||" "||4 3-in. ordnance||"|
85th Penn. Vols.
85th N. Y. Vols.
104th Penn. Vols.
2nd U. S. Cavalry.
Battalion 8th and 17th U. S. Infantry.
2 Cos. 4th U. S. Cavalry.
1 Co. Oneida Cav. (N. Y. Vols.)
1 Co. Sturgis Rifles (Ill. Vols.)
1st New York Cavalry.
2d " "
4th New York Cavalry.
1st Pennsylvania "
2d Regiment Berdan's Sharpshooters.
|Platt's||Battery||"D"||2d||U. S.||6 Napoleon guns.|
4 10-pds. Parrott
4 10-pds. Parrott
|Wilson's||"||"F"||1st||N. Y. Art'y||4 3-in. ordnance||"|
1st N. J. Vols.
16th N. Y. Vols.
18th N. Y. Vols.
|Seymour's||Battery||"C"||5th||U. S.||6 Napoleon guns.|
|Eaton's||"||"A"||1st||Penn.||4 " "|
|Cooper's||"||"B"||1st||"||6 10-pds. Parrott guns.|
2 10-pds Parrott
4 12-pds Howitzers
1st Penn. Res. Reg't.
3d Penn. Res. Reg't.
6th Penn. Res. Reg't.
|Gibbon's||Battery||"B"||4th||U. S.||6 Napoleon||guns|
|Monroe's||"||"D"||1st||R. I.||6 10-pds. Parrott||"|
|Gerrish's||"||"A"||N. H.||6 Napoleon||"|
|Durrell's||"||Penn.||6 10-pds Parrott||"|
2d Wis. Vols.
20th N. Y. S. M.
14th N. Y. S. M.
1st Maine Cavalry.
1st Vermont "
5th New York Cavalry.
8th " "
[Pg 284] 1st Michigan "
1st R. I. "
Keyes's Battal'n Penn. Cavalry.
18 Cos. Maryland "
1 Squadron Virginia "
28th Penn. Vols.
4th Reg't Potom. Home Guards (Maryl. Vols.)
|Best's||Battery||"F"||4th||U. S.||6 Napoleon||guns|
|Hampton's||"||Maryland||4 10-pds. Parrott||guns|
|Thompson's||"||"||4 " "||"|
|Mathew's||"||"F"||Penn.||6 3-in. ordnance||"|
|——||"||"M"||1st||N. Y.||6 10-pds. Parrott||"|
|Knapp's||"||Penn.||6 " "||"|
|McMahon's||"||N. Y.||6 3-in. ordnance||"|
12th Mass. Vols.
9th N. Y. S. M.
|Clark's||Battery||"E"||4th||U. S.||6 10-pds. guns.|
4 10-pds. Parrott
|Davy's||"||"B"||1st||"||2 10-pds. Parrott||"|
|Huntington's||"||"A"||1st||Ohio||6 13-pds. James||"|
2 12-pds. Howitzers
|4th Ohio Infantry||"||1 6-pds.||"|
14th Ind. Vols.
5th Ohio Vols.
7th Ohio Vols.
|1st New Jersey Cavalry.||At Alexandria.|
|4th Pennsylvania "||East of the Capital.|
Artillery and Infantry.
|10th New Jersey Vols.||Bladensburg Road.|
|104th N. Y. Vols.||Kalorama Heights.|
|1st Wis. Heavy Art'y.||Fort "Cass," Va.|
|3 Batteries N. Y. "||Forts "Ethan Allen" & "Marcy."|
|Depot of N. Y. Light Art'y.||Camp "Barry."|
|2d D. C. Vols.||Washington City.|
|26th Penn. "||"G" St. Wharf.|
|26th N. Y. "||Fort "Lyon."|
|95th " "||Camp "Thomas."|
|94th " "||Alexandria.|
|88th Penn. " (Detachment)||"|
|91st " "||Franklin Square Barracks.|
|4th N. Y. Art'y||Forts "Carroll" & "Greble."|
|112th Penn. Vols.||Fort "Saratoga."|
|76th N. Y. "||" "Massachusetts."|
|59th " "||" "Pennsylvania."|
|88th Penn. " (Detachment)||" "Good Hope."|
|99th " "||" "Mahan."|
|2d N. Y. Light Art'y.||Forts "Ward," "Worth," and "Blenker."|
|107th Penn. Vols.||Kendall Green.|
|54th " "||" "|
|Dickerson's Light Art'y||East of the Capital.|
|86th N. Y. Vols.||" " "|
|88th Penn. " (Detachment)||" " "|
14th Mass. " (Heavy Art'y)
56th Penn. "
Forts "Albany," "Tellinghast," "Richardson," "Runyon," "Jackson," "Barnard," "Craig," "Scott."
4th U. S. Art'y (Detachment)
37th N. Y. Vols. (Detachment)
|97th " "||Fort "Corcoran."|
|101st " "|
|12th Va. "|
|91st N. Y. "|
6th New York Cavalry. Dismounted.
10th " " "
Swain's " " "
2nd Pennsylvania " "
1st Maryland Cavalry.
Detachment of Cav. Purnell Legion.
|Battery||"I"||2d||U. S. Artillery.|
|"||"L"||1st||New York Artillery.|
|2 Independent Batteries Pennsylvania Artillery.|
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|Following the Flag.||Charles Carleton Coffin|
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1 Ohio State Journal.
2 General McClellan's Report, p. 4.
3 Testimony before Committee of Congress.
4 Norfolk Day-Book.
5 Peninsular Campaign. Rev. Dr. Marks.
6 General McClellan's Report, p. 66.
7 General Heintzelman's testimony.
8 Maine Adjutant-General's Report, 1862, p. 142. Captain B. M. Smith.
9 Campaign from Texas to Maryland, by Rev. Nicholas A. Davis, Chaplain Fourth Texas. Richmond, 1863.
10 Stephens's speech.
11 Notes on Virginia.
12 McClellan's Report, p. 79.
14 President Lincoln's letter,—Testimony, p. 321.
15 Adjutant-General's Report,—Testimony, p. 315.
16 McClellan's Report, p. 79.
17 Confederate Reports, Official, p. 516.
18 Battle-Fields of the South, by an English Officer in the Confederate Army. London.
19 Southern History of the War, Vol. II. p. 31.
20 Southern History, Vol. II. p. 31.
21 Estvan's War Pictures from the South, p. 271.
22 Battle-Fields of the South.
23 The diagram represents the position of the troops at the beginning of the battle.
24 Battle-Fields of the South, Vol. II. p. 4
25 Keyes's Report.
26 Adjutant-General's Report, Maine, 1862.
27 Adjutant-General's Report.
28 Battle-Fields of the South.
29 Chaplain Marks.
30 Testimony, p. 352.
31 Testimony, p. 609.
32 Army of the Potomac, p. 79.
33 Chaplain Marks.
34 Campaign from Texas to Maryland.
35 McClellan's Despatch. Testimony, p. 338.
36 Pollard's Southern History, p. 329.
37 Confederate Narrative, Rebellion Record, Vol. V. p. 250.
38 Battle-Fields of the South.
39 Campaign from Texas to Maryland, p. 46.
40 Richmond Whig, June 29, 1862.
41 Peninsular Campaign.
42 Battle-Fields of the South, p. 170.
43 Cologne Gazette account.
44 Hooker's Report.
45 Pollard, Southern Hist.
46 Campaign from Texas to Maryland.
47 Battle-Fields of the South.
48 Report, p. 140.
49 Peninsular Campaign, p. 294.
50 See "My Days and Nights on the Battle-Field."
51 Pope's Report.
52 Pope's Report.
53 Sigel's Report.
54 Southern History, Second Year, p. 113.
55 General McClellan's Report, p. 213.
56 McClellan's Report.
57 Life of Stonewall Jackson, p. 197.
58 The Church and the Rebellion, p. 196.
59 Pollard, Vol. II. p. 137.
60 Upon the map accompanying General McClellan's Report there are several residences marked Poffenberger; also several marked D. Miller. But the residence here described was the one around which the severest fighting occurred on the right,—Joseph Poffenberger's.
61 Pollard, Vol. II. p. 125.
62 Jackson's Report, Southern History, Vol. II. p. 132.
63 Southern Hist., Vol. II. p. 132.
64 Jackson's Report, Southern History, Vol. II. p. 133.
65 Campaign from Texas to Maryland, p. 89.
66 Ibid, p. 90.
67 Major Hyde's Report.
68 Maine Adjutant General's Report, 1862.
69 McClellan's Report, p. 208.
70 Charleston Courier's account of the battle.
71 Burnside's Testimony.
72 McClellan's Report, p. 207.
73 McClellan's Report, p. 201.
74 Statement of a Rebel officer after the battle,—a prisoner.
75 Campaign from Texas to Maryland, and Charleston Courier.
76 See McClellan's statement of the number of troops present, p. 214, Report.
77 Lieutenant-Colonel Kimball's Report.
78 Report, p. 212.
79 Burnside's Testimony, p. 642.
80 Vol. II., p. 142.
81 President's Letter.
82 Adjutant-General's Report.
83 Report Christian Commission.
84 Speech at Ellicott's Mills, 1864.
85 In General McClellan's report of the battle of Fair Oaks, he calls this brigade "Abercrombie's,"—evidently a mistake.
86 Kearny was appointed division commander of the Third Corps (Heintzelman's) at the commencement of the Peninsular campaign.