The Life and Campaigns of General Lee, by Edward Lee Childe, Chapter 4

The Life and Campaigns of General Lee, by Edward Lee Childe

CHAPTER IV.
PRELIMINARY MOVEMENTS.—CONFEDERATE VICTORY AT BULL’S RUN.

THE time of hesitation, skirmishing, uncertainty, had passed: it was for the cannon to speak. On the 17th of April, 1861, the feeble detachments of Federal troops stationed to guard the different arsenals and forts on the Virginian territory retired. The military arsenal of Norfolk, at the mouth of the James River, (so called in honour of King James I.), was given to the flames. Nevertheless, the Virginians arrived in time to save a great amount of war-material, as well as a great many ships and munitions, and a considerable quantity of artillery. Fortress Monroe, situated on a small island at some distance from the coast, alone remained in the power of the Federals. This fortress commanded the entrance of the James River. On the other hand, divers corps of Virginian troops were placed in such a manner as to cover the points which the Northern forces had power to menace.

This country, over which for four years all the horrors of war were about to be unchained, was, in 1861, a charming district, peopled by a race of generous and hospitable men. Peace and prosperity, joined to upright and patriarchal manners, somewhat behindhand if you like, had made it a comer of the world where the white race and the black race lived peaceably together, needful to each other, and insensibly bringing about the gradual emancipation of slaves by those thousands of daily relationships which blot out prejudices and engender sympathy.

In 1861, Virginia, which Sir Walter Raleigh had so named, in 1584, in honour of Queen Elizabeth, included an area of 55,958 square miles, a little more than one-fourth the surface of France. From east to west its extreme length was 326 miles, and from north to south the average distance was 193 miles.

On looking at a map of Virginia, one is struck with all that nature has done to render it rich and prosperous. Very easy of access, it presents a vast plain, little broken except near the mountains. Numerous rivers, with their affluents, offer so many means for penetrating to the heart of the country. The Potomac, with a course of 367 miles, serves as a boundary to the north, through two-thirds of its extent, between Maryland and Virginia. The James has a length of 280 miles. The York, Rappahannock, Pamunkey, and Rapidan are deep rivers, which, rising to the west, in the Alleghanies, all flow towards the east, not very far apart, and fall into the Atlantic by large mouths.

The neighbouring zone of sea-board resembles the rest of the southern coasts of the United States. The Atlantic coasts are low and sandy; marshes where the pitch-pine abounds and engenders pestilential fevers. There are bays and creeks innumerable, but life is wanting: there is but one harbour worthy of the name𔃉Norfolk—and very little commerce; for the rest, the coast is of small extent, compared with the area of the Virginian territory. This narrow belt once passed the country becomes very healthy.

The soil is fertile, although dusty, (i.e. light), and even stony where the first undulations of the Alleghanies appear; but, on the other hand, along the rivers there are tracts of alluvial soil of great fertility, where cotton, maize, and tobacco grow to perfection. The inhabitants are occupied in breeding cattle, felling timber in the widely extending woods, and agriculture on a very grand scale. At Richmond there were already a large number of arts and manufactures; coal and iron abound in Upper Virginia, and several blast-furnaces were established there.

About 185 miles from the sea the vapour-clad outline of the Blue Ridge, a long line of mountains, is seen. The Alleghany Mountains, divided into two principal parallel chains from north to south, one the Blue Ridge, the other, more to the west, preserving the name of Alleghanies, cut Virginia into two equal parts, called, one the Eastern district, that which extends from the Atlantic to the mountains, the other the Western district, which extends from the mountains to Ohio and the borders of Kentucky.

Between these two ranges, parallel to the mountains, run long valleys, often very wide. The soil here is richer than in any other part of the state. It is the region known as the Valley of Virginia. It extends northwards to the Potomac. This spot, besides being one of the most fertile, is also one of the most picturesque of North America. The eye, wearied with the monotony of unbroken plains, rests with pleasure on the varied outline of the Blue Ridge or Alleghanies in the distance, rising to the sky. With change of place and level there is also a change of aspect. Far away extend these laughing valleys, which, more than any other American scene, remind one of the landscapes of old Europe.

The population of this part of Virginia is purely English, intermingled here and there with Scottish blood, settled in the country in the early days of the colony. These men, honourable and frank, devoted to agriculture, always in the saddle, inured to fatigue, tall, strong, simple in their habits, wearing wide-brimmed felt sombreros, riding-boots, and gloves with beaver-skin backs, like the cavaliers of the time of Charles I.; these men, Virginians above all things, furnished Jackson and Lee their most valiant soldiers.

The belt beyond the Alleghanies, stretching towards the Ohio, belongs to the Mississippi basin. It is quite another country, higher and colder than Eastern Virginia. It produces cereals, is rich in ore, and covered with thick timber.

Winter rains cover the plains of Eastern Virginia with deep reddish sticky mud; the roads become impassable. When the heat comes, deep cracks and bottomless ruts replace the liquid mud, and render the maintenance of the roads very onerous.

The climate, very warm in summer, becomes, in winter, rainy, and, in the part near the mountains, it is as cold as in the north of France. Snow falls everywhere in the Alleghanies after the month of November.

The state was divided into 119 counties or communes. The number of inhabitants amounted, in 1861, to 1,569,083 souls, of whom 490,887 were negroes, and of them 54,333 were free. There remained, therefore, 1,078,196 whites. It was with such a feeble population that Virginia prepared herself for the struggle pro aris et focis.

Harper’s Ferry, at the entrance of the Shenandoah Valley, the beginning of the great Valley of Virginia, was guarded by General Joseph Johnston, an officer of the old United States army. General Beauregard, a Frenchman of Louisiana, was stationed at Manassas Junction, the meeting-place of three railways, coming from the north, south, and west,—that is to say, from Washington, Richmond, and the Virginian Valley. This most important place was in the plain, and permitted any one who was master of it, either to block the Richmond road, or march on Washington, only 35 miles off, or, in the face of superior forces, to retire to the west, through the Manassas Pass, into the valley. General Huger, a descendant of the refugee Huguenots, also belonging to the old army, held the command at Norfolk. All the approaches to this town, and all the important points at the entrance of the James River, were carefully fortified. The Confederate Government was transported to Richmond, which thus became the capital of the new republic. Volunteers poured in from the other states, and presently the number of troops gathered in Virginia was considerable. In West Virginia, the command was entrusted to General Garnett, who had just displayed great activity as adjutant to General Lee. It was for him to assemble and drill the volunteers.

On its side, the Federal Government did not deceive itself as to the gravity of the struggle which was impending. General Scott, who had the chief control in military affairs, was too old a soldier to commit the notable blunder of despising his enemy, especially as the Southern armies had for their guide the man whose talents he had for so long a time appreciated.

On May 3rd, President Lincoln made a new appeal for 40,000 volunteers, ten supplementary regiments for the regular army, and 18,000 sailors. These forces, added to those already in existence, placed at the disposal of the Government 150,000 men. The country promptly answered this appeal. The Federal Government plan was to send a strong body of troops into the Mississippi Valley and occupy it. A second army was to take up a position in Kentucky, and there stop all Southern proclivities, while a third would march straight on Richmond. These measures, supplemented by an effective blockade, would not be long, it was thought, in crushing the rebellion. In Virginia an attack was to be made on four sides simultaneously; in the east, relying on Fortress Monroe, an ascent of the Peninsula would be made to the capital (all the country situated between the rivers James and York, comprising five or six counties, is called the Peninsula). On the north-east a start was to take place from Alexandria, opposite Washington, passing through Manassas; on the north, one ascending the Shenandoah Valley from the Potomac; and lastly, on the north-west, it was intended to defile at Staunton, into the great Virginian Valley.

These four movements were to be made simultaneously. Richmond was the point of re-union. This town once taken, the assembled forces would have nothing more to do but co-operate with those occupying Kentucky and the Mississippi Valley, in order to insure the definitive triumph of the Federal arms. Such was the magnificent programme which was to counteract and valorously upset the lieutenants of the Southern commander-in-chief.

Some skirmishes had taken place in the month of June, 1861. On the 3rd, Colonel Porterfield, sent into the west of the state to assemble volunteers, had been defeated at Philippi by a Federal corps. But the first combat of any importance was at Great Bethel on June 10th. Five thousand Federals ascended the Peninsula, starting from Fortress Monroe. They assaulted an entrenched camp not far from Yorktown, where 1800 Confederates, with 6 pieces of artillery, awaited them. The Federals were obliged to turn back. This affair, insignificant in itself, acquires importance when we remember that it was the first combat in which both parties had been able to measure their strength, and that, if Colonel Magruder had been beaten, the safety of Richmond would have been compromised. Bethel was soon followed by other feats of arms in the Valley of Virginia, between the Confederate Johnston and the Federal Patterson, the defeat of the Confederate Colonel Pegram at Richmountain in the west of the state, and the death of General Garnett, during his retreat after the battle of Laurel Bridge, also in the west of Virginia.

On July 16th, the principal Northern army, consisting of 55,000 infantry, 9 regiments of cavalry, and 49 pieces of artillery, issued from Alexandria, and advanced some hours’ march, to a watercourse named Bull’s Run, behind which the Confederate army, under the command of Beauregard, was posted. Johnston, warned of this movement, succeeded in stealing away from his adversary Patterson, marched night and day, and joined his colleague on July 20th. All the Southern army, on the morning of the 21st of July, only amounted to 31,431 men, and 55 cannons. That same day the Federal army attempted to force the passage of Bull’s Run, but disorder spreading in its ranks, it was obliged to fall back on Washington. Its retreat was soon changed into a defeat. General Johnston came and camped in sight of the United States capital.

Let us return for a moment to the campaign in West Virginia. Colonel Porterfield, who had been sent there by General Lee to raise recruits and organise a centre of resistance against the Federals, soon became aware of the little haste manifested by the inhabitants in responding to his appeal, and that that part of the state where the Northern element, introduced from the neighbouring States of Ohio and Pennsylvania, prevailed, would readily be gained over to the Federal cause unless reinforcements were received.

The surprise of his camp at Philippi soon after, hastened the despatch of a reinforcement of 5000 men, under the orders of General Garnett. Hardly had the latter had time to post himself at Laurel Hill, a position which commanded the high road of communication between the west and the remaining portion of Virginia, when General MacClellan, charged by the Federal Government with the military command of Ohio, resolved to drive back Garnett beyond the Alleghanies, towards Virginia proper. On the 11th of July, General Rosencranz surprised and defeated a Confederate corps, ordered by Garnett to protect his line of retreat The latter was obliged to abandon his artillery, and leave the beaten roads, in order to march across the mountains. Vigorously pursued, he lost many prisoners, and perished himself. This initiative of MacClellan decided the lot of West Virginia. Although the débris

The Confederate General Wise alone, with a small corps, still held out in this region. He also retired presently before the victorious MacClellan to Lewisburg, where General Floyd, with 2000 or 3000 men, joined him; but a want of understanding between the two Confederate officers rendered all their operations useless.

After Garnett’s death, Lee was sent to the western frontier. He there assembled 10,000 men, including what remained of Garnett’s column, badly armed, poorly clad, and many of them without shoes. The roads were in a deplorable state; rain fell incessantly; they sunk up to their knees in a thick mud; the means of transport were wanting, as well as victuals and forage.

During the months of August and September there were only some unimportant skirmishes. The Federals were strongly posted at Cheat Mountain, awaiting an attack. After having in vain attempted to turn the position, Lee, who always tried as much as possible to husband the blood of his soldiers, retired. Under the circumstances, he judged, with much reason, from a practical point of view, that if the Federals continued to occupy their impregnable position in the mountain, he would gain nothing by obtaining a barren success, dearly achieved, probably, by the sacrifice of many of his own men. The result of the campaign, however, was to arrest the enemy’s march so completely, that from that moment for a year no further progress was made in the north-west.

Meanwhile Lee, warned of the dangerous position of Floyd and Wise, against whom the combined forces of Rosencranz and Cox were advancing, resolved to march on Lewisburg, and give battle to the Federals before the autumn rains made the roads impracticable. He rallied the troops of Wise and Floyd on the 22nd of September, and posted himself strongly at Sewell Mountain. The two adversaries had under them equal forces, nearly 15,000 men.

It seemed that at length a serious engagement was about to end this barren and indecisive campaign. The outposts were in sight of each other, and not a day passed without some affair or skirmish. Waiting to be attacked, Lee held himself on the defensive, and thus the two generals remained in each other’s presence for a fortnight. Suddenly, on the 6th of October, Rosencranz decamped during the night, and retired towards the west. The state of the roads and rivers rendered all pursuit impossible. Winter came rapidly, and it was decided to abandon this part of the country, and transport the Confederate forces to a more important scene, of action.

General Lee returned to Richmond in November, and the trifling success of this campaign drew down upon him some severe criticisms on the part of his fellow citizens, too impatient to have much hope in him. Like. Washington before Boston in 1776, he might have said: “I know the sad position which I occupy; I know I am expected to do great things.” But, like Washington, he was ready to sacrifice his reputation rather than squander away men’s lives in a useless attempt to keep a hostile district. When one reflects on the obstacles of every kind with which he had to contend, the sympathy of the inhabitants with the Northern cause, who betrayed, for the benefit of the enemy, all his movements, the difficulties of transport in so primitive a country, it is easy to comprehend his want of success. A little after his arrival Lee had reported that it was not for him to take the offensive. The district was not favourably disposed to the Southern cause. It was difficult to find provisions, the enemy being master of the railway from Baltimore to Ohio, and of the river of this name; both served as safe bases of operation. The Confederates, on their side, had only impassable roads, no railway, and no river which could be useful to them.

“He came back,” said ex-President Davies, “carrying the heavy weight of defeat, and unappreciated by the people whom he served; for they could not know, as I knew, that if his plans and orders had been carried out, the result would have been victory rather than retreat. They did not know it; for I would not have known it, if he had not breathed it in my ear, only at my earnest request, and begging that nothing be said about it. The clamour which then arose followed him when he went to South Carolina, so that it became necessary to write a letter to the governor of that state, telling him what manner of man he was. Yet through all this, with a magnanimity rarely equalled, he stood in silence, without defending himself, or allowing others to defend him; for he was unwilling to offend any one who was wearing a sword, and striking blows for the Confederacy.”

The Richmond Government confided to Lee, on his return, the care of fortifying Charleston, the capital of South Carolina, situated on the sea, and offering an opportunity of attack, some day or other, to the Federal ships. He passed the winter in raising redoubts at the most exposed points of the coast, and this work was executed with so much judgment and ability, that it was principally because of these redoubts that the enemy’s efforts in this locality subsequently gained so little success.

It was from Charleston that he wrote, on the 1st of January, 1862, the following letter to one of his daughters:—

MY DEAR DAUGHTER,

Having distributed such poor Christmas gifts as I had to those around me, I have been looking for something for you Trifles even are hard to get these war-times, and you must not, therefore, expect more. . . . I send you also some sweet violets that I gathered for you this morning while covered with dense white frost, whose crystals glittered in bright sun-like diamonds, and formed a brooch of rare beauty and sweetness, which could not be fabricated by the expenditure of a world of money. Yet how little will it purchase. But see how God provides for our pleasure in every way. May He guard and preserve you for me, my dear daughter. Among the calamities of war, the hardest to bear, perhaps, is the separation of families and friends. Yet all must be endured to accomplish our independence, and maintain our self-government.. In my absence from you, I have thought of you very often, and regretted I could do nothing for your comfort. Your old home, if not destroyed by our enemies, has been so desecrated that I cannot bear to think of it I should have preferred it to have been wiped from the earth, its beautiful hill sunk, and its sacred trees buried, rather than to have been degraded by the presence of those who revel in the ill they do for their own selfish purposes. You see what a poor sinner I am, and how unworthy to possess what was given me; for that reason it has been taken away. I pray for a better spirit, and that the hearts of our enemies may be changed. In your houseless condition, I hope you will make yourself contented and useful. Occupy yourself in aiding those more helpless than yourself. . . . Think always of your father,

R. E. LEE.

In the spring of 1862, the reverses which the Confederate cause had sustained made the urgency of centralizing the military power apparent Congress passed a bill creating the rank of general commanding-in-chief. But the attributes of this new generalissimo were utterly failing in clearness, as may be seen in the following order of the day which summoned Lee to Richmond. It was on him that, in spite of the opposition of some prejudiced or timid minds, the choice of President Davis fell.

War Department, Richmond, March l3th, 1862.

General Orders, No. 14.

General Robert E. Lee is assigned to duty at the seat of government, and, under the direction of the President, is charged with the conduct of military operations in the armies of the Confederacy.

By command of the Secretary of War,
S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector-General.

This is the proper place to protest against the systematic disparagement of which the ex-President of the Confederate States has been the object. He has been accused of jealousy of General Lee. On the contrary, it was Mr. Davis who warmly undertook Lee’s defence at this time, when he was in disfavour, and who contributed more than any one to call him to the high position in which he rendered such signal services.

Hardly had the new commander-in-chief assumed his office before a change began to be felt. A new life was communicated to the Government, and from the moment when his firm will presided over the march of affairs, the military situation began to wear a less dismal aspect. If his counsel had been always listened to, we should, perhaps, have been able to trace a very different account to that which will be unfolded before our eyes.

In his new position, before even he had had time to act, his popularity returned, owing chiefly to the kindness and courtesy with which he received all demands preferred to him. He could not, however, long preserve this situation. Important events called him elsewhere into a more active sphere. His new duties in it became so absorbing, that he was soon obliged to beg the President to relieve him of the functions of commander-in-chief of all the Confederate forces, his military occupations in Virginia taking up all his time.

Beauregard’s victory at Manassas had inspired the Confederates with such confidence, that they did not doubt for a single instant but that the North had received a mortal blow. The newspapers ridiculously exaggerated the importance of the Federal check. Many people took no pains to reflect that the success at Bull’s Run was only temporary, that the army which was there beaten was composed of raw recruits, entirely inexperienced, under incapable officers, and they persisted in ignoring the extraordinary efforts the North was making to repair its losses. Opportunities to be better informed on these points were not, however, wanting. Northern newspapers, full of facts, recitals, details, all relative to the preparations going on on a grand scale, easily found way into the country, and the Southern newspapers hastened to copy them. All persons who came from the North confirmed this impression. Nevertheless but a few men, such as Lee, Johnston and others, alone recognised the vital importance of the struggle in which they were engaged, and they ceased not to warn the Southern people against their foolish imprudence.

President Davis, under the late President of the United States, had been Minister of War at Washington. His antecedents and character do not permit us to believe that he also could be deceived as to the situation. In the South, as in the North, there was a horror at the idea of conscription. It was only, therefore, in the last extremity that the Government decided to have recourse to it. This arbitrary measure was so little in harmony with all the traditions of the English race, that such a hesitation on the part of the President, Ministers, and Congress, may be, well conceived. Nothing is more natural than that Lee and his lieutenants should, from the first, have counselled it. Their point of view was different. Their experience was one of camp life, of the little confidence which can be placed in volunteers, badly paid and badly fed, who have obeyed a patriotic impulse, but are restrained neither by esprit de corps, nor discipline, nor hard necessity.

Thus what they had foreseen happened. The first moment of enthusiasm past, when reverses, inevitable in a war which extended over so vast an area, came in their turn, volunteers ceased to appear. Prizes the most elevated ceased to attract them.

Another error to be remarked is the immense development given to the line of defence. In the spring of 1862, the Federals had touched the border of Kentucky. The Confederate army of the West was thrown back behind the river Tennessee, and on the Atlantic coast the Northern troops had got possession of the very important positions of Port Royal, and Roanoke Island, in the Carolinas. Everywhere, except in North Virginia, where no encounter had taken place since the last campaign, victory attended the standards of the North.

We can imagine, while blaming, the hesitation of the Richmond Government. To concentrate all civil and military powers in the hands of a dictator would have been much the most practical and effective step, but in its own opinion this would have been the negation of its own existence. It considered it, on the contrary, to be due to honour, whilst accomplishing the deliverance of the country, to allow the continuance of self-government, by means of a Congress regularly elected, thus changing nothing in parliamentary manners. Hence troubles and numberless difficulties,—results of an ill-defined position.

Instead of finishing the war, and then thinking how to establish a stable and definitive government, the Confederate statesmen wished to do both at once. Besides, the Richmond Government took very great pains not to wound the susceptibilities of the different governments of the Confederate States. This is why, in order not to abandon the most exposed states to Federal attacks, it was compelled to disseminate its troops over an immense area, remaining on the defensive, when it would have been able, by concentrating them under one direction and in one army, to strike a decisive blow.

However this may be, very few remarkable men showed themselves in the Civil Government, or in the Congress of the South. Neither of these bodies rose to the height of the circumstances. The want of initiative, the narrowness of political views of which the Congress gave proof, the obstinacy with which it opposed the enfranchisement of slaves till the last moment, contributed not a little to bring about the final catastrophe. It is in the army, among its chiefs, that search must be made for examples of rare self-denial, patriotic devotion, moral greatness, and talents of the first order.

President Davis could not, therefore, in consequence of the opposing influences which surrounded him, decide on following the advice which Lee and Johnston ceased not to give him. These generals were of opinion that the proper course was to abandon the most remote frontiers, and to concentrate the forces of the Confederacy on a spot where they would be useful and available at any moment.

Scattered at a distance, not supporting each other, they were exposed to the assaults of the Federals, who could attack them successively one after the other. The system adopted by the Government was the more full of risk, because the South was so thinly peopled—far more thinly than the North—and it could not therefore repair its losses of men. To these arguments the partisans of the Government replied, that if the states of the West were abandoned, not only would the prestige of the new republic suffer in America and Europe (which was an important matter from the point of view of hoped-for intervention), but that entire provinces would be lost, whence were drawn corn, cattle, and soldiers without number; that support and protection were owing to the many secessionists of those states; and, finally, that the situation was not so serious as was supposed. These counsellors were not without authority, and many of them were much interested in upholding the prevailing system, since their estates and families were in the provinces it was proposed to abandon, and would become the prey of the Federals. The majority in Congress shared these sentiments. Consequently the question was decided by civil and political considerations against the opinion of the generals.

The fear of encroaching on the individual rights of the states for a long time retarded the adoption of a general law of enlistment. It was not till the Federal troops menaced the capital itself that a law of enlistment was passed, in May, 1862. This was very imperfect, and stirred up such discontent, that all the warm patriotism of the Southern population was necessary to support its burden. It would have been better to adopt the plan followed later by the Federal Government; fix the contingent, assign each state its quota, and render it responsible for furnishing the proportion so assigned. Thus all the odium of the measure would fall on the local authorities.

After the battle of Manassas, or Bull’s Run, (July 1861), gained by 31,000 Confederates over 55,000 Federals, General Johnston assumed the supreme command of the Confederate army of the Potomac. The task which he had before him was not easy. Undisciplined recruits, whom the easy victory of Manassas had demoralized, did not offer very encouraging elements for the reorganization of his army. Discipline was not easy to establish, the natural explanation of which is that all the officers below the rank of brigadier-general were elective. The candidates in favour with their comrades too often won votes by closing their eyes to infractions of military regulations, which are as necessary to an army as air to a human organism. This evil existed during the whole war, and exercised immense influence in all the insurmountable obstacles which fettered the operations of the Southern chiefs.

Nevertheless, in the month of October, 1861, General Johnston had succeeded in giving to this confused mass a certain amount of organization. All the troops in the neighburhood of the Potomac arriving, whether from the Shenandoah Valley army, which Johnston had commanded, or from the army of the Potomac, under the orders of Beauregard, were formed into a single army, and took the name of the Northern Virginian army. General Johnston had the command-in-chief. It occupied a strong position on the heights of Centreville. Various corps were detached to the banks of the Potomac, where, by the aid of batteries, whose fire swept the river, they intercepted all navigation and effectively blockaded the Federal capital.

A division of this army, commanded by General T. J. Jackson*
was stationed in the Valley of Virginia, which he held against the
enemy. Another division, under General Holmes, guarded the
line of the Rappahannock, and formed the rear-guard of the whole
army.

* This distinguished officer, whose career was so short and brilliant, was a Virginian. A pupil of the Military School at West Point, he served a campaign in Mexico in 1846 and 1847. Shortly after he left the army. When the Civil War broke out he was a simple professor at the Virginian Military School, at Lexington. His offer of services having been accepted by the Confederate Government, he soon had an opportunity of displaying military talents of the first order.

During the autumn and winter the soldiers had to suffer much, chiefly from the dearth of provisions. To other privations was added a want of clothing and shoes. Johnston consequently had been obliged to content himself with remaining on the defensive, while yet foreseeing grave inconveniences. His lines of communication with Richmond were reduced to a single railway, one road only, which the enemy might at any moment intercept. Further, all his provisions and war-material had to be carried by a most detestable route from Manassas to Centreville.

It is astonishing, perhaps, that so enterprising a people as the Americans did not think of connecting the principal line and head-quarters by a temporary railway, as the Allies did in the Crimea. But the truth is that iron and rails for a railway were precisely what were wanting in the South. In the long run, even the repair of the roads had to be neglected, whence it happened that all service was performed badly and very slowly, causing great delay in the transport of provisions, and intolerable sufferings to the unfortunate wounded.

All the branches of the army were very inadequately furnished with capable men, the corps of engineers in particular. An appeal had to be made to civil engineers generally in order to fill the ranks. The enormous and sudden development which the army had taken rendered it necessary here, as elsewhere, to employ men who had neither the requisite aptitude nor experience. The staff also left much to be desired. The officers of the old United States army, who, having been born in the South, and having embraced its cause, ought to have served on the staff, were called to other duties in consequence of the extreme scarcity of officers possessing any education and knowledge. It was necessary, therefore, to improvise aides-de-camp with what was presented, and during the whole war, Lee, Johnston, and other generals had at their disposal only a very insufficient number of aides-de-camp, which was an immense disadvantage.

The arms furnished to the soldiers were not always good; but, for the moment, no remedy could be adopted. Those which they had could only be procured with great difficulty, and it was not till later, in consequence of important captures, and of deliveries of European arms, as well as of the factories and foundries of cannon created amid great difficulty by the Confederate Government, that the army was, in the end, better provided in this respect.

In spite of all these obstacles, the Northern Virginian army, in the campaign which opened shortly after, occupied from the outset, from the very first blow struck, the place which history will always assign it in the account of this memorable contest.

Few armies more than it, have had the right to be proud of themselves! All the youth of the South entered its ranks, and for four years it was the chief support of the Confederate cause.

In the days of discouragement, its heroic soldiers alone never doubted, and, victors or vanquished, their devotion to the South did not for a single instant give way. Starving, half-naked, shoeless, their feet lacerated by long marches, struggling against a powerful enemy superior to them in everything—courage excepted—these brave fellows remained faithful to the cause they had embraced to the last moment. As long as honour speaks to the heart of man, the remembrance of their acts will remain imperishable. The finest encomium that can be bestowed upon them has issued from the mouth of an adversary.

“Who can forget, that once looked upon it,” says Swinton, the Northern military critic, “that array of tattered uniforms and bright muskets, that body of incomparable infantry, the army of Northern Virginia, which, for four years, carried the revolt on its bayonets, opposing a constant front to the mighty concentration of power brought against it, which, receiving terrible blows, did not fail to give the like, and which, vital in all its parts, died only with its annihilation.”

On the 1st of March, 1862, this army extended its lines along the Potomac, from the Valley of Virginia to the environs of Fredericksburg. The rolls numbered 84,225 names, but there were only 47,617 able-bodied men present under arms.

In the list of division-generals were Jackson, Longstreet, Hill, Ewell, and among others less known, many who distinguished themselves later. Stewart, that magnificent Hotspur, commanded the cavalry, and Pendleton had the direction of the artillery.

Return to The Life and Campaigns of General Lee