General Lee, by Fitzhugh Lee, Chapter 8

General Lee


GENERAL LEE and Mr. Davis were on the field on May 31st, and the latter was at once informed of General Johnston’s being wounded. Riding back with General Lee to Richmond that night, Mr. Davis told him he proposed to assign him at once to the command of the Confederate army defending Richmond, and would make out the order as soon as he reached the city. Accordingly, very early the next morning General Lee received the following:

RICHMOND, VA., June 1, 1862.

General R. E. Lee.

SIR: The unfortunate casualty which has deprived the army in front of Richmond of its immediate commander, General Johnston, renders it necessary to interfere temporarily with the duties to which you were assigned in connection with the general service, but only so far as to make you available for command in the field of a particular army. You will assume command of the army in eastern Virginia and in North Carolina, and give such orders as may be needful and proper.

Very respectfully,

On the reception of this note, General Lee published

Special Orders No. 22.


In pursuance of the orders of the President, General R. E. Lee assumes command of the armies of eastern Virginia and North Carolina. The unfortunate casualty that has deprived the army in front of Richmond of the valuable services of its able general is not more deeply deplored by any member of the command than by its present commander. He hopes his absence will be but temporary, and while he will endeavor to the best of his ability to perform his duties, he feels he will be totally inadequate to the task unless he shall receive the cordial support of every officer and man.

By order of General Lee.

W. H. TAYLOR, Assistant Adjutant General.

On June 2d Special Orders No. 126 were issued from the Adjutant and Inspector General’s office.

Special Orders No. 126.

RICHMOND, VA., June 2, 1862.

By direction of the President, General Robert E. Lee, Confederate States army, will assume the immediate command of the armies in eastern Virginia and North Carolina.

By command of the Secretary of War.

JOHN WITHERS, Assistant Adjutant General.

At an early hour on June 1st the Southern President rode to the front to direct, in person, General Smith to transfer the command of the army to General Lee, in order to relieve the latter from the embarrassment of first announcing this change. Later General Lee rode out, reaching the field about two o’clock, and formally assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia, which he was thereafter destined to lead against the Army of the Potomac on many hard-fought fields. Eighteen hours afterward General G. W. Smith, whose health had not been strong, was taken ill, and had to be relieved of all military duty.

At last, one year after the commencement of the war, Robert E. Lee was in active command of a large army in the field. His task was difficult, his responsibility great. The opposing hosts were thundering at the city’s gates. Inch by inch they had crept so close that spectators on the housetops could see their fire-fringed lines and hear the angry roar of their cannon. Upon his shoulders rested the safety of his capital. With quiet dignity he assumed his duties. The troops were immediately ordered back to their former stations, and the battle of Seven Pines was confided to the Muse of History. The next move on the military chessboard absorbed his immediate attention. The strongly constructed battle lines of his powerful enemy were uncomfortably close. McClellan had already commenced to strengthen his front at Seven Pines. Franklin’s corps was brought from the north to the south side of the Chickahominy and posted on the right of that portion of his line. On the left was Sumner, and to his left Heintzelman extended as far as the White Oak swamp. In their rear Keyes was in reserve. On the north or left bank of the Chickahominy Fitz John Porter’s corps was still stationed, near Gaines Mill, with McCall’s division of Pennsylvania reserves at Mechanicsville and on Beaver Dam Creek—eleven divisions in all. Richmond, McClellan’s coveted prize, was but five miles away. To reach it he had to pass over the lines of the Army of Northern Virginia. These lines were held by five divisions—A. P. Hill’s on the left at Meadow Bridge, Huger’s and Magruder’s next, supported by Longstreet’s and D. H. Hill’s. Lee at once considered the best manner to attack. The intrenchments in his front were too strong for a direct assault, so the only alternative left was to turn one or both of his enemy’s flanks. The Federal left was “defended by a line of strong works, access to which, except by a few narrow roads, was obstructed by felling the dense forests in front.” These roads were commanded to a great distance by heavy guns in the fortifications. The difficulties here were as great as would be encountered in a direct attack. The only way to get at McClellan was by assaulting his right, and the Confederate commander was not long in finding it out. In order to do this successfully he must fortify his lines, particularly his center and right, so that they could successfully resist any attack made upon them, while his left wing was withdrawn to be thrown on the Federal right and rear.

In Lee, as with McClellan, the military engineer was combined with the army commander. Earthworks were rapidly constructed. The topographical features of the country were scientifically made available; and ere many days had passed the Southern troops were everywhere behind strong intrenchments, while between them and the city was a line of more permanent works, which had been constructed some time before as a precautionary measure, and behind which the troops could be rallied if the first lines were successfully assailed. Almost every day now a soldierly looking man, clad in a neat but simple gray uniform, conspicuous by the absence of the wreath, gold braids and stars usually found on the uniforms of general officers, sitting his horse like a dragoon, might be seen riding along the lines. No long column of staff or couriers followed him, no display, no ostentation, none of the pomp of war. His enemy’s right was the place to attack, but where was it located and how was it defended? Were the roads leading to it obstructed, and were the woods “slashed,” or would the attacking column have to assault lunettes, redans, irregular pentagons, and inclosed redoubts? How was he to ascertain all this? Fortunately he had the very officer in his army who could obtain replies to these important questions, and he was the commander of his cavalry, James Ewell Brown Stuart, commonly called Jeb Stuart from the three first initial letters of his name. This distinguished cavalryman was a native of Patrick County, Va., a graduate at West Point of the class of 1854, and a soldier from the feathers in his hat to the rowels of his spurs. He was twenty-nine years old when Lee ordered him to locate McClellan’s right flank and in the full vigor of a robust manhood. His brilliant courage, great activity, immense endurance, and devotion to his profession had already marked him as a cavalry commander of unquestioned merit. He had the fire, zeal, and capacity of Prince Rupert, but, like him, lacked caution; the dash of Murat, but was sometimes rash and imprudent; was as skillful and vigorous as Frederick the Great’s celebrated cavalry leader, and, like Seidlitz, was willing to break the necks of some of his men by charging over rough ground if he made bold horsemen of the rest and gained his object. He would have gone as far as Cardigan, with “cannon to right of him, cannon to left of him, cannon in front of him.” He was a Christian dragoon—an unusual combination. His Bible and tactics were his text-books. He never drank liquor, having given a promise to his mother to that effect when a small boy, but when wet from the storm and wearied from the march he would drink, without cream or sugar, the contents of a tin quart cup of strong coffee. Duty was his guiding star. Once when on the eve of an expected battle he was telegraphed that his child was dying and urged to go to her, he replied: “I shall have to leave my child in the hands of God; my duty requires me here.” Lee knew him well. He had been a classmate at the United States Military Academy of his eldest son, and was his aid-de-camp when John Brown was captured. Such was the man who stood before his commander on June 11, 1862, to receive his instructions. The next morning, at an early hour, Stuart was in the saddle, and, with twelve hundred cavalry and a section of artillery, started to blaze the way for Stonewall Jackson’s descent on the right rear of the Federal army, and for an assault on the Federal right by the left wing of the Confederate army. That night he went into camp twenty-two miles north of Richmond. His line of march conveyed the impression that he had been sent to re-enforce Jackson in the Valley, but the next day the head of his column was turned eastward toward Hanover Court House, which he reached about nine o’clock, driving out a body of the enemy’s cavalry. Between that point and Old Church his advance squadron, under Captain Latané, met and charged a squadron of regular cavalry under Captain Royall. Latané was killed, and Royall severely wounded by a saber cut and his squadron put to flight. The Southern cavalry now followed rapidly to Old Church, where the Federal cavalry made another stand, but was soon driven from its position. Stuart was now far enough on the right flank of the Federal army to get all the information he desired. He could return only by the way he had marched, which would be attended with much danger, as the troops on that flank were thoroughly roused, or make the entire circuit of the Federal army. He determined upon the latter course, and, in defiance of many dangers and difficulties, succeeded in moving his whole command not only around the right of McClellan’s line of battle, but along his rear and around his left, bringing it in safety to the Richmond lines. It was hazardous, because any prolongation of McClellan’s left from White Oak swamp to James River would have cut him off from his own army.

This celebrated raid brought the Southern cavalry leader prominently before the public, and his rapid and successful march received favorable comment. From the left of his own army he had marched for Hanover Court House, Old Church, Tunstall’s Station, on the York River Railroad, and Talleysville, to the lower Chickahominy, where the road from Providence Forge to Charles City Court House crosses it thirty-five miles from Richmond. Finding that the bridge had been carried away by the swollen stream, he tore down an old barn in the vicinity, and, as rapidly as his men could work, threw over another bridge, upon which he crossed men and guns, returning to his quarters near Richmond, having been continuously in the saddle for thirty-six hours. The whole distance was traversed in forty-eight hours, with but a single halt after reaching the south bank of the Chickahominy. He was enjoined by Lee to “remember that one of the chief objects of the expedition is to gain intelligence for the guidance of future movements.”

The news of this expedition amazed the North. It did not understand how twelve hundred troopers could ride so close to the right, rear, and left of one hundred and fifteen thousand men in line of battle without being killed or captured. In his march he had crossed all roads leading to McClellan’s right, and located his lines of communication. General Lee’s General Orders No. 74 in part read:


The commanding general announces with great satisfaction to the army the brilliant exploit of Brigadier-General J. E. B. Stuart with part of the troops under his command. This gallant officer, with portions of the First, Fourth, and Ninth Virginia Cavalry, and part of the Jeff Davis Legion, with the Boykin Rangers and a section of the Stuart Horse Artillery, on June 13th, 14th, and 15th, made a reconnoissance between the Pamunkey and Chickahominy Rivers and succeeded in passing around the rear of the whole of the Union army, routing the enemy in a series of skirmishes, taking a number of prisoners, destroying and capturing stores to a large amount. Having most successfully accomplished its object, the expedition recrossed the Chickahominy, almost in the presence of the enemy, with the same coolness and address that marked every step of his progress, and with the loss of but one man, the lamented Captain Latané, of the Ninth Virginia Cavalry, who fell bravely leading a successful charge against a force of the enemy. In announcing the signal success to the army, the general commanding takes great pleasure in expressing his admiration of the courage and skill so conspicuously exhibited throughout by the general and the officers and men under his command.

General Lee had secured, by this brilliant exploit of Stuart’s, the information he desired. As early as June 8th he had suggested to the Secretary of War that “Jackson be prepared to unite with the army near Richmond, if called on.” The next day he announced to the Secretary of War “a glorious victory by the gallant Jackson and his troops,” and writes to him that re-enforcements should be sent to Jackson to enable him to take the offensive again. The 11th of June was a busy day. Lee first prepared the instructions to start Stuart on his expedition, and then wrote Jackson as follows:


Brigadier-General THOMAS J. JACKSON, Commanding the Valley District.

GENERAL: Your recent successes have been the cause of the liveliest joy to this army, as well as to the country. The admiration caused by your skill and boldness has been constantly mingled with solicitude for your situation. The practicability of re-enforcing you has been the subject of earnest consideration. It has been determined to do so at the expense of weakening this army. Brigadier-General Lawton, with six regiments from Georgia, is on the way to you, and Brigadier-General Whiting, with eight veteran regiments, leaves here to-day. The object is to enable you to crush the forces opposed to you, then leave your unavailable troops to watch the country and guard the passes covered by your cavalry and artillery and with your main body, including Ewell’s division and Lawton’s and Whiting’s command, move rapidly to Ashland by rail or otherwise, as you may find most advantageous, and sweep down between the Chickahominy and Pamunkey, cutting up the enemy’s communications, while this army attacks General McClellan in front. He will thus, I think, be forced to come out of his intrenchments, where he is strongly posted on the Chickahominy, and apparently prepared to move by gradual approaches on Richmond. Keep me advised of your movements, and, if practicable, precede your troops, that we may confer and arrange for simultaneous attack. I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

(Signed)     R. E. LEE, General.

On the same day, Lee writes to Randolph, the Secretary of War at Richmond:


Honorable GEORGE W. RANDOLPH, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.

SIR: It is very desirable and important that the acquisition of troops to the command of Major-General T. J. Jackson should be kept secret. With this view I have the honor to request that you will use your influence with the Richmond newspapers to prevent any mention of the same in the public prints. I am, most respectfully, your obedient servant,

(Signed)      R. E. LEE.

The Southern commander desired to give Jackson a sufficient force to enable him to fight a decisive battle in the Valley, and then, before his enemy could recover, watch him with a picket line while he reported at Richmond with the greater part of his effective forces. Lee wished the first information of the arrival of Whiting and Lawton to Jackson to be given to his enemy by a victory in the Valley. On this day, too, he published Special Orders No. 130, Headquarters, Northern Virginia, June 11, 1862, directing Brigadier-General W. H. C. Whiting, with two brigades of Smith’s division to be selected by himself, to report to General T. J. Jackson, commanding the Army of the Valley. He directed that this command be detached for temporary special service, and that it should move in light marching order. Three days after these various instructions were issued, General Lee decided that it would not do to wait for Jackson to fight before he should bring him to the army in front of Richmond, and told him to form a junction at once, and “to be efficacious, the movement must be secret.” This detachment of troops from Lee’s army, then in front of his powerful antagonist, did not produce in the Southern mind a feeling of uneasiness; so great was the confidence in the Southern leader that the movement, without knowing for what intended, was considered proper, timely, and judicious! Lee’s object was to render the diversion of McDowell from McClellan’s army more decided by re-enforcing the commander whose victories had already directed the attention of the Federal authorities from the capture of Richmond to their own security at Washington. Mr. Lincoln telegraphed McClellan on June 20th that Jackson is being heavily re-enforced from Richmond, and that he did not think he could send him more troops. Two days previous McClellan had informed Lincoln that some ten thousand troops from Lee’s army had been sent to Jackson, to which the Union President replied that if the report were true, it would be as good as a re-enforcement to him of an equal force, and that he would be glad to be informed what day he would attack Richmond. While these telegrams were being exchanged Jackson was rapidly moving to the support of Lee. The main portion of his army left the Valley on June 18th, marching by Charlottesville and Gordonsville, which latter place was reached on the 21st. Jackson, leaving his army to follow, took an express car accompanied only by his chief of staff, who, strange to say, was not a military man, but a Presbyterian minister and a professor in a theological seminary. When Sunday morning, June 22d, dawned, Jackson, with his ministerial aid, had reached Frederickshall, a point on the Central Railroad, now called the Chesapeake and Ohio, some fifty-two miles from Richmond. Being the Sabbath, and against his religious convictions to travel on Sunday, he left his car and went to a gentleman’s house and remained quiet that day, except that he attended camp services of some of the troops stationed near there in the afternoon. Not desiring to be transported to Richmond in a car, as he might be recognized, he determined to proceed the rest of his journey on horseback; and accordingly at one o’clock Monday morning he mounted a horse and started with a single borrowed courier for General Lee’s headquarters near Richmond, fifty-two miles away. He had requested Major Dabney to get from the senior officer an order to impress horses on the way, and also a pass, in case he should get into the pickets of General Lee’s army. At 3 P.M. on Monday, the 23d, he had covered the whole distance, and, travel-stained, dusty, and weary from riding all night, he participated in a conference called that afternoon by General Lee, of the commanding officers of the divisions he proposed should attack McClellan’s right and rear, namely, Longstreet, D H. Hill, and A. P. Hill. These officers, with Jackson, having received the instructions of the army commander, rejoined their respective commands. Perhaps if “Old Stonewall” had traveled to Richmond on his car, and been spared the loss of sleep and the all-night ride on the eve of a great battle, he would have swept around on A. P. Hill’s left in time to have saved the lives of many brave men at Mechanicsville and Beaver Dam Creek.

Jackson’s troops had been rapidly approaching Richmond since his departure. The night of the 25th his command was encamped in the vicinity of Ashland, on the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad, some sixteen miles from Richmond. Early on the morning of the 26th he moved easterly, crossing the Central Railroad below Hanover Court House about ten o’clock, and, taking the Mechanicsville road, camped for the night south of the Totopatomoy Creek at a place called Hundley’s Corner, some seven or eight miles northeast of Mechanicsville. He was thus getting well in the rear of the right of the Federal army. Lee’s preparations for assault had been completed. His battle order was as follows:


General Orders No. 75.

1. General Jackson’s command will proceed to-morrow from Ashland toward the Slash Church and encamp at some convenient point west of the Central Railroad. Branch’s brigade, of A. P. Hill’s division, will also to-morrow evening take position on the Chickahominy near Half-Sink. At three o’clock Thursday morning, 26th inst., General Jackson will advance on the road leading to Pole Green Church, communicating his march to General Branch, who will immediately cross the Chickahominy and take the road leading to Mechanicsville. As soon as the movements of these columns are discovered, General A. P. Hill, with the rest of his division, will cross the Chickahominy near Meadow Bridge and move direct upon Mechanicsville. To aid his advance the heavy batteries on the Chickahominy will at the proper time open upon the batteries at Mechanicsville. The enemy, being driven from Mechanicsville and the passage across the bridge opened, General Longstreet, with his division and that of General D. H. Hill, will cross the Chickahominy at or near that point, General D. H. Hill moving to the support of Jackson, and General Longstreet supporting General A. P. Hill. The four divisions—keeping in communication with each other and moving en echelon on separate roads, if practicable, the left division in advance, with skirmishers and sharpshooters extending their front—will sweep down the Chickahominy and endeavor to drive the enemy from his position above New Bridge, General Jackson bearing well to his left, turning Beaver Dam Creek and taking the direction toward Cold Harbor. They will then press forward toward the York River Railroad, closing upon the enemy’s rear and forcing him down the Chickahominy. Any advance of the enemy toward Richmond will be prevented by vigorously following his rear and crippling and arresting his progress.

2. The divisions under Generals Huger and Magruder will hold their positions in front of the enemy against attack, and make such demonstrations on Thursday as to discover his operations. Should opportunity offer, the feint will be converted into a real attack, and should an abandonment of his intrenchments by the enemy be discovered, he will be closely pursued.

3. The Third Virginia Cavalry will observe the Charles City road. The Fifth Virginia, the First North Carolina, and the Hampton Legion (cavalry) will observe the Darbytown, Varina, and Osborne roads. Should a movement of the enemy down the Chickahominy be discovered, they will close upon his flank and endeavor to arrest his march.

4. General Stuart with the First, Fourth, and Ninth Virginia Cavalry, the cavalry of Cobb’s Legion and the Jeff Davis Legion, will cross the Chickahominy to-morrow and take position to the left of General Jackson’s line of march. The main body will be held in reserve, with scouts well extended to the front and left. General Stuart will keep General Jackson informed of the movements of the enemy on his left and will co-operate with him in his advance. The Tenth Virginia Cavalry, Colonel Davis, will remain on the Nine-mile road.

5. General Ransom’s brigade, of General Holmes’s command, will be placed in reserve on the Williamsburg road by General Huger, to whom he will report for orders.

6. Commanders of divisions will cause their commands to be provided with three clays’ cooked rations. The necessary ambulances and ordnance trains will be ready to accompany the divisions and receive orders from their respective commanders. Officers in charge of all trains will invariably remain with them. Batteries and wagons will keep on the right of the road. The Chief Engineer, Major Stevens, will assign engineer officers to each division, whose duty it will be to make provision for overcoming all difficulties to the progress of the troops. The staff departments will give the necessary instructions to facilitate the movements herein directed.

By command of General Lee.

(Signed)      R. H. CHILTON,
Assistant Adjutant General.

Lee designed that Jackson should progress sufficiently far on the 26th to relieve A. P. Hill from any difficulty in capturing Mechanicsville. This being done, it would unmask the bridge at that point, and Longstreet and D. H. Hill could cross. The four commands, being thus united, with Jackson in advance and on the left, would flank the very strong position of the Federals on the left bank of Beaver Dam Creek, which emptied into the Chickahominy about one mile below Mechanicsville. But Jackson was one day behind time. He did not proceed from Ashland on the 25th, as ordered, because he arrived there only that night, and did not leave till the next morning. A. P. Hill, after waiting the greater part of the 26th for Jackson, grew impatient, and, fearing there might be a failure of the offensive plan, crossed the Chickahominy at Meadow Bridge at 3 P.M. and moved direct on Mechanicsville, hoping that as soon as he became engaged at that point Jackson would appear on his left and they would open the way for a union with D. H. Hill and Longstreet; and then these troops could all, as directed in General Lee’s order, “sweep down the north side of the Chickahominy.” They were to advance in two lines: Jackson on the left and A. P. Hill on the right of the first line, the former being supported by D. H. Hill and the latter by Longstreet. This movement rapidly and successfully executed would unmask the “new bridge” on the Chickahominy below, by means of which General Lee could reunite the left wing of his army with Huger’s and Magruder’s divisions on its right bank. The strategy was a repetition of that adopted by McDowell at the first Manassas, and afterward by Lee at Chancellorsville. After A. P. Hill drove the Federals out of Mechanicsville he found himself in front of the strongly intrenched lines on Beaver Dam, and the remainder of the afternoon of the 26th was occupied in attempting to carry them, assisted by Ripley’s brigade, of D. H. Hill’s division. The approach to the Federal position being over an open plain and exposed to a murderous fire of all arms, was not successful that night. Had Jackson been up he would have crossed the Beaver Dam Creek above the right of the Federal line that evening, as he did the next day, and thus prevented a great loss of life.

It has been said we were lavish of blood in those days, and it was thought to be a great thing to charge a battery of artillery or line of earthworks with infantry. On the morning of the 27th the attack was renewed at dawn. While it was in progress Jackson crossed the creek above, and the enemy at once abandoned his intrenchments, retiring rapidly down the river, destroying a great deal of property and leaving much in his deserted camps. As soon as the bridges could be repaired across the Beaver Dam, Lee’s left wing resumed its march. About noon the Federal troops were found in position behind Powhite Creek. This second line taken by Fitz John Porter was a strong one, and made more so by breastworks of trees and rifle trenches, while the crests of the position were crowned with artillery. General Lee says the approach to this position was over an open plain about a quarter of a mile wide commanded by a triple line of fire and swept by the heavy batteries south of the Chickahominy. Hill, still in advance, first encountered the enemy, was soon hotly engaged, and met the large force with the “impetuous courage for which that officer and his troops are distinguished.” The battle raged fiercely and with varying fortune for more than two hours. The attack on the Federal right being delayed by the length of Jackson’s march and the obstacles he encountered, Longstreet was directed to make a feint on the enemy’s left, which he soon converted into a real attack. Jackson arrived about this time, and, after a short and bloody conflict, his troops forced their way through the morass and obstructions and drove the Federals from the woods on the opposite side. Lee now ordered a general advance from right to left. The enemy’s breastworks were quickly stormed, and he was forced back with great slaughter toward the banks of the Chickahominy till night put an end to the pursuit. On the morning of the 28th there were no Federal troops in Lee’s front north of the Chickahominy. McClellan had united what was left of Porter’s corps with the rest of his army on the south side of that stream.

What would McClellan do now? Would he attempt to open communication with his base of supplies at the White House, or would he retreat down the Peninsula in the direction of Fort Monroe, skirting the James River, where he could be in communication with the Federal gunboats on that stream, or would he seek shelter at the nearest point on James River? If he attempted to go down the Peninsula or to fight for his line of communication on York River, Lee was on the proper side of the Chickahominy to meet such movements. Should he retreat in a direct line across the White Oak Swamp for James River it would be necessary for the Southern troops to get on the south bank of the Chickahominy as soon as possible in order to pursue. The seizure of the York River Railroad by Ewell’s division and a portion of the cavalry under Stuart convinced the Southern commander that McClellan had abandoned his York River base, and shortly afterward it was ascertained that there were no indications of a retreat down the James River. Lee then knew McClellan had determined to get to the James by the nearest practicable route. The Federal right had been so pounded to pieces that Lee did not fear an advance on Huger and Magruder, because in that case the victorious Southern legions would have been in his rear, and such an attempt would have resulted in the sacrifice of his army. The battle of Gaines Mill having been won and the future purpose of his enemy discovered, early on the 29th Longstreet and A. P. Hill were directed to recross the Chickahominy at New Bridge, while Jackson and D. H. Hill crossed at Grape Vine Bridge.

General Lee had now united his whole army south of the Chickahominy. That afternoon Magruder attacked the enemy near Savage Station, being the rear guard of a retreating army. The lateness of the hour and the small force employed did not produce a decisive result. On the next day, the 30th, at 4 P.M., the Union troops were again overtaken, and the battle of Frazier’s Farm, sometimes called Glendale, or Nelson’s, Farm, was fought by Longstreet and A. P. Hill. Huger did not get up, and Jackson was unable to force a passage through the White Oak Swamp. The battle raged from 4 till 9 P.M. By that time, General Lee says, his enemy had been driven with great slaughter from every position but one, which he maintained till he was enabled to withdraw under cover of darkness. Jackson reached the battlefield on July 1st, having succeeded in crossing the swamp, and was directed to continue the pursuit down the Willis Church road, and soon came upon the enemy, who occupied the high range extending obliquely across the road in front of Malvern Hill, a position of great natural strength. There McClellan had concentrated his artillery, supported by large masses of infantry, protected by earthworks. Immediately in the Federal front the ground was open, varying in width from a quarter to a half mile, sloping gradually from the crest, and completely swept by the fire of his infantry and artillery. General Lee in his report says: “To reach this open ground our troops had to advance through a broken and thickly wooded country, traversed nearly throughout its whole extent by a swamp passable at but few places, difficult at those. The whole was in range of the batteries on the heights and the gunboats on the river, under whose incessant fire our movements had to be executed.” Here the Federals were assaulted by portions of Jackson’s, D. H. Hill’s, Magruder’s, and Huger’s divisions, but from want of concert among the attacking columns, General Lee reports, their assaults were too weak to break the Federal line, and, after struggling gallantly and inflicting great loss, they were compelled successively to retire. Night was approaching when the attack began, and it soon became difficult to distinguish friend from foe. “The firing continued,” General Lee reports, “till after 9 P.M., but no decided result was gained. The lateness of the hour at which the attack necessarily began gave the enemy the full advantage of his superior position and augmented the natural difficulties of our own.” In these offensive movements the Southern cavalry under Stuart were directed to move to the left of Jackson, breaking the Federal lines of communication and giving notice of any attempt to get down the Peninsula. The greater part of McClellan’s cavalry, under Stoneman, which had been picketing on Porter’s right flank, was cut off from his army by the march of Jackson and Stuart, and, not being able to reach their troops, proceeded rapidly down the Peninsula. Stuart reached McClellan’s base at the White House on the 29th, to find it abandoned. On Stuart’s approach the greater part of the enemy’s stores were destroyed, but a large amount of property was rescued, including ten thousand stand of small arms, partially burned. Stuart took up his march to again place himself on Jackson’s left, reaching the rear of the Federals at Malvern Hill at the close of the engagement on the night of July 1st. The next day the Federals, having again retreated, were pursued by Lee, with his cavalry in front, in the midst of a violent storm, which somewhat retarded their progress. The Union troops, having retired during the night, succeeded in reaching the protection of their gunboats. At Westover on the James River, the approach to their front was commanded by the heavy guns of the shipping in addition to those mounted in intrenchments. In view of these facts General Lee deemed it inexpedient to attack him. His troops had been marching and fighting for seven days, and after remaining in close vicinity to McClellan’s army, on July 8th they were returned to their former position. In concluding his report of these engagements, General Lee says that “under ordinary circumstances the Federal army should have been destroyed. Its escape was due to the causes already stated. Prominent among these is the want of correct and timely information. This fact, attributable chiefly to the nature of the country, enabled General McClellan skillfully to conceal his retreat and to add much to the obstructions with which Nature had beset the way of our pursuing columns, but regret that more was not accomplished gives way to gratitude to the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe for the results achieved. The siege of Richmond was raised, and the object of a campaign which had been prosecuted after months of preparation at an enormous expenditure of men and money completely frustrated. More than ten thousand prisoners (including officers of rank), fifty-two pieces of artillery, and upward of thirty-five thousand stand of small arms were captured. The stores and supplies of every description which fell into our hands were great in amount and value, but small in comparison with those destroyed by the enemy.”

When McClellan’s army, worn with conflict and broken by defeat, reached, on July 2d, the plains of the James River, above Westover, had the Southern infantry moved along the route taken by the cavalry of Stuart, he might have been attacked again with every element of decisive success. During the night of the 1st Stuart’s celebrated horse artillery commander, Pelham, informed his chief that the Federal troops, after leaving Malvern Hill, had reached this position in a disorderly state, and that their position on the James River flats was completely commanded by a ridge parallel to the river called Evelington Heights. These heights commanded the enemy’s encampment, and, crowned with artillery and taken possession of by infantry, would have compelled, in all probability, McClellan’s surrender. Stuart forwarded Pelham’s report at once to the commanding general, and proceeded to gain these heights. A squadron of the Federal cavalry vacated them without much hesitation on his approach. Upon getting in sight of the enemy Stuart determined to send back for one of his howitzers to fire upon the enemy’s camp below. It was ascertained that the main body of the enemy were there much reduced and demoralized. These facts were promptly furnished to the commanding general, who in turn informed him that Longstreet and Jackson were en route to his support. Stuart held this ground from 9 A.M. till 2 P.M., when he was finally driven off by bodies of the enemy’s infantry, after the exhaustion of his howitzer ammunition. He held the heights as long as it was possible, till he learned that Longstreet had taken the wrong road, and was then at Nance Shop, six or seven miles off, and could not possibly reach him in time to secure them. It was suggested to Stuart by one of his officers not to occupy the heights in force, nor to fire cannon from them, because it would call the attention of McClellan to the great importance of securing and fortifying them (before Lee’s army could arrive), as necessary to his own protection. The cavalry commander disregarded this suggestion, and was driven from them. It seems absolutely certain that had Longstreet followed Stuart’s march, Jackson Longstreet’s, and the remainder of the army followed them, on July 2d, these heights could have been occupied by Lee’s army and McClellan’s command attacked and destroyed. The guns of the gunboats had to be so greatly elevated to fire over the banks of the river that the projectiles passed over the heights, so that the Southern army would not be much exposed to that fire, while a plunging fire from Lee’s batteries on the Federal troops in the plains below must have resulted most disastrously.[1]

McClellan, in a dispatch to Mr. Lincoln on the 4th, two days afterward, says: “We now occupy Evelington Heights, about two miles from the James, a plain extending from there to the river. Our front is about three miles long; these heights command our whole position, and must be maintained.”

The total losses to the Army of the Potomac in these seven days of conflict are put down at fifteen thousand eight hundred and forty-nine, and the list of casualties in the Army of Northern Virginia in the fights before Richmond, commencing June 22d and ending July 1, 1862, is placed at sixteen thousand seven hundred and eighty-two. The Southern losses were the greater because during the battles they invariably formed the attacking column, while the Federal troops fought more or less behind intrenchments.

It can not be denied that the retreat of McClellan from his position in front of Richmond to the James River was cleverly executed. After his right was rolled up the various positions selected to keep the Southern troops from destroying his army were well selected and ably defended. The Federal commander got unduly excited over what he supposed was the great preponderance of the Southerners in numbers, as well as over the re-enforcements which they were supposed to be receiving. On the night Stonewall Jackson encamped at Ashland McClellan told the Secretary of War by telegraph that he had received information from various sources that Beauregard and his troops had arrived in Richmond; and a half hour later he telegraphed Casey in command of his depot supplies at the White House that “it was said Jackson is coming from Fredericksburg with the intention of attacking the right flank soon.” Six and a half hours later, on the morning of the 26th, at three o’clock, he informed Mr. Stanton that his “impression was confirmed that Jackson would soon attack our right rear,” and added if he “had another good division he would laugh at Jackson.” At 9 A.M. on the morning of the 26th a negro servant who had been in the employ of some of the officers of the Twentieth Georgia was brought before him, and, after questioning him, he telegraphed Stanton, “There is no doubt that Jackson is coming upon us.” At midnight on June 24th he had informed Stanton that a “peculiar case of desertion had just occurred from the enemy.” The deserter stated that he had left Jackson, Whiting, and Ewell, and fifteen brigades at Gordonsville on the 21st, and that it was intended to attack his [McClellan’s] rear on the 28th, and asked for the latest information about Jackson. Mr. Stanton replied to him on June 25th, Jackson then being at Ashland, that he had no definite information as to the number or position of Jackson’s forces; that it was reported as numbering forty thousand men. He had also heard that “Jackson was at Gordonsville with ten thousand rebels. Other reports placed Jackson at Port Republic, Harrisonburg, and Luray, and that neither McDowell, who was at Manassas, nor Banks and Fremont, who were at Middletown, appear to have any knowledge of Jackson’s whereabouts.” On the day Jackson arrived at Ashland McClellan was engaged in pushing Heintzelman’s corps closer to the Richmond lines in prosecution of his general plan of advance. The night of the 25th, when Jackson was sleeping at Ashland, McClellan again telegraphed to the Secretary of War that he was inclined to think that Jackson would attack his right and rear, and that the rebel force was at least two hundred thousand; that he regretted his inferiority of numbers, but felt he was not responsible for it, and that if his army was destroyed by overwhelming numbers he could at least die with it and share its fate; that he felt there was no use in his again asking for re-enforcements. It seems that McClellan was deceived to some extent by the report of his chief of Secret-Service Corps. This was a corps one of whose objects was to question prisoners and deserters and ascertain in every other possible way the numbers of Lee’s army. He was fully convinced he had to fight two hundred thousand troops. Lee’s army numbered at the beginning of these combats eighty-one thousand. It was composed of thirty-nine brigades of infantry (twelve more, including those under Jackson, than General Johnston had when he relinquished the command at Seven Pines), six regiments and three battalions of cavalry, and sixteen batteries of reserve artillery (exclusive of those with the various infantry divisions). Fifty-three thousand Southern troops were massed on McClellan’s right, and constituted the force which attacked Porter’s command, numbering of all arms of service about thirty-six thousand men; while twenty-eight thousand Confederate troops stood between some seventy thousand of McClellan’s army on the south bank of the Chickahominy and Richmond. The certified morning reports of the Federal Army of the Potomac, dated June 20, 1862, gives 115,102 as the aggregate present for duty. Six days later, when the battles commenced, the force probably did not exceed one hundred and five thousand. If in round numbers we put it at one hundred thousand, Lee was outnumbered nineteen thousand. When McClellan discovered that his opponent had on the left bank of the Chickahominy two thirds of his army, but three courses were left to him: One, to re-enforce the three divisions of Porter. Another, to strengthen and fortify the position along Beaver Dam Creek, and, relying on Porter to hold at bay as long as possible Jackson, Longstreet, and the two Hills, boldly set in motion his four corps on the right bank of the Chickahominy for the coveted prize, his enemy’s capital. By destroying Huger and Magruder or crippling them, a portion of his troops could have kept them quiet, and then, facing about with the remainder, he might have marched to Porter’s assistance and possibly defeated Lee. It was hazardous, however. Richmond was not Austerlitz, nor McClellan Napoleon. Third, to rescue Porter from his enemy, get him safely across to the south side of the Chickahominy, and unite him with the rest of his army.

This plan, if it had been adopted before the Confederate attack, might have forced the Southern commander to attack his united army on the right bank. He decided to receive the attack in the position then occupied by Porter, and only withdrew him to the Richmond side of the Chickahominy after he had been badly hammered and had lost some six thousand men.

Perhaps if McClellan had known that he was fighting eighty-one thousand men, and not two hundred thousand, he might have acted with more confidence. Mr. Lincoln telegraphed June 26th that his suggestion of the probability of his being overwhelmed by two hundred thousand men, and talking about where the responsibility would belong, pained him very much. On June 27th McClellan began to realize that he was going to have some very serious work, and begged the Secretary that he would put some one general in command of the Shenandoah Valley and of all troops in front of Washington for the sake of the country. On the same day he complimented Porter for his fine efforts at Gaines Mill, says he looks upon the day as decisive of the war, and tells him to “try and drive the rascals, and take some prisoners and guns.” This was an hour or two before Porter’s defeat. General Hooker did not seem to be so confident, for about the same time he reported that he had just returned from the front, where “we have nothing but a stampede, owing to the behavior of the troops occupying the picket line. The first shot from a rebel was sufficient to start regiments.” Later that day Admiral Goldsborough, the flag officer of the Federal squadron on the James, was notified by McClellan that he had met with a severe repulse, and asked him to send gunboats up the James River to cover the left flank of his army.

The Washington War Secretary was confident of Federal success as late as the evening of June 29th, for he telegraphed Hon. William H. Seward, at New York, that his inference is, from what has taken place around Richmond, that McClellan will be in the city within two days; and the day after, to General Wool, at Fort Monroe, that McClellan had a favorable position near Richmond, and that it looked more like occupying that city than any time before. At 11.30 on the night of June 30th the Union army commander had begun to realize that his “change of base,” as he termed it, would not be attended with favorable results, and telegraphed Mr. Stanton that he feared he would be forced to abandon his material in order to save his men, under cover of the gunboats, and that if none of them escaped, they would at least have done honor to the country.

On July 1st his army was at Haxall’s plantation, on the James, and McClellan says he dreaded the result if he was attacked; that if possible he would retire that night to Harrison’s Bar, where the gunboats could aid in covering his position. “I now pray for time. We have failed to win only because overpowered by superior numbers.” On July 2d McClellan’s army had succeeded in reaching Harrison’s Landing. He told Mr. Lincoln that if he were not attacked during that day his men would be ready to repulse the enemy on the morrow. On the same day he received a dispatch from President Lincoln in that vein of humor for which he was remarkable. “If you think you are not strong enough to take Richmond just now, I do not ask you to. Try just now to save the army material and personnel, and I will strengthen it for the offensive again as fast as I can. The governments of eighteen States offered me a new levy of three hundred thousand, which I accepted.” And in a letter of the same date, in reference to sending him re-enforcements, Mr. Lincoln adds a postscript: “If at any time you feel able to take the offensive, you are not restrained from doing so.”

The respective commanders of the two armies decided to rest and recruit their forces. McClellan resumed the habit he contracted in West Virginia of issuing proclamations. On July 4th the following was read to his army from the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, camped near Harrison’s Landing.

SOLDIERS OF THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC: Your achievements of the last ten days have illustrated the ability and endurance of the American soldier. Attacked by vastly superior forces, and without hope of re-enforcements, you have succeeded in changing your base of operations by a flank movement, regarded as the most hazardous of military expedients, You have saved all your material, all your trains, and all your guns, except a few lost in battle. Upon your march you have been assailed day after day with desperate fury by men of the same race and nation, skillfully massed and led, and under every disadvantage of numbers, and necessarily of position also. You have in every conflict beaten back your foes with enormous slaughter.

*     *      *      *      *      *      *

(Signed)      GEO. B. MCCLELLAN,
Major General Commanding.

By a series of brilliant movements General Lee had driven an army superior to him in numbers from the gates of his capital, and had fully restored himself in the confidence of his people by the exercise of military genius and by his personal conduct and supervision of the troops on the battlefield. It might be said of him, as Addison wrote of the great Marlborough, that

His mighty soul inspired repulsed battalions to engage,
And taught a doubtful battle where to rage.

Or, as was written of Wellington, “no responsibility proved too heavy for his calm, assured, and fertile intellect. If he made a mistake, he repaired it before the enemy could profit by it. If his adversaries made one, he took advantage of it with immediate decision. Always cool, sagacious, resolute, reliant, he was never at a loss for expedients, never disturbed by any unforeseen accidents, never without a clear conception of the object to be achieved, and the best way of achieving it.”

The character of Lee is most apparent from his own words, only written for the eyes of the members of his family. When by his skill his brave soldiers had removed from the front of his capital McClellan’s army, in a letter to his wife he disposes of the matter in a few lines by saying, on July 9, 1862, from Dobb’s Farm, on the Nine Mile Road: “I have returned to my old quarters, and am filled with gratitude to our Heavenly Father for all the mercies he has extended to us. Our success has not been as great or complete as we could have desired, but God knows what is best for us. Our enemy has met with a heavy loss, from which it must take him some time to recover before he can recommence his operations.”

General Henry Clitz had been wounded and was a prisoner in Richmond. General Lee answered a letter in reference to him and other wounded prisoners:

HEADQUARTERS, July 15, 1862.

MY DEAR FITZ: I have just received your letter of the 13th. I am very sorry to hear of the sufferings of the wounded prisoners, and wish I could relieve them. I proposed to General McClellan on Tuesday, before the battle of that day, to parole and send to him all his wounded if he would receive them. Since that the arrangement has been made, and the sick and wounded are now being conveyed to him. This will relieve them very much, and enable us to devote our attention to those retained. In addition, the enemy has at last agreed to a general exchange of all prisoners of war, and Generals Dix and D, H. Hill are to meet to-morrow to commence the negotiations. I hope in this way much relief will be afforded; at first the hospitals were overtaxed, men could not be had to bury the dead, and the sufferings of all were increased. Friend Clitz ought to recollect that this is a matter of his own seeking, and he has only to blame himself. I will still be happy to do for him all I can, and will refer your letter to the director of the hospital if I can find him.

Your loving uncle,
R. E. L.EE.

General FITZ LEE.

The offensive tactics of the Confederate commander raised the siege of Richmond and the hopes of the South. From the various churches prayers ascended to the throne of the God of Battles, and humble supplications were offered for the cessation of hostilities.

The removal of McClellan’s army from the walls of Richmond brought great relief to its inhabitants; the blood of the bravest had been poured at their feet, the moans of the wounded had fallen upon their ears, and the dead lay silent and cold before their eyes. The war, had been brought to their hearthstones.

General Lee now proposed to transfer its horrors to fields at a greater distance from the Southern capital, for the proximity of a large hostile army still menaced its safety. McClellan had been driven from its gates, but Richmond was still his objective point. But two marches away there were encamped on James River ninety thousand men; twenty days after the battle of Malvern Hill it numbered 101,697—a grand army, well equipped with all the sinews of war, whose principal officers were men of undoubted courage and military ability.

Lee had three alternatives: First, to attack; second, to await an attack; third, manœuvre so as to threaten Washington and draw McClellan’s army from the vicinity of Richmond. The Army of the Potomac was now behind too much dirt, and had too many big guns in position on land and water to admit of an attack with reasonable hopes of success; and time was too precious to wait for it to get in condition to assume the offensive again, so Lee promptly decided to move it to a safe distance. Mr. Lincoln was naturally solicitous about the security of the Federal capital. After McClellan’s defeat he determined to do two things: One, to concentrate the commands which Jackson had scattered and put them under one officer, who should be charged with the guardianship of Washington; the other, to buckle to his side by day and night a military adviser in whose abilities he had confidence, and who should be commander in chief of all the Federal armies.

He was singularly unfortunate in the selection of the officers to fill these two important places. The forces of Fremont, Banks, and McDowell were united into what was termed the Army of Virginia, and its command was assigned to Major-General John Pope. This officer, a Kentuckian by birth and a West Point graduate, was then forty years old. When a captain of engineers in the United States Army he had been detailed as one of the army officers to escort Mr. Lincoln to Washington where he was to assume the duties of the presidency, and, it is presumed, did not fail to impress upon the President his qualifications for command. Pope had met with some success in the campaigns in the West, and was looked upon as a rising officer whose military capacity would be productive of great results, and ultimately seat him in McClellan’s saddle. On assuming his new command, it must be confessed he made a bad beginning, which was not attended with the usual good eliding. He was evidently deeply impressed with the idea that the war in Virginia had not been conducted properly, and that he had been brought from the West—where, as he said, he had only seen the backs of his enemies—to destroy the human race at the South generally, whether they were armed soldiers or unarmed citizens. There was a striking contrast between McClellan and Pope. The former had announced that private property and unarmed citizens should be protected, and that neither confiscation of property, political execution of persons, nor forcible abolition of slavery should be contemplated for a moment; the latter had ordered the arrest of all disloyal male citizens and their banishment from their homes unless they took the oaths of allegiance, threatening them if they should ever return that they would be visited with the extreme rigor of military law, and should their oaths be violated, the ofPenders would be shot and their property confiscated. He also directed that prominent citizens, however inoffensive they might be, should be seized on every side and held as hostages for Union soldiers captured by “roving bands.” The intimation to his soldiers that they were free to enter upon a campaign of robbery and murder against unarmed citizens and peaceful tillers of the soil produced a sensation in the army of Lee, which had been accustomed to encounter troops under leaders of a different type, and also a desire to get at Pope at the earliest moment. The North was not prepared at that date for such extreme measures. Men who at home would have shuddered at the suggestion of taking another’s property now appropriated remorselessly whatever came within their reach. The Southern President directed General Lee to say to the authorities at Washington that a cartel for the exchange of prisoners between the belligerents had just been signed by Generals Dix and D. H. Hill, representing their respective governments, stipulating that all prisoners hereafter taken will be discharged on parole till exchanged, and that Pope had violated it, because his orders contemplated the murder of peaceful inhabitants as spies; that innocent people had been seized, to be murdered in cold blood if any of his soldiers should be killed by unknown persons; and that, in consequence, neither Pope nor his commissioned officers, if captured, should be considered as prisoners of war. To this communication President Lincoln’s new military adviser replied that the communication of Mr. Davis, inclosed to him by General Lee, was couched in language exceedingly insulting to the Government of the United States, and that he [Halleck] must respectfully decline to receive it. Later it was stated that the Government disavowed these measures of the commander of the Army of Virginia. Pope was more or less ridiculed by soldiers on both sides for his bombastic declamations. He did not want to hear, he told his troops, of taking strong positions and holding them, of lines of retreat and bases of supply. His “headquarters” were reported “in the saddle,” and his army was to be launched upon a sea of strife without a compass. The safety of Washington, with which he was particularly charged, was to be secured by marvelous methods. He proposed to keep his army on the flank of any hostile force that approached it, because he thought that no commander would have the temerity to pass him, in the first place; and, in the second, if he should seek to attack him, he could lead him off in another direction, and was satisfied that if he had McClellan’s numbers he could march to New Orleans and dictate the terms of peace in the Crescent City.

General Lee early measured Pope, and when it became necessary to transact military business with him paralyzed him with movements as brilliant as they were bold, but which it is safe to say he would never have attempted against an army commander for whose military genius he had profound respect. In a letter from near Richmond, July 28, 1862, after telling Mrs. Lee: “In the prospect before me I can not see a single ray of pleasure during this war; but so long as I can perform any service to the country I am content,” he could not resist giving Pope a slight slap, and adds: “When you write to Rob again” (his youngest son, who was a private in the Rockbridge Battery) “tell him to catch Pope for me, and also to bring in his cousin Louis Marshall, who, I am told, is on his staff. I could forgive the latter fighting against us, but not his joining Pope.”

Out in the West, too, President Lincoln found his commander in chief, and on July 11th ordered that Major-General Henry W. Halleck be assigned to command the whole land force of the United States as general in chief, and that he repair to the capital. The Confederates were re-enforced by these appointments of Halleck and Pope. If the latter was, as Swinton, the historian of the Army of the Potomac, puts it, “the most disbelieved man in the army,” the former was a perpetual stumbling-stone in the path of the field commanders of the Federal army. His position was a most difficult one to fill. Mr. Lincoln’s attention was drawn to him by his past record. Halleck graduated at the United States Military Academy in the class of 1849, and was forty-seven years old when summoned to Washington. Like Lee, McClellan, and Pope, he was an engineer officer, but resigned in 1854 to practice law, and was so engaged in San Francisco, Cal., when the war began. General Scott had a high opinion of his ability. A lawyer, a soldier, and an author, he had written on both military and legal topics. He had many of the qualifications necessary for his trying office. This appointment was made by Mr. Lincoln immediately after a personal inspection of McClellan’s army on the James River. On that visit, July 8th, the Northern President ascertained that the Army of the Potomac numbered 86,500 men present and 73,500 absent to, be accounted for. The tri-monthly return for July 10th fixed the number of men present equipped for duty at 98,631. “To make this army march to Richmond with any hope of success it must be re-enforced by at least 100,000 good troops; any officer here whose opinion is worth one penny will not recommend a less number,” wrote one of his corps commanders on the day of this return, and strongly advised the removal of the army to Washington. Whether to re-enforce McClellan or Pope was the question. The former could not well be attacked in his fortified camp, nor could he assault with much prospect of success Lee’s lines, as they were much stronger now than when he was last in front of them. Burnside, who had been ordered from the South to re-enforce McClellan, was halted at Newport News, ready, as Mr. Lincoln informed McClellan on July 14th, “to move on short notice one way or the other when ordered.” By which he meant up the Potomac to Washington, or up the James to McClellan, and a week afterward he wrote McClellan that he would decide what he should do with Burnside in the next two or three days.

General Lee, decided the question for him. With watchful eye he had noticed the concentration of Pope’s army and its gradual extension into Virginia. He saw that it had passed McDowell’s battlefield, crossed the Rappahannock, and was getting too near to the important town of Gordonsville, where the railroad from Richmond met the one from Washington. He resolved to stop Pope, and, if possible, overwhelm him before he could be largely re-enforced by McClellan, for a victory over him would remove McClellan’s army to Washington. On July 10th Lee had 65,419 men, exclusive of the Department of North Carolina, which was under his command, or some 23,000 less than the army opposed to him. This fact did not deter him three days afterward from making the disparity of numbers still greater by sending a detachment of 8,000 men to Pope’s front. For the commander of this force Lee wisely selected Jackson, who was so aggressive and so swift in his movements that he would create a disturbance in the guardian army of Washington before his departure from Richmond would be known. Stonewall Jackson left Lee on July 13th with his old division and that of Ewell’s, both having been much weakened by hard marches and severe fighting. One week afterward Mr. Lincoln was informed by McClellan that he had heard Jackson had left Richmond by rail, going either toward Gordonsville or Fredericksburg, that the movement continued three days, and that he might be going against Buell in the West via Gordonsville, so as to leave the Petersburg and Danville roads free for the transportation to Lee of recruits and supplies. On the same day Pope reported to Lincoln that Ewell was at Gordonsville with six thousand men, and Jackson at Louisa Court House, but a few miles distant, with twenty-five thousand, and that his [Pope’s] advanced posts were at Culpeper and Madison Court House. Jackson, the bête noir of the Federal capital, was on the war path, and again produced consternation. Halleck hurried to McClellan, and had a personal interview on July 225th, urging upon him to attack Richmond at once, or he would have to withdraw him to re-enforce Pope. McClellan finally agreed to attack if Halleck would send him twenty thousand more troops, all that Halleck could promise. McClellan would not say, says Halleck, that “the probabilities of success were in his favor, but there was a chance, and he was willing to try it; that the force of the enemy was two hundred thousand; and that in this estimate most of his officers agreed.” His own effective force was ninety thousand, which, with twenty thousand re-enforcements, would make one hundred and ten thousand; and his officers were about equally divided in opinion in regard to the policy of withdrawing or risking an attack on Richmond.

Five days before Halleck’s visit General Lee’s army numbered 57,328. Estimating it at 60,000 when McClellan and Halleck were in conference, it is seen the former overestimated Lee’s strength only about 140,000. The interview between these two officers highest in rank in the Federal army was productive of temporary respect, confidence, and friendship. Halleck writes McClellan a few days afterward that “there was no one in the army under whom I could serve with greater pleasure.” McClellan replies: “Had I been consulted as to who was to take my place, I would have advised your appointment; and that if we are permitted to do so, I believe that together we can save this unhappy country and bring this war to a comparatively easy termination. The doubt in my mind is whether the selfish politicians will allow us to do so.” The next few days saw changes not only in the relations between these two officers, but in the plans and purposes of the contending forces. Jackson arrived at Gordonsville on July 19th, and at once began to consider the best way to strike Pope. Finding that his antagonist had practically concentrated the corps of Sigel (formerly Fremont’s), Banks’s, and McDowell’s, and had nearly six times his numbers, he wisely decided to apply to General Lee for more troops before he assumed the offensive. On July 27th Lee sent A. P. Hill’s division, which gave him an army of 18,623. While he could not hope to beat the whole of Pope’s army, numbering on July 31st, according to Pope, 40,358, or, if we accept the reports of the various corp commanders, 47,000 men, the disposition of these forces gave him an opportunity to strike a part of it. Banks was in advance at Culpeper Court House, with his cavalry picketing the line of the Rapidan. Jackson always availed himself of such opportunities, and promptly moved forward and crossed the Rapidan on August 8th. Pope, on learning of Jackson’s advance, ordered Banks to move in his direction from Culpeper Court House; so Jackson encountered him on the 9th about eight miles in front of that place, a short distance west and north of Slaughter Mountain near Cedar Run. A well-tested battle was fought, resulting in a victory for the Southern troops, their pursuit being stopped by night. Banks fell back to his old position north of Cedar Run, while Jackson remained in the field next day, and then, hearing that Banks had been heavily re-enforced, returned to the vicinity of Gordonsville. The Confederates sustained a loss of thirteen hundred officers and men, including General Charles Winder, of Maryland, one of the most promising and gallant soldiers of the South. Jackson mourned him as one of his most accomplished officers. “Richly endowed,” he wrote, “with those qualities of mind and person which fit an officer for commanding, and which attract the admiration and excite the enthusiasm of the troops, he was rapidly rising to the front rank of his profession. His loss has been severely felt.” By this movement Jackson, as usual, had rendered great service. The question whether to re-enforce Pope or McClellan was decided. Stonewall Jackson was in front of the army covering Washington. Halleck’s orders for the evacuation of the Peninsula by McClellan’s army must be carried out. Burnside, hanging for so long a time between McClellan and Pope, must go to Pope.

The anticipations of General Lee had been realized; it was now a race who should get to Pope first—the Army of Northern Virginia or the Army of the Potomac. The movements of the Southern general had been delayed because he did not desire to risk the detachment of too many troops from Richmond lines until he had a reasonable confidence that McClellan’s offensive operations were at an end. Four days after Jackson’s fight he determined to transfer the theater of action to Pope’s front, and accordingly ordered Major-General Longstreet, with ten brigades, commanded by Kemper, Jenkins, Wilcox, Pryor, Featherstone, D. R. Jones, Toombs, Drayton, and Evans, to Gordonsville, and on the same day Hood, with his own and Whiting’s brigades, was sent to the same place. Two days afterward—namely, August 15th—General Lee proceeded in person to join Longstreet and Jackson. He was distressed at being deprived of the services of Richmond, his cheval de bataille, in the approaching campaign. His favorite riding mare was a sorrel called Grace Darling. When the war began he had her sent down from Arlington to the White House. He writes that he heard of Grace. She was seen bestridden by some of the Federal soldiers, with her colt by her side, and adds that he could have been better resigned to many things than that. “I have also lost my horse Richmond.” (Presented to him by some citizens of Richmond.) “He died Thursday. I had ridden him the day before. He seemed in the morning as well as ever; but I discovered in the evening he was not well. I thought he was merely distressed by the heat, and brought him along very slowly. Finding at bedtime he had not recovered, I had him bled, which seemed to relieve him. In the morning he was pronounced better; at noon he was reported dead. His labors are over and he is at rest. He carried me very faithfully, and I shall never have so beautiful an animal again. His fate is different from Grace’s, and to his loss I can easily be resigned. I shall want but few horses more, and have as many as I require.”

Three days after Longstreet, and one day after Lee left, McClellan telegraphed (August 16th) Halleck: “Movement has commenced by land and water. All sick will be away to-morrow night. Everything being done to carry out your orders. I do not like Jackson’s movements. He will suddenly appear when least expected.” It is apparent that General Lee was confident of McClellan’s withdrawal, or he would hardly have left in person or detached Longstreet from Richmond. On Lee’s departure, General G. W. Smith, who had returned to duty, was left in command with his own division and that of D. H. Hill (at Petersburg commanding the Department of North Carolina), as well as McLaw’s and R. H. Anderson’s divisions and Hampton’s cavalry brigade; but on the 15th Lee telegraphed to Mr. Davis requesting him to order R. H. Anderson’s division to him, and on the 17th General G. W. Smith was ordered to join him also. The great value of time was appreciated by the Southern leader. It was his plain duty to force Pope to accept battle before he was joined by the whole of McClellan’s army. When Pope discovered that Lee was marching to fight him he fell back behind the line of the Rappahannock, though he thought that river was too far to the front, because, he said, “the movements of Lee were too rapid and those of McClellan too slow to make it possible with his force to hold that line, or to keep communication with Fredericksburg without being turned on my right flank by Lee’s whole army and cut off altogether from Washington.” He was told that in two days more he would be largely re-enforced by the Army of the Potomac, and would not only be secure, but strong enough to assume the offensive. He was instructed, he reports, to hold on there, “and fight like the devil.” Lee therefore found Pope on the Rappahannock, with his right at the Waterloo Bridge and his left at Kelly’s Ford. He had stretched down the river as far as he well could so as to keep his communication open with Fredericksburg, from which point Burnside and Fitz John Porter’s corps of the Army of the Potomac were coming. Lee was anxious to get at Pope at once, but there was a river rolling between them. From “Camp near Orange Court House,” August 17, 1862, he wrote: “Here I am in a tent instead of my comfortable quarters at Dobbs’s ” (his headquarters in front of Richmond). “The tent, however, is very comfortable, and of that I have nothing to complain. General Pope says he is very strong, and seems to feel so, for he is moving apparently up to the Rapidan. I hope he will not prove stronger than we are. I learn since I have left that General McClellan has moved down the James River with his whole army. I suppose he is coming here, too, so we shall have a busy time. Burnside and King from Fredericksburg have joined Pope, which, from their own report, has swelled Pope to ninety-two thousand: I do not believe it, though I believe he is very big. Johnny Lee saw Louis Marshall after Jackson’s last battle, who asked him kindly after his old uncle, and said his mother was well. Johnny said Louis looked wretchedly himself. I am sorry he is in such bad company, but I suppose he could not help it.”[2]

Lee promptly decided to destroy the railroad in Pope’s rear so as to capture re-enforcements and supplies from the direction of Washington and Alexandria, for he knew that the portion of McClellan’s army which should be transferred by water would take that route to join Pope. This duty he intrusted to his chief of cavalry, J. E. B. Stuart, who had been commissioned as a major general on July 25th. Three days thereafter his cavalry was organized into a division consisting of two brigades under Wade Hampton and Fitz Lee: Hampton’s, the First North Carolina Cavalry, Cobb Legion Cavalry, Jeff Davis Legion, Hampton Legion, and the Tenth Virginia, while Fitz Lee’s brigade consisted of the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth Virginia Cavalry. When these new operations commenced, Stuart, leaving Hampton on the Richmond lines, moved Fitz Lee’s brigade to the Rapidan, while he went by rail to join General Lee at Orange Court House for consultation. After his consultation with General Lee, Stuart proceeded to Verdierville, on the road from Orange Court House to Fredericksburg, where he had expected to find Lee’s brigade on the evening of the 17th, a proceeding which came very near resulting in the capture of himself and staff. Not finding the brigade as contemplated, he sent one of his staff officers in the direction he expected to meet it to conduct it to his headquarters. A body of the enemy’s cavalry, which had started on a reconnoissance the day before, was marching in that direction, and into their ranks in the darkness of the night Major Fitzhugh, of his staff, rode, and was captured. On his person was found an autograph letter from General Lee to Stuart, disclosing the design of turning his left flank. Stuart and his staff proceeded to pass the night on the porch of an old house. He was awakened at dawn by the sounds of approaching horsemen; sent two of his aids off in that direction to find out who was coming, and walked out to the front gate, bareheaded, to greet, as he supposed, his brigade commander; but in another instant he heard pistol shots and saw Mosby[3] and Gibson rapidly returning, pursued by a party of the enemy. He and the rest of his staff then rushed back, jumped over the fence, and made across the fields to the nearest woods. They were pursued only a short distance. When the pursuit stopped, Stuart returned to a point where he could observe the house, and saw the enemy departing with his cloak and hat, which he had been compelled to leave on the porch where he had slept. Stuart’s hat was generally a conspicuous one, having a broad brim looped up on one side, over which always floated large black feathers, and for many days thereafter he was subject to the constant inquiry of “Where’s your hat?” The brigade commander he had expected did not understand from any instructions he received that it was necessary to be at this point on that particular afternoon, and had marched a little out of his direct road in order to reach his wagons and get from them a full supply of rations and ammunition. After Stuart reached the army, to the brigade he brought from Richmond was added another which had previously served in the Valley, and was commanded by General Beverley Robertson, which consisted of the Second, Sixth, Seventh, Twelfth, and Seventeenth Battalions of Virginia cavalry. Having detached a regiment under Munford to operate on the left of the army, Stuart crossed the Rapidan on the 20th with Fitz Lee’s brigade and the remainder of Robertson’s, and proceeded at once to drive the Federal cavalry from out of the section between the Rapidan and Rappahannock Rivers, across the latter stream. Lee now began to extend his left, and on the 22d and 23d Jackson moved up the Rappahannock River to the Warrenton Springs ford. Stuart started on his mission, crossing at Waterloo Bridge, a point above Warrenton Springs, and, moving by way of Warrenton, reached the vicinity of Catlett’s Station, twelve miles in Pope’s rear, after dark. The rain fell in such torrents and the night was so dark that it was not possible for him to damage the road to any great extent. At that point was encamped the whole reserve, baggage, and ammunition train of Pope’s army as well as his headquarters tent and personal effects. Stuart captured a number of officers and men, a large sum of money in a safe in one of the tents, dispatches and other papers of Pope’s office, and his personal baggage. Had it not been raining so hard the destruction of the railroad bridges and of the track itself, as well as an immense number of wagons, would have seriously crippled Pope, and the object of the expedition would have been accomplished. He was obliged to withdraw before daylight, and returned to his army at Warrenton Springs the next day, bringing back with him over three hundred prisoners. Pope now ascertaining that Lee was turning his attention to a flank movement on his right, began extending his lines up the river. The Southern commander was not content with what had been done by Stuart, and determined to execute the same movement on a larger scale, which would have the effect of severing Pope’s communications with his base of supplies and compel him to leave the lines of the Rappahannock.


[1] The only reference known to the loss of this great opportunity by the Southern army is to be found in the valuable work entitled Four Years with General Lee, by Colonel Walter Taylor, his distinguished adjutant general.

[2] Louis Marshall, son of his sister, who remained on the Federal side, and was a member of General Pope’s staff; Johnny Lee was General Lee’s nephew, and met Marshall under a flag of truce after the fight at Cedar Mountain.

[3] John S. Mosby, afterward the famous partisan officer.

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