An Aide-De-Camp of Lee
Charles Marshall

[Notes: Chapter 5]

1 McClellan had in fact decided to abandon White House from the time when he received news of Jackson’s advance against his right, and Porter’s fighting on the 26th and 27th had been to gain time to prepare the retreat to the James; but Lee did not know this.

2 Magruder and Huger have been much criticised for their failure to discover McClellan’s retreat earlier, but this criticism must now be tempered by the knowledge acquired during the Great War of the ease with which troops can be withdrawn unobserved from behind entrenchments. The most notable examples are the withdrawals from Suvla Bay and Cape Helles in the Gallipoli campaign; and there were many examples of the same thing in the Western Front.

3 Magruder, who expected Jackson to come up on his left flank, only attacked with two brigades, and two battalions of another, against Sumner’s army corps and was naturally repulsed. He had in fact surprised Sumner, but the premature opening of fire by a battery of Magruder’s artillery gave the Federals sufficient warning to make them prepare for defense. Lee, much disappointed at the want of vigor of Magruder’s pursuit, wrote to him that night: “General, I much regret that you have made so little progress to-day in the pursuit of the enemy. In order to reap the fruits of our victory the pursuit should be most vigorous. I must urge you then again to press on his rear, rapidly and steadily. We must lose no more time or he will escape us entirely.”

4 The Battle of Frayser’s Farm.

5 Huger was opposed by Slocum’s division, but was hardly engaged. Jackson and D. H. Hill were confronted by Franklin’s division, but made no serious attempt to cross White Oak Swamp. The brunt of battle was borne by Longstreet and A. P. Hill, who were opposed by the four divisions of Kearny, McCall, Sedgwick, and Hooker.

6 Spelled on most maps Frayser’s.

7 A somewhat similar letter from General Wade Hampton is given in Alexander’s The American Civil War, p. 149 et seq. Henderson, in a long defense of Jackson, vol. II, p. 60 et seq., maintains, first, that in attempting the crossing Jackson would have exposed infantry to undue loss, and secondly, that the crossing would from natural causes have been extremely difficult. In support of the latter statement he quotes a letter from Mumford. But Mumford says (Alexander, p. 149) that he later found a better crossing: “I know that I thought at the time that he could have crossed his infantry where we recrossed. I had seen his infantry cross far worse places, and I expected he would attempt it.” Hampton here shows that there were other and easier crossings of which Jackson was informed. The fact seems to be that, whether from fatigue or from some other cause, Jackson forgot his own maxim, “Never let up in a pursuit.”

8 This is another instance of the mistake of using a sound signal for an attack. Lee had told his generals that the signal for a general advance should be the famous rebel yell from Armistead’s brigade of Huger’s division. D. H. Hill believed he heard that signal, and so reported to Jackson, who directed him to attack. Lee appears not to have stopped the attack, because he took the retreat of the pickets in front of Armistead to be the beginning of a general withdrawal of the enemy. Perhaps also he was impatient at the loss of opportunities in the preceding days and had made up his mind to press the attack in any circumstances against an enemy whom he believed to be demoralized. The result was that a strong position was attacked piecemeal and the Confederates suffered a heavy repulse.

9 Early’s brigade.

10 These paragraphs are almost identical with General Lee’s dispatch. When he wrote them, Colonel Marshall had not seen the official figures of the Federal losses. The actual losses were: Federal, 15,849, Confederate, 30,135. The number of Federal missing was 6053, so that the prisoners did not amount to 10,000. The description which Colonel Marshall gives of the constant lack of co-operation between the parts of the Confederate army shows clearly that besides lack of information there was lack of experience. The Confederate Generals were engaged for the first time in manœuvring a large army, while many of the men were, as Colonel Marshall explains, little more than recruits. The blunders were many and were due to more than one cause, but the lessons of the Seven Days were taken to heart by Lee and his generals, and soon bore fruit.

A curious and dangerous neglect of the War Department in Richmond has never been explained. Though the Cofederate forces had been for a long time in the Peninsula, no maps had been issued to the Army. Lee was fairly well acquainted with the Peninsula as a whole and had a very complete knowledge of that portion across which he had planned that Jackson’s advance, from Asland Station should take place, for White House was his wife’s property, and he had ridden many times from it into Richmond by Cold Harbour, Gaines’s Mill, and Mechanicsville. Magruder too knew the ground well, for he had been for months in the Peninsula, but Jackson did not, and twice during the Seven Days his columns took wrong roads.