Four Years With General Lee, by Walter H. Taylor, Chapter 6

Four Years With General Lee

General Lee manœuvres to effect the Withdrawal of General McClellan’s Army.—Jackson engages Pope at Cedar Run, or Slaughter’s Mountain.—Removal of the Federal Army from James River.—The Second Battle of Manassas.—The First Invasion.—Operations in Maryland.—McClellan in Possession of Lee’s Order of Battle.—Boonesboro, or South Mountain.—Capture of Harper’s Ferry by Jackson’s Forces.—Battle of Sharpsburg.—General Lee retires to Virginia.—Incidents illustrating the Devotion to Duty and Great Self-Control of the Confederate Leader.

ALTHOUGH defeated, the army under General McClellan was still a formidable force, and was being constantly strengthened. Its proximity to the Confederate capital, and its unassailable position, the facility with which it could be transferred across James River for operations on the south side, the capacity of the North indefinitely to recruit its ranks, and of the Government to repair and increase its equipment, rendered the situation one of profound solicitude, and presented to the Confederate commander the alternative of remaining a passive observer of his adversary’s movements, or of devising a campaign which would compel the withdrawal of the hostile army from its position of constant menace.

With a just conception of the inordinate fear which possessed the mind of the Federal civil authorities for the safety of their capital, he concluded that seriously to threaten that city, either by strategic manœuvres or by a decisive blow struck at the army in its front, would be the surest way of effecting the removal of McClellan’s army from its position on James River.

With this view he sent General Jackson in advance with his two divisions, followed by that of A. P. Hill, to engage General Pope, who commanded the Federal army in Northern Virginia, intending, as soon as his anticipations of the effect of this move were realized, to follow promptly with the bulk of his army.

In vindication of his sagacity, information was soon received of the transfer of troops from McClellan’s army on James River to Washington.

Leaving two divisions of infantry and a brigade of cavalry at Richmond, he now moved with the rest of the army to join General Jackson, who had already presented a rebel front to the astonished gaze of Major-General John Pope, unaccustomed to such a sight, and had commenced at Cedar Run, on the 9th of August, that series of brilliant manœuvres and engagements which so dazed the Federal commander, and so startled and alarmed the authorities at Washington.

These movements culminated with a decisive victory for the Confederates, under General Lee, over the army under General Pope, on the plains of Manassas, on the 30th of August. In the series of engagements, “more than seven thousand prisoners were taken, in addition to about two thousand wounded left in our hands. Thirty pieces of artillery, upward of twenty thousand stand of small-arms, numerous colors, and a large amount of stores, besides those taken by General Jackson at Manassas Junction, were captured.”1

Vanquished at Manassas, General Pope next essayed to make a stand in the fortified lines about Centreville; but another détour by General Jackson, under General Lee’s orders, caused a further retreat in the direction of Washington, and in the early days of September the Federal army now embracing the combined forces of McClellan and Pope was retired within the line of fortifications constructed on the Virginia side of the river, for the protection of the Federal capital.

Barely three months had elapsed since General Lee took the field, and, behold! the position of the two hostile armies, with relation to their respective seats of government, was completely reversed; fortunately for that of the North, a wide and impassable river lay between it and the victorious army of the South.

With the battles of Cedar Bun, or Slaughter’s Mountain, and (second) Manassas, two more victories were recorded for Confederate arms, and another Federal general was added to the list of the discomfited.

The career of General Pope was as brief and remarkable, when contrasted with his blustering proclamations, as the movements of Generals Lee and Jackson, in bringing it to a grievous termination, were audacious and brilliant.


The field-return of the “Department of Northern Virginia” of the 20th of July, 1862, shows a total “present for duty” in that department of sixty-nine thousand five hundred and fifty-nine. Of this number the Army of Northern Virginia embraced but fifty-seven thousand three hundred and twenty-eight. The remaining twelve thousand two hundred and thirty-one were serving south of James River, and in North Carolina, and were included in the departmental returns, because that section of country was then comprised within the territorial limits of the department under the command of General Lee. This return, however, did not include Jackson’s command, consisting of his own and Ewell’s divisions, then near Gordonsville. The movements of these two divisions doubtless had prevented their making the formal returns usually required. Their effective strength could not have exceeded eight thousand.[2] Jackson was reënforced by A. P. Hill, early in August, whose division in the field-return of the 20th of July, mentioned above, showed, as “present for duty,” ten thousand six hundred and twenty-three; so that, with this reënforcement, General Jackson had available at the battle of Cedar Run eighteen thousand six hundred and twenty-three men. At that time General Pope had available the three corps of Banks, McDowell, and Sigel, numbering forty-three thousand men, according to his statement;[3] but only Banks’s corps and one division of McDowell’s corps were engaged.

When General Lee moved forward to join General Jackson he took with him the divisions of Longstreet, D. R. Jones, Hood, and Anderson, leaving in front of Richmond the divisions of D. H. Hill and McLaws, and two brigades under J. G. Walker.

A portion of the cavalry under General Stuart accompanied General Lee, leaving a brigade under General Hampton in front of Richmond.

The total present for duty of the cavalry arm of the service on the 20th of July was four thousand and thirty-five; probably fifteen hundred remained with Hampton, and twenty-five hundred accompanied General Lee. The present for duty in the artillery of the same date was thirty-two hundred and fifty-two; of this number certainly not over twenty-five hundred accompanied General Lee.

Besides the troops embraced in the return of the 20th of July, there were two brigades (Drayton’s and Evans’s) recently arrived from South Carolina, which joined General Lee previous to the battle. In a letter dated June 9, 1874, Major Henry E. Young, subsequently on the staff of the commanding general, but then adjutant-general of Drayton’s brigade, and also of the division composed of these two brigades, during its temporary command by General Drayton, states that the strength of the two brigades did not exceed four thousand six hundred present for duty.[4] Assuming this estimate to be correct, and taking the strength of the other commands as given on the return of the 20th of July, we have the following as the army under General Lee in the series of engagements that terminated with the second battle of Manassas:

At the opening of the campaign, General Pope had under his command in the field the three army-corps of Generals Sigel, Banks, and McDowell, numbering, according to the official returns, forty-seven thousand eight hundred and seventy-eight effective, as follows: First Army-Corps (Sigel’s), eleven thousand four hundred and ninety-eight infantry and artillery; Second Army-Corps (Banks’s), fourteen thousand five hundred and sixty-seven infantry and artillery; Third Army-Corps (McDowell’s), eighteen thousand five hundred and seventy-five infantry and artillery; cavalry, eight thousand seven hundred and thirty-eight; total, fifty-three thousand three hundred and seventy-eight, from which deduct detached commands and cavalry unfit for service six thousand five hundred, and there remains forty-seven thousand eight hundred and seventy-eight effective.[5]

Only Banks’s corps, and Rickett’s division of McDowell’s corps, were engaged at the battle of Cedar Kun, or Slaughters Mountain. General Pope estimates his loss in that engagement, in killed, wounded, and missing, at eighteen hundred.[6]

General Pope then received the following reënforcements: on the 14th of August, Reno’s corps of Burnside’s army; on the 23d of August, Reynolds’s division of Pennsylvania Reserves; and on the 26th and 27th of August, the corps of Heintzelman and Porter, of the Army of the Potomac.

In his report, General Pope puts these reënforcements at twenty-eight thousand five hundred, as follows: Reno’s corps, eight thousand; Reynolds’s division, twenty-five hundred; Heintzelman’s and Porter’s corps, eighteen thousand.[7] This would make his aggregate effective strength, previous to the second battle of Manassas, seventy-six thousand three hundred and seventy-eight; and, deducting the losses at Cedar Run, eighteen hundred, we have seventy-four thousand five hundred and seventy-eight as his total available force in the series of engagements which terminated with his defeat near Groveton—(second) Manassas—on the 30th of August.

In this enumeration no mention is made of Sturgis, Cox, or Franklin. A portion of Cox’s division was engaged at Manassas Junction, on the 27th of August; and Taylor’s brigade of Franklin’s division was defeated by the Confederates later on the same day, at the same place.

Although I have adopted General Pope’s figures (with the exception of Banks’s strength already referred to, where I followed the official return of General Banks), I cannot reconcile his statement of the reënforcements received with the other official data before me. He estimates the troops received from the Army of the Potomac, previous to the battle, viz., Heintzelman’s corps, Porter’s corps, and Reynolds’s division, at twenty thousand five hundred; he also puts the combined strength of Sumner’s and Franklin’s corps, which joined him after the battle, at nineteen thousand.

He thus makes it appear that all of McClellan’s army, except Keyes’s corps and Dix’s corps, numbered but thirty-nine thousand five hundred men, although he speaks of that army as the “ninety-one thousand veteran troops from Harrison’s Landing.” The two corps of Keyes and Dix, and the cavalry, could hardly account for the difference of fifty-one thousand five hundred.

On the 20th of July, 1862, less than one month before the removal of the Army of the Potomac from the Peninsula, the official return[8] of that army showed present for duty one hundred and one thousand six hundred and ninety-one men, as follows:

Engineer brigade, cavalry division, provost-guard, etc.     8,735
Second Corps, General Sumner   16,952
Third Corps, General Heintzelman   16,276
Fourth Corps, General Keyes   14,490
Fifth Corps, General Porter   21,077
Sixth Corps, General Franklin   14,014
Seventh Corps, General Dix     9,997
United States Signal Corps        150

General Dix remained at Fortress Monroe. General Keyes with his corps covered the embarkation at Yorktown; all the rest were moved to reënforce General Pope. General McClellan, having dispatched his corps successively at and near Fortress Monroe, followed with his staff on the 23d of August, and arrived at Aquia Creek the next day.

It will be seen that the combined strength of the Second and Sixth Corps (Sumner’s and Franklin’s) was thirty thousand nine hundred and sixty-six previous to the removal from the Peninsula to the front of Washington. When these two corps moved out to join General Pope, they numbered twenty-five thousand infantry,[9] although he only puts them at nineteen thousand. The combined strength of the Third and Fifth Corps (Heintzelman’s and Porter’s), on the 20th July, was thirty-seven thousand three hundred and fifty-three; and, assuming that the proportion of infantry in these corps was the same as in the Second and Sixth, their strength at Manassas should have been near thirty thousand. Porter’s corps alone embraced between twenty and thirty regiments, and eight batteries of artillery,[10] and two weeks later, September 12th, numbered twenty thousand.[11]

McCall’s division of Pennsylvania Reserves numbered on the 15th of June, 1862, nine thousand five hundred and fourteen effective;[12] its losses in the battles around Richmond were officially reported at three thousand and seventy-four,[13] so that it must have numbered about six thousand five hundred when it left the Peninsula to join General Pope, yet the latter reports this division but twenty-five hundred strong when it reached him.

Mr. Swinton, the author previously quoted, who enjoyed unusual facilities for obtaining accurate information in all matters pertaining to the Federal army, states in his “Campaign of the Army of the Potomac” that the force under General Pope, before he received any reinforcements, was “near fifty thousand men.” He also states (p. 179) that McDowell’s corps, Sigel’s corps, and Reynolds’s (McCall’s) division of Pennsylvania Reserves, on the 28th of August, made together “a force of forty thousand men.” If we add to this Banks’s corps, Reno’s corps, and the two corps of Heintzelman and Porter, it would appear that on the 28th of August General Pope must have had an available force of seventy-five or eighty thousand men.

On the morning of the 30th of August—the decisive day—after deducting the losses incurred in the engagements of the 27th, 28th, and 29th, General Pope reports his effective strength as follows:[14] McDowell’s corps, including Reynolds’s division, twelve thousand; Sigel’s corps, seven thousand; Reno’s corps, seven thousand; Heintzelman’s corps, seven thousand; Porter’s corps, twelve thousand; Banks’s corps, five thousand: total, fifty thousand. At no time in his operations against General Pope had General Lee so many men.

In addition to the troops enumerated above, the divisions of Sturgis and Cox, and the corps of Sumner and Franklin, were within an easy march of General Pope, but only joined him after his retreat to Centreville. Sturgis’s division numbered ten thousand; Cox’s division, seven thousand.[15] I have already given the strength of Sumner’s and Franklin’s corps. From first to last there must have been, according to the official returns, not less than one hundred and twenty thousand men in front of Washington to resist General Lee’s advance. General Pope puts his strength on the 1st of September at Centreville, after the fighting was over, at sixty-three thousand men. His losses in killed and wounded were very heavy, but his “missing” must have been enormous to account for this difference.[16]

Immediately after the victory of second Manassas, the Potomac was crossed, and the army under General Lee entered Maryland; Generals D. H. Hill and McLaws, who were left at Richmond, having been meanwhile directed to join the main army.

At Frederick City, information reached General Lee of the purpose of President Davis to follow in the rear of and join the army. To prevent a step so full of personal danger to the President, for the scouting and marauding parties of the enemy’s cavalry were active in our rear, I was dispatched to meet him and dissuade him from carrying out such intention; and I did not rejoin the army until the night previous to the battle of Sharpsburg.

At this time General Lee conceived his plan of operations, embracing the capture of Harper’s Ferry, and a subsequent concentration of the army to join issue in a grand battle with General McClellan, who had again vaulted into the headquarters-saddle of the Federal army, vacated by General Pope.

An order of battle was issued, stating in detail the position and duty assigned to each command of the army. General Jackson was to undertake the reduction and capture of Harper’s Ferry, and had assigned to him for this purpose his own two divisions, and those of A. P. Hill, Anderson, and McLaws. Longstreet’s two divisions, under Jones and Hood, and D. H. Hill’s division, remained to hold in check the army under McClellan pending Jackson’s operations.

It was the custom to send copies of such orders, marked “confidential,” to the commanders of separate corps or divisions only, and to place the address of such separate commander in the bottom left-hand corner of the sheet containing the order. General D. H. Hill was in command of a division which had not been attached to nor incorporated with either of the two wings of the Army of Northern Virginia. A copy of the order was, therefore, in the usual course, sent to him. After the evacuation of Frederick City by our forces, a copy of General Lee’s order was found in a deserted camp by a soldier, and was soon in the hands of General McClellan. This copy of the order, it was stated at the time, was addressed to “General D. II. Hill, commanding division.” General Hill has assured me that it could not have been his copy, because he still has the original order received by him in his possession. It is impossible, therefore, to explain how a copy addressed to General D. H. Hill was thus carelessly handled and lost.[17]

But what an advantage did this fortuitous event give the Federal commander, whose heretofore snail-like movements were wonderfully accelerated when he was made aware of the fact of the division of our army, and of the small portion thereof which confronted him![18]

The God of battles alone knows what would have occurred but for the singular accident mentioned; it is useless to speculate on this point, but certainly the loss of this battle-order constitutes one of the pivots on which turned the event of the war.

Notwithstanding this unfortunate circumstance, the stubborn and heroic defense of the South Mountain Pass by Longstreet and D. H. Hill, and Jackson’s complete success at Harper’s Ferry, including the gallant resistance made at Crampton’s Gap by portions of McLaws’s and Anderson’s commands[19] against the assaults of Franklin’s corps, enabled General Lee to unite his forces at Sharpsburg in time to give battle, on the 17th of September, to his old adversary; but under altogether different circumstances from such as were anticipated. Longstreet and D. H. Hill[20] in resisting the assaults of the bulk of McClellan’s army had suffered very heavily. Jackson had been compelled, after considerable fighting, to hasten from Harper’s Ferry (which place was surrendered to him on the 15th), by forced marches of extraordinary character, to join General Lee, who had remained with Longstreet. The route from Harper’s Ferry was strewed with foot-sore and weary men, too feeble to keep up with the stronger and more active; and, instead of going into battle with full ranks, the brigades were but as regiments, and in some cases no stronger than a full company.

After the affair at South Mountain, the commands of Longstreet and Hill w r ere retired to Sharpsburg, and were confronted on the 15th. by McClellan’s army, along the line of Antietam Creek, but were not seriously attacked until the next day.

On the afternoon of the 16th General McClellan directed an attack by Hooker’s corps on the Confederate left—Hood’s two brigades—and during the whole of the 17th the battle was waged, with varying intensity, along the entire line. When the issue was first joined, on the afternoon of the 16th, General Lee had with him less than eighteen thousand men,[21] consisting of the commands of Longstreet and D. H. Hill, the two divisions of Jackson, and two brigades under Walker. Couriers were sent to the rear to hurry up the divisions of A. P. Hill, Anderson, and McLaws, hastening from Harper’s Ferry, and these several commands, as they reached the front at intervals during the day, on the 17th, were immediately deployed and put to work. Every man was engaged. We had no reserve.

The fighting was heaviest and most continuous on the Confederate left. It is established upon indisputable Federal evidence that the three corps of Hooker, Mansfield, and Sumner, were completely shattered in the repeated but fruitless efforts to turn this flank, and two of these corps were rendered useless for further aggressive movements.[22] The aggregate strength of the attacking columns at this point reached forty thousand men,[23] not counting the two divisions of Franklin’s corps, sent at a late hour in the day to rescue the Federal right from the impending danger of being itself destroyed; while the Confederates, from first to last, had less than fourteen thousand men on this flank, consisting of Jackson’s two divisions, McLaws’s division, and the two small divisions, of two brigades each, under Hood and Walker, with which to resist their fierce and oft-repeated assaults.

As a wall of adamant the fourteen thousand received the shock of the forty thousand; and the latter, staggered by the blow, reeled and recoiled in great disorder.

The disproportion in the centre and on our right was as great as, or even more decided than, on our left.

Indeed, the drawn battle of Sharpsburg was as forcible an illustration of Southern valor and determination as was furnished during the whole period of the war, when the great disparity in numbers between the two armies is considered.

From such informal reports as were received at the time, and from my own observation and knowledge, I estimated the effective strength of the Confederate army at Sharpsburg at thirty-seven thousand men—twenty-nine thousand infantry and eight thousand cavalry and artillery.

But I am now satisfied, after reference to the official reports of the Maryland campaign, published by authority of the Confederate Congress, that my estimate was excessive. Fortunately, these reports are explicit, and enable me to determine, with almost absolute certainty, the effective strength of the army in the battle of Sharpsburg. From them the following statement of strength is derived:

The command of General Jackson embraced the division under General J. E. Jones and that under General Lawton. After General Lawton was wounded, the command of the latter division devolved upon General Early. General J. E. Jones reports the effective strength of his division to have been sixteen hundred[24] when the battle began. General Early reports the effective strength of his division as follows: Lawton’s brigade, eleven hundred and fifty; Hays’s brigade, five hundred and fifty; Walker’s brigade, seven hundred; and his own brigade, one thousand: total effective of the division, thirty-four hundred;[25] and the total effective of Jackson’s command was, therefore, five thousand men.

The command of General Longstreet, at that time, embraced the six brigades under General D. K. Jones, the two brigades under General Hood, and an unattached brigade under General K G. Evans. His other three brigades were temporarily detached, under General E. H. Anderson.

General Jones reports his strength to have been twenty-four hundred and thirty effective.[26] The strength of Hood’s division at the commencement of the campaign was thirty-eight hundred and fifty-two;[27] General Hood puts the losses of his division in its encounters with the enemy previous to the battle of Sharpsburg at fifteen hundred and twenty;[28] this, making no deduction for straggling, would make his effective in that engagement but twenty-three hundred and thirty-two. General Evans states that his brigade numbered twenty-two hundred effective at the opening of the campaign,[29] and reports his loss in the battles about Manassas at six hundred and thirty-one;[30] his brigade was also engaged at South Mountain, and could not have exceeded fifteen hundred effective at Sharpsburg. General Longstreet’s command, therefore, numbered six thousand two hundred and sixty-two effective. General D. H. Hill in his report puts his effective at three thousand[31] on the morning of the 17th. General R. H. Anderson’s division, embracing on this occasion the brigades of Mahone, Wright, Armistead, Wilcox, Pryor, and Featherston, and temporarily assigned to General D. H. Hill, is stated by the latter to have been three or four thousand strong; [32] call it thirty-five hundred.

General A. P. Hill’s command consisted of the brigades of Branch, Gregg, Archer, Pender, and Brockenborough. He states the strength of the first three at two thousand;[33] and allowing the average of seven hundred each for the other two, we have for his division a total effective of thirty-four hundred. The other brigade of this division (Thomas’s) was left at Harper’s Ferry.

The division of General McLaws consisted of the brigades of Kershaw, Barksdale, Semmes, and Cobb. He reports the effective strength of the four brigades to have been twenty-eight hundred and ninety-three.[34]

There remains but the small division of two brigades under General J. G. Walker; General Ransom states his effective strength at sixteen hundred;[35] General Walker does not give the strength of his brigade, but I have put it at sixteen hundred, on the authority of General Ransom, who says, “So far as my memory serves me, my brigade was stronger all the time than the other of Walker’s division.”

With the exception of the single brigade last mentioned, the following recapitulation is established upon indisputable and contemporaneous authority, being nothing less than the testimony of the commanding officers, as shown by their official reports, made at the time:

Longstreet’s command   6,262
Jackson’s command   5,000
D. H. Hill’s division   3,000
R. H. Anderson’s division   3,500
A. P. Hill’s division   3,400
McLaws’s division   2,893
J. G. Walker’s division   3,200
Total effective infantry 27,255

I cannot verify the estimate made for the cavalry and artillery, viz., eight thousand; but I am sure it is rather excessive than the reverse.

This would make General Lee’s entire strength thirty-five thousand two hundred and fifty-five.

General McClellan, in his official report, states that he had in action, in the same engagement, eighty-seven thousand one hundred and sixty-four of all arms.[36]

Those thirty-five thousand Confederates were the very flower of the Army of Northern Virginia, who, with indomitable courage and inflexible tenacity, wrestled for the mastery, in the ratio of one to three of their adversaries; and with consummate skill were they manœuvred and shifted from point to point, as different parts of the line of battle were in turn assailed with greatest impetuosity. The right was called upon to go to the rescue of the left; the centre was reduced to a mere shell in responding to the demands for assistance from the right and left; and A. P. Hill’s command, the last to arrive from Harper’s Ferry, reached the field just in time to restore the wavering right. At times it appeared as if disaster was inevitable, but succor never failed, and night found Lee’s lines unbroken and his army still defiant.

The weapon used was admirably tempered; but much as we may praise the blade, we should not forget the extraordinary skill and vigor with which it was wielded in that memorable engagement by the great Confederate leader.

The army of General McClellan had been too severely handled and was too badly broken to justify a renewal of the attack. In his testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, that officer said (“Report,” Part I., p. 441): “The next morning (the 18th) I found that our loss had been so great, and there was so much disorganization in some of the commands, that I did not consider it proper to renew the attack that day, especially as I was sure of the arrival that day of two fresh divisions, amounting to about fifteen thousand men. As an instance of the condition of some of the troops that morning, I happen to recollect the returns of the First Corps—General Hooker’s—made the morning of the 18th, by which there were about thirty-five hundred men reported present for duty. Four days after that, the returns of the same corps showed thirteen thousand five hundred. I had arranged, however, to renew the attack at daybreak on the 19th.”

The 18th of September, the day after the battle, passed therefore without any serious engagement. General Lee’s army, as may be inferred, was in no condition to take the offensive—and on the night of that day it recrossed the Potomac River into Virginia. A force sent by General McClellan to harass the Confederate rear-guard under General A. P. Hill, who had but two thousand muskets, had the temerity to cross the Potomac in pursuit. Hill promptly made his disposition for battle, and in an incredibly short time the attacking force of the enemy was wellnigh annihilated; such as were not killed, captured, or drowned in the river in their efforts to escape, reached the Maryland side in an utterly disorganized and demoralized condition.[37]

After these events, General Lee for some time recruited his army in the lower Valley of Virginia without molestation.


The official return of the Army of Northern Virginia, of the 22d of September, 1862, after our return to Virginia and when the stragglers left behind in the extraordinary marches in Maryland had rejoined their commands, shows present for duty thirty-six thousand one hundred and eighty-seven infantry and artillery; the cavalry, of which there is no report, would perhaps increase these figures to forty thousand of all arms.

The return of the Army of the Potomac, of the 20th of September, 1862, shows present for duty, at that date, of the commands that participated in the battle of Sharpsburg, eighty-five thousand nine hundred and thirty of all arms, as follows:[38]

General McClellan, staff, engineer brigade, etc.   1,393
First Army-Corps, General Meade 12,237
Second Army-Corps, General Sumner 13,604
Fifth Army-Corps, General Porter 19,477
Sixth Army-Corps, General Franklin 11,862
Ninth Army-Corps, General Burnside 10,734
Twelfth Army-Corps, General Williams   8,383
Cavalry corps, General Pleasanton   4,543
Detached commands at Frederick, Williamsport, and Boonesboro   3,697

This is exclusive of Crouch’s division of the Fourth Corps (seven thousand two hundred and nineteen), which reached General McClellan after the battle. The Federal loss at Boonesboro and Antietam or Sharpsburg was fourteen thousand seven hundred and ninety-four.[39]

Tidings readied General Lee, soon after his return to Virginia, of the serious illness of one of his daughters—the darling of his flock. For several day’s apprehensions were entertained that the next intelligence would be of her death. One morning the mail was received, and the private letters were distributed as was the custom; but no one knew whether any home news had been received by the general. At the usual hour he summoned me to his presence to know if there were any matters of army routine upon which his judgment and action were desired. The papers containing a few such cases were presented to him; he reviewed and gave his orders in regard to them. I then left him, but for some cause returned in a few moments, and with my accustomed freedom entered his tent without announcement or ceremony, when I was startled and shocked to see him overcome with grief, an open letter in his hands. That letter contained the sad intelligence of his daughter’s death.

The reader will probably ask why this incident is introduced here.

Although apparently without special significance, it illustrates one of the noblest traits of the character of that noble man. He was the father of a tenderly-loved daughter, one who appealed with peculiar force to his paternal affection and care, and whose sweet presence he was to know no more in this world; but he was also charged with the command of an important and active army, to whose keeping to a great extent were intrusted the safety and honor of the Southern Confederacy. Lee the man must give way to Lee the patriot and soldier. His army demanded his first thought and care; to his men, to their needs, he must first attend, and then he could surrender himself to his private, personal affairs. Who can tell with what anguish of soul he endeavored to control himself, and to maintain a calm exterior, and who can estimate the immense effort necessary to still the heart filled to overflowing with tenderest emotions, and to give attention to the important trusts committed to him, before permitting the more selfish indulgence of private meditation, grief, and prayer? Duty first, was the rule of his life, and his every thought, word, and action, was made to square with duty’s inexorable demands.

Scarcely less to be admired than his sublime devotion to duty was his remarkable self-control. General Lee was naturally of a positive temperament, and of strong passions; and it is a mistake to suppose him otherwise; but he held these in complete subjection to his will and conscience. He was not one of those invariably amiable men whose temper is never ruffled; but when we consider the immense burden which rested upon him, and the numberless causes for annoyance with which he had to contend, the occasional cropping-out of temper which we, who were constantly near him, witnessed, only showed how great was his habitual self-command.

He had a great dislike to reviewing army communications: this was so thoroughly appreciated by me that I would never present a paper for his action, unless it was of decided importance, and of a nature to demand his judgment and decision. On one occasion when an audience had not been asked of him for several days, it became necessary to have one. The few papers requiring his action were submitted. He was not in a very pleasant mood; something irritated him, and he manifested his ill-humor by a little nervous twist or jerk of the neck and head, peculiar to himself, accompanied by some harshness of manner. This was perceived by me, and I hastily concluded that my efforts to save him annoyance were not appreciated. In disposing of some case of a vexatious character, matters reached a climax; he became really worried, and, forgetting what was due to my superior, I petulantly threw the paper down at my side and gave evident signs of anger. Then, in a perfectly calm and measured tone of voice, he said, “Colonel Taylor, when I lose my temper, don t you let it make you angry.”

Was there ever a more gentle and considerate and yet so positive a reproof? How magnanimous in the great soldier, and yet how crushing to the subordinate! The rash and disrespectful conduct of the latter would have justified, if it did not demand, summary treatment at the hands of the former. Instead of this, the first man of his day and generation, great and glorious in his humility, condescended to occupy the same plane with his youthful subaltern, and to reason with him as an equal, frankly acknowledging his own imperfections, but kindly reminding the inferior at the same time of his duty and his position.


1 Extract from General Lee’s “Report,” p. 24.

[2] This estimate allows this division as much as it had in the seven days’ battles.

[3] General Pope’s “Report,” “Report on the Conduct of the War,” Part II, Supplement, p. 109.

[4] General Sorrel, the adjutant-general of Longstreet’s command, puts the strength of these brigades at four thousand five hundred when they marched from Gordonsville in 1862, just previous to the battle of Manassas. They were at that time made a part of General Longstreet’s command.

[5] Official return of the Army of Virginia of July 31, 1862; General Pope’s “Report,” “Report on the Conduct of the War,” Part II., Supplement, p. 118. It is proper to state that General Pope disputes the correctness of the return of Banks’s corps. In regard to this he says (p. 117): “Although I several times called General Bank’s attention to the discrepancy between this return and the force he afterward stated to me he had led to the front, that discrepancy has never been explained, and I do not yet understand how General Banks could have been so greatly mistaken as to the force under his immediate command.”

[6] Pope’s “Report,” p. 122.

[7] Ibid., pp. 122, 172.

[8] “Report on the Conduct of the War,” Part I., p. 344.

[9] See General McClellan’s dispatches, “Report on the Conduct of the War,” Part I. “Sumner has about fourteen thousand infantry, without cavalry or artillery, here” (August 28, 1862, p. 461).

“Franklin has only between ten thousand and eleven thousand ready for duty” (August 29, 1862, p. 462).

[10] General McDowell’s testimony, “Report on the Conduct of the War,” Part II., Supplement, p. 175.

[11] “Report on the Conduct of the War,” Part I., p. 39.

[12] Ibid., Part I., p. 345.

[13] From official report of casualties in the Army of the Potomac, “The American Conflict,” p. 168.

[14] General Pope’s “Report,” p. 156.

[15] Ibid., p. 139.

[16] “It is proper for me to state here, and I do it with regret and reluctance, that at least one-half of this great diminution of our forces was occasioned by skulking and straggling from the army. The troops which were brought into action fought with gallantry and determination, but thousands of men straggled away from their commands, and were not in any action.”—General Pope’s “Report,” p. 164.

[17] Colonel Tenable, one of my associates on the staff of General Lee, says in regard to this matter: “This is very easily explained. One copy was sent directly to Hill from headquarters. General Jackson sent him a copy, as he regarded Hill hi his command. It is Jackson’s copy, in his own handwriting, which General Hill has. The other was undoubtedly left carelessly by some one at Hill’s quarters.”

[18] “Upon learning the contents of this order, I at once gave orders for a vigorous pursuit.”—General McClellan’s testimony, “Report on the Conduct of the War,” Part L, p. 440.

[19] Cobb’s and Semmes’s brigades of McLaws’s division, and Mahone’s brigade of Anderson’s division.

[20] The resistance made by General D. H. Hill at South Mountain deserves more than a passing notice. On the 14th of September, with the brigades of Rodes, Garland, Colquitt, Anderson, and Ripley, numbering in the aggregate less than five thousand men, for six or seven hours he successfully resisted the repeated assaults of two corps of the army under General McClellan (Burnside’s and Hooker’s), fully thirty thousand strong. About 3 P.M. he was reënforced by the brigades of Drayton and Anderson, numbering nineteen hundred men, and later in the day was joined by General Longstreet, with the brigades of Evans, Pickett, Kemper, Jenkins, Hood, and Whiting; only four of these, however, numbering about three thousand men, became seriously engaged, and they not until dusk. Thus it will be seen that a force of less than ten thousand men held McClellan in check for an entire day.—“Reports of the Operations of the Army of Northern Virginia,” p. 112; “Report on the Conduct of the War,” Part I, p. 640.

[21] The command of General Longstreet consisted of the six brigades under General D. R. Jones, viz., Kemper, Pickett, Jenkins, George Anderson, Drayton, and Toombs, numbering, according to General Jones’s official report, twenty-four hundred and thirty men; two brigades under General Hood, numbering twenty-three hundred and thirty-two effective; and Evans’s brigade, fifteen hundred strong; making Longstreet’s total effective on the morning of the 16th of September six thousand two hundred and sixty-two. General D. H. Hill reports that he had but three thousand infantry in line of battle. General Jackson’s command, by the official report of the division commanders, is shown to have been but five thousand strong. The command of General Walker consisted of his own brigade and that of General R. Ransom. I am informed by the latter that the brigades numbered about sixteen hundred effective each, making thirty-two hundred for the two. It will thus be seen that the total effective infantry in line of battle on the 16th was but seventeen thousand four hundred and sixty-two.

[22] “General Hooker’s corps was dispersed; there is no question about that. I sent one of my staff-officers to find where they were, and General Ricketts, the only officer we could find, said that he could not raise three hundred men of his corps.

“There were some troops lying down on the left, which I took to belong to Mansfield’s command. In the mean time General Mansfield had been killed, and a portion of his corps (formerly Banks’s) had also been thrown into confusion.”—General Sumner’s testimony, “Report on the Conduct of the War,” Part I, p. 368.

[23] General Sumner’s testimony, “Report on the Conduct of the War,” Part I, p. 368.

[24] “Reports of the Operations of the Army of Northern Virginia,” p. 222.

[25] Ibid., pp. 190–196.

[26] Ibid., p. 219.

[27] “Return of the Army of Northern Virginia of the 20th of July, 1862,”chapter xiv.

[28] “Reports of the Operations of the Army of Northern Virginia,” p. 214.

[29] Ibid., p. 290.

[30] Ibid., p. 288.

[31] “Reports of the Operations of the Army of Northern Virginia,” p. 114.

[32] Ibid., p. 116.

[33] Ibid., p. 129.

[34] Ibid., p. 172.

[35] Ibid., p. 291.

[36] Extract from General McClellan’s “Report,” “The American Conflict,” p. 209.

[37] “A simultaneous, daring charge was made, and the enemy driven pell-mell into the river. Then commenced the most terrible slaughter that this war has yet witnessed. The broad surface of the Potomac was blue with the floating bodies of our foe. But few escaped to tell the tale. By their own account, they lost three thousand men killed and drowned from one brigade alone. Some two hundred prisoners were taken.”—A. P. Hill’s “Report.”

[38] See official return from the Adjutant-General’s office, United States Army, “Report on the Conduct of the War,” Part I., p. 492.

[39] Ibid., p. 42.

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