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Allen P Tankers ley 


Mr. and Mrs J W. Tankersley 
















Copyright by 



Printing and Bookbinding Company 

201 &> 2 13 East Twelfth Street 


From the PRINCE DE JOINVILLE (Francois d'Orleans). 

I firmly believe that your book will live as a true and able record of one of the most 
gigantic and stubborn military efforts. . For me, whose fortune it was to be as- 
sociated with the infancy of the Army of the Potomac, and who spent so many happy 
days in the field with her, I have read with emotion the long account of her deeds, 
trials, suffering, and final success, so feelingly told ; and I thank you for the satis- 
faction I experienced. 


It is a great subject you undertook in writing the history of the Army of the 
Potomac. But I knew your ability and candor so well as to feel assured you would 
treat the great theme as it deserved. In this I have not been disappointed, for I dis- 
cern the vastly different character of your excellent and judicially considered History 
from the great mass of ephemeral productions on the subject. 

From PROF D. H. MAHAN, late Professor of Engineering at West Point. 

Mr. William Swinton, in his work, " Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac," 
has not only shown himself the worthy Polybius of that army, but has placed him- 
self on a level with our best modern lay military historians. 


If any one will know the mechanism and anatomy of battle, let him read our 
American Napier, William Swinton. 


I have read your "History of the Army of the Potomac," and consider it the most 
valuable addition to the military criticism of the War that has yet appeared in 
print. By one who has been so long identified with that army as myself it can readily 
be perceived that you have endeavored to write the truth. I may add that I believe 
the Army of the Potomac has been fortunate in its historian, and that your array of 
facts will not hereafter be surpassed in accuracy. 


It tells the story nearly as it is believed to-day by the honest actors in the scenes 
and incidents which it narrates. It is a matter of astonishment to me that you have 
been able to make so impartial an account. 


You have put forth a truthful record — a new era in American military writers. 
" You need not fear what man can do to you." 

The fairest and most careful of the Northern writers on the war. 


The exciting scenes and stirring events of the battle-fields have been quite graphically 
described by many writers, but by none so far, as I have seen, with greater ability or 
more impartiality than by Mr. William Swinton in his two works. . Upon the 

whole I regard these two works from his pen as the best and most accurate chronicle 
of the military operations which he undertook to describe that I have met with from 
any quarter. 


This history of the defeats and the triumphs of that great 
army which, for four years, maintained in Virginia the cause 
of the Union against the chief armed force of Secession was 
first published in 18M3. 

Though meeting a favorable reception from most of those 
best qualified to judge of its deserts, the book, through a mis- 
hap of publication, ere long disappeared from " the market," 
and for more than a decade it has been practically unprocur- 
able. Still there has been all the while a demand for it suffi- 
cient to indicate that it was not yet quite ready to go into 
Time's " wallet for oblivion " ; and recently things have so 
shaped themselves that it is now possible, under favorable cir- 
cumstances, to make resuscitation of the " Army of the 

In preparing the book for reissue I have taken occasion to 
make correction of a considerable number of minor faults of 
matter and manner, and in the Appendix will be found some 
addenda for which the foot-notes did not afford space. 

"While engaged in the revision, I have read most of the 
authoritative works bearing on the history of the Army of the 


Potomac which have appeared since ISfif.. It is no small 
satisfaction to find many of my conclusions confirmed by his- 
torians of greater ability, writing under more favorable oppor- 
tunities of information and criticism. It was my chief aim 
(as stated in the Preface) to present " army-verdicts," and 
it is pleasant to find after sixteen years a very general acqui- 
escence in the justness of these verdicts. And I may add that, 
had I the "Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac " to make 
over again, though I hope I should bring to the expression of 
its judgments more balance and moderation, the judgments 
themselves would not be materially modified. The picture 
might differ in coloring; the drawing would remain in its 
chief lines the same. "\\ T S. 

Brooklyn, October, 18S3. 


It is Dot without diffidence that I give to the world a volume in 
eluding within its single self the history of events so vast and com- 
plicated, so little understood and so greatly misunderstood, as 
those that filled up the momentous four years during which the 
chief armies of the North and the South fought the war of secession 
to an issue upon the soil of Virginia. Yet, I should not have at- 
tempted the task, had I not been met both by an inward prompting 
in the desire to speak truly of actions and men whereof there has 
been hitherto little else than false witness, and by outward solici- 
tations, in the possession of such a mass of documentary material 
as it seldom falls to the writer of contemporaneous history to 

While the Army of the Potomac was yet in the field, there were 
many who, believing that I would in time make fitter record of the 
doings and sufferings of that army than was possible in the brief 
chronicles which it was my duty to prepare for the press, began 
even then to furnish me with oral and written information. And 
no sooner had the war closed, and it was known that I had ad- 


dressed myself to this work in earnest, than, from all sides, reports, 
dispatches, and memorials poured in upon me. It soon came about 
that, respecting every important action of the Army of the Potomac, 
there were brought to my hand, not only the manuscript official re- 
ports of its corps, division, and brigade commanders, but, for the 
illustration of its inner life and history, a prodigious mass of me- 
moirs, private note-books, dispatches, letter-books, etc. In addition, 
I have had the benefit of the memory and judgment of most of the 
chief officers ; and, both from these and others, have had so many 
proofs of their kindly solicitude that nothing which could be of 
use to me should be wanting, that I have been led to believe they 
did not regard me as entirely unworthy to record the history of 
their army. 

For the elucidation of the deeds of the Army of Northern Vir- 
ginia, the mighty rival of the Army of the Potomac, my sources of 
information have been scarcely less ample. These embrace the 
complete " Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia," and many 
manuscript reports and documents kindly forwarded to me. I have 
also had the advantage of full conversations with most of the chief 
commanders of the Confederate army ; and I think the result cannot 
fail to appear in the explanation of many things hitherto wrongly 
interpreted, many things hitherto wholly incomprehensible. 

I have seldom needed to refer for the corroboration of statements 
to what 1 personally saw ; and indeed the individual knowledge of 
any one man respecting such actions as were waged in Virginia, is 
necessarily slight. But that which has been of such use that with- 
out it the history of the Army of the Potomac never could have been 
written, is the power, gained by personal experience in the field, of 


testing the truth of written evidence by a reference to the actual 
conditions under which warfare was made in Virginia. Nor is it ot 
less value to have known the private judgments upon events of that 
great body of instructed officers that adorned the Army of the Po- 
tomac. As these judgments took shape from the deeds themselves 
under the very circumstances of their performance, I hold them to 
be sounder than any that are hereafter likely to be rendered. 
Hence I have garnered these with care, endeavoring to make this a 
record of the army-verdicts on men and things. It will be safe to 
presume tnat whatever is of worth in this book has this origin. 

It is probable that the estimates here rendered of the successive 
commanders of the Army of the Potomac, may in some cases be 
found to run counter to, and in other cases to be a reversal of, popu- 
lar estimates. I must say, in justice to myself, that if some com- 
manders are here exalted above the place they have hitherto held 
in popular esteem, and others brought down to a lower place, 
it is because I dared not judge one commander by one standard, 
and another by another. Whatever criticism I have made on men 
has resulted from the reference of their actions to the test of those 
simple principles to which almost all great military questions may 
be reduced. Those, therefore, who would impugn these judgments 
must in justice first impugn the reasoning on which they are 

I desire to call attention to the maps and plans, which, though 
on a small scale, are entirely reliable. They have been prepared 
with great care, by Colonel W H. Paine, of the engineer staff of 
the Army of the Potomac. I particularly instance those illustra- 
tive of Grant's campaign from the Eapidan to Petersburg. The 


lines of works marked thereon arc derived from the government 
surveys, and the angles indicated are correct. They will prove 
highly interesting and instructive to military students. 

To a distinguished officer I owe a special acknowledgment for 
the invaluable gift of the unpublished consolidated monthly returns 
of the Confederate army from the commencement to the close of 
the war. 

The notes in support of the text are made very ample, especially 
touching all disputed points. As, with a few well-known excep- 
tions, the sources of information are entirely manuscript, it has not 
been thought necessary to state this fact in each individual case. 

W S, 
ri£W foEK, April, 1866. 






I. War in Embryo 26 

II. McClellan in Western Virginia 34 



I. Organization of tlie Army of the Potomac 60 

II. Plans of Campaign 68 



I. Before Yorktown 99 

II. From Yorktown to the Chickahominy 112 

III. Confederate Strategy on the Chickahominy and in the Valley of 

the Shenandoah 121 

IV. The Battle of Fair Oaks 128 

V The Seven Days' Retreat 140 





I. Removal of the Army from the Peninsula 167 

II. Pope's Retrograde Movement 175 

HI. Jackson's Flank March , 177 

IV The Second Battle of Manassas 182 

V Exit Pope 192 



I. Manoeuvres Previous to Antietam 194 

II. The Battle of Antietam 208 

m. Close of McClellan's Career 225 



I. Change of Base to Fredericksburg 230 

II. The Battle of Fredericksburg 238 

HI. Abortive Movements on the Rappahannock 255 



I. The Army under Hooker - 267 

II. The Passage of the Rappahannock 270 

III. At Chancellorsville — Friday 276 

IV. Jackson's Flank March — Saturday 283 

V. Sunday's Action at Chancellorsville 292 

VI. The Storming of the Heights 296 

VII. The Coup de Grace 299 

VIII. Observations on the Battle of Chancellorsville 3Q3 





I. Theory of the Confederate Invasion 308 

II. Manoeuvres to Disengage Hooker 312 

III. Hooker's Retrograde Movement 316 

IV. Across the Border 320 

V Concentration on Gettysburg 325 

VI. Gettysburg— First Day 328 

VII. Gettysburg— Second Day 342 

VHI. Gettysburg— Third Day 356 

IX. The Confederate Retreat 366 



I. The March to the Rapidan 373 

II. The Flank March on Centreville 376 

HI. Mine Run 390 

IV. The Army in Winter-quarters 398 



I. Combinations of the Spring Campaign 402 

II. The Battle of the Wilderness 413 

IH. The Lines of Spottsylvania 440 

IV. Co-operative Movements on the James and in the Shenandoah Val- 
ley 460 

V From Spottsylvania to the Chickahominy 470 

VI. The Battle of Cold Harbor 481 

Vfl. Observations on the Overland Campaign 489 



I. The Change of Base 497 

II. The Army before Petersburg 507 

HL The Lines of Petersburg 515 


IV The Mine Fiasco 518 

V. Leu's Diversion «~5 

VI. Summer and A utumn Operations against Petersburg and Richmond. 529 

VII. Observations on the Siege of Petersburg 5-Vj 

VIII. Sheridan's Operations in the Valley 554 



I. The Circle of the Hunt 565 

H. Lee's Initiative 573 

III. The Armies Unleashed 578 

IV. Five Forks and Petersburg 596 

V. The Retreat and Pursuit 604 

VI Closing Scenes 614 

Appendix. G25 

Inlex. 64o 



Map of Bull Run (opposite) 46 

Map of the Peninsula " 100 

Sketch of the Siege of Yorktown 101 

Sketch of the Siege of Williamsburg 113 

Sketch of Fair Oaks 132 

Sketch of Gaines' Mill 149 

Sketch of Malvern Hill 160 

Map of Pope's Campaign (opposite) 176 

Sketch of Manoeuvres on Antietam 199 

Map of Antietam . . (opposite) 208 

Map of Fredericksburg " 238 

Map of ChanceUorsville " 276 

Sketch of Manoeuvres on Gettysburg 325 

Map of Gettysburg, first and third days (opposite) 328 

Map of Gettysburg, second day " 342 

Map of the Wilderness " 414 

Map of Spottsylvania " 442 

Map of North Anna " 472 

Map of Cold Harbor " 484 

Map of Country around Petersburg and Richmond " 508 

Map of Final Operations " 578 

Map of Lee's Retreat and Grant's Pursuit " 608 


Lieutenant-General U. S. Grant. 
Major-General G. B. McClellan. Major-General A. E. Burnside. 
Major-General J. Hooker. Major-General G. G. Meade. 





So soon as the passionate rushing to arms that succeeded 
the bombardment and fall of Fort Sumter had indicated that 
a great war was upon the sundered sections of the American 
Union, it became manifest that Virginia was marked out as 
the principal theatre of the impending conflict. The tidings 
of what had happened in the harbor of Charleston found that 
State assembled at Bichmond in high debate on the question 
of Secession ; and then whatever there was in its councils of 
what men called " Unionism" or conservatism was hushed, 
and in wild tumult Virginia was voted out of the Union and 
into the Confederacy. 

This, Virginia voted on the 16th of April, 1861 ; but from 
her eyes was hid what else she voted — to wit, a war destined 
to redden all her streams, to desolate her fertile fields, to cut 
off the flower of her young men, and to leave her at its 
close prostate and impoverished. 

When Virginia linked her destiny with the Confederacy, 
those who controlled the Secession revolution signified their 
appreciation of the accession of that ancient and powerful 
Commonwealth by transferring to her chief city the capital of 


the Confederate government; and whereas that government 
had borne the name " provisional" at Montgomery, at Rich- 
mond it assumed to itself the style and title of " permanent." 
Thus marked out as a seat of war by virtue of being the 
administrative centre of the insurgent power, Virginia was 
furthermore marked out as the main seat of war by her 
geographical relations as a frontier State. For upon her 
secession the Potomac, her northern boundary, became, for all 
the region between the Atlantic and the Alleghanies, the 
dividing Hue betwixt those " points of mighty opposites," the 
North and the South, — names which, hitherto of no more than 
political import, now assumed the new and dread significance 
of belligerent Powers. 

Thus, by her will and by fate, Virginia became the Flanders of 
the war. And already, from the moment the events in Charles- 
ton harbor made war flagrant, armed men, in troops and bat- 
talions, hurried forward, from the North and from the South, 
to her borders. An equal fire animated both sections. Pres- 
ident Lincoln called for seventy -five thousand men ; Mr. Davis, 
for a hundred thousand, — armies of a proportion never before 
seen on the Western continent. Yet such was the spontaneous 
alacrity with which on each side the summons was obeyed, 
that within the space of a few weeks, these limits were greatly 
overpassed, and an additional call for a half million men on 
the part of the North, and a levy en masse on the part of the 
South, met a like response. Then by that new agent of trans- 
portation which has revolutionized military operations no less 
than the movements of commerce, the volunteers were quickly 
conveyed to Virginia from points so distant and divergent 
as to strike the imagination with wonder. It is estimated 
that for many weeks after the first call for troops, armed 
men arrived in Richmond, from all parts of the South 
at the rate of from fifteen hundred to two thousand daily; 
and the multitude poured forth from the populous North was 
not less, but greater. Prom the loyal States, the point of 
concentration was Washington, where for a time the gather- 
ing force held a simply defensive attitude : then bursting the 


barrier of the Potomac, it launched itself upon that soil which 
the men of Virginia fondly named " sacred," and the history 
of the Army of the Potomac began. 

I design in this volume to record, as far as may now be 
done, what that Army did and suffered in ten campaigns and 
two-score battles, in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. 
This history, if adequately made, must be the history also of 
much the larger part of that gigantic war that, originating in 
the secession of eleven States from the Federal Union, ended, 
after four years, in the establishment of that Union on a last- 
ing basis. For though this conflict assumed continental pro- 
portions and raged around a circumference of many thousand 
miles, it was observed that its head and front ever remained 
in that stretch of territory between the Potomac and the 
James, and between the Blue llidge and Chesapeake Bay 
Here, from the start, each belligerent, as by common consent, 
concentrated its richest resources ; here, throughout the 
struggle, each continued to sustain its greatest armies, under 
its ablest commanders : and never for a day did it lose its 
military primacy in the eyes of either party to the conflict. 
It is estimated that out of the half million men who met death, 
and the two million who suffered wound in the war — the losses 
of both sides, and the casualties of all the battles and sieges 
over the whole continental field of action, being included — 
above one-half this appalling aggregate belongs to the Army 
of the Potomac and its adversary. These losses are the sum- 
ming up of a series of campaigns and battles as grand in their 
proportions as any on record, waged with a remorseless 
energy, wrought out with all the resources that modern art 
has devised to make war deadly, and fought under peculiar 
conditions, upon a theatre peculiar in its character. That 
theatre is Virginia — a colossal canvas whereon moving masses 
and the forms of wrestling armies appear. 

The history of the War for the Union would set forth that 
majestic exhibition of power by which a free people, without 
military traditions, created great armies, waged a national 


war, and subdued an internal revolt of a magnitude without 
parallel. The scope of this volume is more restricted, and 
embraces the story of one alone of these armies, though the 
main one. 

I shall have to trace how this force arose, and its first essays 
and failures ; how it grew into the shape and substance of an 
army ; and how it then entered upon campaigns bloody, in- 
decisive, and protracted. 

I shall have to show how this army, losing again and again 
the component parts of its structure, — thinned by death, and 
wounds, and wasting disease, and tilled up again and again by 
the unquenched patriotism of the people, — never lost its indi- 
vidual being, but remained the Army of the Potomac still ; 
and I shall have to follow those changing phases that 
the life of an army, not less than the life of an individual, 

I shall have to celebrate the unswerving loyalty of this 
army, that, ofttimes when the bond of military cohesion failed, 
held it, " unshaked of motion," to a duty self-imposed. 

I shall have to follow it through a checkered experience, in 
a tale commingled of great misfortunes, great follies, and 
great glories ; but from first to last it will appear, that amid 
many buffets of fortune, through " winter and rough weather," 
the Army of the Potomac never gave up, but made a good 
fight, and finally reached the goal. 

Nor can there fail to arise the image of that other Army 
that was the adversary of the Army of the Potomac — and 
which who can ever forget that once looked upon it ? — that 
array of " tattered uniforms and bright muskets" — that body 
of incomparable infantry, the Army of Northern Virginia — 
which for four years carried the Ptevolt on its bayonets, 
opposing a constant front to the mighty concentration of 
power brought against it ; which, receiving terrible blows, did 
not fail to give the like ; and which, vital in all its parts, died 
only with its annihilation. 

Of this drama there will be no other hero than the Army of 
the Potomac itself ; for it would seem that in this war of the 


people it was decreed there should arise no imperial pres- 
ence to become the central figure and cynosure of men's eyes. 
Napoleon, in an outburst of haughty eloquence, exclaims 
that in the great armies of history the Commander was every 
thing. " It was not," says he, " the Eoman army that con- 
quered Gaul, but CaBsar ; it was not the Carthaginian army 
that made Rome tremble at her gates, but Hannibal ; it was 
not the Macedonian army that marched to the Indus, but 
Alexander ; it was not the Prussian army that defended Prus- 
sia for seven years against the three most powerful S^ ates of 
Europe, but Frederick." This proud apotheosis has no appli- 
cation for the Army of the Potomac. And one must think 
— seeing it never had a great, and generally had mediocre 
commanders — it was that it might be said, that whatever it 
won it owed not to genius, but bought with its blood. 

I must now add, that it would be to fail to draw some of the 
most important lessons furnished by the history of the army 
whose deeds form the subject-matter of this volume, if I 
should fail to set forth the relations of that army with the 
central authority at Washington. The conduct of a war under 
a popular government introduces new conditions into the 
established military system and traditions, and greatly com- 
plicates the duties of the commander. Now the history of the 
Secession war affords a new and enlarged exhibition of the be- 
havior of a representative executive suddenly charged with 
the direction of great military affairs. While a sense of justice 
will suggest the exercise of much lenience in the judgment of 
an Administration called to a difficult task, it is none the less 
incumbent on the historian to point out errors and follies that 
cost much. 

In the campaigns of the Army of the Potomac there is pre- 
sented a remarkable unity, both as regards the theatre of 
operations and the objective of operations. The theatre was 
Virginia ; the objective, Richmond. The first military aspira- 
tion of the North expressed itself in the vehement cry, " On 
to Richmond :" and when, after many battles and campaigns, 



— more than the wisest foresaw,— [Richmond fell, the structure 
of the Confederacy fell with it. 

But though the sphere of action is in the main bounded by 
the geographical limits of the State of Virginia, it resulted 
from the fact of the war assuming twice on the part of the 
insurgent force an aggressive character, that its area must be 
extended so as to include a part of the territory of the contig 
uous Spates of Maryland and Pennsylvania. This circum 
stance does not destroy, however, the unity of the zone within 
which the armies of the Potomac and of Northern Virginia 
operated. The battles of Antietam and Gettysburg — the two 
actions out of the limits of Virginia — were fought in the nar- 
row salient of a great triangle, having the southern boundary 
line of Virginia as its base, the Shenandoah and Cumberland 
valleys as its western side, and the Susquehanna Kiver and 
Chesapeake Bay as its eastern side. From its apex, this tri- 
angle measures seven hundred and fifty miles on its mountain- 
side, and about three hundred miles on its eastern side, with 
five hundred miles on its base line. 

Now if it be considered that within this comparatively 
restricted space, two great armies manoeuvred and fought 
during the protracted period of four years, and that for all 
that time, though surging backwards and forwards, each main- 
tained its essential vantage-ground, there will arise the in- 
ference, either that the operations were conducted with little 
vigor, or else that there must have been some peculiar condi- 
tions that shut out victory from sooner declaring itself on the 
one side or the other. 

But the former supposition is excluded by the palpable evi- 
dence, notorious to all the world, of the long record of bloody 
battles, and the terrible aggregate of losses sustained, in this 
conflict of Americans with Americans. 

It results therefore that we must seek in the alternative the 
explanation of a historic fact seemingly so unaccountable. I 
shall briefly set forth some of the leading elements that enter 
into this problem as it stands related to the theatre of opera- 
tions in Virginia and the conditions of warfare upon that 


theatre. A proper appreciation of these conditions will help 
to explain the many bloody but indecisive battles that char- 
acterized the Virginia campaigns, and must modify the con- 
clusions of those who, from a distance, vainly seek to apply 
European principles and precedents to warfare in a region 
affording hardly one element of legitimate comparison. 

From the Potomac, as base, to Richmond, on the left bank 
of the James, as objective, the distance is one hundred and ten 
miles ; and it is to be noted, first of all, that in this zone an 
army upon the defensive has its operations facilitated, while 
an army assuming the offensive has its operations rendered 
difficult, from the fact that the watershed being towards the 
coast, all the rivers cross any line of manoeuvre against Rich- 
mond. These rivers are : the Occoquan, formed by the union 
of Bull Run and Cedar Run ; the Rappahannock, swelled by 
the converging tides of the Rapidan and Hedgman rivers ; 
the Mattapony, which results from the confluence of four 
streams, named the Mat, the Ta, the Po, and the Ny ; the 
Pamunkey, formed by the union of the North and South 
Anna ; and the Chickahominy, which has its embouchure in 
the James. The Confederates found eligible lines of defence 
along these rivers, which they used to great advantage, from 
the time when, at the opening of the war, Beauregard formed 
his array along Bull Run, to when, almost four years there- 
after, Lee disputed with Grant the passage of the Chick- 
ahominy, and compelled the Union commander to seek a new 
base south of the James. 

The mountain system of Virginia is thrown off on the 
western flank of the theatre of operations, where the Blue 
Ridge forms, with that parallel ridge called successively the 
Clinch, Middle, and Shenandoah mountains, the picturesque 
and fertile Valley of the Shenandoah. This valley, from its 
direction north and south, and its peculiar topographical 
relations, is an eminently aggressive line for a hostile force 
moving northward to cross the Potomac into Maryland, either 
with the view of penetrating Pennsylvania or of manoeuvring 


towards Washington. It was by this line that Lee issued upon 
the soil of the loyal States on the occasion of both the Con- 
federate invasions — to wit, the Maryland invasion of 186'2, and 
the Pennsylvania invasion of 1863. This circumstance com- 
pelled, throughout the war, the constant presence of a con- 
siderable army to guard the dtbouche of this great valley and 
the passes of the Blue Kidge ; and the Shenandoah region 
was the scene of a series of operations having an intimate 
relation with those of the main theatre. 

This, in general terms, may be denned as the territory be- 
tween the Blue Ridge and Chesapeake Bay, and between the 
Potomac and the James. 

This region has, as its characteristic feature, a dense forest 
of oak and pine, with occasional clearings — rarely extensive 
enough, however, to prevent the riflemen concealed in their 
margins from covering the whole opening with their fire. 
The roads are few, bad, and form so many defiles ; and it was, 
throughout the war, commonly necessary for the axeman to 
precede the artillerist, to hew for him a path. It is rare, in 
all this tract of country, to find a field in which cavalry can 
have any legitimate play ; and it frequently happened that, 
owing to the density of the forest, not even artillery could be 

It is easy to see that under these circumstances military 
operations must assume many peculiarities ; and, it is to be 
added, these were much in favor of the defensive. The abun- 
dance of wood afforded such facility for the construction of 
breastworks and abatis, that, during all the late years of the 
Virginia campaigns, actions were invariably waged behind 
and about hastily improvised ramparts of earth and logs, with 
which every hundred yards gained was instantly intrenched. 
Under cover of these rude yet strong " coigns of vantage," — 
with the infantry protected by a parapet, and equipped with the 
improved arms — with rifled artillery sweeping a front of two or 
three thousand yards, and this front obstructed by "slashings," 
— the army on the defensive might await, with comparative 
security, the approach of lines of battle that were almost fore- 


doomed to repulse. If, peradventure, driven from one line, 
the enemy could, with the greatest ease, take up another, and 
another. A campaign thus became a kind of rough siege ; 
and in this state of facts, even victory was generally fruitless, 
because pursuit was impossible. The task of the commander 
increased in difficulty in the same proportion. Shut out from 
sight, and often even from hearing, the general on the field of 
battle was constrained to work in a manner blindfold, and 
compelled to rely on the firmness of his troops till couriers 
should arrive to bring tidings of the fight. 

But the obstructions that beset American warfare are not 
confined to these distinguishing features of the terrain ; for 
the difficulty of any extended operation became greatly en- 
hanced by the question of subsistence, on which the mobility 
of an army so largely depends. There are two maxims that 
forcibly set forth the bearincr of the commissariat on wars of 
invasion : the first is the saying of Frederick the Great, that 
" an army, like a serpent, moves on its belly ;" the second is 
the declaration of Csesar, that " war must support war." The 
former of these maxims asserts the absolute dependence of 
military operations on the means of feeding the operating 
army ; the latter, that this dependence should be simplified 
by drawing supplies from the country in which the troops act. 
But while it is no less true in America than elsewhere that 
" an army, like a serpent, moves on its belly," the actual con- 
dition did not permit of carrying out the admonition to " make 
war support war." In the densely populated countries of 
Europe, it is easy, from the resources of the country, to sub- 
sist an army of a hundred thousand men ; and Napoleon, 
while operating in the basins of the Rhine and Danube, and 
in the rich granaries of Belgium, Italy, and Swabia, constantly 
supported by requisitions much greater numbers. But in 
proportion as the population becomes thin, the productive 
forces decrease, and local sources of supply for an army de- 
cline or disappear altogether. What is possible in Germany, 
therefore, is impracticable in Poland, Russia, or America. In 
Virginia, no dependence whatever could be placed on procur- 


ing local subsistence. The area of mameuvre was, therefore, 
circumscribed by the amount of rations that could be carried 
on the persons of the soldiers and in wagons, which m "Vir- 
ginia was not more than sufficient for from ten to sixteen 
days ; while its transport necessitated immense trains of 
two, three, and four thousand wagons — an overgrown mass 
of impedimenta that made rapidity of movement almost impos- 
sible, and constantly bound in the commander to " saucy doubts 
and fears." Indeed, what alone made operations over the im- 
mense tracts of country overrun by the Union armies prac- 
ticable was, first, that new agency in warfare, the railroad ; 
and, secondly, the command of the seaboard by the North. 

Now taking into account this cardinal maxim of American 
warfare, that an army operating over a large tract of co'untry 
must pivot either on a railroad or a river, it appears that from 
"Washington as a base, a force advancing against Richmond 
by the overland route, and having at the same time to cover 
Washington, is restricted to two lines of manoeuvre : 1. The 
line of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad ; 2. The line of 
the Fredericksburg and Richmond Railroad. Each of these 
lines was repeatedly essayed during the Virginia campaigns — 
the former by Pope and Meade ; the latter by Burnside and 
Hooker. Touching the merits of these lines, experience con- 
firmed what theory would have indicated : that the line of 
the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, though an eminently de- 
fensive line as regards Washington, is hardly aggressive ; and 
beyond the Rapidan involves so many complex considerations 
that no commander was ever able, on this line, to push an 
advance south of that river. The Fredericksburg route is an 
aggressive line as regards Richmond, though it is surrounded 
with many difficulties. It is not, however, a good defensive 
line as regards Washington ; and experience has shown that 
an army operating by that line, and having also to cover 
Washington, may readily be dislodged from it and forced to 
attempt to regain the Orange and Alexandria line by a simple 
menace against the latter. And this fact suggests the reflec- 
tion that railroads in war, though affording great facilities for 


transport, and permitting the execution of operations that, 
without this resource, would be impracticable, have their own 
peculiar drawbacks, and require the detachment of a consider- 
able part of the active force for their protection against hos- 
tile raids. 

But it may be said that the possession by the North of the 
whole Virginia seaboard gave many other secondary bases 
and lines of operation, free from the objections above men- 
tioned. This is undoubtedly true ; yet the statement must be 
taken with the limitations that belong to it. The most im- 
portant of these lines are the Peninsula between the York 
and James rivers, and the route by the south side of the 
James. The former was adopted by General McClellan in 
the spring of 1862, and the latter was eventually taken up by 
General Grant in the summer of 1861:, after having, in a re- 
markable campaign, crossed every possible line of operation 
against Richmond. But it is manifest that Richmond could be 
operated against from the coast only by an army that was in 
condition to leave Washington out of the question. The 
secession of Virginia made the Potomac the dividing line 
between two warring powers; and the unfortunate location 
of the national capital on the banks of that river, and on on 
exposed frontier, profoundly affected the character of military 
operations in Virginia, and, during the first three years of 
the war, caused a subordination of all strategic combinations 
to the protection of Washington. Saving the time when 
McClellan moved to the Peninsula, and Grant swung across 
the James River, the Army of the Potomac was never allowed 
to " uncover" Washington. Now, in the former case, the first 
menace by Lee foreshadowing a northward movement caused 
the withdrawal of the army from the Peninsula ; and, in the 
latter instance, a small raiding column, detached by way of 
the Shenandoah Valley into Maryland, compelled General 
Grant to part with two of his corps to protect the national 
capital, and, for the time, almost suspended active operations 
before Petersburg. 

It remains now to add that the gigantic war whose prin- 


cipal field was Virginia was one that, from its very nature, 
threw the burden of the offensive on the side of the North. 
For, as the National Government undertook to subdue the 
insurrection of the Southern States, it rested with it to strike, 
and with the South to parry. But it soon became apparent 
that the task was very different from that involved in the 
quelling of an ordinary rebellion, and that the conflict had, 
from the unanimity of hostile sentiment at the South, the vast 
extent of territory in insurrection, and the mighty force hi 
arms, all the character of a war waged between two powerful 
nations. Now, of all the forms that war may assume, that is 
the most formidable which is denominated a "National War," 
the nature of which is thus powerfully depicted by the great- 
est of military theorists : " The difficulties in the path of an 
army in National wars are very great, and render the mission 
of the general conducting them very arduous. The invader 
has only an army ; his adversaries have an army and a 
people wholly, or almost wholly, in arms — a people making 
means of resistance out of every thing, each individual of 
whom conspires against the common enemy ; so that even 
the non-combatants have an interest in his ruin, and accel- 
erate it by every means in their power. He holds scarcely 
any ground but that upon which he encamps ; and, outside 
the limits of his camp, every thing is hostile, and multiplies a 
thousandfold the difficulties he meets at every step. These 
obstacles become almost insurmountable, when the country is 
difficult. Each armed inhabitant knows the smallest paths 
and their connections ; he finds everywhere a relative or 
friend who aids him. The commander also knows the coun- 
try, and, learning immediately the slightest movement on the 
part of the invader, can adopt the best measures to defeat 
his projects ; while the latter, without information of their 
movements, and not in a condition to send out detachments to 
gain it, having no resource but in his bayonets, and certain of 
safety only in the concentration of his columns, is like a blind 
man — his combinations are failures; and when, after the 
most carefully concerted movements and the most rapid and 


fatiguing marches, he thinks he is about to accomplish his 
aim and deal a terrible blow, he finds no sign of the enemy 
but his camp-fires ; so that, while, like Don Quixote, he is 
attacking windmills, his adversary is on his line of communi- 
cations, destroys the detachments left to guard it, surprises 
his convoys and depots, and carries on a war so disastrous 
for the invader that he must inevitably yield after a time." 

It needs not to tell any one who has followed the history of 
the Virginia campaigns, that every "sling and arrow" thus 
graphically shown to assail an army penetrating a hostile 
country in which the population as well as the army enters 
into the belligerency, did harass the Army of the Potomac. 
Yet it is not possible that any, save such as have had actual 
experience of command, can measure aright the obstructions 
of every nature that hedged military operations in a country 
unknown and unmapped, filled with a population ready to 
convey to the enemy information of every movement, and 
eager to cut a telegraph-wire or throw a railroad-train from 
its track. The Confederates, waging war on that theory that 
is named the " defensive with offensive returns," attempted, in 
two memorable campaigns, an operation of invasion ; but the 
decisive failure that attended both, may stand as an example 
of the difficulties that constantly beset the Union army. 

If, notwithstanding these difficulties, the Army of the Po- 
tomac at length succeeded in destroying its opponent, — thus 
disproving the dictum of General Jomini, who, in the passage 
I have just quoted, asserts that in such a task the invader 
" must inevitably yield after a time," — it would appear to be 
a reasonable inference that the means by which this end was 
brought about must be notable, and that the army that 
accomplished this result may be worthy of a larger fame than 
the world has yet accorded it. 





By the express terms of the ordinance of secession, passed 
by the Virginia Convention on the 17th of April, 1861, the 
decree that was to link the fortunes of that State with the Con- 
federacy became valid only on being ratified by the popular 
vote, appointed to be given on the fourth Thursday of May. 
The Administration at "Washington respecting this provision, 
awaited the action of the people before advancing its armed 
force to " repossess the places and property" of the Federal 

But it was soon manifest that this stipulation was destined 
to be a nullity in face of the swift-advancing realities of war. 
Virginia immediately threw herself into an attitude of defence. 
Governor Letcher issued a proclamation calling out the 
militia of the State, and Colonel Bobert E. Lee was appointed 
major-general and commander of the " Virginia forces." 
More than this : the Convention having, on the 24th of 
April, decreed that pending the popular vote on the question 
of secession, " military operations, offensive and defensive, in 
Virginia, should be under the chief control and direction of 
the President of the Confederate States," Confederate troops, 
from South Carolina and the States of the Gulf, were rapidly 
thrown forward into Virginia. Meantime, the United States 
arsenal at Harper's Ferry had been evacuated and partially 
destroyed by the commander of the post ; and the United 
States navy-yard at Norfolk had been abandoned by the 


Federal officer in command, and several men-of-war, with a 
vast accumulation of war material, were there destroyed. 
Save from the fortress that guards the entrance of James 
River, the Federal flag floated nowhere within the boundaries 
of the " Old Dominion." 

The Confederates, with much energy, pushed forward prep- 
arations for the defence of Virginia ; and the middle of the 
month of May reveals the growing outlines of a definite mili- 
tary policy. This policy, however, so far as it touched the 
distribution of force, seems to have been shaped rather by the 
Austrian principle of covering every thing, than by any well- 
considered combination of positions. The Peninsula between 
the James and the York rivers was held by a Confederate 
force of about two thousand men, under Colonel J. B. Ma- 
gruder, who took position near Hampton, where he confronted 
the Federal force at Fortress Monroe, which had lately been 
placed under command of Major-General B. F Butler. The 
defence of the highland region of "Western Virginia had 
been assumed by General Lee, commander-in-chief of the 
State forces, who had dispatched to that section Colonel Por- 
terfield, with instructions to raise a local volunteer force — not 
a promising undertaking among the hardy, Union-loving 
mountaineers — and hold the line of the Baltimore and Ohio 
Railroad, the direct line of communication with the States 
west of the Alleghanies. 

Between these outlying members was placed the main body 
of the Confederate force, in two camps — the one located at 
Manassas Junction, twenty-seven miles southwest from Alex- 
andria, (and the point of intersection of the great Southern 
railroad route between Washington and Richmond and the 
Manassas Gap Railroad, leading to the Valley of the Shenan- 
doah) ; the other posted at the outlet of this valley, at 
Harper's Ferry. The force assembled and assembling at the 
former of these camps was at first under the orders of Gen- 
( ral Bonham, of South Carolina ; but before the close of May, 
the obvious importance of the position, as confronting any 
direct advance from Washington, caused the Confederate 


authorities to assign to its command the man enjoying the 
first military reputation in the South. This man was General 
Beauregard, and the region of country under his control was 
named the " Department of the Potomac." 

The body of troops collected at Harper's Ferry, and which, 
at the close of the month of May, consisted of nine regiments 
and two battalions of infantry, four companies of artillery, 
and about three hundred troopers,* had been formed under 
the hand of a man, then of no name, but destined to become 
one of the foremost figures of the war — Colonel Thomas 
Jonathan Jackson, better known in the world's bead-roll of 
fame as " Stonewall Jackson." A lieutenant of artillery in 
the United States service during the Mexican war, he had at 
its close retired to a professorship in the Virginia Military 
Institute, beyond whose walls he was quite unknown, and 
within which he was marked only for his personal eccentrici- 
ties, stern puritanism, and inflexible discipline. Upon the 
secession of Virginia, Professor Jackson resigned his chair, 
and being appointed by Governor Letcher to a colonelcy in 
the Virginia line, he was immediately sent forward to com- 
mand the Confederate troops at Harper's Ferry. About the 
time, however, that Bonhani was replaced by Beauregard, 
the command of the force at Harper's Ferry, which bore the 
style of the " Anny of the Shenandoah," was committed to 
the hands of General J. E. Johnston ; and Colonel Jackson, 
assigned a subordinate command under that able soldier, de- 
voted himself to moulding into form and stamping with the 
qualities of his own genius that famous " Stonewall brigade," 
whose battle-flag led the van in that series of audacious 
enterprises that afterwards rendered the Valley of the Shen- 
andoah historic ground. General Johnston's other sub- 
ordinates were men of scarcely inferior ability to Jackson. 
Colonel A. P Hill, subsequently one of Lee's ablest lieu- 
tenants, was at the head of another of his brigades ; Pendle- 
ton was chief of artillery ; and his few squadrons of Virginia 

* Report of General J. E. Johnston. 


horsemen were under command of Colonel J. E. B. Stuart, 
whom even then Johnston styled " the indefatigable," and 
who was also destined to a greater fame. 

Thus far, the line of the Potomac had not been crossed. 
The soil of Virginia, which her inhabitants loved proudly to 
style " sacred," had felt the tread of no invading force. 
Popular notions hardly went beyond simply defending the 
capital ; and not only many men who were supposed to be 
skilled in the calendar of state, but even the shepherds of 
the people, still flattered themselves with the hope that there 
would be no war— that all that was needed to quell the 
" rebellion" was an imposing display of force.* Meanwhile, 
volunteers, burdening all the railways that, from the North 
and East and West, converge on Washington, continued to 
accumulate on the Potomac. The insurrection that for a 
time had threatened to involve Maryland, and had broken 
out in open attack upon the first Federal troops that passed 
through Baltimore, had been subdued by the firm policy of 
the Administration, and direct railroad communication be- 
tween the national capital and the North, for a time inter- 
rupted, had now been restored. By the middle of May, 
between forty and fifty regiments were encamped about 
Washington ; and, at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, a large 
force was accumulating under General Patterson, which by its 
position menaced Harper's Ferry. The presidential call had 
been for seventy-five thousand volunteers for a term of three 
months ; but through the persuasion of General Scott, who 
well knew that it was no three months' affair the Govern- 
ment had on its hands, a supplementary call for forty thou- 
sand men, to serve for three years or the war was made. 
An increase of the force of the Begular army was also ordered. 
These troops were raised with the greatest alacrity, and each 

* " It was a favorite notion with a large class of Northern politicians (and 
the people too) that nothing but an imposing display of force was necessary to 
crush the rebellion." General Barnard : The C. S A and the Battle of Bull 
liun, p. 42. 


State soon so greatly outran its assigned quota, that energetic 
measures had to be taken to stop recruiting, until Congress, 
having assembled in extra session on the 4th of July, au- 
thorized a levy of Five Hundred Thousand Men. Meantime, 
the frontier had not been passed ; and the pickets lounging 
at the bridges that span the Potomac from Washington to 
the Virginia shore, and the gray-uniformed videttes on the 
southern bank, observed each other without any hostile mean- 
ing in their opposing eyes. 

But when the day came that the popular vote on the ques- 
tion of secession was taken, the war, which had thus far 
" drifted," took definite shape. Though there were yet no tid- 
ings what the vote had been, there was, nevertheless, no room 
for illusion as to its scope and purport ; and that night, the 
night of the 23d of May, the van of the " grand army" passed 
the Potomac. After midnight, fifteen thousand troops were 
transferred by the Long Bridge, by the Aqueduct, and by steam- 
ers to Alexandria, situate on the right bank of the Potomac, 
and four or five miles below Washington. The city of Alex- 
andria, and the Heights of Arlington, opposite Washington, 
with the intermediate connecting points, were seized without 
opposition. A few troopers, that held the town as an outpost 
of the force at Manassas, were captured ; the remainder gal- 
loped off to bear the weighty tidings. The bloodless initia- 
tion of operations was beclouded by but one event, the mur- 
der of the young Colonel Ellsworth, of the Fire Zouaves, who 
was shot by a citizen within a hotel of the town of Alexandria, 
while bearing away a Confederate flag, which he had hauled 
down from the cupola of the building. Powerful earthworks, 
as tetes-de-pont to the Long Bridge and Aqueduct, were imme- 
diately constructed by the engineers ; and forts were laid out 
to cover the approaches to Alexandria and Arlington. These 
formed the initiation of the system of "Defences of Washing- 
ton."* The active force south of the Potomac was placed 
under the command of Brigadier-General Irvin McDowell, 

* Barnard : Report of Engineer Operations, p. 9. 


and held a position threatening advance against the Confed- 
erates at Manassas, by the line of the Orange and Alexandria 
Railroad. Leaving it for the present in that attitude, I must 
now detail a series of initial operations in other parts of the 
theatre of war in Virginia. 

The first of these operations is the affair, or, as it was at 
the time named, the battle, of Big Bethel, — an affair which, in- 
significant in itself, had a considerable moral effect in elating 
the Southern troops, and a correspondingly depressing effect 
upon the people of the North. This expedition, which is as 
remarkable for the crudity of its conception as for the blun- 
ders that marked its execution, was devised by General But- 
ler for the purpose of capturing the Confederate posts at 
Little and Big Bethel, a few miles up the Peninsula from 
Fortress Monroe. The execution of the project was intrusted 
to one General Pierce, who, as it appears, had never been 
mustered into the United States service, and had no right to 
any command. The advance was made in two columns — the 
regiment of Duryea's Zouaves, followed by the Third New 
York Volunteers, under Colonel Townsend, on the right, by 
way of Hampton ; and Bendix's New York regiment and a 
Vermont battalion on the left, by way of Newport News. 
The movement was begun during the night of the 9th of June, 
and it was designed to surprise the enemy before daylight 
next morning. The marches of the two columns were based 
on the showing of an old and incorrect map ; and as from this 
the troops that had to move from Newport News were three 
miles nearer the point aimed at than the other column, it was 
arranged that they should start an hour after the others. The 
true state of the case, however, was, that they were four miles 
further ; and just before daybreak the rear regiment of the 
left column, under Colonel Bendix, and the rear regiment of 
the right column, under Colonel Townsend (which had foL 
lowed Duryea's regiment at an interval of two hours), met a 
a junction of roads near Little Bethel ; and the former, mis- 
taking the latter for an enemy, opened a fusillade, by which 
Townsend's regiment suffered a loss of twenty-nine in killed 


and wounded before the cnutninnps was discovered.* Tho 
enemy at Little Bethel, getting the alarm, took flight, and the 
-expedition then advanced on Big Bethel. This position, as 
it appears, was occupied as an outpost of Magruder's main 
body at Yorktown, and was held by a force of eleven hundred 
North Carolina and Virginia troops, under Colonel D. H. Hill, 
then in command of the First North Carolina regiment.f The 
position was rather advantageous for defence, being covered 
by a swampy creek, and further strengthened by some guns 
placed under cover. It was liable, however, to be easily- 
turned by the right. General Pierce displayed a great in- 
competence in his dispositions ; but it happened that there 
was one man there who saw the course of action suited 
to the case. Lieutenant-Colonel "Warren suggested that a 
regiment should be sent round on each side to take the posi- 
tion in flank, and when these became engaged, those in front, 
lying in shelter in a wood, should attack. This operation, if 
carried out, would probably have been successful. But the 
regiment that was to make the movement on the enemy's 
right, instead of being directed by a detour through the 
woods, was advanced right across an open field, in front of 
the position, whereby it became exposed to an artillery fire. 
It happened, too, that the left company became separated 
from the rest of the regiment by a thicket ; and Colonel 
Townsend not being aware of this, and seeing the glistening 
of bayonets in the woods, concluded the enemy was outflank- 
ing him, and so fell back to his first position. The regiment 
that had gone round on the other flank found itself in a diffi- 
cult situation, where being exposed to pretty severe fire, it was 
found hard to bring the men up ; and Major Winthrop, aid to 
General Butler, a young man of superior culture and promise, 

* Lieutenant-Colonel, afterwards Major-General, Warren, at that timo 
attached to Duryea's Zouaves, states in his evidence before the War Committee 
that " the two regiments, when they arrived on the ground, finding things not 
at all as they had been instructed, were justified in firing on each other." 
Report on the Conduct of the War, vol. iii., p. 384. 

t Hill • Report of Big Bethel 


was killed while rallying the troops to the assault. Lieuten- 
ant Greble, of the regular artillery, who had handled his guns 
very skilfully and caused the enemy to withdraw a battery 
posted to command the road leading to Bethel, was also 
killed ; and the aggregate loss was found to be about a hun- 
dred men. General Pierce then ordered a retreat, and the 
regiments marched off as on parade. Colonel Warren, who 
alone protested against the retreat, voluntarily remained on 
the ground, and together with Dr. Winslow, of his regiment, 
brought off the wounded. While he yet remained on the 
ground, the Confederates abandoned the position ; and the 
reason for this step assigned by Colonel Hill is, that he feared 
re-enforcements would be sent up from Fortress Monroe.* 
The affair of Big Bethel really proved nothing, except that an 
attempt, involving failure in its very conception, had failed. 
Yet it was magnified as a great victory by the South ; was 
put forth as a test of what was called "relative manhood;" 
and produced throughout the North a deep feeling of mortifi- 
cation and humiliation. f 

This feeling was kept alive by a trivial fiasco which occurred 
shortly after in General McDowell's department. General 
Schenck had been ordered to make a reconnoissance up the 
Loudon and Alexandria Bailroad to Leesburg ; and setting 
out with a few hundred troops, upon a train of cars, he pro- 
ceeded upon that novel kind of reconnoissance. The excur- 
sion was made uninterruptedly until the train neared Vienna, 
thirteen miles from Alexandria, when, turning a curve, it was 
suddenly opened upon by two guns planted near the track, the 
fire killing and wounding some twenty men. The troops 
immediately sprang from the cars and took to the woods ; and 
the engineer having detached the locomotive, made all speed 
to Alexandria, leaving the excursionists to get back as best 

* Hill : Report of Big Bethel. 

f Colonel Hill, in a bombastic report published at the time, spoke of repuls- 
ing " desperate assaults," and pursuing "till the retreat became a rout,"' etc., 
etc. ; while he himself was retiring without any reason whatever. This fus- 
tian found ready credence at the South. 



might be, and the cars to be burnt by the enemy. The hos- 
tile force consisted of a small scouting party under Colonel 
Gregg, and did not pursue in the least. The adverse guns were, 
like those of Big Bethel, immediately set down as a " masked 
battery,"— a phantom of the imagination that played a really 
considerable part during the early stages of the war.* 

But the discouragement caused by these lapses was destined 
soon to disappear under the influence of a series of very dif- 
ferent operations in Western Virginia, from whose mountains 
was flashed the first gleam of positive victory upon the Union 



It has been seen, in an earlier part of this narrative, that 
the defence of Western Virginia, on the side of the Confed- 
erates, had been undertaken by General Lee, who had dis- 
patched Colonel Porterfield to that region, for the purpose of 
raising there a local force. The object of this, it is probable, 
was not so much to undertake offensive operations across the 
Ohio River, as to coerce the loyal inhabitants into the seces- 
sion movement.! 

* This " masked battery" theory was given by General Schenck in explana- 
tion of the affair at Vienna, touching which he says, in his dispatch of the time 
to General Scott : " We were fired upon by raking masked batteries of, I think, 
three guns, with shell, round-shot, and grape," etc. It would be difficult to say 
how much, and for how long a time, this absurd fiction of " masked batteries" 
affected operations ; but it is certain that it had no inconsiderable influence. A 
curious illustration of this is given by General McDowell, in his evidence touch- 
ing the battle of Bull Run. " The march," says he, " was slow, — one reason 
being, that since the affairs at Vienna and Big Bethel, a fear of 'masked bat 
teries' caused hesitation in regard to advance upon points concerning winch 
there was a want of information." Eeport on the Conduct of the War, vol. ii., 
p. 4. So true to human nature is the maxim, " Omneignotum pro magnifico !" 

\ The correctness of this view of the aim of the Confederates in West Vii 
ginia is fully confirmed by captured dispatches from General Lee to Colonol 


Now about the middle of May, the States of Ohio, In- 
diana, and Illinois had been formed into a department named 
the Department of the Ohio, and its control had by General 
Scott been intrusted to General George B. McClellan, for- 
merly of the Corps of Engineers in the regular army, who hav- 
ing a short time previously been made major-general of the 
Ohio contingent under the three months' call, was now raised 
to the same rank in the regular army. His command being 
bounded on one side by the Ohio River, McClellan's attention 
was naturally attracted to the events passing on the other 
side of the frontier, within the limits of West Virginia. Find- 
ing the position of the Confederates both oppressive to the 
loyal inhabitants and menacing in a military point of view, 
General McClellan, about the end of May, without instructions 
from Washington, threw over a force to the Virginia side of 
the Ohio ; and hearing of a secession camp at Phillippi, he 
ordered it to be broken up. The movement to this end was 
under way, when Porterfield, becoming aware of it, abandoned 
his position. McClellan having determined to occupy the 
whole region, had his Ohio regiments, as they were in succes- 
sion equipped, transferred to the Virginia side. But the Con- 
federates were indisposed to give up this mountain fastness ; 
and accordingly, to meet the Union occupation, strong re- 
enforcements, to the amount of six thousand men, were directed 
upon Western Virginia, and the command given to General 
Garnett, an old officer of the regular army. Garnett took up 
advantageous positions at Laurel Hill, a westward-facing 
sentinel of the Alleghany range, where he held command of 
the great road from Wheeling to Staunton, — the main high- 
way of communications for the region west of the Alleghanies 
with that to the east of that mountain-wall, — and began a 
system of very active and very annoying partisan operations. 
In the course of a month General McClellan had on foot a 
considerable army, and he then determined to take the field 
against Garnett's force. The theatre of operations was that 
portion of Western Virginia contained between the Ohio and 
Cheat rivers in one direction, and the Baltimore and Ohio 


Rdlroad and Great Kanawha and Gauley rivers in the other. 
The affluents of the Monongahela and the two Kanawhas 
divide this region into a number of narrow valleys, separated 
by rough and difficult hills, which rise into true mountains as 
they approach the heads of the Little Kanawha and the west 
fork of the Monongahela. The country here becomes alpine 
in its character. The roads practicable for wagons are few, 
narrow, and difficult. As cultivation is generaUy confined to 
the valleys, and the mountain-sides are obstructed by rocks 
and a dense growth of timber and underbrush, it is difficult 
even for skirmishers to move across the country, and it is not 
possible for troops and trains to march elsewhere than on 
the narrow roads. Positions suitable for handling artillery 
are rare, and cavalry is useful in that district only to con- 
vey intelligence. The resources of the country are incon- 

These characteristics of ground, which are the common 
characteristics of mountain regions, give to mountain warfare 
certain principles particular to it, and different from those 
that obtain in military operations in the plain. Thus moun- 
tain warfare readily admits of combined marches, which can 
seldom be employed in the plain. Such marches offer, in 
highland regions, no real danger, since the enemy is unable 
to throw himself between the columns : it is therefore suffi- 
cient that each column be strong enough to defend the valley 
in which it operates.? But the facility of the tactical defence 
of highlands renders it necessary for the assailant to seek to 
dislodge the enemy by manoeuvres rather than direct attack : 
in other words, he should manoeuvre offensively while lie 
fights defensively ; or, as Napoleon sums up the theory in, one 
pregnant sentence, " the genius of mountain warfare consists 
in occupying camp on the flanks or on the rear of the enemy, 

* McClellan : Campaigns in Western Virginia, p. 25. 

f Vial : Cours d'Art et d'Histoire Militairca, vol. ii., p. 82. On this feature of 
mountain warfare, see also McDougall : Modern Warfare and Modern Artillery, 
p. 35(5. 


so as to leave him only the alternative of evacuating his posi- 
tion without fighting, or of issuing to attack."* 

I make this exposition of the theory of mountain warfare, 
because, as will presently appear, the operations of General 
McClellan in Western Virginia afford a very happy applica- 
tion of all the cardinal principles here laid down. The mail) 
turnpike from Staunton to "Wheeling, which is the great high- 
way across the mountains, was held by Garnett in an in- 
trenched position, at Laurel Hill. This road, which here 
runs nearly southward, was his direct and natural line of 
retreat, and if cut off from that, his only chance of escape 
was by difficult roads over the mountains, eastward. Five 
miles below Garnett's main position at Laurel Hill, a road 
from the west passes through this spur at a defile known as 
Rich Mountain, and strikes the main road. To guard this 
approach against any menace directed upon his line of re- 
treat, Garnett had placed here his second in command, 
Colonel Pegram, with a force of about one thousand men. 
McClellan, whose line of march was from the west, from the 
direction of the Ohio River, determined to dislodge Garnett 
and Pegram by striking their main Hue of retreat below the 
position held by the latter. Then, to make the operation de- 
cisive, he resolved to direct another column from the north to 
seize the only other avenue of escape, and thus, if possible, 
capture or destroy the whole adverse force. f 

With the main column of two brigades, under Brigadier 
Generals Scheich and Rosecrans, the afterwards illustrious 
commander of the Army of the Cumberland and victor of 
Stone River, General McClellan moved from the west, by way 
of Clarksburg toBuchanon (July 2), twenty miles west of 
the hostile position. From here, several divergent expedi- 

* As authority on this same point, see also Dufour, Strategy and Tactics, p. 
261 ; Jomini : Art of War, p. 168 ; Vial : Cours dArt, etc., vol. ii., p. 83. 

f In a letter to Lieutenant-General Scott, communicating his proposed plan 
of operations, McClellan adroitly put it that he should seek to " repeat the 
manoeuvre at Cerro Gordo." 


tionary columns were sent out to mislead the enemy. Another 
column, composed of the brigade of General Morris, held 
position at Phillippi, about the same distance north of the 
enemy's stronghold, as General McClellan, at Buchanon, 
with his other two brigades, was west of it. The 7th of 
July, Morris was directed to advance southward to a position 
within a mile and a half of Garnett's camp at Laurel Hill, and 
by strong demonstrations give the enemy the impression that 
the main attack was to be made by him. The 8th, Mc- 
Clellan, with the brio-ades of Bosecrans and Scheich, moved 
eastward from Buchanon, and on the following afternoon 
came within two miles of Pegram's position at Rich Moun- 
tain. Having reconnoitred it, he resolved, instead of making 
a direct attack, to hold one of his brigades in front, while he 
sent Kosecrans by a detour by the right and southward, to 
lay hold of the enemy's main line of retreat, the turnpike, and 
then take Pegram's position in the rear. Setting out early in 
the morning, Kosecrans moved partly by mountain bridle- 
paths, and partly through rough and trackless woods and 
thickets of laurel. It rained incessantly. By noon he had 
gained Pegram's rear ; but the latter, having captured a dra- 
goon carrying dispatches from the Union commander, became 
aware of the plan, and effecting a partial change of front, 
posted a force of six hundred men and three guns to hold the 
crest of the mountain in his rear, while with the remainder he 
confronted the force McClellan held in his front. After a sharp 
fusilade, Rosecrans carried the crest, driving the defenders 
in upon Pegram's intrenchments ; but against this force h( 
did not push his advance, and as McClellan, awaiting the 
sounds of his musketry before joining in with a front attack 
heard none, the day passed by. During the night, Pegram 
evacuated his position, and attempted to join Garnett's main 
body, five miles north. After a day's wandering through the 
woods, being surrounded, he was compelled to surrender with 
six hundred men, the few remaining hundreds escaping. 
Meantime, Garnett, alarmed at the forces gathering around 
hnu on all sides, also abandoned his position at Laurel HilL 


But, attempting with about four thousand men to make good 
his escape southward, he found McClellan already grasping 
his line of retreat, and he then fled eastward over the moun- 
tains. Being vigorously pursued, he was twice brought to % 
stand and severely handled ; but forces that the Union com- 
mander had directed to move from the north and east to 
intercept the flying enemy, did not act with sufficient prompt- 
ness,* so that the operation was not as decisive as it other- 
wise must have been. The last stand made by Garnett was 
at Carrick's Ford, at the passage of the Cheat River, where 
he was attacked by the advance of General Morris's brigadet 
on the 13th, driven in disorder, losing all his guns and bag- 
gage, and General Garnett himself, while gallantly striving to 
rally his rear-guard, was killed. This ended the brief and 
brilliant campaign in the mountains, and General McClellan 
was able to telegraph to Washington as its result the capture 
of a thousand prisoners, with all the enemy's stores, baggage, 
and artillery, and the complete disruption of the hostile force. 
" Secession," he added, " is killed in this country." 

The result of this miniature campaign was most inspiriting 
to the people of the North, and had an effect far beyond its 
intrinsic importance, just as had in another way the fiascos of 
Big Bethel and Vienna. It is the moral influence of small 
successes and small defeats, that in the first stages of a war 
makes their importance and forms the real measure of their 
value. All great commanders have understood this well. The 
campaign in West Virginia was conducted agreeably to mili- 
tary principles, — a characteristic that did not belong to other 
operations thus far ; and its execution, as well as the fact that 
it was undertaken by General McClellan of his own motion, 
and without countenance from Washington, stamped him as a 
man of superior ability. 

* McClellan : Campaign in Western Virginia, p. 34. 

+ This attack was made by the Fourteenth Ohio, the Seventh and Ninth 
Indiana, and a section of Barnett's battery. 




When in a national crisis the thoughts of men. and even 
the policy of the Government are in that condition which is 
expressed by the term drifting, wonderful is the effect of a 
phrase that crystallizes the floating and half-formed senti- 
ments of the people into a definite theory. Such a phrase, 
about the time reached by this narrative, arose in the North. 
Thus far, no well-defined military policy guided the conduct 
of the war. The series of small outlying operations already 
sketched were, with the exception of those in West Virginia. 
crude in conception, undertaken at hajmazard, and aimed at 
no definite result. But when Congress assembled in extra 
session, on the 4th of July, the effervescent enthusiasm of the 
country found expression in a phrase that, as it perfectly em- 
bodied the popular sentiment, was presently echoed through- 
out the whole North. This phrase was, " On to Richmond." 

Now, in such popular cries there is always a certain element 
of the ideal ; and hence we may suppose that this one did not 
so much imply a literal movement " on to Richmond," as it 
expressed with emphasis and in definite shape the conviction 
of the popular mind that immediate action should be taken 
against the rebellious force that had ensconced itself in the 
Manassas stronghold, only a few miles in front of the Federal 
capital. No doubt there were many that actually believed the 
Union force might not only drive the enemy from Manassas, 
but really follow " on to Richmond." It need hardly be said, 
however, that an overland march to Richmond by the force 
then assembled at Washington would have been an impossi- 
bility, even had there been no enemy to oppose the adven- 
ture. The people, conscious of great earnestness and en- 
thusiasm, were unconscious either of the nature of the task 
they had set themselves to do, or the nature of the mean* 


Deeded to carry it through. They knew that the rebels were 
at Manassas. They saw around Washington an imposing 
martial array, which they fondly named the " Grand Army of 
the United States ;" and they could not understand what, 
after almost three months of preparation, could possibly 
hinder the advance of that army against the confronting 
enemy, and even on to the capital seat of the rebellion.* 

The veteran soldier who, burdened with years and the 
infirmities of nature, remained at the head of the United 
States army, and to whom, by consequence, it fell to direct 
the military councils at Washington, was ill-fitted to grapple 
with the tremendous problem forced upon him. General 
Scott knew well war and war's needs. He knew that the 
imposing array of patriotic citizens who, dressed and armed 
to represent soldiers, lay around Washington, Avas but the 
simulacrum of an army ; that to this mass were wholly want- 
ing the organization, discipline, experience, whatever, in fact, 
goes to the fashioning of that most complex of living organ- 
isms. But it was little that he should know this, when those 
in power, who knew it not and would not know it, were 
determined to act as if it were not. Indeed he had himself to 
assume that it was not, and proceed in the work of forming a 
plan of campaign for immediate action. Now, a plan of cam- 
paign General Scott could well devise ; for he was a man that 
knew generalship and grand war ; had himself plucked laurels 
on the field of battle before the present generation of men 
was born ; and long years ago, in Europe, had discussed the 
highest principles of the military art with the great marshals 
of Napoleon. But all this only served to separate him and 
his views and plans the more hopelessly from those with 
whom he had to deal. He was opposed to what he called " a 

* " The country could, not understand, ignorant as it was of war and war's 
requirements, how it could possibly be true that, after three months of prepa- 
ration and of parade, an army of thirty thousand men should be still utter] y 
unfit to move thirty miles against a series of earthworks held by no more than 
an equal number of men." Hurlbut : McClellan and the Conduct of the Wsa", 
page 103. 


little war by piecemeal." He was averse to fighting at all iu 
Virginia, which he did not regard as a theatre for decisive 
action, and thought that the Union army should strike its 
first blow in the basin of the Mississippi. But what were 
such views to the ardent congressmen and cabinet councillors 
to whom Beauregard's blazon at Manassas was the picador's 
flag to the infuriate bull ? They prevailed. General Scott has 
confessed it : his moral firmness gave way under the pressure 
of an Administration that was in turn goaded almost to frenzy 
by a press and people demanding action at all hazards. 

There was, therefore, to be an advance of the army in front 
of Washington ; and early in July the duty of planning and 
executing a movement against Beauregard at Manassas de- 
volved upon General McDowell, who, since the transfer of the 
Union force into Virginia, had been put in command of the 
column of active operation south of the Potomac, and of the 
Department of Northeastern Yirgini* This column numbered 
about thirty thousand men. 

The officer to whom it thus fell to lead the main army to 
its first field was a man of no mean capacity as a soldier. 
Of the staff of the old regular army, McDowell was distin- 
guished for his fine professional acquirements ; and having 
studied the theory of war and seen European armies, he was, 
of the small body of trained soldiers, perhaps the man best 
qualified for the command. That he had never commanded 
any considerable body of men on the actual field was a draw- 
back shared by every other officer in the service. 

General McDowell knew perfectly well the kind of mate- 
rial with which he had to work, and its greenness and 
unfitness to take the field ; and he did his best to improve it. 
This he might readily have done, had he had to grapple 
merely with this work ; but his main struggle was elsewhere : 
and he has left a picture, half pathetic and half ludicrous, of 
his unavailing plea for a little common sense with those 
whose ardor was only equalled by their ignorance. " I 
wanted," says he, " very much a little time — all of us wanted 
it. We did not have a bit of it." To his plea of the 


"greenness" of his troops, the answer, more specious than 
well taken, was constantly returned — " You are green, it is 
true ; but they are green also : you are all green alike."* 

So far from having time to mould his army, many of his 
regiments were brought across the Potomac at the last 
moment, without his even seeing them, and without being 
even brigaded. He had, therefore, no opportunity to test his 
machinery — to move it round and see whether it would work 
smoothly or not ; and such was the feeling, that when, on one 
occasion, McDowell had a body of eight regiments reviewed 
together, he was censured for " trying to make a show."t 
Even the special circumstance that should have caused de- 
lay, — to wit, the fact that a large part of the best, that is, the 
best-armed, drilled, officered, and disciplined troops in front 
of Washington consisted of three months' volunteers whose 
term of service was about to expire, — was an incentive to 
precipitate action. These troops had fulfilled the duty for 
which they were called out, which was to assure the safety of 
the national capital ; their presence had given time to 
organize a force for the war ; Congress had authorized a call 
for five hundred thousand three years' volunteers, and these 
were thronging to the Potomac. It is certainly easy to see 
that the dictate of prudence was this : not to attempt to 
employ the three months' men in active operations, but to 
organize and mobilize, from the three-year troops, an ade- 
quate army for the field. Other counsels prevailed, and the 
army with which McDowell took the field was an army 
without organization, or a staff, or a commissariat, or an 
organized artillery.:}: The wonder, indeed, is not that he 

* Report on the Conduct of the War, vol. i., p. 38. f Ibid. 

X " Being tete-d-tete with McDowell, I saw him do things of detail which, in 
any even half-way organized army, belong to the specialty of a chief of the 
6taff. McDowell received his corps in the most chaotic state. Almost 

with his own hands he organized, or rather put together, the artillery. 
Brigades are scarcely formed ; the commanders of brigades do not know their 
commands, and the soldiers do not know their generals." Gurowski : Diary. 
1861-2, p. 61. Mr. Russell (My Diary North and South, pp. 424-5) makes 
some striking statements to the same purpose. 


should not have done more, but that he did so much ; and 
the spirit of forbearance and alacrity with which he entered 
upon and carried through his trying task, entitles him to great 

In entering upon the special problem assigned him, it was 
not possible for General McDowell to avoid taking into 
account not only his immediate enemy at Manassas, but 
whatever other hostile forces, distributed over the theatre of 
war in Virginia, might influence the fortunes of his projected 
expedition. The occupation of Manassas had been recom- 
mended to the Confederates, from the very fact that it was 
the centre of the railroad system of Northern Virginia— at 
the junction of the great southern railroad route connecting 
"Washington with Eichmond, and the Manassas Gap Railroad 
leading to the Valley of the Shenandoah. The former 
highway connected Beauregard with the forces on the Penin- 
sula and at Eichmond (distant by railroad about seventy-five 
miles) ; the latter, with the army under Johnston, in the 
Shenandoah Valley (distant by railroad about seventy miles). 
The Confederates, in fact, held a line interior to the 
forces of Butler, McDowell, and Patterson — -respectively at 
Fortress Monroe, in front of Washington, and on the Upper 
Potomac. This distribution of the Union armies was a fault 
to which General McDowell was quite alive ; but he had 
assurances from the lieutenant-general that the enemy on the 
Peninsula should be occupied by General Butler, and that 
Johnston's forces in the Shenandoah Valley should be held 
there by General Patterson. On expressing his fears in 
regard to Johnston, a few days before the opening of the 
campaign, General McDowell was assured by General Scott 
that, " if Johnston joined Beauregard, he should have Pat- 
terson on his heels."* 

With this understanding, McDowell projected a plan of 
operations against Manassas, which was substantially to 

* For more on the same subject, see McDowell's testimony : Report on the 
Conduct of the War. 


advance by Fairfax Courthouse, there make a sudden move- 
ment to the left, and, crossing the Occoquan just below the 
junction of that stream with Bull Run (thus turning Beaure- 
gard's right), strike at the enemy's railroad communications. 
This project was submitted to the cabinet and agreed to, and 
the 9th of July was fixed as the day Avhen the army should 
move. Owing, however, to the deficiency of transportation 
and supplies, the advance was not begun till a week later. 

With the view of giving effect to that part of the military 
programme which provided that Johnston's force in the Shen- 
andoah Valley should be neutralized, General Patterson was, 
on the 2d of July, again ordered across the Potomac from 
Maryland. He made the passage of the river at Williams- 
port, and took position at Martinsburg. Johnston then held 
post near Winchester with a force of about eight thousand 
men.* The specific duty assigned to Patterson was, in view 
of the impending battle in front of Washington, to defeat 
Johnston or prevent his making a junction with Beauregard 
at Manassas. For this purpose, the force of twelve thousand 
men with which General Patterson had crossed the Poto- 
mac was augmented to an effective of about eighteen thou- 
sand. + Now, from the relative position of the contending 
forces, it is evident that the only method of accomplishing 
the latter purpose, to wit, preventing Johnston from re-enfor- 
cing Beauregard, was to adopt the former course — namely, to 
attack Johnston. If Patterson, therefore, was not in condi- 
tion to do this, his force should immediately have been with- 
drawn to the front of Washington and united with McDowell's. 
General Scott expected Patterson to attack Johnston,:}: but he 
gave no imperative order to do so ; and Patterson, who 
though more than doubly outnumbering his opponent, fancied 
Johnston had " at least forty thousand men," and that the 

* This estimate I derive from General Johnston himself. 

f Patterson : Campaigns in the Valley of the Shenandoah, p. 63. 

\ " I have certainly been expecting you to beat the enemy ; if not, to hear 
that you had felt him strongly, or at least had occupied him by threats and 
demonstrations." Dispatch from General Scott, July 18th. 


wily enemy " had a trap set somewl,err , for him * feared either 
to demonstrate or attack. His conduct was certainly feeble ; 
and his marches and countermarches, made far from the 
enemy, were ridiculous. At Martinsburg his position was a 
false one, where, instead of threatening the enemy, the enemy 
threatened him. At length, when informed that the army in 
front of Washington was actually under way, he (July 15th) 
advanced his force from Martinsburg to Bunker's Hill, from 
which point he, on the 17th, fell off upon Charleston™, near 
Harper's Ferry, and Johnston was left free to move to form a 
junction with Beauregard! This was precisely what John- 
ston now found occasion to do. As will presently appear, 
McDowell's reconnoitring parties appeared in front of Bull 
Kun on the 18th of July. On the same clay a message reached 
Johnston from Beauregard : " If you wish to help me, now is 
the time." Johnston promptly availed himself of the oppor- 
tunity to escape unmolested. Making a rapid flank march 
by way of Ashby's Gap, he took cars on the Manassas Gap 
Bailroad at Piedmont, and joined Beauregard with his ad- 
vance brigades on Saturday, the 20th. What part they 
played in the coining battle will presently appear. 

General McDowell moved his army from the banks of the 
Potomac on the afternoon of July 16th. The movable column 
consisted of four divisions — the First Division, under General 
Tvler ; the Second, under General Hunter ; the Third, under 
General Heintzelman ; the Fifth, under Colonel Miles. The 
Fourth Division, under General Bunyon, was left in the works 
on the south bank of the Potomac. These divisions made an 

* Patterson : Narrative of the Campaign in the Valley of the Shenandoah, 
p. 57. 

General Johnston, in conversation with the writer touching this point, made 
a ludicn ms comment on Patterson's statement of his numbers. On my mention- 
ing to him that Patterson, in a Narrative recently published, had put down 
the Confederate strength at forty thousand, General Johnston laughingly ex- 
claimed : " Why, if he had really thought that I had forty thousand, or half 
that number, sooner than have crossed the Potomac he would have thrown 
himself headlong into it." 


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aggregate of about thirty-five thousand men. They moved in 
four columns : one by the turnpike ; one by the lateral country 
roads on the right ; one on the left of the railroad ; and 
another between the turnpike and railroad, following what is 
known as the "Braddock" road.* It was known that Fairfax 
Courthouse was held as an outpost by a brigade of South 
Carolina troops, and the three right columns were directed to 
co-operate on that point with the view of capturing this force ; 
but on entering the place, at three o'clock on the afternoon of 
the 17th, it was found abandoned. General McDowell had 
hoped to have his columns concentrated at Centreville that 
night, but the troops being unused to march, did not arrive 
till the following day. As it was, however, the march was 
really made with a good deal of rapidity. From Centreville, 
General McDowell proceeded to push out reconnoissances, 
with a view to the projected manoeuvre by his left ; but ex- 
amination soon proved the impracticability of the ground for 
this purpose. Moreover, the character of General McDowell's 
move was revealed to Beauregard by an affair which the weak 
ambition of a division commander brought on that afternoon 
at Blackburn's Ford, on Bull Bun. General Tyler had been 
ordered with his division to occupy Centreville, and thence 
" observe the roads to Bull Bun," but was cautioned " not to 
bring on any engagement. "t In obedience to this h« pushed 
a brigade forward to Blackburn's Ford, which proved to be 
about the centre of Beauregard's true defensive line along 
Bull Bun. Beaching the heights on the northern side of the 
stream, he opened an artillery fire with two twenty-pounder 
rifle-guns, which had the effect of first developing and after- 
wards silencing the enemy's battery near the ford. Thus far 
he had not exceeded his instructions ; but he had the impres- 
sion that the enemy would run whenever seriously menaced ; 
and he declared that " the great man of the war would be the 

* So called from its having been made by that general on his memorahla 
march to Fort Duquesne, in 1754, which terminated in his disastrous defeat 
and death. 

f McDowell's order : Report on the Conduct of the War, vol. i., p. 46. 


man that sot to Manassas, and he meant to go through tha'; 
night."* His notion of the method of executing this project 
,was to file his brigade down to the stream, draw it up parallel 
to the other shore, and open an unmeaning fusillade.f While 
engaged in this foolery, a force crossed the stream from the 
other side, and striking his left flank (the Twelfth New York), 
disrupted it completely. This admonished General Tyler to 
defer his intended visit to Manassas that night, and he with- 
drew. The loss was inconsiderable, but the effect on the 
morale of the raw troops was bad. 

In consequence of the abandonment of the plan of opera- 
tion on the Confederate right, the next two days (July 19th 
and 20th) were spent by the engineers in reconnoitring and 
determining how and where the attack should be made. It 
was found that there was a good ford over Bull Run at Sud- 
ley Spring, two miles above the point where the direct road 
from Centreville to Warrenton crosses Bull Run by the Stone 
Bridge. It was also found that this ford was unguarded bv 
the enemy, and that above that point the stream was almost 
everywhere easily passable. On these data was based the 
plan of attack, which was as follows : The Fifth Division 
(Miles) to remain in reserve at Centreville, and to make with 
one of its brigades, added to Richardson's brigade of Tyler's 
division, a false attack at Blackburn's Ford ; the First Divi- 
sion (Tyler) to move by the turnpike up to the Stone Bridge 
at daybreak, threaten that point, and, at the proper time, to 
carry it or cross if uncovered from above. Meantime, the 
principal column, consisting of the two divisions of Hunter 
and Heintzelman, of about twelve thousand men, was to 
diverge from the turnpike to the right a mile beyond Centre- 
ville, and, by a detour, reach Sudley Ford ; thence, descending 
the right bank of Bull Run, it would take the defences of the 
Stone Bridge in reverse. The united force would then give 

* My authority for this statement is Colonel Alexander, of the Corps «f 
Engineers, then engineer on Tyler's staff. 
\ Barnard : The Battle of Bull Bun, p. 49. 


battle, strike at the enemy's railroad communications, or act 
otherwise as circumstances might dictate.* It was an excel- 
lent plan of battle. 

The execution of this plan was set on foot three hours after 
midnight of the 20th, when the troops, breaking camp at 
Centreville, launched on their novel adventure, and, in a dewy 
moonlight night„ took up the march destined to bring them 
into presence of the enemy. The divisions had been ordered 
to march at half-past two A. M., with the view of getting on 
the ground early in the morning of the 21st. Tyler's division 
had the advance on the main road from Centreville ; and, as 
the two divisions under Hunter and Heintzelman, to which 
was intrusted the turning movement, had to follow on this 
road up to the point where they were to diverge to the right, 
it was especially urgent that no obstruction should bar their 
march. Nevertheless, there was delay in getting Tyler's 
division out of camp and on to the road, and delay in its ad- 
vance, which, of course, retarded the turning column. Then 
the road over which Hunter and Heintzelman had to pass 
was found to be longer than was expected ; so that, instead of 
getting into position by six in the morning, it was, as will 
subsequently appear, nine before this column debouched on 
the southern side of Bull Run, at Sudley's Spring. Tyler, 
meanwhile, had pushed on, and, by six, drew up his division 
in front of Stone Bridge, where he opened an artillery fire on 
the enemy on the opposite side of Bull Rnn. 

While the columns of McDowell were thus under way, 
events of equal moment were passing within the Confederate 
camp. General Johnston in person had joined Beauregard 
during the night of the 20th (his troops, however, not having 
yet arrived), and, being the ranking officer, he assumed com- 
mand of all the Confederate forces. Nevertheless, as Beau- 
regard knew his ground, the plans he had formed were 
adopted, and Johnston directed their execution under him. 
This plan contemplated an offensive movement before 

* McDowell : Order of Battle. 



McDowell should be able to strike ; but, as a body of five 
thousand troops of Johnston's force, that were exioected to 
arrive during the night from the Shenandoah Yalley, did not 
reach the ground till some hours later, other dispositions had 
to be made.* 

Beauregard, in stationing his forces, had committed the 
error of treating the line of Bull Run as a real defensive line 
that could be passed only at the fords ; and hence he had 
stationed his brigades at these several fords — the brigades of 
Ewell and Holmes, at Union Mills Ford, forming his right ; 
the brigades of Jones and Early, at McLean's Ford ; the 
brigades of Longstreet and Jackson, at Blackburn's Ford ; 
and Bonham's brigade, at Mitchell's Ford. Other commands 
were in reserve and between these forces, while Colonel 
Evans, with a demi-brigade, held Stone Bridge, which formed 
the Confederate left. Meantime, he had neglected to note 
that on his left, from Sudley Springs up, Bull Run could be 
passed anywhere. When, therefore, at six o'clock of the 
morning of the 21st, Beauregard learned from Colonel Evans 
that a Federal force (which was the head of Tyler's column) 
had drawn up opposite Stone Bridge, he assumed the attack 
would be made there — that is, against his left. He was 
ignorant that the real menace was a turning movement to 
take his whole line in the rear. Beauregard's military in- 
spirations were, however, always essentially aggressive ; and, 
on learning the appearance of the hostile force at Stone 
Bridge (being still unaware of the flanking operation in exe- 
cution above), he resolved to assume the offensive to relieve 
his left. He judged the most effective method of accomplish- 
ing this, to be a counter move by his right and centre on 
the Union flank and rear at Centreville ; and with this view 
orders were dispatched to General Ewell, whose brigade 
formed the right of the Confederate line at Union Mills Ford, 
to begin the movement, which was to be followed up by the 
brigades of Jones, at McLean's Ford ; Longstreet, at Black- 

* Beauregard : Report of the Battle of Manassas. 


burn's Ford ; and Bonham, at Mitchell's Ford.* I must add 
here a fact which is an evidence that the staff-organization of 
the Confederate Army was, at this time, little better than that 
of the Union Army — these orders did not reach their destina- 
tion for four hours after the time they were sent ; and this, 
as will presently appear, gave a very peculiar turn to the 
whole earlier part of the battle. 

Meanwhile, the force of Tyler had deployed in front of 
Stone Bridge, and a scattering skirmish fire was opened be- 
tween his troops and those of Evans on the opposite side 
of Bull Run. This served as an excellent mask for the 
column executing the turning move, as it occupied the atten- 
tion of the force behind Stone Bridge for a couple of hours — 
that is, till about half-past eight. But, about that time, 
Evans becoming satisfied of the counterfeit character of the 
demonstrations on his front, and persuaded of an attempt to 
turn his left flank,t changed front, and marched towards 
Sudley Springs, leaving a skirmish line to observe for the 
while the Federal force opposite the Stone Bridge. Thus it 
was that the opposing forces were moving to meet each other ; 
and when, towards ten o'clock, the head of Hunter's column, 
having passed to the right bank of Bull Bun, by way of Sud- 
ley Ford, and advanced for a mile through a thick wood, de- 
bouched into the open country beyond, the gray-jackets could 
be descried already drawn up in line of battle. Colonel 
Evans, with his demi-brigade, had taken up a position west 
of the Warrenton road, almost at right angles to Bull Bun, 
and considerably in advance of the ridge on which the main 
Confederate line was afterwards drawn. 

Had now, at the first encounter, a moderate degree of skill 
or energy marked the conduct of the Union commander 
present on the field, there is little doubt that success was at 
this moment in the hands of General McDowell, who deserved 

* " By such a movement," adds Beauregard, " I confidently expected to 
achieve a complete victory for my country by 12 o'clock m." Report of the 
Battle of Manassas. 

+ Beauregard : Report of the Battle of Manassas. 


success for the excellence of his generalship. A powerful 
body was, by a flank movement, planted on the southern side 
of Bull Run, and Beauregard's defensive line was taken in 
reverse. It is true this part of the plan should have reached 
this stage of development by six o'clock in the morning, and 
it was now ten ; but this was not enough to jeopardize the 
success of the scheme, for Beauregard was ignorant of what 
had taken place. It is also true that Colonel Evans, divining 
the move, had effected his change of front to meet the 
Federal advance ; but his entire force consisted of but nine 
weak companies, and Hunter had twelve thousand men. 

But there was present neither the skill nor the energy to 
take advantage of these circumstances ; and the manner in 
which the troops were brought up affords a striking illustra- 
tion of the then greenness of even the foremost officers of the 
army. In place of making proper dispositions in a line of 
battle, General Hunter caused a feeble fusilade to be opened 
from the head of the column ; and Colonel Burnside's Khode 
Island regiments, thrown in alone, were speedily cut up. 
This wasted an hour. To aid Burnside's hard-pressed com- 
mand, the brigade of Colonel A. Porter was ordered up and 
deployed on his right, and Sykes' battalion of Regulars re- 
lieved him on the left. A serious advance of this line soon 
began to press the handful of Confederates back ; but Evans 
was speedily re-enforced by portions of the brigades of Col- 
onels Bee and Barton, who were at hand near the Stone 
Bridge, and, by these united forces, a fresh stand was made 
on a position still west of Young's Branch. But the increas- 
ing pressure of the Union line, strengthened now by the ad- 
dition of portions of Heintzelman's division coming in on the 
left, compelled the Confederates to yield ground, and they 
were presently forced back sufficiently to allow Tyler's force 
near Stone Bridge to commence crossing to the south side 
and join in the combat. 

Commanding one of Tyler's brigades was one Colonel W- T. 
Sherman, afterwards of some repute in the world as the man 
who led the armies that marched from Chattanooga to 


Atlanta, and from Atlanta to the sea. This officer, who dis- 
played even in the war's infancy something of that same mil- 
itary talent that, developed by experience, made him among 
the foremost of Union commanders, had discovered, while re- 
connoitring in the morning, an nnknown ford, half a mile 
above the Stone Bridge.* Being ordered to cross Bull Bun 
to the assistance of the forces on the other side, he was en- 
abled to do so by this ford long before the Stone Bridge was 
uncovered for the passage. Keyes' brigade of the same divi- 
sion followed, and both succeeded in making a junction with 
the force engaged. This done, the whole advanced, and drove 
the enemy back across Young's Branch and over the Warren- 
ton road and up the slopes on the other side. The Confeder- 
ates went back in much disorder, and were only rallied on an 
elevated ridge or table-land beyond Young's Branch.! 

While these events, in the prelude of the battle, were going 
on, Beauregard and Johnston, from their headquarters, near 
the centre of the line, marked the outburst of battle on their 
left flank, and listened eagerly and anxiously for similar 
sounds from the direction of Centreville, resulting from the 
prescribed counter-attack in that quarter by the Confederate 
right. " To my profound disappointment," adds the Con- 
federate commander, " I learned, just about the time that the 
force on the left had been driven back by the advance of the 
Federals, that my order to General Ewell had miscarried." 
Judging it too late for the effective execution of the contem- 
plated move, Beauregard found himself, as he states, " forced 
to depend on new combinations to meet the enemy on the 
field upon which he had chosen to give us battle.":): Leaving 
Ewell, Jones, Longstreet, and Bonham at their positions along 

* " Early in the day, when reconnoitring the ground, I had seen a horse- 
man descend from a bluff to the bank, cross the stream, and show himself in 
the open field. Inferring we could cross," etc. Sherman : Eeport of Bull Run. 

\ The disorder that pervaded the Southern force at this time is freely 
acknowledged by General Johnston, whose official report is marked by a 
candor not observable in that of Beauregard. 

X Report of the Battle of Manassas. 


the lower fords to make demonstrations against the Federal 
forces opposite and prevent their going to re-enforce Mc- 
Dowell's right, the reserves, consisting of Holmes' two regi- 
ments and a battery, Early's brigade, and two of Bonham's 
regiments and a battery, were immediately ordered up to 
support the Confederate left flank, now so seriously imperilled. 
Jackson, who with his brigade of five regiments had been 
in reserve not far from the Stone Bridge, went up just at 
the time that Evans, and Bee, and Barton, who had been 
holding the advance position, had given way, and were at- 
tempting to rally and reform their troops on the plateau.* 
At this juncture, Beauregard and Johnston reached the field, 
and it required their best personal efforts to hold the men to 
their work. This accomplished, Beauregard took command 
on the field, while Johnston went to the rear to hurry up re- 
enforcements from his army arriving from the Valley. 

The Confederates had now been forced back a mile 
and a half, and the Union force had cleared its front com- 
pletely across the Warrenton road ; the Stone Bridge was 
uncovered, and McDowell drew up his line on the crest gained, 
with Heintzelman's division (brigades of Wilcox and How- 
ard) on the right, supported by part of Porter's brigade and 
the cavalry under Palmer, and Franklin's brigade of Heintzel- 
man's division ; Sherman's brigade of Tyler's division in the 
centre ; and Keyes' brigade of Tyler's division on the left. 
Beauregard reformed his forces on the plateau beyond. His 
line of battle consisted of about six thousand five hundred 
men, thirteen pieces of artillery, and two companies of Stuart's 

The definitive possession of this plateau now became the 

* He came not a moment too soon. Bee approaching Jackson, and pointing 
to the mingled remnants of his own command, and the shattered brigades ot 
Barton and Evans huddled up in the woods, exclaimed, "General, they are 
beating us back." " Sir, we'll give them the bayonet," replied Jackson ; and 
Bee, rushing back to his troops, rallied them with the words : " There is Jack 
sun, standing like a atone wall; let us determine to die here, and we will 
conquer. " 


prize eagerly contested by the opposing force. This height is 
on three sides inclosed by smaU water-courses, which empty 
into Bull Run within a few yards of each other, and half a 
mile to the south of Stone Bridge. Rising to an elevation of 
quite one hundred feet above the level of Bull Run at the 
bridge, it falls off on these sides to the level of the inclosing 
streams in slopes which are gentle, but furrowed by ravines of 
irregular direction and length, and shaded with clumps and 
patches of young pines and oaks. The general direction of 
the crest of the plateau is oblique to the course of Bull Run. 
Around its eastern and southern brow an almost unbroken 
fringe of second-growth pines gave excellent shelter to the 
Southern sharp-shooters. To the west, adjoining the fields, 
directly across the crest, on both sides of the Sudley road, ex- 
tends a broad belt of oaks, in which, during the battle, regi- 
ments of both armies met and contended for the mastery. 

Having obtained possession of the ridge, the main effort 
of the Union forces was made to work round and envelop the 
left flank of the Confederate line. This was a manoeuvre 
which promised well, but, unfortunately, the army was 
hardly in a condition to execute it ; for, worn out in the hot 
day's work, it had already lost its cohesion, and errors were 
committed of which the Confederates speedily took advan- 
tage. The batteries of Griffin and Ricketts, which had 
played a brilliant part during the conflict, had been ordered 
by General McDowell to the top of the ridge on the right, so 
as to take advantage of the success gained. These batteries 
were supported by the Fire Zouaves and Marines, while the 
Fourteenth New Tork regiment was directed into a skirt of 
wood on the right, to protect that flank. The quick eye of 
Jackson, who held position in front, saw the exposed position 
and feeble support of Griffin's battery, and he threw forward 
the Thirty-third Virginia to take it. Nor till they emerged 
from the skirt of woods, not a thousand yards distant, was 
the danger known ; and when Griffin was about to open on 
them, the chief of artillery, Major Barry, restrained him from 
so doing, conceiving they were the Fourteenth New York, 


that had been thrown into the woods on the right in support. 
Jackson's men made a dash on the battery, and the sup- 
ports giving Avar, took possession of the guns, many of 
the eannouiers being shot down and the horses killed. 
Fresh forces were, however, brought up, the Confederates 
were driven back, and the guns retaken. Beauregard then 
advanced the right of his line in an attempt to recover 
the plateau and the guns. This effort was partially suc- 
cessful, but it was met by a fresh rally of the Union forces ; 
and thus the tide of battle repeatedly surged backwards and 
forwards, with varying success to each combatant. Finally, 
towards three in the afternoon, a fresh accession of force 
having arrived from the incoming troops of Johnston, Beau- 
regard made a determined effort to recover the disputed 
plateau. The attack was vigorously made, and swept back 
the Union forces from the whole open ground — the batteries 
of Griffin and Eicketts being again and finally captured. 
Still, the Union line, though shaken and giving ground, 
did not yield the field. A fresh effort was even made 
to extend the right so as to envelop the Confederate left. 
While this movement was in execution, the brigade of 
Early, the rear of the army of the Shenandoah, reached 
the field from Manassas Junction, and coming in on 
the Union right flank (exposed and badly placed),* deter- 
mined the action. Many of the regiments, especially on that 
wing, were already badly used up, and had lost their organ- 
ization. The fire from the fresh arrivals doubled up this 
flank and drove it back in a confusion which, presently, 
involved the whole line, extending even to the left, which had 
hitherto shown more consistency, and was even advancing. 
The whole force was thrown back in disorder, across and 
over the ridge, and over Young's Branch, and, in extreme 
confusion, made in all available directions towards Bull Bun. 
Every effort was made to rally the troops, even beyond the 

* " The enemy s new formation exposed his right flank more even than 
the previous one. ' Johnston : Report of the Battle of Manassas. 


reach of fire, but in vain. The battalion of Regulars, alone 
justifying the traditions of military discipline, made a brief 
stand on the margin of the ridge, to allow the volunteers to 
reach the Warrenton road. But the troops were rapidly 
reaching that condition when it escapes the power of man to 
hold them : there was running through them that mysterious 
terror which the Greeks ascribed to the presence of Pan. 

" The retreat," says McDowell, " soon became a rout, and 
this presently degenerated into a panic." The troops fled 
across Bull Bun ; and once on the road, the different bodies 
coming together, and without officers, became intermingled, 
and all organization was lost ; while army trains and artillery 
blocking the road, produced a hideous deidrle. At the same 
time, Colonel Miles, who commanded the division of reserves, 
and to whom was intrusted the duty of holding the Centreville 
ridge from Centreville up to Blackburn's Ford, withdrew his 
troops from these positions, uncovering the passage of the 
stream to the Confederates, and exposing the whole retreating 
mass to capture or destruction, — a fate which was averted by the 
arrival of General McDowell, who ordered back Miles' troops 
to their position, and by the inactivity of the Confederates. 
Nothing like systematic pursuit was made, although a small 
party of cavalry followed the retreat as far as Cub Bun. By 
sundown, most of the army was safe behind the Centreville 
ridge. There was, however, no question of halting there ; for 
the condition of the army and the absence of supplies left no 
alternative but to fall back ; and during the night the army 
made its way to the Potomac. The retreat was marked by 
great disorder, all semblance of military organization being 
lost. Many did not even stop on reaching the camps south 
of the Potomac, but fled by the bridges and ferries to Wash- 
ington. This, however, was at length stopped by Colonel 
Sherman, who posted strong guards at the points of passage. 

The Confederate loss in this action was 1852, of whom 269 
were killed and 1438 wounded. The Union loss must have 
been nealry 4000 ; the prisoners, well and wounded, left in 
Beauregard's hands, numbered 1460. 


It is hardly necessary to seek any explanation of the events 
of Bull Eun, other than what arises from the consideration of 
the simple fact that the battle was fought at all. McDowell's 
plan of battle was well-considered, and even bold ; but the 
faults of execution were innumerable. Owing to the absence 
of any thing like a staff, the attack was made in a most frag- 
mentary way, without order or ensemble. Since the close of 
the war, the writer of these pages has had with General 
Johnston a very full conversation on this action ; and on the 
question of the general management of the battle of Manas- 
sas, he spoke as follows : " The key-point was a flat, bare 
crest. It was here that the Federals made their attacks. 
But they were made by a brigade at a time. The position 
was really hardly tenable, and had an attack been made in 
force, with double line of battle — such as any major-general 
in the United States service would now make — we could not 
have held it half an hour, for they would have enveloped us 
on both flanks." 

So far as regards the mere physical fact oi fighting, which 
was at the time the all-important question, there was noth- 
ing of which the Union soldiers had to be ashamed — they 
stood up to it with the blood of their race. The fault lay in 
the inherently vicious organization of the force — in the great 
number of miserable subordinate officers, which in turn was 
the natural result of the method of raising regiments. Yet, 
with all the faults, the action was for a time almost a success, 
which shows that the Confederates were really in not much 
better condition. Their chief point of advantage was in the 
better class of officers created by their system. Nevertheless, 
the victory long hung in the balance, and might readily have 
declared itself on either side.* At the close of the action, the 

* General Jordan, chief of staff to Beauregard, informs me that while con- 
ducting Jefferson Davis up to the battle-ground from Manassas Junction 
during the progress of the action, and just a short time before the giving way 
oi the Union lines, such were the streams of stragglers and skulkers pouring to 
the Southern rear, that Mr. Davis fancied Beauregard had been completely 
beaten. Observing the fact that each even slightly wounded man was '.* 


Southerners were hardly less demoralized than their oppo- 
nents, so that the idea of pursuit was not to be entertained. 
On this point, again, the testimony of General Johnston is of 
the highest value. "In our condition," said he, "pursuit 
could not be thought of ; for we were almost as much dis- 
organized by our victory as the Federals by their defeat. 
Nest day, many, supposing the war was over, actually went 
home. A party of our soldiers, hearing that a friend lay 
wounded twenty miles off, would start out to go and see him ; 
or that another acquaintance was dead, and they would go 
and bury him. Our men had in a larger degree the instinct 
of personal liberty than those of the North ; and it was found 
very difficult to subordinate their personal will to the needs 
of military discipline." * 

Both sides, in fact, had much to learn ; and it is the fact 
that the battle of Bull Bun was the first great lesson which 
the two armies received, that makes the events which trans- 
pired on the plains of Manassas that July Sunday, forever 
memorable in the history of the War. 

corted by two or three comrades, Mr. Davis exclaimed to Jordan, " Battles are 
not won where several unhurt men are seen carrying off each wounded soldier !" 
* General Johnston in his official report says : " The war department has 
already been informed of all the causes that prevented pursuit, some of which 
only are proper to be communicated." I suppose, what is stated above, which I 
had from General Johnston's own lips, supplies the rest. 




July, 1861— March, 1862. 


When the army that so lately had gone forth with such 
high hopes returned from Manassas shattered and discom- 
fited to the banks of the Potomac, wise men saw there was 
that had suffered worse defeat than the army — it Avas the 
system under which Bull Run had been fought and lost. The 
lesson was a severe one ; but if it was needed to demonstrate 
the legitimate result of the crude experimentalism under which 
the war had been conducted, — when campaigns wore planned 
by ignorant politicians, and battles, precipitated by the 
pressure of sanguine journalists, were fought by raw three 
months' levies, — the price paid was perhaps not too high. 
The Bull Bun experiment taught the country it was a real war 
it had undertaken, and that success could only be hoped for 
by a strict conformity to military principles. 

The spirit in which the country rose to meet the emergency 
showed that it had benefited by the experience ; and if before 
Bull Bun the public mind had been in a mood to require just 
such a stern lesson for reproof and correction and instruction, 
it soon appeared that there was in it a temper to rise above the 
wi >rst lapses and failures. For then was seen that which again 
and again throughout the war has been seen — a spectacle 




marvellous and majestic, when the nation, stirred to its depths, 
uprose to meet the crisis that was upon it. Something of the 
kind had been seen at the uprising that followed the assault 
on Fort Sumter. But that was a manifestation less deep and 
earnest than the swift, stern, almost savage vigor with which 
the men of the North, wounded in the instinct of self-love as 
well as in the sentiment of patriotism, arose to assert their 
manhood, impugned by the humiliations of Bull Bun. The 
crisis was one fitted to test the mettle of the nation ; for had it 
then shown the least supineness or hesitation, its doom had 
been sealed. In a fortnight the terms of service of the sev- 
enty-five thousand volunteers would have expired ; and the 
Southern army, flushed with victory and doubled in material 
strength, would have found the capital of the United States an 
easy prey. 

The nation sprang spontaneously to arms. "With incredible 
rapidity new battalions were formed and forwarded to Wash- 
ington ; and by the time the term of service of the provisional 
troops had expired, their number had been more than re- 
placed by fresh levies enlisted for three years or the war. 

What the country could give — men, material, money — that 
it gave lavishly, far outrunning the calls of the Government ; 
but what it could not give was precisely what was most 
urgently needed to vitalize these sinews of war, — to wit, ade- 
quate leadership, and that sotil of armies, the mind of a great 
commander. For this the nation, keenly alive to its need, 
could only breathe passionate aspirations. 

General McDowell vacated the command of the army with- 
out forfeiting the respect of his countrymen ; for, while he 
had lost a battle, there was an instinctive consciousness that 
he had been the victim of circumstances rather than of any 
miscarriage of his own. And now there could be no doubt 
regarding his successor ; for the general and consenting voice 
of the North pointed to the young general who had just con- 
cluded his campaign in the mountains of West Virginia as 
the desired leader of the army. General McOlellan, accord- 
ingly, was summoned to Washington the day after Bull Bun. 


and placed in command of the disorganized forces that had 
returned from that untoward campaign, and of the rapidly 
arriving regiments which the " populous Xorth" was pouring 
down from all directions to Washington. Out of these 
elements, an army was, first of all, to be fashioned. 

General MoClellan brought to his high trust proofs of 
talent which, though not sufficient to show him a proper 
captain of a great army, were yet enough to inspire the best 
hopes of him. He had served with distinction in Mexico, had 
studied war in Europe, was in the flower of his youth, and, 
above all, had just finished a campaign that, by its success 
amidst general failure elsewhere, seemed to furnish at once 
the prestige and prophecy of victory. 

The young chieftain threw himself with the utmost ardor 
and energy into the work of moulding into form an army ade- 
quate for the nation's needs. It was a colossal task ; for it 
was necessary not merely to build up an army, but to make 
the model on which the army should be built. The military 
traditions of the United States, confined to the single cam- 
paign in Mexico, afforded no groundwork for the organization 
of such a military establishment as was now demanded for 
the portentous task before the country. The regular army 
kept on foot previous to the war was limited by law to 
under twenty thousand men. But its whole internal organism 
had been disrupted by secession, and it did not even form a 
cadre on which it was possible to build. 

The force around Washington, of which General McClellan 
assumed command on the 27th of July, numbered about fifty 
thousand infantry, less than a thousand cavalry, six hundred 
and fifty artillerymen, with nine imperfect field-batteries of 
thirty pieces. It still retained the provisional brigade-organi- 
zation given it by McDowell ; but the utter collapse that 
followed Bull Bun had made it rather a mob than an army. 
Desertions had become alarmingly numerous, and the streets 
of Washington were crowded with straggling officers and men 
absent from their stations without authority, and indicating 
by their behavior an utter want of discipline and organiza- 


tion.* To correct these abuses a stringent system of military 
police was ai once adopted, and this measure was followed by 
an immediate improvement in the morale of the troops. The 
root of the evil, however, lay deeper — lay in the really vicious 
system governing the primary organization of regiments and 
the appointment of their officers, t Though General McClel- 
lan was unable to strike at this, he endeavored, as far as 
might be, to remedy its results ; and Congress having passed 
a bill authorizing the President to dispense with the services 
of inefficient officers, the Army of the Potomac was soon 
weeded of several hundred worthless wearers of shoulder- 
straps. £ 

The problem of the best organization to be given a newly 
formed army, is one that to this day has received no final 
solution ; and whatever principle be adopted, the origi- 
nal organization will be apt to require modification very 
soon after entering upon a campaign. The division, com- 
posed of two or more brigades, is, however, a permanent 
unit : and General McClellan, after the regiments had been 

* McClellan : Report, p. 9. 

f Prince de Joinville : The Army of the Potomac, p. 17 ; Lecomte : Guerre 
des Etats-Unis, p. 55. 

In just views regarding this, as regarding most other matters relating to 
the war, the people were much in advance of the Government ; and one of the 
most curious instances of this is a formal memorial at this time addressed to 
the President by " property holders of New York," regarding the system of 
officering regiments. This paper, marked by the soundest good sense, was 
published in the New York journals of August 1, 1861. " They complain," 
says the memorial, " that a suitable supervision has not been extended by Gov- 
ernment to the officering of the volunteer forces ; that the principle of allowing 
companies to choose their own officers, or officers their own colonels, is fatal to 
military discipline : that political, local, and personal interests have had far 
too much sway in the selection of officers ; that undue laxity prevails in the 
control of volunteer officers by their military superiors ; and that an ill-grounded 
apprehension of local or political censure has prevented the proper authorities 
from removing incompetent commanders, and from placing in responsible 
military positions those most capable of filling them, without regard to any 
thing but their qualifications," etc., etc. 

X After the institution of the qualifying examination, three hundred and te» 
officers were dismissed, or their resignations accepted, within eight months. 


organized into brigades of four regiments each, and the bri- 
gades had been somewhat disciplined and instructed, formed 
• divisions of three brigades each.* But, in armies of above 
sixty thousand men, it has been common, since the time of 
Napoleon, to create from the assemblage of two or more divi- 
sions the higher unit of the corj>s (farmce. As a theoretical 
principle of organization, General McClellan was in favor of 
the formation of corps ; but he wished to defer its practical 
application until his division commanders should, by actual 
experience in the field, acquire the requisite training to fit 
them for commands so important, and until he should have 
learned who of his divisional officers merited this high trust. t 
There was much to justify this course, for there are few men 
able to command a body of thirty thousand men ;% and it is 
worthy of note that it was not till the Army of Northern "Vir- 
ginia had seen eighteen months of service that those at the 
head of military affairs in Richmond organized corps. § This 
hesitation, however, proved unfortunate for McClellan him- 
self ; for, several months afterwards, and just as he was about 
moving to the Peninsiila, the President divided the Army of 
the Potomac into four corps, and assigned to their command 
men whom General McClellan would not have chosen ; 
whereas, had he created corps at first, he might have made 
his own 

It next became necessary to create adequate artillery and 
engineer establishments, to organize the cavalry arm, and to 

* McClellan : Report, p. 11. 

f Ibid., p. 53. 

X " An army corps rarely contains more than thirty thousand men, and often 
lower, even among nations who have the greatest number of troops. Such a 
command is a great burden, and few men are capable of managing it credita- 
bly." Dufour: Strategy and Tactics, p. 81. 

§ The corps organization was created in the Confederate service immediately 
after the battle of Antietam. 

| General Hooker cannot be regarded as a partisan of General MeCk'lliui , 
yet I have often heard him say that it would have been impossible for General 
McClellan to have succeeded with such corps commanders as he had on the 


provide for the administrative service of the quartermaster, 
ordnance, commissary, and medical departments. 

The task of forming an artillery establishment was facili- 
tated by the fact that the country possessed in the regular 
service a body of accomplished and energetic artillery officers.* 
As basis of organization it was decided to form field-batteries 
of six guns (never less than four guns, and the guns of 
each battery to be of uniform calibre) ; f and these were 
assigned to divisions, not to brigades, in the proportion of 
four batteries to each division ; one of which was to be a bat- 
tery of Regulars, and the captain of the Regular battery was in 
each case appointed commandant of the artillery of the divi- 
sion. In addition, it was determined to create an artillery 
reserve of a hundred guns and a siege-train of fifty pieces. 
This work was pushed forward with so much energy, that 
whereas, when General McClellan took command of the army, 
the entire artillery establishment consisted of nine imperfectly 
equipped batteries of thirty guns, before it took the field this 
service had reached the colossal proportions of ninety-two 
batteries of five hundred and twenty guns, served by twelve 
thousand five hundred men, and in full readiness for active 
field-duty 4 

With equal energy the formation of the engineer establish- 
ment was entered upon ; and this included not only the train- 
ing of engineer companies and the Corps of Topographical 
Engineers, but the organization of engineer and bridge-trains 
and equipage adequate for an army of first-class proportions. 
Ai the same time, the entire system of the defences of Wash- 
ington, both for the northern and southern side of the Po- 

* The duty of organizing this arm was confided to Major (afterwards Brig- 
adier-General) Barry, chief of artillery. 

f " It was decided that the proportion of rifled guns should be one-third, 
and of smooth-bores two-thirds — that the rifled guns should be restricted to the 
system of the United States ordnance department and of Parrott, and the 
smooth-bores to be exclusively the light twelve-pounder or Napoleon gun." — 
Barry : Report of Artillery Operations, p. 106. 

$ Report of the Engineer and Artillery Operations of the Army of the 
Potomac, pp. 106-109. 



tomac, was planned and carried into execution.* Washing- 
ton, in fact, assumed the aspect of a fortified capital, with a 
system of defences so formidable that the enemy at no time 
throughout the war attempted seriously to assail that city t 

Such is but a faint setting forth of the manifold activities 
evoked and directed towards the creation of the Army of the 
Potomac by its new commander. It was a season of faithful, 
fruitful work, amid which that army grew into shape and sub- 
stance. And with such surprising energy was the work of 
organization pushed forward, that whereas General McClellan 
in July came into command of a collection of raw, dispirited, 
and disorganized regiments, without commissariat or quarter- 
master departments, and unfitted either to march or fight, he 
had around him at the end of three months a hundred thou- 
sand men, trained and disciplined, organized and equipped, 
animated by the highest spirit, and deserving the fond name 
of The Grand Army of the Potomac. And certainly, if there 
are portions of McClellan's subsequent military career that 
are open to animadversion, he yet challenges from all im- 
partial minds the credit due this mighty performance.^ 

Looking at the work he then initiated, in the only light in 
which we can rightly appreciate it — as it stands related to 

* These works were planned and executed by Major (afterwards Major- 
General) Barnard, chief-engineer of the Army of the Potomac. 

f The theory of the system of defences of Washington is that upon which 
the works of Torres Vedras were based — the occupation of commanding points 
within cannon-range of each other by field-forts, the fire of which shall sweep 
all the approaches, a connection being formed by infantry parapets easily im- 
provised. The line, as it encircles the capital on both sides of the Potomac, 
has a development of thirty-three miles. As to the value of this system of 
defences for the safeguard of Washington, that is a vast, complex, and difficult 
question, not to be entered on here. It has been very severely criticised by 
Colonel Lecomte in his work, " Campagne de Virginie et de Maryland en 
1802 ;" and to these animadversions a warm rejoinder has been made by Gen- 
eral Barnard in " The Peninsular Campaign and its Antecedents." 

% History will not refuse to affirm of this work the judgment pronounced by 
General McClellan himself: " The creation of such an army in so short a time 
from nothing, will hereafter be regarded as one of the highest glories of th' 
udministration and the nation." 


what went before, and what came after it — it is manifest that 
what gives it significance is that it represents science dis- 
placing sciolism, the untutored enthusiasm of a nation unused 
to war, taught by a bitter experience to yield itself to the 
cunning hand of discipline — that power which Carnot calls " the 
glory of the soldier and the strength of armies."* If the Army 
of the Potomac afterwards performed deeds worthy to live in 
history, it is in no small degree due to the fact that the 
groundwork of victory was laid deep and broad in that early 
period of stern tutelage, when it learnt the apprenticeship of 
war. If other generals, the successors of McClellan, were 
able to achieve more decisive results than he, it was, again, in 
no small degree, because they had ready to hand the perfect 
instrument which he had fashioned.f 

* " It is military discipline that is the glory of the soldier and the strength 
of armies, for it is the foremost act of its devotion, and the most assured pledge 
of victory (le plus grand acte de son decouement et le gage le plus assure de la 
victoire). I\ is by it that all wills unite in one, and all partial forces conspire to 
wards one end." Carnot : De la Defense des Places Fortes, p. 505. 

f " Had there been no McClellan," I have often heard General Meade say, 
" there could have been no Grant ; for the army made no essential improvement 
under any of his successors." It was common throughout the war to ascribe 
a high degree of discipline to the Confederate army — even higher than that of 
the Army of the Potomac. But the revelations of the actual condition of that 
army since the close of the war do not justify this assertion. On the contrary, 
they show that the discipline of the Army of Northern Virginia was never 
equal to that of the Army of the Potomac, though in fire and elan it was su- 
perior. " I could always rely on my army," said General Lee, at the time he 
surrendered its remnant at Appomattox Courthouse — " I could always rely on 
my army for fighting ; but its discipline was poor." At the time of the Mary- 
land invasion, Lee lost above twenty-five thousand men from his effective 
strength by straggling, and he exclaimed with tears, " My army is ruined by 
straggling !" Nothing could better illustrate the high state of discipline of the 
Army of the Potomac, than its conduct in such retreats as that on the Pen- 
insula and in the Pope campaign, and in such incessant fighting as the Bapidan 
campaign of 1864 




Three months of varied and fruitful activity thus passed, 
and the close of autumn found around Washington an army 
both formidable in numbers and respectable in efficiency. 
There then arose the problem of putting it in motion ; and 
this problem involved two questions — ivlten to strike, and 
where? The latter was a question that concerned the 
general-in-chief ; but the former was one that profoundly 
touched the people, who, as the sustainers of the war, 
" thronged in and made their voice heard, and became par- 
takers of the counsels of state."* 

During that period in which the army was being formei] 
public remained silent. And there was in this silence some- 
thing almost pathetic ; for, knowing that an undue urgency 
for action, expressed through the public prints, had precipi- 
tated the disastrous campaign that ended in Bull Eun, men 
sought to make amends by a sedulous refraining from the like 
again. General McClellan was left free to work his will ; 
and, being strong in the trust of the country, he was "master 
of the situation :" no monarch could be more so. 

Yet it was manifest that this confidence was in pledge of 
early and energetic action on the part of the commander ; for 
the country had too much at stake, and the passions and 
interests of men were too closely bound up with a speedy 
suppression of the insurrection, to brook a Fabian policy. 
General McClellan had, in a public speech at the time he 
assumed command of the Army of the Potomac, promised 
that the war should be " short, sharp, and decisive." This 

* This is the striking expression employed by Mr. Kinglake in describing 
the influence of English public sentiment in enforcing the 'War of the 


was the very key-note on which all the motions of public 
sentiment turned. It was, therefore, in the highest degree 
important for him to seize the first opportunity to justify, by 
some palpable proof, that confidence which the country had 
spontaneously extended to him. There was too little mod- 
eration, too little stability in the public judgment, to make it 
possible that this condition of things should long continue. 
The faith that had been freely bestowed would presently dis- 
appear, unless confirmed by deeds. 

A commander who, under a popular government, is in- 
trusted with the conduct of a war, has to shape his acts not 
alone according to abstract military dictates, but must take 
into account considerations of a political and moral order as 
well. For the wishes, impulses, prejudices, ignorances even 
of his countrymen, enter as really into the problem with which 
he has to deal as the character of his enemy or the lines 
of military operation. A captain who is also king, may act 
in quite different wise from a captain responsible to a Cabinet 
or Congress. "What a Caesar or a Napoleon might do, could 
not be imitated by a Wellington or a Eugene ; and the history 
of the latter illustrious commander, and his equally illustrious 
colleague — Marlborough — shows, strikingly, how that even the 
victor of Blenheim and Ramilies had to conform the inspira- 
tions of his military genius to the dull wits of a Dutch 
States-General. McClellan, who had as yet done nothing to 
prove himself either a Wellington or a Eugene, should have 
made the lightest possible draft on the indulgence of the people. 

There is little or no doubt that, thus far, General 
McClellan had formed no other theory regarding the employ- 
ment of the Army of the Potomac, than that which was 
common throughout the country ; which, compendiously 
stated, was to make a direct attack on the enemy in front of 
Washington, and to make this attack as soon as possible.* 

* Though General McClellan used to keep his own counsel, yet General 
McDowell tells me he was wont, in their rides over the country south of the 
Potomac, to point out towards the flank of Manassas and say, " We shall 
strike them ttere." 


All his plans at this period contemplated a general advance 
from Washington as early as the month of November ; and, 
looking back to the middle of October, it appears from 
General AlcClellan's own statement that he had at that time 
upwards of one hundred and fifty thousand men under his 
command, out of which, after deducting the forces to be 
employed in garrisoning Washington, Baltimore, and Annap- 
olis, and those assigned for guarding the hue of the Potomac, 
he was able to place, in the field a column for active operations 
of above seventy-five thousand men.* 

But about the time he had designed putting the army in 
motion, General McClellan found himself, by his appoint- 
ment as general-in-chief, charged not only with the direc- 
tion of the Army of the Potomac but of all the other armies 
in the field. He then began to change his views regarding 
the line and method of operating against the enemy in Vir- 
ginia ; and this led him to the adoption of a policy that 
caused a delay of all active operations, lasting throughout 
the whole winter and continuing till March, 1862, when the 
movement to the Peninsula was begun.f This inactivity, by 

* McClellan : Report, p. 7. 

f It would appear that it was during the month of November that General 
McClellan first began to change his purpose of operating against the enemy in 
front of Washington, and determined to assail Richmond from the coast. The 
earliest recorded intimation of this change of purpose appears in a reply by 
General McClellan to a memorandum drawn up by President Lincoln, suggest- 
ing a movement on Manassas. This paper, with many others relating to his 
own personal correspondence with General McClellan, was given the writer by 
the late President during the summer of 1864. It is marked in Mr. Lin- 
coln's hand as having been made " about the 1st of December, 1861." 

" If it were determined to make a forward movement of the Army of tbo 
Potomac, without awaiting further increase of numbers, or better drill and dis- 
cipline, how long would it require to actually get in motion ? 

" [Answer in pencil by McClellan : ' If bridge trains ready, by December 15 
— probably 25th.'] 

" After leaving all that would be necessary, how many troops could join 
tf ie movement from southwest of the river ? 

" [Answer in pencil, ' 71,000.'] 

" How many from northwest of it 1 


whatever military considerations it may have been justified 
to General McClellan's own mind, was certainly very unfor- 
tunate ; and, as it had afterwards an important bearing on 
that commander's relations to the Administration, and has 
since given rise to much antagonism of opinion, it will be 
proper to consider briefly both the reasons which are thought 
to justify and those which are thought to condemn it. 

The points of defence of the inactivity of the Army of the 
Potomac during the winter of 1861-2 may all be included in 
this summary : the yet imperfect organization, equipment, 

" [Answer in pencil, ' 33,000.'] 

" Suppose, then, that of those southwest of the river [supplied in pencil, 
' 50,000'] move forward and menace the enemy at Centreville ? 

" The remainder of the movable force on that side move rapidly to the 
crossing of the Occoquan by the road from Alexandria towards Richmond ; 
there to be joined by the whole movable force from northeast of the river, hav- 
ing landed from the Potomac just below the mouth of the Occoquan, move by 
land up the south side of that stream, to the crossing point named ; then the 
whole move together, by the road thence to Brentville, and beyond, to the rail- 
road just south of its crossing of Broad Run, a strong detachment of cavalry 
having gone rapidly ahead to destroy the railroad-bridges south and north of 
the point. 

" If the crossing of the Occoquan by those from above be resisted, those 
landing from the Potomac below to take the resisting force of the enemy in 
rear ; or, if landing from the Potomac be resisted, those crossing the Occoquan 
from above to take that resisting force in rear. Both points will probably not 
be successfully resisted at the same time. The force in front of Centreville, if 
pressed too hardly, should fight back into the intrenchments behind them. 
Armed vessels and transports should remain at the Potomac landing to cover 
a possible retreat." 

The following reply is in General McClellan's handwriting, dated Wash- 
ington, December 10, and marked "confidential :" 

" I inclose the paper you left with me — filled as you requested. In arriving 
at the numbers given, I have left the minimum numbers in garrison and 

" Information recently [received] leads me to believe that the enemy would 

meet us in front with equal forces nearly — and I have now my mind actually 

turned towards another plan of campaign that I do not think at all anticipated 

by the enemy, nor by many of our own people. 

"Geokge B. McClellan." 

The " other plan of campaign," here foreshadowed, is of course no other than 
the coast movement. 


ami discipline of the army; the inadequacy of its force ; the 
difficulty of winter campaigning in Virginia ; and the neces- 
sity of a simultaneous movement throughout the entire 
theatre of war. Some of these points are well taken, while 
others will not stand a critical examination. 

It is true that the army, though composed of material of 
uncommon excellence, was necessarily green and had the 
imperfections incident to improvised armaments ; and, no 
doubt, it was in much better condition to move in April, 
1862, than it could have been in November or December, 
1861. But, assuredly, General McClellan over-estimates the 
then condition of his opponent's army, when, in his report, 
he speaks of its superior discipline, drill, and equipment. 
There is now overwhelming evidence to show that, previously 
at least to the organization of the permanent Confederate 
Army in April, 1862, nothing could exceed the laxity of dis- 
cipline, demoralization of temper, and inferiorit}- in arms, 
equipment, and means of transport that marked the Southern 
force. It is true, also, that General McClellan was never 
able to obtain quite the colossal force he had called for — a 
movable column of one hundred and fifty thousand men, to- 
gether with garrisons for Washington, Baltimore, etc., and 
corps of observation for the line of the Potomac, making the 
enormous aggregate of two hundred and forty thousand men. 
But it should be considered that this demand was based on 
the theory set forth by General McClellan himself, that the 
enemy had, in October, "a force on the Potomac not less 
than one hundred and fifty thousand strong, well drilled and 
equipped ;" whereas it is certain that General Johnston's 
entire force barely exceeded one-third that number.* 

* Several months ago General Johnston stated verbally to me that his recol- 
lection of the maximum of his strength during this period was e 1,000. Since 
then, however, I have obtained in manuscript the consolidated monthly re- 
ports of the Confederate armies. Johnston's strength, October 31, lSiil, was 
44,lol present for duty (present and absent IM,'2i',l) ; December olst it was 
62.112 present for duly (present and absent US,0SS) ; February 2S, IStiJ, it >vaH 
47,(il7 (present and absent S-1,225). 


It is also true that military operations in a Virginia winter 
and on a Virginia soil are attended with great difficulties ; and 
no military student will, after the experience of the war, say 
that it would have been practicable for General McClellan at 
that season to undertake a grand operation, such as a cam- 
paign against Richmond. But it was quite possible to have 
made a special operation of the nature of a movement against 
Johnston at Manassas. Had Johnston stood, a battle with 
good prospect of success might have been delivered. But had 
he, as there was great likelihood he would do, and as it is now 
certain he would have done, fallen back from Manassas to the 
line of the Rapidan, his compulsory retirement would have 
been esteemed a positive victory to the Union arms.* And, 
even had it been accounted impracticable to undertake a 
movement against Manassas, there were still many incidental 

* General McClellan himself, in discussing the relative merits of a direct ad- 
vance against the enemy at Manassas and a change of base to some point on 
the lower Chesapeake, makes certain admissions that, considering the circum- 
stances of the case, might well have decided him to take the former course. 
He admits that an attack on the Confederate right flank by the line of the 
Occoquan would, if successful, "prevent the junction of the enemy's right with 
his centre," affording the opportunity of destroying the former ; would " remove 
the obstructions to the navigation of the Potomac;" would "reduce the length 
of wagon transportation," and would "strike directly at his main railway com- 
munication." Now assuming the successful execution of this plan, what would 
have been the result ? General McClellan himself shall answer : 

"Assuming the succ<«s of this operation and the defeat of the enemy as cer- 
tain, the question at once arises as to the importance of the results gained. I 
think these results would be confined to the possession of the field of battle, 
the evacuation of the line of the upper Potomac by the enemy, and the moral 
effect of the victory ; important results, it is true, but not decisive of the war, 
nor securing the destruction of the enemy's main army, for he could fall back 
upon other positions, and fight us again and again, should the condition of his 
troops permit." 

A tactical victory in the field, the compulsory retreat of the enemy from his 
cherished position, the relief of the blockade of the Potomac, and the " moral 
effect of the victory," with the losses, disasters, and demoralization therefrom 
resulting all of which General McClellan admits were within his grasp by 
the movement indicated — were surely well worth the effort. True, the operation 
would not have been " decisive of the war,"— for such was the grand but some- 
what vague and, as has since appeared, misjudged ambition that possessed him. 


operations* that were perfectly feasible, and which, whilo 
valuable in themselves, would have had the eil'eet to satisfy 
the country and consolidate the confidence of the people and 
the Administration in General McClellan. 

And it is precisely in this regard that General McClellan 
showed himself deficient in certain qualities of mind indis- 
pensable for one who has to deal with the larger questions of 
war. If, as a soldier, he was right in wishing to postpone 
grand military operations till spring, when the times and 
seasons and circumstances should all favor ; when his army, 
strengthened in numbers and tempered by discipline, would 
be fit for the field ; when the full preparation of the other 
armies would enable him to enter on large combinations, he 
certainly showed a lack of that kind of political suwir /aire 
and knowledge of human nature necessary to a great com- 
mander, in remaining perfectly inactive. It was for him to 
consider whether the increase in numbers and improvement in 
discipline likely to accrue to his army in the mean time would 
at all compensate for that loss of confidence, that popular impa- 
tience, that political obstruction, which were certain to arise, 
and which actually did arise. For so soon as the period of 
reorganization had passed, the public and the Administration 
became naturally anxious to see the imposing army of a hun- 
dred and fifty thousand men that had grown up on the banks 
of the Potomac turned to some account. And this anxiety 
presently grew into an impatience, which at length broke out 
in loud clamor that at once embarrassed the Government and 
marred the harmonious relations between it and the com- 
mander of the army. 

It happened, too, that during this period there occurred a 
series of untoward events that made a deep impression on 
the people of the North, and tended both to grieve patriotic' 
men and stir up a bitter opposition to the commander held 
responsible for them. The most important of these were the 

* Among these General Barnard mentions the capture of Norfolk. Tbe 
Peninsular Camjiiiign, p. 12. 


blockade of the Potomac and the disaster at Ball's Bluff, of 
which events I must give a brief account. 

Shortly after the battle of Bull Run, the Confederates ad- 
vanced their outposts from Centrevilie and Fairfax Court- 
house forward as far as Munson's Hill, and almost to the 
banks of the Potomac, — a move that was of no military value, 
but which gave them the prestige of flaunting their flag within 
view of the capitol of the nation. They then proceeded to 
erect batteries at different points on the Virginia side of the 
Potomac, with the view of obstructing the navigation of the 
river. So successfully was this work performed, that early in 
October the flag-officer of the Potomac flotilla officially re- 
ported the water highway by which a large part of the sup- 
plies for the army around Washington was brought forward 
from the North to be effectually closed.* This event, the 
actual blockade of the capital, produced throughout the 
country a deep feeling of mortification and humiliation, and 
caUed forth bitter complaints against the Government. A 
proposition was made to destroy these batteries by an assault- 
ing force sent from the Maryland side of the river ; but the 
enterprise was abandoned in consequence of an adverse report 
from General Barnard, chief-engineer, t Meanwhile, the com- 
mander was unwilling to undertake the destruction of the 
batteries by the only method that promised success — to wit, 
a movement by the right bank of the Potomac, — for the reason 
that it would bring on a general engagement. 

The affair of Ball's Bluff was of a kind to affect still more 
powerfully the popular imagination ; for, while in itself a 
lamentable disaster, it seemed to reveal a strange looseness 
and want of responsibility in the conduct of military affairs. 
It appears that on the 19th of October, General McCall was 
ordered to make, with his division, a movement on Draines- 
ville, for the purpose of covering reconnoissances in all direc- 
tions to be made the following day. These reconnoissances 

* Report on the Conduct of the War, vol. i., p. 8. 
f McClellan : Report, p, 50. 


were successfully accomplished on the '20th; and General Mc- 
Clellau, anticipating that this demonstration would hare the 
effect of inducing the enemy to abandon Lcesburg, directed 
General Stone, whose division of observation was guarding 
the left bank of the Potomac above Washington, with head- 
quarters at Poole sville, to " keep a good lookout upon Lees- 
burg," and suggested " a slight demonstration" as likely to 
have the effect of moving the enemy at that point. Accord- 
ingly, on the afternoon of the 20th, Gorman's brigade was 
sent to Edward's Ferry to make a display of force, and the 
Fifteenth Massachusetts regiment, under Colonel Devens, was 
sent to Harrison's Island, from which place a small scouting 
party was about dark sent across by Ball's Bluff, to the Vir- 
ginia side, and ordered to push out towards Leesburg and 
report the position of the enemy. The reconnoitring party 
having returned, bringing report of a smaU encampment of 
the enemy within a mile of Leesburg, Colonel Devens was 
ordered by General Stone to cross five companies of his regi- 
ment to the Virginia shore, and advancing under cover of the 
night to the enemy's camp, to destroy it at daybreak, and, after 
making observation of the country, to return. The report 
touching the enemy's encampment proved to be a mistake ; 
but Colonel Devens found a wood in which he concealed his 
men, and proceeded to examine the space between that and 
Leesburg. About eight o clock, however, finding his position 
discovered, he retired to the Bluff, but presently returned to- 
wards Leesburg, and occupied the ground till towards one 
o'clock ; when on being attacked by a regiment of the enemy, 
he again fell back to a field in front of the bluff, where the 
main action afterwards took place, and where was posted a 
small supporting force under Colonel Lee. Meantime, in 
the morning, General Stone had assigned to Colonel Baker 
the command of the right wing at Ball's Bluff, giving him a 
discretionary order either to retire the small force on the Vir- 
ginia side, or to re-enforce it from his own brigade. Colonel 
Baker determined on the latter course, and succeeded in ferry 
ing over about a thousand men of his command. These 


he united to the commands of Colonel Devens, who had mean- 
while retired to the bluff, and of Colonel Lee ; and with this 
force of about one thousand eight hundred men formed line 
of battle in the field at the top of the bluff, where, about half- 
past two in the afternoon, he began to receive the attack of 
the enemy. The Southern force was composed of four regi- 
ments, under command of Colone] Evans, who with his brigade 
had been holding post at Leesburg. Finding that the small 
Union force, which had been easily driven back from its ad- 
vance towards Leesburg, was constantly being re-enforced by 
the fresh troops which Baker was bringing across the river, 
Evans ordered a general attack. The action continued for 
two hours ; the Confederates assaulting impetuously, and the 
Union force stoutly resisting, though losing ground. In the 
midst of the contest the commanding officer, Colonel Baker, 
was killed ; and shortly afterwards the line, receiving a severe 
fire on the left flank, retreated in disorder down the bluff 
towards the river. Here, towards dusk, an appalling scene 
ensued. The troops swarmed down the steep bluff, pursued 
by the yelling Southerners, who shot and bayoneted them as 
they ran. The means of transportation had been very in- 
adequate ; the one flat-boat was soon swamped, the lifeboat 
drifted down the stream, and the couple of skiffs which made 
up the total were soon lost. Many were shot while in the 
water ; many were drowned ; many surrendered ; others suc- 
ceeded in swimming to the island. Not half of those who went 
over returned. 

This lamentable affair discouraged the people of the North 
as much as it elated the Southerners.* Its entire history 
affords a striking exemplification of the looseness of military 
conduct and relations at that time. In venturing on the 
undertaking, General Stone proceeded on the supposition that 
General McCall, who, as General McClellan informed him, 

* In the hot and suspicious temper of the hour, the gravest charges were 
brought against the commanding officer, who some time afterwards was placed 
in arrest and confined to Fort Lafayette. From these charges a calmer survev 
of the events completely exonerates General Stone. 


had occupied Drainesville on the 20th, and was to " send out 
reconnoissanees in all directions," still remained there ; yet 
McCall was withdrawn the following morning, when Stone 
sent the force across the river, without the latter's being in- 
formed of the fact. Again, though General McClellan did not 
order the expedition across the river, yet on being informed of 
the crossing during the day, he congratulated General Stone, 
thereby inferentially approving it.* Stone's plan of opera- 
tions lacked definite purpose : it was neither a feint nor a 
serious attack. He seems to have left Colonel Baker in mis- 
understanding as to the co-operation of the force at Edward's 
Ferry ; and the conduct of Colonel Baker, — a high-spirited 
and patriotic man, who had quitted his seat in the United 
States Senate to take the field, — was without military skill or 

These events could not fail to have a deeply depressing 
effect on the public mind. It is vain to argue that the coun- 
try should have subordinated its wishes to abstract military 
necessities. Nor is it strange, as month after month passed 
by in inaction, with the capital of the nation under blockade, 
the foreign relations of the United States menacing war, 
Secession gaining prestige day by clay, while an army of por- 
tentous strength lay as under a spell, that the deepest solici- 
tude should have overcome the hearts of men ; that the timid 
should have begun to despair, and the proudest to hang their 
heads with shame. These things came back upon the Admin- 
istration in a pressure daily growing more and more oppres- 
sive ; and when, towards the close of that gloomy year, the 
commander of the Army of the Potomac being then sick, 
President Lincoln called in several of the general officers to 
counsel with him, he declared, in his sad, homely way, that "if 
something could not soon be done, the bottom trould be out of 
the whole affair, t 

This exposition of the condition of the public mind is due 

* Report on the Conduct of the War, vol. ii., p. 489. 
f McDowell : Manuscript Minutes of Council of War. 


here ; because, if we shall not be able to hold the Administra- 
tion blameless in its dealings with General McClellan, a just 
verdict will at the same time not omit to estimate how severe 
a demand that officer — unwisely, as we must think — made on 
the country and the Government. 

I now pass to the exposition of the cause that produced this 
long and unfortunate inaction, and which will be found in the 
already noted change of the plan of operations. There is 
little doubt that, at the period to which this recital has 
extended — namely, the close of the year 1861 — General Mc- 
Clellan had fully resolved upon acting against the enemy by a 
flank movement by water instead of assailing him by direct 
attack ; and as the adoption of the former course had a most 
important bearing on the relations between the Executive and 
the general-in-chief, I shall enter with some detail into the 
origin and development of that plan of campaign that removed 
the Army of the Potomac from the front of Washington to the 

The first formal discussion of a movement to the Lower 
Chesapeake seems to have taken place at a series of war-coun- 
cils held at "Washington early in January, 1862. It appears 
that at this time President Lincoln, troubled in spirit at the 
condition of public affairs, and further distressed at the sick- 
ness of General McClellan, summoned the attendance of two 
division commanders, to counsel with himself and the mem- 
bers of the cabinet as to the propriety of commencing active 
operations with the Army of the Potomac. These officers 
were Generals McDowell and Franklin. The former officer 
committed to writing the substance of what passed at these 
interviews, and the following is a transcript of his manuscript 
minutes : 

" Januaey 10, 1862. — At dinner at Arlington, Va. Keceived a note from 
the Assistant-Secretary of War, saying the President wished to wee me that 
evening, at eight o'clock, if I could safely leave my post. Soon after I re- 
ceived a note from Quartermaster-General Meigs, marked 'private and con- 
fidential,' saying the President wished to see me. 


u Repaired to the President's house at eight o'clock p. m. Found the 
President alone. Was taken into the small room in the northeast corner. 
Soon after we were joined by Brigadier-General Franklin, the Secretary of 
'state, Governor Seward, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Assistant- 
Secretary of War. The President was greatly disturbed at the state of 
affairs. Spoke of the exhausted condition of the treasury; of the loss of 
public credit; of the Jacobinism of Congress;* of the delicate condition of 
our foreign relations; of the bad news he had received from the West, par- 
ticularly as contained in a letter from General Halleck on the state of affairs 
in Missouri ; of the want of co-operation between Generals Halleck and 
Buell; but more than all, the sickness of General McOlellan. 

" The President said he was in great distress, and as he had been to General 
McClellan's house, and the general did not ask to see him ; and as he must 
talk to somebody, he had sent for General Franklin and myself to obtain our 
opinion as to the possibility of soon commencing active operations with the 
Army of the Potomac. 

" To use his own expression, ' If something was not soon done, the bottom 
would be out of the whole affair ; and if General McClellan did not want to 
use the army, he would like to borrow it, provided he could see how it 
could be made to do something.' 

" The Secretary of State stated the substance of some information he con- 
sidered reliable as to the strength of the forces on the other side, which he 
had obtained from an Englishman from Fort Monroe, Richmond, Manassas, 
and Centreville, which was to the effect, that the enemy had twenty thou- 
sand men under linger, at Norfolk ; thirty thousand at Centreville ; and in 
all in our front, an effective force, capable of being brought up at short no- 
tice, of about one hundred and three thousand men — men not suffering, but 
well shod, clothed, and fed. In answer to the question from the President, 
what could soon be done with the army, I replied that the question as to 
the when must be preceded by the one as to the how and the where. That 
substantially I would organize the army into four army corps, placing the 
five divisions on the Washington side on the right bank. Place three of 
these corps to the front — the right at Vienna or its vitinity, the left beyond 
Fairfax Station, the centre beyond Fairfax Courthouse, and connect the lat- 

* General McDowell's manuscript was submitted by the present writer to 
President Lincoln, during the summer of 1864, and he indorsed its entire con- 
tents as a true report of these war-councils, with the exception of the above 
phrase, " the Jacobinism of Congress." His autograph indorsement on the 
manuscript states that he had no recollection of using such an expression. It 
may be supposed that the phrase expresses the impression produced on Mc- 
Dowell's mind by Mr. Lincoln's words, though his precise language may have 
been different. 


ter place -with the Orange and Alexandria Railroad by a railroad now par- 
tially thrown up. This would enable us to supply these corps without the 
use of horses, except to distribute what was brought up by rail, and to act 
upon the enemy without reference to the bad state of country roads. 

" The railroads all lead to the enemy's position ; by acting upon them in 
force, besieging his strongholds if necessary, or getting between them if pos- 
sible, or making the attempt to do so and pressing his left, I thought we 
should in the first place cause him to bring up all his forces and mass them 
on the flank most pressed, the left ; and possibly, I thought probably, we 
should again get them out of their works and bring on a general engage- 
ment on favorable terms to us ; at all events keeping him fully occupied and 
harrowed. The Fourth Corps, in connection with a force of heavy guns 
afloat, would operate on his right flank beyond the Occoquan, get behind 
the batteries on the Potomac ; take Aquia, which being supported by the 
Third Corps over the Occoquan it could safely attempt, and then move on 
the railroad from Manassas to the Rappahannock, having a large cavalry 
force to destroy bridges. I thought by the use of one hundred and thirty 
thousand men thus employed, and the great facilities which the railroads 
gave us, and the compact position we should occupy, we must succeed by 
repeated blows in crushing out the force in our front, even if it were equal 
in numbers and strength. The road by the Fairfax Courthouse to Centre- 
ville would give us the means to bring up siege-mortars and siege materials; 
and even if we could not accomplish the object immediately, by making the 
campaign one of positions instead of one of manoeuvres, to do so eventually 
and without risk. That this saving of wagon transportation should be 
effected at once by connecting the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad with the 
Alexandria roads, by running a road over the Long Bridge. That when all 
this could be commenced, I could better tell when I knew something more 
definite as to the general condition of the army. 

"General Franklin being asked, said he was in ignorance of many things 
necessary to an opinion on the subject, knowing only as to his own division, 
which was ready for the field. As to the plan of operations, on being asked 
by the President if he had ever thought what he would do with this army if 
he had it, he replied that he had, and that it was his judgment that it should 
be taken, what could be spared from the duty of protecting the capital T to 
YorTc River to operate on Richmond. The question then came up as to the 
means at hand of transporting a large part of the army by water. The As- 
sistant Secretary of "War said the means had been fully taxed to provide 
transportation for twelve thousand men. After some further conversation, 
and in reference to our ignorance of the actual condition of the army, the 
President wished we should come together the next night at eight o'clock, 
and that General Franklin and I should meet in the mean time, obtain such 
farther information as we might need, and to do so from the staff of the 



headquarters of the Army of the Potomac. Immediate orders were to he 
given to make the railroad over Long Bridge. 

'■ January 11. — Held a meeting with General Franklin, in the morning, at 
the Treasury Building, and discussed the question of the operations which, 
in our judgment, were best under existing circumstances — as season, present 
position of the forces, present condition of the country — to be undertaken 
before going into the matter as to when those operations could be set on 
foot. I urged that we should now find fortifications in York River which 
would require a movement in that direction to be preceded by a naval force 
of heavy guns to clear them out, as well as the works at "West Point. That 
Richmond was now fortified; that we could not hope to carry it by a simple 
march after a successful engagement; that we should be obliged to take a 
siege-train with us. That all this would take time, which would be im- 
proved by the enemy to mass his forces in our front, and we should find 
that we had not escaped any of the difficulties we have now before this po- 
sition ; but simply lost time and money to find those difficulties when we 
should not have so strong a base to operate from, nor so many facilities, nor 
so large a force as we have here, nor, in proportion, so small a one to over- 
come. That the war now had got to be one of positions, till we should 
penetrate the line of the enemy. That to overcome him in front, or cut his 
communication with the South, would, by its moral as well as physical effect, 
prostrate the enemy, and enable us to undertake any future operations with 
ease, and certainty of success; but that in order of time, as of importance, 
the first thing to he done was to overcome this army in our front, which is 
beleaguering our capital, blockading the river, and covering us day by day 
with the reproach of impotence, and lowering us in the eyes of foreign 
nations, and our people both North and South ; and that nothing but what 
is necessary for this purpose should go elsewhere. 

"General Franklin suggested whether Governor Chase, in view of what 
we were charged to do, might not be at liberty to tell us where General 
Burnside's expedition had gone? I went and asked him. He told me that, 
under the circumstances, he felt he ought to do so ; and said it was destined 
for NTewbern, NT. C., by the way of Hatteras Inlet and Pamlico Sound, to 
operate on RaleLdi or Beaufort, or either of them. That General Met'lellan 
had, by direction of the President, acquainted him with his plans, which was 
to go with a large force of this Army of the Potomac to Urbanna or Tappa- 
hannoek, on the Rappahannock, and then with his bridge-train move directly 
to Richmond. On further consultation with General Franklin, it was agreed 
that our inquiries were to be directed to both cases of going from our pres- 
ent position, and of removing the large part of the force to another base 
further South. A question was raised by General Franklin, whether in de- 
ference to General McClellan we should not inform him of the duty we were 
ordered to perform. I said the order I received was marked private and 


confidential; and as they came from the President, our commander-in-chief, 
I conceived, as a common superior to General McOlellan and both of us, it 
was for the President to say this, and not ns. That I would consult the 
Secretary of the Treasury, who was at hand, and could tell us what was the 
rule in the cabinet in such matters. The secretary was of opinion that the 
matter lay entirely with the President. We went to Colonel Kingsbury, 
chief of ordnance of the Army of the Potomac, Brigadier-General Van 
"Vhet, chief quartermaster, and Major Shiras, commissary of subsistence, 
and obtained all the information desired. Met at the President's in the 
evening at eight o'clock. Present, the same as on the first day, with 
the addition of the Postmaster-General, Judge Blair, who came in after 
the meeting had begun the discussion. I read a paper containing both 
General Franklin's and my own views, General Pranklin agreeing with 
me — in view of time, etc., required to take this army to another base — 
that operations could best now be undertaken from the present base, 
substantially as proposed. The Postmaster-General opposed the plan, and 
was for having the army, or as much of it as could be spared, go to York 
River or Fortress Monroe, either to operate against Richmond, or to Suffolk 
and cut off Norfolk ; that being in his judgment the point (Fortress Mon- 
roe or York) from which to make a decisive blow. That the plan of going 
to the front from this position was Bull Run over again. That it was stra- 
tegically defective, as was the effort last July. As then, we would have the 
operations upon exterior lines. That it involved too much risk. That there 
was not so much difficulty as had been supposed in removing the army down 
the Chesapeake. That only from the Lower Chesapeake could any thing de- 
cisive result against the army at Manassas. That to drive them from their 
present position, by operating from our present base, would only force them 
to another behind the one they now occupy, and we should have all our 
work to do over again. Mr. Seward thought if we only had a victory 
over them it would answer, whether obtained at Manassas or further 
south. Governor Chase replied in general terms to Judge Blair, to 
the effect that the moral power of a victory over the enemy, in his present 
position, would be as great as one elsewhere, all else equal ; and the danger 
lay in the probability that we should find, after losing time and millions, 
that we should have as many difficulties to overcome below as we now 
have above. The President wished to have General Meigs in consultation 
on the subject of providing water transportation, and desired General 
Franklin and myself to see him in the morning, and meet again at three 
o'clock p. m. the next day. 

" Jaxtjaby 12. — Met General Franklin at General Meigs'. Conversed with 
him on the subject of onr mission at his own house. I expressed my views 
to General Meigs, who agreed with me in the main as to concentrating 
our efforts against the enemy in front by moving against him from our 


present position. As to the time in which he could assemble water transpor- 
tation for thirty thousand men, lie thought in about from four to six weeks. 
Met at the President's. General Meigs mentioned the time in which he 
could assemble the transports as a month to six weeks. The general subject 
of operations from the present base was again discussed, General Meigs 
agreeing that it was best to do so, and to concentrate our forces for the 
purpose. The President and Mr. Seward said that General McCiellan had 
been out to see the President, and was looking quite well, and that now. 
as he was able to assume the charge of the army, the President would 
drop any further proceedings with us. The general drift of the conversa- 
tion was as to the propriety of moving the army further south, and as 
to the destination of Burnside's expedition. The Postmaster-General said 
that if it was the intention to fight it out here (Manassas), then we ought to 
concentrate. It was suggested and urged somewhat on the President to 
countermand, or have General McCiellan countermand General Burnside's 
expedition, and bring up at Aquia. The President was, however, exceed- 
ingly averse from interfering, saying he disliked exceedingly to stop a thing 
long since planned, just as it was ready to strike. Nothing was done but 
to appoint another meeting the next day, at eleven o'clock, when we were 
to meet General McCiellan and again discuss the question of the movement 
to be made, etc., etc. 

"Mondat, January 13. — "Went to the President's with the Secretary of 
Treasury. Present, the President, Governor Chase, Governor Seward, 
Postmaster-General, General McCiellan, General Meigs, General Franklin, 
and myself, and, I think, the Assistant Secretary of War. The President, 
pointing to a map, asked me to go over the plan I had before spoken to 
him of. He at the same time made a brief explanation of how he came to 
bring General Franklin and General McDowell before him. I mentioned in 
as brief terms as possible what General Franklin and I had done under 
the President's order, what our investigations had been directed upon, 
and what were our conclusions as to going to the front from our present 
base, in the way I have heretofore stated, referring also to a transfer 
of a part of the army to another base further south. That we had been in- 
formed that the latter movement could not be commenced under a month 
to six weeks, and that a movement to the front could be undertaken in 
all of three weeks. General Franklin dissented only as to the time I 
mentioned for beginning operations in the front, not thinking we could 
get the roads in order by that time. I added, commence operations in all of 
three weeks ; to which he assented. I concluded my remarks by saying 
something apologetic in explanation of the position in which we were. To 
which General McCiellan replied somewhat coldly, if not curtly — 'You are 
entitled to have any opinion you please 1' No discussion was entered into 
by him whatever, the above being the only Femark he made. Genoral 


Franklin said that, in giving his opinion as to going to York River, he did it 
knowing that it was in the direction of Genera) McClellan's plan. I said 
that I had acted entirely in the dark. General Meigs spoke of his agency 
in having us called in by the President. The President then asked what 
and when any thing could be done, again going over somewhat the same 
ground he had done with General Franklin and myself. General McClellan 
said the case was so clear a blind man could see it, and then spoke of the 
difficulty of ascertaining what force he could count upon ; that he did not 
know whether he could let General Butler go to Ship Island, or whether he 
could re-enforce Burnside. Much conversation ensued, of rather a general 
character, as to the discrepancy between the number of men paid for and 
the number effective. The Secretary of the Treasury then put a direct 
question to General McClellan to the effect as to what he intended doing 
with his army, and when he intended doing it ? After a long silence, Gen- 
eral McClellan answered that the movement in Kentucky was to precede any 
one from this place, and that that movement might now be forced ; that he 
had directed General Buell if he could not hire wagons for his transporta- 
tion, that he must take them. After another pause he said he must say he 
was very unwilling to develop his plans, always believing that in military 
matters the fewer persons who were knowing to them the better; that he 
would tell them if he was ordered to do so. The President then asked him 
if h^ counted upon any particular time; he did not ask what that time was, 
but had he in his own mind any particular time fixed when a movement 
could be commenced. He replied he had. Then, rejoined the President, I 
will adjourn this meeting." 

It need hardly be said that the plan of campaign that 
General McClellan had in his mind, and which he was un- 
willing to disclose in presence of his subordinates and an un- 
military council, was the project of attacking Richmond by 
the lower Chesapeake. A few days afterwards he fully de- 
veloped this plan in a letter to the President, and the result 
was that the President disapproved it and by an order issued 
on the 31st of January, substituted one of his own.* This 
order was as follows : 

Special War Order, No. 1. 

Executive Mansion, Washington, January 3], 1862. 
Ordered, That all the disposable force of the Army of the Potomac, after 
providing safely for the defence of "Washington, be formed into an expedi- 

* McClellan : Report, p. 43 


tion for the immediate object of seizing and occupying a point upon the 
railroad southwesiward of what is known as Mana-.~as Junction, all details 
to be in the discretion of the commander-in-chief, and the expedition to 
move before or on the 2'2d day of February next. 

Abuauam Lincoln. 

The operation here indicated is that of a flanking move- 
ment on the enemy's position at Manassas. Now, it is due to 
add that in thus disapproving the plan of operations of Gen- 
eral McClellan and substituting one of his own, there is con- 
clusive evidence to show that the President was moved less 
by any consideration of the relative strategic merits of the 
two plans of campaign, than by the question of time in regard 
to the commencement of active operations. With him this 
was the controlling circumstance ; for the anxiety on the 
part of the Administration for an immediate movement of the 
Army of the Potomac had become what General McClellan 
calls " excessive ;"" :: " and four days before the order of the 
31st January, dictating a movement of the Army of the Poto- 
mac against Manassas, the President had decreed that " a 
general movement of the land and naval forces of the United 
States against the insurgent forces should be made on the 
22d day of February."? It is obvious, therefore, that the 

* " About the middle of January, 1862, upon recovering from a severe illness, 
I found that excessive anxiety for an immediate movement of the Army of the 
Potomac had taken possession of the minds of the Administration." McClullan'a 
Report, p. 42. 

f This order, styled " President's General War Order, No. 1," was issued on 
the 27th of January, without consultation with General McClellan (Report, 
p. 42). It is as follows : 

Executive Mansion, Washington, January 27, 1862. 

Ordered, That the 22d day of February, 1802, be the day for a general move- 
ment of the laud and naval forces of the United States against the insurgent 
forces. That especially the army at and about Fortress Monroe, the Army of 
the Potomac, the Army of Western Virginia, the army near Mumfordsville, 
Kentucky, the army and flotilla at Cairo, and a naval force in the Gulf ol 
Mexico, be ready to move on that day. 

That all other forces, both land and naval, with their respective commanders, 


President, having categorically ordered a general movement 
of all the armies to be made on the 22d of February, was 
forced to the next step of prescribing for the operations of the 
Army of the Potomac a plan of campaign which could be 
undertaken at the time fixed. It was impossible that McClel- 
lan's project could be initiated at the appointed period ; for 
not only was it necessary to put in execution the difficult task 
of moving the army and all its material to the designated 
point on the Lower Chesapeake, but it was necessary first of 
all to provide the vast amount of water transportation need- 
ful for so colossal an enterprise. Hence the order for a direct 
movement on Manassas. Upon the receipt of this order, 
General McClellan lost no time in seeing the President and 
requesting to know whether this order was to be regarded as 
final, and whether he could be permitted to submit in writing 
his objection to the plan of the Executive and his reasons for 
preferring his own. Permission was accorded, and on the 
3d of February the general-in-chief submitted, in a paper to 
the Secretary of War, an elaborate discussion of the two 
plans of campaign.* Whether from the force of reasoning 
of the paper, or from other and extrinsic considerations^ the 
result was that the President rescinded his order for the 
movement on Manassas ; and on the 27th of February the 
War Department instructed its agents to procure at once the 

obey existing orders for the time, and be ready to obey additional orders when 
duly given. 

That the heads of departments, and especially the Secretaries of War and of 
the Navy, with all their subordinates, and the general-in-chief, with all other 
commanders and subordinates of land and naval forces, will severally be held 
to their strict and full responsibilities for prompt execution of this order. 

Abkaham Lincoln. 

* Report, pp. 43-48. 

\ Mr. Raymond, editor of the New York Times, who had the best means of 
knowing the secrets of the Presidential mind, remarks : " The President was 
by no means convinced by General McClellan's reasoning ; but in consequence 
of his steady resistance and unwillingness to enter upon the execution of any 
other plan, he assented," etc. History of the Administration of President Lin- 
coln, p. 225. 


necessary steamers and sailing-craft to transport the Army of 
the Potomac to its new field of operations. 

Even after this step had been taken, however, the Presi- 
dent, convinced against his will, retained his aversion to the 
proposed movement. He repeatedly expressed his dissatis- 
faction at the project of removing the army from Washing- 
ton, and preferred that an operation should be made Re- 
opening the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad by a movement 
across the Potomac at Harper's Ferry, and another for the 
destruction of the enemy's batteries on the Potomac. Gen- 
eral McClellan seems to have been able to overcome these 
objections by a recital of the same considerations he Lad pre- 
viously presented ; but, on the 8th of March, the President 
returned with renewed vigor to his old position, and urged 
him to submit his project of campaign to a council of his 
division commanders. The meeting was accordingly held the 
same day. The commanding general laid before his officers 
the inquiry, whether it were advisable to shift the base of 
operations. The plan of a change of base to the lower Chesa- 
peake was approved by eight out of the twelve generals 

Impressed by the emphasis of the approval which General 
McClellan's plan received in the adhesion thereto of two to 
one of the chief officers of the army, the President, never- 
theless, saw fit to bind the execution of the plan, which he 
could now do no less than approve, by several embarrassing 
restrictions, contained in two important war-orders issued on 
the 8th of March. The first of these orders directed the 
organization of the Army of the Potomac into four corps, and 
nominated four generals to their command. These officers 
were not of General McClellan's selection, while their ap- 
pointment excluded certain other officers upon whom he had 
fixed for corps commanders.* The second of these orders 

* The officers nominated to the command of the corps into winch the 
Army of the Potomac was divided were, (ienerals Keyes, Sumner, Heintzcl- 
man, and McDowell. The latter was well fitted for the command by hi? 
ability, but the relations between him and the commander were not cordial. 


prescribed the conditions upon which a change of base would 
be allowed, and is in the following terms : 

General War Order, No. 3. 

Executive Mansion, Washington, March 8, 1862. 

Ordered, That no change of the base of operations of the Army of the 
Potomac shall be made without leaving in and about Washington such a 
force as, in the opinion of the general -in-chief and the commanders of 
army corps, shall leave said citj entirely secure. 

That no more than two army corps (about fifty thousand troops) of said 
Army of the Potomac shall be moved en route for a new base of operations, 
until the navigation of the Potomac from "Washington to the Chesapeake 
Bay shall be freed from the enemy's batteries and other obstructions, or 
until the President shall hereafter give express permission. 

That any movement as aforesaid, en route for a new base of operations, 
which may be ordered by the general-in-chief, and which may be intended 
to move upon the Chesapeake Bay, shall begin to move upon the bay as 
early as the 18th of March; and the general-in-chief shall be responsible 
that it so moves as early as that day. 

Ordered, That the army and navy co-operate in an immediate effort to 
capture the enemy's batteries upon the Potomac between Washington and 
the Chesapeake Bay. Abraham Lincoln. 

L. Thomas, Adjutant General. 

It is easy to see what must have been the result of this 
fatal indecision, vacillation, and want of harmony between the 
Administration and the chief of the army ; but it happened 
that this clash of opinion was suddenly interrupted by an 
event that made a complete change in the military situation. 
This event was no less than the sudden evacuation of Manas- 
General Sumner was the ideal of a soldier ; but he had few of the qualities 
that make a general. The others do not call for any analysis. I have, in a 
previous part of this volume (p. 64), set forth the views of General McClellan 
touching the organization of corps ; and, as there remarked, his failure to make 
appointments to these commands at the time he was all-powerful resulted in 
his having forced upon him as lieutenants men he did not wish in that capacity. 
It would appear, from a curious piece of history detailed in the Journal of the 
Committee on the Conduct of the War, that it was through the pressure of the 
members of that committee, and of the new Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton, 
that corps were at this time formed ; and, indeed, by them, as a species of 
Aulic Council, that all the larger war-questions were determined. 


sas by the Confederate Army, and its retirement behind tli6 
line of the Rappahannock. General Johnstun, who, a con- 
siderable time previously, had formed the design of retiring 
nearer his base, had for two weeks been preparing the 
evacuation by the quiet removal of the army- stores and war- 
material ; and when he finally withdrew his army from 
Manassas, on the 8th of March, so skilfully was the enter- 
prise managed, that the first intimation thereof gained by the 
Union forces was from the smoke of the burning huts, fired 
by the Confederates on their retirement ! With a view rather 
of giving the troops some experience on the march and biv- 
ouac than for the purpose of pursuit, General McClellan 
ordered a forward movement of the army towards Centre ville 
the next day, and immediately dispatched two regiments of 
cavalry under Colonel Averill to Manassas. A few days after- 
wards, a large body of cavalry, with some infantry, under 
command of General Stoneman, was sent along the Orange 
and Alexandria Railroad to determine the position of the 
enemy, and, if possible, force his rear across the Rappahan- 
nock ; but the roads were in such condition that, finding it 
impossible to subsist his men, Stoneman was forced to return 
after reaching Cedar Run. It was found that the enemy had 
destroyed all the bridges. This expedition was followed by a 
strong reconnoissance of Howard's division of Sumner's corps 
to the Rappahannock, and, under cover of this mask, the main 
body of the Union army was moved back to the vicinity of Alex- 
andria. Johnston, who had retired behind the Rappahannock, 
finding on survey that the Rapidan afforded a better line, moved 
his army thither, and placed it in position on that river.* 

The Confederate abandonment of Manassas necessitated 
several changes in the projected campaign. In his proposed 
scheme of transferring his army to the lower Chesajteake, 
General McClellan's favorite point for the new base of opera- 
tions had been Urbana on the Rappahannock. But this en- 

* I derive these facts touching the evacuation of Manassas from Genera] 
Johnston himself. 


terprise, which had for its object to cut off the retreat of the 
Confederates on Richmond, of course became impossible after 
they had retired behind the Rappahannock. There now re- 
mained the move to the Peninsula, — a move which he had 
considered in his general plan, but which he regarded as less 
brilliant and promising less decisive results. This project 
was submitted to a council of the corps commanders while at 
Fairfax Courthouse, on the 13th of March, and by them it 
was unanimously approved, provided the Merrimac (which a 
few days before had made its destructive raid on the vessels 
in Hampton Roads, and was now at Norfolk) could be neu- 
tralized ; that means of transport for the army were at hand ; 
that a naval force could be obtained to aid in silencing the 
enemy's batteries on the York River ; and that sufficient force 
should be left to cover "Washington, to give an entire feeling 
of security. The proceedings of this council were submitted 
to the President, by whom they were approved, upon con- 
dition that Washington should be made entirely safe, and 
Manassas Junction occupied in sufficient force to prevent its 
repossession by the enemy. 

General McClellan immediately began his preparations in 
accordance with these instructions. The duty of covering 
the line of the Potomac and Washington he assigned to 
General Banks, commanding the Fifth Corps, and at this 
time holding the Shenandoah Valley. General Banks was 
ordered to post the bulk of his command, well intrenched, at 
Manassas ; from thence to repair the Manassas Gap Bailroad 
to Strasburg — to be held by a force intrenched, — thus re- 
opening communication with the Shenandoah Valley : this 
general line to be held with cavalry well to the front.* Just 
as General Banks was about to move his corps to Manassas, 
however, there occurred a series of events that compelled 
him to retain the greater part of his force in the Shenandoah 
Valley. At the time of the evacuation of Manassas by the 
enemy, Stonewall Jackson, with his division of about eight 

* Instructions to General Banks : Report, p. 60. 


thousand men, was posted at Winchester — the Union troops 
occupying C'harlestown ; but on the advance of General 
Banks' force, on the 12th of March, he retreated ; and, pur- 
sued by the division of Shields , retired twenty miles south of 
Strasburg. Under cover of this advance, the first division of 
Banks' corps was, on the 20th, put en route for Manassas, and 
Shields fell back to Winchester. Jackson, informed probably 
of the withdrawal of the troops from the Valley, but exagger- 
ating its extent, returned upon his steps, and, on the 
afternoon of the 23d, attacked Shields near "Winchester. 
Jackson met a severe repulse, after which he made his way 
southward. This affair caused General Banks to return him- 
self, as also to recall the division then on the march for 
Manassas ; and after this, events so shaped themselves, that 
Banks' command was retained in the Shenandoah Valley, and 
General Wadsworth was placed in command of the forces for 
the protection of the national capital. 

To provide for the security of Washington was General 
McClellan's next care, and for this purpose he left behind a 
force of above seventy thousand men, with one hundred and 
nine pieces of light artillery. These troops were not, it is 
true, all concentrated at AVashington, but they were all avail- 
able for its defence.* 

Meantime, the task of collecting water transportation, and 
embarking the troops for the proposed expedition, was being 
pushed forward with the utmost energy. Unhappily, how- 
ever, while every thing seemed to be under way, certain 
occurrences took place that marred the auspicious circum- 
stances that should have attended the expedition. 

* The troops left behind by General McClellan were as follows : 

In garrison and in front of Washington 18,000 

At Warrenton 7,780 

At Manassas IO.s.j'J 

In tlie Shenandoah Valley 35,467 

On the lower Potomac , 1,350 

Inall 73,450 


Upon the evacuation of Manassas, General McClellan, who 
bad, since the retirement of Lieutenant-General Scott in the 
preceding November, exercised the functions of general-in- 
chief, was relieved from the control of the armies in the field, 
and relegated to the command of the Army of the Potomac. 
At the same time, the troops in Western Virginia were placed 
under General Fremont, who was assigned to what was called 
the " Mountain Department." Now, a few days before he 
sailed for Fortress Monroe, General McClellan had been in- 
formed by the President that a strong " pressure" had been 
brought to bear at Washington to procure the detachment of 
Blenker's division of ten thousand men from the Army of the 
Potomac, in order that it might be added to the force under 
General Fremont. The President, apparently fully alive to 
the impolicy of depriving him of so considerable a body of 
men, on whom he had relied in forming his plan of 
campaign, assured General McClellan that he had decided to 
allow the division to remain ; nevertheless, the very day 
before that officer left Alexandria, he received a note from 
the President, stating that he had been constrained, by the 
severity of the pressure, to order the division of Blenker to 
Fremont.* It will, moreover, presently appear, that scarcely 
had the army landed on the Peninsula, when, notwith- 
standing the President's emphatic assurances that no more 
troops should be detached from McClellan's command, the 
whole of McDowell's corps, whose arrival he was impatiently 
awaiting, for the purpose of making with it a turning move- 
ment on Yorktown, was taken from him, and General 
McDowell with his troops assigned to the new department of 
the Rappahannock. The reason assigned for this measure 
was, that General McClellan had not left behind a sufficient 
force for the protection of the capital. The result of this ac + . 
will presently appear. 

It is impossible to review the series of events here recorded 

* Report, p. 63, 


without a deep sense of pain and humiliation. A sufficient 
time has since elapsed to permit those who have at heart 
rather the vindication of historic truth than the partisan sup- 
port of either side, to see that grave faults were committed 
both by the Administration and by General McClellan. 
While we are bound to believe that each was moved by 
the sincere desire to bring the war to a successful issue, each 
did much to frustrate the very object they had mutually at 

On the part of the Administration, a definite plan of cam- 
paign should have been promptly adopted and vigorously 
executed. When McClellan presented his scheme of a change 
of base to the lower Chesapeake, the project should either 
have been frankly approved or frankly disapproved. The 
plan was meritorious, and promised brilliant and decisive 

But the President first disapproved it, on the ground that it 
would require too long a time to be put into execution. 

He then approved it ; but for almost a month withheld the 
order to provide water transportation to carry the plan into 

Having at length taken this step, and while the costly prep- 
arations were, by his own order, in the full course of execu- 
tion, he renewed all his old objections to removing the army 
from the front of Washington, and required that the question 
should be submitted to a council of McClellan's generals. 

These officers having approved the project, the Executive 
once more assented ; but tied up his approval with the foolish 
restriction that not more than one-half the army should be 
taken away, until the enemy's batteries were destroyed, — an 
enterprise which would have involved a movement of the 
whole army, and which was, besides, certain to be the blood- 
less fruit of the execution of the general plan. 

Again, when the evacuation of Manassas had so far neces- 
sitated ;i change of plan, that it was determined to seek a new 
base of operations at Fortress Monroe, and the council of 
corps commanders, to whom the President had referred the 


delusion of the question, had approved it on certain conditions 
as to the safety of Washington, etc., the President further 
embarrassed the operation by insisting on the presence of a 
large force at Manassas, — a measure not dictated by any sound 
military consideration. 

From a still weaker motion, he ordered the detachment of 
Blenker's division from the command of McClellan, and trans- 
ferred it to General Fremont. 

And finally, moved by morbidly recurring fears for the se- 
curity of the capital, no sooner had McClellan left for his new 
field of operations, than the President further stripped him of 
the powerful corps of McDowell, to retain it in front of Wash- 

The secret of much of this conduct, were one disposed here 
to seek it, would doubtless be found in a " pressure" of the 
same kind and coming from the same source as that the 
President urged to General McClellan in excuse for depriving 
him of Blenker's troops. There had already sprung up at 
Washington a group of men, cherishing a violent hostility to 
General McClellan on account of his so-called " conservative" 
policy. Uninstructed in war, these men were yet influential, 
persistent, and had the ear of the President ; but while it is 
easy to understand the ascendency which they gained over a 
character like that of Mr. Lincoln, the concession is unfor- 
tunate for his reputation as a statesman. 

General McClellan should either have been removed from 
command, or he should have been allowed to work out his 
own plans of campaign, receiving that " confidence and cordial 
support" promised him by the President when he assumed 
command, and " without which," as Mr. Lincoln justly added, 
"he could not with so full efficiency serve the country." It is 
a jealous function that of military command, and, as the 
whole history of war teaches, can only be effectively exercised 
when accompanied with an entire freedom of action on the 
part of the commander, and cordial co-operation and support 
on the part of the Government. If there be any sure lesson 
taught by the military experience of nations, it is that when 


extrinsic influences, whether from councils, or congresses, 01 
war-offices, intrude into the direction of military affairs, al] 
hope of success is gone. History has chosen to express it? 
views of this kind of interference in the contumely with which 
it has covered the Austrian Auric Council ; but the Aulic Coun- 
cil was composed at least of military men. Of what was the 
American council composed? True, it was inevitable that, in 
a war such as that which fell upon the United States, con- 
siderations of a kind that may be called political should have 
a great part to play ; and the determination of the policy of 
the war was certainly a question that came within the prov- 
ince of statesmanship, and which, when adopted in the coun- 
cils of the Government, the commander in the field was bound 
to adhere to and carry out. But beyond this, and in the 
sphere of the actual conduct of the war, the general must be 
head and supreme. " In my judgment," says the greatest of 
theoretical writers on the art of war, discussing the part taken 
by the Aulic Council of Vienna in directing the operations of 
the Austrian armies, " the only duty which such a council can 
safely undertake is that of advising as to the adoption of a 
general plan of operations. Of course, I do not mean by this 
a plan which is to embrace the whole course of a campaign, 
tie down the generals to that course, and so inevitably lead to 
their being beaten. I mean a plan which shall determine the 
objects of a campaign ; decide whether offensive or defensive 
operations shall be undertaken, and fix the amount of material 
means which may be relied upon in the first instance for the 
opening of the enterprise, and then for the possible reserves 
in case of invasion. It cannot be denied that all these things 
may be, and even should be, discussed in a council of govern- 
ment made up of generals and of ministers ; but here the ac- 
tion of such a council should stop ; for if it pretends to say to 
a commander-in-chief not only that he shall march on Vienna 
or Paris, but also in what way he is to manoeuvre to reach 
those points, the unfortunate commander-in-chief will certainly 
be beaten, and the whole responsibility of his reverses will rest 
upon those who, two hundred miles off from the enemy, pre- 


tend to direct an army which it is difficult enough to handle 
when actuaUy in the field."* 

On the other hand, it is to be admitted that General 
McClellan, too, committed grave faults. He had already put 
the patience of the public and the Administration to a severe 
strain by his six months' inactivity ; and in proposing to 
remove his army from the front of Washington, he made 
another and peculiarly heavy draft upon their confidence. In 
this he again exposed himself to the criticism already made 
respecting his deficiency in those statesmanlike qualities that 
enter into the composition of a great general. Granting that 
the lower Chesapeake was the true line of approach to Rich- 
mond, yet finding the project of a removal of the army from 
the front of Washington so peculiarly repugnant to the wishes 
and convictions of the President and his councillors as to 
have suggested grave doubts as to the possibility of his 
obtaining a cordial support in its execution, he should have 
considered with himself whether he could follow the wishes 
of his superiors by operating against the enemy at Manassas ; 
and if not, he should have resigned. " A general," says Napo- 
leon, in one of his fine rulings regarding what may be called 
the ethics of war, " is culpable who undertakes the execution 
of a plan which he considers faulty. It is his duty to repre- 
sent his reasons, to insist upon a change of plan ; in short, to 
give in his resignation rather than aUow himself to be made 
the instrument of his army's ruin." But the case before 
General McClellan was in nowise of the nature contemplated 
in this dictum. For the scheme of an advance against Ma- 
nassas cannot be called " faulty," or of a kind to hazard the 
ruin of the army. It was a question of a choice of plans. 
Different plans of campaign may be each correct, and yet 
differ in boldness and brilliancy ; and the bolder and more 
brilliant plan may often have to give way to one more feasi- 
ble or more opportune. The determination of this in any 
given case is a problem in the higher generalship. Had 

* Jomini : Precis de l'Art de la Guerre, vol. ii., p. 47. 



General McClellan brought a juster estimate to the question 
both of what it was possible for him to do and what it was 
necessary for him to do, he might have avoided these pain- 
ful entanglements, from the discussion of which I gladlv 
escape to follow the steps of that master-stroke by which the 
army was lifted from "Washington and planted on the Pen- 
insula, and the checkered progress of the campaign on the 
new theatre of war. 




Mabch — August, 1862. 


To take up an army of over one hundred thousand men, 
transport it and all its immense material by water, and plant 
it down on a new theatre of action nearly two hundred miles 
distant, is an enterprise the details of which must be studied 
ere its colossal magnitude can be adequately apprehended.* 
It was an undertaking eminently characteristic of the Ameri- 
can genius, and of a people distinguished above all others for 
the ease with which it executes great material enterprises — 
a people rich in resources and in the faculty of creating re- 
sources. Yet, when one reflects that at the time the order 
was given to provide transportation for the army to the 
Peninsula, — the 27th of February 1862 — this had first of 
all to be created ; and when one learns that in a little over a 
month from that date there had been chartered and assem- 

* Perhaps the best light in which such an operation may be read is furnished 
in Napoleon's elaborate Notes on his intended invasion of Great Britain in 1805, 
when he proposed to transport an army of one hundred and fifty thousand 
men in four thousand vessels from Boulogne to the English coast. As a mili- 
tary operation, there is, of course, no comparison to be made, because the 
Army of the Potomac had at Fortress Monroe an assured base in advance. It 
is simply as a material enterprise that there is a similarity. These notes are 
given in the collection of Memoirs dictated to Montholon and Gourgaud (His- 
torical Miscellanies, vol. ii., pp. 373, et seq.) 


bled no fewer than four hundred steamers and sailing-craft, 
and that upon them had been transported from Alexandria 
and Washington to Fortress Monroe an army of one hundred 
and twenty-one thousand five hundred men, fourteen thou- 
sand five hundred and ninety-two animals, forty-four bat- 
teries, and the wagons and ambulances, ponton-trains, tele- 
graph materials, and enormous equipage required for an army 
of such magnitude, and that all this was done with the loss of 
but eight mules and nine barges (the cargoes of which were 
saved), an intelligent verdict must certainly second the 
assertion of the Assistant Secretary of War, Mr. Tucker, 
whose administrative talent, in concert with General McClel- 
lan, directed this vast undertaking, that " for economy and 
celerity of movement, this expedition is without a paraUel on 
record." A European critic calls it " the stride of a giant" — 
and it well deserves that characterization. 

The van of the grand army was led by Hamilton's — after- 
wards Kearney's — division of the Third Corps (Heintzel- 
man's), which embarked for Fortress Monroe on the 17th of 
March. It was followed by Porter's division on the 22d, and 
the other divisions took their departure as rapidly as 
transports could be supplied. General McClellan reached 
Fortress Monroe on the 2d of April, and by that time there 
had arrived five divisions of infantry, three regiments of 
cavalry, the artillery division, and artillery reserve — making 
in all fifty-eight thousand men and one hundred guns. This 
force was at once put in motion in the direction of York- 
town, in front of which the remainder of the army joined as 
it arrived. 

The region known as " the Peninsula," on which the army 
thus found itself planted, is an isthmus formed by the York 
and the James rivers, which rising in the heart of Virginia, 
and running in a southeasterly direction, empty into Chesa- 
peake Bay. It is from seven to fifteen miles wide and fifty 
miles long. The country is low and flat, in some places 
marshy, and generally wooded. The York Eiver is formed 
by the confluence of the Mattapony and Pamunkey, which 



unite at West Point. Bichmond, the objective of the opera- 
tions of the Army of the Potomac, is on the left bank of the 
James, at the head of navigation, and by land is distant 
seventy-five miles from Fortress Monroe. 

From Fortress Monroe the advance was made in two 
columns — General Keyes with the Fourth Corps (divisions of 
Couch and Smith) formed the left ; and General Heintzelman 
with the Third Corps (divisions of Fitz-John Porter and 
Hamilton, with Averill's cavalry) and Sedgwick's division of 
the Second Corps, the right. At the very outset the roads 
were found nearly impracticable, the season being unusually 
wet. No resistance of moment was met on the march ; but 
on the afternoon of the 5th of April the advance of each 




column was brought to a halt — the right in front of Torktown 
and the left by the enemy's works at Lee's Mill. These ob- 
structions formed part of the general defensive line of 


the Warwick Paver, which General Magruder had taken up, 
and which stretched across the isthmus from the York to the 
James, an extent of thirteen and a half miles. The Con- 
federate left was formed by the fort at Yorktown, the water 
batteries of which, with the guns at Gloucester Point, on the 
opposite bank of the York, barred the passage of that river; 
the right, by the works on Mulberry Island, which were pro- 
longed to the James. Warwick River, running nearly across 
the Peninsula from river to river, and emptying into the 
James, heads within a mile of Yorktown. Its sources were 
commanded by the guns of that fort, and its fords had been 
destroyed by dams defended by detached redoubts, the ap- 
proaches to which were through dense forests and swamps. 
Very imperfect or inaccurate information existed regarding 
the topography of the country at the time of the arrival of 
the army, and the true character of the position had to be 
developed by reconnoissances made under fire. 

The Confederate defence of the peninsular approach to 
Richmond had, almost since the beginning of the war, been 
committed to a small force, named the Army of the Peninsula, 
under General Magruder. When the Army of the Poto- 
mac landed at Portress Monroe, this force numbered about 
eleven thousand men. At Norfolk was an independent bocty 
of about eight thousand men under General Huger. The 
iron-plated Merrimac, mistress of Hampton Eoads, barred 
the mouth of the James, the direct water-line to Richmond. 

So soon as his antagonist's movement had become fully 
developed, General Johnston put his army in motion from 
the Rapidan towards Richmond, where for a time he kept it 
in hand. The Confederate leader did not expect to hold the 
Peninsula ; for both he and General Lee, who then held the 
position of chief of staff to Mr. Davis, pronounced it unten- 
able. Soon after the advent of the Union army, General 
Johnston went down to Yorktown, examined its line of de- 
fences, and urged the military authorities at Richmond to 
withdraw the force from the Peninsula. Assuming that the 
Federal commander would, with the aid of the navy, reduce 


the fort at Yorktown, thus opening up the York River, and, 
by means of his numerous fleet of transports, pass rapidly to 
the head of the Peninsula, Johnston regarded the capture of 
any force remaining thereon as almost certain. The works at 
Yorktown he found very defective (though the position was 
naturally strong) ; for, owing to the paucity of engineers, re- 
sulting from the employment of so many of this class of offi- 
cers in other arms, they had been constructed under the 
direction of civil and railroad engineers. In this state of 
facts, General Johnston wished to withdraw every tiling from 
the Peninsula, effect a general concentration of all available 
forces around Richmond, and there deliver decisive battle.* 
These views were, however, overruled, and it was determined 
to hold Yorktown at least until Huger should have dis- 
mantled the fortifications at Xorfolk, destroyed the naval 
establishment, and evacuated the seaboard, — a step that was 
now felt to be a military necessity. To carry out this policy, 
in view of which it was determined to hold the lines of York- 
town as long as practicable, re-enforcements were from time 
to time sent forward from the army at Richmond, and soon 
afterwards General Johnston went down and personally took 

In his plans for forcing the enemy's defences, there were 
two auxiliaries on which General McClellan had confidently 
counted, and with these he expected to make short work of 
the operation of carrying Yorktown. The first of these aux- 
iliaries was the navy, by the aid of whose powerful armament 
he designed to demolish the water-batteries at Yorktown and 
Gloucester Point, and then push a force upon West Point, 
at the head of the York River, thus turning the line of de- 
fences on the Warwick. But, upon applying to Flag-Officer 
Goldsborough for the co-operation of the navy, he was in- 

* This exposition of the views and counsels of General Johnston I derive 
from himself. It is noteworthy that McClellan expected to do precisely what 
his antagonist assumed he would do — reduce Yorktown by the aid of the navy, 
and give general battle before Richmond. 


formed by that officer that no naval force could be spared for 
that purpose, since he regarded the works as too strong fur his 
available vessels.* 

The second project was to land a heavy force in the rear 
of Gloucester Point, turning Yorktown by that method, and 
opening up the York River. This task he had assigned to 
McDowell's corps, which was to be the last to embark at 
Alexandria, and which should execute this operation in case 
the army found itself brought to a halt by the peninsular de- 
fences. But on the very day on which the army arrived be- 
fore Yorktown, General McClellan was met by an order f of 
the President, to which reference has already been made, de- 
taching McDowell's corps from his command, and retaining it 
in front of Washington. 

That this measure was faulty in principle and very un- 
fortunate in its results, can now be readily acknowledged 
without imputing any really unworthy motive to President 
Lincoln. When Mr. Lincoln saw the Army of the Potomac 
carried away in ships out of his sight, and learnt that hardly 
twenty thousand men had been left in the works of Washing- 
ton (though above thrice that number was within call), it is 
not difficult to understand how he should have become ner- 
vous as to the safety of the national capital, and, so feeling, 
should have retained the corps of McDowell to guard it. In 
this he acted from what may be called the common-sense 
view of the matter. But in war, as in the domain of science, 
the truth often transcends, and even contradicts, common 
sense. It required more than common sense, it required the 

* McClellan : Report, p. 79. It is due to say, tliat Commodore G c >ldsborough 
proffered the co-operation of a naval force, provided Gloucester Point should be 
first turned by the army. Report on the Conduct of the War, p. Go'2. 

f This order, dated April 4, and received April 5, is as follows : 

" Adjutant-Genehal's Office, April 4, 1S62. 

"By direction of the President, General McDowell's army corps has been 
detached from the force under your immediate command, and the general is 
ordered to report to the Secretary of War. Letter by mail. 

*'E. Thomas, Adjutant-General. 

''General McClellan." 


intuition of the true secret of war, to know that the twenty- 
five thousand men under General McDowell would really avail 
more for the defence of the capital, if added to the Army of 
the Potomac on the Peninsula, thus enabling that army to 
push vigorously its offensive intent, than if actually held in 
front of Washington. This Mr. Lincoln neither knew nor 
could be expected to know ; and it is precisely because the 
principles that govern military affairs are peculiar and of a 
professional nature, that the interference of civilians in the 
war-councils of a nation must commonly be disastrous. The 
President, who found himself by virtue of his. office made 
commander-in-chief of all the forces of the United States, and 
who had, since the supersedure of McClellan as general-in- 
chief, assumed a species of general direction of the war, had 
passed his life in the arena of politics ; and he brought the 
habits of a politician to affairs in which, unfortunately, their 
intrusion can only result in a confusion of all just relations. 
This antagonism between the maxims that govern politics 
and those that govern military affairs, is strikingly illustrated 
in a sentence of one of Mr. Lincoln's dispatches to General 
McClellan about this time. Preferring to McClellan's repeated 
requests that McDowell's force should be sent him, the Presi- 
dent says : " I shall aid you all I can consistently ic'rfh my view 
of due regard to all points" * Nothing could be more in- 
genuous than this avowal of the policy of an equable distribu- 
tion of favors. But however discreet the course may be in 
politics, it is fatal in war, and is precisely that once-honored 
Austrian principle of " covering everything, by which one 
really covers nothing." War is partial and imperious, and in 
place of having " regard to all points," it neglects many points 
to accumulate all on the decisive point. The decisive point in 
the case under discussion was assuredly with the Army of the 
Potomac confronting the main force of the enemy. The proof 
of this was not long in declaring itself. 
Thus deprived of the two auxiliaries on which he had 

* McClellan : Report, p. 106. 


counted, General McCHlan judged that there remained but 
one alternative — either to break the Confederate lines of the 
Peninsula, if a weak spot could be found, or to undertake 
systematic operations against Yorktown, of the nature of a 
siege. Such a weak spot it was indeed thought had been 
discovered about the centre of the line, near Lee's Mill, where 
there was a dam covered by a battery ; and with the view of 
determining the actual strength of this position, General W 
F. Smith, commanding the Second Division of the Fourth 
Corps, was ordered to push a strong reconnoissance over the 
Warwick at that point. Under cover of a heavy artillery fire 
from eighteen guns, under Captain Ayres, four companies of 
"Vermont troops passed the creek, by wading breast-deep, and 
carried the rifle-trenches held by the Confederates as an ad- 
vanced line. Here they were re-enforced by eight additional 
companies. The enemy, upon being driven from the front 
line, retired to a redoubt in the rear, and there receiving a 
re-enforcement, made a counter-charge on the handful of 
Union troops, who were driven across the creek, after holding 
the rifle-pits for an hour, entirely unsupported. Many were 
killed and wounded in recrossing the stream.* No subsequent 
attempt was made to break the Confederate line. 

It now remained to undertake the siege of the uninvested 
fortifications of Yorktown, — a task to which the army at once 
settled down. Depots were established at Shipping Point, to 
which place supplies were brought direct by water; and 
indeed it was necessary to avoid land transportation as much 
as possible, — the roads being so few and so bad as to 
necessitate the construction of an immense amount of cor- 
duroy highway. The first parallel was opened at about a 
mile from Yorktown ; and under its protection, batteries were 
established almost simultaneously along the whole front, ex- 
tending from "York Paver on the right to the Warwick on the 
left, along a cord of about one mile in length. In all, fourteen 
batteries and three redoubts, fully armed, and including some 

* MagTuder's Official Report : Confederate Reports of Battles, p. 515. 


unusually heavy metal, such as one-hundred and two- 
hundred-pounders, were erected to operate in the reduction 
of the earth-works. The batteries as completed were, with a 
single exception,* not allowed to open, as it was believed that 
the return fire would interfere with the labor on other works. 
It was preferred to wait till the preparations should be com- 
plete, and then open a simultaneous and overwhelming bom- 
bardment. This period would have been reached by the 6th 
of May at latest. The artillery and engineer officers judged 
that a very few hours' fire would compel the surrender or 
evacuation of the works ; but, to their great chagrin, no 
opportunity was afforded to bring this professional opinion 
to the practical test ; for it was discovered on the 4th of 
May that the Confederates had evacuated Yorktown.t The 
retreat had been managed with the same masterly skill that 
marked the evacuation of Manassas ; and the Army of the 
Potomac, cheated of its anticipated brilliant passage at arms, 
came into possession only of the deserted works and some 
threescore and ten siege-guns, that the Confederates had 
been obliged to leave as the price of their unmolested 

In the preceding outline of the siege of Yorktown, I kt~ T e 
confined myself to a simple recital of events. It is well 

* The exception was in the case of what was called Battery No. 1, which 
on one occasion opened on the wharf at Yorktown to prevent the enemy's 
receiving artillery stores. 

f " The ease with which the two-hundred and one-hundred-pounders were 
worked, the extraordinary accuracy of their fire, and the since ascertained 
effects produced upon the enemy by it, force upon me the conviction that the 
fire of guns of similar calibre and power, combined with the cross-vertical fire of 
the thirteen and ten-inch seacoast mortars, would have comDelled the enemy to 
surrender or abandon his works in less than twelve hours." Barry : Report of 
Artillery Operations, Siege of Yorktown, p. 134. This opinion is not justified 
by subsequent experience in the war, for the rude improvised earthworks of 
the Confederates showed an ability to sustain an indefinite pounding. General 
Johnston's evacuation of Yorktown seems to have been prompted by a like ex- 
aggeration of the probable effect of a bombardment. 


known, however, that no portion of General McClellan' s mili- 
tary career has given rise to a greater amount of criticism, or 
criticism founded less on the intrinsic merits of the case. 

The judgment passed on the operations before Yorktown 
will turn on the view taken of the question whether the siege 
should have been made at all, or whether the Confederate posi- 
tion should not have been either broken or turned. 

It has already been stated that the latter course — to wit, 
the turning of Yorktown — was General McClellan's original 
plan. To this duty McDowell's corps was assigned ; but on 
the very day he arrived before Yorktown he received the 
order detaching McDowell's force from his command. The 
effect of this measure is set forth with much emphasis by 
General McClellan. " To me," says he, " the blow was most 
discouraging. It frustrated all my plans for impending 
operations. It fell when I was too deeply committed to with- 
draw. It left me incapable of continuing operations which 
had been begun. It compelled the adoption of another, a 
different and less effective plan of campaign. It made rapid 
and brilliant operations impossible. It was a fatal error." 
There will probably be no question as to the merits of the 
proposed movement by which it was designed to turn 
Gloucester Point and open up the York Kiver ; and the 
verdict will be equally clear as to the ill-judged policy — to put 
it at the mildest — which, at such a moment, took out of the 
commander's hand a corps destined for a duty so important. 
But it is not entirely clear that " rapid and brilliant opera- 
tions" were not still feasible. General McClellan before he 
began the siege had with him a force of eighty thousand 
men ; and it may be queried whether he could not from this 
force have still detached a corps of twenty-five thousand men 
to execute the movement designed for McDowell. The hold- 
ing of his line in front of Yorktown — a line of seven or eight 
miles — would, to make it secure against offensive action 
on the enemy's part, require about forty thousand men. Now, 
the detachment of a column of twenty-five thousand would 
still have left him fifty-five thousand men. Moreover, one 


division of McDowell's corps — that of Franklin, eleven 
thousand strong — did actually reach McClellan while the 
siege was in progress, and he held it on shipboard with the 
view of intrusting to it the task which the entire corps of 
McDowell had originally been expected to perform. Subse- 
quently, however, he concluded that it was unequal to the 
work. But, re-enforced by another division, might it not have 
been sufficient ? In proof of this it may be pointed out that, 
on the retreat of Johnston from Yorktown, Franklin's divi- 
sion* alone was assigned to a similar and equally difficult 
duty — to move on the flank of the Confederate army by way 
of West Point. 

The question now remains, whether an attempt should have 
been made to break the enemy's lines. The total force under 
Magruder at the time of the arrival of the Army of the Poto- 
mac before his position was, according to Magruder' s own 
testimony, eleven thousand men. More than half this force, 
however, was on garrison duty. " I was compelled," says he, 
" to place in Gloucester Point, Yorktown, and Mulberry Island, 
fixed garrisons, amounting to six thousand men. So that it 
will be seen that the balance of my Hue, embracing a length of 
thirteen miles, was defended by about five thousand men."f 
It appears that General Magruder fully expected, after the 
preliminary reconnoissances, that a serious attack would be 
made ; and in this expectation his men slept in the trenches 
and under arms. " To my surprise," he adds, " he [McClel- 
lan] permitted day after day to pass without an assault. In 
a few days, the object of his delay was apparent. In every 
direction in front of our lines, through the intervening woods, 
and along the open fields, earthworks began to appear. 
Through the energetic action of the Government, re-enforce- 
ments began to pour in, and each hour the Army of the 
Peninsula grew stronger and stronger, until anxiety passed 
from my mind as to the result of an attack upon us."| 

* Franklin's division reached the Peninsula on the 22d of April, 
t Magruder's Official Report : Confederate Reports of Battles, p. 516. 
j Ibid., p. 517. 


It is possible, however — and there is a considerable volume 
of evidence hearing upon this point — that General McClel- 
lan, during all the earlier portion of the month before York- 
town, had it in his mind, even without McDowell's corps, to 
undertake the decisive turning movement by the north side 
of the York. In this event, it would not only be in the direc- 
tion of his plan to make no attack, but it w T ould play into his 
hands that his opponent should accumulate his forces on the 
Peninsula. Yet this halting between two opinions had the 
result that, when he had abandoned the purpose of making 
the turning movement, it had become too late for him to 
make a direct attack — " all anxiety" as to the result of which 
had by that time " passed from the mind" of his opponent. 
From subsequent evidence, it would appear that a movement, 
not with the view of assaulting the fortifications of Yorktown 
(that would have been a bloody enterprise), but of breaking 
the line of the Warwick, thus investing Yorktown, if not com- 
pelling its immediate evacuation, was an operation holding 
out a reasonable promise of success.* 

* General Heintzelman, in his evidence before the Committee on the Con- 
duct of the War, states it as his impression that, had he been allowed, he could 
have carried the line of the Warwick. " I think," says he, " if I had been 
permitted when I first landed on the Peninsula to advance, I could have isolated 
the troops in Yorktown, and the place would have fallen in a few days ; but 
my orders were very stringent not to make any demonstration. I supposed, 
when I first got there, that we could force the enemy's lines at about Wynn's 
Mills, isolate Yorktown, so as to prevent the enemy from re-enforcing it, when 
it would have fallen in the course of a little while." Report on the Conduct of 
the War, vol. i., p. 347. 

General McClellan, however, expressed a contrary opinion : 
" Question, In your opinion could Heintzelman have captured Yorktown 
by a rapid movement immediately upon his landing upon the Peninsula ? 

"Answer. No; I do not think lie would have done it. When we did ad- 
vance, we found the enemy intrenched and in strong force wherever we ap- 
proached." Report on the Conduct of the War, vol. i., p. 429. 

General Barnard, who was chief-engineer of the army on the Peninsula, has, 
in his work on the Peninsular Campaign, stated with much emphasis, that 
McClellan should have assaulted; but this opinion apres coup is somewhat 
damaged by the fact that he, at the time, gave a professional j udgment against 


It was not, indeed, a certain operation, for the impracticable 
character of the country made the handling of troops very 
difficult ; but vigorous measures were at the time so urgent 
that a considerable risk might well have been run. It was 
certain that the enemy would improve all the time allowed 
him to prepare new fortifications before Richmond, and as- 
semble all his scattered forces for the defence of his capital. 
But just in proportion as time was valuable to him was the 
obligation imposed on General McClellan of not allowing him 
this time. It is now known that the Confederate govern- 
ment made good use of the month of grace allowed it by the 
siege of Yorktown ; for not only were vigorous military meas- 
ures taken, but at this very period the Confederate Congress 
passed the first conscription act, which gave Mr. Davis abso- 
lute control of the military resources of the South. 

The proper method of meeting this was to have re-enforced 
the Army of the Potomac and organized reserves. But this 
was far from the views of those who controlled the war- 
councils at "Washington ; and the President, who had for the 
time being taken into his own hands the functions of general- 
in-chief, gave one constant mot d'ordre — "take Yorktown," 
— a command that reminds one of the story in Spanish his- 
tory which runs in this wise : " When the reports of these mat- 
ters reached Philip IV., he was disposed to entertain some 
prejudice against his general, and took on himself to give his 
own direction for the war, without consulting Spinola. His 
majesty directed that Breda should be besieged, and when it 
was represented that it was needful to make many prepara- 
tions for an operation of that magnitude, the king sat down 
and wrote this laconic order to his general : ' Marquis, take 
Breda. I, the King' (Yo, el Key)." 

IE Yorktown was at length taken without a combat and 
without blood, it was not without severe and exhausting 
labors in the siege. The victory, though apparently barren, 
was really more substantial than it seemed ; and had General 
Johnston, in place of becoming alarmed at the preparations 
against him, determined to fight it out on the line of the 


Warwick, there is little doubt that he might have prolonged 
the siege. 

Meantime the morale of the Union army was excellent ; and 
the road to Kiehmond being now opened, the troops turned 
their faces hopefully towards the capital of the Confederacy. 


Upon the discovery of Johnston's withdrawal from York- 
town, all the available cavalry, together with four batteries of 
horse-artillery, under General Stoneman, was ordered in pur- 
suit. The divisions of Hooker and Smith were at the same 
time sent forward in support, and afterwards the divisions of 
Kearney, Couch, and Casey were put in motion. General 
Sumner, the officer second in rank in the Army of the 
Potomac, was ordered to the front to take charge of opera- 
tions, wdiile General McClellan remained behind at Yorktown 
to arrange for the departure of Franklin's division by water 
to West Point. By this move it w r as expected to force the 
Confederates to abandon Avhatever works they might have on 
the Peninsula below that point. 

Stoneman met little opposition till he reached the enemy's 
prepared position in front of Williamsburg, twelve miles from 
Yorktown. The Peninsula here contracts, and the approach- 
ing heads of two tributaries of the York and James rivers 
form a kind of narrow isthmus upon which the two roads 
leading from Yorktown to Williamsburg unite. Commanding 
the debuuclie was an extensive work with a bastion front, 
named Fort Magruder, and, to the right and left, on the pro- 
longation of the line, were twelve other redoubts and epaul- 
ments for field-guns. These works had been prepared by the 
Confederates many months before. 

Now, this position, though a strong one so long as its 
flanks were secured by the closing of the rivers on either 
side, was one which evidently General Johnston had no in- 



tention of occupying ; for, by the opening up of the York, the 
line of Williamsburg was exposed to be immediately turned. 
The Confederate army had, in fact, passed through Williams- 
burg towards the Chickahominy, and only a rear-guard re- 

h^;r WArwm/se\« 


A. Hooker's division. 

B. Tart it Couch's division. 

C. Smith's division. 

D. E. Works occupied by Hancock's brigade. 

mained to cover the trains. When, however, Stoneman, on 
the afternoon of the 4th, drew up in front of the redoubts, 
Johnston, seeing pursuit to be serious, brought back troops 
into the works ; and thus, by a kind of accident, there ensued 
on the morrow the bloody encounter known as the battle of 

Stoneman, on his arrival in front of Williamsburg, had a 
passage at arms with the Confederate cavalry ; but, finding 
the position too strong to carry, he stood on the defensive, 
awaiting the arrival of the infantry. Now, such was the con- 
fusion that attended this hurried march, that by the time 



Sumner could got up his advance divisions and make disposi- 
tions for attack, darkness ensued, and the men bivouacked in 
the woods. During the night a heavy rain came on, render- 
ing the roads almost impassable. 

In the morning, Hooker's division had taken position on 
the left, and Smith's on the right ; the other divisions had 
not yet come up. The attack was opened by General Hooker 
in front of Fort Magruder. Having cleared the space in his 
front, he advanced two batteries'" to within seven hundred 
yards of the fort, and, by nine o'clock, silenced its fire. But 
now the enemy began to develop strongly on his left,t and, as 
re-enforcements arrived, made a series of determined attacks 
with the view of turning that flank. These attacks were 
made with constantly increasing pressure, and bore heavily 
on Hooker. That officer had taken care to open communica- 
tion with the Yorktown road, on which fresh troops were to 
come up ; yet, notwithstanding the repeated requests made 
by him for the assistance he sorely needed, none c:tme.{ He 
was therefore compelled to engage the enemy during the 
whole day ; and, between three and four o'clock, his ammuni- 
tion began to give out, so that some of his shattered brigades 
were forced to confront the enemy with no other cartridges 
than those they gathered from the boxes of their fallen com- 
rades. § At length, between four and five o'clock, Kearney's 
division, which had been ordered in the morning to go to the 
support of Hooker, but had met great delay in passing the 
masses of troops and trains that obstructed the single deep 
muddy defile, arrived. Learning the condition of Hooker's 
men, Kearney took up his division at the double-quick, at- 

* Batteries of Webber and Bramhal. 

f Held at first by Patterson's New Jersey brigade, and then re-enforced. 

:f It is due to mention, however, that, about one o'clock, Peck s brigadp 
came up and took position on Hooker's right, and, being re-enforced by 
Devin's brigade, held the centre of the Union line with much firmness against 
several attacks. Couch : Report. 

£ Hooker : Report of Williamsburg. During the action, five guns of Web 
Iht s battery (its support being withdrawn for service on the left) fell into the 
han'ls of the enemy. 


tacked spiritedly, re-established the line, and enabled Hooker's 
worn-out troops to withdraw. Hooker lost one thousand 
seven hundred men. 

"While, during the morning, the fight thus waxed hot in 
front of Fort Magruder, the troops on the right, composed 
exclusively of General Smith's division, had not engaged 
the enemy ; but towards noon, Sumner ordered General 
Smith to send one of his brigades to occupy a redoubt on the 
extreme right, said to be evacuated by the enemy. For this 
purpose, Hancock's brigade was selected.* Making a wide 
detour to the right, which brought him within sight of the 
York River, Hancock passed Cub Dam Creek on an old mill- 
bridge, and took possession of the work indicated, which he 
found unoccupied. Twelve hundred yards in advance, another 
redoubt was discovered in the same condition, and this also 
he quietly took possession of. 

The position which, through the carelessness of the Con- 
federates^ Hancock had thus seized, proved to be a very 
important one, having a crest and natural glacis on either 
side, and entirely commanding the plain between it and Fort 
Magruder. He had in fact debouched on the flank and rear 
of the Confederate line of defence. On reconnoitring what 
lay beyond, there were found to be two more redoubts between 
the position and the fort. These seemed to be occupied by 

* Davidson's brigade was also under Hancock's command at this time, and 
he detailed for the movement, from his own brigade, the Fifth Wisconsin, 
Forty-ninth Pennsylvania, and Sixth Maine ; and from Davidson s brigade, the 
Seventh Maine and Thirty-third New York volunteers. To these were attached 
Lieutenant Crowen's Xew York battery of six guns. Hancock's Official Report. 

f General Johnston, in conversation with the writer, stated that neither 
himself nor any of his officers was even aware of the existence of these redoubts 
on the extreme left of the Confederate position, — the line of works having been 
prepared long before under General Magruder. The first intimation he had of 
their existence was when Hill brought him report that the enemy was in occu- 
pation of an unknown redoubt on the left, and asked permission to drive him 
off. Johnston told him to do so, but to "act with caution." Accordingly, Hill 
detached troops under General Early, who led the unsuccessful attack after- 
wards made on Hancock. 


at least some force. Hancock put his battery into position to 
play upon these works, and a few shells and the fire of the 
skirmishers proved sufficient to drive the Confederates from 
their cover; but he did not deem it prudent to occupy them, 
until re-enforcements should arrive. 

It was not till now that the Confederate commander, whoso 
attention had been absorbed in the attack of Hooker on his 
right, became aware of this menacing movement on his left ; 
but being apprised of the danger, he immediately took meas- 
ures to meet it. Now it happened that precisely at this 
juncture, Hancock, instead of receiving the re-enforcements 
he had repeatedly and urgently sent for, got a message from 
General Sumner, instructing him to fall back to his first posi- 
tion.* Hancock, appreciating the commanding importance of 
his position, delayed doing so as long as possible. But about 
five o'clock, seeing that the Confederates were in motion on 
his front, that they had reoccupied the two redoubts from 
which they were last driven, and that they were threatening 
both his flanks, he retired his troops behind the crest. Here 
he formed his line with about one thousand six hundred 
men, being determined to remain. Waiting till the advancing 
enemy got below the rise of the bill, and within thirty paces, 
he ordered a general charge. This was executed in a very 
spirited manner : a few of the enemy who had approached 
nearest were bayoneted ;t the rest broke and fled in all di- 
rections, and the Confederate flanking force, finding their 
centre routed, also beat a hasty retreat4 Shortly after the 
action was decided, General Smith, by order of General ~Mc- 
Clellan, who had reached the front and appreciated the posi- 
tion secured by Hancock, brought up strong re-enforcements. 
At the same time the firing ceased in front of Fort Magruder. 
and the troops, wet, weary, and hungry, rested on their arms. 
But Williamsburg was really won, for Hancock held the key 

* Hancock: Report of Williamsburg, 
f This fact is vouched for by official evidence. 

X The Confederate loss was heavy, numbering over five hundred ; Hancock's 
total loss was one hundred and twenty-nine. 


of the position ; and during the night, Longstreet retired to 
join the body of Johnston's army, now rapidly marching to- 
wards the Chickahominy.* 

While the action before Williamsburg was going on, Gen- 
eral Franklin was embarking his division for the purpose of 
ascending the York River by water. This was accomplished 
on the following day, and on the morning of the 7th he had 
completed the disembarkation of his division opposite West 
Point, on the right bank of the Pamunkey, a short distance 
above where that river empties into the York. But on at- 
tempting to advance, Franklin was met by the Confederate 
division of Whiting, whose presence, and a spirited attack of 
Hood's Texas brigade, served to hold Franklin in check. 

The operations here described, constituting the pursuit of 
the Confederates (which really ended at Williamsburg), are 
open to criticism. The pursuit was made on two hues, by 
land and by water, and Johnston skilfully disposed his eche- 
lons to meet both advances. The move by water, which was 
the most promising, since it menaced the enemy's flank, was 
not made in sufficient force, and presented merely the char- 
acter of a detachment on the Confederate rear, — a species of 
operation which is seldom successful. Besides, it started too 
late and arrived too late.f It could be of no avail, unless 
supported by the whole army coming from Williamsburg. :): 
But there was no assurance that this could be, for the exist- 
ence of the defences of Williamsburg, where the Confederates 
were sure, if need be, to make a stand, was known.§ 

* " At half-past three, a. m., of the 6th, the pickets reported that the enemy 
appeared to be evacuating the works in front. At sunrise, these strong works 
were in the possession of my division, and Heintzelman's corps subsequently 
moved out and occupied Williamsburg." Couch : Report of Williamsburg. 

f The Confederates evacuated Yorktown on the night of May 3-4. Frank- 
lin's division had just been disembarked from the transports, so that re-em 
barkation was necessary, and it did not start till the morning of the 6th, and 
did not make the landing near White House till the morning of the 7th. 

t Schalk : Campaigns of 1862-3, p. 169. 

§ Barnard : Report of Engineer Operations, p. 63. 


The action at Williamsburg was verv unfortunate, though 
General AfcOlellan cannot be held responsible for it, unless 
he may be blamed for remaining behind at Yorktown to 
superintend the getting off of Franklin's expedition. But to 
blame him for this would be hardly warrantable. Ho, was 
within easy communication with the advance, which was 
placed under orders of his lieutenant, General Sunnier; and he 
had a right to suppose that he would be kept informed of every 
thing of importance occurring in the front. Yet he was left 
entirely unaware, till the afternoon, that any thing but a triv- 
ial affair of the rear-guard had taken place. Sumner, that 
model of a mldkr though not of a <n'neral, had too much the 
fire of the vieux .sdhreur to allow his head to work coolly and 
clearly in situations where that temper of mind was most 
needed ; and his conduct of affairs at Williamsburg was 
marked bv erreat confusion. So contradictory were his or- 
ders, that with thirty thousand men within three or four miles 
of the position, the division of Hooker was left to bear alone 
the brunt of successive severe attacks ; and the result Avas the 
loss of above tAvo thousand men,* without any corresponding 
gain. Hooker's fight was really quite unnecessary ; for the 
difficult obstacles against which he had to contend might 
have been easily turned by the right. This was actually done 
at last by the flank movement of General Hancock, who, with 
slight loss, determined the issue. 

'to- 1 - 

On the retreat of the Confederates from Williamsburg, the 
Army of the Potomac Avas pushed forward as rapidly as the 
wretched condition of the roads would permit, on a line paral- 
lel with the York and Pamunkey ; and on the lGtla of May 
headquarters and the advance divisions reached White House, 
at the head of navigation of the latter stream. Prom that 
point the York River Railroad runs due west to Richmond, 
distant eighteen miles. Great depots Avere established at 

* The' precise loss was two thousand two hundred and twenty-eight killed, 
wounded, and missing. 


White House, to which supplies were brought by water, and 
the columns moved forward on the line of the York River and 
Richmond Railroad ; which, repaired as the army proceeded, 
became its line of commvmication with the base at White 
House. Thus the divisions advanced till they reached the 
Chickahominy, and by the 21st they were posted in echelon 
along the left or north bank of that stream, destined soon to 
become the scene of stirring events.* 

The consummate strategist that had directed the skilful 
withdrawal from Yorktown and checked the advance of the 
Union columns at Williamsburg now proceeded to gather the 
Confederate forces around the lines of Richmond. In the 
exposition I have already given of Johnston's plan of opera- 
tions to meet the advance of the Union army against Rich- 
mond, it has been indicated that it was his fixed purpose to 
refuse battle until his opponent should approach that city. 
Having now retired behind the line of the Chickahominy, he 
proceeded to urge upon the Richmond administration the 
policy of an immediate concentration of all available forces at 
that point, as affording the best means for a true defence of 
Richmond by a vigorous assumption of the offensive at the 
proper moment. Johnston found fully as much difficulty in 
impressing his views upon the cabinet at Richmond, as Mc- 

* It will thus appear that it required two weeks for the march of hftj miles 
from White House to the Chickahominy. Regarded as a pursuit of this ene- 
my, this was certainly tardy. But the nature of McClellan's opeiation can 
hardly be so defined. His ultimate aim was directed against Richmond, and 
he expected that McDowell's corps would make a junction with him. His opera- 
tions were necessarily of a somewhat methodical character, and he was forced to 
open up a new base, and form depots of supplies. Besides, the roads were bad 
Deyond all precedent. This tardiness has not escaped the censure of the Com- 
mittee on the Conduct of the War, who, without admitting any mitigating 
circumstances, thus deliver verdict : " The distance between Williamsburg and 
the line of operations on the Chickahominy was from forty to fifty miles, and 
the army was about two weeks in moving that distance." (Report on the Con- 
duct of the War, vol. i , p. 20.) But perhaps military men may be disposed to 
dispute the justness of the judgment of a body of strategists wlch whom ibe 
Chickahominy figures as a "line of operations!" 


Clellan did in impressing his on the cabinet at Washington. 
Nevertheless, in accordance "with his counsels, the abandon- 
ment of Norfolk was ordered ; and General Huger, after de- 
stroying the dockyards and removing the stores, evacuated 
that place on the 10th of May, and withdrew its garrison to 
unite with the army in front of Richmond. On the next day 
it was occupied by a Union force, led by General "Wool, from 
Fortress Monroe. One important consequence of the evacua- 
tion of Norfolk was the destruction of the Merrimac, which 
vessel proving to have too great a draft of water to proceed 
up the James to Eichmond, was on the following day blown 
up by order of her commander, Commodore Tatnall. This at 
once opened the river to the advance of the Union gunboats ; 
and immediately afterwards a fleet, composed of the Monitor, 
Galena, Aroostook, Port Royal, and Naugatuck, under Com- 
modore Rodgers, ascended the James, with the view of open- 
ing the water highway to Richmond. "Within twelve miles of 
the city, however, the vessels were arrested by the pins of 
Fort Darling, on Drury s Bluff, and after a four hours' en- 
gagement, in which the Galena received severe damage, and 
the one-hundred-pounder Parrott on the Naugatuck was 
burst, the fleet was compelled to withdraw. 

It was not these events, however, that determined Mc- 
Clellan s line of advance on Richmond by the York rather 
than by the James ; for the former course had already been 
dictated to him by antecedent circumstances. Before the 
destruction of the Merrimac had opened the opportunity of 
swinging across to the James, the army was already well 
at route by the "York and Pamunkey, under injunctions to 
push forward on that line for the purpose of uniting with a 
column under McDowell, which was about to move from 
Fredericksburg towards Richmond. As this circumstance 
exercised a controlling influence! on the campaign, and power- 
fully affected its character and results, I shall enter into its 
exposition at some length in the succeeding chapter. 




The brilliant historian of the war in the Spanish Peninsula 
lays down the maxim that "military operations are so 
dependent upon accidental circumstances, that, to justly cen- 
sure, it should always be shown that an unsuccessful general 
has violated the received maxims and established principles 
of war." * Now as General McClellan's offensive movement 
towards Richmond really ended with the establishment of his 
army on the Chiekahominy, and as the narrative of events to 
follow will show the eneim- in an offensive attitude, and the 
army whose proper role was the aggressive reduced to the 
defensive, and finally compelled to retreat, it will be in place 
to follow attentively the course and causes of action with the 
view to discover whether the untoward events that befell the 
Union arms be traceable to any departure from those "estab- 
lished principles of war," the violation of which furnishes a 
just ground of censure. 

Upon McClellan's arrival on the Chiekahominy, there were 
two objects which he had to keep in view : to secure a firm 
footing on the Richmond side of that stream with the view 
of carrying out the primal purpose of the campaign, and at 
the same time to so dispose his forces as to insure the junc- 
tion of McDowell's column frnm Fredericksburg with the 
force before Richmond. The former purpose was accom- 
plished by throwing the left wing of the Army of the Potomac 
across the Chiekahominy at Bottom's Bridge, which the Con- 
federates had left uncovered. Casey's division of Keyes' 
corps crossed on the 20th of May, and occupied the opposite 

' Napier : History of the Peninsular War, vol. i., p. 8. 


heights. Heintzelman's corps was then thrown forward in 
support, and Bottom's Bridge was immediately rebuilt. 

To secure the second object, McClellan extended his right 
wing well northward, and on the 24th carried the village of 
Mechaniesville, forcing the enemy across the Chickahominv 
at the Mechaniesville Bridge which the Confederates after 
crossing destroyed. He then awaited the march of McDowell 
to join him, in order to initiate operations against Richmond. 
I must now turn aside to show in what manner the object of 
this movement was baulked by the skill of the Confederates 
and the folly of those who controlled the operations of the 
Union armies. 

At the time the Array of the Potomac was toiling pain- 
fully up the Peninsula towards Richmond, the remaining 
forces in Northern Virginia presented the extraordinary 
spectacle of three distinct armies, planted on three separate 
lines of operations, under three independent commanders. 
The highland region of West Virginia had been formed into 
the " Mountain Department" under command of General 
Fremont ; the Valley of the Shenandoah constituted the 
" Department of the Shenandoah" under General Banks ; 
and the region covered by the direct lines of approach to 
Washington had been erected into the " Department of the 
Rappahannock," and assigned to General McDowell at the 
time his corps was detached from the Army of the Potomac. 
About the period reached by the narrative of events on 
the Peninsula, these armies were distributed as follows : 
General Fremont with a force of fifteen thousand men at 
Franklin, General Banks with a force, of about sixteen 
thousand men at Strasburg, and General McDowell with a 
force of thirty thousand men at Fredericksburg on the 
Rappahannock. It need hardly be said that this arrange- 
ment, the like of which has not been seen since Napoleon 
scandalized the Austrians by destroying in succession half a 
dozen of their armies distributed after precisely this fashion — ■ 
nor indeed was ever seen before, save in periods of the 
eclipse of all military judgment — was in violation of the tine 


principles of war. One hardly wishes to inquire by whose 
crude and fatuitous inspiration these things were done ; but 
such was the spectacle presented by the Union forces in 
Virginia : the main army already held in check on the Chicka- 
hominy, and these detached columns inviting destruction in 
detail. Not to have taken advantage of such an opportunity 
would have shown General Johnston to be a tyro in his 

It came about, after the commencement of active opera- 
tions on the Peninsula had drawn towards Bichmond the main 
force of the Confederates and relieved the front of Washing- 
ton from the pressure of their presence, that the Administra- 
tion, growing more easy touching the safety of the capital, 
determined, in response to General McClellan's oft-repeated 
appeals for re-enforcements, to send forward McDowell's 
corps, — not, indeed, as he desired, to re-enforce him by water, 
but to advance overland to attack Eichmond in co-operation 
with the Army of the Potomac. To this end, the division of 
Shields was detached from the command of General Banks in 
the Shenandoah Valley, and given to General McDowell ; and 
this addition brought the latter's force up to forty-one thou- 
sand men and one hundred guns. General McClellan had 
received official notification of this intended movement ; and 
on the march from Williamsburg to the Chickahominy, as has 
been shown, he threw his right wing well forward, so as to 
insure the junction of McDowell's force, when* it should move 
forward from Fredericksburg.* After numerous delays, the 
time of advance of this column was at length fixed for the 
26th of May, a date closely coincident with the arrival of the 
Army of the Potomac on the Chickahominy. The head of 
McDowell's column had already been pushed eight miles 

* It should not be forgotten that this was the controlling consideration in 
the choice by General McClellan of the line of advance by the Pamunkey, 
instead of swinging his army across to the James immediately after the battle 
of Williamsburg and the destruction of the Merrimac immediately thereon, — 
a course the adoption of which would, in all probability, have altered the entire 
character of the campaign. 


south of Fredericksburg; and McClellan, to clear all opposi- 
tion from his path, sent forward Porter's corps to Hanover 
Junction, where he had a sharp encounter with a force of the 
enemy under General Uranch, whom he repulsed with a loss 
of two hundred killed and seven hundred prisoners, and estab- 
lished the right of the Arm}' of the Potomac within fifteen 
miles, or one march, of McDowell's van. McDowell was 
eager to advance, and McClellan was equally anxious for 
his arrival, when there happened an event which frustrated 
this plan and all the hopes that had been based thereon. 
This event was the irruption of Stonewall Jackson in the 
Shenandoah Valley The keen-eyed soldier at the head of the 
main Confederate army, discerning the intended junction 
between McDowell and McClellan, quickly seized his oppor- 
tunity, and intrusted the execution of a bold cuuji to that vig- 
orous lieutenant who had already made the Valley ring with 
his exploits. 

Jackson, on retiring from his last raid in the Shenandoah 
Valley, which had ended in his repulse by Shields at Win- 
chester (March 27), had retreated up the Valley by way of 
Harrisonburg, and turning to the Blue Ridge, took up a 
position between the south fork of the Shenandoah and Swift 
Pun Gap. Here he was retained by Johnston, after the main 
body of the Confederate arm}- had been drawn in towards 
Pichmond. Jackson was joined by Ewell's division from 
Gordonsville on the oUth April, and at the same time he 
received the further accession of the two brigades of General 
Edward Johnson, who had held an independent command in 
Southwest Virginia. This raised his force to about fifteen 
thousand men. Banks' force, reduced by the detachment of 
Shields' division, sent to General McDowell, to about live 
thousand men, was posted at Harrisonburg. Fremont was at 
Franklin, across the mountains ; but one of his brigades, 
under Milroy, had burst beyond the limits of the Maintain 
Department, and seemed to be moving to make a junction with 
Banks, with the design, as Jackson thought, of advancing on 
Staunton. Jackson determined to attack these fences hi 


[etail. Accordingly, he posted Ewell so as to hold Banks in 
heck, whilst he himself moved to Staunton. From here he 
hrew forward five brigades, under General Edward Johnson 
May 7), to attack Milroy. The latter retreated to his moun- 
ain fastness, and took position at a point named McDowell, 
vhere, re-enforced by the brigade of Schenck, he engaged 
Tohnson, but was forced to retire on Fremont's main body at 
Franklin. Having thus thrown off Milroy eccentrically from 
iommunication with Banks, Jackson returned (May 14) to 
lestroy the force under that officer. But during Jackson's 
Dursuit of Milroy, Banks, discovering his danger, had retired 
;o Strasburg, followed by Ewell. Jackson therefore followed 
ilso, and at New Market he formed a junction with Ewell. 
[nstead of marching direct on Strasburg, however, Jackson 
iiverged on a line to the eastward by way of Luray Valley, 
md moved on Front Royal, with the view of cutting off Banks' 
retreat from Strasburg, interposing between him and re- 
Bnforcements, and compelling his surrender. The 23d he 
entered Front Boyal, capturing the garrison of seven hundred 
men there under Colonel Kenly ; and thence he moved to 
Middletown by a road to the right of the main Valley road, 
hoping there to cut off Banks. But the latter was too quick 
for him : so that when he reached Middletown, he struck only 
the rear of the retreating Union column. Banks, with his 
small force, offered such resistance as he could to the 
advance of Jackson, and took position on the heights 
of "Winchester (May 24), where he gave fight, till, being as- 
sailed on both flanks, he retired hastily to the north bank of 
the Potomac (May 25), making a march of fifty-three miles in 
forty-eight hours. Jackson continued the pursuit as far as 
Halltown, within two miles of Harper's Ferry, where he 
remained till the 30th, when, finding heavy forces converging 
on his rear, he began a retrograde movement up the Valley. 

The tidings of Jackson's apparition at Winchester on the 
24th, and his subsequent advance to Harper's Ferry, fell like 
a thunderbolt on the war-council at Washington. The order 
for McDowell's advance from Fredericksburg, to unite with 


McC'lellan, was instantly countermanded ; and he was directed 
to put twenty thousand men in motion at once for the Shen- 
andoah Valley, by the line of the Manassas Gap Railroad* 
McDowell obeyed, but, to use his own language, ''with a 
heavy heart," for he knew, what any man capable of survey- 
ing the situation with a soldier's eye must have known, that 
the movement ordered was not only most futile in itself, but 
certain to paralyze the operations of the main army and frus- 
trate that campaign against Richmond on the issue of which 
hung the fortune of the war. In vain he pointed out that it 
was impossible for him either to succor Banks or co-operate 
with Fremont ; that his line of advance from Fredericksburg 
to Front Royal was much longer than the enemy's line of re- 
treat ; that it would take him a week or ten days to reach the 
Valley, and that by this time the occasion for his services 
would have passed by. In vain General McClellan urged the 
real motive of the raid — to prevent re-enforcements from 
reaching him. Deaf to all sounds of reason, the war-council 
at Washington, like the Dutch States-General, of whom 
Prince Eugene said, that " always interfering, they were al- 
ways dying with fear," t heard only the reverberations of the 
guns of the redoubtable Jackson. To head off Jackson, if 
possible to catch Jackson, seemed now the one important 
thing ; and the result of the cogitations of the Washington 
strategists was the preparation of what the President called a 
" trap" for Jackson — a " trap" for the wily fox who was mas- 
ter of every gap and gorge in the Valley ! Xnw this pretty 
scheme involved the converging movements of Fremont from 

* Dispatch from President Lincoln : Report on the Conduct of the War, 
vol. i., p. 274. 

\ This expression of Prince Eugene is used by him in a passage of his 
Memoires, descriptive of an event curiously analogous to that to which the 
above text has relation: "Marlborough," says he, "sent me word that Ber- 
wick having re-enforced the duke of Burgundy, the army, which was now a 
hundred and twenty thousand strong, had marched to the assistance of Lisle. 
The deputies from the States-fieneral, always interfering, and a/ir./i/.s dying 
with fair, demanded of me a re-enforcement for him," etc. — Memoirs of Prince 
Eugene, p. 100. 


the west, and McDowell from the east, upon Strasburg. The 
two columns moved rapidly ; they had almost effected a junc- 
tion on the 31st ; but that very day Jackson, falling back 
from Harper's Ferry, slipped between the two, and made 
good his retreat up the Yalley, leaving his opponents to follow 
in a long and fruitless chase, all the time a day behind 

The pursuers did their best : they pushed on, Fremont fol- 
lowing in the path of Jackson up the Valley of the Shenan- 
doah ; while McDowell sent forward Shields' division by the 
lateral Luray Yalley, with a view to head him off when he 
should attempt to break through the gaps of the Blue Eidge. 
Jackson reached Harrisonburg on the 5th of June ; Fremont 
the next day. There Jackson diverged eastward to cross the 
Shenandoah at Port Republic, the only point where there was 
a bridge. Shields was moving up the east side of the river, 
was close at hand, and might prevent his crossing, or might 
form a junction with Fremont. Both results were to be pre- 
vented. Jackson threw forward his own division to Port Re- 
public (June 7.i to cover the bridge; and left Ewell's division 
five miles back on the road on which Fremont was following — 
the road from Harrisonburg to Port Republic. Next day Fre- 
mont attacked Ewell's five brigades, with the view of turning 
his right and getting through to the bridge at Port Republic 
to make a junction with Shields. At the same time Shields 
attacked the bridge on the east side, to make a iunction with 
Fremont. The result was that Ewell repulsed Fremont, while 
Jackson held Shields in check. Early next morning, drawing 
in Ewell and concentrating his forces, Jackson threw himself 
across the river, burned the bridge to prevent Fremont from 
following ; fell upon Shields' advance, consisting of two bri- 
gades under General Tyler, and repulsed him, capturing his 
artillery. The former of these affairs figures in history as the 
battle of Cross Keys, and the latter as the battle of Port Re- 

In this exciting month's campaign, Jackson made great 
captures of stores and prisoners ; but this was not its chief 


result. Without gaining a single tactical victory he had to! 
achieved a great strategic victory, for by skilfully manoeuvring 
, fifteen thousand men he succeeded in neutralizing a force of 
sixty thousand. It is perhaps not too much to say that he 
saved Eichmond ; for when McClellan, in expectation that Mc- 
Dowell might still be allowed to come and join him, threw 
f or ward his right wing, under Porter, to Hanover Courthouse, 
on the 20th of June, the echoes of his cannon bore to those in 
Richmond who knew the situation of the two Union armies 
the knell of the capital of the Confederacy.* McDowell never 
went forward — was never allowed, eager though he was, to go 
forward. Well-intentioned though we must believe the mo- 
tives to have been of those who counselled the course that led 
to the consequences thus delineated, the historian must not 
fail to point out the folly of an act that will remain an im- 
pressive illustration of what is to be expected when men vio- 
late the established principles of war. 


It is easy to see the perilous position in which the events 
just recited placed the Army of the Potomac. Had McClellan 
been free immediately after the battle of Williamsburg, when 
the destruction of the Merrimac opened up the James River 
as a highway of supplies, to transfer his army to that line, it 
is easy to see that he would have avoided those dangers of 
the other line whereof the enemy finally took such energetic 
advantage. I have already set forth the circumstances that 
dictated his advance by the line of the York and the 
Pamunkey — to wit, the expected march of McDowell's 
column from Fredericksburg for the purpose of joining the 
Army of the Potomac — and I have detailed the events 
whereby that column was prevented from making its antici- 

* Prince de Joinville : The Army of the Potomnr, p. 112, note 


pated marcli. Xow, it was almost simultaneous with the 
establishment of the base at White House that McDowell's 
column was turned aside from its contemplated co-operation 
with the Array of the Potomac, and diverted to the Shenan- 
doah Yalley. Knowing this fact, General McClellan knew 
that the hope of further re-enforcements was vain, and it was 
incumbent on him to act vigorously with his proper force. 
He knew that the presence of Jackson's corps in the Shenan- 
doah Yalley neutralized a force of fifteen thousand men that 
was certain to be brought against him if he should delay. 
Besides, he was making an offensive movement in which 
vigorous action was above all requisite ; for Avhen once the 
offensive has been assumed, it must be sustained to the last 
extremity. Yet, having reached the Chickahominy, he 
assumed an almost passive attitude, with his army, too, cut 
in twain by that fickle and difficult stream. 

JSow, though a position a cJtevol on a river is not one which 
a general willingly assumes, it is frequently a necessity, and 
in that case he spans the stream with numerous bridges.* It 
was necessary for General McClellan to pass the Chicka- 
hominy because it crossed his line of manoeuvre against 
Eichmond ; and it was also necessary for him to leave a force 
on the eastern side to cover his communications with his 
base at the White House ; but this is not a situation in 
which one would assume a passive attitude with few and very 
imperfect connections between the divided wings. The passage 
of the Chickahominy was made by Casey's division at Bot- 
tom's Bridge on the 20th of May, and by the 25th the corps 
of Keyes and Heintzelman were established on the right 
bank. Meantime, the corps of Sumner, Porter, and Frank- 
lin remained on the left bank. By the 28th, Sumner had 
constructed two bridgest for the passage of his corps ; but 

* " If a stream divide a position at right angles, it should he spanned with 
1 as many bridges as would enable troops and guns to pass from one side to the 
other, as if no such feature existed." General McDougall : Modern Warfare 
and Modern Artillery, p. 107. 

t Known as " Sumner's Upper Bridge" and " Sumner's Lower Bridge.'' 



up to the time when the Confederate commander assumed 
the initiative on the 31st, no provision was made for the 
crossing of the right wing, and tlw re-enforcement of that 
wing by the left involved a detour of twenty-three miles, — 
a distance quite too great for the possibility of re-enforcement 
in the fierce emergency of battle. Materials for three 
bridges'- to be used in the passage of the right wing were 
indeed prepared, and by the 28th of Mayt these bridges were 
all ready to be laid. But, meantime, they were not laid, and 
the two wings were suffered to remain separated by the 
Chickahominy, and without adequate means of communica- 

The Chickahominy rises in the highlands northwest of 
Richmond, and enveloping it on the north and east, emp- 
ties into the James many miles below that city, and after 
describing around it almost the quadrant of a circle. In 
itself this river docs not form anv considerable barrier to the 
advance of an army ; but with its accessories it constitutes one 
of the most formidable military obstacles imaginable. The 
stream flows through a belt of heavily timbered swamp. The 
tops of the trees rise just about to the level of the crests of 
the highlands bordering the bottom, thus perfectly screening 
from view the bottom-lands and slopes of the highlands on the 
enemy's side. Through this belt of swamp the stream flows 
sometimes in a single channel, more frequently divided into 
several, and when but a foot or two above its summer level, 
overspreads the whole swamp. The bottom-lands between 
the swamp and the highlands, in width from three-quarters of 
a mile to a mile and a quarter, are little elevated at their 
margin above the swamp, so that a rise of the stream by a 

* These bridges were the "New Bridge" and two other bridges, the one 
half a mile above and the other half a mile below. 

\ " So fur as engineering preparations were concerned, the army could have 
been thrown over as early as tin 1 2Sth of May, Sumner uniting his corps with 
those of Heintzelman and Keyrs, and taking the enemy's position at New 
Brid^o in flank and rear. Thus attacked, the enemy could have made no^ 
formidable resistance to the passage of our right wing." Barnard: Report 
of Engineer Operations, p. 21. 


few feet, overflows large areas of these bottoms, and even 
when not overflowed they are spongy and impracticable for 
cavalry and artillery.* 

In this state of facts, McClellan's disposition of his army 
must be considered a grave fault, and inaction in such a situ- 
ation was in the highest degree dangerous. " A general," 
says the Archduke Charles, " must suppose that his opponent 
will do against him whatever he ought to do." Now, for 
Johnston to omit to strike one or the other of these exposed 
wings, was to neglect that principle which forms the whole 
secret of war — to be superior to your enemy at the point of 
collision : it was, in fact, to neglect a unique opportunity of 
delivering a decisive blow. 

The Confederate commander was not the man to let slip 
such an opportunity ; and, as soon as reconnoissances had 
fully developed the position of that portion of the Union 
army which lay on the Richmond side of the Chickahomy, he 
determined to act. It was a situation in which, by bringing 
two-thirds of his own force to bear against one-third of the 
Union force, he might hope not merely to defeat but to de- 
stroy the exposed wing. By the 30th of May he had formed 
his resolution, and he immediately made preparations for 
carrying it into effect on the following day.f During the 

* Barnard : Report of Engineer Operations, pp. 18, 19. 

\ It is commonly supposed that it was the freshet in the Chickahominy, 
caused by the storm of the night of the 30th, that prompted General Johnston 
to attack ; but he had fully resolved to strike before the storm came on, on the 
mere chances of the situation of the Union army. The storm did not come on 
till the night of the 30th, and the following extract from the official report of 
Major-General D. H Hill will show that General Johnston had made disposi- 
tions for the attack as early as noon of that day : " These reconnoissances (of 
Hill's brigade commanders) satisfied me that the enemy was not in force on 
the Charles City road, but was on the Williamsburg road, and that he had 
fortified himself about the Seven Pines. The fact was further established, that 
the whole of Keyes' corps had crossed the Chickahominy. These facts I com- 
municated to General Johnston about noon on Friday, 30th of May. I received 
a prompt answer from him, that, being satisfied by my report of the presence 
ol the enemy in force in my immediate front, he had resolved to attack them." 
Official Reports of Battles. Richmond, 1864. 



night of the 30th, there came a storm of unwonted violence; 
and this circumstance, while it would embarrass the execu- 
tion of Johnston's proposed plan, at the same time gave 
that general the hope of making the operation still more 
complete from the situation in which it would place his op- 

The reconnoissances of the Confederates had disclosed the 
fact that Casey's division of Keyes' corps held an advanced 


position on the Williamsburg road, three-quarters of a mile 
beyond the point known as Seven Pines and about six miles 
from Richmond. Couch's division of the same corps was 
stationed at Seven Pines, on both sides of the Williamsburg 
road and along the Nine-mile road, his right resting at Fair 
Oaks Station, on the Richmond and York River Railroad. 
Of the two divisions of Heintzelman's corps, that of Kear- 
ney was on the Williamsburg road and the railroad, three- 
quarters of a mile in advance of Savage Station ; and that 


of Hooker was guarding the approaches of the White Oak 

In this state of facts, Johnston made the following disposi- 
tions for attack : Hill (D. H), who had been covering the 
Williamsburg and Charles City road, was directed to move 
his division, supported by the division of Longstreet, out on 
the Williamsburg road, but not to move till Huger's division, 
which was to move out on the Charles City road, should re- 
lieve him. Huger's duty was to strike the left flank of the 
Union force which Hill and Longstreet should engage in 
front. G. W Smith, with his division, was to advance on the 
right flank of the Vnion force, to the junction of the New 
Bridge road with the Nine-mile road, there to be in readiness 
either to fall on Keyes' right or to cover Longstreet's left.* 
The divisions were to move at daybreak ; but the wretched 
condition of the roads, resulting from the storm, greatly re- 
tarded the movement of the troops. Hill, Longstreet, and 
Smith, indeed, were in position by eight o'clock ; but not so 
Huger. For hour after hour, Longstreet and Hill awaited in 
vain the signal-gun that was to announce Huger's arrival in his 
proper position. At length, at ten o'clock, Hillf went forward 
on the Williamsburg road,:): and presently struck Casey's divi- 
sion. The advance position beyond Seven Pines, held by that 
officer, was defended by a redoubt, rifle-pit, and abatis ; but, 
at this time, these works were only in process of construction, 
and the troops were, indeed, engaged at this work when the 
attack was made.§ The pickets were quickly driven in, and 

* Johnston : Report of Seven Pines : Confederate Reports of Battles, Rich- 
mond, 1864. 

f Hill was acting under Longstreet's orders during the day. 

X Hill's Report : Official Reports of Battles. Richmond, 1864. 

§ The attack was not, however, a surprise, for the movement of the 
enemy's troops had been observed for several hours before. It appears, more- 
over, that about half-past ten an aid-de-camp of General Johnston was cap 
•tured by the pickets of General Naglee. His presence so near the lines, and 
his " very evident emotion" when a few shots were fired in front of Casey's 
headquarters (Keyes' Report), caused increased vigilance, and the troops were 
firdered to be under arms at eleven o'clock. 


the more so that a regiment * sent forward to support the 
picket-line gave way without making much if any resistance. 
The first blow fell upon 2saglee'st brigade, which held ;i posi- 
tion in advance of the redoubt, where it made a good light 
and held the enemy in check for a considerable time, ami 
then retired and fought with the rest of the division in the 
redoubt and rifle-pits — the force being strengthened by Peck's 
brigade sent forward by General Couch. The Confederates ad- 
vanced in close columns, and suffered severely from the fire of 
the batteries in front of and in the redoubt. Presently, how- 
ever, one of their brigades, which had been sent round on the 
left of Casey, gained the rear of the redoubt. X When, there- 
fore, a severe flank fire was opened by the force that had made 
this detour, the division crumbled away, the guns in the redoubt 
and a portion of those of the battery in front were captured, § 

* The One Hundred and Third Pennsylvania. See McClellan s Report, 
p. 108. But for a statement that this regiment did better than had been re- 
ported, see testimony of General Casey, in Report on the Conduct of the War, 
vol. i., p. 445. 

+ In addition to Naglee's brigade, the position of which is given above, the 
other two brigades of Casey's division were posted as follows: General YWs- 
sel's brigade in the rifle-pits, and General Palmer's in rear of Wessel'a. Of the 
artillery, one battery was in advance with Naglee ; one in rear of the rifle-pits 
to the right of the redoubt ; a third in rear of the redoubt ; and a fourth, un- 
harnessed, in the redoubt. 

\ General Johnston's account of the manner in which Casey's position was 
carried is as follows: "Hill's brave troops, admirably commanded and gal- 
lantly led, forced their way through the abatis, which formed the enemy's 
external defences, and stormed their intrenchments by a determined and irre 
sistible rush. Such was the manner in which the enemy's first line was car 
ried." (Johnston: Official Report.) But tlris does not give an accurate repre- 
sentation of the case. Hill, who was in command of the attacking columns, 
says: "General Rains had now gained the rear of the Yankee rid<aiht, and 
opened fire on the infantry posted in the woods. I now noticed commotion in 
the camps and redoubts, and indications of evacuating the position. Rodes 
took skilful advantage of this commotion, and moved up his brigade in beauti- 
ful order, and took possession of the redoubts and rifle-pits." Official Reports 
of Battles. Richmond, 1SIJ4. 

£ Among those who fell in the redoubt were, Colonel G. D. Bailey Major 
Van Valkrnberg, and Adjutant Ramsay, all of the First New York Artillery. 


and sucii of the troops as held together were brought to a 
stand at General Couch's position at Seven Pines.* 

Early in the action, General Keyes, whose troops were those 
upon whom the attack had thus far fallen, finding he was 
being hard pushed, had sent to General Heintzelman, who 
commanded the whole left wing of the army, and whose two 
divisions were close at hand, to send him aid. But the mes- 
sage was both delayed in reaching that officer,! and when he 
sent forward re-enforcements, they were, through some misun- 
derstanding, very tardy in reaching the front ; so that it was 
past four o'clock when Kearney, with his foremost brigade,^ 
arrived at the position where Couch's troops and the wreck of 
Casey's division were struggling to hold then* own.§ Berry's 
brigade was immediately thrown into the woods on the left, 
where his rifles commanded the left of the camp and works 
occupied by Casey in the morning, and now held 'by the 

Meantime, though the divisions of Longstreet and Hill had 
thus for three hours been vigorously pushing forward on the 
Williamsburg road, the column of G. W Smith, to which was 
intrusted the important flanking operation already indicated 
in Johnston's original plan, had not yet moved. The Confed- 
erate commander had placed himself with this column ; but 
failing to hear the musketry of Longstreet and Hill, || he 
waited till four o'clock, when, learning how these generals had 
been engaged, he immediately threw forward Smith's com- 
mand. Thus it happened that when Casey had been driven 
back to Couch's line at the Seven Pines, and the latter with two 
regiments of his division had advanced to relieve the pressure 
on Casey's flank by an attack of the hostile left, he was met 

* " On my arrival at the second line, I succeeded in rallying a portion of 
my division." — Casey's Report. 

t He received it at two P. M. — Heintzelman's Report. 

i Berry's brigade. 

§ Hooker's division did not reach the ground till the action was decided. 

] " Owing to some peculiar condition of the atmosphere, the sound of the 
musketry did not reach us." — Johnston : Report of Seven Pines. 


by large masses of the enemy bursting out on his right by the 
rear of the Nine-mile road, and another heavy column moving 
towards Fair Oaks Station. This was Smith's column, which 
had at length got fairly to work. Couch, who had been re- 
enforced by two additional regiments, made fight, but was 
overpowered and thrown off eccentrically to the right, — the 
enemy penetrating between the force with which Couch was 
executing this manoeuvre and the main body of his division.* 
And now, between five and sis o'clock, it seemed that the 
whole left wing of the army across the Chickahominv was 
doomed; for not only was Couch bisected, but the brigades of 
Berry and Jameson, of Kearney's division, which had gone 
up on the left, were thrown back by the enemy on White Oak 
Swamp, only regaining the main body under cover of night ; 
and the centre was struggling with indifferent success to hold 
its own, after being driven from two positions. But just at 
this crisis, wdien the fate of the day was trembling hi the 
balance, the action was determined by the sudden apparition 
of a column from the north bank of the Chickahominv. 

Upon first learning the state of affairs on the left wing, 
McClellan sent orders to General Sumner, who held the centre 
of the general line of the army, on the north side of the 
Chickahominy, and about sis miles from the scene of action, 
to hold his corps in readiness to move. But as soon as the 
sounds of battle from the west side of the Chickahominv 
reached!" him, Sumner, divining the situation, had, with that 
soldierly instinct that characterized him, put his corps under 
arms, and marched it out of camp; so that when, at two 
o'clock, he was ordered to cross his command without delay, 
and proceed to the support of Heintzelman, no time was lost. 

* " In twenty minuU's, the enemy had passed over the road leading T<> my 
centre, cutting me off from the rest of the division." — Couch: Report of 
Fair Oaks. 

f"Geneial Sumner, as soon as he heard the firing, and without waiting 
for orders, had pui, his troops under arms and marched thuni out of camp, thus 
saving an hour or so, which was of great service to us." Heintzelman s testi- 
mony in Report on the Conduct of the War, vol. i., p. o.jl. 


For the passage of the Chickahominy there were, at that 
time, only Bottom's Bridge, the railroad-bridge, and two 
bridges built by Sumner himself intermediate between the 
two above mentioned. But to reach the battle-field that day 
by Bottom's Bridge or the railroad-bridge was out of the 
question ; his sole reliance, therefore, was on his own two 
bridges. Now, however, a new and dire difficulty presented 
itself : the lower bridge had been carried away by the freshet ; 
the upper one was half adrift. When the head of Sumner's 
column, composed of Sedgwick's division, reached it, the 
rough logs forming the corduroy approaches over the swamp 
were mostly afloat, and were only kept from drifting off by 
the stumps of trees to which they were fastened. The por- 
tion over the body of the stream was suspended from the 
trunks of trees by ropes, on the doubtful staunchness of 
which depended the possibilitj T of making the passage. 

" The possibility of crossing," says Colonel Alexander of 
the engineers, " was doubted by all present, including General 
Sumner himself. As the solid column of infantry entered upon 
the bridge, it swayed to and fro to the angry flood below or 
the living freight above, settling down and grasping the solid 
stumps by which it was made secure, as the line advanced. 
Once filled with men, however, it was safe till the corps had 
crossed ; it then soon became impassable."* 

Sumner, debouching from the bridge with Sedgwick's divi- 
sion (Richardson's division did not arrive till about sunset), 
pushed impetuously forward through the deep mud, guided 
only by the firing. To move the artillery was found impossi- 
ble, t At about sis o'clock the head of Sedgwick's column:]: 
deployed into line in the rear of Fair Oaks, in a position 
where Couch, when separated from the main body, had taken 
his stand to oppose the enemy's advance. They were no 
more than in time ; for at that moment Smith's troops, 

* " The Peninsular Campaign :'' Atlantic Monthly, March, 1864. 
t Lieutenant Kirby, Company I, First United States Artillery, by fairi: 
carrying his guns to firmer ground, succeeded in getting up his battery, 
t Formed by Gorman's brigade. 


having been gotten well in hand under the personal direction 
of (General Johnston, moved forward, opening a heavy fusillade 
upon the line. They made several determined charges, but 
were each time repulsed with great loss by the steady fire of 
the infantry and the excellent practice of the batteries.* 
After sustaining the enemy's fire for a considerable time, 
General Sumner ordered live regimeiitsl' to make a charge 
with the bayonet into the woods occupied by the enemy 
This operation was handsomely executed, and resulted in 
driving back the Confederates in confusion. Thus, when all 
was lost, Sumner's soldierly promptitude saved the day, as 
Moreau, Hying to the assistance of Napoleon when hard 
pressed by the Austrians in Italy, chained victory to the stand- 
ards of the French. " O Moreau !" exclaimed that illustrious 
war-minister Carnot, on hearing of this ; " oh, my dear Fabius, 
how great you were in that circumstance! how superior to 
the wretched rivalries of generals, v\hich so often cause the 
best-laid enterprises to miscarry !" '\. The brave old Sumner 
now sleeps in a soldier's grave; but that one act of heroic 
duty must embalm his memory in the hearts of his country- 

In this bloody encounter the Confederates lost nearly seven 
thousand men, and the Union army upwards of five thousand. 
But a severer loss befell the Confederates than is expressed 
even in this heavy aggregate ; for the able chief of the Army 
of Northern Virginia was struck down with a severe hurt. 
The command, for the time being, devolved on General G. "W 
Smith ; but the failure to make good the purpose of the 
attack, the heavy losses already suffered, and the disabling of 

* McClellan : Report, p. 110. General Johnston simply says: " The 
strength of the enemy's position enabled him to hold it till dark." 

f The Thirty-fourth New York. Colonel Sinter; Eighty-second New York, 
Lieutenant-Colonel Hudson ; Fifteenth Massachusetts, Lieutenant-Colonel Kim 
ball ; Twentieth Massachusetts, Colonel Lee ; Seventh Michigan, Major Uichard- 
: on — the three former of General Gorman s brigade, the latter two of General 
I 'ana's brigade. 

i Alison: History of Europe, vol. iii., p. :j'-7. 


General Johnston, determined General Smith to retire his 
forces. Preparations for -withdrawal were actively pushed 
forward during the night ; but through some accidental cir- 
cumstances, a portion of Sumner's line having become en- 
gaged on the morning of the 1st of June, there ensued a 
rencounter of some severity, which lasted for two or three 
hours. It ended, however, after some brisk sallies, in the 
withdrawal of the entire Confederate force to the lines 
around Richmond. The Union troops were immediately 
pushed forward, and occupied the positions held previous to 
the action.- 

* Through one of those odd freaks that sometimes overtake the record of 
military events, the history of the operation of the 1st of June has been made 
to assume a magnitude altogether beyond its real proportions. There are on 
record official reports and official testimony that would make one believe that 
the action on the morning following Fair Oaks assumed the volume of a battle — 
and a battle, too, if one were to credit the oft-recurring " bayonet charges," and 
attacks in solid column, of little less than first-class magnitude. There is little 
doubt, however, that these details are largely, if not altogether apochryphal. 
There was, indeed, a rencounter on the morning of the 1st, but it was the result 
not of a plan and purpose of aggressive action on the part of the Confederates, 
but an incident in the withdrawal of the enemy from the Union front. Gen- 
eral Johnston has frequently expressed to the writer his amazement at the 
swelling bulk assumed by the " skirmish" of the 1st. Though not present, 
having been removed to Richmond after his hurt, General Johnston yet knew 
by constant reports from the field what was going on, and asserts that nothing 
more severe than an affair of the rear-guard took place. In his official report, 
General Johnston simply says: "Major-General Smith was prevented from re- 
suming Ms attack on the enemy's position next morning by the discovery of 
strong intrenchments not seen on the previous evening. On the morning of 
June 1st the enemy attacked the brigade of General Pickett, which was sup 
ported by that of General Pryor. The attack was vigorously repelled by these 
two brigades, the brunt of the fight falling on General Pickett. This was the 
last demonstration made by the enemy. In the evening oui t roups quietly 
returned to their own camps." 




The attitude of the army during the month succeeding the 
action of Fair Oaks was not imposing. It was seemingly a 
body that had lost its momentum ; and the troops, sweltering 
through all that hot month amid the unwholesome swamps of 
the Chickakominy, sank in energy McClellan's position was 
a trying one : he realized the full necessity of action ; but he 
also realized better than any of his contemporaries the enor- 
mous difficulty of the task laid upon him. Feeling deeply 
the need of new accessions to his strength, in order to permit 
him to carry out his plans, and seeing almost as large a force 
as he had to confront the enemy with scattered in unnhli- 
tary positions throughout Virginia, he was naturally urgent 
that they should be forwarded from where they were useless 
to where they might be so advantageously employed. 

Yet the situation was not one that permitted inaction ; for 
the position of the army astride a fickle river, and the ex- 
perience already had of the danger to which that division of 
its strength exposed it, should have been a sufficient admoni- 
tion of the necessity of a change. The fundamental vice was 
the direction of McClellan's line of communications almost 
on the prolongation of his front of operations. Pivoting on 
the York River Railroad, ami drawing his supplies from "White 
House, it became absolutely necessary for him to hold a large 
part of his effective strength on the left bank of the Chicka- 
hominy for the protection of that line, — a situation that at 
once prevented his using his whole force, and exposed him to 
attack in detail. This false position might have been recti- 
fied in two ways : 1. I>y a change of base to the James, which 
would have given a line of manoeuvre against Richmond, en- 
tirely free from the objections inherent in that by the York, 


and whereon lie would have had choice either of moving 
against Richmond by the north bank of the James, or, by a 
transfer to the south side, of operating against its communica- 
tions, which was altogether the bolder and more decisive 
method ; 2. By the transfer of the whole force to the right 
bank of the Chickahominy, abandoning the line of the York, 
and then making a prompt advance against Richmond, with 
the advantage that, if unsuccessful in the battle against the 
adverse force, the line of the James might be taken up. The 
latter was the preferable course, as it avoided the ill moral ef- 
fect that might be expected to attend a change of base without 
a battle. But either would have been better than inaction, 
which, in the actual situation, was more hazardous than the 
boldest procedare, and was an eminent example of that kind 
of false prudence that is often the greatest rashness. 

General McClellan knew that the adoption of the one 
course or the other was necessary ; but unfortunately the 
case was one presenting an alternative, and it was the nature 
of that commander's mind to so balance between conflict- 
ing views, to so let " I dare not wait upon I would," that he 
was apt to hesitate even in conjunctures wherein the worst 
course was preferable to doing nothing. To whatever sub- 
tile cause, deep seated in the structure of his mind — to 
whatever excess of lymph in his blood this may have been 
due — it certainly marred his eminent capacity as a soldier. 
There is something painful and at the same time almost 
ludicrous in the evidence, found in his official dispatches, of 
this ever-about-to-do non-performance. On the day succeed- 
ing the action of Fair Oaks, the 2d of June, he wrote : "I only 
wait for the river to fall to cross with the rest of the force and 
make a general attack. Should I find them holding firm in a 
very strong position, I may wait for what troops I can bring 
up from Fort Monroe." On the 7th of June : " I shall be in 
perfect readiness to move forward and take Richmond the 
moment that McCall reaches here, and the ground will admit 
the passage of artillery." McCall's division (of McDowell's 
force) arrived on the 12th and 13th, which increased his 


effectiTe to one hundred and fifteen thousand men.* On the 
16th he wrote : " I hope two days more will make the ground 
practicable. I shall advance as soon as the bridges are com- 
pleted find the ground fit for artillery to move." On the 18th ; 
"A general en^awment may take place any hour." On the 
25th : " The action will probably occur to-morrow, or within a 
short time," — and so on and on in the like tenor, until the time 
when the enemy cut short the endless debate by seizing the 
initiative. Now it cannot be said that the obstacles indicated 
were not real difficulties in the way of an advance ; that 
the successive conditions precedent of action were not well 
taken, and based on sound military reasoning. What Gen- 
eral McClellan should have seen, however, is that his proper 
course of action was determined not by these circumstances 
at all, but was dictated by the necessity of extricating himself 
from a situation intrinsically false. This became only too 
soon manifest. 

"When the hurt that General Johnston had received at Fair 
Oaks was seen to be one that must long keep him out of the 
field, General Robert E. Lee was nominated to succeed him in 
the command of the Army of Northern Virginia. Of this sol- 
dier, destined to so large a fame, men had at this time to judge 
by promise rather than by proof. General Lee's actual experi- 
ence in the field had been confined to a trivial campaign in 
the mountains of Western Virginia, in which he had been in a 
remarkable manner foiled by General Rosecrans ; and this, 
with his reflective habits and cautious temper, promised a 
commander of the Fabian mould. Yet there is nothing in 
which one may more readily judge wrongly than in the at- 
tempt to prognosticate from the plane of every-day experience 

* The rolls of the Army of the Potomac showed on the 2Gth of June th-e 
following figures : Total aggregate of present and absent, one hundred and 
fifty-six thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight ; aggregate absent, twentv- 
nine thousand five hundred and eleven ; aggregate on special duty, sick, etc, 
twelve thousand two hundred and twenty-five; aggregate present for duty, one 
hundred and fifteen thousand one hundred and two. Official Records : Adjutant 
General's Office. 


the behavior of a man placed in command of an army. Lee, 
whose characteristic trait was caution, marked the commence- 
ment of his career by a stroke brilliant in its boldness. 

It has been seen that in General Johnston's theory of ac- 
tion for the defence of Richmond, he judged that the course 
best suited to the circumstances was to draw in around the 
Confederate capital, concentrate there all the available re- 
sources of the South, and then fall with crashing weight upon 
the Union army, divided by the Chickahominy. Accidental 
circumstances had made the blow which he delivered ineffect- 
ual. General Lee determined to continue the same line of 
action ; and this he was enabled to carry out under more favor- 
able auspices. Johnston's views touching the necessity of a 
powerful gathering of force at Richmond fell comparatively 
unheeded ; but his successor had better fortune, and having 
decided to assume the offensive, he was able to draw in the 
Confederate detachments scattered along the coast and 
throughout Virginia, and by this means raise his effective to 
near one hundred thousand men. Lee's policy of concentration 
included the withdrawal of Jackson's force from the Valley of 
the Shenandoah, — and a withdrawal so secret, that its first 
announcement shoidd be the blow struck. Before commencing 
operations, however, he sent Stuart, with a body of fifteen 
hundred Virginia troopers, to make the circuit of the Union 
army, by a swoop around its rear. This having been success- 
fully accomplished about the middle of June, Lee was ready, 
with the knowledge thus gained, to strike. 

To mask Jackson's intended withdrawal from the Valley, 
General Lee detached a division from the force around Rich- 
mond (the division of Whiting) and sent it to join Jackson. 
This was done ostentatiously, and in such a way that it should 
become known to General McClellan ; Lee judging that the 
intelligence of this movement would give his antagonist the 
impression of a revival of operations in the Shenandoah re- 
gion. If there was, as seemed likely, a renewed intention of 
sending forward McDowell's army to join McClellan, a fresh 
appeal to the fears of the administration for the safety of 


"Washington was the shrewdly chosen means of again divert- 
ing that force. 

When this had had its intended effect, Jackson, with Lis 
whole command, now raised to about twenty-five thousand 
men, was ordered to march rapidly and secretly in the direc- 
tion of Richmond. He set out from the vicinity of Port Re- 
public (where he had remained since the termination of the 
Valley campaign) on the 17th of June, and moving by way of 
Gordonsville and the line of the Virginia Central Railroad, 
pushed his advance so vigorously that on the 25th he struck 
Ashland, on the Fredericksburg Railroad, twelve miles from 
Richmond. With such skill did Jackson manage his march, 
that not General McClellan, nor yet Banks, nor Fremont, nor 
McDowell, knew aught of it ;" :: " and when, on the 25th, Jack- 
son had reached Ashland, and was within striking distance of 
the right wing of the Army of the Potomac, McClellan, ab- 
sorbed in his proposed operations on the Richmond side of 
the Chickahoininy, was that very day advancing his pickets 
on the Williamsburg road, preparatory to a general forward 
movement in that direction. Jackson had now reached a 
point where the other Confederate columns could begin the 
parts assigned to them. 

Lee's plan contemplated that as soon as Jackson, by his 
manoeuvres on the north bank of the Chickahominy, should 
have uncovered the passage of the stream at Meadow and 
Mechanicsville bridges, the divisions on the south bank should 
cross and join Jackson's column, when the whole army should 
sweep down the north side of the Chickahominy, towards the 
York River, laying hold of McClellan's communications with 
White House. t 

The only interference with this plan was caused by a day's 
delay in Jackson's movement whereby it occurred that 

* A deserter from Jackson's force came into the Union lines on tlie 'J4th, 
snd stated that Jackson was moving from Gordonsville, along the line of the 
Virginia Central P»ailroad, to strike the right of the Army of the Potomac ; but 
his story was not credited. 

f Lee : Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. i., p. 6. 


when, on the afternoon of the 26th, General A. P Hill, after 
crossing the Chickahominy at Meadow Bridge and driving 
away the small force* in observation at Mechanicsville (thus 
enabling the divisions of Longstreet and D. H. Hill to cross at 
Mechanicsville Bridge and join him), attempted to proceed in 
the movement down the north bank of the Chickahominy, the 
columns were brought to a halt by a part of the corps of 
Fitz-John Porter, which held an intrenched position on the 
left bank of Beaver Dam Creek, a small tributary of the Chick- 
ahominy. The position was a strong one, the left bank of the 
creek being high and almost perpendicular, and the approach 
being over open fields, swept by artillery fire and obstructed 
by abatis. This position was held by the brigades of Key- 
nolds and Seymour ; but when the Confederates showed a 
determination to force the passage, General Porter called up 
the remainder of his corps, consisting of Meade's brigade and 
the division of Morell. The Mechanicsville road, on which 
the Confederate divisions, under General Longstreet, moved 
to make the passage of Beaver Dam Creek, turns when near 
the creek and runs nearly parallel to it, thus causing an ad- 
vancing force to present a flank. The Federal troops were 
concealed by earthworks commanding this road ; and, reserv- 
ing their fire until the head of the Confederate column was 
nearly across the ravine, they opened a terribly destructive 
volley in the face and on the flank of the advancing force : the 
survivors fled, and no additional attempt was made to force 
the passage that night ; but brisk firing was continued till 
nine o'clock, t The enemy lost between three and four thou- 
sand men, while the Union loss was quite inconsiderable.^: 

* The force here consisted of a regiment and a battery. 

f Porter : Report of Mechanicsville. This statement is fully borne out by 
Lee : " After sustaining a destructive fire of musketry and artillery, at short 
range, the troops," says he, " were withdrawn." Reports of the Army of North- 
ern Virginia, vol. i., p. 9. 

X I derive this statement of the heavy Confederate loss from General Long- 
street himself. It does not appear in the official reports, and is much larger 
than had hitherto been supposed. 



The attempt was renewed at dawn of the following morning, 
with equally ill success; but while the Confederates were 
thus emrau'ed, Jackson passed Beaver Dam Creek above and 
turned the position. 

By the night of the 20th of June, the intelligence which 
McClellan received from his outposts left no doubt of Jack- 
son's approach, and, divining now the true nature of Lee's 
move, he resolved to withdraw his right wing under Gen- 
eral Porter from its position at Beaver Dam, where it was 
too far from the main body and too much " in the air." The 
answer to the question, wdiat should be done with the right 
wing, would determine the entire situation. 

The disclosure of Lee's bold initiative made action indis- 
pensable. Three courses were open to McClellan : 1. To 
effect a concentration of the whole army on the north side 
of the Chickahominy, and there deliver general battle ; 2. To 
effect a concentration on the south bank, and march directly 
for Bichmond ; 3. To transfer the right wing to the south 
bank, and make a change of base to the James Biver. 

The first plan was not conformable to military principles ; 
for Lee already laid hold of McClellan's communications with 
White House, and the Confederate force on the Bichmond 
side of the Chickahominy imperilled his line of retreat to the 
James Biver. To have given general battle on the north 
bank would, therefore, have been to risk his army without an 
assured line of retreat.* 

The second project, that of making a counter-move 
on Bichmond, would have been correct and at the same 
time very bold and brilliant. Such an operation Las 
several illustrious precedents, of which one of the best 
known and most striking is Turenne's counter to Monte- 

* This is something which even Napoleon was unwilling to do. Discuss- 
ing the lini'S of conduct open to him after crossing the Alps into Italy, ho 
says : " Of these three courses, the first — to march upon Turin — was contrary 
to the true principles of war, as the French would run the risk of fighting 
without having a certain retreat, Fort Bard not being then taken." Gour- 
gaud and Montholon : Memoirs of Napoleon, vol. i., p. 270. 


cuculi in 1675. Montecuculi, commanding the Imperial 
army, after a series of beautiful manoeuvres, began to 
cross the Rhine at Strasburg for the purpose of falling upon 
the French force ; but Turenne, nothing disconcerted, threw 
a bridge over the river three miles below Strasburg, and, 
transferring his whole army to German ground, compelled 
Montecuculi to make a hasty return. There is little doubt 
that a direct march of the whole army on Richmond on the 
morning of the 27th, would have had the effect to recall Lee to 
the defence of his own communications and the Confederate 
capital, which was defended by only twenty-five thousand 
men.* McClellan held the direct crossings of the Chicka- 
hominy on the south bank, while the Confederate bridges 
were destroyed, and Lee would have been compelled to make 
a detour of at least a day to rejoin the force in front of 
Richmond. Why, therefore, did not General McClellan exe- 
cute this operation ? He answers this question by a reference 
to the limited quantity of supplies on hand ; but this can- 
not be accepted as valid, for the army had at this time 
rations for many days, and large stores had eventually to be 
burnt previous to the retreat. The real reason is, that the 
operation overleaped by its boldness the methodical genius 
of the Union commander. 

It resulted, therefore, that he adopted the alternative of a 
change of base to the James River. In deciding upon this 
plan, which was judicious if not brilliant, and which was 
executed in a manner to reflect high credit on the army and 
its commander, the only sacrifice made by General McClellan 
— and indeed it was no inconsiderable one — was that he 
did on compulsion what he might have done before from 

* General Magruder, who had command of the Confederate forces on the 
right bank of the Chickahominy, says : " I considered the situation of our 
army as extremely critical and perilous. The larger part of it was on the 
opposite side of the Chickahominy, the bridges had been all destroyed, but 
one was rebuilt, and there were but twenty-five thousand men between his - 
McClellan s — army of one hundred thousand men and Richmond." Reports of 
the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. i., p. 191. 


choice— what, indeed, he appears to have intended to do, but 
what, halting a* that general so often did in the perilous 
half-way-house between the offensive and the defensive, 
never was done ; thus turning awry the current of an enter- 
prise of great pith and moment and losing the name of action. 

In determining to withdraw Porter's corps to the south 
bank of the Chickahominy and effect with his united army a 
change of base to the James River, General McClellan took a 
preliminary step which, though seemingly dictated by the ne- 
cessities of his difficult situation, enabled the Confederates to 
inflict a heavy blow on that corps, and beclouded the com- 
mencement of the retrograde movement by a severe disaster to 
the Union arms. It appeared that an immediate withdrawal 
of the right wing over the Chickahominy after Jackson had 
turned its position on Beaver Dam Creek would expose the 
rear of the army, placed as between two fires,* and enable 
Jackson by moving direct on the lower bridges of the Chicka- 
hominy, and even on Malvern Hill, to interrupt the movement 
to the James River. He resolved, therefore, to engage Jack- 
son with Porter's corps, re-enforced by whatever troops might 
be available from the south bank of the Chickahominy, in 
order to cover the withdrawal of the trains and heavy guns 
and to gain time for arrangements looking to the change of 
base to the James. It was indeed an unhappy plight in which 
the commander found himself placed, — condemned either to 
hazard the safety of his whole army, or doom a portion of it 
to almost assured destruction. Por it was not, as he con- 
ceived, with Jackson alone that Porter would have to deal, 
but with more than two-thirds of the entire Confederate army, 
with Jackson, and Longstreet, and the two Hills : it was in 
fact twenty-seven thousand against sixty thousand, — an over- 
weight of opposition that lent to the task assigned to Porter 
almost the character of a forlorn hope. 

In execution of this design, the greater part of the heavy 
guns and wagons were removed from Beaver Dam to the 

* McClellan: Report, p. IS 



south bank of the Chickahominy during the night of the 26th ; 
and shortly before daylight the delicate operation of with- 
drawing the troops to the position where it was determined to 
make the new stand, was commenced and skilfully and suc- 
cessfully executed; for, though the Confederates followed 
closely, skirmishing, yet Porter was able to take up his new 
position before they appeared in force in his front. The rear 
was handsomely covered by Seymour's brigade and the horse 
batteries of Robertson and Tidball. 




SCALE OF mics 



The position on the north bank of the Chickahominy taken 
up for resistance, was well chosen, on a range of heights be- 
tween Cold Harbor and the Chickahominy. The line of battle 
formed the arc of a circle, covering the approaches to the 
bridges which connected the right wing with the troops on the 
south side of the river. The left (Morell's division) rested on 
a wooded bluff, which rose abruptly from a deep ravine lead- 
ing down to the Chickahominy ; the right (Sykes' division of 
Regulars) posted in woods and clearings, extended to the rear 


of Cold Harbor. The ground, generally open in front, was 
bounded on the side of the Confederate approach by a wood 
with dense and tangled undergrowth and traversed by a 
sluL!'o;ish stream. McCall's division was formed in a second 
line.* This field was destined to a historic character; for two 
vears afterwards, General Grant, in his campaign from the 
Tiapidan to Pdchmond, delivered a blood} T battle on the same 
ground. Yet between the circumstances of the two battles, 
there was one point of difference ; and it is a point of difference 
that epitomizes the whole progress of the war from 18(52 to 
1861. By the time Lee found himself on the defensive along 
the Chickahominy, a long experience had taught the enor- 
mous advantage of those rude breastworks of logs and earth, 
which the troops of both armies had acquired such a marvel- 
lous facility in constructing. But in the earlier action the art 
of preparing defensive positions was yet in its infancy, and 
the ground on which Porter disposed his force — a position 
that in two hours' vigorous use of the axe and spade might 
have been rendered impregnable — remained guarded by little 
more than the naked valor of the troops. 

The dispositions had hardly been made, when at two o'clock 
General A. P Hill, wdio had the advance of Lee's column, swung 
round by New Cold Harbor, and advanced his division to the 
attack. Jackson, who was to form the left of the Confederate 
line, had not yet come up, and Longstreet was held back un- 
til Jackson's arrival on the left should compel an extension of 
the Federal line. Hill, accordingly, attacked alone ; but he 
gained no advantage, for after piercing the line at one point, 
he was repulsed and forced to yield ground, his troops being 
driven back in great disorder and with heavy loss.f To re- 

* Reynolds' brigade was posted on the extreme right to cover the approached 
from Cold Harbor and Dispatch Station to Sumner's Bridge. 

■(• Even a st longer statement than that above made would be justified by 
the Confederate official reports. Thus General Whiting says: "Men were 
leaving the field in every direction and in great disorder; two regiments, one 
ironi South Carolina and one from Louisiana, were actually marching back 
from the fire. Men were skulking from the front in a shameful manner." Re 


lieve Hill, the Confederate commander now ordered Long- 
street, who held the right of the Confederate line, to make a 
feint on the left of the Union position ; but Longstreet soon 
discovered that, owing to the strength of this point, the feint 
to be effective would have to be converted into a real attack.* 
While dispositions for this were in progress, Jackson's corps 
together with D. H. Hill's division arrived ; and when disposi- 
tions had been completed, a general advance from right to 
left was made at six o'clock. Previous to this, General 
Porter, finding himself hard pressed, had called for re-enforce- 
ments, and in response, General McClellan, at half-past three, 
sent him Slocum's division of Franklin's corps, which increased 
his force to thirty-five thousand men. It was evident, how- 
ever, that, beyond this, Porter could expect little or no aid, for 
the troops on the south bank of the Chickahominy had at the 
same time their attention fully engaged by the demonstrations 
of Magruder, who by energetic handling of his troops, making 
a great show and movement and clatter, held the corps com- 
manders on the south side, to whom McClellan appealed for 
aid in behalf of Porter, so fully occupied that they declared 
they could with safety spare none.J And thus it happened 
that, while on the north side of the Chickahominy thirty thou- 
sand Union troops were being assailed by seventy thousand 
Confederates, twenty-five thousand Confederates on the south 
side held in check sixty thousand Union troops ! 

When, therefore, Lee, with all his divisions in hand, made 
a general advance, it was with an overwhelming weight and 

ports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. i., p. 154. General Lee explains 
this by the statement that " most of these men had never been under fire till 
the day before." (Ibid., p. 8.) This furnishes an additional proof that Lee had 
been re-enforced by troops from the coast. 

* " I found I must drive the enemy by direct assault, or abandon the 
idea of making the diversion. From the urgent nature of the message from 
the commanding general, I determined to change the feint into an attack." 
Report of Longstreet : Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol i., p. 124. 

f Sumner proffered two brigades, if General McClellan was willing he should 
intrust the defence of his position to his front line alone. 


pressure. The right- held its ground with much stubborn- 
ness, repulsing every attack. The left, too, fought stoutly, 
but was at length broken by a determined charge, led by 
Hood's Texan troops. This, however, would not have sufficed 
to entail any great disaster ; and Porter was withdrawing his 
infantry under cover of the fire of fifty guns, when the artil- 
lery on the height on the left was thrown into great confusion 
by a mass of cavalry rushing back from the front ; and the 
batteries, being without support, retired in haste, overrunning 
the infantry, and throwing the whole mass into most admired 
disorder. The explanation of this is as follows. The eavalrv 
had been directed to keep below the hill, and under no cir- 
cumstances to appear on the crest, but to operate in the bot- 
tom land against the enemy's flank : nevertheless its com- 
mander, General Philip St. George Cook, doubtless misin- 
formed, ordered it to charge between the infantry and artillery 
upon the enemy on the left, who had not yet emerged from 
the woods. t This charge, executed in the face of a withering 
fire, resulted, of course, in the cavalry's being thrown back in 
confusion ; and the bewildered horses, regardless of the efforts 
of the riders, wheeled about, and dashing through the bat- 
teries, convinced the gunners that they were charged by the 
enemy. Jackson, following up, carried the height on the left 
by an impetuous rush of Longstreet's and "Whiting's divisions, 
capturing fourteen pieces of artillery ; and the Union division 
under Morell, which held that wing, was driven back to the 
woods on the banks of the Chickahominy.:]: The right con- 

* The right wing was held by Sykes' division of Regulars and Griffin's bri- 
gade, and was subsequently re-enforced by Bartlett's brigade of Slocum's 

\ Porter : Report of Gaines Mill. 

1. Stonewall Jackson, in his official report of the battle of Gaines' Mill, gives 
the following spirited description of the decisive charge by Hood's and Law's 
brigades of Whiting's division, which resulted in carrying the fortilied crest on 
the t.'nion left: " Dashing on with unfaltering step in face of those murderous 
discharges of canister and musketry, General Hood and Colonel Law, at the 
head of their respective brigades, rushed t<> the charge with a yell. Moving 
down a precipitous ravine, leaping ditch and stream, clambering up a difficult 


turned to maintain its ground against the attacks of Ewell's 
and D. H. Hill's divisions ; but the key -point being carried, 
retreat was compulsory. This was attended with much con- 
fusion, and the stragglers were thronging to the bridge, when 
French's and Meagher's brigades, sent across from the south 
side of the river by General Sumner, appeared, and under 
cover of their firm line the shattered troops were finally ralhed 
and reformed. Yet, if alone on that small re-enforcement 
had depended the safety of that terribly shattered wing, hope 
would have been slender indeed ; but the growing darkness, 
the disorder which lines of battle necessarily suffer in charging 
over thickly wooded ground, and the severe punishment the 
Confederates had received, prevented Lee from pushing his 
victory to the dreadful extremity to which that routed force, 
with a river at its back, was exposed. Thus, when friendly 
night — so often awaited with such passionate longing by 
wrecked armies and distraught commanders — shut down on 
the dark and bloody thickets of the Chickahominy, the worn 
and weary troops were silently drawn over to the south bank, 
and at six of the morning the rear-guard of Regulars crossed 
and destroyed the bridge behind them. The losses numbered 
many thousands on each side, but no precise aggregate is 

With the transfer of the right wing to the south side of the 
Chickahominy, the Army of the Potomac turned its back on 
the Confederate capital and all the high hopes the advance 
had inspired. It was no longer a question of taking Bich- 

ascent, and exposed to an incessant and deadly fire from the intrenchments, 
these brave and determined men pressed forward, driving the enemy from his 
well-selected and fortified position. In this charge — in which upwards of a 
thousand men fell, killed and wounded, and in which fourteen pieces of artil- 
lery and nearly a regiment were captured — the Fourth Texas, under the lead 
of General Hood, was the first to pierce the stronghold and seize the guns." — 
Eeports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. i., p. 133. 

* No estimates whatever are given either by General McClellan or General 
Porter. Jackson states his loss at three thousand two hundred and eighty- 
four ; and in the same proportion for the other corps, it would put the Confed- 
erate casualties at above ten thousand. 


inoud, but of making good the retreat to the James, with a 
victorious enemy in the rear. McClellan had still, however, a 
certain advantage of his opponent : he had a determinate 
course of action resolved on during the night of the '27th, and 
already in process of execution ; while Lee remained still in 
doubt as to his adversary's design. He saw that McClellan 
might still throw his united force to the north side of the 
Chickahominy and give battle to preserve his communications 
by the "White House ; and he saw that, holding the lower 
bridges of the Chickahominy, he might retreat down the 
Peninsula over the same route by which Johnston retreated 
up the Peninsula. In either case, it was necessary to hold his 
entire force in hand on the north side of the river. Yet Mc- 
Clellan had adopted neither of these courses, but one different 
from either, and which his adversary had not divined. And 
thus it happened that wdien, on the day after the battle of the 
Chickahominy — Sunday, the 28th of June — Lee threw forward 
Ewell's division and Stuart's cavalry corps to seize the York 
River Railroad, he discovered he had been anticipated ; for 
the line of supplies by the York River Railroad had been 
already abandoned two days before, the water-transportation 
had been ordered round to the James River, the vast supplies 
had been run across to the south side of the Chickahominy, 
and the enemy on his arrival found nothing save the burning 
piles in which the remnant of stores it had been impossible to 
carry off were being consumed. In fact, the army was rapidly 
in motion for the James River ; and so skilfully was the retreat 
masked by the troops holding the line of works on the Rich- 
mond side of the Chickahominy, that Magruder and Huger, 
who had been charged with the dut}- of watching closely the 
movements of the Union force, were quite unaware of what 
was going on. " Late in the afternoon (of the 2Sth) the 
enemy's works," says General Lee, " were reported to be fully 
manned. The strength of these fortifications prevented Gen- 
orals Huger and Magruder from discovering what was passing 
in their front." It was night, in fact, before the movement 
was disclosed ; and next morning (29th), before Lougstreet 


and Hill and Jackson could be sent across to the south side of 
the Chickahominy, and, with Huger and Magruder, put in 
pursuit, McClellan had gained twenty-four hours — hours of 
infinite price in the execution of his delicate and difficult 

The line of retreat to the James passes across White Oak 
Swamp, and the difficulty of the passage for the retreating 
army with its enormous trains was, at least, partially compen- 
sated by the barrier it opposed to reconnoissances and flank 
attacks by the pursuing foe. Keyes' corps, which had been 
holding a position on the margin of White Oak Swamp, 
naturally took the advance, and, traversing this region, had 
by noon of the 28th seized strong positions on the opposite 
side to cover the passage of the troops and impedimenta. 
Then followed the long train of five thousand wagons, with 
a herd of twenty-five hundred beef-cattle, all of which had to 
traverse the morass by the one narrow defile. It was success- 
fully accomplished, however, and, during the same night, 
Porter's corps headed towards the James. Meanwhile, to 
allow the trains to get well on their way, Sumner's corps and 
Heintzelman's corps and Smith's division of Franklin's corps 
were ordered to remain on the Richmond side of the White 
Oak Swamp during the whole of the 29th and until dark, in a 
position covering the roads from Richmond, and covering also 
Savage Station on the railroad. 

Upon learning definitely the withdrawal of the army, Lee, 
on the morning of the 29th, put his columns in motion in pur- 
suit. Magruder and Huger were ordered to follow up on the 
Williamsburg and Charles City roads, while Longstreet and 
A. P. Hill were to cross the Chickahominy at New Bridge, 
and move by flank routes near the James, so as to intercept 
the retreat ; and Jackson, making the passage at Grape-vine 
Bridge, was to sweep down the south bank of the Chicka- 

Now, when Sumner, on the morning of the 29th, learnt that 
the enemy was recrossing the Chickahominy and advancing 
in the direction of Savage Station, he moved his corps from 


the position it had hold at Allen's farm to that place, uniting 
there with Smith's division of Franklin's corps. Heintzelman, 
who held position on the left of Sumner, had been ordered 
to hold the "Williamsburg road ; but, when Sumner shifted his 
force on to Savage Station, Heintzelman fell back entirely 
and crossed "White Oak Swamp. Thus, when Magruder 
pushed forward on the Williamsburg road, he found, in con- 
sequence of Heintzelman's withdrawal, no force to oppose ; 
and Sumner, who was not aware of Heintzelman's retirement, 
was surprised to find the enemy debouching on his front at 
Savage Station. Such were the circumstances that, on the 
afternoon of the 29th, brought on the action known as the 
battle of Savage Station, — an action that forms the second of 
the series of blows dealt by Lee on the retreating army in 
its arduous passage to the James. 

Magruder attacked in front with characteristic impetuosity, 
about four in the afternoon, momentarily expecting that 
Jackson, whose route led to the flank and rear of Savage 
Station, would arrive to decide the action. But Jackson was 
delayed nearly all day by the rebuilding of the bridge over 
the Chickakominy, and did not get up, and Sumner held his 
own with the stubbornness that marked that soldier ; so 
that Magrudei, assailing his position in successive charges 
till dark, met only bloody repulses. Thus, stout Sumner 
stood at bay, while, thanks to the barrier he opposed, the 
mighty caravan of artillery and wagons and ambulances 
moved swiftly, silently through the melancholy woods and 
wilds, all day and all night, without challenge or encounter, 
on its winding way to the James. During the night, the rear- 
guard also withdrew across "White Oak Swamp.* 

By the morning of the 30th, the arm}-, with all its belong- 
ings, had crossed White Oak Swamp, and debouched into the 
region looking out towards the James ; the artillery-parks 

* By mders from General McOlellan, Sumner was under the sad nercssity <>t 
leavinir behind at Savage Station the general hospital, containing twenty-live 
hundred sick and wounded men. 


bad gained Malvern Hill, and the van of the army had 
already reached the river, the sight of which was greeted 
with something of the joy with which the Ten Thousand, re- 
turning from the expedition immortalized by Xenophon, 
hailed the Sea. 

The Confederate pursuit was made in two columns. Jack- 
son, with five divisions, pressed on the heels of the retreat- 
ing army by way of White Oak Swamp ; while Longstreet, 
with a like force, making a detour by the roads skirting the 
James River, hurried forward with the view to cut off the 
column from its march. But, as long as the two Confederate 
columns were thus placed, it is obvious that they were hope- 
lessly separated, and the retreating army had less to fear 
from their partial blows. Just as soon, however, as Jackson 
should emerge from "White Oak Swamp, he would come in 
immediate communication with the force under Longstreet, 
and the whole of Lee's army would then be united. To pre- 
vent this junction, so as to make time for the ongoing of the 
menaced and jealously guarded trains, became now the prime 
object. And this necessity it was that gave rise to the next 
serious encounter, known as the battle of Glendale or New- 
market cross-roads. 

By noon of the 30th, Jackson reached the "White Oak 
Swamp ; but he found the bridge destroyed, and on attempt- 
ing to pass by the ordinary place of crossing, the head of his 
column was met by a severe artillery fire from batteries on 
the other side. He then essayed to force the passage ; but 
each attempt was met with such determined opposition* that, 
obstructed in his design, he was compelled to give over. 
Meantime, the column of Longstreet, whose line of march 
flanked the swamp and gave free motion, was pushing rap- 
idly forward on the Long Bridge or New Market road, which 
runs at right angles to the Quaker road, on which the army 
and its trains were hurrying towards the James. At the very 

* The crossing was held by General Franklin, with the divisions of Smith 
and Richardson and Naglee's brigade. Captain Ayres directed the artillery. 


time Jackson was arrested at "White Oak Swamp, Long- 
street had arrived within a mile of the point of intersection 
of these two roads. Should he be able to seize it, the army 
woidd be cut in twain. But Longstreet found this important 
point already covered, and if gained it would be at the price 
of a battle. The force at the point of contact was McCall's 
division of Pennsylvania Reserves, formed at right angles 
across the Xew Market road, in front of, and parallel to, the 
Quaker roach* Sumner was at some distance to the left, and 
somewhat retired ; Hooker was on Sumner's left, and some- 
what advanced ; Kearney was to the right of McCall. The 
brunt of the attack, however, fell upon McCall's division. In 
the Confederate line the division of Longstreet held the right, 
and that of A. P Hill the left. Longstreet opened the attack 
at about three o'clock, by a threatening movement on McCall's 
left, which was met by a change of front on that Hank, in 
which position a severe fight was maintained for two hours, 
the Confederates making ineffectual attempts to force the po- 
sition. At the same time the batteries on the centre and 
right became the aim of determined assaults, which were 
repeatedly repulsed ; till finally Eandohs battery was captured 
by a fierce charge made by two regimentst advancing in 
wedge shape, without order, but with trailed arms. Pushing 
up to the muzzles of the guns, they pistoled or bayoneted the 
cannoniers. The greater part of the supporting regiment 
fled ; but those who remained made a savage hand to hand 
and bayonet fight over the guns,:}: which were finally yielded 

* McCall's disposition was as follows : Meade's brigade on the right, Sey 
mour's on the left, and Simmons' (Reynolds') in reserve. Ramlol's * Regular) 
Lattery in front of the line on the right, Cooper's and Kern's opposite the cen- 
tre, and Dietrich's and Kennerheim's (twenty-pounder Parrot: s; on the left. 

f These regiments were the Fifty-fifth and Sixtieth Virginia. 

X "The Sixtieth Virginia crossed bayonets with the enemy, who obstinately 
contested the possession of these guns." Report of General A. P Hill : Reports 
of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. i., p. 177. 

General McCall is more magniloquent in his account : " Bayonets wen' crossed 
and locked in the struggle ; bayonet wounds were freely given and received. 
I saw skulls crushed by the heavy blow of the butt of the musket; and in 


to the enemy. Meantime, a renewed attempt on the left shat- 
tered and doubled up that flank, held by Seymour's brigade ; 
and the enemy following up, drove the routed troops between 
Sumner and Hooker, till, penetrating too far, he was caught 
himself on the flank by Hooker's fire, and, driven across Sum- 
ner's front, was thrown against McCall's centre, which, with 
the right, had remained comparatively firm. An advance by 
Kearney a^d Hooker now regained a portion of the lost 
ground, and repulsed all further attacks. Darkness coming 
on, ended the action. 

While these events were passing at Glendale, Jackson, de- 
tained by the vigorous opposition he met on the other side of 
"White Oak Swamp, could only hear the tell-tale guns : he 
was impotent to help.* Thus it was that McClellan, holding 
paralyzed, as it were, the powerful corps of Jackson with his 
right hand, with his left was free to deal blows at the force 
menacing his flanks. The action at Glendale insured the in- 
tegrity of the army, imperilled till that hour. During the 
night the troops that had checked Jackson and repulsed 
Longstreet silently withdrew, and when Lee was nest able to 
strike it was at a united army, strongly posted on the heights 
of Malvern, with assured communication with its new base on 
the James. 

On the following morning (July 1st) Lee had his whole 
force concentrated at the battle-field of Xew Market cross- 
roads : but he could not fail even then to realize that, though 
the pursuit might be continued, it was under circumstances 
that made the hope of any decided success now very distant. 

short, the desperate thrusts and parries of a life and death encounter, proving 
indeed that Greek had met Greek when the Alabama boys fell upon the sons of 
Pennsylvania." McCall's Report : Pennsylvania Reserves in the Peninsula, 
pamphlet, p. 5. 

* " A heavy cannonading in front announced the engagement of General 
Longstreet at Frazier's farm, and made me eager to press forward , but the 
marshy character of the soil, the destruction of the bridge over the marsh and 
creek, and the strong position of the enemy for defending the passage, pre- 
vented my advancing till the following morning." Jackson's Report : Reports 
of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. i., p. 134. 



Still it remained to try the issue of a general battle between 
the two united armies. The Confederate columns were ac- 
cordingly put in motion on the morning of the 1st of July, 
Jackson's corps leading. A march of a few miles brought the 
pursuers again in contact with the army, which was found 
occupying a commanding ridge, extending obliquely across 


the line of march, in advance of Malvern Hill. In front of 
this strong position the ground was open, varying in width 
from a quarter to half a mile, sloping gradually from the 
crest, and giving a free field of fire. The approaches were 
over a broken and thickly wooded country, traversed nearly 
throughout its whole extent by a swamp passable at but few 
places, and difficult at those.* On this admirable position 
General McClellan had concentrated his army, prepared to 
receive final battle. 

* Lee's Report : Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. i., p. 12. 


The left and centre were posted on Malvern Hill, an ele- 
vated plateau about a mile and a half by three-fourths of a mile 
in area ; the right was " refused," curving backward through 
a wooded region towards a point below Haxall's Landing, on 
James River. Judging from the obvious lines of attack that 
the main effort would be made against his left, General Mc- 
Clellan posted on Malvern Hill heavy masses of infantry and 
artillery. Porter's corps held the left, and the artillery of his 
two divisions, with the artillery reserve, gave a concentrated 
fire of sixty guns. Couch s division was placed on the right 
of Porter; next came Kearney and Hooker; next, SedgAvick 
and Richardson ; next, Smith and Slocum ; then the remainder 
of Keyes' corps, extending by a backward curve nearly to the 
river. While the left was massed, the right was more de- 
ployed, its front covered by slashings. The gunboats in the 
James River protected the left flank.* 

Lee formed his line with Jackson's divisionsf on the left, 
and those under Magruder and Huger on the right. A. P 
Hill and Longstreet were held in reserve to the left, and took 
no part in the engagement.^: Owing to ignorance of the 

* McClellans Report, p. 138. 

f Divisions of Jackson, Ewell, Wlii ting-, and D. H. Hill. 

i General McClellan, mistaking the movements of these two divisions, fell 
into an erroneous apprehension regarding the part they played in the battle. 
In his Report (p. 13'J; he says : " About two o'clock a column of the enemy was 
observed moving towards our right. Arrangements were at once made to 
meet the anticipated attack in that quarter ; but though the column was long, 
occupying two hours in passing, it disappeared, and was not again heard of. 
Tiie prefiumption is that it retired by the rear, and participated in the attack 
afterwards made on our left." This was the column of Longstreet and A. P 
Hill, getting into its position in reserve on the Confederate left ; but, as above 
stated, it took no part in the action. During the battle, the observed move- 
ment of this column gave McClellan great concern for his right, as he con- 
ceived it was making a detour with the view to fall upon that flank ; and this 
caused him to remain on his right. " My apprehensions," he says, " were 
for the extreme right. I felt no concern for the left and centre." — Report 
on the Conduct of the War, vol. i., p. 437. Such troublesome errors are the 
necessary result of the nature of such a theatre of war as that on which the 
two armies were operating, 


country on the part of the Confederates, and the difficulty oi 
the ground, the line was not formed until late in the after- 
noon, though a brisk artillery duel was kept up, and about 
three o'clock a single brigade (Anderson's, of D. H. Hill's 
division) attacked Couch's front and was repulsed* As 
McClellan expected, Lee's purpose was to force the plateau 
of Malvern on the left. With this view he had massed Jack- 
son's force and the troops under Huger and Magruder well 
on his right, being resolved to carry the heights by storm. 
Previously to the attack, the Confederate commander issued 
an order stating that positions were selected from which his 
artillery could silence that of his opponent, and as soon as 
that was done, Armistead's brigade of Huger's division would 
advance with a shout and carry the battery immediately in 
his front. This shout was to be the signal for a general ad- 
vance, and all the troops were then to rush forward with 
fixed bayonets. Now towards six o'clock, General D. H. Hill, 
commanding one of Jackson's divisions, heard what he took 
to be the signal. " While conversing with my brigade com- 
manders," says he, " shouting was heard on our right, followed 
by the roar of musketry We all agreed this was the signal 
determined upon, and I ordered my division to advance. 
This, as near as I could judge, was about an hour and a half 
before sundown. "t Bat whether the others did not hear 
what Hill heard, or whether what they heard was not taken 
for the signal, no advance by them was made ; so that when 
Hill went forward, it was alone. Neither Whiting on the left, 
nor Magruder or Huger on the right, moved forward an inch. 
Hill's point of attack was directly against the crest of Malvern, 
bristliner with cannon. " Tier after tier of batteries," savs he, 
" were grimly visible on the plateau, rising in the form of an 
amphitheatre." In such cases, where cannoniers stand to 

* This repulse was determined by the excellent practice of Kingsbury's 
battery, together with the steady fire of the Tenth Massachusetts and a charge 
of the Thirty-sixth New York — the latter regiment capturing the colors of the 
Fourteenth North Carolina in a hand-to-hand conflict. 

f liipurts of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. i., p. 186. 


their guns, and faithful hands grasp the rifle, it is easy to 
predict the result. Every assault met a bloody repulse. The 
promised artillery aid was not rendered : the few batteries 
used were beaten in detail.* Afterwards, Magruder and 
Huger attacked, but it was without order or ensemble, a bri- 
gade, or even a regiment, being thrown forward at a time. 
Each, in succession, met a like reception from the steady lines 
of infantry and the concentrated fire from the artillery re- 
serve, under its able commander, Colonel Hunt. The attacks 
fell mainly on Porter on the left, and on Couch ; and the suc- 
cess of the day was in a large degree due to the skill and 
coolness of the latter, who, as holding the hottest part of the 
Union line, was gradually re-enforced by the brigades of 
Caldwell, Sickles, Meagher, and several of Porter's, till he came 
to command the whole left centre, displaying in his conduct of 
the battle a high order of generalship. 

Night closed on the combatants still fighting, the oppos- 
ing forces being distinguishable only by the lurid lines of fire. 
Thus till near nine o'clock, when the fire, slackening gradually, 
died out altogether, and only an occasional shot from the 
batteries broke the silence that pervaded the bloody field. 
The repulse of the Confederates was most complete, and en- 
tailed a loss of five thousand men, while the Union loss was 
not above one-third that number. Lee never before nor since 
that action delivered a battle so ill-judged in conception, 
or so faulty in its details of execution. It was as bad as the 
worst blunders ever committed on the Union side ; but he 
profited by the experiment, and never repeated it. 

* " Instead of ordering up one or two hundred pieces of artillery to play on 
the Yankees, a single battery was ordered up and knocked to pieces in a few 
minutes ; one or two others shared the same fate of being beaten in detail. 
The firing from our batteries was of the most farcical character." — Report of 
General D H. Hill : Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. i., p. 186. 
General Lee says : " The obstacles presented by the woods and swamps made it 
Impracticable to bring up a sufficient amount of artillery to oppose successfully 
the extraordinary force of that arm employed by the enemy." — Ibid., p. 12 
See also report of General Pendleton, Chief of Artillery, Ibid., p. 227. 


Victorious though the Army of the Potomac was on the 
hold of Malvern, the position was not one that could be held ; 
for the army was under the imperious necessity of reaching 
its supplies. During the night, accordingly, the troops were 
withdrawn to Harrison's Bar, on the James. Colonel Averill, 
with a regiment of cavalry, a brigade of regular infantry, and 
a battery, covered the rear. Lee threw forward Stuart (who 
with his troopers had been absent during the whole pursuit 
on an expedition to White House and the lower fords of 
the Chickahominy, and only rejoined the army after the battle 
of Malvern), and followed up with columns of infantry ; but 
finding that MeClellan had taken up a strong position, he 
retired on the 8th of July, and took his army back to Rich- 

Thus ended the memorable peninsular campaign, which, in 
the brief interval of three months, had seen the Army of the 
Potomac force its way through siege and battle to within 
sight of the spires of Richmond, only to reel back in the 
deadly clinch of a seven days' combat to the James River. 

Yiewed with reference to its aim — the capture of Rich- 
mond — the campaign was a failure, as were so many subse- 
quent campaigns having the same object in view. The 
judgments of men, accordingly, have turned rather on the 
result than on the causes that produced it. The theory of 
the campaign, primarily offensive, from necessity changed 
into the defensive. The theory of the Confederates, primarily 
defensive, was skilfully converted into the offensive. Thus 
the prestige remained with the Confederates ; and the faults 
of Lee's offensive receive as little attention as the merits of 
McClellan's defensive. For, in an unsuccessful campaign, the 
slightest fault is accounted mortal. Men regard only the ill 
that has happened, and not the worse that might have hap- 
pened had it not been prevented. Tn a fortunate issue, how- 
ever, the eyes of the public, dazzled by the glitter of a 
brilliant achievement, are blind both to the faults of what has 
been gained and to the failure to gain much besides. Lee 


himself, conscious of the skilful manner in which his antago- 
nist parried his blows, attempts to explain the failure to 
achieve a more decisive result by the enumeration of obstruc- 
tions which, as they beset McClellan himself, can hardly 
be considered a valid explanation. "Under ordinary cir- 
cumstances," says he, " 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 
character of the country, enabled General McClellan skilfully 
to conceal his retreat, and to add much to the obstructions 
with which nature had beset our pursuing columns."* 

The losses of the campaign were, on the Union side, 
15,249; on the Confederate side, above 19,000. The blows 
dealt by each were not less severe than the blows received by 
each. In a military sense, Eichmond's danger was really 
greater when, after its retreat, the Army of the Potomac 
based itself on the James, than when it stood astride the 
Chickahominy. Yet, so potent is the sway that general re- 
sults have over the imaginations of men, that, while the raising 
of the siege was the occasion to Jefferson Davis for a pro- 
clamation of thanksgiving, and thrilled the whole South with 
joy, the North was stunned with grief and despair at the 
thought that the army that was the brave pillar of its hopes 
was thus struck down. 

It is true these moral results count for muoh in war, and 
the historian must not fail duly to note and weigh them. 
Yet if, anticipating the spirit of a historical judgment, wo 
essay to estimate the events of the war by their intrinsic 
value, we shall not fail to see something meritorious, as well 
as something blameworthy, in this unsuccessful campaign. 
For the commander to have extricated his army from a diffi- 
cult situation, in which circumstances quite as much as his 
own fault had placed it, and, in presence of a powerful, skilful, 
and determined adversary, to have transferred it to a position 

* Lee : Reports of the Arm7 of Northern Virginia, vol. i., p. 14 


whence it could act with effect, was of itself a notable achieve- 
ment. For the army to have fought through such a campaign 
was creditable, and its close found inexperienced troops trans- 
formed into veteran soldiers. And, if alone from the appeal 
which great sufferings and great sacrifices always make to a 
generous people, the story of that eventful march and arduous 
retreat, when, weary and hungry and foot-sore, the army 
marched by night and fought by day through a whole week 
of toil, and never gave up, but made a good fight and reached 
the goal, cannot fail to live in grateful remembrance. 




August, 1862. 


It will have appeared from the exposition of the motives 
that prompted the change of base, that, in transferring the 
Army of the Potomac to the James River, the fundamental 
idea of its commander was to secure a line of operations 
whereby, with a refreshed and re-enforced army, a new cam 
paign, under more promising auspices, might be undertaken. 
The position of the army, at once threatening the communi- 
cations of Richmond and enabling it to spring on the rear of 
the Confederate force should it attempt an aggressive move- 
ment northward, seemed the most advantageous possible, 
whether for offensive operations or for insuring the safety of 
the national capital. General McClellan brought back to 
Harrison's Landing between eighty-five thousand and ninety 
thousand men ; and his view was, that all the resources at 
the command of the Government should be at once for- 
warded to him. Having the James River now open as a line 
of supplies, he had formed the bold design of transferring the 
Army of the Potomac to the south bank of that river, and 
operating against the communications of Richmond by way 
of Petersburg.* 

* That this was General McClellan's purpose is vouched for by no less an 
authority than General IJalleck, who, in a memorandum of a visit to the head- 
quarters of the Army of the Potomac, at Harrison's Landing, on the 25th of 


There appears to have been at first an intention on the part 
of the Administration to adopt this judicious course; but a 
train of events, partly the work of man and partly the effect 
of circumstances, presently arose, that not only frustrated this 
design, but removed the army wholly from the Peninsula, 
and transferred the theatre of operations to the front' of 
Washington and then to the soil of the loyal States. What 
these events were I shall now set forth. 

Just before the commencement of Lee's offensive operations, 
the military councils at Washington, taught a lesson by the 
events of Jackson's campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, had . 
gathered together the disjointed fag-ends of armies in Northern 
Virginia under McDowell and Banks and Fremont, and had 
consolidated them into the "Army of Virginia," which was 
intrusted to the command of Major-General John Pope.-" 
That officer brought with him from the West, where he had 
held command under General Halleck, the reputation for a 
species of aggressive energy that was supposed to characterize 
the Western style of warfare, in contradistinction to the me- 
thodical campaigning of the East,! and he signalized his advent 

July, 1862, says: " I stated to Lira [McClellan] that the object of my visit was 
to ascertain from him his views and wishes in regard to future operations. He 
said that he proposed to cross the James llicer at that point [Harrison's Land- 
ing. General Grant, two years afterwards, crossed a few miles beiow], attack 
Petersburg, and cut off the enemy's communications by that route South, mak- 
ing no further demonstration, for the present, against Richmond, i" stated to 
him ■very frankly my views in regard to the danger and impracticability of the 
plan," etc. (Report on the Conduct of the "War, vol. i., p. 4."i4.) It would ap- 
pear that General Grant had less respect for General Halleck's views of " the 
danger and impracticability of the plan," seeing that two years afterwards ho 
adopted that precise plan, and took Richmond and destroyed Lee by it ! Nor 
can it be said that circumstances, so far as regards the defence of Washington, 
differed in the one case from those in the other — excepting that they were such 
as to warrant the adoption of the plan by General McClellan much more than 
by General Grant — for in 1802 there were ten men left behind for the defence 
of Washington to one in 1801. 

* The appointment of General Pope to the command of the "Army of Vir- 
ginia" bears date the 20th of June, the day before the battle of Gaines' Mill. 

f This supposed distinction between the Western and Eastern mode of mak- 
ing war is thus expressed in Pope's address to his army : " I have come to you 


to command by the promulgation of a pseudo-Napoleonic pro- 
clamation, in which he expressed his contempt for " certain 
phrases he found much in vogue, such as bases of supplies, 
and lines of retreat," — phrases which he enjoined his army to 
discard as unworthy of soldiers destined to follow the leader- 
ship of one who had never seen any thing but the " backs of 
his enemies." Underneath all its bombastic nonsense, Pope's 
proclamation contained one grain of sense, which was the 
rebuke it gave the ignorant use of military terms common at 
the North ; and though there was an execrable want of taste 
in the pointed satire directed at McClellan's methodical tac- 
tics, there is no doubt that the declaration of a more vigorous 
war-policy quite met the views of the mass of the people. 

In assigning Pope to the command of the "Army of 
Virginia," although his first duty was to cover Washington, 
yet his ultimate object and avowed purpose was to take Rich- 
mond by an overland advance ; and he had charmed the ears 
of the members of the Committee on the Conduct of the War 
by his facile expositions of the manner in which he meant to 
"he off on the Hanks of the rebels," and even — had he only 
such an army as McClellan's — march straight to New Orleans!* 
Before General Pope could set out in the execution of this de- 
sign, however, there occurred the series of events culminating 
in the retreat of the Axmy of the Potomac. 

No sooner had this taken place, than the powerful faction 
opposed to McCleUan and his plan of campaign, united 
in bringing to bear on the President a weighty "pressure" 
for the removal of the Army of the Potomac from the Pen- 

from the West, where we have always seen the backs of the enemies — from an 
army whose business it has been to seek the adversary, and to beat him when 
found; whose policy has been attack and not defence. I presume I have been 
called here to pursue the same system." 

* " Question. Suppose that you had the army that was here on the 1st day 
of March last, do you suppose you would find any obstacle to prevent your 
marching from here to New Orleans ? 

"Pope. I slwuld suppose not." Report on the Conduct of the War, vol. i., 
p. 282. 


insula. Aim my the strongest in urging this measure was 
General Pope, who, as soon as the intelligence, of McClellan's 
retreat to the James River was received, began to play upon 
the fears of the Administration touching the safety of Wash- 
ington. To the President he exju-essed the opinion that Mc- 
Clellan's supplies would certainly be cut oil';"" pointed out that 
co-operation between the Army of Virginia and the Army of 
the Potomac, in their then situations, was next to impossible; 
and strongly urged the recall of McClellan's force to the front 
of Washington, t 

It happened, too, that at this crisis those who were urging 
these views received a powerful re-enforcement in the per- 
son of General Hnlleck, who had about this time been re- 
called from his Western field of operations and placed in 
supreme command of all the armies in the field by his ap- 
pointment to the office of genera 1-in-chief, — an office which, to 
the incalculable obstruction of the conduct of the war and the 
intolerable annoyance of every general commanding the Army 
of the Potomac, he continued to hold till " pushed from his 
stool" by the elevation, two years afterwards, of General Grant 
to the lieutenant-generalship. 

General Halleck added his strident voice in favor of the 
withdrawal of the army from the Peninsula, although, owing 
to a sincere anxiety now cherished by Mr. Lincoln that Gen- 
eral McClellan should be allowed his " own way," he was not 
at first able to make the order imperative. The President, in 
response to General McClellan's appeals for re-enforcements 
to enable him to renew operations against Richmond, had 
promised him an addition to his strength of twenty thousand 
men, to be drawn from Burnside's command in North Caro- 
lina and Hunter's command in South Carolina. With this 
re-enforcement, McClellan expressed his readiness to renew 
operations, and he had proceeded to make a reconnoissance in 
force with the divisions of Hooker and Sedgwick, who ad- 

* Report on the Conduct of the War, vol. i., p. 279. 
f Ibid., p. 27'J. 


vanced and reoccupied Malvern, when lie was met by a tele- 
gram from the new general-in-chief, dated August 3d, ordering 
him to withdraw the entire army from the Peninsula to Aquia 
Creek, there to make a junction with Pope. After an urgent 
appeal from this order, General McClellan proceeded to carry 
out his instructions. 

The judgment of the act that removed the Army of the 
Potomac from the Peninsula must turn on the one fact, 
whether or not it was really designed to re-enforce that army. 
If it was not designed to re-enforce it to an effective that 
would enable it to immediately recommence active operations, 
then undoubtedly the wisest course was to withdraw it from 
the Peninsula ; for a concentration of the divided forces was 
so prime a necessity, that if a junction of the two armies 
was not to x>e allowed on the James, a junction in front of 
"Washington was preferable to their continued isolation, — a 
situation in which neither could operate with much effect.* 

If, however, there had been on the part of the Administra- 
tion any intention of giving effect to the views of General 
McClellan, by furnishing such accessions to his strength as 
would permit his moving upon Richmond, the army should 
assuredly have remained on the line of the James. 

Now, it is a curious circumstance, that at this time there 
was another person full as anxious as General Halleck to 
have the Army of the Potomac leave the Peninsula. That 
person was General Lee. And if there be any force in that 
military maxim, which admonishes " never to do what the 

* There is another consideration that prompted certain officers of the army 
to urge the removal of the army from the Peninsula, if it was not to be re-en- 
forced; and that is the unhealthy situation in which the army would find itself 
lying in inaction amid the swamps of the James during the hot months of 
August and September. This was the reason why several of the officers of the 
Army of the Potomac — among them Generals Franklin and Newton — ex- 
pressed to President Lincoln, during a visit he made to McClellan's camp 
in July, 1862, an opinion in favor of withdrawing the army from the Penin- 
sula. I make this statement on the authority of the officers named. If re- 
enforcements were to be expected, they were altogether in favor of remaining 


enemy wants you to do,'' this notable coincidence should 
raise grave suspicions touching the wisdom of a measure in 
which the opposing chiefs were in such entire harmony 

To dislodge the army from its threatening position on the 
James, Lee determined to menace its communications ; and 
with this view he moved a force to the south bank of the 
James, seized a position immediately opposite Harrison's 
Landing, placed forty-three guns in position, and on the 31st 
of Jul)' opened fire on the shipping.* This did little damage, 
however, and on the following morning General McClellan 
threw a force across the river, seized the position — Coggin's 
Point — fortified it, and was never troubled more. But little 
did the Confederate commander dream, when he was thus 
laboring to cause McClellan to withdraw, that the general-in- 
chief of the United States army was co-operating»to the same 
end. Moreover, it happened that, Avhile General Halleck 
was willing to remove the army from the Peninsula before 
Lee made any effort with the same view, a certain measure 
taken by the Confederate commander with an entirely different 
aim, greatly expedited the withdrawal. For the just appre- 
ciation of this it will be necessary to glance a moment at 
General Pope's contemporaneous operations in Northern Vir- 


Upon assuming command of the Army of Virginia, General 
Pope, whose military conduct was considerably sounder than 
his military principles, had concentrated his scattered com- 
mands into one body in front of Washington, and thrown it 
forward along the line of the Orange and Alexandria Kail- 
road, in the direction of Gordonsville and Charlottesville. 
His force numbered near fifty thousand men. As the seizure 
of the points named would tap the Confederate communica- 

* General Lee's own evidence leaves no doubt regarding the object of this 
operation : " In order to keep McClellan stationary, or, if possible, to cause 
him to irit/tdrair, General D. H. Hill, commanding south of James River 
was directed to threaten his communications by seizing favorable positions 
below Westnver, from which to attack the transports in the river." Lee's 
Report ; Reports of the Operations of Northern Virginia, vol. i., p. 15. 


tions with Southwestern Yirginia, Lee, to meet Pope's ad- 
vance, sent forward General Jackson, with his own and 
Ewell's divisions, towards Gordonsville. Jackson reached 
that place on the 19th of July ; but from what he learned of 
Pope's strength he feared to risk offensive operations and 
called for re-enforcements.* Lee then increased his force by 
General A. P, Hill's division, which joined Jackson on the 2d 
of August. At that time Pope's army was along the turnpike 
from Culpepper to Sperryville, near the Blue Bidge — his left 
at Culpepper ; while with the cavalry brigades of Buford and 
Bayard he observed the line of the Bapidan. 

The 7th and 8th of August, Jackson crossed the Bapidan, 
and moved towards Culpepper. Pope met this by throwing 
forward Banks' corps to a position eight miles south of Cul- 
pepper, near Cedar Mountain, where a severe action ensued on 
the 9th between Banks' corps and the three divisions under 
Jackson. Banks, with much spirit, assumed the offensive, 
although doubly outnumbered, and attacked Jackson's right, 
under General Ewell. He then fell with much impetuosity 
upon his left, turned that flank, and poured a destructive fire 
into his rear, which caused the Confederate centre and nearly 
the whole line to give way in confusion. The assailants were, 
however, considerably broken in moving through the woods ; 
and Jackson, receiving an accession of fresh troops, was able 
to check Banks, and finally force him back. The latter re- 
tired a short distance, but again took up position : so that 
when Jackson, under the impression of having gained a vic- 
tory, attempted to follow up with the view of making Culpep- 
per, he found himself checked. He remained in front of 
Banks until the night of the 11th, and then being apprehen- 
sive of being again attacked, he retreated to Gordonsville. 
The Confederate loss was about thirteen hundred ; the Union 
loss about eighteen hundred.t 

* Jackson's Report : Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 3. 

+ It is proper to add here that the above too brief statement of Banks' at- 
tack of Jackson is based on the official report of Jackson himself, and is there- 
fore not likely to be over-colored. " Whilst the Federal attack upon Early was 


The encounter between Jackson and Banks raised in the 
mind of General Halleek the liveliest apprehensions touching 
the safety of Washington, and he sent General McClellan 
urgent orders to hasten the removal of his army. The sick, 
to the number of ten thousand, had already been shipped; 
then followed Burnside's corps (eleven thousand strong), 
which had been brought from "North Carolina for the purpose 
of re-enforcing the Army of the Potomac, but was not allowed 
to debark, and was sent forward to Aquia Creek and thence 
to Fredericksburg. McClellan then put his whole army in 
motion, marched back from Harrison's Landing to Fortress 
Monroe, and thence, by successive shipments, forwarded it to 
Aquia Creek and Alexandria. 

Not till this movement had been fully disclosed did General 
Lee form the resolve of striking northward. The column de- 
tached under Jackson to operate against Pope was no larger 
than that he had had in his previous campaign, and was infe- 
rior in numbers to Pope's force ; and the menacing position 
held by General McClellan while at Harrison's Landing had 
retarded Lee from sending any additional troops to Jackson.* 
But now that he was being relieved from the pressure of Mc 
Clellan's presence, there was nothing to prevent his moving 

in progress," says Jackson, "the main body of the Federal infantry moved 
down from the woods, through the corn and wheat fields, and fell with great 
vigor upon our extreme left ; and by the force of superior numbers, bearing 
down all opposition, turned it and poured a destructive fire into its rear. 
Campbell's brigade fell back in disorder. The enemy pushing forward, and 
the left flank of A. G. Taliaferro's brigade being by these movements exposed 
to a flank fire, fell back, as did also the left of Early's line. General \V B. 
Taliaferro's division (Jackson's old division) becoming exposed, they were with- 
drawn." — Jackson's Report of Cedar Mountain : Reports of the Army of North 
ern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 5. These are the words in which a general is apt to 
describe a serious defeat, and they justify a higher estimate of General Banks' 
conduct than his countrymen have yet accorded him. 

* On this point General Lee says : " Jackson, on reaching Gordonsville, ascer- 
tained that the force under General Pope was superior to his own, but the un- 
certainty that then nurroundid the designs of General McClellan, rendered it 
inexpedient to rc-< 'it force him from the army at Richmond." — Lee: Reports of 
the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 15. 


forward bis entire army to destroy Pope, and he instantly 
took measures accordingly.* Thus it was that at the very 
moment McClellan was turning an unwilling back on Rich- 
mond and leaving the course open to his mighty rival, Lee 
was putting his columns in motion towards the Potomac. I 
shall accordingly leave for a while the army undergoing the 
laborious process of transfer by water, and trace that fierce 
outburst of battle that swept from the Blue Ridge to the fore- 
ground of Washington. 


After the action of Cedar Mountain, Jackson retired to 
Gordonsville, fearing an attack from Pope's superior force.t 
The 15th of August he was joined at that place by the van 
of Lee's army, composed of Longstreet's division, two 
brigades under Hood, and Stuart's cavalry. Pope advanced 
his line, resting his left ('Reno's corps of Burnside's army) 
on the Rapidan near Raccoon Ford ; his centre (McDowell's 
corps) on Cedar Mountain, and his right (Sigel's corps) on 
Robertson's River, a branch of the Rapidan. Banks was 
posted at Culpepper. 

On the arrival of Longstreet, Jackson advanced from Gor- 
donsville to the Rapidan, waited till the 20th of August for 
Longstreet to come up, when they crossed at Raccoon and 
Somerville fords. 

* Nothing could be clearer than the evidence of General Lee on this point 
" The corps of General Burnside," says he, " had reached Fredericksburg, and 
a part of General McClellan' s army was believed to have left Westover [Harri- 
son's Landing] to unite with Pope. It therefore seemed that active operatioi 
on the James were no longer contemplated, and that the most effectual way to 
relieve Richmond from any danger of attack from that quarter would be to re- 
enforce General Jackson, and advance upon General Pope." — Lee : Reports of 
the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 18. Veracious prophecy, showing 
that insight wldch is one of the highest marks of generalship ! 

f Jackson's Report : Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia vol. ii., p 7. 


Learning the approach of this force, Pope on the 18th 
and 19th drew his army back behind the Rappahannock, Lis 
deft at Kelly's Ford, and his right three miles above Rappa- 
hannock Station. This was a judicious measure on the part 
of General Pope ; but it was not carrying out his own prin- 
ciples. In expounding before the war committee, a month 
before this time, what he proposed doing, he held the follow- 
ing language : " By lying off on their flanks, if they should 
have only forty thousand or fifty thousand men, I could whip 
them. If they should have seventy thousand or eighty 
thousand men, I would attack their flanks, and force them, in 
order to get rid of me, to follow me out into the moun- 
tains, which would be what you would w T ant, I should suppose. 
They would not march on Washington, with me lying with 
such a force as that on their flanks."* Now, though the force 
which Lee had at this time did not exceed the smallest of 
these hypothetical numbers, and the force with which Pope 
proposed this operation had been increased by the addition 
of Reno's command, he did not attempt to carry it out, 
finding Lee, perhaps, less impressed than he should have 
been with the apparition of Pope " lying off on his flanks." 

Pope having withdrawn behind the Rappahannock, Lee ad- 
vanced his army to that stream, but finding that the Union 
commander covered the fords in force, he left Longstreet 
opposite these, to mask a turning movement by Jackson on 
Pope's right, by way of Warrenton.t Jackson accordingly 
ascended the Rappahannock by the south bank, and crossed 
the head of his column (Early's brigade) at Sulphur or 
Warrenton Springs on the 22d Atigust. But that day a 
severe storm rendered the river impassable, and Early was 
compelled to recross the Rappahannock, which he did the 
following night on an improvised bridge. While these 
manoeuvres were under way, Stuart with fifteen hundred 
horsemen, made an expedition to cut the railroad communica- 

* Report on the Conduct of the War, vol. i., p. 278. 

(■ Lee's Report : Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. i., p. 19. 


tions in rear of Pope's army. Stuart succeeded in reacliing 
Catlett's Station in the dead of an exceedingly dark night, 
fired the camp and captured three hundred prisoners, with 
Pope's official papers and his baggage. He failed, however, to 
burn the railroad-bridge, and does not seem to have been 
aware that Pope's entire army train was parked there.* 



The movement of Jackson up the south bank of the Rappa- 
hannock to turn Pope's right was met by a corresponding 
movement of Pope up the Rappahannock on the north bank, 
so that on the 24th, Sigel and Banks and Reno occupied Sul- 
phur Springs, and Jackson's main body lay on the opposite 
side of the stream ; but on the 25th, Jackson, striking out 
still further to his left by Amissville, crossed the upper 
Rappahannock — here called the Hedgeman River — at Hen- 
son's Mill, turned Pope's right, and moving by Orleans, 
bivouacked at Salem, after a forced march of thirty-five miles. 
Next day (26th) Jackson continued the advance. Diverging 
eastward at Salem, he crossed the Bull Run Mountain 
through Thoroughfare Gap, and passing Gainesville, he, at 
sunset, reached Bristoe Station on the Orange and Alexandria 
Railroad. This he proceeded to destroy, while he at the 
same time dispatched Stuart with his cavahy and a force of 
infantry to Manassas Junction, seven miles nearer Washing- 
ton. Here Stuart took several hundred prisoners, eight 
guns, and immense supplies of commissary and quarter- 
master's stores. Jackson's instructions from his chief had 

* Tide enterprise to the rear of his army must have given Pope an occa- 
sion to realize the truth of his own maxim, that " disaster and shame lurk in 
the rear." 



been to " throw his command between Washington City and 
the army of General Pope and to break up his railroad com- 
munications with the Federal capital." * That energetic 
lieutenant had carried tliem out to the letter. It is now time 
to look to Pope's movements. 

While Jackson's column was executing this flank move- 
ment to the rear of Pope, Lee retained Longstreet's command 
in his front to divert his attention, and learning that Pope 
was about to receive re-enforcements from MeClellan, he 
ordered forward the remainder of his army from Bichmond.T 
Nevertheless, the stealthy march of Jackson did not pass un- 
noted by the Union commander, who received very precise 
information respecting his movement northward, though he 
was unable to divine its aim.J Bewildered by his antagonist's 
manoeuvres, Pope made a series of ridiculous tentatives ; but 
finally, on the 26th, he determined to fall back from the Kap- 
pahannock nearer to Washington. During the day he learned 
that Jackson was already on his rear at Manassas, and had 
cut his railway communications with Washington ! 

It must be admitted the situation was a difficult one. but 
it was one that afforded a vigorous commander opportunity 
for a decisive blow. Lee had in fact committed an act of un- 
wonted rashness, and voluntarily placed himself in such a 
position that when Jackson had reached Bristoe Station and 
Manassas, Longstreet, with the van of the main column, mov- 
ing by the same route taken by that officer, was still distant 
two marches. Pope was therefore left free to place himself 
between the two, and beat them in detail. Such a piece of 

* Jackson s Report : Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., 
p. 92. 

f This force consisted of D. H. Hill's and McLaws' divisions, two brigades 
under General Walker, and Hampton's cavalry brigade. 

% The information was derived from Colonel J. S. Clark, of the staff of Gen- 
eral Banks. That officer remained all day in a perilous position within sight 
of Jackson's moving column, and counted its force, whicli he found to be thirty- 
Bix regiments of infantry, with the proper proportion of batteries and a con- 
siderable cavalrv force. 


temerity is only justifiable when a general has a great and 
well-grounded contempt for his adversary. 

Pope was at this time in a condition to undertake a bold 
stroke ; for he had already been re-enforced by a considerable 
body of the Army of the Potomac arriving from the Peninsula. 
Reynolds' division of Pennsylvania Reserves had joined him 
at Rappahannock Station on the 23d ; the corps of Porter 
and Heintzelman at Warrenton Junction, on the 26th and 
27th; and the remainder of the Army of the Potomac (corps 
of Sumner and Franklin) was en route from Alexandria. 

The measures taken by Pope to meet the new turn of affairs 
showed an appreciation of the line of action suited to the cir- 
cumstances ; but he was incapable of carrying it out, for he 
had completely lost his head. The obvious move was to 
throw forward his left so as to seize the road by which Long- 
street would advance to join Jackson. With this view, he, on 
the morning of the '27th, directed General McDowell, with his 
own and Sigel's corps and the division of Reynolds, upon 
Gainesville, — a movement that would plant that powerful 
force of forty thousand men on the road by which Lee's main 
column, moving through Thoroughfare Gap, must advance to 
join Jackson. This force was to be supported by Reno's 
corps and Kearney's division of Heintzelman's corps, which 
were directed on Greenwich, while he moved with Hooker's 
division along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad towards 
Manassas Junction. Porter's corps (when relieved at Warren- 
ton Junction by Banks, who was to remain at that point, 
covering the trains and repairing the railroad) was also 
directed upon Gainesville. These dispositions were not only 
correct — they were brilliant. The lame and impotent sequel 
is now to be seen. 

The main or interposing column under McDowell was to 
reach its assigned position at Gainesville and Greenwich that 
night, the 27th. This was successfully accomplished. At the 
same time, Pope, with Hooker's command, moved along the 
railroad to come up with Jackson at Bristoe Station. Near 
that place Hooker, late in the afternoon, came up with a Con- 


federate force under Ewell, whom Jackson had that morning 
left there, while he, with his other divisions, pushed forward to 
Manassas Junction. A brisk engagement ensued, but Ewell, 
finding himself unable to maintain his ground, withdrew across 
Broad Eun, under orders from Jackson, and joined the latter 
at Manassas Junction. Thinking that the engagement might 
be renewed in the morning at Bristoe Station, Pope instructed 
General Porter to move up from Warrenton Junction at one 
A. M., and be at Bristoe by dawn of the 28th. Porter was 
not able to start till three o'clock, owing to the darkness of 
the night and the obstruction of the road, and did not reach 
Bristoe till between eight and nine o'clock. As it happened, 
however, there was no immediate occasion for him, as Ewell 
had, during the night, moved forward to rejoin Jackson at 
Manassas Junction. 

And now, as it appeared on the morning of the 28th, there 
was no escape for Jackson ; and Pope boldly proclaimed it.* 
Jackson was at Manassas Junction ; a powerful force was 
coming up in his rear. McDowell, at Gainesville, with forty 
thousand men, interposed between him and Lee, the remain- 
der of whose force was still west of the Bull Piun Mountains, 
distant a full day's march. But fortune and the errors of his 
adversary favored Jackson ; and at the very time he seemed 
to be nearing the crisis of his fate, events were occurring that 
were destined to extricate him from his seemingly perilous 

When, on the night of the 27th, Pope learnt that Jackson 
was in the vicinity of Manassas, he directed McDowell, with 
all his force, to take up the march early on the morning of the 
28th, and move eastward from Gainesville and Greenwich 
upon Manassas Junction, following the line of the Manassas 
Gap Railroad ; while he ordered Hooker and Kearney and 
Porter to advance northward from Bristoe Station upon the 
same place. From Gainesville to Manassas Junction the dis- 

* "If you will march promptly and rapidly at the earliest dawn upon 
Manassas Junction, we shall bag the whole crowd." — Pope's order of 27th to 
General McDowell : Report, \>. 41 


tance is fifteen miles ; from Bristoe Station, it is eight miles ; 
and from Manassas Junction west to Thoroughfare Gap, 
where Lee must debouch through the Bull Bun Mountains to 
unite with Jackson, is twenty miles. 

This move was a great error. Pope's left (McDowell's col- 
umn) was his strategic flank, and should have been thrown 
forward, rather then retired ; for in withdrawing from the 
line of the "VTarrenton turnpike to Manassas Junction, he 
permitted Jackson, by a move from Manassas Junction to 
the north of the turnpike, to do precisely what he should at 
all hazards have been prevented from doing — namely, to put 
himself in the way of a junction with the main body of Lee's 
army. Could Jackson, indeed, have been induced to remain 
at Manassas Junction for the convenience of Pope, that gen- 
eral's strategy would have worked to a charm ; but Jackson 
was fully alive to the peril of his position, and while Pope 
thought he was in the act of " bagging" Jackson, Jackson was 
giving Pope the slip. The details are as follows : During 
the night of the 27th and morning of the 28th Jackson moved 
his force from Manassas, by the Sudley Springs road, across 
to the "Warrenton turnpike ; crossing which, he gained 
the high timber-land north and west of Groveton, in the 
vicinity of the battle-field of the 21st July, 1861. When, 
therefore, Pope, with the divisions of Hooker and Kearney 
and Beno, reached Manassas Junction, about noon of the 
2-^th, he found that Jackson had already gone ! Pope then 
tried to correct his error by calling back McDowell's column 
from its march towards Manassas Junction and directing it on 
Centreville, to which point he also ordered forward Hooker, 
Kearney, and Beno, and afterwards Porter. But much time had 
been lost ; the columns on the march towards Manassas had 
been forced to take other roads than those indicated for them ; 
and it was late in the afternoon when McDowell, with one divi- 
sion of his whole command (King's), regained the "VVarrenton 
turnpike and headed towards Centreville. Now Jackson, as al- 
ready seen, had taken position on the north side of the turnpike, 
near Groveton ; so that on the approach of King's column, it 


unwittingly presented a flank to Jackson, who assailed it furi- 
ously. Jaekson attacked with two divisions (the Stonewall 
division, then under General Taliaferro, and Ewell's division), 
while the fight was sustained on the Union side by King's 
division alone. The behavior of his troops was exceedingly 
creditable, and they maintained their ground with what Jack- 
son styles " obstinate determination/' The loss on both sides 
was severe, and on the part of the Confederates included Gen- 
erals Ewell and Taliaferro, both of whom were severely wounded 
— the former losing a leg. Unfortunately, during the night, 
King withdrew his command to Manassas, leaving the "War- 
renton turnpike available for Jackson's withdrawal or Long- 
street's advance. That same night, too, Gen. Licketts (whom 
McDowell had detached with his division to dispute the pass- 
age of Thoroughfare Gap with Longstreet) also withdrew to 
Manassas. Thus affairs went from bad to worse. 



By the morning of the 29th, General Pope had learnt the 
real position of the adversary who had hitherto so adroitly 
eluded him ; but his troops had become so scattered by his 
contradictory orders, that it could hardly be said he had an 
army at all. Sigel and Reynolds had, however, turned up 
near Groveton ; and Pope directed them to develop the posi. 
tion of the enemy,* while he sought to get his remaining 
forces in hand. Reno's corps, and Heintzelman with his two 
divisions under Hooker and Kearney, were ordered to coun- 
termarch from Centreville ; while Porter, with his corps and 
King's division of McDowell's command, was directed to 

* General P(ij)i', in his official report (p. 20), statrs that the attack by Sigel 
was for the purpose of " bringing Jackson to a stand, if it ucre possible to do no," 
thus intimating that Jackson was moving off. There does not seem to have been 
any occasion for this solicitude. 


advance on Gainesville, a position it had been more easy to 
abandon the day before than to regain now. 

Jackson continued to hold his vantage-ground upon the 
highlands northwest of Groveton ; and as he now commanded 
the Warrenton road, by which Lee was moving to join him, 
and had intelligence that his chief was close at hand, he had 
ceased to fear the result of an encounter with Pope. Jackson 
disposed his troops along the cut of an unfinished railroad,* 
with his right resting on the Warrenton turnpike, and his left 
near Sudley Mill. The mass of his troops were sheltered in 
dense woods behind the railroad exit and embankment, which 
formed a ready-made parapet. 

General Sigel, as ordered, attacked in the morning, pushing 
forward his line under a warm fire, under which he suffered 
severely ; and, towards noon, he was joined by Reno's com- 
mand and the divisions of Hooker and Kearney. Meanwhile, 
Porter, in the morning, moved forward from Manassas Junc- 
tion to turn Jackson's right by an advance on Gainesville. 

Had the position of the Confederates been as Pope im- 
agined, the latter move should have been decisive, and must 
have seriously jeopardized Jackson's safety. But, while 
Porter's column was yet in motion, and before it could reach 
Jackson's flank, the van of Lee's main body began to reach 
the field from Thoroughfare Gap. In fact, by ten in the 
morning, Longstreet had come up, and, taking position on 
Jackson's right, drew an extension of the Confederate line 
across the Warrenton turnpike and the Manassas Gap Rail- 
road, thus covering all the lines of approach by which the 
column of Porter might advance towards Gainesville. Upon 

* " My troops on this day were distributed along and in the vicinity of the cut 
of an unfinished railroad (intended as a part of the track to connect the Manassas 
road directly with Alexandria), stretching from the Warrenton turnpike in the 
direction of Sudley Mill. It was mainly along the unfinished excavation of this 
unfinished road that my line of battle was formed on the 29th : Jackson's division, 
under Brigadier-General Starke, on the right ; Ewell's division, under Briga- 
dier-General Lawton, in the centre ; and Hill's division on the left " — Jackson's 
Report : Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii, p. 95. 


finding himself thus estopped, Porter was proceeding to form 
his hue when he was overtaken by General McDowell, under 
whose orders the former then came. The precise tenor of the 
instructions which, at this moment, McDowell gave Porter 
is a point in dispute, — McDowell asserting that he ordered 
Porter to move against the enemy, and Porter claiming that 
McDowell directed him to remain where he was. However 
this may be, McDowell took King's division, which belonged 
to his own corps, from under Porter, and, uniting it with Pick- 
ett's division (also of McDowell's corps), headed his column 
northward to the battle-field near Groveton, where he arrived 
late in the afternoon. Porter held his command for the rest of 
the day in the position taken up, — Morell's division being de- 
ploj-ed and in contact with the enemy ; the other divisions 

Thus it w r as that, by contradictory orders and the useless 
marches and counter-marches they involved, Pope's oppor- 
tunity was thrown away, and instead of fighting Jackson's 
corps alone, it was the entire army of Lee with which he had 
to deal, — this, too, with his forces very much out of position, 
and he himself ignorant both of his own situation and that of 
the enemy When, towards noon, Pope, coming from Cen- 
tre ville, reached the field near Groveton, he found the situa- 
tion as follows : Heintzelman's two divisions, under Hooker 
and Kearney, on the right, in front and west of the Sudlev 
Springs road ; Pieno and Sigel holding the centre, — Sigel's 
line being extended a short distance south of the Warrenton 
turnpike ; Reynolds with his division on the left. But the 
commander was ignorant of the whereabouts of both Porter 
and McDowell, and he knew not that Longstreet had joined 
Jackson ! The. troops had been considerably cut up by the 
brisk skirmishing that had been kept up all the morning. An 
artillery duel had also been waged all the forenoon between 
the opposing lines ; but it was at long range and of no effect. 

The position of the troops in front of Jackson's intrenched 
line was one that promised very little success for a direct 
attack, and especially for a partial attack. Nevertheless, at 


three o'clock, Pope ordered Hooker to assault. The attempt 
was so unpromising that that officer remonstrated against it ; 
but the order being imperative, he made a very determined 
attack with his division. The action was especially brilliant 
on the part of Grover's brigade, which, advancing with the 
bayonet, succeeded in penetrating between the two extreme 
left brigades of Jackson's line,* and got possession of the rail- 
road embankment which, by a savage hand-to-hand fight, it 
held for some time, till driven back by the arrival of re- 
enforcements to the Confederate left.f Too late for united 
action, Kearney was sent to Hooker's assistance, and he also 
suffered repulse. 

Meanwhile, Pope had learnt the position of Porter's com- 
mand, and, at half-past four in the afternoon, sent orders to 
that officer to assail the enemy's right flank and rear, — Pope 
erroneously believing the right flank of Jackson, near Grove- 
ton, to be the right of the Confederate line. Towards six, 
when he thought Porter should be coming into action, he 
directed Heintzelman and Reno to assault the enemy's left. 
The attack was made with vigor, especially by Kearney, who 
struck Jackson's left under Hill, at a moment when the Con- 
federates had almost exhausted their ammunition.^ Doubling 
up Hill's flank on his centre, Kearney seized the railroad em- 
bankment and that part of the field of battle. " This," as 
Kearney says, " presaged a victory for us all. Still," he goes 
on to observe, " our force was too light. The enemy brought 
up rapidly heavy reserves, so that our further progress was 
impeded." § In fact, Kearney was compelled to fall back 

* These were the brigades of Gregg and Thomas. — Jackson : Report, p. 95. 

t Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 252. 

$ " The enemy prepared for a last and determined attempt. Their serried 
masses, overwhelming superiority of numbers [absurd exaggeration common 
to both sides], and bold bearing [it was Kearney], made the chance of victory 
to tremble in the balance ; my own division, exhausted by seven hours unre- 
mitted fighting, had hardly one round per man remaining, and was weakened 
in all things save its unconquerable spirit." — Report of General A. P. Hill : 
Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 125. 

§ Kearney's Report : Report of General Pope, p. 79. 


altogether from the railroad, and the "presage of victory" 
was turned to naught.* 

Turning now to the left, where Porter was to have assailed tho 
Confederate right, it appears that the order which Pope sent 
at half-past four, did not reach Porter till about dusk. He 
then made dispositions for attack, but it was too late. It is, 
however, more than doubtful that even had the order been 
received in time, any thing but repulse would have resulted 
from its execution. Porter was reduced to the necessity of 
making a direct attack in front ; for there was no opportunity 
of making a turning movement, seeing that, contrary to Pope's 
opinion, he had then, and had had since noon, Longstreet's 
entire corps before him.f So as firing now died away in the 

* The Confederate re-enforcements, of which Kearney speaks, consisted of 
the brigades of Early and Lawton. (See Report of General A. P Hill : Re- 
ports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. l'J.j.) General Early says, in 
his report : " My brigade and the Eighth Louisiana advanced upon the enemy 
through a field, and drove him from the woods and out of the railroad-cut, 
crossing the latter and following in pursuit several hundred yards beyond." — 
Ibid., p. 184. 

f As the view above taken of the action of that part of the " Second Bull 
Run," fought on the 39th of August, differs in some important particulars (rem 
previous accounts, and especially from the official report of General Pope, I 
shall here substantiate by Confederate official records the truth of such points 
of difference as are of moment. The question foremost in interest has relation 
to the time at which Longstreet's corps joined Jackson. General Pope re- 
peatedly states that this did not take place till " about sunset"' (see Pope's Of- 
ficial Report, p. 21) ; and it is on this ground that he and the court-martial that 
tried General Porter based their condemnation of that officer for not turning 
Jackson s right. Says Pope : "I believe — in fact, I am positive — that at five 
(/clock in the afternoon of the 29th, General Porter had in his front no consid- 
erable body of the enemy. I believed then, as I am very sure now, that it was 
easily practicable for him to have turned the right flank of Jackson, and to 
have fallen upon his rear ; that if he had done so, we should have gained a de- 
cisive victory over the army under Jackson before he could hace. been joined J\i/ 
any of the forces of Long street " (Pope's Report, p. 22.) Now this assertion is 
traversed by the positive evidence of the official reports of several of the gen- 
erals under Longstreet's command, who show conclusively that Longstreet 
j lined Jackson as early as noon. Says Longstreet himself: "Early on the 
IMli the columns were united, and the advance, to join General Jackson, was 
resumed. The noise of battle was heard before we reached Gainesville. Tho 


darkling woods on the right, a pause was put for the day to 
the chaos and confusion of this mismanaged battle, in which 
many thousand men had fallen on the Union side. 

It would have been judicious for General Pope, in the then 
condition of his army, to have that night withdrawn across 
Bull Bun and taken position at Centreville, or even within the 
fortifications of Washington. By doing so he would have 
united with the corps of Franklin and Sumner, then between 

march was quickened to the extent of our capacity. The excitement of battle 
seemed to give new life and strength to our jaded men, and the head of my 
column soon reached a position in rear of the enemy's left flank." (Reports of 
the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 8.) See also Hood. (Ibid., p. 209.) 
But General D. R. Jones, who commanded the rear division of Longstreet's 
corps is still more explicit. " Early on the morning of the 29th, I took up the 
march in the direction of the old battle-ground of Manasses, whence heavy 
firing was heard. Arriving on the ground about noon, my command was sta- 
tioned on the extreme right of our line," etc. (Ibid., p. 217.) This would appear 
to settle the time of arrival of Longstreet ; and I shall now show that befoYe 
Porter came up from Manassas, Longstreet had taken up such a position as to 
bar his advance towards Gainesville. On this head Longstreet's own testi- 
mony will suffice, and it is as complete as could be desired. After giving his 
dispositions for his connection with Jackson's right, he states that " Hood's di- 
vision was deployed on the right and left of the Warrenton turnpike, at right 
angles with it. General D. R. Jones' division was placed upon the Manassas 
Gap Railroad, to the right, and in echelon with regard to the three last bri- 
gades." (Ibid., pp. 81, 82.) Now it is quite obvious that this disposition covered 
Porter's whole front, and that it barred his approach to Gainesville. Any at- 
tack by Porter would therefore necessarily be made in front. When he re- 
ceived Pope's order to attack the enemy s right and turn his rear, Morell's di- 
vision was already deployed in front of Longstreet, and it was near dark when 
the order came to hand. Probably there is no military man who will now say 
that the operation indicated by Pope was at that time possible. General Por- 
ter many months subsequent to these events, and after having in the mean- 
while had command of the forces for the defence of the capital, and been at 
the head of his corps at the battle of Antietam, was arraigned before a court- 
martial at Washington, and dismissed the service of the United States, for al- 
leged disobedience to the above orders of Pope. I do not constitute myself the 
champion of General Porter, or of any other officer ; but having become pos- 
sessed of the Confederate official reports, and having been struck with the new 
light thrown on these events by the unconscious testimony given above by the 
Confederate generals, I should have violated the first duty of a historian had I 
suppressed these facts. 


Washington and ( Yntreville, whereas at Manassas Lee was sure 
to receive fresh accessions of force, while Pope could hope for 
none. The army was much cut up ; thousands had straggled 
from their commands; the troops had had little to eat for two 
days previously ; the artillery and cavalry horses had been 
in harness and saddled continually for ten da vs. 

With untimely obstinacy, Pope determined to remain and 
again try the issue of battle. To utilize Porter's corps, he 
drew it over from the isolated position it had held the pre- 
vious day to the Warrenton road, on which he pivoted, dis- 
posing his line in the form of a V reversed— -Reynolds' com- 
mand forming the left leg, and Porter, ttigel, and Reno the 
right, with Heintzelmau's two divisions holding the extreme 
right. Lee retained the same relative position he had held 
the day before — Longstreet on the right, and Jackson on the 
left ; but he drew back his left considerably, abandoning dur- 
ing the night some of the ground he had held on that flank. 

Now, by one of those curious -conjunctures which sometimes 
occur in battle, it so was that the opposing commanders had 
that clay formed each the same resolution : Pope had deter- 
mined to attack Lee's left flank, and Lee had determined to 
attack Pope's left flank. And thus it came about that when 
Heintzelman pushed forward to feel the enemy's left, the re- 
fusal of that flank by Lee, and his withdrawal of troops to 
his right for the purpose of making his conteuqdated attack 
on Pope's left, gave the impression that the Confederates were 
retreating up the Warrenton turnpike towards Gainesville. 
This impression was further strengthened by the report of a 
wounded Confederate soldier who fell into the hands of the 
Union pickets, and reported that he had heard his comrades 
say that "Jackson was retiring to unite with Longstreet." 
Now this statement was quite correct in the sense in which 
Lee's manoeuvres have already been presented — that is, as a 
tactical change of Jackson's position on the left to re-enforce 
Longstreet on the ri^ht. But Pope, who had not that day 
been to the front, accepted the story as indicating a real fall- 
ing back, and telegraphed to Washington that the enemy was 


"retreating to the mountains," — a dispatch which, flashed 
throughout the land, gave the people a few hours, at least, of 
unmixed pleasure. 

To take advantage of the supposed " retreat" of Lee, Pope 
ordered McDowell with three corps — Porter's in the ad- 
vance — to follow up rapidly on the Warrenton turnpike, and 
"press the enemy vigorously during the whole day." But 
no sooner were the troops put in motion to make this pur- 
suit of a supposed flying foe, than the Confederates, hither- 
to concealed in the forest in front of Porter, uncovered 
themselves, and opened a heavy fire from their numerous 
artillery ;* and while King's division was being formed 
on Porter's right in order to press an attack, clouds of 
dust on the extreme left showed that the enemy was moving 
to turn the Union line in that direction ; and that, instead 
of retiring, he was in the full tide of an offensive move- 
ment. To meet this manoeuvre, General McDowell detached 
Eeynolds' command from the left of Porter's force north of 
the Warrenton turnpike, and directed it on a position south 
of that road to check this menace. The Warrenton turnpike, 
which intersects the Manassas battle-field, runs westward up 
the valley of the little rivulet of Young's Branch. From the 
stream the ground rises on both sides, in some places quite 
into hills. The Sudley Springs road, on crossing the stream 
at right angles, passes directly over one of these hills, just 
south of the Warrenton turnpike ; and this hill has on it a de- 
tached road with fields stretching back away from it some 
hundreds of yards to the forest. This is the hill whereon what 
is known as the " Henry House" stood. To the west of it' is 
another hill — the Bald Hill, so called — which is in fact a rise 
lying between the roads, and making about the same angle 

* " As soon as Butterfield's brigade advanced up the hill, there was great 
commotion among the rebel forces, and the whole side of the hill and edges of 
the woods swarmed with men before unseen. The effect was not unlike flush- 
ing a covey of quail. The enemy fell back to the line of the railroad, and took 
shelter in tlie cut and behind the embankment."— Warren : Report of the 
Second Battle of Manassas. 


with each, and running back to the forest. Between the two 
hills is a brook, a tributary of Young's Branch. Upon the 
latter hill en oral McDowell directed .Reynolds' division and 
a portion of Riekett's command, so as to cheek the flank ma- 
noeuvre that menaced seizure of the Warrenton turnpike, which 
was the line of retreat of the whole army 

The occupation of this position was judicious on the part of 
General McDowell ; but the detachment of Reynolds from 
Porter's left for that purpose had an unfortunate result ;* for 
it exposed the key-point of Porter's line. Colonel G. K. War- 
ren, who then commanded one of Porter's brigades, seeing 
the imminence of the danger, at once, and without waiting for 
orders, moved forward with his small but brave brigade of 
about a thousand men,f and occupied the important position 
abandoned by Reynolds ; Porter then, as well to sustain War- 
ren, as to fulfil his orders of pursuit, his column of attack 
being formed, made a vigorous assault on the Confederate 
position ; but beyond driving back the advanced lino so as to 
develop the Confederate array as formed behind the railroad 
embankment, he was able to accomplish nothing. Line after 
line was swept away by the enemy's artillery and infantry fire, 
and so destructive was its effect that Porter's troops finally 
were compelled to withdraw. Porter's attack had been di- 
rected against Jackson ; but Long-street, on Jackson's right, 
found a commanding point of ground, whence he could rake 
the assaulting columns with an enfilading fire of artillery. 
" From an eminence near by," says that officer, " one portion 
of the enemy's masses, attacking General Jackson, were imme- 
diately within my view, and in easy range of batteries in that 
position. It gave me an advantage I had not expected to 
have, and I made haste to use it. Two batteries were ordered 
for the purpose, and one placed in position immediately and 
opened. Just as this fire began, I received a message from 

* Si^el's corps should have been taken in place of Reynolds' division, «>i 
anybody else ratlier than Reynolds. 

f Warren's command consisted of the Fifth and Tenth New York Volun- 


the commanding general, informing me of General Jackson's 
condition and his wants. As it was evident that the attack 
against General Jackson could not be continued ten minutes 
under the fire of these batteries, I made no movement with 
my troops. Before the second battery could be placed in po- 
sition the enemy began to retire, and in less than ten minutes 
the ranks were broken, and that portion of his army put to 
flight."* Warren occupying the important point he had 
seized, held on stoutly and against a fearful loss till all the 
rest of Porter's troops had been retired, and only withdrew 
when the enemy had advanced so close as to fire in the very 
faces of his men. 

Such was the situation of affairs at five o'clock in the after- 
noon : Porter's troops, fearfully cut up in repeated assaults 
of a position which it was hopeless to attempt to carry, were 
retiring from the field. Jackson immediately took up the 
pursuit, and was joined by a general advance of the whole 
Confederate line — Longstreet extending his right so as, if 
possible, to cut off the retreat of the Union forces. By an 
impetuous rush, Longstreet carried the " Bald Hill," held by 
Reynolds and Ricketts ; and it then became doubtful whether 
even the "Henry House Hill" could be maintained so as to 
cover the retreat of the army over Bull Run, for Longstreet 
had thrown around his right so as to menace that position. 
This, however, was happily provided for by the firmness of 
some battalions of Regulars, which held the ground until re- 
lieved by the brigades of Meade and Seymour and other 
troops, that maintained the position and permitted the with- 
drawal of the army. Under cover of the darkness the wea- 
ried troops retired across Bull Run, by the stone bridge, and 
took position on the heights of Centreville. Owing to the ob- 
scurity of the night, and the uncertainty of the fords of Bull 
Run, Lee attempted no pursuit, t 

* Longstreet : Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 83. 

f " The obscurity of the night, and the uncertainty of the fords of Bui] 
Run, rendered it necessary to suspend operations until morning." Lee's Re 
port : Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. i., p. 25. 



At Centroville, Pope united -with the corps of Franklin 
and Sumner, and he remained there during the whole of the 
31st, But Lee had not yet given up the pursuit. Leaving 
Longstreet on the battle-field, he sent Jackson by a detour on 
Pope's right, to strike the Little Paver turnpike, and by that 
route to Fairfax Courthouse, to intercept, if possible, Pope's 
retreat to Washington. Jackson's march was much retarded 
by a heavy storm that commenced the day before and still 
continued. Pope, meantime, fell back to positions covering 
Fairfax Courthouse and Germantown ; and on the evening of 
the 1st of September, Jackson struck his right posted at Ox 
Hill, near Germantown. He immediately engaged the Union 
force with Hill's and Ewell's divisions in the midst of a cold 
and drenching rain. The attack fell upon Reno, Hooker, a 
part of McDowell, and Kearney. A firm front was main- 
tained till Stevens' division of Reno's corps, owing to the ex- 
haustion of its ammunition, and the death of its general, was 
forced back in disorder. To repair this break, Kearney, with 
the promptitude that marked him, sent forward Birney's 
brigade of his own division ; and presently, all aglow with 
zeal, brought up a battery which he placed in position. But 
there still remained a gap on Birney's right, caused by the 
retirement of Stevens' division. This Birney pointed out to 
Kearney, and that gallant soldier, dashing forward to recon- 
noitre the ground, unwittingly rode into the enemy's lines and 
was killed. In his death, the army lost the living ideal of a 
soldier — a prcux chevalier, in whom there were mixed the 
qualities of chivalry and gallantry as strong as ever beat 
beneath the mailed coat of an olden knight. Like Desaix, 
whom Napoleon characterized as " the man most worthy to 


be his lieutenant," Kearney died opposing a heroic breast to 

On the following day, September 2d, the army was, by 
order of General Halleck, drawn back within the lines of 
Washington, and Lee, abandoning direct pursuit, began to 
turn his eyes towards the north of the Potomac. 

Within the fortifications of Washington the army now 
rested from the labors, fatigues, and privations of this trying 
campaign, in which, from the Eapidan to the front of the 
capital, it had fought and retreated, and retreated and fought. 
It had passed through an experience calculated to dislocate 
the structure of most armies ; and if it reached the lines of 
Washington in any military order whatsoever, it was because 
the individual patriotism of the rank and file supplied a bond 
of cohesion when the bond of military discipline failed. 
Of the losses in killed and wounded during this campaign, 
no official record is found ; but the Confederate commander 
claims the capture of nine thousand prisoners, thirty pieces of 
artillery, and upwards of twenty thousand stands of arms in 
the engagement on the plains of Manassas alone. Untold 
thousands had straggled from their commands during the, re- 

As for Pope, it is hardly possible to feel for him less than 
pity, in spite of the bombastic pretensions with which he set 
out. The record already given does not justify the assertion 
that he was not obeyed by his subordinates ; but it cannot be 
denied that the estimate of his character held by the officers 
under his command was not of a kind to elicit that hearty 
and zealous co-operation needed for the effective conduct of 
great military operations. He had the misfortune to be of 
all men the most disbelieved. General Pope took the first 
opportunity on his return to Washington to vacate the com- 
mand ; the Army of Virginia passed out of existence, and its 
corps, were united with the Army of the Potomac. 





September — October, 1862. 


When Lee put his columns in motion from Richmond, it 
was with no intent of entering upon a campaign of invasion 
across the great river that formed the dividing line between 
the warring powers. But who can foretell the results that 
may spring from the simplest act in that complex interplay of 
cause and effect we name war ? A secondary operation, hav- 
ing in view merely to hold Pope in check, had effected not only 
its primal aim, but the infinitely more important result of dis- 
lodging the Army of the Potomac from the Peninsula. Thus 
relieved of all care touching Richmond, Lee was free to 
assume a real offensive for the purpose not merely of check- 
ing but of crushing Pope. The success of the campaign 
had been remarkable. From the front of Richmond the thea- 
tre of operations had been transferred to the front of "Wash- 
ington ; the Union armies had been reduced to a humiliating 
defensive, and the rich harvests of the Shenandoah Valley 
and Northern Virginia were the prize of the victors. To 
crown and consolidate these conquests, Lee now determined 
to cross the frontier into Maryland. 

The prospective advantages of such a transfer of the 
theatre of war to the north of the Potomac seemed strongly 
to invite it ; for, in addition to the telling blows Lee might 


hope to inflict in the demoralized condition of the Union 
army, and the prestige that the enterprise would lend the 
Confederate cause abroad, it was judged that the presence of 
the hostile force would detain McClellan on the frontier long 
enough to render an invasion of Virginia during the ap- 
proaching winter difficult, if not impracticable.* 

Yet, if the enterprise had promised only such military gain, 
it is doubtful whether the Eichmond government would have 
undertaken a project involving the renunciation of the proved 
advantages of their proper defensive ; but it seemed, in ad- 
dition, to hold out certain ulterior inducements, which were 
none the less alluring for being somewhat vague. The theory 
of the invasion assumed that the presence of the Confederate 
army in Maryland would induce an immediate rising among 
the citizens of that State for what General Lee calls " the re- 
covery of their liberties." If it did not prompt an armed 
insurrection, it was, at least, expected that the people of 
Maryland would assume such an attitude as would seriously 
embarrass the Government and necessitate the retention of 
a great part of its military force for the purpose of prevent- 
ing anticipated risings. By this means it was believed that it 
would be difficult for the Union authorities to apply a concen- 
trated effort to the expulsion of the invading force. t 

Without the prospect of some such incidental and ulterior 
advantages as these, the enterprise would hardly have been 
undertaken; for, not only was it perilous in itself, but the 
Confederate army was not properly equipped for invasion : it 
lacked much of the material of war and was feeble in trans- 
portation, while the troops were so wretchedly clothed and 

* Lee : Report of the Maryland Campaign, in Reports of the Army 01 
Northern Virginia, vol. i., p. 27. 

t General Lee's statement on this head is somewhat vague ; but it cau 
hardly mean any thing else than what is indicated above : " The condition of 
Maryland encouraged the belief that the presence of our army, however in- 
ferior to that of the enemy, would induce the Washington Government to retain 
all its available force to provide against contingencies which itt course towards 
the people of that State gave it reason to appreliend." — Ibid. 


shod that little else could be claimed for them than what 
Tilly boasted of his followers— that they were an army of 
"raided soldiers and bright muskets."* 

Plausible though this anticipation of a secessionist uprising 
in Maryland seemed, it rested on a false basis and was not 
more emphatically belied by experience than it was con- 
demned by sound reasoning before the fact. Nevertheless, 
misled by this illusion, Lee turned the heads of his columns 
away from the direction of "Washington, which he never seems 
to have dreamed of assailing directly, and put them in motion 
towards Leesburg. Between the 4th and 7th of September 
the whole Confederate army crossed the Potomac by the fords 
near that place, and encamped in the vicinity of Frederick, 
where the standard of revolt was formally raised, and the 
people of Maryland invited by proclamation of General Lee 
to join the Confederate force. But it soon became manifest 
that the expectation of practical assistance from the Mary- 
landers was destined to grievous disappointment ; and the 
ragged and shoeless soldiers who entered the State chanting 
the song in which Maryland was made passionately to invoke 
Southern aid against Northern despotism found, instead of the 
rapturous reception they had anticipated, cold indifference 
or ill-concealed hostility. Of the citizens of Maryland a large 
number (and notably the population of the western comities) 
were really loyal, a considerable number indifferent, and a 
smaller number bitterly secessionist. But to permit the seces- 
sionists to move at all, it was necessary that Lee should first 
of all demonstrate his ability to remain in the State by over- 
throwing the powerful Union force that was moving to meet 
him ; while the lukewarm, whom the romance of the invasion 
might have allured, were repelled by the wretchedness, the 
rags, and the shocking filth of the " army of liberation." 

* "Thousands of the troops," says Lee, "were destitute of shoes." — Re- 
ports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. i., p. 27. "Never," says General 
Jones, who commanded Jackson's old " Stonewall" division, " had the army 
been so dirty, ragged, and ill provided for, as on this march." — Ibid., vol. ii., 
p. '22\. 


In the dark hour when the shattered battalions that sur- 
vived Pope's campaign returned to Washington, General Mc- 
Clellan, at the request of the President, resumed command of 
the Army of the Potomac, with the addition thereto of Burn- 
side's command and the corps composing the late Army of 
Virginia. Whatever may have been the estimate of McClel- 
lan's military capacity at this time held by the President, or 
General Halleck, or Mr. Secretary Stanton, or the Committee 
on the Conduct of the War, there appears to have been no 
one to gainsay the propriety of the appointment or dispute 
the magic of his name with the soldiers he had led. McClel- 
lan's reappearance at the head of affairs had the most bene- 
ficial effect on the army, whose morale immediately underwent 
an astonishing change. The heterogeneous mass made up of 
the aggregation of the remnants of the two armies, and the 
garrison of Washington, was reorganized into a compact 
body — a work that had mostly to be done while the army was 
on the march ;* and as soon as it became known that Lee had 
crossed the Potomac, McClellan moved towards Frederick to 
meet him. The advance was made by five parallel roads, and 
the columns were so disposed as to cover both Washington 
and Baltimore ; for the left flank rested on the Potomac, and 
the right on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The right 
wing consisted of the First and Ninth corps, under General 
Burnside ; the centre, of the Second and Twelfth corps, under 
General Sumner ; and the left wing, of the Sixth Corps, under 
General Franklin.t 

* " Like the rest of the army, the artillery may be said to have been organ- 
ized on the march and in the intervals of conflict." — Hunt : Report of Artillery 
Operations of the Maryland Campaign. 

t The First Corps (McDowell's old command) had been placed under Gen- 
eral Hooker. The Ninth Corps, of Burnside's old force, was under General 
Reno. Sumner continued to command his own (Second) corps, and also con- 
trolled the Twelfth (Banks' old command), which was placed under General 
Mansfield, a veteran soldier, but who had not thus far been in the field. The 
Sixth Corps, under General Franklin, embraced the divisions of Smith (W F.), 
Slocum, and Couch. Porter's did not leave Washington until the 12th of 
September, and rejoined the army at Antietam. General H. J. Hunt, who had 


The uncertainty at first overhanging Lee's intentions caused 
the advance from Washington to be made with much circum- 
spection ; and it might, perhaps, be fairly chargeable with 
tardiness, were there not on record repeated dispatches of the 
time from the general-in-chief, charging McClellan with too 
great a precipitancy of movement for the safety of the capi- 
tal. The van of the army entered Frederick on the 12th 
of September, after a brisk skirmish at the outskirts of the 
town with the Confederate troopers left behind as a rear- 
guard. It was found that the main body of Lee's army had 
passed out of Frederick two days before, heading westward 
towards Harpers Ferry. 

It is now necessary, for a just appreciation of the events of 
the Maryland campaign, that I should give an outline of the 
plan of operations which the Confederate commander had 
marked out for himself. This plan was simple, but highly 
meritorious. Lee did not propose to make any direct move- 
ment against Washington or Baltimore with the Union army 
between him and these points, but aimed so to manoeuvre as 
to cause McClellan to uncover them. "With, this view, he de- 
signed, first of all, to move into Western Maryland and estab- 
lish his communications with Richmond through the Shenan- 
doah Valley. Then, by a northward movement, menacing 
Pennsylvania by the Cumberland Valley, he hoped to draw 
the Union army so far towards the Susquehanna as to afford 
him either an opportunity of seizing Baltimore or Washington, 
or of dealing a damaging blow at the army far from its base 
of supplies. His first movement from Frederick was, there- 
fore, towards the western side of that mountain range which, 
named the Blue Bidge south of the Potomac, and the South 
Mountain range north of the Potomac, forms the eastern 
wall of the Shenandoah and Cumberland valleys — the former 

been in command of the reservo artillery on the Peninsula, relieved General 
Barry as chief of artillery, and remained in that position till the close of the 
w;ir. General Pleasonton commanded the cavalry division. The army with 
which McClellan set out on the Maryland campaign, made an aggregate of 
eighty-five thousand men, of all arms. 



his line of communications with Eichmond and the latter 
his line of manoeuvre towards Pennsylvania. 


Now, at the time Lee crossed the Potomac, the Federal 
post at Harper's Ferry, commanding the debouche of the 
Shenandoah Valley, was held by a garrison of about nine 
thousand men, under Colonel D. H. Miles, while a force of 
twenty-five hundred men, under General White, did outpost 
duty at Martinsburg and Winchester. These troops received 
orders direct from General Halleck. 

Lee had assumed that his advance on Frederick would 
cause the immediate evacuation of Harper's Ferry* by the 

•* " It had been supposed that the advance upon Frederick would lead to the 
evacuation of Martinsburg and Harper's Ferry, thus opening the line of com- 
munication through the Valley."— Lee's Report : Reports of the Army of North 
ern Virginia, vol. i., p. 28. 


Union force, because that position, important as against a 
menace by way of the Shenandoah Valley, became utterly 
useless now that the Confederates were actually in Maryland ; 
and the garrison, while subserving no purpose, was in immi- 
nent danger of capture. In this anticipation, Lee had pro- 
ceeded solely on a correct military appreciation of what ought 
to have been done ; and indeed General McClellan, who had 
no control over this force, urged the evacuation of the post 
the moment he learned Lee Avas across the Potomac. But 
it was the whim of General Halleck to regard Harper's 
Ferry as a point per se and in any event of the first import- 
ance to be held ; and he would listen to no proposition looking 
to its abandonment. It is a remarkable illustration of the 
mighty part played in war by what is called accident that 
this gross act of folly which, as might have been expected, 
resulted in the capture of the entire garrison of Harper's 
Ferry, was, nevertheless, as will presently appear, a main 
cause of the ultimate failure of the Confederate invasion. 

Finding that, contrary to his expectation, Harper's Ferry 
was not evacuated, it became necessary for Lee to dislodge 
that force before concentrating his army west of the moun- 
tains, and to this duty Jackson, with his own three divisions, 
the two divisions of McLaws, and the division of Walker, was 
assigned. Jackson was to proceed by way of Sharpsburg, 
crossing the Potomac above Harper's Ferry, and, investing it 
by the rear ; McLaws was to move by way of Middletown on 
the direct route to the ferry, and seize the hills on the Mary- 
land side known as Maryland Heights ; Walker was to cross 
the Potomac below Harper's Ferry and take possession of the 
Loudon Heights. The advance was begun on the 10th : the 
several commanders were all to be at their assigned positions 
by the night of the 12th, cause the surrender by the following 
morning, and immediately rejoin the remainder of the army, 
with which Lee was to move to Boonsboro' or Hagerstown. 

Up to the time of Lee's leaving Frederick, MeClellan's 
advance had been so tardy as to justify the Confederate com- 
mander in the belief that the reduction of Harper's Ferry 


would be accomplished and his columns again concentrated 
before he would be called upon to meet the Union army. 
But this expectation was disappointed, and all Lee's plans for 
ulterior operations in Maryland were thwarted by a piece of 
good fortune that befell General McClellan at this time. 
There accidentally fell into the hands of the Union com- 
mander on the day of his arrival at Frederick a copy of Lee's 
official order for the above movements of his troops, whereby 
his whole plan was betrayed to his antagonist. Instructed 
of the project of his rival, McClellan immediately ordered a 
rapid movement towards Harper's Ferry ; and Lee, unaware 
of what had happened, suddenly found the Union army press- 
ing forward with an unwonted rapidity that threatened to 
disconcert all his plans. On the afternoon of the 13th, be- 
fore Lee had received any word from Jackson, Stuart, who 
with his troopers was covering the Confederate rear, reported 
McClellan approaching the passes of South Mountain, and it 
became evident that if he were allowed to force these, he 
would be in position to strike Lee's divided columns, relieve 
the garrison at Harper's Ferry, and put a disastrous termi- 
nation to the Confederate campaign. Lee had not intended 
to oppose any resistance to the passage of the South Moun- 
tain, and had already moved to Boonsboro' and Hagerstown 
to await Jackson's operations. But when the news of McClel- 
lan's approach reached him, he instantly ordered Hill's divi- 
sion back from Boonsboro' to guard the South Mountain 
passes, and instructed Longstreet to countermarch from Ha- 
gerstown to Hill's support. 

McCleUan, by his knowledge of Lee's movements, was so 
perfectly master of the situation, and the stake was so great 
as to authorize, indeed to demand, the very boldest action on 
his part. He knew the imperilled condition of the garrison at 
Harper's Ferry, which had by this time been placed under his 
control, and though its investment was the result of that ab- 
surd policy that, against his protest and in violation of sound 
military principle, had retained it in an untenable position, 
still he was bound to do his utmost to relieve it. McClellan 


acted with energy but not with the impetuosity called for. 
It he had thrown forward his army with the vigor used by 
Jackson in his advance on Harper's Ferry, the passes of South 
Mountain would have been carried before the evening of the 
13th, at which time they were very feebly guarded, and then 
debouching into Pleasant Valley, the Union commander 
might next morning have fallen upon the rear of McLaws at 
Maryland Heights, and relieved Harper's Ferry, which did 
not surrender till the morning of the 15th. But he did not 
arrive at South Mountain until the morning of the 11th; 
and by that time the Confederates, forewarned of his ap- 
proach, had recalled a considerable force to dispute the pas- 

The line of advance of the Union right and centre con- 
ducted across South Mountain by Turner's Gap, that of the 
left by Crampton's Gap, sis miles to the southward. Frank- 
lin's corps was moving towards the latter ; and Burnside's 
command (the corps of Reno and Hooker) had the advance 
by the former. The Confederate defence of Crampton's Pass 
was left to McLaws, who was engaged in the investment of 
Harper's Ferry from the side of Maryland Heights ; but 
Turner's Pass, as commanding the dibowhc of the main high- 
way from Frederick westward, was committed to the com- 
bined commands of Hill and Longstreet. This pass is a deep 
gorge in the mountains, the crests of which on each side rise to 
the height of one thousand feet. The gap itself is unassailable ; 
but there is a practicable road over the crest to the right of 
the pass, and another to the left. The key-point of the whole 
position is a rocky and precipitous peak which dominates the 
ridge to the right of the pass. With a considerable force 
this position is very defensible ; but when the advance of the 
Union force reached the mountain, on the morning of the 
14th, it was guarded only by D. H. Hill's division of five 
thousand men. Reno's corps arrived near the pass early in 
the forenoon ; but that officer directed all his efforts to the 
assault of the crest on the left— the key-point being over- 
looked. After a sharp fight Reno succeeded in dislodg- 


ing the Confederate brigade opposed to him, and estab- 
lished his troops on the first ridge, but was unable to 
push beyond.* The commanding importance of the ground 
to the right of the pass soon developed itself, however, 
and on the arrival of Hooker's corps in the middle of the 
afternoon, he was directed to assault that position. By this 
time Hill had been re-enforced by two divisions of Long- 
street. The ridge to the north of the turnpike is divided into 
a double crest by a ravine, and Hooker put in Meade's divi- 
sion on the right, and Hatch's on the left ; Eickett's division 
being held in reserve. The ground is very difficult for the 
movement of troops, the hill-side being steep and rocky ; but 
the advance was made with much spirit — the light-footed 
skirmishers leaping and springing up the slopes and ledges with 
the nimbleness of the coney. It was found that, owing to the 
precipitous figure of the mountain sides, the hostile artillery 
did little hurt ; but the Confederate riflemen, fighting behind 
rocks and trees and stone walls, opposed a persistent re- 
sistance. They were, however, forced back, step by step ; and 
by dark, Hooker's troops had carried the crest on the right 
of the gap. Xow, as simultaneous with this, Gibbon with his 
brigade had worked his way by the main road well up 
towards the top of the pass, and as Reno's corps had gained 
a firm foothold on the crest to the left of the pass, it seemed 
that the position was carried ; and though it was by this 
time too dark to push through to the western side of the 
mountain, yet the whole army was up, and with the position 
secured would in the morning force an issue by its own press- 
ure. Yet these successes were not gained without a heavy 
sacrifice. Fifteen hundred men were killed and wounded in 
this severe struggle, and among those who fell was General 
Reno, commander of the Ninth Corps, an able and respected 

* The Confederate brigade opposed to Reno was under General Garland, 
who was killed early in the action. " Garland's brigade," says General Hill, 
" was much demoralized by his fall, and the rough handling it had received ; 
and had the Yankees pressed vigorously forward, the road might have been 
gained." — Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 112. 


officer. The Confederate loss was above three thousand meD, 
whereof fifteen hundred were prisoners. 

The action at South Mountain deservedly figures as a bril- 
liant affair ; and the only adverse comment that may be made 
thereon will turn on the tardiness in commencing the attack ; 
for, with a more vigorous conduct on the part of General 
Burnside, he might have forced the pass during the forenoon, 
while yet defended only by Hill's small force ; and notwith- 
standing the previous delay, this would still have put Mc- 
Olellan in position to succor Harper's Ferry 

During the contest at Turner's Gap, Franklin was strug- 
gling to force the passage of the ridge at Crampton's Pass, de- 
fended by a part of the force of McLaws, who was then en- 
gaged in the investment of Harper's Ferry * The position 
here was similar to that at Turner's Gap, and the operations 
were of a like kind. Forming his troops with Slocum's di- 
vision on the right of the road and Smith's on the left, 
Franklin advanced his line, driving the Confederates from 
their position at the base of the mountain, where they were 
protected by a stone wall, and forced them back up the slope 
of the mountain to near its summit, where, after an action of 
three hours, the crest was carried.t Four hundred prisoners, 
seven hundred stand of arms, one piece of artillery, and three 
colors were captured in this spirited action. Franklin's total 
loss was five hundred and thirty-two, and the corps rested on 
its arms, Avith its advance thrown forward into Pleasant 
Valley. During the night, the Confederates at Turner's Gap 

* Crampton's Pass debouches into Pleasant Valley directly in the rear of 
and but five miles from Maryland Heights, opposite Harper's Ferry. McLaws 
on learning the approach of the .Union force, and seeing the danger of this attack 
in his rear, sent back General Cobb, with three brigades, instructing him to 
hold Crampton's Pass until the work at Harper's Ferry should be completed, 
■" even if he lost his last man in doing it." McLaws' Report : Reports of the 
Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 1G5. 

f Slocum's line, on the right, formed of Bartlett's and Torbett's brigades, sup- 
ported by Newton, carried the crest. Smith's line, formed of Brooks' and Irw in s 
brigades, was disposed for the protection of Slocum's flank, and charged up the 
mountain simultaneously. The brunt of the action fell upon Bartlett's command. 


withdrew, and the Union right and centre in the morning 
passed through to the west side of the mountain. 

If not too late, McClellan was now in a position to succor 
the garrison at Harper's Ferry, whose situation was one of 
almost tragic interest.* But by a hapless conjuncture, on 
the very morning that the army broke through the South 
Mountain, and was in position to relieve the beleaguered 
force, it was surrendered by its commander. I shall briefly 
detail the circumstances under which this took place. 

Leaying Frederick on the 10th, Jackson made a very rapid 
march by way of Micldletown, Boonsboro', and Williamsport, 
and on the following day crossed the Potomac into Vir- 
ginia, at a ford near the latter place. Disposing his forces so 
that there should be no escape for the garrison from that 
side, he moved down towards Harper's Ferry. On his ap- 
proach, General White with the garrison of Martinsburg 
evacuated that place, and retired to Harper's Ferry, the rear 
of which, at Bolivar Heights, Jackson reached on the 13th, 
and immediately proceeded to put himself in communication 
with Walker and McLaws, who were respectively to co-op 
erate in the investment from Loudon and Maryland heights. 
Walker was already in position on Loudon Heights, and 
McLaws was working his way up Maryland Heights. The 
latter position is the key-point to Harper's Ferry, as a brief 
description will show. 

The Elk Kiclge, running north and south across parts of 
Maryland and Virginia, is rifted in twain by the Potomac, 
and the cleavage leaves on each side a bold and lofty abut- 
ment of rock. Maryland Heights is the name given the steep 
on the north bank, and Loudon Heights the steep on the 
south bank. Between Loudon Heights and Harper's Ferry 
the Shenandoah breaks into the Potomac, and to the rear of 

* To convey to Colonel Miles the information that the army was coming to 
his relief, he sent repeated couriers to run the gauntlet of the investing lines, 
and all along the march he fired signal guns to announce the progress of his 


the ferrv is a less l>olcl ridge, named Bolivar Heights, which 
falls off in graceful undulations southward into the Valley 
of the Shenandoah. The picturesque little village of Har- 
per's Ferry lies nestling in the basin formed by these three 
heights, which tower into an almost Alpine sublimity. A line 
drawn from any one mountain-top to either of the others must 
be two miles in stretch ; yet rifle-cannon crowning these 
heights can easily throw their projectiles from each to other — 
a sort of Titanic game of bowls which Mars and cloud-com- 
pelling Jove might carry on in sportive mood. But the 
Maryland Height is the Saul of the triad of giant mountains, 
and far o'ertops its fellows. Of course, it completely com- 
mands Harper's Ferry, into which a plunging fire even of 
musketry can be had from it. While therefore Harper's 
Ferry is itself the merest military trap, lying as it does at 
the bottom of this rocky funnel, yet the Mar} land Height is 
a strong position, and if its rearward slope were held by a 
determined even though small force, it would be very hard 
and hazardous to assail. 

Colonel Miles, in the distribution of his command, had 
posted on Maryland Heights a force under Colonel Ford, re- 
taining the bulk of his troops in Harper's Ferry. This was 
a faulty disposition. He should have evacuated the latter 
place, and transferred his whole force to Maryland Heights, 
which he could readily have held till McClellan came up. 
Under his instructions from General Halleck, he was bound, 
however, to hold Harper's Ferry to the last extremity, and, 
interpreting this order literally as applying to the town itself, 
he refused to take this step when urged to it by his sub- 
ordinates. But what was worse, Ford, after opposing a very 
feeble and unskilful resistance to McLaws' attack on the 
13th, retired to Harper's Ferry, spiking his guns and top- 
pling them down the declivity. Thus Maryland Heights 
was abandoned altogether. McLaws succeeded in dragging 
some pieces up the rugged steep, and Jackson and Walker 
being already in position, the investment of Harper's Ferry 
was by the morning of the 14th complete. The Bolivar and 


London heights were crowned with artillery during the day, 
and at dawn of the 15th the three co-operating forces opened 
fire upon the garrison. They were already doomed men ; and 
in two hours or less the white flag was raised in token of sur- 

The actual surrender was made bv General White, Colonel 
Miles having been mortally wounded in the operations attend- 
ing the reduction of the place. 

Jackson received the capitulation of eleven thousand men, 
and came into possession of seventy-three pieces of artillery, 
thirteen thousand small-arms, and a large quantity of mili- 
tary stores. But leaving the details to be arranged by his 
lieutenant, General Hill (A. P.), the swift-footed Jackson turned 
his back on the prize he had secured, and headed towards 
Maryland to unite with Lee, who was eagerly awaiting his 
arrival at Sharpsburg. 

The successful lodgment McClellan had gained on the crest 
of South Mountain by the night of the 14th admonished Lee 
that he might no longer hope to hold Turner's Pass. He 
therefore withdrew Longstreet and D. H. Hill across Pleasant 
Valley and over Elk Eidge into the valley beyond — the valley 
of the Antietam. In the morning McClellan passed through 
his right and centre and took position at Boonsboro' Mean- 
time, Franklin, having the night previously swept away tho 
adverse force, passed through Crampton's Pass and debouched 
into Pleasant Valley in the rear of McLaws. This seemed a 
favorable opportunity to destroy that force, which was isolated 
from all the rest of Lee's army ; but, appreciating his danger, 
the Confederate officer, in the morning, withdrew all his force 
from Maryland Heights, with the exception of a single regi- 
ment, and formed his troops in battle order across Pleasant 
Valley to resist any sudden attack, and before Franklin could 
make his dispositions to strike, the garrison at Harper's Ferry 
had surrendered. This left free exit for McLaws, who skil 
fully retired down the Valley towards the Potomac, which he 
repassed at Harper's Ferry, and by a detour by way of Shep- 
herdstown joined Lee at Sharpsburg. 


Upon the retirement of the Confederates on the morning of 
the 15th, McClellan pushed forward his whole army in pur- 
suit ; but after a few miles' march, the heads of the columns 
were brought to a sudden halt at Antietam Creek, a rivulet 
that, running obliquely to the course of the Potomac, empties 
into it six miles above Harper's Ferry. On the heights 
crowning the west bank of this stream, Lee, with what force 
he had in hand, took his stand to oppose McClellan's pursuit, 
and form a point of concentration for his scattered columns. 



Whatever ulterior purposes Lee may have had touching 
the prosecution of the Maryland invasion, affairs had so 
worked together that it had become now absolutely necessary 
for him to stand and give battle. Whether he designed aban- 
doning the aggressive and repassing the Potomac, or pur- 
posed manoeuvring by the line of Western Maryland towards 
Pennsylvania, he was obliged first of all to take up a position 
on which he might unite his divided forces, closely pressed by 
the advancing Union columns, and receive the attack of his 
antagonist. The circumstances were such that a battle would 
necessarily decide the issue of the invasion. 

It was late in the afternoon of the 15th when the Army of 
the Potomac drew up on the left bank of Antietam Creek, 
on the opposite side of which the Confederate infantry was 
seen ostentatiously displayed. The day passed in observa- 
tion of the position, and next morning that portion of the 
Confederate force that had been engaged in the investment 
of Harper's Ferry rejoined Lee. The Confederate com- 
mander formed his troops on a line stretched across the 
angle formed by the Potomac and Antietam ; and as the Poto- 
mac here makes a sharp curve, Lee was able to rest both 


B ATT L I ojf rmm AMt\] I TA M\ 

Fought Sept. 16 & 17th 1862 

Engraved for Campaigns oftheArnu/ of (he Potomac ' 

Scale of fifties. 

Union Troops 

Confedertvte Troops. 


flanks on that stream, while his front was covered by the 
Antietam. The Confederate line was drawn in front of the 
town of Sharpsburg — Longstreet's command being placed on 
the right of the road from Sharpsburg to Boonsboro', and 
D. H. Hill's command on the left. From Sharpsburg a turn- 
pike runs northward across the Potomac to Hagerstown, from 
which direction the position might be turned ; and to guard 
against this, Hood's two brigades were placed on the left. 
Jackson's command was placed in reserve near the left. The 
16th saw the whole Confederate force concentrated at Sharps- 
burg, except the divisions of McLaws, Anderson, and A. P 
Hill, which had not yet returned from Harper's Ferry. So 
greatly had the Confederate army become reduced by its pre- 
vious losses and by straggling, that Lee was unable to count 
above forty thousand bayonets. 

In this vicinity, the Antietam is crossed by four stone' 
bridges ; but three of these were covered by the hostile front,, 
and so guarded as to forbid the hope of forcing a direct 
passage. McClellan therefore determined to throw his right 
across the creek by an upper and unguarded bridge, beyond 
the Confederate left flank, and when this manoeuvre should 
have shaken the enemy, the centre and left were to carry the 
bridges in their front. Porter's corps was posted on the left 
of the turnpike, opposite Bridge No. 2 ; Burnside's Ninth 
Corps on the Bohrersville and Sharpsburg turnpike, directly 
in front of Bridge No. 3. The turning movement was in- 
trusted to Hooker's corps, to be followed by Sumner's two 
corps. The examination of the ground, and the posting of 
troops, and of artillery to silence the fire of the enemy's guns 
on the opposite side of the Antietam, occupied the hours of 
the 16th till the afternoon, — a lively artillery duel being, 
meanwhile, waged between the opposing batteries.* Then, 

* The Union batteries were those of Taft, Langner, Von Kleizer, and 
Weaver, placed on the ridge on the east side of the Antietam, between the 
turnpike bridge and the house occupied as general headquarters (Pry's). 
The practice of these batteries was excellent, and their superiority over the 



towards the middle of the afternoon, Hooker's corps was put 
in motion, and crossed the stream at the upper bridge and 
ford, out of range of the hostile fire. Advancing through the 
woods, Hooker soon struck the left flank of the Confederate 
line, held by Hood's two brigades. Lee had anticipated a 
menace on that flank, and had made his dispositions 
accordingly, — Hood's brigades forming a crotchet on the Con- 
federate left." It was towards dusk when the troops of 
Hooker and Hood met ; and after a smart skirmish between 
the Confederates and the division of Pennsylvania Reserves 
under General Meade, the opposing forces rested on their 
arms for the night, both occupying a skirt of woods which 
forms the eastern and northern inclosure of a considerable 
clearing on both sides of the Hagerstown road. 

This movement across the Antietam on the 16th was of no 
advantage : it was made too late in the daj T to accomplish 
any thing, and it served to disclose to Lee his antagonist's 
purpose. The Confederate commander made no change in 
his dispositions, save to order Jackson, who lay in reserve in 
the rear of the left, to substitute a couple of his brigades in 
the room of Hood's worn-out command. General McClellan 
strengthened the turning column by directing Sumner to 
throw over, during the night, the Twelfth Corps under 
General Mansfield to the support of Hooker ; and he ordered 
Sumner to hold his own corps (the Second) in readiness to 
cross early in the morning. 

At the first dawn of the 17th the combat was opened by 
Hooker, who assailed the Confederate left, now held by 

Confederate artillery was Boon apparent. Of this there is a very frank con- 
fession in the Report of General D. H. Hill: "An artillery duel between the 
Washington (New Orleans) Artillery and the Yankee batteries across the 
Antietam on the lGth was the most melancholy farce in the war. They 
could not cope with the Yankee guns." — Reports of the Army of Northern 
Virginia, vol. ii., p. 119. 

* " In anticipation of a movement to turn the line of Antietam, Hood's two 
brigades had been transferred from the right to the left, and posted between 
D. II. Hill and the nagerstown road." — Lee : Reports of the Army of Northern 
Virginia, vol. i., p. li'3. 


Jackson's force. The ground on which the battle opened was 
the same field on which the action continued to be waged 
during the day ; and it has already been indicated in that 
opening extending to the east and west of the Hagerstown 
road bounded on each side by woods. In the fringe of forest 
on the eastern side of the road, Hooker had the previous 
evening effected a lodgment, though morning found the Con- 
federate riflemen still clinging to its margin, while the main 
force of Jackson lay in the low timbered ground on the west 
side of the road,* where the Confederate troops were pretty 
well protected by outcropping ledges of rock. But though it 
had this tactical advantage for the defence, the position was 
really untenable ; for it was completely commanded and seen 
in reverse by high ground a little to the right of where 
Hooker formed his line of battle. This height was the key- 
point of all that part of the field, and had it been occupied by 
Union batteries, as it should have been, the low timbered 
ground around the Dunker church where Jackson's line lay 
could not have been held fifteen minutes. It is a noteworthy 
fact, thrtt neither General Hooker, nor General Sumner who 
followed him in command on this part of the field, at all 
appreciated the supreme importance of this point.f The 
former, beginning the combat, opened a direct attack with 
the view of carrying the Hagerstown road and the woods on 
the west side of it ; and this continued to be the aim of all 
the subsequent attacks, which were made very much in detail, 
and thus lost the effective character they might have had 
with more comprehensive dispositions. 

Hooker formed his corps of fourteen thousand men, with 
Doubledaj's division on the right, Meade's in the centre, and 
Eicketts' on the left. Jackson opposed him with two divi- 
sions, Ewell's division being advanced to command the open 
ground, while the Stonewall division lay in reserve in the 

* This road will be noted, in the accompanying sketch, as that on the mar- 
gin of which stands what is known as the " Dunker church." 

t It is equally remarkable that its importance was overlooked by the Con 
federates until several hours after the action opened. 


woodland on the -west side of the Hagerstown road. His en- 
tire force present numbered four thousand men — a great dis- 
proportion of numbers* After an hour's bloody "bush- 
whacking," Hooker's troops succeeded in clearing the hither 
woods of the three Confederate brigades, which retired in 
disorder across the open fields, with a loss of half their re- 
duced numbers. t The Union batteries on the opposite bank 
of the Antietam had secured an enfilade fire on Jackson's ad- 
vanced and reserve line, and, together with the batteries in 
front, inflicted severe loss on the enemy. Hooker then ad- 
vanced his centre under Meade to seize the Hagerstown road 
and the woods beyond. In attempting to execute this move- 
ment, the troops came under a very severe fire from Jackson's 
reserve division, which, joined by the two brigades of Hood 

* Incredible though this return of the strength of Jackson's two divisions 
may appear, it is vouched for by official evidence. So reduced had his num- 
bers become by the heavy losses of the campaign, and by the great straggling 
that attended the march through Maryland, that Jackson's old (Stonewall) 
division numbered but one thousand six hundred men. General J. R. Jones, 
who commanded this division at Antietam, says of it : '' The division was re 
duced to the numbers of a small brigade, and, at the beginning of the fight, 
numbered not over one thousand six hundred men." — Reports of the Army of 
Northern Virginia, vol. ii., pp. 222, 223. Of the number of the three brigades of 
Ewell's division holding the advanced line, General Early, who, at a subse 
quent part of the day, came into command of it, reports as follows: Lawton's 
brigade, one thousand one hundred and fifty ; Hayes' brigade, five hundred and 
fifty ; Walker's brigade, seven hundred. This would make a total for the two 
divisions of four thousand men — the number above given. 

f " The terrible nature of the conflict in which these brigades had been en- 
gaged, and the steadiness with which they maintained their position, is shown 
by the losses they sustained. They did not retire from the field until General 
Lawton (commanding division) had been wounded and borne from the field ; 
Colonel Douglas, commanding Lawton's brigade, had been killed ; and the 
brigade had sustained a loss of five hundred and fifty-four killed and wounded 
out of one thousand one hundred and fifty, losing five regimental commanders 
out of six. Hayes' brigade had sustained a loss of three hundred and twenty- 
three out of five hundred and fifty, including every regimental commander and 
all of his staff; and Colonel Walker and one of his staff had been disabled, and 
the. brigade he was commanding had sustained a loss of two hundred and 
twenty-eight out of less than seven hundred present, including three out of foul 
regimental commanders." — Ibid., pp. 190, 191. 


that had moved up in support, issued from the woods, and 
threw back Meade's line, which was much broken. At the 
same time, Eicketts' division on the left became hotly en- 
gaged with three brigades of Hill's division, which were at 
this time closed up on the right of Jackson in support ; and 
Hooker's right division, under Doubleday, was held in check 
by the fire of several batteries of Stuart's horse-artillery 
posted on commanding ground on his right and front. 

Hooker had suffered severely by the enemy's fire ; but, 
worse still, had lost nearly half his effective force by strag- 
gling.* In this state of facts, his offensive power was com- 
pletely gone ; and, at seven o'clock, Mansfield's corps, which 
had crossed the An tietam during the night and lay in reserve 
a mile to the rear, was ordered up to support and relieve 
Hooker's troops. Of this corps, the first division, under Gen- 
eral Williams, took position on the right, and the second, 
under General Greene, on the left. During the deployment, 
that veteran soldier, General Mansfield, fell mortally wounded. 
The command of the corps fell to General Williams, and the 
division of the latter to General Crawford, who, with his own 
and Gordon's brigade, made an advance across the open field, 
and succeeded in seizing a point of woods on the west side of 
the Hagerstown road. At the same time, Greene's division 
on the left was able to clear its front, and crossed into the left 
of the Dunker church. Yet the holding of the positions was 
attended with heavy loss ; the troops, reduced to the attempt 
to hold their own, began to waver and break, and General 
Hooker was being carried from the field severely wounded, 
when, opportunely, towards nine o'clock, General Sumner 
with his own corps reached the field.t 

* McClellan : Report ; Meade : Report. 

f Of the extraordinary statement respecting this part of the battle made by 
General Hooker, in his evidence before the Committee on the Conduct of the 
War, it must be said, at least, that it is not justified by facts : "At that time 
[nine o'clock]," says he, " my troops were in the finest spirit : they had 
whipped Jackson, and compelled the enemy to fly, throwing away their arms, 
their banners, and saving themselves as best they could." (Report, vol. i., p. 


The battle had now declared itself with -Teat obstinacy be- 
tween the Union riidit and Confederate left without having 
burst forth on anv other part of the line. The action was 
fought very much in detail by both sides — each, as from time 
to time re-enforcements reached it, being able to claim a 
partial success. Hooker, after driving one of Jackson's divi- 
sions, was in turn forced back by the other ; and Mansfield's 
corps, having caused this to retreat, found itself overmastered 
by the fresh battalions of Hood.* The combat, though very 
murderous to each side, had been quite indecisive. It was in 
this situation of affairs that Sumner's force reached the 
ground ; and it seemed at first that this preponderance of 
weight thrown into the Union scale would give it the victory. 
The troops of Jackson and Hood had been so severely pun- 
ished as to leave little available fight in them ; so that, when 
Sumner threw Sedgwick's divisions on his right across the 
open field into the woods ojiposite — the woods in which 
Crawford, had been fighting — he easily drove the shattered 
Confederate troops before him, and held definitive possession 
of the woods around the Dunker church. At the same time, 
Sumner advanced French's diA'ision on Avhat had hitherto 
been the left, and Richardson's division still further to the 
left to oppose the Confederate centre under Hill. Richardson 

581.) Now not only is this contradicted by the facts above recited, and which 
are derived froni the reports of both sides ; but General Sumner, Avho at the 
time spoken of by General Hooker reached the field, says : " On going upon 
the field I found that General Hooker's corps had been dispersed and routed. 
I passed him some distance in the rear, where he had been carried wounded, 
but I saw nothing of his corps at all as I was advancing with my command on 
the field. I sent one of my staff-officers to find where they were, and General 
Ricketts, the only officer we could find, stated that he could not raise three 
hundred men of the corps." Sumner : Evidence on Antietam, vol. i., p. 308. 

* General Sumner afterwards held the following language in regard to 
these partial attacks : " I have always believed that, instead of sending these 
troops into that action in driblets, had General McClellan authorized me to 
march these forty thousand on the left flank of the enemy, we could not have 
tailed to throw them right back in front of the other divisions of our army 
on the left."— Report on the Conduct of the War, vol. i., p. 368. 


had got handsomely to work, and French had cleared his 
front, when disaster again fell on the fatal right. At the 
moment that Sedgwick appeared to grasp victory in his 
hands, and the troops of Jackson and Hood were retiring in 
disorder,* two Confederate divisions, under McLaws and 
Walker, taken from the Confederate right, reached the field 
on the left, and immediately turned the fortunes of the day.f 
A considerable interval had been left between Sumner's right 
division under Sedgwick and his centre division under French. 
Through this the enemy penetrated, enveloping Sedgwick's 
left flank, and, pressing heavily at the same time on his front, 
forced him out of the woods on the west side of the Hagers- 
town road, and back across the open field and into the woods 
on the east side of the road — the original position held in the 
morning4 The Confederates, content with dislodging the 
Union troops, made no attempt to follow up then - advantage, 
but retired to their original position also. 

We must now look a little to Sumner's other divisions — to 
French and Richardson on his centre and left. When the 
pressure on Sedgwick became the hardest, Sumner sent 
orders to French to attack, as a diversion in favor of the 
former. French obeyed, with the brigades of Kimball and 

* Jackson admits that his troops had " fallen back some distance to the 
rear" (Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 104) ; but the re- 
ports of the commanders that came upon the ground to take the place of his 
troops give this " falling back" the character of a disorderly rout. 

f The fact that it was the oncoming of these divisions that decided the 
action on Sumner's right is plainly marked by the time of their arrival, which 
is put down in all the Confederate reports at ten o'clock. Sumner's corps had 
arrived at nine. 

% Of this attack, McLaws says : " The troops were immediately engaged, 
driving the enemy before them in magnificent style, at all points, sweeping the 
woods with perfect ease. They were driven not only through the woods, but 
over a field in front of the woods, and over two high fences beyond, and into 
another body of woods over half a mile distant from the commencement of the 
fight." — Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 170. See also 
reports of his brigade commanders — Semnes, Ibid., p. 349 ; Barksdale, p. 351 ; 
Kershaw, p. 353. 


Weber, and succeeded in forcing back the enemy to a sunken 
road which runs almost at right angles with the Hagerstown 
road. This position was held by the division of D. H. Hill, 
three 1 of whose brigades had been advanced to assist Jackson 
in his morning attacks ; and it was these that were assailed 
by French and driven back in disorder to the sunken road.* 
Uniting here with the other brigades of Hill, they received 
the attacks both of French and of Richardson's division to 
his left, 

The latter division was composed of the brigades of 
Meagher, Caldwell, and Brooke. Meagher first attacked, and 
fought his way to the possession of a crest overlooking the 
sunken road in which Hill's line was posted. After sustaining 
a severe musketry fire, by which it lost severely, this brigade, 
its ammunition being expended, was relieved by the brigade 
of Caldwell — -the former breaking by companies to the rear, 
and the latter by companies to the front. Caldwell immedi- 
ately became engaged in a very determined combat, and was 
supported by part of Brooke's brigade, the rest of the latter 
being posted on the right to thwart an effort on the part of 
the enemy to flank in that direction. The action here was of 
a very animated nature ; for Hill, being re-enforced by the 
division of Anderson,t assumed a vigorous offensive, and en- 
deavored to seize a piece of high ground on the Union left, 

* These brigades were respectively those of Colquitt, Ripley, and McRae ; 
and General Hill mentions the following curious circumstance as the cause of 
the repulse that befell them : " The men advanced with alacrity, secured a 
good position, and were fighting bravely, when Captain Thompson, Fifth North 
Carolina, cried out, ' They are flanking us!' This cry spread like an electric 
shock along the ranks, bringing up vivid recollections of the flank fire at South 
Mountain. In a moment they broke and fell to the rear. Efforts were made 
to rally (hem in tin 1 bed of an okl road, nearly at right angles to the Hagers- 
town pike, and which had been their position previous to the advance.'' — Re 
ports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 115. 

f "In the mean time, General R. II. Anderson reported to me with some 
three or four thousand men as re-enforcements to my command. I directed 
him to form immediately behind my men." — Hill: Reports of the Army of 
Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 110. 


with the view of turning that flank. This manoeuvre was, 
however, frustrated by the skill and promptitude of Colonel 
Cross of the Fifth New Hampshire (Caldwell's brigade), who, 
detecting the danger, moved his regiment towards the men- 
aced point. Between his command and the Confederate force 
there then ensued a spirited contest — each endeavoring to 
reach the high ground, and both delivering their fire as they 
marched in parallel lines by the flank.* The race was won 
by Cross. The effort to flank on the right was handsomely 
checked by Brooke, French, and Barlow — the latter of whom, 
changing front with his two regiments obliquely to the right, 
poured in a rapid fire, compelling the surrender of three 
hundred prisoners with two standards. A vigorous direct 
attack was then made, and the troops succeeded in carrying 
the sunken road and the position, in advance, around what is 
known as Piper's House, which, being a defensible building, 
formed, with its surroundings, the citadel of the enemy's 
strength at this part of the Hue. The enemy was so much 
disorganized in this repulse that only a few hundred men 
were rallied on a crest near the Hagerstown road. This slight 
array formed the whole Confederate centre ; and there is little 
doubt that a more energetic following up of the success 
gained would have carried this position and fatally divided 
Lee's wings. t The few Confederates showed a very bold 
front, however, and, deceived by this, Richardson contented 

* Report of Richardson's division. (This report is made by General Han- 
cock, who was assigned to trie command on the field- of Antietam — General 
Richardson having been mortally wounded during the forenoon.) 

f This inference is strongly justified by the evidence of the Confederate re- 
ports. General Hill says : " There were no troops near to hold the centre 
except a few hundred rallied from various brigades. The Yankees crossed the 
old road, which we had occupied in the morning, and occupied an orchard and 
cornfield in advance of it. Affairs looked very critical. They had now got 
within a few hundred yards of the hill which commanded Sharpsburg and our 
rear. I was satisfied, however, that the Yankees were so demoralized that a 
single regiment of fresh men could drive the whole of them in our front across 
the Antietam. I got up about two hundred men, who said that they were will- 
ing to advance to the attack if I would lead them. We met, however, with a 


himself with taking up a position to hold what -was already 

Three out of the six corps of the Army of the Potomac, 
and thev the strongest, had thus been drawn into the scetli- 
ing vortex of action on the right ; and each hi succession, 
while exacting heavy damage of the enemy, had been so pun- 
ished as to h»se all offensive energy ; so that noon found them 
simply holding their own. Porter with his small reserve 
corps, numbering some fifteen thousand men, held the centre, 
while Burnside remained inactive on the left, not having yet 
passed the Antietam.* Now, between twelve and one o'clock, 
Franklin with two divisions of his corps, under Slocuin and 
W F. Smith (Couch remaining behind to occupy Maiyland 
Heights), reached the field of battle, from where the action at 
Crampton's Pass had left him. General McClellan had de- 
signed retaining Franklin on the east side of the Antietam, 
to operate on either flank or on the centre, as circumstances 
might require. But by the time he neared the field, the 
strong opposition developed bj r the attacks of Hooker and 
Sumner rendered it necessary for him to be immediately 
pushed over the creek to the assistance of the right. t The 
arrival of Franklin was opportune, for Lee had now accu- 
mulated so heavily on his left, and the repulse of Sumner's 
right under Sedgwick had been so easily effected, that the 
enemy began to show a disposition to resume the offensive — 
directing his efforts against that still loose-jointed portion of 
Sumner's harness, between his right and centre. General 

warm reception, and the little command was broken and dispersed. Colonel 
Ivcrson had gathered up about two hundred men, and I sent them to the right 
to attack the Yankees in flank. They drove them back a short distance, but, 
in turn, were repulsed. These two attacks, however, had a most happy effect. 
The Yankees were completely deceived by their boldness, and induced to be- 
lieve that there was a large force in our centre." — lleports of the Army of 
Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 117. 

'■* The left of Sumner's command was sustained by Pleasonton's cavalry di- 
vision and the horse batteries, to whose support most of Sykes' division 
(Porter's corps) in the afternoon crossed the Antietam 

f McClellan : Report, pp. 385, 386. 


Smith, with quick perception of the needs of the case, of his 
own accord filled up this interval with a part of his division ; 
and his third brigade, under Colonel Irwin, charged forward 
with much impetuosity, and drove back the advance until 
abreast the Dunker church. Though Irwin could not hold 
what he had wrested from the Confederates, his boldness, 
seconded by another charge made soon after by the Seventh 
Maine Regiment alone, served to quell the enemy's aggressive 
ardor. Franklin then formed the rest of his available force 
in a column of assault, with the intent to make another effort 
to gain the enemy's stronghold in the rocky woodland west 
of the Hagerstown turnpike — the woods Hooker had striven 
for, and Sumner had snatched and lost. But Sumner having 
command on the right, now intervened to postpone further 
operations on that flank, as he judged the repulse of the only 
remaining corps available for attack would peril the safety of 
the whole army.* 

It is now necessary to look to the other end of the Union 
line, held by the Ninth Corps under Burnside. This force 
lay massed behind the heights on the east bank of the 
Antietam, and opposite the Confederate right, which it was 
designed he should assail after forcing the passage of the 
Antietam by the lower stone-bridge. The part assigned to 
General Burnside was of the highest importance, for a 
successful attack by him upon the Confederate right would, 
by carrying the Sharpsburg crest, force Lee from his line of 
retreat by way of Shepherdstown. General McClellan, ap- 
preciating the full effect of an attack by his left, directed 
Burnside early in the morning to hold his troops in readinessf 
to assault the bridge in his front. Then, at eight o'clock, on 
learning how much opposition had been developed by Hooker, 
he ordered Burnside to carry the bridge, gain possession of 

* Franklin : Report of Antietam. 

t "Early on the morning of the 17th, I ordered General Burnside to form 
Ms troops and hold them in readiness to assault the bridge in his front and to 
await further orders."— McClellan : Report, p. 389. 


the heights, and advance along their crest upon Sharpsburg, 
as a diversion in favor of the right. Burnside's tentative 
were frivolous hi their character ; and hour after hour wen 
by, during which the need of his assistance became more ant 
more imperative, and McClellan's commands more and mor< 
urgent. Five hours, in fact, passed, and the action on thi 
right had been concluded in such manner as has been seen 
before the work that should have been done in the niorninj 
was accomplished. Encouraged by the ease with which tin 
left of the Union force was held in check, Lee was free t< 
remove two-thirds of the right wing under Longstreet— 
namely, the divisions of McLaws and Walker — and this forc< 
he applied at the point of actual conflict on his left, where 
as has already been seen, the arrival of these divisions servec 
to check Sumner in his career of victory, and hurl back Sedg 
wick. This step the Confederate commander never woulc 
have ventured on had there been any vigor displayed on thi 
part of the confronting force ; yet this heavy detachmen 
having been made from the hostile right, should have ren 
dered the task assigned to General Burnside one of com 
parative ease, for it left on that entire wing but a single hos 
tile division of twenty-five hundred men under General Jones 
and the force actually present to dispute the passage of thi 
bridge did not exceed four hundred.'!" Nevertheless, it wai 
one o'clock, and after the action on the right had been deter 
mined, before a passage was effected ; and this being done 
two hours passed before the attack of the crest was made.. 

"■ McClellan : Report, p. 390. 

\ These statements, surprising though they may seem, are not made a 
random, but rest on a sure basis of official evidence. General Jones, wh 
commanded the entire right, says : " When it is known that on that morninj 
my whole command of six brigades, comprised only two thousand four hun 
dred and thirty men, the enormous disparity of force with which I contend© 
can be seen." — Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 21S 
The force covering the bridge-head consisted of two regiments under Genera 
Toombs, numbering four hundred and three men. — Ibid. 

X " Though the bridge and upper ford were thus left open to the enemy, h 
moved with such extreme caution and slowness, that he lost nearly two hour 


This was successfully executed at three o'clock, the Sharps- 
burg ridge being carried and a Confederate battery that had 
been delivering an annoying fire, captured. It was one of the 
many unfortunate results of the long delay in this operation 
on the left that just as this success was gained, the division of 
A. P. Hill, which Jackson had left behind to receive the sur- 
render of Harper's Ferry, reached the field from that place by 
way of Shepherdstown,* and uniting his own re-enforcement 
of two thousand nient with the troops of Jones that had been 
broken through in the attack, he assumed the offensive, 
recaptured the battery, and drove back Burnside over all the 
ground gained, and to the shelter of the bluff bordering the 
Antietam. This closed the action on the left, and as that on 
the right had been suspended, the battle ceased for the day. 
It was found that the losses on the Union side made an ag- 
gregate in killed and wounded of twelve thousand five hun- 
dred men ; while the Confederate loss proves to have been 
above eight thousand.:): 

in crossing and getting into action on our side of the river; about which, 
time General A. P. Hill's division arrived from Harper's Ferry." — Toombs' 
Report : Ibid., p. 324. 

* This conjuncture is obtained by a comparison of the time of the attack 
and of the arrival of Hill. The assault was made about three o'clock, and 
Hill began to arrive about half-past two. " The head of my column arrived 
upon the battle-field of Sharpsburg, a distance of seventeen miles, at half-past 
two, and, reporting in person to General Lee, he directed me to take position 
on our right." — Hill : Keports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 128. 

t " The three brigades of my division actively engaged did not number 
over two thousand men, and these, with the help of my splendid batteries, 
drove back Burnside's corps of fifteen thousand men." — Hill : Ibid., p. 129. 
It appears, however, from Toombs' Report (Ibid., p. 325), that his brigade also 
aided in this counter-attack. 

| I give this only as an approximate estimate. General Lee gives his ag- 
gregate loss in killed and wounded in the Maryland campaign as ten thousand 
two hundred and ninety-one. As the killed and wounded in all the other ac- 
tions save Antietam were not above two thousand two hundred and ninety- 
one, it leaves about eight thousand for the casualties of that battle. Genera] 
McClellan states that about two thousand seven hundred of the Confederate 
dead were buried ; and taking this as a basis, and counting the usual propor- 


The morning of the 18th brought with it the grave question 
for McClellan whether to renew the attack or to defer it, 
even with the risk of Lee's retirement. After anxious de- 
liberation, he resolved to defer attack* during the 18th, with 
the determination, however, to renew it on the 19th, if 
re-enforcements, expected from Washington, should arrive. 
But during the night of the 18th, Lee withdrew across the 
Potomac, and by morning he stood again with his army on 
the soil of Virginia. This inactivity of McClellan after Au- 
tietam, has been made the theme for so much animadversion, 
that it may be proper to set forth briefly the facts that 
should guide criticism in this case. 

It should first of all be borne in mind that the action at 
Antietam, though a victory in its results, seeing that it so 
crippled Lee's force as to put an end to the invasion, was 
tactically a drawn battle — a battle in which McClellan had 
suffered as much as he had inflicted. In such cases, it re- 
quires in the commander a high order of moral courage to 
renew battle. An ordinary general, overwhelmed with his 
own losses, the sum and details of Avhich forcibly strike his 
mind, and powerfully appeal to his sensibilities, is apt to lose 
sight of those equal, or perhaps greater, suffered by the 
enemy ; and hence indecision, timidity, and consequent in- 
action. What McClellan knew was that the battle had cost 
the terrible sacrifice of over twelve thousand men ; that two 
of his corps were completely shattered, and that his oldest 
generals counselled a cessation of operations. ' He did not 
know, what is now a matter of historic certainty, that the 
Confederate army was by this time frightfully disorganized 
and almost at the end of its supplies both of food and am- 
munition. The general situation was, moreover, such as to 
inspire a circumspect policy on the part of McClellan ; for 
Virginia had been lost, and Maryland was invaded, and his 

tion of five wounded to one killed, the aggregate would be very much in excess 
ofOemru! Lee's statement. But it is needless to sound deeper in tliis sea of 

* M (.vidian's Report, p. 211. 


army was all that stood between Lee and "Washington, Balti- 
more, and Philadelphia. 

The conduct of a commander should be judged from the 
facts actually known to him ; and these were the facts known 
to General McClellan. Nevertheless, I make bold to say 
(and in doing so I think I am seconded by the opinion of a 
majority of the ablest officers then in the army*), that Gen- 
eral McClellan should have renewed the attack on the morn- 
ing of the 18th. This opinion is grounded in two reasons — 
the one, general in its nature ; the other, specific and tactical. 

If it is possible to imagine a conjuncture of circumstances 
that would authorize a general to act d V out ranee and with- 
out too nice a calculation of risks, it is when confronting an 
enemy who, having moved far from his base, has crossed the 
frontier, and being foiled in his plan of invasion, is seeking 
to make good his retreat. This was the situation of Lee. 
He was removed a very great distance from his base ; his plan 
of campaign had been baulked ; his army, reduced to half 
the effective of that of his opponent, was in a condition of 
great demoralization, and he had a difficult river at his back, 
McClellan stood on his base, with every thing at bis hand, 
and his troops, doing battle on loyal soil, fought with a verve 
and moral force they never had in Virginia and could be 
called on for unwonted exertion. 

But in addition to these considerations there is a special 
reason that promised a more successful result of an attack on 
the 18th than that which had attended the action of the 17th. 
The battle-field was by this time better understood ; and 
notably General McClellan had had his attention directed to 
that commanding ground on the right, before mentioned, 
which formed the key-point of the field ; but which, strange 
to say, had been overlooked the day before. It was proposed 
to seize this point with a part of Franklin's corps ; and had 

* I may here say that this opinion is shared by General Franklin, an officer 
distinguished, for the maturity of his military judgments. He,, at the time 
urged a renewal of the attack on the morning of the 18th. 


this been done, Jackson s position would have been wholbj 
untenable. Besides, Burnside held the debouche of the bridge 
on the extreme left, and threatened the Confederate right; 
and Porter's corps was fresh — having been in reserve the daj 
previous. If these considerations may be regarded as over- 
ruling the reasons that prompted McClellan to postpone at- 
tack, then his conduct must be looked upon as an error. 

The Confederate campaign in Maryland lasted precisely 
two weeks. Its failure was signal. Designed as an invasion, 
it degenerated into a raid. Aiming to raise the standard of 
revolt in Maryland, and rally the citizens of that State around 
the secession cause, it resulted in the almost complete dis- 
ruption of that army itself. Instead of the flocks of recruits 
he had expected, Lee was doomed to the mortification of 
seeing his force disintegrating so rapidly as to threaten its 
utter dissolution, and he confessed with anguish that his 
army was " ruined by straggling." * Having, therefore, lost 
all illusion respecting co-operation in Maryland, on which 
he had counted so confidently, it is not probable that Lee 
would have sought to push the invasion far, even had its 
military incidents turned out better for him ; but from the 
moment he set foot across the Potomac circumstances so 
shaped themselves as to thwart his designs. The retention of 
the garrison at Harper's Ferry compelled him to turn aside 

* The Confederate reports are replete with evidence of the enormous strag- 
gling that attended the Maryland campaign. Says Lee : " The arduous service 
in which our troops had been engaged, their great privations of rest and food, 
and the long marches without shoes over mountain roads, had greatly reduced 
our ranks before the action began. These causes had compelled thousands of 
brave men to absent themselves, and many more had done so from unworthy mo- 
tives. This great battle was fought by less than forty thousand men on our 
Bide."— Report, p. 35. Says Hill : " Had all our stragglers been up, McClellan's 
army would have been completely crushed or anniliilated. Thousands of thiev- 
ish poltroons had kept away from sheer cowardice. The straggler is generally 
a thief, and always a coward, lost to all sense of shame : he can only be kept in 
the ranks by a strict and sanguinary discipline." — Reports of Maryland Cam- 
paign, vol. ii., p. 119. 


and reduce that place. This required the presence of his 
whole army to cover the operation; and before it was com- 
pleted, McClellan had come up and forced him into a corner, 
so that he never was able to cany out his original design of 
taking up a position in Western Maryland, wdience to threaten 
Pennsylvania. Crippled at Antietam, he was fain to cross 
the Potomac, and seek in Virginia the opportunity to gather 
up the fragments of his shattered strength ; for he had no 
longer the army with which the campaign w T as begun. More 
than thirty thousand men of the seventy thousand with which 
he set out from Puchmond, were already dead or hors cle 
combat. The remainder were in a sorry plight. Both armies 
in fact felt the need of some repose ; and, glad to be freed 
from each other's presence,* they rested on their arms — the 
Confederates in the Shenandoah Yalley, in the vicinity of 
Winchester, and the Array of the Potomac near the scene of 
its late exploits, amid the picturesque hills and vales of 
Southwestern Maryland. 


The movement from Washington into Maryland to meet 
Lee's invasion, was defensive in its purpose, though it as- 
sumed the character of a defensive-offensive campaign. Now 
that this had been accomplished and Lee driven across 
the frontier, it remained to organize on an adequate scale the 
means of a renewal of grand offensive operations directed at 
the Confederate army and towards Richmond. The comple- 
tion of this work, including the furnishing of transportation, 
clothing, supplies, etc., required upwards of a month, and 

* On the retreat of Lee, a not very judicious pursuit into Virginia was made 
by a part of Porter's corps, but the pursuing column was soon driven back 
across the Potomac with considerable loss. 



(luring this period no military movement occurred, with thr 
exception of a raid into Pennsylvania by Stuart. About tin 
middle of October, that enterprising officer, with twelve 01 
fifteen hundred troopers, crossed the Potomac above AVilliams- 
port, passed through Maryland, penetrated Pennsylvania, 
occupied Chambersburg, where he burnt considerable govern- 
ment stoics, and after making the entire circuit of the 1'nion 
army, recrossed the Potomac below the mouth of the Monoc- 
acy. He was all the way closely pursued by Pleasonton with 
eight hundred cavalry, but though that officer marched 
seventy-eight miles in twenty-four hours, he was unable to 
intercept or overtake his fast-riding rival. 

On the recrossing of the Potomac by Lee after Antietam, 
McClellan hastened to seize the dchn/i <■},■/> of the Shenandoah 
Valley, by the possession of Harper's Ferry. Two corps 
were posted in its vicinity, and the Potomac and Shenandoah 
spanned by ponton-bridges. At first McClellan contemplated 
pushing his advance against Lee directly down the Shenan- 
doah Valley, as he found that, by the adoption of the line 
east of the Blue Bidge, his antagonist, finding the door open, 
would again cross to Maryland. But this danger being re- 
moved by the oncoming of the season of high-water in the 
Potomac, McClellan determined to operate by the east side of 
the Blue Eidge, and on the 2Gth his advance crossed the 
Potomac by a ponton-bridge at Berlin, five miles below Har- 
per's Ferry. By the 2d November the entire army had 
crossed at that point. Advancing due southward towards 
\Varrenton, he masked the movement by guarding the passes 
of the Blue Bidge, and by threatening to issue through these, 
he compelled Lee to retain Jackson in the Valley. With 
such success was this movement managed, that on reaching 
"Warrcnton on the 9th, while Lee had sent half of his army 
forward to Culpepper to oj^pose McClellan's advance in that 
direction, the other half was still west of the Blue Bidge, 
scattered up and down the Valley, and separated from the 
other moiety by at least two days' march. McClellan's next 
projected move was to strike across obliquely westward and 


interpose between the severed divisions of the Confederate 
force; but this step he was prevented from taking by his 
sudden removal from the command of the Army of the 
Potomac, while on the march to Warrenton. Late on the 
night of November 7th, amidst a heavy snow-storm, General 
Buckingham, arriving post-haste from Washington, reached 
the tent of General McClellan at Eectortown. He was the 
bearer of the following dispatch, which he handed to Genera] 
McClellan : 

General Orders, No. 182. 

War Department, Adjutant- General's Offiob, 
Washington, November 5, 1862. 

By direction of the President of the United States, it is ordered that 

Major-General McClellan be relieved from the command of the Army of the 

Potomac, and that Major-General Burnside take the command of that 


By order of the Secretary of War. 

E. D. Townsknd, 

Assistant Adjutant-General. 

It chanced that General Burnside was at the moment with 
him in his tent. Opening the dispatch and reading it, with- 
out a change of countenance or of voice, McClellan passed 
over the paper to his successor, saying, as he did so : " Well, 
Burnside, you are to command the army."* 

Thus ended the career of McClellan as head of the Army of 
the Potomac — an army which he had first fashioned, and then 
led in its maiden but checkered experience, till it became 
a mighty host, formed to war, and baptized in fierce battles 
and renowned campaigns. From the exposition I have given 
of the relations which had grown up between him and those 
who controlled the war-councils at Washington, it will have 
appeared that, were these relations to continue, it would have 
been better to have even before this removed McClellan — 
better for himself, and better for the country. This, indeed,. 

* Hurlbut : McClellan and the Conduct of the War. 


was practically done, when, on the return from the Peninsula, 
his troops were sent forward to join Pope ; hut the disastrous 
termination of that campaign prompted the recall of McClel- 
lan as the onlv man who could make the army efficient for 
the trying emergency Having accomplished his work of 
expelling Lee from Maryland, he entered, after a brief repose, 
on a new campaign of invasion ; and it was in the midst of 
this, and on the eve of a decisive blow, that he was suddenly 
removed. The moment chosen was an inopportune and an 
ungracious one ; for never had McClellan acted with such 
vigor and rapidity — never had he shown so much confidence 
in himself or the army in him. And it is a notable fact that 
not only was the whole body of the army — rank and file as 
well as officers — enthusiastic in their affection for his person, 
but that the very general appointed as his successor was the 
strongest opponent of his removal. 

The military character of McClellan will not be difficult to 
define, however much it is yet obscured by malicious detrac- 
tion on the one hand, or blind admiration on the other. 
He was assuredly not a great general ; for he had the pedan- 
try of war rather than the inspiration of war. His talent 
was eminently that of the cabinet ; and his proper place was 
in Washington, where he should have remained as general-in- 
chief. Here his ability to plan campaigns and form large 
strategic combinations, which was remarkable, would have had 
full scope ; and he would have been considerate and helpful 
to those in the field. But his power as a tactician was much in- 
ferior to his talent as a strategist, and he executed less boldly 
than he conceived : not appearing to know well those counters 
with which a commander must work — time, place, and circum- 
stance. Yet he was improving in this regard, and was like 
Turenne, of whom Napoleon said that he was the only exam- 
ple of a general who grew bolder as he grew older. 

To General McClellan personally it was a misfortune that 
he became so prominent a figure at the commencement of the 
contest ; for it was inevitable that the first leaders should be 
sacrificed to the nation's ignorance of war. Taking this into 


account, estimating both what he accomplished and what he 
failed to accomplish, in the actual circumstances of his per- 
formance, I have endeavored in the critique of his campaigns 
to strike a just balance between McClellan and history. Of 
him it may be said, that if he does not belong to that fore- 
most category of commanders made up of those who have 
always been successful, and including but a few illustrious 
names, neither does he rank with that numerous class who 
have ruined their armies without fighting. He ranges with 
that middle category of meritorious commanders, who, like 
Sertorius, Wallenstein, and William of Orange, generally un- 
fortunate in war, yet were, in the words of Marmont, " never 
destroyed nor discouraged, but were always able to oppose a 
menacing front, and make the enemy pay dear for what he 



Notembeb, 1862— January, 1863. 



To the general on whose shoulders was placed at this 
crisis the weighty burden of the conduct of the Army of the 
Potomac, the great responsibility came unsought and uncle- 
sired. Cherishing a high respect for McClellan's military 
talent, and bound to him by the ties of an intimate affection. 
General Burnside naturally shrank from superseding a com- 
mander whom he unfeignedly regarded as his superior in 
ability. The manly frankness with which Burnside laid bare 
at once his feelings towards his late chief and his own sense 
of inadequacy for so great a trust was creditable to him, and 
absolved him in advance from responsibilities half the weight 
of which at least was assumed by those who thrust the baton 
into his unwilling hands.* To the public his modest shrink- 

* General Burnside in his testimony before the Committee on the Conduct 
of the War makes a very frank statement of his opinion touching his own 
unfitness for the command of tlie army. "After getting over my surprise, tho 
shock, etc., I told General Buckingham [the officer who brought the order from 
■Washington assigning him to the command] that it was a matter that 
required very serious thought ; that I did not want the command ; that it had 
been offered to me twice before, and I did not feel that I could take it. * * I 
told them [his staff] what my views were with reference to my ability ti 
exercise such a command, which views were those I had always unreservedly 



ing and solicitude appeared the sign of a noble nature, 
wronging itself in its proper estimate, and it was judged that 
he was a man of such temper that the exercise of great trusts 
would presently bring him a sense of confidence and power. 
And, indeed, severely just though Burnside's judgment of his 
own capacity afterwards proved, there was at the moment no 
man who seemed so well fitted to succeed McClellan. Of the 
other corps commanders of the Army of the Potomac, no one 
had yet proved his capacity in the exercise of independent 
command. But Burnside, as chief of the North Carolina ex- 
pedition, brought the prestige of a successful campaign, and 
it was known that he had energy, perseverance, and above 
all, a high degree of patriotic zeal. Frank, manly, and 
generous in character, he was beloved by his own corps, and 
respected by the army generally. To the troops he was 
recommended as the friend and admirer of McClellan ; and in 
this regard, as representing a legitimate succession rather 
than the usurpation of a successful rival, he seemed the man 
of all others best fitted to smooth over the perilous hiatus 
supervening on the lapse from power of a commander who 
was the idol of the army. 

Upon assuming command of the army, General Burnside 
made at TVarrenton a halt of ten days, during which time he 
endeavored to get the reins into his hands, and he carried 
into execution a purpose he had formed of consolidating the 
six corps of the Army of the Potomac into three Grand Divi- 
sions of two corps each*— the Eight Grand Division being 

expressed — that I was not competent to command such a large army as this. 
I had said the same over and over again to the President and Secretary of 
War ; and also, that if things could be satisfactorily arranged with General 
McClellan, I thought he could command the Army of the Potomac better than 
any other general in it." — Report on the Conduct of the War, vol. i., p. 6o0. 

* The Right Grand Division was composed of the Second Corps under 
General Couch and the Ninth Corps under General Wilcox. The Centre 
Grand Division, of the Third Corps under General Stoneman and the Fifth 
Corps under General Butterfield. The Left Grand Division, of the First Corps 
ander General Reynolds and the Sixth Corps under General W F. Smith. 


placed under General Sumner, the Centre Grand Division 
under General Hooker, and the Left Grand Division under 
General Franklin. 

It need hardly be said that this protracted delay at the 
moment the army was manoeuvring to fight a great battle, 
however necessary General Burnside may have deemed it* 
was likely seriously to jeopardize the opportunity presented 
by the scattered condition of Lee's forces when the army 
reached "Warrenton. At that time the Confederate right, 
under Longstreet, was near Culpepper, and the left, under 
Jackson, in the Shenandoah Valley — the two wings being 
separated by two marches ; and it had been General 
McClellan's intent, by a rapid advance on Gordonsville, to 
interpose between Lee's divided forces. But this was not a 
matter that touched Burnside's plan ; for he had already 
resolved to abandon offensive action on that line, and was 
determined to make a change of base to Fredericksburg on 
the Rappahannock. 

It would be difficult to explain this determination on any 
sound military principle ; for while the destruction of the hos- 
tile army was, in the very nature of things, the prime aim 
and object of the campaign, General Burnside turned his back 
on that army, and set out upon a seemingly aimless adven- 
ture to the Rappahannock, whither, in fact, Lee had to ran in 
search of him. If it be said that Richmond was General 
Burnside's objective point, and that, regarding this rather 
than the hostile force, he chose the Fredericksburg hue as 
one presenting fewer difficulties than that on which the army 
was moving (the line of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad), 
the reply is, that an advance against Richmond was, at this 
season, impracticable by any line ; but a single march would 

* In a like case, when the army was manoeuvring to meet Lee's invasion 01 
Pennsylvania, General Meade being nominated to succeed General Hooker, 
put the troops in motion without an hour's delay — the columns moving on as 
it mi change had taken place. There were no circumstances that made the 
task easier in his case than in that of Burnside. 


have put him in position to give decisive battle under circum- 
stances eminently advantageous to him.* 

Military history is a repository of the brightest inspirations 
of genius and the wildest excesses of folly. It is therefore 
difficult for a general to commit a blunder so gross but that it 
can be matched by a precedent. Burnside's change of line 
of manoeuvre from one on which he had a positive objective — 
to wit, Lee's army — to Fredericksburg, where he had no ob- 
jective at all, is paralleled by Dumourier's conduct in Holland 
in 1793, respecting which Jomini remarks, that he " foolishly 
abandoned the pursuit of the allies in order to transfer the 
theatre from the centre to the extreme left of the general 
field."f But such instances are for the warning, rather than 
the imitation of commanders. 

The project of changing the line of operations to Freder- 
icksburg was not approved at Washington, but it was assented 
to ;% and on the 15th of November, General Burnside put his 
columns in motion from Warrenton. In the march towards 
Fredericksburg, it was determined that the army should 

* General Burnside, on coining into command of the army, drew up a plan 
of operations, which bears date, Warrenton, November 9, 1862, and is ad- 
dressed to the general-in-chief. In this paper, urging the adoption of the 
Fredericksburg route, he states his intention of making " a movement upon 
Richmond from that point ;" but the statement is made vaguely, and he post- 
pones giving " the details of the movement" till some time " hereafter." In 
point of fact, General Burnside had not matured any definite plan of action, for 
the reason that he hoped to be able to postpone operations till the spring. He 
did not favor operating against Richmond by the overland route, but had his 
mind turned towards a repetition of McClellan's movement to the Peninsula ; 
and in determining to march to Fredericksburg he cherished the hope of being 
able to winter there upon an easy base of supplies, and in the spring embark- 
ing his army for the James River. How he could have counted on being allowed 
to carry out a plan so adverse to the wishes of the Administration, and involv- 
ing what the public temper could not be expected to brook, the inaction ol 
the army for the winter, I do not undertake to say. I derive these revelations 
of General Burnside's motives and purposes from the corps-commander then 
Most intimate in his confidence. 

f Art of War, p. 106. 

t Halleck : Report of Military Operations, 1862-8. 


move by the north bank of the Eappahannock to Falmouth, 
where by a ponton-bridge, the boats for Avhich were to be 
forwarded from Washington, it would cross to Fredericksburg 
and seize the bluffs on the south bank. It had been also de- 
signed to march a force by the south side of the Eappahan- 
nock to anticipate the possession of the heights, but this 
was not done. Sumner's Grand Division led the van, and 
on the afternoon of the 17th it reached Falmouth, opposito 
Fredericksburg. The town was at this time occupied by a 
regiment of Virginia cavalry, four companies of Mississippi 
infantry, and one light battery. "When the head of Sumner's 
column reached the river these guns opened upon it from the 
heights above Fredericksburg, but they were in a few minutes 
silenced by a Union battery. The Eappahannock was at this 
time fordable at several points near Fredericksburg, and 
Sumner was exceedingly anxious to cross and take possession 
of the town and the heights in its rear, but was prevented 
from doing so by instructions from General Burnside.* The 

* Sumner : Report of Operations on the Rappahannock. In his evidence 
before the Congressional Committee, General Sumner says: " My orders were 
not to cross. But the temptation was strong to go over and take those guns 
the enemy had left. That same night I sent a note to General Burnside, asking 
if I should take Fredericksburg in the morning, should I be able to find a 
practicable ford, which, by the way, I knew when I wrote the note I could 
find. The general replied that he did not think it advisable to occupy Freder- 
icksburg until his communications were established," etc. — Report, p. 057. 

From the above it will be seen how erroneous is the statement of General 
Lee, who, in his official report, says : " The advance of General Sumner reached 
Falmouth on the afternoon of the 17th, and attempted to cross the Ixnppahan 
nock, but was driven back by Colonel Ball, with the Fifteenth Virginia Cavalry, 
four companies of Mississippi infantry, and Lewis's light battery." — Report ol 
Movements on the Rappahannock, p. 38. In point of fact, the only engage- 
ment was a brief artillery duel between the Confederate battery above men- 
tioned and Petitt's battery of ten-pounder Parrotts. The writer stood beside 
this battery at the time, and can testify that Petitt in fifteen minutes, by hia 
excellent si lots, caused the Confederate gunners to leave their guns; and the 
pieces were only dragged off by the men crawling up and attaching prulongea 
to them. General Leu's statement is almost too absurd to require serious 


following days, 19th and 20th, Hooker's and Franklin's grand 
divisions reached the Bappahannock, near which the entire 
Union array was now concentrated. 

At the time the army began its march from Warrenton, 
Long-street's corps was at Culpepper Courthouse, and Jack- 
son's corps (with the exception of one division that had been 
transferred to the east side of the Blue Bidge) was still in the 
Shenandoah Valley. In this situation, nothing can be ima- 
gined easier than for Lee, by a simple manoeuvre towards 
Warrenton, to have quickly recalled Burnside from his march 
towards Fredericksburg. The line of the Orange and Alex- 
andria Bailroad is the real defensive line for "Washington ; 
and experience has proved that a hostile force might always, 
by a mere menace directed against that line, compel the 
Union army to seek its recovery. General Lee either felt 
himself to be not in condition to attempt any offensive enter- 
prise at this time, or he was prevented from doing so by 
instructions frorn Biehmond ; for he adopted the less brilliant 
alternative of planting himself directly in the path of the 
Union army.* As soon as Burnside's intention of moving 
towards Fredericksburg was fully disclosed, Jackson's corps 
was directed on Orange Courthouse, and Longstreet was in- 
structed to march from Culpepper Courthouse on Fredericks- 
burg, which point his van reached two days after Sumner's 
arrival at Falmouth. A few days afterwards, Jackson's corps 
also was called up to the Bappahannock, which Lee assumed 
as his new defensive line.f 

Whatever may have been General Burnside's purpose in 
this transfer of the army, he could hardly have anticipated 
the result to which it conducted ; for having voluntarily 
moved away from the hostile force, that much more than any 
geographical point was the proper objective of his efforts, he 

* " It is not always by taking position in the direct patli of an enemy that 
his advance is opposed ; but sometimes points may be occupied on the flank 
with much advantage, so as to threaten his line of operations, if he ventures to 
pass."' — Dufour: Strategy and Tactics, p. 41. 

f Lee : Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. i., p. 38. 


cliose a new route to Richmond only to find his antagonist 
confronting him thereon ! 

It was now even questionable whether he would be able to 
obtain possession of Fredericksburg. The passage of the 
Rappahannock was no longer the simple problem it had been 
when Sumner first drew up at Falmouth ; for the rapidly ar- 
riving forces of Lee, gathering in strength on the menacing 
heights opposite, showed that the passage of the Rappahan- 
nock would cost a great battle. Nor was there at hand the 
means of making the crossing ; for by a blunder, the respon- 
sibility of which seems to be divided equally between General 
Halleck and General Burnside himself, no ponton-train had 
reached the army; and when, a week afterwards, it arrived, 
Lee's whole army had arrived also. Lee distributed his 
corps along the south bank of the river, and began the 
rapid construction of defences along the crest of hills in rear 
of Fredericksburg, extending from the river about a mile and 
a half above the town to the Fredericksburg and Richmond 
Railroad, three miles below the town.* Day by da}-, new 
earthwork epaulements for the protection of artillery made 
their appearance on the Fredericksburg ridge, till, at the end 
of a few weeks, its terraced heights, crowned with the formi- 
dable enginery of Avar, presented an inferno of fire into which 
no man nor army would willingly venture. 

Nevertheless, action was imperative ; and as soon as Burn- 
side had established his base at Aquia Creek, and connected 
it with his front of operations by the restoration of the rail- 
road, preparations were begun for a crossing of the Rappa- 
hannock. Now, from the situation of the opposing forces, 
this operation obviously resolved itself into the alternative of 
forcing a direct passage at Fredericksburg, or of making a 
turning movement on one or the other of the Confederate 
flanks. The formidable character of the Fredericksburg de- 
fences, plainly visible from the north bank, seemed to pre- 
clude the former plan. A turning operation on the Con- 

* Lee : Report of Operations on the Rappahannock, p. 39. 


federate right, by a movement down the Kappahannock, was 
therefore discussed, and it was at first determined to make 
the passage at Skenker's Neck, twelve miles below Falmouth. 
But the preparations for this move were discovered by the 
enemy, who concentrated below to meet the threatened ad- 
vance, and the purpose was abandoned.* 

There remained the operation against the Confederate left 
by a movement up the Eappahannock. This plan does not, 
however, appear to have been entertained at this time, not- 
withstanding that it was what seemed to be dictated by sound 
military considerations. As a tactical operation, it was easier 
than to make the passage below Fredericksburg, t and it gave 
the direction of attack on Lee's left, which was his strategic 
flank ; for the manoeuvre, if successful, would throw the en- 
emy back towards the coast. But there were other consider- 
ations that determined Burnside's plan. It was discovered 
that the preparations that had been made to cross at Skenk- 
er's Xeck had so engaged Lee's attention, that he continued 
to hold a considerable force near that point ; and Burnside 
judged that by making a direct crossing at Fredericksburg, 
he might surprise Lee thus divided. It will be conceded that 
if this purpose could have been successfully executed, the 
result would have been eminently advantageous ; but it is far 
from clear how its successful execution could have been 
reasonably expected. The passage of a river by a great 

* '* On the 3d of December, my division was sent to Port Royal, a few miles 
below Skenker's Neck, to prevent the crossing of the Yankees at or near that 
point." — General D. H. Hill : Report of Operations on the Rappahannock. 
Up to the time of the battle of Fredericksburg, Longstreet's command held the 
heights at the town ; Hill remained at Port Royal, and the rest of Jackson's 
corps " was so disposed as to support Hill or Longstreet, as occasion might re- 
quire." — Lee : Report of Fredericksburg, p. 38. Hill on the 5th succeeded in 
driving off several Union gunboats that attempted to ascend the Rappahannock 
towards Fredericksburg. 

f The Rappahannock below Fredericksburg increases rapidly in width, and 
at the first available point below Skinker's Neck would require one thousand 
feet of bridging, whereas above Banks' Ford from two to three hundred feet 
would suffice. — Warren : Report of Engineer Operations on the Rappahannock. 


army, observed by a watchful opponent, is not an operation 
of the nature of a coup dc nvn'n ; and unless the enemy could 
neither see nor act, it was manifest he might concentrate his 
force as rapidly as the assailant could defile on the south- 
ern bank. Now this remote contingency of a surprise was 
the sole recommendation of the operation ; for, otherwise, the 
attack of the fortified position behind Fredericksburg was 
not of a kind to be voluntarily undertaken. It was certainly a 
slender chance on which to hazard the issue of a great battle : 
but Burnside boldly accepted the risk. The 10th of December 
found the preliminary preparations completed, and it was 
determined to force the passage of the Rappahannock the 
following day. 



Viewed as a tactical operation, the passage of the Bappa- 
hannock at Fredericksburg presented no formidable diffi- 
culties ; and, indeed, the configuration of the ground is such 
that it is not in the power of an enemy occupying the south 
side to prevent it. On both banks of the stream, and parallel 
with its course, there runs a well-defined crest of hills ; but 
that on the northern side, named the Stafford Heights, ap- 
proaches close to the river's margin and commands the oppo- 
site side, where the heights stand at a distance of from three- 
quarters of a mile to a mile and a half from the bank. Union 
artillery could therefore control the intermediate plain, and it 
was believed that it could neutralize the efforts of the enemy 
to oppose the construction of bridges. But the thought of 
what must come after the crossing was one to give pause to 
every reflecting mind. 

During the night of the 10th, under direction of Chief-of- 
Artillei-y Hunt, the Stafford Heights were crowned by a power- 

Map of llip 


DEC 13th. 1862 

A - 3~ - 


■ - - - -- f'mon. Troops . 

3. inrles 

(bn/edesrtte Troops. 

h.Mrxidr's /itrthest. ad in rice 

B. Gibbons 

C^re rirJi H ruicoe k X- Howard. m«im;<l /or tM,,,,,.!*/,,* ufd*A,-mr ofeAe r„Q>„«*c 

a Oia/rje of 7're/r /filer's Brig 
b L awe's 


ful artillery force, consisting of twenty-nine batteries ol one 
hundred and forty-seven guns, destined to reply to the enemy's 
batteries, to control his movements on the plain, to command 
the town, and to protect and cover the crossing. At the same 
time, the troops were moved forward to positions immediately 
behind the ridge, and the ponton-trains were drawn down to 
the river's brink. It had been determined to span the stream 
by five ponton-bridges — three directly opposite the city, and 
two a couple of miles below. On the former, Sumner's and 
Hooker's Grand Divisions were to cross, while Franklin's 
Grand Division was to make the passage by the lower bridge. 

Before dawn of the morning of the 11th, the boats were un- 
shipped from the teams at the river's brink ; and, swiftly and 
silently, the engineer troops proceeded to their work, amid 
a dense fog that filled the valley and water-margins, and 
through which the moving bridge-builders appeared as spec- 
tral forms. But no sooner did the artificers attempt to begin 
the construction of the bridges than they were met by volleys 
of musketry at short range from the riflemen posted opposite, 
behind the stone houses and walls of the river-street of Fred- 
ericksburg ; and instantly the double report of a piece of 
ordnance boomed out on the dawn. This was the signal-gun 
that summoned the scattered Confederate corps to assemble 
for the long-expected attack.* 

Aware, from the configuration of the ground, that he could 
not hope to prevent the passage of the stream, Lee made his 
dispositions to resist the advance after crossing.! He, how- 

* " The artificers had but got fairly to work when the firing of two guns from 
one of the enemy's batteries announced that we were discovered. They were, 
doubtless, signal-guns." — \V Swixiton : Correspondence of New York Times, 
December 13, 1802. General Longstreet says: "At three o'clock, our signal- 
guns gave notice of the enemy's approach. The troops, being at their different 
camp-grounds, were formed immediately, and marched to their positions along 
the line." — Confederate Eeports of Fredericksburg, p. 428. 

f " The plain of Fredericksburg is so completely commanded by the Stafford 
Heights that no effectual opposition could be made to the construction of 
bridges or the passage of the river. Our position was therefore selected with a 
view to resist the enemy's advance after crossing." — Lee : Report of the Batcle 
of Fredericksburg, p. 39. 


ever, caused a couple of regiments of Mississippi riflemen to 
be posted behind the stone walls of the river-street of Fred- 
ericksburg, to resist, as long as might lie, the construction of 
the bridges. An unexpected success attended their efforts. 
At the point assigned for Franklin's crossing, two miles below 
the town, there was no such protection for the sharp-shooters, 
and they were therefore covered by rifle-trenches near the 
river's brink. But Franklin soon succeeded in dislodging 
this force, and by noon two bridges were available for the 

The attempt to construct the bridges opposite the town, 
however, met a different fate ; for the keen- eyed marksmen 
opposed so vigorous an opposition to the laying of the pon- 
tons that the little band of engineers, murderously thinned, 
was presently compelled to slacken work, and then cease 
altogether.* Several hours passed in renewed but unavailing 
efforts, and it became clear that nothing could be done until 
the sharp-shooters were dislodged from their lurking-places. 
To accomplish this, Burnside, at ten o'clock, gave the com- 
mand to concentrate the fire of all the artillery on the city and 
batter it down. On this there opened from the massive con- 
centration of artilleiy a terrific bombardment that was kept 
up for above an hour. Each gun fired fifty rounds, and I 
know not how many hundred tons of iron were thrown into 
the town. Of the effect of this, however, nothing could be 
seen, for the city was still enveloped in mist ; but presently a 
dense pillar of smoke, defining itself on the background of fog, 
showed that the town had been fired by the shells ; and at 
noon the curtain rolled up, and it was seen that Fredericks- 
burg was in flames at several points. Appalling though the 
bombardment was as a spectacle, it was of very slight military 

* Two regiments of Hancock's division, sent to cover the working parties 
engaged in building the bridge directly opposite Fredericksburg, soon lost from 
their thin ranks one hundred and fifty men. — Hancock : Report of Fredericks- 
burg. These regiments were, the Fifty-Seventh New York, Lieutenant-Colonel 
Chapman, and the Sixty-Sixth New York, Lieutenant-Colonel Bull, of Zook's 
brigade, Hancock's division, Couch's corps. 


advantage ;* the hostile force lay out of range behind the hills 
in rear of the town, and the artillerists were unable to give 
sufficient depression to their guns to reach the river-front of 
the city, along which the marksmen were posted, and the con- 
flagration did not extend but died out. 

During the thick of the bombardment, a fresh attempt was 
made to complete the one half-finished bridge opposite the 
town ; but this too failed. The day was wearing away, and 
affairs were at a dead-lock. In this state of facts, the chief 
of artillery, Brigadier-General Hunt, an officer of a remark- 
ably clear judgment, made a suggestion that proved the fit 
thing to be done. He proposed that a party should be sent 
across the river in the open ponton-boats, and that after dis- 
lodging or capturing the opposing force, the bridges should 
be rapidly completed. The Seventh Michigan Eegiment and 
the Nineteenth and Twentieth Massachusetts regiments of 
Howard's division volunteered for this perilous enterprise. f 

Ten ponton-boats were lying on the brink of the river 
waiting to be added to the half-finished bridge. Bushing 
down the steep bank, the party found shelter behind these- 
and behind the piles of planking destined for the covering of 
the bridge ; and in this situation they acted for fifteen or 
twenty minutes as sharp-shooters, to hold in check the South- 
ern tirailleurs opposite, while the boats were pushed into the 
stream. This being accomplished, the men quickly sought 
the boats, pushed off, and the oarsmen pulling lustily, they in 
a few minutes, notwithstanding the severe fire by which 
several were killed or wounded, came under cover of the 
opposite bluff. Other boats followed, and so soon as an 
adequate number of men were assembled on the Southern 

* It has, indeed, seldom been found that such bombardments of towns are 
of any avail, and, as Carnot observes, they are generally adopted only when 
real means are lacking. " Les bombardemens sont en general beaucoup moins 
a craindre qu'on ne le pense ordinairement. On les employe lorsqu'on 
manque de moyens reels." — De la Defense des Places Fortes : Bibliotheqvw 
Militaire, tome v., p. 523. 

f Couch's Report of Fredericksburg. 



side, they rushed up the steep bank, when the Confederate 
marksmen, seeing the new turn of affairs, emerged from 
cellar, rifle-pit, and stone wall, and scampered off up the 
streets of the town; but upwards of a hundred of them 
were captured. The buildings that had afforded shelter for 
the sharp-shooters were taken possession of, and the ponton- 
bridges were in a few minutes completed. 

Thus by a simple stroke of genius was accomplished what 
the powerful enginery of a hundred guns had failed to effect. 
The affair was gallantly executed, and the army, assembled on 
the northern bank, spectators of this piece of heroism, paid 
the brave fellows the rich tribute of soldiers' cheers. 

That evening Howard's division of Couch's corps crossed 
the river and occupied Fredericksburg, having a sharp skir- 
mish in the upper streets of the town ; and the next day, under 
cover of a fog, the other divisions of Couch's corps, and the 
Ninth Corps under General "Wilcox (thus including the entire 
Eight Grand Division under Sumner), passed to the south side 
of the Kappahannock. At the same time, Franklin crossed 
several divisions of his command by the bridges he had con- 
structed below. The Centre Grand Division under Hooker 
was still held on the north bank of the river. The whole of 
the 12th of December was consumed in passing over the 
columns and reconnoitring the Confederate position. The 
troops lay on their arms for the night under that December 
sky: then dawned the morning of Saturday, the 13th, and 
this was to be the day of the battle. 

Eight-and-forty hours had now passed since that signal 
gun, booming out on the dawn, sounded the note of concen- 
tration for the Confederate forces. Longstreet's corps was 
already at Fredericksburg ; Jackson held the stretch of river 
below — his right at a remove of eighteen miles. But he had 
had abundant time to call in his scattered divisions, and the 
morning of the 13th found the entire Confederate army in 
position.* Whatever hope of a successful issue attached to 

* " Early on the morning of the 13th, Ewell's division under General 


General Burnside's plan of attack rested on the hypothesis 
that the crossing of the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg 
could be made a surprise.* But this expectation had been 
grievously disappointed, and it -would have been a judicious 
measure then to have made other dispositions ;t for the naked 
enterprise, stripped of this hope, was of a very desperate 
character. A brief description of the terrain will serve to 
prove this. 

The battle-field of Fredericksburg presents the character 
of a broken plain stretching back from the southern margin 
of the Rappahannock from six hundred yards to two miles, 
at which distance it rises into a bold ridge that forms a 
slight angle with the river, and is itself dominated by an 
elevated plateau. This ridge is, from Falmouth down to 
where it touches Massaponax Creek about six miles long, and 
this was the vantage-ground of the Confederates which they 
had strengthened with earthworks and crowned with artillery. 
In rear of the town the plain is traversed by a canal, at right 
angles with which run two roads leading up to the heights,! 
which rise abruptly at the distance of a few hundred yards. 

Early, and the division of D. H. Hill, arrived after a severe night's march from 
their respective encampments in the vicinity of Buckner'e Neck and Port 
Royal— the troops of Hill being from fifteen to eighteen miles distant from 
the point to which they were ordered." — Jackson: Report of Fredericksburg 
in Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 434. 

* " I decided to cross here because I felt satisfied that they did not expect us 
to cross here, but down below." — Burnside's Evidence : Report on the Conduct 
of the War, vol. i., p. Co 2. 

f A commander of any fertility of resource might readily have devised 
modifications of the plan adapted to the altered state of affairs. I shall men- 
tion one move that would have been promising. The passage of the river at 
Fredericksburg was made for a real attack. Burnside might have converted 
it into a feint ; he might have made threatening demonstrations of attack 
with Sumner's command, and meanwhile, he might have thrown Hooker's 
two corps up by Banks' or United States Ford, to execute a turning movemen 
on Lee's left. Hooker could have been strengthened almost indefinitely, and it 
is difficult to see why this operation should have failed of success. 

% The road to the right leads from Fredericksburg to Culpepper ; that to 
the left, named the " Telegraph Road," from Fredericksburg to Richmond. 


This position formed the left of the Confederate line, and 
here Lee disposed Longstreet's corps. It was these heights 
that the right of the Union army under Sumner was destined 
to assail. The left of the Union line composed of the Grand 
Division of Franklin was, as already stated, two miles below 
Fredericksburg. The plain here stretches to a width of two 
miles, and is scolloped by spurs of hills, less elevated than 
those in the rear of the town and clothed with dark pines 
and leafless oaks. This position, forming the right of the 
Confederate line, was held by Jackson's corps ; Stuart, with 
two brigades of cavalry and his horse artillery, formed the 
extreme right extending to Massaponax Creek.* 

The nature of the ground manifestly indicated that the 
main attack should be made by Franklin on the left ; for the 
field there affords ample space for deployment out of hostile 
range, whereas the plain in the rear of Fredericksburg, re- 
stricted in extent and cut up by ditches, fences, and a canal, 
caused every movement to be made under fire, presented no 
opportunity for manoeuvre, and compelled a direct attack on 
the terraced heights, whose frowning works looked down in 
grim irony on all attempt at assault. 

In the framing of his plan of battle, General Burnside con- 
formed to the obvious conditions of the problem before him, 
and caused it to be understood that General Franklin, who, 
in addition to his own two corps, had now with him one of 
Hooker's corps — that is, about one-half the whole army — 
should make the main attack from the left, and that upon his 
success should be conditioned the assault of the heights in 
rear of the town by Sumner. Such, at least, was the plan of 
action as understood by his lieutenants, who were to carry it 
into execution. When, however, on the morning of the 13th, 
the commanders of the two bodies on the left and right, Gen- 
erals Franklin and Sumner, received their instructions, it was 
found that having framed one plan of battle, General Burnside 
had determined to fight on another. I must add that the dis- 

* Lee's Report : Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. i., p. 40. 


positions were such that it would be difficult to imagine any 
worse suited to the circumstances. 

Franklin, in place of an effective attack, was directed to 
make a partial operation of the nature of a reconnoissance in 
force, sending " one division, at least, to seize, if possible, the 
heights near Hamilton's Crossing, and taking care to keep it 
well supported and its line of retreat open," while he was to 
hold the rest of his command " in position for a rapid move- 
ment down the old Richmond road."* General Sumner's 
instructions were of a like tenor : he was to " form a column 
of a division for the purpose of pushing in the direction of the 
telegraph and plankroads, for the purpose of seizing the 
heights in rear of the town," and "hold another division in 
readiness to support in advance of this movement, "t 

General Burnside's plan thus contemplated two isolated 
attacks by fractional forces, each of one or at most two divi- 
sions, one on the right and the other on the left. Such par- 
tial attacks seldom succeed, and directed against such a citadel 
of strength as the Confederate position at Fredericksburg, 

* For the full t«t of the order from Burnside to Franklin, see Report on 
the Conduct of the War, vol. i., p. 701. 

On receipt of this order by Franklin, at half-past seven of the morning of 
the 13th, it was so different from what he had expected — so different from what 
General Burnside had given him reason to expect the night before — that he 
consulted with Ids two c< >rps-commandcrs, General Reynolds and Smith, and 
they concluded from its terms that it meant there should be simply an armed 
reconnoissance with a single division, especially as the main point of the order, 
twice referred to, was that the command should be " kept in readiness for a 
rapid movant nt along the old Richmond road." — Franklin's testimony : Report 
on the Conduct of the War, vol. i., p. 708. 

I have in my possession a copy of an elaborate statement on this point by 
General W. F Smith, sworn to by him before a magistrate. In this he says . 
" General Franklin showed the order immediately to General Reynolds and 
myself, and the conclusion of all of us was that General Burnside had deter- 
mined not to adopt the plan of making the attack in force from the left. No 
one differed in what was intended by the order." 

f I derive this statement of General Sumner's instructions from Couch's 
Report of the Battle of Fredericksburg, in which Burnside's orders to Sumnei 
are given. 


sucli feeble sallies "were simply ludicrous. Not a man in the 
ranks but felt the hopelessness of the undertaking.* 

The morning of the 13th found the sun struggling "with a 
thick haze that enveloped Fredericksburg and overhung the 
circumjacent valley, delaying operation for some hours.t 
But towards ten o'clock the lifting fog revealed the left of the 
army, under Franklin, spread out on the plain, and showed 
the gleaming bayonets of a column advancing to the attack. 
I shall first detail the operations on the left and then return 
to Sumner's force, which remained yet in the town. 

In obedience to his instructions, Franklin threw forward 
Meade's division, supported by Gibbon's division on the right, 
with Doubleday's in reserve for any emergency. Meade ad- 
vanced across the plain, but had not proceeded far before he 
was compelled to stop and silence a battery that Stuart had 
posted on the Port Royal road, and which had a flank fire on 
his left. This done, he pushed on, his line preceded by a 
cloud of skirmishers, and his batteries vigorously shelling the 
heights and woods in his front. This caused considerable loss 
to Hill, who held Jackson's advanced line ;% but the Confed- 
erates concealed in the woods made no reply from artillery or 
infantry, until Meade arrived within point-blank range, when, 
suddenly opening, shell and canister were poured in from the 
long silent Confederate batteries. Yet this did not stay him ; 

* That it may appear this is not a judgment penned apn's coup, I add 
the following, written by the author of this volume on the field : " It was with 
pain and alarm I found this morning a general want of confidence and gloomy 
forebodings among officers whose sound judgment I had learned to trust. The 
plan of attacking the rebel stronghold directly in front would, it was feared, 
prove a most hazardous enterprise. It was doubted that the co-operation of 
the right and left could be effective. ' The chess-board,' said Napoleon, in 
1813, 'is dreadfully confused {embrouiltt). There is but I that see through 
it.' We all felt the application of the first part of this saying to our case. 
But did we feel equally confident that there was in our case an ' I' that saw 
through it '!" — W Swinton : Correspondence of N. Y. Times, Dec. Vo, 1862. 

\ '' The dense fog in the twilight concealed the enemy from view ; but his 
c< immands, ' Forward, guide centre, march !' were distinctly heard at different 
points near my right." — Longstreet : Report of Fredericksburg. 

t Hill's Report : Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 464. 


and the line advanced so boldly that the three Confederate 
batteries posted in advance of the railroad had to be hastily 

The division of Hill which held Jackson's advanced line was 
thus disposed : the brigades of Archer, Lane, and Pender 
from right to left, with Gregg's in rear of the interval between 
Archer and Lane, and Thomas's in rear of that between Lane 
and Pender. Meade pushed forward his line impetuously, 
drove back Lane through the woods, and then, wedging in be- 
tween Lane and the brigade on his right (Archer's) swept back 
the right flank of the one and the left flank of the other, cap- 
turing above two hundred prisoners and several standards, 
crossed the railroad, pushed up the crest, and reached Gregg's 
position on a new military road which Lee had made for the 
purpose of establishing direct connection between his two 
wings, and behind which Jackson's second line was posted.* 

And now was seen the farcical character of Burnside's order 
of attack, by which a single division of five thousand men was 
assigned the work of fifty thousand. For, in assaults of this 
kind, there comes a moment of supreme importance, when the 
attacking column, having carried the enemy's first line, must 
assure its victory by a decisive blow, or be driven back by the 
hostile reserves and lose the fruit of all its toil. In this 
moment of intoxication and peril, the attacking line, confused 
and disintegrated by its advance, must be instantly supported 
by a fresh body, to consolidate and crown the victory, or else 
the enemy rallies and repels the victors. 

Such was precisely the result that happened to Meade ; for 
no sooner had he penetrated to the military road behind 
which the Confederate second line lay, than he was met by a 
fire for which he was not at all prepared. " The advancing 

* The importance of this road has been greatly exaggerated by General 
Burnside : it was made merely for convenience of transportation, and was in 
no sense a key-point. Meade's attack was certainly made in a spirited manner, 
but its success has also been much over-estimated. The dispositions and force 
of the Confederates plainly show that nothing could have resulted even had 
Franklin's entire Grand Division been put in. 


columns of the enemy," says General Hill,* " had encountered 
an obstacle in the military road which they little expected — 
Gregg's brigade of South Carolinians stood in the way." It 
appears that the advancing Federals were mistaken for a 
body of Confederate troops, and Gregg would not allow his men 
to open on them. When their true character was revealed, 
the brigade poured a withering fire into the faces of Meade's 
men ; and, at that moment, Early's division — one of the two 
divisions of Jackson's second line — swept forward at the 
double-quick, and instantly turned the tide.t Exposed to fire 
on both flanks, Meade was forced to draw back, losing 
severely in the process ; and the disaster would have been 
much greater had not supports been at hand. General Frank- 
lin, giving a liberal interpretation to Burnside's prescription of 
" one division at least" for the column of attack, had put in not 
only Meade's division but Gibbon's division and Doubleday's 
division, making the whole of Reynolds' corps. Doubleday, 
early in the attack, was turned off to the left to meet a menace 
by the enemy from that direction ; but Gibbon advanced on the 
right of Meade, and, though he did not push on as far as the 
latter, he helped stem the hostile return, and assisted in the 
withdrawal of Meade's shattered line.J In addition to these 
two divisions, General Franklin ordered forward Birney's divi- 
sion of Stoneman's coi^ps ; and Birney arrived in such time 
that, when the troops of Meade and Gibbon were broken and 
flying in confusion, he presented a firm line that checked the 
Confederate pursuit.§ Meade's loss was very heavy — upwards 

* Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 403. 

f I learn from Colonel Marshall of the staff of General Lee, that General 
Gregg was killed on the military road while beating down the muskets of his 
men to prevent them firing into what he supposed was a body of Confederate 

\ Meade : Report of Fredericksburg. 

§ " As I advanced with my command to the crest of the hill, I found 
Meade's entire command — two divisions — in utter confusion, and flying in all 
directions without order from the field. At General Meade's request I tried to 
stop the rout with my command, and deployed two regiments to try to stop 
the fugitives ; but it was useless — they went right through us. The enemy 


of fort}- per cent, of his whole command ; and the aggregate 
loss hi Reynolds' corps was upwards of four thousand men. 

At the time the attack on the left was fully developed, 
Sumner, on the right, was instructed to assail the height back 
of Fredericksburg. He also was ordered to make the attack 
with a single division, supported by another. Of the two 
corps composing Sumner's Grand Division, Couch's (Second) 
corps occupied the town, and Wilcox's (Ninth) held the inter- 
val between the left of Couch and the right of Franklin's 
command. The attack, therefore, fell to the lot of Couch ; 
and, in accordance with instructions, he ordered forward 
French's division from the town at noon, to be followed and 
supported b} r Hancock's division.* 

French, debouching from the town, moved out on the plank 
and telegraph roads, and, crossing the canal, found a rise of 
ground, under cover of which he deployed his troops in 
column of attack with brigade front, f Hancock's division 
followed and joined the advance of French.^ Even while 
moving through the town, and marching by the flank, the 
troops were exposed to a very severe fire from the enemy's 

pursued them closely with great slaughter, as they fled from the field. The 
pursuit was so close that they came within fifty yards of my guns. I think it 
was Early's division," etc. — Testimony of General Birney : Eeport on the Con- 
duct of the War, vol. i., p. 705. General Meade's own report, as well as the 
Confederate reports, agree substantially with this account. See Hill's Eeport : 
Reports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 403 ; Early's Report : 
Ibid., p. 4G9. Birney s statement, regarding the pursuing column being that of 
Early, is curiously corroborated by the official report of the latter, in which he 
states that his division " was compelled to fall back from the pursuit by a 
large column on its right flank, which proved to be Birney 's division," etc — 
Ibid., p. 470. 

* Couch : Report of Fredericksburg. 

f " General Kimball's brigade was in front, and by its subsequent conduct 
showed itself worthy to lead. It was followed in succession by the brigades of 
Colonel J. W Andrews, First Delaware, and Colonel Palmer, One Hundred 
and Eighth New York." — Couch : Report of Fredericksburg. 

X Hancock's formation was the same as that of French : " brigade front with 
intervals of two hundred paces — the brigades in the order of Zook, Meagher, 
and Caldwell." — Hancock: Report of Fredericksburg. 


batteries on the heights, against -which it soon became im- 
possible for the numerous Union artillery on the north bank 
of the Rappahannock to direct its fire, seeing that the missiles 
presently began to play havoc with the columns advancing 
over the plain.* 

Longstreet, who held the position in the rear of Fredericks- 
burg, forming the Confederate left, had taken up as his ad- 
vance line the stone wall and rifle-trenches along the telegraph 
road, at the foot of Marye's Heights ; and here he posted a 
brigade, afterwards re-enforced by another brigade. t But 
the whole plain was swept by a direct and converging fire 
from the numerous batteries on the semicircular crest above, 
and behind this lay the heavy Confederate reserves — un- 
needed, as it proved, for a few men were enough to do the 
bloody work. Under orders, nothing was left but to assail 
this position ; so French first was thrown forward from the 
rise of ground, where he had formed, towards the foot of the 
heights. No sooner had this division burst out on the plain, 
than from the batteries above came a frightful fire — cross 
showers of shot and shell opening great gaps in the ranks ; 
but " closing up," the ever-thinning lines pressed on, and had 
passed over a great part of the interval, when met by volleys 
of musketry at short range. They fell back, shattered and 
broken, Avitli a loss of near half their number, amid shouts 
and yells from the enemy. Close behind French came up 
Hancock, and, being joined by such portions of French's 
command as still preserved their formation, his three bri- 
gades valiantly advanced under the same terrific fire, passed 

* " Our artillery being in position, opened fire as soon as the masses be 
came dense enough to warrant it. This fire was very destructive and demoral- 
izing in its effects, and frequently made gaps in the enemy's ranks that could 
be seen at the distance of a mile." — Longstreet : Report of Fredericksburg. 

f This position was first held by the brigade of R. R. Cobb, re-enforced in 
the afternoon by Kershaw's brigade, both of McLaws' division ; and this small 
force, not exceeding seventeen hundred men, was all that was found necessary 
to repulse the numerous assaults made by the Union columns. — McLaws : Re- 
ports of the Army of Northern Virginia, vol. ii., p. 445. 


the point French had reached, and like those that went before 
them, were forced back after little more than fifteen im- 
mortal minutes. Of the five thousand men Hancock led into 
action, more than two thousand fell in that charge ; and it 
was found that the bravest of these had thrown up their 
hands and lay dead within five-and-twenty paces of the stone 
wall.* To relieve Hancock's and French's hard-pressed bat- 
talions, Howard's division now came up, and Sturgis' and 
Getty's divisions of the Ninth Corps advanced on Couch's 
left, and made several attacks in support of the brave troops 
of the Second Corps, who could not advance and would not 
retire ; but all these could do was to hold a line well ad- 
vanced on the plain under a continual murderous fire of ar- 

It is hardly to be supposed that General Burnside had con- 
templated the bloody sequence to which he was committing 
himself when first he ordered a division to assail the heights 
of Fredericksburg ; but having failed in the first assault, and 
then in the second and third, there grew up in his mind some- 
thing which those around him saw to be akin to desperation. 
Riding down from his headquavtersf to the bank of the Rap- 
pahannock, he walked restlessly up and down, and gazing 
over at the heights across the river, exclaimed vehemently, 
" That crest must be carried to-night.":}: Already, however, 
every thing had been thrown in, except Hooker, and he was 
now ordered over the river. 

Crossing with three of his divisions, Hooker went forward, 
reconnoitred the ground, consulted with those who had pre- 

* Hancock took five thousand and six men into action, and Ms loss. num- 
bered two thousand and thirteen men, of whom one hundred and fifty-six were 
commissioned officers. The losses in some of the regiments were of a severity 
seldom seen in any battle, no matter how prolonged. " These were veteran 
regiments," says Hancock, " led by able and tried commanders."— Report oi 

f At the " Phillips House," a mile or so back from the river. 

\ These statements are made from the personal knowledge of the writer, in 
whose presence what is related occurred. 


ceded him in action, saw that the case was hopeless, and 
went to beg Burnside to cease the attack. But Burnside in- 
sisted.* Couch had already thrown forward two batteries to 
within one hundred and fifty yards of the enemy's works, and 
endeavored to make a breach large enough for the entrance 
of a forlorn hope. After a vigorous cannonading, without 
any perceptible effect, Humphrey's division was formed in 
column of assault and ordered in. They were directed to 
make the assault with empty muskets, for there was no time 
there to load and fire.f 

When the word was given, the men moved forward with 
great impetuosity, and advanced to nearly the same point Han- 
cock had previously reached, close up to the stone wall : they 
advanced, in fact, over a space the traversing of which by any 
column would result in the destruction of half its numbers, 
when they were thrown swiftly back, leaving behind seven- 
teen hundred of the four thousand that had gone forward.]: 
What else might have followed in the commander's then 
mood of mind, it is impossible to say ; but it was already late 
when Hooker's attack was begun, and night now dropped its 
curtain on a tragic scene, that might be fitly written only in 
the blood of the thousands of brave men who lay dead or 
moaning in agony worse than death on the plains of Freder- 

So decisive was the action of the day that it is difficult to 
see how there could be any question touching the propriety 
of recrossing the Rappahannock. This course was earnestly 
urged by the chief commanders ; but General Burnside judged 

* " I had the matter so much at heart that I put spurs to my horse, and rode 
over myself, and tried to dissuade General Burnside from making the attack. 
II-'' insisted on its being done."— Hooker's testimony : Report on the Conduct of 
the War, vol. i., p. 008. 

f Hooker : Report of Fredericksburg. 

\ There is an almost savage irony in the manner in which General Hooker 
Mates tin- result of this attack. " Finding," says he, " that I had lost as many 
mi a ns mi/ orders required me t» lose, I suspended the attack."— Report mi the 
Conduct of the War, vol. i., p. COS. 


otherwise, and determined to renew the assault on the 
morrow. The form this determination took was an evidence 
that he had lost that mental equipoise essential for a com- 
mander in the difficult situation in which he found himself. 
He resolved to form the Ninth Corps (which he had himself 
formerly commanded) in a column of attack by regiments, 
and lead it in person to the assault of the heights. All the 
preparations had been completed, and the attack was about 
to be made when, moved by the urgent entreaties of Gen- 
eral Sumner, Burnside desisted from his purpose. The 
troops, however, still lay on their arms during Sunday, the 
14th, and Monday, the 15th, of December, and, during the 
night, in the midst of a violent storm, the army was with- 
drawn to the north side of the Kappahannock. General Lee, 
unaware of the extent of the disaster the Union army had 
suffered, hourly expecting a renewal of the attack, and deem- 
ing it inexpedient to expose his troops to the fire of the 
batteries on the north bank, refrained during all this time 
from assuming the offensive * and the withdrawal eluded his 

The loss on the Union side was twelve thousand three hun- 
dred and twenty-one, killed, wounded, and missing ;t and on 
the part of the Confederates, it was five thousand three hun- 
dred and nine, killed, wounded, and missing. £ 

There is little need for comment on this battle, or for other 
reflection than must spontaneously arise from the simple 
recital of its incidents. Such slaughters stand condemned in 
the common voice of mankind, which justly holds a com- 

* Lee : Report of Fredericksburg in Reports of the Army of Northern 
Virginia, vol. i., p. 43. 

f Halleck : Report of Military Operations for 1863. General Halleck adds 
that a good many of the Union "missing" afterwards turned up. 

} This aggregate I make up from the returns of the two corps of Lee's army 
— the First (Longstreet's) losing three thousand four hundred and fifteen, and 
the Second (Jackson's) one thousand eight hundred and ninety-four. Confed- 
erate Reports of Fredericksburg. 


inander accountable for the useVss sacrifice of human life. 
There are occasions when, as at Thermopylae a general is 
doomed to the tragic fate of immolating himself and his; 
army ; but such cases are rare and exceptional. It was not 
necessary for General Burnside, in a problem that admitted 
of very many solutions, to give to his army the character of a 
forlorn hope, in the assault of positions chosen, long-prepared, 
and impregnable, when he was free by manoeuvres to select 
his own field of battle. 

But even with the choice made of a direct attack of the 
fortified ridge, the plan of battle — if such fatuitous devise- 
ment as has seldom been seen can be called a plan — was 
exceedingly faulty. The conditions of attack and defence, 
and the nature of the position already set forth, dictated that 
the principal operation should be made from the left, where 
Franklin held one-half the army in hand. It is true that 
General Burnside, at a period subsequent to the battle, 
asserted that this was his purpose, and endeavored to fasten 
the responsibility of the disaster on General Franklin's 
alleged failure to make an adequate attack. But judging by 
the orders in which General Burnside's original intent and 
will are revealed, rather than by the inspirations of after- 
thought, it is manifest that, if he designed to make the main 
attack from the left, he at least made no provisions for giving 
effect to this intention. It would appear from his own state- 
ment, that he made his theory of battle to hinge on a con- 
tingency which he used no adequate means to bring about, 
unless it be thought that two isolated attacks on the for- 
tified stronghold of the Confederates, made by a single 
division each, were adequate means to this end, and af- 
forded a reasonable hope of carrying the position. That 
the}' were wholly inadequate was proved by the terrible 
experiences of the day, both on the right and the left ; 
and the preliminary attacks having failed, as they must, I 
can only account for the tragic sequence, on the supposition 
I have already stated, that, distraught and demented with 
the failure, General Burnside continued in sheer despera- 


tion to throw in division after division, to foredoomed de- 

But while this may explain, it will not justify General 
Burnside's conduct. It would have been well for him had 
the failure of the first assaults, and the disclosures they made 
of the strength and position of the enemy, given him 
pause in their repetition. When General Warren at Mine 
Run, after viewing the enemy's line, which, like that at Fred- 
ericksburg, was manifestly impregnable, declined to throw 
away the lives that had been placed in his charge, preferring 
with a noble sense of honor and duty to sacrifice himself 
rather than his command, that instinct of right which is never 
absent in a generous people, appreciated the motive and 
applauded the act. 

Had General Burnside followed the like prompting, he 
would have saved his name from association with a slaughter 
the most bloody and the most useless of the war. 


In tracing the development of military operations as they 
stand related to the army that was the agent of their execu- 
tion, it is important to mark not only the army's condition of 
material strength and well-being, but those moral transforma- 
tions with which, in so large a degree, its efficiency as a living 
organism is bound up. 

Nothing is more difficult than to indicate, in precise terms, 
that blending of qualities, passions, prejudices, and illusions, 
that at any given time make up what is expressively called 
the morale of an army. Like the imponderable forces of 
physical philosophy, it is inappreciable by material weight 
and measure. Yet, if difficult of analysis, it does not fail to 
make itself felt as a palpable power ; and the foremost master 


of war attempted to convey his sense of its potency by the 
expression that in military affairs, " the moral is to the physi- 
cal as three to one." 

That the irmndc of the Army of the Potomac became 
seriously impaired after the disaster at Fredericksburg -was 
only too manifest. Indeed it would be impossible to imagine 
a graver or gloomier, a more sombre or unmusical body of 
men than the Army of the Potomac a month after the battle. 
And as the days went by, despondency, discontent, and all 
evil inspirations, with their natural consequence, desertion, 
seemed to increase rather than to diminish, until, for the first 
time, the Army of the Potomac could be said to be really 

The cause of all this could not be concealed ; it was the 
lack of confidence in General Burnside — a sentiment that was 
universal throughout the army. Troops who have by experi- 
ence learned what war is, become severe critics. It is a mis- 
take to suppose that soldiers, and especially such soldiers as 
composed the American army, are lavish of their lives ; they 
are chary of their lives, and are never what newspaper jargon 
constantly represented them to be — " eager for the fray." 
" The soldier," says Marmont, " acquires the faculty of dis- 
criminating how and when he will be able, by offering his life 
as a sacrifice, to make the best possible use of it." But when 
the time comes that he discovers in his commander that which 
will make this rich offering vain, from that moment begin to 
work those malign influences that disintegrate and destroy 
the morale of armies. General Burnside had brought his 
army to that unhappy pass that, with much regard for his 
person and character, it distrusted and feared his leadership ; 
while the general officers had little belief in or respect for his 

* The form which this demoralization assumed was aptly expressed by 
Genrral Sumner, in his official testimony before the Committee on the Conduct 
of the War touching the battle and the condition of the army as a general 
spirit of " croaking." "It is difficult," said he, " to describe the state of the 
army in other way than by saying there is a great deal too much croaking — 
there is not sufficient confidence." 


military plans. It is easy to see how fatal to the success of 
any military operations must have been this state of affairs ; 
and this received striking illustration in the two attempted 
movements which fill up the remainder of General Burnside's 
career as commander of the Army of the Potomac. The first 
of these movements was undertaken a fortnight after the bat- 
tle of Fredericksburg, towards the close of December. Gen- 
eral Burnside had determined to cross the Rappahannock 
seven miles below Fredericksburg, with a view to turn the 
Confederate position, and in connection with this operation 
he resolved to send a cavalry expedition to the rear of Lee's 
army for the purpose of cutting the railroad communications 
of the Confederates. Now the raiding column had actually 
got under way, and the whole army was in readiness for an 
immediate move, when, on the 30th of December, General 
Burnside received a dispatch from President Lincoln instruct- 
ing him not to enter on active operations without letting the 
President know of it. Surprised at this message, General 
Burnside recalled the cavalry expedition, and proceeded per- 
sonally to "Washington to ascertain the cause of the presiden- 
tial prohibition. On seeing Mr. Lincoln, he was informed by 
him that certain general officers of the Army of the Potomac 
had come up to see him, and had represented that the army 
was on the eve of another movement ; that all the preliminary 
arrangements were made, and that they, and every prominent 
officer in the army, were satisfied, if the movement was 
entered upon, it would result in disaster. In consequence of 
this condition of facts, the President, without prohibiting a 
move, judged that any large enterprise, at that time, would 
be injudicious ; and General Burnside returned to his head- 
quarters amazed at the revelation of the state of feeling in the 
army that was notorious to every one in it save the com- 
mander himself. 

The position in which that officer now found himself was 
as false as it was humiliating ; and was one that neither his 
own sense of honor, nor the Government's sense of the public 
welfare, should have permitted him to occupy. He had lost 



the confidence of the army; he was unable to obtain tha 
sanction of the general-in-chief to any proposition for a move- 
ment, and at the same time the country looked to him for 
action. In this unhappy situation, General Burnside's con- 
duct was marked by a self-sacrificing and patriotic spirit ; 
but he was utterly helpless to extricate himself from the coil 
that enveloped him. At length, as the be-all and the end-all 
of his hopes, he resolved to again try the fortune of battle, in 
the expectation that if successful it would rehabilitate him in 
the confidence of the army. 

Unfortunately, success was already too necessary to him, 
and he made too much contingent upon it ; for if success was 
needful as the means of recovering the confidence of the 
army, this very confidence was itself indispensable as a con- 
dition of success. 

The point at which General Burnside resolved this time to 
essay the passage of the Rappahannock was Banks' Ford (not 
then fordable), about six miles above Fredericksburg. As, 
however, the enemy had a force in observation at all the 
practicable crossings of the Rappahannock, and as there was 
no possibility of making preparations for the passage at any 
one point with such secrecy that he should not become aware 
of it, it was resolved to make feints of crossing at several 
distinct points, both above and below Fredericksburg, and 
tlms mask the real intent. Accordingly, new roads were cut 
through the woods to afford readier access to the fords, bat- 
teries were planted, rifle-trenches were formed, and cavalry 
demonstrations made along the line ; and these manifesta- 
tions were made impartially at a variety of points. 

The weather and roads had been in excellent condition 
since the late battle, and on the 19th of January, 18G3, the 
columns were put in motion with such secrecy as could be 
observed. The Grand Divisions of Franklin and Hooker 
ascended the river by parallel roads, and at night encamped 
in the woods at convenient distance from the fords. Couch's 
corps was moved below Fredericksburg to make demonstra- 
tions there, and the reserve corps under Sigel, which had 


been united with the Army of the Potomac, was assigned 
the duty of guarding the line of the river and the commu- 
nications of the army. Preparations for crossing were pushed 
on during the 20th, positions for artillery were selected, the 
guns were brought up, the pontons were within reach a short 
distance back from the river, and it was determined to make 
the passage on the following morning. 

But during the night a terrible storm came on, and then 
each man felt that the move was ended. It was a wild 
"VYalpurgis night, such as Goethe paints in the Faust. Yet 
there was brave work done during its hours, for the guns were 
hauled painfully up the heights and placed in their positions, 
and the pontons were drawn down nearer to the river. But 
it was already seen to be a hopeless task ; for the clayey 
roads and fields, under the influence of the rain, had become 
bad beyond all former experience, and by daylight, when the 
boats should all have been on the banks ready to slide down 
into the water, but fifteen had been gotten up — not enough 
for one bridge, and five were wanted. Moreover, the night 
operations had not escaped the notice of the wary enemy, 
and by morning Lee had massed his army to meet the men- 
aced crossing. 

In this state of facts, when all the conditions on which it 
was expected to make a successful passage had been baulked, 
it would have been judicious in General Burnside to have 
promptly abandoned an operation that was now hopeless. 
But it was a characteristic of that general's mind (a char- 
acteristic that might be good or bad according to the 
direction it took), never to turn back when he had once 
put his hand to the plough ; and it had already more than 
once been seen that the more hopeless the enterprise 
the greater his pertinacity. The night's rain had made 
deplorable havoc with the roads;* but herculean efforts 

* The nature of the tipper geologic deposits of this region affords unequalled 
elements for bad roads, for it is a soil out of which, when it rains, the bottom 
drops, and yet which is so tenacious that extrication from its clutch is next to 


were made to bring pontons enough into position to tnild a 
bridge or two withal. Double and triple teams of horses and 
mules were harnessed to each boat ; but it was in vain. Long 
stout ropes were then attached to the teams and a hundred 
and fifty men put to the task on each. The effort was but 
little more successful. Floundering through the mire for a 
few feet, the gang of Liliputians with their huge-ribbed 
Gulliver, were forced to give over, breathless. Night arrived, 
but the pontons could not be got up, and the enemy's pickets, 
discovering what was going on, jocularly shouted out their 
intention to " come over to-morrow and help build the 

Morning dawned upon another day of rain and storm. 
The ground had gone from bad to worse, and now showed 
such a spectacle as might be presented by the elemental 
wrecks of another Deluge. An indescribable chaos of pon- 
tons, vehicles, and artillery encumbered all the roads — supply- 
wagons upset by the road-side, guns stalled in the mud, 
ammunition-trains mired by the way, and hundreds of horses 
and mules buried in the liquid muck. The army, in fact, was 
embargoed : it was no longer a question of how to go forward 
— it was a question of how to get back. The three-days' 
rations brought on the persons of the men were exhausted, 
and the supply-trains could not be moved up. To aid the 
return all the available force was put to work to corduroy the 
rotten roads. Next morning the army floundered and stag- 
gered back to the old camps, and so ended a movement that 
will always live in the recollection of the army as the " Mud 
March," and which remains a striking exemplification of the 
enormous difficulties incident to winter campaigning in 

The failure of this movement is sufficiently accounted for 
by those " slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" the effect 
of which I have endeavored to portray ; and the commander 
was certainly justified in suspending it, and recalling the army 
to its quarters, when the operation was seen to be hopeless. 
But General Burnside had fancied that he discovered another 


and deeper cause, that, aside from the interference of the 
weather, would have baulked his projected campaign. This 
cause was a lack of confidence in him which he believed to be 
entertained by the leading officers of the army. Among these 
officers were Generals Franklin and Hooker, respectively com- 
manders of Grand Divisions ; and his first act on the return 
of the expedition was to prepare an order dismissing from 
the service of the United States Generals Hooker, Brooks, 
Cochrane, and Newton, and relieving from their commands in 
the Army of the Potomac, Generals Franklin, W F. Smith, 
Sturgis, Ferrero, and Colonel Taylor. Upon this order he 
resolved to make issue with the Government ; and he immedi- 
ately took this paper to Washington, demanding of the Presi- 
dent its approval or the acceptance of his resignation. It was 
not asserted by General Burnside that the officers named had 
been guilty of any dereliction of duty, but simply that they 
lacked confidence in him as commander. This charge was 
probably true ; but, as this issue involved the alternative of 
relieving nearly the whole body of the officers of the army or 
of relieving General Burnside himself, the President was com- 
pelled to refuse to sanction the order. General Burnside's 
resignation was accepted ; and General Hooker, the officer 
whose name stood in the order as head and front of all the 
offending, and who, by its terms, was dismissed the service of 
the United States, was by the President placed in command 
in his stead. 

General Burnside's career as head of the Army of the 
Potomac was as unfortunate as it was brief; and there is 
much in its circumstances and in his character to inspire a 
lenient judgment. His elevation to the command was un- 
sought by him ; for, with a good sense that was creditable to 
him, he knew and proclaimed his unfitness for the trust. It 
was right to try him, because it was impossible to tell whether 
his own gauge of his fitness was correct, or whether he wronged 
himself by a self-distrust that he might soon surmount. 
When, however, the trial had proved the absolute justness of 


his measure of his own incapacity (and there can be no doubt 
that this was fully proved by the events of the battle of Fred- 
ericksburg), they must be held accountable for the conse- 
quences who retained him in a position which his own judg- 
ment, now fortified by the general verdict of the army, 
pronounced him unequal to fill. His retention after this, if 
there be any fidelity in the portrayal I have presented of the 
condition of the army, imperilled not only its efficiency but its 
existence. Desertions were going on at the rate of about 
two hundred a day, and the official rolls at the time he 
was relieved showed an absence from the Army of the Poto- 
mac of above eighty thousand men — " absent from causes 

I must here add that, while the superior officers had little 
respect for Burnside's military plans, they, nevertheless, did 
not allow their personal views to influence in the least their 
conduct. And it is the more important to state this con- 
viction with emphasis, because it was commonly believed 
throughout the country that General Burnside, especially in 
the last operation attempted, failed to receive from his sub- 
ordinates that hearty co-operation absolutely necessary to the 
success of any military enterprise.! It is not unlikely that 
General Burnside himself had the same suspicion ; for, though 
he did not put it forth, yet it is hardly to be supposed that 
he would have demanded the dismissal of the officers named 
in his expurgatorial index on the mere ground of their ab- 
stract military views — for it is vain for any commander to ex- 
pect to control these. General Burnside was, and would have 
been, obeyed in the execution of all his plans of operation ; 

* Report on the Conduct of the War, second series, vol. L, p. 112. 

f It was one of the traits of the public temper during the war to be in con- 
stant suspicion of disaffection and disloyalty on the part of officers. Yet, if 
there be one characteristic of that period more remarkable than another, it is 
the absence of these things. And, in this regard, it strikingly contrasts with 
the common experience of nations at war ; for even Napoleon, wielding im- 
perial power, found it next to impossible to subordinate the individual wills of 
his lieutenants. 


for there was that loyal alacrity among the officers that would 
have prompted this in any circumstances of personal relation. 
If, however, he was unable to command the homage of their 
intellectual approval, that was his own misfortune.* 

* It may be observed that many of the leading officers of the Army of the 
Potomac were not in favor of operating by the Fredericksburg line. The fol- 
lowing correspondence between Generals Franklin and Smith and President 
Lincoln has relation to this question. It is of great interest and has not before 

been published. 

Headquarters Left Grand Division, 
December 21, 1862. 
To the Pbesident : 

The undersigned, holding important commands in the Army of the Poto- 
mac, impressed with a belief that a plan of operations of this army may be 
devised which will be crowned with success, and that the plan of campaign 
which has already been commenced, cannot possibly be successful, present with 
diffidence the following views for consideration. Whether the plan proposed 
be adopted or not, they consider it their duty to present these views, thinking 
that perhaps they may be suggestive to some other military mind in discuss- 
ing plans for the future operations of our armies in the East. 

I. — We believe that the plan of campaign already commenced will not be 
successful for the following reasons, viz. : 

1. The distance from this point to Richmond is sixty-one miles. 

It will be necessary to keep open our communications with Aquia Creek 
Landing from all points of this route. To effect this, the presence of large 
bodies of troops on the road will be necessary at many points. The result of 
making these detachments would be, that the enemy will attack them, inter- 
rupt the communications, and the army will be obliged to return to drive him 

If the railroad be rebuilt as the army marches, it will be destroyed at 
important points by the enemy. 

If we do not depend upon the railroad, but upon wagon transportation, the 
trains will be so enormous that a great deal of the strength of the army will 
be required to guard them, and the troops will be so separated by the trains, 
and the roads so blocked by them, that the advance and rear of the army could 
not be within supporting distance of each other. 

2. It is in the power of the enemy at many points on this route to post 
himself strongly and defy us. The whole strength of our army may not be 
sufficient to drive him away ; and even were he driven away at great sacrifice 
of blood on our part, the result would not be decisive. The losses to him in hifl 
strong positions would be comparatively slight, while ours will be enormous. 

II. — In our opinion, any plan of campaign to be successful should possess 
the following requisites, viz. : 


It was not possible to continue a condition of affairs that 
neutralized the best forces of the army, and the President 
wisely relieved General Burnside from a position deeply 

1. All of the troops available in the East should be massed. 

2. They should approach as near to Richmond as possible without an en- 

3. The line of communication should be absolutely free from danger of 

A campaign on the James River enables us to fulfil all these conditions 
more absolutely than any other, for, 

1. On the James River our troops from both North and South can be con- 
centrated more rapidly than they can be at any other point. 

2. They can be brought to points within twenty miles of Richmond with- 
out the risk of an engagement. 

3. The communication by the James River can be kept up by the assist- 
ance of the navy, without the slightest danger of interruption. 

Some of the details of this plan are the following : 

We premise that by concentrating our troops in the East, we will be able 
to raise two hundred and fifty thousand men. 

Let them be landed on both sides of the James River as near Richmond aa 
possible, one hundred and fifty thousand on the north bank, and one hundred 
thousand or more on the south bank. All of them to carry three days' pro- 
visions on their persons and one hundred rounds of ammunition, without any 
other baggage than blankets, and shelter-tents, and a pair of socks, and a pair 
of drawers. Let it be understood that every third day a corps or grand 
division is provisioned from the river. If this arrangement be practicable 
(and we think it is), we get rid of all baggage, provision, and infantry ammu- 
nition wagons, and the only vehicles will be the artillery and its ammunition 
wagons and the ambulances. The mobility of the army caused by .carrying 
out these views will be more like that of an immense partisan'corps than a 
modern army. 

The two armies marching up the banks may meet the enemy on or near 
the river. By means of pontons kept afloat, and towed so as to be reached at 
any point, one army can in a few hours cross to assist the other. It is hardly 
supposable that the enemy can have force enough to withstand the shock of 
two such bodies. 

If the enemy declines to fight on the river, the army on the south bank, or 
a portion of it, will take possession of the railroads running south from Rich, 
mond, while the remainder will proceed to the investment or attack upon 
Richmond, according to circumstances. 

\\ hether the investment of Richmond leads to the destruction or capture 
of the enemy s army or not, it certainly will lead to the capture of the rebel 


humiliating to any man of honor. He lapsed from the great- 
ness thrust upon him without forfeiting the respect of the 

capital, and the war will be on a better footing than it is now or has any- 
present prospect of being. 

The troops available for the movement are : the Army of the Potomac, the 
troops in Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina, with the exception of 
those necessary to hold the places now occupied, the regiments now in process 
of organization, and those who axe on extra duty and furlough, deserters, and 

The number of these last is enormous", and the most stringent measures 
must be taken to collect them — no excuse should be received for absence. 

Some of the troops in Western Virginia might also be detached. 

The transports should consist of ordinary steamers and large ferrv-boats 
and barges. The ferry-boats may become of the greatest use in transporting 
troops across the James River. 

With the details of the movement we do not trouble you. Should the 
general idea be adopted, these can be thoroughly digested and worked out by 
the generals and their staffs to whom the execution of the plan is committed. 
Very respectfully, your obedient servants, 

W B. Franklin, Major-General. 
W. F. Smith, Major-General. 

Executive Mansion, Washington, December 22, 1862. 
Major-General Franklin and Major-General Smith: 

Tours of the 21st, suggesting a plan of operations for the Army of the 
Potomac, is received. I have hastily read the plan and shall yet try to give it 
more deliberate consideration, with the aid of military men. Meanwhile, let 
me say it seems to me to present the old questions of preference between the 
line of the Peninsula and the line you are now upon. The difficulties you 
point out pertaining to the Fredericksburg line are obvious and palpable. 
But now, as heretofore, if you go to the James River, a large part of the army 
must remain on or near the Fredericksburg line to protect Washington. It 
is the old difficulty. 

When I saw General Franklin at Harrison's Landing on James River, last 
July, I cannot be mistaken in saying that he distinctly advised the bringing of 
the army away from there. Yours, very truly, 

A. Lincoln. 

Headquarters Left Grand Division, December 26, 1862. 
To the President: 

I respectfully acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 22d inst. In 
arguing the propriety of a campaign on the James River, we supposed Wash- 
ington to be garrisoned sufficiently, and the Potomac impassable except by 
bridges. The fortification of Harper's Ferry is another important requisite. 


country for his zeal and patriotism ; but he left behind him no 
illusions respecting his capacity for the command of an army. 

These matters were considered as of course, and did not enter into our discus- 
sion of the two plans of campaign. I presume that you are right in supposing 
that I advised the withdrawal of the army from James River in July last. I 
think that under the same circumstances I would give the same advice. The 
army was debilitated by what it had already gone through, was in an un- 
healthy position, its sick list was enormous, and there was a prospect that we 
would have to remain in that position during the two worst months — August 
and September. The effect of this would have been to ruin the army in 
health. Circumstances are very different now. The army is in good health, 
and the best months of the year are before us. 

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

W B. Franklin, Major-General. 



Apkil— Mat, 1863. 



In an army composed of citizens of a free country who 
have taken up arms from patriotic motives in a war they con- 
sider just, there is a perennial spring of moral renovation. 
Such armies have constantly exhibited an astonishing endu- 
rance, and, possessing a bond of cohesion superior to disci- 
pline, have shown their power to withstand shocks that would 
dislocate the structure of other military organizations. 

The Army of the Potomac was of this kind. Driven hither 
and thither by continual buffets of fortune ; losing its strength 
in unavailing efforts ; changing its leaders, and yet finding no 
deliverance ; misunderstood and unappreciated by the people 
whose battles it was fighting — it was not wonderful that it 
had lost in spirit. Yet, notwithstanding the untoward for- 
tunes the Army of the Potomac had suffered, it could hardly 
be said to be really demoralized, for its heart was still in the 
war ; it never failed to respond to any demand made upon it, 
and it was ever ready to renew its courage at the first ray of 

Such a day-spring came with the appointment of General 
Hooker to the chief command, and under his influence the 
tone of the army underwent a change that would appear 
astonishing, had not its elastic vitality been so often proved. 


Hooker's measures of reform were judicious : he cut away the 
root of many evils ; stopped desertion and its causes ; did 
away with the nuisance of the " Grand Division" organization ; 
infused vitality through the staff and administrative service ; 
gave distinctive badges to the different corps ;* instituted a 
system of furloughs ; consolidated the cavalry under able 
leaders, and soon enabled it not only to stand upon an equality 
with, but to assert its superiority over, the Virginia horsemen 
of Stuart.t 

These things proved General Hooker to be an able adminis- 
trative officer, but they did not prove him to be a competent 
commander for a great army ; and whatever anticipation might 
be formed touching this had to be drawn from his previous 
career as a corps-commander, in which he had won the repu- 
tation of being what is called a " dashing" officer, and earned 
the sobriquet of "Fighting Joe." He had gained a great 
popularity both in the army and throughout the country — a 
result to which his fine soldierly appearance and frank man- 
ners had much contributed; nor was this diminished by a 

* The germ of the badge designation was the happy thought of General 
Kearney, who, at Fair Oaks, ordered the soldiers of his division to sew a piece 
of red flannel to their caps, so that he could recognize them in the tumult of 
battle. Hooker developed the idea into a system of immense utility, and hence- 
forth the different corps and divisions could always be distinguished by the red, 
white, or blue trefoil, cross, lozenge, star, etc. 

f The cavalry of the army had hitherto had no organization whatever as a 
corps. It was organized by brigades or divisions and scattered among the 
grand division commanders. From the time of its consolidation it was able to 
act in its legitimate line, and underwent a great improvement. On the 16th 
of March, Hooker sent out an expedition of six mounted regiments and a bat- 
tery, under General Averill, to engage the Confederate cavalry on Lee's left, hold- 
ing position near Kelly's Ford. Forcing the passage of the Eappahannock at 
Kelly's Ford, on the morning of the 17th, by a spirited dash, in which twenty- 
four of the enemy were captured, Averill pushed forward, driving the enemy 
before him for four miles south of the river, when he became engaged with the 
( 'onfederate cavalry brigade of Fits! Hugh Lee. A very brilliant passage at 
arms here ensued, both sides repeatedly charging with the sabre. Nothing^ 
decisive resulted ; but the Union cavalry were much encouraged by the ex- 
ploit. Averill's loss was eighty-four ; that of the Confederates one hundred 
and seventy.— Fitz Lee: Report of Kelleysville. 


habit he had of self-assertion, which, however, proved little, 
since it may be either the manifestation of impotent conceit, 
or the proud utterance of conscious power. Hooker had 
shown himself a pitiless critic of his predecessors in command : 
he was now to be tried in an ordeal whence no man had yet 
escaped unscathed. 

The new commander judiciously resolved to defer all grand 
military operations during the wet season, and the first three 
months after he assumed command were well spent in re- 
habilitating the army. The ranks were filled up by the return 
of absentees ; the discipline and instruction of the troops were 
energetically continued, and the close of April found the Army 
of the Potomac in a high degree of efficiency in all arms.* It 
numbered one hundred and twenty thousand menf (infantry 
and artillery), with a body of twelve thousand well-equipped 
cavalry, J and a powerful artillery force of above four hundred 
guns.§ It was divided into seven corps — the First Corps 
under General Reynolds ; the Second under General Couch ; 
the Third under General Sickles ; the Fifth under General 
Meade ; the Sixth under General Sedgwick ; the Eleventh under 
General Howard ; and the Twelfth under General Slocum.H 

Lee's force was greatly inferior to that of his opponent ; for 

* It was not without truth that Hooker, at this time, in his grandiose style, 
named it " the finest army on the planet." 

•f This estimate is approximate ; the data are as follows : The effective of the 
Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth corps was put by General Hooker, just before 
Cbancellorsville, at forty-four thousand six hundred and sixty-one. — Report 
on the Conduct of the War, second series, vol. i., p. 120. The effective of the 
Sixth Corps is given by General Sedgwick (ibid., p. 95) as twenty -two thou- 
sand ; and the effective of the First and Third corps, by the same authority, 
was thirty-five thousand. There remains the Second Corps, to which, if we 
give a minimum of eighteen thousand, there will result the aggregate of one 
hundred and nineteen thousand six hundred and sixty-one. 

X Pleasonton : Official Returns, May 27th. 

§ Hunt : Report of Artillery Operations. 

| Generals Franklin and Sumner both retired from the Army of the Poto- 
mac after the change of commander. The latter was assigned to a command 
in the West, but died soon afterwards at his home in New York, lamented by 
the army and the country as the bravest of soldiers and purest of men. 


relying on the strength of the b'ne of the Rappahannock, he 
had, in February, detached two divisions, under Longstreet, 
to operate south of the James River,* and the remainder did 
not exceed an effective of fifty-five thousand men.f Hooker, 
therefore, was in a situation to attempt a bold enterprise, and 
the close of April found him ready to cross the Rappahan- 
nock and give battle. 



The opposing armies had so long faced each other on the 
banks of the Rappahannock, that it may well be supposed 
there remained no point in the problem of the attack or de- 
fence of that fine that had not been thoroughly considered. 
Since the battle of Fredericksburg and the subsequent at- 
tempts to pass the Rappahannock, Lee had made such dis- 
positions as to guard all the crossings of that 
stream. At the time the operations resulting in the battle of 
Chancellorsville began, he occupied in force the heights south 
of the Rappahannock from Skenker's Creek to United States 
Ford (a distance of about twenty-five miles), having continu- 
ous lines of infantry parapets throughout, and his troops so 
disposed as to be readily concentrated on any given point. 
Interspersed along these lines of intrenchments were battery- 
epaulements, advantageously located, for sweeping the hill- 
slopes and bottom-lands over which an assailing force would 
have to march — the crests of the main hills being from three- 
quarters of a mile to a mile and a half from the river's mar- 

* "'General Longstreet, with two divisions of his corps, was detached for 
service south of James River in February, and did not rejoin the army until 
after the battle of Chancellorsville."— Lee : Report of Chancellorsville, p. 5. 

t The rolls of Lee's army showed, the 31st of March, 18G3, a force of G0,208. 
Bat at the battle of Chancellorsville, the reports of the subordinates make it 
fully ten thousand less. 


gin.* To gain the immediate banks opposite the centre of 
the enemy's line was, however, practicable in several places 
where the high ground on the north side approached the 
stream and enabled artillery to command it ; but the prospect 
of then gaining a footing on the heights was, from past expe- 
rience, hopeless. The Confederate right flank was so dis- 
posed that Lee was secure against attack in that direction ; 
while above his left, at United States Ford, the junction of 
the Rapidan with the Rappahannock involved the passage of 
the former also in any attempt to turn that flank. Indeed, 
the execution of a movement to turn the Confederate left by 
the Union army, at such a distance from its base, and with 
heavy ponton and artillery trains, and in face of means of in- 
formation such as Lee had at his command, seemed very un- 
likely, and he gave himself very little concern about it. 

Difficult as was the problem in all its aspects, and debarred 
as Hooker was from making a direct attack, the most prom- 
ising enterprise was nevertheless an operation against Lee's 
left. This, after much cogitation. Hooker resolved to execute, 
and he formed a very bold plan of operation. He determined 
to make his main movement against the enemy's left by a 
strong column, that V3y a wide detour up the Rappahannock 
to Kelly's Ford (twenty-seven miles above Fredericksburg) 
should pass round Lee's flank to Chancellorsville ; while he 
resolved to mask this turning operation by forcing the Rappa- 
hannock near Fredericksburg with a considerable body, and 
ostentatiously threatening direct attack. He expected that 
the successful execution of the turning operation would have 
the effect to cause Lee to abandon his defences along the 
Rappahannock, when battle might be given with great ad- 
vantage. In co-operation with this attack, he prepared a 
powerful cavalry column of ten thousand sabres, destined to 
operate simultaneously on Lee's railroad communication with 

* Warren : Report of Engineer Operations connected with the Battle of 


The turning column was composed of three corps — the 
Fifth (Meade), the Eleventh (Howard), and the Twelfth 
(Slocum). Marching on the morning of Monday, April 27, 
this force reached the vicinity of Kelly's Ford on the follow- 
ing day. During the night of the 2Sth, and next morning, 
the passage of the Rappahannock was made at Kelly's Ford 
on a canvas ponton-bridge, laid with but slight opposition 
from a small observing force ; and the three corps, being 
divided into two columns, moving on parallel roads, took up 
the line of march towards Chancellorsville, to reach which it 
was necessary first to cross the Kapidan. The right column 
(Eleventh and Twelfth corps) struck the Rapidan at Ger- 
manna Ford,* the left column (Fifth Corps) at Ely's Ford. 
The stream proved to be barely fordable ; but celerity of 
movement being an object of the first importance, it was im- 
mediately resolved to cross the troops by wading — an arduous 
and somewhat dangerous feat ; for the stream is rapid, and 
even at the fords came up to the shoulder. The men, how- 
ever, plunged in — the greater part stripping and carrying 
their clothes and cartridge-boxes on their bayonets — and amid 
shouts and scenes of Homeric laughter and gayety waded 
through the water, which reached to their arm-pits. Such as 
were carried away by the current were caught by a cavalry 
picket stationed below. After dark (the crossing being con- 
tinued all night) huge bonfires Mere kindled, and by the aid 
of the lurid light thus cast over the wild scene, the troops 
filed over the river, and next morning all were across. The 
soldiers were in the highest spirits ; for, acute judges of mili- 
tary movements as the rank and file always are, they knew 
that the march they had made was one of those pregnant 
marches that are in themselves victories : so they gayly 
headed towards Chancellorsville, which was the assigned 
point of concentration and which they reached in the after- 
noon of the 30th. 

* Ai *liis ford, a party of Confederates were found engaged in rebuilding the 
bridge ; but l>v a well-executed movement most of them were captured. 


"While the three corps, whose movements I have indicated, 
had passed far up the Eappahannock to Kelly's Ford, the 
Second Corps under General Couch had moved no further 
than United States Ford, where it was directed to remain on 
the north bank of the Rappahannock till the turning column 
sweeping down the south bank should have uncovered United 
States Ford, when it was to cross and move also to Chancel- 
lorsville. This object was, of course, accomplished the mo- 
ment the Rapidan was crossed ; and the same afternoon, 
Couch threw a ponton-bridge over the Rappahannock, and 
marched on Chancellorsville, at which point the four corps 
bivouacked that night (Thursday, April 30). The same night, 
General Hooker removed his headquarters to Chancellors- 
ville.* He had secured a position which took in reverse Lee's 
entire fortified line, and he held in his hand a puissant force 
of fifty thousand men. 

The remarkable success attending this movement, of which 
Lee did not become aware till the Rappahannock had been 
crossed, was the result of a secrecy and a celerity of march 
new in the Army of the Potomac. To have marched a column 
of fifty thousand men, laden with sixty pounds of baggage, 
and encumbered with artillery and trains, thirty-seven miles 
in two days ; to have bridged and crossed two streams, guarded 
by a vigilant enemy, with the loss of half-a-dozen men, one 
wagon, and two mules, is an achievement which has few paral- 
lels, and which well deserves to rank with Prince Eugene's 
famous passage of the Adige. 

In securing this result, important service was rendered by 
the skilful manner in which the flank march was masked by 
General Sedgwick, under whom had been placed for the exe- 
cution of this duty the First Corps (Reynolds) and the Third 
Corps (Sickles), in addition to his own Sixth Corps. As soon 
as the column destined to make the turning movement was 
well under way, Sedgwick was ordered to cross the river in 
the vicinity of Fredericksburg for the purpose of making a 

* This place consisted of a single large brick house. 


direct demonstration. Accordingly, before dawn of the 29th, 
while the flanking force was passing the llappahannock thirty 
miles above, ponton-boats, borne noiselessly on men's shoul- 
ders, were launched three miles below the town, near the point 
at which Franklin had made his crossing on the occasion of 
the battle of Fredericksburg. In these a party passed to the 
south bank, capturing the small force in observation. Two 
bridges were then constructed, and two divisions thrown 
across. This menace immediately engaged the attention of 
the Confederates, who promptly began intrenching their en- 
tire front, as fearing a direct attack.* Demonstrations as 
though with that intent were made during the 29th and 80th, 
and as, by the night of the 30th, the feint had subserved its 
purpose, and a lodgment had been gained at Chancellorsville, 

* There was much in what was visible to the Confederates of Sedgwick s 
operation to inspire them with the belief that Hooker was preparing his main 
attack at that point; and an accidental circumstance, the details of which are 
given below, tended greatly to confirm this impression. Being a spectator of 
Sedgwick's operations, I at the time interpreted certain movements as a ruse 
de guerre, designed to give the enemy an exaggerated notion of the strength 
of the force present at that point, whereas they were the necessary result of an 
entirely different operation ; and I elaborated this point with some fulness in a 
letter on the battle of Chancellorsville in the New York Times. What was 
there stated has already passed into history ; and Colonel MacDougall, an Eng- 
lish military writer of repute, following that account (without credit given, 
however), thus writes : 

" The four remaining divisions of these two corps [Sedgwick's and Rey- 
nolds'] remained on the north bank, and an ingenious ruse was practised to 
deceive the enemy into the belief that the greater part of the Northern army 
was there massed with the intention of crossing. It is to lie noted that, from 
the configuration of the ground, the enemy could not see the bridges, neither 
could they see the four divisions on the north bank, which were behind tin- 
fringe of hills aforesaid. These troops were then put in motion, and, mounting 
the ridge, which, sloping both ways, served as a screen, marched along the top 
in full view of the Confederates, and then dipped down out of sight towards the 
bridges. Instead of crossing these, however, they turned back through a gully 
round the rear of the ridge, round again on the top, and again disappeared 
from sight to play the same game — just the same evolution as is practised by 
the ' brave army' on the stage of a theatre, and with the same intent of deceiv- 
ing the spectators as to their numbers. The like stage effect was practised by 
the artillery and wagon-trains, until the Confederates had seen defile before 


Sickles' corps was directed to join the force at that point — 
Sedgwick, with two corps, meanwhile remaining below to 
await developments on the right. 

The success that had crowned these operations, which, as 
they were executed out of sight of the enemy, may be called 
the strategy of the movement, inspired the army with the 
highest hopes and greatly elated the commander. On reach- 
ing Chancellorsville on Thursday night, he issued an order to 
the troops, in which he announced that " the enemy must 
either ingloriously fly, or come out from behind his defences 
and give us battle on our own ground, where certain destruc- 
tion awaits him." This boast, so much in the style of Hooker, 
was amplified by the whole tenor of his conversation. " The 
rebel army," said he, " is now the legitimate property of the 
Army of the Potomac. They may as well pack up their 
haversacks and make for Richmond ; and I shall be after 
them," etc., etc.* And, indeed, there was much in the aspect 
of affairs to justify jubilant expectations ; for, of the two lines 

them a force which they might well conclude to be the whole Northern army." 
— MacDougall : Modern Warfare and Modern Artillery, pp. 334, 335. 

The following note from Major-General MeMahon explains the real purpose 
of the operation misinterpreted by me : 

New York, January, 1866. 

My deae Sib— The movement of troops under General Sedgwick, to which 
our conversation referred, was not for the purpose of deceiving the enemy into 
the belief that we were re-enforcing the left wing, although such probably was 
its effect. 

The movements consisted of the withdrawal of Reynolds' corps from the 
lower crossing, which was effected without attracting the attention of the enemy ; 
and the transfer of one division of the Sixth Corps from the upper to the lower 
bridges, to hold the position abandoned by the First Corps. The march of this 
division was so ordered that only its arrival at the lower bridges could be seen 
by the enemy. It was a necessary movement, made so by the departure of the 
First Corps for Chancellorsville, and not a stratagem. Of course, in this as in 
all similar movements, advantage was taken of the nature of the ground, to 
conceal our intention from the enemy as far as it was practicable. 
Very respectfully, etc., 

M. T. McMahon, 

Late Chief of Staff to Major-General Sedgwick 
W. SwrNTON. Esq. 
* These observations were made in presence of the writer. 


of retreat open to Lee, Hooker already laid hold of that by 
Gordonsville, and threatened that by Richmond. The former 
he could not take up; and, if he chose the latter, he would 
have Hooker with five corps on his flank, and Sedgwick 
with two corps pressing his rear. The bright promise of 
these initial operations was beclouded by but one fact — the 
cavalrv column which was to cross the Rappahannock on the 
right of the infantry, and cut Lee's communications at the 
same time that the infantry was operating on his army, had 
been so delayed by the rise of the river that it did not cross 
the Rappahannock till the morning of the 29th, and had thus 
far made very insufficient progress. 

But, instead of " ingloriously flying," Lee preferred to 
"come out of his defences" and give battle to Hooker; and, 
unhappily for that general, the circumstances under which he 
chose to receive battle, in place of insuring Lee's " certain 
destruction," as he had vaunted, resulted in the disastrous 
termination of a campaign thus brilliantly opened. Now, as 
these circumstances furnish the key to the right apprecia- 
tion of the whole action, I shall, in the succeeding chapter, 
set them forth with some fulness of detail. 


When, on Thursday night, Hooker had concentrated his 
four corps at Chancellorsville, the real character of the move- 
ment, which, up to that point, had been so admirably con- 
cealed from his antagonist, became fully disclosed. The 
Confederate leader saw that the demonstrations near Fred- 
ericksburg that had engaged his attention were but a mask, 
and that the turn of affairs called for the promptest action. 
Lee, with instant perception of the situation, now seized the 
masses of his force, and with the grasp of a Titan swung 
them into position as a giant might fling a mighty stone from 

Map of the 

including Operations. $^^^^ 

mow APRIL 29tLxo MAY 5th.. 1863. *&* 

—— « Union Lines 


/ V 



a sling.* One division and one brigade — the division of 
Early and the brigade of Barksdale — were intrusted with the 
duty of holding the heights of Fredericksburg ; and, at mid- 
night of Thursday, Jackson and McLaws, and the rest of his 
divisions, recalled from Fredericksburg, and from far below 
Fredericksburg, were put in motion towards Chancellorsville 
to meet Hooker with a front of opposition, before he should 
be able, by advancing from Chancellorsville, to seize the 
direct Confederate communications with Richmond. 

If the Confederate commander was able to effect this pur- 
pose, it was because the Union commander allowed him so to 
do ; and this voluntary act on the part of the latter devolves 
upon him the responsibility for all the consequences flowing 

Chancellorsville, Avhere Hooker had drawn up his forces, 
lies ten miles west and south of Fredericksburg, with which 
it is connected by two excellent roads — the one macadamized, 
the other planked. It stands in the midst of a region extend- 
ing for several miles south of the Hapidan and westward as 
far as Mine Run, localized, in common parlance, as "the 
Wilderness" — a region covered with dense woods and thickets 
of black-jack oak and scrub-pines, and than which it is im- 
possible to conceive a field more unfavorable for the move- 
ments of a grand army. But, advancing from Chancellorsville 
towards Fredericksburg, the country becomes more open and 
clear as you approach the latter place, and affords a fine field 
for the use of all arms. 

Now, there is evidence that General Hooker did not originally 
design to allow himself to be shut up in this tangled thicket ; 
and, on Friday morning, May 1st, he began to push forward 
his columns to gain the open country beyond the bounds of the 
Wilderness. The two roads running from Chancellorsville to 

* " The enemy in our front [Sedgwick], near Fredericksburg, continued in- 
active ; and it was now apparent that the main attack would be made upon 
our flank and rear. It was, therefore, determined to leave sufficient troops to 
hold our lines, and, with the main body of the army, to give battle to the ap- 
proaching column." — Lee : Report of Chancellorsville, p. 7. 


Fredericksburg i^tlie plankroad on tlic right and the turnpike 
on the left) unite near Tabernacle Church, about midway 
between the former two places ; and to the left of the turn- 
pike there runs a river road leading along the Rappahannock 
to Banks' Ford. On the latter road two divisions of Meade's 
corps were pushed out, while on the turnpike Sykes' division 
of the same corps was thrown forward, and Slocum s corps 
was given the same direction on the plankroad. This was a 
movement to take up a hue of battle about two and a half 
miles in front, preparatory to a simultaneous advance along 
the whole line, set down for two o'clock in the afternoon.* I 
shall trace briefly the experience of each column. 

The left column, composed of the divisions of Griffin and 
Humphreys, moved out on the river road for five miles, and 
came within sight of Banks' Ford, without encountering any 

The centre column, made up of the division of Sykcs, sup- 
ported by the division of Hancock, advanced on the turnpike, 
and on gaining the first of a series of ridges that cross the 
roads between Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg, somewhat 
over a mile in advance of the former place, the mounted men 
in front were met and driven in by the enemy. This small 
force resisted handsomely, riding up and firing almost in the 
faces of the Eleventh Virginia Infantry, which formed the 
enemy's advance. Thereupon, General Sykes moved forward 
in double-quick time, attacked the opposing force, and drove 
it back till, at noon, he had gained the position assigned 

The column on the right, composed of Slocum's entire 
corps, pushed out on the plankroad in the same general direc- 
tion with the two other columns, and gained a point as far 
advanced as the others without meeting any opposition of 

* Hooker's Circular Order, May 1 : Eeport of the Conduct of the War, 
second series, vol. i., p. 124. 

f Warren : Report of Operations connected with the Chancellorsville Cam- 


The position secured by this movement of Friday forenoon 
was a ridge of some elevation, perfectly commanding Chan- 
cellorsville, out of the Wilderness, and giving the debouche 
into the open country in rear of Fredericksburg, while the 
left column had practically uncovered Banks' Ford, thus 
shortening by twelve miles the communication between the 
main force on the Chancellorsville line, and the two corps 
near Fredericksburg under Sedgwick. That a position afford- 
ing such advantages — a position which Lee was then exert- 
ing all his efforts to secure — would be held at all hazards, 
and the possession insured by a general advance of the whole 
force, was what was naturally expected ; yet, strange to say, 
just at this moment the three columns received orders from 
the commanding general to withdraw back to Chancellors- 
ville. With mingled amazement and incredulity, this com- 
mand was received by the officers, who sent to beg Hooker to 
allow the army to push on and hold the front thus gained.* 
It was urged in the warmest terms that the occupation 
of that fine position would uncover Banks' Ford, thus, as 
I have said, giving easy communication with Sedgwick ; that 
it secured the dominating heights which, if not held, would 
instantly be seized to his great disadvantage by his antagonist ; 
that it would take the army beyond the densely wooded 
region in which manoeuvring was impossible, and that it 
would enable it to command the open country on the 
posterior slope of the Fredericksburg heights soon to be 
carried by Sedgwick. It was in vain that these considera- 
tions, whose supreme importance must be apparent from a 

* " The ground on which I had posted Hancock in support of Sykes, was 
about one and a half miles from Chancellorsville, and commanded it. Upon 
receiving orders from General Hooker to come in, I sent Major Burt to him 
urging that, on account of the great advantages of that position, it should be 
held at all hazards. The reply was, to return at once. General Warren also 
went in person and urged the necessity of holding on." — Couch : Report of 
Chancellorsville. For confirmation of the same, see Warren : Report ; Hum- 
phreys : Evidence on Chancellorsville ; Report of the Conduct of the War, 
second series, vol. i., p 63. 


moment's glance at the topography of the region, were urged 
by his ablest advisers. Hooker had assumed the defensive 
and was waiting for the enemy to attack him " on ground of 
his own selection." From that moment he flung away the 
initiative with all its mighty gains and far-reaching hopes. 

It is difficult to account for a line of action so faulty in a 
conjuncture of circumstances in which the fitting course was 
so manifestly marked out. Having studied the case at the 
time when a spectator of these events, I have returned to its 
examination in the light of the whole bod}- of evidence since 
developed, and the riddle remains still unsolved. Till he met 
the enemy, Hooker showed a ruaster-grasp of the elements of 
war, but the moment he confronted his antagonist, he seemed 
to suffer collapse of all his powers, and after this his conduct, 
with the exception of one or two momentary flashes of talent, 
was marked by an incomprehensible feebleness and faulti- 
ness ; for in each crisis, his action was not only bad — it was, 
with a fatal infelicity, the worst that could have been adopted. 
It is probable that Hooker never expected that Lee would 
turn to meet him on that line, but that, disconcerted by the 
suddenness and success of the primal stroke, he would beat a 
hasty retreat southward towards Richmond. When, on the 
contrary, he found his antagonist making a rapid change of 
front and hurrying forward to accept the gage of battle in 
the Wilderness, the general whose first stride had been that 
of a giant, shrunk to the proportions of a dwarf. 

The columns that had advanced so handsomely towards 
Fredericksburg returned to Chancellors ville ; and having 
shown that this was a position relatively inferior to that 
which had been gained, it remains to add that it was abso- 
lutely a bad position. It hael been taken up 1 >y tired troops, 
towards the close of the previous day, without any prospect 
of lighting a pitched battle upon it ; it had several command- 
ing positions in its front for the enemy to occupy and the 
thicket was so dense as not only to rule out of use the cavalry 
and artillery arms, but to make the movements of infantry 
very difficult, indeed almost impossible except by trailing 


muskets. If it be added that any line drawn thereon would 
throw the right flank " in the air," while the woods would 
form a perfect screen for any hostile movements of the 
enemy, the military disadvantages of the locality will be fully 

The withdrawal of the column that had moved out on the 
right, and that which had moved out on the left, was made 
without difficulty, though the Confederates followed up with 
some show of force ; but the retirement of Sykes, who had 
the centre, was an operation of more delicacy, for he had met 
a considerable body of the enemy, and had gained his posi- 
tion by a smart fight which cost him seventy men ; and now 
the constantly arriving forces of the Confederates began to 
overlap both his flanks. Hancock's division, however, had 
moved up to Sykes' support, and, under cover of his line, 
Sykes was retired, and then Hancock also withdrew, and the 
enemy followed up, skirmishing, closing, and firing artillery 
from the crest, which Sykes had been ordered to abandon.* 

The force that had been met in this series of simultaneous 
reconnoissances was the van of Jackson's command, which, 
on the disclosure to Lee of the real character of Hooker's 
move, had been recalled fi'om the direction of Fredericksburg, 
and after marching all Thursday night and Friday morning, 
had just arrived on the ground. On finding the Union force 
returning from its advance, Lee pushed forward the heads of 
his columns rapidly and deployed in front of Hooker's posi- 
tion at Chancellorsville. 

Hooker disposed bis fine of battle, running east and west, 
along the Fredericksburg and Orange Courthouse plankroad, 
on which, at the point of intersection of that road with the 
road from Fredericksburg to United States Ford, stands the 
ChanceUor House — that is, Chancellorsville. Chancellorsville 
is placed in the middle of a clearing some three hundred 
yards in extent, and all around are the thickets of the Wilder- 
ness. The hue of battle, as formed on Friday evening, was 

* Hancock : Report of Chancellorsville. 


about five miles in extent, stretching from a short distance 
east of Chancellorsville (where the left wing was somewhat 
refused), westward, in front of the Orange plankroad for about 
three miles, when the right flank bent sharply back in a de- 
fensive crotchet. Meade's corps (Fifth), with one division of 
Couch's (Second), formed the left; Slocum's corps (Twelfth), 
and one division of Sickles' (Third), the centre ; and Howard's 
(Eleventh) the right. The other divisions were held in re- 
serve. As General Hooker had concluded to fight a defensive 
battle, trees were felled in front of the line to form abatis, 
and rifle-pits were thrown up ; and during the whole night 
the woods resounded with the strokes of a thousand Con- 
federate axe-men engaged at the same work. 

Next morning (Saturday, May 2d) Hooker stood on the 
defensive awaiting battle, and it seemed at first that his oppo- 
nent had been beguiled into playing into his hands by niakinp; 
a direct attack ; for the Confederates began early to make 
threatening demonstrations. First they felt Couch's line, but 
it proved to be well intrenched ; then they assailed Slocum's 
front, moving down on the plankroad, and throwing shells 
into the clearing at the Chancellor House, where Hooker's 
headquarters were established and the wagons were parked ;* 
afterwards they menaced the line still further to the right, 
and these operations they kept up at intervals during the 
whole day. But Lee had quite another object in view : he 
knew too well the risks of a direct attack with a force so in- 
ferior in numbers as he could dispose of ; and while he en 
gaged Hooker's attention with these front demonstrations, 
he was putting into execution a bold move such as he may 
have learned, in his military studies, from Frederick the 
Great. I shall in the following section indicate the nature of 
this operation, and detail the manner of its execution. 

* "In the morning about six or seven, the enemy opened his artillery 
from our left on the open field in front of the Chancellorsville 1 rouse, and drove 
out all our wagons and every thing that was loose into position." — Warren's 




False as "was the situation in which the Union commander 
had placed his force in causing it to assume a defensive atti- 
tude at a moment when offensive action promised so much, 
Lee was, nevertheless, environed with peril. Strategically 
Hooker's position was a menacing one ; tactically, it was un- 
assailable by a front attack. In this dilemma Lee determined 
on a move which, considering the inferiority of his force, must 
be accounted astonishingly bold. He resolved by a flank 
march to assail Hooker's right and rear, with a view of doub- 
ling up that flank, taking his line in reverse, and seizing his 
communications with United States Ford. 

This suggestion was, it is said, made to Lee in council during 
Friday night by Stonewall Jackson, who having, in his inde- 
pendent operations in the Valley, practised with great success 
the like manoeuvre, now burned to execute, on a grander 
scale, one of these sudden and mortal blows. The plan, 
though full of risk, was immediately adopted by Lee, and, as 
a matter of course, its execution committed to his daring 
lieutenant, who was destined, in the climax of his power, to 
end his career in the world and the world's wars in this 
supreme exhibition of military genius. 

The force with which Jackson was to make this movement 
consisted of his own three divisions, numbering about twenty- 
two thousand men. Of the Confederate force on the Chan- 
cellorsville line there then remained only the two divisions of 
McLaws and Anderson. These Lee retained in hand to hold 
Hooker in check. 

No man knew better than Jackson the enormous importance 
of secrecy in the execution of such a design as that he took 
in hand on Saturday morning ; and he had often repeated to 
his staff a saying, that was to him a fundamental axiom of 
war — "]Mystery, mystery is the secret of success." Nothing 


was omitted to secure this indispensable requisite in the task 
he had undertaken. Hooker's attention was to he engaged 
and the movement masked by energetic demonstrations of 
front attack to be made by Lee. Then, as the woods were 
thick and nearly impenetrable, Jackson hoped that, by taking 
a road some distance to the south of Chancellorsville, he would 
be able to pass unobserved ; yet he took care, in "addition, to 
throw out Fitz-Lee's brigade of cavalry on the right of his 
column to screen his perilous flank march across the whole of 
Hooker's front. Diverging westward from the Fredericksburg 
plankroad, Jackson pursued his march by a forest-path a 
couple of miles south of, and parallel with, the Orange plank- 
road, on which the Union force was planted ; and, after pass- 
ing the point know T n as the "Furnace," struck somewhat south 
by west into the Brock road, and thence northward to seize 
the Orange plankroad and turn Hooker's right flank. 

This movement, skilfully masked as it was, was not made 
with such secrecy but that those who held the front of the 
Union line saw that something was going on. And more espe- 
cially, in passing over a hill near the "Furnace," the column 
plainly disclosed itself to General Sickles, who held a posi- 
tion within sight of that point. Now, it happened that the 
road along which Jackson's column was filing there bends 
somewhat southward, so that, though the movement was dis- 
covered, it was misinterpreted as a retreat towards Fdchmond 
on the part of Lee ; or, if the idea suggested itself that it 
might be a movement to turn the right, it was still judged, on 
the whole, to be a retreat. With the view of determining this, 
but yet more under the conviction that Lee was withdrawing, 
Sickles was sent out with two divisions to reconnoitre and 
attack him." :: " At about three o'clock in the afternoon, he ad- 

* General Hooker, in his evidence ou the battle of Chancellor? ville, insinu- 
ates that lie was all the time aware of the true character of Jackson's move, 
ami that he made adequate | 'reparations to meet a flank attack ; but he, at tin: 
iiiin . irave a very different view to General Sedgwick, to whom he wrote, on 
Saturday afternoon, as follows: ''We know the iiieiny is flying, trijiiuj to sace 
his trains , two of Sickles' divisions are among them." 


vanced through the Wilderness for a mile and a half, or two 
miles, reached the road on which Jackson had moved, struck 
the rear of his column, and began to take prisoners. Elated 
by his success, the result of which he communicated to 
Hooker, General Sickles asked for re-enforcements ; and, at 
his request, Pleasonton's cavalry and two brigades of in- 
fantry were 1 sent him. As one of these brigades was taken 
from the Twelfth Corps, and the other from the Eleventh 
Corps,* holding the right of the general line, it is hardly to 
be supposed that Hooker would have made the detachment 
had he thought that rlank was to be attacked. 

While this manoeuvre, under a false lead, was going on, 
Jackson was getting into position for his meditated blow. He 
had already reached the Orange plankroad, on which the 
Union line was drawn, and near the point at which it is 
crossed by the road from Germanna Ford ; but, ascending a 
hill in the vicinity, he saw that disposition of the Union force 
by which its right flank was thrown sharply back in a crochet, 
extending northward and at right angles with the general 
line, which ran east and west. He, therefore, perceived that 
he would have to move further to his left, and further to the 
north, and, in order to strike the rear of Hooker's defensive 
position, would have to reach the old turnpike which runs 
parallel with and north of the plankroad.f Turning, there- 
fore, after a rapid reconnoitring glance, to one of his aids, he 
instantly said, t: Tell my column to cross that road":): (mean- 
ing, thereby, the plankroad, so as to move up and strike the 
old turnpike). 

Reaching the turnpike about five o'clock, Jackson saw the 
Union line in reverse, and had only to advance in order to 

* "Williamson s brigade, of Slocum's corps, and Barlow's brigade, of 
Howard's corps. — Sickles' Evidence : Report on the Conduct of the War, second 
series, vol. i., p. 5. 

f The "old turnpike" may, roughly speaking, be said to be parallel with 
the plankroad, though it really joins near Dondall's tavern, about two and a 
half miles west of Chancellorsville. 

X Cooke's Life of Stonewall Jackson, p. 251. 


crown his perilous operation with complete success. The 
right of the- Union line was, as before stated, held by tlic 
Eleventh Corps, under General Howard ;* and, while the 
major part of this corps formed line of battle along the plank- 
road, and faced southward, the extreme right brigade! was 
" refused," and made to face westward, from which direction, 
towards six o'clock, Jackson burst out with resistless impetu- 
osity. The dispositions to meet such an attack were utterly 
inadequate. The right brigade, after two or three hasty 
rounds, was forced back ; and the next brigade to the left 
(McLean's), surprised on its flank, broke and fled. The route 
of retreat of these troops, and that of some artillery caissons 
that were at the same time galloped off the ground, was down 
the road on which the entire balance of the corps was posted ; 
so that the confused mass overran the next division]: to the 
left, which was compelled to give way before the enemy even 
reached its position. § Bushbeck, holding with his brigade 
the extreme left of the Eleventh Corps, made a good fight, 
and onhy retired after both his flanks were turned, and then 
in good order.H But the result was, that the whole corps was 

* Sigel's old corps ; Howard had very recently taken command. 

f Gilsa's brigade of Devens' division. 

X Schurz's division. 

§ Schimmelfennig's brigade, of Schurz's division, made a rapid change 
of front to the west, and resisted the advance of the enemy for an hour or 

I The rout of the Eleventh Corps was bad enough without the exag- 
gerated coloring in which it has been painted. Much was said in the news- 
paper accounts of the time regarding the " cowardly Dutchmen," and the fact 
that this corps was supposed to be made up of German elements was empha- 
sized as lending additional opprobrium to the affair; yet, "of the eleven thou- 
sand five hundred men composing the Eleventh Corps, but four thousand five 
hundred were Germans." — The Eleventh Corps and the Battle of Chancellors- 
ville. Pamphlet, New York, 1863. 

The disposition of the corps to meet such an attack was excessively defective ; 
and, in so far as the rout was owing to this circumstance, the author of this 
disposition must assume the responsibility. General Warren, in his evidence 
before the Congressional committee, propounds a theory of his own touching 
the disaster, which he attributes to the fact that the ambulances, ammunition- 
wage his, puck-mule train, and even beef-cattle, had actually been allowed to come 


soon in utter rout. It was now seven o'clock, and growing 
dark ; but Jackson had seized the breastworks, had taken the 
whole line in reverse, pushed forward to within half a mile of 
headquarters, and now proceeded to make preparations for 
following up his success by a blow that should be decisive. 

The situation at this moment was extremely critical, for 
the Eleventh Corps having been brushed away, it was abso- 
lutely necessary to form a new line, and it was difficult to see 
whence the troops were to be drawn ; for just at that moment 
Lee was making a vigorous front attack on Hooker's left and 
centre, formed by Couch's and Slocum's corps. Hancock's 
front especially was assailed with great impetuosity ; but the 
attacking column was held in check in the most intrepid man- 
ner by Hancock's skirmish line under Colonel Miles.* 

The open plain around Chancellorsville now presented such 
a spectacle as a simoom sweeping over the desert might 
make. Through the dusk of nightfall, a rushing whirlwind 
of men and artillery and wagons swept down the road, and 

up on the line of battle of the Eleventh Corps ; and that, when the fighting be- 
gan, all these, as a matter of course, ran away, greatly increasing the con- 
fusion. — Report on the Conduct of the "War, second series, vol. i., p. 45. 

* Amid much that is dastardly at Chancellorsville, the conduct of this 
young but gallant and skilful officer shines forth with a brilliant lustre. Being 
intrusted with the charge of the skirmish line covering Hancock's front, he so 
disposed his thin line, well intrenched, that the Confederates, though making 
repeated charges in columns, on Saturday and Sunday, were never able to 
reach Hancock s line of battle. " On the 2d of May," says Hancock, " the enemy 
frequently opened with artillery from the heights towards Fredericksburg, and 
from those on my right, and with infantry assaulted my advanced line of rifle- 
pits, but was always handsomely repulsed by the troops on duty there, consist- 
ing of the Fifty-seventh, Sixty-fourth, and Sixty-sixth New York Volunteers, 
and detachments from the Fifty-second New York, Second Delaware, and One 
Hundred and Forty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, under Colonel N. A. Miles. 
During the sharp contest of that day, the enemy were never able to reach my 
line of battle, so strongly and successfully did Colonel Miles contest the 
ground." — Report of Chancellorsville. Colonel Miles was on Sunday morning 
wounded severely, and it was supposed fatally ; but he afterwards recovered 
to share the glories of his corps to the close of the war, and he rose to the rank 
of major-general. 


past headquarters, and on towards the fords of the Rappa- 
hannock; and it was in vain that the staff opposed theii 
, persons and drawn sabres to the panie-strieken fugitives. 
But it chanced that at this moment, General Pleasonton, whc 
had gone out with his cavalry to re-enforce Sickles, was re- 
turning, and on learning the giving way of the right wing, he 
moved forward rapidly, sent his horsemen on the charge into 
the woods, and, bringing into position his own batten- of 
horse artillery, and such guns, twenty-two in all, as he could 
collect, he poured double charges of canister into the advan- 
cing line. Hooker, too, flaming out with the old fire of battle, 
called for his own old division, the darling child of his crea- 
tion, now under General Berry, and shouted to its com- 
mander : " Throw your men into the breach — receive the 
enemy on your bayonets — don't fire a shot — they can't see 
you!"* Berry's division, unaffected by the flying crowd 
streaming past it, hastened forward at the double-quick, in 
the most perfect order, with fixed bayonets, and took position 
on a crest at the western end of the clearing around Chan- 
cellorsville. Here General Warren with Berry's men, and 
the artillery of the Twelfth Corps, under Captain Best, and 
Hay's brigade of the Second Corps, formed a line to check the 
enemy in front, while Pleasonton and Sickles assailed his 
right flank ; and fifty pieces of artillery, vomiting their mis- 
siles in wild curves of fire athwart the night-sky, poured swift 
destruction into the Confederate ranks. Thus the torrent 
was stemmed. But, more than all, an unseen hand had struck 
down the head and front of all this hostile menace. Jackson 
had received a mortal hurt. 

On seeing the success that attended the first blow, Jack- 
son, cniick to perceive the immense consequences that might 
be drawn from this victory, proceeded to make dispositions 
to press on at once, extending his left so as to cut off 
Hooker from United States Ford. To relieve Bodes' division 

* Correspondence of William Swinton in the New York Times, May 5 


which had made the attack, he sent forward A. P, Hill's 
division ; and being intensely anxious to learn the true posi- 
tion of his antagonist, he personally went forward through 
the dark woods, and with a portion of his staff rode out 
beyond his own lines to reconnoitre the ground, instructing 
the troops not to fire, " unless cavalry approached frora the 
direction of the enemy."* Finishing his examination of the 
ground, he turned back with his staff to re-enter his own lines ; 
but in the darkness, his troops, mistaking, as it is supposed, 
the party for a body of Federal cavalry on the charge, fired a 
volley which killed and wounded several of his staff, and 
pierced Jackson with three bullets. On being removed to 
the rear, his arm was amputated, and he seemed in the way 
of recovery, but pneumonia supervening, he expired at the 
end of a week. As the dying Napoleon is recorded to have 
murmured, "Tele d'armee," so Jackson, his unconscious mind 
still busy with the mighty blow he was executing when 
wounded, breathed out his life in the order, " A. P Hill, 
prepare for action !"t 

Thus died Stonewall Jackson, the ablest of Lee's lieuten- 
ants. Jackson was essentially an executive officer, and in 
this sphere he was incomparable. Devoid of high mental 
parts, and destitute of that power of planning and combina- 
tion, and of that calm, broad, military intellect, which distin- 
guished General Lee, whom he regarded with a childlike 
reverence, and whose designs he loved to carry out, he had 
yet those elements of character that, above aU else, inspire 
troops. A fanatic in religion, fully believing he was destined 
by Heaven to beat his enemy whenever he encountered him, 

* Life of General Jackson, by an Ex-Cadet (Richmond, 1864), p. 182. The 
same circumstance is detailed in Cooke : Life of Jackson, p. 253. 

f Cooke : Life of Jackson, p. 270. Life of Jackson, by an Ex-Cadet, p. 190. 
During his illness, Jackson, speaking of the attack he had made, said with a 
glow of martial ardor : " If I had not been wounded, I would have cut the 
enemy off from the road to United States Ford; we would have had them en- 
tirely surrounded, and they would have been obliged to surrender or cut their 
way out — they had no other alternative." 



he infused something of his own fervent faith into his men, 
and at the time of his death had trained a corps, whose at- 
tacks in column were unique and irresistible ; and it was 
noticed that Lee ventured upon no strokes of audacity after 
Jackson had passed away. 

The operation of Jackson, resulting in the doubling up of 
Hooker's right, made important changes in the line indispen- 
sable : so during the night a new front was formed on that 
flank, with Sickles and Berry. The Eleventh Corps was for 
the time out of the fight ; but Keynolds' corps, which had up 
to this time been operating with Sedgwick on the left, below 
Fredericksburg, arrived that evening, and with its firm metal 
more than supplied the temporary loss. No idea was enter- 
tained of retreating ; and if Lee did not retire, it was evident 
that the morrow must bring with it a terrible struggle. But 
before detailing the events of Sunday, as the action becomes 
then more complicated, and flames out in a double battle, 
it will be necessary to indicate what had been passing with 
that portion of the army under Sedgwick, and to point out 
the relations between these two parts of one and the same 

It was not until after Friday's developments near Chan- 
cellorsville, when the reconnoitring columns that went out 
towards Fredericksburg had met the enemy, and had been 
recalled, and Lee followed up and drew his lines around 
Chancellorsville, that Hooker became convinced that Lee was 
not minded to fall back. Seeing this, he, on Saturday morn- 
ing, withdrew Reynolds' corps also from the force under 
Sedgwick, and it reached Chancellorsville late that night. 
This left Sedgwick with only his own (Sixth) corps ; but it was 
a powerful corps, numbering some twenty-two thousand 

Now, it is a question which will present itself to the military 

* In addition to this, Gibbon's division of Couch's corps held Falmouth, 
and observed the river and the north side of Banks' Ford. 


student, whether it would not have been better, the moment 
a lodgment was gained at Chancellorsville, on Thursday, to 
have at once brought the three corps under Sedgwick up to 
that point and united the army. Their presence below Fred- 
ericksburg, while the turning operation was in execution, was 
correct ; but after that purpose was accomplished, the three 
corps near Fredericksburg, and the four corps at Chancellors- 
ville, presented the character of a divided army, separated 
from each other by twenty miles, a river to be twice passed, 
and the enemy between the two parts. And especially when 
Friday's developments had proved that Lee would not re- 
treat but offer battle at Chancellorsville was such a junction 
desirable. Nor was this necessity lessened, but rather greatly 
heightened by the fact that Hooker's order to withdraw from 
the advanced position gained on Friday, by forfeiting pos- 
session of Banks' Ford (the tenure of which would have 
practically brought the two parts of his army together), de- 
finitively severed Sedgwick from the force at Chancellorsville, 
and made a junction possible only on one of two conditions : 
firstly, a detour by the north bank of the Rappahannock, 
making the passage at United States Ford — but this was one 
entire day's march ; secondly, by a direct march of Sedgwick 
from Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville, with Lee interposing 
between him and Hooker. 

Now when, on Saturday night, the disruption of the right 
wing had given a blow to all his hopes, and seriously im- 
perilled his army, Hooker resolved to adopt the latter course, 
and with a view to relieve the pressure that was upon him, 
sent, late at night, orders to Sedgwick to put himself in 
motion immediately, occupy Fredericksburg, seize its heights, 
gain the plankroad from that place to Chancellorsville, and 
move out to join the main body, destroying any force he 
might meet, and reaching his assigned position by daylight 
the next morning. This was precisely one of those movements 
which, according as they are wrought out, may be either the 
height of wisdom or the height of folly. Its successful 
accomplishment certainly promised very brilliant results. 


It is easy to see how seriously Lee's safety woidd be com- 
promised, if, while engaged with Hooker in front, he should 
suddenly find a powerful force assailing his rear, and grasp- 
ing already his direct line of communications with liichinond. 
But if, on the other hand, Lee should be able by any slack- 
ness on the part of his opponent, to engage him in front 
with a part of his force, while he should turn round swiftly to 
assail the isolated moving column, it is obvious that he would 
be able to repulse or destroy that column, and then, by a 
vigorous return, meet or attack his antagonist's main body. 
For the successful execution of this plan not only was Sedg- 
wick bound to the most energetic action, but Hooker also was 
engaged by every consideration of honor and duty to so act 
as to make the dangerous task he had assigned to Sedgwick 
possible. And now premising that Sedgwick, immediately on 
receipt of the order at eleven o'clock of Saturday night, 
put his force in motion from its position three miles below 
Fredericksburg and moved forward to effect a junction with 
the main body, I shall return to the recital of events at Chan- 
cellorsville at the time the action burst forth anew on Sunday 



When, some hours before dawn of Sunday, Lee received 
word of the wounding of Jackson, the messenger who con- 
veyed to him the tidings, added that it had been Jackson's 
intent, had he been spared, " to have pressed the enemy on 
Sunday." " These people shall be pressed to-day !" ex- 
claimed Lee, with deep emotion.* 

Stuart had succeeded for the time being to Jackson's com- 
mand, and forming the corps in three lines, he advanced it at 

* Life of Jackson, by an Ex-Cadet, p. 185. 


daylight to the attack, with the battle-cry, " Charge, and 
remember Jackson!"* Swinging round his right so as to bring 
it perpendicular with the plankroad, he seized the crest which 
had the day before been occupied by the left of the Eleventh 
Corps, got thirty pieces of artillery rapidly into position 
thereon, and opened a heavy fire on the plain around the 
Chancellor House." t 

The attitude of Hooker had not now even the pretence of 
an offensive character. The Hue he held, however, on Sunday 
morning, still covered the angle of roads at the Chancel- 
lorsville House. Sickles' corps, and Berry's division of 
Slocum's corps, and French's division of Couch's corps 
formed the right, and faced westward to meet Stuart's attack, 
while the rest of Slocum's corps and Hancock's division of 
Couch's corps formed the centre and left and covered the two 
roads from Chancellorsville to Fredericksburg to meet any 
assault from the remainder of Lee's army, while part of Han- 
cock was thrown back, facing eastward, so as to guard the 
communications with United States Ford. The corps-com- 
manders saw that it was only a question of saving what 
they could of the army's honor, for the army was without a 
head.J During the night the engineers had traced out a new 
line three-quarters of a mile to the rear of Chancellorsville, 

* Life of Jackson, by an Ex-Cadet, p. 1ST. 

t Stuart's Report of the Battle of Chancellorsville, p. 18. " In course of 
the morning, the corps on our right was pushed in, enabling the enemy to con- 
centrate his artillery fire on Chancellorsville with effect." — Couch's Report. 
This swinging round of Stuart's right was made under the following cir- 
cumstances. It will be remembered that Sickles, from the movement he 
had made on Saturday afternoon to attack the rear of Jackson's corps, reached 
a position on the right flank of that corps ; but a little before daybreak, Sickles 
was ordered to retire from that position to his place in the new line. It was 
when the withdrawal had been nearly accomplished that Stuart advanced his 
right, and in so doing engaged Sickles' rear, consisting of the brigade of Gra- 
ham, who manceuvred his command with address and made good his escape. — 

X When Slocum, after fighting long and hard, sent to inquire if other 
movements were being made that might relieve him, or if he might expect re- 
enforcements and ammunition, Hooker replied, that he could not make soldiers 
or ammunition. This, too, when two corps lay idle ! 


towards the river, and covering the roads to United States 
and Ely's fords. To this line Hooker had resolved to retire, 
and he seemed to be incapable of other resolve. 

Sickles and Berry and French made good fight at their 
position, receiving Stuart's impetuous attacks; but the result 
Mas that, after a severe straggle, Sickles was forced from hit 
front line Carroll, with a few regiments of French's division, 
assailed Stuart's left flank, and threw it into much confusion, 
capturing several hundred prisoners,* but that flank being re- 
enforced, Stuart pressed back French in turn, and his right 
renewed the attack on Sickles.t 

While Stuart was thus bearing down on the riQ\ht wini:, 
Lee with his remaining divisions attacked the centre and 
left under Slocum and Hancock. He threw forward Ander- 
son's division on the plankroad connecting Fredericksburg 
and Chancellorsville to attack Slocum, and assailed Hancock 
with AlcLaws' division. The latter was repulsed in the 
most brilliant manner by the skirmish line of Hanc< >ck's divi- 
sion ; but Anderson pressed hard on Slocum, and thr< >w- 
ing round his left, succeeded in making a connection with 
Stuart by a thin line. This done, Lee advanced his whole 
line, when Sickles and Slocum were forced back. The hue 
melted away and the whole front appeared to pass out, and 
Hancock, with a portion of Slocum's corps under General 
Geary, alone held the extreme point of the line on the side of 
the Chancellorsville House towards the enemy 4 Drawing back 

* " French drove the enemy, taking about three hundred prisoners and 
recapturing a regiment of one of the corps in the hands of the rebels."— 
Couch: Report of Chancellorsville. 

■)• " In the mean time the enemy was pressing our left with infantry, and 
all the re-enforcements I could obtain were sent there."— Stuart : Report of 
Chancellorsville, p. 18. 

t. Hancock's testimony: Report on the Conduct of the War, second series, 
vol. i., ]>. 07. Geary, however, went out some time before Hancock, who 
remained till the last. It is proper to state that Sickles' ammunition had 
lircome exhausted, and no re-enforcements wen- sent him, notwithstanding 
that Meade and Reynolds were both disengaged. Sickles, with the bayonet 
alone, repelled several successive assaults, and Mott's New Jersey brigade ol 


to the Chancellor House, a struggle was made for a time at 
the angle of roads ; but the line soon began to waver. De- 
tecting this, the Confederates sprang forward, and at ten 
o'clock seized Chancellorsville.* 

A short time before the action thus culminated, General 
Hooker was thrown down by the concussion of a shot that 
struck one of the pillars of the Chancellor House, on the bal- 
cony of which he was standing. This prostrated him for a 
brief period, and he instructed General Couch to superintend 
the withdrawal of the troops to the new line in rear, which 
had been prepared and fortified during the previous night. 
This line had the form of a redan thrown forward in the angle 
between the Eapidan and the Rappahannock — the right flank 
resting on the former, and the left on the latter stream. The 
corps of Meade and Reynolds, which had held position on the 
right in reserve, and had, strange to say, not been called into 
action during the terrible struggle of the morning, were formed 
on the new line, where they were joined by the rest of the 
army falling back from Chancellorsville. Lee, gathering up 
his forces, was about to renew the attack on this fresh posi- 
tion, when his upraised arm was suddenly arrested by tidings 
of great purport from Fredericksburg, f 

Sickles' corps alone captured seven or eight colors from the enemy's second line 
and took several hundred prisoners. 

* " Artillery was pushed forward to the crest, sharp-shooters were posted in 
a house in advance, and in a few minutes Chancellorsville was ours (ten o'clock, 
a. si.)" — Stuart: Report, p. 18. Lee states the same time. — Report, p. 10. 
Most of the Union reports make it eleven o'clock. 

f " Our preparations were just completed, when further operations were 
arrested by intelligence received from Fredericksburg." — Lee's Report, p. 10 



It was towards midnight of Saturday when Sedgwick re- 
ceived his orders to move through Fredericksburg and pro- 
ceed towards Chancellorsville to unite with the main body. 
This command found him holding his position on the south 
bank of the Rappahannock, three miles below Fredericksburg. 
He immediately put his corps in motion by the flank, and 
proceeded to the town, skirmishing sharply with the enemy 
all the way up — the Confederate force falling back slowly.* 
Some hours before dawn of Sunday, Sedgwick occupied Fred- 
ericksburg, but a small force thrown forward before daylight 
to seize the enemy's works behind the town was immediately 
repulsed. Gibbon's division of Couch's corps, which had been 
holding Falmouth, then crossed to join him. 

For the defence of Fredericksburg, General Lee had left 
behind Early's division of four brigades and Barksdale's bri- 
gade of McLaws' division.f Barksdale occupied the heights 
immediately in rear of the town, including Alarye's Hdl and 
the stone wall at its base, famous in the story of Burnside s 
attack. Early's own division held the Confederate right 
below the town. Three companies of the Washington Artil- 
lery occupied the crest, and as soon as Sedgwick's movement 
was disclosed, on Sunday morning, Early sent Hays' brigade 
to re-enforce Barksdale. As it had required scarcely more 
than this force to repulse Burnside's successive columns ot 
attack on the 13th of December, Barksdale had probably little 
doubt of his ability to give a like reception to those now 
threatening assault. 

* Sedgwick: Report of Fredericksburg Heights. 

f In addition to this force the Confederate (ieneral Wilcox, who, with his 
brigade, imd been holding position at Banks' Ford, moved up to join Barksdale, 
but arrived too late to take part in the aclion, though he played a part in the 


Sedgwick's first efforts were of a tentative nature. Howe's 
division, occupying the left of his line, made an effort against 
the Confederate right with a view to turn the heights. It had 
no serious character, however, and was not successful.* Gib- 
bon's division, on the right of Sedgwick, then essayed to move 
round the left of the Confederate position ; but this was foiled 
by the canal covering that entire flank. A partial attack in 
front was not more successful. Every action has these pe- 
riods of prelude, from which the proper course at length dis- 
closes itself. That which now presented itself as best suited 
to the circumstances, and promising the best results, was to 
form a powerful assaulting column and carry Marye's Heights 
by storm. 

The preliminary endeavors and the preparations for attack 
had consumed considerable time, and it was towards eleven 
o'clock when it began. Two columns were formed from New- 
ton's division — the right column of four regiments, and the left 
column of two regiments — and on the left of this a line of 
battle of four regiments was thrown out. The columns moved 
on the plankroad and to the right of it directly up the heights. 
The line of battle advanced on the left of the road on the 
double-quick against the rifle-pits, neither halting nor firing a 
shot until they had driven the enemy from their lower line of 
works along the stone wall at the base of Marye's Hill. In the 
mean time the storming parties had rushed forward to the 
crest and carried the works in rear of the rifle-pits, capturing 
the guns and many hundred prisoners. t The assault was 
executed with great gallantry, under a very severe fire that 
cost Sedgwick a thousand men ; and the Confederates made a 
savage hand-to-hand fight on the crest and over the guns. 

* " The enemy made a demonstration against the extreme right, which 
was easily repulsed by General Early." — Lee : Keport of Chancellorsville, p. 11. 

t " A large portion of the Eighteenth Mississippi Eegiment and a part of 
the Twenty-first were taken prisoners, and a company of the Washington 
Artillery, with its guns, were captured." — Report of General Early, p. 34. The 
Sixth Maine, of the light brigade under Colonel Burnham, was the first to plant 
its colors on the works. 


As, simultaneous with these events, Howe's division ou the 
left carried the crest below Fredericksburg, capturing a num- 
ber of prisoners and five guns, the whole ridgo was now in 
Sedgwick's possession. Early's troops retreated southward 
over the telegraph road, leaving the plankroad from Freder- 
icksburg to Chancellorsville open to an advance of Sedgwick. 
This the latter proceeded with all haste to set on foot. 

Such was the startling intelligence that, in the climax of 
his triumph, reached General Lee, who suddenly found him- 
self summoned to meet this new and unexpected menace. 
The course adopted by Lee in this emergency was precisely 
the course prescribed by the highest principles of war — the 
principles on which Caesar, and Gustavus, and Frederick 
fought battles ; but it was a course very bold — unusually bold 
for the cautious and methodical mind of the Confederate 
commander. Belying on the repulse Hooker had received 
to hold him inactive, Lee instantly countermarched from 
Hooker's front a force sufficient, in conjunction with the 
troops under Early, to check or destroy Sedgwick. Wilcox s 
brigade, which had been held at Banks' Ford, was already in 
position to meet him ; and in addition, Lee forwarded the 
brigade of Mahone of Anderson's division and the brigades 
of Kershaw, Wofford, and Semmes under General MeLaws.* 
These, with the five brigades of Early, who was in position 
to place himself on Sedgwick's rear, he judged adequate to 
the work. While, therefore, this force was countermarching 
from Chancellorsville towards Fredericksburg, Sedgwick was 
advancing from Fredericksburg towards Chancellorsville ; and 
it happened that the heads of the columns came together 
just about midway — at Salem Heights, near the junction of 
the plankroad and the turnpike. It was now towards four 
o'clock in the afternoon. One of the Confederate brigades, 
under Wilcox, already held the crest at Salem Chapel, and 
3lcLaws was proceeding to form his brigades on his right 
and left ; but Sedgwick threw forward Brooks' division, sup- 

Leu : Report of Chancellorsville, p. 12. 


porting it with Newton's division on the right, and, advancing, 
gained the crest after a sharp conflict.* This was a momen- 
tary triumph, for he was soon pushed slowly back through 
the woods. The faUing back was covered, and the advance 
of the enemy checked by the excellent firing of the batteries 
under Colonel Tompkins.f Sedgwick, in fact, was checked. 
His loss was severe, and with that suffered in carrying the 
heights of Fredericksburg, brought the total up to five thou- 
sand men.J Such was the situation in which night found 
this column. 



Monday, May -ith, found both armies, and the opposing 
halves of each army, in a curious dead-lock. Hooker had 
assumed a strictly defensive attitude in his new line. Lee 
felt unable to attack with less than his whole force, which 
could not be concentrated uritil he was relieved of the danger 
that menaced his rear in the person of Sedgwick.§ Sedgwick, 
on the other hand, while able to hold his own, was unable 
to advance in face of the opposition he encountered. This 
was now not lessened but rather increased, for General Early 

* Sedgwick's Eeport. 

f " The advance of the enemy was checked by the splendid firing of our 
batteries — Williston's, Bigby's, and Parsons'." — Sedgwick's Eeport. The Con- 
federate General McLaws testifies to the excellence of the artillery service : 
" The batteries of the enemy were admirably served, and played over 
the whole ground." — Eeport of the Battle of Chancellorsville, p. 30. 

\ " My strength yesterday was twenty -two thousand men ; I do not know 
my losses, but they were large — probably five thousand men." — Dispatch from 
Sedgwick to Hooker, May 4th : Eeport on the Conduct of the War, second 
series, vol. i., p. 109. The precise loss was four thousand nine hundred and 
twenty-five killed, wounded, and missing. — Sedgwick's Eeport. 

§ " In the mean time the enemy had so strengthened his position near 
Chancellorsville, that it was deemed inexpedient to assail it with less than our 
whole force, which could not be concentrated until we were relieved from the 
danger that menaced our rear." — Lee : Eeport, p. 12 . 


ou Monday morning retook the heights of Fredericksburg, 
thus cutting off Sedgwick from communication with that 
place, and enveloping him on three sides. 

To cut this knot, Lee resolved to further re-enforce the 
troops opposed to Sedgwick and drive him across the Rappa- 
hannock, thus eliminating from the problem one important 
factor. Accordingly, on Monday morning Anderson was 
directed to proceed with his remaining three brigades to join 
McLaws.* Reaching Salem Heights about noon, he threw his 
force around on Sedgwick's left, with the view of cutting his 
command off from the river. The Confederates, however, met 
considerable delay in getting into position, and the attack 
was not begun till six o'clock, when it was made with great 
impetuosity — Sedgwick resisting with the utmost stubborn- 
ness, but forced to yield ground, especially on the left. Hap- 
pily, darkness soon ensued to prevent the enemy's following 
up his advantage, and, under cover of night, Sedgwick safely 
withdrew his corps across the Rappahannock at Banks' Ford, 
where a ponton-bridge had been laid the day before. 

Thus it was that Lee on Tuesday morning (May 5th) saw 
himself relieved from this menace in his rear ; and having 
now but a single foe to cope with, he promptly recalled the 
divisions of McLaws and Anderson, united them with his 
main force at Chancellorsville, and resolved to give the 
remaining section of the Union army the coup tie </run: Prep- 
arations were made during the afternoon and evening to as- 
sail Hooker's position at daylight the following morning (Wed- 
nesday, May Cth). When daybreak, however, came, and the 
Confederate skirmishers advanced, it was found that the army 
had, during the night, withdrawn across the Rappahannock. 

Hooker had determined, on Monday night, to recross the 
river ; but when the question was submitted to the judgment 
of his corps-commanders, it was found that a majority of 
those present were in favor of an advance rather than a with- 
drawal. Hooker, however, had lost all stomach for fight. 

Lee : Report of Chancellorsville, r. 12. 


Accordingly on Tuesday, the engineers were instructed to 
prepare a new line near the river to cover the crossing, and 
for this purpose they constructed a continuous cover and 
abatis, from the Rappahannock at Scott's Dam around to 
the mouth of Hunting Creek on the Rapidan, a distance of 
three miles. During the afternoon a heavy rain set in which 
lasted till late at night. 

The movement to recross was begun by the artillery at 
dark of Tuesday, and was suddenly interrupted by a rise in 
the Rappahannock so great as to submerge the banks at the 
end of the bridges, which the current threatened to sweep 
away — a consummation most devoutly wished by many of 
the leading officers of the army, who were bitterly opposed 
to recrossing the river. But fate willed otherwise, and in the 
midst of a night as gloomy as the mood of the army, the 
troops filed across to the north bank. 

The losses in the battle of Chancellorsville can be stated 
with accuracy On the side of the Confederates, they made 
an aggregate of ten thousand tw r o hundred and eighty-one.* 
On the Union side, they were seventeen thousand one hun- 
dred and ninety-sevent killed, wounded, and missing. The 
army left behind its killed, its wounded, fourteen pieces of 
artillery, and twenty thousand stand of arms. 

It remains now to glance a moment at the operations of 
the cavalry column under Stoneman. As this was a powerful 
corps, numbering some ten thousand sabres, and as its move- 
ment was intended to precede by a fortnight the commence- 
ment of operations by the army, very important results were 
expected from it. But the cavalry was delayed a long time by 
the swollen condition of the upper Rappahannock, so that it 
did not cross till the time the infantry made the passage, 
April 29. Hooker then divided the command into two 

* Lee : Report of Chancellorsville, p. 131. 

+ Report on the Conduct of the War, second series, vol. i., p. 143. Of this 
number Lee claims five thousand prisoners, besides the wounded. He also 
claims the prize of seventeen standards, nineteen thousand and five hundred 
Btand of arms, and much ammunition. — Lee : Report of Chancellorsville, p. 15. 


columns, sending one, under General Avorill, to move to 
Louisa Courthouse, threaten Gordonsville, and engage the 
Confederate mounted force, while the other, under Clencral 
Buford, should break up the Eiehmond and Fredericksburg 
Railroad, destroying its bridges, etc. 

The only mounted force the Confederates could oppose to 
these columns was a small brigade of two regiments under 
General W H. F. Lee* That officer fed back before th* 
Union cavalry, which advanced on Louisa Courthoiise, and 
proceeded to destroy the Virginia Central road. Stoneman 
divided Buford's force into six bodies, throwing them out ir. 
all directions ; but the important line of communications by 
the Fredericksburg and Richmond Railroad was not struck 
till the 3d of May, and the damage done it was very slight, t 
This is sufficiently shown by the fact that on the 5th the cars 
conveyed to Richmond the Confederate wounded and the 
Union prisoners:]: captured in the battle of Chancellorsville. 
The raid had, undoubtedly, the effect to alarm the country 
through which the columns moved, and much property was 
destroyed ; but its military result, as bearing on the main 
operation, was quite insignificant. 

* Report of General R. E. Lee on the Battle of Chancellorsville, p. 15 ; Re- 
port of Ueneral Stuart, p. 38 ; Report of General W H. F. Lee, p. 49. 

f " The damage done to the railroad was small and soon repaired, and the 
James River Canal was saved from injury." — Report of General Lee, p. 15. 

J Hooker's testimony : Report on the Conduct of the War, second series, 
vol. i., p. 140. 




The simple recital I have made of the operations attending 
the battle of Chancellorsville will have served to reveal the 
extraordinary character of that action, which, opening with an 
exhibition of grand tactics marked by masterly skill, sank 
into conduct so feeble and faulty, as to be almost beneath 

1. It is in war as in life : a single false step often involves 
an endless train of swift-succeeding misfortune. This false 
step in the conduct of Hooker was that, having started out to 
fight an offensive battle, he reduced himself, at the very mo- 
ment when action was above all imperative, to a perilous 
defensive. The strategic operation of crossing the Rappa- 
hannock merits all the praise it has received. It was ac- 
complished with complete success, and resulted in placing at 
Chancellorsville on the night of Thursday, April 30, four corps, 
in a position on the rear of the left of the Confederate de- 
fensive line, with Lee's forces scattered down the Rappahan- 
nock, a distance of five-and-twenty miles. All the enemy 
between Hooker and Fredericksburg was a mere handful of 
a division. Then was the moment for a bold initiative on 
the part of Hooker. Then was the time for vigorous impulse 
and fiery action before his opponent recovered himself. By 
what prompting of chivalrous generosity, rare in war — and 
eclipsing forever the conduct of the commander of the Eng- 
lish Guards, who at Fontenoy insisted on the French deliver- 
ing the first fire — was it that in this situation he voluntarily 
resigned all the advantage of* the surprise, and allowed Lee 
forty-eight hours to concentrate against him ? 

2. That delay at Chancellorsville from Thursday afternoon 
till Saturday afternoon undid all that had been accomplished. 


It is true that the Wilderness is a region unfavorable foi 
mamouvring a large avmv ; but it was as bad for Lee as foi 
Hooker, and the latter is estopped from availing himself ol 
this excuse by his own order, in which he declared it to be 
"ground of his own selection." Besides, this objection 
wholly disappears in face of the fact that the reconnaissances 
of Friday, May 1st, showed he might have pushed out beyond 
the woods, thus uncovering Banks' Lord, reducing the line of 
communications by twelve miles, and practically uniting both 
his wings. To the " special wonder" of all the commanders, 
he relinquished the fine position then gained, and stood on 
the defensive in the Wilderness. 

o. But for a defensive battle the disposition of his army was 
faulty — the ground being commanded in front, and the right 
flank thrown out " in the air," whereas it might have been se- 
curely rested on the Rapidan. This afforded Lee his opportu- 
nity, and with consummate address, and a marvellous bold- 
ness, considering the disparity of his force, he on Saturday 
morning set on foot the execution of Jackson's flank march 
to attack the Union right. This is an operation usually 
condemned in war ; bxit the conditions justified it, seeing 
that Jackson was able to mask his movement, and success 
crowned it. 

4. During the whole of Saturday, while Jackson was exe- 
cuting his flank march, the Confederate commander held 
Hooker's fifty thousand men with the division of Anderson 
and part of McLaws — eight brigades, or twelve thousand 
men. Not a motion of offence was made by Hooker all this 

5. After the disaster to the Eleventh Corps on Saturday 
night, Hooker made everything to hinge on Sedgwick's ad- 
vance to join him, which was to make the greater contingent 
on the lesser. His orders to Sedgwick, sent at ten o'clock of 
Saturday night, and received about midnight, were to move up 
from his position below Fredericksburg, take the heights, and 
move out by the plankroad towards Chancellorsville, distant 
fourteen miles. This move would, under the circumstances, 


have been an impossibility, even had no enemy interposed. 
Sedgwick, after a gallant assault in which he suffered heavy 
loss, carried the Fredericksburg heights on Sunday forenoon ; 
and he then moved out to obey Hooker's instructions to fall 
upon Lee's rear at Chancellorsville, but was stopped by the 
enemy at Salem Heights. 

6. But meanwhile, on Sunday morning Hooker had been 
driven back at Chancellorsville. Moreover, the operations 
ending in the giving ground of the army at Chancellorsville 
were over five hours before Sedgwick attacked Salem Heights. 
It is therefore evident, that unless the Sixth Corps could, 
single-handed, fight all the force brought against it, the sole 
object of taking the heights of Fredericksburg, or uncovering 
Banks' Ford, was to hold a position from which the army 
might debouch. Therefore the attack on Salem Heights was 
mere waste of men ; and if those heights had been taken, the 
Sixth Corps never could have extricated itself. Sedgwick 
should not have been called forward from Fredericksburg, be- 
cause to abandon the possession of the heights was to give up 
a positive gain for a remote possibility. If, however, Sedgwick 
was to be expected to make a junction with the force at 
Chancellorsville, Hooker was committed by every considera- 
tion of honor and duty to so act as to make the junction 
possible. Yet he did not make the slightest effort as a diver- 
sion in Sedgwick's favor ; but allowed Lee to countermarch at 
pleasure from his front a force sufficient to first check and 
then overwhelm Sedgwick. General Hooker lays the blame 
of the disaster at Chancellorsville to Sedgwick's failure to 
join him on Sunday morning. "In my judgment," says he, 
" General Sedgwick did not obey the spirit of my order, and 
made no sufficient effort to obey it. His movement was 
delayed so long that the enemy discovered his intentions ; 
and when that was done, he was necessarily delayed in the 
further execution of the order." * This is a cruel charge to 
bring against a commander now beyond the reach of de- 

* Hooker's testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War. 



traction ; whoso brilliant exploit in carrying the Frederick; 
burg heights and his subsequent fortitude in a trying situ; 
tion, shine out as the one relieving brightness amid the glooi 
of that hapless battle. 

7 From the time when, at noon of Sunday, Hooker w; 
driven from the line at Chancellorsville, to his new line in tl; 
rear, he remained perfectly passive. Was all fight out c 
him ? Had the disaster to the Eleventh Corps, which nobod 
in the army regarded as of any moment (that corps hardl 
being accounted as belonging to the Army of the Potomac 
so paralyzed him that he could do nothing ? Tet the dismj 
tion of the Eleventh Corps had been mere than made up b 
the arrival of Reynolds' corps (First) on Saturday night ; an 
in the decisive action of Sunday, he employed little inoi 
than half his force — neither Reynolds nor Meade bein 
allowed to go into action, though eager to do so. Hooke 
allowed a position to be lost when he had more men at han 
that did not draw trigger than Lee had in his entire army ! 

8. It was Monday evening before Sedgwick was attacked 
and the whole interval from noon of Sunday, when th 
action of Chancellorsville ceased, till six o'clock on Monda 
evening — thirty hours — was available to re-enforce Sedgwicl 
which might readily have been done on a short line vi 
United States and Banks' fords. Yet no attempt was mail 
to do so. Lee made good use of this time in re-enforcing th 
wing opposed to Sedgwick, so that he was able at night t 
drive the Sixth Corps across the river after a severe actioi 
in which Sedgwick's guns booming out like signals of distre> 
were heard at Chancellorsville. Indeed, such was Hooker 
delusion (to use the mildest term) regarding the situatioi 
that on Sunday afternoon, at the time Sedgwick was con 
pletely enveloped, he sent word to that officer stating that 1: 
(Hooker) "had driven the enemy, and all it wanted was f( 
him (Sedgwick) to come up and complete Lee's destruction 

9. Even after Sedgwick had withdrawn across the liappi 
bannock at Banks' Ford on Mondav, Hooker might have n 
mained indefinitely on the third line he had caused to I 


prepared. It was of impregnable strength — both flanks rest- 
ing on the river ; and the army could here have repelled all 
assaults. The whole army wished this ; and a successful 
action, ending in Lee's repulse, would have saved the morale 
and pride of the troops. It has been said that the storm of 
May 5th, which caused a rise in the Rappahannock, and en- 
dangered the supplies of the army, was a motive for retreat. 
But the order to retire was given twelve hours before any 
rain and during a cloudless sky. 

10. Not the Army of the Potomac was beaten at Chancel- 
lorsville, but its commander ; and General Hooker's conduct 
inflicted a very severe blow to his reputation. The officers 
despised his generalship, and the rank and file were puzzled 
at the result of a battle in which they had been foiled without 
being fought, and caused to retreat without the consciousness 
of having been beaten. 




June— July, 1863. 



In the minds of that group of able and sagacious men tha 
at Richmond controlled the course of the mighty experiinen 
of war, there had early grown up a theory of military conduc 
that was undoubtedly the best adapted to the circumstances 
and, indeed, is the only theory on which a defensive war ca: 
be maintained with any hope of success. 

It is now generally conceded that a Power that either to] 
untarily or by compulsion allows itself to be reduced to 
purely defensive attitude is certain to be compelled, sooner o 
later, to succumb. On the other hand, military history afford 
many memorable illustrations of the marvellous results tha 
may be accomplished by nations that, forced to the defensiv 
by the superiority of the assailant, are yet able at the oppoi 
tune moment to assume the offensive, and inflict blows a 
well as receive them. It was by acting on this principle tha 
Frederick the Great, in that everlasting model of a defensiv 
campaign, the Seven Years' War, was able to make heai 
against the seemingly overwhelming combination brough 
against him ; and that Napoleon, in 1814, in that other brigh 
exemplar of the defence of a country by boldly taking th 
offensive, was able to confront the invading Allies, and a 
length make them pay so dearly for the capture of hi 

^-</^c&. ^ /^Zt^u^Ux^ 


Such was the principle of action early adopted by the Con- 
federate leaders ; and the course of this narrative has already 
set forth the bold and successful manner in which it was more 
than once carried out. It was in accordance with this policy 
that General Johnston, after falling back from Yorktown to 
the front of Eichmond, turned upon McCleUan astride the 
Chickahominy, and dealt him a blow which but for accidental 
circumstances should have terminated the campaign — a result 
that, indeed, was accomplished, when Lee, continuing the 
conception of Johnston, seized the initiative and hurled the 
Union army back to the James Eiver. And it was in following 
out the same line of action that he was able, by threatening 
the flanks and rear of Pope, to drive back that general to the 
fortifications of Washington, and transfer the theatre of war 
to the trans-Potomac region. 

It seemed that an opportunity for a new and bolder offen- 
sive than had yet been attempted now presented itself. 
Twice the Army of the Potomac had crossed the Eappahan- 
nock, and on each occasion it had been driven back in disas- 
ter. Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville had raised the 
morah of Lee's army to the highest pitch. While the expe- 
rience of these battles had inspirited the Southern troops, it 
had given General Lee himself a sense of confidence and 
power he had not before felt. And now to this fact of the 
moral condition of the Confederate army, so favorable to bold 
enterprises, was added another incentive, in its condition of 
material strength. The diminution of Hooker's force by the 
extensive out-mustering of short-term troops* was well known ; 

* The regiments thus mustered out of service by the expiration of their term 
were among the fruits of that hap-hazard hand-to-mouth policy of enlistment 
that governed the military administration throughout the war. The two 
years troops had been enrolled for that period at a time when all were eager to 
he enlisted " for the war ;" and the nine-months' men were from the improvised 
levies which the Secretary of War, in his panic at Jackson's razzia in the She- 
nandoah Valley in July, 1862, had called out at that time. It is needless to 
remark that their term of service expired just about the time they became 
somewhat seasoned to war. 


and to this relative increase of Lee's army was now added a 
positive increase by a large force of conscripts, and a more 
important re-enforcement by the two divisions of Loiigstreet's 
corps, which, having been operating south of James Iliver at 
the time of the battle of Chancellorsville, were immediately 
thereafter recalled to take part in the meditated movement. If 
Hooker's force of infantry was at this time reduced, as he de- 
clares, to an effective of eighty thousand men,* there was now 
less disproportion between the two armies than generally ob- 
tained, for at the end of May, Lee's force had reached an ag- 
gregate of sixty-eight thousand infantry and a considerable 
body of cavalry. f The Confederate army had, moreover, been 
lately mobilized and increased in efficiency by its reorganiza- 
tion into three corps (Varmee, under Generals Longstreet, Hill, 
and Ewell — three able, energetic, and trusted lieutenants. In 
respect of transportation, equipment, and clothing, though 
not in respect of supplies, the Southern force in Virginia was 
in 'better condition than at any previous time. And if its 
commissariat was deficient, the rich granaries of the North 
lay open — the inviting spods of a successful blow4 

* Letter from General Hooker to President Lincoln, May 13, 1 s(>;> : " My 
marching force of infantry is cut down to about eighty thousand men:'' The 
cavalry corps which, on Hooker's entrance into command, had been rendered 
stronger and more effective than ever before, was much reduced by the severe 
service to which it had been put. General Pleasonton, who succeeded (Irnrnil 
Stoneman in the command of the cavalry, gives its effective, at the end of May, 
at four thousand sis hundred and seventy-seven horses — one-third its strength 
by the March report. — Report of General Pleasonton, May 27th. 

■f This is the number present for duty the 31st of May: it was precisely 
68,352; the aggregate present was 88,754. I learn from General Longstreet 
that General Lee, when at Chambersburg, estimated that his force when con- 
centrated would reach a trifle over 70,000 men. General Longstreet ad led, 
khat the Army of Northern Virginia was at this time in condition to under- 
take any thing. 

I There is no doubt that the condition of Lee's commissariat at this time 
had considerable to do with the invasion. General Longstreet told me a story 
to this point, the authenticity of which, however, he did not vouch for. Shortly 
before the movement, it seems, General Lee sent to Richmond a requisition for 
a certain amount of rations. The Commissary-General Northrup indorsed ou 
it : " If General Lee wishes rations, let him seek them in Pennsylvania 1" 


Thus prompted, tlie Confederate leaders resolved upon a 
movement that should not only have the effect of causing the 
Army of the Potomac to loose its hold upon the Kappahan- 
nock, but should initiate a campaign of invasion on the soil 
of the loyal States. And it is proper to point out here that in 
coming to this determination, those who controlled the war- 
councils at Eichmond would seem to have been influenced 
rather by the excited condition of the army and the South, 
than by a just appreciation of their proper defensive policy. 
This not only did not exclude, but it invited the seizing of favor- 
able opportunities to throw back the Army of the Potomac 
from its aggressive advances into Virginia, and, if possible, 
force it across the Potomac. But to convert these offensive 
returns into out-and-out invasion was to overleap their true 
policy and enter upon an enterprise uncertain, perilous, and 
costly. The experience of the Maryland campaign of the 
previous year might already have made this manifest ; and 
hence it would appear that the Richmond leaders, in resolving 
to push the aggression into Pennsylvania, took counsel not so 
much from prudence as from the clamors of the Hotspurs of 
the South, who, fretting at the defensive attitude held by Lee 
during the past twelve months, now burned to see the theatre 
of war transfen-ed to Northern soil.* The close of May found 
the army ready to launch on this seductive but fatal adven- 

* The vague flying rumors and the significant intimations of the Southern 
press had given Hooker reason to anticipate some hostile movement on the 
part of Lee, and on the, 28th of May he communicated this conviction to Wash- 
ington. " You may rest assured," said he, " that important movements are 
being made. I am in doubt as to the direction he [Lee] will take, but 

probably the one of last year, however desperate it may appear." — Dispatch, 
from Hooker to Secretary Stanton. 




In execution of this project the first object with Lee was to 
disengage Hooker from the Rappahannock, and with this 
view secret movements were begun on the 3d of June. Mc- 
Laws' division, of Longstreet's corps, that day left Fredericks- 
burg for Culpepper Courthouse, and at the same time Hood's 
division, of Longstreet's corps, which, since its arrival from 
Richmond, had been encamped on the Rapidan, marched 
to the same place. On the 4th and oth Ewell's corps was 
given the same direction. Meanwhile, the corps of A. P, 
Hill was left to occupy the lines of Fredericksburg.* 

Made aware of some movement in the enemy's camp, but 
unable to determine its precise nature, Hooker, with the view 
of a closer reconnoissance, threw Sedgwick's corps, on the (ith, 
across the Rappahannock at Franklin's Crossing ; but as Hill 
remained in position to mask the march of the other corps, 
all that Sedgwick discovered was that the enenry was in force. 
Lee, therefore, did not interrupt the march of Longstreet and 
Ewell towards Culpepper, which place they reached on the 
8th.f Hooker was still in ignorance of Lee's purpose, which 
was at length disclosed in the following manner. 

Stuart's cavalry had already been concentrated at Culpepper 
some time before the commencement of the main movement ; 
and the knowledge of this fact, which seemed to indicate some 
hostile intent, determined Hooker to send his whole cavalry 
corps to break up Stuart's camp.J Accordingly, on the 9th, 

* Lee : Report of the Gettysburg Campaign. 

t Roid. 

% "As the accumulation of the heavy rebel force of cavalry about Culpepper 
may mean mischief, I am determined, if practicable, to break it up in its incipi- 
•incy. I sball send all my cavalry against them, stiffened by about three thou- 
eand infantry."— Dispatch of General Hooker to General Halleck, June Ctli. 


General Pleasonton, with, two divisions of cavalry under 
Buford and Gregg, supported by two picked brigades of in- 
fantry under Eussell and Ames, crossed the Rappahannock 
at Kelly's and Beverley's fords, to move by converging roads 
on Culpepper. But Stuart, having already moved forward 
from Culpepper to Brandy Station, en route to form the ad- 
vance and cover the flank of the main movement, a rencounter 
took place soon after the Union cavalry passed the river. 

Crossing at Beverley's Ford, and advancing through the 
woodland, Buford immediately encountered a Confederate bri- 
gade under General Jones, which, after a considerable com- 
bat,* he drove back for a couple of miles, when he found 
himself checked by the arrival of the brigades of "W H. F. Lee 
and Wade Hampton to the support of Jones. Hereupon 
severe fighting followed ; but presently Stuart was compelled 
to draw off to face a menace by another force threatening his 
rear.f This threat came from the column under Gregg, 
which had crossed at Kelly's Ford, and advanced towards 
Brandy Station, its progress being disputed by a Confederate 
brigade under General Bobertson. Pushing on towards 
Brandy Station, a spirited passage at arms took place for the 
possession of the heights, which were at length carried by 
Gregg. Stuart having withdrawn the main portion of the 
three brigades from Buford's front, then approached quickly, 
and a determined combat ensued. Considerable loss occurred 
on both sides, and finally Gregg, finding that the other col- 
umn had not been able to move up to make a junction with 
him, fell back towards his right and rear and united with the 
division under Buford, whereupon General Pleasonton retired 
his command across the Kappahannock. This engagement 
between the entire mounted force of the opposing armies was 
an interesting one, because it was of the few encounters on a 

* In this action, Colonel B. F. Davis, of the Eighth New York Cavalry, was 
killed. Colonel Davis was a gallant officer, and during the investment of Colo- 
nel Miles at Harper's Ferry cut his way through Jackson's lines, saving hia 
force and capturing a portion of Longptreet's trains. 

t General Stuart : Report of the Battle of Fleetwood. 


large scale in which the cavalry fought in legitimate cavalry 
stylo ; for the troopers commonly dismounted and used their 
carbines — a circumstance that ordinarily made these affairs 
quite insignificant and indecisive. The loss was between five 
and six hundred on each side.* 

This engagement had the important result of developing at 
once Lee's presence at Culpepper and his design of invasion, 
disclosures of both of which facts were found in captured cor- 
respondence. To meet this menace, Hooker advanced his 
right up the Rappahannock, throwing forward the Third 
Corps, on the 11th, to Rappahannock Station and Beverlev, 
while the cavalry observed the upper forks of the river. But 
while Hooker had his attention thus directed towards Cul- 
pepper and to guarding the line of the Rappahannock, with 
the view to prevent a crossing of that stream by the enemy, 
— who, it was supposed, would follow the same line of ma- 
noeuvre adopted hi the advance during the preceding summer 
against Pope, — Lee had taken another leap in advance, and 
thrust forward his left into the Shenandoah Valley. Leaving 
Hill's corps still in the position at Fredericksburg, and Long- 
street's corps at Culpepper, Ewell's corps was, on the 10th, 
put in motion westward and northward, avoiding the Rappa- 
hannock altogether till he reached the Blue Ridge, through 
which he passed at Chester Gap. Then striking Front Royal, 
he crossed the Shenandoah River, and burst into the Valley 
Advancing rapidly towards Winchester, he arrived before that 
place on the evening of the 13th, after an advance from Cul- 
pepper of seventy miles in three days. 

Such was the startling intelligence that now reached 
Hooker, who still lay on the Rappahannock ; and action, 
prompt and vigorous, was seen to be instantly necessary. A 
glance at the map will reveal the extraordinary situation of 
the Confederate force at this time. On the 13th of -Tune, with 
the Army of the Potomac yet lying on the Rappahannock, 
Lee's line of battle was stretched out over an interval of up- 

* General YV H. F. Lee was amon£ the wounded. 


wards of a hundred miles : for his right (Hill's corps) still 
held the lines of Fredericksburg ; his centre (Longstreet's 
corps) lay at Culpepper ; and his left (Ewell's corps) was at 
the mouth of the Shenandoah Valley ! 

Now, it will doubtless not be difficult for any one capable 
of looking at the map of Northern Virginia with a military 
eye, to base on these data a plan of action which it may be 
supposed would be the plan of action suited to the circum- 
stances. But it would be altogether unjust to judge what 
General Hooker did, or what he failed to do, by the simple 
results of military reasoning ; for in the relations which he 
held to the central military authority at Washington — an 
authority to which his own views were completely subordi- 
nated — he had neither the freedom of willina; nor of acting;'. 

It would appear obvious that in the audacious situation 
of Lee's army (and this very boldness would seem to imply a 
great contempt for his opponent), the proper place for 
Hooker to strike was at that exposed rear of his long line 
formed by Hill's corps ; for it is as sure an inference as any 
inference in war can be, that a force of, say, two or three 
corps, thrown across the Rappahannock at Banks' or United 
States ford, could interpose itself between Hill (at Fredericks- 
burg) and Longstreet (at Culpepper). And if the movement 
did not insure Hill's destruction (which it ought to do, in 
vigorous hands), his jeopardized situation would certainly 
recall Lee's other forces to his support. This interruption 
of the plan of invasion would be its ending. 

It is an interesting fact that precisely this method of action 
was suggested by General Hooker a short time before he 
became aware of Lee's actual movement,* and authority for 
its execution was asked in case the Confederate force should 
move northward. t To this most judicious suggestion two 
replies, or rather two forms of the same reply — for the opinion 
was Halleck's — were returned. The one was from the Pres- 

* Dispatch from Hooker to Halleck. 
t Report on the Conduct of the War, second series, vol. i., p. 153. 


ident, disapproving the project, and couched in that quaint 
imagery which Mr. Lincoln was wont to employ in the expres- 
sion of his thoughts on the gravest subjects. " If Lee," said 
he, " should leave a rear force at Fredericksburg, tempting 
you to fall upon it, he would fight you in intrenchments,* and 
have you at disadvantage ; and so, man for man, worst you 
at that point, Avhile his main force would in some way be get- 
ting an advantage of you northward. In a word, I would not 
take any risk of being entangled upon the river, like an ox 
jumped half over a fence, and liable to be torn by dogs front and 
rear, without a fair chance to gore one icay or to kick the other." t 
The other reply was from General Halleck, and it expressed, 
in solemn military jargon, the same opinion so pungently 
conveyed by the President;^ but suggested an operation 
against the "flank of the moving column" — a suggestion 
that is nothing better than a mask, for General Halleck must 
have known such an operation to be perfectly impracticable, 
if Hooker was to have any observance of his express instruc- 
tions to cover Washington.§ 



Thus prevented from taking the only step that would have 
given him the initiative, Hooker was fain to fall back on the 
interior line towards Washington, taking positions defensive 

* Nothing easier than to turn the Fredericksburg defences by Banks' or 
United States ford. 

f Dispatch from President Lincoln to General Hooker, June 5. 

X Dispatch from General Halleck to General Hooker : Report on the Conduct 
of the War, second series, vol. i., p. 154. 

£ Any possible movement by Hooker, in execution of this suggestion, would 
have uncovered his right, and given General Lee precisely the opening d>r 
such a dash on Washington which the report of that general shows he was 
warily watching. 


as regards the capital, and which would enable him to await 
the development of Lee's designs. Upon learning the move- 
ment of the enemy into the Shenandoah "Valley, Hooker, on 
the 13th, broke up his camps along the Kappahannock, and 
moved rapidly on the direct route towards Washington, fol- 
lowing and covering the line of the Orange and Alexandria 
Bailroad. The first move was to Bealton, Warrenton, and 
Catlett's Station, on the 13th and 14th ; next to Fairfax Sta- 
tion and Manassas, on the 15th and 16th. Here he re- 
mained several days, while awaiting the disclosure of a series 
of movements which Lee was then making, and to the expo- 
sition of which I now return. 

When on the 13th Hill, holding the lines of Fredericks- 
burg, saw the Union army disappear behind the Stafford 
hills, he knew that that for which he had remained behind 
was accomplished, and he then took up his line of march 
towards Culpepper, where Longstreet's corps still held posi- 
tion. Meantime, Ewell was making his Jackson-like swoop 
into the Valley. General Jenkins with his cavalry-brigade 
had been ordered to advance towards Winchester, in co- 
operation with Ewell, and Imboden with his troopers had 
been thrown out in the direction of Romney, to cover the 
movement on Winchester, and prevent its garrison from re- 
ceiving re-enforcements from the troops on the line of the 
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Both these officers were in 
position when Ewell reached the Valley. On crossing the 
Shenandoah River near Front Royal, Ewell detached Rodes' 
division to Berryville, to cut off communication between 
Winchester and the Potomac, while with the divisions of 
Early and Johnson he advanced directly upon that Federal 
post, driving Milroy into his works around the town on the 
13th. The following night, Milroy abandoned his position, 
but his force being intercepted, a good part of it was cap- 
tured in the confused melee. As, at the same time, General 
Rodes took Berryville with seven hundred prisoners, and the 
garrison at Harper's Ferry withdrew to Maryland Heights, 
the Valley was now cleared of all Union force. 


In this exploit Ewell captured oxer four thousand prisoners, 
twenty-nine pieces of artillery, and large stores. Milroy with 
a handful of men escaped across the Potomac. His defence 
of the post intrusted to his care was infamously feeble, and 
the worst of that long train of misconduct that made the 
Valley of the Shenandoah to be called the " Valley of Hu- 

Turning back to the other two corps of Lee's army, it ap- 
pears that on Hill's advance from Fredericksburg to Cul- 
pepper, Longstreet, who had been retained at the latter place, 
was pushed northward ; but instead of following the route of 
Ewell, he moved along the eastern side of the Blue Ridge, 
taking position at Ashby s and Snicker's Gaps. This served 
as a cover to Hill, who slipped through behind Longstreet 
into the Shenandoah Valley, and took position at Winchester, 
while, at the same time, it served as a lure to draw Hooker 
from hia base.* 

During the progress of these movements, Hooker, being de- 
termined not to be drawn into a manoeuvre that would expose 
his right, continued to hold position in the vicinity of Fairfax 
and Manassas, covering the approaches to Washington, while 
the cavalry under Pleasonton was thrown out to feel towards 
the passes of the Blue Pudge. Here Longstreet's corps con- 
tinued still to hold post, while his whole front was secured by 
Stuart's troopers. At Aldie, the opposing cavalry had, on the 
17th, a rencounter, which partly developed Lee's position to 
Hooker, who then felt forward cautiously, sending the Twelfth 
Corps to Leesburg, the Fifth to Aldie, and the Second to 
Thoroughfare Gap. Pleasonton, meanwhile, followed up 
Stuart, driving him on the 20th through Middleburg, and on 
the 21st through Upperville and beyond. But Hooker did 
not continue a movement which he felt to be compromising. 

* General Lee in his report explicitly declares this to have been his purpose. 
" With a view to draw him [Honker] farther from his base, etc., Longstreet ad 
vanced along the east side of the Blue Ridge, occupying Ashby's and Snicker's 
Gap Tt seemed to be the purpose of General Hooker to take a position 

which would enable him to cover the approaches to Washington City." 


Meantime, Lee seemed to be master of the situation. He 
held strong positions in the Shenandoah Valley where he was 
ready to welcome battle from his opponent, should he ad- 
vance, while he was free to cut loose a raiding column into 
Maryland and Pennsylvania. The longer Hooker remained 
on the south bank of the Potomac, the freer would be the 
scope of the foraging forces, and when he should cross to the 
north side, Lee, relieved from the danger to his communica- 
tions, would be able to pass to the north bank also, which 
was altogether in the line of his plan of invasion. 

In pursuance of this purpose, as soon as Hill and Long- 
street had relieved Ewell in the Valley, that general with the 
van of the invading columns passed, on the 22d, into Mary- 
land, while Imboden's cavalry was thrown out westward, and 
effectually destroyed the great lines of communication by the 
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and the Chesapeake and Ohio 
Canal. Jenkins' troopers had already preceded Ewell's ad- 
vance by a week, and had penetrated Pennsylvania as far as 
Chambersburg, throwing the whole north country into a 
wild blaze of excitement. After gathering in much cattle and 
horses, which he headed towards the Potomac, Jenkins 
turned back to join Ewell's force, which, after crossing the 
Potomac, on the 22d, at Williamsport and Shepherdstown, 
moved by two columns on Hagerstown, and thence, crossing 
the boundary into Pennsylvania, passed up the Cumberland 
Valley, reaching Chambersburg on the following day. The 
whole region of Western Pennsylvania up to the Susque- 
hannah was now open to Ewell, free to come and to go, 
without any other fear than that which might be inspired by 
the not very formidable aspect of the Pennsylvania militia.* 

* Forewarned of the designs of the invading army, the War Department 
had detached General Couch from the command of the Second Corps of the 
Army of the Potomac, and assigned him, on the 11th of June, to the Depart- 
ment of the Susquehanna, with his headquarters at Harrisburg, the capital of 
Pennsylvania. General Brooks was at the same time appointed to the com- 
mand of the Department of the Monongahela, with his headquarters at Pitts- 
burgh. But commanders without troops to command cannot be considered very 


He had, therefore, free scope for an extensive commerce 
in horses and cattle, vast herds of which he sent southward, 
while for the subsistence of his troops he levied subsidies from 
the population of the country. Thousands of Pennsylvania 
farmers, panic-stricken, hastened with their cattle and house- 
hold goods to the north of the Susquehanna. From Cliam- 
bersburg, Ewell moved northward, sending Eodes' division to 
Carlisle, while Early's division, moving to the east side of the 
South Mountain ridge, passed by way of Gettysburg to York, 
and thence to Wrightsville on the Susquehanna — the militia- 
retiring and destroying the splendid bridge over the river at 



However galling the intelligence of the ravaging of Penn- 
sylvania may have been, General Hooker at least felt himself 
powerless to help, for it was impossible for him to pass to the 
north side of the Potomac until his opponent's purpose should 
be more fully disclosed. It was not, therefore, until be 
learned that the remaining corps of Lee were passing into 
Maryland that he also crossed the river. The corps of Long- 
street and Hill made the passage of the Potomac at Williams- 
port and Shepherdstown on the 24th and 25th, and followed 
the path of Ewell into Pennsylvania. 

The entire army of the Potomac then crossed on the 25th 
and 26th at Edwards' Ferry, and made a movement of con- 
centration on Frederick — a position from which Hooker might 

formidable barriers to an invasion ; and though Governor Curtin issued procla- 
mations and (ieneral Couch calls, the response was neither prompt nor enthu- 
siastic, i.nd when at length a few thousand men had been raised, and New 
York had sent forward some of her militia regiments, these officers did not find 
It practicable to carry their views of defence beyond the line of the Susqua 


either debouch through the South Mountain passes to plant 
himself upon Lee's line of retreat, or moving northward on 
the eastern side of the mountains, follow Lee's movement in 
the direction of the Susquehanna. 

The former course is of the two the bolder and more deci- 
sive move, and though there is no proof that is conclusive re- 
specting Avhich of these courses General Hooker designed to 
adopt, there is yet evidence that he purposed making, at 
least, a strong demonstration on Lee's line of communications. 
With this A-iew he threw out his left well westward to Middle- 
town, and ordered the Twelfth Corps, under General Slocum, 
to march to Harper's Ferry. Here Slocum was to be joined 
by the garrison of that post, eleven thousand strong, under 
General French, and the united force was to menace the 
Confederate rear by a movement towards Chambersburg. 
Unhappily, this project traversed the pet crotchet of General 
Halleck respecting Harper's Ferry, and thence began griefs 
for Hooker, and an imbroglio more and more involved till it 
resulted in his supersedure from command at the critical mo- 
ment when the two armies were manoeuvring towards a col- 
lision the weightiest of the war. The circumstances under 
which this took place are as follows. 

At the time Lee's advance was set on foot, the distribution 
of the Union forces showed the same vicious amorcellement 
under independent commanders that had marked the worst 
period of 1862. General Heintzelman commanded the De- 
partment of Washington, with a force of about thirty-six 
thousand men ;* General Schenck controlled the Middle De- 
partment, east of Cumberland, including the garrisons at 
Harper's Ferry, Winchester, etc. ; while General Dix, with a 
considerable force, lay for some purpose inconceivable on the 
Peninsula. Now, about the time Hooker crossed the Potomac, 
the general-in-chief, awakening at length to the fatal folly of 
this untimely waste of valuable force, placed the troops of 

* General Heintzelman's tri-monthly report for June 10, showed thirty-six 
thousand six hundred and forty men. 



Generals Heintzelman and Schenck under his control. But 
it was soon proved that this control "was rather in name than 
in realitv ; for "when he attempted to fit out from these de- 
partments a column of fifteen thousand men to move on Fred- 
erick, he found himself estopped l>y General Halleck s fears 
touching the safety of "Washington — a circumstance for which 
General Hooker conceived he provided sufficiently by the 
presence of the Army of the Potomac covering the capital; 
and when, after advancing on Frederick, he had planned the 
movement on the rear of Lee, and for that purpose had 
directed the temporary abandonment of Harper's Ferry, with 
the view of uniting its garrison of eleven thousand men under 
General French with the column of General Slocum destined 
to make the proposed movement, he asked General Halleck, 
on the 26th of June, " if there was an}' reason wh}- Maryland 
Heights should not be abandoned after the removal of the 
public stores and property," he was met by the following 
reply from the gencral-in-chief : " Maryland Heights have 
always been regarded as an important point to be held by us, 
and much expense and labor incurred in forti/t/iiii/ ih< m. I can- 
not approve their abandonment except in case of absolute ne- 
cessity """" It was in vain that General Hooker urged in 
rejoinder of this fatuitous objection that Harper's Ferry 
was, under the circumstances, a point of no importance ; that 
it defended no ford of the Potomac ; that its fortifications 
would remain after the troops were withdrawn ; nor was there 
the slightest probability that the enemy would take possession 
of them, and that, therefore, the ten thousand men that re- 
mained there useless, should be marched to a point where 
they could be of service. t 

* Telegram from General Halleck to General Hooker, June 27 : Report on 
the Conduct of the War, second series, vol. i., p. 292. 
\ The text of General Hooker's dispatch is as follows : 

Sandy Hook, June 27, 1^'.? 
Majok-Gkneral Halleck, General-in-c7iief : 

I have received your telegram in regard to Harper's Ferry. I find ten 
thousand men here in condition to take the field. Here they are of no earthly 


Against stupidity, sings Schiller, gods and men fight in 

Finding himself deprived of that freedom of action on 
which, in so large a degree, the success of militarj^ opera- 
tions depends, General Hooker requested, on the 27th of June, 
to be relieved from the command of the Army of the Poto- 
mac ; and early the following morning, a messenger reached 
Frederick from Washington with an order appointing Major- 
General G. G. Meade, commanding the Fifth Army Corps, in 
his stead. 

Provoking as was the behavior of General Halleck, the 
conduct of General Hooker cannot be accounted noble or 
high-minded. A truly lofty sense of duty would have dic- 
tated much long-suffering, in a conjuncture of circumstances 
amid which the success of the campaign might be seriously 
compromised by the sudden change of commanders. Yet it 
was fortunate for the Union cause at this crisis, that the 
choice of the Government for the commander of the Army of 
the Potomac fell upon one who proved fitted for the high 
trust ; and fortunate, too, that that oft-displayed steadfast- 
ness of the army, " unshaked of motion " and committed to the 
death to a duty self-imposed, rendered such transitions, else- 
where dangerous, here safe and easy. Meade put his hand 
to his work in a quiet, practical, business-like way ; and it 
was remarked that his undemonstrative temper, and the 
aspect he wore of a scholar rather than a soldier, were 
no drawback to the confidence of the troops, who had learned 
from the experience of his predecessor, that high-flown 

account. They cannot defend a ford of the river ; and as far as Harper's Ferry 
is concerned, there is nothing in it. As for the fortifications, the work of the 
troops, they remain when the troops are withdrawn. No enemy will eve* take 
possession of it for them. This is my opinion. All the public property could 
have been secured to-night, and the troops marched to where they could have 
been of some service. Now, they are but a bait for the rebels should they re 
turn. I beg that this may be presented to the Secretary of War, and his ex 
oellency the President. 

Joseph Hookek, Major-General. 


promise is often associated ■with very disproportionate per- 
formance. YVithout being what is called a popular ofliccr, 
General Meade was much respected by his comrades in arms. 
He was known in the army as one who had grown up with it, 
whose advancement was due to merit, and who had shown a 
special steadfastness in many trying hours. The command 
of the Army of the Potomac was put into his hand Avithout 
anv lets or hindrances, the President expressly waiving all 
the powers of the Executive and the Constitution, so as to 
enable General Meade to make, untrammelled, the best dis- 
positions for the emergency. 

Immediately the columns moved on as if no change had 


At the time General Meade took command, the army was 
lying around and near Frederick — its left at Middletown ; 
and all he knew touching the enemy Avas, that Lee, after 
crossing the Potomac, had marched up the Cumberland Val- 
ley, and that Ewoll's corps occupied York and Carlisle, and 
threatened the passage of the Susquehanna at Columbia and 

In this state of facts, Meade adopted the only course then 
considered by him practical >le, which Avas to move his army 
by the inner line from Frederick toAvards Harrisburg, con- 
tinuing the movement until he should meet Lee, or make him 
loose his hold on the Susquehanna. 

He therefore put his army in motion on the morning of the 
29th, taking a course due northward, and keeping east of the 
South Mountain range. The army moved in three columns, 
covering, as it advanced, the lines of approach to Baltimore 
and Washington. The First and Eleventh corps Avere 
directed on Emmettsburg ; the Third and Twelfth on Taney- 


town ; the Second on Frizzleburg ; the Fifth to Union, and the 
Sixth to Windsor. 

Now, on the very day that Meade began to move north- 
ward, Lee, apprised of those previous manoeuvres that 
seemed to threaten an irruption into the Cumberland Valley 
(a step which would imperil his communications with the Po- 
tomac), discovered it would be necessary to do something to 
check this menace. At this time Longstreet and Hill were at 

I Chamber siury 


Chambersburg, Ewell was at York and Carlisle, and Lee was 
just on the point of moving his whole force northward to 
cross the Susquehanna and strike Harrisburg ;* when, learn- 
ing the already mentioned menace, he resolved to concentrate 
on the east side of the South Mountain range as a diversion 

* " Preparations were now made to advance upon Harrisburg ; but on the 
night of the 28th information was received from a scout that the Federal 
army, having crossed the Potomac, was advancing northward, and that the 
head of the column had reached South Mountain. As our communications 


in favor of his lino of retreat, touching which he was justifi- 
ablv norvons. Accordingly, instead of directing Longstreet 
and Hill to join Ewell on the intended invasion, lie ordered 
tliem to march from Chambersburg, defiling through the 
South Mountain range, towards Gettysburg, distant twenty 
miles eastward; and he instructed Ewell to countermarch 
from York and Carlisle on the same point. These move- 
ments were begun on the morning of Monday, the "J'.lth of 

It was not until the night of the 30th, after the army had 
made two marches, that General Meade became satisfied that 
Lee, apprised of his movement, had loosed Ids hold on the 
Susquehanna and was concentrating his forces east of the 
South Mountain to meet him. But when and where the shock 
of battle, which was now seen to lie imminent, would take 
place it was impossible to tell. Under these circumstances, 
he set about to select a position on which, by a rapid 
movement of concentration, ho might In- prepared to receive 
battle on advantageous terms. "With this view, the general 
line of Pipe Creek, on the dividing ridge between the Mono- 
cacv and the waters running into the Chesapeake Bay, was 
selected as a favorable position, though its ultimate adoption 
was held contingent on developments that might arise. 
Accordinglv, orders were issued on the night of the 30th for 
the movements of the different corps on the following day : the 
Sixth Corps, forming the right wing of the army, was ordered 
to Manchester in rear of Pipe Creek; headquarters and the 
Second Corps to Taneytown ; the Twelfth and Fifth corps, 
forming the centre, were directed on Two Taverns and Han- 
over, somewhat in advance of Pipe. Creek ; while the left wing, 
formed of the First, Third, and Eleventh corps under General 
Beynolds, as it was closest to the line of march of the enemy, 
was thrown forward to Gettysburg, towards which, as it hap- 
pened, Lee was then heading. 

with the Potomac were thus menaced, it was resolved to prevent his further 
progress in that direction by concentrating our army on the east side of the 
mountains." — Lee : Report of the Gettysburg Campaign. 


Strategically, the position at Gettysburg was of supreme 
importance to Lee ; for it was the first point in his eastward 
march across the South Mountain that gave command of 
direct lines of retreat towards the Potomac : but it was not of 
the same moment to Meade, especially if a defensive rather 
than an offensive battle was to be fought ; and the topo- 
graphical features of Gettysburg, that make it so advanta- 
geous for the defence, were then wholly unknown to him. 
While, therefore, the left wing, under Reynolds, was thus 
thrown forward in advance of the rest of the army as far as 
Gettysburg, it was not with any predetermined purpose of 
taking up position there ; but rather to serve as a mask while 
the line of Pipe Creek was assumed. 

But while, in war, commanders propose, fate or accident 
(so-called) often disposes ; and at the time these movements 
were in execution, events were occurring that were to lift the 
obscure and insignificant hamlet of Gettysburg into a historic 
immortality as the scene of the mightiest encounter of modern 

While the army was marching northward, Buford's division 
of cavalry was thrown out well on the left flank ; and moving 
from near Middleburg on the 29th of June, it occupied Gettys- 
burg at noon of the following day — the day before Reynolds 
was directed on that point. Passing through Gettysburg, 
Buford pushed out in reconnoissances west and north, over 
the routes on which it was supposed Lee's army was moving. 
Now, Lee had that morning put his columns in motion towards 
Gettysburg — Hill and Longstreet moving due eastward from 
Chambersburg and Fayetteville, and Ewell southward from 
Carlisle. Hill's corps had the advance on the great road 
from Chambersburg to Baltimore, which passes through Get- 
tysburg. The march was made with much deliberation : so 
that night found only two divisions through the South Moun- 
tain ; while the remaining division and Longstreet' s corps 
remained west of the mountains. The advance divisions of 
Hill's command bivouacked, on the night of the 30th June, 
within six or seven miles of Gettysburg ; while Ewell, march- 


iii<r on a line perpendicular with the route of Hill and Long- 
street, encamped at Heildersburg, distant nine miles. Of the 
Union force, Buford's cavalry division alone was at Gettys- 
burg that night , and Reynolds, with the First and Eleventh 
corps, bivouacked on the right bank of Marsh Creek, distant 
four miles, under orders to make Gettysburg the next mora- 
ine;. The corps of Sickles (Third) and Sloeum (Twelfth) were 
within call. The remaining corps were further off. 

It is easy to see, from the relative situations of the hostile 
armies, that unless one or the other should fall back, a battle 
was inevitable in the vicinity of Gettysburg. But these facts 
were unknown to both the opposing commanders ; and I shall 
in the next chapter relate how, contrary to the expectations of 
each, the action was precipitated. 



On the morning of Wednesday, the 1st of July, the two 
Confederate columns continued their march towards ( lettys- 
burg ; and Buford, holding position on the Chambersburg 
road, by Avhieh Hill and Longstreet were advancing, suddenly 
found himself engaged, a little past nine in the morning, with 
Hills van, about a mile west of the town. As he knew that 
Reynolds was moving up to join him, he made dispositions to 
retard the enemy, holding back Hill's column hv skilful de- 
ployments and tlie use of his horse-artillery Reynolds, who 
(with his own First ( \>rps and the Kleventh Corps, under Gen- 
eral Howard) was then in rmilc from his place of bivouac at 
Marsh Creek, hearing Buford's guns, pressed fonvard with all 
haste At ten o'clock he came upon the held with the leading 
division of the First Corps, under General AYadsworth. AVhilo 


jet forming line, "Wadsworth's troops were assailed ; and they 
had to be thrown quickly into battle array under fire. 

Looking westward from Gettysburg the horizon of vision is 
bounded at a distance of ten miles by the mountain range 
known as the South Mountain, which running north and 
south forms the eastern wall of the Cumberland Yalley. When 
the force which folded and raised up the strata that form the 
South Mountain was in action, it produced fissures in the 
strata of red shale which cover the surface of this region of 
country, permitting the fused material from beneath to rise 
and fill them on cooling with trap-cbykes or greenstone and 
syenitic greenstone. The rock, being for the most part very 
hard, remained as the axes and crests of hills and ridges 
when the softer shale in the intervening spaces was excavated 
by great water- currents into valleys and plains.* These 
ridges run in a direction nearly parallel with the South Moun- 
tain range, and give a rolling and diversified surface to the 
landscape. The town of Gettysburg nestles at the base of 
one of these ranges. At the distance of half a mile to the 
west of the town is another ridge, called, from the theological 
seminary that stands thereon, Seminary Kidge, and a mile 
further west run two other parallel swells of ground separated 
by Willoughby Eun. It was in the plain between these two 
latter ridges, the westernmost of which was occupied by the 
Confederates and the nearer by the Union troops, that the 
action of July 1st opened ; for Buford's deployments had suc- 
ceeded in detaining the hostile column on the farther side of 
the run till "Wadsworth's division came on the ground. As 
this force arrived, Reynolds hurried its two brigades into 
action, placing Cutler's brigade, with the battery of Hall — 
the only battery in the division — on the right and left of the 
Chambersburg road and across an old railroad grading (part 
of it in deep cut and part in embankment) near by and par- 
allel with the road ; while he directed General Doubleday 

* Professor Jacobs : " Later Rambles over the Field of Gettysburg ;" United 
States Service Magazine, 1864. 


who Lad reached the ground with tin.' van of the infantry, 
to move the other brigade, usually railed the " Iron Brigade,*' 
under General Meredith, to the left of the road to occupy a 
pieee of woods skirting Willoughby Han, across which and 
into the woods the Confederate right was at the same time 
pushing. Only the advanced division of Hill's corps, under 
Heth, had yet come up, so that the opening combat which 
might fitly be called the battle of Willoughby's Hun, was 
engaged between one division on each side. Heth, with his 
four brigades, attacked simultaneously the two brigades of 
AVadsworth's division under Generals Meredith and Cutler. 
The latter was assailed by Davis's Mississippi brigade, and 
with such success, that the three right regiments found them- 
selves flanked, Avhereupon they were withdrawn over the 
Seminary Pudge, leaving the battery unsupported. Mean- 
while, the skirmishers of Cutler's other two regiments (the 
Fourteenth Brooklyn, under Colonel Fowler, and the Ninety- 
fifth New York, under Colonel Biddle) were disputing with 
the Confederate brigade of Archer the passage of AYilloughby 
Bun, and skirmishing in a skirt of woods along the brook 
with such as had crossed. At this moment, the "' Iron Bri- 
gade" opportunely swept down from the left, struck the flank 
of the Confederate brigade, and captured several hundred 
that had already crossed, including the commander, Brigadier- 
General Archer.-" The dispositions at this point were made 
by General Beynolds in person ; and it was at the moment 
when, after urging on his men with animating words, he saw 
this successful charge under way, and turned to leave the 
woods, that he was struck with a rifle-shot that caused almost 
instant death — a grievous loss to the Army of the Potomac, 
one of whose most distinguished and best-beloved officers he 
was ; one whom, by the steady growth of the highest military 
qualities, the general voice of the whole army had marked out 
for the largest fame. 

* This movement was led by the Second Wisconsin, under Colonel Fair- 
child, supported by the remainder of the Iron Brigade. 


In thus engaging with the enemy, Reynolds has been 
skarged with rashness in prematurely precipitating a battle. 
But wrongly ; for rashness was not a fault of that officer, as 
all who know his character are well aware ; and though he 
had no orders to bring on a general action (being, indeed, 
under instructions to fall back on the proposed Hue of Pipe 
Creek), he was necessarily drawn into this engagement in aid 
of Buford's hard-pressed cavalry. His real motives, whatever 
they were, remain buried with him : but it is more than prob- 
able that, in hastening forward the head of his column to the 
plain beyond the town, his quick military eye had taken in 
at a glance the figure of that rocky bulwark around Gettys- 
burg as a vantage point where the army could most favorably 
receive battle, and in going out to oppose a front of resist- 
ance to the near-approaching enemy, and allow the army 
time to concentrate at Gettysburg, he knew he was doing 
what General Meade, who reposed the highest confidence in 
his judgment, would quite approve. 

While these events were passing on the left of Wads- 
worth's force, the retirement of Cutler's right left Hall's bat- 
tery unsupported ; and it was in imminent peril of capture, 
when the Fourteenth Brooklyn and the Ninety-fifth New 
York, joined by the Sixth Wisconsin, under Lieutenant- 
Colonel Dawes, made a change of front, and charged to the 
relief of the guns. This manoeuvre was so well managed that 
Davis's two Mississippi regiments, having sought shelter in 
the railroad cut, were there surrounded and compelled to sur- 
render with their battle-flags. Upon this, that part of Cut- 
ler's command that had previously fallen back, having in the 
mean time been reformed, returned and united with the three 
regiments engaged in this spirited affair, when the force was 
moved still further to the right to meet the extension of the 
enemy's lines in that direction. 

By the time these initial successes were gained, the combat, 
bursting out anew, was increased in volume by the arrival of 
fresh forces on each side. On the Union side, the two re- 
maining divisions of the First Corps, under Generals Row- 


lev* and Robinson, readied the ground. The former division 
was immediately thrown in to sustain the now lmrd-pivsseil 
left, and was precipitated into close action. The men were 
in the highest spirits, as was shown by their behavior, ami 
by one incident among others. One of the brigades of this 
division, under command of Colonel Roy Stone, had been as- 
signed to a position where it came under a heavy artillery 
fire; and as the troops took their post, Colonel Stone re- 
marked, ""We have come to stay" This went quickly through 
the brigade, the men adopting it as a watchword — " Wc hart' 
come h> stay." And a very large part of them never left that 
ground. f 

Meantime, Robinson's division remained for aAvhile in re- 
serve on the Seminary Ridge ; but almost simultaneously 
with the arrival of these re-enforcements, the advance divi- 
sion of Ewell's corps, under General Rodes, came in from the 
direction of Carlisle, and, swinging round under cover and un- 
pereeived, seized a position menacing the light of the Union 
line. This brought a heavy pressure to bear on that flank, 
held by Cutler's command, and to relieve it Robinson's divi- 
sion was moved forward from the Seminary. First, Baxter's 
brigade of this division took position on the right of Cutler, 
resting its right on the Mummasburg Road, and then, as the 
needs became more urgent, Baxter's command relieved Cut- 
ler, and the brigade of General Paul was brought up on Bax- 
ter's right. These troops opposed a vigorous resistance to 
Rodes' attack, and early in the action, by a skilful movement, 
captured three North Carolina regiments under General 

With this series of successes the combat opened ; but it was 
destined soon to be beclouded by an untoward sequel. Thus 
far tlie action had been sustained on the Union side by the 
First Corps alone, and on the Confederate side by the advanco 

* This ullicrr commanded Doubledayti division, the latter "ilir>T being, tor 
the time, in command of the corps. 

t Testimony of (Jenural Doubleday : Report on the Conduct of the War 
vol. i., p. ;;or. 


divisions of the corps of Hill and Ewell. But new actors now 
appeared on the stage. Hill was re-enforced by another divi- 
sion under General Pender, and towards one o'clock the 
Eleventh Corps came up — General Howard having arrived 
some time before and by virtue of his rank assumed com- 
mand of the field. General Howard left a division* in reserve 
on Cemetery Hill, and placed the divisions of Schurzf and 
Barlow to the right of the First Corps, on a prolongation of 
its general line, and covering the approaches to Gettysburg 
from the north and northwest. Almost simultaneously with 
the forming of the Eleventh Corps, a fresh division of Ewell's 
corps, under General Early, arrived from the direction of 
York and took position on Barlow's front. 

It has been seen how, by fresh arrivals, the Union line was 
gradually extended, till now it made a wide curve of several 
miles around the west and north of the town. In this dispo- 
sition of his troops General Howard fell into an error that 
has been common throughout the war — the error of attempt- 
ing to cover too much ground, by which it comes about that 
these long lines are everywhere weak, and that in attempting 
to cover every thing one really covers nothing. It would 
have been a disposition much better suited to the nature of 
the ground had General Howard massed a heavy force of his 
newly arrived corps on the right of the First Corps, where the 
line ended in Robinson's division — sweeping the plain to the 
north by its fire, in place of attempting to hold the whole 
stretch by a line thinly drawn out. 

This faulty placing of the force had a powerful influence on 
the result that followed ; and taken in connection with another 
circumstance, accounts quite as much as the alleged misbe- 
havior of some of the troops for the disastrous sequel. The 
circumstance to which I have made reference is this. "When 
Eodes threw forward his division to connect with the left of 
Hill's troops, he secured a commanding position on an ele- 

* Steinwehr's division. 

t This division was, for the time being, under General Schimmelpfenig, 
Schurz commanding the corps. 


vated ridge known as Oak Hill, situate between tlie Mum- 
masburg and Carlisle roads. This position was tlie key-point 
of tlie entire field, and gave Rodes an advantageous point 
of attack on the centre of the line as now drawn ; or rather, 
as the corps did not connect, on the right flank of the hirst 
Corps and the left flank of the Eleventh Corps. The eileet of 
this was soon seen. It required but a slight pressure for 
Early to throw back the right division, under Barlow, who 
found it impossible to hold his command to their work, and 
who was himself left on the field severely wounded. And 
when, towards three o'clock, a general advance was made by 
the Confederates, Rodes speedily broke through the hnion 
centre, carrying away the right of the First Corps and the left 
of the Eleventh, and, entering the interval between them, 
disrupted the whole line. The troops fell back in much 
disorder into Gettj-sburg. At the same time the right of the 
First Corps, giving way, also retreated to the town, where 
they became entangled with the disordered mass. Early, 
launching forward, captured above five thousand prisoners* 
The left of the First alone drew back in some order, mak- 
ing a stand on Seminary Ridge until the artillery and ambu- 
lances had been withdrawn, and then fell back behind the 

At the time the confused throng was pouring through Get- 
tysburg, General Hancock arrived on the ground. He had 
not brought with him his tried Second Corps, but had ridden 
forward from Taneytown under orders from General Meade, on 
learning the death of Reynolds, to assume command and use 
discretionary power either to retain the force at Gettysburg, 
or retire it to the proposed line on Pipe Creek. General 
Hancock was instructed to examine the ground, and if he 
found the position under the circumstances a better one than 
that contemplated, he should so advise the commander, and 
the army would be ordered up. But on his arrival he found 
a more pressing duty forced upon him ; for it was clear that 

* Lee : Report of Gettysburg, MS. 


if the flight of the shattered masses of the First and 
Eleventh corps was not stayed, a great disaster must follow. 
The sole nucleus of stability was presented by a single bri- 
gade of Steinwehr's division which General Howard, on arriv- 
ing, had left in reserve on Cemetery Hill, and the cavalry of 
Buford, which, deployed on the plain to the left of the town, 
and in front of the ridge, presented a bold and firm front. 
Evervwhere else was confusion, and the enemy comincr on. 

In such an emergency it is the personal qualities of the 
commander alone that tell. If, happily, there is in him that 
mysterious but potent magnetism that calms, subdues, and in- 
spires, there results one of those sudden moral transformations 
that are among the marvels of the phenomena of battle. 
This quality Hancock possesses in a high degree, and his 
appearance soon restored order out of seemingly hopeless 
confusion — a confusion which Howard, an efficient officer, but 
of a rather negative nature, had not been able to quell. Nor, 
fortunately, could there be any question as to the right posi- 
tion to be taken up, for nature had already traced it out in a 
bold relief of rock. On the ridge of Gettysburg — the ridge 
Reynolds had mentally marked as he impetuously hurried 
forward to buffet the advancing enemy, and which, by the 
rich sacrifice of his life, he purchased for the possession of 
the army and for the possession of history forever— Han- 
cock disposed the remnants of the two corps. 

The Gettysburg ridge is an irregular, interrupted fine of 
heights and hills running due south from the town of Gettys- 
burg. At the town the ridge bends back, eastward and 
southward, in a crotchet formed by Cemetery and Culps' hills. 
The former is so called from the burying-place of the town 
situate thereon. It commands the positions available for the 
enemy on the north and northwest. The latter forming the 
right knob of the line is in rough and rocky ground, much 
wooded and very unfavorable to the use of artillery. Along 
its eastern base runs Eock Creek, one of the tributaries of the 
Monocacy. From Cemetery Hill the line runs southward for 
about three miles, in a well-defined ridge, which may 


properly be termed Cemetery Ridge, and which terminates, at 
that distance, in a high, rocky, and Avoodcd peak named 
Round Top, the less elevated portion near where the nvst 
rises into Round Top being termed Little Round Top,* a rough 
and bald spur of the former. The broken character of the 
ground in front of the southern flank of the line renders it 
also unfavorable to the use of artillery. The general position 
is thus about four miles in extent ; but while Cemetery 
and Gulps' hills require the formation of a line of battle to 
face northward, the direction of Cemetery Ridge (north 
and south) causes the line to front westward. The crest, 
mainly in cultivated fields, but with occasional fringes of 
woods, has, throughout, a good slope to the rear, affording 
excellent cover for the reserves and trains. To the west, the 
ridge falls off in a cultivated and undulating valley, Avhich it 
commands, and at the distance of a mile or less is a parallel 
crest which has already been marked as Seminary Ridge, 
and which the Confederates occupied during the succeeding 
battle. In the valley between these two ridges the ground 
rises into an intermediate SAvell of land, along which runs the 
Emmettsburg road. 

Such was the ground destined to form the seem 1 of the 
approaching shock of the two armies ; and on which Han- 
cock, assisted by Generals Howard, Warren, and Buford, 
now disposed his preliminary line of battle. Cemetery Hill 
was already partially held by Howard's troops. On the rigid 
of these, and occupying the important position of Culps' Hill, 
was placed WadsAvorth's division of the First Corps, and Ins 
line completely commanded the approaches from the town of 
Gettysburg, iioav held by Ewell. The remaining two divisions 
of the First Corps under General Doubleday were posted on 
the left of the Eleventh, along Cemetery Ridge ; and (deary's 
division of the TAvelfth Corps (Slocum) just then arriving, was 
ordered by Hancock to the high ground on the left. Towards 
six o'clock, the remaining division of that Corps came up, 

* This spur appears on the map of Colonel Batcheldor, as Weed's Hill. 



having been urgently summoned by General Howard during 
the afternoon. The command, thereupon, devolved on Gen- 
eral Slocum ; and Hancock, having ordered all the trains to 
the rear, so as not to interfere with any movement of troops 
that might be ordered, returned to headquarters at Taney- 
town, where General Meade still remained. 

General Hancock reported that the position at Gettysburg 
was a very strong one, and advantageous for a defensive 
battle, having for its only disadvantage that it might be 
turned: in fact, Hancock's representations were such that 
General Meade instantly gave orders for the forward move- 
ment and concentration of all the corps on Gettysburg, and 
he advanced his headquarters to that point, reaching it at one 
o'clock of the morning of the 2d. The Third Corps (Sickles) 
had early in the day been summoned up by General Howard. 
Its van reached Gettysburg at sunset of the 1st, and was 
joined by the remainder of the corps during the night and 
following morning. The Second Corps, having only to make 
the march of thirteen miles from Taneytown, arrived in the 
vicinity when General Hancock was on his way back, and 
was by him placed in position two miles in rear of the town 
to cover the flank aud communications. The Fifth Corps 
(Sykes), when ordered forward, was at Union Mills, dis- 
tant twenty-three miles ; but by a night-march might reach 
the ground early in the morning. The Sixth Corps, forming 
the right wing of the army as it moved, was furthest off, 
being at Manchester, thirty-six miles from Gettysburg ; but 
the known character of General Sedgwick gave assurance that 
ill the resources of skill and zeal would be employed to bring 
it up at the earliest possible moment. 

The important action of Wednesday, opening with success, 
'ollowed by repulse, and ending in the occupation of the ridge 
)f Gettysburg, was, as has been seen, fought by only the ad- 
vanced portion of the two armies : by the First and Eleventh 
iorps on the Union side, and on the Confederate side by the 
livisions of Heth and Pender of Hill's corps, and the divisions 
)f Early and Bodes of Ewell's corps. As it has been seen 



that the columns of Hill and Longstreet moved from Clinm- 
bershurg and Fayette ville towards Gettysburg on the morn- 
ing of the 29th, and as the distance is not above twenty miles, 
it is evident that the march was conducted much more slowly 
than was usual with Lee, and this he attributes to his igno- 
rance of the movements of his antagonist — an ignorance due 
to the absence of Stuart's cavalry, the vigilant eyes of the 
Confederate commander.* 

From the exposition already given it will have appeared 
that by the encounter of "Wednesday, the opposing armies 
were precipitated into general conflict sooner than the chief 
commanders on each side expected ; but when Lee, on the 
one hand, and Meacle, on the other, reached the front late at 
night, they found themselves by the events of the day already 
committed to battle, and rapid concentration at Gettysburg 
became imperative. Having shown Meade's dispositions to 
this end, it remains to add that Lee also sent urgent orders 
to his remaining divisions to hasten their march. Meantime, 
Ewell Avas instructed to carry Cemetery Hill if he found it 
practicable, but to avoid a general engagement until the arri- 
val of the other divisions of the army. He decided to await 
the arrival of Johnston's division ; but as that officer did not 
arrive till a late hour, and in the mean time it was found that 

* The absence of Stuart happened in this manner : When Lee crossed the 
Potomac from the Shenandoah Valley, Stuart was left on the east side of the 
Blue Ridge, under instructions to harass Ho'okor as much as possible in cross- 
ing the Potomac, and then pass into Maryland, either cast or west of the Blue 
Ridge, and take position on the right of the advancing column. This would 
have put him in his proper place to watch the Union cavalry thrown our on 
the left of the Army of the Potomac. Stuart, however, finding himself unable 
to impede the passage of the Potomac, advanced eastward as far as Fairfax 
Courthouse, and then crossed the Potomac at Seneca. But Hooker having 
crossed above, Stuart found the entire Union army interposed between him and 
Lee, so that he was compelled to make a wide detour on the exterior line: 
marching by way of Westminster, he advanced to Carlisle, but did not reach 
that point till the 1st of July, the day after Ewell had left for Gettysburg, tc 
which point he was then immediately summoned by Lee, who had during all 
these movements been deprived of the important services of his cavalry. 


the Union force had fully occupied the heights, it was resolved 
not to attack until the arrival of Longstreet, two of whose 
divisions, those of Hood and McLaws, had encamped within 
three miles of Gettysburg. Hill's remaining division under 
Anderson reached the ground soon after the close of the en- 

Nevertheless, to neither of the opposing chiefs could the 
situation, as it presented itself on their arrival that night, be 
either encouraging or satisfactory. General Meade found 
affairs pressing to a culmination, and the rolls of the First 
and Eleventh corps showed as the result of an encounter 
which in its general relations was but a reconnoissance in 
force, the formidable loss of near ten thousand men ! He 
did not know but that Lee had his whole force massed in 
front of him, while his own army was much scattered, and a 
part distant by a full day's march* Yet the position 
seemed favorable, and above all it secured to him the advan- 
tage of the defensive, forcing upon his antagonist all the 
perils of attack. t Dropping at once, therefore, as now ob- 
solete, all previous contingent plans looking to other lines of 
defence, he had the moment he learnt the nature of the posi- 
tion given orders for the rapid concentration of the whole 
army at Gettysburg. 

To Lee, on the other hand, though the action of the 1st 
had been on the whole favorable, yet the situation in which 
he found himself was very different from what he desired. It 
must be borne in mind that Lee's sudden movement to the 
east side of the South Mountain range, just at the moment he 
was heading his columns to cross the Susquehanna and ad- 

* The two corps furthest off were the Fifth and Sixth, the former of which 
was distant twenty-three, and the latter upwards of thirty miles. 

f General Meade makes no secret of his strong desire, at the time, to secure 
the advantage of the defensive. " It was my desire," says he in his testimony 
before the War Committee (Report, p. 439), " to fight a defensive rather than an 
offensive battle, for the reason that I was satisfied my chances of success were 
greater in a defensive battle than in an offensive one ; and I knew the moment- 
ous consequences dependent upon the result of that." 


vance on Harrisburg, was solelv prompted by tlio menace to 
his communications with the Potomac resulting from the ma- 
in euvres of his antagonist. It was, therefore, with the view 
of checking the latter that Lee threw his forces to the east 
side of the mountain : but in doing so, he was far from 
expecting or desiring to take upon himself the risk of a general 
battle, at a point so distant from his base. He was willing to 
do so only in case he should, by manoeuvring, secure the advan- 
tage of the defensive, or some special opening for a blow, 
should his opponent make a false move. Indeed, in enter- 
ing upon the campaign, General Lee expressly promised his 
corps-commanders that lie would not assume a iactioal offi'nsirc, 
but force his antagonist to attack him. Having, however, 
gotten a taste of blood in the considerable success of the fust 
day, the Confederate commander seems to have lost that 
equipoise in which his faculties commonly moved, and he 
determined to give battle. * 

In adopting this course he committed a grave error, as 
the event proved, and judging from a merely military point 
of view ; but this is not the first case in which it has been 
seen that other considerations than those of a purely mili- 
tary order enter into the complex problem of war. General 
Lee states as his main motive for giving battle, the diffi- 
culty that would have been experienced in withdrawing 
through the mountains with his large trains — an excuse that 
can hardly be considered valid. A considerable part of the 
trains had not been advanced to the east of the mountains, 
and he could readily have withdrawn all under cover of his 
line of battle ; and then retired his army by the same routes — 
the Cashtown and Fairfield roads — over which he ultimately 
retreated. Besides, there was open another and still bolder 
move. Longstreet, holding the right of the Confederate line, 

* This, and subsequent revelations of the purposes and sentiments of Lee, I 
derive from (General Longstreet, who, in a full and free conversation with the 
writer, after the close of the war. threw much light on the motives and conduct 
ot Lee during this campaign. 


had one flank securely posted on the Enimettsbnrg road, so 
that he was really between the Army of the Potomac and 
Washington ; and by marching towards Frederick could 
undoubtedly have manoeuvred Meade out of the Gettysburg 
position. This operation General Longstreet, who foreboded 
the worst from an attack on the army in position, and was 
anxious to hold General Lee to his promise, begged in vain to 
be allowed to execute.* 

What really compelled Lee, contrary to his original intent 
and promise, to give battle, was the animus and inspiration of 
the invasion ; for, to the end, such were the " exsufflicate and 
blown surmises" of the army, and such was the contempt of its 
opponent engendered by Fredericksburg and ChanceUorsville, 
that there was not in his ranks a barefoot soldier in tattered 
gray but believed Lee would lead him and the Confederate 
army into Baltimore and Washington, if not into Philadelphia 
and Xew York.f To have withdrawn, therefore, without a 
battle, though materially easy, was morally impossible ; for 
to have recrossed the Potomac without a blow, and abandoned 
the invasion on which such towering hopes had been built, 
would have been a shock beyond endurance to his army and 
the South. Such were the causes that, under providential 
ordainment, resulted in the mighty shock of arms that hurled 
the invading force from the soil of the loyal States, and dealt 
the army of Lee a blow from which it never afterwards recov- 
ered. To the events of this action I now return. 

By morning of the 2d of July the entire Union army, saving 
the corps of Sedgwick, had reached Gettysburg ; and the 
whole Southern force, with the exception of Pickett's division 
of Longstreet's corps, had come up. 

* The officer named is my authority for this statement. 

t Colonel Freemantle, of the British service, who was with the Confederate 
army during the battle of Gettysburg, thus testifies to this feeling : " The staff- 
officers (on the night of the 1st) spoke of the battle as a certainty ;- and the 
universal feeling in the army was one of profound contempt for an enemy 
whom they have beaten so constantly, and under so many disadvantages." — 
Three Months in the Confederate States, p. 256. 


Meade, following the natural line of defence, disposed Ins 
forces as follows : The Eleventh Corps (Howard) retained its 
position on Cemetery Hill, where it was supported by Robin- 
son's and Doubleday's divisions of the First Corps (Newton) 
on its right was placed Wadsworth's division of the same 
corps, which together with the Twelfth (Slocum) held the 
right of the whole army, on Culps' Hill ; the Second ( Han- 
cock) and Third (Sickles) corps occupied the crest of Ceme- 
tery Ridge — the former connecting with the left of the 
Eleventh, and the latter (which formed the left of the hue) 
connecting with the left of the Second. The Fifth Corps 
(Sykes) was held in reserve on the right. 

Lee placed his troops along the Seminary Ridge, separated 
from the Cemetery Ridge by an interval of about a mile, and 
inclosing it with a wider curve. Longstreet, with the divisions 
of Hood and McLaws, held the right, facing Round Top and 
a good part of Cemetery Ridge, on which Sickles and Han- 
cock were placed. Hill's three divisions continued the line 
from the left of Longstreet round the Seminary Ridge, and 
fronted, therefore, the remainder of Cemetery Ridge. Ewell, 
with his three divisions, held from the Seminary throirgh the 
town ; and sweeping round the base of Cemetery Hill, termi- 
nated the left of the hostile line in front of Culps' Hill, occu- 
pied by Slocum's corps, which formed the F T nion right. The 
Confederate line was about five miles in stretch, and was in 
great part well concealed by a fringe of woods. Both sides 
placed in position a powerful artillery force. 



When morning revealed to Lee the position of the 1. nion 
army drawn up on that ridge of rocks, he must have keenly 
realized all the perils of the attack ; for upon a like position 
held by him at Fredericksburg he had seen the army under 

~= 'L^ ' {t'l'erirlc -\. " 

Hi? i 'I,-'" ; " 

Sadp of I eitil-c 

MAP of the BATTLE or 

l^'l ©ITFTTSSHS!© 

showing Positions held. 
JULY2" 1863 

U Preparedly Col.W.H. Payrte. 
^or "Qtrnpau/Fts oftheArmi) of die Potomac 

ftei 'e •{'price '.v 

h^. Position occupied si/rrPAiS we/ v by 

Gertie Barnes, CaldireU , Aye rs 8- Crawford. 

Union, Lines. 
Confederate. « 


Burnside dash itself to pieces, in high but impotent valor. 
But the excited condition of his army, in which he still 
shared, would not allow him to pause. He therefore pro- 
ceeded with his dispositions for attack ; yet it was four 
o'clock in the afternoon before these were completed. The 
Union troops, meanwhile, made good use of the time, and 
improvised for themselves cover behind breastworks and stone 
walls. Early in the morning, Ewell's deployment of his left 
around the base of Gulps' Hill attracted attention, and raised 
the belief that the enemy would attack that point. General 
Meade therefore proposed to assume the initiative there, 
allowing General Slocurn to attack with his own and two 
additional corps ; but that officer having reported the ground 
very unfavorable, the purpose was given up.* About two 
o'clock the Sixth Corps, under General Sedgwick, arrived, 
having made a march of thirty-five miles in twenty hours. 
On the arrival of Sedgwick, General Meade directed Sykes' 
corps (Fifth), that had been in reserve on the right, to move 
over and be in reserve on the left. 

The result of the Confederate reconnoissances was to fix 
upon the ground opposite Longstreet — that is, the left and 
left centre, held by Sickles' corps — as the most practicable 
point of attack. That portion of the Union front was placed 
in a very anomalous position ; and this fact, which presently 
became the pivotal fact of the Confederate attack, was the 
result of a train of events that befell in this wise. 

In the original ordainment of the line of battle, Sickles' 
corps (Third) had been instructed to take position on the left 
of Hancock, on the same general line, which would draw it 
along the prolongation of Cemetery Ridge towards the Bound 
Top. Now, the ridge is, at this point, not very well defined. 

* The attack was designed to be made by Slocum's own corps and the Fifth 
Corps, together with the Sixth, as soon as it should arrive. But at ten, orders 
were sent to attack without the Sixth Corps ; and it was then that General 
SSocum reported adversely to it. General Warren, chief-engineer, who at the 
time went to examine the position, also reported an attack from the right unad- 
visable. — Report on the Conduct of the War, second series, vol. L, p. 438. 


for the ground in front falls off into a considerable hollow. 
But at the distance of some four or five hundred yards in 
advance, it rises into that intermediate crest along which runs 
the Emmettsburg road. General Sickles, thinking it desirable 
to occupy this advanced position — which he conceived would, 
if held by the enemy, make his own ground untenable — 
assumed the responsibility of pushing his front forward to 
that point. 

The motive that prompted General Sickles to this course 
was laudable enough, yet the step itself was faulty : for though 
to a superficial examination the aspect of this advanced 
position seems advantageous, it is not really so ; and pro- 
longed to the left, it is seen to be positively disadvantageous. 
It affords no resting-place for the left flank, which can be 
protected only by refusing that wing and throwing it back 
through low ground, towards Round Top ; but this, in turn, 
presents the danger of exposing a salient in a position which, 
if carried, would give the enemy the key-point to the whole 
advanced line.* 

* The point where two lines meet in an angle must always be weak for de- 
fence. This truth is recognized as one of the leading principles of the science 
of fortification, where the lines which meet in an angle are represented by 
ramparts or parapets, because there must always be a certain space, more or 
less great in proportion to the greater or smaller acuteness of the nnirle, which 
is "undefended by the direct fire of the lines. The same applies to lines formed 
by troops, whose fire and general resistance can only be effective when they 
act perpendicular, or nearly so, to the direction of the lines. There is another 
mathematical truth which applies to the case of troops, and which is thus 
stated by Colonel MacDougall : " Where two lines representing mechanical 
forces meet in a point, the single line or force which is capable of counteracting 
them, called their equivalent, is always less than the sum of the two lines ; 
and the direction of this equivalent is that of the diagonal produced of the 
parallelogram supposed to be formed on these two lines, by acting in a con 
trary sense." (MacDougall: Modern Warfare and Modern Artillery, p. 1I5) 
There is yet another serious evil attaching to an angle presented by a line on 
a field of battle — the enemy may place guns so as to enfilade one or both of the 
faces. When, therefore, circumstances render such a formation unavoidable, 
the angle should be covered by ground inacressible to the enemy by nature ni 
rendered so by art. But neither was this position taken up by General Sicklea 
unavoidable, nor was it strengthened by artificial defences. 


General Sickles' disposition of his troops had precisely this 
character, and was as follows : his right division, under Gen- 
eral Humphreys, was thrown forward several hundred yards 
in advance of Hancock's left, and disposed along the Em- 
niattsburg road. On Humphreys' left, the prolongation of 
the same line was continued to the left bv Graham's brigade 
of Birney's division, as far as the " Peach Orchard," where, 
leaving the ridge, the remainder of Birney's division, made up 
of the brigades of De Trobriand and Ward, was refused, and 
stretched obliquely back through a low ground of woods, a 
wheat-field and woods, towards Bound Top, in front of 
which, in a rocky ravine, the left flank rested. This brought 
the salient at the peach orchard, which was therefore the 
key-point of Sickles' rather weak line. On this obtruding 
member, Lee determined to make his attack ; for, as he states, 
" it appeared that if the position held by it could be carried, 
its possession would give facilities for assailing and carrying 
the more elevated ground and crest beyond." 

This eccentricity in the placing of Sickles' corps did not 
become known to General Meade until about four o'clock, 
when he arrived personally on that part of the field ; and 
though he then saw the danger to which that corps exposed 
itself, it was thought to be too late to correct the error ; for 
just at that moment, Longstreet, under cover of a powerful 
artillery fire, opened his attack, and all that remained for 
General Meade was to support Sickles as far as could be done 
in the emergency. Longstreet first advanced his right divi- 
sion under Hood, so that the attack fell upon that part of 
Sickles' corps which stretched back from the peach orchard 
to the Bound Tops — that is, upon the brigades of De Tro- 
briand and Ward; and while sharply assailing this front, 
Hood at the same time thrust his right unperceived between 
the extreme left of Sickles and Bound Top. The extraordi- 
nary danger to which this menace exposed not merely the 
force of Sickles, but the whole army, will be obvious when 
it is remembered that the possession of this point would have 
taken the entire line in reverse. This result seemed at this 


moment imminent, for Little Bound Top was quite unoccupied. 
Had Hood known its nakedness, raid, massing his whole divi- 
sion on the foree that had outilanked Sickles' left, pushed 
boldly for its rocky summit, he would have grasped in his 
hand the key of the battle-ground, and Gettysburg might 
have been one of those fields that decide the issues of wars. 

Fortunately, at the time Hood made his attack, General 
Warren, chief-engineer, happened to reach Little Hound 
Top. The summit of this hill had beeu used as a signal 
station, and at the moment of his arrival, the signal-officers 
suddenly seeing that the enemy had penetrated between 
Round Top and the left of Sickles' line and was approach- 
ing their position, were folding up their flags to leave ; 
but Warren, commanding them to continue waving them, 
so as to make at least a show on the hill, hastened to seek 
some force wherewith to occupy this important point. It 
happened at this pregnant moment that the head of Sykes' 
column, which had been ordered over to the left, reached this 
vicinity, and the leading division of this corps, under General 
Barnes, was then passing out to re-enforce Sickles. General 
Warren assumed the responsibility of detaching from this 
force the brigade of Vincent, and this he hurried up to hold 
the position, while Hazlitt's battery was by enormous labor 
dragged and lifted by hand up the rocky brow of the hill 
and planted on its summit. As these events followed in quick 
succession, it resulted that while that part of Hood's force 
that had penetrated to the left of the line Avas approaching 
the front slope of the Little Round Top, which in a few mo- 
ments would have been seized by it, other claimants were 
hurrying up its rear. Vincent's men, thrown forward at 
the pas de course, and without time to load, reached the crest 
just as Hood's Texans, advancing in column and without 
skirmishers, were running to gain it. 

Little Bound Top — the prize so eagerly coveted by boti. 
combatants — is a bold and rocky spur of the lofty am] 
peaked hill Bound Top. It is impossible to conceive a 
scene of greater wildness and desolation than is presented by 


its bare and mottled figure, up-piled with granite ledges and 
masses of rock, and strewn with mighty boulders, that might 
be the debris of some antique combat of the Titans. 

Here there ensued one of those mortal struggles rare in 
war, when the hostile forces, clenching in close contest, illus- 
trate whatever there is of savage and terrible in battle. Vin- 
cent's brigade, composed of the Sixteenth Michigan (Lieu- 
tenant-Colonel Welsh), the Forty-fourth Isew York (Colonel 
Rice), the Eighty-third Pennsylvania (Captain Woodward), 
and the Twentieth Maine (Colonel Chamberlain), coming 
quickly into position, engaged Hood's troops in a hand-to- 
kand conflict, in which bayonets were crossed and muskets 
clubbed ; and officers, seizing the rifles dropped from dead 
hands, joined in the fray. After half an hour of this des- 
perate work, the position was secured. Meantime, Weed's 
brigade of Ayres' division of the Fifth Corps* took post on 
Vincent's right on Little Hound Top. Hood's men, how- 
ever, clung fast to the rocky glen at the base of the hill, and 
working their way up the ravine between the Round Tops, 
succeeded in turning the left flank. The ammunition of Vin- 
cent's troops was already exhausted. It therefore became 
necessary to use the steel, and the enemy was driven from 
this point by a charge with the bayonet by Colonel Chamber- 
lain's Maine Regiment. Yet this rocky bulwark was not 
secured without a heavy sacrifice. Colonel Vincent, who 
had so heroically met the first shock, laid down his life in 
defence of the position ; O'Rourke and the much-beloved 
General Weed were killed ; Hazlitt, who commanded the bat- 
tery, also fell at his perilous post ;t and among the ledges of 
rocks lay many hundred dead soldiers in blue.J 

* The One Hundred and Fortieth New York, of this brigade, had gone up 
simultaneously with Hazlitt's battery, and participated in the engagement. 

t Hazlitt was bending over the prostrate form of his commander, General 
Weed, and receiving his last words and sighs, when a bullet threw him prone 
and inanimate on the body of his comrade in glory and in death. 

X Towards dark, after Chamberlain's charge, Fisher's brigade of the Penn 
sylvania Reserves re-enforced Vincent's troops ; and later at night Chamberlain's 
regiment, supported by two of Fisher's regiments, occupied Round Top proper 


It has been seen that, at the same time Hood thrust his 
right through the interval between Sickles' left Hank and 
Round Top, and entered upon the contest for the possession 
of that point, he also assailed the portion of the Third Corps 
line held bv Birney's division. In this attack he was 
joined bv Lon ^street's other division under General AlcLaws, 
so that this effort was directed against the entire left and 
centre of the Third Corps, from its left flank near Round Top, 
forward to the salient in the peach orchard on the Emmetts- 
burg road. But it happened that Longstreet's line as formed 
did not cover the entire front of Sickles' corps (for Hood's 
point of attack was quite to the Confederate right, and Long- 
street had only McLaws' division in addition), and it failed to 
cover it by about the front held by the right division under 
General Humphreys. Where Longstreet's line terminated, 
however, the prolongation towards the Union right was con- 
tinued by Hill's corps, so that Humphreys had part of that 
corps in his front. But Hill's duty was, while Longstreet 
attacked, to make demonstrations and only assault in case of 
a good opportunity. Thus it came about, that, when Long- 
street, after the development of Hood's attack, advanced 
McLa\vs' division on the left of Hood, the brunt of the as- 
sault fell upon Sickles' centre and left under Birney ; Hum- 
phreys' division being for the time unassailed. 

The onset of Hood and McLaws upon Birney's front was 
made with great vigor, compelling General Sickles immediately 
to call for re-enforcements ; and it was in response to this re- 
quest that General Barnes' division of the Fifth Corps had been 
thrown out in support at the time General Warren detached 
from this division the brigade of Vincent to hold Little Round 
Top. Its other two brigades, under Colonels Tilton and 
Sweitzer, hastened to the support of Birney's hard-pressed 
troops on the advanced line ; and General Humphrevs, who 
held the right of the Third Corps, but had not yet been 
attacked, sent one of his own brigades under Colonel Burling 
to still further help. 

The heaviest pressure of the hostile attack fell upon that 


exposed portion of the line where it made an angle at the 
peach orchard, and this point of Sickles line was held bv 
eight regiments belonging to Birney's and Humphrey's divi- 
sions. The assault was made by McLaws' left, supported by 
Anderson's division ; ard though it was disputed by the 
Union regiments with very great stubbornness, the position 
was at length carried, and the key-point remained in the 
enemy's hands. 

Now certainly, if not before, was seen the faultiness of the 
advanced line ; for the enemy having burst through the cen- 
tre, was free to penetrate the interval and assail in detail 
the disrupted forces right and left. To meet this menace, 
that portion of the line which was to the right of the peach 
orchard — that is, Humphreys' division and Graham's bri- 
gade — swung back its exposed left, thus making a change of 
front to face southward instead of westward, and the batteries 
on the forward crest under Major AlcGilvray were retired firing. 
That portion of the line which was to the left of the peach 
orchard — namely, the brigades of Tilton and Sweitzer, that 
had been sent out to re-enforce Birney — being now not only 
assailed in front but having its right flank exposed, fell back ; 
and this also involved Birney's front. 

It is rare that a field of battle displays, in a more striking 
manner than was here presented, the influence of key-points 
in determining tactical results. The possession of the peach 
orchard enabled the enemy to meet and repulse a succession 
of attacks, and the history of the action on the left presents 
an extraordinary series of efforts to maintain ground now 
become untenable — one re-enforcement after another being 
thrown forward only to be driven back in a whirling vortex 
of advancing and retiring lines. 

The original front of Birney had already gone out and dis- 
appeared, and Barnes' two brigades sent forward in support 
had been repulsed. Hereupon CaldweU's division was de- 
tached from Hancock's front and ordered in to check the hos- 
tile advance. The disputed ground had come to be an inter- 
mediate position of woods and wheat-field between Sickles' lost 


front and the Bound Tops, in the rear now securely hold. 
Caldwell advanced with his left skirting Little Round Top, 
and pushing forward into the wheat-field engaged the enemy 
■ with the brigades of Gross and Kelly This line was much 
cut up, and Colonel E. E. Cross, of the Fifth New Hamp- 
shire (commanding the First brigade), whose intrepid bear- 
ing had so often been exhibited on the field of battle, was 
killed. To relieve these troops, General Caldwell then ad- 
vanced his second line, made up of the brigades of Brooke 
and Zook. The latter was mortally wounded while carrying 
his troops into action. Brooke led his command forward with 
much gallantry, and after an exceedingly stubborn fight, drove 
the enemy from under cover of the woods, and from a position 
of great natural strength along the rocky bottom of a creek at 
its margin.* But this success, notwithstanding that Sweitzer's 
brigade was again advanced to assist the attack, was tempo- 
rary. Hood had already carried the whole of the position 
originally held by the left of the Third Corps ; and to hold 
him in check at that point, General Ayres, with two brigades 
of the Begulars of the Fifth Corps, moved forward. Caldwell 
experienced the same fate as those that had gone before ; for 
the Confederates, penetrating the wide interval made by the 
disruption of Sickles' centre at the peach orchard, enveloped 
his right, and penetrated almost to his rear. This quickly 
forced Caldwell back, after the frightful sacrifice of one-half 
his diyision. Then the enemy, breaking out through the 
woods on the right, hurled Sweitzer back ; and the division of 
Regulars, under General Ayres, being struck on its right and 
rear, fought its way with great gallantry and heavy loss 
through the enemy to its original line of battle. I shall leave 
now the recital of the manner in which he was finally 
checked, and take up the thread of events on the right of the 
Third Corps, where Humphreys yet clung with one of his 
Hanks to his advanced position. 

It has been seen that when Sickles' line was cut in twain by 

* Colonel Brooke was wounded in this action. 


the carrying of the peach orchard, Humphreys, joined by the 
brigade of Graham, swung back his left so as to make a 
change of front, and with his right still held on to the crest on 
the Emmettsburg road. For a considerable time, while the 
contest raged to his left, he was not assailed, and the enemy 
only made demonstrations of attack ; but when finally the 
whole left and the troops that had moved to its support were 
thrown back, the hostile force poured through the interval 
and advanced to strike Humphreys, whose left was greatly 
exposed, and whose right was thrown much out of position. 
To support that flank, General Hancock sent forward two 
regiments from Gibbon's division (the Fifteenth Massachu- 
setts, under Colonel Ward, and the Eighty-second New York, 
under Colonel Huston), and to cover the gap on the left, he 
detached Willard's brigade from Hays' division f but at this 
moment Hill, converting his demonstrations into a real attack, 
pressed upon Humphreys, who was forced to fall back. In 
the midst of this action General Sickles was severely wounded, 
losing a leg. General Hancock hereupon took direction of 
the Third Corps (now under General Birney) ir addition to his 

The attack on Humphreys was so sudden and severe, that 
two additional regiments (the Nineteenth Massachusetts, 
under Colonel Devereux, and the Forty-second New York, 
under Colonel Mallon), which Hancock had sent out to his 
assistance, finding that Humphreys was retiring, could only 
get quickly into line of battle, deliver a few volleys at the 
advancing enemy, and then retire with a considerable loss. 
The enemy pushed them so closely that a number of the Con- 
federates, eagerly pressing forward, fell prisoners into the 
hands of those they were pursuing. Humphreys, in retiring 
his men, which he refrained from doing until not only pressed 
upon by the enemy, but until ordered back, felt the import- 
ance of yielding stubbornly and slowly ; for under the circum- 
stances, he judged that if a rapid backward movement were 

* Colonel Willard watj killed in this action. 


made, it -would bo difficult to rally tlio men upon the new lino. 
Yet this imposed obstinacy cost the terrible sacrifice of half 
his small division. What of its remains was collected on the 
original line was tin 1 debris of many regiments — hardly more 
than an ordinary battalion, though with many colors.* Three 
guns of one of its batteries had been left on the field, owing 
to its heavy losses in horses and cannoniers. And now the 
enemy began to surge against the base of the crest, and it be- 
came urgently necessary to form a bulwark of men to resist 
his oncoming. This was not an easy task, for the action, as 
it rolled on, had fully involved Sykes' corps on the left, and a 
large part of the Second Corps had been thrown in to aid the 
Third at different points, and was shockingly cut up. 

With all that could be done the front was still only paklial, 
and wherever the head of a column could be thrust through, 
the enemy was quick to do so. Thus Hancock, in riding 
along the line, suddenly met a force of the enemy, which hav- 
ing, unobserved, approached very close to the line, under 
cover of a fringe of undergrowth, was about to pass through 
an unprotected interval. Opportunely, the First Minnesota Re- 
giment came up at this moment, and, making an exceedingly 
spirited charge, drove it back in disorder, capturing its colors. 
The line being, however, still incomplete, Stannard's brigade 
was brought up, and General Meade led forward in person a 
part of the Twelfth Corps, consisting of two regiments of 
Loekwood's Maryland brigade, which were placed further to 
the left. This was enough, for the enemy's efforts were now 
little more than the frantic sallies of an exhausted wrestler. 
A terrible price had been exacted for the success he had won : 
General Barksdale, the impetuous leader of the boldest at- 
tack, was mortally hurt, and lay within the Union lines, and 
many other Confederate officers were killed and wounded. 
When, therefore, Hancock ordered a counter-charge, the en- 
emy easily gave way. This was made by the portions of the 
different corps that had come up to the assistance ; and Hum- 

* Hancock: Report of Gettysburg. 


phreys' little band joined in, and had the satisfaction to re- 
take and bring back its lost guns. A new line was then 
formed by Doubleday's and Bobinson's divisions of the First 
Corps, and by troops from the Twelfth Corps, brought up by 
General Williams.* 

Thus, at dusk, ended the action on the left centre, and at 
the same time the complicated action on the left, whose ebb 
and flow I have already described, was brought to a close. 
It has been seen how line after line was swept back, and how 
the enemy, following on the heels of the troops of Ayres last 
engaged, debouched from the woods in front of Little Kound 
Top. Thus far, the success of Longstreet had indeed been 
considerable ; but it had no decisive character, and until this 
crest and spur should be carried, he could claim no substantial 
victory ; for the position wrested from Sickles was one intrin- 
sically false, and though the successive attacks of Barnes and 
Caldwell and Ayres had been repulsed, yet the advantage was 
gained at a heavy cost to the Confederates. "When, therefore, 
debouching from the woods, they suddenly saw across a nar- 
row swale the beetling sides of Little Bound Top crowned 
with troops and artillery, and the figure of a battle array de- 
fined on the bold crest to the right,t their line was visibly 
shaken. At this moment six regiments of the division of 
Pennsylvania Beserves, moving down the ridge, rapidly ad- 
vanced under the personal leadership of General Crawford. 
This sally was enough to determine the action ; for seeing 
attack to be hopeless, and in turn assailed themselves, the 
Confederates, after a sharp but brief contest for the reten- 
tion of a stone wall occupied by them, hastily recoiled to the 
woods beyond the wheat-field, the opposite margins of which 
were that night held by the combatants. 

* It had been intended that Geary's division (with the exception of Greene's 
brigade) should also re-enforce the left ; but this division missed its way. Gen- 
eral Williams was temporarily in command of the Twelfth Corps, Slocum hav- 
ing charge of the whole right wing. 

i Bartlett'a and Wheaton's brigades, of the Sixth Corps, had just taken 
position on this crest. 



Such was the main current of the action as it fell on tho 
left and left centre of the army, and it was fought In Long- 
street's corps and a part of Anderson's division of Hill's 
corps. Now the plan of battle contemplated that, while 
Longstreet attacked, Ewell should make vigorous demonstra- 
tions against the forces on Cemetery and Cidp's hills, to pre- 
vent re-enforcements being drawn from that flank to increase 
the opposition to be encountered in the real assault against 
the Union left. For some reason, however, Ewell's demon- 
strations were much delayed, and it was sunset before he 
got to work. Then, opening up with a fire of artillery from 
a knoll in front of Cemetery Hill, he followed it by a powerful 
infantry attack with the divisions of Early and Johnson — the 
former on Cemetery Hill, the latter on Culp's Hill. As Early's 
columns defiled from the town, they came under the fire of 
Stevens' battery at eight hundred yards ; but, wheeling into 
line, they pushed up the hill, and as their front became un- 
masked, all the guns that could be brought to bear upon them 
(some twenty in number), were opened upon them, first with 
shrapnel, then with canister, and with excellent effect, for their 
left and centre were beaten back. But the right, working its 
way up under cover of the houses and undulating ground, 
pushed completely through Wiedrich's battery into Eicketts' 
battery. The cannoniers of both batteries stood well to their 
guns, and when no longer able to hold them, fought with 
handspikes, rammers, and even stones.* Howard's troops 
were considerably shaken by the assault ; but the firmness of 
the artillery and the opportune arrival of Carroll's brigade of 
the Second Corps, voluntarily sent by General Hancock on 
hearing the firing, repulsed the attack and saved the day t 

But Ewell's efforts did not end here ; for at the same time 
this attack was made, he threw his left division, under Gen- 
eral Johnson, up the ravine formed by Kock Creek, and 

* Hunt : Report of Artillery at Gettysburg. 

f " Ewell had directed Rodes' division to attack in concert vritli Early, cov- 
ering his right, When the time came to attack, Rodes not having his troops 
m position, was unprepared to cooperate with Early."— Lee's Report, MS. 


struck the extreme right of the Union position on Culp'y Hill. 
If Ewell's delay had thwarted the original intention of pre- 
Tenting re-enforcements being sent from the right to buffet 
Longstreet's attack, it at least gave him the opportunity to 
make his demonstration, when at length made, really effective ; 
for such heavy detachments had been taken frora the Twelfth 
Corps to re-enforce the left during the operations of the after- 
noon, that there remained of this corps but a single brigade, 
under General Greene, drawn out in a thin line, with the divi- 
sion of Wadsworth on its left. The brunt of the attack fell 
upon Greene, who, re-enforced by parts of "Wadsworth's 
troops, maintained his own position with great firmness, but 
EweU's left penetrated without opposition the vacated breast- 
works on the furthest right, and this foothold within the 
Union lines he held during the night. 

Thus closed the second day's action, and the result was 
such that the Confederate commander, believing he would 
be able ultimately to carry the position, resolved to renew 
attack on the morrow. It must be admitted that the events 
of the day seemed to justify this belief. Longstreet had 
carried the whole front on which the Third Corps had 
been drawn ; Ewell's left was thrust within the breastworks 
on the right, in a position which, if held by him, would enable 
him to take Meade's entire line in reverse, and the Union loss 
in the two days' combat had already reached the frightful 
aggregate of upwards of twenty thousand men. But Lee's 
inference, though specious, was unwarranted. The position 
carried from Sickles at such costly price to the assailants 
was no part of the real line as drawn on the crest of hills 
south of Gettysburg. This, intact throughout, remained yet 
to be assailed ; and such was the confidence felt by the corps- 
commanders in their ability to maintain this position, that 
notwithstanding the partial reverses of the day, and the 
heavy loss sustained, when they came together that night 
there was a unanimous determination to fight it out at Get- 
tysburg — a sentiment which was quite in accord with Genera] 
Meade's own conviction. 



Lce'.s plan of attack of the previous day had been directed 
against both flanks of the Union position, but, as I have shown, 
though the whole of the advanced line on the left had been 
carried, this only brought Longstreet abreast a more formida- 
ble front drawn on the original line. Ewell, however, still 
maintained his foothold within the breastworks on Culp's 
Hill; and this lodgment inside of the works on the right 
shaped the determination of the first plan of attack for the 
third day " General Ewell," says Lee, " had carried some 
of the strong positions which he assailed, and the result was 
such as to lead to the belief that he would ultimately be able 
to dislodge the enemy."* 

With this view, Johnson's force, hugging closely Culps' 
Hill, was considerably strengthened ; but before preparations 
could be made for an attack, Meade assumed the offensive 
and drove back the intrusive force. During the night a 
powerful artillery was accumulated against the point entered 
by the enemy, and at four o'clock opened a heavy fire. Mean- 
while, the troops of the Twelfth Corps returned from the 
left, and the divisions of Williams and Geary, aided by 
Shaler's brigade of the Sixth Corps, entered upon a severe 
struggle to regain the lost portion of the line. After four 
hours' close contest, it was carried by a charge of Geary's 
division, the original line on Culp's Hill was re-established 
and the right flank made secure. Being thus thwarted in his 
plan of attack on the right; — a plan which, besides, would 
have been difficult of execution, owing to the wide separation 
of the Confederate wings — General Lee altered his determina- 
tion and resolved to assault the centre of the Union position. 
In this he seems to have aimed to imitate Wagram. 

* Lee Report of Gettysburg. 


rhat some weighty design was in preparation by the enemy 
was throughout the morning evident ; for after the struggle 
had ceased on the right there was for soma hours a deep 
silence. During all this time the Confederates were placing 
in position heavy masses of artillery. Lee, less sanguine 
than the day before, knew well that his only hope lay in his 
ability, first of all, to sweep resistance from the slopes before 
the assaulting columns moved forward. By noon a hundred 
and forty-five guns were in position along the ridge occupied 
by Longstreet and Hill. At one o'clock the ominous silence 
was broken by a terrific outburst from this massive concen- 
tration of the enginery of war. Ample means for a reply in 
kind were at hand ; for General Hunt, the chief of artillery, 
had crowned the ridge along the left and left centre, on which 
it was manifest the attack was to fall, with eighty guns — a 
number not as great as that of the enemy, but it was all 
that could be made effective in the more restricted space 
occupied by the army * Withholding the fire until the first 
hostile outburst had spent itself, General Hunt then ordered 
the batteries to open ; and thus from ridge to ridge was kept 
up for near two hours a Titanic combat of artillery that caused 
the solid fabric of the hills to labor and shake, and filled the 
air with fire and smoke and the mad clamor of two hundred 
guns. During this outburst the troops crouched behind such 
slight cover as they could find ; but the musket was tightly 
grasped, for each man knew well what was to follow— knew 
that this storm was but the prelude to a less noisy, yet more 
deadly shock of infantry. When, therefore, after the duel had 

* In the cemetery were placed Dilger's, Bancroft's, Eakin's, Wheeler's, 
Hill's, and Taft's batteries, under Major Osborne. On the left of the cemetery 
the batteries of the Second Corps, under Captain Hazard — namely, those of 
Woodruff, Arnold, Cushing, Brown, and Rorty. Next on the left was 
Thomas's battery, and on his left Major McGilvray's command, consisting of 
Thompson's, Phillips', Hart's, Sterling's, Ranks', Dow's, and Ames' of the re- 
serve artillery, to which was added Cooper's battery of the First Corps. On 
the extreme left, Gibbs' and Rittenhouse's (late Hazlitt's) batteries. As batter- 
ies expended their ammunition, they were replaced by batteries of the artillery 
reserve, sent forward by its efficient chief, Colons R. O. Tyler. 


continued for near two hours, the chief of artillery, finding 
his ammunition running low * and that it was unsafe to bring 
up loads of it from the rear (for many caissons and limbers 
had been exploded), directed that the firing should be gradu- 
ally stopped : the enemy also slackened fire, and immediately 
the Confederate columns of attack were seen forming on the 
edge of the woods that cover the Seminary Kidge. 

As Pickett's division of Longstreet's corps had reached the 
ground during the morning, and as Longstreet wished to use 
the divisions of Hood and McLaws in covering his right, it 
was appointed to lead the van.f Pickett formed his divi- 
sion in double line of battle, with Kemper's and Gamett's 
brigades in front and Arniistead's brigade supporting ; while 
on the right of Pickett was one brigade of Hill's corps, un- 
der General Wilcox, formed in column by battalions ; and on 
his left, Heth's division (also of Hill's corps), under General 
Pettigrew. The attacking force numbered about fifteen thou- 
sand men, and it advanced over the intervening space of near 
a mile in such compact and imposing order, that, whether 
friend or foe, none who saw it could refrain from admiration 
of its magnificent array. The hostile line, as it advanced, 
covered a front of not more than two of the reduced and 
incomplete divisions of the Second Corps, numbering, it may 
be, some six thousand men. While crossing the plain, it 
received a severe fire of artillery, which, however, did not 
delay for a moment its determined advance ; so that the 
column pressing on, came within musketry range — the troops 
evincing a striking disposition to withhold their fire until it 
could be delivered with deadly effect. The first opposition it 
received was from two regiments of Stannard's Vermont 

* Report of Artillery Operations. 

f The absence of Pickett's division the day before made General Long- 
street very loth to make the attack, but Lee, thinking the Union force was 
n< it all up, would not wait. Longstreet urged in reply that this advantage (or 
supposed advantage, for the Union force was all up) was countervailed by the 
fact that he was not all up either: but the Confederate commander was not 
minded to delay. My authority is again General Longstreet. 


brigade of the First Corps, which had been posted in a small 
grove to the left of the Second Corps in front of and at a con- 
siderable angle with the main line. These regiments opened 
upon the right flank of the enemy's advancing lines, which 
received also an oblique fire from eight batteries under Major 
McGilvray. This caused the Confederate troops on that flank 
to double in a little towards their left, but it did not stay 
their onward progress. As, during the passage of the enemy 
across the intervening plain, the rifled guns had fired away 
all their canister, they were withdrawn or left on the ground 
inactive, to await the issue of the impending shock between 
the two masses of infantry — a shock momentarily expected, 
for the assailants approached steadily, while the Union force 
held itself braced to receive the impact. When at length the 
hostile lines had approached to between two and three hundred 
yards, the divisions of Hays and Gibbon of the Second Corps 
opened a destructive fire, and repeated it in rapid succession. 

This sally had the effect to instantly reveal the unequal 
metal of the assaulting mass, and proved what of it was iron 
and what clay. It happened that the division on the left of 
Pickett, under command of General Pettigrew, was, in con- 
siderable part, made up of North Carolina troops compara- 
tively green. To animate them, they had been told that they 
would meet only the Pennsylvania militia. But when, ap- 
proaching the slope, they received the feu d'enfer from Hays' 
line, there ran through their ranks a cry, the effect of which was 
like to that which thrilled a Greek army when it was said that 
the god Pan was among them — " The Army of the Potomac !" 

Thus suddenly undeceived in regard to their opponents, 
Pettigrew's troops broke in disorder, leaving two thousand 
prisoners and fifteen colors in the hands of Hays' division. 
Now, as Wilcox's brigade had not advanced, Pickett's divi- 
sion remained alone a solid lance-head of Virginia troops, 
tempered in the fire of battle. Solitary, this division, buffet- 
ing the fierce volleys that met it, rushed up the crest of 
Cemetery Eidge, and such was the momentum of its assault 
that it fairly thrust itself within Hancock's line. 


It happened that the full strength of this attack fell upon 
Webb's brigade of three regiments. This brigade had been 
disposed in two lines: two of its regiments, the Sixty-ninth 
and Seventy-first Pennsylvania, posted behind a low stone wall 
and slight breastwork hastily constructed by them, while the 
remaining regiment (the Seventy-second Pennsylvania) lay 
behind the crest some sixty paces to the rear, and so placed 
as to fire over the heads of those in front. When the swift 
advancing and yelling array of Pickett's force had, notwith- 
standing the volleys it met, approached close up to the stone 
wall, many of those behind it seeing their fire to be now 
vain, abandoned the position ; and the Confederates, detect- 
ing this wavering, rushed over the breastworks, General 
Armistead leading, and crowned the stone wall with their 
standards. The moment was certainly as critical as can well 
be conceived ; but happily, the regiments that had been hold- 
ing the front line did not, on falling back, do so in panic : so 
that by the personal bravery of General Webb and his offi- 
cers, they were immediately rallied and reformed on the 
remainder of the brigade, which held the second line behind 
the crest, and Hancock, who had the day before turned the 
fortunes of the battle in a similar emergency, again displayed 
those qualities of cool appreciation and quick action that had 
proved him one of the foremost commanders on the actual 
field of battle, and instantly drew together troops to make a 
bulwark against any further advance of the now exultant 

As the hostile front of attack was quite narrow, it left Han- 
cock's left wing unassailed. From there he drew over the 
brigades of Hall and Harrow ;* and Colonel Devereux, com- 
manding the Nineteenth Massachusetts Regiment, anxious to 
be in the right place, applied for permission to move his 
regiment to the front — a request gladly granted by Hancock, 

* One Hundnd and Fifty-first Pennsylvania and Twentieth New Yorh 
State Militia, Loth under Gates of Doubleday's division, First Corps, partici- 


who also gave Mallon's Forty-second New York Regiment 
the same direction ; while Colonel Stannard moved two re- 
giments of his Vermont brigade to strike the enemy on the 
right flank. These movements were quickly executed, but 
not without confusion, owing to many men leaving their ranks 
to fire at the enemy from the breastworks. When the new 
line was formed, it was found that the situation was very 
peculiar ; for the men of all brigades, while individually firm, 
had in some measure lost their regimental organization — a 
confusion that arose from the honorable ambition of indi- 
vidual commanders to promptly cover the point penetrated by 
the enemy. The essential thing was secured, however — the 
breach was covered, and in such force that, in regular forma- 
tion, the line would have stood four ranks deep. 

It will be remembered that the brigade of Stannard held 
an advanced po : nt on Hancock's left. As the assaulting 
column passed his right to strike Webb, he moved to the 
right, changed front forward, and opened a very savage fire 
on the enemy's flank. At the same time, the colors of the 
different regiments were advanced in defiance of the long line 
of battle-flags presented by the Confederates, and the men 
pressing firmly after them engaged in a brief and determined 
combat and utterly overthrew the foe. Whatsoever valor 
could do to wrest victory from the jaws of hell, that it must 
be conceded the troops of Pickett had done ; but now, seeing 
themselves in a desperate strait, they flung themselves on the 
ground to escape the hot fire and threw up their hands in 
token of surrender, while the remnant sought safety in flight. 
Twenty-five hundred prisoners and twelve battle-flags were 
taken at this point, which brought the aggregate of Han- 
cock's captures up to four thousand five hundred prisoners 
and twenty-seven standards. The Confederate loss in killed 
and wounded was exceedingly severe. Of the three brigade 
commanders of Pickett's division, Garnett was killed, Armi- 
stead fell fatally wounded within the Union lines, and Kemper 
was borne off severely hurt. In addition, it left behind four- 
teen of its field-officers, and only a single one of that rank 


escaped unhurt, while of its rank and file three-fourths were 
dead or captives. Pettigrew's division, also, though it had 
faltered earlier, was much cut up and lost many officers, besides 
heavily in killed, wounded, and prisoners. But this illustrious 
victory was not purchased without severe price paid ; and 
this was sadly attested in the thousands of dead and wounded 
that lay on the plain. The loss in officers was again especially 
heavy ; and among the wounded were Generals Gibbon and 
Hancock ; but the latter did not leave the field till he learned 
the tidings of the discomfiture of the enemy. 

After the repulse of Pickett's assault, Wilcox's command, 
that had been on the right but failed to move forward, ad- 
vanced by itself to the attack, and came to within a few hun- 
dred yards of Hancock's line ; but in passing over the plain 
it met severe artillery fire, and Stannard detached a force* 
which took it in flank and rear, capturing several hundred 
prisoners : the rest fled.f This ended the combat, though 
towards dusk General Crawford advanced across the wheat- 
field into the woods and took several hundred prisoners 
and a large number of arms. During the action, the cavalry 
had been operating on the flanks, Kilpatrick's division on the 
left, and Gregg's division on the right. Both divisions dis- 
played much gallantry and suffered heavy loss.t 

When the shattered columns of attack returned to their 

* The Sixteenth Vermont, supported by a detachment of the Fourteenth 

f It had not been designed that Wilcox should attack, but simply cover, the 
right flank of Pickett's assaulting column. But he did not move forward -with 
sufficient promptness to effect the former purpose, and when Pickett had been 
repulsed, he made a foolish and isolated attack. Thus, in the first instance, he 
did not move forward enough, and in the second he moved too far. 

I The scope of this work does not permit the recital of the details of the nu- 
merous cavalry affairs ; but I cannot forbear to mention the very spirited 
attack on Hood's right by the brigades of Farnesworth and Merritt, operating 
on the left flank of the army. Farnesworth, with the First Vermont and First 
Virginia Cavalry, cleared a fence in his front, sabred the enemy behind it, and 
then rushed on the second line and up to the muzzles of the guns, where most 
of them fell, and their gallant leader at their head. 


lines on Seminary Ridge, it was clear to Lee that the attempt 
to break through the Union position was hopeless. The 
troops went back much disrupted, and it was only by the en- 
ergetic, personal exertions of Longstreet and of Lee that they 
were rallied and re-formed. It is said that a counter-attack 
by the Union forces was much feared at this moment ; and it 
is possible that had General Meade been aware of the extent 
of the damage he had inflicted on his opponent, and the ex- 
treme disorder of the moment, as also that the Confederate 
ammunition had run very low, an immediate advance by the 
left might have converted the repulse into a rout. But it 
must be borne in mind that he did not then know these things, 
and all he did know favored a cautious policy. For his own 
loss was terrible, the different corps were much intermingled, 
and to have quitted his defences would have exposed him to 
a repulse similar to that the enemy had just received ; and as 
— with the exception of a few brigades of Sedgwick's corps — 
there were no reserves, attack must have been made by 
already exhausted troops.* 
With Lee there now remained only the alternative of re- 

* So far as I am aware, the only important witness on the Confederate side 
in favor of attack at this time, is Colonel Fremantle of the British service. 
Referring to the situation after Pickett's repulse, he says: "It is difficult to 
exaggerate the critical state of affairs as they appeared about this time. If 
the enemy, or their general, had shown any enterprise, there is no saying what 
might have happened. General Lee and his officers were evidently fully im- 
pressed with a 6ense of the situation." But the sequel seems to belie this ; for 
he immediately remarks : " Yet there was much less noise, fuss, or confusion 
of orders than at an ordinary field-day; the men as they wexe rallied in the 
woods, were brought up in detachments, and lay down quietly and coolly in 
the positions assigned them." — Three Months in the Confederate States, pp. 
269-270. A very different view of the probable success of an assault at this 
time is given by Captain Ross, of the Austrian service, who also witnessed the 
battle from the Confederate side. " The enemy," says he, " made no attempt 
to follow up their advantage, and it is well for them they did not. I see that 
a General Butterfield, in evidence given before some Federal committee, blames 
General Meade for not attacking Lee's right after the repulse, imagining that 
enormous captures of guns and other great successes would have been the re- 
sult. It was, however, well for the Federals that General Meade did not do so 


treat ; and bitter as this alternative was — seeing that it in- 
volved the abandonment of the scheme of invasion and all 
the high hopes built thereon — it was imperative, for the posi- 
tion he had to assail was one against which he might dash 
his army to pieces, but against which he could now hope for 
no success. Yet he did not .begin an immediate retreat, but 
waited the whole of the following day, during which he was 
withdrawing his trains and disposing his army for a retro- 
grade movement. And it is the most striking proof that could 
be given of the confidence Lee still had in his troops, that 
during that whole 4th of July he was in a mood to invite 
rather than dread an attack. Retiring his left from around 
the base of Culp's Hill and from the town of Gettysburg, 
which was reoccupied by Howard's troops during the fore- 
noon, a strong line of works was thrown up from the Semi- 
nary northwestward, and covering the Mummasburg and 
Chambersburg roads, while another line was formed on the 
right flank, perpendicular with their general front, and ex- 
tending back to Marsh Creek. Here, while employed in the 
work of sending off their wounded, burying their dead, etc., 
the Confederates stood at bay, hopeless of venturing another 
attack, yet quite willing to be attacked. 

But this was not in the line of General Meade's intent, for 
having gained a victory, and being certain of the necessity 
that was upon his antagonist of making a retreat, he was in 
no mood to jeopard an assured success by any rash adven- 

for lie would have found McLaws and Hood's divisions there perfectly ready 
and willing to give him a much hotter reception than he would have liked." 
— Cities and Camps of the Confederate States, p. 65. On the Union side, many 
of the generals present have testified before the Committee on the Conduct of 
the War, in favor of attack. See Eeport, second series, vol. i., passim. 

But since the above text was written, I have become convinced from testimony 
mure weighty than any given above — to wit, the testimony of General Long- 
street himself— that attack would have resulted disastrously. " I had," said 
that officer to the writer, " Hood and McLaws, who had not been engaged ; I 
had a heavy force of artillery ; I should have liked nothing better than to havo 
been attacked, and have no doubt I should have given those who tried as bad a 
reception as Pickett received." 


ture. Accordingly, nothing was done save to make some 
demonstrations of a rather feeble character, and the day was 
passed in attentions to the wounded and burying the dead, 
while holding the army in hand for pursuit. That night Lee 
began to retire by the Chambersburg and Fairfield roads, 
which leading westward from Gettysburg, pass through the 
South Mountain range into the Cumberland Yalley at a dis- 
tance of seven miles from each other. As a severe storm 
had come on during the afternoon and continued during the 
night, the roads were rendered very bad ; so that the retreat 
was made painfully and slowly, and the rear of the column 
did not leave its position near Gettysburg until after day- 
light of the 5th. General Meade, as soon as he was satisfied 
that the enemy had actually withdrawn, took measures to fol- 
low up the retreat. 

"When it became possible to take account of the losses of 
this great battle, it was found that on the Union side they 
included two thousand eight hundred and thirty-four killed, 
thirteen thousand seven hundred and thirty-three wounded, 
and six thousand six hundred and forty-three missing, mak- 
ing an aggregate of twenty-three thousand one hundred and 
ninety.* On the side of the Confederates, they were sup- 
posed to be near thirty thousand, whereof nearly fourteen 
thousand were prisoners.f 

* Official Records of the War Department. 

f This is simply an approximate estimate, as no report of the Confederate 
casualties was ever made public. " It is not," says General Lee, " in my 
power to give a correct statement of our casualties, which were severe." Lee : 
Report of Gettysburg. The number of prisoners captured by the Army of the 
Potomac, as by official returns, was thirteen thousand six hundred and twenty 
one. (Meade : Report of Gettysburg). 1 believe that the above estimate of 
thirty thousand for Lee's total loss will not prove to be in excess of the truth. 
Lee's infantry present for duty on the 31st May was 68,352 ; and on July 
31st it was 41,135— the difference being 87,217. 




The retreat of Lee, which became definitively known on 
the morning of Sunday, July 5, brought with it the important 
question of pursuit. 

Now, there were two lines by which the Confederates might 
be followed up : the one was a direct pursuit by the same 
routes over which they had retreated, pressing them down the 
Cumberland Valley ; the other, a flank march by the east side 
of the South Mountains, defiling by the Boonsboro' passes, 
with the view to head off the enemy or take him in flank. 
The former had the recommendation of being the shorter line 
— the distance to the Potomac (at Williamsport) being in this 
case about forty miles ; and by the latter line, nearly eighty. 
The only disadvantage attending it arose from the fact that 
the enemy might hold the debouches of the mountains with a 
rear-guard, while making good his escape with his mam body 
and trains. General Meade appears to have been in some 
doubt as to the proper method of action ; but on the morning 
of the 5th, he sent a column in direct pursuit. He ordered 
Sedgwick's Sixth Corps (then the freshest in the army) to fol- 
low up the enemy on the Fairfield road, while he dispatched 
a cavalry force to press the retreating Confederates on the 
Chambersburg road. Sedgwick that evening overtook the 
rear of the Confederate column at a distance of ten miles, 
where the Fairfield road breaks through a pass in the South 
Mountain range This position was found to be very de- 
fensible ; but there was no occasion to attack it, for another 
course had, meanwhile, been determined on, and Sedgwick 
was recalled. 

Instead of pursuing the enemy by the direct route over 
which he had retreated, General Meade judged it better to 


make a flank march by Middletown and the lower passes of 
the South Mountain. To this end, General French, who with 
seven thousand men had since the evacuation of Harper's 
Ferry been occupying Frederick, was directed to seize these 
passes in advance and repossess himself of Harper's Ferry. 
Both these duties were fulfilled by General French, who also 
sent out a cavalry force that penetrated as far as Williamsport, 
and destroyed there a Confederate ponton-bridge across the 
Potomac. Then the army was put in motion by the east side 
of the South Mountains. On July 6th a large part of the 
army moved from Gettysburg towards Emmettsburg, and the 
remainder the following day. July 7th, the headquarters were 
at Frederick. The 8th, they were at Middletown, and nearly 
all the army was concentrated in the neighborhood of that 
place and South Mountain. The 9th, headquarters were at 
South Mountain House, and the advance of the army at 
Boonsboro' and Kohrersville. The 10th, headquarters were 
moved to'Antietam Creek: the left of the line crossed the 
creek, and the right of the line moved up near Funkstown. 
The 11th, the engineers put a new bridge over the Antietam 
Creek ; the left of the line advanced to Fairplay and Jones' 
cross-roads, while the right remained nearly stationary. The 
13th, Meade had his forces in front of the position taken up 
by Lee to cover the passage of the Potomac. 

The above data will suffice to show that the pursuit was 
conducted with an excessive circumspection ; and Lee, hav- 
ing reached the river six days before, had had time to select 
and fortify a strong position. Indeed, the Confederate army 
might have effected an unmolested escape into Virginia, had 
it not been for the fact that the great rains had so swollen 
the Potomac as to make it impassable by the ford at "Wil- 
liamsport * and that the ponton-bridge at Falling Waters had 
been destroyed by General French. This perilous circum- 

* " The Potomac was found to be so much swollen by the rains that had 
fallen almost incessantly since our entrance into Maryland, as to be unfordable." 
- -Lee : Report of Campaign in Pennsylvania. 


stance compelled Lee to take up a defensive position where 
be might stand at bay, while his communications were being 

As the event proved, it would probably have been a better 
course to have pushed the pursuit by the direct line, as ap- 
pears to have been at first intended when Sedgwick, on the 
5th, was thrown forward on the Fairfield road. The obstruc- 
tions which Lee could have placed in the defiles of the South 
Mountains cannot be considered as presenting any serious 
difficulty; for General Smith with a division of militia had 
moved forward from the Susquehanna, on the 3d, into the 
Cumberland Yalley, and on the 5th he seized and held a pass 
in the South Mountains, a few miles above that through 
which the Confederate force passed. By this the whole army 
might readily have defiled through the South Mountains to fall 
on Lee's flank and rear.* If nothing had been accomplished 
by this means, the retreat of Lee would still have been fol- 
lowed so closely, that coming to the Potomac, and having an 
impassable river in his rear, his situation would have been 
one of the very gravest peril. 

It cannot be said that General Meade was not alive to the 
importance of striking Lee a blow before he should be able 
to make good his retreat. But he was tardy in realizing the 
severity of the damage he had inflicted on his opponent, and 
the distance the army was compelled to march by the line 
adopted (double that by the Cumberland Valley), together 
with the slowness of the march (in part necessitated by the 
bad condition of the roads owing to the severe storm), re- 
sulted in Lee's being able to take up a position on the 
Potomac ; and having reached this point three days before 

*"On Saturday (5th), I held tho most northern pass, through which, by 
rapid marching;, Meade might have cut off the enemy's rear-guard in the other 
passes, if they had tried to hold them. Moreover, on July the 6th {the day 
Jfiidli' moved), 1 held the broad turnpike pass to Chambersburg, through 
\\hich he might have marched his entire army in two days, if all the other 
passes had been held." — Private leiter from General W F. Smith. 


the Union army got up, he had time to put it in a strong con- 
dition of defence. 

This coign of vantage was on the ridge of Marsh Creek, 
and formed a powerful kind of tetc-de-pont, covering the pas- 
sage of the Potomac at Williamsport. If it was designed to 
attack this position, it should have been done the moment 
the army arrived before it, on the 12th. But the day and 
the morrow passed in timid councils. On the 13th, at a formal 
consultation of the corps-commanders, the majority of the 
general-officers voted against an attack, as it was thought the 
position was too formidable by nature and art to afford any 
prospect of a successful assault. Nevertheless, on the night 
of the 13th, General Meade determined to next morning take 
the offensive. But when, on the morning of the 14th, the 
troops moved forward, it was discovered that the Confederate 
army had passed the Potomac. The Confederate engineers 
had succeeded in improvising a ponton-bridge, and by the 
aid of this and the ford at William sport* (the Potomac hav- 
ing, meanwhile, fallen sufficiently to admit of passage), Lee 
withdrew the remnant of his force with great skill and com- 
plete success. 

It will probably always remain one of those questions 
about which men will differ— whether General Meade should 
have attacked or refrained from attacking Lee at "Williams- 
port. The adverse opinion of the corps-commanders will 
probably not be allowed to count for much, seeing it has 
passed into a notorious maxim that " councils of war never 
fight." And it may fairly be said that as General Meade de- 
termined to attack on the 14th, against the opinion of his 

* " Part of the ponton-bridge was recovered, and new boats built, so that, 
by the 13th, a good bridge was thrown over the river at Falling Waters. Our 
preparations being completed, and the river, though still deep, being pronounced 
fordable, the army commenced to withdraw to the south side on the night of 
the 13th. Ewell's corps forded the river at Williamsport, those of Longstreet 
and Hill crossed upon the bridge." — Lee : Report of the Invasion of Pennsyl- 



lieutenants, it would have been well had he done so on the 
l'2th, ■without consulting their opinion. No new clement was, 
in the interval, introduced into the problem, excepting that 
the strengthening of the position by the enemy rendered at- 
tack on the 14th much more difficult than it was on the 12th. 
and the delay would, therefore, appear to have resulted from 
hesitation and indecision in the mind of the commander, 
which under the circumstances must be accounted an error. 

The problem, whether Lee should have been attacked in 
the position he had taken up, is one of a tactical nature, re- 
quiring for its solution special and professional knowledge. 
It is, therefore, one of those questions regarding which public 
opinion is necessarily worthless. On the other hand, the 
emphasis with which the corps-commanders pronounced 
against assault, should carry with it great weight ; and Kn- 
own investigations lead strongly to the conclusion that Meade 
was right, in the relative situations of the opposing forces, in 
not attacking. 

But the question whether or not General Meade should 
have attacked at William sport, is really not the proper point 
at issue. It is one of a larger scope, and turns on the 
whole history of Lee's retreat and Meade's pursuit. The 
principles already laid down as those that should guide 
criticism on McClellan's conduct after Antietam, apply with 
equal and even greater force to Meade's conduct after 
Gettysburg. That an army that had moved so far from 
its base, as that of Lee ; that had crossed the frontier ; 
that had been defeated in a great battle of three davs du- 
ration, in which it suffered immense loss ; that then sought 
safety in flight only to find itself barred at the frontier by 
the rise of the Potomac (as though Providence fought with 
the Union army), should have been either destroyed or hope- 
lessly crippled, appears indisputable. The Army of the Po- 
tomac, though it also had suffered severe loss, was in the 
highest state of morale, and was eager to give its opponent 
the <■<>'!/, de rjnvc It was powerful in numbers, and had been 
strengthened by the addition of eleven thousand men under 



General French, by a militia division under General Smith, 
and by considerable re-enforcements forwarded from Wash- 
ington and Baltimore by the Government, whose officers, 
raised for a moment above that paltry policy that commonly 
controlled their military views, were eager to put into the 
hands of General Meade every thing needed to assure the 
devoutly desired consummation of the destruction of Lee, who 
could not bring into battle array above forty thousand men of 
all arms. It will be hard ever to persuade the mass of men 
that this was not within the compass of a vigorous stroke.* 

Descending, now, to the question of details : as I have pro- 
nounced both in favor of the most vigorous aggressive action 
of General Meade, and against an attack in the position in 
which he found himself at Willianisport, I must reconcile this 
seeming discrepancy, by saying that Lee's position on the 
ridge of Marsh Creek might have been turned. By throwing 
his right forward to the Conecocheaque, Meade would have 
removed his army from the difficult region of woods and hills 
in which it found itself, and in which all the advantages of 
position were greatly in favor of the Confederates ; and he 
would have placed it in a country where he would have had 
the commanding heights down to the river. He would then 
have overlapped the Confederate left, which was thrown out 
in the air. To guard against any menace of Lee towards 
Washington, the South Mountain passes might have been held 
by the cavalry In this position Meade would have attacked 
with as many advantages in his favor, as there were in the 
other disadvantages against him. But even had the army 
attacked and been repulsed, General Meade would have been 
forgiven ; for in war it is often better to have fought and lost, 
than never to have fought at all. It will always remain a strik- 
ing instance of the controlling influence exercised in this war 
by defensive positions, that the two decisive points of this great 
campaign were mainly determined by the simple incident of 

* " The fruit seemed so ripe, so ready for plucking," said President Lincoln 
to General Meade, soon after, " that it was very hard to lose it " 


securing the defensive. It was in large part the mere holding 
the position at Gettysburg — the strategic key to the region 
south of the Susquehanna — that gained for the Union army 
the battle and the campaign; but when Lee, after terrible 
losses, found himself compelled to abandon the invasion, and 
seek safety in retreat, it was by taking up a strong vantage 
ground on the ridge of Marsh Creek that he was able, in a 
most difficidt situation, to show so imposing a front of oppo- 
sition as to secure for his army safe exit from Maryland into 

Thus was baulked and brought to naught the scheme of 
Confederate invasion, an invasion undertaken by an army 
powerful in numbers and in the prestige of victory, and aim- 
ing at the boldest quarry — the conquest of peace on the soil 
of the loyal States. That it was a mistake, is not difficult to 
recognize in the light of the result ; but, as I have already 
pointed out, it was an error in its inception, for it was an en- 
terprise that overstepped the limits of that fitting theory of 
military policy that generally governed the Confederate war- 
councils, and committed Lee to all the perils and losses of an 
invasion, without any adequate recompense, and even without 
any well-determined military object. 

The expulsion of the invaders freed the North from a great 
dread ; and though there were those that were dissatisfied at 
the incomplete termination of the campaign, the country was 
not loth to recognize that there had been wrought out for it 
a great deliverance by the valor of the Army of the Potomac. 
For once, that sorely tried, long-suffering army had the freely- 
given boon of a nation's gratitude. 

Note. — I am indebted to Colonel J. B. Batchelder, author of the well-known 
an>l beautifully accurate isometrical drawing of the battlefield of Gettysburg, 
for ;i careful revision of the tactical details of the action at Gettysburg, and for 
many explanations given on the ground. 



July, 1863— Maech, 1864. 


The safe retreat of Lee from Maryland into Virginia im- 
posed upon General Meade the necessity of an immediate 
pursuit. This he undertook with a promptitude that was 
very creditable, considering the trying campaign that had just 

On recrossing the Potomac, Lee fell back into the Shenan- 
doah Valley, placing his force on the line of Opequan Creek — 
the same position he had held during the autumn after his 
retreat from Antietam. 

Meade's plan of advance into Virginia was confessedly 
modelled on that of McClellan in November, 1862 ; and it was 
probably the best that could have been adopted. As a prob- 
lem in that branch of the art of war which is named logistics, 
or the supplying of armies, it was not considered practicable 
to subsist a force of the magnitude of the Army of the Poto- 
mac by the means available in a direct advance up the She- 
nandoah Valley. It remained, therefore, to march by the 
route of the Loudon Valley ; and by hugging the Blue Ridge 
closely, Meade hoped, by vigorous action, to bring the Con- 


federate force to brittle under advantageous conditions before 
it should break through the mountains.* 

The army crossed the Potomac on ponton-bridges at Har- 
per's Ferry and Berlin on the 17th and 18th July, and followed 
southward, skirting the Blue Ridge ; while Lee, conforming to 
this manoeuvre, fell back up the Shenandoah Yallev. The 
movement of Meade was made with much vigor — indeed with 
so much vigor that, on reaching Union, on the 20th of June, 
he was compelled to halt a day, lest !»\ further advance lie 
should dangerously uncover his right; but even with this 
delay, the army, on reaching Manassas Gap on the 22d, was 
so well up with the enemy, that it gained that point while the 
long Confederate column was still passing on the other side 
of the mountains. This, therefore, seemed an excellent open- 
ing for a flank attack, and it was fully appreciated by Meade, 
wdio directed five corps on Manassas Gap — the Third Corps, 
now under command of General French, being in advance. 
The selection of the leader for an enterprise demanding the 
most energetic qualities of mind — seeing that it was necessarv 
to force Lee to battle under circumstances in which he would 
naturally wash to avoid it — was very unfortunate ; and by his 
mismanagement General French succeeded in depriving the 
army of one of the few really advantageous opportunities it ever 
had to strike a decisive blow\ A slight observing force had 
been left at the Gap, but this was expelled, and the corps passed 
through on the evening of the 22d, prepared to advance on 
Front Boyal in the morning. But, on moving forward to 
strike the enemy's line of retreat, the corps-commander acted 
with such feebleness,? as to allow the rear-guard to delay him 

* No demonstration was made in the Valley of the Shenandoah other 
than that of a body of cavalry under Gregg, which retired after an indecisivo 
engagement with the Confederate cavalry under General Fitz Hugh Lee at 

f General Warren, in his evidence before the War Committee, states that 
General French " made a verv feeble attack, irith one briyitde only, and wasted 
ilb' whole day." He adds, that General Meade "was more disappointed in 
that result than in any thing that had happened." — Report on the Conduct of 
the War, second series, vol. i., pp. 381, 382. 


the whole day, so that it was evening before he penetrated to 
the Confederate line of battle at Front Koyal. Next morning, 
when Meade hoped to give battle, Lee had made good his 
retreat.* Upon this, as nothing was now to be hoped from 
the movement on hand, the march was conducted leisurely 
towards the Rappahannock, and Lee retired to the vicinity o* 

In this position a considerable period of repose followed ; 
and this inaction was imposed not more by the necessity of 
resting and recruiting the army, than because both sides found 
it necessary to draw detachments from the armies in Virginia 
for other needs. From the army of Meade a considerable 
body was taken to send to South Carolina, and a large force 
withdrawn to dispatch to Xew York for the purpose of en- 
forcing the draft, the attempted execution of which, some 
time before, had given rise to extensive riots in that city. On 
the other hand, the severe pressure that Rosecrans was bring- 
ing to bear upon the central army of the Confederacy under 
General Bragg, in Tennessee, prompted the detachment from 
Lee's army of the corps of Longstreet, for the purpose of 
throwing it into the scale as a make-weight against the Union - 
force. This withdrawal took place early in September, and 
necessarily reduced the Confederates to a purely defensive 
attitude in Virginia. Soon afterwards, General Meade be- 
came aware of Longstreet's departure, and he then sent his 
cavalry across the Rappahannock, drove the enemy over the 
Rapidan, and subsequently followed with his whole force, 
occupying Culpepper and the regions between the Rappa- 
hannock and the Rapidan, the latter river now becoming the 

* " As the Federals continued to advance along the eastern slope of the moun- 
tains, apparently with the purpose of cutting us off from the railroad, Long- 
street was ordered on the 19th of July to proceed to Culpepper Courthouse by 
way of Front Royal. He succeeded in passing part of his command over the 
Shenandoah in time to prevent the occupation of Manassas and Chester Gaps 
by the enemy. As soon as a ponton-bridge could be laid down, the rest of his 
corps crossed and marched through Chester Gap to Culpepper, where they ar 
rived on the 24th. He was followed by Hill's corps. Ewell reached Front Roya] 
the 23d, and encamped near Madison Courthouse the 29th." — Lee : Report. 


dividing line between the opposing armies. As the position 
held by Lee on the south bank of the Ilapidan was a very 
advantageous one, Meade's projects of advance turned to- 
wards a flanking movement ; but just at the time he had 
matured a plan of operations, he was informed from Wash 
ington that it was found necessary to still further weaken the 
Army of the Potomac by the withdrawal of two corps to for- 
ward to Tennessee, in which section of the theatre of war the 
military situation had been seriously compromised by Rose- 
crans' defeat at Chickamauga — a defeat to which the force 
sent from Virginia under Longstreet had in no small degree 
contributed. The corps taken were the Eleventh and Twelfth, 
and they were put under the command of General Hooker. 
This, in turn, reduced Meade to a strict defensive ; for though 
he received some accessions to his numbers from the draft, 
yet these added little to his real strength, the conscripts being 
raw and unreliable, and large numbers deserted at the first op- 
portunity. It was evident, therefore, that he could undertake 
no considerable operation until the return of the troops sent to 
New York. But when, towards the middle of October, these 
finally came back, and General Meade Avas about to initiate 
an offensive movement, he found himself suddenly thrown 
once more on the defensive by the bold initiative of Lee, in 
an operation the events of which I shall now relate. 



Made aware of the heavy deduction of force from the Army 
of the Potomac, but exaggerating probably its extent, Lee 
early in October determined on an offensive movement that 
should have the effect of driving Meade back from the 
line of the L\ipidan. With this object he resolved to move 
around his opponent's right flank, and endeavor to interpose 


between him and Washington* He counted that if he 
should be able in this situation to seriously cripple Meade, it 
would exhaust the season of active operations and detain the 
Army of the Potomac on the frontier for the winter, during 
which time it would be possible for Lee to still further re-en- 
force from his own command the heavily pressed Confederate 
Army of the West. 

In execution of this plan, Lee crossed the Eapidan on 
Friday, October 9th, and taking "circuitous and concealed 
roads," t passed by way of Madison Courthouse quite to 
Meade's right. Stuart, with Hampton's cavalry division, 
moved on the right of the column, while Fitz Hugh Lee's 
cavalry division, with a detachment of infantry, was left to 
hold the lines south of the Eapidan and mask the turning 

The first positive intimation which General Meade had 
of Lee's intention was an attack made upon his advance 
posts on the right at James City, held by a portion of Kil- 
patrick's cavalry division and some infantry of the Third 
Corps. This force was driven in by Stuart on the 10th, and 
fell back on Culpepper; and it being then clear to Meade that 
his right was already turned, he that night sent back his 
trains, and at two o'clock on the morning of the 11th, began 
a retrograde movement across the Rappahannock. The 
march was accomplished during that day, and by afternoon the 
army was across the river. 

Lee with his main body neared Culpepper on the 11th 
to find that the whole army had moved behind the Rappa- 
hannock some hours before. He then halted his army dur- 
ing the rest of the 11th, while Stuart pressed the rear of 

* I learn from General Longstreet that Lee at this time frequently spoke of 
an operation that should " swap Queens ;" that is, he thought of marching 
direct upon and capturing Washington, giving up the attempt to cover Rich- 
mond. But Mr. Davis would never consent to this war d I'outrance ; and, 
besides, the Army of Northern Virginia was at this time too much reduced 
from its late losses to authorize so audacious an enterprise. 

\ Lee : Report of Fall Operations in Virginia. 


Meade's column, which was covered by the cavalry under 

Buford's division of troopers had crossed the Kapidan at 
Germanna Ford on the night of the 10th, after the Confeder- 
ates had begun their movement, but was met on the morning 
of the 11th by Fitz Hugh Lee's horsemen ; whereupon Buford, 
falling back over the Kapidan, united at Brandy Station with 
Pleasonton's main body of cavalry, and then followed the 
army across the Rappahannock. 

On the following morning, Monday, October 12th, Gen. Lee 
advanced his columns ; but finding that Meade had been too 
quick for him, and that his first turning movement had failed, 
owing to the rapid retreat of his opponent, he determined, in- 
stead of following up Meade by the direct line of his retreat, 
to make a new flank movement by routes to the west, " with 
the design," as he says in his report, " of reaching the Orange 
and Alexandria railroad north of the Rappahannock, and in- 
terrupting the retreat of the enemy." This operation had 
very near been successful, owing to the uncertainty of General 
Meade as to his antagonist's real purpose, and the false 
movements resulting therefrom. 

Having put the Rappahannock between himself and Lee, 
Meade conceived that his retreat might have been premature, 
especially as he was informed on the morning of the 12th that 
Lee was near Culpepper OH. and it was uncertain whether he 
intended to do more. Accordingly, that afternoon the main 
body of the army, consisting of the Second, Fifth, and Sixth 
corps, with Buford's cavalry division, was countermarched to 
the south bank of the Rappahannock to proceed back towards 
Culpepper. General Meade designed to give battle if Lee was 
really there. But, as has been seen, the latter had that morn- 
ing again advanced to plant himself by a circuitous turning 
movement on Meade's line of retreat towards Washington. 
Thus was presented the curious wnlrdcnips, that while on the 
12th the main body of the army was marching southward to 
meet Lee at Culpepper, Lee was moving rapidly northward 
on parallel roads to lay hold of Meade's communications! 


But of this mistake, which if prolonged much longer might 
have proved fatal to Meade, he had that afternoon convincing 
proof in an event which fell out in this wise. 

"While the three corps named had been sent on the counter- 
march towards Culpepper, the Third Corps under General 
French had been left to guard the line of the Eappahannock, 
and took position at Freeman's Ford, while the cavalry 
division of General Gregg watched the passage of the Upper 
Eappahannock at Sulphur or Warrenton Springs. Now Lee, 
continuing his northward march, on the afternoon of the 12th 
struck Sulphur Springs, and there crossed his columns to the 
north bank of the Eappahannock ; so that Gregg found him- 
self assailed by the van of the enemy advancing towards War- 
renton, and was driven off after having been somewhat se- 
verely handled. Of course, on receiving this intelligence from 
Gregg, the real nature of Lee's movement was instantly dis- 
closed to Meade, who sent an immediate order recalling the 
three corps from their untimely move on Culpepper. This 
order found these corps in bivouac on the road to Culpepper, 
and reached them towards midnight of Monday, when they aj; 
once beg;ni a rapid retrograde movement to the north of the 

It is easy to see that from this misunderstanding not only 
was the general retrograde movement to meet the Confederate 
advance seriously compromised, but the Third Corps, remaining 
alone on the north bank of the Eappahannock, was thrown 
quite out of position and exposed to destruction by an over- 
whelming force. But Lee, unaware of the true state of 
affairs, did not turn aside to molest that isolated force, but 
continued his northward movement, and by a night march of 
the three corps, the different corps of the Army of the Potomac 
were, on the morning of Tuesday the 13th, again concentrated 
on the north bank of the Eappahannock. 

As on the morning of the 13th the opposing forces were 
both on the north side of the Eappahannock, there ensued 
between the two armies a close race — Lee aiming, by a flank 
march, to strike in on Meade's line of retreat by the Orange 


and Alexandria Railroad, and Meade determined to checlc- 
mate him by a rapid retrograde movement. The latter, dnrin- 
that day, fell back along the line of the railroad, and Lee. 
continuing his advance from Sulphur Springs by parallel 
routes to the west, struck Warrenton in the afternoon. Here 
he halted during the rest of that day to supply the troops with 

Lee s plan now was to advance from "Warrenton in two col- 
umns — the left column (the corps of Hill) to move northward 
by the Warrenton turnpike to New Baltimore, and then strike 
due eastward to lay hold of the railroad at Bristoe Station ; 
the right column (the corps of Ewell) to advance by roads to 
the east of the route of Hill, passing by Auburn and Green- 
wich, and uniting with Hill at Bristoe Station. 

This project was put in execution on the morning of the 
14th ; but whether Lee would be able to make good his in- 
tent of reaching Bristoe before his antagonist, would, of 
course, depend on the activity of the latter. Meade, with the 
uncertainty of what Lee was about, had the interior hue ; Lee, 
with a definite purpose and clear line of conduct, had the 
exterior and longer route to pursue. Anticipating the sequel 
so far as to say that Meade beat Lee in the race, passing 
Bristoe with nearly his whole force before Hill and Ewell 
were able to strike his line of retreat at that point, it remains 
to describe some interesting complications that arose out of 
the proximity in which the two armies were manoeuvring. 

In the retrograde movement of the Union army, on the 
13th, it was appointed that the Second Corps under General 
"Warren should, after halting at Fayetteville until the Third 
Corps under General French was withdrawn, cover the rear 
of the army ; and its route was directed to be by way of Au- 
burn to Catlett's Station, and thence northward along the line 
of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. In this duty, Kil- 
patrick's division of cavalry was to co-operate. 

Now, on the evening of the 13th, when Lee reached War- 

* Lee's Report. 


renton, Warren reached Auburn, distant only five miles to the 
east, and there he bivouacked with his corps on the south 
side of Cedar Run. To cover his rear from attack from the 
direction of Warrenton, where Lee was that night (unknown 
to, but not unsuspected by Warren), Caldwell's division with 
three batteries* was placed on the heights of Cedar Run. 
Before dawn of the 14th, while the head of Warren's column 
was under way crossing Cedar Run, Caldwell's troops lit 
camp fires on the hill-top to cook breakfast ; and in this duty 
they were engaged when most unexpectedly a battery opened 
upon them from their rear and directly on the road prescribed 
for the movement of Warren's column towards Catlett's Sta- 
tion.f This attack, sufficiently bewildering to those upon 
whom it fell, will readily be understood in the light of the 
following rather amusing incident. 

Stuart with the Confederate cavalry had the day previous 
met the head of French's column, and, being forced back, re- 
tired towards Catlett's Station. But on Sykes' corps moving 
up the railroad, Stuart found himself enclosed between the 
two main Union columns, and bivouacked within two miles of 
General Meade's headquarters and not more than four hun- 
dred yards from where Caldwell's division was encamped, 
sending messengers through the Union lines to notify his 
friends of his situation. When Caldwell's men lit their fires, 
Stuart opened on them. Unseen himself in the valley, veiled 
by mist and the gray morning light, he had yet a plain view 
of the Union force on the illuminated hill-tops, and for a few 
minutes, till the troops- could be moved to the opposite side of 
the hill under cover, the fire from the Confederate battery told 
with fatal effect.^ Having thus paid his compliments, the 
dashing sabreur escaped by moving to the rear around the 
Union rear-guard. 

But no sooner had Caldwell moved to cover on the opposite 

* The batteries of Captains Ricketts, Arnold, and Ames, 
f Warren's Report. 

% A remarkable example of this destructive effect was furnished by one of 
the shells which killed seven men. 


side of the hill than his command was opened on from that 
side also, the lire coming from the direction of the Warrenton 
road. The source of this new attack will be readily under- 
stood from the already mentioned intentions of Lee ; for it 
has been seen that from Warrenton E well's column was to 
proceed by way of Auburn on Greenwich, and having moved 
very early in the morning, it was his advance that struck 
Warren's force.* The moment was now a critical one for 
Warren, for his advance division under General Hays, which 
had crossed to the north side of Cedar Run, found itself 
opposed by a hostile force at the same time that Caldwell's 
division, on the south side, was fired upon, and the corps 
appeared to be surrounded and its retreat cut off.t But the 
actual condition of things was not as bad as appeared. Little 
more than the mere van of Ewell's column, and that mainly 
cavalry, had yet come up : the crossing of Cedar Run was 
not interrupted ; Hays, who was on the north side, having 
thrown out a couple of regiments, repulsed the enemy, and 
cleared the route over which the corps was to advance ;| and 
finally, when the head of Ewell's main column came up, it 
was held in check by skilful deployments of cavalry and in- 
fantry and the practice of the batteries, till the rest of War- 

* Lee : Report of Summer Operations of 18G3 ; Warren : Report of Opera- 

f " Attacked thus on every side, with my command separated by a con- 
siderable stream, encumbered with a wagon-train, in the vicinity of the whole 
force of the enemy, and whom the sound of actual conflict had already assured 
of my position, to halt was to await annihilation, and to move as prescribed 
carried me along routes in a valley commanded by the heights on each side.'' 
Warren : Report of Operations. 

X These regiments were the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New York, 
under Lieutenant-Colonel Bull, supported by the Twelfth New Jersey Volun- 
teers ; and General Hays, in his official report, gives the following account of 
this spirited affair : " I moved forward the entire regiment of the One Hundred 
and Twenty-sixth New York, supported by the Twelfth New Jersey. In a 
6hort time our force came in contact with the rebels. It was short, but very 
decisive. The rebel cavalry, led by Colonel Thomas Ruffin, charged furiously 
upon the deployed One Hundred and Twenty-sixth, and were most gallaullj 
repulsed with the loss of their leader, who waa mortally wounded." 


reu's force had crossed Cedar Kurt, when he continued 
his prescribed march — Caldwell's division covering the re- 
treat, and closely skirmishing with the enemy.* Ewell did 
not follow up directly on the rear of "Warren's column, for his 
prescribed course took him to the left to move by Greenwich 
and join Hill.f 

Meantime, the whole army was pressing on along the rail- 
road towards Centreville, the point of concentration, where 
General Meade had resolved to halt and give battle. Warren, 
as has been seen, brought up the rear. 

As Lee's purpose was to strike Bristoe Station before 
Meade should have passed that point, he pressed the advance 
of Hill and Ewell. When Hill, however, after moving east- 
ward from New Baltimore, in the afternoon approached 
Bristoe, the whole army, with the exception of Warren's 
corps, had got beyond that point, and as the head of his 
column came up, the Fifth Corps, under General Sykes, had 
just crossed Broad Bun. On seeing this, Hill threw out a 
line of battle to attack the rear of that corps, when suddenly 
lie found his attention called off by the apparition at that 
moment of Warren, who, after entrasrin": Ewell at Auburn 
in the manner indicated, had advanced rapidly along the 
railroad, and rear-lied Bristoe Station only to encounter Hill. 

Warren's position was again a critical one ; for, instead of 
finding Bristoe Station held by the Fifth Corps, as had been 

* The escape was so narrow, that, as reported by Colonel Brooke (who com- 
manded the rear brigade of Caldwell's division, and to whose skilful manoeuv- 
ring the successful withdrawal was in no small degree due), " the enemy suc- 
ceeded in throwing a column of infantry across the road, and cutting off the 
Fifty-seventh New York Volunteers. Lieutenant-Colonel Chapman, command- 
ing the regiment, proved himself equal to the emergency, and by promptly 
•noving to the right by a slight detour, succeeded in rejoining the column with 
Jut alight loss. I held the enemy at bay on my left and front by fighting him 
sharply with my flankers and skirmishers, and finally drove him by my fire 
into the woods on my left." 

f According to General Lee's report, Ewell " drove back the rear-guard 01 
che enemy, and rapidly pursued it." But the extent of the pursuit has been 
recorded above. 


indicated to him in General Meade's orders, he discovered 
that he was there alone, in the immediate vicinity of tlio 
whole army of Lee, and found himself suddenly assailed while 
marching by the flank. But Warren was equal to the occa- 
sion, and by a remarkable vigor of action not only extricated 
his command from a perilous situation, but inflicted a severe 
blow to the Confederates. This action, known as the battle 
of Bristoe, I shall briefly detail. 

As the head of the column of the Second Corps approached, 
Hill threw forward a line of battle towards the railroad ; but 
Warren knew the locality with the critical knowledge of an 
engineer, and forming Webb's division on the right along the 
embankment near Broad Kun, he ordered Hays' division to 
run for the railroad cut, invisible from the position of both 
opposing generals. This it quickly did, and the point was 
reached just in time to meet Hill's advancing line of battle, 
which, receiving a severe fire from the troops covered by the 
cut and embankment, and raked by the fire of Bicketts' bat- 
tery, fell back with heavy loss. Warren immediately ad- 
vanced a thin line in pursuit, and secured four hundred and 
fifty prisoners, two standards, and five pieces of artillery. 
The attack fell mainly on the First and Third brigades of 
General Webb's division — the former commanded by Colonel 
Heath, and the latter by General Mallon, an accomplished 
and patriotic officer who was killed in the action — and on the 
Third Brigade of General Hays' division, commanded by Gen- 
eral Owen. The division of General Caldwell, which had 
formed the rear-guard, came up for a mile or two on the run, 
and took position on the left of Hays ; but the action had 
already been decided. Warren's loss was comparatively 

Effectual as was the check which Warren had given Hill, 
the position of the former was not one in which he could re- 
main, while, at the same time, it was difficult to withdraw. 
And now his situation became more dangerous ; for just as 
towards sunset the combat closed, Ewell's corps, which had 


pursued by-roads between the columns of Warren and Hill, 
came up, and this brought the entire force of Lee in front of 
the Second Corps. Nevertheless, before Lee could make dis- 
positions for attack, night came on, and, under its friendly 
cover, Warren retired, and next morning joined the main body 
of the army massed at Centreville.* 

Meade was now strongly posted on the heights of Centre- 
ville, and if compelled to fall back from there, would do so 
into the fortifications of Washington. As no additional turn- 
ing movement could be of any avail, Lee pushed his advance 
no further. His intention had been to gain Meade's rear, and 
as this was now completely foiled, he was not minded to essay 
assault on the army in position. Eesolving, however, not to 
have made an utterly useless campaign, he threw forward a 
thin line as far as Bull Bun, and thus masking his design, he 
proceeded to destroy the Orange and Alexandria Kailroad v 
from that point southward to Warrenton Junction. Having 
effectually accomplished that object,! he, on the 18th, began a 
retrograde movement. 

Meade commenced pursuit on the following day,} but with- 
out overtaking Lee ; and in this movement there occurred no 
rencounter of a more serious character than the wonted inde- 
cisive cavalry combats. Stuart, with his two divisions of 
horse, covered the retrograde movement, and during the en- 
tire march was constantly engaged in skirmishes with the 
Union cavalry. One of these affairs was of some import- 
ance. While on the advance towards Warrenton, on the 
19th, Kilpatrick's division skirmished warmly with Hamp- 

* General Lee states that Hill's attack was made by two brigades, and ex- 
tenuates the result by stating that the assault was " against greatly superior 
numbers." But Hill's own Report shows that he had two divisions on the field. 
Warren met their attack with little over three thousand men. 

f Lee's Report. 

\ This delay in following up was owing to the fact that since the army had 
crossed to the north side, that stream had become much swollen by heavy 
rains ; and previous to that, not anticipating that the ponton-bridges would be 
needed, they had been sent with the other trains some eight or ten miles to the 



ton's division up to Bucldand Mills, at the crossing of Broad 
Run, on the south bank of which Hampton took post, under 
the personal direction of Stuart, who here planned a skilful 
manoeuvre to defeat his opponent. Kilpatrick having forced 
the crossing by turning the flank of Hampton, Stuart fell 
back slowly towards Warrenton with the view of permitting 
Fitz Lee's cavalry division to come up from Auburn and 
attack the Union cavalry in flank and rear. This plan was 
carried out with some success. Fitz Lee arriving just below 
Bucldand surprised Kilpatrick's force on the flank, and Stuart, 
hearing Fitz Lee's guns, pressed vigorously in front with 
Hampton's division. A stubborn resistance was offered, but 
a charge ait fond finally forced Kilpatrick's command to give 
way, and he retreated in some confusion.* Lee retired be- 
hind the Rappahannock. 

The Army of the Potomac being pushed forward as far as 
Warrenton, General Meade was compelled to halt there to 
await the repairing of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. 
This work, undertaken with much energy, was accomplished 
early in November; and on the 7th, the whole army continued 
the advance towards the Rappahannock in two columns. Gen- 
eral French had command of the left wing, composed of the 
First, Second, and Third corps, and General Sedgwick had 
command of the right wing, composed of the Fifth and Sixth 
corps. The left column was directed to cross the Rappahan- 
nock at Kelly's Ford, and the right column at Rappahannock 
Station. Lee held position south of the Rappahannock, in 
the vicinity of Culpepper, with outposts at Kelly's Ford on the 
south bank, and at Rappahannock Station on the north bank. 
The Third Corps under Birney had the advance on Kelly's 
Ford, and on reaching that point, Birney crossed over a divi- 
sion by wading, without waiting for the laying of the ponton- 
bridges, and advancing an attacking party, composed of Ber- 

* Stuart pays, " great confusion." " I pursued them from three miles of 
Warrenton to Buckland, the horses at full speed the whole distance, the enemy 
retreating in great confusion."— Stuart's Report. But the reports of Custer and 
Kilpatrick are naturally not so frank as to avow this. 


dan's Sharp-shooters, the Fortieth New York, the First and 
Twentieth Indiana, the Third and Fifth Michigan, and the 
One Hundred and Tenth Pennsylvania regiments, carried the 
rifle-pits and captured five hundred prisoners. The enemy 
was prevented from strengthening the force in the works 
by the fire of batteries on the heights on the north side, 
which swept the plain on the southern bank. Birney's loss 
was trivial. 

While the left column was thus passing at Kelly's Ford, 
the right wing was forcing a crossing against more formida- 
ble obstacles. The Confederates occupied a series of works 
on the north bank of the river at Eappahannock Station, 
which had been built some time before by the Union troops, 
and consisted of a fort, two redoubts, and several lines of 
rifle-trenches. These works were held by two thousand men 
belonging to Early's division of Ewell's corps. Commanding 
positions to the rear of the fort having been gained, heavy 
batteries were planted thereon, and a fierce cannonade opened 
between the opposing forces. Just before dark, a storming 
party was formed of Russell's and Upton's brigades of the 
Sixth Corps, and the works were carried by a very brilliant 
coup cle mo in. Over fifteen hundred prisoners, four guns, and 
eight standards were here taken. Sedgwick's loss was about 
three hundred in killed and wounded. 

This brilliant opening of the campaign should have insured 
a decisive operation ; and it is probable that, if a rapid ad- 
vance had been made either towards Culpepper or to the 
south of it by Stevensburg, the Confederate army, which lay 
in winter-quarters in echelon from Kelly's Ford to the west of 
Culpepper, might have been cut in two. But the army having 
crossed on the night of the 7th and morning of the 8th, 
the whole of that day was wasted in useless and uncertain 
movements * and Lee, not courting battle, availed himself of 
the opportunity that night to withdraw again across the 

* On this point, see Birney's testimony : Report on the Conduct of the War. 
second series, vol. i., p. 372 ; Warren's testimony : Ibid., p. 38S. 


Eapidan. Meade then advanced and took up position be- 
tween the Rappahannock and the Bapidan, which was nearly 
the same ground he held before his retreat. 

This campaign may be regarded from two points of view, 
and from each is susceptible of a different critique. Consid- 
ered as a movement to meet Lee's advance, it was perfectly 
successful, and its conduct highly creditable. Lee's line of 
manoeuvre was, it is true, exterior to that of Meade, and as it 
was necessary for him to pursue circuitous routes in order to 
effect his turning movements, this imposed on the former con- 
siderably greater marching. Yet he had a clear object in view, 
whereas his antagonist was necessarily delayed by ignorance 
of his opponent's real design. The very success of Lee's plan 
depended on being pushed impetuously. Nevertheless, he de- 
layed at Madison Courthouse, which thwarted the success of 
his first flank movement ; and he delayed again at Warrenton, 
which baulked that of his second. But even in view of these 
halts, which General Lee partly explains on the ground that 
they w r ere necessary in order to supply the troops, the opera- 
tions of the 14th were not conducted with much vigor. Ewell 
allowed himself to be detained by the rear-guard, at Auburn, 
from early in the morning till noon ; and from Greenwich ho 
took a blind track across the fields, which he found very diffi- 
cult, and Avhich gave him much delay, thus preventing his 
junction with Hill at Bristoe until too late. Nor was Hill's 
march made with much more expedition ; for notwithstanding 
that his route to Bristoe was but four miles longer than that 
of Warren, and that the latter was delayed for several hours 
by his rencounter w r ith Ewell at Auburn, he reached the de- 
cisive point as soon as Hill. Warren's conduct throughout 
these operations was excellent, and a model of the execution 
of the duties of a rear-guard. 

But if, on the other hand, we look upon General Meade's 
line of duty as calling essentially for ohensive action, his 
course in this retrograde movement is open to another order 
of criticism. 


It is due to observe that General Meade not only did not 
wish to avoid battle, but he was reaUy anxious to precipitate 
decisive action, provided, always, he could fight on advanta- 
geous terms. Yet he appears to have overpassed several 
excellent openings for a bold initiative. It would have been 
interesting to see the result of a determination that, overleap- 
ing a too pedantic view of the nature and uses of lines of 
communication, would have tried the experiment of holding 
the army in a favorable position and allowed Lee to continue 
his turning movements. There is little doubt that if Meade 
had held fast either at Culpepper or at Warrenton, Lee 
would not have ventured beyond those points, for his oppo- 
nent would then have been on his communications, to whose 
endangered safety he would have presently been recalled. 
Lee's conduct throughout shows how diffident he was in re- 
gard to this point — feeling his way, and afraid to move until 
he had first started Meade, which was the very way of defeat- 
ing the object he had in view, if he really wished to interpose 
between the Army of the Potomac and Washington — a pur- 
pose which, under the circumstances, was only to be accom- 
plished by the utmost audacity of movement. 

There is another opportunity of which General Meade 
might have availed himself, and which I shall point out. 
When, on the 12th, the Second, Fifth, and Sixth corps had 
been sent back across the Rappahannock under a false lead, 
these corps were in position, by a move to the right, to fall 
upon the rear of Lee's column in crossing at Sulphur Springs. 
This would have been a bold move, and would have been as 
effective as a retrograde movement in relieving French on the 
north bank of the Rappahannock. But it would have been 
somewhat hazardous; for Lee might have disputed, with a 
part of his force, the passage of the iEstham fork of the 
Rappahannock, and moved with the rest to overwhelm the 
Third Corps at Freeman's Ford. It is quite likely that Gen- 
eral Meade, who was exceedingly anxious to bring on a bat- 
tle, would have made some of the moves indicated, had ho 
received prompter intelligence of his opponent's movement:.,. 


But he was excessively ill-informed by his cavalry, and in 
each case learned the enemy's position only when it had 
already become too late to act upon it. 

The line of manoeuvre adopted by General Lee in this 
campaign was the same as that used by him in the previous 
summer against Pope's army. But the result was very dif- 
ferent : and this arose from two causes. Lee had now neither 
a lieutenant capable of making such a flank march as that 
of Jackson on Manassas, nor such an opponent as Pope ; for, 
if Meade's action was not brilliant, he at least did not lose his 
head. As a whole, the campaign added no laurels to either 
army ; yet it was none the less attended with much toil and 
suffering — sleepless nights and severe marches and manifold 
trying exposures. But this is a part of the history of the 
army, of which those who did not bear the heat and burden 
of the day can never know much. 



Judging from the experience of such military operations as 
had been attempted during previous years at the season now 
reached, it might have been inferred that the army could do 
nothing better than go into winter-quarters and await the 
coming spring before entering upon a new campaign. But 
General Meade felt that the condition of the public mind 
would hardly brook delay ; and being himself very eager for 
action, he anxiously watched a favorable opportunity to 
deliver battle. Such an opportunity he thought he saw 
towards the end of November ; and he then planned an opera- 
tion known as the " Mine Run move" — an operation which 
deserved better success than it met. 

It was ascertained that Lee, while resting the right of his 


army on the Bapidan near Morton's Ford, had left the lower 
fords of the river at Ely's, Culpepper Mine, Germanna and 
Jacobs' mills uncovered, and depended for the defence of 
that flank upon a line of intrenchments which he had con- 
structed perpendicidar to the river and extending along the 
left bank of a small tributary of the Bapidan named Mine 
Bun, which flows almost at right angles with the former 
stream, and empties into it at Morton's Ford. Belying for 
the security of his right upon that line, Lee had placed his 
force in cantonments covering a wide extent of country ; so 
that while Ewell's corps held position from Morton's Ford to 
Orange Courthouse, Hill's corps was distributed from south 
of that point along the railroad to near Charlottesville, with 
an interval of several miles between the two corps. 

This wide separation of his opponent's forces gave Meade 
the hope that, by crossing the Bapidan at the lower fords, 
turning the Confederate right, and advancing quickly towards 
Orange Courthouse by the plank and turnpike roads that 
connect that place with Fredericksburg, he might be able to 
interpose between the two hostile bodies under Ewell and 
Hill, and destroy them in detail. 

This plan, different from the kind of operations ordinarily 
attempted in Virginia, was well suited to the circumstances. 
It was based upon a precise mathematical calculation of the 
elements of time and space, of the kind for which Napoleon 
was so famous, and depended absolutely for its success on a 
rigorous execution of all the foreordained movements in the 
foreordained time and way. Thus planning, Meade attempted 
the bold coup d' essay e of cutting entirely loose from his 
base of supplies, and, providing his troops with ten days' 
rations, he left his trains on the north side of the Bapidan, 
relying on the meditated success to open up new lines of 

The movement was begun at dawn of the 26th of November, 
and the order of march was as follows. The Fifth Corps, fol- 
lowed by the First Corps, was to cross the Bapidan at 
Culpepper Mine Ford and proceed to Parker's Store, on the 


plankroad to Orange Courthouse. The Second Corps was to 
cross at Clermanna Ford, and proceed out on the turnpike 
(which runs parallel with the plankroad) to Robertson's 
Tavern. To this point also the Third Corps, crossing at 
Jacobs' Mill Ford, and followed by the Sixth Corps, was to 
march by other routes, and there make a junction with the 
Second Corps. With the left thus at Parker's Store and the 
right at Robertson's Tavern, the army would be in close com- 
munication on parallel roads, and by advancing westward to- 
wards Orange Courthouse would turn the line of the Mine 
Itun defences, which it was known did not extend as far south 
as to cross the turnpike and plankroads. As the distance of 
the several corps from their encampments to the assigned 
points of concentration was under twenty miles, General 
Meade reasonably assumed that marching early on the 26th, 
each corps-commander would be able to make the march 
inside of thirty-four hours, or, at most, by noon of the 
27th. It remains to relate how this well-devised and meri- 
torious plan was baulked by circumstances that, though 
seemingly trivial to those uninstructed in war, are yet the 
Aery elements that in a large degree assure success or entail 

The first of these delays was occasioned by the tardiness of 
movement of the Third Corps under General French, which 
having a greater distance to march than the other corps, yet 
did not reach its assigned point for the crossing of the 
Eapidan until three hours after the other corps had arrived. 
This caused a delay to the whole army of the time named ; for, 
not knowing what he should encounter on the other side, 
General Meade was unwilling to allow the other corps to 
cross until the Third was up. A second obstacle was the 
result of an unpardonable blunder on the part of the engi- 
neers in underestimating the width of the Eapidan, so that 
the ponton-bridges it was designed to throw across that 
stream were too short, and trestle-work and temporary means 
had to be provided to increase their length. In addition, 
another cause of delay resulted from the very precipitous 



banks of the Rapidan, which rendered the passage of the ar- 
tillery and trains tedious and difficult. The effect of these 
several circumstances was that the army, instead of making 
the passage of the river early in the day, was not across 
until the following morning. Twenty -four hours had passed, 
and only half the distance was made. 

Early on the morning of the 27th, the corps were again in 
motion, and, under imperative orders from General Meade, 


they pushed forward with greater rapidity. The Second Corps, 
under General "Warren, reached its designated point at Robert- 
son's Tavern, about one o'clock, and meeting a force of the 
enemy, immediately began to develop its strength and position 
by a brisk skirmish fire. It will be remembered that, accord- 
ing to the plan, this corps was here to have been joined by the 
Third Corps, and it was not allowed to make a serious attack 


until General French should arrive. But that officer had 
fallen into a series of luckless mishaps, by which it happened 
that soon after crossing the llapidan at Jacobs' Mill, he took 
the wrong road to reach Robertsons Tavern, fulling upon a 
route too much to the right, which brought it against John- 
son's division of Swell's corps. With this force it had a brisk 
brush, and by the time it could extricate itself, get on the 
right road, and open communications with Robertson s Tavern, 
it was night. 

Meanwhile, the intention was fully disclosed, and Lee, as 
may be supposed, was not inactive. Hill's corps, which had 
been scattered far south of Orange Courthouse, was called 
up ; Ewell was withdrawn from his advanced position on 
which he had checked French and confronted Warren, and 
the whole Confederate force concentrated on the line of Mine 
Run, to bar progress beyond that point. 

Had the original intention of march been carried out, this 
line would not have opposed a barrier to Meade's advance ; 
for though Mine Run crosses the two roads on which the 
army was to advance towards Orange Courthouse, yet ita 
defences did not stretch as far southward as these two roads 
— the right being, in fact, at Bartlett's Mills, on Mine Pain, 
and thence up to the Rapidan. But, by the disclosure of 
Meade's purpose, Lee was able to extend his line so as to 
cover these roads, and the nature of the ground and the im- 
provised works that might be thrown up in the course of four- 
and-twenty hours, would render the position a very powerful 

The Confederate line was drawn along a prominent ridge 
or series of heights, extending north and south for six or eight 
miles. This series of hills formed all the angles of a complete 
fortification, and comprised the essential elements of a fort- 
ress. The centre of the line presented four or five well- 
defined facings of unequal length, occupying a space of more 
than three thousand yards, with such angles of defence that 
the fire of the enemy was able to enfilade every avenue of 
approach, while his right and left flanks were not less strongly 


protected. Stretching immediately in the rear and on the 
flanks of this position was a dense forest of heavy timber, 
while some twelve hundred yards in front was Mine Run — 
a stream of no great width, but difficult for infantry to 
cross from the marshy ground and dense undergrowth of 
stunted timber with which it was frequently flanked on either 
side, as well as from the abrupt nature of its banks. In addi- 
tion to these natural defences, the enemy quickly felled in 
front of a large extent of his position a thick growth of pine 
as an abatis, and hastily constructed trenches and breast- 
works for infantry. The position was, in fact, exceedingly 

This is what the army presently found out, when, being at 
length concentrated, it pushed forward on the foUowing morn- 
ing, the 28th — the enemy having during the night abandoned 
his advanced position — and after a short march of two or 
three miles found itself brought up against the line of Mine 
Run. Upon reaching this point the troops were immediately 
put into position, and reconnoissances were made with the 
view of ascertaining a point of attack.* At the same time 
that these reconnoissances were made, General Warren, with 
the Second Corps, strengthened by a division of the Sixth 
Corps, was sent to move upon the enemy's right ; find out 
how far south his line extended, and, if possible, outflank and 
turn him. In these tentative efforts passed the 28th of No- 

Next day, Warren, having moved southward to the Cathar- 
pin Eoad, completed his observation of the Confederate right, 
and announced the conditions as favorable for an attack 
from that point. At the same time, Sedgwick, having care- 
fully examined the Confederate left, reported that there was a 
point there which he thought weak and assailable. General 

* " In order to secure an efficient and active reconnoissance, orders were 
given to every corps-commander to prepare himself to attack the enemy in his 
immediate front, and to examine critically, and to ascertain, as early as he 
possibly could, where would be the best place to attack the enemy." — Meade's 
evidence : Eeport on the Conduct of the War, p. 345. 


Meade accordingly resolved to make attack on both wings, 
and for the purpose of strengthening the force with which 
Warren was to operate on the left, he detached from the 
corps of French two divisions which were sent to the former, 
which made Warren's force some twenty-six thousand men. 
Sedgwick, with his Sixth Corps, supported by the Fifth, 
would operate on the right. French, with the remaining 
division of his command and two divisions of the First C< tips, 
under Newton, would hold an interval of four miles between 
the right and left ; and as this centre would be weak, it was 
assigned a role of simple observation. Dispositions in accord- 
ance with this plan were not completed until late on Sunday, 
the 29th ; so it was resolved to make the attack next morn- 
ing, and it was appointed that after a heavy artillery fire, 
Warren, on the left, should open the attack at eight o'clock, 
and that an hour after he was engaged, Sedgwick should 
assault on the right.* 

Early on Monday morning the army was under arms, impa- 
tiently awaiting the signal-gun. At last, the sound of Sedg- 
wick's cannon came rolling along the line, when the entire 
artillery of the right and centre opened upon the works of the 
enemy. But not an echo from Warren on the left ! The 
explanation of this silence soon came in intelligence brought 
by an aid-de-camp. A close observation of the enemy's 
position by dawn revealed a very different state of facts than 
was presented the previous evening, t The presence of War- 
ren's troops had attracted Lee's attention to his right, and 
during the night he had powerfully strengthened that flank 
by artillery in position and by infantry behind breastworks 
and abatis. Looking at the position with the critical eye of 
an engineer, but not without those lofty inspirations of cour- 

* This disposition was based on the hope that as Warren's attack was to 
be the main one, his opening first would cause the Confederates to weaken 
their left, opposed to Sedgwick, and thus afford- him a favorable opportunity. 

t It happened frequently during the war that dispositions were made dur- 
ing the day for attack the following morning. Attacks thus planned in ad 
vance generally failed, as might be expected. 


age that o'erleap the cold dictates of mathematical calcula- 
tion, AYarren saw that the task was hopeless ; and so seeing, 
he resolved to sacrifice himself rather than his command. He 
assumed the responsibility of suspending the attack. 

His verdict was that of his soldiers— a verdict pronounced 
not in spoken words, but in a circumstance more potent than 
words, and full of a touching pathos. 

The time has not been seen when the Army of the Potomac 
shrank from any call of duty ; but an unparalleled experi- 
ence in war, joined to a great intelligence in the rank and file, 
had taught these men what, by heroic courage, might be done, 
and what was beyond the bounds of human possibility. Rec- 
ognizing that the task now before them was of the character 
of a forlorn hope, knowing well that no man could here count 
on escaping death, the soldiers, without sign of shrinking from 
the sacrifice, were seen quietly pinning on the breast of their 
blouses of blue, slips of paper on which each had written his 
name ! 

That this judgment of General Warren and of his troops 
was correct, General Meade became himself convinced on 
riding over to the left and viewing the position. It was, in fact, 
even more formidable than the line of the Eapidan, which it 
had been considered impracticable to assail by a front attack. 
The only possible opportunity of now continuing the enter- 
prise was by moving still further to the left, and by manoeu- 
vring on Lee's right, endeavor to force him out of his intrenched 
line. But, under the circumstances, with the uncertainties of 
a Virginia December, this was hardly to be seriously con- 
sidered. The entire plan had been conditioned on a quick 
operation that would uncover direct communications with the 
Eapidan. The trains, therefore, had been left on the north 
bank, and the troops furnished with a limited number of 
rations, now nearly exhausted. In this state of facts, griev- 
ous and galling though it was to permit the campaign to 
come to such abortive issue, General Meade felt there was 
no alternative. He, therefore, during the following night. 


withdrew the army across the Eapidan, and it resumed its old 
camps.* Lee did not follow up in the least. 


The movement on Mine Run terminated for the season grand 
military operations in Virginia, and the army established itself 
in winter cantonments for the next three months. During 
this period the dignity of dulness was disturbed only by one 
or two cavalry expeditions, planned with the ambitious aim 
of capturing Richmond by a sudden dash. The first of these 
schemes, which had the merit of boldness in conception if 
not in execution, was devised bv General Butler, then com- 
manding the Department of Virginia and North Carolina. 
Believing that Richmond had been stripped of its garrison for 
the purpose of strengthening the Confederate force operating 
in North Carolina under General Pickett, General Butler 
formed the design of swooping down on the Confederate cap- 
ital with a cavalry raid by way of New Kent Courthouse on 
the Peninsula. As a " diversion" in favor of this enterprise, 
the Army of the Potomac was to make a demonstration across 
the Rapidan. The raiding column, under command of Briga- 
dier-General Wistar, left New Kent Courthouse on the 5th of 
February, and reached the Chickahominy at Bottom's Bridge 

* It would have been a move well adapted to the circumstances had General 
Meade, on seeing his plan of operations frustrated, advanced on Fredericksburg 
instead of falling back to his old line across the Rapidan. This would have had 
the character of an offensive movement, and would have saved the morale of 
the army and the confidence of the country, both of which were rudely shaken 
by these frequent fruitless operations. But here General Meade was met by 
previous prescriptions from General Halleck, not to make any change of base. 
This absurd piece of pedantry prevented what would have been an excellent 
measure. From General Meade I learn that he would assuredly have niadu 
this move, had he been free to do so. 


on the following day. The 7th, in obedience to orders from 
Washington, General Sedgwick, temporarily commanding the 
Army of the Potomac in the absence of General Meade, 
threw Kilpatrick's cavalry division across the Bapidan at 
Ely's Ford, and Merritt's division at Barnett's Ford, while, at 
a point between, two divisions of the Second Corps made the 
passage at Germanna Ford by wading. The Confederates 
held their positions, and considerable skirmishing took place 
during the day. The troops remained on the south bank 
until the time fixed for the termination of General Butler's 
movement, when they were withdrawn. The raiding scheme 
resulted in nothing. General Wistar found Bottom's Bridge 
blockaded, and after reconnoitring the position, he returned. 
He does not appear to have lost any thing ; but the troops of 
the Army of the Potomac, that had the luck to be engaged in 
the " diversion," suffered a sacrifice of two hundred and fifty 

A few weeks later a bold expedition was fitted out with the 
view of releasing the large body of Union prisoners held at 
Bichmond, the accounts of whose ill-treatment had excited 
profound sympathy throughout the North. This enterprise 
was under command of General Kilpatrick, with some three 
or four thousand cavalry, seconded by Colonel Dahlgren, a 
young officer of extraordinary dash and daring. It set out 
on the 28th of February, after Sedgwick's corps and Custer's 
cavalry had made a demonstration on Lee's left. Crossing 
the Eapidan at Ely's Ford, beyond the Confederate right 
flank, the force marched thence to Spottsylvania Courthouse. 
Here Colonel Dahlgren, with five hundred picked men, as- 
suming the most daring part of the expedition, diverged from 
the main body and pushed forward by way of Frederickshall 
towards the James Eiver. The column under General Kil- 
patrick at the same time moved rapidly southward, and on 
the following night, the 29th, struck the Yirginia Central 
Eailroad at Beaver Dam Station, whence parties were sent 
out to damage the road. While engaged in this work, a 
train of troops arrived from the direction of Eichmond ; but 


after some skirmishing these retired. Another party was 
dispatched to destroy the bridge of the Fredericksburg and 
Richmond Railroad across the South Anna — a purpose that 
was foiled by the presence of a small observing force. The 
main column then advanced -with insignificant opposition, and 
on the forenoon of the following day, March 1st, reined up 
before the fortifications of Richmond. The swoop had been 
so sudden that the troopers passed unopposed within the 
outer line of redoubts ; but the Confederates having, mean- 
while, brought up some forces, Kilpatrick found himself 
arrested before the second line by opposition he could not 
break through. In the mean time, Colonel Dahlgren, Avith 
his isolated party, had moved southward from Frederickshall, 
after destroying the depot, till he struck the James River, 
where he did considerable damage to the canal, etc. A 
native of the country had undertaken to lead the party to a 
ford not far from Richmond, but through ignorance or treachery 
he missed his way, and conducted the column to near Gooch- 
land Courthouse, a full day's march from the intended point. 
The guide was hanged on the nearest tree, and Dahlgren 
moved down the course of the river towards Richmond, in 
front of which he arrived late on March 1st. But in the 
interim, General Kilpatrick, having been estopped in front of 
the fortifications, and hearing nothing of Dahlgren's column, 
became fearful as to his safety, and decided to fall back down 
the Peninsula, which he did in face of considerable opposi- 

Dahlgren was thus completely isolated from the main body, 
while the country around him, now thoroughly aroused, was 
alive with parties of armed citizens and militia. During the 
night of the 3d, while on the retreat, Colonel Dahlgren, with 
a hundred horsemen, became separated from the rest of his 
command, and falling into an ambush, he was killed, with 
some of his men, the rest surrendering. The other portion 
succeeded in making a junction with Kilpatrick's column, 
which returned to the Army of the Potomac by way of Port' 
ress Monroe. 


These outlying operations, which were indeed of a rather 
Quixotic character, very slightly affected the main current of 
the war, whose issue, it was clearly seen, must await new and 
weightier trials of strength by the two great armies. As all 
the grounds of inference led to the belief that the spring cam- 
paign must be decisive of the war, both armies, as by consent, 
settled down in winter cantonments, to recuperate from the 
wear and tear of the trying season of 1863, and renew their 
strength for the impending shock of arms. Lee held the 
south bank of the Rapidan, his forces being distributed from 
the river along the railroad to Orange Courthouse and Gor- 
donsville. The Army of the Potomac established itself along 
the Orange and Alexandria Railroad from the Rapidan back 
to the Rappahannock. The ranks of both armies were re- 
plenished by conscripts, and drills, inspections, and reviews 
were energetically pushed forward within the opposing camps. 
Thus the months of winter glided by, till vernal grasses and 
flowers came to festoon the graves on battle-fields over which 
the contending hosts had wrestled for three years. 

Then, upstarting, the armies faced each other along the 
lines of the Rapidan. 




Mat— June, 1864. 



If one should seek to discover the cause of the indecisive 
character of the Virginia campaigns, and why it was that for 
three years the Army of the Potomac, after each advance 
towards Richmond, was doomed to see itself driven back in 
discomfiture, it might be thought that a sufficient explanation 
was furnished in the consideration of the inherent difficulty 
of the task, arising from the near equality of its adversary in 
material strength, and the advantage the Confederates en- 
joyed in fighting defensively on such a theatre as Virginia. 
But to these weighty reasons must be added another, of a 
larger scope, and having relation to the general conduct of 
the war. Justice to the Army of the Potomac demands that 
this should here be stated, especially as the campaign on 
which I am about to enter will, happily, show the army under 
new auspices as regards this particular. 

In Virginia, the Army of the Potomac had not only to combat 
the main army of the South, but an arm}' that, by means of the 
interior lines held by the Confederates, might be continually 
strengthened from the forces in the western zone, unless these 
should be under such constant pressure as to prevent their 


diminution. To the Confederates, "Virginia bore the character 
of a fortress thrust forward on the flank of the theatre of war „ 
and such was their estimate of its importance, that they were 
always ready to make almost any sacrifice elsewhere to insure 
its tenure. 

In this they were greatly favored by the false and waste- 
ful military policy of the North, between whose two great 
armies in the East and the West there had hitherto been such 
lack of combination of effort, that the Army of the Potomac 
and the Army of the West had commonly found themselves 
in their extremest crises at the moment when the other, re- 
duced to inaction, left the Confederates free to concentre 
rapidly on the vital point. Since the time when, for a brief 
period, McClellan had exercised the functions of general-in- 
chief — a period during which he had opportunity to outline, but 
not to execute, a comprehensive system of operations — an in- 
credible incoherence prevailed in the general conduct of the 
war. For three years there was presented the lamentable 
spectacle of three or four independent armies, acting on 
various lines of operations, and working not only with no 
unity of purpose, but frequently at cross-purposes ; while in 
the military councils at Washington there ruled alternately 
an uninstructed enthusiasm and a purblind pedantry. 

At the period already reached in this narrative, the con- 
viction had become general throughout the North that this 
crude experimentalism was seriously jeoparding all hope of 
a successful issue of the war. This prompted the nomination 
of Major-General Grant to the grade of lieutenant-general— 
in which rank he was confirmed by the Senate on the 2d 
March ; and on the 10th, a special order of President Lincoln 
assigned him to the command of all the " armies of the United 

The elevation of General Grant to the lieutenant-general- 
ship gave perfect satisfaction throughout the North — a senti- 
ment arising not more from the conviction that it put the 
conduct of the war on a sound footing, than from the high 
estimate held by the public of General Grant's military tal- 


ent. The country had long ago awaked from its early ill ram 
of a coining "Napoleon," and there was no danger of its 
cherishing any suck delusion respecting General Grant; but 
it saw in him a steadfast, pertinacious commander, one who 
faithfully represented the practical, patient, persevering ge- 
nius of the North. As it was his happy fortune to reach the 
high office of general-in-chief at a time when the Administra 
tion and the people, instructed somewhat in war and war's 
needs, were prepared to give him an intelligent support, he 
was at once able, with all the resources of the country at his 
call, with a million men in the field, and a generous and 
patriotic people at his back, to enter upon a comprehensive 
system of combined operations. Moreover, the instrument 
with which he had to work was one highly tempered and 
brought to a fine and hard edge. The troops had become, by 
the experience of service, thoroughly inured to war. They 
could march, manoeuvre, and fight. The armies, in fact, wen; 
real armies, and were, therefore, prepared to execute opera- 
tions that at an earlier period would have been utterly im- 

The lieutenant-general was committed by the whole bent 
of his nature to vigorous action ; and, upon taking into his 
hand the baton, he resolved upon a gigantic aggressive system 
that should embrace simultaneous blows throughout the whole 
continental theatre of war. His theory of action looked to 
the employment of the maximum of force against the armies 
of the Confederates, to such a direction of this power as 
would engage the entire force of the enemy at one and the 
same time, and to delivering a series of heavy and uninter- 
rupted blows in the style of what the Duke of Wellington 
used to call " hard pounding," and of what General Grant has 
designated as " continuous hammering." 

The armed force of the Confederacy w r as at this time mainly 
included in the two great armies of Johnston and Lee — the for- 
mer occupying an intrenched position at Dalton, Georgia, the 
latter ensconced within the lines of the Rapidan. These bodies 
were still almost as powerful in numbers as any the South 


had ever had in the field. Their intrinsic weakness lay in the 
fact that those reservoirs of strength from which armies must 
constantly draw to repair the never-ceasing waste of war were 
well-nigh exhausted ; that the sustaining power of the Con- 
federacy,— the moral energy of the people — had so declined, 
that what remained of arms-bearing population in the South 
evaded rather than courted service in the field. Still, the 
existing armies presented a formidable and unabashed front, 
and by skilful conduct they might yet hope to do much. 

The immediate command of all the armies west of the Alle- 
ghany mountains, and east of the Mississippi Eiver, was com- 
mitted to Major-General "W T. Sherman, who was intrusted 
with the duty of acting against Johnston's force by a cam- 
paign having as its objective point Atlanta, the great railroad 
centre of the middle zone. The lieutenant-general then es- 
tablished his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac, 
from" where he designed to exercise general supervision of the 
movements of all the armies. 

This act was of itself a recognition of that primacy of inter- 
est and importance which belonged to that army, but which 
appeared, for a time, to have passed from it to its more for- 
tunate rival in the western theatre of operations. General 
Grant saw that the task assigned the Army of the Potomac 
was no less momentous now than ever ; for it still confronted, 
in Virginia, the foremost army of the Confederacy, under the 
Confederacy's foremost military leader. After three years of 
colossal combat, that army, the head and front of all the hos- 
tile offending, still continued to cover Eichmond — a point 
which had been the first objective of the army's efforts, and 
which, though originally of no marked military importance, 
had come to acquire the kind of value that attaches to a 
national capital. Bearing on its bayonets the fate of the 
Confederacy, the Army of Northern Virginia stood erect and 
defiant, defending Eichmond — threatening Washington. No 
man but knew that so long as it held the field, the Confederacy 
had lease of life. 

It was the destruction of this force that General Grant now 


undertook to accomplish, by the double agency of direct 
attack, and by engaging all the remaining forces of the ene- 
my available for its re-enforcement. Having provided for the 
latter in instructions to his lieutenants, he fixed his headquar- 
ters at Culpepper Courthouse during the last days of March, 
and sat down to study the difficult chess-board of Virginia. 
His opponent was that same veteran player who had check- 
mated so many antagonists — Robert E. Lee. 

Tims were brought face to face those Two whom, by com- 
mon consent, the North and the South regarded as its own 
and its antagonist's ablest military leader. It was natural 
that a surpassing interest should attach to the portentous 
game of war to which these rivals prepared to address them- 
selves. From the moment the nature of the coming cam- 
paign disclosed itself, the sounding notes of preparation and 
the energetic concentration of force in Virginia, made it mani- 
fest that it was no ordinary passage at arms in which the 
contending hosts were to meet ; but a remorseless life and 
death struggle. Grant was fully resolved, by rapid and re- 
morseless blows, to crush that army which, spite of the many 
shocks it had received in past years, seemed yet invulnerable. 
But Lee knew well the matchless temper of the instrument he 
wielded, and though he saw the superior heft of his antago- 
nist's arm, and read that in his eye which showed the com- 
bat must be mortal, he did not lose heart of hope that by 
a stubborn defensive and quick returns of offence he might 
still hold his own. 

In entering upon the problem of framing a plan of cam- 
paign against Richmond and the covering force, there was 
one question that could not fail to present itself to General 
Grant, and it is one of a higher order than any mere point of 
grand tactics. It has relation to the choice of a line of opera- 
tion against Richmond as between that of the "overland 
route" and a transfer of the army to the Peninsula, or the 
south side of the James River. 

The former of these methods had been repeatedly essayed 
during the past three years — by Burnside and Hooker on the 


Fredericksburg route; by Pope and Meade by tho Orange 
and Alexandria Kailroad. Uniform ill-success had attended 
each attempted advance, and the many repulses the Army of 
the Potomac had met on that line had marked it with a bloody 
condemnation.* The distance to Kichmond by this route, 
from any front held along the Eappahannock or Eapidan, is 
between sixty and seventy miles. This necessarily involves 
communications excessively long and difficult to maintain for 
an army dependent for its supplies on its wagons, while the 
march must be made in a region full of the finest defensive 
positions. "Whether the movement be made by the Freder- 
icksburg or by the Orange and Alexandria Eailroad — the only 
two lines of manoeuvres available in the overland route — 
peculiar difficulties beset it on each. But assuming these to 
be severally overpassed, the successful execution of the 
long march only results in bringing the army abreast the 
fortifications of Kichmond, within which the defending force, 
with its communications south and west all open and intact, 
might stand an indefinite siege. In other words, the aggres- 
sive army is brought to a dead-lock ; and if it be attempted to- 
undo this by shifting to the south side of the James River,, 
with the view of operating against Richmond's communica- 
tions, the transfer is made at the expense of the one advan- 
tage of the overland route (namely, that it covers the national 
capital), and the same line of operations is taken up, after 
enormous cost, that might have been assumed at first, with- 
out any sacrifice whatever. If the army, therefore, is strong 
enough, and so placed by the presence of such a garrison and 
covering force for the defence of Washington as to leave that 
city out of the question, there would seem to be every advan- 
tage in taking up, at the start, a Hue of operations that obvi- 
ates the peculiar difficulties of the overland route. 

* I speak here of the opinion of the army ; for what is called public opin- 
ion was much divided. The fact, however, that the views of those at home 
were mainly influenced by extrinsic and political considerations (the supporters 
of McClellan condemning and his opponents favoring the overland route), 
makes public opinion hardly worth discussion. 


Now, it is an interesting fact that, at the time the problem 
of the Virginia campaign first came before the mind of Gen- 
eral Grant in a definitive shape (which was shortly before he 
came East, and while he was still a major-general), he was so 
strongly impressed with the weight of the considerations ad- 
verse to the adoption of the overland route, that he com- 
mitted himself to a very decided expression of opinion against 
it, and, in an official communication addressed to Washington, 
urged a coast movement south of the James River. General 
Grant argued that, as there was at hand a sufficiency of troops 
to form two armies equal each in strength to the single force 
of Lee, Washington, that vexatious element, should be elimi- 
nated from the problem, by assigning to it a defending army 
capable of making it quite secure ; and that the other army, 
formed into a powerful column of active operations, should be 
transferred to a point on the seaboard, there to act against 
the communications of Richmond. 

Without seeking to draw any inference favorable to this 
plan from the experience of the other plan of campaign 
actually adopted by the lieutenant-general, there are sufficient 
reasons to authorize the assertion that it was of the two much 
the preferable method. In a country so favorable to defen- 
sive warfare as is Virginia, the true theory of action for the 
party upon whom is placed the burden of the offensive, is, 
while acting on the aggressive strategically, to seek to secure 
the advantage of a tactical defensive — that is, to so threaten 
the vital lines of the enemy as to compel him to fight for 
their tenure or recovery. As regards Richmond, an opera- 
tion from the coast by the James or south of it, is the 
only method in which an arm}- can be speedily, effectively, 
and without loss, applied in the realization of this principle. 
This fact is sufficient to determine its immense advantage 
over the overland movement. 

By what inspiration of his own, or by what influence ol 
others, it was that General Grant renounced a plan of cam- 
paign thus recommended by soundest military reasoning, and 
which, while he was yet at the West, he had himself strongly 


urged, it needs not here to inquire. But when he established 
himself in Virginia, and prepared to begin operations, he 
changed his views and adopted a kind of mixed plan of cam- 
paign, by which it was proposed to act with the main column 
on the overland route from the Kapidan to the James, but, at 
the same time, secure, by an independent force, some of the 
recognized advantages of a flank menace on the communica- 
tions of Kichmond. The latter operation was intrusted to 
General B. F. Butler, who, with an army of about thirty 
thousand men, was to ascend the James Kiver from Fortress 
Monroe ; establish himself in an intrenched position near City 
Point, whence he was to operate against Bichmond, or its 
communications, or invest that city from the south side, or be 
in position to effect a junction with the Army of the Potomac 
coming down from the north. Butler's force consisted of two 
corps, respectively under Generals Gillmore and W F Smith. 
In addition to this co-operative column, General Grant organ- 
ized an auxiliary force to threaten the westward communica- 
tions of Kichmond. General Sigel, who held a considerable 
army for the protection of West Virginia and the frontiers 
of Maryland and Pennsylvania, was instructed to form his 
forces into two columns — the one, of ten thousand strong, 
under General Crook, to move for the Kanawha and operate 
against the Virginia and East Tennessee Kailroad ; the other, 
seven thousand strong, under Sigel in person, to advance as 
far as possible up the Shenandoah Valley, with the view to 
compel Lee to make detachments from his main force to meet 
this menace against his westward lines of supply. 

This was one of those combinations that are more specious 
in theory than successful in practice ; for such outlying col- 
umns, moving against an enemy holding interior lines, are 
very liable to be beaten in detail, or, at least, to have their 
efforts neutralized, and made of no avail.* 

* The combination of action of these three columns formed a concentrio 
operation which may be either good or most pernicious according to circum- 
stances. Touching this point, General Grant makes an absolute statement of 
principle which can only be true under certain circumstances. " Generally 


It is probable, however, that General Grant's main reliance 
was upon the Army of the Potomac, which, powerful in num- 
bers, and in a high state of efficiency, discipline, and moruk, 
had never been better fitted to take the field. At the time 
General Grant came to Virginia, it was reorganized into three 
corps — the Second, under Major-General Winfield Scott Han- 
cock, the Fifth, under Major-General Gouverneur K. Warren, 
and the Sixth, under Major-General John Sedgwick.* The 

speaking," says he, " concentration can be practically effected by armies mov- 
ing to the interior of the enemy's country from the territory they have to 
guard." — Instructions to General Butler : Report of Operations, page four. 
Now while this principle is true under certain conditions, it is very wide of the 
mark as above formulated. Concentric operations are good in two eases : 
1. When they tend to concentrate a scattered army upon a point where it will 
be sure to arrive before the enemy ; 2. When they direct to the same end the 
efforts of columns which are in no danger of being beaten separately by a 
stronger enemy. Jomini justly observes: " Une ligne d'operations double, 
contre les parties d'une armee ennemie plus rapprochees, sera toujours funeste, 
a forces egales, si l'ennemi profite des avantages de sa position, et manoeuvre 
avec rapidite dans l'interieur de la sienne." — Jomini : Histoire des Guerres de 
Frederic II., vol. i., p. 293. 

Now the point of concentration of the three columns, respectively under 
Meade, Butler, and Sigel, was Richmond ; and from the interior lines held by 
the Confederates, the latter could unite much more rapidly on this point than 
could the Union forces. In this regard, therefore, this combination lacked the 
first condition under which a concentric operation is judicious; and, as there 
was danger that the outlying forces might be overwhelmed by superior num- 
bers, it violated also the second condition. 

* In the reorganization of the Army of the Potomac, the Second, Fifth, and 
Sixth corps were consolidated into two divisions. The first and second divi 
sions of the Third Corps were transferred to the Second Corps, preserving their 
badges and distinctive marks. The third division of the Third Corps was 
transferred permanently to the Sixth Corps. The three divisions forming the 
old First Corps, consolidated into two divisions, were transferred to the Fifth 
Corps, preserving their badges and distinctive marks. The reorganized army 
ihen stood as follows : 

Fifth Corps. 

First Division, Brigadier-General Charles Griffin. 
First Brigade, Brigadier-General James Barnes. 
Second Brigade, Brigadier-General J. J. Bartlett. 
Third Brigade, Brigadier-General R. B. Ayres 


command of the army remained under General Meade, who 
had proved himself to be an excellent tactician. 

The three corps-commanders were men of a high order of 
ability, though of very diverse types of character. Hancock 

Second Division, Brigadier-General J. C. Robinson. 
First Brigade, Colonel Leonard. 
Second Brigade, Brigadier-General Henry Baxter. 
Third Brigade, Colonel Dennison. 

Third Division, Brigadier-General S. W. Crawford. 
First Brigade, Colonel W McCandless. 
Second Brigade, Colonel J. W Fisher. 

Fourth Division, Brigadier-General J. S. Wadsworth. 

First Brigade, Brigadier-General L. Cutler. 

Second Brigade, Brigadier-General J. C. Rice. 

Third Brigade, Colonel Roy Stone. 
Inspector-General and Chief of Staff Lieut.-Colonel H. C. Bankheod. 
Chief of Artillery, Colonel C. S. Wainwright. 

Second Cobps. 

First Division, Brigadier-General F. C. Barlow 
First Brigade, Colonel N. A. Miles. 
Second Brigade, Colonel T. A. Smythe. 
Third Brigade, Colonel R. Frank. 
Fourth Brigade, Colonel J. R. Brooke. 

Second Division, Brigadier-General John Gibbon. 
First Brigade, Brigadier-General A. S. Webb. 
Second Brigade, Brigadier-General J. P. Owens. 
Third Brigade, Colonel S. S. Carroll. 

Third Division, Major-Genera] D 5. Birney. 
First Brigade, Brigadier-General J. H. Ward. 
Second Brigade, Brigadier-General A. Hays. 

Fourth Division, Brigadier-General J. B. Carr. 

First Brigade, Brigadier-General G. Mott. 

Second Brigade, Colonel W. R. Brewster. 
Inspector-General and Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-Colonel C. H. Morgan 
Chief of Artillery, Colonel J. C. TidbaU. 

Sixth Cobps. 

First Division, Brigadier-General H. G. Wright. 
First Brigade, Brigadier-General A. T. A. Torbert. 
Second Brigade, Colonel E. Upton. 


may be characterized as the ideal of a sohlirr .- gifted with a 
magnetic presence and a superb personal gallantry, he was 
one of those lordly leaders who, upon the actual field of battle, 
rule the hearts of troops with a potent and irresistible mastery. 
Warren, young in the command of a corps, owed his promotion 
to the signal proofs of ability he had given, first as a briga- 
dier, then as chief-engineer of the army, and latterly as the 
temporary commander of the Second Corps. Of a subtle, an- 
alytic intellect, endowed with an eminent talent for details, 
the clearest military coup (Voeil, and a fiery concentrated en- 
ergy, he promised to take the first rank as a commander. 
Sedgwick, long the honored chief of the Sixth Corps, was the 
exemplar of steadfast soldierly obedience to duty : singularly 
gentle and child-like in character, he was scarcely more be- 
loved in his own command than throughout the army. 

A fit leader for the cavalry corps had long been wanting. 
This desideratum was fully filled by the appointment of 
Major-General P. H. Sheridan. Although his experience had 
been confined to that of a divisional general of infantry in 
the West, enough was known of his character to justify the 
nomination, and his first campaign left no doubt of his pre- 
eminent fitness for the command. 

The staff organization of the Army of the Potomac re- 
mained unchanged. Brigadier-General H. J. Hunt continued 
to be the efficient chief of artilleiy ; Major James C. Duane 
was chief-engineer, and Brigadier-General Rufus Ingalls, 

Third Brigade, Colonel H. Burnham. 
Fourth Brigade, Brigadier-General A. Shaler. 

Second Division, Brigadier-General G. W Getty. 
First Brigade, Brigadier-General F. Wheaton. 
Second Brigade, Colonel L. A. Grant. 
Third Brigade, Brigadier-General T. H. Neill. 
Fourth Brigade, Brigadier-General A. L. Eustis. 

Third Division, Brigadier-General H. Prince. 

First Brigade, Brigadier-General W. H. Morris. 

Second Brigade, Brigadier-General D. A. Russell. 
Inspector-General and Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-Colonel M T. McMnhon 
Chief of Artillery, Colonel C. H. Tompkins. 


facile jprinceps of quartermasters, remained at the head of that 
great department of administrative service so long under his 

This much for the Army of the Potomac. It should be 
added, that about the time it began active operations, it 
was re-enforced by the Ninth Corps under General Burn- 
side, who, however, commanded it independently of Gen- 
eral Meade. This corps had lately returned from its cam- 
paign in East Tennessee, and rendezvoused at Annapolis, 
where it had recruited its ranks and received the addition of 
a division of colored troops. All doubt as to its destination 
was dispelled at the end of April, when it was called to 
Washington, and thence marched to the Rapidan to make a 
junction with the Army of the Potomac. The united strength 
of the four corps gave Grant a movable column of about 
one hundred and forty thousand men of all arms. The rolls 
of Lee's army showed a force, present for duty, of fifty-two 
thousand six hundred and twenty-six men — foot, horse, and 

The 3d of May the order went forth that the army should 
that night launch forth on its great adventure. The campaign 
thus initiated— a campaign unsurpassed by any on record, in 
the elements that make war grand, terrible, and bloody — will 
form the subject-matter of the succeeding chapters. 



The defensive line for many months occupied by the Con- 
federates along the bluffs that skirt the south bank of the 
Rapidan was so strong by nature and art that a direct attack 
was out of the question. Lee as little feared as Grant de- 
signed such an attack, and both the defensive preparations 
of the former, and the offensive preparations of the latter, 
contemplated a turning movement upon the right or the left 


flank of the Confederate line. It only remained to choose 
the direction to be given the advance — whether by the right 
or the left. 

The views of General Grant strongly favored an operation 
against Lee's left, crossing the Rapidan above that flank. 
This plan was recommended by the consideration that an ad- 
vance by this line would cover the communications with 
Washington against any contingency of a counter-move 
northward by Lee, and force him directly back towards Rich- 
mond. It was, however, attended with the serious difficulty 
that the duration of the campaign would be limited by the 
amount of rations that could be carried with the army, since 
it would be impracticable to keep up a line of supplies in an 
advance by that route. This objection was of sufficient weight 
to determine the adoption of the other alternative, which was 
to cross the Rapidan by the lower fords and turn Lee's right. 

Quitting the camps in which it had lain during the winter, 
the army moved at midnight of the 3d of May. The advance 
to the Rapidan was made in two columns : the right column, 
made up of the corps of Warren and Sedgwick, to cross at 
Germanna Ford ; the left column, consisting of Hancock's 
corps, at Ely's Ford, sis miles below. 

Warren's corps, forming the advance of the right column, 
marched from the vicinity of Culpepper, and, preceded by 
Wilson's cavalry division, reached Germanna Ford at six 
o'clock of the morning of Thursday, the 4th ; and as soon as 
the bridge was laid, began the passage, which was completed 
by one o'clock. During the afternoon, Sedgwick's corps fol- 
lowed across, and encamped for the night near the river. War- 
ren, advancing some miles southward from the Rapidan, biv- 
ouacked at Old Wilderness Tavern at the point of intersec- 
tion of the plankroad from the Germanna Ford with the 
turnpike from Orange Courthouse to Fredericksburg. On the 
latter road, Wilson's division of cavalry was, in the afternoon, 
thrown out towards Robertson's Tavern to watch the direc- 
tions whence any hostile menace might be expected. The 
left column, consisting of Hancock's corps, moved from its 


encampment near Stevensburg, and advanced to Ely's Ford,* 
preceded by Gregg's division of cavalry. When the corps 
reached the Eapidan the cavalry was well across, and had the 
canvas ponton-bridge nearly laid. This work being soon 
completed, the infantry made the passage and pushed forward 
to Chancellorsville, which place it reached at nine in the 
morning of the 4th, the cavalry being thrown out towards 
Fredericksburg and Todd's Tavern. At Chancellorsville, 
Hancock's troops rested for the remainder of the day, await- 
ing the passage of the heavier column on the right. The 
troops bivouacked for the night on Hooker's old battle- 

Thus the morning of Thursday, the 5th of May, found a 
hundred thousand men across the Eapidan. The barrier that 
had so long divided the opposing armies was passed, and 
with the mingled emotions which grand and novel enterprises 
stir in men's breasts, the troops looked out, hopefully, yet 
conscious that a terrible struggle was before them, into a 
region yet untrodden by the hostile armies, but soon to be- 
come historic by a fierce grapple of armed hosts and bloody 
battles in many tangled woods. 

Lee had offered no opposition to the passage of the 
Eapidan. His right was turned. Was this to be considered 
a great success ? The answer will depend on the line of 
action marked out for himself by General Lee. 

In the defence of rivers, military art presents several dis- 
tinct lines of conduct. 1. The general on the defensive may 
permit the crossing of a part of the assailing force, and then, 
by destroying the means of passage, seek to overwhelm the 
isolated fraction.t 2. He may oppose directly the passage of 
the hostile army, or, by occupying advantageous positions, 

* General Grant, in his official report (p. 6), inadvertently states that the 
Second Corps crossed at United States Ford ; but Ely's Ford was the point o* 

f The conduct of the Archduke Charles at EssliDg, is a good example oi 
this. See Vial : Cours d'Art et d'Histoire Militaires, vol. ii., p. 92. 


prevent it from deploying.* 3. He may allow the enemy to 
make the passage entirely unobstructed, but fall irpon him 
after crossing. In this ease he simply observes the line of 
the river, and holds his masses distributed at convenient 
points within supporting distance. 

This last method was that adopted by General Lee ; and, 
as the line to be defended was long, and it was uncertain 
whether Grant would essay a turning movement on his left to- 
wards Gordonsville, or on his right by the lower fords, he had 
along the river merely a force in observation, while his main 
masses were positioned in echelon from the Rapidan near 
Somerville Ford to Gordonsville — Longstreet's corps being 
posted near the latter place, Hill's in the vicinity of Orange 
Courthouse, and Ewell's thence up to and along the Eapidan, 
the right of the Confederate line resting near Raccoon Ford. 
It is obvious, therefore, that though the successful passage of 
the Rapidan by the army with its enormous train of four 
thousand wagons was a matter of congratulation, it was no 
proof that a severe struggle was not imminent. t 

* A striking illustration of this mode of action is presented in the conduct 
of Vendome in disputing the passage of the Adda by Prince Eugene in 1805. 
It is thus described by Dufour : " Eugene had gained a march upon Vendome 
and was attempting to throw a bridge across the Adda at a very favorable spot. 
Vendome came up as soon as he could, and arrived before the bridge was com- 
pleted. He tried to arrest the work of the pontoniers, but in vain. The 
ground was so well swept by the artillery of Eugene that he could not get near 
enough to injure the workmen. Still, the passage of the river must be pre- 
vented. Vendome put his army to work upon a trench and parapet, surround- 
ing the ground occupied by the imperialists after crossing. They were finished 
nearly as soon as the bridges. Eugene deemed the passage of the river im- 
practicable and ordered a retreat." — Dufour : Strategy and Tactics, p. 252. 

•f- Lieuteiiant-General Grant, touching this point, uses language which 
ehows that he regarded the passage of the Rapidan as a very important 
achievement. " This," says lie, " I regarded as a great success, and it removed 
from my mind the most serious apprehensions I had entertained, that of cross- 
ing the river in the face of an active, large, well-appointed, and ably-com- 
manded army, and how so large a train was to be carried through a hostile 
country and protected." — Grant: Report of Operations of 186-I-5, p. 0. But 
the trouble in regard to the trains really began when the army reached the 
Wilderness, being there shut up in the restricted triangle between the Rapidan 
and Rappahannock. 


The line of march of the Army of the Potomac, after 
crossing the Eapidan, led through that region known as the 
Wilderness, which extends a considerable distance southward 
from the river, and westward as far as Mine Eun. It was 
along its gloomy margin that the bloody battle of Chancel- 
lorsville had been fought a twelvemonth before. Now General 
Grant did not expect to be brought to quarters in this diffi- 
cult country, and the direction given the columns when the 
march was resumed on the morning of Thursday, May 5th, 
was such as would have carried them quite beyond the 
bounds of the Wilderness region.* He counted that the 
Confederate right being turned by the successful passage of 
the Eapidan, he would be able to mask his march thr.ough the 
Wilderness, and then by a rapid advance towards Gordons- 
ville, plant himself between the Confederate army and Eich- 

To foil his adversary's design was Lee's first aim. The 
plan he formed to effect this is one of the boldest and most 

* The following extract from the order of march for May 5th will show the 
line of advance contemplated by General Grant, and the points the corps were 
that day to reach, had not the movement been interrupted by Lee : 

" Headquarters Army of the Potomac, 
Mhv 4, 1864—6 p. m. 

" The following movements are ordered for the 5th May, 18G4 : 1st. Major- 
General Sheridan, commanding cavalry corps, will move with Gregg's and Tor- 
bert's divisions against the enemy's cavalry in the direction of Hamilton's 
crossing. General Wilson, with the third cavalry division, will move at 
five A. m. to Craig's Meeting-house on the Catharpin road. He will keep out 
parties on the Orange Courthouse pike and plankroad, the Catharpin road, 
Pamunkey road (mad to Orange Springs), and in the direction of Troyman's 
Store and Andrews' Store or Good Hope Church. 2d. Major-General Hancock, 
commanding Second Corps, will move at five A. M. to Shady Grove Church and 
extend his right towards the Fifth Corps at Parker's Store. 3d. Major-General 
Warren, commanding Fifth Corps, will move at five a. m. to Parker's Store on 
the Orange Courthouse plankroad, and extend his right towards the Sixth 
Corps at Old Wilderness Tavern. 4th. Major-General Sedgwick, commanding 
Sixth Corps, will move to Old Wilderness Tavern on the Orange Courthouse 
pike as soon as the road is clear. * * * 

" By command of Majok-General Meadel" 


skilful conceptions of that officer. Instead of fulling back, 
on finding his flank turned, he took a strategic offensive, 
directed a rapid concentration of his forces to meet Grain, 
and aimed to shut Grant up in the Wilderness. 

From Orange Courthouse, which was the centre of Lee's 
position, two parallel roads (the Orange and Fredericksburg 
plankroad and turnpike) run eastward and strike Grant's line 
of march at right angles. By directing his forces rapidly 
forward on these l'outes, Lee would fall upon the army on the 
march and compel battle in the Wilderness, where he hoped 
to lure his antagonist into tangled labyrinths of confusion and 
disaster. This region, well known to him, was to his antago- 
nist pure terra incognita. In its thick chaperal, through which 
no artillery could play, Grant's masses would lose their force 
of impact, while the Confederate marksmen, with an almost 
Indian skill in woodcraft, could lie unseen in their gray array 
amid those dun woods and deal death to the assailants. 
Being apprised, therefore, on the morning of the 4th, that the 
Army of the Potomac had begun the passage of the Rapidan, 
he promptly directed his forces forward to meet it by the 
routes I have indicated. The mean distance of the corps from 
their camps to where they would strike the army was about 
twenty miles. Ewell's corps was thrown forward on the old 
turnpike, and Hill's on the plankroad. Thus, while the Army 
of the Potomac was, throughout the 4th, defiling to the south 
bank of the Rapidan, the Army of Northern Virginia, making 
a rapid change of front, hurried forward to meet its rival 
with a front of opposition before it should have time, by a 
march beyond the Wilderness, to lay hold of the Confederate 
communications with Richmond.* That night the van of the 

* " The enemy crossed the Rapidan at Ely's and Germanna fords. Two 
corps of this army moved to oppose him — Ewell's by the old turnpike, and 
Hill's by the plankroad. They arrived this morning (May 5th), in close prox- 
imity to the enemy's line of march." — Lee : Dispatch of May 5, 18(54. Long. 
Btreet's corps, which formed the extreme left of the Confederate line, was 
further off than Hie others, being near Qordonsville ; but it also was or 
dered up 


hostile armies bivouacked, unsuspecting, very close to each 
other — Warren's corps at "Wilderness Tavern, situate at the 
junction of the Germanna Ford plank with the Orange and 
Fredericksburg turnpike ; Ewell's corps on the latter road, 
within three miles of Warren's position. 

Early next morning — the morning of the 5th of May — the 
Union columns set out to resume the onward march — the left 
column, under Hancock, being directed from Chancellorsville 
on Shady Grove Church, and the right column, led by War- 
ren's corps, from Wilderness Tavern to Parker's Store, on the 
Orange and Fredericksburg plankroad. Warren's command 
was next to the enemy, and as the opening of the battle of the 
Wilderness took shape from Warren's movements, it will be 
necessary to describe these in detail. 

The proximity of the Confederates, the position of whose 
advance has been indicated above, was not at all known.* 
But to guard against any approach by the Orange turnpike,. 
Warren threw out the division of Griffin on that road to guard 
against any irruption of the enemy into the route upon which 
Sedgwick's corps, which followed the Fifth, was yet to move 
from Germanna Ford ; while he set the van of his column, 
composed of the division of Crawford, in motion by a wood 
road to gain Parker's Store. 

Now Ewell also continued his eastward march early that 
morning on the turnpike, so that presently the skirmishers of 
Griffin's division, which had been thrown forward on that 
road, were driven in. Moreover, no sooner had Crawford's 
force neared Parker's Store than the troopers in his front, 
which had already occupied that point early in the morning, 
were met running back ; and on sending forward a reconnoi- 
tring force, it was found that a column of the enemy was press- 

* This ignorance of the enemy's position was partly due to the fact that 
Wilson's division of cavalry, which had, on the afternoon of the 4th, moved 
out on the turnpike nearly to Robertson's Tavern, was withdrawn that evening, 
and proceeded on a scout to Parker's store on the plankroad. Therefore no 
feelers were out on the route by which Ewell was advancing. 


ing forward on the plankroad also.* It will be sufficiently 
clear what this force was when it is remembered that Lee had 
dispatched Hill's corps on this road, and the enemy encoun- 
tered by Griffin was the van of Ewell's column, which, as 
already seen, had bivouacked the night before within three 
miles of Wilderness Tavern. These developments, of course, 
necessitated a cessation in the prescribed movement of Gen- 
eral Warren, who found himself called upon to meet an imme- 
diate and pressing emergency. 

Such was the situation of affairs when, on the morning of 
Thursday, May 5th, Generals Grant and Meade reached Old 
Wilderness Tavern. Neither of these commanders, however, 
believed that aught but a small force was in front of Warren 
to mask the Confederate retreat, as it was not deemed possi- 
ble that Lee, after his defensive line had been turned, could 
have acted with such boldness as to launch forward his army 
in an offensive sally. It was, therefore, at once resolved to 
brash away or capture this force ; but as this determination 
was formed under a very erroneous apprehension of the actual 
situation, the means employed were inadequate to the task.t 

The main development of opposition having come from 
the force that showed itself against Griffin on the turnpike, 
an attack was ordered at that point — Wads worth's division 

* "Led the advance of the Fifth Corps at five A. M., with orders to proceed 
to Parker's Store. Received the following instruction from General Warren : 
' Throw out a skirmish line well to your left and rear facing the plankroad, so 
that the enemy cannot get on your flank or rear without your knowing it. 
General Getty is now moving up the plankroad towards your left. If you 
hear firing in that direction it will be his.' Took the wood road from the 
Lacy House, and pushed on till reaching the open space about one mile from 
Parker's Store. The cavalry had become engaged with the enemy, who 
pressed them so hard that they sent back for support. I deph >yed the Buck- 
tails at once to the front, and they advanced just in time to resist an attack of 
infantry that had just arrived. Took up position, and at twenty minutes past 
eight a. m. received an order from General Warren, stating that the movement 
had been suspended and that Griffin and Wadsworth would attack on the 
turnpike."— Crawford : Notes on the Battle of the Wilderness. 

T As direct testimony to this state of feeling on the part of the commanding 
general, I extract from my note-book the following memorandum made on the 


(also of Warren's corps) being disposed in line on the left of 
Griffin, and the division of Eobinson in support. Crawford's 
movement towards Parker's Store, which had already been 
arrested by the enemy, was now formally suspended. One of 
its brigades (that of McCandless) was sent to act on the left of 
Wadsworth's command, and the remainder of the division 
was afterwards withdrawn — the enemy following up and firing 
into the rear of the column. 

With this force an impetuous attack was at noon made on 
the enemy on the turnpike. The brunt of this assault fell to 
the lot of Griffin's division, of which Ayres' brigade was 
formed on the right, and Bartlett's the left of the Orange 
turnpike. These succeeded in carrying every thing in their 
front ; and with dispositions better suited to the circum- 
stances, E well's corps (only the van of which had yet reached 
the ground) should have been crushed.* But as the attack 

Bpot : " May 5th ; rode with Grant, Meade, and the staff to Old Wilderness 
Tavern ; found Warren's corps in position there, and Sedgwick coming up. 
At eight o'clock, while on the way, a message came that the enemy were ad- 
vancing on us by the turnpike. Griffin's division out on that road. At nine 
A. m, General Meade said to Warren, Sedgwick, and others standing by : 
' They [the enemy] have left a division to fool us here, while they concentrate 
and prepare a position toicards the Xorth Anna ; and what I want is to pre- 
vent those fellows from getting back to Mine Run.' " 

* From officers of Ewell's corps engaged in this action, I learn the follow- 
ing particulars. 

When the first onset was made by the Fifth Corps, Johnson s division 
alone held the position. Jones' brigade, formed across the turnpike, was 
swept back by the force of the assault, and his troops fell back much broken. 
It was, however, immediately replaced by Stewart's brigade, and almost simul- 
taneously with the first signs of weakness in Johnson's line, Rodes' division 
arrived, took position on its right, and, by a firm counter-attack, drove the 
Union troops back. It is very clear from the confession of the disorder result- 
ing from the first attack of the Union force that, had adequate preparations 
been made, Ewell's corps might have been overwhelmed. I may remark that 
General Warren urged a just view of the situation— setting forth that if, as 
was believed at headquarters, there was but a rear-guard in his front, the 
attack could but little affect the great campaign on which the army was enter- 
ing ; but if the Confederates were present in force, time should be allowed to 
form a really weighty attack. But immediate action, with such means as were 
at hand, had been determined upon. 


was ordered under the impression that only a rear-guard of 
the enemy was present, the dispositions made were very far 
from being adapted to the actual situation. 

Recovering from its momentary repulse, the van of E well's 
force re-formed on a wooded acclivity a short distanee in the 
rear, and there being joined by the remainder of the corps, 
the Confederates were soon in position not only to withstand 
the shock of Warren's onset, but to assume the offensive. It 
had been designed that the right of Warren's line should be 
sustained by the left of the Sixth Corps, the division of Wright 
forming the connection ; but, owing to the thickness of the 
woods, that officer was unable to get up to Warren s support 
in time, and this left the right of the latter exposed. Against 
this naked flank the Confederates made a vigorous attack 
upon Ayres' brigade of Regulars, and this giving way, Bart- 
lett's brigade also was beaten back.* Two guns that had 
been advanced on the turnpike to take advantage of the first 
success, their horses being killed, were left between the lines, 
and fell into the hands of the enemy. t On the left of Griffin, 
Wadsworth's division advanced simultaneous with it to the 
attack; but there was no connection between the two, and 
the troops of the latter in their passage through the de^e 
thicket, having taken a somewhat false direction, unwittingly 
exposed their left flank to a destructive hre from the enemy, 
which threw them back in some confusion.:): The brigade of 

* " Moved at noon with Ayres' Regulars on the right. Attacked the enemy 
on my front and drove him. The Regulars gave way, which exposed our 
right flank, and rendered retreat necessary by the brigade. This could not be 
effected across the ground by which we advanced, and I brought out the com- 
mand by a detour through the woods to the left, in rear of the enemy." — Bart- 
.ett : Notes on the Battle of the "Wilderness. 

\ Meade : Report of the Battle of the Wilderness. 

\ The cause of "Wadsworth s repulse affords a curious illustration of the 
difficulties that beset the movement of troops in such a region as the Wilder 
ness. General Warren gave Wadsworth his direction by a point of the com- 
pass, there being no other guide in such a thicket. His course was to be due 
west from the Lacy House, which would have brought him t<> the left of UrifiiD 
and on a prolongation of his line. But "Wadsworth started facing northwest 


Crawford's division (that of McCandless), which was to the 
left of Wadsworth, occupied an isolated position, and being 
nearly surrounded, it was easily driven from the field, with 
the loss of almost two whole regiments. Thus all the ground 
gained was given up, but the Confederates did not follow, and 
Warren assumed a new line somewhat in rear, but still in 
front of Old Wilderness Tavern and across the Orange turnpike. 
Such were the initial operations of the battle of the Wilder- 
ness. The opening was not auspicious. It gave Warren's 
corps a very severe shock, entailing upon it a loss of above 
three thousand men. The result left no doubt respecting the 
presence of the enemy in force, and early in the day, when 
the serious opposition encountered by the Fifth Corps made 
this manifest, General Grant, suspending the previously or- 
dained marches of the corps, made dispositions to accept Lee's 
gage of battle. The Sixth Corps being directly in rear of the 
Fifth, was ready to take post on Warren's right. But Han- 
cock's column, which was moving considerably to the left, and 
had that morning marched southward from Chancellor sville, 
was quite out of position for a battle in the Wilderness. In- 
structions were therefore sent recalling it to unite with the 
main body by a movement up the Brock road to its intersec- 
tion with the Orange plankroad. This order was received by 
Hancock at eleven o'clock, and the countermarch immediately 
begun. He was then distant about ten miles.* 

instead of going due west. Now Ewell's line was at right angles with the 
turnpike, so that by the time Wadsworth's line of battle passed the Higerson 
House [see map] it had come almost to face the turnpike directly, and the first 
fire of the enemy came square upon its flank. The thick woods prevented any 
change on the spot, and by running back, the men did about the best thing 
they could. 

* " At five A. M. on the 5th May, the Second Corps moved towards its designat- 
ed position at Shady Grove Church, taking the road by the Furnace and Todd's 
Tavern. My advance was about two miles beyond Todd's Tavern, when, at nine 
A. m., I received a dispatch from the major-general commanding the Army oi 
the Potomac to halt at the tavern, as the enemy had been discovered in some 
force on the Wilderness pike. Two hours later I was directed to move my 
command up on the Brock road to its intersection with the Orange plankroad." 
— Hancock : Report of The Battle of the Wilderness. 


It will be borne in mind that the Confederate corps of Hill 
was hurrying forward on the Orange plankroad, and that tho 
van of Warren's force which had gone out towards Parker s 
Store in the morning had seen this column filing rapidly down 
that road. Four miles east of Parker's Store the plankroad 
is intersected by the Brock road, which runs southward to 
Spottsylvania Courthouse, and on which Hancock was moving 
up to join the main body of the army It is obvious, there- 
fore, that this junction of road was a strategic point of the 
first importance, and if Hill should be able to seize it, be 
would interpose effectually between the two Union columns. 
Discerning this danger, General Meade, early in the day, 
directed a division of the Sixth Corps, under General Getty, to 
hold stoutly this position until Hancock's junction could be 
effected. While the latter was still far off, Getty had begun 
to feel the presence of the enemy, and hour by hour it grew 
more heavy upon him. But he held his post immovably, and 
towards three o'clock in the afternoon, the welcome cheer of 
Hancock's approaching troops was heard. Then the position 
was secure, and the Second Corps, hurrying forward as rap- 
idly as the narrow defiles of the forest would permit, was dis- 
posed in double line of battle along and in front of the Brock 
road, facing Hill's line drawn up across the Orange plank- 
road.* To make the tenure of the position certain, in case 
the enemy should assault, as seemed likely, substantial lines 
of breastworks were immediately constructed by Hancock's 
troops ; but before these were entirely completed he received 
orders to advance upon Hill and drive him back on the plank- 
road beyond Parker's Store. 

* Birney's division, which led the van of Hancocks corps, first joined Getty, 
and was posted on the right soon after the divisions of Gibbon, Mott, and Bar- 
low came up, and were placed on the left ; Barlow's division (with the exception 
of Frank's brigade, which was stationed at the junction of the Brock road with 
the road to the Catharpin furnace) formed the left of the line, and was thrown 
forward on some high, cleared ground in front of the Brock road, where, as the 
only available place in the dense, environing forest, Hancock massed his ar 


The situation of the opposing forces was now peculiar 
enough. Warren had engaged Ewell on the turnpike with 
such result as has already been seen, and Hancock now pre- 
pared to attack Hill on the plankroad ; but there was no con- 
nection whatever either between the two Federal or the two 
Confederate columns. Each combat, in fact, had the charac- 
ter of an action in a defile, and had very slight bearing the 
one on the other. 

A little past four o'clock, the attack on Hill was opened by 
Getty's command. His troops encountered the enemy in a 
line of battle, not intrenched, about three hundred paces in 
front of the Brock road, and immediately became hotly en- 
gaged. But as it was soon manifest that the Confederates 
were present in heavy force, Hancock advanced his own corps. 
The fight at once grew very fierce, the opposing forces being 
exceedingly close and the musketry continuous and deadly 
along the whole line. Hancock attacked with the utmost vigor 
in what Lee justly calls " repeated and desperate assaults ;"* 
but the Confederates, seeking what cover the ground afforded, 

* " The enemy subsequently concentrated against General Hill, who, with his 
own and Wilcox's divisions, successfully resisted the repeated and desperate as- 
saults." — Lee : Dispatch, May 5. 

From General Hancock's official report I extract the following details of this 
action : 

" At a quarter past four P. M. General Getty moved forward on the right and left 
of the Orange plankroad, having received direct orders from General Meade to 
commence the attack without waiting for me. Finding that General Getty had 
met the enemy in great force, I ordered General Birney to advance his com- 
mand (his own and Mott's divisions) to support the movement of Getty at once. 
Although the formation I had directed to be made before carrying out my in- 
structions to advance was not yet completed, General Birney immediately 
moved forward on General Getty's right and left — one section of Ricketts' bat- 
tery, Company F, First Pennsylvania Artillery, moving down the plankroad jusl 
in rear of the infantry. The fight became very fierce at once, the lines of bat- 
tle were exceedingly close, the musketry continuous and deadly along the entire 
line. Half-past four p. m., Carroll's brigade of Gibbon's division advanced to the 
support of Getty's right, on the right of the plank road ; and a few minutes 
later, Owen's brigade of Gibbon's division was also ordered into action in sup- 
port of General Getty on the right and left of the Orange plankroad. During 
this contest, the Irish Brigade, commanded by Colonel Smy the of the Second Del- 


and hidden by the forest, met the advancing hues with such 
well-delivered and murderous volleys that Hancock was every 
time checked. VLott's division gave way, and Brigadier-Gen- 
eral Alexander Hays, in going to repair the break in the line. 
was shot dead while gallantly leading his command in the 
thickest of the fight.* 

The heavy firing borne to the ears of Generals Grant and 
Meade at the Old Wilderness Tavern, attested the severity of 
the work that was going on at this important junction of 
roads. It was judged that the pressure on Hancock might be 
relieved by sending a force from Warren's corps to strike 
southward through the forest and fall upon the flank and rear 
of Hill. Wadsworth's division and the brigade of Baxter 
were accordingly dispatched late in the afternoon to execute 
this movement. But great difficulty was experienced by these 
troops in making their way through the thicket, and it was 
dark by the time Wadsworth got his force in position to ap- 
ply it in the manner directed. His troops lay on their arms 
during the night where darkness found them, which was in 
contact with the skirmishers on Hill's left flank — a situation 
in which Wadsworth might attack with much advantage the 
following morning. t 

aware Volunteers, and Colonel Brooke, Fourth Brigade, both of Barlow's divi- 
sion, Second Corps, attacked the enemy vigorously on his right and drove his 
line for some distance. The Irish Brigade was heavily engaged, and although 
four-fifths of its numbers were recruits, it behaved with great steadiness and 
gallantry, losing largely in killed and wounded. The section of Bicketts' bat- 
tery which moved down the plankroad when Birney and Getty attacked, suf- 
fered severely in men and horses. It was captured at one time during the 
fight, but was retaken by detachments from the Fourteenth Indiana and 
Eighth Ohio Volunteers of Carroll's brigade. It was then withdrawn, and re- 
placed by a section of Bow's Sixth Maine battery." 

* Meade : Report of the Bapidan Campaign. 

f The column under command of General Wadsworth moved about four o'clock. 
After entering the woods southeast of the Lacy House, line of battle was formed. 
After proceeding half a mile the skirmish line of the enemy was driven in and 
steadily pushed until it was too dark to see, when the troops halted in line oi 
battle for the night. The line had gradually swung round so as to be facing 
more nearly south, between Widow Tap's [see map] and the Brock road — the 
left being perhaps half a mile from the Brock road. 


Hancock continued his unavailing efforts to drive Hill till 
eight o'clock, when night shutting down on the darkling woods 
ended the struggle. The combatants lay on their arms, mutu- 
ally exhausted after the fierce wrestle ; and many corpses lay 
in the tangled brakes and bushes, evidences of the bloody 
work done that day. 

The action of the 5th of May was not so much a battle as 
the fierce grapple of two mighty wrestlers suddenly meeting. 
But it had determined that there should be a battle, and it 
had drawn the relative positions of the combatants. The 
moving Union columns, almost surprised in jiaijrante delicto, 
had succeeded in making a junction ; and if it had been Lee's 
purpose to interpose between them, he was foiled in this. The 
antagonist armies and their commanders were in the highest 
mettle, both were filled with aggressive ardor, and the proof 
of this was that each determined to attack on the morrow. 
Yet each felt that in the encounter there would be need of all 
his strength, and whatever corps of each had not yet come up 
were urgently ordered forward. On the Union side all had 
already arrived, saving the Ninth Corps under General Burn- 
side, who had been instructed to hold position on the Orange 
and Alexandria Railroad for twenty-four hours after the army 
had crossed the Bapidan. This corps was at once summoned 
to the front, and early on the morning of the 6th, after a rapid 
and arduous march, it reached the field and took position in 
the interval between "Warren's corps on the turnpike and Han- 
cock's on the plankroad. The Union line of battle, as formed 
by dawn of the 6th, was therefore in the order of Sedgwick on 
the right next Warren, and Burnside and Hancock on the 
left. It ran north and south, faced westward, and was in 
extent about five miles. 

On the side of the Confederates, Longstreet's corps, which 
at the opening of the campaign had to march up from Gor- 
donsville (distant forty miles), had not been up to participate 
in the action of the 5th ; but that night it bivouacked not far 
off, and its presence early in the impending battle was 


assured. Lee maintained the same ground he had held the 
ilay before — Ewell on the left across the turnpike, and Hill 
on the right across the plankroad ; but whereas, on that day, 
owing to the suddenness with which they were precipitated 
into action, there had been no connection between them, they 
now extended to meet each other and form a continuous 
front. It was appointed that Longstreet on his arrival should 
come upon the right flank of Hill's- corps. 

The field where the first rencounter of the armies had 
taken place, and where it was now decreed the battle should 
be fought, was that region known as " The Wilderness." I 
have already touched on some of the characteristic features 
of this region in the recital of the action of the 5th ; but it is 
necessary that these should be fully realized in order to gain 
a just appreciation of this singular and terrible combat. It 
is impossible to conceive a field worse adapted to the move- 
ments of a grand army. The whole face of the country is 
thickly wooded, with only an occasional opening, and inter- 
sected by a few narrow wood-roads. But the woods of the 
Wilderness have not the ordinary features of a forest. The 
region rests on a belt of mineral rocks, and, for above a hun- 
dred years, extensive mining has here been carried on."" To 

* The mines of this region were first worked in the. early part of the last 
century by Alexander Spottswood, then governor of Virginia. Colonel llyrd, 
in his " Progress of the Mine*," published in 173'2, gives many interesting de- 
tails of this region, from which it appears that Germanna, now known only as 
a ford, was once a j'lace of some celebrity. " This famous town [Germanna] 
consists of Colonel Spottswood's enchanted castle on one side of the street and 
a baker's dozen of ruinous tenements on the other, where so many German 
families had dwelt some years ago ; but are now removed ten miles higher, in 
the fork of the Rappahannock, to land of their own. In the evening the 
noble colonel came home from Ms mines. I let him understand that besides 
the pleasure of paying him a visit, I came to be instructed by so great a master 
in the mystery of making iron, wherein he had led the way, and was the 
Tubal Cain of Virginia. He corrected me a little there, by assuring me that he 
was not only the first in this country, but the first in North America, who had 
erected a regular furnace." Another writer, of a still earlier period, thus 
speaks: " Beyond Colonel Spottswood's furnace, above the Falls of Rappahan- 
nock River, within view of the vast mountains, he has founded a town called 


feed the mines the timber of the country for many miles 
around had been cut down, and in its place there had arisen 
a dense undergrowth of low-limbed and scraggy pines, stiff 
and bristling chinkapins, scrub-oaks, and hazel. It is a 
region of gloom and the shadow of death. Manoeuvring here 
was necessarily out of the question, and only Indian tactics 
told. The troops could only receive direction by a point of 
the compass ; for not only were the lines of battle entirely 
hidden from the sight of the commander, but no officer could 
see ten files on each side of him. Artillery was wholly ruled 
out of use ; the massive concentration of three hundred guns 
stood silent, and only an occasional piece or section could 
be brought into play in the road-sides. Cavalry was still 
more useless. But in that horrid thicket there lurked two 
hundred thousand men, and through it lurid fires played; and, 
though no array of battle could be seen, there came out of its 
depths the crackle and roll of musketry like the noisy boiling 
of some hell-caldron that told the dread story of death. Such 
was the field of the battle of the Wilderness ; and General 
Grant appointed that at five o'clock of the morning the fight 
should be renewed. Combinations or grand tactics there 
were none ; the order of battle was simple, and was to all the 
corps — Attack along the whole fine. 

It is a striking proof of the aggressive determination ani- 
mating both commanders, that Lee, also, that morning had 
resolved upon assuming the offensive. His plan was to 
deliver an overwhelming blow on the left of the Union army 
— a point well chosen, since this was Grant's strategic flank, 
the carrying of which would force him back against the 
Eapidan. It was, however, impossible to strike this blow ef- 
fectively until Longstreet's corps, which had not yet arrived, 

Germanna, from some Germans sent over by Queen Anne. Beyond this is 
seated the colony of Germans of Palatines, with allowance of good quantity of 
rich land, who thrive very well and live happily, and entertain generously." 
Hugh Jones : " Present Condition of Virginia," 1724. The latter syllable of 
the name Spottsicood, latinized forms with the former part the name of th« 
county of Spottsylvania. 


should come up. To distract attention, therefore, Lee re- 
solved to make a threatening demonstration against the 
Union right. Thus it came about, that fifteen minutes before 
the time appointed by Grant for the general attack, a sudden 
outburst of musketry from the direction of Sedgwick an- 
nounced that Lee was beforehand with him in offensive pur- 

The attack was made upon Seymour's brigade on the ex- 
treme right, involved the whole of Kicketts' division, and then 
Wright's. But, as has been seen, it had no serious character, 
and was not pushed with much vigor ; so that Sedgwick not 
onlv yielded no ground, but was able to push his front for- 
ward a few hundred yards. At the same time, Warren and 
Hancock joined in the general attack. But as the left was 
the point at which, as by common consent, the fiercest dis- 
pute took place, I shall first of all set forth the sequence of 
events on that flank. 

When, at five o'clock, Hancock opened his attack by an 
advance of his two right divisions under Birney, together 
with Getty's command,* and pushed forward on the right and 
left of the Orange plankroad, the onset was made with such 
vigor, and Lee was yet so weak on that flank, owing to the 
non-arrival of Longstreet,t that, for a time, it seemed as 
though a great victory would then be snatched. At the same 
time that Hancock opened a direct attack, Wadsworth's divi- 
sion, X which had the evening before secured a position to assail 
Hill's flank, took up the action, and fought its way across that 
part of the Second Corps posted on the right of the plank- 

* The brigades of Owen and Carroll of Gibbon's division supported. 

f It would appear, also, that even Hill's corps was not all up ; for Anderson's 
division had been left behind to guard certain fords of the Rapidan, and did 
not arrive for some hours. 

\ " During the night I sent instructions to General Wadsworth to form his 
line northeast and southwest, and go straight through. Precisely at the hour 
the fighting began. Wadsworth fought his way entirely across the Second 
Oorps front to the south side of the plankroad, and wheeling round com- 
mpneed driving the enemy up the plankroad." — Warren : Notes on the Battle 
of the Wilderness. 


road. The combined attack overpowered the Confederates, 
and after an hour's severe contest, the whole hostile front was 
carried, and Hill's divisions under Wilcox and Heth were 
driven for a mile and a half through the woods under heavy 
loss and back on the trains and artillery and the Confederate 
headquarters.* But here, whether the significance of the suc- 
cess was not understood, or because further advance was 
rendered impossible, owing to the disintegration of Hancock's 
line in advancing so far through the thickets, a halt was cried, 
and a readjustment of the line made. This pause, as will 
presently appear, forfeited all the gain ; for, at the height of 
Hill's confused retreat, Anderson's division, soon followed by 
the head of Longstreet's column, came on the ground. When, 
therefore, about nine o'clock, after an interval of two hours, 
taken up in the rehabilitation of the line, Hancock, who had 
been re-enforced by Stevenson's division of the Ninth Corps, 
in addition to Wadsworth's division, resumed the advance, he 
met a bitter opposition, and though furious fighting took 
place, he gained no more headway. t 

That it was Longstreet that thus met him, General Han- 
cock did not, at this time, know. Indeed, Longstreet's attack 
had been anticipated in a very different direction ; and the 
manner in which this expectation influenced Hancock's dispo- 
sitions is a striking illustration of the kind of agencies that 
effect the issue of battles. It was known during the night that 
Longstreet's corps, which had not been in the previous day's 
action, was marching up from the direction of Orange Court- 
house, to reach the field by a route that would strike Han- 
cock's left flauk and rear. That officer was cautioned officially 

* I use here no stronger language than that employed by General Long- 
street, in a description he gave the writer of the situation of affairs at the mo- 
ment of his arrival. 

f The advance was made by Birney's and Mott's divisions, and Webb's, Car- 
roll's, and Owen's brigades of Gibbon's division, all of the Second Corps, together 
with Stevenson's division of the Ninth and Wadsworth's of the Fifth. Hancock 
had bef-n so strengthened that now he had with him nearly one-half thfl 


to beware of this.""" It was with the view to provide against 
this menace that, in attacking- in the morning, Hancock ad- 
vanced only his right divisions, and allowed his left, under 
Gibbon, to remain on the original line on the Brock road ; so 
that, in throwing forward his right, he pivoted on his left, and, 
with that flank, clung to the road on which it was expected 
Longstreet would come up. Now, at the time Hancock began 
his attack, Longstreet was really making the movement indi- 
cated ; but the assault was executed with such energv, and so 
completely disrupted Hill, that Lee found it necessary to re- 
call Longstreet from his flank march, and bring him forward 
to meet the more pressing necessity in front. Hancock, how- 
ever, unaware of this, still looked nervously to his left ; and 
though, after the successful advance of his right, he directed 
General Gibbon to advance with Barlow's division, and press 
the enemy's right, the approach of Longstreet's corps on the 
flank gave such constant apprehension, that Gibbon advanced 
only one brigade (that of Colonel Frank), which, after an ob- 
stinate resistance, succeeded in forming connection with the 
left of the advanced line.f This apprehension was, through- 
out the forenoon, constantly revived and strengthened In- 
various incidents that befell. Thus, about eight o'clock, an 
outburst of fight was heard considerably to the left, where 
Sheridan, with a division of horse, had engaged the enemy ; 
but, instead of his encountering Longstreet, as Hancock sup- 
posed, it turned out to be Stuart's cavalry he had met. 
Some time after this, there came in a report that infantry 
was moving up on the Brock road from the direction of 
Todd's Tavern, about two miles from Hancock's left ; and as 

* Hancock : Report of the Battle of the Wilderness. 

f " I do not know why my order to attack with Barlow's division was not 
more fully carried out ; but it was probably owing to the apprehended ap- 
proach of Longstreet's corps on my left about that time. But had my left 
advanced, as directed by me in several orders, I believe the overthrow of the 
enemy would have been assured. At all events, an attack on the enemy 'a 
right by the troops of Barlow s division would have prevented the turning of 
the left of Mott's division, which occurred later in the day." — Hancock's Report 


he knew he had no infantry in that quarter, he again supposed 
it to be Longstreet, and took measures to meet him.* But 
the reported column of infantry proved to be a body of sev- 
eral hundred Union convalescents, who had come to the front 
by way of Chancellorsville, and were now following the route 
of the Second Corps around by Todd's Tavern. Thus it was 
that the suspicion, continually reawakened, that Longstreet 
was moving to turn Hancock's left flank, resulted in para- 
lyzing a large number of his best troops — troops that would 
otherwise have gone into action at the time when the disrup- 
tion of Hill's force opened a rare opportunity for a decisive 

The contest that signalized Longstreet's arrival on Han- 
cock's front, and restored the integrity of the shattered Con- 
federate right, now died away ; and for some hours, up to 
nearly noon, there was a lull. During this time, Longstreet's 
troops continued to arrive ; and when, at length, his line had 
acquired breadth and weight by the incoming force, it was 
advanced, and Hancock's troops, which had first halted, now 
began to feel a heavy pressure. The attack first fell on the 
left of the advanced line, held by the brigade of Frank. This 
force Longstreet's troops fairly overran ; and, brushing it 
away, they struck the left of Mott's division, which was, in 
turn, swept back in confusion ; and though Hancock endeav- 
ored, by swinging back his left, and forming line along the 
plankroad, to secure the advanced position still held by his 
right, it was found impossible to do so, and he had to content 
himself with rallying and re-forming the troops on the original 
line, along the Brock road, from which they had advanced in. 
the morning. "Wadsworth, on the right of Hancock, opposed 
the most heroic efforts to the onset of the enemy ; but after 
several ineffectual charges, his troops broke into the retreat ;. 
and while striving to rally them, that patriotic and high- 

* Brooke's brigade, of Barlow's division, was sent out on the Brock road to 
the extreme left, where a strong breastwork was constructed across the road, 
and Leasure's brigade, of the Ninth Corps, and Eustis' brigade, of the Sixth. 
Corps, were held ready to support. 



souled gentleman and brave soldier received a bullet in Lis 
head, and died within the enemy's lines the following day. 

But in the very fury and tempest of the Confederate onset 
the advance was of a sudden stayed by a cause at the moment 
Tin known. This afterwards proved to have been the fall of 
the head of this attack. 

Longstreet had made his dispositions for a decisive blow ; 
for while advancing one force in front, he sent another to 
move round Hancock's left and lay hold of the Brock road. 
At the time the Union troops were giving ground, and the 
Confederates were pushing on, that officer, with his staff, rode 
forward in front of his column ; when suddenly confronting a 
portion of his own flanking force, the cavalcade was mistaken 
for a party of Union horsemen, and received a volley under 
which Longstreet fell, severely wounded."' General Lee then 
took formal charge of that part of the field ; but it was four 
hours— that is, abotit four o'clock of the afternoon — before 
he could get things in hand to carry out the intent of his 
lieutenant. Before detailing the sequel of events at the left, 
it will, however, be proper to glance rapidly at what had 
meanwhile taken place on the centre and right of the field. 

The opening of the combat on the right, under Sedgwick, 
has been already seen ; and the history of what subsequently 
passed here can only be told in the heavy losses sustained by 
the Sixth Corps, in unavailing attempts to carry intrenched 
positions. On Sedgwick's left was Warren's corps, placed to 
the right and left of the Orange turnpike ; but as Hancock's 
needs had compelled the detachment to his assistance of two 
divisions of the Fifth Corps, the remaining two divisions 
(Griffin's and Crawford's) held a simply defensive attitude. 

* General Longstreet stated to the writer that he saw they were his own 
men, but in vain shouted to them to cease firing. He also expressed, with great 
emphasis, his opinion of the decisive blow he would have inflicted had lie not 
been wounded. " I thought," said he, " that we had another Bull Run on you, 
tor I had made my dispositions to seize the Brock road." Bat on my pointing 
out that Hancock's left had not advanced, but remained on the original line 
covering that road, he admitted that that altered the complexion of affairs. 


Severe skirmishing took place throughout the day ; but the 
enemy in front was found to be well intrenched, and no im- 
pression was made on his position. 

In the action of the previous day, there had existed a con- 
siderable interval between Warren's corps on the turnpike 
and Hancock's corps on the plankroad. It was designed that 
Burnside's command should advance through this opening ; 
and the point on which his attack was directed gave high 
hopes of a successful issue. Advancing through the woods in 
the morning, the enemy was encountered on a wooded crest 
near the plankroad. An attack on this position was not 
thought advisable, and the corps was moved further to the 
left. It was not till afternoon, and subsequent to Hancock's 
repulse, that it became engaged with the enemy. No decisive 
result followed, and towards evening Burnside fell back and 
intrenched. * 

The long lull that had followed the successful attack of 
Longstreet upon Hancock gave the latter time to thoroughly 
re-establish his position, now strengthened by fresh troops 
sent to him by General Meade. His immediate front was 
cleared by a well-executed movement made by a brigade 
under Colonel Leasure, across its whole extent from left to 
right,t and he was prepared to meet the enemy, who, how- 

* Leasure's brigade belonged to the Ninth. Corps, and held position towards 
the left of Hancock's line, under the immediate command of General Gibbon. 
Under orders from Hancock, Colonel Leasure formed Ms command at right 
angles with Hancock's front : his right, at about one hundred paces from the 
breastworks, swept across the whole front of Mott's and Birney's divisions, 
and crossed the Orange plankroad to the right of Hancock's line, encountering 
in his progress what he supposed to be a brigade of the enemy, which fell back 
in disorder without engaging him. 

f " The head of the column passed the Lacy House at daybreak. Nothing 
was encountered until reaching the field this side of Wilderness Run ; hero 
the flankers on the right became engaged with the enemy's skirmishers. Aa 
soon as the head of the column emerged into the field, a rebel battery at 
Tuning's opened on them. Some fifty shots were fired, but no one was hun. 
The column halted : a strong skirmish line advanced across the run, up the 
slope covered with thick pines ; and as soon as they showed themselves in the 
edge of Tuning's field, they received a musketry fire and fell back. Per- 


ever, made no demonstration until four o'clock in tlio after- 
noon. At that hour, Lee, having gotten well in hand the 
troops of Longstreet and Hill, made an impetuous assault 
upon Hancock's intrenched position, pressing up to within less 
than a hundred yards of his front line. Here the Confeder- 
ates halted, and continued a long and uninterrupted fire o