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On the Trail of Grant and Lee by Frederick Trevor Hill

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General Sherman who thus, for the first time, came in touch with
the man with whom he was destined to bring the war to a close.
Four days after the troops started they were ready to attack and
the gun-boats at once proceeded to shell the fort, with the result
that its garrison almost immediately surrendered (February 6, 1862),
practically all of its defenders having retreated to Fort Donelson
as soon as they saw that their position was seriously threatened.

Grant promptly notified his Chief of this easy conquest, at the
same time adding that he would take Fort Donelson within forty-eight
hours, but he soon had reason to regret this boast--one of the
few of which he was ever guilty. Indeed, his troops had scarcely
started on their journey when rapid progress became impossible,
for the rain descended in torrents, rendering the roads impassable
for wagons and cannon, and almost impracticable for infantry or
cavalry. Moreover, many of the men had foolishly thrown away their
blankets and overcoats during the march from Fort Henry and their
suffering under the freezing winter blasts was exceedingly severe,
especially as camp fires were not permitted for fear that their smoke
would attract the gunners in the fort. Under these circumstances
the advance was seriously delayed, and it was February 14, 1862--six
days after he had prophesied that he would take the place--before
Grant had his army in position. By this time, however, the gun-boats
had arrived and he determined to attack at once, although Halleck
had advised him to wait for reŽnforcements to occupy Fort Henry,
lest the Confederates should recapture it while his back was turned.
There was, of course, a chance of this, but Grant felt sure that
if he delayed the Confederates would seize the opportunity to
strengthen Fort Donelson, and then 50,000 men would not be able to
accomplish what 15,000 might immediately effect. He, accordingly,
directed Foote to bombard the fort at once from the river front
and try to run its batteries. Desperate as this attempt appeared
his orders were instantly obeyed, the fearless naval officer forcing
his little vessels into the very jaws of death under a terrific
fire, to which he responded with a hail of shot and shell.

Grant watched this spectacular combat with intense interest,
waiting for a favorable moment to order an advance of his troops,
but to his bitter disappointment one after another of Foote's
vessels succumbed to the deadly fire of the water batteries and
drifted helplessly back with the current. Indeed, the flagship
was struck more than sixty times and Foote himself was so severely
wounded that he could not report in person, but requested that the
General come on board his ship for a conference, which disclosed
the fact that the fleet was in no condition to continue the combat
and must retire for repairs.

There was nothing for Grant to do, therefore, but prepare for a
siege, and with a heavy heart he returned from the battered gun-boat
to give the necessary orders. He had scarcely set his foot on
shore, however, before a staff officer dashed up with the startling
intelligence that the Confederates had sallied forth and attacked
a division of the army commanded by General McClernand and that
his troops were fleeing in a panic which threatened to involve
the entire army. Grant knew McClernand well. He was one of the
Congressmen who had made speeches to the 21st Illinois and, realizing
that the man was almost wholly ignorant of military matters and
utterly incapable of handling such a situation, he leaped on his
horse and, spurring his way across the frozen ground to the sound
of the firing, confronted the huddled and beaten division just in
the nick of time. Meanwhile, General Lew Wallace--afterwards famous
as the author "Ben Hur"--had arrived and thrown forward a brigade
to cover the confused retreat, so that for the moment the Confederate
advance was held in check. But despite this, McClernand's men
continued to give way, muttering that their ammunition was exhausted.
There were tons of ammunition close at hand, as the officers ought
to have known had they understood their duties, but even when assured
of this the panic-stricken soldiers refused to return to the field.
They were in no condition to resist attack, they declared, and the
enemy was evidently intending to make a long fight of it, as the
haversacks of those who had fallen contained at least three days'
rations. This excuse was overheard by Grant and instantly riveted
his attention.

"Let me see some of those haversacks," he commanded sharply, and
one glance at their contents convinced him that the Confederates
were not attempting to crush his army, but were trying to break
through his lines and escape. If they intended to stay and defend
the fortress, they would not carry haversacks at all; but if they
contemplated a retreat, they would not only take them, but fill
them with enough provisions to last for several days. In reaching
this conclusion Grant was greatly aided by his knowledge of the
men opposing him. He had served in Mexico with General Pillow, the
second in command at Fort Donelson, and, knowing him to be a timid
man, felt certain that nothing but desperation would ever induce
him to risk an attack. He also knew that Floyd, his immediate
superior, who had recently been the United States Secretary of War,
had excellent reasons for avoiding capture and, putting all these
facts together, he instantly rose to the occasion.

"Fill your cartridge boxes, quick, and get into line," was his
order to the men as he dashed down the wavering lines. "The enemy
is trying to escape and he must not be permitted to do so!"

The word flew through the disordered ranks, transforming them as
it passed, and at the same time orders were issued for the entire
left wing to advance and attack without a moment's delay. This
unexpected onslaught quickly threw the Confederates back into the
fortress, but before they again reached the shelter of its walls the
Union forces had carried all the outer defenses and had virtually
locked the door behind their retreating adversaries.

From that moment the capture of the imprisoned garrison was only
a question of time, and within twenty-four hours Grant received
a communication from the Confederate commander asking for a truce
to consider the terms of surrender. To his utter astonishment,
however, this suggestion did not come from either General Floyd
or General Pillow but from Simon Buckner, his old friend at West
Point, who had so generously aided him when he reached New York,
penniless and disgraced after his resignation from the army. This
was an embarrassing situation, indeed, but while he would have done
anything he could for Buckner personally, Grant realized that he
must not allow gratitude or friendship to interfere with his duty.
He, therefore, promptly answered the proposal for a truce in these

"No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be
accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works."

[NOTE from Brett: The full letter is also shown in Grant's
handwriting which leaves something to be desired. I will do my
best to transcribe it below:

Hd Qrs. Army in the Field
Camp Fort Donelson, Feb. 16th 1862

Cmdr. S. B. Buckner
Confed. Army.


Yours of this inst. proposing armistice, and appointment of
Commissioners to settle terms of Capitulation is just received. No
terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be

I propose to move immediately upon your works.

I am Sir, very respectfully,
your obt. svt. [obedient servant],
U. S. Grant
Brig. Gen.

A portion of this letter is found at

But no more fighting was necessary, for Buckner yielded as gracefully
as he could, and on February 16, 1862, he and the entire garrison
of about 15,000 men became prisoners of war. Generals Pillow and
Floyd, it appeared, had fled with some 4,000 men the night before,
leaving Buckner in charge and as Grant's force had by that time
been increased to 27,000 men, further resistance would have been

The capture of these two forts gave the Union forces command of
the Tennessee and the Cumberland Rivers, and to that extent cleared
the way for the control of the Mississippi. It was the first real
success which had greeted the Union cause and it raised Grant to
a Major-Generalship of Volunteers, gave him a national reputation
and supplied a better interpretation of his initial than West
Point had provided, for from the date of his letter to Buckner he
was known as "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.

Chapter XIV

The Battle of Shiloh

Grant did not waste any time in rejoicing over his success. The
capture of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson was an important achievement
but it was only one step toward the control of the Mississippi River,
which was the main object of the campaign. The next step in that
direction was toward Corinth a strategically important point in
Mississippi, and he immediately concentrated his attention upon
getting the army in position to attack that stronghold. Some of
his fellow commanders, however, were extremely cautious and he had
to labor for days before he could persuade General Buell, who was
stationed at Nashville, Tennessee, with a large army, to advance
his troops to a point where they could be of service. But in the
midst of this work he was suddenly interrupted by an order which
removed him from his command and virtually placed him under arrest
on charges of disregarding instructions and of being absent from
his department without permission.

These astonishing accusations were caused by his failure to answer
dispatches from Headquarters which had never reached him, and by
his visit to General Buell which had obliged him to travel beyond
the strict limits of his command. The whole matter was soon
explained by the discovery that a Confederate had been tampering
with the dispatches in the telegraph office, but it was exceedingly
annoying to Grant to find himself publicly condemned without a hearing.
Nevertheless, it supplied a very fair test of his character, for
he neither lost his temper nor displayed any excitement whatsoever.
On the contrary, he remained perfectly calm in the face of
grave provocation, replying firmly but respectfully to the harsh
criticisms of his superiors, and behaving generally with a dignity
and composure that won the silent approval of all observers.

Of course, as soon as the facts were known he was restored to his
command with an ample apology, but his preparations for the advance
against Corinth had been seriously interrupted and it was some time
before he again had the work in hand. Nevertheless, within five
weeks of the surrender of Fort Donelson, he was headed toward
Mississippi with over 30,000 men, having arranged with General Buell
to follow and support him with his army of 40,000, the combined
forces being amply sufficient to overpower the Confederates who
were guarding Corinth. This vast superiority, however, probably
served to put Grant off his guard, for on March 16, 1862, his
advance under General Sherman reached Pittsburg Landing, not far
from Corinth, and encamped there without taking the precaution
to intrench. Sherman reported on April 5th that he had no fear
of being attacked and Grant, who had been injured the day before
by the fall of his horse and was still on crutches, remained some
distance in the rear, feeling confident that there would be no
serious fighting for several days.

But the Union commander, who had studied his opponents with such
good results at Fort Donelson, made a terrible mistake in failing
to do so on this occasion, for he knew, or ought to have known,
that General Albert Sidney Johnston and General Beauregard, the
Confederate commanders were bold and energetic officers who were
well advised of the military situation and ready to take advantage
of every opportunity. Indeed, their sharp eyes had already noted
the gap between Grant's and Buell's armies and at the moment Sherman
was penning his dispatch to his superior, informing him that all was
well, a force of 40,000 men was preparing to crush his unprotected
advance guard before Buell could reach the field.

It was Sunday morning, April 6, 1862, when the ominous sound of
firing in the direction of Shiloh Church smote Grant's ears. For
a few moments he could not believe that it indicated a serious attack,
but the roar of heavy guns soon convinced him that a desperate
battle had begun and, directing his orderlies to lift him into
the saddle, he dashed to the nearest boat landing and proceeded to
the front with all possible speed. Before he reached the ground,
however, the Confederates had driven the Union outposts from
the field in frightful disorder and were hurling themselves with
ferocious energy upon those who still held fast. The surprise had
been well-nigh complete and the first rush of the gray infantry
carried everything before it, leaving the foremost Union camp
in their hands. Indeed, for a time the Federal army was not much
more than a disorganized mob, completely bewildered by the shock
of battle, and thousands of men blindly sought refuge in the rear,
heedless of their officers who, with a few exceptions, strove
valiantly to organize an effective defense.

The tumult and confusion were at their worst when Grant reached the
field and it seemed almost hopeless to check the panic and prevent
the destruction of his entire army. But in the midst of the maddening
turmoil and wild scenes of disaster he kept his head and, dashing
from one end of the line to the other, ordered regiments into
position with a force and energy that compelled obedience. There
was no time to formulate any plan of battle. Each officer had to
do whatever he thought best to hold back the Confederates in his
immediate front, and for hours the fight was conducted practically
without orders. But Grant supplied his gallant subordinates with
something far more important than orders at that crisis. Undismayed
by the chaos about him he remained cool and inspired them with
confidence. Not for one instant would he admit the possibility of
defeat, and under his strong hand the huddled lines were quickly
reformed, the onrush of the Confederates was gradually checked and
a desperate conflict begun for every inch of ground.

For a time the victorious gray-coats continued to push their opponents
back and another line of tents fell into their hands. But their
advance was stubbornly contested and knowing that Buell was at
hand, Grant fought hard for delay, using every effort to encourage
his men to stand fast and present the boldest possible front to the
foe. Meanwhile, however, Sherman was wounded, and when darkness
put an end to the furious combat the shattered Union army was on
the verge of collapse. So perilous, indeed, was the situation that
when Buell arrived on the field his first inquiry was as to what
preparations Grant had made to effect a retreat. But the silent
commander instantly shook his head and announced, to the intense
astonishment of his questioner, that he did not intend to retreat
but to attack at daylight the next morning with every man at his
disposal, leaving no reserves.

Such was Grant at one of the darkest moments of his career. Behind
him lay the battered remnants of regiments, screening a welter of
confusion and fear; before him stretched the blood-soaked field of
Shiloh held by the confident Confederate host; while at his elbow
stood anxious officers, well satisfied to have saved the army from
destruction and ready to point out a convenient line of retreat.
All his surroundings, in fact, were calculated to discourage him
and the intense pain of his injured leg, which allowed him neither
rest nor sleep, was a severe strain upon his nerves. Yet he would
not yield to weakness of any kind. He was responsible for the
position in which the Union army found itself and he determined to
retrieve its fortunes. Therefore, all night long while reŽnforcements
were steadily arriving, he developed his plans for assuming the
offensive, and at break of day his troops hurled themselves against
the opposing lines with dauntless energy.

Meanwhile the Confederates had sustained an irreparable loss,
for Albert Sidney Johnston, their brilliant leader, had fallen.
Moreover, they had no reserves to meet the Union reŽnforcements.
Nevertheless, they received the vigorous onslaught with splendid
courage and another terrible day of carnage followed. Again and
again Grant exposed himself with reckless daring, narrowly escaping
death from a bullet which carried away the scabbard of his sword
as he reconnoitered in advance of his men, but despite his utmost
efforts the gray lines held fast, and for hours no apparent advantage
was gained. Then, little by little, the heavy Union battalions
began to push them back until all the lost ground was recovered,
but the Confederates conducted their retreat in good order and
finally reached a point of safety, leaving very few prisoners in
their pursuers' hands.

Grant had saved his army from destruction and had even driven his
adversary from the field, but at a fearful cost, for no less than
10,000 Union soldiers were killed or wounded in the two days'
desperate fighting at Shiloh and almost 3,000 had been captured.
The Confederates, it is true, had lost nearly 10,000 men, but their
army, which should have been crushed by the combined efforts of
Grant and Buell, was still in possession of Corinth and had come
dangerously near to annihilating half of the Union forces.

The results of the battle were, therefore, received at Washington
with surprise and indignation; the country at large, horrified at
the frightful slaughter, denounced it as a useless butchery; Halleck
hastily assumed charge of all the forces in the field and from that
time forward Grant, though nominally the second in command, was
deprived of all power and virtually reduced to the rŰle of a mere
spectator. Indeed, serious efforts were made to have him dismissed
from the service, but Lincoln after carefully considering the charges,
refused to act. "I can't spare this man," was his comment. "He

Lincoln intended to imply by that remark that there were generals
in the army who did not fight, and Halleck was certainly one
of them, for he took thirty-one days to march the distance that
the Confederates had covered in three. Indeed, he displayed such
extraordinary caution that with an army of 100,000 at his back
he inched his way toward Corinth, erecting intrenchments at every
halt, only to find, after a month, that he had been frightened
by shadows and dummy guns and that the city had been abandoned by
the Confederates. No commander responsible for such a ridiculous
performance could retain the confidence of an army in the field,
and Sherman assured Grant that Halleck would not long survive the
fiasco. This advice was sorely needed, for Grant had grown tired
of being constantly humiliated and had already requested Halleck
to relieve him from duty when Sherman persuaded him to remain and
wait for something to happen.

Something happened sooner then either man expected, for Halleck
was suddenly "kicked up stairs" by his appointment to the chief
command with headquarters in Washington, and on July 11, 1862,
about three months after the battle of Shiloh, Grant found himself
again at the head of a powerful army.

Chapter XV

Lee in the Saddle

While Grant was earning a reputation as a fighting general in the
West, Lee had been at a desk in Richmond attending to his duties as
chief military adviser to the Confederate President, which prevented
him from taking active part in any operations in the field. As a
matter of fact, however, there had been no important engagements
in the East, for "On to Richmond!" had become the war cry of the
North, and all the energies of the Federal government had been
centered on preparations for the capture of the Southern capital.
Indeed, if Richmond had been the treasure house and last refuge of
the Confederacy, no greater efforts could have been made to secure
it, although it was by no means essential to either the North or
the South and the war would have continued no matter which flag
floated above its roofs. Nevertheless, the idea of marching into
the enemy's capital appealed to the popular imagination and this
undoubtedly dictated much of the early strategy of the war.

At all events, while the opening moves in the campaign for the
possession of the Mississippi were being made, a vast army was
being equipped near Washington for the express purpose of capturing
Richmond. The preparation of this force had been entrusted to
General George B. McClellan whose ability in organizing, drilling
and disciplining the troops had made him a popular hero and given
him such a reputation as a military genius that he was universally
hailed as "the young Napoleon." He had, indeed, created the most
thoroughly equipped army ever seen in America, and when he advanced
toward Virginia in April, 1862, at the head of over 100,000 men the
supporters of the Union believed that the doom of the Confederacy
was already sealed.

From this office in Richmond Lee watched these formidable preparations
for invading the South with no little apprehension. He knew that
the Confederates had only about 50,000 available troops with which
to oppose McClellan's great army and had the Union commander been
aware of this he might have moved straight against the city and
swept its defenders from his path. But McClellan always believed
that he was outnumbered and on this occasion he wildly exaggerated
his opponents' strength. In fact, he crept forward so cautiously
that the Confederates, who had almost resigned themselves to losing
the city, hastened to bring up reŽnforcements and erect defensive
works of a really formidable character. The best that was hoped
for, however, was to delay the Union army. To defeat it, or even
to check its advance, seemed impossible, and doubtless it would
have proved so had it not been for the brilliant exploits of the
man who was destined to become Lee's "right hand."

This man was General Thomas Jonathan Jackson, who had earned the
nickname of "Stonewall" at Bull Run and was at that time in command
of about 15,000 men guarding the fertile Shenandoah Valley, the
"granary of Virginia." Opposing this comparatively small army were
several strong Union forces which were considered amply sufficient
to capture or destroy it, and McClellan proceeded southward, with
no misgivings concerning Jackson. But the wily Confederate had
no intention of remaining idle and McClellan's back was scarcely
turned before he attacked and utterly routed his nearest opponents.
A second, third and even a fourth army was launched against him,
but he twisted, turned and doubled on his tracks with bewildering
rapidity, cleverly luring his opponents apart; and then, falling on
each in turn with overwhelming numbers, hurled them from his path
with astonishing ease and suddenly appeared before Washington
threatening its capture.

Astounded and alarmed at this unexpected peril, the Federal authorities
instantly ordered McDowell's corps of 40,000 men, which was on
the point of joining McClellan, to remain and defend the capital.
This was a serious blow to McClellan who had counted upon using
these troops, though even without them he greatly outnumbered the
Confederates. But the idea that he was opposed by an overwhelming
force had taken such a firm hold on his mind that he was almost
afraid to move, and while he was timidly feeling his way General
Joseph Johnston, commanding the defenses at Richmond, attacked
his advance corps at Seven Pines, May 31, 1862. A fierce contest
followed, during which Johnston was severely wounded, and Jefferson
Davis, who was on the field, promptly summoned General Lee to the

It was a serious situation which confronted Lee when he was thus
suddenly recalled to active duty, for McClellan's army outnumbered
his by at least 40,000 men and it was within six miles of Richmond,
from the roofs of whose houses the glow of the Union campfires
was plainly visible. Nevertheless, he determined to put on a bold
front and attack his opponent at his weakest point. But how to
discover this was a difficult problem and the situation did not admit
of a moment's delay. Under ordinary circumstances the information
might have been secured through spies, but there was no time for
this and confronted by the necessity for immediate action, Lee
thought of "Jeb" Stuart, his son's classmate at West Point, who
had acted as aide in the capture of John Brown.

Stuart was only twenty-nine years old but he had already made a name
for himself as a general of cavalry, and Lee knew him well enough
to feel confident that, if there was any one in the army who could
procure the needed information, he was the man. He, accordingly,
ordered him to take 1,200 troopers and a few field guns and ride
straight at the right flank of the Union army until he got near
enough to learn how McClellan's forces were posted at that point.

This perilous errand was just the opportunity for which Stuart had
been waiting, and without the loss of a moment he set his horsemen
in motion. Directly in his path lay the Federal cavalry but within
twenty-four hours he had forced his way through them and carefully
noted the exact position of the Union troops. His mission was
then accomplished, but by this time the Federal camp was thoroughly
aroused and, knowing that if he attempted to retrace his steps his
capture was almost certain, he pushed rapidly forward and, passing
around the right wing, proceeded to circle the rear of McClellan's
entire army. So speedily did he move that the alarm of his approach
was no sooner given in one quarter than he appeared in another and
thus, like a boy disturbing a row of hornets' nests with a long
stick, he flashed by the whole line, reached the Union left, swung
around it and reported to Lee with his command practically intact.

That a few squadrons of cavalry should have been able to ride
around his army of 100,000 men and escape unscathed astonished and
annoyed McClellan but he utterly failed to grasp the true purpose
of this brilliant exploit, and Lee took the utmost care to see that
his suspicions were not aroused. Stuart's information had convinced
him that the right wing of the Union army was badly exposed and might
be attacked with every prospect of success, but to insure this it
was necessary that McClellan's attention should be distracted from
the real point of danger. The Confederate commander thoroughly
understood his opponent's character and failings, for he had taken
his measure during the Mexican War and knowing his cautious nature,
he spread the news that heavy reŽnforcements had been forwarded to
Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley. This he felt sure would confirm
McClellan's belief that he had such overwhelming numbers that he
could afford to withdraw troops from Richmond, and the ruse was
entirely successful, for the Union commander hesitated to advance,
and the Federal authorities, hearing of Jackson's supposed reŽnforcement,
became increasingly alarmed for the safety of Washington.

Meanwhile, a courier had been secretly hurried to Jackson, ordering
him to rush his troops from the Shenandoah Valley and attack
McClellan's right wing from the rear while Lee assaulted it from
the front. But the Union right wing numbered fully 25,000 men and
Jackson had only 15,000. So to make the attack overwhelming it
was necessary for Lee to withdraw 40,000 men from the defenses of
Richmond, leaving the city practically unprotected. Unquestionably,
this was a most dangerous move, for had McClellan suspected
the truth he might have forced his way into the capital without
much difficulty. But here again Lee counted upon his adversary's
character, for he directed the troops that remained in the trenches
to keep up a continuous feint of attacking the Union left wing, in
the hope that this show of force would cause McClellan to look to
his safety in that quarter, which is precisely what he did. Indeed,
he was still busy reporting the threatening movements against his
left, when Lee and Jackson's combined force of 55,000 men fell
upon his right with fearful effect at Gaines' Mill (June 27, 1862).
From that moment his campaign for the capture of Richmond became
a struggle to save his own army from capture or destruction.

The only safety lay in flight but at the moment of defeat and
impending disaster it was not easy to extricate the troops from
their dangerous position, and McClellan showed high skill in masking
his line of retreat. Lee did not, therefore, immediately discover
the direction in which he was moving and this delay probably prevented
him from annihilating the remnants of the Union army. Once on the
trail, however, he lost no time and, loosing "his dogs of war," they
fell upon the retreating columns again and again in the series of
terrible conflicts known as the "Seven Days' Battles." But the
Union army was struggling for its life and, like a stag at bay, it
fought off its pursuers with desperate courage, until finally at
Malvern Hill (July 1, 1862), it rolled them back with such slaughter
that a bolder leader might have been encouraged to advance again
toward Richmond. As it was, however, McClellan was well content
to remove his shattered legions to a point of safety at Harrison's
Landing, leaving Lee in undisturbed possession of the field dyed
with the blood of well-nigh 30,000 men.

Chapter XVI

A Game of Strategy

While the remnants of McClellan's fine army were recuperating from
the rough handling they had received, Lee was developing a plan to
remove them still further from the vicinity of Richmond. Harrison's
Landing was too close to the Confederate capital for comfort and
the breastworks which the Union commander erected there were too
formidable to be attacked. But, though he could not hope to drive
his adversary away by force, Lee believed that he could lure him from
his stronghold by carrying the war into another part of Virginia.
The opportunity to do this was particularly favorable, for the
Union forces in front of Washington, consisting of about 45,000
men, had been placed under the command of General John Pope. Pope
had served with Grant in the Mississippi campaign and had begun his
career in the East by boasting of the great things he was about to
accomplish, referring contemptuously to his opponents and otherwise
advertising himself as a braggart and a babbler. He had come, so
he told his soldiers in a flamboyant address, from an army which
had seen only the backs of its enemies. He had come to lead them
to victories. He wanted to hear no more of "lines of retreat"
or backward movements of any kind. His headquarters were "in the
saddle" and his mission was to terrorize the foe.

These absurd proclamations pretty thoroughly exposed Pope's
character, but he had been at West Point with General Longstreet,
one of Lee's ablest advisers, and that officer speedily acquainted
his chief with the full measure of his opponent's weaknesses. This
was exceedingly useful to Lee and when he discovered that McClellan
and Pope were pulling at different directions like balky circus
horses, while Halleck with one foot on each was in imminent peril
of a fall, he determined to take advantage of the situation and
hasten the disaster.

McClellan, having 90,000 men, wanted Pope to reŽnforce him with his
45,000, and thus insure a renewal of his campaign against Richmond.
But this, of course, did not suit Pope who wished McClellan's army
to reŽnforce him and march to victory under his banner. But while
each of the rivals was insisting that his plan should be adopted
and Halleck, who held the chief of command, was wobbling between
them, trying to make up his mind to favor one or the other, Lee
took the whole matter out of his hands and decided it for him. He
did not want McClellan to be reŽnforced; first, because he was the
abler officer and, second, because he had or soon would have more
than sufficient men to capture Richmond and might wake to a realization
of this fact at any moment. From the Confederate standpoint it
was much safer to have Pope reŽnforced, for he did not have the
experience necessary to handle a large army. Therefore, the more
troops he had to mismanage the better. Moreover, Lee knew that
McClellan would cease to be dangerous as soon as he was obliged to
send any part of his forces away, for, as usual, he imagined that
his opponents already outnumbered him and that the withdrawal of
even a single regiment would place him practically at their mercy.

Carefully bearing all these facts in mind and thinking that it was
about time to force Halleck to transfer some of McClellan's troops
to Pope, Lee ordered Jackson to attack the man who thus far had
seen "only the backs of his foes." But at the Battle of Cedar
Mountain, which followed (August 9, 1862), his enemies would not turn
their backs and the fact evidently alarmed him, for he immediately
began shouting lustily for help. Perhaps he called a little louder
than was necessary in order to get as many of his rival's men as
possible under his own command, but the result was that McClellan's
army began rapidly melting away under orders to hurry to the rescue.

Lee's first object was, therefore, accomplished at one stroke and,
as fast as McClellan's troops moved northward, he withdrew the forces
guarding Richmond and rushed them by shorter routes to confront
Pope, whom he had determined to destroy before his reŽnforcements
reached the field. Indeed, a very neat trap had already been
prepared for that gentleman who was on the point of stepping into
it when he intercepted one of his adversary's letters which gave
him sufficient warning to escape by beating a hasty retreat across
the Rappahannock River. This was a perfectly proper movement
under the circumstances, but in view of his absurd ideas concerning
retreats it opened him up to public ridicule which was almost
more than a man of his character could endure. He was soon busy,
therefore, complaining, explaining, and protesting his readiness
to recross the river at a moment's notice.

But, while he was thus foolishly wearing out the telegraph lines
between his headquarters and Washington, Lee was putting into
operation a plan which would have been rash to the point of folly
against a really able soldier but which was perfectly justified
against an incompetent. This plan was to divide his army, which
numbered less than 50,000 men, into two parts, sending "Stonewall"
Jackson with 25,000 to get behind the Union forces, while he attracted
their commander's attention at the front. Of course, if Pope had
discovered this audacious move, he could easily have crushed the
divided Confederate forces in turn before either could have come
to the other's rescue, for he had 70,000 at his command. But the
armies were not far from Manassas or Bull Run, where the first
important engagement of the war had been fought and Lee know every
inch of the ground. Moreover, he believed that all Pope's provisions
and supplies upon which he depended for feeding his army were behind
him, and that, if Jackson succeeded in seizing them and getting
between the Union army and Washington, Pope would lose his head
and dash to the rescue regardless of consequences.

Great, therefore, as the risk was he determined to take it, and
Jackson circled away with his 25,000 men, leaving Lee with the
same number confronting an army of 70,000 which might have swept
the field. But its commander never dreamed of the opportunity
which lay before him and he remained utterly unsuspicious until the
night of August 26, 1862, when his flow of telegrams was suddenly
checked and he was informed that there was something the matter
with the wires connecting him to Washington. There was, indeed,
something the matter with them, for Jackson's men had cut them
down and were at that moment greedily devouring Pope's provisions,
helping themselves to new uniforms and shoes and leaving facetious
letters complaining of the quality of the supplies.

For a while, however, the Union general had no suspicion of what was
happening, for he interpreted the interference with the telegraph
wires as the work of cavalry riders whom a comparatively small
force could quickly disperse. But when the troops dispatched for
this purpose came hurrying back with the news that Jackson's whole
army was behind them, he acted precisely as Lee had expected, and
completely forgetting to close the doors behind him, dashed madly
after "Stonewall," whom he regarded as safe as a cat in a bag.

The door which he should have closed was Thoroughfare Gap, for that
was the only opening through which Lee could have led his men with
any hope of arriving in time to help his friends, and a few troops
could have blocked it with the utmost ease. But it was left unguarded
and Pope had scarcely turned his back to spring on Jackson before
Lee slid through the Gap and sprang on him.

The contest that followed, called the Second Battle of Bull Run or
Manassas (August 30, 1862), was almost a repetition of the first,
except that in the earlier battle the Union soldiers had a fair
chance and on this occasion they had none at all. Indeed, Lee and
Jackson had Pope so situated that, despite the bravery of his men,
they battered and pounded him until he staggered from the field
in a state of hysterical confusion, wildly telegraphing that the
enemy was badly crippled and that everything would be well, and
following up this by asking if the capital would be safe, if his
army should be destroyed. It is indeed possible that his army would
have been reduced to a mere mob, had it not been for the proximity
of the fortifications of Washington, into which his exhausted
regiments were safely tumbled on the 2nd of September, 1862.

Thus, for the second time in two months, Lee calmly confronted the
wreck of an opposing host, which, at the outset, had outnumbered
him and confidently planned for his destruction.

Chapter XVII

Lee and the Invasion of Maryland

Lee's masterly defense of Richmond, and his complete triumph over
McClellan and Pope had, in three months, made him the idol of the
Confederacy. In all military matters his word was law, while the
army adored him and the people of the South as a whole regarded
him with a feeling akin to reverence. This was not entirely the
result of his achievements on the field. Jackson had displayed an
equal genius for the art of war and in the opinion of many experts
he was entitled to more credit than his chief. But Jackson was
regarded with awe and curiosity rather than affection. He was
hailed as a great commander, while Lee was recognized as a great

It was not by spectacular efforts or assertiveness of any kind that
Lee had gained this hold upon his countrymen. He avoided everything
that even tended toward self-display. His army reports were not
only models of modesty, but generous acknowledgements of all he
owed to his officers and men. He addressed none but respectful
words to his superiors and indulged in no criticisms or complaints.
He accepted the entire responsibility for whatever reverses occurred
to the forces under his command and never attempted to place the
blame on the shoulders of any other man. In a word, he was so
absolutely free from personal ambition that the political schemers
unconsciously stood abashed in his presence, and citizens and
soldiers alike instinctively saluted the mere mention of his name.

Never by any chance did he utter a word of abuse against the North.
Even when his beloved Arlington was seized, and the swords, pictures,
silverware and other precious mementos of Washington were carried
off, his protest was couched in quiet and dignified language, well
calculated to make those to whom it was addressed (and later every
American) blush with shame. Likewise in the heat of battle, when
wild tongues were loosed and each side accused the other of all
that hate could suggest, he never forgot that his opponents were
Americans. "Drive those people back," or "Don't let those people
pass you," were the harshest words he ever uttered of his foes.

To him war was not a mere license to destroy human life. It was
a terrible weapon to be used scientifically, not with the idea of
slaughtering as many of the enemy as possible, but to protect the
State for whose defense he had drawn his sword. This was distinctly
his attitude as he watched Pope's defeated columns reeling from
the field. Neither by word nor deed did he exult over the fallen
foe or indulge in self-glorification at his expense. His sole
thought was to utilize the victory that the war would be speedily
brought to a successful close; and, spreading out his maps in the
quiet of his tent, he proceeded to study them with this idea.

Almost directly in front of his victorious army stretched the
intrenchments of Washington but, although he knew something of
the panic into which that city had been thrown by the last battle,
he had not troops enough to risk assaulting fortifications to the
defense of which well-nigh every able-bodied man in the vicinity
had been called. The fall of Washington might perhaps have ended
the war, but the loss of the neighboring state of Maryland and an
attack on some of the Pennsylvania cities, such as Harrisburg and
Philadelphia, promised to prove equally effective. The chances
of wresting Maryland from the Union seemed particularly favorable,
for it had come very close to casting its lot with the Confederacy
and thousands of its citizens were serving in the Southern ranks.
He, accordingly, made up his mind to march through Maryland, arousing
its people to the support of the Confederate cause, and then carry
the war into Pennsylvania where a decisive victory might pave the
way to an acknowledgment of the independence of the Southern States
and satisfactory terms of peace.

Thus, four days after Pope's defeat at Manassas saw Lee's tattered
battle flags slanted toward the North, and on September 6, 1862,
the vanguard under "Stonewall" Jackson passed through the streets
of Frederick City, singing "Maryland, My Maryland!" This was the
moment which Whittier immortalized in his verses recording the
dramatic meeting between "Stonewall" and Barbara Frietchie [Note
from Brett: The poem is entitled "Barbara Frietchie" and there is
some question as to the accuracy of the details of the poem. In
general, however, Whittier retold the story (poetically) that he
claims he heard ("from respectable and trustworthy sources") and
Barbara Frietchie was strongly against the Confederacy and was not
a fictional character. It is believed that Ms. Frietchie, who was
95 at the time, was sick in bed on the day the soldiers marched
through, but did wave her flag when the Union army marched through
two days later. A Ms. Quantrill and her daughters, however, did
wave the Union flag as the Confederate soldiers marched through
the town, so there is some thought that the two got combined.];
but, though no such event ever took place, the poet was correctly
informed as to the condition of Jackson's men, for they certainly
were a "famished rebel horde." Indeed, several thousand of them
had to be left behind because they could no longer march in their
bare feet, and those who had shoes were sorry-looking scarecrows
whose one square meal had been obtained at Pope's expense. For
all practical purposes Maryland was the enemy's country, but into
this hostile region they advanced carrying very little in the way
of provisions except salt for the ears of corn that they might pick
up in the fields.

The authorities at Washington watched Lee's movement with mingled
feelings of anxiety and relief. They were relieved because he was
evidently not aiming at the national capital. They were alarmed
because the real point of attack was unknown. Sixty thousand men,
flushed with triumph and under seemingly invincible leadership were
headed somewhere, and as the rumor spread that that "somewhere" was
Harrisburg or Philadelphia, the North stood aghast with consternation.

Face to face with this desperate crisis, McClellan, who had been
practically removed from command, was restored to duty and given
charge of all the Union forces in the field. Had he been invested
with supreme authority, at least one grievous blunder might have
been avoided, for as he proceeded to the front, calling loudly as
usual for reŽnforcements, he advised the evacuation of Harper's
Ferry, garrisoned by some 12,000 men who were exposed to capture by
Lee's advance on Frederick City. But Halleck rejected this advice
and on September 15, 1862, "Stonewall" Jackson, with about 20,000
men, swooped down upon the defenseless post and gobbled up almost
the entire garrison with all its guns and stores. To accomplish
this, however, he was forced to separate himself from Lee, and while
McClellan, with over 87,000 men, was protesting that his opponent
had 120,000 and that it was impossible to win against such odds,
Lee's strength had been reduced to about 35,000 and his safety
absolutely depended upon his adversary's fears. It was hardly to
be hoped, however, that McClellan's imagination would cause him to
see three men for every one opposed to him, but such was the fact,
and even when one of Lee's confidential orders fell into his hands,
revealing the fact that Jackson's whole force was absent, he still
thought himself outnumbered.

The discovery of this order was a serious blow to Lee, for it not
only exposed his immediate weakness, but actually disclosed his entire
plan. How it was lost has never been explained, for its importance
was so fully realized that one of the officers who received a copy
pinned it in the inside pocket of his coat, another memorized his
copy and then chewed it up and others took similar precautions to
protect its secret.

Some officer, however, must have been careless, for when the Union
troops halted at Frederick City, through which the Confederates
had just passed, a private in an Indiana regiment found it lying on
the ground wrapped around some cigars and, recognizing its value,
carried it straight to his superiors who promptly bore it to

Had Lee remained ignorant of this discovery it is possible that
McClellan might have effected the capture of his army. But a
civilian, favoring the South who happened to be present when the
paper reached Headquarters, slipped through the Union lines and
put the Confederate commander on his guard.

Lee had already noted that McClellan was moving toward him at unusual
speed for so cautious an officer and, this was readily explained by
the news that his plans were known and Jackson's absence discovered.
He accordingly posted his troops so that he could form a junction
with the rest of the army at the earliest possible moment and halted
in the vicinity of Sharpsburg near Antietam Creek.

Chapter XVIII

The Battle of Antietam or Sharpsburg

Had McClellan not absurdly overestimated the number of troops opposed
to him when his army neared Sharpsburg on the 15th of September,
1862, he might have defeated Lee and possibly destroyed or captured
his entire force. Never before had a Union commander had such an
opportunity to deliver a crushing blow. He had more than 80,000
men under his control--fully twice as many as his adversary; he
had the Confederate plan of campaign in his hands and such fighting
as had occurred with the exception of that at Harper's Ferry had
been decidedly in his favor. Moreover, Lee had recently met with
a serious accident, his horse having knocked him down and trampled
on him, breaking the bones of one hand, and otherwise injuring him
so severely that he had been obliged to superintend most of the
posting of his army from an ambulance. By a curious coincidence,
too, "Stonewall" Jackson had been hurt in a similar manner a few
days previously, so that if the battle had begun promptly, it is
highly probable that he, too, would have been physically handicapped,
and it is certain that his troops could not have reached the field
in time to be of any assistance.

To Lee's immense relief, however, McClellan made no serious attack
on either the 15th or 16th of September, but spent those two days
in putting his finishing touches on his preparations, and before
he completed them that Opportunity "which knocks but once at each
man's gate" had passed him by, never to return.

The battle of Antietam or Sharpsburg began at dawn of the 17th, but
by that time Jackson had arrived and both he and Lee had so far
recovered from their injuries that they were able to be in the saddle
and personally direct the movements of their men. The Confederate
position had been skillfully selected for defense on the hills
back of Antietam Creek and McClellan's plan was to break through
his opponent's line, gain his rear and cut him off from retreat.
But Lee, who had closely watched the elaborate massing of the Union
forces for this attempt, was fully prepared for it and the first
assault against his line was repulsed with fearful slaughter. No
subtle strategy or brilliant tactics of any kind marked McClellan's
conduct of the battle. Time and again he hurled his heavy battalions
against his opponent's left, center and right in a desperate effort
to pierce the wall of gray, and once or twice his heroic veterans
almost succeeded in battering their way through. But at every
crisis Lee rose to the emergency and moved his regiments as a
skillful chess player manipulates his pieces on the board, now massing
his troops at the danger point and now diverting his adversary's
attack by a swift counter-stroke delivered by men unacquainted
with defeat. Both his hands were heavily swathed in bandages and
far too painful to admit of his even touching the bridle rein, but
he had had himself lifted into the saddle and for fully fourteen
hours he remained mounted on "Traveller," his famous war horse,
watching every movement with the inspiring calmness of a commander
born to rule the storm.

The situation was perilous and no one realized its dangers more
keenly than he, but not a trace of anxiety appeared upon his face.
Only twice was he betrayed into an expression of his feelings, once
when he asked General Hood where the splendid division was which
he had commanded in the morning and received the reply: "They are
lying in the field where you sent them," and again when he directed
the Rockbridge battery to go into action for a second time after
three of its four guns had been disabled. The captain of this
battery had halted to make a report of its condition and receive
instructions, and Lee, gazing at the group of begrimed and tattered
privates behind the officer, ordered them to renew their desperate
work before he recognized that among them stood his youngest son,

Very few men in the Confederate commander's position would have
suffered a son to serve in the ranks. A word from him would, of
course, have made the boy an officer. But that was not Lee's way.
To advance an inexperienced lad over the heads of older men was,
to his mind, unjust and he would not do it even for his own flesh
and blood. Nor had his son himself expected it, for he had eagerly
accepted his father's permission to enter the ranks and had cheerfully
performed his full duty, never presuming on his relationship to
the Commander-in-Chief or asking favors of any kind. All this was
known to Lee but this unexpected meeting at a moment when privates
were being mowed down like grass was a terrible shock and strain.
Nevertheless, it was characteristic of the man that no change was
made in the orders of the Rockbridge battery, which continued on its
way to the post of danger and, with young Lee, gallantly performed
the work he had called on it to do.

By night the Confederates still held the field, but the struggle
had cost them nearly 11,000 men, reducing their force to less than
45,000, while McClellan, despite even heavier losses, had more than
74,000 left. Lee, accordingly, withdrew his army under cover of
darkness to another part of the field and again awaited attack. But
McClellan neither attacked nor attempted anything like a pursuit
until his opponent was safely out of reach, being well satisfied
with having checked the advance of his formidable foe and spoiled
his plans. This he was certainly entitled to claim, for Lee's
campaign against Maryland and Pennsylvania was effectually balked
by his enforced retreat.

Indeed, it is quite possible that had McClellan been adventurous he
might have ended the war at Antietam, for the day after the battle
he outnumbered his opponents at least two to one and possessed
enormous advantage in the way of equipment and supplies. But the
Union commander, though he possessed a genius for army organization
and knew the art of inspiring confidence in his men, was no match
for Lee in the field, and he probably realized this. At all events,
he displayed no anxiety to renew hostilities and when urged, and at
last positively ordered to advance, he argued, protested, offered
excuses for delay and in fact did everything but obey.

Weeks thus slipped by and finally Lee himself became impatient to
know what his adversary was doing. He, accordingly, again summoned
Stuart and ordered him to repeat the experiment of riding around
the opposing army. News of this second, almost derisive defiance
of McClellan soon reached the North, for Stuart, swiftly circling
his right flank, suddenly appeared with 1,800 men at Chambersburg,
Pennsylvania, terrorizing the country and destroying vast quantities
of stores. Stern and indignant orders from Washington warned
the Union Commander that this time he must not permit the daring
troopers to escape. But only a few scouts were captured, and once
more Stuart sped safely back to his chief with full information as
to the strength and position of the Federal lines.

Even this did not arouse McClellan, and two more weeks of inaction
passed before he again set his vast army in motion. But by this
time, the demand for his dismissal had become clamorous and, on
November 5, 1862, President Lincoln reluctantly removed him from

Chapter XIX

Lee against Burnside and Hooker

Lincoln had good reason for hesitating to change commanders,
for, unsatisfactory as McClellan had proved, the President was by
no means sure that any of his other generals would do better. In
fact, with all his defects, there was much to be said in McClellan's
favor. As an organizer of troops or chief of staff he had displayed
talents of the highest possible order, transforming the armed mob
which had flocked to the defense of the Union at the opening of
the war into a well-drilled and disciplined army. That he had not
accomplished much with this great engine of war after it had been
constructed, had not been wholly his fault, for he had never been
entirely free from interference at the hands of incompetent superiors,
and he had had the misfortune to be pitted against a past master of
the art of war. Moreover, he had been called to the chief command
at a moment of panic and peril and, if he had not succeeded
in defeating Lee, he had, at Antietam, given the North the only
semblance of victory which it could claim in all its campaigning
in the South. But that one taste of triumph had whetted the public
appetite for more. Despite McClellan's continuous talk about the
overpowering numbers of his foes, the supporters of the Union knew
that they outmatched the Confederacy in men, arms, ships, money,
and resources of every kind. They accordingly insisted that the
immense army which had lain idle in its camps for almost two months
after the drawn battle at Antietam should be set to work.

In response to this popular demand, General Ambrose Burnside was
appointed to take McClellan's place, and a more utterly unfitted
man for prosecuting a successful campaign against Lee could scarcely
have been selected. He himself fully realized this. Indeed, he
had already twice refused the chief command on the ground that he
did not feel competent to conduct a great campaign. But the public,
which had become disgusted with boasters, admired his modesty,
and his preparations for carrying the war again into Virginia were
followed with high hopes for his success. The officers of the army,
however, did not share the popular confidence in their new chief
and some of those highest in authority gave him only a half-hearted

But nothing could have saved Burnside's extraordinary campaign. Had
he been assigned to lead a forlorn hope, regardless of consequences,
his plan, if it can be called a plan, might have been justified,
but under the existing circumstances it was reckless to the point
of madness. His first moves, however, were characterized by an
excess of caution and so slowly did he advance that before he was
fairly started for the South, Lee blocked the road, concentrating
his whole army on the hills behind the City of Fredericksburg in
a position practically defying attack.

To attempt a direct assault against this fortress-like post was
suicidal, but apparently no thought of maneuvering crossed Burnside's
mind. His one idea was to brush aside the foe. But before he could
even reach him his army had to cross the Rappahannock, a formidable
river, and march over an open plain, absolutely at the mercy of its
intrenched opponents, who could, as one of their artillery officers
expressed it, "comb the ground" with their cannon. Nevertheless,
into this death trap the Union troops were plunged on the 13th of
December, 1862, and they advanced to destruction with a dash and
courage that won the admiration of friends and foes alike. The
result was, of course, inevitable. No human beings could withstand
the storm of shot and shell which burst upon them, and though some
of the devoted columns actually reached the foot of the Confederate
breastworks, they could do no more, and over 12,000 men fell victims
to the disastrous attack.

For once, Lee was at an utter loss to comprehend his adversary's
plan. He could not believe that this wanton butchery of men was
all there was to the contest. To his mind such an awful sacrifice
of human life would never have been made unless for the purpose of
paving the way for another enterprise absolutely certain of success.
But nothing more was attempted and the battle of Fredericksburg,
reflecting the conception of a disordered brain rather than the
trained intelligence of a graduate of West Point, was added to the
already long list of blunders which prolonged the war.

Burnside brought severe charges against several of his generals for
their failure to support his sorry tactics, and even went so far
as to demand their dismissal from the army. There was undoubtedly
some ground for his complaints, but such obviously incompetent
leadership was enough to demoralize any army, and not long after
his crippled battalions retreated behind the Rappahannock he was
relieved of his command, which was given to General Joseph Hooker,
one of the officers he most seriously accused.

Hooker was familiarly known to the country as "Fighting Joe,"
a name he had well earned on many a hard-fought field. He, like
his predecessors, was a graduate of West Point and his record, in
many respects worthy of the best traditions of that famous school,
inspired the army with the belief that it had, at last, found a
leader who would pilot it to victory.

Certainly, the new commander was not troubled with Burnside's
self-distrust. His confidence in himself and in his plans was
unbounded, and there was no little justification for his hopes,
for his campaign was well thought out and he had a force of over
130,000 men under his orders--fully 70,000 more than his adversary
could bring into the field.

Lee still lay intrenched on the hills behind Fredericksburg, and
there Hooker ordered General Sedgwick to hold him with part of the
army while he himself, with another and more powerful part, crossed
the Rappahannock River by a ford twenty-seven miles above. By this
move he hoped to get behind Lee and then crush him, as nut-crackers
would crush a nut, by closing in on him with a front and rear

This was not a strikingly original plan. It was in fact merely
a flanking movement on a huge scale, but compared to Burnside's
performance it was highly scientific and the vast superiority of
the Union forces almost insured its success. Hooker was certainly
convinced that he had at last solved the great problem of the war
and that Lee was practically in his power. Indeed, as his flanking
army forded the river, he issued an address of congratulation
in which he informed his troops that they had the Confederates in
a position from which they must either "ingloriously fly" or come
out in the open where certain defeat awaited them. But "Fighting
Joe" was soon to learn the folly of crowing until one is out of the
woods, for as he emerged from the forests sheltering the fords,
he discovered that Lee's army had not remained tamely in its
intrenchments, but had quietly slipped away and planted itself
squarely across his path.

For a moment the Union commander was fairly astounded. He had
prophesied that his adversary would fly from Fredericksburg, but he
had not expected him to move so soon or in this direction. Indeed,
his well-matured plans were based on the supposition that Lee would
remain where he wanted him to be until he was ready to spring his
trap, quite forgetting that though it is easy to catch birds after
you have put salt on their tails, it is rather difficult to make
them wait while you salt them. As a matter of fact, Lee had taken
alarm the moment his cavalry scouts reported his opponent's movement
towards the fords and, realizing that he would be caught if he
remained where he was, he had rapidly departed from Fredericksburg,
leaving only enough force to occupy Sedgwick's attention. Even
then he was in a precarious position, for Hooker's flanking army
alone outnumbered him and the force threatening Fredericksburg
would certainly start in pursuit of him as soon as it discovered
that the bulk of his army had withdrawn from that city. All this
was equally clear to Hooker after his first gasp of astonishment,
and as he hurriedly ordered Sedgwick to attack Fredericksburg with
part of his forces and to send the rest as reŽnforcement against
Lee, he confidently believed that his foe had delivered himself
into his hands.

But Lee, though cornered, was not yet caught. He had to think and
act quickly but though he had only 45,000 men and Hooker had 70,000
on the spot, his idea was not to escape but to attack. A close
examination of the opposing lines in front and at the Federal left
disclosed no weakness, but the right beyond Chancellorsville looked
more hopeful. Then a brilliant idea suddenly occurred to his mind.
The Union commander was evidently awaiting or meditating a direct
attack and had no fear except that his prey might escape him. Might
it not be possible to keep him busily occupied in front, while a
force stole behind his right wing and caught it between two fires?

This was precisely what Hooker had been endeavoring to do to him,
but Lee was well aware that what was safe for a large army might
be ruinous for a small one and that his proposed maneuver would
require him to divide his small army into two smaller parts, both
of which would be annihilated if the move was discovered. But
capture or destruction stared him in the face any way, so, learning
from a certain Colonel Welford that a road used by him in former
years for transporting materials to a local furnace could be utilized
to swing a considerable force behind Hooker's right, he determined
to take the desperate chance.

The necessary orders were accordingly issued during the night of
May 1, 1863, and by daylight the next morning Jackson started off
on the back trail with about 30,000 men, leaving Lee with only
15,000 to face Hooker's overwhelming array. The success of the
whole enterprise depended upon the secrecy and speed with which it
was conducted, but Jackson had already proved his ability in such
work and his men set off at a brisk pace well screened by vigilant
cavalry. It was not possible, however, wholly to conceal the
march, and not long after it began several quite definite reports
of its progress reached Hooker. But though he duly warned his
Corps Commanders to be on their guard against a flank movement,
he himself evidently interpreted it as the beginning of a retreat.
Indeed, by four o'clock in the afternoon of May 2nd he became
convinced that his victims were striving to escape, for he advised
Sedgwick, "We know that the enemy is fleeing, trying to save his
trains." But even as he dispatched this message Jackson was behind
at the Union right and his men were forming in line of battle under
cover of a heavy curtain of woods.

Meanwhile, some of the division commanders at the threatened
position had become disquieted by the reports that a large body
of Confederates was marching somewhere, though just where no one
seemed to know. Two of them accordingly faced their men toward
the rear in readiness for an attack from that direction. But the
assurances which reached them from headquarters that the enemy
was in full flight discouraged precautions of this kind, and when
Jackson crept up a neighboring hill to examine the Union position,
he found most of the troops had their backs turned to the point of
danger. In fact, the camp, as a whole presented a most inviting
spectacle, for the soldiers were scattered about it, playing
cards or preparing their evening meal, with their arms stacked in
the rear, little dreaming that one of their most dreaded foes was
watching them from a hilltop, behind which crouched thousands of his
men. Every detail of the scene was impressed on Jackson's memory
when he quietly slipped back into the woods, and for the next two
hours he busied himself posting his troops to the best advantage.

It was six o'clock when the order to attack was given and most of
the Union soldiers were still at their suppers when deer, foxes,
rabbits and other animals, alarmed by a mass of men advancing through
the forest, began to tear through the camp as though fleeing from
a prairie fire. But before the startled soldiers could ask an
explanation of this strange stampede, the answer came in the form
of a scattering musketry fire and the fearsome yells of 26,000
charging men.

The panic that followed beggars description. Regiments huddled
against regiments in helpless confusion; artillery, infantry
and cavalry became wedged in narrow roads and remained hopelessly
jammed; officers and men fought with one another; generals were
swept aside or carried forward on the human waves, hoarsely bellowing
orders which no one heeded, while into the welter the Confederates
poured a deadly fire and rounded up masses of bewildered prisoners.
It was well-nigh dusk before even the semblance of a line of defense
could be formed to cover the disorganized masses of men, but the
gathering darkness increased the terror of the hapless fugitives,
who, stumbling and crashing their way to safety, carried confusion
in their wake.

Meanwhile Lee, advised of what was happening at the Union right,
vigorously attacked Hooker's left, and a fierce conflict at that
point added to the general turmoil until the contending forces
could no longer distinguish each other, save by the flashing of
their guns. The fighting then ceased all along the line and both
sides busied themselves with preparations for renewing the struggle
at the earliest possible moment. Jackson, accompanied by some of
his staff, instantly began a reconnoissance of the Union position.
He had just completed this and was returning to his lines when some
of his own pickets, mistaking his party for Union cavalry, fired on
them killing a captain and a sergeant. The Confederate commander
immediately turned his horse and sought safety at another point,
but he had not progressed far before he drew the fire of another
picket squad and fell desperately wounded.

General A. P. Hill then assumed command, but fighting had scarcely
been resumed the next morning before he was wounded and Jeb Stuart
took his place. Meanwhile, Hooker had been injured and the next
day Lee fiercely assailed Sedgwick. For the best part of two days
the battle raged with varying success. But, little by little, the
Confederates edged their opponents toward the Rappahannock, and by
the night of May 5th, 1863, Hooker withdrew his exhausted forces
across the river.

The battle of Chancellorsville cost Lee over 12,000 men; but with
a force which never exceeded 60,000, he had not only extricated
himself from a perilous position, but had inflicted a crushing
blow on an army of 130,000, an achievement which has passed into
history as one of the most brilliant feats of modern warfare.

Chapter XX

In the Hour of Triumph

Great as Lee's reputation had been before the battle of Chancellorsville,
it was immensely increased by that unexpected triumph. But no trace
of vanity or self-gratulation of any kind marked his reception of
the chorus of praise that greeted him. On the contrary, he modestly
disclaimed the honors from the very first and insisted that to
Jackson belonged the credit of the day. "Could I have directed
events," he wrote the wounded General, "I should have chosen to have
been disabled in your stead. I congratulate you on the victory
which is due to your skill and energy." Indeed, when the news
first reached him that Jackson's left arm had been amputated, he
sent him a cheery message, saying, "You are better off than I am,
for while you have only lost your LEFT, I have lost my RIGHT arm."
And when, at last, he learned that "Stonewall" had passed away,
he no longer thought of the victory but only of his dead comrade
and friend. "Any victory would be dear at such a price," was his
sorrowful comment on the day.

Jackson was indeed Lee's "right arm" and his place among the great
captains of the world is well indicated by the fact that a study
of his campaign is to-day part of the education of all English
and American officers. Nevertheless, it was unquestionably Lee's
genius that enabled his great Lieutenant to accomplish what he did,
and this Jackson himself fully realized. "Better that ten Jacksons
should fall than one Lee," was his response to his commander's
generous words.

But though Lee had won an international reputation, anyone seeing
him in the field among his soldiers might well have imagined that
he was wholly unaware that the world was ringing with his fame. He
steadily declined all offers to provide comfortable quarters for
his accommodation, preferring to live in a simple tent and share
with his men the discomforts of the field. Indeed, his thoughts
were constantly of others, never of himself, and when gifts of fruit
and other dainties for his table were tendered him, he thanked the
givers but suggested that they were needed for the sick and wounded
in the hospitals, where they would be gratefully received.

"...I should certainly have endeavored to throw the enemy north
of the Potomac," he wrote his wife, "but thousands of our men were
barefooted, thousands with fragments of shoes, and all without
overcoats, blankets or warm clothing. I could not bear to expose
them to certain suffering.... I am glad you have some socks for
the army. Send them to me.... Tell the girls to send all they
can. I wish they could make some shoes, too."

Even the hardships of the dumb animals moved him to a ready sympathy,
and he was constantly planning to spare them in every possible way.

"Our horses and mules suffer most," he wrote one of his daughters.
"They have to bear the cold and rain, tug through the mud and suffer
all the time with hunger."

And again on another occasion he wrote his wife:

"This morning the whole country is covered with a mantle of snow,
fully a foot deep.... Our poor horses were enveloped. We have dug
them out...but it will be terrible.... I fear our short rations
for man and horse will have to be curtailed."

The whole army realized the great-hearted nature of its Chief,
and its confidence in his thought and care is well illustrated by
a letter which a private addressed to him, asking him if he knew
upon what short rations the men were living. If he did, the writer
stated, their privations were doubtless necessary and everyone
would cheerfully accept them, knowing that he had the comfort of
his men continually in mind.

War had no illusions for this simple, God-fearing man. He regarded
it as a terrible punishment for the shortcomings of mankind. For
him it had no glory.

"The country here looks very green and pretty, notwithstanding the
ravages of war," he wrote his wife. "What a beautiful world God,
in His loving kindness to His creatures, has given us! What a
shame that men endowed with reason and knowledge of right should
mar His gifts."

The awful responsibility of his public duty was almost more than
any man could bear, but he had also to endure personal anxiety and
sorrow of the keenest kind. During his absence in the field one
of his daughters died, his wife was in failing health and his three
sons were in the army daily exposed to injury and death. Fitzhugh
and Custis had been made generals, and Robert had been promoted to
a lieutenancy and assigned to his elder brother's staff. Up to
the battle of Chancellorsville they had escaped unharmed, but while
the contending armies lay watching each other on either side of the
Rappahannock, Fitzhugh was severely wounded in a cavalry engagement
and Lee's first thought was to comfort and reassure the young man's

"I am so grieved," ...he wrote her, "to send Fitzhugh to
you wounded.... With his youth and strength to aid him, and your
tender care to nurse him, I trust he will soon be well again. I
know that you will unite with me in thanks to Almighty God, who
has so often sheltered him in the hour of danger."

Then came the news that the young General had been captured by
Federal troops who surrounded the house to which he had been removed,
and again Lee sought, in the midst of all his cares, to cheer his
daughter-in-law who was herself becoming ill.

"I can see no harm that can result from Fitzhugh's capture except
his detention.... He will be in the hands of old army officers
and surgeons, most of whom are men of principle and humanity. His
wound, I understand, has not been injured by his removal, but is
doing well. Nothing would do him more harm than for him to learn
that you were sick and sad. How could he get well? So cheer up
and prove your fortitude.... You may think of Fitzhugh and love
him as much as you please, but do not grieve over him or grow sad."

But the young wife grew steadily worse and, when her life was
despaired of, Custis Lee offered to take his brother's place in
prison, if the authorities would allow him to visit his dying wife.
But, when this was refused and news of her death reached Lee, he
refrained from all bitterness.

"...I grieve," he wrote his wife, "...as a father only can grieve
for a daughter, and my sorrow is heightened by the thought of the
anguish her death will cause our dear son, and the poignancy it
will give to the bars of his prison. May God in His mercy enable
him to bear the blow...."

It was in the midst of such severe afflictions that Lee conducted
some of the most important moves of his campaign, and while family
anxieties were beginning to crowd on him, the condition of his army
and the political situation were already demanding another invasion
of the North. As far as spirit and discipline were concerned, his
troops were never more ready for active service and their numbers
had been so considerably increased during the weeks that followed
the battle of Chancellorsville that by the 1st of June, 1863, he
could count on almost 70,000 fairly well-armed men, supported by
over two hundred cannon.

But the question of supplying food for this great array was every
day becoming more urgent, and the remark of the Commissary-General
that his Chief would soon have to seek his provisions in Pennsylvania
was significant of the situation. Lee thoroughly realized that the
strength of the Confederacy was waning and that unless some great
success in the field should soon force the Union to make terms,
the end of the struggle was in sight. Great victories had already
been won, but always on Southern soil, and the news that Grant was
closing in on Vicksburg demanded that a supreme effort be made to
offset that impending disaster in the West.

If the Southern army could force its way into the North and there
repeat its triumphs, England and France would probably recognize the
Confederacy and the half-hearted supporters of the Union, already
murmuring against the war, would clamor for peace. With this idea
Lee devoted the month following the battle of Chancellorsville
to recruiting his strength and watching for some move on Hooker's
part. But Hooker remained quietly within his lines, so on June
3, 1863, his opponent, concealing his purpose, moved rapidly and
secretly toward Pennsylvania.

Chapter XXI

Grant at Vicksburg

While Lee had been disposing of McClellan, Pope and Burnside, Grant
had remained in comparative idleness near Corinth, Mississippi.
He had, it is true, been assigned to high command in the West when
Halleck was ordered to Washington, but the battle of Shiloh had
prejudiced the authorities against him and his troops were gradually
transferred to other commanders, leaving him with an army barely
sufficient to guard the territory it already held. This treatment
seriously depressed him and with plenty of time to brood over his
troubles, he was in some danger of lapsing into the bad habits
which had once had such a fatal hold upon him. But at this crisis
his wife was by his side to steady and encourage him, and the
Confederates soon diverted his thoughts from his own grievances by
giving him plenty of work to keep them at arm's length. Meanwhile,
however, something much more disturbing occurred, for he suddenly
discovered that preparations were being made to place his long-cherished
campaign for the opening of the Mississippi River in the hands of
McClernand, the political General whose conduct at Fort Donelson
had demonstrated his ignorance of military affairs.

That aroused Grant to action and hastily summoning Admiral Porter
and General Sherman to his aid, he started towards Vicksburg,
Mississippi, on November 2, 1862, determined to be the first in the
field and thus head off any attempt to displace him from the command.

McClernand's project was accordingly nipped in the bud, for, of
course, he could not be authorized to conduct a campaign already
undertaken by a superior officer, and the troops which had been
intended for him were immediately forwarded to Grant. Doubtless,
the President was not displeased at this turn of affairs, for
although McClernand was a highly important person in the political
world and had rendered valuable services in raising troops, his
defects as a general were widely recognized, and there had been grave
doubts as to the wisdom of permitting him to attempt so difficult
an undertaking as the capture of Vicksburg. Within a few months,
however, there were even graver doubts as to the wisdom of having
entrusted the enterprise to Grant, for by the end of March, 1863,
the general opinion was that no one could have made a worse mess of
it than he was making, and that it was hopeless to expect anything
as long as he was in authority.

As a matter of fact, the immense difficulty of capturing a city such
as Vicksburg had not been realized until the work was actually
undertaken. It was practically a fortress commanding the
Mississippi, and whoever held it ruled the river. The Confederate
leaders understood this very thoroughly and they had accordingly
fortified the place, which was admirably adapted for defense,
with great care and skill. In front of it flowed the Mississippi,
twisting and turning in such snake-like conditions that it could
be navigated only by boats of a certain length and build, and
on either side of the city stretched wide swamp lands and bayous
completely commanded by batteries well posted on the high ground
occupied by the town. All this was formidable enough in itself,
but shortly after Grant began his campaign, the river overflowed
its banks and the whole country for miles was under water which,
while not deep enough for steamers, was an absolute barrier to the
approach of an army.

Indeed, the capture of the city seemed hopeless from a military
standpoint, but Grant would not abandon the task. Finding traces
of an abandoned canal, he attempted to complete it in the hope of
changing the course of the river, or at least of diverting some of
the water from the overflowed land, but the effort was a stupendous
failure almost from the start. Then he ordered the levees of the
Mississippi protecting two great lakes to be cut, with the idea
of flooding the adjacent streams and providing a waterway for his
ships. This gigantic enterprise was actually put into operation,
the dams were removed, and gun-boats were forced on the swollen
watercourses far into the interior until some of them became hopelessly
tangled in the submerged forests and their crews, attacked by the
Confederate sharpshooters, were glad to make their escape. Week
after week and month after month this exhausting work continued,
but, at the end of it all, Vicksburg was no nearer capture than
before. Indeed, the only result of the campaign was the loss of
thousands of men who died of malaria, yellow fever, smallpox, and
all the diseases which swamp lands breed. For this, of course,
Grant was severely criticized and the denunciations at last became
so bitter that an order removing him from the command was entrusted
to an official who was directed to deliver it, if, on investigation,
the facts seemed to warrant it.

But the visiting official, after arriving at the front, soon learned
that the army had complete confidence in its commander and that it
would be a mistake to interfere with him. Indeed, by this time "the
silent General," who had neither answered the numerous complaints
against him nor paid the least attention to the storm of public
indignation raging beyond his camp, had abandoned his efforts to
reach Vicksburg from the front and was busily engaged in swinging
his army behind it by a long overland route in the face of appalling
difficulties, but with a grim resolution which forced all obstructions
from his path. Meanwhile, the gun-boats under Admiral Porter were
ordered to attempt to run the land batteries, and April 16, 1863,
was selected as the date for their perilous mission. Each vessel
had been carefully protected by cotton bales, and the crews stood
ready with great wads of cotton to stop leaks, while all lights
were extinguished except one in the stern of each ship to guide
the one that followed.

It was a black night when the Admiral started down the river in his
flagship, and for a while it was hoped that the fleet would slip
by the batteries under cover of darkness. The leading vessels did,
indeed, escape the lookouts of the first forts, but before long a
warning rocket shot into the sky and the river was instantly lit by
immense bonfires which had been prepared for just this emergency,
and by the glare of their flames the gunners poured shot and shell
at the black hulls as they sped swiftly by. Shot after shot found
its mark, but still the fleet continued on its course. Then,
after the bonfires died down, houses were set on fire to enable the
artillerists to see their targets, but before daylight the whole
fleet had run the gauntlet and lay almost uninjured below Vicksburg,
ready to coŲperate with Grant's advancing army.

By this time the Confederates must have realized that they were
facing defeat. Nevertheless, for fully a month they stubbornly
contested every foot of ground. But Grant, approaching the rear
by his long, roundabout marches, handled his veteran troops with
rare good judgment, moving swiftly and allowing his adversaries no
rest, so that by the 17th of May, 1863, General Pemberton, commanding
the defenses of Vicksburg, was forced to take refuge in the town.
Grant immediately swung his army into position, blocking every
avenue of escape and began a close siege. The prize for which he
had been struggling for more than half a year was now fairly within
his grasp, but there was still a chance that it might slip through
his fingers, for close on his heels came General Joseph Johnston
with a powerful army intent upon rescuing General Pemberton and
his gallant garrison.

If Johnston could come to Pemberton's relief or if Pemberton
could break through and unite with Johnston, they could together
save Vicksburg. But Grant had resolved that they should not join
forces, and to the problem confronting him he devoted himself body
and mind. Constantly in the saddle, watching every detail of the
work as the attacking army slowly dug its way toward the city and
personally posting the troops holding Johnston at bay, his quiet,
determined face and mud-splashed uniform became familiar sights
to the soldiers, and his appearance on the lines was invariably
greeted with inspiring cheers. By July, the trenches of the besieged
and the besiegers were so close together that the opposing pickets
could take to each other, and the gun-boats threw shells night and
day into the town. Still Pemberton would not surrender and many
of the inhabitants of Vicksburg were forced to leave their houses
and dig caves in the cliffs upon which the city was built to protect
themselves and their families from the iron hail.

It was only when food of every kind had been practically exhausted
and his garrison was threatened with starvation that Pemberton
yielded. On July 3, 1863, however, he realized that the end had
come and raised the white flag. Nearly twenty-four hours passed
before the terms of surrender were agreed upon, but Grant, who had
served in the same division with Pemberton in the Mexican War, was
not inclined to exact humiliating conditions upon his old acquaintance
whose men had made such a long and gallant fight. He, accordingly,
offered to free all the prisoners upon their signing a written promise
not to take arms again unless properly exchanged, and to allow all
the officers to retain their side arms and horses. These generous
terms were finally accepted, and on July 4, 1863, the Confederate
army, numbering about 30,000, marched out in the presence of their
opponents and stacked their arms, receiving the tribute of absolute
silence from the 75,000 men who watched them from the Union ranks.

Four months before this event, Halleck, the Commander-in-Chief,
had advised Grant and other officers of his rank that there was a
major generalship in the Regular Army for the man who should first
win a decisive victory in the field. The captor of Vicksburg had
certainly earned this promotion, for with its fall the Mississippi
River was controlled by the Union and, in the words of Lincoln,
"The Father of Waters again ran unvexed to the sea."

Chapter XXII

The Battle of Gettysburg

The news that Grant was slowly, but surely, tightening his grip
upon Vicksburg, and that nothing but an accident could prevent its
capture, was known to the whole country for fully a week before
the surrender occurred, but it neither encouraged the North nor
discouraged the South. To the minds of many people no victory in
the West could save the Union, for Lee was already in Pennsylvania,
sweeping northward toward Harrisburg and Philadelphia, and
even threatening New York. Hooker, in the field, and Halleck, in
Washington, were squabbling as to what should be done, and the Union
army was groping blindly after the invaders without any leadership
worthy of the name.

It was certainly a critical moment demanding absolute harmony
on the part of the Union leaders; but while the fate of the Union
trembled in the balance, Hooker and Halleck wrangled and contradicted
each other, apparently regardless of consequences, and the climax
of this disgraceful exhibition was a petulant telegram from Hooker
(June 27, 1863) resigning his command. Had "Fighting Joe" been
the greatest general in the world this resignation, in the presence
of the enemy, would have ruined his reputation, and the moment
President Lincoln accepted it Hooker was a discredited man.

To change commanders at such a crisis was a desperately perilous
move, but the President knew that the army had lost confidence in
its leader since the battle of Chancellorsville and the fact that
he could even think of resigning on the eve of a battle demonstrated
his utter unfitness for the task at hand. It was, therefore,
with something of relief that Lincoln ordered General Meade to
take immediate charge of all the troops in the field, and the new
commander assumed the responsibility in these words, "As a soldier
I obey the order placing me in command of this army and to the
utmost of my ability will execute it."

At the moment he dispatched this manly and modest response to the
unexpected call to duty, Meade knew little of Hooker's plans and
had only a vague idea of where his troops were posted. Under such
conditions success in the coming battle was almost impossible, but
he wasted no time in complaints or excuses, but instantly began
to move his forces northward to incept the line of Lee's advance.
Even up to this time, however, the exact position of the Confederate
army had not been ascertained, for Lee had concealed his infantry
behind his cavalry, which effectually prevented his adversaries
from getting near enough to discover the direction of his march.

Another "cavalry screen," however, covered the Union forces and
though Lee dispatched Stuart to break through and discover what
lay behind it, the daring officer for once failed to accomplish his
purpose and Lee had to proceed without the information he usually
possessed. This was highly advantageous to Meade, for his forces
were badly scattered and had Lee known that fact he might have
crushed the various parts of the army before they united, or at
least have prevented some of them from reaching the field in time.
He soon learned, of course, that Meade had taken Hooker's place,
but if he had not heard the news directly, he would have guessed
that some great change had occurred in the generalship of his
opponents, for within twenty-four hours of his appointment Meade
had his army well in hand, and two days later the rapid and skillful
concentration of his force was clear to Lee's experienced eyes.
By this time both armies had passed beyond their cavalry screens,
and on the 30th of June, 1863, the advance of the Confederate troops
neared the little town of Gettysburg.

But Lee was not yet ready to fight, for, although he was better
prepared than his adversary, he wanted to select the best possible
ground before joining battle. By a strange chance, however, it was
not Lee but his bare-footed followers who decided where the battle
should be fought, for as his advance-guard approached Gettysburg
one of the brigade commanders asked and received permission from
his superior to enter the town and procure shoes for his men. But
Gettysburg was found to be occupied by Union cavalry and the next
day (July 1st) a larger force was ordered forward to drive them
away and "get the shoes." Meanwhile, the Union cavalry had been
reŽnforced and, to offset this, more Confederates were ordered to
the support of their comrades. Once more Union reŽnforcements were
hurried to the front, and again the Confederates responded to the
challenge, until over 50,000 men were engaged in a savage conflict,
and before noon the battle of Gettysburg, one of the greatest
battles of history, had begun.

The men in gray, who thus unwittingly forced the fighting, were
veterans of many campaigns and they attacked with a fury that
carried all before them. The Union troops fought with courage,
but General Reynolds, their commander, one of the ablest officers
in the army, was soon shot through the head and instantly killed,
and from that moment the Confederates crowded them to the point of
panic. Indeed, two of Meade's most effective fighting corps were
practically annihilated and the shattered remnants of the defenders of
Gettysburg were hurled through the town in headlong flight toward
what was known as Cemetery Hill, where their new commander, General
Hancock, found them huddled in confusion.

Meade had displayed good judgment in selecting Hancock to take
Reynolds' place, for he was just the man to inspire confidence in
the disheartened soldiers and rise to the emergency that confronted
him. But, though he performed wonders in the way of restoring
order and encouraging his men to make a desperate resistance, it
is more than probable that the Confederates would have swept the
field and gained the important position of Cemetery Hill had they
followed up their victory. Fortunately for the Union cause, however,
the pursuit was not continued much beyond the limits of Gettysburg
and, as though well satisfied to have got the shoes they came for,
the victors contented themselves with the undisputed possession of
the town.

Neither Lee nor Meade took any part in this unexpected battle, but
Lee arrived during the afternoon while the Union troops were in
full flight for the hills and, seeing the opportunity of delivering
a crushing blow, advised Ewell, the commanding General, to pursue.
His suggestion, however, was disregarded, and being unwilling to
interfere with another officer in the midst of an engagement, he
did not give a positive order, with the result that Cemetery Hill
was left in possession of the Federal troops. Meanwhile Meade,
having learned of the situation, was hurrying to the scene of
action, where he arrived late at night, half dead with exhaustion
and on the verge of nervous collapse from the fearful responsibilities
which had been heaped upon him during the previous days. But
the spirit of the man rose superior to his physical weakness and,
keeping his head in the whirlwind of hurry and confusion, he issued
orders rushing every available man to the front, made a careful
examination of the ground and chose an admirable position for

To this inspiring example the whole army made a magnificent response,
and before the 2nd of July dawned the widely scattered troops began
pouring in and silently moving into position for the desperate work
confronting them. Meade had determined to await an attack from
Lee and he had accordingly selected Cemetery Ridge as the position
best adapted for defense. This line of hills not only provided
a natural breastwork, but at the left and a little in front lay
two hillocks knows as Round Top and Little Round Top, which, when
crowned by artillery, were perfect fortresses of strength. Strange
as it may seem, however, Round Top was not immediately occupied by
the Union troops and had it not been for the quick eye and prompt
action of General Warren, Little Round Top, the key to the entire
Union position, would have been similarly neglected.

Lee was reasonably assured, at the end of the first day's fighting,
that his adversary had not succeeded in getting all his troops
upon the field and, realizing what an advantage this gave him, he
determined to begin the battle at daylight, before the Union reŽnforcements
could arrive. But for once, at least, the great commander received
more objections than obedience from his subordinates, General
Longstreet, one of his most trusted lieutenants, being the principal
offender. Longstreet had, up to this moment, made a splendid
record in the campaigns and Lee had such confidence in his skill
that he seldom gave him a peremptory order, finding that a suggestion
carried all the weight of a command. But, on this occasion, Longstreet
did not agree with the Chief's plan of battle and he accordingly
took advantage of the discretion reposed in him to postpone making
an attack until he received a sharp and positive order to put his
force in action. By this time, the whole morning had passed and
every hour had brought more and more Union troops into the field,
so that by the afternoon Meade had over 90,000 men opposing Lee's
70,000 veterans.

There was nothing half-hearted about Longstreet once he was in
motion and the struggle for the possession of Little Round Top was
as desperate a conflict as was ever waged on any field. Again and
again the gray regiments hurled themselves into the very jaws of
death to gain the coveted vantage ground, and again and again the
blue lines, torn, battered and well-nigh crushed to earth, re-formed
and hurled back the assault. Dash and daring were met by courage
and firmness, and at nightfall, though the Confederates had gained
some ground, their opponents still held their original position.
Both sides had paid dearly, however, for whatever successes they
had gained, the Union army alone having lost at least 20,000 men
[Note from Brett: While this is possible, it is highly unlikely
as the total casualties for the three day battle from the Unionist
side were 23,053 according to official records. Current (circa
2000) estimates are that both sides lost about 9,000 soldiers on
this day.]. Indeed, the Confederate attack had been so formidable
that Meade called a council of war at night to determine whether
the army should remain where it was for another day or retreat to
a still stronger position. The council, however, voted unanimously
to "stay and fight it out," and the next morning (July 3rd) saw
the two armies facing each other in much the same positions as they
had occupied the day before, the Unionists crowding the heights
of Cemetery Ridge and the Confederates holding the hills known as
Seminary Ridge and clinging to the bases of Round Top and Little
Round Top, to which point the tide of valor had carried them.

A mile of valley and undulating slopes separated Cemetery Hill from
Seminary Ridge, and their crests were crowded with artillery when
the sun rose on July 3, 1863. But for a time the battle was confined
to the infantry, the Confederates continuing fierce assaults of the
previous evening. Then, suddenly, all their troops were withdrawn,
firing ceased and absolute silence ensued along their whole lines.
At an utter loss to understand this complete disappearance of
the foe, the Union commanders peered through their glasses at the
silent and apparently deserted heights of Seminary Ridge, growing
more and more nervous as time wore on. What was the explanation
of this ominous silence? Was it possible that Lee had retreated?
Was he trying to lure them out of their position and catch them in
some giant ambuscade? Was he engaged in a flanking movement such
as had crumpled them to pieces at Chancellorsville? Doubtless,
more than one soldier shot an apprehensive glance toward the rear
during the strange hush as he remembered the terrifying appearance
of Jackson on that fearful day.

But no Jackson stood at Lee's right hand, and suddenly two sharp
reports rang out from the opposing height. Then, in answer to this
signal, came the crash of a hundred and thirty cannon and instantly
eighty Union guns responded to the challenge with a roar which shook
the earth, while the air was filled with exploding shells and the
ground was literally ploughed with shot. For an hour and a half
this terrific duel continued; and then the Union chief of artillery,
seeing that his supply of ammunition was sinking, ordered the
guns to cease firing and the Confederates, believing that they had
completely demolished the opposing batteries, soon followed their
example. Another awful silence ensued and when the Union troops
peered cautiously from behind the stone walls and slopes which had
completely protected them from the wild storm of shot and shell,
they saw a sight which filled them with admiration and awe.

From the woods fringing the opposing heights 15,000 men [Note
from Brett: (circa 2000) just under 12,000 men] were sweeping in
perfect order with battle flags flying, bayonets glistening and
guidons fluttering as though on dress parade. Well to the front
rode a gallant officer with a cap perched jauntily over his right
ear and his long auburn hair hanging almost to his shoulders flying
in the wind. This was General Pickett, and he and the men behind
him had almost a mile of open ground to cross in the charge which
was to bring them immortal fame. For half the distance they moved
triumphantly forward, unscathed by the already thundering artillery,
and then the Union cannon which had apparently been silenced by
the Confederate fire began to pour death and destruction into their
ranks. Whole rows of men were mowed down by the awful cannonade,
but their comrades pressed forward undismayed, halting for a moment
under cover of a ravine to re-form their ranks and then springing
on again with a heroism unsurpassed in the history of war. A hail
of bullets from the Union trenches fairly staggered them, yet on
and on they charged. Once they actually halted in the face of the
blazing breastworks, deliberately fired a volley and came on again
with a rush, seized some of the still smoking guns that had sought
to annihilate them and, beating back the gunners in a hand-to-hand
conflict, actually planted their battle flags on the crest of
Cemetery Ridge. Then the whole Union army seemed to leap from the
ground and hurl itself upon them. They reeled, turned, broke into
fragments and fled, leaving 5,000 dead and wounded in their trail.

Such was Pickett's charge--a wave of human courage which recorded
"the high-water mark of the Rebellion."

Chapter XXIII

In the Face of Disaster

As the survivors of Pickett's heroic legion came streaming back
toward the Confederate lines Lee stood face to face with defeat
for the first time in his career. His long series of victories had
not spoiled him and the hour of triumph had always found him calm
and thankful, rather than elated and arrogant. But many a modest
and generous winner has proved himself a poor loser. It is the
moment of adversity that tries men's souls and revels the greatness
or smallness of character, and subjected to this test more than one
commander in the war had been found wanting. McClellan, staggering
from his campaign against Richmond, blamed almost everyone but
himself for the result; Pope, scurrying toward the fortifications
of Washington, was as ready with excuses as he had been with boasts;
Burnside, reeling from the slaughter-pen of Fredericksburg, had
demanded the dismissal of his principal officers, and Hooker hurled
accusations right and left in explaining the Chancellorsville

But Lee resorted neither to accusation nor excuse for the battle of
Gettysburg. With the tide of disaster sweeping relentlessly down
upon him, he hastened to assume entire responsibility for the
result. "It is all my fault," he exclaimed, as the exhausted and
shattered troops were seeking shelter from the iron hail, and then
as calmly and firmly as though no peril threatened, he strove to
rally the disorganized fugitives and present a bold front to the
foe. It was no easy task, even with a veteran army, to prevent a
panic and restore order and confidence in the midst of the uproar
and confusion of defeat, but the quiet dignity and perfect control
of their commander steadied the men, and at sight of him even the
wounded raised themselves from the ground and cheered.

"All this will come right in the end," he assured the wavering
troops, as he passed among them. "We'll talk it over afterwards,
but in the meantime all good men must rally."

Not a sign of excitement or alarm was to be detected in his face,
as he issued his orders and moved along the lines. "All this has
been my fault," he repeated soothingly to a discouraged officer.
"It is I that have lost this fight and you must help me out of
it the best way you can.... Don't whip your horse, Captain," he
quietly remarked, as he noted another officer belaboring his mount
for shying at an exploding shell.... "I've got just another foolish
horse myself, and whipping does no good."

Nothing escaped his watchful eyes, nothing irritated him, and
nothing provoked him to hasty words or actions. Completely master
of himself, he rose superior to the whirling storm about him and,
commanding order out of chaos, held his shattered army under such
perfect control that had Meade rushed forward in pursuit he might
have met with a decisive check.

But Meade did not attempt to leave his intrenchments and the
Confederate army slowly and defiantly moved toward the South. The
situation was perilous--desperately perilous for Lee. His troops
were in no condition to fight after battling for three days, their
ammunition was almost exhausted, their food supply was low and they
were retreating through a hostile country with a victorious army
behind them and a broad river in their path. But not a man in the
gray ranks detected even a shadow of anxiety on his commander's
face, and when the Potomac was reached and it was discovered that
the river was impassable owing to an unexpected flood, the army faced
about and awaited attack with sublime confidence in the powers of
its chief.

Meanwhile Meade, who had been cautiously following his adversary,
began to receive telegrams and dispatches urging him to throw
himself upon the Confederates before they could recross the Potomac
and thus end the war. But this, in the opinion of the Union
commander, was easier said than done, and he continued to advance
with the utmost deliberation while Lee, momentarily expecting
attack, ferried his sick and wounded across the river and prepared
for a desperate resistance. Absolute ruin now stared him in the
face, for no reŽnforcements of any kind could reach him and a severe
engagement would soon place him completely at his opponent's mercy.
Nevertheless, he presented a front so menacing and unafraid that
when Meade called his officers to a council of war all but two
voted against risking an attack.

In the meantime the river began to fall, and without the loss of
a moment Lee commenced building a bridge across which his troops
started to safety on the night of July 13th, ten days after the
battle. Even then the situation was perilous in the extreme, for
had Meade discovered the movement in time he could undoubtedly
have destroyed a large part of the retreating forces, but when he
appeared on the scene practically the whole army was on the other
side of the river and only a few stragglers fell into his hands.

Great as Lee's success had been he never appeared to better advantage
than during this masterly retreat, when, surrounded by difficulties
and confronted by overwhelming numbers, he held his army together
and led it to safety. Through the dust of defeat he loomed up
greater as a man and greater as a soldier than at any other moment
of his career.

Even the decisive victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg failed to
offset President Lincoln's bitter disappointment at Lee's miraculous
escape, and had it not been for his success on the field of battle,
Meade would undoubtedly have been removed from the chief command.
As it was, however, he retained his position and for months he lay
comparatively idle, watching his opponent who busied himself with
filling the broken ranks of his army for a renewal of the struggle.

Meanwhile, the Confederate newspapers began a bitter criticism of Lee,
charging that he had displayed bad judgment and worse generalship
in attempting to invade the North. A man of different caliber
would, doubtless, have answered these attacks by exposing some of
the officers whose conduct was largely responsible for the failure
of the campaign. Indeed, the facts would have justified him
in dismissing more than one of his subordinates from the army in
disgrace, and had he chosen to speak the word he might easily have
ruined the reputation of at least one distinguished general.

But no such selfish or vindictive thought ever crossed Lee's mind.
Keenly as he suffered from the abuse which was heaped upon him, he
endured it without a murmur and, when at last he felt obliged to
notice it, his reply took the form of a letter to the Confederate
President requesting his permission to resign.

"The general remedy for the want of success in a military commander
is his removal," he wrote a month after the battle of Gettysburg.
"I do not know how far the expressions of discontent in the public
journals extend in the army. My brother officers have been too
kind to report it and, so far, the troops have been too generous
to exhibit it. I, therefore, beg you to take measures to supply
my place, because if I cannot accomplish what I myself desire,
how can I fulfill the expectations of others? I must confess, too
that my eyesight is not good and that I am so dull that in making
use of the eyes of others I am frequently misled. Everything,
therefore, points to the advantages to be derived from a new
commander. A younger and abler man can readily be obtained--one
that would accomplish more than I can perform and all that I have

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