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Stonewall Jackson And The American Civil War by G. F. R. Henderson

Part 9 out of 19

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very great. In all armies, however constituted, there is a large
proportion of men whose hearts are not in the business.* (* General
Sheridan is said to have declared that 25 per cent of the Federal
soldiers lacked the military spirit.)

When hard marching and heavy fighting are in prospect the inclination
of such men is to make themselves scarce, and when discipline is
relaxed they will soon find the opportunity. But when their instincts
of obedience are strong, when the only home they know is with the
colours, when the credit of their regiment is at stake--and even the
most worthless have some feeling for their own corps--engrained habit
and familiar associations overcome their natural weakness. The
troop-horse bereft of his rider at once seeks his comrades, and
pushes his way, with empty saddle, into his place in the ranks. And
so the soldier by profession, faint-hearted as he may be, marches
shoulder to shoulder with his comrades, and acquires a fictitious,
but not unuseful, courage from his contact with braver men.

It is true that the want of good boots told heavily on the
Confederates. A pair already half-worn, such as many of the men
started with, was hardly calculated to last out a march of several
hundred miles over rocky tracks, and fresh supplies were seldom
forthcoming. There was a dearth both of shoe-leather and
shoe-factories in the South; and if Mr. Davis, before the blockade
was established, had indented on the shoemakers of Europe, he would
have added very largely to the efficiency of his armies. A few
cargoes of good boots would have been more useful than a shipload of
rifled guns.

Nevertheless, the absentees from the ranks were not all footsore. The
vice of straggling was by no means confined to Jackson's command. It
was the curse of both armies, Federal and Confederate. The Official
Records, as well as the memoirs of participants, teem with references
to it. It was an evil which the severest punishments seemed incapable
of checking. It was in vain that it was denounced in orders, that the
men were appealed to, warned, and threatened. Nor were the
faint-hearted alone at fault. The day after Jackson's victory at
M'Dowell, Johnston, falling back before McClellan, addressed General
Lee as follows:--

"Stragglers cover the country, and Richmond is no doubt filled with
the absent without leave...The men are full of spirit when near the
enemy, but at other times to avoid restraint leave their regiments in
crowds."* (* O.R. volume 11 part 3 page 503.) A letter from a
divisional general followed:--

"It is with deep mortification that I report that several thousand
soldiers and many individuals with commissions have fled to Richmond
under pretext of sickness. They have even thrown away their arms that
their flight might not be impeded. Cannot these miserable wretches be
arrested and returned to their regiments, where they can have their
heads shaved and be drummed out of the service?"* (* Ibid page 506.)

Jackson, then, had to contend with difficulties which a general in
command of regular troops would not have been called on to provide
against; and in other respects also he suffered from the constitution
of his army. The one thing lacking in the Valley campaign was a
decisive victory over a considerable detachment of the Federal army,
the annihilation of one of the converging forces, and large capture
of guns and prisoners. A victory as complete as Rivoli would have
completed its dramatic interest. But for this Jackson himself was
hardly to blame. The misconduct of the Confederate cavalry on May 24
and 25 permitted Banks to escape destruction; and the delay at the
temporary bridge near Port Republic, due, mainly, to the
disinclination of the troops to face the ford, and the want of
resolute obedience on the part of their commanders, saved Fremont
from the same fate. Had Shields' advanced brigades been driven back,
as Jackson designed, while the day was still young, the operations of
the Valley army would in all probability have been crowned by a
brilliant triumph over nearly equal forces. Fremont, already fearful
and irresolute, was hardly the man to withstand the vigour of
Jackson's onset; and that onset would assuredly have been made if
more careful arrangements had been made to secure the bridge. This
was not the only mistake committed by the staff. The needlessly long
march of the main body when approaching Front Royal on May 28 might
well have been obviated. But for this delay the troops might have
pushed on before nightfall to within easy reach of the Valley
turnpike, and Banks have been cut off from Winchester.

It is hardly necessary to say that, even with regular troops, the
same mistakes might have occurred. They are by no means without
parallel, and even those committed by the Federals have their exact
counterpart in European warfare. At the beginning of August, 1870,
the French army, like Banks' division on May 28, 1862, was in two
portions, divided by a range of mountains. The staff was aware that
the Germans were in superior strength, but their dispositions were
unknown. Like Banks, they neglected to reconnoitre; and when a weak
detachment beyond the mountains was suddenly overwhelmed, they still
refused to believe that attack was imminent. The crushing defeats of
Worth and Spicheren were the result.

The staff of a regular army is not always infallible. It would be
hard to match the extraordinary series of blunders made by the staffs
of the three armies--English, French, and Prussian--in the campaign
of Waterloo, and yet there was probably no senior officer present in
Belgium who had not seen several campaigns. But the art of war has
made vast strides since Waterloo, and even since 1870. Under Moltke's
system, which has been applied in a greater or less degree to nearly
all professional armies, the chance of mistakes has been much
reduced. The staff is no longer casually educated and selected
haphazard; the peace training of both officers and men is far more
thorough; and those essential details on which the most brilliant
conceptions, tactical and strategical, depend for success stand much
less chance of being overlooked than in 1815. It is by the standard
of a modern army, and not of those whose only school in peace was the
parade-ground, that the American armies must be judged.

That Jackson's tactical skill, and his quick eye for ground, had much
to do with his victories can hardly be questioned. At Kernstown and
Port Republic he seized the key of the position without a moment's
hesitation. At Winchester, when Ewell was checked upon the right,
three strong brigades, suddenly thrown forward on the opposite flank,
completely rolled up the Federal line. At Cross Keys the position
selected for Ewell proved too formidable for Fremont, despite his
superiority in guns. At Port Republic, Taylor's unexpected approach
through the tangled forest was at once decisive of the engagement.
The cavalry charge at Front Royal was admirably timed; and the manner
in which Ashby was employed throughout the campaign, not only to
screen the advance but to check pursuit, was a proof of the highest
tactical ability. Nor should the quick insight into the direction of
Shields' march on June 1, and the destruction of the bridges by which
he could communicate with Fremont, be omitted. It is true that the
operations in the Valley were not absolutely faultless. When Jackson
was bent on an effective blow his impatience to bring the enemy to
bay robbed him more than once of complete success. On the march to
M'Dowell Johnson's brigade, the advanced guard, had been permitted to
precede the main body by seven miles, and, consequently, when Milroy
attacked there was not sufficient force at hand for a decisive
counterstroke. Moreover, with an ill-trained staff a careful
supervision was most essential, and the waggon bridge at Port
Republic should have been inspected by a trustworthy staff officer
before Winder rushed across to fall on Tyler.

Errors of this nature, however instructive they may be to the student
of war, are but spots upon the sun; and in finding in his subordinate
such breadth of view and such vigour of execution, Lee was fortunate
indeed. Jackson was no less fortunate when Ashby came under his
command. That dashing captain of free-lances was undoubtedly a most
valuable colleague. It was something to have a cavalry leader who
could not only fight and reconnoitre, but who had sagacity enough to
divine the enemy's intentions. But the ideas that governed the
employment of the cavalry were Jackson's alone. He it was who placed
the squadrons across Fremont's road from Wardensville, who ordered
the demonstrations against Banks, before both M'Dowell and Front
Royal, and those which caused Fremont to retreat after Port Republic.
More admirable still was the quickness with which he recognised the
use that might be made of mounted riflemen. From the Potomac to Port
Republic his horsemen covered his retreat, dismounting behind every
stream and along the borders of every wood, checking the pursuers
with their fire, compelling them to deploy their infantry, and then
retreating rapidly to the next position. Day after day were the
Federal advanced guards held in check, their columns delayed, and the
generals irritated by their slippery foe. Meanwhile, the Confederate
infantry, falling back at their leisure, were relieved of all
annoyance. And if the cavalry was suddenly driven in, support was
invariably at hand, and a compact brigade of infantry, supported by
artillery, sent the pursuing horsemen to the right-about. The retreat
of the Valley army was managed with the same skill as its advance,
and the rear-guard tactics of the campaign are no less remarkable
than those of the attack.

To judge from the Valley campaign, Jackson handled his horsemen with
more skill than any other commander, Confederate or Federal. A
cavalry that could defend itself on foot as well as charge in the
saddle was practically a new arm, of far greater efficiency than
cavalry of the old type, and Jackson at once recognised, not only its
value; but the manner in which it could be most effectively employed.
He was not led away by the specious advantages, so eagerly urged by
young and ambitious soldiers, of the so-called raids. Even Lee
himself, cool-headed as he was, appears to have been fascinated by
the idea of throwing a great body of horsemen across his enemy's
communications, spreading terror amongst his supply trains, cutting
his telegraphs, and destroying his magazines. In hardly a single
instance did such expeditions inflict more than temporary discomfort
on the enemy; and the armies were led more than once into false
manoeuvres, for want of the information which only the cavalry could
supply. Lee at Malvern Hill and Gettysburg, Hooker at
Chancellorsville, Grant at Spotsylvania, owed defeat, in great
measure, to the absence of their mounted troops. In the Valley, on
the contrary, success was made possible because the cavalry was kept
to its legitimate duty--that is, to procure information, to screen
all movements, to take part in battle at the decisive moment, and to
carry out the pursuit.

With all his regard for Napoleon's maxims, Jackson was no slave to
rule. In war, circumstances vary to such an extent that a manoeuvre,
which at one time is manifestly unsound, may at another be the most
judicious. The so-called rules are never binding; they merely point
out the risks which are generally entailed by some particular course
of action. There is no principle on which Napoleon lays more stress
than that a general should never divide his force, either on the
field of battle or the theatre of war. But when he marched to
M'Dowell and left Ewell at Swift Run Gap, Jackson deliberately
divided his forces and left Banks between them, knowing that the
apparent risk, with an opponent like Banks, was no risk at all. At
the battle of Winchester, too, there was a gap of a mile between the
brigades on the left of the Kernstown road and Ewell on the right;
and owing to the intervening hills, one wing was invisible to the
other. Here again, like Moltke at Koniggratz, Jackson realised that
the principle might be disregarded not only with impunity but with
effect. He was not like Lord Galway, "a man who was in war what
Moliere's doctors were in medicine, who thought it much more
honourable to fail according to rule than to succeed by innovation."*
(* Macaulay.)

But the triumphs of the Valley campaign were not due alone to the
orders issued by Lee and Jackson. The Confederate troops displayed
extraordinary endurance. When the stragglers were eliminated their
stauncher comrades proved themselves true as steel. In every
engagement the regiments fought with stubborn courage. They sometimes
failed to break the enemy's line at the first rush; but, except at
Kernstown, the Federals never drove them from their position, and
Taylor's advance at Winchester, Trimble's counterstroke at Cross
Keys, the storming of the battery at Port Republic, and the charge of
the cavalry at Cedarville, were the deeds of brave and resolute men.

A retreat is the most exhausting of military movements. It is costly
in men, "more so," says Napoleon, "than two battles," and it shakes
the faith of the soldiers in their general and in themselves.
Jackson's army retreated for seven days before Fremont, dwindling in
numbers at every step, and yet it never fought better than when it
turned at bay. From first to last it believed itself superior to its
enemies; from first to last it was equal to the tasks which its
exacting commander imposed upon it, and its spirit was indomitable
throughout. "One male a week and three foights a day," according to
one of Jackson's Irishmen, was the rule in the campaigns of 1862. The
forced marches were not made in luxury. Not seldom only half-rations
were issued, and more often none at all. The weather, for many days
in succession, was abominable, and the forest bivouacs were
comfortless in the extreme. On May 25 twenty per cent of Trimble's
brigade went into action barefoot; and had it not been for the stores
captured in Winchester, the march to the Potomac, and the subsequent
unmolested retreat to Woodstock, would have been hardly possible.

If the troops were volunteers, weak in discipline and prone to
straggling, they none the less bore themselves with conspicuous
gallantry. Their native characteristics came prominently to the
front. Patient under hardships, vigorous in attack, and stubborn in
defence, they showed themselves worthy of their commander. Their
enthusiastic patriotism was not without effect on their bearing
before the enemy. Every private in the ranks believed that he was
fighting in the sacred cause of liberty, and the spirit which nerved
the resolution of the Confederate soldier was the same which inspired
the resistance of their revolutionary forefathers. His hatred of the
Yankee, as he contemptuously styled the Northerner, was even more
bitter than the wrath which Washington's soldiers felt towards
England; and it was intensified by the fact that his detested foeman
had not only dared to invade the South, but had proclaimed his
intention, in no uncertain tones, of dealing with the Sovereign
States exactly as he pleased.

But it was something more than native courage and enthusiastic
patriotism which inspired the barefooted heroes of Winchester. It
would be difficult to prove that in other parts of the theatre of war
the Confederate troops were inferior to those that held the Valley.
Yet they were certainly less successful, and in very many instances
they had failed to put forth the same resolute energy as the men who
followed Jackson.

But it is hardly possible to discuss the spirit of an army apart from
that of its commander. If, in strategy wholly, and in tactics in
great part, success emanates from a single brain, the morale of the
troops is not less dependent on the influence of one man. "Better an
army of stags," runs the old proverb, "led by a lion, than an army of
lions led by a stag."

Their leader's character had already made a sensible impression on
the Valley soldiers. Jackson was as untheatrical as Wellington. He
was hardly to be distinguished, even by his dress, from the private
in the ranks. Soon after his arrival at Richmond he called on Mrs.
Pendleton, the wife of the reverend captain of the Rockbridge
battery. The negro servant left him standing in the hall, thinking
that this quiet soldier, clad in a faded and sunburnt uniform, need
not be treated with further ceremony.* (* Memoirs of W.N. Pendleton,
D.D., Brigadier-General, C.S.A. page 201.) Headquarters in camp were
an ordinary bell-tent, or a room in the nearest cottage, and they
were often without guard or sentry. In bivouac the general rolled
himself in his blankets, and lay down under a tree or in a fence
corner. He could sleep anywhere, in the saddle, under fire, or in
church; and he could compel sleep to come to him when and where he
pleased. He cared as little for good quarters as a mountain hunter,
and he was as abstemious as a Red Indian on the war-path. He lived as
plainly as the men, and often shared their rations. The majority of
the cavalry were better mounted, and many of his officers were better
dressed. He was not given to addressing his troops, either in mass or
as individuals. His praises he reserved for his official reports, and
then he was generous. In camp he was as silent as the Sphinx, and he
never posed, except in action, as the commander of an army. Off duty
he was the gentlest and most unpretentious of men, and the most
approachable of generals. He was always scrupulously polite; and the
private soldier who asked him a question might be sure of a most
courteous reply. But there was no man with whom it was less safe to
take liberties; and where duty was concerned he became a different
being. The gentle tones grew curt and peremptory, and the absent
demeanour gave place to a most purposeful energy. His vigilance was
marvellous: his eye was everywhere; he let nothing pass without his
personal scrutiny. The unfortunate officer accused of indolence or
neglect found the shy and quiet professor transformed into the most
implacable of masters. No matter how high the rank of the offender,
the crime met with the punishment it deserved. The scouts compared
him with Lee. The latter was so genial that it was a pleasure to
report to him. Jackson cross-questioned them on every detail,
treating them as a lawyer does a hostile witness, and his keen blue
eyes seemed to search their very souls.

"Nor did the men escape when they misbehaved. Ashby's cavalry were
reprimanded in general orders for their indiscipline at Middletown,
and again at Port Republic; and if either officer or regiment
displeased the general, it was duly mentioned in his published
reports." (1 It is worth remark that Jackson's methods of punishment
showed his deep knowledge of his soldiers. The sentence on the men
who were tempted from their duty, during Banks' retreat, by the
plunder on the Winchester road was that they should not be allowed to
serve with the advanced guard until further orders. It was considered
terribly severe. O.R. volume 12 part 3 page 902.)

But the troops knew that their grave leader, so uncommunicative in
camp, and so unrelenting to misconduct, was constantly occupied with
their well-being. They knew that he spared them, when opportunity
offered, as he never spared himself. His camaraderie was expressed in
something more than words. The hospitals constructed in the Valley
excited the admiration even of the Federals, and Jackson's wounded
were his first care. Whatever it might cost the army, the ambulances
must be got safely away, and the sick and disabled soldiers
transferred to their own people. But, at the same time, the troops
had long since learned that, as administered by Jackson, the military
code was a stern reality. They had seen men shot for striking their
officers, and they knew that for insubordination or disobedience it
was idle to plead excuse. They had thought their general harsh, and
even cruel; but as their experience increased they recognised the
wisdom of his severity, and when they looked upon that kindly face,
grave and determined as it was, they realised how closely his
firmness was allied to tenderness. They had learned how highly he
esteemed them. Once, in his twelve months of command, he had spoken
from his heart. When, on the heights near Centreville, he bade
farewell to his old brigade, his pride in their achievements had
broken through the barriers of his reserve, and his ringing words had
not yet been forgotten. If he was swift to blame, his general orders
and official dispatches gave full credit to every gallant action, and
each man felt himself a hero because his general so regarded him.

They had learned, too, that Jackson's commendation was worth having.
They had seen him in action, the coolest of them all, riding along
the line of battle with as much composure as if the hail of bullets
was no more than summer rain. They had seen him far in advance of the
charging lines, cheering them to the pursuit; and they knew the
tremendous vigour of his flank attacks.

But it was not only confidence in the skill of their commander that
inspired the troops. It was impossible not to admire the man who,
after a sleepless night, a long march, and hard fighting, would say
to his officers, "We must push on--we must push on!" as unconcernedly
as if his muscles were of steel and hunger an unknown sensation. Such
fortitude was contagious. The men caught something of his resolution,
of his untiring energy, and his unhesitating audacity. The regiments
which drove Banks to the Potomac were very different from those that
crawled to Romney through the blinding sleet, or that fell back with
the loss of one-sixth their number from the Kernstown Ridge. It has
been related of Jackson that when he had once made up his mind, "he
seemed to discard all idea of defeat, and to regard the issue as
assured. A man less open to the conviction that he was beaten could
not be imagined." To this frame of mind he brought his soldiers.
Jackson's brigade at Bull Run, Jackson's division in the Valley,
Jackson's army corps later in the war, were all imbued with the
characteristics of their leader. The exertions that he demanded of
them seemed beyond the powers of mortal men, but with Jackson leading
them the troops felt themselves able to accomplish impossibilities.
"I never saw one of Jackson's couriers approach," said Ewell,
"without expecting an order to assault the North Pole!" But had the
order been given neither Ewell nor the Valley troops would have
questioned it.

With the senior officers of his little army Jackson's relations were
in some instances less cordial than with the men. His staff was
devoted to him, for they had learned to know him. At the beginning of
the Valley campaign some of them thought him mad; before it was over
they believed him to be a genius. He lived with his military family
on the most intimate terms, and his unfailing courtesy, his utter
absence of self-assertion, his sweet temper, and his tactful
consideration for others, no matter how humble their rank, were
irresistible. On duty, indeed, his staff officers fared badly.
Tireless himself, regardless of all personal comforts, he seemed to
think that others were fashioned in the same mould. After a weary
day's marching or fighting, it was no unusual thing for him to send
them for a ride of thirty or forty miles through the night. And he
gave the order with no more thought than if he were sending them with
a message to the next tent. But off duty he was simply a personal
friend, bent on making all things pleasant. "Never," says Dr. Hunter
McGuire, "can I forget his kindness and gentleness to me when I was
in great sorrow and trouble. He came to my tent and spent hours with
me, comforting me in his simple, kindly, Christian way, showing a
depth of friendship and affection which can never be forgotten. There
is no measuring the intensity with which the very soul of Jackson
burned in battle. Out of it he was very gentle. Indeed, as I look
back on the two years that I was daily, indeed hourly, with him, his
gentleness as a man, his tenderness to those in trouble or
affliction--the tenderness indeed of a woman--impress me more than
his wonderful prowess as a warrior."

It was with his generals and colonels that there was sometimes a lack
of sympathy. Many of these were older than himself. Ewell and Whiting
were his seniors in point of service, and there can be little doubt
that it was sometimes a little hard to receive peremptory orders from
a younger man. Jackson's secrecy was often irritating. Men who were
over-sensitive thought it implied a want of confidence. Those
overburdened with dignity objected to being treated like the private
soldiers; and those over-conscious of superior wisdom were injured
because their advice was not asked. Before the march to Richmond
there was much discontent. General Whiting, on reaching Staunton with
his division, rode at once to Port Republic to report. "The
distance," says General Imboden, "was twenty miles, and Whiting
returned after midnight. He was in a towering passion, and declared
that Jackson had treated him outrageously. I asked, 'How is that
possible, General?--he is very polite to everyone.'

"'Oh, hang him! he was polite enough. But he didn't say one word about
his plans. I finally asked him for orders, telling him what troops I
had. He simply told me to go back to Staunton, and he would send me
orders to-morrow. I haven't the slightest idea what they will be. I
believe he has no more sense than my horse.'"* (* Battles and Leaders
page 297.)

The orders, when they came, simply directed him to take his troops by
railway to Gordonsville, through which they had passed two days
before, and gave no reason whatever for the movement.

General Whiting was not the only Confederate officer who was
mystified. When the troops left the Valley not a single soul in the
army, save Jackson alone, knew the object of their march. He had even
gone out of his way to blind his most trusted subordinates.

"During the preceding afternoon," says Major Hotchkiss, "he sent for
me to his tent, and asked me to bring maps of the country from Port
Republic to Lexington (at the head of the Valley), as he wished to
examine them. I took the map to his tent, and for about half an hour
we talked concerning the roads and streams, and points of offence and
defence of that region, just as though he had in mind a march in that
direction. After this interval had passed he thanked me and said that
that would do. About half an hour later he sent for me again, and
remarked that there had been some fighting down about Richmond,
referring, of course, to the battle of Seven Pines, and that he would
like to see the map of the field of the operations. I brought the
maps of the district round Richmond, and we spent nearly twice as
much time over those, talking about the streams, the roads, the
condition of the country, and so forth. On retiring to my tent I said
to myself, "Old Jack" is going to Richmond."* (* Letter to the

Even the faithful Dabney was left in the dark till the troops had
reached Mechum's Station. There, calling him into a room in the
hotel, the general locked the door and explained the object of his
march. But it was under seal of secrecy; and Ewell, the second in
command, complained to the chief of the staff that Jackson had gone
off by train, leaving him without orders, or even a hint of what was
in the wind. In fact, a few days after the battle of Port Republic,
Ewell had sent some of his staff on leave of absence, telling them
that large reinforcements were coming up, and that the next move
would be "to beat up Banks' quarters about Strasburg."

When Jackson was informed of the irritation of his generals he merely
smiled, and said, "If I can deceive my own friends I can make certain
of deceiving the enemy." Nothing shook his faith in Frederick the
Great's maxim, which he was fond of quoting: "If I thought my coat
knew my plans, I would take it off and burn it." An anecdote told by
one of his brigadiers illustrates his reluctance to say more than
necessary. Previous to the march to Richmond this officer met Jackson
riding through Staunton. "Colonel," said the general, "have you
received the order?" "No, sir." "Want you to march." "When, sir?"
"Now." "Which way?" "Get in the cars--go with Lawton." "How must I
send my train and the battery?" "By the road." "Well, General, I hate
to ask questions, but it is impossible to send my waggons off without
knowing which road to send them." "Oh!"--laughing--"send them by the
road the others go."

At last, when they saw how constant fortune was to their reticent
leader, his subordinates ceased to complain; but unfortunately there
was another source of trouble. Jackson had no regard whatever for
persons. Reversing the usual procedure, he held that the choleric
word of the soldier was rank blasphemy in the captain; the higher the
rank of the offender the more severe, in his opinion, should be the
punishment. Not only did he hold that he who would rule others must
himself set the example of punctiliousness, but that to whom much is
given, from him much is to be expected. Honour and promotion fall to
the lot of the officer. His name is associated in dispatches with the
valorous deeds of he command, while the private soldier fights on
unnoticed in the crowd. To his colonels, therefore, Jackson was a
strict master, and stricter to his generals. If he had reason to
believe that his subordinates were indolent or disobedient, he
visited their shortcomings with a heavy hand. No excuse availed.
Arrest and report followed immediately on detection, and if the cure
was rude, the plague of incompetency was radically dealt with.
Spirited young soldiers, proud of their high rank, and in no way
underrating their own capacity, rebelled against such discipline; and
the knowledge that they were closely watched, that their omissions
would be visited on their heads with unfaltering severity, sometimes
created a barrier between them and their commander.

But it was only wilful disobedience or actual insubordination that
roused Jackson's wrath. "If he found in an officer," says Dabney, "a
hearty and zealous purpose to do all his duty, he was the most
tolerant and gracious of superiors, overlooking blunders and mistakes
with unbounded patience, and repairing them through his own
exertions, without even a sign of vexation." The delay at the bridge
on the morning of Port Republic, so fatal to his design of crushing
Fremont, caused no outburst of wrath. He received his
adjutant-general's report with equanimity, regarding the accident as
due to the will of Providence, and therefore to be accepted without
complaint.* (* Dabney, Southern Historical Society Papers volume 11
page 152.)

Whether the nobler side of Jackson's character had a share in
creating the confidence which his soldiers already placed in him must
be matter of conjecture. It was well known in the ranks that he was
superior to the frailties of human nature; that he was as thorough a
Christian as he was a soldier; that he feared the world as little as
he did the enemy.* (* His devout habits were no secret in the camp.
Jim, most faithful of servants, declared that he could always tell
when there was going to be a battle. "The general," he said, "is a
great man for prayin'. He pray night and morning--all times. But when
I see him git up several times in the night, an' go off an' pray, den
I know there is goin' to be somethin' to pay, an' I go right away and
pack his haversack!") In all things he was consistent; his sincerity
was as clear as the noonday sun, and his faith as firmly rooted as
the Massanuttons. Publicly and privately, in official dispatches and
in ordinary conversation, the success of his army was ascribed to the
Almighty. Every victory, as soon as opportunity offered, was followed
by the order: "The chaplains will hold divine service in their
respective regiments." "The General Commanding," ran the order after
Winchester, "would warmly express to the officers and men under his
command his joy in their achievements, and his thanks for their
brilliant gallantry in action, and their patient obedience under the
hardships of forced marches, often more painful to the brave soldier
than the danger of battle. The explanation of the severe exertions to
which the commanding general called the army, which were endured by
them with such cheerful confidence in him, is now given in the
victory of yesterday. He receives this proof of their confidence in
the past with pride and gratitude, and asks only a similar confidence
in the future.

"But his chief duty of to-day and that of the army is to recognise
devoutly the hand of a protecting Providence in the brilliant
successes of the last three days (which have given us the results of
a great victory without great losses), and to make the oblation of
our thanks to God for His service to us and our country in heartfelt
acts of religious worship. For this purpose the troops will remain in
camp to-day, suspending, as far as possible, all military exercises;
and the chaplains of regiments will hold divine service in their
several charges at 4 o'clock P.M."* (* Dabney volume 2 pages 114-5.)

Whenever it was possible Sunday was always set apart for a day of
rest; and the claims of the day were seldom altogether disregarded.*
(* "Sometimes," says Major Hotchkiss, "Jackson would keep two or
three Sundays running, so as to make up arrears, and balance the
account!") On the morning of Cross Keys it is related that a large
portion of Elzey's brigade were at service, and that the crash of the
enemy's artillery interrupted the "thirdly" of the chaplain's sermon.

It has been sometimes asserted that Jackson was of the same type as
the saints militant who followed Cromwell, who, when they were not
slaughtering their enemies, would expound the harsh tenets of their
unlovely creed to the grim circle of belted Ironsides. He has been
described as taking the lead at religious meetings, as distributing
tracts from tent to tent, as acting as aide-de-camp to his chaplains,
and as consigning to perdition all those "whose doxy was not his

Nothing is further from the truth. "His views of each denomination,"
says his wife, "had been obtained from itself, not from its
opponents. Hence he could see excellences in all. Even of the Roman
Catholic Church he had a much more favourable impression than most
Protestants, and he fraternised with all Evangelical denominations.
During a visit to New York, one Sabbath morning, we chanced to find
ourselves at the door of an Episcopal Church at the hour of worship.
He proposed that we should enter; and as it was a day for the
celebration of the Communion, he remained for that service, and it
was with the utmost reverence and solemnity that he walked up the
chancel and knelt to receive the elements."

Jackson, then, was by no means imbued with the belief that the
Presbyterian was the one true Church, and that all others were in
error. Nor did he attempt, in the very slightest degree, to usurp the
functions of his chaplains. Although he invariably went to sleep
during their sermons, he was deeply interested in their endeavours,
and gave them all the assistance in his power. But he no more thought
of taking their duties on himself than of interfering with the
treatment of the men in hospital. He spoke no "words in season," even
to his intimates. He had no "message" for them. Where religion was
concerned, so long as duly qualified instructors were available, he
conceived it his business to listen and not to teach. Morning and
evening prayers were the rule at his headquarters, but if any of his
staff chose to remain absent, the general made no remark. Yet all
suspicion of indifference to vice was effectually removed. Nothing
ungenerous or unclean was said in his presence without incurring his
displeasure, always unmistakably expressed, and although he made no
parade of his piety he was far too manly to hide it.

Yet he was never a prominent figure at the camp services. Rather than
occupy a conspicuous place he would seat himself amongst the
privates; and the only share he took in directing the proceedings was
to beckon men to the seats that respect had left empty beside him.
Those who picture him as an enthusiastic fanatic, invading, like the
Puritan dragoons, the pulpits of the chaplains, and leading the
devotions of his troops with the same fervour that he displayed in
battle, have utterly misread his character. The humblest soldier in
the Confederate army was not more modest and unassuming than
Stonewall Jackson.


The Federal strength at M'Dowell.
Fremont's return of April 30 is as follows:--
Milroy's Brigade 4,807
Schenck's Brigade 3,335

of May 10:--
Milroy 3,694
Schenck 3,335

of May 31:--
Milroy 2,914
Schenck 3,335

Schenck reports that the total force ENGAGED at M'Dowell was 1768 of
Milroy's brigade, and about 500 of his own, total 2268; and that he
himself brought to M'Dowell 1800 infantry, a battery, and 250
cavalry--say, 1600 men.

Milroy's command may fairly be estimated at 3500; Schenck brought
1600 men; there were therefore available for action at M'Dowell 5100

Fremont's strength at Cross Keys.

The return of May 31 gives:--13,520 officers and men.

Fremont, in his report of the battle, says that on May 29 he had over
11,000 men, which, deducting guards, garrisons, working parties and
stragglers, were reduced to 10,500 combatants at Cross Keys.

But he does not include in this last estimate Bayard's cavalry, which
joined him at Strasburg.

On May 31 Bayard had 1844 officers and men; he had suffered some loss
in fighting Ashby, and his strength at the battle may be put down as

All garrisons, guards and working parties are included in the
Confederate numbers, so they should be added to the Federal estimate.
We may fairly say, then, that at Cross Keys the following troops were

Fremont 11,000
Bayard 1,750
Total 12,750

Strength of the Federals, May 17-25.

On April 30 Banks' "effective" numbers were as follows:--

Donnelly's Brigade 2,747
Gordon's Brigade 3,005
Artillery (26 guns) 492
Cavalry (General Hatch) 2,834
Body-guard 70

On May 23 he had:--

At Strasburg: Infantry 4,476
Cavalry 2,600
Artillery (18 guns) 350
At Front Royal, Buckton, etc. 1,300
Bodyguard 70

From the Harper's Ferry Garrison:--

At Strasburg: Cavalry 800
At Winchester: Infantry 856
Cavalry 600

On May 31, after losing 2019 men at Front Royal and Winchester, he
had, the Harper's Ferry troops having been added to his command:--

Infantry 5,124
Cavalry 3,230
Artillery (l6 guns) 286
Miscellaneous 82
Add 2,019

10,500 effectives on May 23 is therefore a fair estimate.

Geary's 2000 at Rectortown, as they were acting under Mr. Stanton's
orders, have not been included.





2.15. CEDAR RUN.




































The region whither the interest now shifts is very different from the
Valley. From the terraced banks of the Rappahannock, sixty miles
north of Richmond, to the shining reaches of the James, where the
capital of the Confederacy stands high on her seven hills, the
lowlands of Virginia are clad with luxuriant vegetation. The roads
and railways run through endless avenues of stately trees; the
shadows of the giant oaks lie far across the rivers, and ridge and
ravine are mantled with the unbroken foliage of the primeval forest.
In this green wilderness the main armies were involved. But despite
the beauty of broad rivers and sylvan solitudes, gay with gorgeous
blossoms and fragrant with aromatic shrubs, the eastern, or
tidewater, counties of Virginia had little to recommend them as a
theatre of war. They were sparsely settled. The wooden churches,
standing lonely in the groves where the congregations hitched their
horses; the solitary taverns, half inns and half stores; the
court-houses of the county justices, with a few wooden cottages
clustered round them, were poor substitutes for the market-towns of
the Shenandoah. Here and there on the higher levels, surrounded by
coppice and lawn, by broad acres of corn and clover, the manors of
the planters gave life and brightness to the landscape. But the men
were fighting in Lee's ranks, their families had fled to Richmond,
and these hospitable homes showed signs of poverty and neglect.
Neither food nor forage was to be drawn from the country, and the
difficulties of supply and shelter were not the worst obstacles to
military operations. At this season of the year the climate and the
soil were persistent foes. The roads were mere tracks, channels which
served as drains for the interminable forest. The deep meadows, fresh
and green to the eye, were damp and unwholesome camping-grounds.
Turgid streams, like the Chickahominy and its affluents, winding
sluggishly through rank jungles, spread in swamp and morass across
the valleys, and the languid atmosphere, surcharged with vapour, was
redolent of decay.


Through this malarious region the Federal army had been pushing its
slow way forward for more than six weeks, and 105,000 men,
accompanied by a large siege train, lay intrenched within sight of
the spires of Richmond. 30,000 were north of the Chickahominy,
covering the York River Railway and waiting the coming of McDowell.
The remainder, from Woodbury's Bridge to the Charles City road,
occupied the line of breastworks which stood directly east of the
beleaguered city. So nearly was the prize within their grasp that the
church bells, and even the clocks striking the hour, were heard in
the camps; and at Mechanicsville Bridge, watched by a picket, stood a
sign-post which bore the legend: "To Richmond, 41/2 miles." The
sentries who paced that beat were fortunate. For the next two years
they could boast that no Federal soldier, except as a prisoner, had
stood so close as they had to the rebel stronghold. But during these
weeks in June not a single soul in McClellan's army, and few in the
Confederacy, suspected that the flood of invasion had reached
high-water mark. Richmond, gazing night after night at the red glow
which throbbed on the eastern vault, the reflection of countless
camp-fires, and, listening with strained ears to the far-off call of
hostile bugles, seemed in perilous case. No formidable position
protected the approaches. Earthworks, indeed, were in process of
construction; but, although the left flank at New Bridge was covered
by the Chickahominy, the right was protected by no natural obstacle,
as had been the case at Yorktown; and the lines occupied no
commanding site. Nor had the Government been able to assemble an army
of a strength sufficient to man the whole front. Lee, until Jackson
joined him, commanded no more than 72,500 men. Of these a large
portion were new troops, and their numbers had been reduced by the
7000 dispatched under Whiting to the Valley.

June 11.

But if the Federal army was far superior in numbers, it was not
animated by an energy in proportion to its strength. The march from
the White House was more sluggish than the current of the
Chickahominy. From May 17 to June 26 the Army of the Valley had
covered four hundred miles. Within the same period the Army of the
Potomac had covered twenty. It is true that the circumstances were
widely different. McClellan had in front of him the lines of
Richmond, and his advance had been delayed by the rising of the
Chickahominy. He had fought a hard fight at Seven Pines; and the
constant interference of Jackson had kept him waiting for McDowell.
But, at the same time, he had displayed an excess of caution which
was perfectly apparent to his astute opponent. He had made no attempt
to use his superior numbers; and Lee had come to the conclusion that
the attack on Richmond would take the same form as the attack on
Yorktown,--the establishment of great batteries, the massing of heavy
ordnance, and all the tedious processes of a siege. He read McClellan
like an open book. He had personal knowledge both of his capacity and
character, for they had served together on the same staff in the
Mexican war. He knew that his young adversary was a man of undoubted
ability, of fascinating address, and of courage that was never higher
than when things were at their worst. But these useful qualities were
accompanied by marked defects. His will was less powerful than his
imagination. Bold in conception, he was terribly slow in execution.
When his good sense showed him the opportunity, his imagination
whispered, "Suppose the enemy has reserves of which I know nothing!
Is it not more prudent to wait until I receive more accurate
information?" And so "I dare not," inevitably waited on "I would." He
forgot that in war it is impossible for a general to be absolutely
certain. It is sufficient, according to Napoleon, if the odds in his
favour are three to two; and if he cannot discover from the attitude
of his enemy what the odds are, he is unfitted for supreme command.

Before Yorktown McClellan's five army corps had been held in check,
first by 15,000 men, then by 58,000, protected by earthworks of
feeble profile.* (* "No one but McClellan would have hesitated to
attack." Johnston to Lee, April 22, 1862. O.R. volume 11 part 3 page
456.) The fort at Gloucester Point was the key of the Confederate
lines.* (* Narrative of Military Operations, General J.B. Johnston
pages 112 and 113.) McClellan, however, although a division was
actually under orders to move against it, appears to have been
unwilling to risk a failure.* (* The garrison consisted only of a few
companies of heavy artillery, and the principal work was still
unfinished when Yorktown fell. Reports of Dr. Comstock, and Colonel
Cabell, C.S.A. O.R. volume 11 part 1.) The channel of the York was
thus closed both to his transports and the gunboats, and he did
nothing whatever to interfere with Johnston's long line of
communications, which passed at several points within easy reach of
the river bank. Nor had he been more active since he had reached West
Point. Except for a single expedition, which had dispersed a
Confederate division near Hanover Court House, north of the
Chickahominy, he had made no aggressive movement. He had never
attempted to test the strength of the fortifications of Richmond, to
hinder their construction, or to discover their weak points. His
urgent demands for reinforcements had appeared in the Northern
newspapers, and those newspapers had found their way to Richmond.
From the same source the Confederates were made aware that he
believed himself confronted by an army far larger than his own; and
when, on the departure of Whiting's division for the Valley, he
refused to take advantage of the opportunity to attack Lee's
diminished force, it became abundantly clear, if further proof were
wanting, that much might be ventured against so timid a commander.

From his knowledge of his adversary's character, and still more from
his attitude, Lee had little difficulty in discovering his
intentions. McClellan, on the other hand, failed to draw a single
correct inference. And yet the information at his disposal was
sufficient to enable him to form a fair estimate of how things stood
in the Confederate camp. He had been attacked at Seven Pines, but not
by superior numbers; and it was hardly likely that the enemy had not
employed their whole available strength in this battle; otherwise
their enterprise was insensate. Furthermore, it was clearly to the
interests of the Confederates to strike at his army before McDowell
could join him. They had not done so, and it was therefore probable
that they did not feel themselves strong enough to do so. It is true
that he was altogether misled by the intelligence supplied as to the
garrison of Richmond by his famous detective staff. 200,000 was the
smallest number which the chief agent would admit. But that McClellan
should have relied on the estimate of these untrained observers
rather than on the evidence furnished by the conduct of the enemy is
but a further proof that he lacked all power of deduction.* (* In one
sense McClellan was not far wrong in his estimate of the Confederate
numbers. In assuming control of the Union armies Lincoln and Stanton
made their enemies a present of at least 50,000 men.)

It may well be questioned whether he was anxious at heart to measure
swords with Lee. His knowledge of his adversary, whose reputation for
daring, for ability, for strength of purpose, had been higher than
any other in the old army, must needs have had a disturbing influence
on his judgment. Against an enemy he did not know McClellan might
have acted with resolution. Face to face with Lee, it can hardly be
doubted that the weaker will was dominated by the stronger. Vastly
different were their methods of war. McClellan made no effort
whatever either to supplement or to corroborate the information
supplied by his detectives. Since he had reached West Point his
cavalry had done little.* (* It must be admitted that his cavalry was
very weak in proportion to the other arms. On June 20 he had just
over 5000 sabres (O.R. volume 11 part 3 page 238), of which 3,000
were distributed among the army corps. The Confederates appear to
have had about 3,000, but of superior quality, familiar, more or
less, with the country, and united under one command. It is
instructive to notice how the necessity for a numerous cavalry grew
on the Federal commanders. In 1864 the Army of the Potomac was
accompanied by a cavalry corps over 13,000 strong, with 32 guns. It
is generally the case in war, even in a close country, that if the
cavalry is allowed to fall below the usual proportion of one trooper
to every six men of the other arms the army suffers.) Lee, on the
other hand, had found means to ascertain the disposition of his
adversary's troops, and had acquired ample information of the
measures which had been taken to protect the right wing, north of the
Chickahominy, the point he had determined to attack.

June 12.

Early on June 12, with 1200 horsemen and a section of artillery,
Stuart rode out on an enterprise of a kind which at that time was
absolutely unique, and which will keep his memory green so long as
cavalry is used in war. Carefully concealing his march, be encamped
that night near Taylorsville, twenty-two miles north of Richmond, and
far beyond the flank of the Federal intrenchments.

June 13.

The next morning he turned eastward towards Hanover Court House. Here
he drove back a picket, and his advanced guard, with the loss of one
officer, soon afterwards charged down a squadron of regulars. A few
miles to the south-east, near Old Church, the enemy's outposts were
finally dispersed; and then, instead of halting, the column pushed on
into the very heart of the district occupied by the Federals, and
soon found itself in rear of their encampments. Stuart had already
gained important information. He had learned that McClellan's right
flank extended but a short way north of the Chickahominy, that it was
not fortified, and that it rested on neither swamp nor stream, and
this was what Lee had instructed him to discover. But it was one
thing to obtain the information, another to bring it back. If he
returned by the road he had come, it was probable he would be cut
off, for the enemy was thoroughly roused, and the South Anna River,
unfordable from recent rains, rendered a detour to the north
impracticable. To the mouth and west of him lay the Federal army,
some of the infantry camps not five miles distant. It was about four
o'clock in the afternoon. He could hardly reach Hanover Court House
before dark, and he might find it held by the enemy. To escape from
the dilemma he determined on a plan of extraordinary daring, which
involved nothing less than the passage of the Chickahominy in rear of
the enemy, and a circuit of the entire Federal army.

The audacity of the design proved the salvation of his command. The
enemy had assembled a strong force of both cavalry and infantry at
Hanover Court House, under Stuart's father-in-law, General Cooke;
but, misled by the reports brought in, and doubtless perplexed by the
situation, the latter pursued but slowly and halted for the night at
Old Church. Stuart, meanwhile, had reached Tunstall's Station on the
York River Railway, picking up prisoners at every step. Here, routing
the guard, he tore up the rails, destroyed a vast amount of stores
and many waggons, broke down the telegraph and burnt the railway
bridge, his men regaling themselves on the luxuries which were found
in the well-stored establishments of the sutlers. Two squadrons,
dispatched to Garlick's Landing on the Pamunkey, set fire to two
transports, and rejoined with a large number of prisoners, horses,
and mules. Then, led by troopers who were natives of the country, the
column marched south-east by the Williamsburg road, moving further
and still further away from Richmond. The moon was full, and as the
troops passed by the forest farms, the women, running to the wayside,
wept with delight at the unexpected apparition of the grey jackets,
and old men showered blessings on the heads of their gallant
countrymen. At Talleysville, eight miles east, Stuart halted for
three hours; and shortly after midnight, just as a Federal infantry
brigade reached Tunstall's Station in hot pursuit, he turned off by a
country road to the Chickahominy.

June 14.

At Forge Bridge, where he arrived at daylight, he should have found a
ford; but the river had overflowed its banks, and was full of
floating timber. Colonel Fitzhugh Lee, not the least famous member of
a famous family, accompanied by a few men, swam his horse at imminent
peril over to the other bank; but, although he re-crossed the swollen
waters in the same manner, the daring young officer had to report
that the passage was impracticable. It was already light. The enemy
would soon be up, and the capture of the whole column seemed
absolutely certain. Hitherto the men, exhilarated by the complete
success of the adventure, had borne themselves as gaily as if they
were riding through the streets of Richmond. But the danger of their
situation was now forcibly impressed upon them, and the whole command
became grave and anxious. Stuart alone was unmoved, and at this
juncture one of his scouts informed him that the skeleton of an old
bridge spanned the stream about a mile below. An abandoned warehouse
furnished the materials for a footway, over which the troopers
passed, holding the bridles of their horses as they swam alongside.
Half the column thus crossed, while the remainder strengthened the
bridge so as to permit the passage of the artillery. By one o'clock
the whole force was over the Chickahominy, unmolested by the enemy,
of whom only small parties, easily driven back by the rear-guard, had
made their appearance.

Thirty-five miles now to Richmond, in rear of the left wing of the
Northern army, and within range, for some portion of the march, of
the gunboats on the James River! Burning the bridge, with a wave of
the hand to the Federal horsemen who covered the heights above Stuart
plunged into the woods, and without further misadventure brought his
troops at sunset to the neighbourhood of Charles City Court House.
Leaving his men sleeping, after thirty-six hours in the saddle, he
rode to Richmond to report to Lee.

June 15.

Before dawn on the 15th, after covering another thirty miles, over a
road which was patrolled by the enemy, he reached head-quarters. His
squadrons followed, marching at midnight, and bringing with them 165
prisoners and 260 captured horses and mules.

This extraordinary expedition, which not only effected the
destruction of a large amount of Federal property, and broke up, for
the time being, their line of supplies, but acquired information of
the utmost value, and shook the confidence of the North in
McClellan's generalship, was accomplished with the loss of one man.
These young Virginia soldiers marched one hundred and ten miles in
less than two days. "There was something sublime," says Stuart, "in
the implicit confidence and unquestioning trust of the rank and file
in a leader guiding them straight, apparently, into the very jaws of
the enemy, every step appearing to them to diminish the hope of
extrication."* (* Stuart's Report, O.R. volume 11 part 1.) Nor was
the influence of their achievement on the morale of the whole
Confederate army the least important result attained. A host of over
100,000 men, which had allowed a few squadrons to ride completely
round it, by roads which were within hearing of its bugles, was no
longer considered a formidable foe.

On receiving Stuart's information, Lee drew up the plan of operations
which had been imparted to Jackson on the 22nd.

It was a design which to all appearance was almost foolhardy. The
Confederate army was organised as follows:--
Longstreet 9,000
A.P. Hill 14,000
Magruder 18,000
Huger 9,000
Holmes 6,500
D.H. Hill 10,000
Jackson 18,500
Cavalry 3,000
Reserve Artillery 8,500
88,500 *

(*2 This estimate is rather larger than that of the Confederate
historians (Allan, W.H. Taylor, etc., etc.), but it has been arrived
at after a careful examination of the strength at different dates and
the losses in the various engagements.)

June 24.

On the night of June 24 the whole of these troops, with the exception
of the Valley army, were south of the Chickahominy, holding the
earthworks which protected Richmond. Less than two miles eastward,
strongly intrenched, lay four of McClellan's army corps, in round
numbers 75,000 officers and men.* (* Return of June 20, O.R. volume
11 part 1 page 238.)

To attack this force, even after Jackson's arrival, was to court
disaster. The right was protected by the Chickahominy, the left
rested on White Oak Swamp, a network of sluggish streams and
impassable swamps, screened everywhere by tangled thickets. It needed
not the presence of the siege ordnance, placed on the most commanding
points within the lines, to make such a position absolutely

North of the Chickahominy, however, the Federals were less favourably
situated. The Fifth Army Corps, 25,000 strong,* (* The Fifth Army
Corps included McCall's division, which had but recently arrived by
water from Fredericksburg. Report of June 20, O.R. volume 11 part 1
page 238.) under General FitzJohn Porter, had been pushed forward,
stretching a hand to McDowell and protecting the railway, in the
direction of Mechanicsville; and although the tributaries of the
Chickahominy, running in from the north, afforded a series of
positions, the right flank of these positions, resting, as Stuart had
ascertained, on no natural obstacle, was open to a turning movement.
Furthermore, in rear of the Fifth Corps, and at an oblique angle to
the front, ran the line of supply, the railway to West Point. If
Porter's right were turned, the Confederates, threatening the
railway, would compel McClellan to detach largely to the north bank
of the Chickahominy in order to recover or protect the line.

On the north bank of the Chickahominy, therefore, Lee's attention had
been for some time fixed. Here was his adversary's weak point, and a
sudden assault on Porter, followed up, if necessary, by an advance
against the railway, would bring McClellan out of his intrenchments,
and force him to fight at a disadvantage. To ensure success, however,
in the attack on Porter it was necessary to concentrate an
overwhelming force on the north bank; and this could hardly be done
without so weakening the force which held the Richmond lines that it
would be unable to resist the attack of the 75,000 men who faced it.
If McClellan, while Lee was fighting Porter, boldly threw forward the
great army he had on the south bank, the rebel capital might be the
reward of his resolution. The danger was apparent to all, but Lee
resolved to risk it, and his audacity has not escaped criticism. It
has been said that he deliberately disregarded the contingency of
McClellan either advancing on Richmond, or reinforcing Porter. The
truth is, however, that neither Lee, nor those generals about him who
knew McClellan, were in the least apprehensive that their
over-cautious adversary, if the attack were sudden and well
sustained, would either see or utilise his opportunity.

From Hannibal to Moltke there has been no great captain who has
neglected to study the character of his opponent, and who did not
trade on the knowledge thus acquired, and it was this knowledge which
justified Lee's audacity.

The real daring of the enterprise lay in the inferiority of the
Confederate armament. Muskets and shot-guns, still carried by a large
part of the army, were ill-matched against rifles of the most modern
manufacture; while the smooth-bore field-pieces, with which at least
half the artillery was equipped, possessed neither the range nor the
accuracy of the rifled ordnance of the Federals.

That Lee's study of the chances had not been patient and exhaustive
it is impossible to doubt. He was no hare-brained leader, but a
profound thinker, following the highest principles of the military
art. That he had weighed the disconcerting effect which the sudden
appearance of the victorious Jackson, with an army of unknown
strength, would produce upon McClellan, goes without saying. He had
omitted no precaution to render the surprise complete, and although
the defences of Richmond were still too weak to resist a resolute
attack, Magruder, the same officer who had so successfully imposed
upon McClellan at Yorktown, was such a master of artifice that, with
28,000 men and the reserve artillery,* (* Magruder's division,
13,000; Huger's division, 9000; reserve artillery, 3000; 5 regiments
of cavalry, 2000. Holmes' division, 6500, was still retained on the
south bank of the James.) he might be relied upon to hold Richmond
until Porter had been disposed of. The remainder of the army, 2000 of
Stuart's cavalry, the divisions of Longstreet and the two Hills,
35,000 men all told, crossing to the north bank of the Chickahominy
and combining with the 18,500 under Jackson, would be sufficient to
crush the Federal right.

The initial operations, however, were of a somewhat complicated
nature. Four bridges* (* Lee's bridge, shown on the map, had either
been destroyed or was not yet built.) crossed the river on Lee's
left. A little more than a mile and a half from Mechanicsville
Bridge, up stream, is Meadow Bridge, and five and a half miles
further up is another passage at the Half Sink, afterwards called
Winston's Bridge. Three and a half miles below Mechanicsville Bridge
is New Bridge. The northern approaches to Mechanicsville, Meadow, and
New Bridge, were in possession of the Federals; and it was
consequently no simple operation to transfer the troops before
Richmond from one bank of the Chickahominy to the other. Only
Mechanicsville and Meadow Bridges could be used. Winston's Bridge was
too far from Richmond, for, if Longstreet and the two Hills were to
cross at that point, not only would Magruder be left without support
during their march, but McClellan, warned by his scouts, would
receive long notice of the intended blow and have ample time for
preparation. To surprise Porter, to give McClellan no time for
reflection, and at the same time to gain a position which would bring
the Confederates operating on the north bank into close and speedy
communication with Magruder on the south, another point of passage
must be chosen. The position would be the one commanding New Bridge,
for the Confederate earthworks, held by Magruder, ran due south from
that point. But Porter was already in possession of the coveted
ground, with strong outposts at Mechanicsville. To secure, then, the
two centre bridges was the first object. This, it was expected, would
be achieved by the advance of the Valley army, aided by a brigade
from the Half Sink, against the flank and rear of the Federals at
Mechanicsville. Then, as soon as the enemy fell back, Longstreet and
the two Hills would cross the river by the Meadow and Mechanicsville
Bridges, and strike Porter in front, while Jackson attacked his
right. A victory would place the Confederates in possession of New
Bridge, and the troops north of the Chickahominy would be then in
close communication with Magruder.

Lee's orders were as follows:--'Headquarters, Army of Northern
Virginia, June 24, 1862. General Orders, No. 75.

"I.--General Jackson's command will proceed to-morrow (June 25) from
Ashland towards the Slash (Merry Oaks) Church, and encamp at some
convenient point west of the Central Railroad. Branch's brigade of
A.P. Hill's division will also, to-morrow evening, take position on
the Chickahominy, near Half Sink. At three o'clock Thursday morning,
26th instant, General Jackson will advance on the road leading to
Pole Green Church, communicating his march to General Branch, who
will immediately cross the Chickahominy, and take the road leading to
Mechanicsville. As soon as the movements of these columns are
discovered, General A.P. Hill, with the rest of his division, will
cross the Chickahominy at Meadow Bridge, and move direct upon
Mechanicsville. To aid his advance the heavy batteries on the
Chickahominy will at the proper time open upon the batteries at
Mechanicsville. The enemy being driven from Mechanicsville and the
passage of the bridge being opened, General Longstreet, with his
division and that of General D.H. Hill, will cross the Chickahominy
at or near that point; General D.H. Hill moving to the support of
General Jackson, and General Longstreet supporting General A.P. Hill;
the four divisions keeping in communication with each other, and
moving EN ECHELON on separate roads if practicable; the left division
in advance, with skirmishers and sharp-shooters extending in their
front, will sweep down the Chickahominy, and endeavour to drive the
enemy from his position above New Bridge, General Jackson bearing
well to his left, turning Beaver Dam Creek, and taking the direction
towards Cold Harbour. They will then press forward towards the York
River Railroad, closing upon the enemy's rear, and forcing him down
the Chickahominy. An advance of the enemy towards Richmond will be
prevented by vigorously following his rear, and crippling and
arresting his progress.

"II.--The divisions under Generals Huger and Magruder will hold their
position in front of the enemy against attack, and make such
demonstrations, Thursday, as to discover his operations. Should
opportunity offer, the feint will be converted into a real attack.

"III.--General Stuart, with the 1st, 4th, and 9th Virginia Cavalry,
the cavalry of Cobb's Legion, and the Jeff Davis Legion, will cross
the Chickahominy to-morrow (Wednesday, June 25), and take position to
the left of General Jackson's line of march. The main body will be
held in reserve, with scouts well extended to the front and left.
General Stuart will keep General Jackson informed of the movements of
the enemy on his left, and will cooperate with him in his advance."

June 25.

On the 25th Longstreet and the two Hills moved towards the bridges;
and although during the movement McClellan drove back Magruder's
pickets to their trenches, and pushed his own outposts nearer
Richmond, Lee held firmly to his purpose. As a matter of fact, there
was little to be feared from McClellan. With a profound belief in the
advantages of defensive and in the strength of a fortified position,
he expected nothing less than that the Confederates would leave the
earthworks they had so laboriously constructed, and deliberately risk
the perils of an attack. He seems to have had little idea that in the
hands of a skilful general intrenchments may form a "pivot of
operations,"* (* The meaning of this term is clearly defined in Lee's
report. "It was therefore determined to construct defensive lines, so
as to enable a part of the army to defend the city, and leave the
other part free to operate on the north bank." O.R. volume 11 part 1
page 490.) the means whereby he covers his most vulnerable point,
holds the enemy in front, and sets his main body free for offensive
action. Yet McClellan was by no means easy in his mind. He knew
Jackson was approaching. He knew his communications were threatened.
Fugitive negroes, who, as usual, either exaggerated or lied, had
informed him that the Confederates had been largely reinforced, and
that Beauregard, with a portion of the Western army, had arrived in
Richmond. But that his right wing was in danger he had not the
faintest suspicion. He judged Lee by himself. Such a plan as leaving
a small force to defend Richmond, and transferring the bulk of the
army to join Jackson, he would have at once rejected as over-daring.
If attack came at all, he expected that it would come by the south
bank; and he was so far from anticipating that an opportunity for
offensive action might be offered to himself that, on the night of
the 25th, he sent word to his corps commanders that they were to
regard their intrenchments as "the true field of battle."* (* O.R.
volume 11 part 3 page 252.)

June 26. 3 A.M.

Lee's orders left much to Jackson. The whole operation which Lee had
planned hinged upon his movements. On the morning of the 24th he was
at Beaver Dam Station. The same night he was to reach Ashland,
eighteen miles distant as the crow flies. On the night of the 25th he
was to halt near the Slash Church, just west of the Virginia Central
Railway, and six miles east of Ashland. At three o'clock, however, on
the morning of the 26th, the Army of the Valley was still at Ashland,
and it was not till nine that it crossed the railroad.

10.30 A.M.

Branch, on hearing that Jackson was at last advancing, passed the
Chickahominy by Winston's Bridge, and driving Federal pickets before
him, moved on Mechanicsville. General A.P. Hill was meanwhile near
Meadow Bridge, waiting until the advance of Jackson and Branch should
turn the flank of the Federal force which blocked his passage.

3 P.M.

At 3 P.M., hearing nothing from his colleagues, and apprehensive that
longer delay might hazard the failure of the whole plan, he ordered
his advanced guard to seize the bridge. The enemy, already threatened
in rear by Branch, at once fell back. Hill followed the retiring
pickets towards Beaver Dam Creek, and after a short march of three
miles found himself under fire of the Federal artillery. Porter had
occupied a position about two miles above New Bridge.

The rest of the Confederate army was already crossing the
Chickahominy; and although there was no sign of Jackson, and the
enemy's front was strong, protected by a long line of batteries, Hill
thought it necessary to order an attack. A message from Lee, ordering
him to postpone all further movement, arrived too late.* (* Letter
from Captain T.W. Sydnor, 4th Virginia Cavalry, who carried the
message.) There was no artillery preparation, and the troops, checked
unexpectedly by a wide abattis, were repulsed with terrible
slaughter, the casualties amounting to nearly 2000 men.* (* So
General Porter. Battles and Leaders volume 2 page 331.) The Union
loss was 360.* (* O.R. volume 11 part 1 pages 38, 39.)

4.30 P.M.

Jackson, about 4.30 P.M., before this engagement had begun, had
reached Hundley's Corner, three miles north of the Federal position,
but separated from it by dense forest and the windings of the creek.
On the opposite bank was a detachment of Federal infantry, supported
by artillery.

6 P.M.

Two guns, accompanied by the advanced guard, sufficed to drive this
force to the shelter of the woods; and then, establishing his
outposts, Jackson ordered his troops to bivouac.

It has been asserted by more than one Southern general that the
disaster at Beaver Dam Creek was due to Jackson's indifferent
tactics; and, at first sight, the bare facts would seem to justify
the verdict. He had not reached his appointed station on the night of
the 25th, and on the 26th he was five hours behind time. He should
have crossed the Virginia Central Railway at sunrise, but at nine
o'clock he was still three miles distant. His advance against the
Federal right flank and rear should have been made in co-operation
with the remainder of the army. But his whereabouts was unknown when
Hill attacked; and although the cannonade was distinctly heard at
Hundley's Corner, he made no effort to lend assistance, and his
troops were encamping when their comrades, not three miles away, were
rushing forward to the assault. There would seem to be some grounds,
then, for the accusation that his delay thwarted General Lee's
design; some reason for the belief that the victor of the Valley
campaign, on his first appearance in combination with the main army,
had proved a failure, and that his failure was in those very
qualities of swiftness and energy to which he owed his fame.

General D.H. Hill has written that "Jackson's genius never shone when
he was under the command of another. It seemed then to be shrouded or
paralysed...MacGregor on his native heath was not more different from
MacGregor in prison than was Jackson his own master from Jackson in a
subordinate position. This was the keynote to his whole character.
The hooded falcon cannot strike the quarry."* (* Battles and Leaders
volume 2 pages 389, 390.)

The reader who has the heart to follow this chronicle to the end will
assuredly find reason to doubt the acumen, however he may admire the
eloquence, of Jackson's brother-in-law. When he reads of the Second
Manassas, of Harper's Ferry, of Sharpsburg and of Chancellorsville,
he will recall this statement with astonishment; and it will not be
difficult to show that Jackson conformed as closely to the plans of
his commander at Mechanicsville as elsewhere.

The machinery of war seldom runs with the smoothness of clockwork.
The course of circumstances can never be exactly predicted.
Unforeseen obstacles may render the highest skill and the most
untiring energy of no avail; and it may be well to point out that the
task which was assigned to Jackson was one of exceeding difficulty.
In the first place, his march of eight-and-twenty miles, from
Frederickshall to Ashland, on June 23, 24, and 25, was made over an
unmapped country, unknown either to himself or to his staff, which
had lately been in occupation of the Federals. Bridges had been
destroyed and roads obstructed. The Valley army had already marched
far and fast; and although Dabney hints that inexperienced and
sluggish subordinates were the chief cause of delay, there is hardly
need to look so far for excuse.* (* Dr. White, in his excellent Life
of Lee, states that the tardiness of the arrival of the provisions
sent him from Richmond had much to do with the delay of Jackson's
march.) The march from Ashland to Hundley's Corner, sixteen miles,
was little less difficult. It was made in two columns, Whiting and
the Stonewall division, now under Winder, crossing the railway near
Merry Oaks Church, Ewell moving by Shady Grove Church, but this
distribution did not accelerate the march. The midsummer sun blazed
fiercely down on the dusty roads; the dense woods on either hand shut
out the air, and interruptions were frequent. The Federal cavalry
held a line from Atlee's Station to near Hanover Court House. The 8th
Illinois, over 700 strong, picketed all the woods between the
Chickahominy and the Totopotomoy Creek. Two other regiments prolonged
the front to the Pamunkey, and near Hundley's Corner and Old Church
were posted detachments of infantry. Skirmishing was constant. The
Federal outposts contested every favourable position. Here and there
the roads were obstructed by felled trees; a burned bridge over the
Totopotomoy delayed the advance for a full hour, and it was some time
before the enemy's force at Hundley's Corner was driven behind Beaver
Dam Creek.

At the council of war, held on the 23rd, Lee had left it to Jackson
to fix the date on which the operation against the Federal right
should begin, and on the latter deciding on the 26th, Longstreet had
suggested that he should make more ample allowance for the
difficulties that might be presented by the country and by the enemy,
and give himself more time.* (* "Lee's Attacks North of the
Chickahominy." By General D.H. Hill. Battles and Leaders volume 2
page 347. General Longstreet, however, from Manassas to Appomattox,
says Jackson appointed the morning of the 25th, but, on Longstreet's
suggestion, changed the date to the 26th.) Jackson had not seen fit
to alter his decision, and it is hard to say that he was wrong.

Had McClellan received notice that the Valley army was approaching, a
day's delay would have given him a fine opportunity. More than one
course would have been open to him. He might have constructed
formidable intrenchments on the north bank of the Chickahominy and
have brought over large reinforcements of men and guns; or he might
have turned the tables by a bold advance on Richmond. It was by no
means inconceivable that if he detected Lee's intention and was given
time to prepare, he might permit the Confederates to cross the
Chickahominy, amuse them there with a small force, and hurl the rest
of his army on the works which covered the Southern capital. It is
true that his caution was extreme, and to a mind which was more
occupied with counting the enemy's strength than with watching for an
opportunity, the possibility of assuming the offensive was not likely
to occur. But, timid as he might be when no enemy was in sight,
McClellan was constitutionally brave; and when the chimeras raised by
an over-active imagination proved to be substantial dangers, he was
quite capable of daring resolution. Time, therefore, was of the
utmost importance to the Confederates. It was essential that Porter
should be overwhelmed before McClellan realised the danger; and if
Jackson, in fixing a date for the attack which would put a heavy tax
on the marching powers of his men, already strained to the utmost,
ran some risks, from a strategical point of view those risks were
fully justified.

In the second place, an operation such as that which Lee had devised
is one of the most difficult manoeuvres which an army can be called
upon to execute. According to Moltke, to unite two forces on the
battle-field, starting at some distance apart, at the right moment,
is the most brilliant feat of generalship. The slightest hesitation
may ruin the combination. Haste is even more to be dreaded. There is
always the danger that one wing may attack, or be attacked, while the
other is still far distant, and either contingency may be fatal. The
Valley campaign furnishes more than one illustration. In their
pursuit of Jackson, Shields and Fremont failed to co-operate at
Strasburg, at Cross Keys, and at Port Republic. And greater generals
than either Shields or Fremont have met with little better success in
attempting the same manoeuvre. At both Eylau and Bautzen Napoleon was
deprived of decisive victory by his failure to ensure the
co-operation of his widely separated columns.

Jackson and A.P. Hill, on the morning of the 26th, were nearly
fifteen miles apart. Intercommunication at the outset was ensured by
the brigade under Branch; but as the advance progressed, and the
enemy was met with, it became more difficult. The messengers riding
from one force to the other were either stopped by the Federals, or
were compelled to make long detours; and as they approached the
enemy's position, neither Hill nor Jackson was informed of the
whereabouts of the other.

The truth is, that the arrangements made by the Confederate
headquarter staff were most inadequate. In the first place, the order
of the 24th, instructing Jackson to start from Slash Church at 3 A.M.
on the 26th, and thus leading the other generals to believe that he
would certainly be there at that hour, should never have been issued.
When it was written Jackson's advanced guard was at Beaver Dam
Station, the rear brigades fifteen miles behind; and to reach Slash
Church his force had to march forty miles through an intricate
country, in possession of the enemy, and so little known that it was
impossible to designate the route to be followed. To fix an hour of
arrival so long in advance was worse than useless, and Jackson cannot
be blamed if he failed to comply with the exact letter of a foolish
order. As it was, so many of the bridges were broken, and so
difficult was it to pass the fords, that if Dr. Dabney had not found
in his brother, a planter of the neighbourhood, an efficient
substitute for the guide headquarters should have provided, the
Valley army would have been not hours but days too late. In the
second place, the duty of keeping up communications should not have
been left to Jackson, but have been seen to at headquarters. Jackson
had with him only a few cavalry, and these few had not only to supply
the necessary orderlies for the subordinate generals, and the escorts
for the artillery and trains, but to form his advanced guard, for
Stuart's squadrons were on his left flank, and not in his front.
Moreover, his cavalry were complete strangers to the country, and
there were no maps. In such circumstances the only means of ensuring
constant communication was to have detached two of Stuart's
squadrons, who knew the ground, to establish a series of posts
between Jackson's line of march and the Chickahominy; and to have
detailed a staff officer, whose sole duty would have been to furnish
the Commander-in-Chief with hourly reports of the progress made, to
join the Valley army.* (* Of the events of June 26 Dr. Dabney, in a
letter to the author, writes as follows:--"Here we had a disastrous
illustration of the lack of an organised and intelligent general
staff. Let my predicament serve as a specimen. As chief of Jackson's
staff, I had two assistant adjutant-generals, two men of the engineer
department, and two clerks. What did I have for orderlies and
couriers? A detail from some cavalry company which happened to
bivouac near. The men were sent to me without any reference to their
local knowledge, their intelligence, or their courage; most probably
they were selected for me by their captain on account of their lack
of these qualities. Next to the Commander-in-Chief, the Chief of the
General Staff should be the best man in the country. The brains of an
army should be in the General Staff. The lowest orderlies attached to
it should be the very best soldiers in the service, for education,
intelligence, and courage. Jackson had to find his own guide for his
march from Beaver Dam Station. He had not been furnished with a map,
and not a single orderly or message reached him during the whole
day.") It may be remarked, too, that Generals Branch and Ewell,
following converging roads, met near Shady Grove Church about 3 P.M.
No report appears to have been sent by the latter to General A.P.
Hill; and although Branch a little later received a message to the
effect that Hill had crossed the Chickahominy and was moving on
Mechanicsville,* (* Branch's Report, O.R. volume 2 part 2 page 882.)
the information was not passed on to Jackson.

Neglect of these precautions made it impracticable to arrange a
simultaneous attack, and co-operation depended solely on the judgment
of Hill and Jackson. In the action which ensued on Beaver Dam Creek
there was no co-operation whatever. Hill attacked and was repulsed.
Jackson had halted at Hundley's Corner, three miles distant from the
battle-field. Had the latter come down on the Federal rear while Hill
moved against their front an easy success would in all probability
have been the result.

Nevertheless, the responsibility for Hill's defeat cannot be held to
rest on Jackson's shoulders. On August 18, 1870, the Prussian Guards
and the Saxon Army Corps were ordered to make a combined attack on
the village of St. Privat, the Guards moving against the front, the
Saxons against the flank. When the order was issued the two corps
were not more than two miles apart. The tract of country which lay
between them was perfectly open, the roads were free, and
inter-communication seemed easy in the extreme. Yet, despite their
orders, despite the facilities of communication, the Guards advanced
to the attack an hour and a half too soon; and from six o'clock to
nearly seven their shattered lines lay in front of the position, at
the mercy of a vigorous counterstroke, without a single Saxon
regiment coming to their aid. But the Saxons were not to blame. Their
march had been unchecked; they had moved at speed. On their part
there had been no hesitation; but on the part of the commander of the
Guards there had been the same precipitation which led to the
premature attack on the Federal position at Beaver Dam Creek. It was
the impatience of General Hill, not the tardiness of Jackson, which
was the cause of the Confederate repulse.

We may now turn to the question whether Jackson was justified in not
marching to the sound of the cannon. Referring to General Lee's
orders, it will be seen that as soon as Longstreet and D.H. Hill had
crossed the Chickahominy the four divisions of the army were to move
forward in communication with each other and drive the enemy from his
position, Jackson, in advance upon the left, "turning Beaver Dam
Creek, and taking the direction of Cold Harbour."

When Jackson reached Hundley's Corner, and drove the Federal infantry
behind the Creek, the first thing to do, as his orders indicated, was
to get touch with the rest of the army. It was already near sunset;
between Hundley's Corner and Mechanicsville lay a dense forest, with
no roads in the desired direction; and it was manifestly impossible,
under ordinary conditions, to do more that evening than to establish
connection; the combined movement against the enemy's position must
be deferred till the morning. But the sound of battle to the
south-west introduced a complication. "We distinctly heard," says
Jackson, "the rapid and continued discharges of cannon."* (*
Jackson's Report, O.R. volume 11 part 1 page 553.) What did this fire
portend? It might proceed, as was to be inferred from Lee's orders,
from the heavy batteries on the Chickahominy covering Hill's passage.
It might mean a Federal counterstroke on Hill's advanced guard; or,
possibly, a premature attack on the part of the Confederates. General
Whiting, according to his report, thought it "indicated a severe
battle."* (* Whiting's Report, O.R. volume 11 part 1 page 562.)
General Trimble, marching with Ewell, heard both musketry and
artillery; and in his opinion the command should have moved forward;*
(* Trimble's Report, O.R. volume 11 part 1 page 614.) and whatever
may have been Jackson's orders, it was undoubtedly his duty, if he
believed a hot engagement was in progress, to have marched to the
assistance of his colleagues. He could not help them by standing
still. He might have rendered them invaluable aid by pressing the
enemy in flank. But the question is, What inference did the cannonade
convey to Jackson's mind? Was it of such a character as to leave no
doubt that Hill was in close action, or might it be interpreted as
the natural accompaniment of the passage of the Chickahominy? The
evidence is conflicting. On the one hand we have the evidence of
Whiting and Trimble, both experienced soldiers; on the other, in
addition to the indirect evidence of Jackson's inaction, we have the
statement of Major Dabney. "We heard no signs," says the chief of the
staff, "of combat on Beaver Dam Creek until a little while before
sunset. The whole catastrophe took place in a few minutes about that
time; and in any case our regiments, who had gone into bivouac, could
not have been reassembled, formed up, and moved forward in time to be
of any service. A night attack through the dense, pathless, and
unknown forest was quite impracticable."* (* Letter to the author.)
It seems probable, then--and the Federal reports are to the same
effect* (* Porter's Report, O.R. volume 11 part 1 page 222. Battles
and Leaders volume 2 page 330.)--that the firing was only really
heavy for a very short period, and that Jackson believed it to be
occasioned by Hill's passage of the Chickahominy, and the rout of the
Federals from Mechanicsville. Neither Trimble nor Whiting were aware
that Lee's orders directed that the operation was to be covered by a
heavy cannonade.

Obeying orders very literally himself, Jackson found it difficult to
believe that others did not do the same. He knew that the position he
had taken up rendered the line of Beaver Dam Creek untenable by the
Federals. They would never stand to fight on that line with a strong
force established in their rear and menacing their communications,
nor would they dare to deliver a counterstroke through the trackless
woods. It might confidently be assumed, therefore, that they would
fall back during the night, and that the Confederate advance would
then be carried out in that concentrated formation which Lee's orders
had dictated. Such, in all probability, was Jackson's view of the
situation; and that Hill, in direct contravention of those orders,
would venture on an isolated attack before that formation had been
assumed never for a moment crossed his mind.* (* Longstreet, on page
124 of his From Manassas to Appomattox, declares that "Jackson
marched by the fight without giving attention, and went into camp at
Hundley's Corner, HALF A MILE IN REAR of the enemy's position." A
reference to the map is sufficient to expose the inaccuracy of this


Hill, on the other hand, seems to have believed that if the Federals
were not defeated on the evening of the 26th they would make use of
the respite, either to bring up reinforcements, or to advance on
Richmond by the opposite bank of the Chickahominy. It is not
impossible that he thought the sound of his cannon would bring
Jackson to his aid. That it would have been wiser to establish
communication, and to make certain of that aid before attacking,
there can be no question. It was too late to defeat Porter the same
evening. Nothing was to be gained by immediate attack, and much would
be risked. The last assault, in which the heaviest losses were
incurred, was made just as night fell. It was a sacrifice of life as
unnecessary as that of the Prussian Guard before St. Privat. At the
same time, that General Hill did wrong in crossing the Chickahominy
before he heard of his colleague's approach is not a fair accusation.
To have lingered on the south bank would have been to leave Jackson
to the tender mercies of the Federals should they turn against him in
the forest. Moreover, it was Hill's task to open a passage for the
remaining divisions, and if that passage had been deferred to a later
hour, it is improbable that the Confederate army would have been
concentrated on the north bank of the Chickahominy until the next
morning. It must be admitted, too, that the situation in which Hill
found himself, after crossing the river, was an exceedingly severe
test of his self-control. His troops had driven in the Federal
outposts; infantry, cavalry, and artillery were retiring before his
skirmishers. The noise of battle filled the air. From across the
Chickahominy thundered the heavy guns, and his regiments were
pressing forward with the impetuous ardour of young soldiers. If he
yielded to the excitement of the moment, if eagerness for battle
overpowered his judgment, if his brain refused to work calmly in the
wild tumult of the conflict, he is hardly to be blamed. The patience
which is capable of resisting the eagerness of the troops, the
imperturbable judgment which, in the heat of action, weighs with
deliberation the necessities of the moment, the clear vision which
forecasts the result of every movement--these are rare qualities

During the night Porter fell back on Gaines' Mill. While the
engagement at Beaver Dam Creek was still in progress vast clouds of
dust, rising above the forests to the north-west and north, had
betrayed the approach of Jackson, and the reports of the cavalry left
no doubt that he was threatening the Federal rear.

The retreat was conducted in good order, a strong rear-guard,
reinforced by two batteries of horse-artillery, holding the
Confederates in check, and before morning a second position, east of
Powhite Creek, and covering two bridges over the Chickahominy,
Alexander's and Grapevine, was occupied by the Fifth Army Corps.

New Bridge was now uncovered, and Lee's army was in motion shortly
after sunrise, Jackson crossing Beaver Dam Creek and moving due south
in the direction of Walnut Grove Church.* (* Jackson's
division--so-called in Lee's order--really consisted of three
divisions: Whiting's Division: Hood's Brigade, Law's Brigade.
Jackson's [Winder] Division: Stonewall Brigade, Cunningham's Brigade,
Fulkerson's Brigade, Lawton's Brigade.
Ewell's Division: B.T. Johnson' Brigade, Elzey's Brigade, Trimble's
Brigade, Taylor's Brigade.)

June 27, 5 A.M.

The enemy, however, had already passed eastward; and the
Confederates, well concentrated and in hand, pushed forward in
pursuit; A.P. Hill, with Longstreet on his right, moving on Gaines'
Mill, while Jackson, supported by D.H. Hill, and with Stuart covering
his left, marched by a more circuitous route to Old Cold Harbour.
Near Walnut Grove Church Jackson met the Commander-in-Chief, and it
is recorded that the staff officers of the Valley army, noting the
eagerness displayed by General Lee's suite to get a glimpse of
Stonewall, then for the first time realised the true character and
magnitude of the Valley campaign.

12 noon.

About noon, after a march of seven miles, A.P. Hill's scouts reported
that the Federals had halted behind Powhite Creek. The leading
brigade was sent across the stream, which runs past Gaines' Mill, and
pressing through the thick woods found the enemy in great strength on
a ridge beyond. Hill formed his division for attack, and opened fire
with his four batteries. The enemy's guns, superior in number, at
once responded, and the skirmish lines became actively engaged. The
Confederate general, despite urgent messages from his subordinates,
requesting permission to attack, held his troops in hand, waiting
till he should be supported, and for two and a half hours the battle
was no more than an affair of "long bowls."

The position held by the defence was emphatically one to impose
caution on the assailants. To reach it the Confederates were confined
to three roads, two from Mechanicsville, and one from Old Cold
Harbour. These roads led each of them through a broad belt of forest,
and then, passing through open fields, descended into a winding
valley, from five hundred to a thousand yards in breadth. Rising near
McGehee's House, due south of Old Cold Harbour, a sluggish creek,
bordered by swamps and thick timber, and cutting in places a deep
channel, filtered through the valley to the Chickahominy. Beyond this
stream rose an open and undulating plateau, admirably adapted to the
movement of all arms, and with a slight command of the opposite
ridge. On the plateau, facing west and north, the Federals were
formed up. A fringe of trees and bushes along the crest gave cover
and concealment to the troops. 60 feet below, winding darkly through
the trees, the creek covered the whole front; and in the centre of
the position, east of New Cold Harbour, the valley was completely
filled with tangled wood.

Towards Old Cold Harbour the timber on the Confederate side of the
ravine was denser than elsewhere. On the Federal left flank the
valley of the Chickahominy was open ground, but it was swept by heavy
guns from the right bank of the river, and at this point the creek
became an almost impassable swamp.

Porter, who had been reinforced by 9000 men under General Slocum, now
commanded three divisions of infantry, four regiments of cavalry, and
twenty-two batteries, a total of 36,000 officers and men. The morale
of the troops had been strengthened by their easy victory of the
previous day. Their commander had gained their confidence; their
position had been partially intrenched, and they could be readily
supported by way of Alexander's and Grapevine Bridges from the south
bank of the Chickahominy.

The task before the Confederates, even with their superior numbers,
was formidable in the extreme. The wooded ridge which encircled the
position afforded scant room for artillery, and it was thus
impracticable to prepare the attack by a preliminary bombardment. The
ground over which the infantry must advance was completely swept by
fire, and the centre and left were defended by three tiers of
riflemen, the first sheltered by the steep banks of the creek, the
second halfway up the bluff, covered by a breastwork, the third on
the crest, occupying a line of shelter-trenches; and the riflemen
were supported by a dozen batteries of rifled guns.* (* The remainder
of the guns were in reserve.)

But Lee had few misgivings. In one respect the Federal position
seemed radically defective. The line of retreat on White House was
exposed to attack from Old Cold Harbour. In fact, with Old Cold
Harbour in possession of the Confederates, retreat could only be
effected by one road north of the Chickahominy, that by Parker's Mill
and Dispatch Station; and if this road were threatened, Porter, in
order to cover it, would be compelled to bring over troops from his
left and centre, or to prolong his line until it was weak everywhere.
There was no great reason to fear that McClellan would send Porter
heavy reinforcements. To do so he would have to draw troops from his
intrenchments on the south bank of the Chickahominy, and Magruder had
been instructed to maintain a brisk demonstration against this
portion of the line. It was probable that the Federal commander, with
his exaggerated estimate of the numbers opposed to him, would be
induced by this means to anticipate a general attack against his
whole front, and would postpone moving his reserves until it was too

While Hill was skirmishing with the Federals, Lee was anxiously
awaiting intelligence of Jackson's arrival at Old Cold Harbour.

2.30 P.M.

Longstreet was already forming up for battle, and at 2.30 Hill's
regiments were slipped to the attack. A fierce and sanguinary
conflict now ensued. Emerging in well-ordered lines from the cover of
the woods, the Confederates swept down the open slopes. Floundering
in the swamps, and struggling through the abattis which had been
placed on the banks of the stream, they drove in the advanced line of
hostile riflemen, and strove gallantly to ascend the slope which lay
beyond. "But brigade after brigade," says General Porter, "seemed
almost to melt away before the concentrated fire of our artillery and
infantry; yet others pressed on, followed by supports daring and
brave as their predecessors, despite their heavy losses and the
disheartening effect of having to clamber over many of their disabled
and dead, and to meet their surviving comrades rushing back in great
disorder from the deadly contest."* (* Battles and Leaders of the
Civil War volume 2 page 337.) For over an hour Hill fought on without
support. There were no signs of Jackson, and Longstreet, whom it was
not intended to employ until Jackson's appearance should have caused
the Federals to denude their left, was then sent in to save the day.

As on the previous day, the Confederate attack had failed in
combination. Jackson's march had been again delayed. The direct road
from Walnut Grove Church to Old Cold Harbour, leading through the
forest, was found to be obstructed by felled timber and defended by
sharpshooters, and to save time Jackson's division struck off into
the road by Bethesda Church. This threw it in rear of D.H. Hill, and
it was near 2 P.M. when the latter's advanced guard reached the
tavern at the Old Cold Harbour cross roads. No harm, however, had
been done. A.P. Hill did not attack till half an hour later. But when
he advanced there came no response from the left. A battery of D.H.
Hill's division was brought into action, but was soon silenced, and
beyond this insignificant demonstration the Army of the Valley made
no endeavour to join the battle. The brigades were halted by the
roadside. Away to the right, above the intervening forest, rolled the
roar of battle, the crash of shells and the din of musketry, but no
orders were given for the advance.

Nor had Jackson's arrival produced the slightest consternation in the
Federal ranks. Although from his position at Cold Harbour he
seriously threatened their line of retreat to the White House, they
had neither denuded their left nor brought up their reserves. Where
he was now established he was actually nearer White House than any
portion of Porter's army corps, and yet that general apparently
accepted the situation with equanimity.

Lee had anticipated that Jackson's approach would cause the enemy to
prolong their front in order to cover their line of retreat to the
White House, and so weaken that part of the position which was to be
attacked by Longstreet; and Jackson had been ordered* to draw up his
troops so as to meet such a contingency. (* This order was verbal; no
record of it is to be found, and Jackson never mentioned, either at
the time or afterwards, what its purport was. His surviving staff
officers, however, are unanimous in declaring that he must have
received direct instructions from General Lee. "Is it possible,"
writes Dr. McGuire, "that Jackson, who knew nothing of the country,
and little of the exact situation of affairs, would have taken the
responsibility of stopping at Old Cold Harbour for an hour or more,
unless he had had the authority of General Lee to do so? I saw him
that morning talking to General Lee. General Lee was sitting on a
log, and Jackson standing up. General Lee was evidently giving him
instructions for the day." In his report (O.R. volume 11 part 1 page
492) Lee says: "The arrival of Jackson on our left was momentarily
expected; it was supposed that his approach would cause the enemy's
extension in that direction.") "Hoping," he says in his report, "that
Generals A.P. Hill and Longstreet would soon drive the Federals
towards me, I directed General D.H. Hill to move his division to the
left of the wood, so as to leave between him and the wood on the
right an open space, across which I hoped that the enemy would be
driven." But Lee was deceived. The Federal line of retreat ran not to
the White House, but over Grapevine Bridge. McClellan had for some
time foreseen that he might be compelled to abandon the York River
Railway, and directly he suspected that Jackson was marching to
Richmond had begun to transfer his line of operations from the York
to the James, and his base of supply from the White House to
Harrison's Landing.

So vast is the amount of stores necessary for the subsistence,
health, and armament of a host like McClellan's that a change of base
is an operation which can only be effected under the most favourable
circumstances.* (* The Army of the Potomac numbered 105,000 men, and
25,000 animals. 600 tons of ammunition, food, forage, medical and
other supplies had to be forwarded each day from White House to the
front; and at one time during the operations from fifty to sixty
days' rations for the entire army, amounting probably to 25,000 tons,
were accumulated at the depot. 5 tons daily per 1000 men is a fair
estimate for an army operating in a barren country.) It is evident,
then, that the possibility of the enemy shifting his line of
operations to the James, abandoning the York River Railroad, might
easily have escaped the penetration of either Lee or Jackson. They
were not behind the scenes of the Federal administrative system. They
were not aware of the money, labour, and ingenuity which had been
lavished on the business of supply. They had not seen with their own
eyes the fleet of four hundred transports which covered the reaches
of the York. They had not yet realised the enormous advantage which
an army derives from the command of the sea.

Nor were they enlightened by the calmness with which their immediate
adversaries on the field of battle regarded Jackson's possession of
Old Cold Harbour. Still, one fact was manifest: the Federals showed
no disposition whatever to weaken or change their position, and it
was clear that the success was not to be attained by mere manoeuvre.
Lee, seeing Hill's division roughly handled, ordered Longstreet
forward, while Jackson, judging from the sound and direction of the
firing that the original plan had failed, struck in with vigour.
Opposed to him was Sykes' division of regulars, supported by eighteen
guns, afterwards increased to twenty-four; and in the men of the
United States Army the Valley soldiers met a stubborn foe. The
position, moreover, occupied by Sykes possessed every advantage which
a defender could desire. Manned even by troops of inferior mettle it
might well have proved impregnable. The valley was wider than further
west, and a thousand yards intervened between the opposing ridges.
From either crest the cornfields sloped gently to the marshy sources
of the creek, hidden by tall timber and dense undergrowth. The right
and rear of the position were protected by a second stream, running
south to the Chickahominy, and winding through a swamp which Stuart,
posted on Jackson's left, pronounced impassable for horsemen. Between
the head waters of these two streams rose the spur on which stands
McGehee's house, facing the road from Old Cold Harbour, and
completely commanding the country to the north and north-east. The
flank, therefore, was well secured; the front was strong, with a wide
field of fire; the Confederate artillery, even if it could make its
way through the thick woods on the opposite crest, would have to
unlimber under fire at effective range, and the marsh below, with its
tangled undergrowth and abattis, could hardly fail to throw the
attacking infantry into disorder. Along the whole of Sykes' line only
two weak points were apparent. On his left, as already described, a
broad tract of woodland, covering nearly the whole valley, and
climbing far up the slope on the Federal side, afforded a covered
approach from one crest to the other; on his right, a plantation of
young pines skirted the crest of McGehee's Hill, and ran for some
distance down the slope. Under shelter of the timber it was possible
that the Confederate infantry might mass for the assault; but once in
the open, unaided by artillery, their further progress would be
difficult. Under ordinary circumstances a thorough reconnaissance,
followed by a carefully planned attack, would have been the natural
course of the assailant. The very strength of the position was in
favour of the Confederates. The creek which covered the whole front
rendered a counterstroke impracticable, and facilitated a flank
attack. Holding the right bank of the creek with a portion of his
force, Jackson might have thrown the remainder against McGehee's
Hill, and, working round the flank, have repeated the tactics of
Kernstown, Winchester, and Port Republic.

But the situation permitted no delay. A.P. Hill was hard pressed. The
sun was already sinking. McClellan's reserves might be coming up, and
if the battle was to be won, it must be won by direct attack. There
was no time for further reconnaissance, no time for manoeuvre.

Jackson's dispositions were soon made. D.H. Hill, eastward of the Old
Cold Harbour road, was to advance against McGehee's Hill,
overlapping, if possible, the enemy's line. Ewell was to strike in on
Hill's right, moving through the tract of woodland; Lawton, Whiting,
and Winder, in the order named, were to fill the gap between Ewell's
right and the left of A.P. Hill's division, and the artillery was
ordered into position opposite McGehee's Hill.

4 P.M.

D.H. Hill, already in advance, was the first to move. Pressing
forward from the woods, under a heavy fire of artillery, his five
brigades, the greater part in first line, descended to the creek,
already occupied by his skirmishers. In passing through the marshy
thickets, where the Federal shells were bursting on every hand, the
confusion became great. The brigades crossed each other's march.
Regiments lost their brigades, and companies their regiments. At one
point the line was so densely crowded that whole regiments were
forced to the rear; at others there were wide intervals, and
effective supervision became impossible. Along the edge of the timber
the fire was fierce, for the Union regulars were distant no more than
four hundred yards; the smoke rolled heavily through the thickets,
and on the right and centre, where the fight was hottest, the
impetuosity of both officers and men carried them forward up the
slope. An attempt to deliver a charge with the whole line failed in
combination, and such portion of the division as advanced, scourged
by both musketry and artillery, fell back before the fire of the
unshaken Federals.

In the wood to the right Ewell met with even fiercer opposition. So
hastily had the Confederate line been formed, and so difficult was it
for the brigades to maintain touch and direction in the thick covert,
that gaps soon opened along the front; and of these gaps, directly
the Southerners gained the edge of the timber, the Northern
brigadiers took quick advantage. Not content with merely holding
their ground, the regular regiments, changing front so as to strike
the flanks of the attack, came forward with the bayonet, and a
vigorous counterstroke, delivered by five battalions, drove Ewell
across the swamp. Part of Trimble's brigade still held on in the
wood, fighting fiercely; but the Louisiana regiments were
demoralised, and there were no supports on which they might have

Jackson, when he ordered Hill to the front, had sent verbal
instructions-always dangerous-for the remainder of his troops to move
forward inline of battle.*

(* The instructions, according to Dr. Dabney, ran as follows:--

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