Part 8 out of 10
waiting for us to dislodge the skirmishers. Suddenly I heard Captain
Haskell's voice ordering us forward at double-quick. We ran down the
hill into the valley below; there we found a shallow creek with steep
banks covered with briers. We beat down the briers with our guns, and
scrambled through to the other side of the creek in time to see the
Yankees run scattering through the woods and away. We reached their
position and rested while the brigade found a crossing and formed again
in our rear. I searched for a wounded man at the foot of a tree, but
found none; yet I felt sure that I had fired over my man and had knocked
another out from the tree above him.
We advanced again, and had a running fight for an hour or more. At
length no Yankees were to be seen; doubtless they had completed the
withdrawing of their outposts, and we were not to find them again until
we should strike their main lines.
Now we advanced for a long distance; troops--no doubt Jackson's--could
be seen at intervals marching rapidly on our left, marching forward and
yet at a distance from our own line. We reached an elevated clearing,
and halted. The brigade came up, and we returned to our position in the
line of battle--on the left of the First. It was about three o'clock; to
the right, far away, we could hear the pounding of artillery, while to
the southeast, somewhere near the centre of Lee's lines, on the other
side of the Chickahominy perhaps, the noise of battle rose and fell.
Shells from our front came among us. A battery--Crenshaw's--galloped
headlong into position on the right of the brigade, and began firing.
The line of infantry hugged the ground.
Three hundred yards in front the surface sloped downward to a hollow;
the slope and the hollow were covered with forest; what was on the hill
beyond we could not see, but the Yankee batteries were there and at
work. A caisson of Crenshaw's exploded. Troops were coming into line far
to our right.
General Gregg ordered his brigade forward. We marched down the wooded
slope, Crenshaw firing over our heads. We marched across the wooded
hollow and began to ascend the slope of the opposite hill, still in
The advance through the trees had scattered the line; we halted and
re-formed. The pattering of bullets amongst the leaves was distinct;
shells shrieked over us; we lay down in line. Between the trunks of the
trees we could see open ground in front; it was thick with men firing
into us in the woods. Those in our front were Zouaves, with big, baggy,
red breeches. We began to fire kneeling. Leaves fell from branches above
us, and branches fell, cut down by artillery. Butler, of our company,
lying at my right hand, gave a howl of pain; his head was bathed in
blood. Lieutenant Rhett was dead. Rice, at my left, had found whiskey in
the Yankee camp. He had drunk the whiskey. He raised himself, took long
aim, and fired; lowered his gun, but not his body, gazing to see the
effect, and yelled, "By God, I missed him!" McKenzie was shot.
Lieutenant Barnwell was shot. The red-legged men were there and thicker.
Our colour went down, and rose. We had gone into battle with two
colours,--the blue regimental State flag, and the battle-flag of the
Confederate infantry. Lieutenant-colonel Smith had fallen.
A lull came. I heard the shrill voice of Gregg:--
"_For-w-a-r-d_--" and the next I knew men were dropping down all around
me, and we were advancing. But only for a minute did we go forward. From
front and left came a tempest of lead; again the colours--both--fell,
and all the colour-guard. The colonel raised the colours. We staggered
and fell back; the retreat through the woods became disorder.
On top of our hill I could see but few men whom I knew,--only six, but
one of the six was Haskell. The enemy had not advanced, but shell and
shot yet raked the hill. Crenshaw's battery was again in full action. We
hunted our regiment and failed to find it. Some regiment--the Thirtieth
North Carolina--was advancing on our right. Captain Haskell and his six
men joined this regiment, placing themselves on its left. The Thirtieth
went forward through the woods--reached the open--and charged.
The regiment charged boldly; forward straight it went, no man seeing
whither, every man with his mouth stretched wide and his voice at
Suddenly, down to the ground fell every man; the line had found a sunken
road, and the temptation was too great--down into the friendly road we
fell, and lay with bodies flat and faces in the dust.
The officers waved their swords; they threatened the men; the men
calmly looked at their officers.
A man on a great horse rode up and down the line urging, gesticulating.
He got near to Haskell--
"Who _are_ you?" shouted our Captain.
"Captain Blount--quartermaster fourth North Carolina."
"We will follow you!" shouted Haskell.
Blount rode on his great horse--he rode to the centre of the
Thirtieth--he stooped; he seized the colour--he lifted the battle-flag
high in the air--he turned his great horse--he rode up the hill.
Then those men lying in the sunken road sprang to their feet, and
followed their flag fluttering in front, and made the world hideous
And the red flag went down--and Blount was dead--and the great horse was
lying on his side and kicking the air--and the hill was gained.
The Thirtieth was disorganized by its advance. Another North Carolina
regiment came from the right rear. Haskell and his six were yet
unbroken; they joined the advancing regiment, keeping on its left, and
charged with it for another position. Believe it or not, the same thing
recurred; the regiment charged well; from the smoke in front death came
out upon it fast; a sunken road was to be crossed, and was not crossed;
down the men all went to save their lives.
And the officers waved their swords, and the men remained in the road.
Now the Captain called the six, and ran to the centre of the regiment;
he snatched the flag and rushed forward up the slope--he looked not
back, but forward.
The six were on the slope--the Captain was farthest forward--one of the
six fell--in falling his face was turned back--he saw that the regiment
was yet in the sunken road, and he shouted to his Captain and told him
that the regiment did not follow.
The Captain came back, and said tenderly, "Ah! Jones? What did I tell
you? Are you hurt badly? I will send for you."
Then the Captain and five turned away to the right, for the flag would
not be taken back to the regiment lying down.
On an open hill between the two battling hosts I was lying. The bullets
and shells came from front and rear. The blue men came on--and the
others went back awhile. I fired at the blue men, and tried to load, but
could not. I felt a great pain strike under my belt and was afraid to
look, for I knew the part was mortal. But at length I exerted my will,
and controlled my fear, and saw my trousers torn. My first wound had
deadened my leg, but I felt no great pain--the leg was numb. The new
blow was torture. I managed to take down my clothing, and saw a great
blue-black spot on my groin. I was confused, and wondered where the
bullet went, and perhaps became unconscious.
Darkness was coming, and Jones or Berwick, or whoever I was, yet lay on
the hill. Now there were dead men and wounded men around me. Had a tide
of war flowed over me while I slept? A voice feebly called for help, and
I crawled to the voice, but could give no help except to cut a shoe from
a crushed foot. The flashes of rifles could be seen,--the enemy's
rifles,--they came nearer and nearer, and I felt doomed to capture.
Then from the rear a roar of voices, and in the gathering gloom a host
of men swept over me, disorderly, but charging hard--- the last charge
of Gaines's Mill.
"What troops are you?" I had strength to ask, and two replied:--
"The Hampton Legion."
* * * * *
Night had come. The great battle was won. Lights flashed and moved and
disappeared over the hills and hollows of the field,--men with torches
and lanterns; and names of regiments were shouted into the darkness by
the searchers for wounded friends who replied, and for others who could
not. At last I heard: "First South Carolina! First South Carolina!" and
I gathered up my strength and cried, "Here!" Louis Bellot and two others
came to me. They carried me tenderly away, but not far; still in the
field of blood they laid me down on the hillside--and a night of horror
passed slowly away.
* * * * *
The next morning, June 28th, they bore me on a stretcher back to the
field hospital near Dr. Gaines's, just in rear of the battlefield. Our
way was through scattered corpses. We passed by many Zouaves, lying
stiff and stark; one I shall always call to mind: he was lying flat on
his back, the soles of his feet firm on the ground, his knees drawn up
to right angles above, and with his elbows planted on the grass, his
fingers clinched the air. His open mouth grinned ghastly on us as
we went by.
At the field hospital the dangerously wounded were so numerous that I
was barely noticed; a brief examination; "flesh wound"--that was all. I
had already found out that the bullet had passed entirely through the
fleshy part of my thigh, and I had no fears; but the limb now gave me
great pain, and I should have been glad to have it dressed. I was laid
upon the ground under a tree and remained there until night, when I was
put with others into an ambulance and taken to some station on some
railroad--I have never known what station or what road. The journey was
painful. I was in the upper story of the ambulance. We jolted over rough
roads, halting frequently because the long train filled the road ahead.
The men in the lower story were badly wounded, groaning, and begging for
this or that. I did not know their voices; they were not of our company.
But some time in the night I learned somehow--I suppose by his companion
calling his name--that one of the men below me was named Virgil Harley.
Harley? I thought--Virgil Harley? Why, I knew that name once! Surely I
knew that name in South Carolina! And I would have spoken, but was made
aware that Virgil Harley was wounded unto death. When we reached the
railroad, I was taken out and lifted into a car, I asked about Virgil
Harley. "He is dead," was the answer.
Then I felt more than ever alone because of this slightest opportunity,
now lost forever. Virgil Harley might have been able to tell me of
myself. He was dead. I had not even seen him. I had but heard his voice
in groans that ended in the death-rattle.
A BROKEN MUSKET
"What seest thou else
In the dark backward and abysm of time?
If thou remember'st ought, ere thou cam'st here,
How thou cam'st here, thou may'st."--SHAKESPEARE.
When the train of wounded arrived in Richmond, it was early morning.
Many men and women had forsaken their beds to minister unto the needs of
the suffering; delicacies were served bountifully, and hearts as well as
stomachs were cheered; there were evidences of sympathy and honour on
Late in the forenoon I was taken to Byrd Island Hospital--an old
tobacco factory now turned into something far different. My clothing was
cut from me and taken away. Then my wound--full of dirt and even
worms--was carefully dressed. The next morning the nurse brought me the
contents of my pockets. She gave me, among the rest, a marble and a
flattened musket-ball, which, she had found in the watch-pocket of my
trousers. Now I recalled that I had put my "taw" in that pocket; the
bullet had struck the marble, which had saved me from a serious if not
The ward in which I found myself contained perhaps a hundred wounded
men, not one of whom I knew, though there were a few belonging to my
regiment--other companies than mine. Acquaintance was quickly made,
however, by men on adjoining cots; but no man, I think, was ever called
by his name. He was Georgia, or Alabama,--his State, whatever that was.
My neighbours called me, of course, South Carolina.
Many had fatal wounds; almost every morning showed a vacant cot. I
remember that the man on the next cot at my left, whose name in ward
vernacular was Alabama, had a story to tell. One morning I noticed that
he was wearing a clean white homespun shirt on which were amazingly big
blue buttons. I allowed myself to ask him why such buttons had been
used. He replied that, a month before he had been on furlough at his
home in Alabama, and that his mother had made him two new shirts, and
had made use of the extraordinary objects which I now saw because they
were all she had. He had told her jestingly that she was putting that
big blue button on the middle of his breast to be a target for some
Yankee; and, sure enough, the wound which had sent him to the hospital
was a rifle shot that struck the middle button. I laughed, and Alabama
laughed, too, but not long. He died.
For nearly two months I remained in this woful hospital. Life there was
totally void of incident. After the first week, in which we learned of
the further successes of the Confederate arms and of our final check at
Malvern Hill, anxiety was no longer felt concerning Lee's army, now
doing nothing more than watching McClellan, who had intrenched on the
river below Richmond, under the protection of the Federal fleet. We
learned with some degree of interest that another Federal army was
organizing under General Pope somewhere near Warrenton; but Southern
hopes were so high in consequence of the ruin of McClellan's campaign,
and the manifest safety of Richmond, that the new army gave us no
concern; of course I am speaking of the common soldiers amongst whom I
At the end of a fortnight my wound was beginning to heal a little, and
in ten days more I began to hobble about the room on crutches. On the
first day of August I was surprised to see Joe Bellot enter the ward.
The brigade had marched into Richmond, and was about to take the cars
for Gordonsville in order to join Jackson, who was making head against
Pope. It was only a few minutes that Bellot could stay with me; he had
to hurry back to the command.
Then I became restless. The surgeons told me that I could get a
furlough; but what did I want with a furlough? To go home? My home was
I was limping about without crutches, and getting strong rapidly, when
the papers told us of Jackson's encounter with Banks at Cedar Run. Then
my feverish anxiety to see the one or two persons in the world whom I
loved became intense. I walked into the surgeon's office, keeping myself
straight, and asked an order remanding me to my company. He flatly
refused to give it. Said he, "You would never reach your company; where
is it, by the way?"
"Near Gordonsville, somewhere," said I.
"I will find out to-day; come to me to-morrow morning."
On the next day he said, "Your regiment is on the Rapidan. You would
have to walk at least twenty miles from Gordonsville; it would
"Doctor," said I, "I am confident that I can march."
"Yes," said he; "so am I; you can march just about a mile and a half by
getting somebody to tote your gun and knapsack. Come to me again in
about a week."
I came to him four days afterward, and worried him into giving me my
papers, by means of winch I got transportation to Gordonsville, where I
arrived, in company with many soldiers returning to their commands, on
August 22d. From Gordonsville I took the road north afoot. There was no
difficulty in knowing the way, for there was no lack of men and wagons
going and returning. I had filled a haversack with food before I left
Richmond--enough for two days. My haversack, canteen, and a blanket were
all my possessions.
At about two o'clock the next day, as I was plodding over a hot dusty
road somewhere in Culpeper County, I met a wagon, which stopped as I
approached. The teamster beckoned to me to come to him. He said: "Don't
go up that hill yonder. There is a crazy man in the road and he's
a-tryin' to shoot everybody he sees. Better go round him." I thanked the
teamster, who drove on. At the foot of the ascending hill I looked ahead
to see whether there was a way to get round it, but the road seemed
better than any other way. Heavy clouds were rolling up from the south,
with wind and thunder. A farmhouse was on the hill at the left of the
road; I wanted to get there if possible before the rain. In the road I
saw nobody. I walked up the hill, thinking that, after all, my friend
the wagoner was playing a practical joke upon me. All at once, from the
side of the road, a Confederate soldier showed himself. He sprang into
the middle of the road some six paces in front of me, presented his gun
at me with deliberate aim, and pulled the trigger without saying a word.
Altogether it was a very odd performance on his part and an unpleasant
experience for me. When his gun failed to fire, he changed his attitude
at once, and began the second part of his programme. He dropped his
piece to the position of ordered arms, kept himself erect as on
dress-parade, raised his right hand high, and shouted, "The cannons!
I stood and looked at him ten seconds; then I tried to slip round him,
keeping my eyes on him, however, for fear that his gun might, after all,
be loaded; he faced me again, and repeated his cry, "The cannons!
The rain was beginning to fall in big drops. I rushed past him, and
seeing--nearer to me than the house--some immense haystacks with
overhanging projections resulting from continued invasion by cattle, I
was soon under their sheltering eaves. As I ran, I could hear behind me
the warning voice of the soldier, who evidently had lost his reason
* * * * *
As night fell on the 24th I was standing behind a tree, waiting to
surprise Company H. I had reached the lines while they were moving;
Hill's Light Division was passing me. Soon came General Gregg, riding at
the head of his brigade; then one regiment after another till the
last--the First--appeared in sight, with Company C leading. I remained
behind the tree; at last I could see Captain Haskell marching by the
side of Orderly-sergeant Mackay; then I stepped out and marched by the
side of the Captain. At first, in the twilight, he did not know me;
then, with a touch of gladness in his voice, he said: "I did not expect
you back so soon. Are you fully recovered?"
"I report for duty, Captain," I replied.
He made me keep by his side until we halted for the night, and had me
tell him my experiences in the hospital and on the road. He informed me
briefly of the movements which had taken place recently. The regiment
had been under fire in the battle with Banks, but had not suffered any
loss. On this day--the 24th--the regiment had been under fire of the
Federal artillery on the Rappahannock. We were now near the river at a
place called Jeffersonton, and were apparently entering upon the first
movements of an active campaign.
The company was much smaller than I had known it. We had lost in the
battles of the Chickahominy many men and officers. Disease and hardship
had further decreased our ranks. Captain Haskell was almost the only
officer in the company. My mess had broken up. There were but four
remaining of the original nine, and these four had found it more
convenient for two men, or even one, to form a mess. I found a companion
in Joe Bellot, whose brother had been wounded severely at Gaines's Mill.
Bellot had a big quart cup in which we boiled soup, and coffee when we
had any, or burnt-bread for coffee when the real stuff was lacking.
Flour and bacon were issued to the men. We kneaded dough on an oilcloth,
or gum-blanket as the Yankee prisoners called it, and baked the dough by
spreading it on barrel-heads and propping them before the fire. When
these boards were not to be had, we made the dough into long slender
rolls, which, we twined about an iron ramrod and put before the fire on
wooden forks stuck in the ground. My haversack of food brought from
Richmond was exhausted; this night but one day's ration was issued.
* * * * *
On the next morning Jackson began his movement around Pope's right. I
had no rifle, or cartridge-box, or knapsack, and managed so as to keep
up. Being unarmed, I was allowed to march at will--in the ranks or not,
as I chose. The company numbered thirty-one men. The day's march was
something terrible. We went west, and northwest, and north, fording
streams, taking short cuts across fields, hurrying on and on. No train
of wagons delayed our march; our next rations must be won from the
enemy. Jackson's rule in marching was two miles in fifty minutes, then
ten minutes rest,--but this day there was no rule; we simply marched,
and rested only when obstacles compelled a halt,--which loss must at
once be made up by extra exertion. At night we went into bivouac near a
village called Salem. We were now some ten or fifteen miles to the west
of Pope's right flank.
There were no rations, and the men were broken and hungry. A detail from
each company was ordered to gather the green ears from some fields of
corn purchased for the use of the government. That night I committed the
crime of eating eighteen of the ears half roasted.
At daylight on the 26th we again took up the march. I soon straggled. I
was deathly sick. Captain Haskell tried to find a place for me in some
ambulance, but failed. I went aside into thick woods and lay down; I
slept, and when I awoke the sun was in mid-heaven, and Jackson's corps
was ten miles ahead, but I was no longer ill. The troops had all passed
me; there were no men on the road except a few stragglers like myself. I
hurried forward through White Plains--then along a railroad through a
gap in some mountains--then through Gainesville at dark--and at last,
about ten o'clock at night, after questioning until I was almost in
despair, I found Company H asleep in a clover field. Still no rations.
Before dawn of the 27th we were waked by the sound of musketry toward
the east--seemingly more than two miles away. We moved at sunrise, and
soon reached Manassas Junction, already held by our troops. Up to this
time I had been unarmed, and all the men destitute of food; here now was
an embarrassment of riches. I got a short Enfield rifle, marked for
eleven hundred yards. Everything was in abundance except good water. The
troops of Jackson and Ewell and Hill crammed their haversacks, and
loaded themselves with whatever their fancies chose--ludicrous fancies
in too many cases. Hams could be seen on bayonets. Comstock got a lot of
smoking tobacco and held to it tenaciously, refusing to divide. Cans of
vegetables, and sardines, and preserved fruits; coffee, sugar, tea,
medicines--everything, even to women's wearing apparel, was taken or
burnt. Our regiment lay by a muddy pool whose water we were forced to
drink, though filth--even horses' bones--lay on its margin, and I know
not what horrors beneath its green, slimy surface. Before daylight of
the 28th we marched northward in the glare of the burning cars and
camps. We crossed Bull Run on a bridge, some of the men fording; here we
got better water, but not good water.
In the forenoon we readied Centreville and halted. Nobody seemed to know
the purpose of this movement toward the north. Were we making for
Washington? I had the chance of speaking to the Captain. He told me that
he thought Jackson's corps was in a close place, but that he had no
doubt we should be able to hold our own until Longstreet could force his
way to our help. We were between Pope's army and Washington, and it was
certain that Pope would make every effort to crush Jackson.
About two o'clock the troops were put in motion, heading west, down the
Warrenton pike. It now appeared that only A. P. Hill's division had
marched to Centreville; the other divisions of Jackson's corps were at
the west, and beyond Bull Run. After matching a mile or two we could
see to the eastward and south, great clouds of dust rolling up above the
woods, evidently made by a column in march upon the road by which, we
had that morning advanced from Manassas to Centreville. We knew that
Pope's army--or a great part of it--was making that dust, and that Pope
was hot after Jackson. We crossed Bull Run on the stone bridge and
halted in the road. It was about five o'clock; the men were weary--most
of us had loaded ourselves too heavily with the spoils of Manassas and
were repenting, but few had as yet begun to throw away their booty. My
increased burden bore upon me, but I had as yet held out; in fact, the
greater part of my load--beyond weapon, and accoutrements--consisted in
food which diminished at short intervals. We could not yet
We had rested perhaps half an hour. Again we were ordered to march, and
moved to the right through woods and fields, and formed line facing
south. How long our line was I did not know; I supposed the whole of
Hill's division was there, though I could see only our regiment. Soon
firing began at our right and right front; it increased in volume, and
artillery and musketry roared and subsided until dark and after. At
dark, the brigade again moved to the right, seemingly to support the
troops that had been engaged, and which we found to be Ewell's division.
We lay on our arms in columns of regiments. We were ordered to preserve
the strictest silence. We were told that a heavy column of the enemy was
passing just beyond the hills in front of us. Suddenly the sound of many
voices broke out beyond the hills. The Federal column was cheering. Near
and far the cry rose and fell as one command after another took it from
the next. What the noise was made for I never knew; probably Pope's
sanguine order, in which he expressed the certainty of having "the whole
crowd bagged," had been made known to his troops for the purpose of
encouraging them. Our men were silent, even gloomy, not knowing what
good fortune had made our enemies sound such high, triumphant notes; yet
I believe that every man, as he lay in his unknown position that night,
had confidence that in the battle of the morrow, now looked for as a
certainty, the genius of Lee and of Jackson would guide us to one
Early on the morning of Friday, the 29th, we moved, but where I do not
know--only that we moved in a circuitous way, and not very far, and that
when we again formed line, we seemed to be facing northeast. Already the
sound of musketry and cannon had been heard close in our front. Our
regiment, left in front, was in the woods. We brought our right in
front, and then the brigade moved forward down a slope to an
Comstock had given away all of his smoking tobacco, saying that he would
not need it.
Company H had been thrown out to left and front as skirmishers. The
regiment moved across the railroad and through the woods into the fields
beyond, far to the right of the position held by Company H. The regiment
met the enemy in heavy force; additional regiments from the brigade were
hurried to the support of the First, which, by this time, was falling
back before a full division of the enemy. The brigade retired in good
order to the railroad, and Company H was ordered back into the battle
line on the left of the First.
[Illustration: Map entitled "SECOND MANASSAS, Aug. 29, 1882"]
It was almost ten o'clock. Four companies of the First regiment, under
Captain Shooter, were now ordered forward through the woods as
skirmishers; on the left of this force was Haskell's company. We came up
with the enemy's skirmishers posted behind trees, and began firing. We
advanced, driving the Yankee skirmish-line slowly through the woods.
After some fluctuations in the fight, seeing that our small force was
much too far from support, order was given to the skirmishers to retire;
a heavy line of the enemy had been developed. This order did not reach
my ears. I suppose that I was in the very act of firing when the order
was given. While reloading, I became aware that the company had retired,
as I could see no man to my right or left. Looking round, I saw the line
some thirty yards in my rear, moving back toward the brigade. Now I
feared that in retreating, my body would be a target for many rifles.
The Yankees were not advancing. I sprang back quickly from my tree to
another. Rifles cracked. Again I made a similar movement--and again--at
each tree, as I got behind it, pausing and considering in front. At last
I was out of sight of the enemy, and also out of sight of Company H.
The toils of the last week had been hard upon me. My wounded leg had not
regained its full strength. I was hot and thirsty as well as weak. I
crossed a wet place in the low woods and looked for water. Still no
enemy was pursuing. I searched for a spring or pool, following the wet
place down a gentle slope, which inclined to my right oblique as I
retreated. Soon I found a branch and drank my fill; then I filled my
canteen and rose to my feet refreshed.
Just below me, uprooted by some storm, lay a giant poplar spanning the
little brook. I stepped upon the log and stood there for a second. Here
was a natural retreat. If I had wanted to hide, this spot was what I
should have chosen. The boughs of the fallen tree, mingling with the
copse, made a complete hiding-place.
The more I looked, the more the spot seemed to bind me. I began to
wonder. Surely this was not my first sight of this spot. Had I crossed
here in the morning? No; we had moved forward much to the right. What
was the secret of the influence which the spot held over me? I had seen
it before or I had dreamed of it. I was greatly puzzled.
On the ground lay the broken parts of a rust-eaten musket. I picked up
the barrel; it was bent; I threw it down and picked up the stock. Why
should I be interested in this broken gun? I knew not, but I knew that I
was drawn in some way by it. On the stock were carved the letters J.B.
Who had owned this gun? John Brown? James Butler? Then the thought came
suddenly--why not Jones Berwick? No! That was absurd! But why absurd?
Did I know who I was, or where I had been, or where I had not been?
A shot and then another rang out in the woods at my left; I dropped the
gun and ran.
I soon overtook Company H retiring slowly through the woods. And now we
made a stand, as the brigade was in supporting distance. Our position
was perhaps three hundred yards in front of the brigade, which was
posted behind the old railroad. Thick woods were all around us. Soon the
blue skirmishers came in sight, and we began firing. The Federals sprang
at once to trees and began popping away at us. The range was close.
Grant was mortally hit. My group of four on that day was reduced to one
man. Goettee fell, and Godley. We kept up the fight. But now a blue line
of battle could be seen advancing behind the skirmishers. They kept
coming, reserving their fire until they should pass beyond their
skirmish-line. We should have withdrawn at once, but waited until the
line of battle had reached the skirmishers before we were ordered to
fall back. When we began to retire, the line of battle opened upon us,
and we lost some men.
Company H formed in its place on the left of the First, which was now
the left regiment of the brigade, of the division, and of the corps.
Company H was in the air at the left of Jackson's line.
General Lee had planned to place Jackson's corps in rear of Pope's army,
without severing communication with Longstreet; but the developments of
the campaign had thrown Jackson between Pope and Washington while yet
the corps of Longstreet was two days' march behind, and beyond the Bull
Run mountains. Pope had made dispositions to crush Jackson; to delay
Longstreet he occupied with a division Thoroughfare Gap,--through which
Jackson had marched and I had straggled on the 26th,--and with his
other divisions had marched on Manassas. Jackson had thus been forced to
retreat toward the north in order to gain time. When Hill's division
reached Centreville, it turned west, as already related, and while Pope
was marching on Centreville Jackson was marching to get nearer
Longstreet. This placed Ricketts's division of Pope's army, which had
occupied Thoroughfare Gap for the purpose of preventing the passage of
Longstreet, between Longstreet and Jackson. Ricketts was thus forced to
yield the gap after having delayed Longstreet during the night of the
28th. Pope could now have retired to Washington without a battle, but he
decided to overwhelm Jackson before Longstreet could reach the field,
and attacked hotly on the Confederate left.
The battle of Friday, the 29th of August, was fought then in consequence
of the double motive already hinted at, namely, that of Pope to
overwhelm Jackson, and of Jackson to resist and hold Pope until
Longstreet came. Jackson's manoeuvres had brought him within six hours'
march of Longstreet, and while Jackson's men were dying in the woods,
Longstreet's iron men, covered with dust and sweat, were marching with
rapid and long strides to the sound of battle in their front, where,
upon their comrades at bay, Pope was throwing division after division
into the fight.
Upon the left of Company H was a small open field, enclosed by a rail
fence; the part of the field nearest us was unplanted; the far side of
the field--that nearest the enemy--was in corn. The left of our line did
not extend quite to the fence, but at some times in the battle we were
forced to gather at the fence and fire upon the Federals advancing
through the field to turn our left.
Company H had hardly formed in its position upon the extreme left before
the shouts of the Federal line of battle told of their coming straight
through the woods upon us. They reached the undergrowth which bordered
the farther side of the railroad way. The orders of their officers
could be heard. We lay in the open woods, each man behind a tree as far
as was possible; but the trees were too few. The dense bushes, which had
grown up in the edge of the railroad way, effectually concealed the
enemy. We were hoping for them to come on and get into view, but they
remained in the bushes and poured volley after volley into our ranks. We
returned their fire as well as we could, but knew that many of our shots
would be wasted, as we could rarely have definite aim, except at the
line of smoke in the thick bushes.
Now the firing ceased, and we thought that the enemy had retired; but if
they had done so, it was only to give place to a fresh body of troops,
which opened upon us a new and terrific fire. We had nothing to do but
to endure and fire into the bushes. If our line had attempted to cross
the railroad, not one of us would have reached it; the Federals also
were afraid to advance.
Again there came a lull in the fight, but, as before, it was only
premonitory of another tempest of balls. How many attacks we stood that
day nobody on our side clearly knew. Again the Federal lines gave way,
or were relieved. Our line still held. The woods were thick with dead.
Comstock was dead. Bail was dead. Bee and Box were dead. Joe Bellot was
fearfully wounded. Many had been carried to the rear, and many yet lay
bleeding in our ranks, waiting to be taken out when the fight ceased.
Each man lay behind the best tree he could get; the trees had become
more plentiful. We fired lying, kneeling, standing, sometimes running;
but the line held. If we had had but the smallest breastwork!--but
we had none.
In the afternoon the Federals tried more than once to throw a force
around our left--through the open field; but each time they were driven
back by our oblique fire, helped by a battery which we could not see,
somewhere in our rear. I now suppose that before this time Longstreet
had formed on Jackson's right; the sounds of great fighting came from
the east and southeast.
We had resisted long enough. Our cartridges were gone, although our
boxes had more than once been replenished, and we had used up the
cartridges of our wounded and dead.
Just before the sun went down, the woods suddenly became alive with
Yankees. A deafening volley was poured upon our weakened ranks,--no
longer ranks, but mere clusters of men,--but the shots went high; before
the smoke lifted, the blue men were upon us; they had not waited
Many of our men had not a cartridge, but the enemy were so near that
every shot told.
Their line is thinned; they come still, but in disconnected groups; they
are almost in our midst; straight toward me comes a towering man--his
sleeves show the stripes of a sergeant. His great form and his long red
hair are not more conspicuous than the vigour of his bearing. He makes
no pause. He strikes right and left. Men fall away from him. Our group
is scattering, some to gain time to load, others in flight. The great
sergeant rushes toward me; his gun rises again in his mighty hands, and
the blow descends. I slip aside; the force of the blow almost carries
him to the ground, but he recovers; he comes again; again he swings his
gun back over his shoulder, his eyes fixed upon my head where he will
strike. I raise my gun above my head--at the parry. Suddenly his
expression yields--a look as if of astonishment succeeds to fixed
determination--and at the same instant his countenance passes through an
indescribable change as the blood spouts from his forehead and he falls
lifeless at my feet, slain by a shot from my rear.
 The attack at sunset described by Mr. Berwick was made by Grover's
brigade, of Hooker's division, and succeeded in driving back Gregg's
worn-out men, who were at once relieved by Early's brigade of Ewell's
Confusion is everywhere. Ones, twos, groups, are beginning to flee from
either side. Here and there a small body of men yet hold fast and
fight. The shouting is more than the firing. At my right I see our flag,
and near it a flag of the Federals.
In a moment comes a new line of the enemy; our ranks--what is left of
them--must yield. We begin to run. I hear Dominic
Spellman--colour-bearer of the First--cry out, "Jones, for God's sake,
stop!" I turn. A few have rallied and are bringing out the flag. Our
line is gone--broken--and Jackson's left is crumbling away. Defeat is
here--in a handbreadth of us--and Pope's star will shine the brightest
over America; but now from our rear a Confederate yell rises high and
shrill through the bullet-scarred forest, and a fresh brigade advances
at the charge, relieves the vanquished troops of Gregg, and rolls far
back the Federal tide of war. It was none too soon.
On the morning of the 29th of August thirty-one men had answered
roll-call in Company H. On the morning of the 30th but thirteen
responded; we had lost none as prisoners.
The 30th was Saturday. The division was to have remained in reserve. We
were yet lying in the woods, some hundreds of yards in the rear of our
position of the 29th, and details were burying our dead, when we were
ordered to form. We marched some distance to the left. A low
grass-covered meadow was in our front, with a rail fence at the woods
about three hundred yards from us. Bullets came amongst us from the
fence at the woods, toward which we were marching in column of fours,
right in front. I heard the order from Major McCrady--"_Battalion--by
companies_!" and Haskell repeated--"_Company H_!"--then McCrady--"_On
the right--by file--into line--MARCH_!" This manoeuvre brought the
regiment into column of companies still marching in its former
direction, Company H being the rear of all.
Again I heard McCrady--"_Battalion--by companies_!" and Haskell
again--"_Company H_!"--then McCrady--"_Left--half wheel_!" and
Haskell--"_Left wheel_!"--then McCrady--"_Forward into line_," and both
It was a beautiful manoeuvre, performed as it was under a close fire and
by men battle-sick and void of vanity. The respective companies executed
simultaneously their work, and as their graduated distances demanded,
rushed forward, with a speed constantly increasing toward the left
company, Company H, which wheeled and ran to place, forming at the fence
from which the enemy fled. We lost Major McCrady, who fell
For the remainder of that bloody day the First was not engaged. We heard
the great battle between Lee and Pope, but took no further part.
On the first of September, as night was falling, we were lying under
fire, in a storm of rain, in the battle of Ox Hill, or Chantilly as the
Yankees call it. The regiment did not become engaged.
The campaign of eight days was over.
"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.
The soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God who is our home."--WORDSWORTH.
I believe I have already said that in the battle of Manassas Joe Bellot
was severely wounded. My companion gone, I messed and slept alone.
For a day or two we rested, or moved but short distances. On one of
these days, the company being on picket, the Captain ordered me to
accompany him in a round of the vedettes. While this duty was being
done, he spoke not a word except to the sentinels whom he ordered in
clear-cut speech to maintain strict vigilance. When the duty had ended,
he turned to me and said, "Let us go to that tree yonder."
The point he thus designated was just in rear of our left--- that is,
the left of Company H's vedettes--and overlooked both vedettes and
pickets, so far as they could be seen for the irregularities of ground.
Arriving at the tree, the Captain threw off all official reserve.
"Friday was hard on Company H," he said; "and the whole company did its
full duty, if I may say so without immodesty."
"Captain," I replied, "I thought it was all over with us when the
Yankees made that last charge."
"As you rightly suggest, sir, we should have been relieved earlier,"
said he; "I am informed that in the railroad cut, a little to the right
of our position, the men fought the enemy with stones for lack of
"Yes, sir; I have heard that. Can you predict our next movement?"
"I know too little of strategy to do that," he said; "but I am convinced
that we cannot remain where we are."
"Why?" I asked.
"I venture the opinion that we are too far from our supplies. I am told
that we cannot maintain the railroad back to Gordonsville. The bridges
are burnt; I doubt that any steps will be taken to rebuild them, as they
would be constantly in danger from the enemy's cavalry. I am informed
that McClellan's whole army, as well as Burnside's corps from North
Carolina, has joined Pope; General McClellan is said to be in command.
If Pope's army, which we have just fought, was larger than ours, then
McClellan's combined forces must be more than twice as great as
"Yet some of the men think we shall advance on Washington," said I.
"The men discuss everything, naturally," he replied; "I speculate also.
It seems to me that every mile of a further advance would but take from
our strength and add to that of our enemy's. If we could seize
Washington by a sudden advance--but we cannot do that, I think, and as
for a siege, I suppose nobody thinks of it. Even to sit down here could
do us no good, I imagine; our communications would be always
"Then we shall retreat after having gained a great victory?" I asked.
"It would give me great pleasure to be able to tell you. I am puzzled,"
he replied. "The victory may be regarded as an opportunity to gain time
for the South to recuperate, if we make prudent demonstrations; but an
actual advance does not appear possible. General Lee may make a show of
advancing; I dare say we could gain time by a pretence of strength. Does
not such manoeuvre meet your view? But we are fearfully weak, and our
enemies know it or should know it."
I understood well enough that the Captain's question was but an instance
of his unfailing habit of courtesy.
"Then what is there for us to do? If we ought not to stay here, and
ought not to advance on Washington, and ought not to retreat, what other
course is possible?"
"There seems but one, sir. I hear that the best opinion leans to the
belief that General Lee will cross the Potomac in order to take Harper's
Ferry and to test the sentiment of the Maryland people."
"What is at Harper's Ferry, Captain?"
"I am informed that there is a great quantity of supplies and a
"But could such an effort succeed in the face of an army like
"If the Federals abandon the place, as they ought to do at once, I
should think that there would then be no good reason for this army's
crossing the river. But military success is said to be obtained, in the
majority of cases, from the mistakes of the losers. It might be that we
could take Harper's Ferry at very little cost; and even if we should
fail, we should be prolonging the campaign upon ground that we cannot
hope to occupy permanently, and living, in a sense, upon the enemy. What
I fear, however, is that the movement would bring on another general
engagement; and I think you will agree with me in believing that we are
not prepared for that."
"Harper's Ferry is the place John Brown took," said I.
"You are right, sir; do you remember that?"
"That is the last thing that I remember reading about--the last
experience I can remember at all; but in the light last Friday there
happened something which gives me a turn whenever I think of it."
"May I ask what it was?"
"I saw a spot which I am sure--almost sure--I had seen before."
"Some resemblance, I dare say. I often pass scenes that are typical.
Near my father's home I know one spot which I have seen in twenty
"Yes, sir; I know," said I. "But it was not merely the physical features
of the place that awoke recognition."
"Oblige me by telling me all about it," he said kindly.
"You remember the position to which the four companies advanced as
"Distinctly. We did very well to get away from it," said the Captain.
"And you remember the order to fall back?"
"Certainly, since I took the initiative."
"Well, I did not hear the order. I suppose that I fired at the very
moment, and that the noise of my gun prevented my hearing it. At any
rate, a few moments afterward I saw that I was alone, and retreated as
skilfully as I knew how. The company was out of sight. I saw some signs
of water, and soon found a branch, at a place which impressed me so
strongly that for a moment I forgot even that the battle was going on. I
am almost certain that I had quenched my thirst at that spot once
before. Besides, there was an extraordinary--"
"Jones," interrupted the Captain, "you may have been in the first battle
of Manassas. Why not? But if you saw the place in last year's battle,
you came upon it from the east or the south. The positions of the armies
the other day were almost opposite their positions last year. In
sixty-one the Federals had almost our position of last Friday. It will
be well to find out what South Carolina troops were in the first battle.
By the way, General Bee, who was killed there, was from South Carolina;
I will ask Aleck to tell us what regiments were in Bee's brigade."
"Captain," said I, "when I saw that spot I felt as though I had been
there in some former life."
"Yes? I have had such feelings. More than once I have had a thought or
have seen a face or a landscape that impressed me with such an idea."
"Do you believe in a succession of lives?"
"I cannot say that I do," he replied; "but your question surprises me,
sir. May I ask if you remember reading of such subjects?"
"No, I do not, Captain; but I know that the thought must have once been
familiar to me."
"I dare say you have read some romance," said he "or, there is no
telling, you may have known some one who believed, the doctrine; you may
have believed it yourself. And I doubt that mere reading would have
influenced your mind to attach itself so strongly to thoughtful
subjects. I find you greatly interested philosophy. I think it quite
probable, sir, without flattery, that at college your professor had an
"But you do not believe the doctrine?"
"I believe in Christ and His holy apostles, sir; I believe that we live
"And that I shall be I again and again?"
"Pardon me for not following you entirely. I believe that you will be
you again; but my opinion is not fixed as to more than one death."
"Do you believe that when you live again you will remember your former
"I lean to that belief, sir, yet I consider it unimportant; I might go
so far as to say that it makes no difference."
"But how can I be I if I do not remember? What will connect the past me
with the present me? I have a strange, elusive thought there, Captain.
It sometimes seems to me that I am two,--one before, and another
now,--and that really I have lived this present time, or these present
times, in two bodies and with two minds."
"Allow me to ask if it is not possible that your strange thought as to
your imagined doubleness is caused by your believing that memory is
necessary to identity?"
"And that is error?" I asked.
"You say truly, sir; it is error. Your own experience disproves it. If
memory is necessary, you have lost your personality; but you have a
personality,--permit me to say a strong one,--and whose have you taken?"
"I do remember some things," said I.
"Then do you not agree with me that your very memory is proof that you
are not double? But, if you please, take the case of any one. Every one
has been an infant, yet he cannot remember what happened when he was in
swaddling clothes, though he is the same person now that he was then,
which proves that although a person loses his memory, he does not on
that account, sir, lose his identity."
"Then what is the test of identity, Captain?"
"It needs none, sir; consciousness of self is involuntary."
"I have consciousness of self; yet I do not know who I am, except that I
"Every man might say the same words, sir," said he, smiling.
"And I am distinct? independent?"
"Jones, my dear fellow, there are many intelligent people in the world
who, I dare say, would think us demented if they should know that we are
seriously considering such a question."
This did not seem very much of an answer to my mind, which in some
inscrutable way seemed to be at this moment groping among fragments of
thoughts that had come unbidden from the forgotten past. I felt helpless
in the presence of the Captain; I could not presume to press his
good-nature. Perhaps he saw my thought, for he added: "A man is
distinct from other men, but not from himself. He constantly changes,
and constantly remains the same."
"That is hard to understand, Captain."
"Everything, sir, is hard to understand, because everything means every
other thing. If we could fully comprehend one thing, even the least,--if
there be a least,--we should necessarily comprehend all things," said
Then he talked at large of the relations that bind everything--and of
matter, force, spirit, which he called a trinity.
"Then matter is of the same nature with God?" I asked; "and God has the
properties of matter?"
"By no means, sir. God has none of the properties of matter. Even our
minds, sir, which are more nearly like unto God than is anything else we
conceive, have no properties like matter. Yet are we bound to matter,
and our thoughts are limited."
"How can the mind contemplate God at all?"
"By pure reason only, sir. The imagination betrays. We try to image
force, because we think that we succeed in imaging matter. We try to
image spirit. I suppose that most people have a notion as to how God
looks. Anything that has not extension is as nothing to our imagination.
Yet we know that our minds are real, though we cannot attribute
extension to mind. Divisibility is of matter; if the infinite mind has
parts, then infinity is divisible--which is a contradiction."
"Then God has no properties?"
"Not in the sense that matter has, sir. If God has one of them, He has
all of them. If we attribute extension to Him, we must attribute
elasticity also, and all of them. But try to think of an elastic
"Captain, you said a while ago that everything is matter, force, and
spirit. Do you place force as something intermediate between God
"Certainly, sir; force is above matter, and mind is above force."
"I have heard that force is similar to matter in that nothing of it can
be lost," said I.
"When and where did you hear that?" asked the Captain, looking at me
fixedly, almost sternly.
The question almost brought me to my feet. When and where _had_ I heard
it? My attention had been so fastened on the Captain's philosophy that
it now seemed to me that I had become unguarded, and that from outside
of me a thought had been sent into my mind by some unknown power; I
could not know whence the thought had come. I had suddenly felt that I
had heard the theory in question. I knew that, the moment before, I
could not have said what I did. But I had spoken naturally, and without
feeling that I was undergoing an experience. I stared back at Captain
Haskell. Then I became aware of the fact that at the moment when I had
spoken I had known consciously when it was and where it was that I had
heard the theory, and I felt almost sure that if I had spoken
differently, if I had only said, "From Mr. Such-a-one, or at such a
place or time, I had heard the theory," I should now have a clew to
something. But the flash had vanished.
"It is lost," I said.
"I am sorry," said he.
"It is like the J.B. on the broken gun," said I.
"I beg your pardon?"
"I did not finish, telling you of my experience at that spot where I got
water last Friday. Right in that spot was a broken gun with J.B. on
"Are you sure, Jones?"
"I picked up both pieces of the gun and looked at them closely."
"Perhaps your seeing J.B. on the gun gave rise to your other
"Not at all; the gun came last, not first."
"What you are telling me is very remarkable," said the Captain; "you
almost make me believe that you are right in saying that your name is
Jones Berwick. However, J.B. is no uncommon combination of initials.
Suppose Lieutenant Barnwell had found the gun."
"If he had found J.G.B. on it, he would have wondered," said I.
"True; but do you know that J.G.B. is many times more difficult than
"No, Captain; I hardly think so; these are the days of three initials."
"Yes, you are right in that," he said.
"And I know I am right about my name." said I.
"Still, the whole affair may be a compound of coincidences. We have
three--or did have three--other men in the company whose initials are
J.B.,--Bail, Box, and Butler. Of course you could not recognize your own
work in the lettering?"
"No, sir; anybody might have cut those letters; just as anybody might
imitate print. And I think, Captain, that there is not another J.B. in
Lee's army who would have supposed for an instant that he had any
connection with that gun."
"Suppose, then, that I call you Berwick hereafter?"
"No, I thank you, Captain. I'd rather be to you Jones than Berwick.
Beside, if you should change now, it would cause remark."
"I think I shall ask my brother Aleck to find out what South Carolina
regiments were in the first battle of Manassas," said he. "You may go
with me to see him to-night if you will."
That night Captain A.C. Haskell, the assistant adjutant-general, was
able to inform me that Bee's brigade had not been composed of troops
from South Carolina, although General Bee himself was from that state.
After hearing my description of the place which I thought I had
revisited, he expressed the opinion that no Confederate troops at all
had reached the spot in the battle of sixty-one. The place, he said,
was more than a mile from the position of the Confederate army in the
battle; still, he admitted, many scattered Federals retreated over the
ground which interested me so greatly, and it was possible that some
Confederates had been over it to seek plunder or for other purposes; but
as for pursuit, there had been none. I asked if it could have been
possible for me to be a prisoner on that day and to be led away to the
rear of the Federals. "If so," he replied, "you would not have been
allowed to keep or to break your gun. Moreover, the whole army lost in
missing too few men to base such a theory on; the loss was just a
baker's dozen in both Beauregard's and Johnston's forces. For my part, I
think it more likely that, if you were there at all, you were there as a
scout, or as a vedette. General Evans--Old Shanks, the boys call
him--began the battle with the Fourth South Carolina. He was at Stone
Bridge, and found out before nine o'clock that McDowell had turned our
left and was marching down from Sudley. You might have been sent out to
watch the enemy; yet I am confident that Evans would have used his
cavalry for that purpose, for he had a company of cavalry in his
command. A more plausible guess might be that you were out foraging that
morning and got cut off. I will look up the Fourth South Carolina for
you, and try to learn something. Yet the whole thing is very vague, and
I should not advise you to hope for anything from it. I am now convinced
that you did not originally belong to this brigade. You would have been
recognized long ago. By the way, I have had a thought in connection with
your case. You ought to write to the hotel in Aiken and find out who
"I wonder why I never thought of that!" I exclaimed. "I suppose that a
letter addressed to the manager would answer."
"But--" I began.
"If I write, what can I say? Can I sign a letter asking an unknown man
to tell me who I am?"
"Write it and sign it Berwick Jones," said Captain Haskell, who by this
speech seemed to give full belief that my name was reversed on the roll
of his company.
As we walked back to our bivouac that night I asked the Captain whether,
in the improbable event of our finding that I had belonged to the
Fourth, I could not still serve with Company H. He was pleased,
evidently, by this question, and said that he should certainly try to
hold me if I wished to remain with him, and should hope to be able to do
so, as transfers were frequently granted, and as an application from me
would come with peculiar force when the circumstances should be made
known at headquarters. Of course, there would be no difficulty unless
the application should be disapproved by my company commander, that is,
the commander of my original company.
* * * * *
I wrote a letter, addressed "Manager of Hotel, Aiken, S.C." inquiring if
a man named Jones Berwick had been a guest at his house about October
17, 1859, and if so, whether it was possible to learn from the hotel
register, or from any other known source, the home of said Berwick.
To anticipate; it may be said here that no answer ever came.
BEYOND THE POTOMAC
"Thus far our fortune keeps an upward course,
And we are graced with wreaths of victory;
But, in the midst of this bright-shining day,
I spy a black, suspicious, threat'ning cloud,
That will encounter with our glorious sun."
We left the position near Fairfax Court-House early in September, and
marched northward, crossing the Potomac on the 5th at White's Ford near
Edwards's Ferry. We reached Fredericktown in Maryland about midday of
the 6th, after a fatiguing tramp which, for the time, was too hard for
me. My wound had again given me trouble; while wading the Potomac I
noticed fresh blood on the scar.
We rested at Fredericktown for three or four days. One morning Owens of
Company H, while quietly cooking at his fire, suddenly fell back and
began kicking and foaming at the mouth. We ran to him, but could do
nothing to help him. He struggled for a few moments and became rigid.
Some man ran for the surgeon; I thought there was no sense in going for
help when all was over. The surgeon came and soon got Owens upon his
feet. This incident made a deep impression on me. It seemed a forcible
illustration of the trite sayings: "Never give up," "While there's life
there's hope," and it became to me a source of frequent encouragement.
* * * * *
On the 10th we marched westward from Fredericktown. In the gap of the
Catoctin Mountains we came in sight of the most beautiful valley,
dotted with farms and villages. Where the enemy was, nobody seamed
We passed through Middletown and Boonsboro, and recrossed the Potomac at
Williamsport, where we learned definitely that Longstreet's wing of the
army had been held in Maryland. We marched southward to Martinsburg. The
inhabitants were greatly rejoiced, and were surprised to find
Confederate troops coming amongst them from the north. At Martinsburg
were many evidences that we were near the enemy. Captain Haskell said
that it was now clear that Lee intended to take Harper's Ferry, and that
Longstreet's retention on the north side of the Potomac was part of the
plan. We destroyed the railroad near Martinsburg, moving along it toward
the east. Late in the forenoon of the 13th we came in sight of Harper's
Ferry. The short siege of the place had already been begun; cannon from
our front and from a mountain side on our right were throwing shells
into the enemy's lines, and the enemy's batteries were replying.
On the night of the 14th Gregg's brigade marched to the right. We found
a narrow road running down the river,--the Shenandoah,--and move on
cautiously. There were strict orders to preserve silence. The guns were
uncapped, to prevent an accidental discharge. In the middle of the night
we moved out of the road and began to climb the hill on our left; it was
very steep and rough; we pulled ourselves up by the bushes. Pioneers cut
a way for the artillery, and lines of men drew the guns with ropes.
When morning came our guns commanded the intrenchments of the enemy. Our
batteries were in full action, the brigade in line of battle. The enemy
replies with all his guns, but they were soon silenced. A brigade at our
left seemed ready to advance; the enemy's artillery opened afresh. Then
from our left a battery stormed forward to a new position much nearer to
the enemy. We were ordered to fix bayonets and the line began to
advance, but was at once halted. Harper's Ferry had been surrendered,
with eleven thousand prisoners and seventy pieces of artillery, and
munitions in great quantity.
We had been hearing at intervals, for the last day or two, far-off
sounds of artillery toward the north. On the night after the surrender,
A.P. Hill's men knew that theirs was the only division at Harper's
Ferry, the two other divisions of Jackson's corps having marched away,
some said to the help of Longstreet on the north side of the Potomac;
then we felt that some great event was near, and we wondered whether it
should befall us to remain distant from the army during a great
The 16th passed tranquilly. Sounds of artillery could be heard in the
north and northwest, but we had nothing to do but to rest in position
while our details worked in organizing the captured property. The
prisoners were not greatly downcast. We learned that they were to be
released on parole. Crowds of them had gathered along the roads on the
15th to see Stonewall Jackson whenever he rode by, and they seemed to
admire him no less than his own men did. Late in the afternoon the
regiment marched out of the lines of Harper's Ferry and bivouacked for
the night some two miles to the west of the town.
On the 17th the division was put in motion on a road running up the
Potomac. The march began, at sunrise. Soon the sounds of battle were
heard far in front, and the step was lengthened. The day was hot, and
the road was dusty. Frequently we went at double-quick. About one
o'clock we waded the Potomac below Shepherdstown. Beyond the river the
march turned northeast--a rapid march; many men had fallen out before we
reached the river; now many more began to straggle. All the while the
roar of a great battle extended across our front, mostly in our left
front. We passed through a village called Sharpsburg. Its streets were
encumbered with wagons, ambulances, stragglers, wounded men, and all
the horrid results of war that choke the roads in rear of an army
engaged in a great battle.
Beyond the village we turned to the right. We marched up one side of a
hill and down the other side. On the slope of the opposite hill we
halted, some of the troops being protected by a stone fence. The noise
of battle was everywhere, and increasing at our right, almost on our
right flank. Wounded men were streaming by; the litter-bearers were
busy. Nothing is so hard to bear as waiting while in expectation of
being called on to restore a lost battle from which the wounded and dead
are being carried. Our time was near.
Thick corn was growing on the hillside above us. General Gregg
dismounted. His orders reached our ears and were repeated by the
colonels and the captains. We were to advance.
While Jackson had marched south from Maryland in order to effect the
capture of Harper's Ferry, Longstreet had retired before McClellan, who
had collected an immense army and had advanced. The North had risen at
the first news that Lee had crossed the Potomac and McClellan's army,
vast as it was, yet continued to receive reinforcements almost daily;
his army was perhaps stronger than it had been before his disastrous
campaign of the Chickahominy, his troops on James River had marched down
the Peninsula and had been taken in transports to Fredericksburg and
Alexandria. Porter's and Heintzelman's corps of McClellan's army had
fought under Pope in the second battle of Manassas. Now McClellan had
his own army, Pope's army, Burnside's corps, and all other troops that
could be got to his help. To delay this army until Jackson could seize
Harper's Ferry had been the duty intrusted to Longstreet and his
lieutenants. But Longstreet with his twenty thousand were now in danger
of being overwhelmed. On the 15th, in the afternoon of the surrender at
Harper's Ferry, two of Jackson's divisions had marched to reenforce
Longstreet. Had not time been so pressing, Hill's division would not
have been ordered to assault the works at Harper's Ferry--an assault
which was begun and which was made unnecessary by the surrender.
McClellan knew the danger to Harper's Ferry and knew of the separation
of the Confederate forces. A copy of General Lee's special order
outlining his movements had fallen into General McClellan's hands. This
order was dated September 9th; it gave instructions to Jackson to seize
Harper's Ferry, and it directed the movements of Longstreet. With this
information, General McClellan pressed on after Longstreet; he ordered
General Franklin to carry Crampton's Gap and advance to the relief of
On Sunday, the 14th, McClellan's advanced divisions attacked D.H. Hill's
division in a gap of South Mountain, near Boonsboro, and Franklin
carried Crampton's Gap, farther to the south. Though both of these
attacks were successful, the resistance of the Confederates had in each
case been sufficient to gain time for Jackson. On the 15th Harper's
Ferry surrendered, and McClellan continued to advance; Longstreet
prepared for battle.
The next day, at nightfall, the Federals were facing Lee's army, the
Antietam creek flowing between the hostile ranks.
At 3 P.M. of the 17th, A.P. Hill's division, after a forced march of
seventeen miles, and after fording the Potomac, found itself in front of
the left wing of the Federal army,--consisting of Burnside's
corps,--which had already brushed away the opposition in its front, and
was now advancing to seize the ford at Shepherdstown and cut off Lee
from the Potomac.
A.P. Hill rode into battle at the head of his division. The few brigades
which, had been opposed to Burnside had offered a stout resistance, but,
too weak to resist long, had fallen back to our right. Into the gap we
were ordered. In the edge of the corn a rabbit jumped up and ran along
in front of the line; a few shots were fired at it by some excited men
on our left. These shots seemed the signal for the Federals to show
themselves; they were in the corn, advancing upon us while we were
moving upon them. There were three lines of them. Our charge broke their
first line; it fell back on the second and both ran; the third line
stood. We advanced through the corn, firing and shouting. The third line
fired, then broke; now we stood where it had stood, on the top of the
hill. A descending slope was before us, then a hollow--- also in thick
corn--and an open ascent beyond. Behind the brow of this next hill a
Federal battery made its presence felt by its fire only, as the guns and
men were almost entirely covered. This battery was perhaps four hundred
yards from us, and almost directly in front of the left wing of the
First. The corn on our slope and in the hollow was full of Federals
running in disorder. We loaded and fired, and loaded and fired. Soon the
naked slope opposite was dotted with fleeing men. We loaded and fired,
and loaded and fired.
In a thick row of corn at the bottom of the hill I saw a bayonet
glitter. The bayonet was erect, at the height of the large blades of
corn. The owner of the bayonet had squatted in the corn; he was afraid
to run out upon the naked hillside behind him, and he had not thought
too well. He had kept his gun in his hand, with the butt on the ground,
and the sun's rays betrayed him. Nothing could be seen but the bayonet.
I fired at the ground below the bayonet. The bayonet fell.
An officer was riding back and forth on the open hillside, a gallant
officer rallying his men. None would stop; it was death to stop. He
threatened, and almost struck the men, but they would run on as soon as
his back was turned. They were right to run at this moment, and he was
wrong in trying to form on the naked slope. Beyond the hilltop was the
place to rally, and the men knew it, and the gallant officer did not He
rode from group to group of fleeing men as they streamed up the hill. He
was a most conspicuous target. Many shots were fired at him, but he
continued to ride and to storm at the men and to wave his sword.
Suddenly his head went down, his body doubled up, and he lay stretched
on the ground. The riderless horse galloped off a few yards, then
returned to his master, bent his head to the prostrate man, and fell
almost upon him.
The Federal infantry could now be seen nowhere in our front. On our left
they began to develop and to advance, and on the right the sound of
heavy fighting was yet heard. The enemy continued to develop from our
left until they were uncovered in our front. They advanced, right and
left; just upon our own position the pressure was not yet great, but we
felt that the Twelfth regiment, which joined us on our left, must soon
yield to greatly superior numbers, and would carry our flank with it
when it went. The fight now raged hotter than before. I saw Captain
Parker, of Company K, near to us. His face was a mass of blood--his jaw
broken. The regiment was so small that, although Company H was on its
left, I saw Sam Wigg, a corporal of the colour-guard, fall--death in his
face. Then the Twelfth South Carolina charged, and for a while the
pressure upon us was relieved; but the Twelfth charged too far, and,
while driving the enemy in its front, was soon overlapped, and flanked.
Upon its exposed flank the bullets fell and it crumbled; in retiring, it
caught the left of the First, and Company H fell back. Now the enemy
moved on the First from the front and the regiment retired hastily
through the corn, and formed easily again at the stone fence from which
it had advanced at the beginning of the contest. The battle was over.
The enemy came no farther, and the fords of the Potomac remained to Lee.
All the night of the 17th and the day of the 18th we lay in position. A
few shells flew over us at irregular intervals, and we were in hourly
expectation of a renewal of the battle, but the Federals did not
advance. By daylight on the morning of the 19th we were once more
While A.P. Hill's division had suffered but small loss in the battle of
Sharpsburg, and while our part in the battle had been fortunate, it was
clear that Lee's army as a whole had barely escaped a great disaster. I
have always thought that McClellan had it in his power on the 18th of
September to bring the war to an end. Lee had fought the battle with a
force not exceeding forty thousand men, and had lost nearly a third.
McClellan, on the 18th, was fully three times as strong as Lee; but he
waited a full day, and gave the Confederates opportunity to cross,
almost leisurely, the difficult river in their rear.
* * * * *
A.P. Hill's division went into bivouac some five miles south of
On the morning of the 20th the warning rumble of the long roll called us
once again to action. We were marched rapidly back to the Potomac.
Firing could be heard in front, and wounded men could be seen here and
there. Men said that in the night McClellan had thrown a force to the
south side of the river, and had surprised and taken some of our
artillery. As we drew near the river, we could see the smoke of cannon
in action spouting from the farther side, and from our side came the
crackling of musketry fire.
The division was formed for battle; we were to advance in two lines of
three brigades each, General Gregg in command of the first line. Orr's
Rifle regiment was thrown forward as skirmishers and advanced to the
river bank. The division moved behind the skirmishers. The ground was
open. We marched down a slope covered with corn in part, and reached a
bare and undulating field that stretched to the trees bordering the
river. As soon as the division had passed the corn, the Federal
batteries north of the Potomac began to work upon our ranks. The first
shots flew a little above us. We were marching at a quick time, keeping
well the alignment. The next shots struck the ground in front of us and
exploded--with what effect I could not see. And now the enemy had our
range and made use of the time. Before us, about three hundred yards,
was a depression of the ground, with a low ascending hill beyond. Shells
burst over us, beyond us, in front of us, amongst us, as we marched on
at quick time. We reached the hollow and were ordered to lie down. The
sun was oppressive. The troops had scant room in the hollow; they hugged
the earth thick. Shells would burst at the crown of the low hill ten
steps in front and throw iron everywhere. The aim of the Federal gunners
was horribly true.
We were cramped with lying long in one position; no water. Behind us
came a brigade down the slope--flags flying, shells bursting in the
ranks. Down the hill that we had come they now were coming in their
turn, losing men at every step. The shells flew far above us to strike
this new and exposed line. Behind us came the brigade; right against
Company H came the centre of a regiment. The red flag was marching
straight. The regiment reached our hollow; there was no room; it flanked
to the left by fours; a shell struck the colour-group; the flag leaped
in the air and fell amongst four dead men. A little pause, and the flag
was again alive, and the regiment had passed to the left, seeking room.
For hours we lay under the hot sun and the hotter fire. The fight had
long since ended, but we were held fast by the Federal batteries. To
rise and march out would be to lose many men uselessly.
A shell burst at the top of the rise. Another came, and I felt my hat
fly off; it was torn on the edge of the brim. Again, and a great pain
seized my shoulder and a more dreadful one my hip. I was hit, but how
badly I did not know. The pain in my hip was such agony that I feared to
look. Since our great loss at Manassas, I was the tallest man in Company
H, and the Captain was lying very near to me. I said to him that I was
done for. "What!" said he, "again? You must break that habit, Jones." I
wanted to be taken out, but could not ask it. What with the danger and
the heat and the thirst and pain, I was unnerved and afraid to look.
Perhaps I lost consciousness for a time; the pain had decreased. At last
I looked, and I saw--nothing! I examined, and found a great contusion,
and that was all. I was happy--the only happy man in the regiment, for
the cannon on the hills beyond the river had not lessened their fire,
and the sun was hot, and the men were suffering.
As the darkness gathered, the regiment filed out and marched back to
bivouac. I limped along and kept up. We got water and food and, at
length, rest; and sleep banished the fearful memory of a fearful day.
In the fight at Shepherdstown the Confederate infantry drove the
Federals to the river bank, where many surrendered. Some succeeded in
getting across to the northern bank, but most of those who attempted the
crossing were lost. It was said in Lee's army--- but with what truth I
do not know--that blue corpses floated past Washington.
After this fight Lee was not molested. Jackson camped his corps near
Martinsburg, and a week later moved to Bunker Hill, where water was
From the 25th of June to the 20th of September--eighty-seven days--the
Army of Northern Virginia had made three great campaigns: first, that of
the week in front of Richmond; second, that of Manassas; third, that of
Harper's Ferry and Sharpsburg. The Confederates had been clearly
victorious in the first two, and had succeeded in the last in
withdrawing with the fruits of Harper's Ferry, and with the honours of a
drawn battle against McClellan's mighty army.
"_King John_. Alack, thou dost usurp authority.
_King Philip_. Excuse; it is to put usurping down."
All of the month of October, 1862, Jackson's corps remained near Bunker
Hill, in the valley of the Shenandoah. It was here that we learned of
Lincoln's proclamation freeing the slaves. A few copies of it were seen
in our camp--introduced, doubtless, by some device of the enemy. Most of
the officers and men of Company H were not greatly impressed by this
action on the part of the Northern President. I have reason to know,
however, that Captain Haskell regarded the proclamation a serious
matter. One day I had heard two men of our company--Davis and
"I wonder why Jones never gets any letters," said Stokes.
"Have you noticed that?" asked Davis.
"Yes; haven't you?"
"Yes; but I thought it was none of my business."
"Have you ever seen him write any letters?"
"No; I haven't, except for somebody else; he writes letters for Limus
Limus was a negro, Lieutenant Barnwell's servant. Peagler was one of
Company H, and a valuable member of the infirmary corps, but he could
The talk of the men had made me gloomy. I sought Captain Haskell, and
unburdened to him. The Captain's manner toward me had undergone a
modification that was very welcome to me; his previous reserve,
indicated by formal politeness, had given place to a friendly interest,
yet he was always courteous.
"I would do anything to relieve you," said he, "but of course you do not
wish me to speak to the men about you."
"Certainly not, sir" said I; "that would only make matters worse."
"Have you ever yet heard from the hotel at Aiken?"
"Not a word, sir."
"I suppose the hotel has changed hands; or perhaps it has ceased to
"Possibly so, Captain. Has anything been learned as to the Fourth South
"Only that it is yet in this army--in Jenkins's brigade. I think nothing
further has resulted. Aleck will ask very prudently if such a man as
Jones Berwick, or Berwick Jones, is missing from that regiment. We shall
know In a few days."
"I suppose we shall know before we march again," said I.
"Probably. We shall hardly move before the Federals do. McClellan is
giving us another display of caution, sir."
"I think he ought to have advanced on the 18th of last month," said I.
"True," said Captain Haskell; "he missed his chance."
"Why does he not advance now?" I asked.
"He takes time to get ready, I judge. There is one thing to be said for
McClellan: he will do nothing rashly; and he has considerable nerve, as
is shown by his resistance to popular clamour, and even to the urgency
of the Washington authorities. The last papers that we have got hold of,
show that Lincoln is displeased with his general's inactivity. By the
way, the war now assumes a new aspect."
"In what respect, Captain?"
"Lincoln's emancipation order will make it impossible for the North to
compromise. He is a stronger man than I thought him, sir. He burns
"But will not the proclamation cause the South to put forth greater
"Pardon me," said he. "It will cause the slaveholders to feel more
strongly; but it will cause also many non-slaveholding men, such as are
in our mountain districts and elsewhere, to believe, after a while, that
the South is at war principally to maintain slavery, and in slavery they
feel no interest at stake. In such conditions the South can do no more
than she is now doing. She may continue to hold her present strength for
a year or two more, but to increase it greatly seems to me beyond our
ability. The proclamation will effectually prevent any European power
from recognizing us. We must look for no help, and must prepare to
endure a long war."
"Can we not defend ourselves as long as the North, can continue a war of
"A good question, sir. Of course aggression is more costly than defence.
But one trouble with us is that we rarely fight a defensive battle.
Lee's strategy is defensive, but his tactics are just the reverse. The
way to win this war, allow me to say, is to fight behind trees and rocks
and hedges and earthworks: never to risk a man in the open except where
absolutely necessary, and when absolute victory is sure. To husband her
resources in men and means is the South's first duty, sir. I hope
General Lee will never fight another offensive battle."
"But are not the armies of the enemy strong enough to outflank any line
of intrenchments that we might make?"
"True; but in doing so they would present opportunities which skilful
generalship would know how to seize. If no such opportunities came, I
would have the army to fall back and dig again."
"Then it would be but a matter of time before we should come to the last
ditch," said I.
"Pardon me; the farther they advanced, the more men would they need. Of
course there would come a limit, at least a theoretical limit. It might
be said that we could not fall back and leave our territory, which
supplies our armies, in the hands of the enemy. But to counteract this
theory we have others. Disease would tell on the enemy more than on
ourselves. Our interior lines would be shortened, and we could reenforce
easily. The enemy, in living on our country, would be exposed to our
enterprises. His lines of communication would always be in danger. And
he would attack. The public opinion of the North would compel attack,
and we should defeat attacks and lose but few men."
Captain Haskell had no hope that there would be any such change in the
conduct of the war. He seemed depressed by Mr. Lincoln's Emancipation
Proclamation, which, he saw, would effectually put an end to hope of aid
or intervention from Europe. His hope in the success of the South was
high, however. The North might be strong, but the South had the
righteous cause. He was saddened by the thought that the war would be a
long one, and that many men must perish.
I had read much from books borrowed from other men in my spare time,
from newspapers, and from magazines; and my questions had led Captain
Haskell to talk for half an hour, perhaps more freely than he thought.
He told me to say nothing to the men concerning the prospect for a long
war. He seemed serious rather than gloomy. For my part, it mattered
little that the war should be long. I had almost ceased to expect any
discovery of my former home and friends, and the army seemed a refuge.
What would become of me if the war should end suddenly? I did not feel
prepared for any work; I know no business or trade. Even if I had one,
it would be tame after Lee's campaigns.
TWO SHORT CAMPAIGNS
"What boots the oft-repeated tale of strife,
The feast of vultures, and the waste of life?
The varying fortune of each separate field,
The fierce that vanquish, and the faint that yield?"
Longstreet's corps had marched out by the Valley, and now occupied a
line east of the Blue Ridge; Jackson remained yet at Bunker Hill. We
heard that Burnside had superseded McClellan; speculation was rife as to
the character of the new commander. It was easy to believe that the
Federal army would soon give us work to do; its change of leaders
clearly showed aggressive purpose, McClellan being distinguished more
for caution than for disposition to attack.
On November 22d we moved southward, up the Shenandoah Valley. The march
lasted many days. We passed through Winchester, Strasburg, Woodstock,
and turned eastward through Massanutten Gap, and marched to Madison
Court-House. From Madison we marched to Orange, and finally to
Fredericksburg, where the army was again united by our arrival on
December 3d. The march had been painful. For part of the time I had been
barefoot. Many of the men were yet without shoes.
The weather was now cold. Snow fell. I was thinly clad. On the morning
of December 4th, after a first night in bivouac in the lines, I awoke
with a great pain in my chest and a "gone" feeling generally. The
surgeon told me that I had typhoid pneumonia, and ordered me to the camp
hospital, which consisted of two or three Sibley tents in the woods. I
was laid on a bed of straw and covered with blankets.
I lay in the camp hospital until the morning of the 14th. How far off
the regiment was I do not know; however, one or two men of Company H
came to see me every day and attended to my wants. On the 11th two of
them came and told me good-by; they were ordered to march; the enemy was
crossing the river and was expected to attack. These men told me
afterward that when they said good-by they felt they were saying the
long farewell; I was not expected to recover.
On the 13th, flat on my back, I heard the battle of Fredericksburg
roaring at the front, some two or three miles away, I was too ill to
feel great interest. On the 14th, early in the morning, I was lifted
into an open wagon and covered with a single blanket. In this condition
I was jolted to a place called Hamilton's Crossing. There I was lifted
out of the wagon and laid upon the ground. There were others near me,
all lying on the ground. In many places the ground was white with snow;
the wind cut like a blade of ice; I was freezing. At about two o'clock
some men put me into a car--a common box freight-car, which had no heat
and the doors of which were kept open. After a while the car started. At
twelve o'clock that night the train reached Richmond. Some men put me
into an ambulance. I was taken to Camp Winder Hospital, several miles
out, which place was reached about two o'clock in the morning of the
15th. That I survived that day--the 14th,--has always been a wonder,
I was put to bed. There were many beds in the ward. In the middle of the
ward, which was about sixty feet long by thirty wide, was a big stove,
red-hot, and around the stove was a circle of people--women-nurses and
stewards, and perhaps some convalescing patients--singing religious
songs. There was a great open space between the red-hot stove and the
people around it. I wanted to lie in that open space.
I succeeded in getting out of bed; then I crawled on the floor until I
was within a few feet of the stove. The singing stopped. "You'll burn to
death," said a woman. I closed my eyes and soon fell asleep.
For three or four weeks I lay in bed in Camp Winder. Not an incident
occurred. I received no letters. I had hoped that some man in the
company would write to me. I heard of nothing but general affairs. The
army had gained a victory over Burnside. I had known that fact on the
night of the 14th. I knew, also, that General Gregg had been killed. The
papers that I saw gave me some of the details of the battle, but told me
nothing of the position of the army, except that it was yet near
Fredericksburg. I did not know where Company H was, and I learned
afterward that nobody in Company H knew what had become of me.
The monotony of hospital life became intolerable. My recovery was slow
and my impatience great. When I felt my strength begin to return, I
wrote to Captain Haskell. No answer came. Before the end of February I
had demanded my papers and had started for the army yet near
Fredericksburg. Transportation by rail was given me to a station called
Guiney's, from which place I had to walk some nine or ten miles. I found
Company H below Fredericksburg and back from the river. Captain Haskell
was not with the company. He had been ordered on some special duty to
South Carolina, and returned to us a week later than my arrival. Many of
the men--though all of twenty-six men could hardly be said to be
many--had thought that I was dead, as nothing had been heard of me since
the battle of Fredericksburg.
When Captain Haskell returned, he showed wonderful cheerfulness for so
serious a man. He was greatly encouraged because General Lee had fought
at Fredericksburg a purely defensive battle--behind breastworks--and had
lost but few men. The worst loss in the whole army had been caused by a
mistake of our own officers, who refused to allow their men to fire upon
a line of Yankees until almost too late, believing them to be
Confederates. It was through this error that General Gregg, for whom the
camp of the army was named, had lost his life.
Company H was in small huts made of poles and roofed variously--some
with cloth or canvas, others with slabs or boards rudely riven from the
forest trees. We had camp guard to mount and picket duty occasionally.
The remainder of the winter passed without events of great importance.
Adjutant Haskell had learned that no man missing from the Fourth South
Carolina, which had suffered such losses that it had been reorganized as
a battalion, fitted with my description or with either of my names. I
spent much time in reading the books which passed from man to man in
* * * * *
At this period of my service I was in good health and somewhat more
cheerful than I had been previously. The woods had begun to show signs
of Spring. The snow had disappeared, and early in April the weather
became mild. To say that I was content would be to say what is untrue,
but I felt that my condition had much of solace. I knew that I had a
friend in Captain Haskell--a man whom I admired without reservation, and
whose favours were extended to me freely--I mean to say personal, not
official, favours. The more I learned of this high-minded man, the more
did the whole world seem to me brighter and less deserving of disregard.
He was a patriot. An heir to an estate of many slaves, he was at war for
a principle of liberty; he was ready at any time to sacrifice personal
interest to the furtherance of the common cause of the South. In battle
he was strong, calm, unutterably dignified. Battle, it seemed to me, was
considered by him as a high, religious service, which he performed
ceremonially. Nothing could equal the vigorous gravity of his demeanour
when leading his men in fight. His words were few at such times; he was
the only officer I ever knew void absolutely of rant in action. Others
would shout and scream and shriek their orders redundant and
unwholesome; Haskell's eye spoke better battle English than all their
distended throats. He was merciful and he was wise.
* * * * *
On the 28th of April, 1863, we were ordered to have three days' cooked
rations in our haversacks, and to be prepared to move at a
The next day at ten o'clock the men left their huts and fell into ranks.
We marched to Hamilton's Crossing--some six miles--and formed in line of
battle, and began to throw up breastworks. The enemy was in our front,
on our side of the Rappahannock, and we learned that he had crossed in
strong force up the river also. We faced the Yankees here for two days,
but did not fire a shot.
Before dawn on Friday, May 1st, we were in motion westward--up the
river. At noon we could hear skirmishing and cannon in our front. The
sounds at first went from us, but at two o'clock they increased in
volume. We were pressed forward; again the noise of the fight began to
die away. The enemy were retiring before our advanced troops. Night came
on, and we lay on our arms, expecting the day to bring battle.
The morning brought Jackson's famous flank march to the left of Hooker's
army. At first we moved southward under a sharp fire of artillery from
which we seemed to retreat; the men thought the movement was retreat,
and it is no wonder that Hooker thought so; but suddenly our march broke
off toward the west, and the men could not conceal their joy over what
they were now beginning to understand. Frequently, on that day, Jackson
was seen riding past the marching lines to the head of his column, or
halted with his staff to see his troops hastening on.
Late in the afternoon our column was halted on the turnpike. Our backs
were toward the sunset. Two other divisions were in line of battle in
our front. We moved along the road at supporting distance.
Shots rang out in the woods in front, and in another instant the roar of
the charging yell mingled with the crash of continuous musketry. There
was no pause in the advance. Both lines ahead of us had swept on. We
followed, still in column of fours upon the road, which was almost
blocked by a battery of artillery.
Soon we found the road full of the signs of battle. On our right was
open ground--to the south; facing this open space was a breastwork from
which the enemy had just been driven, leaving wounded and dead, their
muskets, accoutrements, cooking utensils yet upon the fires, blankets,
We continued to advance. Our first and second lines having become
intermingled, needed time to restore their ranks. Hill's division now
formed the first line of battle.
It was now dark, and no enemy could be seen. Their guns in the distance
told us, however, that they had made a stand. We again went forward.
Near the enemy's second line of intrenchments we were halted in the
The battle seemed to have ended for the night. In our front rose a moon,
the like of which was never seen. Almost completely full and in a
cloudless sky, she shown calmly down on the men of two armies yet
lingering in the last struggles of life and death. Here and there a gun
broke the silence, as if to warn us that all was not peace; now and then
a film of cannon smoke drifted across the moon, which seemed to become
piteous then. There was silence in the ranks.
The line was lying down, ready, however, and alert. At about nine
o'clock a sharp rattle of rifles was heard at our left--about where
Lane's brigade was posted, as we thought--and soon a mournful group of
men passed by us, bearing the outstretched form of one whom we knew to
be some high officer. Jackson had been shot dangerously by one of Lane's
regiments--the Eighteenth North Carolina.
General A.P. Hill now commanded the corps. Again all was silent, and the
line lay down, as it hoped, for the night. All at once there came the
noise of a gun, and another, and of a whole battery, and many batteries,
and fields and woods were alive with shells and canister. More than
forty pieces of cannon had been massed in our front. We lay and endured
the fire. General Hill was wounded, and at midnight General Stuart of
the cavalry took command of the corps. At last the cannon hushed. The
terrible night passed away without sleep.
At eight o'clock on Sunday morning the Light Division, under command of
General Pender, assaulted the intrenchments of the enemy. Our brigade
succeeded in getting into the works; but on our right the enemy's line
still held, and as it curved far to the west it had us in flank and
rear. A new attack at this moment by the troops on our right would have
carried the line; the attack was not made. We were compelled to abandon
the breastworks and run for the woods, where we formed again at once.
And now another brigade charged, and was driven back by an enfilade
At ten o'clock a third and final charge was made along the whole line;
the intrenchments were ours, and Chancellorsville was won.
Company H had lost many men; Pinckney Seabrook, a most gallant officer,
had fallen dead, shot by some excited man far in our rear.
We moved no farther in advance. The scattered lines re-formed, and were
ready to go forward and push the Federals to the Rappahannock, but no
orders came. General Lee had just received intelligence of the second
battle of Fredericksburg. The enemy, under Sedgwick, had taken the
heights above the town, and were now advancing against our right flank.
Our division, and perhaps others, held the field of Chancellorsville,
while troops were hurried east to face Sedgwick. Before the close of the
4th the Federals near Fredericksburg had been forced to retire to the
north bank of the Rappahannock. By the morning of the 6th all of
Hooker's army had recrossed the river.
Chancellorsville is considered Lee's greatest victory, because of the
enormous odds he fought. Longstreet, with two of his divisions, was not
at Chancellorsville, but was at Suffolk opposing the Federals under
Peck. Hooker's army had numbered a hundred and thirty thousand, while
Lee had less than sixty thousand men.
We marched back to our huts below Fredericksburg. A few days later we
learned that the most illustrious man in the South was dead. No longer
should we follow Stonewall Jackson.
The two corps of the army were formed into three--Longstreet's the
first, Ewell's the second, and A.P. Hill's the third. Our General Gregg
had been killed at Fredericksburg, and we were now McGowan's brigade.
Our General Jackson had fallen at Chancellorsville, and we were now in
the corps of A.P. Hill, whose promotion placed four brigades of our
division under General Pender. Letters received by Company H a few weeks
before had been addressed to Gregg's brigade, A.P. Hill's division,
Jackson's corps; letters received now were addressed to McGowan's
brigade, Pender's division, A.P. Hill's corps. But why do I talk
* * * * *
Shortly after our return to the old camp, by order of General Pender, a
battalion of sharp-shooters was formed in each brigade of his division.
Two or three men were taken from each, company--from the large companies
three, from the small ones two. Our brigade had five regiments of ten
companies each, so that McGowan's battalion of sharp-shooters was to be
composed of about a hundred and twenty men. General McGowan chose
Captain Haskell as the commander of the battalion. When I heard of this
appointment, I went to the Captain and begged to go with him. He said,
"I had already chosen you, Jones," and I felt happy and proud. When the
battalion was drawn up for the first time, orders were read showing the
organization of the command. There were to be three companies, each
under a lieutenant. I was in Company A, with the other men from the
First. Gus Rhodes, a sergeant in Company H, was named orderly-sergeant
of Company A of the battalion, and Private B. Jones was named second
sergeant. For a moment I wondered who this B. Jones was, and then it
came upon me that no one could be meant except myself.
After the ranks broke I went to the Captain. He smiled at my approach.
"You deserved it, Jones; at least I think so. I don't know the other
men, and I do know you."
I stammered some reply, thanking him for his goodness toward me, and
started to go away.
"Wait," said he, "I want to talk to you. Do you know the men of the
"No, sir; only a few of them; but the few I know know the others and say
they are good men."
"No doubt they have been well proved in the line," said he; "but you
know that Company C and Company H have thus far had to do almost all the
skirmishing for the regiment, and we have only four or five men in the
battalion out of those companies. It is one thing, to be a good soldier
in the line and another thing to be a good skirmisher."
"I suppose so, Captain," said I; "but it seems to me that anybody would
prefer being in the battalion."
"No, not anybody," said the Captain; "it shows some independence of mind
to prefer it. A man willing to lean on others will not like the
battalion. Our duties will be somewhat different for the future. The men
get their rations and their pay through their original companies, but
are no longer attached to them otherwise. On the march and in battle
they will serve as a distinct command, and will be exposed to many
dangers that the line of battle will escape, though the danger, on the
whole, will be lessened, I dare say, especially for alert men who know
how to seize every advantage. But the most of the men have not been
trained for such service. As a body, we have had no training at all. We
must begin at once, and I expect you to hold up your end of Company A."
"I will do my best, Captain," said I.
"Come to my quarters to-night," said he; "I want you to do some writing
That night a programme of drill exercises for the battalion was
prepared, and day after day thereafter it was put into practice. We
drilled and drilled; company drill as skirmishers; battalion drill as
skirmishers; estimating distances; target firing, and all of it.
Early in June Hill's corps alone was holding the line at Fredericksburg.
Ewell and Longstreet had marched away toward the Shenandoah Valley, and
onward upon the road that ends at Cemetery Hill. The Federals again
crossed the Rappahannock, but in small bodies. Their army was on the
Falmouth Hills beyond the river.
On the 6th the battalion was ordered to the front. We took our
places--five steps apart--in a road running down the river. On either
side of the road was a dry ditch with a bank of earth thrown up, and
with trees growing upon the bank, so that the road was a fine shaded
avenue. In front, and on our side of the river, was a Federal
skirmish-line--five hundred yards from us.
Firing began. The Yankees were screened from view by bushes in the low
ground between us and the river. Much tall grass, woods, and broom-sedge
covered the unwooded space between the opposing lines; rarely could a
man be seen. Our men stood in the dry ditch and fired above the bank,
which formed a natural breastwork. At my place, on the left of Company
A, a large tree was growing upon the bank. I was standing behind this
tree; a bullet struck it. The firing was very slow--men trying to pick a
target. When the bullet struck the tree, I saw the smoke of a gun rise
from behind a bush. I aimed at the bush and fired. Soon a bullet sizzed
by me, and I saw the smoke at the same bush; I fired again. Again the
tree was struck, and again I fired. The tree was a good
protection,--possibly not so good as the bank of earth, though it gave