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Full text of "Life of General George Gordon Meade: Commander of the Army of the Potomac"

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LIFE OF 



General George Gordon Meade 



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^ 



LIFE OF 



General George Gordon Meade 



COMMANDER OF THE 



ARMY OF THE POTOMAC 



BY 

Richard Meade Bache 



ILLUSTRATED WITH PORTRAITS AND MAPS 



Veritas, visft et morft; falsa, festinatione et incertis valescunt. — ^TAarus. 



PHILADELPHIA 

HENRY T. COATES & CO. 
1897 



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Copyright, 1897, by 
Hdhly T. Coaxes & Co. 



PREFACE. 



It should be obvious that I cannot fitly portray General 
Meade's character and work without evidencing that I 
knew him personally, and without so speaking. The duty 
assigned me would be additionally difficult if I should not 
only be hampered by a supposed necessity of circumlocu- 
tion in referring to him, but in referring to other sources of 
my knowledge. I therefore purpose, in the reader's interest 
as much as in my own, to avoid these difficulties by direct- 
ness of statement upon the basis of what is for the most 
part extant evidence. The explanatory background might 
form the subject of voluminous notes, or would by its intro- 
duction in the main text serve to dam the current of the 
narrative ; but being in either case equally objectionable, 
both of these alternatives are rejected in favor of the one 
here described and adopted. At the same time it is incum- 
bent upon me to declare explicitly of General Meade, as 
one of the sources of my knowledge, that whatever I have 
to say regarding his civil life is derived from my own 
observation and family knowledge, but that, as to his mili- 
tary life, as circumscribed by the limits of the Civil War, I 
have no information whatever as given by him to me per- 
sonally. General Meade is therefore not to be held respon- 
sible for the opinions here expressed with reference to the 

(iii) 



iv PREFACK 

events of the war, except in so far as his acts made him re- 
sponsible, rightly or wrongly, for my own conclusions. I 
do not remember ever having asked him a question about 
the war, or his ever having volunteered to speak of it, or 
having spoken of it to me. My action was brought about 
by my observation, that every quid nunc seemed disposed 
to bore him with questions about military matters, and by 
the fact that I felt great regard for the rest to which I 
thought him entitled after the troublous associations of the 
times. Doubtless, I could have learned much from him, 
had I so desired, for he was always frankly expansive in 
his talks with me, and often, after his death, I regretted that 
I had not sometimes taken opportunities to learn much that 
would have been interesting. But when, in the course of 
time, I came to be confronted with the duty of writing a 
memoir of him, I rejoiced that there was nothing in my 
possession of testimony of his to me, regarding his relation 
to the war, to be drawn upon for my work. Thus both he 
and I have escaped suspicion of the introduction of at least 
direct bias in what I have said. 

It becomes necessary for me, for self-protection, in writing 
this memoir, to include a statement without which I should 
place myself in a false position, through omitting mention of 
action over which I had no control. When, some years ago, 
I wrote the article, " George Gordon Meade and Family," 
for Appleton*s Cyclopaedia, an interpolation, unauthorized 
by me, was made in it regarding the battle of Gettysburg, 
including the statement that General Meade had neglected 
to occupy Little Round Top. As I was not in any way re- 



PREFACE. V 

sponsible for this interpolation, I repudiated it as soon as it 
came to my knowledge, upon which the Messrs. Appleton 
promised that in future editions of the Cyclopaedia my name 
as the author of the article should be omitted. I have 
therefore since then regarded the matter as finally closed, 
and here make mention of it only for the imperative reason 
assigned. 

Lest a doubt may arise in the minds of some persons as 
to whether recollections which revert to seven years of age 
are trustworthy, it should be remarked that that depends 
upon idiosyncrasy. Records show that, in certain cases, 
accurate memory of events of a simple order has reached 
three or four years anterior to the period mentioned. I 
know a person who, when a boy of five years of age, was 
carried one night to a window, whence he was shown the 
aurora-borealis, which, in after years, he declared, amid the 
jeers of his companions, to have been pink. He grew up, 
however, to learn from scientific statistics that his percep- 
tion had not been at fault, for the aurora of the date cor- 
responding with his age at that time is noted as pink. I 
shall not therefore shrink, when I could add to this mention 
of the early recollections of John Stuart Mill and others, 
from speaking Math confidence of things which first ap- 
peared upon my mental horizon at seven years of age. 

I was, for two years of the war, through surveying for 
defensive works, and engagement in some cognate matters, 
associated with military operations ; have been intimately 
connected in and outside of my family with men of both 
branches of the military service ; and have also been some- 



VI PREPACK 

what of a student all my life of military afiairs. These ex- 
periences constitute in sum the modest claim that I make 
to be able to speak with some authority in a memoir which 
is necessarily military. 

As some readers may, I know, ask themselves why, al- 
though General Meade was not present at the first battle of 
Bull Run, an account of it is introduced in this work (for 
the question has already been propounded by a person who 
knew of what the manuscript consisted), I may be per- 
mitted here to anticipate any similar enquiry. Regarding 
completeness in this case from an historic point of view, one 
must, to secure it, put oneself in the position of the general 
reader, of individuals of new adult generations, and of the 
present generation of youth, to perceive with these how 
imperfect would be their grasp of the sequence of events 
concerned, if an account of the first battle of Bull Run 
were omitted from a history of the great conflict of the 
Civil War. The War in the East of the United States 
may be truly regarded as one great drama, to which the 
simultaneous action in the West stands in a more or less 
subsidiary relation. To omit the first great scene of its 
campaigns, whether or not it should be regarded as an epi- 
sode of a part, or of the whole, of the gigantic struggle, 
because, with one exception, the principal actor in them had 
not up to that time appeared upon the boards, would be a 
violation of dramatic proprieties. The omission of the first 
great battle of any war would be a serious blemish in an 
account of it, and in this case peculiarly so, for the result 
of the first battle of Bull Run which, in the day of its occur- 



PREFACE. vii 

rence, was naturally looked upon as an unmitigated disaster, 
ought now clearly to be recognized as having been a bless- 
ing in disguise. The preliminary movements and the battle 
itself conclusively proved for the first time to the North the 
determination and momentarily military superiority of the 
South. Had victory in that first contest been with the 
North, it could but have had the evil effect of increasing a 
confidence there which needed dissipating by comprehen- 
sion of the fact that the South was in deadly earnest, backed 
by military ability and perfect faith in success, and that the 
struggle upon which it had entered with the North was in- 
tended to be A outrance. The result of the battle did, as 
nothing else could have accomplished it, arouse to that 
knowledge, although with lingering inappreciation of the 
degree of force needed to meet the emergency ; and this it 
was that first braced the intention of the North adequately, 
even if still imperfectly as to means devised, to meet with 
equal determination the danger with which the life of the 
nation was menaced. Lastly, I may say, there is a sub- 
sidiary, but important reason why an account of the first 
battle of Bull Run should be here presented, as related not 
less to the whole war than to its vicissitudes in the East. It 
is because this account puts the responsibility for the loss 
of the battle where it belongs, where justice proclaims that 
it shall be placed, and not where it is, even at this late day, 
popularly laid. 

No one, as a contemporary, can hope to write for con- 
temporaries the history of even a single operation of any 
contemporaneous war without running counter to both 



VIII PREFACR 

prejudices and well-grounded opinions as to many pomts. 
I therefore do not expect to escape the fate of any one who 
has attempted or ever shall attempt a task similar to mine. 
All that any honest historian has, under such circumstances, 
the right to deprecate, in the interest of arrival at truth, is 
uninstructed commentary, or else imputation of ulterior 
motives in his work. So far as his personal interest is con- 
cerned, however, he can afford to bear the latter slight tem- 
porary infliction, in the light of knowledge of the prevalence 
of the practice of Dodson and Fogg, when there is no case, 
to abuse the plaintiff; but the other interest is eternal. The 
address made in the following pages is to minds capable of 
sitting in judgment on a reopened case, or rather upon one 
which has never been really tried, and back of that appeal, 
in the interests of justice, lies another, to the final decision 
in the affairs of* men, constituted by the verdict, be it of 
few or many individuals, of the supreme court of posterity. 
That an author should be deemed sometimes mistaken is 
easy for him to bear, in the universal recognition that it is 
human to err, especially as he can take to his own soul the 
same flattering unction with reference to diflference of opinion 
between his readers and himself. This condition is but in 
the nature of things, and places all differences of opinion 
and sentiment on an equal footing of fairness. I hope, with 
the aid of advocates, and of adversaries as well, whose 
agency, if taken aright, is not generally appreciated, event- 
ually to be able to divest this volume of minor errors, which 
not even the most painstaking care in any work has ever 
been able entirely to avoid and finally to leave it, as nearly 



PREFACE, IX 

letter-perfect as may be, as a legacy to the cause of histor- 
ical truth. 

While no one but myself is responsible for any of the 
opinions expressed in the course of this work, I am much 
pleased to learn from my friend, Judge Craig Biddle, of 
Philadelphia, that the portion of the chapter on Bull Run 
relating to General Patterson, of which he made critical ex- 
amination, is correct in its statement of the difficulties under 
which General Patterson labored ; and as Judge Biddle was 
a member of his staff at the time, his opinion in the matter 
ought to have great weight. Another chapter, that enti- 
tled, "The Change of Base and Attempted Surprise of 
Petersburg," has been examined by my friend, John C. 
Ropes, Esq., of Boston, who, omitting verification of minute 
details (to do whicl\ I would not have had him take the 
trouble, being very sure of them myself), writes me that 
my account of the affair is, from his standpoint, strictly ac- 
curate. 

The necessity of modifying excellent battle-maps of the 
Government by the sketches herewith presented arose from 
the circumstance that they, being on a much larger scale 
than the sketches, and additionally, represented in colors, a 
photographic reduction of the untouched originals would, 
through diminution in size and photographic color-limita- 
tions, have rendered many of their conventional signs im- 
perceptible. Moreover, as elevation of ground in many of 
the aforesaid maps is represented solely by what are called 
contour lines (horizontal lines representing equal differences 
(rf* elevation), and the effect as thus given is unintelligible to 



X PREPACK 

the general reader, elevation has in such cases been here 
shown by what is technically called ha^huring, by a shading 
made with due regard to steepness of slope, giving an effect 
familiar to every one. 

That the reader will not find some stereotyped beliefs 
here repeated has at least the advantage of the assurance 
thereby afforded, that what is due the public has been set 
down, that what is here presented has been penned with 
freedom from undue influence of preoccupation of the field, 
whatever such matter may be as to &cts or conclusions, 
whether resting, as they will be variously deemed by the 
lingering generation, on weak or on solid foundation. 



Philadelphia, Pa., August 2. 1897. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER I. 

PAGB 

Genealogy of the Meade Family, and residence of Richard 

Worsam Meade in Spain i ^ 

CHAPTER II. 

Return of the family of Richard Worsam Meade from Spain to 
America, 7 

CHAPTER III. 
Lieutenant George Gordon Meade in the Mexican War, . • 13 

CHAPTER IV. 

Cause of the Civil War and respective advantages of the bel« 
ligerents 16 

CHAPTER V. 
Truths and popular errors about the War 29 

CHAPTER VI. 

The Missouri Compromise. The Kansas-Nebraska Bill. Mr. 
Lincoln, who succeeds Mr. Buchanan in the Presidency of 
the United States, calls for a levy of seventy-five thousand 
men after the bombardment of Fort Sumter. General Pat- 
terson's prescience of what later events confirmed. A 
Southern army impends near Washington, south of the Po- 
tomac. A Northern army gathers north of that river. The 
first battle of Bull Run, otherwise called the battle of Ma- 
nassas. Defeat of the Federal troops. The phenomenon of 
panic. Disorderly retreat of the Federal army on Washing. 

(xi) 



xil CONTENTS. 

PAOB 

ton. Call by Congress for five hundred thousand volunteers. 
The summoning of General George B. McClellan to the com- 
mand of the troops in the field near Washington. Demon- 
stration that it was not General Patterson's, but General 
Scott's fault, that General McDowell, in command of the 
Federal army south of the Potomac, had not been reinforced 
before the battle of Bull Run, 38 

CHAPTER VII. 

Washington fortified by General Barnard. Description of the re- 
gion between Washington and Richmond, Va. Review of 
the principal successes of the Federal arms in other parts of 
the United States. Plans for the advance of the Army of the 
Potomac on Richmond. McClellan appointed gencral-in- 
chief of all the armies of the United States. Enemy retires 
from Centreville, near Washington. Army of the Potomac 
transported by way of the Chesapeake to the Peninsula on 
which Richmond stands. Siege of Yorktown. Evacuation 
of Yorktown. Pursuit of the retreating enemy. Battle of 
Williamsburg. Army of the Potomac makes a partial invest- 
ment of Richmond on the east. General Johnston takes ad- 
vantage of a fiood on the Chickahominy, which separates 
McClellan*s two wings, to attack the left. Battle of Fair 
Oaks. Command of the Confederate army devolves upon 
General Robert E. Lee, Johnston having been wounded on 
the first day of battle. Alarm at the progress of the Confed- 
erate general, Stonewall Jackson, towards Washington, 
causes the recall of General McDowell's column, which had 
been intended to join General McClellan, while Jackson 
eludes the troops sent from that column against him, and 
successfully joins forces with Lee in time for the next battle 
near Richmond. Exaggeration of the numbers of the 
enemy. General Meade joins the army, . . •74 

CHAPTER VIII. 

McClellan prepares to attack the enemy's position opposite his 
left wing. Is seized with false apprehensions as to the ene- 
my's numerical superiority. Jackson arriving, reinforces Lee, 
and the enemy's attack falls on the right of the Union army 
straddled across the Chickahominy, whilst the left remains 
almost inert. The first assault of the Confederates falls on 



• •• 



CfONTBl^TS. Xkll 

PAGB 

McClellan's lines at Beaver Dam Creek, and results in the 
battle of Mechanics ville. General Meade commands a bri-^ 
gade of the Pennsylvania Reserves in this quarter of the 
field. Night falls with the attack of the Confederates a failure. 
During the night the troops at Beaver Dam Creek retire along 
the Chickahominy to Gaines's MilL Next day the battle of 
Gaines's Mill takes place, and the whole right wing of the 
Union army retreats across the Chickahominy at night. Next 
day the retreat of the whole army begins in earnest. The 
action of Allen's Farm, near Savage's Station. The vari- 
ously named battle of Glendale, Charles City Cross Roads, 
New Market Cross Roads, Frazier's Farm, and Nelson's 
Farm, where there was fighting along an extended line. 
General Meade is badly wounded defending the position of ^ 
New Market Cross Roads, and is conveyed to Philadelphia. 
Federal victory at Malvern Hill. The Union army retires to 
Harrison's Landing, on the James River. The President 
visits the army at Harrison's Landing. General Halleck, 
now commander-in-chief, visits the army. A council of war 
at Harrison's Landing recommends the withdrawal of the 
army from the Peninsula. The withdrawal is taking place 
when General Meade, recovered, rejoins the army, . 105 

CHAPTER IX. 

The Army of Virginia, under General Pope, is north of the Rap- 
idan. The intention is to reinforce it by the Army of the 
Potomac, brought by water from the Peninsula. The battle 
of Cedar Mountain. Lee arrives and begins to press Pope 
backward across the Rappahannock. General J. £. B. 
Stuart, with his cavalry, makes havoc within Pope's lines. 
Next day the first reinforcement from the Army of the Poto- 
mac arrives, the Pennsylvania Reserves, Meade commanding 
his old brigade. Jackson, with his corps, makes a circuit 
around the right flank of Pope's army, and gains a position 
far to the rear, at Bristoe Station. Engagement at Bristoe 
Station. The second battle of Bull Run. General Meade's ^ 
effective work in holding his line at a critical moment of the 
retreat Battle of Chantilly. Itinerary of General Meade. 
Comparison between the elements respectively composing 
the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Vir- 
ginia, . . 145 



xiv CONTENTS. 

PAOB 

CHAPTER X. 

The Army of Virginia, combined with a portion of the Army of 
the Potomac, retreats behind the fortifications south of, dien 
across, the Potomac. Lee crosses the Potomac above Wash- 
ington and begins an invasion of the North. Capture of 
Harper's Ferry by the Confederates. The battle of South 
Mountain, in which General Meade, with General Reynolds's ' ' 
division of Pennsylvania Reserves, distinguishes himself, . 173 

CHAPTER XI. 

Advance of the Federal army from South Mountain to the An- 
tietam. Battle of the Antietam, where General Meade again ■"" 
distinguishes himself. Lee retreats across the Potomac. 
Harper's Ferry and surrounding positions reoccupied by the 
Federals. The President of the United States visits the Army 
of the Potomac. Upon the President's return to Washington 
McClellan is ordered to cross the Potomac in pursuit of Lee. 
After considerable delay, he crosses and marches towards 
Culpeper. Is relieved from the command of the army and 
(^neral Bumside appointed in his stead, .... 200 

CHAPTER XII. 

Bumside assumes command of the Army of the Potomac. It ad- 
vances on Fredericksburg. Delay takes place in the attempt 
to cross the Rappahannock there. Battle of Fredericksburg. 
Meade attacks the right flank of the enemy with impetuosity. 
Is repulsed with slaughter. Bumside falls into hopeless con- 
fusion of mind. The battle ends with the victory of the Con- 
federates at all points. The so-called Mud Campaign, . . 220 

CHAPTER XIII. 

General Hooker put in command of the Army of the Potomac. 
He conceives and executes an admirable plan of campaign, 
which takes the enemy completely by surprise and places 
him at Hooker's mercy, but becomes suddenly ]>aralyzed in 
mind under the weight of responsibility. Hooker retires by 
night across the Rappahannock. Sedgwick's corps. Hook- 
er's left wing, also retires across the river, .... 249 



COJifTENTSL XV 

PAOB 

CHAPTER XIV. 

Lee advances through the Shenandoah Valley for the invasion of 
the North. Hooker desires to attack the isolated corps of 
General A. P. Hill, but is forbidden from Washington to do 
so. The advance of Lee northward is continued. Lee 
crosses the Potomac above Washington. Hooker crosses it 
below him and advances on Frederickp Maryland. Hooker 
and Halleck disagree about Harper's Ferry, Hooker recom- 
mending its evacuation, Halleck refusing to evacuate it. 
Hooker asks to be relieved of the command of the army. 
His request is granted, 280 

CHAPTER XV. 

Meade is appointed to the command of the army at Frederick, " 
Maryland. He directs his army from Frederick northward. 
Buford's cavalry and the First and Eleventh Corps become 
engaged at Gettysburg. Meade sends Hancock to report as 
to fitness of the field there for battle. Meade orders all the 
troops to Gettysburg. Account of the fight that takes place 
there before General Meade reaches the field, . . . 290 

CHAPTER XVI. 

Sickles withdraws fi'om the position assigned him on the left on 
the field of Gettysburg. General Meade sends reinforcements 
to endangered left wing, goes personally to its assistance, 
leads troops into action. The battle on the left rages until 
nightfall. Its result for a long time doubtful. The enemy 
takes advantage, to make a lodgment there, of reinforce- 
ments having been sent from the extreme right of the lines. 
Council of war that night decides that the battle shall be 
fought out on the ground occupied, 317 

CHAPTER XVII. 

Opening action on the third day of battle. Pickett's famous 
charge, with which the battle ends. The losses on both sides 
during the three days* conflict, 339 

CHAPTER XVIII. 

Lee retreats through the mountain passes in his rear. Meade fol- 
lows by the route east of the mountains, passing through them 



XVI CONTENTS. 

PAGB 

further south. Meade finds Lee strongly entrenched near 
Williamsport His corps-commanders are not sanguine of 
success in attacking the position. He concludes to essay the 
storming of the position, but upon advancing, finds that the 
enemy has g^one. General Meade follows the enemy and 
takes position on the Rappahannock, near Warrenton. Lee, 
marching by way of the Shenandoah Valley, takes position 
opposite Meade, between the Rappahannock and the Rap- 
idan, 354 

CHAPTER XIX. 

Skirmishes occur south of the Rappahannock. Meade, begin- 
ning a more serious movement, it is countermanded from 
Washington. Lee sets his army in motion by the left flank 
to drive Meade out of his position, at Culpeper, south of the 
Rappahannock. Meade is forced to retire, but by forced 
marches thwarts Lee's intention of getting in his rear. The 
fight at Cedar Run. The engagement at Bristoe Station. 
The retirement of Lee. The skirmish of Buckland Mills. 
Meade advances as Lee retires, until he reaches the Rappa- 
hannock, where Lee holds with works across that stream. 
Meade plans to surprise Lee by marching suddenly by the 
left flank on Fredericksburg, but Halleck overrules him. 
Meade captures Lee's works astride the Rappahannock, and 
compels him to abandon his positions immediately south of 
that river. Meade being now again between the Rappahan- 
nock and the Rapidan, takes Lee by surprise by crossing the 
Rapidan and reaching his right flank. His plan proves abor- 
tive through the dilatoriness of a general. Meade retires to 
his former position and Lee resumes his former position. 
Campaign ends with a demonstration by the army, as a di- 
version in favor of an operation of General Butler's near 
Richmond, 363 

CHAPTER XX. 

General Grant is appointed commander-in-chief of all the armies 
of the United States, and makes his headquarters with the 
Army of the Potomac. He orders a midnight advance to- 
wards the Rapidan. Pushes forward the next day by a short — 
march into the Wilderness. Lee is on the alert, and con- 
fronts the Army of the Potomac early in the morning. A 



CONTENTS. xvii 

PAGB 

battle begins and continues with varying fortunes. On the 
next day the battle is renewed. Reinforcements for both sides 
having arrived, the conflict becomes hotter and hotter. Grant 
directs General Meade to move by the left flank to Spottsyl- 
vania Court House. Sheridan fails to clear the front of the 
advancing infantry. The enemy appears in force at Spott- 
sylvania before General Warren reaches there. Sheridan 
goes off on a raid towards Richmond. The Army of the Po- 
tomac comes into position around Lee*s lines. A portion of 
the Second Corps passes around Lee's left flank, but is re- 
called. Generals Wright and Warren assault the enemy's 
works in front and are repulsed. Hancock renews the attack, 
supported by Warren, but fruitlessly. Farther to the left 
General Upton has success, but is finally obliged to relin- 
quish his hold of a captured line. The next day is spent 
in preparing to capture the salient of the enemy's works. 
The assault of the salient takes place early. The lines there 
are carried and held. The enemy shuts off the salient by 
a line of works. Bumside's attack is ineffective save as 
a diversion. Troops of the Army of the Potomac march 
and countermarch, seeking a weak point in the enemy's de- 
fences. The army marches by the left flank, masked by the 
left in position, to Hanover Junction. Approaching the North 
Anna, Lee's troops are discovered coming into position behind 
that stream. The Army of the Potomac crosses on the right 
and left of Lee*s lines ; on the right with no opposition until 
the southern bank is reached, on the left, with considerable. 
Grant orders the retirement of the army to the north side of 
the river. It marches towards the southeast, and crosses the 
Pamunkey at and in the vicinity of Hanovertown, . . 401 

CHAPTER XXI. 
Co-operative movements in different quarters, far and near, . 437 

CHAPTER XXII. 

The battles near the Totopotomoy. Bethesda Church and Cold 
Harbor. Sheridan goes on a cavalry raid towards Char- 
lottesville. The Army of the Potomac moves out of its en- 
trenchments to make a change of base by crossing the James 
River. Just before it starts General Butler makes an attempt 
to capture Petersburg, 444 



.^f 



• •• 



xviii CfONTENTSL 

PAOB 

CHAPTER XXIII. 

The march of the Army of the Potomac from the Chickahominy 
to James River. The crossing of that stream, and march to- 
wards Petersburg. Grant intends to capture Petersburg by a 
amp de main, but omitting to inform Meade or Hancock 
of the project, it fails. The lines of Petersburg are vigorously 
attacked on three successive days, 456 

CHAPTER XXIV. 

The various corps come into position for the siege of Petersburg. 
The enemy makes a sally while the operation is proceeding. 
Sheridan's cavalry operations north of the James still going 
on. Cavalry expedition under General Wilson, south of the 
Appomattox, before Sheridan rejoins the army. He returns 
by a devious path to the lines of the army, shattered by loss 
of men and material. Sheridan returns to the south bank of 
the James too late to make a diversion in his favor, . . 47 1 

CHAPTER XXV. 

The autumnal siege of Petersburg. Investment of Richmond 
and Petersburg proceeds. Attack on the enemy's lines north 
of the James, near Richmond, whilst preparations go forward 
to spring a mine under the enemy's works at Petersburg. 
The latter enterprise fails. Lee despatches General Early to 
threaten Washington. Grant detaches troops to safeguard 
that city. Sheridan placed in command of the forces in the 
Shenandoah Valley, to put a stop to Early's threatening 
Washington. To prevent Lee's sending more troops to op- 
pose Sheridan, Grant orders attacks near Petersburg. The 
enterprise north of the James fails, but that south of it suc- 
ceeds. Check of the Second Corps at Reams*s Station. 
North of the James some works are captured. South of the 
Appomattox, infantry and cavalry make a movement and 
gain and maintain a foothold for the extension of the line of 
investment of Petersburg. Meade makes a narrow escape 
of his life from a shell. The first attempt to capture the Pe- 
tersburg and Lynchburg Railroad. Hancock bids farewell 
to the Second Corps and goes north to recruit veterans. 
General A. A. Humphreys succeeds him in command, . .481 



CONTENTS. xix 

PASS 

CHAPTER XXVI. 

The winter's siege of Petersburg. Butler's unauthorized command 
of the fhiidess expedition against Fort Fisher, N. C. General 
Terry, in conmiand of the second one, succeeds. Destruc* 
don of the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad for forty miles. 
A slight engagement with the enemy while making a recon- 
noissance in force. Extension of the lines of the Army of 
the Potomac towards the left. Sheridan rejoins the army 
with his cavalry, having rid the Valley of the Shenandoah 
of Early, and reduced him to harmlessness. Sheridan's in- 
timate relations with Grant. Sheridan's return to the Army 
of the Potomac coincides with a visit of the President to 
General Grant, and with General Sherman's arrival on the 
following day for the purpose of concerting military move- 
ments. Movements outside of the zone of those of the Army 
of the Potomac. Lee foresees the doom of Richmond and 
Petersburg, and makes preparations for evacuating them and 
successfully retreating. The Army of the Potomac stands 
ready to defeat his intention, 506 

• 

CHAPTER XXVII. 

A strong force, under General Gordon, makes a sortie from Pe- 
tersburg and captures a portion of the lines of contravalla- 
tion there. The officers on the Federal side soon retrieve 
their loss with gains, which they secure permanendy. The 
Army of the Potomac, holding its lines in front of Petersburg 
with sufficient troops, moves by the left flank, and after a 
check to Sheridan between Five Forks and Dinwiddie Court 
House, makes a final break everywhere through the enemy's 
positions and starts Lee on his long contemplated retreat. 
Petersburg assaulted and occupied. The two armies are put 
rapidly ^n route, the Army of Northern Virginia striving to 
escape to Danville or Lynchburg, the Army of the Potomac 
to frustrate its intention by intercepting the retreat in either 
direction. Skirmish at Deep Creek. Battle of Sailor's 
Creek. Humphreys crosses the Appomattox at High Bridge, 
detaches Barlow to follow a column of the enemy along the 
railroad, and himself pushes towards the stage road on the 
right, where he brings the enemy to bay. Grant, availing 
himself of this detention, sends a note to Lee demanding 
the surrender of his army. Lee replies. A regular corres- 



XX 



CONTENTS. 



PAGB 



pondence between them ensues. Grant makes a detour to 
Appomattox Court House. He does not, in consequence, 
receive Lee*s last letter in time to conclude hostilities at the 
earliest possible moment Meade prevents unnecessary 
slaughter by assuming the responsibility of allowing a brief 
truce. The Confederate army, after an attempt to break 
through the Federal lines between Appomattox Court House 
and Lynchburg, is surrendered by Lee. General Meade is 
not present at the formality of the surrender, 



521 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

Movements preparatory to the disbandment of the Federal ar- 
mies. The assassination of President Lincoln. His obse- 
quies. The evil effects of President Johnson's policy. The 
final review of the armies of Meade and Sherman in Wash- 
ington, 551 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

Recollections of General Meade from young manhood until 
death ; from lieutenant to general. His service in the Mexi- 
can War. Takes the field as brigadier-general in the Civil 
War. His sudden death. Burial at Laurel Hill, Philadel- 
phia. The neglect to which, partly through accidental, 
partly through designed influences, his eminent services have 
been consigned, 556 



Appendix. 



575 



ILLUSTRATIONS, MAPS, AND PLANS. 



PAGB 

^ Heroic Statue of General Meade on the Battle Field of Gettys- 
burg, . Frontispiece 

' Plan of the Battle Field at Bull Run, July 21st, 1861, . . . 46 

- Map of the Battle Grounds in the Vicinity of Richmond, Va., . 90 

^ Map of the Field Operations of the Army of Virginia during the 

Months of July and August, 1862, 144 

' Map of Operations of the Army of Virginia under Maj.-Gen. John 

Pope. Position of Troops on the Night of August 27th, 1862, 1 58 

" Map of Operations of the Army of Virginia under Maj.-Gcn. John 

Pope. Position of Troops at Sunset, August 28th, 1862, . 160 

* Map of Operations of the Army of Virginia under Maj.-Gen. John 
Pope. Battle Field of Manassas, Va., Close of Action, Au- 
gust 29th, 1862, 162 

" Map of the Battle Fields of Harper's Ferry and Sharpsbiu-g, with 
Position of Troops, Routes of Army, etc., September 13th to 
17th, 1862 200 

' Map of the Battle of Fredericksburg, Va., December 13th, 1862, 220 

, Map of the Field Operations of the Army of the Potomac under 
Maj.-Gen. Joseph Hooker in the Battles with the Army of 
General Lee, near Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg, be- 
tween April 27th and May 7th, 1863, 248 

" Map of Portions of the Military Departments of Washington, 

Pennsylvania, Annapolis, and Northeastern Virginia, . . 282 

' Map of the Battle Field of Gettysburg — First Day, . . . 290 

> Map of the Battle Field of Gettysburg — Second Day, . . .314 

Headquarters of General Meade at Gettysburg, .... 320 

(xxi) 



xxii ILLUSTRATIONS, MAPS, AND FLANS. 

PAGB 

Map of the Battle Field of Gettysburg— Third Day, . . .336 

Headquarters of General Lee at Gettysburg, . • • . 352 

Sketch Showing Positions of Union and Rebel Forces on Novem- 
ber 30th, 1863, in the Vicinity of Mine Run, . . 384 

Map of the Battle Field of the Wilderness, Va., .... 400 

Map of the Battle Field of Spottsylvania Court House, Va., . 420 

Map of the Battle Field of North Anna, Va 432 

Map of the Battle Field of Totopotomoy, Va., .... 436 

Map of the Battle Fields of the Totopotomoy and Bethesda 
Church, Va 446 

Map of the Battle Field of Cold Harbor, Va., .... 452 

Map of the Battle Grounds in the Vicinity of Richmond, Va., . 458 

Map of Petersburg, Va., 482 

Portrait of General Meade, after a Mezzotint by Max Rosenthal, 522 

Portrait of General Meade, after an Engraving by J. C. Buttre, 
from a Photog^ph by Brady, 566 



GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE. 



CHAPTER I. 

GENEALOGY OF THE MEADE FAMILY. 
(residence of RICHARD WORSAM MEADE IN SPAIN.) 

It is a great satisfaction, at this period of sudden Ameri- 
can interest in genealogies, to be able to state that General 
Meade is not known to be descended from William the Con- 
queror. He sprang, on the paternal side, from the loins of a 
race which gave England her Wellington and France some 
of her most distinguished soldiers, and on the maternal side 
from a family of recognized worth and social position. In 
a word, he came of a martial race, and of families of gentle- 
men and gentlewomen. Without going back, therefore, to 
citation of the records of the Old World well known to the 
family, suffice it to begin the detailed portion of the gene- 
alogy of George Gordon Meade with the history of his 
progenitors in America. General Fitzhugh Lee, in his 
memoir of General Robert E. Lee, in speaking casually of 
General Meade's father in connection with General Robert 
E. Lee's father, ** Light-horse Harry," inadvertently uses an 
unqualified term well calculated to mislead regarding Mr. 
Richard Worsam Meade's position. He says, ** Meade's 
father served as a private soldier in the Pennsylvania troops 
to suppress the * Whisky Insurrection ' in western Penn- 

1 (1) 



2 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE. 

sylvania, and therefore was under General Lee's father, who 
commanded the force raised • for the purpose." Now, the 
** Whisky Insurrection" being an episode in the early history 
of Pennsylvania, productive in that and some contiguous 
States of results similar to those in the later history of the 
United States, in Labor Riots, including disturbances in 
mining districts, to suppress which men of all ranks in vari- 
ous communities lent a hand, the term " private " may be, 
and is, in this case, misleading. Employment in such a 
field of action affords no more criterion of a man's social 
position than would his serving voluntarily, or in response 
to a summons, on ^ posse cotnitatus, which, in fact, the troops 
referred to really represented on a large scale. 

George Gordon Meade was bom in Cadiz, Spain, on the 
31st of December, 1815. His father, Richard Worsam 
Meade, was an American citizen residing there in pursuit of 
mercantile affairs, and incidentally acting as Naval Agent 
of the United States. General Meade was therefore doubly 
an American citizen, if such a thing could be, being a child 
of an American citizen, and bom under the flag of the United 
States as represented in foreign parts. Thus the absurdity 
of the discussions which sometimes appeared in the news- 
papers as to his eligibility to the presidency of the United 
States becomes apparent. 

Beginning with Colonial times, Robert Meade was the 
great-grandfather of George Gordon Meade. The exact 
date of his coming to the United States from Ireland, his 
native land, is not known, but the records show him to have 
been living, in 1732, in the city of Philadelphia, having in 
all probability arrived there from Barbados, where he had 
relatives, with which island, when he was settled in business 
in Philadelphia, he had mercantile transactions. He was an 
influential citizen and zealous Catholic, and being also a 
man of means, his presence in the city at that time was 



J' 



QENEALOQ Y OF THE MEADE FAMIL Y. 3 

Opportune for the community, for with influence and fortune 
he contributed largely to the erection of the chapel which 
first occupied the site on which now stands St. Joseph's 
Church. Dying in Philadelphia, in 1754, when just returned 
from a voyage to the West Indies, his wife having previously 
died, his will bequeathed his property to his three children, 
Garrett, George, and Catharine, and named his brother-in- 
law, George Stritch, of Barbados, executor. 

The bequests of the will, which are our only guide toward 
determining what other, besides business, relations he had 
with the West Indies, prove not only that he had property 
in Barbados, but imply that his brother-in-law, Stritch, lived 
there, and, moreover, that his own children were there at 
the time of his decease. Only a few years afterwards the 
children were certainly settled in Philadelphia, the two sons 
as merchants, under the firm-name of ** Garrett and George 
Meade." The records show that they occupied a promi- 
nent position in the mercantile world of Philadelphia, and, 
being among the signers of the Non-Importation Resolutions 
of 1765, that they were public-spirited citizens. Catharine, 
the daughter of Robert Meade, married, in 1761, a talented 
young man named Thomas Fitzsimons, who achieved 
distinction in state and national affairs. George, in 1 768, 
married Henrietta Constantia Worsam, who was a daughter 
of the Hon. Richard Worsam, of his Britannic Majesty's 
Council, in the island of Barbados, who died, in 1 766, while 
on a visit to Philadelphia. Thomas Fitzsimons entered 
into partnership with George Meade (Garrett Meade having 
probably died), under the firm-style of " George Meade 
and Co." 

George Meade spent all his life in Philadelphia, taking an 
acGve part in municipal affairs. An ardent patriot, his sym- 
pathies were with the struggling Colonies, and we find his 
firm, in 1780, subscribing the enormous sum, for that time, 



4 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

of two thousand pounds sterling towards supplies for the 
suffering army of Washington. He assisted towards the 
building of St. Mary's Catholic Church, of which he was 
trustee and member, his wife being equally attached to the 
church known in those days solely as the Church of Eng- 
land. Both he and his partner were among the charter- 
members of the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Pat- 
rick, on whose rolls appear the names of Washington and 
those of numbers of other distinguished men of the time. 

George Meade had five sons and five daughters. Two of 
the five daughters married brothers, Thomas and John Ket- 
land. The third daughter married William Hustler, whose 
descendants still live at Acklam Hall, Middleboro' on Tees, 
Yorkshire, England. With the exception of Richard Wor- 
sam Meade, the remaining children, seven in number, died 
unmarried. 

Richard Worsam Meade, after having passed through a 
thorough preliminary training, was taken into his father's 
counting-house, in the course of which engagement he was 
sent by his father on voyages to the West Indies ; and in 
179s, when he was a youth of only seventeen years of age, 
he was despatched as supercargo on one of his father's ves- 
sels sailing for Europe, extending his tour through England 
and France, and returning to America in 1 796. At the age 
of twenty-two, after having spent three years on his own 
account in business in the West Indies, he had achieved a 
competence and returned to the United States. There he 
married, in 1780, Margaret Coates Butler, daughter of An- 
thony Butler, of Perth Amboy, New Jersey. 

He resumed business in Philadelphia, and additionally 
endeavored to extricate his father from business embarrass- 
ments into which he had fallen through having entered 
with other capitalists of Philadelphia into extensive pur- 
chases of lands in various parts of the country, with the 



QENEALOQT OF THE MEADE FAMILY. 5 

expectation that they would be rapidly taken up by settlers. 
His father, broken in health, and suffering with increasing 
infirmity from ^e, finally yielded up to the struggle, and, 
with the fullest confidence of his creditors, the son took 
charge of the affairs as assignee. It was, however, in con- 
nection with his own business affairs, that soon thereafter he 
took his course towards Spain. Finding, incidentally to his 
visit to that country, what he regarded as an excellent op- 
portunity, he established a business house in Cadiz, and, in 
1804, his wife and the two children who had been bom to 
them by that time joined him there. 

His father, George Meade, died in 1808. The widow, 
with her only surviving daughter, visited England only a 
few years after his death. She had not been without her 
trials in life. Her father, being an Englishman of station, 
had long delayed her marriage with George Meade, well 
known for his patriotic devotion to the Colonies, and now, 
after the loss of many of her children, and finally of her 
husband, she found herself bereft of most of what life had 
held dear to her, on the shores of her native, now almost a 
foreign land to her. After being subjected to various de- 
lays in returning to America, she died near Edgebarton, 
Berkshire, England, at the age of nearly eighty years. 
Her son, Richard Worsam Meade, continued to live in 
Spain for seventeen years. In 1 806 he was appointed Naval 
Agent for the United States for the port of Cadiz. He was 
enabled, through his large mercantile connections, to enter 
into numerous contracts for supplies to the Government of 
Spain during the stormy period of the Peninsular War, and 
thus to contribute to the success of the Spanish cause. Im- 
poverished as Spain became on account of the drain upon 
her resources caused by the war, she fell greatly into debt 
to Mr. Meade for supplies furnished in her time of need. 
Spain formally recognized, however, through the action of 



GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 



the Supreme Junta, organized for the defense of Cadiz, and 
afterwards through the Cortes, its great indebtedness to 
him, the Cortes wishing to confer upon him the citizensKp 
of the country ; but Mr. Meade publicly declined to accept 
it, expressing himself as appreciative of the honor, but as 
preferring to remain an American citizen. 

During his residence in Spain the house of Mr. Meade 
had become a place of great resort, to which visitors were 
attracted by the courtliness of his manners, the charm of 
his wife, and the entourage generally of his private and offi- 
cial life. He lived luxuriously in the midst of the best 
social advantages, even gathering a choice collection of pict- 
ures which eventually formed one of the first private col- 
lections in the United States. His family had increased, 
since his arrival in the country, by eight children, one of 
whom, bom in Cadiz, on the 31st of December, 181 5, as 
has already been mentioned, was George Gordon Meade, 
the subject of this memoir. 



RETURN OF THE MEADE FAMILY FROM SPAIN. 



CHAPTER 11. 

RETURN OF THE MEADE FAMILY FROM SPAIN. 

At the end of the war between France and Spain, which 
eventuated in the return of Ferdinand VII. to the throne 
from which he had been driven by Napoleon, everything 
was in confusion in the country. Mr. Meade was anxious 
to receive payment for the supplies with which he had fur- 
nished the Government, so as to be able to return with his 
family to America, but as if the delay in this matter were 
not enough to try his patience, he had additionally to bear 
the consequences of a complication grown out of his having 
been appointed assignee of an English mercantile firm 
established in Cadiz. At that time England, through her 
close alliance with Spain, representing their joint resistance 
to the Napoleonic invasion of the country, was all-powerful 
with the Spanish Government. Through this paramount 
influence the arrest of Mr. Meade was brought about in 
connection with his action as assignee of the English mer- 
cantile firm in Cadiz, notwithstanding that he had in the 
administration of its affairs strictly conformed to legal in- 
structions. In consequence, although he had the freedom 
of the grounds and the privilege of seeing his family, he 
was, until liberated at the instance of the Court of Spain 
through the intervention of the United States Minister, held 
prisoner for nearly two years in Santa Catalina, the fort 
situated on the lefl in entering the Bay of Cadiz, near Puerto 
de Santa Maria (St. Mary's Port). 

Spain, finding it impossible, in the straitened condition of 
her finances, to settle her indebtedness to Mr. Meade, he 



8 GEXEMJLL GEORGE GOMDOy MEADE 

concluded to remain in the country, to supervise in peisoo 
his large business inteierstN comprocniszng with this evil 
turn of fortune by sending his wife and chikiren in ad^-ance 
to America, three of the children having alread>' preceded 
them to Philadelphia. Soon aftenrards the ** Treaty of 
Florida ** between the United States and Spain ha\'ing been 
signed, by which treat}* the United States was fdedged to 
pay all the just daims of Americans against Spain, in con- 
sideration of the cession of Florida to the United States, a 
satisfactor>' solution of Mr. Meade's ditiicu!t>* seemed to be 
pro\identially reached, and accordingly, in 1820, three >-ears 
after the departure of his &mily, he rejoined it in Philadel- 
I^ia, and after lining there a >'ear. remo^-ed with it to 
Washington, where he expected to be best able to fomi-ard 
the claim which had been transferred by %>ain to his own 
country, and ^ixh his own consent. But, as the e\'ent 
proved, he had much better ha\'e waited for Spain's re- 
cuperation in her finances, for although prosecuted zeal- 
ously by Mr. Meade, and after his demise by his i»idow, 
and although on one occasion passing both Houses of Con- 
gress, but not at the same session, and acknowledged to 
be just by all the legal talent which has examined the claim, 
it still remains unpaid, whilst Florida, to the ultimate inch 
of her shores, is the undisputed territory of the United 
States. The outcome of Mr. Meade's pursuit of justice in 
the country to which he had returned, his native land, u-as 
that, harassed by long suspense and repeated disaf^joint- 
mcnts, his health was affected, and he died in Washington 
on June 25th, 1828, at fifty years of age. 

It became necessary for the widow, under the circum- 
stances of her diminished fortune and numerous family, to 
live with an economy to which she had never been ac- 
customed. Accordingly, as one means toward it, George 
Gordon Meade was withdrawn from the boarding-school 



RETURN OF THE MEADE FAMIL Y FROM SPAIN. 9 

where he was, at Mt. Airy, near Philadelphia, and became 
a pupil in Washington, at a school kept by Mr. Salmon P. 
Chase, afterwards Secretary of the Treasury under Mr. 
Lincoln's first Administration. Thence he went for a while 
to a boarding-school at Mt. Hope, Baltimore. The tastes 
of the youth were inclined towards a colleg^iate education, 
which his mother also &vored, but the change in the finan- 
cial affairs of the family rendering another course desirable, 
she sought for him an appointment to the Military Academy 
at West Point. The first application failed, the second suc- 
ceeded, and during the interval of waiting, George continued 
at the school at Mt. Hope, and in the summer of 183 1 he 
was appointed to the cadetship which had been promised 
him. At the Academy he remained during the usual 
routine course of books and physical training, not particu- 
larly high in his stand, nor, on the other hand, particularly 
low. Nothing is more fallacious, however, than judgment 
of mental powers and character at an early age, for the 
reason that some persons have the capacity of indefinite 
mental growth, and others seem even to retrograde. 

George had never intended to remain in the army after 
his graduation, but merely to serve in it sufficiently long to 
warrant his resigning, as having afforded an equivalent for 
his education ; so we find him, at the end of the second 
year of the military course, feeling that the routine is very 
monotonous. Still he kept on, and passed through the 
whole four years of the course, and then, securing the cus- 
tomary leave of three months after graduation, he went 
during that time on the survey of the Long Island Railroad. 
His health was delicate at this period, his constitution fds 
from confirmed, and some of his friends were very anxious 
that he should not be exposed to the malarious atmosphere 
of Florida, where his regiment was stationed, and they even 
went the length of advising him to resign his position in the 




lO GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE 

anny. He determined, however, to give the climate at least 
a fair trial, and as, at that juncture, luckily for him, his 
brother-in-law. Commodore Alexander James Dallas, in 
charge of the West India Squadron, invited him to take 
passage to his post on the flagship of the squadron, he 
started for Florida under the most favorable auspices. After 
a short detour among the West Indies the ship touched at 
Havana, and there the intelligence of Dade's Massacre 
awaited it, and Commodore Dallas, proceeding at once 
towards the seat of war, and taking measures with refer- 
ence to the Indian outbreak, was able incidentally to land 
Lieutenant Meade at Tampa Bay, where his company was 
stationed. This was the beginning of the Seminole War. 

The campaign was conducted by General Winfield Scott. 
The column with which Lieutenant Meade marched was 
commanded by Colonel William Lindsay. Lieutenant 
Meade was not destined, however, to remain long on duty 
in this campaign. As had been apprehended, his delicate 
constitution was unequal to the stress put upon it by the 
climate of the interior of southern Florida, where the In- 
dians lurked in the Everglades and other fastnesses, and he 
was seized with a low fever which rendered him unfit for 
the contemplated duty of active pursuit of the enemy. So 
he was ordered to deport to the North Fork of the Cana- 
dian River, Arkansas, a party of Seminoles, who were to 
be there settled as a measure for the pacification of Florida. 
This duty performed, he reported in person, under orders, 
to Washington, where, in July, he was assigned to duty at 
the Watertown Arsenal, Mass., but did not long remain 
there, for, towards the close of 1836, he resigned his com- 
mission in the army. 

He accepted a position at once as assistant-engineer in 
the construction of the Alabama, Florida, and Georgia Rail- 
road, of which his brother-in-law. Major James D. Graham, 



RETURN OF THE MEADE FAMILY FROM SPAIN. 1 1 

U. S. A., was chief engineer. This took him to Pensacola, 
Florida, where he was engaged until nearly the middle of 
July, 1837, when a survey at the mouth of the Sabine 
River, the boundary line between the United States and 
Texas, being needed by the War Department, he was 
recommended to and selected by the Department as a 
competent person to execute the work. After this survey, 
which related to the navigability of the waters at the mouth 
of the Sabine River, he went, as principal assistant-engineer, 
with Captain Andrew Talcott, U. S. A., who was to make a 
survey at the mouths of the Mississippi River, with reference 
to improving the navigation there, his employment on this 
duty, including office work, lasting from November, 1837, 
until the early part of 1839. ^^ '840 Lieutenant Meade 
was employed as one of the assistants to the joint commis- 
sion appointed to establish the boundary line between the 
United States and Texas, and, after the completion of the 
work, he returned to Washington, where, in August, he was 
appointed by the Secretary of War one of the civil-assistants 
on the survey of the Northeastern Boundary, the line be- 
tween the territory of the United States and that of Great 
Britain. 

In the society of Washington, Lieutenant Meade was ac- 
customed to meet the family of the Hon. John Sergeant, to 
whose eldest daughter, Margaretta, he became engaged, and 
the young couple were married on the 31st of December, 
1840, at the house of Mr. Sergeant, in Philadelphia, Lieu- 
tenant Meade continuing to hold his position as civil-assist- 
ant on the survey of the Northeastern Boundary. This new 
responsibility, however, coming upon him after his experi- 
ences of various employments in civil-engineering, all of 
which had lasted but a short time, induced him to try to 
procure reinstatement in the army, and, this aim proving 
successful, he was, in 1842, appointed second-lieutenant in 
the Corps of Topographical Engineers, continuing, however. 



12 GENERAL QEOBOE GORDON MEADE 

as assistant-engineer in the survey of the Northeastern 
Boundary until near the end of 1843, when he was ordered 
to report to the office of Topographical Engineers, in Phila- 
delphia, where his duties, under Major Hartman Bache, 
became those of the designing and construction of light- 
houses. 

He had been fulfilling this assignment to duty for some- 
what over a year and a half, when, in August, 1845, ^^ ^' 
cdved orders to report for service at Aransas Bay, Texas, 
with the military force organized with reference to the 
troubles growing out of the disputed boundary between the 
United States and Mexico ; a force which was at first an army 
of observation, but which became converted into one of in- 
vasion, General Zachary Taylor, soon thereafter to become 
President of the United States, commanding the American 
troops at the designated point. Lieutenant Meade was at 
this time thirty years of age. His constitution had wonder- 
fully hardened between this and the time we found him un- 
able to support the exposure of campaigning in the Seminole 
War. His appearance had entirely changed within that 
period. The dandy phase of his existence, mentioned in the 
concluding chapter of this work, had sloughed away in the 
rude contact of men and affairs in different climes on the 
frontier of the country. He was now simply a well-dressed 
man, but nothing more than that ; mindful of the axiom of 
Lord Chesterfield, never to be the first to adopt a fashion, 
nor the last to leave it ; always particular in his attire, except 
in the field, where he was singularly indifferent to dress ; a 
statement which the statue of him in bronze, in the Phila- 
delphia Park, confirms, where the artist has sacrificed to the 
literalness of the brief moment the spirit that should endure 
through time. His manner was alert, and indicative of 
quickness of apprehension and fertility of resource, and his 
manners were those of a man gifted by nature, and by 
education adapted to shine in society. 



LIEUTENANT MEADE IN THE MEXICAN WAR 1 3 



CHAPTER III. 

UEUTENANT MEADE IN THE MEXICAN WAR. 

An extended account of the Mexican War, do &r as it 
relates to General Meade, would not seem to be imperative 
in a brief history of his military career, in view of the fact 
that he was then only a lieutenant in the army, and that the 
bearing of his presence in its military operations was there- 
fore proportionally limited. The account of that episode 
of his life is therefore confined to the moderate limits of 
this chapter. 

General Meade, a lieutenant of Topographical Engineers 
in 1845, ^ corps merged during the Civil War in that of the 
Engineers, arrived at Corpus Christi on September 14, 1845, 
having been assigned to the staff of General Zachary Taylor, 
who was in chief command of the American forces then 
assembling as an army of occupation on the Mexican frontier. 
Passing through the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la 
Palma, he finally marched with General Taylor to Monterey, 
assisting there in reconnoissances of that portion of the 
enemy's position which was assailed by General Worth. 
General Worth said, in his official report of the operations 
here, " Annexed is an accurate sketch of the theatre of 
operations, for which I am indebted, as in many other 
respects, to the intelligent zeal and gallantry of Lieutenant 
Meade, Engineers." 

Marching beyond Monterey to Saltillo, on November 
13th, General Taylor made dispositions in advance of 
Monterey, sending General Quitman to Victoria. Under 
General Taylor Lieutenant Meade made, in connection with 



14 GENERAL QEOROE GORDON MEADE 

the new operations, reconnoissances of the passes of the 
Agua Nueva, and under General Quitman, of the passes of 
the Tula.» But, at this point of time, a sudden change took 
place in affairs. General Taylor, upon returning to Monterey, 
finding that the whole character of his operations had to 
be changed, General Winfield Scott having arrived on the 
coast in supreme command, and having ordered many of 
General Taylor's troops to join him in the projected capture 
of Vera Cruz and of the city of Mexico. Lieutenant Meade 
had, at that moment, reached Victoria with the colunm 
under General Quitman. Marching thence, under the com- 
mand of General Patterson, for Tampico, on the coast, he 
was there about to take ship for Vera Cruz, when, on the 
23d of February, 1846, the battle of Buena Vista was 
fought by General Taylor. 

On the 9th of March General Scott's army began debark- 
ing near Vera Cruz, and on the following day invested the 
town, which lies at the water's edge ; a walled town, sup- 
ported in its defensive capacity by the Castle of San Juan 
d'Ulloa, a short distance off, seaward. Lieutenant Meade 
assisted his immediate chief. Major William Tumbull, in 
the survey of the lines of contravallation, and helped in the 
designing of the naval battery. After a severe bombard- 
ment lasting several days, a parley was sounded from the 
town, resulting, after some negotiation, in its surrender. 
Here Lieutenant Meade's duty with the army terminated. 
He had been in the field nearly two years, had shared in 
three battles and this siege, and the officers of his branch 
of the service were present in sufficient numbers for the 
needs of the army of General Scott. Consequently General 
Scott relieved him from duty in a complimentary order, in 
which he said that Lieutenant Meade ** was much distin- 
guished in the field since 1845." Here, then, we will with 
the reader leave General Scott and his gallant little army on 



LIEUTENANT MEADE IN THE MEXICAN WAR. 1 5 

the eve of their triumphant march to and capture of the city 
of Mexico. Lieutenant Meade's departure from the army 
must, we have reason to believe, have been coupled with 
his regret that his duties had not been with the line rather 
than with the staff, for we find him, at the beginning of the 
Civil War, evidently resolved that it should then be other- 
wise. We meet him at that time, fourteen years afterwards, 
as a general of brigade, and so often in the forefront of 
battle, in that rank and in that of corps-commander, that 
the marvel is he was not killed outright instead of wounded 
before the Civil War was two years old. 



l6 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 



CHAPTER IV. 

THE CAUSE OF THE CIVIL WAR AND RESPECTIVE ADVAN- 
TAGES OF THE BELUGERENTS. 

The essential diflerence between the ancient and modem 
way of regarding great movements among mankind lies in 
difference of view as to the propubive forces at work, the 
ancients believing that they obeyed a blind destiny, repre- 
sented chiefly by some powerful human leadership, whereas 
the wiser modems have come to look for and find directive 
cause for such phenomena in race, climate, geographical 
distribution, clashing material interests, and a multitude of 
other agencies in that which compels men to change and to 
collision with their fellow men. Ancient history, in a word, 
regards the mass of men as mere ciphers, which give value 
to an inexplicable range of activities, while modem history 
regards them as subject to and moving amid these, under 
law ; the people, more than their rulers, the source of grand 
movements ; the ruler but the product of surrounding root 
and soil. Hence Macaulay was wise when he introduced 
into his History of England an account of the people as the 
main source of the events which he proceeds to describe. 
The peoples of the same and of contiguous countries, more 
than a Greek Chorus, bearing as they do the chief part in 
the drama, serve, however, in formal history, that purpose 
also. Otherwise, to mental vision, the principal actors 
would go mopping and mowing and gibbering over the 
stage of life, as inane as dancers without music look to one 
whose ears are closed. 

It is with a very simple fragment of history with which 



THB CAUSE OF THE CIVIL WAK 1/ 

we have to deal, and yet, to this day, simple as it is, it is 
sometimes misunderstood. It was represented, even in an 
English work published about the time of the Civil War, 
that the Southerners were fighting only for their independ- 
ence. To account for fighting for independence, however, 
some rational cause must be assigned and proved to exist. 
That there was no just cause for secession, leading to fight- 
ing for independence, is amply shown in the demonstration 
of Mr. Alexander H. Stephens, a man of distinguished 
ability, who afterwards became the Vice-President of the 
Southern Confederacy. The real cause of secession was 
not the presence of slavery in the Southern States and its 
absence in the Northern ones, but the fact that the differ- 
ence between them in that respect had gradually had the 
effect of making two peoples of different interests in social 
and governmental development. There was, at the begin- 
ning of the Civil War, no general feeling in the North 
against the institution of slavery, save as an abstract propo- 
sition ; none such as would have made any great sacrifice 
for its abolishment. It was only as the war proceeded that 
the feeling in the North grew stronger and stronger against 
it as the cause back of the estrangement between the two 
parts of the country. The South, as represented especially 
by new generations, is now, in retrospection, grateful that 
it did not achieve a success which would have blighted the 
magnificent future of the country ; and in this feeling even 
the majority of those there who bore the heat and burden 
of the day profoundly share. The South can now afford 
to admit, the fever-fit of passion being past, that it was not, 
even by the conceded right of revolution, justified in its 
action, when, having held the power of the general Govern- 
ment for many years, having been assured by Congress that 
whatever was lacking in protection of its rights should be 

given, having entered into and been defeated in a general 

2 



1 8 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADK 

election in which it had put forward its own candidates, it 
took that time, of all times, to declare its independence. 

The theory upon which the Southern States attempted to 
secede ignored the law of development upon which all 
society proceeds, and they made no attempt to reconcile 
their practice with their theory. Men claimed that they 
primarily owed allegiance to their States, secondarily 
to the United States. Yet thousands of men whose States 
refused to secede took up arms against the United States. 
States which had deliberately placed themselves on the side 
of the United States were invaded with the intention of forc- 
ing them to secede. Even when in arms against the United 
States, Southerners frequently appealed to the Constitution 
which, by the act of war, they had repudiated. But to re- 
vert to the theory of secession, pure and simple, — leaving 
aside minor inconsistencies, of which men under stress of 
circumstances must always be guilty, — ^if the theory of seces- 
sion had been true in the nature of things, then, obviously, 
the Southern Confederacy, once successfully formed, could 
not deny the right of secession to any one or any num- 
ber of the composing States. Suppose, then, because it 
has no seaboard, that Arkansas should have seceded from 
the triumphant Confederacy. It would, of course, by pre- 
scription, have possessed as full autonomy as that of the re- 
maining States of the Bund, could coin money, levy war, 
and exercise all other rights of sovereignty. But suppose 
that it should have declared war abroad, how could a 
foreign enemy get at it? The absurdities which the 
contemplation of a multitude of sovereign States, without 
marked geographical boundaries, which have lived for 
nearly a century together the common life of a nation, 
coupled with the right of secession at any time, exhibit to 
us, are infinite. The whole movement leading to secession 
ignored the fundamental law of growth, yet this, beyond 



THE CAUSE OF THE CIVIL WAR 19 

written constitutions or aught else of formal agreement in 
treaties or otherwise, by which men seek to bind themselves 
and others, controls all that they do and all that they can 
become throughout the lapsing ages. 

At the beginning of the strife between the two parts of 
the country there were, besides these fundamental ones, 
minor errors, of which Southerners had not the slightest 
suspicion. The most flag^nt of these at the beginning 
was the prevalent belief in the South that the North would 
not act with anything like continuous determination. Of 
course the Southern leaders knew better ; for subsequent 
memoirs and biographies of many of them show plainly 
that they had no such delusions as those by which the 
majority of Southerners were possessed. Another of these 
crude notions was that Northerners were destitute of cour- 
age, as compared with Southerners, three Northerners to 
one Southerner being the usual proportion allowed to es- 
tablish equality. When, however, troops from the North 
met troops from the South, of similar experience in the 
field, it was not found that there was any essential difference 
between them in the display of courage. At the very first, 
at the battle of Bull Run, there was some apparent differ- 
ence ; but this arose from the circumstance that the senti- 
ment of the North did not correspond in intensity with that 
of the South. It had no animosity, whereas the South was 
in deadly earnest. While there is undoubtedly a difference 
in individual and racial courage, still, back of all courage, 
and especially in gross, as in armies, lies the force of habit. 
As for difference of race between the North and South, 
both represent mixed races. By the physiological law by 
which repetition dulk sensibility, expressed by Byron as to 
ttus particular region of sensibility discussed, when he says 
that in a duel, after one or two shots, the ear becomes 
'' more Irish and less nice," habit declares itself paramount 



20 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE. 

in producing indifference in all varieties of danger. Long 
before the war ended there was nothing to choose between 
Northerners and Southerners in fighting capacity. That 
implies that there was something to choose between them 
at the beginning. The reason for part of this difference 
ought to be obvious to everyone ; part has more than once 
been noted, in discussions on the war, but the chief reason 
seems to have escaped attention. Men often moult the 
memories of what they once knew to exist as unconsciously 
as they change the plumage of their opinions. The inhab- 
itants of the Northern States had not, at the beginning of 
the war, the same outdoor habits of exercise as they have 
now. It was almost impossible to find, for long distances 
along the northeastern coast of the United States, a horse 
tolerable for riding ; and if that were secured, it might be 
difficult to find a saddle. Southerners almost universally 
had ridden on horseback from their earliest youth. Hence 
for a long time their cavalry excelled, gentlemen of the 
South regarding that branch as of especial distinction as com- 
pared with the other arms of the service, being imbued by 
tradition with the notions associated with the cavalier. Not 
only was there in the North at that time a singular absence 
of athletic exercises, but the people there generally were 
not addicted to field-sports. In fact, throughout a large 
portion of New England a man who kept a gun and a dog 
was looked upon pretty much as Dr. Johnson regarded one 
who wore a cane. Just the opposite condition of things 
prevailed in the South. One could hardly find a man at 
any age who was not devoted to hunting in some form or 
other. Now, it ought to be evident that shooting of every 
kind, especially that which compels a man to walk over all 
sorts of surface, through swamp, through woods, through 
brush, through briar, constitutes the best sort of exercise ; 
that which, in the open air, makes exertion recreation, 



THE CA USE OF THE CIVIL WAR 21 

trains the eye and ear, steadies the hand, strengthens the 
limbSy and confers vigor obtained in wholesome contact with 
mother-earth. Nor was this all that was obtained by life 
in the South, as compared with the then existing life in the 
North. The Southerner's gun became to him a part of 
himself; he had become as automatic with it as if it had 
been a member of his body. The Northerner had, as a 
general rule, to learn to shoot as shooting is practised in 
the expanse of nature. Except as a member of a small 
class, and then only as a marksman at a target, the North- 
erner knew little about shooting. The general population 
knew nothing. The Northerner was therefore at first at a 
great disadvantage as compared with the Southerner, a dis- 
advantage which he had to overcome in the field. But 
beyond this difference, brought about by the difference in 
habits between the two parts of the country, lay a subtle 
difference originating in the same manner. One may well 
despair of ever being able to see in what way the chase or 
hunting of any kind, even that of the most ferocious beasts, 
can be likened to war, and to be in any way, as it is said to 
be, a good preparation for it, unless it be conceded that, 
out of the practice of hunting grows that intimate acquaint- 
ance with the face of nature which one acquires in hunting. 
Nature has, to one who comes closest to it, a physiognomy 
from greatest to minutest details, and he who has wandered 
through its recesses becomes gifted with an insight such 
that, given but a part, he sets, with greater clearness than 
unpractised men, what may be to the eye concealed beyond. 
This is the acquired faculty which, doubtless, in a primitive 
stage of existence, all men possessed, the faculty which 
Southern troops brought with them into their masses during 
the war, and which necessarily at first told in their favor 
when they confronted men who were without it, amidst all 
sorts of eccentricities of ground in wood and hill and 



22 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADR 

swamp and swale. They brought with them the faculty 
which the Indian practices to perfection in his fastnesses, 
even to the point of protective color ; the faculty which, 
through bitter experience at first, the Northern troops grad- 
ually acquired, in imitation of the Southerners, who, with 
their facile lines, flowed into the sinuosities of the wooded 
battle-field, the efficiency of the unit as a woodsman con- 
tributing to that of the line of battle which it went to form. 
Back of these causes making for the efficiency of Southern 
troops at the beginning of the war was a potent one, which 
enabled the Confederacy to put forth to greater advantage 
than could the United States, whatever strength it possessed, 
not only at the beginning of the war but throughout its 
whole duration. This lay in the superiority of the South 
for waging war, growing out of its political and social life, 
habits, and traditions. There the theory and the practice of 
equality were as wide asunder as the poles. There, from 
the earliest times, the possession of large landed properties 
by the educated class, and the political and social weight 
inuring to their owners from the consolidated vote which 
they enjoyed as masters of the black tillers of the soil, 
made them not only tend to the study of national politics 
and the acquisition of office (making them paramount in 
the councils of the nation), but set them apart among their 
own people as a distinctively ruling class. Upon the sur- 
face, so strictly were drawn the lines between white and 
black, all white men stood upon an apparently equal political 
footing, and with equal social capacity. As a matter of fact, 
however, there existed in the South a dominant, educated 
class, recognized ungrudgingly by the commonalty as the 
gentlemen — ^lords of the soil. And j ust because the difference 
was so palpable between the two estates, and their inter- 
dependence so great, there was between the members of 
the dominant class and the general white population of the 



THE CAUSE OF THE CIVIL WAR. 23 

sturdy yeomen of the country a real comradeship, tempered 
with respect, which was not to be seen, because it did not 
exist in the North. Between the two classes there was, 
as there always must be in any community when differences 
are not arbitrary, but real, no feeling between the respec- 
tive ranks in the community but one of mutual liking and 
respect. To the men of a class which had been from time 
out of mind justly regarded in peace as their superiors, the 
rank and file of the South naturally looked up for direction 
and followed loyally in war. Can any one, in reflecting on 
this political and social condition of the South of that time, 
fail to see that, for purposes of war, it offered a great 
advantage over the political and social condition of the 
North ? In the North there was no leadership of a class ; 
even the class of gentlemen was not known outside of its 
own bounds ; a multitude of great little men were ever 
momentarily rising like bubbles to the surface, only to dis- 
appear ; mere wealth played a part in public affairs which 
would have been impossible in the South. 

The moral and physical advantages in the conflict were 
for a while in favor of the South. The existence of the 
condition of slavery, save as the mediate cause of dissen- 
sion between the two parts of the country, had, as already 
intimated, little to do with the conflict. Some of the 
foremost men of the South had, from the beginning of the 
Government, declared against the injustice of slavery. The 
possibility of its territorial extension, that was all, had come 
to an end, whether the South should succeed or fail. 
Men's views of things are independent of what is founded 
in eternal justice uncomplicated with human difliculties. 
We have to consider the point of view. We have to con- 
sider the obscuration by self-interest. In the question 
asked by Festus of St. Paul, "What is truth?" is touched 
and summed up the everlasting possibilities of difference in 




24 



GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE 



the opinions and sentiments of men even as to those things 
which they have most deeply pondered. Both North and 
South fought in support of their beliefs ; both suffered for 
them ; each ardently prayed that the righteous cause (its 
own) might prevail. Thus, so far as the abstract question 
of right was concerned, the two sides were on an equal 
footing for all acquirement of the strength that the sense 
of justice can convey. With regard, however, to the posses- 
sion of strength on lower moral planes than the highest, it 
may be with reason claimed that the South had at first an 
advantage over the North. Growing directly out of the 
political and social organization of the South, came, at the 
very initiation of the war, a singular advantage to the Con- 
federacy. It put the direction of affairs at once into the 
hands of a trained military oligarchy. Mr. Davis had had 
experience in military affairs, and besides having been 
Secretary of War of the United States, had always been 
associated with military men. It would not be to the pur- 
pose to call attention, in contradiction of the inference from 
this, to the fact that Mr. Davis had very serious limitations 
to his usefulness. The advantage of the South in having 
possessed him grows out of the implied contrast between 
him and Mr. Lincoln as occupants of opposing presidential 
chairs, in presence of the sudden flaming out of war. Fine 
as Mr. Lincoln's touch was as to political men and affairs, 
the absence of it in military affairs was keenly felt at first. 
It is almost impossible to conceive that any one could have 
thought it judicious to let General Scott remain as long as 
he did, with his infirmities, at the head of military affairs in 
one of the greatest crises of the world's history. Mr. 
Lincoln must, however, be largely exonerated from blame 
for having retained McClellan so long as he did, for the 
American people were in that under a delusion which re- 
sembled a hypnotic condition. We can, however, plead in 



THE CAUSE OF THE CIVIL WAR. 2$ 

excuse for these mistakes, that time was needed within 
which to distinguish and to select from the mass the best 
leaders, but to nothing save defect of military capacity can 
be ascribed some of Mr. Lincoln's essays in suggesting, 
modifying, or controlling certain operations of the war. 

In many most unfortunate respects the position of Wash- 
ington and the character of its population bore heavily for 
the Southern and against the Northern cause. Washington 
was, in affiliation, much more a Southern than a Northern 
city, and, in consequence, the enemy was, through one 
means or another, from the beginning to the end of the war, 
possessed of much better information as to the movements 
in that capital than was the North of what was done or con- 
templated in Richmond. The presence, too, of Washington 
on the very borderland of war has been frequently men- 
tioned as a serious disadvantage in the prosecution of the 
war, and it was. The United States, as an established 
government, could not afford, as was said at the time, 
to swap queens with the enemy. But besides that, there 
was in the topographical relation of Washington to Rich- 
mond another serious embarrassment, which seems to have 
escaped mention. From Washington to the Slue Ridge it 
is only half as far as it is from Richmond to the Blue Ridge, 
so that when the enemy, in his numerous raids, marched 
down the Shenandoah Valley to demonstrate on or cross 
the fords of the Potomac, he approached nearer and nearer, 
as he marched north, to the chief towns of Maryland and 
Pennsylvania and to the capital at Washington, masked in 
his movements and protected by a mountain range during 
the whole time of this approach. Thus the enemy could, 
as he more than once did, appear suddenly in a new field 
of operations close to the capital, and profoundly influence, 
not only there but elsewhere, the current of military events. 
Add to these advantages possessed by the Confederates in 



26 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE. 

Virginia the additional one, that the moment the Army of 
the Potomac advanced toward Richmond it found itself 
penetrating a hostile country where every scrap of informa- 
tion to the enemy's advantage reached him, and every scrap 
that might benefit the invading army was concealed. Add 
to this, again, the fact that the scouts of the enemy, having 
a greater knowledge of the country than that possessed 
by those of their adversary, were able to make their way 
through hostile lines in a manner truly marvellous on occa- 
sions. 

It would appear at the first blush, as is proved by the 
fact that persons who have not examined minutely into the 
matter believe it without hesitation, that the South was, from 
beginning to end of the war, morally and physically, in 
everything, greatly overmatched. That it was, in the long 
run, overmatched, is undeniable, as the event proves. The 
question raised here, however, is as to the degree to which 
it was overmatched, and as to the degree there is a very 
general misapprehension. Territorially the United States 
was represented by twenty-two States, as arrayed against 
eleven States of the Southern Confederacy. Twenty-two 
million freemen and half a million slaves apparently adhered 
to the Northern cause, as against five and a half million 
freemen and three and a half million slaves apparently ad- 
hering to the Southern cause. But, on the other hand, it 
should be remembered that, in addition to the signal advan- 
tages which have been recited in favor of the South, the 
sentiment of the Union was numerically insignificant there 
after secession was once fairly entered upon, as compared 
with the sentiment in the North which opposed the prose- 
cution of the war, and numerically increased as the war 
went on. And, additionally, it should be remembered that 
the slaves of the South were able to perform the tillage of 
the ground, and thereby release eveiy able-bodied white 



THE CAUSE OF THE CIVIL WAR 27 

man for military service ; whereas, for the tillage of the soil 
of the North there was no such class of laborers working 
from the earliest to the latest age, and its multifarious in- 
dustries required the presence of skilled labor, while at the 
same time there was nothing in the South to correspond 
with such industrial occupations. The greatest disadvan- 
tage under which the South labored was that its ports were 
blockaded, and that it had scarcely the semblance of a navy. 
This meant that it was largely cut off from the importation 
of munitions of war and other things, and that the blockade 
could not be raised except by the intervention of foreign 
powers. Its inconsiderable wealth, too, as compared with 
that of the North, and the almost boundless credit of the 
latter, was a source of relative weakness to the South. 

If the reader will carefully scan all these various elements 
with relation to each other, and will strike the balance, he 
will see that, although the North preponderated in strength 
over the South, yet that the difference between them was 
not so great as is frequently imagined. He will see that 
the South had just as much faith in the justice of its cause 
as the North had in the justice of its cause, and, therefore, 
that so far as moral force is derived from the contemplation 
of doing right, the contestants were equal. But he will also 
see that, at the beginning, there were certain minor moral 
advantages possessed in larger degree by the South than by 
the North. It is only by recognizing the fact, that any one 
can account for its desperate prolongation of the struggle. 
What the dynamic value of these minor elements of strength 
may have amounted to, no man can say. The statement 
sometimes made that the moral is to the physical as five to 
two is an absurdity, the two things being incommensurable. 
All these questions will be of especial interest to the future 
historian who, in his calm analysis of events, will test them 
in the crucible of world-experience with solvents of a vast 



28 GENERAL QEOROE GORDON MEADE. 

array of collated (acts. They begin to approach this his- 
torical interest even at this early day, when, reconciliation 
having followed strife, men have had opportunity to revise 
the experiences which, owing to the rapidity of modem 
events, seem to belong to quite a remote past. What now 
presents itself to the reason and imagination as most inter- 
esting is, that the event of the war was one which, with the 
greater enlightenment that time has wrought, has long been 
a subject of thankfulness among the people of a united 
country. 



TRUTHS AND POPULAR ERRORS AROUT THE WAR, 29 



CHAPTER V. 

TRUTHS AND POPULAR ERRORS ABOUT THE WAR. 

No more prejudicial error entered into the conduct of 
military afiairs in the North than the popular notion that 
a military education necessarily makes the great com- 
mander. The ideal soldier, the strategos of the ancients, 
the general of modem times, is bom as truly as the poet 
is bom, not made. A military education does but give the 
training which brings forth to the best advantage natural 
powers. There are, and always have been, but two mili- 
tary schools in the world, that of actual war, and that of 
the academy, for the teaching of the theory and practice of 
war ; but neither of these can create a soldier of any grade 
intrinsically beyond that of the rank and file of an army. 
The reason of this is not far to seek, if one come to realize 
two fundamental facts, that genius or talent for war, like 
any other special manifestation of mind, cannot be created 
or supplanted by any amount of technical acquirement ; 
and, additionally, that back of the intellect requisite to con- 
stitute a great commander, and the very foundation with- 
out which his gifts are unavailing, is character, the sort of 
mind which, in the midst of the mutability of affairs, keeps 
its equal poise. Who can doubt that, even if Napoleon 
had had no military education whatever, he would have 
been, except perhaps Massena, the first of France's strate- 
gists fitted for the field. The popular ignorance in the 
North on this subject rose far beyond the bounds of ordi- 
nary popular limitations, pervading the sphere even of men 
of military training, some of whom had modesty conson- 



30 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADR 

ant with their just estimate of their powers, but some of 
whom exaggerated those powers to their own minds, or 
else came to think, as was extremely natural, that they 
must have the talents which were attributed to them by 
others. Even in the immediate realm of the occupants of 
the highest civil executive positions of the Government, 
there was not any previous association with military men, 
technical education, or aught else that could have put them 
in touch with military demands. Moreover, as has been 
previously remarked, it was unfortunate for Washington to 
be situated where it was, near the theatre of the most im- 
portant military operations. There is another aspect of the 
same circumstance, which was not less objectionable. It 
was as unfortunate for the Army of the Potomac to be so 
near Washington as it was for Washington to be so near the 
army. In consequence of this, petty interference with the 
army, and with lesser forces posted in the vicinity of the 
city, went on from the beginning to the end of the war. 
Congress took an amateur hand in its operations, the hotel 
corridors of the city became the greenroom and the coulisses 
of the awful drama which was being enacted only a few 
miles away and over the whole United States. Blatant 
military orators there declaimed of the progress or retarda- 
tions of events, with which they had naught to do but by 
their presence at the front .Scheming for rank and place 
and assignment, speculating in gold and bonds, money- 
seeking amidst the throes of the nation, went on apace. 
Virtue and vice, patriotism and selfishness, were blended in 
apparently inextricable confusion ; but only apparently, sad 
as that was, for amidst the chaos patriotism stood firmly, 
and shaking off at last all crawling things, brought the 
nation, through dearly bought experience, to a triumphant 
issue. 

It will be well here, as we are about to enter upon a 



TRUTHS AND POPULAR ERRORS ABOUT THE WAR. 31 

description of more extensive military movements than 
those connected with the Mexican War, to define what are 
meant by the terms strategy, tactics, and logistics. "Logis- 
tics" relates simply to the science of moving armies, which 
necessarily includes any means of movement, in marching 
and conrniissary, or any other land of locomotion. *' Stra- 
tegy " is sometimes distinguished from "tactics " by repre- 
senting the former as related to movements made out of 
sight of the enemy, and the latter as made within his sight. 
But this definition is positively incorrect, for a strategical 
movement may, on occasions, be made within sight of the 
enemy and a tactical movement beyond it ; that is to say, if 
*' within sight " is to be construed as meaning within the 
range of sight, and this is what is intended by the expression 
" within sight." For instance, supposing two armies to be 
drawn up, facing each other, and so near that, at any point 
in either line, the opposing one is clearly seen, and that, by 
means of a sunken road in the rear, a large body of the troops 
of one of these lines is subtracted and placed, unknown to the 
opposite side, on either flank of the line to which the troops 
belong. That would, according to the current definition, 
be a tactical movement ; and yet, according to the intrinsic 
diflerence between strategical and tactical movements, it 
would be strategical. To take a converse case, supposing 
that, after two opposing lines are drawn up as just described, 
and in plain sight of each other, a false appearance is inten- 
tionally presented, as Caesar once created it by dressing up 
teamsters and camp-followers as legionary soldiers, and thus 
making the enemy think that a powerful military body was 
marching off" from camp. Sheridan employed, partly within 
and partly beyond sight, a similar strategical stratagem 
at Deep Bottom, on James River, when he made cavalry 
march by night over a pontoon-bridge muffled with hay, 
marching the men back on foot on the following morning, 



32 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

with the intention of leading the enemy to believe that re- 
inforcements of infantry were arriving from the south side 
of the river. These were strategical movements, and yet, 
according to the common definition, they were tactical, 
because they were made not only within the range of sight, 
but within actual sight of the enemy. Therefore it is plain 
that the distinction which is really to be drawn between 
strategical and tactical movements, as representing their 
true differences, has sometimes no relation to whether the 
operation is performed within sight, within the range of 
sight, or beyond sight. The real difference between them, 
related to space and time, whether much or little of either, 
consists in the fact that, whereas strategy either deceives or 
anticipates the enemy to his disadvantage by acts relating 
to prospective or present battle, and secures or interferes 
with combinations leading to the best concentration for 
prospective battle, tactics are confined, without intermedia- 
tion, to the best concentration during battle. Strategy as 
well as tactics therefore enter into the actual collision on the 
battle-field. 

Strategy, acting over a large zone of operations may force 
an adversary to fight a battle in a place tactically disadvan- 
tageous. This, at bottom, reverts to the advantage inher- 
ent in skill of concentration for prospective battle ; success- 
ful concentration sometimes involving tactically, as to place, 
as well as strategically, as to time, a disadvantage to the 
adversary in position. It thus becomes evident, from all 
that has been said, that strategy may occur beyond the hori- 
zon of the zone of operations, or near the field of battle, 
or, lastly, at the very place of and amid the operations 
in the heat of battle, while tactics are confined to the 
time and place of actual battle. Tactics, however, has a 
range beyond this, when the body of men called an army 
is not in action. In advancing it has an advance-guard. 



TRUTHS AND POPULAB ERROBS ABOUT THE WAB. 33 

and if possible, flanking columns of cavalry. In retiring it 
has a rear-guard. In camp it has a cordon of outposts and 
pickets. All these conditions relate to tactics. 

The few fundamental principles of the art of war are 
immutable, like all other principles. But as, in the course 
of time, weapons, commissariat, transportation, and a thou- 
sand other things have changed, so both strategy and tac- 
tics have had to change to conform in practice to the other 
changes. It is therefore not in principles, but in detaib of 
practice, that change has affected, and must, for the same 
reason, always continue to modify practice in the art of 
war. For example, as to strategy in the time of Napoleon 
and Jomini, neither of these nor any other general of that 
period coulcl have imagined that soon there would be an 
electric telegraph. None of them countenanced the con- 
centration of armies from widely-separated bases, on exte- 
rior lines. But since then it has been done successfully by 
means of the facility which the telegraph affords, and will 
be done on occasions for all the future. Besides this use 
of the telegraph, it has been adopted on the field of battle 
Itself, as in the Wilderness, at Petersburg, and many other 
places during the Civil War. Take, on the other hand, a 
case in tactics. Even so recently as the time of the Cri- 
mean War, as Kinglake, the chief historian of the war mi- 
nutely relates, the Russians, at the battle of the Alma, pre- 
served the antiquated, solid masses of infantry against the 
thin lines of the English, with the consequence that they 
were mowed down like grain ripe for the husbandman. 
Since then artillery and small-arms, having enormously im- 
proved in range and effectiveness, in consequence a forma- 
tion closer than the thin English line at the Alma has 
been discarded. Infantry lines succeed each other, the 
formation is more open than formerly ; it is only cavalry, 

which, owing to its speed, is capable of acting in masses. 

8 




34 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE 

Yielding to the pressure of necessity, both French and 
Germans, on the fields of the Franco-Prussian War, 
fought in loose infantry formation, compelled to this 
difference in tactics solely by the change from the old 
to the new forms of weapons. In fine, whether we go 
back to the campaigns of Hannibal, who maintained him- 
self for fifteen years in Italy against the whole Roman 
power, or bring our glance down to the most fearfully con- 
centrated struggle of historical times, in the Franco-Prussian 
War, and include that mighty one, over a larger space and 
longer time, our own Civil War, it will be found that the 
fundamental principles of the art of war are few and immu- 
table, but that the practice of it varies and must vary with 
the ages. Hence it follows that only by the study of the 
campaigns of the great masters of the art of war of all times 
can one know what constitutes, at a given point of time, the 
true practice of the art. 

The popular notion, at the beginning of the Civil War, 
as to what constitutes the best common soldier was nearly 
as erroneous as the popular notion of what constitutes the 
general. Even drill and discipline were confounded in the 
popular mind. This country had inherited from the Prus- 
sians of Frederick the Great's time the starched warrior, 
who could scarcely move on dress parade for his girting 
collar and hands held stiffly at his sides ; and the difference 
between campaigning and dress-parade was hardly appreci- 
ated in a long period of piping peace. France was the first 
nation in modem times which let soldiers march as nature 
prompts, with the swinging gait of a walk, where a disen- 
gaged arm served its due function of helping swift propul- 
sion. The experience of war, however, soon did away with 
all martinet tendency, so that men of the East and the 
West and the South at last marched like the veterans that 
they were, with such glorious pomp and circumstance of 



TRUTHS AND POPULAR ERRORS ABOUT THE WAR. 35 

war as stiffiiess left, with much other impedimenta^ far 
behind. 

It is regrettable that, in this country, even military men 
have sometimes, through pride in the particular arm of the 
service in which they excelled, or in which they had per- 
haps most shone, unduly exalted its value as compared 
with the same arm abroad. The most notable instance, 
probably, of this kind on record, is that in which General 
Sheridan, when a guest at the headquarters of the Prus- 
sians, in 1870, wrote a letter, which was published in a 
newspaper in the United States, in which he made com- 
parison between the German cavalry and the American 
cavalry of the Civil War. Now, every military man knows 
that the cavalry of Europe and America cannot be likened 
to each other, because some of their spheres of action being 
different, difference in their organization has become impera- 
tive. The ordinary battle-fields of Europe are different 
from most of the battle-fields during our Civil War. The 
cavalry of Europe, which were generalized in Sheridan's 
account merely as cavalry, consist of light and heavy 
cavalry, whereas the American consisted of light cavalry 
only, serving generally as dragoons ; that is, armed with the 
carbine as well as sabre, and able to fight afoot or on horse- 
back. But whether light or heavy, regarding it on both 
continents simply as cavalry, its action is different on the 
two continents, because of the general difference in the char- 
acteristics of the battle-fields, those of Europe being gener- 
ally on open ground. The American cavalry served effi- 
ciently in scouting parties, in guarding the front and flanks 
of armies on the march, or in making raids, sometimes of 
the proportions of invasions, into the enemy's country. 
But where could this cavalry have acted as Blucher's did 
in the rout of Waterloo, or as the cavalry on both sides at 
Vionville, in the Franco-Prussian War, where, moving in 



36 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADR 

great masses, the French and Germans alternately made 
furious charges on infantry, and but for the modem repeat- 
ing fire-arms, would have swept it ofTthe field. 

Very diflTerently from Sheridan, a German of military 
experience, Major J. Scheibert, of the Prussian Royal Engi- 
neers, speaks of the distinctiveness of cavalry for different 
kinds of service, cavalry fitted for the fields of Europe, and 
cavalry fitted for Virginia and neighboring soil. He served 
with the Army of Northern Virginia for months, and con- 
sidered the Southern far superior to the Northern cavalry, 
as indeed it was at first ; yet in speaking of this cavalry, 
so well adapted in his opinion, as it was in that of all good 
observers, to its special service, he does not confound it in 
description, as Sheridan does, with cavalry of another sort, 
adapted to a different kind of service. He remarks : 

" Through its minute instruction in the duties of elementary tac- 
tics, through the rapid execution of evolutions which have become 
matter of habit, and through the certainty of rapid concentration in 
all the new forms of combination, even in reversed order, the Ger- 
man cavalry is far superior to the Southern cavalry, notwithstanding 
the fact that the latter is composed of men who have been horsemen 
from their earliest youth, whom, except when wounded, I never saw 
fall from the saddle."* 

After describing the various requirements of German 
cavalry-drill, he adds : 

" Where could the Southerners have found the time and the means 
for instruction in these preparations and exercises ?'* etc. 

The underlying fact of Sheridan's undue exaltation of the 
Federal as compared with the German cavalry was that it 
was in the line of his habitual practice never to blench from 

* I quote from the French translation of Major Scheibert's work, 
made by Captain J. Boneque, of the Third Regiment of French Engi- 
neers, not having the original in German at hand. 



TRUTHS AND POPULAR ERRORS ABOUT THE WAR. 37 

claiming more than the merit in whatever he was concerned. 
As he claimed that the Federal cavalry had never effected 
much until he was given command of it, which statement 
flies in the face of historical facts, he thereby necessarily 
implied that the best of all the Federal cavalry-commanders 
was himself, a statement disputed, and still open to dispute. 
But, as he so believed, or at least so affected to believe, the 
natural consequence of the first affirmation, supported by 
his habitual practice of claiming everything, was that the 
cavalry which he commanded, after he had commanded it, 
was rated by him as the best on earth. 

That which made General Meade so good a general in 
the field was that he possessed that poise of character which 
has been noted as the foundation of all great military achieve- 
ment. But, besides this, he had never ceased to study the 
art of war through recurring European conflicts. The 
peace of thirteen years that intervened between the end of 
the Mexican and the beginning of the Civil War found him 
studious of everything that related to the methods of civi- 
lized warfare, so that when the Civil War broke out in 
America he came to his task fitted in every way for its 
demands. During these apparently fallow years he had 
done the only thing which will enable a military man at 
any time to be equal to taking a g^eat part in war. He had 
continued to study mutations in the practice of the art of 
war. He well knew that, although its principles are im- 
mutable, its modifications are not to be covered save by 
the whole range of the inventions and changes derived from 
the never-ceasing activities of mankind. 



38 GENERAL QEOEQE OOEDON MEADE 



CHAPTER VI. 

THE BATTLE OF BULL RUN, OTHERWISE CALLED THE 

BATTLE OF MANASSAS. 

The great political mistake that the South made, astute 
as it was in governmental affairs, was in pressing to a suc- 
cessful issue, in 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska bill, which thus 
became an Act of Congress. The Missouri Compromise, 
entered into as long before as the year 1820, had admitted 
the State of Missouri as a slave State into the Union, but 
with the express agreement that thenceforth slavery should 
not be permitted north of latitude 36° 30' within the bounds 
of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the land which the 
United States had bought of France. By the repeal, in 
1850, of the Act of Congress through which this arrange- 
ment had been made binding without reference to time, it 
was believed that, as the status of freedom had been inci- 
dentally settled by the fact that the Mexican territory had 
not recognized slavery, a quietus had been put on the dan- 
gerous pro-slavery and anti-slavery agitation in the struggle 
of the South for the maintenance of its political supremacy, 
or at least equality ; that a reconciliation of conflicting in- 
terests and final pacification of the country had been effected. 
But, by the action of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the whole 
political aspect of things changed for the worst. As the 
Compromise of 1850 had repealed the Missouri Compro- 
mise, so the Kansas-Nebraska Act had the effect of repeal- 
ing the Compromise of 1850, and unsettled the whole ques- 
tion. The Kansas-Nebraska Act recognized the right of 



THE BATTLE OF BULL BUN. 39 

the people of a Territory to make the final determination as 
to whether or not the resultant State should be free or 
slave. It naturally followed, as the opinions and senti- 
ments of the inhabitants of a Territory, existing as a pro- 
spective State, would determine whether or not, at the time 
of admission to the Union, a Territory should, as a State, 
be free or slave, that a contest should ensue between the 
existing settlers of a Territory ; and moreover, that the new 
conditions introduced by the repeal of the Compromise of 
1850 should lead to the colonization of Territories north of 
36° 30' by settlers intending to determine their free or slave 
status with reference to their ultimate recognition as States. 
The Territory of Kansas, being just on the western border 
of Missouri, became, therefore, at once the scene of intestine 
confusion, freedom of elections being interfered with and 
forays made into the Territory, so that civic affairs there 
were kept in the greatest turmoil. 

The repeal of the Compromise of 1850 was but affording 
a cause and a great arena for strife to thousands of com- 
batants inspired by sentiments impossible to reconcile re- 
garding the future of the prospective State, as individually 
concerned and as influentially affecting the fortunes of the 
whole country. This political situation, resulting from 
what was called "squatter-sovereignty," which term signi- 
fied, as already indicated, that they who could arrive and 
maintain themselves in greatest numbers would be they who 
would eventually remain masters of the field in the contest 
between freedom and slavery, was that which led imme- 
diately to an acerbity never before reached between the 
North and South ; this, and the feeling on the one side that 
the Fugitive Slave Law was no more than due recognition 
of the rights of the South, while, on the other side, it was 
r^arded as imposing upon the North a duty which, con- 
sidering its sentiments, was revolting. Thus the two parts 



40 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

of the country approached nearer and nearer to strife. The 
little cloud, of which few took any note in 1850, became 
larger and larger until it overshadowed the inhabitants of 
the whole land, who, for the most part, were still uncon- 
scious of its portent when the ominous calm set in before 
the long pent-up storm, before the thunder pealed and light- 
nings flashed in war. This calm was the period of pause, 
when Southern Senators and Representatives and Cabinet 
officers, as their States passed ordinances of secession, 
gradually took their leave and shook the dust of Washing- 
ton from their feet ; when commissioners, accredited from 
the Southern States, appeared in Washington to treat with 
the United States as with a foreign power, the basis of con- 
ference being what it was impossible for the nation to grant 
as a preliminary, the recognition of the Confederacy ; when 
Fort Sumter, manned by a few men under Major Robert 
Anderson, stood beleaguered in the midst of Charleston 
harbor by the batteries built around it by an unmolested 
enemy. Still the North temporized, and protested that 
there was no reason for this display of force ag^ainst it ; that 
it merely asserted its right to its territory, to its forts, its 
custom-houses, and its light-houses ; but further than the 
implication contained therein, that it would repel force by 
force, all that was done by the North was in the line of 
conciliation. To no purpose. Suddenly the stillness was 
broken by a sound that showed that the storm had broken 
loose at last. The besiegers had fired on Sumter. Then 
the North roused itself from its partial incredulity as from 
slumber, and the stand then taken by secession found its 
grave in four years* time, after a frightful struggle, in the 
surrender at Appomattox Court House. 

On the 1 2th of April, 1 86 1 , the bombardment of Fort 
Sumter had beg^n, and it had ended on the 13th. Suc- 
cessful resistance was impossible against the batteries of the 



THE BATTLE OF BULL RUN. 4I 

enemy established at their leisure on the shores surrounding 
the work. The besieged were only a handful, inadequately 
provisioned, because the enemy had let no stores reach 
them, and occupying a partially dismantled work. Mr. 
Lincoln at once called for a levy of seventy-five thous- 
and men, for three months, apportioned according to 
their respective populations among the different States 
which recognized the central Government. The spirit of 
conciliation still continued to pervade all he said and did, 
even in this crisis of active hostility to the Government. 
He did not recognize directly or by implication that it could 
be possible that States were actually warring against the 
Government He treated the situation as if it represented 
merely the turbulence of an insurrection which would soon 
subside with due amount of judicious management. But, 
in meeting the emergency in this admirable manner, he made 
one capital mistake of far-reaching consequences. He fixed 
the term of the troops demanded by the levy at only three 
months' service. It would be vain to say that no man could 
have foreseen at the time when Mr. Lincoln called for three 
months' troops, that the emergency which demanded any 
could possibly last over three months. Many men did 
not, probably the majority did not ; but many did. The 
First Massachusetts Regiment and the Second Massachu- 
setts Regiment went in for the war. General Patterson, of 
Philadelphia, so fully realized the inadequacy of a three 
months' term to cover the exigencies presented by the mili- 
tary situation, that he induced Governor Curtin, of Penn- 
sylvania, to raise regiments additional to the quota assigned 
to Pennsylvania, an act disapproved by the War Depart- 
ment, so far as may be indicated by its non-acceptance of 
them. And yet it fell to the lot of those very repudiated 
regiments, which formed the celebrated Pennsylvania Re- 
serves, to be the most immediate resource for the defence 



42 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADR 

of Washington after the defeat at Bull Run. The cases 
cited will suffice for instances of outspoken appreciation of 
the situation, and doubtless there were many others, even 
although the form taken by some of them may not have 
been exactly the same.* The term of three months was 
not long enough for the men, although largely militia, to 
acquire the drill and discipline necessary to make good 
soldiers. The testimony given before the Congressional 
G>mmittee on the Conduct of the War showed that the 
regiments at Bull Run had been brigaded only for the 
march. The very same thing also happened about th^ time 
of the battle of Bull Run, that happened in the Mexican 
War, when men were disbanding and dispersing at the end 
of their term of service, at a time when their presence was 
most urgently needed. This contingency Mr. Lincoln evi- 
dently did not see, nor did Mr. Seward either, the Secretary 
of State, whose view was most roseate as to the small time 
needed to bring about pacification. Yet to accept troops 
for any term, however long, it was not necessary to depart 
from the language which Mr. Lincoln used out of regard 

* General Patterson's prime agency in this matter, in having made 
to Governor Curtin the first suggestion of an additional levy for Penn- 
sylvania, has been recently disputed. But, if anything in the world 
would seem to be clear, as establishing the existence of an occurrence, 
it is the coincidence between the letter of April 25, 1861, from General 
Patterson (the authenticity of which is undisputed), requesting the 
Governor to call out an additional twenty-five regiments of infantry 
and one of cavalry, with the expression in the Governor's Message of 
1862, where he says, " Men more than sufficient in number to form 
some ten Regiments of the Reserve Corps had, previous to the 1 5th 
of May, been accepted by me in pursuance of a call upon me (after- 
wards rescinded) for twenty-five regiments, and were then already 
assembled and subject to my control Most of these men volunteered 
for the Reserve Corps, and were immediately organized." It was not 
through the subsequent action of General Patterson, but through that 
of the Government, that the call was rescinded. 



THE BATTLE OF BULL RUN. 43 

for the susceptibilities of the people. The euphemism in 
which he indulged, in his political adroitness and kindness 
of hearty would have covered any duration of strife just as 
completely as though he had used the word ** war." 

A skirmish at the village of Falling Waters, on the Poto- 
mac, just below Williamsport, took place on July 2d, be- 
tween the force under General Patterson and that under 
General Thomas J. Jackson, the latter falling back towards 
Winchester. But no battle, except the engagements of 
Rich Mountain and Carrick's Ford, in the western part of 
Virginia, won, on July nth and 13th, by General George 
B. McClellan, had taken place at this time in the East. 
The district mentioned, which was part and parcel of Vir- 
ginia, became, on June 20, 1863, by the will of its people 
and the formal acceptance of the United States, the State 
of West Virginia. In Missouri, in the West, a battle had 
taken place. Between the date of the firing on Fort Sum- 
ter, April 1 2th, and that of the battle of Bull Run, July 
2 1 St, the troops had been distributed in and near Fort Mon- 
roe, near Baltimore and Washington, and along the fords 
of the Potomac. On May 24th they had occupied Arling- 
ton Heights, which dominate the city of Washington from 
beyond the Potomac ; while at Manassas, with pickets 
thrown out beyond Centreville towards Washington, the 
enemy silently impended as, in Bulwer's "Zanoni," the 
Shape, with horrid possibilities of harm, brooded as the 
Dweller of the Threshold. 

A Confederate army, under General P. G. T. Beauregard, 
the capturer of Fort Sumter, in occupying Manassas (the 
point where the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, running 
from Alexandria to Richmond, meets the Manassas Gap 
Railroad after it has passed through Strasburg, Front 
Royal, and Manassas Gap, and thence to Manassas Junction) 
held a strategic point of great importance. A Confederate 



44 GENERAL QEOROE GORDON MEADE 

army, under General Joseph E. Johnston, occupied the 
town of Winchester, in the Shenandoah Valley, some forty- 
five miles distant from Manassas Junction. From where 
Johnston was, however, in Winchester, points along the 
aforesaid railroad leading through Strasburg, Front Royal, 
and other towns, were within a day's march of Beaure- 
gard's position. Consequently Johnston could at any time 
within a few hours reinforce Beauregard, or, conversely, 
Beauregard could reinforce him within the same time. 
General Patterson, with a force of not much over ten thou- 
sand Federal troops, was ordered by General Scott to 
detain Johnston at Winchester, so that he could not rein- 
force Beauregard. But the position he was ordered to 
remain in for the purpose of holding Johnston rendered it 
physically impossible that he could have any influence 
whatsoever over Johnston's movements, for whereas John- 
ston had, by means of the railroad described, ample facility 
for reinforcing Beauregard or being reinforced by him. 
General Patterson was obliged by his orders, despite the 
fact that he had pointed out to General Scott where his 
true strategical position was, to remain in the front of John- 
ston, by way, forsooth, of keeping him from going in the 
opposite direction, towards Ids utiobstructed rear^ towards 
Beauregard's position. 

There never was a simpler strategical problem presented 
than the one which offered itself to the military authorities 
at Washington. Supposing that Johnston should attempt 
to reinforce Beauregard, Patterson should have been where 
he could simultaneously join the Union Army near Ma- 
nassas, and jointly with it oppose both Beauregard and 
Johnston. If Beauregard had reinforced Johnston, there 
would have been no recourse for Patterson but to make a 
rapid retreat to Williamsport The event fell out in the 
very opposite way, but oo|JflflHHM|ttenon was power- 



THE BATTLE OF BULL BUN. 45 

less even to modify its course, as will now be shown. It 
will appear, as we proceed, that General Patterson's presence 
at the Battle of Bull Run became, on account of the orders 
which he received, absolutely impossible. Why, then, the 
defeat of Bull Run should have been attributed to the 
absence of Patterson's troops there is a mystery not to be 
solved except by reverting to a very prevalent practice in 
mundane affairs. The battle was lost, there was no deny- 
ing that, but the cause of its loss must be accounted for so 
as to save the susceptibilities of those in fault. Les absents 
ont taujours tort ; therefore General Patterson was respon- 
sible for the defeat. This is not the place for presenting 
at length a special plea for any man, and it may be said, 
too, that history has in a measure set this matter right, but 
this circumstance is so intimately interwoven with the his- 
tory of the battle of Bull Run, that it cannot be allowed to 
appear as an incident of the defeat in the minds of persons 
not disabused of the entire falsity of the charges against 
General Patterson. To repeat, it was as impossible for 
General Patterson to have reached, under his orders, the 
field of battle, as if he had had his forces in the moon. 
But the full demonstration of this, as a part of the history 
of the war in the East, may properly be postponed until we 
have deak with the incidents of the battle itself 

Under pressure of public opinion, and against the first 
judgment of General Scott, the Administration was induced 
to countenance an order to General Irvin McDowell, the 
commander of the Federal forces on Arlington Heights, to 
advance, on the i6th of July, against the enemy posted 
at Manassas Junction. If General McDowell had been able 
to attack Beauregard on the i8th, he would have found 
him without any but trifling reinforcements, without a single 
man from Johnston's column at Winchester ; but the faulty 
organization of his troops delayed active operations, and by 



46 GENERAL OEORGE OOBDON MEADE 

the time he was ready to attack Beauregard, Johnston had 
joined him in force. 

McDowell brought up at Centreville on the 19th, and 
remained there on that and the next day. In front of him, 
to the southwest, running, with many sinuosities, in a north- 
west and southeast direction, and emptying into the Occo- 
quan, was the stream called Bull Run, distant at its nearest 
points from two and a half to three miles. Behind it lay 
the enemy's main body, his left flank covering the turnpike 
going to Warrenton, towards the southwest, and his right 
flank, the line of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, at 
the point, Manassas Junction, about five miles in the rear. 
Bull Run, at ordinary stages of water, is fordable at several 
places along its length, and is crossed by a stone bridge 
on the continuation of the turnpike from Warrenton to 
Fairfax Court House, on the way to Alexandria. 

The two forces opposed to each other at the battle of 
Bull Run did not difler in numbers by more than about one 
thousand men, the advantage being on the side of the 
Federals. The organization on both sides was as defective 
as may be imagined from the fact that on both sides they 
consisted of raw levies. The highest officers on both sides 
were men of good military knowledge, some of great 
capacity, as the future showed, but none of them of any 
experience in the handling of large bodies of troops, so that 
they were equal in that respect. The Confederates were 
superior to the Federals from the fact of their greater men- 
tal preparedness, for they had long contemplated this very 
shock of arms, and with their overweening sense of supe- 
riority and long-harbored resentment from a sense of wrong, 
which had been fostered by the ruling class of the South, 
they welcomed it with a certain martial ardor. They were 
superior, too, in the use of fire-arms through their individual 
practice. They were, as a body, decidedly more trust- 





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THE BATTLE OF BULL BUN. 47 

worthy than the troops, as a body, on the Federal side, for 
it came out finally, in the testimony before the Committee 
on the Conduct of the War, that, on the Federal side, the 
men were often superior to their officers, cases occurring 
where officers had even deserted their men on the field. 
And the worst element of all on the Federal side was that 
constituted by a regiment of so-called Fire Zouaves, of 
whom, before the fight, regular officers had expressed them- 
selves as utterly distrustful, because, on the march, they had 
proved themselves to be mere marauders and without any 
military discipline whatever. All history has shown that 
military bodies formed of those who in time of peace belong 
to a reckless class have no stomach for that sort of a fight 
in which is involved a question of principle, even if it be no 
higher than loyalty from man to man in the presence of dan- 
ger. A real army being that kind of combination which is 
represented by the highest organism, — interpenetrated from 
the brain, the general, down to the lowest fibre, the common 
soldier, with intermediate ganglia, the officers, — unless the 
whole structure be co-ordinated, its parts cannot perform 
their functions because they cannot be efficient save through 
the central control and intermediate direction actuating 
the mass. From this, the true point of view, neither army 
was worthy .of the name,' as compared with thoroughly or- 
ganized forces, and judged by this criterion it ought to be 
clearly seen that the Federal army was not so trustworthy 
as that of the Confederates, in which, generally, there was 
the solidarity derived from better personnel in the minor 
commands. 

Johnston began to join Beauregard on the 19th of July, 
his last troops coming up in time for the battle of the 20th. 
Both sides were eager for battle. On the morning of the 
2 1 St Beauregard contemplated turning the Federal left Bank 
at Centreville, three miles off, by passing over the lower 



48 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

fords of Bull Run. At the same time the main body of 
McDowell's troops, leaving reserves at Centreville, was on 
the march for the ford of Bull Run, near Sudley Springs, 
about five miles away, with the purpose of crossing at the 
ford and marching down the right bank of Bull Run, while 
another force marched directly to make a junction with the 
first, by the stone bridge over Bull Run, on the line of the 
Warrenton turnpike, the whole movement being concerted 
with the purpose of falling on the Confederate left flank. 
If the order from General Beauregard had not miscarried, 
in which he had directed General R. S. Ewell to take the 
lead in crossing the lower fords of Bull Run, the field pre- 
sented would have been Beauregard marching to Centreville 
and intercepting McDowell's communications with Wash- 
ington, while McDowell had put his main force behind Bull 
Run. How preposterous it is, then, in view of this, for cer- 
tain writers, from the Federal standpoint, to have deplored 
that, through defective marching orders and the confusion 
and delay attendant thereon, McDowell's advance had been 
delayed three hours, for, as remarked, if Beauregard had 
been able to carry out his intention, the Federal communi- 
cations would have been seized while McDowell was pass- 
ing to what had been Beauregard's rear. Beauregard had 
instructed Ewell to begin his march at 7.30 a.m. General 
Ewell did not receive the order, so the whole right wing of 
Beauregard's army remained deadlocked, as Ewell's cross- 
ing was to be the signal for the general movement. It was 
on account of this detention that, at 10.30 a.m., Beauregard 
and Johnston became apprised that the Federals were advan- 
cing on their left flank. Now, if the Federals had really lost 
three hours, the time at which they were fairly en route must 
have been about 7.30 a.m., or, in other words, at about the 
same time that Beauregard had expected starting with his 
right wing in the oj^site direction. Had this contretemps 



TEE BATTLE OF BULL BUN. 49 

actually taken place, as certainly would have happened but 
for the miscarriage of the order to Ewell, we should have 
had on the field a repetition of the situation in which 
Prince Eugene and Turenne once found themselves. Al- 
though Johnston, by right of seniority of rank, had, by the 
fact of his coming, superseded Beauregard, he relinquished 
the immediate command of the troops to Beauregard, whose 
battle Bull Run undoubtedly was, and as such was univer- 
sally recognized. What happened when the cloud of dust 
towards the north was perceived by the Confederates await- 
ing the beginning of the movement ordered from their own 
right, proving that their attack was anticipated by one on 
their left, ought to be obvious. Orders were sent at once 
to the lower fords for reinforcements from the troops wait- 
ing there, and Beauregard and Johnston at once rode rapidly 
towards their left flank, four miles away, reaching there, of 
course, after the engagement had begun. The extreme left 
flank was held by General N. G. Evans with a portion of a 
brigade, covering the stone bridge crossing the Warrenton 
turnpike. As soon, however, as he had found that Federal 
troops were approaching in force on his left flank, he had at 
once retreated to a commanding position to his left and rear, 
leaving only a small force of observation at the bridge, and 
at the same time had despatched to the right the news of 
the advance of the enemy on his flank. He had previously 
seen movements of that portion of the Federal troops which 
had appeared on the Warrenton turnpike, but had become 
satisfied that they portended no immediate advance, and as he 
was guarding the stone bridge, obstructed by abattis, and the 
fords in its vicinity, he held on there until he had observed 
the advance on his flank, which it was impossible for him 
alone to resist. Colonel A. E. Bumside, who was in com- 
mand of the brigade at the head of McDowell's column, 

attacked Evans in the position which he had taken up to 

4 



so GENERAL QEOROE GORDON MEADE 

the left and rear of the stone bridge. Why it was that he 
was not able with his larger force, with arriving accessions, 
to dislodge Evans in the course of an hour, before re- 
inforcements arrived for him, does not appear on the sur&ce. 
Perhaps Bumside may have felt that, from the character 
of some of his troops, they were more than ordinarily to be 
shielded from harm. Certain it is that, at a moment when 
he had not lost a dozen men in killed and wounded, he ex- 
citedly charged an aide of General Andrew Porter's to tell 
him that he was being cut to pieces. 

Finally, General Bernard E. Bee, with his brigade, and 
some additional troops belonging to Colonel F. S. Bartow's 
brigade, reinforced Evans and enabled him for a while longer 
to hold his ground. But the brigades of the Federal col- 
umn, gradually arriving and deploying, overlapped this force 
on both flanks and compelled it to retreat in great disorder 
to the southward, across the Warrenton turnpike, and take 
position on the Henry House hill. This Henry House 
hill, as it is usually called — for it is sometimes called the 
Henry House plateau — is a great plateau, with sides sloping 
in all directions. It is bounded around the northern sweep 
of its base by a little tributary of Bull Run, called Young's 
Branch, around the eastern sweep of its base by the same 
tributary, and around the western sweep of its base by the 
roaS from Sudley Ford to Manassas. The retreating Con- 
federates took position on and formed their line across this 
plateau-like hill. Here General Jackson, coming from the 
right flank of Beauregard's forces, had reached a position, 
and was able to aflbrd by his presence and the steadiness 
of his brigade strong moral support to the discomfited 
Confederates. Here it was that Jackson, through his bri- 
gade, earned the celebrated sobriquet conferred upon it by 
the casual remark of Bee, that the brigade stood like a 
stone wall. It was fortunate for the Confederates that 



THE BATTLE OF BULL BUN. 5 1 

there were present at this juncture troops that stood imper- 
turbably amidst the confusion of their routed men, rushing 
pell-mell to take up a position on the hill. 

There had been in the main praiseworthy earnestness in 
the conduct of the troops which had finally dislodged and 
driven the Confederates upon the Henry House hill. But 
in this very first part of the battle became apparent what 
was perfectly manifest before its close, that the successful 
handling of large bodies of troops in attack must be pre- 
ceded by much previous drill. To disengage the regiments 
coming up successively in McDowell's column and bring 
them into action took, from a military point of view, en- 
tirely too much time. The situation was now this : The 
Federals occupied the ground in front of the Confederate 
line on the Henry House hill, which line, therefore, of 
course &ced north. Colonel Wm. T. Sherman, command- 
ing one of the brigades of General Daniel Tyler, had 
crossed Bull Run at Red House Ford, just above the stone 
bridge, and had combined his forces with McDowell's in the 
final advance which had driven the enemy south of the 
Warrenton turnpike. General Tyler, commanding in per- 
son another brigade of his division, crossed at the same 
place, but after making only a slight attack on the enemy 
at the Robinson House, — a house on the northeastern side 
of the Henry House hill, — marched to the south along 
Young's Branch, and was not heard from again during the 
battle. To this unfortunate occurrence must also be added, 
that Bumside's brigade had most inopportunely been al- 
lowed to rest and refresh itself. To march away after firing 
a few shots, or to rest and refresh in an emergency like this, 
when the enemy is sure soon to receive reinforcements from 
his unattacked wing, is an introduced condition likely to 
lead, as it did in this case, to need of much longer rest and 
refreshment. Here were two brigades neutralized at one 



J 



52 GENERAL OEOBGE GORDON MEADE. 

of the most critical parts of the day, the only rational con- 
clusion to be drawn from the fact being that there was at 
the time an impression in some quarters that the affair en- 
gaged in was somewhat of the nature of a picnic. 

At this time, about 2 p.m., when McDowell made his 
attack on the Henry House hill, he had only four brigades 
in hand — Colonel Wm. T, Sherman's, Colonel William B. 
Franklin's, Colonel Andrew Porter's and Colonel Orland 

B. Wilcox's, two batteries of regular artillery, and a com- 
pany of regular cavalry. The pioneers of General Robert 

C. Schenck's brigade, of Tyler's division, were clearing 
away the abattis at the stone bridge, so as to permit the 
brigade to cross Bull Run, the rest of Tyler's division hav- 
ing crossed at Red House Ford. The brigade of Colonel 
Oliver O. Howard, of Colonel Samuel P. Heintzleman's 
divison, had not reached the field by the circuitous route 
from Centreville around by the way of Sudley Springs. 
The brigade of Bumside, and that of Tyler — ^which, in the 
presence of his superior officer. Colonel Erasmus D. Keyes 
only nominally commanded — have been accounted for. 
Therefore, at the moment when McDowell concluded to 
attack the hill, he determined to do it with only two-thirds 
of the force close at hand. It would not have done 
to await the coming of Howard, but there is no reason why, 
when he was advancing, Burnside and Tyler should not 
have been summoned to follow, or to try to outflank the 
enemy. Tyler's brigade was nearly intact, and the men of 
Bumside's were merely fatigued, not exhausted, and could 
at least have rested in reserve. 

The first great mistake of the day was in not overwhelm- 
ing Evans at once. This was the second, to be followed 
soon by a greater than both of the preceding. The gen- 
eral in command ought to have seen that, as 'it was 2 p.m. 
and he was pushing the enemy toward the south, he was 



THE BATTLE OF BULL RUN. 53 

pushing him towards reinforcements that must be on the 
way and on the eve of arrival, and therefore, that if the 
enemy was to be finally routed, it were well that the 
attempt were made quickly to put him to flight. The 
Confederates, doubtless appreciating the situation, fell 
back to the southern and eastern edge of the plateau, 
which was thickly wooded there. Here, under shelter, 
their sharpshooters began to come disastrously into play, 
and they could retreat, and under cover reform and advance 
at their pleasure. This was the point of time when the 
third and final g^eat mistake of the day was made, and all 
the more remarkable a one because regulars committed 
portions of it. McDowell ordered forward, near the Henry 
House, the two batteries of regular artillery. It is some- 
times as dangerous to pursue when one fleeth, as it is to flee 
when no one pursueth. It is not good military practice 
to advance artillery within musketry range of woods held 
in force by the enemy, or to any position unsupported by 
reliable infantry. The pieces, in this case, began to advance 
before the infantry to support them had arrived, and when 
the infantry selected for this purpose had been pushed for- 
ward, it proved to be the only thoroughly worthless regi- 
ment in the army, the regiment of New York Fire Zouaves. 
So incredible was the order to Captain Charles Griffin, that 
he at first remonstrated with the chief of artillery, Major 
William F. Barry, who seemed to think it imperative, 
and so Griffin and Captain James B. Ricketts promptly 
obeyed it, and placed themselves where their presence 
meant almost certain destruction in the face of an enterpris- 
ing enemy. The enem/s sharpshooters in the woods began 
to disable the batteries by picking off* their men, the Fire 
Zouaves were routed by a charge of cavalry whose men 
they ought to have destroyed, for the enemy had only two 
companies of horse ; and, finally, a regiment of the enemy, 



54 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE. 

emerging from the east toward the left, was mistaken by 
the chief of artillery for supports arriving, when it, coming 
within range, poured into the batteries so deadly a volley 
that they were rendered completely useless. The final 
possession of the batteries became the object upon which 
the energies of the combatants were concentrated, and the 
enemy was repubed into the sheltering woods. Too late 
in the contest Howard's brigade, which had come up, took 
a share in it. 

Here General McDowell ought to have seen that, with 
the force which he had at his disposal at the moment it 
was impossible to win the battle. It would seem to have 
been perfectly feasible, if the movement had been ordered 
in time, for Bumside's and Tyler's brigades to turn the 
enemy's position. The enemy had as much as their forces 
engaged could encounter, as proved by the fact of his 
taking shelter in the woods. If two brigades, under General 
Kirby Smith and Colonel J. A. Elarly, which now arrived 
as reinforcements to the enemy, changed the fortunes of the 
day, it is presumable that two Federal brigades, which 
were not utilized to any great extent, would, had they been 
put into a timely turning movement, have routed the enemy 
before he was reinforced. 

The battle was a drawn one when the Confederates re- 
ceived the reinforcement of the brigades under Kirby Smith 
and Elarly. They fell in on the left of the Confederate line, 
and overlapped the right of McDowell's. Then the Federal 
troops began to move simultaneously towards the rear. 
There was no appearance at first of rout. That episode 
in the retreat occurred later. The troops for a while took 
their way gradually towards the rear, and reached the open 
plain from which they had ascended the Henry House hill, 
and then pursued their course back to Centreville by the 
Warrenton turnpike and the Sudley Springs road. Their 



THE BATTLE OF BULL BUN. 55 

organization was for a time fairly well preserved. When, 
however, those retreating by the Warrenton turnpike reached 
the bridge over Cub Run, a tributary of Bull Run, and 
came under the fire of a battery which the Confederates 
had brought to bear on it, panic manifested itself. The 
panic, like all other panics, was unnecessary. Panic is 
either a fear entirely groundless, or else with grounds that 
ought to be inadequate to produce the loss of self-posses- 
sion. On the northern side of Bull Run were bodies of 
troops with morale undisturbed. The smaller one of these, 
imder Colonel Israel B. Richardson, had guarded Black- 
bum's Ford. Troops from it repulsed the enemy in an at- 
tempt to cross McLean's Ford. The larger force, under 
Colonel Dixon S. Miles, was nearer Centreville. The two 
bodies, constituting the reserve mentioned, of three brigades, 
became the rear-guard of McDowell's retreating army. 
Between Centreville and Washington two brigades had 
guarded the communications. Some portions of the army, 
under good officers, maintained their organizations, while 
others poured continuously, as a mere mob, towards Wash- 
ington, and the next day thronged the streets of the city 
and filled it with the tales of their wonderful experiences. 
There was, however, really no disgfrace attachable to most 
of the troops. They had been called upon to do more 
than lay in the power of their recent organization and often 
faulty leading. General Johnston himself warned his own 
people against vainglory in consequence of the event of the 
battle, calling their attention to the fact that the task which 
had been set the Federal troops to perform, in marching 
and attacking, was a far more difficult one than that which 
they themselves had executed in standing on their defense. 
The mistakes connected with the battle at this place may 
be summarized as follows : It may be said that, as Centre- 
ville is a strong position, and as raw troops are better fitted 



56 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADK 

for defensive than for offensive movements, it was an error 
not to wait at Centreville for two or three days, and give 
the enemy a chance to attack, which course, it seems, he 
intended to pursue. There, too, McDowell's reserves 
would have been available for the time of actual conflict. 
They were available only for covering the retreat under the 
circumstances under which the battle actually took place. 
It is not apparent, as has been charged, judging from meas- 
urement on the large-scale map furnished by McDowell to 
accompany his official report of the battle, that his troops, 
although mainly raw, were called upon to make a march 
unduly long, by the Sudley Springs road, before they 
encountered the enemy. The day was extremely warm, 
but it must be considered, also, that they started early in 
the morning, and that the longest distance marched by any 
body before it reached the first part of the battle-field 
was nine miles. An exaggerated idea of the number of 
troops opposed to them, at the first onslaught on Evans, 
the most common of the misapprehensions at the beginning 
of the war, led to wary measures, when Evans could have 
been crushed, and, in turn, the supports arriving for him 
could have been brushed away. Assault on the Henry 
House hill was injudicious with the small force with which 
it was attempted, without the support of the two brigades 
on the ground that were not utilized. The advance of the 
artillery to the place to which it was ordered was an opera- 
tion that is indefensible. Persistence in the attack, when it 
ought to have been clearly seen that, on account of the 
woods in which the enemy had taken refuge it was impos- 
sible without a turning force to dislodge him, was the final 
error, ensuring reinforcement to the enemy and probable dis- 
orderly retreat to the Federals, if not actual rout. If a re- 
verse comes to men, even those inured to war, who are tired 
and hungry, it comes with cumulative force. Thousands of 



THE BATTLE OF BULL BUN. $7 

the men were true to duty, as proved by the steadfast way in 
which they at first moved from the field. They began the 
movement because they had simultaneously perceived the 
impossibility of achieving success. If they had been unable 
to drive the enemy from his wooded defences, how could 
they hope to do it when he was reinforced by two brigades 
on his left, outflanking their right ? The efforts of their 
officers, and there were more good ones than worthless, 
could not counteract that conviction in the men, which they, 
too, must have shared, even whilst they strove to keep the 
men in hand and prevent them from retreating. 

Not until the moment when the men were relatively safe 
did panic overtake them. This phenomenon of panic, 
although one so extraordinary, is nevertheless one which 
seems never to have been examined critically as to its 
cause. Putting aside the special case under observation, 
including all the elements in it of novelty, hunger, and 
fatigue, and looking at the phenomenon of panic, with the 
evidence before us as to the main conditions attending it, 
contributory ones apart, let us see whether the rationale 
of it cannot be reached. In the first place it is observ- 
able that panic was much more prevalent among the 
ancients than it is among the modems, so much more, 
indeed, that even the most advanced of the ancients could 
account for it only by supposing that it was due to super- 
natural agency. The voice of the god Pan was supposed 
to inspire terror on the battle-field. The Athenians be- 
lieved, at the battle of Marathon, that the rout of the Per- 
sians was ascribable to the terrible voice of this god. In 
the second place, those who, in modem times, are most liable 
to panic are the ignorant and uneducated. Here is an ap- 
parent anomaly ; the highest general intellectual develop- 
ment of the centuries and the lowest are found in the same 
category of weakness. But the anomaly is seen to be only 



$8 GENERAL QEOBOE GORDON MEADE 

apparent when it is considered that, in the realm of imagina- 
tion, the Greeks were savages, when looked at from the 
educated modem point of view. One of the chief effects 
of modem education is to train the imagination, and bring 
it under entire subjection to the intellect. So, in fine, those 
persons it was, and is, who, having untrained imaginations, 
are most prone to panic, which may be defined shortly as 
unreasonable fear. 

This being premised as to the sole condition of suscep- 
tibility, it remains to specify the conditions under which 
panic chiefly manifests itself. It may be produced in an in- 
stant among masses of mankind, before they have time to 
think, by an alarm of fire in a crowded building, or by the 
belief that an overloaded balcony is breaking down with or 
upon them. But this is not the particular variety of panic 
with which we have to do here. We are speaking of panic 
in armies, and under circumstances where there is plenty of 
time to think. Let us, then, as throwing light upon the 
cause, observe when panic takes place in great armies or in 
smaller bodies of men composing armies. It might be sup- 
posed that, if ever there were a time when a body of troops 
would have been seized with panic, it was when the younger 
Cyrus, leading an army against his brother Artaxerxes, was 
killed in battle, and then the principal officers, invited to a 
conference, treacherously murdered. But no ; under Xen- 
ophon chiefly they pushed their way back through the 
Persian Empire to the Bosporus. In some of their first 
encounters with the Arabs the French were killed to a man 
without a thought of escape. In our Indian wars the same 
thing has often occurred. The steamship ** San Francisco," 
with seven hundred troops aboard, went down in the 
Atlantic, losing two hundred and forty of their number, 
and so conducting themselves as to elicit from the War 
Department a complimentary order. It will be found that. 



THE BATTLE OF BULL BUN. 59 

in all cases, the phenomenon called panic reverts to a 
physiological peculiarity belonging to the constitution of 
mankind. Through that peculiarity man is capable of sup- 
porting any degree of danger with unblenching courage if 
the nervous system gradually inures itself to stress, but he 
cannot bear with equanimity any sudden revulsion of feel- 
ing. People in grief have been known to die from the 
shock of a sudden access of joy. After a victory of Napo- 
leon's, some artillery and troops were drawn up in a village 
by night, the enemy being in full retreat, when a tumbril 
came rumbling through the streets, and instantly the vic- 
torious French, imagining that the enemy was upon them, 
fled in the wildest panic towards the rear. 

It is thus apparent that panic takes place in armies only 
when there is a revulsion of feeling from the hope or belief 
that victory will be or is achieved. At Bull Run, novelty, 
fatigue, and hunger were merely accessory to the creation 
of that kind of revulsion. Another point is still to be noted. 
The officer is not so much subject to panic, if at all, as the 
common soldier is. That is entirely true, comparing mass 
with mass. We say that the viarale of officers is superior 
to that of common soldiers, but that does not explain any- 
thing ; it merely states a fact. The reason of the difference 
is that, by the very circumstance of his ordinarily higher 
education, the officer has, as compared with the common 
soldier, a trained imagination, not given to vain fears, imag- 
inary fears, fears which control action in spite of the reason, 
and his sense of responsibility and capacity for meeting re- 
sponsibility are immensely increased. The ideal officer is so 
imbued with the sense of responsibility, the imperious claim 
of duty, it has become so much a habit of mind, that it 
excludes alarm that cannot be controlled by reason and its 
cause met with the faculties of mind and body undisturbed. 
These are the attributes, and thus derived, which the ideal 



6o GENERAL QEOEGE QORDON MEADR 

officer possesses in such full and overflowing measure as to 
be able to share them in critical moments with the average 
soldier of the ranks. 

About eighteen thousand men on each side took part 
in the battle, the losses on each in killed and wounded 
amounting to nearly t\vo thousand. Bee was killed on the 
Henry House hill. On the map of the ground which 
Beauregard presented to the dty of New Orleans the spot 
where he fell is indicated. "Stonewall" Jackson was 
wounded, and so was Kirby Smith. On the Federal side 
Hunter and Heintzelman, both commanders of divisions, 
were woimded. The statistics of losses bear out the state- 
ment that, so far as mere fighting was concerned, the troops 
did well for men not inured to war. 

The panic increasing rather than decreasing as the troops 
neared safety, all attempts to rally them at Centreville were 
in vain. Supported by the rear-guard of the three brigades 
which had been posted on the hither side of Bull Run, the 
troops poured in an unceasing stream of disorganization 
towards Washington. As day dawned, the next morning, 
on the banks of the Potomac, a solitary horseman might 
have been descried, as Mr. G. P. R. James, the novelist, 
used to say, approaching the western end of Long Bridge, 
where, so he told me, there was not even a corporal's guard 
on duty. It was a young officer of the Federal army, 
bearer of despatches to General Scott, doubtless sounding 
a warning note lest the enemy might capture the city un- 
awares. 

On that same day, the day after the battle, the spirit of 
the North rose to fever-heat. The House of Representa- 
tives passed a bill for the enlistment of five hundred thou- 
sand volunteers for the war. General George B. McClellan 
was summoned to Washington to take command, under 
General Scott, of the troops in and around the Capital. It 



THE BATTLE OF BULL BUN. 6l 

was realized now that General Scott was too infirm for 
the duties of the position, even of command of the opera- 
tions there, let alone command of the armies of the United 
States, which latter position, however, he continued nomi- 
nally to hold until November i, 1861. He was, in fact, 
an invalid, borne down by weight of years and by ill- 
health. For his own sake and that of the people, the bur- 
den of any chief command should not have been placed 
upon him. At the beginning of the war General Scott's 
first choice had been General Robert E. Lee, but he thought 
that his duty lay with his native State, Virginia. It is not 
by any means a wild supposition that, if General Lee, with 
his military genius, had come, through General Scott (as 
would have been inevitable, had he cast his lot differently), 
into the chief command of the Union armies, the Confed- 
eracy would have been dealt at the beginning such stunning 
blows as to have caused its collapse at once. But the fates 
ordered it otherwise. The valiant Army of the Potomac 
was doomed, headless for a long time, to hold in check the 
fierce energies of a force directed by a hand so capable 
that it might fitly be described, as a character of Dumas' 
styled one of the first swordsmen of France, as une lame 
vivante. Considering all things, the Army of the Potomac 
was a marvel in fortitude. Nothing but the undaunted 
Roman legions, defeated time and again by Hannibal, can 
parallel its morale^ maintained steadfastly until it fell under 
worthy leadership. Even the Continental armies, amidst 
the promiscuous blows of Napoleon, had occasionally some 
respite ; but to the Army of the Potomac there was for a 
long time none. 

It only remains now to dispel a popular error by showing 
that it was put out of the power of General Patterson to 
save the day at Bull Run, if the day could have been saved. 



62 GENERAL GEOBOE GORDON MEADE. 

General Patterson demanded at once a court of inquiry, and 
could not get it, upon the plea that, as he had been honor- 
ably discharged, that was recognition of the value of his 
services. He did not think so, especially as public prints in 
various parts of the country represented him to be a brother- 
in-law of General Johnston's (which was not the fact) and a 
secret friend of the Southern cause. He spoke to the 
President, who gave him five hours of his precious time, 
and became satisfied, from an examination of his orders, of 
the injustice that was being done him. He applied to Con- 
gress, Congress in turn applying to the War Department for 
the papers of the case. The War Department declined to 
furnish them, on the ground of the interests of the public 
service. So General Patterson had to suffer obloquy in 
many quarters until the end of the war, when he brought 
out a pamphlet containing the official record and everything 
else appertaining to his case, proving that it was not he, but 
General Scott, who had been responsible for that for which 
he had to bear censure. But so difficult is it to suppress 
the echoes of many-tongued rumor, that even at this late 
day there is not one man in a hundred who does not believe 
that, but for General Patterson's default, the battle of Bull 
Run would not have been lost to the Union cause. It is, 
therefore, my purpose to show conclusively, as a part of 
the history of the battle, and in justice to the man who 
was so wronged, that the public impression was entirely 
erroneous regarding General Patterson. 

General Patterson, to begin with, has been spoken of in 
connection with the battle as a man of seventy years of age, 
and also as a man who had had no military education, thus 
by implication attributing to him disabilities which did not 
exist. General Patterson was a very able man in mind, and 
of so robust a constitution of body that, at nearly ninety 
years of age, he continued vigorous, and at seventy he 



THE BATTLE OF BULL BUN. 63 

was not really older than the average healthy man of fifty. 
He had been educated in the best of military schools, that 
from which some of the greatest captains of all time have 
been graduated — the school of actual war. He had been 
an officer in the War of 181 2, and he had served with great 
credit in the Mexican War, in 1846. With him, in the cam- 
paign near Washington, were some of the ablest officers of 
the army, with whom General Scott instructed him to confer, 
and with whom he did confer, they coinciding with him 
entirely as to what he did. But now, as the object here is 
not to prove that high military authorities agreed with him, 
but to show that he was controlled at every turn, and then 
censured for not doing what had been rendered impossible, 
we must follow the course of events from the period when 
Patterson took command of the troops which were to 
occupy the Shenandoah Valley for the purpose of detaining 
Johnston in Winchester so that he could not reinforce 
Beauregard. 

In a letter of instructions from General Scott to General 
Patterson, dated June 8, 186 1, he tells him that he approves 
of the projected expedition against Harper's Ferry, but adds 
that there must be no reverse, and then goes on to say that, 
he had just ordered Bumside's Rhode Island regiment of 
in&ntry, with its battery, to join him ; also that he is to be 
reinforced by a company of the Fourth Artillery, which, 
however, may not reach him in time. Towards the end of 
the letter General Scott refers again to its being indispensa- 
ble that there shall be no reverse, because that would result 
in engendering high hopes in the enemy. He concluded 
his letter by reiterating the same idea that he had twice 
before expressed about a reverse, in the following words : 
"Take your measures, therefore, circumspectly; make a 
good use of your engineers and other experienced staff- 
officers and generals, and attempt nothing without a clear 



64 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADR 

prospect of success, as you will find the enemy strongly 
posted and not inferior to you in numbers." 

Johnston retreated from Harper's Ferry and fell back 
towards Bunker Hill. Patterson pushed his forces across 
the Potomac to pursue, but when his column was actually 
astride of the river he received a telegram from General 
Scott which read as follows : ** What movement, if any, in 
pursuit of the enemy, do you propose to make consequent 
on the evacuation of Harper's Ferry ? If no pursuit, and 
I recommend none, specifically, send to me at once all the 
regular troops, horse and foot, with you, and the Rhode 
Island regiment." 

In reply to this telegram General Patterson begged to be 
allowed to keep the regulars, and to be allowed to transfer 
his base from Williamsport to Harper's Ferry, and to open 
and maintain communication east and west along the Balti- 
more and Ohio Railroad, and to hold at Harper's Ferry, 
Martinsburg, and Charlestown strong forces ; securely ad- 
vancing, as the troops are prepared, portions of them towards 
Winchester, and thence towards Woodstock, and thus cut 
off the enemy's communication with the west. 

General Scott objected to this plan that, if a detachment 
were sent towards Winchester it would, if strong enough, 
drive the enemy away from Winchester and Strasburg, 
to Manassas Junction and greater concentration, and if the 
detachment were not strong enough, it would be lost. The 
telegram concluded by saying that the regulars with Pat- 
terson were most needed in Washington, and by directing 
him to send them and the Rhode Island regiment as fast as 
disengaged. 

General Scott telegraphed again, on the 17th of June: 
" We are pressed here. Send the troops I have twice called 
for, without delay." This order left General Patterson with- 
out a single piece of artillery and with only one troop of 



THE BATTLE OF BULL BUN. 6$ 

cavalry. The Hon. John Sherman, at that time on General 
Patterson's staff, wrote him the following August : " The 
great error of General Scott undoubtedly was that he gave 
way to a ceaseless apprehension that Washington was to be 
attacked before the meeting of Congress, and therefore 
weakened you when you were advancing. No subsequent 
movement could repair that error." 

On the 2 1st of June General Patterson, by request, sent 
by telegraph to General Scott a plan of operations. This, 
abbreviated, is as follows : To occupy Maryland Heights 
(which is the key of Harper's Ferry) ; to cross the Potomac 
with horse, foot, and artillery near Point of Rocks ; to make 
a junction with Colonel Charles P. Stone at Leesburg. Ob- 
serve, that where Patterson wanted to go was to Leesburg, 
whence he could have gone by rail to Alexandria, and 
thence nearly to Centreville, in a shorter time than John- 
ston, at Winchester, could go thence to Manassas Junction, 
because Johnston would have had a long day's march before 
he could strike from Winchester the line of the Manassas 
Gap Railroad. It will appear, as we proceed, that General 
Patterson was not allowed to go to Leesburg, but was kept 
on the front of Johnston almost up to the last moment. 

On June 23d General Patterson was at Hagerstown, still 
recommending that Maryland Heights be occupied and a 
supporting force left in the valley, the whole command to 
be about twenty-five hundred men. 

On June 25th General Scott telegraphed to Patterson to 
" Remain in front of the enemy while he continued in force 
between Winchester and the Potomac. If you are in supe- 
rior or equal force you may cross and attack him. If the 
enemy should retire upon his resources at Winchester, it is 
not enjoined that you should pursue him to that distance 
from your base of operations without a well-grounded con- 
fidence in your continued superiority. Your attention is 



66 GENERAL OEOBOB GORDON MEADS. 

invited to a secondary object, a combined operation on 
Leesburg, between a portion of your troops and the column 
of Colonel Stone at, and probably above, the Point of 
Rocks, to hold that village. The enemy has reinforced 
Leesburg to sixteen hundred men, and may increase the 
number. Inquire." 

General Patterson very pertinently remarked in his vin- 
dication, written in 1865: "Yet the commander-in-chief, 
who had, on the 25 th, given me permission to offer battle, 
' if superior or equal in force ; on the 27th, when he knew 
I had but six guns and no mode of moving them, tele- 
graphs : * I had expected your crossing the river to-day in 
pursuit of the enemy.' " 

In response to this General Patterson wrote to the adju- 
tant-general of the army a reply which is so long that it 
must be condensed to the principal points. General Patter- 
son said that the telegram received implied that orders had 
been sent to cross and attack the enemy ; but if such orders 
had been sent, he had not received them. He then spoke 
of the force of the enemy as estimated at fifteen thousand 
men and twenty-five pieces of artillery and nearly one 
thousand cavalry, and said that he himself had only about 
ten thousand volunteer infantry and six hundred and fifty 
cavalry and artillery, chiefly recruits. He goes on to say 
that the artillery horses are untrained and without harness ; 
that he had frequently requested to have batteries sent, but 
had received none ; that he had not enough cavalry or 
artillery to defend the fords of the Potomac between Har- 
per's Ferry and Hancock. He concluded by saying: 
*' While I will not, on my own responsibility, attack with- 
out artillery and superior force, I will do so cheerfully and 
promptly if the general-in-chief will give me an explicit 
order to that effect." 

On the 29th of June the harness for General Patterson's 



THE BATTLE OF BULL BUN. 67 

single battery arrived. On the 30th a reconnoissance in 
force was made and his troops were concentrated at Wil- 
liamsport. On the 2d of July he crossed the Potomac with 
less than eleven thousand men and with one battery of six 
smooth-bore guns. After crossing, and just beyond Falling 
Waters, the advance of the enemy, under "Stonewall" 
Jackson, three thousand five hundred strong, with cayalry 
and artillery, was met, and was driven back for several 
miles with some loss. On July 3d the troops entered 
Martinsburg, and there had to await supplies and the arrival 
of the command of Colonel Stone. The means of trans- 
portation were entirely inadequate, nothing being furnished 
by orders from headquarters in Washington, the only reli- 
ance being upon the deputy quartermaster-general attached 
to the column. 

Upon the arrival of Colonel Stone's force General Patter- 
son issued, on July 8th, an order for an advance on Win- 
chester; countermanded at midnight, as the men under 
Colonel Stone had arrived footsore and weary. On the fol- 
lowing morning, the 9th, General Patterson having come to 
know that some of his chief officers were of the same 
opinion which he had entertained from the first, that they 
were on a false line of advance, called a conference of the 
following officers: General William H. Keim, General 
George Cadwalader, Colonel J. J. Abercrombie, Colonel 
George H. Thomas, General James S. Negley, Colonel 
Charles P. Stone, Captain James H. Simpson, Captain 
Amos Beckwith, and Lieutenant-Colonel H. Grossman. 
These represented seven officers of the regular army and 
three officers of volunteers. 

General Patterson, mindful of the injunction of General 
Scott, that he should consult with his principal officers and 
run no risk of sustaining a reverse, submitted to these all 
the orders he had received and a general statement sum- 



68 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE 

marizing his views of the military situation. The verdict of 
the conference was that the line on which the troops were 
advancing was false and dangerous, that instead of their 
threatening the enemy, the enemy was threatening them, 
and that they ought to move to Charlestown. Charlestown 
is within a march of Leesburg. From Leesburg the army 
could have reinforced McDowell more quickly than Johns- 
ton could have reinforced Beauregard, and from Charles- 
town could have reinforced McDowell just as quickly as 
Johnston could have reinforced Beauregard. The opinion 
of the best informed officers was that Johnston had fallen 
back from Martinsburg to lure Patterson dangerously on. 

General Patterson's largest force assembled at Martins- 
burg was about eighteen thousand men. When he had 
marched thence he had, as remaining available troops, after 
leaving a garrison there and deducting for the sick and 
train-guards, about thirteen thousand effectives. After the 
conference General Patterson wrote to General Scott, say- 
ing that he had proposed to move to Charlestown ; ** from 
which point," he added, ** I can more easily strike Win- 
chester, march to Leesburg when necessary, open commu- 
nication to a depot to be established at Harper's Ferry, and 
occupy the main avenue of supply to the enemy." At 
Charlestown he would have been within easy supporting 
distance of McDowell, as has been shown. He had sug- 
gested that before unavailingly. 

General Patterson went on to say, in his letter to General 
Scott : " General Sanford informs me by letter that he has 
for me a letter from you. I hope it will inform me when 
you will put your column [McDowell's] in motion against 

Manassas, and when you wish me to strike If the 

notice does not come in any other way, I wish you would 
indicate the day by telegraph thus : Let me Jtear from you 
on ." 



THE BATTLE OF BULL BUN. 69 

Affairs seemed to be at last drawing to a well-concerted 
crisis when, on July 1 3th, General Scott said, in the course 
of a telegram, dated on the 12th : ** Go where you propose 

in your letter of the 9th instant Let me hear from 

you on Tuesday. ^^ Now, Tuesday was the i6th day of 
July, and General Scott's telegram, therefore, gave per- 
mission to move to Charlestown, and announced that 
McDowell's attack on the enemy at Manassas would take 
place on the i6th of July^ and that, on that day. General 
Patterson would be expected to co-operate with McDowell 
by attacking Johnston. On the 1 3th General Scott wired 
General Patterson : " I telegraphed you yesterday, if not 
strong enough to beat the enemy early next week, make 
demonstrations so as to detain him in the valley of Win- 
chester ; but if he retreats in force towards Manassas and it 
be hazardous to follow him, then consider the route via 
Keyes's Ferry, Leesburg," etc. This enlarged the per- 
mitted scope of co-operation specifically. General Patter- 
son might, at his discretion, attack Johnston or might 
reinforce McDowell, depending upon circumstances men- 
tioned. 

General Patterson and his advisers did not consider the 
army strong enough to beat Johnston behind the entrench- 
ments of Winchester. Therefore Patterson was constrained 
by his orders to adopt the other alternative, of making 
demonstrations against Winchester. But, as General Patter- 
son very properly observes in his vindication, making dem- 
onstrations against Winchester placed him in a position 
which incapacitated him from changing his base suddenly, 
or, in other words, from being able, in case of the desirability 
arising for him to reinforce McDowell, to do so ; besides 
rendering it likely that demonstrations on Winchester would 
have the effect of driving Johnston away just when it was 
most dangerous that he should join Beauregard, when he. 



70 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

Patterson, from the position of making demonstrations, 
could not follow him in time. 

General Patterson made a demonstration on Winchester 
on the 1 6th of July ^ the day announced by General Scott as 
that of McDowell's attack on Beauregard. He marched 
from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill and encountered the ad- 
vance of the enemy, which consisted of cavalry. He sent 
a message from that place to General Scott, that the whole 
road to Winchester was obstructed, and that he would 
move the next day to Charlestown. He reported the term 
of the three months* men with him to be nearly expired, 
and that they were unwilling to remain beyond it He 
added that if General Scott should desire it, he would, 
after leaving enough troops for the security of Harper's 
Ferry, advance with the remainder via Leesburg, provided 
that the forces under Johnston did not remain at Winchester 
after the success which he anticipated from McDowell. Of 
course, as that was the i6th on which he was speaking to 
General Scott, he supposed that the battle at Manassas was 
in progress. 

On the 1 7th General Patterson was in Charlestown asking 
of General Scott if he shall do what he had suggested — 
send troops to occupy Harper's Ferry, and, under conditions 
previously mentioned, advance to Leesburg. On the 1 8th he 
was also in telegraphic communication with General Scott 

The reader will now perceive that, as Patterson, at 
Charlestown, was only one day's march from Leesburg, 
and the first of Johnston's reinforcements to Beauregard 
did not reach him before the evening of the 19th, and the 
last of them not before the day itself of the battle, the 21st, 
there was still time for Patterson to reinforce McDowell. 

The attack on the enemy at Manassas had been unavoid- 
ably deferred. General Scott telegraphed General Patter- 
son, on the 17th, " McDowell's first day's work has driven 



THE BATTLE OF BULL BUN. 71 

the enemy beyond Fair&x Court House. The Junction 
will probably be carried to-morrow." 

On the 1 8th General 5)COtt was in possession of the fact 
that Patterson had made his demonstration on the i6th, 
and that he was then in Charlestown. On the 1 8th he 
learned from Patterson, by telegram, that the enemy had 
not left Winchester, that the demonstration on the place, 
on the 1 6th, had effected that. 

It is time now to draw conclusions, after a brief summa- 
tion of the facts. Scott appointed the /d/A 0/ July as the 
day for the demonstration on Winchester. It was made 
by Patterson on that day. The enemy was known at that 
time not to have reinforced Beauregard. The battle at 
Manassas did not take place on the i6th, as expected, but 
was postponed, according to General Scott, to the 18 th. At 
Charlestown, on the i8th^ three days before the battle^ twelve 
hours before any reinforcements whatever left Winchester for 
Manassas^ General Patterson telegpraphed General Scott 
that, from the condition of his force from anticipated dis- 
bandment, he considered an attack on Winchester hazard- 
ous, but concluded with the words, "shall I attack?" 

There was not only no answer to this, but General Patter- 
son was left in entire ignorance of General McDowell's 
movements. So it is as clear as day that, even as late cls 
the i8th. General Scott could either have ordered Patterson 
to attack Winchester or to reinforce McDowell by the way 
of Leesburg. 

Finally, General Patterson, tied as his hands were for 
personal endeavor, did what he could by sending, on the 
20th, the following despatch to the assistant-adjutant-general: 
" With a portion of his force Johnston left Winchester by 
the road to Millwood, on the afternoon of the i8th, his 
whole force thirty-two thousand five hundred." General 
Scott, in his comments upon Patterson's statement, sub- 



72 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADK 

mitted to the Committee on the Conduct of the War, said, 
" Now, it was, at the reception of that news, too late to call 
off the troops from that attack [McDowell's] , and, besides, 
though opposed to the movement at first, we had all be- 
come animated and sanguine of success ; and it is not true 
that I was urged by anybody in authority to stop attack, 
which was commenced as early, I think, as the i8th of 
July." 

It was either too late, or it was not too late, " to call off 
the troops." The frame of mind in which the authorities 
at Washington found themselves cannot qualify the possi- 
bility of calling off the troops. The frame of mind in 
which those authorities did find themselves doubtless brought 
it about that, on the i8th^ Patterson was neither told to at- 
tack Winchester nor to reinforce McDowell by the way of 
Leesburg. And it does look very much,* indeed, as if that 
frame of mind had prevented calling off the troops. Had 
the battle terminated otherwise than as it did. General Pat- 
terson's action, which really represented the views of some 
of the best officers of the army, would have been regarded 
as highly commendable. Yet despite the sufficient facts 
that were presented to it, the Committee on the Conduct 
of the War said in their report, that ** the principal cause of 
the defeat on that day was the failure of General Patterson 
to hold the forces of Johnston in the Valley of the Shenan- 
doah." However, although General Patterson, failing in 
being allowed a court of inquiry, had to wait until 1865 for 
vindication, he had the solace of many testimonials from 
men of the highest military talent, justifying him in his 
course in every respect, and recognizing that, in obedience 
to his orders, the result could not have been other than 
it was. 

Owing to the fact of the changes that took place in the 
names of the main armies contending on the eastern coast 



THE BATTLE OF BULL BUN. 73 

of the United States, they having been in one instance even 
interchanged, it becomes necessary to mention here formally 
what these names on the respective sides were and what 
they finally became. Beauregard's army was called the 
Army of the Potomac, and Johnston's the Army of the 
Shenandoah, while McDowell's army was not popularly 
known by any distinctive name. In the next campaign, 
that of the Peninsula, under General George B. McClellan, 
which campaign we are now about to consider, the Federal 
army was known as the Army of the Potomac, and the 
Confederate one as the Army of Northern Virginia, In 
the immediately following campaign, that of the second 
battle of Bull Run, some of the troops of the Army of the 
Potomac reinforced a Federal army under General John 
Pope, known as the Army of Virginia, which fought a 
number of battles with the Army of Northern Virginia. 
Finally the Federal army continued to retain the name of 
the Army of the Potomac, and the Confederate army to re- 
tain that of the Army of Northern Virginia, and they thus 
remained named and known until the end of the war. 



74 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADK 



CHAPTER VII. 

THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN ^THE SIEGE OF YORKTOWN AND 

THE BATTLES OF WILUAMSBURG AND FAIR OAKS. 

General McClellan assumed command of the Army 
of the Potomac on July 27, 1861. He at once began, and 
he continued in the most energetic way, the organization of 
an army worthy of the name and of the dire need of the 
Republic. Simultaneously the defensive works of Wash- 
ington, planned and executed by General J. G. Barnard, 
chief-engineer of the army, were carried as an enceinte 
around Washington, from a point on its western bank, 
touching the Potomac at Hunting Creek, just south of 
Alexandria, in a curve to the northward of the city, to 
where the line rested on the eastern branch of the Potomac, 
just above Bladensburg, a stretch altogether of some thirty- 
two miles. Here McClellan was in his element, both 
through the particular constitution of his mind and his pre- 
vious military training. He worked smoothly and expe- 
ditiously within the groove of routine, with a special knowl- 
edge pf the particular branch of routine with which he had 
to do. He had, in the Mexican War, seen service which 
had redounded to his credit. Nothing there, however, had 
made him especially conspicuous among the brave and 
brilliant group of young officers who served under Scott 
and Taylor, but he had subsequently been selected as one 
of a small band of Uite^ only three in number, of whom 
Major Richard Delafield and Major Alfred Mordecai were 
the other two, to visit Europe during the Crimean War, and 



THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN. 7$ 

there study the most approved methods and appliances of 
war. This distinction had so crowned him, as with an 
aureole, through the years between that event and the 
breaking out of the Civil War, that even in the minds of 
American military men he was thought of as the peer of 
Lee. Natural bent of mind, therefore, and special training, 
and accruing confidence from recognition of his powers, 
had peculiarly fitted him for the creation and organization 
of an army. We have the authority of Napoleon for be- 
lieving that this is no light task when there are no existing 
cadres to be filled up, and, therefore, we should award to 
McClellan full measure of praise for his accomplishment in 
giving to the Army of the Potomac that soul and body 
with which it afterwards bore itself so heroically in all times 
of trial, whether of victory or defeat. 

It is not anticipating to say here what is already so 
plainly written on the scroll of history, that with all this 
military aptitude in McClellan, there was still conjoined 
with it such defects in that part of character upon which 
great military achievement principally depends, that they 
neutralized his other efficiency. Contrasting what he de- 
clared, when he said that he would make the conflict short, 
sharp, and decisive, with the progress and conclusion of 
aflairs of which he had control, their outcome was lament- 
able. Say that he was unduly interfered with at times, 
and any one must grant it ; but it would only be fair to 
add, that if he had not been interfered with at other times, 
the turn of events would have been disastrous. That he 
should, despite his shortcoming as a general fitted for the 
great emergency in which the nation found itself, have pos- 
sessed for a long time the implicit faith of the army and of 
the whole country, is a thing for which the following pages 
among others ought to show that it is impossible wholly 
to account. No doubt a winning personality, when he 



76 GENERAL OBOBOB GORDON MEADE. 

chose to reveal it, might account in some measure for the 
admiration which he excited ; and the &ct that he was 
essentially the creator of the admirable organization which 
he led might also account in some measure for the glamour 
which he exercised. But when, as the &ct is, proof after 
proof was afforded of his incompetency for large command, 
the rank and file of the army in wrathful, disciplined silence, 
saw him relieved, this passes all comprehension, unless we 
believe that the habit of the average human mind is so con- 
firmed in the retention of belief in the line of what is some- 
times denominated consistency, but is the very opposite, 
that it is incapable of changing its opinion even upon the 
most conclusive evidence. The intensity of this indignation 
may, however, be justly attributed to the fact that the man 
by whom McClellan was relieved, and who superseded him 
in command of that faithful army, was not to be spoken of 
in the same breath with McClellan in any capacity in which 
mind and acquirement are concerned. 

The preceding are merely general conclusions. Let us 
therefore consider the special ones in the light of which the 
following pages are to be read in considering whatever ver- 
dict the reader may conscientiously feel disposed to render 
to his own mind. One of the fundamental traits of a general 
McClellan had in a high degree. It cannot without quali- 
fication be said, in describing it, that he was not unduly 
elated by success nor discouraged by disaster, because he 
achieved no great success, his victories in West Virginia 
being gained with overwhelming forces. But when we 
come to consider that he was not appalled by disaster, it 
seems to be a legitimate conclusion that he would have 
preserved a balanced mind in military success. One of the 
greatest of his defects made it possible that he could imagine 
himself, as a general in the field, to have anything to do with 
questions of national polity. Yet, acting as independently 



THE PENUmULAE CAMPAIGN. TJ 

as the ambitious Napoleon when he served under the Direc- 
tory, it was not long before he gave the President of the 
United States in the most unequivocal manner to under- 
stand that, with respect to slavery, he regarded himself as 
the conserver of the Constitution as well as the commander 
of the Army of the Potomac. General John C. Fremont 
and General David Hunter took action in the very opposite 
direction, in favor of the manumission of slaves, but without 
any allied direction to the civil authorities. All erred ; for 
as military men, in command of armies, they had nothing 
to do with the determination of a status which it was the 
province of the civil authorities to settle. McClellan always 
inordinately magnified the forces of the enemy and minim- 
ized his own. Brocken-spectres of gigantic hosts moved 
to the eye of his imagination along the heights of Rich- 
mond and overflowed on to tHe swamps of the Chicka- 
hominy, easily transported thence to the field of Antietam. 
Yet, although he always clamored for reinforcements, he 
never fought his army as a whole, after making all due 
allowance for reserves. But greatest of his military defects 
was his organic deficiency in appreciation of the value of 
time. Of the fleeting moment of which Napoleon speaks, 
the moment which, lost, is never to be regained, he seemed 
to have no conception. Everything must, to his mind, be 
done decently and in order. There was always some small 
item necessary to completeness, when readiness should 
beckon on the way to victory. The defect is one of the 
commonest among mankind, and absolutely fatal to good 
generalship. Against an army led by Lee, whose enterprise 
was bounded only by the possible, it would have been fatal 
to McClellan, but for the vast resources lying back of his 
unintermittent slowness. Indeed, it almost seemed as if he 
believed, with Immanuel Kant, that there is no such thing 
as the passage of time, that time is always present, and that 



78 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEAJDK 

we picture it to ourselves as passing only because we see 
the decay of things. 

War is like any other game in turning upon the balance of 
exchanges. But it is different from other g^ames in this, that 
the exchanges bear to the untutored mind the character of 
unwarrantable sacrifices, whereas, to the military mind, 
they are so directly related to passing and final events, that 
they are recognized as oflen economical in men, treasure, 
and material. Whatever nation goes to war upon the plan 
of protecting itself at every point invites and encounters 
defeat. How many men and millions of treasure were 
sacrificed during the war by frittering away the resources 
of the Government in mere gifts out of hand to the enemy ! 
The tendency everywhere, at the beginning of the war, and 
continued long afterwards, was towards the morcellement of 
the forces of the United States, whether with reference to 
the zone of military operations or the terrain of the actual 
shock of battle. Both civil and military authorities were 
guilty of this, but the palm of all misdoing must be awarded 
to the civil authorities, when they consented to give to 
Butler and Banks thousands of soldiers with whom to play 
" boom-a-laddies !" 

The theatre of operations in which the Army of the Po- 
tomac was to act was necessarily the area bounded on the 
east by the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay, and on the 
west by the eastern boundary of the Shenandoah Valley, 
the Blue Ridge. It b easy enough to form a general mental 
map of the area described. Imagine a line very nearly 
one hundred miles long drawn south from Washington to 
Richmond, for they differ in longitude by only about twenty 
miles. Now assuming that base, by way of orienting our- 
selves, lay off in imagination from it courses that represent 
the eastern water-front of Virginia. Starting from Wash- 
ington, the general course of the Potomac is south for 



THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN. 79 

about forty miles, then a little north of east for about fifteen 
miles, and then southeast for about fifty miles, to its mouth, 
where it enters Chesapeake Bay, whence the shore of Chesa- 
peake Bay runs about south to the mouth of the James 
River, on which, northwest, lies the city of Richmond, be- 
tween the James and a branch of it called the Chickahominy . 
If the reader can see, in imagination, these courses with refer- 
ence to the imaginary north and south line between Washing- 
ton and Richmond, he will perceive that the part of Virginia 
circumscribed by them on the east makes a large, blunt 
protrusion towards the east above and below Richmond. 
The principal streams intersecting this all trend, in a general 
way, from northwest towards southeast, and are, in order, 
beginning at the north, the Rappahannock (branch Rapi- 
dan), and the York (branches Mattapony and Pamunkey). 
Of the Pamunkey, the branches are the North Anna and 
the South Anna. Lastly comes the James (branches Chick- 
ahominy and Appomattox). These streams divide the area 
described into a number of peninsulas, having numerous 
intermediate streams and low swampy bottoms ; the penin- 
sula, /or excellence, with which we shall shortly be concerned 
in connection with the approaching campaign, being that 
between the York and the James Rivers, terminated by 
Fort Monroe, from which point to Richmond it is seventy- 
two miles, whereas from Washington to Richmond it is 
about ninety-five miles. 

It would take too much space here to discuss all of the 
various Federal successes in military operations that took 
place between the campaign of Bull Run and that of the 
Peninsula. On the 29th of August the works at Hatteras 
Inlet, in North Carolina, were captured by General B. F. 
Butler and Commodore Silas H. Stringham. General Rose- 
crans closed the campaign in West Virginia, on the loth of 
September, by winning the battle of Carnifex Ferry. The 




8o GENERAL QEORQE OORDON MEADK 

Federals encountered a terrible disaster at Ball's BluiT on 
October 2 2d, when the troops, through mismanagement, 
were routed with great slaughter. Near Dranesville, how- 
ever, a few miles from Washington, there was, on December 
20th, an affair favorable to the Federal arms, in which the 
Pennsylvania Reserves were alone engaged. On the 8th 
of Januarj" General A. E. Bumside, assisted by the navy, 
captured Roanoke Island, in North Carolina, and on the 
14th of March took Newbem. On the 19th of January 
General George H. Thomas won the battle of Logan's 
Cross Roads, in Kentucky. On the 6th of February Gen- 
eral U. S. Grant and Commodore Andrew H. Foote, in the 
department under Halleck, captured Fort Henry. On the 
1 6th of February Grant captured Fort Donelson, with 
thousands of prisoners, the first very great success of the 
Union arms. I saw throngs of them in Indianapolis, a 
sturdy, buttemut-hued crowd, in which the component unit 
knew as much of the destructive retrograde metamorphosis 
in which he was assisting as does the grain of powder in 
the tamped mine that is to rend the earth asunder. On the 
8th of March concluded the battle of Pea Ridge, in Arkan- 
sas, won, after a long and hard contest of two days, by 
General Samuel R. Curtis. On the 6th and 7th of April 
Grant won the battle of Shiloh, the forces of Buell reaching 
him just in time to save the second day. On the 24th of 
April Commodore David Glasgow Farragut passed the forts 
near the mouth of the Mississippi, and the next day cap- 
tured and put General Butler in possession of the city of 
New Orleans. By this success the Mississippi was now 
open, except at Vicksburg and thereabouts, from its source 
to its mouth. The successes of the Federals had vastly 
preponderated over those of the Confederates. 

Three plans were mooted and discussed in Washington, 
whether to advance thence on Richmond by crossing the 



THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN. 8 1 

Potomac and taking the way of Manassas ; or thence, by 
means of transports, adopting Urbanna as a base, a place on 
the right bank of the Mattapony River, near its mouth ; or, 
using transports as before, to march to Richmond from Fort 
Monroe. At Fort Monroe the army would be seventy-two 
miles from Richmond, but from Urbanna would be only 
about forty from it Nothing was finally decided upon until 
shortly before the time to take action, the President and the 
Secretary of War on the one hand and McClellan on the 
other falling farther and farther apart in mutual confidence. 
Confidence having been impaired, their relations with each 
other proceeded, as usual, from bad to worse, with the in- 
evitable commission of faults on both sides. Finally 
McClellan was given the choice in the spring of adopting 
the Manassas line of operations or the line of operations 
from Fort Monroe. Strange to say; he selected the latter, 
although at the time he had no true basis of confidence, by 
his own demonstration, or positive assurance from the navy, 
that there was not grave danger to transport-service for the 
troops from the "Merrimac," otherwise called the "Virginia." 
This was a frigate which had been captured, with the Gos- 
port Navy Yard, by the Confederates, and which had de- 
stroyed or neutralized all adversaries in Hampton Roads, 
near Fort Monroe, until the Monitor, the first craft of her 
kind, appearing the very next day, March the loth, had 
just held its own with the new sea-monster, sheathed, in 
pent-house form, with railroad-iron, the result of another 
encounter with which no one could with certainty predict. 

It is impossible to decide which of the two, the Adminis- 
tration or McClellan, was more in the wrong than the other 
in the aggregate of contentions which led up to destroyed 
confidence between them. McClellan's last act, however, 
when leaving Washington with his army, in the spring 

of 1862, is not defensible. The number of men needed to 

6 



82 GENERAL QEORQB QORDOR MEADK 

make Washington secure had been authoritatively estimated 
at forty thousand, and he himself had indicated to the Ad- 
ministration that he would leave thirty-five ; but as, upon 
his departure, it was discovered that he had included in the 
count of garrison troops which he claimed could easily be 
recalled to Washington from the vicinity, it being deemed 
that he had indulged in a subterfuge, the unfortunate rela- 
tions which had previously existed between him and the 
Administration became still more strained. The Adminis- 
tration had been unwise in expecting important operations 
to be undertaken before the spring of 1862, that is, before 
the orgjanization of the Army of the Potomac was perfected, 
but it had been perfectly reasonable in expecting McClellan 
to do what he did not do, in raising the blockade of the 
lower Potomac, maintained by the batteries of the enemy 
where the channel of the river approaches the Virginia 
shore. On the other hand, McClellan had, from the very 
beginning, shown a disposition to act on his own judgment 
and responsibility, as if he had been clothed with dictatorial 
powers. When, however, probably as a rebuff, he was not, 
as he should have been, allowed to appoint his own corps- 
commanders, a most injudicious step was taken by the Ad- 
ministration, to which, doubtless, it was prompted by all 
that had gone before in the form of inharmonious combina- 
tion of the civil and military authorities. It has been sur- 
mised by some persons that, if McClellan had had the ap- 
pointment of these corps-commanders, the issue of the 
Peninsular campaign would have been very different from 
what it was. But nothing derived from examination of the 
general conduct of the corps-commanders who were actu- 
ally appointed, or in that of the sequence of events on the 
Peninsula, can lead to the slightest suspicion that the final 
result would have been essentially changed had McClellan 
been allowed to make these appointments. What appears 



TBE PENmSULAB CAMPAIGN. 83 

throughout his military career as a commander in the Civil 
War is his inability to appreciate at a glance any military 
situation whatsoever, and to act with corresponding vigor. 
That he, a man not by any means destitute of energy, quite 
the contrary, never acted quickly in any situation, is proof 
positive that he wholly lacked the intuition, the inspiration 
of military genius or talent. He was, from first to last, in 
his operations, the receiver, not the giver of surprises. The 
enemy praised him highly, but it is a truism that, in mili- 
tary operations, the praise of an enemy cannot be accepted 
as of value until the war engaged in is over. In the most 
positive, the highest faculty of the general, McClellan was 
wholly lacking; in the initiative derived from intuition, 
present in victory or defeat, as closely allied as the light- 
ning's flash and the thunder's roar, and capable, if the 
enemy gives the opportunity, or chance throws it in the 
way, to turn to success a tide of disaster that has set in, 
not less than to marshall battalions in an overflowing, re- 
sistless advance. 

On November i, 1861, General McClellan had been 
made commander-in-chief of the armies of the United States. 
In that capacity the interests under his immediate eye largely 
blinded him to what was beyond its range. General Don 
Carlos Buell, a man never appreciated at his full worth, 
perhaps because, like St. Paul, he was, in relation to opera- 
tions in the West, born out of due time, made excellent 
suggestions to McClellan for a plan of campaign in Kentucky 
and Tennessee, but they were not appreciated by either 
General McClellan or Mr. Lincoln, and remained unadopted 
at the time. Now McClellan, in going to the Peninsula, 
went without other duties than those of commander of the 
Army of the Potomac, for, on March the i ith, he had been 
relieved of those of general -in-chief of all the armies. Before 
the assumption of the same duties by General Henry W. 



84 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADK 

Halleck, who had exercised the largest command of any in 
the West, and under whom Grant had served, Mr. Lincoln 
assumed control of the general conduct of military affairs. 

In March, 1862, the enemy had suddenly evacuated the 
position of Centreville and retired upon the Rapidan. This 
move was probably made in anticipation of McClellan's, 
about which, the enemy, doubtless, had sources of informa- 
tion, and was intended by the enemy, no matter where 
McClellan went, whether by Manassas, Urbanna, or Fort 
Monroe, to make sure of being in a strategic position with 
reference to Richmond. Washington was, from the begin- 
ning to the end of the war, a whispering gallery, of which 
the receiving end was in Richmond. When the enemy had 
evacuated Centreville, McClellan marched his army to the 
position, and then immediately withdrawing it, began to 
send it by transports to the Peninsula. He himself arrived 
at Fort Monroe on April 2d. A force of nearly sixty 
thousand men had already arrived there. On the 3d 
marching orders were issued, and on the 4th the troops set 
out along the Peninsula towards Richmond. 

General McClellan was met at the outset of the campaign 
with difficulties for which he deemed himself in no wise 
responsible. He found that the navy would not guarantee 
to try to neutralize the "Merrimac" and to capture Yorktown 
too, and he complained of the absence of accurate topo- 
g^phical knowledge of the country. It was, however, a 
pure assumption, on his part, that the navy would capture 
Yorktown, and as for absence of accurate topographical 
knowledge of the country, to whom but to himself should 
he have looked to see that it had been obtained? If 
nothing more had been done than to order a competent 
purveyor of bull-frogs for the market to make a reconnois- 
sance of the swampy part of the country from Fort Monroe 
to Richmond, he would at least have learned what he did 



THE PENINSULAB CAMPAIGN. 8$ 

not know, that a shallow stream called Warwick River runs 
nearly across the Peninsula, from the James River towards 
the south of Yorktown, on the York River. On the sth of 
April the troops, formed in two columns, brought up ag^ainst 
the defensive lines of the enemy formed in part by this 
stream ; the right column near Yorktown and the left oppo- 
site Lee's Mills, on the road across the Warwick to Wil- 
liamsburg in advance. General McClellan made no attempt 
to take the enemy unawares, but deemed that it was neces- 
sary, first of all, to make elaborate reconnoissances. He 
assumed that the line, consisting of inundations from dams, 
redoubts, and epaulements, was too strong to capture by 
assault or lodgment beyond it. It is true, however, that 
he imagined that the force defending it was very large ; 
whereas it was at first extremely meagre, General John Bank- 
head Magruder having for the whole extensive line only 
about eleven or twelve thousand troops. General Benjamin 
Huger held Norfolk, near the mouth of the James, with about 
eight thousand. McClellan's conclusion led, of course, to the 
final conclusion that a siege was necessary, and for this he had 
some justification in the fact that his chief-engineer. General 
Barnard, agreed with him, although after the campaign he 
had changed his opinion. This conclusion was adhered to, 
although, on the i6th of April, the Third Vermont Regi- 
ment broke through the river line at one point, and main- 
tained itself for two hours with reinforcements of only 
about five hundred men from the Fourth and Sixth Ver- 
mont Regiments. So McClellan had sat down to make a 
regular investment and siege, while the enemy received 
constant reinforcements, and Johnston, at last, with his 
army of fifty thousand men, arrived from the Rapidan to 
resist the march of McClellan as soon as Yorktown and the 
defensive line resting on it were reduced. On April 20th 
fire was opened on Yorktown wharf for the purpose of 



86 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADK 

destroying it as a landing facility to the enemy, and prepara« 
tions being nearly completed for the bombardment, Ma- 
gruder evacuated the town on the night of the 3d ; show- 
ing that he had had good sources of information, for it was 
expected by McClellan that everything would be ready 
on the 5th to dislodge him. Magruder had given a sigh 
of relief when he had seen McClellan deliberately sit down 
before his lines to make a regular siege ; showing how well 
he appreciated his weakness to resist assault at the begin- 
ning, in view of the fact of his extended lines and the ap- 
pearance before them of an army of certainly sixty thousand 
men. The enemy had had a month, of which he had availed 
himself, not only to bring up his main army, but to strengthen 
the fortifications of Richmond. So, in the first operations, 
from the sth of April to the 4th of May, when the Federal 
troops entered Yorktown, just a month, the advantages had 
all remained with the enemy. Could the line have been 
forced without undue sacrifice for the gain ? There is the 
best reason for so believing upon the evidence now extant 
from both Federal and Confederate sources. It is, how- 
ever, the sphere of great generalship to divine the unknown, 
or to solve by trial the problem of the undivinable. 

The enemy having evacuated his lines in the night of the 
3d of May, General McClellan, on the 4th, promptly 
ordered cavalry and horse-artillery to pursue him on the 
roads towards Williamsburg. General Edwin V. Sumner 
was in command of this portion of the advance, and Gen- 
eral Philip Kearny's division and General Joseph Hooker's 
division, of General Samuel P. Heintzelman's corps, and 
General William F. Smith's, General Darius N. Couch's 
and General Silas Casey's divisions, of Keyes's corps, were 
ordered forward in support of Sumner. The troops which 
they were pursuing from the lines near and at Yorktown 
were fifly-three thousand in number, under the command 



THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN 87 

of General Joseph E. Johnston, only slight skirmishing 
with the rear-guard taking place until the lines before Wil- 
liamsburg were reached. 

Elarly on the following morning Hooker attacked Fort 
Magruder, about a mile from Williamsburg, the most for- 
midable of the enemy's line of defences, which reached 
across the Peninsula from the James to Queen's Creek, on 
the York. About three or four o'clock in the afternoon 
Kearny arrived and relieved Hooker by continuing the at- 
tack with his division, which had been so spirited that John- 
ston had been obliged to recall some of his troops who had 
continued their march. Sumner had been ordered to take 
command of all of the troops until the arrival of McClellan ; 
but McClellan did not arrive. The resistance met with was 
much more severe than had been expected or need have 
been encountered, for all that the enemy was essaying to do 
was to gain time for his orderly retreat. As the event 
proved, the general-commanding should have been at the 
front. The function there to be exercised was very much 
more important than attending to what any one on his staff 
could have supervised, if supervision were indeed needed — 
the embarkation of General William B. Franklin's com- 
mand, which was to go to a place on the right bank of the 
Pamunkey, opposite West Point, so as to take in reverse 
any defences which might have been prepared higher up on 
the Peninsula. 

The losses at Williamsburg on the Federal were much 
greater than those on the Confederate side, and, as already 
indicated, were sustained for an inadequate purpose. The 
sole redeeming feature of the operation, except the admira- 
ble conduct of the troops everywhere, was the brilliant move 
of General W. S. Hancock, who, under orders, crossed Cub 
Dam Creek, on the right, with five regiments of Smith's divis- 
ion, and occupied a redoubt conmianding the mill-bridge 



J 



88 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

across the creek. Here he remained unsupported for a long 
while, all the troops not being yet up ; but although lacking 
reinforcements to enable him to hold his position and gain the 
left and rear of General James Longstreet's division, he still 
tenaciously held on to the ground in the hope that he would 
finally be able to advance and accomplish his purpose. 
He was waiting, however, in vain, when the enemy, recog- 
nizing the dangerousness of the lodgment which he had 
made, marched a column against him, led by Generals 
Jubal Early and D. H. Hill. By this time Hancock, hold- 
ing the first, had occupied another redoubt nearer to Wil- 
liamsbui^, and was threatening two others. Seeing, at a 
glance, with his consummate grasp of a tactical situation, 
that it would be impossible, without reinforcements, to hold 
on to his captures, he fell back for a space from his most 
advanced position, and there halting, as the enemy threat- 
ened his right flank, he delivered his fire and charged with 
the bayonet, wounding Hill and throwing his troops into 
disorder; when Elarly, seeking to restore the battle, was 
compelled to beat a hasty retreat Not until the aflair was 
over did reinforcements, under General Smith, reach the 
ground ; but they were too late to be available for a re- 
newed advance on the enemy, who, having gained the time 
needed, continued his retreat towards Richmond. Here 
began and was conspicuously exhibited that strange fact of 
the absence of control of the battle-field by the command- 
ing-general which continued to manifest itself throughout 
the Peninsular campaign. As no one has ever been able 
to attribute to him want of personal courage, the indisputa- 
ble fact remains to be accounted for only by the ascription 
to him of a psychical trait of incapacity to see things in 
their relative importance as to event and time. If his 
corps-commanders were not those whom he would have 
chosen, all the more need was there that he should 



THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN. 89 

have been at the front. Not only was he not at the 
front, but he had been detained of his own free will from 
being there by an affair so trivial that, if there had beea 
no question of battle, it was beneath his official dignity to 
give it personal attention. General McClellan did not arrive 
upon the field until between four and five o'clock in the 
afternoon, when everything was virtually over. The next 
morning the army of Johnston continued its retreat towards 
Richmond. 

While these operations were going on before Williams- 
burg, the divisions of Franklin's command were embarking 
at Yorktown for the point on the right bank of the Pamunkey 
opposite West Point, and by the i6th the divisions of Frank- 
lin, Smith, and Porter had reached the place at the White 
House where they established a depot of supplies. The expe- 
dition effected nothing more of moment, Franklin, soon after 
landing, merely repulsing an attack of General William H. C. 
Whiting, for as, on the 7th, Johnston's army had been con- 
centrated at Barhamsville, only a few miles south of West 
Point, all chance of a turning movement was at an end. 
McClellan had ceased at Williamsburg all forward move- 
ment that could by the most strained construction of the 
meaning of the word be deemed pursuit, for in the follow- 
ing ten days the enemy moved only between thirty and 
forty miles to his point of concentration at Barhamsville. 
While the Confederate army was at Barhamsville, where 
it remained five days, all that McClellan did was to send 
out from Williamsburg reconnoissances and a force of 
cavalry, artillery, and infantry to open up communication 
with Franklin, beginning his forward movement on the 8th 
of May, and advancing his headquarters on the loth nine- 
teen miles beyond Williamsburg. On the 19th the troops 
which had gone by land, and those which had gone by 
water up the York, reunited at the White House, on the 



go GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEAJDK 

Pamunkey. This was to be the depot of supplies for the army 
when it should be in position before Richmond. Here 
passes the Richmond and York River Railroad, which, begin- 
ning at West Point, at the end of York River, and between its 
branches (the Mattapony and Pamunkey), runs to Richmond. 
A reorganization of the army was effected at the White 
House. The Second Corps, under Sumner, was to consist 
of the divisions of Richardson and Sedg^ck. The Third 
Corps, under Heintzelman, was to consist of the divisions of 
Hooker and Kearny. The Fourth Corps, under General 
Erasmus D. Keyes, was to consist of the divisions of General 
Darius N. Couch and General Silas Casey. The Fifth 
Corps, under Fitz-John Porter, was to consist of his own 
division, under General George W. Morrill, and that of 
General George Sykes (regulars). The Sixth Corps, under 
Franklin, was to consist of his own division, under General 
Henry W. Slocum, and that of Smith. The last two corps 
were organizations authorized by the President. These 
changes effected, headquarters, with Franklin's command 
and Porter's corps, marched to Tunstall Station, five miles 
from the White House, on the 19th of May, and on the 20th 
Casey's division forded the Chickahominy near Bottom's 
Bridge, which had been destroyed, occupied the high ground 
beyond, and began to rebuild the bridge. On the 21st the 
advance guard had reached New Bridge, eight miles further 
up the Chickahominy than Bottom's Bridge. On the 24th 
the village of Mechanicsville, north of the Chickahominy, 
four miles above New Bridge, was captured, but the bridge 
between it and Richmond was destroyed by the enemy. 
On that day also the left wing of the army secured a posi- 
tion south of the Chickahominy, at Seven Pines and Fair 
Oaks Station, across the Williamsburg road and near the 
Richmond and York River Railroad. The advance had 
been exceedingly slow. 



THE PENUHSULAR CAMPAIGN. 9 1 

However, the army was at last tolerably near the final 
position which it was to occupy. To understand its posi- 
tion in a rude, diagrammatical way, it will be necessary to 
conceive of the lay of the land from the following descrip- 
tion. Imagine, then, the James River to run, neglecting 
numerous bends, in a straight line from southeast to north- 
west, and Richmond to lie north of the northwestward pro- 
jection of that line. Now, again, imagine the Chickahominy 
to be a stream with broad swampy bottom on each side, 
covered with dense foliage, running from its mouth, about 
thirty-five miles below Richmond, for about seven miles 
nearly at right-angles to the line of the James, and then 
gradually sweeping around and running parallel with it, so 
that, as it proceeds, it runs about four miles back of Rich- 
mond. These being the main features of the country to be 
memorized, require added to them one which, although 
very subordinate from certain points of view, played a very 
important part in some of the military operations which we 
are about to consider. White Oak Swamp, so-called, is in 
reality a creek, which, starting south at about right-angles 
from the Chickahominy, about twelve miles from Rich- 
mond, then turns and runs parallel to the Chickahominy for 
about eight miles, distant about four, and degenerates into 
a veritable swamp, after having begun at its mouth in some- 
what similar condition. 

If the preceding description of locality has been under- 
stood, the final position of the army will be realized when it 
is stated that the left flank of its left wing rested on White 
Oak Swamp, near a place called Swamp Ford, the left wing 
passing thence, to the right, in advance of Seven Pines and 
Fair Oaks Station, by the former of which runs the direct 
road from Richmond to Williamsburg ; and thence, beyond 
Fair Oaks Station, on the Richmond and York River Rail- 
road, finally resting its right flank on the Chickahominy, near 



4 . 



THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN. 9 1 

However, the army was at last tolerably near the final 
position which it was to occupy. To understand its posi- 
tion in a rude, diagrammatical way, it will be necessary to 
conceive of the lay of the land from the following descrip- 
tion. Imagine, then, the James River to run, neglecting 
numerous bends, in a straight line from southeast to north- 
west, and Richmond to lie north of the northwestward pro- 
jection of that line. Now, again, imagine the Chickahominy 
to be a stream with broad swampy bottom on each side, 
covered with dense foliage, running from its mouth, about 
thirty-five miles below Richmond, for about seven miles 
nearly at right-angles to the line of the James, and then 
gradually sweeping around and running parallel with it, so 
that, as it proceeds, it runs about four miles back of Rich- 
mond. These being the main features of the country to be 
memorized, require added to them one which, although 
very subordinate from certain points of view, played a very 
important part in some of the military operations which we 
are about to consider. White Oak Swamp, so-called, is in 
reality a creek, which, starting south at about right-angles 
from the Chickahominy, about twelve miles from Rich- 
mond, then turns and runs parallel to the Chickahominy for 
about eight miles, distant about four, and degenerates into 
a veritable swamp, after having begun at its mouth in some- 
what similar condition. 

If the preceding description of locality has been under- 
stood, the final position of the army will be realized when it 
is stated that the left flank of its left wing rested on White 
Oak Swamp, near a place called Swamp Ford, the left wing 
passing thence, to the right, in advance of Seven Pines and 
Fair Oaks Station, by the former of which runs the direct 
road from Richmond to Williamsburg ; and thence, beyond 
Fair Oaks Station, on the Richmond and York River Rail- 
road, finally resting its right flank on the Chickahominy, near 



92 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADK 

to a farm called Golding's, and just behind a small branch 
of the Chickahominy. The right wing partly consisted of 
the Pennsylvania Reserves. These lay to the north of the 
Chickahominy, their left flank resting on that stream, four 
miles above where the right flank of the left wing rested on 
the other side of the Chickahominy, and behind the strong 
line of Beaver Dam Creek, a north branch of the Chicka- 
hominy. In front of this branch strong detachments watched 
Meadow Bridge and Mechanicsville Bridge, then destroyed, 
which cross the Chickahominy from Richmond to Me- 
chanicsville. Between the left and right wings troops were 
stationed along the north side of the Chickahominy, cover- 
ing the bridge-heads and the communications with the 
White House. Both wings, of course, were finally pro- 
tected by entrenchments, the line along Beaver Dam Creek 
being naturally very much stronger than that south of the 
Chickahominy. 

From the nature of the ground, and from the fact that 
the entrenchments of the enemy south of the Chicka- 
hominy were well thrown forward, the position of the Fed- 
eral army could not help being vicious ; but the terrain and 
the other conditions mentioned admitted of no better dispo- 
sition of the troops. The mistake made, as the sequel 
showed, and due foresight ought to have prevented, was in 
having the troops north and south of the Chickahominy 
most unequally distributed, and not sure of facility of mutual 
reinforcement. Bridges connecting the two wings in places 
beyond the enemy's fire were soon finished, but in a country 
like that in which operations were being conducted, where 
nature had plainly, in the aspect of the ground, given her 
testimony and set her seal on the physical conditions which 
had endured for centuries, infallibly proclaiming that in 
these creeks, in times of heavy rains, a freshet would send 

over the normal banks across the low 




THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN. 93 

bottoms, it was blindness itself not to see that only trestle, 
not pontoon bridges, could be depended upon to connect 
the dissevered wings of the army, dissevered not only by 
the Chickahominy and outlying bottoms, but by an interval 
of four miles between the line of troops south of the Chicka- 
hominy, and the second line constituted by troops north of it. 

If the reader now has the map^ of the ground in his 
mind's eye, he will see that the left wing stretched across 
the opening of the loop made by the White Oak Swamp 
Creek with the course of the Chickahominy, and that, on 
the other side of the Chickahominy, four miles in advance, 
was the right wing, behind Beaver Dam Creek, connected 
with the left by troops posted on the north side of the line 
of the Chickahominy. On the north side of the Chicka- 
hominy, between it and the Pamunkey, running parallel 
with the Chickahominy, roads lead towards the southeast, 
to the White House and Tunstall Station, and other roads 
cross them, passing to the south over the Chickahominy and 
White Oak Swamp Creek. South of the Chickahominy 
roads lead in a southeast direction, either directly to Wil- 
liamsburg or by a roundabout course in that direction, 
crossing the Chickahominy on the first reach that it makes 
on leaving the James. Transverse roads, the continuation 
of the transverse roads north of the Chickahominy and 
White Oak Swamp, lead towards the south, meeting the 
shore of the James at Malvern Hill, Haxall's Landing, and 
Harrison's Landing, to become famous in the final opera- 
tions of the campaign. 

The position of the army which led to the enemy's at- 
tack upon the left wing, which attack developed into the 
battles of Fair Oaks and Seven Pines, was, beginning at the 
extreme right, north of the Chickahominy, composed of 
the corps of Porter, Sumner, and Franklin, while the left 
wing, south of the Chickahominy, was composed of the 



d 



94 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADK 

corps of Keyes and Heintzelman. Bottom's Bridge was 
five miles away in the rear, . entirely unavailable for rein- 
forcing one wing by troops from the other. There were 
only two other bridges at that time, and these opposite 
the position of Sumner, occupying the centre, north of 
the Chickahominy, none for the right wing, four miles in 
advance of the left one. The position on the north side of 
the Chickahominy was stronger than that on the south. 
The troops there could be dislodged only by a turning 
movement of the most resolute sort, such as Jackson after- 
wards executed with overwhelming forces. Yet here were 
three corps in position at the stronger point and only two 
at the weaker, and the facilities of communication were, at 
best, inadequate. But the facilities for reinforcement, such 
as they were, suddenly became alarmingly less. On the 
afternoon and in the evening of May 30th came one of 
those drenching rains that make watermen look to the fast- 
ening of their floating property, and even to the security of 
their more stable property by streams. Had a man but 
heard of it, and not heard the sizzle and rush of the down- 
pour, that alone would seem capable of setting him to think- 
ing. The swollen Chickahominy began to glide faster 
within its banks, bearing whatever debris lay in its path ; 
began to rise above its banks and call attention to its over- 
wrought condition. The sun of the next morning rose on 
the placidity of the commanding-general, while the torrent 
still rose and rushed wildly along. The signal of heavy 
rain, which had passed unheeded in the Federal camps, had, 
however, sent a thrill of joy through those of the Confed- 
erates. Here was the opportunity, heaven-sent, as Jackson 
would have deemed it (and as Lee doubtless did, although 
he was not yet in chief command), to overwhelm the Fed- 
eral forces in detail, the very waters of the sacred soil rising 
to sweep from its face the rash invader. 



THE PENUHSULAB CAMPAIGN. 9 1 

However, the army was at last tolerably near the final 
position which it was to occupy. To understand its posi- 
tion in a rude, diagrammatical way, it will be necessary to 
conceive of the lay of the land from the following descrip- 
tion. Imagine, then, the James River to run, neglecting 
numerous bends, in a straight line from southeast to north- 
west, and Richmond to lie north of the northwestward pro- 
jection of that line. Now, again, imagine the Chickahominy 
to be a stream with broad swampy bottom on each side, 
covered with dense foliage, running from its mouth, about 
thirty-five miles below Richmond, for about seven miles 
nearly at right-angles to the line of the James, and then 
gradually sweeping around and running parallel with it, so 
that, as it proceeds, it runs about four miles back of Rich- 
mond. These being the main features of the country to be 
memorized, require added to them one which, although 
very subordinate from certain points of view, played a very 
important part in some of the military operations which we 
are about to consider. White Oak Swamp, so-called, is in 
reality a creek, which, starting south at about right-angles 
from the Chickahominy, about twelve miles from Rich- 
mond, then turns and runs parallel to the Chickahominy for 
about eight miles, distant about four, and degenerates into 
a veritable swamp, after having begun at its mouth in some- 
what similar condition. 

If the preceding description of locality has been under- 
stood, the final position of the army will be realized when it 
is stated that the left flank of its left wing rested on White 
Oak Swamp, near a place called Swamp Ford, the left wing 
passing thence, to the right, in advance of Seven Pines and 
Fair Oaks Station, by the former of which runs the direct 
road from Richmond to Williamsburg ; and thence, beyond 
Fair Oaks Station, on the Richmond and York River Rail- 
road, finally resting its right flank on the Chickahominy, near 



96 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADK 

with the aid of reinforcements. Here Casey found in time 
of direst need some entrenchments which had been made 
before the advance of the lines of the left wing, and was 
able, with partially sheltered forces, to call a halt to the 
enemy. 

The fortunes of war were not, however, wholly on the 
side of the Confederates, notwithstanding that the Federals 
had so completely opened the doors to them in the enemy's 
favor. Just as the intended attack on the left flank proved 
an entire failure, through Huger's not coming up to time, 
so also the intended attack on the right proved nearly 
abortive through long delay. These two occurrences saved 
at least Casey from annihilation, for, possibly. Couch might 
have escaped. There was, however, another element that 
entered into the situation, which saved the Federals from 
disaster. Sunmer, on the left bank of the Chickahominy, 
the brave Sumner, no general, but one of the noblest of 
soldiers, was chafing when he heard the cannon, and like 
the war-horse, pricking up his ears at the sound of the bat- 
tle afar ofT, when he received orders to prepare to march. 
Without, however, awaiting in camp further orders, he 
marched his corps for the bridges, which still held precari- 
ously to the banks of the Chickahominy, their component 
parts grinding away on themselves and loosening in the 
stream, the approaches all flooded and mired in the sticky 
mud of the Chickahominy. Here he impatiently awaited 
final orders, but no orders came. There, across the stream, 
his brothers-in-arms, as he well knew, must be engaged in 
a desperate struggle against the greater part of the Con- 
federate army. At last patience had had its perfect work 
when, at 2.30 p.m, he was obliged to stand the strain no 
longer, orders arrived, and Sumner marched his men to- 
wards the treacherous, surging foothold of the two spans 
that united in some sort the banks of the Chickahominy, 



THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN. 97 

kept in position for only a brief space of time by the sheer 
weight of the troops, who, half-wading, passed through the 
current, horses dragging guns across, some of which set- 
tled in the quagmire of the opposite shore, mingled with 
the corduroy approaches of the bridge. One bridge failed 
after the passage of a brigade, the other still held faintly to 
its moorings, weighted with the hastening masses of men, 
and at last the gallant Second Corps stood on the Chicka- 
hominy's southern bank. The rescue by Sumner came not 
a moment too soon. When the long delayed attack on the 
right was made. General Couch, who had been holding on 
there, had finally been obliged to recede, on account of the 
threatening attitude of General G. W. Smith, under the im- 
mediate direction of Johnston, to envelope his right. Fall- 
ing back to a position about half a mile in the rear, so as 
still to be somewhat on Casey's right flank, he there made 
a stand against the enemy, anxiously expecting reinforce- 
ments from the other side of the Chickahominy by the way 
of the bridge in his rear. 

Sedgwick led Sumner's advance and soon caught sight 
of Couch in an attitude of expectancy, waiting to see in 
which direction to deploy his four regiments and his bat- 
tery, the enemy before whom he had fallen back from the 
Chickahominy not having yet reappeared on his front or 
flanks. But, as Couch caught sight of Sedgwick, he de- 
ployed his men, and one of Sedgwick's regiments was in- 
stantly sent to his right, while the remainder of Sumner's 
column still marched swiftly forward through the woods to 
take position on the field. Hardly had the first dispositions 
been made when the pursuing lines of the Confederates 
issued from the woods in front into the open. A battery, 
under Lieutenant Edward Kirby, joined on Couch's right 
the battery of Captain James Brady. Sumner's regiments 

poured out of the woods on their side and ranged them- 

7 



98 GENERAL QEOBOE GORDON MEADR 

selves in support of the batteries, on the right and left of 
Couch's flanks, the batteries thus occupying the centre of the 
whole new line. The Confederates must have been aston- 
ished at this sudden apparition. To no generalship was its 
suddenness ascribable, but simply to the prompt action of stal- 
wart old Sumner that Couch's little force was not demolished. 
A Confederate brigade, seeking to enter between Couch and 
Keyes, paused, the general line of the Confederates rapidly 
took shape, but the whole situation had changed. The 
enemy precipitated a strong attack against the Federal right- 
centre, varied by fitful charges on the batteries. Later the 
conflict concentrated itself on the right, to which position 
two pieces of artillery were shifted from the centre. The 
position of the Confederates was largely masked by the 
woods which they occupied, and from which they made re- 
peated and desperate charges on the guns. On both centre 
and right flank, however, their attacks were successfully re- 
pulsed, and then Sumner began to take the offensive. Com- 
mitting the right wing to Sedgwick, the centre to Couch, and 
himself taking command of the left, he charged with five 
regiments on the Confederate right, which had already been 
severely handled, and sent it in retreat, leaving wounded 
behind and losing many prisoners. The fighting ceased at 
nightfall, with the partial retreat, near Fair Oaks, of the 
Confederates who had attacked there, whose loss had been 
very severe. 

General McClellan did not, from first to last, appear upon 
the scene, but contented himself with directing Heintzelman 
to cross the Chickahominy and in person report to him. 
During the evening and night Hooker's and Kearny's divis- 
ions, of Heintzelman's corps, and Richardson's division, of 
Sumner's corps, were all up, and the rest of Sumner's artil- 
lery had been brought to the front at Fair Oaks. The 
remaining front of the old formation was now at Fair Oaks. 



THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN. 99 

Behind that, and considerably to the rear, were, with rein- 
forcements, the troops of Casey, which had been driven 
along the Williamsburg road. These two lines were con- 
nected by a third line. The whole formed a line roughly 
resembling the letter U. The left leg of such a misshapen 
letter would represent the formidable force at Fair Oaks, 
facing west, the right leg, the line facing east, held by Casey 
and reinforcements, and the connecting link, the troops, 
facing south, establishing communication between the two 
other lines. 

General Johnston had been wounded, and the command 
of the Confederate army had devolved upon Lee, but, evi- 
dently, the sudden change of affairs, wrought by the dis- 
ablement of Johnston, had brought doubt and confusion 
into the counsels of the enemy. Early in the morning of 
the next day, June ist, the battle recommenced, but it has 
always been uncertain which side began it. General 
McClellan's orders had been simply to hold the position. 
It is credibly supposed that a mere change in the disposition 
of some Federal troops by crossing the railroad track to 
take position slightly in advance of the Richmond and York 
River Railroad, gave the impression to the enemy that an 
attack was contemplated. The fighting lasted less than 
three hours, but while it did last it was very severe, the part 
of the line engaged being the centre and left wing. Colonel 
Samuel K. Zook's regiment, Richardson's division, with the 
brigades of General William H. French and General 
Thomas F. Meagher, belonging to it, and Hooker's divis- 
ion, with two New Jersey regiments, were very sharply en- 
gaged. Hooker in person leading General Sickles's brigade 
and the New Jersey regiments into action. Here Howard 
received the wound from which he lost his arm, retiring 
from the field when struck, after having turned over his 
command to Colonel Francis C. Barlow, with orders to hold 




lOO GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADK 

the advanced position gained. It was a musketty battle, 
scarcely any artillery was used. After the fighting was 
over, General McClellan arrived on the field, all that he 
had contributed to the battle having been his order of the 
preceding night to hold the position. It is very naturally 
called by the Confederates the battle of Seven Pines, and 
by the Federals the battle of Fair Oaks, because the Con- 
federates were victorious at Seven Pines and the Federals at 
Fair Oaks. It was effectively, however, the same battle. 

General McClellan had scarcely arrived before Yorktown 
when he received a despatch from the President notifying 
him that the force of General McDowell, on the upper Po- 
tomac, amounting to about forty thousand men, was de- 
tached from his command. This order of the President's 
had been prompted by the discovery that General McClel- 
lan had not carried out the terms of the arrangement, by 
which he was to leave Washington safe from attack by a 
garrison of at least thirty-five thousand troops. McDowell's 
corps finally advanced from Washington, and in the latter 
part of April took position at Falmouth and opposite Fred- 
ericksburg. McDowell was anxious to move from this po- 
sition towards Richmond, and endeavor to join McClellan, 
but he was not at first permitted to make the attempt. He 
was in May, however, when reinforced by General James 
Shields's division, of General N. P. Banks's corps, then in 
the Shenandoah Valley, ordered by the President to advance 
by the route towards Richmond, and to join McClellan. The 
first part of his advance left Fredericksburg on May 24. In 
concert with this movement from Fredericksburg the Presi- 
dent had caused McClellan to execute one northward. Gen- 
eral Fitz-John Porter had been sent by McClellan to Hanover 
Court House, north of Richmond, had met the enemy there, 
and had defeated him, but at the very time when the corre- 
sponding advance to the southward by McDowell had 



THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN lOI 

reached within eight miles of the Court House, it was coun- 
termanded, and the troops that had made it retired as they 
had come. Almost immediately after the advance in force 
from Fredericksburg had been authorized by the President, 
who was in person on the ground, and had agreed that it 
should take place on the 26th, and he had just returned to 
Washington, McDowell received news that General " Stone- 
wall " Jackson was marching down the Valley of the Shen- 
andoah. This had changed the whole aspect of affairs, caused 
the recall of McDowell's advance, and led to a train of con- 
sequences not to be stated in a breath. McClellan had not 
pressed the Confederates sufficiently hard at Richmond, ^ 
they had been able to spare the force marching down the Val- 
ley. This stroke accomplished several objects, of which not 
the least was the detention of McDowell's troops for the pur- 
suit of Jackson. In vain did McDowell attempt to show, 
what was the fact, that he was not in a position from which 
he could successfully intercept the retreat of Jackson ; he was 
compelled by the President's orders to make the attempt. 
As, in meteorological disturbances, one may combine with or 
may neutralize another, and even numerous conflicting or 
conspiring tendencies may set the whole atmosphere in doubt- 
ful array for days or weeks, so here, the little war-cloud rep- 
resented by the march of Jackson was destined to throw into 
confusion the whole of the Federal plans of campaign and 
continue in well-defined consequences up to the close of the 
battle of Antietam. On the 9th of June, however, while 
McDowell's force was still in pursuit of Jackson, the 
First and Second Brigades of Pennsylvania Reserves were 
sent aboard transports near Fredericksburg, and proceeded 
to join McClellan on the Peninsula. General Meade, in 
command of the Second Brigade, having been detained by 
official business at Fredericksburg, followed on the 1 2th of 
June. 



i 



I02 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

Landing after nightfall, on the nth of June, at the White 
House, on the right bank of the Pamunkey, the First and 
Second Brigades of the Reserves bivouacked only a few 
miles off, at Tunstall's Station, where they were just in time 
to oSer eflective opposition to the cavalry of General J. E. 
B. Stuart, who at this point of time was engaged in mak- 
ing the first of the great raids around the rear of an 
army, in which particular kind of feat several generab on 
both sides became distinguished,^ but none so &mous as 
Stuart. The Third Brigade of the Reserves did not reach 
the White House until the 14th of June. Upon its arrival 
the Division was, as has already been mentioned, posted on 
the extreme right, at Beaver Dam Creek, under the com- 
mand of General Fitz-John Porter. 

There is little room to doubt that, had McClellan pressed 
the enemy after the battle of Fair Oaks, he might, with his 
right in advance, across the Chickahominy, have been able 
to capture Richmond. He himself seemed to think, judg- 
ing from his representations to the President, that it would 
have been necessary to march troops on the right around, 
by the way of Bottom's Bridge, to join the left, and that that 
plan was not feasible, as indeed it was not. It is hard to 
understand, however, that an enterprising general could not 
have taken Richmond under the circumstances. Such a 
one, it would seem, could have crossed the Chickahominy 
from the right flank, with the troops already north of the 
stream. Almost the whole of the Confederate army in Rich- 
mond had attacked the left wing of McClellan, and yet it had 
failed in its intention, while two Federal corps which had 
not fired a shot were close up to Richmond on the north 
bank of the Chickahominy. The enemy had on the ground 
then only the most moderate resources in troops which had 
not been engaged. It is interesting to note at this point 
how much depends upon the mental attitude of a general 



THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN. 103 

of an anny. Whilst guarding themselves ag^nst under- 
rating an enemy, it has been the practice of military men 
of the highest stamp to exalt in the minds of their troops 
their own resources. But while from the headquarters of 
the Army of the Potomac the sombre views of its chief as 
to the enormous strength of the enemy pervaded the camps, 
and the population of Richmond was panic-stricken at the 
result of the battle of Fair Oaks, there was found no such 
weakness in Lee. Reinforcements were summoned from 
all quarters, Richmond's narrow escape became the en- 
trance upon its final safety, and the golden opportunity of 
its capture was lost. 

The battles in which the Pennsylvania Reserves are about 
to share were shaped by Jackson's march down the Shenan- 
doah Valley. Owing to that came the diversion of McDow- 
ell's command. Widespread panic pervaded the Valley of 
the Shenandoah and the country beyond as Jackson took 
his way north. Milroy was driven off with little trouble. 
The Hon. N. P. Banks, formerly Speaker of the House of 
Representatives, major-general of volunteers by the grace 
of folly, was in the latter part of May hustled out of 
Strasburg and driven through Winchester, bringing up all 
distraught at Williamsport, whence, a year before, he had 
started on a triumphal march up the Valley. Jackson had 
not minded a bit his ruling, or being out of order, or the 
ghosts of the gavel and mace of authority which he had 
once wielded in person or by proxy. He had just lifted 
him up, as Hercules once raised Antaeus, and set him down 
hard at Williamsport. After Banks's defeat the transforma- 
tion scene presented two small armies, respectively under 
Fremont and McDowell, in pursuit of the agile and wily 
Jackson, who, after various vicissitudes, devious courses, 
engagements, advances and retreats, took up the fateful 
march towards Richmond with which this account now has 



i 



I04 



GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 



to do. Heaped up consequences, in confusion worse con- 
founded, growing out of inertness at one, and activity at the 
other end of directly related hostile lines, bring that re- 
doubtable march southward until it passes the right flank 
of the devoted Pennsylvania Reserves before Richmond, 
and halts only before the fiery storm from land and water 
at Malvern Hill. 



TEE SEVJEN DATST BATTLES. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN. THE SEVEN DAYS' BATTLES. 

By the 24th of June everything was deemed ready by Gene- 
ral McCIellan for a forward movement, several bridges having 
been thrown across the Chickahominy, reinforcements hav- 
ing arrived and all other preparations having been made, and 
on the 25th the picket-line of the left wing advanced from 
the now well -fortified entrenchments resting on their right 
near Golding's Farm near the Chickahominy. The eng^e- 
ment that ensued was regarded by McCIellan as successful, 
and he telegraphed the Secretary of War that he had fully 
gained his point : General Lee denied it. This point was 
the alleged gain of ground by picket-advance, enabling him 
with advantage to attack in force on the 26th or the 27th 
of June. The next day, the 2Sth, however, came a change 
over the spirit of his dream, in which one can clearly per- 
ceive the influence of his constitutional infirmity of purpose. 
Although, on the 24th, he had been inclined to believe, upon 
the testimony of a deserter, that Jackson was approaching 
from the direction of Gordonsville, he betrayed no particular 
apprehension, but carried out the plan for the picket-advance 
of the next day, and as we have seen, contemplated supple- 
menting that by an attack in force on the following day or 
on the next day but one. But when, on the 2Sth, he learned 
through some "contrabands" (slaves manumitted by the 
fact of war), that Jackson was aj^roachtng with thirty thou- 
sand men (which ought not to have occasioned surprise, 
considering his late performances in the Shenandoah Valley), 
he telegraphed at once to the Secretary of War, " I incline 



Io6 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADK 

to think that Jackson will attack my right and rear. The 
rebel force is stated at two hundred thousand, including 
Jackson and Beauregard I regret my great inferi- 
ority in numbers, but feel that I am in no way responsible 
for it, as I have not failed to represent repeatedly the neces- 
sity of reinforcements I will do all that a general 

can do with the splendid army I have the honor to com- 
mand, and if it is destroyed by overwhelming numbers, can 
at least die with it and share its fate. But if the result of 
the action, which will probably occur to-morrow or within 
a short time, is a disaster, the responsibility cannot be 
thrown on my shoulders, it must rest where it belongs." 
The night of the 25 th Jackson was at Ashland. 

When the " Merrimac" had been destroyed, on the 1 1 th of 
May, General Huger evacuating Norfolk on the loth, it was 
open to General McClellan to do what he would have done at 
first if the "Merrimac" had not existed, — to make the James, 
instead of the Pamunkey, his base of operations. Whether 
or not he would finally have done so, but for the impending 
onslaught of Lee, is a question that cannot be positively de- 
termined, but the weight of evidence in favor of supposing 
that he would not have done so preponderates over that in 
favor of supposing that he would, unmolested, have changed 
his base. On the one hand, we have reason to believe that 
he would have done so, because the James had been recog- 
nized by him as being, but for the presence of the " Merri- 
mac," preferable to the Pamunkey for a line of communica- 
tion and depot of supplies. But, on the other hand, stands 
the fact that, when first notified of the impending attack by 
the enemy, he concluded to hold on to the Pamunkey, and 
it was only when some hours had elapsed that he concluded 
to change his base. It would, therefore, seem that if, when 
he could have made the change without pressure, he did 
not conclude to make it, and then, the pressure seeming to 



TEOE SEVEN DA TS* BATTLES. lO/ 

become greater, he concluded to make it, that he would not 
eventually have made it if by some chance the pressure 
had been suddenly removed. The fact that the change was 
determined upon only when there could be no question that 
the enemy was about to attack in force, therefore points to 
the belief that the expression, " change of base," was only 
a euphemism used to cover the word "retreat;" and this 
view of probability is confirmed by the circumstance that, 
when the change of base had been successfully crowned by 
a victory in the last battle which secured it, the command- 
ing-general, although superior in numbers and equipment 
to the enemy, and supported by the belief of some of his 
officers in their superiority to the enemy, settled quietly 
down into a purely defensive attitude, in a position which, 
from the use of the expression, " change of base," was 
rightly regarded as one properly belonging to an army act- 
ing on the offensive, not on the defensive. It seems toler- 
ably clear, therefore, in the light of the sequence of events 
just narrated, that McClellan's greatest military defect is 
admirably covered by Napoleon's characterization of the 
kind of infirmity of mind which finds in submitting to ex- 
traneous action escape from the pain of resolution required 
for self-prompted action ; inspired by the false idea that re- 
sponsibility for consequences inheres less in a negative than 
in a positive attitude of will. Speaking of generals who 
thus evade what seem to their own minds a greater, to ac- 
cept a less responsibility, he says : " They take up a position, 
make their dispositions, meditate on combinations, but there 
begins their indecision, and nothing is more difficult, and 
yet nothing more precious, than to be able to make up one's 
mind." 

General McClellan had nearly one hundred and fifteen 
thousand infantry, with admirable artillery. Lee had eighty- 
five to ninety thousand infantry, including Jackson's and 



I08 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

Other reinforcements, and his artilleiy at the time was not 
believed to be equal to that of the Federal army. Much 
of the ground was, from its nature, not adapted to cavalry ; 
there was not a large amount of that arm on either side, 
and such as there was bore a very small part in the follow- 
ing seven days' battles. 

The reader will remember that, on the south side of the 
Chickahominy, facing west, the lines of McClellan's left 
wing passed in front of Seven Pines and Fair Oaks, and 
rested finally at Golding's Farm, near the Chickahominy, 
and that his right wing, also facing west, was at Beaver 
Dam Creek, on the north side of the Chickahominy, and 
about four miles above the general line of the left wing. 
The Richmond and York River Railroad, passing over a 
bridge near Bottom's Bridge, in the rear of the Federal 
left wing, went thence past Savage's Station in the rear, and 
struck about the middle of the entrenchments of the left 
wing, whence it passed on, unavailably to the Federals, to- 
wards Richmond. In consequence, at one of the ensuing 
battles, the enemy was enabled to bring a piece of railroad- 
artillery to bear upon the Federal line of battle. 

It follows, from the description of the ground, that if 
the enemy should attack the right wing, and the intention 
of the commanding-general were to retreat to a point on 
the James southeast of him, the right wing must become 
the rearguard of the whole army, and so remain until both 
wings were concentrated on the south bank of the Chicka- 
hominy. The enemy did attack on the right, and therefore 
the Federal retreat to Malvern Hill having been previously 
decided upon, it took place as indicated. It was a well- 
planned and well-executed retreat, and but for the absence 
of chief leadership on the field might have been made per- 
fect ; but this will incidentally appear in the course of the 
following sketch of the Seven Days' Battles. 



THE SEVEN DA YS* BA TTLES. 109 

On the 26th of June the enemy began to drive in the 
pickets and forward posts along the line of Beaver Dam 
Creek. About twenty-five thousand infantry in all repre- 
sented the troops defending a stretch of the Chickahominy 
and Beaver Dam Creek, the natural and artificial strength 
of which position made that number of troops, of such good 
quality, ample for the duty assigned to them for the first day. 
The whole position of the right wing is defined by saying 
that it began on the Chickahominy below New Bridge, 
passed along parallel to the Chickahominy until it reached 
Beaver Dam Creek, and thence turned at about right-angles 
along the creek ; that part of the line runmng parallel to the 
Chickahominy from about New Bridge to the creek being held 
by Morrill's and Sykes's divisions of the Fifth Corps, and that 
along the creek by Reynolds's and Seymour's brigades of 
the Pennsylvania Reserves, attached to that corps ; Meade's 
brigade being held in reserve on the left-rear of the Beaver 
Dam Creek line. Beyond the Beaver Dam Creek line, towards 
the right front, lay the village of Mechanicsville, and beyond, 
towards the left, and much further away, showed the spires of 
Richmond. On the very front, beyond Beaver Dam Creek, 
was Meadow Bridge, and close to it a bridge of the Virginia 
Central Railroad, and not far from them Mechanicsville 
Bridge, the turnpike bridge from Richmond to Mechanics- 
ville. In consequence of the lay of the land and the po- 
sition held with reference to it by General McCall, the com- 
mander of the Pennsylvania Reserves, the brunt of the day's 
fighting would necessarily fall upon his troops on Beaver Dam 
Creek, of which Reynolds's were on the right, Seymour's on 
the left, and, as been said, Meade's in reserve, on the left-rear. 

The outposts of both cavalry and infantry were soon 
driven in. One company of infantry was for a while cut 
off from the line of Beaver Dam Creek. Another, being 
also intercepted during the first encounters of advance- 



I lO GENERAL QEOBOE QOBDON MEADR 

guards, was permanently cut ofT, and after hiding for three 
days without food in the swamp, was forced to come out 
and surrender. The resistance of the outposts had been 
strenuous enough, and, about 2.30 p.m., they were with- 
drawn behind the entrenchments east of Beaver Dam Creek. 
The skirmishers had all fallen back behind the entrench- 
ments, when, about 3 p.m., the enemy, no longer opposed 
in his advance on the west of the creek, and consisting of 
A. P. Hill's division and Colonel Thomas R. R. Cobb's so- 
called Legion, appeared before the Federal lines, while a 
large body of Jackson's infantry continued its march far away 
to the right Jackson himself, however, was present, with 
at least some of his artillery, and General McCall says, in 
his official report of the battle, that General Lee in person 
commanded. The enemy's skirmishers came rapidly for- 
ward, and under cover of artillery-fire attacked from right 
to left, the attack being particularly heavy on the right 
Both artillery and musketry-fire then concentrated from the 
right-centre to the left flank. Throughout, however, the 
Confederates were mowed down by hundreds, leaving the 
remainder no choice but to seek the refuge which they 
found in the wooded swamp below. 

The two previous attacks having failed, the enemy, later 
in the day, attempted the left, held by Seymour's brigade. 
Between four and five o'clock in the afternoon the Confeder- 
ates advanced along the mill-road leading across the creek 
at Ellerson's Mill, but the move having been anticipated by 
General McCall, the line had been reinforced there ; still 
more troops were sent to the point, and the Confederates 
made no greater progress there than they had made else- 
where. The action lasted from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., with the re- 
sult that the attacking force, although &r outnumbering the 
attacked, for the Confederate divisions were, at their full 
complement, always much larger than the Federal ones, 



THE SEVEN DAYS' BATTLES. 1 1 1 

had been frustrated at every point, and had suffered heavy 
losses. Even had the brigade of General Lawrence O'B. 
Branch, whose arrival they had hoped for, come up, there 
would not have been any change in the final result, for the 
Second Brigade of Pennsylvania Reserves, under General 
Meade, remained unengaged, and besides, there were the 
two divisions of the Fifth Corps, which had taken a 
scarcely appreciable part in the battle. It was, as has been 
indicated, imperatively necessary to hold the ground for 
the purpose of covering the retreat of the army. The 
Pennsylvania Reserves and the Fifth Corps were therefore 
temporarily occupying it with a resistance which, as we 
shall see, will gradually make it assume the appearance, as 
well as represent the reality, of a rearguard to the forces 
preparing to move towards the James. Towards the close 
of the engagement reinforcements from the Fifth Corps 
arrived, but the light was waning, and in consequence they 
scarcely participated in the closing scene. Thus ended 
the battle of Mechanicsville, with very great loss to the 
enemy, and relatively very little to the Federals. The 
Pennsylvania Reserves were engaged in cleaning their 
arms in readiness for the contest which no one doubted 
would be resumed on the following day, the 27th of June, 
when orders from Fitz-John Porter reached General McCall 
before daybreak to (all back to Gaines's Mill. To the rear, 
about three miles and a half from Beaver Dam Creek, 
another creek from the north watershed of the Chicka- 
hominy, having the same general direction as Beaver Dam 
Creek, a little west of north, runs into the Chickahominy. 
This is Powhite Creek, and on it, some distance from its 
mouth, is Gaines's Mill. The Reserves withdrew from 
Beaver Dam Creek about daylight, and retired towards the 
new position at Gaines's Mill, skirmishing with the enemy 
as they retreated in perfect order. 




1 12 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE. 

In the new position at Gaines's Mill the left of the line of 
battle to be formed was on an elevation near Watts's house, 
from which rise the ground sloped down to the westward 
towards Powhite Creek, curved around thence towards the 
north by New Cold Harbor, and thence ran to a rise on the 
extreme right, on which was a house known as McGee's. 
The line in this position formed the arc of a circle of 
which the left end of the chord rested on the summit 
of the acclivity which falls gradually into the valley of 
Powhite Creek, and the right end on a summit at the 
McGee house. Morrill's division, of the Fifth Corps, which 
was the only corps north of the Chickahominy on the 
morning of the 27th of June, was on the left flank near 
Watts's house, and Sykes's division of the same corps con- 
tinued the line to the right, troops from each division being 
held in reserve. The main line of reserves was formed of 
McCall's division, because it had been so heavily engaged 
on the previous day ; Meade's brigade being posted on the 
left and Reynolds's on the right, while Seymour's was held 
in reserve to it. General Philip St. George Cooke, with 
flfteen companies of cavalry, regular and volunteer, was in 
observation on the left flank, near the Chickahominy. The 
open space in the fall of the land towards the creek was 
commanded by artillery on the south side of the Chicka- 
hominy, as well as by artillery on the north side of it, and 
the artillery of the rear commanded the valley of the 
Chickahominy for some distance. The artillery was posted 
in the usual way, at intervals around the front. As the line 
of battle backed the Chickahominy, the bridges in the imme- 
diate rear were covered. Discussions have gone on up to 
the present day regarding the number of troops on each 
side here engaged. It will be impossible, on account of 
their voluminousness, to enter into a review of these. It 
therefore becomes necessary to give the conclusion of the 



THE SEVEN DAYS' BATTLES. II3 

writer. This is, that the Confederates at first attacked with 
about twelve thousand men, and eventually with at least 
fifty thousand, and had sixty thousand north of the Chicka- 
hominy ; and that the Federals had at first less than 
twenty-five thousand, gradually reinforced to about thirty- 
three thousand, but not effectively, because the reinforce- 
ments did not arrive until the line at Gaines's Mill had been 
broken and borne back by sheer force of numbers of the 
enemy. 

The Confederates were unusually slow in coming into 
position. It was not until noon that they appeared, and 
not until i p.m. that there was an attack by A. P. Hill, who 
was outnumbered and made no progress. Joined by Long- 
street about 2.30 P.M., the attack was violently resumed. 
When, finally, all the Confederate forces were up, they out- 
numbered the Federals, even when reinforced, nearly two 
to one. On their right was Longstreet's division, then 
Whiting's, then t^vo brigades of Jackson's, then Ewell's, 
then two other brigades of Jackson's, then A. P. Hill's 
division, and lastly, D. H. Hill's division occupied their 
left. It was impossible for the Fifth Corps and the Penn- 
sylvania Reserves finally to withstand the rush of these 
masses when General Lee ordered a general advance of his 
lines. Every available reserve was used, brought up and dis- 
tributed in any direction where the Federal line seemed to 
waver. Then was seen to advantage that divine fury in 
combat, with which Homer gifts his heroes, when General 
Meade ubiquitously coursed the field, exhorting and lead- 
ing the regiments he brought up to steady the faltering 
and failing ranks. It would, however, have been in vain 
that he and other officers strove strenuously to stem the 
adverse tide of battle, if reinforcements asked for, at what time 
is matter of dispute, had not arrived after 6 p.m. in the crisis 

of the fight. They consisted of General Henry W. Slocum's 

8 



1 14 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADR 

division, of the Sixth Corps, which arrived just as the last 
of the Pennsylvania Reserves had been used to strengthen 
the lines. General John Newton's brigade of the division 
was led by regiments to the right of General Charles Griffin, 
of Morrill's division, and to the left of Sykes's division,. 
Tyler's brigade soon following it, and relieving regiments 
out of ammunition. Finally Colonel Joseph J. Bartlett's 
brigade, of Slocum's division, was put in on the right of the 
hard-pressed Sykes. Near this part of the field Reynolds 
had stemmed the tide in a measure by his energetic succor 
of weakened points. General Fitz-John Porter in his report 
called the attention of the commanding-general to the 
meritorious conduct of various officers on the field, among 
whom he speaks of "brigade-commanders Reynolds, 
Meade, and Seymour, who successfully led their regiments 
into the thickest of the fight to support and relieve their 
exhausted commands." 

A most untoward event took place near the close of the 
engagement. General Philip St. George Cooke had been 
stationed on the left-rear in observation in the valley of the 
Chickahominy, with instructions to keep below the summit 
and act only on the bottom-land, but had, through a mis- 
understanding, charged on the enemy while emerging from 
the woods on the left, in consequence of which so destruc- 
tive a fire was poured into the cavalry that, despite the 
efforts of their riders, horses dashed through the batteries 
in their rear, spreading consternation among the gunners, 
who, thinking that they were charged by the enemy, left 
some pieces on the field. At this moment, however, as 
Fitz-John Porter narrates in his account of the battle, the 
brigades of General William H. French and General Mea- 
gher, of the Second Corps, arrived ; and although they 
were too late to join in the battle, the enemy having ceased 
his attack, they were useful in restoring confidence and as* 



THE SEVEN DA KS? BATTLES. 1 1 $ 

sisting to hold the lines while the troops retreated that night 
with all their material and supplies to the south side of the 
Chickahominy. The Federal losses on this field were very 
severe, and those of the Confederates were great One 
would never suspect, however, from General Porter's ac- 
count, that a defeat had been sustained by him. But it was 
a defeat which, considering the odds against him, was more 
honorable than many a victory. With timely and somewhat 
greater reinforcement, it might have been a victory. The 
end, however, had come with defeat. Duane's bridge and 
Woodbury's bridge had been captured by the enemy, but 
Alexander's bridge had been held, and under cover of the 
night and the front presented towards the enemy by the 
two brigades of the Second Corps, the troops which had 
been engaged marched over to the south side of the Chick- 
ahominy, and the rearguard following, the bridge was de- 
stroyed. General Reynolds, getting separated from his 
command, was, with his assistant-adjutant-general, captured 
during the retreat. 

The Fifth Corps, the Pennsylvania Reserves, and the rein- 
forcements which had come to their succor, having been safely 
withdrawn on the night of the 27th of June to the south side 
of the Chickahominy, where all the troops of the Federal 
army then were, it will now be well to consider what was do- 
ing on that side of the stream during the 27th, when the bat- 
tle of Gaines's Mill was being fought north of the river. The 
entrenched and otherwise fortified line in front of Richmond, 
on the south side of the Chickahominy, reached, as has 
been more than once mentioned, from the front of Seven 
Pines and the front of Fair Oaks, on its right, to Golding's 
Farm, on the Chickahominy. It had been held, on the 
27th, in order from left to right, by Couch's division of the 
Fourth Corps, Kearny's and Hooker's divisions of the 
Third Corps, Richardson's and Sedgwick's divisions of 



1 16 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

the Second Corps, and Smith's and Slocum's divisions of the 
Sixth Corps. Slocum's division, of the Sixth Corps, consist- 
ing of two brigades, and, later, French's and Meagher's brig- 
ades, of the Second Corps, had been withdrawn, as we have 
seen, on the 27th, to reinforce Porter. At the same time 
some other troops had been sent over from the left to the 
right of the line of the left wing to stiffen up Smith's posi- 
tion, on account of the division of Slocum having been 
withdrawn thence. On the morning of the 27th the Con- 
federates, by way of making a diversion in favor of Lee 
fighting at Gaines's Mill, had opened fire on Franklin's 
position, near Golding's, and towards dark had advanced in- 
fantry, which led to a slight engagement The movement 
was so palpably a diversion, with the sounds of desperate 
battle on the other side of the Chickahominy, that it 
should not have prevented the sending of more timely 
reinforcements to Porter. In the night, after the battle of 
Gaines's Mill, Slocum's division returned to the right and 
joined there Smith's, the other division of the Sixth Corps, 
and the brig^adcs of French and Meagher rejoined the Second 
Corps at Fair Oaks. 

On the next day, the 28th, Franklin, on the right at Gold- 
ing's, had, about mid-day, a slight infantry engagement. In 
this quite a large number of Confederate prisoners were cap- 
tured. On the same day General Keyes, of the Fourth 
Corps, occupied the positions necessary to control the cross- 
ings of White Oak Swamp, to secure the continued safe 
retreat of the army, McClellan being now ready to make 
his second move in the plan of taking up a new base on the 
James, the one on the Pamunkey having been relinquished 
by the retreat across the Chickahominy after the battle of 
Gaines's Mill. The large herd of commissary cattle was put 
in motion towards the James. Porter's corps, accompanied 
by the Pennsylvania Reserves, crossed White Oak Swamp, 



THE SEVEN DATS* BATTLES, 11/ 

and on the 29th took up positions to cover the Charles 
City Road, leading from Richmond to Long Bridge across 
the Chickahominy. Early on the 29th Sumner's corps and 
Heintzelman's corps and Smith's division in due course fol- 
lowed the previous advances towards James River, and took 
up a line with its left resting on the entrenchments in rear 
of the main line of entrenchments which had proved so 
serviceable on the day of the disaster at Seven Pines, and 
thence passed around Savage Station, on the Richmond 
and York River Railroad, while Slocum's division was held 
there in reserve. The locality and approaches about Sav- 
age's Station made it certain that it would be necessary to 
stand off the enemy at that point, although it was not, as 
will later appear, the most critical one of all in the line of 
retreat. 

The defeat at Gaines's Mill having taken place on the 
27th, and the operations on the 28th, just described, having 
proceeded on the south side of the Chickahominy, where 
Magruder had been occupying his lines with a force of 
twenty-five thousand men in face of the enormously greater 
one of McClellan, it behooves us now to inquire into what 
Lee and Jackson were doing on the 28th of June with the 
sixty thousand men they had north of the Chickahominy, 
less the heavy losses they had incurred in the battles of 
Mechanicsville and Gaines's Mill. Through a misappre- 
hension of Lee's, the day of the 28th was lost to him, a gain 
to McClellan of inestimable value. Lee very naturally im- 
agined that McClellan was retreating down the Peninsula to 
the southeast, by the way in which he had advanced to 
Richmond ; but when cavalry had scoured the country 
around the left bank of the Chickahominy to its mouth, and 
had found no sign there of infantry, of course he knew at 
once that McClellan was retreating to the James inside of 
the loop formed by the Chickahominy with reference to 



1 1 8 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE. 

the course of James River. Time having been seriously 
lost to him, it remained to recover it in a measure by super- 
lative exertions, which partially inured, through the fatigue 
of the Confederate troops, to the benefit of McClellan. 

The misty morning of the 29th of June had stood the 
Federal troops in good stead when they had fallen back 
from the entrenchments, and the five divisions took the po- 
sition already described at Savage's Station, to protect at 
that point the retreat of the army towards the James. But 
when the mist lifted, about eight o'clock, Magruder came to 
know that the line in front of him had been evacuated, and 
at once set off in hot pursuit of the retreating reai^uard. In 
the course of an hour he appeared before the front of the 
Second Corps, at Savage's Station, and without delay ad- 
vanced over the ground of Allen's Farm, from which the 
following action takes its name, his attack falling at first on 
French's brigade. Three several times he advanced, only to 
be thrice repulsed, falling back at his third experience to de- 
sist from his attempt. Sumner, who, by all accounts, always 
seemed, through the doggedness of his resolution, to wish 
to continue a fight once begun, without regard to the gen- 
eral disposition of the field, was at last induced by Franklin 
to fall back nearer to Savage's Station, and there make his 
line continuous with that of Smith's division of Franklin's 
corps. Concurrent testimony fixes the fact that, early in the 
afternoon, Heintzelman marched his corps off the field, in 
continuation of the line of retreat. The excuse he subse- 
quently gave for this action was that the troops were so 
crowded on the ground as to make it desirable that he 
should vacate it with his command. The consequences, at 
any rate, of his action were most unfortunate, not that dis- 
aster resulted from his absence, but that, with his presence, 
might have been achieved a great success. The position, 
notwithstanding his withdrawal, had to be held. The first 



THE SEVEN DA YS* BATTLES. 1 19 

aiTair with the enemy had occurred before eleven o'clock ; 
something much more serious was to be expected before 
sundown, and it came. 

About 4 P.M. the enemy again advanced. From what 
troops the Federals had on the ground they had to spare 
those necessary to fill the void left by the withdrawal of 
Heintzelman. The action began. Suddenly, the "Land 
Monitor," as the Confederates called it, a great gun mounted 
on an ironclad car, appeared, coming down the railroad 
track from Richmond, and fired its huge shot into the 
Federal lines. The troops held their own, however, and 
something more, for at the very last, about sundown, their 
lines were advanced, and Magruder was driven from the 
field. A great sense of relief was experienced, for with the 
absence of Heintzelman and the imminence of Jackson's 
appearance from the other side of the Chickahominy, the 
day had been an anxious one. By the early morning light 
of the 30th the bridge near Savage's Station, over the little 
stream on the road to White Oak Swamp Bridge, was 
destroyed by the last brigade that crossed, and the com- 
mands of Sumner and Franklin continued on the road in 
that direction. 

It is desirable now that we should resume the considera- 
tion of the position and movements of the various bodies 
of Lee's troops. On the 28th, when General Lee had been 
uncertain about McClellan's designs, he had sent Ewell's 
division down the Chickahominy after the cavalry reconnois- 
sance, and it had halted in observation at Bottom's Bridge. 
Being recalled as soon as Lee ascertained that McClellan 
was not retreating in that direction, A. P. Hill and Long- 
street crossed the Chickahominy at New Bridge, heading 
then around White Oak Swamp, on the northern side of 
which Huger, as well as Magruder, then was. Three roads 
running southeast, the Charles River, the Central, and the 




I20 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE. 

Newmarket, the last passing so near the James as to be 
called also the Shore Road, led to the flank of McClel- 
lan's army. These were pursued by Lx)ngstreet, A. P. 
Hill, Magruder, and Huger. Magruder, as we have seen, 
had, on the morning and afternoon of the 29th, attacked the 
Federal rearguard at Savage's Station. Jackson, on the 
north side of the Chickahominy, had not been able to get 
across to aid him, because he was engaged in rebuilding 
Grapevine Bridge, just below Alexander's Bridge. 

While these movements were going on among the Con- 
federates, Slocum relieved Keyes, who had been guarding 
the bridge of the crossing of White Oak Swamp, Keyes, as 
soon as relieved, taking up the line of march in retreat, and 
assuming a position on the following day below the bridge 
on Turkey Creek, which runs for a considerable distance 
around and quite close to the base of Malvern Hill. By 
five o'clock in the morning of June 30th the Federal army 
had all crossed White Oak Swamp, and the bridge there 
was at once destroyed. To General Franklin was assigned 
the duty of barring the passage of the swamp at that main 
critical point. 

There were now two very dangerous, if not seriously 
vulnerable points in the line of the retreat — ^the crossing at 
White Oak Swamp, which it would certainly not be long 
before Jackson would attack, and the position between it 
and Malvern Hill, on the stretch between Charles River 
Cross Roads and New Market Cross Roads, ufK>n which 
the Confederate troops, led by Lee in person, were pouring 
down from the direction of Richmond. The occupation of 
the crossing at White Oak Swamp protected the rear, and 
the occupation of the salient stretch of road between Charles 
City Cross Roads and New Market Cross Roads, of which 
the position of New Market Cross Roads was the most 
salient of all, protected the trains finding their way towards 



THE SEVEN DAYS' BATTLES 121 

Malvern Hill. There was, from the nature of the ground, 
great defensive strength for holding the crossing at White 
Oak Swamp ; but at Charles City Cross Roads and New 
Market Cross Roads, no more for defensive than for offen- 
sive purposes, the character of the ground there rendering 
a combat virtually one of a fair field and no favor. 

An army marching by the flank within sight, or within 
striking distance of the enemy, is in an exceedingly danger- 
ous situation, as armies so placed have often found to their 
cost. It is true that, under certain conditions of ground, 
roads, and formation of troops, the flank can be converted 
almost instantly into a line of battle. But these conditions 
did not exist here, with poor roads, and trains interspersed 
with regular and reserve artillery and supplies, with troops 
escorting them. The general position of the army and the 
trains so marching by the flank was from the crossing at 
White Oak Swamp, where General Franklin held the ground 
on the hither bank, to the western side of Malvern Hill, on 
the shore of the James, the goal for which all this move- 
ment was striving, where, if it could be reached, safety 
would lie, from the fact of the occupation of a commanding 
position, and the additional one that the Federal gunboats 
lying in the river could sweep with their guns the lower 
land occupied by an army advancing upon the position. 

It has already been mentioned, so as to include the inci- 
dent asT to time and place appropriately in the narrative, that 
the Pennsylvania Reserves had, early in the afternoon of 
the 29th, passed over White Oak Swamp, and had taken up 
a defensive position across the Charles City Road. As, 
however, we have reached the moment when we are more 
particularly concerned with the movements of the Pennsyl- 
vania Reserves than with any other body of troops, be- 
cause General Meade commanded a brigade in tliem, it is 
proper now to follow their march in detail from the begin- 




122 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE 

ning of their retreat to the time when, by a most extraor^ 
dinary chance, they found themselves, after having passed 
through as severe an ordeal of battle as that to which any 
other division of the army had been subjected, left in the 
focus of fire under which their ranks melted away to the 
point of annihilation. 

The reader will remember that, just as the James puts 
off towards the north a stream called the Chickahominy, 
which forms with the James a great loop towards the north- 
west, so also the Chickahominy puts off, towards the south, 
an interior creek, called White Oak Swamp Creek, with 
which the course of the Chickahominy forms a small loop 
between the James and the Chickahominy. It is within this 
smaller loop that the retreat towards the James had been 
taking place, the main (Ubouchi from which was by the 
crossing of White Oak Swamp Bridge. Heintzelman used 
and then destroyed the bridge above, near Brackett's Ford, 
on the morning after he had marched away from Savage's 
Station and left Sumner and Franklin there in the lurch. 
Inside of this loop made by the courses of the Chicka- 
hominy and White Oak Swamp Creek are roads running 
towards the fords, but those which the army chiefly followed 
converged on that which ran to the bridge over White Oak 
Swamp. Off to the north of Savage's Station, near the 
banks of the Chickahominy, was a place called Trent's 
Farm. Savage's Station is, as the reader will remeniber, on 
the Richmond and York River Railroad. It was from 
Trent's Farm that the Pennsylvania Reserves began their 
march in retreat. 

At Trent's Farm McClellan had had his headquarters. 
On the 28th he left them and went forward to Savage's Sta- 
tion. After the retreat from Gaines's Mill, on the night of 
the 27th of June, followed by the destruction of Alexander's 
Bridge, to prevent the pursuit of the enemy, the Fifth Corps, 



THE SEVEN DA YST BATTLES. 1 2$ 

to which the Pennsylvania Reserves were still temporarily 
attached, had bivouacked on the hills on the southern 
side of the Chickahominy, at Trent's Farm. Here the 
reserve-artillery, one hundred guns, under General Hunt, 
was committed to the custody of the Pennsylvania Re- 
serves as an escort, and not long after dark of the 
28th the Division took up the line of retreat towards the 
James. The night was rainy, and the troops plodded for- 
ward through the gloom towards Savage's Station. Between 
one and two o'clock in the morning of Sunday, the 29th, 
the head of the long column reached the Station. Here 
there was a glimpse of McClellan giving his last instructions 
before he went still further forward. The Pennsylvania Re- 
serves here had a brief rest, and later in the morning pushed 
on before the first action of that day, at Allen's Farm, had 
begun. At the Station a trying ordeal had awaited them, 
for there they had found many wounded, had learned that 
communication with the depot at the White House had 
ceased, and that most of those in the field-hospitals must 
&11 into the hands of the enemy. Such among the wounded 
whom they could make shift to aid in various ways, and patch 
up so as to brave the attempt to take to the road, they set to 
work to aid in the attempt to accompany the retreating col- 
umn. The column, guarding the reserve-artillery, set out 
again on the march, and in the early afternoon of the 29th 
crossed the bridge over White Oak Swamp, where, as was 
mentioned in due order in connection with the movements of 
other troops. General McCall deployed his force across the 
Charles River Road, one of the roads leading from Rich- 
mond down on the flank of the retreating army. Here the 
division relinquished the charge of the reserve-artillery, and 
at 5 P.M. moved forward, under orders, towards the James 
River. 

We are on the eve of reaching the fortuitous circumstance 




124 GENERAL OEOBQE OORDON MEADE. 

which brought it about that the overtaxed Pennsylvania Re- 
serves bore the brunt of a battle equal in severity to that of 
Gaines's Mill. The point for which General Fitz-John 
Porter's corps was aiming was for a highway called the 
Quaker Road, turning off in the direction of Malvern Hill. 
It is now the night of the 29th of June. Keyes has arrived 
at Malvern Hill. Heintzelman is not far off. Porter and 
McCall are moving toward New Market Cross Roads. 
Counting still from the left, the troops are strung along in a 
position to be able to make some sort of face, if need be, 
towards the roads leading from the direction of Richmond. 
Slocum is at Charles City Cross Roads. Franklin is at 
White Oak Swamp crossing, on the extreme right. The 
line is a very ragged one, and so far Providence, upon 
which Lee and Jackson invariably count for their side, has 
been decidedly adverse to them. Lee lost the whole of the 
28th by following a false direction of manoeuvre. On the 
29th Jackson could not get across the Chickahominy, be- 
cause Grapevine Bridge was gone. Then, on the 30th, 
when he had got across by rebuilding the bridge, he found 
Franklin barring the passage of White Oak Swamp, with 
the thoroughfare of the bridge in front of him destroyed. 
There is a current anecdote in regard to the late period of 
Jackson's arrival which seems incredible, that he was 
fagged out and asleep, and that his staff would not wake 
him. It is told of Frederick the Great, that he once instruc- 
ted a page to wake him early on the following morning, and 
that the page, essaying to perform his duty by the exceed- 
ingly cross king, carried out his orders despite all resist- 
ance, winning the wider-awake commendation of his sover- 
eign. So Jackson would have felt, and so his subordinates 
must have known, if there had been any question of waking 
him, and therefore we may well discard the story as apoch- 
ryphal. 



THE SEVEN DAYS' BATTLES. 12$ 

Late at night General Meade, riding in advance with an 
officer of Porter's staff and a guide, expressed his convic- 
tion that they had passed beyond the Quaker Road. Halt- 
ing his brigade, he rode forward and discovered that the 
road for which the guide had been making was a disused 
track, impracticable for the passage of troops. Reporting 
the ascertained fact to General McCall, he in turn commu- 
nicated it to General Porter, who, not giving entire credence 
to the discovery, directed McCall to bivouac where he was, 
and himself proceeded with the Fifth Corps, when, ascer- 
taining the fact which he had previously doubted, he coun- 
termarched his troops, reached the road where the whole 
column should have turned off, and continued his march 
towards Malvern Hill. 

The consequences of the order which the Pennsylvania 
Reserves had received were momentous. As they involve 
the details of the severe battle in which they were engaged 
on the morrow, it is pertinent here to ask three questions, 
rather than to interpolate them between the accounts of 
those active operations, ist. If General Porter did not re- 
gard the Pennsylvania Reserves, and he subsequently said 
that he did not, as any longer attached to the Fifth Corps, 
how could he have so thought, since they had been so 
assigned and not relieved from that duty? 2nd. If the 
Pennsylvania Reserves were no longer attached to the 
Fifth corps, how could he have directed General McCall 
to remain all night where they had paused? The next 
question concerns not Porter's, but McClellan's action. 
3rd. If only by the merest chance the Pennsylvania Re- 
serves were left where they were, with what, early in the 
morning of the 30th, could he have filled the gap left by 
their absence? As New Market Cross Roads was the 
salient and centre of the army, it will become plain that, 
but for the accidental presence there of the Pennsylvania 



1 26 GENERAL QEOBOE GORDON MEADK 

Reserves, with such aid as they had from the presence 
of troops right and left, the army would have been cut 
asunder. 

Left in this unexpected manner on the way to Malvern 
Hill, at New Market Cross Roads, General McCall took in 
the full significance of the situation, and pushed out the 
First Brigade of the Reserves about a mile towards the 
west, to act as an outpost during the night. When, in the 
early morning, the brigade was withdrawn and the Reserves 
had broken their fast. General McCall, in obedience to or- 
ders from headquarters, formed his men in line of battle on 
both sides of the New Market Road. The Second Brigade, 
commanded by General Meade, formed his right, the Third 
Brigade, commanded by General Seymour, his left wing. 
The First Brigade, commanded in the absence of General 
Reynolds, taken prisoner, by Colonel Seneca G. Simmons, 
was posted on Meade's left, in the centre, with its line some- 
what withdrawn rearward. The Third Brigade, Seymour's, 
thus formed Simmons's left, the line in which it was drawn 
up, advanced on the left flank, being nearly at right-angles to 
the line of Simmons's brigade. The disposition was faulty on 
the left, inasmuch as it assumed the occurrence of what did 
not take place, that the Confederates would make their first 
advance from the direction of the Central Road, whereas, in 
attacking the left, they diverged from that road, and coming 
through the woods, struck Seymour in flank. Lieutenant 
Alanson M. Randol's battery, Battery E, First Artillery, was 
posted on the right. Captain Cooper's and Captain Kerns' 
batteries occupied the centre, and two New York German 
batteries, of the artillery-reserve, which had reported to 
McCall only on the previous evening, occupied the left. 
Continuing the line to the right was Kearny's division, of 
the Third Corps ; while, to the left, was Hooker's division 
of the same corps. It is plain that, if divisions and bri^ 



THE SEVEN LA YS* BA TTLES. 1 2/ 

gades form short sides of a polygon around an arc repre- 
senting a line of battle, if the right or left flank of one 
fraction is thrown outside of the general line of curvature 
of the arc, it destroys the proper relation of support between 
it and the next fraction to the right or left, the two being 
then neither in continuation of the general line nor in cor- 
rect echelon with each other. This formation, however, rep- 
resented the line of battle at the salient New Market Cross 
Roads* position. Only one other point requires mention. 
General Meade's brigade was weak. A regiment of its four 
component regiments had been surrounded and partially 
captured at the battle of Gaines's Mill, only two of its com- 
panies having been able to preserve their organization and 
join their comrades there in line of battle. The force, there- 
fore, which General Meade, on the morning of the 30th, 
could dispose of, was, instead of four regiments, two regi- 
ments and two companies. 

Here, at the point of the field which was bound to be- 
come the most critical of all, because, as has been men- 
tioned, it was not only central with reference to roads, but 
not strong from the nature of the ground, the Pennsylvania 
Reserves found themselves in the very vortex of danger. 
Should the enemy fairly break through their lines, the wings 
of the army would be taken in reverse. Such was the mili- 
tary situation, with the commander-in-chief of the army far 
away. Napoleon says that battle is joined, then comes a 
mingling of the elements of strife, of which the outcome is 
unpredictable, then, as with a spark, the atmosphere clears, 
the battle is won. The spark he refers to is the flash of 
the commander's inspiration at the moment opportune to 
act with a final exercise of will. If councils of war do not 
fight, as is popularly said without due qualification, they 
certainly tend to differences of opinion, which Tomini t hinks 
are even intensified by the intelligence of their component 



# 



I2S OENERAL OSonOE QOM>ON MEADR 

parts. If this be a broad truth applying to deliberate ac- 
tion in calmness of surroundings, it must certainly also be 
true of men of the best capacity, when acting without a 
supreme head, amidst the noise and confusion of battle. 
War is, as Jom ini well observes, a passionate drama. It is 
not too much to assume that, if the commander-in-chief 
had been present on the very ground of New Market Cross 
Roads when the lines there were taken up, the faulty dispo- 
sitions would have been rectified long before the enemy 
struck them late in the day. The extreme left of the Penn- 
sylvania Reserves would not have been allowed to remain, 
as it had been posted, so entirely in the air as to invite and 
be unable to advantage to repel attack. 

It is now the morning of the 30th of June. By daylight 
the troops and trains were all over the crossing of White 
Oak Swamp, and the bridge there had been destroyed. 
There is now to be fighting all along the line from that 
point to Malvern Hill. The battle has been variously called 
the battle of Glendale, the battle of Charles City Cross 
Roads, the battle of New Market Cross Roads, and also 
the battle of Frazier's Farm and the battle of Nelson's 
Farm. Glendale is certainly the prettiest name, but as New 
Market Cross Roads was where the battle was most intense, 
that point would seem to be entitled to the bestowal of its 
name on the occurrence. 

On the right, at the crossing of White Oak Swamp, was 
Franklin, with Smith's division of the Sixth Corps, Rich- 
ardson's division of the Second Corps, two brigades of 
Sedgwick's division of that corps, and Naglee's brigade of 
the Fourth Corps. Further to the left, at Glendale, was 
Slocum's division of the Sixth Corps ; further still to the 
left, at New Market Cross Roads, was McCall's division of 
the Pennsylvania Reserves, reduced by casualties from ten 
thousand to about six thousand men. En echelon with that 



THE SEVEN DATS* BATTLES 129 

division were Kearny's and Hooker's divisions of Heintzel- 
man's corps, the Third, Kearny to the right-rear and Hooker 
\o the left-rear. On the extreme left flank were the corps 
of Keyes and Fitz-John Porter, the Fourth and the Fifth. 
The remaining brigade of the Second Corps, Bums's, the 
others being with Franklin, was drawn up to the left of 
Heintzelman. Thus, on the extreme left, was a force un- 
necessarily strong in numbers, for Malvern Hill had begun 
to be occupied by artillery, and the Fourth and Fifth Corps, 
with only slight detachments from the Fourth, were posted 
along a line not only so covered, but, from the nature of 
the ground, one upon which the vehemence of the approach- 
ing attack was not likely to fall ; and thus, in consequence, 
the centre at New Market Cross Roads was proportionately 
weak. 

The attack on the left by General Henry A. Wise and 
General Theophilus H. Holmes was so trifling as not to war- 
rant anything more than the mere mention of it. Perhaps 
they took in at a glance the strength of the position and 
the number of troops posted there. At any rate, they 
were shelled away by a few discharges from Malvern 
Hill and the gunboats, without coming into collision with 
infantry. At the other end of the line, however, the ex- 
treme right, Franklin was enabled to do great service in re- 
pulsing the attempt of Jackson to rebuild the bridge at 
White Oak Swamp crossing. Between ten and eleven 
o'clock in the morning Jackson had arrived in front of Frank- 
lin, having come by way of Savage's Station. This was the 
falsest move Lee had made if he knew the ground ; for the 
thirty thousand troops which Jackson is believed to have 
had with him were, in consequence, as good as interned for 
the day, Jackson's attempt to restore the bridge here, or 
otherwise to cross the stream, being frustrated at every turn 

by the skilled and vigorous resistance of Franklin. The 

9 



1 30 QENBRAL QEORQE OORDOK MEADK 

thunders of the artillery combat there had long resounded 
along the lines when Huger made a feeble attack on Slocum, 
which was easily repulsed with artillery. But then, about 
the same time, 3 p.m., came the serious attack on the Fed- 
eral centre which was to resolve itself into a death-grapple 
for the rest of the day. It struck the Pennsylvania Re- 
serves, drawn up as already described, Meade on the right, 
Seymour on the left, Simmons in reserve in the centre. 
The pickets had been gradually driven in for a half hour 
before that time, but the main attack did not come until 
about 3 P.M. 

Two regiments of the enemy, one on the right-centre and 
one on the left, and supported by artillery fire, advanced to 
feel the position, but were at once repulsed. The next 
attack by the enemy, Longstreet and A. P. Hill, was in 
greater force, upon the left flank of the Reserves. This 
attempt was foiled by refusing the left sufficiently to face in 
that direction, and reinforcing it by two regiments from the 
reserve under Colonel Simmons. The enemy, however, 
did not desist from his intention in that quarter, but per- 
sistently pursued it for over an hour with artillery and 
musketry-fire and advances, repelled only by the utmost 
vigilance and gallantry. In command of the troops which 
he had brought over from the Third Brigade, Colonel 
Simmons here fell mortally wounded while withstanding 
these attacks. Although the attack on the left flank was 
at this particular point of time more serious than any other 
on the field, yet the enemy was at the same moment able 
to afford enough troops to assault the centre of the Reserves, 
with the evident intention of capturing the two batteries 
there. Here too, however, his attempt to gain any decided 
advantage was frustrated ; but meanwhile the left wing gave 
way under continued and heavy pressure, some of its troops 
fighting for the rest of the day with the right of Hooker. 



THE SEVEN DA YS' BATTLES. ^ 1 3 1 

The enemy perceived at last that it would be by no ordi- 
nary measures that the lines of General McCall would be 
broken. Such a one was planned and executed with num- 
bers and determination so great as to bear all before it. A 
lai^e body of the enemy, adopting the wedge formation, 
charged at a trail-arms across the field directly upon Ran- 
dol's fine battery on the right. Here General Meade was to 
be seen as they came on, animating his men by word and 
gesture with that exalted courage which could take the 
form suited for the occasion, from the blaze of eagerness 
that rouses the common soldier to his intensest action, to 
the aspect of coolness which puts the seal on confidence of 
success. General McCall himself galloped to the spot and 
lent his own encouraging presence to the crisis which had 
arrived beyond all doubt. A few yards of space and 
seconds of time were well employed in the most murderous 
discharge which they could bring to bear on the enemy, 
and then the madding torrent of Confederate soldiers swept 
forward, the guns were captured and overturned, and 
all was in an instant inextricable confusion on the spot. 
General Meade badly wounded, his young aide, James 
Hamilton Kuhn killed, while General McCall and his offi- 
cers still desperately endeavored to hold the position where 
the artillery lay disabled on the ground, the left wing being 
mainly gone, and the centre holding on with the utmost 
difficulty for the few minutes before it too was driven back. 
The right and centre, however, despite the fact that the 
troops had been so overmatched in number and lacking in 
support, were not routed. The lines had been forced at 
last to yield after five hours of fighting to the overmastering 
force sui^ng against them. The left had been swept back 
by the torrent, but the centre was still holding its ground 
when the deluge broke on Randol's battery on the right, 
the centre abo losing Cooper's battery in the final events 



I 



132 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADR 

of the field. As for the German batteries on the left, they 
did not belong to the Division, and represented the only 
portion of the lines which did not nobly uphold its reputa- 
tion. General McCall reorganized such fragments of his 
force as he could bring readily to bear, and placed them in 
position near where the enemy had for a moment carried 
everything before him, only to recede without daring to 
attempt the withdrawal of the pieces which had cost both 
contestants so dearly. The Reserves had been decimated. 
General McCall was so destitute of staff or other officers 
that he had to advance almost alone to reconnoitre in the 
dark the situation just in front of his position, and, in 
consequence, he had not gone more than a few yards when 
he was captured by the enemy. 

The Division was now almost destitute of officers of every 
grade. Meade was wounded. Simmons was dead. McCall 
was a prisoner. Reynolds was a prisoner. Only Seymour, 
of the Third Brig^ade, remained of the chief officers. 
Whether or not the Pennsylvania Reserves fought bravely 
on that day ought to appear from the list of casualties 
which will be given in due time and place. Whether or not 
they were fought skillfully, no one ought to doubt, from 
consideration of the facts already mentioned, and from the 
names of their commanders. 

The fight of the Pennsylvania Reserves at New Market 
Cross Roads has thus far been treated of as an isolated oc- 
currence of the battle-field, a condition which at the first 
blush would seem impossible. And yet that treatment rep- 
resents as to them the most accurate statement of facts. 
In a certain loose, wholly untrue sense, the Pennsylvania 
Reserves were reinforced, because, had there not been other 
troops fighting to the right and to the left of them, the force 
which the enemy precipitated on their lines would have been 
even greater than it was. But, in the true sense, to be rein- 



THE SEVEN DAYS* BATTLES. 1 33 

forced means to be lent aid when the body of troops need- 
ing reinforcement, however badly injured, still preserves in 
the main its integrity of form and capacity of inflicting injury 
or making resistance, not when it is utterly spent by hours 
of labor and on the point of disintegration. But such 
reinforcement was not given to the Pennsylvania Reserves. 
Two hours of hard fighting passed, and no succor came. 
Their left wing was dislodged, and still no succor came. Time 
passed, and both right and centre, long hard-pressed, were 
forced to recede, the centre still clinging to the ground ; and 
even then in broken condition they held, night fallen, back 
of their former lines, the enemy so exhausted as to be 
unable to carry off the assaulted guns, glad to have a respite 
from the contest. 

Yet, despite these facts, the brilliant action of the Penn- 
sylvania Reserves on that day was for a long time unknown, 
and even apparently authentic statements made that they had 
been reinforced, and had not worthily upheld their former 
reputation. The facts are, however, as here stated, as to 
the vigor of their resistance to the powerful assaults of the 
enemy, more concentrated than elsewhere along the lines 
attacked, and as to their not having received any rein- 
forcement from the beginning to the end of the contest. It 
was once supposed that a brigade which reinforced Kearny, 
on the right-rear of the Reserves, had gone to them. 
When the contest was over, and when the Reserves had 
partly fallen back and partly been driven back, Burns's and 
Dana's brigades of Sedgwick's division, of the Second Corps, 
led by Sumner in person, were called from the right and 
advanced. The Twentieth Massachusetts Regiment was 
especially conspicuous in this movement, passing over the 
ground which had been occupied by the left of the Reserves, 
where some of their scattered troops rallied to its standard, 
doing excellent service in presenting a renewed bold front 



I 



134 GENERAL OEOBOB GORDON MEADK 

to the enemy ; but this was not reinforcement to the Re- 
serves ; it was isolated action, after an accomplished fact, the 
day after the fair. Heintzelman, who was a half mile in the 
rear, and, as one can judge from his own account, saw 
nothing, and knew but little more of the ordeal through 
which the Reserves had passed, presumed to make unfavor- 
able statements in his report to McClellan, which McClellan 
naturally adopted in his general report. 

The final all-inclusive fact is that, through neglect, the 
Pennsylvania Reserves fought from 3 p.m. until dark with- 
out having received, from the beginning to the end of the 
conflict, the slightest reinforcement ; that but for their 
strenuous resistance at the most critical point on the flank 
of the Federal army, it would have been cut in two, seeing 
that the troops, imperfectly en echelon with them on the 
right- and left-rear had as much as they could contend with, 
Kearny, on their right, receiving reinforcements ; and 
that had the Reserves not been so steadfast as they were, 
Kearny, Hooker, and the rest, to the right and left, would 
have encountered more than they could resist. The breakers 
of the attack on the flank at New Market Cross Roads beat 
fiercely along the line held by the Pennsylvania Reserves 
and Kearny, dying away gradually beyond until they 
roared afresh in the contest on the extreme right between 
Jackson and Franklin. The use to which the Pennsylvania 
Reserves were put differed from that of a forlorn hope only 
in that they resisted instead of made attack ; in essentials 
their action and their fate were the same. 

Greneral Meade had been struck simultaneously in the 
-arm and in the side, the former a trifling, the latter a danger- 
ous wound. Received at first into the field-hospital, he was 
thence transported to Haxall's Landing, on the James River, 
just below Malvern Hill. The next day he was placed on 
a hospital-transport and sent to Baltimore, where he was 



TEE SEVEN DAYS* BATTLES. 1 35 

met by his wife and one of his sons, and placed aboard one 
of the small steamers that ply between Baltimore and Phila- 
delphia by the route of the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal, 
connecting Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, arriving on the 
morning of July 4th in Philadelphia, where he was met at 
the wharf by other members of his family and by friends, 
and thence escorted home. 

The Federal lines, from the crossing of White Oak 
Swamp to Malvern Hill, remained intact when the sun went 
down on the evening of the 30th of June. As soon as 
darkness had fairly fallen over the scene, Franklin quietly 
withdrew and continued the retreat, following the rear of 
the train ahead on the road to Malvern Hill and Haxall's 
Landing, and Heintzelman and Sumner, as in order men- 
tioned, fell in behind him in the same direction. 

By early night General McClellan had learned that Frank- 
lin was retiring, and sent orders to Sumner and Heintzelman 
to follow him. General Seymour, then in command of the 
Pennsylvania Reserves, withdrew his troops about the same 
time. Later in the night McClellan joined Greneral Fitz- 
John Porter on Malvern Hill, and learned from him the 
history of the day's encounters, when he returned to 
Haxairs Landing, committing to Generals Barnard and 
A. A. Humphreys, of his staff, the duty of posting the 
troops on Malvern Hill as they might arrive. Assisted by 
other officers, these two engaged in reconnoissance of the 
ground before daylight of the following morning. 

Malvern Hill is a plateau over a mile long by three- 
quarters of a mile in width, comparatively, for that coun- 
try, free of timber, and affording favorable slopes for 
artillery-fire, and ravines for infantry positions. On the left 
of the general position which the enemy would first en- 
counter in coming from the direction in which his army lay, 
was stationed Fitz-John Porter's corps, the Fifth, with 



k. 



A 



136 GENERAL QEOBGE GORDON MEADE. 

Sykes's division on the left, and MorriU's on the right, the 
artillery distributed, and the reserve-artillery and siege-guns 
massed behind on the summit of the plateau. Next, to the 
right, came Couch's division, of General Keyes's corps, the 
Fourth. Next, Sedgwick's and Richardson's divisions, of 
Sumner's corps, the Second. Next, Smith's and Slocum's 
divisions of Franklin's corps, the Sixth. Then the re- 
maining division of Keyes' corps, the Fourth. The line 
extended in a semi-circle, the line of the James representing 
the diameter. The Pennsylvania Reserves were stationed 
back of Fitz-John Porter's corps and Couch's division, in 
reserve, a just recognition of the severity of the service 
which they had performed. The days being long at that 
season of the year, the enemy soon began to make 
his appearance from his matutinal start on the ist of July. 
But although he was visible on the ground, nothing of mo- 
ment occurred until 2 p.m., when a large body of troops 
appeared a long distance off to the right. Nothing came 
of that, however, and another long pause ensued, during 
which, doubtless, he was reconnoitering, when, about 3 
P.M., artillery opened on the left-centre, followed by a spir- 
ited infantry attack, repulsed with signal success by Morrill 
and Couch. There came then an apparent lull in the 
enemy's activity, during time probably employed in making 
dispositions of troops out of sight. At six o'clock the first 
determined attack began, the enemy concentrating a tre- 
mendous artillery-fire on Morrill and Couch. Huger, Ma- 
gruder, and D. H. Hill were the assailants in the struggle 
which now began. They pushed column after column of 
attack by brigades against the part of the line assaulted ; 
but all in vain, for the Federal troops unflinchingly main- 
tained their position, while delivering withering volleys upon 
the advancing troops. Meagher's, Caldwell's, and Sickles's 
brigades, coming up at different times, reinforced the points 



THE SEVEN DA YS* BA TTLES. 1 37 

attacked, until finally there were nine brigades in all on the 
Federal side engaged in the action. The contest was fiercely 
waged, the gunboats on the James joining in with huge 
shells sent hurtling into the recesses of the woods or into 
the open where the enemy's ranks or formation of any kind 
occupied ground of vantage for assault, until at last endur- 
ance failed, and, with ranks battered and broken, he recoiled 
from the field of the greatest disaster that he was for a long 
time to suffer, night falling, and the shells from the gun- 
boats and the artillery on the hill describing their fiery 
arcs to burst in destructive explosions over the retreating 
army. The last occurrence, that by night, has been denied 
by at least one writer on the Federal side, but there is the 
highest Confederate authority to vouch for its truth, and 
the Confederates were in a position to know. 

During the night McClellan continued his retreat to 
Harrison's Landing, why, in reason, has never been made 
apparent in view of the facts that he himself declared that 
the battle had ended with his victory. The Federal artillery 
had proved itself to be superior to the Confederate, and the 
infantry quite its equal, and many officers of high reputation 
deemed it shameful to retreat after such a success. He 
alleged, however, that there could be security of supplies 
only at Harrison's Landing, and therefore that the army 
must perforce retire to that place. Other generals thought, 
as they had thought before Jackson's arrival, and some even 
after it, that a strong push would carry the army into Rich- 
mond ; that with the gunboats on the James, it was not 
necessary to give up the position of Malvern Hill, that the 
morale of the army was concerned in its retention and making 
no further backward step. Which side was right is one of 
those questions which will remain forever unsettled. 

To Harrison's Landing, a few miles below Malvern Hill, 
the army retreated, there entrenching, and there General 



138 GENERAL GEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

McClellan seemed satisfied to remain indefinitely, unless 
prodigies could be performed in his favor in making him 
numerically far stronger than the enemy. He had, as we 
have seen, represented in a despatch to the President that 
the enemy was two hundred thousand strong. To the 
Comte de Paris he said about the same time, as the Comte 
narrates in his history of the war, that the enemy was one 
hundred and sixty thousand strong. As the enemy was 
certainly less than ninety thousand strong at the time referred 
to, while he, at the same time, was at least one hundred 
and six thousand strong, he had therefore fought in the 
Seven Days' Battles, at the lesser of his estimates, an addi- 
tion to the forces of the enemy of about seventy thousand 
men in buckram ; and if he were sincere in his despatch 
to the President, he may perhaps, in accordance with his 
greater estimate, have fought on those days about one 
hundred and ten thousand men in buckram. No general 
ever won battles on these terms. Although it is extremely 
unsafe to assert that a thing is not, to affirm a negative, as 
the phrase goes, because so many apparently incredible 
things exist, it would hardly be hazardous to say that one 
may defy all military history to show a single other case 
where a general so exaggerated on all occasions, as General 
McClellan did, the numbers of his adversaries. 

Except for a cannonading, about midnight of the 31st of 
July, upon the entrenched position of the Army of the 
Potomac, from the southern side of the James, an attack dis- 
tinguished by its ineffectiveness, and except for a slight attack 
by McClellan on Malvern Hill, to be described later, per- 
fect quiet settled down upon the army after the battle of 
Malvern Hill. The losses on the Federal side had been 
very great, but not so great as those on the Confederate 
side. The sum-total of the losses in the Army of the 
Potomac for the Seven Days' Battles were fifteen thousand 



THE SEVEN DA YS* BA TTLE& 1 39 

eight hundred and thirty-nine men. The Fifth Corps, 
together with the Pennsylvania Reserves, lost seven thou- 
sand six hundred and one, and of that number the Reserves 
three thousand one hundred and eighty-seven, the loss of 
the Pennsylvania Reserves exceeding the loss of any divis- 
ion of the army but that of the First Division of the Fifth 
Corps, which lost sixty-five men more than the Reserves. 
The Reserves, a mere division, lost more men than were 
lost by any entire corps except the Fifth, which included 
the aforesaid First Division ; and as the loss of the Penn- 
sylvania Reserves was only a Httle over four hundred at 
Mechanicsville, although that of the enemy was very great, 
the Division must have lost over two thousand five hundred 
men in the two battles of Gaines's Mill and New Market 
Cross Roads. As, at Gaines's Mill, the Division was at first 
held in reserve, the reader is in a position to judge whether 
or not it did its duty at New Market Cross Roads. 

General McClellan was now in his element of deliberate 
preparation, — reminiscent, and forecasting. Having ample 
time on his hands, in the attitude of expectancy in which 
he had placed himself, his thoughts were largely engaged 
in diplomacy, and on prospective strategy and tactics with 
large reinforcements. From this coign of vantage he wrote 
to the President, on July 7th, a long and extremely indis- 
creet letter, in which he instructed him in a matter of 
statesmanship in which the President finally proved him- 
self to the whole world a consummate master. The breach 
between the Administration and the general became too 
wide to be filled. What chief representative of a people 
ever did or possibly could keep terms with a general who 
wrote to him in a pedagogic strain? Think, too, for a 
moment, of the mental calibre of Lincoln as compared 
with that of McClellan, of his realization and recognition 
at every turn, by every possible sign, of the fact that all 



M 



I40 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADK 

power under our form of government is derived from the 
people. Think of his scrupulous exercise of authority 
within the well-defined limits of the fundamental law of the 
land, knowing with superb forecast that problems beyond 
any man's solving would work themselves out with patience 
and time, and then compare with this the narrowness of one 
who wrote to him, as his superior in moral and intellectual 
force, utterly inappreciative of the feet that a new order is 
to come from the old, and the noblest attitude is waiting, 
and who complacently indited advice to one of the greatest 
men of the age. 

On the 8th of July the President in person visited the 
army. General McClellan says, in his memoirs : " Mr. 
Lincoln visited me at Harrison's Bar. I handed him my- 
self, on board of the steamer on which he came, the letter 
of July 7, 1 862. He read it in my presence, but made no 
comments upon it, merely saying, when he had finished it, 
that he was obliged to me for it, or words to that effect. I 
do not think that he alluded further to it during his visit, or 
at any time after that." If any one with a knowledge of 
the relation between civil and military authority, and with 
appreciation of the situation at that time, will dispassionately 
read this letter, which in manuscript must have occupied 
several pages, he will not be surprised at Mr. Lincoln's 
silence. Mr. Lincoln was a man of the keenest sense of 
humor, allowance to whose play sometimes lightened as 
heavy a burden as man ever bore ; and he was also a thinker 
and writer of g^eat force, who was soon to produce a few 
effortless lines that will be immortal. He had had presented 
to him by his chief commanding-general, not a mere frag- 
ment of composition, in taste similar to specimens previously 
received from the same source, but pages of implied instruc- 
tions, evidencing a benighted state of mind. He was withal 
a man full of pity, and he may well have murmured to him- 



THE SEVEN DA YS* BATTLES. I4I 

self, "and common is the commonplace, and vacant chaff 
well meant for grain." He said, however, nothing, but that 
he thanked the general, and did not allude further to the 
subject Nothing could have been more generous, but evi- 
dently the general did not appreciate it, because he could 
not, from his point of view, realize the gravity of the offence, 
or that he had committed any, regarding himself as playing 
the part of guide, philosopher, and friend. 

On the 25th of July General Halleck, who had been 
created general-in-chief of all the armies of the United 
States, and had established his headquarters in Washing- 
ton, also visited the army. A council of commanders 
was called, and the general opinion expressed by it 
iavored the withdrawal of the army from the Peninsula. 
On the 30th of July General Halleck sent to General 
McClellan an order to press the enemy in the direction of 
Richmond, so as to ascertain his movements. It becomes 
very evident from McClellan's papers of this time, that he 
apprehended the withdrawal of the army from the Peninsula, 
and even his own supersedure. In pursuance of Halleck's 
instructions, Hooker, by way of clearing the passage 
towards Richmond, was ordered to dislodge some of the 
enemy from Malvern Hill, which task he accomplished. 
McClellan also occupied Coggins* Point, on the south 
side of the James opposite Harrison's Landing, for the 
purpose of preventing any future attempt, like that on 
the night of the 31st of July, to bombard the camps. He 
seemed to cling to the hope that something might occur to 
change the suspected intention of withdrawing the army 
from the Peninsula, but with very serious doubt if anything 
would avail to change it. His anxiety to remain is very 
conspicuously shown in a despatch of August 5th to his 
chief-of-staff. General Marcy, whom he informs of the 
success of Hooker, requesting him to send a despatch to 



142 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADK 

Halleck, saying how he (McClellan) hated to give up the 
position, and that if he could have reinforcements he would 
be successful. 

The die, however, was cast, for on the 4th of August Mc- 
Clellan received an order from Halleck, dated the 30th of 
July, to withdraw the army to Acquia Creek. It will be 
impossible to enter here into a discussion of the cross-pur- 
poses exhibited by the ensuing correspondence between 
Halleck and McClellan. It would seem, however, that a 
good general idea of the greater or less expedition that 
followed the order to withdraw may be condensed into the 
statement that, whereas General Halleck did General 
McClellan wrong in construing the expression in his de- 
spatch of the 1 6th, " movement has commenced by land and 
water," as if it meant that the movement had just begun, 
instead of, as was the fact, that it was entering on its final 
stage, yet that, on the other hand. General McClellan was 
not so expeditious at the very first as he might have been, 
for no man is, who, while formally obeying an order, tries 
to have it rescinded, as happened in this case. 

The campaign had been badly conducted from beginning 
to end. A base of operations does not mean merely a depot 
of supplies. A base of operations means a line, or points 
of support on a line, to the rear of the front of operations, 
to cover the security of supply, including the contingency 
of the enforced retreat of an army. When an army bases 
itself on a river, it must not only have bridges, but either 
tetes de pontf or strong forts, preferably astride the river. 
The campaign included at the beginning a false position, 
because the force of McDowell at Fredericksburg was sup- 
posed to be there to join eventually the force of McClellan's 
right wing reaching out to it from the north side of the 
Chickahominy. Therefore McClellan's force had to be partly 
north of the Chickahominy. But while accepting this sup- 



rfi^OM 



THE SEVEN DA YS* BATTLES, 143 

posititiously temporary drawback, it did not follow that when 
the army of McClellan was placed astride of the Chicka- 
hominy, the larger body of troops should have been placed 
north of that stream, in the stronger position, the imme- 
diate consequence of which was the disaster at Seven Pines. 
The army should, moreover, according to the best ancient 
and modem practice in war, have been supported as to its 
base, without which a base is only a name, by the completion 
of the HU de pont at Bottom's Bridge, and by tetes de pant 
on the upper Chickahominy, and besides, the line from the 
White House to Bottom's Bridge, beginning at the White 
House, should have been strongly held by detached works. 
Taking things as they actually were, with the vicious 
first dispositions, the capture of Richmond should have been 
attempted while the battle of Fair Oaks was proceeding. 
Again, McClellan should either have caused the whole force 
north of the Chickahominy to retire south of it during the 
night of the 26th of June, destroying the bridges behind it, 
and thus have avoided fighting the battle of Gaines's Mill, 
or else he should, on the 27th, have heavily supported the 
troops fighting that battle. General McClellan should have 
been present in person near New Market Cross Roads, to 
see to the disposition of the troops, because it was the most 
critical point of the field. A general-in-chief should not 
leave so much as he did to his lieutenants, who, however 
competent, represent so many different minds and views and 
wills, and successful generalship, however much it may 
draw from accessories, is conditioned, as a finality, upon the 
action of one supreme thought and will. That he was not 
permitted to advance on Richmond again, when he so 
earnestly requested it, is ground for great rejoicing, for ex- 
perience points to the probability that the Federal and Con- 
federate sides would in very deed have " swapped queens." 
Whether or not, in consideration of the loss of morale by 



S 



144 GENERAL OEORGE GORDON MEADE 

the Federal troops, and its corresponding gain by the Con- 
federates, an advance on Richmond just after the battle of 
Malvern Hill would have been successful, must remain 
somewhat problematical. The relative gain and loss of 
such imponderable matter as tnorale remains unknown, save 
by the test of actual trial. 

The enemy, on his part, made three grievous mistakes, to 
his cost, one in assaulting the position at Beaver Dam Creek, 
when it needed only to be turned, as it was the next day ; 
another in Jackson's action leading to his losing so much 
time as he did in rebuilding a bridge across the Chick- 
ahominy, when it ought to have been known that, even with 
that accomplished, he would not be able to force the cross- 
ing at White Oak Swamp ; and finally, the mistake of at- 
tacking Malvern Hill from a direction in which it was im- 
pregnable, as held by troops supported by the fire of the 
gunboats in the James. 

Whilst General McClellan's army was in process of re- 
moval from the Peninsula, General Meade, having recovered 
from the serious wound which he had received at New Mar- 
ket Cross Roads, took steamer from Baltimore for Harrison's 
Landing. There he found everything in confusion incident 
to the transportation of the army to the Potomac. Generals 
McCall and Reynolds had by exchange been released from 
the Richmond prison, but had not yet been able to rejoin the 
army, in consequence of which he found General Seymour 
in command of the Division of the Pennsylvania Reserves, 
about taking ship with it for Falmouth, near Fredericksburg. 
It started on the night of the 1 5th of August. General 
Meade, therefore, finding no immediate need existing for 
his presence, went to Washington, via Baltimore, remaining 
there for a day or two, when, hearing of the arrival of the 
Division at Falmouth, he proceeded there by rail, and thus 
rejoined the army. 



V 



V 



THE ARMY OF VIBOINIA. I45 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE ARMY OF VIRGINIA. 

It was on June 26, 1862, as will be remembered, that 
the action at Mechanicsville, on the Peninsula, was brought 
about by Jackson's and other forces of Lee's turning the 
right flank of the Army of the Potomac, an event fol- 
lowed at once by the retreat of the army during a period 
known as the Seven Days' Battles, resulting in a change 
of base from the Pamunkey to the James, where the 
army, in its final stand at Malvern Hill, reinforced by the 
fire of the Federal gunboats on the James, repulsed the 
enemy, and then took refuge at Harrison's Landing, where 
it was insured from further molestation by the continued 
presence of gunboats, by entrenchments, and by the occu- 
pation of commanding positions for artillery in the vicinity. 
By a coincidence, it was on the very same day that General 
Pope was appointed to the command near Washington of 
the previously disunited forces of that vicinity, which had 
been under McDowell, Fremont, and Banks, among which 
Jackson had just made such havoc, and which, when con- 
centrated, were to be known as the Army of Virginia, Fre- 
mont resigning because he would not serve under his 
junior in rank. General Pope, and Sigel taking command of 
his corps. 

It will therefore be perceived, when we remember that 

the first day's serious contest of the forces of the Army of 

Virginia, the battle of Cedar Mountain, which was a direct 

consequence of McClellan's retreat on the Peninsula, did 

10 



146 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE 

not take place until August 9th, that, after making all due 
allowance for uncertainty as to whether the Army of the 
Potomac should be removed from the Peninsula, or should 
be reinforced and retained there, the postponement of the 
decision until July 30th entailed great risks to the forces 
under General Pope's command. Had the Army of the 
Potomac lain between Richmond and Washington, or had 
it been engaged in threatening Richmond, the case would 
have been different ; but where it was, and inert as it was, at 
Harrison's Landing, it was, by the &ct of the occupation of 
that position, and by that attitude, temporarily neutralized. 
Except for one diversion at the last moment before its re- 
moval from the Peninsula, when it made a partial advance 
to Malvern Hill, nothing was done to relieve the stress on 
Pope, whereas, so superior was the Confederate to the Fed- 
eral initiative, that, secure of McClellan's inactivity, Jackson 
with his corps was, on the 9th of August, advancing south 
of Culpeper Court House in the movement which was to 
culminate in the battle of Cedar Mountain. Nor did this 
extraordinary inactivity on the part of the Federal authori- 
ties in Washington, who were equally remiss with McClel- 
lan, cease even when at last the troops of the Army of the 
Potomac were ordered away from the Peninsula en masse, 
and some of them had reached Acquia Creek and Alexan- 
dria, as the official correspondence ensuing between General 
Halleck and General McClellan, with relation to pushing 
forward troops, fully exemplifies. First of all, McClellan 
had not been sufficiently zealous as to the removal of the 
army. Then Halleck's thoughts, upon the arrival of 
McClellan, were so bent on the defence of Washington, as 
if succor to Pope had nothing to do with its safety, that he 
actually permitted transportation to be devoted to routine 
work, and cavalry, of which there was sore need for recon- 
noissance towards the front, to be sent scouting on the 



THE ARMY OF VIRGINIA. 147 

upper Potomac. When emergency pointed to the front, he 
did not attempt heartily to push there two corps which, even 
without artillery, might have saved the day at the second 
battle of Bull Run, hampering McClellan with despatches 
which tied his hands for effective action. Transportation of 
the regular sort he certainly could have supplied from Wash- 
ington, or have extemporized it. On his side, McClellan 
had been instructed, while on the Peninsula, to make ample 
provision of ammunition for the landing troops, and had 
even replied that he could supply Pope's whole army, yet, 
when the time arrived for final action, he answered Halleck's 
urgency for it by saying that he did not know the calibres 
of Pope's guns. Halleck, although knowing the confusion 
of affairs at Alexandria, instead of appearing on the scene, 
only a few miles from Washington, alleged the pressure of 
office duties by way of apology for not going. Halleck 
was, therefore, guilty of the action which imposes responsi- 
bility without conferring corresponding powers, embarrass- 
ing McClellan in every way by neglect of promptness of 
reply and the contradictoriness of his instructions. With- 
out danger to the Army of the Potomac, the Army of Vir- 
ginia might have been reinforced more largely than it was. 
At the last moment, when affairs for the Army of Virginia 
were at their most critical point, Halleck was found wholly 
wanting in the emergency, proving conclusively that he had 
not that order of executive ability which is fitted for great 
command. Well might von Moltke have remarked, if this 
case of military management had come under his notice, as 
he is reported to have said, under a misapprehension of the 
whole tenor of the war, that he took no interest in its 
military operations, as they were merely the conflicts of 
armed mobs. 

Of all this General Pope had a right to complain, but he 
had no right to complain of the want of confidence which 



# 



148 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE. 

pervaded the minds of his subordinates, for even if there 
had been no prepossession against him, he began his 
assumption of the command of the Army of Virginia with 
declarations which of themselves were sufficient to create it, 
by most unmilitary addresses to the army, and kept it alive 
by his unskilfulness in the field. It was not the mere in- 
vidious comparisons that he made in his first address to the 
army, between the armies of the East and the West, that 
destroyed confidence in him ; it was the fact that a general 
presenting himself to his army professed to scorn some of 
the most important military practices, maintenance of strong 
positions and lines of retreat and bases of supplies, recog- 
nized by the greatest captains of ancient and modem times. 
He little realized, although he should have done so, that he 
was to meet veterans who were the flower of the Confed- 
erate troops, and under extraordinary leadership, that he 
was to have an experience to which, as Sancho Panza would 
have said, all he had seen at Island No. 10 on the Missis- 
sippi, where he had signalized himself, was tarts and cheese- 
cakes. 

In the first part of his operations General Pope made 
some excellent dispositions of his troops and excellent 
movements. For certain mistakes at the beginning he was 
not responsible. It was not by his wish, but by General 
Halleck's orders, that General Rufus King's division of 
McDoweirs corps was kept at Fredericksburg for the in- 
adequate purpose of guarding, in such an emergency as 
that presented by the advance of Lee on Pope, the com- 
munication through Falmouth with Acquia Creek, and 
thus protecting Government property. Banks was ordered 
from the Shenandoah Valley, and was stationed at Little 
Washington, while Sigel was also ordered from the Valley, 
and occupied Sperryville to the left of Banks, and General 
James B. Rickett's division, of McDowell's corps, was ad- 



THE ARMY OF VIBOINIA. I49 

vanced from Manassas Junction to Waterloo Bridge at 
the Rappahannock. McDowell, as is thus seen, was 
already on the ground with two of his divisions, Franklin's 
being still with McClellan. Pope's force was near the 
Rappahannock, with its right near the Blue Ridge, and its 
communications with Washington open, defended at the 
Rappahannock in his rear. It was from these positions, 
after making certain reorganizations preliminary to the 
anticipated movements of the army, which at first was to be 
directed on Richmond, when the unwelcome tidings of 
McClellan's retreat came even before it had assembled, that 
Pope made his first movements to check the advance of 
Jackson. He had entered upon active operations by trying 
to break up the Virginia Central Railroad and the Orange 
and Alexandria Railroad. It was through no fault of his 
that, while the first attempt under King from Fredericks- 
burg succeeded, the latter failed, for General John P. 
Hatch, in charge of it, reached his destination only to find 
the ground held by the enemy in force, because he had 
not, as directed, employed only cavalry for the expedition. 
Hatch had found on the ground the vanguard of the Con- 
federate army, consisting of two divisions, under Generals 
R. S. Ewell and C. S. Winder, Jackson in person com- 
manding, who, just before the end of July, was joined by 
the third division of his corps under General A. P. Hill. 

The campaign was fairly opened now by a renewed, and 
this time strong demonstration on Gordonsville, and on the 
7th of August Jackson began the general advance which 
led to the battle of Cedar Mountain, not as contemplated 
by either side, but as it took place. Whether General 
Pope did or did not intend the action to take place through 
Banks attacking Jackson in his advance can never be 
known from that completeness of evidence which con- 
stitutes proof positive to most persons. The only instruc- 



ISO GENERAL GEOBQE GORDON MEADK 

tions in writing extant in the matter are ones which purport 
to be a statement of Pope's intentions, made at Banks's 
request by Pope's inspector-general, who dictated them to 
Banks's chief-of-stafT. But it is very evident that this fil- 
tering process may have introduced error. Pope might 
have said one thing, his emissary might have modified it, 
and the transcriber might have modified that version again. 
If two changes are thus shown to be possible, assuming 
that Pope himself did not make a mistake as to what he 
directed, a certain one of those two is the more likely to 
have been the one actually made. Experience shows that 
a person making a verbal repetition is more likely to make 
a mistake than he is who merely transcribes what he believes 
to be dictated. Therefore, so far as circumstantial evidence 
goes, one must believe that Banks received an order in the 
words of the paper which was eventually produced in his 
justification. This paper, dictated by Colonel Marshall to 
Banks's chief-of-stafT, dated 9.45 a.m., August 9, 1862, 
reads : '* General Banks to move to the front immediately, 
assume command of the forces in the front, deploy his skir- 
mishers if the enemy advances, and attack him immediately 
as he approaches, and be reinforced from here." 

General Pope denied that he had sent such an order, 
which, if Banks received such a one, proves how strong it 
is in his favor. It has just been said that that was the 
written order which Banks did receive. It has been con- 
tended that the words, " deploy his skirmishers if the enemy 
advances, and attack him immediately as he approaches," 
only mean, "attack him with the skirmishers." Pope, how- 
ever, as proved by his denial of sending such an order, ad- 
mitted by implication that that was not the meaning of the 
order produced, as he read in the light of military usage. 
Although, in modem practice, skirmishers are sometimes 
pushed forward in tolerably dense array, their further ad- 



THE ARMY OF raGlSIA. 151 

vance is not generally represented by what is known as 
attack betn^-een two forces. As the wording of the sup- 
posititious order stands, it clearly means that skinnishers 
are to be pushed forward, and that mo\*enient follo\^*ed in due 
course by line of battle. Military construction of the words 
pro\'es that the attack, as specified by them, \%*as to be by 
the main force of Banks. The dictated order, being what 
it was, however derived, plainly instructed him to attack the 
enemy with his whole force, instead of merely tr>'ing to hold 
the position which had been assigned to him. Unfortu- 
nately, however, for the justification of Banks through the 
evidence on the face of the written order mentioned, it is 
proved from other evidence, that General Pope did not 
intend Banks to attack with his small force, and that if 
General Pope really did use the expression imputed to 
him, Banks must have nevertheless known, from other in- 
structions and from a variety of circumstances, that he was 
violating a previous thorough understanding as to action. 
But, apparently carried away by the idea that he might unex- 
pectedly achieve a great victory, which would have the effect 
of obliterating remembrance of his miserable conduct of op- 
erations in the Shenandoah Valley, where he had had ample 
time to retire to advantage before being struck by Jackson, 
and would crown him with the laurels which he had so 
vainly longed for, amidst which anticipated glory all fear of 
charge of disobedience of orders disappeared, Banks pre- 
cipitated his heroic little force into an unequal conflict with 
thrice their number, led by one of the first soldiers of the 
age. Without entering into an elaborate discussion of the 
evidence to substantiate the view here expressed, a few facts 
are conclusive as to the foundation which it has in fact. 
Banks was put into a strong position, selected long in ad- 
vance, which he recognized at the moment when he was 
placed there as the position which he was to maintain. Yet 




^ ^ 



■ \ 



* • 



V 






1« 



{•• 



,* 



THE ARMY OF VIBQINIA. I45 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE ARMY OF VIRGINIA. 

It was on June 26, 1862, as will be remembered, that 
the action at Mechanicsville, on the Peninsula, was brought 
about by Jackson's and other forces of Lee's turning the 
right flank of the Army of the Potomac, an event fol- 
lowed at once by the retreat of the army during a period 
known as the Seven Days' Battles, resulting in a change 
of base from the Pamunkey to the James, where the 
army, in its final stand at Malvern Hill, reinforced by the 
fire of the Federal gunboats on the James, repulsed the 
enemy, and then took refuge at Harrison's Landing, where 
it was insured from further molestation by the continued 
presence of gunboats, by entrenchments, and by the occu- 
pation of commanding positions for artillery in the vicinity. 
By a coincidence, it was on the very same day that General 
Pope was appointed to the command near Washington of 
the previously disunited forces of that vicinity, which had 
been under McDowell, Fremont, and Banks, among which 
Jackson had just made such havoc, and which, when con- 
centrated, were to be known as the Army of Virginia, Fre- 
mont resigning because he would not serve under his 
junior in rank. General Pope, and Sigel taking command of 
his corps. 

It will therefore be perceived, when we remember that 

the first day's serious contest of the forces of the Army of 

Virginia, the battle of Cedar Mountain, which was a direct 

consequence of McClellan's retreat on the Peninsula, did 

10 



146 GENERAL OEOBQE GORDON MEADE. 

not take place until August 9th, that, after making all due 
allowance for uncertainty as to whether the Army of the 
Potomac should be removed from the Peninsula, or should 
be reinforced and retained there, the postponement of the 
decision until July 30th entailed great risks to the forces 
under General Pope's command. Had the Army of the 
Potomac lain between Richmond and Washington, or had 
it been engaged in threatening Richmond, the case would 
have been different ; but where it was, and inert as it was, at 
Harrison's Landing, it was, by the fact of the occupation of 
that position, and by that attitude, temporarily neutralized. 
Except for one diversion at the last moment before its re- 
moval from the Peninsula, when it made a partial advance 
to Malvern Hill, nothing was done to relieve the stress on 
Pope, whereas, so superior was the Confederate to the Fed- 
eral initiative, that, secure of McClellan's inactivity, Jackson 
with his corps was, on the 9th of August, advancing south 
of Culpeper Court House in the movement which was to 
culminate in the battle of Cedar Mountain. Nor did this 
extraordinary inactivity on the part of the Federal authori- 
ties in Washington, who were equally remiss with McClel- 
lan, cease even when at last the troops of the Army of the 
Potomac were ordered away from the Peninsula en masse, 
and some of them had reached Acquia Creek and Alexan- 
dria, as the official correspondence ensuing between General 
Halleck and General McClellan, with relation to pushing 
forward troops, fully exemplifies. First of all, McClellan 
had not been sufficiently zealous as to the removal of the 
army. Then Halleck's thoughts, upon the arrival of 
McClellan, were so bent on the defence of Washington, as 
if succor to Pope had nothing to do with its safety, that he 
actually permitted transportation to be devoted to routine 
work, and cavalry, of which there was sore need for recon- 
noissance towards the front, to be sent scouting on the 



THE ARMY OF VJBGINIA. 147 

upper Potomac. When emergency pointed to the front, he 
did not attempt heartily to push there two corps which, even 
without artillery, might have saved the day at the second 
battle of Bull Run, hampering McCIellan with despatches 
which tied his hands for effective action. Transportation of 
the regular sort he certainly could have supplied from Wash- 
ington, or have extemporized it. On his side, McCIellan 
had been instructed, while on the Peninsula, to make ample 
provision of ammunition for the landing troops, and had 
even replied that he could supply Pope's whole army, yet, 
when the time arrived for final action, he answered Halleck's 
urgency for it by saying that he did not know the calibres 
of Pope's guns. Halleck, although knowing the confusion 
of affairs at Alexandria, instead of appearing on the scene, 
only a few miles from Washington, alleged the pressure of 
office duties by way of apology for not going. Halleck 
was, therefore, guilty of the action which imposes responsi- 
bility without conferring corresponding powers, embarrass- 
ing McCIellan in every way by neglect of promptness of 
reply and the contradictoriness of his instructions. With- 
out danger to the Army of the Potomac, the Army of Vir- 
ginia might have been reinforced more largely than it was. 
At the last moment, when affairs for the Army of Virginia 
were at their most critical point, Halleck was found wholly 
wanting in the emergency, proving conclusively that he had 
not that order of executive ability which is fitted for great 
command. Well might von Moltke have remarked, if this 
case of military management had come under his notice, as 
he is reported to have said, under a misapprehension of the 
whole tenor of the war, that he took no interest in its 
military operations, as they were merely the conflicts of 
armed mobs. 

Of all this General Pope had a right to complain, but he 
had no right to complain of the want of confidence which 



148 GENERAL OEOBGE GORDON MEADE. 

pervaded the minds of his subordinates, for even if there 
had been no prepossession against him, he began his 
assumption of the command of the Army of Virginia with 
declarations which of themselves were sufficient to create it, 
by most unmilitary addresses to the army, and kept it alive 
by his unskilfulness in the field. It was not the mere in- 
vidious comparisons that he made in his first address to the 
army, between the armies of the East and the West, that 
destroyed confidence in him ; it was the fact that a general 
presenting himself to his army professed to scorn some of 
the most important military practices, maintenance of strong 
positions and lines of retreat and bases of supplies, recog- 
nized by the greatest captains of ancient and modem times. 
He little realized, although he should have done so, that he 
was to meet veterans who were the flower of the Confed- 
erate troops, and under extraordinary leadership, that he 
was to have an experience to which, as Sancho Panza would 
have said, all he had seen at Island No. 10 on the Missis- 
sippi, where he had signalized himself, was tarts and cheese- 
cakes. 

In the first part of his operations General Pope made 
some excellent dispositions of his troops and excellent 
movements. For certain mistakes at the beginning he was 
not responsible. It was not by his wish, but by General 
Halleck's orders, that General Rufus King's division of 
McDowell's corps was kept at Fredericksburg for the in- 
adequate purpose of guarding, in such an emergency as 
that presented by the advance of Lee on Pope, the com- 
munication through Falmouth with Acquia Creek, and 
thus protecting Government property. Banks was ordered 
from the Shenandoah Valley, and was stationed at Little 
Washington, while Sigel was also ordered from the Valley, 
and occupied Sperryville to the left of Banks, and General 
James B. Rickett's division, of McDowell's corps, was ad- 



THE ARMY OF VIBQINL/L. 149 

vanced from Manassas Junction to Waterloo Bridge at 
the Rappahannock. McDowell, as is thus seen, was 
already on the ground with two of his divisions, Franklin's 
being still with McClellan. Pope's force was near the 
Rappahannock, with its right near the Blue Ridge, and its 
communications with Washington open, defended at the 
Rappahannock in his rear. It was from these positions, 
after making certain reorganizations preliminary to the 
anticipated movements of the army, which at first was to be 
directed on Richmond, when the unwelcome tidings of 
McClellan's retreat came even before it had assembled, that 
Pope made his first movements to check the advance of 
Jackson. He had entered upon active operations by trying 
to break up the Virginia Central Railroad and the Orange 
and Alexandria Railroad. It was through no fault of his 
that, while the first attempt under King from Fredericks- 
burg succeeded, the latter failed, for General John P. 
Hatch, in charge of it, reached his destination only to find 
the ground held by the enemy in force, because he had 
not, as directed, employed only cavalry for the expedition. 
Hatch had found on the ground the vanguard of the Con- 
federate army, consisting of two divisions, under Generals 
R. S. Ewell and C. S. Winder, Jackson in person com- 
manding, who, just before the end of July, was joined by 
the third division of his corps under General A. P. Hill. 

The campaign was fairly opened now by a renewed, and 
this time strong demonstration on Gordonsville, and on the 
7th of August Jackson began the general advance which 
led to the battle of Cedar Mountain, not as contemplated 
by either side, but as it took place. Whether General 
Pope did or did not intend the action to take place through 
Banks attacking Jackson in his advance can never be 
known from that completeness of evidence which con- 
stitutes proof positive to most persons. The only instruc- 



1 50 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADK 

tions in writing extant in the matter are ones which purport 
to be a statement of Pope's intentions, made at Banks's 
request by Pope's inspector-general, who dictated them to 
Banks's chief-of-staff. But it is very evident that this fil- 
tering process may have introduced error. Pope might 
have said one thing, his emissary might have modified it, 
and the transcriber might have modified that version again. 
If two changes are thus shown to be possible, assuming 
that Pope himself did not make a mistake as to what he 
directed, a certain one of those two is the more likely to 
have been the one actually made. Experience shows that 
a person making a verbal repetition is more likely to make 
a mistake than he is who merely transcribes what he believes 
to be dictated. Therefore, so far as circumstantial evidence 
goes, one must believe that Banks received an order in the 
words of the paper which was eventually produced in his 
justification. This paper, dictated by Colonel Marshall to 
Banks's chief-of-staflT, dated 9.45 a.m., August 9, 1862, 
reads : " General Banks to move to the front immediately, 
assume command of the forces in the front, deploy his skir- 
mishers if the enemy advances, and attack him immediately 
as he approaches, and be reinforced from here." 

General Pope denied that he had sent such an order, 
which, if Banks received such a one, proves how strong it 
is in his favor. It has just been said that that was the 
written order which Banks did receive. It has been con- 
tended that the words, " deploy his skirmishers if the enemy 
advances, and attack him immediately as he approaches," 
only mean, "attack him with the skirmishers." Pope, how- 
ever, as proved by his denial of sending such an order, ad- 
mitted by implication that that was not the meaning of the 
order produced, as he read in the light of military usage. 
Although, in modem practice, skirmishers are sometimes 
pushed forward in tolerably dense array, their further ad- 



THE ARMY OF VIRGINIA. 1 5 1 

vance is not generally represented by what is known as 
attack between two forces. As the wording of the sup- 
posititious order stands, it clearly means that skirmishers 
are to be pushed forward, and that movement followed in due 
course by line of battle. Military construction of the words 
proves that the attack, as specified by them, was to be by 
the main force of Banks. The dictated order, being what 
it was, however derived, plainly instructed him to attack the 
enemy with his whole force, instead of merely trying to hold 
the position which had been assigned to him. Unfortu- 
nately, however, for the justification of Banks through the 
evidence on the face of the written order mentioned, it is 
proved from other evidence, that General Pope did not 
intend Banks to attack with his small force, and that if 
General Pope really did use the expression imputed to 
him. Banks must have nevertheless known, from other in- 
structions and from a variety of circumstances, that he was 
violating a previous thorough understanding as to action. 
But, apparently carried away by the idea that he might unex- 
pectedly achieve a great victory, which would have the effect 
of obliterating remembrance of his miserable conduct of op- 
erations in the Shenandoah Valley, where he had had ample 
time to retire to advantage before being struck by Jackson, 
and would crown him with the laurels which he had so 
vainly longed for, amidst which anticipated glory all fear of 
charge of disobedience of orders disappeared. Banks pre- 
cipitated his heroic little force into an unequal conflict with 
thrice their number, led by one of the first soldiers of the 
age. Without entering into an elaborate discussion of the 
evidence to substantiate the view here expressed, a few facts 
are conclusive as to the foundation which it has in fact 
Banks was put into a strong position, selected long in ad- 
vance, which he recognized at the moment when he was 
placed there as the position which he was to maintain. Yet 



1 5 2 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

he deliberately made an advance which relinquished the 
whole of it, except where General George H. Gordon had 
been on the right, in reserve, and finally he ordered desul- 
tory charges, without even full knowledge of his own side 
of the field or the positions of his troops, and he did not 
send for reinforcements when he saw that battle had 
seriously begun, although he knew, for he had passed them 
on the march, that the division of Ricketts, numbering eight 
thousand men, was only about three miles off in his rear, 
and that Pope might have some of Sigel's troops, then on 
the march. Flagrantly, he did not send for reinforcements, 
although he had been told that they would be forthcoming, 
and there is no other conclusion tenable then that he did 
not wish to have them, because he was so ignorant of what 
he was about to encounter, and underrated it so utterly that 
he thought he could gain a victory in which there would 
be no one else to share. As it fell out, less than eight 
thousand troops attacked over twenty thousand, under the 
experienced Jackson, and, although badly defeated, rendered 
such an account of themselves as is memorable in the his- 
tory of the war ; but there is nothing in that circumstance 
more than palliation of the evil encountered in their being 
led to slaughter through the ig^norance, disobedience, and 
vanity of their commander. 

The centre of Pope's forces was at Culpeper, so that the 
position of Banks near the Blue Ridge had been his extreme 
right, and that of King, at Fredericksburg, his extreme lefl. 
As will be remembered, Sigel was just to the lefl of Banks, 
and what has just been said as to the dispositions at the 
battle of Cedar Mountain incidentally shows that Sigel 
had been ordered forward when Banks had gone to the 
front, and that Ricketts had come up from Waterloo 
Bridge, twenty miles in the rear of Culpeper. The disposi- 
tions of Pope at the beginning of the campaign, even in- 



THE ARMY OF VIRGINIA. 1 53 

eluding those preliminary to directly opposing Jackson's 
advance, were strategetically and tactically correct. He had 
been able to damage the communications of the enemy, and 
his intention to defeat Jackson's first advance would have 
succeeded but for the failure of Sigel to arrive in time, 
through a most impotent delay in advancing, while he was 
unnecessarily asking, when there was a direct and fine road 
before him, by what road he should march. Even putting 
that drawback out of question. Pope would have succeeded 
in checking Jackson without disastrous loss had Banks but 
obeyed the spirit of his instructions. At the time, however, 
when Pope at a disadvantage thus met Jackson, and suc- 
ceeded in checking the advance with more serious loss to him- 
self than to the enemy, Jackson falling back, as he did, only 
to gather more strength, he should at once have retreated 
behind the line of the Rappahannock, retiring thence on 
pressure to Centreville. Where he was now advanced, 
towards the line of the Rapidan, he was in a position where 
he ran, with his inadequate force, the risk of being twice 
flanked before he could reach Centreville, whereas, behind 
the line of the Rappahannock, the possibility of being flanked 
was reduced to once, against which, with due vigilance, he 
ought to have been able to guard. Driven to extremities, 
it was only on the line at Manassas and Centreville, be- 
tween Washington and Alexandria on the one hand, and 
the Bull Run Mountains on the other, that he could make 
sure of his communications. Failing in the open field, he 
could, at the worst, fall back, as he was finally compelled 
to, behind the defences of Washington. What he had to 
meet with all circumspection, with an imperfectly organized 
army, under a new commander, was the thoroughly organ- 
ized Army of Northern Virginia under leaders who had 
learned to wield it at will, under a mind which even at that 
early day had given evidence of a high order of military talent. 




154 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE, 

In one respect, however, Pope difTered as fatefully in char- 
acter in one direction as McClellan in another. Where 
McClellan, looking at his distant enemy, viewed him mag- 
nified manifold and portentous in strength. Pope's self- 
consciousness mirrored everything diminutively by contrast 
with his own sense of power. Pope fondly believed that the 
enemy about to press finally upon him was not so formidable 
that his retreat towards his prospective reinforcements and 
the maintenance of his communications could be seriously 
endangered. The reinforcements from the Army of the 
Potomac, which he was prospectively to receive, he flattered 
himself were as good as in hand, and that he could count 
upon them to look out for his rear at Manassas. It seems 
never to have occurred to him that no general of repute had 
ever before based his plans upon contingencies of the nature 
of hopes, rather than of beliefs warranted by circumstances. 
It is not upon the hazard of such dies that great command- 
ers tempt the fortunes of war. Perhaps not even Pope 
would have done so, but for the fajct that he had declared 
in his address to the army that he had always been used 
to seeing the backs of his enemies, and had he not thereby 
morally burnt his ships behind him ? As it was, he fell 
back, but not in the best manner, not at his own option, but 
under the initiative of Lee, when he allowed to slip into the 
hands of Lee his own control of the question, and when he 
was occupying a position which there was no object, unless 
from bravado, in pretending with his small force to main- 
tain. 

General Pope ordered up King's division, which had been 
guarding Fredericksburg, and Jackson, knowing of the con- 
centration of the forces which Pope then had in hand, re- 
treated in the night of the i ith of August to the Rapidan, 
General Pope advancing in correspondence with that move- 
ment, and on the I2th picketing that river. It was at this 



THE ARMY OF VIRQINIA. 155 

point of time, however, or shortly thereafter, that Pope, to 
avoid Lee*s initiative, should have withdrawn to the Rappa- 
hannock. He knew then to his cost that Jackson was not 
far distant, and was soon to be heavily reinforced, that the 
removal of the Army of the Potomac from the Peninsula 
having been determined upon, was in progress, and that 
reinforcements were on their way to him. Generals Hal- 
leck and Pope should have seen that, with Pope's then rela- 
tively small force, he ought not to be occupying longer than 
absolutely necessary a line near the Rapidan. Nothing 
further could be accomplished near the Rapidan, the enemy 
then being in ample force to defend his communications and 
too strong to attack. The division of King, as has been 
mentioned, had been withdrawn from Fredericksburg and 
had joined Pope. There was absolutely no reason for 
Pope's remaining longer near the Rapidan, but every reason 
against it. But the fatal idea expressed in his address to 
his troops, that they should discard such notions as lines 
of retreat and bases of supplies, and that the strongest 
position is one from which to advance upon the enemy, 
seemed to dominate him to his destruction. Pope was at 
the Rapidan with a military chip on his shoulder, to dare 
the consequences, not deeming them more serious than such 
as he could adequately meet. 

Lee was soon on the ground. By a lucky capture, how- 
ever, on the i6th of August, of a letter of Lee's, Pope be- 
came apprised that he was about to advance, and, leaving 
his cavalry in observation, began a retreat across the Rap- 
pahannock with his infantry. Lee kept away towards 
Pope's left, so as to come in between any possible rein- 
forcements that might be arriving for Pope from the direc- 
tion of Fredericksburg. He attempted to capture the 
bridge on Pope's left over the Rappahannock at Rappahan- 
nock Station, but it was burnt by the retreating forces. 




156 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADK 

Then he endeavored to turn Pope's right at Warrenton. 
Pope was at last where he should have retreated almost 
immediately after the battle of Cedar Mountain, occupying 
a better position than on the Rapidan. General Jesse L. 
Reno had brought up reinforcements on the 14th of August, 
marching by the way of Kelly's Ford, on the Rappahan- 
nock, from Falmouth with two divisions, eight thousand 
men of the Ninth Corps, just arrived from North Carolina. 
None had yet arrived from the Army of the Potomac. In 
the right position at last, on the 20th of August, Pope 
made on the Rappahannock some judicious dispositions to 
protect his new line, but with a neglect of what might soon 
be going on in his rear that led to woeful consequences. 
The enemy, after vainly endeavoring to cross the river just 
above or below Rappahannock Station, and finding it im- 
practicable, attempted to turn the Federal right between 
ten and fifteen miles above that point At this juncture 
General Pope had reason to believe, from communications 
made to him from Washington, that he would soon have 
large reinforcements from the Army of the Potomac. But 
he had no right to confide the protection of his rear to a 
hope. His force was insufficient to protect the whole line 
upon which the enemy was operating with a larger one, 
threatening him with it in front while it endeavored to push 
around his right flank. Sigel, on the right flank, perceived 
this, and suggested that he fall back for the sake of greater 
concentration and for the protection of the railroad. But, 
collating all the material at hand to afford a basis for judg- 
ment, it would seem that at this point of time Pope was 
balancing in his mind very different plans of conduct, one 
of which was certainly as grandiose in conception as it 
would have proved abortive and disastrous in attempted ex- 
ecution. That plan was to cross the river and attack the 
enemy in the act of marching up the Rappahannock. 



THE ARMY OF VIRGINIA. 1 57 

The attempt to turn the Federal left flank from the 
position on the southern bank of the Rappahannock having 
been seen to be of doubtful expediency, on account of a 
freshet rendering the fords of the Rappahannock impassa- 
ble, the burning by Pope of the railroad bridge over the 
river, and the difficulties experienced, through the rise of 
water, in attempting to cross the river above, caused Lee 
suddenly to change his plan from that of attempting to 
cross there at Waterloo Bridge, and to try an experiment 
which would have been hazardous, but for the fact of the 
unskilfulness of the general by whom he was opposed. 
Pope, after moving to the right, had established his head- 
quarters on the Warrenton turnpike, the main road leading 
to Alexandria, from which place, or from Acquia Creek, 
his expected reinforcements from the Army of the Potomac 
were to arrive. The first of these had reached him on the 
23d of August, from Falmouth, near Fredericksburg, — ^the 
Pennsylvania Reserves, under General Reynolds, in which 
General Meade commanded the same brigade as that with 
which he had set out in the war, and which he had just led 
on the Peninsula. The Division was at once assigned to 
General McDowell. General Fitz-John Porter, with his 
divisions, under Morrill and Sykes, joined Pope, by way of 
Acquia Creek, on the 26th of August. 

On the night of the 2 2d General J. E. B. Stuart started 
from Lee's army, and passing around Pope's, with be- 
tween one and two thousand troopers, reached Catlett's 
Station, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, working 
the usual havoc effected by light-cavalry raids reaching the 
rear of a hostile army, and captured important papers of 
Pope's. Escaping essentially by the same route as that by 
which he had come, Stuart rejoined Lee near Waterloo 
Bridge, and it is at this point of time that Lee altered his 
intention of attempting to turn Pope's right near Warrenton. 




158 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

He now converted his previous intention into a feint that 
deceived Pope. Maintaining, as he had done for some time, 
an artillery fire and show of force along the Rappahannock, 
Lee laid out his plans for a coup at Manassas. On the 
morning of the 25th of August appeared a cloud of dust 
slowly sweeping over a great space and extending towards 
the northwestward. It was known that Jackson occupied 
the enemy's left, it was known what a man of enterprise 
Jackson was, he had given many and only recently con- 
vincing evidences of it, and it was believed that it was Jack- 
son's corps moving towards the north under that cloudy 
canopy of dust. It would be incredible, if the fact were not 
historical, that Pope thought this movement of infantry 
might mean either a raid into the Shenandoah Valley or a 
continued attempt on his right flank above Warrenton. 
The conclusion to be reached under the circumstances was 
the one which Pope thought least probable, its possibility 
being in his estimation countervailed by the assumption 
that ample reinforcements from the Army of the Potomac 
would arrive in time to protect his rear. And thus we see 
constantly in Pope at this juncture the great military defect 
which metamorphoses hope into belief 

Jackson, under Lee's orders, had, however, done just the 
thing which Lee, with knowledge of Jackson and Pope, 
would be likely to attempt, just the thing which Jackson was 
capable of executing, and therefore just that which Pope 
should have expected him to try to accomplish from the 
tempting positions in which the armies stood with relation 
to each other, under the circumstances of his having been 
thwarted in endeavoring to turn the Federal right flank 
on the Rappahannock. Jackson had marched off" on the 
25th of August, from where he was on Lee's left flank, 
and making from Jefferson a circuit around the right of the 
Army of Virginia, passing Amissville and Orleans, had 



THE ARMY OF VIBGINIA. 159 

reached Salem by night. Thence, the next day, passing 
through White Plains, he debouched from the Bull Run 
Mountains through Thoroughfare Gap, and found himself 
on the line of the Manassas Gap Railroad and in full posses- 
sion of the Federal communications with Washington, the 
first knowledge of his presence there coming to the front 
when he was at Bristoe Station, on Broad Run, an affluent 
of Cedar- Run, which flows into the Potomac. Pope's 
failure to fall back almost at once when that cloud of dust 
appeared on his right led to manifold consequences, in 
which he was forced to retire by the stress put upon him 
in the rear, groping for the position of Jackson during the 
precious interval when Longstreet had not reinforced him, 
and when his corps might have been shattered by skilfully 
disposed superior forces, and perhaps overwhelmed. On 
the 26th of August Pope, as his orders and the terms in 
which they are expressed testify, was in the utmost bewilder- 
ment, and his mental condition was aggravated by messages 
from Halleck which embarrassed instead of assisting him. 
He still thought that his danger was on his front, and 
especially at Warrenton, and as he still held firmly at the 
town, he also maintained his extension to the left which he 
had combined with his concentration at Warrenton. And 
not only was the general-commanding distraught, but his 
troops were fagged out with useless marching and counter- 
marching, what cavalry he had was well-nigh spent, and 
the slight confidence in him that had existed had departed 
at the spectacle of irresolution of which so many might be 
victims. 

Stuart, with his cavalry, had started from near Waterloo 
before daylight, on the morning of the 26th of August, 
just when Jackson was about to begin his second day's 
march. That allowed ample time for cavalry to overtake 
infantry. In the evening, after dark, Lee, with Longstreet's 



l6o GENERAL QBORQE QOBDON MEADE 

corps, crossed the Rappahannock at Hinton's Mills, six 
miles above Waterloo, and followed Jackson's line of march, 
while General D. H. Hill left distant Hanover Junction with 
a division, to concentrate his force with the other columns. 
Thus was the whole of Lee's army on the march towards 
or in Pope's rear that night, Jackson, with twenty-five 
thousand men, being at Bristoe Station. The prescribed 
limits of this memoir do not permit of describing all that im- 
mediately ensued during the recoil of the Federal army, or 
the devastation at Manassas. New dispositions having been 
hastily made on the following day, the 27th, the army &ced 
to the right-about, and Hooker, who had arrived on the 
25th from Alexandria, now marching from Warrenton Junc- 
tion, defeated Jackson's rear-guard, under Ewell, at Bristoe 
Station. Simultaneously with Hooker's, ensued the general 
movement towards the rear. Pope had directed a strong 
force on Gainesville, subsequently relinquishing the position, 
thus opening the gate near Thorough&re Gap through 
which Longstreet could join forces with Jackson. But for 
McDowell's sending Ricketts's division to check Long- 
street beyond Thoroughfare Gap itself, Lee would have 
passed through absolutely without opposition. Then fol- 
lowed in swift succession the battle of Gainesville, on the 
28th, in the course of the £adse move in full force from 
Gainesville to Manassas, and then the two days' battles of 
the Second Bull Run, on successive days ; both of them, 
with only the difference of tactical changes, taking place on 
essentially the same ground, the first being fought with the 
troops of Jackson in a position which, the next day, became 
Lee's left wing, and the second being the final contest of 
the second day. 

At Groveton,- at dawn of the 29th of August, Jackson 
was occupying a slightly curved line, about two miles long, 
of mixed bank and excavation of an unfinished railroad. 




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THE ARMY OF VIRGINIA, l6l 

Jackson's old division held the right of this, under General 
W. E. Starke, and Ewell's division, under General A. R. 
Lawton, the centre ; the two previous commanders of these 
divisions, General W. B. Taliaferro and General R. E. 
Ewell having been wounded the evening before while on 
the march from Gainesville, in which the brigades of Gibbon 
and Doubleday on the Federal side, and the divisions of 
Taliaferro and the brigades of Lawton and Trimble, on the 
Confederate side, opened the series of contests by the severe 
engagement known as the battle of Gainesville. Jackson's 
left wing was constituted by the division of A. P. Hill. The 
position of Jackson was masked to a great extent by woods 
occupied by the Confederate skirmish line. On the Fed- 
eral right, in its advance on the enemy, was the division of 
General Carl Schurz, on his left General R. H. Milroy's 
brigade, on his left Greneral R. C. Schenck's division, and on 
his left General John F. Reynolds's division, in which Gen- 
eral Meade commanded the Second Brigade. Schurz was on 
one side of a turnpike running about west-southwest, and 
Schenck and Reynolds on his left, on the other side of the 
turnpike, the Warrenton turnpike, which leads to Alex- 
andria. Reynolds attempting, according to orders, to turn 
the enemy's right by advancing Meade's brigade, he was 
obliged to recall him, owing to the Confederate counter- 
movement on the Federal right, necessitating the withdrawal 
of a brigade sent to Milroy by Schenck, who had been sup- 
porting Reynolds's movement. The troops were not nu- 
merous enough to cover a line of two miles in length oppo- 
site to the enemy's sheltered position formed by the partly 
rampart, partly excavated line of the unfinished railroad. 
Notwithstanding that fact, one signal success crowned the 
efforts of the Federal troops that morning, in the assault by 
General A. Schimmelpfennig upon and retention of a part 

of the enemy's railroad entrenchment until 2 p.m., when his 

11 



l62 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

division was relieved by fresh troops. When the Federal 
line slightly retired after its severe onslaughts on the enemy, 
the feeling was that, considering the smallness of the attack- 
ing force, and the strength of the enemy's position, the 
troops had accomplished all that was possible. Everything 
to some looked hopeful, for they believed reinforcements 
were on the march to join them ; but thinking men must 
have gravely reflected, knowing that, so far, only Jackson's 
forces were in front of them, that as he had been long alone 
on the ground in the rear, reinforcements for him could not 
be far distant, and such men must have marvelled that they 
had not yet been heard from on the field. Of course, no one 
could have then known that the corps of Fitz-John Porter, 
left by McDowell with orders so vague that Porter could 
not do better than remain where he was, in a position 
where he was able merely to distract some force from the 
enemy during the afternoon, would not be able to aid by 
direct attack. 

The Federal force which had been engaged in the morn- 
ing had consisted chiefly of Schenck's, Schurz's, and Mil- 
roy's troops, under Sigel's immediate command. Although 
Reynolds's division, the Pennsylvania Reserves, had, on the 
Peninsula, been attached, under Porter, to the Fifth Corps, 
we now find it marching with its fellow-divisions of the 
First, known as those of King and Ricketts, the former of 
which, on account of King's illness, is now under Hatch. 
Before midday Heintzelman, with the divisions of Kearny 
and Hooker, reinforced General Pope, and so also did Gen- 
eral J. L. Reno, with his two divisions of the Ninth Corps. 

General Pope thought that the time during the early part 
of the afternoon would be well devoted, while McDowell 
and Porter were coming, to a rest for the troops which 
had been actively engaged. He fondly imagined they 
would strike Jackson on his right flank and rear. But 



# 



THE ARMY OF VIRGINIA. 1 63 

McDowell, acting under a modified joint-order which he 
and Porter had received from Pope, had neutralized 
Porter by leaving him and his troops with a vague 
direction ; and expectant of further instructions, Porter 
could do nothing but await developments. Confident 
that the attack on Jackson's right flank and rear was on 
the eve of opening, General Pope ordered Heintzelman to 
attack Jackson with the divisions of Hooker and Kearny. 
Hooker charged the centre of the enemy's line ; but un- 
fortunately, the attacks intended to be simultaneous were 
not. That of Hooker, after carrying a portion of the rail- 
road entrenchment of Jackson, and reaching the line of the 
enemy's reserves, failed for want of support in due time ; 
while that of Kearny following it, and supported by the 
division of Stevens, although it was vigorous, and found 
the enemy so shattered by the previous onslaught that 
Jackson's left wing, but for timely reinforcement, would 
have been routed, could not maintain itself unsupported. 
About this critical time McDowell arrived with King's 
division, Ricketts's being still on the march. Hatch, in 
command of Kling's division, King having been taken ill, 
was ordered at once to advance with the division on the right 
of Jackson, upon the presumption that these fresh troops 
would force Jackson to retreat. But instead of meeting 
Jackson's troops in his front, the climax of all that had 
gone before was reached, for he encountered those of Long- 
street. Hatch was met by a portion of General J. B. 
Hood's brigade and a brigade under Colonel E. M. Law, a 
severe engagement immediately following, lasting from 
about half past six in the afternoon until after seven o'clock. 
Longstreet pressed forward his reinforcements, compelling 
Hatch to retire. Then night came on and preparations for 
the morrow. Longstreet's advance had been on the field 
since noon of the day. Thus the fortunes of war had 



l64 GENERAL QEOEQE GORDON MEADK 

turned, or rather, they had been trifled with, for fickle as 
Fortune is, she is not so foolish a jade as would be indicated 
by charging all these consequences to her. 

At this juncture the proper move to make would have 
been to £adl back during the night behind Bull Run, a move 
which could have been made with perfect ease to a position 
only between two and three miles in the rear. The ad- 
vantage would have been three-fold — ^the avoidance of the 
entrenched line of Jackson, the gain of the protective line 
of a stream, and the respite of a day during which reinforce- 
ments might have come up, as they finally did, just too late. 
But the tenacity of Pope did not even permit him to think 
of retreating. He had no conception of the philosophy em- 
bodied in the common phrase, ** reader pour micux sautcr^ 
He actually thought, as his despatch to General Halleck 
shows, that he had gained a victory, and laid out his plans 
for cutting off the enemy's retreat on the following day. 

The battle of the following day was, as has been noted, 
fought on essentially the same ground as that of the day 
before. The Confederates arranged their line of battle con- 
formably to the conditions introduced by the struggle of the 
day before and to their plan of operations for the present one. 
Lee's forces were now all up, except, of course, those march- 
ing from distant Hanover Junction, the division of General 
R. H. Anderson having reached the ground the preceding 
night, the 29th of August. Lee in person had been present 
since the morning of that day, since the time when the ad- 
vance of Longstreet had arrived. Yet Pope continued to 
be fully persuaded, from the movements of the enemy, that 
he was preparing to make his escape, and had issued an 
order for pursuit But while preparations were making on 
the plan of an advance which was to cut off and pursue the 
enemy, suddenly, on the Federal left, it was discovered by 
Reynolds that, so far from the enemy's being in the posi- 



THE ARMY OF VIBQINIA. 1 65 

tion from which he was by orders to be driven, he was 
quietly stealing around in force, under cover of the woods, 
south of the Warrenton turnpike, on the left flank of the 
Federal troops. In consequence, that portion of the forma- 
tion which had been made to sweep supposititiously every- 
thing before it, north and south of the turnpike (Porter on the 
right, then Hatch, and then Reynolds, on the left), had to be 
modified at once, from the necessity imposed upon Reynolds 
of facing to the left, to meet the imminent danger of being 
enveloped on his flank. So much for the situation on the 
Federal left flank is sufficient for the present to be said. 
The right wing, beginning at the right of Porter, who had 
escaped from his position of the day before, like that of a 
ship " in irons," able at first to turn in no definite way, was 
composed of the divisions of Hooker and Kearny, supported 
by the division of Ricketts. Reno was also there, and part 
of Sigel's troops and Sykes's regulars. 

Porter, on the right, about four o'clock in the afternoon, 
attacked the position of Jackson with the brigades of Gen- 
eral James Barnes and General Daniel Butteriield, of Gen- 
eral G. W. Morrill's division. Hatch attacked the same 
line, further to the right. Sykes's regulars on the right were 
fortunately held in reserve, for later in the day their fresh- 
ness was all needed. Both attacks were splendidly made 
and pressed Jackson home, but he had a terrible advantage 
in position. Despite that, however, he sent to Lee for re- 
inforcements, who, in turn, ordered Longstreet to send them. 
Longstreet, however, recognized, from the relation of his 
point of the field to that occupied by Jackson, that rein- 
forcements of the kind which he was ordered to despatch 
were not necessary. It is rare, indeed, on any hilly g^round 
of various accidents of surface, that some point cannot 
be found (indeed impossible on any but a right-line of de- 
fence) which will enfilade with its guns placed there a long 



l66 GENERAL OEOROE GORDON MEADE, 

stretch of entrenchment of its own side. Where Longstreet 
was, on the Confederate right, there were numerous tops of 
hills on which it was advantageous for that purpose to plant 
artillery, and he had stationed some guns most favorably to 
sweep Jackson's front. Consequently, Longstreet answered 
substantially, that he would bring all requisite succor to 
Jackson with his g^ns. But for these g^ns, in the position 
which they occupied, the Federal attack on the enemy's left 
wing would have been successful. 

It was Lee's knowledge that the Federal right was beat- 
ing itself in vain against the impregnable barrier of Jack- 
son's position, that withheld him for a while from making 
an attack on the Federal left, which could have had but the 
effect of bring^ing on a contest in that part of the field before 
his formation there was fully completed. 

Pope's main attack on the right was the only serious one 
there, some of Hooker's troops merely demonstrating 
against and driving away the enemy on the extreme 
right flank. As for Kearny and Ricketts, who were, on 
Pope's theory of Jackson's intended retreat, and according 
to his plans to attack on Jackson's extreme left flank, on the 
Haymarket road (a road running nearly parallel with the 
Warrenton turnpike), they were withdrawn to the south of 
the turnpike, to meet the enemy's movement on the Federal 
left, dispositions for making which Lee had been perfecting 
while the Federal right was furiously engaged in assaulting 
Jackson. The situation was now complicated by an order 
from Pope to Reynolds, on the left flank, to reinforce Por- 
ter, near the centre, opposite Jackson. Now, as has been 
shown, attacking Jackson entailed a useless sacrifice of life, 
and he had proved it. It was too critical a moment on the 
Federal left to withdraw troops from it, even for the pur- 
pose of holding Jackson in check, if he should advance as 
a diversion for Lee's attempt on the left. The consequences 



THE ABMT OF VmOINIA. 167 

would be immediate and far-reaching. To countervail them 
in a measure, Sykes let Colonel G. K. Warren march with 
his brigade to the left, to supply the place of the troops 
which Reynolds had been ordered to withdraw and had 
withdrawn thence to reinforce Porter. 

At last the Confederates, having completed their forma- 
tion- on the Federal left, while demonstration and assault had 
been going on against Jackson's safe position, and while the 
greater part of the Federal force was north of the Warren- 
ton turnpike, Longstreet's line, massed for assault, revealed 
itself pressing forward from south of the turnpike on the 
Federal left, from the woods already mentioned as towards 
the southward. There was still some time for preparation 
for the Army of Virginia to meet this movement. Although 
Longstreet was rapidly approaching, nearly at right-angles 
to the turnpike, on the left flank of the Federal army, 
with five divisions, — those of Anderson, Evans, Kemper, 
Jones, and Wilcox, — in columns stretching from opposite 
Groveton to opposite a road east of it leading to Sudley 
Springs, a road running north and south between Bald 
Hill and the Henry House hill, two eminences about a 
mile apart, on the left flank of the Federal army, there 
was still some precious time available to organize a strong 
defence along the line of the Warrenton turnpike and 
on the two hills south of it, an imaginary line between 
which hills runs parallel with the turnpike. The Federal 
field-batteries swarmed to the newly-created front, and with 
infantry supports held the ground near the turnpike. Sigel's 
corps, which had not been engaged, occupied Bald Hill, on 
which two brigades of Ricketts's division were also posted, 
under General Zealous B. Tower. Upon the other emi- 
nence, the Henry House hill, were directed, first, the two 
brigades of Reynolds, and then the two brigades of Sykes*s 
regulars, the former commanded by Meade and General 




l68 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

Seymour, and the latter by Lieutenant-Colonel Robert C. 
Buchanan. 

Jackson, partially relieved of the pressure upon him, 
had begun to advance from north of the turnpike, in 
concert with Longstreet on his right, but vras held in check 
by Reno and Heintzelman. The enemy was unable to 
dislodge the forces on the general line dominated by the 
two naturally strong twin positions of Bald Hill and the 
Henry House hill, first assaulting the former, with such 
ill success that Hood had to await reinforcements. 
Here fell several men of note among the killed and 
wounded. The attack on the Henry House hill vras 
equally severe, but was repulsed with success even greater 
than that which had attended the attack on Bald Hill. The 
loss on both sides was very great Finally, the continual 
reinforcements by the enemy of the troops attacking Bald 
Hill compelled its relinquishment. But not so with the 
Henry House hill. The key to the whole position, the key 
to the whole situation, lay in the remaining paint d*appui^ 
the Henry House hill, the very hill which had figured so 
prominently in the first battle of Bull Run. Sykes, with 
his regulars; Seymour and Meade, with their brigades ; 
Lieutenant-Colonels William Chapman and Buchanan, with 
all the troops that could be hastily gathered for its defence, 
were assembled there. Mass and assault and strive as the 
enemy would, he made but little progress against a desper- 
ation of defence which every officer present knew to mean, 
as a consequence of its failure, the rout of the Army of Vir- 
ginia. As the event proved, this key of the position re- 
mained at nightfall in the hands of the Federal army, and 
it was, in consequence, enabled quietly to make a retreat 
behind Bull Run. 

It can hardly be doubted that, if Halleck and McClellan 
had not proved unequal to the emergency, the corps of 



THE ARMY OF VIRGINIA. 1 69 

General E. V. Sumner and that of General W. B. Frank- 
lin, — the Second and Sixth, — ^would have reached General 
Pope before the 30th of August, the day of the last bat- 
tle, instead of reaching him the day afterwards. It can 
therefore also hardly be doubted that, as those two corps 
consisted together of about twenty thousand men, the scale 
would have been turned by their presence in General Pope's 
fevor. If, however, it must be repeated. Pope had only 
fallen back behind Bull Run to the position at Centreville, 
instead of fighting on the 30th of August, Sumner and 
Franklin would still have been in time, despite the dilatori- 
ness of Halleck and McClellan, to compel Lee*s retreat or 
to be the added means of defeating him. 

The Army of Virginia nearing Centreville, after having 
crossed Bull Run, the indefatigable Jackson was the next 
day started by Lee for Sudley Ford, on the upper part of 
Bull Run, on the right of the Army of Virginia, and struck 
opposite to it one of the main roads that lead to Alexan- 
dria, the Little River turnpike. Marching for Fairfax 
Court House, while Pope's trains were still making for Cen- 
treville by the Warrenton turnpike, and seeking to pass the 
point of intersection of the two roads, he found himself con- 
fronted about dark by heavy masses of troops with which 
he had been engaged the day before, and which had been 
advanced to prevent the retreat from being intercepted, and 
the battle of Chantilly began amidst a tremendous thunder- 
storm. Here his usual good fortune deserted him, and, 
after losing heavily in killed and wounded, he was brought 
to a stand, night preventing both sides from taking in the 
precise situation of affairs. Before morning Longstreet 
reached the ground, the Confederate plan having been to 
break up the communications with Washington by flanking 
the Federal right. As the best possible course to pursue 
under the circumstances, it was resolved by the authorities 




I/O GENERAL OEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

in Washington to call the troops within the defences of the 
city, and they were accordingly so disposed of on the 2d 
of September. Besides serious losses in rank and file at 
Chantilly, two officers of exceptional merit were there killed 
on the Federal side, Stevens and Kearny. It is grievous 
to contemplate the necessity of omitting in this memoir 
all that pure justice would, if untramelled by material bonds, 
award in mention of merit and sacrifice ; but as a hundred 
such books as the one here contemplated would not suffice 
to fulfil the wish, it must meet the fate which lies beyond 
the bounds of the possible. It need hardly be said, more- 
over, that this work is for a single purpose, to which all else 
should be subordinated. General Meade did not appear 
more conspicuously on these particular fields than did many 
another officer, not so much so as some other officers, and 
yet all that precedes and is yet to follow chiefly relates, and 
should relate, to the trace which his presence makes as an 
episode, great and small, of the war, in a memoir which 
professes to be devoted to him. 

On August 2 1st, at lo p.m.. General Meade had left Fal- 
mouth with his brigade as part of the division of Reynolds, 
and had marched thence towards Bamett's Ford on the Rap- 
pahannock, making but slight progress on account of the 
darkness of the night and uncertainty as to the road. Con- 
tinuing the march on the following day, the command reached 
Rappahannock Station, on the Orange and Alexandria Rail- 
road, on the 23 d, bivouacking for the n^ht near Warrenton. 
On the 28th the brigade, while on the march, took some 
slight part in what finally drifted into the action at Gaines- 
ville. On the 29th it was formed in line of battle on the 
left of Sigel, and joined in the battle at Groveton. On 
the 30th, the day of the second battle of Bull Run, the 
brigade advanced along the Warrenton turnpike in line of 



THE ARMY OF VIRQINU. I/I 

battle, occupying a ridge in advance, until withdrawn by 
orders of the general-commanding to the ridge behind it, 
from which it had advanced in the morning. About 3 p.m. 
of that day, Reynolds, under orders from Pope, moved 
almost entirely across the field of battle, from the south to 
the north side of the Warrenton turnpike, to reinforce 
Porter, which his division had no sooner done than it was 
ordered to march back to the plateau of the Henry House, 
on account of the pressure of the enemy on the Federal 
left. There Meade's brigade, in conjunction with Seymour's, 
deployed in line of battle, and charged down the slope of 
the Henry House ridge towards the Sudley Springs road, 
driving before it such portions of the Confederates as had 
advanced beyond that road, and finally taking position in 
the road and holding it at that point until relieved by 
Sykes's regulars under Buchanan. General Meade says, in 
his official report, with relation to this part of the action, 
that " it is due to the Pennsylvania Reserves to say, that 
this charge and maintenance of this position was made at a 
most critical period of the day." 

It was at this critical period of the day, when, if the Penn- 
sylvania Reserves had not repulsed the enemy and com- 
pelled him to take shelter temporarily in the woods, the 
enemy might, as General Meade says, have gained the 
Henry House ridge, which, as General Meade adds, 
" might have materially altered the fortune of the day ;'* 
that Buchanan's brigade of regulars came up, none too 
quickly, to reinforce them. McDowell was accused by 
General R. H. Milroy of refusing to send reinforcements. 
McDowell claimed, in justification, that in the excite- 
ment Milroy had lost his head, or, as he expressed it, 
" was in a frenzy,'* and made no communication of the sort 
upon which he would have been justified in sending him re- 
inforcements. And, McDowell went on to say, before the 




172 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

court of inquiry in which the case was tried, " whilst in 
doubt for the moment, in view of the circumstances, as to 
the course to be taken, I received a clear and definite 
message from that intelligent, as well as gallant officer, 
General Meade, on which I knew I could rely, and imme- 
diately sent the reinforcements forward.*' 

The fact is most moderately stated by General Meade 
when he said that but for the Pennsylvania Reserves, at 
this critical juncture, the fortunes of the day might have 
been materially altered. The advance of the enemy was 
very confident, and the ensuing conflict very hot. Here 
" Old Baldy," the horse which bore the General through 
many a fight, received one of his wounds. The worst of the 
disasters of the campaign were now over. Lee's army as 
well as Pope's had suffered severely. Pope's had lacked 
that strategic and tactical mastery, and that subtle bond 
between chief and troops which make them, as has been 
already remarked, like a single organism of the highest 
type, in which the directive intelligence permeates the body 
to parts of the lowest rank. The Army of Virginia, like the 
leviathan attacked by the skilful swordsmen of the sea, had 
fruitlessly floundered without direction, and had finally sunk 
into unknown depths out of the sight of men. But only so 
in appearance, only so as to visible presence, for soon, with 
parts restored and reincorporated, it issued forth as the 
Army of the Potomac, not invincible, but with honor untar- 
nished, and, as ever, amid all scenes of disaster, in spirit un- 
subdued. 



THE BATTLE OF SOUTH MOUNTAIN. 173 



CHAPTER X. 

THE BATTLE OF SOUTH MOUNTAIN. 

The various phases of mental tone which General McClel- 
lan exhibited to credible witnesses who were actors with him 
in the drama of the war, and perhaps, still more, the record 
which he himself has left in writing, in the form of despatches, 
private letters, and other documents, show him to have been 
a man without the poise that is capable of directing to great 
deeds. At first, amidst the universal acceptance of him on 
credit by the North, as possessing all the attributes needed 
for success in command of the armies of the United States, 
his mental attitude was arrogant. Put to the actual test of 
war, and suspicions of his shortcomings for his task begin- 
ning to invade the sober common sense of the people, not to 
be in the long run deceived as to what concerns them nearly, 
some abatement of this arrogance became perceptible, 
although he still had so false a view of his relations as a 
military man to the civil power, that he could reconcile him- 
self to writing to the President a letter unprecedented in its 
assumption of ability to counsel in a sphere the threshold 
of which he should not have touched. There was, at this 
time, however, more moderation observable than had been 
exhibited previously. He no longer exactly admonished, 
but rather deprecated the conduct of affairs. At this point 
of time he scarcely doubted that his army would be with- 
drawn from the Peninsula, and he feared, from news that 
he had lately received, that he would be superseded. When 
the army had been withdrawn, and he had reached Alexan- 




1/4 GENERAL OEORQE GORDON MEADK 

dria, he evidently thought for some time that his occupation 
had gone, and he entered upon a new mood, unknown to him 
before, in which he answered a despatch from the Presi- 
dent — " Tell me what you wish me to do, and I will do all 
in my power to accomplish it. I wish to know what my 
orders and authority are. I ask for nothing, but will obey 
whatever orders you give," etc. 

This moderate frame of mind soon ceased, however, as 
the following brief account, cited from his own memoirs, 
proves. According to them he went out on the road towards 
the front to meet the retreating troops of Pope, under an 
order from the President to command the fortifications and 
the troops for the defence of Washington. He meets pretty 
soon a regiment of cavalry, marching by twos, with Pope 
and McDowell and their staffs "sandwiched," he says, 
between them. " Pope," he remarks, " had evidently not 
troubled his head in the slightest about the movements of 
his army in retreat, and had early preceded the jtroops, 
leaving them to get out of the scrape as best they could." 
A former suggestion of McClellan's in writing, that Pope 
should be allowed to get out of his "scrape" as best he 
could, had been justly the subject of a good deal of animad- 
version, and yet he here repeats it with gusto. In saying 
what he does as to the retreat, he fails to see the comparison 
which he has conjured up, for he too attended to the last of 
his own retreat in a casual way. The likeness between the 
two cases is not perfect, however, for there was no such ur- 
gency of the enemy in Pope's case as in his own. " Pope and 
McDowell," he goes on to say, " asked my permission to go 
to Washington, to which I assented, remarking at the same 
time that / [italicized] was going to the artillery- firing. * ' Evi- 
dently some kind power had never conferred upon him the 
"giftie," for here he did not perceive the difference in their 
iavor, the difference, when there was really no great danger,. 



THE BATTLE OF SOUTH MOUNTAIN. 175 

bebveen a man fresh and diboTmaire, and two battle-worn 
men seeking some repose. Why, at that very moment the 
troops were retiring into the fortifications on the opposite 
side of the Potomac from Washington, under orders which 
General Halleck had sent, and which McClellan himself 
had repeated as to the different corps with reference to their 
respective dispositions on the ground ! Nothing, therefore, 
could be more disingenuous than this statement, nor more 
unkind than the way in which it gloats over the misfortunes 
of Pope and McDowell. 

The horn of McClellan was now again evidently exalted 
to the highest pitch. All was to his mind changed. The 
President had orally requested him to take command of the 
defences and of the troops for the defence of Washington, 
and he, having consented, had followed the action by a 
formal order to that effect, which, by the way, was after- 
wards modified to the form of transmission by the War 
Department. Why the President should have " requested," 
instead of ** ordered,*' McClellan does not state. Nor does 
McClellan state why he thought it proper to take credit to 
himself for acceding to the President's request without mak- 
ing any conditions. His feeling is explicable only on the 
supposition that he had now again resumed the mental 
attitude which had suffered eclipse for a moment, only to 
reappear under the circumstances of his renewed conviction 
of his indispensability. When he reached the point of highest 
self-satisfaction, however, was yet to come, as he reveals in 
his memoirs, when, as he says, although not reappointed to 
the command of the army, and although knowing that he 
would fight with a halter around his neck, he yet, because 
the path of duty was clear, left his card at the White House, 
the War Office, and Secretary Seward's house, with P. P. C. 
written on it, and marched with the army. The path of 
duty, it would seem, might have been otherwise followed 



{ 



1/6 GEyERAL OEORQE GORDON MEADR 

with greater propriety. The state of aflfairs was all wrong, if 
the circumstances which General McClellan describes could 
be. Accepting them, however, exactly as reported by him- 
self, the point remains as before, simply with regard to his 
relation to events, as limned by his own hand, from his modest 
reply at Alexandria, through his meeting with Pope and 
McDowell, through his self-gratulation at having made no 
conditions with the President, through his final leave-taking 
of P. P. C. ; and it is not pleasant to reflect that such things 
under the administration of a great government could be. 

The truth, without gloss, is that he was right in thinking 
that he was at the time indispensable to the Administration. 
The Administration had nowhere else to turn to obtain a 
general who could properly supersede him. The winnow- 
ing process, at enormous cost of blood and treasure, had 
not gone on long enough to reveal to the Administration 
the men who were finally to conduct affairs to a successful 
issue. Mr. Lincoln had no knowledge of military affairs. 
Strange to say, Halleck, too, fell as to them far below the 
standard which his natural parts and training would seem to 
have indicated as reached by him. What might be called 
Halleck's civil administration of his military department in 
the West was excellent, but whether he came to devise 
military operations at a distance, or himself personally took 
charge of them in the field, he appeared in the full inca- 
pacity of his character. Moreover, one of the chief ele- 
ments of chieftainship in any sphere being recognition and 
employment of signal talent within that sphere, he proved 
himself wanting in original perception of it. He did all he 
could in the West to suppress Grant, and he was at first 
completely deceived by Pope, who deceived scarcely any- 
body else among military men. The &ult in him lay in 
defect of character. He was a ponderous-minded, ease- 
loving man, oppressed with a sense of his greatness, vadl- 



THE BATTLE OF SOUTH MOUNTAIN. I// 

lating, and utterly unfit for the direction of military affairs 
in the urgency of field-operations. 

McClellan was doubly proved right in thinking that he 
was indispensable, because, in addition to the President's 
having nowhere else to look to replace him, he still had 
the confidence of the rank and file of the army, although 
some of the higher oflRcers had lost it, and thinking men 
among civilians who had closely watched the progress of 
events were sorely disappointed in him. As for his having 
left Washington in command of the army with a halter 
around his neck, should he lose in the approaching contest, 
that is the most vapid statement, unworthy of a man of 
ordinary intelligence. The very memoirs in which are 
printed those lines gave his correspondence with the War 
Department as the army was marching to battle ; it is also 
necessarily part of the public records, and it constitutes, 
however acquired, the fullest recognition of his command. 

The Army of Virginia ceased to exist save by incarna- 
tion with the Army of the Potomac. Pope had written 
Halleck, on September 5th, " I have just received an order 
from General McClellan to have my command in readiness 
to march with three days' rations, and further details of the 
march. What is my command, and where is it ? McClel- 
lan has scattered it about in all directions, and has not in- 
formed me of the position of a single regiment. Am I to 
take the field, and under McClellan's orders ?" To which 
Halleck replied, on September 5th, "The armies of the 
Potomac and Virginia being consolidated, you will report 
for orders to the Secretary of War." The Army of the 
Potomac, revived, with dismembered limbs restored, re- 
mained within the defensive works of Washington, or within 
supporting distance, while the enemy, victorious over Pope, 
waited expectantly on the Virginia side of the Potomac for 

the longed-for opportunity of administering to it a final blow. 

12 



178 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

In many respects McClellan is seen to better advantage 
in the ensuing campaign than in any of his previous opera- 
tions with the Army of the Potomac. He is still, however, 
overmastered by his constitutional slowness and caution. 
He remarks, in the part of his memoirs relating to this cam- 
paign, that he had known Lee in Mexico, and that he was 
a man, pitted against whom it behooved one to be very 
wary. But he could not see, — the man sitting in judg- 
ment upon matter of his own subjectivity, — he could not 
judge correctly, of himself or of Lee's view with regard to 
him, which, of necessity, would shape in a measure Lee*s 
action. Doubtless he seemed to himself in that campaign 
as indulging in a celerity, all the way through it, that bor- 
dered on rashness. So erroneously guided, it would not 
occur to him that, Lee having also known him, Lee's point 
of view might be very different about him from his own. 
Still, if McClellan could not rise above the defects inhe- 
rent in his organization, he did now seem to act for the 
first time as if spurred on by better appreciation than before 
of the difficulty of the task committed to him. He now 
appears more than before en evidence in the midst of things, 
directly controlling them to a greater extent than before, 
although not with the masterful mind of a great general. 
It should be remembered, however, that as to the first part 
of these operations he was hampered by Halleck. Halleck 
himself, the slowest of the slow in field operations, as those 
which he had personally conducted in the West prove, 
kept nagging at McClellan through despatches from Wash- 
ington, cautioning him against letting the enemy slip in 
between him and Washington, across the upper fords of the 
Potomac, or leading him so far away from the city, before 
he could know that Lee's forces were really massed to in- 
vade Maryland, and his apparent movement not a mere 
feint, that the dty might be captured by attack from the 



THE BATTLE OF SOUTH MOUNTAIN. 1/9 

direction of Arlington Heights across the Potomac. Yet, 
afterwards, in despite of the despatches proving this con- 
clusively, Halleck testified before the Committee on the 
Conduct of the War that his action had not been that de- 
scribed. It undoubtedly was, as any one may see from 
examination of those despatches, and with knowledge of 
the existing situation. So much less speed than requisite 
in the first advance as would otherwise be properly ascrib- 
able to McClellan may therefore be justly charged to the 
action of Halleck. From that time on, however, to the end 
of the campaign, with the exception of the episode of the 
battle of South Mountain, the dilatoriness with which it was 
conducted belongs wholly to McClellan, and under circum- 
stances, too, where, if he could have sat in consultation with 
Lee, he could not have been better prepared to act with the 
utmost precision and celerity. Had he so acted, the folly 
committed by Halleck in attempting to hold Harper's 
Ferry without properly defending it, after it was known 
that the enemy was in Maryland, might have been more 
than counterbalanced by an overwhelming defeat adminis- 
tered to Lee. 

As the result of the whole campaign turned upon the 
attempted retention of Harper's Ferry, it becomes necessary 
here to discuss the bearing which its topographical situation 
had upon all the operations, inclusive of the battle of 
Antietam. Harper's Ferry was called the key of the 
Shenandoah Valley, but it became a key in the possession 
of the enemy from the time when the enemy got on the 
wrong side of the door, or, in other words, from the time 
when the position was turned by the enemy's invasion of 
Maryland, because it was indefensible, or rather undefended 
from that direction. This will easily be comprehended 
from the following description. The Blue Ridge trends 
about northeast. As it comes from the south it strikes the 



l8o GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADR 

Potomac three or four miles above the place whence it 
departs from the other side of the Potomac as it still pro- 
ceeds northeast The two lines, although virtually forming 
the same ridge, are not continuous, but parallel. The two 
parts of the same main ridge are therefore, as divided by 
the Potomac, en iclulon with each other. South of the 
Potomac the ridge is known as the Blue Ridge, while north 
of the Potomac it is known as the Blue Ridge or the South 
Mountain. The particular line which we have now, how- 
ever, immediately to consider (for the other relates to pros- 
pective operations) is the straight one formed by the Blue 
Ridge as it strikes the Potomac, coming from the south, 
and its development beyond for a few miles in the same 
straight line, north of the Potomac, in a minor ridge called 
Elk Ridge. It is through these straight and moderately 
lofty ridges, formed by the Blue Mountains and Elk Ridge, 
that the Shenandoah, having joined its stream with the 
Potomac's, they together burst their way, and thence flow 
onward with commingled waters. Within the area, making 
a tongue of high land, formed by the confluence of the 
Potomac and the Shenandoah, lies the post and village of 
Harper's Ferry. It therefore lies just west of the ridge con- 
stituted by the line of the Blue Ridge and its continuation 
as Elk Ridge north of the Potomac. High as it is, it is, 
however, completely dominated by the summit where the 
Blue Ridge abuts on the Potomac, known as Loudon 
Heights, and still more completely by the summit where 
Elk Ridge abuts on the Potomac, called Maryland Heights, 
while to the westward of it, without the intervention of a 
stream, is a long spur called Bolivar Heights, parallel with 
the aforesaid ridges, which heights also dominate the posi- 
tion, and which, although slightly fortified, could avail 
little against investment from that side, and nothing if 
Loudon and. Maryland Heights were held by the enemy. 



THE BATTLE OF 80 UTH MO UNTAIN. l8 1 

By three nearly equiangular lines of attack, comprising 
the circle, Harper's Ferry was liable to capture ; two, by 
plunging fire from Loudon and Maryland Heights, and 
one by regular approaches from the west ; under the condi- 
tion that the enemy, in the undefended state of Maryland 
Heights, had turned the position by entering Maryland by 
crossing the Potomac immediately above the post. The 
lion-ant, one of the fiercest and most voracious of all living 
insects, makes a circular hole with sloping sides, and invites 
his prey to slide into it and be demolished, as it invariably 
is ; but then he is sure that his enemy will put himself 
within his grasp ; but here, at Harper's Ferry, in civilized 
warfare, this case of necessity was reversed, and the garri- 
son was placed in a hole just where the enemy would have 
put it, and could have no option but to surrender at dis- 
cretion. 

General McClellan strongly represented to Halleck that 
Harper's Ferry should be evacuated. The post was not 
tenable without the occupation of Maryland Heights in 
force, and besides, its evacuation would contribute several 
thousand men to the active army. It was in vain that this 
representation was made. General Halleck directed Colonel 
Dixon S. Miles, the commander of the post, to hold it. 
Thus far Halleck was responsible, and perhaps beyond, for 
he neglected to order Miles how to hold it, and Miles unfor- 
tunately construed his instructions almost literally, as mean- 
ing occupation of the very ground called Harper's Ferry. 
Lee had been so sure that the post would be evacuated, 
that he took it for granted it had been, and his army 
was massed in Maryland before he found out that it had 
been neither evacuated nor properly put in a posture of 
defence, and he then set vigorously to work about reaping 
the fruit of his adversary's folly. The swift-footed Achilles 
of his army, Jackson, taking his own three divisions, A. P. 



1 82 QENEBAL QEORQE GORDON MEADK 

Hill's, Starke's, and Lawton's, and those of Lafayette Mc- 
Laws and Richard H. Anderson, passed rapidly to the rear 
by forced marches. Jackson personally, with A. P. Hill, 
crossed the Potomac at Williamsport, the garrison at Mar- 
tinsburg retreating before him into Harper's Ferry, and 
invested the post from the west, while McLaws, with 
Anderson, held Crampton's Gap and Brownsville Gap, just 
south of it, and occupied Maryland Heights, General J. G. 
Walker conducting two brigades across the Potomac below 
Harper's Ferry and occupying Loudon Heights. Thus 
they held the post completely in their power unless it were 
quickly relieved. 

McClellan advanced north on three main and two sub- 
sidiary roads from Washington towards Frederick, with his 
corps spread out within easy supporting distances of one 
another, covering Washington and Baltimore. His right 
rested at first on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and his 
left, strongly picketed by cavalry, was thrown out to guard 
the fords between his left flank and Washington, lest the 
enemy should interpose by crossing the Potomac between 
him and the city. The right wing, consisting of the First 
Corps and the Ninth Corps, was commanded by General 
Bumside ; the centre, consisting of the Second Corps and 
the Twelfth Corps, was commanded by General Sumner ; 
and the left wing, consisting only of the Sixth Corps, was 
commanded by General Franklin. The division of Couch, 
of the Second Corps, which finally joined Franklin, was on 
the extreme left flank. It will be remembered by the 
reader that two of the corps of the old Army of the Po- 
tomac, the Second and the Sixth, had not reached Pope in 
time for the series of battles in which he had lately been 
eng^aged. 

It is true, as alleged, that the reorganization of the army 
had to be partially accomplished during the march, but, on 



THE BA TTLE OF SO UTH MO UNTAIN. 1 83 

the other hand, it ought to be remembered at the same time 
that, when the final collision occurred between the armies, 
Lee had less than forty thousand men, and McClellan had 
over eighty thousand. That, with this enormous prepon- 
derance of force in his favor, the result of the final battle 
should have been what it was, with such able officers for 
the most part, and with such brave troops as McClellan 
had, must be ascribed to poor generalship, and the justness 
of this conclusion will be fully borne out by consideration 
of the sequence of events. 

On the 1 2th of September the advance of the right wing 
entered Frederick, after a skirmish with the cavalry rear- 
guard of Lee's army, and on the 1 3th the whole right wing 
and centre reached that town. There, on the night of the 
1 3th, the main body remained halted, Franklin well off to 
the left at Buckeystown, and General Couch further still, at 
Licksville, near where the Monocacy enters the Potomac, 
while General Jesse L. Reno was heading for Middletown, and 
General Alfred Pleasanton's cavalry had about noon dis- 
lodged Stuart from the pass he was holding in the Catoctin 
Range, the range east of and parallel to South Mountain, 
west of which range lies Middletown. The general direc- 
tion of the army marching on Frederick from Washington 
was north of northeast. The direction of its continued line 
of advance, after leaving Frederick, is indicated by saying 
that, in taking a slight left-wheel, it was brought parallel 
with the line of South Mountain, through which are the 
passes by which it had to continue its further manoeuvres. 

McClellan had reached Frederick to have put in his pos- 
session, through the most extraordinary good fortune, a 
piece of information to which allusion has previously been 
made as such that it was equivalent to his having been in 
counsel with Lee himself. It comes within that class to 
which Hirtius, in his account of Caesar's conduct of the 



1 84 GENERAL OEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

Alexandrian War, refers in the passage in which he says, 
" The nature of the ground giving a great advantage, con- 
tributed to by the favor of the immortal gods, who, enter- 
ing as they do into all warlike events, especially do so in 
those for which no possible calculation can be made." He 
refers to an incident where the enemy had, to the astonish- 
ment of Caesar, blindly surrendered all the advantage he had 
had in position, Caesar instantly taking«advantage of the mis- 
take and putting him to utter rout. On the afternoon of the 
13th, a private of Indiana volunteers discovered in or near 
Frederick, for the locality is disputed, a paper enclosing 
three segars. But the paper was no ordinary wrapper ; it 
was a copy of an order to General D. H. Hill, which re- 
vealed Lee's designs through a general order giving his new 
plan of campaign. Its presence, as found, has been satisfac- 
torily explained from Confederate sources of information by 
the statement that Hill received, and had still in his pos- 
session, the same order from Jackson, sent to him under the 
impression that Hill still belonged to his command, whereas 
the lost and found order was from Lee's own headquarters, 
sent to Hill as being directly under Lee's command, and 
how lost will probably never be known. The lost order 
reached McClellan immediately, and infused new life into 
the whole movement of advance. In the hands of a com- 
mander of the first class the knowledge conveyed by the 
order would have been tantamount to overwhelming the 
Confederate army, but in McClellan's it only modified 
somewhat the current of events. The advance had 
reached Frederick only to learn that Lee had begun 
to evacuate it two days before, and had retired westward 
over the mountains. The reason of this sudden retro- 
grade movement, and at least temporary abandonment by 
Lee of his plan of invading Maryland, and possibly Penn- 
sylvania, had turned upon his having suddenly become 



THE BATTLE OF SO UTH MO UNTAIN. 1 85 

aware of the fact that Harper's Ferry had not been evacu- 
ated. The general order, now in the hands of McClellan, 
represented in all necessary details the plan of campaign by 
which Lee had modified his original plan of invasion. 

Lee's original plan of campaign is well condensed in the 
following passages quoted from his official report of the 
operations at South Mountain and Antietam : — 

" It was decided to cross the Potomac east of the Blue Ridge, in 
order, by threatening Washington and Baltimore, to cause the enemy 
to withdraw from the south bank, where his presence endangered our 
communications and the safety of those engaged in the removal of 
our wounded and the captured property from the late battle-fields. 
Having accomplished this result, it was proposed to move the army 
into Western Maryland, establish our communications with Richmond 
through the Shenandoah Valley, and by threatening Pennsylva- 
nia induce the enemy to follow, and thus draw him from his base of 
supplies.** 

He goes on to speak, as follows, of the modification of the 
plan brought about by the Federal neglect to evacuate the 
positions on his line of communication : 

"It had been supposed that the advance upon Fredericktown 
[Frederick] would lead to the evacuation of Martinsburg and Har- 
per's Ferry, thus opening the line of communication through the 
Valley. This not having occurred, it became necessary to dislodge the 
enemy from those positions before concentrating the army west [east] 
of the mountains. To accomplish this with the least delay. General 
Jackson was directed to proceed with his command to Martinsburg, 
and after driving the enemy from that place to move down the south 
side of the Potomac upon Harper's Ferry," etc. 

Lee would not, if it were avoidable, run the risk of leav- 
ing Harper's Ferry, garrisoned by several thousand men, 
in the rear of an advance by which his line of supply by 
the Shenandoah Valley would be flanked ; and he could, 
while preventing that, incidentally make prisoners of the 
garrison of Harper's Ferry, simply by taking a post invit- 



1 86 GENERAL GEOBGE GORDON MEADE, 

ing easy capture. So he had at once begun to carry out 
the plan, the success of which has already been strongly 
implied by the description of the positions in which the 
present narrative has left Jackson and his lieutenants. 

Lee was not astonished at the sudden conversion of 
what one of his staff afterwards wrote of as ** the snail-like 
slowness *' of the pursuit into a rapid movement towards 
South Mountain. Before daylight of the 14th a zealous 
partisan of the Southern cause, who had learned of the 
finding of the lost order, had made his way to the cavalry 
rear-guard of Lee, under J. E. B. Stuart, and the intelli- 
gence that he brought was forwarded to Lee. Before that 
time, however, Lee had been informed by Stuart of the 
vigorous manner in which McClellan was pushing forward 
towards South Mountain from Frederick. He ordered 
Longstreet, with whom he was near Hagerstown, to rein- 
force D. H. Hill at Boonsboro*, west of Turner's Gap of 
South Mountain. All that the knowledge of McClellan's 
being in possession of the lost order advantaged Lee was 
in making him aware that now, if ever, McClellan would 
display energy. There had, however, been brought from 
that into the situation great difference in McClellan's favor, 
in the knowledge of just how many divisions Lee had with 
him and how many were absent at Harper's Ferry. But that 
knowledge, which would have been of immense value to an 
active general, proved to be of no use to him. The mere 
fact of the siege had been known long before the finding of 
the order, from the firing heard in the direction of Harper's 
Ferry, to which McClellan was responding, to let the garri- 
son know that he was approaching. Manoeuvres and encoun- 
ters occurred as the result of the present and pending dispo- 
sitions of the troops of the respective armies, almost exactly 
the same as though Lee had not written General Order No. 
191, and McClellan therefore could not have it in his pos- 



THE BA TTLE OF SO UTH MO UNTAIK. 1 8/ 

session. The important, outstanding, unknown quantity 
was the amount of speed that McClellan would exhibit, and 
for at least a few hours fear as to this must have made Lee 
very uneasy, with his knowledge of the power that McClel- 
lan had in his hands through an extraordinary incident in 
war. With Lee were now only the two divisions of Long- 
street near Hagerstown, under General John B. Hood and 
General Jones, and the division of D. H. Hill, with some 
of Stuart's cavalry. With only three divisions with him, 
and five away beyond supporting distance, more than half 
his army, the enemy had suddenly become alert and vigor- 
ous. The tables had been fairly turned. While he had 
awaited the return of Jackson, he had moved with Long- 
street's two divisions towards Hagerstown, and D. H. Hill, 
with his division and a force of cavalry, had been left to hold 
Boonsboro*, west of Turner's Gap. Lee had not expected 
to be obliged to defend Turner's Gap against McClellan. 
Hill's force had been left at Boonsboro', in charge of the 
reserve-artillery and some of the trains, merely to guard 
against the escape of the garrison from Harper's Ferry in 
that direction. The moment, however, that Lee, in the 
night of the 13th, learned that McClellan was approaching 
the South Mountain Range with unwonted rapidity, he had 
ordered back Longstreet's two divisions from Hagerstown 
to reinforce Hill. If some hours could not be gained be- 
fore McClellan should debouch to the westward of the pass, 
Lee would be hopelessly cut off from Jackson investing 
Harper's Ferry. 

As the progress of the campaign continues to hinge on 
the incidents of the siege of Harper's Ferry, involving the 
absence of a large part of Lee's army, it is unavoidable to 
treat first of events relating to the attack on and attempted 
relief of the post. Halleck had had the fatuity to withhold 
from McClellan until the 1 2th of September control of the 



1 88 GENERAL GEOBQE QOBDON MEADK 

garrison of the post. When, too late, he did authorize 
it, McClellan's left wing had advanced so far that the best 
chance to relieve the post was through Crampton's Gap, 
five miles in the rear of Maryland Heights. Even suppos- 
ing, however, that McCIellan could earlier have directed 
Franklin on the position by the road close to the left shore 
of the Potomac, it would have been impossible on those 
steep banks to deploy his force, and the position would have 
put him out of all proper relation to the main body of the 
army. The true plan to relieve Harper's Ferry, as the case 
both now and just before stood, in an emergency which 
ought not to have been allowed to arise, was the one which 
McCIellan was prosecuting, by pushing Franklin through 
Crampton's Gap, whence he could descend into Pleasant 
Valley, between South Mountain and Elk Ridge, on which 
was Maryland Heights, occupied by the enemy, whom he 
might be able to dislodge. 

Crampton's Gap and Brownsville Gap, just south of it, 
through the latter of which passes McLaws and Anderson 
had entered Pleasant Valley, were held by detachments 
from their troops, afterwards reinforced, consisting in sum 
of the brigades of Cobb, William Mahone, and P. J. Semmes. 
McLaws had, on the 13th, summarily put an end to the 
occupation of Maryland Heights by the two thousand 
troops sent there by Colonel Miles, which troops, having 
no confidence in their ability to hold their ground against 
two Confederate divisions, had made only a brief resistance, 
and had spiked their guns and tumbled them down the 
mountain-side, McLaws hauling some of his guns up the 
steep and occupying the deserted position, looking down 
from his eyrie on an extended scene below, across the 
Potomac and Shenandoah, where his allies were about to 
take position, and the enemy's works were within easy 
cannon-range, and almost under plunging musketry-fire. 



THE BATTLE OF SOUTH MOUNTAIN. 189 

The question pending is a nice one. Franklin bespeaks 
the attention of the enemy, now reinforced, at Crampton's 
and Brownsville Gaps, only five miles up Pleasant Valley. 
Will Harper's Ferry surrender before Franklin can break 
through the passes ? If he can break through them before 
that can happen, is he strong enough to prevent two divis- 
ions of the enemy from still holding Maryland Heights and 
assisting in the capture of Harper's Ferry ? Or, supposing 
that he is not strong enough for that, is he strong enough 
to thwart them, after the post is captured, in attempting to 
join Lee by marching directly northward through Pleasant 
Valley ? McLaws well knew, and speedily he must have 
signalled the fact to Jackson, Hill, and Walker, on Bolivar 
and Loudon Heights, that the enemy was trying to break 
through the gaps in his rear. That meant to them that, 
for some inexplicable reason, McClellan's whole force was 
abreast of the passes along South Mountain, and that Lee 
and they were all in jeopardy. Soon Jackson learned 
it by couriers from Lee himself. Would Harper's Ferry 
surrender in time to enable the besiegers to rejoin Lee 
before McClellan would confront him ? If they should 
raise the siege at once and march forthwith to join Lee, 
then all their labors would have been in vain. If they 
could consummate their design within a few hours, then by 
forced marches they could concentrate, but not before 
McClellan did. But, succeed or fail, their march could not 
be postponed more than a very few hours, or their army 
would be fatally divided, because Lee's fraction of it would 
be destroyed. 

This was the situation. The chief element entering into 
it was time, the importance of which Lee and Jackson so 
thoroughly appreciated, the importance of which they 
seemed also to have been able to infuse into all who came 
under their command. This same element was that which 



190 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

McClellan least regarded. Preparation he dealt with as if 
with an isolated fact having little or no relation to time, not 
seeming to feel that, inasmuch as in war an adversary is 
concerned, all preparation concerns not time in general, but 
that special interval of time which is utilizable by the enemy 
as well as by one's self; that in opposing armies success in 
preparation is simply relative, and that to seek beyond a 
certain point to be ready is to confer upon the enemy, 
through incidental consumption of time, the preponderance 
of advantage. Had Jackson been pitted against Lee, in- 
stead of fighting on his side, he would not have stayed an 
hour at Harper's Ferry after he knew that Lee, in McClel- 
lan's place, had reached the eastern slopes of South Moun- 
tain ; but knowing that they had to deal with McClellan, 
and he pitted directly against Lee, he held on for a few 
hours longer, during which he heard from Lee, instead of 
having marched away with his divisions by night. 

The reader cannot fail, after the minute description given, 
to have in his mind's eye the topography of Harper's Ferry, 
the positions of Jackson's troops with reference to it, and 
the position of McClellan's left wing, under Franklin, with 
reference to them. But there has not yet been presented 
the wherewithal to enable him to orient himself with rela- 
tion to the whole zone of operations in which the move- 
ments of the two armies are taking place. From Harper's 
Ferry, then, as the point of departure, imagine the Potomac 
to have, except as to its slight but abrupt windings, a north- 
westwardly course, and the range of South Mountain to be 
distant from it at the river only about five miles, but at a 
point eleven miles up the river to be distant from it about 
nine miles, which would make, as in fact it does, the general 
direction of the range north-northeast It is near this point 
on the range, eleven miles off from the Potomac in a north- 
northeast direction, and nine in an east direction, that Lee 



THE BATTLE OF SOUTH MOUNTAIN. I9I 

in person is holding the passes of Turner's and Fox's Gaps, 
which McClellan is about to assault. 

It is the 14th of September. Jackson has been gone 
from Lee four days. He had started on the loth, and had 
expected to capture Harper's Ferry on the morning of the 
13th. His troops are in the position described with refer- 
ence to Harper's Ferry. Franklin is in the position de- 
scribed with reference to Jackson, or, more precisely, with 
reference to Jackson's lieutenant, McLaws. But Franklin 
alone is not breasting the eastern side of South Mountain. 
McClellan's advance is at Fox's and Turner's Gaps, about 
six miles above Crampton's Gap. If McClellan break 
through, he will have only seven miles from the western 
base of the mountains to march to reach Antietam Creek, 
an affluent of the Potomac, circling around in the same 
general direction, behind which Lee will take refuge to con- 
centrate his forces. Jackson's divisions, each depending 
upon its particular position, will have to march from twelve 
to fifteen miles to rejoin Lee ; unless in one case, the one 
that Franklin cannot bar the way to McLaws seeking to 
march directly north to a junction with Lee by the way of 
Pleasant Valley. 

By the morning of the 14th, the Ninth Corps, under 
General Reno, and by the afternoon, the First Corps, under 
the command of General Hooker, both nominally under 
the command of General Bumside, respectively arrived at 
the base of South Mountain. The Ninth Corps brought 
up opposite Fox's Gap, a minor pass, and the First Corps 
to the right of Turner's Gap, the main pass, about a mile 
north of Fox's Gap. Reno, arriving on the left, dislodged 
the Confederates under D. H. Hill from the first ridge at 
Fox's Gap, but could not at first proceed beyond. The 
pass to the right, however, was the more important one of 
the two, on account of the roads leading through it. The 



19^ QENEkAL QEOBOB OOBDON MEADR 

range of South Mountain here attains an elevation of a 
thousand feet. The pass called Turner's Gap sinks into 
it to the depth of four hundred feet on the main, or National 
Road, which leads directly, in an almost undeviating line, 
from Frederick on the east to Boonsboro' on the west of 
the mountains. At the east base of South Mountain 
the old Hagerstown Road, departing from the National 
Road, s\vings around a mile or so to the right and re-enters 
the National Road at right-angles, between two elongated 
tops of the mountain-range, at the summit of Turner's Gap. 
Whatever force adequate to hold it captures the high rugged 
top on the east of the depression through which this road 
reaches at right-angles the summit of the Gap, commands 
the Gap, by commanding not only the National Road, but 
the old Hagerstown Road where it runs north and south 
through the depression. 

To the right of the pass, dominated by the easternmost 
top described, and partially by the way of the old Hagers- 
town Road, before it circles around into the aforesaid depres- 
sion, the efforts of the Pennsylvania Reserves, of Hooker's 
corps, were therefore directed, first to a short spur on the 
hither side of the top, and then through the dip in the land 
there by which the top is connected with the general level 
of the mountain-range to the north, while Hatch's division, 
of the same corps, aligned on the lower ground to the 
south of the dip in the land, advanced simultaneously to 
capture the top, securing which, all the ground to the south- 
ward in the Gap, where the National Road runs, and the 
ground to the westw^d, where the old Hagerstown Road 
joins it in the valley beyond the top, will be untenable by the 
enemy. In the afternoon, accordingly, when Hooker had ar- 
rived, he swept around to the right of the Gap to assault this 
position to the north of it. General Meade was, by right 
of seniority, in command of the Division of Pennsylvania 



THE BA TTLE OF SO UTH MO UNTAIN. I93 

Reserves, of Hooker's corps, Genera] McCall not having re- 
turned to the field after the Peninsular campaign, and Gen- 
eral Reynolds having been detailed, at the request of 
Governor Curtin, of Pennsylvania, to organize the militia 
which the Governor had called out under the name of 
emergency troops. General Meade pushed Seymour out 
on the right. His own line prolonged that of Seymour 
towards the left. He gives great credit to Seymour, in his 
report, for the admirable manner in which he manoeuvred his 
brigade in outflanking the enemy. Hatch's division, of the 
First Corps, prolonged General Meade's line to the left, and 
the division of Ricketts, of the Corps, was held in reserve. 

By this time Longstreet had reinforced Hill. General 
Meade pressed forward and up the rugged slopes with his 
division. Hatch, on his left, maintaining the line there. He 
captured the spur, and then, with a brief pause, advanced 
to the assault of the commanding top, which was the key 
to the position. After a sharp engagement the forces found 
themselves completely masters of the ground assailed. 
General Meade had, at the hottest part of the engagement, 
sent to Hooker for reinforcements, and General Abram 
Duryea's brigade, of Ricketts's division, had been sent to 
him, but owing to the difficulties of the ground and the 
distance to be gone over, did not reach him in time for 
more than one regiment to open fire when darkness set in 
for the night. A most grievous loss to the army in the bril- 
liant action of South Mountain, in which, although the 
Federals outnumbered the Confederates two to one, the 
latter had the advantage of position, was in the death, at 
Fox's Gap, of General Reno, who commanded a division 
in the Ninth Corps. On the side of the Confederates, they 
had especially to mourn the loss of General Samuel Gar- 
land, who had been opposed to Reno at Fox's Gap. In 

an article by D. H. Hill, which appeared in the Century 

13 



194 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

Magazine for May, 1868, he speaks with soldierly admir- 
ation of the splendid appearance and bearing of Meade's 
and Hatch's troops. Of Meade personally he says, '' Meade 
was one of our most dreaded foes ; he was always in deadly 
earnest, and he eschewed all trifling. He had under him 
brigade-conmianders, officers, and soldiers, worthy of his 
leadership." 

It has been stated by Mr. William Swinton that, if 
McClellan had shown the energy which Jackson had ex- 
hibited in marching to Harper's Ferry, the passes of South 
Mountain might have been occupied in the evening of 
the 13th of September, and the time spent in forcing 
them in the engagement of the 14th thereby saved. This 
would have been impossible, as would appear from exami- 
nation of the conditions existing when the order was found 
on the 1 3th. Pleasonton was farthest in advance towards 
Turner's Gap, but J. E. B. Stuart was contesting every inch 
of the way with him through the Catoctin Range. Reno, 
with infantry, was well up towards Middletown, but the 
main body of the army was eleven miles distant from the 
base of South Mountain, and D. H. Hill soon took posi- 
tion in the gaps on McClellan's line of march, with his 
reserves in Boonsboro'. If Hill alone managed, as he did, 
the following day, to resist for hours the first assault at 
Fox's Gap, it is not apparent how he could have failed, 
even with his small division of five or six thousand men, to 
hold in check a fragmentary force brought upon the scene 
when night was falling. Franklin, it is true, might have 
been ordered to make a night march on Crampton's Gap 
and assault there early in the morning of the 14th, instead 
of only being ordered, as he was, to march for that point 
in the morning, the consequence of which was that he was 
not able to make his way through the pass until the after- 
noon, and descending into Pleasant Valley, push the enemy 



THE BATTLE OF SO UTH MO UNTAIN. I95 

before night put a stop to active operations. But even if 
he had been able to descend into Pleasant Valley in the 
morning of the 14th, he could not have relieved Harper's 
Ferry by dislodging McLaws. McLaws was so strong and 
confident with his and Anderson's divisions, that, leaving 
one regiment on Maryland Heights to support his artillery 
there, and stationing two brigades on each of the roads, one 
to the north and one to the east, leading from Harper's 
Ferry, he, during the night of the 14th, threw in advance 
across Pleasant Valley his remaining six brigades in so for- 
midable an array that Franklin, as he says in his report to 
McClellan, did not consider it prudent to attack him. It 
stands to reason that, if Franklin could not attack him in 
the valley, drawn up as he was, he could not have dislodged 
him from Maryland Heights. 

It becomes imperative now sedulously to condense what 
remains to be said within the rigid limits of this sketch, as 
regards the culmination of operations along the South 
Mountain Range, involving, on the Federal right, efforts to 
pass the range and drive Lee out of the north end of 
Pleasant Valley, and on the left to relieve Harper's Ferry ; 
and correspondingly, involving efforts by the Confederate 
left to hold the gaps opposite to it, so that Jackson should 
have time to receive the surrender of Harper's Ferry and 
join forces with Lee, while, six miles away, the Confederate 
right is partly engaged, through McLaws, in standing off 
Franklin's intended interference with the siege. 

It has been mentioned that, by nightfall of the 14th, the 
position at Turner's Gap had been rendered untenable to 
the enemy, through the Federal occupation of the key-point 
to the right. Reno had also, in a renewed attack at Fox's 
Gap, that in which he lost his life, proved successful there. 
Both sides continued at nightfall to hold ground at the 
ga^, but while the enemy still occupied the National Road, 



196 GENERAL QEOBGE GORDON MEADE 

passing through the more important gap, Turner's, the 
Federal forces had obtained lodgment beyond both flanks 
of the enemy, and Gibbon, who, with a brigade, had ad- 
vanced in the centre along the National Road, threatened 
the defenders of the pass in front. The position would by 
daylight be no longer tenable, and so, about the middle of 
the night, the enemy began the evacuation of the place, and 
by morning had passed down beyond the west base of the 
mountain-range, having been perfectly safe under cover of 
darkness. Franklin had, the day before, broken through 
Crampton*s and Brownsville Gaps and dispersed the troops 
defending them, although they had been reinforced by Mc- 
Laws. Therefore his alone, of the three columns assaulting 
the passes in the South Mountain Range had, on the 14th, 
gained a foothold in Pleasant Valley. But, by the morning 
of the 1 5th, it having been discovered that the enemy had 
evacuated Turner's and Fox's Gaps, the advanced columns 
of the main Federal army also soon debouched into the 
valley beyond. 

Harper's Ferry was, however, not relieved. It fell by 
surrender, with the loss of between eleven and twelve 
thousand men, and with that of arms and munitions of war. 
Assailed from Maryland Heights and Loudon Heights, with 
its position at Bolivar Heights turned, with batteries of the 
enemy stationed at enfilading points, and columns at the 
last moment preparing for assault, it was perfectly helpless. 
Only thirteen hundred men, cavalry, part of the force that 
had been driven by Jackson out of Martinsburg, of the 
whole number of troops at the post, escaped. They crossed 
the Potomac on the bridge just below the post, and moving 
close under Maryland Heights, unperceived by McLaws, 
made their way into Maryland and successfully evaded the 
columns of the enemy. 

Had the whole force originally at Harper's Ferry been 



THE BATTLE OF SOUTff MOUXTAm. l<yj 

removed, whh ample artillery, to Maryland Heights, they 
could not have been captured by the enemy, nor, of course, 
would Haiper'3 Ferry have been tenable by him. Had 
McClellan's suggestion been adopted to evacuate the post 
and let the troops join him, it would have been captured, 
but the troops would not have been lost, and might have 
done good service. Had Colonel Ford, to whom was 
committed, with two thousand troops, the defence of Mary- 
land Heights, made a more vigorous defence than he did, 
perhaps the Heights would not have been taken, and 
then, if he had had sufficient artillery. Harper's Ferry 
would not have been captured. A court of inquiry was 
held, which dismissed Colonel Ford and censured the con- 
duct of affairs, in which the chief instrument in the field 
was the dead commandant of the post, Colonel Miles, 
among very few casualties ; although, it should be said in 
passing, that the censure reflects not at all on the de- 
fence when it had reached the last stage, for holding out 
longer, when Hill was advancing to the assault, would have 
been useless sacrifice of life. The decisions cannot be re- 
garded as having represented the purest justice, for the man 
who was chiefly responsible for the disaster was General 
Halleck, who remained unscathed. 

At eight o'clock, on the morning of the 1 5th of Sep- 
tember, the scene presented near Harper's Ferry was 
McLaws's six brigades drawn up in line of battle across 
Pleasant Valley, confronting Franklin, and barring his ad- 
vance towards Maryland Heights. On Maryland Heights 
McLaws's batteries, supported by the regiment which he 
had left there, were bombarding Harper's Ferry. From 
Loudon Heights came a convergent fire, and from the bat- 
teries placed by Hill, under Jackson's orders, the fire helped 
towards perfecting the periphery of the circle. A. P. Hill's 
troops were forming for an assault that could not by any 



198 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

possibility prove under the circumstances a failure. Then a 
white flag from the works in Harper's Ferry appeared, the 
fire of the Confederates was stopped as soon as possible, 
the last of it killing Colonel Miles, and at 8.30 a.m. the post 
surrendered. 

Jackson at once left Hill to attend to details, and he him- 
self, with two of his divisions, marched rapidly away to join 
Lee. McLaws, retiring from Franklin's front, instead of 
trying to break through his line to join Lee by the way of 
Pleasant Valley, crossed the bridge at Harper's Ferry to the 
south side of the Potomac, and also took up the line of 
march to join Lee. Later, Franklin marched directly 
northward up Pleasant Valley to join McClellan, leaving 
Couch to occupy Maryland Heights ; for what purpose it 
is difficult to imagine, the stable door being open and the 
horse gone, and as, upon a single battalion, as says Napo- 
leon, may depend the fate of a battle. 

The order of the day on Lee's side is concentration, and 
the order of the day is the same on McClellan's. But 
whereas the order of the day on Lee's side is concentration 
with direct reference to imminent battle, it has, on McClel- 
lan's side, no relation to imminent battle. All the advan- 
tage gained by McClellan through the Confederate miscal- 
culation by two days of the time requisite to capture 
Harper's Ferry, all the advantage of his knowledge of Lee's 
immediate presence with less than half his army, is to be 
lavishly handed over to his adversary. He has Lee's own 
plan of campaign in his possession, knows just how his divi- 
sions are separated, should know the strength of an average 
Confederate division, and should know how depleted the 
ranks of Lee must be from the late battles and straggling. 
Notwithstanding, he estimates the somewhat less than forty 
thousand troops of the enemy at nearly a hundred thousand, 
and although he knows that there are only three infantry 



THE BATTLE OF 80 UTH MO UNTAIN. 199 

divisions of the enemy, besides cavalry, in front of him, he 
thinks he must proceed with great caution. He has seven 
miles to march, and it is two days before he regularly joins 
battle across a stream spanned by four bridges. We may 
well say of such liberality to an adversary, as was said by 
General Pelissier of the charge of the Light Brigade, ** C'esf 
magfdfique^ tnais ce n* est pas la guerre** Nothing can equal 
it but the generosity of the English and the French at 
Fontenoy, each of whom insisted that the other should fire 
first. 



x% 



200 GENERAL QEOEQE GORDON MEADE 



CHAPTER XL 

THE BATTLE OF THE ANTIETAM. 

By the morning of the 1 5th of September the two corps 
of Sumner, the Second and the Twelfth, had closed up on 
the east side of South Mountain with the two corps of 
Bumside, the First and the Ninth, the last two occupying 
the range where they had fought on the day before, at 
Fox's and Turner's Gaps. The pickets of Bumside's corps 
pushed forward at daylight and found that the enemy had 
gone. The four corps therefore descended unopposed into 
Pleasant Valley, near the town of Boonsboro', from which 
the pass is sometimes called Boonsboro' Gap, the Confed- 
erates naming the action there the battle of Boonsboro', 
while the Federals name it the battle of South Moun- 
tain. 

It ought not to be doubted that, with mobility equal to 
that of European armies of the first class, as witnessed in 
many wars, with only from seven to eight miles, or, at 
farthest, in case of detours, ten miles to march, and with 
the enormous disproportion of numbers between the Fed- 
eral and Confederate forces present, McClellan could, by 
a forced march at daylight from the passes of South 
Mountain, have been able, despite the shortness of the 
autumnal day, to put the small force of Lee behind the 
Antietam to utter rout. But mobility in arpiies lies far less 
in the locomotive powers of the men than in the will of the 
commander. As the head is, so is the body destined to 
prevail or suffer. There is no truer saying of Napoleon's 



THE BATTLE OF THE ANTIETAM. 201 

than thaty in the conduct of war, there is not so much need 
of men as of a man. 

From seven to eight miles in a straight line, to reach the 
stream called the Antietam, was the distance which McClel- 
Ian had to march after debouching between eight and nine 
o'clock in the morning from the South Mountain Range. 
The army was in the north end of Pleasant Valley, beyond 
which, towards the west, continuing beyond the town of 
Boonsboro', is the valley of the Antietam, confined between 
the line on the one side where Elk Ridge coming from the 
south has dwindled away to a lower height, and that, on 
the other side, defined by the low ranges of hills beyond 
Antietam Creek. Beyond the Antietam, which is crossed 
by four bridges, and had, at the low stage of water then 
prevailing, several fords, is the Potomac, about two miles 
ofT, with Lee's line of retreat to the left, at the town of 
Shepherdstown on its right or farther bank. The course 
of the river and the creek, about two miles apart, are about 
the same, slightly east of north, and in the loop formed by 
creek and river, about midway between the two, lies the 
town of Sharpsburg, after which the Confederates named 
the approaching battle, the Federals calling it the battle of 
Antietam. Resting his right on a sharp westerly bend of 
the Antietam, Lee's line of battle at first passed in front 
of the town of Sharpsburg along the range of hills border- 
ing its west bank, his left stretching away backward in a 
long curve to the Potomac. 

The force which McClellan had in hand was his whole 
army, except the corps of Franklin, the division of Couch, 
both now at Crampton's Gap, and the division of General 
Andrew A. Humphreys, left at Frederick. McClellan's 
full force on leaving Washington was eighty-five thousand 
men. Allowing for those absent with Franklin and Hum- 
phreys, and for stragglers, he could not have had in hand 



a02 GENERAL QEOBQE QOBDON MEADE. 

less than sixty thousand men when he debouched from 
the South Mountain Range, while Lee's three divisions 
of infantry with him did not number more than seventeen 
thousand men. It would seem that he ought to have 
crushed Lee's army before the sun set that night. But 
what person of experience has not seen in life those who are 
stimulated by some extraordinary circumstance or outside 
personal pressure, and who have under that stress seemed 
to act with resolution, and then, that being spent, have im- 
mediately relapsed into their veritable selves, nothing being 
more persistent than character ? So McClellan exhibited 
for a brief moment some appreciation of the great reward 
held out to adequate endeavor, but just at the moment 
when it needed but stretching forth to grasp it, he fell back 
into the full sway of his plodding circumspection, and let 
all that fortune offered escape him. 

Fitzhugh Lee continuously resisted with his small cavalry 
conmiand the advance of McClellan all the way from Boons- 
boro' to the Antietam. But it ought to have taken ten 
times the force he was able to muster seriously to delay the 
advance of sixty thousand men over a distance of between 
seven and eight miles. Meanwhile Lee, knowing his adver- 
sary much better than his adversary knew him, quietly took 
up his position behind the Antietam, and by the time that 
McClellan reached it, the day was too far spent for active 
operations. 

If, however, it was necessary to pursue so slowly on the 
1 5th as to bring it about that active operations must be post- 
poned until the following day, would the most procrastinat- 
ing general of whom we know, except McClellan, have 
postponed them for still another day? What reconnois- 
sances and dispositions of troops could compensate for those 
which the enemy was making on the other side of the 
Antietam, and for the accessions of troops which he would 



THE BATTLE OF THE ANTIETAM. 903 

receive through McClellan's delay ? All this benefit, out of 
all proportion to that which McClellan could receive by 
delay, the enemy continued to enjoy throughout nearly the 
whole of the i6th of September. Reconnoissances and 
posting of troops and artillery, which might have been made 
merely incidental, continued on the east of the Antietam, 
while McClellan must have known that Lee's absent divis- 
ions were rapidly joining him from Harper's Ferry. The 
two divisions of Jackson joined him on the i6th, and also 
the two brigades of Walker, but the divisions of McLaws, 
Anderson, and A. P. Hill could not get up for service on 
that day, but did for the next, the day of battle. 

Two of the greatest errors had been committed, that 
involved, on the 1 5th, in a tardy pursuit and no attack on 
the enemy, and that involved, on the i6th, in spending 
nearly the whole day in making reconnoissances and post- 
ing batteries and troops ; and these two were crowned, on 
the afternoon of the i6th, by sending a small force over the 
Antietam, late in the day, to attack the enemy's left flank. 
Yet, if there is anything thoroughly accepted and practised 
in war, it is the avoidance, unless it be intended for a feint 
(and that is not a movement of the kind here referred to), 
of beginning a movement so late in the day that it cannot 
be continued, for the very obvious reason that it notifies the 
enemy of what is intended, and enables him during the 
night to make his preparations against it. 

By the morning of the 1 7th General McClellan had sur- 
rendered all the advantage of taking the initiative at the 
point of time of Lee's greatest weakness, only one small 
division of Lee's still remaining to come up. He had, 
moreover, by sending a small force across the Antietam on 
the preceding afternoon, put Lee on his guard at that point, 
and under these cumulative circumstances of mismanage- 
ment he finally laid out his plan of battle by confiding it in 




a04 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE. 

chief part to a man of whose efficiency he had the most 
profound and well-grounded distrust, confiding to him one 
of the most delicate operations of the field, that of the exe- 
cution of a movement upon which the success of the plan 
largely, if not wholly, depended. 

McClellan, referring to incidents just before and after the 
battle of South Mountain, speaks thus in his memoirs of 
Bumside : — 

" About the time I started, Reno sent back desiring that a division 
might be sent to the rear of the pass. I sent the order to Hooker to 
move at once (Bumside had nothing to do with this),*' etc. Again, 
" Bumside never came as near the battle as my position. Yet it was 
his command that was in action.** Continuing, in another place, he 
says, " I at once gave orders for the positions of the bivouacs, mass- 
ing the army so that it could be handled as required. I ordered Bum- 
side to the left. He grumbled that his troops were fatigued, but I 
started him off anyhow.'* 

If McClellan had, as he hereby implies that he had, such 
distrust of Burnside, and he had known him, as he else- 
where says, for a long while, it is astounding that he put 
him, as he did, with reference to the impending battle, in 
a position higher, because one calling for great judgment, 
than that which any other of his corps-commanders en- 
joyed. The plan of battle was, using McClellan's own 
words in his memoirs, ** to attack the enemy's lefl with the 
corps of Hooker and Mansfield, supported by Sumner's, 
and, if necessary, by Franklin's ; and as soon as matters 
looked favorably there, to move the corps of Bumside 
against the enemy's extreme right, upon the ridge running 
to the south and rear of Sharpsburg, and having carried the 
position, to press along the crest to our right ; and when- 
ever either of these flank movements should be successful, 
to advance our centre with all the forces then disposable." 

Hooker was ordered, about 2 p.m., on the i6th, to attack 



THE BATTLE OF THE ANTIETAM. I05 

the enemy's left wing by crossing the Antietam at Bridge 
No. I and the ford below it. But an order given so late in 
the day made it impossible for the attack to be made long 
before evening. General Mansfield was ordered to cross at 
the same place during the night, and be ready to support 
Hooker the next morning, and General Sumner was ordered 
to hold his corps in readiness to cross by morning. Sumner 
was given command of the right wing so constituted. Por- 
ter, newly arrived with the Fifth Corps, consisting at the 
moment of only two divisions, but strong in artillery, occu- 
pied the centre. Bumside, on the east side of the Antietam, 
with the Ninth Corps, occupied a position down the stream 
near Bridge No. 3. 

The immediate consequence of the manoeuvre of sending 
Hooker across the Antietam on the afternoon of the i6th 
was that the Third Brigade of Pennsylvania Reserves came 
into a very sharp engagement, extending to some of the 
other troops of the corps, with the final result that they 
were obliged to lie all night on their arms in the closest 
proximity to the enemy. On the following morning the 
engagement was hotly renewed between the enemy and 
Hooker. The Twelfth Corps, under Mansfield, soon came 
up to support Hooker. Hooker was wounded and obliged 
to leave the field, turning over the command of his corps 
to General Meade, General Seymour taking command of 
the Division of Pennsylvania Reserves. The head of Sum- 
ner's column reached the ground about nine o'clock. Gen- 
eral Meade, relieved by the arrival of the corps of Generals 
Mansfield and Sumner from the pressure put upon him 
alone by the enemy, withdrew the shattered First Corps 
to the ridge to the rear of where the engagement was taking 
place on the left-centre and -wing of the enemy. Why had 
not Sumner been ordered to cross the Antietam during the 
night, as Mansfield had been ? There is no apparent reason 



ao6 GENERAL QEQBQE GORDON MEADE 

for it, except in the dominating love of McClellan for par- 
celling everything out in fractions of men and time. The 
whole attack was extraordinarily ill-conducted and inef- 
fective. It was not even being carried out according to its 
defects, but with heightened defects. Hooker had been 
nearly fought out before Mansfield entered on the scene. 
Mansfield was nearly fought out before Sumner arrived. 
And when Sumner arrived, Sedgwick's, of his three di- 
visions, was led into unsupported and misdirected action by 
Sunmer himself, with the consequence that it was decimated, 
and French's and Richardson's went into action without per- 
fect simultaneity, and with a space between them of which 
the enemy took advantage. 

It seems at first sight incredible that such troops as these, 
however faulty the way in which they were brought on 
the field, should, against a force so numerically inferior as 
that of Lee, fare so badly as they did. It would be in- 
credible but for one thing not yet mentioned, that, owing 
to the inertness on McClellan's left, Lee had been stripping 
his right to such an extent that a formidable move against 
it would have swept it from the field. General McClellan 
says in his memoirs : 

" The troops of General Bumside held the left of the line opposite 
Bridge No. 3. The attack on the right was to have been supported by 
an attack on the left Preparatory to this attack, on the evening of 
the 1 6th, General Bumside' s corps was moved forward and to the left, 
and took up a position nearer the bridge.*' 

General McClellan further says : 

" Elarly on the morning of the 17th I ordered General Bumside to 
form his troops and hold them in readiness to assault the bridge in 
front and to await further orders. 

" At eight o'clock an order was sent to him by Lieutenant Wilson, 
Topographical Engineers, to carry the bridge, then to gain possession 
of the heights beyond, and to advance along the crest upon Sharps- 
hmg and its rear. 



THE BATTLE OF THE ANTIETAM. TOJ 

" After some time had elapsed, not hearing from him, I despatched 
an aide to ascertain what had been done. The aide returned with the 
information that but little progress had been made. I then sent him 
back with an order to General Bumside to assault the bridge and 
carry it at all hazards. The aide returned to me a second time with 
the report that the bridge was still in possession of the enemy. Where- 
upon I directed Colonel Sackett, inspector-general, to deliver to 
General Burnside my positive order to push forward his troops with- 
out a moment's delay, and, if necessary, to carry the bridge at the 
point of the bayonet, and I ordered Colonel Sackett to remain with 
General Burnside and see that the order was executed promptly. 

" After these three hours* delay the bridge was carried at one o'clock 
by a brilliant charge of the Fifty-first New York and Fifty-first Penn- 
sylvania volunteers. Other troops were then over, and the opposite 
bank occupied, the enemy retreating to the heights beyond. 

** A halt was then made by General Burnside' s advance until 3 p.m., 
upon hearing of which I directed one of my aides. Colonel Key, to in- 
form General Bumside that I desired him to push forward his troops 
with the utmost vigor and carry the enemy's position on the heights ; 

that the movement was vital to our success He replied that 

he would soon advance, and would go up the hill as far as a battery 
of the enemy on the left would permit. Upon this report I immediately 
sent Colonel Key to General Bumside with orders to advance at once, 

if possible to flank the battery, or storm it and carry the heights 

The advance was then gallantly resumed, the enemy driven from the 
guns, the heights handsomely carried, and a portion of the troops 
even reached the outskirts of Sharpsburg. By this time it was nearly 
dark, and strong reinforcements just then reaching the enemy from 
Harper's Ferry, attacked General Bumside' s troops on their left flank, 
and forced them to retire to a lower line of hills nearer the bridge. 

" If this important movement had been consummated two hours 
earlier, a position would have been secured from which our batteries 
might have enfiladed the greater part of the enemy's line, and turned 
their right and rear. Our victory might thus have been made more 
decisive. 

" The ground held by Bumside beyond the bridge was so strong 
that he ought to have repulsed the attack and held his own. He 
never crossed the bridge in person." 

There is no reason to doubt the substantial accuracy of 
this account of McClellan's. There is only one particular 
in it, and that merely nominal, which seems to be in error. 



208 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE. 

Bumside did cross the bridge, but only formally, and soon 
returned. It seems that he was not pleased at McClellan's 
dividing his command by sending the First Corps to the 
right and leaving only the Ninth Corps to him. However 
that may be, whatever his motive, he took a very inert part 
in the battle, leaving the conduct of the Ninth Corps to 
General Jacob D. Cox, who was, of course, hampered by 
his formal presence and nominal command. The truth of 
the statement just made is partially confirmed by certain 
extant letters of Colonel Sackett's, and one may say also, 
confirmed by Bumside's subsequent career. But while 
condemning Bumside, the circumstances do by no means 
exonerate General McClellan. He had long known Burn- 
side. His own testimony about what passed before the 
battle shows that he had no faith in Burnside. Yet he left 
to Bumside's execution the most delicate and important 
duty of the day. The chief responsibility for the failure to 
make the battle an unqualified victory lay not only in Mc- 
Clellan's assigning to Bumside so important a duty, but in 
his own instructions for the attack on the enemy's left wing. 
There, too, is to be observed remissness without which it 
might have been possible to win the battle, despite the in- 
efficiency of Bumside, and with proper agency substituted 
for his, to make victory certain. Had McClellan, at dawn 
of day on the 17th of September, thrown three corps across 
the Antietam, on the right, and had he, on the left, given 
to either Hooker or Porter the performance of the task 
assigned to Bumside, it would have been all up with the 
army of Lee. We know, through Confederate sources, 
that only five hundred men held Bridge No. 3, and that the 
whole force on Lee's right was two thousand five hundred 
men. The reinforcements which McClellan mentions as 
reaching Lee's right late in the aflemoon were only the 
two thousand men of A. P. Hill's division, which had been 



THE BATTLE OF THE ANTIETAM. 209 

left at Harper's Ferry by Jackson to attend to the details 
of the surrender of that place. 

Before noon General Franklin, with the Sixth Corps, 
arrived on the field with two divisions. Smith's and Slocum's, 
having, as already mentioned, left Couch with his division 
to occupy temporarily Maryland Heights. Couch was, 
however, countermarched before he arrived there, but did 
not reach the battle-field in time. Franklin had brought 
up Smith with his division, and had supported Sedgwick 
after his disaster by making disposition on Sedgwick's left 
of both of its brigades. Slocum's division of the same corps, 
the Sixth, was posted between eleven and twelve o'clock on 
the right, and stretching away from right to left were then 
Slocum's, Sedgwick's, Smith's, French's, and Richardson's 
divisions, formed and ready to advance, when Sumner, who 
had been shocked at the recent slaughter, placed his interdict 
on the movement, and the conflict ceased about one o'clock, 
with artillery-firing in fitful outbreaks along the lines. Who 
can doubt that if McClcIlan had ordered an advance instead 
of accepting Sumner's judgment, Lee's army would have 
been crushed by the terrible odds against it ? Some of the 
best officers on the Federal side thought so then, and all Con- 
federate testimony since confirms the justness of their view. 
We know now that the Confederates had been fought out 
to the point of demoralization on their left-centre and -wing, 
and that Lee had not another man to send from his right 
Suppose, then, that Bumside had pushed Lee's right vigor- 
ously, as he ought to have been doing, Franklin's attack 
on the left could not have failed. It may well be doubted 
if, at that period of the battle, even without the co-operation 
of Bumside, an attack on the left of the enemy would have 
&iled. Had the two attacks been simultaneous, or nearly 
so, and had the enemy been driven back, Porter's corps 

on the centre would have advanced and completed his 

14 



3IO GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

discomfiture. This corps had not been quite idle during 
the action on McClellan's right Its powerful artillery had 
swept the hills on the other side of the Antietam, and 
battalions had passed over the stream and encountered and 
driven back skirmishers of Lee's centre. Pleasanton's 
cavalry was supported on the west side of the stream by 
Sykes's regulars. Porter's corps also sent some reinforce- 
ments to Sumner, which, however, did not come into action. 
By the end of the battle Lee's whole line had somewhat 
retracted and fallen back of its original position. The battle 
may be summed up, so far as McClellan was concerned, 
by saying that the whole army was not fought, and that 
that portion of it which was fought, was fought by small 
fractions, in violation of all tactical principles. It was truly 
not men that the Federals lacked, but a man, and he was 
on the other side. 

It may, indeed, upon evidence be regarded as certain 
that if the attack had been resumed on the enemy's left on 
the afternoon of the 1 7th, the army of Lee would have been 
badly defeated. Whether or not, if it had been resumed 
on the 1 8th, the same thing would have come to pass, as 
some persons have thought, may well be doubted. Num- 
bers of stragglers, some shoeless, and others footsore from 
late marches over flinty roads, had rejoined Lee's forces. 
His army during this feat of arms had gained rather than 
lost ntorale, as proved by the way in which A. P. Hill 
audaciously repulsed the corps of Porter attempting to 
harass his retreat McClellan wrote and spoke of the result 
of the action as a great victory, remarking in one place, in 
a letter, that " those in whose judgment I rely tell me that 
I fought the battle splendidly, and that it was a masterpiece 
of art." No man ever penned greater testimony to his 
blindness to his own shortcomings. Whether we consider 
the vast numbers relatively to those of the enemy of which 



THE BATTLE OF THE ANTLETAM. 2 1 1 

he could dispose, or the actual dispositions he made of them 
in time and space, or the lack of judgment he showed in 
choosing instruments for carrying out his designs, he stands 
condemned as a general utterly wanting in skill. 

It was a terribly bloody day, the bloodiest single day of 
any in the annals of the Civil War, the losses on each side 
being between fourteen and fifteen thousand. It was fought 
on the Confederate side by a master of tactics, on the Fed- 
eral side by an inept apprentice to the art of war. It freed 
Maryland from invasion, but at undue expense. Would 
that the scale upon which this work is framed permitted 
mention of the details of the battle, in which Generals 
Mansfield, Richardson, and many other noble officers were 
killed on the Federal side, and General Hancock appeared 
more conspicuously than before on the scene, replacing 
Richardson, borne from the field with three wounds ! 
Would that it permitted mention of the way in which the 
rank and file bore themselves with courage and constancy 
in opposition to a heroism on the other side which it wrings 
the heart to think was spent in a mistaken cause ! Else- 
where the reader must look for these details of battle, in 
default of the possibility of including them here. Glancing 
for a moment, as in duty bound, to the particular subject of 
this memoir, the reader will observe that, amidst the chances 
and vicissitudes of war, just as Hancock during the battle 
was transferred from his brigade of the Sixth Corps to the 
command of Richardson's division of the Second, so also 
General Meade, through similar recognition of his deserts 
and adequacy in time of need, came rapidly to the front. It 
was, indeed, through the veriest chance that. General Rey- 
noldsy having been detailed for other duty. General Meade 
found himself ift command of the Division of Pennsylvania 
Reserves at the beginning of the battle ; but it was by order 
of General McClellan that he assumed command of the 



212 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

First Corps, and, as was believed at the time, at the urgent 
request of General Hooker, when wounded. In this action 
General Meade was struck in the right side by a spent 
grape-shot, which, fortunately, had not velocity enough to 
penetrate the body, but made merely a severe contusion. 
His aide. Lieutenant William Riddle, was slightly wounded 
in the hand. His favorite horse, " Baldy," was shot through 
the neck, but recovered. This same horse, it may be re- 
membered, had been wounded at the Second Bull Run. 
Another horse, which the General rode at the battle of An- 
tietam, was shot in the flank. At the battle of New Market 
Cross Roads, on the Peninsula, the horse of the General 
was wounded. 

Couch's division, of the Second Corps, came up on the 
morning of the /i 8th, and on the same morning General 
Andrew A. Humphrey's division, of the Fifth Corps, arrived 
from Frederick. In the night of that day Lee retreated into 
Vii^inia by the way of the ford in his rear over the Potomac 
at Shepherdstown. The renewal of the battle, therefore, 
contemplated to take place on the 19th, did not occur. On 
the morning of the 19th a detachment from the Fifth Corps 
attempted to harass the enemy's rearguard, and met with 
some slight success. On the following day, however, a 
reconnoissance in force by the Fifth Corps being made, with 
a large number of troops, it resulted in serious Federal loss, 
although not so serious as represented by A. P. Hill, who 
repelled it. Lee gradually retired to the vicinity of Mar- 
tinsburg, with communications open to Winchester and else- 
where towards the south, employing his army in destroying 
the railroad which would make McClellan's line of supply 
in an advance on Richftiond, and in the mean time he re- 
cruited it there in numbers, and by rest and supplies from 
the fertile region of Shenandoah Valley. 

On the 20th of September Maryland Heights were re- 



THE BA TTLE OF THE ANTIETAM. 2 1 3 

occupied, by Federal troops, and on the 2 2d Harper's 
Ferry also was reoccupied by them. General Lee's posi- 
tion was in the vicinity of Martinsburg and Winchester, 
in the Shenandoah Valley. McClellan, as he admitted to 
Halleck, did not feel confident enough to cross with his 
main body to the south side of the Potomac. He therefore 
confined himself to posting bodies of troops at Williams- 
port, Downsville, and Bakersville to watch and guard the 
passages by which Lee might seek to re-enter Maryland. 
He meanwhile strongly represented to Halleck the necessity 
of his being reinforced, and the destitution of his army in 
clothing. Doubtless much improvement in the way of sup- 
plies could have been desired, but if the condition of the 
Army of the Potomac was needy, that of the Army of 
Northern Virginia was beggarly, its soldiers being so desti- 
tute as to look like a swarm of tatterdemalions. ** The 
Lord bless your dirty, ragged souls," is said to have been 
the fervid greeting, by a female sympathizer, to a band of 
them as they passed through Frederick. In fact, not to put 
too fine a point on it, they were so miserably clad, fed, and so 
overworked, had become, through continuous hard march- 
ing and fighting, so divested of the pomp and glorious cir- 
cumstance of war, that with their presentation of themselves 
in Maryland disappeared almost the last vestige of romance 
with which their reputation had endowed them. * In vain 
they vociferously sang, while tramping to their self-appointed 
task of liberation, ** Maryland, my Maryland." The apos- 
trophized sleeping Genius of the State did not rouse herself 
to make even a languid response. Alas, that there should 
be no pure rationality nor sentiment among men, but that 
they should be so carnal that a cause should suffer because 
it is habited in rags ! Yet, never was there a better illustra- 
tion than that afforded by these men of the truth of Napo- 
leon's dictum, that poverty is the best school of the soldier. 







214 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

Two congratulatory despatches reached McCIellan re- 
garding the battle of South Mountain, — one from the Presi- 
dent and one from General Scott. Nothing of the same 
sort was vouchsafed him regarding the battle of Antietam. 
On the 2 1 St of September he wrote that he had not heard a 
word from the President, the Secretary of War, or Halleck, 
about that battle. No doubt the result had set them all 
seriously to thinking. They knew that here, at least, was 
none of the disparity of force which McCIellan had pre- 
viously alleged to exist. They knew that here were none 
of the difficulties of ground of which McCIellan had had 
to complain in his own chosen field of the Peninsula. They 
were silent, therefore, about the battle ; but dissatisfaction 
pierced through the tenor of Halleck's despatches, of the 
character of which McCIellan complained to him, and doubt- 
less with some reason, for Halleck was an inconsiderate and 
tactless man ; and by that strange law of nature which the 
most casual observer has noted, that unfortunate attributes 
mirrored in another are strangely diss^eeable to the ob- 
server, he found particularly heinous in McCIellan those 
military defects which were also peculiarly his own. 

Maryland Heights, Bolivar Heights, and Loudon Heights 
were fortified by McCIellan to guard against a repetition 
of the mishap of the capture of Harper's Ferry. The 
army meanwhile settled into a quiescent state, awaiting re- 
organization and supplies. McClellan's reasons against the 
resumption of active operations at once were not only the 
need of reorganization and of renewed supplies, but the ex- 
istence of a low stage of water in the Potomac. A rise in 
the water would be desirable, lest the enemy should renew 
hu( invasion of Maryland, while he himself hardly felt 
Mn^xe enough to venture upon putting the Potomac at his 
Kwk by Classing it, lest there might be a sudden rise in its 



THE BATTLE OF THE ANTIETAM. 21$ 

On the 1st of October the President visited the army and 
remained with it for some time, going over the recent bat- 
tle-fields under the escort of McClellan. McClellan did 
not neglect the opportunity of trying to impress upon the 
President what he called "a conservative course." He 
doubtless referred by this expression to the fact that the 
President had, on the 2 2d of September, issued a prelimi- 
nary proclamation of emancipation to slaves. Mr. Lincoln 
had tried in vain to bring about some gradual solution of 
the matter. He had tried to induce the border States to 
concert with Congress measures for compensated emancipa- 
tion. His own position on the subject had been clearly 
defined by him in a letter to Horace Greeley, of the New 
York Tribune^ in which he had said : — 

" My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save 
or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any 
slave, I would do it ; if I could do it by freeing all the slaves, I would 
do it ; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, 
I would also do that.*' 

He saw now that the logical necessity of the edict for the 
manumission of the slaves of the South could not, as a war 
measure, be much longer postponed. The South had drawn 
the sword and flung away the scabbard. It had declared, 
through the second officer in rank of its, government, that 
the comer-stone thereof was slavery. It was not fitting 
that the sword so drawn, for the object so declared, should 
longer possess to any degree the shield of the Constitution 
of the United States. There was no idea back of the ac- 
tion, as was falsely charged in the heat of passion, that such 
a proclamation, whether provisory or final, would promote 
servile insurrection. The slaves were known to be too 
docile to admit of such a supposition, and every man of 
sound judgment knew that, even if that were possible to the 




2l6 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADK 

thought of the slaves themselves, it would be impossible 
in deed with the whole white population of the South in 
arms. 

Regarding this visit of the President to the camp, Mc- 
Clellan records that it was entirely satisfactory to him, that 
he had Mr. Lincoln's assurance that he could move at his 
own chosen time. On the 7th of October, however, after 
the President had returned to Washington, McClellan re- 
ceived a telegfram from Halleck, showing that, unless Mc- 
Clellan had not been mistaken in it, a wondrous change 
had taken place in the President's mind. Halleck tele- 
graphed that, by order of the President, McClellan was 
directed to cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy 
or drive him south, that the army must move while the 
roads continued good, that if McClellan should move east 
of the Blue Ridge, covering Washington, he could be rein- 
forced by thirty thousand men, but that if he should move by 
the way of the Shenandoah Valley, he could not have more 
than from ten to twelve thousand men. On the 9th of 
October Stuart crossed the Potomac at McCoy's Ferry, 
above Williamsport, with about fifteen hundred cavalry and 
a battery of horse-artillery, captured Chambersburg, there 
destroyed a large amount of public property, and made 
good his escape across the Potomac near the mouth of the 
Monocacy. 

McClellan was determined not to move until he deemed 
himself ready. Therefore it was not until the 26th of October 
that he began to cross the Potomac. By this time the rail- 
road bridge across the Potomac at Harper's Ferry had been 
rebuilt, and nearby two pontoons spanned the Potomac and 
one the Shenandoah. Lee's army had been rapidly recruited, 
so that, by the 20th of October, it amounted to sixty-seven 
thousand eight hundred and five officers and men of all 
arms. As early as the 20th of September, three days after 



THE BATTLE OF THE ANTIETAM. 21/ 

the battle of Antietam, the Army of the Potomac, with 
reinforcements, had slightly more than covered its losses, 
and numbered eighty-five thousand nine hundred and thirty 
men of all arms. 

McClellan's plan for the approaching campaign was to 
march southward towards Richmond, east of the Blue 
Ridge, masking in succession the passes through it, repair- 
ing the railroad destroyed by Lee, and if Lee should remain 
in the Shenandoah Valley, and if opportunity should offer, 
to slip through and attack him at a disadvantage. If he 
should divide his forces, and opportunity should offer to 
interpose between the fractions, the Army of the Potomac 
would avail itself of the chances which might offer them- 
selves. Afterwards, when Lee left Jackson in the Shenan- 
doah Valley and passed around McClellan with Longstreet, 
heading him off at'Culpeper, McClellan thought that his 
opportunity had come. But, on November 7th, while his 
army was on the march to Warrenton, he was suddenly 
relieved of its command by an order of the 5th from the 
President. The time selected for relieving him was not 
well chosen in the interest of the cause at stake, in that of 
personal consideration, or in that of respect for the sentiment 
of the rank and file of the army. That he should have 
been displaced there ought to be no question from what has 
here preceded, but with battle far from imminent, the Ad- 
ministration would have done better for the morale of the 
army and all other proprieties concerned, had it waited at 
least until the advance was over. 

To class McClellan, as Swinton does, with Wallenstein, 
who met creditably the greatest general of his age, Gustavus 
Adolphus, with the finest infantry of Europe of that time, is 
to exalt him to a rank far above his deserts. When we 
say that he was an honest, and therefore a well-meaning 
man, and a man of fair ability for the ordinary walks of 



2l8 GENERAL OEOBQE GORDON MEADR 

life, we have said all that is in truthfulness due him. Jomini 
once took pains to answer the stricture of a military cntic 
upon his position, that war is a passionate drama, not an 
exact science. His answer substantially was, that war is not 
an exact science, because it is complicated by differences of 
intellect, character, passion, materials, accidents, and all 
that enters into the diversity observable among men and 
among their possessions and surroundings. The stricture 
of his critic is, however, much more easily disposed of than 
by his admission, which is not true, that war is not an exact 
science. It is astonishing that such a writer as J omini did 
not see that the facts of observation do not need^any su! 
&llacy to reconcile them. The precise truth is that the 
science of war is exact, but that the art of war i^ compli- 
cated by all that belongs to human diversity. We have an 
illustrative case of the truth of this in General McClellan. 
He understood the science of war, but his defects of char- 
acter made it impossible that he could practice successfully 
the art of war. 

The measure of McClellan's mind lies in his military per- 
formances with great resources, and not less in the output 
of his written and oral speech. His blindness to the rela- 
tions and to the eternal fitness of things, in spheres both 
military and civil, is proved by the history of his service as a 
general and in that of his conduct in politics, to which he 
betook himself. His career as a general has been here 
sufficiently discussed, and therefore it only remains to cite 
as evidence of his incapacity for civil affairs of magnitude, 
that he should have allowed himself to become a candidate 
for the Presidency of the United States upon the platform 
which contained the humiliating declaration that the war 
was a failure. There is a difference between the view that 
the conduct of the war was a failure, and that the war in 
itself was a failure. To affirm even the first would have 



THE BATTLE OF THE ANTLETAM. 219 

been indelicate for a man to whom part of its failure might 
be attributed, but to affirm the second was to repudiate the 
very principles for which the people of the North had striven 
as strenuously as the people of the South were striving 
to maintain their opposites ; and enunciated at the time 
chosen for their denial, when the dawn of the future was 
lighting up the whole land, was a confession of dwelling in 
Cimmerian darkness. Happily the people saw with the 
utmost clearness the implications of the candidacy which 
was offered on the one side, as contrasted with those which 
were offered by the candidacy of the other, and they rose 
with intelligence and irresistible might to uphold common 
sense and justice in a political victory which may well give 
joy to the hearts of the men of the North and of the South 
who believe in the capacity of themselves and their fellow- 
citizens for self-government. 




. ^ 



TEE BA TTLE OF FREDERICK8B URQ. 22 1 

be as blind as he to his inadequacy. He had created a 
splendid army, but he was unequal to the high generalship 
indispensable to so great a command. 

Time, in due course, worked its slow wonders, and when 
the moment came, two years afterwards, when the same 
general invoked the voice of people and army to acclaim 
him President of the United States, it was still ; while for 
his opponent it waked the echoes from the Atlantic to the 
Pacific shores. But even the wiser who witnessed the fare- 
well of McClellan to his army in the field, when he rode 
down their enthusiastic ranks, although astounded at the 
fatuity exhibited, could not but feel a responsive thrill of 
sympathy at the display of such devotion. Time, the curer 
of all things, the assuager of pain, the kindly minister to 
pleasure, has since then passed on and left but a memory 
of those days behind. Shorn of the sting of their humili- 
ation and hopelessness, they bring now no acute pain, but 
leave us fancy-free in sentiment and mind to judge in the 
calm of the philosophic mood. 

General Burnside was a very inconsiderable man. If 
greatness may be said to have been thrust upon McClellan, 
willing to receive it, and fully a believer in the justness of 
the award, we can say of Burnside that, reluctant to accept 
it, it was not only thrust upon him, but he was knocked 
down with it, and hammered with it into partial insensibility 
of the absurdity of its being attributed to him. When the 
poor man awakened on the morning of the 8th of Novem- 
ber, he found that he had not been dreaming, but that there 
was a conspiracy to make him famous. He protested, as 
he had done before, that the Government had made a mis- 
take, that he was not the person whom it took him for, that 
he was entirely unfit for the command of the Army of the 
Potomac. What, however, could he, seemingly to himself, 
do under the circumstances, the verdict in his favor by the 




222 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

militaiy authorities in Washington being so uninfluenced 
and confident. If he were sane, he could not, he doubtless 
flattered himself, reach any other conclusion than that he 
must have underrated himself The opposite conclusion 
would have savored of presumption to hold his moderate 
opinion of himself against that of the whole world, at least 
that of the special world in which he was living for the 
time. So it came about that he may have seemed to him- 
self obliged to be conceited so as to avoid seeming con- 
ceited, and after a formal resistance he settled down into 
the duties of commander of the Army of the Potomac. 

It is not positively known to this day what were the in- 
fluences which brought about his appointment. It has been 
said that Mr. Lincoln was pleased with him personally, and 
with his military bearing, and that had had weight. The in- 
spiring motive at bottom for making a new appointment was 
to get rid of General McClellan, but why, of all men in the 
Army of the Potomac, Bumside should have been pitched 
upon as his successor is a mystery, and yet we must believe 
thatthe President, the Secretary of War, and General Halleck 
were all essentially agreed as to this unfortunate move. All 
the more extraordinary was it, because it occurred so soon 
after the battle of Antietam, the significance of Bumside's 
participation in which ought to have been known. Bumside 
was universally acknowledged to be a good fellow, a very 
taking character in the world for piping times of peace, and 
one without whom it could ill dispense. But if any one 
can cite a case in history where the constitution of mind of 
the good fellow proved fitted for stirring times in either 
peace or war, the historian would like to make a note of it 
as conducive to the interests of his studies of great events. 
The fact is, according to the moderate lights shed on the 
present page, that the character of the good fellow, pure 
and simple, is entirely exclusive of greatness and frequently 



THE BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG. 223 

of common ability. It is, however, in the capacity of a good 
fellow, and no general at all, that Bumside passed his ac- 
tive military career, inclusive of the battle of Fredericks- 
burg. 

We are back on the ground at the Rappahannock, over 
which General Pope fought, and from which he was driven 
during a succession of battles to the defences of Washing- 
ton on Arlington Heights. As was mentioned, the army 
was, on the 7th of November, on the march for its final 
positions near Warrenton, to cover the line of the Rappa- 
hannock. When the removal of General McClellan took 
place, and he turned the command over to Bumside, the 
orders for the concentration of the army which he had 
issued were continued in force by Bumside until the final 
halt on the 9th, McClellan departing from the army on the 
following day. 

At this time, on the 9th, the positions of the respective 
armies may be briefly stated as follows : The main body of 
the Army of the Potomac was at and near Warrenton. The 
Sixth Corps was six miles to the rear, at New Baltimore. The 
Eleventh Corps was three or four miles further to the rear, 
near Gainesville. Sickles's division, of the Third Corps, was 
picketing the railroad from Manassas Junction to Warrenton 
Junction. The Ninth Corps was a few miles to the right, at 
Waterloo, near the fords of the upper Rappahannock. The 
cavalry was patrolling the country to the south of the Rap- 
pahannock and watching the fords below. The Confederate 
forces were widely separated. Longstreet had headed Mc- 
Clellan off at Culpeper, about twenty miles from Warrenton, 
and was there with his corps. A division of Jackson's corps 
had come across the Blue Ridge, but his other divisions, on 
account of the abundance of supplies to be drawn thence, 
still remained in the Shenandoah Valley, distributed along 
the line between Winchester and Strasburg. Lee's two main 



224 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

bodies were thus two marches apart, but he had no fear 
for them in confronting the general whom he had to oppose. 
McClellan had contemplated taking advantage of the division 
of Lee's forces, but that any such attempt would have &iled 
under his leadership we have seen good reason to believe. 
We shall see, as we progress, how consummately Lee 
proved to be the master of the situation from beginning 
to end. 

On the 1 0th of November took place the grand cere- 
monial of McClellan's farewell in person to the army, when 
he passed on horseback along the lines of troops cheering 
enthusiastically in his honor. And then he departed, leav- 
ing a general sadness behind him, the morale of the army 
seriously impaired, not only by his loss, but by lack of con- 
fidence in his successor, a man greatly bis inferior in attri- 
butes, both as man and soldier. Upon the altar of its 
country patriotism was still to offer up rich sacrifices to the 
demiurge of blind gropings for the way of victory. 

Bumside, upon assuming command on the loth of Nov- 
ember, found himself under the necessity of adopting at 
once a plan of campaign. He was decidedly averse to at- 
tempting to avail himself of the separation of Lee's two 
corps, and as for the road to Richmond by the way of 
Orange Court House, well to the west of the Potomac, it 
offered too precarious a line of supply for the army. So he 
proposed adopting the line from Fredericksbui^ to Rich- 
mond ; which was a good selection, for, from Acquia Creek, 
to be constituted a great depot of supplies, it is only ten 
miles to Fredericksburg, on a line represented by a railroad 
easily restored after the damage done to it by the enemy, 
and additionally, there are the ordinary roads through the 
country. From Fredericksburg, assuming that he could 
cross the Rappahannock there, he thought that he might 
be able to anticipate the Confederate army by two marches. 



THE BATTLE OF FREDEBICK8BUBQ. 225 

and accompanied by a large wagon train, carrying several 
days' provisions, might be able, unopposed, to reach the 
heights back of Fredericksburg, whence he could take the 
direct road to Richmond and encounter the Confederate 
army to advantage when he was brought to bay. That he 
should have thought that he might steal two marches on 
Lee, or indeed any march at all, shows how little Bumside 
knew his man. But, otherwise, the plan was rational. It 
was rational to think that, with his largely superior forces, 
he would be able to cross the Rappahannock and first en- 
counter the Confederate army to advantage beyond the 
heights back of Fredericksburg. How, assisted at first by 
the inefficiency of Halleck, and then, left to his own devices, 
the plan in execution proved wholly abortive, will appear in 
the sequel. 

Bumside's plan of campaign was received in Washington 
on the I ith of November. Halleck did not approve of it, 
and so he went to Warrenton, and there, on the 1 2th and 
13th, discussed it with Bumside. It was finally agreed that 
the decision should rest with the President. Halleck returned 
to Washington, and on the 14th telegraphed Bumside that 
the President had approved of his plan. 

A new organization of the corps of the army, begun by 
McClellan, was completed by Bumside. The army was 
now comprised in what were called grand divisions. The 
Right Grand Division consisted of the Second and Ninth 
Corps, under General Sumner. The Centre Grand Division 
consisted of the Third and Fifth Corps, under General 
Hooker. The Left Grand Division consisted of the First 
and Sixth Corps, under General Franklin. 

The Right Grand Division marched at dawn of the 1 5th, 

and on the 17th reached Falmouth, on the north side 

of the Rappahannock, just above Fredericksburg. The 

Centre and Left Grand Divisions, preceded by the cavalry, 

16 




226 GENERAL QBORQB GORDON MEADR 

began their march on the 17th. On the i8th the Left 
Grand Division reached Stafford Court House, eight miles 
to the northeast of Fredericksbui^. On the 19th the Centre 
Grand Division reached Hartwood, eight miles to the north- 
west of Fredericksbui^. 

Now presented itself an insurmountable obstacle, for 
which Halleck seems to have been entirely responsible. It 
had been agreed upon between him and Bumside that the 
pontoons for crossing the Rappahannock should be expe- 
dited from Washington, but they did not arrive until the 
25th, the excuse for the delay being that it had been ex- 
pected that Bumside would send an officer to receive and 
conduct them to the front. But if anything can be clear, 
it is that Halleck, having promised to expedite them, it was 
not implied in the arrangement that Bumside had any 
further agency in the matter. Not until eight days after 
Sumner had arrived at the proposed point of crossing did 
the pontoons arrive, and it need hardly be said that Lee 
had not been idle in the mean time. Sumner proposed to 
cross by some fords with the Right Grand Division, but 
Bumside vetoed this proposition. He was right The 
danger was not from the small garrison on the other side 
of the river, somewhat reinforced by troops from Long- 
street about the time Sumner reached Fredericksburg, but 
from a possible sudden rise of the river from rain. If that 
had occurred when Sumner was south of the stream, he 
might have been cut off so long from succor that he might 
have been overwhelmed by the gradually concentrating 
forces of Lee. 

Having now established the Army of the Potomac at its 
projected point of crossing the Rappahannock near Fred- 
ericksbui^, with its cavalry now toward the rear, guarding 
the fords over that river as it curved backward toward the 
north, we must examine what Lee has been doing while 



THE BATTLE OF FREDERICKSB UBO. 22/ 

these operations were proceeding. There was no march 
stolen upon him. He possessed sources of information in 
the country, in his scouts, and in his cavalry, far superior 
to those enjoyed by Bumside. Through these quiet 
sources of information he had learned enough to justify 
him, as we have seen, in sending some of Longstreet's 
corps to reinforce the garrison at Fredericksburg. Through 
a reconnoissance in force in the vicinity of Warrenton he 
had gained through his cavalry information sufficient to 
induce him to send the remainder of Longstreet's corps to 
Fredericksburg. Thus, three days after Sunmer's arrival 
at the Rappahannock near Falmouth, Longstreet's whole 
corps had crossed its main branch, the Rapidan, had 
marched along its southern bank to the Rappahannock, 
and was concentrated at Fredericksburg, while the Army 
of the Potomac waited helplessly on the opposite shore for 
pontoons. Lee was making his moves as deliberately and 
calmly as if he had been playing a game of chess. He 
now first said to the Army of the Potomac, " check." Had 
the Army of the Potomac been able by any chance to cross 
the stream, Lee would have been obliged to sidle off 
towards the west until he was joined by Jackson moving 
towards him from further west, Jackson being now east of 
the Blue Ridge. As things stood, he could afford to stay 
where he was, on ground of his own choice, quite as much 
as it was eventually to be Bumside's, and with more reason 
for his choice. What with the natural difficulties of the 
ground, and resistance to the attempt at crossing the Rappa- 
hannock, Lee evidently thought that Burnside might not be 
able to cross for some time to come. There would be plenty 
of time for himself and Jackson reciprocally to approach 
each other, or, without his stirring, for Jackson to join him. 
The Army of the Potomac, without pontoons, and with 
the Rappahannock risen above the stage at which it had 



228 GENERAL OEOBOE GORDON MEADE 

been found, was necessarily stalled until they were received 
on the 25th of November. In all probability Lee knew 
from Washington more about their arrival than Bumside 
did. Bumside, naturally confiding in Halleck, awaited 
them, but Lee, who had excellent spies in Washington, was 
doubtless apprised as to when he might expect them. 
Otherwise, the coincidence is remarkable, that Jackson, 
who had been quietly resting near Orange Court House, 
thirty-five miles from Fredericksburg, beg^, on the 26th 
of November, to move thence towards Fredericksburg. 

Bumside, having received his pontoons, was all ready to 
cross the Rappahannock, but having incurred a delay of 
many days, his readiness was unavailing, for Lee's army 
was holding the line of the Rappahannock, the fords on the 
Rappahannock, the Rapidan also being well guarded, and 
the carrying out of the original plan, which would have 
been so feasible just after Sumner's arrival, now seemed to 
need serious revision. The situation naturally gave Bum- 
side pause. It was not at all the one which he had con- 
templated meeting. Exactly what it was he did not know, 
not knowing the exact disposition of the enemy's forces, but 
he at least knew that it was very different from that contem- 
plated, and so the last part of November and a portion of 
December passed away, a period which was not neglected 
by the Confederates for the proper defence of the town of 
Fredericksburg and the Heights beyond. 

It seems to be an almost universal weakness in those who 
engage in a contest to magniiy their own difficulties and 
to minimize those of their adversaries. In accordance with 
this tendency, Confederates have often said that the posi- 
tion at Fredericksbui^ was not a particularly strong one 
either by nature or by art. Nature remains the same there 
as it was on the day when the battle was fought, and one 
who should visit the spot now can see at a glance that the 



THE BATTLE OF FBEDERICKSBUBO. 229 

frontage of the Heights near the river, with a superior ridge 
in the rear, making an adequate position for reserves, or for 
rendering untenable the outer and inferior ridge, that the 
general concavity of the iace of the Heights with its re- 
entering angles, that the almost level and bare surface of 
the plain between the Heights and the river, constitute a 
position of enormous advantage to a defending force, and 
corresponding disadvantage to one assaulting. And as for 
the artificial defences constructed there just previously to 
the battle of Fredericksburg, although it should be confessed 
that they did not occupy the ground nearly so strongly 
as it was afterwards elaborated for defence, the defences at 
that time were a great addition to the strength of the posi- 
tion, and through the fact of their conformity to the nature 
of the ground, made it truly formidable. The position, 
taking it as a whole, considering it with reference to the 
relatively less exposure of the defenders than that of the 
attackers, was as strong as that afterwards held by the Fed- 
eral army at Gettysburg. 

Bumside's first offensive move was down the Rappahan- 
nock opposite to Skinker's Neck, where there were good fa- 
cilities for crossing the river. But Lee anticipated this move 
by sending a heavy force, which fortified and remained there, 
and on the 5th of December Stuart's horse-artillery drove off 
some Federal gunboats which attempted to pass by there to 
Fredericksburg. The dispositions of Lee's forces at this 
time, before his final concentration took place on the Heights 
of Fredericksburg, were wide apart. The main body of 
his troops occupied the Heights back of the town, with re- 
serves, consisting of A. P. Hill's division, at Guinea's Sta- 
tion, a few miles in the rear, while the two divisions of D, 
H. Hill and Early were posted from ten to twelve miles 
below, on the south side of the Rappahannock, and W. H. 
F. Lee's brigade of cavalry further still, beyond Skinker's 



230 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADR 

Neck. Colonel Thomas L. Rosser*s and General Wade 
Hampton's brigades of cavalry guarded the fords of the 
Rappahannock and Rapidan above, on Lee*s left. A. P. 
Hill was so placed at Guinea's Station, in the rear of the 
main body, that he could by a single march readily rein- 
force either it or the extreme right near Skinker's Neck. 

As one glances south from Stafford Heights, north of the 
Rappahannock, occupied by Bumside's army, at an eleva- 
tion of one hundred and fifty feet above the river, he over- 
looks the town of Fredericksbui^ and the plain on the other 
side of the river, terminated by the ridge somewhat parallel 
to the river, on which Lee's army was finally to be concen- 
trated. The general elevation of Stafford Heights is so 
much greater than that of the ridge south of the river, that 
artillery posted there had the artillery of the Confederates 
at a great disadvantage ; so much so that many of the Con- 
federate batteries along the ridge had to be protected by 
being sunk in gun-pits. 

At Stafford Heights the river Rappahannock runs in an 
eroded channel of steep and moderately high banks, and 
Fredericksburg comes down to the edge of the southern 
bluff so made. The ridge on the south side of the river 
passes, on the right, as seen from the Heights, about a mile 
back of the bluff, parallel with the river ; but as it proceeds, 
curves away towards the southeast, to a point about two and 
a half miles from the river, where it reaches its g^reatest 
concavity, trending thence towards the Rappahannock. 
Marye's Hill, back of Fredericksburg, is the salient between 
this straight line and this curve. The range of which it is 
a part varies from forty to ninety feet in height (Telegraph 
Hill, now called Lee's Hill,being the highest point, where Lee 
stood during the battle), and gradually falls away in height 
towards the southeast, to Prospect Hill, a height of forty feet. 

The position rested its left on the Rappahannock, at Tay- 



THE BA TTLE OF FREDERICKSB UBQ. 23 1 

lor's Hill, fifty feet high, and its right on a deep, wooded 
ravine, in which flows Massaponax Creek, an affluent of the 
Rappahannock, which meets the ridge nearly at right- 
angles. Back of the Rappahannock runs, parallel with that 
river, a small stream known as the Mill Sluice. This is a 
branch of Hazel Run, a stream which flows from between 
Marye's and Telegraph Hills, making between those sum- 
mits on the range a decidedly re-entering angle. 

It is, in the interest of the general reader, not desirable 
to proceed much further in topographical description. The 
rest will therefore be confined to a few additional necessary 
details. A stream called Deep Run flows directly from the 
range into the Rappahannock, entering there only a short 
distance below the mouth of Hazel Run. The plain on 
which the range described rests is the main terrace of the 
Rappahannock at this point. On it, midway between the 
river and the range of hills, and somewhat parallel with both, 
is a road called the Old Stage Road, which, forking near the 
line of the Massaponax, goes with one branch to Richmond 
and the other to Port Royal. Back of this road, and nearly 
parallel to it, is the railroad to Richmond. On the range 
the directions of the roads are too diverse to be made clear 
by verbal description. Suffice it to say, therefore, that they 
run both along the range and across it. An additional one 
was cut by Lee through the woods for the purpose of facili- 
tating communication to and fro along his lines. The posi- 
tion was somewhat bare from the centre to the left, but 
heavily wooded from the centre to the right 

The position was, as must be evident to any one, tactically 
very strong. It was also, however, what is not known to 
every one, strategically weak. It ought to be evident that 
as, for the purpose of protecting a line of communications, 
an army should be either athwart or parallel to it, the worst 
possible position for it to occupy is when stationed on the 




232 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

prolongation of the line of its communications. But the latter 
was the exact situation of Lee's army, and it was unavoid- 
able. The best generals, as a choice between evils, have 
been obliged to accept that disposition of their troops, and 
upon it has turned many a disaster. 

Bumside knew that a large detachment from Lee's army 
was lying at and in the vicinity of Skinker's Neck, distant 
from it by twelve miles, and more, as to some parts of the 
force. He does not seem, however, to have known of A. 
P. Hill's position at Guinea's Station, in Lee's rear. He 
could not cross the Rappahannock at Skinker's Neck, that 
had been essayed. He seems not to have sufficiently con- 
sidered the feasibility of turning Lee's position by the upper 
fords, which were practicable, and although guarded, could 
have been captured. He assumed that he could take Lee 
by surprise by a rapid movement, attack him in front, and 
defeat him before he could be reinforced from below on the 
river. Of all surprises, however, this proved to be the very 
slowest 

Before daylight of the i ith of December some of the 
pontanUrs of the Army of the Potomac began to fit up their 
boats for throwing bridges across the stream in front of 
Fredericksbui^, while others engaged in the same operation 
just below the mouth of Deep Run, at a place less liable 
to serious interference with the work by the enemy. Six 
bridges in all were to be laid, three in front of Fredericks- 
burg, and three in the place below. 

The signal guns from the Army of Northern Vii^nia an- 
nounced to the Confederates that the enemy was in move- 
ment Lee had not been deceived by the renewed demon- 
stration at Skinker's Neck, any more than he had been in that 
on Culpeper, when Bumside, instead of going there, had rap- 
idly marched to the Rappahannock opposite Fredericksburg. 
Longstreef s troops were all astir, inarching towards their 



THE BA TTLE OF FREDERICK8B UBG. 233 

designated positions, as if they had merely been resting on 
their arms, and had been suddenly ordered to fall into 
ranks. Lee wished nothing better than that Bumside 
should cross. He had seventy-eight thousand troops 
occupying a strong position, against one hundred and ' 
thirteen thousand troops that would have no position at all, 
and in addition to that, would have a river at their backs. 
He had no cause for the slightest apprehension. The 
resistance he was about to make to the crossing was not 
because he wished to prevent it, but simply to gain time for 
perfecting his own concentration, while incidentally doing 
the enemy as much damage as possible. He still kept 
Jackson where he was to guard against the turning of the 
demonstration at Skinker's Neck into a real attack. 

The Federal army enjoyed only one advantage, if that 
can be called such which only helped to pave the way to 
disaster. A heavy fog hung densely over the river vale, as 
fogs so incline, and spread over the landscape beyond. In 
consequence, the enemy could not at first obstruct the 
Federal operations by artillery fire. The enemy, occupy- 
ing Fredericksburg in large numbers, and crowning the 
range beyond, waited for the fog to lift. Houses along the 
river-bank at Fredericksburg had been crenelled, and rifle- 
trenches had been run along the bank. All that the Con- 
federates wished for now was light. Gradually, as one of 
the bridges advanced from the northern to the southern 
shore, its end, with the ponUmiers working upon it, appeared 
ghostlike through the mist, and the Confederate riflemen 
picked the men off with unerring aim. Searched by Federal 
in&ntry- and artillery-fire, directed on the face of the town, 
the sheltered Confederates still held their own, and made it 
impossible to construct the bridge opposite the town. 
Lee again called " check," but he saw the game far beyond, 
to the inevitable checkmate. 



J 



234 GENERAL OEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

The Federal artillery was now concentrated on Freder- 
icksbui^, all unavailingly. Men sheltered in holes, cran- 
nies, and drains do not suffer much from the indiscriminate 
fire upon a town. The fire was a wild and useless expendi- 
ture of force. There was only one way in which the thing 
was to be done, a method universally practised under simi- 
lar circumstances in civilized warfare, unless it so happens 
that, at the site of the intended crossing, the stream makes 
so sharp a bend towards the attacking force that the tongue 
of land so produced on the enemy's side of the river can 
be scoured by the protective fire of the force seeking to 
cross. Caesar, in a desperate strait, near the east coast of 
Spain, shut in between the Cinga and Sicoris, two affluents 
of the modem Ebro, had his siege of Ilerda, the modem 
Lerida, brought to a sudden stop by a freshet which carried 
away his bridges. Constructing pontoons at a point beyond 
the observation of the enemy, he threw troops across the 
Sicoris, and soon made himself master of the situation by 
thus restoring his communications for supplies and reinforce- 
ments. With pontoons all ready to his hand, Bumside did 
not do what Caesar had done two thousand years before. 

At last General Hunt, chief of artillery, after several 
hours had been fruitlessly spent in trying to complete the 
system of upper bridges, suggested that advantage be taken 
of the lull, though not cessation, of the enemy's rifle-fire, 
to throw a force across the river in pontoons ; and after all 
the waste of time and life that had preceded, four regiments 
were thus thrown over the river and the bridges soon after- 
wards finished. The bridges below, where Franklin was to 
cross, were completed with comparatively very little diffi- 
culty. It was evident, however, that all idea of obtaining 
an advantage through taking the enemy by surprise must 
be relinquished. By one o'clock in the aftemoon Franklin, 
on the left, had completed his three bridges near Deep Run, 



THE BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG. 235 

but it was half-past four before the three bridges opposite 
Fredericksburg were ready. Franklin crossed some of his 
troops over the river on the left. The town of Fredericks- 
burg had been evacuated after the contest with the troops 
which had captured the rifle-pits. Bumside has been blamed 
because he did not cross all his troops during the rest of 
the day and the following night, with the purpose of assault- 
ing the enemy early in the following morning. This stric- 
ture is not just. The day was a December one, short. All 
hope that the enemy would not concentrate before morning 
should have gone from his mind. His troops could deploy 
by daylight to better advantage than by night, and still leave 
of the next day ample time in which to fight a battle. The 
irremediable mistake had been made in not having thrown 
all the pontoons across by one o'clock in the afternoon. 
Then there would have been time to fight a battle before 
the enemy was fully concentrated, or at least to make all 
the dispositions for the morrow. 

The next day, the 1 2th of December, was again foggy in 
the early part of the morning. The Right Grand Division, 
under Sumner, crossed the river by the three upper bridges, 
and the Left Grand Division, under Franklin, crossed the 
remainder of its troops by the three lower bridges. The 
Centre Grand Division, under Hooker, remained nominally 
on the north bank of the Rappahannock, but, in fact, many 
of its troops were, from first to last, parcelled out between 
the two other Grand Divisions. Sumner's Grand Division 
stretched away from Fredericksburg to the right, and also 
to the left, until it joined the right of Franklin's Grand 
Division. The left of Franklin's was held en potence (that 
is, refused at about right-angles) by a strong force, the left 
of which touched the river. This was to guard against or 
to repel a flank attack by the enemy. 

Longstreet was on Lee's left, Anderson's division touch- 




236 GENERAL GEOBQE GORDON MEADR 

ing the river, while the divisions of McLaws, Pickett, and 
Hood continued the line towards the right. Ransom sup- 
ported batteries on Marye's Hill. At the foot of this 
summit lay Cobb's brigade, of McLaws*s division, and the 
Twenty-fourth North Carolina Regiment. They were 
protected by a stone wall which had been reinforced by 
earth on the outer side and prolonged towards the north- 
west by a shelter-trench and corresponding parapet, rifle- 
pits being constructed on the side of the range at sufficiently 
great elevation above to enable their occupants to fire over 
the heads of the defenders below. Small earth-works on 
Marye's Hill and to the right and left of it were manned 
by the Washington Artillery, supported by four battalions 
drawn from different commands. Next came Jackson's 
corps. Hood came first. A. P. Hill was posted between 
Hood's right and Hamilton Crossing, the point where Lee's 
military road and another intersect a road to Richmond 
which turns off" from the Old Stage Road. His first line 
consisted of Pender, Lane, and Archer, drawn up on the 
edge of the woods. The Thirty-fifth and Fortieth Virginia 
Regiments, with artillery, were on the right of Thomas's 
brigade and Gregg's. The Twenty-second and Forty- 
seventh Virginia Regiments formed A. P. Hill's reserves. 
In the second line there were Elarly's and Taliaferro's divis- 
ions, with D. H. Hill's division in reserve. Stuart, with 
two brigades of cavalry and his horse-artillery, was on 
Jackson's extreme right, closing in the ground to the ravine 
of Massaponax Creek. It Is to be observed that Lee's forces 
were massed on his right flank to an enormous strength. 
It was known to Bumside that this was tactically and strate- 
gically Lee's weak flank, the one, therefore, to receive the 
main attack, the one, therefore, where the greatest number 
of troops ought to be and would be found ; and yet the plan 
which he finally adopted with reference to it was puerile. 



THE BATTLE OF FREDEBICK8BURQ. 237 

Time seemed to be no more an object to Bumside than 
it had been to McClellan. Day was waning on the 12th, 
and still Bumside was uncertain what to do. In the after- 
noon FrankHn advised attacking the enemy's right, the 
next morning early, with thirty thousand men, and the 
manner in which Bumside left him implied that he would 
adopt that plan, marching over the river during the night 
some additional troops from Hooker's corps, and sending 
his orders in writing immediately. The night, however, 
passed, and no order, no additional troops reached Frank- 
lin. It would give a false impression to say that Bumside 
had lost his head ; he never had any. To do something 
safe, that could not hurt him very much, if it failed of its 
object, is the policy of all weak generals, and therefore was 
his. He did not seem to see, as a French officer says, in his 
military text-book, that a general to succeed must be ready, 
" de se bien battre*^ A determined policy, whether for re- 
treat or battle, is the only course that fits in with war. Halt- 
ing decisions that make " ' I dare not ' wait upon * I would,' " 
are the most merciless expedients, the most bloody in con- 
sequences. Thirty thousand men hurled at dawn on the 
right flank of Lee, which presented no special difficulties of 
ground, as his left did, would have won the battle ; at least 
that plan afforded the only chance of winning it The un- 
expected would in itself have lent itself to victory. Even 
the calm Lee, the steadfast Longstreet, the impetuous 
Jackson might in that event have thought that their time 
had come. Instead of that plan, what one did Bumside 
adopt ? At half-past seven of the morning of the 13th of 
December orders reached Sumner on the right and Frank- 
lin on the left for each to attack \vith a division. A division ! 
Bumside says that his idea was to tum the enemy's right 
flank, and obtain a position from which to move along the 
rear of the crest of the range of hills occupied by him. 



338 GENERAL OEOBQE GORDON MEADR 

Gaining this point, he intended to push Sumner on the right 
against the enemy in his front, and at least capture his 
artillery if he attempted to retreat 

General Franklin had on the left the First and Sixth 
Corps, one division of the Ninth Corps, two divisions of the 
Third Corps, and Bayard's cavalry. The part of Bumside's 
orders which applied only to Franklin was somewhs^ confus- 
ing to him. The particular parts of the orders, that he was 
to send in at least a division^ supported^ and that Sumner was 
to attack with a division or marey were perfectly clear, but 
the general drift of the orders applying to Franklin was such 
as to confirm him in the belief that he must hold his main 
force well in hand, implying, of course, his preparedness for 
a move not mentioned. Despatches passed through the 
following hours which prove that Bumside was satisfied at 
the time with what Franklin did. He expressed his dis- 
satisfaction with it only after his fiiilure, and then he charged 
Franklin with not obeying orders. There is no other way 
in which the question as to whether Franklin did or did not 
obey orders can be answered than by adopting the French 
form of speech for similar cases. "Oia et non** " Yes and 
noy He did, and he did not. Up to a certain point of 
time he did implicitly obey them. Beyond that point, the 
orders becoming even more than before ambiguous in mean- 
ing, and the situation on the left evidently not what Bumside 
imagined it to be, — supposing that he had a correct view of 
anything, — Franklin, anxious, and restive under the infliction 
of the muddle produced by his chief's incapacity, adopted a 
course which might, from one point of view, be deemed 
disobedience of orders, but from the standpoint here, one 
that should be r^^arded as lying within the discretionary 
power of any general so terribly placed as Franklin was to 
decide in which direction duty lay. 

General Reynolds had returned to the army. His corps, 



THE BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG. 239 

the First, was selected to furnish the division to make the 
assault on the left. This was General Meade's division of 
the Pennsylvania Reserves, supported on the right by Gib- 
bon's division, and on the left by Doubleday's. The for- 
mation of the Division being completed with the First 
Brigade and the Third Brigade, the Second Brigade in sup- 
port, it marched half a mile down the Rappahannock, and 
turning sharply to the right, pushed for the railroad defences 
at the base of the range of hills held by the enemy. The 
point for which it was pushing was not on the extreme left 
of the Confederates, as was soon proved by its being halted 
by a sharp artillery fire to the left and rear, which necessi- 
tated placing Doubleday*s brigade en potence^ and his ad- 
vancing against the enemy in that quarter. After some in- 
terchange of artillery-fire with the attacking force on the 
left, the Division resumed its forward movement. 

Meade's First Brigade drove the enemy from the railroad 
entrenchment and advanced up the slope beyond, driving 
back two brigades of the enemy in great confusion. The 
Third Brigade, less fortunate, failed to reach a point quite so 
advanced, and the Second Brigade was still less successful 
than it. The First Brigade having thus penetrated fer into 
the enemy's lines, and being unsupported on account of the 
mishaps with which the two other brigades had met, had 
expended its force, and could not but recoil before the 
masses concentrating against it, so great that they threw it 
and the two other brigades into disorder, and pursued them 
retreating down the slopes and across the railroad ; not in 
rout, however, but maintaining their organization as well as 
could be expected after the severe losses they had sustained. 
The task that had been assigned Meade's division, of only 
four thousand five hundred men, was too great for it 
to accomplish. It is wonderful that it achieved so much 
against the masses against which it was thrown, the First 



ZAP GENERAL GEORQE GORDON MEADE 

Brigade so effectually piercing the enemy's lines that, as 
General Meade expressed it in his testimony before the 
Committee on the Conduct of the War, he found himself in 
the presence of the enemy's reserves. Coming down be- 
yond the railroad, rallying his men, when he had reached a 
quiet spot he took off his hat, and in his cool, soldierly 
way, merely remarked that it was pretty hot up there, 
showing to Franklin two holes from bullets that had barely 
cleared his head. He had had a horse wounded under him. 
His aide-de-camp. Captain Arthur Dehon, had been killed. 
General Conrad Feger Jackson, commander of the Third 
Brigade, had also been killed, and Colonel William T. Sin- 
clair, commander of the First Brigade, had been wounded. 
In a few minutes he had lost nearly forty per cent of his 
division. Yet his assault had not been made without serious 
loss to the enemy. 

The miserable plan of Bumside had borne for the left the 
fruit which might have been, and was by some officers ex- 
pected. The Confederates in great numbers precipitated 
themselves down the slopes and beyond the railroad embank- 
ment, in pursuit of the rash division of General Meade and 
Gibbon's division seeking to bring it off the field. Gibbon's 
division itself being considerably shattered. The remainder 
of the First Corps deployed, Bimey's division of the Second 3 - 
Corps coming up to aid in stemming the tide of the enemy 
while the Pennsylvania Reserves were being withdrawn by 
General Meade to the river, there to reorganize and rest. 

We are now coming into plainer and plainer sight of a 
phenomenon which is common to all events where a man 
of no mental poise is in command. Failing through the 
weakness of his tentative method, he grows desperate, and 
becomes more daring than the boldest of mankind. In a 
whirl of emotion, through which pierce the promptings of 
insanity, Bumside will soon prove that he has entirely lost 



TBS BATTLE OF FBEDERICKSBVBO. 34I 

his balance. He had, strictly speaking, no plan. Such 
fr^mentary ideas as he had in his mind, jostling each other 
in terrible confusion, out of which chaos appeared on the 
sur&ce only the desperate desire to do something, the feel- 
ing that by doing something he might happen upon some- 
thii^ fortunate, could gain no victory over the possessor 
of the calm eyes that watched from the heights overlooking 
his resolute infantry, sheltered there in front of the devoted 
troops to be thrown recklessly against a wall of fire. 

Bumside says that he gave the final order for the attack 
on the right after the attack on the left had been made. 
But telegrams which passed from left to right prove that he 
knew, when he ordered the attack on the right, that 
although the advance on the left was in progress, the attack 
there had not been made, but on the contrary, that the 
advance there towards attack had been checked. But, all 
the same, in violation of his written order of the day, he 
ordered the attack on the r^ht. This was about eleven 
o'clock in the morning. 

To do justice to this attack, in so far as the gallantry and 
persistence of the troops are concerned, would take many 
more pages than can be devoted to the description here. 
In praise of the exhibition of these qualities on that field, 
both right and left, no panegyric can be too strong. In 
condemnation of the generalship which made the sacrifice 
possible, no denunciation can be too severe. It may be 
questioned whether, if the assault had l>een made with 
double the number of troops who executed it, it could have 
been successful against the defences at the base of Marye's 
Hill, consisting of the stone wall reinforced with earth, the 
continuation of it in the shelter-trench and corresponding 
parapet, the rifle-pits in the side of the hill above, and the 
artillery crowning the ridge back of them. And yet the 
devoted soldiers of the Army of the Potomac advanced 



242 GENERAL QBORQE GORDON MEADR 

time and again against the driving metal storm, on an open 
plain, at the behest of frightful incapacity for war. It is the 
commonest of beliefs that it is only the bad who do harm 
in this world. One may well question, however, if some 
of the good do not do as much. Against the bad the world 
is on its guard, and some of them are in jail, but among the 
good there is, through the law of distribution of qualities, 
so much stupidity, that large numbers of them are ever 
unobstructedly working sincerely towards the perdition of 
every cause with which they have to do. 

The artillery along Stafford Heights ceased firing. 
French's division of the Second Corps, with Hancock's 
division of the same corps in support, was the only force at 
first detailed for the momentous assault on the right " The 
cry is still, — ^they come !" The enemy had them under full 
artillery-fire even as they passed in places through the 
streets of Fredericksburg, and Longstreet said afterwards 
that, when they were on the plain, he could see, at the dis- 
tance of a mile, the g^ps made in their ranks by the guns 
on the ridge. It was with this force that Bumside was first 
to essay to follow the main roads leading out of the town, 
running parallel with each other, about three hundred yards 
s^rt, until they diverge, one to the right, going to Orange 
G>urt House, the other to the left, to form what is known 
as the Telegraph Road. It was at this place of diver- 
gence that the force also was by orders supposed to sepa- 
rate and diverge in opposite directions for the purpose of 
capturing the sunmiit on the right, Marye's Hill, and the 
summit on the left, Telegraph, or Lee's Hill. Skirmishers 
are at the front, and the two divisions are marching to their 
doom. They reach the Mill Sluice, the planking over one 
of the bridges crossing it gone ; and as if that were the 
most natural thing in the world, they teeter in part as best 
they can over the stringers of the bridge. Finally, by the 



THE BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG. 243 

time they reach within striking distance of the enemy's 
works, they have been so decimated as to be unfit to under- 
take the task for which they set forth. The order came to 
storm the works. The men were being mowed down in 
ranks. Howard is ordered up to support Hancock, to 
check the paralysis that is seizing the lines. The two 
divisions advance only to be shattered and sent in full 
retreat after having reached within a hundred yards or less 
of the stone wall and shelter-trench. All vivacity of attack 
was over for the moment at half-past two o'clock in the 
afternoon. First French and Hancock, later Howard, lead- 
ing the third and last division of the Second Corps, and 
later still Samuel D. Sturgis, of the Ninth Corps, had come 
into action unavailingly. It should have shown Bumside 
that it was impossible to carry the enemy's lines at that 
point, but desperation had now fully seized his soul. 
He was verging nearer and nearer to the impotence of 
despair. 

Getty's division, of the Ninth Corps, came into the fight 
Whipple's division, of the Third Corps, merely guarded 
Howard's right while he was making his attack, and was 
not engaged to any great extent. To a greater extent Col- 
onel Samuel S. Carroll's brigade, of Whipple's division, 
was engaged, suffering considerable loss. He supported 
Sturgis. Griffin's division, of the Fifth Corps, also sup- 
ported Sturgis, and met with very heavy loss. Sykes's 
division of regulars, although in reserve, lost a good 
many men. 

The Second Corps and its supports had been pretty well 
fought out when Humphreys received his orders at half- 
past two o'clock to cross the river and support the assault 
Advancing with one of his brigades, and ordering the other 
forward from the rear, he was soon at the front. At first 
the men began to answer the enemy's fire with fire, but 




244 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

Humphreys saw at once that this could never succeed, but 
that they must use the bayonet. He therefore at once 
charged with the bayonet, with the result that the formation 
of his two brigades was broken before they had gone many 
yards. Retiring to the rear, they were then reformed for 
a renewed and more determined charge. In the first ad- 
vance he had observed hundreds of men lying on the 
ground under the shelter of a roll in the surface, and was 
apprehensive that their presence would impede his move- 
ment, but he could hardly have anticipated what occurred. 
By what motive inspired, no one can say, but these men 
tried to frustrate the attempt of the line to advance, either 
by persuasion or main force. In consequence, Humphreys 
had much difficulty in passing through and over them, and 
the momentum of his charg^e was considerably diminished 
by their presence and resistance. As in previous efTorts, 
this, too, came to naught General Humphreys had one 
horse killed under him and another wounded, and the at- 
tempt to take the wall was a complete failure. In fact, the 
place was impregnable, held as it was by a line of sheltered 
infantry as dense as efTective firing would permit, and rein- 
forced by fire from the rifle-pits ranging above and back of 
it along the face of the hills. Here ought to have been 
made no attack beyond a strong demonstration. Surely 
Bumside could not have substantiated his claim that this 
was not a real attack, when at 2.2$ p.m. he renewed an 
order to Franklin to attack the heights in front of him. 
The order was so obscurely worded that Franklin could 
not decide if it were intended to instruct him to attack at a 
single point or to attack along his whole front. 

Here is where the question, long discussed, enters, as to 
whether or not Franklin disobeyed orders. Doubt had 
arisen as to what were the orders. Was Franklin to do 
one thing or the other of two things possible under the 



THE BA TTLE OF FREDERICKSB UBO. 245 

orders, so as, hit or miss, technically to obey orders ? To 
sit in fair judgment upon Franklin's conclusion we must, 
first of all, place ourselves in the position of holding wetl 
in mind what had preceded during the day, and what were 
the conditions existing at the time of the receipt of the 
orders. Franklin must have had, from the morning's ex- 
perience, the full conviction that Bumside had no grasp of 
anything that, by rational coherence of parts, could be 
called a plan, his actions and his obscurity of speech having 
proved it. In consequence of Bumside's inadequate move 
of the morning, the left wing ha^ been more or less seri- 
ously engaged. There were decided signs of the intention 
of the enemy to make a counter-attack there. Either pos- 
sible attack prescribed by Bumside seemed to have no 
probability of success against the large force of Jackson, de- 
veloped by the preceding assault on the left ; and then, too, 
the time remaining of the short day would be small after 
all the dispositions were made for any attack. Franklin 
knew Bumside ; he knew the situation on the left better 
than Bumside did ; he thought, as he subsequently testified, 
that Buraside's orders were so framed that they gfave him 
some discretionary power. He decided not to attack. So 
deciding, he probably saved the left wing from another and 
greater repulse than the one which had been previously ex- 
perienced. Lee had finally said, " Checkmate." 

General Longstreet says, in his work entitled " From 
Manassas to Appomattox," in speaking of the carnage that 
took place in the right attack (at the sunken road running 
along the base of the Heights from the road which is the 
extension of Hanover Street in Fredericksburg to the point 
where it cuts Telegraph Road before the latter climbs east- 
wardly along the Heights to Telegraph, or Lee's Hill) : — 
"A series of braver, more desperate charges than those 
hurled against the troops in the sunken road was never 




246 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

known, and the piles and cross-fMles of dead marked a field 
such as I never saw before or since." 

"The curtain of night fell sadly over the scene of immense 
losses on the Federal side in killed and wounded, as com- 
pared with those sufl&red on the Confederate side. Under 
cover of that pall the wounded were withdrawn from be- 
tween the lines, and the dead as far as possible were buried. 
The next day the army stood to arms. Bumside had con- 
ceived an heroic plan. This was in person, on the right, to 
lead his old corps, the Ninth, to the assault What better 
mettle had the Ninth Corps than the First, the Second, and 
the others, or he than Humphreys, Hancock, and the rest? 
Was this ravening for more slaughter, or was it vainglorious 
vaporing ? It was the last despairing cry of temporary in- 
sanity. His chief officers gradually brought him to reason, 
and on the night of the 1 5th, shrouded by storm and dark- 
ness, the army skilfully withdrew across the pontoon- 
bridges to the north side of the Rappahannock. So ended- 
one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Had Lee, in turn, 
attacked, he would have met with an equally signal 
repulse, the railroad embankment forming an admirable 
parapet, and the artillery of Stafford Heights completely 
dominating the range of hills from which he must have 
made an offensive movement. 

On the 30th of December Bumside received a despatch 
from the President forbidding him to make the movement 
against Lee by the passage of the Rappahannock below 
Fredericksburg, which he had been informed was in pro- 
gress, or indeed to make any movement at all unless it 
should first receive his approval. The explanation of this 
action of the President's Bumside soon leamed to his chagrin 
from a visit which he immediately made to Washington. 
Generals in the army had taken pains, afler the battle of 
Fredericksburg, to convey to the President their disbelief 



THE BA TTLE OF FREDERICESB UBQ. 247 

in Burnside's ability to command the army. He then laid 
out another plan of campaign by way of retrieving his great 
failure. This was to cross the Rappahannock above Fred- 
ericksburg. The movement, long in preparation, began on 
the 19th of January, 1863. How it would have prospered, 
had it continued, no one can say, but it was stopped by 
heavy rains. These produced such a condition of the roads, 
that the wheels of the artillery and of the wagons were often 
embedded to the hubs, and soldiers were covered with a 
coat of slime. So the movement came to an end amid 
laughter and jeers, for the Army of the Potomac never lost 
heart, and this passed into history under the name of the 
Mud March. Bumside's command had begun with a 
tragedy and it ended with a farce. 

Much ill-merited sympathy and false sentiment have 
been lavished upon Burnside for the manly way in which 
he took upon himself the blame for the disaster at Fred- 
ericksburg. But who should be' allowed to expiate by 
expressions of regret the fault that sacrificed fifteen thous- 
and men ? The mantle of charity is broad enough to 
cover that among the multitude of sins over which it is 
cast, but there is a great gulf between the forgiveness 
that may be granted to frailty, and acceptance of the 
wrongdoer's deep regrets as full quittance for his deed. 
The responsibility for the consequences that ensued from 
the appointment of Burnside as commanding-general must 
be apportioned between the Administration and Bum- 
side. The Administration was to blame for appointing 
him, and he for accepting the appointment. He could not 
be held blameless for that, unless he had first positively 
declined to accept the appointment, and then accepted it 
only in obedience to express and positive orders, which, as 
a soldier, he would be bound not to disobey. This he did 
not do, but weakly yielded after demurring. To him, 



248 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

therefore, belongs the greater share of &ult, for whereas 
the Administration acted in ignorance of his incompetency, 
he knew it well, and ought not to have thought that he 
had relieved himself from responsibility by confessing his 
unfitness to command. 



THE BATILE OF CHANCELLOBSVILLK 249 



CHAPTER XIII. 

THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLORSVILLE. 

The bitterness of the chalice that the North constantly 
drained was from time to time mitigated by the welcome 
draught of successes in the West and Southwest. From 
the first it was not intended, for want of space, to make 
special mention of these ; nor is it now, but only occasion- 
ally to record, as illustrated here, remarkable events having 
bearing on the war, lest the Army of the Potomac should 
appear as if occupying a world of its own, having no rela- 
tion to the rest. 

On the 6th and 7th of April, 1 862, Grant won the battle 
of Shiloh, near Pittsburg Landing, in Tennessee, through 
the timely arrival of Buell's army to his assistance. Hal- 
leck, however, then taking command of those forces in the 
field, made progress so slow towards Corinth, in Mississippi, 
moving fifteen miles in six weeks, that the enemy availed 
himself of the ample time placed at his disposal to evacuate 
the place with all his material, and leave only the husks of 
victory behind. Yet Halleck was the general who, from 
Washington, subsequently told McCIellan that his men did 
not march enough for exercise. Such military critics may 
well be likened to the literary ones said to be recruited from 
the ranks of unsuccessful authors. His generalship, how- 
ever, had not, as we have seen, prevented Halleck from 
being called to Washington as general-in-chief of the armies 
of the United States. 

On the 1st of January, 1863, Mr. Lincoln issued his 
Proclamation of Emancipation. 



250 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADR 

Bumside, upon paying a visit to Washington to demand 
the carrying out of very high-handed measures which he 
had devised against recalcitrant officers of his army, who 
had been disgusted at his conduct of the Fredericksburg 
campaigpi, found that the pressure against him was too 
strong to be resisted, and accordingly, resigning his com- 
mand, was replaced by his most conspicuous opponent. 
General Hooker. 

A word here in passing is but just to the tone of the 
army at that time, because it was the subject then of much 
animadversion. It is admitted on all sides that it was far 
from that representing the highest morale. The incident 
just described is one of the evidences of the fact. But a 
moment's reflection ought to show that, to have expected 
the army to be other than it was, was to expect the impos- 
sible. Whence, in a word, it may be asked, is the morale 
of an army derived, or, more properly speaking, in what 
does it consist but in the integration in all its parts of 
a self-consciousness and general life so blended in every 
fibre as to make of it a single unit of being ? But here 
there had been no prime generative force at work, equal to 
producing the highest morale^ for a representative of the 
highest life in military intellect had been absent Wonder- 
ful, indeed, in view of this, it is that this army had bravely 
toiled on for months in bivouac, in march, in battle. To 
feel well commanded, not to be called upon to sacrifice in 
vain, gives of itself to the soldier calmness and content. 
To have the hope, or better still, faith in victory, grown out 
of experience of the past, gives him additionally the buoy- 
ancy with which he more willingly supports fresh hardships 
and seeks new laurels. In the moral world, neither more 
nor less than in the physical, naught can stand without 
prop or foundation. But to feel, as every ill-commanded 
soldier does in his inmost heart, that all his fortitude and 



THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLORSVILLR 2$ I 

courage are in vain, dampens his spirits and impairs the 
fnarale of both officers and men. To expect of a soldier 
under these circumstances the highest emprise of which he 
is capable, would be as foolish as to imagine that the virtue 
of a saint could be resplendent without the hope of salva- 
tion. It is always ample service in the minds of those who 
do not strive and suffer and bear the heat and burden of 
the day, to "hang hissing at the nobler men below;** but 
for those who are filled with a sense of duty that knows no 
fulfilment of it save in action, they may perform it well, 
though they may, as was said of the army at this time, 
" growl,** since, after all, the men had the final limitation of 
being human. History can show no army which preserved 
its morale better under the most disheartening circum- 
stances, and none with a sublimer faith that there must be 
a brighter future for it beyond the shadows of the present, 
through which it long marched to uninterrupted disaster. 

General Hooker, the new commander of the Army of the 
Potomac, was a man of considerable ability, but not of 
thoroughly well-balanced character. He had long and 
deservedly been known as a very daring officer in action, 
earning thereby the sobriquet of " Fighting Joe.** The 
special love of personal combat is, however, a demerit in a 
general commanding a large army, because it is prejudi- 
cial to combined movements on a large scale. Beyond the 
capacity, therefore, fitted for the command of a corps. Hooker 
did not range, and even this capacity was, of course, subject 
to the limitation just referred to as affecting large concerted 
movements. He bore, too, the reputation which continued 
to attach to his subsequent military career, of tendency to 
insubordination, a trait which was the parent of the inde- 
pendent spirit and way in which he loved to fight. He 
came distinctly within the category of men capable in 
ordinary affairs and emergencies. He had withal a cer- 



J 



252 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADK 

tain geniality of disposition which made him engaging. His 
personality, in sum, might be said to be composed chiefly 
of an overweening sense of his own ability, great physical 
courage, democratic manners, gasconading temperament, 
and considerable powers of organization and execution. 

How the best of these last attributes can be reconciled with 
the extraordinary event about to be recounted, every one 
must decide for himself, as in all other things, on evidence. 
Both to avoid interrupting the narrative about to be entered 
upon, and to account as it proceeds for the irrationality of 
the final event alluded to, it is best here to dispose of the 
subject of Hooker's condition when the battle of Chancel- 
lorsville was fought. At the time of the occurrence many 
persons thought that Hooker's failure was attributable to 
intoxication. Everything, however, that can be gleaned 
from eye-witnesses and from other sources of information 
goes to show that this supposition was entirely erroneous. 
The very fact of the mental condition of Hooker having 
been for several days under the eyes of officers of the high- 
est rank, without their imagining him to have been under 
the influence of stimulants, goes of itself to show that he 
could not be charged with intoxication. All the evidence 
obtainable points in the very opposite direction, to the effect 
of extreme abstinence adopted suddenly. The explanation 
of this is that Hooker had been in the habit of what 
abstemious men would call drinking too much, but that, 
on the eve of active operations, feeling the great responsi- 
bility of his position, he had suddenly adopted the opposite 
regimen. That, up to the moment of joining battle, he 
was perfectly clear in intellect, is proved by the admirable 
plan for it which he devised, and carried into execution, too, 
until the ground was reached, when all was changed and 
catastrophe entered on the scene. It was only at the 
moment of joining battle that he exhibited a sudden and 



THE BATTLE OF CHANCELL0B8VILLE, 2$ 3 

Strange inhibition of his mental powers, as if he had been 
hypnotized. There is only one way to account for this 
physiological fact. This is that, on account of the stress 
experienced in his system by the sudden change of habit 
adopted, the excitement of immediately impending battle, 
unexpectedly forced upon him by the enemy, so over- 
wrought his nerves, that he was seized with a species of 
panic ; not that which sometimes prompts a private soldier 
to run away, but one which is producible in any one when, 
in an abnormal neurotic condition, supreme exaltation of 
spirits is suddenly met by the perception of an impending 
terrible weight of responsibility. Previously in these pages 
I have, as I believe, given a rational explanation of the 
genesis of panic, as an uncontrollable revulsion of feeling 
from a condition of over-confidence. In a man like Hooker, 
physically, and in good bodily condition, probably morally 
courageous, panic would not assume the form of seeking 
to run away from danger, but that of an inhibition of the 
play of the intellectual faculty, and abeyance of the express 
control of will for determinate and far-reaching ends. We 
enter in this case on the joint domain of physiology 
and psychology, and in its light we may clearly read that 
Hooker was thrown (through surexcitation of his nervous 
system, supervening upon abnormal physical conditions 
produced by radical change in alcoholic habits, and in face 
of the unexpectedness of Lee's advancing from his entrench- 
ments to fight, instead of retreating) into a temporary 
paralysis of his mental faculties, representing panic, but 
with a manifestation of it which, being rare, is at present not 
even scientifically recognized. 

With the abortive movement, under Bumside, called in 
derision the Mud March, which took place on the 20th of 
January, 1863, active operations of the Army of the Po- 
tomac had come to an end for the winter. The period of 



254 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADR 

mental and bodily rest and refreshment that ensued until 
the following spring had been well earned, and had had the 
effect of completely restoring the morale of the army and 
making it eager for action long before the season became iH 
for operations. During the winter it was largely recruited, 
cadres filled up, military exercises practised, and everything 
done to perfect its organization in men and material. The 
old form of Grand Divisions was discontinued by Hooker, 
and the corps remained as they had been constituted and 
entitled previously to their combination. They were the 
First Corps, under General Reynolds, the Second Corpus, 
under General Couch, the Third Corps, under General 
Sickles, the Fifth Corps, under General Meade, the Sixth 
Corps, under General Sedgwick, the Eleventh Corps, under 
General Howard, and the Twelfth Corps, under General 
Slocum, — seven corps in all, — ^numbering one hundred and 
twenty thousand men. The army of Lee was numerically 
far inferior to the Army of the Potomac, numbering, accord- 
ing to official returns at the time of the battle of Chancel- 
lorsville, only about fifty-five thousand men. The cause of 
this diminution in its numbers was that Longstreet, with two 
divisions, had been detached from the army, and was engaged 
in military operations and collection of supplies near Suffolk, 
south of the James River. Lee's army was posted south 
of the Rappahannock and its main branch, the Rapidan, 
from Port Royal, on the east, to United States' Ford on the 
west, opposite to the Federal army on the north bank of the. 
Rappahannock. There was in the Army of the Potomac 
during the whole winter only one trifling movement in Feb- 
ruary; Stoneman's cavalry, supported on the 25th by a 
division of the Second Corps, being concerned in one near 
Berea Church. 

Here it becomes, as usual, necessary, in beginning the 
description of a new series of operations, to give a brief 



THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLORS VILLE. 255 

topographical sketch of the lay of the land in which they 
were conducted. To do this without a large-scale map, and 
so that they may be at the same time clearly present to the 
imagination, it becomes necessary to generalize details. 
For example, inasmuch as both the Rappahannock and the 
Rapidan have bends, we must simplify the idea of their 
courses by regarding them, either as forming straight lines, 
or as determined with reference to straight lines. From 
Fredericksburg as a centre, therefore, it may be said that, 
barring its sinuosities, the Rappahannock runs east for about 
eighteen miles to Port Royal, on its south bank, except 
where a great northward bend in it, a little west of Port 
Royal, is made by Skinker's Neck. Starting again from 
the same centre, it runs, always excepting its bends, west 
for about ten miles, from Fredericksburg to where the 
Rapidan puts off from it, thence running about six miles 
northwest, to Kelly's Ford, the Rapidan running west 
to Ely's and Germanna Fords. The termini on the west 
of the approaching operations were at these three fords, 
and the terminus on the east, at Port Conway, opposite Port 
Royal. Going up the Rappahannock and Rapidan the dis- 
tances of the important fords, measured in straight lines 
from Fredericksburg are, in round numbers, Banks's Ford, 
five miles ; United States' Ford, seven miles above that ; 
Ely's Ford, nine miles above that ; and Germanna Ford, 
six miles above Ely's, the two latter on the Rapidan. 

The opening of the new campaign began on April i6th 
with a cavalry combat between General William W. Averell 
and the enemy at Kelly's Ford, on the Rappahannock, 
0|^site Ely's Ford, to the south, on the Rapidan. The 
movement that led to this was a reconnoissance to ascertain 
how the fords there were guarded. The main body of 
cavalry, under Stoneman, was finally sent across the fords 
higher up, near Warrenton, and then to make a wide circuit 




256 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE 

thence between the enemy and Richmond, destroying his 
communications and supplies. 

The plan which Hooker had formed was admirable. 
The ill success that attended the operations was not on 
account of the imperfection of the plan, but because it was 
not carried out. It was &ulty only in one point, the send- 
ing of Stoneman's fine body of cavalry off on a raid. This 
was based upon the pure assumption that Lee would retreat 
instead of fight, and by sending off nearly all his cavalry 
Hooker divested himself of one of the important agencies 
to bring about Lee's retreat, or to harass it if it were once 
begun. Otherwise the plan was unexceptionable, and even 
with the drawback of Stoneman's absence, it would have 
succeeded if it had been executed. The experience of Lee 
on the Lower Rappahannock, in resisting the repeated 
efforts of the Federals to capture and hold that line near 
Fredericksburg, had led him to make it impregnable to 
direct attack from Port Royal to United States' Ford. 
Below Port Royal, where his right rested on the Rappa- 
hannock, the river was too wide to render practicable the 
crossing of the Army of the Potomac in face of a force resist- 
ing ; and beyond United States* Ford, where his left rested, 
he held a cavalry force and videttes at the fords. Never- 
theless, by a very skilful movement. Hooker succeeded in 
making a lodgment on Lee's left flank, and had the tactical 
skill exhibited been equal to the strategical, the movement 
would have been crowned with complete success. Never 
before, except at Antietam, was the Army of Northern 
Virginia placed in such a strait, never was it afterwards 
until its surrender. Yet this rare chance of the war to inflict 
upon it at the height of its power a crushing defeat was 
lost forever. 

Hooker had more than twice as many troops as Lee had, 
and Lee's army was not concentrated. So Hooker could 



THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLOBSVILLR 2^7 

afTord to operate on exterior lines. The idea of the ground 
concerned in Hooker's advance might be still further 
simplified by saying that, if one should hold horizontally 
where Hooker's army lay, the butt of a pole towards the 
east, supporting on the other end, towards the west, two 
broadly branching tines, he would present a rude represen- 
tation of the ground as divided north and south by the 
Rappahannock and the Rapidan. The position of Port 
Conway and Port Royal would be represented by the butt 
of the pole, Fredericksburg by a point two-thirds from the 
butt to the junction of the tines, Banks's Ford by a point a 
little beyond that town. United States' Ford by a point just 
short of the junction of the tines, the northwest one of which 
would be the Rappahannock, on which is Kelly's Ford, 
and the west one the Rapidan, on which are Ely's and Ger- 
manna Fords. There are other fords, but the ones men- 
tioned are the most prominent in the pending operations. 

It should now be apparent that, in the position of Hooker's 
army, he would be obliged, in order to turn Lee's left flank, 
to cross both the Rappahannock and the Rapidan, and 
march along the south bank of the Rapidan until the same 
shore developed into the south bank of the Rappahannock. 
He could not cross directly over United States' Ford, for 
there Lee's left rested. But if he could turn the position 
in the manner described, he would then eventually uncover 
United States' Ford, and any body of troops remaining on the 
north bank of the Rappahannock could join forces with him 
by that ford. Further, if he could continue to advance to- 
wards the east, and reach a point three and a half miles in the 
rear of Fredericksburg, he would uncover Banks's Ford, and 
troops could reach him by that ford from the north bank of 
the Rappahannock, or, if his left wing could capture Freder- 
icksburg, it could reach him directly from that place. The 

success of the plan primarily hung upon making a success- 

17 



/ 



258 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

ful lodgment on Lee*s left with a force sufficient to advance 
to the rear of Fredericksburg against any resistance that 
Lee could offer. That achieved, Hooker's last reinforce- 
ments could reach him by Banks's Ford, or from Fredericks- 
burg, and he would have more than double Lee*s force on 
the flank of his communications with Richmond and across 
the line of his communications with Orange Court House. 

There is no reason to doubt that the advance and lodg- 
ment of Hooker on Lee's left flank was wholly unexpected 
by Lee. Lee's army was entrenched, and the circuit by 
which Hooker could reach his left flank was long and diffi- 
cult, over the two rivers, the Rappahannock and Rapidan. 
Nevertheless, Hooker's strategy succeeded. On the 21st 
of April Doubleday's division, of the First Corps, made a 
feint of crossing the Rappahannock at Port Conway, oppo- 
site to Port Royal. On the 27tli of April the Fifth, Elev- 
enth, and Twelfth Corps marched to Kelly's Ford, on the 
Rappahannock, twenty-seven miles off to the right, and 
passing over that stream, during the night and the next 
morning, the Eleventh and Twelfth finally crossed the 
Rapidan at Germanna Ford, and the Fifth at Ely's Ford, 
thus placing General Meade in the advance along the south 
banks of the Rapidan and Rappahannock. In due time, 
after this movement had begun, the First, Third, and Sixth 
Corps, and Gibbon's division of the Second Corps, marched, 
and before daylight of the 29th four pontoon bridges were 
thrown across the Rappahannock a few miles below Fred- 
ericksburg, and just after daylight, one opposite Fredericks- 
burg. This force, constituting the left wing, was under the 
command of Sedgwick. Hooker in person, with the two 
remaining divisions of the Second Corps, crossed the Rappa- 
hannock at United States' Ford, as soon as the turning oper- 
ation on the right of the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Corps 
was completed. This was on the 30th, and the plan had so 



THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLOBSVILLK 259 

fiu* succeeded perfectly. Sedgwick was in front of and 
threatening the Heights back of Fredericksburg, and the 
First, Eleventh, and Twelfth Corps, with the two divisions 
of the Second, had been massed near Chancellorsville. 
Moreover, Sedgwick had been informed of the lodgment 
on the right, and had detached the Third Corps, which, on 
the morning of the ist of May, crossed the Rappahannock 
at United States Ford and joined Hooker, making his force 
now four corps and two divisions, while Sedgwick still 
threatened Fredericksburg with two corps and one division. 
Lee was between the upper and the nether millstones. 
What was needed now was but a Blucher to say " For- 
warts^ But Hooker did not say it. The paresis which 
was to assail him in deadlier and deadlier form made him 
hesitate. From having been so highly elated at the success 
of the first steps of his plan as to be able to write, in a 
preliminary order, " The enemy must either ignominiously 
fly, or come out from his defences and give us battle on our 
own ground, where certain destruction awaits him," his 
arrogance had departed, and he awaited instead of seeking 
the arbitrament of battle. What a fall was that in spirit, 
represented by his declaration that Lee*s army was now 
"the legitimate possession of the Army of the Potomac," 
contrasted with the reluctance with which within a few hours 
he marched towards Fredericksburg. His temporary and 
immoderate exaltation of spirits is to be noted in connec- 
tion with their sudden collapse, in the light of the theory 
which has been presented as to the liability to revulsion of 
feeling in feeble natures, or in strong ones in abnormal con- 
ditions, under such circumstances. Evenly poised character 
is not susceptible to such influence, it is incapable of the most 
transient megalomania ; but from nature or temporary dis- 
ease, or both, the character may not be, or may cease to be, 
well poised, and so conditioned it is liable to opposite states 



26o OENEBAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE. 

of extreme exaltation and depression. In the fundamental 
characteristic of Hooker's mind, vain-gloriousness, stimulated 
by nervous disorder superinduced by sudden change of habits, 
lay the match that was to explode his justly high anticipations 
of success. How different the exaltation of a man like Gen- 
eral Meade. Although of imagination "all compact," with 
him it was imagination in leash, trained to do the bidding of 
its master, he not its slave ; bom in him, schooled in life, 
speaking in restrained terms its highest hopes and sternest 
resolves, because they were bounded by the determination 
to do his duty, from which nothing could make him blench. 
He greeted Slocum as he met him upon his arrival from 
Germanna Ford with the words, " This is splendid, Slocum ; 
hurrah for old Joe ; we are on Lee's flank and he does not 
know it. You take the plank road towards Fredericksburg 
and ril take the pike, or vice versa, as you may prefer, and 
we will get out of this wilderness." But his anticipations 
were at once dampened by the reply of Slocum, who said, 
" My orders are to assume command on arriving at this 
point, and to take up a line of battle here, and not to move 
further forward without orders." Hooker's heart had begun 
to fail him, therefore, just as he had reached the field. This 
was the first sig^ of what soon assumed an acute form of 
imbecility. 

Chancellorsville consisted of a single house and grounds. 
Three main roads lead from it towards the east, Fredericks- 
burg ; — the Plank, Old Turnpike, and Shore Roads. About 
midway between Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg the 
Plank and Old Turnpike Roads, afler having run parallel 
with each other for some four miles, unite near Tabernacle 
and Zoar Churches, making a single main road thence to 
Fredericksburg. Lx>oking towards Fredericksburg from 
the point of Chancellorsville, where all three roads unite, 
the Plank Road is towards the right, the Old Turn- 



THE BATTLE OF CHANCBLL0R8VILLR 261 

pike in the centre, and the Shore Road towards the left. 
All intersecting at Chancelloisville, theie is westward thence 
for two miles only a single main track, at which distance 
the Flank Road and the Old Turnpike are resumed, and 
diverging for a short distance again, continue to pursue 
a westerly course in a some^diat parallel direction. The 
whole system, excepting for some distance back of Fred- 
ericksburg, passes through the tract known as the Wilder- 
ness. Departing from these main roads, subsidiary ones 
pass northward, by which Scott's Dam, near and below 
United States' Ford, and Ely's and Germanna Fords are 
reached, and, of course, many of these same cross-roads 
pass beyond the east- and west-main tracks towards the 
south, and intermediate roads in various directions form a 
network of connections over the country. The country is 
diversified by various creeks running into the Rappahannock 
and Rapidan, among which, further west, is Mine Run, a 
southern branch of the Rapidan, celebrated in a future cam- 
paign conducted by General Meade. 

Spurred on, no doubt, by the manifest expectations of 
the officers around him, Hooker at last advanced towards 
Fredericksburg. Slocum, on the right, marched along the 
Plank Road, Sykes's division, of the Fifth Corps, supported 
by Hancock's division, of the Second Corps, marched in the 
centre along the Old Turnpike, while Meade, with the two 
divisions of his corps, Humphreys' and Griffin's, marched 
along the River Road. Sickles, with the Third Corps, now 
across United States Ford, was closing up in the rear. 
The troops, soon opposed by the enemy, drove him at first, 
and reached a position about three miles in advance, and 
about six miles from Fredericksburg, on the ridge that 
runs there at right-angles to the trend of the roads which 
they had been pursuing. Jt was on open ground, where 
the artillery could have free play, a position such that the 



262 GENERAL GEOBOE GORDON MEADE 

army could not have expected better. Banks's Ford had 
been uncovered by General Meade's advance, and by this, 
if Sedgwick could not capture Fredericksburg, he could 
easily rejoin the main army by the route of the bridges 
below. But to the astonishment of all in the advance, 
orders came from the commanding-general to retire to the 
first position occupied, the lines which the army had left, 
the thickets of the Wilderness. Deprecatory messages 
were sent to the rear, and a slight modification of orders 
was received, but of no moment, for the retrograde move- 
ment had begun, and the enemy had already taken advan- 
tage of the falling back of Slocum to try to interpose 
between the right and centre of the lines. The King of 
France had marched up the hill and was now marching 
down again. " My God," General Meade is authentically 
said to have cried, when he found himself among a group 
of general officers on the lower ground for which the com- 
manding position they had occupied had been relinquished, 
" if we can't hold the top of a hill, we certainly can't hold 
the bottom of it." 

The army retired to the first lines which had been occu- 
pied by the orders of Hooker, the enemy pressing all the 
time on its rear. Hooker had now, so he said, got the 
enemy where he wanted him. If so, why had he advanced ? 
The enemy was equally satisfied, but with more reason. He 
occupied a commanding position, from which he had direct 
and enfilading fire on the lower ground occupied by the 
Army of the Potomac, which, by its retirement, had sacri- 
ficed its superiority in artillery. Banks's Ford had been sur- 
rendered, and Sedgwick could not now join the main army, 
save by a long detour, or else by running the risk of being 
intercepted by Lee, if marching directly for junction with 
Hooker. The army was worse off than if it had had no 
head. Lee had left Early, with some nine thousand men. 



THE BATTLE OF CHAN0ELL0B8VILLE. 26^ 

to defend the Heights of Fredericksburg, while he was 
throwing the rest of his force upon Hooker. It had at first 
been Hooker's theory that Lee would not fight, but would 
incontinently retreat. In that he had offended against the 
practice of the wisest generals, who consider in advance all 
the contingencies which they can summon up to mind, so 
that they may be able best to meet any exigency that may 
arise. When he found Lee's columns charging him a 
outrance, the rapidly approaching crisis of his disorder 
seized him in the form of dismay, to which his speech and 
inconsequent actions and his looks bore ample testimony. 
He was neutralized. In seeking shelter in the Wilderness 
he had acted with the simple, primitive, animal impulse of 
the hunted creature to seek safety by recoil and conceal- 
ment from danger and attack. 

The army fell back and took up the general position rep- 
resented by its centre being in advance of Chancellorsville, 
whence its departing lines covered the single two-mile-long 
track uniting the eastern and western points of divergence 
of the Plank and Old Turnpike roads, and those points 
themselves, the left wing being sharply deflected to the 
Rappahannock at Scott's Dam. More precisely, the morn- 
ing of the 2d of May found the lines of the army adjusted 
as follows : The Fifth Corps had its left on Scott's Dam, 
and its front west of Mineral Spring Run, covering United 
States' Ford. On the right of that came French's division 
of the Second Corps, with its right extending towards the, 
Plank Road. Some distance in advance of that division 
was the other present division of the Second Corps, with its 
right beyond the Plank Road. As viewed from the east, 
one division of the Second Corps partially masked the 
other. From the advanced division of the Second Corps 
the lines suddenly took a westerly, from their previously 
southerly direction. At the point of divergence there the 



264 GENERAL OEOBGE GORDON MEADK 

left of the Twelfth Corps touched Hancock's right, and its 
line swept out to the south far beyond the Plank Road, en- 
closing the so-called Chancellorsville plateau and beyond, 
continued in its sweep by the Third Corps, whose line fell 
backward towards the Plank Road, nearing which it was 
joined by the left of the Eleventh Corps, which enclosed, 
on the south, the east and west trend of the Plank Road, 
ending finally in a weak crotchet The line consisted to- 
wards the east of a number of weak angles, the right of 
Hancock's position being the apex of a salient. The First 
Corps was on the march from Sedgwick to cross the Rap- 
pahannock at United States' Ford, leaving Sedgwick still 
oiie corps, the Sixth, and one division of the Second Corps. 
Hooker was now in a purely defensive attitude, if such a 
passive condition be compatible with defence. To await 
just what an enemy may choose to do never can be effect- 
ively defensive. If Hooker had no plans, Lee was fertile in 
them, and he was now about to carry out one which he never 
would have attempted in the face of an adversary who was 
skilful and audacious. Even at this late day the plan is often 
ascribed to Jackson, although Lee himself has given the 
most positive testimony that it was his. Jackson, however, 
was the man, and possibly the only man, who could have 
carried it out successfully, and without him Lee probably 
would not have attempted it. Hooker's cavalry was away. 
It had not been able until the 29th of April to get across 
the upper fords of the Rappahannock. It was now engaged 
in a raid in Lee's rear, which was to effect nothing of impor- 
tance, and which, even if it could have accomplished more, 
could have done nothing commensurate with what it could 
have contributed under the most ordinary circumstances by 
its presence with the army, to say nothing of what it could 
have effected now, under the extraordinary circumstances 
that its presence could have controlled. Jackson, under 



THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLOBSVILLE 26$ 

Lee's orders, had taken a circuitous route, masked by 
cavalry, towards the right flank of the Army of the Potomac, 
and although attacked in the right rear-flank by Sickles with 
a portion of his force, still held on with his design in &ce 
of an enemy apparently bent on believing that he was wit- 
nessing a retreat. 

There is an aura of battle as there is of epilepsy. Amidst 
the sound of axes felling forest trees, of metal clashing and 
sight of rising parapets, amidst the indescribable hum of 
thousands of muffled voices dominated by words of com- 
mand, there is no time for any experience but the thought 
of preparation for battle. But when the men rest from their 
labors and stand to arms, as did those engulfed in this leafy 
wilderness, ready for action, and hours pass, and nothing 
such as they expect ensues, a strange, weird sensation takes 
possession of them, such as in mediaeval times must have 
been felt by the inhabitants of those lonely tracts in which 
were-wolves were supposed to course and witches to be 
abroad by night. The mixed feeling with which deadly com- 
bat is awaited, sensation neither of pleasure nor of pain, but 
strangely blended, must revert for its explanation to the 
ever-present, but not always imminent, unsolved mystery 
of life and death, to which the mind on such occasions 
reaches forth for solution, craving only that the tension 
shall be soon relieved by action. Not until that comes does 
any one feel the joy of battle. So these men now waited 
with tense expectancy of something, of the mysterious un- 
known. And yet there were very many there who knew 
that the right flank of the Army of the Potomac was in the 
air, that Lee's favorite blow was by a long and rapid march 
to the enemy's rear, and that Jackson's was the arm which 
had never failed him yet. 

Striking the Brock Road at last, which crosses both the 
Plank Road and the Old Turnpike, Jackson turned slowly 



/ 



266 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADK 

to the right along the Old Turnpike. A. P. Hill's division 
moved at first in line of battle along the ground north of 
the Old Turnpike, marching east in support of the deployed 
divisions of Rodes and Colston, in the order mentioned, 
but afterwards in column along the Old Turnpike Road. 
Jackson at length reached a position from which he securely 
reconnoitered the ground occupied by the Eleventh Corps, 
as in the German folk-lore the ritter-giants sometimes 
looked down from their strongholds on the land tilled by 
the frugal husbandmen ploughing for their benefit below. 
Then he directed the leading divisions still further to the 
rear, until he could see the left flank of Hooker's army in 
reverse. Suddenly he burst with fury into the astonished 
camp. As by a whirlwind the whole right flank was 
doubled up. Colonel Adolphus Buschbeck, with his brigade 
of the Eleventh Corps, which had formed the crotchet on 
the right, vainly attempting to hold his ground. Artillery, 
horses, soldiers, the right of the Eleventh Corps, struck on 
end, were put to precipitate flight. Let not the flattering 
unction which has so frequently been taken to the soul 
about this aflair be still considered saving. Less than one- 
half of the Eleventh Corps was German, but all were dis- 
lodged, and some were in rout. Any men so fallen upon 
in flank would have been at irretrievable disadvantage. 
Being routed was not the fault of the men, but of the gener- 
alship which permitted them to be there without cavalry on 
that wing, or in default of cavalry, without suflicient pickets 
and grand-guards thrown out to the intersection of the 
Brock Road with the Old Turnpike. Until the Franco- 
Prussian War the " Dutchman " represented one of the dis- 
tinctively comic elements of American life. It was amusing 
to observe how even the words in which English, not Ger- 
man, had made change, were charged up against him as if 
he were guilty in mispronouncing English. Even if, as 



THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLORSVILLK 267 

reported, some of the Germans cried, as they rushed to the 
rear, **Alles ist verlaren ; wo ist der ponton ?*' they were not 
the only ones who weaponless and hatless tore through the 
steady ranks to the left. 

Those ranks to the left were not in the least bit shaken. 
The moment that the sound and sights of Jackson's attack 
manifested themselves, Lee had pushed an assault as hard 
as possible on the right-centre. He had been awaiting with 
only two divisions on that front. All the time, until between 
five and six in the afternoon, the period before which Jackson 
could not make his flank attack, Hooker had been facing 
only these two divisions on his front. Lee had meanwhile 
been making feints here and there along the lines to dis- 
tract Hooker's attention from his real design. It is almost 
needless to say that the event would have been very differ- 
ent had Hooker attacked then instead of remaining entirely 
on the defensive. Now, in the midst of the turmoil caused 
by Jackson's successful onslaught on Hooker's right, Lee 
fiercely launched into a diversion in its favor. Hancock's lines, 
forming a salient, first received the brunt of his efforts in 
that direction, but he, bravely supported by Colonel Nelson 
A. Miles, and the troops to the right and left of him, foiled 
the enemy. Part of the divisions of Williams and Geary, 
of the Twelfth Corps, which had been advanced to the sup- 
port of the Third Corps, were resuming their places in line 
during the progress of the catastrophe which had begun on 
the right. Bimey's and Whipple's divisions, of the Third 
Corps, were absent from their lines, engaged in harassing the 
right rear of Jackson's column, which had been believed to 
be in retreat. Berry's division, of the Third Corps, which 
had been in reserve at Chancellorsville, was ordered to the 
right by Hooker to try to stem the Confederate tide running 
from the direction of Jackson. Sykes's division, of the 
Fifth Corps, Hays's brigade, of the Second Corps, artillery 



268 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADR 

posted by Generals Meade, Warren, Captain Best, chief of 
artillery of the Twelfth Corps, Captain Osbom, chief of 
Berry's artillery, and halted fragments of the Eleventh 
Corps, formed a line of battle facing west. Sickles's ad- 
vance, consisting of Bimey's and Whipple's divisions of the 
Third Corps, and his reinforcements of Barlow's brigade of 
the Eleventh Corps, and Williamson's brigade of the Twelfth 
Corps, and Pleasanton's cavalry, now cut off from the main 
army, attacked Jackson's advance on its right flank. These 
troops of Sickles's were now completely isolated, as will be 
seen they must have been, if one considers that they had 
been harassing the right rear-flank of Jackson's force march- 
ing towards the right, and that Jackson had passed around 
the right flank of the Federal army and driven it towards 
its left flank. Pleasanton directed the artillery, and Sickles 
the infantry, in working effectively towards checking the 
advance of Jackson by attacking his exposed right flank 
marching now in an exactly retrograde course. General 
Meade, who has been already casually mentioned in con- 
nection with the measures taken to repulse the enemy, had 
not, as may well be imagined, remained an idle auditor of 
the sounds on the right. Realizing what had occurred, he 
had summoned his staff*, mounted his horse, and taking 
Sykes's division of the Fifth Corps, then facing to the east, 
and marching westward, he threw it, facing west, on the ridge 
commanding the junction of the Ely's Ford Road with the 
road between Chancellorsville and Ely's Ford which leads 
to United States' Ford. Here he formed line of battle, 
heading off* stragglers from the Eleventh Corps, and order- 
ing Captain Weed, his chief of artillery, afterwards General 
Weed, killed at Gettysburg, to mount on it some fifty or 
sixty pieces of artillery, which, being effected, there was 
presented along that portion of the lines an obstacle in- 
superable to the enemy's advance. 



THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLOBSVILLK 269 

During the night the First Corps, under Reynolds, ar- 
rived from Sedgwick, and formed on Meade's right behind 
Big Hunting Run. The details of the new dispositions would 
be too voluminous for introduction here. It must suffice to 
say that the attack on the right wing reaped all the more 
success because troops from the Twelfth Corps had been 
advanced to support Sickles, and that the gap which had 
necessarily been thereby left in the general lines was reached 
by Jackson's troops before those which had advanced to 
Stckles's support could fairly resume their positions, and 
that, in sum, the right centre having been patched in a frag- 
mentary way, the right wing, now sharply refused to the 
right, towards the Rapidan (for the lines now embraced 
the confluence of the Rappahannock and the Rapidan), 
was occupied by the Twelfth Corps, Berry's division of the 
Third, Sykes's division of the Fifth Corps, later in the 
night, by the First Corps, and additionally during the 
night by troops from the left. In the night and on the 
morning of the following day the remainder of the Fifth 
Corps came over from the left to the right. Sickles having 
established communication between his outlying and the in- 
lying lines of the army, was authorized by Hooker to make 
a night attack on the enemy, in which he was supported by 
Williams's division of the Twelfth Corps and Berry's of the 
Third. Aided by moonlight, the attack, finely executed, 
regained possession of the eastern portion of the breast- 
works that had been occupied by the Eleventh Corps, and 
necessarily of the Plank Road in that quarter. 

The shades of evening were coming on apace when Jack- 
son had gone beyond his lines peering into the darkness to 
ascertain how his advance could be best continued, when, 
as he was returning, he and his staff were mistaken for 
Federal troops, and received a volley by which he was mor- 
tally wounded. Borne to the rear, the command finally 



/ 



lyo GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

devolved on Stuart, instead of upon A. P. Hill, on ac- 
count of Hill's being wounded in Sickles's night-attack, and 
of Stuart's having more intimate knowledge than he of the 
country, through his preliminary reconnoissances of it and 
movement concerted with Jackson. Jackson was an irrep- 
arable loss to the Confederate army. He is one, whether 
as a man or general, entitled to respect, on account of his 
genius and daring, and in despite of the narrowness of his 
views as a fanatic. 

The next morning, Sunday, the 3d of May, was the 
greatest day of battle. The lines of the army were now 
markedly different from those held at first, the distribu- 
tion of the corps even more so. The left flank consisted 
of the Eleventh Corps, resting its left at Scott's Dam, on 
the Rappahannock, and enclosing United States* Ford. To 
the right of it, in extension of the southward general line, 
was Hancock's division of the Second Corps, &ced, as at 
first, east across the angle between the Shore and Old 
Turnpike and Plank Roads. French's division, at first 
partially to the rear of Hancock's division had been sent 
to the right. On the right flank of Hancock, the point 
of junction -of the left wing with the narrow front, Geary's 
division of the Twelfth Corps covered the Plank Road, 
making with Williams's division of the same corps, to its 
right, an acute angle just at the front. Beyond these lines 
was the Third Corps, partly facing west, and partly towards 
the front, occupying there a summit called Hazel Grove. 
French's division of the Second Corps faced west across 
the Plank Road. Beyond that point were in succession the 
Fifth and the First Corps, covering the Road to Ely's Ford 
towards the northwest, and its junction with the road to 
United States' Ford, towards the northeast. 

Hooker was incapable of fighting a g^reat battle, whatever 
the numbers and dispositions of troops might have been. 



THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLOBSVILLE. 2/1 

His mind was open only to the halting and half measures 
to which irresolution is always given. The day opened 
ominously by his relinquishing the summit of Hazel Grove, 
a bare top capable of a strong defence, and tactically an 
important position. When evacuaced it was at once oc- 
cupied by the enemy, and crowned with artillery that was 
destined to carry havoc into the Federal ranks. Lee in 
person was in command of the Confederate troops on his 
right, Stuart on his left. The battle again opened at day- 
break. Stuart, advancing from the left, engaged Berry's 
division of the Third Corps and French's division of the 
Second Corps. He charged repeatedly with untiring ardor, 
bringing up towards the accomplishment of his purpose his 
very last reserves, while to the Federal side came no succor 
beyond that of a single brigade from the Fifth Corps to the 
support of French. Hooker had no command of the field. 
A part of the army was, as usual, fighting it out without a 
supreme head. 

If the reader has received from the description of the 
positions of the Federal army a clear idea of the field, he 
must perceive that, by only a slight shift to the right, Stuart 
could strike at the same time the left of the Third Corps 
and the right of the Twelfth. As he was working with the 
purpose of joining hands with Lee, that happened at the 
point of time when he had been brought to a stand on his 
left. Further around the Twelfth Corps, on its front and 
on its left, where Hancock at right angles to it on its left- 
rear looked eastward, the enemy had been making vigorous 
demonstrations to prevent the reinforcement of the line 
engaged on the right with Stuart, but for hours without 
coming to close quarters. Miles, under the immediate eye 
of Couch and Hancock, vigorously defended the rifle-pits 
along their front. 

Between nine and ten o'clock the enemy, who had thus 



272 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADR 

felt the Federal lines all around the front, and thus measured 
his strength with what was opposed, or likely to be opposed 
to his force, gathered himself together for a final assault 
His artillery perfectly commanded the position, and with it 
he opened an unceasing direct and enfilading fire that 
swept the plateau of Chancellorsville. In vain Hooker 
was s^pealed to for reinforcements, in vain was even am- 
munition applied for; nothing moved At last he was 
disabled by a blow from a pillar of the Chancellor House, 
against which he was leaning when it was struck by a can- 
non-ball, and upon his recovery from the insensibility that 
ensued for half an hour, he soon turned over the conmiand 
to General Couch, with instructions to retire to a previously 
determined upon position. This lay about a mile back of 
the front then occupied by the army, its right flank resting 
on the Rapidan, protected by Big Hunting Run, and its left 
flank, as before, enclosing Beaver Dam and United States' 
Ford. 

This occurrence of the battle, immediately following the 
accident to Hooker at the Chancellor House, seemed for 
a while to bring home to him, now that some physical dis- 
ability had been added to his previous mental incapacity, 
that he was unfit, for the time at least, to command the 
army. Major (now Colonel) James C. Biddle, of General 
Meade's staff", writes me as follows : " Soon after Hooker 
was stunned, he came over to the place where General 
Meade was, on the new front which he had established the 
evening before on the occasion of Jackson's advance, and 
ordering a tent pitched there, had a conference with General 
Meade. In my presence General Meade urged that he be 
allowed to attack, saying that his troops were in fine con- 
dition and spirits, and that he had reason to think that he 
would meet with success. General Meade said this more 
than once, but General Hooker positively refused to accede 



THE BATTLE OF CHANCEL LOBS VILLR 273 

to his proposition, insisting that he should remain on the 
defensive where he was, at the junction of the Ely's Ford 
and the United States' Ford roads. While this colloquy 
was proceeding, General Couch, coming to see General 
Hooker, entered the tent, and shortly afterwards issued 
therefrom, directing Hooker's staff to report to him, as the 
command of the army had been turned over to him by the 
commanding-general. Thereupon the staff hastily entered 
the tent, with the result that General Hooker almost imme- 
diately appeared and informed General Couch that he was 
laboring under a misapprehension, that he had not meant to 
commit the command of the army to him, but had merely 
meant him to consult General Meade, and to do what to 
General Meade seemed most advisable. Thereupon Couch 
rode away, evidently disgusted." 

Soon after Hooker gave the order to retire, the most ter- 
rible part of the day ensued. The enemy fell recklessly 
on the narrow front before him, many of the troops on 
which had been for some time without ammunition. The 
Confederates, now joined as to their right and left wings, 
swept resistlessly forward. The Federal centre and right- 
centre were dislodged and the troops borne back, but not 
in rout. The last left of the field was the rearguard of 
Hancock's division, back to back, looking east and west, 
and parts of other commands. A battery of the First 
Corps, two batteries of the Fourth United States Artillery, 
General Geary's division of the Twelfth Corps, and other 
organized bodies, also held on to the advanced ground 
as long as possible, in order to give the forces in re- 
treat time to retire without confusion to the new lines. 
The two corps constituting the right wing, the First and 
Fifth Corps, had not come into action at all, either as 
organizations or in the form of reinforcements for the 

front by detachments, having been withheld from assist- 

18 



274 GENERAL QEOBOE OORDON MEADE 

ing their comrades either by men or ammunition, with 
the sole exception of one brigade from the Fifth Corps, 
already mentioned. This was Hooker's battle of Chancel- 
lorsville. How those true men, good soldiers, Meade and 
Reynolds, must have chafed during the weary hours when 
they were held in bondage by their incompetent chief, all 
who knew them must have been well aware. How galling 
it must have been to them at last to be called upon to beat 
a retreat with over thirty thousand men who had not fired 
a shot ! 

Lee did not press the retiring forces as vigorously as he 
might have done, for something suddenly supervened. He 
learned that Sedgwick had captured the Heights back of 
Fredericksburg and was marching towards the battle-field. 
We must therefore revert to the movements of what had 
been Hooker's left wing, now reduced by the withdrawal 
of the First Corps to only one corps and one division. It 
was near the middle of the night preceding the battle which 
has just been described, the night of the 2d of May, that 
Sedgwick received orders to storm the Heights of Freder- 
icksburg and join Hooker by the way of the south bank of 
the Rappahannock. A most dangerous operation, it will 
be seen, had been committed to him. The Heights were 
those from which Bumside had been bloodily repulsed, and 
the march which he was instructed to make was directly 
towards Lee's army. Early the next morning, Sunday, the 
• 3d of May, Sedgwick set his command in motion. Left and 
right and front in succession, after occupying Fredericks- 
burg, he tried to attack to advantage the enemy's position 
on the Heights. Finally a line of battle and two columns, 
profiting by the experience of the battle of Fredericksburg, 
were formed back of the town, and charged without firing, 
capturing the enemy's stone wall and rifle-pits at the base 
of Marye's Hill, the storming column taking the crest be- 



THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLOBSVILLK 275 

yond. Simultaneously, a division on the left captured the 
crest further to the south, and the enemy was sent in full 
retreat, with the loss of numerous prisoners and guns. 
Sedgwick then set out on the march towards Chancellors- 
ville, distant from the Heights nine miles. 

If Sedgwick could reach Hooker at this juncture, the 
Army of the Potomac in full force would be on Lee's line 
of communication with Grordonsville, and on the flank of 
his line of communication with Richmond ; that is on, or 
on the flank of, his only lines of communication. Counting 
with reason on the supineness of Hooker, Lee, however, 
had held his hand in the midst of the furious battle which 
he was delivering against the nearest portions of Hooker's 
forces, fought as an army totally without ensemble^ and de- 
tached several brigades to join Early, which, with the con- 
siderable force Early already had, and a Confederate brigade 
which had been holding Banks's Ford, he judged sufficient 
either to check or to crush Sedgwick's command. The 
two grand detachments met at Salem Heights about four 
o'clock in the afternoon, between Fredericksburg and Chan- 
cellorsville. After a partial success, Sedgwick was pushed 
back. He was now in a critical situation, with a large force 
between him and Hooker's army, while Banks's Ford, on 
his right, might, in case of disaster, be successfully occupied 
and held by the enemy ; and in an attempt in that case to 
retrace his march, his force might equally be compromised. 
The narrative must leave him where he is holding the 
ground at sunset, and return to the main army at Chancel- 
lorsville. 

The 4th of May was a Sabbath with General Hooker, he 
had done all the fighting he apparently intended to do on 
Sunday, the 3d. There was only a skirmish on the front 
of the Twelfth Corps, in which General Whipple, of the 
Third Corps, was killed. By retreating, Hooker had gfiven 




2/6 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

up the roads by which Sedgwick could reach him by the 
south bank of the Rappahannock. The api)eal of the guns 
of Sedgwick, now unable to cope with additional forces, 
under McLaws and Anderson, sent against him by Lee, 
had no power to move the dazed general. He was no bet- 
ter and no worse than he had been before he had been 
knocked down by the concussion at the Chancellor House. 
His malady had preceded that event. Sedgwick was in a des- 
perate situation, confronted by superior forces and Early in 
his rear on the recaptured heights of Fredericksburg. No 
help came from Hooker, and the day of the 4th came to an 
end, with only a skirmish in front of his lines, amid the sound 
of Sedgwick's guns plainly audible, Hooker himself lying 
safely within his new lines. He had ordered Sedgwick to 
join him by the south bank of the Rappahannock, yet he 
had relinquished to the enemy the only roads by which this 
order could be obeyed if Lee opposed the march and he 
did not aid it, and, as the sequel will show, he did not aid 
it Judgfing the case simply on moral, as distinguished from 
purely military grounds, and taking the circumstances as 
what they became, wholly unmodified by Hooker, it may 
truly be said that he left Sedgwick to his fate. But, can it 
be thought that Hooker was then amenable to moral laws ? 
Probably not, for the Hooker who nominally fought the 
battle of Chancellorsville was not the Hooker of old, 
but, by some strange fatality, another man, who, through 
, changed manner and appearance, bore to him some shadowy 
resemblance. 

Colonel Biddle gfives me, with reference to some of the 
last incidents before the Army of the Potomac crossed the 
Rappahannock, some information which proves that, to 
the very last, it was without a competent head. It was, in 
the night of the 4th, decided in council of war to withdraw 
in the night of the Sth of May, by crossing the river in the 



THE BATTLE OF CHANCELL0B8VILLR 277 

immediate rear, a plan which probably would not have been 
voted for by certain officers who formally approved it, but 
for the fact that they knew all further effort and sacrifice 
under Hooker's leadership would be in vain. Colonel Bid- 
die says that it was while this withdrawal was taking place, 
in the night of the 5 th, that the officer of engineers in 
charge of the pontoons reported to General Meade that 
they were in danger of being carried away by the increas- 
ing freshet. General Meade's reply, according to Colonel 
Biddle, was, "Why do you not report this to General 
Hooker? it is not my affair." The response of the officer 
of engineers was that General Hooker could not be found. 
Shortly afler this occurrence during the night. Generals 
Couch, Reynolds, and Sickles, Colonel Biddle says, came 
to General Meade's quarters to confer with him as to 
what should be done. General Meade thereupon di- 
rected Colonel Biddle to cross the river by the pontoon- 
bridge at United States' Ford, find General Hooker, and 
ask for orders. The storm was threatening the pontoons 
at the ford, but some artillery was passing, and Colonel 
Biddle easily reached the other bank of the river. Here 
he found Hooker with his staff asleep on the floor of a 
house on the northern bluff of the stream, and awakening 
General Daniel Butterfield, he informed him of the situation. 
Buttei field's reply was that the order of retreat was to be 
obeyed. Returning to General Meade, Colonel Biddle, 
upon reporting the result of his mission, was ordered by 
the General to summon his staff, and to communicate to 
General Reynolds the state of affairs. Reynolds, found 
occupying a tent with General James S. Wadsworth, was 
awakened, and replied to General Meade's message, "Say to 
General Meade that some one should be waked up to take 
command of this army." The fact was that there was a 
brief space of time when some of the general officers hoped 



2/8 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE 

that the Rappahannock would rise so as to make it abso- 
lutely impossible to cross, in which event Couch, being then 
by seniority in command, there would be an opportunity 
to try conclusions with the enemy under more favorable 
auspices than those under which it had previously fought. 
Colonel Biddle, upon returning to General Meade, found 
that the retreat was being pushed by orders from Couch. 
About daylight of the 6th, the artillery having preceded it 
during the night, the army as a mass could be seen assem- 
bled on the south bank of the river, the appearance of its 
organization leaving much to be desired, with the exception 
of that of the First and Fifth Corps, which, as the reader 
will remember, had not, with the exception of one*brigade 
from the Fifth, been in action. During the 5th Warren and 
Comstock, of the engineers, had traced an interior en- 
trenched line, about three miles long, which General Meade 
held with the rearguard, as the rest of the army was retiring 
over the river. As General Meade rode up to Reynolds 
as the retreat was proceeding, Reynolds advanced to meet 
him, saying, " General, I will support you. If there is any 
fighting to be done, we will do it together." 

The main army safely crossed. The afternoon of the 4th 
Sedgrwick had been surrounded and so severely attacked 
by McLaws and Anderson, in addition to the troops which 
he had already been engaging, that he had been glad by 
night to make good his retreat over Banks's Ford. 

Hooker should have been relieved at once. He recovered 
his normal health, he recovered with it his old arrogance, 
demanding from the military authorities at Washington that 
they should make some recognition of the merit of the 
army. But it is hard to dissever an army from its chief, 
impossible in official orders to recognize their duality. He 
found only condenmation for Sedgwick, the one who, as 
an independent conmiander, had had the opportunity to 



THE BATTLE OF CHANCELLOBSVILLE. 279 

distinguish himself, and he had not neglected it. The one 
bright spot in the operations at Chancellorsville, regarding 
them as a whole, is the part which Sedgwick there played. 
Hooker, who had declared that he held the enemy on ground 
of his own choice, found out that he had failed because 
there was not room enough to fight ; as if, where there is 
room enough for one side to fight, there is not room enough 
for the other, and as if there is not room enough to fight 
where there is enough to run away. It always seems puerile 
to discuss the self-evident, but among the smaller ills of life 
is the task set by unreason to have the self-evident demon- 
strated. Falsification often masquerades under the name of 
charity, but in history it certainly can have no claim to place. 
At any time Hooker would have been unequal to the com- 
mand of a large army in the critical event of battle, and when 
he commanded in that event the Army of the Potomac, he 
was not entirely in his right mind. The army was worthy 
of all praise for its conduct, doubly so for its conduct under 
the most trying circumstances, such as an army never before 
experienced, and possibly never will again. What Hooker 
might have been able to do under different conditions of 
mind and body, we can never know. We can never know 
about the affair in general aught but that which the mili- 
tary authorities should have known at the beginning, that 
Hooker was by constitution of character, apart from his 
military capacity, whatever that may have been, unequal to 
so great a command as that which he confidently and exult- 
antly undertook. 



28o GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

FROM CHANCELLORSVILLE TO GETTYSBURG. 

The rank and file of the army did not suffer demoraliza- 
tion through the failure of Chancellorsville. They were 
indignant that the army, although it had not been fought, 
had been obliged to bear the stig^ma of having been dis- 
gracefully defeated. Naturally, the relation of the higher 
officers to the aflair was different. They too felt indigna- 
tion at what had occurred, but additionally, their superior 
position brought greater responsibility and greater power to 
control events. It would be to expect more than human 
beings are capable of, more than in high-spirited and capable 
officers would be duty, to imagine that they should not 
wish and endeavor to make it impossible for the future that 
the army should be helplessly offered to the blows of the 
enemy. The losses that the enemy had sustained might, 
it is true, equal their own, but losses in killed and wounded 
do not alone settle the question of victory, for the victors 
sometimes sustain the greater losses in these. Lee had not 
only caused the army, half-fought, to retreat, but while the 
two forces had remained arrayed against each other, had 
dictated the whole course of events as though toying with 
his opponent. Hooker, in relative repose, actually let his 
adversary play his own game. Two whole corps, and 
parts still intact of a third, had been either idle spectators 
or auditors of battle. The sting of this disgrace naturally 
made officers of high rank freely communicate to each other 
their fears for a future under Hooker's command. Hooker, 
on his side, must have known of the general sentiment 



FROM CHANCELLOBSVILLE TO QETTYSBUBQ. 281 

against him, for he took the honorable course of paving the 
way for free expression of opinion to the President as to 
the conduct of affairs. 

It could not have escaped the attentive reader, in connec- 
tion with the episode of recrossing the Rappahannock, nar- 
rated in the last chaper, that General Meade was highly 
regarded by other corps-commanders besides Reynolds, 
between whom and himself there was the warmest friend- 
ship. That the inference is correct is clearly shown by an 
occurrence that took place soon after the battle of Chancel- 
lorsville. Reynolds and Couch were successively sounded 
by the authorities in Washington as to whether or not they 
would be willing to accept the command of the army, and we 
know now more than General Meade himself for a long time 
did, that they both declined it, and recommended him as the 
fittest man for the place. In addition to the feeling which 
any officer would have under the circumstances, that his 
succession would be to a command in which there had 
been three conspicuous failures, there was the much-to-be- 
dreaded military administration of affairs at Washington, 
represented chiefly by the position of Halleck as general- 
in-chief of all the armies of the United States. •It is no 
wonder that, under these circumstances, even such men as 
Reynolds and Couch should have shrunk from accepting 
the command of the army, even if they both had not had 
the conviction that Meade was the man for the place. If 
Couch, moreover, was not willing, even although senior 
corps-commander of the army, to accept the command of 
it, he Wcis not even able to bear the anticipation of being 
again found amidst active operations under the command 
of Hooker, and therefore, alarmed at a demonstration across 
the Rappahannock which Hooker was making with the 
Sixth Corps, he requested to be relieved from the command 
of the Second Corps, and on the loth of June bade it faux- 



i 



282 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADK 

well, and proceeded to take charge of the newly created 
Department of the Susquehanna, succeeded in command 
of the Corps by General Hancock. 

Lee's forces had been largely increased by the return 
of the two divisions of Longstreet which had been south of 
Richmond, and by the addition of troops levied by conscrip- 
tion, while at the same time Hooker's had been diminished 
by the expiration of the short terms of service of certain 
levies. There was no longer between the two armies the 
disparity in numbers which had existed at Chancellorsville. 
Hooker's army was reduced to about eighty-five thousand 
men, including cavalry, and that of Lee increased to an 
amount very slightly over that number. Under these cir- 
cumstances, to which must be added the low condition of 
Lee's commissariat, the need of an effective invasion to 
replenish it, and the prevalent desire of the South to make 
an invasion as a political stroke which might have the 
effect of causing the recognition of the independence of 
the Confederacy by foreign powers, involving the breaking 
of the blockade and the triumph of the Southern cause, 
the authorities at Richmond resolved upon an irruption 
into the North under what they deemed more favorable 
conditions than those under which it had been previously 
attempted. 

Hooker, through floating reports in Southern newspai)ers, 
had suspected this design, and was on the alert to discover 
the beginning of any movement. On the 3d of June, 1863, 
Hood's and McLaws's divisions, of Longstreet's corps, 
marched from different positions to concentrate at Culpeper, 
off to Hooker's right, about midway between the Rapidan 
and Rappahannock, while the corps of A. P. Hill continued 
to occupy the lines south of the Rappahannock. The move- 
ment could not, however, be so completely disguised that 
Hooker should remain in entire ignorance that something 



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FROM CHANCELL0B8VILLE TO QETT78BUBQ. 283 

projected was going forward. It was in consequence of this 
that, on the 6th of June, the Sixth Corps made a recon- 
noissance in force across the Rappahannock, the movement 
already referred to in connection with the final resolution 
of Couch to depart before worse should come of Hooker's 
manoeuvres. 

Hooker's manoeuvre, however, was perfectly correct, 
but Couch did not feel assured as to what it would lead. 
No positive information was gained by making it, for A. 
P. Hill presented a solid front, and the march of Hood 
and McLaws continued uninterruptedly to Culpeper with- 
out Hooker's being any the wiser. Accident, however, 
revealed what design had failed to ferret out. The 
knowledge that Stuart's cavalry was at Culpeper induced 
Hooker to send the whole of his cavalry force, now under 
General Alfred Pleasanton, to dislodge it from that point. 
In consequence, a long and spirited cavalry engagement 
occurred, characterized by many changes of fortune expe- 
rienced by the combatants. The main outcome of the action, 
however, known as the cavalry engagement at Brandy Sta- 
tion, proved doubly advantageous for the Federal side, 
inasmuch as, incidentally to its being the first cavalry fight 
in which the Federal had proved itself able to cope with 
the Confederate horsemen, it revealed the presence of the 
infantry advance of Lee. 

It was imagined that Lee would take the same line of 
advance that he had adopted against Pope, but he did not 
He would not have dared to take the one that he followed 
but for the fact that, on this occasion, he underestimated his 
opponent, or else knew that the supreme authority in Wash- 
ington would not let him carry out his plans. While 
Hooker, naturally supposing that Lee would adopt the safe 
line of advance, was manoeuvring to guard it, Lee, still 
keeping A. P. Hill behind the Rappahannock and Long- 



i 



284 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

street at Culpeper, had sent Ewell, with his corps, through 
Chester Gap, in the Blue Ridge, whence, marching north 
through the Shenandoah Valley, he, in rivalry of the former 
wonderful speed of Jackson, and with Jackson's old corps, 
arrived before Winchester in the evening of the 1 3th of 
June. It was a most daring operation in which Lee had 
engaged, if anything can be called daring attempted against 
the obtuseness of Halleck. Hooker was nominally in 
command of the army, Halleck was the drag attached to 
all its operations. Hooker had anticipated the possibility 
that this situation might arise in case that Lee should beg^ 
an invasion, and had prepared to meet it by requesting that 
he be allowed, in the event of its occurrence, to fall on the 
i^lated force in the rear with the whole army. This had 
been positively prohibited by Halleck. In the specified 
eventuality, what all military teaching schools men to do, 
Halleck, as general-in-chief of the armies of the United 
States, had forbidden and presumably had induced the 
President also to forbid. There remained for Hooker now 
only one rational move. The one discarded would have 
caused Ewell's recall. The one that had to be adopted was 
to fall back along the line with which the reader became 
acquainted during the recital of the operations under Pope, 
the line through Warrenton to Manassas ; this, with the ob- 
ject of covering Washington while awaiting there Lee's 
further initiative. Lee's first purpose was gained. A. P. 
Hill, relieved of the presence of the Army of the Potomac 
near his front, was at liberty to take up the line of advance, 
and he joined Longstreet at Culpeper. 

While these movements were taking place east of the Blue 
Ridge, west of it, in the Shenandoah Valley, Ewell was 
having full swing towards the execution of Lee's ultimate 
designs. Before this campaign, the Confederate army had 
been reorganized by being thrown into three corps ifarmee, 



FROM CHANCELLOBSVILLE TO QETTTSBUBQ. 285 

SO that the three corps of which it was now composed, 
A. P. Hiirs, Long^street's, and Ewell's, each formed a little 
army of about twenty-five thousand men, with all three 
arms complete, infantry, cavalry, and artillery, capable of 
operating to advantage alone, or when concentrated with 
the others, acting as a single grand army. Never before 
had the Army of Northern Virgfinia been so well equipped 
and so elated. To itself it seemed equal to any enterprise, 
and it may well be questioned whether it ever again attained 
to such a pitch of moral and physical force. The reader 
may easily imagine that, under these circumstances, Ewell 
had an easy task to make himself master of the ill-guarded 
Valley of Virgfinia. 

It has been mentioned that Ewell arrived before Win- 
chester on the evening of the 13 th of June. Cutting off 
telegraphic communication by his cavalry, he drove Mil- 
roy, with whom the reader made some slight acquaintance 
at the second battle of Bull Run, behind the defences of 
Winchester. Milroy, with his small force of about five 
thousand men, was wholly unequal to holding the place 
against one so great as Ewell brought against it, or of 
making a spirited defence of it, and attempted to withdraw 
his troops on the night of the 14th of June, but being un- 
able to make good his retreat, lost during the running fight 
that ensued nearly the whole of them as prisoners. The 
small garrison at Berryville was cs^tured, and the garrison 
at Harper's Ferry had to be withdrawn to Maryland Heights, 
just across the Potomac, the topography around which place 
has been here elaborately described in connection with Jack- 
son's capture of Harper's Ferry on the occasion of the battle 
of the Antietam. By these operations Lee became possessed 
of the debouchure from the Valley of the Shenandoah proper 
into the valley as continued north of the Potomac ; for it 
would be absurd to suppose that, with the respective forces. 



286 GENERAL QEOBGE GORDON MEADR 

as now distributed, Lee would not be able to force the 
passage of the Potomac above Washington. 

The two corps of A. P. Hill and Longfstreet being at 
Culpeper, and the corps of Ewell near Winchester, Lee's 
next move on the military chess-board was to advance 
Longstreet, with Stuart's cavalry, along the east side of the 
Blue Ridge, to hold Ashby's and Snicker's Gaps, leading to 
the Shenandoah Valley, while that of A. P. Hill, marching 
through the g^ps in his rear, continued down the valley to 
Winchester, protected in flank by the disposition of the corps 
of Longfstreet. Hooker was powerless to do anything but 
to await developments, whilst he made excellent dispositions 
and felt for the position of the enemy, in order to ascertain 
his progress without compromising any portion of his own 
forces or uncovering Washington. On the 17th of June, 
beyond Aldie's Gap, in the Bull Run Range, just east of 
and parallel to the Blue Ridge, a cavalry engagement took 
place which enabled Pleasanton, in following it up on the 
20th and 2 1 St, to learn something of the dispositions of the 
enemy further westward. 

Lee, who was with Longfstreet's corps, the First, passed 
through the Blue Ridge, and on the i8th of June was at 
Berryville, just east of Winchester, where he made his final 
preparations for crossing the Potomac. He left to the dis- 
cretion of Stuart, who commanded his main body of cavalry, 
where to cross the river, after his duty of still holding the 
passes of the Blue Ridge had ceased with the advance of 
the army of Northern Virginia over the Potomac. Ewell's 
corps, the Second, crossed on the 23d of June, and A. P. 
Hill's, the Third, on the 24th, while Lee himself crossed 
with Longstreet on the 25th. Small bodies of cavalry, how- 
ever, had already, under Jenkins and Imboden, preceded 
the advance of the in&ntry, and were then engaged in the 
work of railroad destruction and the collection of supplies. 



FROM CHANCELLOBSVILLE TO GETT78BUB0. 287 

Hooker had not been taken unawares. He had advanced 
correspondingly, and had possessed himself of the fords in 
the vicinity of Leesburg, over which he began his advance 
in a parallel line to Lee's direction, — towards Frederick. 
We are again brought to the consideration of the peculiar 
conformation of the country, noticed in a former chapter, 
with reference to the singular advantage it afforded to the 
invader from the south. What might be called the Shenan- 
doah Valley coulisses of the theatre in which war was now 
being waged, continuing north of the Potomac as Cum- 
berland Valley, converge more and more towards Wash- 
ingrton and the seats of the densest population, so that the 
Southern actors in the drama could with impunity arrange 
and play their parts ending with the last act of battle, and 
with a mountain-curtain which, if not needful for victory, 
would go far towards securing safety in defeat. So far, the 
advantage is with Lee, in the characteristics of the country, 
and in his having the initiative in advancing. There is one 
disadvantage, however, under which he will continue to 
labor for several days. Stuart makes a mistake in his calcu- 
lations, and crosses the Potomac befow instead of above the 
Army of the Potomac, whose interposing columns cut him 
off from all communication with Lee until after Gettsyburg 
has been reached. 

The Army of the Potomac crossed the river on the 26th 
and 27th of June. Therefore, excluding question of cavalry, 
the Army of Northern Virginia, counting Ewell's advance, 
had the advantage of it by from three to four days in time. 
On the 28th the Army of the Potomac was concentrated at 
Frederick. Hooker's manoeuvres now evidently indicated 
at least a demonstration on Lee's rear, by throwing a force 
through the main gap at South Mountain, the same for the 
possession of which the battle of that name, previously de- 
scribed, took place. His plans were brought to a sudden 



288 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADK 

• 

termination, however, by an event wholly unexpected by the 
army. Halleck was on this occasion, as he continued to 
be to the end of the war, the chief one of the impedimenta 
of the army. As the garrison of ten thousand men, which, 
under General French had evacuated the post of Harper's 
Ferry, upon the advance of Lee, remained in occupation of 
Maryland Heights, where it could have no influence what- 
ever on the current of events. Hooker had requested that it 
might be ordered to reinforce him, and this Halleck refused 
to allow. The discussion led to acrimonious feeling pn 
both sides, which resulted in Hooker's being relieved of the 
command of the army at a time when, so far as the conduct 
of the campaign up to the present was concerned, he mer- 
ited nothing less than the fullest recognition and praise. Still, 
the occurrence may be regarded now as a fortunate ending 
of the controversy. But that is, as after the event, judgfing 
easily. Only such a man as Halleck, timid and irresolute, 
could have been blind to the danger of the experiment, 
for in emergencies timidity and rashness often go hand-in- 
hand. What is, however, most conspicuously censurable 
in this proceeding is the motive which to all appearance 
brought about Hooker's fall, and the injudiciousness dis- 
played in the choice of time for his removal, which ought 
to have taken place weeks before it occurred. Hooker, 
harassed as he had been by Halleck's recent interference 
with his plans, and piqued to the quick by the continued 
disregard with which his recommendations were treated by 
a man deciding at his ease in Washington, while he had the 
pressure of the field, asked to be relieved of the command 
of the army. It is questionable, judging by the character 
of Hooker, and by the circumstance that an engagement 
was known to be imminent, if Hooker was sincere in his 
request, if he really thought that it would be granted, if he 
did not rather imagine that in the emergency his self- 



FROM CHANCELL0B8VILLE TO GETT7SBUBQ. 289 

assertion would be respected and tolerated. However that 
may be, his request was actually granted, and he was re- 
lieved of the command in the night of the 27th of June, 
and General Meade appointed to it. Both parties were 
obviously in the wrong, Hooker in proffering his resigna- 
tion and Halleck in accepting it, but Halleck the more 
grievously. The crying injustice of the thing as it actually 
occurred was in the advantage taken of Hooker's act to 
relieve him when his course had been meritorious, instead 
of having relieved him when he had by signal failure justified 
that extreme measure. The circumstance forms one of the 
incontrovertible proofs of the unfitness of Halleck for the 
general administration of military affairs. Not only with 
reference to personal consideration is what has been adduced 
against the untimeliness of the removal irrefutable, but with 
reference to the situation of the army on the eve of battle, 
the removal, as unprecedented under such circumstances, 
and as involving the g^vest risks, rendered the act of Hal- 
leck wholly unjustifiable. 



19 



290 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 



CHAPTER XV. 

THE FIRST DAY OF GETTYSBURG. 

The field of Gettysburg was, from the nature of things, 
not to either hostile commander a pre-elected ground on 
which to join battle, but was forced upon both by condi- 
tions which neither could anticipate, but which each, seek- 
ing to control, could at best but modify. Only to one 
whose superlative knowledge included that of every dispo- 
sition of troops, and that of every order emanating from the 
headquarters of both armies, would it have been possible to 
predict where the final collision would take place. Armies 
so situated, and groping for each other, may be likened to 
huge predatory creatures which put forth their tentacles in 
all directions, and when they find the nucleus of their prey, 
where the greatest force resides, concentratedly move to 
and attack from the point of greatest vantage. The general 
reader would not be interested in the itinerary of marches 
representing this first condition of things in both armies. It 
will therefore suffice to describe here incidentally, in due 
order of time, their respective positions just before their 
final concentration. 

On the 28th of June the extreme left of the Army of the 
Potomac was at Middletown. On the morning of the 29th 
General Meade set the whole of his force in motion towards 
the north, to make, as he expressed it, the enemy loose his 
hold on the Susquehanna, for at that time Ewell had reached 
York and Carlisle, and was about to capture Harrisburg by 
crossing the bridge at that place, when he was recalled by 



THE BATTLE- , 




n 



M 



THE FIRST DAY OF GETTYSBUEO. 29 1 

Lee. Early, of Ewell's column, attempted to capture the 
bridge below, at Wrightsville, when it was burned by the 
opposing troops, and he, too, retraced his steps towards 
Lee. Lee, with Longstreet and Hill, at Chambersburg, had 
been contemplating junction with Ewell towards the east, 
when he was forced to concentrate elsewhere by the feet 
that the rapid advance of Meade threatened his communica- 
tions .with Ewell. Spreading out his different corps, fan- 
shaped, from west to east, Meade was approaching by forced 
marches. General A. L. Long, Military Secretary to Lee, 
says in his memoirs of that general : " The rapid advance 
of General Meade was unexpected, and exhibited a celerity 
that hitherto had not been displayed by the Federal army. 
A speedy concentration of the Confederate army was now 
necessary. Before dawn on the morning of the 29th orders 
were despatched requiring the immediate junction of the 
army, and on the 30th the Confederate forces were in mo- 
tion towards Gettysburg. At the same time General Meade 
was pressing forward for that place." Pressing forward to- 
wards that place he certainly was, but in the sense that he 
had determined on that place for battle, he was not pressing 
forward "for" that place. At the time General Meade 
thought that he might be obliged to fight on the line of 
Pipe Creek, and had taken his measures accordingly, and 
General Lee had not the slightest idea as to where he would 
be forced to fight. Gettysburg was simply a strategfic point 
of great value on account of the important roads converg- 
ing there, but whether it would prove in the view of either 
commander to be tactically well adapted to battle neither 
commander knew, for neither intimately knew the character 
of the ground. 

Buford, with his cavalry, was, as early as the 29th of 
June, guarding the northern approaches to the town of Get- 
tysburg. On the 30th Pettigrew's brigade, Heth's division, 



^ 



292 GENERAL QEORQE QORDON MEADE 

of Hill's corps, was advancing on the town from the north, 
intending to levy a contribution of shoes from the inhab- 
itants, when it found the roads in possession of Buford, 
and withdrawing, planned for the next day the descent 
in force which led to the battle of Gettysburg. Hill was 
only about seven miles off and Ewell only about nine when 
they bivouacked on the night of the 30th of June preceding 
the fateful encounter of the morning of the ist of July. 
Ewell, recalled by orders from the direction of Harrisburg, 
was arriving on the field by the roads from the north and 
northeast, while Hill, having issued from Cashtown Pass, in 
the South Mountain Range, Lee accompanying Longstreet 
in the rear, was arriving by the roads leading from the 
northwest into Gettysburg. 

Reynolds, in command of the left wing of the Army of 
the Potomac, consisting of the First, Third, and Eleventh 
Corps, of which he had with him, on the morning of the 
1st of July, the First and Eleventh, heard, just after nine 
o'clock, as he was advancing towards Gettysburg from his 
bivouac of the previous night, the horse-ardllery of Buford 
in action, and pushing hastily forward, while he sent orders 
to Howard to follow rapidly, he reached the field of battle 
about ten o'clock. Buford was engaged northwest of Get- 
tysburg across the Chambersburg turnpike, in the valley 
of Willoughby Run, over which the turnpike passes at 
right-angles. Reynolds had hardly formed his line. Wads- 
worth coming first into action, when most unhappily he was 
killed by the bullet of a sharpshooter, and the army had 
sustained a loss which it is impossible to measure, so great 
was his military skill and force of leadership. 

Reynolds had entered into Buford's action about ten 
o'clock, and had but just begun to make his dispositions 
when he was stricken down. Doubleday succeeded him in 
command, and so remained until the arrival of Howard in 



THE FIRST DA Y OF QETTT8BUBG. 293 

advance of his corps, the Eleventh, when Doubleday, being 
thus ranked, relinquished the command to him. The 
Eleventh Corps arrived about noon south of Gettysburg, 
but did not get fairly into position on the north of it until 
after one o'clock in the afternoon. Schurz's and Barlow's 
divisions were the Third and First, Schurz in immediate 
command of the right, General Schimmelfenning taking his 
division, and General Doubleday commanding on the left 
of that part of the field. Von Steinwehr's division, the 
Second, coming up about two o'clock, was stationed to the 
rear, south of the town, on Cemetery Hill. Therefore it 
was, that from ten in the morning until after one o'clock in 
the afternoon, the First Corps alone, with Buford's cavalry, 
had borne the brunt of the enemy's attempted advance 
across the valley of Willoughby Run, and had forced Hill 
to pause and await the arrival of Ewell from the northeast- 
ward. During this lull in the battle, Schurz's and Barlow's 
divisions were coming into position on the right of the First 
Corps. Ewell's troops began to arrive about half-past two 
o'clock, and almost immediately attacking the line of the 
Eleventh Corps, hopelessly routed it. Schurz's and Bar- 
low's divisions of the Eleventh Corps, having taken position 
on the right of the First Corps, the whole line thus enclosed 
the roads radiating north like the spokes of a half-wheel 
from the hub of Gettysburg. But Ewell's corps, arriving 
by the Carlisle, Harrisburg, and York roads, from north 
towards northeast, secured also the signal advantage of the 
occupation of the eminence, Oak Hill, between the Carlisle 
and the Mummasburg Road, a position which commanded 
the whole field and enfiladed part of it. 

Scant justice has been done the Eleventh Corps as to the 
engagement of the first day of Gettysburg. It, as a corps, 
was far from equal to the First Corps, but the popular 
belief that the relative firmness of its stand on that field 



294 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE 

wholly gauges their relative excellence is erroneous. The 
dif]krence in the stand has generally been ascribed solely to 
difference in the quality of their respective troops, and to 
the Eleventh Corps' having extended its right too fer, 
thereby permitting a g^p to exist between its left and the 
right of the First Corps, of which the enemy took advantage 
to disrupt the line and take the right-rear of the First 
Corps in reverse. Now, although as a corps the Eleventh 
was far inferior to the First, the result of the collision of the 
first day, irrespective of the numerical superiority of the 
enemy, is not attributable to the cause assigned. The gap 
between the left of the Eleventh and the right of the First 
Corps was not caused by the undue extension of the 
Eleventh Corps to the right The right could not have 
been placed otherwise than where it was, on and along 
Rock Creek. 

The line occupied by the First Corps, in the valley and 
on the rise back of Willoughby Run, on McPherson's 
Ridge (a lower parallel ridge just west of Seminary Ridge), 
and towards the right, on the extension of Seminary 
Ridge, where it falls off to rise again and merge in the 
Heights of Oak Hill Ridge (on which Oak Hill, by the way, 
is not a separate hill, but a mere hump in the general 
range), is in places wooded and &irly strong against 
in&ntry attack. On the contrary, the line which the 
Eleventh Corps was forced to occupy with reference to 
the advance of the enemy from the north and northeast, 
and as nearly as possible in conformity with the position of 
the First Corps on its left, has no strength whatever as 
derived from the nature of the ground, being on a low, ill- 
defined roll in the sur&ce, only a few feet above Rock 
Creek, and perfectly open in every direction. Besides, in 
saying that these are the essentially different characteristics 
of the position of the First Corps as contrasted with that of 



THE FIRST DA T OF QETTYSB UBG. 29S 

the Eleventh, all is not included that is to the purpose. It 
is the interdependence of two or more positions, as consti- 
tuting the excellence or the absence of it for a line of battle 
in its entirety, that is determinative of the relative staunch* 
ness of its defenders. A line of battle embracing the 
periphery of the ground described cannot assimilate the 
occupancy of its parts. The conditions here are such that 
the ground on the right, as compared with that on the left, 
is absolutely untenable against the advance of an equal 
adversary, and the line of the left thereby rendered unten* 
able ; its derived weakness from the right being intensified 
by the fact that it is partially enfiladed by an enemy occupy- 
ing Oak Hill with artillery. Owing to the nature of the 
ground the strength of the whole field was involved. The 
right of the First Corps was perched up on the ridge where 
it is cut by the Mummasburg Road, while the left of the 
Third Division of the Eleventh Corps occupied the ground 
many feet below it, without the possibility of junction with 
it, save at the sacrifice of relinquishing for itself and the 
First Division of the corps, on its right, both direction and 
the trifling elevation of ground it already possessed. The 
position brought it about also, that the Eleventh, more 
largely than the First Corps, flooded the streets of Gettys- 
burg upon the retceat of both bodies, which retreat ought to 
have been a foregone conclusion, in view of the weakness of 
the position and the numerical superiority of the enemy. If 
the Union infantry there present had been the best drilled, 
disciplined, and officered troops in the world, and every 
man as brave as Julius Caesar, it would have been impos- 
sible for them finally to maintain themselves against even 
infantry attack, involving necessarily, with the relatively few 
troops in hand, the right and the left-rear of the Eleventh 
Corps and the right-rear of the First, or if that could be 
put out of question, to maintain themselves against a general 




296 GENERAL QEOBQE OOBDON MEADR 

attack, after the enemy had fully deployed and occupied 
Oak Hill with artillery. The lines of the First and Eleventh 
G>rps were, in fact, and, of necessity, disposed rectangularly, 
with the angle towards the north, while the enemy enveloped 
them by the full angle of one hundred and eighty degrees, 
and this circumstance was aggravated by the great numerical 
inferiority of the Union forces and the inferiority of the 
grround they held for both infantry and artillery; conditions 
which formed in the aggregate disadvantages inordinately 
more than sufficient to compel the abandonment of the 
field. 

What with the signal advantage acquired by the enemy, 
through his occupation of Oak Hill, on one of the lines 
by which he was approaching from the north, resulting in 
a commanding artillery fire, the inherent weakness of the 
grround as a whole for a line of battle, and the inadequate 
number of troops for closing up the centre, the enemy 
finally advanced through the opening between the right of 
the First Corps and the left of the Third Division of the 
Eleventh, while, despite the reinforcement of Coster's bri- 
gade, of the Second Division, sent by Howard from Ceme- 
tery Hill to the right-rear of the First, the enemy also out- 
flanked the right of the line of battle, and the troops fell 
back to Cemetery Ridge, through and beyond the town. 
The major portion of the Eleventh Corps retired in confu- 
sion through the streets of Gettysburg, in which some of 
the right of the First Corps also became entangled, fugitives 
from the former continuing their career along the Baltimore 
turnpike, beyond the town, towards the southeast. The 
centre and left of the First Corps retreated to Seminary 
Ridge, where for a while they prevented the enemy from 
advancing in that direction, after that marching across to 
the opposite heights of Cemetery Ridge. The reverse was 
decided. The action, favorably begun, and for a long time 



THE FIRST DA Y OF OETTYSB UBQ. 297 

sustained, chiefly through the excellence and good handling 
of the First Corps and Buford's force, had terminated in 
disaster, involving the loss, all-told, of nearly ten thousand 
men to the Federal army, of whom nearly five thousand, 
chiefly those entangled in the streets of Gettysburg, had 
been made prisoners. These great losses were only partly 
compensated for by the considerable ones which had been 
inflicted on the enemy in killed and wounded and very many 
prisoners, the number of the last, however, being much 
below those secured by the enemy. 

It was about half-past four o'clock in the afternoon when 
the two corps which had been engaged found themselves in 
full retreat. Suddenly an actor arrived on the scene who 
changed chaos into order, and out of despair brought hope. 
How he came there so opportunely, as if descended from 
the clouds, was because General Meade had chosen him as 
the man of all men fitted to represent him on the ground. 
It is the attribute of littleness either not to recognize or to 
ignore superior qualities, and of greatness to perceive them 
at a glance and put them to the highest service. General 
Meade had always been outspoken in his admiration for 
Hancock's soldierly qualities, even to mention of his mar- 
tial bearing, which he had always witnessed with unqualified 
delight. Here then were the men come together, as never 
more conspicuously happened, best fitted for achievement 
of a purpose, both without hesitation, and both gifted with 
indomitable energy for accomplishment. In vain was Meade 
reminded at noon, when he had heard of the collision that 
had taken place at Gettysburg, and he was giving Hancock 
instructions to take command on the field, that Howard 
was Hancock's senior. The President had, in Meade's 
case, knowing that he could rely on his judgment and jus- 
tice, swept away the cobwebs of the rules of precedence by 
seniority. This was no time to trifle with the outcome of 




298 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

events. Better that one man or that many should suffer 
than that a cause should be imperilled. Hancock was 
Meade's ideal for the mission on which he was bent. He 
could not go, and so he sent another self. His order to 
Hancock was dated at ten minutes past one o'clock, of the 
the 1st of July, and read as follows : — 

" The Major-General Commanding has just been informed that 
General Reynolds has been killed or badly wounded. He directs 
that you turn over the command of your corps to General Gibbon ; 
that you proceed to the front, and by virtue of this order, in case of 
the truth of General Reynolds's death, you assume command of the 
corps there assembled, namely, the Eleventh, First, and Third at 
Enunettsburg. If you think the ground and position there a better 
one on which to fight a battle, under existing circumstances, you will 
so advise the General, and he will order all the troops up. You know 
the General's views, and General Warren, who is fully aware of them, 
has gone out to see General Reynolds.*' 

The following postscript, dated five minutes later, was 
added: — 

" Reynolds has possession of Gettysburg, and the enemy are re- 
ported as falling back from the front of Gettysburg. Hold your 
column ready to move.** 

The phrase, in the orders to Hancock, " If you think the 
ground and position there [at Gettysburg] a better one on 
which to fight a battle," etc., needs explanation. What 
question was there of other ground ? There was the ques- 
tion of the line of Pipe Creek. The reference was to 
that locality. Careful reconnoissances had been made of 
the ground. 

General Meade had been in close consultation with 
Hancock, at Taneytown, under shelter of a tent Hancock 
had learned briefly, from the terse speech which General 
Meade had at conmiand, the whole bearing of the question 



THE FIBST DA Y OF GETTTSB UBG. 299 

of a choice under the drcumstances between Pipe Creek 
and Gettysbui^, and when he left that tent with his written 
orders, and getting into an ambulance was driven rapidly 
towards the field of battle, studying the map of the country 
meanwhile, he was prepared, as he mounted his led horse, 
a few miles from Gettysburg, to act with the promptness 
which characterized him. As he rode up on Cemetery Hill 
the scene that met his gaze was very well calculated to make 
him feel that the emergency would tax all his energy. 
Hancock says in his report that he arrived on the field 
about three o'clock, but there is better evidence than that as 
to the time of his arrival from Hancock himself. His first 
written despatch from the field to General Meade is dated 
5.25 P.M., and in it he says that he arrived about an hour 
before. Now, an officer writing from the field, time being 
an all-important element in war, looks at his watch. I shall, 
therefore, with reason state that Hancock probably arrived 
on the field about half-past four. Upon the fixing of the 
time necessarily depends what he could and what he could 
not have seen. The time mentioned in his report is in- 
compatible with the generalized account of what he says he 
saw upon his arrival. Rectifying the time, we discover, 
independently of his account, through the medium of our 
knowledge of the periods at which the Eleventh Corps and 
the First Corps were respectively overtaken by disaster, and 
of our knowledge of the period of the occupation of Ceme- 
tery Ridge, that what he must have seen as to its detaib 
was Steinwehr's division in position on Cemetery Hill, and 
such other troops of the Eleventh Corps as it had been pos- 
sible to collect as they came swarming from the town, half- 
halting, half-retreating along the Baltimore Turnpike ; while 
the centre and left of the First Corps, not having been fin- 
ally dislodged from their positions northwest of Gettysburg 
until about four o'clock, what he saw off to the left of the 



300 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

town were organized bodies of that corps retreating in a 
comparatively orderly manner over Seminary Ridge, while 
Buford*s cavalry was gathering on the plain in front, to form 
the rearguard to them in their march towards Cemetery 
Ridge. Soon Buford's cavalry presented the prettiest sight, 
than which war never afforded finer, drawn up in columns 
of massed battalions, midway in the valley between the 
ridges occupied by the respective forces, defiantly holding 
the Confederates back from their audacious appearance of 
an intention to advance, after the organized remnant of the 
First Corps had passed beyond Seminary towards Cemetery 
Ridge. The Confederates of Hill's corps occupied Semi- 
nary Ridge, as the First Corps in its retreat relinquished it, 
and Eweirs corps stretched around to the right, to take 
possession of Culp's Hill, a high knob in the right-rear of 
the position on Cemetery Hill ; to which point, upon a 
threatening movement of the enemy in that direction, some- 
what later, Hancock despatched Wadsworth's division of 
the First Corps. 

It was under these discouraging circumstances that Han- 
cock rode on the field, bringing with him the prestige of his 
name and deeds, and of his noble presence riding down the 
lines with centaur-like ease, fit, if ever man was, to witch 
the world with noble horsemanship. Drawing rein, he held 
around him a headquarters, to which officers coming sought 
orders to meet the crisis, and then moved on again for 
colloquy or command. As by a subtle shock, a force in- 
ducing other forces to array themselves and work a daily 
wonder, diffused matter takes on definite form, so Hancock 
riding upon the field caused mind and matter in mysterious 
combination to reassume their potent sway, and their units, 
resolving themselves under natural laws into thought and 
endeavor, crystallized once more into the military form and 
spirit which it had needed only his presence to evoke. As 



THE FIRST DA T OF OETTYSB UBQ. 301 

by the wand of Prospero, a mightier, in moral force, had 
waved over the scene, and bade hearts be still, and hope 
rise again that seemed to have gone forever. So when 
Hancock, strenuously aided by Howard and Warren, chief- 
engineer of the army, by Buford and other officers of all 
ranks, had stopped the crowd of fugitives along the road to 
the rear, and received the broken regiments of the First and 
Eleventh Corps, still crowding on from Gettysburg, and 
had formed his lines to cover the ground until reinforce- 
ments should come, and Lee arriving, soon mounted the 
opposite crest of Seminary Ridge, there was in front of him 
an imposing Federal line of battle. 

Ewell stated, in conversation with General Meade, after 
the war, that he had had twenty thousand men in hand, 
with whom he could have occupied Gulp's Hill, but that 
he was restrained from so doing by a repeated order from 
Lee to act on the defensive. Colonel Taylor, however, of 
Lee's staff, says explicitly that he carried a message from 
Lee to Ewell, when the former had observed the retreat, 
saying that it was only necessary "to press those people " 
to secure possession of the northern Heights. Certain it is 
that if, at the point of time mentioned, Ewell had occupied 
Gulp's Hill with a force of even ten thousand men, the 
Federal troops would have been obliged to evacuate the 
ground to the south of it, the prospective battle-field of the 
Union side. 

In contemplation of the perfection of General Meade's 
dispositions, as illustrated by his successive orders, on official 
record, it is from one point of view amusing, and from 
another sad, to reflect that the popular notion, proved by 
thousands of discussions, is that the particular site called 
Gettysburg was the inevitable, foreordained spot on which 
the contest should take place, under penalty of its non- 
acceptance or abandonment being regarded as sacrilegious. 




302 GENERAL OEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

The event of concentration of the Union forces at Gettys- 
bui^, and at no other place, hinged upon two uncontrollable 
circumstances, — the impossibility of knowing in advance of 
final concentration exactly where the enemy's forces lay, 
and the impossibility of conveying a change of orders in- 
stantaneously upon the receipt of additional intelligence of 
his movements. Had General Meade either known earlier 
by a few hours where the scattered forces of the enemy 
were converging, or not knowing it, had the circular or the 
order which he sent Reynolds last had time to reach him, 
the great battle would not have taken place at Gettysbui^, 
and, if on the line of Pipe Creek, would have taken place to 
much better advantage for concentration. The hands of both 
Meade and Lee were forced by events. It was out of their 
power to prevent the battle from taking place at Gettysburg. 
Reynolds did not receive the order which would have caused 
him to fall back on the line provisorily adopted by General 
Meade as the best, and the line which was strategically the 
best to assume, and so the battle took place in a good tactical, 
but a bad strategical position for the Union forces, because it 
could easily have been flanked on the south and its evacua- 
tion compelled. It took place on ground impossible for 
either leader to avoid, — for Lee, because he had no time to 
dally with prolonged manoeuvres, or mind to take great 
risks, for Meade, because his forces had been so engaged 
that withdrawal of them would have been attended with 
certain loss of morale. The whole case is really stated in 
a brief note of Meade's to Hancock and Doubleday, dated 
6 P.M. of the I St of July, when he was still at Taneytown, 
in which note he says, " It seems to me that we have so 
concentrated that a battle at Gettysburg is now forced on 
us." The die was cast Earlier in the day of the ist of 
July a circular to the corps-commanders had been issued in 
which, from information of the enemy's dispositions, Rey- 



THE FIBST DA Y OF QETTTSB UBO. 303 

nolds was ordered to fall back from Gettysburg towards 
Tane)^own and Westminster. It was impossible to ascer- 
tain just where the enemy was concentrating. The several 
corps of the Army of the Potomac had to be held where 
they could meet to the best advantage any possible point 
of concentration of the enemy. Later in the day of July 
1st a special order was despatched to Reynolds, showing 
that intelligence received indicated possible concentration of 
the enemy at Gettysburg, towards which Reynolds was 
marching. The order ends with the words : — " The move- 
ment of your corps on Gettysburg was ordered before 
positive knowledge of the enemy's withdrawal from Har- 
risburg and concentration was received.*' At 12.30 p.m. 
of the 1st, General Meade, referring to this missive to 
Reynolds, sent an order to Hancock, in which he said, " In 
view of the advance of Generals A. P. Hill and Ewell on 
Gettysburg, and the possible failure of Reynolds to receive 
the orders to withdraw his command by the route to Taney- 
town, thus leaving the front of our position open, proceed 
with your troops out on the direct road to Gettysburg from 
Tane)^own. When you find that General Reynolds is cov- 
ering that road (instead of withdrawing by Emmettsburg, 
which it is feared that he may do), you will withdraw to 
Frizzellburg, as directed in the circular of directions for 
positions issued this morning." These and other similar 
instructions simply meant that, since the previous orders of 
march had been issued. General Meade had received infor- 
mation of the enemy's dispositions such as to render it de- 
sirable for him to fall back from Gettysburg, in view of the 
fact of the superior concentration of the enemy at that mo- 
ment near that point, so that he himself could concentrate to 
better advantage further to the southward ; and that he feared 
that Reynolds, without the knowledge which he himself pos- 
sessed, would enter into an engagement from which it would 



J 



304 GENERAL GEOBQE OOBDON MEADE 

be impossible for him to withdraw. That happened. What 
General Meade had learned of the positions of the marching 
corps of the enemy, at the time when he so acted, was that 
the enemy would concentrate somewhere on the line joining 
York, passing to the north of Gettysburg to Mummasburg, 
thence to Chambersburg. He perceived that without the 
precaution he finally took, the enemy might, as actually 
occurred, concentrate to relatively better advantage. The 
course which he wisely took looked to the adoption of an 
appreciably parallel line to that just indicated as the one on 
which the enemy seemed to be moving ; a line a few miles 
south of Gettysburg, from Manchester to Middlebui^, in the 
general direction of Pipe Creek, where his right would be at 
Parr's Ridge, his left near the Monocacy, of which Pipe Creek 
is an easterly branch, his depot of supplies and his best line 
of communication at Westminster, in his rear ; on which 
line his army could assemble without the exhaustion and 
numerical loss entailed by forced marches, where he would 
not only lie between the enemy and Baltimore and Wash- 
ington, but on the flank of the enemy's line of communi- 
cation with the Valley of Virginia, and in a position offering 
the alternatives of offence and defence from which to choose 
upon the final revelation of the intentions of the enemy, in- 
cluding the most advantageous position for his interception 
in case of his retreat without offering battle. The circular 
to the corps-commanders, however, expressly states that he 
might be obliged to assume the offensive from his present 
positions, as, in (act, proved to be the case. About noon of 
the 1st of July he knew that what he had apprehended, and 
worse, had taken place, that battle had been joined, and that 
General Reynolds was either dying or dead from a wound. 
Then he also knew that the die was finally cast, without pos- 
sibility of reversal for the field of Gettysburg, unless tacti- 
cally unfit for occupation, and thence came the sequence of 



THE FIRST DA Y OF QETTTSB UBQ. 305 

events in which Hancock was ordered to the field and the 
end came with victory. But, as stated at the beginning, the 
determination of the battle-ground as that at Gettysburg 
hung on two fundamental &cts, — unavoidable ignorance, at 
the time when Reynolds moved forward towards Gettysburg, 
of the exact dispositions of the enemy, and after the receipt 
of fuller intelligence, lack of time for the new orders to 
reach his hands. 

The Confederate army had had in its immediately pre- 
ceding dispositions the facility of earlier concentration than 
that of which it had availed itself, in advance though it was 
of that of the Army of the Potomac with reference to the 
position of Gettysburg. Nothing could have been more 
favorable to it than that widely separated localities and 
positions of troops, uncalculated and incalculable by Lee 
as related to sudden concentration at that point, should con- 
spire, as they did, in his favor to that end. By an accident 
of accidents it was brought about, that from northeast to 
northwest Lee's troops in great force began to pour almost 
simultaneously towards the town through roads represent- 
ing a funnel emptying towards the north of Gettysburg. 
The Confederate army, as things eventuated, thus obtained, 
as a finality, the advantage of earlier, therefore, at first, of 
fuller concentration than the Federal one, only Pickett's 
division and Law's brigade, of Hood's division, remaining to 
reach the field on the morning of the 2d of July. 

If things had fallen out otherwise than as they did, it 
would imply omniscience on the part of both of the generals 
commanding on this field. Reviewing the matter now, it is 
plainly seen that Gettysburg was not the best possible 
strategic position for the advancing Union army to assume, 
and that its occupation and the occupation of the opposing 
ridge by the enemy were the final resultant of able combina- 
tions by the opposing generals into which the unknown to 

20 



306 GENERAL OEOROE GORDON MEADE 

both largely entered. Both strategically and tactically Lee 
fought at a disadvantage, because, in both spheres, his 
situation was susceptible of betterment Meade fought 
strategically to a disadvantage, for the reasons already 
assigned, and tactically to advantage, only because the 
enemy did not have time or wish to run the risk of relin- 
quishing his lines of retreat through the mountains, in at- 
tempting to flank him out of his position. This is only 
reaffirming the wisdom of General Meade's course in select- 
ing in advance the line of Pipe Creek as the probable scene 
of the conflict, and issuing the circular which indicated 
probable concentration there. If the enemy had been able 
to occupy Gulp's Hill on the afternoon of the ist of July, 
or, on the 2d, Lee had moved by the right flank across the 
roads to the south of the Gettysburg position, Meade would, 
in either case, have found the position untenable. In the 
first case he would have been driven out of it by reverse 
fire, and in the second, he would have been cut ofi* from his 
base at Baltimore and Washington, between which and the 
enemy he was bound to lie. 

Had Reynolds received the order, which, in connec- 
tion with the preceding circular, would have shown him 
that the true strategical position, as determined by the 
latest intelligence, was to the south of Gettysburg, and 
he did not, he would have ordered Buford's force, al- 
ready engaged north of Gettysburg, to withdraw, instead 
of supporting it with infantry. Had he, in default of the 
receipt of the new orders, been aware of what it was im- 
possible for him to know, for lack of time to learn it, the utter 
weakness of the position north of Gettysburg against an 
enemy advancing on the roads converging there and occupy- 
ing Oak Hill with artillery, he had too good a knowledge of 
the positions of the advancing corps of the Union army, and 
was too good a soldier to attempt to make an irrevocable 



ri^h^tei 



THE FIRST DA Y OF GETTYSBUBO. 307 

stand there. He would have diseng^aged Buford and retired 
by the open roads towards the south. But not having re- 
ceived the orders, not knowing all that time has disclosed, 
he was forced, upon the basis of the premises at his dis- 
posal, to decide exactly as he did, and Meade and Han- 
cock, in turn, were, upon the premises respectively before 
them, forced to decide as they did. The fact is, glorious 
as is the name of Gettysbui^, which is entirely beside the 
question, that through the inscrutable fortunes of war, a 
battle was fought at a point not strategically the best for 
the Union army, and tactically admirable only because the 
enemy allowed the army unobstructedly to occupy it by 
default of movement to his right ; the first step in occu- 
pation leading to the unavoidable defeat and losses of 
the first day. Such, as well illustrated here, is the large 
part that chance plays in war, and all that the greatest of 
generals can do is to meet at the instant the emergencies 
which blended design and chance present to him for counter- 
action. As in this, one of the attributes of great general- 
ship. General Meade was always equal to the situation, he 
accepted the inevitable, and Gettysburg became the battle- 
field that for the first time staggered the Confederate power. 
Hancock arrived on the field, he says, at three o'clock 
in the afternoon, but as has been shown, at about half-past 
four o'clock. In an hour he had effected a wonderful 
transformation. At that time he despatched an aide to 
General Meade to inform him of the situation, and that the 
position was held. Later on he sent another aide with a 
written despatch to him. Just as Hancock's final disposi- 
tions had been made, a portion of Geary's division, of the 
Twelfth Corps, arrived, which Hancock ordered to the left, 
along the line to and inclusive of Little Round Top. As 
the main battle of the second day turned upon the abandon- 
ment of this position by General Sickles, it becomes neces- 



308 GENERAL OEOBOE GORDON MEADE 

sary here to fix beyond the peradventure of a doubt the 
incidents connected with the occupation of it. Hancock 
says, in his report, " I ordered the division [Geary's] to the 
high ground to the right of and near Round Top Mountain, 
commanding the Gettysburg and Emmettsburg Road as 
well as the Gettysburg and Taneytown Road, to our rear." 
In his testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the 
War, he says, ** I directed General Geary, whose division 
belonged to the Twelfth Corps, (its commander, General 
Slocum, not then having arrived,) to take possession of the 
high ground towards Round Top." Further on, in the 
same testimony, he says : " The next morning [the 2d] , 
some time after daylight, I again reported to General Meade, 
at Gettysburg, and assumed the command of my own corps 
after it arrived. I was placed on the line connecting Ceme- 
tery Hill with Little Round Top Mountain, my line, how- 
ever, not extending to Round Top, probably only half way. 
General Sickles was directed [the context shows, directed 
by General Meade] to connect with my left and the Round 
Top Mountain, thus forming a continuous line from Ceme- 
tery Hill (which was held by General Howard) to Round 
Top Mountain." In his official report, speaking of the 
morning of the 2d of July, in connection with his account 
of his dispositions of his own troops, the Second Corps, 
upon their arrival on the field. General Hancock says : 
"The troops were soon placed in position, the right 
resting near the Emmettsburg Road, to the west of Ceme- 
tery Hill, connecting there on the right with the Eleventh 
Corps and on the left with the Third Corps, the line of 
battle extending along the crest from the left of Cemetery 
Hill to Round Top Mountain, the ground being less elevated, 
as near Round Top." So, the line of the Third Corps was, 
to Hancock's eye, extended, at least in a general way, from 
his left to Little Round Top. 



THE FIRST DA T OF GETTYSBUBO. 309 

General Geary's report states that, " By his [Hancock's] 
direction, upon this threatening emergency [on the after- 
noon of the 1st] I took up a position on the extreme left 
of the line of battle, as the enemy was reported to be at- 
tempting to flank it, and cavalry were already skirmishing 
in front of that position." He adds, "At 5 p.m. this move- 
ment was consummated, and my line extended at that time 
from about half a mile west of the Baltimore turnpike 
to .... a range of hills south and west of the town, 
which I occupied with two regiments of the First Brigade. 
These hills I regarded as of the utmost importance, since 
their possession by the enemy would give him an opportu- 
nity of enfilading our entire left wing and centre with a fire 
which could not fail to dislodge us from our position. This 
line was held by the First and Third Brigades." Further 
on Geary says : *' At 5 a.m. on the 2d, having been relieved 
by the Third Corps," etc. 

Colonel Charles Candy, commanding the First Brigade, 
referred to by Geary above, says in his report, '* Near about 
dark [of the ist] was ordered to throw forward two regi- 
ments to the left, and occupy a high range of hills over- 
looking the surrounding country, and watch for any at- 
tempted advance of the enemy on the left of the army. 
This order was executed, and the Fifth Ohio and One 
Hundred and Forty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers occu- 
pied the above position during the night of July ist." 

General Meade himself, in his testimony before the Com- 
mittee on the Conduct of the War, made a statement re- 
garding the position which he had ordered Sickles to occupy 
on the morning of the 2d of July, in which this passage 
occurs : " directing him to form his corps in line of battle 
on the left of the Second Corps, commanded by General 
Hancock, and I had indicated to him in general terms that 
his right was to rest upon Hancock's left, and his left was 




3IO GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADR 

to extend to the Round Top Mountain, plainly visible, if it 
was practicable to occupy it" 

No evidence was ever offered in a court-of-law more con- 
clusive than this, that General Sickles's position was clearly 
defined, and the ground itself is extant to prove that the line, 
as thus defined upon it, is unmistakable. The obviousness 
of the necessity of occupying the position described is vivid- 
ly brought before the mind by an incident which Major Veale, 
of Geary's staff, has recounted to me. He says that when 
he, in company with General Geary, approached Hancock on 
the field, he was standing all alone, and that Geary, riding 
up and introducing himself, Hancock almost immediately 
said, substantially in these words, indicating the Round Tops 
by a gesture : " General, that hill is the key-point of this 
position. Unless the army holds that point it will have to 
fall back to the line of Pipe Creek. In the absence of Gen- 
eral Slocum I take the responsibility of ordering you to 
occupy that position." 

There was in existence, then, to a certain g^oup of men, 
a line of determinate position and fixed termini on the field 
of Gettysburg, — to Meade, Hancock, Geary, Candy, all of 
whom before and after the battle labored under the hallu- 
cination, or possessed true perception, that such a line ex- 
ists in nature. Now, as the same hallucination does not 
beset different individuals at the same time, we may conclude 
that the perception of these men was not at fault And to 
the testimony already cited as to the topographically evi- 
dential character of the line mentioned, may be added that 
of Bimey and Humphreys, commanding the two divisions 
of the Third Corps, under General Sickles, both of whom 
describe a line in bearing and length and topographical 
limitation as a line which they actually occupied, which line 
corresponds in description with that of a position defined by 
Meade, Hancock, and Geary, the last of whom even speaks 



THE FIBST DAY OF OETTYSBUBO. 31I 

of having personally occupied it. The fact that a line is 
described by so many persons in the same language would 
seem to indicate that it is identically the same line. It 
would also seem to have been fixed as the same by the 
statement of General Newton, when he remarked that the 
Federal troops had been " hammered into a good position," 
since the position to which he refers coincides with the pre- 
vious descriptions, as they, in turn, agree with a character- 
istic feature of the field. All these men seem to have per- 
ceived a line which constitutes one and the same position, 
and yet General Sickles alone was found, with battle impend- 
ing, and explicit instructions to guide him, unable to recognize 
it, and stating that his predecessor, Geary, had had no posi- 
tion, Geary's message to him, his sight, his orders, and 
everything else to the contrary notwithstanding. 

Well aware am I that I have introduced here a surplusage 
of evidence to prove a fact, but I have been constrained to 
take that course because, to this day, there are persons to 
whom the demonstration is satisfactorily made, that the 
ridge along the Emmettsburg Road represents a better 
position than that of Cemetery Ridge and the Round Tops. 
But even if it does, which is here conclusively disproved, 
such a statement in this connection is wide of the point as 
to whether or not General Sickles knew the position which 
it was intended he should occupy. 

Between five and six o'clock Slocum in person arrived 
by the way of the Baltimore turnpike. His own mission 
having been accomplished, Hancock turned over to him, as 
the senior officer on the field, the command of the assembled 
forces, and rode off towards General Meade's headquarters. 
Meeting the Second Corps, his own, a short distance from 
the field, he ordered it to remain in that position to guard 
against an attack on the left at Gettysburg, and then con- 
tinued onward to make his report in person to the com- 




312 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADK 

manding-general. Just after dark two brigades of the Third 
Corps, under General Bimey, reached the field General 
Humphreys, with his two brigades of the corps, having 
been misdirected by an aide of General Sickles's, did not 
arrive until between one and two o'clock in the morning of 
the 2d. The two remaining brigades of this corps of only 
two divisions did not arrive until ten o'clock in the morning 
of the 2d. The Fifth Corps, off to the left, about twenty 
miles, could, by a determined night march, reach the field 
early the next morning. The Sixth Corps was at Man- 
chester, off to the left, over thirty miles by march. Its 
arrival could not be hoped for until later on the morrow, 
even with the unrelenting forced march which it was sure 
to make under a man like Sedgwick. 

Hancock did not get back to Taneytown until about ten 
o'clock at night, just as Meade was preparing to depart for 
what he now regarded as the front, having, previously to 
Hancock's arrival, come to the conclusion to fight at Get- 
tysburg, and having already expedited orders to the outly- 
ing corps to concentrate there. After a brief colloquy with 
Hancock, Meade rode rapidly towards the field, stopping 
only for a moment to order Gibbon, in position with the 
Second Corps, where Hancock had stationed it, three miles 
distant on the Federal left flank, to march by daylight for 
the Heights of Gettysburg. 

Before resuming the account of the battle, a few points 
must be here disposed of at the expense of an unavoidable 
digression, for the reader must remember that, at bot- 
tom, this work represents a sketch of the life of General 
Meade, and that whereas, were I writing a mere history, I 
should have to dwell only on the facts that constitute the 
surface of things, I must here conduct the reader behind 
the scenes, if he would learn what vitally concerns the 
military reputation of the subject of this memoir. One of 



THE FIBST DA Y OF QETTYSBUBQ. 3 1 3 

these points relates to a cloud of misrepresentations intended 
to show, to the disparagement of General Meade, that he 
did not intend to fight at Gettysburg, as if that, of itself, 
were of any significance whatever. Every military man 
knows that no general can, in the midst of strategic move- 
ments, determine positively where he shall fight. The 
reason for this ought, indeed, to be self-evident. His ad- 
versary's movements complicate the question as the locality 
of battle. Lee, for instance, was able, through no default 
of Meade's, to concentrate a little earlier than he ; but sup- 
pose that Lee had had the advantage of twelve hours more 
than he actually gained, the impending battle could not 
have been fought at Gettysburg. Suppose that, on the 
contrary, Meade had had the advantage of twelve hours 
more than he could obtain, as the event turned out, the battle 
would have been fought at least near, and if at Gettysbui^, 
without the episode of the first day, and consequently with- 
out that of the second. It is an inevitable conclusion from 
facts, that Meade, at Taneytown, could not, for two reasons, 
know if, whatever he might desire, he would be able to 
fight at Gettysburg. First, in the natural order, is the 
fact that he could not know if the defence of the advance 
had been sufficient to enable him to occupy the ground in 
time ; and second, if that were conceded, if the ground he 
could secure would be tactically well adapted for his line 
of battle. Consequently, when he despatched Hancock to 
the front, the resolution of these two points was involved in 
that mission, to determine if the ground were fit, and if the 
stand were sufficient to enable the other corps to reach the 
field. Had Hancock not made from the field a favorable 
report, and had he not given General Meade reason to 
believe that the ground could be held long enough for 
support to arrive, General Meade would have been forced 
to concentrate further to the south, and to order the falling 




314 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE. 

back of the force at Gettysburg to Pipe Creek. In short, 
there was not, and there could not well be, and ought not 
to have been, in a general so situated as Meade was at 
Taneytown, any predilection for a place to fight, except such 
as events determine upon as that in which he can fight to 
the best advantage. 

Another point intimately connected with the one just dis- 
cussed is involved in the repeated statement that Hancock, 
not Meade, chose the battle-field. That such a statement 
should have received any measure of even popular credence 
is a severe reflection upon the military knowledge of the 
country, inasmuch as a general is not supposed to be able 
to see everything for himself, and his staff) his engineers, 
his cavalry, his pickets, his videttes, are all supposed to be 
among the multitudinous eyes at his service, to which 
might be added, his couriers and telegraphic messages 
from distant parts. In the history of no other command- 
ing-general but Meade can be found any intimation that 
he has had no part in doing that towards which a sub- 
ordinate had lent his aid. General Hancock was a bom 
corps-commander. As such he had the instinct of the 
capabilities of ground and troops with reference to a given 
field. He was despatched by General Meade to decide, as 
has already been said, two questions which were very simple 
to him. In his testimony before the Committee on the 
Conduct of the War, General Meade inadvertently says in 
one place, that he thinks it was after Hancock's return from 
the field, and report to him personally, that he sent out 
orders for the convergence of the rest of the troops upon 
the position at Gettysburg. But this statement was a lapse 
in memory, for he subsequently says, in the course of the 
same testimony, that he had issued orders for concentration 
before the return of Hancock, and Hancock himself says 
that he found the orders to concentrate had preceded his 




J 



\ 



u 



THE FIBST DA Y OF QETTYSB UBG. 3 1 S 

arrival, as in fact the time noted on the orders also clearly 
shows. But, what if General Meade's orders to concentrate 
had followed, instead of preceded, Hancock's personal re- 
appearance at Taneytown ? Hancock's function was simply 
investigation and report ; Meade's, decision upon the basis 
of investig^ation and report. General Meade was evidently 
so well satisfied with the report from the field that he acted 
at once, before his emissary had had time to return. 

As to another point connected with the battle of Gettys- 
burg, an interested attempt has been made to detract from 
the merit of General Meade by means of the allegation that, 
after having reached the ground, he showed immediate in- 
tention of retreating, as evidenced by a provisory order 
which he directed to be framed regarding the positions of 
troops and roads in all directions. Yet it can be shown 
conclusively, as he himself testified before the Committee 
on the Conduct of the War, and as numerous officers present 
on the field have testified, that if he intended to retreat, he 
was at the same time doing things wholly incompatible with 
that intention, planning attacks, ordering up trains, artillery, 
etc. Every capable general, in undertaking a pitched battle, 
obtains all the knowledge possible of his surroundings, the 
position of his troops, of roads to the rear, of roads in ad- 
vance, so that he may be able to fight to the best advantage, 
to pursue, or to retreat, as the fortunes of war may deter- 
mine. The alleged instructions, upon which was based the 
figment of an order, were nothing but ones to cover any 
usual contingency. 

Lastly, there has been an attempt to fix upon General 
Meade, through the citation of proceedings of a council 
of war, on the 2d of July, the charge of desire to retreat, 
although the condition of things at that time, and the 
testimony procurable as to the actual proceedings of the 
council, give no warrant for such a belief, while, on the 



3i6 



GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE. 



contrary, animus that would be fully equal to encouraging 
such a belief is clearly demonstrable. With this summary 
of the groundless aspersions to which General Meade has 
been from time to time assailed, I return with the greatest 
relief and pleasure to the main thread of the narrative. 

When General Meade reached Gettysburg night had long 
fallen on the scene. Along the opposing crests prepara- 
tions were making for the conflict of the next day. Weary 
men were resting on the field, and others pressing onward 
towards it through the moonlit gloom. In the stillness of 
midnight of the ist of July General Meade rode up the 
Taneytown Road on to East Cemetery Hill. After receiving 
reports from various officers, he rode off with General Hunt, 
viewing the lines while Hunt was posting artillery. About 
daylight of the 2d of July he established his headquarters 
in a house just back of the centre of the army. 



THE SECOND DA Y OF QETTYSBUBG. 3 17 



CHAPTER XVI. 

THE SECOND DAY OF GETTYSBURG. 

It unfortunately happens that the majority of the world 
imagine that they know much that they have not studied, 
and that a small but active minority often act as bell-wethers 
to the innocent following flock. Things have come to be 
traditional about the battle of Gettysburg which are entirely 
false. They who have for the most part furnished these 
myths will, however, in the course of nature soon pass 
away, and with them the need of anything but the unvar- 
nished truth as nearly as it may be reached by human im- 
perfection. We are studying a battle in which, not we 
alone, but future generations of the earth will take interest 
The world, as time goes on, and more and more as it lapses, 
will find it full of interest. The time will come when the 
battle shall stand in the minds of men as among the greatest, 
as representing an epoch in the continuous civilization of 
the world. Then, in that day, when students of govern- 
ment and of war scan the data from which they will reach 
their conclusions, there will be no question in their minds 
as to whether or not General Meade proposed to retreat 
from Gettysburg, none whatever as to the field being his 
own deliberate choice, none that Sickles was wholly un- 
justifiable in taking up the position along the Emmettsburg 
Road, none that Little Round Top was made secure by 
Hancock and finally by Meade, none that it was by no ac- 
cident by which it was seized by Warren when relinquished 
by Sickles. The ascription of these and other events to 
the category of accident, or to the wrong person, will be 



3 1 8 GENERAL OEOBOE GORDON MEADE 

rejected. They were the outcome, either direct or indirect, 
of Meade*s action, and unless the world should be prepared 
to say what it never yet has declared, that a general must 
personally do everything himself, under penality of forfeiting 
all credit for the event of battle, Meade will be safe in the 
future for the glory of Gettysburg. Nor should any one 
suppose, and parrot-like repeat, that the history of this and 
other great events of the same time is likely to renew the 
unreliableness of much past history. It is not so, for in 
these modem days the whole world, from land's end to 
land's end, is one vast library of information in the literature 
of letters, magazines, books, newspapers, and public records 
innumerable. The day will come, is in fact rapidly ap- 
proaching, when it will be impossible to distort the history 
of the men and the events of our civil war, even false wit- 
ness lending itself to analysis for the furtherance of the 
truth that will be patent in the distant, but not far distant 
future, even if the beginning of its term should be rated at 
a hundred years. Under the lead of &lse teaching, and 
with the sublime assurance of ignorance, writers who have 
evidently never set a squadron in the field, or studied the 
military art from the writings of its masters, have made all 
sorts of comments on the battle of Gettysburg. These will 
be part of the task of the future to consign to the limbo of 
the forgotten among the transient curiosities of literature. 
Imbued as I am with the deepest feith in this beneficent 
future, it will become manifest, as we proceed, that my in- 
tention is not to write from the point of view that General 
Meade, like the kings of old, could do no wrong, for it is 
fully admitted in one place, and intended to be implied 
throughout, that, as Turenne once said, when he confessed 
to having made a military mistake, that the general who 
has not made one has not been long engaged in war. The 
fixed purpose here is, however, incidentally to correct pre- 



THE SECOND DA T OF QETTT8B UBQ. 3 19 

valent error, as indispensable to giving a true impression 
of the character, ability, and principal lifework of the sub- 
ject of this memoir. 

The enemy contemplated attack on the morning of the 2d, 
on the right and on the left. The Federal army contem- 
plated making a right attack. Its left was guarded as well as 
concentration at the moment of its intended right attack per- 
mitted. That is, its left was believed to be properly guarded, 
for who could have known that Sickles would not occupy 
his designated post ? The right attack, for which troops had 
been massed, was about to be delivered, when further rec- 
onnoissance decided against it. Then the masses on the 
right were lessened by detachments sent towards the left. 
The intention to make an attack on the right had been re- 
linquished about 10 A.M., upon the report of Warren and 
Slocum as to the result of the reconnoissance of the ground 
there. Between 3 and 4 p.m. General Meade, after having 
ordered the Fifth Corps to march to the left, and passed 
with Warren and other officers in that direction, saw there 
to his astonishment that Sickles was no longer in the posi- 
tion assigned him, but that he had advanced his line of 
battle to the subordinate ridge previously described, where 
it lay exposed to attack on both of its flanlcs completely in 
the air. Hence the battle that ensued was on Sickles's 
plan, not on General Meade's, and all that remained for 
General Meade to do was what he did, to accept the situa- 
tion, to meet what there was no time to rectify, to retrieve 
what might be possible of the free gift that Sickles had 
made to disaster. There can be no doubt that Sickles re- 
ceived, on the morning of the 2d of July, the order to 
occupy the line in continuation of that held to the left by 
Hancock, the line occupied by Geary before he was with- 
drawn to the right preparatory to the attack intended at first 
to be made from that direction. It was shown in the last 



i 



320 OENERAL OBOBQE GORDON MEADR 

chapter that Hancock had ordered Geary to extend the line 
of battle from his left to and inclusive of the Round Tops, 
that Geary had, in obedience to that order, taken up a line ; 
and as Hancock also testifies that General Meade ordered 
Sickles, on the morning of the 2d, to hold the line that 
Geary had occupied, it is clear that he knew where it was 
intended to station him ; and as Hancock, who testifies as to 
his having been in position, was close by, that he, in the first 
instance, must, at least in a general way, have taken up the 
position defined by orders. Soon after six o'clock in the 
morning of the next day, the 2d of July, Captain (now 
Colonel) Meade,* of the commanding-general's staff, carried 
from him a communication to Sickles, notifying him of the 
locality of headquarters, inquiring if his troops were yet in 
position, and if he had anything of moment to report 
Upon Captain Meade's arrival on the ground and ascertain- 
ment that General Sickles was resting after his night march, 
he transmitted the communication to him through the me- 
dium of Captain Randolph, of his staff, receiving in reply 
the information that General Sickles was doubtful where to 
go. This response evidently made General Meade anxious, 
for upon the return of his aide with it, he despatched him 
forthwith to Sickles to impress upon him the urgency of 
getting his troops at once into position. It was about seven 
o'clock when, in reply to this second message of the com- 
manding-general, General Sickles, then about to mount, 
surrounded by his staff, already in the saddle, said, with ref- 
erence to the renewal of the commanding-general's orders 
as to the position to be taken, that he was then moving into 
position. About eleven o'clock General Sickles presented 
himself at headquarters, and the commanding-general there 

* Deceased since these lines were indited, which had been verified 
by Colonel Meade in the form of the written statement herein given 
regarding his connection as aide-de-camp with this ai&ir. 



THE SECOND DA Y OF QETTTSB UBQ. 32 1 

told him that he was to occupy, and pointed out in the dis- 
tance the position in which Hancock had placed Geary on 
the preceding evening. To this Sickles said that, as far as 
he could make out, Geary had had no decided position. 
With General Meade's final word to him, that he was at 
liberty to occupy in his own manner the ground designated, 
within the general scope of his instructions. Sickles de- 
parted, the commanding- general allowing Hunt to accom- 
pany him to examine the ground to the left and select 
positions for artillery. 

General Meade learned, after the war, from Geary, a cir- 
cumstance which points to Sickles's having from the first 
intended not to occupy the position designated, for Gen- 
eral Geary then told General Meade that, when he re- 
ceived the order notifying him that he would be relieved 
by the Third Corps, he sent an aide to Greneral Sickles to 
communicate to him information as to the great importance 
of Round Top, and to request that he would send a member 
of his staff to view the ground and occupy it with troops. 
Nothing, however, he said, came of his action but a reply 
from General Sickles that the matter would be attended to 
in due time, when, after waiting as long as he could on the 
ground, in the hope that he should see the arrival of offi- 
cers or troops, he was obliged to leave it in fulfilment of his 
own instructions from General Meade. 

Greneral Hunt, chief of artillery of the Army of the Po- 
tomac, gives, in one of his articles in the Century Magazine^ 
and in his testimony before the Committee on the Conduct 
of the War, a circumstantial account of what occurred be- 
fore, at the time of, and after Greneral Meade's instructing 
him to examine the ground to the left. The gist of this, 
coupled with General Meade*s own account to that Com- 
mittee, is, that upon his returning to headquarters from an 

inspection of the lines for general artillery purposes, he 

SI 



322 OBlfE&AL 6E0EQE GORDON MEADE 

found Sickles there about eleven o'clock. General Sickles 
had expressed to General Meade his belief that Geary had 
had, in effect, no position, a view which ignored the infor- 
mation which Geary had already sent him. In consequence 
of this statement. General Meade instructed Hunt to go with 
General Sickles and examine ground to the left suggested 
by him as adapted to artillery positions, which ground 
Sickles had been authorized to take up within the scope of 
his previous general instructions ; Hunt's delegated duty, as 
defined by words, being restricted to choice of artillery po- 
sitions on General Sickles's alleged superior front. It is 
evident, however, that although, so far as words addressed 
to Hunt are concerned. General Meade commissioned him 
to accompany General Sickles with reference only to the 
selection of artillery positions, and nothing else, yet, as 
he so acted upon the basis of the immediately preceding 
statement of General Sickles to him, that Geary had had no 
position, meaning, as he had further declared, that Geary's 
troops had been merely massed, and had occupied no de- 
terminate battle-line. General Meade virtually commissioned 
General Hunt to inspect the ground which General Sickles 
had been proposing to occupy, not strictly with reference 
to artillery positions, but to its capabilities ascertainable 
through examination for artillery positions as the medium 
through which its advantages and disadvantages for a line 
of battle could be judged. General Meade must have 
thought, having seen the place only by moonlight, that the 
ground which General Sickles had been proposing to take 
up within the scope of his instructions was represented by 
protuberances on the general line from Cemetery Hill to 
Little Round Top, but there are none such.* 



* General Meade, in speaking of General Sickles's visit to him at 
his headquarters, says, in the course of a communication well known 



THE SECOND DA Y OF GETT7SBUBQ. 323 

General Meade therefore naturally supposed that General 
Sickles's troops would remain in essentially the same posi- 
tion as that in which they then were, the position which 
Hancock says in his report they then were, which was, 
refinements of posting apart, substantially in the position 
from the left of the Second Corps to Little Round Top. 
General Meade had given Greneral Sickles no authority to 
make any radical change in their position, but, on the con- 
trary, had warned him against exceeding the scope of his 
general instructions. General Hunt gave him no author- 
ity to that end, as delegated by General Meade ; he pos- 
sessed none such. On the contrary, he says, in his account 
of the battle, that he ascertained on the ground that the line 
proposed by General Sickles to him (necessitating, like any 
other, connection with the left of the Second Corps and with 
Little Round Top) would be unduly extended, and whilst 
recognizing some advantages, more than counterbalanced 
by disadvantages stated, including the paramount objection 
that there were not enough troops in the Third Corps to 
occupy it, his last words to General Sickles, in reply to a 
question from him if he should occupy it, were, " not on 
my authority ; I will report to General Meade for his in- 
structions." This he. did, and General Meade took no 
further action, in the legitimate fulness of confidence that 
his repeated instructions would not be transcended. Never- 
theless, Sickles eventually advanced and occupied the po- 
sition on the Emmettsburg Road and the crest to the left, 
while Hancock, with his keen eye in tactics, that was not 
to be deceived by military display, observing and admiring 
the spectacle of the advance of the Third Corps, remarked 
that it would soon be coming back. 



as the Benedict Letter : " There it was I told him his right was to be 
Hancock's left ; his left on Round Top, which I pointed out" 



324 GENERAL GEOBOE GORDON MEADR 

Aside from the question just discussed, looking at the 
matter simply from the tactical point of view, the place to 
which the advance had been made naturally belongs to the 
enemy's occupation, unless an army holding the position 
on Cemetery Ridge in opposition to an army on Seminary 
Ridge has two-fifths more troops than it This advantage 
over Lee Meade's assembled army did not enjoy, and 
the number of troops in hand, on the morning of the 2d 
of July, were meagre even for the defence of the shorter 
line of the field from Gulp's Hill to the Round Tops. The 
enemy's acquisition of the outer position occupied by Gen- 
eral Sickles is objectionable, it is true, because that condition 
circumscribes the opposing army on Gemetery Ridge to the 
occupation of a line at the southern part of the field from 
which it is difficult to assume the offensive. But, as the 
ground and the forces stood, the line adopted by General 
Meade was correct, and the holding of the ground at Devil's 
Den and beyond to the right was then proper only for skir- 
mishers and artillery easily withdrawn. To employ a homely 
comparison, perfectly illustrative, however, of tactical neces- 
sities, we may in conclusion justly say, in printer's parlance, 
that on any extended battle-field but a desert plain the lean 
must be taken with the fat. 

It happens that the lines of an imaginary cross of the 
usual proportions, with their intersection centred in the 
heart of Gettysburg, and staff about five miles long, rang- 
ing north and south, make excellent lines and datum-points 
for la)dng down the battle-field. The area above the arms 
of the cross includes the battle-field of the ist of July, and 
also the debouchure of all the roads, northwest, north, and 
northeast, by which the Confederates reached the ground, 
while the staff below the arms represents the direction 
of a line just back of the Federal position along Ceme- 
tery Ridge, and the foot a point not hx in the rear of the 



THE SECOND DA Y OF QETTTSBUBQ. 325 

twin summits of Round Top and Little Round Top, with 
which Cemetery Ridge ends at the south. The staff of 
the cross, from the arms to the foot, therefore nearly re- 
presents the north and south line of the Federal position, 
as it looked west ; but it also looked north, and that part of 
the position can be defined in the following manner with 
reference to the same figure. A fifth of the way down the 
staff from the arms is Cemetery Hill, where Cemetery Ridge 
is high. Thence the ridge swings around to the northeast, 
and thence to the southeast, forming one long curve towards 
the north for the distance of half a mile, at the end of which 
occurs its highest point, Culp's Hill, just before the ridge 
there ends in a lower top, whence the land slopes down- 
ward to Rock Creek, a stream which runs nearly south, 
along the east side of the infantry battle-field. It thus 
appears that the Federal position, without regard to its 
orientation, is best represented as to its general shape, as 
it often has been, by saying that it was curved like a fish- 
hook. From the orientation here given, the shank of the 
hook is seen to run from the south, just west of the lower 
part of the staff of the imaginary cross, to about tw()-thirds 
of a mile short of its cross-piece, and then to bend around 
gradually through a northward curve to its barb at Culp's 
Hill, southeast. The roads which, coming from the south, 
traverse the ground in centre, front, and rear of the posi- 
tion, converge at the southern outskirts of Gettysburg. 
Coinciding with the lower part of the staff of the cross is 
the Taneytown Road, therefore running north and south, 
just back of the general line of the north and south position 
of the army. Off to the east of the Taneytown Road, at 
an angle with it, or with the south, of forty degrees, is the 
Baltimore Turnpike. Off to the west of the Taneytown 
Road, at an angle with it, or with the south, of thirty-five 
degrees, is the Emmettsburg Road. 



326 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADR 

The position first occupied by the Confederate army 
opposite, on Seminary Ridge, averaged about a mile in dis- 
tance from the general Federal position, and was represented 
by a reversed curve, approximately the line of beauty. Tak- 
ing it from the Seminary, on the ridge, about half a mile off 
from the centre, on the western arm of the cross, it curved 
slightly eastward towards the Federal position, until its mini- 
mum distance from that was only about three-quarters of a 
mile, from which point it curved inward slightly until opposite 
to the Round Tops, distant a trifle over a mile most of the 
way, its slight concavity in its southern part corresponding to 
a slight concavity there in the Federal position. At Gettys- 
burg itself, in the plain below, there was necessarily a break 
in the continuity of the Confederate line, and so the force 
brought against Meade's extreme right, around the curve 
from Cemetery Hill to Culp*s Hill, lay under the dis- 
advantage of indifferent facility of concerted action with 
Lee's left on Seminary Ridge. 

One feature of the topography still remains to be de- 
scribed, an important, although subsidiary one, for upon it 
hung the character of the main battle of the second day. 
The Emmettsburg Road, running, as before described, to 
the outskirts of Gettysburg, at an angle of about thirty- 
five degrees west of south, necessarily runs transversely 
across the valley between the two ridges occupied by the 
opposing armies. This would have been a circumstance 
of little moment, but for the fact that the position of the 
road is determined by the existence of the low ridge along 
which it runs, and that General Sickles, seduced by the 
appearance of the ground to his eye, saw fit to occupy that 
ridge, and extend his line along it, instead of extending it in 
the continuation of the general line of the army along Ceme- 
tery Ridge. From j ust south of Gettysburg, and abutting on 
Cemetery Ridge at Cemetery Hill, imagine running thence 



THE SECOND DA Y OF QETTTSB UBG. 327 

the subordinate ridge on which the Emmettsburg Road 
passes southward, diagonally across the valley between 
Cemetery and Seminary Ridges, until it reaches a point 
making an obtuse angle, open towards Cemetery Ridge. 
Now, if a perpendicular to our base line on Cemetery Ridge 
be dropped from the apex of the aforesaid obtuse angle, it 
would pass half a mile to the north of Little Round Top. 
This outer angle thus fixed with reference to Cemetery Hill 
and Little Round Top, the western angle of the subordinate 
ridge running diagonally across the valley, the apex of 
Sickles's line, the salient of the celebrated Peach Orchard, 
is thus shown to be nearly three-quarters of a mile beyond 
the true line of an army occupying the general position of 
Cemetery Ridge, the position of the supposed observer on 
the base line being slightly east of the true line of battle. To 
the outer point, thus determined in position, the transverse 
ridge on which the Emmettsburg Road is situated gradu- 
ally increases in height as it runs southwest from Gettys- 
burg. Thence it turns towards the southeast, making at 
the Peach Orchard an angle of one hundred and fifteen 
degrees with the line of the ridge running towards Ceme- 
tery Hill, and continuing on the other line for two-thirds 
a mile, ends on the escarpment of the gulch separating it 
from the bases of Little Round Top and Round Top, between 
which and it flows Plum Run proper, a branch of which flows 
through a swale to the westward, the two streams thus 
enclosing in their fork a portion of the ridge, traditionally 
known as the Devil's Den, from the tumultuous wildness* 
of its rocky and wooded scenery, a name rendered by the 
events of the day forevermore appropriate. 

By the construction employed has thus been defined with 
great minuteness the position of the lines of the Army of 
the Potomac, because, without it, the sequel could not pos- 
sibly be understood, whereas, with both map and descrip- 



338 GENERAL GEOBOE GORDON MEADR 

tion, it cannot fail to be clear to every reader. Standing 
at the point determined by the perpendicular erected on 
the base opposite the apex of the Peach Orchard, that is, 
half a mile north of Little Round Top, and only a little 
back of where General Sickles's line should have been, we 
should have seen, if there had been no interfering woods, 
Sickles*s corps drawn up around the angle of one hundred 
and fifteen degrees on the ridge described, the troops at 
the Peach Orchard, three-quarters of a mile off, thrust in 
the iace of the enemy. Inasmuch, moreover, as the ridge 
which determined the direction of his right departs from 
Cemetery Ridge just back of the outskirts of Gettysburg, 
and ends beyond its obtuse angle abruptly at the escarp- 
ment on Plum Run, leaving a gulch between it and the 
Round Tops, and the only troops at Sickles's disposal for 
hol<jing the ground were those of the Third Corps, it fol- 
lowed that his right flank was completely in the air, and 
that his left flank, also in the air, brought up on the steep, 
rocky slope of the Devil's Den, while the angle at which 
the troops were compelled to defend the position was not 
only one that could be enfiladed on both sides, but one that 
ensured to the enemy, should he break through on either 
wing, the ability to take in reverse the remaining wing. Thus 
was the left flank blindly stationed when General Meade, 
who had with reason supposed that Sickles's corps was in 
line with Hancock's, rode to that part of the field from the 
right before four o'clock in the afternoon, and discovered at 
a glance the situation and the impossibility of rectifying it in 
time by a retrograde movement. Several hundred yards 
intervened between Hancock's left and Sickles's right, on the 
Emmettsburg Road. Sickles's right guarded nothing but 
the ground on which it stood, and that imperfectly, his left 
inviting attack in reverse by the broad avenue of the gulch 
beyond, and his centre forming the double target of two 



THE SECOND DA Y OF QETTYSBUBO. 329 

lines that could be enfiladed, and to complete the dis- 
advantage at which the army had been placed, this faulty 
formation ranged from two-thirds to three-quarters of a 
mile in advance of its general position. 

Between two and three o'clock in the afternoon of the 2d 
of July the weary Sixth Corps had begun to appear on the 
left from its long march of over thirty miles. The Fifth and 
Twelfth Corps were on the right, the extreme right at Culp*s 
Hill being held by the Twelfth. On the left of these corps, 
on Cemetery Hill, was the Eleventh Corps, supported by 
the First. General Hancock's lines were drawn up on its 
left, on Cemetery Ridge, where it runs nearly north and 
south, and on the left of his line had been the Third Corps, 
until the moment when it had been advanced by Sickles to 
the Emmettsburg Road. Lying as Geary's front and flanks 
had at first lain, with left near the north base of Little 
Round Top, and on Little Round Top itself, he had had a 
firm hold on the position, while Sickles's lesser hold, from 
partial occupation of the ground, he had by his advance 
entirely relinquished. Beginning at Cemetery Hill, at the 
north, the ground droops and then rises gradually as it 
nears the northern base of Little Round Top, whence it 
rises abruptly into the massive protuberances constituting 
the twin tops. 

General Meade rode down with his staff on to the 
ground back of the line where Sickles's troops were ar- 
rayed, and despatching Warren at once towards the left to 
look out for the security of the Round Tops with what 
troops he could muster for the purpose, listened to Sickles's 
reasons for having taken up the position occupied.* Two 

♦ Warren says, in his testimony before the Committee on the Con- 
duct of the War, " I then went, by General Meade's direction, to what 
is called Bald Top.*' [Little Round Top.] Yet it has even been 
committed to monumental bronze, on the battle-field itself, to tell, 



330 GENERAL QEQBQE GORDON MEADE 

divisions of the Fifth Corps were arriving under the or- 
ders previously mentioned. They were now hastened into 
position. Soon Caldwell's division of the Second Corps 
was ordered to the left. Later in the day Robinson's 
and Doubleday's divisions, of the First Corps, then under 
General Newton, reinforced the left-centre, and still later in 
the day General Williams marched from the right to sustain 
the left with the First Division of the Twelfth Corps, under 
Ruger, Lockwood's brigade of that division, however, being 
the only portion of it that became engaged. Whilst Gen- 
erals Meade and Sickles were still in conference. General 
Meade telling Sickles that it was too late to retire as he 
had proposed, but that everything must be done to support 
him, the attack burst in fury on their immediate front. 
What followed would in all its details require a whole 
volume for adequate description of the sudden battle pre- 
cipitated by the enemy's advance. Only a summary, there- 
fore, can be presented of the conflict which ensued. Com- 
manding-general of the army. General Meade continued to 
exercise that function, besides leading troops into action to 
inspire them, and riding in all directions on the field in one 

that through Warren's wonderful coup d'ani, this important position 
was secured. There cannot be a particle of merit ascribable to any 
one for looking to its occupation at that moment. It was certain, with 
the Third Corps thrown far in advance, that the enemy would ap- 
pear in front of Little Round Top with his right flank, and that his 
lines of battle must be advancing on it at the very time General Meade 
spoke. This was what Warren actually saw when he reached the 
summit The success of this is what he frustrated by his energetic 
action. It is lamentable that there should have been an attempt to 
base in any measure the military reputation of so fine a soldier, so in- 
intelligent, brave, and skilled as Warren, upon the statement that to 
his trained perception was due the holding of the position, when any 
intelligent boy would have seen that it must be instantly secured or 
the field lost, and when it was only his admirable seizure and reten- 
tion of it that redounds to his credit. 



THE SECOND DA Y OF QETTYSBURQ. 33 1 

of those crises which partially merge the chief in the simple 
fighter ; such as sees a general, however exalted, as lately 
saw Reynolds, as saw Napoleon on the bridge of Areola, 
and Caesar, snatching a legionary soldier's shield, and 
entering into a hand-to-hand conflict, reduced to the 
necessity of coming at all hazards to the front of battle. 
The ground between the position in which Sickles's troops 
had been and the true position of the lines of the army 
became an arena of strife. To attempt to follow it here in 
all its varying incidents would, as I have said, be impossible. 
The account of the struggle must be confined to its general 
features. 

Sickles's right was the division of Humphreys, and 
Graham's brigade, of Bimey's division, and on the other 
side of the angle at the Peach Orchard were Bimey's two 
other brigades, under Ward and De Trobriand. The 
troops occupying the right of Lee*s army consisted of 
Longstreet*s corps, formed of Hood's and McLaws's divis- 
ions, and on the left of Longstreet's corps was Hill's. The 
troops of these two corps which became actually engaged 
were Hood's and McLaws's, of Longstreet's corps, and 
Anderson's division, of Hill's corps, on the left of McLaws. 
The first attack was made by Hood's division (under one 
of his brigade-commanders, Law, Hood having been dis- 
abled) on the line to the left of the angle at the Peach 
Orchard. At the same time Hood's division pushed troops 
around his right, through the gulch between the Devil's 
Den and the Round Tops, and along the slopes of those 
great hills. There was no cavalry on the left. It had been 
there up to noon, in the form of Buford's three brigades, 
but General Pleasanton, the commander of the cavalry 
corps, had, with singular misjudg^ent, considering his 
usual conduct of his special operations, failed to keep 
Buford's troopers until they could be replaced by an equiv- 



332 GENERAL QEOBQE QOBDON MEADR 

alent force, and they had been allowed to depart for West- 
minster for the purpose of refitting after his late exhausting 
service. About one o'clock General Meade had learned 
that his left flank had been entirely denuded of cavalry at a 
time when, as he knew, a crisis, through his own action or 
that of the enemy, was certainly approaching in that quarter 
of the field. Buford being then beyond recall, a single 
r^ment of cavalry, drawn from Gregg, on the right, was 
the only mounted force available during the afternoon and 
night of the 2d and the morning of the 3d for picketing 
the left of the army. Kilpatrick did not reach the right- 
rear of the enemy until i p.m. of the 3d, with Famsworth's 
brigade, and Merritt, who had marched from Emmettsburg 
at noon of the same day, came in on his left at 3 p.m. At 
5.30 P.M., they together then made a desperate onslaught on 
the enemy. It is not too much to surmise that, if the two 
brigades of Buford, or their equivalent, had, on the 2d, 
continued in position on the left, the enemy's preparatory 
movements there on that day would have been so retarded 
as to have at least modified the eventual pitched battle in that 
quarter of the field, even if unable to alter essentially its 
character. 

General Meade withdrew from Hancock's left Caldwell's 
division, of the Second Corps, and put it in on Sickles's 
left. The two divisions of the Fifth Corps which had been 
moving towards the left had now arrived. Warren had 
reached Little Round Top. Here he seized a regiment of 
Weed's brigade, of Ayres's division, of the Fifth Corps, 
followed soon by the rest of its brigade, and secured, after 
a desperate struggle with the enemy swarming up its sides, 
that one of the important twin heights, while Vincent's 
brigade, of Barnes's division, of the Fifth Corps, was put 
in by Sykes between the Round Tops. The remainder of 
the two divisions of the Fifth Corps which had come on the 



THE SECOND DA Y OF QETTYSBURG. 333 

ground, Ayres's and Barnes's, thus each minus a brigade, 
reinforced the left of Sickles's line. Later, when the whole 
line had been driven back to its true position, Ayres's divis- 
ion reinforced its brigade on Little Round Top. The re- 
maining division of the Fifth Corps, the Pennsylvania 
Reserves, did not reach the battle-ground in time to share 
in more than the very last of the conflict before the firm 
re-establishment of the lines of the left of the army. 

Humphreys' line, on the right of the Third Corps, had 
been demonstrated against at first, but had for some time 
remained unattacked, so that he had even been able to send 
a brigade to the left upon the approaching crisis of the con- 
test. The attack developed along the enemy's lines from 
his right to his left, including Hood's, McLaws's, and An- 
derson's divisions. The end was that the centre of Sickles's 
line, at the Peach Orchard, was burst through, and his two 
wings, as represented originally by Humphreys on the right 
and Birney on the left, supported eventually by a division 
of the Second Corps and the two divisions of the Fifth, 
were driven back, fighting hard. To meet the condition of 
the Federal troops on the left having been driven back for 
some distance, Humphreys, on their right, still holding on 
to the Emmettsburg Road with his right, while severely 
attacked, pivoted on that, while striving to swing his left 
flank backward towards Cemetery Ridge. Into this vortex 
of fire and smoke was now launched reinforcement after 
reinforcement by General Meade. Sickles had been borne 
from the field grievously wounded, and Birney now com- 
manded his corps. The ground was contested with varying 
success, but to the general disadvantage of the Federal side, 
owing to the directions of the respective lines of attack and 
defence as largely determined by the nature of the ground. 
No immediate advantage could accrue from tenaciously 
holding the ground, but it was indispensable to do so for 



334 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADR 

the ultimate one of forming meanwhile a proper line further 
to the rear. When Sickles was wounded and Bimey suc- 
ceeded him in command of the Third Corps, General Meade 
superseded him in the command of it by Hancock. No 
ordinary crisis had been reached at that point of time in the 
desperation of the struggle for victory. Hancock turned 
over the command of the Second Corps to Gibbon, and 
personally led Willard's brigade, of Hays's division, of the 
Second Corps, to the relief of Bimey. Troops were sent 
by Gibbon to fill in the open space between Humphreys' 
right and the left of the Second Corps. General Meade, 
on the ground further to the left, led into action some of 
the reinforcements arriving under his orders from Gulp's 
Hill, consisting of Lockwood's brigade of the Twelfth 
Corps and troops of the First. He advanced with the 
former, and rode at the head of the latter in their chaise 
across the field of battle, scatheless through all the turmoil, 
in which he was so near harm that his faithful old horse, 
"Baldy," was shot under him, the same horse that was 
wounded five or six times during the war, and yet lived to 
follow his master to the grave. 

The maintenance at one time of the terribly endangered 
lines on the left turned upon the establishment by General 
Hunt, chief of artillery, of a massed line of guns on the 
slight ridge along Plum Run, intermediate between the one 
on which the Emmettsburg Road runs and the lines of 
Cemetery Ridge, to the accomplishment of securing which 
position for the security of the lines still further to the rear, 
deficient in infantry, the Ninth Massachusetts Battery lent 
itself with noble devotion. In the most dangerous crisis 
of the fight, when the infantry of Humphreys and the artil- 
lery which had been advanced were struggling against the 
incoming wave of the enemy rushing over the ground to- 
wards Cemetery Ridge, Bigelow, the captain of the battery. 



THE SECOND DAY OF QETTY8BUBQ. 335 

which had been fighting with prolonges fixed, was ordered 
by his chief, McGilvery, to hold to the last gasp his position 
near the Trostle house, in order to gain time for the other 
batteries, swarming in advance of the threatened point, 
to take position along Plum Run Ridge. Sternly Bigelow 
fulfilled his trust, while the batteries in quick evolution fell 
into massed line in his rear, until twenty-five pieces com- 
manded and swept the ground to the relief of the disorgan- 
ized troops and the retention of artillery left standing on 
the field, finally bringing off his guns, after a hand-to-hand 
fight, many of his command killed, himself, with others, 
severely wounded, and with the loss of eighty horses. 

For a long while the ground within this hard-fought 
arena presented the spectacle of lines of troops at various 
angles charging, retreating, and recharging in determined 
me/ee, and no one would have dared at the moment to pre- 
dict the issue of the conflict. At length the frantic efforts 
of the enemy died out from sheer exhaustion. The last 
Federal reinforcements came from the right. The Sixth 
Corps had previously, as already mentioned, arrived from 
its long march. Troops from various commands advanced 
and pushed the enemy back. The Pennsylvania Reserves 
had come up, and McCandless's brigade of that division 
had been directed in a charge by Crawford. Fisher's 
brigade of that division was sent to Big Round Top. The 
lines of the Army of the Potomac to and through both 
Round Tops were now occupied and victoriously held. 
The expenditure had been frightful, computed by General 
Meade himself as representing sixty-six per cent, of the loss 
in the whole battle of three days, and with the result of his 
line being driven back to the position from which it should 
not have advanced. Even Humphreys must on this occa- 
sion have had his fill of fighting, as he was seen coolly de- 
ploying on the ground below, where he lost half of his 



336 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

division, and where, if one could have seen his expression, 
he would doubtless have observed it lighted up as usual 
with the serene satisfaction which he reserved for battle, 
and which could be interpreted by no other words than, 
" Is not this delightful ?" Little Round Top, the scene of 
the most dramatic episode of the battle ; the Peach Orchard, 
of the hurly-burly following the rupture of Sickles's line ; 
the Wheat Field, of many a desperate charge and repulse ; 
and the Devil's Den, of the guerilla warfare of thousands 
of begrimed gnomes fighting among the ragged rocks and 
dark woods, had become immortal. 

The severity of the contest had required so great rein- 
forcements from the right, in the troops of the Twelfth Corps, 
that the lines there had been stripped almost to the utmost 
possible denudation. An early morning attack by the Con- 
federates under Ewell had been planned to carry those lines, 
no doubt delayed by General Meade's evident intention in 
the morning to attack at that point. Here operated against 
Ewell the lay of the land previously mentioned, rendering 
it difficult to combine movements which included troops in 
Gettysburg and those around the sweep of the lines from 
Cemetery Hill to Gulp's Hill. At last, however, when the 
fighting was subsiding on the left wing, Ewell's attack fell 
on the right. The brigades of Steuart, Jones, Williams, 
and Nicholls, of Johnson's division, and those of Hoke and 
Hays, of Elarly's division, supported by that of Gordon, and 
the rest of Ewell's Corps, assaulted from left to right on 
the lines from Gulp's Hill to Cemetery Hill. It had been 
intended that Rodes's division also, of Ewell's corps, should 
participate in the assault, but as his line extended through 
the town towards the west, his right resting on the road 
thence to Fairfield, it so happened that, when he had with- 
drawn his troops from the streets and changed direction, 
his advance, which had been intended to be simultaneous 




\> 



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••■ lu 



4t 



THE SECOND DAY OF 0ETT78BUBG. 337 

with Early's, had proceeded no further than driving in 
the Federal skirmishers when the assault of Early on 
his left had taken place and been repulsed. On the 
Federal line at Cemetery Hill, held by the Eleventh 
Corps, the enemy achieved a temporary success, but owing 
to the timely arrival of Carroll's brigade, of the Second 
Corps, sent to its assistance by Hancock, they were pre- 
cipitately driven out of a portion of the entrenchments 
which they had captured. On the right of the position, op- 
posed to Johnson, the enemy had made a lodgment in some 
entrenchments which had been evacuated by troops of the 
Twelfth Corps, drawn thence during the afternoon as rein- 
forcements for the left wing of the army. Here Greene's 
brigade of that corps bore a distinguished part in thwarting 
a greater success of the enemy, who at nightfall still main- 
tained himself in the extreme works on the right, the 
possession of which endangered the hold of the Army of 
the Potomac on the Baltimore Turnpike, and thus threat- 
ened its rear. 

That night a memorable council of war met at General 
Meade's headquarters, which determined unanimously to 
fight it out at Gettysburg as representing an admirable posi- 
tion. After General Meade's death it was attempted to use 
this incident to his disadvantage. Why he called a council 
should be evident. He had, by the night of the 2d of July, 
been only five days in command of the army. An army, 
including its leader, being in constitution what it has been 
described to be, he would be presumptuous indeed who, in 
command for only five days, and nearly half of the time in 
the midst of a battle, would not seek the opinion of his 
corps-commanders. Within a few days thereafter, General 
Meade held another council, but still at a time when he had 
been in command only sixteen days. After Gettysburg he 
knew himself to be in command of an army which had as 



338 GENERAL OEOROE GORDON MEADE 

much confidence in him as he in it, and never called a coun- 
cil again. It was in the interest of his corps-commanders, in 
his own, in that of the cause they all represented, at a time 
when he could not know that his individuality was welded 
with the mighty instrument of which he was a part, that he 
and they should meet, and the morale of all be confirmed 
by personal conference, thence communicated in assurance 
by a thousand paths to the rank and file which had proved 
so worthy of confidence. The subsequent inimically re- 
ported statement, that he had wished to retreat, was finally 
set at rest by a pamphlet, issued after long forbearance by 
his son, Colonel George Meade, in which the point as to 
whether or not General Meade had desired to retreat from 
Gettysburg is conclusively settled in the negative. Circum- 
stances will lead the historian to believe that the accusation 
rests upon the basis of uneasiness from extraneous causes 
in the minds of his defamers. 



THE THIRD DAY OF QETTY8BUBG. 339 



CHAPTER XVII. 

THE THIRD DAY OF GETTYSBURG. 

The enemy, as has been said, remained in possession at 
night of the works on the right which had been occupied 
by some of the Twelfth Corps, captured as the result of 
withdrawing a large force thence to the dangerously assailed 
left flank of the army. During the night of the 2d General 
Meade therefore massed a heavy force of artillery and 
infantry near the works, with the view to their recapture as 
soon as daylight should appear. Johnson's division, with 
three brigades of Early's, both of Ewell's corps, had, in the 
evening and night of the 2d, hugged and advanced up the 
hillsides around the sweep from Culp's Hill to the outskirts 
of Gettysburg, opening the attack on their left, where they 
finally made lodgment in the lines, thinly defended on ac- 
count of the withdrawal of the troops mentioned ; while 
the immediately succeeding attack, more to their right, at 
Cemetery Hill, under Early, was made by Hoke's brigade 
and by Hays's, the redoubtable " Louisiana Tigers," whose 
prowess, as believed by themselves, nothing could with- 
stand. These troops had managed, under cover of the 
straggling outskirts of the town, to carry one of the Eleventh 
Corps' batteries, whence they were ejected by Carroll's 
brigade, of the Second Corps, which, as the reader will 
remember, had been opportunely despatched by Hancock 
from his lines for the reinforcement of the sorely pressed 
right of the general position. 

We have now reached the morning of the 3d of July. 
General Meade took the initiative, which Ewell had intended 



340 GENERAL GEORQE QOBDON MEADE. 

to take. The sun, rising on a cloudless day, saw the en- 
gagement renewed on the right with a furious cannonade. 
Here, on this part of the field, the Twelfth Corps had in 
force resumed its position on the right, the Eleventh, as 
before, was on its left, with Wadsworth's division of the 
First Corps between them, the same division which, on the 
first day, had prevented Ewell from occupying Culp's Hill. 
Shaler's brigade of the Sixth Corps had come over from the 
left, and was now ready for action on the right. The divis- 
ion of Geary, of the Twelfth Corps, and the brigade of 
Shaler, of the Sixth Corps, were hotly engaged from dawn 
for several hours, supported by Ruger's division, of the 
Twelfth Corps, and Wadsworth's division, of the First. 
The works which had been lost on the previous evening 
were finally abandoned by the enemy retiring before an ad- 
vance of the Twelfth Corps, the action on this part of the 
field being final. For several hours there was no more 
fighting in any part of it, except that of a skirmish opposite 
the lines of the Second Corps, resulting in the capture of a 
bam, the possession of which by the enemy's skirmishers 
as a shelter had long been annoying. 

General Lee is authentically reported to have said at 
Chambersburg that he expected to reach the field with a 
little over seventy thousand men. He probably reached it 
with numbers between seventy and seventy-five thousand 
of all arms. The Federal army on the field probably num- 
^ bered ninety thousand of all arms. The exact numbers on 
either side can never be known. Owing to forced marches 
on both sides, the number of stragglers whose strength gave 
out before reaching the field was large. It may safely be 
assumed that General Lee's force was not much over seventy 
thousand men, nor General Meade's much over ninety thou- 
sand, unless one counts as belonging to the latter General 
French's eight thousand men from Harper's Ferry, which 



THE THIRD DAT OF OETTTSBUBO. 34I 

troops had been ordered to report to General Meade, al- 
though previously refused to General Hooker. General 
Meade ordered them forward, but besides occupying a 
mountain pass further south, and destroying Lee's pontoon- 
bridges over the Potomac, and finally reaching Frederick, 
French's operations had no connection with those of the 
Army of the Potomac. The forces arrayed against each 
other were probably of the numbers, or at least relative pro- 
portions mentioned. General Meade's own estimate of his 
numbers, as given in his testimony before the Committee on 
the conduct of the War, is unquestionably too large. 

The Federal loss on the first day of battle had been very 
much greater than that of the Confederates, and on the 
second day in excess of the Confederate loss, so that from 
the beginning up to the end of the second day, there had 
been a tendency to numerical equalization. The third day 
of battle, however, was destined to change the relation of 
loss. It is not to the question of relative loss, however, 
that attention is being drawn at the present moment, save 
as that question bears upon one vehemently discussed to the 
present day, as to whether or not Longstreet obeyed orders. 
We have, on the one side, a preponderance of verbal testi- 
mony going to show that he did not He certainly seems 
to have been dilatory in coming into position and attacking 
on the second day. The space requisite for the examina- 
tion of that question, however, would be too great to devote 
to it here. As to his equally discussed action on the third 
day, we may properly consider it, as not involving the same 
objection. If the statements of Longstreet's opponents are 
correct, they are damaging to the military reputation of 
Lee. That Longstreet was ordered to assault the left-centre 
of the Army of the Potomac with the whole of his corps, 
supported by half of Hill's, and if need were, by the whole 
of it, seems incredible as an order emanating from General 



342 QENEEAL OEORQE GORDON MEADR 

Lee. Longstreet claims, on his side, that those were not 
his orders, and a dispassionate view of the situation of both 
armies at the point of time under discussion would seem to 
show that they could not have been. 

It is in this connection that the question of previous 
losses, involving the relative numbers of the two armies on 
the third day of battle becomes especially interesting. Lee 
could not have had at the beginning of the third day more 
than fifty-five thousand infantry. If, therefore, Longstreet 
was ordered to attack with his own, and, if necessary, the 
whole of Hill's corps, he was ordered to contemplate the 
desperate feat of attacking with nearly forty thousand men, 
or two-thirds of Lee's army, constituting the whole Confed- 
erate line of two corps, Longstreet's and Hill's, from opposite 
the Round Tops to Gettysburg. These were, by the alleged 
orders, to be troops engaged or else supporting. When, 
therefore, we are, on the one hand, asked to accept the evi- 
dence of those who testify against Longstreet, and on the 
other, to believe the evidence of Longstreet himself, rein- 
forced by the unlikelihood of Lee's having contemplated 
such a plan of battle as that mentioned, one is forced to de- 
cide in favor of the supposition that Longstreet did not 
receive such orders. There may, of course, be a middle 
term, unknown, representing exactly neither the statement 
of one side nor that of the other. 

The approach of columns of infantry for a distance of 
two-thirds of a mile over open country, subject to a cross- 
fire of artillery and final opposition by firm infantry, is a 
problem almost as difficult of solution as that presented by 
the proposition. If an irresistible force meet an immovable 
body, what must be the effect ? Mere mass of men in an 
assaulting column is not sufficient. Too great mass frus- 
trates the end in view. The French columns at Waterloo 
are believed to have been too dense. And, at Waterloo, 



THE THIRD DAY OF GETTT8BUBG. 343 

the range of effective infantry-fire was not equal to that at 
Gettysburg, as, at Gettysburg, it was not equal to that of 
the Franco-Prussian War. To combine mass to the degree 
which ensures momentum, with openness of disposition, 
ensuring ease of deployment and support, looking to 
reaching the enemy in an assault with the minimum of loss 
from artillery and small-arms, was the heretofore insoluble 
problem, now solved by the enormous increase in the effi- 
ciency of the small-arm. It may be safely predicted that 
never again can storming columns of any formation pass 
over two-thirds of a mile of open ground and come in con- 
tact with opposing lines of good infantry. It is not possible 
to conceive that, even at Gettysburg, had the enemy increased 
the density of his column and supports, there would have 
been more than a mere protrusion into the lines of the Army 
of the Potomac. A more compact array than the one em- 
ployed would have been even more en prise to the artillery 
and infantry of the opposing lines. 

The case presented against Longstreet is, therefore, un- 
intentionally presented against Lee. If Long^street's orders 
were in very deed those which have sometimes been alleged, 
then he was called upon by Lee to do the very thing which 
has just been described, and which it has been indicated 
would have been futile. May it not also be pertinently 
asked in addition, whether, if such a charging array, over 
such a distance, be not of more than doubtful expediency, 
how can one reconcile with it, in this particular case, the 
withdrawal of force capable of protecting the right wing of 
Lee in presence of the whole lefl wing of the Army of the 
Potomac. Whether or not Longstreet obeyed orders, he 
apparently did all that could have been done. If that be 
so, it is inconceivable that Lee could have ordered more. 

The Confederates were during a long silence preparing 
for their final blow. By one o'clock in the afternoon their 



344 GENERAL OEOROE GORDON MEADE. 

artillery was planted on the long line that they occupied 
around the Federal position. It amounted to nearly one 
hundred and fifty pieces, as officially stated by General 
W. N. Pendleton, chief of artillery of the Army of North- 
em Virginia. On the shorter Federal line were only about 
eighty pieces, according to General Hunt. Along Cemetery 
Ridge were forty-one guns of McGilvery's batteries. On 
the right of them was Hazard's artillery of the Second 
Corps. In front of Ziegler's Grove, to the right of the 
clump of trees which was the directrix of the impending 
charge of the enemy, were, from right to left, Woodruff's, 
Arnold's, Cushing's, Brown's, and Rorty's batteries. In 
front of that celebrated clump, brought up later from the 
artillery-reserve, were Fitzhugh's, Cowan's, and Parsons'. 
Besides these and a few others, some guns on Cemetery 
Hill, to the right-rear, bore tolerably well towards the 
front. Far off to the left, the summit of Little Round Top 
was crowned with Rittenhouse's, late Hazlett's, six rifle- 
guns. 

The din and destruction of the cannonade were tremen- 
dous. For two reasons the destruction was greater on the 
Federal side, despite the superior quality of its artillery. 
The Confederates had nearly twice as many pieces in battery, 
because the lay of the land admitted of this advantage, and 
the ground in rear of Cemetery Ridge sloped gently down- 
ward towards Rock Creek, along which declivity the shot 
ricocheting, soon clearing it of ambulances, waggons, am- 
munition trains, etc., stampeding them to the rear. Great, 
however, as was the destruction, it bore, as always, no reas- 
onable proportion to the noise. Of the Alps and Jura 
Ranges in a thunder-storm, Byron says, peak answered 
peak, but here ridge poured towards ridge sheets of fire 
from flashing guns with ceaseless roar. Yet, because the 
angle subtended by the height of a man at the distance of 



THE THIRD DAY OF QETTY8BUB0. 345 

a mile is very small, and the infantry of the Army of the 
Potomac presented even a smaller one, in the men crouch- 
ing or lying down at their posts, the destruction, as com- 
pared with the apparent danger, was disproportionately 
small. It was in artillery and artillery-horses that the 
destruction was greatest, guns on the lines being dismounted 
and artillery-horses killed by hundreds, while towards the 
rear, down the slope to Rock Creek, some of the caissons 
of the reserve-artillery exploding, a safer resting-place was 
sought General Hunt, chief-of-artillery of the Army of 
the Potomac, afterwards jocularly remarked to General 
Long, a former pupil of his, who on that day directed the 
enemy's artillery, that he had scattered his fire too much. 
The Army of the Potomac, however, was tolerably satisfied 
that it was no better. The enemy was not chargeable with 
having erred in the case of General Meade's headquarters. 
It happening to be in range of the point destined for infantry 
assault, the enemy's artillery poured shot and shell upon 
the house so suddenly and profusely, that seventeen horses 
were killed within the enclosure before the General and his 
staff could vacate the premises and seek refuge where head- 
quarters work could proceed to better advantage. The 
first choice of a spot for this purpose proving faulty, they 
all mounted and rode off to the hill-top on the southeast, 
where were the headquarters of General Slocum. 

After nearly two hours of this terrific cannonade. Gen- 
eral Hunt ordered a cessation of the fire along Cemetery 
Ridge, just as an order from General Meade to the same 
purport was on its way to him, the object of both being to 
meet the infantry attack which must now come from some 
quarter unknown, but somewhere along the lines. where 
they approached each other nearest. The Confederate fire 
for a short time increased in severity, and soon the assault- 
ing columns were seen deploying near the edge of the 



346 GENERAL GEOBGE GORDON MEADE 

woods opposite the centre of the Army of the Potomac, 
the point for which they will aim being the left-centre, and 
the beacon, the clump of trees about to become historical. 
Pickett's assaulting force was about fifteen thousand strong, 
Pickett's division, of five thousand, composed entirely of 
Virginia troops, had freshly arrived on the field, and had 
had sufficient time to rest. Longstreet held his two other 
divisions. Hood's and McLaws's, to cover his right flank, 
which Federal cavalry, Famsworth's and Merritt's brigades, 
under Kilpatrick, were attacking, and infantry skirmishers 
feeling. The main column of attack was composed of 
Gamett's and Kemper's brigades, with Armistead's brigade 
in supporting distance. The immediate flanks of this main 
column were guarded on the right by Wilcox's brigade, of 
Hill's corps, and on the left, by Heth's division, of Hill's 
corps, commanded on that day by Pettigrew. 

The troops of the Army of the Potomac witnessed pas- 
sively, in admiration, the magnificent spectacle of the advance 
of Pickett's division with its supporting flankers, reserving 
even their artillery-fire for a while. Soon, however, the 
artillery began to play upon them, the Eighth Ohio Regi- 
ment in picket-advance, and ofTto the right, falling back to 
avoid being overrun. The torrent poured from ridge to 
ridge, broken into streams. From front and right and far 
away Little Round Top on the left, the artillery played 
upon the advancing colunms, torn through in places and 
closing up with swirling motion and d^Ms tossed in air, 
like little waves in the tide-rip of waters adversely beset by 
some strong wind. The gfaps in the lines were closed as 
soon as made, and the march was continued as relentlessly 
as ever% The Federal artillery redoubled and then some- 
what slackened its fire, some of the guns lacking long range 
ammunition towards the end. General Hunt says that, 
had his instructions been implicitly obeyed, the attacking 



THE THIRD DAT OF 0ETTY8BVBQ. 347 

column would not have reached the Federal lines. The 
assaulting column, however, is nearing the infantry, which 
is reserving its fire. Stannard*s Vermont brigade, of the 
Third Division, of the First Corps, in advance to the left, 
now pours a rapid fire into the right flank of the advancing 
troops. The battle-field is covered with smoke rolling like 
fog over the landscape, amidst which Wilcox's brigade 
loses its bearings and drifts away from Pickett and halts. 
The artillery-fire from the left to which the advancing 
column is subjected is terrible, so crushing that the troops 
instinctively shrink from it and oblique to their left. The 
enemy is advancing artillery with his infantry, but, through 
an accident, not so many pieces as he had intended to move 
forward with. The mass comes on undauntedly, despite 
the searching fire to which it is subjected, and the lines of 
hostile infantry are not far apart when Gibbon's and Hays's 
divisions, of the Second Corps, pour into it volley after vol- 
ley of musketry. Only once in their swift course had the 
enemy's lines halted within range and delivered fire along 
their extended front. 

Under the sudden attack of Gibbon and Hays, Heth's 
division, on the enemy's left, led by Pettigrew, goes almost 
to pieces, Hays's division capturing two thousand prisoners. 
That fire disposes of the left flanking support of the enemy, 
and the right one, under Wilcox, remains halted. Unsup- 
ported, Pickett's division, or rather what remains of its three 
brigades, charges, with some remnants from Pettigrew's 
men, up the crest of Cemetery Ridge, striking, true to its 
aim, taken two-thirds of a mile away, the left-centre of the 
Army of the Potomac. No escarpment is here up which to 
toil, dividing effort between climbing and fighting while 
breasting an adverse height. Here is where the ridge has 
swept downward from Cemetery Hill to a gentle slope on 
which the combatants are virtually on the same level. Well 




34S GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADK 

and truly had Lee's skilled eye chosen the point of his 
enemy's lines most easy of assault. Kaleidoscopic are now 
the changes that take place within a few minutes. The 
brunt of the assault falls on the Sixty-ninth and Seventy- 
first Pennsylvania Regiments, of Webb's Philadelphia bri- 
gade, of the Second Division of the Second Corps, drawn 
up behind an extemporized entrenchment, and the Seventy- 
second Pennsylvania Regiment of the same brigade, drawn 
up a short distance in their rear. The two regiments in ad- 
vance fire their parting shots and retire to the second line, 
where they are reformed, and Hancock, hastily withdrawing 
troops from his left, sends reinforcements to the threatened 
point, while Stannard's brigade, on Hancock's left, changing 
front to the right, attacks the charging column on its right 
flank. The head of the column, led by Armistead in per- 
son, has nevertheless crowned with its standards the line 
from which the two Pennsylvania regiments had retired upon 
their reserves. Hancock and Gibbon have been badly 
wounded, the field is all alive with aides careering over it 
bearing orders from officers and from the commanding- 
general himself pressing towards the front Gushing and 
Rorty and Woodruff and others are dead by their guns, or 
mortally wounded. But I forbear special mention in a mere 
sketch of a scene like this. 

There can be no doubtful victory here. From front and 
flank the Federal troops advance and sweep the field with a 
besom of destruction. The Confederates are spent with 
their desperate effort, and now, their three brigade-com- 
manders either killed or dangerously wounded, are lost. 
In an instant the late embattled but now harmless surge 
rushes up with its last billow and eddies around General 
Meade and his staff, while the receding vestiges of flotsam 
and jetsam are borne backward with the reflux setting to- 
wards Seminary Ridge. As the main wave of the Confed- 



THE THIRD DAY OF 0ETTY8BUBG. 349 

erate attack thus broke and recoiled from the living rampart 
along Cemetery Ridge, the minor current of Wilcox's sup- 
porting column on its right, which had held an uncertain 
course under the dun war-cloud until it had halted, sud- 
denly became reanimated, and resumed too late its onward 
movement. It was greeted with a storm of shot from the 
front, and Stannard's brigade, wheeling to the left, just as it 
had previously wheeled to the right, fired into its flank, 
whereupon it drifted afield with the general wreck setting 
towards Seminary Ridge. The Eighth Ohio Regiment and 
Stannard's brigade captured numerous prisoners from it. 
Of all that gallant array which had so bravely set forth but 
a few minutes before to anticipated victory, only about a 
third returned safely to their lines. Their repulse, however, 
was not accomplished without loss to the other side. Many 
officers of high rank, besides Hancock and Gibbon, were 
either killed or wounded, while the losses in the rank and 
file in killed and wounded were considerable. 

General Meade has often been censured for not having 
ordered a countercharge. The assumption that this could 
have succeeded is generally also coupled with the notion 
that the movement could have been effected over the same 
ground over which Pickett's advance had been made. 
Nothing can betray greater ignorance of the situation which 
existed at that point of time in the ranks at and imme- 
diately to the right and left of the point where the charge 
had fallen most heavily. Confusion must be held as always 
existent, as it has always heretofore been known in expe- 
rience to have existed under similar circumstances. In such 
a collision as that which has just been described, the anvil, 
although it suffers less than the hammer, still shares in its 
disintegration. The ranks which had repelled attack re- 
quired time for restoration to their effectiveness. But even 
had they on the instant recovered their effectiveness, Lee 



J 



350 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE. 

was amply prepared for a counter-assault over the same 
ground as that over which the assault had taken place. 
The troops forming Pickett's advance were independent of 
the lines in their rear, leaving no gap there. Those lines 
were intact, and could be plainly seen advancing to cover 
their return when the remnants of Pickett's force were re- 
treating in confusion. And besides, there was the artillery 
of the enemy still in position ready to concentrate its fire on 
any advancing column. Only when, as has happened, a 
powerful body of heavy cavalry, heretofore unengaged, has 
been able to act instantly and seize the moment of a trained 
army's temporary discomfiture, has it ever been possible to 
make a counter-assault over nearly the same ground as the 
one over which an assault by infantry has been made and 
repulsed. Confederate officers within that portion of the 
lines from which Pickett's charge proceeded have testified 
that an attempt by Meade to make a counter-assault over 
the same ground over which Pickett had passed would have 
been followed by as signal a repulse as that which the Army 
of the Potomac had just inflicted. The testimony of such 
witnesses, if any is to be considered, must be held good. It 
remains, then, to consider the alternative of attacking else- 
where. The reconnoissance of the 2d had shown that the 
ground opposite the right, at and near Culp*s Hill, was not a 
favorable one from which to make an assault. The ground 
on the left might perhaps admit of it. It is not even gener- 
ally known that that was attempted. The repulse of the 
enemy on the left-centre of the army had scarcely been made 
certain when General Meade rode rapidly to the left and or- 
dered an advance. The ground there, however, as has already 
been incidentally noted, is not favorable for the offensive of 
an army occupying the lines prescribed by Cemetery Ridge 
for the general and inevitable position of an army occupying 
the ground east of the valley. The enemy was occupying 



THE THIRD DA Y OF QETTY8B UBQ. 35 1 

with powerful artillery the ridge from which Sickles had 
been driven, and with infantry well closed up towards the 
new position of the Army of the Potomac on its left. 
McCandless's brigade, of Crawford's division of Pennsyl- 
vania Reserves, of the Fifth Corps, and Nevin's brigade, 
of the Third Division, of the Sixth Corps, advanced and 
pushed the enemy to some advantage, as he happened to be 
slightly withdrawing to strengthen his position there. The 
case, as I view it now, and believe that it will in the future 
be regarded, was one of deadlock, in which it was impos- 
sible at the moment, without undue risk, unhesitatingly to 
attempt to advance. The ability of the Army of the Po- 
tomac to assume a sure offensive had been distinctively im- 
paired by the terrible losses of the second day, growing out 
of the then unfortunate advance of the lines on the left 
beyond their true position. The situation after Pickett's 
charge was such that hazards assumed in ordinary battles 
were not to be assumed here. Why Austria did not avenge 
Sadowa when the Franco- Prussian war subsequently came, 
no one but a few diplomats knew until Lord John Russell 
wrote his memoirs. We know now, and had reason to 
suspect then, that had the day at Gettysburg been lost to 
the Union cause, European recognition of the independence 
of the Confederacy and all that that implies would have 
immediately followed. 

While this momentous charge on the left-centre of the 
Army of the Potomac was being made and repulsed, Stuart's 
cavalry, on the right-rear, was making strong efforts to 
break through the Federal cavalry under General David 
McM. Gregg. If Stuart had succeeded, the reserve-artillery 
and ammunition and supply-train of the Army of the 
Potomac would have been at his mercy, for even the reserve- 
artillery and munitions had, on account of the furious artil- 
lery fire on the front, been retired to a point on the Baltimore 



352 GENERAL QEOBOE GORDON MEADK 

Turnpike, well to the rear. Besides, Stuart's success would 
have directly contributed towards that of Pickett's infantry 
charge. Under Stuart, Fitzhugh Lee and Hampton and 
Chambliss and Jenkins, brigade-commanders, represented 
the powerful Confederate force of cavalry on the right-rear. 
Gregg met the enemy's four brigades with three, led by J. 
B. Mcintosh, J. Irvin Gregg, and by Custer, of Kilpatrick's 
division." Only two of the Federal brigades, however, were in 
strenuous action. Randol's and Pennington's batteries were 
present, the fight beginning with artillery and ending with 
charging. At one point of time Fitzhugh Lee and Hampton 
emerged in strong force from a wood, and charged with the 
sabre, in the full belief, which the Confederates cherished 
until late, that the Federal cavalry would not stand before 
cold steel. But on this, and on the recent occasions at Bev- 
erly Ford and Brandy Station, and also at Aldie, Middleburg, 
and Upperville, the Federal cavalry proved that its training 
had had its effect, and that, from being at first unable to cope 
with that of the Confederates, it was able to meet it on equal 
terms. Hampton was severely wounded, and the fight died 
out without the enemy's being able to effect his purpose. 
But for the circumstance that prescribed limits do not admit 
of presenting the details of this cavalry action, it could be 
here shown that solely because it was eclipsed to popular 
interest by the main events of the day, has its meritorious- 
ness never been generally known, and that, but for its 
skilled and gallant conduct under General Gregg, the issue 
might have been serious, nay, in the event reversed, fatal 
to the Army of the Potomac, had Pickett's charge also been 
at the same time successful. 

On the left of the Army of the Potomac had continued 
to be stationed, from the afternoon of the 3d of July, Fams- 
worth's brigade, of Kilpatrick's division of cavalry, and 
Merritt's brigade, of Buford's division. These two brigades 











•"I 
'It. -^ 


1 

If 


i 


% 


r, 


^ 


r 



THE THIRD DAY OF QETTTSBUEQ. 353 

gallantly attacked the right flank of the enemy's infantry. 
Here was a lamentable occurrence in the decimation of the 
troopers that Famsworth led, and in his own death. 
Through a quixotic order of Kilpatrick's, Famsworth made 
a hopeless charge, plainly visible from the summit of Little 
Round Top. Surrounded by the enemy's infantry, the 
troopers pursued their way among stone walls, working 
what destruction they could, until a mere handful of them 
regained their own lines. 

Victory for the first time in any great battle perched on 
the standards of the Army of the Potomac. By official 
record the loss of the Army of the Potomac in killed, 
wounded, and missing, was twenty-three thousand and 
forty-nine, and that of the Army of Northern Virginia, 
twenty thousand, four hundred and fifty-one. Discrepan- 
cies in the official returns of the latter army, however, 
and other allied facts, lead to the belief that the losses of 
that army as there given do not represent the correct sum- 
total. Swinton, who is generally temperate in his state- 
ments, places the probable Confederate loss at thirty thou- 
sand, and all the evidence at hand justifies belief in the 
correctness of that estimate. 

If, as the poet says, **Freedom shrieked as Kosciusko fell," 
she must have drawn a deep sigh of relief as the sun went 
down upon that field. African slavery was but a portion, 
gfreat as that was, of the contents of victory there for progress. 
** We cannot consecrate this ground," said Lincoln, as he 
delivered his beautiful address before the multitude soon 
afterwards assembled there to do its perished heroes honor. 
No, nor priest nor prelate nor gorgeous ceremony can add 
to the simple dignity and pathos of the memories which there 
and elsewhere the battle-fields of the nation awaken wher- 
ever nature left undisturbed murmurs in every brook and 

sighing breeze amid the graves the requiem of the dead. 

23 



354 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

FROM GETTYSBURG TO THE RAPPAHANNOCK. 

General Lee had been driven by fate to fight, and to 
fight just as he did fight the battle of Gettysburg. The 
Confederate victories of Fredericksburg and Chancellors- 
ville, following closely on the heels of others, had so elated 
the officers and soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia, 
that if they did not feel positive contempt for the Army of 
the Potomac, they certainly had a feeling akin to it, in the 
belief that it was no match for the Army of Northern Vir- 
ginia. Lee was constrained by this sentiment to fight a 
pitched battle whenever he might meet his enemy in force. 
He was constrained to fight in the particular locality of 
Gettysburg, because the strategical movements of both 
armies had led up to that consummation, and to both the 
tactical requirements of ground seemed to be sufficiently 
fulfilled. Moreover, Lee was forced to fight without delay. 
He had no time to manoeuvre, because he had no means 
of renewing his supplies of food and ammunition. Meade, 
on the contrary, could afford to delay, because he could 
obtain ample supplies of both. Lee was therefore obliged 
to fight at once an offensive battle, and Meade was enabled 
to fight a defensive one. 

If Lee had not been so &r from his base, and with his 
communications interrupted, he would doubtless have tried 
to manoeuvre Meade out of his position by extending his 
right towards the Baltimore Turnpike, thus seeking to 
intercept the communications of the Army of the Potomac 
with its base. Now, having fought under the conditions 



FBOM QETTY8BURQ TO THE RAPPAHANNOCK. 355 

imposed upon him, he was defeated. The battle had gone 
irretrievably against him. Safety in retreat had to be sought. 
So, having withdrawn his left wing through Gettysburg, he 
at once threw a hne of entrenchments in front of his army 
on Seminary Ridge, sharply refused to the right and rest- 
ing on Marsh Creek, of which Willoughby Run is an afflu- 
ent, and on the left continued the entrenchments across 
the Chambersburg Turnpike and the Mummasburg Road, 
leading to the nearest passes through South Mountain. 
Here, safely retired, the work of burying the dead and suc- 
coring the wounded proceeded during the 4th of July, his 
retreat taking place on the night of the 4th. On the 
Federal side the same sad task was performed on the 4th 
and part of the 5th. On the 7th came to the marching 
army the joyful tidings from the West, that, on the 4th, 
Grant had captured Vicksburg and its ^garrison of thirty 
thousand men, and that the Mississippi was then open from 
its sources to its mouth, except at Port Hudson, which, on 
July 9th, surrendered to General Banks. 

It has been much discussed whether General Meade 
should not have followed the enemy through the passes 
of South Mountain opposite Gettysburg instead of doing 
what he did, in following the enemy's line of retreat in a 
parallel direction along the east side of the range. The 
alternative which has been discarded always seems to 
have extraordinary fascination for the average human 
mind, so easy is it to demonstrate success of the thing not 
tried. General Meade evidently contemplated adopting the 
course of a direct pursuit, but for good and sufficient rea- 
sons, which will now appear, discarded it. General Lee 
retreated in the night of the 4th of July, leaving numbers 
of his wounded. Early on the 5th General Meade de- 
spatched with cavalry the strongest corps in the army, the 
Sixth (which as a corps had not been engaged), in pursuit 



356 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADK 

of the enemy. His combinations were perfect to meet the 
conditions. Lee, retreating with his main body through 
the Fairfield Pass, midway between Gettysburg and Hagers- 
town, and partly by the Cashtown Pass, opposite Gettys- 
burg, Buford was despatched to Williamsport on the 
Potomac, to head off and attack the enemy's trains arriving ; 
Kilpatrick, through Monterey Pass, south of the Fairfield 
Pass, to come upon the trains while in transit. Cavalry, 
of Gregg's division, harassed the enemy through Cashtown 
Pass. The Sixth Corps with cavalry marched for Fairfield 
Pass to attack the enemy. On the morning of the 6th 
Sedgwick reported that he could engage the enemy at Fair- 
field Pass, upon receiving which intelligence Meade arrested 
one portion of the flank movement in progress by holding 
the First and Third Corps in hand to support the Sixth in 
case of an engagement of the latter at Fairfield Pass. 
Sedgwick's final report that afternoon showed plainly, how- 
ever, that great delay in pursuit would be entailed by a 
battle at Fairfield Pass, and therefore, on the 7th, General 
Meade adopted the flank route through Frederick and the 
Hamburg and High Knob Passes in the Catoctin Moun- 
tains, much delayed in the latter by torrents of rain on the 
7th and 8th. There had also been pouring rain in the 
night of the 3d and on the 4th, impeding movements from 
the beginning. 

Swinton thinks that General Meade adopted a wrong 
course, but it will soon become apparent that his view is 
not tenable. He says, in his " Campaigns of the Army of 
the Potomac," 

" The principles already laid down as those that should guide criti- 
cism on McClellan*s conduct after Antietam apply with equal and 
even greater force to Meade*s conduct after Gettysburg. That an army 
that had moved so far from its base as that of Lee ; that had crossed 
the frontier ; that had been defeated in a great battle of three days* 



FROM QETTYSBUBQ TO THE RAPPAHANNOCK. 357 

duration, in which it had suffered immense loss ; that then sought 
safety in flight only to find itself barred at the frontier by the rise of 
the Potomac (as though Providence fought with the Union army), 
should have been destroyed or hopelessly crippled, appears indis- 
putable.** 

That the ordinary observer, entirely unread in military 
matters, should so think and speak unhesitatingly, would 
not be strange, for such a one always so thinks and 
speaks, but that Swinton should have so declared awakens 
surprise. He knew that defeat does not always end in 
rout, that after it retreat cannot always be prevented ; and 
moreover, was generally as capable as any man of seeing 
the existence or the absence of parallelism in conditions. 
Let us examine into the correctness of his view in the par- 
ticular case under consideration. Had he reflected that, 
even if the Army of the Potomac had followed the Army 
of Northern Virginia directly into Cumberland Valley, 
it would have had to do only with a rearguard, and that 
while the rearguard was delaying its advance, Lee would 
have gained all the time he needed with the main body to 
take up the position near Williamsport that he adopted ? 
Humphreys, who was chief-of-staflT after the battle of Get- 
tysburg, says in his little volume, ** Gettysburg to the 
Rapidan " (it is best here to give his exact language), 

*• Possibly a prompt, vigorous, direct pursuit by the whole army on 
the morning of the 5th of July, by the Cashtown and Fairfield Passes, 
would have brought on a general engagement before the Army of 
Northern Virginia had taken up the position covering the crossing- 
places of the Potomac; but probably it could not have reached 
Hagerstown before the evening of the 7th, and Lee would have had 
the few hours needed to make his entrenchments too strong for suc- 
cessful attack.'* 

" Possibly," according to General Humphreys, such a 
movement would have succeeded, but " probably ** it would 



358 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON ME ADR 

not. The adoption of either route, therefore, would find 
the enemy sufficiently entrenched, and so far as that point 
is concerned, expediency is balanced. But there were 
reasons why the route by the east of the mountains was 
much more desirable than the other. Supplies in shoes 
and other articles needed reached the army much more 
easily by that route than they could have done by the 
other. And all the while the Army of the Potomac was 
advancing down the east side of the mountains, and finally 
turning and crossing them, it was interposing between Bal- 
timore and Washington and the enemy, so that even a raid 
by the enemy would have been impossible. 

The conditions existing after Gettysburg therefore do not 
exhibit parallelism with those after the battle of the Antie- 
tam, both on account of the circumstances just mentioned, 
and on account of another with which this summary will be 
concluded. Lee*s army had sufTered defeat and great losses 
at Gettysburg, but could muster then far more troops than 
those with which it had fought the battle of the Antietam. 
Regular armies are not generally destroyed. It is the rarest 
of all things for fine modem armies to be routed. Lee's 
army was crippled, but not so badly crippled as not to 
have been able to fight another tremendous pitched battle. 
Where McClellan was afler the battle of the Antietam, both 
he and the enemy were on the west side of South Moun- 
tain. Where General Meade was afler the battle of Gettys- 
burg, he was, upon the retreat of the enemy through the 
mountains, under obligation to interpose between him and 
the zone east of them. 

These reasons must have been paramount in determining 
General Meade's choice of the line of march which he adopted, 
together with the encompassing consideration recognized as 
belonging to the art of war among civilized nations, in la 
politique inilitaire. Hence he was prudent to the end. He 



FROM QETTYSBUEQ TO THE RAPPAHANNOCK. 359 

had Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville behind him, and 
other defeats in which he had shared without being respon- 
sible for them. It was his duty to see to it, that what had 
been secured should be retained, unmarred by the slightest 
reverse, leaving, if need were, for a future time, on the 
enemy's soil, far from the nation's Capital, the final arbitra- 
ment of war. When Lee's army was met on the 1 2th of 
July entrenched in front of Williamsport, we find Meade 
anxious to attack on the following day, but dissuaded there- 
from by the lack of confidence among his corps-commanders 
as to possible success. He learned this through a meeting 
of them to which he submitted certain information upon the 
basis of which he requested their opinions. It was found 
that they had no faith in the success of any plan of attack 
(based upon the meagre reconnoissance so far possible to ob- 
tain) against the enemy holding the position where he was en- 
trenched. General Meade, therefore, for a moment prudently 
waited, for if they who are to act think they must fail, one of 
the first elements of success is absent. Whether, when, 
despite this, upon renewed consideration, Meade decided to 
attack on the 14th, he might have succeeded, no one can now 
positively determine, whatever he may be inclined to think, 
but examination of the enemy's position, after he had aban- 
doned it, made it extremely doubtful that the attack would 
have met with success. Humphreys says that it would 
have failed. In harassing the enemy's retreat from the be- 
ginning, capturing prisoners, waggons, and other trophies, 
Meade had apparently accomplished all that was possible. 

Lee retreated over the Potomac on the night of the 1 3th 
of July, having partly recovered and partly rebuilt a pon- 
toon bridge that had been damaged by General French 
before the arrival of the Army of Northern Virginia at the 
river, and utilized both this and the ford near Williamsport 
Meade promptly followed by crossing the river at Berlin 



i 



360 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADK 

and at Harper's Ferry, and by marching on Lee's left flank, 
prevented him from entering Loudon Valley by the passes 
through the Blue Ridge, hemming him in the Shenandoah 
Valley, as he himself successively took possession of the 
passes as he marched south on a parallel line with the 
enemy, the mountain barrier between them. On the 23d 
of July, the Second, Third, and Fifth Corps, — ^the Third, 
under General French, leading, — ^passed through Chester 
Gap, near Manassas Gap, to advance on Front Royal and 
attack the Confederate flank as it presented itself in the 
southward march along the Shenandoah Valley. The Gap, 
occupied in some force by the enemy, was captured, but 
through the want of enterprise and slowness of French, the 
operation which, under higher leadership might have been 
brilliantly successful, came to naught. Thus continuing to 
march south, with the intervention of the mountain-barrier 
between them, Lee finally effected his passage across it, 
and took up a position near Gulpeper, General Meade's 
orders from Washington not to proceed beyond the Rappa- 
hannock, but to take up a position of observation there, 
enabling Lee to concentrate just within the fork made by 
that river and the Rapidan. 

As an illustration of the kind of administration in Wash- 
ington with which the army had to contend, and as a side- 
light on the character of Halleck, it should not escape men- 
tion in a memoir of General Meade, that at the moment 
when the first great victory in the East had been won, and 
when one should suppose that every loyal voice would be 
inclined to shout paeans in token of gratitude to the army, 
Halleck sent a despatch to General Meade, saying that the 
President was very much dissatisfied that the Confederate 
army had escaped. In consequence, General Meade very 
properly requested to be relieved at once from the command 
of the army. Thereupon Halleck represented, in reply to 



FROM QETTYSBUBQ TO THE RAPPAHANNOCK. 361 

his request, that he had intended his despatch only as a 
stimulus. Halleck's idea as to what would be likely to 
prove stimulating to a high-minded man was on a par with 
his general military administration of aflairs. It is ques- 
tionable if the kind-hearted President ever made the obser- 
vation in the sense in which it was conveyed in the de- 
spatch to General Meade. Perhs^s Mr. Lincoln said " dis- 
appointed/' of which the bearing is very different. General 
Hallecky in a subsequent despatch, changed the word to 
"disappointment." Doubtless every loyal man in the 
North was disappointed that the remainder of the Con- 
federate army had not been made prisoners of war, so far 
do wishes exceed the hard and fast lines of possibilities, 
and Mr. Lincoln may have remarked, as General Meade 
himself might have said, that he regretted that more could 
not have been accomplished. But, between a personal aspira- 
tion and an official despatch conveying the same expression, 
there is a whole heaven. The same absence of sensibility 
seemed to be in the very texture of Halleck's mind. When 
the Army of the Potomac advanced, after its arrival at the 
Rappahannock, and drove Lee beyond the Rapidan, as will 
be described in the next chapter. General Meade sent 
Colonel Biddle, of his staff) to General Halleck, with de- 
spatches informing him of the movement, and requesting 
that he might be allowed to continue it. Unfortunately for 
the Colonel, his zeal outran his discretion in dealing with a 
man like Halleck, for deeming his mission of sufficient 
importance to make it his duty to have the General awak- 
ened in the middle of the night to receive the message which 
had been brought, the General expressed himself as much 
incensed. Halleck was, in fact, a sort of magnified Depart- 
ment clerk, with the least possible tincture of military high- 
mindedness. Dearly he loved routine, and routine coupled 
with personal ease, although he was quite regardless of that 



362 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADK 

of others. One may safely challenge history to show such 
another ill-timed message as the despatch sent by him to 
the victor of Gettysburg, or another general-in-chief of the 
armies of a great country who would have been angered 
because he was presented in the middle of the night with 
intelligence that the advance of a grand army awaited his 
decision as to further attack on the enemy. The bearer of 
despatches took back with him an order which preceded 
the withdrawal of the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps, and the 
relinquishment of the advance of the Army of the Potomac. 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER OETTYSBUBG. 363 



CHAPTER XIX. 

THE CAMPAIGN AFTER GETTYSBURG. 

This campaign has been called a campaign of manoeu- 
vres, and it was truly that ; but in so characterizing it there 
should be no stigma implied for either of the combatants. 
Lee showed his usual address, and if for a brief moment 
Meade made a mistake, it was at once rectified. There is 
here no intention of making a misty moonlight portrait of 
General Meade, as ill-defined in outline and little lifelike as 
some authors paint that of Washington and other heroes, 
who were human, but frankly to concede that which seems 
to be true. That Meade did make a mistake in this cam- 
paign is here admitted. It is, however, the only material one 
discoverable, if one may venture so to say^ during his long 
command of the Army of the Potomac. In excuse for it 
there is nothing which so completely covers the ground as 
the reply of Marshal Turenne, of which a fragment has 
been previously quoted in English. When asked how it 
had happened that he lost the battle of Marienthal, he said, 
**Par ma/aute, inais quand un homme n'a pas fait desfautes 
a la guerre, il ne Fa pas fait langtempsy General Grant, 
afler he had made his headquarters with the Army of the 
Potomac, wrote Mr. Stanton, Secretary of War, " When I 
came here I thought General Sherman the greatest soldier 
of the army ; now that I have come to know Meade, I 
doubt/* It will later appear that General Grant by his 
action subsequently implied that he had changed this opin- 
ion, but this narrative will include facts such as prove that 
the ulterior motive of his not awarding to Meade, with Sher- 



i 



364 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

man, the highest military honors, was the sway of the un- 
controlled favoritism which was the weak point of his char- 
acter. 

The campaign, upon an account of which we are now 
entering, does not captivate the popular imagination, be- 
cause, with that, nothing succeeds but the most palpable 
success. Sheridan, riding up to the front after the restora- 
tion of the battle of Cedar Creek, and aiding in restoring 
what was already virtually restored, is fascinating to that 
sort of fancy which dearly loves a coup de tfieatre. Napo- 
leon seems glorious at Lodi, Areola, Austerlitz, Marengo, 
but who hears people generally speak of the time when, in 
1 8 14, he made head with a force of a hundred thousand 
men against the allies girdling the frontier, marching on 
Paris with four hundred thousand, when he turned, rending 
them, turning again only to rend ? He did not succeed, 
that is all, but went into exile, and so one of the greatest 
of his marvellous exploits suffers from partial oblivion. 
That campaign of manoeuvres from the Rapidan to Centre- 
ville and back again was what represented holding Lee in 
check while forces drawn from both armies were warring 
elsewhere ; and more than holding Lee in check, for, but for 
the lamentable failure of a subordinate general to fulfil his 
part in the advance of Meade at Mine Run, Lee would proba- 
bly have been there defeated. Meade, making head against 
Lee in this campaign, enabled Grant to put the final touch 
in the West to that "separate military renown," which he 
tells us in his memoirs he desired also as the guerdon of 
Sherman and Sheridan, but which he denied to Meade, at 
the expense of placing himself with the Army of the Po- 
tomac, where he himself admits that he should not have 
been, by acknowledging that his place as general-in-chief of 
the armies of the United States was in Washington. Gen- 
eral Meade's campaign of manoeuvres made the victory of 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER GETTYSBURG. 365 

Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge possible, made 
possible the advent of Grant to the general-in-chie&hip of 
the armies of the United States and the final successful ad- 
vance on Richmond. 

For a while, as mentioned towards the end of the last 
chapter, the Army of the Potomac and the Army of 
Northern Virginia lay in observation, confronting each 
other, the Army of the Potomac north of the Rappahan- 
nock, and the Army of Northern Virginia just south of it, 
within the fork made by the junction of the Rapidan with 
that river. The Army of the Potomac now suffered some 
depletion from the detail of a force to New York, to sup- 
press the riots there brought about by the drafl to recruit 
the armies, and by the expiration of the terms of service of 
certain regiments. Both armies lay harmlessly for some 
time within their respective lines, engaged in the operation 
of refitting and recuperation of an organization which no 
other equals in wear and tear. On the ist of August this 
quiet was somewhat broken by a cavalry expedition sent by 
General Meade across the Rappahannock on reconnoissance 
to Brandy Station, followed by some infantry in support 
On the 31st there was a little flurry in the advance of some 
infantry to the fords of the Rappahannock, preceded by 
cavalry on the lookout for gunboats reported to have en- 
tered the river. Gradually more serious operations were 
drawing nigh. On the 1 2th of September General Meade 
learned that Longstreet's corps, with the exception of the di- 
vision of Pickett, had been sent to oppose General Rosecrans, 
commanding the Army of the Cumberland, in the West. In 
consequence, the Second Corps of the Army of the Poto- 
mac, with the cavalry of the army, was pushed across the 
Rappahannock on the next day, and pursued the enemy 
over the Rapidan, not particularly loth to go, as Lee, with 
his diminished force, found there a stronger line. The 



366 GENERAL QEbBOE GORDON MEADK 

Army of the Potomac then, in turn, occupied the positions 
about Culpeper which the enemy had abandoned, advancing 
the Second and Sixth Corps to near the Orange and Alexan- 
dria Railroad crossing of the Rapidan. Meade, attempting 
to bring about an engagement, had sent his cavalry under 
Buford on a reconnoissance up the Rapidan, and was* about 
to follow the movement with a march by the right flank 
across the river when it was stopped by an order from 
Washington for the detachment of the Eleventh and Twelfth 
Corps for the reinforcement of General Rosecrans. This 
made any projected movement impossible, and placed the 
army again in a position of masterly inactivity. 

The sending away to the West of two whole corps of 
Meade's army necessarily paralyzed it for active operations. 
The period of waiting that ensued was, however, followed 
by the accession of reinforcements in the form of new levies, 
and finally by the return of some troops in the East. This 
tedious period in the life of an army at last began to look 
to the rudest soldier as if it must soon disappear. Just 
when General Meade was initiating a renewal of the coun- 
termanded march on the enemy by the right flank, a 
despatch of Lee's, read by Meade's signal-service, showed 
that the enemy himself was about to move. This sim- 
ple, but significant despatch directed Fitzhugh Lee to draw 
three days* rations of hard-tack and bacon. Three days' 
rations to a commander of cavalry could mean nothing less 
, than a considerable movement. The despatch thus inter- 
cepted on the 7th of October, in its passage through the 
air, of course placed General Meade on the alert. Nothing 
could be done, however, until the coming movement of the 
enemy should be more developed. He might contemplate 
making an attack on the army where it was posted near 
Culpeper, or interposing between it and Washington, or an 
advance through the Blue Ridge into the Shenandoah 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER 0ETTY8BUBG. 367 

Valley, or lastly, the abandonment of the line of the Rapi- 
dan by retirement on Richmond. 

On the 8th Confederate cavalry began to move around the 
Federal right. Far away to the right the main body of the 
Army of Northern Virginia crossed the Rapidan on the fol- 
lowing day, some force being left south of it for the purpose 
of concealing the movement. On the loth Stuart's cavalry 
attacked Meade's advanced posts at James City, and the 
First, Fifth, and Sixth Corps were ordered back from the 
Rapidan, where they had been advanced to cover the con- 
tingency that the enemy was retiring on Richmond ; and 
Lee's intentions being now in a measure revealed, the army 
was put in position at Culpeper, but not for long. Before 
daylight of the morning of the 1 2th the whole Federal 
army, with its trains in advance, was set in motion to cross 
the Rappahannock, and by the afternoon had crossed and 
taken position there. Lee approached Culpeper on the nth 
at a distance of between five and ten miles, only to find that 
Meade had anticipated his intention of flanking him, and 
that the Army of the Potomac was so far advanced towards 
the Rappahannock that he could do nothing but halt his 
infantry and despatch Stuart to harass the rear of the retir- 
ing columns, covered by Pleasanton and Sykes as a rear- 
guard. The next day, the 12th, he advanced towards 
Warrenton. Having failed at his first attempt to outflank 
Meade, he determined to make a new one by taking the 
direction of Warrenton, and trying again to intercept him. 
So far only cavalry engagements accompanying the move- 
ments had taken place. 

Now entered one of those incidents which so influence 
the events of war. Buford had been ordered, when, the in- 
tentions of the enemy being unknown, they were thought 
possibly to be to abandon the line of the Rapidan and &11 
back upon Richmond, to make a reconnoissance on the 



368 GENERAL GEOEOE GORDON MEADE. 

Rapidan, had crossed it on the lOth, at Germanna Ford, 
and had moved thence to Morton's Ford. At the latter 
ford he had found Fitzhugh Lee with cavalry supported by 
infantry, and had had an encounter with him there, and 
later on with him at Stevensburg, finally joining Pleasanton 
at Brandy Station, where they together, on the loth, met 
Stuart. It was the ascertained fact of the presence of infantry 
with Fitzhugh Lee on the Rapidan that now turned plans 
all awry. The commanders of the rearguard of the Army 
of the Potomac became possessed with the idea that the 
infantry of the Army of Northern Virginia was at Culpeper, 
whereas, in point of &ct, Lee had on the 1 2th left Culpeper. 
Meade was, through circumstances which he could not 
control, largely in the dark as to the position of Lee's 
forces. Gregg, who had been sent with his cavalry to 
watch the roads leading to Warrenton and those leading to 
the gaps of the Blue Ridge, had been prevented from com- 
municating with him by the interposition of the enemy's 
cavalry. Sykes, commanding the infantry of the rear- 
guard, and Pleasanton, commanding its cavalry, were firmly 
fixed in the idea that the main body of the enemy was at 
Culpeper. Meade, who was desirous of giving Lee battle, 
although not upon the terms of seeking him when he might 
be really marching elsewhere, brought the movement toward 
Warrenton to a stop, and sent the Second, Fiflh, and Sixth 
Corps, with Buford's cavalry, back towards Culpeper to bring 
on an engagement. Herein lies the error to which allusion 
was made in the first part of this chapter. It was not abso- 
lutely certain that Lee's army was at Culpeper. Buford's 
discovery did not warrant that explicit belief. Under these 
circumstances the proper course to take would have been 
to let the army remain where it was for a few hours, until 
positive knowledge could be obtained of Lee's disposi- 
tions. If Lee's army proved to be at Culpeper, a few 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER QETTY8BURQ, 369 

hours would have made no diflference in advancing on it, 
for he would not have come there to retreat But the con- 
fidence of the generals of his rearguard was so great as to 
Lee's being near Culpeper, that General Meade was led to 
countermarch the Second, Fifth, and Sixth Corps, with 
Buford's cavalry, towards Brandy Station, with the result 
of ascertaining positively that Lee was not at Culpeper. 

At ten o'clock in the night of the 12th a despatch arrived 
from Gregg, that Lee's army was crossing the Rappahan- 
nock at Sulphur Springs and Waterloo. The pickets of 
the Third Corps, which had remained with the First on the 
Rappahannock, began to be driven in, and the whole army, 
that part which had remained in position, and that which 
had been countermarched, began a race with Lee's army 
for the goal of Centreville Heights. Humphreys, chief of 
Meade's staff, says, in his " Gettysburg to the Rapidan," 
that on the evening of the 13th, when the Army of the 
Potomac was once more concentrated, the question of what 
should next be done was the subject of long examination 
and discussion between them. As we know now, neither 
Meade nor Lee knew exactly the position of the other. 
They were both striving to pursue the same general line 
towards Centreville Heights, in a territory about seven 
miles wide, bounded on the west side by the Warrenton 
Turnpike, and on the east by the Orange and Alexandria 
Railroad. The plan of halting on Broad Run, near Milford, 
was discussed by General Meade and his chief-of-staff, but 
discarded. Humphreys says in a note, in " Gettysburg to 
the Rapidan," that it would have been fortunate for Meade 
if he had adopted it, that both leaders would then have had 
what they sought, — a general engagement. It may, as 
matters turned out, be regarded as unfortunate that this did 
not happen, but from all the data then in his possession. 

General Meade decided upon what was the wiser course. 

24 




370 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

The relative positions of the armies in this race for the 
possession of Centreville Heights led incidentally to the 
battle of Bristoe Station, an action so brilliant on the part 
of the Second Corps, under the leadership of Warren, who 
now commanded it in the absence of Hancock, gravely 
wounded at Gettysburg, that it has elicited even the out- 
spoken admiration of the officers who were engaged in it 
on the other side. Humphreys says that, had General 
Meade known the position of Lee's infantry on the night 
of the 1 3th, and been correctly informed before midday of 
the 14th, of the character of Hill's movements, he could 
have assembled the army near Bristoe Station, and have 
attacked Hill before Ewell arrived there. In other words, 
instead of being encountered only by the Second Corps 
as a rearguard. Hill's corps would have been met there 
by the whole concentrated Army of the Potomac. All 
this, however, being totally unknown to Meade in the 
night of the 1 3th, when he was discussing with his chief-of- 
staff the various aspects of the situation, the conclusion 
reached was the right one as derived from the premises of 
then existing knowledge. On his side Lee also was acting 
under a false impression of the dispositions of the army of 
Meade. 

The forces of General Meade were retiring towards 
Centreville Heights in the order of the First, Sixth, Third, 
Fifth, and Second Corps, although not by exactly the same 
routes. The Second Corps was therefore the rearguard. 
On the morning of the 14th of October, the Third, Fifth, 
and Second were moving along the Orange and Alexandria 
Railroad. Their order of march is particularized because, 
in being noted by the reader, it will make clear what is to 
follow. Before, however, we reach the morning of the 
14th, it is necessary to mention the general situation of the 
evening before, leading to the complications of the following 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER OETTYSBUBG. 371 

day. When the weary troops of the rearguard bivouacked 
on the night of the 1 3th, it was with no suspicion that, to 
meet the conditions existing, more was required that night 
than the usual pickets, or the next morning, more than the 
usual flankers. Yet the situation was different, and almost 
unprecedented, for Stuart had been hemmed in by inter- 
posing columns of marching and now reposing infantry, 
and lay all night with his cavalry in the woods, without a 
bivouac fire, and awaiting anxiously the dawn, but mean- 
while sending a message to Ewell describing his situation ; 
and so he passed the long, anxious night, uncertain what 
the morrow would bring forth. 

We are in imagination retiring northeast with General 
Meade towards Centreville, the Orange and Alexandria 
Railroad running in that general direction at this point, 
and are with the rearguard, the Second Corps. The road 
which it had pursued towards Cedar Run from Warrenton 
Junction brought it to the place where it bivouacked on the 
night of the 1 3th, nearly at that stream. At dawn, on the 
morning of the 14th, all the troops were astir to cross 
Cedar Run at the ford a short distance ahead, which had 
been impracticable the evening before from occupation of 
the crossing by the Third Corps. The route which the 
Third Corps had taken after crossing the stream lay in the 
same general direction as that which the Corps had been 
pursuing, but the one which the Second Corps was to take 
to the right, to reach the railroad at Catlett's Station, was at 
right-angles to it from their common point of departure. 
As the Second Corps crossed Cedar Run, it threw Cald- 
well's division ahead to the left on the road which the Third 
Corps had pursued, which division occupied a bare ridge 
on the right of the road, to guard against the possible ad- 
vent of the enemy in that direction, which was the rear with 
reference to the now divergent line of march of the Second 




372 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADK 

Corps, while Hays's division turned sharply towards the 
right, on the right-angular extension of the road towards 
Catlett's Station. 

The troops, safely across Cedar Run, began to prepare 
breakfast, when suddenly Caldwell, to the new rear, was as- 
sailed with a shower of shells from the direction of Catlett's 
Station, the very road by which he was to march towards the 
railroad. This was Stuart's artillery, brought to bear upon 
the division of Caldwell, perfectly secure in its own estima- 
tion in occupying the strong position held towards the new 
rear, and, to cap the climax, Stuart's guns became the signal 
for Ewell to press forward with his infantry simultaneously 
on that point. But, just as Caldwell had been perfectly una- 
ware that Stuart's or any other hostile force could be occupy- 
ing ground towards Catlett's Station, so Stuart was unaware, 
as he soon learned to his cost, of the fact that Hays's or 
any other Federal division was between him and Caldwell. 
Hays formed and pushed forward his line of battle, flanked 
by cavalry, towards Catlett's Station, and Stuart was soon 
in full retreat, after having thus fallen through accident into 
one of the most dangerous of situations, and having extri- 
cated himself from it by a rare combination of caution and 
audacity. In the other direction, Caldwell, acting as rear- 
guard, held Ewell at bay, while the rest of the Second 
Corps pushed on for Catlett's Station, Ewell finally releas- 
ing Caldwell by continuing his march towards Greenwich 
on the same road that the Third Corps had taken on the 
previous evening. 

No incident of the war contains so many strange elements 
as those combined in the night preceding the battle of Bris- 
toe Station ; the corps of the two contending armies en- 
shrouded in darkness, ignorant of their relative positions, 
reposing near each other while awaiting another struggle 
for mastery ; the adventurous cavalry-leader, Stuart, lying 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER GETTTSBUBG. 3/3 

perdu in the woods beyond overlapping in&ntry ; the com- 
mander of the Federal forces near by in slumber recupera- 
tive of his fatigues. The conflict of the early morning caps 
the climax, when Stuart suddenly appears in a position 
which, although single, was both front or rear ; front, if 
considered with reference to the temporary line of march 
of the Second Corps, rear, if considered with reference to 
the general direction towards Centreville ; while Ewell 
presses on from the direction which was either front or rear, 
depending upon the same considerations. The day will 
come when, in the lapse of time, " the light which never 
shone on land or sea " will illumine this episode and pas- 
sage of arms with all the charm that perspective lends to 
historical romance. 

Without a map, or puzzling over the matter, the reader 
cannot possibly see, without some explanation, how the Sec- 
ond Corps could be retiring on Centreville and yet be march- 
ing towards Catlett's Station, in a direction at right-angles 
to the direct line of march northward of the Third Corps. 
The explanation of the fact is, however, simple. The vari- 
ous corps pursued, as is usual, different routes, in order to 
avoid encumbering a single one, and to effect proper dispo- 
sitions with reference to the possible movements of the 
enemy. The road which the Third Corps had pursued was 
towards Centreville, by the way of the detour of Greenwich, 
and the somewhat opposite direction of it, which the Sec- 
ond Corps pursued, is at right-angles with reference to it 
only until Catlett's Station, on the Orange and Alexandria 
Railroad, is reached, when the line of the railroad itself, 
which from that point was to be followed by the Corps, runs 
almost directly towards Centreville. Thus it came to pass 
that, when the enemy, under Ewell, attacked the Second 
Corps as it was about, for a short distance, to take the sharp 
turn to the right to Catlett's Station, Ewell's iniantry may 



374 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE. 

be said to have been in its rear, and Stuart's cavalry on its 
front, as previously stated. But, with relation to the whole 
field of retirement of the army from the Rappahannock to 
Centreville, the hostile forces were partially on each other's 
flanks, perforce of the fact that the Army of the Potomac 
was striving to reach Centreville, and Lee, acting from the 
rear, was endeavoring to interrupt the march of its last 
two or three corps. So placed, with the advance of Lee 
projecting somewhat beyond the rear of Meade, and with 
converging roads, collision between the forces became in- 
evitable along the general line of retirement of the Army 
of the Potomac from the Rappahannock towards Centre- 
ville. When the Second Corps had reached Catlett's Sta- 
tion, it headed directly along the railroad, going northeast, 
towards Centreville, the Fifth Corps having &llen in ahead 
of it, and the Third Corps ahead of that, the order, result- 
ing from the different routes taken, making, as before, the 
Second Corps the rearguard. 

The Second Corps, having reached Catlett's Station, turned, 
as indicated, sharply to its left along the line of the railroad 
running northeast. While on the road from the point where 
it had diverged from the direction taken on the preceding 
night by the Third Corps, Warren received from Hum- 
phreys, General Meade's chief-of-staff, information that he 
might be attacked by the enemy at Bristoe Station, a few 
miles in advance, who might direct a column from Gaines- 
ville, on the left, to that point. The same despatch informed 
him that Sykes, commanding the Fifth Corps, the next in 
advance, would remain at Bristoe Station until he had ar- 
rived there. The dispositions towards the rear of the Army 
of the Potomac and those of the advance of the Army of 
Northern Virginia may be easily imagined as slightly over- 
lapping each other. The Third, Fifth, and Second Corps, 
in the order mentioned, were heading northeast on the line 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER QETTYSBURQ. 3/5 

of railroad. The Third Corps was not to advance further 
towards Centreville until the heads of column of the Fifth 
Corps were arriving, and, in turn, the Fifth Corps was not 
to follow its march until it saw the heads of column of the 
Second Corps arriving. Thus the three corps towards the 
rear of the Army of the Potomac were by orders to remain 
within supporting distance of each other. Ewell's corps, 
of the Army of Northern Virginia, had, as we have seen, 
converged on the rearguard of the Second Corps before it 
had turned off to the right for Catlett's Station, and that 
corps had now resumed its direct march towards Bristoe 
Station.. Hill's corps will previously converge from the left 
on Bristoe Station. 

The troops of Warren were fatigued. They had under- 
gone unusual stress from constant marching and the recent 
encounter, which had looked at first as if they were sur- 
rounded. They were plodding wearily along towards Bris- 
toe Station, and had nearly arrived there when a heavy dis- 
charge of artillery was heard ahead, for which fact there was 
no other apparent solution than that the Fifth Corps was en- 
gaged with the enemy. The men started on the best resem- 
blance to the double-quick that they could muster, as Warren 
put spurs to his horse, and, followed by his staff, dashed ahead 
towards Bristoe Station. Crossing Kettle Run, a branch 
of Broad Run, running close beside it on the south, Warren 
found himself in the open, and took in at a glance the main 
facts of the field, that the enemy had been firing at the re- 
tiring columns of the FifUi Corps, probably under the im- 
pression that it was the rearguard, and that he had to 
rectify promptly dispositions of his own troops which had 
been made. Sykes seems to have become so possessed 
with the idea that he must hasten forward at all hazards 
towards Centreville as to have been oblivious of the neces- 
sity imposed upon him by orders to wait for the arrival of 



3/6 GENERAL GEOBOE GORDON MEADE. 

the Second Corps. He was a sturdy, but not particularly 
bright officer, and what took place happened just because 
he had that peculiar persistency which is at the mercy of a 
single thought. 

Webb's division, of the Second Corps, is marching along 
the left of the railroad, and Hays's division on the right. 
Webb, approaching the enemy posted near Bristoe Station, 
whose attention was directed towards the Fifth Corps, 
crosses to the right of the railroad. The enemy now 
concentrates his whole attention on the heads of column 
of the arriving Second Corps. Before Warren reached 
the advanced troops. Colonel Morgan, inspector-general 
of the corps, had begun to make disposition of them on 
the ridge back of the railroad. Warren saw and recti- 
fied the mistake that had been made in the relinquish- 
ment to the enemy of the earthwork formed by the 
line of railroad in cut and embankment. Instantly the 
whole force was ordered forward and rapidly took position 
while the enemy was advancing to capture the same line. 
In between Broad Run and Kettle Run, behind the railroad 
embankment, and in the shallow cut, the troops rapidly 
formed from right to left as they arrived on the ground, 
the action not delayed a moment for the arrival of those 
still pressing onward from the rear. The final dispositions 
of the Second Corps were the divisions of Webb, Hays, 
and Caldwell, from right to left. Back of the right were 
Ricketts's guns on the ridge. Back of the centre were 
Arnold's guns. Miles's brigade was stationed in support 
between the batteries. Gregg's cavalry, which had been 
actively engaged during the day in skirmishing with Ewell's 
advance, was off to the left. Hill's corps, on the other side 
of the railroad, confronted the Second Corps, outnumber- 
ing it more than two to one. Anderson's division was on 
the right, and Heth's division on the left, while Wilcox's 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER QETTYSBVRQ. m 

division was in reserve in the rear. Ewell had given the 
right of way to Hill, but there was no saying how soon he 
might not be marching on to the field of battle through 
the more difficult track of by-roads which he had taken. 
The suddenness with which the Second Corps captured 
the railroad saved the day. It was all as sudden as if 
the combatants had dropped from the skies. General 
Francis A. Walker, then assistant-adjutant-general of the 
Corps, who was present, gives a graphic description of 
the early part of the battle. He says, "Already they 
[the enemy] have reached Dodd*s house, near the track, 
without halting or breaking, and still they come on. 
Warren, Webb, and Hays, with their staffs, among whom 
are conspicuous Mitchell, Bingham, and Haskell, gallop up 
and down along the track, encouraging the men with cheers 
mingled with imprecations, — which, let us hope, the troops 
hear, and the recording angel judiciously does not." 

Urgent despatches were sent after Sykes, now too far away 
to be of any assistance by countermarching, unless to assist 
in bringing off the Second Corps in case it should meet with 
disaster. Measuring his military tact by a line or two of a 
despatch of his to Warren, saying that if Lee's army were on 
his left, two corps would be but little better than one, we can 
readily understand that it was only superior orders that finally 
countermarched him. We may believe that, even if he had 
learned (and saying, as he did, that he did not, we may 
rely upon it that he did not hear the sound of cannonad- 
ing) that Warren was attacked, he would not have returned 
of his own motion. The action in which Warren was en- 
gaged was severe. The Second Corps, with two of its 
brigades absent, numbered only eight thousand men. The 
losses of the Confederates were heavy, however, compared 
with those of the Second Corps. As evening was approach- 
ing the advance of Ewell began to enter the action on the 



3/8 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADK 

left. Night, however, came on without Lee's uniting corps 
making any concerted attack. Under cover of the dark- 
ness the Second Corps, enjoined to the most scrupulous 
silence in its movements, quietly resumed the line of its 
march, and crossing Broad Run, moved forward towards 
Centreville. It had covered itself with glory, and its com- 
mander had won a national reputation. 

It now became evident that Lee relinquished the ope- 
ration which had resulted in the battle of Bristoe Station, 
giving up all hope of reaching Centreville before the arrival 
of the Army of the Potomac there. He virtually stopped 
his advance at Bristoe Station, sending merely heavy de- 
tachments as far as Bull Run, behind which Centreville, as 
regarded from the south, is situated. What Lee had at- 
tempted had been anticipated and amply provided against 
by the orders of General Meade, but his orders had not 
been carried out. Their intent had been defeated by the 
kind of thing against which even the gods contend in vain. 
General Meade was undoubtedly, from the first, aiming to 
occupy the heights at Centreville. Humphreys says that 
he had reluctantly come to that conclusion. If, however, 
Sykes had not moved forward when he inopportunely so 
did, thereby causing the Third Corps, ahead of him, to 
move forward, both corps, returning immediately to Bristoe 
Station, would have been followed by General Meade's 
orders to the First and Sixth Corps also to countermarch. 
This is stated by the remark of Humphreys, speaking of the 
action at Bristoe Station, in his " Gettysburg to the Rapi- 
dan." " As soon," he says, " as General Meade received 
intelligence of the enemy's appearance at Bristoe, and that 
the Fifth and Third Corps were not in connection with the 
Second, those corps were ordered back to its support. It 
was too late, however, to concentrate the whole army there 
in time for a general engagement" 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER 0ETT7SBUB0. 379 

General Humphreys thinks that there was an error com- 
mitted antecedently to the countermarch towards Culpeper, 
for he says, in his " Gettysburg to the Rapidan/' that "the 
Army of the Potomac should have remained quiet, or have 
been concentrated at or near its central point, Culpeper 
Court House, except such parts of it as were necessary to 
make the enemy show his hand." But, apparently, the 
enemy had shown his hand. That upon which General 
Meade must have based his action seems conclusive. He 
had not heard from his cavalry on the Rappahannock on 
his right rear. He knew that no movement was taking 
place on his left. He had also ascertained that the move- 
ment going on was not towards Richmond. This, in sum, 
seems positively determinative of the question whether or 
not Lee's movement was on his right flank. These bases 
seem all-suffident to determine the action which General 
Meade took. The confirmation of the justness of his de- 
cision lies in the fact that Lee appeared near Culpeper only 
a few hours after the Army of the Potomac had retired to 
the Rappahannock. Had Meade lingered at Culpeper for 
final developments, Lee would to a certainty have secured 
the advance. Therefore it would appear from evidence 
both before and after the event, that General Meade's re- 
tirement was timely, and that it did not constitute an error 
antecedent to that made when, after having secured the 
advance to the Rappahannock, General Meade made a par- 
tial countermarch, under the belief that the commanders of 
his rearguard of cavalry and infantry could not well be 
mistaken in thinking that the main body of the enemy was 
near Culpeper. 

We must now pass cursorily over the operations which 
took place between the time when the Army of the Poto- 
mac reached the Heights of Centreville and General Lee 
relinquished his attempt to outflank it, and the time when, 



38o GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADK 

on the banks of the Rappahannock, the next serious en- 
gagement occurred. On the 15th of October the army 
rested in quiet, but for some skirmishing along Bull Run 
with the advance of Lee. The main body of his troops re- 
mained in the rear in accordance with the enforced change 
in his plans. On the following day a heavy rain set in, Bull 
Run booming with such a high stage of water that its fords 
became impracticable. On the 19th the army began its 
return march southward in columns directed to GainesvUle 
on the right and Bristoe Station on the left. During this 
period cavalry combats ensued, in which the enemy ob- 
tained the advantage, his cavalry being twice as numerous 
as that possessed by the Federal army. In a combat that 
took place near Buckland Mills, where Broad Run crosses 
the Warrenton Turnpike, the enemy facetiously termed the 
finale of the encounter the Buckland Races. Lee while 
retreating availed himself of the opportunity in passing over 
the ground to destroy the Orange and Alexandria Railroad 
from Bristoe to Rappahannock Station on the Rappahan- 
nock. 

Continuing to advance, General Meade, on the 2ist of 
October, came into position athwart the country from the 
vicinity of Warrenton, on his right, across the railroad, on 
his left. From this position he proposed to Halleck to 
make a rapid march by the left flank, occupy the Heights 
of Fredericksburg, thereby seize a short line of communica- 
tion with his new base, and necessarily cause the falling back 
of Lee. As Lee was entirely off his guard at the time, not 
for a moment imagining that the Army of the Potomac 
would, late in the season, adopt measures so vigorous, and 
as the movement could hardly have failed of success, in view 
of the fact of Lee's position being in the fork of the Ra[^- 
hannock and Rapidan, Halleck of course disapproved of the 
movement. Compelled to adopt some other plan of ad- 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER QETTT8BURQ. 381 

vance, General Meade, on the 7th of November, moved 
towards the Rappahannock, and an engagement ensued in 
which General Lee was taken completely by surprise, and 
defeated with considerable loss in killed, wounded, and pris- 
oners. Lee was on the south side of the Rappahannock, 
Meade on the north side. Lee's army was disposed with 
Ewell's corps on the right and Hill's on the left, crossing 
the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Just above the rail- 
road bridge at Rappahannock Station he had a pontoon- 
bridge across the river, protected on the south side of the 
river by lines of earthworks, and on the north side of it by 
a titf de pont with defensive wings running along the ridge 
and lower bank of the river. He was thus what is mili- 
tarily called h cheval across the river, that is, astride of it, 
in a position threatening any attempt by Meade to divide 
his forces for a flank attack by a march either to the right or 
left. The Army of the Potomac, constituted as two col- 
umns, one composed of the First, Second, and Third Corps, 
under General French, and the other of the Fifth and Sixth 
Corps, under General Sedgwick, was encamped in the 
vicinity of Warrenton. Both columns marched at daylight 
of the 7th of October down the Rappahannock, Sedgwick 
to Rappahannock Station and French to Kelly's Ford, five 
miles below. General Meade had ordered Sedgwick to 
come into position opposite the enemy's works protecting the 
pontoon-bridge near Rappahannock Station, capture them, 
and then cross the pontoon-bridge and capture those on the 
south side of the river, and thence advance on Brandy Sta- 
tion in concert with General French ; while General French 
had been ordered to pass over Kelly's Ford, capture the 
enemy's works opposite, assist the direct advance of Sedg- 
wick across the river by pushing for the enemy's rear, and 
then, when the whole preliminary movement had been suc- 
cessful, advance with Sedgwick upoa Brandy Station. The 



382 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADR 

cavalry was to cross the Rap^xthannock beyond both flanks 
of the Confederate army. 

French's column arrived at Kelly's Ford about the same 
time that Sedgwick's arrived at Rappahannock Station, 
about noon, and he threw a brigade across the river before 
the enemy, who had been quite taken by surprise, could 
offer very serious resistance, captured some earthworks, 
pushed the other troops rapidly across, began building a 
pontoon-bridge, and cai!tie into position. Lee, on his side, 
reinforced there Johnson's division of Ewell's corps with 
Rodes's division, and night fell with the opposing forces 
drawn up against each other, Johnson and Rodes forming 
a line resting with its left on the Rappahannock, and with 
its right on a stream called Mountain Creek. This Mount- 
ain Creek, sometimes called Mountain Run, an east and 
west branch of the Rappahannock on its west side, must not 
be confounded with the Mountain Run which is a southern 
branch of the Rapidan. Lee was perfectly certain at this 
time that Meade's movement would prove an entire failure. 
The task that Sedgwick confronted in an attempt to capture 
the tiu de pant and lines of related works and a pontoon- 
bridge stretching to the south side of the Rappahannock, 
by which reinforcements to the enemy could come, was 
naturally not so easy as that assigned to French. The 
skirmishing and feeling the enemy's position was accom- 
plished rapidly, and the Sixth Corps, on the right, and the 
Fifth, on the left, closed in on the works and pounded away 
at them with artillery until dark, without making any sensible 
impression upon them. Lee, meanwhile, had drawn troops 
from his centre nearer to the south bank of the river. Ander- 
son's division advanced to it, and Early's was brought close 
to the pontoon-bridge, while Hoke's brigade was detached 
from it and despatched across the bridge to reinforce the 
troops under Hays in the ttte de pont and entrenchments. 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER OETTYSBUBO. 383 

Lee felt just as certain of holding his own here as in the 
position opposite Kelly's Ford, for here as well as there 
night fell and no definite result had been reached by Meade. 
Nevertheless, the conclusion was delusive, for then ensued a 
coup de fftain which has not its superior in the history of 
the war. 

It was after dusk, but from right and left the artillery-fire 
of Sedgwick poured scathingly by well-known ranges into 
the enemy's works, while amidst the dimness of the fitful 
illumination General Russell, in temporary command of the 
First Division of the Sixth Corps, conducted the assault 
with the Second and Third Brigades led by Colonels Upton 
and Ellmaker. The works, defended by as many men as 
those who assaulted, were carried, with the loss to the 
enemy of artillery, small-arms, many killed and wounded, 
and numerous prisoners. The enemy had been so com- 
pletely taken by surprise that at first those on the other 
side of the river could not credit the statement of the event. 
Holding the southern end of the bridge in force, they soon 
learned the whole truth of the disaster; that Hoke's brigade, 
commanded that day by Colonel Godwin, had been cut off, 
that Colonel Ellmaker was in possession of the northern 
end of the bridge, and that the few who had escaped over 
it represented all that would be recovered of the force which 
had defended the northern bank of the river. The bridge was 
immediately fired by the Confederates, and so consumed as to 
prevent any attempt on the part of General Meade to cross 
the river at that point. This serious encounter caused Gene- 
ral Lee to loosen his hold on the Rappahannock. Instead 
of attempting to push French back from the lodgment which 
he had made on his right, and running the risk of Sedgwick's 
speedy reinforcement of the column there, when he would 
have been obliged to fight a pitched battle, Lee began his 
retreat during the night to a position near the mouth of 



384 GENERAL GEOBQE GORDON MEADE. 

Mountain Creek, but afterwards continued it to the en- 
trenchments which he had previously occupied along the 
southern bank of the Rapidan. 

The following morning, the 8th of October, opened with 
so dense a fog that Sedgwick could not at first discover 
whether or not the enemy was still in position opposite to 
him on the south bank of the Rappahannock. A column 
to the left moved up from Kelly's Ford, five miles below, 
on the opposite side of the Rappahannock, to clear Sedg- 
wick's front by holding the southern bank of the river 
while he was engaged in constructing a pontoon-bridge 
across it. The Fifth Corps moved before daylight and 
crossed at Kelly's Ford, leaving only the Sixth Corps in 
position at Rappahannock Station, on the north side of 
the river. The railroad bridge there being destroyed, a 
pontoon-bridge had to be laid to supply its absence. The 
pontoon-bridge was finished by the time that the sun had 
in the early morning dispersed the fog that had lain densely 
over the river-bottom. The Federal army, now released, 
swept forward towards Brandy Station, and took up a posi- 
tion from Willford's Creek, on Hazel River, to the right, 
to Kelly's Ford, on the Rappahannock, to the left, Lee 
lying perdu opposite to it behind the woods and hills south 
of the Rapidan. Thus the two armies found themselves 
once again in substantially the same positions which they 
had occupied at the beginning of their late active campaign, 
in the fruits of which the Confederates had nothing to equal 
in comparison with the brilliant affairs of Bristoe and Rappa- 
hannock Stations, and the increased prestige of the Federal 
commander and his army. 

During the time when the region between Centreville 
and the Rappahannock had been reoccupied by General 
Meade, the repairing of the railroad destroyed by the enemy 
had been pushed forward vigorously, and had now reached 



. t 



I- 

1" 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER GETTYSBURG, 385 

completion, thus making the army in its present position 
secure as to its supplies. The supervening condition of 
security and ease by no means, however, satisfied the ever- 
active and enterprising mind of General Meade, always 
anxious, if the balance inclined to chance of success, to take 
the initiative, but constantly hampered by the sluggish 
Halleck, whose military views and plans would have best 
fitted in with the years of Methuselah and an unmilitary 
people of some bygone age. The plan of action which 
General Meade now adopted, known as the Mine Run 
Campaign, had in it all possible elements of success. Had 
not one of the instruments with which it was to be carried 
out proved wholly unequal to the enterprise, it would in 
all human probability have succeeded. It is true that the 
plan could not have involved, as intended, a surprise, for it 
was not easy to surprise Lee. It was, however, sufHciently 
of the nature of a surprise to make it impossible that Lee 
could concentrate to advantage ; that is to say, the plan, if 
it had been executed in accordance with design, involved a 
severe blow which, despite Lee's seeing it to be inevitable, 
it would have been impossible completely to ward oflT. 

The army of Lee lay seemingly secure in its position 
south of the Rapidan, from a little beyond Bamett's Ford, 
on his left, to a little beyond Morton's Ford, on his right, a 
stretch of some eighteen miles. Above and below his con- 
tinuous entrenchments along the Rapidan, conmianding the 
fords there, other fords were well watched by his cavalry. 
From Bamett's Ford above, to Morton's Ford below, the 
Rapidan runs, with but slight windings in its course, about 
northeast, and for some distance below Morton's Ford a 
little south of east, its course thus making at the latter 
point an obtuse angle looking north. On its course below 
Morton's Ford, about five miles below the Ford, the Rapi- 
dan is entered from the south by two small affluents having 

25 



386 GENERAL OEORQE QOBDON MEADK 

their mouths close together. The westernmost one, called 
Mountain Run, runs nearly parallel with the trend of the 
Rapidan from Morton's Ford to Bamett's Ford. The east- 
ernmost one, called Mine Run, running ofT nearly at right- 
angles to the Rapidan, forks about three miles from its 
mouth, the eastern, main stream constituting Mine Run pro- 
per, and its western branch. Black Walnut Run. Availing 
himself of this conformation of country, Lee had made his 
lines run, as indicated, from above Bamett*s Ford to below 
Morton's Ford, and they thus swept across Mountain Run, 
whence they flexed abruptly so as to pass for ^ome distance 
along the west side of Mine Run, trending there south. 
When active operations began, this latter line did not extend 
much, if at all, beyond Bartlett's Mill on Mine Run, but, as 
will be seen, it was rapidly* increased towards the south as 
emergency arose. About four miles below Bamett's Ford 
the Orange and Alexandria Railroad crosses the Rapidan, 
and about four miles below that point is Robertson's Ford, 
five miles above Raccoon Ford, which, in turn, is three miles 
above Morton's Ford. 

In the relative positions of the Army of the Potomac and 
the Army of Northern Virginia Lee's left flank was twice 
as far away as his right flank was from the centre of the 
Army of the Potomac. Therefore, although he was stronger 
on his right than on his left, his right, not being absolutely 
impregnable, gave the best opening for attack, making it not 
only probable but certain, that the attack would be success- 
ful if orders were duly obeyed. The conditions being those 
already described, involving the impossibility of Lee's rein- 
forcing his right with his left within the time requisite for 
the Army of the Potomac to assail his right, success for the 
latter army was certain, if its movements were executed in 
a demonstrably practicable interval of time. The Army of 
the Potomac failed, however, to secure the advantage in time 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER QETTYSBUBO. 387 

which it had with reason counted upon, but not through 
remissness on the part of its chief. Greater pains were 
never taken by any general to ensure the success of a 
movement, through having his subordinates equal to their 
appointed tasks. But, alas, men can no more rise above 
their level than can water above its level ; every existing 
thing has its appointed range ! As of old, so now, so for 
all time must endure the law that no one by taking thought 
can add one cubit to his stature, whence certainly no one 
else can add to it. We have it on the indisputable authority 
of General Humphreys, chief-of-staff, that General Meade 
had all the corps-commanders summoned to his headquar- 
ters, where, with maps distributed, each received his orders 
for the contemplated march, and he even adds that General 
French received explicit instructions that, when he reached 
on the line of his advance a house known as Morris's, where 
there is a fork in the road, he was to take the left-hand 
turning. This it is well to say incidentally, leaving what 
remains to add to the time when we in imagination shall 
reach the same fork in the road. Whatever General 
Humphreys says is as conclusive as to fact as anything can 
humanly be. His was a mind conspicuously gifted with just 
perception, in the luminous play of whose facets one scarcely 
ever fails to find the pure gleam of central truth as it might 
be viewed from various standpoints. 

Hiirs corps occupied Lee's entrenchments from Bamett's 
Ford to Robertson's Ford, below the railroad, and Ewell's 
corps, then under Early, from Robertson's Ford to Morton's 
Ford and beyond, and thence across the country, as pre- 
viously described, as far as Bartlett's Mill. General Meade's 
plan of operations as finally adopted, after slight variations, 
was to advance as follows : The Third, followed by the 
Sixth Corps, was to cross the Rapidan at Jacobs' Ford, 
about five miles below Morton's Ford, and push ahead to 



388 OEinSRAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE, 

Robertson's Tavern, a place called by the Confederates 
Locust Grove. This was General French's column, and, as 
already mentioned, he had been instructed to take the left- 
hand fork of the road upon reaching Morris's house. The 
object of these instructions was to avoid the danger which 
he would incur, through taking the right-hand fork, of 
being struck in flank while marching, and of being thus 
prevented from reaching Robertson's Tavern in time. The 
First and Fifth Corps were to cross the Rapidan at Culpeper 
Mine Ford, five miles below Jacobs' Ford, and march thence 
to Parker's store, which would bring them on to the ground 
four miles east of Robertson's store, within easy march of 
that place. The Second Corps was to cross the Rapidan by 
itself at Germanna Ford, a ford between Jacobs' and Cul- 
peper Mine Fords. The cavalry in part guarded the trains 
and the fords, and in part covered the left flank of the ad- 
vance. 

The march began early on the morning of the 26th of 
November. Lee soon learned of it from his signal-stations 
and from his cavalry, but nothing could have frustrated the 
initiative of the Army of the Potomac but the ensuing delay 
of General French. Some loss of time was incurred through 
the inexcusable fact that pontoons were deficient in number, 
the recurrence of which, or entire absence of them, during 
the war was one of its constant surprises. Difliculdes were 
also encountered in the ascent by artillery of the high and 
steep banks south of the Rapidan. Other difliculties were 
met as they arose, war being the science of overcoming dif- 
ficulties existent and suddenly brought into existence ; but 
all those mentioned may be incidental to any campaig^ning. 
The one which French introduced is incidental only to an 
incapacity marvellous in a corps-commander, so gross that 
it led to his being relieved from duty with the army. 
All other obstacles were surmounted, but this was insuper- 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER OETTYSBUBO. 389 

able. It led to the loss of a great success for the Federal 
arms. 

The minor obstacles to progress in the march brought it 
about that, when night fell, none of the troops had reached 
the place of rendezvous. The next morning, the 27th, the 
movement was resumed with every prospect still favorable. 
It had been intended and so ordered that the First, Second, 
Third, Fifth, and Sixth Corps, the army, in short, in order 
duly announced, should close up on New Verdiersville and 
Old Verdiersville, cavalry moving in advance. The Third 
and Sixth Corps, however, remained stationary, and the whole 
army was brought to a stand, so &r as its initiative was con- 
cerned, as completely as though it had been stuck in the mud« 
Meanwhile Lee's troops, off on his left, miles away, were 
availing themselves of the opportunity to present themselves 
in force along the threatened line of Mine Run. Lee, with 
his usual vigilance, had been on the alert, and now, with 
his usual promptitude and determination, was about to 
attack. 

At ten o'clock in the morning, near Robertson's Tavern, 
the first collision between the two hostile forces took place. 
The head of the Second Corps, under General Warren, met 
the head of Ewell's corps. The enemy were so well per- 
suaded of the relatively greater strength of the Federal po- 
sition that, after the first encounter, he awaited reinforce- 
ments. But, as it happened, the reinforcements expected 
had been met and brought to a halt by the unexpected 
firing of the Third Corps upon them while on the march, 
the Third Corps having been halted by its commander near 
the forks of the road by Morris's house ; in doubt, despite 
his instructions, whether he should take there the right- 
hand or the left-hand branch of the road, and notwith- 
standing that General Prince, one of his division-com- 
manders, insisted upon it that the left branch was the proper 



390 GENERAL OEOBOE GORDON MEADE, 

one to take. Had French, however, taken either imme- 
diately upon his arrival at the point, he would have passed 
through without contact with the enemy, but taking neither, 
he had not only neutralized his own corps, but also the 
Sixth Corps in his rear, brought to a stand by his h^lt 

Despatches now began to be sent to French to hasten 
him forward with the Third Corps, and to instruct Sedg- 
wick, commanding the Sixth, to push forward, closed-up 
with him, and to march by any route to the left by which 
they could reach the position of the Second Corps. No 
general-commanding was ever placed in a more trying situ- 
ation than this, victory within his grasp if two corps had 
but continued en route. Victory is not to be compelled, 
and therefore failure amid the clash of arms is philosophi- 
cally borne by the greatest generals, but failure through in- 
action of forces directed with consummate forecast on a 
certain point, and these, not like those of Grouchy, miles 
away, but those upon which the commander feels that he 
can almost lay his hand, is intolerable. Had French con- 
tinued to advance when he reached Morris's house, Ewell's 
corps would have been met by the Second, Third, and Sixth 
Corps, instead of by the Second Corps alone, and would 
have been overwhelmed. But the missing of this single 
opportunity does not represent the full extent of French's 
insufficiency for the occasion. The &tal error of halting at 
Morris's house went on in ever-widening circles of included 
events, compassing in sum the failure of the main design of 
General Meade. French got into a small battle of his own, 
and hope that at first was high, that things might be at least 
in a measure righted, grew fainter and fainter as the day 
wore on, until by nightfall it had died away. At last, be- 
tween eleven and twelve o'clock, noon, a despatch was re- 
ceived by General Meade from French, mentioning where 
his head of colunm was, and saying that he was waiting for 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER OETTYSBUBG, 39 1 

the Second Corps. It is said that General Meade was by 
this time fuming. What wonder if he were ! This de- 
spatch had been sent by French a little after nine o'clock, 
before he had reached Morris's house, where he was, as he 
continued to be, blocking the road of the Sixth Corps, 
which had not been even able to start. The obvious an- 
swer was sent, that he had not been ordered to wait for the 
Second Corps anywhere, that it was at Robertson's Tavern 
where he was awaited. The despatch ended with a summons 
to push rapidly forward to that place. Just before two 
o'clock in the afternoon another despatch, written just be- 
fore twelve, reached General Meade from French, saying 
that the enemy was attacking him on his right. There was 
now no help for it but to let him remain and fight. Accord- 
ingly, General Meade despatched to him to attack the 
enemy, but to connect his left with the Second Corps, at 
Robertson's Tavern, that being the object of his being 
allowed to attack. The action on French's front became 
more vigorous, the Sixth Corps supporting the Third 
with two divisions, which, however, were used by French 
only as reserves. Outnumbering the enemy vastly, French 
remained wholly on the defensive, without fully availing 
himself of the presence of the Sixth Corps. The situation 
was this. French, with two corps, confronted only one 
division of the enemy, while Warren, to his left, with only 
a single corps, confronted two divisions of the enemy. 
Naturally General Meade could not advance Warren against 
these, and French was entirely beyond his control. In the 
mean while, during the afternoon, the First Corps, under 
Newton, had reached Parker's store, in the rear of Robert- 
son's Tavern, and the Fifth Corps, under Sykes, New Hope 
Church, on the left of Robertson's Tavern ; the First Corps 
being finally ordered to Robertson's Tavern, arriving there 
by nightfall. During the afternoon the enemy, finding that 



392 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE, 

the Second Corps was disposed to be unaggressive, made 
an attack with sldrmishers upon it, resulting in the feint 
of a counter-attack by Warren, in which the enemy was 
repulsed with some slight loss. French was now regarded 
as so hopelessly stalled that during the afternoon orders 
were sent to the Sixth Corps, still in his rear, to move for- 
ward to Robertson's Tavern, and for the Third Corps to 
follow by night. 

This sketch of the operations up to this point is now suffi- 
ciently complete, in conformity with the rest of this work, 
as to make it only requisite to add, that on Meade's left, 
Hill's corps having now advanced in full force from Lee's 
former extreme left on the Rapidan, had reached the line 
of the upper part of Mine Run on the afternoon of the 27th, 
where some of it came into contact at New Hope Church 
with the Fifth Corps and cavalry of the Army of the Poto- 
mac before that corps was ordered to Robertson's Tavern. 
Hill then formed on the right of Ewell's corps, and the 
enemy was then in position along the west side of Mine 
Run. This military situation on both sides naturally con- 
cludes the first chapter of the operations at Mine Run. 
What was done could not be undone. It might be possible, 
however, for General Meade still to retrieve, through a 
different channel, the failure which had taken place, and 
for which he was in nowise responsible. That he evidently 
thought so, is proved by his promptly executed subsequent 
movements, through which it is seen that he pertinaciously 
clung to the hope that success might still reward a final 
effort. 

It must not be foi^otten by the reader that it was said 
that the line of Lee's entrenchments along the Rapidan 
did not at first pass much further south than Bartlett's 
Mill, on Mine Run, but that, from the arrival of the 
Confederates on the ground, they began to extend the 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER OETTYSBUBG. 393 

line along the west side of Mine Run. Necessity, the 
practical character of the American, and the nature of 
the soil in Virginia, had all conspired towards working 
a certain change in the methods of fighting in the op- 
posing armies. The individual soldier, and the soldiers 
collectively, now fell as naturally to entrenching against 
infantry for the needs of a few minutes, or for those of a 
protracted encounter, as if they had belonged to that class 
in nature of burrowing creatures which, either for predatory 
or defensive purposes, takes to mother-earth for aid, whether 
on dry land or on the bottom of pond or sea. The Con- 
federates now had a night before them, a night to be devoted 
freely to the purpose of defence, incapable of producing a 
palace with a roc's egg in the centre of the dome, but serv- 
ing every purpose as a citadel of life. In consequence, 
when at daylight, on the morning of the 28th, the Army 
of the Potomac advanced in line of battle with the First, 
Second, and Sixth Corps in front, and the Third and Fifth 
in reserve, Lee had a new line of entrenchments thrown up 
for a long distance on the ridge of the west side of Mine 
Run. This formidable line stretched away right and left, 
strengthened by abattis, and held by infantry and artillery. 
No troops could live through the gust of fire that would, 
if Meade advanced, sweep from the western crest of the 
hills beyond Mine Run across the little valley through 
which flows its stream. The force of the enemy was smaller 
than that of the Army of the Potomac, although that fact 
was not then known, but as the defenders of entrenchments, 
his actual force more than equalized superiority of opposing 
numbers. Brought to a halt here by insuperable diflicul- 
ties, Meade did not relinquish his intention to obtain some 
success commensurate with the efforts that had already 
been made. Rightly judgfing that the enemy's entrench- 
ments could not extend indefinitely to the left, he despatched 



394 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE 

Warren, with the Second Corps, with a portion of the Sixth, 
and some cavalry, to make a night march to the left, and 
on the morning of the 29th, endeavor to find a point where, 
by a turning movement, he could with advantage attack, 
while the commanders of the other corps were ordered to 
reconnoitre during the 29th the lines immediately in front 
of them, and seek to discover some weak point for assault 
As the result of this quest, Newton and Sykes, of the First 
and Fifth Corps, reported unfavorably to success on their 
fronts, while a favorable report, afterwards changed, was 
made as to its front by the Third Corps. Wright's division, 
of the Sixth Corps, on the right, and the Second Corps, 
which, with a portion of the Sixth, had penetrated to the 
left, opposite the head of Mine Run, reported favorably. 
Two divisions of the Third Corps were finally added by 
night-march to Warren's turning colunm on the left, 
which, upon the bsisis of his enthusiastic report, was ordered 
to assault the enemy's line the next morning, while, on the 
right, the Fifth and Sixth Corps were to assault, and the 
First Corps, with the third division of the Third Corps, in 
the centre, were to make strong demonstrations, to be 
converted into real attacks in case that either the attack on 
the right or that on the left should prove successful. It 
must not be supposed that the line was unbroken. Warren 
was off some distance to the left. General Meade, secure in 
his position, confident in the stanchness of his troops, and in 
the ability of the left to sustain itself, until, if it were needed, 
reinforced, had had the enterprise to detach Warren so far 
as to weaken the centre of his general line of battle. War- 
ren was, however, not so far off as represented by a singular 
mistake of General Humphreys, who states the distance as 
five miles, whereas the whole line of battle from right to 
left was only a little over six miles. However, Warren 
being somewhat off to the left, special dispositions had to 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER 0ETTY8BUBQ. 395 

be made to recognize that fact. These, in general terms, 
consisted, while thinning the centre, of leaving it strongly 
supported with artillery. 

During the night of the 29th the several corps adjusted 
their positions with reference to the contemplated assault, 
the initiation of which was to be the advance of Warren, pre- 
ceded by artillery-fire along the lines for an hour from the 
right and centre, when the Fifth and Sixth Corps, on the 
right, were to assault, and the First and Third Corps, on 
the centre, to convert a feint of advancing into a real at- 
tack, if circumstances permitted. The weather had been 
frightfully cold, followed by a rain-storm in the night of the 
28th. The suffering of the troops from cold was intense, 
especially those on the left, intensified by the necessity of 
latterly dispensing with camp-fires, which would have 
revealed their exact position to the enemy. Men were 
frozen to death on their posts, and morning dawned upon 
troops with determination to do or die, but with the despera- 
tion of hopelessness. On the stroke of eight o'clock in the 
morning the skirmishers of the First and Third Corps 
darted across Mine Run, repulsing the enemy's. From the 
right towards the left the cannonading of the enemy's lines 
began and continued with uninterrupted roar. The time 
of one hour, allotted for its duration, had nearly elapsed. 
Suddenly the whole plan of battle collapsed, and with it, 
shortly, the battle itself. Sedgwick was in the act of pre- 
paring to assault on the right with the Fifth and Sixth 
Corps, when a staff-officer from Warren reached General 
Meade in fiery haste, and reported that Warren judged the 
enemy's entrenchments opposite the left to be impregnable. 
The enemy had pushed off to his right along his line, 
with reserves in rear, and during day and night a line of 
earthworks had mantled the hillsides in front of Warren's 
contemplated line of advance. There was barely time, ten 



396 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE, 

minutes, to countermand Sedgwick's assault on the right, 
and thus ended the second chapter of the military history 
of Mine Run. 

General Meade went through the form of going to the 
left and scanning the ground there, but he would have been 
fatuous indeed, had he, in the teeth of a decision based 
upon reconnoissance, concluded blindly to make the assault 
on the left. Had Warren decided in favor of that course, 
had Meade decided in favor of it, they would have gained 
a little cheap fame, but neither was a man to attempt a 
stroke reckless of its cost and an undue risk of its failure, 
war being a game of destruction in which relatively less 
cost must be considered. Warren did his duty in declining 
to justify by his decision the risk of assault, Meade did his 
by accepting the morally inevitable. He had gone as far 
to secure victory as any general could in conscience go. 
Grant never went further in hazardous enterprises than 
Meade had ventured to secure success upon this field. 
There is something still to be added, to give a correct view 
of this episode. The whole plan of battle was based upon 
Warren's confidence in success on the left. Sharing his 
confidence, from his report, Meade increased his force in 
the night of the 29th, so that it in sum amounted to between 
twenty-five and twenty-six thousand men. Assuming then, 
as we have a right to do, what General Meade himself did 
not dispute, that on the morning of the 30th the enemy had 
become too strong to be attacked, there still remains an 
undiscussed condition, involved in the question why War- 
ren should have been so confident as to a matter subject to 
such sudden collapse. General Meade states very mildly 
in his official report what relates to this portion of the fail- 
ure at Mine Run, where he says, " but for the unfortunate 
error of judgment of Major-General Warren," his [General 
Meade's] first plan of attack, in three columns, would prob- 



THE CAMFAIQN AFTER OETTYSBURQ. 397 

ably have been successful, or at least would have been tried. 
French, here at Mine Run, failed him lamentably ; and al- 
though Warren did not belong to the same class of men, as 
Gettysburg, Bristoe Station, and other places attest, yet he 
had not that forecasting mind which is equal to judgment be- 
yond immediate emergency. Rare is the gift in any one ; it 
is that of the highest military order of mind. To have the 
slow pulse of Napoleon, combined with the brain in which 
instant impression of present and future are blended in future 
probability, is a military type which is a single product of 
the centuries. Warren's hopes at Mine Run overclouded 
his judgment, and, after the failure of French, neutralized 
the last chance in the attempted operation by ignoring the 
possibility of just what occurred in a night by the Confed- 
erates' making the position on their right impregnable. 

Lee had been preparing in the night of the ist of De- 
cember for a stroke on the left of Warren, but the whole 
of Meade's army, retiring across the Rapidan that same 
night, involved the intention, as well as any other project 
which the Confederate commander may have had, in the 
limbo of things unaccomplished. The enemy made some 
attempts to harass the rear of the retiring columns, but it 
was not effective. The cavalry of the army, having well 
executed its duty to the left of the army in position, and by 
watching the fords, now concluded it by covering Meade's 
left flank and rear as his columns retired towards the river. 
If General Meade had been allowed to take his own course 
at this point of time, he would have fallen back to Fred- 
ericksburg, just in his rear, instead of recrossing the Rap- 
idan, but the timorous Halleck would have none of it. He 
could not for a moment think of letting the army take up a 
position anywhere a few miles off on the Confederate flank. 
It must lie right across the track to Washington of the lion 
Lee. Yet, had the army then been allowed to fall back 



398 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

upon Fredericksburg, the campaign that opened in the 
spring would have been spared the dreadful sacrifices of the 
Wilderness. 

The Army of the Potomac, once ag^n across the Rap- 
idan, and the Army of Northern Virginia back in its old 
position along the river, both similarly affected in operations 
by the season of the year, sought in the repose of their 
hutted winter-quarters renovation through rest, the arrival 
of new levies, of wounded men returning well, and the re- 
turn of comrades who had been detached on military ser- 
vice. General Meade, however, although he naturally kept 
his ulterior purposes closely within his own breast, had not 
relinquished the idea that it might be possible to take Lee 
at a disadvantage some time during the winter, owing to the 
circumstance that the necessities of subsisting Lee's army 
and placing it in good quarters would require long intervals 
between the cantonments of its different parts. This inten- 
tion was, however, defeated by instructions from Washing- 
ton, ordering an operation which inevitably drew the atten- 
tion of the enemy to the feasibility of the very project 
contemplated by General Meade. During General Meade's 
absence for a few days on leave, and when Sedgwick was in 
command of the army, Halleck supported a request of 
General B. F. Butler's, then near Fort Monroe, to make, on 
the 6th of February, a strong demonstration against the 
Confederate army in support of an attempt by Butler to 
capture Richmond with a mixed force of cavalry and in- 
fantry. The demonstration was accordingly made with 
great spirit ; indeed in one place with such exceeding vigor, 
through a misapprehension, that the attack became real, 
and so successful as to prove that the plan that General 
Meade had entertained would, but for this imprudent diver- 
sion, have had fair prospects of success. But the enter- 
prise, in the interest of which the demonstration had been 



THE CAMPAIGN AFTER QETTY8BURQ. 399 

made, proved entirely unsuccessful. Butler despatched the 
troops mentioned, to the number of about six thousand, 
under General Isaac J. Wistar, upon the contemplated 
expedition, intended to release Union prisoners, but the 
enemy, forewarned through a deserter, was on the alert, 
had concentrated troops in advance of the menaced point, 
and the expedition entirely failed. The success of the 
demonstration by the Army of the Potomac had, how- 
ever, been so great that the enemy was fully apprised 
that he had better be on his guard ag^nst a serious en- 
terprise. 

The winter comprised, by express order of the Govern- 
ment, a cavalry raid towards Richmond, with the view of 
disseminating Mr. Lincoln's proclamation of amnesty, and 
including an attempt to capture the city by a coup de main 
and release the Union prisoners there. Through the inef- 
ficiency of General Kilpatrick, under whose command the 
expedition was, it proved unfruitful ; and not only that, but 
it was associated with an accusation by the enemy against 
Colonel Dahlgren, commanding a body of horse, involving 
alleged violation of the code of civilized warfare. This led 
to an interchange of letters between Meade and Lee, in 
which General Meade disavowed all privity of his own 
or of the Government's in the alleged action of Colonel 
Dahlgren. As, however, Dahlgren had paid the penalty 
of death at the hands of the enemy, in the course of a skir- 
mish, it was not possible to bring to the test of trial the 
charge made against him, which, despite its fair seeming, 
those who knew him best affirm to this day must have been 
susceptible of exculpating explanation. This movement of 
Kilpatrick's was supported by a strong demonstration on 
the left by the Army of the Potomac, and with this episode 
ended the active operations of the army for the winter. To 
both armies flocked, during the remainder of the season. 



400 GENERAL OEOBOE GORDON MEADE 

visitors distinguished and undistinguished of both sexes. 
Such cheerfulness as can pervade the inhabitants of huts in 
wintry weather prevailed. The morale of the army left 
nothing to be desired, waiting with its wonted stanchness 
for the renewal with spring of active operations. 



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THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, ETQ 4OI 



CHAPTER XX. 

THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, SPOTTSYLVANIA, 

AND THE NORTH ANNA. 

A GREAT change suddenly came over the Army of the 
Potomac. A new star had risen in the western firma- 
ment, before whose lustre in the zenith the light of others 
was to pale. Fortune had so willed it, that the army, 
although diminished in numbers since Gettysburg, yet, 
having held in check the army of Lee, and even taken 
against it the offensive, had been the means of indirectly 
assisting towards Grant's gathering new laurels at Chatta- 
nooga. Now, when he appeared on the eastern theatre of 
war, the army had been increased to almost unprecedented 
force in numbers and material of war, all ready to the con- 
queror's hand. On the 26th of February, 1863, the grade 
of lieutenant-general had been created and Grant appointed 
to the place. On the 8th he arrived in Washington from the 
West, and the next day received his commission. The day 
afterwards he had a conference with General Meade at 
Brandy Station. Going back immediately thereafter to the 
West for final understanding with General Sherman as to 
plans of campaign, he returned to Washington on the 23d 
of March, whence he went almost at once to the field at 
Culpeper, and there established his headquarters. It is 
therefore in place here to mention incidentally, that he had 
expressly stated that, as being in command of all the armies 
in the field, his proper place was in Washington. Although, 
it is true, his presence on the hither side of the Rapidan 

made no essential difference at first, yet, when he thence 

26 



402 GENERAL OEOBOE GORDON MEADE 

entered upon and continued to direct on the ground the 
campaign from the Rapidan to Petersburg, destined to last 
a year, his departure from the line of conduct which he 
had laid down as the duty of the commanding-general of 
all the armies to follow was absolute, and led, especially 
in the Valley of Virginia, to the very consequences which 
his originally announced intention had been intended to 
preclude. 

There were other consequences that followed this reversal 
of intention on the part of Grant. But for his immediate 
presence, the army would have emerged from the conflict, 
from the battle of the Wilderness to that of Cold Harbor, 
in far greater strength than was possible under his tactics, 
in which, had he been the mighty Thor himself, his weapon 
would have shattered on the steel of the opposing front of 
war. He persisted too long in the continuous attrition and 
hammering which he declared in advance to be his system 
of encountering the Army of Northern Virginia. Still 
another consequence of his determination to have his head- 
quarters with the Army of the Potomac lay in a divided 
command, lessening the value of administration represented 
by a single centre of authority which, in all activities, is 
the condition of the highest degree of efficiency. It led 
also, on account of Grant's tendency to favoritism, to detri- 
ment to the service, through that propensity which, will- 
ingly or unwillingly, allows well- or ill-placed affections to 
be enslaved. The same consequences, it might be urged, 
the tendency being conceded, would have manifested them- 
selves, had he established his headquarters in Washington. 
This is undeniable, but it should be remembered that the 
field, the immediate scene of critical events, introduces 
dangers from such indulgence far exceeding those possible 
to incur in cabinet direction of affairs ; and in this case, as 
will in due time appear, they did not fail to manifest them- 



THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, ETC 403 

selves as working injury to the military service, and there- 
fore to the cause which it sustained. 

General Meade had seized an opportunity at his first 
interview with General Grant to say to him that if he would 
prefer another man for his position, not to hesitate for 
a moment in expressing his wish to that effect Grant, 
however, knew too well the value of General Meade to 
relieve him from duty as the commander of the army. But 
the situation thereby accepted led to consequences of far- 
reaching import, probably contemplated by neither at the 
time. One has already been noted as a result, in the im- 
perfect co-ordination of orders. It was told by an officer 
of undoubted veracity that when, in the middle of the night, 
he once carried a written order to Warren, he began to 
swear as he read it, when, glancing at the signature, he 
resumed his calm, as he remarked, " I might have known 
it was from Grant." The position of General Meade, as 
commander of the army, with General Grant's headquarters 
near him in the field was anomalous, and led for him per- 
sonally to many trying situations. If any signal success 
attended the operations, it was almost invariably set down 
to the credit of Grant, but if any check or disaster, to the 
disparagement of Meade. I well remember one affair 
near Petersburg, directed in person by General Meade, as 
to which the papers had laudatory accounts of General 
Grant's presence on the field, when, as I afterwards learned, 
he was far away from the scene of action. Taking it 
altogether, there never was in history, so far as I am aware, 
any case so detrimental as Grant's presence in the field with 
the real commander of the army, except that of a king, or 
a prince of the blood, who was formerly often there, as an 
inspiring influence, or from military aspirations, and from 
whatever motive, generally a hindrance instead of a help to 
military operations. The actual case seems most like that 



404 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE. 

of Blucher, whose chief function was enterprise, a function 
not to be despised, but one which by itself ts dangerous in 
the extreme, and which with him was tempered by the 
knowledge of an accomplished staff. 

The winter had passed with the Army of the Potomac 
in cantonments. The scheme of Butler, approved in Wash- 
ington, and the consequent diversion by the Army of the 
Potomac to assist the raid made on the Peninsula towards 
Richmond, precluded, as had been anticipated in the army, 
any real advance by it over the Rapidan before the opening 
of the spring. Recruiting, drilling, and reviewing went on 
apace on both sides during this season of enforced cessa- 
tion from hostilities. It was not surprising that, at this 
p<nnt of time, on the eve of so vast an enterprise as the 
advance towards Richmond, it should have been deemed 
desirable to divide the Army of the Potomac into three 
corps of infantry. That had for a long time been the or- 
ganization of the Army of Northern Virginia; and in some 
respects the military administration of the armies of the 
South had been superior to that of those of the North, nota- 
bly in the case of filling up regiments on the basis of their 
original cadres, instead of raising entirely new regiments, and 
in that of always apportioning rank suitably to command. 
General Meade once said to me, when a boy, and we saun- 
tering along together and discussing things in general, that 
there was not an officer in the country who could creditably 
. march twenty thousand men into a certain designated place 
and get them out again. But with changed experience he 
had long known that a hundred thousand men had been 
repeatedly marched into and out of most intricate ways, 
and now, under Grant's orders, he was about to direct the 
march of a hundred and fifteen thousand men across the 
Rapidan into the Wilderness, from which he, under Hooker, 
had been obliged with other corps-commanders to beat an 



THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, ETa 405 

inglorious retreat. The die was cast in favor of the con- 
solidation of the infantry of the army into three corps, and 
amid much heart-burning the intention was consummated. 
Meade's recommendation to that efiect had been made on 
March 4th to the War Department. The First Corps was 
incorporated in the Fifth Corps. Two divisions of the 
Third Corps were incorporated in the Second Corps. A 
third division, lately attached to the Third Corps, was in- 
corporated in the Sixth Corps. Thus the infantry of the 
Army of the Potomac was made to consist of the Second 
Corps, the Fifth Corps, and the Sixth Corps. These were 
respectively commanded, as in the order named, by Han- 
cock, Warren, and Sedgwick. The cavalry, consisting of 
three divisions, was under Sheridan. The chief-of-staff 
was Humphreys, the chief-engineer. Major Duane, the 
chief-of-artillery. Hunt, and the chief-quarter-master, In- 
galls. The corps of Burnside, the Ninth, returned from 
Knoxville, East Tennessee, had since recruited its num- 
bers at Annapolis, and had now reached the Rappahan- 
nock, via Washington, making the whole force of all 
arms available for Grant's advance about a hundred and 
fifteen thousand men, while Lee's, at the greatest possible 
estimate, did not exceed sixty-two thousand. At the out- 
set, the troops of Burnside, although acting in line of battle 
with it, formed no part of the Army of the Potomac, but 
this preposterous arrangement, leading to great confusion, 
as should have been anticipated, was rectified within a few 
days by the consolidation of the forces. Out of the depths 
of my memory here rises a trivial incident connected indis- 
solubly with the pending advance. Happening to be in 
Philadelphia at the time, I was passing the house of Mr. 
Adolph E. Borie, afterwards Secretary of the Navy under 
Grant, when he drew me mysteriously aside, to be out of 
earshot of the passers, and whispered, ** Grant is starting 



406 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADR 

for Richmond with two hundred thousand men." I imagine 
that I was among the earliest who had the news. General 
Grant and Mr. Borie afterwards became intimate, and to the 
house of the latter the General sometimes came as a lion, but, 
as became him then, "roared as gently as a sucking-dove." 

To attempt to discuss here the strategy of the campaign 
now about to open, comparing one possible mode of pro- 
cedure with another, would take &r more space than is at 
my disposal, and would perhaps tax &r more than warrant- 
able the patience of the reader. Briefly, then, I will essay 
to give an idea of the plan actually adopted, and to indicate 
what it seemed to Grant to prescribe. The expression that 
Grant uses in his memoirs, as purporting to give an idea of 
the military situation, that Sherman represented the right 
flank, the Army of the Potomac the centre, and Butler, on 
the James, the left flank, is an illustration of the most 
strained character. 

That, having adopted the line of overland advance from 
Washington to Richmond, Grant should make it by the 
right flank of Lee, instead of by the left, was entirely a 
matter of necessity, seeing that it could not possibly be 
made by Lee's left, because by that route the army could 
not have been supplied. When Grant finally found himself 
south of the James, he was unable to compel the evacuation 
of Richmond and Petersbui^ by the single stroke of destroy- 
ing their lines of supply or of capturing them by assault He 
had to resort to g^dual encroachment on the lines of supply 
to Petersburg and Richmond by the extension of his left 
flank, until worn out by siege, loss by desertion, and abate- 
ment of the warlike spirit of the South, the remnant of the 
grand Army of Northern Virginia was forced to succumb to 
the inevitable. Grant had so overweening a confidence in his 
persistence to overcome obstacles, so full a conviction in his 
belief that the Army of the Potomac had never been fought 




THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, ETC 407 

to its uttermost, so g^at confidence, growing out of its nu- 
merical superiority to that of the enemy, that he went into 
the last campaign of the war with the fullest belief that 
Lee's army would be irretrievably crippled on the line of 
march from the Rapidan to Richmond. The event told 
another tale, and what is mostly to be deplored as that 
which might have been otherwise, is the loss of life 
that might have been avoided if the lessons that were 
learned at last through sacrifice had not been needed to 
instruct. 

The positions of the opposing armies have been suffi- 
ciently indicated by the descriptions in the last chapter. 
The advance by the left was determined upon. Lee's 
entrenchments, on his right, now stretched along Mine 
Run from Bartlett's Mill, and thence to the source of the 
stream near Antioch Church, south of the plank road from 
Orange Court House to Fredericksburg. His headquarters 
were at Orange Court House. Grant was now in supreme 
authority. He gave instructions to General Meade to sup- 
ply the details. Grant's will was now law, on the field and 
in Washington. He could now address the great Halleck, 
his former commander in the West, who had behaved most 
unjustly to him, as " chief-of-stafl"." All things now bent 
to the will of Grant, all but the Army of Northern Virginia. 

The line of march by the right of Lee, turning his flank, 
was superbly executed. But it is a disputed question to 
this day, whether Grant should not have pushed forward or 
to the right before making his first halt, thus by either 
course clearing the Wilderness. The reader will observe 
that the army is marching between the line of Mine Run 
on the west and Chancellorsville on the east, in the heart 
of the Wilderness. Robertson's Tavern, which was at the 
front in the Mine Run advance, is now to the right of the 
advance, and Chancellorsville, where the fiasco of Hooker 



408 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADK 

occurred, a short distance off to the left. That the halt 
was made where it was called is easily accounted for. The 
reason assigned was that the main body must not move too 
far in advance of the trains and Burnside's position in com- 
ing up with his corps from the Rappahannock and isolatedly 
crossing the Rapidan ; but it would seem from all the evi- 
dence at hand, that the chief predisposing influence towards 
halting where the halt actually took place was that Grant 
did not think that Lee could arrive in time to attack the 
army there. Had Grant realized that the army would be so 
attacked, in a place so unfitted as the Wilderness for battle, 
on ground with which the enemy was more familiar than 
was the Army of the Potomac, we may well believe that in 
a choice, were it only regarded as one between two evils, 
the risk, if any there were, to the trains and to Burnside's 
isolated corps, would have been accepted, and the main 
body of the army would, before a halt was ordered, have 
been allowed to emerge from the Wilderness. 

Let us, for the sake of economizing space, especially as the 
army has once before in this narrative crossed the Rapidan at 
this point, imagine it to have crossed, and to be situated as 
the following description will indicate. The three infantry 
corps, after starting at midnight of the 3d of May, from 
their cantonments of the winter, and after crossing three 
fords of the Rapidan on five pontoon -bridges, the Fifth, 
under Warren, on the right, followed by the Sixth, under 
Sedgwick, found themselves on the south side of the Rapi- 
dan, each column preceded by a heavy body of cavalry, 
and long before night in bivouac at the end of their march. 
The Second Corps, on the left, had arrived, at i p.m., first 
at its destination on the ground of Chancellorsville, the FifUi 
Corps, at 2 P.M., at its destination, on the right, at Wilder- 
ness Tavern, while the Sixth Corps, in the rear of the FifUi, 
had halted not far from Germanna Ford, where it had crossed 



THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, ETC. 409 

the river, in order to prevent the enemy from swooping into 
the rear and making a descent in flank upon the trains. But 
as the trains, excepting the fighting-trains with the respec- 
tive corps, were crossing at Culpeper Ford and Ely's Ford, 
several miles below, and Grant was on the right flank of 
Lee's army, which stretched miles away to the west, and 
could not have begun to move until daylight had revealed 
the march of the Army of the Potomac, and as, on the 4th, 
Bumside's corps was advancing rapidly from beyond the 
Rappahannock towards Germanna Ford, and besides, the 
trains were covered by cavalry, and had with them a special 
grand detachment from each corps, and therefore could be 
successfully assailed by no very large body of the enemy, if 
indeed any could be spared to reach them, it would seem 
that this precaution, which led to the army's not extricating 
itself that day from the Wilderness, and therefore to all the 
consequences that flowed therefrom, was most unwise ; that 
it was most unwise not to have advanced four or five miles 
further with the army, towards Mine Run or towards Spott- 
sylvania, so as to clear the Wilderness. 

In the early morning of the 5 th of May the army resumed 
its march, Warren on the right, Hancock on the left: 
Sedgwick was still in the rear of Warren. The line on 
which they were was from Wilderness Tavern to Chancel- 
lorsville. Beyond, to the right, where Robertson's Tavern 
is, is the western edge of the Wilderness ; beyond, to the 
left, where Chancellorsville is, is the eastern edge of the 
Wilderness. Its southern edge reaches down to the Rapi- 
dan. It was intended that, on the day mentioned, the 
Fifth Corps should march towards Parker's Store, and the 
Second towards Shady Grove Church. The growth amidst 
which the Fifth and Sixth were to march was a stunted 
one of mixed character, with thickets of brush almost im- 
pervious to the sight in places, and occasional small swamps 



4IO GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADR 

along the streams among the hills. The region was inter^ 
sected by a few main roads, and numerous tracks ran their 
devious course of communication among them, all much 
better known to the enemy than to the Federal army. 
Acquaintance with such is especially useful for attack and 
defence in so blind a region as that in which the army now 
found itself. Hancock off to the left, was not only on the 
eastern outskirts of the Wilderness, but in his advance came 
upon more and more open country as he proceeded. An 
idea of the relations of the main roads to one another is 
indispensable to an understanding of the tactics of the battle 
about to be fought, called the battle of the Wilderness. 
From Lee's position towards the west, where his entrenched 
line had lain northeast by east and southwest by west, 
fronting north, come the two main roads, the Orange Turn- 
pike, on the north, and the Orange Plank, Road, to the 
south of it, running from southwest by west to northeast 
by east, at varying distances from each other, until they 
unite for a short distance at Chancellorsville, to diverge 
again as they proceed eastward to Fredericksburg. The 
crossing of the Orange Plank Road by the Brock Road 
takes place nearly at right-angles, and the Brock Road is 
the most direct one to Spottyslvania Court House, towards 
which the Second Corps was marching by that road. 

Lee, when apprised of the movement of the Army of 
the Potomac, had left his lines lying east and west along 
the Rapidan, and with Grant on what had been his right 
flank, was about to present his front athwart the two main 
roads running east and west, forcing Grant to face to the 
west before continuing his march. But, so dense, so almost 
impenetrable to sight and ordinary sound was the mixed 
growth of trees and underbrush, that when, on the morning 
of the 5th of May, the Army of the Potomac found itself 
checked a mile or so from its bivouac of the night before. 



THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, ETC 4II 

neither Grant nor Meade thought that he had in face of him 
an enemy in great force. Warren opened the battle, or 
rather, more strictly speaking, the enemy anticipated him in 
opening it. As he was marching by a wood-road towards 
Parker's Store, he pushed Griffin's division, on his right, 
along the Orange Turnpike, to guard his flank. But neither 
colunm had proceeded far when it encountered the enemy, 
— ^the heads of Ewell's and Hill's corps coming eastward 
along the Orange Turnpike and the Orange Plank Road, 
Ewell following the former. Hill the latter direction. Griffin 
on the right, on the Turnpike, having been reinforced, and 
the advance on the left, towards the Plank Road, having been 
withdrawn, a vigorous attack was made by Griffin, which 
drove Ewell from his position to take up one slightly to the 
rear of it. All this time, however, Ewell's troops were 
gradually arriving on the ground, and he in turn took the 
offensive, and somewhat disrupted Warren's right flank. 
An advance by Warren on his left resulted unfortunately, 
the denseness of the woods and underbrush there prevent- 
ing co-operation among the different bodies of troops. 
Warren fell back to a line slightly to the rear. The Sixth 
Corps was not yet up, and it became very evident at this 
time that, but for the apprehension of danger leading to its 
retention towards the Rapidan, the advance would not have 
been thus summarily checked and the field of the Wilder- 
ness have been decreed upon as the scene of a pitched bat- 
tle. Despite the adverse popular notion, nothing is better for 
proof than certain kinds of circumstantial evidence. Nothing 
can better demonstrate the fact that Grant did not expect to 
fight a pitched battle where he found himself, than the cir- 
cumstance that, on the far away left, Hancock was march- 
ing, under orders, ten miles in advance. 

Upon the abrupt check to the advance of the Fifth Corps, 
Hancock was recalled from the point that he had reached 



412 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

beyond Todd's Tavern, and ordered to take up the position 
along the Brock Road where, as just mentioned, it intersects 
the Orange Plank Road. But, as the reader will remem- 
ber. Hill's corps was advancing along that road towards 
this same intersection. As it was one of the few artificial 
strategic points of the region, this complicated the situation 
so much that General Meade despatched a division of the 
Sixth Corps, under Getty, to occupy the point in advance 
of Hancock's possible arrival. But for that the enemy must 
have secured the point, and thus have interposed between 
the right and left wings of the army. The enemy did in 
fact attack Getty vigorously, but he stoutly held his position 
until about three o'clock in the afternoon, when the head 
of the Second Corps appeared and formed in double line of 
battle along the Brock Road to and beyond its intersection 
with the Orange Plank Road. All became safe in that 
quarter of the field, and Hancock was at once ordered to 
assume the offensive. Getty led off, and Hancock soon 
followed in repeated assaults upon the almost imperceptible 
lines of the enemy, sheltered in the umbrageous fastnesses 
of the field. None but a sportsman or a naturalist can re- 
alize the value of protective color in such a place. Any 
one, however, who belonged to the Army of the Potomac 
soon realized the difference between the gleam through 
bushes from blue ranks and those of the neutral tint of the 
Army of Northern Virginia. The Confederate soldiers lay 
concealed on the dull ground amid the leafage, like ele- 
mental creatures of the earth, earthy, faintly appearing, if 
at all, and disappearing, undistinguishable from the face of 
nature. So desperate was the resistance of the Confed- 
erates on the left, and so fatal to all skilled tactical move- 
ment was the entanglement of the woods and underbrush 
on Hancock's front, that a heavy column under Wadsworth 
having been ordered from the Fifth Corps, on the right, to 



THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, ETC 413 

advance and feel for the left flank of Hill, reached its desti- 
nation with the greatest difficulty only by nightfall, and 
therefore not in time to assist in the desperate efforts Han- 
cock had been making to push back the enemy's line. This 
circumstance of Wadsworth's penetrating with difficulty to 
the left flank of Hill shows incidentally that the lines of 
Ewell and Hill were not continuous, and the same thing was 
also true of the lines of Warren and Hancock. With some 
hard fighting on the right, in the afternoon, the battle there, 
as well as on the left, ended for the day. Two battles 
had in fact been fought side by side, having from begin- 
ning to end but little influence on each other, the division 
and brigade led by Wadsworth from the right having failed 
to influence the action on the left. The advantage had been 
with Hancock and Getty against Hill, when night was fall- 
ing on the field. When darkness impenetrable had finally 
set in, the combatants remained in the positions in which 
they then found themselves. 

From Gordonsville, nearly thirty miles to the soilthwest, 
Longstreet had had to move for junction with Lee. From 
beyond the Rappahannock, — at the farthest point, Manassas 
Junction, over forty miles distant, Bumside had had to 
move for junction with Grant. As soon, on the 4th, as 
the Second, Fifth, and Sixth Corps were fairly across the 
Rapidan, the Ninth Corps, some of whose divisions were 
already en route, was telegraphed to expedite its march. 
Bumside and Longstreet reached the ground about the 
same time, Bumside rather in advance, his nearest troops 
having reached Brandy Station, but as will shortly be per- 
ceived, Longstreet's immediate impress on events eclipsed 
the movements of Bumside on the ground. As a result 
of the day's fighting the corps of Hill had been disrupted, 
and good observers were of the opinion that, with an 
hour or two more of daylight, he would have been driven 



414 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADK 

from the field. But, as has been mentioned, night fell 
and he had not been, and although Bumside was coming 
up, Longstreet, too, was coming. The plan for the next 
day's battle was for the Sixth, Fifth, and Second Corps, 
in the order from right to left, to attack the enemy on 
their fronts at five o'clock in the morning, while Bumside 
now near the field, was ordered to fill with two divis- 
ions and one in reserve the gap between the Fifth and 
Second Corps, and to attack simultaneously with them. 
Here were two great armies in which, when finally drawn 
up against each other, with lines in a stretch of over five 
miles, the troops could only at rare intervals be seen. 

In the early morning of the 6th of May the enemy slightly 
anticipated by his attack that which had been intended by 
Grant for the renewal of the battle. Out of the thicket of 
mixed dwarf-timber of scrub-oak, clustered pine, and under- 
brush, Lee made an attack from his extreme left on the 
extreme right of the Sixth Corps, an effort easily repulsed 
by the' advance that met it, for it was only a feint, Lee's 
real design being to overwhelm Grant's left flank, towards 
the accomplishment of which but one thing seemed to him 
needed — ^the arrival in force of Longstreet. The attack by 
Lee on the right was followed almost immediately by War- 
ren's and Hancock's attacking along their front. In con- 
sequence, the attack which Lee had purposed making had 
to be postponed, until what remained of Hill's corps should 
have arrived and Longstreet should have appeared, for he 
had not anticipated the vigor of Hancock's onslaught. 
Hancock had advanced his two right divisions, amply sup- 
ported, while the troops led by Wadsworth, which had lain 
all night on Hill's former left flank (no longer existing, 
because the enemy's lines were now continuous) swept 
partly across the front of the Second Corps. Hill's troops 
gave way in every direction, and poured pell-mell towards 




THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, ETC 415 

the rear for over a mile. They were being pursued by 
Hancock, when suddenly the tide of battle was reversed 
through two conspiring causes, — a halt necessary to rectify 
the confusion produced among the victorious troops by 
their passage through the dense growth of trees and bushes, 
and the arrival on the field of the heads of Longstreet*s 
colunms. 

Thenceforth, to the end of the day, no field ever better 
illustrated the immense share that chance bears in every 
battle. Had there not been on the Federal side every 
reason to believe that Longstreet would attempt to come 
in on the left flank, as in fact he was first ordered to attempt, 
and had begun to attempt ; had there not been a misunder- 
standing between Hancock and Gibbon, through which the 
division of Barlow was withheld at a critical juncture ; had 
it not happened that, owing to this, the enemy was able to 
avail himself of the cut of an unfinished railroad from which 
his masked advance pushed forward at that juncture on a 
naked flank, all would have gone well for the Federal side. 
If, on the other hand, Longstreet had not been dangerously 
wounded by his own troops and borne from the field at 
that same critical juncture, his success must have been 
much greater than it was, although by no means so great 
as he at one time thought possible, and indeed certain. 

Longstreet had been marching under orders to attack 
Hancock's left and rear, when the pressure to which Hill 
was being gradually more and more heavily subjected 
caused his march to be reversed, and he arrived on the 
right of Hill in time to save him from final rout. Han- 
cock could not, of course, have ascertained the fact of 
Longstreet's recall. On the contrary, warnings that he 
had received from headquarters as to the direction of Long- 
street's march towards the left, coupled with deceptive 
sights and sounds from that quarter, contributed to assure 



4l6 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

him that the attack upon him was to come thence. Con- 
sequently, he clung with his extreme left to the Brock 
Road, and the advance of his divisions on his right made 
a short flank. Despite this, there would have been no dan- 
ger of his being successfully assailed, if only Hill were to be 
reckoned with, but in addition to the fact that Longstreet 
had been recalled to succor Hill, Barlow's division had, as 
Hancock said he had told Gibbon to order it, not been ad- 
vanced on the left. Otherwise, even with Lx)ngstreet*s enter- 
ing on the scene, what happened would not have occurred. 
Gibbon said that he did not receive the order mentioned, 
and this being added in justice to him, let us &11 back on 
the most important facts in this connection, that the rail- 
road cut was there, Barlow's division was not, and that 
the enemy took advantage of the weak point in the Union 
line. 

All the troops that had advanced so gallantly and suc- 
cessfully early in the morning began to feel the combined 
weight of Hill's and Longstreet's pressure. By eleven 
o'clock Bumside had been able to do nothing on Hancock's 
immediate right to relieve that pressure. A division of the 
Ninth Corps had, however, been early sent to Hancock, 
and later, other detachments were made to him from the 
Fifth and Sixth Corps. But, owing to the fact that Bar- 
low's division was not in position on the left, and the exist- 
ence of the cut of the unfinished railroad (running about par- 
allel with the Orange Plank Road, and after a curve, about 
parallel with the Brock Road), four brigades of the enemy 
marched by the right flank to the railroad cut, and there 
forming and facing northwardly, rolled up the advanced line 
of Hancock on the left, the whole line falling back in the 
best order it could preserve to its original position along the 
Brock Road. Now fortune as suddenly turned the balance 
against the Confederate side, as it had at first thrown its in- 



THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, ETa 417 

fluence in favor of that side. Longstreet was seriously 
wounded by his own men, and a welcome respite was 
afforded for restoration of order along the left wing of the 
Federal army. During this pause, which lasted four hours, 
the brigade of the Ninth Corps which has been mentioned 
as stationed with Hancock, cleared his whole front from left 
to right without any molestation from the enemy. Rein- 
forcements from the right reached Hancock, and he was 
prepared to renew the conflict. The enemy also had made 
ample preparations for its renewal. 

Hancock was to attack at six o'clock in the evening, 
when at half-past four the enemy's attack opened. The 
movements of Bumside, on Hancock's right, were expected 
to afford some relief from the pressure upon him, but did 
not produce an appreciable effect on the action that followed. 
By five o'clock in the afternoon a portion of Hancock's line 
had given way. It was fighting under great disadvantage, 
the woods in its front, and even the breastworks of logs 
were afire, sending their heat and smoke drifting into the 
faces of the men. For a few minutes parts of the breast- 
works were occupied by the enemy, who was, however, soon 
brushed away and the line restored.* The enemy was 
finally driven back from Hancock's front, which remained 

* Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Chamberlin, in his History of the 
1 50th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, says that Hancock ac- 
knowledged that he had made a mistake in his report in ascribing to 
Carroll's brigade, of his own corps, the recapture of that portion of 
his line which the enemy had invaded ; and that the troops which, 
under Hancock's orders, restored the line were the renmants of Roy 
Stone's brigade, conunanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Irvin, of the 149th 
Pennsylvania (Roy Stone having been hurt by a fall from his horse), 
and Rice's brigade, commanded by Colonel Hoffmann, of the 56th 
Pennsylvania, both of Wadsworth's division, of the Fifth Corps. This 
is substantially what is stated by Lieutenant-Colonel Chamberlin, ex- 
cept that he inadvertently assigns Rice's brigade to Robinson's 
division instead of to Wadsworth's. 

27 



41 8 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADK 

thenceforth unassailed ; but owing to the lateness of the 
hour and lack of sufficient ammunition, Hancock was not 
able to advance in his turn. While he, however, remained 
unengaged for the rest of the day, the right of the Sixth 
Corps, on the extreme right, had been attacked by Generals 
Gordon, Johnston, and Pegram, who achieved a partial suc- 
cess there, driving back some brigades and making numer- 
ous prisoners. 

The losses on both sides in the battle of two days' dura- 
tion had been very heavy, and in one place horrible, owing 
to the incidental burning to death of wounded men lying 
in front of the Second Corps when the woods there took 
fire. The loss on the Federal side in killed, wounded, and 
missing was about fifteen thousand, while that on the Con- 
federate side was about eight thousand. Many gallant, 
meritorious, and distinguished officers of both sides here 
surrendered up their lives in this jungle, which had been 
for two days swept by the scythe of death in forms con- 
cealed and unusual on a field of battle, but common on 
this field, on which bushes and trees and dense thickets 
sputtered, or volleyed, or crashed, with the dropping, the 
concerted, or the blended storm of musketry, amid which 
lines of troops on both sides jostled each other in efibrts to 
advance or fall back, smothered in a tangled wilderness, to 
which not even fire was lacking to increase the mysterious 
horrors. 

Were it attempted here to follow the intricacies of the 
events now following one another in rapid succession, this 
campaign alone would require for its description more 
than the space allotted to the whole work. It is there- 
fore necessary to omit such mention of details as concern 
the enemy's cavalry hovering around the left, and with- 
drawn upon the approach of the cavalry of Sheridan. One 
incident, however, connected with the renewed advance. 



THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, ETC. 4I9 

cannot be omitted in a memoir relating to General Meade, 
because it represents the appearance of the cloud that, at 
first, no bigger than a man's hand, gradually overshadowed 
his career. Sheridan, before the campaign had begun, had 
intimated to General Meade that he ought to be allowed to 
act independently with the cavalry, to which General Meade 
had properly responded that he thought otherwise. Badeau 
tells the story, and Sheridan himself tells it in his memoirs, 
adding the commentary, ominous in the light of subsequent 
events, that he knew General Meade would be compelled 
sooner or later to change his mind. If the reader will, be- 
fore passing final judgment on the merits of the case, take 
the pains to collate what Grant, Sheridan, Badeau, Hum- 
phreys, Major Carswell McClellan, and what orders on the 
field all exhibit, he will find that, with reference to the ad- 
vance which now took place, Sheridan and his advocates 
have misstated the facts; that Sheridan did not properly 
clear the front of the advancing army, and moreover, that 
he tried to impute the blame which was his own to General 
Meade. He will find that, when the infantry had come up 
at last, and General Meade had expressed his opinion of 
occurrences very plainly to Sheridan, that, within an hour 
or two, Sheridan received orders, suggested by himself, for 
an enterprise against the enemy's cavalry. The meaning of 
this move was in the line of intention to give Sheridan inde- 
pendent command, an event the coming of which he had so 
significantly predicted. And if the reader will still further 
critically pursue the course of events through the accounts 
of those who were making history at that time, and through 
official documents, he will reach the conviction that this 
episode mentioned was the first sign of a favoritism on the 
part of Grant which culminated in Sheridan's elevation to 
the highest rank in the army. He will, if he pursue his 
studies still further into the intricacies of the events then 




420 GENERAL OEOBGE GORDON MEADK 

shaping or formed, see Grant and Sheridan painted by them- 
selves as to traits here indicated. Those who come after 
us will read one day the statement of the historian, when he 
says that the worst feature of Grant's character was &vor- 
itism at the expense of justice, and one of the worst features 
of Sheridan's, the recklessness with which he pursued his 
own personal aggrandizement at the expense of his devoted 
friend and the forfeiture of claim to fair dealing. The fact 
becomes more and more apparent from the Wilderness to 
Appomattox. It receives after the war its final testimony 
and seal in the overslaughing of General Meade in behalf 
of Sheridan. 

Possessed of the seven-league boots of the historian, we 
may omit description of the logistics of the route to Spottsyl- 
vania Court House. It having become apparent to Grant 
that even the most continuous hammering could not dis- 
lodge the enemy from his position in the fastnesses of the 
Wilderness, the movement of the army by the left flank to 
Spottsylvania Court House, towards the southeast, was 
begun by the trains early in the afternoon of the 7th of 
May, followed by the three corps just after dark. The 
Fifth Corps moved directly for the place by the Brock 
Road, while the two other corps marched by different 
routes. The object in view in the direct march of Warren 
was to surprise and occupy the position. A pleasant little 
fiction here appears in most of the accounts of this event, 
which, as so strange, one could wish were true. It is that, 
growing out of the uncomfortableness of Longstreet's 
corps in woods afire, the march on Spottsylvania of his 
corps, then under the command of General Anderson, was 
begun earlier than had been contemplated, and thus it, by 
the merest chance, came to pass that Anderson intercepted 
the Fifth Corps at that point. The fact is that Anderson 
did start much earlier than had been at first intended, but 



• ■ 



:^' 



*wU. 















^, 



JSi- 



-.t. 



i 



t ^ 



THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, ETC 42 1 

that Lee, after having ordered him to march at daybreak, 
sent a special messenger to him to instruct him to march 
at once, in consequence of which he started at eleven 
o'clock at night Thus it came about that when the head 
of Warren's corps, arriving by the Brock Road, was near- 
ing Spottsylvania, Anderson's troops, who had had a less 
distance to march, and along an unobstructed way, were 
coming into position at Spottsylvania. Warren had been 
delayed by the cavalry of Fitzhugh Lee, which, had Sheri- 
dan done his duty, would not have impeded the way. 
Sheridan had, in fact, cleared the region in advance of hostile 
cavalry, on the immediate route of the advancing Fifth 
Corps, but had then fallen back and bivouacked near Todd's 
Tavern, letting the enemy again occupy the zone in front 
of the advancing columns. Sheridan himself was not on 
the ground when General Meade arrived at midnight at 
Todd's Tavern, and General Meade was obliged, in default 
of his presence, to issue orders to the cavalry. Nevertheless, 
Sheridan has attempted to prove that General Meade's action, 
conflicting with his own orders, injuriously affected the 
cavalry movements, when the official and other records 
clearly show that General Meade's action was strictly in 
conformity with the situation at the time when he arrived 
at Todd's Tavern, and that the way which should have 
been kept open by Sheridan was obstructed. At the very 
time when Sheridan's orders were issued he had allowed 
every avenue of approach to Spottsylvania to be blocked 
by his own and by the enemy's cavalry. Sheridan had 
declared to General Meade, on the occasion when he 
claimed independence for the movement of the cavalry, as 
most conducive to military success, that advancing infantry 
should look out for their own fronts, and what he did not 
do on this occasion, with twelve thousand mounted men to 
the enemy's eight thousand, was strictly in accordance with 



422 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

this unmilitary dictum. Yet in the face of this occurrence 
there are to be found eulogists of Sheridan who claim for 
him unwonted appreciation of the most effective employ- 
ment in combination of the respective military arms. 

Grant and Meade both arrived at Todd's Tavern, five 
miles from Spottsylvania, about midnight of the 7th of May. 
By daylight the head of Warren's column appeared to the 
westward of that point, where Merritt's cavalry had begun 
to clear the way for the further advance to Spottsylvania. 
From this point to Spottsylvania the road was barricaded 
at intervals and held by Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry, so that it 
was impossible to make rapid progress along it even with 
the aid of the infantry, soon brought into requisition for the 
purpose. Meanwhile Anderson was establishing himself 
firmly in position at Spottsylvania. Upon the Brock Road, 
and another deviating from it as a fork and rejoining it 
nearer Spottsylvania, Warren advanced, and finally, after 
the usual vicissitudes entailed by pushing through scattered 
woods, reached about noon a position which he entrenched, 
the Sixth Corps beginning to support him. 

Here, with the ever-present need of condensation, must 
be rejected any temptation to give further details of march' 
by which the corps on both sides found themselves in the 
position which they finally occupied. Merely mentioning 
that the Second Corps arrived at Todd's Tavern about nine 
in the morning, where it halted and temporarily entrenched, 
and omitting entirely the route of march of the Army of 
Northern Virginia towards the same battle-field, let us, 
now that the Federal army is virtually on the field, con- 
sider its movements covered by a description of the lines 
finally assumed by the troops of both sides. The gen- 
eral reader imagines that lines of entrenchment are en- 
tirely determinable by the lay of the land, and this is true 
when two armies are not actively opposing each other in 



THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, ETa 423 

the occupation of ground. When, however, they are so 
engaged, the lay of the land is only one of the two chief 
factors in the determination of the eventual conformation of 
temporary military lines. The other is the relative strength 
of the physical and moral forces on each side under the 
direction imparted to them by commands. Lx>oked at 
merely as a matter of physics, the contour of any general 
lines of two armies striving for the occupation of a given 
terrain, is simply the resultant of forces acting against 
each other upon eccentricities of surface. The final en- 
trenchments of the Confederates produced by conformation 
of ground and mutual opposition of forces at Spottsylvania 
brought it about that their lines bore a rude resemblance 
to the fore part of a monster-turtle, with rugged, angular 
head protruding towards the north. At the point where, 
on its right, the carapace ended, the river Po flows. At 
the end of what one might conformably imagine as the outer 
edge of an immense left fore-flipper, the left touched on the 
same stream. The colossal head, amidst woods, a mile 
long by half a mile wide, was eventually crossed at the 
neck by a formidable line of entrenchments. The left flank 
was eventually made to cross the Po and to extend some 
distance beyond. 

Conformably to this contour of the enemy's works, War- 
ren took position on the right, Sedgwick on his left, and 
Bumside on Sedgfwick's left, while later, Hancock, who had 
been for a while retained at Todd's Tavern, lest Lee should 
make an attempt on the Federal rear, came up and took 
position to the right of Warren, Hancock thus holding the 
right flank and Bumside the left. It was well that General 
Meade had taken the precaution of retaining Hancock for 
a while near Todd's Tavern, for Hill's corps, at that moment 
commanded by Early, directed on Spottsylvania by Lee, 
came upon Hancock's troops thrown out to the west, and 



424 GENERAL QEOBOE GORDON MEADE 

recoiled further to the right. The army having assumed 
on the 9th its general position, without any regular en- 
gagement, and without having incurred in the mean time, 
on the 9th, any serious loss but that in the death of 
General Sedgwick, a victim of sharpshooting, a move- 
ment was made in the afternoon which, according to mili- 
tary rules, was wrong. Those rules prescribe that no 
important move shall take place so near sundown that it 
cannot be prosecuted. Barlow's division, of the Second 
Corps, was pushed across the Po, around the extreme left 
flank of the enemy, followed by Bimey's and Gibbon's 
divisions. Three pontoon-bridges were laid to establish 
communication with the hither bank, and night fell with the 
troops successfully advancing. But as they could not further 
advance by night over the ground between the Po and a 
branch of it called Glady's Run, the enemy had all that 
time in which to prepare to meet the manoeuvre on the 
morrow. The manoeuvre, continued the next day, still 
seemed to have good prospect of success, despite the fact 
that the enemy was ready to meet it, and Hancock was 
preparing to carry by storm a bridge over the Po, leading 
fairly to the rear of the enemy's lines, when he received 
orders to withdraw his force, because two of his divisions 
would be needed at five o'clock in the afternoon to join in 
with an attack from the centre on the enemy's front. The 
withdrawal of two of the divisions over the Po led to a 
vigorous attack on the remaining one, under Barlow, but 
his retirement was executed with the most beautiful precis- 
ion, the first troops across commanding the river with their 
artillery, the last repulsing with slaughter the enemy arriv- 
ing in force, and finally passing in their march to the river 
through woods that had caught afire as the result of the 
combat. It was a gallant feat of arms, hard to relinquish 
with this hasty mention of the skilfulness, endurance, and 



THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, ETC. 425 

coolness with which it was accomplished. As gallant deeds 
were done elsewhere before the day's battle came to an end, 
but single combat and all that is analogous to it has a 
peculiar charm for the imagination. 

At eleven o'clock a reconnoissance in force had been 
made at the point opposite Warren by two brigades of the 
Second Corps and two of the Fifth, and now an assault in 
far greater force of the same position was contemplated for 
five o'clock in the afternoon. One cannot but* think, how- 
ever, that if Grant and Meade had conmianded a bird's-eye 
view of the whole field they would, instead of withdrawing 
the three divisions of Hancock from the turning movement 
of the enemy's left, have reinforced them and made them 
execute the main attack, while a comparatively feeble one 
was made on the front. The point that Hancock had gained 
took the enemy's left flank completely in reverse. But on 
the extended field, densely covered with woods in places, 
no extended view and exact knowledge could be obtained 
of what was taking place beyond the immediate range of 
vision and through aides despatched in every direction. It 
is reasonable, therefore, to conclude that neither general 
then realized what a sacrifice the recall of Hancock in- 
volved. The general aspect of the field, possible to obtain 
only from a bird's-eye view or a map, was formed of the 
enemy's lines passing over hill and dale, through bush and 
brake, over the cleared land of farms, broken by streams, 
half-concealed, half-revealed in the varied landscape, the 
Union lines sweeping hither and yon around the huge cit- 
adel formed by nature and art. 

The time originally appointed for the attack from the 
centre was, upon a favorable report from Warren, anticipated 
by orders at half-past three from General Meade to attack 
at once. Hancock had been ordered to return to the right 
to take charge of the extrication of Barlow's division from 



426 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

its dangerous position on the other side of the Po. By four 
o'clock Warren and Wright, now commanding the Sixth 
Corps in Sedgwick's place, were in the full tide of assault on 
the enemy's works, situated behind a dense growth of low 
timber, passing which, amid artillery and musketry fire, they 
reached open ground in front of entrenchments, only to be 
met by a withering fire under which they reeled and par- 
tially recoiled, some few of the troops reaching the abattis 
of the works, but all finally falling back into the woods, 
decimated and defeated. The repulse was so complete that 
it is wonderful that the attempt there was repeated, but it 
was. At seven o'clock Hancock renewed the attack with 
two divisions of the Second Corps, the Fifth supporting, but 
with the result of proving again that the enemy's lines at 
that point were impregnable. 

Off to the left of the Fifth, where the Sixth Corps was 
stationed. General Wright thought that he had discovered 
a place where an assault might be successful. This 
extended from the sharp point of the salient, the beak, 
as it were, of the turtle-head formation there (the so-called 
east angle of the salient, although it would much more 
properly be called the northern angle) to the so-called 
west angle, a very obtuse and therefore ill-defined one. 
Upton was selected to make the attack with two brigades 
and four regiments of the Sixth Corps. Further to the 
left, Mott, of the Second Corps, temporarily assigned 
to Wright's command, was ordered to make a simultane- 
ous attack with that of Upton upon the north angle of 
the salient. Upton's assault, made about six o'clock in 
the evening, was perfectly successful. Artillery fire, 
brought to bear to enfilade the enemy's line on the west 
front of the salient, preceded his charge, which resulted in 
his capturing the works before him and a second line be- 
yond them ; but Mott did not arrive to his assistance, and 



THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS^ ETa 427 

reinforcements for the enemy being poured in, Upton, after 
clinging desperately to his prize until ordered to retire, 
loosened his hold upon it, bringing back prisoners and 
colors. The loss of the Union side was, however, twice 
that on the Confederate side. It would appear that the 
failure of Mott to come to the support of Upton was owing 
to his troops being obliged to form in the open, whereby 
the enemy's attention being concentrated upon them, they 
were prevented by artillery-fire from organizing for attack, 
whereas the success of Upton, apart from the gallantry of 
his troops, was owing to his preparation and forward move- 
ment being masked by the forest. 

The nth of May was passed in preparation for a deter- 
mined onslaught on the enemy's works at the salient. 
Ewell's corps was stationed in this salient of a mile long by 
half a mile broad, or half a square mile in area, the out- 
skirts of which were densely covered with trees. The 
enemy rendered it impossible to make a minute reconnois- 
sance of the ground opposite the apex, that from which 
Mott had vainly attempted to assault. Two-thirds of a mile 
to the north of the salient, in the darkness of night, the 
troops of the Second Corps formed, partly in a clear stretch 
of land, from four to five hundred yards wide, and partly in 
the woods on the right of the aforesaid clear ground, which 
made a long, slight curve to the eastward before the view 
opened to the head of the salient. With vanishing fog and 
lingering darkness of night still brooding over the land- 
scape, the charge was sounded in muffled tones by the first 
dawn of day. Rushing forward, some in swift movement 
over open ground, some plunging over obstacles of sur&ce 
and through trees hindering and breaking up the lines and 
masses of the assaulting columns, those in the open stretch 
of land, pushing around the curve of the woods on the 
right, suddenly came into full view of the salient, when, 



428 GENERAL OEOBOE GORDON MEADE 

giving a joyous cheer, and breaking into the double-quick, 
all sped forward amid a flank fire from the enemy's skir- 
mishers, and tearing away the abattis in front of the earth- 
works, captured and crowned with their colors the parapet 
along both sides of the apex of the salient The troops 
had captured a mile of the salient, overlapping the so-called 
east and west angles (the north and west angles). Many 
of the enemy were killed or wounded by bullet or bayonet, 
and four thousand prisoners, several pieces of artillery, and 
numerous stands of small arms were the prizes of the vic- 
tors. 

Hancock ordered up his reserves. Confusion reigned in 
the victorious ranks. Broken up and irregularly massed, 
owing to their struggle over the ground in their advance, 
and carried away by enthusiasm, they had precipitated them- 
selves without formation into the salient and swept away 
before them the troops of the enemy which offered resist- 
ance. The Confederate general, Gordon, however, reformed 
his troops behind the incipient line of earthworks which 
then crossed the neck of the salient, about a mile from its 
apex, and then, advancing in good order, pushed back the 
Union masses which were surging towards the south. 
General Meade, learning from Hancock that he had obtained 
a foothold in the salient, ordered Wright, commanding the 
Sixth Corps, to send in two divisions on Hancock's right, 
where he relieved the troops of the Second Corps along 
that line, and although soon wounded, remained in com- 
mand of his troops. The situation was now extraordinary. 
The enemy rallying, and reinforced from their lines to the 
south, had pushed forward compactly into the salient, and 
sweeping it clear of the besiegers, recaptured a portion of 
his entrenchments, while a portion remained held by both 
besiegers and besieged, face to face, within a few yards of 
each other, engaged in places in hand to hand conflict At 



THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, ETa 429 

the west angle of the salient the most desperate and dead- 
liest close fighting of the war took place. 

The artillery of Hancock poured a rapid fire from the 
north into the woods amidst the traversed works of the 
enemy. Close up, some of his guns, shotted with canister, 
were brought to the very parapet at the north and west 
angles of the salient. The adversaries clung tenaciously to 
each other through the long hours of the 1 2th of May, the 
embracing lines writhing like fiery serpents in smoke-covered 
contortions. From the right of the Sixth Corps to the left 
of the Second endured through those long hours a strife 
that beggars description, where woods were killed outright 
by sheets of artillery and musketry fire tearing through 
their trunks and branches, and men bayonetted men over 
the breastworks or dragged them over as prisoners. No 
such long, determined, and desperate conflict is known to 
history since the use of improved deadly weapons. To 
complete the wretchedness of the scene, nature contributed 
by a cold, drenching rain a raw atmosphere, despite which 
the strife went on with ardor unquenchable. It was, in 
fact, a combat of which the German word for battle, 
"scA/ach/," gives a far better idea than any other term. 
Here was nothing of glamour, but unmitigated slaughter, a 
golgotha without a vestige of the ordinary pomp and cir- 
cumstance of glorious war. And so it endured through 
those long hours of the spring day, now falling in intensity, 
now rising into furious gusts of destruction, until night 
closing in on the scene diminished the capacity to destroy 
and wholly obscured the sights of havoc. It was not, 
however, until long after midnight that the struggle finally 
ceased, the enemy withdrawing behind his improvised line 
of entrenchments across the neck of the salient, and thus 
excluding the whole of its area from the rest of his entrench- 
ments. 



430 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

Early in the morning, simultaneously with the advance 
of the Second Corps, Bumside had attacked on the left, 
had had a partial success, and had then been pushed out 
of the entrenchments which he had captured. Subsequent 
efforts to make a lodgment proved fruitless, Bumside's 
troops and the enemy's alternately advancing and retiring. 
Bumside succeeded in connecting with the left of the Second 
Corps, but his operations were effective only in occupying 
the enemy's attention upon his own front. On the right, 
early in the morning, Warren had opened on the enemy 
with his artillery, and a little after nine o'clock he had, 
under orders to that effect, assaulted the line in front of 
him, but unsuccessfully. Thereupon he had been ordered 
to send troops to reinforce Wright, which duly arrived in 
their assigned position. 

When, on the morning of the 2d, the enemy was dis- 
covered by Hancock and Wright to have relinquished his 
occupation of the salient, and to have retired to the line of 
new works across its neck, an advance was made along the 
salient towards the south, resulting in the abandonment of 
any attempt to drive him from his strong position. He was 
now stronger than when in possession of the salient 

A movement by the left flank, to attack the enemy's ex- 
treme right, was now determined upon by Grant Hence- 
forth, until the end of the siege, for it was essentially that, 
the troops marched and countermarched enormous distances 
around the enemy's lines, over ground sparsely provided 
with roads, deep with mud from recent rain, and under cumu- 
lative difficulties leading almost to exhaustion. Several 
days were now passed in warily approaching nearer and 
nearer to the enemy's right by lines of contravallation. It 
was becoming more and more apparent that the position 
of Lee's army was impregnable. Troops were finally sent 
with great secrecy from the left towards the right, to make 



THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, ETC. 43 1 

an attack on the works across the salient, upon the suppo- 
sition that they might be taken by surprise. But an attack 
there, on the 1 8th of May, by the Second and Sixth Corps, 
seconded by the Fifth and Ninth, soon brought the convic- 
tion that all idea of success from further assault there must 
be relinquished. The attack was so gallantly made by the 
Second and Sixth Corps as to prove that it would be madness 
to attempt to prosecute it. It was made, too, in the face of 
surroundings which daunt many a man who fears neither 
wounds nor death. Over the ground of their late victory, 
in which Lee had lost ten thousand men in killed, wounded, 
and prisoners, lay remains of their brothers-in-arms in state 
so changed as to be abhorrent to the sight. 

From the 13 th to the 17th of May the time had been 
fruitlessly spent in marching and countermarching and ad- 
vancing works on the left, and now this bold essay of the 
1 8th of May had proved entirely futile. Grant meanwhile 
had concluded that the only resource left was to flank the 
enemy out of his position by a march past his right. The 
enemy, perceiving movements off to his right which indi- 
cated that Grant was withdrawing his army for a further 
march towards the south, Ewell was despatched by a cir- 
cuitous route to his left, now about to become the rear of 
Grant's position with relation to his retiring columns. Here 
a very lively encounter took place with troops that were 
there in position, assisted by reinforcements sent by General 
Meade, and others consisting of troops which happened to 
be on their way to join the army. 

We must leave this field to find time for the description 
of others, with only the baldest account of the marches to- 
wards the south. In the night of the 20th of May Han- 
cock led the van with the Second Corps, marching by the 
way of Bowling Green, on the Richmond and Fredericks- 
burg Railroad, where he crossed the Mattapony and en- 



432 GENERAL OEOROE GORDON MEADE 

trenched. The army in its renewed movements is marching 
now nearly due south. The march and assumed isolated 
position of Hancock was a bait thrown out to Lee. It was 
imagined that he might be led to attack the Second Corps, 
in which case the other troops would be brought up in time 
to support Hancock, and a battle on open ground (for the 
country was becoming more open now) might be precip- 
itated before the Confederates would have time to entrench. 
But Lee did not take the bait ; perhaps, in the midst of his 
own plans, did not perceive it. Hancock being secure in 
position, the other corps marched in the same general direc- 
tion. On the 2 2d Lee's army, too, was in motion, marching 
towards Hanover Junction, where the two railroads passing 
south to Richmond meet, engaged in interposing again be^ 
tween the Federal army and Richmond. Nearly concen- 
trated there on the 2 2d, he awaited Grant's final move- 
ments. About noon of the 23 d, as the leading Federal 
column approached the north bank of the North Anna, 
could be seen the heads of column of the enemy begin- 
ning to take position on the southern bank. The position 
finally assumed by Lee proved to be a most remarkable 
one. At this point the Virginia Central Railroad meets the 
Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad at Hanover Junc- 
tion, at an angle of about seventy degrees. Northward 
of the Virginia Central, varying from one to two miles, 
and, excepting bends, somewhat parallel to it, lies the stretch 
of the North Anna with which we are here concerned. 
Here the river has a sharp bend in it towards the south, 
bringing it at that point only a little over a mile from the 
Virginia Central, with a stretch of river there, straight for 
nearly a mile. Lee was therefore able to throw his left 
wing, refused, to the southwest, so as to rest on Little 
River, three miles in his rear, and his right wing, gradually- 
more and more refused as the Army of the Potomac ad- 



MAP 

BATTU;hfi(.I 

ohth'ann 








Ui, 



THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, ETa 433 

vanced, so as to cover Hanover Junction and a river-road, 
called the Telegraph Road, leading towards his lines, while 
his centre formed a short front of about three-quarters of a 
mile in length on the south bank of the straight stretch of 
the river. We have seen from the experience at Chancel- 
lorsville how vicious a narrow front with sharply refused 
wings is for the disposition of an army, how vicious it 
proved, even with entrenchments, to Lee at Spottsylvania, 
but this case of a narrow front was entirely exceptional, in- 
troducing difficulties for the attacking side and eliminating 
them from that of the attacked. As Lee's narrow front 
rested for three-quarters of a mile on the very river bank 
opposite the enemy, he had there a citadel, with a river for 
a wet ditch, thrust into the feice of the enemy, making com- 
bination between the two wings of the attacking force im- 
possible, save at the expense of twice crossing the river in 
front of him, and thus neutralizing any concerted action 
between those wings. 

Warren led the right column, and reached the North 
Anna at Jericho Ford, four miles west of the point where, 
about two miles north of Hanover Junction, the Richmond 
and Fredericksburg Railroad crosses it. Hancock, who led 
the left column, reached the river at the point of its inter- 
section by the railroad, and also at the point where the 
Telegraph Road crosses the river at Chesterfield Bridge, 
about a half mile further west than that of the railroad- 
crossing. Warren's column passed the river, partly by 
fording, partly by pontoon, and advanced unmolested, the 
enemy's preparations being at that place still incomplete. 
Hancock, on the contrary, had to capture some works 
which defended Chesterfield Bridge, which was handsomely 
done by assault. Warren, however, although crossing un- 
molested, had a severe engagement after he had begun to 

advance, whereas Hancock, after the resistance overcome at 

28 



434 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADK 

the bridge, ascertained the next morning that the enemy 
had swung back his right, and then advanced without heavy 
f^rhting and took position opposite Lee's right wing, with 
which, on the 24th, he had a spirited engagement 

The Sixth Corps, coming up the next morning, followed 
the lead of Warren, but all attempts of the troops on the 
right to join hands with those on the left were frustrated by 
the enemy's occupation of the river bank along the short front 
already described. On the 24th Bumside, with the Ninth 
Corps, attempted the passage of the river at Ox Ford, between 
the place where were Warren and the Sixth Corps, on the 
right, and Hancock with the Second Corps, on the left,but was 
obliged to desist from the attempt, finally sending a division 
to co-operate with Warren in a movement to break through 
the enemy's line along the southern river-bank, so as to 
connect with Hancock. It was useless. Lee was exactly 
in the position to defy attack from across the river, because 
the short front there could not be directly engaged in fiice ; 
and to defy attack from the same side of the river, because 
either of his refused wings could readily reinforce the other. 
Why proceed further in description of the situation ? It 
was a deadlock. There was no help for it but to retire from 
a position which could not have been foreseen. Accord- 
ingly, after closing in somewhat on Lee*s left wing, and 
finding the enemy strongly entrenched there with traversed 
works, the withdrawal of the army from a most dangerous 
position was skilfully effected. Even Grant had b^^un to 
see the desperate character of assaults on earthworks 
manned by troops of such mettle as those of the Army of 
Northern Virginia. Napoleon lays great stress upoo the 
neglect, up to a certain period in European war, of simple 
entrenchments ; but unless all signs fail. Grant had never 
read Napoleon's military comments attentively, certainly not 
as to this particular. Humphreys, in one place, puts die 



THE BATTLES OF THE WILDERNESS, ETC 435 

efficiency of such works as numerically equivalent to 
more than a third increase of troops, and in another, to 
more than quadrupling them, a statement, doubtless, inad- 
vertent 

Moving by night, the Army of the Potomac had, by day- 
light of the 27th of May, r^ained the northern bank of 
the North Anna. Southeast was the direction of the re- 
newed line of march. A division of the Sixth Corps, fol- 
lowed by the rest of the Sixth Corps, and then by the Sec- 
ond, both preceded by two divisions of General Sheridan's 
cavalry, and followed by one division of it as rearguard, 
while the Fifth and Ninth followed roads further to the 
left, represents the first order of march adopted for the 
renewed advance. Now the aim of the advancing army is 
to cross the Pamunkey. We have passed going south the 
western branches of the Mattapony, the Ny and Po, the Ta 
and the Mat. As the army, having crossed and re-crossed 
the North Anna, is now about to cross the Pamunkey, 
which is formed by the confluence of the North Anna 
and the South Anna, it is evident that it is sidling off 
towards the southeast between the Mattapony and the Pa- 
munkey. 

The cavalry, preceding the advanced division of the Sixth 
Corps, arrived in the morning of the 27th of May at Han- 
overtown, crossed the Pamunkey there and uncovered the 
fords in the vicinity. Before noon of the 28th the Fifth 
Corps crossed at the same place. Soon after noon of the 
28th the Second Corps and two divisions of the Sixth 
crossed the river four miles above Hanovertown. The Ninth 
Corps crossed at Hanovertown, but not until the middle of 
the night of the 28th. Lee having been moving on paral- 
lel lines with Grant, was now again athwart his path on the 
roads to Richmond. Here occurred battles along Totopot- 
omoy Creek and at Cold Harbor, the account of which 



436 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

will be postponed while following for a moment the course 
of closely-related simultaneous events, traced in outline in 
the next chapter ; events which had either the effect of in- 
fluencing from a distance the fortunes of the past battle- 
fields and the approaching one, or of bringing personally 
upon the present scene actors who have not before ap- 
peared. 



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CO-OPERATIVE COLUMNS. 437 



CHAPTER XXI. 

CO-OPERATIVE COLUMNS. 

According to prearrangement, the armies of Banks in the 
Southwest, of Sherman in the Middle States, of Sigel in the 
Valley of the Shenandoah, and of Butler on the James, had 
started with the Army of the Potomac at virtually the same 
time, the 4th of May, generally at exactly the same time. 
No extended reference to Banks's and Sherman's armies is 
permissible here, but the operations of Sigel's and Butler's 
armies, being intimately related to those of the Army of 
the Potomac, must at this point receive notice. Butler's 
force, called the Army of the James, consisted of the Tenth 
and Eighteenth Corps, respectively commanded by Generals 
Q. A. Gilmore and Wm. F. Smith, commonly known as 
" Baldy " Smith, and of a cavalry corps, commanded by 
General A. V. Kautz. Why these men, or indeed any 
military men, should have been under the immediate com- 
mand of General B. F. Butler is explicable only by the &ct 
of Butler's political influence, and that political influence, 
irrespective of individual merit, is the funeral pyre of modem 
society, upon which is sacrificed at intervals the highest in- 
terests of nations. 

Under orders, Butler concentrated his in&ntry at York- 
town and Gloucester, on the York River, as a feint of going 
up that river to join Grant's army moving south. In the 
night of the 4th of May, the same day that the Army of 
the Potomac crossed the Rapidan, Butler's troops slipped 
down the York River on transports, and under escort of a 
naval force, under Rear-Admiral S. P. Lee, passed into and 



438 GENERAL OEOBOE QORDON USADR 

up the James River, and landed near, but chiefly at Ber- 
muda Hundred, a narrow neck of land between the James 
and Appomattox Rivers. Here Butler was joined by a few 
other troops from the Peninsula between the James and the 
York. On the morning of the 6th Kautz, starting from 
Suffolk, towards the south, with the cavalry, made for the 
nearest line of railroad south of Petersburg, with the view 
of preventing the passage of troops through that place for 
the reinforcement of Richmond, and of severing one of the 
sources of supply of the enemy, and the in&ntry at Ber- 
muda Hundred advanced to a point a few miles beyond the 
area described between the James and the Appomattox, 
and took up a position there. At this time the approaches 
to Richmond were only feebly held, but Beauregard, who 
had been ordered to take command of the place, was rap- 
idly approaching with troops from the South. The precious 
time for that purpose, if it were possible to effect the capture 
of Richmond, was wasted through Butler's military incapa- 
city. The naval vessels on the James found it impossible to 
ascend the stream so as to co-operate in the attack by assail- 
ing the principal river-defences south of Richmond. Butler 
rejected a plan proposed to him of crossing the Appomat- 
tox and capturing Petersburg, only about eight miles dis- 
tant. The end virtually came when, time having been lost 
in futile movements, Beauregard took the initiative, when 
Butler had advanced with his right near to Drewry's Bluff" 
on the James. After a severe engagement Butler was forced 
to retreat into the little peninsula previously described as at 
Bermuda Hundred, where he remained bottled up and 
corked, as was said at the time, in substantially the same 
words, by General Barnard, in his report of the situation to 
Grant. Even this lame and impotent conclusion to the first 
operations of Butler, which accomplished little but some 
railroad destruction, might have been a great deal worse. 



CfO-OPERATIVE COLUMNS. 439 

for it seems hardly doubtful that, had General Whiting, of 
the Confederates, fulfilled his part of the plan of battle 
directed at Drewry's Bluff against Butler, the Army of the 
James would have suffered a severe defeat. As it was, with 
the incubus of Butler in command, the Army of the James 
did all that could legitimately have been expected of it, 
General Smith especially signalizing himself by ready per- 
ception of the situation and adoption of means to meet it. 
It was on the i6th of May that the battle of Drewry's 
Bluff took place. On the following day Beauregard fol- 
lowed Butler's retreat, and entrenching lines in front of the 
narrow area corresponding to the neck of the bottle to 
which General Barnard had likened the little peninsula, 
there held Butler's forces neutralized, so far as direct influ- 
ence on the capture of Richmond or Petersburg was con- 
cerned. Here Butler was left to ferment for many days, 
never reaching the ripeness of knowledge, however, that he 
was not a bom general. 

The principal colunm moving from the direction of Wash- 
ington was commanded in person by Sigel, and passed up 
the Shenandoah Valley. To the west of it General Couch 
had a colunm in West Virginia operating near the line of 
communication by the East Tennessee and Virginia Rail- 
road. That of Sigel principally interests us as having inti- 
mate relations with the advance of the Army of the Potomac. 
Both columns moved on May ist, and Sigel's was defeated 
at Newmarket, on the 1 5th, leading to great alarm in Wash- 
ington. When finally Grant had been communicated with, 
after the delay caused by his presence with the Army of 
the Potomac, and he was able to take action, he relieved 
Sigel from command of the Army of the Shenandoah and 
gave it to General Hunter, who, being ordered to capture 
Lynchburg, if possible, met the enemy, weakened by a 
detachment to Lee, on the 5th of June, and badly defeated 



440 GENERAL OEOBQE GORDON MEADE. 

him. On the 8th of June Hunter was joined by a cav- 
alry force under Generals Crook and Averell, and moved 
on Lynchburg. Here, in the position clearly shown by the 
Confederate maps of the defences of Lynchburg, and at the 
disadvantage of the enemy's having received heavy rein- 
forcements from Lee, then in Richmond, he was obliged, 
on the 19th of June, to abandon the project of the capture 
of Lynchburg, and to retire by a line further to the west, 
to avoid having his retreat towards Washington cut off by 
the enemy. Almost destitute of supplies, a stock of which 
in his rear had been so imperfectly guarded as to permit its 
destruction or removal by the enemy, he struggled through 
the rugged country through which he was obliged to take 
his course north, and for the second time within a brief 
interval of time the line towards Washington was uncovered 
and the whole country north put in a state of alarm. The 
valley through which Hunter had advanced now lying 
open to invasion, Early, who had brought up part of the 
reinforcements to Lynchburg which had caused Hunter's 
retreat, soon began his celebrated raid on Washington, 
necessitating the sending of the Sixth Corps by water from 
the Army of the Potomac, then across the James, to the 
relief of Washington from the impending attack. This, and 
the opportune arrival there at the same time of two divisions 
of the Nineteenth Corps from New Orleans, ensured the 
safety of the city when, on the 12th of July, the enemy was 
about to assault its works. The incidents of Elarly's inva- 
sion, the defeat of General Wallace on the Monocacy, and 
other details, would make too long a story for these pages. 
It should, however, be mentioned in conclusion, that Hunter 
had done all that was possible with the means at his com- 
mand. The cause of his ill-success lay in the expectation 
of the Lieutenant-General, conveyed to General Hunter, 
that he would advance as far as Lynchburg, at which place 



CO-OPERATIVE COLUMNS. 441 

became demonstrated dangers which ought in conception 
to have been so manifest as not to have been incurred. 
The latter part of this account, the reader will perceive, of 
course anticipates in time the events as related to our main 
narrative. 

Having thus disposed of the expeditionary columns within 
a short range of the Army of the Potomac, it remains to 
speak last of the raid of General Sheridan, which was begun 
simultaneously with the opening of the battle of Spottsyl- 
vania Court House. Like Cervantes, in one modest respect, 
I despatched one of the characters of my tale, and brought 
him back again without the slightest apology to the reader. 
The explanation is that I should not have been justifiable 
in interrupting the torrent of events from the Wilderness 
onward to Cold Harbor, to introduce a swirl of the agita- 
tion tending elsewhere. The cavalry under Sheridan was 
composed of three divisions, commanded by Generals 
Gregg, Merritt (Torbert's division), and Wilson. They were 
intended to accomplish, if possible, the defeat of the enemy's 
cavalry, the capture of Richmond by surprise, and com- 
munication with Butler at Bermuda Hundred. Stuart was 
on the alert, and permitting Sheridan, almost unmolested, 
except by harassing his flank and rear, to pursue his route, 
he gathered his main body of cavalry in advance for a deter- 
mined stand. Sheridan passed over the North Anna, and after 
repelling a slight attack upon him at Beaver Dam Station, on 
the Virginia Central Railroad, he engaged in destroying tracks 
and rolling stock. Again, at Ashland Station, Sheridan en- 
gaged in similar work of destruction on the Fredericksburg 
Railroad, so that Stuart had ample time to concentrate his 
forces near Yellow Tavern, about five miles north of Rich- 
mond. Here Sheridan, continuing his march, after doing all 
possible damage at his last halting-place, found Stuart in posi- 
tion. The result of the encounter, in which Stuart's force was 



442 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE 

very much smaller than Sheridan's, and in which Stuart 
was killed, was the defeat of the Confederates and the open- 
ing of the way to Richmond. But the main works there 
proved upon reconnoissance too strong to capture, and so 
Sheridan, after taking a portion of the outer ones, and find- 
ing it impossible to reach Butler by passing between Rich- 
mond and the Chickahominy, turned back towards the Chick- 
ahominy. Merritt (temporarily commanding Torbert's divis- 
ion) passed it, after repairing Meadow Bridge, near the cross- 
ing of the stream by the Virginia Central Railroad. Wilson's 
and Gregg's divisions tried to cross it about two miles below, 
near Mechanicsville Bridge, where the direct road from Rich- 
mond to Mechanicsville crosses it, but being opposed by the 
enemy, had to cross it above that point, after having thrown 
off the attacks of the enemy. Once more in the open, free 
from assailants, Sheridan took his way along the north side 
of the Chickahominy to Bottom's Bridge, where he crossed 
it, and on the 14th reached Haxall's Landing, on the north- 
em side of the James, just opposite to Butler's position of 
Bermuda Hundred, on the south side, where he received 
supplies, remained three days, and then returned towards 
the Army of the Potomac. This he did by repairing the 
bridge over the Pamunkey at the White House and cross- 
ing there, thus placing that stream between him and any 
possible attack from the Confederate army, for it must be 
remembered that he could not know what had taken place 
since his departure from Spottsylvania Court-House. The 
White House was now about to be once more the base of 
supplies of the Army of the Potomac. Masked by the 
Pamunkey, Sheridan rejoined the army at Chesterfield Sta- 
tion, on the 24th of May, and in pursuance of the constant 
effort at railroad destruction, almost at once Wilson's divis- 
ion was thrown out on Lee's left flank, to work that sort 
of havoc, and as a feint, to delude Lee into the belief that 



CO-OPERATIVE COLUMNS. 443 

the new line of advance of the Army of the Potomac would 
be by its right flank instead of by its left, and therefore in a 
different direction from the one upon which Grant had re- 
solved. The reader will now understand how the main 
body of cavalry, under Sheridan, — Gregg's and Torbert's 
divisions,— came, on May 27th, to be leading the advance 
of the army, and Wilson's division to be guarding the rear 
on the way from the North Anna across the Pamunkey to 
Totopotomoy Creek. 



444 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

THE BATTLES OF BETHESDA CHURCH AND COLD HARBOR. 

We left the Army of the Potomac just after it had 
crossed to the south side of the Pamunkey. The Pamun- 
key and the Mattapony, as has been mentioned, form, 
from their point of junction, the York River. South of the 
Pamunkey, about thirteen miles above that junction, is the 
White House, the depot of supplies during the Peninsular 
Campaign, which, now that the Army of the Potomac has 
advanced from the North Anna to within a march of it, 
again serves that purpose. 

The Pamunkey, just back of where the major part of 
the Army of the Potomac had crossed it, lies in a south- 
easterly direction. Flowing into it near there, with their 
mouths six miles apart, are, in the order from north to 
south. Crump's Creek and Totopotomoy Creek, lying in a 
general way in a southwesterly direction, enriched through 
their courses and at their heads by numerous affluents 
and corresponding swampy bottoms. About four and a 
half miles down the Pamunkey from the mouth of Totopot- 
omoy Creek is the mouth of Matadequin Creek, the general 
course of which, being about west, its head-waters approach 
near to those of the Totopotomoy, with the same character- 
istics of numerous affluents and swampy bottoms. Further 
south than these three streams, running southeasterly in its 
upper course, and therefore parallel there to the Pamunkey, 
is the Chickahominy, flowing into the James River, and 
passing in its upper course between the Army of the Poto- 
mac and Richmond, and lying, when the army was in its 



BETHE8DA CHURCH AND COLD HARBOR. 44$ 

final position, five miles beyond its centre, to the southwest. 
On the north side it has numerous affluents with swampy 
bottoms. These, flowing in a general way from north to 
south, have their headwaters in direction athwart the course 
of the Matadequin. Consequently, the whole country in 
which the two armies are now operating is seamed with 
swamp-confined watercourses running in various directions 
and preventing uniform advance of hostile lines and ease of 
movement within each from flank to flank. Just to the 
westward of this intricate formation of ground lies the Vir- 
ginia Central Railroad, running north from Richmond to 
Hanover Court House, distant fifteen miles. 

When, about noon of the 28th of May, the Second, 
Fifth, and Sixth Corps of the Army of the Potomac found 
themselves across the Pamunkey, they drew up in a posi- 
tion about two miles south of it. The right of the Sixth 
Corps rested beyond Crump's Creek, enclosing the road to 
Hanover Court-House ; the Second Corps, forming the cen- 
tre, lay from northwest to southeast, with its left in the rear 
of Hawes's Shop, and the Fifth Corps continued the general 
line until its left reached the point where the Old Church 
Road to Hawes's Shop crosses the Totopotomoy. The 
Ninth Corps, as previously mentioned, did not get across 
the Pamunkey until midnight. Wilson, with a division of 
cavalry, was on the north side of the Pamunkey, protecting 
the transit of the trains. Sheridan, with two divisions of 
cavalry, was off to the left front. No one knew, from ocu- 
lar demonstration, the exact position 'of the enemy. All 
that had been seen of him since leaving the North Anna was 
a brigade of his cavalry, which had had a slight encounter 
with the advance of the Army of the Potomac crossing the 
Pamunkey. But there are in war demonstrations other 
than ocular ones which determine the general position of 
an enemy. The direction of Richmond from the position 



446 GENERAL QEOROE GORDON MEADK 

of the Army of the Potomac, and the direction of the roads 
leading thereto, coupled with the nature of the ground, de- 
termined the general position in which Lee's line of battle 
must eventually be. The problem to be solved was to as- 
certain, at the least expenditure, its exact position. On the 
28th Sheridan had been ordered to move two of his divis- 
ions of cavalry beyond Hawes's Shop towards Richmond. 
He had not advanced far when he encountered the main 
body of the enemy's cavalry, under Hampton and Fitzhugh 
Lee, and held the place after a hard fight lasting until dark, 
before which time he was reinforced by two brigades of 
Torbert's division of cavalry, in the rear at Crump's Creek, 
rendering the tenure of the position secure. 

There is a simple plan by which to bring the respective 
positions of the hostile armies to the apprehension of the 
reader. Let him picture to himself that the Totopotomoy 
runs south of east from near Atlee's Station, on the Vir- 
ginia Central Railroad, for about five miles, and there bends 
and runs thence north of east to its mouth at the Pamunkey, 
and that the Chickahominy, at a point about five miles 
south of this upper reach of the Totopotomoy, runs about 
parallel with that reach. Now, if these directions and dis- 
tances are clearly held in mind, it will be seen that the pro- 
duction of the enemy's line of battle from left to right along 
the upper and southeast reach of the Totopotomoy would, 
after leaving the lower, northeast reach, beyond the bend 
of the stream, bring up a few miles off on the northern 
bank of the Chickahominy. And it will be equally apparent 
that, as all the roads north of the Chickahominy leading to 
Richmond from the northeast are intersected about at right- 
angles by the line described, that that was necessarily the 
line of defence adopted by the enemy. The line of the 
enemy therefore faced northeast, and the line of the Army 
of the Potomac must have faced southwest. The two, rep- 



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BETHl 



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BETHESDA CHURCH AND COLD HARBOR. 447 

• 

resenting attack and defence, simply shifted along from 
northwest to southeast. 

On the morning of the 29th of May the infantry of the 
Army of the Potomac moved m the following manner, — 
the Sixth Corps, on the right, in the direction of Hanover 
Court House, whither it marched to feel for the enemy 
on that flank, finding nothing but small bodies of cavalry 
hovering around; the Second Corps, to the left of the 
Sixth, closing in on the Totopotomoy ; the Fifth, to the 
left of the Second, crossing the Totopotomoy and advan- 
cing along the Shady Grove Church Road. The Ninth 
Corps was held in reserve between the Second and Fifth. 
The order for the next day, the 30th, was for Wright to try 
to outflank the left of the enemy ; for Hancock, on his 
left, to co-operate with Wright ; for Bumside, on Hancock's 
left, to push forward on his front ; and for Warren, on his 
left, across the Totopotomoy, to continue to advance along 
the Shady Grove Church Road. The Sixth Corps became 
tangled up in the swamps of the head of Crump's Creek, and 
could not arrive in time to carry out its part of the programme 
with the Second ; the Second had considerable success on 
its front, but without being able to disrupt the enemy's 
line ; the Ninth crossed the Totopotomoy at the expense of 
some heavy skirmishing ; and the Fifth, coming up in front 
of Bethesda Church, had a severe engagement, which grew 
in intensity as the day went on, the left of the corps, in the 
afternoon, being overlapped by the pivoting of the enemy's 
right flank across the head of Beaver Dam Creek, notable as 
the one which, near its mouth, on the Chickahominy, had 
witnessed the first of the series of battles that ended with 
McClellan's withdrawal from the Peninsula. The brunt of 
the preliminary battle had thus to be borne by Warren, the 
nature of the ground rendering it impossible for Hancock, the 
most available on his right, to come directly to his assistance. 



44^ GENERAL OEOBOE GORDON MEADE 

An attempt, however, was made to relieve him indirectly, 
through orders from General Meade to Hancock, who put 
Barlow in on his own front. It will be perceived that the 
positions of the two armies will shift to the left as viewed 
from the Army of the Potomac. Wilson's division of cavalry 
was on the right Hank of the army near the head of Crump's 
Creek, engaged in covering that flank, and preparing for 
railroad destruction, including the demolition of the rail- 
road bridges over the South Anna. Sheridan, with two 
divisions of cavalry, held on the left, watching the roads 
beyond Hawes's Shop to Richmond. At Matadequin 
Creek, where it is crossed by the road to Cold Harbor, he 
dislodged cavalry of the enemy posted there. 

Other actors for the coming drama, to whom allusion 
was made in the last chapter, are approaching the scene of 
conflict by landing near the White House. Before leaving 
Spottsylvania Court House, Grant had ordered Butler to 
keep as many troops as might be necessary to hold his 
lines at Bermuda Hundred, and to send the remainder to 
reinforce the Army of the Potomac. Lee had acted simi- 
larly with regard to stripping the lines opposing those at 
Bermuda Hundred, and the two hostile contingents had 
joined, or were in the act of joining, their respective sides 
on the Totopotomoy. As the enemy's contingent had first 
left the position at Bermuda Hundred, its troops had gradu- 
ally reached the battle-ground, while those destined for the 
Army of the Potomac were just beginning to appear, as it 
were, in the distance. These, consisting of four divisions 
of the Tenth and Eighteenth Corps, about sixteen thousand 
strong under the command of General William F. Smith, 
came by water from Bermuda Hundred, down the James 
and up the York and the Pamunkey, on the bank of which 
last stream they had landed by the 31st of May near the 
White House. 



BETHESDA CHURCH AND COLD HARBOR 449 

It was undoubtedly only through General Grant's action 
that this contingent could be ordered from the Army of the 
James to join the Army of the Potomac. But its further 
movement ought to have been under the immediate direc- 
tion of General Meade. It is unfortunately, however, an 
almost irresistible tendency in any but the most philosophic 
minds to enter abruptly into a train of events which others 
are conducting. The propensity is well illustrated by the 
proverbial soup, to which each person passing through the 
kitchen contributes a pinch of salt. The result, in this 
instance, of Grant's taking immediate direction of Smith's 
movement was that he was ordered to march, instead of, 
to Cold Harbor, for a wrong place, to Newcastle Ferry, on 
the Pamunkey, near the mouth of the Totopotomoy, seve- 
ral miles back of the lines of the Army of the Potomac as 
they were expected to lie, and did lie, on the ist of June. 
In consequence, after a long, hot day- and night-march, on 
the 31st of May, Smith's column reached Newcastle Ferry, 
only to march the next morning for Cold Harbor, his troops 
reaching there unfit, through heat and fatigue, for the im- 
mediate action desired, which had to be postponed until a 
later hour. 

On the 31st of May the two armies were in close con- 
tact, but largely debarred from action by the line of the 
upper reach of the Totopotomoy. The infantry of the Army 
of the Potomac was kept, with skirmishers in advance, 
pressed up against the enemy, but made no general attack 
anywhere, as it was now perceived that, if it were possible 
to break through the opposing lines, it would be necessary 
to move from right to left some of the force then along the 
upper reach of the Totopotomoy. The day was therefore 
passed by the infantry in skirmishing and making feints of 
attack. The cavalry was, on the contrary, very active 

during the day ; Sheridan, on the left front, capturing and 

29 



450 GENERAL OEOBOE GORDON MEADK 

holding the enemy's position at Old Cold Harbor, finally 
relinquishing it under heavy pressure, and then, by orders 
from General Meade to hold it to the last extremity, making 
a successful stand there. 

Sheridan's holding Old Cold Harbor was the turning- 
point in the preliminary tactical movements of the Army 
of the Potomac. It was soon able to extend towards the 
left, with its line between Old Cold Harbor and New Cold 
Harbor, stretching thence southeast to the Chickahominy. 
The Sixth Corps was, during the night of the 31st, marched 
to the left, Sheridan meanwhile holding on with difficulty 
against the force brought to bear against him on the morn- 
ing of the 1st of June. The Sixth Corps, however, began to 
arrive between nine and ten o'clock, and relieved the cavalry 
for other duty on the left flank. Wilson's cavalry division, 
on the right, had an engagement near Hanover Court House, 
and destroyed the two railroad bridges over the South Anna. 
In the course of the morning Smith came up from Newcastle, 
and was posted on the right of the Sixth Corps, Warren being 
on his right. The enemy, upon observing the coming up 
of the Sixth Corps to take position on Grant's extreme left, 
pushed Longstreet further to the right. The two armies 
are now effectively closed in on each other. The line of 
the upper Totopotomoy is no longer the scene of the main 
threats and attacks. The focus of the combat is to be at 
Cold Harbor, covering some of the most direct roads to 
Richmond and the Chickahominy. From left to right the 
corps now lie in the order of the Sixth, the four divisions 
of the Tenth and Eighteenth Corps, the Fifth, the Ninth, 
and the Second. The final battle contemplated for the morn- 
ing of the 2d of June had to be delayed until the after- 
noon, partially on account of the necessity of affording an 
interval of rest for Smith's jaded troops. Meanwhile, at 
six o'clock in the evening of the ist the action began by an 



BETHESDA CHURCH AND COLD HARBOR. 45 1 

attack from the front of the Sixth Corps and that of the 
Tenth and Eighteenth Corps. From the left of the Sixth 
Corps to the right of Smith the following was the order 
of the troops for the designated attack. The Sixth Corps, 
— Getty's division, Russell's division, Ricketts's division. 
Smith's troops, — Devens's division, Brooks's division, Mar- 
tindale's division. The whole of Ricketts's division, in the 
centre, the right of Russell's and of Getty's, Devens's, and 
part of Brooks's, came into fierce contact with the enemy, 
Martindale's division, on the right, and Neill's brigade, on 
the left, being refused, and holding the roads in those places. 
The result of the fighting was the loss of two thousand men 
within a brief space of time, and the gain of portions of the 
advanced line of the enemy. Ricketts's and part of Rus- 
sell's division captured the enemy's second line on their 
front, but were finally driven out of it. The troops en- 
trenched on the ground which they had gained. With only 
the force present on the left, no further progress could be 
made, and the struggle will intensify more and more to- 
wards the left. The Second Corps was ordered to make 
a night march from the right, and the Sixth and the three 
other corps on the left, to attack early the next morning 
while the Second was coming up on the left of the Sixth. 
After a heavy night march over difficult ground Hancock 
arrived early in the morning of the 2d of June with his 
troops very weary. Smith's troops, too, had not com- 
pletely recovered from their fatigue, having gone into battle 
still wayworn. Besides, the vicissitudes of their march had 
resulted in their being deficient in ammunition. The attack 
was therefore postponed until five o'clock in the afternoon. 
Without going into the minutiae of the new dispositions 
on the left, let it be stated in general terms that the Army 
of the Potomac was now resting with its left on the Chicka- 
hominy, lying in the following order from left to right, — 



452 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE. 

the Second Corps, the Sixth, parts of the Tenth and 
Eighteenth, the Fifth, and the Ninth ; the Fifth holding a 
line about three miles in length, so covered in parts by 
swamps that it was difficult there to attack or be attacked. 
The enemy continued, conformably with the opposite move- 
ments, to draw down reinforcements from his left to his 
right. The attack was again postponed. Instead of its 
taking place at five o'clock in the afternoon, it was 
ordered for half-past four on the morning of the next day, 
the 3d. This was necessitated by various causes, the great 
heat, the fatigue from the late night marches, and the 
general inadequacy of general preparation for the previ- 
ously appointed time of five o'clock in the afternoon of the 
2d. Nothing therefore took place on the 2d of June more 
serious than skirmishing along the lines, except that the 
enemy, conceiving that the right might have been unduly 
weakened, made an attempt upon it, resulting in some suc- 
cess, as it unfortunately found Warren and Burnside, on 
the extreme right, in the act of making a change ordered, 
by which Warren was, by extending his left, to close up on 
Smith, and Burnside was to mass his corps in reserve in the 
rear of Warren's right. 

The coming battle is popularly believed to have been one 
in which there was a simultaneous assault all along the line, 
but this was in places impossible. What in a general way 
took place remains to be recounted. It was almost precisely 
on the stroke of half-past four in the morning of the 3d, the 
appointed time, when the cavalry on the left quiescent, the 
cavalry on the enemy's right-rear active, that the infantry 
between, over a stretch of six miles, attacked wherever the 
enemy's lines were approachable. The army, free to ap- 
proach the enemy from any position, barring Warren's and 
Bumside's, and represented by the Second and Sixth Corps, 
and the divisions of the Tenth and Eighteenth, advanced 



.•r. 



BETHESDA CHURCH AND COLD HARBOR. 453 

simultaneously, captured many of the enemy's rifle-pits 
amidst a storm of direct- and cross-artillery fire, and over- 
running them, rushed forward to within a short distance of his 
main entrenchments, where the fire became so scathing that 
the troops, not being able to proceed farther, sought every 
accident of ground for shelter, and began, with whatever 
implement happened to be at hand, to throw up some slight 
cover of earth. Although all the troops behaved with 
exemplary gallantry, suffering during the unusually short 
period during which the fighting lasted, a loss of four thou- 
sand men in killed and wounded, the only serious lodgment 
in the enemy's works was made by Barlow's division of 
the Second Corps, which, happening to strike a salient of 
the enemy's main line, carried it. But unfortunately, his 
supporting second line did not arrive in time to confirm his 
hold, and he was swept out of the works by the enemy's 
reinforcements at that point, which rendered the position 
thereafter secure. Another portion of the enemy's entrench- 
ments was captured, but had to be relinquished, as in the 
case cited, through failure to support in time the first as- 
sault. The hopelessness of further attack under the condi- 
tions of the terrible direct-fire, and also cross-fire coming 
from the right of Smith, and searching the lines of the Sixth 
Corps as well as those of his command, and even reaching 
the left of the Second Corps, having become apparent, the 
respective corps-commanders were directed to hold the 
ground gained, and to proceed by regular approaches. 

While this was happening on the left of the army, Bum- 
side, on the right, captured rifle-pits along the line in front 
of him, which had been stripped by Lee to reinforce his 
right ; and he was, at one o'clock, about to move finally 
upon the enemy when the order suspending attack reached 
him. Warren, on Bumside's left, had acted in concert with 
Bumside, both being engaged with Early, temporarily com- 



454 GENERAL GEOBGE GORDON MEADR 

manding EwelPs corps. Warren's corps, however, being 
strung out in a thin line, and having in front of it unfavor- 
able ground, could take the offensive to so little advantage 
that Bimey's division of the Second Corps had been sent to 
hold his lefl, when the order suspending further attack ar- 
rived. With a slight attack by the enemy, about dark, on 
a portion of the Sixth Corps, the battle of the 3d ended. 

This represents, omitting minute details, the battle of the 
3d of June at Cold Harbor. The total loss on the Union 
side in pitched battle on the ist and 3d of June was very 
nearly ten thousand, of which the greatest was sustained by 
the Second and Sixth Corps and the divisions of the Tenth 
and Eighteenth. The total loss afler crossing the Pamunkey 
was very nearly thirteen thousand. The loss on the side 
of the Confederates has never been ascertained. It was 
probably not more than a fifth of these numbers. 

On the 6th and 7th of June Lee took the offensive against 
the right flank and rear of the army. But the attempts 
failed, the enemy in his turn experiencing the difficulty of 
making long advances through a country cut up by numer- 
ous streams with their bordering swamps. Grant resolved, 
despite the suggestion of Halleck to invest Richmond on 
the north side, to carry out his original project of shifting 
as an eventuality from the north to the south side of the 
James. How he could have done otherwise is not apparent, 
seeing, as we have observed, that he could not force Lee's 
lines defending the ground leading to the north side of 
Richmond. On the 9th and loth of June the preliminary 
steps for the withdrawal of the army were taken, and it 
began to retire in the night of the 1 2th and move towards 
the James. Before this took place, however, Sheridan had 
marched. On the 7th of June he had moved north of 
Richmond on a pathway of railroad destruction, instructed 
to join Hunter at Charlottesville, northwest of Richmond, 



BETHE8DA CHURCH AND COLD HARBOR. 455 

who was expected by that time to have captured Lynch- 
burg, a little south of west from Richmond, and after 
having destroyed valuable war-material there, to be in a 
position where, reinforced by Sheridan, they would be able 
together to combine their forces and join the Army of the 
Potomac. But, as we have already seen in the chapter on 
co-operative movements, things had fallen out differently 
from expectations. Another movement besides Sheridan's 
had been initiated about the same time. On the 9th of June, 
while comparative repose reigned in the Army of the Poto- 
mac and that of its adversary, an expedition of infantry and 
cavalry started from the lines of Bermuda Hundred, seeking 
to capture Petersburg by surprise. The attempt was un- 
successful. General Beauregard, in command of the lines 
of Petersburg and Bermuda Hundred, sent reinforcements 
to the town, and the affair ended like a mere reconnoissance 
in force. 



456 GENERAL QEOBQE QOBDON MEADE 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

CHANGE OF BASE AND ATTEMPTED SURPRISE OF PETERSBURG. 

That, from the movements which were to a certain de- 
gree under his observation, General Lee should not have 
known that they indicated crossing the James, is not extra- 
ordinary. The visible movements were precisely those 
which would have been made, had they been intended, after 
the army's crossing the Chickahominy, to culminate in an 
advance on Richmond from the southeast, over the Charles 
River, Central, and New Market Roads. When, on the 
morning of the 1 3th of June, Lee had learned that the 
Army of the Potomac had retired from his front, he had to 
meet what was apparent, but falsely so, by the counter- 
move of marching a portion of his army towards a position 
where his right would rest near Malvern Hill, his centre at 
Riddle's Shop, and his left on the White Oak Swamp, and 
there await the initiative of the enemy in a direct advance 
towards Richmond. The extraordinary feature of the event 
is, not that Lee did not penetrate Grant's design, but that 
the eventuality which was now taking form had been kept 
throughout the whole campaign secret. 

It behooves us now to examine what the Army of the 
Potomac was doing when, on the morning of the 1 3th of 
June, Lee discovered that it had retired from his front. It 
was engaged in an operation, in strategy well conceived, and 
in tactics admirably executed, — the crossing of the James. 
Unhappily, an incidental project of Grant's failed through 
his own remissness. Yet, despite this, two distinguished 
writers on the war have been found to lavish praise upon 



ATTEMPTED SURPRISE OF PETERSBURG. 457 

him for his strategy here, oblivious of the fact that they 
had not forgotten to note the serious lapse through which 
his incidental plan of taking Petersburg by surprise sig- 
nally failed. But, just as the strength of a fortification is 
its weakest point, so also is the strength of a plan its weakest 
point. The operation intended by Grant may be regarded 
as he, in fact, regarded it at the time, as a single one ; but 
so imperfectly was it executed as to one portion, that it re- 
mained virtually two operations, of which only one suc- 
ceeded. The march of the army and the crossing of the 
river were unexceptionable. They could not have been 
otherwise with such a master of logistics as Meade, with 
such a chief-of-staff as Humphreys, with such corps and 
division-commanders as those of which the army was pos- 
sessed. But, first of all. Grant's instructions to Warren had 
to be corrected, or things would have gone terribly amiss, 
and then his omitting to communicate to Meade his project 
of surprising Petersburg rendered that part of his design 
abortive. Honor to him to whom honor is^ due, but not 
beyond the honor that is -due. 

Had the Army of the Potomac attempted to cross the 
Chickahominy just below its left flank at Cold Harbor, it 
would have become almost immediately engaged with the 
enemy while its movement was in process of execution. 
Moreover, upon getting across the Chickahominy, it would 
have become tangled up in the region between the Chicka- 
hominy and its parallel affluent, the White Oak Swamp. 
It would finally have been in precisely the same position 
as McClellan's, marching over precisely the same lines 
over which McClellan made his retreat to Malvern Hill. 
But Grant had advantages far superior to those enjoyed by 
McClellan. He had a veteran army, and the whole of it 
was concentrated north of the Chickahominy. Having the 
start of a whole night, the trains, strongly guarded, wend- 



458 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADK 

ing their way in the rear from the White House towards 
two crossings of the Chickahominy, Coles's Ferry, ten miles 
from its mouth, and Windsor Shades, eight miles above the 
Ferry, the Second and Fifth Corps pushed for Long Bridge, 
four miles below where the White Oak Swamp empties 
into the Chickahominy, and there, upon a pontoon-bridge, 
crossed that stream. The Fifth, turning to the right after 
crossing the bridge, and marching west along the Long 
Bridge Road, halted in line of battle short of Riddle's Shop, 
with its right resting on White Oak Swamp, in the rear of 
the road passing it by White Oak Bridge, lest the enemy 
should attack to advantage by passing over the swamp by 
that bridge. The Fifth Corps, thus posted across the roads 
leading to Richmond, masked all that was going on below 
on the Chickahominy and the James. 

At Jones's Bridge, three miles below the place where the 
Second and Fifth Corps crossed the Chickahominy, the 
Sixth and Ninth crossed it. The Second, crossing at Long 
Bridge, and tjie Sixth and Ninth at Jones's Bridge, these 
three corps then marched south, going by roads in the 
general direction of Charles City Court House. The ren- 
dezvous was on the James, at Wilcox's Landing, where a 
pontoon-bridge was to be laid across the river to a nar- 
row projection of land called Windmill Point. In all this 
manoeuvre the trains, several miles in the rear, masked 
by the Fifth Corps and the marching columns, eventually 
found themselves assembled with the army two or three 
miles below Harrison's Landing, and ten miles below 
Malvern Hill, both famous in the Peninsular Campaign. 
The division of cavalry remaining with the army actively 
performed its duties during this operation. In the rear 
there were going on desperately forced marches, while 
Warren, with the Fifth Corps, at the front, was the shield 
behind which the manoeuvre proceeded. When Warren, 










J- 'J/ 



<■ 



*, 



•• *■«_■■«■■ 



ATTEMPTED SURPRISE OF PETERSBURG. 459 

preceded by Wilson's cavalry, had, on the morning of the 
1 3th taken his designated position to cover the passage of 
the other corps over the Chickahominy, he pushed out 
some force on the three main roads leading from his posi- 
tion to Richmond, on which he had some skirmishing with 
the enemy. His mission being fulfilled by night, he fell 
back a short distance, and the next day marched towards 
Wilcox's Landing, reaching there on the 14th at midday. 
The cavalry, however, was left in observation for a little 
while longer near the lines vacated. The Second >Corps 
reached Wilcox's Landing on the afternoon of the 1 3th, 
but the Sixth and Ninth Corps did not reach there until 
the 14th. In the middle of the night of the 14th, under 
cover of the guns of the naval vessels and position taken 
by the Sixth Corps, Wilson's cavalry, and the Fifth, 
Sixth, and Ninth Corps of infantry began to cross the 
pontoon-bridge of over two thousand feet in length that 
spanned the James, kept from swaying by being made fast 
to craft anchored above and below in the stream ; and 
about the same time in the night of the i6th had safely 
made the transit of the river with all their artillery, muni- 
tions, and trains. The Second Corps, forming an element 
in Grant's unrevealed project to capture Petersburg by a 
coup de main^ having collected all the available boats, had 
crossed the James early on the morning of the 1 5th, under 
orders from General Meade to wait where it landed, at Wind- 
mill Point, until rations were received from General Butler, 
now near by on the lines of Bermuda Hundred, after having 
received which, the corps would march for Petersburg. 
Hancock knew nothing beyond this of what was expected 
of him, Meade knew nothing of Grant's intentions. Grant 
had to neither communicated his particular design. The 
consequence was, that Hancock, having waited in vain for 
the rations, began to move forward at half-past ten in the 



460 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

morning, but feeling no ui^ency for what seemed merely to 
contemplate his taking up a position in front of Petersburg. 
The Ninth Corps went first over the pontoon-bridge. The 
Fifth Corps next passed over, partly ferrying its troops 
across the river. The Sixth Corps retained the position in 
which it had been placed to cover the movement. That 
accomplished, two of its divisions were transported by water 
to the lines of Bermuda Hundred for service there. 

The wheel within the wheel which did not move smooth- 
ly in ti>ie beautiful operation of changing the army's base 
by crossing the James failed entirely through General 
Grant. Twice, in close succession, he misconceived a par- 
ticular situation. Had Warren, after crossing the Chick- 
ahominy, taken up the position as ordered by Grant, he 
would have been in a bad way, for his corps would have 
been open to attack in the rear. Fortunately, Grant's orders 
were so altered at Meade's headquarters that they fitted in 
with the tactical requirements of the case. In the case of 
Grant's other remissness, the account of which we are now 
approaching, there was no opportunity afforded for the 
avoidance of its consequences, because Grant left the com- 
manding-general of the army completely in the dark as to 
his ulterior purpose. Space does not admit here of intro- 
ducing passages from the despatches, reports, and state- 
ments bearing upon the subject, but if the reader will 
carefully examine official matter relating to it, and the 
statements of Meade, Humphreys, Hancock, William F. 
Smith, Francis A. Walker, and Carswell McClellan, he will 
reach a conclusion only too sadly confirmed by the evasion 
of Grant himself and his accredited historian, Badeau, 
through all of which is unmistakably to be seen that the 
truth about this particular af!air lying at the bottom of a 
well would receive no illumination from them by which the 
obscurity around it might be dispelled. It would be ap- 



ATTEMPTED SURPRISE OF PETERSBURG. 461 

parent to any candid mind, from examination of the official 
and private record of the event, that Grant bungled the 
matter of his intended surprise of Petersburg. He had 
sent back General Smith, as he had come, to Bermuda Hun- 
dred. Smith was ordered to report there in person to 
Butler, and with all the force available to march upon and 
capture Petersburg. Grant personally went, on the 14th, 
to Bermuda Hundred, and there, in conference with Butler, 
the capture of Petersburg was preconcerted ; and through 
General Meade he ordered that the Second Corps, as soon 
as furnished by Butler with rations, should march from 
Windmill Point, halting between City Point and Petersburg. 
But he failed to take either General Meade or General 
Hancock into confidence as to his design involving Han- 
cock's agency. The first that Hancock knew of it was 
when he was nearing Petersburg, through an order from 
Grant to hasten forward, and a message from Smith in 
action. Consequently, the whole plan fell through, and so 
conscious and unwilling to bear the burden of his own de- 
reliction was Grant, that years afterwards, General Meade 
then dead, he did not in his memoirs scruple to ignore what 
he must long before have been satisfied was true, that he 
had omitted to communicate to the commanding-general 
the purpose he had had in view in Hancock's march. 

While the operations just described, beginning with the 
withdrawal of the army from Cold Harbor, were in pro- 
gress, General Smith moved, under orders, from the White 
House back to Bermuda Hundred by the same route as that 
by which he had come. Smith's expressed conclusion, upon 
the basis of the fact alleged by him, that Lee's order to re- 
inforce Petersburg was issued before Grant had conceived 
the idea of taking it by surprise (and therefore, necessarily, 
before Grant's order to capture the place was given) is, of 
course, intended to show that Lee must have anticipated 



462 GENERAL QEOROE OOEDON MEADE 

Grant in actually getting troops to the ground. But, from 
these premises, it cannot be established as a &ct that the 
appearance of the troops themselves preceded the arrival 
of those under Smith. The difference of time in the issu- 
ance of orders by the respective commanders evidently 
produced, supposing that it existed, no material difference 
on the ground as to the condition there upon Smith's ar- 
rival. The circumstances influencing the final event lie 
entirely outside of this consideration. The brief time of 
the transit of Smith's troops speaks for itself If an officer, 
in the night of the 1 2th, marched several thousand troops 
from the position at Cold Harbor to the White House, and 
there, despite the delay arising from defective transportation, 
shipped them on transports down the Pamunkey and York 
and up the James to Bermuda Hundred, and was marching 
thence for Petersburg at five o'clock in the morning of the 
15th, and that, also, despite the fact that the general to 
whom he had by orders reported delayed giving him his 
final instructions, which had been entrusted to him for com- 
munication, he was not dilatory. This being what General 
Smith did, it is difBcult to see how his preceding his troops, 
which he states would have been an advantage secured, if he 
had known of greater urgency than he reckoned on, would 
have been really an advantage. In preceding the troops 
he would have relinquished that force which a principal 
always infuses into an operation conducted under his 
own eye. 

The failure to capture Petersburg did not hinge upon any 
or all of these incidents, including the fact, assuming it to 
be a fact, that Grant's order was issued later or carried out 
later than Lee's. General Smith, leaving artillery and i/«- 
peditnenta at Tunstall's Station, on the York River Rail- 
road, to be taken along by troops marching towards the 
James, embarked his own at the White House, and reached 



ATTEMPTED SURPRISE OF PETERSBURG. 463 

Bermuda Hundred by the evening of the 14th. Marching 
thence at five o'clock on the morning of the 15th, with 
about ten thousand infantry, accompanied by some cavalry, 
under Kautz, he crossed the pontoon-bridge over the Ap- 
pomattox below Port Walthall, and directed his march 
towards Petersburg, about eight miles distant towards the 
south. The works to be attacked encircled the town at 
the distance of about two miles, thus shortening the march 
by that amount. He came very soon in contact with the 
enemy on the route itself, and, reaching Petersburg, found 
the enemy in position there with both direct and oblique 
fire of heavy artillery. The number of infantry occupying 
the works was unknown. With the frightful experience of 
recent attacks on entrenchments without previous thorough 
reconnoissances of the ground. Smith personally made a 
careful one as a preliminary to advancing, for not only was 
the number of infantry holding the works unknown, but the 
artillery-fire from them was searching. Here began to cul- 
minate the series of mishaps which, with Grant's design not 
to communicate, or neglect to communicate, his plans to 
General Meade, led to- the miscarriage of the enterprise. 
The days, however, were long, and there would still per- 
haps be time between the completion of the reconnoissance 
and night to capture the works if it were at all practicable. 
But when, at five o'clock in the afternoon, Smith directed 
the fire of his artillery to be concentrated on a salient of 
the enemy's line, intending to assault the works with a 
cloud of skirmishers, it was suddenly discovered that the 
artillery-horses had, without orders, been sent to water, and 
his plan was thereby partially vrrecked. It was, in conse- 
quence, not until nearly seven o'clock that his artillery, 
having opened on the designated point, his skirmish-line 
began to advance. Two redans, called respectively No. 5 
and No. 6, were captured by the advance of the heavy 



464 GENERAL QEOEQE QOBDON MEADK 

skirmish-line, whereupon the centre of the line of battle, 
commanded by General Brooks, carried and held the 
enemy's entrenchments on its front Brooks, holding on 
here to what he had gained. General Martindale, on his 
right, and General Hinks, on his left, kept on advancing. 
Hinks captured five redans opposite to him, but Martindale 
was brought up all-standing by an impassable ditch. There 
remained then, on the right, near the Appomattox, four 
redans with their entrenchments uncaptured, and those to 
the left beyond Redan No. 11, uncaptured, leaving alto- 
gether an interval of about a mile and a half of the enemy's 
works held by General Smith by the time the fighting ceased, 
at nearly nine o'clock at night. 

Smith thought, and naturally, that under the circum- 
stances, it were best to let well alone, and not to tempt 
fortune by an advance to capture the bridges over the river, 
Petersburg lying on the south side of the Appomattox. 
Let us take the principal circumstances into consideration 
with which he had to deal. He had finally captured a mile 
and a half of the enemy's line. He had heard, hours 
before, that reinforcements for the enemy were crossing the 
James at Drewry's Bluff, between Richmond and Peters- 
burg. He had learned, about four o'clock in the after- 
noon, from Grant himself, that Hancock was approaching. 
Humphreys says that it is probable that an immediate ad- 
vance by Smith, when the enemy's salient was occupied, or 
at nine o'clock at night, when an assault could have been 
supported by two divisions of the Second Corps, would 
have resulted in the capture of Petersburg. But Hum- 
phreys did not positively say, for no man knew better than 
he the unfairness of positive conclusions after the fact, pre- 
viously represented by supposititious elements, that Smith 
and Hancock did amiss in reaching the conclusions at which 
one separately, and then the two in conjunction, arrived. 



ATTEMPTED SURPRISE OF PETERSBURG. 465 

upon the basis of facts then known. He merely stated, with 
his usual judicial calm, his conclusion as to a probable con- 
sequence of action under imaginary conditions. 

Had Hancock been simply ordered to march at dawn for 
Petersburg, without halt, and without being informed of the 
purpose for which he was required there, it would not have 
mattered that General Meade or he was ignorant of the 
purpose of the march. But General Meade and General 
Hancock were equally in the dark. Neither was informed 
of Grant's intentions, and the order for the march was as 
previously represented. Hancock would otherwise have 
been at Petersburg by noon, and his troops, together with 
those of Smith, would have captured the town. It was 
about four o'clock in the afternoon when Smith learned by 
despatch from Grant that Hancock was only four miles in 
his rear. He sent instantly to Hancock to request him to 
hasten forward. The officer bearing the message reached 
Hancock at half-past five o'clock, just after he had received 
a message from Grant ordering him to hasten forward to 
the support of Smith. This was the first intimation that 
Hancock had received of what was intended. He at once 
sent Colonel Morgan, inspector-general of the Second 
Corps, ahead, to notify Smith of his coming. This message 
Smith received just after six o'clock. At half-past six 
o'clock, the head of Hancock's column, Bimey's division 
of the Second Corps, had come up on the left-rear of 
Smith's line. 

It was not until eleven o'clock that Hancock's troops, at 
Smith's request, on the prudential ground that some of 
Smith's troops were not veterans, relieved the men occupy- 
ing the captured part of the line. The troops of Hancock 
that might have taken position on the left of Smith for the 
renewal of immediate attack, were not ordered to do so, 

because, as is believed, of the difficulty and danger of 

80 



466 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADR 

occupying unknown ground by night Considering, then, 
that Smith had sent a despatch to Hancock before he 
reached the ground, asking him to come up quickly and 
take position on his left, and this upon the basis of Grant's 
despatch to himself, and that Hancock came rapidly for- 
ward upon the basis of a despatch directly received from 
Grant, the whole pointing unmistakably to action upon 
Hancock's arrival, and that upon his arrival and meeting 
at half-past nine o'clock with Smith, he, although per- 
force of his seniority, the commanding-general, did not 
give any order or make any suggestion looking towards 
attack, or even attempt to come into position on Smith's 
left, but, on the contrary, readily acceded to Smith's 
request to relieve his troops on the captured line, it would 
seem that Hancock's action constituted tacit approval of 
waiting for the morning's light to attack, for which no one 
can assert that Smith was in any wise responsible, unless 
he should have the hardihood to declare that, after what 
had gone before. Smith should have urged Hancock to 
attack, notwithstanding that all that was said and done by 
him clearly indicated that he did not feel imperatively called 
upon by circumstances to prosecute the attack immediately. 
By midnight a despatch arrived from Grant saying that the 
enemy was reinforcing the town. 

Hancock, ranking Smith, was from the iact of his arrival 
on the field the commanding-general. He might have 
waived his rank, as he is reported by Grant to have done, 
but General Smith says positively that he did not A side- 
light is thrown on this subject by General Walker in his 
history of the Second Corps, where he speaks of the physi- 
cal condition of Hancock at that time, when he was begin- 
ning to suffer exquisite pain from the wound received at 
Gettysburg beginning to reopen. The fact of Hancock's 
relieving Smith's troops at his request, and making no pro- 



ATTEMPTED SURPRISE OF PETEBSBUBQ. 467 

position to renew hostilities, therefore admits of the con- 
sideration of two alternatives. Either Hancock's action 
was controlled in a wrong direction by temporary physical 
disability, or else, despite his condition, was the tadt ex- 
pression of good judgment in the premises. In either 
case, however, his action constitutes full absolution to 
General Smith for his cessation of hostilities at the time. 
Whether or not Hancock was right cannot enter into 
the question of Smith's action, for Smith was, upon the 
appearance of Hancock, no longer the conmianding-general. 
Whatever value, however, the circumstances recited may 
be judged to have with reference to the failure to capture 
Petersburg, they were all trivial compared with the share 
borne in it by Grant, because they would have been non- 
existent, had Grant not committed the egregious error of 
not communicating to his immediate subordinates his design 
of capturing Petersbui^ by a coup de main. The case has 
the aspect of his having wished to signalize himself by a 
master-stroke of strategy, of his not having forgotten to 
communicate to General Meade his intentions, but of his 
having purposely withheld from him information which 
should have been imparted. 

The events narrated took place on the day and in the 
night of the 1 5th of June, while the main body of the army 
was coming up in the rear, two divisions of the Sixth Corps 
going to Bermuda Hundred, the Ninth Corps nearing its 
position on the left of the Second at ten o'clock on the 
1 6th, followed by the Fifth Corps coming up in the rear by 
the morning of the 17th. The enemy, from the evening of 
the 1 5th, had been sending reinforcements from Bermuda 
Hundred, and before daylight of the next day General Lee 
in person was, with Pickett's division, on his way to the Ber- 
muda Hundred lines ; but it was not until the 17th that he 
was finally disabused of his idea that the whole of the Army 



468 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE. 

of the Potomac had not crossed the James. Beauregard 
g^dually stripped his lines at Bermuda Hundred for the 
purpose of reinforcing Petersburg, so that at last they were 
so slightly held that an attack upon them had a temporary 
success, soon lost through the incompetence of Butler. As 
one of the preliminaries of the approaching siege of Peters- 
bui^, the movements here are, however, so subordinate to 
those, that we can well afford to pass them by with this casual 
mention and return to the main contest at Petersburg. The 
attack on the left was long delayed on the morning of the 
1 6th, through causes which doubtless revert to Hancock's 
increasing disability from his old wound. The assault re- 
sulted in the capture of Redan No. 1 2, the next on the left 
of the ones which had been captured the evening before by 
Smith's troops. General Meade having arrived, ordered an 
assault for six o'clock in the afternoon. The line of battle 
was formed by the Second Corps in the centre, with two 
brigades of the Eighteenth Corps on the right, and two 
brigades of the Ninth on the left. This attack resulted in 
taking Redan No. 4, on the right, the next on the right of 
those captured the day before by Smith, and in taking 
Redans Nos. 13 and 14, on the left of the one captured by 
Hancock's morning assault. This ended the fighting* for 
the day, in which both Union and Confederate armies 
suffered severely. At daylight on the 17th General Pot- 
ter's division, of the Ninth Corps, took by surprise and 
captured the defences near the building known as the Shand 
House. Later in the day several gallant assaults were made 
by General Willcox, Ninth Corps, General Barlow, Second 
Corps, General Crawford, Fifth Corps, and Colonel Gould, 
Ninth Corps, commanding Ledlie's division ; and advances 
to close quarters, which were maintained, were made on the 
left by Generals Gibbon and Bimey, of the Second Corps. 
But the enemy continued to hold from Redan No. i to 



ATTEMPTED SURPRISE OF PETERSBURG. 469 

Redan No. 3, all inclusive, and thence by a withdrawn 
line of entrenchments, along the west side of Harrison's 
Creek, to his redans and entrenchments on the Petersburg 
and Norfolk Railroad. The besiegers were seeking to 
girdle Petersburg, but so far they had not obtained a foot- 
hold beyond the eastern side of it. Their positions will be 
understood from the statement that the Appomattox, flow- 
ing east and west just north of the town, the efforts of the 
besiegers, on the east of it, were directed to investing it as 
an eventuality on the south and west, as well as on the east, 
by resting their right on the river below, and their left on 
the river above. The enemy's line was intact, however, 
from the river below to Redan No. 3, and from Redan No. 
1 5 to the river above. The fighting over for the 1 7th, Gen- 
eral Meade ordered an assault for daylight of the 1 8th by 
the Second, Fifth, and Ninth Corps. General Hancock had 
now become temporarily incapacitated for duty by the re- 
opening of his wound, and the command of the Second 
Corps devolved on General Bimey. 

The advance, on the morning of the i8th, discovered 
that the enemy had fallen back upon an interior line which 
he was entrenching, difficult of approach in places on ac- 
count of interlying ravines, including the deep cut through 
which the Petersburg and Norfolk Railroad passes south, 
and obstructions beyond, consisting of slashings and abat- 
tis. The attacks could not, on account of the difficulties 
of the ground, be exactly simultaneous, but took place 
without much difference between them. By the time that 
the various corps were able to make them effective, the 
enemy had been heavily reinforced. In one sense they did 
not succeed, for the assaults did not result in capturing the 
enemy's new line of entrenchments, but in another they 
were successful, for the ground gained by the advance was 
tenaciously held, and as Humphreys observes, "The two 



.&.i.^a^H«> 



470 GENERAL OEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

opposing lines in this part of the ground remained substan- 
tially the same in position to the close of the war." The 
losses on the Union side, from the beginning to the end of 
the assaults on the enemy's lines, reached ten thousand. 
Those on the enemy's side have never been known, the 
policy of the Confederates having been to conceal losses ; 
but there is no reason to doubt, from the accounts of ob- 
servers on the field, that they were very great The regu- 
lar investment and siege of Petersburg now began, a ^ege 
characterized by many engagements, and lasting over so 
long a period, that the most cursory account of it demands 
its formal initiation in a special chapter.* 

* Following the events narrated, General Smith, from having been 
apparently high in Grant's favor, fell suddenly and unaccountably 
from that estate. It would have been singular if he or any one else 
had then been able to reach a rational conclusion as to the change 
among the many possible explanations of it which then offered them- 
selves for choice. But it is remarkable that now, in the light with 
which documents and the evidence in General Smith's own book, 
"From Chattanooga to Petersburg/* have flooded the subject, he 
should have failed to discover at least one cause of the animus to which 
he owed his unfortunate experience, although he says that, at the very 
time referred to, Grant had charged him with having, by his strictures 
on Meade, whipped him over Meade's shoulders. If Grant were able 
to conceive so great a dislike as he exhibited for Warren, merely be- 
cause of Warren's objectionable habit of making suggestions to 
modify the plans of his superiors, it is easy to understand what deep 
offence he must have received at remarks which, however uninten- 
tionally, struck at the very root of his own procedures. He had a 
personal purpose to serve in re-exalting, after having taken steps to 
dispose of Buder, who had great political influence, and another in 
withdrawing his favor from General Smith ; and deeply politic and 
quiedy vindictive as he could on occasions be, he was able, in thb 
case, to subserve his ends by a Machiavelian combination, which in- 
cluded his resentment and personal interests (then perilously at stake 
from the popular feeling about the army's losses), under the most con- 
venient cloak lent by circumstances as adventitious as it is possible to 
imagine. 



PRELIMINARY TO THE SLBQR 4/1 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

PREUMINARY TO THE SIEGE. 

As, before the Army of the Potomac can settle down 
to its attempt to invest Petersbui^, the loose threads pro- 
duced by the interaction of the contending forces have to 
be gathered in, so too must the historian of events relating 
to them attend to a description of these before the regular 
narrative of the siege can begin. 

Immediately following the last heavy fighting on the i8th 
of June, in the vain attempt to carry the defences of Peters- 
burg by assault, the two sides, as already mentioned, 
remained to the end of the siege in substantially the same 
positions on the right of the field as that in which they had 
found themselves when those severe conflicts had ceased. 
In the evening of the 19th the two divisions of the three 
composing the Sixth Corps, which had been sent to Bur- 
muda Hundred on the occasion when they had crossed the 
James, rejoined the Army of the Potomac. On the 20th 
the various corps of the army were posted, counting from 
right to left, in the following order, — the Eighteenth, Sixth, 
Second, Ninth, and Fifth. On the following day the Second 
and Sixth were withdrawn from between the Eighteenth 
and Ninth, the Eighteenth and Ninth closing in together 
their left and right flanks respectively, while the Second 
marched to the left and took position there in the general 
line of development to the west, and the Sixth was ordered 
to take position, nearly at right-angles to it, facing the 
Petersbui^ and Weldon Railroad, distant then from the 
left-extension of the Army of the Potomac by about three 




472 GENERAL QEOEQE GORDON MEADE 

miles. This movement constituted the first attempt at ex- 
tension of the left flank towards the west. It implies that 
the right was already strong enough in its temporary works 
to admit of being stripped in a measure of troops for their 
projection towards the left. That was the general pro- 
cedure to the end of the siege, looking to the capture of 
the enemy's sources of supplies in his railroads. The im- 
mediate objective on this occasion was the Petersburg and 
Weldon Railroad. But so little was known at this time of 
the enemy's capacity of resistance, that it was hoped by 
General Meade that the first attempt to extend the line 
towards the left might result in reaching the Appomattox 
above Petersburg. In point of fact, however, the lines of 
contravallation never reached near that point. This was 
the critical one for the enemy. As the attacking lines 
passed on the south of Petersburg from east to west, 
threatening the railroads from Richmond and Petersburg 
towards the west and south, they were held off by the 
enemy with most strenuous exertions, as the prime con- 
dition of his being able to sustain the siege for any length 
of time. 

The Second Corps came into position on the left of the 
Fifth during the day of the 2ist of June, the Sixth Corps, on 
the left-rear of the Second Corps, during the night. During 
the day a division of the Second Corps made a reconnois- 
sance in force towards the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad. 
The enemy had a sig^nal advantage at this period over the 
Army of the Potomac, from the fact that he necessarily had 
perfect knowledge of the country, which, being heavily 
wooded, was dangerous to a hostile force attempting to 
penetrate it. On the 2 2d of June the Second Corps, rest- 
ing its right on the left of the Fifth, swung forward its left, 
to close in towards the enemy's works, at the same time 
that the Sixth, nearly at right-angles to it, was moving 



PRELIMINABY TO THE 8IEQE. 473 

towards the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad, when, owing 
to the difficulty, on account of the wooded character of the 
country, of keeping up knowledge of the intervening space 
between the left of the Second and the right of the Sixth, 
and also on account of the left of the Second not being 
sufficiently on its guard against a counter-movement by the 
enemy, the Confederate general, A. P. Hill, bore down into 
the open space between the two corps with three divisions, 
and attacking the right of the Sixth Corps with one division, 
he launched the other two on the left-rear of the Second 
Corps. This, from left to right, was represented by the 
divisions of Barlow, Mott, and Gibbon, the last being next 
to the left of the Fifth Corps. Barlow's division, naturally 
the first struck, recoiled towards the position which it had 
held before the corps was pivoted on its right, losing a 
great many prisoners. Mott, having time to take in the 
situation, fell back to better advantage, and therefore with 
smaller loss. Gibbon's division, whose flank was thus left 
naked to the enemy's advance towards its left-rear, suf- 
fered the greatest loss in prisoners. The enemy retired 
with his spoils, and the Second Corps did not regain its 
advanced position until the next morning. The line was 
then finally made secure by the right of the Sixth Corps, 
facing the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad, joining the left 
flank of the Second Corps, facing Petersburg. The refused 
part of the line was now about a mile and a half from the 
railroad. But the railroad still remained in the enemy's 
possession, and so continued for some time, as General 
Wilson who had, on the 22d, been sent on a cavalry raid, 
found to his cost in attempting at its enforced conclusion 
to return to the Army of the Potomac across that route. 

The reader will remember that, in the chapter on co- 
operative columns, it was mentioned that, on the 7th of 
June, Sheridan had gone on an expedition to destroy the 



474 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

enemy's railroad communications north of Richmond, and, 
if possible, to join Hunter at Charlottesville, and uniting 
forces with him, to return to the Army of the Potomac ; 
but that he was unable to do so, Hunter having perforce 
beaten a retreat from Lynchbui^ north by the way of the 
Kanawha Valley, leaving the Shenandoah Valley open to 
an advance by Early, which he soon made on Washington ; 
an advance which would have resulted in the capture of the 
city on the I2th of July, but for the opportune sending and 
arrival there of two divisions of the Sixth Corps, and that of 
a part of the Nineteenth, just come by sea from New Orleans. 
The order of precedence, growing out of priority of date in 
the initiation of the respective enterprises undertaken re- 
quires us to take up at this point the further movements of 
Sheridan until he rejoined the Army of the Potomac. 

General Sheridan, with two of his three divisions of cav- 
alry, having left the army at Cold Harbor, on the 7th of 
June, with ample subsistence and a pontoon-train, proceeded 
along the north bank of the North Anna, his intended des- 
tination being Charlottesville, and his mission the destruc- 
tion of the Central Virginia and the Richmond and Fred- 
ericksburg Railroads and return with the army of General 
Hunter. On the evening of the loth ha crossed the North 
Anna at Trevylian Station, on the Central Virginia Railroad, 
Generals Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee only a few miles dis- 
tant from him with their cavalry, one towards the northwest 
and the other towards the east. On the morning of the 
nth severe encounters between the respective forces, with 
varying success, took place, the final advantage remaining 
with Sheridan. Learning by night the futility of trying to 
join forces with Hunter, Sheridan concluded to return to 
the Army of the Potomac by the way of Spottsylvania and 
the White House. Incidentally to so doing, he effected, on 
the 1 2th, considerable railroad destruction, and his advance 



PRELIMINARY TO THE SIEGE 47 S 

had an engagement near Mallory's Ford, on the North 
Anna, at which place, finding the enemy strongly posted, 
he recrossed the river that night at Carpenter's Ford and 
marched for the White House, Hampton following him up 
on the south side of the river. Sheridan reached the White 
House on the 21st, and relinquishing it as a depot of sup- 
plies, the Army of the Potomac being long since across the 
James, he marched on the following day, with a large train 
and his whole force, intending to cross the James on the 
pontoon-bridge opposite Butler at Bermuda Hundred ; an 
operation in accordance with original orders, but one which 
had become impossible of success in a situation, certainly 
unanticipated, where Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee were op* 
posing him with all their cavalry, and against infantry which 
could readily have reinforced them from Richmond. He 
crossed the Chickahominy at Jones's Bridge, the same place 
at which the Sixth and Ninth Corps had lately passed over 
that stream, and kept on, with the purpose of crossing the 
James, towards Charles City Court House, when his flank- 
ing column, under General Gregg, was en route attacked, on 
the 24th, by Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee, who drove it 
after a severe fight back nearly to the Court House. This 
column, being now united with that which had escorted the 
train, Sheridan could then hold Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee 
in check, and so, cavalry and train moving further down 
the James, to Douthat's Landing, were, on the 25th, trans- 
ported across the river at Mingen's Ferry. 

It proved very unfortunate that Sheridan, although 
Grant, not he, seems to have been to blame, had not con- 
tinued to give Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee full employment 
on the north side of the James ; for on the 2 2d General 
Wilson, in command of Sheridan's third division of cavalry, 
had been sent from the Army of the Potomac to destroy the 
railroad communications of the enemy to the west and the 



4/6 GENERAL QEOBQE GORDON MEADE 

southwest of Petersburg, and Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee, 
being now released by Sheridan's withdrawal over the 
James, were able to concentrate their attention upon Wilson. 
General Meade had foreseen this eventuality, and had tried 
to impress upon Grant the importance of Sheridan's having 
full scope to detain Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee on the 
north side of the James. All he could now do he did, by 
ordering Sheridan to the left flank of the Army of the Po- 
tomac, to aid Wilson in any possible embarrassment in his 
return. This mention brings us to the situation in which 
Wilson actually found himself in the progress of his foray. 
Just before daylight of the 2 2d of June General Wilson 
had, under orders, moved with his division of cavalry, to 
strike for a point fifty miles away to the west, at Burkesville 
Junction, where the Richmond and Danville Railroad and 
the Petersburg and Lynchburg Railroad intersect. The 
instructions to Wilson contemplated the destruction of rail- 
roads. As the names of the railroads mentioned, and the 
fact of their intersection at Burkesville indicate, the destruc- 
tion of them about that point would sever communication 
west between Richmond and Petersburg, with Lynchburg on 
the one hand, and with the southwest on the other, the only 
remaining southern communicating line in the hands of the 
Confederates being then the Petersburg and Weldon Rail- 
road, running due south, and very close to the left flank of 
the Army of the Potomac ; so close that there was reason 
to believe when Wilson started on his raid, that it would 
soon be captured and permanently held. Wilson, striking 
the Petersburg and Lynchburg Railroad some fourteen or 
fifteen miles out from Petersburg, destroyed most of the 
track as far as Burkesville, and then turning south along 
the Richmond and Danville Railroad, destroyed it as far as 
Staunton River. Arriving there, Wilson's column found its 
passage barred at the bridge. 



PRELIMINARY TO THE SIEOE. 477 

Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee having, on the 25th, been 
relieved from the necessity of further occupation of the 
Peninsula below Richmond by the transfer of Sheridan's 
column to the south side of the James, had been ordered 
by General Lee to cross the James at Drewry's BluiT, and 
were now on the track of Wilson, preceded by the cavalry 
division of General W. H. F. Lee, with whom Wilson had 
had an engagement before he reached Staunton River. Cut 
off, through the enemy's holding the bridge across Staun- 
ton River, from passing further south, Wilson started, in 
the night of the 27th, and marched northeastwardly, cross- 
ing the Meherrin and Nottoway Rivers, reaching a point, 
by midday of the 28th, about twenty-five miles southwest 
of Petersburg, and about eleven miles northwest of Jarratt 
Depot, which is on the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad. 
At the beginning of his raid, Wilson had crossed this 
north and south railroad near Petersburg, at Reams's Sta- 
tion, which he had destroyed, and he then had had, with 
the rest of the army, every reason to believe that the 
railroad would come into possession of the army before his 
return, but, as the reader has seen, it had not. So believ- 
ing, however, and learning that there was only a small 
force ahead of him at Stony Creek Depot, the next one 
below Reams's Station, he started from the point where he 
crossed the Nottoway, at Double Bridges, on the direct 
road to Prince George Court House, which runs along the 
railroad two miles to the west of Stony Creek Depot, 
before reaching which Court House he would, if suc- 
cessful in taking that route, be well in the rear of the 
Army of the Potomac. But, in advance of him along the 
railroad to Petersburg, the enemy was preparing the warm 
reception which he received. Hampton's and one of W. 
H. F. Lee's cavalry divisions were at Stony Creek Depot ; 
Fitzhugh Lee^ with a cavalry division^ and additionally, Gen- 



k^. 



4/8 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE. 

eral Mahone, with infantry and artillery, were at Reams's 
Station. Wilson, ignorant of the dangers ahead, had to 
run the gantlet with what remained of his original force of 
five thousand five hundred cavalrymen. Arriving opposite 
Stony Creek Depot, he was attacked by Hampton and W. 
H. F. Lee, the engagement lasting until after dark. He 
then attempted to withdraw from the route previously fol- 
lowed towards the northeast, and making a slight detour to- 
wards the north by the way of the west, reach and proceed 
along the Halifax Road, which runs for the most part of 
the way here close to the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad, 
directly towards Petersburg. Failing to get well clear of 
the enemy before daylight, he was rapidly followed up, and 
an engagement ensued, Hampton endeavoring to intercept 
him on the Halifax Road. Wilson's cavalry had been and 
continued to be acting in two bodies, one led by himself, 
the other by General Kautz. Wilson passed before Hamp- 
ton could arrive at the place to head him ofT. Kautz, strik- 
ing the railroad at Reams's Station, very near the enemy's 
left flank, entrenched and despatched an aide with an 
escort to General Meade, to inform him of the situation. 
Wilson coming up, the cavalry was now concentrated, but 
in the presence of a force of infantry, so it now became nec- 
essary to take prompt measures for extrication. Destroying 
all his impedimenta^ of which he had had originally very 
little, Wilson began to retire south by the way of the Halifax 
Road to the Double Bridges over the Nottoway, from which 
he had advanced, hoping that then, by a detour first east 
and then north, he could finally reach the rear of the Army 
of the Potomac. At noon the retrograde movement beg^n, 
the two bodies of cavalry being led by their respective com- 
manders. But the enemy had crowded in closely on the 
position of the command of Wilson, and the enemy's infantry, 
suiq>orted by cavalry, attacked in flank and reverse, and 



PRELIMINARY TO THE 8IE0R 479 

threw the rear of the retreating force into confusion. Kautz, 
finding himself cut off from Wilson on the Halifax Road, 
made a break over the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad, 
past the enemy's left, and successfully reached the Army 
of the Potomac after nightfall. The enemy pursued Wilson, 
with cavalry and artillery, until he reached Stony Creek, 
but there halted. Between ten and eleven o'clock at night 
Wilson crossed the Nottoway, as he had come, and marched 
to the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad at Jarratt's Depot, 
At daybreak of the 30th he marched eastward across the 
railroad, and recrossed the Nottoway at Peters's Bridge, 
thirteen miles east of the railroad. At this point he was 
only a little ovier two miles west of the Jerusalem Plank 
Road, running directly north to the rear of the Army 
of the Potomac. But, to have pursued the line of this 
road, running near the eastern side of the Petersburg and 
Weldon Railroad, would have entailed the risk of being 
again intercepted on his way to the army ; so he held 
towards the northeast for fifteen miles, crossing the Peters- 
burg and Norfolk Railroad, and by evening crossed the 
Blackwater at Blunt's Bridge, four miles beyond it, repair- 
ing the bridge for, and destroying it after his passage, the 
enemy's cavalry pursuit having been resumed and con- 
tinued. From this point, twenty miles southeast of the 
Army of the Potomac, he was easily able to rejoin it. 
Sheridan, not reaching the army before the 27th, was, of 
course, powerless to relieve Wilson. Meade had heard 
nothing from Wilson since his departure on the 2 2d, until 
the aide sent by Kautz reached him on the morning of the 
29th. Infantry, despatched at once to Reams's Station, of 
course found neither of the forces lately contending there. 
Thus ended two raids, individually well conducted, but not 
sufficiently concerted with reference to each other as to 
have given legitimate prospect of results commensurate with 



48o 



GENERAL GEOBQE OOBDON MEADE. 



the magnitude of the undertakings. Their defect resulted 
from not carrying out the requirement ui^ed upon General 
Grant by Meade, represented by his proposed retention of 
Sheridan on the north bank of the James while the opera- 
tions of Wilson were proceeding south of that river. 



THE A UTUMNAL SIEOE OF PETEB8B UBQ. 48 1 



CHAPTER XXV. 

THE AUTUMNAL SIEGE OF PETERSBURG. 

We have at last reached the beginning of the formal in- 
vestment of Petersburg. And here, on that account, it be- 
comes necessary to give the reader some general notion of 
the lay of the land involved in the operations, for they in- 
cluded not only the ground immediately about Petersburg, 
but that along a front extending to and beyond the eastern 
face of Richmond. The reader will, therefore, as a pre- 
liminary, picture to himself that Petersburg is about fourteen 
miles south of Richmond, and so nearly due south that it 
may, for convenience, be here regarded as due south of it. 
Having this north and south line as our guide, with Rich- 
mond at the top and Petersburg fourteen miles distant at 
the bottom, it will be easy to develop therefrom an accurate 
conception of the horizontal relations of the ground. Its 
vertical character is so varied that nothing but an elaborate 
map could afford a correct idea of the surface as to eleva- 
tion. Basing our orientation upon the north and south 
line between Richmond and Petersburg and the termini 
of it as constituted by those two places, imagine that the 
James, flowing from west to east, close to the southern 
side of Richmond, thence runs due south for a third 
of the distance between it and Petersburg, and thence, as 
an offset from the north and south line, at two-thirds of 
the way from Richmond to Petersburg, bends towards the 
east five or six miles, making, with the previous reaches 
of the river, and with the lower straight reach towards 

Petersburg, of the Appomattox, from near its mouth, a 

81 



482 GENERAL OEOBOE OOBDON MEADK 

blunt little peninsula with two teat-like projections formed 
by sharp bends of the James. This blunt little peninsula 
east of the north and south line between Richmond and 
Petersburg is Bermuda Hundred. Running north and 
south across its western and narrowest width, as thus formed 
by the confluence of the James and the Appomattox, were 
Butler's fortifications, and opposite, and just to the west of 
them, the enemy's, which were continuous, in double lines, 
all the way north, after crossing the James, to and around 
Richmond, and all the .way south, after crossing the Appo- 
mattox, to Petersburg, encircling it from the east, where 
they rested on the Appomattox, to the west, where they 
again rested on the river above the town. Southeast of the 
centre of Bermuda Hundred is situated City Point, on the 
southern side of the entrance of the Appomattox into the 
James. This place was the depot of supplies for the Army 
of the Potomac, and from it ran the military railroad con- 
structed back of the lines of the army. At City Point were 
also General Grant's permanent headquarters. 

This premised, it remains only to add that the coming 
operations of battle and siege were so stupendous, and 
lasted, in one form or another, over so many months of un- 
tiring activity, that it would be a mere pretence to profess to 
give here more than an account of the main features of the 
conflict, mere pictures seen by flashlight, in which the 
reader must fill in the dark spaces from other works, or 
from the resources of his own imagination. 

The army was for a while no longer the imposing force 
that it had been when it set out from the Rapidan, nor any- 
thing like it. Its losses had been so frightful in officers and 
men that, depleted in numbers, and worn out with constant 
labors and vigils by day and night, it was neither physically 
nor morally for a time more than a semblance of what it 
had been. It had, however, this advantage over that of the 




PETERSBURG 






-ftOLtter, ity Jt.JMeaeie Bach.*. 



THE A UTUMNAL SIEQE OF PETEBSB UEG. 483 

enemy, that it had back of it relatively greater resources in 
men, subsistence, and material of war, and was buoyed up 
by constant faith in eventual success, whereas the enemy's 
impoverishment began to be manifest, and his loss of pris- 
tine confidence in ultimate triumph had sensibly diminished. 
General Meade's order of the 9th of July inaugurated the 
vigorous construction of siege-batteries, redoubts, and cor- 
responding lines of entrenchments with rifle-pits, the begin- 
ning of. an investing cordon, from right to lefl, with which 
the lines of the besiegers finally bristled. 

The next important movement to that by which the left 
flank was somewhat advanced is known as that of the Pe- 
tersburg Mine. If the reader has before him in imagination 
the general topography of the region, he will see that, from 
the area about City Point, south of the Appomattox, to the 
area north of the James, in the direction of the eastern side 
of Richmond, passing back of Butler's entrenchments on 
the blunt little peninsula forming Bermuda Hundred, it is a 
straight course, and therefore, that it needed only pontoon- 
bridges in the direction of this line, over the Appomattox 
and the James, to enable any force from the Army of the 
Potomac, or from the Army of the James, masked at first by 
the entrenchments at Bermuda Hundred, to be thrown north 
of the James, miles away on the enemy's left, and make 
either a demonstration or a real attack there at pleasure. 
Pontoon-bridges had been placed in the direction of this line 
as it passed over both rivers, maintained on the Appomat- 
tox by works on the left of Butler's lines, and on the 
James, by a tite de pont and other works. The operation 
about to be described depended, as well as some succeeding 
ones, upon the facility which these bridges afforded of at- 
tacking the enemy's left remotely and unexpectedly in space 
and time. 

While forts were building and siege-guns were being 



484 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

placed in position close up to Petersburg, and the invest- 
ment from the 9th of July proceeded by bombardment and 
regular approaches, the Army of the Potomac undertook 
the duplex operation of making an attack on the enemy 
both north and south of the James. The Second Corps 
was to pass over the Appomattox and the James by the 
pontoon-bridges previously described as to their locality, 
accompanied by two divisions of cavalry, and on their way 
be joined by cavalry and infantry from the Army of the 
James. The cavalry was to march, supported by the 
infantry, in case the cavalry succeeded in making some 
progress at the front near Richmond, while, somewhat 
later, a mine was to be sprung south of the Appomattox, 
opposite Bumside's entrenchments in front of Petersburg. 
It was hoped that reinforcements of the enemy, drawn oflT 
to meet the demonstration towards Richmond, would render 
the lines opposite Bumside very vulnerable. The attack on 
the left of the enemy was, however, to be real. On the 
afternoon of the 26th of July the movement back of But- 
ler's lines to the north bank of the James took place, and 
by the early morning of the 27th the infantry and cavalry 
were across the river. Here occurred a stubborn fight, 
chiefly cavalry against the enemy's infantry, near Bailey's 
Creek, in which the troops were represented by the infantry 
of General Hancock, of the Second Corps, now returned to 
duty in command of it, and the cavalry of General Sheri- 
dan, both of the Army of the Potomac, with the infantry 
of General Foster and the cavalry of General Kautz, both 
of the Army of the James. The attempt at this point did 
not succeed, and that portion of the original plan which 
had contemplated Sheridan's destroying railroads north of 
Richmond was relinquished by his withdrawal thence for 
service on the front of Petersburg. The only thing that 
was distinctly gained was in having caused the enemy to 



THE A UTUMNAL SIEGE OF PETEB8BUBG. 485 

Strip his lines in front of Bumside to send reinforcements to 
the north of the James. This gain of weakly-held lines 
south of the Appomattox, which would, under some circum- 
stances, have resulted in the capture of Petersburg, proved, 
however, of no avail in face of the oft-demonstrated incom- 
petency of Bumside. Notwithstanding that all military 
teaching lays stress upon the necessity of providing means 
of egress for sallies from an entrenched camp, Bumside 
neglected to take the most ordinary precautions to that end, 
made a poor selection of officers to conduct the assault, 
and was in default (down to the smallest details of what he 
had been elaborately directed to do, much of which it might 
have been supposed that any military man would have done 
without any instructions whatever. The mine, after some 
delay in its explosion, caused by an imperfect fuse, was 
finally sprung. The ridge back of a large crater formed by 
the explosion at the point where one of the enemy's works 
had been, could, under competent leadership, have been 
taken half a dozen times during the interval available for 
the assault through the initial paralysis and gradual recov- 
ery from disconcertment of the enemy. But the main 
storming column was entangled in its own works, two of 
its commanders remained sheltered in bomb-proois, and the 
main attack being paralyzed, the contemplated attacks by 
the supporting corps on the right and left shared its fate. 

Amidst the disorganization produced by absence of ade- 
quate preparation and supreme and delegated control, the 
enemy, slowly recovering from his inertness, began to pour 
a cross-fire of artillery and musketry into the space where 
the breach had been made in his lines, which he did to 
singular advantage, because it had formed a re-entrant in 
them ; and driving back the isolated bodies of troops which 
had penetrated beyond the crater, resumed possession of 
the front which he had occupied. The troops, huddled 



486 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADK 

together in the crater, into which many of them had headed 
as if drawn by an irresistible lodestone that swerved them 
from their course, attempted in squads to regain their own 
lines, but were for the greater part taken by the enemy. 
The Army of the Potomac suffered the loss in this assault of 
over four thousand in killed, wounded, and missing. Thus, 
through the ineptness of one man, disaster came upon a 
multitude. All had been provided for a success that should 
have been certain, but the failure of Bumside to execute his 
portion of the plan involved all the rest of it in ruin, the 
supporting forces right and left being debarred from their 
legitimate functions. If the main torrent would not flow, 
but remained partially dammed at its source, it could have 
no effect but in heaping up to dangerous reflux. With such 
instructions as Bumside had had, with such ample time for 
preparation, both sufficient for a tyro, direful £ulure was 
the portion of the army in an enterprise which had promised 
the happiest results. Individual heroism went for naught. 
The devotion of men by groups, in disbanded efforts, is, 
under these conditions, in vain. Here a capable man had 
been needed to prepare, a capable man to execute. Both 
faculties were normally absent in the single man to whom 
the task had fallen by the accident of his position in front 
of the lines of Petersburg. Grant testified before the Com- 
mittee of Congress on the Conduct of the War, that General 
Meade's orders could not have been improved upon, and 
that if they had been obeyed, Petersburg would have been 
captured on this occasion. Bumside was relieved from duty 
with the Army of the Potomac. 

It was with the object of forcing Grant to release his 
pressure on Richmond and Petersburg, that Lee had de- 
spatched Early down the Shenandoah Valley to threaten 
and, if possible, to capture Washington. It was also to 
meet this demonstration, that Grant sent a division of the 



THE A UTUMNAL SIEGE OF PETEBSB UBG. 487 

Sixth Corps, which arrived on the 8th of July, just in time 
to make, with the troops of General Wallace, a partial stand 
in an action on the Monocacy. The other two divisions 
of the Sixth Corps were despatched, in the night of the 9th 
of July, to Washington itself, and at the same time the 
Nineteenth Corps, just arrived by sea from New Orleans, 
via Hampton Roads, the troops not yet disembarked, were 
forwarded to the same destination. As already mentioned 
in another connection, they arrived in time to forestall the 
designs of the enemy upon Washington, but the Sixth 
Corps, through the exigency of guaranteeing with other 
troops the Valley of the Shenandoah from further invasion, 
and also the integrity of the Capital, was not for a long 
while able to return to the Army of the Potomac. 

The next vigorous operation of the Army of the Poto- 
mac, inspired in a measure by the situation in the Valley 
of the Shenandoah, where the Sixth Corps was detained, 
began on the 1 3th of August. It, ais well as the preceding 
one, was a duplex movement. The preceding one had 
been just north of the James, combined with one opposite 
the centre of the Army of the Potomac, south of the 
Appomattox. This one was north of the James, and also 
beyond the left of the Army of the Potomac, south of the 
Appomattox. Just as Lee had, by sending Early to ope- 
rate against Washington, sought to lessen the pressure 
of Grant on Richmond and Petersburg, so now, Grant in- 
stituted vigorous measures to avail himself of the weakness 
of the enemy in his front through his having sent reinforce- 
ments to Early in the Valley of the Shenandoah, and to 
prevent the sending of any more to increase the stress on 
Sheridan, who had been put in command of the Sixth and 
Nineteenth Corps there, with cavalry, to hold Early finally 
in check from his advances on Washington. 

Making a feint to send troops away by water, in the night 



488 OENERAh OBOROB GORDON MEADB. 

of the 13th of August, as if they were destined for Wash 
ington. Grant sent them up the James to the same point a 
that at which they had previously crossed by pontoons, . 
place called Deep Bottom, where they, with cavalry am 
artillery moving from Bermuda Hundred, landed near th' 
mouth of Bailey's Creek ; a creek running northerly am 
crossing three of the main roads to Richmond. The plai 
of operations aimed at securing the position at Chaflin' 
Bluff, opposite Drewry's, by advancing along the road 
leading towards Chaffin's Bluff and Richmond, and turning 
the enemy's position at the Bluff. But a combination ol 
causes led to the failure of this particular attempt Thi 
enemy was in stronger force there than had been expected 
and more strongly posted, the difficulties of the groun< 
were greater, and at one point the troops did not show thei 
wonted spirit. The operation, however, as a whole, was no 
a failure, save as not securing some of the results antici 
pated. Activity on both sides continued during the i6th 
By that time, however, it had become apparent that thi 
lines of the enemy were too strong to be broken. On th< 
1 8th there was a last outburst of the engagement that ha< 
been sporadically going on since the landing of the troops 
The Second Corps, under Hancock, a part of the Tenth 
now under Bimey, relieved from his command of a divisioi 
of the Second, and Gregg's division of cavalry, were thi 
troops which had particifjated in the movement. In thi 
night of the 20th they were withdrawn. 

The movement on the left, which formed the comple 
ment to the one just described, began before daylight 01 
the 18th by the march of the Fifth Corps, under Warren 
accompanied by cavalry, in an attempt to capture and finall; 
hold the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad, which opemtioi 
had been postponed by the sending away of the Sixth Corps 
followed by the contraction of the left flank of the army 



THE A UTUMNAL SIEGE OF PETEB8B UBG. 489 

Warren took position on the railroad, and leaving a division 
at the point where he had struck it, he advanced towards 
Petersburg. At two o'clock in the afternoon an attack was 
made upon his left and repulsed. Lee having learned what 
was going forward, despatched heavy reinforcements from his 
lines north of the James to the threatened point. Similarly, 
during the morning of the 19th, General Meade sent three 
divisions of the Ninth Corps to reinforce Warren. In the 
afternoon the line of skirmishers which Warren had estab- 
lished to connect his right with the left flank of the army 
on the Jerusalem Plank Road was broken through, and the 
enemy, concealed by the woods, swept down along his 
right-rear, and made at the same time an attack on Ayres, 
on his left. The partial disaster on his right was, however, 
soon repaired by the admirable address of Warren, and the 
ground regained, the enemy in his turn suffering from the 
confusion into which his troops were thrown by an attack 
in the wooded ground. Nevertheless, Warren finding him- 
self too much enveloped in woods to feel sure of not being 
attacked again to disadvantage in a place with which the 
enemy was more familiar than he, withdrew, on the 20th, 
over a mile, to more open ground, where he established his 
line of battle and entrenched. Lee availed himself of this 
cessation of hostilities to reinforce his lines still more 
strongly, and on the morning of the 21st Warren was 
attacked in his chosen position, but repulsed the enemy at 
every point. This contest finally ended Lee's endeavor to 
resist the capture of the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad 
on the line«of extension of the left flank of the Army of the 
Potomac, an extension by a distance of three miles thus 
secured for it by the advance of Warren. 

The holding of a single point on the railroad below Pe- 
tersburg not being, however, sufficient to prevent the enemy 
from still utilizing tlie road as a line of supply from the 



490 



GEyERAL OEOROE GORDON MEADE. 



south, seeing that he could supplement it as far as it re- 
mained in his possession by the ordinary highways to the 
west of it, its destruction as far as Rowanty Creek was de- 
termined upon. Below that the enemy could, it is true, 
still employ it up to Stony Creek Depot, in conjunction with 
the common country roads, but only at the expense of wag- 
goning supplies for about thirty miles to Petersburg. Ac- 
cordingly, on the 22d of August, MJles's division, of the 
Second Corps, and Gregg's division of cavalry were sent to 
destroy the railroad to Rowanty Creek from Warren's posi- 
tion at the Globe Tavern, on the line of the railroad, a little 
over three miles from Petersbui^. On the 24th Gibbon's 
division of the same corps marched to Rcams's Station, 
Mott's division of the corps being left in the entrenchments 
before Petersburg until it was sent to reinforce Hancock. 
By the afternoon of the 24th the track had been destroyed 
to a point three miles south of the Station, leaving still be- 
tween five and six miles of it to be destroyed. Here the 
two divisions of infantry and one of cavalry took position 
in and outside of the temporary works which had been 
constructed by the troops which had in June marched to 
the relief of the cavalry of Wilson when he was in such 
straits. These ill-constructed entrenchments covered a sec- 
tion of the railroad on its west side with a long parallel 
face, beyond which both of the lines of entrenchments con- 
nected with that front ran east for some distance beyond it, 
open in that direction. With the railroad running north 
and south, in alternate cut and embankment, higher in the 
latter than the parallel line of entrenchments on its west side, 
with the two easterly returns parallel to each other, and 
onlyabout seven hundred yards apart, and liable to enfilading 
and reverse fire, the enemy could not have devised defences 
better suited to the purpose of having his opponents at dis- 
advantage. If there ever were a case coming well within 



THE A UTUMNAL 8IEQE OF PETEB8B UBG. 49 1 

the device of Lieutenant John Derby (John Phcenix, by 
nom de plutne) of the erstwhile Corps of Topographical En- 
gineers, by which the enemy was to be allowed, through a 
peculiar plan of fortifications, to capture them, and in so 
doing become the sure prize of the ousted garrison, con- 
verted into besiegers, this was the one. Of all the adverse 
conditions on this ground, now so well known, General 
Meade was not aware. He doubtless thought that, with 
the eight thousand infantry of so stanch a corps as the 
Second, and the two thousand cavalry which Hancock had 
with him, he could easily baffle any force which Lee could 
afford to send against him to prevent the destruction of the 
railroad. 

Early on the 25th a reconnoissance revealed that the 
enemy in some strength was present, but in what strength 
was not known, and the work of railroad destruction was 
resumed. This had not proceeded long when the enemy's 
force began to develop towards the south, and his resist- 
ance to further progress finally to assume so formidable an 
aspect as to cause the recall of the advanced troops and 
concentration at Reams's Station. His attacks became more 
and more persistent by skirmishers and by lines of battle. 
The first very serious one, rapidly followed by another, did 
not, however, take place until two o'clock in the afternoon. 
They were so brisk as to prove to the besieged that the 
contest would grow in intensity as the day went on, and 
they were, after an interval, followed by one more deter- 
mined. The point selected by the enemy for his repeated 
assaults was the northwest angle of the work, formed by 
the north and south entrenchments parallel with the rail- 
road and the northern one of the two east and west returns. 
Just after five o'clock came a furious assault, opening with ar- 
tillery, whose fire, direct, enfilading, and reverse, searched the 
interior of the work. A heavy infantry column of the enemy 



49^ GENERAL QEOBGE GORDON MEADK 

came forward with impetuosity, and launched itself upon 
the point where the attacks had previously been concen- 
trated. Unhappily, even the redoubtable Second Corps had 
suffered from the stress to which the whole army had been 
put for several months in its herculean labors of march and 
contest night and day. With many of its bravest and best 
officers and men killed or disabled, the remainder fagged 
out with incessant toil and danger, its ranks filled up with 
inexperienced recruits, it had become for a while no longer 
the steadfast phalanx that had fronted the enemy on many 
a stricken field. Amidst many standing nobly to their 
arms for a last shot as the enemy surged into the work, the 
organization as a whole broke to flinders, some portions, 
heavily recruited with new soldiers, halting dazed by the 
suddenness of the event that had befallen them, only to be 
made prisoners before they had recovered from their stupor. 
But all was not over yet, and it remained for the enemy in 
his turn to be beaten back. The ever-ready Miles planted 
a line formed of some of the veteran Sixty-first New York 
Regiment, and what happened then is what has often hap- 
pened since time immemorial when there has been a quick 
mind to conceive and a daring spirit to execute in war. He 
swept backward the enemy, who had lost the elan of attack, 
and recaptured a battery. Joined by Hancock in person, 
on the outside of the northern line of entrenchments, and 
gathering strength from squads of men rallying as reinforce- 
ments, they pushed forward on the flank of the enemy. 
While this was going on beyond the north return of the en- 
trenchments, the enemy's infantry and dismounted cavalry- 
men were charging through the woods on the left return of 
the entrenchments, where was still in position, but ineffect- 
ively, the remains of Gibbon's division. Despite every ex- 
ertion of their officers, the troops there did not respond to 
the demand of the emergency, and had it not been for the 



THE AUTUMNAL SIEQE OF PETEBSBUBQ. 493 

dismounted cavalrymen of Gregg's division, who were sta- 
tioned in prolongation of the southern return of the en- 
trenchmentSy and enfiladed with their fire the lines of the 
enemy advancing there, it might have been all over with 
the broken command of Hancock. A fragmentary line of 
infantry, with a little artillery, maintained itself athwart the 
work, parallel to the railroad and extending beyond the 
northern return. Upon this slender line rested the hope 
of a final stand for the command. The best that it could 
expect was to hold the enemy in check until night fell and 
Willcox's division, of the Ninth Corps, and Mott's divis- 
ion, of the Second, marching by the Jerusalem Plank 
Road, should arrive and enable it safely to beat a retreat 
or to renew the contest. Reinforcements came, but too 
late for either a renewal of the contest or for covering re- 
treat. The troops on both sides were withdrawn at night 
from the field, en route for their different destinations, as 
opposing each other in the lines about Petersburg. It 
should be added that, in sending reinforcements from War- 
ren's corps to Hancock by the Jerusalem Plank Road, a 
longer distance than that by the Halifax Road, which runs 
here just west of the railroad, and therefore direct from the 
place which was Warren's position. General Meade was 
actuated by the same consideration expressed in one of 
Hancock's despatches to him, that the enemy might, on 
this direct road, interpose between the reinforcements sent 
to him by that route and the position of Warren on the 
railroad at the Globe Tavern. Hancock himself, as his 
despatches prove, did not at first realize to the full the 
danger of his situation. Humphreys says that the con- 
dition of Hancock's command, through the fact of the 
presence in it of raw recruits lately received was not known, 
or else reinforcements would have been sent to him early in 
the morning. General Meade, knowing how keenly Han- 



494 GENERAL GEORGE GORDON MEADE 

cock must feel this experience, the first in which the Second 
Corps had been worsted in battle, losing both men and ma- 
terial, wrote him a most sympathetic persoAal letter, which 
is fortunately on official record. 

The next operation of magnitude was a demonstration 
south of the Appomattox and a real attack north of the 
James, although, as it turned out, the demonstration proved 
quite fruitful. The last extensive movements had taken 
place near the end of August The season was now rap- 
idly approaching when the weather would prevent the pos- 
sibility of rapid movements on the soil of Virginia, softened 
into pasty mud by autumnal and winter rains. It was, 
therefore, imperative that the Army of the Potomac should 
make quickly supreme efforts towards that end which it was 
seeking in the siege, or else active field-operations of mag- 
nitude would go over until the next spring. In the night 
of the 28th of September General E. O. C. Ord, now com- 
manding the Eighteenth Corps, and General Bimey, now 
commanding the Tenth, both of the Army of the James, 
crossed the James River, Ord at Varina, two miles above 
Deep Bottom, Bimey at Deep Bottom, followed by the cav- 
alry of General Kautz, of the Army of the James. Ord 
marched along the Varina Road, parallel with the first 
stretch of the river above where he landed, and Bimey, on 
his right, along the New Market and Central Roads, the 
cavalry on the latter. Early in the moming of the 29th 
Ord came in front of Fort Harrison and its entrench- 
ments, about a mile and a quarter from the enemy's posi- 
tion on Chaffin's Bluff. Less than a mile away to the 
north of Fort Harrison lay Fort Gilmer. Double lines of 
entrenchments swept towards the James on the enemy's 
right and towards the Chickahominy on his left Without 
loss of time Ord pushed forward towards Fort Harrison and 
captured the work and two smaller ones, despite its being 



THE A UTUMNAL 8IEQE OF PETEB8BUEQ. 495 

suddenly reinforced, and occupied the entrenchments for 
some distance right and left of it, failing only in securing a 
terminal work of the line on the river bluff, consisting of a 
redan protected by the fire of the enemy's gunboats on the 
James and that of a battery in the rear, which would have 
made it untenable even if the work were occupied. Ord 
was at this moment so severely wounded that the command 
of his corps temporarily devolved on General Charles A. 
Heckman, who, advancing at that time on Fort Gilmer, 
was repulsed with heavy loss. While this was taking place 
on the left, Bimey, advancing on the New Market and 
Central Roads, in a somewhat parallel line, off on the right, 
had captured the enemy's outer line of entrenchments. 
General Grant now arrived on the ground and ordered a 
simultaneous advance. Connection having been established 
between the two infismtry corps, and between Bimey's corps 
and the cavalry, on his right, a spirited but ineffective as- 
sault was made about three o'clock on Fort Gilmer and 
supporting works by a division of white and a brigade 
of colored troops. The colored troops, as to whose fitness 
for soldiers great doubts were widely expressed in those 
days, extorted admiration from all quarters by the intre- 
pidity with which they mounted to <he assault of Fort Gil- 
mer. The night, and part of the next day, the 30th, were 
spent in securing the foothold gained at Fort Harrison, by 
entrenching in the rear of the Federal command. General 
Weitzel replaced General Ord in command of the Eight- 
eenth Corps. At two o'clock in the afternoon of that day 
the enemy vigorously took the offensive, trying to regain 
possession of Fort Harrison. Thrice the assault was made 
by ten brigades with the greatest determination, but each 
time it was repulsed with severe loss to the enemy by the 
garrison of the fort and the outlying Federal troops. 

Simultaneously with this real and serious attack on the 



4g6 GENERAL OEOBGE GORDON MEADK 

north side of the James had been proceedii^ the demon- 
stration south of the Appomattox. Grant had ordered that 
an attack on the extreme left should be made. General 
Warren, conmianding the Fifth Corps, and General Parke, 
now commanding the Ninth, took two divisions of their re- 
spective corps for the execution of the operation contem- 
plated. First parading before the enemy an intention to 
march to the left, so as to prevent him from heavily rein- 
forcing north of the James, they were, if opportunity oftered, 
really to try to extend to the left and hold the extreme posi- 
tion g^ned, or to assault Petersbui^ itself. Waiting, accord- 
ing to orders, through the 29th, so as to aUow the enemy to 
send away as many troops as he dared to withdraw towards 
his left, Warren and Parke marched on the morning of the 
30th to their left, Meade in person directing this operation, 
while Grant in person was directing the one north of the 
James. 

Between the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad, which 
runs virtually north and south just below Petersbui^, and 
the Petersburg and Lynchburg Railroad (called also the 
South Side Railroad), which runs in a general direction 
south of west from Petersburg, that is to say, in the angle 
so formed, converge from the southwest towards Peters- 
burg several important roads, which, as such, will be men- 
tioned here. Counting from the east, there is the Halifax 
Road, running here close to the west side of the Petersbui^ 
and Weldon Railroad ; the Vaughan Road, converging upon 
that, by entering it about a mile north of the Globe Tavern ; 
the Squirrel Level Road, running with various bends di- 
rectly towards the west side of Petersburg ; the Boydton 
Plank Road, similarly running with various bends to the 
west side of Petersburg ; the Cox Road, winding to and fro 
over the Petersburg and Lynchburg Railroad. To intro- 
duce here the mention of more would but obscure instead 



THE A UTUMNAL SIEGE OF PETEBSBUBQ. 497 

of rendering the description clearer. The Confederate en- 
trenchments, well in advance of the southwest front of 
Petersburg, swept around in a slightly concave line from a 
third of a mile to a mile in front of the Boydton Plank 
Road, and rested their right on Hatcher's Run, a creek 
trending northwest, which passes the Boydton Plank Road 
at Burgess's Mill. There was also near Petersburg a par- 
tial line of entrenchments, somewhat parallel with the main 
ones, and connected with them, lying along the Squirrel 
Level Road. 

The point of attack in this movement was the junction, 
off on Warren's left, at the Globe Tavern, of the Squirrel 
Level Road and a road called the Poplar Springs Church 
Road, at Peebles* Farm. The cavalry, under Gregg, was 
to move on the left of the two corps. If Warren and Parke 
should succeed in capturing the entrenchments in the 
locality described, they were to advance towards the Peters- 
burg and Lynchburg Railroad, passing the Boydton Plank 
Road. General Warren marched directly for the junction 
of the roads at Peebles' Farm, and Ayres on the right and 
Griffin on the left stormed the redoubt there and the ec- 
centric line of entrenchments described, Parke coming up 
on the left and supporting the movement. Parke now 
advanced his divisions, Potter on the right, Willcox on the 
left, towards the enemy's main entrenchments intervening 
between him and the Boydton Plank Road. Meanwhile 
the enemy advanced a line of battle a third of a mile in 
front of his main line of entrenchments, and when the 
two divisions of Parke, coming in sight of it, still con- 
tinued to advance, they were attacked and thrown back in 
some confusion, until Griffin's division, which Parke had 
expected would support his right, coming up into line, the 
enemy was brought to a stand. The final result was that 
Parke held the ground, and on the following day, the ist 



49^ GENERAL OEOBGE QOEDON MEADK 

of October, Meade sent as reinforcements Mott's division, 
of the Second Corps, which, arriving in the afternoon, took 
pasition on the left of Parke. Upon this Parke advanced, 
and managed after a brisk engagement to establish himself 
about a mile from the enemy's main line of entrenchments, 
from which point the entrenchments of the Army of the 
Potomac were made continuous with those near the Globe 
Tavern on the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad. The 
Petersburg and Lynchburg Railroad had not been reached, 
it is seen, nor had even the intervening main line of the 
enemy's entrenchments been broken, but, nevertheless, a 
distinct gain had been made in extension of the Federal en- 
trenchments towards the west. This last, however, was des- 
tined to be the ultimate one in precisely that direction until 
the very end, for Lee was able for months thereafter to hold 
off the Army of the Potomac from further progress towards 
the west ; its line of entrenchments stretching, from the 
point last secured, in a southwest, instead of in a west direc- 
tion. Lee must needs defend to the last extremity the 
Petersburg and Lynchburg Railroad, for the capture of 
that would mean the fall of Richmond and Petersburg. 
In the battle near Peebles' Farm General Meade made one 
of the narrowest of the many hairbreadth escapes of his life. 
While conversing with a group of officers, the enemy got 
the range of the party, and sent a shell at it, so well directed 
that it passed through their midst, grazing the leg of one 
of General Meade's topboots, and passing beyond, buried 
itself in the ground without bursting. 

A few days later, on the 7th of October, there was a fight 
north of the James. Kautz, of whom mention was previ- 
ously made as having command of the cavalry there in 
connection with the attacks on Forts Harrison and Gilmer, 
was holding on the right of the infantry detached from the 
Army of the James to that side of the river. Early on that 



THE A UTUMNAL SIEGE OF PETEESB UBO. 499 

morning he was attacked on his centre and right by a heavy 
infantry force and some cavalry, and was obliged to beat a 
rapid retreat with the loss of some of his artillery. He 
managed, however, to extricate himself by marching across 
the country from the Central Road, where he had been 
posted, to the New Market Road, and coming in behind 
the Tenth Corps, which, moving simultaneously to his 
relief, had a brush on its right with the enemy. Active 
operations in this locality ceased on the 1 3th of October 
with a reconnoissance in force ordered by Butler, when an 
unsuccessful assault by Colonel Pond's brigade of Ames's 
division, of the Tenth Corps, was made on the enemy's 
entrenchments. 

With an attempt to capture the Petersburg and Lynch- 
burg Railroad the campaign closed for the autumn. Gen- 
eral Humphreys, the highest authority as to these move- 
ments, says that, at the time, the best information obtainable 
indicated that, the Confederate entrenchments rested their 
right on Hatcher's Run, about a mile and a quarter in ad- 
vance of the place where the Boydton Plank Road crosses 
the Run near Burgess's Mill. He says that at Burgess's 
Mill there were infantry parapets and emplacements for 
artillery, but no line of entrenchments nor any further up 
the Run. Here I cannot do better than quote, as follows, 
from Humphreys himself as to the plan of the pending 
movement. He says : 

"The general plan of the contemplated movement was to leave suf- 
ficient force in the redoubts [that is, on the immediate front of Peters- 
burg] to hold them, and with from thirty thousand to thirty-five thous- 
and effective force of infantry, a due proportion of artillery, and Gregg*s 
division of cavalry, about three thousand strong, to move to our left. 
Hancock, with Gregg on his left, to cross Hatcher's Run by the 
Vaughan Road [two miles below where the enemy's entrenchments 
abutted on the run], move to the Boydton Plank Road past Dabney*s 
Mill, thence by the White Oak Road to its intersection with the CLu- 



500 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADK 

borne Road, recross Hatcher's Run near there (two miles above Bur- 
gess's Mill), and then march to the South Side Railroad [the Peters- 
burg and Lynchburg Railroad], striking it at a point about three miles 
east of Sutherland Station [coming from the Globe Tavern, and there- 
abouts, this force would thus make a circuit of a semi-circumference, 
and lodgment to the rear of the enemy's entrenchments]. General 
Parke, with the Ninth Corps, was first to endeavor to surprise the in- 
complete entrenchments near Hatcher's Run at daylight (it was 
thought they were thinly held), but fiaiiling in that, to remain con- 
fronting them while the Second and Fifth Corps moved to turn their 
right. 

" General Warren, with the Fifth Corps, was to move to the vicinity 
of Armstrong's Mill [on Hatcher's Run, about a mile below the right 
of the enemy's entrenchments abutting on the run], support General 
Parke, and, if his attack was successful, to follow it up, moving on the 
left of the Ninth Corps. If General Parke did not break the enemy's 
line, General Warren was to cross Hatcher's Run, and endeavor to 
turn the enemy's right by recrossing the run above the Boydton plank- 
road bridge [Burgess's mill bridge], keeping on the right of Hancock 
and, being over the stream, to open the Burgess's mill bridge.** 

The three corps named, and Gregg's division of cavalry, 
assigned to the work, moved before daylight of the 27th 
of October. The Fifth and Ninth Corps, under Warren 
and Parke, advanced, as prearranged, upon. the enemy's 
entrenchments, while the Second Corps, under Hancock, 
was making its way off to the left to cross Hatcher's Run 
and afterwards move towards the north. Here General 
Humphreys may properly be called on to speak again, 
especially as he was on the ground with the advance. He 
remarks that, 

" Being on the ground, and satisfied that an assault here [on the 
entrenchments where they abutted on the run] should not be made, 
and having learnt from a despatch from General Hancock that he had 
crossed Hatcher's Run, and consequently that the Dabney mill road 
was clear for General Warren's troops to follow, and considering it 
important that a portion, at least, of his command should cross, and 
conununicate with Hancock as soon as possible, I directed him at nine 
o'clock to cross some of them at once at Armstrong's mill, and com- 



THE A XJTUMNAL SIEQE OF PETEBSBUBQ. $01 

municate with General Hancock. I then rode to meet General 
Meade and General Grant, who were coming out, and inform them 
of the condition of afEairs, and of the directions I had given General 
Warren. 

" After some consultation when General Grant and General Meade 
got upon the ground, General Warren was directed to send a division 
across Hatcher's Run, place its right flank on the stream, move up it 
supporting Hancock (the Dabney mill road was but a mile from the 
run), and upon arriving opposite the right of the enemy's entrench- 
ments, which Griffin was fronting, to attack it in flank, and endeavor 
to drive the enemy from the line, and open the way for the rest of the 
Fifth Corps and for the Ninth Corps. Crawford's division was 
assigned to this duty, as it was nearest at hand. Griffin, with Ayres 
supporting, was left on the north side of the run, Ayres sending his 
Maryland brigade to join Crawford. General Parke's corps set about 
entrenching in their front and back to our works." 

The military situation was then this. On the north side 
of Hatcher's Run, which trends here northwest, and in 
front of the enemy's entrenchments threatened on the right, 
and resting nearly at right-angles to the Run, the Fifth and 
Ninth Corps had been brought to a stand, because it was 
deemed that the enemy was too strong there to be assaulted. 
The Second Corps, after overcoming at daylight some resist- 
ance in crossing the Run at the Vaughan Road crossing, had 
pursued a road (the Dabney Mill Road) somewhat parallel 
to and up the Run, and about a mile distant from it, and 
there striking the Boydton Plank Road, running northeast, 
had reached the Run again. Consequently the Second 
Corps, on the one hand, and the Fifth and Ninth Corps, on 
the other, were in rear and front of the enemy's entrench- 
ments, but with the stream between them. 

The troops of Crawford, readily passing south over 
Hatcher's Run from their position in front of the enemy's 
entrenchments, now rested their right flank upon the 
Run and ascended it towards the Second Corps on the 
Boydton Plank Road near Burgess's Mill. Thus they 



502 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADE 

were in a position to comb out thoroughly the whole 
wooded area in advance of them up to that road. But one 
side proposes, and the other side, sometimes aided by un- 
foreseen material circumstances, has something to do with 
disposing. The ground in front of Crawford was densely 
wooded, and crossed in places by affluents of Hatcher's 
Run. It was between twelve and one o'clock when Craw- 
ford was marching two of his brigades with their right on 
the Run, and one brigade in reserve, towards Burgess's 
Mill. A branch of the Run, mistaken for the main stream, 
caused the troops to swerve for a while from their true 
course, and additionally, the perennial difficulty of keeping 
troops advancing through the woods in true alig^nment was 
encountered. Added to these difficulties were those created 
by the enemy in slashings of trees, inundations from the 
damming of the main stream, and opposition by skirmishers. 
On account of the difficulties of the ground Crawford did 
not reach the point opposite the enemy's entrenchments 
on the other side of the Run until four o'clock in the after- 
noon. There was still a mile of pathless forest ahead of 
him before he could reach the Boydton Plank Road where 
it crosses the stream at Burgess's Mill, where Hancock was. 
The Second Corps, with the cavalry, had reached the Boyd- 
ton Road crossing of the Run about one o'clock. The 
Corps occupied the ground south of Burgess's Mill, and 
engaged with artillery the enemy posted on its front and 
left, on an east and west road called the White Oak Road. 
Egan's division drove some scattered troops of the enemy 
across the Run at Burgess's Mill, beyond which the 
enemy was in force. Mott's division advanced towards 
the White Oak Road. At this point of time Hancock 
leceived orders from General Meade to pause in his ad- 
vance. Hancock then posted De Trobriand's brigade 
fronting towards the Claiborne Road, a north and south 



THE A UTUMNAL SIEGE OF PETERSBURO. 503 

road which crosses the Run two miles above the Burgess 
Mill crossing. Egan's division was posted across the 
Boydton Plank Road where it is entered by the White 
Oak Road, two of his brigades on the right of the road, 
and one on the left ; and when Major Henry H. Bingham, 
of Hancock's staff, reported Crawford as being only three- 
quarters of a mile off on the right, Hancock sought to con- 
nect with him by extending his right by two regiments. 
Upon hearing the report of Major Bingham, Generals Grant 
and Meade, who had come up, left directions with Hancock 
merely to hold his ground. It had become evident that 
the Petersburg and Lynchburg Railroad, still six miles 
away at the nearest point, could not be reached that day, 
for at that time of year the days were short. Hancock had 
therefore been ordered to maintain his ground for the night, 
and to retire on the following morning by the route by 
which he had advanced. But as to the details of his retire- 
ment the enemy was to have something to say. Hancock, 
left to his own devices to make himself as secure as pos- 
sible, deemed it best to capture and hold the ridge just 
beyond the Run, at Burgess's Mill. His line faced north- 
west on the left, and north on the centre, whence it trended 
off towards the east. De Trobriand's brigade was on the 
left of the Boydton Plank Road, with Kerwin's brigade of 
dismounted cavalry on his left, both &cing towards the 
bridge at the Claiborne Road crossing of the Run. On the 
right of the Boydton Plank Road, on a ridge, was Metcalfs 
section of a battery, supported by Pierce's brigade, facing 
towards the Run. Egan, supported by McAllister's brigade, 
was ordered to capture the bridge at Burgess's Mill and 
the ridge beyond the Run. Crawford was not up nor likely 
to be. At four o'clock Egan's division was storming the 
bridge at Burgess's Mill. 

The danger that had been impending for some time. 



504 



GENERAL OEOBOE GORDON MEADE. 



through the fact that there had been no connection y 
made by Crawford with the position of Hancock, now su 
denly took form. Mahone's Confederate division havi 
crossed the Run between Hancock and Crawford, burst o 
of the woods on the rear of Metcalf 's section of artillery ai 
its supporting brigade, which had furnished the two rej 
ments that had been drawn towards the right. The batte 
had bareiy time to discharge its pieces three or four tim 
when it was overrun, while the brigade, essaying to chanj 
front to the rear, was driven back to the Boydton Plai 
Road before it could reform. But this success, as so ft 
quently happens in war, was short-lived, and served b 
more completely to bring about the discomfiture of tl 
enemy. Had Egan been so far advanced as to have alreac 
pushed his troops beyond the bridge, and to have reached \} 
ridge beyond it, instead of being, as he was, only in the fi 
tide of success in the enterprise, he would not have bei 
in position to retrieve the day ; but being just where he w 
at the bridge, and realizing from the direction of the sigh 
and sounds of battle, exactly what had happened, he di 
engaged himself at once, before orders on the way fro 
Hancock reached him. and reversing his course, precip 
tated his troops on the naked flank of Mahone's divisio 
while some of the troops on the left of the Boydton Plat 
Road simultaneously bore down upon it, driving it in ro 
from the field. While this attack and repulse were occu 
ring, the enemy's cavalry, under Hampton, had been pres 
ing Hancock's left and rear, a move successfully met t 
the cavalry of Gregg. 

The next day, the 28th, the troops withdrew witho 
molestation. General Humphreys justly observes that tl 
mistake in the operations was in not ordering the who 
Fifth Corps, as originally contemplated in the plan, to folia 
the Second at once along the Dabney Mill Road, and thi 



THE A UTUMNAL SIEQE OF PETER8BURQ. 505 

having two-thirds, instead of one-third, of the strength of 
the force at the point which would necessarily be that of 
greatest opposition. 

During the advance there had been a partial assault by 
Miles, of the Second Corps, on the lines at Petersburg, cap- 
turing a redoubt and some prisoners. As his division be- 
longed to the Second Corps, it is but just to mention the 
incident here as relating to a moment when the Second 
Corps chiefly was engaged. 

It was deemed best for the Second Corps to retire, be- 
cause, through expenditure, its stock of ammunition was 
dangerously low, and because there were no means of im- 
mediately replenishing it. It therefore withdrew from its 
position on the 28th of October, and thus ended for a time 
open-field campaigning, marching and countermarching to 
turn the enemy's flanks. Now came perforce, not by any 
means a season of repose, but one free of extensive march- 
ing from place to place. 

On the 26th of November Hancock bade farewell to 
the Second Corps, going North on the special mission of 
recruiting for service in the spring a corps of veterans. He 
was succeeded by General Humphreys, well worthy as a 
soldier of being the successor to such a one as Hancock, 
and intellectually his superior. 



506 GENERAL QEORQE GORDON MEADK 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

THE winter's siege OF PETERSBURG. 

The lines held by the Confederates at the beginning of 
the winter of 1 864-5 reached from their right, resting on 
the north side of Hatcher's Run, about a mile and a half 
above the Vaughan Road crossing of the Run, and about a 
mile below Burgess's Mill, on the Boydton Plank Road 
crossing of the Run, to and around the south of Petersburg, 
and then north, in front of Bermuda Hundred (crossing 
the Appomattox and the James), and were thence pro- 
longed until their left rested on White Oak Swamp. That 
long, eccentric curve, varying constantly in direction, north- 
east, east, and north, had also an oflTset covering the west 
• of Petersburg. The general line, in its final swing towards 
the north, fulfilled the purpose of covering the town on the 
east, and in fact was there at its strongest. The fortified line, 
divergent from that of the entrenchments towards the west, 
covered the west of the town. The lines of the Army of 
the Potomac during the winter were shorter than those of 
the Confederates, for the attempt at outflanking the enemy 
having ceased for a while, there was no object in extending 
them towards either right or left. Even the Confederates, 
who, as being on the defensive, had to keep sedulous 
guard on their flanks, had merely troops in observation on 
the extreme ends of their entrenchments. They, however, 
during the winter, made, in anticipation of the renewal of 
active movements, very important additions to the works 
on their right. Whereas, as we have now seen, their en- 
trenchments originally reached on the right only to Hatch- 
er's Run, they were finally extended across and up the 



THE WINTERS 8IEQE OF PETEBSBUBG. $0/ 

Run. Turning from the point where they had stopped on 
the north side of Hatcher's Run, about a mile below Bur- 
gess's Mill, they were made to pass west, by detached works 
and entrenchments, along the south side of the Run, so as 
to cover a portion of the