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•?mks^on^o'f^?hT*Jnhn^'?™T*''^ copyrighted steel plate etching of General Robert E. Lee. By
-rraission of the John A. Lowell Bank Note Company, Boston, Mass.
OF ROBERT E. LEE
J. J. BOWEN
Formerly Member of the First Company
of Richmond Howitzers
THE NEALE PUBLISHING COMPANY
Copyright, 1914, by
The Neale Publishing Company
m -^ iSH
)CI,A36 9 95 2
THE FIRST YEAR OF THE WAR
I Bull Run ii
II Why the Confederates Did Not Take Wash-
III Bull Run in Richmond 22
IV Beauregard's Plan 27
V The Quarrel About Johnston's Rank . . 31
VI " Within Hearing of the Enemy's Guns " . 33
VII The Relations Between Davis and Lee . . 2i7
VIII Manassas to Seven Pines 40
THE CAMPAIGN OF 1862
- I Seven Days 49
•^11 Second Manassas ., . 61
'v'lll Sharpsburg (Antietam) ' IZ
t-IV Fredericksburg 92
THE CAMPAIGN OF 1863
I Chancellorsville 103
• II Gettysburg 133
III Gettysburg 165
THE CAMPAIGN OF 1864
I From the Rapidan to the James .... 191
II Thh Siege of Richmond 239
III The Retreat 249
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Portrait of Robert E, Lee
Portrait of J. J. Bowen .
Portrait of Robert E. Lee
Portrait of Joseph E. Johnston
Portrait of G. P. T. Beauregard
Portrait of Lee and His Horse " Traveller
Portrait of Jefferson Davis .
Portrait of Abraham Lincoln
Portrait of Thomas J. Jackson
Portrait of Robert E. Lee
Portrait of George G. Meade
Portrait of James Longstreet
Portrait of R. S. Ewell .
Portrait of John B, Hood
Portrait of Carl Schurz .
Portrait of Wade Hampton
Portrait of U. S. Grant .
Portrait of J. E. B. Stuart
Portrait of William T. Sherman
Portrait of John C. Fremont
Portrait of John C. Breckinridge
Valentine's Recumbent Figure of Lee
207 I ''
THE FIRST YEAR OF THE WAR
(from a daguerreotype taken in RICHMOND IN 1862)
Facing page 1 1
OF ROBERT E. LEE
PROBABLY no army that ever fought a battle re-
ceived so Httle credit as McDowell's. Northern
writers called it " raw troops," and European
military men improved on this and dubbed both armies
" mobs," — Von Moltke, " bush-whackers."
According to the authorities, both armies were ready
to run, but McDowell's got the start.
The Confederate army comprised many old, well-
drilled organizations, — such as the Washington Artil-
lery, of New Orleans; the ist regiment, from Richmond,
and many others, — while the Federal army was the reg-
gular U. S. army in its artillery, — a very important
feature, — and it comprised also some regular cavalry
Infantry, other than the regular, was made up of the
three-month men, who were fairly well trained. It is
true they were raw as far as actual fighting was con-
cerned, but the same may be said of the regular army
at the present time.
If the Confederate army was ready to run, there was
tno indication of it on the front ; men were chasing shells
12 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
for relics and went at a double quick, when the order
came, to the fight on the left.
Beauregard says :
" It was a point made at the time at the North that
just as the Confederate troops were about to break and
flee the Federal troops anticipated them by doing so,
being struck into this precipitation by the arrival upon
their flank of the Shenandoah forces, . . . errors that
have been repeated by a number of writers and by an
ambitious but superficial French author. The battle of
Manassas was like any other battle, progression and de-
velopment from the deliberate counter-employment of
the military resources in hand, affected by incidents as
always, but of a kind very different from those referred
to. My line of battle, which twice had not only resisted
the enemy's attacks, but had taken the offensive and
driven him back in disorder, was becoming momentarily
stronger from the arrival, at last, of the reinforcements
provided for; and if the enemy had remained on the
field till the arrival of Ewell and Holmes, they would
have been so strongly outflanked that many who escaped
would have been destroyed or captured."
There is abundant evidence of the fact that both armies
From Beauregard's report of the battle:
" It was now between half past two and three o'clock;
a scorching sun increased the oppression of the troops
exhausted from incessant fighting, — many of them hav-
ing been engaged since morning.
" Fearing lest the Federal offensive should secure too
firm a grip, and knowing the fatal result that might
AS BREVET LIEUTENANT-COLONEL OF ENGINEERS IN THE UNITED
Facing page 13
BULL RUN 13
spring from any grave infraction of my line, I deter-
mined to make another effort for the recovery of the pla-
teau, and ordered a charge of the entire line of battle,
including the reserves, which at this crisis I myself led
" The movement was made in such keeping and dash
that the whole plateau was swept clear of the enemy,
. . . leaving in our possession the most of Ricketts'
and Griffin's batteries, the men of which were mostly
shot down where they bravely stood by their guns."
Bee and Bartow, who met the initial attack, were both
killed, and their four regiments lost 658 men. They
were driven back half a mile, but recovered it and fought
steadily all day.
Captain J. B. Fry, assistant adjutant general on Mc-
Dowell's staff, says :
" On the plateau Beauregard says the disadvantage of
his smooth bore guns was reduced by shortness of range.
" The short range was due to the Federal advance,
and the several struggles for the plateau were at close
quarters and gallant on both sides."
No matter how well troops fight, they are sure to be
beaten if badly handled by their officers, and that was the
trouble with the Federal army.
Longstreet says :
" Had a prompt, energetic general been in command
when, on the 20th, his order of battle was settled upon,
the division under Tyler would have been deployed in
front of Stone Bridge as soon after nightfall as dark-
ness could veil the march, and the divisions under Hunter
and Heintzelman, following, would have been stretched
14 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
along the lateral roads in bivouac so as to be prepared
to cross Sudley's Ford and put in a good day's work
on the morrow,
" McDowell's army posted as it should have been, a
march at daylight would have brought the column to
the Henry House before seven o'clock, dislodged Evans,
busied with Tyler's display at the bridge without a
chance to fight, and brought the three divisions united
in gallant style along the turnpike, with little burning
of powder. Thus prepared and organized, the compact
battle order of 20,000 men would have been a fearful
array against Beauregard's fragmentary left, and by
the events as they passed would have assured McDowell
of victory hours before Kirby Smith and Elzey, of the
Army of the Shenandoah, arrived upon the field."
Instead of this disposition the turning column had to
march twelve miles, starting at midnight. This was a
pretty trying prelude to an all day's fight under a July
Captain Fry, McDowell's chief of staff, says :
" He (McDowell) reached the scene of the actual con-
flict somewhat earlier than Beauregard, and seeing the
enemy driven across the valley of Young's Branch, and
behind the Warrenton turnpike, at once sent a swift
courier to Tyler with orders to press the attack at Stone
" Tyler acknowledged he received this order at
eleven o'clock. It was Tyler's division upon which
McDowell relied for the decisive fighting of the day.
" He knew the march of the turning column would
be fatiguing, and when by a sturdy fight it had cleared
the turnpike for the advance of Tyler's division, it had
BULL RUN IS
in fact done more than its fair share of the work. But
Tyler did not attempt to force the passage of Stone
Bridge, which after eight o'clock was defended by only
four companies of infantry, though he admitted that by
the plan of battle, when Hunter and Heintzelman had
attacked the enemy in the vicinity of the bridge, he was
to force the passage of Bull Run at that point, and at-
tack the enemy in flank.
" Soon after McDowell's arrival at the front Burn-
side rode up to him and said his brigade had borne the
battle, that it was out of ammunition, and that he
wanted permission to withdraw, refit, and fill cartridge
boxes. McDowell, in the excitement of the occasion,
gave reluctant consent, and the brigade, which certainly
had done nobly, marched to the rear, stacked arms, and
took no further part in the fight.
" The batteries of Ricketts and Griffin, by their fine
discipline, wonderful daring, and matchless skill, were
the prime features in the fight. The battle was not lost
till they were lost. When in their advanced position,
just after the infantry supports had been driven in over
the slope, a fatal mistake occurred. A regiment came
out of the woods on Griffin's right, and as he was in the
act of opening upon it with canister he was deterred by
the assurance of Major Barry, chief of artillery, that
it was a regiment sent by Heintzelman to support the
battery. A moment more, and the doubtful regiment
proved its identity by a deadly volley, and, as Griffin
states in his report, every cannoneer was cut down, and
a large number of horses killed, leaving the battery
(which was without support except in name) perfectly
helpless. The effect upon Ricketts was equally fatal.
He, desperately wounded, and Ramsey, his lieutenant,
killed, lay in the wreck of the battery.
1 6 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
" After the arrival of Howard's brigade, McDowell,
for the last time, pressed up the slope to the plateau,
forced back the Confederate line, and regained posses-
sion of the Henry and Robinson Houses, and of the
" But there were no longer cannoneers to man or
horses to move the guns that had done so much. By
the arrival upon this part of the field of his own re-
serves and Kirby Smith's brigade of Johnston's army,
about half past three, Beauregard extended his left to
outflank McDowell's shattered, shortened and discon-
nected lines, and the Federals left the field about half
" Until then they had fought wonderfully well for
raw troops. There were no fresh forces on the field
to support or encourage them, and the men seemed to
be seized simultaneously by the conviction that it was
no use to do anything more, and they might as well start
McDowell's defeat was due to his faulty disposition
on the night of the 20th, the failure of Tyler to force
the crossing at Stone Bridge, and Major Barry's mis-
take. The raw troops were not to blame for any of these
things. After the battle some of the commands lost
cohesion, and the men drifted to Washington where
their camps were located.
For this they may be censured, but not for the real
disaster, — the loss of the battle. Any troops would
have lost it under the circumstances.
Facing page 17
WHY THE CONFEDERATES DID NOT TAKE
IT is needless to say there was great rejoicing in Rich-
mond over the victory; but the city was already a
military camp, and there was a mingled feeling of
disappointment among the soldiers who had not been in
the battle for fear the war had ended without glory
Furloughs were granted lavishly ; the city was full of
officers from the army, and much discussion of the bat-
tle ensued. At first it was considered a complete and
decisive victory, and Beauregard was hailed as the young
Napoleon. It was not long, however, before it dawned
on the ingenious mind of some one that Washington
ought to have been captured, and this illusion spread
until it is probably the accepted opinion of the world
General Upton, in his plea for a regular army of
large proportions, says that Washington was saved from
capture by the " indecision of a band of insurgents." It
would be difficult, however, to establish indecision where
there was no diversity of opinion, and it is easy to show
there was none. Longstreet, in his " IManassas to Ap-
pomattox," written long after the event, appears to have
caught the infection also.
He says :
i8 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
" Beauregard's mistake was in failing to ride promptly
after his five o'clock order and handling his column
while in action. As events actually occurred, he would
have been in overwhelming numbers against jMcDowell's
reserve and supply depot. His adversary, so taken by
surprise, would not have been difficult to conquer.
". . . Supplies of subsistence, ammunition, and for-
age, passed as we marched through the enemy's camp
toward Centerville, seemed ample to carry the Confeder-
ate army on to Washington. . . .
". . . Through the abandoned camps of the Federals
we found their pots and kettles over the fire, with food
cooking; quarters of beef hanging on the trees, and
wagons by the roadside loaded, some with bread and
general . provisions, others with ammunition. When
within artillery range of the retreating column passing
through Centerville, the infantry was deployed on the
side of the road, under cover of the forest, so as to
give room for the batteries ordered into action to open,
Bonham's brigade on the left, the others on the right.
" As the guns were about to open there came a mes-
sage that the enemy, instead of being in precipitate re-
treat, was marching around to attack the Confederate
right. With this report came orders, or reports of or-
ders, for the brigades to return to their positions behind
the Run. I denounced the report as absurd, claimed to
know a retreat such as was before me, and ordered that
the batteries open fire, when Major Whiting, of
General Johnston's stafif, rising in his stirrups, said, * In
the name of General Johnston, I order that the batteries
shall not open.' I enquired, ' Did General Johnston
send you to communicate that order ? ' Whiting replied,
* No ; but I take the responsibility to give it.' I claimed
the privilege of responsibility under the circumstances,
WHY WASHINGTON ESCAPED CAPTURE 19
and when in the act of renewing the order to fire,
General Bonham rode to my side and asked that the
batteries should not open. As the ranking officer pres-
ent, this settled the question. By that time, too, it was
I do not know what Longstreet saw, but our battery
was the battery attached to Bonham's brigade. We
did not get anywhere near Centerville, saw no retreat-
ing column, and no pots and kettles, provisions nor
The infantry was faced to the right because it was
rumored the enemy was on that flank; but the battery
remained in column in the road. After a wait of short
duration we returned to our position behind the Run.
But even if the attack had been made, the probabil-
ities are that it would have failed, for Captain Fry says
that McDowell had at Centerville Miles's division,
Richardson's brigade, three regiments of Runyon's di-
vision, and Hunt's, Tidball's, Ayres', and Green's regular
batteries, and one or two fragments of batteries, making
in all about twenty guns.
H, as Longstreet says in speaking about the battle on
the left, " before the loss of his artillery he (McDowell)
was the Samson of the fight," it is tolerably clear that
he would have met a warm reception at Centerville.
Then the idea of relying on what could be picked up
on the road in the way of supplies and ammunition is
Captain Fry says that one reason McDowell decided
on the retreat from Centerville was that he was short
Johnston says in his report of the battle :
" At twenty minutes before five, when the retreat of
20 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
the enemy toward Centerville began, I sent orders to
Brigadier General Bonham by Lieutenant Colonel Lay of
his staff, who happened to be with me, to march with his
own and Longstreet's brigade (which were nearest Bull
Run and the stone bridge) by the quickest route to the
turnpike, and form them across it to intercept the re-
treat of the Federal troops.
" But he found so little appearance of rout in those
troops as to make the execution of his instructions seem
impracticable, so the two brigades returned to their
" He (Beauregard) stated that because of false alarms
which reached him he had ordered the troops referred
to (Elzey's and Early's) from the left to the right of
our line, so as to be in position to repel the reported
movement of the enemy against that flank."
So that instead of Beauregard's riding with his five-
o'clock order, he was busy with his dispositions to repel
the reported advance of the enemy on his right flank.
Nor was there any subsequent intention of advanc-
ing on Washington.
General Johnston says:
" Having left the field after ten o'clock and ridden
in the dark slowly, it was about half past eleven when
I found the President and General Beauregard together
in the latter's headquarters at Manassas. We three
conversed an hour or more without referring to pursuit
or advance on Washington. . . .
" And one conference he, the President, had with me
WHY WASHINGTON ESCAPED CAPTURE 21
that day (the 22d) proved conclusively that he had no
thought of sending an army against Washington, for in
it he offered me the command in West Virginia."
Mr. Davis says :
" On the night of the 22d I had a second conference
with Generals Johnston and Beauregard. All the rev-
elations of the day were of the most satisfactory char-
acter as to the completeness of the victory. . . .
". . . The generals, like myself, were all content with
what had been done. I propounded to them the enquiry
as to what it was practicable to do. Both generals op-
posed an advance, alleging unpreparedness and the
certainty of resistance, not only from troops at Wash-
ington, but from Patterson's army."
Davis concludes : " Thus it was, and so far as I
know, for the reasons stated above, that an advance to
the south bank of the Potomac was not contemplated as
the immediate sequence of the victory at Manassas."
And so a sufficient answer to the question ** Why the
Confederates did not take Washington?" is "Because
they never thought of it." It was not in the program.
That is a good and sufficient reason, as cities are not
Another reason is that it was impregnable to any force
the Confederates could bring against it.
Cameron telegraphed to New York :
" Our works on the south bank of the Potomac are
impregnable, being well manned with reinforcements.
The capital is safe."
The capture of Washington was not even discussed
in the army at that time, nor for that matter at any
BULL RUN IN RICHMOND
WHILE Manassas, or Bull Run, was a Confeder-
ate victory, it was a blessing in disguise to the
North. Out of it came the quarrels between Davis,
Johnston, and Beauregard, — sores that never healed,
— and as those generals were the popular heroes,
of whom much was expected but never realized, and as
they were retained in the service until the end and were
always balky horses, it is clear that the effect was most
In addition to the balky and sometimes insubordinate
conduct of Johnston and Beauregard in the field they
had their adherents in Congress, and these gave the ad-
ministration no end of trouble. In fact the battle of
Bull Run inaugurated a conflict in Richmond that con-
tributed not a little to the downfall of the Confederacy.
The first manifestation of trouble was over the absurd
idea that Washington could have been captured; and
as it was not captured, somebody blundered.
It surely could not be Beauregard, the young Napo-
leon, nor Johnston who came, like Bliicher, to his aid;
so it must be Davis, who arrived on the field just as
the battle ended, and in time to restrain the impetuous
Mr. Davis says:
" When the smoke of battle had lifted from the field
of Manassas, and the rejoicing over the victory had
BULL RUN IN RICHMOND 23
spread over the land and spent its exuberance, some who,
like Job's warhorse, * sniffed the battle from afar,' but
in whom the likeness there ceased, censoriously asked
why the fruits of the victory had not been gathered by
the capture of Washington.
" Then some indiscreet friends of the generals com-
manding in that battle, instead of the easier task of
justification, chose the harder one of exculpation for
the inferred failure. This ill-advised zeal, combined,
perhaps, with malice against me, induced the allegation
that the President had prevented the generals from mak-
ing an immediate and vigorous pursuit of the routed
enemy. This, as the other stories had been, was left
to the correction which time, it was hoped, would bring;
the sooner, because it was expected to be refuted by the
reports of the commanding generals with whom I had
conferred on that subject immediately after the battle.
After considerable time had elapsed, it was reported to
me that a member of Congress, who had served on that
occasion as a volunteer aid to General Beauregard, had
stated in the House of Representatives that I had pre-
vented the pursuit of the enemy after his defeat at Ma-
" This gave to the rumor such ofHcial character and
dignity as seemed to me to entitle it to notice not here-
tofore given. Wherefore I addressed General Johnston
the following inquiry, which, though restricted to the
allegation, was of such a tenor as left it to his option to
state all the facts connected with the slander, if he should
choose to do me that justice, or should see the public
interest involved in the correction, which, as stated in
my letter to him, was that which gave it, in my estima-
tion, its claim to consideration, and had caused me to
address him on the subject:
24 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
"'Richmond, Va., November 3, 1861.
" * General J. E. Johnston,
" * Commanding Department of the Potomac.
" * Sir : Reports have been and are being widely cir-
culated that I prevented General Beauregard from
pursuing the enemy after the battle of Manassas, and
had subsequently restrained him from advancing upon
" * Though such statements may have been made
merely for my injury, and in that view might be post-
poned to a more convenient season, they have served to
create distrust, to excite disappointment, and must embar-
rass the administration in its further efforts to reinforce
the armies of the Potomac, and generally to provide for
the public defense. For these public considerations I
call upon you, as the commanding general, and as a
party to all the conferences held by me on July 21st and
22d, to say whether I obstructed the pursuit of the enemy
after the victory of Manassas, or have ever objected tO'
an advance or other active operations which it was
feasible for the army to undertake.
" * Very respectfully yours, &c.,
" * Jefferson Davis.'
" * Headquarters^ Centerville, ,
" * November 10, 1861.
" * To His Excellency,
" ' The President.
" ' Sir : I have the honor to receive your letter of the
3d instant, in wdiich you call upon me as the commanding
general, and as a party to all the conferences held by
you on the 21st and 22d of July, to say whether you ob-
structed the pursuit after the victory of Manassas, or
have ever objected to an advance or other active opera-
BULL RUN IN RICHMOND 25
tions which it was feasible for the army to undertake.
" ' To the first question I reply, No ; the pursuit was
" obstructed " by the enemy's troops at Centerville, as I
have stated in my official report. In that report I have
also said why no advance was made upon the enemy's cap-
ital, as follows: The apparent freshness of the United
States troops at Centerville, which checked our pursuit;
the strong forces occupying the works near Georgetown,
Arlington, and Alexandria; the certainty, too, that
General Patterson, if needed, would reach Washington
with his army of more than thirty thousand men sooner
than we could ; and the condition and inadequate means
of the army in ammunition, provisions, and transporta-
tion prevented any serious thought of advance upon the
" * To the second inquiry I reply that it has never
been feasible for the army to advance farther than it
has done to the line of Fairfax C. H., with its advanced
posts at Munson's and Mason's Hills. After a con-
ference at Fairfax C. H. with the three senior general
officers you announced it to be impracticable to give the
army the strength which those officers considered neces-
sary to enable it to assume the offensive. Upon which
I drew it back to its present position.
" ' Most respectfully,
" ' Your obt. svt,
"'J. E. Johnston.'"
It will be seen that Johnston admits that Davis did
not hold him back from Washington immediately after
Bull Run, but that several months afterward he refused
to give him the men to capture that city, — and hence
it was not captured.
Davis wrote to Beauregard:
26 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
" Richmond, Va., October 30, 1861.
" General Beauregard, Manassas, Va.
" Sir : Yesterday my attention was called to various
newspaper publications, purporting to have been sent
from Manassas, and to be a synopsis of your report of
the battle of July 21st last, in which it is represented that
you have been overruled by me in your plan for a battle
with the enemy, south of the Potomac, for the capture
of Baltimore and Washington, and the liberation of
Maryland. I inquired for your long expected report, and
to-day it has been submitted for my inspection.
" With much surprise I find that the newspaper
statements were sustained by the text of the report. I
was surprised, because if we differ in opinion as to the
measures and purposes of contemplated campaigns, such
facts could have no proper place in the report of a battle ;
further, because it seemed to be an attempt to exalt
yourself at my expense; and, especially, because no such
plan as that described was submitted to me. . . .
" Very respectfully yours,
GENERAL G. P. T. BEAUREGARD
Facing page 2^
EAUREGARD'S report was :
" Gen'l S. Cooper,
" Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond.
"... I proposed that General Johnston should unite,
as soon as possible, the bulk of the Army of the Shenan-
doah with that of the Potomac, then under my com-
mand, leaving only sufficient force to garrison his strong
works at Winchester, and to guard the five defensive
passes of the Blue Ridge, and thus hold Patterson in
check. At the same time General Holmes was to
march hither with all his command not essential for
the defense of the position at Acquia Creek. These
junctions having been made at Manassas, an immediate
impetuous attack of our combined armies upon Mc-
Dowell was to follow, as soon as he approached my
advanced position in and around Fairfax C. H., with
the inevitable result, as I submitted, of his complete
defeat and the destruction and capture of his army.
This accomplished, the Army of the Shenandoah,
under General Johnston, increased with a part of my
forces and rejoined, as he returned, by the detachments
left to hold the mountain passes, was to march back
rapidly into the Valley, fall upon and crush Patterson
with a superior force, wheresoever he might be found.
" This, I confidently intimated, could be done within
28 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
fifteen days after General Johnston should march from
Winchester to Manassas. Meanwhile I was to occupy
the enemy's works on this side of the Potomac, if,
as I anticipated, he had been so routed as to enable
me to enter them with him; or if not, to retire again
for a time within the line of Bull Run with my main
" Patterson having been virtually destroyed, then
General Johnston would reinforce General Garnett suf-
ficiently to make him superior to General McClellan,
his opponent, and able to defeat that officer.
" This done. General Garnett was to form an im-
mediate junction with General Johnston, who was forth-
with to cross the Potomac into Maryland with his whole
force, rouse the people as he advanced to the recovery
of their political rights and the defense of their homes
and families from an offensive invader, and then
march to the investment of Washington, in the rear,
while I resumed the offensive in front.
" This plan of operation, you are aware, was not ac-
ceptable at the time, from considerations which appeared
so weighty as more than " to counterbalance the pro-
He says nothing in his report of being restrained
from capturing Washington as an immediate sequence
of the battle of Manassas, but wanted everybody to
know that he could have captured it before the battle,
and that, as Davis failed to avail himself of his plan,
Washington and Baltimore were not captured; and
Maryland was not liberated.
It will be seen that both generals magnanimously ad-
mit that Davis did not restrain them from capturing
Washington immediately after the battle; but they both
BEAUREGARD'S PLAN 29
Jwould have captured it, one before and the other after
the battle, if Davis had in one case approved of an ab-
surd plan, and in the other provided troops that he could
Beauregard refused to make any change in his re-
port, so Congress did it, — that is, left out the "plan."
Beauregard's plan may appear to the military critics
involved and complicated, but with the cooperation of
the enemy it would have been perfectly practical. Pat-
terson would have obligingly allowed Johnston to de-
tach a part of his 11,000 men to hold Winchester and
the five passes of the Blue Ridge, and then, with the
remainder of his army, join Beauregard at Manassas.
He would not have molested the little detachments at
Winchester and the mountain passes.
The " immediate and impetuous " attack on McDowell
would certainly not have been objectionable to that of-
ficer, and no doubt he would have delighted in the " com-
plete defeat and the destruction and capture of his
Then General Johnston would have been received on
his return to the Valley with open arms by his old friend
Patterson, who would have been " crushed " on schedule
time. Being " virtually destroyed," he would not have
objected — in fact could not — to the reinforcement of
Garnett and the destruction of McClellan, though at that
time Garnett was in rapid retreat before McClellan,
and was a few days later killed and his small force dis-
persed. McClellan beaten and disposed of, Garnett's
junction with Johnston would have been easy, and the
crossing of the Potomac by the combined armies, a
Once in Maryland the hunger for political rights
would have been different from what it was when we
30 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
tried it in 1862 and 1863, and the brave Marylanders,
to oblige Beauregard, would have sung " Maryland,
My Maryland," while Johnston invested Washington in
rear, and Beauregard in front.
Thus the Federal armies would have been disposed
of, Washington and Baltimore captured, Maryland
liberated, and Beauregard another and greater Napoleon.
Elaborate and complicated plans on schedule time
never had any terrors for Beauregard.
Before the battle of Manassas he suggested that John-
ston should leave the railroad thirty-five miles from Ma-
nassas, and fall on McDowell's rear, while he, on hearing
his guns, would attack in front.
The result would have been as Johnston says :
" McDowell would have disposed of me in two hours
and could then have turned his attention to Beauregard,
who would have been coming up."
THE QUARREL ABOUT JOHNSTON's RANK
THE armies of Johnston and Beauregard were com-
bined after the battle, and Johnston was in com-
mand, but things did not run smoothly between the
generals, nor between them and the Richmond author-
ities. Only three days after the battle Johnston wrote
to the War Department :
" Lieutenant Colonel Maury reported to me this
morning as assistant adjutant general, being assigned
to that place by General Lee. I had already selected
Major Rhett . . . and can admit the power of no of-
ficer of the army to annul my order on the subject, nor
can I admit the claim of any officer to the command
of the forces, being myself the ranking general of the
Davis indorsed this letter " Insubordinate," and the
quarrel over Johnston's rank ensued.
In one of his lengthy letters he says:
" The effect of the course pursued is this : It trans-
fers me from the position of first in rank to that of
fourth. ... It is plain that this is a blow aimed at
me alone. ... It seeks to tarnish my fame, as a soldier
and as a man, earned by more than thirty years of labor-
ious and perilous service. I had but this, the scars of
32 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
many wounds all honestly taken in my front and in
the front of battle, and my father's Revolutionary sword.
It was delivered to me from his venerable hand, without
a stain of dishonor. The blade is still unblemished,"
" I have just received and read your letter of the
1 2th inst. The language is, as you say, unusual, its
arguments and statements utterly one-sided, and its in-
sinuations as unfounded as they are unbecoming."
Beauregard gave almost as much trouble.
Differences led, as Mrs. Davis says in her " Memoirs,"
" to an estrangement between Beauregard and the
authorities at Richmond, which apparently widened as
the war progressed."
Both generals were spoiled by the battle.
The administration was already unpopular. Mr,
Hunter, of Virginia, quit the cabinet for fear, his
enemies said, that identification with the administration
might jeopardize his chances for the next presidential
Beauregard loomed up also as presidential " timber."
WITHIN HEARING OF THE ENEMY's GUNS "
EAUREGARD wrote to the editor of the Richmond
" Centerville, Va.,
(" Within hearing of the enemy's guns),
"November 3, 1861.
" To THE Editor : My attention has been called to
an unfortunate controversy now going on relative to
the publication of a synopsis of my report of the battle
of Manassas. None can regret more than I do this
publication, which was made without my knowledge or
authority. The President is the sole judge of when and
what parts of the reports of a commanding officer
should be made public. I, individually, do not object
to delaying its publication as long as the War Depart-
ment should think it necessary or proper for the success
of our cause. Meanwhile, I entreat my friends not
to trouble themselves about refuting the slanders and
calumnies aimed at me. Alcibiades on a certain occasion
resorted to a singular method to occupy the minds of
his traducers; let, then, that synopsis answer the same
purpose for me in this instance.
"If certain minds cannot understand the difference
between patriotism, the highest civic virtue, and office
seeking, the lowest civic occupation, I pity them from
the bottom of my heart. Suffice it to say that I prefer
34 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
the respect and esteem of my countrymen to the ad-
miration and envy of the world. I hope for the sake
of our cause and country to be able, with the assistance
of a kind Providence, to answer my calumniators with
new victories over our natural enemies ; but I have noth-
ing to ask of the country, the Government, nor my
friends, except to afford me all the aid they can in the
great struggle we are now engaged upon.
" I am not and never expect to be a candidate for
any civic office in the gift of the people or the Executive.
The acme of my ambition is, after having cast my mite
in the defense of our sacred cause, and assisted to the
best of my ability in securing our rights and independence
as a nation, to retire to private life (my means permit-
ting), never again to leave my home unless to fight
anew the battles of my country.
''' Your most obedient servant,
"G. T. Beauregard."
" Within hearing of the enemy's guns " is a good
second to Pope's " Headquarters in the saddle."
Mrs. Davis says :
" Now for the first time there appeared to be an or-
ganized party in opposition to the administration.
" This might have been weakened by daily social inter-
course and, habituated as we were to giving numerous
entertainments of an official character, we should gladly
have kept up the custom ; but during every entertainment,
without exception, either the death of a relation was
announced to a guest, or a disaster to the Confederacy
was telegraphed to the President. He was a nervous
NEAR THE ENEMY 35
dyspeptic by habit. . . . He said he could do either one
duty or the other, give entertainments or administer the
Government, and he fancied he was expected to per-
form the latter service in preference! And so we
ceased to entertain except at formal receptions, or
informal dinners and breakfasts given to as many as
Mr. Davis's health permitted us to invite. In the even-
ing he was too exhausted to receive visitors.
" The Examiner sent forth a wail of regret over the
parsimony of the administration. It touched feelingly
upon the deprivation of the young people of Richmond
in not being received in the evening, the assumption of
* superior dignity of the satraps,' etc., etc.
" This became a fierce growl as it contemplated the
awful contingency of the ' President's getting rich on
his savings.'. . . So, little by little, Congress became
alienated, or at least a large portion of them, with a few
of the military men.
" The President let the conviction gnaw at his vitals
in silence. He used to say with a sigh : * If we suc-
ceed, we shall hear nothing of the malcontents; if we
do not, then I shall be held accountable by the majority
of friends as well as of foes. I will do my best, and
God will give me strength to bear whatever comes to
An historian, speaking of Davis, says :
" His temperament was obstinate and domineering.
" He soon made all branches of the Government
subservient to his will, although there were both a
Congress and a Supreme Court. He was the State.
" And this unfortunate disposition alienated from him
some of the ablest men of the South, men who were
36 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
ardent supporters of the independence of their section,
and whose self-sacrificing spirit could not be challenged."
The general impression that Davis was to blame for
the alienation of some of the ablest men, including Beau-
regard and Johnston, and that he was " domineering
and obstinate," has no foundation in fact.
To the contrary, he was most considerate of the feel-
ings of those with whom he was associated in the Govern-
ment, and with the generals in the field, as the corre-
spondence between them abundantly demonstrates.
THE RELATIONS BETWEEN DAVIS AND LEE
THE relations between Davis and Lee were of the
most intimate and friendly character throughout
the war, a fact no doubt due to the difference between
the " able men alienated " and Lee, who remained loyal
to Davis even after the absurd act of Congress, passed
after the war had practically ended, empowering Lee
to ignore Davis and resurrect the Confederacy.
After the war Davis wrote to the War Department
at Washington for some papers, and the officer who
forwarded them wrote:
" The official records when published will not add to,
but greatly detract from. General Johnston's reputation.
I can hardly conceive how you could so long have borne
with the snarly tone of his letters, which he wrote at
all times, and on all pretexts."
Davis was not a tactful man like Lincoln, and there-
fore could not handle the opposition in the same masterly
That he was conscious of this early in the war is
shown by the following extract from one of his letters
of the i6th of May, 1862, to Mrs. Davis:
"... I have no political wisK beyond the success of
38 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
our cause, no personal desire but to be relieved from
further connection with office."
He was an idealist, while Lincoln was the embodi-
ment of common sense.
Dr. Craven, post surgeon at Fortress Monroe, says
in his diary:
" No. 8 . . . Mr. Davis is remarkable for the kind-
liness of his nature and fidelity to friends. Of none
of God's creations does he seem to speak unkindly, and
the same fault found with Mr. Lincoln, — unwillingness
to sanction the military severities essential to maintain
discipline, — is the fault I have heard most strongly urged
against Mr. Davis. . . .
" There were moments, while speaking on religious
subjects, in which Mr. Davis impressed me more than
any professor of Christianity I ever heard. . . ."
General Morris Schaff, in the Atlantic, April, 1908,
" There must have been a great personal charm in
Jefferson Davis notwithstanding his rather austerely
courtly address; and it has occurred to me that in it,
next to the almost irresistible influence of marriage ties,
may be found the explanation of the fact that a number
of Northern men, his personal friends, like Huse of
Massachusetts, Cooper of New York, Ives of Con-
necticut, Gorges and Collins of Pennsylvania, broke the
natural bonds of home and blood and fought for the
Confederacy. A Southern friend who visited him at
Beauvoir a few years before he died referred to this
rare trait of his nature, and went on to describe his
DAVIS AND LEE 39
home, shaded by pines and live oaks, with their drapery
of swaying moss, and he told me of the way his broad
porch overlooked the still and peaceful waters of the
Gulf of Mexico. I wonder if, as his eye rested out on
that stretch of sea where now and then a solitary pelican
winged heavily into view, he thought of his cadet days
on the banks of the Hudson and contrasted their peace
with the dead hopes of his old age. He was a great
man. . . ."
MANASSAS TO SEVEN PINES
COLONEL MOSBY, in his " Stuart's Cavalry in the
Gettysburg Campaign," says:
" I dined with General Lee at his headquarters, near
Petersburg, about six weeks before the surrender. He
told me then that he had been opposed to General
Johnston's withdrawing to the Peninsula, and had writ-
ten to him while he was on the Rapidan, advising him
to move back toward the Potomac. He thought that
if he had done this, McClellan would have been recalled
to the defense of Washington."
Thus early in the game did Lee realize that the only
hope of Confederate success lay in keeping the army out
of the last ditch, and that the only way in which that
could be done was to threaten Washington.
But Johnston did not heed Lee's advice.
His usual mania for retreat had seized him, though
McClellan was hibernating, torpid, and had no thought
of molesting him.
Davis became alarmed at the loss of guns and sub-
sistence stores in case of a hasty retreat.
" Richmond, Va., February 28, 1862.
"General J, E, Johnston: . . . The heavy guns
at Manassas and Evansport, needed elsewhere, and re-
ported to be useless in their present position, would
MANASSAS TO SEVEN PINES 41
necessarily be abandoned in a hasty retreat. I regret
that you find it impossible to move them.
" The subsistence stores should, when removed, be
placed in position to answer your future wants.
"... I need not urge on your consideration the value
to our country of arms and munitions of war; you know
the difficulty with which w^e have obtained our small sup-
ply; that to furnish heavy artillery to advanced posts
we have exhausted the supplies here which were designed
for the armament of the city defenses. Whatever can
be, should be done to avoid the loss of these guns.
". . . Recent disasters have depressed the weak, and
are depriving us of the aid of the wavering. Traitors
show the tendencies heretofore concealed, and the selfish
grow clamorous for local and personal interests. At
such an hour the wisdom of the trained and the steadi-
ness of the brave possess a double value. The military
paradox that impossibilities must be rendered possible
had never better occasion for its application. . . .
" Very truly and respectfully yours,
He writes again on the 6th urging him to save the
ordnance stores, etc.
Johnston began to extricate the troops from winter
quarters on the 7th, and after much confusion got them
on the retreat on the 9th.
On the loth of March, Davis, unadvised of Johnston's
retreat, telegraphed to him:
" Further assurance given me this day that you shall
be promptly reinforced, so as to enable you to maintain
your position and resume first policy when the roads
The first policy was to be aggressive.
42 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Davis and McClellan thought the roads were not
good enough for an advance, but Johnston thought they
would do very well for a retreat.
Davis received no official notice of the retreat until
He writes to Johnston under that date :
". . . It is true I have had many and alarming re-
ports of great destruction of ammunition, camp equipage,
and provisions, indicating precipitate retreat; but having
heard of no cause for such a sudden movement, I was
at a loss to believe it."
General Early, speaking of the needless loss due to
a hurried and foolish retreat, says:
" A very large amount of stores and provisions had
been abandoned for want of transportation, and among
the stores was a very large quantity of clothing, blankets,
etc., which had been provided by the States south of
Virginia for their own troops. . . .
" The loss of stores at this point, and at White Plains,
on the Manassas Gap railroad, where a large amount
of meat had been salted and stored, was a very serious
one to us. . . ."
Johnston halted on the south bank of the Rappahan-
nock in a position of great strength.
Early in April McClellan and his army of about 100,-
000 men landed on the lower peninsula. Johnston
moved down to Yorktown and the line of the Warwick
river to opposite him. But, as usual, he promptly advised
Fat;ing page 43
MANASSAS TO SEVEN PINES 43
"Richmond, Va., May i, 1862.
" General J. E. Johnston,
" Accepting your conclusion that you must soon re-
tire, arrangements are commenced for the abandonment
of the Navy Yard, and the removal of public property
both from Norfolk and this Peninsula.
" Your announcement to-day that you would with-
draw to-morrow night takes us by surprise, and must
involve enormous losses, including unfinished gun-
boats. Will the safety of your army allow more time?
But Johnston did not value gunboats as McClellan
did, and withdrew his army from the lines of the War-
wick river on the night of the 3d.
He checked McClellan's advance at Williamsburg;
then fell back on Richmond.
Lee, who was military adviser to the President, wrote
to Jackson, who was in command in the Shenandoah
" I cannot pretend at this distance to direct operations
depending on circumstances unknown to me, and re-
quiring the exercise of direction and judgment as to
time and execution."
Jackson replied :
" Now, it appears to me, is the golden opportunity
for striking a blow. Until I hear from you I will watch
an opportunity for attacking one exposed point."
Lee could not furnish the reinforcements that Jack-
son intimated he would like, but he gave him a free hand
in the Valley.
44 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
On the 8th of May Jackson defeated Milroy and
Schenk at McDowell.
On the 17th of May Lincoln ordered McDowell at
Fredericksburg to march to McClellan, and ordered
McClellan to extend his right accordingly. On the 23d
of May he visited McDowell to perfect arrangements for
That same day, the 23d, Jackson defeated Banks at
The next day, the 24th, Lincoln countermanded his
order for McDowell's march, and ordered him to send
20,000 men to capture Jackson.
On Sunday, the 25th, at daybreak Jackson routed
Banks at Winchester, and chased him across the Poto-
Banks wrote :
" There never were more grateful hearts in the same
number of men than when midday of the 26th we stood
on the opposite shore."
Lincoln and Stanton were now dreadfully alarmed for
the safety of Washington.
Stanton telegraphed to the governors of the States:
" Intelligence from various quarters leaves no doubt
that the enemy in great force are marching on Washing-
ton. You will please organize and forward immediately
all the militia and volunteer force in your State."
Lincoln seized the railroad; even the New York
Seventh was brought out.
He dispatched to McClellan :
" I think the time is near when you must either attack
Facing page 45
MANASSAS TO SEVEN PINES 45
Richmond, or give up the job and come to the defense
" Our condition is one of considerable danger, as we
are stripped to supply the Army of the Potomac and now
have the enemy here."
So that Jackson, with 17,000 men, gave Washington
its first scare and prevented 30,000 men in the Valley,
and 40,000 at Fredericksburg, from reinforcing McClel-
Mr. Davis says:
" Seeing no preparation for keeping the enemy at a
distance, and kept in ignorance of any plan for such
purpose, I sent for General R. E. Lee, then at Richmond
in general charge of army operations, and told him why
and how I was dissatisfied with the condition of affairs."
Lee called on Johnston, and said Johnston proposed
to attack McClellan on the next Thursday; but he did
not. On the 31st of May, Johnston did attack. As-
suming that high water in the Chickahominy would wash
McClellan's bridges away and in no way interfere with
the movements of his own army, he attacked the left of
McClellan's army that was on the Richmond side of the
The result was exactly the reverse of his expectations.
McClellan's bridges were not washed away, and here is
what General Rhodes says of his advance over one of
the creeks he had to cross :
46 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
" The progress of the brigade was delayed by the
washing away of the bridges, which forced the men to
wade in water waist deep, and a large number were
entirely submerged. . . .
" The ground was covered with thick undergrowth,
and the soil very marshy. It was with great difficulty
that either horses or men could get over it, guided as
they were only by the firing in front. Only five com-
panies of the 5th Alabama emerged from the woods
under a heavy fire of artillery and musketry."
Johnston had some success, captured some guns and
prisoners, but with a loss of 7000 of the best soldiers
the Confederacy ever had.
The battle of Fair Oaks, or Seven Pines, was a mis-
take in conception and a botch in execution. The enemy
was comfortably entrenched, while our men had to
flounder through swamps and tangled underbrush.
Davis was as helpless as a child. On the 3d of June
he wrote to Mrs. Davis :
" If the Mississippi troops lying in camp when not re-
treating under Beauregard were at home, they would
probably keep a section of the river free for our use,
and closed against Yankee gunboats.
" It is hard to see incompetency losing opportunity,
and wasting hard gotten means, but harder still to bear
is the knowledge that there is no available remedy."
The West Point fetish was strong in the army.
THE CAMPAIGN OF 1862
ON June I, 1862, Lee was placed in command of
the army, Johnston having been wounded in his
battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks).
" Our army was in line in front of Richmond, but
without intrenchments. General Lee immediately con-
structed earthworks. They were necessarily feeble be-
cause of our deficiency in tools. It seemed to be the
intention of the enemy to assail Richmond by regular
approaches, which our numerical inferiority and want of
proper utensils made it improbable that we should be
able to resist.
" The day after General Lee assumed command, I
was riding out to the army and I found him in a house
in consultation with a number of his general officers.
Their tone was despondent, and one especially pointed
out the inevitable consequences of the enemy's advance
by throwing out boyaux and constructing successive
I think it will be admitted that when Lee took com-
mand of the army in the backyards of Richmond pros-
pects were far from flattering.
Besides fighting the battle of Bull Run and a few
minor engagements terminating with the ill-conceived
50 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
and badly executed battle of Seven Pines, the army had
done nothing but retreat. Disasters in the southwest
were only relieved by an occasional dispatch from Beau-
regard announcing a " brilliant retreat." If Lee re-
mained in his intrenchments the city would be McClellan's
by gradual approaches and big guns.
In Napoleon's famous " Supper of Beaucaire," his
first literary work of ability, he writes as follows :
" It is an axiom of military science that the army
which remains behind its intrenchments is beaten; ex-
perience and theory agree on this point."
As the brilliant idea of abandoning Richmond had
not occurred to Lee, his only alternative was to seize
the initiative. He would call Jackson from the Valley ;
but before doing this he would give Washington a scare.
He sent two brigades to reinforce Jackson, ordering
him at the same time to move quickly to Ashland, then
down the north bank of the Chickahominy. The news
as to the reinforcement reached Washington and Mc-
Clellan about the same time. Lincoln withheld troops
from McClellart for the defense of Washington, and
McClellan thought Lee had more men than he had any
On the 26th Lee, after leaving 30,000 men under
Magruder for the defense of Richmond, crossed the
Chickahominy at the upper bridges, A. P. Hill attacked
the enemy at Beaver Dam, — McClellan's extreme right,
— and was repulsed with considerable loss ; but on the
next day, the 27th, Lee beat McClellan in the great bat-
tle of Gaines's Mill.
Longstreet says :
" It was a little after 2 p. m. when A. P. Hill put all
SEVEN DAYS 51
his force into action and pressed his battle with a great
zeal and courage, but he was alone. . . ."
Speaking of the final charge after sunset, which swept
the Federal line from the field, Longstreet says :
". . . The position was too strong to doubt that it was
only the thinning fire as the battle progressed that made
it assailable ; besides, the repulse of A. P. Hill's repeated,
desperate assaults forcibly testified to the fact. It was,
nevertheless, a splendid charge, by peerless soldiers.
". . . Five thousand prisoners were turned over to
General Lee's provost guard, a number of batteries and
many thousand small arms to the Ordnance Department
by my command.
" The Confederate commanders, except A. P. Hill,
claimed credit for the first breach in General Porter's
lines, but the solid ranks of prisoners delivered to the
general provost guard, and the several batteries captured
and turned over to the Ordnance Department, show the
breach to have been made by the columns of Anderson,
Pickett, and Hood's two regiments.
"The troops of the gallant A. P. Hill, that did as
much and as effective fighting as any, received little of
the credit properly due them. It was their long and
steady fight that thinned the Federal ranks and caused
them so to foul their guns that they were out of order
when the final struggle came. . . ."
McClellan dispatched to the Secretary of War from
Savage station :
" I now know the full history of the day. On this
side of the river (the right bank) we repulsed several
52 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
strong attacks; on the left bank our men did all that
men could do, all that soldiers could accomplish, but they
were overwhelmed by vastly superior numbers, even after
I brought my last reserves into action. The loss on
both sides is terrible. . . . The sad remnants of my men
behave as men. ... I have lost this battle because my
force was too small. ... I feel too earnestly to-night.
I have seen too many dead and wounded comrades to
feel otherwise than that the government has not sus-
tained this army. If you do not do so now, the game
is lost. If I save this army now, I tell you plainly that
I owe no thanks to you nor to any other person in
Washington. You have done your best to sacrifice this
Lincoln replied :
*' Save your army at all events ; will send reinforce-
ments as fast as we can. ... If you have had a drawn
battle or a repulse, it is the price we pay for the enemy's
not being in Washington. We protected Washington
and the enemy concentrated on you. Had we stripped
Washington he would have been upon us before the troops
could have gotten to you. 12.20 a. m., June 28."
Joe Johnston wrote to Beauregard, August 4, 1862:
" I am not sure you are right in regarding the success
of McClellan's * strategic movement ' as evidence of
skill. It seems to me to be due rather to our having lost
two days immediately after the principal fight, that of
Friday (Gaines's Mill, June 2y^ and many hours after-
ward, especially on Tuesday (Malvern Hill, July i). I
was told that the action on that day commenced about
6 o'clock p. m., but one and one-half or two miles from
SEVEN DAYS 53
the field of Monday's engagement. It is said, too, that
a large portion of our army was idle on each of those
" The battle of Malvern Hill (Tuesday) was but fif-
teen or twenty miles from the middle of McClellan's
position on the Chickahominy. The result of that action
terminated the pursuit. It seems to me the ' partial
results ' were due to a want of the ' bulldog tenacity '
you give us credit for.
"If the enemy had been pressed vigorously on Satur-
day and Sunday (January 28-29), he must have been
ruined, could never have fixed himself securely on James
river. He left his position on the Chickahominy with-
out our knowledge, because the wide interval by which
he escaped was not observed by cavalry as it should have
been. ... I must confess that the advantages gained
by what is termed the Seven Days' fighting are not very
evident to me."
Lee explains in the following report why McClellan
escaped. The reason would occur to any one who knows
the Chickahominy country. Johnston ought to have
known it after his disastrous experience at Seven Pines.
Lee in his report said:
" Under ordinary circumstances the Federal army
should have been destroyed. Its escape was due to the
causes already stated. Prominent among these is the
want of correct and timely information. This fact, at-
tributable chiefly to the character of the country, enabled
General McClellan skillfully to conceal his retreat, and
to add much to the obstructions with which nature had
beset the way of our pursuing column."
54 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Lee did not know after the battle of Gaines's Mill
whether McClellan would fall back on his base on the
Pamunkey or whether he would seek a new one on the
James, or, in fact, whether he would retreat at all or
McClellan held the country In his rear. It was
wooded and swampy, and with a strong" rear-guard he
easily masked his movements. His gunboats also com-
manded the James river.
Johnston appears to have thought there was no fight-
ing except at Gaines's Mill, Frazier's Farm, and Mal-
vern Hill, whereas it was a continuous fight all the way.
General Franklin says :
" My experience during the period generally known as
the * Seven Days ' was with the Sixth and Second corps.
During the whole time between June 26 and July 2 there
was not a night in which the men did not march almost
continually, nor a day on which there was not a fight."
Major General McCall, who was taken prisoner, in
his report of the battle of Frazier's Farm, says :
" Soon after this a most determined charge was made
on Randol's battery by a full brigade advancing in
wedge shape, without order, but in perfect recklessness.
Somewhat similiar charges had been previously made on
Cooper's and Kern's batteries by single regiments with-
out success, they having recoiled before the storm of
canister hurled against them. A like result was antici-
pated in Randol's battery, and the 4th regiment was
requested not to fire until the battery had done with them.
Its gallant commander did not doubt his ability to re-
pel the attack, and his guns did indeed mow down the
SEVEN DAYS 55
advancing host, but still the gaps were closed and the
enemy came in on a run to the very muzzles of the guns.
" It was a perfect torrent of men, and they were in
his battery before the guns could be removed, and the
enemy, rushing past, drove the greater part of the 4th
regiment before them. I had ridden into the regiment
and endeavored to check them, but with only partial suc-
But General Johnston thought he ought to have been
reinstated in command when he recovered from his
Mrs. Davis says :
" Upon General Johnston's recovery from the wound
he received at Seven Pines he had been assigned, on
November 24, 1862, to the command of a geographical
department, including the States of Tennessee, Missis-
sippi, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina. Mrs.
Johnston and I were very intimate friends, and the day
before his departure I went to see them. General John-
ston seemed ill and dispirited. In answer to a hope
expressed by me that he would have a brilliant campaign,
he said, ' I might, if I had Lee's chances with the Army
of Northern Virginia,' from which I inferred he was
very averse to leaving Virginia."
Lord Wolseley published a friendly criticism of Lee
in Macmillan's Magaaine, upon which a Northern writer
in the Century Magadne of June, 1887, comments. It
will serve to show that Lee's reputation has suffered
more at the hands of his friends than at those of his
The comment is as follows:
56 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
". . . . Lord Wolseley has cultivated the belief that
Lee's strategy and tactics were always ' everything that
could be desired up to the moment of victory, but there
his action seemed to stop abruptly.' True, the Con-
federates were not Titans. They seemed never to be
wound up for more than a week or more of hard march-
ing on scant rations, followed by two or three days of
continuous battle, usually against superior numbers,
which left them at the end without fresh reserves. After
a terrible and exhausting victory a longing for rest
seemed to overcome them. General Lee could not
furnish physical strength to his men from his own sinews,
but he did know how to fight them to a shadow and
then how to keep them going on something that from
the other side of the line looked like very thin hope.
Once, as Lord Wolseley recollects, but with vagueness
as to its events, there were seven days of continuous
fighting near Richmond. Lee, with sublime daring,
dashed his columns time and again upon McClellan's
superior but separated forces. His losses were fright-
ful, but the bravery and energy displayed by his troops
were tremendous. . . ."
Longstreet says :
" Passing in critical review the events of the cam-
paign, they fail to display a flaw as it was projected
by the Confederate chief."
McClellan is criticised for not attacking Magruder.
*' I pointed out to him (Lee) that our force and in-
trenched line between that left wing (of the Union
SEVEN DAYS 57
Army) and Richmond was too weak for a protracted
resistance, and if McClellan was the man I took him
for ... as soon as he found that the bulk of our army
was on the north side of the Chickahominy, he would
not stop to try conclusions there, but would immediately
move upon his objective point, the city of Richmond."
"If you will hold him as long as you can at the in-
trenchments and then fall back on the detached works
around the city, I will be upon the enemy's heels before
he gets there."
Lee had evidently considered an attack on Magruder
and was prepared for it.
Lieut. Col. G. F. R. Henderson, in his " Life of Stone-
wall Jackson," says:
" McClellan forgot that in war it is impossible for a
general to be absolutely certain. It is sufficient, accord-
ing to Napoleon, if the odds in his favor are three to
two; and if he cannot discover from the attitude of his
enemy what the odds are, he is unfitted for supreme
The " attitude " that Lee was in the habit of assum-
ing was the very thing that impressed his enemy with
the idea that his army was about twice as large as it
If Napoleon could determine the strength of his
enemy by his " attitude," it is clear that he had no Lees
to deal with.
58 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Then Napoleon was never in the Chickahominy
Moreover, in reporting to the Directory, he habitually
underestimated his own forces, and exaggerated those
of the enemy, — just as McClellan did.
McClellan erred in overestimating the strength of
Lee's army. Whether he ought to have known it or
not depends, not on any cut and dried rule of Napoleon's,
but on conditions and environments.
When he heard that Lee had sent troops North, he
telegraphed to the President :
"If 10,000 or 15,000 men have left Richmond to
reinforce Jackson, it illustrates their strength and con-
This interpretation was certainly more probable than
any other, and generals, like other people, must base
their policy on probabilities rather than improbabilities.
The Confederacy was young and fresh at that time,
and troops were coming up from the South. McClellan
had no means of determining how many were coming,
and Allan Pinkerton, McClellan's chief of secret service,
estimated Lee's army at 180,000 men.
If McClellan had divined that Lee, instead of sending
troops to the Valley to reinforce Jackson, was calling
Jackson to Richmond to reinforce himself, he would have
been little less than a seer.
Lee took command of the army on the ist of June.
Mr. Davis says the tone of the general officers was des-
McClellan's splendid army of 100,000 men was in sight
of Richmond. On July 2 that army had been driven
to Harrison's Landing, and was under shelter of its
SEVEN DAYS 59
When Lee assumed the offensive he should have had,
according to Napoleon's figures of three to two, 150,-
000 men. Instead he had 80,000.
Lee said in his report :
" The siege of Richmond was raised, and the object
of a campaign, which had been prosecuted after months
of preparation at an enormous expenditure of men and
money, completely frustrated.
" More than 10,000 prisoners, including officers of
high rank, 52 pieces of artillery, and upward of 35,-
000 stands of small arms were captured. The stores
and supplies of every description that fell into our hands
were great in amount and volume, but small in com-
parison with those destroyed by the enemy."
Davis wrote to Mrs. Davis on the 6th of July:
". . . Our success has been so remarkable that we
should be grateful. . . ."
" Our success " was not accomplished without heavy
loss and a bad repulse at Malvern Hill. That position
was one of extraordinary strength. The flanks rested
on ground that was impregnable and defended by gun-
boats. The front was accessible only by narrow roads
through swamps and woods, and the hill itself offered
positions for all McClellan's powerful artillery, including
his siege guns.
The only excuse for the attack is that no opportunity
for striking a defeated and retreating enemy should be
But contrast the conditions when Lee assumed com-
mand with those one month afterward, and " our sue-
6o THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
cess " was not only " remarkable " but well-nigh
Of the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac, General
Franklin says :
" They had been soldiers less than a year, yet their
conduct could not have been more soldierly had they
seen ten years of service. No such material for soldiers
was ever in the field before. ..."
The same can be said of the Army of Northern
Virginia. Both armies were composed of the best fight-
ing material of their respective sections.
Both armies were at their best.
Lincoln called for 300,000 three years' men.
Seward explained that reinforcements were necessary
to follow up the " recent successes of the Federal arms."
But the Northern people soon found that McClellan
had been defeated and driven to the shelter of his gun-
boats on the James.
There was a panic in Wall Street and gloom every-
LEE had disposed of one puzzle only to be con-
fronted by another, and while he was considering
it the army, after its floundering campaign in the woods
and swamps of the Peninsula, got a few days of needed
Looking down the river he saw McClellan, with 90,-
000 men, only a day's march from Richmond. He was
safe there with his gunboats, and said, it is reported,
that ** there ought to be a gunboat in every family."
Looking north he saw the bloodthirsty Pope, with
43,000 men, occupying the line of the Rappahannock
river, threatening the railroad at Gordonsville.
McClellan at Harrison's Landing was calling for rein-
forcements to resume the offensive, and Pope issued the
following order of the day, which was calculated to scare
Lee or any other man:
" I have come to you from the west, where we have
always seen the backs of our enemies; from an army
whose business it has been to seek the adversary and
to beat him when he was found. ... I presume I have
been called here to pursue the same course and to lead
you against the enemy. It is my purpose to do so, and
that speedily. ... I desire you to dismiss from your
minds certain phrases which I am sorry to find so much
62 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
in vogue with you. I hear constantly of ' taking strong
positions and holding them,' of * lines of retreat,' and of
' bases of supplies.' Let us discard such ideas. The
strongest position a soldier should desire to occupy is
one from which he can most easily advance against the
enemy. Let us study the probable lines of retreat of
our opponent and leave our own to take care of them-
" Let us look before us and not behind. Success and
glory are in the advance; disaster and shame lurk in the
The army narrowly escaped a spanking.
Lee now had a problem on hand that would have
taxed the ability of Napoleon. If he remained at Rich-
mond it meant a siege by an army of at least 150,000
men, and Lee did not like sieges. He did not fancy
the defensive, so there was nothing to do but take the
initiative against Pope.
He thought the move would threaten Washington and
draw McClellan away from Richmond. Accordingly, on
the 13th of July he ordered Jackson with his own and
Ewell's division to Gordonsville. Then he sent A. P.
Hill and his division, and ordered Jackson to move on
the enemy, while he remained with Longstreet's corps.
Hill's and Anderson's divisions of infantry, and Stuart's
cavalry, to watch McClellan, who still had 90,000 men in
a day's march of Richmond.
Jackson's move had the desired effect. On the 3d of
August Halleck telegraphed to McClellan :
" It is determined to withdraw your army from the
Peninsula to Acquia Creek. You will take immediate
action to this effect."
SECOND MANASSAS 63
McClellan sent this telegram in reply to General Hal-
" Your telegram has caused me the greatest pain I
ever experienced, for I am convinced that the order to
v^^ithdraw this army to Acquia Creek will prove disas-
trous to our cause. I fear it will be a fatal blow. . . .
" This army is now in excellent discipline and condi-
tion. . . . With the assistance of our gunboats I con-
sider our communication as now secure. . . . Here,
directly in front of this army, is the heart of the rebel-
lion. It is here that all our resources should be collected
to strike the blow which will determine the fate of the
nation. All points of secondary importance ought to be
abandoned, and every available man brought here; a de-
cided victory here and the military strength of the re-
bellion is crushed. It matters not what partial reverses
we may meet elsewhere. Here is the true defense of
Washington. It is here on the banks of the James that
the fate of the Union should be decided. ... I entreat
that this order be rescinded."
Halleck's reply was:
" The order of the withdrawal will not be rescinded.
You will be expected to execute it with all possible
On the 5th of August, Hooker drove the Confederate
detachments from Malvern Hill, and McClellan wired to
Halleck from that point:
" This is a very advantageous position to cover an ad-
vance on Richmond, and only fourteen and three-quarter
miles distant, and I feel confident that with reinforce-
ments I could march this army there in five days."
64 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Halleck promptly replied to this communication:
" I have no reinforcements to send you."
On the 9th of August Jackson defeated Banks at Cedar
Run. Banks being largely reinforced, Jackson, after
resting on the field two days and sending his accustomed
dispatch, " God blessed our army with another victory,"
fell back on Gordonsville.
Halleck, fearing that Pope and Burnside would be de-
stroyed and Washington captured, wired to McQellan :
" There must be no further delay in your movements.
That which has already occurred was entirely unex-
pected and must be satisfactorily explained."
On the 13th of August Lee ordered Longstreet and
two brigades u.nder Hood to Gordonsville, and he himself
followed on the 15th.
This left about 30,000 troops in Richmond, while
McClellan had 81,000 at Harrison's Landing.
Halleck telegraphed to McClellan that the enemy was
fighting Pope, and that it was necessary to get troops in
front of Washington as soon as possible. McClellan
went to Fortress Monroe to beg Halleck to allow him to
relieve Pope by attacking Richmond. Halleck answered
at 1 .40 a. m., August 14 : " There is no change of plans !
You will send up your troops as rapidly as possible," and
then went to bed.
Lee, becoming convinced that he had nothing to fear
from McClellan, ordered Stuart with the greater part of
his cavalry and R. H. Anderson with his division to join
him at Go'rdonsville. The divisions of D. H. Hill and
McLaws followed, but they were not in time to partici-
pate in the operations against Pope.
SECOND MANASSAS 65
On the 24th of August McCIellan reported at Acquia
Lee started Jackson with 25,000 men on the 25th of
August on a forced march to the rear of Pope's army.
He took nothing but ammunition wagons, marched
twenty-five miles the first day to Salem, passed through
White Plains, Thoroughfare Gap, and Gainesville, and on
the morning of the 26th was at Bristow Station on the
Orange and Alexandria railroad.
He was now between Pope and Washington. He cap-
tured two railroad trains at Bristow, and an eight-gun
battery, horses, provisions, and Pope's depot of supplies
at Manassas. As his men had scant rations on the
march, Pope's good things were highly appreciated.
On the afternoon of the same day Lee followed Jack-
son with Longstreet's command, less one division left on
On the 27th McCIellan reported at Alexandria.
That night Pope ordered the concentration of his army
at Manassas. In his order to McDowell he said: "If
you will move promptly and rapidly, we will bag the
But Jackson, not wishing to be bagged, moved to a
position near Bull Run, and hid in an old railroad cut
and the woods, to await the arrival of Longstreet, who
was hurrying to his aid.
Pope thought Jackson was in a bad fix and would run
away as soon as he could. He put his columns in mo-
tion to catch him, and their marches and countermarches
puzzled Jackson and led to the battle of the 28th.
Of it Longstreet says :
" As King's division of McDowell's corps was march-
ing by (on the road to Centerville) Jackson thought to
66 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
come out from his lurking-place to learn the meaning of
the march. The direction of the move again impressed
him that Pope was retreating, and that his escape to the
north side of Bull Run would put his army in a position
of safety before Lee could join him.
" It was late, the sun had set, but Jackson was moved
to prompt action, as the only means of holding Pope for
Lee's arrival. He was in plain view of the white smoke
of the rifles of my infantry as they climbed over the Bull
Run mountains, seven miles away, and in hearing of our
artillery as the boom of the big guns, resounding along
the rock-faced cliffs, gathered volume to offer salutations
and greetings for the union of comrades and commands.
He changed the front of his right division, and, noting
the movement of Siegel's troops along the Newmarket
road, called out Ewell with his brigades under Lawton
and Trimble, and in addition to the artillery of these com-
mands used the horse artillery of Pelham. As formed,
the new line was broadside against the turnpike, its left a
little way from Groveton.
" The ground upon which the action occurred had been
passed an hour before by the division commander. Gen-
eral Hatch, who saw no indication of the presence of a
foe. As the division marched, the column was made up
of the brigades of Hatch, Gibbon, Doubleday, and Pat-
rick. The action fell against the brigade commanded by
General Gibbon, who, taking it for a cavalry annoyance
to cover retreat, opened against it, and essayed aggres-
sive fight, till he found himself engaged against a formid-
able force of Infantry and artillery. He was assisted by
part of Doubleday's brigade, and asked for other assist-
ance, which failed to reach him till night came and ended
the contest. His fight was desperate and courageous
against odds, but he held it and his line till dark, . . .
SECOND MANASSAS ^y
General Doubleday joined the fight with his brigade, and
reported his loss nearly half the troops engaged. Gen-
eral Gibbon called it * a surprise.' And well he might,
after his division commander had just passed over the
route and failed to find any indication of the lurking foe.
General Jackson reported, ' The conflict here was firm
and sanguinary.' He failed to give his number lost, but
acknowledges his severe loss in the division commanders,
General Ewell losing a leg, and Taliaferro severely
wounded. During the night the Federal commander re-
ported to his subordinates that McDowell had ' inter-
cepted the retreat of Jackson,' and ordered concentration
of the army against him ; whereas it was, of course,
Jackson who had intercepted McDowell's march. He
seems to have been under the impression that he was
about to capture Jackson, and inclined to lead his subor-
dinates to the same opinion.
"Of the time. Major Edward Pye reported: 'We
were sent forward toward evening to pursue the enemy,
who were said to be retreating. Found the enemy, but
did not see them retreat. A deadly fire from three sides
welcomed and drove us back.' "
Jackson was asleep in a fence corner, having been up
all the previous night, when the scouts reported the march
of King's column. He sprang up and ran for his horse,
buckling his sw^ord on as he went and shouting hurried
orders for the attack to his aids. He thought Pope w^as
trying to give Lee the slip as he did on the Rapidan.
Pope, afraid that Jackson would escape, ordered Siegel
to attack early on the morning of the 29th and bring
him to a stand.
From Hill's report :
" The enemy prepared for a last and determined at-
68 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
tempt. Their serried masses, overwhelming superiority
of numbers, and bold bearing made the chances of vic-
tory to tremble in the balance ; my own division exhausted
by seven hours of unremitted fighting, hardly one round
of ammunition per man remaining, and weakened in all
things except its unconquerable spirit.
" Casting about for help, fortunately it was here re-
ported to me that the brigades of Generals Lawton and
Early were near-by, and, sending to them, they promptly
moved to my front at the most opportune moment, and
this last charge met the disastrous fate that had befallen
Jackson's fight was desperate against heavy odds.
Longstreet arrived and was in position by noon, and Lee
desired him to turn the Federal left and so relieve the
heavy pressure against Jackson. But Longstreet was
balky and advised a reconnaissance.
When his troops fell back from the reconnaissance, it
looked like a retreat. On the morning of the 30th Pope
wired to Washington that " the enemy was retreating to
the mountains." He reported :
" General Hooker estimates the loss of the enemy as at
least two to one, and General Kearney as at least three to
He did not know that Longstreet had come up. That
afternoon he attacked in heavy force, but the battle of
Second Manassas ended in his defeat.
That night he, and not Jackson, was retreating.
Franklin says that when he reached the Warrenton
turnpike, about six o'clock, he found it " filled with flee-
ing men, artillery, and wagons, all leaving the field in a
panic. It was a scene of terrible confusion."
SECOND MANASSAS 69
General Porter wrote to General McClellan as follows :
" I was whipped, as was the whole army, badly. . . .
I have had no dinner nor supper to-day, and no chance for
" August 29, 1862, 2:30 p. m.
"What news from direction of Manassas? What
" A. Lincoln."
This was to McClellan, who had no news, but plenty
" August 29, 1862, 2.45 p.m.
" I am clear that one of two courses should be adopted :
first, to concentrate all our available forces to open com-
munication with Pope; second, to leave Pope to get out
of his scrape and at once use all our means to make
the capital perfectly safe. . . .
" Geo. B. McClellan,
" Major General."
" Centerville, August 31, 1862,
" Our troops are all here and in position, though much
used up and worn out. ... I should like to know
whether you feel secure about Washington, should this
army be destroyed.
" Major General."
Halleck writes to McClellan :
" I think you had better place Sumner's corps as it ar-
rives near the fortification and particularly at the Chain
70 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
bridge. . . . Use Tyler's and Cox's brigades and the
new troops for the same purpose, if you need them."
" McClellan did not * regard Washington as safe
against the rebels.' ' If I can quietly slip over there/
he said, in a letter to his wife, ' I will send your silver
". . . In view of the ' great danger to Washington,'
the general-in-chief asked Dix at Fort Monroe to send
as rapidly as possible to the capital as large a part of
the remainder of Keyes's corps as could be spared, and
urged Burnside to hasten forward his troops.
" A number of gimboats were ordered up the river,
and anchored at different points in proximity to the city,
and a war steamer was brought to the Navy Yard.
" All the clerks and employees of the civil departments
and all employees in the public buildings were called to
arms for the defense of the capital. The sale of spirit-
uous liquors at retail within the District of Columbia was
prohibited. Excitement and alarm held undisputed
I know of no adverse criticism of Lee in this cam-
paign. Even Longstreet is complimentary. He says :
" Jackson's march to Bristow and Manassas Junction
was hazardous, or seemed so, but in view of his peculiar
talent for such work (the captured dispatch of General
Pope giving information of his affairs) and Lee's skill,
it seemed the only way open for progressive maneuver.
The strength of the move lay in the time it gave us to
make issue before all the Army of the Potomac could
unite with the anny of General Pope. His (Lee's) game
SECOND MANASSAS 71
of hide and seek about Bull Run, Centerville, and Ma-
nassas Plains was grand."
Lee's original plan was to catch Pope napping on the
Rapidan; but Pope was informed of it by a captured
letter from Lee to Stuart, and immediately fell back be-
hind the Rappahannock.
Lee was looking on from Clark's mountain, and said
to Longstreet : " General, we little thought the enemy
would turn his back upon us thus early in the campaign."
Lee crossed the Rapidan and tried to pass the Rappa-
hannock to fall upon Pope before he could receive rein-
forcements from the Army of the Potomac, but Pope's
artillery, heavy rains, and a high river prevented him.
In the sparring along the Rappahannock Pope did very
well, but Lee's unconventional strategy and Jackson's
queer antics decided the campaign against him.
There is much of the usual cheap criticism of Pope, —
what he ought to have done, and so on. No doubt he
would have done those things if he had known as much
as the critics knew, after the event, regarding Lee's in-
tentions and movements. It was highly probable that
Jackson had made a raid on Manassas similar to that
made by Stuart around McClellan's army at Richmond,
and was retiring:.
Rhodes says, referring to Lee :
" An ordinary general might have been satisfied with
the capture of stores and the alarm created in Washing-
ton. . . ."
So thought Pope. He made his disposition on that
probability, rather than on the improbability that Jack-
son had gone into hiding to wait for Lee.
^2 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
When he sent his dispatch of the 30th he was still of
the opinion that Jackson was retreating.
Longstreet says :
" He was misled by reports of his officers and others
to believe that the Confederates were in retreat, and
planned his movements upon false premises."
In generalship Pope probably did as well as any man
would have done under the peculiar circumstances of the
campaign, and as for dislodging the Army of Northern
Virginia from position. Grant failed to do that at Spott-
sylvania and Cold Harbor, though he had greater odds
in his favor than Pope had.
Lee captured 30 guns, many thousand small arms,
7,000 prisoners, and 2,000 wounded, besides Jackson's
captures at Manassas and Bristow.
Pope's aggregate on the 28th was 70,000 men ; Lee's,
49,000. Pope's losses were 15,000 men, and Lee's, 10,-
Lee was now where he had advised Johnston to stay,
— in position to threaten Washington. But it cost him
about 30,000 men to get there. Add the 7,000 that
Johnston lost at Seven Pines and the ordnance, clothes,
and stores of subsistence lost by his retreats, and the con-
clusion is inevitable that he blundered in not trying, at
any rate, to follow Lee's advice.
LONGSTREET says it was Lee's " deliberate and
urgent advice to President Davis to join him and
be prepared to make a proposal for peace and independ-
ence from the head of a conquering army." This is one
of Longstreet's many dreams.
So far from v^ishing Davis to join him Lee wrote to
him as follows:
" Headquarters near Fredericktown, Md.,
" September 9, 1862.
" His Excellency, President Davis.
'■' Mr. President : I have just received your letter of
the 7th instant, from Rapidan, informing me of your in-
tention to come on to Leesburg. While I should feel the
greatest satisfaction in having an interview with you and
in consulting you upon all subjects of interest, I cannot
but feel great uneasiness for your safety, should you un-
dertake to reach me. You will not only encounter the
hardships and fatigues of a very disagreeable journey,
but also run the risk of capture by the enemy.
" I send my aide-de-camp, Major Taylor, back to ex-
plain to you the difficulties and dangers of the journey,
which I cannot recommend you to undertake. I am en-
deavoring to break up the line through Leesburg, which
is no longer safe, and turn everything off from Culpeper
Court House toward Winchester.
74 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
"... I must therefore advise you do not make an
attempt that I cannot but regard as hazardous.
" I have the honor to be, with high respect, your obe-
"R. E. Lee,
Davis abandoned the idea of going to Lee before he
received his letter. Lee's real reason for the campaign
he states clearly in the following letter, and his account
of the condition of the army proves that he did not ex-
pect to achieve Confederate independence.
" Headquarters, Alexandria and Leesburg Road,
" near Drainesville, September 3, 1862.
" His Excellency, President Davis.
"Mr. President: , . . After the enemy had disap-
peared from the vicinity of Fairfax Court House and
taken the road to Alexandria and Washington, I did not
think it would be advantageous to follow him farther. I
had no intention of attacking him in his fortifications
and am not prepared to invest them. HI possessed the
necessary munitions, I should be unable to supply pro-
visions for the troops. I therefore determined, while
threatening the approaches to Washington, to draw the
troops into Loudoun, where forage and some provisions
can be procured, menace their possession of the Shenan-
doah Valley, and, if found practicable, to cross into
Maryland. The purpose, if discovered, will have the
effect of carrying the enemy north of the Potomac, and
if prevented will not result in much evil.
" The army is not properly equipped for an invasion
of the enemy's territory. It lacks much of the material
of war, is feeble in transportation, the animals being
SHARPSBURG (ANTIETAM) 75
much reduced, and the men are poorly provided with
clothing and in thousands of instances are destitute of
shoes. Still, we cannot afford to be idle, and, though
weaker than our opponents in men and military equip-
ment, must endeavor to harass if we cannot destroy them.
I am aware that the movement is attended with much
risk, yet I do not consider success impossible, and shall
endeavor to guard it from loss. As long as the army of
the enemy is employed on this frontier I have no fears
for the safety of Richmond.
". . . . What occasions most concern is the fear of
getting out of ammunition. I beg you will instruct the
Ordnance Department to spare no pains in manufacturing
a sufficient amount of the best kind. . . . If the Quarter-
master's Department can furnish any shoes, it would be
the greatest relief. We have entered upon September,
and the nights are becoming cool.
" I have the honor to be, with high respect, your obe-
" R. E. Lee,
There is not a word in this letter referring to the prob-
ability or possibility of conquering Confederate inde-
pendence, or of any definite end other than to harass the
enemy and keep him on the northern frontier.
It had cost Lee dearly to get his anny out of the last
ditch at Richmond, and if he remained idle it would be
but a little time before the Army of the Potomac would
be trying to put him back in it.
Longstreet says :
" Riding together before we reached Frederick, the
sound of artillery fire came from the direction of Point of
76 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Rocks and Harper's Ferry, from which General Lee in-
ferred that the enemy was concentrating forces from the
Valley, for defense of Harper's Ferry, and proposed to
me to organize forces to surround and capture the works
and garrison. I thought it a venture not worth the
game, and suggested, as we were in the enemy's country
and presence, that he would be advised of any move that
we made in a few hours after it was set on foot ; that the
Union army, though beaten, was not disorganized ; that
we knew a number of their officers who could put it in
order and march against us, if they found us exposed,
and make serious trouble before the capture could be ac-
complished ; that our men were worn by very severe and
protracted service and in need of repose ; that as long as
we had them in hand we were masters of the situation,
but dispersed into many fragments our strength must be
greatly reduced. As the subject was not continued, I
supposed that it was a mere expression of passing
thought until the day after we reached Frederick, upon
going over to headquarters, I found the front of the
general's tent closed and tied. Upon inquiring of a
member of the staff, I was told that he was inside with
General Jackson. As I had not been called, I turned to
go away, when General Lee, recognizing my voice, called
me in. The plan had been arranged. . , ,"
According to Longstreet, the capture of Harper's
Ferry was optional and ought not to have been attempted.
The following reasons will explain why it was neces-
Lee wrote to Davis from Frederick, September 9 :
" I shall move in the direction I originally intended,
toward Hagerstown and Chambersburg, for the purpose
SHARPSBURG (ANTIETAM) yj
of opening communication through the Valley in order
to procure sufficient supplies of flour."
Both Long and Taylor of Lee's staff say that when he
got to Frederick he thought Harper's Ferry had been
abandoned, as it should have been. As it was still gar-
risoned by 1 1, GOO men, it was not safe to leave it on his
new line of communication, and that is, of course, suffi-
cient reason, even if there had been no other, for taking
Longstreet says that in the Gettysburg campaign it was
left alone. But it was not exactly left alone.
Early's operations cleared the Valley of the enemy, and
the garrison at Harper's Ferry crossed over to Mary-
Colonel Mosby says :
". . . One benefit of Stuart's crossing at Seneca was
that it practically eliminated French's corps in the cam-
paign, and put it on the defensive, to guard the line of
the Potomac and the rear of Meade's army. It had been
the garrison, — ii,ooo, — at Harper's Ferry, but, when
that place was abandoned, it was added to Meade's com-
mand. But Stuart's appearance created such a sensa-
tion that Meade sent 4,000 men to guard the canal and
7,000 were kept at Frederick. They were no more help
to Meade in the battle than if they had stayed above the
clouds on Maryland Heights. . . ."
Early's operations moved the garrison to the Maryland
side, and Stuart's put it on guard in Meade's rear.
" All the Confederates had to do was to hold the army
in hand and draw the enemy to a good field. . . . The
78 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Confederates, if held in hand and refreshed a little, could
have made their grandest success."
There is no reason why the success would have been
any " grander " than the success at Manassas. The same
reason that Lee gives for not following Pope would have
been even stronger for not following McClellan, for his
line of communication would have been longer and in
Then Lee had no such good reason for fighting at
Antietam or on Longstreet's " good field " as he had for
fighting Second Manassas, where he fought to break up
the combination against Richmond.
Longstreet says :
" If the Southern army had been carefully held in
hand, refreshed by easy marches and comfortable sup-
plies, the proclamation (of emancipation) could not have
found its place in history.
" On the other hand, the Southern President would
have been in Maryland at the head of his army, with his
manifesto of peace and independence."
If the army had been held in hand it would hardly have
done more in Maryland with 60,000 men than it did at
Richmond with 80,000, and that was a victory at Gaines's
Mill and a repulse at Malvern Hill.
As for the proclamation, Lincoln repeatedly declared
it was a war measure pure and simple, and designed ex-
clusively to weaken the South and strengthen the North,
so that it would have been more necessary in defeat than
It is true Lincoln was holding the proclamation for a
victory; but a repetition of Gaines's Mill and Malvern
SHARPSBURG (ANTIETAM) 79
Hill would hardly have prevented him from issuing it,
especially as he claimed a victory at Malvern Hill.
When McClellan became possessed of the " lost order "
acquainting him with Lee's plans, — the scattering of his
columns to capture Harper's Ferry and to oppose his ap-
proach, — he dispatched to Mr. Lincoln :
" Headquarters, Frederick,
" Sept. 13, 1862, 12 m.
("Received 2.35 a.m., Sept. 14.)
" To THE President : I have the whole rebel force
in front of me, but am confident and no time shall be
lost. I have a difficult task to perform, but with God's
blessing will accomplish it. I think Lee has made a gross
mistake, and that he will be severely punished for it. The
army is in motion as rapidly as possible. I hope for a
great success, if the plans of the rebels remain unchanged.
We have possession of Catactin. I have all the plans of
the rebels, and will catch them in their own trap, if my
men are equal to the emergency. I now feel that I can
count on them as of old. All forces of Pennsylvania
should be placed to cooperate at Chambersburg. My re-
spects to Mrs. Lincoln. Received most enthusiastically by
the ladies. Will send you trophies. All well and with
God's blessing will accomplish it.
" Geo. B. McClellan."
This must have been very comforting in view of the
state of the public mind in the North.
Rhodes says :
" The feeling in the North approached consternation.
That Lee should threaten Washington and Baltimore,
then Harrisburg and Philadelphia, while Bragg threat-
8o THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
ened Louisville and Cincinnati, was piling up a menace
that shook the nerves of the coolest men.
". . . The dispatches from Governor Curtin at Harris-
burg manifest concern for that capital; he called out 50,-
000 militia for the defense of the State. The words
which came from Philadelphia were such as the citizens
of a wealthy city utter in time of panic."
S. H. Gay wrote from New York city : " There is the
deepest anxiety here, and a most ominous state of
Though McClellan telegraphed to Lincoln on the 13th,
" The army is in motion as rapidly as possible," and " I
have all the plans of the rebels and will catch them in
their own trap," he did not progress very rapidly. Lee
sent D. H. Hill to the mountain gaps, and McClellan had
to fight to get through.
On the 17th, however, he did catch the rebels in their
Colonel Douglass, aide-de-camp on Jackson's staff,
gives the following account of the battle :
". . . The first onset, early on the morning of the 17th,
told what the day would be. The impatient Hooker,
with the divisions of Meade, Doubleday, and Ricketts,
struck the first blow, and Jackson's old division caught it
and struck back again. Between such foes the battle
soon waxed hot. Step by step and marking each step
with dead, the thin Confederate line was pushed back to
the wood around the Dunker church. Here Lawton,
Starke (commanding in place of Jones, already
wounded), and D. H. Hill, with part of his division, en-
gaged Meade. And now in turn the Federals halted and
fell back, and left their dead by the Dunker church.
Next Mansfield entered the fight, and beat with resist-
SHARPSBURG (ANTIETAM) 8i
less might on Jackson's people. The battle here grew
angry and bloody. Starke was killed, Lawton wounded,
and nearly all their general and field officers had fallen;
the sullen Confederate line again fell back, killing Mans-
field and wounding Hooker, Crawford, and Hartsuflf.
" And now D. H. Hill led in the rest of his division ;
Hood also took part to the right and left, front and rear,
of the Dunker church. The Federal line was again driven
back, while artillery added its din to the incessant rattle
of musketry. Then Sumner, with the fresh division of
Sedgwick, re-formed the Federal line and renewed the
offensive. Hood was driven back, and Hill partly; the
Dunker Church was passed, the field south of it entered,
and the Confederate left turned. Just then McLaws,
hurrying from Harper's Ferry, came upon the field, and
hurled his men against the victorious Sedgwick. He
drove Sedgwick back into the Dunker wood, and beyond
it, into the open ground. Farther to our right the pendu-
lum of battle had been swinging to and fro, with D. H.
Hill and R. H. Anderson hammering away at French and
Richardson, until the sunken road became historic as
* Bloody Lane.' Richardson was mortally wounded, and
Hancock assumed command of his division.
*' For a while there was a lull in the storm. It was
early in the day, but hours are fearfully long in battle.
About noon Franklin, with Slocum and W. F, Smith,
marched upon the field to join the unequal contest.
Smith tried his luck and was repulsed. Sumner then
ordered a halt. Jackson's fight was over, and a strange
silence reigned around Dunker Church.
" General Lee had not visited the left that day. As
usual he trusted to Jackson to fight his own battle, and
work out salvation in his own way. How well he did
it, against the ablest and fiercest of McClellan's lieuten-
ants, history has told.
82 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
"During all this time Longstreet, stripped of his
troops, — sent to the help of Jackson, — held the right
almost alone, with his eye on the center. He was now
called into active work on his own front, for there were
no unfought troops in Lee's army at Sharpsburg; every
soldier on that field tasted battle.
" General Burnside, with his corps of fourteen thou-
sand men, had been lying all day beyond the bridge
which now bears his name. Ordered to cross at eight
o'clock, he managed to get over at one, and by three
was ready to advance. He moved against the hill which
D. R. Jones held with his little division of 2500 men.
Longstreet was watching this advance. Jackson was at
General Lee's headquarters on a knoll in rear of Sharps-
burg. A. P. Hill was coming, but had not arrived, and
it was apparent that Burnside must be stayed, if at all,
" I saw Burnside's heavy line move up the hill, and
the earth seemed to tremble beneath their tread. It was
a splendid and fearful sight, but for them to beat back
Jones's feeble line was scarcely war. The artillery tore,
but did not stay them. They pressed forward until
Sharpsburg was uncovered, and Lee's line of retreat was
at their mercy. But then, just then, A. P. Hill, pictur-
esque in his red battleshirt, with three of his brigades,
2500 men, who had marched that day seventeen miles
from Harper's Ferry and had waded the Potomac, ap-
peared upon the scene. Tired and footsore, the men
forgot their woes in that supreme moment, and, with
no breathing time, braced themselves to meet the coming
shock. They met it and stayed it. The blue line stag-
gered and hesitated, and, hesitating, was lost. At the
critical moment A. P. Hill was always at his strongest.
Quickly advancing his battle-flags, his line moved for-
SHARPSBURG (ANTIETAM) 83
ward, Jones's troops rallied on him, and in the din of
musketry and artillery, on either flank the Federals broke
over the field. Hill did not wait for his other bri-
gades, but held the vantage gained until Burnside
was driven back to the Antietam and under the shelter
of heavy guns. The day was done. Again A. P.
Hill, as at Manassas, Harper's Ferry, and elsewhere,
had struck with the right hand of Mars. No wonder
that both Lee and Jackson, when, in the delirium of
their last moments on earth, they stood again to battle,
saw the form of A. P. Hill leading his column on ; but
it is a wonder and a shame that the grave of this valiant
Virginian in Hollywood cemetery has not a stone to mark
it and keep it from oblivion.
" The battle at Sharpsburg was the result of unfore-
seen circumstances and not of deliberate purpose. It
was one of the bloodiest of the war, and a defeat for
both armies. The prestige of the day was with Lee,
but when on the night of the i8th he recrossed into
Virginia, although, as the Comte de Paris says, he left
not a single trophy of his nocturnal retreat in the hands
of the enemy, he left the prestige of the result with Mc-
From Lee's report of the battle :
" This great battle was fought by less than 40,000
men on our side, all of whom had undergone the great-
est labor and hardship in the field and on the march.
Nothing could surpass the determined valor with which
they met the large army of the enemy, fully supplied
and equipped, and the result reflects the highest credit on
the officers and men."
Lee carried 60,000 men to Maryland; McClellan, 6y,-
84 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
000. In addition to McClellan's army there were I2,-
Goo men at Harper's Ferry.
It will be seen that Lee was short 20,000 men at
Antietam. They had been lost in the engagements at
South Mountain, Crampton's Gap, Maryland Heights,
and on the long marches, which were continuous and
From General McLaws's report:
" The entire command was very much fatigued.
The brigades of Generals Kershaw and Barksdale had
been engaged on Maryland Heights on the 12th, 13th,
and 14th, and on the 15th had been marched from the
Heights to the line of battle, up the Valley, formed to
oppose that of the enemy below Crampton's Gap.
Those of Generals Cobb, Senimes, and Mahone (Colonel
Parsham) had been engaged and badly crippled at
Crampton's Gap, and all the others had been guarding
important points under very trying circumstances.
" A large number had no provisions, and a great
portion had not had time nor opportunity to cook what
they had. All the troops had been without sleep the
previous night, except w^hile waiting in line for the
wagon trains to pass over the pontoon bridge at Harper's
McClellan lost 11,657 riien, and Lee's loss, including
the fighting at the mountain gaps and Harper's Ferry,
was about 12,000.
Lee captured at Harper's Ferry 11,000 infantry,
three companies of cavalry, six companies of artillery,
forty-nine pieces of artillery, twenty-four mountain
howitzers, and 11,000 small arms.
So far as the battle itself is concerned, there is nothing
but favorable criticism of Lee's generalship.
SHARPSBURG (ANTIETAM) 85
Nearly all critics agree with Rhodes, who says:
" While Lee's strategy and in some measure his
tactics have been censured by Longstreet, the layman
will be prone to agree with Allen that the conduct of
the battle of Antietam itself by Lee and his principal
subordinates seems absolutely above criticism. ..."
From "Ropes' Civil War": "Of General Lee's
management of the battle there is nothing but praise
to be said. . . ."
McClellan has been censured for not renewing the at-
tack on the 1 8th. He says in his report:
" The night, however, brought grave responsibilities
— whether to renew the attack on the i8th, or to defer
it, even with the risk of the enemy's retirement, was
the question before me. After a night of anxious de-
liberation and a full and careful survey of the situation
and condition of our army, the strength and position
of the enemy, I concluded that the success of an attack
on the 18th was uncertain.
" At that moment, — Virginia lost, Washington men-
aced, Maryland invaded, — the national cause could af-
ford no risk of defeat. One battle lost and almost all
would have been lost. Lee's anny might then have
marched, as it pleased, on Washington, Baltimore, Phil-
adelphia, or New York."
But other reasons influenced him too. It was the
bloodiest one-day fight of the war, and his army and
his nerves were badly shaken. He says :
" The troops generally were greatly overcome by the
fatigue and exhaustion of the severe and continuous
86 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
fighting on the 17th. They required rest and refresh-
ment. One division of Sumner's and all Hooker's
corps on the right had, after fighting most valiantly for
several hours, been overpowered by numbers, driven
back in great disorder, and much scattered, so that they
were for the time somewhat demoralized.
" Some of the new troops on the left, although many
of them fought well during the battle and are entitled
to great credit, were, at the close of the action, driven
back and their morale impaired.
" On the morning of the i8th General Burnside re-
quested that another division be sent to assist him in
holding his position on the far side of the Antietam,
giving the impression that if he were attacked again
that morning he would not be able to make a very vig-
orous resistance. . . ."
McClellan's discretion contrasts strongly with Lee's
recklessness in fighting 87,000 men with less than 40,-
000 tired ones, and in standing all day on the 18th in
line of battle.
The diary of Gideon Wells says that at the cabinet
meeting June 17, 1863, Lincoln spoke of a poem mytho-
logically describing McClellan as a monkey fighting the
rebellion in the shape of a serpent. The joke was that
McClellan kept calling for "more tail — more tail,"
which Jupiter furnished.
Palfrey says of McClellan:
" When the Confederacy was young and fresh and
rich, and its armies were numerous, he fought a good,
wary, damaging, respectable fight against it."
But Jupiter gave to Grant " more tail " than he gave
SHARPSBURG (ANTIETAM) 87
If Malvern Hill was a Federal victory, then An-
tietam was a Confederate victory. At Malvern Hill
McClellan commanded the invading army — at Antietam
Lee commanded it. Lee's repulse at Malvern Hill was
not more decided than McClellan's at Antietam, nor was
it as bloody.
McClellan retreated in disorder on the night of the
battle, and subsequently by the back door water route
to Washington. Lee remained in line the day after the
battle, and then retired in order to Virginia. As usual,
Longstreet alleges that failure of the campaign was due
to the fact that Lee did not take his advice, and Lee's
worshipers discover a mare's nest to account for it.
One of them, who was on his staff, says :
" What a fatality was there for General Lee ! What
an advantage to the Federal commander to be instantly
made aware of the division of his adversary's anny, the
wide separation of his columns, and toi have the detail
of his plan laid bare. There is no parallel to it in his-
There is nothing to show that the " lost order " ac-
celerated McClellan's advance. General Pleasonton,
who made the first battle, that at Turner's Pass on the
14th, had not heard of it.
Anyhow it cuts no figure in the results of the cam-
paign. Under the most favorable circumstances Lee
could only have driven McClellan from Longstreet's
" good field."
His loss would have been as great, or greater, than
it was at Antietam, and he would have been too weak
to push him from the strong positions in his rear and
lay siege to Washington. In fact if he had not lost a
88 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
man he could not have laid siege to Washington, for he
was not equipped nor provisioned for it.
The trouble v^ith Lee's v^^orshipers is that they are al-
ways making excuses for his failure to accomplish im-
possibilities foreign to his strategy. At Antietam it is
the "lost order " ; at Gettysburg, Stuart.
The world takes no heed of their excuses, and so the
failures which originated in their minds are largely re-
sponsible for erroneous historical estimates of Lee.
Lee was not a provincial Southerner. He had been
in the United States army all his life, and his home
was at Washington. He realized from the first what
he had to contend with. He knew that his re-
sources in men and material would not enable him
to conquer independence on northern soil. Therefore his
only alternative was to prolong the war until the North
should get tired of it; and to prolong it, it was necessary
to keep the Army of the Potomac as far away from
Richmond as possible, and the only way in which that
could be done was to threaten Washington. All his
strategy, involving desperate movements and battles, was
designed to accomplish this one object and nothing more.
His correspondence, the condition of the army, and the
conduct of his campaigns show conclusively the single-
ness of his purpose.
The same staff officer says:
" It looks as if the good Lord had ordained that we
should not succeed. . . .
" To me it is as if He who controls the destinies
of men and of nations had said: You people of the
South shall be sorely tried; but the blame is not yours,
and therefore to you shall fall the honors, — genius, skill,
courage, fortitude, endurance, readiness for self-sacrifice,
SHARPSBURG (ANTIETAM) 89
prowess in battle, and victory against great odds. But
this great experiment to demonstrate man's capacity for
self-government, with its cornerstone of universal
freedom, must continue with undivided front, and there-
fore I decree to the other side determination, persist-
ency, numbers, unlimited resources, and ultimate suc-
cess. . . ."
Here we have the " good Lord " as umpire of the
game. He slaps the North on the back and awards the
gate money, and then bestows the usual taffy on the
It does seem that if the " good Lord " had had any-
thing to do with the war He would have been at least
as merciful as are the umpires in the prize ring, and
would have stopped it before any one was killed.
Out of puffery, quackery, cant, and hypocrisy grows
the absurdity that the practical, common-sense, dollar-
worshiping people of the North squandered billions of
dollars on the " man's capacity for self-government "
humbuggery and negro emancipation.
Man had been demonstrating his capacity, or rather his
incapacity, for self-government ever since the man with
the arquebus shot a hole in the knight's armor; otherwise
there would have been no war.
Then there was a parallel to the " lost order " episode,
except in the matter of result. At Antietam they were
nil, while at Metaurus in 207 B. C. they decided the fate
of the world.
". . . Meanwhile Hasdrubal had raised the siege of
Placentia, and was advancing toward Ariminum on the
Adriatic, and driving before him the Roman army under
Porcius. Nor when the Consul Livius had come up, and
90 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
united the second and third armies of the North, could
he make head against the invaders. The Romans still
fell back before Hasdrubal, beyond Ariminum, beyond
the Metaurus, and as far as the little town of Sena, to
the southeast of that river. Hasdrubal was not unmind-
ful of the necessity of acting in concert with his brother.
He sent messengers to Hannibal to announce his march,
and to propose that they should unite their armies in
South Umbria, and then wheel around against Rome.
Those messengers traversed the quarter part of Italy in
safety; but, when close to the object of their mission,
were captured by a Roman detachment ; and Hasdrubal' s
letter, detailing his whole plan of the campaign, was laid,
not in his brother's hands, but in those of the commander
of the Roman armies of the South. Nero saw at once
the full importance of the crisis. The two sons of Ham-
ilcar were now within two hundred miles of each other,
and if Rome was to be saved, the brothers must never
meet alive. . . ."
This letter enabled Nero to destroy Hasdrubal and his
army in the battle of Metaurus.
". . . In the true spirit of that savage brutality which
deformed the Roman national character, Nero ordered
Hasdrubal's head to be flung In his brother's camp.
Eleven years had passed since Hannibal had gazed on
" The sons of Hamilcar had then planned their system
of warfare against Rome, which they had brought so
•nearly to successful accomplishment. Year after year
had Hannibal been struggling in Italy, In the hopes of
one day hailing the arrival of him whom he had left in
SHARPSBURG (ANTIETAM) 91
Spain, and of seeing his brother's eye flash with affection
and pride at the junction of their irresistible hosts. He
now saw that eye glazed in death, and in the agony of
his heart the great Carthaginian groaned aloud that he
recognized his country's destiny."
IN December, 1862, Lee's army of 78,000 men was in
winter quarters at Fredericksburg, and Burnside's, of
113,000, at Falmouth on the opposite side of the
Rappahannock river. Burnside's position was a false
one from which to launch an " On to Richmond " cam-
The ground of Lee's right was not inviting, and on
his left was the Wilderness. The water route was
not popular after McCIellan's failure, so Burnside con-
cluded to cross directly in his front, take possession of
Fredericksburg, and attack Lee in the strongest position
he ever held.
Lee held the river front of the town with a strong
picket line that gave Burnside considerable trouble, but
he finally dislodged it with a furious artillery fire that
sent the bricks flying in Fredericksburg.
The battle itself was a rather one-sided affair, — easy
Rhodes says of it :
"... The order to be ready came early in the morn-
ing, the 13th; the word of attack was received by noon.
The Union soldiers advanced over the plain between the
town and the stone wall, ground which Longstreet's
superintendent of artillery said : ' We cover so well that
we will comb it as with a fine-tooth comb. A chicken
could not live on that field when we open on it.' The
canal interfered with their deployment, and the fire was
therefore the more destructive. But generals and sol-
diers had their orders, and forward they went. No
higher courage could be shown. Intelligent as brave,
they felt their effort hopeless, yet did their very best
to carry the stone wall. Hancock led a charge of 5,000
and lost two out of every five of his veterans, of whom
one hundred and fifty-six were commissioned officers,
* able and tried commanders.' * Six times did the
enemy,' wrote Lee, * notwithstanding the havoc caused
by our batteries, press on with great determination to
within one hundred yards of the foot of the hill, but
here encountering the deadly fire of our infantry, his
columns were broken.' ' Oh, great God ! ' cried Couch,
* see how our men, our poor fellows, are falling ! It is
only murder now ! ' * Fighting Joe Hooker,' who until
that day had never seen fighting enough, felt that he
could make no more impression upon the Confederate
works than upon ' the side of a mountain of rock.'
" Putting spurs to his horse, he rode across the river
and begged Burnside to desist from further attack. The
commander was obstinate, and declared that the work o^f
assault must go on. Humphreys, * the knight without
reproach or fear,' then led a bayonet charge of 4,500
troops, who had never been in battle before. The stone
wall was a sheet o.f flame. ... In brief time over a
thousand men were killed and wounded. The column
turned. The regiments retired slowly, and in good
order, many of the soldiers ' singing and hurrahing.'
" The next day Burnside was wild with grief. * Oh,
those men! those men over there!' he said, pointing
across the river where lay the dead and wounded, ' I
am thinking of them all the time.' "
94 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Brevet Brigadier General Ames, U. S. V., says of it:
" On Saturday, December 13, our brigade had been
held in reserve ; but late in the day we were hurried to the
battle only to see a field full of flying men and the sun
low in the west shining red through columns of smoke,
six deserted field-pieces on a slight rise of ground in
front of us, and a cheering column of troops in regular
march disappearing on our left. But the day was then
over and the battle lost, and our line felt hardly bullets
enough to draw blood before darkness put an end to the
uproar of all hostile sounds, save desultory shell-firing.
For an hour or two afterward shells from Marye's
Heights traced bright lines across the black sky with their
burning fuses. Then, by command, we sank down in
our lines, to get what sleep the soggy ground and the
danger might allow us.
" Experience had taught us that when the silent line
of fire from the shells had flashed across the sky and
disappeared behind us the scream and explosion that fol-
lowed were harmless, but still it required some effort to
overcome the discomfort of the damp ground, and the
flash and report of bursting shells, and to drop quietly
asleep at an order. We finally slept, but we were roused
before midnight, and formed into* line with whispered
commands, and then filed to the right, and reaching the
highways, marched away from the town. There were
many dead horses at exposed points of our turning and
many more dead men. Here stood a low brick house,
with an open door in its gable end, from which shone
a light, and into which we peered when passing. Inside
sat a woman, gaunt and hard-featured, with crazy hair
and a Meg Merrilies face, still sitting by a smoking candle,
though it was nearly two hours past midnight. But what
woman could sleep, though never so masculine and
tough of fiber, alone in a house between two hostile
armies, — two corpses lying across her doorstep, and
within, almost at her feet, four more! So, with wild
eyes and face lighted by her smoky candle, she stared
across the dead barrier into the darkness outside,
with the look of one who heard and saw not, and to
whom all sounds were a terror.
" We formed in two lines — the right of each resting
near and in front of this small brick house, and the left
extending into the field at right angles with the highway.
Here we again bivouacked, finding room for our beds
with no little difficulty, because of the shattered forms
of those who were here taking their last long sleep. We
rose early. The heavy fog was penetrating and chilly,
and the damp turf was no warm mattress to tempt us
to a morning nap. So we shook off sloth from our
moistened bodies willingly, and rolling up the gray
blankets, set about breakfast. The bivouac breakfast is a
nearer approach to its civilized congener than the bivouac
bed. Coffee can be made hot and good in blackened tins ;
pork can be properly frizzled only on a stick over an
open fire; hard tack is a better, sweeter morsel than the
average American house- wife has yet achieved with her
saleratus, sour milk, * empt'in's,' and what-not ; and a pipe
— who can estimate what that little implement has done
for mankind? Certainly none better than those who
have sought its solace after the bivouac breakfast that
succeeds a bivouac bed, in December.
" We now began to take note through the misty veil
of the wreck of men and horses cumbering the ground
about us, and a slight lifting of the gray fog showed us
the story of yesterday's repeated assaults and repeated
failures. When our pipes were exhausted we got up to
96 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
inspect and criticise the situation. Just here was the
wreck of a fence, which seemed to have been the high
tide mark of our advance wave of battle. The fence was
a barrier which, slight as it was, had turned back the
already wavering and mutilated lines of assault. Almost
an army lay about us and scattered back over the plain
toward the town. Not only corpses, but many of the
badly wounded, hardly distinguishable from the dead,
were here too. To die, groveling on the ground or fallen
in the mire, is dreadful indeed. The pallid faces, and the
clammy hands clenching their muskets, looked ghastly
by the foglight. The new, bright blue overcoats only
made the sight the ghastlier.
*' About eighty yards in front the plowed field was
bounded by a stone wall, and behind the wall were men
in gray uniforms moving carelessly about. This picture
is one of the most distinct memories of the war, — the
men in gray behind this wall, talking, laughing, cooking,
cleaning muskets, clicking locks — there they were ! —
Lee's soldiers! — the Army of Northern Virginia! We
were so absurdly near this host of yesterday's victors
that we seemed wholly in their hands and a part of their
great mass; cut off and remote from the Federal army,
and almost within the lines of the enemy, — prisoners,
of course. That was the immediate impression, as we
stupidly gazed in the first moment of the awkward dis-
" But the sharp whistle of a bullet sounded in our
ears, and a rebel's face peered through the puff of smoke,
as he removed the rifle from his shoulder; then rapidly
half a dozen more bullets whistled by us, and the warning
sent us all to earth.
" The enemy riddled every moving thing in sight ;
horses tied to the wheels of a broken gun-carriage behind
us ; pigs that incautiously came grunting from across the
road ; even chickens were brought down with an accuracy
of aim that told of a fatally short range, and of a better
practice than it would have been wise for our numbers
to face. They applauded their own success with a hilar-
ity we could hardly share in, as their chicken shooting
was across our backs, leaving us no extra room for
Lee's loss was 5377 men; and Burnside's, 12,653, the
flower of his army.
There was gloom in the North. Joseph Medill, of the
Chicago Times, wrote to Colfax :
" Our people all have the blues. The feeling of utter
hopelessness is stronger than at any time since the war
began. The terrible bloody defeat of our brave army
at Fredericksburg leaves us almost without hope."
Meigs wrote to Burnside :
" As day after day has gone my heart has sunk, and
I see greater peril to our nationality in the present con-
dition of affairs than at any time during the struggle."
Criticism of Lee is confined to his failure to attack
Burnside after his repulse, and there is an absurd story
that Jackson asked the army surgeon how many white
bandages he could furnish for the men to wear in a night
The review of Lord Wolseley's friendly criticism of
Lee by a Northern soldier, already referred to, says :
" Equally remarkable for visionary confidence is Lord
98 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Wolseley's next question, * What commander could wisK
to have his foe in a tighter place than Burnside was in
a.fter his disastrous attack upon Lee at Fredericksburg?*
Lee has explained in his reports, in effect, that he was
so much pleased with the tight boot Burnside was wear-
ing, so long as Burnside was the aggressor, that he had
no thought of exchanging footgear with the enemy, as
he surely would have done if he had attacked Burnside
within range of the Union cannon on Stafford Heights,
across the river. So secure was Burnside at the town
that when it was proposed, on deciding to recross the
river, to keep hands on Fredericksburg, the council of
officers believed that 10,000 men was a sufficient force
for the service."
From Lee's report:
". . . The attack of the 13th had been so easily re-
pulsed and by so small a part of our army that it was
not supposed the enemy would limit his efforts to an
attempt which, in view of the magnitude of his prepara-
tions and the extent of his force, seemed to be compara-
tively insignificant. Believing therefore that he would
attack us, it was not deemed expedient to lose the ad-
vantage of our position and expose the troops to the fire
of his inaccessible batteries beyond the river by advanc-
ing against him. . . ."
Burnside's attacking columns were repulsed, but his
lines at Fredericksburg were intact ; and on Stafford
Heights, overlooking Fredericksburg from the opposite
shore of a narrow river, and commanding every foot of
approach, were 147 siege and heavy field guns. They
were beyond the reach of Lee's artillery. Only 50,000
men of Burnside's army had been engaged. The charge
that Lee neglected pursuit when possible is without any
foundation in fact. He had followed McClellan's re-
treat as energetically as the nature of the country per-
mitted, and was repulsed at Malvern Hill under fire of
McClellan's gunboats. At Second Manassas there was
no opportunity to pursue, as it was too close to Wash-
Lord Wolseley of course would have made no such
criticism, if he had known anything about the topography
of the field.
Burnside did not commit such an awful blunder at
Fredericksburg as he is charged with. Standing at Fal-
mouth he saw no easy way to Richmond. A flank move-
ment meant an extended line of communication and
possible trouble from heavy rains or snows at that sea-
son. Lee's line across the river could be quickly and
easily reached, and success there would have made seri-
ous trouble for him and given Burnside an advantageous
position from which to operate against Richmond, there
being no strong defensive line between the two places.
Then, too, at the worst, he could only suffer a repulse,
as his guns on Stafford Heights would protect him from
a counter attack.
THE CAMPAIGN OF 1863
Facing page 103
AFTER the battle of Fredericksburg and Burn-
side's " mud march " the armies settled back into
Longstreet was ordered south of the James river, as
supplies of subsistence were more easily obtained there,
and he would be in position to oppose troops that might
be sent from the North to reinforce the army operating
in that quarter against Richmond.
General " Fighting " Joe Hooker had superseded
Burnside in the command of the Army of the Potomac.
The day after he was appointed Lincoln wrote to him
as follows :
". . . There are some things in regard to which I am
not quite satisfied with you. ... I think that during
General Burnside's command of the army you have taken
counsel of your ambition and thwarted him as much as
you could, in which you did a great wrong to the coun-
try and to a meritorious and honorable brother officer.
I have heard, in such a way as to believe it, of your re-
cently saying that both the army and the government
needed a dictator. . . . Only those generals who gain
successes can set up as dictators. What I ask of you
now is military success and I will risk the dictator-
104 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Lincoln thought the job was in pretty good hands as
We have already seen that Falmouth was a false po-
sition from which to operate against Richmond ; but as
McClellan had made a failure of the water route, and
Burnside of his direct attack, Hooker's only alternative
was a flank movement. A move on Lee's right flank
was not promising of success, so Hooker determined to
cross the river at the upper fords and strike Lee's left
It was April — "the fields were green and the skies
were blue." Hooker sent Stoneman with 10,000 cavalry
to operate on Lee's line of communication, and to mask
the march of his main column up the river. He ordered
Sedgwick to cross it below and hold Lee as long as pos-
sible at Fredericksburg in order that he might have time
to strike and crush him. Both columns commenced
crossing the river on the 29th and encountered no re-
On the 30th Stoneman encountered Stuart's cavalry
on the Spottsylvania road, but was unable to report
whether or not there were infantry and artillery in that
direction. This was Hooker's first trouble.
He halted and made his headquarters at Chancellors-
That night, — the 30th, — he issued the following gen-
*' It is with heartfelt satisfaction that the commanding
general announces to the army that the operations of the
last three days have determined that our enemy must
either ingloriously flee, or come out from behind his
breastworks and give us battle on our own ground,
where certain destruction awaits him."
Talking boastfully, he said to some of his officers:
" The rebel army is now the legitimate property of
the Army of the Potomac. They may as well pack up
their haversacks and make for Richmond, and I shall
be after them."
General Schurz says of this order:
". . . They (the officers and men) indeed hoped that
the Army of the Potomac, 130,000 strong, would prove
able to beat Lee's army, only 60,000 strong. But it
jarred upon their feelings, as well as their good sense,
to hear their commanding general gasconade so boast-
fully of having the enemy in the hollow of his hand, —
that enemy being Robert E. Lee, at the head of the best
infantry in the world."
Hooker believed that he surprised Lee in his move-
ment across the river and thought he had made a move
on the chess-board that was decisive, — that Lee would
have to attack him in strong position or retreat, and
according to the rules of the game such was the case.
Joe Johnston or Beauregard in Lee's position would have
retreated, but Lee did not intend to retreat, nor had
Hooker stolen a march on him.
While the army was in winter quarters at Fredericks-
burg, and after Burnside's " mud march," Lee went to
Richmond on a visit. Longstreet was left in command.
He says :
". . . Long and close study of the field from the Po-
tomac to the James river, and the experience of former
campaigns, made it clear that the Army of the Potomac
lo6 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
had been drawn into a false position, and it became
manifest that there were but two moves left open for
its spring campaign, — first, by crossing the upper fords
of the Rappahannock; secondly, by detaching forces to
the south of the James, and by that route moving against
" To guard against the former, I laid out lines for
field works and rifle pits, covering all approaches by the
upper fords as far as the roads leading to the United
States Ford. From that point the line broke to the
rear, crossing the plank road and extending back half
a mile to command the road from Chancellorsville to
Spottsylvania Court House. When the lines for these
works were well marked, I was ordered, with the divi-
sions of Hood and Pickett and Bearing's and Henry's
artillery battalions, to the south side near Petersburg, to
be in position to meet the latter move, leaving the di-
visions of McLaws and R. H. Anderson to finish the
work on the line of defense. . . ."
General Colston, who commanded one of Jackson's
brigades, published the following in the Century Maga-
" The assertion that Hooker's move upon Chancellors-
ville was a surprise to General Lee is a great mistake.
Every day Lee had information of Hooker's movements.
The following letter, sent by Lee to Jackson and by the
latter to me, has never been out of my possession since.
It shows the remarkable intuition which enabled Gen-
eral Lee on so many occasions to foresee and penetrate
the intentions of his antagonist. In this case a demon-
stration had been made on our extreme right at Port
Royal, and without waiting for orders I had gone with
a brigade and battery to meet it. I reported the facts
to General Jackson, and it is my letter to him to which
General Lee refers:
" * Headquarters A. N. Va., April 2^, 1863.
" * Lieut. Gen. T. J. Jackson,
" * Commanding Corps.
" * General : I have received General Colston's letter
of 8.30 o'clock to-day, which you forwarded to me. I
think from the account given me by Lieut. Col. Smith
of the Engineers, who was at Port Royal yesterday, of
the enemy's operations there the day and night previous,
that his present purpose is to draw our troops in that
direction while he attempts a passage elsewhere. I
would not then send down more troops than are actually
necessary. I will notify Generals McLaws and Ander-
son to be on the alert, for I think that if a real attempt
is made to cross the river it will be above Fredericks-
burg. Very respectfully,
"'R. E. Lee,
" * General.'
" The back of the letter was endorsed by Jackson,
* Respectfully referred to General Colston for his guid-
ance.' It was also marked ' Confidential,' and both the
front and the back of the envelope were marked ' Pri-
vate,' so that not even my adjutant general should open
it in case of my absence."
General Long, of Lee's staff, says:
". . . Lee's whole cavalry force, consisting of two
brigades, — Fitz Lee's and W. H. F. Lee's, — under the
immediate command of Stuart, was mainly employed
io8 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
in guarding the fords of the upper Rappahannock.
Hooker had no sooner commenced his movement than
it was reported by Stuart to General Lee. . . ."
From Lee's report :
" At 5.30 a. m., April 28, the enemy crossed the Rap-
pahannock in boats near Fredericksburg, and driving off
the pickets on the river, proceeded to lay a pontoon
bridge a short distance below Deep Run. Later in the
afternoon another bridge was constructed about a mile
below the first. A considerable force crossed on these
bridges during the day and was massed out of view under
the high bank of the river.
". . . No demonstration was made opposite any other
part of our lines at Fredericksburg, and the strength of
the force that had crossed, and its apparent indisposition
to attack, indicated that the principal effort of the enemy
would be made in some other quarter. This impression
was confirmed by the intelligence received from General
Stuart that a large body of the infantry and artillery
was passing up the river. During the forenoon of the
29th that officer reported that the enemy had crossed
in force near Kelly's Ford on the preceding evening.
Later in the day he announced that a heavy column was
moving from Kelly's toward Gemiana Ford on the Rapi-
dan and another to Ely's Ford on the same river. The
routes they were pursuing after crossing the Rapidan
converge near Chancellorsville, whence several roads lead
to the rear of our position at Fredericksburg.
". . . The enemy in our front near Fredericksburg
continued inactive and it was now apparent that the main
attack would be made upon our rear and flank."
Hooker is severely censured for halting at Chancel-
lorsville on the 30th instead of marching to the open
ground around Fredericksburg. But here is what Lee's
report says of his preparations on the 29th to oppose
" On the night of the 29th General Anderson was di-
rected to proceed toward Chancellorsville and dispose
Wright's brigade and the troops from the Bark Mill
Ford to cover these roads. Arriving at Chancellorsville
about midnight, he found the commands of Generals
Mahone and Posey already there, having been withdrawn
from Bark Mill Ford, with the exception of a small
" Learning that the enemy had crossed the Rapidan
and were approaching in strong force. General Ander-
son retired early on the morning of the 30th to the inter-
section of the Mine and Plank roads near Tabernacle
church, and began to entrench himself. The enemy's
cavalry skirmished with his rear-guard as he left Chan-
cellorsville, but being vigorously repulsed by Mahone's
brigade, offered no farther resistance to his march. Ma-
hone was placed on the old turnpike, Wright and Posey
on the plank road."
Capt. James Power Smith, assistant adjutant general,
aide-de-camp to General Jackson, says :
". . . The divisions of Anderson and McLaws had
been sent from Fredericksburg to meet Hooker's ad-
vance from Chancellorsville; Anderson on Wednesday
(29th), McLaws (except Barksdale's brigade) on
Thursday. . . ."
So if Hooker had advanced he would have run up
no THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
against Anderson and McLaws, with Lee's whole army
in supporting distance.
On the next day, May i, Hooker did advance with the
Second, Fifth, Twelfth, and Third Corps. Of this ad-
vance Lee says in his report:
". . . Jackson's troops followed Anderson's on the
plank road. Colonel Alexander's battalion of artillery
accompanied the advance. The enemy was soon en-
countered on both roads and heavy skirmishing with
infantry and artillery ensued, our troops pressing for-
ward steadily. A strong attack on General McLaws
was repulsed with spirit by Semmes' brigade, and Gen-
eral Wright, by directions of General Anderson, con-
verging to the left of the Plank road, marched by way
of the unfinished railroad from Fredericksburg to Gor-
donsville and turned the enemy's right. His whole line
thereupon retreated rapidly, vigorously pursued by our
troops until they arrived in about a mile of Chancellors-
ville. Here the enemy assumed a position of great ma-
terial strength, surrounded on all sides by a dense forest
filled with tangled undergrowth, in the midst of which
breastworks of logs had been constructed, with trees
felled in front so as to form an almost impenetrable
abatis. His artillery swept the few narrow roads by
which his position could be approached from the front,
and commanded the adjacent woods. . . ."
When Hooker wanted to get out of the Wilderness,
Lee held the " few narrow roads " ; and when Lee
wanted to get in. Hooker held them.
Hooker, on revisiting Chancellorsville after the war,
". . . Here, on this open ground, I intended to fight
CHANCELLORSVILLE 1 1 1
my battle. But the trouble was to get my army on it,
as the banks of the stream are, as you see, rugged and
precipitous, and the few fords were strongly fortified
and guarded by the enemy.
" By making a powerful demonstration in front of
and below the town of Fredericksburg with a part of
my army, I was able, unobserved, to withdraw the re-
mainder, and, marching nearly thirty miles up the stream,
to cross the Rappahannock and the Rapidan unopposed,
and in four days' time to arrive at Chancellorsville,
within five miles of this coveted ground. And all this
without General Lee's having discovered that I had left
my position in his front. So far I regarded my move-
ment as a great success.
" On the morning of the fifth day my army was astir,
and was put in motion on three lines through the tangled
forest (the Wilderness) which covers the whole country
around Chancellorsville, and in three hours' time I would
have been in position on these crests, and in possession
of Banks's Ford, in short and easy communication with
the other wing of my army. But at midnight of that
morning General Lee moved out with his whole army,
and by sunrise had firm possession of Banks's Ford, had
thrown up this line of breastworks which you can still
follow with the eye, and had it bristling with cannon
from one end to the other. Before I had proceeded
two miles the heads of my columns, while still upon the
narrow roads In these interminable forests, where it was
impossible to maneuver my forces, were met by Jack-
son with a full two-thirds of the entire Confederate
army. I had no alternative but to turn back, as I had
only a fragment of my command in hand, and take up
the position about Chancellorsville which I had occupied
during the night, as I was being rapidly out-flanked upon
112 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
my right, the enemy having open ground on which to
" And here again my reputation has been attacked be-
cause I did not undertake to accomplish an impossibiHty,
but turned back at this point; and every history of the
war that has been written has soundly berated me be-
cause I did not fight here in the forest with my hands
tied behind me, and allow my army to be sacrificed. I
have always believed that impartial history would vindi-
cate my conduct in this emergency. . . ."
Sir Edward Bruce Hamley in his work, '* The Oper-
ations of War Explained and Illustrated," says:
" To bring an aniiy from the order of march to the
order of battle is a work of time, therefore it may, in
most cases, be checked by a force deployed in order of
battle, only a little superior to the heads of the advancing
columns. And the uses to be made of this circumstance
are manifold; it is not too much to say that, rightly em-
ployed, it is the most effective weapon in the military
While Lee was blocking Hooker's exit from the Wil-
derness, he was feeling him in every other direction, in
order to locate his lines definitely.
General Howard, who must be something of a poet,
". . . In my youth my brother and I had a favorite
spot in an upper field of my father's farm from which
we were accustomed, after the first symptoms of a com-
ing storm, to watch the operations of the contending
winds; the sudden gusts and whirlwinds; the sidling
swallows excitedly seeking shelter; the swift and swifter,
black and blacker clouds, ever rising higher and pushing
their angry fronts toward us. As we listened we heard
the low rumbling from afar ; as the storm came nearer,
the woods bent forward and shook fiercely their thick
branches, the lightning zigzagged in flashes, and the
deep-bassed thunder echoed more loudly, till there was
scarcely an interval between its ominous crashing dis-
charges. In some such manner came on that battle of
May 2 to the watchers at Dowdall's Tavern and Talley's
" The first distant symptom occurred the evening of
May I. Then was heard the sudden crack of rifle-
shooting. It began with Steinwehr's skirmishers, and
then passed on to Schurz. Schimmelpfennig pushed out
a brigade straight forward toward the southwest and
received a sudden fire of artillery' from the intruders.
They left him and pushed on.
" It was ' a rolling reconnaissance ' evidently to deter-
mine, for Lee's and Jackson's information, the position
of our flank. . . ."
On the night of May i Longstreet was on the south
side of the James river, eighty or one hundred miles
away, with Hood's and Pickett's divisions, which were
among the best in the army. Early was at Fredericks-
burg with about 9,000 men to hold Sedgwick, who had
22,000. Lee with Jackson and about 34,000 men faced
Hooker and his 90,000 on the main Chancellorsville line.
Wellington, who told Bliicher at Waterloo that he
would do anything to help him except divide his army,
which was against his principles, would hardly have ap-
proved of this example in long division. We can
imagine his surprise, could he have been present on the
114 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
evening of the 2d when Lee stood on Hooker's front
with 12,000 men, and Jackson on his right rear with
Lee's army, present, was less than 45,000 men, in
three detachments in the immediate vicinity of Hooker's
army of 130,000. Such a disposition would not keep
long, and so Jackson had marched from Lee with orders
to attack before night on the 2d. Lee claimed Hooker's
attention while Jackson was marching and fighting.
Of Jackson's attack General Howard says:
". . . With as little noise as possible, a little after
5 p. m., the steady advance of the enemy began. Its
first lively effects, like a cloud of dust driven before a
coming shower, appeared in the startled rabbits, squirrels,
quail, and other game, flying wildly hither and thither
in evident terror, and escaping, where possible, into adja-
" The foremost men of Doles's brigade took about
half an hour to strike our advance picket on the pike.
This picket, of course, created no delay. Fifteen min-
utes later he reached our skirmishers, who seem to have
resisted effectively for a few minutes, for it required a
main line to dislodge them. Doles says, concerning the
next check he received, ' After a resistance of about ten
minutes we drove him (Devens) from his positions on
the left and carried his battery of two guns, caissons,
" This was the fire which Steinwehr and I heard
shortly after our return from Barlow. Somebody's
guns thundered away for a few short minutes, and then
came the fitful rattle of musketry; and before I could
again get into the saddle there arose the ceaseless roar
of the terrible storm.
CHANCELLORS VILLE 1 1 5
" I sent out my chief of staff. Colonel Asmussen, who
was the first officer to mount, — ' The firing is in front
of Devens; go and see if all is in order on the extreme
right.' He instantly turned and galloped away. I
mounted and set off for a prominent place in rear of
Schurz's line, so as to change front to the northwest of
every brigade southeast of the point of attack, if the
attack extended beyond Devens's right flank; for it was
divined at once that the enemy was now west of him.
I could see numbers of our men — not the few stragglers
that always fly like the chaff at the first breeze, but
scores of them — rushing into the opening, some with
arms and some without, running or falling before they
got behind the cover of Devens's reserves, and before
General Schurz's waiting masses could deploy or charge.
The noise and the smoke filled the air with excitement,
and to add to it Dieckmann's guns and caissons, with
battery men scattered, rolled and tumbled like runaway
wagons and carts in a thronged city. The guns and the
masses of the right brigade struck the second line of
Devens before McLean's front had given way, and,
quicker than it could be told, with all the fury of the
wildest hail-storm, everything, every sort of organiza-
tion that lay in the path of the mad current of panic-
stricken men, had to give way and be broken into
fragments. . . .
". . . Let us pause here a moment and follow Doles,
who led the enemy's attack. He states that, after his
first successful charge, ' the command moved forward
at the double-quick to assault the enemy, who had taken
up a strong position on the crest of a hill in the open
field.' This position was the one on Hawkin's farm
where Devens's and Schurz's reserves began their fight.
But wave after wave of Confederate infantry came upon
ii6 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
them, and even their left flank was unprotected the in-
stant the runaways had passed it by. To our sorrow,
we, who had eagerly observed their bravery, saw them
also give way, and the hill and crest on Hawkin's farm
were quickly in the hands of the men in gray.
" Doles, who must have been a cool man to see so
clearly amid the screeching shells and all the hot excite-
ment of battle, says again: * He ' (meaning our forces
from Schimmelpfennig's and Buschbeck's brigades, and
perhaps part of McLean's, who had faced about and
had not yet given away) 'made a stubborn resistance
from behind a wattling fence on a hill covered thickly
" Among the stubborn fighters at this place was Major
Jere Williams. The enemy was drawing near him.
His men fired with coolness and deliberation. His right
rested among scrubby bushes and saplings, while his left
was in comparatively open ground. The fire of the
enemy as he approached was murderous, and almost
whole platoons of our men were falling; yet they held
their ground. He waited, rapidly firing, till not more
than thirty paces intervened, and then ordered the re-
treat. Out of three hundred and thirty-three men and
sixteen commissioned officers in the regiment (Twenty-
fifth Ohio), one hundred and thirty, including five offi-
cers, were killed or wounded."
General Schurz writes of the attack:
". . . At last the storm broke loose. I was with some
of my staff at corps-headquarters, waiting for General
Howard to return, our horses ready at hand. It was
about twenty minutes past five when a number of deer
and rabbits came bounding out of the woods bordering
the opening of Hawkin's farm on the west. The ani-
mals had been started from their lairs by Jackson's ad-
vance. Ordinarily such an appearance of game would
have been greeted by soldiers in the field with outbreaks
of great hilarity. There was hardly anything of the
kind this time. It was as if the men had instinctively
understood the meaning of the occurrence. A little
while later there burst forth, where Gilsa stood, a heavy
roar of artillery, a continuous rattling of musketry, and
the savage screech of the ' rebel yell,' and then happened
what every man of common sense might have foreseen.
Our two cannon standing in the road threw several rapid
discharges into the dense masses of the enemy before
them and then limbered up and tried to escape. But the
rebel infantry were already upon them, shot down the
horses, and captured the pieces. Gilsa's two regiments,
formed at right angle with the turnpike, were at once
covered with a hail of bullets. They discharged three
rounds — it is a wonder they discharged as many — and
then, being fired into from front and from both flanks
at close quarters, they had either to surrender or beat a
hasty retreat. They retreated through the woods, leav-
ing many dead and wounded on the field. Some of
Gilsa's men rallied behind a reserve regiment of the
First division, the 75th Ohio, whose commander. Colo-
nel Riley, had been sensible and quick to change front,
and without orders advanced to help Gilsa. But they
were promptly assailed in front and flank by several
rebel regiments and completely wrecked. Colonel Riley
being killed and the adjutant wounded. Meanwhile the
enemy had also pounced upon the regiments of the First
division, which were deployed in the turnpike. These
regiments, hemmed in on the narrow road between dense
thickets, and attacked on three sides, many of the men
ii8 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
being shot through their backs, were not able to fight at
all. They were simply telescoped and driven down the
turnpike in utter confusion."
General Schurz censured Hooker and Howard severely
for the surprise of the Eleventh corps. He was appar-
ently certain that his position would be attacked in flank
and rear, and as it turned out he was right. But he was
alarmed by the strong demonstrations against the right
wing of the army, and did not stop to think that they
would have been as necessary to cover a retreat as to
mask a flank movement. Hooker and Howard compre-
hended this, and as a retreat was more probable than a
flank attack, they declined to hazard the change of front
suggested by Schurz.
The possibility of a flank attack did not escape
Hooker's attention, as the following dispatch shows:
*' Army of the Potomac,
" May 2, 1863, 9.30 a. m.
"Major-Generals Slocum and Howard: I am
directed by the major-general commanding to say that
the disposition you have made of your corps has been
with a view to a front attack by the enemy. If he
should throw himself upon your flank, he wishes you to
examine the ground and determine upon the position
you will take in that event, in order that you may be
prepared for him in whatever direction he advances.
He suggests that you have heavy reserves well in hand
to meet this contingency. The right of your line does
not appear to be strong enough. No artificial defenses
worth naming have been thrown up, and there appears
CHANCELLORSVILLE 1 19
to be a scarcity of troops at that point, and not, in the
general's opinion, as favorably posted as might be. We
have good reason to suppose that the enemy is moving
to our right. Please advance your pickets as far as may
be safe, in order to obtain timely information of their
"J. H. Van Alen,
" Brigadier General and Aide-de-Camp."
But as the day wore away developments favored the
theory of retreat.
General Howard says :
". . . Jackson's movement, with a stronger indication
of battle, began at sunrise, Rodes, Colston, and A. P.
Hill in order following the old road by the Catherine
Furnace, there shoving off farther south to get beyond
the sight of our men; then sweeping around by a private
road, well known to them, up to the Orange plank ; and
thence on, perhaps a mile farther, through the wild for-
est till the old turnpike was found and crossed.
" The Catherine Furnace, nearly opposite Sickles's
right and two and a half miles distant, gave an open
reach and fully exposed the moving columns to view.
Except at that point the entire Confederate force was
completely covered by woods and by Stuart's busy and
" About sunrise at Dowdall's I heard cheering. It
was a hearty sound, with too much bass in it for that
of the enemy's charge. It was occasioned by General
Hooker, with Colonel Comstock and a few staff officers,
riding along slowly and inspecting the lines. General
Sickles says of this : ' It is impossible to pass over with-
out mention the irrepressible enthusiasm of the troops
I20 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
for Major General Hooker, which was evinced in hearty
and prolonged cheers as he rode along the lines of the
Third, Eleventh, and Twelfth corps.'
" I was ready, mounted, and with my officers joined
the ever increasing cavalcade. Hooker observed the
troops in position; Barlow, who filled the cross trenches
an hour later, had not yet come out of the front line,
so that my reserves just at that time were small. He
noticed the breastworks, unusually well built by Schurz
and Devens. He passed to the extreme right, and then
returned by the shortest route. As he looked over the
barricades, while receiving the salutes and cheers of the
men, he said to me, ' How strong! How strong! '
" I still had much extension, so that there were gaps
along Schurz's and Devens's fronts. Colonel Comstock
spoke to me in his quiet way : ' General, do close in
those spaces ! '
" I said, * The woods are thick and entangled ; will
anybody come through there ? '
"'Oh, they may!'
" His suggestion was heeded.
" During the forenoon General Sickles discovered
Jackson's moving column. It was passing toward
Orange Court House, so everybody said. Sickles for-
warded all reports to General Hooker, who had now re-
turned to Chancellorsville. He tried to divine Jackson's
" About midday Sickles received General Hooker's
orders to advance south cautiously. Soon after, per-
haps by 2 p. m., there was a stronger apprehension of a
conflict, for there was a sharp skirmish in the direction
of Catherine Furnace. The rattle of musketry followed ;
then in a little time was heard the booming of cannon.
I sent the news to every division and said, * Be ready.'
Slocum went forward to the aid of Sickles, and Hancock
was behind him with support. Next, the enemy was re-
ported to be in full retreat. General Hooker so tele-
graphed to Sedgwick; Captain Moore, of his staff, who
had gone out with Birney to see the attack upon Jack-
son, came hurriedly to me with an order from General
Hooker for my reserve brigade, — Barlow's. . . . My
aide had now returned from Sickles, near the Furnace,
and reported in substance that he (Sickles) was glad to
receive the help; that he was about to make a grand
attack, having been for some time driving the enemy,
and expected soon a brilliant result; that he desired to
place my reinforcements upon his right flank in the for-
ward movement. Such was the state of things when,
through Captain Moore, General Hooker directed to
Sickles's attack, at the Furnace, all my general infantry
reserves, consisting of Barlow's stanch brigade. . . ."
Hooker had become so well satisfied that Lee was re-
treating, — and no doubt his opinion was that of his
officers, with the possible exception of Schurz, — that
he took troops from Howard to strengthen Sickles's
fight with Jackson's rear-guard at the Furnace; and as
late as 4.10 p. m., when Johnson was forming for the
attack, he telegraphed to Sedgwick :
" Capture Fredericksburg with everything in it, and
vigorously pursue the enemy. We know that the enemy
is fleeing to save his trains. Two of Sickles's divisions
are amongst them."
The conditions under which the Eleventh corps met
disaster are frankly and correctly stated by General
Howard in the Century Magazine. He says :
122 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
*'. . . Twenty-three years ago in my report to Gen-
eral Hooker I wrote the following:
" ' Now, as to the causes of this disaster to my corps :
" * 1st. Though constantly threatened and apprised
of the moving of the enemy, yet the woods were so dense
that he was able to mass a large force, whose exact
whereabouts neither patrols, reconnaissances, nor scouts
ascertained. He succeeded in forming a column oppo-
site to and outflanking my right.
" * 2d. By the panic produced by the enemy's reserve
fire, regiments and artillery were thrown suddenly upon
those in position.
" ' 3d. The absence of General Barlow's brigade,
which I had previously located in reserve and en echelon
with Colonel von Gilsa's, so as to cover his right flank.
This was the only general reserve I had.'
" Stonewall Jackson was victorious. Even his ene-
mies praise him ; but, providentially for us, it was the
last battle which he waged against the American Union.
For, in bold planning, in energy of execution which he
had the power to diffuse, in indefatigable activity and
moral ascendency, Jackson stood head and shoulders
above his confreres, and after his death General Lee
could not replace him."
Jackson is criticised because he did not go on and on,
after routing Howard's corps, and rout all the other
corps in Hooker's army. This kind of criticism is very
common, the critics forgetting that even a thunderbolt
will stop somewhere. General Colston gives a few rea-
sons for the halt. He says :
" The Federal writers have w^ondered why Jackson's
corps did not complete its work on the evening of May
2d. They do not realize the condition of our troops
after their successful charge on Howard. We had
forced our way through brush so dense that the troops
were nearly stripped of their uniforms. Brigades, regi-
ments, and companies had become so mixed that they
could not be handled; besides which the darkness of
evening was so intensified by the shade of the dense
woods that nothing could be seen a few yards off. The
halt at that time was not a mistake, but a necessity. So
far from intending to stop, Jackson was hurrying A. P.
Hill's division to the front to take the place of Rodes's
and mine, and to continue the attack, when he was
wounded; A. P. Hill was also wounded soon afterward,
and the advance of his troops in the narrow road on
which alone they could move was checked by the shell
and canister of twelve napoleon guns, from an elevation
within five hundred yards. The slaughter and confusion
were greatly increased by this terrible fire in the dark-
ness of the night, so that the pause in the attack was one
of those fatalities of war that no skill or foresight can
Jackson moved his army of 22,000 men fifteen miles
over the narrow roads of the wilderness in the immedi-
ate presence of the enemy. It was a good day's work.
Sir Edward Bruce Hamley in his work, " The Oper-
ations of War Explained and Illustrated," says :
". . . To bring an army from the order of march
to the order of battle is a work of time. . . ."
Colonel Hamley would probably have allowed half a
day for this, and another half for the battle, so it is not
much of an exaggeration to say that when Jackson
124 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
halted his men, or rather when they stopped going, he
had crowded two days' work into one, and that one was
to be followed in a few hours by the great battle of
Of it General Schurz says:
". . . The next morning, Sunday, May 3, found the
Army of the Potomac, about 90,000 men of it, under
General Hooker's immediate command, strongly in-
trenched in the vicinity of the Chancellor House, and
about 22,000 men, under General Sedgwick, near Fred-
ericksburg, moving up to attack General Lee in his rear.
Never did Lee's genius shine more brightly than in the
actions that followed.
" He proved himself, with his 60,000 men against
nearly double that number, a perfect master of that su-
preme art of the military leader, — to oppose with super-
ior forces at every point of decisive importance. First
he flung Jackson's old corps, now under command of
General Jeb Stuart, against some of Hooker's breast-
M^orks in the center, carrying one line of intrenchments
after another by furious assaults. Then hearing that
Sedgwick had taken Marye's Heights and was advancing
from Fredericksburg, he detached from his front against
Hooker a part of his force large enough to overmatch
Sedgwick and drive that general across the Rappahan-
,nock. Then he hurried back the divisions that had
worsted Sedgwick, to make his own force superior to
Hooker's at the point where he wished to strike."
Early probably thought that as he had lost his posi-
tion and exposed the rear of the army to Sedgwick's
large force, Lee would also fall back on the Richmond
road. This was a natural supposition, as he probably
did not know how badly Hooker had been worsted.
But his mistake was of such a serious character that
Lee rode with the troops to oppose Sedgwick, and
Hooker got safely over the river.
Hooker was determined to make the best of the cam-
paign, and so issued the following order :
" Army of the Potomac,
" May 6, 1863.
" The major-general commanding tenders to this
army his congratulations in its achievements of the last
seven days. ... By your celerity and secrecy of move-
ment our advance and passage of the river was undis-
puted, and on our withdrawal not a rebel ventured to
follow. . . .
" By command of Major-General Hooker.
" S. Williams,
" Assistant Adjutant General."
Lincoln, however, extended no congratulations, for
we find in " The Diary of Gideon Wells " the following
" June 20, 1863.
**. . . The President said if Hooker had been killed
by the shot that knocked over the pillar that stunned
him, we should have been successful.
" Sumner said he knew Hooker to be a blasphemous
wretch. At Chancellorsville he exclaimed, ' The enemy
are in my power, and God Almighty cannot deprive me
of them.' "
That was all cabinet meeting talk.
126 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Sumner condemned Hooker because of his blasphemy,
and Lincoln, because he failed to substantiate it.
Hooker is severely criticised for not making better
use of his superior numbers in the Sunday battle.
Mr. Samuel P. Bates, who accompanied him when
he visited Chancellorsville, says :
" I ventured to ask why he did not attack when he
found that the enemy had weakened his forces in the
immediate front and sent them away to meet Sedgwick.
* That,' said he, ' would seem to have been the reasonable
thing to do. But we were in this impenetrable thicket.
All the roads and openings leading through it the enemy
immediately fortified strongly, and planted thickly his
artillery commanding all the avenues, so that with re-
duced numbers he could easily hold his lines, shutting
me in, and it became utterly impossible to maneuver
my forces. My army was not beaten. Only a part of
it had been engaged. The First corps, commanded by
Reynolds, whom I regarded as the ablest officer under
me, was fresh, and ready and eager to be brought into
action, as was my whole army. But I had been fully
convinced of the futility of attacking fortified positions,
and I was determined not to sacrifice my men need-
lessly, though it should be at the expense of my reputa-
tion as a fighting officer. We had already had enough
grievous experience in that line. I made frequent
demonstrations to induce the enemy to attack me, but
he would not accept my challenge. Accordingly, when
the eight days' rations with which my army started out
were exhausted, I retired across the river. Before doing
so I sent orders to General Sedgwick to hold his position
near Banks's Ford, on the south side of the stream, and
I would bring my whole army to his support; but the
order failed to reach him until he had already recrossed
the river. Could I have had my army on the open
grounds at that point where I could have maneuvered it
properly, I felt assured that I could have gained a de-
cisive victory. But this, my last chance, was frus-
General Pleasonton did not think much of the battle.
He says that both Lee and Hooker failed in what they
attempted. He thinks that both attempted to end the
war at Chancellorsville. The reason they did not end
it, he says, was because great victories are only won by
But Lee was not trying to end the war ; he was trying
to prolong it, and he did. Then, if any man was to
blame for Hooker's defeat, Pleasonton was the man.
He was completely outgeneraled by Stuart.
It may be that the defeats of McClellan, Pope, and
Hooker were more complimentary than otherwise to
those officers, for if a general should always anticipate
improbable and apparently impossible movements of his
opponents, and maneuver accordingly, he would be ad-
judged insane; and that is just what they would have
had to do in order to avoid defeat.
Colonel Mosby says of the battle :
" Considering the numerical inferiority of the South-
ern army and the fact that it took the offensive and
drove its antagonist out of big intrenchments and over
the river it had just triumphantly crossed, I consider it
the boldest deed of arms and the most wonderful achieve-
ment in the history of war."
But on the next page Colonel Mosby says :
128 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
". . . At Austerlitz the Allies attempted to do the
same thing that Jackson did and met a great disaster.
But General Lee knew that he did not have Napoleon to
deal with. . . ."
If Napoleon had been in a Wilderness at Austerlitz,
and the Allies had been Confederate infantry commanded
by a Lee, with a Jackson and a Stuart to execute his
orders, he might have fared just about as Hooker did.
Lee, seconded by his ubiquitous lieutenants, Jackson and
Stuart, won an incomparable victory, not through
Hooker's incapacity, but because, as General Schurz so
generously says, ". . . He proved himself a perfect
master of that supreme art of the military leader, — to
oppose with superior forces at every point of decisive
importance. . . ."
And as General Schurz says, ". . . Never did Lee's
genius shine more brightly. . . . than at Chancellors-
" My impression was, and is, that General Lee stand-
ing under his trenches would have been stronger against
Hooker than he was against Burnside, and that he would
have grown stronger every hour of delay, while Hooker
would have grown weaker in morale and in the confi-
dence of his plans and the confidence of his troops. . . .
By the time that the divisions of Pickett and Hood could
have joined Lee, General Hooker would have found
that he must march to the attack or make a retreat with-
out a battle. The Confederates would then have had
bpportunity, and have been in condition, so to follow
Hooker as to have compelled his retirement to Washing-
". . . The battle as a pitched and independent affair
was brilHant, and, if the war was for glory, could be
called successful ; but besides putting the cause upon the
hazard of a die, it was crippling of resources of future
progress, while the wait for a few days would have
given time for concentration and opportunities against
Hooker more effective than were experienced with Burn-
side at Fredericksburg. . . ."
Burnside crossed the river in Lee's front, while
Hooker crossed on his flank, and was in position to
operate against his line of communication. Lee says in
his report that there were roads leading from Chancel-
lorsville to the rear of his army.
Lee said he could not afford to await the pleasure of
the Army of the Potomac. His strategy was designed
always to keep that army busily employed in the defense
of Washington. Chancellorsville enabled him to do
that in 1863 just as Seven Days did in 1862. Seven
Days got his army out of the last ditch, and Chancellors-
ville kept it out. It " compelled Hooker's retirement to
Washington " in much less time than Longstreet's plan
would have done, even if it had been successful, which
in all probability it would not have been.
" Putting the cause on the hazard of a die " was noth-
ing new, Lee did that all through the war. The cause
was desperate and called for heroic operations.
Nor was Chancellorsville more " crippling in resources
than other battles," and Lee captured 5,000 prisoners,
exclusive of wounded, 13 pieces of artillery, 19,500 stand
lof arms, and 17 colors. His loss was 10,000, while
Hooker's was 16,845.
" Chancellorsville is usually accepted as General Lee's
130 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
most brilliant achievement, and considered as an inde-
pendent affair, it was certainly grand."
Yes, and considered as a part of the campaign of
1863 it was grander, as it enabled Lee to throw Hooker
from Virginia into Pennsylvania. None of Lee's oper-
ations were " independent affairs." They were all de-
signed with one end in view, and that was the prolonga-
tion of the war.
There is a romantic story of Lee and Jackson sitting
on cracker boxes on the night of the ist, and it is said
by some that Jackson proposed the flank movement.
The " cracker box " story does very well to " point a
moral or adorn a tale," but it is fair to assume that the
Chancellorsville net had been spread for Hooker long
before the cracker box appeared on the scene, and that
every thread of it had been carefully gone over. Von
Moltke began, in 1867, to make plans for the war with
France and completed them in the early part of 1869;
and Lee in the following letter says that " every move-
ment of an army must be well considered and properly
ordered." And it is a fair historical inference that he
did not wait for the cracker boxes.
"Lexington, Va., Oct. 28, 1867.
" Dr. a. T. Bledsoe,
" Office Southern Reznruj,
" My dear Sir : In reply to your inquiry, I must ac-
knowledge that I had not read the article on Chancel-
lorsville in the last number of the Southern Reznew, nor
have I read any of the books published on either side
since the termination of hostilities. I have as yet felt
no desire to review any recollections of those events,
and have been satisfied with the knowledge I possessed
of what transpired. I have, however, learned from
others that the various authors of the life of Jackson
award to him the credit of the success gained by the
Army of Northern Virginia when he was present, and
describe the movements of his corps or command as
independent of the general plan of operations and under-
taken at his own suggestion and upon his own responsi-
" I have the greatest reluctance to do anything that
might be considered detracting from his well deserved
fame, for I believe no one was more convinced of his
worth or appreciated him more highly than myself; yet
your knowledge of military affairs, if you have none of
the events themselves, will teach you that this could not
have been so.
" Every movement of an army must be well considered
and properly ordered, and every one who knew General
Jackson must know that he was too good a soldier to
violate this fundamental principle. In the operations
around Chancellorsville I overtook General Jackson, who
had been placed in command of the advance, as the
skirmishers of the two armies met, advanced with the
troops to the Federal line of defenses, and was on the
field until their whole army recrossed the Rappahannock.
There is no question as to who was responsible for the
operations of the Confederates, or to whom any failure
would have been charged. What I have said is for your
own information. . . .
" I am, with great respect, your friend and servant,
''R. E. Lee."
Lee no doubt planned the flank movement as he did
the whole battle, and Jackson executed it. The plan was
132 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
bold and desperate, the execution rapid and glorious,
and to Lee and Jackson the honors have been awarded.
Stuart has received little credit ; but to shield that column,
actually in contact with the enemy, with his *' busy and
noisy cavalry," and finally lead it to a position from
which it could fall like a thunderbolt on the enemy was
the w^ork of no ordinary cavalryman, but rather of one
of a triumvirate of military geniuses that made of Chan-
cellorsville an unparalleled victory.
General Schurz pays Stuart the following very pretty
". . . On the nth we had a day's truce between the
two armies for the purpose of caring for the wounded
and burying the dead. Confederate and Union officers
met on the battle-field of Cedar Mountain and exchanged
polite compliments. The famous cavalry general, * Jeb
Stuart,' a figure of martial elegance, was one of the Con-
federate generals. I am sorry I did not have any con-
versation with him, for I could not help feeling myself
attracted by that handsome young enemy looking so gay
and so brave. . . ."
If business had been as dead in the North as it was
in the South, Chancellorsville might have ended the war.
But business was booming. Fortunes were being rapidly
made, and as money is the panacea for all the ills that
flesh is heir to, Chancellorsville grieved the North less
than any previous defeat, and so it was " On with the
Facing page 133
THE books written by Lee's generals, staff, and biog-
raphers make it appear that he planned the Gettys-
burg campaign to conquer Confederate independence at
G£ttysburg, and that Confederate independence was
possible at Gettysburg.
As he did not accomplish the alleged object, these
authors and historians, who naturally inferred that their
books were the best authority, have made of the cam-
paign the fatal failure, and of the battle the grand de-
cisive battle, of the war.
We shall see that beyond the employment of his usual
strategy, designed as ever to limit the activity of the
Army of the Potomac to the defense of Washington,
Lee had no plan.
We shall see that he had no idea of conquering Con-
federate independence at Gettysburg, and that Confeder-
ate independence at Gettysburg was impossible.
We shall see that the campaign was not a failure, and
that the battle was not a decisive battle, but a mere
accidental incident of a successful campaign.
Lee with 70,000 men in the North did not conquer
Confederate independence in July, 1863. Neither did
Lincoln subdue the Confederacy with 70,000 men in the
South in July, 1863. It took him nearly two years
longer to do it with nearly a million men in the South,
and more war craft than ever engaged in any war.
134 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Among other errors that contribute to the exaggerated
importance of the battle of Gettysburg is the idea that it
marked the " turning point," the " high tide of the re-
belHon." This mistaken view is due to the fact that
Lee's victories were brilHant, and gained on the most
conspicuous field, — that between Washington and Rich-
mond, — and therefore obscured the Federal successes
Two years after the war commenced, March 5, 1861,
with the firing on Sumter, the Federals had taken Nor-
folk and New Orleans, and held the Mississippi from
source to mouth, except at Vicksburg. Kentucky and
Missouri were held by Federal forces, and Tennessee
had been made almost untenable by Grant's operations
and the navy on the Tennessee river. Fort Pulaski had
fallen, and with it went, practically. Savannah. The
North had the largest navy afloat; the South, none
worthy of the name. The Northern navy held the
southern ports almost in complete blockade. It held the
coast to the Rio Grande, and dominated all the rivers.
The fortunes of the Confederacy waned everywhere
from the first, except in Virginia, and the " turning
point " there came in the Wilderness when Lee found
himself so weak, comparatively, that he was compelled
to renounce his hitherto aggressive policy, and act en-
tirely on the defensive.
This condition was decisive, and would have existed
just the same if Lee had defeated Meade at Gettysburg,
or had there been no Gettysburg. Gettysburg was not
a decisive battle in immediate effect, or in its influence
on subsequent conditions; nor does it rank as a Con-
federate disaster with the surrender of Vicksburg and
Pemberton's army, which was made while Lee and
Meade confronted each other at Gettysburg. Vicksburg
was the loss of an amiy with artillery and infantry arms,
so precious to the Confederacy, and of a valuable stra-
tegic point, while Gettysburg was simply a repulse.
General Joe Johnston was in command of the geo-
graphical department embracing Vicksburg, and was em-
powered to use the entire resources at his command to
On the 15th of June he telegraphed to the War De-
partment from Jackson, Mississippi :
" I consider saving Vicksburg hopeless."
The Secretary replied :
" Your telegram grieves and alarms us, Vicksburg
must not be lost, at least without a struggle. The inter-
est and honor of the Confederacy forbid it. I rely on
you still to avert the loss. If better resource does not
offer, you must hazard attack. It may be made in con-
cert with the garrison, if practicable, but otherwise with-
out. By day or night as you think best."
On the 2ist the Secretary wires as follows:
" Only my convictions of almost imperative necessity
for action induces the official dispatch I have just sent
you. On every ground I have great deference for your
judgment and military genius, but I feel it right to share,
if need be to take, the responsibility and leave you free
to follow the most desperate course the occasion may
demand. Rely upon it, the eyes and hopes of the whole
Confederacy are upon you, with the full confidence that
you will act, and with the sentiment that it were better
to fall nobly daring than, through prudence even, to be
136 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
inactive. I look to attack in the last resort, but rely
on your resources of generalship to suggest less desper-
ate modes of relief."
There was no such anxiety as this over Gettysburg.
The object of the Gettysburg campaign we have in
Lee's own words. It is explicitly stated in the following
letter to Mr. Seddon, Secretary of War:
" CuLPEPER Court House, June 8, 1863.
" As far as I can judge there is nothing to be gained
by this army's remaining quietly on the defensive, which
it must, unless it can be reinforced. I am aware there
is difficulty and hazard in taking the aggressive with so
large an army in its front intrenched behind a river
where it cannot be advantageously attacked. Unless it
can be drawn out in a position to be assailed, it will take
its own time to prepare and strengthen itself to renew
its advance upon Richmond and force this army back
within the intrenchments of that city. This may be the
result in any event ; still I think it worth the trial to
prevent such a catastrophe. Still, if the Department
thinks it better to remain on the defensive and guard,
as far as possible, all avenues of approach and wait the
time of the enemy, I am ready to adopt this course.
You have, therefore, only to inform me."
So far from expecting to conquer Confederate inde-
pendence at Gettysburg, Lee was not sure that he would
not be forced within the intrenchments at Richmond,
even if he received reinforcements. It was to avert
** such a catastrophe " that he ordered the forward move-
Of this General Hunt says :
" These operations indicate on the part of General
Lee either a contempt for his opponent, or a bcHef that
the chronic terror of the War Department for the safety
of Washington could be safely relied upon to paralyze
his movements, or both. On no other hypothesis can
we account for his stretching his arniy from Fredericks-
burg to Williamsport, with his enemy concentrated on
one flank and on the shortest road to Richmond."
Again General Hunt says :
*' On June 10, he (General Hooker), learning that
Lee was in motion and that there were but few troops
at Richmond, proposed an immediate march on that
place, from which, after capturing it, he could send the
disposable part of his force to any threatened point north
of the Potomac; and he was informed that Lee's army
and not Richmond was his ' true objective.' "
The following dispatch from Lincoln to Hooker is
the one to which Hunt refers sarcastically:
"... I think Lee's army is your true objective point.
If he comes toward the upper Potomac, follow on his
flank. . . ."
"Had he (Hooker) taken Richmond, Peck's large
force at Suffolk and Keyes's 10,000 men on the Penin-
sula might have been utilized, and Hooker's whole army
set free for operations against Lee.
" It was not now a question of * swapping queens.'
Washington was safe, being well fortified and sufficiently
138 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
garrisoned, or with available troops within reach, with-
out drawing on Hooker; and to take Richmond and
scatter the Confederate government was the surest way
to ruin Lee's army, ' his true objective.'
" The same day, June 10, Hooker proposed to march
on Richmond, Mr. Seddon replied to Lee's letter, con-
curring in his views. He considered aggressive action
necessary, ' that all attendant risks and sacrifices must
be incurred,' and adds : ' I have not hesitated, in co-
operating with your plans, to leave this city almost
Lee did not hold Hooker in contempt. He com-
manded too large an army to be contemptible. But he
realized, as he had from the first, that if he should be
thrown on the defensive it would be the beginning of
the end. The movement was desperate; the alternative,
Hooker obeyed Lincoln's instructions and marched
along on Lee's flank. Ewell cleared the Valley of Mil-
roy's forces and crossed the Potomac June 15. Old
Virginia was devastated, the rail fences had been burned
and the grass was short, while in Maryland and Penn-
sylvania there were " fresh fields and pastures new."
Ewell met no opposition, and no doubt he and his men
had the time of their lives while gathering up " uncon-
sidered trifles " in the way of supplies, cattle, etc., etc., so
badly needed by their friends in Virginia.
The advance into Pennsylvania created consternation
in Harrisburg, Pittsburg, and Philadelphia ; and Lee was
in hopes that Lincoln would call troops from the South,
especially from Vicksburg, — which is another proof
that he did not expect to conquer Confederate independ-
ence at Gettysburg. But Lincoln met the emergency by
GEORGE G. MEADE
Facing page 139
assembling thirty regiments of Pennsylvania militia and
nineteen regiments from New York, with cavalry and
artillery at Harrisburg.
On the 19th of June, Lee, who was at Berryville, Va.,
wrote to Ewell, who was at Hagerstown, Md. :
" I very much regret that you have not the benefit
of your whole corps, for, with that north of the Poto-
mac, should we be able to detain General Hooker's army
from following you, you would be able to accomplish
as much unmolested as the whole army could perform
with General Hooker in its front. H your advance
causes Hooker to cross the Potomac, or separate his army
in any way, Longstreet can follow you."
When Lee wrote this letter it is evident he did not
know whether or not he would cross the river at all,
and he certainly did not expect Ewell, even if he had
his whole corps with him, to conquer Confederate in-
dependence. His whole object, as he says, was to
" detain " Hooker ; and he was not particular as to how
or where he did it. No doubt he would have been con-
tent to winter up there. But his army was divided, and
to divide an army in the presence of a larger army, es-
pecially when a part of it is to operate in the territory
of a powerful enemy, is a hazardous operation ; but to
keep it divided for any considerable time is to invite
disaster. Conditions were of an uncertain character,
and rather than have them continue so, Lee detemiined
to put an end to them, by uniting his army in Pennsyl-
vania, knowing that such a move would compel Hooker
to make a corresponding one. Hence, in a letter to
Davis written at Williamsport, June 25, he said:
" I have not sufficient troops to maintain my com-
140 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
munications and have to abandon them. I think I can
throw General Hooker's army across the Potomac and
draw troops from the South, embarrassing their plans of
campaign in a measure, if I do nothing else, and have to
return. I still hope all things will end well for us at
The same day he writes again :
". . . So strong is my conviction of the necessity of
activity on our part in military affairs that you will ex-
cuse my adverting to the subject again, notwithstanding
what I have said in my previous letter to-day. It seems
to me that we cannot afford to keep our troops waiting
movements of the enemy, but should so employ our forces
as to give occupation to his at points of our selec-
tion. . . ."
There is nothing in these letters to indicate that he
expects to bag Confederate independence at Gettys-
burg. He abandons his line of communication and car-
ries with him what ammunition he expects to use,
certainly not enough for battles and a siege of Washing-
ton. He was not in pursuit of the ignis fatuus of Con-
federate independence at Gettysburg — he did not expect
to end the war there or anywhere. His purpose was
exactly the reverse, — it was to protract the war. For
in its prolongation lay the only hope of Confederate
The campaign was a failure in the estimation of Lee*s
staff and biographers, not through any fault of Lee's
but because Stuart took the cavalry on an unauthorized
raid around Meade's army, leaving " Lee in Pennsyl-
vania," as Colonel Taylor expresses it, " a giant with
his eyes put out."
Speaking of Stuart at Gettysburg, Colonel Taylor says :
". . . No report had reached General Lee from Gen-
eral Stuart, who was ordered to give notice of the move-
ments of the Federal army, should it cross the Potomac;
and as nothing had been heard from him, General Lee
naturally concluded that the enemy had not yet left
Virginia. . . . Great was his surprise and annoyance
therefore when on the 28th he received information from
one of his scouts to the effect that the Federal army had
crossed the Potomac and was approaching South Moun-
tain. How materially different his plans would have
been had he been kept informed of the movements of his
adversaries will never be known. . . ."
Lee's reports agree with the books of his staff as to
his ignorance of the movements of the enemy, but they
probably have the same authors.
Colonel Taylor says :
". . . General Lee could not bear to be annoyed with
the consideration of these matters of routine. . . When
the staff was first organized a large batch of these papers
was submitted to him every morning. , . This went on
for a short time, and then he called me to him and said
that he would have to put me back in the office. I knew
what he meant and I acted accordingly. He wished re-
lief from such annoyance; he had real work to do and
wished to be rid of these matters of detail."
Longstreet tells of the scout in his report. He says :
". . . On the night of the 28th one of my scouts came
in with the information that the enemy had passed the
142 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Potomac and was probably in pursuit of us. The scout
was sent to general headquarters with the suggestion
that the army concentrate east of the mountain and bear
down to meet the enemy."
Yet Longstreet says in his book that he opposed ag-
gressive action in Pennsylvania.
The startling report of the scout, according to Long-
street and Lee's staff, caused a radical change of plans.
But Colonel Mosby proves that the scout reported at
Greenwood on the 30th, and not at Chambersburg on the
28th, and that the alleged change of plans was ordered
on the 27th.
Nor was it a change of plan at all — it was simply
an order for concentration.
Lee refused to see the scout, which is good evidence
that he knew the enemy had crossed the river. He left
cavalry in observation of the Army of the Potomac, and
his signal corps had a favorable country in which to
But if he had had neither he would have known
where the Army of the Potomac was, because its place
was between him and Washington.
General Hunt says :
". . . General Hooker's instructions were to keep al-
ways in view the safety of Washington and Harper's
Ferry, and this necessarily subordinated his operations
to those of the enemy. . . ."
Lee knew this — it was what he based his strategy
Lee was disappointed in not finding Stuart at or near
Chambersburg, and his staff exaggerated the incident in
order to relieve him of responsibility for their fancied
Facing page 143
failure of the campaign. They were so zealous that they
failed to see that they were exposing their idol to a
charge of incompetency, for, as Colonel Mosby says, and
as any one of common sense would say: ". . . If Gen-
eral Lee did not know when he first arrived at Cham-
bersburg, and if Longstreet did not know that Hooker
had crossed the Potomac, then neither was fit to com-
mand an army, nor an army corps. . . "
While at Chambersburg Lee knew where the Army
of the Potomac was, and that is why, on the 27th, he
recalled Ewell from York. He intended to concentrate
his army at Cashtown, as his order and the following
letter show :
" Greenwood, July i, 1863.
" Brig. Gen. L D. Imboden.
"General: I have received your letter of 7 a. m,
3^esterday from Mercersburg. . . . Upon arriving at
Chambersburg to-day I desire you to relieve General
Pickett, who will then move forward to this place. . . .
My headquarters for the present will be at Cashtown,
east of the mountain."
Lee wanted to be where he could invite attack on his
front, or fall upon any force that might move against
his line of communication, — such a move as that con-
templated by Hooker when he asked Halleck for the
Harper's Ferry garrison.
Cashtown was clearly indicated.
Meade did not hear of Ewell's countermarch until the
1st, because Stuart had cut the wires; but as soon as he
got the news he issued a general order for his army to
withdraw to the line of Pipe Creek.
Neither Lee nor Meade had any use for Gettysburg.
Lee held it on the 24th of June with Gordon's division.
144 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
and gave it up. Meade held it on the 30th with Buford's
cavalry, and was going to give it up the next day. The
only interest the Confederates manifested in the place
was because they thought it a good town for shoes.
Pettigrew's brigade marched there from Cashtown on
the 30th in search of shoes, but instead found Buford's
cavalry. Gordon's men were there a week before, and
no doubt got all the shoes that would fit.
But A. P. Hill, who was at Cashtown, bright and early
on the morning of the ist sent Heth's and Pender's
divisions and two battalions of artillery out toward Get-
tysburg. He said he wanted to " find out what was in
his front." About the same time Reynolds, who had
three corps at Emmitsburg, was marching toward Gettys-
burg. He was not expecting a fight, because he thought
at that time that Lee was marching north.
Hetli struck Buford about three miles from Gettys-
burg. Buford fought his cavalry dismounted and noti-
fied Reynolds. In this way the battle of the first day
Colonel Mosby says that Hill marched from Cash-
town without orders, not to " find out what was in his
front," but to hunt a fight; and he is probably correct,
for Hill was lonesome without a fight. Then he was
absolutely devoid of discretion. More than once he led
his men to certain slaughter, and fell himself at Peters-
burg as the curtain was falling on the last act of the war
drama. And so Colonel Mosby makes Hill " responsible
for bringing upon us the dies irae, dies ilia."
But it was well known throughout the army that Lee
was annoyed at not finding Stuart at or near Chambers-
burg. Colonel Mosby proves that it was impossible for
him to be there, but Lee had little respect for impos-
What Lee wanted with Stuart at Chambersburg was
not to tell him that Hooker had crossed the river, for he
knew that, but to put him between the two armies ; and
if Stuart had been there, Pleasonton would have been in
his front, and the cavalry operations would have pre-
vented Hill from going to Gettysburg. So while the
collision was due to Hill's indiscretion, that indiscretion
would have been impossible if Stuart had been present.
H Stuart had not cut Meade's wires, there would have
been no Gettysburg, because the order of withdrawal
would have been issued sooner, and would have caught
Reynolds before he left camp on the morning of the
1st. If Hill had not felt that he needed a fight, — or
if Stuart had been between the two armies, — there
would have been no Gettysburg. So Gettysburg was an
accidental incident of the campaign.
The real gravamen of the charge that Lee's friends
make against Stuart, and that Colonel Mosby urges
against Hill, is that the battle of the ist, in Colonel
Mosby's words, ". . . compelled Lee to stay at Gettys-
burg and fight a battle under duress, or retreat, or at
least appear to retreat. . . ."
We shall see later on that that was not the reason
Lee continued fighting at Gettysburg.
He had a much better reason.
The battle of the first day ended with Lee's tired troops
in possession of the field, and the enemy strongly posted
with reinforcements on Gulp's Hill.
General Gordon thought the battle ought to have been
made decisive. He says:
". . . From the situation plainly to be seen on the
first afternoon, and from the facts that afterward came
to light as to the positions of different corps of General
146 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Meade's army, it seems certain that if the Confederates
had simply moved forward, following up the advantage
gained, and striking the separated Union commands in
succession, the victory would have been Lee's instead of
Meade's. . . ."
That is, if the Confederates had taken Culp's Hill,
and Meade had obligingly marched his separated com-
mands up so that Lee could beat them in detail, the
victory might have been Lee's instead of Meade's. But
it is not by any means certain that the Confederates
could have carried Culp's Hill; it appeared doubtful.
General Hunt says :
*' Ewell's absent division did not arrive until near sun-
set, when the Twelfth Federal corps and Stannard's Ver-
mont brigade were up also, and the Third corps arriving.
In fact an assault by the Confederates was not practic-
able before 5 :30 p. m. ; and after that the position was
perfectly secure. For the first time that day the Federals
had the advantage of position, and sufficient troops and
artillery to occupy it, and General Ewell would not have
been justified in attacking without positive orders of Gen-
eral Lee, who was present and wisely abstained from
giving them. . . ."
But if Lee had carried Culp's Hill, Meade, instead of
marching his separated commands up to have them
beaten in detail, would have ordered them to concen-
tration in strong position on the line of Pipe Creek, as
was his original intention.
General Hunt says :
" When Meade learned that Ewell had withdrawn
R. S. EWELL
Facing page 146
from the Susquehanna he issued a circular order to Corps
"'If the enemy assume the offensive, and attack, it
is my intention, after holding them in check sufficiently
long to withdraw trains and other impedimenta, to with-
draw the army from its present position and form a
line of battle with the left resting in the neighborhood
of Middleburg and the right at Manchester, the general
direction being that of Pipe Creek.' "
Of this position General Hunt says:
" From Westminster, which is on the Paris ridge, the
eastern boundary of the valley of the Monocacy, good
roads led in every direction and gave the place the same
strategic value for Meade that Gettysburg did for Lee.
The new line could not be turned by Lee without im-
minent danger to his own army, nor could he afford to
advance upon Washington or Baltimore, leaving the
Army of the Potomac intact behind and so near him.
That would be to invite the fate of Burgoyne. . . .
". . . Without magazines, or assured communications,
Lee would have to scatter his army more or less, in order
to subsist it, and so expose it to Meade's ; or else keep
it united, and so starve it, and Meade could compel the
latter alternative by simple demonstrations.
" There would be but two courses for Lee, either to
attack Meade in his chosen position or retreat without
a battle. . . .
" In case of defeat Meade's line of retreat would be
comparatively short, and easily covered, whilst Lee's
would be for two marches through an open country be-
fore he could gain the mountain passes. . . ."
Lee had defeated McClellan at Richmond, Pope at
148 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Manassas, Burnside at Fredericksburg, and Hooker at
Chancellorsville ; but in every case they had fallen back
to strong positions, — McClellan at Harrison's Landing,
Pope on the south bank of the Potomac, and Hooker
and Burnside on the north bank of the Rappahannock.
And they were all in position to resist attack. H Meade
had been defeated, there was nothing to prevent him
from doing what his predecessors had so often done with
the same army.
Lee said he carried into Pennsylvania what ammuni-
tion he thought he would need. As he did not get any
more he would hardly have had enough to take Gulp's
Hill and demolish all Meade's separated columns as they
marched up. In fact, he was short of ammunition
after the 3d day, and did not get any more until July
10, when he was standing at bay on the river, waiting
for it to fall so that he could get back into Virginia.
What little he got then came over in rowboats.
Then his 70,000 men, after demolishing Meade's 90,-
000 or 100,000, would have been reduced to, say, 50,-
000, for a siege of Washington, with the 49 regiments
that were at Harrisburg behind the intrenchments with
the garrison already there. Then, as Vicksburg fell on
the 4th, Grant could have spared, say, 50,000 to save
Washington. They could have reached Lee's rear in
three or four days.
General Gordon says:
" Calmly reviewing the ind'sputable facts which made
the situation at Gettysburg and in the Wilderness strik-
ingly similar, and considering them from a purely mili-
tary and worldly standpoint, I should utter my
profoundest conviction were I to say : ' Had Jackson
been there, the Confederacy had not died,' "
But Lee was " there." Hearing the guns when he
arrived at Cashtown, he rode rapidly on to Gettysburg
and arrived just as the battle ended. He did not think
it advisable to order an attack on Gulp's Hill, and no
doubt Jackson would have agreed with him, as he was
far more discreet than Lee.
The battle of the first day at Gettysburg was some-
thing like Jackson's battle at Cedar Mountain. There
he routed the enemy from the field, occupied it two
days, then fell back toward Gordonsville. He did not
feel it incumbent upon him to fight another battle, for
the enemy was reinforced, just as he was at Gettysburg.
Had Jackson, Hannibal, Napoleon, and Joshua " been
there," the Confederacy " had died " just the same.
Longstreet says that on the afternoon of the first day
he rode to Lee's headquarters, and after surveying the
enemy rallying his forces on Cemetery Ridge, and satis-
fying himself of the strength of the position, he said to
Lee : " We could not call the enemy to position better
suited to our plans. All we have to do is to file round
his left and secure good ground between him and his
" This," Longstreet continues, " when said, was
thought to be the opinion of my commander as much
as my own. I was not a little surprised therefore at
his impatience as, striking the air with his closed hand,
he said: *If he is there to-morrow, I will attack
him.' . . . That he was excited and off his balance was
evident on the afternoon of the first, and he labored
under that oppression until enough blood was shed to
Lee was no doubt as much surprised at Longstreet's
plan as Longstreet was at Lee's reception of it.
I50 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Lee knew before he reached Gettysburg that what-
ever he did had to be done at once — that time was the
essence of the occasion — as the following from Long-
street's book will show :
" At Cashtown General Lee found General Hill had
halted his division, under R. H. Anderson, and his re-
serve artillery. He had General Anderson called, who
subsequently wrote me of the interview as follows :
' About twelve o'clock I received a message notifying
me that General Lee desired to see me. I found him
intently listening to the fire of the guns and very much
disturbed, and distressed. At length he said, more to
himself than to me: " I cannot think what has become
of Stuart. I ought to have heard from him long before
now. He may have met with disaster, but I hope not.
In the absence of reports from him I am in ignorance as
to what we have in front of us. It may be the whole
Federal army, or it may be only a detachment. If it
is the whole Federal force we must fight a battle here.
If we do not gain a victory those defiles and gorges we
passed this morning will shelter us from disaster." ' "
He realized that if he was to fight, the sooner the
better, also that he must keep his back up against those
defiles and gorges ; and therefore he was prompt in re-
jecting Longstreet's proposal.
Longstreet contends that his flank movement would
have called Meade to aggressive battle with the Con-
federates on good ground of their own selection. But
it is hardly probable that Meade would have remained
passive while Lee filed around his left in search of Long-
street's " good ground." He might have preferred to
fall back to good ground himself, just as Lee fell back
after the Wilderness in response to Grant's flank move-
ment; or he might have decided to attack while Lee
was executing a difficult movement and unmasking those
" defiles and gorges," for even if he had been repulsed
he could have fallen back as his army had done on
several similar occasions, and just as Lee did after his
Or suppose Meade had permitted Lee to file around
his left and occupy in peace and quiet Longstreet's " good
ground between him and his capital." How comfortable
Lee would have been, seventy miles north of Washington,
with a limited supply of ammunition, and " those defiles
and gorges " exposed to the enemy.
General Hunt says of Longstreet's plan:
" It had not been General Lee's intention to deliver
a battle so far from his base unless attacked, but he now
found himself, by the mere force of circumstances, com-
mitted to one. If it must take place, the sooner the
better. . . . Longstreet indeed urged General Lee in-
stead of attacking to turn General Meade's left, and by in-
terposing between him and Washington, and threatening
his communications, to force him to attack the Confeder-
ate army in position ; but General Lee probably saw that
Meade would be under no such necessity ; would have no
great difficulty in obtaining supplies, and disregarding the
clamor from Washington, could play a waiting game
which it would be impossible for Lee to maintain in the
open country. He could not advance on Baltimore or
Washington with Meade in his rear, nor could his army
subsist in a hostile region which would soon swarm with
additional enemies. His communication could be cut,
for his recommendation to assemble even a small army
at Culpeper to cover them had not been complied with.
152 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
A battle was a necessity to Lee, and a defeat would be
more disastrous to Meade, and less so to himself, at
Gettysburg than at any point east of it. With the defiles
of the South Mountain range close in his rear, which
could be easily held by a small force, a safe retreat
through the Cumberland Valley was assured, so that his
army, once through these passes, would be practically on
the bank of the Potomac, at a point already prepared
for crossing. Any position east of Gettysburg would
deprive him of these advantages. It is more probable
that General Lee was influenced by cool calculation of
this nature than by hot blood, or that the opening suc-
cess of a chance battle had thrown him off his balance."
Meade was on the lookout. He dispatched Halleck:
"July 2, 1863, 3 p. m. H not attacked, and can get
any positive information of the position of the enemy
which will justify me in so doing, I shall attack. If
I find it hazardous to do so, or am satisfied the enemy
is endeavoring to move to my rear and interpose be-
tween me and Washington, I shall fall back on my sup-
plies at Westminster."
Longstreet elaborately defends his proposed flank
movement. He cites General Grant at Petersburg and
Von Moltke at Metz, but fails to note that General Grant
had three times as many men as Lee, and Von Moltke
about twice as many as the French, whereas Lee at Get-
tysburg was materially inferior in numbers, equipment,
etc., to Meade. Then, neither Grant's nor Moltke's lines
of communication were threatened, in fact they were ab-
solutely secure, while Lee's, such as they were, were in
Longstreet quotes a contributor to Blackwood's Maga-
zine, who had evidently been deluded by reading his
" ' If/ said he (Lee) on many occasions, * I had taken
General Longstreet's advice on the eve of the second day
of the battle of Gettysburg, and filed off the left corps
of my army behind the right corps, in the direction of
Washington and Baltimore, along the Emmitsburg road,
the Confederates would to-day be a free people.' "
If Lee ever said this or anything like it, it must have
been during a fit of aberration.
I wrote to Gen. Fitz Lee while he was in Cuba, re-
garding this alleged admission, and he replied:
" November 5, 1900. Longstreet did not get on the
field with his troops until the second day's fight. The
two armies were in such close proximity then that it
could not be possible to turn Meade's left flank, because
our transportation would have been in danger of capture
and our lines of communication with Virginia cut off.
It was not, however, a practicable move at any time."
The Count of Paris is prolific in alternatives at Lee's
disposal, but it is only necessary to name his preference.
It is : " He, Lee, has the choice to retire into the gaps
of South Mountain in order to compel Meade to come
after him." He says that this would have been the best
plan, " because by preserving the strategic offensive, Lee
would then secure all the advantages of the tactical de-
But Meade might have objected to being compelled
to follow Lee into any traps. He might have preferred
154 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
to leave Lee in the gaps, for it would only have been
a question of time when he would have been bottled up
by Meade's reinforcements, which were being rushed
from every direction.
Then General Lee says in his report of the time:
" At the same time we were unable to await an at-
tack, as the country was unfavorable for collecting sup-
plies in the presence of an enemy who could restrain
our foraging parties by holding the mountain passes with
local and other troops."
On the 1 2th of July he wrote to Davis from Williams-
" But for the power the enemy possesses of accumulat-
ing troops I should be willing to await his attack."
The battle of the first has been underrated by his-
torians. It lasted from 8 a. m. to 4 p. m., and was one
of the most stubbornly contested battles of the war.
The loss on both sides was heavy, and Meade's greater
than on the third day. Heth's and Pender's divisions
were badly used up, and would have been driven back to
Cashtown had not Rodes, who was marching for concen-
tration, hearing the guns, changed his direction and come
to their aid. Even then the battle was doubtful until
Early, following Rodes, came in on the Federal right
From Lee's report :
" More than 5000 prisoners, exclusive of wounded, 3
pieces of artillery, and some colors were captured.
Among the prisoners were two brigadier generals, one
of whom was badly wounded. Our own loss was heavy,
including a number of officers, among whom were Major
General Heth slightly, and Brigadier General Scales of
Pender's division severely, wounded. . . ."
Meade sustained a heavy loss in the death of General
Reynolds, and Lee lost General Archer, who was cap-
The battle of the first did commit Meade to Gettys-
burg. The intelligence that he had been defeated and
had retreated, leaving his dead and wounded on the field,
would have thrown the North into convulsions. Then
there was a strong sentiment both in the army and the
country which favored the restoration of McClellan.
Powerful influences urged it on Lincoln, and while he
stemmed the tide, he might not have been able to do it
if Meade had fallen back on Westminster.
But Lee, after burying his dead and removing his
wounded, could have drawn his lines in to Cashtown
without producing the slightest effect in the South; and
there was, of course, no man in the Confederate army
that could take his place. And so he had no such rea-
sons as Meade had for staying at Gettysburg.
When Lee passed through Cashtown he did not know
whether he had the Amiy of the Potomac in his front
or only a detachment; but when he reached Gettysburg
and saw the enemy retreating he knew it was a detach-
ment, because he knew that the Confederates present could
not have routed the Army of the Potomac from the field.
Any ordinary commander under the circumstances, —
an unexpected victory calculated to encourage him and
depress his opponent, who had only a detachment present,
— would have detemiined to fight it out. And so Lee
did not have to be " compelled " to fight at Gettysburg.
Both sound military sense and his inclination, which
156 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
was always to fight if he had half a chance, impelled
Of the time General Hunt says :
". . . . Early on the morning of July 2 when nearly
all the Confederate army had reached Gettysburg or its
immediate vicinity, a large portion of the Army of the
Potomac was still on the road. The Second corps and
Sykes, with two divisions of the Fifth, arrived about
7 a. m., Crawford's division not joining until noon;
Lockwood's brigade, two regiments from Baltimore, at
eight; De Trobrians's and Burling's brigades of the
Third corps, from Emmitsburg, at nine, and the artil-
lery Reserve and its large ammunition train from Tarry-
town at 10.30 a. m. Sedgwick's Sixth corps, the largest
in the army, after a long night march from Manchester,
reached Rock Creek at 4 p. m. . . ."
Now at this time, the morning of the 2d, it is clear
that Stuart's absence had accidentally given Lee the ad-
vantage over Meade.
He had won a considerable victory and had his army
concentrated while Meade's was scattered.
It is true that Gettysburg was the result of Stuart's
absence, but he was not responsible for the conduct of
the battle; and its conduct is all that there is to regret
in the entire campaign.
Lee knew that Meade would decide immediately
whether or not he would hold the ridge, and if he decided
to hold it he would order his marching columns to Get-
tysburg. Every hour would add fortifications and rein-
forcements to a naturally strong position, therefore the
sooner he attacked in the morning the better.
Lee's plan of battle was for Longstreet to attack
Meade's left, and for Ewell to act in concert by a dem-
onstration on his right to be developed into an attack if
But Longstreet was not ready to attack until 5 p. m.,
when Lee must have known that the whole Army of the
Potomac was on the ridge, and that the advantage for-
tune had thrown in his way had vanished. If he could
have resisted his temptation to fight anyhow, he might
have withdrawn to Cashtown, with a tactical disposition
to take advantage of any mistake Meade might make if
he pursued. And even if he had continued the retreat,
the objects of the campaign would have been secured
just as they were. But the enemy was in sight, the
hunt was up, and Hood advanced to the attack. He was
severely wounded by the artillery fire and General Law
succeeded to the command of the division. He says :
". . . Advancing rapidly across the valley ... all
the time under a heavy fire from the batteries, our front
line struck the enemy's skirmishers posted along the
further edge of the valley. Brushing these quickly
away, we soon came upon their first line of battle run-
ning along the lower slopes of the hills known as Devil's
Den, to our left of Round Top, and separated from the
latter by Plum Run valley. The fighting soon became
close and severe. Exposed to the artillery fire from the
heights in front and on our left, as well as to the mus-
ketry of the infantry, it required all the steadfastness
and courage of the veterans of the Army of Northern
Virginia, whose spirits were never higher than then, to
face the storm. With rapidly thinning ranks the gray
line swept on until the blue line in front wavered, broke,
and seemed to dissolve in the woods and rocks on the
" The advance continued steadily, the center of the
158 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
division moving directly upon the guns on the hill ad-
joining Devil's Den on the north, from which we had
been suffering so severely. In order to secure my right
flank I extended it well upon the side of Round Top.
. . . Thus disposed, the division continued to move for-
ward, encountering as it ascended to the battery on the
spur and the heights to the right and left of it a most
determined resistance from the Federal troops, who
seemed to be continually reinforced. The ground was
rough and difficult, which rendered an orderly advance
impossible. Sometimes the Federals would hold one
side of the huge boulders on the slope until the Confed-
erates occupied the other side.
" In some cases my men, with reckless daring,
mounted to the top of the large rocks in order to get a
better view and to deliver their fire with better effect.
One of them. Sergeant Barbee of the Texas brigade,
having reached a rock a little in advance of the line,
stood erect on the top of it, loading and firing as coolly
as if unconscious of danger, while the air around him
was fairly swarming with bullets. He soon fell help-
less from several wounds, but he held the rock till the
litter bearers carried him off.
" In less than an hour from the time we advanced to
the attack the hill by Devil's Den, opposite our center,
was taken with three pieces of artillery that had occupied
it. The remaining piece was run down the opposite
slope by the gunners and escaped. . . .
" Up to this time I had seen nothing of McLaws's di-
vision, which was to have extended our left, and to have
moved to the attack at the same time. I therefore halted
my line. . . ."
Longstreet says :
"... I rode to McLaws, found him ready for his
opportunity, and Barksdale chafing in his wait for the
order to seize the battery in his front. Kershaw's bri-
gade advanced and struck near the angle of the enemy's
line where his forces were gathering strength . . . Mc-
Laws ordered Barksdale in. With glorious bearing he
sprang to his work, overriding obstacles and danger.
Without a pause to deliver a shot, he had the battery.
Kershaw, joined by Semmes's brigade, responded, and
Hood's men, feeling the impulsion of relief, resumed
their bold fight, and presently the enemy's line was
broken through its length. But his well seasoned troops
knew how to utilize the advantages of their ground and
put back their dreadful fire from rocks, depressions, and
stone fences, as they went to shelter about Little Round
Top. That point had not been occupied by the enemy,
nor marked as an important feature of the field. The
broken ranks sought shelter under its rocks and defiles
as birds fly to cover. . . .
". . . The fighting had by this time become tremen-
dous, and brave men and officers were stricken by
hundreds. Posey and Wilcox dislodged the forces
about the Brick House. General Sickles was desper-
ately wounded! General Willard was dead! General
Semmes of McLaws's division was mortally wounded !
Our left relieved, the brigades of Anderson's division
moved on with Barksdale, passed the swale, and moved
up the slope. Caldwell's division, and presently those
of Ayers and Barnes of the Fifth corps, met and held
our strongest battle. While thus engaged General
Sykes succeeded in putting Weed's and Vincent's bri-
gades and Hazlett's batteries on the summit of Little
Round Top, but presently we reached Caldwell's division,
broke it ofif, and pushed it from the field. Of his bri-
i6o THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
gade commanders Zook was killed, Brook and Cross
were wounded, the latter mortally. On our side, Barks-
dale was down, dying, and G. T. Anderson wounded.
General Hancock reported sixty per cent, of his men
lost. We had carried Devil's Den, were at the Round
Top and the Wheat Field, but Ayers's division of regu-
lars and Barnes's division were holding us in equal
". . . By a fortunate strike upon Ayers's flank we
broke his line, and pushed him and Barnes so closely that
they were obliged to use most strenuous efforts to get
away without losing in prisoners, as well as their killed
" We gained the Wheat Field, and were so close upon
the gorge that our artillery could no longer sustain their
fire into it. We were on Little Round Top, grappling
for the crowning point. The brigade commanders there,
Vincent and Weed, were killed, also the battery com-
manders, Hazlett and others ; but their troops were hold-
ing to their work as firmly as the mighty boulders that
General Hunt says:
" The breaking of the Peach Orchard angle exposed
the flanks of the batteries on its crests, which retired
firing, in order to cover the retreat of the infantry.
Many guns of different batteries had to be abandoned
because of the destruction of horses and men; many
were hauled off by hand ; all the batteries lost heavily.
Bigelow's Ninth Massachusetts made a stand close by
the Trostle House in the corner of the field through
which he had retired fighting with prolonges fixed. Al-
though much cut up, he was directed by McGilvery to
hold that point at all hazards until a line of artillery
could be formed in front of the wood beyond Plum Run.
This line was formed by collecting the serviceable bat-
teries and fragments of batteries that were brought off,
with which and Dow's Maine battery fresh from the re-
serve the pursuit was checked. Finally some twenty-five
guns formed a solid mass, which unsupported by infantry
held this part of the line, aided Humphreys' movements,
and covered by its fire the abandoned guns on the field
until they could be brought ofif, as all were, except perhaps
one. When, after fully accomplishing its purpose, all
that was left of Bigelow's battery was withdrawn. It
was closely pursued by Humphreys' 2ist Mississippi, the
only Confederate regiment which succeeded in crossing
the Run. His men had entered the battery and fought
hand to hand with the cannoneers ; one was killed whilst
trying to spike a gun, and another knocked down with a
handspike whilst endeavoring to drag off a prisoner. Of
the four battery officers one was killed, another mortally,
and a third. Captain Bigelow, severely wounded. Of
seven sergeants, two were killed and four wounded ; or
a total of twenty-eight men, including two missing; and
eighty out of eighty-eight horses were killed or wounded."
". . . General Meade thought that the Confederate
army was working on my part of the field. He led
some regiments of the Twelfth corps and posted them
against us, called a division of Newton's corps first from
beyond Hancock's, and sent Crawford's division, the
last of the Fifth corps, splitting through the gorge, form-
ing solid lines, in places behind stone fences, and mak-
ing steady battle, as veterans fresh in action know so
l62 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
well how to make. While Meade's lines were growing,
my men were dropping ; we had no others to call to their
aid, and the weight against us was too heavy to carry.
. . . No other part of our army had engaged! My
17,000 against the Army of the Potomac! The sun was
down and with it went down the severe battle. ..."
He fought troops that were much farther from the
battle-field on the night of the first than he was, other-
wise his 17,000 might have been enough. Had he dis-
played the same zeal and energy that they did, he would
have occupied Little Round Top without the loss of a
man. He says it was the " citadel of the field," and, if
so, should have given him victory.
General Hunt says :
". . . General Longstreet was ordered to form the
divisions of Hood and McLaws, on Anderson's right,
so as to envelop our left and drive it in. These divisions
were only three miles off at daylight, and moved early,
but there was great delay in forming them for battle,
owing principally to the absence of Law's brigade, for
which it would have been well to substitute Anderson's
fresh division, which could have been replaced by Petti-
grew's, then in reserve. There seems to have been no
good reason why the attack should not have been made
by 8 or 9 a. m,, at latest, when the Federal Third corps
was not all up, nor Crawford's division, nor the artillery
reserves, nor the Sixth corps, and our lines still very
incomplete. . . ."
Ewell on the left had orders only to make a diversion
in Longstreet's favor, to be converted into attack, if op-
portunity offered. He looked for the opportunity till
about sundown, then made an attack, which, like Long-
street's, met with some success, and might have met
with more, had not the Federal troops had all day in
which to strengthen their position.
The following excerpt is from a review of Long-
street's book, in the " Journal of the Royal United Serv-
ice Institution," October, 1897:
". . . But there is a mass of evidence which goes to
show that General Lee considered Longstreet responsible,
and this evidence the latter has certainly not refuted.
. . . Longstreet is content with the assertion that until
eleven o'clock he had received no definite orders to at-
tack. But it was never Lee's practice to issue definite
orders to his corps commanders. He was accustomed
to explain his general intentions, and to leave the execu-
tion in their hands, and if on this occasion he departed
from his usual custom, it was because Longstreet de-
clined to move without explicit orders to that effect. . . .
He was aware that Lee was anxious to attack as early
as possible ; he was aware that an early attack was essen-
tial to success; he was aware how the commander-in-
chief desired his divisions should be placed; and yet,
until he received a definite order to advance, did abso-
lutely nothing. He made no attempt to reconnoiter his
line of march, to bring his troops into position, or to
initiate the attack in accordance with the expressed wishes
of his superior. . . ."
On the afternoon of the ist Lee said to Longstreet,
" n he is there to-morrow, I will attack him." That
was enough. Any loyal, zealous, energetic commander
i64 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
would have had his troops on the front that night. He
would not have waited for morning nor orders. Long-
street was not in the battle of the ist, his troops were
fresh, and Lee naturally depended on him for the next
Facing page 1&5
T ONGSTREET published an account of the battle in
•*— ' 1878, and quotes as follows from a letter he re-
ceived from General Hood in 1875 :
" General Lee was seemingly anxious you should at-
tack that morning. You thought it better to await the
arrival of Pickett's division — at that time still in rear
— in order to make the attack, and you said to me sub-
sequently : ' The general is a little nervous this morn-
ing; he wishes me to make the attack. I do not wish
to do so without Pickett. I never like to go into battle
with one boot off.' "
Longstreet was balky, just as he was at Second Ma-
nassas when Lee desired him to attack when he arrived
on the field. In his account of the battle of the 26. he
attempts to show that his proposed flank movement,
which had been so unceremoniously turned down by Lee
the day before, was " in the air."
He says : " General Hood appealed again and again
for the move to the right, but, to give more confidence
to his attack, he was reminded that the move to the right
had been carefully considered by our chief and rejected
in favor of his present orders."
General Hood's letter, from which Longstreet quotes,
is published in full in General Hood's " Advance and
i66 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Retreat." In It he explains as follows his proposed
move, and it will be seen that it was entirely different
from the move that had been " carefully considered by
our chief ":
" The instructions I received were to place my division
across the Emmitsburg road, fonn line of battle, and at-
tack. Before reaching this road, however, I had sent
forward some of my picked Texas scouts to ascertain
the position of the enemy's extreme left flank. They
soon reported to me that it rested upon Round Top
mountain ; that the country was open, and that I could
march through an open woodland pasture around Round
Top, and assault the enemy in flank and rear; that their
wagon trains were parked in rear of their line and were
badly exposed to our attack in that direction. As soon
as I arrived upon the Emmitsburg road I placed one or
two batteries in position and opened fire. A reply from
the enemy's guns soon developed his position. His left
rested on or near Round Top, with line bending back
and again forward, forming as it were a concave line,
as approached by the Emmitsburg road.
" A considerable body of troops was posted in front
of their main line between the Emmitsburg road and
Round Top. This force was in line of battle upon an
eminence near a peach orchard. I found that in making
the attack according to orders, viz., up the Emmitsburg
road, I should have first to encounter and drive off this
advanced line of battle; secondly, at the base and along
the slope of the mountain, to confront immense boulders
of stone, so massed together as to form narrow open-
ings which would break our ranks and cause the men
to scatter while climbing up the rocky precipices. I
found, moreover, that my division would be exposed to
a heavy fire from the main Hne of the enemy in position
on the crest of the high range, of which Round Top
was the extreme left, and, by reason of the concavity of
the enemy's main line, that we would be subject to a
destructive fire in flank and rear as well as in front, and
deemed it at most an impossibility to clamber along the
boulders of this steep and rugged mountain, and under
this number of cross fires put the enemy to flight. I
knew if the feat was accomplished it must be at a most
fearful sacrifice of as brave and gallant soldiers as ever
engaged in battle. The reconnaissance of my Texas
scouts and the development of the Federal lines were
efifected in a very short space of time; in truth, shorter
than I have taken to recall and jot down these facts,
although the scenes and events of that day are as clear
to my mind as if the great battle had been fought yes-
terday. I was in possession of these important facts
so shortly after reaching the Emmitsburg road that I
considered it my duty to report to you at once my opin-
ion that it was unwise to attack up the Emmitsburg
road as ordered, and to urge you to allow me to turn
Round Top and attack the enemy in flank and rear.
" Accordingly, I despatched a staff officer bearing to
you my request to be allowed to make the proposed
movement on account of the above stated reasons. Your
reply was quickly received : * General Lee's orders are
to attack up the Emmitsburg road.' I sent another offi-
cer to say that I feared nothing could be accomplished
by such an attack, and renewed my request to turn Round
Top. Again your answer was : ' General Lee's orders
are to attack up the Emmitsburg road.' During this
interim I had continued the use of the batteries upon
the enemy and had become more and more convinced
that the Federal line extended to Round Top, and that I
i68 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
could not reasonably hope to accomplish much by the
attack as ordered. In fact, it seemed to me the enemy
occupied a position by nature so strong — I may say
impregnable — that, independently of their flank fire,
they could easily repel our attack by merely throwing
and rolling stones down the mountain side as we ap-
proached. A third time I despatched one of my staff
to explain fully in regard to the situation, and suggested
that you had better come and look for yourself. I se-
lected in this instance my adjutant general, Col. Harry
Sellers, whom you know to be not only an officer of
great courage, but also of marked ability. Colonel
Sellers returned with the same message : ' General Lee's
orders are to attack up the Emmitsburg road.' Almost
simultaneously Colonel Fairfax of your staff rode up
and repeated the above order. After this urgent pro-
test against entering the battle at Gettysburg, according
to instruction, which protest is the first and only one I
ever made during my entire military career, I ordered my
line to advance and make the assault."
The move to the right that had been " carefully
considered by our chief " was an impossible strategic
movement, /involving a march of the whole army on a
prospecting expedition for good ground between the
enemy and his capital ; while that proposed by Hood
was a simple tactical movement. Then from Long-
street's account of the reception his plan received from
" our chief," it does not appear that it was carefully con-
sidered or that it was considered at all.
Neither is it by any means certain that Hood's pro-
posed move would have been a success. He did not
have the Wilderness to shield his march. Meade would
have discovered it at once and would have met him with
superior numbers. Then the whole of the artillery re-
serve was back there with those wagons, and as the
country was open Hood would have met with a very
warm reception. Either Longstreet did not approve of
Hood's tactics, or else he was sulky because of Lee's
rejection of his plan. No other interpretation is possi-
ble, because he knew he had discretion as to tactics. In
fact at Second Manassas he substituted his own tactics
for those ordered by Lee for the relief of Jackson, and
brags of it in his book.
The battles of the ist and 2d, while not decisive of
anything, were, on the whole, Confederate successes.
On both days Meade had been driven from the open
field and his army had suffered severely.
Mr. Rhodes says of its condition:
" The feeling among the officers in Meade's camp that
night (2d) was one of gloom. On the first day of the
battle the First and Eleventh corps had been almost
annihilated. On the second day the Fifth and part of
the Second had been badly shattered, the Third in the
words of its commander, who had succeeded Sickles,
was * used up and not in good condition to fight.' The
loss of the army had been 20,000 men. Only the Sixth
and Twelfth corps were fresh."
So Lee's decision to continue the battle was not alto-
gether due to his " uncontrollable combativeness."
The general plan for the 3d was a simultaneous as-
sault front and flank. Longstreet' s corps was to attack
the center, and the Second corps the right. One division
of the 3d corps was at Longstreet's disposal.
Colonel Long, chief of artillery of the Army of North-
ern Virginia, says :
I70 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
". . . General Lee determined to attack on the third
day Meade's front where there was a depression through
which the Emmitsburg road passes. The decision here
indicated was reached at a conference held during the
morning on the field in front of and within cannon shot
of Round Top, there being present Generals Lee, Long-
street, A. P. Hill, and H. Heth, Col. A. L. Long and
Major Venable. The plan of attack was discussed, and
it was decided that General Pickett should lead the as-
saulting column, to be supported by the divisions of
McLaws and Hood, and such other force as A. P. Hill
could spare from his command. The only objection
offered was by General Longstreet, who remarked that
the guns on Little Round Top might be brought to bear
on his right. This objection was answered by Colonel
Long, who said that the guns on Round Top could be
suppressed by our batteries. This point being settled,
the attack was ordered and General Longstreet was di-
rected to carry it out."
It was most extraordinary that Colonel Long should
have made such a statement, and still more so that Lee
and Longstreet should have credited it, for both of them
and every artilleryman in the army were painfully aware
of the superiority of the Federal artillery. Both gen-
erals frequently referred to the heavier metal and super-
ior ammunition of the enemy's artillery, of which there
was no end.
" In the Army of the Potomac were fifty-one brigades
of infantry, eight brigades of cavalry, and three hundred
and seventy guns. The artillery appointments were so
superior that our officers sometimes felt humiliated when
posted to unequal combat with their better metal and
munitions. . . ."
The Second corps did not wait for Longstreet, but
attacked early in the morning and was repulsed. Lee's
plans had gone awry through Longstreet's delay, just
as on the 2d. The advantages of a simultaneous attack
were lost, and Meade had several hours in which to
strengthen his center.
Longstreet, however, did get his artillery in position
about one o'clock.
General Hunt, Aleade's chief of artillery, says :
". . . Here a magnificent display greeted my eyes.
Our whole front for two miles was covered by batteries
already in line, or going into position. They stretched
apparently in one unbroken mass from opposite the town
to the Peach Orchard, which bounded the view to the
left, the ridges of which were planted thick with cannon.
Never before had such a sight been witnessed on this
continent, and rarely, if ever, abroad. What did it
mean? It might possibly be to hold their line while the
infantry was sent to aid Ewell, or to guard against a
counterstroke from us ; but it most probably meant an
assault on our center, to be preceded by a cannonade in
order to crush our batteries and shake our infantry, at
least to cause us to exhaust our ammunition in reply, so
that the assaulting column might pass in good condition
over the half mile of open ground beyond our effective
Colonel Alexander, chief of artillery of the First corps,
received the following note from General Longstreet :
"Colonel: H the artillery fire does not have the
172 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
effect to drive off the enemy, or greatly demoralize him,
so as to make our effort pretty certain, I would prefer
that you would not advise General Pickett to make the
Colonel Alexander says :
" This note rather startled me. If that assault was
to be made on General Lee's judgment it was all right,
but I did not want it made on mine. I wrote to Gen-
eral Longstreet to the following effect : * General : I
will only be able to judge the effect of our fire on the
enemy by his return fire, for his infantry is but little
exposed to view, and the smoke will obscure the field.
If, as I infer from your note, there is any alternative
to the attack, it should be carefully considered before
opening our fire, for it will take all the ammunition we
have left to test this one thoroughly; and if the result
is unfavorable we will have none left for another effort ;
and even if this is entirely successful, it can only be so
at a very bloody cost.' To this presently came the fol-
lowing reply : * Colonel : The intention is to advance
the infantry if the artillery has the desired effect of driv-
ing the enemy oft", or having other effect such as to war-
rant us in making the attack.' "
Both Longstreet's notes assumed discretion, yet in his
book he says :
" The order was imperative. The Confederate com-
mander had fixed his heart upon it."
"... I hardly knew whether this left me discretion
or not, but at any rate it seemed decided that the artillery
must open. I felt that if we went that far we could not
draw back, but that the infantry must go too. Gen. A.
R. Wright, of Hill's corps, was with me, looking at the
position, when these notes were received, and we dis-
cussed them together. Wright said : * It is not so hard
to go there as it looks; I was nearly there with my bri-
gade yesterday. The trouble is to stay there. The
whole Yankee army is there in a bunch.' "
Alexander then rode over to Pickett and found him
sanguine. He then wrote to Longstreet:
" When our artillery fire is at its best, I will order
Pickett to charge."
So that, instead of General Lee's " intentions " being
carried out, the attack w^as to be ordered when the ar-
tillery fire was at its best.
Alexander says :
". . . Before the cannonade opened I had made up
my mind to give Pickett the order to advance within
fifteen or twenty minutes after it began. But when I
looked at the full development of the enemy's batteries,
and knew that his infantry was generally well protected
from our fire by stone walls and swells of the ground, I
could not bring myself to give the word. It seemed
madness to launch infantry into that fire, with nearly
three quarters of a mile to go at midday under a July
sun. I let the fifteen minutes pass, twenty and twenty-
five, hoping vainly for something to turn up. Then I
wrote to Pickett: * If you are coming at all you must
come at once, or I cannot give you proper support; but
the enemy's fire has not slackened at all, at least eighteen
guns are still firing from the cemetery alone.' . . ."
174 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Here Alexander is urging Pickett to attack simply be-
cause his ammunition is running low. Colonel Long's
promise to suppress the batteries on Round Top and
General Lee's intention to attack only in case they were
suppressed are entirely lost sight of.
General Hunt says :
". . . Thence I rode to the artillery reserve to order
fresh batteries and ammunition to be sent to the ridge.
... I now rode on the ridge to inspect the batteries.
The infantry were lying down on its reverse slope near
the crest in open ranks waiting events. . . . Our fire
was deliberate, but on inspecting the chests I found that
the ammunition was running low, and hastened to Gen-
eral Meade to advise its immediate cessation, and prepa-
ration for the assault which would certainly follow. . . ."
". . . Suddenly the enemy's fire began to slacken, and
the guns in the cemetery limbered up and vacated the
position. Then I wrote to Pickett urgently : ' For
God's sake come quick. The eighteen guns are gone.
Come quick, or my ammunition won't let me support
you.' Then he said: 'If he does not run fresh bat-
teries in there in five minutes, this is our fight.' . . ."
Any artillery driver in the army would have known
that the guns were going out to make room for fresh
ones. Hunt would have had a hundred guns in the
cemetery if he had had position for them.
Edmund Rice, Lieutenant Colonel, U. S. A., says :
"From the opposite ridge, three-fourths of a mile
away, a line of skirmishers sprang lightly forward out
of the woods, and with intervals well kept moved rapidly
down into the open fields, closely followed by a line of
battle, then by another, and by yet a third. Both sides
watched this never-to-be-forgotten scene, — the grandeur
of attack of so many thousand men. Gibbon's division,
which was to stand the brunt of the assault, looked with
admiration on the different lines of Confederates, march-
ing forward with easy, swinging step, and the men were
heard to exclaim : * Here they come ! ' * Here they
come!' 'Here comes the infantry!' Soon little puffs
of smoke issued from the skirmish line, as it came dash-
ing forward, firing in reply to our own skirmishers in
the plain below, and with this faint rattle of musketry
the stillness was broken ; never hesitating for an instant,
but driving our men before it, or knocking them over
by a biting fire as they rose up to run in, their skirmish
line reached the fences of the Emmitsburg road. This
was Pickett's advance, which carried a front of five hun-
dred yards or more. . . ."
Alexander says :
" Meanwhile the infantry had no sooner debouched
on the plain than all the enemy's line which had been
nearly silent broke out again with all its batteries. The
eighteen guns were back in the cemetery, and a storm of
shells began bursting over and among our infantry. . . ."
Hunt says :
" Meanwhile the enemy advanced and McGilvery
opened a destructive oblique fire, reinforced by that of
Rittenhouse's six rifle guns from Round Top, which
176 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
were served with remarkable accuracy, enfilading Pick-
ett's lines. The steady fire from McGilvery and Rit-
tenhouse on their right caused Pickett's men to drift in
the opposite direction, so that the weight of the assault
fell upon the position occupied by Hazard's batteries.
. . . The enemy advanced magnificently, unshaken by
the shot and shell which tore through their ranks from
the front and from our left. . . . When our canister
fire and musketry was opened upon them it occasioned
disorder, but they still advanced gallantly until they
reached the stone wall, behind which our troops lay.
Here ensued a desperate conflict, the enemy succeeding
in passing the wall and entering our lines, causing great
destruction of life, especially among the batteries."
General Hunt says :
". . . The losses in the batteries of the Second corps
were very heavy. Roty and Gushing were killed and
Woodruff mortally wounded at their guns. ... So great
was the destruction of men and horses that Gushing's
and Woodruff's United States, and Brown's and Arnold's
Rhode Island batteries, were consolidated to make two
The attacking column, — consisting of Pickett's divi-
sion, Heth's, commanded by Pettigrew, and Wilcox's
brigade of Anderson's division, — numbered 15,000.
Heth's division soon fell back in disorder. Pender's di-
vision, which had advanced, fell back ; and Wilcox, seeing
that the attack was hopeless, failed to advance. General
Lee intended that Hood and McLaws should participate
in the attack; and Anderson, commanding one of Hill's
divisions, was at Longstreet's call, but he used none of
these troops in the attack.
General Webb, who commanded the brigade in front
of Pickett, says :
". . . The enemy advanced steadily to the fence, driv-
ing out a portion of the 71st Pennsylvania Volunteers.
General Armistead passed over the fence, with probably
over a hundred of his command and with several battle
flags. . . ."
From the report of Colonel Aylett, commanding Armi-
stead's brigade of Pickett's divisions :
". . . The brigade moved across the open field for
more than half a mile, receiving, as it came in range,
fire of shell, grape, canister, and musketry, which rapidly
thinned its ranks; still it pushed on until the first line
of the enemy, strongly posted behind a stone wall, was
broken and driven from its position, leaving in our hands
a number of pieces of artillery. By this time the troops
on our right and left were broken and driven back, and
the brigade was exposed to a severe musketry fire from
the front and both flanks and an enfilading artillery fire
from a rocky hill some distance to the right. No sup-
ports coming up, the position was untenable, and we were
compelled to retire, leaving more than two-thirds of our
bravest and best killed or wounded on the field. . . .
This report would fail in completeness and in the ren-
dition of justice to signal valor and heroic behavior were
it omitted to notice particularly the gallant conduct of
our brigade commander, L. A. Armistead. Conspicuous
to all, fifty yards in advance of his brigade, waving his
hat upon his sword, he led his men upon the enemy,
with a steady bearing which inspired all breasts with en-
thusiasm and courage, and won the admiration of every
178 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
beholder. Far in advance of all, he led the attack till
he scaled the works of the enemy and fell wounded in
their hands, but not until he had driven them from their
position and seen his colors planted over their fortifica-
tions. . . ."
Our artillery fire was a blunder. Hunt says it was
more dangerous behind the ridge than on its crest. In
other words, it did some damage at Meade's headquar-
ters and among the trains; but it did not help Pickett.
It divulged the point of attack, and was a waste of am-
munition that might have proved fatal. Our experience
from Bull Run to Petersburg taught that artillery fire,
unless at men on their feet or at batteries in the open, is
" * It was a most terrific and appalling cannonade,'
said Hancock. But it did little damage. The Union
soldiers lay under the protection of stone walls, swells of
the ground, and earthworks, and the projectiles of the
enemy passed over their heads, sweeping the open ground
in their rear."
General Schurz thought that Meade should have or-
dered a counter attack — he calls it the " lost oppor-
tunity." A question of this nature must always remain
an open one, because in actual battle almost anything
may happen ; but if General Schurz had been on our side,
he would not have been so sanguine. There was noth-
ing in the behavior of our men that indicated expectation
or fear of a counter attack. Even Pickett's men that
were left came in leisurely, and would have been well
pleased to reciprocate the reception they had received,
Facing page 17
Of the whole of our corps (Longstreet's) only Pickett's
division of less than 5,000 had suffered to any consider-
able extent in the attack. We would have had more guns
against Meade than he had against Pickett, for like
McClellan at Malvern Hill we had positions and good
open ground in front, and with canister at short range
our guns were as good as Meade's.
General Hunt says :
" The advance of the Confederate brigades to cover
Pickett's retreat showed that the enemy's line opposite
Cemetery Ridge was occupied by infantry. Our own
line on the ridge was in more or less disorder as the
result of the conflict, and in no condition to advance a
sufficient force for a counter assault. The largest bodies
of organized troops available were on the left, and Gen-
eral Meade now proceeded to Round Top and pushed
out skirmishers to feel the enemy in its front. An ad-
vance to the Plum Run line of the troops behind it would
have brought them directly in front of the numerous
batteries which crowned the Emmitsburg Ridge, com-
manding that line and all the intervening ground ; a
further advance, to the attack, would have brought them
under additional heavy flank fires. McCandless's bri-
gade, supported by Nevin's, was, however, pushed for-
ward, under cover of the woods, which protected them
from the fire of all these batteries ; it crossed the Wheat
Field, cleared the woods, and had an encounter with
a portion of Benning's brigade, which was retiring.
Hood's and McLaws' divisions were falling back under
Longstreet's orders to their strong position, resting on
Peach Orchard and covering Hill's line. It needs but
a moment's examination of the official map to see that
our troops on the left were locked up. As to the center.
i8o THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Pickett's and Pettigrew's assaulting divisions had fromed
no part of A. P. Hill's line, which was practically intact.
The idea that there must have been ' a gap of at least
a mile ' in that line, made by throwing forward these
divisions, and that a prompt advance from Cemetery
Ridge would have given us the line itself, or at least the
artillery in front of it, was a delusion. A prompt coun-
ter-charge after a combat between two small bodies of
men is one thing; the change from the defensive to the
offensive of an army, after an engagement at a single
point, is quite another. This was not a ' Waterloo de-
feat,' with a fresh army to follow it up, and to have
made such a change to the offensive, on the assumption
that Lee had made no provision against a reverse, would
have been rash in the extreme. An advance of twenty
thousand men from Cemetery Ridge in the face of the
hundred and forty guns then in position would have been
stark madness ; an immediate advance from any point,
in force, was simply impracticable, and before due prepa-
ration could have been made for a change to the offensive,
the favorable moment — had any resulted from the re-
pulse — would have passed away."
" General Lee now abandoned the attempt to dislodge
Meade; intrenched a line from Oak Hill to Peach Or-
chard; started all his impedimenta to the Potomac in
advance, and followed with his army on the night of
July 4, via Fairfield. This compelled Meade to take the
circuitous routes through the lower passes ; and the stra-
tegic advantage to Lee and disadvantages to Meade of
Gettysburg were made manifest. General Meade has
been accused of slowness in the pursuit. This charge
is not well founded ; he lost no time in commencing nor
vigor in pushing it.
" On the morning of the 4th he ordered French, at
Frederick, to seize and hold the lower passes, and put
all the cavalry, except Gregg's and Mcintosh's brigades,
in motion to harass the enemy's anticipated retreat and
to destroy his trains and bridges at Williamsport. It
stormed heavily that day, and the care of the wounded
and burial of the dead proceeded, whilst the enemy's line
was being reconnoitered. So soon on the 5th as it was
certain that Lee was retreating, Gregg was started in
pursuit on the Chambersburg pike, and the infantry, —
now reduced to a little over 47,000 effectives, short of
ammunition and supplies, — by the lower passes. The
Sixth corps taking the Hagerstown road, Sedgwick re-
ported the Fairfield pass fortified, a large force present,
and that a fight could be had ; upon which, on the 6th,
Meade halted the rest of the infantry and ordered two
corps to his support, but soon learning that although
the pass could be carried it would cause too much delay,
he resumed the march, leaving Mcintosh and a brigade
of the Sixth corps to follow the enemy through the Fair-
" On the evening of the 4th Kilpatrick had a sharp
encounter with the enemy in Monterey pass, and this was
followed by daily cavalry combats on the different routes,
in which much damage was done to trains and many
captures of wagons, caissons, and prisoners effected.
On the 5th French destroyed the pontoon bridge at Fall-
ing Waters. On the 6th Buford attacked at Williams-
port and Kilpatrick toward Hagerstown, on his right,
but as Imboden's train guard was strong, Stuart was
up, and Longstreet close by, they had to withdraw. The
enemy proceeded to construct a new bridge, and intrench
i82 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
a strong line covering Williamsport and Falling Waters.
There were heavy rains on the 7th and 8th, but the in-
fantry corps reached Middletown on the morning of the
9th, received supplies, crossed the mountains that day,
and at its close the right was at Boonsboro, and the left
at Rohrersville, on the road to Hagerstown and Will-
iamsport. The river was now greatly swollen and un-
fordable, and Halleck on the loth advised Meade to
postpone a general battle until his army was concentrated
and his reinforcements up; but Meade, fully alive to the
importance of striking Lee before he could cross the
Potomac, advanced on that day and the nth; and on
the 1 2th pushed forward reconnaissances to feel the
" After a partial examination, made by himself and
his chiefs of staff, and of engineers, which showed that
its flanks could not be turned, and that the line, so far
as seen by them, presented no vulnerable points, he de-
termined to make a demonstration in force on the next
morning, the 13th, supported by the whole army, and
to attack if a prospect of success offered. On assembling
his corps commanders, however, he found their opinion
so adverse that he postponed it for further examination,
after which he issued the order for the next day, the
14th. On advancing that morning, it was found that
the enemy had abandoned his line and crossed the river,
partly by fording, and partly by a new bridge. A care-
ful survey of the enemy's intrenched line after it was
abandoned justified the opinion of the corps commanders
against an attack, as it showed that an assault would
have been disastrous to us. It proved also that Meade
in overriding that opinion did not shrink from a great
responsibility, notwithstanding his own recent experience
at Gettysburg, when all the enemy's attacks on even par-
tially intrenched lines had failed. If he erred on this
occasion, it was on the side of temerity. . . .
" But the hopes and expectations excited by the vic-
tory of Gettysburg were as unreasonable as the fears
that had preceded it; and great was the disappointment
that followed the * escape ' of Lee's army. It was
promptly manifested, too, and in a manner which indi-
cates how harshly and unjustly the Army of the Po-
tomac and its commanders were usually judged and
treated ; and what trials the latter had to undergo whilst
subjected to the meddling and hectoring of a distant su-
perior, himself but too often the mere mouthpiece of an
irresponsible clique, from which they were not freed
until the general-in-chief accompanied it to the field.
" That same day, before it was possible that all the
circumstances could be known, three telegraphic dis-
patches passed between the respective headquarters.
First, Halleck to Meade : ' I need hardly say to you
that the escape of Lee's army without another battle has
created great dissatisfaction in the mind of the Presi-
dent, and it will require an active and energetic pursuit
on your part to remove the impression that it has not
been sufficiently active heretofore.' Second, Meade to
Halleck : * Having performed my duty conscientiously
and to the best of my ability, the censure of the Presi-
dent (conveyed in your dispatch of i p. m. to-day) is in
my judgment so undeserved that I feel compelled most
respectfully to ask to be relieved immediately from the
command of the army.' Third, Halleck to Meade:
* July 14. My telegram stating the disappointment of
the President at the escape of Lee's army was not in-
tended as a censure, but a stimulus to an active pursuit.
It is not deemed a sufficient cause for your application
to be relieved.' "
i84 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
The command of the Army of the Potomac the first
three years of the war was a " job," as Lincoln called it,
that was not sought by the officers of that army. The
army carried Washington, — the old man of the sea, —
on its back; and the commanders had to shoulder not
only their own blunders, but those of Lincoln and Hal-
An officer who held a " responsible and confidential
position at the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac
and in the War Department " writes in the Century for
November, 1886: "Lincoln apparently yielded to the
views of those in charge of the military department of
affairs, and therefore Halleck confidentially inquired of
Reynolds if he was prepared to accept the command.
Reynolds replied that he expected to obey all lawful
orders coming to his hands, but as the communication
seemed to imply the possession of an option in himself,
he deemed it his duty to say frankly that he could not
accept the command in a voluntary sense, unless a liberty
of action should be guaranteed to him considerably be-
yond any which he had reason to expect."
The command of the army had been refused by
Reynolds, Hooker had thrown it up in disgust, and at
the eleventh hour it was thrust upon Meade. Hunt says :
" He spent the day (28) in ascertaining the position of
July I, when he was ordering the scattered columns
to concentration on Pipe Creek, the battle of the first
day was raging. When he heard of it he rode to Gettys-
burg, arriving, as Rhodes says, " at one in the morning,
pale, tired-looking, hollow-eyed, and worn out from want
of sleep, anxiety, and responsibility." He found Rey-
nolds killed, the battle lost, and himself committed to
new ground. He did not know but that Lee would at-
tack in full force at daylight, and did know that his own
marching columns would be late. At this moment
Meade was the grandest figure on the Union side of
the war; but we hear less of him than we do of Lincoln's
Pickett's charge is generally considered " the battle of
Gettysburg," whereas it was only an incident of the bat-
tle, just as Malvern Hill was an incident of the Seven
Days' battles. The critical moment at Gettysburg was
not when Pickett made his charge, nor on the afternoon
of the I St, but it was on the morning of the 2d.
The attack on the afternoon of the 2d was impetuous
and desperate, and if it had been timed in the early
morning when a good part of Meade's army was on
the road, when his lines were incomplete and Little
Round Top unoccupied, there is little doubt that Lee
would have won the battle.
Lee was of course conscious of Longstreet's misman-
agement and probably had it in mind when writing as
follows in his letter of resignation shortly after Gettys-
burg: "In addition, I sensibly feel the growing failure
of my bodily strength. I have not yet recovered from
the attack I experienced last spring. I am becoming
more and more incapable of exertion, and am thus pre-
vented from making personal supervision o'f the oper-
ations in the field which I feel to be necessary. I am
so dull that in making use of the eyes of others I am
The " Official Records " give the returns of the Army
of Northern Virginia on the 31st of May, 1863 : Infan-
try 59,457, cavalry 10,292, artillery 4,702, total 74,451.
Ewell's losses in the Valley and Stuart's in Pennsylvania
must have reduced Lee's strength at Gettysburg to less
than 70,000 men. The same authority gives the strength
i86 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
of the Army of the Potomac June 30, 1863, j^st before
the battle as 104,256, and the losses as: Army of the
Potomac; Killed, 3,155; Wounded, 14,529; Missing-,
5,365; Total, 23,049. Army of Northern Virginia:
Killed, 2,592; Wounded, 12,709; Missing, 5,150; Total,
Lee says in his report : " It is not yet In my power
to give a correct statement of our casualties, which were
severe, including many brave men, and an unusual pro-
portion of distinguished and valuable officers. Among
them I regret to mention the following general officers :
Major Generals Hood, Pender, and Trimble severely,
and Heth slightly, wounded. General Pender has since
died. . . . Brigadier Generals Barksdale and Garnett
were killed, and Brigadier General Semmes was mortally
wounded. . . . Brigadier Generals Kemper, Armistead,
Scales, G. T. Anderson, Hampton, J. M. Jones, and Jen-
kins were also wounded. Brigadier General Archer was
taken prisoner. General Pettigrew, though wounded at
Gettysburg, continued in command until he was mortally
wounded near Falling Waters. . . ."
Lee took desperate chances in the battle of Chancel-
lorsville rather than fall back on Richmond. In his
letter of June 8 to Mr. Seddon already quoted, he states
clearly the object of the campaign: "Unless it (the
Army of the Potomac) can be drawn out in a position
to be assailed it will take its own time to strengthen
itself to renew its advances upon Richmond and force
this army back within the intrenchment of that city."
It was " to prevent such a catastrophe " that he took the
still further desperate chances of stretching his army
from Fredericksburg to Williamsport, with Hooker prac-
tically between him and defenseless Richmond.
In this letter to Mr. Seddon we have the object of the
Facing page 187
campaign clearly stated in Lee's own words, and the fol-
lowing letter of July 12 to President Davis, written when
he was standing on the Potomac waiting for it to fall
so that he could recross into Virginia, shows that he con-
sidered the object of the campaign fully accomplished:
"Mr. President: I have nothing of moment to add
to what I have said in my letter of the loth. So far
everything goes well. The army is in good condition,
and occupies a strong position, covering the Potomac
from Williamsport to Falling Waters. . . . The river
has now fallen to four feet, and a bridge, which is being
constructed, I hope will be passable to-morrow. Should
the river continue to subside, our communication with
the south bank will be opened by to-morrow. Had the
late unexpected rise not occurred, there would have been
no cause for anxiety, as it would have been in my power
to recross the Potomac on my first reaching it, without
molestation. Everything would have been accomplished
that could have been reasonably expected, the Army of
the Potomac would have been thrown north of that river,
the forces invading the coasts of North Carolina and
Virginia diminished, their plan of the present campaign
broken up, and before new arrangements could have
been made for its resumption, the summer would have
ended. I still trust that a kind Providence will cause
all things to work together for our good.
" Very respectfully your obedient servant,
" R. E. Lee,
" His Excellency Jefferson Davis,
" President Confederate States."
In his letter to Davis he savs that " had the late unex-
i88 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
pected rise not occurred, there would have been no cause
for anxiety, as it would have been in my power to
recross the Potomac on my first reaching it, without
molestation. Everything would have been accomplished
that could have been reasonably expected." As he
crossed the river the next day unmolested everything
was accomplished that could have been reasonably ex-
After Lee's return to Virginia he wrote to a relative
as follows : " I knew that crossing the Potomac would
draw them off, and if we could only have been strong
enough we should have detained them. But God willed
otherwise, and I fear we shall soon have them all back.
The army did all it could. I fear I require of it impos-
sibilities, but it responded to the call nobly and cheer-
fully, and though it did not win a victory, it conquered
The campaign of 1862 enabled Lee to get his army
out of the last ditch at Richmond. The campaign of
1863 enabled him to keep it out. Therefore the arniy as
Lee says " conquered a success," and the campaign ac-
complished everything that could have been reasonably
expected, or for that matter unreasonably expected.
Nor were other results of the campaign inconsiderable.
Ewell defeated and drove the enemy from the valley,
capturing 4000 prisoners, 25 cannon, 11 standards, 250
w^agons, 400 horses, and a large quantity of stores and
small arms. He and Stuart also secured great quanti-
ties of supplies in Pennsylvania, which were all badly
needed by the Confederate army. Virginia was relieved
for a time of the presence of the devastating armies, so
that altogether the campaign was not a failure, but one
of Lee's grandest successes.
THE CAMPAIGN OF 1864
^^^ -^ ^y;^^^.tr.^C^ '
Facing page 191
FROM THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES
IN the last months of 1863 there was a campaign of
strategy which ended in Meade's retreat from Mine
Run, to which point he had advanced in light march-
ing order in the hope of surprising Lee. Instead, he
found Lee strongly intrenched and prepared. He hesi-
tated, and Lee decided to attack on the 2d of December ;
but Meade retreated. Lee pursued, but Meade escaped.
Now General Grant appeared upon the scene. He
was commander-in-chief, not only of the Army of the
Potomac, but of all the armies of the United States.
He came up from the Southwest where his successes had
been of great material value, but had been easily attained.
He always had superior numbers, always encountered
inferior commanders, and always had the cooperation
of the navy. The whole Vicksburg campaign, Donelson,
and Chattanooga cost him only 15,351 men, whereas he
lost in the single battle of the Wilderness 17,666 men,
and in the campaign 69,326, or four times his loss in
obtaining all his successes in the Southwest. The fact
is that with the exception of Shiloh, where he was sur-
prised and worsted by Johnston, and discredited by the
testimony of Buell and other officers, he had never seen
any fighting of any consequence. He says of Chatta-
nooga: ". . . The victory at Chattanooga was won
against great odds, considering the advantage the enemy
had of position, and was accomplished more easily than
was expected by reason of Bragg's making several grave
192 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
mistakes : first, in sending away his ablest corps com-
mander with over 20,000 troops ; second, in sending away
a division of troops on the eve of battle; third, in placing
so much of a force on the plain in front of his impreg-
nable position. . . ."
So the victory was not won by superior generalship or
by hard fighting, but was due to Bragg's stupid blun-
The impregnable position Grant speaks of, — the crest
of the ridge, — was won by a wonderful charge. Grant
asked Thomas by whose order the troops moved. " By
their own, I fancy," he replied.
Now the fact is that ridge was easy. Bragg was like
a coon in the top of a tree with branches down to the
ground and easy to climb. The troops went without or-
ders because it was easy — the proof is that in the whole
battle, including the wonderful charge, Grant's total loss
was only 5815 men. The charge must have been well-
At Chattanooga Grant had 60,000 men against Bragg's
40,000; yet he says the victory was won against great
His greatest success, — that of Vicksburg, — was easy.
His entire loss, including the five battles or skirmishes
in May, was only 7536, which is conclusive proof that
he met with little resistance.
In his book, among a hundred other misrepresenta-
tions, he says : "... In the east the opposing forces
stood in substantially the same relations toward each
other as three years before, or when the war began. . . .
No substantial advantage had been gained by either
side. . . ."
We shall see how utterly devoid of truth this state-
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 193
When Lee confronted McClellan at Richmond he had
80,000 men against McClellan's 100,000, and his army
was fairly well clad and provisioned.
Colonel Taylor says :
" The official records show that General Grant had
something over 140,000 men on the ist of May, 1864,
with which to commence his campaign against General
Lee, of which number 120,000 were actually put into
battle ; while General Lee had, with which to oppose this
vast host, less than 65,000, including the command of
General Longstreet that had now returned to him after
the campaign in Tennessee. These figures are not exag-
gerated in the least. Let him who doubts search the
official records. (See 'Report of the Secretary of War
to the First Session of the 39th Congress,' vol. i, 1865-
1866, pp. 3-5, 55.) General Badeau gives the strength
of the army opposing General Lee as 119,981."
None of Grant's predecessors had authority over a
man outside of their lines, but Grant had unlimited au-
He says :
". . , As a reinforcement to the Army of the Potomac,
or to act in support of it, the Ninth army corps, over
20,000 strong, under General Burnside, had been rendez-
voused at Annapolis, Md. This was an admirable posi-
tion for such a reinforcement. The corps could be
brought at the last moment as a reinforcement to the
Army of the Potomac, or it could be thrown on the sea-
coast south of Norfolk in Virginia or North Carolina,
to operate against Richmond from that direction. . . ,"
194 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT K LEE
" In Field, Culpeper C. H.,
"April 9, 1864.
" Ma J. Gen. Geo. G. Meade, commanding Army of
the Potomac : . . . Gilmore will join Butler with about
10,000 men from North Carolina. Butler can reduce
his garrison so as to take 23,000 men into the field di-
rectly to his front. The force will be commanded by
Maj. Gen. W. F. Smith. With Smith and Gilmore, But-
ler will seize City Point and operate against Richmond
from the south side of the river. . . .
" U. S. Grant,
" Lieutenant General."
". . . My general plan was to concentrate all the force
possible against the Confederate armies in the field.
There were but two such, as we have seen, east of the
Mississippi and facing north. The Army of Northern
Virginia, Gen. Robert E. Lee commanding, was on the
south bank of the Rapidan river, confronting the Army
of the Potomac; the second, under Gen. Joseph E. Johns-
ton was at Dalton, Georgia, opposed to Sherman, who
was still at Chattanooga. . . . Accordingly, I arranged
for a simultaneous movement all along the line. Sher-
man was to move from Chattanooga, Johnston's army
and Atlanta being his objective points. Crook, com-
manding in West Virginia, was to move from the mouth
of the Gauley river with a cavalry force and some artil-
lery, the Virginia and Tennessee railroad to be his ob-
jective. Either the enemy would have to keep a large
force to protect their communications or see them de-
stroyed, and a large amount of forage and provisions,
which they so much needed, fall into our hands. Sigel
was in command in the Valley of Virginia. He was to
advance up the Valley, covering the north from an in-
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 195
vasion through that channel as well while advancing as
by remaining near Harper's Ferry. Every mile he ad-
vanced also gave us stores on which Lee relied. Butler
was to advance by the James river, having Richmond
and Petersburg as his objectives."
The Army of the Potomac was a grand army. Grant
had nothing to do with its creation. It was handed over
to him organized, disciplined, and more lavishly supplied
than any army the world had ever seen. He had never
seen such an army.
He says of it :
" There never was a corps better organized than was
the quartermaster's corps with the Army of the Potomac
in 1864. . . . To overcome all difficulties the chief quar-
termaster, Gen. Rufus Ingalls, had marked on each
wagon the corps badge, with the division color, and the
number of the brigade. At a glance the particular bri-
gade to which any wagon belonged could be told. The
wagons were also marked to denote the contents ; if am-
munition, whether for artillery or infantry; if forage,
whether grain or hay; if rations, whether bread, pork,
beans, rice, sugar, coffee, or whatever it might be.
Empty wagons were never allowed to follow the army or
stay in camp. As soon as a wagon was empty it would
return to the base of supply for a load of precisely the
same article that had been taken from it. . . ."
Speaking of the field telegraph sei"vice. he says:
" Nothing could be more complete than the organiza-
tion and discipline of this body of brave and intelligent
men. Insulated wires, insulated so that they would
196 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
transmit messages in a storm, on the ground, or under
water, were wound upon reels making about two hun-
dred pounds weight of wire to each reel. . . . The mules
thus loaded were assigned to brigades, and always kept
with the commands they were assigned to. . . . The
moment the troops were put into position to go into
camp, all the men connected with this branch of service
would proceed to put up their wires. A mule loaded
with a coil of wire would be led to the rear of the near-
est flank of the brigade he belonged to, and would be
led in a line parallel thereto, while one man would hold
an end of the wire and uncoil it as the mule was led
off. . . . This would be done in the rear of every bri-
gade at the same time. The end of all the wires would
then be joined, making a continuous wire in the rear of
the whole army. . . . Before leaving Spottsylvania I
sent back to the defenses of Washington over one hun-
dred pieces of artillery, with horses and caissons. This
relieved the roads over which we were to march of more
than two hundred six-horse teams, and still left us more
artillery than could be advantageously used. In fact,
before reaching the James river, I again reduced the ar-
tillery with the army largely. . . ."
Then, too, Grant practically commanded the navy that
held the coast and every river in the Confederacy. What
a tremendous array against two little worn-out Confed-
erate armies, the condition of which is shown by the fol-
lowing letters :
" Headquarters, January 2, 1864.
" His Excellency, Jefferson Davis,
" President Confederate States,
"Mr. President: . . . We are now issuing to the
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 197
troops a fourth of a pound of salt meat and have only
three days' supply at that rate. . . .
" I am, with great respect,
" Your obedient servant,
" R. E. Lee,
" Army Northern Virginia,
*' January 18, 1864.
" Brig. Gen. A. R. Lawton,
" Quartermaster General, Richmond.
"General: The want of shoes and blankets in this
army continues to cause much suffering, and to impair
its efficiency. In one regiment, I am informed, there are
only fifty men with serviceable shoes, and a brigade that
recently went on picket was compelled to leave several
hundred men in camp who were unable to bear the ex-
posure, being destitute of shoes and blankets. . . .
" I am, with great respect,
" Your obt. svt.,
" R. E. Lee,
" Headquarters, April 12, 1864.
" Mr. President: My anxiety for provisions for the
army is so great that I cannot refrain from expressing
it to your Excellency. I cannot see how we can operate
with our present supplies. . . . We have rations for the
troops to-day and to-morrow. . . .
" I am, with great respect,
" Your obt. svt.,
"R. E. Lee,
198 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
" Headquarters, April 16, 1864.
" Gen. Braxton Bragg:
" General: I have received your letter of the '13th,
enclosing copy of a communication from Colonel Gorgas,
in reference to the large proportion of artillery with this
army. I have never found it too large in battle, and it
has generally been opposed by about three hundred pieces
of the enemy, of larger caliber, longer range, and with
more effective ammunition. If, however, its equipment
overtaxes the means of the Ordnance Department, or,
as you suggest, its supply of horses cannot be kept up,
that decides the question, and no argument on the sub-
ject is necessary. . . .
" R. E. Lee,
Grant had a " substantial advantage " in not having
to write such letters as these. In the history of the 5th
Massachusetts there is a letter from which the following
is taken :
". . . To-day I was up to Brandy Station. You can
form no idea of the bustle and confusion at this depot
when the army is getting ready to move. It looked to
me as if a thousand or more wagons were waiting to
load, and there were immense piles of ammunition and
all kinds of ordnance stores, etc., etc., and piles of boxes
of hard bread as high as two and three-story houses.
It reminded me some of a wharf in New York, with
twelve or fifteen ships loading and unloading. . . ."
Gen. Morris Schafif, assistant to the chief of ordnance
of the Army of the Potomac, says :
Facing page 199
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 199
". . , While I do not wish to encumber the narrative
with a burden of figures, yet it may interest the reader
to know that we had in the Army of the Potomac, the
morning we set off on the great campaign, 4300 wagons
and 835 ambulances. There were 34,981 artillery, cav-
alry, and ambulance horses, and 22,528 mules, making
an aggregate of 57,419 animals. The strength of the
Army of the Potomac was between ninety-nine and one
hundred thousand men. Burnside, who caught up with
us the second day of the Wilderness, brought with him
about twenty thousand more. . . ."
The fact is that a substantial advantage, — more than
that, a decisive advantage, — had been gained by the Army
of the Potomac before Grant came to Virginia, as the
following letter shows :
" Army of Northern Virginia,
"October 19, 1863.
" Hon. Jas. A. Seddon,
" Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.
"Sir: If General Meade is disposed to remain
quiet where he is, it is my intention, provided the army
could be supplied with clothing again, to advance and
threaten his position. Nothing prevented my continu-
ing in his front but the destitute condition of the men,
thousands of whom are barefooted, a greater number
partly shod, and nearly all without overcoats, blankets,
or warm clothing. . . .
" Very respectfully
" Your obt. svt,
"R. E. Lee."
200 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
This means, of course, that Lee was deprived of the
only advantage he ever had, that of threatening Wash-
ington. It was the turning point in the war, and was
reached before Grant came to Virginia, as the date of
this letter shows.
Grant crossed the Rapidan without opposition. Lee
thought he might repeat the miracle of Chancellorsville
and determined to hazard an attack. On the morning
of the 5th of May he advanced in two columns, Ewell
on the Orange Court House road, and Hill on the Plank
Road. Ewell soon struck the enemy's outposts and, while
forming his line of battle, Jones's brigade in making
a change of position was attacked by a large Federal
force, which advanced through the dense undergrowth.
General Jones was killed, with a loss of several hundred
of his men. The next fight was about 4 p. m., when
the Federals attacked the Confederate position and were
repulsed. The next morning Hill was heavily attacked,
Heth and Wilcox being driven back and thrown into
Things were looking very blue for the Confederates
when Longstreet came swinging down the plank road in
double column at a double-quick. The Texans led, 800
strong, and half of them went down, but the battle was
restored and the enemy driven to his position of the
previous night. Longstreet now advanced three brigades
against the enemy's right flank, and he himself attacked
in front. Hancock was badly beaten and thrown back
toward the Brock road, which Lee desired to secure,
but just at the critical moment Longstreet was wounded
by his own men. The resulting disorder and delay en-
abled the enemy to form a strong line of breastworks
built of logs.
About 4 p. m. Lee attacked. The battle raged furi-
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 201
ously, the woods on fire. The Confederates broke into
the Federal breastworks in places but were quickly driven
out. This attack ended the battle. The game was
blocked, and Grant on the night of the 7th resumed his
march toward Spottsylvania. Warren led the Federal
army, and Anderson the Confederate. Stuart worried
Warren and enabled Anderson to reach Spottsylvania
ahead of him. Both armies intrenched and nothing of
importance happened on the 9th, but on the loth Grant
sent Hancock, Warren, and Burnside against Lee's left
center. The first charge was made about 10 a. m., an-
other about 3 p. m., but both were repulsed with the
slaughter that Grant became familiar with in Virginia.
About 5 p. m. another, more reckless than the others,
was made and repulsed with terrible loss, while the Con-
federates suffered very little. Ewell's left was also as-
saulted late in the day, and his line, held by Dole's bri-
gade, broken; but Daniel, Stewart, and Gordon came to
the rescue, and the Federals were driven out with great
That Grant was surprised and scared by the resistance
he encountered is manifest in the following dispatch to
" May 10. The enemy hold our front in very
strong force and evince a strong determination to inter-
pose between us and Richmond to the last. I shall take
no backward step. . . . We can maintain ourselves at
least and in the end beat Lee's army, I believe. Send
to Belle Plain all the infantry you can rake and scrape.
With present position of the armies, ten thousand men
can be spared from the defenses of Washington, besides
all the troops that have reached there since Burnside's
202 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
He thinks he can " maintain " himself at least and in
the end beat Lee's army, provided he gets all the infantry
" you can rake and scrape."
" Near Spottsylvania, C. H.,
"May II, 1864, 8.30 a. m.
" Maj. Gen. Halleck,
" Chief of staff, Washington, D. C.
" We have now ended the 6th day of very hard fight-
ing. The result up to this time is much in our favor.
But our losses have been heavy, as well as those of the
enemy. We have lost up to this time eleven general
officers killed, wounded, and missing, and probably 20,-
000 men. ... I propose to fight it out on this line, if
it takes all summer. The arrival of reinforcements here
will be very encouraging to the men, and I hope they
will be sent as fast as possible, and in as great numbers.
... I am satisfied the enemy is very shaky, and are only
kept up to the mark by the greatest exertion on the part
of their officers, and by keeping them intrenched in every
position they take.
" U. S. Grant,
" Lieutenant General."
This is the celebrated " Fight it out on this line, if it
takes all summer " letter, but as any one can see it is
above all else a plea for help.
He wanted reinforcements " to encourage the army,"
though " the result up to this time is much in our favor."
He is " satisfied the enemy is very shaky," but he wants
reinforcements " as fast as possible and in as great num-
bers." It is not true that the Confederate officers made
any special effort to keep the men " up to the mark."
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 203
Lee was now in an unenviable position. Outnumbered
two to one, he held a line of no natural strength. Both
flanks were open to attack and if his opponent had been
a strategist the war would have ended at Spottsylvania
instead of at Appomattox. Lee was on his guard against
a flank movement, and ordered two batteries out of an
angle on Ewell's front, as it would have been difficult
to extricate them in an emergency. Johnson's division
occupied the angle, and on the night of the nth he be-
came alarmed at the enemy's movements in his front
and sent couriers to Lee requesting the return of the
guns. They were ordered back, but before they got into
position Hancock, at daylight on the 12th, overwhelmed
Johnson and caught the guns harmless in the road.
The Federal troops poured into the breach. They came
en masse. Lee rushed Gordon's, Rodes's, and Ram-
seur's divisions, and some of Long's artillery in to stop
the advance, and wanted to lead the troops, but he was
turned back by the men.
Of the fight that ensued G. N. Galloway, historian
of the Sixth corps, says :
" Just as the day was breaking, Barlow's and Birney's
divisions of Hancock's corps pressed forward upon the
unsuspecting foe, and leaping the works, after a hand
to hand conflict with the bewildered enemy in which guns
were used as clubs, possessed themselves of the intrench-
ments. . . . The rain was falling in torrents, and held
the country about in obscurity. . . . Under cover of the
smoke-laden rain the enemy was pushing large bodies
of troops forward, determined at all hazards to regain
the ground. . . . The smoke, which was dense at first,
was intensified by each discharge of artillery to such an
204 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
extent that the accuracy of our aim became very un-
certain, but nevertheless we kept up the fire in the sup-
posed direction of the enemy. Meanwhile they were
crawling forward under cover of the smoke, until, reach-
ing a certain point, and raising their usual yell, they
charged gallantly up to the very muzzles of our pieces,
and reoccupied the angle. Upon reaching the works,
the Confederates for a few moments had the advantage,
and made good use of their rifles. Our men went down
by the score; all the artillery horses were down; the
gallant Upton was the only mounted officer in sight.
Hat in hand, he cheered his men, and begged them to
hold ' this point.' All his staff had been killed, wounded,
or dismounted. At this moment, and while the open
ground in rear of the works was choked with troops,
a section of Battery C, 5th U. S. artillery, was brought
into action and increased the carnage by opening at
short range with double charges of canister. This stag-
gered the apparently exultant enemy. These guns were
run up by hand close to the angle, fired again and again,
and were only abandoned when all the drivers and can-
noneers had fallen. ... In a few moments the two
brass pieces of the 5th artillery, cut and hacked by the
bullets of both antagonists, lay unworked with their muz-
zles projecting over the enemy's works and their wheels
half sunk in the mud. Between the lines, and near at
hand, lay the horses of these gims completely riddled.
The dead and wounded were torn to pieces by the canister
as it swept the ground where they had fallen. . . . Our
losses were frightful. . . . About midnight, after twenty
hours of constant fighting, Lee withdrew from the con-
flict, leaving the angle in our possession."
Lee withdrew after he had effectually checked the ad-
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 205
vance of the enemy, and established a strong line a Httle
way in rear of the angle.
It will be noticed that the historian says " the open
ground in rear of the works was choked w'ith troops."
That was Grant's method of fighting, — main strength
and awkwardness. While the open ground in rear of
the works was choked with troops Lee was alarmed for
the safety of his left, for word kept coming up the line:
" All right on the center, look out on the left." After
ten o'clock in the morning Lee had every man he could
get on the center and could not have spared a man to
reinforce his left.
Senator Grimes wrote on the i8th of May : " Thus
far we have won no victory. We have suffered a terrible
loss in killed and wounded (nearly 50,000) and Lee is in
an impregnable position. . . ."
Grant's " fight it out on this line, if it takes all sum-
mer " letter produced the desired effect, as he received
On the 20th of May he started for Hanover Junction,
but Lee was there ahead of him. The North Anna
river was Lee's line of defense. Warren on the right
and Hancock on the left crossed the river. Burnside
tried to cross at a point intermediate between Warren
and Hancock, but was driven back. Grant was now in
the position Lincoln advised Hooker against when he
said : " I would not take any risk of being entangled
upon the river, like an ox jumped half over a fence and
liable to be torn by dogs front and rear, without a fair
chance to gore one way or kick the other."
Hancock and Warren had been worsted in the fight-
ing, and Burnside had been prevented from crossing at
all. " Grant," write Nicolay and Hay, " was completely
checkmated." Yet he sent the following dispatch:
2o6 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
" QuARLEs Mill, Va.
"May 26, 1864.
" Major General Halleck,
" Washington, D. C.
". . . Lee's army is whipped ... A battle with them
outside intrenchments cannot be had.
"U. S. Grant,
" Lieutenant General."
On the same night, the 26th, he withdrew Warren and
Hancock back across the river, otherwise he might have
had a fight with the Confederates outside of the breast-
Grant now marched down the North Anna to the
Pamunkey and crossed that river on the 28th.
His next effort to beat Lee was to be made at Cold
Harbor. The fight began on the afternoon of the ist
of June by an attack on Kershaw's and Hoke's divisions.
The Confederates were driven in, but fell back only a
little way and checked the advance of the enemy. The
2d was passed by both armies in preparation for the
coming battle, of which We have the following accounts.
General McMahon, U. S. V., chief of staff to General
Wright, Sixth corps, says :
" Before daylight (2d June) the Army of the Poto-
mac stood together once more almost within sight of the
spires of Richmond, and on the very ground where,
under McCldlan, they had defended the passage of the
river they were now endeavoring to force. . . . Every
one felt that this was to be the final struggle. No
further flanking marches were possible. Richmond was
dead in front. No further wheeling of corps from right
to left by the rear, no further dusty marches possi-
Facing page 207
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 207
ble on that line even if it ' took all summer.' The
general attack was fixed for the afternoon of the
2d, and all preparations had been made when the
order was countermanded and the attack postponed un-
til half-past four the following morning. Promptly at
the hour named on the 3d of June the men moved from
the slight cover of the rifle-pits, thrown up during the
night, with steady, determined advance, and there rang
out suddenly on the summer air such a crash of artil-
lery and musketry as is seldom heard in war. No great
portion of the advance could be seen from any particular
point, but those of the three corps that passed through
the clearings were feeling the fire terribly. Not much
return was made at first from our infantry, although
the fire of our batteries was incessant. The time of
actual advance was not over eight minutes. In that
little period more men fell bleeding as they advanced
than in any other like period of time throughout the
w^ar. A strange and terrible feature of this battle was
that as the three gallant corps moved on, each was en-
filaded while receiving the full force of the enemy's
direct fire in front. The enemy's shell and shot were
plunging through Hancock's battalions from his right.
From the left a similarly destructive fire was poured in
upon Smith, and from both flanks on the Sixth corps
in the center.
" At some points the slashings and obstructions in
the enemy's front were reached. Barlow, of Hancock's
corps, drove the enemy from an advance position, but
was himself driven out by the fire of their second line.
R. O. Tyler's brigade (the Corcoran Legion) of the
same corps swept over an advance work, capturing
several hundred prisoners. One officer alone, the colonel
of the 164th New York (James P. McMahon), seizing
2o8 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
the colors of his regiment from the dying color-
bearer as he fell, succeeded in reaching the para-
pet of the enemy's main works, where he planted
his colors and fell dead near the ditch, bleeding from
many wounds. Seven other colonels of Hancock's com-
mand died within those few minutes. No troops could
stand against such a fire, and the order to lie down was
given all along the line. At points where no shelter
was afforded the men were withdrawn to such cover as
could be found, and the battle of Cold Harbor, as to
its result at least, was over. Each corps commander
reported and complained to General Meade that the other
corps commanders, right or left, as the case might be,
failed to protect him from enfilading fire by silencing
batteries in their respective fronts ; Smith, that he could
go no farther until Wright advanced upon his left ; Han-
cock, that it was useless for him to attempt a further
advance until Wright advanced upon his right; Wright,
that it was impossible for him to move until Smith and
Hancock advanced to his support on the right and left
to shield him from the enemy's enfilade. Shortly after
midday came the order to suspend for the present all
further operations, and directing corps commanders to
intrench, * including their advance positions,' and direct-
ing also that reconnaissances be made, * with a view to
moving against the enemy's works by regular ap-
" The field in front of us, after the repulse of the
main attack, was indeed a sad sight. I remember at one
point a mute and pathetic evidence of sterling valor.
The 2d Connecticut Heavy Artillery, a new regiment
eighteen hundred strong, had joined us but a few days
before the battle. Its uniform was bright and fresh,
therefore its dead were easily distinguished where
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 209
they lay. They marked in a dotted line an ob-
tuse angle, covering a wide front, with its apex
toward the enemy, and there upon his face, still in death,
with his head to the works, lay the colonel, the brave
and genial Col. Elisha S. Kellogg.
" When night came on, the groans and moaning of
the wounded, all our own, who were lying between the
lines, were heartrending. Some were brought in by
volunteers from our intrenchments, but many remained
for three days uncared for beneath the hot summer suns
and the unrefreshing dews of the sultry summer nights.
The men in the works grew impatient, yet it was against
orders and was almost certain death to go beyond oui*
earthworks. An impression prevails in the popular
mind, and with some reason perhaps, that a commander
who sends a flag of truce asking permission to bury his
dead and bring in his wounded has lost the field of bat-
tle. Hence the reluctance upon our part to ask a flag
of truce. In effect it was done at last on the evening
of the third day after the battle, when, for the most part,
the wounded needed no further care, and our dead had
to be buried almost where they fell.
" The work of intrenching could only be done at night.
The fire of sharpshooters was incessant, and no man
upon all that line could stand erect and live an instant.
This condition of things continued for twelve days and
nights; sharpshooters' fire from both sides went on all
day; all night the zigzags and parallels nearer to the
enemy's works were being constructed. In none of its
marches by day or night did that army suffer more than
during those twelve days. Rations and ammunition
were brought forward from parallel to parallel through
the zigzag trenches, and in some instances where reg-
im.ents whose term of service had expired were ordered
210 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
home, they had to leave the field crawling on hands and
knees through the trenches to the rear. At nine o'clock
every night the enemy opened fire with artillery and mus-
ketry along his whole line. This was undoubtedly done
under suspicion that the Army of the Potomac had seen
the hopelessness of the task before it and w^ould with-
draw in the night-time for another movement by the
flank, and, if engaged in such a movement, would be
thrown into confusion by this threat of a night attack.
However, no advance was made by the enemy.
" Another strange order came about this time. It
opened with a preamble that inasmuch as the enemy had
without provocation repeatedly opened fire during the
night upon our lines, therefore, at midnight of that day,
the corps commanders were directed to open fire from all
their batteries generally upon the enemy's position and
continue it until daylight. This was coupled with the
proviso that if in the opinion of a corps commander the
fire would provoke a return from the enemy which would
inflict severe damage upon his troops, then he was ex-
empted from the operation of the order. The com-
manders of the three corps holding the front communi-
cated with one another by telegraph with this result :
Smith was satisfied that the fire which he w^ould pro-
voke would inflict upon him disproportionate damage.
Hancock for the same reason did not intend to open
fire unless the fire provoked by the other corps reached
his lines. Wright adopted the same rules of action.
Twelve o'clock came and the summer night continued
undisturbed. . . ."
General Law describes the battle in his front at the
point of attack on the afternoon of the ist:
" The line here had been straightened, leaving the old
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 211
line, a salient, open to the enemy. Our troops were
under arms and waiting when with misty light of open
morning the scattering fire of our pickets announced the
beginning of the attack. As the assaulting column swept
over the old works a loud cheer was given, and it rushed
on into the marshy ground in the angle. Its front
covered little more than the line of my own brigade of
less than a thousand men ; but line followed line until
the space enclosed in the old salient became a mass of
writhing humanity upon which our artillery and musketry
played with cruel effect. . . . On reaching the trenches
I found the men in fine spirits, laughing and talking as
they fired. Then, too, I could see more plainly the
terrible havoc made in the ranks of the assaulting column.
I had seen the dreadful carnage in front of Marye's
Hill at Fredericksburg, and on the old railroad cut which
Jackson's men held at Second Manassas, but I had seen
nothing to exceed this. It was not war, it was murder.
When the fight ended more than a thousand men lay
in front of our works, either killed or too badly wounded
to leave the field. The loss of my command was fifteen
or twenty, mostly wounded about the head or shoulders,
myself among the number. . . . The result of the action
in the center, which has been described, presents a
fair picture of the result along the line — a grand ad-
vance, a desperate struggle, a bloody and crushing
" Cold Harbor, June 5, 1864.
" AIajor General Halleck,
" Chief of staff of the Army,
"... I now find, after over thirty days of trial, the
enemy deems it of the first importance to run no risk
with the armies they now have. They act purely on
212 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
the defensive, behind breastworks, or feebly on the of-
fensive immediately in front of them, and where, in case
of repulse, they can instantly retire behind them.
" U. S. Grant,
" Lieutenant General."
This dispatch must have been a great surprise to
Lincoln, because Grant says in his " Memoirs " that
"Lee's army was the first great object — with the cap-
ture of his army Richmond would necessarily follow."
Lincoln had also declared that Lee's army was the " true
objective." Lee's army was Grant's " true objective,"
and, strange to say, the " true objective " did not come
out of its breastworks to attack Grant in his. Lincoln
probably thought that as Grant had started out in quest
of the " true objective " and had all the advantage in
initiative and everything else, and an army twice as
large as the *' true objective," he would not expect any
favors of the " true objective." That he was in his
breastworks is proven by the following excerpt from his
" It may be as well here as elsewhere to state two
things connected with all the movements of the Army of
the Potomac; first, in every change of position, or halt
for the night, whether confronting the enemy or not,
the moment arms were stacked the men intrenched
themselves. ... It was wonderful how quickly they
could in this way construct defenses of considerable
strength. . . ."
" Cold Harbor,
"June 3, 1864, 12.30 p. m.
" Major General Meade,
" Commanding A. P.
" The opinion of corps commanders not being san-
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 213
guine of success in case an assault is ordered, you may
direct a suspension of farther advance for the present.
Hold our most advanced positions and strengthen them.
Whilst on the defensive our line may be contracted from
the right if practicable. . . .
" \\>ight and Hancock should be ready to assault in
case the enemy should break through General Smith's
lines, and all should be ready to resist an assault.
" U. S. Grant,
" Lieutenant General."
On the 26th of May Lee's army was " whipped," and
would not fight out of its intrenchments ; and on the 3d
of June, eight days later. Grant is on the defensive be-
hind breastworks against that army. So it looks very
much as if the dispatch of the 26th of May was as ap-
plicable to his own army as to Lee's.
Grant was now in an awkward position, but the James
river that saved McClellan from destruction in 1862
offered him the means of escape and an opportunity to
On the 1 2th he commenced the movement and on the
1 6th had crossed the James river.
On the 14th of June he telegraphed to Halleck:
" The enemy show no signs yet of having brought
troops to the south side of Richmond. I will have
Petersburg secured, if possible, before they get there in
much force. . . ."
Some of Grant's admirers say that he outgeneraled Lee
in getting away and across the river. It was a very
easy thing to do. The country in Grant's rear and the
James river were in his possession. The country was
214 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
flat and wooded, and there was no possible way for Lee
to know that he was moving on Petersburg. The first
intimation came from Beauregard, who was in command
at Petersburg; but even then Lee could not take the
chances. He had to be certain that the move across the
river was a bona fide one before he could uncover Rich-
mond on the north side. Grant's army was large enough
to leave a strong rear-guard in his elaborate fortifications,
so that there was no appearance of change on Lee's front
until the movement was completed. Grant's " fight it
out on this line, if it takes all summer " came to an
inglorious end at Cold Harbor before the summer had
" It is said that the hurling of his men against Lee
in chosen and fortified positions was unnecessary, as
the roads in number and in direction lent themselves tO'
the operation of turning either flank of the Confederate
army. . . ."
". . .To assault all along the line," writes General
Walker, " as was so often done in the summer of 1864,
is the very abdication of leadership." See " Life of Gen-
". , .The loss of Grant from May 4 to June 12 in the
campaign from the Rapidan to the James was 54,929,
a number nearly equal to Lee's whole army at the com-
mencement of the Union advance ; that of the Confeder-
ates is not known, but it was certainly very much less.
Nor do the bare figures tell the whole story. Of this
enormous loss the flower of the Army of the Potomac
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 215
contributed a disproportionate share. Fighting against
such odds of position and strategy, the high-spirited and
capable officers were in the thick of danger, and of the
rank and file the veterans were always at the front ; they
were the forlorn hope. The bounty jumpers and mer-
cenaries skulked to the rear. The morale of the soldiers
was much lower than on the day when, in high spirits,
they had crossed the Rapidan. The confidence in Grant
of many of the officers and of most of the men had been
shaken. In the judgment of many military critics, Grant
had not been equal to his opportunities, had not made the
best use of his advantages, and had secured no gain com-
mensurate with his loss."
H. Thurston Peck, in his " Twenty years of the Re-
public," says :
" Placed at the head of the Army of the Potomac, he
fought the useless and bloody battle of the Wilderness,
that name of horror, from which he was forced back
with a loss of 20,000 men. At Spottsylvania he made
three desperate frontal attacks upon a strongly fortified
position, with no result except a lavish loss of life. Then
came the crowning blunder of Cold Harbor, when again
the Confederates' intrenchments were assaulted from the
front, and when within an hour 12,000 Union soldiers
fell. It was here that Grant, unmoved by the frightful
loss of life, ordered a third charge, and the army re-
mained motionless, refusing to obey. Even Grant him-
self in after years spoke of Cold Harbor with remorse.
In this one campaign, which earned for him the title of
* The Butcher,' he lost more men than Lee had in his
entire army. ..."
The lines at Petersburg were held by Beauregard with
2i6 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
2500 men. On the 15th Grant's advance, 16,000 strong,
came up at 9 a. m., but did not attack until 7 p. m.
Beauregard lost about one and a half miles of intrench-
ments and sixteen guns. Hancock came up at night.
During the night Beauregard built a temporary line,
throwing out the part that had been captured. The next
morning he had 14,000 men against Hancock's 48,000.
Hancock captured four of Beauregard's redans. On the
17th he captured another redan, four guns, and 600 pris-
oners, and the Confederates recaptured one redan and
1000 prisoners. The Fifth corps and one division of the
Sixth now came up. At night Beauregard withdrew to
a line that had been in preparation forty-eight hours. At
4 a. m. on the i8th the Second, Fifth, and Ninth corps
attacked, with the Sixth in reserve. The whole Army
of the Potomac was up, while reinforcements on the way
to Beauregard were only 12,000 and were from three
to five hours away. Meade's orders were to " assault
by all the corps with their whole force, and at all haz-
ards and as soon as possible."
Rhodes says :
". . .Grant and IMeade were now on the ground, and
on June 16, 17, and 18 ordered successive assaults, which
failed to take Petersburg, and resulted in a loss of about
10,000 men. Owing to the much greater number of the
Union soldiers, the attempt on the first two days was
feasible ; but the work, according to one of Grant's staff,
was not * equal to our previous fighting, owing to our
heavy loss in superior officers.'. . ."
On the 19th Grant ordered the army to rest under
Rhodes says :
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 217
" The Army of the Potomac was worn out. The con-
tinual fighting for forty-five days at a disadvantage and
without success, and the frequent marches by night, had
exhausted and disheartened the men. . . . Indeed, a
reconstruction and reorganization of the Army were
necessary; these were made during the many weeks of
inaction from June 18 to the spring of 1865, covered by
the siege of Petersburg, which now commenced. . . ."
Senator Grimes wrote:
"June 19. Grant's campaign is regarded by mili-
tary critics as being thus far a failure. He has lost a
vast number of men, and is compelled to abandon his
attempt to capture Richmond on the North side and cross
the James river. The question is asked significantly,
* Why did he not take his army south of the James river
at once, and thus save seventy-five thousand men ? ' "
On the 2 1st Grant sent the Second and the Sixth corps
to extend his left, and Wilson, with 6000 cavalry, to de-
stroy the Weldon, and to cut the Southside and Danville
railroads. Lee attacked and defeated the two corps, and
captured 1740 prisoners, four guns, a large quantity of
small arms, and eight flags. Wilson fared still worse.
His trains were fired and abandoned and his artillery
and a large number of prisoners captured. He was glad
to get back to the Union lines, with the remnant of his
command hotly pursued by the Confederate cavalry.
On the 2d of July Congress passed a resolution re-
questing the President to appoint a day of " humiliation
and prayer," that the people may " confess and repent
of their manifold sins, implore the compassion and for-
giveness of the Almighty, that, if consistent with His
2i8 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
will, the existing rebellion may be suppressed," and " im-
plore Him as the Supreme Ruler of the world not to
destroy us as a people." The President " cordially "
concurred, and the first Thursday in August was the ap-
" From " Chattanooga to Petersburg," by General
*' Baldy " Smith :
" July lo. In a confidential conversation with Gen-
eral Grant I tried to show him the blunders of the late
campaign of the Army of the Potomac, and the terrible
waste of life that had resulted from what I considered
a want of generalship in its present commander. Among
other instances, I referred to the fearful slaughter at
Cold Harbor on the 3d of June. General Grant went
into the discussion, defending General Meade stoutly,
but finally acknowledged, to use his own words, * that
there had been a butchery at Cold Harbor, but that he
had said nothing about it because it could do no good.' "
Rhodes says :
" Hardly any one now, I think, would speak of this
campaign and its blunders as Meade's ; they were Grant's.
Neither is it clear why Smith, July 10, 1864, should have
imputed the responsibility for them to Meade, unless he
was hitting Grant over Meade's shoulders."
Lee's ruling passion was strong in death, and so he
ordered Early to threaten Washington.
Rhodes says :
"If Early had profited by the moment of consterna-
tion, he could have gone into Washington early on
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 219
July II. He says there were only 20,400 men in the
defenses, nearly all raw troops."
If Early had been alone, no doubt he could have gone
in and put up at Willard's. But as he had a tired army
strung out on the roads it would have taken time to
change from the line of march to the line of battle, and
two divisions of the Sixth corps arrived from City Point
at noon, long before Early could have made his dispo-
sition for attack.
Lee's tangible reason for sending Early to threaten
Washington was to induce Grant to repeat Cold Harbor.
He said : " It is so repugnant to Grant's principles and
practice to send troops from him that I had hoped, be-
fore resorting to it, he would have preferred attacking
Another Cold Harbor at that time might have resulted
in the triumph of the peace party, and Lee was mindful
of the necessity of doing anything " honorable to aid
The fact is that Early had no thought of taking Wash-
ington, and made no disposition of his forces with that
intention, nor was Washington at that or any other
time in danger of capture.
" Despondency and discouragement are words which
portray the state of feeling at the North during the
month of July, 1864, ^"d the closer one's knowledge of
afifairs the gloomier was his view ; but the salient facts
put into every one's mind the pertinent question, Who
shall revive the withered hopes that bloomed on the open-
ing of Grant's campaign? See New York World, July
12. Yet this journal was fair in its treatment of Grant."
220 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Referring to Grant's dispatch to Sherman in which
he said, " I shall make a desperate effort to get a position
which will hold the enemy without the necessity of so
many men," Lincoln telegraphed to Grant on the 17th of
July: " Pressed as we are, by lapse of time, I am glad
to hear you say this; and yet I do hope you may find a
way that the effort shall not be desperate in the loss of
The next day he called for 500,000 men, and ordered
a draft after September 5 for the unfilled quotas.
In the latter part of July, Lieut. Col. Henry Pleasants,
of the 48th Pennsylvania regiment, conceived the idea
of blowing up a Confederate salient that was only about
500 feet from his position. By the 23d his mine was
completed and charged with 8000 pounds of powder.
On the 28th Grant sent Hancock and Sherman with the
second corps and two divisions of cavalry to the north
of the river to cause Lee to send troops to oppose them.
Hancock had orders to return secretly in the night by
The mine was exploded on the morning of the 30th.
The Confederate line was blown up, leaving a hole, or
crater as it is called, 135 feet long, 90 feet wide, and
30 feet deep. Two hundred Confederates were killed.
Burnside's troops were massed immediately in front of
the crater, then the Ninth and the Eighteenth corps;
Hancock with the Second corps was to support the at-
tack. The Confederate force holding the lines at Peters-
burg was 13,000, while Grant had 65,000 for the assault.
The assault was led by Ledlie's division of the Ninth
corps, followed by Ferrero's negro division. Some idea
of the demoralization Grant had wrought in the Army
of the Potomac may be had from the following receipts
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 221
from articles written by soldiers of Ledlie's division who
were in the crater:
George L. Kilmer, of the Ninth corps, in the Century,
September, 1887, says:
" First, there was a feeling that the soldiers had been
pushed persistently into slaughter pens from the Wilder-
ness down, and needlessly sacrificed by such methods.
Second, there was a determination to rebel against fur-
ther slap-dash assaults. . . ."
Major William H. Powell, of the Ninth corps, in the
Century, September, 1887:
". . . With the notable exception of Gen. Robert B.
Potter, not a division commander was in the crater or
connecting lines, nor was there a corps commander on
the immediate scene of action. . . .
" There was no means of getting food or water to
them (the men), for which they were suffering. The
midsummer sun shone upon their heads until waves of
moisture produced by the exhalations from this mass
slowly arose in perceptible horizontal layers ; wounded
men died there begging piteously for a drink of water,
a drop of which was not to be had, for the men had long
since drained their canteens. Soldiers extended their
tongues to dampen their parched lips until they seemed
to hang from their mouths like those of thirsty dogs, and
yet they were kept waiting in those almost boiling caul-
drons, suffering with thirst and worse, and with their all
night preparations and their fearful morning work. . . .
" Previous to this last movement I had again left the
crater and gone to General Ledlie, and had urged him to
try to have something done to the right and left of the
222 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
crater, saying that every man who got into the trenches
to the right or left of it used them as a means of escape
to the crater, and the enemy was re-occupying them as
fast as our men left. All the satisfaction I received was
an order to go back and tell the brigade commanders to
get their men out and press forward to Cemetery Hill.
This talk and these orders, coming from a commander
sitting in a bomb-proof inside the Union lines was dis-
George L. Kilmer says:
". . . Then the colored troops broke and scattered,
and pandemonium reigned. The bravest lost heart, and
the men who distrusted the negroes vented their feelings
freely. Some colored men came into the crater, and
there they found worse fate than death in the charges.
It was believed among the whites that the enemy would
give no quarter to negroes or to the whites taken with
them, and so to be shut up with blacks in the crater was
equal to a doom of death. . . ."
Major Powell says:
". . . It was now evident that the enemy did not fear
a demonstration from any other quarter, as they began
to collect troops for a decisive assault. On observing
this, I left the crater and reported to General Ledlie,
whom I found seated in a bomb-proof with General
Ferrero, that some means ought to be devised for with-
drawing the mass of men from the crater, without ex-
posing them to the terrible fire which was kept up by the
enemy; that if some picks and shovels could be found,
the men in an hour could open a covered way by which
they could be withdrawn; that the enemy was making
JOHN C. FREMONT
Facing- page 223
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 223
every preparation for a determined assault on the crater,
and, disorganized as the troops were, they could make
no permanent resistance. Not one implement of any
kind could be found; instead, the proposition was re-
ceived with disfavor."
About 2 p. m. the Confederates charged and put an
end to the suffering. They found nearly 2000 men alive
and dead in the crater.
The military court censured Ledlie, Burnside, Wilcox,
Ferrero, and Colonel Bliss, and expressed their judg-
ment to the effect that in the absence of the commanding
general the whole force should have been under the com-
mand of one officer.
But the commanding general was not absent. At 10
a. m. Grant telegraphed to Halleck that he was just from
the front. He had left his cowardly generals in bomb-
proofs and his men in the crater, and ridden leisurely
to his comfortable headquarters at City Point,
Rhodes says :
" There is little or no evidence, so far as I know, ex-
hibiting the dejection of Grant at the failure of the high
hopes and expectations which filled his soul when he
crossed the Rapidan. His sturdy disposition and strong
will, the detennination that he must succeed, prevented
probably the admission to himself of failure, and even
if they had not, his stolid countenance would have con-
cealed it. Yet two circumstances seem to indicate that
the bitterness of disappointment was his share. It was
commonly believed in the army that his misfortunes had
driven him again to drink, and on this account and others,
Butler, with crafty method, acquired a hold on him which
prevented him from acting for the best interests of the
224 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
". . . The intense gloom displayed itself in two forms,
in eagerness for peace and in dissatisfaction with Lin-
coln. * I know,' wrote Greeley to Lincoln, August 9,
* that nine-tenths of the American people, North and
South, are anxious for peace, peace on almost any terms,
and utterly sick of human slaughter and devastation.
... I beg you, implore you, to inaugurate or invite pro-
posals for peace forthwith. And in case peace cannot
now be made, consent to an armistice for one year, each
party to retain unmolested all it now holds, but the rebel
ports to be opened. Meantime let a national convention
be held, and there will surely be no more war at all
". . . Thomas A. Scott, who was always ready to
help efficiently the government in a time of trouble, and
who now offered the services of himself and his railroad,
telegraphed from Philadelphia to Stanton : ' The apathy
in the public mind is fearful. It might well be doubted
whether men in sufficient numbers and money in a suffi-
cient amount would be forthcoming to complete the work
of conquering the South.' "
Among many absurdities in Grant's " Memoirs " is
" Criticism has been made by writers on the campaign
from the Rapidan to the James river that all the loss of
life could have been obviated by moving the army there
on transports. Richmond was fortified and intrenched
so perfectly that one man inside to defend was more than
equal to five outside besieging or assaulting. To get
possession of Lee's army was the first great object.
With the capture of his army, Richmond would neces-
sarily follow. It was better to fight him outside of his
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 225
stronghold than in it. If the Army of the Potomac had
been moved bodily to the James river by water, Lee
could have moved a part of his forces back to Richmond,
called Beauregard from the South to reinforce it, and
with the balance moved on to Washington. Then, too,
I ordered a move, simultaneously with that of the Army
of the Potomac, up the James river by a formidable army
already collected at the mouth of the river. ..."
Lee's strategy all through the war was designed to
keep his army out of " his stronghold," because he knew
he did not have men enough, and could not get supplies
enough, to hold it.
McClellan moved his army by water to the White
House on the Pamunkey river in 1862, and no attempt
to take \A^ashington was made. At his best Lee never
attempted to take Washington, for it, too, was fortified,
and stronger than Richmond ever was. It is not likely
he would have attempted it when the Confederacy was
on its last legs and a " formidable army moving up the
Grant had three alternatives. First, he could trans-
port his army to City Point by water. Second, he could
march by his left flank to that point, avoiding battle un-
less attacked, in which event he would have had what he
so much desired, — 'the enemy in the open. Third, he
could move directly on Lee's army, with his object to
get possession of it and end the war. He chose
the third alternative. He made no mistake. It was
sound military sense, for there was no reason to sup-
pose that the Army of Northern Virginia in its worn
and tattered condition could longer resist the magnificent
Army of the Potomac, double its strength in numbers.
This, then, was Grant's real reason for his direct march
226 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
on Lee. He thought, and had every reason to think, he
could beat Lee in a pitched battle and end the war.
He admits his disappointment. He admits that he
expected " to get possession of Lee's army " in the fol-
lowing dispatch :
" Cold Harbor, June 5, 1864.
" Major General Halleck,
" Chief of Staff of the Army.
". . . Without a greater sacrifice of human life than
I am willing to make, all cannot be accomplished that I
had designed. . . .
" U. S. Grant,
" Lieutenant General."
Rhodes says :
" Grant had hoped to destroy or defeat totally Lee's
army north of Richmond, and, failing to do either, had
decided to transfer his troops to the south of the James,
and from that quarter besiege the Confederates in their
capital. . . ."
When Grant crossed the Rapidan he expected to gain
a decisive victory and end the war. In that he made a
most disastrous failure, so when he comes to write his
report he says : " Second, to hammer continuously
against the armed force of the enemy and his resources,
until by mere attrition, if in no other way, there should
be nothing left to him but an equal submission with the
loyal section of our common country to the constitution
and the laws of the land."
It will be seen that he substitutes for the original ob-
ject, the " capture of Lee's army," attrition, which had
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 227
become a condition in his army at any rate before it was
a theory in his reports.
The campaign of 1864 was the last of Lee's campaigns,
the end of the war, and of his career.
Steam and electricity had accelerated military oper-
ations, and consequently all modern wars have been of
short duration; but Lee in his last campaign, though
overwhelmed with numbers and resources, succeeded in
prolonging the war another year, making it the longest
of modern wars.
Any one who studies the campaign of 1864 will be
puzzled. He will not know whether to pronounce Lee
the greatest general that ever lived, or Grant the poorest.
Lee's staff officers, Fitz Lee, and other friends of Lee
wrote books in which they charged Longstreet with being
slow at Gettysburg and in the Wilderness ; so when Long-
street came to write his book he was not content to con-
fine himself to a refutation of these charges, but furiously
assailed their authors and General Lee himself. His
criticisms of Lee are intemperate and in some cases
ridiculous; but they and the stupidity of the books of
Lee's staff officers and generals, together with the fact
that he failed to conquer Confederate independence in the
Maryland or Pennsylvania campaign, cause historians to
form an estimate of him of which the following quota-
tion from Rhodes is a fair example :
" His victories on his own soil were extraordinary ;
but if we compare his campaigns of invasion with those
bf Napoleon, we shall see how far he fell short when
he undertook operations in an unfriendly country, al-
though the troops that followed him were in fighting
qualities unsurpassed. ' Except in equipment,' writes
228 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
General Alexander, * I think a better army, better nerved
up to its work, never marched upon a battle-field.' With
such soldiers, if Lee had been as great a general as Na-
poleon, Gettysburg had been an Austerlitz, Washington
and the Union had fallen. ..."
Creasy, in his " Decisive Battles of the World," says :
". . . The strength of the army under the Duke of
Wellington at Waterloo was 49,608 infantry, 12,402
cavalry, and 5645 artillerymen with 156 guns. But of
this total of 67,655 men scarcely 24,000 were British, a
circumstance of very serious importance, if Napoleon's
own estimate of the relative value of the troops of differ-
ent nations is to be taken. In the Emperor's own words,
speaking of this campaign: *A French soldier would
not be equal to more than one English soldier, but he
would not be afraid to meet two Dutchmen, Prussians,
or soldiers of the Confederation.' There were about
6000 men of the old German Legion with the Duke;
these were veteran troops, and of good quality. Of the
rest of the army the Hanoverians and Brunswickers
proved themselves worthy of confidence and praise. But
the Nassauers, Dutch, and Belgians were almost worth-
less ; and not a few of them were justly suspected of a
strong wish to fight, if they fought at all, under the
French eagles rather than against them. . . .
" Napoleon's army at Waterloo consisted of 48,950
infantry, 15,765 cavalry, 7232 artillerymen, being a total
of 71,947 men, and 246 guns. They were the flower
of the National forces of France; and of all the numer-
ous gallant armies which that martial land has poured
forth, never was one braver, or better disciplined, or
better led than the host that took up its position at
Waterloo on the morning of the i8th of June, 181 5. . . ."
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 229
Napoleon, according to his own statement, had the
advantage over Wellington in numbers, while Lee was
at least 22,200 men weaker than Aleade. Napoleon's
arms, ammunition, equipment, etc., were fully equal to
or superior to Wellington's, as France was the great
military nation of the age, while Lee's were very much
inferior to Meade's. Meade's position at Gettysburg
was far stronger than Wellington's at Waterloo. Na-
poleon's line of communication was safe; Lee's in immi-
nent peril. So that before arriving at the conclusion
that had Lee been a Napoleon, " Gettysburg had been an
Austerlitz, Washington and the Union had fallen," it
would be well to inquire why Napoleon did not make an
Austerlitz of Waterloo.
Napoleon lost his army and himself. His retreat was
the most disgraceful and disastrous on record.
Of it Colonel Lemonnier-Delaposse says:
" What a hideous spectacle ! The mountain torrent,
that uproots and whirls along with it every momentary
obstacle, is a feeble image of that heap of men, of horses,
of equipages, rushing one upon another; gathering be-
fore the least obstacle which dams up their way for a
few seconds, only to form a mass which overthrows
everything in the path which it forces for itself. Woe
to him whose footing failed in that deluge ! He was
crushed, trampled to death! . . .
" We drew near Beaumont, when suddenly a regiment
of horse was seen debouching from a wood on our left.
The column that we followed shouted out, * The Prus-
sians ! The Prussians ! ' and galloped off in utter dis-
order. The troops that thus alarmed them were not a
tenth part of their number, and were in reality our own
8th Hussars, who wore green uniforms. But the panic
230 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
had been brought even this far from the battle-field and
the disorganized column galloped into Beaumont, which
was already crowded with our infantry. . . .
" Being still anxious to procure some food for the
general and ourselves, even if it were but a loaf of am-
munition bread, I left the house and rode into the town.
I saw pillage going on in every direction ; open caissons,
stripped and half broken, blocked up the streets. The
pavement was covered with plundered and torn baggage.
Pillagers and runaways, such were all the comrades I
met with. Disgusted at them, I strove, sword in hand,
to stop one of the plunderers ; but more active than I,
he gave me a bayonet stab in my left arm, in which I
fortunately caught his thrust, which had been aimed full
at my body. He disappeared among the crowd through
which I could not force my horse. My spirit of disci-
pline had made me forget that in such circumstances the
soldier is a mere wild beast. But to be wounded by
a fellow countryman after having passed unharmed
through all the perils of Ouatre Bras and Waterloo!
This did seem hard indeed. . . ."
Lee stood in front of Meade all day on the 4th, and
then retreated slowly to the Potomac, where he con-
fronted him until the 13th.
Lee never expected to capture Washington and con-
quer Confederate independence. We have it in his own
" Headquarters Orange County,
" February 3, 1864.
" His Excellency Jefferson Davis,
" President Confederate States.
" Mr. President : The approach of spring causes
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 231
me to consider with great anxiety the probable action of
the enemy's army and the possible operations of ours in
the ensuing campaign. If we could take the initiative
and fall upon them unexpectedly, we might derange their
plans and embarrass them the wdiole summer. ... If
I could draw Longstreet secretly and rapidly to me, I
might succeed in forcing General Meade back to Wash-
ington, and exciting sufficient apprehension at least for
their position to weaken any movement against ours.
. . . We are not in condition, and never have been, in
my opinion, to invade the enemy's country with a pros-
pect of permanent benefit. But we can alarm and em-
barrass him to some extent, and thus prevent him from
undertaking anything of magnitude against us. . . .
" I am, with great respect,
" Your obedient servant,
"R. E. Lee,
This letter also shows that if Lee had been strong
enough he would have repeated his strategy of 1862 and
1863, and would have prolonged the war another year.
Grant says :
". . . Anything that could have prolonged the war a
year beyond the time that it did finally close would prob-
ably have exhausted the North to such an extent that
they might then have abandoned the contest and agreed
to a separation. . . ."
" Frederick the Great," says Carlyle, " always got to
know his man, after fighting him a month or two, and
took liberties with him or did not take them accordingly."
The same thing has been said of Lee, but without reason.
232 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Lee took liberties with Lincoln's generals before he had
fought them a month or two, because he knew that they
carried Washington, " the old man of the sea," on their
Rhodes, in speaking of Lee's operations against Pope,
says : " He devised a plan contrary, the military critics
say, * to the recognized principles of strategy.' " Macau-
lay expresses the same idea regarding Peterborough's
generalship in Spain.
Sir Edward Hamley says :
" Nothing is more common than to find in writings on
military matters reference to the * rules of war,' and
assertions such as that some general ' violated every prin-
ciple of war,' or that some other general owed his success
to * knowing when to dispense with the rules of war.'
It would be difficult to say what these rules are, or in
what code they are embodied. . . . Jomini expresses vir-
tually the same view.
". . . Clausewitz has declared that the theory of the
art of war is valuable just in so far as it assists to guide
a man through the vast labyrinth of military experience,
and to prepare his mind to be ready to act for itself under
the emergencies of actual war; but he adds, it must re-
nounce all pretensions to accompany him on to the field
of battle. . . ."
From all of which it would appear that there are no
" rules of war " nor " recognized principles of strategy,"
and that even the theory of the art of war should be left
at home, and brains and energy substituted.
Lee's apparent recklessness and his disregard of the
" rules of war " and " recognized principles of strategy "
are easily accounted for.
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 233
He realized from the first that the only hope of suc-
cess was in prolonging the war, and that the only way
to prolong it was to threaten Washington.
If he had lost Richmond, he could not have threatened
Washington. Not only that, but the Army of the Po-
tomac would have been relieved of the defense of Wash-
ington, and would have been free to operate against the
armies in the South.
Then, too, Lee's army, deprived of the support of
Richmond and Virginia, would have grown weaker every
day. Therefore, his whole object during the entire war
was to keep the Army of the Potomac away from Rich-
mond; and in doing that he had to resort to strategy
which appeared reckless in the extreme, but which was
nevertheless absolutely necessary.
Now, if we consider in addition his natural disposition,
we can easily account for all his reckless strategy and
Longstreet says of it :
" As a commander he was much of the Wellington * up
and at 'em ' style. He found it hard, the enemy in sight,
to withhold his blows. . , . When the hunt was up, his
combativeness was overruling."
The absurd fear that he would capture Washington
was his main stay. But for it the war would have been
fought on other lines. Some of the scares of the Wash-
ington authorities were really ludicrous.
In General Hooker's testimony on the conduct of the
war he says :
" I may here state that while at Fairfax Court House
my cavalry was reinforced by that of Major General
234 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Stahel. The latter numbered 6100 sabres, and had been
engaged in picketing a line from Occoguan river to
Goose creek. This line was concentric to, and a portion
of it within, the line held by my army.
" The force opposed to them was Mosby's guerillas,
numbering about 200 (Mosby says 30) ; and, if the re-
ports of the newspapers were to be believed, this whole
party was killed two or three times during the winter.
" From the time I took command of the Army of the
Potomac there was no evidence that any force of the
enemy, other than that above named, was within one
hundred miles of Washington ; and yet the planks on
the chain bridge were taken up at night during the greater
part of the winter and spring."
Mosby was perched in the mountains, and Washington
was as scared of him as an old hen would have been
had he been a chicken hawk.
But the old Merrimac gave them the scare of their
Rhodes says :
". . . The next morning, in Washington, Seward,
Chase, Stanton, and Wells hastened to the White House
to confer with the President. . . . Stanton was especially
excited. * I have no doubt,' he said, ' that the monster
is at this moment on her way to Washington.' Looking
out of the window, which commanded a view of the Po-
tomac for many miles, he continued, ' Not unlikely we
shall have from one of her guns a shell or cannon ball
in the White House before we leave this room.' . . ."
Creasy says :
". . . Niebuhr, after referring to the military * blun-
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 235
ders ' of Mithridates, Frederick the Great, Napoleon,
Pyrrhus, and Hannibal, uses these remarkable words :
' The Duke of Wellington is, I believe, the only general
in whose conduct of war we cannot discover any im-
portant mistakes.' . . ."
Artemus Ward, in explaining the failure of an enter-
prise, said : " I tried to do too much — and did it."
So it was with Mithridates, Frederick, Napoleon, Pyr-
rhus, Hannibal, and Lee. In Lee's Maryland campaign
he might have been content to let Antietam go. The
capture of Harper's Ferry alone would have been a splen-
did climax of the glorious campaign which had raised
the siege of Richmond, driven Pope into Washington,
and thrown McClellan's splendid army from the James
river to Maryland, and prolonged the war a year. The
Gettysburg campaign commenced with the miracle of
Chancellorsville, followed by the miracle of throwing
Hooker's army from Fredericksburg to Pennsylvania.
It prolonged the war another year, and Lee could have
contented himself with the victory of the first day as
the grand climax of the campaign.
Jackson was probably as pugnacious as Lee, but he
had the will power to suppress his inclinations.
" God blessed our arms with victory at McDowell
" Through the blessing of an ever kind Providence I
passed Strasburg before the Federal armies under Gen-
eral Shields and Fremont effected the contemplated junc-
tion in my rear."
Jackson could thank God for helping him run away
as heartily as for a victory.
236 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
Creasy says, speaking of Napoleon's opinion of Han-
". . . Napoleon said at St. Helena that Caesar was a
great soldier, but he had Roman veterans against the
barbarian Gauls; Alexander was a great soldier, but he
conquered the Persian hordes with the trained troops of
Greece ; while Hannibal created an army from hetero-
geneous material, and led it successfully against the
trained veterans of Rome. He therefore considered
Hannibal the greatest military genius of ancient times.
He places Frederick the Great first in rank of modern
generals, because he held out for seven years against the
armies of Austria, Russia, France, and Sweden. It will
be seen that Napoleon formed his estimate of soldiers
largely on the odds against them, rather than on success
in the abstract. . . ."
It is doubtful if any general ever fought under such
disadvantages as Lee. Always inferior in numbers,
arms, ammunition, supplies of subsistence and transpor-
tation, he had six rivers on his flank all in possession of
the enemy's powerful navy, which accomplished more
in the subjugation of the Confederacy than did the
armies. But for the James river McClellan's army would
have been destroyed in 1862; and had there been no
James, Pamunkey, and York rivers, and no Chesapeake
bay, Grant would have found himself in an awkward
position in 1864.
After Gettysburg, in September, Longstreet was or-
dered to Tennessee. He wrote to Lee as follows :
" If I did not think our move a necessary one, my
regrets at leaving you would be distressing to me, as
it seems to be with the officers and men of my command.
THE RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES 237
Believing it to be necessary, I hope to accept it and my
other personal inconveniences cheerfully and hopefully.
All that we have to be proud of has been accomplished
under your eye and under your orders. Our affections
for you are stronger, if it is possible for them to be
stronger, than our admiration for you."
This was written of course before Longstreet wrote
his book, and it would be better for his reputation if he
had never written anything else.
From Harper's Weekly:
" As we have several times pointed out, there was no
a priori ground for supposing that Mr. Roosevelt, being
the son of a Southern woman, would share the antipathy
with which Southerners used to be regarded by some of
the Northern abolitionists; while, as a matter of fact,
he has made no secret of his admiration for the incom-
parable gallantry displayed by the Confederates in their
struggle for separate political existence. He has re-
corded in print his conviction that ROBERT E. LEE
was the greatest military genius ever produced by the
English-speaking race. In other words, the President
has ranked the Confederate commander-in-chief above
Cromwell, Marlborough, and Wellington, whom he
would place in the same category with Grant. The cir-
cumstance that Grant beat Lee in the end no more proves
the former to have been the greater general than the
superiority of Scipio Africanus to Hannibal is shown
by the outcome of the battle of Zama, or than that of
Wellington to Napoleon is attested by the latter's defeat
Creasy says :
238 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
" * Twice,' says Arnold, * has there been witnessed the
struggle of the highest individual genius against the re-
sources and institutions of a great nation; and in both
cases the nation has been victorious. For seventeen
years Hannibal strove against Rome; for sixteen years
Napoleon strove against England; the efforts of the first
ended at Zama, those of the second at Waterloo.' ..."
Now we may add a third. Lee strove against the
United States, and his effort ended at Appomattox.
Hannibal, Napoleon, and Lee, the greatest military
geniuses, all suffered defeat in the end, because even
genius itself is not proof against main strength and
THE SIEGE OF RICHMOND
CITY POINT was an ideal base. At the confluence
of the James and the Appomattox, just below Rich-
mond and Petersburg, — a harbor which accommodated
Grant's fleet, a forest of masts, — within a few hours of
Fortress Monroe, Baltimore, Washington, and New
York, it was, with all navigable waters in possession of
the United States navy, absolutely safe against a power
with no navy. But its superlative preeminence lay in
the fact that it was within easy reach of the arteries, the
railroads, that were vital to Lee's army and Richmond.
Nicolay and Hay say:
". . . Grant was every day pushing his formidable
left wing nearer the only roads by which Lee could es-
cape ; Thomas was threatening the Confederate communi-
cation with Tennessee ; Sheridan was moving for the
last time up the Valley of the Shenandoah to abolish
Early; while from the South the redoubtable column of
Sherman, — the men who had taken Vicksburg, who had
scaled the heights of Chattanooga, and having marched
through Georgia had left Savannah loyal and Charleston
evacuated, — were moving Northward with the steady
pace and irresistible progress of a tragic fate. . . ."
As Grant extended his left wing Lee extended his
right until his " stronghold," as Grant called it, was
thirty miles long and across two rivers, and so weak that
240 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
in places in the woods where it could not be seen it was
held with a picket line.
Nicolay and Hay say of the Army of the Potomac :
". . . It was a great army; it was the result of all
the power and wisdom of the Government. . . ."
To oppose this " great army " Lee had about 50,000
men, and they were deserting by the hundred every
night, partly because of hunger, but more generally be-
cause their homes in the South were now in the enemy's
lines, and they were anxious as to the fate of their
families at the hands of the negroes and such barbarians
An idea of the condition of Lee's army may be had
from the following correspondence :
" Army of Northern Virginia,
" September 2, 1864.
" His Excellency Jefferson Davis,
" President Confederate States.
" As matters now stand we have no troops available
to meet movements of the enemy, or strike when oppor-
tunity presents, without taking them from the trenches
and exposing some point. The enemy's position enables
him to move his troops to the right or left without our
knowledge until he has reached the point at which he
aims, and we are then compelled to hurry our men to
meet him, incurring the risk of being too late to check
his progress, and the additional risk of the advantage he
may derive from their absence. This was fully illus-
trated in the late demonstration north of the James river,
which called troops from our line there, who, if present,
might have prevented the occupation of the Weldon rail-
THE SIEGE OF RICHMOND 241
road. These rapid and distant movements also fatigue
and exhaust our men, greatly impairing their efficiency
in battle. . . . Our ranks are constantly diminishing by
battle and disease, and few recruits are received. The
consequences are inevitable, and I feel confident that the
time has come when no man capable of bearing arms
should be excused.
"R. E. Lee,
F. G. Ruffin, Subsistence Department, C. S. A., says:
". . . On the 5th of December, 1864, I brought the
condition of things to the attention of the Secretary of
War, appending a statement of the subsistence on hand,
which showed that we had nine days' rations for General
Lee's army. I quoted General Lee's letter to the com-
missary general, that day received, in which he stated
his men were deserting on account of short rations.
But no action was taken. On December 14, nine days
afterward. General Lee telegraphed to Mr. Davis that
his army was without meat. Fortunately disaster was
momentarily averted by the timely arrival of supplies at
General Lee sent the following telegram to the Secre-
tary of War, the Hon. James A. Seddon :
"Army of Northern Virginia,
" January 11, 1865.
" There is nothing within reach of this army to be im-
pressed. The country is swept clean. Our only reliance
is on the railroad. We have but two days' supplies. . . .
" R. E. Lee."
242 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
On the 15th of January a combined naval and land
force captured Fort Fisher and closed the port of Wil-
mington. For nearly three years after all other ports
were closed an occasional blockade runner, loaded with
cotton, got away from Wilmington, and one occasionally
got in with supplies of subsistence, arms, and munitions
of war. The loss of Wilmington was a greater disaster
than the loss of Vicksburg or Atlanta, for, little as the
commerce was, it was vital to the Confederacy.
General Lee issued the following circular :
" Army of Northern Virginia,
" January 25, 1865.
" To arm and equip an additional force of cavalry
then in need of carbines, revolvers, pistols, saddles, and
other accouterments of mounted men. ... I therefore
urge all persons not in the service to deliver promptly
to some of the officers designated below such arms and
equipment (especially those suitable for cavalry) as they
have, and to report to those officers the names of such
persons as neglect to surrender those in their posses-
sion. . . .
"R. E. Lee,
Grant says :
". . . It was my belief that while the enemy could
get no more recruits, they were losing at least a regiment
a day, taking it throughout the entire army, by deser-
tions alone. Then by casualties of war, sickness, and
other natural causes their losses were much heavier. It
was a mere question of arithmetic to calculate how long
they could hold out while that rate of depletion was going
THE SIEGE OF RICHMOND 243
on. Of course long before their army would be thus
reduced to nothing, the army which we had in the field
would have been able to capture theirs. . . ."
Notwithstanding Grant was assured of success in the
spring, he was anxious for immediate peace and it was
through his influence that Lincoln came to Fortress Mon-
roe to meet the Confederate Commission in the Hampton
From the message, in cipher, of President Lincoln to
the House of Representatives on the Hampton Roads
" War Department.
" The following telegram, received at Washington at
4.25 a. m., February 2, 1865, from City Point, Va.,
February i, 1865:
'' ' To Hon. E. M. Stanton,
" ' Secretary of War.
" ' Now that the interview between Major Eckert,
under his written instructions, and Mr. Stephens and
party has ended, I will state confidentially, but not offi-
cially, to become a matter of record, that I am convinced,
upon conversation with Messrs. Stephens and Hunter,
that their intentions are good and their desire sincere to
restore peace and Union. I have not felt at liberty to
express even views of my own, or to account for my
reticence. This has placed me in an awkward position,
which I could have avoided by not seeing them in the
first instance. I fear now their going back without any
expression to any one in authority will have a bad influ-
ence. At the same time I recognize the difficulties in
the way of receiving these informal commissioners at
this time, and I do not know what to recommend. I am
sorry, however, that Mr. Lincoln cannot have an inter-
244 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
view with the two named in this dispatch, if not all three
now within our lines. . . .
" ' U. S. Grant,
" ' Lieutenant General.' "
" This dispatch of General Grant changed my purpose,
and accordingly I telegraphed to him and the Secretary
of War as follows :
" ' War Department, Washington,
" ' February 2, 1865.
" ' To Lieutenant General Grant,
" * City Point, Va.
" * Say to the gentlemen that I will meet them per-
sonally at Fortress Monroe as soon as I can get there.
(Sent in cipher 9 a. m.)
" ' Lincoln.' "
Grant was tired of " the job." Unlike Lee, he never
had any love for a military life. Finance was more con-
genial, but he was not as lucky in Wall street as he had
been in the field.
The Hampton Roads conference was the result of
two visits of Mr. Francis P. Blair, the " Warwick " of
the Republican party, to Richmond. His object was to
oppose the French occupation of Mexico, and in that
way end the Lincoln war. While disclaiming any au-
thority, he gave Mr, Davis to understand that the
Washington Government was in accord with his plan.
Accordingly, Judge Campbell, Mr. Stephens, and Mr.
Hunter were designated to attend the conference, which
amounted to nothing.
Stephens says :
". . . He (Lincoln) persisted in asserting that he
could not enter into any agreement upon this subject,
nor upon any other matters of that sort, with parties in
THE SIEGE OF RICHMOND 245
arms against the Government. Mr. Hunter interposed,
and, in illustration of the propriety of the Executive en-
tering into agreements with persons in arms against the
acknowledged rightful authority referred to, repeated
instances of this character between Charles I, of Eng-
land, and the people in arms against him. Mr. Lincoln
in reply to this said: ' I do not profess to be posted in
history. On all such matters I will turn you over to
Seward. All I distinctly remember about the case of
Charles I is that he lost his head in the end.' "
Mr. Davis was very much disappointed, and thought
that Mr, Lincoln had been influenced by the fall of Fort
When Stephens returned from the Hampton Roads
conference Davis called a public meeting at the African
church. Stephens says of Davis's speech :
" The occasion and the effect of his speech, as well as
the circumstances under which it was made, caused the
minds of not a few to revert to like appeals by Rienzi and
Demosthenes. While it was well calculated to awaken
associations and suggest comparisons of that sort, it,
nevertheless, by the character of its policy, equally re-
minded me of the famous charge of the ' Six Hundred '
at Balaklava, of which some one — I forget who — in
witnessing it, said, in substance : * It is brilliant ; it is
grand ; but it is not war.' However much I admired the
heroism of the sentiments expressed, yet in his general
views of policy to be pursued in the then situation I
could not concur. I saw nothing to prevent Sherman
himself from proceeding right on to Richmond and at-
tacking Lee in rear, to say nothing of any movements
by Grant, who then had an army in front, of not much,
if any, under 200,000 men. Lee's forces w^ere not over
246 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
one- fourth that number. Sherman's army when united
with Schofield's and Terry's, which were joining him
from Wilmington, North CaroHna, would be swelled to
near 100,000, . . . When the program of action, thus
indicated by Mr, Davis in our interviews as well as in
his message and the speech referred to, was clearly re-
solved upon, I then, for the first time, in view of all the
surroundings, considered the cause as utterly hope-
less. . . ,"
Stephens refused to speak at the African church meet-
ing and also at one in the Capitol Square a few days
later. He says :
" I declined because I could not undertake to impress
upon the minds of the people the idea that they could
do what I believed to be impossible, or to inspire in them
hopes which I did not believe could ever be realized.
... It was then I withdrew from Richmond. ... I
left Richmond in no ill humor with INIr. Davis. (9th of
Stephens was solitary and alone in his opinion. The
Governrhent, the soldiers in the army, and the people in
Richmond were firmly of the opinion that the war would
go on indefinitely and ultimately result in independence.
It was an unaccountable hallucination,
" Army of Northern Virginia,
" February 8, 1865.
" Hon. Jas. A. Seddon, Secretary of War,
" Richmond, Va.
"Sir: All the disposable force of the right wing of
the army has been operating against the enemy beyond
Hatcher's Run since Sunday. Yesterday, the most in-
Facing page 247
THE SIEGE OF RICHMOND 247
clement day of the winter, they had to be retained in line
of battle, having been in the same condition the two
previous days and nights. I regret to be obliged to state
that under these circumstances, heightened by assaults and
fire of the enemy, some of the men had been without meat
for three days, and all were suffering from reduced ra-
tions and scant clothing, exposed to battle, cold, hail and
sleet. I have directed Colonel Cole, chief commissary,
who reports he has not a pound of meat at his disposal,
to visit Richmond and see if nothing can be done. If
some change is not made and the Commissary Depart-
ment reorganized, I apprehend dire results. . . . Our
cavalry has to be dispersed for want of forage. Fitz
Lee's and Lomax's divisions are scattered because sup-
plies cannot be transported where their services are re-
quired. I had to bring W. F. Lee's division forty miles
Sunday night to get him in position. , . .
"R. E. Lee,
" Headquarters, Petersburg,
" February 2.2, 1865.
" Hon. J. C. Breckinridge,
" Secretary of War, Richmond.
". . . The cavalry and artillery of the army are still
scattered for want of provender, and our supply and
ammunition trains, which ought to be with the army in
case of a sudden movement, are absent collecting sup-
plies in West Virginia and North Carolina. You will
see to what straits we are reduced. But I trust to work
out. " With great respect,
" Your obt. servant,
"R. E. Lee,
248 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
" Headquarters, Petersburg,
"March 17, 1865.
" Hon. J. C Breckinridge,
" Secretary of War, Richmond.
". . . Now I do not see how I can sustain even our
small force of cavalry around Richmond. I have had
this morning to send Gen. W. H. F. Lee's division back
to Stony Creek, whence I had called it in the last few
days, because I cannot provide it with forage. . . .
"R. E. Lee,
There was at least one pleasant incident in the siege
Nicolay and Hay say:
" We may assume that it was the anticipated important
military events rather than the presence of Capt. Robert
T. Lincoln at Grant's headquarters which induced the
general on the 20th of March, 1865, to invite the Presi-
dent and Mrs. Lincoln to make a visit to the camp near
Richmond ; and on the 22d they and their younger son,
Thomas, nicknamed * Tad,' proceeded in the steamer
River Queen from Washington to City Point, where
General Grant with his family and staff were occupying
a pretty group of huts on the bank of the James river,
overlooking the harbor, which was full of vessels of all
classes, both war and merchant, with wharves and ware-
houses on an extensive scale. Here, making his home
on the steamer that brought him, the President remained
ten days, enjoying what was probably the most satisfac-
tory relaxation in which he had been able to indulge
during his whole presidential service. . . ."
City Point was not only an ideal base, but a convenient
pleasure resort for Mr. Lincoln and his family.
ENERAL LONG says:
*'. . . The success of the Federal army in breaking
the lines of Petersburg had rendered the retreat of the
Confederate force imperative. An effort to hold Rich-
mond, with every line of communication with the South
broken or in imminent peril, would have been madness.
But by abandoning his works and concentrating his
army, which still amounted to about 30,000 men. Gen-
eral Lee might retire to some natural stronghold in the
interior, where the defensible features of the country
would enable him to oppose Grant's formidable host
until he could rally strength to strike an effective
blow. . . ."
Lee was not strong enough to hold Grant with a rear-
guard, so his only hope was to make a run for it, and
that is what he attempted. Lee had four broken-down
half-starved horses to a gun; Grant, six splendid well-fed
Mrs. Mary A. Fontaine, describing the burning of
Richmond, says :
" May 7. I was just trying to describe the scenes on
the 3d of April. About eight o'clock, after some thirty
cavalrymen had taken possession of Richmond, hoisted
250 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
their flag", etc., the artillery came dashing up Broad street;
positively the fat horses came trotting up that heavy
hill, dragging the cannon as though they v^ere light car-
riages. The trappings were gay, and I commenced to
realize the fearful odds against which our gallant little
army had contended. . . ."
If these " fearful odds " were so apparent to a woman,
it does appear that Davis and Lee should have taken
them into consideration.
Then Lee was encumbered with his wagon train, while
Grant could leave his to follow. Grant's overwhelming
force and superior mobility enabled him not only to
pound Lee's flank and rear, but to march around him
and intrench in his front. Sheridan, with his 13,000
mounted riflemen, easily rode ahead and intrenched on
his line of retreat. Thirteen thousand breech-loaders
were more than a match for Lee's army, wasted as it
was; but the infantry was also up in time to oppose a
continuation of the retreat.
Then if Lee had reached General Long's " natural
stronghold in the interior " with the remnants of his
30,000 men, he would have found himself surrounded by
Grant says :
"... I expected, with Sherman coming up from the
South, Meade south of Petersburg and around Rich-
mond, and Thomas's command in Tennessee with depots
of supplies established in the eastern part of that state,
to move from the direction of Washington or the Valley
towards Lynchburg. We would then have Lee so sur-
rounded that his supplies would be cut off entirely, mak-
ing it impossible for him to support his army."
THE RETREAT 251
These armies could have surrounded Lee in General
Long's " natural stronghold " as well as at Richmond,
and with better results, because at Richmond Lee could
get ammunition at any rate, whereas in General Long's
" natural stronghold " it would have been impossible.
Neither could he have gotten supplies, because natural
strongholds never produce them — they have to be
brought in from the outside.
Nicolay and Hay say :
". . . General Lee after the first shock of the breaking
of his lines soon recovered his usual sang-froid, and bent
all his energies to saving his army and leading it out
of its untenable position on the James to a point from
which he could affect a junction with Johnston in North
Carolina. . . . Even in the ruin of the Confederacy,
when the organized revolt which he had sustained so
long, with the bayonets of his soldiers, was crashing
about his ears, he was able still to cradle himself in the
illusion that it was only a campaign that had failed ; that
he might withdraw his troops, form a junction wath
Johnston, and continue the war indefinitely in another
field. Whatever we may think of his judgment, it is
impossible not to admire the coolness of a general, who,
in the midst of irremediable disaster such as encompassed
Lee on the afternoon of the 2d of April, could write
such a letter as he wTote to Jefferson Davis under date
of three o'clock. He began it by a quiet and calm dis-
cussion of the question of negro recruitment; promised
to give his attention to the business of finding suitable
officers for the black regiments ; hoped the appeal Mr.
Davis had made to the governors would have a good
effect ; and altogether wrote as if years of struggle and
effort were before him and his chief. He then went on
252 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
to narrate the story of the day's catastrophe and to give
his plans for the future. He closed by apologizing for
' writing such a hurried letter to your Excellency ' on the
ground that he was ' in the presence of the enemy, en-
deavoring to resist his advance.' At nightfall his prepa-
rations were completed. He mounted his horse and rid-
ing out of the town dismounted at the mouth of the road
leading to Amelia Court House, the first point of rendez-
vous where he had directed supplies to be sent, and stand-
ing beside his horse, the bridle reins in his hand, he
watched his troops file noiselessly by in the darkness. . . ."
A junction with Johnston was as impossible as a re-
treat to General Long's " stronghold," and even if it had
been accomplished, the result would have been equally
disastrous. Johnston and Lee, with their little half-
starved armies, would have been between the hosts of
Grant and Sherman, and without supplies or ammunition.
General Gibbon wrote from Appomattox :
". . . We have had to supply Lee's army with rations,
they being entirely without any. As for the poor horses
and mules, many of them will die for want of forage.
They look terribly thin and worn down. Some of the
men have had nothing to eat for three days but parched
corn, and I cannot help respecting men who have fought
so long and so well in support of their opinions, however
WTong I may think them. . . ."
General Johnston, writing in his " Narrative of Mili-
tary Operations " of his conference with Dr. Davis at
Greensboro, N. C., after the surrender of Lee, says :
". . . Being desired by the President to do it, we com-
THE RETREAT 253
pared the military forces of the two parties to the war.
Ours, an army of about 20,000 infantry and artillery,
and 5000 mounted troops; those of the United States,
three armies that could be combined against ours, which
was insignificant compared with either Grant's of 180,000
men, Sherman's of 110,000 at least, and Canby's of
60,000, odds of seventeen or eighteen to one, which in
a few weeks could be more than doubled. I represented
that, under such circumstances, it would be the greatest
of human crimes for us to attempt to continue this war;
for, having neither money nor credit, nor arms but those
in the hands of our soldiers, nor ammunition but that in
their cartridge boxes, nor shops for repairing arms or
fixing ammunition, the effect of our keeping the field
would be, not to harm the enemy, but to complete the
devastation of our country and the ruin of its peo-
ple. . . ."
Of Mr. Davis, General Basil W. Duke writes as fol-
lows, and this was of course after the surrender of Lee
and Joe Johnston :
". . . At Abbeville, South Carolina, Mr. Davis held a
conference with the officers in command of the troops
composing his escort, which he himself characterized as
a ' Council of War.' ... I had never seen Mr. Davis
look better or show to better advantage. He seemed in
excellent spirits and humor; and the union of dignity,
graceful affability, and decision which made his manner
usually so striking was very marked in his reception of
us. After some conversation of a general nature, he
said : * It is time that we adopt some definite plan upon
which the further prosecution of our struggle shall be
conducted. I have summoned you for consultation. I
254 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
feel that I ought to do nothing now without the advice
of my military chiefs.' He smiled rather archly as he
used this expression, and we could not help thinking that
such a term addressed to a handful of brigadiers, com-
manding altogether about three thousand men, by one
who had been so recently master of legions, was a pleas-
antry : yet he said it in a way that made it a compliment.
" After we had each given at his request a statement
of the equipment and condition of our respective com-
mands, Mr. Davis proceeded to declare his conviction
that the cause was not lost any more than hope of Ameri-
can liberty was gone amid the sorest trials and most dis-
heartening reverses of the Revolutionary struggle ; but
that energy, courage, and constancy might yet save all.
* Even,' he said, ' if the troops now with me be all that
I can for the present rely on, three thousand brave men
are enough for a nucleus around which the whole people
will rally when the panic which now afflicts them has
" He then asked that we should make suggestions in
regard to the future conduct of the war. We looked at
one another in amazement, and with a feeling alike to
trepidation, for we hardly knew how we should give ex-
pression to views diametrically opposed to those he
uttered. Our respect for Mr. Davis approached venera-
tion, and notwithstanding the total dissent we felt and
were obliged to announce to the program he had indi-
cated, that respect was rather increased than diminished
by what he said. I do not remember who spoke first,
but we all expressed the same opinion. We told him
frankly that the events of the last four days had removed
from our minds all idea or hope that a prolongation of
the contest was possible. The people were not panic-
stricken, but broken down and worn out. We said that
THE RETREAT 255
an attempt to continue the war after all means of sup-
porting warfare were gone would be a cruel injustice to
the people of the South. We would be compelled to live
on a country already impoverished, and would invite its
further devastation. We urged that we would be doing
a wrong to our men if we persuaded them to such a
course, for if they persisted in a conflict so hopeless they
would be treated as brigands and would forfeit all chance
of returning to their homes.
" He asked why then were we in the field ? We
answered we were desirous of affording him an oppor-
tunity of escaping the degradation of capture, and per-
haps a fate that would be direr to the people than even
to himself, in still more embittering the feeling between
the North and the South. We said we would ask our
men to follow us until his safety was assured,- and would
risk them in battle for that purpose, but would not fire
another shot in an effort to continue hostilities. He de-
clared abruptly that he would listen to no suggestion
which regarded only his own safety. He appealed
eloquently to every sentiment and reminiscence that
might be supposed to move a Southern soldier, and urged
us to accept his views. We remained silent, for our con-
victions were unshaken ; we felt responsibility for the
men who had so heroically followed us ; and the painful
point had been reached when to speak again in opposition
to all that he had urged would have approached alterca-
tion. For some minutes not a word was spoken. Then
Mr. Davis arose and ejaculated bitterly that all was in-
deed lost. He had become very pallid, and he walked
so feebly as he proceeded to leave the room that Gen-
eral Breckinridge stepped hastily up and offered his arm."
Of all the hallucinations of the Confederate leaders,
256 THE STRATEGY OF ROBERT E. LEE
the most miraculous of all was that they could retreat
from Richmond and continue the war indefinitely. To
account for it, we must abandon the theory of free agency
and accept something like the following ideas from Dr.
Draper's " Intellectual Development of Europe " :
". . . He sees that a Supreme power has been using
him for unknown ends, that he was brought into the
world without his own knowledge, and is departing from
it against his own will. . . ."
And Shakespeare says : " All the world's a stage, and
all the men and women merely players."
If Davis and Lee were actors, and the Supreme pov^-er
an evil power, stage manager, and prompter, we can
understand the attempted retreat.
It is well to remember, however, that Lee was not a
statesman, nor a man of affairs. He was a soldier pure
and simple, and, like the " good knight "' Bayard, " sans
peitr ef sans reproche."
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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
III iiiiiiiiiiijiiiii ii mil III ill I Hill I II, II
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