Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Captain James Power Smith's Account of Jackson's Wounding

Reprinted from an earlier post.

Stonewall’s Last Battle

By Captain James Power Smith

Published in The Century Magazine. Vol. XXXII. October 1886, No. 6.

At daybreak on the morning of the 29th of April, 1863, sleeping in our tents at corps headquarters, near Hamilton's Crossing, we were aroused by Major Samuel Hale, of Early's staff, with the stirring news that Federal troops were crossing the Rappahannock on pontoons under cover of a heavy fog. General Jackson had spent the night at Mr. Yerby's hospitable mansion near by, where Mrs. Jackson [his second wife] had brought her infant child for the father to see. He was at once informed, and promptly issued to his division commanders orders of preparation for action. At his direction I rode a mile across the fields to army headquarters, and finding General Robert E. Lee still slumbering quietly, at the suggestion of Colonel Venable, whom I found stirring, I entered his tent and awoke the general. Turning his feet out of his cot he sat upon its side as I gave him the tidings from the front. Expressing no surprise, he playfully said: "Well, I thought I heard firing, and was beginning to think it was time some of you young fellows were coming to tell me what it was all about. Tell your good general that I am sure he knows what to do. I will meet him at the front very soon."

It was Sedgwick who had crossed, and, marching along the river front to impress us with his numbers, was now intrenching his line on the river road, under cover of Federal batteries on the north bank.

All day long we lay in the old lines of the action of December preceding, watching the operation of the enemy. Nor did we move through the next day, the 30th of April. General Lee had been informed promptly by General J. E. B. Stuart, of the Confederate cavalry, of the movement in force by General Hooker across the Rappahannock upon Chancellorsville; and during the night of Thursday, April 30th, General Jackson withdrew his corps, leaving Early and his division with Barksdale's brigade to hold the old lines from Hamilton's Crossing along the rear of Fredericksburg.

By the light of a brilliant moon, at midnight, that passed into an early dawn of dense mist, the troops were moved, by the Old Mine road, out of sight of the enemy, until, about eleven A.M. of Friday, May 1st, they reached Anderson's position, confronting Hooker's advance from Chancellorsville, near the Tabernacle Church on the plank road. To meet the whole Army of the Potomac, under Hooker, General Lee had of all arms about sixty thousand men. General Longstreet, with part of his corps, was absent below Petersburg. General Lee had two divisions of Longstreet's corps, Anderson's and McLaws's, and Jackson's corps, consisting of four divisions, A. P. Hill's, D. H. Hill's commanded by Rodes, Trimble's commanded by Colston, and Early's; and about a hundred and seventy pieces of field artillery. The divisions of Anderson and McLaws had been sent from Fredericksburg to meet Hooker's advance from Chancellorsville; Anderson on Wednesday, and McLaws (except Barksdale's brigade left with Early) on Thursday. At the Tabernacle Church, about four miles east of Chancellorsville, the opposing forces met and brisk skirmishing began. On Friday Jackson, reaching Anderson's position, took command of the Confederate advance, and urged on his skirmish line under Brigadier-General Ramseur with great vigor. How the muskets rattled across a front of a mile or two, across the unfenced fields, and through the woodlands! What spirit was imparted to the line, and cheers rolled along its length, when Jackson, and then Lee himself, appeared riding abreast of the line along the plank road! Slowly but steadily the line advanced, until at nightfall all Federal pickets and skirmishes were driven back upon the body of Hooker's force at Chancellorsville.

Here we reached a point, a mile and a half from Hooker's lines, where a road turns down to the left toward the old Catherine Furnace; and here at the fork of the roads General Lee and General Jackson spent the night, resting on the pine straw, curtained only by the close shadow of the pine forest. A little after night-fall I was sent by General Lee upon an errand to General A. P. Hill, on the old stone turnpike a mile or two north; and returning some time later with information of matters on our right, I found General Jackson retired to rest, and General Lee sleeping at the foot of a tree, covered with his army cloak. As I aroused the sleeper, he slowly sat up on the ground and said, "Ah, Captain, you have returned, have you? Come here and tell me what you have learned on the right." Laying his hand on me he drew me down by his side, and, passing his arm around my shoulder, drew me near to him in a fatherly way that told of his warm and kindly heart. When I had related such information as I had secured for him, he thanked me for accomplishing his commission, and then said that he regretted that the young men about General Jackson had not relieved him of annoyance, by finding a battery of the enemy which had harassed our advance, adding that the young men of that day were not equal to what they were when he was a young man. Seeing immediately that he was jesting and disposed to rally me, as he often did younger officers, I broke away from the hold on me which he tried to retain, and, as he laughed heartily through the stillness of the night, I went off to make a bed of my saddle-blanket, and, with my head in my saddle, near my horse's feet, was soon wrapped in the heavy slumber of a wearied soldier.

Some time after midnight I was awakened by the chill of the early morning hours, and, turning over, caught a glimpse of a little flame on the slope above me, and looking up to see what it meant I saw, bending over a scant fire of twigs, two men seated on old cracker boxes and warming their hands over the little fire. I had but to rub my eyes and collect my wits to recognize the figures of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Who can tell the story of that quiet council of war between two sleeping armies? Nothing remains on record to tell of plans discussed, and dangers weighed, and a great purpose formed, but the story of the great day so soon to follow.

It was broad daylight, and the thick beams of yellow sunlight came through the pine branches, when some one touched me rudely with his foot, saying, "Get up, Smith, the general wants you!" As I leaped to my feet, the rhythmic click of canteens of marching infantry caught my ear. Already in motion! What could it mean? In a moment I was mounted and at the side of the general, who sat on his horse by the roadside, as the long line of our troops cheerily, but in silence as directed, poured down the Furnace road. His cap was pulled low over his eyes, and, looking up from under the visor, with lips compressed, indicating the firm purpose within, he nodded to me, and in brief and rapid utterance, without a superfluous word, as though all were distinctly formed in his mind and beyond question, he gave me orders for our wagon and ambulance trains. From the open fields in our rear, at the head of the Carthapin road, all trains were to be moved upon that road to Todd's tavern, and thence west by interior roads, so that our troops would be between them and the enemy at Chancellorsville.

My orders delivered and the trains set in motion, I returned to the site of our night's bivouac, to find that General Jackson and staff had followed the marching column.

Who was the young ordnance officer who so kindly fed my horse at the tail of his wagon and then added the few camp biscuits, which were breakfast, dinner, and supper to me that day? Many thanks to my unknown friend.

Slow and tedious is the advance of a mounted officer who has to pass in narrow wood roads through dense thickets, the packed column of marching infantry, to be recognized all along the line and good-naturedly chaffed by many a gay-spirited fellow: "Say, here's one of old Jack's little boys, let him by, boys!" in a most patronizing tone. "Have a good breakfast this morning, sonny?" "Better hurry up, or you'll catch it for getting behind." "Tell Old Jack we're all a-comin'." "Don't let him begin the fuss till we get thar!" And so on, until about three P. M., after a ride of ten miles of tortuous road, I found the general seated on a stump by the Brock road, writing this dispatch.

Near 2 P. M., May 2nd, 1863.
GENERAL: The enemy has made a stand at Chancellor's, which is about two miles from Chancellorsville. I hope as soon as practicable to attack.
I trust that an ever kind Providence will bless us with success.
P. S. The leading division is up, and the next two appear to be well closed.
T. J. J.

The place here mentioned as Chancellor's was also known as Dowdall's Tavern. It was the farm of the Rev. Melzi Chancellor, two miles west of Chancellorsville, and the Federal forces found here and at Talley's, a mile farther to the west, was the Eleventh Corps, under General Howard. General Fitz Lee, with cavalry scouts, had advanced until he had view of the position of Howard's corps, and found them unprotected by pickets, and unsuspicious of a possible attack.

Reaching the Orange plank road, General Jackson himself rode with Fitz Lee to reconnoiter the position of Howard, and then sent the Stonewall brigade of Virginia troops, under Brigadier-General Paxton, to hold the point where the Germanna plank road obliquely enters the Orange road. Leading the main column of his force farther on the Brock road to the old turnpike, the head of the column turned sharply eastward, toward Chancellorsville. About a mile had been passed, when he halted and began the disposition of his forces to attack Howard.

Rodes's division, at the head of the column, was thrown into line of battle, with Colston forming the second line and A. P. Hill's the third, while the artillery under Colonel Stapleton Crutchfield moved in column on the road, or was parked in a field on the right. The well-trained skirmishers of Rodes's division, under Major Eugene Blackford, were thrown to the front. It must have been between five and six o'clock in the evening, Saturday, May 2nd, when these dispositions were completed. Upon his stout-built, long-paced little sorrel, General Jackson sat, with visor low over his eyes, and lips compressed, and with his watch in his hand. Upon his right sat General Robert E. Rodes, the very picture of a soldier, and every inch all that he appeared. Upon his right sat Major Blackford.

"Are you ready, General Rodes?" said Jackson.

"Yes, sir!" said Rodes, impatient for the advance.

"You can go forward then," said Jackson.

A nod from Rodes was order enough for Blackford, and then suddenly the woods rang with the bugle call, and back came the responses from bugles on the right and left, and the long line of skirmishers, through the wild thicket of undergrowth, sprang eagerly to their work, followed promptly by the quick steps of the line of battle. For a moment all the troops seemed buried in the depths of the gloomy forest, and then suddenly the echoes wakes and swept the country, for miles, never failing, until heard at the headquarters of Hooker at Chancellorsville—the wild "rebel yell" of the long Confederate lines.

Never was assault delivered with grander enthusiasm. Fresh from the long winter's waiting, and confident from the preparation of the spring, the troops were in fine condition and in high spirits. The boys were all back from home or sick leave. "Old Jack" was there upon the road in their midst; there could be no mistake and no failure. And there were Rodes and A. P. Hill. Had they not seen and cheered as long and loud as they were permitted the gay-hearted Stuart and the splendid Fitz Lee, with long beard and fiery charger? Was not Crutchfield's array of brass and iron "dogs of war" at hand, with Poague and Palmer, and all the rest, ready to bark loud and deep with half a chance?

Alas! for Howard and his uniformed lines, and his brigades with guns stacked, and officers at dinner or asleep under the trees, and butchers deep in the blood of beeves! Scattered through field and forest, his men were preparing their evening meal. A little show of earthwork facing the south was quickly taken by us in reverse from the west. Flying battalions are not flying buttresses for an army's stability. Across Talley's field the rout begins. Over at Hawkins's hill, on the north of the road, Carl Schurz makes a stand, soon to be driven into the same hopeless panic. By the quiet Wilderness Church in the vale, leaving wounded and dead everywhere, by Melzi Chancellor's, on into the deep thicket, again the Confederate lines press forward,—now broken and all disaligned by the density of bush that tears the clothes away; now halting to deliver a volley upon some regiment or fragment of the enemy that will not move as fast as others. Thus the attack upon Hooker's flank was a grand success, beyond the most sanguine expectation.

The writer of this narrative, an aide-de-camp of Jackson's, was ordered to remain at the point where the advance began, to be a center of communication between the general and the cavalry on the flanks, and to deliver orders to detachments of artillery still moving up from the rear.

Whose fine black charger, with such elegant trappings, was that, deserted by his owner and found tied to a tree, which became mine only for that short and eventful nightfall?

It was about eight P. M., in the twilight, that, so comfortably mounted, I gathered my couriers about me and went forward to find General Jackson. The storm of battle had swept far on to the east, and become more and more faint to the ear, until silence came with night over the fields and woods. As I rode along that old turnpike, passing scattered fragments of Confederates looking for their regiments, parties of prisoners concentrating under guards, wounded men by the roadside and under the trees at Talley's and Chancellor's, I had reached an open field on the right, a mile west of Chancellorsville, when, in the dusky twilight, I saw horsemen near an old cabin in the field. Turning toward them, I found Rodes and his staff engaged in gathering the broken and scattered troops that had swept the two miles of battle-field. "General Jackson is just ahead on the road, Captain," said Rodes; "tell him I will be here at this cabin if I am wanted." I had not gone a hundred yards before I heard firing, a shot or two, and then a company volley upon the right of the road, and another upon the left.

A few moments farther on I met Captain Murray Taylor, an aide of A. P. Hill's, with tidings that Jackson and Hill were wounded, and some around them killed, by the fire of their own men. Spurring my horse into a sweeping gallop, I soon passed the Confederate line of battle, and, some three or four rods on its front, found the general's horse beside a pine sapling on the left, and a rod beyond a little party of men caring for a wounded officer. The story of the sad event is briefly told, and very much in essentials as it came to me from the lips of the wounded general himself, and in everything confirmed and completed by those who were eye-witnesses and near companions.

When Jackson had reached the point where his line now crossed the turnpike, scarcely a mile west of Chancellorsville, and not half a mile from a line of Federal troops, he had found his front line unfit for the farther and vigorous advance he desired, by reason of the irregular character of the fighting, now right, now left, and because of the dense thickets, through which it was impossible to preserve alignment. Division commanders found it more and more difficult as the twilight deepened to hold their broken brigades in hand. Regretting the necessity of relieving the troops in front, General Jackson had ordered A. P. Hill's division, his third and reserve line, to be placed in front. While this change was being effected, impatient and anxious, the general rode toward us on the turnpike, followed by two or three of his staff and a number of couriers and signal-sergeants.

He passed the swampy depression and began the ascent of the hill toward Chancellorsville, when he came upon a line of the Federal infantry lying on their arms. Fired at by one or two muskets (two musket balls from the enemy whistled over my head as I came to the front), he turned and came back toward his line, upon the side of the road to his left. As he rode near to the Confederate troops just placed in position, and ignorant that that he was in the front, the left company began firing to the front, and two of his party fell from their saddles—Capt. Boswell of the Engineers, and Sergeant Cunliffe of the Signal Corps. Spurring his horse across the road to his right, he was met by a second volley from the right company of Pender's North Carolina Brigade. Under this volley, when not two rods from the troops, the general received three balls at the same instant. One penetrated the palm of his right hand and was cut out that night from the back of his hand. A second passed around the wrist of the left arm and out through the left hand. But a third ball passed through the left arm halfway from shoulder to elbow. The large bone of the upper arm was splintered to the elbow-joint, and the wound bled freely. His horse turned quickly from the fire, through the thick bushes, which swept the cap from the general's head, and scratched his forehead, leaving drops of blood to stain his face. As he lost hold upon the bridle-rein, he reeled from the saddle, and was caught by the arms of Captain Milbourne of the Signal Corps. Laid upon the ground, there came at once to his succor, General A. P. Hill and members of his staff.

The writer reached his side a minute after, to find General Hill holding the head and shoulders of the wounded chief. Cutting open the coat sleeve from wrist to shoulder, I found the wound in the upper arm, and with my handkerchief I bound the arm above the wound to stem the flow of blood. Couriers were sent for Dr. Hunter McGuire, the surgeon of the corps and the general's trusted friend, and for an ambulance. Being outside of our lines, it was urgent that he should be moved at once. With difficulty litter-bearers were brought from the line near by, the general placed upon the litter, and carefully raised to the shoulder, I myself bearing one corner.

A moment after, artillery from the Federal side was opened upon us; great broadsides thundered over the woods; hissing shells searched the dark thickets through, and shrapnels swept the road along which we moved. Two or three steps farther, and the litter-bearer at my side was struck and fell, but, as the litter turned, Major Watkins Leigh, of Hill's staff, happily caught it. But the fright of the men was so great that we were obliged to lay the litter and its burden down upon the road. As the litter-bearers ran to the cover of the trees, I threw myself by the general's side, and held him firmly to the ground as he attempted to rise. Over us swept the rapid fire of shot and shell—grape-shot striking fire among the flinty rock of the road all around us, and sweeping from their feet horses and men of the artillery just moved to the front.

Soon the firing veered to the other side of the road, and I sprang to my feet, assisted the general to rise, passed my arm around him, and with the wounded man's weight thrown heavily upon me, we forsook the road. Entering the woods, he sank to the ground from exhaustion, but the litter was soon brought, and again rallying a few men, we essayed to carry him farther, when a second bearer fell at my side. This time, with none to assist, the litter careened, and the general fell to the ground, with a groan of deep pain. Greatly alarmed, I sprang to his head, and, lifting his head as a stray beam of moonlight came through clouds and leaves, he opened his eyes and wearily said, "Never mind me, Captain, never mind me." Raising him again to his feet, he was accosted by Brigadier-general Pender: "Oh, General, I hope you are not seriously wounded. I will have to retire my troops to re-form them, they are so much broken by this fire." But Jackson, rallying his strength, with firm voice said, "You must hold your ground, General Pender; you must hold your ground, sir!" and so uttered his last command on the field.

Again we resorted to the litter, and with difficulty bore it through the bush, and then under hot and angry fire along the road. Soon an ambulance was reached, and stopping to seek some stimulant at Chancellor's (Dowdall's Tavern), we were found by Dr. McGuire, who at once took charge of the wounded man. Through the night, back over the battle-field of the afternoon, we reached the Wilderness store, and in a field on the north the field-hospital of our corps under Dr. Harvey Black. Here we found a tent prepared, and after midnight the left arm was amputated near the shoulder, and a ball taken from the right hand.

All night long it was mine to watch by the sufferer, and keep him warmly wrapped and undisturbed in his sleep. At nine A. M., on the next day, when he aroused, cannon firing again filled the air, and all the Sunday through the fierce battle raged, General J. E. B. Stuart commanding the Confederates in Jackson's place. A dispatch was sent to the commanding general to announce formally his disability,—tidings General Lee had received during the night with profound grief. There came back the following note:

"GENERAL: I have just received your note, informing me that you were wounded. I cannot express my regret at the occurrence. Could I have directed events, I should have chosen, for the good of the country, to have been disabled in your stead.
"I congratulate you upon the victory which is due to your skill and energy.
'"Most truly your,

When this dispatch was handed to me at the tent, and I read it aloud, General Jackson turned his face away and said, "General Lee is very kind, but he should give the praise to God." The long day was passed with bright hopes for the wounded general, with tidings of success on the battle-field, with sad news of losses, and messages to and from other wounded officers brought to the same infirmary.

On Monday, the general was carried in an ambulance, by way of Spotsylvania Court House to most comfortable lodging at Chandler's, near Guinea's Station, on the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac railroad. And here, against our hopes, notwithstanding the skill and care of wise and watchful surgeons, watched day and night by wife and friends, amid the prayers and tears of all the Southern land, thinking not of himself, but of the cause he loved, and for the troops who had followed him so well and given him so great a name, our chief sank, day by day, with symptoms of pneumonia and some pains of pleurisy, until at 3:15 P. M., on the quiet of the Sabbath afternoon, May 10th, 1863, he raised himself from his bed, saying, "No, no, let us pass over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees"; and, falling again to his pillow, he passed away, "over the river," where, in a land where warfare is not known or feared, he rests forever, "under the trees."

His shattered arm was buried in the family burying-ground of the Ellwood place—Major J. H. Lacy's—near his last battlefield.

His body rests, as he himself asked, "in Lexington, in the Valley of Virginia." The spot where he was so fatally wounded in the shades of the Wilderness is marked by a large quartz rock, placed there by the care of his chaplain and friend, the Rev. Dr. B. T. Lacy, and the latter's brother, Major J. H. Lacy, of Ellwood.

Others must tell the story of Confederate victory at Chancellorsville. It has been mine only, as in the movement of that time, so with my pen now, to follow my general himself. Great, the world believes him to be in many elements of generalship; he was greatest and noblest in that he was good, and, without a selfish thought, gave his talent and his life to a cause that, as before the God he so devoutly served, he deemed right and just.

Just as an aside: Smith writes that Jackson's last words were "Let us pass over the river..." According to James Robertson's definitive biography on Jackson, Smith, Anna Jackson, and Dr. McGuire were the only three present in the room when Jackson died. McGuire says that Jackson said, "Let us cross over the river..." It is McGuire's account that has gained the supremacy in history.

General Orders Sixteen

The first 10 days in May will mark the 145th anniversary of Stonewall Jackson's wounding at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Jackson would die of his wounds on May 10th. A year later, on May 11th, Stuart was wounded at the battle of Yellow Tavern. He would die the next evening in Richmond at the home of his brother-in-law, Dr. Brewer. I will be providing a series of narratives on these tragic events from the officers and soldiers who were there. Today, I start with General James Lane's account of Jackson's wounding on the Bullock Farm Road in the Virginia Wilderness. Lane commanded a regiment in A.P. Hill's Light Division. This regiment included the 18th North Carolina, the regiment which fired the shots that wounded Jackson and Hill.

General James Lane's Account of Jackson's Wounding at Chancellorsville

In his post-war book about Jeb Stuart, Henry McClellan includes a portion from a letter written by James Lane recounting the night Stonewall Jackson was wounded. The letter is dated May 14, 1885.

"I was not in line, but was ordered to move along the road by the right flank, immediately in rear of the artillery commanded by my friend, Stapleton Crutchfield. When this artillery halted in the road near the last line of breastworks from which the enemy had been driven, I was immediately behind it, and was kept standing in the road a short time. Here, about dark, I was ordered by General A.P. Hill in person to form my brigade, as described in my official report, for a night attack. As General Hill rode off, I called my command to attention; and just then our artillery opened fire down the plank road in the direction of Chancellorsville. This drew a most terrific fire from the enemy's artillery in our front, and I at once ordered my men to lie down, as they were enfiladed, and I thought it would be madness to attempt to move them under such circumstances, in the dark, and through such a woods.

Not long afterwards I heard Colonel Palmer, of General Hill's staff, inquiring for me, as it was too dark for him to recognize me, though we were not far apart. I called him; and he informed me that General Hill wished to know why I did not form my command as I had been ordered. I requested him to tell General Hill, if he wished me to do so successfully, he would have to order our artillery to cease firing, as I thought the enemy's fire was in reply to ours. The message was delivered, and Hill at once ordered Braxton, through Palmer, to cease firing; and as I expected, the enemy also ceased.

When I threw forward my first regiment as skirmishers, I ordered them to go well to the front, as we were to make a night attack; and to be very careful not to fire into any of Rodes' men, whom we would releived. When the colonel commanding this regiment reported to me after the deployment, he informed me that there were none of Rodes' men in my front.

As soon as I had formed my whole command as ordered, I rode back from the right to the plank road, to know of General Hill if I must advance at once or await orders. On reaching the road I met General Jackson, who, strange to say, recognized me first and remarked: 'Lane, for whom are you looking?' (I was a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute under the old hero.) I told him, and for what purpose; and then remarked that General Hill was acting under his orders, and I did not know where to find him, it would save time were he to tell me what to do. He replied: 'Push right ahead, Lane!' accompanying his order with a pushing gesture of his right hand in the direction of Chancellor's house, and then rode forward.

I at once rode to the right to put my line in motion; when the colonel on that flank advised me not to move, as his men had heard the talking and movement of troops on their flank. Lieutenant Emack and four men were sent out to reconnoitre, and they soon returned with the 128th Pennsylvania regiment commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Smith. Emack, on encountering them, put on a bold front and advised them to throw down their arms,as they were cut off by Jackson's corp. I was present when the lieutenant marched them in from the right, between my line of skirmishers and the main line, and they were without arms. Soon after they were halted in front of my right regiment, some one rode up from the front to the right of my skirmish line, and called for General Williams. Instead of capturing this individual, some of my skirmishers fired upon him, and he escaped unhurt, as far as we know. This seemed to cause a fire along the skirmish line, and the enemy's artillery again opened a terrific fire.

It was then that General Jackson was wounded, as I have always thought, by the 18th regiment, of my brigade. This regiment undoubtedly fired into Hill and his staff; and they were not to blame, as I had told them that the enemy only were in their front, and that they must keep a sharp lookout. They were formed in low, dense, scrubby obaks, on the left of the road, and knew nothing of these generals having gone to the front. When the skirmish and artillery fire caused them and their staffs to turn back, there was a loud clattering of horses' hoofs, and some one cried out, 'Yankee cavalry!'

From that unknown person's riding up, and calling for the Yankee General Williams, it is evident that they had a line in our front, possibly at the edge of the woods, Chancellorsville side, where they had their breastworks the next morning. My skirmish line was in the woods on the crest of the hill, and my main line on the right of the works last captured by Rodes. My line on the left was further advanced. General Pender rode into the woods inquiring for me just as I had ordered my right forward, and advised me not to advance, as Generals Jackson and Hill had both been wounded, and it was thought by my command. I did not advance; and was subsquently ordered by General Heth to withdraw that part of my brigade on the left of the road and prolong my line on the right."

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lucy Long

I found this interesting account of General Lee's sorrel mare in The William and Mary Quarterly from October, 1939. It was written by Mary Campbell. Upon completion of the short story, I will, in the immortal words of Paul Harvey, give the rest of the story.

The true story of a small sorrel mare belonging to General Robert E. Lee, told by Mr. William Campbell of Essex County, Virginia, to his daughter, Mary Campbell.

My father told it this way: "The years go by and I am come towards the end of the journey called life. There have been many things of great interest and keenest pleasure in the long and full years. I know as I look back on the very incidents, that the great things of life are the simple things, done in a fine thoughtful way. In Virginia, where I was born in 1837, in the West of the 'roaring 50's' where I hunted with the Indians and dug gold, and in war and peace. I have met and known many men of renown and have watched their ways to get a grasp in the pulse of humanity; have acutely and admired often the kind deeds I have seen in my day. I have written many of these for my children that they may know what their father valued most as he came to be an old man."

The story of General Lee's little sorrel mare I cannot find among my father's papers therefore, I must tell it is I remember it. Being a child of the Confederacy and alwys thrilled at the conversation that followed the meeting of my father's friends, I have pictured, in my childish mind, the great General Lee riding on gray Traveller, serene and clear-eyed, and behind him, my father gay and confident. As far as I know or cared, this was the whole Confederacy. General Lee, leading wisely, and my father doing a gay bit of fighting to expel this horde of invaders who had come into our lovely land. So they have come to many a battle and finally to a gallant and glorious surrender at Appomattox. I was very sure that defeat was the finest thing in the world, and a man defeated was a hero, for had not my father and General Lee surrendered, and I have never heard a word of sadness or regret.

One evening after talk of men and battles, of skirmishes and camp, and finally of horses, how hard it had been to keep themselves mounted, and how hard my father fighting under Jeb Stuart, who often sent into the enemy lines to obtain a mount, had many an exciting adventre, my father said, "Have I never told you how I came into possession of one of General Lee's horses after the surrender?" I realized that my father was in Company F of the 9th Virginia Cavalry and had done a great deal of scouting. "It was in the fall of 1866," he said. "I was back in the County of Essex and was looking to gather the threads of life when I had an offer to buy a small spirited mare, which a returned soldier offered to sell for one hundred twenty-five dollars. I found her very satisfactory for riding and drawing a light wagon. One morning, I stopped to talk to a friend, and I suddenly noticed his eyes riveted on the horse. After a salutation, he said, 'Campbell, where did you get that horse?' When I told him, he said, 'I have seen General Lee ride her when Traveller was resting.' Naturally, I was much surprised and intensely interested. General Lee at the time was in Lexington, Virginia, as President of Washington College. I decided to write and ask him about such a horse and suggest that if it was his, he would send his son, Robert, Jr., who was living at the White House in New Kent County, which was not so far away to look her over; for if she belonged to him, I wanted him to have her. A few days after sending my letter an answer came in his own beautiful scrp saying that he would send his son to look her over."

A copy of the original of General Lee's letter follows:

Lexington, Virginia
27 October 1866

My dear sir:---

Just before the reception of your letter of the 18th ultimo, I sent to Dr. Garnett such evidence as I have received as to the identity of the mare ridden from North Carolina by Mr. D. in his return home to Virginia. I do not know whether it will be sufficient; but I have written to my son, Robert, as you suggested to ride over and see her, if he has any recollection of her, I think it probable that if mine, she would be better known to those who served in the Infantry of the Army of Northern Virginia, than in the Cavalry, the latter being mostly on detached or outpost duty; as I rode her frequently after the return of the Army from Maryland to Virginia in 1862 and the Spring of 1864 and especially while around Fredericksburg and at the battle of Chancellorsville. Being much exhausted in the Spring of 1864, she was sent to Mr. Hairston's I believe in Henry County, by Major Harman to be recruited, and had reached Lynchburg on her return to me about the time of the evacuation of Richmond and was carried with the horses under Major Paxton's change to North Carolina. Captain Hopkins of this place, to whom you refer, died a year since, though there are some of the men who were employed by him residing in the vicinity.

I shall be very sorry if any loss occurs to you on account of the mare, and would prefer to bear it myself.

Very respectfully your obedient servant,
R.E. Lee

"On the eleventh of November, 1866, about a week after this, on a quiet Sunday afternoon General William H. F. Lee (Rooney) arrived at my home in Essex. He was General Lee's second son and my old commander. He had happened to be paying his brother a visit and had ridden over at his father's request. He was sure that he would know any horse that his father had owned and ridden. We walked down to the stables and as soon as the mare was brought up he said,'Yes that is Lucy Long presented to my father by General Longstreet and ridden when Traveller was resting in the spring of '62 and again in '63.' He insisted on seeing the man where I purchased the horse, who had gotten her from the stables in Lynchburg. As we approached the house, I saw the man. General Lee dismounted and I did not hear the conversation between them. I felt sure that General Lee simply wanted to be certain that the horse was his father's. General Robert Lee had told his son not to accept the horse as a gift on any consideration. So after spending the night, he paid me one hundred twenty five dollars and rode away leading Lucy Long. She was kept on the White House farm for some time and I think was finally carried to Lexington, Virginia. The receipt for the horse signed by General William H.F. Lee is still in my possession."

Following is the receipt for the horse given to my father by General William H.F. Lee.

Dunnsville, Essex Co, Va.,
12 'November 1866

Received of Mr. Wm Campbell, in behalf of General R.E. Lee, his sorrel mare Lucy Long, taken about the time of the surrender of the C.S. Army, for which I have paid Mr. Campbell one hundred twenty-five dollars, the amount paid by him to Mr. P.P. Derieux, who bought the mare from Recruiting Camp of the C.S.A.

Wm. H.F. Lee

Here's the rest of the story.

Rooney was wrong when he said that Lucy Long was a gift from James Longstreet. Actually, Lucy Long was purchased for General Lee by Jeb Stuart. During Second Manassas, Lee was holding Traveller's bridle reins when the gray became spooked. Lee fell and broke both his hands. Upon the Army's return from Maryland, Stuart sought to buy General Lee a quieter and gentler horse.

Below is the letter to Dr. Garnett that Lee mentions in his letter to Campbell.

"Lexington, Virginia, September 4, 1866.

"Dr. C. S. Garnett.

"Dear Sir: I am much obliged to you for your letter of the 23d ult. and the information it contained. The mare about which my son wrote you was bred by Mr. Stephen Dandridge, of 'The Bower**,' Berkeley County, Virginia, and was purchased from him for me by General J. E. B. Stuart in the fall of 1862--after the return of the army from Maryland. She is nine or ten years old, about fifteen hands high, square built, sorrel (not chestnut) colour, has a fast walk, easy pace, and short canter. When I parted with her she had a full long mane and tail. I rode her in conjunction with my gray horse from the fall of '62 to the spring of '64, when she was sent back for refreshment; and it was in recalling her in the spring of '65 from Mr. Hairston's, in Henry County, that she got into Major Paxton's stables of public horses and went to Danville with them. I think she might be recognised by any member of the Army of Northern Virginia, in Essex, unless much changed. I now recollect no distinctive marks about her except a blaze in her forehead and white hind-legs. My son, General W. H. F. Lee, residing at the White House, in New Kent, might recognise her, and also my son Robert, who resides near West Point, in King William. Captain Hopkins, to whom you refer in your letter, is dead, but Major Paxton, who had general charge of the public stables, and to whom I referred your letter, has sent me the accompanying affidavits of two of the men employed by him. Should their evidence not be satisfactory, he will procure statements from some of the officers, which probably may be more definite. I should be obliged to you, if the mare in question is the one I am seeking for, that you would take steps to recover her, as I am desirous of reclaiming her in consideration of the donor, General Stuart.

"Your obedient servant, R. E. Lee."

The other confusion is which Lee son was living where. Upon the death of their grandfather, George Washington Custis, each of Lee's sons inherited a plantation. Custis, the oldest son (and named for his grandfather) inherited Arlington House. This house was seized by Union forces at the beginning of the war and turned (spitefully so by General Montgomery Meigs) into a cemetary. After the war, Custis lived in Lexington and taught at VMI. Upon the death of his father, he became president of Washington College. Later, the Supreme Court ruled that Arlington had been illegally seized and to be given back to Custis. Custis sold the property to the government for $150,000. Rooney inherited the White House plantation in New Kent County. At the end of the war, Rooney and Rob, Jr. (Lee's youngest son) worked the farm together, but as Lee's letter to Dr. Garnett points, Rob was living in King William County on his plantation Romancoke.

Rob writes that Lucy Long lived to be 33 years old, and was then chloroformed because my brother (he does not say which one) thought she had ceased to enjoy life. For the last ten years of her life, she was boarded out in the country, where she did nothing but rest, and until a year before her death, she seemed in good health and spirits. Rob writes that General Lee was glad to have Lucy Long back, as he was very fond of her.

**The Bower was the name of the Stephen Dandridge's home in Berkeley County. After Sharpsburg, Stuart placed his headquarters beneath its magnificent oaks.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Jackson's Fredericksburg Tactic - Part Two

All appointments were perfect, every detail arranged, even to the reception committee of one brigade posted behind each breech in the line, concealed in the forest and covering the military road. Witness the artillery disposition. Fourteen guns were placed in line with the right brigade. But note well that they were concealed in the woods as long as practicable and were not opened on Meade until his advance came within eight hundred yards. On the flank of this right brigade, fifteen more guns were in position to cross fire with the fourteen in line. On the left and front of the left brigade, twenty-one guns were placed (here was one more crossing.) Meanwhile the fire of the infantry, disposed along a railroad fill and a supporting height, was reserved until the attacking force was within two hundred yards. After a deep infiltration of this line, it was only by masterly handling of his men that Meade was able to get out with a forty percent casualty return.

Is it likely that a man as skillful as Stonewall Jackson did a neat job like this and did not know he was doing it? It is likely that he arranged this perfect party for the Union I Corps just by carelessly neglecting to close two intervals in his line, the neglect continuining after warnings from enterprising young staff officers and brigade commanders who knew perhaps one-tenth as much about the art of war as Jackson? Could the whole thing have been just an accident, or "an error of judgement which cost many lives," as even so eminent an historian as G.F.R. Henderson described it?

Is it not more likely that it was a deliberate trap, carefully planned and set by the "Old Fox" in one of his most brilliant and characteristic moments? If so, it was planned and executed with such acumen and Jacksonian secrecy that even his own staff members knew not of it; or, if they did, they never told. Like most of Jackson's plans, it worked superbly.

Much has been made of the marshy ground between Archer and Lane. The time-honored theory is that Jackson considered this marsh impassable; hence his failure to occupy that portion of the line. Then, it is reasoned, the cold weather froze the marsh and it became passable; thus Jackson was not altogether guilty of bad judgment (his staunch Calvanistic piety not extending to direct communication with the Deity on future turns of the weather). At least two external facts impugn this theory: first, the marsh is not impassable today, and probably was not in 1862. Second, it was just as cold when Jackson made his disposition as when Meade's troops penetrated his line; there had been cold weather with snow on the ground for several days, but it is very questionable that it was cold enough to freeze the marsh to any considerable depth. Moreover, it should not be overlooked that the interval left between Lane and Pender was on dry ground.

It is worthy of careful note that, shortly before the battle, Jackson himself paused at Gregg's position behind the interval between Archer and Lane, and predicted the enemy would attack there.

Whether Jackson on December 13, 1862, was simply laying a deadly trap to annihilate Yankees, or was doing both and consciously experimenting with new defensive dispositions which might be practiced in a world war a half-century later, in undreamed-of front widths, is an imponderable question. But careful comparison of his formation at Fredericksburg with corps and army masses in the Eastern Front during the World War offers a profitable and interesting investment of time for the modern military student. It may conduce to the opinion that Stonewall Jackson was not only the smartest general officer on the field at Fredericksburg, but he was also ancestor of the modern flexible defense.

Jackson's Fredericksburg Tactics - Part One

I read this article writting by Branch Spalding in The Journal of the American Military Institute, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Spring, 1939). I found the thesis very intriguing, so I thought I would share it with all of you.

A multiplicity of historians have dealt with the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 13, 1862). They present it with varying factual emphasis, with some display of divergent sympathies. All concur, however, on certain facts: Lee took up a strong position on the heights south and west of the Rappahannock River, commanding the river plain, with Longstreet's Corp on the left of his line, and Jackson's Corp on the right, Burnside crossed the river and attacked the position with two separate columns; Sumner's Right Grand Division, heavily reinforced by elements of Hooker's Center Grand Division, hit that portion of Longstreet's Corps posted on Marye's Heights, back of the town of Fredericksburg, and was repulsed; somewhat simultaneously, the left column, Franklin's Left Grand Division, moved against that portion of Jackson's line in the vicinity of Hamilton's Crossing, the extreme Confederate right; a relatively small part of the Left Grand Division was employed, and Meade's Division of Reynolds' Corps, finding an interval in the Confederate line, handsomely drove through and penetrated to a depth of four hundred yards only to be boxed off, compelled to withdraw and narroly escaped capture or annihilation. By nightfall, the battle was over, and Lee had given the Army of the Potomac another costly lesson with regard to frontal assault of a strong defensive position.

Many writers mention the fact that Jackson's Corps occupied a front of slightly less than two miles, and roughly three brigades constituted the front line (Archer with two regiments of Brockenbrough, Lane, and Pender), the flanks of no one brigade being in contact with those of the next in line. Some of them made no comment of this unusual disposition, or the great depth of line, which the three supporting divisions created. (The Corps strength was 38,944) Other's point to the "coincidence" that the breech between Archer and Lane afforded Meade his great opportunity. Some dwell on the fact that a German officer on Stuart's staff admonished about this condition before the battle. Some speak of it as a serious mistake. Most of them agree that it represents an oversight. One points to the piecemeal arrival of the corps and exigency of the situation. A.P. Hill, 12,978 strong, arrived at 10:00 A.M., December 12. Taliaferro came up by noon. During the night on December 12, and early morning of the thirteenth, Early's and D.H. Hill's Divisions came on the field. This is not an excessive time lapse of delivery of all units of a corps of some thirty-nine thousand men. Since the attack did not begin until 10:00 A.M. on the thirteenth, time was ample for closing the intervals in the front of the line with units of A.P. Hill's or Taliaferro's divisions. Argument could scarcely be supported that these dispositions were compelled by the exigency of time and the presence of the enemy. The presence of an enemy, a mile or more distant, and not yet deployed for attack, was no immediate threat in this sense.

It is a remarkable fact that not one of the historians suggests that this strange tactical disposition was deployed by Jackson deliberately and with a design, or calls attention to the striking similarity between Jackson's formation and what is known in modern warfare as a flexible defense.

On the front of thirty-three hundred yards, Jackson's first line was occupied by three brigades of A.P. Hill's Division. On the right was Archer's Brigade and two regiments of Brockenbrough. In the center was Lane's Brigade, an interval of six hundred years occuring between Lane and Archer. On the left and sharply refused, after another interval of six hundred yeards, was Pender's Brigade. Lane's position was well in advance of Archer's and Pender's. Thus the intervals were both front and lateral for Lane; and one can readily understand the perturbation his report indicates tha the felt before the attack. The aggregate strength of those front line units was approximately seventy-nine hundred.

On the wooded high ground behind each of the intervals was posted a brigade along a military road four hundred to six hundred yards in the rear. Gregg covering the right interval, and Thomas the left. Behind Gregg, and supporting the right, was Early's entire Divisipn; and behind Thomas, Taliaferro's Division. In general reserve was the large division of D.H. Hill (10,161 aggregate). Thus a thinly-manned front line (the garrison posted in three isolated units), was supported by deeply massed reserves, concealed in a forest and on a height. The force occupying the front line totaled seven-nine hundred men, while supports massed behind it totaled thirty-one thousand men and made a one mile depth of line. There were better than eleven men per yard of front.

In an age of close-order deployment and mass-line defense, here was an alluring invitation to an attacking force -- but the kind of invitation the spider extended to the fly. All that the attacker had to do was march straight for one of those two wide intervals (approximately six hundred yards each), taking as they advance a terrific cross fire of artillery and direct muskety, and the defensive line would be cracked. After they had penetrated to a suitable depth, Stonewall Jackson would do the rest with that dense reserve of sixteen brigades masked in the thicket. He would box and butcher them. And that is precisely what happened to Meade's Division. It was an invitation to a Cannae.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

General Orders Number Fifteen

I wanted to share a letter that I found in Major Henry McClellan's book, I Rode With Jeb Stuart. It was written by General T.T. Munford on August 4, 1884, and it describes a meeting Munford had with Jackson during the Seven Days' Battles. I love this letter, and I hope you enjoy it, too.

"My recollection is very distinct in regard to what happened on that day(June 30th). On the evening before, I had heard of some forage and provisions which had been left by the enemy at a point about four miles on our left; and as we (2nd Virginia Cavalry) had no quartermaster and no wagons, I started to carry my regiment over to this place to get food for man and beast. When I left him, General Jackson ordered me to be at the cross-roads at sunrise the next morning, ready to go in advance of his troops. The worst thunderstorm came up in the night that I ever was in, and in that thickly-wooded country it became so dark that one could not see his horse's ears. My command scattered in the storm, and I do not suppose any officer ever had a rougher time in any one night that I had to endure. When the first gray dawn appeared I started courier, adjutant, and officers, to blow up the scattered regiment; but at sunrise I had not more than fifty men, and I was half a mile from the cross-roads. When I arrived, to my horror, there sat Jackson waiting for me. He was in a bad humor, and said: "Colonel, my orders to you were to be here at sunrise." I explained my situation, telling him that we had no provisions, and that the storm and the dark night conspired against me. When I got through, he replied: 'Yes, sir. But, colonel, I ordered you to be here at sunrise. Move on with your regiment. If you meet the enemy drive in his pickets, and if you want artillery, Colonel Crutchfield will furnish you.'

"I started on with my little handful of men. As others came straggling on to join me Jackson noticed it, and sent two couriers to inform me that my 'men were straggling badly.' I rode back and went over the same story, hoping that he would be impressed with my difficulties. He listened to me, but replied as before. 'Yes, sir. But I ordered you to be here at sunrise, and I have been waiting for you for a quarter of an hour.'

"Seeing that he was in a peculiar mood, I determined to make the best of my troubles, sent my adjutant back, and made him halt the stragglers and form my men as they came up; and, with what I had, determined to give him no cause for complaint. When we came upon the enemy's picket we charged and pushed the picket evey step of the way into their camp, where were a large number of wounded and many stores. It was done so rapidly that the enemy's battery on the other side of White Oak Swamp could not fire on us without endangering their own friends.

"When Jackson came up he was smiling, and he at once ordered Crutchfield to bring up sixteen pieces of artillery, and very soon one or two batteries were at work.

"After a lapse of about an hour my regiment had assembled; and while our batteries were shelling those of the enemy; Jackson sent for me and said, 'Colonel, move your regiment over the creek and secure those guns. I will ride with you to the swamp.' When we reached the crossing we found that the enemy had torn up the bridge, and had thrown the timbers into the stream, forming a tangled mass whch seemed to prohibit a crossing. I said to General Jackson that I did not think we could cross. He looked at me, waved his hand, and replied, 'Yes, colonel, try it.' In we went, and you never saw such a time as the first squadron had; but we floundered over, and before I had formed the men, Jackson cried out to me to move on at the guns. Colonel Breckinridge started out with what we had over, and I soon got over the second squadron, and moved up the hill. We reached the guns, but they had an infantry support which gave us a volley; at the same time a battery on our right, which we had not seen, opened on us, and back we had to come. I sent General Jackson a dispatch telling him where I had crossed, but his engineers thought they could cross better above than below. A division of infantry was put in above the bridge, and hammered away all day, but did not get over. I never understood why he did not try the ford were I had crossed. He sent me a little slip of paper saying, I congratulate you on getting out,' or words to that effect. He held on to the idea of crossing over the bridge."

Friday, April 18, 2008

General Orders Number Fourteen

"We failed, but in the good providence of God apparent failure often proves a blessing." - General Robert E. Lee

In eighth grade, I had to read Gone With the Wind. I loved it. In my teens and twenties, I read the book over and over. I could quote huge sections of it from memory. I went through my thirties without reading it and picked it up again in my early forties. But something surprising had happened. In my earlier readings, I thought Scarlett was a person to emulate, and I held Ashley Wilkes in such contempt that I hated when he appeared on the page. Especially, after the war, when he just appeared to be helpless and hopeless. Grandma Fontaine called him a turtle on his back. An apt description, I thought. Why didn't he just roll over and get on with it, I huffed in my superior teenage wisdom.

Because sometimes, you just can't. And it wasn't until I had suffered a catastrophic failure of my own a little more than 10 years ago that I came to understand that. I thought I had my life figured out, but I didn't. In the years after that bitter disappointment, I was a turtle on my back, living through my own personal Gotterdammerung. I was afraid I was being winnowed out. That God had weighed me in the balance, and I had been found wanting. My reaction was to lay on the couch and try to eat my weight in birthday cake. I was angry at everything and kicking madly against the oxgoads. I was slowly being poisoned by bitterness.

The reason I love these men, Lee, Jackson, and Stuart, is because they taught me how to act in the face of overwhelming disappointment and failure. They remained constant...believing that the Lord held them in His hand and, even if they didn't understand it, their failure served His greater purpose.

Jackson lost his life six months after his long awaited daughter was born. "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees." As Stuart lay dying, he lifted his golden voice in praise of the Lord. He told those around him that he was resigned; God's will be done.

Six years ago, I set out with a goal. I wanted to get a PhD in Middle East politics. I put my all my energy into that pursuit. Today, that dream has come to an end. Of the four grad schools I applied to, all have rejected me. In this heartbreaking moment, with an unknown future and no idea what I'm going to do in less than two months when I return home, I draw comfort from Lee's words and the examples of the men that I have studied for the past four years.

Failure is a necessary part of life. The challenge is in how we face it. Do I give in to the anger and self-pity like I did ten years ago. Or, am I a little wiser?

Think about the soldier of the Army of Northern Virginia on the morning after the surrender. He is heading home. But he has lost everything. If he is from the deep South --Georgia or Mississippi or parts of South Carolina --then his home is gone, his fields are barren, and his money is worthless. Maybe his family is scattered and he doesn't know to where. All he owns is on this back and in his pockets. The political environmnent of Reconstruction will do all it can to keep him defeated.

Yet, these gallant men returned home and began to rebuild. In Gone With the Wind, you see that happening. The great rebuilding. The years after the war revealed the quality of their characters more than the war itself. They put their hands to whatever was before them and rebuilt their lives. Their faith in God sustained them. They lived quiet and productive lives under the flag they fought.

Lee is an epistle written by God. He returned to Richmond without a home, without a career, with no money... and only the reputation of his name. He had a wife and three daughters to care for. He didn't dissolve into self pity. He looked forward and never back. That is so important. Jackson, on his death bed, looked forward. Stuart, on his death bed, looked forward. In looking forward, they saw the purpose of God and moved toward it rapidly and gladly.

So, my disappointment in not being selected for grad school will dissipate. I will return home in less than two months to rebuild. But I have been equipped with some powerful tools that I obtained in the six years I spent getting a very good education. The professors at Tel Aviv University taught me to how to be a historian. In the quiet of the two years I spent in Israel, I have discovered just what it is I want to study. I have a trilogy to finish and another one to begin. And I have a biography of Stuart that I am going to write. I want to write more musicals with my best friend. Unlike the soldier on the morning of April 10th, I am not destitute. I suffer from an embarresment of riches and a deep abiding peace that God is faithful.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

General Orders Number Thirteen

I recently joined an on-line society that has been all abuzz with the opening of the new visitors center at Gettysburg. From all the emails bombarding my inbox, the visitors center is really something. An issue was raised, though, about the display citing slavery as the cause of the war. Some in the society were afraid that this could upset the Lost Causers, but the overwhelming sentiment was "too bad," because... well, you know those Lost Causers.

Congress passed a law that makes it mandatory for all national parks to emphasize slavery as the sole cause of the war. The new visitors center at Gettysburg has complied. A new generation of children will grow up believing that the South started the war to protect their "peculiar institution" from the meddling Yankees. Judging by the society's emails, the majority doesn't have a problem with that explanation. And if someone does protest... well, what do you expect from a Lost Causer.

Now, I keep throwing that term around "Lost Causer." Those employing it in their emails do so as an insult. We Lost Causers are living in denial about why our great-great-great-great (I hope that is enough greats) grandfathers picked up their guns and started the war. I don't see it as an insult, but as a compliment. Why? Glad you asked.

As a Lost Causer, my argument is that slavery was not the sole reason for the war. This argument is sound. Thumbing through Earth's history, just how many wars had only one singular cause? Just one that historians can confidentally point to and say, "this right here is why the war was fought." I don't know of any. (But I don't claim to know all causes of all the wars fought) Life and politics are much more complicated than that. There were many issues tearing the country apart during the first half of the 19th century and not just slavery.

Now, to be honest, I have heard some of my friends say that slavery had nothing to do with the war. That is as false a statement as slavery was the only cause. You don't have to read too far into the historical record to see that slavery and all that slavery represented to the Southern economy was a powerful reason for the split in the nation. So, I want to go on record and say that yes slavery played a significant part but it was not the sole reason for the war.

Here's my problem with Congress' demand that the war be reduced to slavery, and the Gettysburg visitor centers' compliance with that edict. First of all, it's not true. It represents one side as all good (the Union) and the other side as all bad (the South). It reduces all arguments to the contrary as the ravings of the lunatic Lost Causer. And it paints all those who fought and died as fighting and dying for one goal. The Confederates to keep their slaves, and the Union to set all men free. And sorry, it's just not that simple.

What do you do with the Union soldier, who, upon hearing of the Emancipation Proclamation, was furious and wrote home that he felt like he had been betrayed. He didn't take up arms to free the slave but to preserve the Union. Or the Confederate soldier who didn't own any slaves but took up arms to defend his home. These real motives have been swept aside as unimportant. No, Congress, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to give all the participants one motive - slavery!

The purpose of the visitors center is to teach the history of the battle. By reducing the cause of the war to a such a simplistic reason, the visitors center doesn't seem to care what history it teaches or the damage it causes: to the soldiers or those who come to the center to learn about the battle. And that probably makes me the angriest of all.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

General Orders Number Twelve

When I first became aware that there was such a thing as a Civil War enthusiast, I was overjoyed. I met a whole bunch of them on an on-line forum. Wow! People who were as interested in the war and the men who fought it as I was. I was like a kid turned loose in a candy store. Happy, happy! Joy, joy!

Needless to say, I was in for a rude awakening and a valuable education. Sides were drawn and, if you didn't pick one, your fellow enthusiasts would pick one for you. And once that happened, in the eyes of the "other side" all your comments were tainted and basically lies. The conversations were cut-throat, rude, and had one goal... to destroy any argument you might bring to the forum. I couldn't believe it. This wasn't rooting for Ohio State to beat Michigan. This wasn't putting a bumper sticker on your car that reads, "my favorite teams are Ohio State and whoever is playing Michigan." No, these enthusiasts were deadly serious about defending their side against the other.

Actually, I thought it might just be confined to that forum and those particular enthusiast. But, I'm learning that is not the case. Sad to say, after the surrender of Lee 143 years ago this week (April 9), that most enthusiasts have a dog in the fight.

I was reading a book about Grant's leadership. Now, I like Ulysses S. Grant. But the author was determined to advance Grant's case at the expense of Lee. Grant was all brilliance. Lee was overstated. Grant was all that and a bag of chips and Lee was not. Whatever.

But this mentality is even in the most casual of conversations. If I don't believe that slavery was the lone cause for the war, I'm branded a Lost Causer. I recently joined another on-line group, in which a poster stated that it wasn't fair for Phil Sheridan be compared to Jeb Stuart, since using Stuart as a standard was setting the bar a little low. I'll admit, I was a little offended for my poor Stuart, but mostly, I was suddenly tired of the whole attitude that permeates any meaningful discussion on the war.

If all we are doing is protecting our side at the expense of the other side... then what's the use of having these conversations? Why can't you admire the men who fought on both sides? Why act like it still matters who was right and who was wrong? The war is over. The men who fought it are consigned to their graves. The issue has been resolved and there is nothing anyone can do about it now. Both sides followed the conviction of their hearts. Both sides believed they were right. Both sides believed they were fighting for their homes and their families. One side won and one side lost. This attitude to strip one side or the other of the valor and honor that is due them is juvenile. Why can't we honor all their sacrifices... all their heroism... all their choices?

As this week closes, 143 years ago, Robert E. Lee, accompanied by his aide-de-camp, Colonel Charles Marshall, rode up to the McLean house at Appomattox Court House to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant. Now, in this scene, my heart is drawn to Lee. I can't help it. I've read about his actions, his feelings, his behavior and I am moved by the quality of his character. But I don't perceive Grant as the "enemy," to be hated. When I read about his magnanimous behavior in light of his army's victory and his kindness toward the vanquished, I am equally moved by the quality of his character. Both behaved admirably and with honor and a respect toward each other that today is seldom seen when enthusiasts get together to "refight" the war.

Perhaps the answer is that simple. Some come together to "refight" the war. For those who support the Union, I see an attitude that is likened to doing an end-zone dance and spiking the football in triumph. For the South, it is the need to strike back at the victors. If that is the purpose for the conversation or debate, then, I guess, it does matter which dog wins. I don't like poor losers or winners. So, I won't be joining you.

But if you are like me, and the reason you study the war is because you are drawn to the men and want to honor the lives they lived, then you and I have a lot to talk about. I really don't care about the politics of the era. What I care about is the courage under fire, the genius under duress, the honor in defeat, and the compassion in victory. For me... these are the great lessons to be learned from the Civil War.

Friday, April 4, 2008

General Orders Number Eleven

As I have mentioned, I am writing an alternative history trilogy about the Army of Northern Virginia. The series is called The Chancellorsville Chronicles, and volume 1 is entitled Throw Away the Scabbard. I have received alot of needed feedback (for which I am grateful). That also means that the novel has undergone a severe rewrite from Draft Five to Draft Six. As I prepare the manuscript for the daunting task of finding an agent and publisher, I've posted the prologue below to wet appetites. LOL!

I hope you enjoy it. Of course, I am always open to suggestions and thoughts. And if the grammar cop inside of you just has to say something about my comma use, I would be especially thrilled to hear from you.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Throw Away the Scabbard - Prologue

Virginia Wilderness
Near Chancellor’s Crossing
May 2, 1863

Lieutenant General Thomas Jackson, commanding the Second Corps of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, raised his hand. His small party of eight staff members halted on the Mountain Road, a half-mile in front of the corps’ skirmishers. Jackson was inching his way down the heavily-rutted road, cut through an impenetrable terrain of pines, shrubs, and hardwood trees, trying to spy out whether the Union army was going to run all the way back to Washington or make a stand in the wilderness and fight. Since he heard nothing but tree limbs rasping in the cool evening breeze, Jackson nudged Little Sorrel, his small red Morgan, and continued down the road.

The moon escaped from its cloudy shroud, illuminating the road and the thickets on either side of him. He scanned them, but they were empty. A flurry of activity, two hundred, no, maybe three hundred yards directly in front of him caught his attention. He flung up his hand. His aides pulled up, not making a sound. Jackson leaned forward in his saddle, listening. The sounds were recognizable: the sharp ring of axes on trees, shovels scraping against the rocky ground, shouts, and commands. All the sounds associated with the hasty construction of breastworks.

Jackson took out his watch, tilting it until he could read the thin black hands in the faint moonlight. It was nine o’clock. Four hours ago, the Second Corps had smashed into the Union’s right flank, surprising the Yankees at dinner. When 25,000 Rebels came screaming out of the woods, the Yankees threw down their plates and ran. Jackson ordered his men to give chase. With fatigue, darkness, and the thick undergrowth unraveling his assault, Jackson instructed his three division commanders to reorganize the men as quickly as possible. Not satisfied with routing the Yankees, he was determined to cut them off from the fords along the Rapidan and Rappahannock Rivers, which bordered the wilderness to the north and west. While his men hastened into formation, he had pressed ahead to see if he could determine what the Yankees planned to do. A tree crashed to the ground. He had his answer. They were going to fight.

“Let’s return,” he said, turning Little Sorrel around and heading back toward the Confederate line, back to the battle, and back to the two year war for Southern Independence.

He followed his aides onto the Bullock Road where he had left the 18th North Carolina Infantry Regiment holding the Confederate forward position. Suddenly the woods exploded with the thunder of hundreds of guns. Musket flashes pierced the darkness, lighting up the blooming dogwoods. Bullets ricocheted off trees, whistled through the underbrush, and slammed into the dirt. A branch crashed to the ground on Jackson’s left. His aides stampeded to avoid the deadly fire.

Before Jackson could flee, someone knocked him out of his saddle and onto the hard earth. He groaned when his ribs smashed onto a large root. A heavy body landed on top of him, pinning him down, while bullets smashed into the tree above his head. “Lie still, General.” Jackson recognized the voice of his brother-in-law, Joseph Morrison.

Another volley pierced the night. He tried to rise, but Joe shoved him back down to the ground. The root dug into his sore ribs. Overhead, his men yelled for the Tarheels to cease firing. Slowly, the gunfire abated, like the end of a rain storm.

Jackson shifted impatiently. “Lieutenant, you can get off me now. The shooting has stopped.”

Joe released his grip and rose to his knees. Jackson sat up, leaned against the tree, and felt his ribs. He winced.

“Are you bad hurt?” Joe asked.

“It’s a trifling. Providence has been kind to us this evening.”

More horses poured down the road, this time from the direction of the Confederate line. In the moonlight, Jackson saw the red shirted Ambrose Powell Hill, commander of the Light Division, jumping off his horse. He knelt down next to Jackson. “General, are you hurt?”

“Just a couple of bruised ribs,” Jackson replied, after completing a very thorough search of his person. He stood, plucking his weather-stained kepi from the ground. He shook the dust from it. “Tell me, Hill, have you managed to find your way to the Rappahannock?” Jackson asked. He drew the kepi down over his eyes.

“Yes, sir, but the men are exhausted. I think we should hold off the attack until morning.”

“No, sir. No! Press them!” Jackson stabbed his finger into Hill’s chest. “Don’t let them escape. Cut them off from the United States Ford.”

“Yes, sir.” Hill remounted and disappeared into the night.

“Lieutenant Morrison, I want you to return to General Lee. Tell him we’re in possession of the fords along the Rappahannock River. He must press forward immediately.”

Joe galloped away. Jackson swung up on Little Sorrel and rode back in the direction of the army, leaving the rest of his aides scrambling to catch up.