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."