Saturday, July 19, 2008

Personal Recollections of General Lee by General Pendleton

This account by General William Pendleton (father of Jackson's adjutant Sandie Pendleton) is from the Battle of Fredericksburg. General Pendleton attended West Point but resigned from the army to pursue the ministry. When the war broke out, he was the rector of Grace Church in Lexington, Virginia. At the time of Fredericksburg, he was the Chief of Artillery in the Army of Northern Virginia.

From the prominent points in our line almost the entire scene could be taken in by the eye. And at one of these, the most commanding, where we had a few powerful guns, General Lee remained much of the day, observing the field; only too indifferent, as was his wont, to danger from the large, numerous, and well-aimed missles hurled especially thither from the enemy's heavy batteries across the Rappahannock. Seldom, in all the wars of the world, has a spectacle been presented like that which, from this central elevation, we looked upon. More than 100,000 blue-coated men in the open plain, with every military appliance, in battle order, and moving in their respective subdivisions to attack our line. Although our numbers were certainly not half those of the enemy, there was misgiving, probably, in no officer or man as to the result.

Events in one quarter of the field, as it lay before us, attracted peculiar interest, and gave occasion to one of those characteristics remarks of General Lee which told at once of his capacity for enjoying the excitements of action, and of the good feeling and strong principle that kept it under control. A large force advanced rapidly to charge our right. Stonewall Jackson was there, and that he would promptly hurl them back little doubt was entertained. Still no such assault can be witnessed without earnest interest, if not concern. Nor was the shock arrived on our side without loss. There fell the heroic General Gregg, of the gallant and now vengeance-suffering State of South Carolina. Presently, however, as was anticipated, the spirited charge was reversed, and the blue figures by thousands were seen recrossing, "double quick," with faces to the rear, the space they had traversed, and hundreds of gray pursuers hastening their speed. while younger spectators near us gave expression of their feelings by shouts, clapping of hands, &c., the gratified yet considerate andamiable commander turned to myself, and with beaming countenance said, "It is well war is so terrible, or we should get too fond of it."

Not long after that an incident occurred, which made us shudder for our beloved chief. One of the large guns on that eminence, having to be plied continuously against another portion of the enemy's line, which was advancing to charge the part of our defenses held by the good and gallant Georgian, General Tom Cobb, and being, like much hastily-cast Sotuhern ordinance, of insufficient tenacity, finally burst with prodigious violence. None, wonderfully and happily, was struck by its fragments. And, remarkably, those who stood nearest, of whom the individual relating to you was one, within a little over arm's length, although considerably jarred by the shock, proved to be really in less danger than others further off. General Lee was standing perhaps fifty feet in the rear, and a large piece of the cannon, weighing, we estimated, about a third of a ton, fell just beyond him. He thus very narrowly escaped death. Like himself, however, he only looked upon the mass calmly for a moment, and then, without a syllable expressive of surprise or concern, continued the business occupying him at the time.